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True life: Once I started asking for help things got so much better

And now I kind of want to shout what I've learned from the rooftops: I need help and that's okay! And it's okay if you need help too!

True life: Once I started asking for help things got so much better

There are few things as sacred in motherhood as having a door that locks. In my house that's the bathroom door, so my bathroom has become the place I retreat to when I need to have a small nervous breakdown or a piece of chocolate I don't want to share.

Considering that I have a lot of kids and a full-time job and a husband and a big old house and a dog and a body and a laundry pile and a fridge that never seems full, every once in a while I inevitably need to regroup by locking myself in the bathroom and having a good cry in a sad little pile on the bathroom floor.

This last time, as I was curled up having a grand old pity party, I couldn't help but come face to face with the actual condition of said bathroom floor. I tried to remember the last time I had cleaned it, and couldn't. It showed. And nervous breakdowns aside, I couldn't be expected to enjoy my secret candy bars amidst dusty tumbleweeds and soap scum.

This is how we get to me, locked in the bathroom, disinfectant cleaner and a rag in one hand and a tissue in the other, just scrubbing and sobbing away. And lord, if that isn't a metaphor for motherhood I don't know what is.

So I said to myself: when you get to the point of having to multitask through your nervous breakdowns, something probably needs to shift. Maybe it's time to ask for help.

One day not long after I had a headache, the kind that started in the back of my neck and wrapped itself right around my head like an unwelcome scarf, ending deep inside my ears. Lights hurt, sounds hurt, and breathing hurt. Not usually one to take a pharmaceutical remedy, I came up empty handed in my search for pain reliever in my own purse, and had no choice but to enlist the help of a friend. And as she handed me the ibuprofen, she asked me where the pain was, and when I answered, she told me it was probably a stress headache.

A headache caused by stress.

Considering what the last few weeks have looked like, this does not at all come as a surprise. When having a baby meets going back to work meets the regular everyday stuff we all muddle through, apparently the conditions are ripe for the perfect storm to brew. Right at the base of my head. And when the ibuprofen started to kick in and my vision started to clear, I thought of the lesson staring me in the face here:

When the pain became too much, I knew I needed help.

When I asked for help, I got it. And things got better.

So I looked around at my life, and I asked for more help. Yes, I am now having my house professionally cleaned. I am lining up some neighborhood girls to help me out with the baby on the evenings when my husband is working his second job. I'm allowing myself to buy pre-made meals from the deli without any guilt or judgement, and I'm forgiving myself the last five pounds of baby weight that won't come off right now, no more questions asked.

I'm waving my mama white flag.

Because I can't do it all. I certainly can't do it all well. What I know I can do, because I have been doing it for a while, is try really really hard to do it all, fail, and then lament my own failure right into a pile of snot and self pity on my dirty bathroom floor.

So instead of scrubbing my floors tonight after work, I am going to hold my baby. And next week, while my husband is at work, I will pay a sweet neighborhood girl to do the same thing so I can nourish my older babies with pre-made food that I heated up with love and a side helping of attention that isn't feigned.

It's actually kind of exciting, once I got past the initial shame of having to admit I was kind of drowning and found myself able to take a deep breath. The headache is gone. I can breathe. The bathroom floor is spotless. And now I kind of want to shout what I've learned from the rooftops: I need help and that's okay! And it's okay if you need help too!

Life is hard, y'all. It's winter and it's subzero and it physically hurts to run from the car to the house. The Christmas lights are packed away and so is everyone else. This season is naturally quiet and reflective, and it's so easy to feel alone and stressed and overwhelmed. We talk a lot about the body's response to stress: that whole “fight or flight" phenomenon that we all know so much about. Eons ago, maybe that stress was being chased by a saber tooth tiger, but today, I think that stress is more often than not just trying to do more than we are physically – or emotionally – capable of.

For me that includes raising a lot of children and working a full time job, but that's just who I am right now. For someone else that could be staying at home and raising children, or it could be trying to adjust to an empty nest, or it could be working a demanding job and trying to find time to sleep and eat. It could just be trying to find the strength to get out of bed in the morning and face another day.

For all of us, it's trying to remember to carve out a little time for ourselves, on the bathroom floor or otherwise. Our bodies are pumping out the stress hormones in full force and thanks, mother nature, for equipping me to outrun a bobcat, but that's not what I need right now.

What I need—what we need—right now is the courage to wave the flag and ask for help.

And maybe a chocolate bar.

I'll be in the (clean) bathroom if you need me.

This article was originally published on LizPetrone.com.

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As much as I love fall, it always feels like the season when my family's routine gets kicked into overdrive. With our oldest in (homeschool) kindergarten, my youngest on the brink of entering her twos, work, housework and *all the things* filling my day, it's hard not to feel a little overwhelmed sometimes. Did I mention we're still in a pandemic? (Yeah, it's a lot.) And while I try to take a positive view as much as I can, now more than ever I definitely jump at the chance to take anything off my busy plate.

One thing first in line at the chopping block? Cooking. To be fair, I like cooking. I cooked most of our meals long before I had ever even heard of social distancing. But there's something about the pandemic that suddenly made cooking every single meal feel exponentially more draining.

