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smart phone

I know what you’re thinking. How did you survive for FIVE long years without a cell phone? Surprisingly well.

This year I asked my husband for a cell phone for Christmas. I felt like I was finally ready to take on an additional expense now that my blog is growing. After my site was temporarily shut down for being over my monthly usage allowance on Christmas Eve, I knew I had to have a way to stay up to date on any changes. It was a wake up call, but ultimately a very good problem to have.

Still, some part of me will be sad to say goodbye to the old me, the one that didn’t have a smart phone permanently in my hand.

I can already feel myself being sucked in by smart phone addiction. The last time I had a cell phone it was a simple tracfone that I used mostly to keep in touch with my husband while I was at work. That was before I started working from home.

I still want to hold onto the pre-smart phone me. She learned some very important lessons that I want desperately to remember.

1. Pay Attention To Who You’re With – I am a people watcher. Whether at restaurants, kids’ play places, the mall, the playground or the library I’m always watching how people interact with each other. Over the last five years I’ve had plenty of time to see how people interact with their  friends and family in public and I’ve been a little disturbed.

Smart phones are awesome, but I noticed that nobody seemed to be paying much attention to the people they were with. Couples sat silently across from each other at restaurants. Parents sat silently on a park bench while their kids played almost exclusively by themselves without more than a quick passing glance. People spent a lot of time looking at their phones.

I get it. I feel my potential to be sucked in, especially by social media. It’s exciting to be able to connect with people on so many platforms ALL THE TIME, but I’m so glad for these five years during which I focused exclusively on my friends and family.

I was able to give them my undivided attention. I got up and played with my kids at the park. I chatted with my husband at dinner. I was able to be fully present and I think that’s something I want to be aware of now that I’ve got a new toy. No matter where I am or what I’m doing, I’m glad these five years were all about the people that love me and whom I love more than anyone in this world.

2. Privacy Is A Premium – Now that I’ve got a smart phone and I can be reached at any time, I’m a little sad. It was sort of liberating not worrying about my phone ringing or dinging to let me know someone needs me. I’m a mom, I already feel needed EVERY SINGLE SECOND of the day and it is exhausting.I can’t tell you how many times over the course of five years I’ve overheard someone on the phone in a public restroom and thought, “What on EARTH could be so important that it can’t wait till you’re out of the bathroom?” It’s bad enough I don’t get privacy in my bathroom at home.Plus the ick factor is really high for me. To me, nothing you press against your face should be out where it’s exposed to urine and fecal matter. But hey, that’s just me.

3. Remember To Have Actual Conversations – Being without a smart phone these past five years, has made me nostalgic for actual conversations. Now it’s all text messages, Facebook messenger and emoticons (most of which I’m still struggling to understand the circumstance that would actually warrant its use). Being able to connect all the time, has actually made the quality of conversation decline in my opinion.We’d rather send one liners to each other than really connect.

I get it, we’re a busy society. We’re always moving, always working, and always parenting on the fly.But I hope I don’t forget that what we say to each other will always be more important than how we choose to do it. During my phone free years, I may have chatted less with people, but I definitely feel like I gave them more of myself and the conversations actually strengthened relationships.

One day my kids will ask me for a cell phone. I know it’s going to be a LONG time before I say yes. I want them to make their words count. I want them to actually connect with people. I want my kids to see me when I’m talking to them, instead of a cell phone screen. I’m glad that I went such a long time without one, because I can always say that if I survived, they can too.

4. Learn Not To Panic Over Potential Emergencies – The question I was constantly asked when I didn’t have a cell phone was, “What happens if there is an emergency?” In five years, I can honestly say that I never had an emergency happen while I was out. I work from home so it definitely helps that I’m home a lot of the time.Maybe it’s just luck, or maybe we just tend to anticipate emergencies more than we used to.We envision our kids getting sick or hurt at school, the car breaking down or our spouse needing to reach us urgently.

