Why I Never Criticize My Appearance

Several years ago I made a commitment that I would never criticize my appearance in front of my daughters.


I vowed to avoid any slanderous comments about bad hair days, my five foot two stature, or my weight.  When my psoriasis, which normally is kept under control with medicine, flared after each pregnancy, as was apt to happen in the most unfortunate, hormone-laden timing, I never uttered that I felt ugly, although I felt it acutely.

When I eat well, which I certainly try to do, I explain how it makes me strong and healthy.  When I eat poorly, which I also certainly do on occasion, I don't verbally beat myself up for it.  When the girls watch me exercise in the morning (or, in Kerrington's case, climb on me while I'm stretched in a plank pose doing Jillian Michael's walking push-ups), I never discuss getting skinnier.  I do, however, tell them that their mama's getting strong.

Currently, there is one woman to whom my daughters look when they perceive how a woman should feel about appearance, beauty, weight, and the intricate link with self-worth.  That woman is me.

I refuse to let them down.

Whether we've been given the privilege and responsibility of raising daughters or sons, how we talk about ourselves and our appearance shapes how our children view womanhood -- whether they think it's normal or permissible to eat only salads, lament cellulite, or lust after the media's unattainable standard of perfection.

I don't want this for my daughters.  Do I want them to eat well, remain fit, and stay trim?  Absolutely.  Who wouldn't want this for their children?

But more importantly, I want my daughters to be assured that their value never ought to be based on appearance.  I don't want them to succumb to the wearisome trap of always striving, but never feeling as if they're enough.  Plenty of beautiful women don't feel as if they're beautiful.  Contentment is an attitude of the heart, not contingent solely on externals.

That's why I liked this article about how to talk to little girls.  Do I tell my girls that they're beautiful?  Absolutely.  But we stress other attributes more highly.

Besides, the benefits of this practice don't end with my daughters.  When I made a conscious choice to ban negative self-talk, it forced me to confront my own insecurities and re-evaluate my worth.  Fearfully and wonderfully made, we are, and that's the standard to which I'll hold firm.

I'm not perfect in this.  There are days when I'm utterly confounded by the fact that I'm applying both anti-aging lotion and acne cream (really now!), but at age thirty-three after having three babies within five years, I'm more secure about myself than I've ever been before.

And, I'll tell you something, that's attractive.

Humor, hope, and encouragement for moms: Then I Became a Mother.  Available in Kindle and paperback editions!

"I got so caught up in it, I couldn’t put it down."  Stacy Nelson, Motherhood on a Dime.

"Hilarious and spot-on!"  Jennifer Mullen, Mosaic of Moms.

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Trash Day

Title: Trash Day

Subtitle: Another milestone has passed when the car seat carrier finds its way to the curb.

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Returning from Vacation

Have you ever started vacation and thought you had a significant amount of time ahead, only to suddenly realize that it's Friday night and you're leaving the next morning?  Vacation weeks have the uncanny ability to vaporize. *poof*

Our trip to the shore was wonderful, and I gathered several observations to share.

1) It takes patience and good aim to successfully coat children with sunscreen.  While I've never wrestled greased pigs, I imagine there's some commonalty.

2) If you're sitting on a beach chair with a baby on your lap and you think the baby is perfectly balanced, beware.  Like a rogue wave, there will be no warning when the baby lurches forward and face plants into the sand.  Kerrington managed this.

I turned her over to inspect her face, already greasy from a film of sunscreen and now peppered with sand.  Her baby hands were so quick that I had a doozy of a time preventing her from permanently damaging her retinas by rubbing those sandy hands into her sand-filled eyes.  Like all things at the beach, the towel I used to clean her face was gritty, but at least I felt productive as I dusted her off.

She looked so cute in her sun shirt and hat that I forgave the episode.  She got interested in eating the sand and did the same.

3) If you visit an amusement park on the boardwalk, you will come home with a horde of stuffed animals.  It'll start out harmless -- just one little starfish from winning at skee ball.

But that one starfish will multiply.

Then other random stuffed animals -- a duck, a monkey, an elephant, a pair of sharks, and an oversized Tweety bird -- will join the starfish to form a strange menagerie.

Your children will notice if even one of them is missing.

