All I wanted as a little girl was a big family—that's why I have 5 kids

The family I created is so different than what I grew up in, and it's perfect for us.

All I wanted as a little girl was a big family—that's why I have 5 kids

My five children sit around our rectangular kitchen table—the one we had to upgrade to in order to fit all of them—eating (or protesting) their dinner. The toddler repeatedly tries to climb out of her booster seat (because she's too sneaky for straps to work!) onto the table to claim more food from her sibling's plates and squeals echo against our walls.

I sigh because I have to stand up yet again to move her down and barely get a bite of my own food in between calls to my motherhood duty. There are many moments of chaos in our household, far different than what I grew up with as an only child. But, I wouldn't have it any other way.

My home is filled with lively energy and laughter, imaginations that run wild as they pretend the floor is lava together, and many helping hands to divide up our housework. It's filled with love for each other—and between their dad and me.

It feels whole and complete.

In contrast, I grew up very differently. I had a single mom as my primary parent who worked her tush off to provide for me, along with completing school herself. I grew up in after school care, summer camps, babysitters, or summers home alone watching too much TV.

I rode the bus because she had to be at work when I got home from school. I grew up sharing holidays and spending every other weekend traveling a total of four to eight hours there and back to visit with my dad's side of the family as the court ordered. I loved being with both sides, so I often felt torn between the two.

I was an only child until my half-siblings were born when I was a pre-teen, and even then I didn't live with them. My relationship with them was more so of a babysitter that came into their lives occasionally. I enjoyed spending time with them, but we are a decade apart and our worlds were vastly different.

It was a very divided childhood that was often lonely. I didn't want that for my kids.

I've worked hard at my marriage—even though we got married at only 19 years old and statistics were stacked against us—to keep united and in love. I am blessed to be able to stay at home with my kids, sharing summers together and picking them up in our packed van from school every day.

Having five children is completely different than what I grew up with, the concept of sharing time and space is a lesson they are learning far earlier in life than I did! They constantly have the built-in playmates I wished for growing up.

My childhood is the essence of why I am the mother that I am today, because I wanted my children's life to look much different than my own. It's also why I chose adoption for my first born when I was 16 years old because I didn't have that to offer her then.

I have always wanted stability, a fully present mom and dad, the gift of sibling friendships, a comfortable home, faith, and much laughter to be the foundation of my childrens' lives.

My children have a lifestyle completely different than what I knew growing up.

Where it was often just my mom and me sitting at our tiny table for two, my children are surrounded on all sides as they eat.

Our two-bedroom apartment was usually silent with exception to the occasional Backstreet Boys music dance parties or the mumbles of the TV screen, yet my children don't know a silent house! Their squabbles and giggles echo within our home.

My friendships always had to come from outside the home in the form of sleepovers or playdates, while my children always have someone to play with on a rainy day.

My mom just had me to read a book to and tuck into bed, but my lap is filled with children on each knee and multiple bedtime stories and tuck-ins.

My childhood wasn't perfect, yet it made me who I am today.

It gave me the driving force to do things differently, to make changes in myself and give my children more. It's more than just material things or the size of our home—it's the stability of having a united love in their mom and dad. It's the fact that they have each other to lean on and learn from both now and forever.

The family I created is so different than what I grew up in, and it's perfect for us.

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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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Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Earth Mama: Effective, natural herbal care for mamas and babies

Founded and grown in her own garage in 2002, Earth Mama started as an operation of one, creating salves, tinctures, teas and soaps with homegrown herbs. With a deep desire to bring the healing powers of nature that have been relied on for thousands of years to as many mamas as possible, Melinda Olson's formulas quickly grew into Earth Mama Organics. Since then, the brand has remained committed to manufacturing clean, safe and effective herbal solutions for the entire journey of motherhood, including pregnancy, breastfeeding and baby care, and even the loss of a baby.

Bravado Designs: Soothing sounds for a good night's sleep

With 28 years of serving pregnant and postpartum mamas under their belt, Bravado Designs is a true authority on the needs of changing bodies. It's true that we have them to thank for rescuing us from the uncomfortable and frumpy designs our own moms had to live with. Launched in Canada by two young mamas, they designed the first prototypes with extra leopard print fabric certain that a better bra was possible. Throughout the years they've maintained their commitment to ethical manufacturing while creating long-lasting products that truly work.

The Sill: Instagram-ready potted plants

We've long admired this female-founded brand and the brilliant mind behind it, Eliza Blank. (She even joined Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety on and episode of The Motherly Podcast!) The mission behind the business was simple: To make the process of bringing plants into your home as easy as possible, and as wonderful as the plant themselves. With their in-house, exclusively designed minimalist planters, the end result makes plant parenthood just a few clicks away.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

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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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