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It's completely quiet when my kids are at school—and that's exactly what I need

These long stretches of solitude help recalibrate my body and mind.

It's completely quiet when my kids are at school—and that's exactly what I need

My mom came over for lunch the other day and said, "It's so quiet in here. You don't turn on the TV?"

And the answer is no. Once my children leave for school, I spend most of my work day in complete silence. No music. No television. No phone except for the occasional conference call. If I go out to run errands, I leave the car radio off.

These long stretches of solitude help recalibrate my body and mind. Because when you think about it, our motherhoods all began with sounds that intensified over time, seeping into every nook and cranny of our beings.

It started with the beeping of hospital machines, onslaught of visitors, nurses barking instructions and shifting our breasts into gaping newborn mouths. Those infant cries that went on for months—tiny humans screeching into the world, crying so hard their arms and little fists shook with might.

The noise only magnifies as our children grow.

There have been temper tantrums, fights between siblings, wrestling that turned into wailing. Kid birthday parties of 20+ little ones where laughter and screaming seem to reach deafening roars that prevent you from paying attention to the parent who is patiently trying to hold a conversation.

The chaos that is par for the course of motherhood all feels very uncomfortable to me. I'm non-confrontational by nature, I hate crowds, and I feel awkward when I raise my voice. Even as a young girl, I'd retreat to my room to read or sneak away during big family parties and always preferred having two or three best friends over being part of a large group.

Ironically, I married a gregarious man whose normal speaking voice is SO LOUD, and we have two very talkative, energetic, highly excitable kids—exactly what happy, healthy children should be. But when all the noise dies down and I'm alone, I prefer to be quiet.

There's the silence that is productive.

It's answering work emails, writing, ordering groceries online, making all the beds in the house, and folding piles of laundry all with the grace of a motherly monk who's simply going through the motions without any external distractions.

There's the silence that is calming.

It's that rare trip to the spa or the nail salon or savoring a cup of tea outside on the deck where the only sounds you hear are birds and the wind. It's getting lost in a book that's so good you forget what time it is.

There's the silence that is empowering.

It's tackling a huge project, writing an email you've been putting off, strategizing a plan that could catapult a far-off dream into reality. It's finally booking that way-too-expensive trip to celebrate your ten-year wedding anniversary.

There's also the silence that is lonely.

It's that time of day when you start to really, really miss your kids and wonder what they're doing at that exact moment. It's the second you realize you haven't spoken to another human in six hours and you're starting to talk to yourself and think it'd be a good idea to call your best friend or husband or your mom.

And then they're home! Those loud, happy children.

They rush into the house, sharing stories about friends and fun school projects and a surprise performance by Red Grammer. Dumping their backpacks, hats and gloves at the front door, hungry for snacks, and wanting so badly to interact with you—the one person they've missed the most all day.

And thank God for this noise because it pulls you back—keeping you focused and clear minded and appreciative of your deliriously noisy and wonderful life.

For me, spending most of my day in silence is therapeutic. It's the equivalent of getting a good night's sleep or taking a long walk. It gives me the chance to recharge. So mama, find your equilibrium because it's within the balance of the light and the dark—the silence and the cacophony—that is your wonderful, beautiful life.

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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

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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.

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Wooden rocking pegasus

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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.

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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.

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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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