My Little Duke

My Instagram Truth

Blogging, Faith, MotherhoodSteph Duke1 Comment

We all know never to go to bed angry. Well … never go to bed hungry either. You’ll not sleep and find yourself over-analysing Instagram until the wee hours of the morning!

 

Oh boy, did I toss and turn for hours last night. Every time I tried to still my mind, I thought of something else. I can’t tell you how many times I had to turn over and reach for the notes app on my phone! I felt a real stirring in my soul and had no peace until I’d bullet pointed everything that I’m writing here.

 

It’s now Sunday morning and I feel less stressed about it all, despite not knowing quite how I’m going to articulate what I’m about to say. What I do know is that God gave me a prompt (or two, or three, or four!!) and all I can do is share my voice with you today. So thank you in advance for reading and I’d really value your thoughts on it all, please do get in touch!

 

Instagram is a huge part of my on-going and future ministry. In fact, it has been a major player on social media for me since I launched My Little Duke (MLD) shortly after Phoebe was born. I had a personal account that I’d enjoyed using since 2011 and while I was off sick during pregnancy I started to realise the power and influence of this little app. I’d scroll and click through endless accounts (new mums, mums-to-be, online shops for babies) and find stories that resonated and products I loved. To be fair, I found myself mostly navigating around American accounts – hence the idea for MLD (selling American products here in NI.)

 

Fast-forward almost 3 years and I can’t believe the journey I’ve been on with MLD.  I’m the daughter of a salesman and worked in retail myself for almost 7 years – so selling products I loved felt quite natural to me - particularly the face-to-face sales at local events! Alongside sales, I also started a little blogging, however, once I was back at work full-time, it was nearly impossible to blog at all (isn’t it surprisingly time consuming?!) I remember those days well … the frustrations of wanting to engage more in the Instagram and Blogging worlds (knowing so little compared to what I know now.) I just didn’t have the time. I absolutely love to write, but not under those time constraints and pressures. In those days, there were much higher priorities and writing a blog was always bottom of the list, even posting semi-regularly on Instagram was a struggle.

 

How times have changed, eh?! During the last 6 months I’ve posted consistently (at least once a day) and my Instagram content has also changed. In essence it’s about the same things:

 

Faith, Family and Motherhood

Travel and Lifestyle

Fashion and Beauty

 

But the look and feel of my account has shifted. It’s more intentional. This is both good and bad. As I’ve learned more about the app (Algorithms, Engagement, Aesthetics and Organic Growth) I’ve found myself having to be more intentional about what I post and how I post it. This is where my tossing and turning last night in bed began…

 

I want to be transparent.

 

I need to be.

 

Otherwise, my voice can’t be trusted and any small influence I have becomes powerless and ineffective.

 

So here are my Instagram truths.

 

Sometimes I feel completely and utterly overwhelmed by it all.

 

As Instagram continues to grow rapidly, there have been many times when I just feel like I can’t keep up. There is huge pressure to continually post engaging, inspiring, beautifully curated content. How sustainable or attainable this is – I’m not quite sure? Maybe it’s just hard in these winter months?

 

In order to get the kind of light needed for a shot, things have to be timed wisely these days! More truth here – I am not a photographer! I only ever use my phone (iPhone 7) but have so enjoyed pursuing and developing my passion for photography (both capturing and editing) over the last number of years. But what I do understand is that in order to keep posting those consistent and carefully curated squares – I have to keep snapping carefully curated shots. This means planning and preparation. Long gone are the days of snapping and posting spontaneously.  It’s a sort of “planned spontaneity” if that can even be a thing?! I’m not saying that all my posts have been carefully planned – they aren’t. But what I am saying is that more and more often, I’m finding myself being more mindful of what I post … because it matters.

 

I am at the stage now where I have a specific look and feel on my grid. There are some spontaneous snaps that just wouldn’t look right! Another truth - I’m a bit of a perfectionist and take great pride in the aesthetics of my feed. I use the app ‘Snug’ to curate the squares before I post. As someone who (for a long time) tried to be in complete control of her own life, I loved Instagram for that very reason. If I couldn’t control what was happening in my real life, I could certainly control my “virtual’ one. The problem for me at the minute is the scary thought of how we might be curating our real lives, in order that they fit in to those virtual squares of “life.” Sheesh. Could we really be?! There are real dangers here! It’s just something I’ve been thinking about. Do we spend more time, energy and effort carefully curating our “virtual’ existence than we do in our real one?

 

I’ve also serious concerns about the language associated with Instagram. 

