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Mama, this is hard—but we can do hard things

I want to assure you (and myself)—we will be alright. Take a breath.

woman worried during the coronavirus

I've worked from home for the last seven years. My children's dad has worked from home since last year. And now having all five of our children home full-time due to school closures has been both unexpected and chaotic. It's been a bumpy few weeks transitioning from spring break to not returning to school for the rest of this year.

I want to assure you (and myself)—we will be alright. Take a breath.

Mama, you're human, too.

Honestly, one moment I feel incredibly blessed we're all together, and the next I'm raising my voice to remind someone something I already said nine times just within the last hour. Most days I feel I handled my classroom of 28 fifth graders (in my previous career teaching) better than my own household. Most hours I'm just winging it.

Mama, this, too, shall pass.

I have a 10-month-old teething baby who also has yet another ear infection right now. We decided not to take him into the doctor or an urgent care facility for fear of what else he could contract and our pediatrician isn't comfortable calling him in another prescription despite this being his fourth or fifth infection (I've lost count). But despite him showing every symptom of an ear infection, as a family we don't feel comfortable running the risk of taking his weak immune system out because of the coronavirus.

Mama, it's okay to hold our breath and simply pray.

Our oldest daughter has gotten the flu each year for the last three years in a row, despite having the flu shot. She was in the hospital two out of those three years, and she also has a weakened immune system. We didn't do the flu shot this year and each week she stays healthy, we breathe a small sigh of relief.

Mama, it's okay that they're trying to figure out their new normal.

Our older four kids are close in age and that brings with it a list of pros and cons. It seems their moods vary by the hour (as do ours, the adults), and despite our pleas of, "Why can't you just get along and play nicely with one another," we forget that they, too, are trying to acclimate to this gigantic shift in their worlds.

Mama, we are all struggling right there with you.

Because, this is hard.

I haven't slept in the last five months due to my sweet teething baby boy. I am often left feeling irritable or finding myself snapping back at one of my kids for something that doesn't warrant my short temper.

All this stress and uncertainty left me feeling weary. Moms do hard things all the time, but this hand we've been dealt has been feeling harder and harder.

But then I saw it. I saw what I convinced myself I wouldn't see.

I saw a 12-year-old girl in the intensive care unit (ICU) fighting for her life in the state next to me. An hour later, I saw a 7-month-old baby hospitalized in the state beneath me. And then as if the universe were trying to be even crueler, I saw a video of a mother also in the ICU who was gasping to speak, begging others to take this time of quarantining more seriously.

I went to the bathroom and just stood there over my sink, unable to move. I silently prayed. I recalled some not so fond moments of myself over the last couple weeks. I made promises to myself in terms of how I was going to behave when I walked out of the bathroom into what seemed like a zoo for the better part of the day.

I hit my breaking point.

Maybe it was too close to home with the same ages of the mother and daughter and baby back-to-back this morning.

Maybe it was simply the sheer horror of hearing that woman try to breathe in what very well could have been her last breaths.

Maybe it was the shared heartbreak, from one mother to another, at the thought of her potentially never getting to wrap her arms around her loved ones again.

Mama, it's okay to simply not be okay every hour of each day right now.

I realized it's okay to be scared right now. It's okay to be stressed and exhausted all the while feeling abundantly blessed, and the next hour feeling irrational again. This is an unprecedented time that we're all working through and we're simply doing the best we can.

As much as I'm encouraging walks, riding bikes, shooting hoops and playing soccer and baseball in the backyard, I'm likewise allowing Netflix binges and TikTok dances. Yes, each child is getting more than their "normal" screen time. We're probably eating more snacks than we need to be. And we've all been so off the typical sleep schedules and are staying up late or sleeping in far past normal school start times.

And guess what?

It's okay.

I'm taking comfort in the extra morning snuggles of not rushing anywhere.

I'm not missing the madness of dashing in and out the door for practices and games.

While attempting to adapt through this major adjustment, I've found solace in slowing down with my family. In between these new stressors, some of which we've never faced before, take a deep breath and know that this, too, will be okay.

We just need to allow ourselves some time to figure it out.

Some patience to get used to things.

And lots of grace throughout.

This is hard, yes. But we can do hard things.

