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My husband and I discovered Oz off an empty west Texas highway in late 2007.


The desert town of Marfa, Texas, and its vicinity were like nothing I had ever seen. Heading west from our home in San Antonio, Interstate 10 abandons the city, skips across a few towns, and finally settles in for a few hours of uninterrupted scrub and dust.

In Marfa, the scenery is vaguely terrestrial, but the colors are a little off, the characters uncanny. Imagine any familiar landscape – shades of green, blue and brown – dotted densely or sparsely by manmade structures. Now scrape most of that clear, decapitate the slopes into clean, flat buttes, skew and dent the remaining signs of human inhabitants, and add a layer of bristle to the whole scene. Sift a thick skin of dust on top and turn up the sun’s intensity to account for the higher altitude. I felt like an unsuspecting Dorothy dropped in a new world. Nicholas and I landed there on our third anniversary, looking for seclusion.

 

 

When we married on Thanksgiving over a decade ago, I imagined the holiday would always be a time for us to get away together, using romance as an escape from choosing which family obligation to honor. I searched for a place within driving distance to spend our anniversary, and serendipity brought us to west Texas all those years ago.

“Nicholas, there is nothing here,” I said with disbelief. “There’s not even a Walgreens. What if I get a headache?”

Never mind a hospital emergency – my dusty bones would surely be found in an anguished pose on the desert floor. Nick consoled me with fairy tales of being airlifted to El Paso. We tucked in to our cottage for pitch dark nights, and during the day roamed the hills, wheezing like smokers in the thin air.

In this town, as close to nowhere as you could get while still maintaining your wits, was an excellent independent book store. As book store tourists (our family motto “As Many Books as You Want”), we felt an immediate connection to the odd little town.

We returned several Novembers in a row. Those first trips to Marfa were about the romance, getting away to a place where we had only each other and the ambient strangeness.

Nick took off on hikes while I fretted about asthma and stayed behind to take pictures of tiny cacti. He bemoaned the fact that some of his favorite obscure bands would bypass San Antonio to play in this hidden nook in the desert. Nick, not an artist but a metallurgist, spent an afternoon hypnotized by the steel box sculptures of artist Donald Judd.  

We found the Marfa Lights, which in November can only be viewed in complete West Texas darkness while snug in your lover’s coat. We found odd points of culinary perfection, where a couple could get a world class dinner but feel like they were in an old friend’s kitchen. We found a hotel (the only one in town at the time) that was part Hollywood western museum, part unhomogenized mystery mansion.

In the early years, a happy marriage feels like a joining a secret club, a merciful rescue from desperate singledom. Like another secret club, absconding to Marfa hit the sweet spot of cool with a tinge of inaccessibility.

On later trips, the lure of romantic isolation was replaced by a deep aching homesickness. Our families grew to include nieces and nephews, and we were missing out on their holiday events. I squirreled around town looking for a cell signal strong enough to hear about my brother’s fried turkey or what the kids were willing/unwilling to eat this year. We had our magical escape to Oz, but we had to trade off the old traditions. I wondered more every year if it was the right choice.

Marfa tried to treat us like family.

“Did you read in the paper about tomorrow’s Thanksgiving lunch? Everyone is welcome, be sure to come by!” We were reminded at least a few times on every trip, but never stopped in to feast with the locals. Instead we cobbled together our own dinners and read in bed.

The welcoming and growing familiarity of the town was easy to mistake for the genuine familiarity of family at home. Like much of Marfa’s scenery, it is difficult to distinguish the organic from an aesthetic created by an artist in residence.

Little anomalies littered our visits to Marfa, throwing us off kilter. Like the time a pack of 8- to 10-year-olds cut through a gas station parking lot at dusk while we were fueling up the car.

“Hey, why is your side mirror broken?” one boy asked Nick.

“It just is,” he answered, and a chill ran through me. I’ve seen too many horror movies where the packs of odd children appear from no where.

There were more innocuous things, like the unreliability of the “OPEN” sign at the bookstore. It’s absence or presence seems unrelated to the store’s actual state of business. Even the roosters are nonconformists, crowing at 5:45 a.m., about an hour and a half before the sun rises.