 

How often do we hear, or even say ourselves, things like:

 

“it’s not insta-worthy”

 

or

 

“doing it for the ‘gram’”

 

or

 

“if it’s not on Instagram, it didn’t happen!”

 

Often these are said in jest, yet, subconsciously, I fear that our perceptions are changing. We are subtly being fed a bunch of outright lies - lies of false ideals, behaviours and expectations of what is “socially acceptable.” What is completely normal and acceptable has suddenly become boring and unacceptable by insta-standards. I fear for the legacy we are leaving for the next generation. Are we role-modelling a distorted version of reality?  We constantly scroll and see what we don’t have. If not careful, we begin to live with a scarcity mind-set, one where we start to convince ourselves that we are living in lack. This is actually quite a natural reaction, when so much of what our eyes consume is what we don’t have and what we wish we could – materially, spiritually and physically. Too often “I too, have fallen into the comparison trap.” And this idea of something not being “worthy” enough for Instagram?! WHAT? Where are we placing our value and worth? Surely not in Instagram?! Please God, let it not become where I place even an ounce of my real value! (This could be a whole other blog post!)

 

Too often, we know and see too much. It’s visual perfection overload and nearly impossible to swim against the current of these new “norms’. I’m regularly and intentionally having to force my eyes upwards and outwards, looking to see the blessings that I DO have, rather than all that I don’t.

 

Sometimes I think it’s all just one big game, and we’re all trying to win. And in the race to achieve Instagram “success” we are actually becoming conformed and moulded into some version of ourselves with some version of our lives that isn’t sustainable, isn’t attainable; one that could actually suck us dry of life itself – if we let it. I know we aren’t all in it for fame, for success, for followers and likes. Yet, because so much of the app is tailored in that way, it can be hard to go against that flow. It’s the constant striving for more that causes feelings of failure, disappointment, frustration and ultimately … depletion, if the likes, followers or engagement don’t reach the targets we’re encouraged to set for ourselves. It’s good to set targets, but they have to be realistic – and someone else’s growth on Instagram might not be a realistic growth for you. I’ve had to learn that, accept it and focus on investing in the accounts and people who I really love and value.

 

Additionally, if I’m being totally honest, (the whole point of this blog I suppose!) there have been many occasions where “I have let Instagram become an obsessive addiction.”  Becoming obsessive seems to be ingrained in me somehow. I blame Weight Watchers! For over 10 years now I have obsessively dieted. There have been times where this obsession varied in degrees, and thankfully it’s becoming less of a fixation now than it has ever been. Yet, there is something about Instagram that appeals to this nature. Just like the scales – it’s also a game of numbers. There are so many parallels for me. In the same way I step on the scales every morning, (I’m working on this - I promise!) I also open up the app. In the same way I look for that number on those scales, I look at my follower count. Often, in the same way that number on the scales determined my mood, there have been times when the same could be said of Instagram (especially as the follower count fluctuates so much!)

 

There’s also the addictiveness and adrenalin boost of achieving success, both on the scales and on Instagram. It’s too tempting to strive to achieve more of that and to obsess over the little things. For me, there’s a very fine line – both in dieting and on Instagram – and I am calling it out for what it is. It is dangerous. When the scales were tipping too far into obsession, I have had to catch myself on and catch a grip! Otherwise, it becomes an endless battle that consumes both my time and energy - a dangerous and divisive distraction. This is something I’ve had to call out recently and really work with the Lord on. It’s a work in progress, and it’s not easy. Instagram’s algorithm is making organic growth harder, making some posts almost invisible and forcing us to be more creative with how and what we post. I’ve found it really disheartening sometimes and I don’t think I’m the only one. I’m not offering any solution here, just my own experience and a voice of “me too” or maybe I’m the only one!! What is the answer? To cut and run? To stick the course?  I’m as frustrated as you, as overwhelmed as you, as maxed out of ideas as you … I’m just not up for cinemagraphs or photoshop magic!

 

What’s important – for me anyway – is keeping accountable. Whether you are strong enough to do that yourself or have someone else you can trust to do it for you. Honestly self-evaluate your activity on social media – a lot depends on whether it is hobby or source of income. Now that I’m making a small amount of money through the app, I feel a little more justified in spending more time on it, but I cannot justify my needless scrolling!!

 

In some ways I feel like we are all just trying to navigate these unknown waters of Instagram. Some days the waters are beautifully blue and crystal clear, other days they can be grey, dark and murky. There are days where I feel like I’m confidently riding the waves and some others where I’m simply treading water – watching and waiting for my turn. There are also days when I genuinely feel like I’m sinking - days when I’m engulfed and overwhelmed by the waters, not able to catch a break.

