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Hosting Thanksgiving dinner at your house can be uber-stressful, no matter how many times you've done it.


So, whether this is your first time (eek!) or your thirtieth time, here are 25 time-saving Thanksgiving dinner hacks that will definitely make your day go easier.

1. Make a menu and stick to it

There are lots of great ideas out in the world that you can add to your menu a few days before the big day, or even as you're cooking. But don't do it. About a month before, write down what you're going to cook, what you're going to ask others to bring (see Delegate, below), and forget the rest. This will be a big stress-reducer and will also help you work through what you have to do to prepare.

2. Make a shopping list

Do not head out shopping until you've got that list in hand. Write out every ingredient for every item on your menu, then split the ingredients up into separate shopping lists for those items you can buy a month out, a week out and those you have to buy a day or two before. This will help reduce (note, I didn't say eliminate) the number of emergency trips you'll be running to the store.

3. Grate the butter

In any of your recipes that call for folding-in the butter (ie. pie crusts, dressing, biscuits, etc.), it's way easier to take the stick of butter and grate that bad boy into the mix!

4. Chop chop

The veggies, always with the veggies. So much chopping and cutting and gah! But I found a Cuisinart Chopper that makes my chopping life less of my life. For Thanksgiving, I like to chop my veggies well in advance (at least a day), before I prepare the specific dish. Then, I float them in a bowl of water until I need them, allowing me to worry only about putting together the dish, not chopping veggies for half of a day.

5. No-roll pie crust

You don't have to roll out the pie crust, which is awesome both for saving time and saving sanity (as well as your arm muscles). You've got enough to worry about getting this meal to come together, you shouldn't have to worry about how to transfer your perfectly rolled crust from the wax paper to the pie plate!

6. Lattice-top pie

To make pies look both traditional and pretty, you need a lattice-top on many of them, especially fruit pies. But that's kinda hard—except when you follow these easy instructions using your cooling rack.

7. Freeze-a-pie

Make your pecan, pumpkin and sweet potato pies a month early, then freeze them. If you buy the little cheapy pie-pans and cook them in that, you won't mess up grandma's heirloom pie plate…yet. After they're cooked, you can take the cheapy pie-pan off, then put them in a gallon-size baggie and put them in the freezer. Done.

8. Stale (or toasted) bread = better dressing (or stuffing)

Always use stale bread for your dressing, unless you have absolutely no options. This means buying a loaf of bread a month in advance and leaving it out. But if you just can't stand that thought or you forget (because I totally do that every year!), you can toast your bread and that will help wick out a lot of the moisture.

Don't be afraid to be too dry with your bread. You can always put more moisture in when you mix prior to baking, but you can never take moisture out. For a really great dressing , you can check out this Texas Cornbread Dressing recipe.

9. Dry cornbread = better(er) dressing (or stuffing)

Make your cornbread like you normally would (or you can try this awesome recipe), but leave out the eggs. Drier cornbread will make the dressing less soggy, just like when using stale bread. So, start dry. But if you do go with this hack and leave out the eggs, be sure to double or triple your recipe as the cornbread won't rise nearly as much as you're expecting.

10. Freeze-a-dressing

Make your dressing (or stuffing) a week or more in advance—then, like the pies, freeze it. Depending on your pan size, you might have to cut the sheet of dressing in half, but if you cut carefully, you can fit it in a gallon size bag and just stack on top of the pies.

11. Homemade cranberry sauce

Want to look like a fancy, real chef? Make homemade cranberry sauce a week before (just follow the instructions on the back of the bag of fresh cranberries), then pop it into the fridge. That stuff will save in the fridge for weeks and you'll look like the best gourmand.

12. Smoked turkey

I know everybody wants to cook that perfect turkey, but honestly, there's too much that can go wrong. No way will I take that risk. You can make your own, like this awesome recipe for smoked turkey on a grill, but I always hit my favorite BBQ place to see what kind of smoked turkey deal they're selling or I make my way to Honey Baked Ham—their turkey is reliably wonderful every time.

13. Frozen drinks

Don't stress about drinks. A few days before, brew your tea or make your kool-aid, put it in a gallon-size baggie, then freeze. Then on the big day, just pour into a pitcher!

14. Kids play before, then put someone else in charge

Thanksgiving is an exciting time for kiddos—they want to help and participate! Plus, they're out of school, so they might be a little bored (if they stopped bugging you for two seconds).