I’m not saying emergencies don’t happen. I just happened to be able to live with the uncertainty better than most. The one time my tire got a flat was when we were driving to the local lake this summer and since my husband had his car packed with our inflatable boat and life jackets he was driving behind me at the time. I had the van packed with kids and snacks and it was absolutely the best case scenario. The kids and I found a grassy spot on the side of the road and ate some snacks while my husband changed my tire and then we were on our way.

There were plenty of times my husband wished I had a cell phone over the last five years. But honestly he did what we all did pre-cell phone era; he waited till I got home. Since I work at home, I’m here the majority of the time. I think some “emergencies” are really just small panic attacks that come from having to wait a little longer to talk to someone. By faith or by luck I survived without any permanent psychological scarring. Five years without a cell phone has taught me to be more aware of my surroundings, pay better attention to the condition of my car, and anticipate whether or not my child’s cold will land them in the nurse’s office.

It also taught me to be more patient and reminded me of the immense capacity people have to be kind to one another. There was the time my car’s battery died in the parking lot of the post office and a man cleaned my connectors and got it started back up. Nobody wants to rely on others anymore. I get it, I really do. We’re too busy. We’re too distrustful. We want assurances that we can’t always have in an unsure world.

I want my kids to be able to call for help should they need it when they get older. But I also want them to have the skills to assess situations, the mindfulness to anticipate potential problems, and the courage to wait if necessary without panicking because the worst thing you can do in an emergency is panic.

Your brain will always be your best asset. Perhaps the smart phone comes in second place.

I’m excited by the prospect of all the things my new smart phone can do for me, but I want to hold on for dear life to the lessons I’ve learned from my five years without one.

How long could you survive without your smart phone?

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

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I heard it again the other day, “Oh, you have your hands full!” I was pushing two kids in my shopping cart, while my oldest daughter walked beside us as we navigated the aisles of Walmart. None of my kids were acting up. Nobody was yelling, pushing or annoying each other. There was nothing to warrant the comment from this stranger except the number of children with me.

I’m not sure when it was that three children was officially declared the tipping point that pushes you from mom to mental case. How could I possibly handle three with only two hands? I’ve seen better mothers than me handle far more than three kids. I have a good friend who has six. I bet she hears the phrase far more frequently than I do.

I suppressed an eye roll and kept on shopping, because with three kids the goal is always to get in, get what you need and get the heck outta there as quickly as possible. It bugs me sometimes. The implication that I must be burdened by having more than the “ideal” two kids.

Here is what I want to tell everyone who’s ever made the comment to a Mom that has three or more kids that she has her hands full.

Yes, my hands are full. About a hundred times a day my hands are picking up small toys off the floor. At least twice a day I’m picking up someone’s discarded clothing and throwing it in the hamper or folding little tee-shirts or balling up socks.

My hands are holding little hands tight as we cross roads. My hands are brushing hair and weaving braids. They’re probing for imaginary boo boos on arms and legs, scouring for ticks in the summer, and giving reassuring pats on backs as my arms encircle my little ones. They’re feeling foreheads for signs of fever, pulling up covers, administering medicine and providing comfort in a million little ways.

These hands are often wet with sudsy dish water or being washed because I’ve touched all manner of disgusting bodily fluids. They are changing diapers, zipping coats, pulling on snow pants, and searching coat sleeves for wayward shirt sleeves.

These hands of mine are cooking endless meals, baking cookies, making hot cocoa, and filling sippy cups and water glasses. They are searching for lost toys and games, replacing batteries in toys I wish made no noise and decorating Christmas trees.

They’re pulling sleds up the hill for children too tired to do it themselves. They’re shuffling decks of cards to games I don’t always feel like playing or building Lego towers, assembling puzzles and turning the pages of countless books. They are in the air as I dance crazily around the living room with three little squealing kids who are getting down right along with me.

My hands are also typing, always typing because I’m a writer and there’s nothing I love to write about more than my kids. It’s because I want them to know that even though mommy doesn’t always have it all together, they are the best of me.

Yes, my hands are busy. They are always full. There is almost no point during each day where they are empty.