Our most recent visit to Marfa in 2014 was pregnant with anticipation, heavy with the importance of marking our 10th wedding anniversary and our infant daughter’s first visit to our traditional Thanksgiving escape. That week I learned many lessons about letting expectations darken the lightness of contentment.

With a new addition to our travel party, we decided to rent a two-bedroom house instead of piling into a room at the Hotel Paisano. Most roads radiating from the town center are barely paved, and have names but no signs to identify them to outsiders. Luckily you don’t have to drive too far in any direction before you’ve seen every house in Marfa.

That trip, I was uneasy from the start and saw omens at every beat. The first night, there was a gas leak in the cottage. On the second day, we had a flat stroller tire. In need of a patch kit, Nick asked the guy behind the lunch counter where we might find one. In this town of funky artists, beacon to the hip, surely some place supplied bike accessories.

Counter guy answered, in the vaguely unimpressed tone of most locals, “There is a bike shop down the street. It may or may not be open, but there’s no sign.” The shop was, in fact, open, and we identified it by the rows of rental bikes out front.  

The music in the bike shop was so loud the kid inside couldn’t hear me, but he let me get a few sentences out before he made a move to lower the volume. Again, the tone was not unfriendly, but mildly disinterested. No desire to be rude, just a veil to discourage further probing. It was a tone I would sense emanating from Marfa for the rest of the week.

Had we changed and Marfa was closing itself off from us? Or had the changes in me after a hard year of new motherhood made me feel like an outsider to things once cool and interesting?

On the night of our anniversary, with the baby in bed, Nicholas and I sat up late in the yellow cottage by the railroad tracks.

“Would you like to say anything to commemorate our 10th anniversary?” I asked Nicholas. I have a way of setting him up to fail at this game.

“This year has been hard,” he answered.

He didn’t say the only “right” answer, which is that he had grown happier each year. He wasn’t wrong, though. It was our first year as parents. I was all teeth and claws, fighting off postpartum anxiety and depression.

That night, I dragged us both through two hours of relationship analysis, heavy with fear that our auspicious trip reflected some brokenness in our marriage. If the decade’s marker was broken, so must be the thing it represented? The next day, sewage backed up in the bathtub, and we went home early. I didn’t know if we would return to Marfa or let it stand for a different phase in our life together.

I fought the strong urge to let mishaps and bad feelings take on more meaning than they should and eventually realized it was my own depression driving that train off the rails.

The next year we spent Thanksgiving in Connecticut with Nick’s parents, and completely forgot which day our anniversary passed. We were fully focused on fostering a connection between our child and her grandparents, and my pregnancy with a second child, too early to announce. I asked Nicholas whether this year was better than the last.

“Yeah, but last year wasn’t that bad either.”

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While breastfeeding might seem like a simple task, there are so many pieces to the puzzle aside from your breasts and baby. From securing a good latch, boosting your milk supply and navigating pumping at work or feeding throughout the night, there's a lot that mama has to go through—and a number of products she needs.

No matter how long your nursing journey may be, it can be hard to figure out what items you really need to add to your cart. So we asked our team at Motherly to share items they simply couldn't live without while breastfeeding. You know, those ones that are a total game-changer.

Here are the best 13 products that they recommend—and you can get them all from Walmart.com:

1. Medela Nursing Sleep Bra

"This fuss-free nursing bra was perfect for all the times that I was too tired to fumble with a clasp. It's also so comfy that, I have to admit, I still keep it in rotation despite the fact that my nursing days are behind me (shh!)." —Mary S.

Price: $15.99

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2. Dr. Brown's Baby First Year Transition Bottles

"My daughter easily transitioned back and forth between breastfeeding and these bottles." —Elizabeth

Price: $24.98

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3. Multi-Use Nursing Cover

"When I was breastfeeding, it was important to me to feel like a part of things, to be around people, entertain guests, etc. Especially since so much of being a new mom can feel isolating. So having the ability to cover up but still breastfeed out in the open, instead of disappearing into a room somewhere for long stretches alone to feed, made me feel better."—Renata

Price: $11.99

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4. Lansinoh TheraPearl Breast Therapy Pack

"I suffered from extreme engorgement during the first weeks after delivery with both of my children. I wouldn't have survived had it not been for these packs that provided cold therapy for engorgement and hot therapy for clogged milk ducts." —Deena

