Adoption Update: Managing your Disappointments

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Not a day goes by that I don't get asked about our Adoption.  

"Hows the Adoption going?"

"When do you get your little boy?"

"When does Finley officially become a big sister?"

While I would LOVE to have an answer, and I LOVE that people feel open to asking me about the Journey....I simply don't know and it's slightly more painful than I anticipated. 

Here is my Video Update on the matter. I posted it on FB LIVE last week.

I understand that God has a PLAN.  When I ash Him, "Why?" it doesn't mean I'm looking for an answer- it's more of an emotion I'm experiencing. If that even makes sense. 

As always, thank you for the love and the support. 

Finding Work-Mom Balance as a Celebrity Stylist & Special Needs Mom

Hi there. I'm Christina Smallwood.

This is my story and all the nitty-gritty details.

Christina Bermuda 2018

FROM STYLIST, TO SPECIAL NEEDS MAMA, TO BALANCING A NEW CAREER, AND ADOPTION NEWS.....

I rarely share about my work-life on Fifi + Mo, but after my most recent experience I thought it was time to throw it out into the interwebs.  About 10 months ago I found myself facing a new phase of life.  In my early 30's, happily married, so blessed to be the mother to the sweetest little girl, a Hairstylist... throw blogging + advocating into that mix and I can assure you, with the full plate I had, I was not ready for a "New Chapter".  

Nevertheless, it arrived. 

I grew up the daughter of a Pastor, but not just ANY Pastor... My dad was an extremist.  He could throw baseballs hard, so he grew up and became one of the youngest rookies drafted to the MLB in 1975.  He pitched for the Reds, Twins, and Rangers. He could eat a lot, so he went ahead and held the record at the BIG TEXAN for eating a 72 ounce steak meal in under 12 minutes, then went back and broke his own record - 9 minutes.  It is like the size of a telephone book, lol. He went from a raging atheist, found God, and then DOVE head first into seminary.  He was a 30 year old freshman and achieved a PHD in Philosophy & World History. A lot of my childhood was spent in different churches where I would help my dad set up tables with his cards while he would speak and share his testimony.  He went on to win National Awards for having the best Christian Radio Show. 

He was a superstar.  Everything he touched turned to GOLD.  

After graduating high school I felt the pressure to go to college.  My older brother was in Dental School at UCLA and had a 4.0 GPA - then there was me, they often referred to me as their "social butterfly" LOL.  I remember nervously telling my Dad, "I kinda just wanna do hair- but I want you to be proud of me."  He said, "You enjoy doing hair, so do it, and make it a career! The key to life is to figure out what makes you happy and then finding a way to get paid for it!' 

So that was my mission.

I Graduated beauty school and wanted to explore all aspects of the HAIR world.  Trying to find my niche. I worked very hard to have a successful business, 40+ hours a week behind the chair and grew to be number one hairstylist on yelp in Orange County (Hey! in 2009 that was a big freaking deal!).  My girlfriend and I started a successful Beauty Business geared towards weddings, Privé Beauty Group which currently has grown to a team of 17 and services over 180 weddings a year.  I found that I was drawn to teaching, I educated for one of the best haircare lines I had ever known and it was amazing.  I basically was eating, breathing, sleeping: HAIR.   

All to have that come to a screeching hault.

(Dramatic, I know. lol.)

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WAITING... WAITING... WAITING...

I started dating Josh in 2009, we met through mutual friends via MYSPACE. We fell in love, got married, and bought our first home.  We were on your typical track of "what life should look like," but when Josh and I decided we were ready for baby, we hit a wall after TRYING for 15 months. And I mean trying: diets, schedules, charting, temping, tracking, supplements, massage, acupuncture, and I even gave up baths... People told me "not to stress" but that just made me stress about my stress.  My father was killed in a HORRIFIC motorcycle accident amidst this time period. He and I were very close as he was always MY ROCK.  His death shattered my world and put extra stress on my body.  A few months after we buried him, we received news of Infertility.  

Talk about a sobering series of events. 

