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Here you are, walking down the aisle toward freedom. Congratulations and I wish you the very best in taking your next step into your adult life! May I offer you some advice? These things, you simply need to know.  


You now have the power to create the life you want

Yes, you do! No matter what has happened in your past, it does not need to dictate your future. You can make choices that will build any path you desire. Hold on to that truth and you can make your life anything you dream it to be. This is your beginning, your birth into being an adult, and you alone can make your life everything you want it to be.  

Life is unfair

You may already know this, but I promise you that you will continue to face many things in life that are unfair. This world is a broken place, and because we live in it, things go wrong- often. If you can accept this now, you will be better able to handle much of what comes your way. The reality is that you will have to endure difficult situations, some out of your control… be prepared to accept them as they come, and learn to navigate through these tumultuous turns with rational reasoning and inner strength. Find the support you need through people you trust, and find strength in knowing you are not alone.

 

 

Be responsible for your actions!  

From this moment on, YOU are accountable for who you are. Not your parents, your teachers, your peers or anyone you would so easily like to blame for your mistakes. No one is to blame but you, so don’t make excuses. Own it, because that is part of growing up. Make amends, adjustments, and decisions that allow you to correct your choices, and do it with conviction.  

You have the freedom to define who you are

No one else owns you, only you. You can choose to create your own identity and live it! Don’t allow others to define you, rather build your own voice and make decisions that support it. Other people will always have their opinions about you, but you have the ability to allow them to matter, or not. As you grow older and your life evolves, so will your definition. Treasure it like a cherished gem. Alter it when necessary and honor it always. Don’t let anyone take that away from you.

There is no easy out

Seriously. If you find yourself stuck in a difficult situation, usually the only way out of it is through it. Be courageous and honest. Face the hard conversations and take responsible action. I promise it’s worth traveling that tough terrain. You will ultimately triumph with newfound strength and insight for meeting that challenge. You will also develop integrity, the ultimate trait you will have earned. The consequence of handling conflicts responsibly is having the peace in knowing you did the best you could.  

You will fail

A lot. Failure is a part of life. Period. You will regret many choices you make, and perhaps some may have lasting consequences. Always remember, you can learn from it. Every failure has something useful for you to gain. Give yourself grace, because you are human. Make sure you are able to make amends where needed, and move forward with the new insight and knowledge you gained from that experience.  

Find your passion

You may be wondering about your future dreams and goals, as most graduates do. If you already have your ideas and formed your plans, embrace them! Take those mighty steps toward them! If you don’t know just yet, please don’t worry!  You’re still so young; you have so much time to discover what you love. Also, passions sometimes change as you grow older and learn more about this world and who you are. Always allow yourself to birth new loves in your life. You never have to be stuck in one dream. Remember, you are in charge of your life and who you are- so make decisions as you go, according to your heart. You’ll be much happier if you honor it.

Respect this world and the people in it

You may not fully understand the complexities of this vast glorious earth, but as time goes on you will. Don’t take it for granted, it is as fragile as the blade of grass you pluck. If you don’t care for it, it will die. Period. Honor this globe, don’t take it for granted, and don’t destroy it with carelessness. As for the people living in this world, they are valuable and worthy of your utmost respect. No matter who they are, what they believe or where they live. Every human being matters. Don’t disregard anyone as less valuable than the next.  

Life is hard work

You must learn this lesson: In order to live a successful life, you must put forth the effort. Period. You want a good job? Train yourself, get an education, start at the bottom, like many do, to get there. You want good friends? Be a good friend. You want to be respected? Be respectful. Nobody owes you anything, you may think they do, but they don’t. You have to make the life you want. Don’t wait for it, thinking it will come to you and you are entitled to it. You have to earn it. Plain and simple. If, by chance, you are handed a great opportunity, embrace it and call yourself incredibly lucky.  

Don’t give up

You will be faced with conflicts and circumstances that can either raise you higher or kick you lower. It’s up to you to take the steps up. Life gets ugly, terrifying, cruel, and downright difficult… but hold on! The stuff you endure, will inevitably be the stuff that takes you to a new and fulfilling level of living. Life gets richer with adversity. No one is without hardship. Don’t let it take you down so low you can’t get back up. You will always find purpose in your pain, if you’re open to finding it. Each trial you go through brings forth a greater gratitude to savor. You’ll see…

Believe in yourself

You may not know the plan for your life just yet. You might feel anxious about your future. Perhaps you don’t have a clue what you want to do, or who you want to be, or where you want to go… that’s okay. You are still so young! You have so much time to figure it all out. Don’t feel like you have to have it all perfectly planned. Trust that in time, you will discover your dreams and find purpose in your life. If you do have a plan, and know exactly who you want to be, please remain open to the possibility of change. You may feel differently about your dreams, and that’s okay. One of the greatest gifts this life has to offer each and every one of us, is the freedom to reinvent our goals and begin again.