Price: $10.25

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5. Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump Wipes

"Being a working and pumping mama, these quick clean wipes made pumping at the office so much easier, and quicker. I could give everything a quick wipe down between pumping sessions. And did not need a set of spare parts for the office." —Ashley

Price: $19.99

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6. Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter

"This nipple butter is everything, you don't need to wash it off before baby feeds/you pump. I even put some on my lips at the hospital and it saved me from chapped lips and nips." —Conz

Price: $12.95

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7. Medela Double Electric Pump

"I had latch issues and terrible postpartum anxiety, and was always worried my son wasn't getting enough milk. So I relied heavily on my breast pump so that I could feed him bottles and know exactly how much he was drinking. This Medela pump and I were best friends for almost an entire year" —Karell

Price: $199.99 Receive a $50 gift card with purchase at walmart.com

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8. Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads

"I overproduced in the first couple weeks (and my milk would come in pretty much every time my baby LOOKED at my boobs), so Lansinoh disposable nursing pads saved me from many awkward leak situations!" —Justine

Price: $9.79

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9. Haakaa Silicone Manual Breast Pump

"This has been a huge help in saving the extra milk from the letdown during breastfeeding and preventing leaks on my clothes!" —Rachel

Price: $12.99

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10. Medela Harmony Breast Pump

"Because I didn't plan to breastfeed I didn't buy a pump before birth. When I decided to try, I needed a pump so my husband ran out and bought this. It was easy to use, easy to wash and more convenient than our borrowed electric pump." —Heather

Price: $26.99

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11. Milkies Fenugreek

"I struggled with supply for my first and adding this to my regimen really helped with increasing milk." —Mary N.

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12. Lansinoh Breast Milk Storage Bags

"I exclusively pumped for a year with my first and these are hands down the best storage bags. All others always managed to crack eventually. These can hold a great amount and I haven't had a leak! And I have used over 300-400 of these!" —Carla

Price: $13.19

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13. Kiinde Twist Breastfeeding Starter Kit

"The Kiinde system made pumping and storing breastmilk so easy. It was awesome to be able pump directly into the storage bags, and then use the same bags in the bottle to feed my baby." —Diana

Price: $21.99

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This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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While you're gearing up for (or in the middle of) back to school season, Halloween may seem like it will never get here, but it's only a couple of months away. And if you can barely wait for the leaves to fall and temperatures to drop, Disney and Amazon are here to get you in the spooky spirit.

Enter: Disney's Halloween shop on Amazon. 🎃This curated collection features tons of items for the season and we love that many are nods to some of our favorite festive movies. Think: Hocus Pocus and A Nightmare Before Christmas.

From Halloween costumes for kids to ghostly mugs for mama, these are the best items for the entire family:

1. Disney Jack Skellington Mug

skellington mug

If you're a fan of Tim Burton's A Nightmare Before Christmas, this will be your favorite mug to sip your coffee or tea from.

Price: $12.99

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2. My First Halloween Board Book

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Halloween doesn't have to be scary, mama. This touch and feel board book introduces baby to the season.

Price: $8.99

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3. Anna + Elsa Costume

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Get a head start on your costumes by adding this one to your cart. Bonus points for having accessories that can be used for playtime year-round.

Price: $16.01-$28.99

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4. Minnie Mouse Sequin Ears

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If you don't want to fully dress up to trick or treat, add on these ears to feel festive for less.

Price: $11.99

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5. Hocus Pocus Women's Tee

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Hocus Pocus will always be a favorite. For a humorous take on being a mama, add this one to your wardrobe.

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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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Ashley Graham is having a baby! The supermodel recently shared the exciting news on social media — and it didn't take long for her to make an important statement about pregnant bodies.

Ashley shared a beautiful photo featuring something nearly every woman on the planet has: stretch marks. The photo, which features Ashley nude and seemingly unfiltered, is kind of revolutionary—because while it's completely normal for a woman to have stretch marks (especially during pregnancy), we don't often get to see celebrities rocking this reality on magazine covers or even in social media posts.

That's probably why Ashley, who will welcome her firstborn with husband Justin Ervin, is earning so much praise for the photo, which she posted on Instagram. The images shows the model's side with the caption "same same but a little different".