4) As I reviewed the pictures taken at the amusement park, I noticed that I appeared to enjoy the spinning tea cups more than my children did.

5) When attempting a family photo (one that will not turn out as well as you had hoped) you will overlook important details.  In my case, I forgot that my daughter was holding an ice cream cone.

I asked her to stand next to me.  Since she has no concept of personal space, she took this as an invitation to position herself directly behind me and let the ice cream drip onto my head.  I noticed later in the evening when absentmindedly running my hand through my hair and discovering a clump of sprinkles.

5) Take every opportunity to swim in the ocean.  Really, it's worth it.

6) Even if you manage to pack systematically while headed to vacation, the process while returning home from vacation will be much less thoughtful.  Items that do not belong together will be haphazardly jammed into any open duffel or loose shopping bag, which is why, upon our arrival home, I emptied one trash bag that contained sunscreen, paper towels, seashells, coloring books, worn socks, a tee shirt, loose change, a box of gummy snacks, empty sippy cups, an apple, and a bar of soap.

7) The ride home will contain some of this:

a fair share of this:

and not nearly enough of this:

We permitted an ungodly amount of Curious George episodes and one Wiggles movie to be shown on the travel DVD player, even though I internally questioned whether this was ruining my children's imagination and thwarting budding observation skills.

Didn't I used to press my forehead against the backseat window and daydream about life in new places when I traveled as a child? I wondered.  I nearly convinced myself that my daughters would be deprived of creativity, appreciation for travel, and the ability to process scenery, but then I remembered one of my own childhood road trips where I escaped within an inch of my life after driving my parents to the brink by whining, kicking the back of the driver's seat, and arguing with my brother for ten consecutive hours between Raleigh and Pittsburgh.

The DVD's didn't seem that bad then.

Eventually Joel and I had a discussion about how the drum line on a certain Wiggles song was actually quite good.

8) You may attempt to be creative.  While stuck in traffic, I launched a game of Create-a-Song by generating three random items or words -- say, puff ball, umbrella, and skydiving -- and asking each family member to compose a song that included all of them.  This continued for forty-five minutes.  We're superstars now.

9) I have visible tan lines.  They're fading quickly, though.  I only have 14 more minutes of darker pigmentation until I revert to my pale Caucasian self.

10) I'm still finding sand in random places, even days later.

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Evolution of an Ice Cream Cone

The floor mats in the minivan are dusted with sand. The kids shine from being perpetually slathered with sunscreen. It's beach week. This is the evolution of eating an ice cream cone, kid style:

Can't get much better than this.

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Happy Anniversary, Pink Dryer Lint

Pink Dryer Lint turns one today.  What a blessing it's been to document the past year in this fashion, to capture the ordinary moments that have made up the day-to-day tapestry of life with young children.

In case you're curious, here's the post that started it all.

Dear readers and friends, thank you so much for joining me on this ride.  I can't express enough gratitude for your amazing support.

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Happy Father's Day

We celebrated Father's Day by making breakfast for Joel.  It's painted toast: one tablespoon of milk, one drop of food coloring, one clean paintbrush, and away you go.  It probably looks prettier on white bread, but we buy the grainy whole wheat variety.

Reese painted a flower.  Brooke painted some image that can only be determined by her -- and then, as an extra touch -- she ate a portion of the toast before we could deliver it.

As soon as we entered the bedroom I could tell that Joel was sound asleep in that utterly happy place, so his first few sentences, "You made this for me? Thank you!" were slow and garbled.  Such is Father's Day: being woken too early with the presentation of partially eaten toast.

We hung out in bed while Joel ate his toast, each girl picking off pieces here or there, crumbs falling into the sheets.  The girls jostled each other to hand Joel the cards and pictures they had made.

Once we were up for the day, Kerrington covertly snagged Joel's Father's Day card discretely discarded it -- this time not in the trash can, but rather in the toilet.   (Within moments she managed the same feat with Reese's bike helmet and Brooke's tea set, causing me to realize that we need a more stringent policy on closed bathroom doors.)

Reese's observation: "So, there's a day for mothers and a day for fathers, right?  When is there a day for kids?"

That, dear child, would be everyday.