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And you know what? I’m so incredibly grateful for full hands. Children aren’t a burden. They are a blessing; one not everyone gets.

I read an article the other day about a writer who regretted having children and urged other people to reconsider having kids. My first thought was, “I hope her kids don’t read her article one day.” Not everyone wants to have kids and that’s fine. But they deserve to be treasured once they’re here.

The argument was that you would have far more money, could advance your career, travel and have more “me-time” if you didn’t have kids. While all of that is true, children give so much joy to your life.

If it weren’t for my three, I would never have learned how to love someone more than myself. Sure, you can love a spouse, but there are still strings attached. If they hurt you badly enough, you walk away. Not with kids; that love surpasses all limitations.

Hannah is a result of my stubborn will to become a mother after my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage. I desperately wanted my son Jayden after falling in love with motherhood and my daughter Sydney was the happy ending to a year-long heartache for the child I knew would complete our family.

When you tell me, “Your hands are full!” I want to tell you, “If you think my hands are full, you should see my heart!”

And I would tell you except I don’t have time to stop. As you can see, I have three little ones to hold tight. My hands are never empty.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

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I was not a confident child . As a matter of fact, when I was my oldest daughter’s age I was evaluated for speech therapy because I was very quiet in class. Turns out my speech was fine. It was my confidence that needed work.

Looking back, I can see that my mom wasn’t a very confident woman. I wish she had known just how awesome she was. Confidence was something I had to slowly build over the course of my life, but I knew I had to help my oldest daughter so that she wouldn’t have to work quite as hard as I did.

Hannah is my mini-me; quiet and thoughtful, smart, shy, and very hard on herself. I’ve learned so much about who I am and who I want to be by raising her. Naturally, I don’t want her to have the same hang-ups that held me back. I’ve kept a watchful eye over the years and I’ve done my best to help her build confidence.

Here are four things that have really helped.

1. Enlist Her Teacher’s Help – Sometimes no matter how much we reassure our children, they need to hear it from someone else. I walked into my daughter’s Kindergarten orientation and as soon as the presentation was over I made a bee-line for her teacher.

I told him that Hannah is extremely bright, but very sensitive and hard on herself. She could already read before the start of school and I knew she could be pushed to excel in school, but it would have to come in the form of many gentle nudges. I asked for his help in making her feel okay about making mistakes, and encouraging her to answer questions.

I didn’t raise my hand in class much as a kid, not because I didn’t know the answer, but because I was afraid of being wrong. To his credit, he is an amazing teacher. He pointed out his own mistakes (like the time he accidentally wrote on the smart board with a permanent marker) so the kids would see that even teachers make mistakes. If she cried because she didn’t know the answer on a test, he reassured her it was fine.

At each parent/teacher conference, I made it my mission to find out more than the academic picture of my daughter’s development. I wanted to know how she interacted with the other kids, how her confidence was developing, if she cried at all, how she was overcoming the challenges of new material, and if she asked for help.

By the end of the year, her confidence was really starting to grow and it has continued to grow.  Every year, I always ask the same types of questions at every single parent/teacher conference.

2. Encourage Her in Math and Science – I can’t tell you how many times growing up I heard my mother say she was bad at math. Most of the time she deferred to my step-dad to help me with any and all math homework.

To this day I still think I’m bad at math, but honestly I was always a B student in math. That’s not really bad, but perhaps somewhere along the lines I made the association that too many girls do – that we’re just not good at math and science.

At my last parent-teacher conference with Hannah’s fourth grade teacher, she told me that Hannah is gifted. That’s not news to me. She was always reading a few grade levels ahead in school. What took me by surprise was the subject. She said Hannah’s state test scores in math were well above the district average and that she wanted to put Hannah in a special math group, which meets before school once a week and competes in math competitions. The group is primarily for 5th and 6th graders.

When I asked Hannah if she was interested I told her that she would probably see math problems she never had before and she had to be okay with that. She asked if they would teach her how to solve those problems and when I said yes she jumped at the opportunity.

