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To the mom friend who loves my children, too...

It’s one thing to have mom friends. It’s another to have mom friends who truly love your own children.

To the mom friend who loves my children, too...

It was the "lazy morning at home" that, by 8 a.m., I knew could no longer be the lazy morning at home.

Restless toddlers, arguments over whose cup it was and a pile of laundry that six little feet were simply not going to let me fold. The kids needed a change of scenery and a place to burn off some energy, and I couldn't let those unmatched socks taunt me one more minute.

We had to get out of the house.

I sent a text to my good friend Kelly on a whim, hoping to have someone join me in the chaos—but staying realistic about the chances of a last-minute meet-up.

“We are headed to Jump + Bounce at 10! Are you guys free this morning?"

A few minutes later my phone lit up. “We are! We will be there!"

Thank goodness, I thought in return. When you've simply had too much of your little people and the day is still so young, the prospect of the company of anyone but those little people is incredibly comforting. I quickly grabbed everyone socks, corralled the kids into the car and promised to stop at Starbucks for apple juice on the way—my way of saying, "Mama needs a venti this morning."

Within 90 minutes, two moms and five kids descended on the local bounce house. We wrangled shoes off excited toddlers and reminded the easily distracted one not to hold in her potty until the last minute.

For an hour, Kelly and I chatted in one-minute increments, heads on swivels for our kids in the sea of sweaty little people.

“So, how was work this week?"

“It was good. Had a big meeting with a potential new client, but I think he enjoyed the presentation and is likely to hire us, so… oh, hang on, 'Micah! Wait for him, do not climb over him!' What about you? Anything new?"

“Oh not really. Keeping busy with the usual but I did get… 'Cannon! Are you stuck? I'm coming buddy.' Anyway, what was I talking about?"

And so it went the remainder of our time. A sentence here, a bathroom break there, a moment of panic when the 2-year-old is out of sight for too long and sweet relief when I see his bright yellow shirt come out from behind the climbing wall.

A classic mom-date, catching up and bonding over the shared experience of constant interruption and unfinished sentences.

When it was time to go, my 4-year-old, Harper, spotted the balloons. The pink one, to be specific. Once her eyes locked on it I knew exactly what she was thinking. With the adept negotiating skills that seem far too mature for a 4-year-old, somehow she convinced her distracted mama to hand over two quarters for a little bit of pink glory. As the sweet bounce house worker handed her the prize, my girl beamed. So much joy for such a little face. With Harper's balloon in hand, we guided the rest of the crew out the door and toward a sea of various color minivans.

Just after we stepped outside and turned to say goodbye to our friends, toddler-tragedy struck: a gust of wind seized the pink balloon and began to carry it off into the distance. Immediately Harper shrieked in horror and began crying, “My balloon! My balloon!"

I didn't even have a moment to get out any words of consolation to her before friendship showed up.

Without hesitation, Kelly dropped her purse and took off running—no, sprinting— toward the balloon. This was no light breeze, it was wind she was up against, and she gave it her best athletic efforts. We watched as she chased that balloon down the parking lot, onto a sidewalk, near the storefront and eventually around the back of the building. For a few anxious seconds she was out of sight and we all wondered and hoped she would valiantly return with the prize in hand.

She didn't. The wind was too much that day. When she came back she knelt down to a sobbing little girl and wrapped her arms around her. “I'm so sorry about your balloon, sweetheart. I tried so hard to catch it." And she had. She did something in that moment that not even I did.

Harper was still distraught as we squinted our eyes to see a little bit of pink floating high behind the building in the distance, but my heart was full.

My friend had just demonstrated the most important level of friendship two moms can ever attain: loving the other one's kids.

In moments like these, we learn a beautiful truth: love me and I'll be grateful for your friendship; love my babies, too, and I will do anything in the world for you. I'm not sure many things can do more for a mama's heart than seeing other people truly love her children.

And not just when they are sweet and innocent, but when they are not. Harper was very kind and grateful for the balloon that morning, but there have been plenty of times when she has not been so kind and grateful. Kelly would have taken off after that balloon anyway, because she has not reserved unconditional love for only her children, she's offered it to mine, too.

