Toddler Gift Ideas

It’s the *best* feeling … watching them tear through the wrapping paper … their happy little squeals and wonderstruck faces. Years later, you look back and remember those moments even if you can’t remember the gifts themselves.

But my favorite gifts are the ones that create memories. The ones that inspire them, make them laugh, or teach them something brand new. (Bonus points if they don’t make noise + keep them busy for more than 5 minutes!)

Now that Luna is 2.5 years old, I’m focusing on imaginative and creative play. This list includes a few things we already own - and love! - and a few that are on this year’s list:


Create a cozy reading nook or a fun place to hide with a canvas teepee. We strung ours with a strand of white lights!

Balance Bike

We skipped the tricycle and went straight for a balance bike - it’s just like a regular bike but without the wheels! They’re lightweight and adjustable - perfect for toddlers!

Kitchen Set

Luna has wooden food, little pots and pans, and even a shopping cart!

We get a lot of compliments on ours - it’s super subtle and coordinates with our living room!

Pretend Play Clothes

XX her imagination

Imaginative play is even better with a doctor’s coat, astronaut’s suit, or a chef’s hat! I’m planning to hang the clothes on wall hooks with hats, boots, and other accessories below in bins. (<— Stay tuned for pictures!)

Craft Supplies

Stick with the basics like washable markers, glue sticks, and colored paper OR get creative with fun stickers and stencils!

Magic Tricks

Even the simplest magic tricks make Luna laugh - so this bag of tricks in on our list this year!

Little Passports

It’s a monthly subscription for early explorers! Each box contains age-appropriate toys, stickers, and other fun things to help your toddler learn about new world themes like music, dinosaurs, and oceans. This one actually came highly recommended by a nanny friend!

A Fun Experience

A month of gymnastics classes, a pass to a kid’s museum, or a hand-made ticket for a day with the grandparents. You can even pair a gift with the experience … like a little leotard to wear to gymnastics class!

Mom-Approved Tips for Easing Toddler Separation Anxiety

Fast forward to last month …Luna spent her FIRST EVER weekend away from home and literally had the best time without me. I can’t even believe it! I’m almost a little hurt by how much fun she had. But also *really* relieved. It makes me happy to see her growing in confidence. She’s finally realizing she can step out of her comfort zone and I’ll be right here waiting when she’s ready to come back.

With that being said, it was definitely a process getting to this point. I received a lot of great advice along the way (and also some not-so-great advice, ha!). Here are a few things that worked for us - plus some tips from other mamas as well!

Tip #1: Start off slow. Your toddler’s BIGGEST fear is that you’ll go away and not come back.

“We focused on short outings, such as a one hour coffee date close by in case she needed us … this organic progression just naturally built until just recently our 3 year old did almost 3 full days without even asking for us once. It definitely DOES happen in it’s own time!” - Joyvel Grant, creator of the Mama Thyme blog

Which brings me to my next tip …

Tip #3: Talk about the plan ahead of time. Let your toddler know what to expect. Tell them where you’re going and when you’ll be back for them.

This tip is also helpful for bedtime!:

“Some nights my son will ask me to stay with him. He and I have agreed that I can stay for 1 minute. I use a timer on my phone and as soon as it dings, I say “goodnight” and leave! It hasn’t solved the problem completely but it’s helped!” - Emily, creator of the Making with Mommy blog

Tip #7: Always say goodbye. Sneaking out might seem like a good idea but it could actually backfire. Your toddler’s anxiety may actually worsen when they realize that you could disappear at any time without warning.

Another mama said she does almost exactly the same thing:

“I don’t draw it out … otherwise it makes it worse! I give her a hug and a kiss goodbye and tell her I love her and I’ll see her soon. My nanny says she pretty much stops crying the second I’m gone.” - Michelle, creator of the mom & lifestyle blog

Tip #2: Know it might get worse before it gets better.

Toddlers are scarily good at noticing patterns. Luna barely noticed when I dropped her off at daycare on Day 1 - she was already having too much fun with all the new toys! But by Day 3 she started crying the moment we walked through the door. And on Day 4 we couldn’t pry her off of me!

At that point, I realized a few things. First, I needed to adjust my expectations. Second,

I needed to find ways to create positive experiences apart for Luna. No more waiting until she cried to pick her up. Instead, I’d leave her for 5 minutes and come back while she was still happily playing. By

Tip #2: Stick to familiar places/faces when you can. When you hire a new babysitter, ask if they can come to your house.

It really helped when my mom came to our house to watch Lu! It meant she was in a space that already felt safe. Plus she was familiar with my mom because we Facetime all the time!

