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What do I want for Christmas this year? Courage

What does a mom with a small tribe to nurture and protect do when nothing in this world feels safe anymore?

What do I want for Christmas this year? Courage

My husband asks me what I want for Christmas each year and for the first time I feel like my answer to this question means I am “officially” an adult. I’ve qualified by age for nearly decades now, but far too often I don’t feel like one. Until these words slipped out of my mouth: “I don’t need anything, babe.”


What surprised me is that I actually meant it. I wasn’t just playing coy or throwing out platitudes this time—trying to be a good mom, save money, want less. I wracked my brain for a minute attempting to think of something that could pique my interest, fit tidily in a box, stack neatly under a tree or in a stocking, but I came up empty.

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For the first time in my life, I’m beginning to realize that the things I need most, the things I really want, aren’t available with Prime shipping from Amazon. Not even close.

Barely over a week ago the news slammed onto my screen, a man armed with a pipe bomb entered a New York City subway corridor. The tangible damage was minimal considering the potential, but the collateral damage reverberated through my screen, thousands of miles from the epicenter.

A mere month ago a gunman ran into a church, a church, and ended the lives of a couple dozen people, injuring even more.


How is this even possible?

I instantly wanted to click away, toss my phone across the room and go lock my doors. Maybe I should bar the windows while I am at it. Because what kind of world do we live in when even a church isn’t safe or sacred anymore? I felt an ache something deep, an ache that a new watch or a cute pair shoes wrapped in shiny red packaging couldn’t begin to fill.

How do I raise kids here, now? In this world?

I don’t live in New York City, but it is on my list of places to visit with my family. I have second thoughts right about now, but if I go down that road I may as well second guess churches, schools, the mall. Anywhere, everywhere.

What does a mom with a small tribe to nurture and protect do when nothing feels safe anymore? How does she raise healthy and well-balanced children in what the news keeps telling me is an unhealthy and unbalanced world?

I quietly debated the pros and cons of boarding up the windows. Moving off the grid.. Anything.

But somehow I know this would come with its own issues. And then I decided. I know what I want for Christmas. All I want is courage.

The courage to engage culture and address fear.

The courage to lay my own fears aside to pass courage on to my children.

The courage to stare down the hard and raise kids who are aware, engaged, informed and empowered to do the right thing.

The courage to stand up for the weak and weary—to get in a car and chase down evil like that man did in Texas.

I know without a doubt that the most effective step I can take toward a better world begins right here in my home. The nearest people I can reach and teach with love and kindness are these little people in my care. I can teach them the value of human life and a respect for religion and their country, too.

Holing up in my home sounds easier and maybe even safer, in the aftermath of a sordid newsfeed, but change can begin with me, my kids, my family—if I’m brave enough to take on the work.

The truth is, the headlines might not get better next week. Or next month. But the demand for our world to raise up brave leaders who don't shirk from fear but do the right thing in spite of the evils and perils of our time, is greater than ever.

And it’s going to take brave moms to do that.

The world needs, and will continue to need, more brave mothers, fathers and children. And as mothers we monitor the incubators of courage. We get to pour it in and watch it flourish, while we keep growing a courage of our own. Let it begin with us.

So yes—courage—that is what I want for Christmas this year. And the bravery to believe that goodwill is still possible, so that we might not be robbed of hope in the New Year ahead.

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.


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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

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

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Becoming a mother has been life-changing. It's been hard, tiring, gratifying, beautiful, challenging, scary and a thousand other things that only a parent would ever understand.

It is these life-changing experiences that have inspired me to draw my everyday life as a stay at home mom. Whether it's the mundane tasks like doing laundry or the exciting moments of James', my baby boy's, first steps, I want to put it down on paper so that I can better cherish these fleeting moments that are often overlooked.

Being a stay-at-home-mom can be incredibly lonely. I like to think that by drawing life's simple moments, I can connect with other mothers and help them feel less alone. By doing this, I feel less alone, too. It's a win-win situation and I have been able to connect with many lovely parents and fellow parent-illustrators through my Instagram account.

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