Here's why I don't want to 'blend' my families

Classifying my family as "complicated" is an understatement.

Here's why I don't want to 'blend' my families

When I make my favorite smoothie, I toss a banana, peanut butter, almond milk and ice in a blender and press a button to combine. In less than one minute, all of the components — delectable in their own right—blend seamlessly into something better than they were before.

There's no drama. There's no push-and-pull. There's no defection. There's no accusations, tantrums, or name-calling. (My blender is always well-behaved). It's just effortless blending—the complete opposite of what happens when two families unite.

I have made not one—but two—attempts at blending families. Here's a CliffsNotes version: My ex-husband, now deceased, was a widower with a young daughter when I met him. We had a child together and tried to "blend," but got divorced for various reasons.

Fast forward to my husband now, my forever guy. He has a son, age 11, from a previous relationship, and we have him full-time. I have my son, age 9, full-time and a close relationship with my bonus daughter, age 22, from my former marriage.

Classifying my family as "complicated" is an understatement.

Every day, my husband and I try to mesh two fiercely independent, spirited, self-assured boys together. Both were the crowned princes pre-engagement, with a parent devoted to fulfilling every need, every whim, (almost) every wish. Getting them on the same wavelength often clocks in at an I-want-to-run-away-from-home-right-now level of difficulty. My boys either love or hate each other, depending on the day—and that's without factoring my self-sufficient college grad into the daily mix.

All of my family members are distinct versions of the same personality but with varying backgrounds and backstories …and that always keeps things interesting. No one is shy or reserved. No one backs down. No one is unsure of who they are as a person. For us, blending is not only an unattainable goal but also an undesirable one.

The very definition of blend—"to combine or associate so that the separate constituents or the line of demarcation cannot be distinguished"—is offensive when it comes to individuals tasked with creating one family unit.

Why should anyone have to sacrifice key components of their personality to blend? Why would we want to make our differences indistinguishable? Why are we, as parents and bonus parents, carrying the weight of this expectation on our already weary shoulders? Why do we strive to be #happilyblended?

Regardless of the Instagrammable moments we're bombarded with, of shiny, happy blended families holding hands (the celeb couple of the moment, J. Lo and A-Rod, comes to mind), I know those images represent snippets of time, not everyday reality.

Raising children without all of the modern blended variables is tough. The positioning, the bargaining, the testing, the fighting, the one-upping, the bickering ... it's enough to make moms count down the minutes until bedtime on some days.

While traditional families have their issues, they all parent on solid footing. The mom is the mom, the dad is the dad, and the kids are theirs. No one can throw biological makeup in anyone's face. No one can challenge credentials when they get in trouble. No one can deny they're siblings. These arguments undermine the blended family unit, but they are, in fact, true.

Why do we aspire to blend and mirror traditional families? Our families are different, and that should be celebrated, not stifled.

I have banished the word "blend" in my house and replaced it with "perfectly imperfect parfait," which seems like a reasonable expectation. With this term in place, each person can hold onto his/her unique layer without sacrificing key ingredients of who we are to blend. And stating that we are "perfectly imperfect" from the outset takes the pressure off of us. We are not the Joneses and we don't want to be like the Joneses. It is impossible for us to be the Joneses.

There are both ugly and beautiful moments in my family (and, like J. Lo, the latter are the ones that go on my Instagram; I can't have her abs, but, I can also show the incredible moments I have with my unconventional brood).

There are times, on my hardest days, that I am jealous of traditional families, but my bonus mom crown doesn't remain askew for too long. The sum of my family's individual layers makes one amazing parfait when we get them together. Like traditional families, we laugh, we share, we learn, we nurture, and, most importantly, we love. We just don't blend, and that's okay.

The only blending going on in my house is of the smoothie variety…and I wouldn't want it any other way.

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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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


Mini golf set

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

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

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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