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Our kids are only this age once

While we get our kids ready for bed, my son climbs onto his top bunk. He doesn't sleep there yet but loves the somewhat "off-limits" idea of it. My daughter looks up at her brother and immediately points to him and says, "Up!" My husband gently lifts her onto the bunk and she starts running from one end of the mattress to the other.

My stomach starts doing flip-flops as I envision her falling headfirst onto the floor. "Sweetie, no running. Crawl."

She looks down at us, "Huh?" as she tilts her head to the side, using both hands to brush the hair from her face.

My son looks down at his dad with a big smile and says, "You come up here, too?" My husband agrees and starts to climb the ladder.

I stand down on the floor, arms crossed, secretly counting the minutes until the kids are asleep and I can get back to my book. But eventually, I give in to their cries for me to "come up here!"

Truthfully, my heart swelled knowing they want me to join them. All too often I choose to sit on the sidelines, letting these moments pass by, worn out by the demands of motherhood and mentally clocking out before they are asleep.

My husband and I sit on either end of the bunk to act as a buffer to the floor. We quietly watch them run back and forth, their eyes and smiles showing they are clearly in delight of this forbidden activity.

"They're only two and four once," my husband says as he reaches out for my hand. I nod my head and smile, my fingers entwining with his across the bed.

Earlier that day, our son asked to see the framed photo on my dresser, one I have seen hundreds of times, but never tire of looking at. It's me, pregnant with him, our first child. I reached out to pick up the frame and lowered it to his eye level. I knelt down in front of him and my voice dropped to a whisper, "That was when I was pregnant with you."

My hand instinctively fell to my now empty womb. "You were in my belly in this picture."

He looked at me with slight confusion, but I also noticed a bit of a sparkle in his eyes, "Me? Where's my sister?"

He grabbed the frame and pointed to his dad, "Was she in Dad's belly?" I smiled and tousled his hair, which has long lost its newborn scent.

"No, you were in my belly before she was. This was before she was born."

Those final weeks of pregnancy felt more like months. My son is 4 years old now and I realize just how fleeting that time was. It's hard to wrap my head around the fact that neither of my babies are actually babies anymore. My pregnancy with him was years ago. I am grateful I have this photo when he was only mine to hold; my body growing his.

It feels like I am so quick to want to move onto the next thing. I wanted my pregnancies to be over so I could meet my babies. I want them to be a little older because I think (hope) it will be a little easier. I rush through bedtime to get a few minutes to myself. Parenthood is a constant push and pull of emotions, and at times it can feel nearly impossible to enjoy the here and now.

Back in the bedroom, the kids stop running and start jumping up and down, their feet tucked in their footie pajamas. I watch our daughter jump up and down, her hair floating into her eyes—her smile from ear to ear. Our son is laughing, loving that we are all on his bed.

Have you ever had a moment where it feels like time has actually stopped? You aren't looking at the clock. You are truly looking at your children and soaking them all in. We will never be able to come back to this moment. This age. This night.

After the kids are tucked into bed, I walk down the hall toward the living room. I glance at the clock, realizing it is almost an hour past their bedtime. But the kids went to bed with smiles on their faces.

As I pick up my book, I think back to the photo of me pregnant with our son, and remember how surprised I was when the doctor announced, "It's a boy!"

At four, he has nearly outgrown his chubby cheeks. I know I'll miss picking him up from preschool, where he always greets me with a "Moooommmm!" as he slams his whole body into my legs. I dread the day when our daughter stops using both her hands to cup my face as she plants a wet kiss on my lips. I know someday I won't be her favorite person in the whole world, and she might not say every day, "Mom, you're my best friend."

Some day when we take the bunk bed down, I imagine I'll look up at the top bunk and remember when they were only two and four.

But for now, when most evenings bedtime feels like a finish line I can't wait to cross, I hope to remember how I felt when I joined them on the bunk bed. How those extra minutes in their world made me feel. I'm reminded that the time from when they were in my belly to jumping on the bunk bed went by in a flash. I want to embrace the here and now—knowing tomorrow they will wake up one day older and one step further from needing me.

When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.

$23

Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.

$20

Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.

$12.50

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.

$47

boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.

$25

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.

$59

Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.

$36

Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.

$99

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One of our main goals as mothers is to encourage our children to learn, grow and play. They start out as our tiny, adorable babies who need us for everything, and somehow, before you know it, they grow into toddlers with ideas and opinions and desires of their own.

You may be hearing a lot more of "I do it!" or maybe they're pushing your hand away as a signal to let you know, I don't need your help, Mama. That's okay. They're just telling you they're ready for more independence. They want to be in charge of their bodies, and any little bit of control their lives and abilities allow.

So, instead of challenging your toddler's desire for autonomy, we found five of our favorite products to help encourage independence—and eliminate frustration in the process.

EKOBO Bamboo 4-piece kid set

EKOBO bamboo 4-piece kid set

This colorful set includes a plate, cup, bowl and spoon and is just right for your child's meal experience. Keep them in an easy-to-reach cabinet so they'll feel encouraged (and excited!) to get their own place setting each time they eat.

$25

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Before you know it, your little one will be asking (okay, maybe demanding) to fill their own water cups. This amazing 4-pack of cups attaches directly to the fridge (or any glass, metal, tile or fiberglass surface) making it easier for your child to grab a cup themselves. Just be sure a water pitcher or dispenser is nearby, and—boom!—one task off your plate.

$29

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

These beautiful blocks, made from sustainably-sourced wood and water-based, non-toxic, lead-free paint, will keep your little one focused on their creation while they're also busy working on their fine-motor skills. The puzzle design will encourage patience as your kiddo creates their own building, fitting one block in after the next.

$18

Lorena Canals basket

Lorena Canals Basket

This *gorgeous* braided cotton basket is the perfect, accessible home for their blocks (and whatever else you want to hide away!) so your kiddo can grab them (and clean them up) whenever their heart desires.

$29

BABYBJÖRN step stool

BABYBJ\u00d6RN Step Stool

Your kiddo might be ready to take on the world, but they might need an extra boost to do so—cue, a step stool! An easy-to-move lightweight stool is the must-have confidence-boosting tool you need in your home so your growing tot can reach, well... the world.

$20

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Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.


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