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I blinked, and now...it's time for kindergarten

This is early-childhood. I wiped away a tear from my eye.

I blinked, and now...it's time for kindergarten

I just realized the summer that just started is actually also just about to end. Only, the ending of this summer for us means the beginning of a new journey, a new schedule, and chapter in our lives. In a few short weeks, preschool will be a thing of the past. Kindergarten is on the horizon.

For the past five years, I envisioned this point in time to feel so satisfying, like how it feels when you make your final car payment. I thought being done with the monthly expense of childcare would be so freeing. In reality, I don't feel that way at all.

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It hit me recently when I came to pick up my daughter at her preschool at the end of the day. The children were outside playing and I went into the classroom to gather her things. Alone in the room, I looked around and took it all in—the centers filled with bins and categorized toys, the handmade art hanging on the wall, the seasons and birthday calendars, the books and little tables and pint-sized chairs and all of the bold and vibrant colors and charts...and I could go on and on.

This is early-childhood. I wiped away a tear from my eye.

This place has nurtured and supported my little girl's life in a million ways and until now, I hadn't really appreciated the sacredness of this space. This is the place where she has made her first friends, where she coped with natural losses and transitions when educators or friends would move away, where she learned about who she is in relation to others and the world.

This is probably the only, and last, place in time where play will be valued as much as aptitude and productivity.

You see, when I first found out I was having a baby, I was absolutely overjoyed. However, just a few weeks into my pregnancy, I was shocked when I started looking into childcare options. If I had known, like actual monetary figures, how much childcare would cost, sometimes I wonder if I would have had the guts to have a baby.

All of the options at the time were about the same, over a grand per month. I felt sick. I questioned if I was irresponsible to have decided it was the right time to have a child. I had student loans, and a mortgage, after all!

When the baby came and maternity leave ended and it was time to start at the childcare center, I would be lying if I said I wasn't resentful about the costs. In fact, I have complained a lot about that over the years. Childcare is so darn expensive.

In my state of sticker-shock, what I failed to see right away was the invaluable experience it had become not only for my daughter but for the family. I think back now to the early days, schlepping in the mornings with bottle bags and baby food, feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. Leaving my child in the care of nurturing people who had a routine, structure and patience was so vital. I was able to be a mom and go out in the world and do good, purposeful work, all the while knowing that my daughter would also be doing the important work of being a baby and napping, and singing songs and creating adorable toddler art. All of our needs were being met.

As time passed on, the value only increased. My 18-month old had a "best friend" and his name was Texas. Is there anything cuter than that?

When we moved to a neighboring town, and that meant changing childcare centers, I grieved so ridiculously hard for what that loss would be like for her. A toddler. Losing her Texas. But really, the grief was mine.

I didn't want to admit it, but this place that I had resisted in so many ways from the start, had actually become for me the one consistent element in our chaotic little lives as a new family of three.

And now, with a near 6-year-old, it's all about to wrap up.

The grief again is mine. I think about all of the women over these years who provide childcare and what absolute unsung heroes they are. There is no dollar amount I could pay them that would adequately compensate for the loving and tireless work they perform day in and day out for children they love as their own.

Preschool teachers have my utmost respect and admiration and I am committed, let it be known here, that if I ever win the lottery, I will be sharing my prize with the entire staff at the pre-school as a small token of my appreciation.

When my dad met my newborn for the first time, he looked at her and said to me, "You will blink and she will be starting kindergarten." Well, folks, I blinked and here we are.

It's a beautiful thing—growth and transition and change. My girl is ready for kindergarten and she is well-prepared. But as I stood in that empty classroom, flooded with grief for the loss of this precious period of time in our lives and shame for the pitiful complaints about the financial costs, I realized that all of this is part of the lesson. Preschool is about character development, and not just for the child.

So, as we bid this season in our lives farewell, I am allowing myself to feel all the feelings, but mostly embrace gratitude for what I once thought was an unreasonable expense, that ultimately became such an unbelievable value.

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These are the best bath time products you can get for under $20

These budget-friendly products really make a splash.

With babies and toddlers, bath time is about so much more than washing off: It's an opportunity for fun, sensory play and sweet bonding moments—with the added benefit of a cuddly, clean baby afterward.

Because bathing your baby is part business, part playtime, you're going to want products that can help with both of those activities. After countless bath times, here are the products that our editors think really make a splash. (Better yet, each item is less than $20!)

Comforts Bath Wash & Shampoo

Comforts Baby Wash & Shampoo

Made with oat extract, this bath wash and shampoo combo is designed to leave delicate skin cleansed and nourished. You and your baby will both appreciate the tear-free formula—so you can really focus on the bath time fun.

Munckin Soft Spot Bath Mat

Munchkin slip mat

When your little one is splish-splashing in the bath, help keep them from also sliding around with a soft, anti-slip bath mat. With strong suction cups to keep it in place and extra cushion to make bath time even more comfortable for your little one, this is an essential in our books.

Comforts Baby Lotion

Comforts baby lotion

For most of us, the bath time ritual continues when your baby is out of the tub when you want to moisturize their freshly cleaned skin. We look for lotions that are hypoallergenic, nourishing and designed to protect their skin.

The First Years Stack Up Cups

First year stack cups

When it comes to bath toys, nothing beats the classic set of stackable cups: Sort them by size, practice pouring water, pile them high—your little one will have fun with these every single bath time.

Comforts Baby Oil

Comforts baby oil

For dry skin that needs a little extra TLC, our team loves Comforts' fast-absorbing baby oil aloe vera and vitamin E. Pro tip: When applied right after drying off your baby, the absorption is even more effective.

KidCo Bath Toy Organizer

KidCo Bath Organizer

Between bathing supplies, wash rags, toys and more, the tub sure can get crowded in a hurry. We like that this organizer gives your little one space to play and bathe while still keeping everything you need within reach.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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14 Toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

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

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

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

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

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

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

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

Janod retro scooter balance bike

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.

$121

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.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

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.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

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

janod toys baby fox ride on

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

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Chrissy Teigen/Instagram

When Chrissy Teigen announced her third pregnancy earlier this year we were so happy for her and now our hearts are with her as she is going through a pain that is unimaginable for many, but one that so many other mothers know.

Halfway through a high-risk pregnancy complicated by placenta issues, Teigen announced late Wednesday that she has suffered a pregnancy loss.

Our deepest condolences go out to Chrissy and her husband, John Legend (who has been by her side in the hospital for several days now).

In a social media post, Teigen explained she named this baby Jack.

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"We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about, the kind of pain we've never felt before. We were never able to stop the bleeding and give our baby the fluids he needed, despite bags and bags of blood transfusions. It just wasn't enough," she wrote.

She continued: "We never decide on our babies' names until the last possible moment after they're born, just before we leave the hospital. But we, for some reason, had started to call this little guy in my belly Jack. So he will always be Jack to us. Jack worked so hard to be a part of our little family, and he will be, forever."

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