Lights. Camera. Pageant.

Prelims started today for USA National Miss in Boca Raton. TCM girls Hayden, McKenzie, Desi, and Kate will strut their stuff on the runway. After prelims, there is nothing left for us to do that could change the outcome of Top 15. Will their interviews and stage work be enough to push them through to the next round? Well considering it hasn't happened yet at the time I'm writing this - I have NO IDEA! But they have been spot on all week and I'm beaming with pride.

Jump ahead.

Hayden's prelims begin. Everyone is coming down to the dressing room to claim space for competition. Yes, this is important because we need outlets for curling irons or steamers. We need table space and chairs, and a place for our racks. We have to setup and create a work space that keeps us organized and able to work quickly. Again, being the logistics master, I have already thought all of this out before hand. We had a few miscommunications with garment racks but we are a resourceful group and were able to find a solution. Hayden started off in runway fashion and little miss sassy pants was spunky and awesome! She has a background of modeling and acting so having her switch her style to pageant runway was a little bit of an adjustment, but not today - she was flawless! She just loves being on the stage and you can tell it every time she hits the stage. When it came time for evening wear, she was so beautiful in her baby blue colored off the shoulder dress along with her blonde curls and baby blue eyes. We have an inside joke - "she looked like an angel baby floating on a cloud!" I couldn't have asked her to do anything different. She is now finished with prelims and it's out of our hands with what happens with top 15. Hayden did win National Supermodel Top Five and National Cover Model Top Five from optionals so HOORAY!!! (Go mom, Lauri! Go Hayden!)

Next show is for preteens and jr teens. This one is Desi's. Desi shows up to the dressing room appearing calm and excited. I asked her if she were nervous and she said, "No. More like excited." Hmmm - I cracked a half smile because she has totally settled into this UNM national experience like a duck taking to water. I stepped back to check her hair and makeup and had to catch my breath. Over the last year Desi has grown into such a beautiful young lady. I remembered that 12 year old kid last year and feel my heart swell in this moment thinking about her journey. But I don't have time for walks down memory lane right now - we have prelims!!!! Focus, Erin! Game face!

I get her dressed. We run rehearsals in the dressing room. She does it over and over again not because I'm making her - SHE wants to do it over and over so that SHE knows she's got this. There is a level of determination on her face that I haven't seen quite like this. I was impressed and kept going, along side her. Finally it was time for line up. Shoes on. Final touches. Show time. I stood by her giving reminders up until she walked across the threshold. I was left nearly alone in the dressing room because the rest of the moms went get a seat to watch the show. I never watch a full show. I stand in the back and pace until my girl(s) compete, then run back and forth from dressing rooms. I stand in the back and observe all the little things.

I see how other moms and contestants interact. I see the nervousness in the moms that translate to the girls. The hardest part of a mom to do is "let go." But sometimes letting go it's the best thing you can do at that moment. TCM has a rule about mom-daughters backstage. (Don't give me that look - you know it's true!) Certain moms know they make their daughters nervous and know when to excuse themselves. The TCM moms trust me enough to leave their precious baby girls in my hands. That is a trust that is priceless. When I see a mom on the verge of breaking down, I call in another TCM mom to take her and occupy her. We are a team and a family. I love that part about us.

I watch moms and families smile and cheer when their girl comes on stage. I see the moms tear up and I see their pride. It's a moment quite unlike any other when you see your daughter walk across a stage and you see her confidence, her excitement, and see her achieve something most people wouldn't dare to try because they let apprehension or fear stand in their way.

Back to Desi - she totally killed her runway fashion. She was fierce. She was excited to be up there and it showed in her smile and in her modeling. She just was a different person up there. Then ... it happened. Out of no where, a single tear fell from my eye, down my cheek, and down my chin. This young lady moved me to tears. (I know from these blogs I sound like a cry baby but if you really know me - I am NOT a cryer! I hate tears and I do not express too many emotions. But these girls this summer competition season have shown so much growth that I can't help but beam like the rest of the moms out there.) So after I got my game face back on, I met her backstage to change for evening wear. Shoes. Earrings. Bandaids for blisters. Her ear bleeds - where are the tissues? Lipstick. Curl hair. Fix shoes again. Run through her routine. Oh please baby Jesus make the bleeding stop for her ears! Then line up. Desi is simply stunning. I held her train for her until I could go no further. I watched her walk away. She's gone. Deep breath, Erin. Deep breath.

This pageant was tough having three prelim shows that all ran over each other so as soon as my girl was finished with evening wear I had to leave the show and prep the next group. My attention had to start turning to my teens, Kate & McKenzie. Boy were these two ready and pumped for the stage! After applying makeup to cover someone's tan lines (*cough cough, Kate*) it was time to get them dressed and ready for line up. When I stand in these two presence - I feel inferior because Kate and McKenzie are gorgeous. Beautiful hearts to match! They both make my heart happy. (Insert warm heart smile)

Apply lips, shoes, spray hair, final reminders and words of encouragement then off they go. I stand in the back (again) and pace. Kate comes out in her beautiful white textured high-low with killer shoes. She walks. She smiles. She poses. She's gorgeous. Simply, gorgeous. My heart swells with happiness. McKenzie hits deck. She is rocking her two piece red cocktail with cape. She hits the stage and wow! She has never quite owned the stage as she did in that moment. It was wonderful to see her a part of a system that she connects with, a system that cares about their contestants. UNM has definitely raised her to a new level of confidence.

Again with the change into evening wear. Touch ups. Hair. Lips. Shoes. Jewelry. The Dress. Final reminders. And there they go. By now after a full day of competition with three shows and girls in each show - I am exhausted. I haven't eaten yet. I haven't seen the outside world. (Fish bowl affect) So now I sit here and write you this in between shows and in between the girls. Eating gold fish. Drinking Neuro. I sit alone in the dressing room surrounded by beautiful fashion. I've been here all day watching and letting the world happen around me. I've seen girls give into the stress that competition can bring. I've seen moms let their own nerves affect their daughters. I've also seen how strangers reach out and help other strangers. I've seen people offer help and encouragement to their own competition because they spent all week forming a bond, creating a sisterhood. I've seen the good, the not so good, and the awesome.

At the end of today, 8 different opinions will decide tomorrow's fate for 15 girls in each of the six divisions. Perhaps they loved us, perhaps they were looking for something else. We cannot change how it turns out but I can solidly say I am proud. SO proud. We had a great showing at UNM 2017. One thing I have learned from this season and really tried to impress upon my girls is that God has a plan for each of us and we cannot cry over something that isn't meant for us because His plan is the best plan, and we have to trust. Trust that one day it will happen for them. Trust that one day they have learned from enough experiences to be ready to step into that spotlight and be His spotlight for others.