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My dear, darling daughter,

I owe you an explanation.


You’re really into princesses right now. Crowns, flouncy dresses and anything that sparkles or glitters. I used to pride myself on the relative gender-neutrality of your toy collection, but now, there’s no mistaking that a princess obsession has taken over our household, much to my dismay.

The thing is, I grew up with these stories. So I get it. I do. I loved them.

I knew (and still know) most of the words to the movies and feel nostalgic whenever I hear their soundtracks. But reading them to you was the first time I found myself asking, in horror, “Wait a second, what are these stories teaching little kids? How did I never see this?”

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And so, dear daughter, instead of banning you from ever reading these stories again (à la King Triton), if we’re going to do this princess thing, I need to get a few things off my chest first.

1. You don’t have to change who you are to be loved.

Ariel traded in her mermaid tail for a pair of legs at the expense of her ability to properly communicate, in addition to her entire family and community. I mean, I know she loved Prince Eric, but I’d like to think that if it was love—real, honest-to-goodness love—surely Eric still would’ve loved her back, without her having to give up so very much of herself.

When you love someone, and indeed when someone loves you, that love needs to include what differentiates you, what makes you unique. I actually think that it’s through those differences, those challenges to our own characters or opinions, that we grow— individually and as a couple.

Take Princess Anna in Frozen, for example. She and Kristoff were polar opposites, in many ways. They came from different walks of life. They kinda irritated each other at the start, too, (and, spoiler alert—they’ll continue to irritate each other as their relationship blossoms) but she was the truest version of herself with him. He accepted and loved her as she was—I daresay because she was true to her authentic self.

2. On that note, ‘happily ever after’ is not really an ending.

Many of these stories end with a nice, neat “and they lived happily ever after” bow, like it’s all done and dusted. Again, spoiler alert: when you find your partner in life, and decide to commit to one another—honey, that is just the beginning.

Part of the beauty of falling in love is that actually, you get to fall in love with several versions of that person. We all grow and evolve over time. Our characters, beliefs and worldviews aren’t meant to be static. So we can’t expect the person we love to always remain who they were when our love first began.

It’s not always easy. They’re not always adorable. Some versions are harder to love than others. (Ask your father and he’ll gladly testify.) But through that evolution, together, you will find new and sometimes unexpected reasons to keep falling in love with each other. Those less than “happy” times are often the ones that bring you closer to each other, funnily enough.

3. If you keep on believing, your dreams—well, they might come true.

Look, this made for a great song in Cinderella. It sounds lovely. Just believe—and boom(!)—your dreams will come true. Okay. Yes. Believing in yourself and your aspirations is absolutely crucial.

But you also need to be proactive, take risks and make things happen.

You have to work really, really hard. Sometimes you have to fail once, twice, or 4,293 times until you get there. Sometimes, you have to change course completely because what you thought was your dream is actually a stepping stone that leads you elsewhere.

4. Have the courage to stand up for yourself because you are worthy of respect.

Belle and Cinderella are great examples of kindness, grace, compassion and selflessness—especially when faced with disrespect and cruelty from others.

But—I’m sorry—you need to demand more.

Yes, be kind. Yes, be compassionate. If someone treats you unkindly, while sometimes it’s okay to forgive them and move on, do not accept this as a pattern in any of your relationships—even, or maybe especially—if it is someone you love.

Don’t make excuses for their behavior. Call it when you see it. You have to dig deep, find that courage, and stand up for yourself.

In Brave, Merida showed courage in standing up to her mother about not wanting to get married. She decided that the best course of action was to turn her mother into a ravenous bear, so I hope we can avoid that route, because I promise to listen to you when what you want is different from what I want for you, no matter how hard that might be sometimes. Respect is a two-way street, and you deserve it from everyone, including me.

5. Golden hair, dainty feet, or “skin white as snow” is not what makes you beautiful.

When I was growing up, there wasn’t much variety in terms of how princesses looked. Jasmine, Mulan, or Pocahontas were as close as it got, and even then, they were essentially very slightly modified clones of every other Disney princess. In the more traditional stories, one of the princesses’ primary accomplishments is that she is “beautiful.” Kind, but also “beautiful.”

While I’m glad that nowadays you get to see some different representations of physical beauty in the newer Disney heroines, l want you to know that there’s one overarching thing that eclipses their skin color, hair, or body type.

Moana’s real beauty comes from things like her courage and determination. Princess Tiana’s beauty comes from her confidence and perseverance. Princess Elsa’s beauty comes from her loyalty and (eventual) wholehearted acceptance of who she really is.

Being physically beautiful means different things to different people, but the beauty of character, the more important, valuable and timeless beauty, is universal.

