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It was the "lazy morning at home" that by 8 a.m., I knew could no longer be the lazy morning at home. Restless toddlers, arguments over whose cup it was, and a pile of laundry that six little feet were simply not going to let me fold. The kids needed a change of scenery and a place to burn off some energy, and I couldn’t let those unfolded socks taunt me one more minute. We had to get out of the house.


I sent a text to my good friend Kelly on a whim, hoping to have someone join me in the chaos but staying realistic about the chances of a last minute meet up. “We are headed to Jump + Bounce at 10! Are you guys free this morning?”

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A few minutes later my phone lit up. “We are! We will be there!”

Thank goodness! I thought in return. When you’ve simply had too much of your little people and the day is still so young, the prospect of the company of anyone but those little people is incredibly comforting. I quickly grabbed everyone socks, corralled the kids into the car, and promised to stop at Starbucks for apple juice on the way—my way of saying, "Mama needs a venti this morning."

Within 90 minutes, two moms and five kids descended on the local bounce house. We wrangled shoes off excited toddlers and reminded the easily distracted one not to hold in her potty until the last minute. For an hour, Kelly and I chatted in one minute increments, head on a swivel for our kids in the sea of sweaty little people.

“So how was work this week?”

“It was good. Had a big meeting with a potential new client, but I think he enjoyed the presentation and is likely to hire us, so … oh, hang on, ‘Micah! Wait for him, do not climb over him!’ What about you? Anything new?”

“Oh not really. Keeping busy with the usual but I did get … ‘Cannon! Are you stuck? I’m coming buddy.’ Anyway, what was I talking about?”

And so it went the remainder of our time. A sentence here, a bathroom break there, a moment of panic when the two-year-old is out of sight for too long and sweet relief when I see his bright yellow shirt come out from behind the climbing wall. A classic mom-date, catching up and bonding over the shared experience of constant interruption and unfinished sentences.

When it was time to go, my four-year-old, Harper, spotted the balloons. The pink one, to be specific. Once her eyes locked on it I knew exactly what she was thinking. With the adept negotiating skills that seem far too mature for a four-year-old, somehow she convinced her distracted mama to hand over two quarters for a little bit of pink glory. As the sweet bounce house worker handed her the prize, my girl beamed. So much joy for such a little face. With Harper’s balloon in hand, we guided the rest of the crew out the door and toward a sea of various color minivans.

Just after we stepped outside and turned to say goodbye to our friends, toddler-tragedy struck: a gust of wind seized the pink balloon and began to carry it off into the distance. Immediately Harper shrieked in horror and began crying, “My balloon! My balloon!” I didn’t even have a moment to get out any words of consolation to her before friendship showed up.

Without hesitation, Kelly dropped her purse and took off running—no, sprinting— toward the balloon. This was no light breeze, it was wind she was up against, and she gave it her best athletic efforts. We watched as she chased that balloon down the parking lot, onto a sidewalk, near the storefront, and eventually around the back of the building. For a few anxious seconds she was out of sight and we all wondered and hoped she would valiantly return with the prize in hand.

She didn’t. The wind was too much that day. When she came back she knelt down to a sobbing little girl and wrapped her arms around her. “I’m so sorry about your balloon, sweetheart. I tried so hard to catch it.” And she had. She did something in that moment that not even I did.

Harper was still distraught as we squinted our eyes to see a little bit of pink floating high behind the building in the distance, but my heart was full. My friend had just demonstrated the most important level of friendship two moms can ever attain: loving the other one’s kids.

In moments like these, we learn a beautiful truth: love me and I’ll be grateful for your friendship; love my babies, too, and I will do anything in the world for you. I’m not sure many things can do more for a mama’s heart than seeing other people truly love her children.

And not just when they are sweet and innocent, but when they are not.

Harper was very kind and grateful for the balloon that morning, but there have been plenty of times when she has not been so kind and grateful. Kelly would have taken off after that balloon anyway, because she has not reserved unconditional love for only her children, she’s offered it to mine, too. Seeing my friends truly care about my kids and their growing, learning, imperfect and precious hearts makes the world feel a bit safer, and it makes the long days of raising little ones feel a bit sweeter. A mama’s love cannot be replaced, but it can certainly be added to. And that’s the funny thing about math and love: addition feels a lot more like multiplication when we see our friend chase a balloon through a windy parking lot.

