My daughter’s beauty

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I was recently reading a blog by a person who does not tell her daughter that she is beautiful.  Instead, this author uses the words “strong,” “smart,” “kind.”  All of which are good words, and all of which I tell my daughter(and my son).  

But I also tell them, both, that they are beautiful.  Because they are.

I don’t want my daughter to grow up thinking her worth is based on her physical beauty.  I don’t want her focusing on physical attractiveness to the exclusion of her intelligence and her wit and her strength.  
But my daughter is beautiful, and I want her to know it.

I want her to know that her beauty ranks with sunsets over the lake and spring flowers pushing their way through the dirt.  I tell her that she is innately beautiful, like waterfalls cascading over rocks.  Why do I tell her this, when I don’t want her to focus on it?

Because I want beauty to be a part of her.  I want her to be so confident that she is beautiful that it shines through, whether she is wearing her little cupcake pinafore or her red firefighter gear.  I want her to know that she is beauty, the same beauty that is found in nature, beauty that simply is because that is how it was created to be.  I want her to know that she is beautiful because she was born that way, not because of a dress size or makeup or hair style.

I want her to be so sure of her beauty that it becomes a part of her, not something she does, but something she simply is.

I want beauty to be so present in her that it doesn’t matter whether she is a size ten, like Mommy, or wearing a pink tutu and theater makeup like her aunts, or has soot on her face and a fireman helmet on her head like her Daddy–I want her to know she can be all of this, and beautiful.

So yes.  I tell my little girl every day that she is strong, and smart, and funny–and beautiful.

Because she is.

 

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Confident daughters

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My baby Livie,

You are now a year old. If truth be known, you are twelve and a half months old.  You walk everywhere, running after your brother, snatching his toys before he knows what to do.  Then the two of you dissolve into a barroom brawl for the few seconds before I come over and break it up.  Even at a year old, you daily give me glimpses of the woman you will be.  You are fiesty.  You are headstrong.  You know what you want, and you will move heaven and earth to get it.

I see you, thirty years from now. I’m not quite sure what you’re wearing, whether it’s jeans and a t-shirt, or a business suit, or a uniform.  You have a stack of files in one hand, a baby in the other.  Your toenails are pedicured underneath the shoes you’re wearing.  The room quiets as you walk in; they listen to you, even though for years behind your back they have whispered about how incapable you are. You have spent a lifetime ignoring them; this is your territory.  You are in command now.  You are someone’s daughter, someone’s wife, but you are, at the very core of your being, you are yourself.

And what I notice most is that you are confident.
You are still my fiesty, headstrong, brawl-with-your-much-bigger-brother baby girl, but you are a woman.  You are a strong, confident, capable woman.

And oh my baby girl, what this world is going to do to you between here and there.
It is going to tell you that you cannot be too smart, or boys won’t like you.  It will tell you that you cannot be too pretty or girls will hate you, but you cannot be too fat or nobody will like you at all. 
The world is going to tell you that being popular is the very most important thing.  The world is going to try to break you, to bend you.  That girls are to do this or that,  The world will tell you that you cannot play with the big boys.  The world is going to try to tell you, over and over and over again, no, you can’t

And over and over and over again, my little Olivia, you will tell them yes.
Yes, I can.

And somedays you will feel like you can’t. Like the world is right.  You will feel like your confidence is a mirage, like you are nothing but a fake.
Come home on those days, my baby.
Come home and we will paint our toenails together, and I will whisper in your ear words of love and grace and courage.
For this is where it starts, this is where my strong, confident, capable daughter begins.  Here, on my lap, today at twelve months old.  Reading books, painting our toenails, tossing a ball around the floor, running outside with your brother. What we do today, you and me and Josh, is oh so important.  Your lives as adults will be built on the foundation we lay today.
The bedrock of that foundation is love.
And, oh, how I love you, my little girl.

Mommy

Onesies and my daughter

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Dear Wal-Mart:

Do you see that picture?
That is my daughter. She is eleven months old, and I went to your store today to buy some onesies for her.  I was looking for a little bit more than just the plain colored t-shirt ones, because I plan to have her wear them alone on the hot, hot days of summer. 

