Happiness is a how. Choose The Bigger Life.

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“Choose The Bigger Life”

That sentence jumped off the (ipad) page at me like a thunderbolt. Choose the Bigger Life. When I was young I would have thought that mean being an actress, living in LA and being successful. Then I moved to LA and was an actress…moderately successful commercial actress and yet…people, myself included, weren’t really living a BIG life. It’s the mindset of a struggling actor, holding off on life. Any moment in Los Angeles as an actor your entire life can change and so we all seemed to be waiting for that big change before we really lived. The big break that will change it all, the series regular, the ad campaign, whatever it is that will instantaneously alter your situation and so we wait, we stay in apartments, with mismatched furniture and roommates longer than others and I am NOT knocking this experience at all, it was great…but it was always on hold. Holding on because things would surely change any moment.

For now at least, I am not working as an actress, I am a mother, a writer, a photographer. And yet I still hold on. I still wait. My life seems small because my viewpoint is small.

Today I realized exactly how big my life actually is. It’s huge.  Sure, it’s the repetitive cleaning up of huge messes caused by three small people, but it’s also full of imagination, love, laughter and joy. It’s the possibility of the greatest pain ever and also the greatest happiness ever.

In The Happiness Project Gretchen Rubin quotes Herman Hesse “Happiness is a how, not a what. A talent, not an object.”

Happiness is a how. Currently, I’m working on the happiness of how I look at things. I tend to get bogged down in the mire a lot, I am unable to see the forest for the trees and all that. I frequently focus on what I do not have and am unable to see the blessings I do have. Perhaps that’s why this book smacks me in the face so often with those “ah ha!” moments.  As soon as I was two chapters in I texted my sister and insisted she read it immediately. Recently she texted me back “I’m loving the Happiness Project, it’s a good balance for all my woo woo spiritual books lol” it truly did make me laugh out loud. Like many kids raised together she and I frequently have opposite compensatory skills. Being raised in Boulder raised the woo woo quotient considerably and she is able to be more open to it than I am. (For instance, the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up had me at hello, and lost me at thanking my socks for their service before putting them in the drawer to rest. Cause no. They’re freaking socks. Add the INDIGNITY of spare change being tossed into jars! And I was a hard pass. But the getting rid of clutter was A+) But that’s okay, because Gretchen’s number one rule of Happiness is to be Gretchen and thus mine is not to be Gretchen (Or Heather…which is hard cause I’ve been trying to be Heather since I was three) but to be STEPHANIE. Stephanie knows she tunes out of things get to woo woo but knows she will go to the ends of the earth to get Heather whatever woo woo thing she needs. Heather knows she resonates to the woo woo, she is more open to that, so that makes Heather happy. Heather must be Heather. (I’ve totally checked out a woo woo book or two on Heather’s suggestion and ended up finding a lot of value in some of them. BTW. )

So, my latest Happiness Goal is to focus on the HOW of happiness. This morning Pip woke before the sun and then took at a nap at 7:30 am. The boys were still sleeping so I took my coffee out to the back deck, under the umbrellas, the light sprinkling rain and the birds at the feeder the only sounds and I read. It was heavenly. I was so relaxed, I was afraid to move for fear of popping that tranquility bubble. But after an hour or so here came little Huckleberry, the Hucknado. I chose the Bigger Life and welcomed him with open arms and when he asked to swing on the swing with me pushing him (a task I do not particularly enjoy) I wholeheartedly said yes.  HOW I viewed this activity might make a difference. It did,. We laughed and talked and had a great time.  Just the two of us, in the cool morning with the rain gently sprinkling on us.

It is a big life indeed.

Minivan Mom Confessions…

In honor of Piper’s first consistent word, which by the way is “ME!” (as in hey the boys are swinging…ME!) and the release of all of the 2015 Listen To Your Mother Show videos today, I’ve decided to post, you know…ME!

So, if you’re a minivan mama, considering being one. dreading being one, embracing being one this is for you. If you’re cool or not…this one is for you.

It’s all good you guys. It’s all good. You can watch the entire DC show HERE. 

(we can discuss what the heck is up with YouTube cover photos later…because holy what??)

Just a white girl from the suburbs.

