Let Them Be

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Let Them Be

“Is she potty trained?”

**SIGH**

“Because we do require that all of our students are able to use the restroom on their own.”

As if I needed one more reason to panic over my daughters refusal to use the potty. And how in the world did pre-school registration time come around so fast! I feel like it was just yesterday that I was celebrating her move to size 1 diapers. Seriously… Where does the time go?!

Now, full disclosure: There are a lot of days that I have spent counting down to the two and half hours…150 minutes…9,000 seconds…that I will get to spend by myself while she’s in preschool. Actually, double that, because preschool is two days a week! I don’t think I’ve had five hours to myself since before my Bella was born. That’s two years and ten months of being constantly needed, constantly touched, constantly giving, constantly taking care of a sticky, sometimes smelly, always stubborn little princess.

And BOY is she a princess.

She’s not your typical high maintenance princess type, though. Some days she's a Merida in Brave type princess; running around outside in the mud collecting sticks, rocks and bugs and jumping in puddles. Then other days she’s more like Amber from Sophia the First; wants to wear a pretty dress with fancy shoes and acts like she is allergic to dirt. However, the part of both princess types that comes with the expectation of being listened to without question, getting everything that you want, and only doing what you want when you want to do it… That part she’s mastered.

Especially when it comes to the potty.

When my little was only eighteen months old, she had me convinced she was going to potty train early: She was watching a friends little one potty train and decided that she wanted to sit on the potty too. Well, that turned into a decision to only poop on the potty, because she didn’t want it in her diaper. So, for a solid three months she would poop on the potty, while my husband and I continually tried to get her to pee on the potty too.

Turns out the joke was on us! Just as quickly as she decided that she wanted to use the potty, she decided she didn’t want to anymore. So, I got desperate and started reading every article I could find on potty training methods…and tried them all. I rearranged my house, I bought her big girl undies, I made her run around naked, I set an alarm and made her sit on the potty every 15 minutes, I bribed her with snacks and toys and activities… The more methods I tried, the more frustrated we both got and the harder she dug in and insisted on not doing it.

That’s when I came across an article that basically said I had done everything wrong.

I felt discouraged, guilty, frustrated, completely defeated… The little voice in my head was whispering that I had ruined my daughters confidence and permanently set her development back. I spent days beating myself up over the mother I had become in the weeks that I was neurotically trying every potty training method I could find. Then, when the whispers reached the point of convincing me that I had failed as a mom and that my daughter would hate me forever for all the moments I raised my voice at her over something as silly as not peeing on the potty… I remembered that my baby was still a baby. And I made the decision to simply let her be.

For better or worse, that’s the decision that has left me in the position of telling the preschool registrar that, no, my now almost three year old is not using the potty on her own. I don’t need to tell you the rest of the conversation; or the pressure that it’s made me feel that my daughter needs to be potty trained in less than seven months. I mean, I can’t be the only mom that has had this conversation…can I??

I seriously doubt it.

The temptation to jump right into it and start making my super active little princess sit on the potty every fifteen minutes until she pees is strong, I’m not going to lie! I know, though, that my babe is very strong willed, independent, stubborn and intelligent. Everything in her entire life has happened in her timing and on her terms: eating, rolling, crawling, walking, talking. In my heart, I know that this not going to happen any differently. She is going to have to decide that she wants to do it.

I’ve been realizing in the past several weeks that my baby is no longer a baby. She no longer needs me in quite the same way; and when she does need me, it’s not nearly as often. And when I look back at the decision I made to not push her toward potty training, letting her simply live her life and experience the joy of being a kid without the pressure of big expectations; I wouldn’t change my choice for all the world.

Is changing pull-ups (or as she calls them: “special undies”) getting old? and really disgusting at times? Absolutely, yes! No question. Yet, the time I’ve given her to grow into herself and learn to relate to people rather than to people’s expectations of her, is something I will never regret. No matter what the negative whispers say when they come, I believe in my heart that I made the right choice.

