What's the price of motherhood redemption? {The Elsa Dress}

If you know anything about me and this blog at all, you know it was born out of the overwhelming desire to be the perfect mother to my oldest daughter. The desire to make her world a fantasy land of perfection has bogged me down in my journey to this point in motherhood. Even when I say I'm going to live in the imperfections, that I'm going to embrace the mess, I always resort back to wanting to make her life perfect.

Which is stupid, because life is anything but.

As usual, I set unrealistic goals for myself every year around Caitlin's birthday. One year I tasked myself with making her a dress, as any good mother worth her weight in Pinterest pins would do. One year, and I'm pretty sure it was the same one, I stood in the Toy Story aisle of Toys R Us, in tears because there wasn't a Buzz Lightyear for miles. I've made ladybug cakes and cupcakes. I've made invitations. Every May and June I spend endless hours at Michael's, Joanne's and Target, just to make it the best birthday she will every have. And every year I almost have a nervous breakdown. 

This year, I knew, there was no way I was going to be able to deliver on what she wanted most, without some serious planning.

Because this year, Caitlin wanted an Elsa dress. The dress that parents everywhere are taking second mortgages on their houses to buy. The dress that goes for thousands on EBay. The dress that parents stand in line for hours on Saturday mornings at our local mall, just to get a raffle ticket, in hopes they will get picked to buy a very rare Elsa dress. Yes. An Elsa dress. Because why would we want anything less for our seventh birthday? 

Caitlin didn't just want an Elsa dress, she wanted me to make it. I love that she thinks I'm that talented. I love that she has undying faith in me as a mother. She has no idea at this point how imperfect I really am, since, as this story will prove, I get really lucky when shit hits the fan. And as much as I wanted to make that dress for her, I knew it was going to be impossible. I work now. My schedule isn't always the best, and a dress, a real princess dress, using speciality fabrics, was going to be a real challenge. Not something I could throw together with my minimal sewing skills and a glue gun.

I spent the better part of two hours researching Etsy for an Elsa dress. I emailed at least five sellers to make sure that they would be able to make a June 6th delivery date. It was May 12th after all and I didn't think it would be impossible. Three sellers said their waiting list was June 28th. One never responded and two said, Absolutely. In the mean time I also found a dress for Mac, a nice little Anna dress. So with my credit card and a prayer, I ordered two dresses one Anna, one Elsa. I made sure to add my shipping expectations in the seller notes, and also explained if they couldn't make this date, to please contact me immediately.

Mac's dress showed up in our mailbox a week and a half later. It is a piece of artwork. Hand embroidered bodice, soft fabrics for kids like mine who hate the itchy fabrics of princess dresses. Perfect. We hung it in her closet, and waited for Caitlin's.

We waited and waited. I got busy at the end of May. My work schedule changed four times in one week. I closed four days straight. I was never home, let alone able to piece together coherent thoughts. It wasn't until my first day off in almost seven days that I realized Caitlin's party for her school friends was a little over a week away. And when I thought about the party, I remembered the dress. The. Dress.

Still it took another three days to email the seller. On Tuesday the 3rd of June, I emailed the seller of Caitlin's dress. Just a quick note to see if it had shipped. What if it had gotten lost in the mail? The seller emailed me back to tell me that my dress still had a few days to go. Are you kidding me? I freaked. My heart fell into my stomach. Oh. Shit. So I immediately emailed back, from my phone of course, because all this was taking place in the car before school pick up. I included a screen shot of my original order with my "special instructions" filled out to include the date I needed the dress back. And then I waited. I checked my Etsy conversations again and again, and nothing. Nothing for fifteen hours. On Wednesday morning I received a message that said, I've moved you up on the list. You will have your dress by Friday. But something in my heart said, no. I just knew that I was never going to see this dress. 

Friday morning I checked my email as I was leaving work and found that I had been issued a refund from the seller. No personal email. No apology. Nothing on our Etsy conversation. Nothing but my money and no coveted Elsa dress. On the verge of tears I called the Hubbs. What were we going to do? How were we going to make this happen? He told me to call the party stores to see if they had anything, and of course I laughed. He has no idea the frenzy that is Frozen. Then he said to call the Disney Store, and I laughed again. But I said I would. What did I have to lose at this point?