6. No one is inherently a “bad guy.”

Gaston, Cinderella’s stepmother, Mother Gothel, Maleficent, Jafar, Prince Hans—every story has a villain, right? The bad guy. But in the same way that I never tell you that you’re “bad” or “naughty,” these characters are not inherently bad or naughty, either.

We are all capable of making bad choices. We can all succumb to our lower nature and fail to rise up and better ourselves. And that applies to absolutely everyone.

No one is, by default, a “bad guy” or a “good guy.” It just doesn’t work that way. I know that these characters behaved in some reprehensible ways, but in real life, it’s just not that cut and dry. People change, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. Each person has their own journey and no one is entitled to judge another.

My sweet, dear daughter. I know this is a lot.

In fact, I could probably keep going, because there is just so much to say. I know that I’ve done some serious overthinking here, and it might be a while until we can have a thorough conversation about all of these things. But it’s my job to show you, as well as I can, the beauties and challenges of this world.

Fairy tales are all well and good, and I want you to enjoy them. I want to see that glint in your eye as you turn the page to the next part of the story. I love watching you twirl in your dress-up clothes.

But when you ask me questions about these stories and why the characters behaved as they did, I’m going to answer you with a dose of reality.

Now come over here, snuggle up to me and let’s read another story.

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As a former beauty editor, I pride myself in housing the best skincare products in my bathroom. Walk in and you're sure to be greeted with purifying masks, micellar water, retinol ceramide capsules and Vitamin C serums. What can I say? Old habits die hard. But when I had my son, I was hesitant to use products on him. I wanted to keep his baby-soft skin for as long as possible, without tainting it with harsh chemicals.

Eventually, I acquiesced and began using leading brands on his sensitive skin. I immediately regretted it. His skin became dry and itchy and regardless of what I used on him, it never seemed to get better. I found myself asking, "Why don't beauty brands care about baby skin as much as they care about adult skin?"

When I had my daughter in May, I knew I had to take a different approach for her skin. Instead of using popular brands that are loaded with petroleum and parabens, I opted for cleaner products. These days I'm all about skincare that contains super-fruits (like pomegranate sterols, which are brimming with antioxidants) and sulfate-free cleansers that contain glycolipids that won't over-dry her skin. And, so far, Pipette gets it right.

What's in it

At first glance, the collection of shampoo, wipes, balm, oil and lotion looks like your typical baby line—I swear cute colors and a clean look gets me everytime—but there's one major difference: All products are environmentally friendly and cruelty-free, with ingredients derived from plants or nontoxic synthetic sources. Also, at the core of Pipette's formula is squalane, which is basically a powerhouse moisturizing ingredient that babies make in utero that helps protect their skin for the first few hours after birth. And, thanks to research, we know that squalane isn't an irritant, and is best for those with sensitive skin. Finally, a brand really considered my baby's dry skin.

Off the bat, I was most interested in the baby balm because let's be honest, can you ever have too much protection down there? After applying, I noticed it quickly absorbed into her delicate skin. No rash. No irritation. No annoyed baby. Mama was happy. It's also worth noting there wasn't any white residue left on her bottom that usually requires several wipes to remove.


Why it's different

I love that Pipette doesn't smell like an artificial baby—you, know that powdery, musky note that never actually smells like a newborn. It's fragrance free, which means I can continue to smell my daughter's natural scent that's seriously out of this world. I also enjoy that the products are lightweight, making her skin (and my fingers) feel super smooth and soft even hours after application.

The bottom line

Caring for a baby's sensitive skin isn't easy. There's so much to think about, but Pipette makes it easier for mamas who don't want to compromise on safety or sustainability. I'm obsessed, and I plan to start using the entire collection on my toddler as well. What can I say, old habits indeed die hard.

This article was sponsored by Pipette. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Military families give up so much for their country, particularly when they have small children at home. Those of us who have never witnessed this kind of sacrifice first-hand could use a reminder of it once in a while, which is just one of the reasons we're so happy to see the beautiful photoshoot Mary Chevalier arranged for her husband's return home from Afghanistan.

The photoshoot was extra special because while James Chevalier was serving a nine-month deployment, Mary gave birth to their second son, Caspian.

Getting ready to meet Dad

"During the laboring and birthing process of Caspian, I was surrounded by family, but that did not fill the void of not having my husband by my side," Mary told InsideEdition.com. "He was able to video chat during the labor and birth, but for both of us, it was not enough."

While James had yet to meet Caspian, their 3-year-old son, Gage, missed his dad a whole lot, so this homecoming was going to be a big deal for him too. That's why Mary arranged for her wedding photographer, Brittany Watson, to be with them for their reunion in Atlanta.

Gage was so happy to see his Dad 

"[He] had no idea he was going to be getting to see his daddy that day," Watson wrote on Facebook. "The family met at the Southeastern Railway Museum for Gage to go on a special train ride... little did he know, he'd be doing it with daddy!"