Because when my beautiful girl is excited or talkative or curious or lonely or hurting- I am the one that she comes to. I am the shoulder she cries on, the lap she sits on and the chest she lays on. And if I’m not around, she has developed a confidence and a boldness to communicate exactly what she is feeling and why she is feeling that way.

I know that I am no where even close to figuring out this whole mom thing. I also know that it’s only by the grace of God that my little is growing into the best parts of me and the best parts of my husband, in spite of the innumerable mistakes that we make. But if I can be so bold as to give one piece of advice to my fellow moms…

Let your babies be babies.

They won’t be so little forever. The eating solid food, rolling, crawling, walking, talking and using the potty on their own will happen in spite of your attempts to make it and simply because of who your babies are. Babies will grow up no matter what, so why not let it be at their own pace and in their own time so that when they step into the next stage, they step with boldness and confidence in who they are and what they know they are ready to accomplish?

Just a thought from a mom in the thick of navigating toddlerhood with a little who is growing up awesome.

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#momfail

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#momfail

Have you ever looked in the mirror…and honestly despised the face staring back at you…?

Or am I the only one??

I can’t remember exactly when it started… Perhaps it was in eighth grade when I experienced for the first time how far girl drama could really go. Or maybe it was in tenth grade when I experienced my first significant, noticeable weight gain. Then again, it’s possible that it wasn’t until eleventh grade when my dad used the word “chubby” while attempting to express concern for my health. It could have been graduating from high school without ever having been asked out on a single date, having my first real relationship interest walk away without any explanation in college, or realizing way too late that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.

I suppose it makes the most sense that it was the building up of the insecurities that resulted from all of these situations, and the many more like them, that led to my first conscious memory of one of these moments… And it’s those same insecurities that have followed me into every amazing new adventure my life has ushered me into: including my motherhood.

The root of the problem is the trap of comparison that I find myself stuck in far more often than I want to admit. I mean, the comparisons used to be fairly easy to get past because they used to be about superficial things that didn’t really affect my identity. There’s something about my identity as a mom, though, that makes it extremely easy for me to look at other moms and immediately place myself in a class of motherhood below them. Especially after really hard days with my little.

Having an independent, strong willed, intelligent child is exciting and fun, but also frustrating and defeating. The past couple of days have been the latter. My babe has been stuck in a season of waking up multiple times a night and then fighting sleep at nap time; which is leaving us both more tired and ornery than usual. Add to that dynamic a husband that hasn’t been sleeping due to pain from an allergic reaction to a prescription…and I’m not just tired, I’m exhausted. 

For those of you that aren’t parents yet: I pray that you are stronger than me if you find yourself exhausted and frustrated dealing with a strong-willed toddler that somehow manages to find and push every single button that shoots a dart directly into your nerve center and ignites an irrationally angry response. My mom was a screamer whenever she was exhausted and frustrated dealing with my siblings and I…and in spite of everything, I have responded to my Bella in the very same way that caused rifts in my relationship with my mom until well into my adulthood.

After fighting with my babe for two and a half hours today…losing my temper twice to the point of reducing my beautiful blessing to tears…she finally fell asleep and I was left to berate myself for the way I had treated her in those moments of weakness. That is not the mother I want to be. That’s not the kind of mom that I dreamt I’d be; the kind of momma I prayed that God would make me. And it only took a matter of seconds for the face of every momma I know to run through my mind and Satan to whisper to my heart: “None of them would ever treat their babies that way. What kind of mother treats their baby that way?”

That’s when I saw my face in the mirror…  The worst mom I know.

I felt so defeated that I even admitted to a close friend that I had lost my stuff on my baby girl and was having an “I’m a horrible momma” day. I was trapped in a cycle of false comparison, allowing myself to be convinced that I was alone in my weakness, and despising the woman looking back at me from the glass. I was feeling like a major #momfail. Yet, rather than receiving judgement, God sent me redemption in the form of my friends freedom to share with me in that moment that she experiences the same exhausted, frustrated moments of weakness in her motherhood as I do in mine.