And if you’re going somewhere new - like daycare - you can stay with her for the first day or two while she explores her new surroundings:

“For us, talking to her before we go somewhere where I'll be dropping her off (preschool, etc). I explain that it's time for fun with her friends and I'll be back. (We even sing the Daniel Tiger song "grownups come back"! I also talk to her teacher for a few minutes so she sees it's okay to trust her teacher. Mine definitely feed off my behavior of how comfortable I am with other people and then she follows my lead. Now she rolls right into school and tells me moms aren't allowed in!" - Kristen, creator of the Lovely as a Mother blog

Tip #2: Put her feelings into words. Sometimes toddlers don’t have the words to express how they’re feeling. But in most cases, Luna calms down the moment she realizes that I understand where she’s coming from. So if I’m dropping her off at daycare and she’s upset, I’ll say You’re feeling upset? And a little sad?" Sniffle, nod. “It’s okay to feel a little sad sometimes. But mommy thinks you’re also really brave like a superhero!”

Tip #1: Read about it together …. and then try role play!

“Our favorite book has been Owl Babies by Martin Waddell. We also talk about what will happen when I leave and actually act it out so that he can practice being “okay”! - Emily, creator of the Making with Mommy blog

Tip #xx: Give positive reinforcement. I like to reward Luna for trying new things on her own. So when goes to daycare, we’ll head to the park for some family time afterwards!

Tip #6: Use the art of distraction. A great sitter or daycare worker will help you with this. Whether it’s a fun toy or silly faces, they’ll bring out your toddler’s sense of humor in an otherwise stressful situation.

Tip #5: Bribe them. It sounds terrible but it really does work! Luna’s favorite things are fruit/veggie pouches If I need her to go to daycare, I’ll tell her they have snack packs waiting for her there!

“I make sure to have snacks handy! It’s familiar and distracts her - and also calms her down. I also engage in whatever I’m leaving her with … like if it’s in the child watch area at the gym, we’ll chat with other kids and play whatever is there for a few minutes until she’s comfortable enough to play on her own. I always try not to let her feel like I’m just leaving her if that makes sense. Also, I give her something to look forward to, like maybe the park afterwards if she calms down and behaves well!” - Shyla Cino (follow her lifestyle & motherhood blog here!)

Tip #x: Change your mindset. I’d actually never thought about separation anxiety as a good thing until I read this tip!:

“My best tip is not to push them too fast into independence. At such a young age, they just feel secure with you and have hesitations about being apart! Plus having that foundation sets the stage for your toddler to develop secure relationships with others as they grow … so my tip is simply to change your mindset and not look at it as a negative! What ended up happening for us is by not pushing it too hard our toddler suddenly started developing more independence on her own. It seemed to work 10x better to let her form relationships with others and decide she wanted to separate rather than from me forcing her.” - Joyvel Grant, creator of the Mama Thyme blog

Tip #5: Try to be compassionate. It’s soooo frustrating when your toddler is clinging to you and you really have to go! But remember that this is a big change for her. Reward her with lots of hugs and snuggles and try not to lose your mind completely when she has a meltdown.

Along the same lines …

Tip #2: Keep trying. It took a while for Luna to get over her anxiety. Part of that was my fault … I was so anxious about her meltdowns that I honestly stopped trying to fix the problem. But my friend Shannon made a really good point:

“The more we got involved in social activities, the easier it became for him to let go of me and do things independently. I think he realized that it’s just as fun as playing with mom … it was really tough at first, though!” - Shannon Thomas (follow her on Instagram here!)

Waiting on responses from:

  • Savannah Yost

Good luck mama!

With love,


How We Prepared for Baby #2

I actually wrote this post *months* ago but forgot to post it! But looking back, all of the ways we prepared for Stella’s arrival were super helpful. Not that it was a perfect transition - Luna wasn’t quite ready to be a big sister - but it was mostly way easier than expected! So now I’m sharing all the ways we actually prepared for baby #2 plus a few things we should have done (but didn’t, ugh).

Okay, here goes:

I thought it would be easy preparing for another baby … I mean, been there done that, right?!  But somehow we have even MORE to do this time around.  How is that possible?!

Lists are pretty much the only way I stay organized these days, so here are all the ways we’re preparing for baby #2:


We kept most of our baby items from the first time around …. but now we have to sort through them all!  Do we have enough newborn socks and mittens?  Soft washcloths?  Where's the infant tub we used when Luna was born?  Now is the time to figure out what we already have and what we still need to stock up on (gas drops, anyone?!). 


