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The diaper bag: No mom ever leaves home without it, no kid ever leaves it alone. At first glance, a diaper bag is simply a bag -- something flung over a mom’s shoulder, stuffed with diapers, bottles, and Cheerio crumbs. But isn’t a diaper bag so much more than that? Truly, perfect diaper bag execution is a coveted skill; and once you’ve got it down, it all changes again.

We bring you The Life Cycle of a Diaper Bag.

Stage One: Pre-Baby Fantasy

In stage one, the diaper bag sits pretty by the door. It is small, compact, and generally disguised as a purse. It isn’t really used yet, just ready to be thrown into action at a moment’s notice. It’s still crisp and clean, with sparse contents divided into appropriate pockets or separate, stylish zipper pouches. Contents generally include a single diaper (maybe two); a hard case of perfectly folded wipes; an extra pacifier with the protective case still in place; and a small collection of wooden teethers. The stage-one diaper bag is photoshoot-ready, a sight to behold.

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Stage Two: Postpartum Reality

The stage-two diaper bag is the same bag as the stage-one bag, but it has moved from fantasy to reality. Naturally, having been sent into battle, the diaper bag has now suffered the wear-and-tear of being tossed from car to stroller, from the counter to the ground, from Target cart to grocery basket, and et cetera. Having learned many lessons the hard way, the stage-two mama has appropriately restocked her bag as follows: no fewer than five diapers and an entire jumbo pack of wipes; three extra pacifiers thrown in at random, protective cases be damned—just lick ‘em to clean ‘em; two changes of clothes and corresponding “wet bags” (aka, old plastic grocery sacks); a bottle with the formula already in it, even though it’s supposed to be stored in a separate container; and three noisy, horrifically bright plastic rattles that make excessive noise inside the bag, but can never be found when needed.

Stage Three: Reverse Carpet Bag

First off, mourn the loss of the stylish purse-like diaper bag; that dies with stage two. Stage-three moms have upgraded to some horrendously large number, bound and determined that they’ve morphed into SuperMoms and will be prepared for anything. Sadly, this is where stage-three moms get tripped up because stage-three diaper bags are actually infinite voids. They are very Mary Poppins-like, a carpet bag quality—it’s amazing what fits in! The problem? Nothing ever comes out.

A stage-three mom still needs to pack her diaper bag for each outing. She will ask, “Do I have diapers?” But rather than check, she’ll add two more. She’ll forget to ask, “Do I have wipes?” and will need to wet paper towels in the gas station bathroom after discovering that the wipe pack had a tear and all the wipes are dried out. And every day, snacks will be added but never fully consumed. At any given moment, a stage-three diaper bag could contain a half-finished cup of now spoiled milk; two crushed packages of puffs; an open container that once contained cooked peas (which are now stuck to the darkest corners of the bag); and one of those disgusting mesh pouches with what used to be fruit inside. Having learned that spoons and keys and candy bar wrappers are much more entertaining than toys, the stage three mom stops loading rattles into the bag, but judging from the sound, there’s still pieces of an old one floating around in there somewhere.

Stage Four: False Freedom

After the one year mark, the diaper bag moves into its fourth phase. Certain that she now has a toddler, not a baby, a stage-four mom makes the horrible mistake of downgrading too early. When it comes to diaper bags, the only law is Murphy’s Law, so if you don’t have it with you, you will absolutely need it. But you know what? Despite this having happened to every stage-four mom in the history of the world, babies have still been raised into adulthood. (This is the first indication that freedom is coming.)

Stage Five: Interim

Stage five looks very different depending on where you live and how you get around. Stage five is less about keeping your small human fed, clean, and alive and more about keeping them entertained. If you’re a city mom, you learn to stash a multitude in your stroller, thus the diaper bag shrinks. A city stroller always contains a bucket and shovel; a blanket; bubbles; a small ball; child-size sunglasses ; a sun hat, which will never be worn but makes a mother feel better to have it; and rain gear. If you’re a suburban mom instead, you can keep these things in your car since they are obviously too large to fit in any version of a diaper bag. Which is exactly why stage five is the transition phase—you might still need a lot of gear, but you start finding different places to put it.