Before I go further, I want to tell you about my little girl.
She is beautiful.  She will know that her beauty comes not from the clothes she wears or the numbers on a scale, but from inner peace, charm, and poise. 
She is strong.  She will be a strong woman, one who can kick butt when she needs to.  She will be strong because she will also know that sometimes strength is quiet and determined, sometimes it is kindness towards those who hurt you. 
She is wise.  She will be a woman whose wisdom comes from a combination of experience and teaching.  She will know that her worth does not come from a man or a mirror.

But right now, she is eleven months old, and she just needs some onesies.
And the strong, wise, beautiful woman she will become does not need onesies that ask if her diaper makes her butt look big, or has pictures of six inch leopard print stilettos, or is plastered with those freaking insipid Disney Princesses.  These were my three choices in your store today.

Yes, I know they are onesies.  And I know she is eleven months old, and has no idea what she is wearing, and the clothing she wears now has no bearing on the woman she will grow into. I understand this.

But I am looking down the road.  You are seeing my baby daughter; I am seeing the beautiful, strong, intelligent woman she will become.  And that woman is the sum of the choices that I make today.  Every choice in my parenting, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem to you, will factor into the woman she will be.

And so I took my $15 and walked out empty handed.
And yes, I will go elsewhere, and probably spend more money and time than I would have if I had just bought those darn onesies today.

But my daughter is worth so much more than the time and money I will spend searching for her clothes.  And the loss of the strong, beautiful, wise woman that she will be is a far greater loss to this world than my time and money right now.

Signed,
A Disgusted Customer

When it hurts the most…

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I know I’ve been absent.

There’s been stuff going on.
Do you know about stuff?
Hurtful stuff. Painful, betrayal, I-thought-you-were-my-friend-and-I-trusted you stuff.
That stuff.

And in the middle of the weeping, confusion, aching deep in my heart, there is still diapers to change, juice to pour, messes to clean, work to go to.
I want to curl up and cry all afternoon, but there are two little people here watching my every move.  And in the middle of all of this, I suddenly realized–they may not remember this particular incident.  They may never know what happened to me(though, due to the circumstances, I suspect they will someday need to know), but they will know, they will remember, how I responded to it.

Do I want them to remember that Mommy was angry and upset and held onto that hurt and wanted revenge?
Or do I want them to, somewhere deep down inside, know that even when we are hurt, even when we are betrayed and confused, we rise above it and move on?

You see, I have two tiny little children.  They won’t always be tiny; someday they will be big.  Someday they will be adults, and someone may hurt them.  Maybe a job won’t work out for no fault of their own.  Maybe a spouse will leave them for someone else.  Maybe a best friend will betray their every confidence.
And in that time, I want them to remember, however, vaguely, these days.  I want them to remember how Mommy reacted.  How Mommy chose to be the adult in a situation where a temper tantrum might have been easier.  I want them to know that they, too, will survive whatever life throws at them, and that they will carry through with grace and dignity and respect–even when it hurts.

And because this is what I want for them, this is what I have to model for them.
Right now.
In the midst of the pain.

I am raising children to become strong, caring adults that put others before themselves.
And so that is what I have to be.
No matter how hard it is. No matter what stuff is going on.
Because two little pairs of eyes are watching me, and what I do now, how I respond to the hurt now, is what they will do in the future.

Peace in wishing: National Infertility Week

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I have invisible babies.
Their names are Matthew and Elisabeth, Abigail and Michael.
I see them sometimes.  Blond hair like their brother, brown eyes like their sister.  Sometimes I am jarred from a dream where I am holding Abigail in my arms while Michael pulls the couch cushions off the couch.
They exist in my imagination only.  They are the babies of my heart, the ones I wanted to have and, barring miracle upon miracle, will not.

But then I remember the years before.  When I had two more imaginary babies, and their names were Joshua and Olivia.
I remember dreaming of them, too.  Of chubby, peanut-butter-and-jelly smeared cheeks and the scent of freshly shampooed hair.  I dreamt of a little boy who pedaled furiously down the sidewalk and a little girl in a black lace dress.  
I remember my then-boyfriend telling me that it was okay if there never was a Joshua or an Olivia. 
I remember, both times, sitting in a doctor’s office saying, I would like a baby.
I remember the wind on the hot summer day as it threatened to blow the prescription I clung so tightly too, all my hope wrapped up in that little piece of paper.