Watson did a beautiful job capturing the high emotions of every single family member, from Gage's surprise, to the delight on baby Caspian's face. It's no wonder her Facebook post went viral last week.

"Caspian is natural, a very happy baby, but both James and I felt like Caspian knew who his father was almost immediately," Mary told Inside Edition. "He was easily comforted by me husband right off the bat and seemed to have an instant connection. It was very emotional."

The moment this dad had been waiting for 

If we're sobbing just looking at the photos, we can't even imagine what it was like in real life.

"We are all so blessed and take so much for granted," Watson wrote. "I cannot contain the joy I feel in my heart when I look at these images, and I hope you feel it too!"


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During both of my pregnancies, I was under the care of an amazing midwife. Every time I went to her office for check-ups, I was mesmerized by the wall of photos participating in what may be the most painfully magical moment of a woman's life: giving birth. But there was a painting that always drew my attention: a woman dressed in orange, holding her newborn baby with a face that could be described as clueless. The line above the canvas read, "Now what?"

I felt like the woman in the painting as I kissed my mother goodbye when my daughter was born. She came from my native Colombia to stay with us for three months. When she left, I realized that my husband had been working as usual during those first 90 days of our new life. My baby was born on a Friday and on Monday he was back at the office. (No parental leave policy for him.)

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Now what? I thought. The quote "It takes a village to raise a child" suddenly started to hit home, literally.

After a few years in Miami, I had some friends, but it truly didn't feel like I had a village. Some were not mothers yet, most of them worked full-time and others didn't live close by. My nomad life left my best friends spread out in different places in the world. I found myself signing up for "mommy and me" classes in search of new mothers, immigrants like me, alone like me.

It seemed like a utopian dream to think about when my grandmothers became mothers. Both of them had 6 and 10 children and they were able to stay sane (or maybe not? I don't know). But at least they had family around—people cooking, offering help. There was a sense of community.

My mother and father grew up in "the village." Big families with so many children that the older siblings ended up taking care of the little ones; aunts were like second mothers and neighbors became family.

When I was about to give birth to my second baby, my sister had just had her baby girl back in Colombia. Once, she called me crying because her maternity leave was almost over. My parents live close to her, so that was a bonus. Hiring a nanny back there is more affordable. But even seeing the positive aspects of it, I wished I could have been there for her, to be each other's village.

The younger me didn't realize that when I took a plane to leave my country in search of new experiences 19 years ago, I was giving up the chance to have my loved ones close by when I became a mother. And when I say close by, I mean as in no planes involved.

It hasn't been easy, but after two kids and plenty of mommy and me classes and random conversations that became true connections, I can say I have a mini-village, a small collection of solitudes coming together to lean on each other. But for some reason, it doesn't truly feel like one of those described in the old books where women gathered to knit while breastfeeding and all the children become like siblings.

Life gets in the way, and everyone gets sucked into their own worlds. In the absence of a true village, we feel the pressure to be and do everything that once was done by a group of people. We often lose perspective of priorities because we are taking care of everything at the same time. Starting to feel sick causes anxiety and even fear because it means so many things need to happen in order for mom—especially if single—to lay down and recover while the children are taken care of. And when the children get sick, that could mean losing money for a working mother or father, because the truth is that most corporations are not designed to nurture families.

In the absence of that model of a village I long for, we tend to rely on social media to have a sense of community and feel supported. We may feel that since we are capable of doing so much—working and stay at home moms equally—perhaps we don't need help. Or quite the opposite: mom guilt kicks in and feelings of not being enough torment our night sleep. Depression and anxiety can enter the picture and just thinking about the amount of energy and time that takes to create true connections, we may often curl up in our little cocoon with our children and partners—if they are present—when they come home.

Now what? was my thought this week while driving back and forth to the pediatrician with my sick son. I can't get the virus, I have to be strong, my daughter can't get ill, my husband needs to be healthy for his work trip next week, we all need to be well for my son's fifth birthday. And so, it goes on. I texted one of my mom friends just to rant. She rants back because her son is also sick. She sent me a heart and an "I'm here if you need to talk."

I am grateful to have talked to her at that random postpartum circle when I first became a mother. She's a Latina immigrant like me and feels exactly like me. I will do it more, get out of my comfort zone and have—sometimes—awkward conversations so I can keep growing my own little village.

It may not look like the one I'd imagined, but still may allow me to be vulnerable even through a text message.

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Halloween is around the corner, but if you are like me you are still trying to figure out what to dress your family (especially the little ones), so here are some cute ideas inspired by famous characters. There's something for everyone—from cartoon lovers to ideas for the entire family!

Here are some adorable character costumes for your family:

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