Be prepared to have some fun activities to do on Wednesday together. You can make some placemats for the kiddy-table, whip-up some Pumpkin Slime, make Paper-Bag Place Settings for everyone, or (my favorite) put together some Salt-Dough Leaf Ornaments in preparation for putting up the tree on Friday.

If they'd rather make some food, they can help make the biscuits a day ahead (nothing wrong with that) or have them make some Turkey Pretzels for snacks. Then, on the big day, make Dad be in charge (or Mom, if Dad's the chef of the family), or ask Great-Aunt Myrtle to come watch the kids—trust me, it's worth calling in the favor.

15. Thaw overnight

Take everything out of the freezer that you've frozen and put them in the garage or on the counter wherever you can find space. That will give even a huge turkey time to thaw before showtime. Just be sure to calculate about 20 minutes for every pound on that turkey.

16. Pre-made breakfast

You're making dinner for the big day. Why mess around with making something the day-of for breakfast? A few days before, make something unique and fun for the kids like this apple strudel or this cream cheese filled pumpkin bread of goodness. Then just warm it up and get ready to accept the compliments. Or, if you're making breakfast for a huge crowd (because that's what happens here at my house), you can make an awesome fruit salad, a holiday favorite around my family.

17. Simple, light lunch

Keep lunch easy and light-don't fill your kids up before the biggest meal of the year. For lunch, you could make something like this apple squash soup or these blue cheese and pecan-stuffed celery bites.

Anything quick and simple so that you don't have to waste your time making anything or having to clean up a huge mess. If you're preparing lunch for more than just you, your spouse and the kiddos, you can throw together a slow cooker meal.

18. Sides galore

No reason to make all the sides the day of. Mac and cheese casserole can be made a few days prior and refrigerated, so can green-bean casserole and candied yams. Be sure to make sides the kids are going to like (or even eat). If you're having trouble coming up with ideas (because I'm always stumped when the question is presented to me), you can check out this quick list of Side Dishes.

19. Perfectly formed biscuits

Cut your biscuits with a wine glass to make them perfectly shaped. Then turn the glass right-side-up, rinse and have a little bit of wine to ease the day. No stress and less mess. Right?

20. Wash potatoes in bulk

Rather than washing you're 'taters by hand, run them through the dishwasher! No, really, this is a thing—check it out here.

21. Boil potatoes to skin

Instead of spending a half-hour or an entire day peeling potatoes for your party, boil them first, peel and all. Once they've boiled for 15 minutes, the skin will just come right off when you rub them.

22. Fluffier mashed potatoes

Everyone (and their dog) has a recipe for their mom's mashed potatoes. However, not all 'taters are created equal. A recipe for French Mashed Potatoes calls for a little bit of baking soda—when I made this, it made my mashed potatoes so much more fluffy. And that was very nice.

23. Delegate a few sides

Crazy Uncle Charlie really is good at making that green-bean casserole, right? Flatter him a little by asking that he bring it with. It's nice, saves you stress and, frankly, a little bit of pot-luck can bring a family together.

24. Schedule a break

If things are going well, you can actually take that break, but if you're totally running behind, you have a few minutes to catch up.

25. Make reservations

My father-in-law suggested I add this to the list! He's right sometimes, though. I'll be honest, it probably wasn't the best idea for me to host Thanksgiving two months after my daughter was born—we should have made reservations that year at a very nice restaurant.

Originally published on Totally the Bomb.
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Student loan debt is a major problem for many mamas and their families―but it doesn't have to be. Refinancing companies like Laurel Road help families every year by offering better rates, making payments more manageable or helping them shorten their loan term.

If you're ready to start taking control of your student loan debt, here are five steps that could help you conquer your student loan debt and get a loan that works for you.

1. Understand your refinancing options.

Like motherhood, managing student loan debt is a journey made much easier by experience. If your eyes start to cross when you hear variable and fixed rates or annual percentage rate, start your process with a little education. Laurel Road offers a user-friendly resource hub with student loan refinancing guides and articles that can help explain your options and get you started on a more informed foot.

