Where You Invest Your Love: Valentine’s Tea


Truthfully, I had every intention to write about streamers and recipes and throwing the perfect Valentine’s party. And maybe another day I will. But for today, life feels all too fleeting. And my heart is stirring with this line from Mumford and Sons as I plan our fifth annual mother-daughter Valentine’s tea: “where you invest your love, you invest your life.”

The most sacred of traditions began four years ago on our nursery floor. My husband was transitioning into his new job, and February 14th landed on our laps before I could wrap my mind around any expectations of the day. I was so caught in the whirlwind of nursing, changing diapers, and praying my sweet five-month old would sleep through the night that truthfully I hadn’t given much thought to what our day of love would look like. My boobs still leaked and just the thought of the effort it would take to put on something pretty seemed like too much work. Did any dress before baby even fit? Lord knows probably not. Maybe David would do something sweet when he got home and I’m sure grandparents would offer to watch our Bella-boo while we grabbed a bite in between feedings, but we had all day long. Home alone. Just me and my baby.

Where You Invest Your Love: Valentine's Tea | Duluth Moms Blog

{Year One}

I came across a little pink outfit that I bought for the wrong season because though it wasn’t at all practical for Minnesota winters, it was preciously darling. I did this a lot as a first time mom, but this is a no judgment zone, people. So I cranked up the heat and dressed my sweet five-month old in the pastel pink dress that hung so sweetly in her closet. My sister-in-law had knitted the most darling tea set you ever laid your eyes on when Audrey was born. So I laid out a tablecloth on her nursery floor, gathered around all the stuffed animals and we had our first annual mother-daughter Valentine’s tea. It was not at all Pinterest-worthy, but it was all heart. I guess that is why that first year was so very special, why I can go back to those moments in a heartbeat, still so vivid in my mind.

Where You Invest Your Love: Valentine's Tea | Duluth Moms Blog

{Year Two}

The years following, I started making it more complicated. I love throwing parties, and this was just another reason to scavenge the dollar section at Target and get creative. The year Audrey was just over one, all she cared about was the chocolate. Then she learned to love the anticipation. The waiting. I would keep it all a secret, and then would gift her a Valentine’s dress and her eyes would be closed when I opened the door to our party. The best part was always her tiny giggles running up and down those creaky stairs and trying to peek into get a view of the surprise. And we always always have a dance party. Regardless if I’m eight months pregnant or not, we dance. Her requests always including Shake It Off and All About That Bass.

Where You Invest Your Love: Valentine's Tea | Duluth Moms Blog

Where You Invest Your Love: Valentine's Tea | Duluth Moms Blog

{Year Three}

I have found some fun party ideas, but here are my main takeaways after five years of creating these sacred spaces:

The main point always has to be the people. Or we miss it all. It couldn’t be more true: where you invest your love, you invest your life. When my main purpose is perfection instead of connection, or pretty over purposeful, I don’t even land on the target.

So keep the main thing the main thing. Put your phone down, look your people in the eye, dance your flipping heart out. Take the pictures (I get paid to take photos, photos are not evil!). But when the image of what happened is more important than engaging in the moments right in front of you, you run the risk of missing it all.

Where You Invest Your Love: Valentine's Tea | Duluth Moms Blog

Where You Invest Your Love: Valentine's Tea | Duluth Moms Blog

Where You Invest Your Love: Valentine's Tea | Duluth Moms Blog

{Year Four}

And I’ll be the first to say, there have been too many times I’ve missed it all.

Your people don’t need fancy. They need to know they are loved. They need to know that you see them. Extravagance is never wasted. And Pinterest has taught us to believe that extravagance is only what’s photo worthy. But extravagance also looks like lavishly loving the person right in front of you. Calling out the gifts you see in them. Squeezing their sweet cheeks and locking their eyes to yours and saying, “Man, am I ever lucky to get to love you.” It’s being fully present and allowing your heart to fully engage.

I’m going to be honest with you, straight up about my heart. I’ve thrown parties hundreds of times and I can probably count on one hand the times I hit the target with this. Making something pretty requires much less sacrifice than investing in something that lasts. Hustling to make a party all kinds of lovely is fun and exhilarating, but we must keep our eyes fixed on what doesn’t get swept away at the end of the day.

This year, Audrey will run around my house in giddy anticipation. She will have her sweet pink dress to twirl around in to Taylor Swift loud enough to shake our house. We will drink hot chocolate (with our pinkies up) out of a cute teapot pretending we are fancy. And there will be some of the extravagant fluff because I still love creating beautiful spaces. BUT I will intentionally put my phone and camera down and look her in her eyes, and lock her four-year old giggle in my heart for the days I’m old and grey and miss this beautiful chaos. I will tell that I wouldn’t trade being her mama for anything in this world— and she will know that it is true. I will tell her I love her a hundred times over. My love will be invested into her growing heart, and all the rest will  just be frills. 

Where You Invest Your Love: Valentine's Tea | Duluth Moms Blog

Our family is multiplying this year. We are expecting another precious babe in July, and we are bringing home another babe we fiercely love but haven’t met yet from Uganda through adoption. Yes, we are going from a child tribe of two to four, ya’ll can pray for us. I can imagine some years I won’t have the time or energy for anything sparkly. I can imagine some years the best we will do is sneaking away to share an ice cream cone or hot chocolate and praying we can find something pink in our closet. And those years will hold equal weight to these early days. Because a little girl will know she is wildly loved. She will know she is worth making time for. I will give myself grace and repeat these words over my heart, “Where you invest your love, you invest your life.”

Where You Invest Your Love: Valentine's Tea | Duluth Moms Blog

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Anna McParlan
Anna was born + raised along the shores of Lake Superior. The water and the dear family and friends that call Duluth home are the magnet that keep her and her growing family adoring this place. Anna married her high school crush and together they are raising two darling compassionate adventurers with a love of fresh air and grace. Anna loves all things that shout of beauty, hope, truth, and pointing people towards joy. Her love for writing started in kindergarten where she would come home with long stapled together novels- recently found in her Moms chest of saved childhood projects. That passion for stringing together words would only bloom in the many years to come. When Her Dad battled brain cancer for 17 years, writing became her safe place to wrestle with both joy and pain as well as a place to search for beauty. Today you can find Anna running wild in the things that bring her joy. Falling more in love with her tall sweetheart of a husband. Doing her best to raise kids who chase after truth, love a good hike, and give away kindness. Gathering friends old and new in their home to share good food, hearts, and life. Filling out adoption paperwork to bring home their third (and maybe 4th!) babe from Uganda home. Chasing sunsets with her minis + capturing couples promising their forevers as a wedding photographer at Along An Inland Sea Photography. She shares about heaven breaking into the everyday mundane on Instagram where she likes to mini blog and post about those darling babes of hers-- pop over and say hello to her on Instagram


  1. Love this, Anna! The first year photo made me so weepy! Where did the years go. Keep up the good work! I love you (and your entire precious family!

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