I’m so glad she’s going to be challenged to excel in an area that many girls aren’t. I just know that when she has children of her own someday she’s not going to utter the phrase, “I’m no good at math.” That brings me to number 3.

3. Mind Your Words About Yourself – Like I said, the words my mother spoke over herself had an effect on me. I’m totally guilty of still saying things like, “I’m not very good at math,” but I still try to help her with her math homework whenever she asks. I know I’ve gotta watch what I say. My kids are always listening even if I think I’m just muttering something to myself.

My mom often said disparaging things about her looks too. I was very self-conscious of my own looks especially as a tween and teen. I’m not blaming it all on my mom, but I unconsciously learned to give a voice to my insecurities. I try really hard not to say bad things about myself or my looks in front of my daughter.

Girls look to their moms to understand their own self-worth. Be kind to yourself and they’ll learn to be kind to themselves too.

4. Encourage Leadership Skills – One of the best things I did was put Hannah in Girl Scouts. She’s gotten to meet with local business owners, our town judge and even our Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther. It’s great for the girls to meet influential women.

This year, they held mock elections to learn more about the election process. It was optional if the girls wanted to run for President and I was so proud that Hannah wanted to. Being in the spotlight was something I would have avoided as a kid.

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Hannah made campaign buttons for her Girl Scout Troop election.

She made campaign buttons and stood up in front of her peers and made a speech about why she would make a good President. My favorite part was when she said she wouldn’t be upset if they didn’t choose her.

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I’m so proud of Hannah and all the girls who went up to the podium to give speeches during her Girl Scout Troop election. The more girls practice leadership skills like public speaking when they’re younger, the less intimidating it will be when they get older.

I didn’t put any pressure on her, heck I didn’t even hear her speech until she delivered it to her troop on Election Day. To my surprise she won. She then had to run one of her troop meetings and pick a project they would work on.

I told her about Operation Christmas Cheer, a card writing project started by my fellow Hudson Valley Parent blogger Roxanne (aka The Whatever Mom) that sends holiday cards to kids who are very ill. She was all for it and that’s what her troop did during the meeting she had to run. I’m so proud of the girls.

It doesn’t have to be Girl Scouts. It could be sports or any activity that encourages your daughter to take a leadership role.

Hannah has already far surpassed me when I was her age. She’s taught me that confidence comes from practice. It’s slow and steady for some girls, but as long as we keep them moving in the right direction, we can help them reach their full potential. We are their moms, and we have more power than we know.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

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Hang on to your socks, I’m about to say something you probably wouldn’t expect from your resident Hudson Valley Parent frugal blogger. Stay At Home Moms you MUST invest in yourselves. “What the what? You want me to spend money? On myself?”

“I Deserve” Spending

Yup, you heard right. But it’s more than just spending money on yourself, though that is part of it. When you work outside the home, you tend to form the mindset of “deserving” this or that – whether it’s a new pair of shoes, or a night out with your girlfriends. Now this mindset can set your finances back if left unchecked, but I’ve noticed that when you become a stay at home mom, the mindset is sometimes reversed – “I don’t work, so I don’t deserve to treat myself.”

The sad thing is, “treat” for me means buying myself a brand new mop and four bras. Living on one income requires that I always keep an eye on our budget. As I get more years of being a SAHM under my belt, I’ve gotten a little, tiny bit better at spending money on myself.

We’ve paid off all our credit card debt and we actually can make it between paychecks without borrowing from our savings. Ok, so sometimes we squeak by with $25, but it still counts. Those bi-weekly paychecks are tricky.

Addicted To Self-Sacrifice

Moms take care of everyone else in our family first, am I right? We make sure they have everything they need and most of what they want, then if there is money left over maybe we take care of our needs. Do you make self-sacrifice look like an art form too?

I used to think that sacrificing for my family was admirable. In the beginning it was just a matter of survival and as a SAHM I didn’t need to get my hair done or buy work clothes so it was easy to let things slide. The truth is that the longer you live like this, the more the feeling of undeserving grows and you know what else grows, resentment and sadness.

