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Dear daughter: Be loud, take up space—your voice matters

She has a fire inside her, and I never want it to go away.

Dear daughter: Be loud, take up space—your voice matters

When I was in the fifth grade I made it to the finals in both a public speaking contest and spelling bee—both were in front of the entire school. My tiny body strutted to the podium. The ocean of bobbing, grinning parents and siblings didn't scare me. No nerves entered my body, instead, self-reliance fired into the audience. I puffed my chest out. My voice didn't rattle—it rang clear.


I didn't win first place in either contest. But I remember the poise and self-assurance I felt in front of all those people. At age 11, my confidence climbed.

But it only soared a little longer.

In the sixth grade, I excelled in drama even as a brand new middle schooler. I was invited to be in a local commercial promoting the arts in school. I stood tall—petite—but tall. My voice boomed louder in the middle school hallways. The teachers didn't like it. I heard it all. "Angela, you need to be quiet." "Lower your voice!" and worse, "Stop talking."

Something else started happening, too. My hips widened and small hills appeared on my chest a little earlier than my classmates. I no longer stood tall. I quieted. Just like I was told to do.

We shot that commercial at the end of the school year. It took far too many takes because of my jitters and newfound insecurity. My drama teacher was annoyed. Instead of encouragement, I heard, "Your mother is going to be here soon, you need to get this right. Come on."

From then on, I would remain talkative in social settings, but academically, I sat tensely at my desk. I didn't want my opinions heard—because the adults didn't want to hear them. And I never took another drama class. Today, at age 36, and earning my second grad degree, my voice still quakes when I have to give a speech behind the podium.

But now I have a daughter, and she's only three, but she's mighty. Like me. And I won't let anyone dim her light. Even if she's a little loud in the hallways I'll always remind her, "Your voice is important." I will always encourage her to let her light shine.

This past week my daughter and I sat in the bleachers during her big brother's indoor soccer game. Well, I sat—she jumped around—electric. She captivated everyone. A father was sitting behind us and my daughter kept throwing him the soccer ball—and a spontaneous game of catch ensued. Her pigtails bounced when she pranced down the bleachers, running to get the ball. When he'd miss a catch, she'd march up to him and say, "You need to catch it!" Then she'd squeal. I didn't stop her.

She has a fire inside her, and I never want it to go away. I never want her to feel like she has lost it. I never want her to feel like she has to be submissive or meek. Or like she is being hushed. She doesn't have to smile if she doesn't want to. She can be loud. She can take up space. She can be feisty. She should feel empowered.

I remember, like it was yesterday, the teachers who fired their scorn at my vivacity—until it dwindled to just a flicker. Today, I feel cheated by those teachers. They made me feel inadequate as a developing young woman. And now, as a mother, I wonder—what could have been?

But I won't let my daughter wonder that same thing. Today, if we're in a doctor's waiting room, restaurant, or sporting event, she chats with everyone. Life shoots out of her. Enthusiasm radiates from her body. And sometimes, I can tell—people become a little put off. I've seen eyes roll. Heads turn away. But I don't care. I won't stop her. As long as she's not being rude or disrespectful, she's harmless. She's being a kid. She's enjoying her life. She's discovering who she is.

I want her to always feel that confidence like she does today. I won't silence her. I won't let her feel cheated.

And when she's older, I want her to confidently speak up in a class discussion, to fearlessly tell a joke at a party, to flawlessly give a speech in front of a crowd. To have courage when she needs to speak out about an injustice and to have poise when she needs to articulate her feelings. To feel comfortable using her words, as I remind her now—and for the rest of her life.

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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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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

$35

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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