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We were in the side yard smiling in the sunshine and watching my growing toddler explore the world with the excitement of the very young. My friend gestured towards my front porch, where she had left a box of clothing her three-year-old had already outgrown.


“I don’t even remember what’s in there, to be honest, I packed it up a few months ago…” she said, apologetically. “Hopefully none of it is already too small for him. If it is, you know, just pass it along.”

In the time since I became a parent, the near-constant trading of clothing has become a constant feature of my life. I have learned that when my kid outgrows all of his clothes suddenly (and doesn’t it always happen suddenly?) I can easily go to my friends with older children and ask, “Okay, who’s got stuff for us?” Usually someone does. Usually people are thrilled to get these boxes and bags of old clothes out of their homes. As my own child outgrows his wardrobe, I place the too-small items in an old diaper box until it’s full and I go hunting for someone to take it off my hands. I never have to hunt very far.

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I turned to my friend. “If it doesn’t fit, there’s a neighbor baby just down there,” I said, pointing two houses down, while still keeping half an eye on my kid on his wobbly legs. “He’s only five months younger and takes most of our hand-me-downs.”

This was the point in which my friend beamed at me. Grinning ear to ear she said, “Oh, that’s so wonderful, then you get to see them again!” I suddenly knew that there’s way more to hand-me-down clothing than I previously imagined.

My own childhood experience with “handed down” clothing was less than idyllic. The secondhand stuff always came from the kids of my mom’s friend, or else a distant cousin, and it was always woefully out of style. To make matters worse, it was usually picked over by one or two other children before landing at me, so the good stuff was already gone. And while my mother would remind me not to be snobbish about wearing clothing I didn’t love, she also had her own issues around the implications of a secondhand wardrobe. Because she hadn’t had brand new clothing growing up, she made a big point of making sure my sister and I often did. No wonder I was predisposed to dislike the cast-offs of family friends! To add insult to injury, these articles of clothing always arrived in a big, ugly, black garbage bag.

In my little kid brain, the symbolism was stark and clear. I could never imagine myself having an affinity for hand-me-downs.

My own child, now two years old, owns a handful of things that were purchased new. One or two of them were bought by his ma and myself, but far more of them were purchased by grandparents. He also has some things found at thrift stores. But primarily – overwhelmingly – his wardrobe swells with secondhand clothing.

Who knows how he will feel about it. Maybe when he’s seven years old he will turn his nose up at the whole operation, just like I did. But for now, he loves rifling through a box of fresh hand-me-downs just as much as I do. And I do love it, I really really do.

From the parental side, there are many things to love. First, there’s the cost factor. We’re a low-income family, and even the cheapest clothes in stores still cost money. But the box of summer stuff from the kid down the street never ever does. Kids grow fast, so having clothing needs removed from our budget is extremely helpful. It’s also far less wasteful, since children do go through clothing so quickly. Especially babies: They wear them for such a short period of time that used clothing isn’t worn out until it graces the fifth or sixth kid. If you don’t want to support huge corporations, and you don’t have the money for the really fancy indie kid’s clothes, second hand is a great option.

Then there’s the fact that — and this might sound shallow — my friends have impeccable taste. They dress their kids in really cute outfits, and that helps me do the same. Once, a friend in New York sent me a bunch of messages about my kid’s (and let’s be honest, my own) taste in toddler outfits, before sending us a hand-picked box of stuff she thought would be the best for my particular child. It has gotten to the point where my wife and I have caught ourselves checking out an older kid’s fly outfit and saying “I wonder if we could get that in a year or so?”

But there’s something else, something more than efficiency or aesthetics, that makes me really love the hand-me-downs. I think it is the thing my friend and I were talking about in the yard that day, the thing that makes the transfer of clothing from kid to kid an actual joy. That thing is this:

In all likelihood, my family will only ever have this one child in it. That means that every single baby or kid-related item has only a short time with us. Every stupid t-shirt that I love to see him in, every cute pair of socks – they all have to go. But when they go to the baby down the street, they don’t disappear. Smaller kids breathe new life into what were once our favorite things, and their parents mix and match them in ways I never would have thought to do. When I see the neighbor baby in a onesie that my own baby used to wear, I sigh and say, “I remember when he could still fit in that.”

It isn’t just me. As our children grow and change, my neighborhood and my larger community keeps right on swapping kids’ clothes. All the parents stand outside while the kids play and say wistfully, “Oh, I remember that one, it used to be my daughter’s! But it looks so cute on your kid too!” Or, “Isn’t that sweater great? I got it from an old friend who moved to California, her sister made it, can you believe that?” The constant shuffling of outfits is a constant tangible, physical reminder of the fact that my kid isn’t alone in the world. He’s part of a community of children.

That is something worth celebrating.

After my friend climbed back in her car and drove away that day, I scooped up my kid and took him inside. In the living room, I took a box cutter to the box and we spent a fun half hour going “oooh” and “aaah” over the new items inside. Most of it fit great, and he wore it all winter.

But, he’s hit another growth spurt since that sunny day. Nowadays you can find most of the clothing from that particular box, still in my neighborhood, on a couple of other toddlers. My friend was right: It is really wonderful to get to see them again.

