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My friend gave me 5 bags of hand-me-downs—and it was such a bittersweet gift

The amount of stuff was staggering. There were five giant bags of t-shirts, printed onesies, and pants with faces on the seat. There were boxes of tiny shoes and a box of wooden toys. Half of it still had the tags on.

My friend gave me 5 bags of hand-me-downs—and it was such a bittersweet gift

I went through my son's clothes today. He's past the point where size and age are measured in months, so the 18- and 24-month clothes had to go. They've been replaced by brand new 2Ts with slogans announcing his potential for trouble. Meanwhile, the last vestiges of babyhood go in a box.

The process made me sad, but not for the reasons one might think. Yes, there was a tinge of “Gee, they grow up so fast." But the reason I mourned was because for the last two years, my son has been wearing the clothes of a little boy who never got to wear them.

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My friend Kelsea lost her son Sam just after his first birthday. After years of trying for another child, she and her husband decided they were done. They packed up every baby thing in the house and gave it all to me, knowing my three-month-old could use it.

The amount of stuff was staggering. There were five giant bags of t-shirts, printed onesies, and pants with faces on the seat. There were boxes of tiny shoes and a box of wooden toys. Half of it still had the tags on.

I can't imagine how much it hurt for her to go through each item – battling the memories and the what ifs. But Kelsea delivered it without a tear. Instead, she hugged me and said she was glad to help.

And she has helped. In fact, I wonder if she knows what her gift has done for me. Beyond the money I've saved, the effects of her generosity have been both profound and unexpected.

For one thing, her gift has made me a participant in her grief. I love my friend and I mourned with her when she lost her son. But I doubt her little boy would be so constantly on my mind had she not given me his clothes.

Now there isn't a day I don't think about Sam. I wonder how he'd look in the three-piece suit my son wears to church. I think about how the orange tee with the bike decal would set off Sam's dark coloring. I imagine how much my friend looked forward to seeing him in the Superman shirt my son adores. It keeps his loss fresh in my mind. I can only imagine how Kelsea manages not to collapse under the weight of it.

The clothes are also a reminder of how lucky I am. My son is alive and healthy and mine. So many women can't say that. I'm not sure why the destroying angel has passed by my door, but I'm thankful every single day.

While this new understanding doesn't make me “enjoy every moment" – you'd have to be a masochist to enjoy some days – it does make me more aware of this thing called motherhood. Yes, I have days of absolute mayhem and chaos. I have days when I wonder how I'll make to bedtime and whether this motherhood gig wasn't a colossal mistake.

But even the worst day is sprinkled with tiny bits of incandescent joy. There are sticky kisses and garbled attempts at “I love you." There are cuddles and laughter my friend will never know. And because of that, I feel like I have to relish those moments for both of us. I owe it to Kelsea and women like her to at least be conscious of what I have.

As my son's new clothing goes into circulation and the last of Sam's clothes go into a box, I'm pleased to see these lessons have stayed with me. I continue to grieve with those who've lost children, whether through death or infertility or custody battles. I send notes on birthdays and holidays to women mourning their babies. And I hold my own children a little tighter and grump a little less when they ask for one more story or one more cuddle.

I will always be grateful for Kelsea's gift. Because of her generosity, I've become more of the mother I think we both wish we could be.

This year many of us have a tighter budget than usual given (looks around) everything that has happened. Coupled with the uncertainty of what Halloween might look like, many of us are reluctant to spend money on brand new costumes that our kids will outgrow by next year. I get it. But I also know that many, like me, love Halloween so much. I thought about skipping the celebration this year, but that just feels like too big of a disappointment in an already disappointing year.

That's why I started looking into alternative costumes—something my kids will be able to wear once the clock hits November, and maybe even hand down to siblings and cousins in the coming years. At the same time, I'm not a DIY person, so I wanted outfits that didn't require any sewing or hot glue. Last year I attempted using one to build my son's Care Bear costume, and of course, I burnt my hand.

So with some creativity (and the brainpower of my colleagues), we came up with these costumes that are both fun and practical, made with items that your children will be able to (and want to!) wear year around:

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Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.



Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com 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 support Motherly and mamas.

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My 3-year-old is eating peanut butter toast with banana for breakfast (his request), and we are officially running late for preschool. We need to get in the car soon if we want to miss the morning traffic, but he has decided that he no longer wants the food that he begged for two minutes earlier. What started off as a relatively calm breakfast has turned into a battle of wills.

"You're going to be hungry," I say, realizing immediately that he could care less. I can feel my frustration rising, and even though I'm trying to stay calm, I'm getting snappy and irritable. In hindsight, I can see so many opportunities that fell through the cracks to salvage this morning, but at the moment… there was nothing.

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