To my husband: You’ve made our house a home

We bought our little old house before we were married in the fall, my favorite time of the year.

Together we went from room to room changing paint & appliances, furniture, and flooring while dreaming of all the memories we’d share in this house. You carried me through the front door on our wedding night and we sat in the living room laughing as we opened our wedding gifts only to take out all the money and stash it away for our honeymoon the next day.

Years have passed; we’ve shared delicious meals around our table, traveled to the west coast, lost loved ones, battled illnesses, had bonfires, cleaned up dog poo and even planned for a family.

Foolishly we said, “we’ll never be able to afford a baby!” I’ll always remember the look on your face that Sunday morning when I said, “Babe, I think it’s a plus!”

You ran to me with a look of shock, changing very quickly to excitement. “You’re pregnant?” “I’m pretty sure; Oh my goodness.” We jumped back in bed with a notebook and wrote a little note to our baby, as if there was a way to fully portray all the emotions we were feeling.

We once again renovated this old house; this time included a crib and a room for a new little person.

In September we walked through our front door again. This time holding a car seat, we stepped into our new reality as a family. “Gentle,” we’d say over and over again to the dog, our former baby, reminding her that there was a new kid in town.

We took our son out of the car seat and gave him a tour of our house.

We were proud; we kept looking at each other and smiling. There were blue balloons and ribbons everywhere, so many people had given us gifts to celebrate his arrival. We were in love; as we looked into his eyes while walking from room to room, I mentioned the future. “All too soon this little old house will be filled with drawings on the walls,” I said. “And the floors... They’ll be covered in remnants of bite-sized food. Squeals of delight will echo throughout the rooms as his little feet run these halls.”

That was 8 months ago; they told me time would fly by. Right this moment, things are somewhat quiet in this hallway as I finish washing a load of tiny clothes and spit-up covered towels; the sun is setting and I hear you playing in our bedroom. Quietly you strum the chords to an 80’s ballad and say, “guitar.” That makes me chuckle inside because somehow I have this feeling he’s going to be just like you. He blows bubbles with his lips and then laughs. I’m guessing you’ve started tickling him under his armpit; that’s his sweet spot.

I hurry to finish what I’m doing so that I can come join the fun...but then I hear it. Those words come echoing down that old hallway, crystal clear.

“You’re my little buddy. I love you so much; I can’t imagine a day without you.”

By this point I’ve stopped what I’m doing. I don’t think you realize that I can hear you; I don’t intend for you to find out about the tears that are rolling down my cheek.

I think about how wonderful you are. To say you’ve grown into your role as a dad would be an understatement. You were so nervous; you wore gloves to change his first diaper! 258 days later; you’re a rock star! You’ve taught him how to strum the guitar with his little hands and how to stand on his own two feet. Daily you lead our home and willingly serve us, no matter what ‘dirty work’ is needed.

No matter where this life takes us or what happens to this little old house, on Father’s Day and every day, I want to say, “Thanks for being consistent with your love in every season; you’re an amazing dad.” For now...I suppose I’ll find something else to keep me busy; you guys are having too much fun in there.

P.S.—Don’t steal all my kisses!

The Motherly #RockSTARDad Essay Series is brought to you by Motherly and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR program. The prize will go to the essay that gets the shared and read the most, so please share this essay if you think it should win! You can read the other essays here.

The ENERGY STAR certified washer + dryer prize is provided by LG. The LG TWINWash™ 2-in-1 washer and dryer pair models may vary from pictured due to inventory and/or household requirements related to size and installation requirements.

Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

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

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!


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.


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.


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.


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In just over three weeks, we will become parents. From then on, our hearts will live outside of our bodies. We will finally understand what everyone tells you about bringing a child into the world.

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Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.

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