Each day will offer you more opportunities, if you look for them

Keep your eyes and heart open, and don’t ever give up on yourself. You are the only you there is. Cherish who you are, love yourself, right where you are at in your life, always. You will be with you for the rest of your life, so be your own best friend. As you begin this journey in creating a life for yourself, the greatest joy will come from within. Don’t look for it or depend on it from anyone or search for it anywhere else.

This moment? Is the first moment of the rest of your life. Every single moment that you are alive is a blessing. It’s hard at your age to truly get that, but you need to. Make it count.  

Make them all count…

For something.

This article was previously published on themomcafe.com

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Unstructured play is play without predetermined rules of the game. There are no organized teams, uniforms, coaches or trainers. It is spontaneous, often made-up on the spot, and changeable as the day goes on. It is the kind of play you see when puppies chase each other around a yard in endless circles or a group of kids play for hours in a fort they created out of old packing boxes.

Unstructured play is fun—no question about it—but research also tells us that it is critically important for the development of children's bodies and brains.

One of the best ways to encourage unstructured play in young children is by providing open-ended toys, or toys that can be used multiple ways. People Toy Company knows all about that. Since 1977, they've created toys and products designed to naturally encourage developmental milestones—but to kids, it all just feels like play.

Here are five reasons why unstructured play is crucial for your children—

1. It changes brain structure in important ways

In a recent interview on NPR's Morning Edition, Sergio Pellis, Ph.D., an expert on the neuroscience of play noted that play actually changes the structure of the developing brain in important ways, strengthening the connections of the neurons (nerve cells) in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain considered to be the executive control center responsible for solving problems, making plans and regulating emotions.

Because unstructured play involves trying out different strategies without particular goals or serious consequences, children and other animals get to practice different activities during play and see what happens. When Dr. Pellis compared rats who played as pups with rats that did not, he found that although the play-deprived rats could perform the same actions, the play-experienced rats were able to react to their circumstances in a more flexible, fluid and swift fashion.

Their brains seemed more "plastic" and better able to rewire as they encountered new experiences.

Hod Lipson, a computer scientist at Cornell sums it up by saying the gift of play is that it teaches us how to deal with the unexpected—a critically important skill in today's uncertain world.

2. Play activates the entire neocortex

We now know that gene expression (whether a gene is active or not) is affected by many different things in our lives, including our environment and the activities we participate in. Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D., a Professor at the University of Washington studied play in rats earning him the nickname of the "rat tickler."

He found that even a half hour of play affected the activity of many different genes and activated the outer part of the rats' brains known as the neocortex, the area of the brain used in higher functions such as thinking, language and spatial reasoning. We don't know for sure that this happens in humans, but some researchers believe that it probably does.

3. It teaches children to have positive interaction with others

It used to be thought that animal play was simply practice so that they could become more effective hunters. However, Dr. Panksepp's study of play in rats led him to the conclusion that play served an entirely different function: teaching young animals how to interact with others in positive ways. He believed that play helps build pro-social brains.

4. Children who play are often better students

The social skills acquired through play may help children become better students. Research has found that the best predictor of academic performance in the eighth grade was a child's social skills in the third grade. Dr. Pellis notes that "countries where they actually have more recess tend to have higher academic performance than countries where recess is less."

5. Unstructured play gets kids moving

We all worry that our kids are getting too little physical activity as they spend large chunks of their time glued to their electronic devices with only their thumbs getting any exercise. Unstructured play, whether running around in the yard, climbing trees or playing on commercial play structures in schools or public parks, means moving the whole body around.

Physical activity helps children maintain a healthy weight and combats the development of Type 2 diabetes—a condition all too common in American children—by increasing the body's sensitivity to the hormone insulin.

It is tempting in today's busy world for parents and kids to fill every minute of their day with structured activities—ranging from Spanish classes before school to soccer and basketball practice after and a full range of special classes and camps on the weekends and summer vacation. We don't remember to carve out time for unstructured play, time for kids to get together with absolutely nothing planned and no particular goals in mind except having fun.

The growing body of research on the benefits of unstructured play suggests that perhaps we should rethink our priorities.

Not sure where to get started? Here are four People Toy Company products that encourage hours of unstructured play.

1. People Blocks Zoo Animals

These colorful, magnetic building blocks are perfect for encouraging unstructured play in children one year and beyond. The small pieces fit easily in the hands of smaller children, and older children will love creating their own shapes and designs with the magnetic pieces.

People Blocks Zoo Animals 17 Piece Set, People Toy Company, $34.99

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This article was sponsored by People Toy Company. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Mamas have a hard time carving out time for themselves. Our families almost always take priority, meaning things like skincare can easily fall by the wayside. Even though studies have shown the benefits of caring for ourselves also benefit our babies benefit our babies, it often feels just one more task to add to our to-do list.