Enter Daily Harvest. They deliver nourishing, delicious food right to your door. Daily Harvest's mix of smoothies, bowls, flatbreads, snacks and more provide a balanced, whole food options that are as satisfying as they are nutritious. But my favorite part? When we're ready to eat, I simply pull the food from the freezer and it's ready in minutes—without any chopping, measuring or searching for a recipe. Even better, they're incredibly tasty, meaning I'm not struggling to get my girls to dig in. Not cooking has never felt so good.

Here are my 8 favorite products that are helping to lighten my load right now:

Mulberry + Dragonfruit Oat Bowl

Mulberry + Dragonfruit Oat Bowl

One thing that actually helps break up the monotony of quarantine? Trying and introducing new ingredients to my family. I love this overnight oat bowl (add milk the night before and let it set in your fridge overnight—easy-peasy!) because not only does it not compromise on nutrition, but it also helps me bring new whole fruits, vegetables and superfoods to the table with ease.

Mint + Cacao Smoothie

Mint + Cacao Smoothie

I kid you not, these taste exactly like a mint chocolate chip milkshake. (Just ask my 4-year-old, who is constantly stealing sips from my glass.) What she doesn't know? She's actually getting organic banana, spinach and chlorella with every sip. #momwin

Kabocha + Sage Flatbread

Kabocha + Sage Flatbread

Our family's eating habits have been leaning more plant-forward this year, which often means a lot of veggie washing, peeling and chopping every time I cook. That's why these flatbreads are my new best friend come lunchtime. This Kabocha + Sage Flatbread is made with a gluten-free cauliflower crust topped with kabocha squash, fennel and sage for a taste of fall in every bite. (Missing the cheese? You can add it before baking for more of a pizza feel.)

Kale + Sweet Potato Flatbread

Kale + Sweet Potato Flatbread

There's something about the combination of sweet potato crust topped with red cabbage, organic greens and an herby-cilantro sauce that is so delicious… like surprisingly delicious. I polished off this bad boy in seconds! And unlike other "veggie" crusts I've tried, these are actually clean (AKA no fillers, preservations, partially-hydrogenated oil or artificial anything). Plus, it couldn't be easier to throw in the oven between conference calls and homeschool lessons.

Cacao + Avocado Smoothie

Cacao + Avocado Smoothie

Any time I get to serve a breakfast that tastes like chocolate, it's a good day. (That goes double when it's *my* breakfast.) This rich, chocolatey smoothie is packed with organic zucchini, avocado, pumpkin seeds and pea protein for a nourishing mix of healthy fats and muscle-building protein so I can carry that baby all day long. And did I mention the chocolate?

Vanilla Bean + Apple Chia Bowl

Vanilla Bean + Apple Chia Bowl

Maybe it's just me, but after a long week of cooking, the last thing I want to do on Saturday morning is...wake up and cook. That's why these one-step breakfasts are saving my weekend. I simply add our favorite milk the night before and store the bowl in the fridge overnight. Come morning, I have a nutritious chia bowl that powers me through even the busiest day of errands. It's also Instagram-ready, which makes me feel like I'm out brunching (even if I can't remember the last time I was in a restaurant).

Cacao Nib + Vanilla Bites

Cacao Nib + Vanilla Bites

My kids have turned into snack monsters during quarantine, and I'm often struggling to find a wholesome option (that doesn't require a lot of extra cooking or else I resort to something ultra-refined and shelf-stable). These bites are the hero I never knew I needed. For one, they taste like cookie dough, but they're actually packed with chickpeas, pumpkin, dates and flax seed (among other whole ingredients). But unlike actual cookie dough, I don't have to go anywhere near my mixer to whip them up—all I have to do is pull the container out of the freezer, let them defrost a bit and we can all enjoy a treat.

Cauliflower Rice + Pesto Harvest Bowl

Cauliflower Rice + Pesto Harvest Bowl

Sometimes I have a little more time to cook, but I still want a quick, stress-free solution. (Especially because it always feels like I just cleaned up from the last meal.) I love these Harvest Bowls because they warm up in under five minutes on the stove top (or microwave!) but pack tons of flavor. The Cauliflower Rice + Pesto bowl is one of my favorites, with basil, olive oil and nutritional yeast for a hearty dish reminiscent of a mouth-watering Italian meal. When I'm feeling extra fancy, I add leftover grilled chicken or a fried egg.

Strawberry + Rich, Rippled Berry Compote Scoops

Strawberry + Rich, Rippled Berry Compote Scoops

Who doesn't want to end the day with a little something sweet? This creamy and decadent frozen treat from Daily Harvest is swirled with sweet berries and tropical dragonfruit for an antioxidant burst you'll feel good about—but that your kiddos will just think is ice cream. Go ahead, take credit for being the best mom ever.

Want to try it yourself? You can get $25 off your first box of Daily Harvest with code MOTHERLY.

This article was sponsored by Daily Harvest. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

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Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

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This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

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Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

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Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

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Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

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Wooden digital camera

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Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

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Wooden bulldozer toy

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Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

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Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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What went viral this week: Pregnant Disney Princesses + an airline nightmare

Now, more than ever, we need to hear those good news stories.

Vanessa Firme/Instagram

Last week was a week.

We lost a legal and cultural icon with the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and deadly wildfires continue to blaze on the West Coast. Now, more than ever, we need to see creativity, kindness and compassion in our world—we need to hear those "good news" stories, but we also need to see the headlines that show us how and why the world needs to change .

And right now both kinds of stories are going viral.

Here are the viral stories you need to read right now:

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