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By Shelley Hopper


Ahhh, motherhood. Sweet, sweet motherhood. Behind the lack of sleep and momnesia, there’s so much beauty in everyday moments and memories.

It’s no secret our littles grow way too fast and suddenly turn into 2 and 3-year-olds who seem to be going on 13. Whether it’s getting through a new growth spurt, a new bedtime routine, beginning potty training, enrolling in preschool, or the little cherub who decided it’s a good idea to phase out of naps at 2-and-a-half-years-old…we get it.

The list of questions on how-do-I-survive-this-grow. We’ve been there. We feel for you. We support you. And the daily or weekly glass of wine or workout that gets you through the ups and downs.

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With that, here’s our round-up of how you know you’re a mama to a toddler, and the firecracker that they are.

1. You soon learn that Legos are your worst nightmare, and you fear stepping on one more than you fear stepping on a bee.

2. You’re lucky if you (ever) get anywhere on time, which is basically a half hour late according to the mom clock.

3. You traded designer handbags for grab-and-go-rough-and-tough durable bags back in the infant days, and make sure those mini suitcases are filled with wipes and snacks—at ALL times. Because Lord help you if you head out for errands and forget snacks for the hangry monster that will appear out of nowhere; even if they ate all their breakfast!

4. You basically do not own any white or nice item of clothing, because what’s the point? The risk of every and all kinds of stains will find their way right to you—smears of any kind have become a dangerous look to any wardrobe these days.

5. Speaking of stains—forget only packing a change of clothes for your mini. You probably keep a spare set of clothing (and if you don’t, you should) in your car since toddlers are basically little drunk people who are a liability to any outfit.

6. When you get in someone’s car who doesn’t have kids, you’re shocked at how clean it is. “Is this brand new? It looks so clean and smells so nice.” “No, Mama, it’s like four years old…..” Wait, what? Cars can look this clean when they’re not fresh off the lot? Mind. Blown.

7. You might think you’re the boss, but you’re not. Your toddler is the king or queen of your castle, and won’t let you forget it.

8. When your friends without kids spend the day with you, they’re home asleep by 5 pm or pouring a glass of wine beforehand, wondering how in the world you manage the chaos all day. Oh, those sweet little things and how innocent they are pre-parenting.

9. Is it bad to want noise-silencing headphones or dream of quiet, uninterrupted bathroom breaks, showers, or meals? No, most definitely not. What is silence? That’s a thing?

10. The toddler tornado is SO real. Or, also known as a category five hurricane that blows through with gusts up to 100 mph, with no predictable weather pattern. You feel it. Your house feels it. And your partner or family never fail to walk in the door during the eye of the storm and ask, “What have you been doing all day and why is the house so messy?!” The. Nerve.

11. You sing Hallelujah and say a prayer for your former favorite TV shows to Rest In Peace. Perhaps you'll remember to DVR them and manage to get through a series within a year. But they've most likely been replaced with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Princess Sophia, Blaze, or some other annoyingly lovable, quotable show on Disney Jr. or Nick Jr.

12. Your sanity and appearance will be questioned daily, and probably like 16293 times within a 12-hour span. But your heart has never been so full (or your hands). Good thing under-eye concealer and eye-brightening shadows can help mask three years of sleep deprivation.

13. Speaking of sleep…are there people who truly sleep for 8-10 hours uninterrupted and in peace without flailing limbs knocking them in the face or body parts throughout the night? Because let’s be real, you probably haven’t slept in or so solidly since college. The toddler who originally falls asleep so sweet and angelic magically seems to turn into an octopus-like creature with eight arms in the middle of the night. All of which end up on you or smacking you.

14. No small item is safe. They’re either trying to eat it or throw it at your face. You become a ninja overnight and have all-star catching abilities.

15. Is there such thing as a car ride where shoes stay on? As if you weren’t running late already, now you get to wrestle the little cat in your backseat and try to put their shoes back on (for the tenth time of the day).

16. You have to reheat your tea or coffee at least five times throughout the day because heaven forbid you get to finish a cup in one sitting. Do they make caffeine IVs yet? And you don’t even remember what eating a warm meal is like since you have to chop your mini’s meal up into little chunks before even considering sitting down in front of your plate.