 

Despite all I’ve written though, this funny little world has made me braver, (surprisingly) less self-conscious, and has unearthed some hidden creativity! I look at the world differently and appreciate the changing of the seasons. I’m intentionally looking for beauty around me – finding it and capturing it. I’ve blogged before about the connections and friendships formed through these squares, but I know who the true author behind these connections is, and it’s not Instagram. Insta is just the platform, another tool that God can use to weave our stories together for greater good. And I just love stories. Don’t you ever underestimate the power of your story, especially your story of the gospel. We are part of a much bigger story, one than spans right back to the beginning of time. My prayer is that from my story across these squares … you see Jesus. That I point you to Him - to His grace and goodness … not my carefully created existence!

 

My prayer is that while I continue to invest time in Instagram, while I connect, create and use my voice – that God is glorified and the Holy Spirit has room to move. But most importantly I pray that I don’t conform, but am continually transformed by the Lord (Romans 12 v 2) by the renewing of my mind. The ugly Instagram truth needs exposed more often! The subtle infiltration of certain ideals and expectations of how life should be lived needs called out. I need protection from the vanity and self-indulgence of it all, and from feeding off it like its good nourishment for me. I can think of lots of better kinds of nourishment than Instagram!

 

So seriously, seriously well done if you’ve made it this far …

 

And thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your love and support on this journey. I value every comment, message, like and follow. I love it when you give me that virtual high-five and “me too.” Nothing is overlooked here. Know that today.

 

Bless you guys,

Steph xo

 

 

"Motherhood looks good on you."

Motherhood, FaithSteph DukeComment

“Motherhood looks good on you.”

Said a sweet friend today.

And I wept.

Tears of joy and gratitude cascaded down my face as I Iet those beautiful words sink deep into my sprit.

MOTHERHOOD LOOKS GOOD ON ME.

Yesterday I posted on Instagram about feeling like a bad mum. And I genuinely did feel that way. I could have made better choices and mistakes were made. I ended up feeling all kinds of “eugh” as I reflected on the day. Some lovely friends threw their hands up with a “me too” and with their encouragement I woke grateful for new graces and mercies this morning!

With a thankful heart and a fresh perspective, I walked into today. Now, as I sit, toes warming by the stove, with a cuppa and freshly baked banana bread by my side, I’m completely overwhelmed with thankfulness. If I was still in my job, today could never have happened.

What makes today so special?

From the outside, today wasn’t anything spectacular! But for me, everything about this day - this average Wednesday - felt ... wonderful. Ever since I made the decision to quit my job I’ve felt a peace that I can’t quite describe. Today though, the peace has felt more real, almost tangible to touch, like I’ve been in the flow and riding the wave with ease!

I never thought I’d be a “stay-at-home-mum” - my goodness - not in a million years! I just didn’t think it was for me. In my early 20s and totally naive - I 100% thought I’d climb the career ladder. That was until the moment Phoebe was placed into my arms and my world as I knew it was tipped upside down! The moment I became a mother, everything changed. A new mantle was placed upon my shoulders and I became instantly aware of my newfound calling and responsibilities. I was a mum. And so my motherhood ministry began.

As the big 30 approaches, and as I begin a new season of mothering as a SAHM, I’m recognising and savouring the special season of life I’m in. These days are fleeting. The bad days and the good ones, like today. Every single second counts. Today I felt truly in the flow of mothering. While Phoebe was at playgroup I did some admin and planned for dinner. I nipped out for a few ingredients and picked up a Kinder Egg for a little surprise for Phoebe coming out of school. (Those little eggs were one of my absolute favourite treats as a child!)

Once home, the stove was lit and we enjoyed some croissants and pastries for lunch. This was closely followed by hot chocolates and keeping warm by the fire while the snow fell outside. (It is National Hot Chocolate Day after all!) We dawned our aprons (mini and mama) and prepped the ingredients for @strandandstipes Mayflower Chicken Curry. This was the first time I’d ever used a slow-cooker and I have to admit, the ease with which dinner was made and the aroma wafting through the house all afternoon was convincing enough! I felt a strange sort of satisfaction while the curry slowly bubbled away. A contentedness and a peace that, without any more effort, dinner would be ready when Matt got home. With the freedom knowing dinner was sorted, Phoebe and I turned our hands to bake our favourite loaf - banana bread.