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A Question Better Left Unanswered

My friend's husband is out of town for work, and yesterday she and her two children joined us for dinner.  After we cleared the table, her daughter paired off with Reese while her son paired off with Brooke.

The match-up was perfect.  Since the older kids were occupied, we were free to talk and watch Kerrington toddle around the room without one interruption.  Sustained conversation.  This is epic.

Once they left I asked Reese if she had a nice time playing with her friend.  She nodded.  "That's good.  I had a fun time, too," I added.

Reese looked at me in earnest.  "Mom, how did you have a fun time?  You weren't even with us kids."

Precisely.  And that is a question better left unanswered.

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I'm Flattered

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Kerrington thinks highly of us.  She carefully scrutinizes our actions through those wide blue eyes of hers, and then mimics.

I blow on her hot food to bring it to an acceptably warm temperature at dinner.  She blows on her high chair tray.

Joel rolls a ball her direction.  She swings her arm, even if uncoordinated, to roll it back.

Here's where it gets tricky.  This little baby has watched every member of the family as we've done something that we currently don't want her to mimic: we've thrown unwanted items in the trash.

She's taken note of this.

Kerrington has no censor to differentiate what belongs in the trash can and what doesn't.  If a crayon accidentally rolls off the kitchen table, it's fair game for the garbage.  A receipt that falls off the counter and drifts to the floor may never be seen again if Kerrington reaches it first.

The take-home lesson is this: always keep tabs on your car keys and wallet.  If left unattended and low to the ground, it's possible that they'll end up wedged next to the remnants of the day's lunch and buried beneath a mound of junk mail.

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For a Special Father

The phone rings as I'm reading a bedtime story to the girls.  I hear Joel from the other room.  "Yes, okay, of course.  I'll get her."

He holds the phone toward me.

"Who is it?" I whisper.

"It's some guy with CNN."

As if I get calls from CNN all the time, I nod and reach for the extended phone as I'm lying between the girls in Reese's bed.  He hands it over, a curious look on his face, and lingers in the doorway until I hang up.

"Well?" he asks.

I bide my time and turn the page.  Reese and Brooke are impatient for me to finish the story.

"That was just CNN."  I'm playing cool, but milking the suspense for all it's worth.

"I'm aware of that.  What did they want?"

"Oh, you know, a producer with HLN contacted me after finding my blog.  He wanted to know if I'd be interested in doing a small piece for Father's Day."

He nods, clearly not ready to accept that synopsis as the full story.

"And?" he draws the word out.

I balk.  I never keep secrets from Joel, but I had been harboring this one for a month, determined to keep it under wraps despite itching to hash it out.  "This was all supposed to be a surprise."

He looks at me incredulously.  "I'm already pretty surprised."

True dat.

So, I spill the story, underpinning it with frequent disclaimers like "It's only 25 seconds" and "There's no way I could possibly say everything about you in that short of a time span."  I finish the long-winded explanation.  Joel is silent for a moment.

"So, I'm going to be on television for Father's Day?"  He pauses.  "Wow, Robin.  That's amazing.  Thank you."

It still doesn't do him justice, but it's a more unique gift than just a new polo, is it not?

A very special thanks to Grayson Thagard, web producer for Morning Express with Robin Meade on HLN, who graciously arranged this opportunity.  Be sure to check out their website for more.

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It's a Jet Pack

Title: It's a Jet Pack

Subtitle:  It's made from cardboard and tied on with yarn.  It's also being worn upside-down by a child in a leotard, which means that she'd propel herself through the floorboards into the basement -- but in a graceful manner -- if this thing actually could launch.  Sweet.

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The Long Walk

Yesterday our town held a small strawberry festival.  We were looking for something to fill the hour before dinner, so Reese and I headed out.  On foot.

It was only a mile and a quarter each way, but as our feet pounded the pavement I realized that she and I normally don't walk this far together.  We regularly walk up and down our street, to the bus stop, and into and out of grocery stores and parking lots, but we rarely take a long walk just for the pleasure of it.

There wasn't much at the festival: some lawn chairs haphazardly positioned, a few blankets spread out for those attendees early enough to snag one of the spots in the shade, a band comprised of three eclectically dressed musicians playing cover songs, and a table where you could build your own strawberry shortcake with local strawberries, melting ice cream, and an assortment of cakes.

