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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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Ah, back to school time. The excitement of a new year for our kids and the impossibly busy schedule for their mamas. Anyone else get to the end of the day and think, "What did I even DOOO today, and why am I so exhausted?" 🙋

Luckily, finding a system to help you plan out your days can help reduce stress and improve your overall quality of life—which we are all for.

Here are eight planners we love that'll quickly take you from "What is happening?!" to "Look what I did!"

1. Day Designer

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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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A new school year is looming and while a lot of parents are looking forward to seeing their kids take the next steps in their education, many of us are not looking forward to getting everyone back into a weekday morning routine.

Mornings can be tough for kids and their mamas. One of our favorite celebrity mamas, Kristen Bell, does not deny that mornings with her daughters, 5-year-old Lincoln and 3-year-old Delta, aren't easy at all.

"It's miserable," Bell recently told POPSUGAR. "It's awful no matter who's doing what. And I'll tell you right now, the 3- and 5-year-old aren't doing jack."

Anyone who has ever tried to wrangle a preschooler out of their pajamas, to the breakfast table, then into their school clothes and backpack at seven o'clock in the morning knows exactly what Bell is talking about. She says some days are better than others, but it's hard to know what level of kid-induced chaos you're gonna wake up to on a weekday.

"It depends on their emotional stability, it depends on their attitude toward each other, toward life," Bell told POPSUGAR. "It depends on their developmental stage."

Luckily, Bell has got some backup. She's been open about how she and her husband, Dax Shepard, practice a tag team approach to parenting, and sometimes, Bell gets a chance to tap out of the morning routine. Unfortunately, Shepherd's later schedule means it doesn't happen as often as she would necessarily like.

"I don't want to say that I do more mornings than he does, but if you were to check the records, that's probably what you'd find," she told POPSUGAR.

If, like Bell, you're really not feeling mornings with the kids, there are a few things you can try to make things a little easier on yourself, mama.

1. Change the conversation

Instead of saying "hurry up" or "get in the car, right now,"try to mix up your vocabulary a bit.

If there's a need for speed, remind the kids that it's time for "fast feet" or that you're racing to the car.

If you're feeling overwhelmed, you might consider sharing that with your kids. Let them know that mama's got a lot to do this morning and that it would be a huge help if they could make sure their water bottle is in their backpack.

2. Make breakfast ahead of time

If cereal isn't your jam or your kids need something hotter, and more substantial in the morning, cooking up breakfast can be a major hurdle on hectic mornings.

Check out these Pinterest perfect make-ahead morning meals, like breakfast enchiladas or egg muffins, and make mornings a bit easier on yourself, mama.

3. Bring some Montessori into your mornings

Help your kids take control of their AM destiny by bringing some limited choices (like clothing) into the morning routine and allowing for natural consequences (like having to settle for an apple in the van because they missed breakfast) but also allowing for fun with mom.

"Try doing something simple, with clear boundaries, such as reading two books before it's time to start the morning routine. If they're ready early, you can spend more time together, which is also a great natural incentive," writes Montessori expert Christina Clemer.

Here's to a less stressful AM routine for Kristen Bell and the rest of us mamas. Just because it feels miserable today doesn't mean it will be tomorrow. There is hope, Kristen!

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It was a year ago when I was pregnant, parenting a highly-spirited preschooler and also working a full-time job while trying to maintain a part-time side business when I got to the point of I have had enough.

I can't remember exactly what the trigger was, but like most times, it wasn't just one thing but a build-up over time that culminates in a massive meltdown.

You see, I was not getting much appreciation or validation for all of my contributions. This was a time when my partner, too, was working full-time and in graduate school two evenings a week. It was stressful for everyone, but, as the wife and mother, I carried the family through it by tending to the little details: the pick-up and drop-offs, the shopping, the cooking, all the minutiae of everyday life.

So, after perseverating on my laundry list of seen and unseen responsibilities, I decided to sit down with pen and paper and make a "day in the life" list from wake-up to bedtime that showed my partner exactly what my day entailed—a day that supported two other people in the house and one in the oven.

Even I was surprised to see all of the things listed out in 15-minute increments. On paper, it actually looked even worse than it felt. I thought to myself about how much physical, mental and emotional energy I expend in this hectic season of our lives. And I didn't regret it for a minute.

However, back to my original complaint…I still wanted to be validated for it. I needed to be seen for both the implicit and explicit tasks and expectations in my day-to-day.

So I handed my list over to my husband, expecting him to be awakened to the fact I was indeed working in overdrive and for him to be grateful for all the ways that I take so many burdens off of him so that he can be successful in school and his career.

Instead of that, his response almost put me into a state of shock. He read over the list and then said, "I know. You are Superwoman."

His words, like kryptonite, left me speechless. Part of me knew that his intent was for this to be a compliment, but it felt so invalidating. It completely missed the mark, and instead of leaving me feeling appreciated, I felt less understood.

Superheroes have innate superpowers that I imagine they use with ease. In fact, they are expected to use their powers and perhaps that is their sole purpose. No one ever looks to a superhero and asks, "Do you need a break?" And as a feminist, I sure as heck believe women are strong and powerful. But the idea of being labeled a "superwoman" did not feel empowering.

I already know I am efficient, capable, strong and fierce. But, I am also fatigued, sometimes overworked and underappreciated, and worst of all expected to be the one that keeps it together for everyone else.

What I learned about through my research of who Superwoman really is was this: her powers always wear off by the end of the story. Turns out these so-called "superpowers" really are temporary. That I can relate to.

I am only human and there are days and weeks where I feel on top of the world, days where I can manage it all with ease. I can be up all night nursing a baby, take both kids to school, and show up on time for a 9:00 am meeting with a French pastry I baked from scratch. I can push through the exhaustion and demands every day…until I can't.

And it's not just my spouse who uses this label. I have well-meaning girlfriends who have also tossed the term out there as if it was meant to be a feather in my cap.

When things get tough, I appreciate the texts of support my girlfriends send me. Even when they are far away, it's nice to know someone cares when everyone in your house has the stomach flu while your partner is out of the country. It's comforting to be able to share the ups and downs of trying to balance a career with a growing family.

But when the text comes in and says something like, "I don't know how you do all that. You are a supermom!" I feel like there should be an auto-reply that says, "Connection lost."

The thing is, I don't want to be elevated to superhero status for living my life. It is not heroic and it's probably not too far off from what every other devoted partner and mother provides their family. But, this is what I think we need, what we are starving for. We need someone to say, "How are you doing?" or, "What have you done lately to care for yourself?" or, "Thank you for all that you do and who you are."

Those are the kinds of words that let me know I am seen and make me feel validated when I am working the hardest. They let me know that the people I love the most see me, and not a cape.

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