Stage Six: Portability

By stage six, the moms have woken up and realized that they need some life back too. They’ve spent nearly two years toting around the needs of some other human, and they start to wish for unbroken sunglasses or a chapstick that doesn’t have small teeth marks in it. Stage-six moms will declare freedom from the diaper bag and go out to purchase something purse-like again. The timid opt for the canvas tote; the committed spring for the leather satchel. Whatever your level of risk, it’s important to realize that, a new bag doesn’t actually free you from diaper bag responsibility. You’ll still need to leave the house prepared. But by stage six, you’ll also want to be able to leave the house without kids and without having to switch out of the diaper bag. Thus, enter the diaper pouch —a snazzy mini-bag that can hold a diaper or a pull-up, some wipes, a snack, emergency crayons, princess Band-Aids, and hand sanitizer.

It’s safe to say that after you’ve lived a diaper bag life, you’ll probably never really grow out of it. After stage six, you might be able to get away with no diaper bag; but you’ll be so accustomed to having cheesy bunnies and first-aid supplies, that you’ll feel lost without them, kids or no. The life of a diaper bag is fleeting, in the grand scheme of things; but really, the spirit of the diaper bag lives on.

Image via HATCH Collection's Anti-Diaper Bag.

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Is there anything cuter than adorable hairstyles on kids? We love when little ones look put together and a chic hairstyle is the icing on a cake.Mamas have upped their game and are delivering trendy, inspo-worthy looks beyond basic ponytails.

We get that creating no-fuss hairstyles (preferably ones that don't require toddlers sitting more than 10 minutes) isn't exactly stress-free and shelling out cash for a stylist isn't something we'll spring for. But we're all about easy styles that we can practically create with our eyes closed. Say hello to getting out the door faster! To be fair, there are a few here that are a tad complicated, so you'll want to screenshot them and share with your mama friend who is a master stylist.

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To help you nail the best kid hairstyles, we've compiled a list of 41 cool hairstyles for little ones from Instagram:

Pigtail buns

This classic style never gets old. If you're concerned about it being too light, loosen it up a bit by adding volume at the roots.






Criss-cross braids

Add a touch of style to a traditional braid.






Top knot

When rushing and don't have time, just throw up their hair in a top bun.



Side braided ponytail

After a few hours on the playground, braids tend to end up on the side of their heads, so why not create it into a style?



Cornrows

We're not going to front—cornrows are tough to create. But if you can get it, it's a style that will last weeks. Need help? Check out these YouTube videos.






Waterfall braids

To add a little more pizazz to a regular braid, braid hair on the side and loosen it a bit at the root.




Triple buns

A bun is probably the easier hairstyle a mama can create, but throw in a dash of style by adding two more bun. Create the look by securing buns from the top of the head to the nape of the neck.








Bun + bows

Add a bow for instant fun.









Lifestyle

When the Coronavirus (COVID-19) started making headlines in early 2020 the expert advice was simple: Don't panic.

This week the CDC warned that the outbreaks of the virus will very likely happen in the United States, but it's important to know that officials still don't want parents to panic, they just want us to be prepared.

"We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad," the Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, told reporters during a news briefing Tuesday. "It's not so much of a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen," Dr. Messonnier said.

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It is totally normal to read this and be concerned mama, but there are several things we need to unpack before we let our anxiety overwhelm us.

Here is what you need to know about the Coronavirus response in the United States:

Top doctors are preparing for this

As the virus has spread rapidly overseas America's top doctors have been monitoring the situation. In not quite two months' time 80,000 people have contracted the illness and fewer than 3,000 of those people have died.

In the U.S., 53 cases have been confirmed (most of those were passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined off the coast of Japan or people who caught the virus while traveling overseas). There have only been two cases of person-to-person transmission on U.S. soil, according to the CDC.

The CDC has more than 1,000 professionals working on the response to this virus, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, epidemiologists, veterinarians, laboratorians, communicators, data scientists and modelers.

"CDC staff members are working with state, local, tribal, and territorial health departments and other public health authorities to assist with case identification, contact tracing, evaluation of persons under investigation (PUI) for COVID-19, and medical management of cases; and with academic partners to understand the virulence, risk for transmission, and other characteristics of this novel virus," the agency states on its website.

And while there have been delays in implementing Coronavirus testing measures in the Unites States, experts are working to resolve issues and make testing more efficient. As the New York Times reports, the health and human services secretary "told a Senate panel that federal and local health departments will need as many as 300 million masks for health care workers."

In other words, the experts in the United States are preparing to fight this virus and they want the American public to be prepared, too.

