Changing the Face of Beauty

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Sorry for the radio silence last week. Life got busy, Brett was out of town for a bit and every time I sat down to write a post, some pressing matter called, “Mommmmmm!”

Last weekend, we took a quick trip to Chicago to support the work of my friend Katie’s campaign, Changing the Face of Beauty. I met Katie in San Diego last year when she and her daughter Grace came to Everybody Plays with a big “Thank you” to Infantino and Step 2 for representing true beauty with all its faces in their advertising. Katie’s extremely passionate about the media representing all the different forms of beautiful–so much that she started Changing the Face of Beauty after her daughter Grace was born with Down syndrome, and has since worked tirelessly to encourage retailers and big companies to include people of all abilities in their ads. Considering 20% of American families with children have some kind of special need represented in their home, this is a great way for companies to say, simply, “We see you.”

Let me tell you how I came to understand how that feels. Without knowing I needed it, I saw a Pampers commercial the year after Nella was born. “Every baby is a little miracle” was its tagline, and in sixty seconds, Pampers managed to give a virtual hug to as many unique families as it is possible to squeeze into a one-minute slot. Single moms, biracial couples, adoptive families, in Vitro stories, you name it. I was one year into the special needs game and doing just fine, thank you—no need for special commercials or acknowledgment from ads, I thought—and then I watched that commercial. At the 22 second mark, it came: “Hi. We see you. We know you’re there.” An almond-eyed baby, cradled over her father’s shoulder as he kissed her cheek and Pampers’ ultimate message at the end of the commercial: “Every baby is a little miracle. To celebrate, support and protect.” Watch it. You’ll feel it too.

I lost it. Like a stodgy old aunt who doesn’t do hugs but melts and loves it when someone doesn’t care and squeezes her anyway, I put my guard down and accepted that hug. I cried, I rewound, I hit play and play again, I texted the link to my family and posted that baby on Facebook where other parents of all the unique special babies represented in it said, “Thank you, Pampers. You saw us too.” To be seen is the most primal human need, and to see someone is the most precious gift you can give. It took half a second of a commercial for Pampers to see a whole lot of families out there, and in doing so they made a giant family of loyal friends.

It’s not just about being seen. More important, it’s about changing the standard of beauty to what it really means so that all of our children are presented with a realistic representation of the amazing human body and its diversified forms of beauty. Slowly, the media has begun to come around to show that beauty is multi-faceted and comes in different hues and sizes and ages and abilities, and a few companies have done an incredible job to illustrate this in their advertising (yay Dove!). What that means for my children is that the media-saturated world, by which they can’t help but be subconsciously influenced, broadens the definition of beautiful and perfect and acceptable so that they don’t judge themselves or anyone around them if they don’t meet a size 2/straight white teeth/flawless hair/porcelain skin/All A’s standard.

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With such a significantly present force in our society, the media has the power to desensitize stereotypes and normalize what is–frankly–already normal, for people who might need help seeing that so that one day, twenty years from now, when my daughter walks into an office to apply for a job, “Sure, I’ll give you an interview” might be a little easier for someone to say. Or “Do you want to play with us?” effortlessly rolls off some kid’s tongue on the playground. Because Down syndrome, along with a lot of other beautifuls, has been represented in the world around them: This is normal. This is beautiful. 

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Last week, it was pretty special sharing the efforts of some passionate moms and businesses with my children and to watch how things are changing, slowly but surely, to reflect more beauty, more love and a more realistic representation of people and the wonderful things that make them unique.

You–as a mom, as a dad, as a grandma or grandpa, as a business owner, as an employee, as a creative, as a consumer (ahem, that means all of you)–have a voice in the advertising world. Speak up!

Thank you so much to Changing the Face of Beauty and to The Mighty Acorn Foundation for making this all happen. You’re good at seeing people.

All of the clothing and shoes from this shoot will be up for auction on November 1 with proceeds benefiting The Mighty Acorn Foundation and Gigi’s Playhouse of Oak Forest (I’ll remind readers when it’s up if you’re interested in purchasing). The companies who participated in this shoot will be provided look books featuring inclusion in advertising to help spread the word at trade shows and to their consumers.

And this one’s going in a frame. (Thank you, Katie.)