Some people think you should only have a baby shower for your firstborn. But if a loved one offers to throw a shower or "sprinkle" the second time around, accept the offer and enjoy!  Every baby deserves to be celebrated - plus there's a still a LOT to buy (or replace) even if you already have most of the big ticket items.


Time for washing and folding and organizing all those clothes, diapers, and miscellaneous items your baby needs (again).  I'm still torn on where to put everything - Luna's dresser is perfect for newborns (it has a spot for a changing pad on top) but it also still feels like hers! 

Another thing on our list?  Pulling out our infant car seat.  I plan to put the baby in the middle but we'll have to see what works best with Luna's seat!


A new baby is a big transition for everyone - including your toddler!  Let her know that some changes are coming.  Show her how to dress and burp and change diapers using a baby doll.  Make it exciting - You're getting a little brother or sister to play with!   We've also been reading books about becoming a big sister - this one is Luna's favorite! 

Now is also the time to consider sleep training, potty training, breaking the bottle/pacifier habit, etc if needed.  Keep in mind that some littles go through regressions - so try to make any major changes at least a few months before the new baby arrives!

#5 - DECIDE ON SLEEP Arrangements

Maybe this is just us, but part of welcoming a new baby means figuring out where Luna is going to sleep!  Are you going to buy a second crib?  Upgrade to a toddler or twin bed?  Buy a bigger master bed to accommodate family co-sleeping?  Whatever you choose, make the transition before the new baby comes - otherwise your big kid might resent your newborn. 


Your hospital bag, I mean!  Make sure to include essentials for you and your spouse and stash it by the door for easy access.  And don't forget a list of "Last Minute" items you won't want to forget in the rush - cell phones, chargers, wallets, etc.

Don't forget to pack an overnight bag for your toddler if they'll be staying with a friend or relative during your hospital stay.  Our plan is for Luna to stay at our house (with my mom) - but I'm still packing a bag just in case because you never know!


Regardless of when you go into labor, you'll need someone to watch your toddler while you're at the hospital.  Choose someone who is familiar and available overnight if needed - and have a backup just in case!  And if your little one struggles with separation anxiety (like mine), here are a few quick tips:

  • Do a trial run with the sitter

  • Have your toddler stay at home (which is more familiar) instead of going to the sitter's house

  • Leave your sitter with a few instructions (including a typical schedule, favorite foods, regular bed/naptime routines, and any other essential info) to keep things normal

  • Make it fun with a little treat or a new toy!


Newborn life is pretty all-consuming (read: exhausting!).  Now is the time for a getaway with your partner!  It's one thing I wish I'd done the first time around but didn’t.  And it doesn't have to be expensive.  A staycation at a local resort or spa reservations for two is the perfect way to relax - and enjoy some alone time - before baby arrives.  Plus it's a great time for that trial run with the babysitter ;)

For our babymoon, we spent a weekend at The Umstead Hotel & Spa in Raleigh while my mom watched Luna.  So many good things to say about our stay there!


Last but not least!  This one is always hard for us - we didn't decide on Luna's name until after she was born.  But we're keeping a running list of our favorites on the fridge while we figure it out.  And YES we're taking suggestions!!

I think that's it!   We're hoping to have everything done by Week 36 at the latest - but the earlier the better.  We'll see how that goes! (Update: it didn’t go well, we didn’t set up the crib or pack our hospital bag until week 39, ha! Thankfully it all worked out but still!)

How are you preparing for another baby?! 

With love,




One Year Immunizations

Hi mommas,

What a day!  Well, week really.  Okay, TWO WEEKS!!

Earlier this month, Luna had her one year appointment.  The doctor checked her height and weight and ADDDDDD.

I heard they might draw blood but luckily that wasn't the case for us.  What we couldn't avoid, though, were the immunization shots.  This time around, Lu had four total (two in each leg).  Ugh!  It's so heartbreaking to see her cry even though I know it's preventing something a lot worse.  But still!

Luna recovered from the pain pretty quickly.  I scooped her up, kissed her on the head, and said Where's your elephant, Lu? and she perked right up.  Even if her stuffed elephant is nowhere in sight, it always makes her feel a little better to look for it.  #ADORABLE :)

Afterwords, we spent the day at Weymouth Park with Kris.  ADDDDDD.

It wasn't until two days later that the fever started ... and then her legs broke out in a rash!  She started taking 3-4 naps a day and was acting really cranky.  I contacted the Immunization Department and they were super helpful.  They suspected she was having a reaction to the MMR or the chicken pox vaccine and gave me instructions on how to move forward.  And it totally helped!  The fever went down and the rash slowly disappeared.  But by the weekend it was back full force! 

