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I literally didn’t leave the house for two days after reading the bestselling book by organizing guru Marie Kondo – The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The premise of her book is that we should only surround ourselves with objects that “spark joy” inside us, or that are actively useful and to let go of the notion that we need to hold onto things purely out of obligation or sentimental value.

According to Marie Kondo, if you follow her method to a T, you will never have to de-clutter your house again – which is a pretty appealing thought to a mom of two boys under five, who is constantly tripping over Matchbox cars, Magnatiles, Duplo blocks, train track pieces and marbles.

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It was relatively easy – and enjoyable – to “KonMari” my own belongings and those of my family members: clothes, books, papers, miscellany, and even things with sentimental value. But after I’d KonMari’d all of my things, and yes, even many of my husband’s things (this did not go over too well), it was time to tackle the belongings of the true hoarders in my house: my kids.

In her book, Marie Kondo says that for kids four years and younger, it is up to the parent to decide what to discard or what to keep (if the child is five and above, you can involve him in the exercise). But honestly, what the hell do I know about what to keep and what to toss? Kids can be so fickle when it comes to their feelings about well, anything from snap peas to their vast collection of Micro Transformers.

Take the sticky guy that’s supposed to cling to windows but that after a day’s use just becomes gummy with lint and hair – and that my kids haven’t played with since the day they got it in a birthday party goodie bag last year. It is a scientific fact that literally, the day after I decide to throw that gnarly sticky guy away, my son will wake me in the morning asking urgently, “Mom, where is my sticky guy?”

Knowing that eliminating a particular toy could lead to total devastation for my son made me very reluctant to go through his room and decide what toys still “sparked joy” and which could be donated or thrown in the trash. But I persevered, hopeful that if I decluttered his room of all the “unnecessary” toys, he would be able to cherish and appreciate the toys left front and center.

I decided that I would look at each toy and try to remember the last time he had played with it. Like the Play Doh ice cream maker that my son has not played with in about two years. One of the levers is missing. Even when he used to play with it, he tended to fashion the Play Doh into what looked like “breasts” instead of ice cream, so the toy missed the mark from the very start.

I put it into my KonMari bag, and then a memory hit me – just a few weeks ago, his little brother had taken the contraption and pretended to make ice cream – no Play Doh needed – and serve it to his grandparents. So out went the Play Doh maker, back into the storage box. I don’t think Marie Kondo, blessed be she, accounted for younger siblings giving toys a new life. I left the room largely un-KonMari-ed.

My little one’s room was a LOT easier because we barely buy him any toys since, you know, #secondchild. I decided to go through his room with an eye towards getting rid of infant-related objects that I know we won’t miss: expired diaper rash creams that I’ve had since his brother was a baby, a lone Ugg bootie that I’d been hoping to find the partner of for over a year, those stickers that you’re supposed to put on the baby’s onesie to take those “I’m One Month!” photos. Needless to say, the purge was small.

So is it possible to KonMari your young children’s things? And should you? After my brief flirtation with it, I don’t think so. As many parents know, a child’s definition of joy – and even his approach to play – is quite fluid. Toys and their uses can evolve with a child’s growing sophistication and developing motor skills, and with the addition of new interests and toys. A lone Little People figure that has been sitting in the bottom of the toy bin for months, can find renewed life as the chief fire inspector of the brand-new fire truck your son got for his birthday. The musical tea set that you thought was too babyish for your toddler is now The One Toy your toddler is asking for. Sometimes the whole fun of “play” is simply dumping all the toys out, and admiring the spoils.

Plus, kids are fickle and unreliable. One minute, that cardboard box I helped my son fashion into a “fire house” (a very generous way of looking at my miserable attempt at DIY) is the prized possession that he is asking me to hide on the highest shelf so that his little brother can’t “ruin it”. The next he’s like, “I hate that stupid box, let’s stomp on it”.

And the gratification I’m supposed to get from my newly decluttered space? Well, the vision of a minimalist child’s room sparsely filled with toys made of twine and egg cartons is nice, but that would also mean I would have to be the kind of mom who makes toys from twine and egg cartons. The truth is, I am not that mom.

So I’ve decided to also be OK with just enjoying the newly de-cluttered spaces in the house that only belong to me: My side of the closet. My medicine cabinet. My husband’s things. (Sorry, Honey, that Marie Kondo is very persuasive!)

The KonMari method has shown me a different way to think about the things I own, and also released me from holding onto ideas of who I once was and who I hope to someday be. In a New York apartment, there is only room for who you are right now.

Who I am right now includes being a mom and a wife, which means I share my space with other people. So in this big de-cluttering exercise, what I really learned from it, beyond how to part with objects, is how to make room for my children’s things and to be OK with all the “stuff” that comes with children who are messy, and who do not live in Scandanavian furniture catalogs, and who prefer – most of the time – Fisher-Price and Hasbro to anything made from egg cartons and twine.

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If you had asked me a few years ago what I thought my biggest accomplishment was, I probably would have rattled off a bunch of career-related successes and financial wins. Or even something about my worldly travels. I was full of money-driven, "success" driven goals. I had it all mapped out.