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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9 products that will help baby sleep better (and longer!)

For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

How do I get my baby to sleep? This is one of the most commonly asked questions among new parents, and it makes sense, given that babies are born with their days and nights mixed up. For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

And while that might not exist (yet), we have found some of the best products out there that can help baby fall asleep faster and for longer durations. Because when baby is sleeping, so are you!

Dreamland Baby weighted sleep sack and swaddle

Designed by a mama, parents swear by this weighted sleep sack. It mimics your hug to give your baby security and comfort that helps them get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. The detachable swaddle wing makes it easy to transition as they grow.

It's also super easy to get on and off, and includes a bottom-up zipper for late night changes, so you don't have to wake your baby in the process.

$79

Yogasleep Hushh portable sound machine

Yogasleep hushh sound machine

With three soothing options, this is a perfect solution to help your baby settle when naps are on the go and during travel! I love how compact this noise machine is and that it can run all night with one charge.

$30

Bebe au Lait muslin crib sheets

Burt's Bees Organic Crib Sheets

With a variety of print options to choose from, these breathable sheets are *so* soft and smooth, even through multiple washes. The luxury fabric keeps little ones warm without overheating—a formula that helps ensure more sleep for everyone.

$32

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

You know what's going to help baby have their best sleep ever? Some quality, super soft pajamas. The timeless (and aptly named!) Perfect Pajama from The Simple Folk are some of our favorites. They last forever and they're made from organic pima cotton that is safe on baby's precious skin. They come in a wide range of sizes so siblings can match and feature fold-over hand covers on sizes up to 12 months.

$37

The Snoo bassinet

Snoo

Designed by expert pediatrician and sleep guru Dr. Harvey Karp, the Snoo bassinet gently rocks your baby to sleep while snuggled up in the built-in swaddle. Not only does it come with sensors that adjust the white noise and movement based on your baby's needs, there is also an app that allows you to adjust the settings directly from your phone.

While this item is a bit on the expensive side, there is now an option to rent for $3.50 a day, which is a total game changer!

$1295

Hatch Baby Rest sound machine + nightlight

best baby sound machine

The Hatch Baby Rest is a dual sound machine and nightlight that will grow with your family. Many parents use this product with their infants as a white-noise machine and then as a "time to rise" solution for toddlers.

The thing I love most about this product is that the light it gives off isn't too bright, and you can even select different color preferences; giving your toddler choices at bedtime.

$59.99

Crane humidifier

Crane Humidifier

The only thing worse than a sick baby is a baby who is sick and not sleeping well. The Crane humidifier helps take care of this by relieving congestion and helping your baby breathe better while sleeping.

Personally, I think the adorable design options alone are enough of a reason to purchase this product, and your child will love watching steam come out of the elephant's trunk!

$46.99

Naturepedic organic crib mattress

Naturpedic Lightweight Organic Mattress

In the first few months of life, babies can spend up to 17 hours a day sleeping, so choosing a mattress that is safe (read: no chemicals!) and comfortable is incredibly important.

Naturepedic uses allergen-friendly and waterproof materials with babies and children in mind, making them easy to clean and giving you peace of mind.

$259.00

Happiest Baby sleepea 5-second swaddle

best baby swaddle

There are baby swaddles and then there is Sleepea. Similar to the brand's swaddle that is built into the Snoo, the Sleepea is magic for multiple reasons. First, it's got mesh panels ensuring baby never overheats. Second, the zipper zips from the top or the bottom, so you can change the baby's diaper in the middle of the night without ever waking them. Third, it's hip safe. Fourth, the patterns are SO cute. And fifth, the interior swaddle wrap that keeps baby's ams down has a "quiet" velcro that won't wake baby if you need to readjust while they're asleep.

$27.95

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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To the mama who had a baby during the pandemic

You deserve hugs, love, recognition and so much more. But I will settle for the next best thing, which is to write you a little love letter.

I am a midwife, and that means two things:

  1. I am a total birth nerd
  2. I want to hug every new mom I see

But we are in a pandemic, which means that the latter is impossible—and this makes me impossibly sad. You deserve hugs, love, recognition and so much more. So I will settle for the next best thing, which is to write you a little love letter.

Darling new mama. Here are seven things you need to know:

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