First round of fertility tests showed that I have LOW AMH levels, making it unlikely for us to conceive naturally and highly likelihood of miscarriages. This news was really hard, but we rallied and turned (almost immediately) to adoption.  I remember sobbing on the phone with my mom, "I am broken, the part that makes me a woman doesn't work."  I knew after grieving my dad that life was simply too short, and  I could NOT spend it feeling sorry for myself.  This was something we couldn't change. I told Josh, "I'm gonna give myself 24 hours to have a pity party and then we're going to move past this."

About two weeks later we were sitting in an attourney's office, starting the Domestic Adoption Process.

  We were matched pretty quickly and couldn't wait for our baby to be born in September! In between Doctor's appointments with our daughter's birth-mother (Lex), I worked worked worked. On a drive home from working a beautiful JULY wedding in SD, I received news that Lex was leaking fluids.  The entire drive to the hospital I was panicking over my clients and what was going to happen to them, my business was always on my mind.  Finley was born 9 WEEKS early and weighed a miraculous 3.9 pounds. She was the most precious thing I've ever laid my eyes on and meeting her was the greatest single moment of my life.  The moment I saw her in that little incubator I forgot about everything else, she was my world now.  We didn't know if she would potentially have a disability and the Doctor said, "She could be fine, or she could never walk or talk. Only time will tell." 

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I supressed my grief and kept telling myself that everything was going to be okay.

I took a long maternity leave to bond with my baby.  We began in-home therapies as soon as she was released from the hospital.  I did everything in my power to make our life FEEL NORMAL, even though deep down inside I knew it was going to be different.  I began to feel depressed.  HOW?!! This was supposed to be the happiest time of my life! 

The greatest day of our life was the day our adoption was finalized.

 Finley was officially diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy a few months after our Finalization.  To avoid full-blown depression, I started a "secret" Instagram account to feel a sense of normalcy.  It was my outlet and allowed me to interact with other moms in the same boat.  I met a few of my greatest friends this way. Since then, that little account has transformed into Finley's Beautiful Story of Dreaming Big and Overcoming Obstacles (+130k followers). Advocating is a total PASSION for me and it is so fun collaborating with brands and helping spread awareness for CP.  Which, btw is the most common motor disability in children - did you know that? 

When Finley came into this world, I went into immediate survival mode- completely letting the hairstylist in me die.  This is the story I'm writing about today.  It took me a long time to realize it's okay to be both: a Mom and a Career Woman.

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A year after Finley's diagnosis, my Mother-in-law was diagnosed with stage 4 Brain Cancer. Her 3rd Cancer diagnosis in 6 years.  She passed away due to a stroke following brain surgery.  Watching my husband grieve the loss of HIS ROCK was devastating.  Finley was already missing out on one amazing Grandpa, now to lose an amazing Grandma- its just really very sad. We miss her every day.

  I wrote my first blog in the hospital on Christmas Day.  This was not our first holiday spent there.  I looked around at the waiting room and realized I was awfully comfortable in hospital waiting rooms.  After all, we had spent the last 3 years of our lives in hospitals, doctor's offices, and medical facilities. Sitting, waiting, hoping, in those cold and unwelcoming chairs.

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FINLEY'S MIRACLE

In October 2016, Finley underwent a MAJOR Spinal Surgery called the Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy, to permanently remove her spasticity.  We fundraised over $60k in a few weeks utilizing social media and a global movement called, "The Dare to Dance Challenge." The LA FIRE DEPT kicked off the Challenge with an incredible video and it spread like wildfire.  My sweet friend Britty Rose came up with the whole idea and even spear-headed the movement!  Her amazing husband got his whole crew of LAFD to kick off the Challenge in and amazing video.

Beyonce's Backup Dancers, ABC's The Bachelor: The Ferguson Twins, Perez Hilton, and THOUSANDS of amazing people posted videos DANCING for our sweet girl.  All so she could one day DANCE by herself.  She was bound to a walker, and had just been fitted for a wheelchair before her surgery. We are still BEYOND GRATEFUL to those that supported us during that trying time in our lives. We will NEVER forget you.