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A Bedroom for Two Sisters

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For years, I shared a room with my sister when I was young–one big bed, two dressers and a shared closet that was mostly empty because every piece of clothing we owned covered the floor which, on rare occasions, displayed purple shag carpet that looked like thick yarn. If our room had a tagline, it was, “Why do you guys even have dressers?”

Because of my childhood–or maybe it was Marsha, Jan and Cindy–“sister,” to me, is synonymous with shared room. And the moment I discovered Nella would be a girl, I started planning it out in my head–the big bed they’d share, the clothes they’d fight over, the Bop and Tiger Beat magazines I’d let slide because tweens gotta be tweens. For a short irrational moment after Nella was born, I let those dreams deflate. Pardon my silliness. But of course they’ll share a room and of course they’ll fight over clothes (Just did. Purple ballerina dress. Nella won.), and of course they’ll buy Tiger Beat because however else will they drive their mother crazy?

This is the room I dreamed for them. Some stuff we made, some stuff we gathered from other places in the house, and some stuff we bought, stretching dollars as far as we could and mixing discount with a few splurges (let’s call them thoughtful investments) to create a playful, homey nook that makes us all very happy.

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“You Can” Letters D.I.Y. 

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This room was originally an office. We added built-in bookshelves and a corner closet to transform it to a bedroom when I was pregnant with Lainey. The bonus is that we created a lot of great storage space, but the trade-off is that we limited our possibilities for furniture arrangement. We chose furniture carefully, opting for a discount bed frame so that we could afford my favorite thing about this room: the quilt.

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The quilt is made from seven years of baby clothes, maternity jeans, Halloween costumes, hats and nursery fabrics from all three kids. My dear friend Rebecca of Vintage Giggles designed and sewed it and included all these sweet details–pockets and buttons and straps and collars–to create a timeless gift for our family, one that’s already initiated nights of storytelling (“That square right there? That was your birthday dress. You wore that when…”). You can read the story of this quilt and find answers to more questions about it on Vintage Giggles’ blog this week.

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Other room details (including personalized cloud pillows which many people asked about on Instagram) can be found at the end of this post.

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Hair Accessory/Jewelry Box: The Adorned Adobe

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(saw a retro “Imagine” pennant in a Land of Nod display and fell in love with it. Couldn’t find it anywhere, so we made one with felt) 

One of my favorite things about decorating kids’ rooms is that the stuff they love–the toys and dolls, the stuffed animals and book illustrations and even the things they wear like their favorite sneakers or rain boots–works great as decor and naturally adds personality and whimsy.


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Print details at end of post

I fell in love with these pillows as soon as I saw them–reminds me of something my sister and I would have had in our room. Except they’d be on the floor instead of the bed and covered with clothes.

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The other thing I love about this room–and it took me a long time to master this with kids–is it’s really easy to keep clean. Everything has a place, and if it doesn’t, then something has to go before we make room for something new. I am by no means a naturally organized person, so when I figure something out like this, I want to jump up and down and drag anyone who might come into my house into the room and say, “Look! See? CLEAN.”

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Look at that teeny tiny pocket on this quilt. Vintage Giggles is genious, I tell you! 

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Music was a must-have for this room because we need accompaniment for our bed-jumping and teenybopper tunes for sleepovers and, most important, a constant stream of Carpenters and Andy Williams to go with the little twinkly tree that will be hauled in at Christmas. We opted for an inexpensive record player because there’s something fun and tactile and memory-making about picking out records and watching them spin. Plus–chipmunk voice mode is hilarious–a childhood must. Nella likes to run the record player herself, but the stool–as you see–causes problems.

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“Trouble Trouble” is a favorite bedroom soundtrack.

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My friend Annie Flavin, who moonlights as a poet, shares my affinity for saddle shoes on kids, cozy quilts, children’s literature and getting sentimental about dreams and motherhood and making the best of life. We texted back and forth the day the girls’ bed arrived, and she knew how much I had looked forward to this sisters room thing. “Did you set the bed up yet? Send me a picture.” She shared my enthusiasm and yet remembered that this was a dream I stumbled over for a bit in the beginning. The night my girls enjoyed their first sleep in their new bed, she sent me a gift–a poem she wrote. And then our friend Tammi turned it into art, and now it’s hanging on the girls’ wall, and I couldn’t love it more.

This Beautiful Life

There will be beds in the room;
there will be one bed.

There will be a girl in our home;
there will be two girls.

They will
look like
and be like
and ooze life like
I thought I had imagined.

