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The one baby gift I didn't register for (but desperately needed)

Everybody who came to visit in those early days ended up in that ugly glider. We have photos to prove it.

The one baby gift I didn't register for (but desperately needed)

Before my mother died when I was a teenager she asked her cousin—my godmother—to look after me in whatever mysterious ways my father couldn't. For many years, neither of us really knew what that meant. Then I got pregnant. Surely it was her job to throw me a baby shower.

I was of "advanced maternal age" at 37 years old, so I had accumulated some ideas about how the baby thing was going to go down. No pink. No diaper genie. No plastic junk.

My mom's cousin, careful not to overstep her bounds, asked if she could be the one to buy me a rocker or glider. I had researched rockers and gliders and thought they were mostly hideous to look at and also too big for the nursery we were setting up in our small house in Queens. I told my godmother thanks but no thanks. She bought me one anyway.

I was mad at first. I didn't even take it home from the shower (it wouldn't fit in the car!). But she insisted I would need it. I rolled my eyes, but the chair and its stuffy blue-and-white stripes found their way into my house somehow. The stinking thing even had an ottoman that rocked.

And then the baby came.

Oh, the hours I spent in that chair! My husband, too. Everybody who came to visit in those early days ended up in that ugly glider. We have photos to prove it. It became the place we nursed, the place we read, the place we cuddled and played peek-a-boo, patty-cake and more. Eventually, I had to admit that I was wrong, and say a proper thank you to my godmother.

I probably read Goodnight Moon about 1,800 times in that chair and sang "Rock a Bye Baby" at least a few hundred times, for sure.

I watched a mouse run across the room in the middle of the night once (eek) and rocked feverish bodies back to sleep many times.

I spent countless hours in the glider listening to the sounds of night—to breathing and thumbs being sucked and sirens rushing off to help less lucky people.

I had to yank tiny bodies off it when they were old enough to stand on it and rocked it too hard. I shouted, "Stop it! You're hitting the wall!!!" more times than I care to admit.

Eventually, the glider was put out for the trash. Our youngest daughter moved into a big-girl bed and we started to cuddle and read books there instead. The chair was stained to the point of embarrassment, anyway, and wasn't at all salvageable for someone else so it was the end of the line for ole stripey. But we had a good run, me and that glider chair that I never wanted.

Almost seven years.

The room has an easel now and a toy kitchen and small vanity, but when I walk in there I can still see the glider and changing table and crib. Getting rid of that stuff was the proverbial end of an era, and I am as excited about where I am in this whole motherhood journey now, as I am wistful about things long gone.

But I still miss the chair—the chair that showed me that I am not always right. That I don't always know what I need. And that it is good to have people like my godmother in your life when you're about to become a mom. People brave enough to occasionally steamroll you for your own good.

There are still dents in the wall behind where the chair used to be and my inclination is to leave them there as reminders of the dents we all have in our hearts—caused by love and loss and babies that grow up so very fast. So thank you, godmother. In case I never said it. It was the perfect gift.

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A very important letter for new mamas

Listen, mom-guilt is a dirty liar. Yes, it's your job to fill your little human's needs, but you matter too. Don't forget to take care of yourself. Hang out with friends, take a drive blaring 90's hip hop or shower without interruptions—trust me, you'll be a better person (and mom) because of it.

Dear new mom,

You will shave again someday. Today is not that day.

Set expectations low, my friend, and set your partner's lower—at least where body hair and overall hygiene are concerned.

That conversation could go something like this: “From now on let's not consider shaving a “standard," but more like a gift that happens on birthdays and the first day of summer."

Voila, you are a gift-giving genius. You know what else is a gift? Shaving the inch and a half of skin that is between your skinny jeans and your boots. You're welcome world.

You will not be perfect at parenting.

Boom.

I have yet to meet a perfect mother, but when I do, she's going to be a tiger who is insanely good at making up songs. (Daniel Tiger's mom, we salute you.)

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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

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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!

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Detective set

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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

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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.

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Sand play set

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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.

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Water play set

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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.

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Mini golf set

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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.

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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.

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Croquet set

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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

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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

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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.

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Pull-along hippo

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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.

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Baby forest fox ride-on

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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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A few years ago, while my wife's baby bump got bigger and my daddy reading list grew longer, I felt cautiously optimistic that this parenthood thing would, somehow, suddenly click one day. The baby would come, instincts would kick in, and the transition from established couple to a new family would be tiring but not baffling.

Boy was I wrong.

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Life