17. You immediately panic when your kids are present, not napping, and there is silence. They very well may be coloring the walls, “painting” the dog, setting a new makeup trend by using all of yours, re-organizing your cabinets (that you just sorted), or jumping into the piles of your freshly washed and folded laundry. They say silence is golden, but that goes out the window in toddler land.

18. Little white lies sneak up on your tongue….that food you don’t want to share? “Sorry, buddy, it’s soooo spicy.” “Wayyyy too hot.” “You’re allergic.” #Shameless

19. You listened to your pediatrician and kept your little angel away from electronics until they were two years old. But now that they throw the most insane tantrums in the middle of grocery aisle number eight? “Hey, want to watch a show?” You have to stay home from work because they had to stay home from school? Cartoon marathon so you can get through emails. No judgment. Just understanding that sometimes a few minutes of peace are worth any cartoon in the world.

20. You realize how weird and downright wacky some bedtime stories are. What the heck were some of these authors on?! Of course, most are beautiful and full of warm and fuzzies, but some are more bizarre than you ever remember hearing when you were little. And there's no chance you're getting past bedtime before reading at least 5-10 books since toddlers all seem like they just downed a cup of coffee right before bedtime.

21. Things that would have completely and utterly disgusted you pre-parenthood have become your norm. They’re still awful, of course, but the thought of getting peed on or boogers flicked on you when you were in your 20s versus surviving infanthood and now toddlerhood, does the word gross even have meaning anymore?

22. Your house is no longer properly feng shuied or decorated with tasteful items on your coffee table. Magazines get shredded, vases get broken, and picture frames get chucked across the room. Because of that, there isn’t one thing that’s left under 3’ shelves. Except for dirty hand prints. And you immediately regret going over to friend's houses who don't have kids, because your little monster, ehem, angel, probably just destroyed all their most valuable, precious things.

23. You once dreaded going to the park in fear of awkwardly socializing with other moms, or being surrounded by little monsters you don’t know. But now, if you don’t make it to the park or a strenuous activity, you’re stuck with what feels like a rabid dog in a cage the rest of the day.

24. You question who on earth invented the mini potty-training toilets. Why do they come in ten pieces? Why are they so hard to clean? Why do boys pee on every inch of the bathroom EXCEPT in the potty? Why do toddlers take poops as big as grown men? We’ll never know….oh the bathroom mysteries.

25. Happy hour is no longer at 5 pm involving drinks with girlfriends. It’s more like happy 10 minutes; the interval between when your kids are finally asleep and before you pass out by 9 pm.

26. You follow a healthy lifestyle. Wine is made from fermented grapes, so it’s basically a fruit, and you're fully convinced it most definitely counts as a daily fruit serving.

27. You turn into superwoman when you’re running errands. Remember the days you used to poke in Target for an hour and enjoy yourself? Now you have the superpower of getting in and out within 20 minutes. BUT, that being said, you also sneak away to Target when you’re kidless and happily enjoy trying on clothes, getting a caramel latte, and buying $100 worth of things you don’t actually need.

28. People actually shut the door when they need to use the bathroom? Are peeping toms frowned upon? Cue Justin Bieber’s, What Do You Mean?

29. Speaking of Justin Bieber, when did he turn into an adult? Does that mean we’re old now? Wasn’t he our age? I’m so confused. And you’re confused who any modern pop star is. Because they’re like 12. And we’re like….shhh.

30. You have to buy wrinkle cream, under-eye lifting serums, and dye your gray hair. Hair starts to grow in weird places, skin begins to sag, and when you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror, you realize you’re slowly resembling your mom. Here’s to hoping she has good genes!

31. Your phone used to have like 20,000 photos of your newborn napping peacefully, accomplishing all their "firsts" and special milestones, crawling down the hallway, etc. Now, you're lucky if you snap one photo a week of your active toddler since you're too busy chasing after them and making sure your phone isn't being flushed down a toilet.

Originally posted on FIT4MOM.

