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My 8 steps to becoming a better mama in the New Year

It’s not perfection I’m aiming for, but improvement.

My 8 steps to becoming a better mama in the New Year

Every year I choose a theme for my growth and development to work on. In 2018, I wanted to be more present, and for the most part, I've really improved at it. As every parent does though, I've reflected on some of my not so good habits and often thought I could do better. And of course, I've blamed myself for some of the issues my kids struggle with, too.

In 2019, my goal is to improve my parenting. I want to be a safe harbor for my daughters, a resource, a beacon in the storms of life. I know there are certain areas I want to work on that'll give me more confidence as a mama, to ensure that I'm doing everything I can to be that safe space for them. I want to raise good kids—that's my main goal in life.

So I'm always going to continue to try harder, to give them my best. In the end—it's not perfection I'm aiming for, but improvement. Here's what I'll be working on in 2019:

1. Sleep better and more.

I'm not sure I've slept well since I became a parent nine years ago. No parent sleeps when they have a newborn and the nighttime battles with any toddler are enough to break you. Luckily (for all of us), I've found solutions for those battles.

But what about adults? Sleep is critical to our health too. It affects memory, focus and even cardiovascular health. I have bedtime routines for my kids, but did you know that bedtime routines are suggested for adults as well? In 2018, I'm going to make sleep a priority for our whole family. I'm a much better parent when I'm more rested.

2. Yell less.

I must admit, I'm a yeller. Dr. Laura Markham, a parenting expert, says that when a parent yells, "The kid releases biochemicals that say fight, flight, or freeze. They may hit you. They may run away. Or they freeze and look like a deer in headlights. None of those are good for brain formation."

Everything I've read says this pattern of behavior can set us both up for a lifetime of yelling matches, especially when my children enter their teenage years. I want to break the cycle now.

I'm going to begin each day with a goal to have a yell-free day and keep track on paper when I do yell—awareness is everything.

3. Creatively resolve boredom.

Isn't this why Pinterest was created? I grew up before iPads, and I remember when video games were invented (hello Atari), so I truly believe that kids don't need them. I'm sure I drove my mom crazy in the winter, but it seems I always had something to do.

I know a lot of moms who don't put up with "I'm bored," and most of them are more creative than I am. I like the idea of creating a jar full of activities for kids to pick from when they are bored, and there are a host of online listicles with great ideas and resources as well. Really, no kid should ever be bored.

4. Model less screen time for all.

Technology really affects my kids' behavior, and there are a lot of reasons why I prefer as little of it as possible in our lives. Studies report that too much tech use can result in obesity or social isolation, and it may even hamper a child's normal development.

Last year, I stopped allowing any screen time during the school week. But the problem with that was that I wasn't modeling good behavior myself. This year, I am going to keep better tabs of my screen use by powering off my phone when I get home from work or keeping it in my purse on silent mode.

5. Increase positive reinforcement.

Many parenting experts, like positive parenting expert Rebecca Eanes, say that positive is the way to go when it comes to parenting—especially when a child is learning something new, like an expectation for proper behavior. We are our children's encouragers, as Eanes says, and it's our job to see their light and protect it's glow.

There are all kinds of ideas out there for age-specific reward systems, I've found that making a conscious effort to point out when my kids are doing something right—by praising the process, not necessarily the person—goes a long way in encouraging good behavior.

6. Eat less sweets.

It seems sometimes that the calendar is against my goal to eat healthier as a family. From Valentine's Day to Easter, Halloween and Christmas—sometimes it seems as if there is a conspiracy to give my kids more and more treats to celebrate something. I feel like I'm always throwing out candy (shh don't tell!) from one season or another.

I've already cut dessert down to every other night. Next year, I'm going to be reducing our portions. I've realized that my kids just need a little something sweet—it really doesn't need to be much to satisfy them.

7. Teach my kids about volunteering.

I want to volunteer more as a family. It is so important for me that my children realize how fortunate they are. I specifically want to work with my girls on understanding the importance of respecting their elders, so we will be volunteering once a month at a local assisted living facility, playing games with the residents and listening to their stories.

8. Have more date nights with everyone.

One-on-one time is so important for the relationships you have with anyone—especially your children. In fact, the experts at Hand In Hand Parenting say, "This kind of undisrupted one-on-one time builds in regular close contact between a parent and child. When special time is established, there is space and time for intimacy. Over time, their trust and communication grows. If there is something troubling a child, they may show it through what they say or choose to play."

Since we became a family of four, it is rare that I have one-on-one time with either of my children. So my youngest has become my grocery store buddy every week and I get ice cream for 20 minutes with my oldest after her piano lessons. In 2018, I want to make sure my husband does the same.

And obviously, it's important for my husband and I to get alone time with each other, too. So my goal is to start going on regularly scheduled date nights one or two times a month.


If I am successful at even a couple of these resolutions this year, I'll be happy. Working towards any or all of them will help my family (and me) to become healthier and happier.

Cheers to a new year of parenting for all of us. And thank goodness for clean slates!

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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.

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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.

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Balance board

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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!

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Detective set

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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.

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Wooden doll stroller

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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.

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Sand play set

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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.

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Water play set

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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.

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Mini golf set

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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.

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Vintage scooter balance bike

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Wooden rocking pegasus

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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.

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Croquet set

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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.

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Wooden digital camera

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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.

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Wooden bulldozer toy

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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.

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Pull-along hippo

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Baby forest fox ride-on

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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

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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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Errands and showers are not self-care for moms

Thinking they are is what's burning moms out.

A friend and I bump into each other at Target nearly every time we go. We don't pre-plan this; we must just be on the same paper towel use cycle or something. Really, I think there was a stretch where I saw her at Target five times in a row.

We've turned it into a bit of a running joke. "Yeah," I say sarcastically, "We needed paper towels so you know, I had to come to Target… for two hours of alone time."

She'll laugh and reply, "Oh yes, we were out of… um… paper clips. So here I am, shopping without the kids. Heaven!"

Now don't get me wrong. I adore my trips to Target (and based on the fullness of my cart when I leave, I am pretty sure Target adores my trips there, too).

But my little running joke with my friend is actually a big problem. Because why is the absence of paper towels the thing that prompts me to get a break? And why on earth is buying paper towels considered a break for moms?

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