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Sweet Escape

Mom and founder of Erin McKenna’s Bakery reveals her recipe to staying grounded.

Sweet Escape

While NYC is often touted as “the city that never sleeps,” every New Yorker who strives for longevity in this transient city knows that the only way to survive is by striking a balance. Or at the very least, attempting to strike one.

For Erin McKenna, it takes a combination of self-care, heart and drive to keep her going strong as a mom of two and founder of NYC’s legendary vegan institution Erin McKenna’s Bakery.

In the second installment of our Bugaboo Runner series, McKenna--who is celebrating 10 years of business, and now has additional outposts in L.A. and Orlando--shows us one of her favorite running stroller routes in the city she calls home, and shares her passion for wellness with a little help from her delicious baby boy Ford.

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Why are you so passionate about fitness?

If you met the version of me that did not exercise, it would answer your question! I was always tired, not motivated, had anxiety and just didn't feel good in general. When I started exercising 17 years ago, I noticed a dramatic change in my energy level, mood and outlook on life, and I felt more calm. It's like a drug to me!

In what way does running give you a feeling of freedom that other fitness activities can’t replicate?

Running outside, as opposed to going to the gym, is the ultimate form of meditation for me. Something happens at the 9-minute mark...all resistance leaves my body and I feel an opening happen in my mental space as well as my physical body. It's where what feels like magic happens. It's when I get all my good ideas, when I put things that are bothering me to rest, and where I get connected.

How do you fit in time to care for yourself between parenting and your career?

I wake up an hour before my kids do in order to make time for exercise. It takes commitment, but it's one of those non-negotiable things in my day, like brushing your teeth. On the weekends, I'll wake when they do and involve them in my exercise, whether it's taking Ford out in the Bugaboo Runner or doing a dance party in the living room with both kids.

What are some things you hope to teach your little ones about being active?

All I want them to learn is that exercise or any sort of movement can be a tool in life beyond play.

How has becoming a parent impacted or changed your fitness routine?

I haven't changed anything about my routine, but I did have to chill out for a couple weeks after I gave birth...even though it was mentally very hard to do!

What’s are some of your favorite NYC spots to get out there and get active with your kids?

I love going from our apartment in Soho up to Madison Square Park, Pier 25 and East River Park.

What everyday things have made you realize that being a parent in NYC is all about freedom and exploration?

I love being a parent in NYC. Little things that would require a car in other places are the things that are adventures for us, like going to the grocery store. The walk to and from is half the fun. And most weekends, we (happily) have no plan! We just pack up the stroller and wander around stopping in shops that look fun, somewhere new for lunch and an undiscovered park after. A lot of people are under the impression that raising kids in the city is hard, but I think it's easier, and a lot of fun.

Sometimes we all need to unwind. When you’re done hitting the pavement and the kids are tucked in bed, what does a perfect end to a day look like?

It's pretty much the same thing every night! Once the kids are in bed, I sit down to meditate for 15-20 minutes. Then I go outside just before sunset and just sit on a bench in my neighborhood and watch people bustling around the streets. Then I go home and eat (vegan) ice cream and watch whatever show I'm watching at the moment! I love my kids, but sometimes I feel like I'm crawling for the finish line all day!

If you could give expectant parents who are worried about losing their freedom some words of encouragement, what would they be?

Hang on, things do return somewhat to normal once you have a routine! Also, take time for yourself when you are ready. Self care not only makes you a more present and happy parent, but it teaches your child/children that they should do the same. The greatest gift you can give your child is being truly happy within.

Photography by Justin Borucki.

Erin’s activewear courtesy of Bandier.

This post was brought to you by Bugaboo.

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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14 Toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

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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@9_fingers_/Twenty20

As a mom, I say the phrase 'let me just…' to my kids more times a day than I can count.

Yes, I can help you log into your class, let me just send this email.
Yes, I can play with you, let me just make one more call.
Yes, I can get you a snack, let me just empty the dishwasher.

I say it a lot at work, too.

Yes, I can write that article, let me just clear my inbox.
Yes, I can clear my inbox, let me just finish this meeting.
Yes, I can attend that meeting, let me just get this project out the door.

The problem is that every 'let me just' is followed by another 'let me just'... and by the time they're all done, the day is over, and I didn't do most of the things I intended—and I feel pretty bad about myself because of it.

I wasn't present with my kids today.
I didn't meet that deadline.
I couldn't muster the energy to cook dinner.
The house is a mess. I am a mess. The world is a mess.

It's okay, I tell myself. Let me just try again tomorrow.

But tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes and the list of things I didn't get to or didn't do well bears down on my shoulders and my heart, and all I can think is, "I am failing."

And I think that maybe I'm not alone.

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