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The coronavirus forced us into a bubble—and it's exactly where I need to be, my baby

Because here in our bubble, it feels familiar. It feels comforting. It feels safe.

staying safe from the coronavirus

My baby,

I know we typically live in a little bubble together—in our own world of kindergarten drop-off and preschool pickup, music class and dance practice. We're used to slow time at home and have had hundreds of chunks in time where life was exactly that. Slow. Mundane. Repetitive. Weeks when one of you (or all of you) had high fevers, keeping you out of school and activities. Postpartum seasons after one of you were born when we all hibernated for a while. Days planned within our busy weeks when I know we all need to just stay home and take it easy.

This bubble is different, yes. But you don't really know that.

Because here in our bubble, it feels familiar. It feels comforting. It feels safe.

In our bubble, we have enough.

Enough food (I even stocked up on the fruit snacks you like that we don't typically buy!), enough craft supplies, enough toys. You have a warm bed with lots of pillows and plenty of stuffed animals to keep you company. You put together adorable mismatched outfits, picked out from the abundance of clothes in your closet. You have fuzzy blankets to snuggle up with, dress-up clothes to play pretend with, streaming services to be entertained by.

In our bubble, we are healthy.

You've only been with your immediate family members for days now. We're doing all that we can to keep you—and us—safe from the germs. We stocked up on Gatorade and Pedialyte, saltines and chicken broth just in case. You've been fueling your muscles and bones with kale and yogurt and probiotics. (And M&M's.) We have nice soaps and shampoos to scrub you clean. You're growing and developing and (knock on wood!) you seem to have left your runny noses and coughs in winter, ready to welcome spring.

In our bubble, we are learning.

You're watching interesting shows about animals on Disney+. You're learning about hippopotamuses on the free (and awesome!) zoo cams streaming online. You're recording yourself reading books to your friends, gaining confidence every day. You're drawing and coloring and creating—on your own time, in your own flow, as we navigate working and schooling at home. We're making mistakes and testing one another's patience levels. You are learning, and so are we.

In our bubble, we have fun.

We have dance parties to the Frozen 2 soundtrack, we create along with Art Hub For Kids YouTube videos, we laugh with our toddler when they tell us their made-up knock-knock jokes. We do wacky voices and make silly faces and wear pajamas a lot. There are crayons everywhere and toys we're tripping over. I am trying to ignore the mess as best I can, reminding myself that this "extended home time" is not forever. It's just for now.

In our bubble, we ride the emotional roller coaster.

We are free to express the (very many) different emotions we're having day-by-day—or more realistically, minute-by-minute. One second one of you is frustrated while the other is crying. Then you're all laughing which quickly and mysteriously turns to whines of boredom. We're all exhausted yet filled with manic energy at once. We're happy but sort of confused. We're feeling the feels in our safe zone, with each other.

In our bubble, we are together.

When it's all said and done, we are lucky to be together. So I am cherishing that. We have what we need, which most importantly, is one another.

There are other parents who are called "essential workers" and even though your parents are home with you, those parents still need to go do their jobs at hospitals or delivering packages, off to the firehouse or stocking grocery shelves. They know they may get the germs, but they are doing their jobs anyway. They are brave, like superheroes.

The other day, one of you said, "Mom, can we go to the pool?" To which I replied, "Well, it's not open yet because it's not hot enough yet. And we have to wait for the germs to stop spreading."

You said, "Oh, right. When the germs are gone. I forgot!" You smiled and moved on to making a playdough snowman. I said a silent prayer of thanks, knowing that while you are registering something is different around here, you don't know the intricacies of it.

We're in our bubble for now.

And we can't stay here forever.

I don't want to, anyway.

Because the world awaits.

And when our bubble pops, I believe it will be even more beautiful.

And even more compassionate.

And even more resilient.

But for now, while we're here, I'll try my best to relax a little. To dance a little more freely while we play your favorite song. To read your books even more enthusiastically than usual. To color with you during a work break. To lay with you while I get you down for your nap. To bake with you when you ask me to. To play tag in the backyard. And "I Spy" in the living room. And Monopoly on the weekend when both parents are available. (😂)

My heart shatters for others whose bubbles might not be safe and cozy like ours. For the kids separated from parents. For the sick people battling this virus.

So for them, we will be grateful. We'll appreciate the safety of our bubble. And we'll stay in it because right now, that's the best way we can be helpers.

10 must-have registry items that will change your life, mama

The baby gear heavy hitters that should be top of your list

Calling all mamas-to-be! It's a fundamental truth of (impending) motherhood that your prepping-for-baby To Do list can feel a mile long, but really the best way to feel organized is to sort out the most important item at the top of your list: your registry. Sure the items you choose to include will end up running the gamut from nice-to-haves to absolutely essential game-changers, but mamas in the know quickly learn one thing: Not all baby gear is created equal.

So while you can and should pepper your registry with adorable inclusions that aren't necessarily can't-live-withouts (go ahead, add 'em!), you should make sure you're ticking the boxes on those pieces of baby gear that can be absolute life savers once you're in full-blown mama mode. From car seats to bouncers and playmats, your play and travel gear will be some of the most obvious important items on your list, but so can unexpected things, like a super comfy baby carrier and a snooze-inducing white noise machine. So to help you sort through the must-have options, we turned to the holy grail of motherhood that is buybuy BABY and handpicked 10 of the very best essential pieces that will change your life, we promise.

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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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10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

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Life