That’s when it hit me.

I am not the only one.

Other mommas may not have the same mirror moment as I do, but they do experience similar moments of weakness when they get to the end of themselves; when they’re exhausted and frustrated and need a break that’s nowhere in sight. What I realized today is this- our willingness as mommas to share our weaker moments just as much as we share our successful ones offers redemptive freedom to the mommas around us that just might be stuck in a moment that has them struggling to love their motherhood. How I pray that more mothers would feel free enough and be brave enough to share the bad with the good so that it might strengthen the moms around them.

I am thanking God today for blessing me with a friend that feels free enough in her own motherhood to speak honestly into mine. I am also thankful that I have an intelligent little girl that understands forgiveness and offers it unprompted and with a bear hug around the neck. I may have taken her shopping as a means of doing some relationship repair… She may have gotten some sparkly Minnie Mouse shoes… But at the end of the day: My deepest prayer is that we moms figure out a way abolish “mom guilt” and the normalcy of the “#momfail” before our babies have babies.

May we love each other enough to free each others motherhood from comparison traps and loneliness by honestly sharing the good with the bad in our own journey to being amazing moms.

 

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Primer: Skin Care or Makeup

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Primer: Skin Care or Makeup

Every time I have the opportunity to teach, I start with the same statement:

There is no wrong way to beautiful.

If there is any truth to be found in the beauty industry today, it’s in that statement. Every woman is created with different features and coloring and abilities; no two being exactly alike. That makes the idea of a standard of beauty completely ridiculous and nothing more than marketing ploys for sales. 

All things beauty and fashion are subject to change and dictated by preferences. It’s like that saying: Opinions are like belly buttons- everybody has one. And that goes for makeup artists too! We’ve all adapted what we’ve learned to fit our own personal style and comfort for ease and efficiency of application. We all have our preferred set of products and tools. And each of us has our own way of carrying out methods of makeup application.

When I realized all of this in my first year, I made it my mission to make sure that I never made any woman feel as if their way of making themselves beautiful was wrong. No matter if your preferred look is natural, glamorous, romantic, soft, bold, dramatic, etc:  Your way of stating your beauty is always right. As long as it’s right for you.

SO- that being said… I’d love to talk about one of my must have products when it comes to applying makeup. Whether you use a product like this or not is completely up to you! Experience has shown me how beneficial it is, and that’s what I’d like to share with you. As with any makeup product chats on this blog, I won’t be telling you what’s right vs what’s wrong…I’ll simply give advice based on personal experience and let you choose what works best for you. All positive vibes here! Deal?

Ok, then…

I’d like to talk about primer. Not the stuff that you paint on the wall before actually painting… But basically the same principle! I’m talking about the little tube of lightweight, lotion-like product that gets applied before any other makeup. It’s more of a skin care product, if you ask me, but most classify it as a cosmetic product. 

A primer (at least a good one) serves as the last step of a skin care routine and the first step of a makeup application, all at the same time. The most beneficial skin care routines (as I’ve written about before) have a minimum of 3 steps: Cleanser, Toner, Moisturizer. Then, of course, adding a step for any treatment products as we age and find them necessary. And this is where a good primer could be viewed as a fifth step…

There have been significant strides made in recent years in the science of skin care and cosmetics; in the understanding of how ingredients interact with each other, the skin and the environment. One of the things we now know is that putting SPF in moisturizer effects the skins ability to absorb and maintain maximum moisture, which is why you see the recent flood of super moisture products hitting the market without SPF in the moisturizer. This is where a high quality primer comes in! Primer serves as a barrier that helps preserve moisture in the skin cells AND contains the SPF needed to protect your face from daily exposure to UV light.

