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LA Oasis

The Mama Circle is giving NY birthing classes a run for their money.

LA Oasis

We love our dearcity for all that it is, but we’d be lying if we said there aren’t days our minds wander to the west and wonder “What if?” Usually those are the days we’re slapped with a random act of kindness or catch the sunset on the NYC skyline in a way it can only do in our beautiful city to snap us out of our daydream. But we can’t say we’re not happy we have friends to visit on the West Coast (and to make us jealous on our instagram feeds) to give us a taste of the other side. Friends that are finding inspiration in different places. Even when it comes to birthing. Like, maternity support specialist Erica Chidi, founder of The Mama Circle in Venice, Calif.

Imagine attending a birthing class that is set in a lush, secluded garden centered around a farm-to-table lunch… no, we’re not daydreaming again. This is the oasis that Chidi brought to life this past summer. “The Mama Circle is a place for expectant mothers to connect, share, and gain vital insights about pregnancy, birth, and their journey towards motherhood,” says Chidi. “I integrate my skills as a birth and postpartum doula, Certified Lactation Educator Counselor and chef to support expectant parents.” With only 10-12 women in each session, Chidi has created an appropriately intimate setting for an intimate topic. “I wanted to infuse more community, connection and levity into the prenatal learning experience. My hope was to create something that felt intimate, relaxed -- a safe space for women to be themselves and prepare for birth,” says Chidi.

OK, our minds are wandering again. Here Chidi tells us more.

Why is The Mama Circle so special compared to other birthing or prenatal courses?

I think what makes The Mama Circle different is that it's a softer learning environment. Firstly, the sessions take place outside of the traditional space of a classroom. We're in a beautiful garden, which creates a more fluid and receptive energy in which to receive information.

Secondly, the curriculum is progressive, dynamic and evidence-based. We support every type of birth experience and cover everything from how to assemble your birth preferences to mindful meditation to discovering how you can best negotiate the transition from pregnancy to parenthood with your partner.

Lastly, we end each session in a communal farm-to-table organic lunch, where our mamas can discuss the information we've covered amongst themselves and with the circle leader of that session.

Equal focus is placed on education, socializing and nourishment.

How did you choose The Mama Circle leaders?

I chose individuals I admired within my industry and that I felt held a strong but incorporative stance on pregnancy, birth and parenting topics.

Can women opt to take just one and not all 5 sessions?

Yes!

If so, what is the most important session and why?

It's hard to say, as each session explores poignant elements of pregnancy and birth. However, "Preparing For The Moment" unpacks the foundational elements of how to create an empowering birth experience, so I would recommend that one. It primes the mind and provides an introduction to the many options and choices a woman has within the birth environment.

Tell us about the farm-to-table experience.

I was a trained a chef before going to college, so food is a huge part of who I am and how I see the world. Sustainability was important, so I collaborated with a local CSA initiative called FarmBoxLA and I source most of the produce through them. They have a close relationship with many of the local Californian farms, which allowed me to learn more about what's locally cultivated. Nutrition is so important in pregnancy and the early postpartum period, so it felt natural to connect each session to a nourishing meal, catering to the specific nutritional needs of pregnancy.

What do you want the expectant mamas to come away with from The Mama Circle?

Feeling empowered, heard and more knowledgeable about what to expect in their pregnancy, birth and postnatal experience. I'd also like them to come away with a new community of like-minded women who are on the same journey and are there to support one another as they transition into motherhood.

Do you ever plan to expand to NY? That would be amazing.

Possibly, it would be incredible to do a summer intensive in NYC. We'd just need to find a cosy, communal garden space...with a kitchen! Ideas are welcome!

Photography by Kimberly Genevieve

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

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