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And then she turned 11, and nothing was ever the same.

This year, my oldest daughter Sara* celebrated her 11th birthday, and what a difference a year makes! So many changes in such little time, and in every way one could imagine. Sara doesn’t only look different than she did a year ago (read: taller), but she also acts, reacts, and thinks differently as well. Over the past year, I’ve often wondered where my little girl has gone, and who this young lady in her place even is!

Parenting “Sara the adolescent” has indeed had its challenges, though overall, my experience has been overwhelmingly positive to date, as well as an incredible learning experience for both of us. As I navigated the complex, unfamiliar waters of pre-teen parenting this year, one truth has stood out above all others: As my daughter evolves and grows, my parenting must do the same. I truly believe this notion is paramount in order for a mother-daughter relationship to remain strong.

So, how did my parenting change? In at least five ways I can think of. While many of these changes appear small, don’t be fooled; the overall effect has been tremendously beneficial to us both. What may seem to be one small step for Mom, has felt like one giant leap to my daughter, and in turn, to our relationship.

1 | Every request deserves consideration

Recently, Sara expressed an interest in staying home alone while I went to the dentist, which she has done in the past many times. However this time, there was a twist to her request: She wanted to babysit her three-year-old sister Summer* as well.

My first instinct was to say, “No way.” Summer is a high-energy, not-yet-potty trained, at-times-defiant preschooler. Out of respect for Sara, however, I decided to feign consideration of the idea, though I was sure my answer would be no. In discussing all that’s involved in babysitting Summer, Sara repeatedly assured me that yes, she could change a poop diaper if she had to, no, she wouldn’t attempt to cook, and yes, she could 100 percent handle this. Due to her persistence and enthusiasm, I found myself seriously considering this. After laying out specific rules, setting check-in times via text, and giving Summer a “listen to your sister” pep talk, I was as astonished as Sara was when I agreed to let her do this. And to my delight, she (and her sister) did great! All because I took a moment to consider Sara’s request, instead of immediately waving it off with a “no.”

2 | Every frustration isn’t always my concern

With my three-year-old, every bump, bruise, and disappointment requires immediate, absolute attention from me. And I get it: Emotion control and secure attachments to parents are still developing at Summer’s age, thus when Summer cries because her Frozen bathing suit is in the washing machine, I will hold her until she’s okay.

However, by age 11, in certain situations, its time to learn how to deal.

The night that Sara lost both her favorite headband and the book she was reading, coupled with the fact that I wouldn’t dye her hair at 9 p.m., led to my daughter’s eyes filling with tears as she collapsed on my bed in a heap.

Oh, the drama!

Considering the fact that she spent the whole day watching television, and the issues popped up a half-hour before bedtime – let’s just say that my sympathy meter wasn’t exactly on high. Though I wasn’t going to play into her drama, I didn’t want to make her feel worse, either. So I used humor to diffuse the situation.

With a sincere smile, I took a moment to both introduce and explain the phrase “first world problems” to my daughter. After a few moments of silence and thought, Sara began to laugh, as did I, and with a giggly hug all was again right in her world, and she found the missing items less than 10 minutes later.

3 | Mother knows best most of – but not all of – the time

As much as I dislike admitting it, there have been times where I’ve argued with Sara, and to my astonishment, I found myself actually in the wrong. Though it has always been extremely difficult for me to admit when I’m wrong, I make sure to do it every time it happens with my daughter. Why? Its simple: My daughter deserves to know.

Winning a (polite and respectfully argued) disagreement has been incredibly empowering to Sara, as well as a teachable moment where I choose to lead by example. By admitting I am wrong and she is right, I am also attempting to teach Sara to do the same. Has it worked? A little. She has begrudgingly conceded a few times, though I’d still label our current status as a “work in progress.”

4 | My gut sets the rules – not the crowd

With young children, parents often look to their peers to ensure what their doing is “right.” Heck, I still do that now, with my three-year-old. However, by age 11, while I may still survey my peers, I’m less inclined to simply “do what they do.”

Pre-teen issues are complex, often with more than one possible “solution,” and with stakes that can be tremendously high. For example, my 11-year-old is not allowed on social media. Most kids her age currently are, a fact that Sara has informed me of numerous times. However, I don’t feel she’s ready to handle social media at 11 years old.

Now I could go along with what everyone else seems to allow and let her have an Instagram, which I’m sure would make her very happy. However, my gut tells me no – the possible consequences are not worth the risk in my mind. Thus when I hear the phrase “everybody else does it,” my response is sorry babe, but I truly do not care.

