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To the mama who thinks she did ‘nothing’ today

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I had my wall up, prepared to cringe when my husband asks that inevitable question when he gets home from work: “So, what did you guys do today?


I wonder what I can really say about another day of changing diapers, playing outside, feeding the baby, feeding the toddler, then feeding the baby again. I wonder how I describe to him how satisfying it was to put away the dishes because that, at least, was something I could check off my to-do list. I wonder what he’ll think of me as he looks around and sees the books strewn across the living room and the matching stains on all of our shirts.

Before I can respond, my 2-year-old cuts in.

“Daddy, look at Frosty,” he says, enthusiastically gesturing toward our backyard at the saddest mound of snow that ever did pass as a snowman.

“Wow, bud,” my husband says, reflecting my son’s pride. “You sure have fun with Mama, don’t you?”

“Yep,” my son says without missing a beat—like this is an unquestionable fact rather than something I often feel like I have to work really hard at.

In that moment, I’m reminded just how differently my children measure our days. They (clearly) aren’t concerned with the tidiness of the house or how fancy the abandoned Pinterest craft was supposed to be.

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They just see magic in our time together.

All through my life, I had assigned value to the tasks I was able to accomplish. It was a good day if I could check items off my list or get praise for a job well done. But creating magic? That had never before been the goal.

Amazing as it is, honestly, it often feels like hardest job I’ve ever had.

From the time these little people wake up until the time they go to sleep (and often lots of time in between), I am responsible for them. And that doesn’t just mean making sure they are fed and clothed, it also means finding the balance that allows them the freedom to be children yet offers them the support they need to grow.

How do I even go about measuring that? One day, soon enough, there will be parent-teacher conferences and sports events and holiday meals where I can look around and see how much they are achieving.

But today, I’m standing too close to see the big picture.

I’m just in it with them, laughing about the mischief Curious George got in, reminding them that food can actually stay on the table when we’re done, and tucking them into bed.

You know the amazing thing about saying good night, though? I’m also saying goodbye to a version of them that will ever be that small. As a kid, I remember being amazed by this thought: I’m going to grow in my sleep without even realizing it.

Back then, this was a mindblowing revelation. Now, it feels like a metaphor for parenthood in general: We’re always growing and learning, even on those days when it feels like we’re just biding time.

So what seems to me like asking my toddler to pick his own clothes, seems to him like the responsibility of a big boy whose mama has confidence in him.

What seems to me like a walk around the block to go somewhere, anywhere outside of the house, seems to my kids like a family expedition.

What seems to me like simply drawing pictures or listening to stories about the day, seems to my kids like a signal that what they do and think matters.

I’m not sure there’s any way to quantify any of this. But the fact remains this beautiful, exhausting, wonderful season of parenting young children is the greatest privilege I’ve ever had.

If that’s “all” I can say I did today, I think that’s pretty good.

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There are certain moments of parenthood that stay with us forever. The ones that feel a little extra special than the rest. The ones that we always remember, even as time moves forward.

The first day of school will always be one of the most powerful of these experiences.

I love thinking back to my own excitement going through it as a child—the smell of the changing seasons, how excited I was about the new trendy outfit I picked out. And now, I get the joy of watching my children go through the same right of passage.

Keep the memory of this time close with these 10 pictures that you must take on the first day of school so you can remember it forever, mama:

1. Getting on the school bus.

Is there anything more iconic than a school bus when it comes to the first day of school? If your little one is taking the bus, snap a photo of them posed in front of the school bus, walking onto it for the first time, or waving at you through the window as they head off to new adventure.

2. Their feet (and new shoes!)

Getting a new pair of shoes is the quintessential task to prepare for a new school year. These are the shoes that will support them as they learn, play and thrive. Capture the sentimental power of this milestone by taking photos of their shoes. You can get a closeup of your child's feet, or even show them standing next to their previous years of first-day-of-school shoes to show just how much they've grown. If you have multiple children, don't forget to get group shoe photos as well!

3. Posing with their backpack.

Backpacks are a matter of pride for kids so be sure to commemorate the one your child has chosen for the year. Want to get creative? Snap a picture of the backpack leaning against the front door, and then on your child's back as they head out the door.

4. Standing next to a tree or your front door.

Find a place where you can consistently take a photo year after year—a tree, your front door, the school signage—and showcase how much your child is growing by documenting the change each September.

5. Holding a 'first day of school' sign.

Add words to your photo by having your child pose with or next to a sign. Whether it's a creative DIY masterpiece or a simple printout you find online that details their favorites from that year, the beautiful sentiment will be remembered for a lifetime.

