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When your toddler defies you, love is the answer

It’s the moments when they push you away the most that you need to hug them the hardest.

When your toddler defies you, love is the answer

In 2005, I received a late Christmas gift—the best Christmas gift there could ever be. It was December 26th. The gifts from the day before still needed sorted and put away. The lights still twinkled on the tree. My feet were bare and cold on the bathroom floor, and my hands were shaking as I held a digital pregnancy test, watching the hourglass spinning ‘round and ‘round. When it stopped, my life was forever changed.


I spent the next 40 weeks talking, singing and reading to the baby growing in my womb. As I read the book Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, I would rub my tummy in circles and pat whatever little body part poked up. I didn’t exactly know who was growing in there, but—oh!—how I loved him so. I prepared a beautiful nursery (which he never used) but was symbolic for welcoming into our lives a new family member. His name was on the wall. He had a place here already. He belonged.

He was placed in my arms in September, the most beautiful and perfect little boy I’d ever seen. The following two years were nothing short of magical. We played peek-a-boo and watched Thomas the Train. I clapped when he learned to roll over, to sit up, to crawl, walk, and run. I marveled at each new word he spoke. We were completely and beautifully connected, this little boy and I. In his eyes, I saw trust.

We welcomed another son 26 months after the first had joined our home, and I was once again totally and completely in love. I thought we’d carry on our days in perfect harmony until they went off for college in the far, distant future. But no. Slowly, things began to change.

My firstborn, struggling with this overwhelming change in his life, began acting in ways I’d never seen him act. Back then, I called it defiant. I now recognize it as disconnected. In order to get a handle on this defiant toddler, I began putting him in time-out. I thought this was simply the way of things. It didn’t feel good, but it’s just how it had to be, I thought.

Eventually, the days turned from being filled with playfulness, joy and laughter, to being filled with tears and time-outs. His behavior only worsened during that time. I tried all of the tricks. Counting to three. Behavior charts. Nothing made things better. In fact, every time I put him in that little green chair at the end of the hallway, separated from me as I held his baby brother in my arms, he seemed to break just a little more.

I just wanted to teach him, not break him.

One day, when I saw him sitting there, eyes downcast, chin quivering, tears rolling down his still-baby cheeks, I stopped cold. Suddenly my eyes were opened to what I was doing, to his grief, to his loss and to mine. I looked into his eyes, and I no longer saw trust there. I saw sadness. My little boy who used to sleep with his hand up my shirt sleeve no longer trusted his mommy. Not completely. Not like he had before.

My son wasn’t defiant. He had his world turned upside down, and he didn’t know how to cope. I was the center of his world, and suddenly at least half of my attention, if not most of it, was going to another little baby that he’d never asked for. He felt strong emotions, and he couldn’t process them. He couldn’t explain them. All he could do was feel, and it felt really bad. Bad feelings drive bad behavior, so I then punished him for his bad behavior, compounding his bad feelings. It is such a messy cycle, but it’s possible to get out of.

When I finally understood that what he needed wasn’t a time-out chair in the corner of the hallway but to feel connected to me like he used to, I completely changed my approach. I trashed the green chair and brought him into my lap. I held him and read him books. We colored together. We hugged stuffed animals and talked about better ways to deal with frustration, anger, fear and sadness. I told him I loved him just as much as I always had, and that my love for him would never, ever change.

To some of you, this may sound like I reinforced bad behavior, but that’s not true. I addressed the root cause of the bad behavior–disconnection–and in doing so, his behavior improved.

The brokenness was healed.

We built block towers and forts. We painted with our feet. We had water balloon fights. We danced. We sang. The trust returned to his eyes. He and his brother became best friends. There was laughter again. There was joy. There was connection. No more time-outs—just teaching, heart-to-heart and hand-in-hand. What I learned when I saw him sitting there that fateful day was that it wasn’t my job to make him feel bad enough that he’d act better, but to help him feel valued, accepted, validated and wholeheartedly loved so that he could be his good, compassionate, kind, true self.

Children are good. They are filled with amazing potential and secure attachment unlocks that potential and allows them to grow beautifully into who they were made to be. We don’t need to break them to teach them.

Today, my boy stands at nearly 5 feet tall. Last night he threw his long, gangly arms around me and said, “Mom, I love you.” In my mind, the book I read to him when he was yet in my womb came to the surface: “’Guess how much I love you,’ he said. ‘Oh, I don’t think I could guess that.’ ‘This much,’ said Little Nutbrown Hare, stretching out his arms as wide as they could go.”

“I love you this much,” I replied, as I stretched out my arms.

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As much as I love fall, it always feels like the season when my family's routine gets kicked into overdrive. With our oldest in (homeschool) kindergarten, my youngest on the brink of entering her twos, work, housework and *all the things* filling my day, it's hard not to feel a little overwhelmed sometimes. Did I mention we're still in a pandemic? (Yeah, it's a lot.) And while I try to take a positive view as much as I can, now more than ever I definitely jump at the chance to take anything off my busy plate.

One thing first in line at the chopping block? Cooking. To be fair, I like cooking. I cooked most of our meals long before I had ever even heard of social distancing. But there's something about the pandemic that suddenly made cooking every single meal feel exponentially more draining.

