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My toddler's reaction was the ultimate lesson in having grace

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"What is a ballerina, mama?" my daughter Abby, who is two and a half asked me.

"A dancer. They do a special dance called 'ballet'. They are very graceful." I answered.

Then she replied, "I want to do ballet."

Cue the I-swear-I-wasn't-going-to-be-this-kind-of-mom who does obsessive research on ballet classes. After feeling overwhelmed by the amazing opportunities we have near us, I decided: simple is better.

She's only two! We'd just take an easy class to start at the nearby recreation center. (Which of course, I had to get up at the crack of dawn to register for because even that one fills up in the first six minutes it opens!)


Then, the 10-times-a-day daily question, "Is today my ballet class?" began.

Fast forward a few months, and it was finally time for ballet!

We showed up to her first class, Abby was decked out head-to-toe in ballerina pink. As we walked in I thought, Ahhh why did I get sucked into buying so much new gear at Target? Wasn't I keeping this simple?

We were a bit early but wondered after a while why no one else was showing up. We waited with unprecedented patience. Where is everyone? The studio is dark. There are no kids. No teacher. My mom brain on overdrive.

We eventually got our answer: The class had been canceled and they didn't call me or update it online.


(By the way, I realize this is totally the definition of a #FirstWorldProblem.)

But we were disappointed regardless.

In a, "Do I completely lose my marbles…or do I try to make the best of it?" mom moment, I opted for the latter and I asked to borrow the dance studio, then asked the recreation center director if she had any music we could play, and she did! She had the entire range of ballet classics on CD. So, me and my tiny dancer started our class.

At first, I was dancing around while Abby stood there mystified ("where's the teacher and kids?"). And then. THEN. One person joined us. Then another. Senior citizens from other classes, who had seen us earlier waiting in the hall came in and joined us in our impromptu class.

Did she hide behind me? Did she question it? Nope.

She watched intently as one gentleman plopped down a mat on the floor and demonstrated Tai Chi for her. His slow and methodical arm motions sweeping around in circles while she stood there pretty-in-pink, completely mesmerized. "Edelweiss" played in the background.

She twirled with the woman who said she hasn't done ballet in many decades, but who didn't look like she had forgotten any moves if you ask me.

Abby laughed and spun around. I did the same, ignoring any self-conscious feelings about prancing about in my sweatpants in front of strangers and big mirrors. We danced our hearts out to the ballet rendition of "Let it Go."

And you know what?

It felt GREAT.

"Ballet is about grace, Abby," I remember telling her when we first talked about doing this class. And turns out, I was right about that. The community showed us grace by dancing with us, even though they didn't know what exactly we were doing. Abby demonstrated grace by going with the flow. I demonstrated grace to my toddler by turning lemons into lemonade.

We had one heck of a lesson in grace.

I learned a few important things on this day of the best-not-a-ballet-class-ever:

1. We all lose it as moms in stressful situations with kids.

If you can try to avoid completely falling apart (total permission to do so if need be) and find an alternative, a solution—often the next step turns out better than the original plan. Hard one for me to embrace as a Type A person. But I have thought a lot about the memory I made with Abby on this ballet day and how that wouldn't have happened (nor could I share my story here) if I hadn't remained calm and upbeat. It would have been a totally different story had I succumbed to the disappointment of this bump in the road.

2. Children are the epitome of grace.

(I know, that's hard to believe with a toddler, stay with me here).

Grace is all about effortlessness; kids have this innately. They can find fun in just about everything and anything (you know—like playing with a box for hours). Their growing minds are so curious; colors and smells and shapes and music are stimulating and intriguing. They don't have the inhibitions that we have as adults. They will twirl anywhere. Even better if there is a mirror to watch themselves do it. We should take note: It's really fun to twirl in front of a mirror.

3. There are wonderful people all around us.

These are pretty hard times with a lot of bad stuff going on in the news. But don't forget, mama, that there are SO many amazing people with pure love in their hearts. I could just cry (okay, okay, I did) about those people at the recreation center who pitched in, without asking—without even speaking about it out loud, honestly—to help make it a memorable 30-minutes for Abby. Effortless giving. We should take a cue from them, too, and be those people; help other mamas every chance you get.

Best ballet class EVER.

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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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