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As an overly educated, slightly neurotic, woman who gave birth to my daughter while in my forties, I assumed that I’d be the one to teach my child the secrets of the universe; as opposed to the other way around.


When I was eight months pregnant, a group of Tibetan monks performed at the charter school where my husband, Victor, taught. After the Yak Dance, I was invited to eat lunch with the monks, who appeared genuinely delighted by my large belly. Even though I am not at all religious by nature, I found myself transfixed by their calm, spiritual presence and constant smiles. Before they departed, I asked if they would mind saying a prayer for my child-to-be.

Immediately the lot of them stood in a circle around me, chanting indecipherable prayers, the deep bass of their voices reverberating over and through me. When at last they quieted, I thanked them with a bow and silently hoped that their seemingly magical benedictions had touched my baby; not that I believed in such things.

Our daughter, Loy, was born a few weeks later, and when I first held her, I called her my “Buddha Baby,” causing the delivery room nurses to wonder if the long labor I’d just endured had left me in a fugue state.

When Loy was three, she desperately wanted to be a giraffe for Halloween, so putting aside any Martha Stewart-like craftiness that might have lurked in my genetic code, I bought her an off-the-rack giraffe costume at a K-Mart. Just as we were leaving the house to go trick-or- treating Loy slipped on the front porch steps and skidded across the concrete, the right side of her face taking most of the impact.

We took her inside and cleaned up her tears and blood and slapped on a few bandages. She looked as if she’d been in a bar fight and lost.

Of course, I wanted to cancel the outing so that I could fret and worry as I cuddled her to my chest, but when Victor asked her if she wanted to skip the outing, she looked at him as if he’d just asked her to recite the first line from the Iliad. “No, Daddy,” she replied as she stood up and made for the front door. “I want the candy.”

As we wandered in and out of the downtown shops watching our toddler politely beg treats from the proprietors, more than a few adults gasped when they saw Loy’s face. “Oh my god, you are so scary-looking,” a woman holding the hand of a small princess said. “What a great costume.”

That this idiot believed we’d purposely dressed our child as a wounded giraffe so incensed me that I was about to call her a name I knew I’d regret, but before I could utter a sound, Loy looked at her daughter and quietly said, “You are so pretty.”

When she was six years old, we moved her to Bali so that Victor could help start Green School, an environmentally innovative K-8 school constructed almost entirely out of bamboo. During our first week there Loy broke out in a sand-papery rash that started on her cheeks then spread over her entire body.

It was ghastly red and patchy dry. I compared her rash to no fewer than 122 online images of rashes, confirming that she probably didn’t have dengue fever, but discovering that the only rash to be afraid of is the one that doesn’t blanch; meaning that when you press the rash it’s supposed to turn white; and when you take pressure off the skin, the redness returns.

If the redness stays when the rash is compressed, it means you are bleeding under the skin, and you are most likely dying. And you should immediately fly to a real hospital in Singapore because a non-blanching rash is a terrible thing.

Every morning when Loy woke up I’d scan her whole body, pressing, pushing, poking her ever-spreading rash with my thumb, knowing how messed up and emotionally-maiming it was to scare your six-year-old like that. I emailed her doctor in California and asked if she thought maybe Loy could be reacting to one of the fifty-seven immunizations she got. I even made Victor take a photo of Loy’s rash-streaked belly and attach a jpeg.

The doctor wrote back saying the rash looked harmless. She suggested that we just relax and enjoy our time in Bali.

When I informed Loy that her rash was nothing to worry about, she simply gave her arm a quick scratch and casually replied, “I knew I was fine, Mommy. You should really stop freaking out about dumb things,” before going back to watching cartoons on my laptop.

By the time we moved into our bamboo hut on campus, some five weeks later, I’d all but forgotten the rash.

But that was only because I now had the biting ants to contend with. Every night as soon as the sun set, an entire civilization’s worth of red ants would climb down the tree that grew up through the middle of our bamboo hut, and take over Loy’s room. The nightly ritual for Victor and me consisted of swatting and squishing ants until there was nothing but carcasses dotting the bamboo floor.

It was enough to drive me insane and want to run back to California, but for Loy it was simply an interesting nuisance, akin to having to brush her teeth before bed. The only time she appeared put out by the arthropod invasion was the night she found a couple of stragglers stuck to her Cinderella dress. When I grabbed the gown from her and began plucking biting ants from the tangle of lovely white mesh that lined the midriff and wrists, she kindly asked me to please be careful not to pull off any of the silver sequins by mistake.

More outrageous and potentially deadly events ensued, so just a few weeks after a small Javanese man with a machete shimmied up the tree and hacked the ant megatropolis into oblivion, we decided to escape Bali and move to Vermont.

During our first summer here we took Loy on her first backpacking trip to Silver Lake above Lake Dunmore. Not twenty yards from the car Loy tripped and hit her head on a jagged rock, sending blood spurting, as head wounds are wont to do. As the three of us sat on the ground taking turns applying direct pressure to stem the flow, I panicked. I wanted to take her to the hospital. She might need stitches or worse; she could have a concussion.

When Victor offered Loy the choice to opt out, she shoved the bloody bandana into his hand and pushed herself to stand. “You guys promised me smores tonight,” she said brushing the dirt off her knees. “Let’s go already.”

A bit further up the trail I stopped to tie my shoelace, and when I stood up, I watched the two of them trudging up the hill ahead of me, their backpacks bouncing on their hips.

That was when I suddenly remembered the monks.

I thought about the kind of person my daughter had become—a person filled with light and optimism; an empathetic soul who pulled friends to her with ease. A determined spirit who persevered beyond imagined boundaries. Someone who goes with the flow way more easily than I ever had.

It was then that I realized that it was time for me to stop worrying so much about what could possibly go wrong and focus instead on the promise of what’s to come. It was time for me to listen to my Buddha Baby, take some notes, and catch up.

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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like the heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends, which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent.

Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, it's more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby—in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued. Crisis averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it all through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

The fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so that there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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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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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas

www.pinterest.com

Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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