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I’m just a white girl from the suburbs. I grew up in Boulder in a predominately white area. The black kids in my school were of the same socioeconomic background and we either were or were not friends based on our interests.  I grew up in a Cosby Show world, idyllic, and thought nothing of our differences and everything of our similarities. Growing up I was certain that racism was a thing of the past, as I never saw it in action until I moved just outside of Oakland. I am sure now as an adult looking back, that the kids in my life who were black would not have agreed with that assessment. Even if I never saw it, even if I grew up in a very loving equal environment, I am sure beyond a shadow of a doubt they experienced racism, in covert every day actions and words I was not aware of and as they grew older and ventured out into the world in overt ways.

I’m just a white girl from the suburbs and I am afraid my voice isn’t much, but I try to lend it to the fray when I see things. There are times when I speak out and am chastised by other white people. I can almost time it on Twitter from the moment I tweet something to the time someone trolling a hashtag has to accuse me of making it about race (it is) or takes me to task for you know…whatever racist trope is the flavor of the day for them. Then there are times I inadvertently use a word or phrase that means something entirely different to the black community than it does to me.  There are times when I speak out and am chastised by those I attempt to speak up with. I lick my wounds and think what an impossible situation. Maybe I won’t say anything.  Then I realize I am being a baby about it, I get my feelings hurt because even with the best of intentions sometimes I mess up. Big whoop. Sometimes I worry that I might step on their toes by speaking up, the community doesn’t need a white girl speaking for them…but speaking FOR them is not my intention. It’s not my story to tell, but I can amplify their stores. I can make sure they know this white girl hears their stories, sees them. Even now I am afraid I am saying something wrong.  I have decided that  to say nothing is much worse than saying something wrong.

There have been many good conversations where I was given help on how to speak out, I take those instructions to heart, I thank those who are willing to help me be an ally better and more effectively. I am grateful many, despite what currently seems like an atmosphere of open season, can see that this white girl from the suburbs believes in equality. This girl feels like she woke up in 1959. This girl can’t believe her white girl blue eyes at the shit that is going down.  This girl has three kids and is doing her level best so that maybe they won’t have to speak out against the shooting of  their unarmed friends and the burning of churches because maybe the more we speak out the less it will happen.

I’m not looking for kudos or accolades for speaking out, I’m not patting myself on the back. But this is on my mind a lot lately.

I am not alone in feeling like I can’t say anything right or afraid to speak out and do it “wrong” and yes, it does make me and others feel like saying nothing.  I see it on Facebook a lot actually. Cry us a river right? What a luxurious thing with which to be concerned. We spoke out wrongly, we phrased something in an unintentionally insulting way…we gotta stop shutting up and say “well, now I learned that one. ”

I have to do that. It is hard to be an ally and not quite know how to say things, because sometimes micro aggressive speech is so inherent to our experiences we literally don’t know. And giving the benefit of the doubt to me, the white girl from the suburbs, is sometimes a really hard leap of faith to make for those whose churches are being burned. Whose community is being gunned down while praying and oh, the shooter? Captured alive.

Unlike a young man just looking at a gun for sale at a store.

One CVS burns to the ground and the news rehashes it for a month, seven churches burn down and there’s nothing…just NOTHING except rationalizations, and then only for a quick second.

I speak up because this is so very wrong.

We gotta leap and speak up even if we interpret language differently. We gotta learn that some words are loaded in a way to the black community that they aren’t to the white. WE need to take this first step in our daily lives.

It might be a small thing, but small things build bigger things.

Because I might say something wrong, but I would rather say it wrong that say nothing. To be silent is to be complicit.

I am just a white girl from the suburbs, I don’t know how much difference my voice will make but I will keep speaking out.

One

Each year on their birthdays I write my children a letter. This is Piper’s first letter.

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My darling girl,

I am in denial that you, my last baby, have had your last night as a baby and are bravely tackling the new moniker of toddler.  I am certain that this denial will follow your growth, but I promise not to let it get in the way of your growth. This past year has flown by. I feel as though I have blinked and you are one.

When your father and I were deciding if we wanted another baby, a woman told me “You might regret it if you don’t, but you will never regret it if you do.” She was so right. You are an absolute treasure to our entire family. You make us softer, kinder, and stronger.  When we go out it never fails that someone smiles at you and says softly, sometimes to us and sometimes under their breath “how precious”. Everyone we meet recognizes indeed how precious you are. Priceless.

