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Getting rid of my smartphone saved my motherhood

Ditching our smartphones has given us the freedom to be more present in our lives, and in our parenting. Which is why we made the decision in the first place.

Getting rid of my smartphone saved my motherhood

It's been two years since my husband and I got rid of our smartphones. Two. Years. We've gotten used to using T9 for texting again, and trying to word replies without the use of emojis (still typing LOL over here).

It's amazing how easy it was to go back to dumbphone status, all that muscle memory from the early 2000s was ready to go as soon as we flipped (or in my case slid) open our new/old phones. My husband has a flip phone. I opted for an old favorite—the slide-out keyboard version. The keys stick sometimes, but I like the satisfying click they make under my fingers as I type.

Ditching our smartphones has given us the freedom to be more present in our lives, and in our parenting. Which is why we made the decision in the first place.

It's been absolutely liberating to remove the world from our pockets. Checking our phones fills way less space in our days than it used to. And I am always aware of the absence of the internet in my daily life. When I'm waiting in line, or stopped at a traffic light, or sitting in a waiting room, or out with friends and family, I spend time just… looking around.

When my daughter was around 18 months old, my husband and I realized she was taking in way more than we had given her credit for. One day I looked up from mindlessly scrolling to see her eyes on me, looking for interaction and a deeper understanding of how her world worked. She was curious about this little glowing rectangle taking up so much of my attention. And rightfully so.

Our eyes were often on our smartphones. A quick email check while fixing a snack. A peek at Instagram while waiting in line at the grocery store. Scrolling through the news during bathtime. Group texting at the traffic light.

My husband and I began to wonder how we would explain moderation in technology to her when she entered her tween and teenage years. We agreed we would set limits to foster a healthy relationship with such a powerful tool. But then we felt like hypocrites: How could we enforce screen time limits and rules about when and where to use a smartphone when we, ourselves, were glued to our screens all the time throughout the day?

It was a problem for us.

And as we read more and more about the insidious side of tech, the apps that are subtly designed to reward us whenever we check-in, the addictive-by-design aspect of so much of what we were using our smartphones for, we decided we would do something a little radical and straight-up opt-out.

It was weird at first, but novel. Our phones felt funny. And we would instinctively check them out of habit for some kind of update. But they just sat there, dark and boring. Eventually, they just lived on the kitchen counter, as we went about our chores, internet-free unless we made the conscious decision to get out our laptops.

I did buy an iPod touch (remember those?) to use as a camera, and for being able to group text pictures and videos of the kids to our family with iPhones. But the iPod only works with wifi, it lives at home, and all the apps (along with my social media accounts) were deleted off it, making it too, pretty boring.

I don't know what we'll do when our kids come of age and start asking for a smartphone of their own. But as a parent, I feel in a better position to say "no" if I'm modeling the behavior myself. After all, for my husband and me, that's what parenting is. Deciding what we value, and passing that onto our kids in the best way we know how.

It's not for everyone. And our kids will definitely think we're weird. My husband is a teacher, and his students literally laugh out loud when they see his phone, asking if it's real. But I will be the weird parent any day if it means I get to experience more minutes present with my kids.

This is my one trick to get baby to sleep (and it always works!)

There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

Enter the beloved by all—sound machines.

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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

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

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A few years ago, while my wife's baby bump got bigger and my daddy reading list grew longer, I felt cautiously optimistic that this parenthood thing would, somehow, suddenly click one day. The baby would come, instincts would kick in, and the transition from established couple to a new family would be tiring but not baffling.

Boy was I wrong.

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