Now we enter the into the part of the conversation where a primer can also be the first step in your makeup application… Another development in the understanding of ingredients is that we know now that SPF interacts with certain types of light: namely flash photography. This is why you are seeing a shift in the amount of SPF in the newly released foundation product lines; if they still contain an SPF at all. Again- this is where a high quality primer comes into play! Primer provides the necessary SPF protection, while also evening out the skins tones to maximize the coverage and effectiveness of your foundation (both liquid and powder).

Personally, I use a primer for myself and my clients for the reasons mentioned above, and also for the simple fact that it provides a smoother, more even canvas for color. I choose to use the Artistry Exact Fit Beauty Balm Perfecting Primer; both personally and professionally. It’s affordable, premium quality product backed by five years of scientific testing that proves its efficiency. However, I am not so naive as to think that there are not other primers out there that accomplish these same goals that you can choose from! 

It goes without saying that I would encourage every woman, of every type and age, to find a primer that works for them. Whether you do or don’t, I truly hope that you (at least) found this information interesting and helpful. Regardless, I hope that you have found products that work well for you and the beauty you are wanting to create every day! God knows we need to take a moment to find our beauty and share it with the world, and I pray that you have an arsenal that helps you do that every day.

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Heartbeat Home

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Heartbeat Home

“Sometimes, home has a heartbeat.”  - Beau Taplin

So, I didn’t date in high school… or college. 

In fact, I didn’t date until I dated my husband. I had been on one…yes, I mean one…date with a guy that really was never going to be anything more than a friend for a short season in my life. That’s not to say that there weren’t (several) guys that I was interested in during my unsettled, insecure college season! It’s just that my dad had this rule (insert eye roll here)…

The Rule:  Whoever wanted to ask me (or my sister) out, had to ask his permission first.

Yes, you read that right. And my dad made sure every guy that came around that even looked like he might want to ask me out, knew about the rule. In hindsight, it really is impressive the way that my dad managed to work it into conversation and cement every guy’s position in the permanent friend category. He was never rude or overbearing about it! In fact, he usually worked it in as humor so that the guy was never really sure he was serious, yet was pretty sure testing the rule would end badly.

So, by the time my husband entered the picture, I had finally gotten to the point of being at peace with my single status and didn’t even realize he had asked me out on a date. We had been working together (I managed his Christian rock band) for a couple of years, so I knew him fairly well and considered him a friend; so, I had never considered a relationship with him until he initiated one. I had no idea what a dating relationship was like, but I’ll tell you this, though; I had made it to 26 years old without any major heartbreak damaging my psyche. Not that I needed a major heartbreak for that! But that’s beside the point.

I was 26 years old, and after our second date (late night coffee at Denny’s) my husband still respected my dad’s rule (though long expired by that point!) enough to state his intent to date me and ask my dads permission to do so. That move caught my attention. His decision to do that earned my respect. And his desire to respect the intent behind my dads rule won my heart.

After that day, I was surprised at the sudden shift in my hearts attention toward Michael. It’s hard to really explain… It was like hearing him with my soul every time he spoke, not my ears. It was like breathing him in with my whole being every time he hugged me, not just acknowledging the smell of his cologne. And every time he held my hand, it was like literally feeling his lifeblood flowing with mine: a matching heartbeat. It was an unmistakable feeling of being home.

You know the feeling I mean. That sense of comfort, warmth and freedom that follows walking through your front door, knowing that you’re shielded from the harsh judgement of the outside world for a bit. The confidence of knowing your environment and being known by it; relaxing in the knowledge that you are safe from outside opinions for awhile. I didn’t know that these feelings could be applied to a person before Michael.

Then, after we got married, having the privilege of resting my head on his chest every night made me realize how I wanted to recenter myself, refocus my heart, for the rest of my life. I realized that, if I laid there long enough, if he held my hand long enough, then my heartbeat matched time with his: Our hearts would literally beat together. Crazy.

Full disclosure: After having my daughter, life continued to get more and more busy, and I forgot for a time what being home felt like. I forgot that being with him is home. We had gotten so used to falling into bed exhausted every night, that taking those moments to recenter and refocus got lost. And I didn’t realize until a couple weeks ago how much I missed matching heartbeats. 