A few years ago my husband would have to force me to buy something for myself and if money was super tight, I’d sometimes return it for a refund. Not investing in taking care of your own needs isn’t admirable so much as dangerous.

Yes, we all make sacrifices for our families. Most of us already put our kids’ need first. But you can’t suppress your own needs forever. They start to bubble up in unhealthy ways. I find myself lamenting in front of my kids that I can’t do this or buy that for myself.

Investing In You Is Investing In Your Family Too

The truth is, the reason keeping me from doing that is me. When you don’t invest some money in yourself, you tell yourself over and over again, “My needs don’t matter,” or “My wants are less important than everyone else’s.” That, my friend, is no way to live. You know why? Because your family needs you.

They need you to take care of you. They need you to be happy. They need you to know that you are important and deserving.

Beyond just spending money on yourself, you need to invest in yourself SAHMs. What I mean is, you need to invest in the things that make you happy outside of your family. When you’re a SAHM the boundaries of work and home are completely blurred. There is never an “off the clock.”

I love my kids, in fact I’ve always done everything in my power to be home with them as much as possible. BUT I’ve learned that I need to pursue interests outside of them.

Find Your Happiness

Four years ago, I started blogging again and landed this tremendous gig at Hudson Valley Parent. It’s been the therapy I need to get through life as a SAHM.

It allowed me to find my purpose in the world. I asked my grandmother once if gardening was her hobby. She spent sun up to sun down tending her flowers like they were her very own babies. She said, “No, it’s my love.” That’s how I feel about writing.

That’s what you need to find for yourself. Invest in finding your love. Yes, I know you love your kids. But you need to find what you love, what motivates you, what inspires you because that passion is going to trickle down to your family.

It’s Not Wasted Money

It was super scary for me to invest money into my writing career. When I wrote my book, “So, You’re Broke?” to help other moms live well on a budget, I paid a professional editor. I started my own blog and put money into running it.

It still terrifies me to think that it all might be a waste of money. I might never make it back. It’s a REALLY slow process of changing my mindset.

Because I’m not investing in whether or not I’ll make money with my writing. I’m investing in me. I’m investing in my happiness. Each day I get to write is a day I get to feel alive. That’s what I need to remember.

Money is money. It’s temporary. As much as I like teaching tips to save it, I know money is made to be spent.

Money may not buy you happiness, but you can use it to invest in yourself. It’s not enough to say, “I’m deserving. I’m important.” If you can’t back it up once in a while. So, I urge you SAHMs, take care of yourself. Buy something you need and maybe something you want just because you know you deserve it.

I’m not saying go on a shopping spree, charge up your cards and then endure an emotional spending hangover. I’m saying loosen the purse strings, go out on a limb and find your happy. Take a class, pursue a long abandoned hobby, do whatever it takes to find your passion.

If you won’t do it for you, do it for your family. They need you happy and they need you to know that you deserve it.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

 

We often have the best intentions of exercising during the day, but after working, cooking, driving kids to activities and cleaning, sometimes all we want to do is sink into the couch afterward. Fortunately, we can sneak in a few effective core moves in the car while we’re waiting for a latte at the drive-thru or parked outside school picking up the kids. These three Pilates moves have far-reaching benefits:

  • develop core strength
  • improve posture
  • deepen breathing patterns
  • cultivate postural awareness
  • encourage healthy spinal alignment

Even a few minutes a day will benefit you. Give it a try!

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Before you have kids, you might not even be aware of the concept of having work-life balance. You probably work your typical 40 hours a week and save your sleeping in, errands, housework and fun for the weekend. This is all you know. After you have kids you are introduced to this concept of work-life balance.

Whenever I think of this concept I picture a scale where the object on one side weighs the same as the object on the other side and the scales are even. Balance after all is what you’re after, but balancing work and life (including all the things required to take care of those little people that depend on you) never looks like that. I think that’s why so many parents find themselves frazzled and stressed out.

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I’m sure, like me, you know the feeling of there never being enough time in the day and the feeling doesn’t go away no matter your work status. I’ve worked full-time with my kids running a daycare, part-time, been strictly a SAHM, and a WAHM. Every single situation requires lots of juggling.