I was ticking off items on my list thinking the more I did the happier I would become.

But, my sweet child, in the short three and a half years I've been a mama, 1,352 days to be exact, I have realized something. Something you need to know.

No matter what, nothing I do in life will ever be as great as being your mom.

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My accomplishments aren't measured in dollars, they are measured in hugs and kisses. And every time we say "I love you."

My accomplishments aren't measured by other people's praise, they are defined by the fact that I love you and will never stop.

My accomplishments are defined by the truth that I am with you no matter what. By the truth that I will be your biggest fan. Your protector. Your teacher. Your friend. Your confidant.

My accomplishments are defined by the truth that I will always be proud of you. That I will love you unconditionally, always and forever.

Yes, there are times when I achieve some pretty awesome things in life outside of being your mother. Moments I celebrate. Some are money-driven, some are career-driven, others are just things I've wanted to achieve and set out to do so. Am I proud of those things? Sure I am. I want to be an example to you that you can achieve anything you want to in this life. The world really is your oyster. Those moments though, never even come close to how proud I am to be your mom.

You see my child, no amount of money in the world can buy me the feeling of your little arms wrapped tight around me. The feeling of utter happiness I feel when I see you happy. No amount of money can buy the special bond we have.

My greatest accomplishment will always be you.

I won't lie, it isn't always easy. Sometimes, there are moments of exhaustion. Moments of frustration. Moments of tears. Moments where I desperately needed some 'me' time. But I will always choose you.

I know some people will not see motherhood as an accomplishment. That it is just something you do as part of life. But they don't see you like I do. Some people might wonder why I gave up a successful career to be home with you. But they don't know you like I do. They don't know that I was chosen to be your mama. That we were destined to be together. They don't know what an honor it is to be your mama.

So, my sweet child here is the truth.

You are my life's work.

You are my legacy in this world.

You, my child, are my greatest accomplishment and always will be.

[This article was previously published here.]

Life

Aside from hygienic reasons, there's something about a bath that's soothing, inviting and relaxing. Even little ones can enjoy the benefits of self-care but they often need a little bit of entertainment while they're getting cleaned. Because they are so small and constantly putting anything in their mouths, it's important to use toys that are just as safe as they are entertaining.

We gathered a few best practices from the American Academy of Pediatrics for safe bath time with infants and kids and our favorite products to keep our littles having fun in the water:

  • Use a safe, sturdy tub. Baby bathtubs can be "bucket style" for sitting upright, slanted for support, inflatable, folding and spa-style.
  • Be aware of bumps, edges and slings. Consider avoiding tubs with slings and pay close attention to any bumps or edges that pose a risk.
  • Never leave a child alone in a bathtub. Children can drown in 1 or 2 inches of water so make sure you're not stepping away from the bathroom or leaving babies in the care of another child.
  • Check water temperature. Lower the temperature of your water heater to no more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid burns.

Here are our favorite safe bath toys for infants and toddlers. And of course, always check (and double check) toy labels for age guidelines and hazard warnings:

Green Toys tide pool bath set

Green Toys tide pool bath set

This 7-piece bath set includes a starfish, scallop, abalone, snail, squid and jellyfish, as well as a seaweed-patterned storage bag that are packaged using recyclable materials and printed with environmentally responsible inks. Each piece is designed to pour water in a different way—scoop up water with the abalone and create a cascading waterfall with the holes along the edge, or fill the jellyfish and watch the water run down and out each of the legs.

$12.77

B&H baby thermometer

B&H baby thermometer

Ever wonder if your baby is too hot or too cold during bath time? This high and low temperature alarm includes an accurate thermometer that flashes and beeps when water is at a non-optimal temperature. It also doubles as a bath toy that complies with the Consumer Product Safety Commission's toys safety standards, so you don't have to worry if the thermometer will produce chemical reactions in water. Genius!

$16.99

Sophie la girafe so pure bath toy

Sophie la girafe so pure bath toy

Babies can have fun chewing away this Sophie bath toy because it's made of 100% natural rubber from the rubber tree's sap. The rubber ring is also easy to grip so little ones can have full confidence splashing and playing around. And don't worry, water can't get inside the toy so bacteria and mold won't form.

$23.93

Skip Hop bath puzzle

Skip Hop bath puzzle

A puzzle and bath book in one? Yes, we'll take it! The pages float in water and stick to bath tiles so you're child will be entertained the entire time they're in the water. We love that the handy stroller ring keeps it all together when they're done.

$8.00

Green Toys my first tugboat

Green Toys my first tugboat

This cool tugboat toy is safe for the earth as well as your child. It's made with 100% recycled plastic milk containers, which helps save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and is free from BPA, PVC and phthalates. It also features a wide spout which will help them scoop and pour water while exploring in the water.

$11.91

Boon marco light-up bath toy

Boon marco light-up bath toy

If you have older kids and are less concerned with them putting toys in their mouth, your kid might enjoy Marco. Put Marco in water and watch him float while the color-changing light activates. It's BPA-free, too.