And those September days, both times in September, when there was, joy of joys, miracle of miracles, two pink lines instead of one.

And I remember those days, both times in May, when a red, screaming baby was placed in my arms, and those imaginary babies suddenly had kissable little noses and a very healthy set of lungs.

Someday, perhaps, they will know how very wanted they were.  How Mommy gained far too much weight on fertility drugs and they made her cranky and mad and depressed and tired all at once.  How doctors told Mommy that she could not have children, but God intervened and said oh yes, you can.
Someday, maybe, I will tell my babies about the other babies, the ones that aren’t.  Somewhere in the shadows I will always see them, but lately they’ve been crowded out by the squabbling and messes that come with two very small children.  Not that those imaginary babies would have been any less hoped for or wanted or loved than the two I have in my arms and climbing on my back right now, but the truth is, they aren’t here.
And unless God decides to intervene again, they never will be.

I go back to the story of Hannah.
How she prayed and cried for baby.  How when she was done, after speaking to the priest, she got up, dusted herself off, and went back to her life.  Not that her imaginary babies were not wanted or hoped for or loved, but Hannah knew she couldn’t live in that pain.  She couldn’t wallow any longer in the plight of infertility.  Hannah went her way and ate, 1 Samuel says, and then went home with her husband.
Hannah dried her eyes and went on with her life, not knowing whether or not she would ever have a child, but knowing that the Lord had heard her prayer and that Eli, the priest, had wished her peace.

And so do I.  I cuddle and rock and play with and enjoy the babies that I have.  No, there may never be a multitude of children running through my house, but, truthfully, these two have enough energy for twelve.  And there may always be Michael and Matthew and Abigail and Elisabeth in the back of my mind, what could have been but isn’t, and I am okay with that.
I get up, and eat, and tend to my children, and, like Hannah, go in peace.

When all the world is running out

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My babies,

So many people right now are asking what is wrong with the world.  What is wrong with people that they would plant bombs to kill and maim innocents?  What is wrong with a world where a man can shoot up a kindergarten class, that firefighters and paramedics can be shot while trying to help someone?
Some days, watching the news, it feels like everything is wrong, that the world is upside down, that I am raising you in a world filled with horror at every turn.

Here is the truth: There is much wrong with the world.
And there is so much that is right.

Someday–not until you are much older–you will probably see the footage of yesterday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon.  You will probably be able to visualize flying limbs, torn bodies, blood.  But here is what I want you to see when you watch those video clips…see the people in the yellow vests?
See how, when everyone is fleeing the scene, they are running towards it?

Those people, my babies, are everything that is right with this world.  Those are the first responders, whether police, fire, EMS, military, physicians and nurses that were there.  Bystanders with medical training that knew to take their belts off and tourniquet severed stumps where limbs had been blown off, saving lives.  They are people, helping other people.

See how they run in when their world explodes.

Mr. Rogers, in a famous quote, says that when you are scared, when you see scary news, look for the helpers.  The helpers are always there, risking their lives to help someone else.

My babies, I want to take this a step further. 
I want you to be those helpers.
I want you to be brave.  I want you to understand situational awareness, I want you to know about scene safety, I don’t ever want you to recklessly disregard your safety–but I want you  , in that moment where your world explodes, not to run.
I want you to stand still.
I want you to hear those cries for help.
And I want you to be brave, to put others first, whether it’s a national tragedy or helping an elderly woman carry her grocery bags to her car.

In this crazy, crazy world, I want you to always ask yourself, what can I do to help someone else?

My lovely, beautiful, innocent babies, this world can be so cruel.  There is so much horror, so much pain, so much destruction.
There is so much wrong.
And my prayer for you, my goal in raising you, is that you will be all that is right in this world.