When I worked part-time there were days I sat proofing copy on the computer while my baby nursed. Luckily I had a very understanding company at the time. There were days I ran a daycare that I still felt that my own children didn’t get the best I had to offer them. I felt like the kids whose parents paid me to watch them got more of my time and attention. It didn’t help that we had three infants in our care and my kids were four and two and didn’t require non-stop feedings and diaper changes.

As is typical for most SAHMs, forgoing paid employment doesn’t mean you don’t work. I did a lot of volunteering through my church in addition to carrying the primary responsibility for the household chores and childcare.

Right now working from home means praying for a long uninterrupted nap from my toddler and is dependent upon my other kids being at camp or school. It means fitting my work into whatever time squeezes around and through the daily webbing of my life. It also means folding laundry, running the dishwasher or vacuuming the house are also fighting for that same uninterrupted time, which is never long enough.

There are no perfect situations, only the situation that suits you best in each season of your life. There is no equal balance between work and family time. The scale is always tipping to one side or the other and the most important thing to remember is that you can’t look at any single day to see how your life really measures up on the scale. You have to look at much larger chunks of time – months or years to see the scale average out.

Maybe you’re going through a season where you’re trying to start a business, work towards a promotion, or seeking a new job and the scale seems to be perpetually tipped in that direction. Maybe you’re a SAHM, but you want to return to the workforce in the future and your scale is always tipped toward family to the point where you wonder if they could survive without your full attention.

When you look at your life one day at a time, the scale will never show a balance. Someone or something will demand more of your attention and that’s okay. Because the truth is that work-life balance (as in both work and family get equal attention at all times) doesn’t exist.

So instead of looking for balance, ask yourself the most powerful question that I ever asked myself – “What’s it going to take to make me happy right now?” I’ve asked myself this question right after my first child was born, after I found out my company was going through a merger, when my daycare business was failing and when I was a full-time SAHM in search of some way to earn additional income. The answer was different each time.

The answer may not always be easy or feasible right away. Maybe that looks like part-time work, full-time work from home, or staying home. Finding “balance” is just a way of saying you feel happy with the priorities in your life at this moment in time.

The scale is always tipping, sometimes multiple times a day and it can leave you feeling frustrated, angry or sad. But the scale is not how we should measure our lives. We may not always have the time to do everything we want to do. But as long as you’re actively doing your best to provide for your kids in whatever capacity that looks like for you, then it doesn’t matter what the scale says.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

 

Want a change in your look? Subtle lightening or highlights might just do the trick, and you can do it yourself on the cheap.

Use one or a combination of these three items you probably have in your house right now:

  1. Peroxide: pour into a dark spray bottle.
  2. Lemon Juice: Pour into any spray bottle, but keep this in the fridge.
  3. Chamomile Tea: Steep 4-5 tea bags in 8 oz of hot water until cool. Squeeze out the bags, and pour into a spray bottle.

Whichever product you use, douse your hair until fully damp for overall lightening. For highlights or an ombre effect, spray on sections of hair. Leave on for up to two hours, preferably in the sun (wearing your sunscreen, right?) and let nature take its course. Shampoo out, and follow up with a good conditioner (I leave my conditioner in.) Regular application of coconut or jojoba oil helps counteract the slightly drying effects of lightening your hair. Enjoy your new look!

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A strange phenomenon occurs wherever women gather with their children. There is a bonding that forms immediately over the exchange of labor stories. We can’t seem to get enough details about other women’s labors and we excitedly share our stories. It’s like we all fought in the same war in slightly different locations and we all have our battle scars, along with stories of fear, pain, and triumph.

I was at the pool with my children the other day. Sydney was splashing in the kiddie pool, while two women sitting with their toddlers were already engaged in their war stories. It was sort of amazing. Women who might otherwise have nothing in common were bonding over stories of epidurals, contractions, and pushing. I found myself ready and willing to find an easy place in the conversation to join in with my own stories.