THINGS ARE LOOKING UP.

So basically, I never returned to Salon. Our life was way too demanding. I did some hair from home, but considered that something that hairstylists do toward the end of their career.  About a year ago, I was blessed with the opportunity to work with Tamra Judge, from the Real Housewives of Orange County for a shoot with my photographer friend, Christine Bentley.  Tamra asked me to style her hair for the following season of RHOC and I was in tears (Currently on my second season with her, its gonna be amazing- LOL).  The only words I can use to describe this is like, "Stella got her groove back y'all!!" VALIDATION, if you will. She is even sweet enough to allow me to bring Finley to work if I need to. She's a gem.

THEN IT HAPPENED....

About 10 months ago, I had a few friends/clients asking me about being invited to "Wine and Wash" parties.  I knew what they were referring to, pesky Direct Sales Haircare products.  Without any hesitation I told them they absolutely didn't need to waste their money, and there was no way these products did what they claimed to. I might have even posted to my clients on FB to beware of said products.  I am an accomplished, well-educated, professional hairdresser, I know BEST.  

WELL, TWO THINGS HAPPENED TO FLIP ME FROM SKEPTIC TO BELIEVER:

1. One of my best friends suffered from severe psoriasis.  Having done her hair for over 10 years, I'd seen her try EVERYTHING under the sun to heal her scalp: Topicals, Orals, Tars, Treatments, some steroids so harsh she couldnt even use them when she was pregnant.  She sat in my chair and I said, "Are you on a new medication? Your wounds are healed?!" She responded, "No.  I'm using that stuff you told us not to use."  I instantly felt so bad, I almost stopped her from trying something that ended her long battle with psoriasis.  Not only that, her bleached blonde hair was actually shinier and appeared to be healthier. I was definitely intrigued.  

2.  A few clients later, her mom came in.  She has a more dry, coarse hair type who definitely could use a Brazilian blowout a few times a year.  She took out her ponytail (the only way she was comfortable wearing her hair) and her hair felt like silk.  I said, "You got a Brazilian!"  She responded, "No. I just have been using Monat for 6 weeks."

I knew at this point I needed to get this stuff in my shower to try it for myself.  I had seen two completely different TRANSFORMATIONS, I wanted to see what happened to mine.  

 

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I fell in love on the THIRD wash.  The products are super concentrated and contain a different technology, so you've gotta follow the instructions exactly. I was in shock, a PLANT BASED product line that actually PERFORMS. I knew I was going to support my friends that were selling these products.  Seriously, I had ZERO free time to add anything else to my plate.  We're at weekly doctor's appointments, school, dance, 3 hours of therapy a week, client days behind the chair at home, weddings every weekend, fifiandmo keeps me VERY busy with emails and collaborations, and top it all off that I work on a reality TV SHOW.

I was stretched pretty thin. 

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THE LIGHTBULB WENT OFF...

I went to a gathering with the local distributors to learn more about the products, during all the conversations I saw what this opportunity could potentially do for our family.  Josh and I were heavily debating adoption again, but there was just NO WAY with my already limited schedule.  Plus, I've already dabbled with some MLMs and made $500 bucks a month at max.   Being a Stylist, I've tried everything my clients were selling.  I've always been intrigued with the thought of "making a little extra money on the side."  Though I discovered, there's hardly ever true success with "pyramid schemes".  Everyone on this inside swears their company is different, and everyone on the outside swears they're all the same.  I watched my girlfriend's checks grow and grow, and knew there was something truly proprietary about this company.  I had only ever seen one girl at the top of ANY MLM company with her car and make the big bucks, and it was after a few years of her being the first one in the business.  I looked at our California team that is only 8 months in and close to a couple dozen girls are already driving their Company Cars! A lot of them were able to become SAHM's and quit their 9-5's. This was unusual.  It's surely  set apart. I decided to go for it and had another "STELLA" moment in my life.