A few weeks after the upsetting loss of the pink balloon, Harper and I thought it would be fun to surprise Kelly with her own balloon, to thank her for her heroic efforts. We went to the party store and filled one blue balloon with helium and grabbed a few extra for her boys to blow up themselves. When we arrived at the door, they greeted us with smiles and we all laughed at the memory of a grown woman sprinting through a parking lot, dodging cars and watching for curbs. We handed over the blue balloon to the boys and in the excitement of the moment, someone’s little hands let go of the ribbon and we all jumped at the sound of exploding helium. The moms laughed, the kids cried; we had unintentionally recreated the trauma of that windy day and decided that perhaps balloons would be not be the gift of choice for our little crew.

Some things are meant to last, others aren’t. But friends who truly love your babies: don’t let those ones go.


This story was originally published on Coffee + Crumbs. Check out their book, The Magic of Motherhood, for more heartwarming essays about motherhood, love, and the good kind of heartache.

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There are few kids television shows as successful as PAW Patrol. The Spin Masters series has spawned countless toys and clothing deals, a live show and now, a movie.

That's right mama, PAW Patrol is coming to the big screen in 2021.

The big-screen version of PAW Patrol will be made with Nickelodeon Movies and will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.

"We are thrilled to partner with Paramount and Nickelodeon to bring the PAW Patrol franchise, and the characters that children love, to the big screen," Spin Master Entertainment's Executive Vice President, Jennifer Dodge, announced Friday.

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"This first foray into the arena of feature film marks a significant strategic expansion for Spin Master Entertainment and our properties. This demonstrates our commitment to harnessing our own internal entertainment production teams to develop and deliver IP in a motion picture format and allows us to connect our characters to fans through shared theatrical experiences," Dodge says.

No word on the plot yet, but we're gonna bet there's a problem, 'round Aventure Bay, and Ryder and his team of pups will come and save the day.

We cannot even imagine how excited little PAW Patrol fans will be when this hits theatres in 2021. It's still too early to buy advance tickets but we would if we could!

News

In the middle of that postpartum daze, the sleepless nights, the recovery, the adjustment to a new schedule and learning the cues of a new baby, there are those moments when a new mom might think, I don't know how long I can do this.

Fortunately, right around that time, newborns smile their first real smile.

For many mothers, the experience is heart-melting and soul-lifting. It's a crumb of sustenance to help make it through the next challenges, whether that's sleep training, baby's first cold, or teething. Each time that baby smiles, the mother remembers, I can do this, and it's worth it.

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Dayna M. Kurtz, LMSW, CPT a NYC-based psychotherapist and author of Mother Matters: A Holistic Guide to Being a Happy, Healthy Mom, says she sees this in her clinical practice.

"One mother I worked with recounted her experience of her baby's first smile. At eight weeks postpartum, exhausted and overwhelmed, she remembered her baby smiling broadly at her just before a nighttime feeding," Kurtz says. "In that moment, she was overcome by tremendous joy and relief, and felt, for the first time, a real connection to her son."

So what is it about a baby's smile that can affect a mother so deeply? Can it all be attributed to those new-mom hormones? Perhaps it stems from the survival instincts that connect an infant with its mother, or the infant learning social cues. Or is there something more going on inside our brains?

In 2008, scientists in Houston, TX published their research on the topic. Their study, "What's in a Smile? Maternal Brain Responses to Infant Facial Cues", takes data from the MRI images of 26 women as they observed images of infants smiling, crying, or with a neutral expression.

The images included the mother's own infant alternated with an unknown infant of similar ethnicity and in similar clothing and position. In each image, the baby displayed a different emotion through one of three facial expressions; happy, neutral, or sad. Researchers monitored the change in the mothers' brain activity through the transitions in images from own-infant to unknown-infant, and from happy to neutral to sad and vice versa.

The results?

"When first-time mothers see their own baby's face, an extensive brain network appears to be activated, wherein affective and cognitive information may be integrated and directed toward motor/behavioral outputs," wrote the study's authors. Seeing her infant smile or cry prompts the areas of the brain that would instigate a mother to act, whether it be to comfort, care for, or caress and play with the baby.

In addition, the authors found that reward-related brain regions are activated specifically in response to happy, but not sad, baby faces. The areas of the brain that lit up in their study are the same areas that release dopamine, the "pleasure chemical." For context, other activities that elicit dopamine surges include eating chocolate, having sex, or doing drugs. So in other words, a baby's smile may be as powerful as those other feel-good experiences.

And this gooey feeling moms may get from seeing their babies smile isn't just a recreational high—it serves a purpose.

This reward system (aka dopaminergic and oxytocinergic neuroendocrine system) exists to motivate the mother to forge a positive connection with the baby, according to Aurélie Athan, PhD, director of the Reproductive & Maternal Psychology Laboratory (a laboratory that created the first graduate courses of their kind in these subjects).