Seeing my friends truly care about my kids and their growing, learning, imperfect and precious hearts makes the world feel a bit safer, and it makes the long days of raising little ones feel a bit sweeter.

A mama's love cannot be replaced, but it can certainly be added to. And that's the funny thing about math and love: addition feels a lot more like multiplication when we see our friend chase a balloon through a windy parking lot.

A few weeks after the upsetting loss of the pink balloon, Harper and I thought it would be fun to surprise Kelly with her own balloon, to thank her for her heroic efforts. We went to the party store and filled one blue balloon with helium and grabbed a few extra for her boys to blow up themselves. When we arrived at the door, they greeted us with smiles and we all laughed at the memory of a grown woman sprinting through a parking lot, dodging cars and watching for curbs.

We handed over the blue balloon to the boys and in the excitement of the moment, someone's little hands let go of the ribbon and we all jumped at the sound of exploding helium. The moms laughed, the kids cried; we had unintentionally recreated the trauma of that windy day and decided that perhaps balloons would be not be the gift of choice for our little crew.

Some things are meant to last, others aren't. But friends who truly love your babies: don't let those ones go.

This story was originally published on Coffee + Crumbs.

Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

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

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

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

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

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5 brilliant products that encourage toddler independence

Help your little one help themselves.

One of our main goals as mothers is to encourage our children to learn, grow and play. They start out as our tiny, adorable babies who need us for everything, and somehow, before you know it, they grow into toddlers with ideas and opinions and desires of their own.

You may be hearing a lot more of "I do it!" or maybe they're pushing your hand away as a signal to let you know, I don't need your help, Mama. That's okay. They're just telling you they're ready for more independence. They want to be in charge of their bodies, and any little bit of control their lives and abilities allow.

So, instead of challenging your toddler's desire for autonomy, we found five of our favorite products to help encourage independence—and eliminate frustration in the process.

EKOBO Bamboo 4-piece kid set

EKOBO bamboo 4-piece kid set

This colorful set includes a plate, cup, bowl and spoon and is just right for your child's meal experience. Keep them in an easy-to-reach cabinet so they'll feel encouraged (and excited!) to get their own place setting each time they eat.

$25

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Before you know it, your little one will be asking (okay, maybe demanding) to fill their own water cups. This amazing 4-pack of cups attaches directly to the fridge (or any glass, metal, tile or fiberglass surface) making it easier for your child to grab a cup themselves. Just be sure a water pitcher or dispenser is nearby, and—boom!—one task off your plate.

$29

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

These beautiful blocks, made from sustainably-sourced wood and water-based, non-toxic, lead-free paint, will keep your little one focused on their creation while they're also busy working on their fine-motor skills. The puzzle design will encourage patience as your kiddo creates their own building, fitting one block in after the next.

$18

Lorena Canals basket

Lorena Canals Basket

This *gorgeous* braided cotton basket is the perfect, accessible home for their blocks (and whatever else you want to hide away!) so your kiddo can grab them (and clean them up) whenever their heart desires.

$29

BABYBJÖRN step stool

BABYBJ\u00d6RN Step Stool

Your kiddo might be ready to take on the world, but they might need an extra boost to do so—cue, a step stool! An easy-to-move lightweight stool is the must-have confidence-boosting tool you need in your home so your growing tot can reach, well... the world.

$20

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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This viral post about the 4th trimester is exactly what new mamas need right now

"We are alone. Together. You are surrounded all the other mothers who are navigating this tender time in isolation. You are held by all of us who have walked the path before you and who know how much you must be hurting. You are wrapped in the warm embrace of mama earth, as she too settles into this time of slowness and healing."

Artist and teacher Catie Atkinson at Spirit y Sol recently shared a beautiful drawing of a new mom crying on a couch—leaking breasts, newborn baby, pile of laundry and what we can only assume is cold coffee, included. Everything about the image is so real and raw to me—from the soft stomach to the nursing bra and the juxtaposition of the happy wallpaper to the palpable vulnerability of the mother—I can almost feel the couch underneath me. I can feel the exhaustion deep in this woman's bones.

My heart feels the ache of loneliness right alongside hers. Because I remember. I remember the confusion and uncertainty and love and messy beauty of the fourth trimester so well. After all, it's etched in our minds and bodies forever.

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