$11.99

Skip Hop light up bath toy

Skip Hop light up bath toy

Featuring water-activated multicolor lights, this soft and squeezable bath toy is sure to make a splash with any child in your life. Choose from a dinosaur or unicorn with the phthalate-free materials.

$4.50

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This year's flu season has been making headlines, and there's a lot of (perfectly understandable) concern among parents about flu prevention and treatment.

The flu vaccine is the single best way to prevent your child from catching the flu. Other ways to prevent the flu from taking hold in your family include washing hands frequently, avoiding close contact with those who are sick, avoiding touching your eyes, mouth and nose, and staying in good overall health—getting plenty of sleep, eating a nutritious diet and exercising regularly.

But what if, despite your best efforts, your child comes down with the flu? It can be hard to watch children suffer with flu symptoms such as chills, fever, aches, cough and congestion. That's why parents need a helpful, complete, scannable-at-2-am-in-panic-mode rundown of what to do for the flu, when to call the doctor and how to help little ones feel better.

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Here's what to do when you think your child has the flu:

1. How do I know if my child has the flu?

Symptoms of influenza tend to come on suddenly, and include:

  • Fever (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or greater)
  • Headache
  • Muscle pains
  • Cough
  • Hives
  • Congestion
  • Runny nose

So how do you know whether it's a cold or the flu? Symptoms of the common cold may be similar to the flu, but generally are milder and include cough, congestion, runny nose and sore throat. RSV, or respiratory cold virus, is a separate condition that can cause cold-like symptoms in older children, but may cause a more severe lung disease in infants called bronchiolitis. Your best bet is to call your pediatrician for a diagnosis.

2. What should I do if my child has the flu?

The best treatment for most flu infections is what doctors call "supportive care:" encouraging fluid intake, giving fever-reducing medication such as children's acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and getting plenty of rest.

Children who are at higher risk of complications from the flu or whose symptoms started within the past 48 hours may also receive treatment with an antiviral medication. Talk with your primary care provider about your options.

3. What medicines are safe for my child to take for the flu?

Fever-reducing medications, including ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can generally be given to children with the flu with your pediatrician's okay. Children should not receive aspirin. Be sure to follow dosing directions for your child's age and weight.

4. What are home remedies for flu symptoms in kids?

Flu treatment is all about comfort care for symptoms—rest, fluids, fever-reducer, repeat. Keep children with the flu home from school, preschool or daycare, keep them comfortable in bed (or snuggled up on the couch), and offer fluids—and plenty of sympathy.

5. Should I try to make my child with the flu eat, or drink?

Keeping kids hydrated while they're sick with the flu is important. Encourage small, frequent sips of liquids and soup to keep up with hydration. But don't worry about forcing your child to eat a hearty meal: As your child's infection resolves, their appetite will return.

6. When should I call the doctor for my child's flu?

Parents should always call their pediatrician if they're worried, of course, and if your child has a chronic medical condition that may be worsened by the flu, call your doctor right away. Here are symptoms that warrant an immediate call to your care provider:

  • Fast breathing
  • Signs of dehydration including decreased urine output
  • Fever and cough which improved at first but have worsened
  • Fever above 103 degrees, or any fever in a child under 3 months of age

Serious signs that warrant a trip to the emergency room or a 911 call, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Labored breathing
  • Blue discoloration of the lips or face
  • Difficulty in awakening
  • Severe muscle pains
  • Seizure activity

7. How long will my child's flu last?

Most kids with the flu run a fever for 3 or 4 days with aches and chills. But the worst symptoms tend to be over within 4 days or so, with gradual improvement in respiratory symptoms after the fever resolves.

8. When is it safe for my child to go back to school or daycare after having the flu?

Most daycares and schools have specific guidelines, such as 24 hours without a fever. Children with the flu are usually contagious for 5 to 7 days after the first onset of symptoms, and are at their most contagious when their fever peaks during the first 3 days. In general, children should stay home until they're fever-free for 24 hours and respiratory symptoms have improved.

Watching your child suffer with the flu can be hard, but knowing steps you can take to help your little one feel better fast can help. Hang in there—even flu season can't last forever.

Learn + Play

If you haven't bought an Instant Pot yet, what are you waiting for, mama? It's one of those holy grail items that, once used, you're not sure how you ever lived without it. In fact, it was one of the most-purchased items from Motherly mamas last year and was life-changing for one of our editors when she finally caved and tried it out for her family.

Whether you're a chef who loves to make gourmet meals or a mama who hates cooking and needs more time in the day, it's one of those products that works for everyone.

And, the Instant Pot is on super sale today on Amazon—just $56.99.

Instant Pot 6-quart

instant pot sale

Why does it have such a cult following? Because it cuts down on cooking time and you can cook just about anything in it. It acts as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer and warmer all in one. And the smart one-touch program makes cooking ribs, soups and desserts so much easier.

The 6-quart size cooks for up to six people, making it the perfect size for your family, and is 29% off today.

$56.99

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