I had a less-than-perfect Grandma and it taught me a lot about my own mom

For years, she poured out a love she knew would not be returned. Her love was one that pierced a void. That stirred up ashes in the dustbin of negativity and bitterness, and refused to let them settle for good.

I had a less-than-perfect Grandma and it taught me a lot about my own mom

My brothers and I didn't grow up with the blessing of a loving grandparent in our lives. It wasn't until I had kids of my own that I began to wonder what it might have been like to hug a grandparent who returned the affection with shining, loving eyes.

My children have that blessing. They have two sets of grandparents who care for them and let them know in so many ways that they are loved.

Three of my four grandparents were “hardly there" for various reasons. But my maternal grandmother was another story. We called her “Baka"—the Croatian word for “grandma." She was, by any standards, a difficult person to be around. Anxious, paranoid, and self-absorbed, she almost certainly suffered from a mental illness that was never addressed. She spent much of her time and mental energy worrying—about the neighbors, about money, about the house, and about when her lottery tickets might finally pay off—and unloading much of her worry upon the younger of her two children—my mother.

When mom took my brothers and I to visit Baka at her home—which she did regularly—an invisible blanket of stress and negativity was always there. Baka would cook for us but eat very little herself. She would eat stale bread and use one tea bag to flavor a gallon of “tea." As someone who experienced poverty and hardship in her youth—including living through a World War—extreme thriftiness and a scarcity mentality were habits that lasted decades beyond when they were needed.

I remember Baka's stack of Publisher's Sweepstakes notices, which she demanded that mom read to her in the hopes that one of those white envelopes would contain the golden ticket. I remember her harshly criticizing mom's attempts to encourage her to eat a decent meal, to wear respectable clothes, or to spend some of her hard-earned money on something nice for herself. I remember Baka openly, shamelessly favoring mom's older sister over her. I remember the glares, the scowls, the yelling, and the lack of any thanks—ever—for the help mom offered and insisted on giving.

There came a time when Baka couldn't live independently anymore, and my parents made room for her in their home. When that situation became untenable, mom transferred her into a nursing home just minutes away, and she made sure it was a nice, expensive one, knowing full well that an extended stay at that facility would use up the remainder of Baka's modest savings, leaving her without an inheritance.

Mom was one of the few who visited the nursing home every week. She would greet and chat with the sweet but lonely elderly men and women who smiled at her, hungry for attention that rarely came from their own children, and then go spend time with her mother—who never welcomed her with a smile or a loving glance of acceptance.

Mom got to know the nursing home staff personally and was in close, friendly contact with them to make sure Baka was being well taken care of and that she was signed up for extracurricular activities. She took her out often for lunch dates or shopping. I never heard, or heard of, a “thank you" in reply. I never saw a gesture of appreciation or thanks in return. It was a one-sided relationship if there ever was one.

As Baka was dying, mom sat by her bedside and told her she forgave her for her callousness, abuse, and indifference. She told her she was there with her and that it was okay for her to die in peace.

I didn't shed tears at Baka's funeral, but I did later. Not for my grandma, but for the loss of what might have been a relationship that held some love. I mourned over the loveless emptiness of a life that was lived in difficulty and bitterness and anguish.

But most of all I cried because of the beauty of the example of selfless love that my mother showed. The nursing home Baka had been in was full of mothers and fathers who were surely far better parents and grandparents than she had ever been. Elderly mothers and fathers who were far more deserving of their children's love. And yet most of them sat alone and lonely as they crept towards death.

Mom chose to offer the radical sacrifice of one-sided love. For years, she poured out a love she knew would not be returned. Her love was one that pierced a void. That stirred up ashes in the dustbin of negativity and bitterness, and refused to let them settle for good.

Thanks mom, for not counting the cost. For giving, not only to your own mother, but to all of us who were privileged to witness your love. Thanks for the best example of love I could ever hope to have. And for leaving me with an impression on my heart that will remember it forever.

As much as I love fall, it always feels like the season when my family's routine gets kicked into overdrive. With our oldest in (homeschool) kindergarten, my youngest on the brink of entering her twos, work, housework and *all the things* filling my day, it's hard not to feel a little overwhelmed sometimes. Did I mention we're still in a pandemic? (Yeah, it's a lot.) And while I try to take a positive view as much as I can, now more than ever I definitely jump at the chance to take anything off my busy plate.

One thing first in line at the chopping block? Cooking. To be fair, I like cooking. I cooked most of our meals long before I had ever even heard of social distancing. But there's something about the pandemic that suddenly made cooking every single meal feel exponentially more draining.

Enter Daily Harvest. They deliver nourishing, delicious food right to your door. Daily Harvest's mix of smoothies, bowls, flatbreads, snacks and more provide a balanced, whole food options that are as satisfying as they are nutritious. But my favorite part? When we're ready to eat, I simply pull the food from the freezer and it's ready in minutes—without any chopping, measuring or searching for a recipe. Even better, they're incredibly tasty, meaning I'm not struggling to get my girls to dig in. Not cooking has never felt so good.