It’s amazing to me that it doesn’t matter if you gave birth two weeks ago, two years ago, or two decades ago you still have your stories cued up at the ready whenever you see a fellow mom. I was volunteering at church in the toddler room with a woman with adult sons and my toddler was playing at my feet. We easily talked about our labors like they happened yesterday.

I think part of it is what I call Post Traumatic Labor Disorder and the other part is simply recognizing that we lived through some of the most difficult, painful, and miraculous moments of our lives. Each child is a stripe on our mom-iform, usually in the form of stretch marks or C-section scars. The stories of their lives are etched on our bodies.

Most of us, no matter how old our children are, look back at this point in our lives with wonder and admiration. How did we do it? How did we survive? How did we find strength we had no idea we possessed? How did this little miracle become mine?

The stories of how our children got here are all different, yet we are bonded together by the collective experiences of motherhood. Our children are different, we are different, but we all carry the same rank of “Mom.”

Beyond the stories of how we became mothers, there are some universal truths of motherhood most of us can agree on.

  1. You have no idea that you can love a person you just met. I never believed in romantic love at first sight so it took my breath away when the doctor placed my child on me for the first time. Love at first sight is real, but I think that’s because motherly love starts before your child is born and when you see them for the first time that’s when all that love bubbles up to the surface.
  2. You know with certainty that you are screwing up at least some of the time. I’ve found that knowing you are messing up with your kids isn’t nearly as hard as forgiving yourself for it. There are a million things we’re doing right every single day, but instead of seeing those things, we remind ourselves of our poor decisions and we agonize over the hypothetical consequences.
  3. You know that you would lay down your life for your child’s.When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter I told my husband that if a complication were to arise during her birth and he was forced to make a choice between her life or mine, he was to choose hers. It’s not that I had a complicated pregnancy, but I just wanted my wishes to be clear – that even though she wasn’t here yet, her life was to come before my own without question.
  4. You are exhausted by just how much you care about EVERYTHING.Details you never thought about in your life have this new weight because everything you say or decide will shape another person into who they will become.
  5. The feeling of helplessness at not being able to control what will happen to your child(ren) is paralyzing.You have to put it out of your minds long enough to feed them breakfast, get them ready for the day, and carry on with your everyday lives.

The world seems so full of horrible stories these days; stories of murder, conflict, and injustice both here and across the globe. It’s so depressing and terrifying. In order to cope, I have come to seek out these miracle moments of strangers forming instant connections, sharing stories, advice, and encouragement to remind myself that the world can be beautiful too.

We can’t control much of what happens in the world, but we are the band of mothers and we can shape the future a little every day. We can teach our children better ways. We can show them how to love and respect themselves and others. We change the world in small and quiet ways when we raise our children to seek out the light amidst the darkness.

I like to think that when women come together to share our war stories of labor and the battlefield of parenting, we are saying, “I stand by you. Even if your journey looks different than mine, we ultimately want the same thing – to create amazing people that make the world a better place.”

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

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Why would I want to talk about something that happened ten years ago? Having a miscarriage haunts you. Out of the blue you sometimes get the urge to cry when you look at your children. Even though I’m in the business of writing about my experiences, I also write about things I know people have a hard time talking about.

Ten years ago, I wish more people had been talking about miscarriage. Maybe then I wouldn’t have felt so utterly alone. The subject of miscarriage was one tiny section in the back of my pregnancy books. It seemed like any woman who had experienced a miscarriage, kept her heartbreak to herself. It felt like there was some mysterious superstition like if you talked about it, you might jinx someone else’s pregnancy.

Never having heard anyone talk about miscarriage ten years ago made me think it could never happen to me. And then when it did, it made it nearly impossible to say the words out loud for a very long time. So here’s what I wish someone had told me about miscarriage.

1. It’s NOT Your Fault – I was a newlywed and I stumbled into pregnancy carefree. I was so happy to be pregnant. When I saw those first tiny drops of blood, I thought it was weird, but panic didn’t set in right away.Then I cried my way through an entire night while I begged my body to stop.