5 | I’m her mom, not her friend – but sometimes I can be her buddy

My kid has lots of friends, but she only has one mother, and she doesn’t need me to be just another friend. However, just because I’m Sara’s mom doesn’t mean I can’t sometimes be her buddy too! Scheduling mother-daughter time has always been important to both of us, especially since her little sister came along. And at age 11 our mother-daughter time often consists of activities that interest both of us, instead of activities that just Sara likes.

We’ve attended rock concerts and Broadway shows, we’ve had in-depth book discussions on novels we’ve both read, and we’ve watched movies together that we both have wanted to see. It’s truly twice as much fun as before, as now I enjoy not only the company, but also the activity we do as well. Sharing my interests and passions with Sara this year has been an absolute blast for us both.

My daughter’s journey through the pre-teen and teen years has only just begun, and I am well aware that the future is uncertain. Can I predict all the possible challenges I will face in the coming years ahead? No! Right now, all I can do is to try my best to evolve as a parent while she grows, striving to give her the best balance of guidance and autonomy I can.

How am I doing? So far, I think I’m doing pretty well.

*Names have been changed

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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When you're feeding multiple kiddos and figuring out meals for your own lunch and dinner, it can be difficult to find options that fit the bill for everyone. Our secret? Great kitchen gadgets and basics that make meal planning a breeze.

From the Instant Pot (yes, it's *totally* worth it!) to a cast iron pan, we rounded up some of our favorite kitchen basics every parent needs in their kitchen.

Make sure to add them to your cart today before Prime Day ends at midnight PT!

Ninja blender

Okay, so you might already have a blender—but you don't have a Ninja. It does everything from crushing ice for cocktails to pureeing baby's food and making hearty smoothies for everyone else. We love the sleek design that won't be an eye sore on any countertop.

Ninja Blender, Amazon, $49.99 (regularly $86.95)


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When model Mara Martin was one of 16 finalists selected to walk in the 2018 Sports Illustrated Swim Search show, she was thrilled to fulfill a lifelong dream. And when she woke up the day after the show to see that she and her baby daughter had made headlines around the world, she was thrilled all over again.

Martin breastfed her 5-month-old daughter Aria while walking in the runway, and the story spread quickly.

"It is truly so humbling and unreal to say the least," Martin wrote in an Instagram post Monday. "I'm so grateful to be able to share this message and hopefully normalize breastfeeding and also show others that women CAN DO IT ALL! But to be honest, the real reason I can't believe it is a headline is because it shouldn't be a headline!!! My story of being a mother and feeding her while walking is just that."

SI Swimsuit Editor MJ Day says the breastfeeding moment wasn't planned in advance, but it worked out wonderfully. Day was speaking with the models backstage when she noticed Aria was peacefully nursing away. Having breastfed her own two children, Day recognized this as a powerful moment in the making, according to SI Swimsuit.

"I asked Mara if she would want to walk and continue to nurse. She said 'Oh my gosh, yes! Really? Are you sure?', and I said absolutely! I loved the idea to be able to allow Mara to keep nursing and further highlight how incredible and beautiful women are," Day explained.

Martin hopes that her moment in the spotlight can help other mamas feel comfortable nursing when and where they feel like it, but she doesn't want to overshadow some of the other women who took part in the show.

"One woman is going to boot camp in two weeks to serve our country," she wrote. "One woman had a mastectomy (@allynrose), and another is a cancer survivor, 2x paralympic gold medalist, as well as a mother herself (@bren_hucks you rock) Those are the stories that our world should be discussing!!!!"

And thanks to Martin's powerful motherhood moment, now, people are.

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Dear Jeff Bezos and all who have anything to do with Amazon Prime Day,

I just want to start by saying—I know you are trying to be helpful. I love you all for that. I honestly do. But, you are kind of making me feel a lot of pressure today. Like, in a good way, but also, in an anxious way.

Let me explain…

On any given day, as a mother to three children, I have a certain level of anxiety. While it's not constant, I do have my anxious moments. Why? Because there are various versions of the following: Me asking my two older daughters to get their shoes on what feels like 500 times as I am changing my 9-month-old's very, very, very messy diaper while I am trying to figure out what I can throw on to wear in about five seconds while I am repeating brush your teeth, brush your teeth in my head so I, in fact, don't forget to brush my teeth.

Not even to mention the mental load that weighs on my mind every single day. Remember to flip the laundry, fill out the school forms, cancel that appointment, reschedule this appointment, order more diapers, figure out what we're having for dinner, squeeze in a shower, lock the basement door so the baby can't get down the stairs, find better eczema cream for my middle daughter, get more sunscreen...the list goes on and on and on.

But then you Amazon Prime Day me and I'm having a lot of feelings about that.

Because you're reminding me of things I need to order, to think about, to be on top of more.

The little potty that's on sale reminds me that I need to step up my potty training game for my 2-year-old. That super cute dollhouse reminds me that I need to think about my daughter's first birthday in two months (WHAT!). That face mask reminds me that I need to remember to wash my face before bed because I forget waaaay more than I remember which is terrible.