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As the saying goes, "failing to prepare is preparing to fail," and that seriously applies to parenting. With no fewer than one dozen items to wrangle before walking out the door on an ordinary errand, mamas have plenty on their mind. That is why one of the very best gifts you can give the mamas in your life this year is to reduce her mental load with some gear she can depend on when she's out and about.

Although it may be impossible to guarantee completely smooth outings with kids in tow, here are the items we rely on for making getting out of the house less of a chore.

1. Bugaboo Bee 5 stroller

This stroller is a dream come true for any mama on the go. (Meaning: All of us!) Lightweight, compact and easy to maneuver with just one hand, this is made for navigating busy sidewalks with ease—or just fitting in the trunk without a major wrestling match. It's designed for little passengers to love just as much, too, with a bassinet option for newborn riders that can be easily swapped with a comfy, reclining seat that can face forward or backward for bigger kids.

$699

2. Bugaboo wheel board

This wheel board will let big brother or sister easily hitch a ride on the stroller if their little legs aren't quite up for a full walk. We love the smart details that went into the design, including a slightly offset position so Mom or Dad can walk without bumping their legs. And because toddlers have strong opinions of their own, it's brilliant that the wheel board allows them to sit or stand.

$125

3. Nuby Keepeez cup strap

If you know a little one gearing up for the major leagues with a killer throwing arm, this is a must-have so parents aren't buying new sippy cups on a weekly basis. Perfect for tethering to high chairs, strollers, car seats and shopping carts, it allows Mama to feel confident she'll return home with everything she left with in the first place.

$6.99

4. Bugaboo footmuff

For those mamas who live anywhere where the temps regularly dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, this ultra-soft, comfortable footmuff is a lifesaver. Made with water-repellant microfleece, it keeps little ones dry and cozy—whether there is melting snow, a good drizzle or simply a spilled sippy cup.

$129.95

5. Bugaboo stroller organizer

Because we know #mombrain is no joke, we are all for products that will help us stay organized—especially when out and about. With multiple zipper pockets, a sleek design and velcro straps that help it easily convert to a handbag when stepping away from the stroller, it helps keep essentials from spare diapers to the car keys within reach.

$39.95

6. Bugaboo Turtle car seat

It may be called a car seat, but we love that this one is specifically designed to securely click into a stroller frame, too. (Meaning there is no need to wake up a sleeping baby for a car-to-stroller transfer!) More reasons to love it are the lightweight design, UPF 50+ sun protection shade and Merino wool inlay, meaning it's baby and mama friendly.

$349

7. Chicco QuickSeat hook-on chair

This hook-on baby chair will almost certainly earn a spot on your most-used list. Perfect for dining out or simply giving your baby a space to sit, it's portable and beyond easy to install. (Plus, it's a great alternative to those questionably clean high chairs at many restaurants!)

$57.99

8. Bugaboo stroller cup holder

Chasing after kids when out and about can work up a thirst, just like neighborhood strolls in the chillier months can get, well, chilly. So we love that this cup holder will help mama keep something for herself to drink close at hand. Designed to accommodate bottles of all sizes and easy to click onto any compatible stroller, it's a perfect stocking stuffer.

$29.95

9. Bugaboo soft wool blanket

Fair warning with this luxe stroller blanket: It's so cozy that you might want to buy another one for yourself! Made with Merino wool that helps it stand up to any elements parents might encounter during an outing, it will help baby stay warm during the winter and cool enough as the temps start to pick up.

$109.95

10. Munchkin silicone placemats

Made to roll and stow in a diaper bag, these silicone placemats will make dining out a (relatively) less messy experience. With raised edges that will help contain spills and a grippy bottom, they will stay in place on tables so that parents might be able to enjoy their own meals, too.

$8.99

11. Bugaboo Breezy seat liner

Designed to keep baby warm when it's cool and cool when it's warm, this seat liner will minimize fusses during all seasons—which is one of the very best gifts you can give a mama. Because accidents of all types can happen on the go, we also love that this seat liner is reversible! With a number of colors, it's also a fun way to help a stroller to stand out at the playground.

$79.95

12. OXO Tot Handy stroller hook

If you ever catch yourself thinking it would be nice to have another hand, these stroller clips are the next-best solution for when you are out and about. Perfect for lugging a bag or anchoring a cup, you'll want a set for every stroller you own.