2. Potentially improve your credit score.

Your credit score is important because it provides an objective measure of your credit risk to lenders. It also has an impact on many aspects of your finances, so it's a good idea to understand and track your score regularly. To try and improve your score, pay your bills on time—your payment history is one of the most important factors in determining your credit score. Having a long history of on-time payments is best, while missing a payment may hurt your score. Another action to improve your credit score would be to keep the amount you owe low—keeping your balances low on credit cards and other types of revolving debt, such as a home equity lines of credit, may help boost your score. Remember, good credit scores don't just happen overnight, but taking positive financial steps now can lead to more positive outcomes in the future.

3. Get a better understanding of your current loan benefits.

Different loan types have different benefits and you want to make sure you don't lose any valuable benefits by refinancing your current loan. Before you're ready to apply for a better option, you need to know what you have. Determine your loan terms (how long you have to pay off your loan and how much you're required to pay each month) and find out your current interest rate.

When you took out your original loan, especially if it was a federal loan, everyone who applies is given the same rate regardless of their personal credit. When you look to refinance, companies like Laurel Road look at your credit score and other attributes to give you a personalized pricing option―one that's often more competitive than your original terms. However, it is important to know that federal loans offer several benefits and protections, including income based repayment and forgiveness options, that you may lose when refinancing with private lenders (learn more at https://studentloans.gov). Try Laurel Road's Student Loan Calculator to get a bigger picture perspective of what it will take to pay off your loan and the options available to you.

4. Pick the terms that fit your lifestyle.

Your long-term financial goals will determine what refinancing terms are right for you. For example, a 3- or 5-year loan means faster payoff times, but it will mean a higher monthly payment―which might not be possible if you're planning to purchase a home or looking to move your toddler to a more expensive school. A loan with a longer term will have lower payments, but more interest over the duration of the loan.

Want to see what your options are? Check your rates on Laurel Road. They'll perform a "soft credit pull" using some basic information (meaning initially checking your rates won't affect your credit score ) so you can make an informed decision. If you do proceed with the application Laurel Road will ask for your consent on a hard credit pull.

5. Don't miss out on discounts.

With a little research, many people can find opportunities for lower rates or discounts when refinancing their loans. For example, if your credit isn't the best, look into the possibility of adding a cosigner who may help boost your rate. There are also many associations and employers who offer student loan benefits. Laurel Road partners with a number of groups and employers who offer discounts on rates―so check with your professional associations or HR to see if any options are available to you. Finally, talk to your financial institution, especially if you're planning to take out another major loan like a mortgage. In some cases, having another product with an institution can get you a preferred customer rate.

This article is sponsored by Laurel Road. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Dear second child,

I see you. In the background, laying on your activity mat. I am frantically peeling a banana to appease your big sister's demands while cleaning milk off the floor.

You reach over and grab your toy and I am SO proud of you. I see you.

You smile and coo to yourself and tears threaten to spill from my sleep-deprived blood-shot eyes.

You are 4 months old and I have so many things I've been meaning to do. I want to cuddle you on the couch while reading all the books I loved reading to your sister.

I want to help you explore sensory bins, feeling the rice that I dyed various vibrant colors between your sweet little fingers.

I want to lay with you in the grass, gazing at clouds and soaking in the feeling of you discovering your world.

But your sister just disappeared with a red crayon and has been quiet for far too long. So I dash to her, disappearing from your sight.

I am so sorry.

I want to sit and stare at you and memorize every smile and giggle.

I want lazy days in bed like I had with your sister.

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I want to spend hours just laying in the sun at the beach with you while you nap out in the fresh air.

But there are no quiet, cuddly nursing sessions. There are no cozy, carefree days. It's all business and I'm operating on survival mode right now—and barely keeping it together.

You are so sweet. So happy. You fill our days with laughter and joy. But right now, you are in your activity center while I make dinner.

The guilt overwhelms me as I watch you out of the corner of my eye during another negotiation with your sister over what we will eat tonight.

I want so badly to slow down, sing to you, dance with you in the kitchen, babble with you while I prepare dinner. But I am so distracted. So exhausted.

I feel like I am failing as your mother and I am sorry.

The rush of dinner, bath time, stories and bedtime is a blur. You love bath time and I make sure we spend an extra few minutes together, laughing as you splash and kick in the water.

I love these few moments we have. We read stories in your sister's room before shutting her door and saying goodnight.

This is our time now. Our last nursing session of the day. I snuggle into the chair with you, kiss your head, and breathe you in.

