My toddler's reaction was the ultimate lesson in having grace

Sometimes our kids are the best teachers.

My toddler's reaction was the ultimate lesson in having grace

"What is a ballerina, mama?" my daughter Abby, who is two and a half asked me.

"A dancer. They do a special dance called 'ballet'. They are very graceful." I answered.

Then she replied, "I want to do ballet."

Cue the I-swear-I-wasn't-going-to-be-this-kind-of-mom who does obsessive research on ballet classes. After feeling overwhelmed by the amazing opportunities we have near us, I decided: simple is better.

She's only two! We'd just take an easy class to start at the nearby recreation center. (Which of course, I had to get up at the crack of dawn to register for because even that one fills up in the first six minutes it opens!)

Then, the 10-times-a-day daily question, "Is today my ballet class?" began.

Fast forward a few months, and it was finally time for ballet!

We showed up to her first class, Abby was decked out head-to-toe in ballerina pink. As we walked in I thought, Ahhh why did I get sucked into buying so much new gear at Target? Wasn't I keeping this simple?

We were a bit early but wondered after a while why no one else was showing up. We waited with unprecedented patience. Where is everyone? The studio is dark. There are no kids. No teacher. My mom brain on overdrive.

We eventually got our answer: The class had been canceled and they didn't call me or update it online.


(By the way, I realize this is totally the definition of a #FirstWorldProblem.)

But we were disappointed regardless.

In a, "Do I completely lose my marbles…or do I try to make the best of it?" mom moment, I opted for the latter and I asked to borrow the dance studio, then asked the recreation center director if she had any music we could play, and she did! She had the entire range of ballet classics on CD. So, me and my tiny dancer started our class.

At first, I was dancing around while Abby stood there mystified ("where's the teacher and kids?"). And then. THEN. One person joined us. Then another. Senior citizens from other classes, who had seen us earlier waiting in the hall came in and joined us in our impromptu class.

Did she hide behind me? Did she question it? Nope.

She watched intently as one gentleman plopped down a mat on the floor and demonstrated Tai Chi for her. His slow and methodical arm motions sweeping around in circles while she stood there pretty-in-pink, completely mesmerized. "Edelweiss" played in the background.

She twirled with the woman who said she hasn't done ballet in many decades, but who didn't look like she had forgotten any moves if you ask me.

Abby laughed and spun around. I did the same, ignoring any self-conscious feelings about prancing about in my sweatpants in front of strangers and big mirrors. We danced our hearts out to the ballet rendition of "Let it Go."

And you know what?

It felt GREAT.

"Ballet is about grace, Abby," I remember telling her when we first talked about doing this class. And turns out, I was right about that. The community showed us grace by dancing with us, even though they didn't know what exactly we were doing. Abby demonstrated grace by going with the flow. I demonstrated grace to my toddler by turning lemons into lemonade.

We had one heck of a lesson in grace.

I learned a few important things on this day of the best-not-a-ballet-class-ever:

1. We all lose it as moms in stressful situations with kids.

If you can try to avoid completely falling apart (total permission to do so if need be) and find an alternative, a solution—often the next step turns out better than the original plan. Hard one for me to embrace as a Type A person. But I have thought a lot about the memory I made with Abby on this ballet day and how that wouldn't have happened (nor could I share my story here) if I hadn't remained calm and upbeat. It would have been a totally different story had I succumbed to the disappointment of this bump in the road.

2. Children are the epitome of grace.

(I know, that's hard to believe with a toddler, stay with me here).

Grace is all about effortlessness; kids have this innately. They can find fun in just about everything and anything (you know—like playing with a box for hours). Their growing minds are so curious; colors and smells and shapes and music are stimulating and intriguing. They don't have the inhibitions that we have as adults. They will twirl anywhere. Even better if there is a mirror to watch themselves do it. We should take note: It's really fun to twirl in front of a mirror.

3. There are wonderful people all around us.

These are pretty hard times with a lot of bad stuff going on in the news. But don't forget, mama, that there are SO many amazing people with pure love in their hearts. I could just cry (okay, okay, I did) about those people at the recreation center who pitched in, without asking—without even speaking about it out loud, honestly—to help make it a memorable 30-minutes for Abby. Effortless giving. We should take a cue from them, too, and be those people; help other mamas every chance you get.

Best ballet class EVER.

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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

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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.


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

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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.


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

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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.


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

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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.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


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


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


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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