One follower who is loving this real look at a pregnant body? Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum, who writes "My Lord, THANK YOU for this."

Ashley's post touches another user in an unexpected way: "I'm such a wimp. I'm pregnant, hormonal, and going though so many body changes. This made me tear up. I really needed this today," she writes.

Another user adds: "I showed my husband this photo and he said, 'See! She's just like you' I am almost 21 weeks pregnant and I've been struggling with my changing body. I love how much you embrace it. I've always looked up to you and your confidence. ❤️ Congratulations on your babe!"

Yet another follower adds: "This is what girls need to see. We need this as a reference for real and relatable. Women young and old. Thank you!"

Of course this is social media we're talking about so a few hateful comments make their way into the mix—but Ashley's many advocates shut that down. We have to applaud this stunning mom-to-be for showing the world how pregnancy really changes your body.

Women everywhere can see themselves in this photo of a supermodel (and how often does that happen?). That's powerful stuff—and it just might make it a little bit easier for the rest of us to embrace the changes we see in our own bodies.

One follower sums it all up best, writing: "I CANNOT WAIT for you to be a mother and teach another human being that ALL bodies are beautiful. You're going to be such an amazing mother."

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For a lot of families, summer is a season where rules relax and bedtimes get pushed back a little later than usual. But with school starting, weekday mornings are about to start a lot earlier for many kids, and parents might be wondering how to reset the clock on bedtimes.

According to Terry Cralle, an RN, certified clinical sleep expert and the spokesperson for the Better Sleep Council, a new school year is a good opportunity for families to get a fresh start on sleep routines.

"We have to start with really making sufficient sleep a family priority [and] having some discussions about the importance of sleep with our children," Cralle tells Motherly. "It shouldn't be at bedtime when everyone's cranky and tired. It should be during the day that families really discuss the importance of sleep for all family members."

If you need to have a conversation about getting enough sleep for school, try the following tips from Cralle.

1. Be positive about sleep

Make sure that younger children, especially, understand that sleep is a positive, not negative thing, and don't use the threat of bedtime as punishment.

"What we want to do is, ideally, change how children perceive sleep because children can see sleep as a great big timeout where they're missing out on things," Cralle explains, suggesting that parents instead try to present sleep and bedtime routines as "with positivity and as just a non-negotiable part of our lives."

Cralle wants parents to make sure they're talking with their kids about how a lack of sleep can impact one's mood, health and academic ability. Just as we teach our kids about the importance of eating healthy, we should be teaching them about the importance of sleeping healthy, and from an early age.

2. Empower your children with choices

According to Cralle, it's really important to empower children with choices around bedtime, because the one thing they can't have a choice in is the fact that they do need to go to sleep.

"They're going be more accountable, more responsible, and hopefully, develop good sleep habits and practice good hygiene early in life," if we empower them through simple choices, Cralle suggests.

"So we can say, what pajamas do you want to wear to bed tonight? What book do you want to read? Let them participate. If they can pick out their color of their pillowcase, let them do it. Whatever's age appropriate."

3. Let them do their own bedtime math

Instead of just telling kids when they need to go to bed, involve them in figuring out an appropriate bedtime.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine lists how much sleep kids need depending on their age. Have them look up how much sleep a kid their age needs, and then show them the National Sleep Foundation's online bedtime calculator. Kids can choose how many hours of sleep they need and when they want to wake up, and it will show them when they need to go to bed.

It's not an arbitrary decision mom and dad made, it's science and math, and you can't argue with that.

4. Add one sleep item to the back-to-school shopping list

Cralle says adding one sleep-related item to the back to school shopping list can really help children understand the importance of sleep as they head back into the classroom. A conversation about how getting a good night's sleep is important for school success, combined with a shopping trip for a new pillowcase or comforter can really help children see sleep as an important priority, and give them something to look forward to using at bedtime.

5. Provide an environment conducive to sleep

When our kids are infants we're really good at setting up rooms that can help them sleep. But as our children age out of cribs and start to accumulate a lot of possessions and playthings, their rooms can become a less ideal sleeping environment.

