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I'm saving summer from the screens this year

Because when I was a kid, summer was an all-senses experience.

I'm saving summer from the screens this year

The other night I was taking a walk when I came upon a man pushing a lawnmower across his overgrown grass. My pace slowed as I watched tiny blades of grass dance over his yard. I breathed in deeply and smiled.

Summer.

It is the smell of fresh lawn trimmings and gasoline.

It is the sound of crickets and thunderstorms.

It is the taste of homemade vanilla ice cream.

It is the feeling of hot cement under bare feet.

It is more than a season and more than a memory. It is my favorite, most alive feeling, and it can be awakened with one smell, one taste, or one remembrance from my childhood summers.

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Because when I was a kid, summer was an all-senses experience.

I cut the grass blasting tunes on my Walkman, waving to my dad as he supervised me mow the steep hill in back. I sported chlorine-scented hair and Love's Baby Soft perfume. I wrote notes to my best friend in bubble-letter script and mailed them because that was second best to passing them in class. I babysat and carried a blue-eyed toddler on my hip treating her like the beloved child I someday hoped to have. I beat the fuzzy yellow tennis ball against the garage door in rhythmic succession. There was always one long car trip with my family—sweaty legs that stuck to the seat and ice cold soda from the cooler in the back.

Now here I stand on an uneven sidewalk admiring a stranger's lawnmower lines wondering what my children's summer associations will be.

I fear for the extinction of nighttime hide-and-go-seek and tadpole catching in a shallow creek. It doesn't take scientific data to tell me that an All-Senses Summer is greatly threatened by electronic screens, over-scheduling, endless duties and distractions—both on my children's part and mine.

As the man tending his lawn gave me a friendly wave, I forced a smile wondering how I could save the season of watermelon-stained smiles from permanent extinction.

A few days later, I had a scare on the Internet. Although the issue resolved quickly and safely for me, it might have been different for my child in a room by herself despite Internet filtering software and parental controls. My husband and I had gotten lax about allowing our children to use screens in all areas of the house—but no more. We reiterated the dangers of the Internet and designated a high-traffic area of our house to keep their devices. That is where the electronics would stay and where they would always be used.

Let's just say, we instantly saw more of the children.

Let's just say, time spent on the devices was shorter.

Let's just say, I became more aware of my own device usage.

Let's just say, there was heightened interest in engaging with each other.

Let's just say, something wonderful happened.

The first ever sister jam session happened. Sewing doll pillows happened. Princess Camp planning for little girls in our neighborhood happened. Laundry folding while conversing about puberty happened (not my favorite, but highly important). Desktop organization and bathroom counter clearing happened. Mother's Helper flier creation and distribution happened. A lemonade stand happened. Seed planting and car washing happened.

Why this surge of creative, hands-on, all-senses engagement?

Maybe it was because sitting on the hardwood floor to use the device just wasn't as appealing as the former comfy chair.

Maybe it was because I understood the importance and the necessity of saying yes to messy activities and out-of-the-box ideas.

Maybe it was because having devices in the family room reduced device time and increased conversation, connection, and awareness for everyone in the family.

Or maybe it was because I saw my children clearly and realized our summer seasons together are dwindling.

With my almost 12-year-old older daughter, I can feel them physically slipping through my fingers.

It hit me on the night of a gathering I hosted for the women I'd met through the LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER production. My daughter spent the previous day helping me prepare food and clean the patio so I encouraged her to go to the movies with her sister and dad. I was secretly hoping she'd go because I thought having her underfoot might be a distraction. But because my child was quite adamant that she wanted to help serve, I invited her to stay.

My daughter began making lemon water in a drink dispenser she bought at Target. It didn't really go with the décor, but I kept quiet. She tied an apron around her waist and began slicing lemons for the water.

"Mmmmm … I love the smell of lemons," she said looking so grown, my almost middle schooler.