We were relaxed and happy, no rush, no stress, no angst. Dinner was slowly cooking. We were slowly baking. It was bliss. The simplest of afternoons, the simplest of activities, yet I felt such joy. This is where I’m meant to be. Right now. These days. This nurturing and home-making role is suiting me. And I just can’t believe it. Like I said earlier, this is not how I pictured myself as I turn 30. Yet here I am and this motherhood “looks good on me.”

It’s timely that today marks the close of January’s door. A month that held great anticipation for me as I took the leap of faith to leave my job and step into new ventures. The new venture has yet to be unveiled and there’s a timing in that too. It’s being carefully and thoughtfully curated, making sure it is exactly what it’s meant to be. I’ve just jumped out of the boat and it’s ok to be treading water a little while - taking in the scenery and enjoying the sun - before jumping into a new boat! The biggest part of my new ministry is mothering - I need to be mothering well at home, before I can help other mums. So as February approaches and I now feel settled in my new routine, one that keeps me more at home, more present and more intentional, my heart begins to beat a little faster at the exciting things I know are coming. New waves of opportunity are rolling in, I can see them in the distance and I’m going to be ready!

What are the simple joys in your current season? I do hope you can find some?! I’m being intentional and starting each day with a grateful heart. I have so much to be thankful for. Please don’t get me wrong though, although things might seem a certain way (through the eyes of IG for example) things aren’t all rosy. Since quitting my job, we have and are continually making sacrifices financially. I have lost a significant, full-time, teacher wage - nearly half of our monthly earnings! It’s not an easy road ahead for us. But having the peace I feel every single day about the decision I made makes a huge difference.

Personally, my own quality of life and my family’s quality of life has reaped the benefits of me being more present at home. Also, me being more present as a mother has made some significant and visible changes. My own lovely mum noticed a change in how I deal with Phoebe’s tantrums. I’m not parenting from a place of stress or angst and I’m not continually out of patience or at the end of my tether any more. I’m parenting from a place of rest and calm, a place of gratitude and honour, a place where I’m savouring the seconds of being fortunate enough to be “present.” But, this was not an easy choice to make. Choosing to be “present” came at great cost. I can’t emphasise that enough. Yet, God whispered to the person He knew I would become and I listened. And today, that soft voice whispered again, affirming that, “Yes – Motherhood does indeed look good on you.” I know that there will be some who think I’m crazy, giving up a full-time, permanent teaching post; but if the Lord speaks, I’d be denying everything that I believe in, to go and disobey Him. Today was a little head nod, a thumbs up, a “you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing” – I’ll take that affirmation and enjoy knowing that I’m right where I’m needed. I’ve a heart to serve and I’ll do it in whatever way and wherever I’m needed! 

Bless you for reading!

Steph xx

4FBFE51F-93AF-4C60-B656-2A16F2CF9773.jpg

Good Skin for Life

Beauty, MotherhoodSteph Duke2 Comments

Hello my lovelies! I'd love to take a little time and tell you about my skin. In my mid/late teenage years I really struggled with acne-ridden skin. This, coupled with being a bit overweight, meant that I also struggled with self-confidence. I didn't like my appearance at all if I'm being totally honest. I tried to over compensate by being the funny friend, or the trustworthy one who always ended up stuck in the middle of arguments! It wasn't until I was about to begin my first year at Uni that Mum and I sought out proper treatment for my acne. 

After trying several topical creams and ointments (with no improvement) I was prescribed the drug Roaccutane. You can read a little info about it here. I was completely trusting of my doctor and was desperate to try anything. Just googling 'Roaccutane' you'll find a plethora of information, cautions, horror stories and miracle transformations. Thankfully, it did work for me - for my skin. What it didn't work for, was my mind...

Looking back, had I known what I'd go through whilst taking this stuff ... I'm not sure I would use it again. It's a tough one though - the noticeable improvement in my skin gave me a boost in confidence, yet, ironically, my mental health took a beating. I became insanely jealous, overly sensitive, more moody (if that was even possible!) and felt extremely low at times. Hindsight is a wonderful thing ... it's only now I can truly see the potentially devastating side-effects the drug was having on me. I honestly don't know how Matt (my then boyfriend, now husband) stayed with me. I was unbearable at times. Totally and completely unbearable. My mood swings were off the scale and I acted like a maniac - that's putting it lightly. I was irrational and paranoid, over the most stupid things. I didn't like the person who I became while taking Roaccutane - actually, I don't even recognise her! Matt must have known he was in it for the long haul, enduring such ludicrous behaviours from me! I actually threw stuff out the window of our uni halls of residence at him (3 floors below) because I was having a 'moment'!

