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My back-to-school morning routine revamp starts this September

And how I'm going to make it happen.

morning-routine

I recently declared that I am a night owl and always have been. I somehow (usually) get a second wind after my children go to bed and suddenly want to write a novel, watch three episodes of Master of None and redecorate our home via my decor board on Pinterest.

I don't know if that will ever fully change, but I do know that I need to stop going to bed around midnight almost every night. Because it doesn't benefit anyone.

Plus, I recently got a taste of the early bird life, and I (surprisingly) liked it!

For a few months, I was able to wake up around 5-5:30 in the morning and either workout or get work done. All before my kids woke up. All in quiet. All with focus and determination.

Then, the busyness of life took over and I slipped back into my old ways of going to bed super late and waking up in the morning at the same time as my kids. On days like this, I feel like I'm automatically playing catch up on productivity.

So, what do I do?

Well, I think September is the perfect time to reflect on and refocus our goals. I haven't been a student in a long time, but the end of August stills gives me those back-to-school feelings. It feels like a fresh start—a time to get back on track if you've fallen off the wagon.

As Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, says in her latest podcast episode, “September is the other January."

We couldn't agree more.

If you're craving a better morning routine, here are a few ways that'll help.

1. Take baby steps

My night owl persona and my early bird persona need to compromise with one another.

Sometimes when I want to make these life changes, I set unrealistic expectations like, “I need to wake up earlier. I'm going to set my alarm for 4:30 am" Or, “I need to lose 15 pounds. I'm going to go to the gym five days a week."

Sure—these might be great goals for someone else or even me one day—but right now these goals would just be setting myself up for failure.

Instead, I'll start my goal of going to bed earlier with an 11 pm bedtime versus midnight. I'll set my alarm for a 6 am wake up call. This way, I'll still have time to myself at night and get some quiet, productive time in the morning before my kids wake up. Then, maybe 11 pm could turn into 10:30, 10, etc. And 6 am could turn into 5:30, 5:00, etc.

For me, baby steps usually work better than large leaps at one time.

2. Choose the morning

To me, nighttime is wonderful. It has always felt like my time. It will always tempt me. But is it the best choice for me?

Probably not. So, I will aim to choose more mornings than evenings—fresher brain cells over sleepy brain cells.

It doesn't hurt that some experts validate this too. I asked Laura Vanderkam, author of I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time what she thought about late nights. She said, “The problem with evening hours is people are generally too tired to do much but watch TV. You're probably not going to go run in the dark at night, nor are you going to start work on your novel when the Bachelorette is calling. We're tapped out by this time and don't have much energy. So we wind up puttering around the house, watching TV, or cruising social media."

Soo, maybe less TV, more to-do...?

3. Be proactive

Vanderkam explains, “Being proactive in the morning allows us to be more reactive the rest of the day."

And this can look different for different people. As Vanderkam says, “There are lots of things that can make a good morning routine. You can get a workout in. You can spend quiet time with your coffee thinking about creative work or big projects that are hard to tackle with the distractions at the office. You can do spiritual activities or other reflective activities like journaling.

Bring on the me time.

4. Prioritize the night before

In an article from her blog, Vanderkam suggests writing your to-do list for the next day before you go to sleep. “We tend to have more focus and motivation in the morning, so if you know what your most important tasks are for any given day, and roughly when you'll do them, you can spend your energy on execution, rather than deciding what deserves your attention. Even if something is undone, you know when it will get done, which can help you relax at night."

Preparation is key. ?

5. Make the best choice for me

Finally, Vanderkam explains that for many mothers, it's better to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier in search of “me time." She said, “Mornings are a great time for getting stuff done. This is time you can have for yourself before everyone wants a piece of you. When we accomplish great things in the morning, that sense of victory provides motivation for the rest of the day. By the time the rest of the world is eating breakfast, you've already made progress toward your life goals."

Solid morning routine = #lifegoals. ⏰

I know I want to make these changes because staying up super late isn't a sustainable life plan.

So this September, I'm going to give my new morning routine the old college try. I mean, it is back-to-school season after all, isn't it?

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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

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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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

$35

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Life

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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