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Neighborhood Watch

If you love your hood, yell it from the rooftops...and enter the Mommy Nearest Summer Challenge.

Neighborhood Watch

If you live in the city you surely know that New Yorkers are incredibly passionate -- and borderline competitive -- about their neighborhoods. I’ve gotten into arguments with complete strangers about how my local prix fixe brunch is deserving of a James Beard award, and take it as a point of personal pride when the local food co-op gets a new celebrity member...and I don’t even belong. Once a baby comes into the picture, there’s nothing you won’t do to convince other current or prospective parents of how great your hood is to raise kids, even if it’s partly a ploy to get other like-minded parents to move close by.

As the “Expert Moms” for the app Mommy Nearest, Kaity and I love sharing our parent-friendly recommendations around the Big Apple, and especially from our own neighborhoods in Brooklyn. So when we heard about the Mommy Nearest Summer Challenge -- a summer-long contest that rewards members for adding their favorite kid- and pregnancy-friendly spots -- we thought “Brooklyn is the clear winner.” We then remembered the other awesome Expert Moms we’ve recently met. Stiff competition. So we asked them to tell us about their neighborhoods.

Get inspired by their passion -- ok, and their competitive spirit -- and check out the Mommy Nearest Summer Challenge to spread the word about your own neighborhood. Prizes include $1,000 cash, iPad minis, free kids classes, babysitting (yay!) and more. And if you have a mommy group that weighs in -- and wins -- as a team, Mommy Nearest has $5,000 to give away to help your whole neighborhood become even greater.

May the best neighborhood win.

CHELSEA, MANHATTAN: Lauren Patterson, founder of Little Swappies.

A perfect weekend day is a family day. We love to go to brunch at Tablespoon, and if it’s a nice day out, go to one of the local parks. We love the children’s playground at Madison Square Park which has a water spray, and during the summer months, the lawn is usually open. If we have a lot of energy, we’ll hit the Museum of Mathematics, which is a nice air-conditioned respite and has wonderful exhibits appropriate for all ages. Nighttime is usually eating at home with two little ones, but we like the Breslin in the Ace Hotel for a nice date-night restaurant. littleswappies.com

ASTORIA, QUEENS: Stephanie Barnhart, founder of Football, Food and Motherhood

A great day in Astoria would start with a morning walk on the waterfront of Astoria Park. We’d stop at the swings for a quick little session, then keep walking up 23rd Ave. to grab a coffee and bagel at NYC Bagel and Coffee House. We’ll pop in Raising Astoria for an open-play session or class, then while Maximo naps, I like to grab some amazing sushi at Watawa. Since it’s scalding outside, we’d also stop for a little dip in the free Astoria pool. Finally, we’d grab a snack before heading home at Agnanti Cafe on the corner of the park. footballfoodandmotherhood.com

RIDGEWOOD, N.J.: Marissa Zitka Abruzzo, president of Hip & Healthy Kids.

A favorite day in my hood starts with brunch at Raymond's where I enjoy the old-fashioned diner experience adorned with soda siphons while my son colors his menu. We eat our delicious meal and walk the streets of picturesque Ridgewood. After our downtown excursion, we drive to our hangout, Abma's Farm to feed the farm animals and shop just-picked produce to make for dinner later. We prepare our fresh veggie dinner, enjoy a family meal, then just maybe Mom can head back to Ridgewood for an organic, non-toxic pedicure at Karma. hipandhealthykids.com

BAY RIDGE, BROOKLYN: Heather Tomoyasu, owner of Miny Moe

Bay Ridge has an amazingly tight-knit parent community. A typical day in Bay Ridge for me is a morning stroller caravan with six or so moms to the local library's Babies & Books Class, followed by yummies at the Little Cupcake Bakeshop, some shopping at baby/mama, and finally hitting the awesome Owl's Head Park spray showers in the afternoon for a cool-off! miny-moe.com

FOREST HILLS, QUEENS: Sarah Chang, founder of The Stroller Ballet

We love Forest Hills because it's such a friendly place. People really look out for each other's children. I've met so many friends at the various playgrounds around the area, including Yellowstone Park, Hawthorne Park, and Ehrenreich-Austin Playground. thestrollerballet.com

Illustration (by Jenni Sparks) from here.

10 must-have registry items that will change your life, mama

The baby gear heavy hitters that should be top of your list

Calling all mamas-to-be! It's a fundamental truth of (impending) motherhood that your prepping-for-baby To Do list can feel a mile long, but really the best way to feel organized is to sort out the most important item at the top of your list: your registry. Sure the items you choose to include will end up running the gamut from nice-to-haves to absolutely essential game-changers, but mamas in the know quickly learn one thing: Not all baby gear is created equal.

So while you can and should pepper your registry with adorable inclusions that aren't necessarily can't-live-withouts (go ahead, add 'em!), you should make sure you're ticking the boxes on those pieces of baby gear that can be absolute life savers once you're in full-blown mama mode. From car seats to bouncers and playmats, your play and travel gear will be some of the most obvious important items on your list, but so can unexpected things, like a super comfy baby carrier and a snooze-inducing white noise machine. So to help you sort through the must-have options, we turned to the holy grail of motherhood that is buybuy BABY and handpicked 10 of the very best essential pieces that will change your life, we promise.

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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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Talking to kids can come so easily. They have thoughts about everything and stories for miles. They see the world in a completely different light, and could ask enough questions to fill an afternoon.

But sometimes finding the right words for talking to kids can be really, really challenging. When choosing how to respond to the marker on the wall, or the seemingly unending why-can't-I battle, or in simply keeping healthy communication open with kids who don't want to talk, the words don't seem to come so easily.

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