According to Cralle, it's not uncommon for kids to get up after bedtime and start playing with toys in their room. She recommends removing stimulating toys or storing them in another area of the home, and never putting televisions, tablets or smartphones in a child's room.

6. Enact a media curfew

At least an hour before bedtime, screen time should come to an end and other, more relaxing activities can begin. Cralle says families can designate a certain hour as DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time, or move from away from brightly lit screens and towards a board games or puzzles, "things to do to get that blue light out of their eyes."

A family-wide media curfew can be a good thing, says Cralle, as it helps parents "walk the walk" when it comes to sleep hygiene. "Don't be looking at your iPad and tell your child to put it away," she explains.

7. Remember: It's never too late for good sleep habits.

According to Cralle, age 3 is the ideal time to start reinforcing the importance of sleep for a child's health, but older kids and even mom and dad can reverse bad bedtime habits if the whole family buys in. That may mean curtailing your kids' (and your own) caffeine consumption, says Cralle.

"We're seeing younger and younger age groups of school children walking around with their Starbucks cups, with coffee, late in the afternoon," says Cralle, who thinks a lot of parents just don't have good information on how caffeine consumption can impact sleep—for our kids and ourselves.

She recommends limiting the number of caffeinated beverages available in the house if you've got tweens and teens at home, and watching your own consumption as well.

"We have to say 'Here's how we're all going to approach it.' It's sort of like seat belts with children, we never would buckle them in and get into the car, and not do it ourselves."

This may be the season to tweak your own sleep habits mama. Here's to a well-rested September.

[Correction: August 24, 2018: The sleep calculator was created by the National Sleep Foundation, not the Better Sleep Council.]

[A version of this post was originally published August 23, 2018. It has been updated.]

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Learn + Play

Finding out that you are having multiples is always a surprise, but finding out that you're in labor with triplets when you didn't even know you were pregnant, well that's the mother of all surprises.

It happened to Dannette Glitz of South Dakota on August 10. The Associated Press reports she had no idea she was pregnant and thought the pain she was experiencing was kidney stones.

"I never felt movement, I never got morning sickness, nothing!" Glitz explains in a social media post.

"Well this was a huge shock"

When Glitz posted photos of her triplets to her Facebook page last week one of her friends was confused. "What? You really had triplets?" they asked.

Glitz (who has two older children) started getting pain in her back and sides in the days before the birth, but it felt like the kidney stones she had previously experienced so she brushed it off. Eventually, she was in so much pain all she could do was lay in bed and cry.

"It hurt to move and even breath[e]," she wrote, explaining that she decided to go to an Urgent Care clinic, "thinking I'm going to have to have surgery to break the stones up."

A pregnancy test at Urgent Care revealed Glitz was pregnant—that was the first surprise. The second surprise happened when a heart monitor revealed the possibility of twins.

'I need another blanket, there's a third'

Glitz was transferred to a regional hospital in Spearfish, South Dakota. "And in about 2 hours they confirmed twins as there was 2 heart beats," she writes.

Glitz was 34 weeks along and four centimeters dilated. She was transferred again, rushed by ambulance to the hospital in Rapid City and prepped for a C-section. When the C-section was happening she heard the doctor announce that Baby A was a boy and Baby B was a girl.

"Then [the doctor] yells 'I need another blanket, there's a third' ....I ended up having triplets, 1 boy [and] 2 girls," Glitz writes.

Glitz and her husband Austin named their surprise children Blaze, Gypsy and Nikki and each of the trio weighed about 4 pounds at birth. Because the couple's older children are school-aged, they didn't have any baby stuff at home. Friends quickly rallied, raising over $2,000 via a Facebook fundraiser to help the family with unexpected expenses.

A family of seven 

The family is getting used to their new normal and is so thankful for the community support and donations. "It's amazing in a small town how many people will come together for stuff that's not expected," Glitz told KOTA TV.

Her oldest, 10-year-old Ronnie, is pretty happy about a trio of siblings showing up suddenly.

"One time I seen a shooting star and I wished for a baby brother, and I wished for like two sisters for my little sister because she always wanted a little sister, I knew this day was always going to come," Ronnie told TV reporters.

Ronnie may not have been surprised, but everyone else in this story certainly was.

Congratulations to Danette and her family! You've got this, mama.

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