To me, Valentine’s day is about the small ways we can express our large love

Whether we go out for burgers or sit down to a beautifully set table, it doesn’t matter.

To me, Valentine’s day is about the small ways we can express our large love

My dad used to say that Valentine’s Day was a Hallmark holiday. He saw it as a fabricated moment built by marketing teams at greeting card companies to cajole you into spending money on things that would never last—roses, chocolates, paper cards—in a false ode to something everlasting.

Basically, it was a commercial nuisance.

Sage man that he is, my dad is certainly not alone in feeling this way. For many, this is a holiday deserving of eye rolls and replete with images of last minute dinner reservations and lingerie only worn once.

These Valentine’s Day detractors are not necessarily wrong. And yet…despite my Dad’s sentiments, we did celebrate Valentine’s Day every year.


We celebrated with Valentines and candy for classmates, sure, but mostly—we celebrated together as a family. From a bouquet of flowers my Dad left for all his girls on the kitchen counter right on down to heart-shaped sandwiches in our school lunches, it was a day that my parents filled with thoughtful details. That I still remember so fondly.

Annually, my mom would prepare a special dinner which we often ate in the dining room—the terminus for any truly significant meal or holiday occasion in our household. There were small trinkets and cards. She took evident delight in shaping these special traditions.

This day allowed us to pause for a moment, cut out of the doldrums of February, to say, “How remarkable is it that we have each other?”

In myriad ways, that tradition has continued for me.

Feeling our way through nascent adulthood, my sister and I later passed a Valentine’s weekend together in her college town, where over delicious, soulful meals we supported each other through our own struggles—romantic, academic and otherwise.

Illuminated by the warmth of the deep bond we share, those struggles briefly receded into the darkness. Just as they always do when we’re together.

Years later, I spent a memorable Valentine’s Day over burgers, fries and cheap wine at a fast food restaurant with a best friend—where, it is worth mentioning, a server pitifully emerged from behind the counter to gift us, these two solitary women, a tub of free custard.

It was such a small moment in our larger history; but I treasure it, as I treasure her.

No matter what the day looks like, it is and was, for me, all about the wideness of the love you give away. The time you share with the people you love. The relationships that so richly spangle your life. The intentional way we tell people—you are a miracle to me.

I would hope to never require this day to prod me into saying these things; into remembering these things. But, in the end, the love we share in life matters enough that I’m okay having an extra reminder. I welcome it. I need it.

I have not made elaborate plans for my own family this year. Whether we go out for burgers or sit down to a beautifully set table, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is seizing the opportunity to celebrate the bonds that sustain us in whatever quirky way we choose.

Marilynne Robinson wrote in her novel Housekeeping, “Families will not be broken.” Whatever foibles we possess and mistakes we make, the families we create will always remain. They are transformative and indelible. Alongside the beautiful truth of this sits the uncomfortable reality that this permanence requires something extra of us to ensure we don’t take them for granted.

Unlike other major holidays where I can lose myself in gifts and preparations, what Valentine’s Day gets right is the knowledge that minute gestures ripple out in gently, generous ways. A homemade card, a squeezed hand, a glance that lasts a moment longer, a deeply felt emotion truly expressed—what more do we actually need to show the ones we love that they are not taken for granted?

Valentine’s Day is not the only moment where we can breathe life into these connections, but it is one irresistible opportunity.

However we spend the holiday this year and the year after that, I hope it will always be:

  • A moment of gratitude for the people I love and the people who have loved me.
  • A day to celebrate the quirky particularities of the ones I admire.
  • A chance to give the most valuable gift of time.
  • A time to say the words I’ve neglected to say.
  • A future promise to myself and others to hold up the things that are most important.
  • A small way to celebrate relationships that are anything but.

I wish you and yours a Happy Valentine’s Day!

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.


I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.

And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


Errands and showers are not self-care for moms

Thinking they are is what's burning moms out.

A friend and I bump into each other at Target nearly every time we go. We don't pre-plan this; we must just be on the same paper towel use cycle or something. Really, I think there was a stretch where I saw her at Target five times in a row.

We've turned it into a bit of a running joke. "Yeah," I say sarcastically, "We needed paper towels so you know, I had to come to Target… for two hours of alone time."

She'll laugh and reply, "Oh yes, we were out of… um… paper clips. So here I am, shopping without the kids. Heaven!"

Now don't get me wrong. I adore my trips to Target (and based on the fullness of my cart when I leave, I am pretty sure Target adores my trips there, too).

But my little running joke with my friend is actually a big problem. Because why is the absence of paper towels the thing that prompts me to get a break? And why on earth is buying paper towels considered a break for moms?

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