I asked a few lovely Instagram friends if they would share their experiences with the drug and I was overwhelmed by the response! So many of you have used it and thankfully found pleasing results! You can read some snippets of their experiences below:

 

"While I was on Roaccutane, it was the only thing that cleared my skin.  However, it caused major problems with my eye ducts - I had to put hot compresses on my eyes, morning and night. Thankfully, my skin stayed acne-free for about 6 months afterwards, but, eventually I had just as bad acne as before. I also remember feeling down and pretty apathetic about life but thankfully had folk looking out for me. My brother suffered with awful acne right up until last year when, aged 30, he took Roaccutane and it really did the trick for him!" - Zoe, @zoephenix

 

"I'm a pharmacist and counsel on Roaccutane - the patients I see have massive improvements in their skin, but can find it really dries out their skin and can make them feel nauseous, especially at higher doses. You 100% can't get pregnant on it and have to take a test every month - so if you were thinking of a baby then definitely hold off! Also, your skin is sensitive to sun, even in winter, so summers/holidays could be hard, especially for sun worshippers! You have to wear SPF all the time and we generally advise against heavily perfumed products for the skin." - Emma, @emma.wright_

 

"I was on Roaccutane during my GCSEs. It's a tough drug and I dislike how it's projected as a 'miracle cure' for acne. My doctors never took my acne seriously from age 12 which led to a lot of scarring because I was put on Roaccutane too late. Unfortunately, I've found that GPs don't take dermatology seriously. Even after taking the drug, I had x6 laser procedures!" - Charlotte, @5ft_small

 

"I haven't used it myself but wish I'd known about it in my late 20s as I've been left with some scarring from hormonal acne. My 3 cousins have all used it and despite being tough going (ie. peeling, sore lips etc) the results are pretty fabulous - they all now have the most beautiful skin." - Kathy, @yellowbirdjewels

 

"I got quite a quick referral to the dermatologist and was put on Roaccutane within the month. I didn't really have any of the negative side-effects, In fact, a bonus side-effect for me was that there was literally no moisture coming out of my pores, so my hair was never greasy! My one concern was the potential effects on my mental health, but whilst taking the drug, I didn't really notice anything. It's only now I realise that it was the mandatory pill - that you have to take alongside Roaccutane - that was having more of a negative impact on my mental health. I felt I was forced to take it - even though there was no chance of me getting pregnant - and now I wonder about how much the pill messed up my hormones." - KT, @lonecrayon

 

"I had a 6 month course of Roaccutane when I was 18 and it literally transformed my skin! I had been back and forth to the doctors, tried medication, steaming my face, a Clinique skin consultation, I even slathered my face in yoghurt and honey for months! Nothing worked until I was put on Roaccutane. My mother had to really push for it as the doctors were really reluctant and kept listing all the side-effects. She was adamant and I had it on a monthly basis. We noticed a huge difference in a week and it was the happiest I'd been in years. My skin gradually got less and less angry looking and eventually the spots cleared completely with no scarring. At 30 now I still get the odd breakout, but nothing compared to what it was. We were really cautious of the potential for mental health problems - my mother was checking in with me everyday to make sure I was ok and luckily it didn't effect me that way." - Emma, @lookingaftermama

 

"I haven't used Roaccutane myself, and in many ways would love to, but my sister's experiences have put me off. Not only did they finally discover she was allergic, but she also became very paranoid. Knowing that psychiatric disturbances are a possible side-effect, I'm staying away ... for now." - Jill, @mulligug321

 

"Roaccutane was the first thing to clear up my skin! At 21 I broke out really badly - I was working as a beauty therapist at the time and was even more conscious of my skin when treating others. Honestly, it was amazing and I actually worried about stopping it, but when I did, my skin remained fine. Good experience for me!" - Kathryn, @k.a.m.d.o.n

 

"I used Roaccutane when I was 24 for 6 months just before I was married. Apart from extreme thirst and very dry skin, I found it to be amazing! It totally boosted my confidence and my work were very good at allowing me to go for the monthly check up at the hospital which helped." - Lyndsey, @lyndseyriddle88

 

"I've never used Roaccutane myself, but I work in mental health and we are always warned in training about the suicidal thoughts that people can experience when on it." - Cheryl, @ca_graham

 