This could impact school, work and daily life

That's why the CDC is telling us to get ready, not to cause panic or anxiety but just to set the expectation that life could be disrupted by this virus. "Now is the time for businesses, hospitals, communities, schools and everyday people to begin preparing," Dr. Messonnier said Tuesday.

She says schools may have to close or otherwise adjust to an outbreak and students may have to start doing tele-schooling online. She also wants businesses to start preparing to hold meetings remotely rather than in-person and to encourage telecommuting during any outbreak. Community activities like sports and church may also have to be canceled or modified.

As the New York Times reports, "Scientists don't know who is most susceptible to the new coronavirus. Children seem less likely to be infected. Middle-aged men seem to have been disproportionately infected, according to some studies."

This could be really disruptive for families

It is true that the scenario Messonnnier is outlining could be really disruptive for families. No one wants this to happen, but if it does have to happen it's a good thing we are getting the heads up.

Here are some steps you can take to prepare for possible interruptions to daily life:

  • Talk to your workplace about any plans it has for operations during an outbreak.
  • Speak to your child's school or childcare provider about how it plans to operate in a worst-case scenario.
  • Ask your doctor for an extra prescription of any medications your family needs, just in case an outbreak makes going to the pharmacy not possible.

Here's how to protect yourself + your family from the Coronavirus

The CDC does not recommend that we all go buy face masks. Face masks are only recommended for people "who show symptoms of COVID-19...[and] health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility)."

Instead, here's what we can all do to avoid the illness, according to the CDC:

  • "Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe."

We know this is serious and kind of scary, mama. But please, don't panic. Know that pandemic experts are working to keep your family safe. According to the CDC, the "National Institutes of Health (NIH) and their collaborators are working on development of candidate vaccines and therapeutics for COVID-19."

On Tuesday, President Trump said the coronavirus is "very well under control in our country" and "is going to go away." The health experts who work for the government are doing everything they can to prove the President right, but they do want the public to be ready in case it doesn't go away as fast as he (and all of us) would like.

News

For nine months, your mother was all you knew.

Before I held you in my arms, your mother held you and never let you go.

Before I sacrificed time for you, your mother gladly sacrificed her body.

Before I consoled you when you were upset, your mother consoled you with just the beat of her heart.

Before I comforted you when you were restless, your mother comforted you with just the sound of her voice.

Before I could do anything for you, your mother gave everything for you.

Your mother is the reason I hold you today.

Before you were even a twinkle in my eye, you were in your mother's heart. Your life, your safety, and your very existence depended on her. Something I'll never be able to repay.

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It will take a long time for you to understand the weight, the depth and the immeasurability of your mother's love for you. But someday, when you have children of your own, you will understand what I now see so clearly.

So, I'll hold you tight. But I'll hold your mother tighter because my love for you grows the more I understand the measure of a mother's love.


This essay was previously published here.
Life

What would bath time be without rubber duckies? Probably not as much fun—but also a whole lot cleaner, according to a study published in the journal Biofilms and Microbiomes.

That's because it turns out those squeaky toys are far from squeaky clean thanks to “potentially pathogenic bacteria" in four out of the five bath toys examined by researchers.

For the study, Swiss and American researchers looked at the biofilm communities inside 19 bath toys collected from random households as well as six toys used in controlled clean or dirty water conditions. They found that all of the examined bath toys “had dense and slimy biofilm" on their inner surfaces. What's more, 56% of the real-use toys and all of the dirty-water toys had fungi build up. ?

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Although the researchers note exposure to bacteria and fungi may have some benefits, the strong existence of grime in bath toys is still concerning. They note, “Squeezing water with chunks of biofilm into their faces (which is not unexpected behavior for these users) may result in eye, ear, wound or even gastro-intestinal tract infections."

Besides tossing all your bath toys, what can parents do?

The researchers say more experimental work is needed. But, for starters, it doesn't hurt to remove water from the toys after usage or give them a good, regular dunk in boiling water. The researchers also said they would like to see more regulations on the polymeric materials used for many bath toys.

There is, however, one simple solution—it just comes at the cost of rubber duckie's squeak. “In fact, the easiest way to prevent children from being exposed to bath toy biofilms is to simply close the hole," the researchers say of toys like this water-tight duck. “But where is the fun in that?"

[A version of this post originally appeared April 13, 2018. It has been updated.]

News
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