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Dear stranger,

(Is it weird to write you this letter? Perhaps. But I doubt it is the weirdest thing I’ve done since becoming a mom…)


Well, here it goes.

I see you watching me. Certainly my attention is focused on these two children of mine, but still, I know you are watching.

What are you thinking? Well, it all depends, but I'm writing you this letter—hoping that you will choose to give me a little more grace.

You see, I put a lot of thought into leaving the house today. I attempted to schedule this necessary outing around naps and fussy moods. I debated whether my errands were even necessary, or whether they could be put off for yet. another. day.

Before I left home, I put on real clothes. I attempted to apply makeup to cover the dark circles under my eyes and the persistent breakouts. I even dressed my kids in trendy outfits.

I might have forgotten deodorant, but no matter, I don't plan on invading your personal space. I did all of this so that I don't stick out in a crowd.

Perhaps I am shallow and fake because of my facade, but honestly, I'm just trying to blend in—like the chameleon at our local zoo. (I prefer instead to let my walls down around my family and closest friends.)

So, please, give me a little more grace.

Honestly, the crown jewel of running errands is to be unnoticed by any and all. I’d love to be able to sneak in and out of a store, hardly making an impression on anyone. But to those of you who are watching and to those of you who do notice, please know this... I'm trying. Truly I am.

So if I look like I'm struggling or out of patience or tired or frustrated or barely holding tears back—it's because I am. If I had it my way, you wouldn't notice those things, and I'd greet you with a genuine smile and happily report that "I'm good and everything is great!"

So please, give me a little more grace, and I'll love you for it.

When you see me struggling to get through a door with my stroller, please help me (even if I say that I don't need help.)

When my kids are screaming in a store, please smile at me with understanding.

When I am changing a blowout diaper in the trunk of my car, please don't judge me.

When I have to nurse my baby in public, please allow me privacy.

When my smile falters after you tell me that my hands are full, please remind me that I'm doing a good job.

When you think you know better than I do, please consider that I am trying my very best and however well-meaning your words may be, they are hard to hear from a stranger.

Would you please give me a little more grace?

Every one of us could use that extra encouragement in life, and unfortunately, these little people of mine don’t deliver in this area…

But what happens when you do give me an extra allotment of grace?

All of a sudden, it’s like the sun breaking through on a cloudy day. I can see the light at the end of my tunnel. Your kindness to me—a stranger—lets me know that I am seen.

I am seen as a human and an individual.

I am seen as more than just a mother who can’t seem to get it together.

I adore my kids and most days their small inconveniences don't get me down, but other days are really hard. Sometimes it feels like running a three-ring circus—with me as the clown... Please, please, give me a little more grace on those days.

I hope that we can all remember the power of judgments, looks, and words. I'll try not to judge your glances and body language, but could you try to not judge me for my imperfections that I'm trying to hide behind my sunglasses?

Could you give me a little more grace? We are all in this together. It takes a village, and, whether you know it or not, you happen to be in mine. ♥

Sincerely,

THAT mom

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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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