“I was on Roaccutane when I was 17/18 and it really, really worked. I’ve had the odd flare up of bad skin, but never anything as bad as the chronic, painful acne I used to have! BUT … it had very bad side effects like super dry skin and lips, dry eyes, very dangerous if you’re planning on getting pregnant (I accidentally ended up getting pregnant when I was 18 and the docs were seriously concerned that my baby would be deformed!) Lastly, the worst side effect was the effect it had on my mental health – I was low for most of the time whilst on it. It’s a side effect quite a lot of people struggle with when they go on it. In some countries, Roaccutane is illegal as it’s so severe. My medicine friends tell me these days that docs only prescribe it in absolutely worst case scenarios. I can understand why. But, I did have perfect skin for a while after it!! We used to joke in school that you’d know if boys were on Roaccutane because they’d reluctantly always have carmex on them! Oh! And no matter what age you are, if you are taking the drug, they make sure you are on the pill alongside it too and make you do blood and pregnancy tests at monthly check ups – it’s insane!” - Rebecca, @rebeccafinlay

 

"I have used it twice! Great results, but sore on the body!" - Laura, @lauramcfarland_

 

"I went on Roaccutane when I was 18 and it was GREAT. Made a huge difference to my skin, face, back and neck. The only side-effect I noticed at the time was the dryness of my skin ... but what a huge improvement to my acne! I then got my face lasered and my skin was the best it had been in years. Fast forward 7/8 years and my face began to flare up again. The hospital gave me Roaccutane straight away and boy did I notice the side-effects this time: sore skin, hyper-sensitive to heat, dry skin, emotional, dry hair, brittle nails - I felt a yuky mess! But, it worked ... and was well worth it, for me. The positives outweighed the negatives, but then again, I wouldn't go on it again and only for the sake of my mental health." - LJ, @ljwatt

 

"I was on Roaccutane for about a year and a half, about 4 years ago. Previous to that, I seemed to have been on every prescribed cream / ointment / wash / tablet the doctor could give me. I had been on a couple of variations of the pill as well, but nothing seemed to work and Roaccutane was always going to be the last resort! I found it easy enough to cope with, even though there was a lot of talk of mood changes while on it!! My biggest problem was dry skin!!! So, so, so dry ... and not just my face! My whole body and particularly my lips ... I could have peeled layers off my lips every day!  Even now, so many years after, I still have rather dry skin (mainly hands and lips.) But, other than that, it worked miracles on my skin! I still get the odd break out, but it's never as bad as it would have been before!" - Karen, @karen.brown.7588

 

Undoubtedly, Roaccutane is a strong drug and has been proven, time and time again, in making a real positive difference for those struggling with acne prone skin. I was terrified of my acne returning when I can off the drug so I stayed on the pill, right up until Matt and I were ready to try for a baby. I must have been on the pill for about 7 years and that helped to keep my acne at bay. I did notice, coming off the pill, that my acne quickly returned, staying for the duration of my pregnancy and until I'd finished breastfeeding Phoebe at 9 months post-partum. As soon as I'd finished breastfeeding, I went straight back on the pill. For 3 reasons really: 

1. I was NOT taking any chances with regards to getting pregnant again. I had a terrible pregnancy and labour and was in no way ready to go through it all again!

2. I missed the 'control' I had over my body when on the pill. I loved having the choice to run through a packet and miss having a 'period' if I was going away or on holiday etc.

3. Goodbye spots!

E94A4E45-089E-4C4D-867F-81AE3E4483AE.jpg

Let me take you to just a few months ago ... I was in a season of learning to 'let go' of a lot of the 'control' I was exercising over my life. Phoebe was also just about to turn 3 and I would love for her not to be an only child! I had finished a packet of Yasmin (can I just say here that Yasmin is the only pill that really agreed with me - several others caused awful hormone swings and cramps!) and gone through my 7 pill-free days. I reached into the cupboard to get another packet and there was none to be found! I knew I had another few packets in the medicine box as I'd only recently been to the doctors and got my 6 month supply. Yet, they had mysteriously disappeared ... I knew instantly that I was having to make a decision. In that season, part of my 'letting go' also meant ridding myself of the hormone controlling 'protection' of the pill. in those moments, I submitted everything to God, praying that whatever happened ... it was him in control, not me. If I was to get pregnant again, then so be it. Even writing those words fills me with anxiety and fear ... but that's ok.