Then last weekend he got hit by a semi-truck.

When he called to tell me… My heart stopped. I felt nauseous at all the mental pictures that instantly filled my mind. Part of my brain was processing that he was the one talking to me, while another part was trying to tell me that there was no way he was ok. And after explaining the accident to me, I realized that God’s supernatural protection is the only explanation for why he is alive. Talk about a wakeup call.

I have held his hand more in the past 10 days than I have in the past 10 months.

Every one of the past 10 days that I have woken up next to him, I am thankful. I am thankful that God sent him to me. I am thankful that Michael chose me. I am thankful that our story is still being written. And I am thankful that I still have my home; my matching heartbeat.

I am also unmistakably more aware of the uncertainty of life. I am heart broken for those whose stories ended in situations like this. I am saddened at the thought that so many others encountered a similar circumstance and lost their matching heartbeat; lost their home.

I may not have the most romantic love story to tell. I may not have the most glamorous life. I may not have an Instagram worthy relationship full of date nights and super cute presents. It’s like this Mhairi McFarlane quote: “It was…not love at first sight exactly, but - familiarity. Like: oh, hello, it’s you. It’s going to be you. Game over.”  

I will never take my matching heartbeat, that feeling of being home, for granted again.

Ladies- Go hug your husband. Go hug your kids. Touch base with the important people in your life and tap into your lifeline. Say “I love you” often and never take the life you have for granted; no matter what your current perspective of it is. Nothing is constant, seasons change, and so will the story of your life. So, find your home and match your heartbeats. Tomorrow is never a certainty.

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Real Life Legacy

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Real Life Legacy

I never feel like a good mom.

And I mean…never

My heart avidly waits for the day that I sit down after bedtime routine and have that momentary thought: “I’m a good mom.”

The irony is: The day my little was born I felt like super woman. I looked at my beautiful princess and knew instantly that she was the greatest accomplishment of my life. And when I looked into her huge, deep eyes for the first time, I really believed that I could conquer anything. 

My baby girl latched right away and ate like a champ. She stayed awake for almost 3 hours after she was born; which we were told is very unusual. She would follow sounds and shadows and the sound of my voice with little turns of her head; something else the nurses said was unusual for the first day. She was my miracle and I was excited to be her momma. Even the waking every two hours that first night to feed her was exciting!

Then on day two she almost died.

My husband and I dropped her off at the nursery on our way to the “discharge meeting” that you have to attend before being allowed to go home: The first time I’d been away from her since she was born. I was persuaded to leave her by the amazing nurse who had been there the whole time with us, because it was only supposed to take about 30 minutes. As soon as I walked away from her my chest started getting tight, and I started to count down the time…

Thirty minutes and I get my Bella back.

About thirty-five minutes later, my husband went to get our beauty from the nursery while I continued on to our room (bathroom!). When he walked in moments later without her, my heart skipped several beats in the time it took him to explain that they were doing all of the necessary tests before marking her for discharge the next morning. So, I went about the business of situating myself, and that’s when we heard an alarm that we hadn’t heard before.

I vividly remember walking out of the bathroom and commenting on the alarm to my husband. Both of us questioning what that particular alarm sound could have been for; since it was so markedly different from the beeps and alarms we had been hearing for two days. What happened next I remember in slow motion and cemented the sound of that alarm in my brain forever.

Lori, the nurse that had been with us the entire time, walked into our room…the emotional look on her face not registering in my brain…the fact that she didn’t have my Bella with her also not registering…until she mentioned the alarm. I will never forget the conversation as long as live…

“I’m sure you guys heard the alarm a few minutes ago…?”

“We did! We were just talking about what that alarm is for, because we haven’t heard that one before.” 

“Well, that alarm was for your Isabella…”

My heart stopped. My brain wasn’t processing what she was saying in real time. It was like an out of body experience where I couldn’t bring myself to actually hear what she was saying to us. It felt like she was talking so slowly, yet I remember wanting her to stop talking, because all my brain would process was that it had to be a mistake: She had to be mistaking another baby for my Bella.