Your brothers dote on you. Max loves you unconditionally and takes the job of protector and builder of self-esteem very seriously. You never go long without a kiss, a hug, and you never want for a toy, the very moment you reach for one your big brother is off to get it for you. Your eyes positively light up when you look at each other.  Huck also only has eyes for you.  Baby Big Brother is making you tough, he loves you so much, he sometimes hugs too hard and wants to hold you too tight. He teaches you to stand up for yourself, and heaven help whoever crosses you…he or she will have the three of you to deal with!

I was so worried about having a girl, I myself had a hard time and I struggled in my relationship with my mother. I will try hard not to repeat the same mistakes, but I am certain to make some. My love for you is all encompassing and every new accomplishment of yours is met with great celebration from us all.

You are the sweetest little girl, you are kind and gentle and you are such a delight that I don’t even care that you still wake up every two hours at night. Daddy doesn’t even care that sometimes I have to tag him in because at least once a week Pippy Dulli, Party Girl likes to party from 2-5 a.m.

You prefer savory to sweet, choosing chicken and vegetables over fruits. You love spaghetti and sauce. You hate sticky fingers.

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You were the first of my children who didn’t care for cake.

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But you love tiaras. Your first stop is always to steal anything pink, sparkly, or girly. You, so far, are all girly girl. When we showed you your presents you squeaked and squealed because they were pink and you knew they were for you. Recently we took you shopping and your father got the biggest kick out of what you and I already knew; you are a girl who knows what she wants. He would hold up a dress or shirt and you would either smile and reach for it cooing excitedly or give him a face that clearly said you can’t be serious, no way am I wearing that. 

That is how you came home with more clothes than anyone, none of us can resist you!

You are not easy to anger but woe upon the poor soul (usually Huck) who takes one of your toys from you. When you are really mad you put your fist in your mouth and shake your head back and forth making a loud noise. Everyone in the family knows this means Baby Sister is pissed.

You know what you like and you let us know. You are strong, determined, sweet, silly, kind, and the absolute light of this family. With each of your siblings we felt like we couldn’t fathom how we lived without them. That is still true. When you were born it was like we looked around, the five of us and felt well! we are all here now.

Happy First Birthday my sweet girl. You brought healing to old wounds, and though I was afraid to have a daughter I can honestly say all those fears are gone. I am surrounded by good mothers of daughters to look too, including both your grandmothers, and you have strong men who will love and care for you all your life. I missed out on that and I felt that loss tremendously, you won’t.

I love you with all of my being. Just the thought of you make me smile.

That woman was right, I never regretted it. You are a gift to us all. We love you.

Love, Mommy

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The Day I Forgot To Be Self Conscious.

IMG_2478Last year I spent June at the beach with my family, eight months pregnant, contracting regularly and unable to keep anything down except ice chips and protein shakes. The beach is both the greatest place and the worst place to be in this situation. I watched my two boys dig sandcastles, jump waves, float in the pool, run along the sand and I waved them goodbye as they headed off to a giant water slide park knowing that I couldn’t even walk from the car to the park much less go down a slide in my condition. I layed on the couch and thought “next summer I am going to do all those things”.

If I am being honest though, before I was the pregnant, contracting, sick mom who doesn’t get in the water, I was just the mom who doesn’t get in the water. Before that I was the wife who doesn’t get in the water. And before that I was the girlfriend who doesn’t get in the water. I can’t remember the last time I was the girl who gets in the water and has fun but it was surely 7th or 8th grade at least. That’s not to say I hadn’t ever been in the water since then, but I wasn’t enjoying it. It was too cold, I was too insecure in a swimsuit. Too insecure to be seen without make up.  Just too…self conscious.

I would say to my sons “That’s what Daddy is for!” and they would slink over to him and he would take them in the pool.

When the pools opened a few weeks ago I almost forgot about my pledge.  My oldest is so close to swimming and he was working hard on it. The water was frigid but none of the kids cared. My girlfriends got in the water with the kids and I stayed on the pool deck observing. I walked over to where he was and just did it. I canonballed practically right on top of him. Once he recovered from the shock of it his eyes lit up with joy and disbelief “mommy, you’re in the water!” 