Coming off the pill, I feared that the acne would return, especially as I was also about to begin to use a new skincare brand - Boots own brand - Your Good Skin (YGS). My skin would be quite sensitive and from using Roaccutane, my mum got me onto Liz Earle skincare as it really helped my dryness. I fell in love with it completely, especially the Cleanse & Polish and Eye Bright. I've been using Liz Earle loyally for about 10 years. The products are simply beautiful. Scent, texture and branding are simply spot on. However, I would have to say, that it's definitely a luxury product, for me anyway, and more pricey than the high street alternatives. I was always happy to spend the extra, as I felt it was well justified and the products always lasted for ages. Yet, it's amazing how timely some things can be. Just as I was quitting my job and coming off the pill, a lovely insta-friend (Ydele, @ourlifeatthewhitehouse) asked if I'd be interested in getting involved with a brand campaign for YGS. I did a wee bit of research (as you do!) and thought it looked like something I'd genuinely like to try. 

YGS were running a 28 day challenge and I signed up to give it a good, honest go! I was kindly sent x4 products from the range and I excitedly began the challenge. If I'm being brutally honest ... I was more than a bit skeptical. Being a Liz Earle die-hard fan, I wasn't convinced I'd like anything else! I was also super nervous to see how my skin would react to not only a huge hormonal change coming off the pill, but a change in product. I used the YGS products religiously, morning and night, for the duration of the challenge. I instantly fell in love with the Balancing Skin Concentrate. It's smooth and silky on the skin, with that 'luxury-feel' I'd been used to with Liz Earle. I went from barely using make-up remover and moisturiser in the mornings, to taking much better care of my skin. As much as I never liked using make-up remover wipes, I now really like using the YGS ones. They suit me - I'm lazy! Far too often I've slept in my make-up (I know some of you are physically wincing at the thought!) but there is little I hate more than doing that before bed! Now, with the handy wipes - it's quicker and easier! Hurrah! 

And, get this ... I'm even using toner - twice a day! I must like this YGS stuff! I'm not needing to use my make-up primer either, so there's another little saving there. The biggest win for me though, of course, is that since I started using the range, I haven't had a single spot. Not ONE! I don't know if YGS is the sole reason for that, but while the going is good, I'll keep going! 

Here's what I'm currently using from the YGS range:

1. Moisturizing Make-Up Remover Wipes - £3.99

2. Pore Minimizing Tonic - £4.99

3. Balancing Skin Concentrate - £16.99

4. Refreshing Face Wash - £4.99

5. Anti-Shine Base Lotion - £9.99

6. Instant Dryness Rescue - £9.99

My YGS beauty basket

My YGS beauty basket

There's lots more in the range too, you can view the whole line here. I bought my sister some of the key pieces to try at Christmastime when Boots had their buy one, get one half price offer on. Do watch out for offers! But, hopefully you agree that it's quite affordable and I love that I can get points on my Boots card too. The Anti-Shine Base Lotion is on offer at the moment - 50% off with the code 'YOURGOODSKIN2' :)

Use code YOURGOODSKIN2 for 50% discount!

Use code YOURGOODSKIN2 for 50% discount!

I know that this range mightn't suit everyone, but it suits me at the moment and is more affordable too! Sorry for the long post ... but hopefully it gives you a little insight into my skin journey. I also want to honour those running the YGS campaign, for generously sending me the products to try. I wasn't asked to do a blog post, just a little promotion through IG. This is genuine promotion of products that I've found really working for me at the moment and I'm hoping that someone else might enjoy using them too!

Lots of love my sweetpeas,

Steph 

xo

Learning from yesterday.

Motherhood, FaithSteph Duke1 Comment

Yesterday, Phoebe and I headed off for a late Sunday afternoon stroll. The sun was shining, the air was cold and crisp, the sky was blue and the mood was good! We packed the wellies, the woolies and the scooter, then we headed off to Peatlands Park.

The park was busier than I’d expected, but nonetheless, off we strolled together, a hand on each handle of the scooter. (Phoebe still hasn’t quite mastered the “scooting” technique yet!) We mostly just walk alongside it! Hanging from one handle of the scooter was a bag of bread for the ducks - poor dears - most of the lake was frozen solid! We did manage to find a little bit of water and threw some bread in. Phoebe mustn’t have had enough lunch, as most of the bread ended up in her own stomach! 

EEE0AC8C-D8A0-4A66-90EA-3478218DE9F6.jpg
1571E29E-FE12-4FC1-AE32-E789653783B9.jpg

Once the bread was devoured (by Phoebe) she noticed the little play area behind where we had been feeding the ducks. Well - as parents of three year olds can understand - nothing would do, only to go straight in and play pretend trains for the foreseeable future. It was baltic, and I counted down the minutes until Phoebe could be tempted onto the next “exciting thing.” A walk just wasn’t going to do the trick so I “now regrettably” used the word “playground” to describe our next destination.