Maybe a lot. The night before, we had talked with Caitlin about the possibility of not having an Elsa dress for her Frozen party. We explained to her what happened. But she's seven, and all she said through tears was, "Why doesn't anything every work out for me". Ouch. Because I kind of feel like she has a point. I feel like she never really got the best part of me when she was a baby. I feel like she doesn't get the best parts of me now. And here, on the eve of her most important Frozen party to celebrate her seventh birthday, the one thing she so desired, didn't come. I had to walk away from that conversation. Because sometimes mommy isn't as magical as she appears. Mommy can't always fix it, and at seven, that is a really hard lesson to learn. It's also hard to admit to yourself as a mother, that sometimes the best laid plans can still go to shit.

I called the Disney store, even though I was pretty sure they were going to laugh at me. I asked, what I thought was going to be the stupidest question on earth. "Do you have any Elsa dresses?", and to my total surprise, "Yes". Stop. What? I mean Elsa, you know from Frozen?, Yes, we have four. They had two in Caitlin's size, and they would not hold them, it was first come first serve. So I dropped everything. Threw Mac in the car, and drove, breaking every speed limit, and running not one but two red lights. Then I threw Mac into a stroller and ran my ass through the mall to the Disney Store. I'm sure I was a sight. When I got there, they only had one left. One. In Caitlin's size. In the twenty minutes it took to drive there they had almost sold out. So I bought one dress and one crown, and paid $70.63.

How much does it cost to redeem yourself as a mother? How much does it cost to confirm that you are doing it right? How much does it cost to save yourself from another disappointment as a mother, because no matter how hard you try you will still feel like that fumbling and bumbling idiot spilling breast milk at two am? 

Seventy dollars and sixty three cents. And it was worth every tear, every moment that I almost had a nervous breakdown. It was worth every dang red cent. Because look at that face. She loved the dress. So much that she tried to sleep in it the night before her party. And I was able to put one in the pro column for motherhood. So very worth it indeed.

And let's face it I would have paid triple that.

Here is the Anna coronation dress. I mean, really!
Photo cred: Best Dress Ever via Etsy

Mackenzie's dress is by Best Dress Ever on Etsy. Michelle is great. 
You can follow her on Instagram @michellebestdressever. 
Her dresses are fantastic and perfect for your littles 
that can't abide by tulle and scratchy fabrics. 
Please check her out!


  1. I was so relieved when I learned that you had the Elsa dress. When you posted what had happened, I thought poor mom because I know you and I knew you would eat yourself up about it. Both girls look beautiful!

  2. You are THE BEST MOTHER. And don't you forget it. Ever. You made it her best bday ever and she will always remember it. I promise. If not, she'll read this post and cry. Just like I did.

  3. I already try so hard for my little guy and he's only 5 months and doesn't even know how hard I work. But he is the center of my world. I can't even imagine trying to have the 'mommy isn't magical' conversation. You worked so hard and you did brilliantly. I can so seriously see myself in your shoes a few years down the road. I hope I handle it with half the ability you did! Good job mama!

  4. Wow! That's quite a story. I imagine I might have this sort of thing happening to me sometime soon. My girl NEEDS her dresses. I would've totally done the same thing.

  5. I almost cried reading this. You are a wonderful Momma...and f-that, you are incredibly magical!

  6. That's amazing that you found it! I only have boys, so I've just had to listen to friends with girls plot about how to get these dresses. I thought about trying to be the best auntie ever and find them for my nieces, but there isn't as much pressure there as with my own kids.

    I tend to put this pressure on myself with various gift-giving holidays, looking at what I got my kids and then thinking it's not enough, so I buy more, thinking that's what they need to be happy. Then, they end up thrilled with one of the things I originally bought(b/c the first thing on the list is whatever it is that they really wanted, even if it's just some small thing) and ignoring the other things I added on.