December 2017- I was asked to share my journey for an audience of 40,000 LIVE... (not intimidating at all. LOL.)

To date, I have been able to spend more time with Finley and was SO BLESSED to be present when she took her FIRST STEPS in our Home.  I had waited over 3 years for that moment and I would have been devastated to miss it.  I have grown a TEAM of over 200 women that all just want the best for their families.  Josh and I have  spent more evenings together, and now we are able to GROW our family by Adopting again. We are adopting a SON, hopefully by the end of the year.  Finley cannot wait to be a big sister.   

 I spent my early 20's soaking up knowledge of the haircare industry, education, and training myself to have as much work ethic as I could artistically manage. I have spent the past few years passionately educating myself and ADVOCATING for Adoption, Cerebral Palsy, Inclusion, and dedicated hours of my day connecting people to resources that will help them.  Joining this company connected so many dots for me.  I'm getting to do ALL the things I love.  I have a team of women I get to encourage and help support- in turn I have completed the circle of my life-balance.  I am now a Director with the company and am a Cadillac Earner.  Having my car payment taken care of is a huge blessing to our family. I am not alone- there are close to a hundred (in less than 15 months) that are driving their cars and earning substantial checks for their families.  This is not the typical situation you see with direct sales. 

  • Our products are consumable
  • Our products are a necessity (EVERYONE washes their hair)
  • Our company is NEW (3 years)
  • We have no competition (we're propietary- no one has proven clinical studies like we do)
  • We pay 3-5% higher than other direct sales companies, with an attainable CAR-PROGRAM

Please tell me another company that checks all those marks. (We've got a special mix here.)

Josh and I experienced tragic, deep grief with losing our parents.  Then we faced infertility and became parents through adoption.  I overcame the darkness that could have consumed my life, which would be mourning all the "what could have been" scenarios if my child wasn't diagnosed wth a disability. I learned through all of the prayers and quotes that we are IN FACT in charge of our own happiness.  I am forever grateful I was introduced to this opportunity through friends.  I don't know if you're reading this and maybe living paycheck to paycheck, perhaps its been YEARS since your last vacation, maybe you have an illness/impairment that is prohibiting you from work.  What I do know is that Monat has been the answers for MANY that I know.  This company does so much good.  I really believe it's a "once-in-a-lifetime type of company.   

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Yesterday, we got back from our Bermuda trip.  PAID FOR by the company.  My husband couldn't believe we didn't have to put one thing on his credit card.  I am so grateful I got to take him and Finley (and myself) for this experience. I keep hearing my dad's voice in my head, hope he's proud of me.


"The key to life is to figure out what makes you happy and then finding a way to get paid for it." -Frank Pastore


I still LOVE doing Wedding Hair, but I'm grateful I no longer HAVE to work every weekend. 

If you find yourself interested in learning more please EMAIL ME: Christina@privebeautygroup.com

>> AVAILABLE IN THE UK + CANADA + USA <<

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Some of our team enjoying Bermuda. 

LEAPS & BOUNDS

As many of you know, Finley is in therapy 3 days a week -- and has been for FOREVER. She LOVES her therapists and riding the horses, and IT IS EXPENSIVE! We would LOVE YOUR help in supporting Friends of Leaps & Bounds Pediatric Therapy by making a donation team "FIFI & AUSTIN" fundraising page. Even a small donation will help US achieve OUR goal! 

Leaps & Bounds Pediatric Physical Therapy

Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy for children of all ages

At Leaps & Bounds, they provide physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy services for children of all ages in the Inland Empire and Orange County who are at risk for, or who have difficulty participating in typical, age appropriate activities. Their therapists are highly skilled and have dedicated their practice to the specialty area of pediatrics. They strive to implement the most current and best practices to help your child grow by Leaps & Bounds! Therapy services include evaluation, consultation, treatment, home and school program activities that promote typical development and functional mobility. They offer a comprehensive family-centered approach to mulit-disciplinary care… everyone works together with and for you and your child! They are excited to offer the highly evidence-based treatment strategy- hippotherapy- as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, in addition to our recreational therapeutic riding program.

