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Dear Mom,

Do you remember our first "Girls Trip"?

It was just after my youngest son had turned one, and had finally outgrown a food allergy which meant I couldn't eat dairy or soy while breastfeeding. You planned a fabulous weekend away for us, where our goals were simple: eat, sleep and shop to our heart's content.

No more restrictive diet, no waking up in the middle of the night to nurse or soothe, no taking care of anyone else's wants or needs. Just rest and peace and precious time together. You insisted. I obliged.

We were living states apart at the time, so we met at the hotel on a beautiful early spring day in Vermont. We checked into our room, and there on my fluffy, downy gigantic bed (which I would not have to share with anyone for two whole nights), you had left a little beribboned box of gourmet chocolates. We toasted with pink champagne. It was one of the best weekends of my whole life, and we decided it needed to become an annual tradition.

Your thoughtful generosity which prompted that weekend was in no way out of character for you. You have always shown up for me like this.

When I was younger it looked different, of course. There were boo-boos to bandage and nightmares to assuage and broken hearts to help mend with a listening ear and a cup of tea. Then there were college essays to guide me through and salary negotiations to give advice on and a wedding to help plan.

And then came my babies and a brand new shining role for you to play—loving grandmother. You waited in the driveway for us to return home from the hospital and ushered us into my kitchen which was both gleaming with cleanliness and stocked with enough food to feed us for what seemed like months.

You were there to counsel and encourage, and to love on all of us as our family grew.

But even though you are the best Yaya in the whole world to my boys—a beacon of love and fun and mischief and joy, always ready with a treat and up for any adventure—I know that at any given moment, your primary concern is still me. Your baby.

When sickness visits my house, and I am kissing hot foreheads and holding puke buckets and grabbing fractured hours of worry-filled sleep, the concern in your voice when you call to check on us, is for me. I once asked you about this and I remember your eloquent explanation.

"I know the boys will be fine, because you're the best mom in the world," you said. "There's no stone you'd ever leave unturned, no remedy you won't have thought of, no worry I could have that you aren't already riddled with. I worry about you, because you're my girl."

You know and love the man that I married and what an incredible partner he is. He shoulders more than his fair share of the labor of parenthood. But you also know that he's right there in the weeds with me—also overworked and underslept and prioritizing the kids, just like I want him to. He doesn't coddle me, because that's not his job. He's my partner, not my parent.

So when you book that hotel for us every spring, or drop by the house with a new candle or a bunch of peonies on a long Monday afternoon, when you sign us up for yoga classes or gasp in horror at the state of my worn-out shoes and insist on a new pair immediately (your treat!), I want you to know, you are saving me.

Every pot of chicken soup, every pedicure, every time you babysit so my husband and I can share a hot meal and a conversation in peace—all of these acts are lifelines you toss me as I navigate the sometimes rocky seas of my own motherhood.

And it's not because I need these material objects or luxurious treats to feel loved, but because I need to feel seen. I cannot tell you the comfort I take in knowing that there is a person in my life who is constantly noting the state of my soul. Someone who knows how all-consuming and beautiful and hard motherhood is, considers my stress level, my mental and physical health, my happiness—to be important.

I know that not every mother has a mother like you. How I wish they did. The world would be such a better place if everyone was loved as abundantly as I have been by you.

So I want to say: thank you.

Thank you for a million kindnesses, big and small. Thank you for worrying about me and listening to me and supporting me. Thank you for acknowledging that this season of life can be a challenging one, that motherhood is a monumental feat, and that mothers need to be taken care of, too.

Thank you for remembering that even as I put my own children's needs and wants far ahead of my own, I am still a person. I am still someone's child.

Thank you for still mothering me, Mom.

Your daughter

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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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