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Our children only have one chance at their innocence. One chance to be young and silly. One chance at a carefree childhood.


And who are the people who makes sure this happens? Who are the ones who promise to do whatever they can to protect this right of our kiddos?

Mothers. Because we are the keepers of our children’s innocence.

This hit me like a ton of bricks the other day. I think it has been building up inside of me, secretly and slowly adding up without my full realization until the other day.

But then it sucker punched me.

My 4-year-old daughter started singing a song out of the blue. “Put your hands on my body and string that down for me…” She didn’t get the lyrics quite right, which I was semi-happy about (it’s not ‘string’, it’s ‘strip’), but she did get the ‘hands on my body’ part right and I was mortified.

I am always preaching the exact opposite to her—do not let anyone put their ‘hands on your body.’ She’s 4! But here she was, singing this song that made me want to cry hearing it from her versus Liam Payne.

It was just she and I in the kitchen, but I was beyond embarrassed.

So I asked her, “Honey, where did you hear that song?” I knew it was from our drives in the car, hearing it on the radio—but I hoped she wouldn’t say that. I hoped I could place blame elsewhere. So I didn’t have to feel so guilty. And ashamed. And mad at myself.

But lo and behold she said, “From you, Mommy. In the car.” I panicked and tried to convince her that the song said, “Put your hands on my beads and string them up for me…” because she just got beads from her aunt and uncle for her birthday and I thought she’d buy it and think the song was about making a bracelet, but no such luck...

I felt like I failed her, right then and there. That any ounce of work I’ve put into building up a confident, strong, empowered little girl was totally diminished by her repeating these lyrics that I exposed to her.

She stopped singing it and moved onto something else rather quickly. Later in the evening she was happily singing ‘Wheels on the Bus’ and pretending she was a puppy—back to cute little kid things—and I was able to put the racy-song-incident out of my head for a little while.

But then it came back to me and instead of getting mad at myself again, I promised to do better. I will do my absolute best to not make this mistake again.

I vow, right here, right now that I am going to protect each of my children’s innocence at any cost. Because they only get one chance to be little kids. And they’re worth it. They’re so worth it.

Before I know it, they will have plenty of opportunities to “grow up.” They’ll be exposed to social media and peer pressure and outside influences. They’ll be sneaking TV shows I ask them not to watch or emulating pop stars and wanting to wear inappropriate outfits. They are going to hit the stage of wanting to look older, be older—faster than I could ever comprehend, I’m sure. And that scares me.

But they’re not there yet. We have time.

So I’m going to be vigilant. I deleted YouTube off my phone a while ago so that when my phone gets hijacked by one of my kids, they can’t look up random videos and see something they shouldn’t.

I don’t watch my TV shows in front of them. And I monitor closely what they watch at all times. Any family members who would be responsible for my children when I’m not around know the kind of TV my kids are allowed to watch and they’re on the same page as well.

No more adult songs on the radio on car drives. I honestly mostly mindlessly turn the radio on when we drive and I wish I had paid more attention to this, but I can’t waste too much time worrying about the past. I have to focus on the present and the future. So, we’ll be listening to a whole lot more kids music or podcasts from now on—and I can live with that.

I am going to continue to prioritize fun, wholesome activities for us to do—building with blocks, crafts, puzzles, playing outside, visiting the farm, going to the library, spending time with grandparents and family. Encouraging imagination and creativity.

I am going to cuddle my kids, kiss and hug my kids, sing with my kids, have dance parties with my kids, make silly faces with my kids, fall asleep next to my kids when they need me to—for as long as I can.

Because every day I feel like they look older. They’re growing out of their clothes at lightning speed and they’re losing more and more of their toddler rolls every second. Those rolls are actually completely gone on my 4-year-old—she has little-to-no physical sign of toddlerhood anymore. Just typing that breaks my heart.

Every so often my kids show me that they are, in fact, maturing and their brains are developing and they’re acting older, too. I want my babies to grow up into amazing people—that’s the goal of raising children—but I don’t want them to have to do the growing up any faster than necessary.

Because you don’t get to go back and re-do your childhood. So it’s up to me to make sure there’s no need for a do-over anyway.

So for now, my baby—

I hope you play with trains and dinosaurs to your heart’s content.

I hope you choose to wear your own wacky and wonderful outfits that you pick out. And not care what anyone thinks.

I hope you sing (appropriate songs) without abandon.

I hope you choose to dance like no one’s watching. And never pass up the chance to groove to your favorite tune.

I hope you make the silliest faces when we’re having a staring contest.

I hope you giggle when I put on a funny voice during story time.

I hope you want to play pretend puppy and frog and lion and elephant for as long as you want.

I hope you never stop asking me for cuddles or to hold your hand or to hug you when you’re scared.

I hope you fully embrace every bit of the magic that is your beautiful childhood.

And I hope I continue to rise to the challenge of making sure I set you up for success.

Because I also only get one shot at this, too. I can’t go back and get a do-over. I am raising young children right now. And I’m ready to guard their innocence like it’s my job.

Because, actually, it is.

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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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