These networks also promote a mother's ability to share her emotional state with her child, which is the root of empathy. "A mother cries when baby cries, smiles when baby smiles," Athan says.

While there's a physiological explanation underlying that warm-and-fuzzy sensation elicited by a smile, there may be other factors at play too, Kurtz says.

"In my clinical practice, I often observe a stunning exchange between a mother and her baby when the latter smiles at her. A mother who is otherwise engaged in conversation with me may be, for that moment, entirely redirected to focus on her little one," Kurtz says. "This kind of attention-capturing on the part of the baby can enable and cultivate maternal attunement—a mother's ability to more deeply connect with her infant. The quality of attunement in early childhood often sets the stage for one's relationship patterns in the future."

Whether a physiological response, a neural activation, simple instinct, or the tightening of emotional connection, the feeling generated by babies' smiles is a buoy in the choppy ocean of new parenthood.

And while the first smile may be the most magical by virtue of its surprise and the necessity of that emotional lift, the fuzzy feeling can continue well into that baby's childhood and beyond. It keeps telling parents, you've got this!

[This was originally published on Apparently]

Life

Chrissy Teigen is one of the most famous moms in the world and definitely one of the most famous moms on social media.

She's the Queen of Twitter and at least the Duchess of Instagram but with a massive following comes a massive dose of mom-shame, and Teigen admits the online comments criticizing her parenting affects her.

"It's pretty much everything," Teigen told Today, noting that the bulk of the criticism falls into three categories: How she feeds her kids, how she uses her car seats and screen time.

"Any time I post a picture of them holding ribs or eating sausage, I get a lot of criticism," she explained. "Vegans and vegetarians are mad and feel that we're forcing meat upon them at a young age. They freak out."

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Teigen continues: "If they get a glimpse of the car seat there is a lot of buckle talk. Maybe for one half of a second, the strap slipped down. And TV is another big one. We have TV on a lot in my house. John and I work on television; we love watching television."

Teigen wants the shame to stop, not just for herself but for all the other moms who feel it. (And we agree.)

"Hearing that nine out of 10 moms don't feel like they're doing a good enough job is terrible," she said. "We're all so worried that we're not doing all that we can, when we really are."

The inspiration for Teigen talking publicly about mom-shame may be in part because of her participation in Pampers' "Share the Love" campaign. But even though Teigen's discussion coincides with this campaign, the message remains equally important. Advertising can be a powerful tool for shifting the way society thinks about what's "normal" and we would much rather see companies speaking out against mom-shame than inducing it to sell more stuff.

Calling out mom-shame in our culture is worth doing in our lives, our communities and yes, our diaper commercials. Thank you Chrissy (and thank you, Pampers).

News

Dear fellow mama,

I was thinking about the past the other day. About the time I had three small boys—a newborn, his 2-year-old brother and his 5-year-old brother.

How I was always drowning.

How I could never catch my breath between the constant requests.

How I always felt guilty no matter how hard I tried.

How hard it was—the constant exhaustion, struggling to keep my home any kind of clean or tidy, how I struggled to feed my kids nutritious meals, to bathe them and clean them and keep them warmly dressed in clean clothing, to love them well or enough or well enough.

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Those years were some of the toughest years I have ever encountered.

But mama, I am here to tell you that it doesn't last forever. Slowly, incrementally, without you even noticing, it gets easier. First, one child is toilet trained, then the bigger one can tie his own shoelaces, then finally they are all sleeping through the night.

It's hard to imagine; I really really get it.

It is going to get easier. I swear it. I'm not saying that there won't be new parenting challenges, that it won't be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life. It will be. But it will get easier.

These days, all of my kids get the bus to school and back. Most of them dress themselves. They can all eat independently and use the toilet. Sometimes they play with each other for hours leaving me time to do whatever I need to do that day.

I sleep through the night. I am not constantly in a haze of exhaustion. I am not overwhelmed by three tiny little people needing me to help them with their basic needs, all at the same time.

I can drink a hot cup of coffee. I do not wish with every fiber of my being that I was an octopus, able to help each tiny person at the same time.

I am not tugged in opposite directions. I don't have to disappoint my 3-year-old who desperately wants to play with me while I am helping his first grade bother with his first grade reading homework.

And one day, you will be here too.

It's going to get easier. I promise. And while it may not happen today or even next week or even next month, it will happen. And you will look around in wonder at the magnificent people you helped to create and nurture and sustain.

Until then, you are stronger and more resilient than you can even imagine.

You've got this. Today and always.

Love,

A fellow mama

Life
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