$14.99

This article was sponsored by Bugaboo. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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New mama Shay Mitchell is the latest celeb to prove that breastfeeding can be so glam.

Eleven months after Rachel McAdams' viral breast pumping photo from her Girls Girls Girls shoot, Michell posted her own a gorgeous portrait she captioned "Breast friends."

The pun is so intended and Shay obviously intends to normalize breastfeeding.

Shay isn't the only celeb to follow in McAdam's footsteps.

Earlier this year Hilary Duff posted an Instagram shot comparing her own pumping moment to McAdams'. In the black and white photo she's seen using a manual breast pump while wearing a parka and a disposable plastic hair cap (it looks like she's getting her hair done).

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With plastic wrap on her head and a towel draped over her shoulders she looks a lot less glam than McAdams did in diamonds and Versace, but that's kind of the point.

"Am I doing this right?" Duff captioned a comparison of the shots.

Yes, mama. You're doing this right.

Whether you've got a Willow tucked into your ball gown like Nicole Phelps did, or are going hands-free with a double electric pump like McAdams, or are nursing in a Target dressing room like Jessica Alba did, or are feeding your baby a bottle full of formula (Alba did that, too), you're doing this right.

We don't all look like movie stars when we're living this mom life, but Duff reminds us that movie stars don't always look like that either.

Sometimes, they (and we) look like multitasking mamas, and it's okay to laugh about it together.

[A version of this story was first posted January 4, 2019. It has been updated.]

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It's officially matching family pajama season—okay, technically you can match all year round, but the holidays are the perfect excuse to get everyone in the family into the same cozy outfit. Hanna Andersson, one of our favorite destinations for all things matching and comfortable, just dropped a last-minute surprise pajama collection for the season and you're going to be obsessed, mama.

If you can't get everyone on board to wear holiday-specific looks, we can guarantee they'll sign up for these avocado or bacon and egg prints. All pajamas are made with organic cotton knit, making them incredibly soft and gentle on even the littlest kiddo's skin and high enough quality so they won't fade. Plus, the seams are flat so they won't be itchy. Kid sleepers start at $42 with adult long john PJs $48 for bottoms and $46 for tops—but we promise they're worth it!

If you're still in search of the perfect Christmas morning pajamas or holiday loungewear, we adore these:

Bacon + eggs 🥓

matching family pjs

What better print to wear for breakfast? The background blue is beautiful and kids will love the fun bacon slices and egg prints. This one even comes with a matching outfit for your family pet.

$46

Lemons in white 🍋

matching family pajamas

This is one of the most classic prints from the collections, and perfect to wear all year round. It features a sleeper, kids short set and women's long john set.

$46

Avocados 🥑

matching family pajamas

If we're being honest, this would 100% be our option for an Instagram post. What's cuter than a little one dressed in an avocado pair?

$46

Lemons in navy 🍋

matching family pjs

If white isn't your thing (or you're too worried about messes) you're in luck. The classic lemon print comes in a navy background, too.

$46

Bananas 🍌

matching family pjs

Go bananas over this bright and fun pajama. It comes in long johns for parents and a short set for kids. Plus, a sleeper for the baby.

$46

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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I often joke that if I were to draw a food pyramid to represent what my toddler actually eats, it would consist of a wide, sturdy base of starches and fruit and a fat midsection devoted to dairy (but let's be honest, mostly cheese). Its pinnacle would be a nearly microscopic triangle representing the two vegetables he occasionally eats (carrots and cucumbers).

Though I like to think my son is a special unicorn in all sorts of ways, I know from my shared laments with other parents that his eating habits, as specific as they are, aren't all that unique — at least for many American kids (culture has a big influence on our food preferences). In fact, there's no shortage of ink (er, html?) spilled about how to feed toddlers and young children whose eating patterns, like my son's, don't deviate much from staples like macaroni and cheese, flavored yogurt, and fruit (give or take maybe a chicken nugget or hot dog).

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It made me wonder: Why do kids love the foods they love? Was society imposing these food preferences on our kids, or did they burst forth from their mothers' bodies craving fluorescent orange cheddar, buttered noodles, and bananas?