 

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As mamas, we naturally become the magic-makers for our families. We sing the songs that make the waits seem shorter, dispense the kisses that help boo-boos hurt less, carry the seemingly bottomless bags of treasures, and find ways to turn even the most hum-drum days into something memorable.

Sometimes it's on a family vacation or when exploring a new locale, but often it's in our own backyards or living rooms. Here are 12 ways to create magical moments with kids no matter where your adventures take you.


1. Keep it simple

Mary Poppins may be practically perfect in every way, but―trust us―your most magical memories don't require perfection. Spend the morning building blanket forts or break out the cookie cutters to serve their sandwich in a fun shape and you'll quickly learn that, for kids, the most magical moments are often the simplest.

2. Get on their level

Sometimes creating a memorable moment can be as easy as getting down on the floor and playing with your children. So don't be afraid to get on your hands and knees, to swing from the monkey bars, or turn watching your favorite movie into an ultimate snuggle sesh.

3. Reimagine the ordinary

As Mary says, "the cover is not the book." Teach your child to see the world beyond initial impressions by encouraging them to imagine a whole new world as you play―a world where the laundry basket can be a pirate ship or a pile of blankets can be a castle.

4. Get a little messy

Stomp in muddy puddles. Break out the finger paint. Bake a cake and don't worry about frosting drips on the counter. The messes will wait, mama. For now, let your children―and yourself―live in these moments that will all too soon become favorite memories.

5. Throw out the plan

The best-laid plans...are rarely the most exciting. And often the most magical moments happen by accident. So let go of the plan, embrace the unexpected, and remember that your child doesn't care if the day goes according to the schedule.

6. Take it outside

There's never a wrong time of year to make magic outside. Take a stroll through a spring rainstorm, catch the first winter snowflakes on your tongue, or camp out under a meteor shower this summer. Mother Nature is a natural at creating experiences you'll both remember forever.

7. Share your childhood memories

Chances are if you found it magical as a child, then your kids will too. Introduce your favorite books and movies (pro tip: Plan a double feature with an original like Mary Poppins followed with the sequel, Mary Poppins Returns!) or book a trip to your favorite family vacation spot from the past. You could even try to recreate photos from your old childhood with your kids so you can hang on to the memory forever.

8. Just add music

Even when you're doing something as humdrum as prepping dinner or tidying up the living room, a little music has a way of upping the fun factor. Tell Alexa to cue up your favorite station for a spontaneous family dance party or use your child's favorite movie soundtrack for a quick game of "Clean and Freeze" to pick up toys at the end of the day.

9. Say "yes"

Sometimes it can feel like you're constantly telling your child "no." While it's not possible to grant every request (sorry, kiddo, still can't let you drive the car!), plan a "yes" day for a little extra magic. That means every (reasonable) request gets an affirmative response for 24 hours. Trust us―they'll never forget it.

10. Let them take the lead

A day planned by your kid―can you imagine that? Instead of trying to plan what you think will lead to the best memories, put your kid in the driver's seat by letting them make the itinerary. If you have more than one child, break up the planning so one gets to pick the activity while the other chooses your lunch menu. You just might end up with a day you never expected.

11. Ask more questions

Odds are, your child might not remember every activity you plan―but they will remember the moments you made them feel special. By focusing the conversation on your little one―their likes, dislikes, goals, or even just craziest dreams―you teach them that their perspective matters and that you are their biggest fan.

12. Turn a bad day around

Not every magical moment will start from something good. But the days where things don't go to plan can often turn out to be the greatest memories, especially when you find a way to turn even a negative experience into a positive memory. So don't get discouraged if you wake up to rain clouds on your beach day or drop the eggs on the floor before breakfast―take a cue from Mary Poppins and find a way to turn the whole day a little "turtle."

Mary Poppins Returns available now on Digital & out on Blue-ray March 19! Let the magic begin in your house with a night where everything is possible—even the impossible ✨

After a pregnancy that is best described as uncomfortable, Jessica Simpson is finally done "Jess-tating" and is now a mama of three.

Baby Birdie Mae Johnson joined siblings Ace and Maxwell on Tuesday, March 19, Simpson announced via Instagram.

Simpson's third child weighed in at 10 pounds, 13 ounces.

Birdie's name is no surprise to Jessica's Instagram followers, who saw numerous references to the name in her baby shower photos and IG stories in the last few weeks.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to experts.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

At this moment in time, Simpson and her husband, former NFL player Eric Johnson, are probably busy counting little fingers and toes , which is great news because it means Simpson's toes can finally deflate. She's had a terrible time with swollen feet during this pregnancy, and was also hospitalized multiple times due to bronchitis in her final trimester.

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We're so glad to see Simpson's little Birdie has finally arrived!

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Spring is officially here and if you're looking for a way to celebrate the change in the season, why not treat the kids to some ice cream, mama?

DQ locations across the country (but not the ones in malls) are giving away free small vanilla cones today, March 20! So pack up the kids and get to a DQ near you.

