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To my second born, who does things their way

To my second born,
You are nearly a year old, and I'm just getting to know you. It took a while.

Your arrival terrified me. I woke up at midnight to my water breaking—a huge gush, the kind I knew only from movies. You have never been subtle, dear one.

I was in a fog as your dad gathered our bags for the hospital. Before leaving, we snuck into your brother's room to say goodbye to him, to his last night as an only child. He woke up (not our intention), so I sang a song to help him back to sleep. Before I could finish the first line, I felt you making your arrival!

You were born on the kitchen floor. After two minutes of pushing, you were in your dad's hands, on the floor of our tiny San Francisco apartment. No doctor, no doula, no idea how it happened so fast.

As we laid you on my stomach and covered you with a towel, the 9-1-1 operator instructed us to get a shoelace to clamp the umbilical cord. Your dad pulled one from his shoe and said, "Does it matter if it's dirty?" The doorbell rang. I breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of the paramedics.

I'll never think of shoelaces in the same way.

I was overcome with anxiety in those early months. Daddy said, "It's a boy." All I could say was, "Is he okay? Is he okay?" You arrived so quickly that there was no time to panic. But terror lingered in the back of my mind. What would we have done had something gone wrong?

When you were 2 months old, we moved across the country. Between barely sleeping, learning to parent two kids, and leaving a big city for a smaller one, I felt like an irritable sloth. My mind raced while days crept along. Small decisions overwhelmed me. I knew it was temporary, but I hated it.

I'm just getting to know you. When your brother was born, I knew him from the get-go. He has my eyes and much of my personality. You're a mini version of your dad. Loud and powerful.

You were fiery from the start. When you cried, there was an urgency to your voice, and we couldn't always figure out how to soothe you. The harder we tried, the more you wanted to do things your way, to roar for a while.

I hope I have loved you as I've loved your brother. My heart has loved you just as much. But as it goes with younger siblings, I haven't read as many books to you or made as many homemade meals. Giving 110% on every 👏 single 👏 thing 👏 is a habit I am working to kick, and you're certainly helping. Motherhood is no place for perfectionism.

I love your intensity. You make your presence known. When I ask for a big hug, you crash into me head-first. There's a confidence in your smile that astounds me. You seem too young to be this self-assured.

I love your appetite. You get SO excited about food. Literally any food, aside from raspberries (too tart?) and sparkling water (too fizzy?). You grunt and yell and rock so hard that your high chair scoots across the floor in tiny, energetic bursts. You attack life.

I love how much you and your brother love each other. You adore him, and he adores you too—even on the days when he tackles you more than he hugs you, or takes more toys than he shares.

We made a playlist to listen to during labor, but given your well-timed arrival, we never got to it. Late that night at the hospital, we put it on shuffle and decided that whatever song came on would be your song. It was Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"—the one song out of all 74 tracks that your brother knew and has always loved to sing. Sibling bonds start early.

Love always,

Your mama

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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

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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

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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One of our main goals as mothers is to encourage our children to learn, grow and play. They start out as our tiny, adorable babies who need us for everything, and somehow, before you know it, they grow into toddlers with ideas and opinions and desires of their own.

You may be hearing a lot more of "I do it!" or maybe they're pushing your hand away as a signal to let you know, I don't need your help, Mama. That's okay. They're just telling you they're ready for more independence. They want to be in charge of their bodies, and any little bit of control their lives and abilities allow.

So, instead of challenging your toddler's desire for autonomy, we found five of our favorite products to help encourage independence—and eliminate frustration in the process.

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This colorful set includes a plate, cup, bowl and spoon and is just right for your child's meal experience. Keep them in an easy-to-reach cabinet so they'll feel encouraged (and excited!) to get their own place setting each time they eat.

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Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

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Before you know it, your little one will be asking (okay, maybe demanding) to fill their own water cups. This amazing 4-pack of cups attaches directly to the fridge (or any glass, metal, tile or fiberglass surface) making it easier for your child to grab a cup themselves. Just be sure a water pitcher or dispenser is nearby, and—boom!—one task off your plate.

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Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

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These beautiful blocks, made from sustainably-sourced wood and water-based, non-toxic, lead-free paint, will keep your little one focused on their creation while they're also busy working on their fine-motor skills. The puzzle design will encourage patience as your kiddo creates their own building, fitting one block in after the next.

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Lorena Canals basket

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Your kiddo might be ready to take on the world, but they might need an extra boost to do so—cue, a step stool! An easy-to-move lightweight stool is the must-have confidence-boosting tool you need in your home so your growing tot can reach, well... the world.

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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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Pop culture might lead us to believe that single people are having all the good sex and us married folks are lucky to get anything at all. But, for a lot of couples, sex gets better after a walk down the aisle.

I'll put it like this: The escapades I had before my husband were a lot like fast food—quick and unsatisfying. On the other hand, married sex is like having a five-star, live-in chef. So, why is it so hard to sell the idea married people are having the best sex of their lives?

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Love + Village