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New mama, you don’t have to ‘cherish every moment’

When I was just starting out on my motherhood journey (which, for the record, was not exactly last week), sweet older ladies would see me at the grocery store with my babies and tell me how adorable they were. And then they would say, "Cherish every moment. It goes by so fast."

Now I’m the mom with some mileage on me. And while I, personally, am not going to pass along my supposed wisdom to any mom in the produce department unless she’s wearing a shirt that says, “Please give me your advice and opinions on mothering and childrearing,” I do know what I would tell her.


1. It does go by so fast, but usually only when it's already gone.

When you're in it—I mean, IN it up to your sleep-deprived eyes—motherhood often creeps by with agonizing slowness. Will naptime ever come? Will this child ever sleep through the night? Will this game of Candyland ever be over?

Then, all of a sudden, you're figuring out the whole senior picture thing, and you start to think you just got her 5-weeks-2-days-and-36-minutes-pictures done.

It’s alright. That’s how it goes. That doesn't mean you didn't appreciate a lot of the moments in between. ?

2. You’re not the only one.

Whatever "it" is that you feel like you might be the only mom doing or not doing or feeling or not feeling, you've probably got company somewhere. Find another mom at library lap time or in the church nursery or at the pediatrician's and lay "it" on the line—wait for the blessing of hearing that mom say "me, too."

There are few things more encouraging than to say or hear, "Really? I thought it was just me."

3. Everything that's good to do is not necessarily good to do right now.

When my older daughter was not quite six, we started her in kindergarten, dance, and a midweek kid's club at church, all in the same week. Rookie mistake. Only kindergarten ended up making the cut that year.

As a mom, joining a book club might be good. Training for a marathon might be good. (I mean, not for me, because I only run if I’m being chased by something, but for some other mom.) Repainting your bedroom might be good. Getting your master's degree might be good.

But any of these good things might not be good in this season, and they almost certainly are not good all in the same season.

4. It will be okay.

That thing you're worried about right now—getting your baby to sleep through the night, potty training, friend drama, college applications? It will probably turn out just fine.

Of course, some things are not fine at all, and my heart goes out to parents who are living with these every day. Also, the journey from here to okay is often hard and exhausting. But with some effort and time, most sources of mom worry end up working themselves out.

And this is coming from one of the worryingest moms of them all. I worried that my firstborn would never learn to write her name or count past 29 or have any lasting friends or survive high-school geometry. She did. It was all okay. And your "it" most likely will be, too.

5. You don't have to fight every battle there is to be fought.

TV/sugar/screen-time consumption. Messy rooms. Kids who don't love reading. That t-shirt your elementary child wants to wear day after day. There's always something that can be an issue.

And what matters to one mom for very good reasons might not matter at all to another for equally good reasons. But in general, is this battle eternally important? Does it have to do with shaping your son or daughter's soul? Will it really count in a week or a month or a decade?

I personally try (try) to use this litmus test: years ago, the cane seat in the chair I use at our computer broke through. (I tried not to take it personally.) My then 4-year-old wrote me a note about it. Translated from her preschool phonetics, it said, "I'm sorry ('srre') about the seat but that's not the importantist ('inpotinist') thing because God is."

Listen, if it's not an importantist thing, maybe it doesn't need to be a thing in your life after all. ?

Go ahead, sweet mama, and cherish as many moments as you can. But don’t spend too much time worrying that if you blink, you’ll miss them. Mostly, just look at the past and be grateful. Look at the present and be mindful. Look at the future and be hopeful.

And if you get a chance to close your eyes long enough to blink, you should probably just go ahead and leave them closed and take a nap. ?

This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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12 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

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

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.

$189

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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The new top 100 American baby names, according to the Social Security office

Did you have a baby in 2018? Did your name make the top 10?

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[Editor's note: We know that being pregnant can be, well, a lot. And understanding what you really need versus what's just a nice-to-have takes time . With your needs in mind, we've selected the best products for pregnancy in The Motherly Shop. We've got you, mama.]

No one can beat Emma when it comes to naming babies in America. This week the Social Security Administration announced its annual list of the most popular baby names in America and Emma has the top spot on the girls' side for the fifth year in a row. On the boys' side Liam took the top spot for a second consecutive year.

According to the Social Security Administration, these were the top 20 baby names in America in 2018:

Girls: Emma, Olivia, Ava, Isabella, Sophia, Charlotte, Mia, Amelia, Harper and Evelyn

Boys: Liam, Noah, William, James, Oliver, Benjamin, Elijah, Lucas, Mason and Owen

How do those top 10 lists compare to the top baby names of 2017? Well, the girls' list is nearly the same except that Mia and Charlotte switched spots, and Harper (a name that fell out of the top ten the previous year) is back and has ousted Abigail. On the boys' side, Lucas kicked Jacob out of the top 10.

The real changes happened lower down in the data. Let's take a look at the popular baby names that were trending hard in 2018:

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