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Potty training is a huge step towards independence, for both parents and children. It can be such an exciting and happy time—there's nothing better than seeing the smile of pride on your kid's face when they do their first pee in the potty and yell "I did it!"

If you're starting to think about potty training, the key to the easiest, calmest and quickest process is preparation and understanding. Many common mistakes and pitfalls can be avoided if you know how to.

I've worked with thousands of parents and have four of my own children, so I've been there too, and in my experience, there are five main points you need to know about to rock potty training.

1. Readiness is everything

Perhaps the biggest key to the easiest potty training is starting at the right time. If kids are not ready and training begins too early, it's almost never successful. Similarly, putting off training or waiting too long to start can cause just as many problems. The secret is to find that sweet spot in the middle.

There are two forms of readiness, emotional and physical, and both matter equally. Kids' bodies go through several developmental changes before they are ready to potty train, from increasing bladder capacity and hormonal control of pee output, to conscious control of the muscles needed to open the bladder and bowel. From a scientific perspective, these physical developments indicate readiness somewhere between 20 and 30 months of age.

Emotional readiness, however, is something different altogether. Kids can take longer to be emotionally ready, even if their bodies are ready to go. For the easiest potty training, you want an excited, motivated and relaxed kid. That means training when other big life events are happening, such as welcoming a new baby into the family, is not the greatest idea.

2. Expect (and accept) accidents

Many parents start potty training and give up on day two or three because their kid has too many accidents. They doubt their decision, second guess that it's the right time to start and convince themselves that they misread the signs. The thing is, accidents are an important part of learning to use the restroom.

Kids need to learn what it feels like to be wet (something most don't feel in disposable diapers) and they need to learn how long they can hold on and when they must go to the potty NOW! It's a learning process, just like learning to ride a bike. We don't stop trying to teach our kids how to ride a bike because they've fallen off a few times. We tell them, "It's okay, you're learning, accidents happen and you'll get there!"

Accidents are a sign of learning, not a sign of failure. They can happen for weeks, months and even years until the child gets the hang of it. Be confident in your child and trust that you're making the decision to start.

3. Trust they know when to go

Imagine if you've just been to a mindfulness class and the teacher taught you a relaxation technique to practice a few times a day. You're doing okay on your own, maybe you forget a couple of times, but you're getting there slowly.

Now imagine if the teacher phoned you 10 times a day to "check if you've done your relaxation practice when you feel stressed?" You'd get annoyed wouldn't you? In fact, you'd probably stop trying to practice by yourself. This is what happens to kids when parents constantly prompt them during potty training with, "Do you need to pee?" or "Are you sure you don't need to poo yet?"

Over-prompting causes kids to stop listening to their bodies and often, to stop trying. Prompt as little as possible so that your little one can lead the way.

4. Devote time to potty train

It would be great if we could slot potty training into our regular schedule, without having to put anything on hold. But, potty training is a big step in a child's life. Doesn't that big step deserve some time devoted to it?

Too many parents try to squeeze potty training into their regular routines, not making any special time for it. Taking time away from your everyday routines, such as booking some time off work, or using a weekend to stay home for a couple of days, will help your kid to concentrate on learning.

Just two or three days where you minimize distractions is enough and you'll more than recoup the time you spent later by avoiding the stop-start potty training cycle that so many go through. Clear some time in your everyday schedules to really focus on learning.

5. Commando or underwear only

Ditching diapers and pull-ups in the day immediately is the way to go. They're confusing to kids as they say, "Hey, I think you're ready for potty training, but I don't quite trust you, so I'm going to put this new type of diaper on you." Both wick away moisture, preventing kids from learning what it feels like to be wet (and don't motivate them to avoid it) and the way they fit their bodies feels too much like a regular diaper. The result? Usually delayed and difficult potty training.

Show your child that you believe in them and that means ditching the diapers and pull-ups in the daytime full stop! It's okay to still use them at night for a while, though. It usually takes six to 12 months of daytime dryness before night dryness happens. Just keep daytimes to commando or underwear only. Don't be tempted to go back to diapers once you've started. Remember, consistency is key!

Potty training is an exciting time, but it's one that takes a lot of work. Have lots of patience and show your little that you trust them to make it to the potty. If accidents happen, don't worry! Use it as a learning experience until they get the hang of it. They'll be ready to head to the bathroom in no time.

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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.)


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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