Hippotherapy

  • What is it? Hippotherapy is a treatment strategy used by physical, occupational, and, or speech therapists that utilizes equine movement as part of an integrated intervention program to achieve functional outcomes (Helps children sit, stand, walk, balance, and MOVE more independently!).
  • Who is it for? Children (and adults) with mild to severe neuromuscular and other medical conditions, who have abnormal muscle tone, impaired balance, impaired coordination, impaired communication, impaired sensorimotor function, postural asymmetry, poor postural control, decreased mobility, and limbic system dysfunction related to arousal and attentional skills.
  • Why the horse? The horse’s walk provides sensory input through movement, which is variable, rhythmic, and repetitive. The resultant movement responses in the patient are similar to human movement patterns of the pelvis while walking. The variability of the horse’s gait enables the therapist to grade the degree of sensory input to the patient, and then utilize this movement in combination with other treatment strategies to achieved desired results.
  • Patients respond enthusiastically to this enjoyable experience in a natural setting! Therapy is FUN!
  • We offer hippotherapy services with a physical or occupational therapist, depending on your child’s goals and needs.
  • Hippotherapy is billed NO DIFFERENTLY than a clinic-based therapy session.

My BASIC GIRL guide to going KETO

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This is an unusual blogpost for me.  I NEVER write about DIETS, but I find that as a hairstylist I am ALWAYS talking about them, so here it goes.

I've been watching from the sidelines as many of friends (both real life & social media) transform their lives and get HEALTHY. I was inspired by one post where my gf said: "Just start." Simple words, but hit me at the right time. 

As a Mama to a daughter that requires physical assistance, I have felt more back aches + hip pains the last few months.  As a hairstylist I have joint aches in my wrists and fingers.  It's like it just hit me that I am NOT getting any younger and Finley isn't getting any lighter.  I HAVE TO be healthy & STRONG for her and her future younger brother. (If you didn't already know, we are in the adoption process again!)

My husband, Josh, is a pretty heathy guy.  He has always strayed away from Carbs and Sugar and works out at the gym regularly (insert eye roll, I know).  I came home talking about this Keto diet I kept hearing about and he was all, "THIS IS WHAT I'VE BEEN TELLING YOU!" Let me preface this by saying- I listen to and value my husband's words 100%, BUT I do, in-fact, need to hear things LIKE 3 TIMES in order for it to absorb into my crazy-mama brain.  He then had me watch this.

Josh is a regular viewer of the Joe Rogan Podcast, if you're an avid reader of our blog then you might have deja vu- because Joe is also how we first came to research stem cells for Fin.

 What peaked my interest most was, ALL OF THE PROVEN health benefits of this "diet" and interimittent fasting.  I would love to get Fin on this one day- I believe it could be beneficial to her Cerebral Palsy, but Lord knows homegirl can't quit the cheese crackers cold turkey.  (They are the Annie's ones though, so that makes me feel better. LOL.)

I wanna be transparent about this, because I have tried ALL THE "DIETS" & yoyo'd with the best of them. I got up to 160 pounds when I was grieving both my Dad and the news of our infertility. It was about a 30-pound gain. Food became my comfort (and wine, there was lots of wine.) 

My wedding weight was 127lb. (I bet I got down to 124 on the honeymoon my in-laws gifted to us, lots of hiking and not so much eating- Hawaii is expensive and we were broke).  I lost 20 pounds using the very unhealthy HCG regimen- I cried myself to sleep many nights from hunger + truly tortured myself. All that, and I remember STILL not being happy with my weight then. Don't we all struggle with this though?! I see these pictures and I would kill to look like that "pudgy", size-4 girl again! 

I have set my mind to hit my goal weight of 125 lbs. Using good ol' "diet & exercise."  I am 5'5 so I think it's realistic, but it SOUNDS NUTS to me. Let's be real, I would like to just step on the scale and SEE a 1 followed by a 2 again.


