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My baby, I loved you before you were even born

I love you today, I love you tomorrow, I love you forever.

woman and baby cuddling

My little love,

The night before you were born, I wrote you a letter. It talked about how excited I was to meet you, how much I already loved you, and all the adventures I had planned for us.

Everything in that letter was right. But the truth is, now that you are here and I really know you—know how it feels to hold you in my arms, know the sound of your sweet giggle, know the power of my love for you, I need to try to write the letter again.

Because there is nothing in the world that could have prepared me for the magnitude of you.

So if I could write that letter again, fully understanding the amazing child I was about to give birth to, here's what it would say.


Dear baby,

I cannot wait to meet you. I understand now that my entire life has been a build up to this moment—the moment I become your mom.

Yes, I have been my own person (as I will continue to be), but I can see now that every step along the way was part of my journey to motherhood. To you.

Part of that journey were the steps I took with luck and fate guiding me—when I decided to go down south to college. When I moved to New York City after graduation determined to be single with a closet full of Manolos (ahem, thanks Carrie Bradshaw), got a job as a waitress (at a place I almost decided not to apply to)—and met your dad there one week later.

Fast-forward to the day your dad and I looked at each other over burgers and said, “I think maybe we're ready to have a baby?" (Spoiler alert, I never got the Manolos.)

All of those decisions and steps lead me to this moment. I am supposed to be your mom. You are supposed to be my baby.

And along the journey, I have grown into the woman who is going to raise you.

Every time I learned something, experienced pure joy, had my heart broken—I carry that all with me as a woman and as your mother.

The person I am right now, on the eve of meeting you, will still be here tomorrow after you're born. My hair won't look as good, but I will still be there, sharing every part of me with you.

I need you to know how fierce my love for you will be. I love you right now, yes. But when you are born…I can't even find the words. Maybe I can describe it like this: When a baby is born, their entire circulatory system changes—the way their heart works, the way their body gets oxygen—it's pretty amazing.

I think maybe the same things happens to a mother. My heart is about to start working differently.

When you are placed on my chest for the first time, my heart is going to swell near to bursting. When you cry and I can't make it stop, my heart is going to break. When I watch you take your first steps, or walk into your first classroom, my heart is going to pound as I try to fight back my tears of pride and fear.

My body is also about to start getting its oxygen differently.

When I sit with you in the emergency room, I will hold my breath until the doctor comes in and tells me that you're going to be okay. When I turn my back on you for 2.7 seconds only to find that you have dumped the flour out all over yourself and the floor, I will inhale deeply as I try to stay calm. And when you climb into my bed and snuggle into the crook of my arm, I will exhale every stress and worry as I melt into your warmth and fall asleep.

Everything in my life is going to change. Everything.

I have a very specific career goal right now, that I have worked towards my entire life. It's about to change.

I am very social, and spend almost every evening out with friends. That's about to change.

I am pretty self-focused. I love your dad and do whatever I can for him, but really beyond that, it's just kind of always been about me. That is about to change…a lot.

Baby, you are about to rock my world.

But I want you to know that it's all so wonderful. None of that is a complaint in any way. I love the way my life will shift and evolve.

I love that you will make me notice a worm crawling across the sidewalk or the beauty of falling snow or how fun bubbles really are.

I love that making the world a better place will become a necessity—I will vote in every election, I will call senators and I will use my voice instead of just listening to what everyone else has to say.

I love that you will make me find my strength and confidence. Giving birth to you tomorrow is the start. Staying up with you night after night, struggling with breastfeeding, getting through the tantrums, learning how to define and stand up for my values—I am going to be a beast.

There are going to be things I mess up, (many) days when I doubt myself, times that are just really hard for both of us. But I promise that I still love you, even when my “face looks grumpy."

You will make me proud every day, just by being you. There is nothing you can tell me that will make me stop loving you, ever. Not ever. Being your mom is the greatest honor of my life.

Well, baby. They say I should get some sleep—apparently tomorrow is going to be a lot of work.

I love you today, I love you tomorrow, I love you forever. Thank you for choosing me to be your mom.

Love,

Mommy

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

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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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.

Life

10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

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