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Rows and rows of pansies. Blue, yellow, red. Tulip swirls, concentric circles of prim rose bushes. Butchart Gardens in British Colombia gets thousands of visitors every year, each coming to ooh and ahh over the neat rows and patterns, beautiful flowers and plants, all tightly arranged in a breathtaking presentation.


But I was just bored. Not because I don't enjoy greenery. On the contrary, I love flowers and plants, but I prefer a more unfettered beauty.

When I visit such places, I crave more nature, less human dominance. I find myself longing for wildflowers careening down hillsides, bowers draped in greenery, ferns as tall as your shoulder, and leaves as big as your head. I yearn for thick piles of needles in redwood tree groves and waves crashing against rugged, rocky outcroppings, where lonely cypress trees stand sentinel.

My soul sings when I see Earth bursting forth in all its wild holiness. There is a sacredness in wilderness, a reverence the soul feels at witnessing the beauty, power, and life cycle of nature.

One of the greatest compliments I ever received came from someone I respect deeply. He referred to my kids as “those wild and holy children you mother so deliberately." At first, I was not entirely sure what to make of his comment. As I reflected on the person speaking it, I understood that he really saw me and my kids and what we are doing. I realized his words were a great compliment.

When my eldest was just a baby, I found myself at a crossroads I did not expect to reach until much later in my parenting journey. It became apparent to me that parenting was either going to be about control, or it wasn't.

I had had a good deal of experience controlling things in my life. I had succeeded academically, in my career and my hobbies, by exerting control over the things that I could control. This practice had served me well.

But I knew in that moment, looking at my infant son, that using the same approach in this new stage of life could damage my child and our relationship with one another.

Our boy was a free spirit. A curious and energetic explorer. A passionate lover of life. He would crawl at four months. Walk at eight. Into all the cupboards, the Tupperware, the pots and pans. Then toddling, then running laps around us everywhere. His expansive spirit quickly endeared others to him. His joy was contagious.

He came to us with a fiery will of his own – a strong and undeniable life force, sacred and wild all at once. In those early months, when we had our first encounters, his acts of defiance caused me to pause and remember my decision to try not to control him.

“Don't you dare break him," the thought would come to me. Somehow, my heart understood that his life would require all of his strength and will, whole and unbroken.

And so I didn't. I played with him, taught him, and administered consequences as needed, trying hard to be consistent. I let him climb and explore and run and use his joyful voice. I set high expectations and strived to help him learn discipline, respect, and the significance of choices and consequences.

But I refused to control him, or to use harshness to dull him or break his spirit.

Our magnificent boy continues to challenge me with his strong, wild heart. Now he has two sisters, who I am also trying to raise responsibly, without breaking. It is a challenge. I find it much harder to be intentional with them – giving them the space they need to grow in a natural kid environment – rather than controlling them or numbing them with distractions.

Muting the vibrant colors of their souls for my own convenience is not an option. I have too much respect for who they are. Because this I know: In the world we live in today, my kids will need their strong, wild hearts.

Have you ever noticed how wise children are? Intuitively, they know whom they can trust. They understand what is really important in life. Their compasses keenly discern right from wrong. Children have a purity that surpasses the world around them. It is the same purity and wildness that I see reflected in nature, unbounded and unconquered.

All children are beautiful, holy, and teeming with potential. Some children may be rows of pansies and tulips nicely arranged in tidy, white planter boxes. They will likely elicit oohs and aahs throughout their lifetimes.

Lest you feel concerned that I should peel back the vines and start in with the garden shears, please know that these are my magnificent, natural children. They are wild and holy, and I mother them deliberately.

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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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