Thank you for being my friend—the one I can go to for anything

We were able to bare our ugliest secrets, our silliest insecurities, our pettiest worries and our darkest fears about life as a mom.

women hugging

Yesterday I met a friend for coffee. It was one of those rare days when both of us had a window between school drop-off, errands, work and school pick-up, so we jumped on the opportunity. And then we spent the entire precious hour talking—no, scratch that—venting about our children and how hard this motherhood gig is.

Afterward, I walked away thinking I should have asked her where she got her shoes (which I'd subconsciously noticed upon arrival because they were lovely) or what she thought about what had been on the news that morning or where she and her husband had gone on their last date night. Or really anything that made me feel like we were actual grown-ups enjoying a coffee together, rather than exhausted, automated parenting machines close to burnout.


Truthfully, I left that coffee date feeling better than I had in ages. Refreshed. Relieved. Lighter and better able to parent for the rest of the day. I felt less like an automated parenting machine than I had in a very long time.

Because in that short precious hour, all of our walls came down, all pretensions of having our lives in order were left at the door and we were free. We gave each other unspoken permission to be imperfect. Together, in that short stolen hour, we were able to bare our ugliest secrets, our silliest insecurities, our pettiest worries and our darkest fears about life as a mom.

We opened up about how much iPad time had really been consumed in our homes while we were parenting solo over the weekend. We told the barefaced truth about how we feel about our almost-3-year-olds when they kick off their rain boots before jumping in the muddy puddles, and we commiserated over how many dinners we had cooked this week that didn't get eaten.

We lamented how well-behaved every other toddler seems to be in comparison to our own and then reassured each other that, of course, that isn't the case.

We openly admitted to the shameless administration of lingering Halloween treats as bribes and to promising we would ban screen time as threats (all the while praying we wouldn't have to).

And we found that in the last week we had both crawled exhaustedly into our toddlers' beds late at night after a day of shouting—and cried guilty, remorseful tears into their hot, sleepy little necks.

We laid it all bare. And it was bliss.

What I came away with after that coffee date was so much more than a much-needed caffeine fix. It was more than an idle hour of chat without interruption from our children. It was more than good company of a like-minded friend.

On that morning, it was a hand reaching out into the chaos and pulling me to calm. It was an affirmation that I'm not going mad and that everybody feels like this sometimes. It was camaraderie in the trenches of motherhood.

It was knowing there is a safe place where somebody will say, "Hey, me too."

By admitting our weaknesses to each other, we are making ourselves—and each other—stronger.

In a world where we're hard enough on ourselves every day, we empathize with one another—because we're all doing our best but sometimes we need a friend to tell us so in order for us to actually believe it.

When we have the courage to admit our imperfections, we always, always discover we are loved in return, not despite these imperfections but because of them—and because the expression of them made somebody else feel less alone.

To every mama out there, I hope you have a friend—or many—that you can be your completely imperfect self with. A friend—or many—who will assure you that you're the only one judging your mothering skills. A friend who will remind you that your children love you anyway.

I hope you have this friend and that now—right this moment—you will pick up your phone and schedule that coffee date. Because life is hard enough and you know what? You deserve it.

This is my one trick to get baby to sleep (and it always works!)

There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

Enter the beloved by all—sound machines.

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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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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A few years ago, while my wife's baby bump got bigger and my daddy reading list grew longer, I felt cautiously optimistic that this parenthood thing would, somehow, suddenly click one day. The baby would come, instincts would kick in, and the transition from established couple to a new family would be tiring but not baffling.

Boy was I wrong.

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