We didn't stay very long.

I was too eager for the long walk back home.  I loved how freely Reese swung her arms while she walked, how she picked dandelions and crown vetch that grew alongside the road for me, and how we could discern which neighbors were grilling their dinners just by breathing deeply.

I altered my pace from my typical purposeful stride.  Reese seemed to step to the left or the right as often as she stepped forward.  Her haphazard manner lengthened the walk but added interest as she discovered a chipmunk on someone's sidewalk or pointed out a cardinal in a tree.

I've driven these roads hundreds of times, but as we slowed our pace and walked I noticed details I had never absorbed in the past -- a shaded garden, a well-built fence, a unique garage door, an American flag covering a front window.  I even saw a house that I swear I've never laid eyes on before.

All this in just a one and a quarter miles.  I wonder how much we'd discover if she and I walked even farther.

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How To Organize: Summer Edition

Summer is right around the corner, and with summer comes vacations and trips to the beach.  It's virtually impossible to keep a minivan clean throughout the summer months.

Scratch that.  It's virtually impossible to keep a minivan clean during all months, but summer adds several elements that you don't get in the winter -- sand, dirt, grass, pine cones, and the small bugs and earth worms that your children discover and want to bring home as pets.  You know the gig.

Given this, I appreciate shortcuts that help to keep matters in a semi-organized state.

If you're headed to the beach this summer and carting an assortment of shovels, pails, and sand toys with you, here's a tip to keep them nicely corralled and easy to clean:

Buy a mesh laundry bag.  They're cheap, lightweight, and hold an impressive amount of stuff.  Plus, when the vacation is finished you can hose off the entire bag, let it dry, shake any lingering sand from the toys, and then toss the bag into the back of the minivan.

Think of it as a form of conservation.  If we all do our part to keep the sand at the beaches instead of in our vehicles, we parents can single-handedly fight coastal erosion.

And you never thought a mesh laundry bag could be this environmentally friendly, did you?

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The final day of August 2010 was just an ordinary day, but September started in a noteworthy fashion when Reese boarded the school bus for the very first time.

As of today, the child is a kindergarten graduate. 

As someone who's just a bit sappy, I'll willingly admit that a small lump formed in my throat as I watched her shake her teacher's hand and accept her certificate on that small stage in the school's cafeteria.

If every year whips by as quickly as this one has, she'll be headed to college next week.

Here's to the lazy, slow days of summer.

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Short and Sweet: Improbable

A mathematical probability that I can't figure out in 100 or fewer words:

It's safe to assume that Brooke has a 50-50 chance of putting her shoes on the correct feet each morning.  It's like a true and false test.  The odds are equal.

Why is it, then, that she only wears the left shoe on her left foot and the right shoe on her right foot 25 percent of the time?

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Learning from Failure On Mother's Day

Recently I rehashed a failed parenting moment with a friend.  Reese and Brooke had been aggravating each other for an hour, and my patience already had wore thin.  Brooke had the audacity to look at -- not even touch, mind you -- a small sticker book that Reese recently had been given.  Reese pounced.

"Do not touch my stickers!" she yelled.

I saw her raise her arm.

"Do not hit your sister!"  I warned.

Warning disregarded.  Reese swung hard, hitting Brooke across the back, and added a second whack for good measure.

I was livid.

I remember yanking Reese off Brooke, forcibly directing her upstairs by the arm for time out, and shouting something like, "If these stickers are going to cause you to hurt your sister, then you won't have these stickers.  We'll never have stickers again if this is what happens."

Then I maturely ripped the sticker book to shreds.

When Joel walked through the door a moment later, I only can imagine what we looked like: Reese shrieking over her ruined stickers, Brooke wailing because she had been hit, and my face flushed with the anger I never knew resided in my heart until I had children.

It was so ugly.

It was Mother's Day.

Seven hours prior the girls had delivered a waffle, my favorite orange juice, and homemade crafts to me in bed, where we had snuggled and talked.

Such a long way to fall.

After the ordeal I sent myself to my room and cooled off until I was no longer a threat to anyone's well-being.  Then the deep disappointment settled.

