How to find the joy, mama

If you look back at yesterday, what is it that you remember?

For every single one of us busy mamas of tiny humans, there is a daily dance of repetitive selfless actions: wipe bottoms, roll up socks, cut off crusts, refill water bottles, tidy the toys, dry tears, make dinner, strap seat belts, search for the special cuddly friend, read bedtime stories and explain in simple terms why some of us have blue eyes and some brown, but actually we are all the same.

There might be brief moments of pure happiness and joy. Those seconds when time stands still, and you finally soak into one tiny detail, marveling at its beauty.

Those are very rare to find and can easily slip away if we are too distracted by the mundane, or if our own worries and inner dialogue are playing on repeat.

Like that time the kid finally climbed to the top of the slide and victoriously signaled his accomplishment to the mom, but she didn’t see him because she was too busy talking to the other mom friends in the park about how important it is to steam veggies rather than boil them.

Or the time our kid tried so hard to get our attention, “Mom, mama, mummy, mommy, look at me look at me LOOK-AT-ME!” while we said, “Wait for one second honey, I’ll be right with you!” because we were hiding in the kitchen, deep into the postpartum pictures our high school nemesis posted on Facebook.

We’ve seen other mothers doing it, we judged them. We did it ourselves, hoping nobody saw us or judged us. Either way, we judged ourselves.

And so we end the day feeling guilty, unable to marinate our expectations with the reality.

I’ve been there, and I know every single one of us has felt it. It is yet again a reminder that any version of multitasking is just an unachievable tool of success in life, whether you are pursuing motherhood or business.

The moment I shifted my perspective into taking care of my own needs first, with intention and daily frequency, I observed a complete change in the quality of my presence.

When I was with my children, I could gift them my undivided attention and participation. When I was with my partner, I could truly be with him, listening and connecting.
 When I was with my friends, I could focus on the dialogue we needed to have.

But it only happened in the days when I was by myself, I was unapologetically doing what made me happy. I was offering myself the quality time I needed to soothe my soul, body, and mind. Every single day.

I started a practice one day I was walking home from dropping off my daughter. Usually, my brain was busy with planning, analyzing, thinking of the next step. This day, however, I was really tired. So tired that I could not formulate proper thoughts. So I just walked. Noticed the trees. Looked up in the sky and observed the clouds. Then I stopped in front of a beautiful flower bush and just stretched my arms above my head. My tired body cracked. I wasn’t running my lunch menu shopping list or writing my emails. I was just observing.

Only 10 minutes from school to home, I had the most amazing quality time. And when I returned home, I was able to distinguish the essential from the noise. I had a beautiful day, even though I was feeling so exhausted.

From that day on, the walk from school is a sacred practice. I walk purposefully, feeling the ground under my feet. I breathe deeply, tasting the morning air. I look up and notice the sky, marveling at the clarity of its blue or the depth of the chunky clouds. It is the empty walk when I don’t honor anything my busy brain has to say. None of those thoughts are important or relevant during this time.

By doing this, I am offering myself purposeful blank space.
 But I’m an introvert fueled by solitude.
 For you, this time can look and feel completely different: seeing a friend and deeply connecting with shared stories. Drinking a coffee and feeling the taste and the temperature on your lips. Cooking and noticing every single vegetable you cut, the sound of sizzle and smell of the ingredients.

Whichever form or manifestation it takes, spend some time every single day gifting yourself quality time. Not at the expense of your children or family, but to recharge and value your wellbeing. Ideally, first.

This is an excerpt from the book, Manual for Motherhood, by Talida Van Boxstael.

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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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For all the sweating and swimming I do in the summer, it seems illogical for my skin to be as parched as ever. But your mid-thirties (and 2020 in general) don't really seem to follow any rule book, so here we are.

A couple of months ago, I was on the lookout for a moisturizer that would not only keep my legs from looking like an ashy mess, but also truly nourish and benefit my skin. I've developed a deep interest in skin care for my face over the past few years and decided it's high time to extend that degree of consideration to the rest of my body. (After all, there's more of it, right?)

It's not that I'm too concerned with aging, but let's be real. If there's something that can be done to slow the Wrinkle Express, I'm going to give it a go. I also wanted to find something natural that wouldn't turn into a goopy mess the second I started sweating.

Enter: Esker's Firming Body Oil.

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When we recognize kids' unwelcome behaviors as reactions to environmental conditions, developmental phases, or our own actions, it lets us respond proactively, and with much more compassion.

Here are 10 ways kids may seem like they're acting "naughty," but really aren't.

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