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I know you love our kids and miss them and want nothing more than to see their eyes light up with love for you.


I know you want to do something that enriches their lives and shows them the simple pleasures of childhood.

So please, dear family + friends, know that this message comes from a place of love: No. More. Toys.

Our kids don’t actually need much of any “things”—they just need our presence, consistent love and guidance.

But maybe your family has gotten here, too. Heres how it happened it ours—

Growing up, my father regaled our family with tales of his humble childhood—he only had a ball and a stick to his name and walked uphill to school both ways and wore the same outfits several times a week. He ate ham sandwiches (every day!) for school lunch and spent his afternoons playing games in his friends’ backyards. It was a simple childhood.

But now, this loving grandfather started showing up to visits with armfuls of toys for our kids. He was a one-man Christmas morning, every time he visited.

It sounds like a four-year-old’s dream come true—but when it comes to kids and toys, there truly can be too much of a good thing.

When grandpa would come bearing gifts, my kids would quickly open up one box— not even taking the time to enjoy or appreciate it!—before they’d spy the next out of the corner of their eye and aim to rip it open, too. It was like they had an endless appetite for MORE.

Meanwhile, grandpa was perhaps just living *his* childhood dreams—through our kids. He meant well, but he wasn’t the only one dropping endless toys in our laps.

Add in excessively indulgent Christmases (they were the only grandkids on both sides.)

Drop in some birthdays.

Add a dash of family friends who can’t help but send goodies along to the kids every time we see them.

Add in Happy Meal trinkets, birthday goodie bags, the occasional impulse buy at the checkout line.

Add in ‘artwork’ that seems to come from everywhere.

Add in stick collections and penny collections and rock collections. “But mom, it’s my favorite orange rock!” (You can have a favorite orange rock?)

Our house was TEEMING with toys and stuff. There were half-finished puzzles (the pieces were always missing), books with pages torn out, block sets with essential pieces gone MIA and tent structures with nowhere to stand.

It was all of the work of having toys, but not enough space for the fun.

Most ironic of all? Our playroom was often unusable because—you guessed it!—the toys were E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E and all over the floor, all the time. (No room to play.)

So when we packed up our home earlier this year to settle our family a few states away, we spent weeks doing what we knew we needed to do: We got rid of 75% of the toys we owned.

We brought—honestly—probably 50+ bags/ boxes of “stuff” (toys included) to Goodwill.

(We also got rid of 50% of our own personal possessions—clothes, books, cosmetics—and that felt awesome, too).

It felt amazing to ditch years of junk that had been holding us back.

It felt great to donate hardly-used toys to families that could use them.

And it has been absolutely incredible to see the impact of living with radically less—on me, our home, and especially our kids.

My four-year-old’s reading skills have absolutely taken off.

My incredibly rambunctious three-year-old will sit on a couch and stare off into space, quietly contemplating the ending of Paw Patrol, or perhaps Particle Physics, or where do strawberries come from and why do they taste so good? (I consider this emerging introspection in him a major win.)

My one-year-old can be left in our new baby-proofed playroom with little fear that she’ll discover some danger amid what used-to-be hundreds of toys. (There is one shelf of toys now, and they’re all safe for her.)

I feel good about raising my children in a home that is orderly and purposeful.

I have more energy for work and myself because I don’t have to spend all my free time dealing with a house jammed full of stuff.

And thankfully, my family is totally onboard. (It might be because I sent them photos of the dozens of bags and piles of giveaway toys—and they saw their hard-earned money in the ‘donate’ bin.)

So please, no more random toys for the kids, please. If you really really really want to get something for my kids, I have made a short list.

Here’s what my kids really need—

New sneakers

Swimming lessons

An adult to look them in the eyes and talk about anything their little hearts desire (probably ‘poop’-related jokes, if I’m honest—they’re obsessed)

A weekend at grandpa’s

Art supplies

Someone to bring them to the library to return their borrowed books—and get new ones

A trip to the playground

A movie night

Grocery store gift cards. (Real talk: these little kids eat more than I ever imagined possible.)

Someone to build blanket forts

Ice cream. (Seriously.) It might be messy and sugary but at our house—it doesn’t last. Plus, ice cream leaves nothing but sticky fingers, brain freeze and innocent childhood memories—the best gift of all.

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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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