When faced with a situation that provoked my anger, I had acted no better than my six-year old had when she was faced with a similar situation.  How could I expect her to behave well when I couldn't even manage my emotions as an adult?

What an abject mess.  I wanted to crawl back into bed.

Once a healthy amount of time had passed to buffer ragged emotions, Reese and I sat down together to talk.  We discussed what had happened, what should have happened, and what we need to do differently when someone angers us in the future.  We apologized and asked forgiveness.

Even weeks later as I reviewed the details with my friend, my anger surged when I visualized Reese lift her arm against Brooke.  My disappointment surged when I visualized how I had reacted -- with immaturity instead of wisdom, with roughness instead of patience.

That night I realized that although I had made the situation right with Reese, I never had made it right with God.  Forgiveness of sin is the most basic principle of Christianity -- the element that separates it from all other religions -- and I had forgotten to ask for and accept that forgiveness.

Forgiveness isn't about letting enough time pass so you no longer feel the sting of your wrongdoings.  It's not about brushing bad behavior under the rug or convincing yourself that you had meant well.  It's not about overcompensating with better deeds in the future.

When we're forgiven by God, we're washed entirely clean.  As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us (Psalm 103:12).

That's far.

That's a clean slate, a new start, a fresh canvas.  There are no strings attached.  It simultaneously frees you from the past and spurs you to do better in the future.

It's found in no one but Jesus.

And, surmising that I'm not the only one who's behaved badly at one point or another, I must share that this forgiveness is available to anyone who puts his or her trust in Jesus.

I can't imagine life without forgiveness.  God's not about beating people up; He's about restoring them.  Let that truth settle. 

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

I'm not ashamed to admit how much I need this cleansing.  It's there for you, too, just in case you've torn any sticker books apart lately.   

Especially if you've torn any sticker books apart lately.

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What's Missing (Besides My Memory)?

Earlier in the spring, I bought a plastic canister of water balloons for the girls.  It was April, nowhere near warm enough to break them out yet, so I hid the canister to prevent the girls from incessantly asking to play with them.

Now it's warm.  I had forgotten all about the balloons until Reese wanted to play "water fun."

I've searched the garage.  I've searched the basement.  I've searched the shed.

Those balloons are so well hidden that not even I can find them.  I'm starting to question whether I actually bought them, or whether I just thought about buying and hiding them.  Was this some sort of exhausting yet vivid dream in which I dragged all the children to Wal-Mart for a typical grocery run when we inadvertently ended up in the toy section and I deflected requests for yet another Zooble with an equally firm barrage of no's, or was this real life?

It's so hard to tell at this point.

Normally I'm a I'm a person who knows where things are.  My family relies on this.

Where are my shoes?  One's on the steps; the other's under the kitchen table.

Have you seen my cell phone?  It's on top of the computer desk.

I can't find my floppy puppy Look on the bathroom sink.

I'm usually spot-on, which is why this balloon disappearance is so frustrating.

Who helps the mommy when she misplaces things?

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Real People Food

Although I've guided two other children through this stage, I still feel as if I don't know what I'm doing when a child transitions from baby food to "real people" food, as we are currently attempting with Kerrington.

How do you move a little person who's eaten nothing but pureed fruits and vegetables into a little person who gnaws corn on the cob, bites into pizza, and crunches an apple?  I know that it happens, I just don't quite recall how.

Right now, we've upgraded the bib.  Gone are the soft cotton ones appropriate for mere baby food, dripping milk, and drool, and in their place is a waterproof, plastic one large enough to be mistaken for full body armor when I velcro it around her neck.

At meals I quarter blueberries, tear bread into bitty pieces, and break a slice of cheese into minuscule bites.  Unlike when she ate baby food, I have no accurate sense of how much she actually ingests.  This is especially true when I lift her from the high chair and find twelve smashed pieces of watermelon in the pocket of her bib and wads of bread adhered to her pants.

I know we'll figure it out.  For now we'll stick with the tiny bites and avoid the notorious choking hazard foods -- whole grapes, raisins, hot dogs, and the like.  One day she'll be just like the others: eating chicken nuggets, chewing gummy snacks, and biting into a peach that will drip down her chin and onto her shirt that's no longer protected by the body armor bib.

We'll get there.

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