My daughter did a wonderful job serving beverages to my friends and seemed to enjoy listening to the interesting conversations going on around her. When I addressed the group about being one another's "missing pieces," I noticed my daughter didn't look away when I got choked up. She smiled encouragingly at me from the back of the room as I regained my composure.

When the last guest left the party, my daughter motioned to the container. "Look, Mama! My lemon water was the most popular drink!"

"I am so glad you were here with me," I said smiling. "Thank you for choosing to be here."

"Thank you for inviting me," she said.

As my daughter collected the shriveled lemons stuck to the bottom of the container, the most wonderful thought came to mind: Her hands will smell of lemons. And perhaps someday that scent will awaken this memory in her soul.

As my daughter stood in the middle of my life and I stood in the middle of her growing memory bank, I knew I'd just received the answer to what had been troubling me. The key to cultivating an All-Senses Summer is much simpler than I previously thought. The key is this:

We must invite each other to the common areas of our lives. We must not stay closed up, separated, and disconnected. We must say yes to our loved ones' contribution, even if it's messy, even if it doesn't match, even if they might see us cry.

They will only look like this for a season.

They will only live under our roof for a spell.

But what they do here and now will live on much longer.

In one smell... one taste... one touch... they can relive a moment when someone invited them into the sacred spaces of life.

And that one invitation alone could make for a meaningful and memorable summer.

Originally posted on Hands Free Mama.

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After 4 kids, this is still the best baby gear item I’ve ever purchased

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work.

I have four kids 8 and under, so you might expect that my house is teeming with baby gear and kid toys.

But it turns out that for me, the more kids I have, the more I simplify our stuff. At this point, I'm down to the absolute essentials, the gear that I can't live without and the toys my kids actually play with. And so when a mama-to-be asks me what things are worth registering for, there are only a few must-haves on my list.

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer seat is on the top of my list—totally worth it and an absolute must-have for any new mama.

In fact, since I first splurged on my first BABYBJÖRN bouncer eight years ago (it definitely felt like a splurge at the time, but the five star reviews were really compelling), the bouncer seat has become the most-used product in our house for baby's first year.

We've actually invested in a second one so that we didn't have to keep moving ours from the bedroom to the living room when we change locations.

BABYBJÖRN bouncer bliss

baby bjorn bouncer

The utility of the seat might seem counterintuitive—it has no mechanical parts, so your baby is instead gently bounced by her own movements. In a world where many baby products are touted for their ability to mechanically rock baby to sleep, I get that many moms might not find the "no-motion" bouncer that compelling. But it turns out that the seat is quite reactive to baby's little kicks, and it has helped my kids to learn how to self-soothe.

$200

Lightweight + compact:

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer is super lightweight, and it also folds flat in a second. Because of those features, we've frequently stored it under the couch, in a suitcase or in the back of the car. It folds completely flat, which I love.

Entertainment zone:

Is the toy bar worth it? The toy bar is totally worth it. Not only is the toy bar adorable, but it's one of the first toys that my babies actually play with once they discover the world beyond my boobs. The toys spin and are close to eye level so they have frequently kept my baby entertained while I cook or take a quick shower.

Great style:

This is not a small detail to me–the BABYBJÖRN bouncer is seriously stylish. I am done with baby gear and toys that make my house look like a theme park. The elegant European design honestly just looks good in my living room and I appreciate that parents can enjoy it as much as baby.

It's adjustable:

With three height settings that let you prop baby up to be entertained, or lay back to rest, we get years of use. And the bouncer can actually be adjusted for bigger kids and used from newborn to toddler age. It's that good.

It just works:

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work. But I have used the seat as a safe space to put baby while I've worked (I once rocked my baby in it with my foot while I reported on a breaking news story for the Washington Post), and as a cozy spot for my second child to lay while his big brother played nearby. It's held up for almost a decade with almost-constant use.

So for me, looking back on what I thought was a splurge eight years ago, was actually one of the best investments in baby gear I ever made.

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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