A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

During the years 1929 until 2006, an ongoing linguistics study was conducted around the world. From islands off the coast of Africa, to areas of India, to preschoolers in the U.S., social scientists showed people two pictures. One picture was of a spiky ball. The other was a curvy blob. The scientists then asked locals which one they would call “kiki” and which one they would call “bouba.” Almost without fail, no matter the time, the place or the language—there was a strong preference for calling the spiky object “kiki” and the curvy object “bouba.”

This study fascinated me. Imagine, there are things we all agree are intrinsically so. What other things in our world are so finite? So definable, no matter your age, culture or gender? Spiky objects have sharp spiky sounds. Curvy objects have slow round sounds.

My next thought was one only a mother could have. My daughters are like Kiki and Bouba. And while I know labeling your kids is a bad idea, I just couldn’t help myself. Their personalities are so distinctive.

Lucy, my eldest, has a sharp spark, long silky brown hair, angular elbows and sparkly green eyes. She was a wide-eyed baby who never slept. She can name and classify every dinosaur ever discovered. She climbs trees and has an extensive nature collection of deer antlers, honeycomb and turtle shells that clutter our patio. She’s my Kiki.

Annabel, my youngest, has soft skin, curly blond fluff-hair, a round belly and a warm smile. Her first word was a happy “hi” and her favorite food is cupcakes. If given the chance, she would spend all day with her books and puppies. She’s my Bouba.

When distant relatives ask, “What’s Annabel like? Does she get along with her sister?” I relay the scientific study of Kiki and Bouba and how it relates to my daughters. Of course she gets along with her sister—she’s a soft fluffy cloud.

“Annabel is just so sweet. She’s the sugar to Lucy’s spice,” I said.

And it’s not just me who see this. Upon meeting my children, a southern and cordial family friend said, “It’s like you have a snow white and a rose red.”

Lucy and Annabel are different in so many perceptible ways. As I have already labeled them Kiki and Bouba, I subconsciously have labeled them in other ways too.

Lucy as “the bright one” and Annabel as “the lovable one.”

Lucy as “the one who will do things in life” and Annabel as “the one who will give me grandchildren.”

I know labeling your kids is a bad idea, so I’ve never said it out loud, not until now.

My AHA moment came at an inopportune time.

I applied for my first full-time job since my children were born. It was a perfect job for me—flexible hours, a combination of my passions, and at a non-profit that valued children and work-life balance. But as the interview process went on, instead of feeling grateful that I was their favored candidate, I felt a panic. I couldn’t accept this job. It was in middle management. Those two words, “middle management,” were everything I had told myself I wouldn’t be—but why?

Then, I remembered the first time I realized my father labeled me.

I was a freshman in college, in the gravelly parking lot of a steakhouse on the side of US Highway 30 in Indiana, when I asked my dad what he thought I would do with my life.“You’ll probably settle down, have a family and a job in middle management,” he said with complete sincerity.

I squinted my eyes. Had I not been raised to be a polite, female Midwesterner I may have spit on him. Didn’t he see me as I saw myself? A thought leader? A trailblazer? A creative soul? Fifteen years later, as a married mother of two small children, I still never had a job that would be perceived as middle management. That was on purpose. I freelanced. I worked for quirky start-ups. I ran from large organizations with layers of management. Until now.

I ended up accepting the job, and I love it. But I almost didn’t because I thought it was predictable or mundane, rather than a perfect fit. It turns out my dad was right. I did settle down, have a family and get a job in middle management. I fought so hard to make him wrong that I almost missed out on an opportunity that has made me feel incredibly fulfilled and happy.

Like language, children change. Last week Annabel told me she loved Superman. She also hit me and pulled my hair when I told her I wouldn’t buy her a lollipop at the drugstore. This was not the soft Bouba that I knew.

Today, Lucy taught her little sister how to skateboard. And, at bedtime I found her spraying perfume and putting foam curlers in her hair. Kiki was not patient, nor did she care much about personal hygiene.

My perceptions are not wrong. I know what my daughters look like and how they normally behave. We create labels to make sense out of complex pieces of data. What’s more complex than a developing child? Maybe I need to do more research on actual personality development, rather than basing an analysis of their very souls on a linguistics study.

My children aren’t, after all, 2-dimensional objects. Perhaps I can pull my labels back a bit in ways that allow Lucy and Annabel to be the people they’re meant to be—without my meddling.

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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


Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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