I called again.  This time they confirmed it was a reaction to the chicken pox immunization.  They recommended giving her Tylenol every four hours until her fever broke.  And even though she's not contagious, they also said we needed to stay inside where it's cool - heat makes the spots worse!

So that's where we're at now.  For days, we've been holed up inside.  No walks to the park.  No pushing Luna's toy car around the yard.  No painting the sidewalks with water.  I'm a little cranky and she's a little cranky and we're both missing our park mom friends.  But ADDDDDDD. Wish us luck!

With love,


30-Day Happy Marriage Challenge

Hi everyone!

A few nights ago, my husband came home from work looking a little run down.  After we put Luna to bed, I asked if I could borrow him for ten minutes.  He looked a liiiiitle wary.  Like, what did I do wrong?  I patted the couch next to me for him to sit. 

Then I pulled his legs onto my lap and started rubbing his feet.  Just like that, his body relaxed.  He leaned back and closed his eyes and for the next ten minutes we sat in silence while I cared for him. 

That night, I thought about the little everyday things that make such a difference in a marriage.  It's not that my marriage is perfect.  Like every relationship, we go through rough patches.  There are days and weeks when we just. don't. get. along.  And I think that's normal!  But there are also things we can all do to make our marriages happier.

That's how I started working on The 30-Day Happy Marriage Challenge.  It's a list of little things you can do every day to change your marriage for the better.  You can try a few here and there or you can dive headfirst into the full challenge.  Whatever works best for you!  But there is one little rule I hope you'll follow:  I want you to do each of these things selflessly.  Do them without any expectation of receiving something in return.  Because guess what?  You're already getting something in return.  As you complete this challenge, your spouse will feel loved, appreciated, and more connected to you than ever.  And in return, you'll feel happier!

I know what you're thinking:  she's crazy.  But trust me on this one.  Or, don't.  Try the challenge for yourself and see what happens!  Good luck!

Day 1 - Give him an unexpected compliment

Day 2 - Show interest in one of his hobbies

Day 3 - Let go of some trivial annoyance

Day 4 - Set aside your phone and listen while he talks

Day 5 - Place a hand on his thigh during a car ride

Day 6 - Skip that lecture you're dying to give

Day 7 - Tell him how attractive you find him

Day 8 - Put a sweet note in his lunchbox

Day 9 - Praise him in front of others

Day 10 - Lightly touch his skin while you talk

Day 11 - Cook his favorite meal for dinner

Day 12 - Ask how how you can better support him

Day 13 - Allow him space to do something he loves

Day 14 - Ask for his input on something that matters

Day 15 - Borrow his car and have it washed/detailed

Day 16 - Plan a fun night out together

Day 17 - Send a little text to let him know you're thinking of him

Day 18 - Take a hot shower together

Day 19 - Surprise him with a thoughtful gift

Day 20 - Acknowledge something he does that you really appreciate

Day 21 - Give him a neck massage after a long day

Day 22 - Go stargazing in the middle of nowhere

Day 23 - Initiate an intimate moment

Day 24 - Hold his hand on the way to bed

Day 25 - Recreate one of your favorite memories together

Day 26 - Describe the moment you first fell in love

Day 27 - Forgive him for something you've been holding onto

Day 28 - Talk about the future you envision with him

Day 29 - Visit a place that has special meaning to your relationship

Day 30 - Tell him how much he really means to you

If you complete this challenge, I'd love to hear about your results in the comments below!  Or even better, share it with a friend.  Because I think the world could use a lot more happy marriages, don't you?! :)

With love,



Why I Quit Breastfeeding

Why I Quit Breastfeeding

It's been three months since I quit breastfeeding.  For the most part, I don't miss it.  I don't miss pumping for hours a day.  I don't miss sitting in a room upstairs breastfeeding while my family and friends laughed and talked downstairs.  And I definitely don't miss nursing bras!  I feel alive again and happier.  And I think Luna is happier, too. 

I would never tell another momma to give up breastfeeding.  And truthfully, I'll probably give it another try when baby number two comes along.  But if you're really struggling, if you're feeling trapped and isolated, if you want to try switching to formula but you feel guilty, remember this:  happy mommas raise happy babies.  And whatever you decide, you are not a failure.  You are a mom who is doing her best.

Dream Blog: Coming Soon!

Dream Blog:  Coming Soon!

Hey dreamers!

This page is going to inspire you in every way.  Here you'll find tips for pursuing your passion, motivation to keep going, and even a few interviews with people just like you who managed to turn their dreams into reality. I'm also going to be introducing a project that I'm personally really excited about called Front Porch Families.  Like this blog, Front Porch Families is a big dream of mine that's slowly coming true.  I can't wait to tell you all about it soon! 

With love,