To my wife: Watching you realize your dreams is an inspiration

When our children watch you cross the stage and get your diploma with all those fancy Latin words next to your name and those gold ropes around your neck, they will be watching their hero.

To my wife: Watching you realize your dreams is an inspiration

Dear babe—

Congratulations on completing your bachelors degree! Your story has been an inspiration to me and so many others. You could have sat in regret and confusion as one who deferred your dreams because of societal, cultural or familial pressures to be a certain person.

You could have walked away from completing your education as all the whispers powerfully told you it was too late, it wasn't necessary, it's too embarrassing to finish now. You quieted that flurry of voices and gave our family an irreplaceable gift.

You gave us you. More fully and more authentic.

All along the way you have been given justifiable reasons not to pursue this degree. Most significantly we are raising four children currently 12 and under, and the responsibility and also invisibility of motherhood alone would give reason to squash your dreams.


Only a few slight "interruptions" like moving across the country, learning how to refinish floors and lay tile to refurbish an ancient house, starting your own business, recording an album, building a playhouse from scratch…the list titled "things Jessica impresses me with" goes on and on... and none of these blocked you from continuing your dream.

Over the past six years as you have pursued this degree, you have modeled sacrifice and dedication. You would wake up before anyone so you could get homework and papers written before the kids needed to get up for school.

You juggled intense deadlines and assignments for school with music lessons and math homework and the fact that seemingly every Friday a child was sick. You did the hard work of recognizing your limitations and accepted help when needed. You battled the feelings of guilt and pushed through to stay focused on your goal knowing that what you were doing was indeed the right thing.

Today we're all so proud to watch you achieve this amazing accomplishment. You deserve every bit of pomp and circumstance imaginable.

There is a reason that millions upon millions of people flock to see the original Mona Lisa painting or the David statue instead of physical replicas and high definition images they can see almost anywhere—authenticity. When something is real you know it and its magnitude far surpasses any replica or lesser version of that particular thing.

This is the strength of what you have done for our family.

You have had the bravery and the resilience to pursue the truest version of yourself. You have had the determination and perseverance to end your goal-deferment and go after your dreams. A lot of people don't do that. (But then again, you're not 'a lot of people.')

You have continually done the hard work to look inside and grapple with who you are and what your contribution to the world is, what your legacy will be. You have figured it out and you have pursued it boldly. That is the greatest gift you could give our family.

And I just want to say: thank you.

There are countless things you do for our family to keep the trains running, but today I want to thank you for all the loads of laundry you never did because you had a paper to write. Thank you for the times you studied instead of tidying up. Thank you for the times you stayed focused on your goal and didn't do a million other things you 'should have.'

Thank you for the hours you spent not doing so many other things because you were pursuing your dream.

Because when our children watch you cross the stage and get your diploma with all those fancy Latin words next to your name and those gold ropes around your neck, they will be watching their hero. You. The real you. The you you want to be. The you we all love. The you who makes us beam with pride.

They will be watching you, their mom. Their model of independence, sacrifice, talent and persistence.

Your degree won't just represent a box you checked, but will serve as a tangible example of your tenacity and intelligence. It's something that our kids have been part of and have observed all of the hard work you have poured into this. They will always have that example to reference.

I hope you see this.

When they are faced with a hardship down the line, they will think of their mom. They'll think of how she committed to a goal, stuck with it, and made it happen. You will be their inspiration. You are our inspiration.

More than anything, though, I appreciate so much how you have done all of this while still being an amazing wife and mother.

I don't know how you do it, but I am in awe that you do.

The Mona Lisa can't hold a candle to you.


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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.


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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