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True life: My happy home is also a messy one

While you've been poorly maintained (okay, completely and utterly overlooked) over the last three years, you've also been witness to countless small miracles.

True life: My happy home is also a messy one

To my very disheveled (but very happy) house,

I have to be honest with you: You've really let yourself go.

Granted, you weren't exactly in impeccable shape before we had two kids and adopted a rescue dog. But these days you're looking—how should I say it?—neglected. Nothing like those images I see on Pinterest of mothers playing with their babies in a nursery where every book is neatly stacked on the shelf and not a single piece of milk-drenched, avocado-stained laundry is in sight.

Rather, I discover tumbleweeds of dog hair under the sofa and bookshelves as I crouch down playing hide-and-seek with my toddler. I find odd socks in kitchen drawers, whisks and spatulas in the kids' dresser. Why? Because my son has been baking "cakes" in his room. (Naturally.)

I practically forget that we have a dining table until I excavate it from the eruption of continuously flowing laundry at 5:30 pm so that we can sit down and eat dinner together. (And no, I can no longer fathom the days when my husband and I enjoyed a leisurely dinner at 8 pm. I mean… who can wait that long to eat?)

There are days when we step over Duplo bridges and racing cars made of cardboard boxes just to get out the front door. Then we come home to the crowded kitchen island and push aside finger paints and piles of autumn leaves for tracing so that we can make another snack.

But here's the thing. While you've been poorly maintained (okay, completely and utterly overlooked) over the last three years, you've also been witness to countless small miracles.

A cascade of giggles trickling from a baby's toothless smile.

A symphony of coos and babbles and—soon enough—words, sentences, entire stories.

First steps and first tumbles. First kangaroo hops and bear crawls and robust lion roars.

A toddler's raspberry kisses blown on my taut, expanding stomach.

The first friendly tackle from a big brother to his still-too-little-for-contact-sports baby brother, followed by conspiratorial laughter between them.

You've patiently waited for your turn, house. You've waited for me to catch up on the laundry, the dishes, the vacuuming (in between those naps and snacks and playdates, not to mention late-night work sessions and frantic attempts to meet deadlines).

You've allowed your faded sofa cushions to be used as the roofs of improvised forts and the landing pads for Olympic long jumps. You've graciously made way for a double stroller to park permanently in your entryway, muddy wheels and all. You've let the living room become a racetrack, the hallway a scooter path. You've put up with laundry hanging in every imaginable corner during the winter, and you've shrugged off the trails of sand and emptied pockets full of seashells during summer.

So, while you've been anything but Pinterest-worthy, there's one thing I know for sure. When I look back in 10 or 20 or 30 years, I doubt I'll remember your state of disarray.

Instead, I'll remember near meltdown moments turned into impromptu dance parties. Rather than thinking about finger-smudged windows (yes, the same ones prominently displayed in the family photos I paid a considerable amount for), I'll remember how those little fingers helped me stir pancake batter early in the morning before the rest of the neighbors were awake.

I'll probably forget how some days I had to navigate from one room to the other as if balancing on scattered stepping stones across a rushing river. But I'm fairly certain I'll remember the general feeling of joy, even in the moments of sheer exhaustion.

I'll remember that every day was full of discoveries—not only for my boys but for me too as I watched their curiosity and independence unfold.

The day will come when the house is tidy enough for people to drop by unexpectedly without me launching into a litany of excuses for its disheveled state. I know this (and I'll probably lament that day when it does arrive).

I know at some stage I'll catch up on laundry, and dishes and work. I'll vacuum the dog hair and dust the picture frames more frequently, and I'll stop using my organic, all-natural baby wipes to clean the entire bathroom.

I'll make sure the kitchen utensils are in the kitchen, not the bedroom. I'll work during daylight hours, and my desk won't be covered in sticker books and popcorn crumbs and rogue pieces of dog-chewed train tracks.

But, house, I'm afraid you'll have to wait a bit longer for your day to come. For now, we're far too busy having fun, and I'll take that over a perfect house any day.

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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

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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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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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My 3-year-old is eating peanut butter toast with banana for breakfast (his request), and we are officially running late for preschool. We need to get in the car soon if we want to miss the morning traffic, but he has decided that he no longer wants the food that he begged for two minutes earlier. What started off as a relatively calm breakfast has turned into a battle of wills.

"You're going to be hungry," I say, realizing immediately that he could care less. I can feel my frustration rising, and even though I'm trying to stay calm, I'm getting snappy and irritable. In hindsight, I can see so many opportunities that fell through the cracks to salvage this morning, but at the moment… there was nothing.

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