Fortunately, it's possible to skip extensive routines and start small. If you have just five minutes (or more!) to spare for yourself this week, try these self-care products you can sneak during nap time or after you finally get the little ones down for the night.

If you only have 5 minutes: Remove your makeup

One of the most important ways to care for your skin at the end of the day is removing your makeup. Start with a cleansing towelette to easily wipe away even stubborn mascara and eyeliner so you can go to bed with a clean slate.

Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes, Amazon, 2-pk $8.97

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If you have 10 minutes (or more): Use a jade facial roller

After cleansing, use this jade roller to gently massage your face to boost collagen, flush out toxins and improve circulation in your skin.

Jade Facial Roller, Amazon, $11.99

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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Chrissy Teigen has been very open about the ways pregnancy has changed her body. Mom to 2-year-old Luna and 4-month-old Miles, Teigen—a former swimsuit model—has famously embraced her postpartum body (stretchies and all), while noting that she's still, at times, insecure about it, but she's not ashamed.

That's why, when a man on Twitter commented on a photo of Teigen's red carpet look for the Emmy's to ask the whole wide world (and Teigen herself, he tagged her) if she was pregnant again, Teigen was quick to shut down the shamer.

"I'm asking this with the utmost respectful [sic], but is @chrissyteigen pregnant again?" The man wrote.

"I just had a baby but thank you for being soooo respectful," Teigen replied (from the Emmys).


Fellow moms were quick to jump to Teigen's defense. Many pointed out that Teigen actually looks incredible for any human, let alone one who is four months postpartum. Other mamas were quick to chime in with stories about their own lingering baby bumps.

For a lot of women, our bodies are different after having a baby. Sometimes that means we're a little rounder in the middle than we used to be. It happens to almost everyone, even red carpet-walking A-listers, like Teigen and actress Jennifer Garner, who once told Ellen Degeneres that she would have a bump forever.

"I am not pregnant, but I have had three kids and there is a bump," Garner explained in 2014, after paparazzi photographs fueled speculation that she and Ben Affleck were expecting a fourth child. "Forever and ever, not another baby. Just a bump like a camel. But just in reverse," Garner jokes.

Like Garner, Teigen dealt with the pregnancy question with a sense of humor, but she shouldn't have had to defend her body from the Emmys. As many, many Twitter users pointed out to the man who asked, it's never cool to ask a woman if she is pregnant.

It's not polite to ask, and it's no one's business whether a woman's bump is a pregnancy, some fabric, a burrito, a weird shadow or (as in Teigen's case) basically a figment of someone's imagination.

A lot of mamas online last night chimed in to say that while Teigen's stomach doesn't look like it did in her Sports Illustrated days, it still looks pretty freaking amazing.

Yes, after two kids, Chrissy Teigen doesn't look like a swimsuit model. But she shouldn't have to. She's not a swimsuit model anymore. She is a cookbook author with her own Target line and she hosts a hilarious TV show. She's also a mother. She is so much more than her midsection.

"Honestly, I don't ever have to be in a swimsuit again," she recently told Women's Health. "Since I was 20 years old, I had this weight in my mind that I am, or that I'm supposed to be. I've been so used to that number for 10 years now. And then I started realizing it was a swimsuit-model weight. There's a very big difference between wanting to be that kind of fit and wanting to be happy-fit."

Teigen is happy with her body, and we're happy she spent Emmy night educating the internet about respecting women.

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As parents, we often put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make sure our babies' brains are developing as quickly as possible. But the irony is, for many years the best way our little ones can learn and grow is through play. In fact, research has shown that reading stories, playing simple games, and engaging with toys is one of the best ways to boost baby's brain development for years to come.

It's those kind of findings that fuels the work at People Toy Company, a Japanese-based toy company that believes in encouraging the natural development of children through research-backed toys. Every toy in their line is developed to make playtime engaging for parents and children alike while helping little ones achieve developmental milestones through play.

Here are 10 of our favorite toys for engaging little minds and encouraging motor development from baby's first weeks and beyond.

TOYS TO STIMULATE LITTLE BRAINS BEFORE 6 MONTHS

1. Mochi Double Pendant Necklace (newborn on)

It's a fact of life that babies love to explore their world with their mouths. Save your jewelry by swapping in this teething necklace made from rice. Babies will love the easy-to-hold shape and textured design—you'll love the neutral color palette that goes with any outfit.

Mochi Double Pendant Necklace, Amazon, $15.99

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TOYS TO STIMULATE LITTLE BRAINS AFTER 6 MONTHS

1. Magic Reflection Ball (6 month)

Encourage independent play from six months on with this constantly changing reflection ball. Use the suction cup to attach it to different smooth surfaces to encourage pulling up and standing later on.

People Magic Reflection Ball, Amazon, $8.99

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This article was sponsored by People Toy Company. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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