Enter Daily Harvest. They deliver nourishing, delicious food right to your door. Daily Harvest's mix of smoothies, bowls, flatbreads, snacks and more provide a balanced, whole food options that are as satisfying as they are nutritious. But my favorite part? When we're ready to eat, I simply pull the food from the freezer and it's ready in minutes—without any chopping, measuring or searching for a recipe. Even better, they're incredibly tasty, meaning I'm not struggling to get my girls to dig in. Not cooking has never felt so good.

Here are my 8 favorite products that are helping to lighten my load right now:

Mulberry + Dragonfruit Oat Bowl

Mulberry + Dragonfruit Oat Bowl

One thing that actually helps break up the monotony of quarantine? Trying and introducing new ingredients to my family. I love this overnight oat bowl (add milk the night before and let it set in your fridge overnight—easy-peasy!) because not only does it not compromise on nutrition, but it also helps me bring new whole fruits, vegetables and superfoods to the table with ease.

Mint + Cacao Smoothie

Mint + Cacao Smoothie

I kid you not, these taste exactly like a mint chocolate chip milkshake. (Just ask my 4-year-old, who is constantly stealing sips from my glass.) What she doesn't know? She's actually getting organic banana, spinach and chlorella with every sip. #momwin

Kabocha + Sage Flatbread

Kabocha + Sage Flatbread

Our family's eating habits have been leaning more plant-forward this year, which often means a lot of veggie washing, peeling and chopping every time I cook. That's why these flatbreads are my new best friend come lunchtime. This Kabocha + Sage Flatbread is made with a gluten-free cauliflower crust topped with kabocha squash, fennel and sage for a taste of fall in every bite. (Missing the cheese? You can add it before baking for more of a pizza feel.)

Kale + Sweet Potato Flatbread

Kale + Sweet Potato Flatbread

There's something about the combination of sweet potato crust topped with red cabbage, organic greens and an herby-cilantro sauce that is so delicious… like surprisingly delicious. I polished off this bad boy in seconds! And unlike other "veggie" crusts I've tried, these are actually clean (AKA no fillers, preservations, partially-hydrogenated oil or artificial anything). Plus, it couldn't be easier to throw in the oven between conference calls and homeschool lessons.

Cacao + Avocado Smoothie

Cacao + Avocado Smoothie

Any time I get to serve a breakfast that tastes like chocolate, it's a good day. (That goes double when it's *my* breakfast.) This rich, chocolatey smoothie is packed with organic zucchini, avocado, pumpkin seeds and pea protein for a nourishing mix of healthy fats and muscle-building protein so I can carry that baby all day long. And did I mention the chocolate?

Vanilla Bean + Apple Chia Bowl

Vanilla Bean + Apple Chia Bowl

Maybe it's just me, but after a long week of cooking, the last thing I want to do on Saturday morning is...wake up and cook. That's why these one-step breakfasts are saving my weekend. I simply add our favorite milk the night before and store the bowl in the fridge overnight. Come morning, I have a nutritious chia bowl that powers me through even the busiest day of errands. It's also Instagram-ready, which makes me feel like I'm out brunching (even if I can't remember the last time I was in a restaurant).

Cacao Nib + Vanilla Bites

Cacao Nib + Vanilla Bites

My kids have turned into snack monsters during quarantine, and I'm often struggling to find a wholesome option (that doesn't require a lot of extra cooking or else I resort to something ultra-refined and shelf-stable). These bites are the hero I never knew I needed. For one, they taste like cookie dough, but they're actually packed with chickpeas, pumpkin, dates and flax seed (among other whole ingredients). But unlike actual cookie dough, I don't have to go anywhere near my mixer to whip them up—all I have to do is pull the container out of the freezer, let them defrost a bit and we can all enjoy a treat.

Cauliflower Rice + Pesto Harvest Bowl

Cauliflower Rice + Pesto Harvest Bowl

Sometimes I have a little more time to cook, but I still want a quick, stress-free solution. (Especially because it always feels like I just cleaned up from the last meal.) I love these Harvest Bowls because they warm up in under five minutes on the stove top (or microwave!) but pack tons of flavor. The Cauliflower Rice + Pesto bowl is one of my favorites, with basil, olive oil and nutritional yeast for a hearty dish reminiscent of a mouth-watering Italian meal. When I'm feeling extra fancy, I add leftover grilled chicken or a fried egg.

Strawberry + Rich, Rippled Berry Compote Scoops

Strawberry + Rich, Rippled Berry Compote Scoops

Who doesn't want to end the day with a little something sweet? This creamy and decadent frozen treat from Daily Harvest is swirled with sweet berries and tropical dragonfruit for an antioxidant burst you'll feel good about—but that your kiddos will just think is ice cream. Go ahead, take credit for being the best mom ever.

Want to try it yourself? You can get $25 off your first box of Daily Harvest with code MOTHERLY.

This article was sponsored by Daily Harvest. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas

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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.

$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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What went viral this week: Pregnant Disney Princesses + an airline nightmare

Now, more than ever, we need to hear those good news stories.

Vanessa Firme/Instagram

Last week was a week.

We lost a legal and cultural icon with the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and deadly wildfires continue to blaze on the West Coast. Now, more than ever, we need to see creativity, kindness and compassion in our world—we need to hear those "good news" stories, but we also need to see the headlines that show us how and why the world needs to change .

And right now both kinds of stories are going viral.

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