By the time my doctor called me with my test results, I already knew what he was going to tell me. The best thing he said was that there was nothing I did to cause it. Sometimes it just happens. It was pretty awful to have no control over my body. If you’ve experienced a miscarriage, know first and foremost – It’s NOT your fault.

2. You Are Still A Mother – The worst part of having an early miscarriage was the minimizing way some people talked about my loss. Some even said I was lucky it happened early on. NEVER ever say this to a woman who has suffered a miscarriage at any stage in her pregnancy. I didn’t feel lucky that I didn’t have more time to bond with my baby. I felt utterly broken by it.

I hadn’t told many people, but the few who knew didn’t have any personal experience and couldn’t help me navigate my feelings. To the world, nothing had changed and I wasn’t a mother because my belly wouldn’t be getting bigger and I’d never hold my child, but from the moment I saw those two lines on the test, I became a mother. Sometimes a child isn’t born into the world, but they are born in our hearts.

3. You Lost A Baby – If it’s just a pregnancy you lost, it sounds like you lost your car keys. No big deal, right? You’ll find them eventually. That’s how some people talk about miscarriage. But when you experience a miscarriage, you know that what you lost was a baby. You lost the possibility, the hope, and the joy of seeing your child.

4. It Can Cast A Shadow On Future Pregnancies – From the moment the doctor gave us the go-ahead to try again I was full steam ahead. But the foreboding never left. The first time I heard my child’s heartbeat during each of my subsequent pregnancies I cried. The ultrasound tech gave me a quizzical look when I teared up, seeing my little peanut on the screen for the first time and said, “This is your third?”

Perhaps by the third child, some women would feel confident, expecting to see this little life in there right where it belongs. But that first miscarriage cast a shadow of doubt over each pregnancy that came after. I took NOTHING for granted. I NEVER forgot that the very first time I went for an ultrasound, the tech wouldn’t even show me the screen.

5. You Realize How Miraculous Life Is – Maybe you had one miscarriage like me, or perhaps you’ve had many, but if you’re lucky enough to get to hold your living child one day, you know what a miracle it is that any of us are even here. We’re trained to expect pregnancy to end in a healthy baby, but that’s just not always the case. While it was heartbreaking at the time, losing my first baby gave me a profound gratitude for the three living children I’ve been blessed with.

6. Grief Isn’t Quantifiable – When I told my aunt about my miscarriage, she told me that at least it wasn’t as bad as my grandmother’s loss who lost two children in infancy. I get it- the need to quantify pain. Maybe it’s meant to help someone by putting it in perspective, but perspective is subjective.

I felt sorrow that I didn’t even know if my child was a boy or girl and never got to hold him/her or see their sweet little face. Let’s not get into loss quantifying conversations with each other. The only thing universal about grief is that we all feel it and nobody knows the depths of pain in our hearts except us.

7. You CAN Say It Out Loud – I avoided calling a good friend because I couldn’t say the words out loud. Just weeks before, I had happy news and the thought of saying, “I lost my baby” was too much to bear. The problem is that when you don’t talk about your loss, you isolate yourself from the people that could help you cope.

I’m not saying you need to announce your loss right away. I’m saying that in time, open yourself up to the idea that you are not alone in this and you can share your story. So many women have come before you. So many women can share their stories with you and provide comfort.

When we tell women not to announce their pregnancy until they are in their second trimester we are denying some women the only chance they will get to share their joy with their close friends and family. It also further isolates them while they are grieving a loss nobody knew about. Sometimes a loss comes in the second or third trimester.

What we need to do instead is shed light on the mysterious shroud of pregnancy. We need to know that sometimes miscarriage happens and we need to be supportive of each other if it does. We need to share our stories because having a baby is never guaranteed. It’s a blessing!

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama can be found writing on her blog The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not wiping poop or snot off her three adorable kiddos. This “tell it like it is” mama has NO time for drama, so forget your perfect parenting techniques and follow her on Facebook or Twitter for her delightfully imperfect parenting wins and fails. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

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