“…We laid her on her back to take her vitals and she spit up. Before we were able to clear it all, she spit up again and aspirated it. She stopped breathing and then flat-lined for a several seconds. All four pediatricians on call responded to the alarm. They cleared her airway, pumped her stomach of any excess fluid and now they're monitoring her heart. She is stable, but they want to keep her on a monitor for a while just to make sure…”

I couldn’t breathe. I felt the urge to sit and to run at the same time. I wanted to scream at her for not protecting my baby, while simultaneously screaming at myself for failing at motherhood on the second day. How could this have happened?? My husband and I had fought so hard, been through so much, and believed she was our miracle baby arriving just when God had appointed her to. Yet, my baby, my beautiful Bella, had stopped breathing…stopped living…

…I promise, I will bring her down to you as soon as they clear her to leave the nursery. I am so sorry! I can’t believe this happened. You’re such a sweet little family. I’m so relieved she's ok.” 

Then my husbands steady voice… “Can we see her now, please? We’d like to see her now.

I don’t know what, but something broke in me that day. And then again on day five when my precious girl started vomiting and then refused to eat; which landed us overnight at the hospital. That trip resulted in shattering every picture I had painted in my head during all of the sleepless nights I spent hugging the belly that I had started to lose hope I’d ever have.

I had to give up being a breastfeeding momma: I dried up after only 3 months of pumping. I had to stop laying her flat in the bassinet beside my bed: She had to be in her crib on an elevated mattress so that her stomach could drain easily and she wouldn’t throw up. Then there was all of the little things: She hated hair bands and barrettes and tights and shoes and dresses and hats and napping and tummy time and bed time… It seemed that everything made her scream at the top of her little lungs for hours on end. The only time she seemed happy was when she was eating (food that my body didn’t provide her) and when just about anyone else was holding her. So, as much as I hate saying it, by the end of the first month I was convinced that I was failing and I wanted desperately to give her back.

And now? Now I’m the woman that sits on the edge of her bed at 2am almost every night, having already put her toddler back in bed for the 12th time, wishing for the moment that I can say, “I’m a good mom.” My girl eats everything I make for her, she wants only me to hold her, she loves hair bands and barrettes and tights and shoes and dresses and hats (as long as wearing them is her idea)…and screaming at me, hitting me, bull rushing my legs, spitting her drinks on me, throwing her food at me, slamming doors, stomping her foot… Need I go on?

I don’t feel like super woman. I don’t believe I can conquer anything. Yet, somehow, I still believe that my Bella is my greatest accomplishment.

I’m learning (slowly) that we have made the definition of a “good mom” just as subjective as we’ve made the definition of “beauty”. We’ve taken something that (I believe) is anointed and appointed by God and we’ve allowed societal opinion to try and dictate how our motherhood is defined. No matter what decision we make for our babies, there are a hundred articles and mommy blogs to tell us that we’re wrong. Just like there are a hundred youtube videos and beauty blogs to tell us that we’re not measuring up and never really making it to beautiful. 

Then of course there is social media that constantly makes us feel inadequate, because we are constantly looking at peoples best moments, staged moments, and comparing them to all of the moments that we can never seem to manage with our own kid(s). It’s in the comparison that our hearts are broken over and over again. Insecurity rules the day, vulnerability is hidden beneath the mask that we so carefully design and the truth of our reality has become our constant #momfail. 

This is not the world I want to leave for my daughter.

I may not know how to change the whole world, but I can change her world. I can leave a legacy of being real about my insecurities and show her my vulnerabilities, so that she feels the freedom to be unmasked as she grows into the woman that God has created her to be. I can leave her these small pictures of the truth of my reality so that, hopefully, she will someday look into the eyes of her own baby/toddler/child/teenager and have the moment where she will look at herself and say…

I am a good mom.

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