Only it is different.
Only it is better.

Only my soul
knows that
the bed and
the girls–
oh goodness, the girls–
are exactly
what I needed
to break open and build
this beautiful life.

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I cannot wait for the memories my girls will make in this room. And, as all brothers should, Dash will squeeze in bed between them for bedtime stories and make fun of all the Taylor Swift songs they know by heart.  It’s going to be fun.

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Room Details:

Bed frame: Overstock.com (currently not available in white)
Heritage quilt: Vintage Giggles
Cloud Name Pillows and Heart Pillow Garland: Gray Moon
Wall Prints: Pooping Rabbit, Irena Sophia and Gingiber
Hot Air Balloon Mobile: Schylling
Lamp, mirror and mushroom pillowcase: thrifted
Retro fan and (Ralph Lauren) polka dot sheets: Homegoods
Owl Hanging: Darlybird
Tiny Photo Hangers: Target (in store)

*Several have asked about how the room sharing is going, particularly for nighttime. It took a while to get Nella used to the bed, and I spent a few nights sleeping horizontal at the bottom of the bed to make sure she stayed in it. We ended up using a very thin specially-made coconut mattress that a friend loaned us (small size that only takes up half of the bed) because she likes the hard surface (usually if she crawled out of bed, it was because she wanted to sleep on the floor). We keep the mattress under the bed during the day and slip it over the mattress on her side at night. She’s doing much better and hardly wakes up anymore. When it comes to transitions, I rely on “Patience, Grasshopper.” 

*******

Tomorrow’s Grandparents Day (Hoorah, Hooray! Hugs to all the grandmas and grandpas!).

I took my research notes from watching my own grandparents and made a little guide over on eHow…How to be a Grandparent. Click below to read.

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A Room for Dash

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We finished another round of musical rooms, putting the girls together in a shared room and transforming Lainey’s old room for Dash.  The room was originally a dining room that we hardly used, so we closed it off to create another bedroom and filled it with furniture that had been given to us. It worked great for Lainey for a while, but the room felt very cramped with large furniture and a wall-hogging daybed. My goal in using this space for Dash was to pare down the furniture, leaving open space for play and to make a room that could easily be kept clean with a place for everything (and if there’s not a place for it–we don’t need it). And, of course, I wanted a room that felt happy and playful with interesting and meaningful details. Since the room lacks shelves to highlight keepsakes, we utilized the walls for art and interest.

I love freshening kids’ spaces, and whether our kid room makeovers have been to welcome a baby (“We’re not putting any more walls up in our house, lest you get any ideas,” Brett has warned me.) or to switch things up, we’ve used a lot of things we already have when doing room makeovers, adding inexpensive changes with thrift shop finds and elbow grease when possible.

The old room:

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Freshened up:

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The biggest change to the room came from the brick wallpaper we added, a thick textured wallpaper we found from Total Wall Covering after a lot of research on brick wallpaper. I love what it did to the room.

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A little Northern Michigan love–M22 sign from M22.com

I found the table in Dash’s room at Goodwill, but it was a kids’ patio table with slats on the top and an open umbrella hole. I bought a spruce board from Lowe’s, big enough to cover the table top, and Brett cut it down and sanded the edges and corners. It’s white on one side if we want to flip it over, and I painted a road scene on the facing side to create a play table for cars. We started a Plan Toys City collection for him when he was tiny and are slowly adding to it with birthdays and holidays. I love the quality, size and selection of these road toys.

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All the cars and street toys store nicely in a crate for easy clean-up.

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Pillow, Passive Juice Motel

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Wood bird: Little Alouette, Knit Fox: Sweet Bauer Knits, Floating Bookshelf: Land of Nod 

We already had most of the wall art above his dresser, pulled from his old room, but I love the new Honey Eater print in his room, a gift from Michael McConnell, artist behind Pooping Rabbit. I’ve admired his work and family for a while now and am so happy to have a bit of his talent on our walls.

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Personalized Family Mobile: The amazing Pink Cheek Studios

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Polka Dot Sheets, Land of Nod. And pediatricians and dentists: bottle in crib, I know. Forgive me this once. But look! Cute fox, eh?

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He likes his new digs, and we love the happy new space too. There’s plenty of room on his carpet for the entire family–we’ve tested it out.

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I’ll share the girls’ new space soon.