734F056A-70CD-4220-B249-31C9C133B767.jpg

Well, I can take full responsibility for what happened next, as, understandably, a coloured hop-skotch on the ground just doesn’t cut it as a “playground” to a 3 year old!

The face on her!

I tried, I really did, to encourage her to give it a go. You know, just while my fingers were freezing off! But, no. Absolutely not. Phoebe was having none of it. She wouldn’t put a single foot near it. She was totally disgusted.

I could see that some people were headed our direction, so I attempted to find another solution. I offered up some other suggestions but I knew that she was “having a moment!” I began to make my way toward her - wrong move. She screamed, then started running in the opposite direction. I was acutely aware of the oncoming traffic: a poor, unsuspecting family and their dog! I couldn’t let Phoebe run too far off, especially with so many dogs around, so I bolted after her, scooter in tow! I grabbed her and hunkered down beside her. She was hollering “no, stop Mummy!!!” at the top of her voice like I was inflicting some sort of torture on her!

FC35C41C-F8FF-4347-9E01-2CD4BEF64CF6.jpg

In those moments, when you are so conscious of onlookers and critical stares, you make split second choices - mine tend to be on the dramatic side - no wonder a certain someone can be a bit of a drama queen! She didn’t want any of my suggestions and continued to shout her head off. I warned her that we would go straight back to the car if she didn’t stop being silly - so inevitably ... off we went ... back to the car. Needless to say, this didn’t go down well! There I was, trailing both a scooter and a screaming 3 year old over the grass, towards the car. I’m sure the whole of Peatlands could hear “NOOOO Mummy!” and her big, wet sobs. A couple of times I tried to carry her but she was too slippery against my coat and too heavy to carry one handed, remember ... I had the scooter trailing along from the other hand!

The shouting persisted the whole way across the car park and into the car. I could see she was completely exhausted though. By late afternoon these days, it’s not really worth fighting with Phoebe for she’s just too tired. Now that we’re back in routine of school, there’s no napping during the day so we can get an early bedtime! And, when Phoebe’s getting tired, you daren’t look at her the wrong way!

Once strapped in, I gave her her bunny and teddy and just to add insult to injury, I demanded an apology before she got her dummy. Now, even still, Phoebe’s all time favourite comforts are these 3 things: bunny, teddy and dummy. These 3 items are inseparable and rarely come without the other. With no “sorry” offered and in my own stubbornness, I set the dummy in the passenger seat and we began the 20 minute drive home. I suspected a roaring match the whole way, but she sat, without a peep, for the entire journey - mulling it all over and sussing me out, no doubt! I swear, she was giving me the evil eye in the mirror for most of the drive!

ABC9B225-17EC-4651-A9DE-2351A6C43F72.jpg

On arrival home, I was even more determined to get my apology, and so the saga continued. Matt thought the whole thing was hilarious, but did try to explain to Phoebe the importance of saying “sorry” and “being nice to Mummy” and “not shouting.” Well, Phoebe is most certainly my daughter ... stubborn as a mule! She was adamant that “sorry” was not crossing her lips. Instead, she would try and sneak the dummy from my pocket!

Eventually ... Matt somehow persuaded Phoebe to say sorry. Probably after around 15 minutes of an awful lot of huffing and puffing - from both Phoebe and I! But you know what, the moment she said sorry and wrapped those wee arms round my neck, I could have bawled my eyes out. I just hate it when we aren’t right with each other. It happens so rarely these days. So when we aren’t good ... I don’t like it. Not one bit.

538091A2-36AD-43E0-9D23-3F49E8319CED.jpg

As Matt often says ... “she’s only 3!” And, now that I’m not teaching in a classroom, I need to try and remember to step back from that role a little. Yes, I’m teaching Phoebe, but not in the same way. My role to her is different. It’s as Mother. It’s a nurturing role. More often than not, I’m stopping and reflecting on all that it means to be a Mother. The mighty weight of responsibility that comes rushing on you, the moment you hear the first little cry. But also the mighty honour and privilege it is to tend to and care for a little life. To watch it begin to grow and flourish! In 2018 my prayer is that in my role as Mother - especially in this new season of career-change - I gain deeper roots and firmer foundations in and through Christ. There is no stronger love. No better example. No greater sacrifice. May God grant me the patience and wisdom needed in these days and continue to mould and shape me into the kind of Mother Phoebe needs me to be.

Blessings for a wonderful week my lovelies,

Steph xox