We started the oh-so trendy ketogenic diet on March 4th and I am LOVING IT. I wanted to FEEL better, the last few years I have struggled with acid in my stomach after meals & headaches every few days. I didn't realize this was a problem really, until the symptoms stopped.  Now I feel great and am down 9 pounds.  It's been 18 days and I have found a groove! 

Since I started posting about the diet on my @prive_christina Instagram account, I have received so many of the same questions. I wanted to formulate a little "start up" checklist for those lost on where to begin.  Hope this kicks you off so you can start ASAP!

SOME TIPS FOR STARTING KETO:

1. WATCH THIS: 

2. GET YO BUTT TO THE GROCERY STORE.

Let google be your guide if you are questioning something.  I use it every day. NOTE: the REALER the food, the better. HERE is a "BASIC FOOD RULES" list.  OBVIOUSLY all the foods in existence are not listed, this is JUST A GUIDE.  It's great for beginners.  As you get to know your body and you dive more into keto- you'll find what works for you and what doesn't. 

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Here are some of my Typical WEEKLY Grocery LIST staples:

  • Raw nuts
  • avocados
  • eggs
  • bacon
  • grass fed butter
  • heavy whipping cream
  • TONS of veggies. The greener the better.
  • coconut oil
  • ground beef/meat
  • cheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeese
  • cinnamon
  • pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 less fat cream cheese

3.  BUY KETO TEST STRIPS. 

Ketones are produced when the body burns fat for energy or fuel. They are also produced when you lose weight or if there is not enough insulin to help your body use sugar for energy. Without enough insulin, glucose builds up in the blood. Since the body is unable to use glucose for energy, it breaks down fat instead.

4. DOWNLOAD A KETO APP.

If you've watched the videos- you heard about MACROS.   

Macronutrients are molecules that our bodies use to create energy for themselves – primarily fat, protein and carbs. They are found in all foods in varying amounts, measured in grams (g) on the nutrition labels.

  • Fat provides 9 calories per gram
  • Protein provides 4 calories per gram
  • Carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram
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This will help keep your MACROS on track.

and calories for weight loss.

5. BUY MCT Oil for your COFFEE.

We add two tablespoons to our coffee daily- it helps give you energy!  My cousin even swears its helped her hair & skin!  “MCTs” are medium-chain triglycerides, a form of saturated fatty acid that has numerous health benefits, ranging from improved cognitive function to better weight management. ... We now know that ideally MCT oils like coconut oil should actually be consumed every day.  

Medium-chain fatty acids are capable of helping you:

  • Maintain a healthy weight — since they both make you feel full
  • Specifically reduce stored body fat — since they also raise your metabolic function
  • Have more energy
  • Think more clearly
  • Experience better digestion
  • Balance hormone levels
  • Improve your mood
  • Fight bacterial infection and viruses
  • Absorb fat-soluble nutrients from various foods

WE LIKE THIS ONE:

 

6. GET READY TO FAST.

Part of what makes this process work is the fact that your body is now producing KETONES and burning your body fat as fuel.  Intermittent fasting is crucial for experiencing all the benefits of a ketogenic diet. 14-16 hours in a fasting state is ideal.  SO KETO COFFEE will keep you going!  Once you're in ketosis, you will notice you're not as hungry.  We try not to eat after 7pm and then we try not to eat our first meal until Noon.

 

7. Take Before Pics and Weigh Yourself. 

I know this is hard, trust me.  Let it motivate you though!  TIP: Do It NAKED and the same time every morning after you pee :). If you have health conditions, consult with your doctor about beginning this lifestyle.

8. FOLLOW INSPIRATION ACCOUNTS.

 

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MY FAVE

TRY THE CHEESECAKE!

 

Honestly, the best thing to do is, JUST START!  You'll learn a lot as you go and figure out what your tolerance levels are.  If you watch all of the videos in this post you won't have too many unanswered questions.  I will definitely keep y'all updated on this HEALTH JOURNEY. 

Hugs+Loves, 

Christina