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“Mama, I can hold you?”

I look down from doing the dishes or working at the computer or eating my breakfast to see those full blue eyes staring back, begging me to pick her up.


My daughter is two, and I often joke with my friends that she is borderline obsessed with me.

But while there are plenty of moments I wish silently that she could entertain herself for a minute or two while I finish whatever task I’ve set out to accomplish, there’s something that always gives me pause and ultimately moves me to set down what I’m doing and pick her up.

The fact is, my daughter is the perfect cuddling size right now. She’s still light enough that I can hold her for hour-long stretches without my arms giving out, but also has enough perfectly placed baby softness to melt into my body.

Her arms are long enough to wrap around my neck in a firm-but-gentle embrace, and her legs are short enough that when we sit and cuddle, her knees drape around me gently in a perfect origami fold. There’s still no sign of the gangly limbs and pointy knees that will undoubtedly define her future. There’s still no awkwardness to interrupt our embrace.

There are times when her hugs are so perfect, they nearly take my breath away.

But with each heart swell her hugs give me comes a painful flash of thought: She is the perfect cuddling size right now. And one day—one day very soon—she won’t be.

One day, she won’t come running after we’ve been apart for an afternoon or an hour or 45 seconds or—really—no time at all, throwing her arms around my neck and shrieking, “Mama! I missed you!”

One day, she won’t answer my request for kisses with a prolonged smack “on da wips” or a toothless, giggling chomp on my cheek.

One day, she won’t beg to “snuggow on da couch!” when naptime sleepiness consumes her, insistent that I curl around her while she sleeps away the afternoon.

One day, she won’t demand I take down my ponytail the second I put it up, craving to twirl her chubby baby fingers through my hair while she burrows her soft cheek into my neck.

One day, she won’t need me as desperately as she does today. One day, she won’t be a baby at all.

Two gets such a bad rap sometimes. And, truthfully, sometimes it deserves it. But amidst all those flaring tantrums and argumentative sass, it’s easy to forget that two is the last bit of the baby we brought into this world.

Two is the last glimpse of our gummy newborn before square, crooked teeth take over.

Two is the last bit of babbling before full sentences and a surprisingly diverse vocabulary move in.

Two is packed with moments of surprising insight and depth that provide a near constant hinting at the adult lurking within your baby.

So I try to relish these moments of perfect hugs and unabashed love.

Because one day, she’ll be a kid embarrassed to call out that she loves me across a crowded room.

Because one day, she’ll be a teenager who rolls her eyes when I ask for a kiss—though maybe she’ll acquiesce a reluctant peck on the cheek.

Because one day, she’ll be an adult who forgets to call when she’s tired and doesn’t answer my worried texts until the next day.

Because one day, her only commentary on my hair will be telling me it’s time to trim my split ends already.

Because one day, she won’t need me as desperately as she does today. One day, she won’t be a baby at all.

“Mama, I wan hold you!”

Her squeaky voice breaks me from my reverie, and I’ve never been more thankful to be grounded in the present.

As I pull her warm, perfect, tiny body into my arms, I pray for the memory to etch its way into my brain and trace itself in my arms. I pray that I will never forget what it felt like to hold something so perfect, and I’m so grateful that this girl is able to take my unconditional love for granted.

She won’t always be the perfect size for cuddling. But these memories of my baby will always be perfect.

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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 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, is 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 so the crisis can be averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it 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?

For me, 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 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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