Love,

Your Mommy

Clothing wars

I have a 2.5-year-old little boy and a ten-month-old baby girl.
This means that our clothing budget needs to have money in it and that I need to have time to really shop, and three months from now do it all over again when Josh has destroyed his clothes and Livie grown out of hers.
Yes, please laugh at the idea of me having both time and money to clothes shop every few months.  I think it’s a hilarious concept, too, and one I can’t actually imagine.

Enter Ebay.

Where I can sit at home or in the car(since I have the awesome Ebay app on my phone) and type in exactly what I’m looking for.  Last week, I was looking for tunics, and I was able to find two t-shirt tunics that fit perfectly for around $4.99 plus $2.00 in shipping.   I also realized that Olivia needed a dress or two for the still-cold spring months, so I typed in girl dress long-sleeved 12 months.  Ten minutes later, I was the proud owner of a Laura Ashley dress, new with tags, for $1.99 plus $3 shipping, and a floral corduroy dress for $0.99 plus $2.50 in shipping.  Image Image

Then, since my children were still napping, I looked for the next two items on my list–a new pair of boots and some chunky necklaces and bracelets in brown.  By the end of the day, I had all four items on my list, for a grand total, including shipping, of around $28.
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And, by the way, these entire purchases were paid for by the sale of a lot of four pairs of jeans and three shirts that my son had outgrown.  I accomplished all of this while my children napped and I sipped my vanilla hazelnut coffee.

Sold yet?

If you haven’t used Ebay, it’s simple.  Go to ebay.com and sign up.  Make sure you have a paypal account, since it’s required to purchase or sell anything on Ebay.  Paypal has buyer protection, so if you buy an item and don’t receive it, you get your money back.  Once you have paypal set up and an account on ebay, you can start to purchase. Ebay itself will walk you through the process of buying and selling, so there is no need to do that here, but I have a few tips for you:

1) Watch the shipping price.  Most people are pretty reasonable, but there are some who charge exorbitant amounts for shipping.  There is no point in buying a $2.99 dress if you’re going to pay $12 in shipping when you can probably find a similar dress for less.

2) Unless you need something immediately, don’t purchase the first thing you see(unless, of course, it is the exact thing you’ve been searching forever for, then buy it!).  In order to buy something, it has to meet three criteria: I have to like it, I have to need it, and it has to be within a price range I’ve previously set.  Right now I’m looking for a maxi dress. Every 3-to-5 days, I go on ebay and type in “summer maxi dress size medium.”  So far, I haven’t found anything that met all three criteria.  There are enough items being continually posted on ebay that patience will pay off.  If you don’t really like something, don’t buy it just because it’s cheap–you won’t wear it. I keep a list  by my computer of upcoming needs that I’m aware of and use that to search on a regular basis.

3) Set a price range and search buy it.  Also, when you bid on something, you can bid the highest amount that you will pay and Ebay will automatically bid in increments.  This means that if an item is currently at $1 and you are willing to pay $5, bid $5. Ebay, however, will bid $1 for you, and if someone else comes along, the computer will automatically keep bidding against them on your behalf up to your limit. I have a policy that once I’ve bid that limit I won’t rebid, even if someone goes higher.  This keeps me from overspending and, honestly, there are so many items on Ebay that another one will come along.

4) Check out lots.  Lots are groups of clothing or other items; instead of selling them individually, the seller has decided to sell it as a group.  Children’s clothing is often sold in lots; I was recently able to buy 8 pairs of jeans, 5 shirts, 7 onesies and 3 dresses for my daughter for somewhere around $15.  Again, just watch the shipping on these, because there are more items sometimes sellers think they can overcharge for shipping.

Like everything else, Ebay is a tool.  You have to make it work for you.  For me, it works out great.  I’ve been able to get high quality clothing for little money without having to search through a store, and a week or so later it shows up on my doorstep.  Yes, there are downsides–it’s not immediately available like a store would be, so you do have to plan ahead, you can’t try things on(though most sellers will accept returns), and Ebay and paypal do have seller fees, though minimal.  

Ebay has allowed me to save both money and time, and, when you have two little kids running around and a full time job, that means everything.

How about you?  What are your tips to outfit your kids without breaking the bank and losing your mind?

This post is linked at http://trinaholden.com/2013/04/embracing-beauty-link-up-1/