This week at the beach he asked me to jump waves with him and I automatically said no. His shoulders dropped and he headed out on his own. What was I doing? I quickly snuck up behind him and swung his feet out into the water. “I knew you’d come!” he said smiling over his shoulder at me. Later I took his little brother in the waves and we screamed when we got splashed and laughed as the waves pulled the sand back from under our toes as they receded into the ocean.

Today, we left the baby with her grandparents and they waved us goodbye as we headed out to the big waterslide park. I told myself I was going to say yes to everything. Slides, wave pools, whatever. I was going to do it all. And I did. Max wanted to conquer the Toucan Twist water slide, a medium sized one,  perfect for an almost 7 year old.  I told him I would go first and catch him.  We did this over and over before we headed over to the pirate ship and the kids played while my husband and our friends lounged on chairs watching them and chatting.

It wasn’t long before Max wanted to do that slide again and I said yes, he ran alongside me saying this time he would catch me. His confidence having been built from repeated successful trips.  I smiled and laughing played my part “Will you? Meet me at the bottom!” Suddenly I realized the whole day had gone by and what was this I was having? Is this, fun? Real, genuine fun?! Yes. That’s what I was having. I hadn’t thought about how I looked in my swimsuit all day. I wasn’t spending energy trying to hide that lovely varicose vein, I hadn’t even sucked in my stomach all day!

No sooner than I thought it I became overwhelmingly away of my thighs wobbling as I climbed the wooden steps, and I heard my doctors voice in my head saying “You’re skinny fat, do you know what that is? You’re not big, but you have a high level of fat. There’s not a lot of muscle. It’s not healthy.” Though I conquered my eating disorder ages ago that comment hurt, all I heard was “You are fat.” Now every step I took I felt heavier, the curve of my belly, rounded from three babies grew outward with every moment. I felt big, I felt out of place, I felt like I couldn’t have any fun.

Just then my son grabbed my hand and with a big smile said “I love love you!” He was so happy we were doing this together. With a quick wave from the lifeguard he headed down the fast moving slide with a quick smile back.”Ill catch you mommy!” he wailed, his voice washing away with the water as he slipped down the water tube.  I decided to take Taylor Swift’s advice and shake it off. I perched at the top of the Toucan Twist and when I got the nod, I layed back, crossed my arms and my ankles just like instructed and swooshed my way around and around until I splashed into the pool where my son caught me.

I’ve never felt more beautiful.

 

 

 

Top five Arbonne picks for summer

 

photo by Then Again Photography

photo by Then Again Photography

You may or may not know this, but last September I became an Arbonne consultant. I did this for one reason, I can’t buy enough Arbonne. Everything I tried, I loved. And the more I was hitting up MY consultant like a junkie. Once I started learning about the company I was hooked. Not only no animal testing, but cruelty free and vegan. Did you know a product can be cruelty free but still contain animal products because those things are harvested after the death of the animals?  Truth and so gross. (google Mike Rowe animal renderings if you’re really interested in knowing about what is in your make up/moisturizer.) Arbonne also follows the EU guidelines for banned chemicals. The US bans 8 chemicals. The EU band 1400. So there is that. They contain no carcinogens or endocrine interrupters. And the best part is they WORK. I’m obsessed.

I’m a low key consultant. I don’t push parties or flood social media with it, however I get asked fairly regularly what my recommendations would be and instead of typing them out each time someone asks I thought I would just put it here. Some of these are summer specific and some are my all time go-tos!

1. TOP PICK FOR LIFE! RE-9 Advanced 

This is the thing that made me an addict. This system is amazing. My entire skin changed and the last birthday wasn’t so hard to stomach because I felt like my skin was looking better than it had in ages. This is the best anti aging skin care I have ever tried, and I have tried almost everything!  My favorite is the Serum, I cannot get enough Serum. I promise you that by the third night with the system (OMG the night cream) you will wake up and look in the mirror and think WHOA.

2. Liquid Sunshine Self-Tanner 

Being naturally the color of milk I am an aficionado of self-tanners. I am a long time lover of the Jergens  and I do think as far as drug store tanners go it is the best. BUT…this far outperforms it for both natural color, and length of tan. A little goes a long way and I’m stockpiling like a squirrel would with nuts for winter. Seriously.

