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Advice for the mama on a mission to build her village from the ground up

Friendship can be built one shared Target run at a time...

Advice for the mama on a mission to build her village from the ground up

During the past decade, I lost my village.

After I graduated from college—a unicorn-esque time that has no shortage of life-on-life social interaction—my best friends and I dispersed to vastly different parts of the country. I moved to Chicago, and for much of my twenties, I was once again surrounded by constant opportunities for friendship. I shared apartments with friends, and we often walked to church on Sundays, explored new neighborhood coffee shops and went for early-morning runs or late-night dinners together.


In my midtwenties, as is to be expected, many of us started pairing off and getting married. As we did, we moved to farther and more affordable parts of the city or out to the suburbs. Our visits had to be planned weeks in advance rather than by text message mere minutes beforehand.

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Then the babies started coming and the visits turned into phone calls and then text messages and then, eventually, silence.

I loved these friends dearly, but even still, I’m OK with the fact that these relationships ended. I would love to have these sweet women living on my tree-lined suburban street, our kids growing up running through sprinklers in each other’s backyards, but I know this isn’t reality.

Our paths diverged, and I see this as a natural part of life.

What I don’t know how to deal with is this: How do I go about building a new village when I barely have enough time to live my normal life?

How do I create a shared history with a new set of friends when our conversations are punctuated by needy children, when our coffee dates are few and far between given busy family schedules?

In the first year of motherhood, I was too tired and too busy surviving to even think about friendship. I went back to work full-time at three-months postpartum. Because of our schedules, my husband and I are often more like passing ships, handing the baby off to the other for some solo parenting while the other heads to work. Learning new rhythms for our family and trying to steal precious moments together left little time for anyone else.

But I can feel an internal stirring now that we’ve settled into a routine, now that we’re all sleeping, now that I feel like myself again. It’s as if space has started to open up in my heart, but as quickly as it’s opening, it’s filling up with loneliness.

There are a few things you should know about me: I’m an introvert and a homebody. I like to go to bed at 9:30. And I hate wearing a bra. So, even though I technically have more breathing room in my life these days, you can see why it would be more desirable, in my mind, to stay home than to go be social. Not to mention how desirable it is to avoid the complicated group texting, schedule checking and childcare securing that comes with trying to make plans with other moms.

Still, I can’t quell this desire to know and be known by women, to surround myself with a village of people I can love and be loved by, to be part of a community that brings meals when there are new babies and drops in unannounced and doesn’t expect a clean house.

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This all crystallized in my mind as I was listening to the first season of Jen Hatmaker’s podcast, which coincidentally, is all about girlfriends. In the very first episode she talked with Shauna Niequist, a people gatherer and friendship champion. She made a comment that has been rattling around my heart since then: “The returns don't come early in the process.”

I tend to want the quick path to friendship, because it’s what I’ve always known. In grade school and college and young-adult life, friendship springs up naturally and quickly, again, because there’s an unmatched abundance of face time and a breadth of shared experiences. I’m not yet used to the lifecycle of forming new adult friendships: planting seeds in one season, watering them in another, tending carefully to the tiny sprouts and protecting the plants at all costs when storms or cold fronts hit. I’m not used to reaping a harvest months or years later, but for the sake of community, I have to give it a try.

If I want rich friendships a year, five years, 10 years from now, it’s going to take some daily work on my part.

I’m still at the beginning of this—and I feel a bit like I’m about to throw some spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks—but these are a few things I’m going to try now, hoping to see a return someday.

I hope these ideas feel accessible for you, too, and that you’ll join me in this attempt to rebuild the village so many of us are missing.

1. Be consistent

Text encouragement to one friend each day, starting over every week or two. Ask simple questions about what’s going on in her life, and then follow up on those things.

2. Start where you are

Invite a friend to come along when you need to get out of the house—whether it’s to take your kids to the park or make a Target run.

3. Go first

Offer up a part of your week that was hard or a struggle you’re having at work, not as a means of venting, but as a means of being vulnerable and inviting your friend into your mess. Ask for her perspective and wisdom. Then thank her for it.

4. Share

Do you have maternity clothes that are collecting dust or some baby toys you’re ready to donate? Offer to lend them to a friend. It seems so small, but as my friend Rachel says, these offerings build a truly shared life.

5. Create an open invitation

Routines and regularly schedule plans are a mom’s best friend. The first Sunday of every month (or whatever works for you), have an ongoing open invitation for dessert and wine at your house (or pasta or games or adult coloring with soothing music and no kids). Thanks to my smart Instagram friend Emily for this tip!

Finally, in whatever you do and wherever you interact with people—on Instagram, at the park, at school pick-up or at work—make it your mission to encourage someone everywhere you go. Each life-giving word is a brick as we build our village. ?

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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There is rightfully a lot of emphasis on preparing for the arrival of a new baby. The clothes! The nursery furniture! The gear! But, the thing about a baby registry is, well, your kids will keep on growing. Before you know it, they'll have new needs—and you'll probably have to foot the bill for the products yourself.

Thankfully, you don't have to break the bank when shopping for toddler products. Here are our favorite high-quality, budget-friendly finds to help with everything from meal time to bath time for the toddler set.

Comforts Fruit Crisps Variety Pack

Comforts fruit snacks

If there is one thing to know about toddlers, it is this: They love snacks. Keeping a variety on hand is easy when the pack already comes that way! Plus, we sure do appreciate that freeze-dried fruit is a healthier alternative to fruit snacks.

Comforts Electrolyte Drink

Comforts electrolyte drink

Between running (or toddling!) around all day and potentially developing a pickier palate, many toddlers can use a bit of extra help with replenishing their electrolytes—especially after they've experienced a tummy bug. We suggest keeping an electrolyte drink on hand.

Comforts Training Pants

Comforts training pants

When the time comes to start potty training, it sure helps to have some training pants on hand. If they didn't make it to the potty in time, these can help them learn their body's cues.

Comforts Nite Pants

comforts nite pants

Even when your toddler gets the hang of using the toilet during the day, nighttime training typically takes several months longer than day-time training. In the meantime, nite pants will still help them feel like the growing, big kid they are.

Comforts Baby Lotion

comforts baby lotion

Running, jumping, playing in sand, splashing in water—the daily life of a toddler can definitely irritate their skin! Help put a protective barrier between their delicate skin and the things they come into contact with every day with nourishing lotion.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

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

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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