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One of my dear friends works in early childhood education and when my child was still a baby, she gave me some fantastic advice. To her—and possibly to all of you—this was along the lines of “obviously...” But, to me, it was mind-blowing.


Here goes: She said that when giving advice to small children, you need to tell them what you want them to do instead of what you don’t want them to do.

This is why in our daycare there is a constant refrain of “use your walking feet” instead of “no running!” My friend explained that if a child hears “no running,” the only part their brain will grab is the “running” part—and that’s what they’re going to do. Until they have better recall ad life experience, you’ll need to supply the thing that they’re supposed to do instead of hitting their brother with a hockey stick. (Completely hypothetical, of course.)

I’ve used this advice ALL the time with my boys.  Honestly, one time my little one was on the playground as an itty-bitty toddler and kept putting rocks in his mouth and I heard myself saying “we put rocks into the garbage” instead of “don’t eat that rock!” And—wouldn’t you know it?—he didn’t spend the next 10 minutes picking up all of the pebbles on the playground and putting them in the garbage.

As my boys have gotten older and more daring, however, my instructions have become a little more elaborate. Which led me to create a “List of Rules for Spirited Children.”

And I mean spirited.  I have friends who are like “oh yeah, my kids are so rambunctious, too.” And then I see them at the playground and they’ll be running around the playground like a normal human child while MY child is literally climbing on the outside of the playground structure like a flipping wildebeest. So, I’m talking about my kind of “spirited” child.

If you are also in the distinguished club where you’ve received two phone calls in one day from daycare about two completely separate and unrelated injuries your child has sustained through their own daredevilness, then this list for you.

So, without further ado, my “List of Rules for Spirited Children.”

1. “We only throw soft things”

See? This is written in the “here’s what you should be doing” phraseology. I said this in the early stages to my son so he wouldn’t break things in our house. If he tried to throw something hard, I’d replace it with a stuffed animal or soft ball. But I neglected to account for the fact that stuffed animals have eyes that can seriously sting and he can now whip a ball with a lot of speed. So it necessitated rule number No. 2...

2. “You can only throw at someone who is ready to catch”

Although again, it doesn’t matter if you’re ready for a speeding stuffed bunny rabbit to get chucked at your head. Bunbun can still leave a mark. ?

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3. “I will only chase you if your room is clean”

I have stepped on too many lego blocks to not make this a rule. Bonus? Their room gets cleaned.

4. “If you are going to climb on the windowsill, wait until mommy can backstop you”

True story, my toddler knows what “backstopping” is and requests regularly that I come over and do it for him while he climbs on our windowsill. I’ve gotten too tired to continue to hold him and the bottom of our glass is frosted, so he can only see out the top. It’s really a problem of my own making.

5. “If it’s not fun for everyone, it’s not a game”

This one has been a new development on account of the baby, who has gotten squished by our couch cushions and literally sat on by his brother so many times: We need regular check-ins to make sure everyone is having fun. Payback is gonnna be a rough, though, because his “little” brother weighs only about 10 pounds less than him despite the 2.5 year age gap. Revenge will come soon...

6. “You need to look for mommy every time you change rooms or turn a corner”

Without this, I am convinced my toddler would run for approximately a mile before it even enters his head that I might not be following. I suppose I will take this as a compliment that he has a strong attachment to me and feels confident enough to run away.

7. “If you ever get lost, look for another Mommy”

Because of the aforementioned No. 6 on the list, I’ve been pretty positive that it’s a foregone conclusion Chewie will at some point get lost in a public place. Therefore, in addition to teaching him his full name and his address, I’ve also taught him that if he ever gets lost, he should look for a police officer, or—since those are rare—to look for another mommy. Because, chances are in terms of strangers he could ask for help, another mom who’s got kids with her is going be the safest stranger to talk to.

Although, unless she too has a truly spirited child, I’ll probably get a glare from her as she returns him to me.

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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like the heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends, which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent.

Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, it's more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby—in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued. Crisis averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it all through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

The fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so that there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas

www.pinterest.com

Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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