The answer is kind of the latter.

Babies are born with a preference for sweet and salty flavors

If you think about a typical toddler's favorite foods, many of them have either sweet (fruit, juice, flavored yogurt, and anything sweetened) or salty (cheese, chicken nuggets, hot dogs) flavor profiles. Meanwhile, their oft shunned foods (hi, green veggies) tend to be bitter. Scientists believe this has evolutionary roots.

Studies show that babies have a biological predisposition for sweet tastes before they're even born. And there's a purpose for this. While you may associate sweetness with sugar-sweetened junk food (not exactly a survival imperative), sugar is an easy form of energy, which young children need. "If you're developing, you have energy needs," says Rachel Herz, PhD, senses and emotion scientist and author of Why You Eat What You Eat.

In addition to signifying calories and carbohydrates, sweetness is a predominant taste signal for human milk, says Julie Mennella, PhD, researcher at Monell Chemical Senses Center. So an infant's hankering for sweetness primes them to like breast milk. But children don't outgrow this preference once they leave infancy. Throughout childhood kids gravitate toward sweetness, which could explain a toddler's preference for sweet foods, like fruit, juice, or flavored yogurt.

So what about other American kid favorites that aren't sweet, like cheese, chicken nuggets, or hot dogs? Part of the appeal could be their salty flavor profile. Children prefer a higher concentration of salt than adults. This too serves an evolutionary purpose. Saltiness is a signal for protein, Herz says. Plus, it's a mineral that our bodies need to function.

On the flip side, there's a lot of nature behind a child's reluctance to eat vegetables, which sometimes have a bitter flavor. "In nature things that are bitter tend to be poisonous, so it's advantageous to not to be consuming bitter foods. Having these predispositions are helping with survival," Herz says.

Texture and color factor into food preferences too

Of course, taste isn't the only factor that influences a child's food choices. Though less researched, a food's texture and color may also play a role. Children are naturally neophobic, meaning they're apprehensive about new foods. To a mild degree, this is adaptive, Herz says, because it steers them away from unfamiliar foods that could be poisonous.

Along these lines, a slimy, crunchy or uneven texture (think: yogurt with fruit chunks in it) can raise a child's red flags. "Texture can be a signal for food that could be contaminated," Herz says. "If you were eating something and detected grains of dirt or sand, you know you shouldn't probably eat it. Likewise, if you're eating something with little bits, your reaction is to be cautious. That's connected to biology." This could make the unnaturally smooth texture of processed meats, like chicken nuggets or hotdogs, more appealing than the less predictable consistency of a real chicken breast or piece of pork.

Color too may be a signifier. Children may show a preference for foods that are white, such as rice, plain pasta, or bread because they perceive them to be "safe." As far as why kids love the vibrant orange and yellow of processed cheeses, "foods that are yellow have been shown to make people happier," Herz says.

How to expand a picky palate

Despite the fact that there's a biological basis for flavor preferences, they aren't set in stone. One of the best ways to raise an adventurous eater is to start 'em young. "When introducing solids, expose a baby often to bitter vegetables, fish, and spicy foods — foods that most toddlers would refuse," says Dr. Natalie Muth, MD, RD, a pediatrician and registered dietitian based in California.

But what about those of us for whom babyhood is a mere memory? Is all hope lost?

Not quite. Food preferences will evolve over time, independent of how we parent. Though our partiality to sweet and salty foods lingers through childhood, it lessens with age. For instance, if you ask a four-to-six-year-old to sweeten a drink to their preferred level of sweetness, they'll put in 12 sugar cubes, while an adult would add only seven, Herz says.

Parents can also help shape and broaden their children's picky palates in a number of ways, as well:

Prioritize exposure over clean plates. For a parent desperate for a child to try new foods, the sight of a barely-touched plate can be stressful. But Muth urges moms and dads to try not to fret.

"Be as relaxed as possible about offering a food they'll probably reject," she says. "Don't be so invested in whether they eat or not. Focus more on exposure," she says.

It can take 15 to 20 exposures for a kid to come around on a food. The key is that they're trying it. "They don't have to chew and swallow," Muth says, it just has to touch their tongue."