Here are my 8 favorite products that are helping to lighten my load right now:

Mulberry + Dragonfruit Oat Bowl

Mulberry + Dragonfruit Oat Bowl

One thing that actually helps break up the monotony of quarantine? Trying and introducing new ingredients to my family. I love this overnight oat bowl (add milk the night before and let it set in your fridge overnight—easy-peasy!) because not only does it not compromise on nutrition, but it also helps me bring new whole fruits, vegetables and superfoods to the table with ease.

Mint + Cacao Smoothie

Mint + Cacao Smoothie

I kid you not, these taste exactly like a mint chocolate chip milkshake. (Just ask my 4-year-old, who is constantly stealing sips from my glass.) What she doesn't know? She's actually getting organic banana, spinach and chlorella with every sip. #momwin

Kabocha + Sage Flatbread

Kabocha + Sage Flatbread

Our family's eating habits have been leaning more plant-forward this year, which often means a lot of veggie washing, peeling and chopping every time I cook. That's why these flatbreads are my new best friend come lunchtime. This Kabocha + Sage Flatbread is made with a gluten-free cauliflower crust topped with kabocha squash, fennel and sage for a taste of fall in every bite. (Missing the cheese? You can add it before baking for more of a pizza feel.)

Kale + Sweet Potato Flatbread

Kale + Sweet Potato Flatbread

There's something about the combination of sweet potato crust topped with red cabbage, organic greens and an herby-cilantro sauce that is so delicious… like surprisingly delicious. I polished off this bad boy in seconds! And unlike other "veggie" crusts I've tried, these are actually clean (AKA no fillers, preservations, partially-hydrogenated oil or artificial anything). Plus, it couldn't be easier to throw in the oven between conference calls and homeschool lessons.

Cacao + Avocado Smoothie

Cacao + Avocado Smoothie

Any time I get to serve a breakfast that tastes like chocolate, it's a good day. (That goes double when it's *my* breakfast.) This rich, chocolatey smoothie is packed with organic zucchini, avocado, pumpkin seeds and pea protein for a nourishing mix of healthy fats and muscle-building protein so I can carry that baby all day long. And did I mention the chocolate?

Vanilla Bean + Apple Chia Bowl

Vanilla Bean + Apple Chia Bowl

Maybe it's just me, but after a long week of cooking, the last thing I want to do on Saturday morning is...wake up and cook. That's why these one-step breakfasts are saving my weekend. I simply add our favorite milk the night before and store the bowl in the fridge overnight. Come morning, I have a nutritious chia bowl that powers me through even the busiest day of errands. It's also Instagram-ready, which makes me feel like I'm out brunching (even if I can't remember the last time I was in a restaurant).

Cacao Nib + Vanilla Bites

Cacao Nib + Vanilla Bites

My kids have turned into snack monsters during quarantine, and I'm often struggling to find a wholesome option (that doesn't require a lot of extra cooking or else I resort to something ultra-refined and shelf-stable). These bites are the hero I never knew I needed. For one, they taste like cookie dough, but they're actually packed with chickpeas, pumpkin, dates and flax seed (among other whole ingredients). But unlike actual cookie dough, I don't have to go anywhere near my mixer to whip them up—all I have to do is pull the container out of the freezer, let them defrost a bit and we can all enjoy a treat.

Cauliflower Rice + Pesto Harvest Bowl

Cauliflower Rice + Pesto Harvest Bowl

Sometimes I have a little more time to cook, but I still want a quick, stress-free solution. (Especially because it always feels like I just cleaned up from the last meal.) I love these Harvest Bowls because they warm up in under five minutes on the stove top (or microwave!) but pack tons of flavor. The Cauliflower Rice + Pesto bowl is one of my favorites, with basil, olive oil and nutritional yeast for a hearty dish reminiscent of a mouth-watering Italian meal. When I'm feeling extra fancy, I add leftover grilled chicken or a fried egg.

Strawberry + Rich, Rippled Berry Compote Scoops

Strawberry + Rich, Rippled Berry Compote Scoops

Who doesn't want to end the day with a little something sweet? This creamy and decadent frozen treat from Daily Harvest is swirled with sweet berries and tropical dragonfruit for an antioxidant burst you'll feel good about—but that your kiddos will just think is ice cream. Go ahead, take credit for being the best mom ever.

Want to try it yourself? You can get $25 off your first box of Daily Harvest with code MOTHERLY.

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

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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A few years ago, while my wife's baby bump got bigger and my daddy reading list grew longer, I felt cautiously optimistic that this parenthood thing would, somehow, suddenly click one day. The baby would come, instincts would kick in, and the transition from established couple to a new family would be tiring but not baffling.

Boy was I wrong.

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