And if you can't make it today, from March 21 through March 31, DQ's got a deal where small cones will be just 50 cents (but you have to download the DQ mobile app to claim that one).

Another chain, Pennsylvania-based Rita's Italian Ice is also dishing up freebies today, so if DQ's not your thing you can grab a free cup of Italian ice instead.

We're so excited that ice cream season is here and snowsuit season is behind us. Just a few short weeks and the kids will be jumping through the sprinklers.

Welcome back, spring. We've missed you!

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The woman who basically single-handedly taught the world to embrace vulnerability and imperfection is coming to Netflix and we cannot wait to binge whatever Brené Brown's special will serve up because we'll probably be better people after watching it.

It drops on April 19 and is called Brené Brown: The Call to Courage. If it has even a fraction of the impact of her books or the viral Ted talk that made her a household name, it's going to be life and culture changing.

Announcing the special on Instagram Brown says she "cannot believe" she's about to be "breaking some boundaries over at Netflix" with the 77-minute special.

Netflix describes the special as a discussion of "what it takes to choose courage over comfort in a culture defined by scarcity, fear and uncertainty" and it sounds exactly like what we need right now.

April 19 is still pretty far away though, so if you need some of Brown's wisdom now, check out her books on Amazon or watch (or rewatch) the 2010 Ted Talk that put her—and our culture's relationship with vulnerability and shame—in the national spotlight.

The power of vulnerability | Brené Brown

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If Marie Kondo's Netflix show got people tidying up, Brown's Netflix special is sure to be the catalyst for some courageous choices this spring.

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My husband and I recently had a date night that included being away from our son overnight for the first time since he was born three years ago (but don't let your heads run away with a fantasy—we literally slept because we were exhausted #thisiswhatwecallfunnow). It was a combination of a late night work event, a feeling that we had to do something just for the two of us, and simple convenience. It would have taken hours to get home from the end of a very long day when we could just check into a hotel overnight and get home early the next day.

But before that night, I fretted about what to do. How would childcare work? No one besides me or my husband has put our son to bed, and we have never not been there when he wakes up in the morning.

Enter: Grandma.

I knew if there was any chance of this being successful, the only person that could pull it off is one of my son's favorite people—his grandmother. Grammy cakes. Gramma. We rely so much on these extended support systems to give us comfort and confidence as parents and put our kids at ease. Technically, we could parent without their support, but I'm so glad we don't have to.

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So as we walked out the door, leaving Grandma with my son for one night, I realized how lucky we are that she gets it...

She gets it because she always comes bearing delicious snacks. And usually a small toy or crayons in her bag for just the right moment when it's needed.

She gets it because she comes with all of the warmth and love of his parents but none of the baggage. None of the first time parent jitters and all of the understanding that most kids just have simple needs: to eat, play and sleep.

She gets it because she understands what I need too. The reassurance that my baby will be safe. And cared for.

She gets it because she's been in my shoes before. Decades ago, she was a nervous new mama too and felt the same worries. She's been exactly where we are.

She gets it because she shoos us away as we nervously say goodbye, calling out cheerfully, "Have fun, I've got this." And I know that she does.

She gets it because she will get down on the floor with him to play Legos—even though sometimes it's a little difficult to get back up.

She gets it because she will fumble around with our AppleTV—so different from her remote at home—to find him just the right video on Youtube that he's looking for.

She gets it because she diligently takes notes when we go through the multi-step bedtime routine that we've elaborately concocted, passing no judgment, and promising that she'll follow along as best as she can.

She gets it because she'll break the routine and lay next to him in bed when my son gets upset, singing softly in his ear until she sees his eyelids droop heavy and finally fall asleep.

She gets it because she'll text us to let us know when he's fallen asleep because she knows we'll be wondering.

She gets it because just like our son trusts us as his mom and dad, Grandma is his safe space. My son feels at ease with her—and that relaxes me, too.

She gets it because when we come home from our "big night out" the house will be clean. Our toddler's play table that always has some sort of sticky jelly residue on it will be spotless. The dishwasher empty. (Side note: She is my hero.)

She gets it because she shows up whenever we ask. Even when it means having to rearrange her schedule. Even when it means she has to sleep in our home instead of her own.

She gets it because even though she has her own life, she makes sure to be as involved in ours as she can. But that doesn't mean she gives unsolicited advice. It means that she's there. She comes to us or lets us come to her. Whenever we need her.

She gets it because she takes care of us, too. She's there to chat with at the end of a long day. To commiserate on how hard motherhood and working and life can be, but to also gently remind me, "These are the best days."

After every time Grandma comes over, she always leaves a family that feels so content. Fulfilled by her presence. The caretaking and nourishment (mental and food-wise) and warmth that accompanies her.

We know this is a privilege. We know we're beyond lucky that she is present and wants to be involved and gets it. We know that sometimes life doesn't work out like this and sometimes Grandma lives far away or is no longer here, or just doesn't get it. So we hold on. And appreciate every moment.

As Grandma leaves, I hug her tight and tell her, "I can't thank you enough. We couldn't have done this without you." Because we can't. And we wouldn't want to.

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