3. CC Cream 

A heavy foundation in summer just doesn’t work for me, so on the recommendation of my consultant I ordered the CC Cream. It took me a few days to fall in love with it, I confess….and it doesn’t have SPF which when you are the color of milk is important BUT I mix one 1/2 pump of the day cream from the RE9 system and a little bit of CC cream and I am good to go! It stays all day and isn’t too heavy for summer.

4. Glossed over Lip Gloss in Cala

Just the perfect summer pink. The gloss stays put and moisturizes without being too sticky, plus I’m not ingesting any nastiness. I love this gloss. I’m currently pondering whether I can pull off Anise. Because I love this color!

5. FC5 Skin Conditioning oil.

This is a powerhouse product. I kind of feel about it the way the mom in My Big Fat Greek Wedding feels about Windex.  It’s wonderful on acne scars, stretch marks, eczema and a myriad of other skin conditions.

And  one more to grow on!

ABC Baby Care 

You guys, I am certain that a freshly bathed baby with the ABC baby wash is the best smell in the world. I mean, really. Truly.  Piper had the WORST diaper rash when she was sick and the diaper cream took care of it right away. If you have extremely sensitive skin yourself, or psoriasis or eczema this will work for you as well. And again…the scent you guys. The scent. This is what I use on my kids, and less than a dime sized drop will clean a whole kid!

 

One of the biggest complaints about ordering Arbonne is the cost. I used to really feel that same way until I realized that not only are most drug store brands now costing 24 bucks a pop but they contain a lot of fillers. Arbonne doesn’t and each product lasts a long time. The RE9 system for example contains face wash, toner, serum, eye cream, day cream and night cream and it will last you six months. Unless you’re me and then you order an extra serum because perhaps you over use it…man I love that stuff.

 

ANYWAY, there you have it! My top five Arbonne picks for Summer 2015!

(those links are to my direct Arbonne page)

Enjoy Huckleberry

We all have our hobbies and my husband’s hobby is silk screening t-shirts. He is very good at it and he recently made me a shirt in the fashion of the coca cola logo that said “enjoy Huckleberry”. Sometimes life lessons smack you in the head from the strangest places, in this case, a t-shirt. I do enjoy my Huckleberry, though sometimes I get mired down in the exhausting spiritedness of mothering such a sparkler. This is MY failing of course, I try to control and get frustrated at times when I should really just take a deep breath and enjoy Huckleberry. Honestly, what’s not to enjoy?

for web (1 of 1)-7This is a kid who finds joy in almost everything. He is unabashedly himself. Other kids flock to him and without a blink he is off and running to play, laugh and enjoy being Huckleberry. He is always in. We running around screaming? I’m in! Playing Legos? I’m in!

On Sunday we took over the Splash Park to celebrate our Huckleberry and almost 40 people joined us for pizza, cupcakes, and fun. I marvel at the ease with which this newly four year old moves between social groups, from school to t-ball to family he seamlessly flits between them and brings everyone together. He is always up for a good time,  and we sure did have one!

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It was so precious.

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Though the wind threatened to blow out his candles for him, he kept smiling. He was so sweetly happy that all those people were singing for him.IMG_6553

 

Hint: if you have to shop for a present for a four year old boy, may I indeed suggest Velociraptor hands. They were/are a huge hit.  Thanks CG.IMG_6795

 

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Despite my thinking it was a picture perfect day, Huck informed me that he was mad. You see, he invited Big Bird and Elmo and they didn’t attend, what jerks.

Rip my heart out kid. Good thing my mom got him tickets to Sesame Place for his birthday. Then he passed out in my arms, snuggled down with his Grer Bear and took one more step towards 5.

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Enjoy, my little Huckleberry. You teach me every day. I love you.

Like Sands Through The Hourglass…

There are some memories from childhood that are so clear and precise they seem like movies to me.  My childhood is so ingrained with Dub’s that sometimes I am unclear whether it is a memory of something that happened to me or something that is her event but I was there, it’s like a woven blanket of our childhood, the yarns unravelable and multi-colored.

Such it is with the loss of the two front teeth. I can see our classroom clearly, I know where we were sitting at our desks together. I can see the front of the room with the little sink and mirror in the right corner of the room nearest the windows of the basement in the church where our school was held. The windows looking out, if you can say basement windows look out, on a green area with a creek and a tree. That tree was our imagination land for years. It was our home, our tower, our castle, our roller coaster…it was everything.