But then I realize, these deals are going to save my mental load by fixing my life. Right?

Like, I never knew I needed an Instant Pot until you told me it was only $58. Now I am scouring Pinterest for meals I want to prep in my own. THIS POT IS THE TICKET TO GETTING MY LIFE IN ORDER.

Do we need more plates and cups for the kids? I mean really they only probably need about two plates and two cups each but YES. Yes I do need more cute kids kitchenware. THESE PLATES ARE THE TICKET TO BEING A GOOD MOM.

What would I do if I had five Echo Dots? I don't know, but let's find out because they're only $29! THESE DOTS ARE THE TICKET TO EFFICIENCY.

If I order a Vitamix at 30% off, I know I'll lose the baby weight. Think of all the smoothies I'll mix up! I mean, I just lost a pound even thinking about the smoothies that thing can whip up. THIS VITAMIX IS THE TICKET TO A SEXY BOD.

Buying this trendy, floral dress will step up my mom style significantly. THIS DRESS IS THE TICKET TO KEEPING MY COOL.

Okay, then after I add all the fixers to my cart, I realize… I have 99 things, but necessity ain't one.

I mean, I have everything from waterproof band-aids to bras to dresses for myself and my kids to an alarm clock and books. I basically feel like Oprah—You get an Audible subscription! You get an Audible subscription!—but instead of these products magically being paid for by Queen O herself, the money is coming from my bank account, which is a lot less fun of a game, TBH.

And if I am being honest, I don't need much help with my order-things-from-Amazon-and-pretend-it's-being-paid-for-with-Monopoly-money game as I am quite often coming home to an Amazon package wondering what it could be, opening it with the enthusiasm of a kid on Christmas morning—even though I am the exact person who ordered whatever is inside of that Amazon box.

But today, on Amazon Prime Day, you tempt me with all the deals. And yes, my anxiety, blood pressure and adrenaline rise. And yes, my bank account might temporarily decrease—BUT if we are being fair, with the savings I'm getting on things I would buy anyway, I am basically making our account increase overall. Right?

And while these things aren't going to make me skinnier, or cooler, or more put together—I'm okay with that. I am doing a pretty good job on my own. But some of them will actually help my life in a few different ways at a reasonable price, and I am grateful for that—for real.

Now, Bezos, please end this 404 error nonsense and let me purchase all the things!

Thank you for all the savings and excitement,

Mamas everywhere

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Usually when celebrities post swimsuit photos on Instagram they don't exactly look like your average beach-going mom, but former Bachelorette (and mom of two) Ali Fedotowsky posted a series of bikini photos on Monday that are both beautiful and relatable.

"This might be my most vulnerable post on Instagram ever," she wrote in the caption for the photos which show a postpartum belly that looks like a real postpartum belly.

"At the end of the day, I know it's important to be open and honest about my postpartum body in hopes that it helps even one person out there who is struggling with their own body image," Fedotowsky (who just gave birth to her second child in May) wrote.

In the first photo of the series she's wearing a sarong around her stomach, but in the second and third photos Fedotowsky reveals the kind of stomach many mamas sport: It's not perfectly taut, she's not showing off any abs, but it is definity beautiful.

"If you swipe to see the second photo in this post, you see that my body has changed. My skin around my stomach is very loose and stretched out, I'm 15lbs heavier than I used to be, and my cup size has grown quite significantly," Fedotowsky writes.

The photos are a sponsored post for Lilly and Lime Swimwear (a line made for women with larger busts) but that doesn't mean it wasn't brave. In fact, the fact that it's an ad makes it even more amazing because research shows that when advertising only shows us bodies that don't look like our own, women become "generally more dissatisfied with their body and appearance".

Ali Fedotowsky

On her blog Fedotowsky notes that a lot of comments on her previous Instagram posts have been followers remarking how slim she looks, or how much they wish they looked like she does postpartum. By dropping that sarong and showing her tummy Fedotowsky is showing other mothers that there is nothing wrong with their own.

"While I appreciate the positive comments, you guys are always so good to me, I keep trying to explain that I'm just good at picking out clothes that flatter my body and hide my tummy," she wrote on her blog.

"I bounced back pretty quickly after I gave birth to Molly. But things are different this time and I'm OK with that. I'm learning to love my body and embrace how it's changed. I hope I get back to my pre-pregnancy shape one day, but that may never happen. And if it doesn't, that's OK."

Ali Fedotowsky

It is okay, because our bodies are more than our swimsuit selfies. They the vessels that carry us through life and carry our children and provide a safe, warm place for those children feel love.

Loose skin is a beautiful thing.

Thanks for keeping it real, Ali.

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