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The first few years of parenting, our marriage felt broken—but it wasn’t

Admitting that we were lost was the first step.

The first few years of parenting, our marriage felt broken—but it wasn’t

There is a scene in the movie Bridesmaids when one of the characters (Becca) gushes over her new husband. She predictably annoys the single and bitter main character (Annie) who couldn't have been less interested. I think Annie's character is relatable in this scene because for many couples, married or not, this sort of fairy tale love isn't realistic.


Luckily for me, fairy tale love isn't a prerequisite for a happy marriage, but it took my husband and I a while to uncover what is.

I don't remember gushing over my husband when we were dating or during the "honeymoon phase" of our marriage. Our relationship grew out of friendship. It was easy, without the college drama that I was used to. We were together for almost four years before getting married and we never doubted our ability to stay together through the hard times.

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But at some point in those first few years of marriage, something changed. We found ourselves laughing less and bickering more. We became expert score-keepers, held grudges and let small disagreements turn into big battles. We were so wrapped up in our own perspectives, feelings and needs that we neglected each other. We were in denial that we were equally responsible for our pointless arguments and fights. We were not the same couple that we were in the beginning.

Without realizing it, I was making things worse. The way I dealt with conflict set my husband up for failure and caused further disconnect between us. I held on to his faults and the things I took offense to, waiting for him to make up for all of the ways he let me down. I unloaded my feelings, demanded empathy and then shut down or walked away when he didn't respond in the way I wanted.

I convinced myself that he was the problem—he wasn't sensitive enough, romantic enough, or available enough. I blamed him for the change in our relationship. I blamed him each time we traded a goodnight kiss for the silent treatment and a cold space between us in bed.

During the height of a memorable argument in our second year of marriage, the word divorce broke through the silence. The word was more like a plea and a threat, but also a question. We were both consumed with anger and hurt—feelings that eventually faded into confusion and defeat from yet another misunderstanding. But the idea of a life without each other was the wake-up call we needed. We decided our relationship was worth the struggle.

Our marriage felt broken, but it wasn't.

We had become so focused on ourselves and everything we thought we were supposed to be doing that we left our marriage alone to fend for itself. We thought the hard work of choosing the "right" person had already been done—as if we could cross it off our to-do lists. Instead of growing together, we began to grow apart. We acted more like roommates than husband and wife—two people who spent more time loving on their dog than each other.

We needed to change the way we thought about marriage.

It took us a while to figure out where we went wrong and how we could repair some of the damage to our relationship, but admitting that we were lost was the first step.

At first we looked at other couples—the ones who seemed happy—and we wondered what they were doing differently than us. We wondered how they made it look so easy. Maybe we just needed to go on more vacations, have more sex, or exchange more gifts?

Ultimately, there wasn't a quick-fix for our problems. It wasn't until we put our focus back on each other that we uncovered some habits and behaviors that needed to change.

The first (and hardest) step was to let our egos take a back seat and own up to the reasons why we were so defensive and quick to blame each other.

The second was to stop avoiding hard conversations and hiding from our problems.

And the third step was to stop comparing our relationship to other couples (real or fictional), which inevitably left us feeling inadequate.

We had to adjust our priorities so that we could work on repairing our relationship. We had to set an intention to create the kind of relationship we wanted—a relationship in which we truly appreciate each other, support each other and feel safe sharing our hopes and dreams and fears.

We realized that taking a walk or sitting in the backyard was far more rewarding than zoning out in front of the TV.

We realized that ignoring each other until Friday night wasn't exactly the best way to start the weekend or inspire any type of intimacy.

We realized that the only way to move beyond our struggles was to make time for the uncomfortable, vulnerable and sometimes painful conversations that we so often avoided.

We realized that making our marriage a priority meant that we had to be willing to admit our mistakes and trust each other to move beyond them.

Once we became parents, we had to relearn the importance (necessity) of making time for each other. It has been tempting to ignore our needs in an effort to give our boys what they want (aka all of the attention we can give them), but what they really need are two parents who love each other, trust each other and fight for each other more than they fight with each other.

They need parents who are less concerned with how they look on Facebook and more concerned with how they look to each other.

We can see now that we don't need a fairy tale marriage to be happy or even to be good parents. We just need to love each other for who we are, forgive each other for what we lack and celebrate the marriage we have. If we can do that, our happily ever after should take care of itself.

14 Toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

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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Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Meri Meri: Decor and gifts that bring the wonder of childhood to life

We could not be more excited to bring the magic of Meri Meri to the Motherly Shop. For over 30 years, their playful line of party products, decorations, children's toys and stationery have brought magic to celebrations and spaces all over the world. Staring as a kitchen table endeavor with some scissors, pens and glitter in Los Angeles in 1985, Meri Meri (founder Meredithe Stuart-Smith's childhood nickname) has evolved from a little network of mamas working from home to a team of 200 dreaming up beautiful, well-crafted products that make any day feel special.

We've stocked The Motherly Shop with everything from Halloween must-haves to instant-heirloom gifts kiddos will adore. Whether you're throwing a party or just trying to make the everyday feel a little more special, we've got you covered.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

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Chrissy Teigen/Instagram

When Chrissy Teigen announced her third pregnancy earlier this year we were so happy for her and now our hearts are with her as she is going through a pain that is unimaginable for many, but one that so many other mothers know.

Halfway through a high-risk pregnancy complicated by placenta issues, Teigen announced late Wednesday that she has suffered a pregnancy loss.

Our deepest condolences go out to Chrissy and her husband, John Legend (who has been by her side in the hospital for several days now).

In a social media post, Teigen explained she named this baby Jack.

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"We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about, the kind of pain we've never felt before. We were never able to stop the bleeding and give our baby the fluids he needed, despite bags and bags of blood transfusions. It just wasn't enough," she wrote.

She continued: "We never decide on our babies' names until the last possible moment after they're born, just before we leave the hospital. But we, for some reason, had started to call this little guy in my belly Jack. So he will always be Jack to us. Jack worked so hard to be a part of our little family, and he will be, forever."

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