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I can see Heather and I getting up from our desk in the middle of the room and going to the sink to check our loose front teeth twenty times a day. Twisting them around, feeling the metallic taste of tiny drops of blood as we wiggled them back and forth, that one last string holding on as those teeth stubbornly dangled like shutters in a storm. Leaning close to that safety mirror, wrinkling our noses, squinting as we worked squeamishly on those teeth.

Then one of us, maybe both of us, lost one. Right there in the classroom over the sink. So exciting, so weird. I remember us looking at each other so excited talking about how the Tooth Fairy brings more for front teeth.

On my death bed I will be able to recall this. And I wonder, will Max always remember sitting on our stairs as we all screamed with joy and freaking out as he twisted his tooth around. When I touched it and told him Oh that will come right out if you pull it and how without even a tug suddenly his big front tooth seemed so tiny in the palm of his hand.

Front tooth lost, one more giant childhood milestone passed.

 

Somehow we keep growing, keep moving forward, even if sometimes we wish we could rewind and re-live.

Thank God for memories.

{ETA We will all remember how the next day at Huck’s fourth birthday party the lone front tooth turned sideways, flipping this way and that causing squeals and eeks from every one until it popped out right as we got in the car to go home.}

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This is what I get when I say, give me a cute smile so we can see your teeth….boys.

It’s a low down dirty shame.

There are many trends I wish would go away. The “how can this possibly be still cool” fashion of wearing your pants around your knees. Argan Oil in everything, although this is purely selfish as I am extremely allergic to it. I went to Red Door and all I got was fabulous hair and a trip to the E.R. Good times, good times. But the trend that I literally cannot wait to bid adieu is the prevalent trend of shaming.

We like to talk about how we have evolved as a race and a society from the days of public executions and putting people in the stockades to be taunted but really have we? Stockades may have been for a week, but the internet is forever.

We shame people without even waiting for the whole story. We shame people for one tweet. We shame them for making bad judgement call, having a bad day, And worst of all, we shame them for being children.

Dub and I in High School Seriously, that hair is shameful enough on it's own.

Dub and I in High School Seriously, my hair is shameful enough on it’s own. 

Yesterday I was mindlessly scrolling Facebook, like, literally mindlessly, at one point I thought “I wonder where I left my phone” while scrolling on my phone.  A video popped up, one of the ones set to auto play and there was a man filming a young girl, her hair recently shorn. This is what happens when you misbehave, he says panning the camera to the garage floor where her beautiful hair lies in a tangled mess. Was it worth it? he asks her, she whispers no.  You can watch it HERE but I’m warning you it’s heartbreaking. I can’t stop thinking about it.

Three days later, after her father had chopped her hair and uploaded a shaming video to YouTube chronicling her punishment she committed suicide.

I keep hearing her father’s voice, was it worth it? I can’t imagine how he feels. My heart goes out to him.

Thirteen. She was thirteen. I remember being thirteen, there is no future there is only NOW, and her now was destroyed. I’m not writing to shame her father, he clearly loved her wanting her to be safe, this wasn’t his intention, this is what people do now. It’s what’s done. I think it should stop.

Our kids will misbehave. No matter how good we are as parents, no matter how close we are to them, no matter how open the lines of communications are they will misbehave. They will sneak out, try a drink, they will lie, they will get caught. Hopefully their misdeeds are minor…like most of ours were. Hopefully we will bust them, like our parents did.

As parents our job is to be in their business just the right amount, not too much or they will be suffocated but enough that we know what’s going on (mostly). Our job is to know their friends, their interests, their boyfriends and girlfriends. Our job is to help them understand right from wrong, it is our job when they do wrong to help them understand WHY and sure, hand out punishments. My kids’ Great Grandma says “Better you cry than I do.” They might cry and say we are ruining their lives just like we said to our parents.

But it’s not our job to shame them. They’re still growing, learning, messing up and trying to make it right. We need to be in the trenches with them, not fighting against them.

Shaming our kids is a sure fire way to break their trust, possibly irrecoverably.

So, I will resist the urge to scream “pull up your pants!” and I will happily avoid any and all Argan Oil, if we can just put this shaming trend to rest.