6. With their graduating class shirt.

When your child starts school, get a custom-designed shirt with the year your child will graduate high school, or design one yourself with fabric paint (in an 18-year-old size). Have them wear the shirt each year so you can watch them grow into it—and themselves!

Pro tip: Choose a simple color scheme and design that would be easy to recreate if necessary—if your child ends up skipping or repeating a year of school and their graduation date shifts, you can have a new shirt made that can be easily swapped for the original.

7. Post with sidewalk chalk.

Sidewalk chalk never goes out of style and has such a nostalgic quality to it. Let your child draw or write something that represents the start of school, like the date or their teacher, and then have them pose next to (or on top of) their work.

8. In their classroom.

From first letters learned to complicated math concepts mastered, your child's classroom is where the real magic of school happens. Take a few pictures of the space where they'll be spending their time. They will love remembering what everything looked like on the first day, from the decorations on the wall to your child's cubby, locker or desk.

9. With their teacher.

If classrooms are where the magic happens, teachers are the magicians. We wish we remembered every single teach we had, but the truth is that over time, memories fade. Be sure to snap a photo of your child posing with their teacher on the first day of school.

10. With you!

We spend so much time thinking about our children's experience on the first day of school, we forget about the people who have done so much to get them there—us! This is a really big day for you too, mama, so get in that photo! You and your child will treasure it forever.

This article is sponsored by Rack Room Shoes. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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If you're not familiar with Hanna Andersson, let me fill you in. This brand is the mothership when it comes to quality organic kids' clothing. Started more than 30 years ago by a couple in Portland, Oregon, founders Gun and Tom Denhart (she's Swedish, he's American) set out to make highly-durable, supremely-soft basics and pajamas for children, all of which are OEKO-TEX-certified.

As a mom to four kids, hand-me-downs are king in my household. Many a time I have shelled out for cheap stuff, but when it can't last for more than one child's use, it's simply not worth the investment. Which is why I'm a huge devotee of Hanna A. Five years ago, I splurged on the famous Christmas pajamas for the whole family and I'm not lying when I say that after hundreds of times through the washer and dryer, my baby will be the fourth kid rocking the 3T sleeper this holiday season. No rips, no shredded seams. Still 100% intact and soft and thick. But all that quality comes at a price—one pair of pajamas costs between $38 and $45.

Which is why I nearly did a backflip when I saw that Amazon was launching an exclusive collection dubbed Moon and Back by Hanna Andersson, chock full of the pajamas I've come to love so much, albeit at a much lower price!

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Available in a slew of adorable patterns (Stripes! Stars!), really all I wanted to know was if the quality was the same. After all, a sleeper on Hanna Andersson will run you $38, but Moon and Back is offering a nearly-identical one for $17.50 today on Prime Day. That's less than half the price, mamas.

After multiple wears and washes, I'm here to say that Amazon's promise of hand-me-down quality holds true. Made from a similar soft, OEKO-TEX-certified organic cotton, the items I tested (er, my kiddos tested lol), featured the same design details I so appreciate—like a knee-to-neck zipper, smooth flat-lock seams and foldover sleeve cuffs.

The best part is that as of today—Prime Day!—the entire collection is now officially available in sizes newborn to 5T, and the pajamas are all 30 percent off!

Moon and Back by Hanna Andersson One-Piece Organic Cotton Footless Pajamas

Sale price: $17.50 (Regularly $25)

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Moon and Back by Hanna Andersson Two-Piece Organic Cotton Pajama Set

Sale price: $17.50 (Regularly $25)

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Moon and Back by Hanna Andersson One-Piece Organic Cotton Footed Pajama

Sale price: $17.50 (Regularly $25)

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Moon and Back by Hanna Andersson 3-Pack Organic Cotton Long Sleeve Bodysuit

Price: $35

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Moon and Back by Hanna Andersson 3-Pack Organic Cotton Legging

Price: $33

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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It's officially a sale bonanza, mamas! In addition to Amazon's 48-hours of Prime Day markdowns, Target has joined the fray and is also offering major discounts this Monday and Tuesday via its Deal Days, Walmart is offering up Deal Days, and let's not forget the Nordstrom Anniversary pre-sale is happening, too!)

Target's biggest sale of the summer is on our radar for a couple reasons. For one, unlike Prime Day, you don't have to have a membership with the retails to score the discounts. Secondly, once you've ordered a product you can select to pick it up same day at your nearest store. (Have the Target app? From there you can even choose "drive up" and pickup up your loot curbside—without even getting the kids out of their car seats!)