I stare into your eyes and memorize every inch of you. I tell you how much I love you and how wonderful you are. I say I love you before laying you down in bed and sneaking out of your room, the door closing gently behind me.

I did it. I survived another day. A wave of delight and gratitude washes over me, taking the guilt away with it.

You, my second child, are so incredibly special. I love you so fiercely and I am so proud of you. You learn and grow every day and I admire you endlessly. I am in awe of you. I am thankful for your easygoing nature, your abundance of giggles and infectious smiles (seriously, you are the happiest baby I've ever met).

I love our small moments together—when I catch a glimpse of you in your car seat mirror and am overcome with love. When you fall asleep on me while we're at the park pushing your sister on the swing. Our middle-of-the night feedings where I can take all of you in and snuggle you peacefully in the 3am silence only a mother knows.

I don't remember life without you and you complete me in a way I didn't know was possible. And you deserve my very best.

I try, little one, I really do.

I try to make sure and slow down. To dance with you in the kitchen. To give you those extra minutes of bath time. To rock you in that chair a little longer.

I want to sing to you. I want to read you an extra book. I want to pause. To stop. And see you.

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Many mothers-to-be find comfort and confidence in the idea that our bodies are built for birth. It's a mantra that has helped many through labor, but too often this idea is tossed around not to help mothers get through birth, but to discount its difficulty.

Our bodies are incredibly powerful, but so is the myth surrounding their ability to recover after birth. Yes, birth is natural and normal, but it is also really, really hard on us. Society needs to acknowledge that so mothers can get the support and time they need to heal.

A new study published in the journal Science Advances found pregnant people and extreme distance distance runners have something in common: Both groups push their bodies to the limit of human endurance and potential. It turns out energy expenditure among extreme athletes pushing their limits is only slightly higher than that of pregnant people.

Simply put: Science proves It's no wonder you're tired mama, being pregnant takes so much energy.

Science also suggests that giving birth is harder on a person's body than running a marathon, and while athletes are resting and getting treatment for their injuries, too many mothers are trying to walk theirs off.

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In a lot of ways, running a marathon and giving birth are very similar experiences. Researchers note that in both cases, we tend to forget how painful the event actually was, and in both cases our bodies are pushed to extremes. Researchers suggest childbirth is as traumatic as many endurance sports.

But runners step up to the starting line well rested. When women step into the birthing suite, they're already exhausted.

According to Holly Dunsworth, an associate professor of anthropology at of the University of Rhode Island, mothers in the last weeks and months of pregnancy are "pushing right against the possible sustainable metabolic rates in humans."

"We max out toward the end of pregnancy," Dunsworth told the BBC. "Those last weeks and months of pregnancy are tiring." We are starting our race feeling as depleted as runners feel when theirs is over.

To energize for labor, "moms should remain hydrated, and ensure that they are getting enough iron and protein", says Diana Spalding, a midwife, pediatric nurse and Motherly's Digital Education Editor.

And when runners get hurt, they get help. Moms often don't.

A 2015 study out of the University of Michigan found that 25% of postpartum mothers have "fluid in the pubic bone marrow or sustained fractures similar to a sports-related stress fracture." Two-thirds of the women had injuries similar to a severe muscle strain. The research suggests up to 15% of moms sustain pelvic injuries that don't heal, and we're just walking around with them.

According to Janis Miller, the lead author on the study, when an athlete gets one of the these injuries, they end up in an MRI machine getting checked out. When a postpartum mom has the same issue, it's downplayed and often undiagnosed. This leaves women confused and concerned about symptoms, and unchecked physical problems can put a strain on maternal mental health.

"We have this thing where we tell women, 'Well, you're six weeks postpartum and now we don't need to see you—you'll be fine.' But not all women feel fine after six weeks nor are [they] ready to go back to work, and they aren't crazy," Miller said in a media release.

As Miller recently told the BBC, mothers often don't even know when they've torn a muscle like the levator ani. A tear in that muscle can cause pelvic floor problems and even prolapse, and it's the kind of thing kegels aren't going to fix, but many moms are told that with kegels and time they'll feel better, when the injury is more serious than that.

"In the extreme, we're asking for some women to strengthen a muscle they might not even have anymore," Miller told the BBC. "What is often observed as weakness is actually torn muscle."

The science shows that childbirth can be as hard on the body as running a marathon, and can even result in similar injuries. But even when injuries are not a factor, anecdotal evidence suggests giving birth is harder than running a marathon.

