Dear Birthday Girl

A letter to my baby as she transitions into big kid.

Dear Birthday Girl

I had always imagined myself screaming with joy and excitement the day I found out I was pregnant. What happened in reality was barely a faint whisper of “I’m pregnant”!

My husband Gunnar and I were in complete shock and simultaneously overjoyed. We were entering the great unknown -- in New York City, no less. Our 5th floor walk-up, tiny 350-square-foot East Village apartment would have to make space for baby. Luckily, Gunnar is an interior designer and specializes in making small spaces feel like home. That is exactly what he did. With a crib find from Amsterdam that hung from our 12 ft ceiling, paired with a wall of shelves and the tiniest little clothes rail closet you’ve ever seen – we were ready.

I spent the entire pregnancy trekking all five flights of stairs, every damn day. We left gender to be a surprise and when you were 8 days late, I wasn’t sure I could endure it any longer. But finally, after three taxi rides back and forth from our apartment to the hospital, you, my baby girl Ihlen, came bouncing into the world. You were the physical symbol of your parents’ love -- your father’s heartbeat and mine in one.

Five years pass in a flash, and suddenly it’s your 5th birthday, my baby. Except you’re no longer my baby but an amazing little girl. “Has it really been five years already?” I ask myself as the day approaches.

I play a montage in my mind of all the moments with you from the day you were born. I relive all of the sweetness, all of the adventure and all of the love. And I feel sad thinking you’re not going to be so little anymore and the mom guilt kicks in. As a working mom, I question myself and all the moments that I missed. Did I miss too much with you?

Then I realized I’ve been the best mother I could be. I am leading by example. Phew, that’s so hard to say... I’ve learned, with the help of my amazing husband, that it’s about quality, not quantity. I get to work in an industry I love, and I hope the same for you someday!

Reflecting on 5 years feels like a blink of an eye. Looking at you, my little love, it feels like time can’t slow down fast enough. Once small enough to barely fill my arms, you’re now the tallest kid in you class and come up to my second rib. You’re going to be taller than me by the time you turn 10!

I love our girl chats during bath time and never want those to end. You’re independent, hilarious, gentle and adventurous; and you love life. Your little spirit gives me wings and puts a smile on my face. I’m looking forward to this next chapter and all of the others to follow as we wave goodbye to the toddler era and embrace the beauty of the unknown.

Here’s how we celebrated our special day.

The Theme:

You’ve been counting down the days to your 5th birthday since shortly after you turned 4! You decided months ago you wanted a princess party. So that’s where we started and then it took off from there. I felt like 5 is such a big number and should have a fun extravaganza of creativity to celebrate the day. Minted had the perfect invitations and décor for your party. With their help, and my husband’s creative eye, we were able to turn our apartment into a princess fairy wonderland.

The Photos:

Our family has hundreds of instant film images, as we love to take pictures!! The Fujifilm Instax team sent you a light blue Mini Instax 9 (her favorite color) along with some colorful bordered film. You loved it and got to take pictures of all your friends at the party.

We also wanted to incorporate some photos of you, Ihlen, into the decor. Sony sent us an incredible short-throw projector, the kind you watch films on, which we used for projecting photographs. This was one of my favorite elements at your party.

The Details:

We set up a little tattoo station with the chicest kids tattoos from Tattly. All the kids got to pick their fave design from their assortment. We also partnered with the super talented face painter, Hanna of Painting Bees, who was so calm and gentle with all the kids. This was a key element for the party!

The Food:

You really wanted a piñata for your birthday, but instead we surprised you with an exploding cake from Flourshop. My friend Amirah makes the best cakes, and this one was beyond any of our wildest dreams. A nine-layered multicolored cake full of sprinkles and chocolate candies, covered in multicolored sprinkles! All the kids screamed out of joy as we cut into it and unraveled all of the goodies inside. We are still cleaning up the sprinkles! Meanwhile, the parents sipped Yola cocktails while the kiddos feasted on cupcakes and cake.

The Takeaways:

The party lasted hours past what we said on the invite, but no one cared! It was just the best time. We packed the apartment with all of our nearest and dearest, which is all you need to make a great party! Then all the kids got to take home with gift bags filled with Eboo color cards, paper airplanes and floral fans.

Sara Larson works in fashion pr and loves all things beauty, especially red lipstick! Gunnar and she love throwing parties and experiencing new adventures with Ihlen.

Photos by Zach Hilty photography.

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One of the main reasons we launched the Motherly Shop is to help take some of that stress away. We've tracked down the best brands and products developed by people (and in many cases, women!) that truly work to serve the needs of real mamas, especially throughout the overwhelming transition into motherhood.

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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.


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

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.


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

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.


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

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.


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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But sometimes finding the right words for talking to kids can be really, really challenging. When choosing how to respond to the marker on the wall, or the seemingly unending why-can't-I battle, or in simply keeping healthy communication open with kids who don't want to talk, the words don't seem to come so easily.

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