But the deals don't stop at Target, so we hit up a slew of other retailers to find the best deals you can get today..you know the ones that aren't available over at Amazon. Because it's all about scoring the biggest discount possible, right? Right!

Whether you're stocking up on back-to-school supplies, investing in baby gear or just need to replenish your everyday home items, these are the products you want to scoop up this week.

Other

Boxed: Up to 50% off Prince & Spring toilet paper (use code TPPARTY), 20% off kitchen gadgets and tools, up to 20% off snacks, home goods, and school supplies

Best Buy: Flash sale across the site—from appliances to tech

Macys: Black Friday in July sales, including an extra 25% off select departments

TJ Maxx: Summer clearance event with savings that only happen twice a year

Dick's Sporting Goods: $20 off your order of $100+

Carter's: Summer cyber sale, entire site 55% off or more

Williams Sonoma: Friends and family sale, 20% off your order and free fast shipping with code FRIENDS

Gap: Up to 50% off sitewide

Old Navy: 50% off sitewide and free shipping

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Last month Granger Smith and his wife, Amber, shared a story no parent would every want to. Their son, River, drowned at their home—and despite attempts to revive him—the little boy died tragically at just 3 years old. But River's parents managed to find some good in this absolutely devastating loss: They chose to donate their son's organs, saving two lives in the process.

River's mom, Amber, opened up about this choice in a heartbreaking Instagram post.

"I've always known I wanted to be a donor if anything were to ever happen to me," Amber writes alongside a photo of River. "Never in a million years did I think I would be making that decision for my baby."

Our hearts hurt so badly for this mama—but we're also amazed by her ability to find a way to turn her worst-case scenario into a lifesaving measure for other families.

Amber shares more about her family's gut-wrenching experience in the post, writing that doctors told Amber and Granger their son had no chance of brain recovery. As shocking as that was to hear, the parents knew they wanted to donate River's organs as there are so many people who need donations to survive.

That choice began a three-day process of determining which organs could be donated and which recipients would be appropriate. Amber shares excruciating details about the night before River's operation.

 River's organs saved two adults

"I spent the night laying in bed with him, crying and talking to him while they kept running tests and taking blood. The next morning family and staff lined the hall for the 'walk of honor.' We told them River liked to go fast, so to honor him, they pushed him down that hall faster than they had ever pushed anyone. Granger and I held each other and cried," Amber writes.

It's all so terribly tragic...but the outcome is bittersweet. Amber and Granger received a letter explaining that River's organs saved two adults, a 49-year-old woman and a 53-year-old man. Amber calls the decision to donate her precious son's organs the hardest and easiest of her life.

Our thoughts continue to be with River's family. We can't even imagine what they're going through, but their strength and grace in the face of all this is incredible—and we hope they'll always find comfort in the fact that little River left a beautiful, heroic, lifesaving legacy behind.

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When I was pregnant with my fourth child, my husband and I decided to shell out for a swing set in our backyard. Why? We knew with a new baby, packing up four kids and heading to the park on a daily basis would simply not be feasible. Don't get me wrong, I love a playground. But when you've got multiple kids running in every direction and a toddler refusing to only climb up a slide that big kids are careening down—well, let's just say that the park can go from super fun to incredibly stressful real fast.

Having a play set right in our backyard means that when the baby is napping, my "big" kids can get off their screens and head outside to swing their hearts out or play pirates under the canopy. And I can be inside cooking dinner or folding laundry or answering work emails while they get allllll their energy out. The swing set was one of the best investments we've ever made… and we paid a lot for ours.

Which is why my jaw dropped when I saw that KidKraft is offering its Ainsley Wooden Swing Set right now for just $269 at Walmart today. (FYI: It's a hundred dollar more on Amazon.)

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What does it comes with? Two swings, a high-rail wavy slide, a rock-climbing wall, an upper level "clubhouse" (the perfect spot for summer morning snacks or kids-only meetings), a chalkboard and a sandbox. Yup, that equates to roughly 100,000 hours of kids entertaining themselves over the next year alone. For less than $270.

If you're worried about quality, don't be. I've seen the KidKraft product in person and they're legit—big, beautiful and made of super-sturdy cedar lumber. Really I'm just here to tell ya that this is a purchase you'll never regret, regardless of how many kiddos you've got at home. Your summer (and your backyard) is about to be lit!

KidKraft Ainsley Wooden Swing Set

Sale price: $269

Original price: $399

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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