Just ask Amber Miller, who once ran a six-hour marathon and then gave birth all on the same day. "Giving birth is definitely harder than running a marathon," Miller told The Guardian. "Give me a marathon any day."

[A version of this post was originally published on February 5, 2019. It has been updated.]

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It's Father's Day and dads around the world are getting some love from their loved ones, and we are loving all the adorable posts on Instagram today.

Celebrity dads are getting (and dishing out) a lot of love today, and these 10 Instagram posts, in particular, are melting our hearts.


James Van Der Beek 

James Van Der Beek will always be Dawson to many millennial mamas, but to his five kids he's just "Daddy." His wife Kimberly posted the cutest pic of James with their kiddos, Olivia, Emilia, Annabel Leah, Joshua and baby Gwendolyn.

James posted the same photo to his own account, with a caption that may make you cry.

He wrote: "For me, being a father means having that quiet little voice inside of you that says 'Be a better man,' get louder and more consistent... to the point where you can't really remember where that voice ends and where you begin. It means being tired beyond what is probably healthy, and patient beyond what you previously thought possible. And even though you know you're far from perfect... being a father also comes with an unshakable awareness that all your actions have consequences - context that reaches far beyond your own self-interest. It's scary to feel that interconnected with the rest of the world - especially with your heart now walking around outside your body - because it demands more personal responsibility... but it will make you a better man. Of at least that I'm sure. #HappyFathersDay to all the imperfect dads out there, trying their best and learning on the job.👊#fatherhood"

That post gives us more feels than any episode of Dawson's Creek ever did.


Today, our Istagram and Facebook feeds are filled with evidence that today's dads are doing more than any other generation of fathers. Congrats guys, you really deserve a Happy Father's Day!

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The bond between sisters is special, but Jill Noe and Whitney Bliesner have a unique bond that goes beyond just being siblings. As twins, Jill and Whitney shared a lot throughout their lives, and when Jill became Whitney's surrogate they even shared a pregnancy.

As first reported by Today, Whitney has a rare disease called NF2 (Neurofibromatosis type 2). Because of NF2 she lost the vision in her left eye and hearing in her right ear, along with partial hearing loss in her left ear. The condition makes pregnancy risky, and the disease is hereditary.

Whitney and her husband, Pete, wanted to start a family, but adoption and surrogacy fees seemed to be putting parenthood out of their reach. Until Jill stepped in as their surrogate.

"We have always had a strong connection, I do think this experience made our connection stronger, for sure," Whitney tells Motherly, adding that she's sure that when Jill eventuallu has kids of her own the sisters will likely bond over motherhood, too.

Through IVF, Jill carried donor eggs fertilized with Pete's sperm to make her twin sister's family, and on June 7 Jill delivered Whitney and Pete's son and daughter, little Rhett and Rhenley.

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"Going through this with Jill was so easy," Whitney tells Motherly. "We both had no idea what was going to happen or how we would deal with stuff during this journey. We had our ups and downs, but I think that's life, and in any situation you would experience that. But with my sister, there was a sense of everything was going to be ok, like always. We always get over our annoyance and disagreements with each other very fast with no hard feelings. It was just a great experience to have with my best friend, my twin sister."

Rhett and Rhenley are keeping Whitney super busy these days (with twins, someone is always hungry!) but she's making time to share her story because she wants other people who can't physically be pregnant to not give up on their dream of being a mom.

"It's not about blood or biologically carrying a kid that makes you a mom, it's the unconditional love, care, and security you give a child that makes you a mom," she explains.

Whitney continues: "Even though you aren't carrying or blood-related, you still have those feelings of babies being yours!"

Whitney calls Jill her best friend and Jill says the feeling is mutual, telling Today that she knows Whitney would have done the same for her if the roles where reversed.

"She's always wanted to be a mom and her disease has already taken so much from her. I wasn't going to allow (NF2) to take this opportunity from her, too," Jill said. "It just felt like the right thing to do. Our family is so strong and so supportive of one another, especially since Whit's diagnosis in 8th grade."

Thanks to Jill, Whitney is now living her dream, taking care of her two adorable babies.

Jill is an amazing sister, and Whitney is already an amazing mom.

[A version of this post was originally published June 14, 2019. It has been updated.]

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