Make food more appealing. Rather than forcing toddlers to try new things, "the key is to find tricks to make them want to try the food out of their own volition," Muth says. A few ways to drum up interest in new foods include getting kids involved with meal prep or letting them pick out foods at the store. Or you could gussy up a disliked food by cutting it into a fun shape or putting it in a bag covered in stickers.

Try 'bridging.' Strategically bridge the gap between your child's likes and dislikes. Start with a food your child likes and use it to introduce a food that either has a similar flavor but different texture or a different flavor and similar texture.

For example, if your child likes french fries, offer sweet potato or zucchini fries because they have the same texture, Muth suggests. Or, if your child likes sweet potato fries, you could introduce them to mashed sweet potatoes, which feature the same flavors, but a different texture.

If that goes well, move to similarly prepared but gradually less sweet foods, such as mashed squash or mashed carrots.

Pair likes with dislikes. Bring your kids around to bitter-tasting foods by serving them with sweet or salty flavors (depending on what they like). Add cheese sauce to broccoli to make it more alluring. "Once they like that, progressively take off more cheese, until they've transitioned to eating it plain," Muth says.

Model an enjoyment of eating. One thing that becomes more important with age that may influence flavor preferences from a psychological perspective is the social context of eating, Herz says. A meal becomes more than meat and veggies on a plate when it becomes associated with having fun or being surrounded by loved ones. Parents can nurture this by showing their kids just how enjoyable eating can be when everyone sits down for family dinners.

This story originally appeared on Apparently.

Learn + Play

As a mom, I often find myself in a rut of self-doubt. I endure a lot of critical comments—and even some side-eye—and it can start to wear on even the most confident of mothers. So many people in our lives "never had to deal with a child doing such-and-such" or "didn't do it that way" or "think things would be better if we just 'fill in the blank.'"

That's why a simple pat on the back goes such a long way. Personally, words of encouragement have always been my love language. That means I would gladly forgo a nice gift for some acknowledgment, recognition and praise.

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Tell me I'm doing a good job.

Tell me you appreciate me.

Tell me my kids are lucky to have me (especially if they can't tell me themselves).

I'm so grateful when my husband takes the time to notice all the things I juggle on a daily basis or when he acknowledges the special talent I've developed for talking our 2-year-old out of a tantrum (which is successful only some of the time). Even the unsolicited advice that pours in from family members is softened quite a bit when it's followed by an encouraging word or two.

For example, I especially appreciate when people tell me, "You'll figure it out." It reminds me that I am the one in charge of this whole beautiful mommy journey. Yes, people can make one suggestion after another. They can think they have all my parenting challenges figured out. But, ultimately, I'm the one who will do what's best for my children. I love to be reminded that this motherhood thing is not only my greatest responsibility, but it is also my most amazing opportunity.

As a matter of fact, my kids (and partner) are probably craving the same words of encouragement too. I can remember growing up that I had a deep need for my parents' approval and praise, and honestly, I still do. I see my toddler and infant respond so gleefully when we applaud what they do or tell them, "Good job!"

So my hope for all of us this holiday season—especially those with busy, overloaded, tired-but-trying mamas in our lives—is that we can all pass along some words of encouragement to one another.

This time of year often finds us plowing away at our holiday duties and obligations. Wouldn't it be nice if we all pulled our heads out of the fog to thank the mothers in our lives?

You can even turn this encouragement into an actual gift if you want to. Buy the mom in your life a journal and write your own inspirational quotes throughout. Write a compliment or reassuring message on each day/week of a calendar for next year. Or even get out a pen and paper, sit down, and write that mama in your life a good, old-fashioned letter. It's a sentiment I guarantee she will remember forever.

To be clear, I don't want to discourage you from buying her that spa gift card or that fabulous necklace she has had her eye on if you want to, but I do think the holidays are a perfect opportunity for all friends and family members to throw a little love each mama's way. It's nice to know that someone sees and appreciates our dedication to surviving this roller-coaster journey called motherhood.

The good news is that a compliment doesn't cost a dime, so we can freely spread cheer and praise to everyone around us.

Life
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