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No one will tell you to rest, mama–so choose it for yourself

My husband doesn’t actually like movies but sometimes I convince him to watch with me, snuggled together in bed or on the couch. He likes the snuggling part. I try to choose movies that might pique his interest; this generally involves a story related to sports. And while I don’t actually like sports, I do love watching the evolution of a character. A good character driven plot.


My husband grew up in West Africa without toys or books or craft supplies – all the things we deem necessary to raising healthy, happy kids where we live. He would spend hours playing alone, creating imaginary soccer matches using little ceramic tiles for players. Moving them around, calling the plays, losing himself in the game. And like many little boys around the world, I imagine, he knew the name Pelé by heart.

So a few weeks ago, we snuggled in to watch Pelé: Birth of a legend, on Netflix. I’d been struggling with anxiety and weariness and needed to just shut off my brain and get lost in someone else’s story for a while. I find story so powerful – powerful in its ability to heal and encourage, to provoke and call to bravery.

About a third of the way into the movie, a young Pelé (Edson Arantes do Nascimento) is practicing his skill with his dad, juggling papayas off his chest, knees, and feet. He’s stressed and sad, having recently lost a dear friend.

And his dad says to him, “don’t try so hard; just enjoy yourself.”

That one line spoke straight to my soul, piercing deep between joint and marrow.

That one line spoke to all my weariness and the pressure I put on myself to make stuff happen. My fears of never really growing up fully into the woman I want to be, my mostly unconscious concerns about how I will prove my worth. As though I must pay rent for the space I take up in this world.

Don’t try so hard; just enjoy yourself.

If my husband hadn’t been watching with me I’d have rewound that part over and over again to make sure I got it. That I heard what I needed to hear before moving on.

But I heard.

I heard that I struggle to rest. That since I was a little girl I never quite believed I was good enough. I always felt I didn’t quite have what it takes. I heard that I am often so serious and rarely let down my guard; sometimes I feel so achy with the need to laugh, let go, and just enjoy myself. I heard a call to freedom.

I took a deep breath and exhaled.

The path to freedom is littered with stumbling blocks. Deep creeks to cross, thorny branches to push through. People who wish us harm, our minds play tricks on us. We need each other.

We need a safe space to rest and receive nourishment. Bandages, soup offered, no strings attached. A place to lay our heads awhile until we are ready and strengthened to get back up and continue the trek, Northbound.

We don’t need to preach or have all the answers or know how it will all work out in the end. We can just show up.

We don’t need a fancy home to welcome a stranger; we just need to keep a light on. We only need a willingness to reach out and lift up one weary traveler at a time. Or to open ourselves up to help when we are the one who is hungry and parched.

Our neediness is not shameful.

There are seasons when it is hard to see light or to pick up joy. But mostly, I think, joy is a choice. And rest is a choice. And deciding to enjoy yourself (myself) is a choice. I forget often but I acknowledge that it is my choice.

For the past few weeks, since watching Pelé’s story, his father’s advice reverberates loudly in my heart and mind. I can’t shake it, I don’t actually want to, and I know that it was the answer to a whispered prayer. Manna gathered up, hungrily, precisely when I needed it.

It seems I have adopted a new mantra for the coming year and I wonder if it calls to any of you.

Don’t try so hard; just enjoy yourself.

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.

$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

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

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

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

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When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.

$23

Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.

$20

Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.

$12.50

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.

$47

boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.

$25

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.

$59

Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.

$36

Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.

$99

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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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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