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I cherish the notes I receive from my children—whether they are scribbled with a Sharpie on a yellow sticky note or written in perfect penmanship on lined paper. But the Mother’s Day poem I received from my 9-year-old daughter was especially meaningful. In fact, the first line of the poem caused my breath to catch as warm tears slid down my face.


“The important thing about my mom is...she’s always there for me, even when I get in trouble.”

You see, it hasn’t always been this way.

In the midst of my highly distracted life, I started a new practice that was quite different from the way I behaved up until that point. I became a yeller. It wasn’t often, but it was extreme—like an overloaded balloon that suddenly pops and makes everyone in earshot startle with fear.

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So what was it about my then three-year-old and six-year-old children that caused me to lose it? Was it how she insisted on running off to get three more beaded necklaces and her favorite pink sunglasses when we were already late? Was it that she tried to pour her own cereal and dumped the entire box on the kitchen counter? Was it that she dropped and shattered my special glass angel on the hardwood floor after being told not to touch it? Was it that she fought sleep like a prizefighter when I needed peace and quiet the most? Was it that the two of them fought over ridiculous things like who would be first out of the car or who got the biggest dip of ice cream?

Yes, it was those things—normal mishaps and typical kid issues and attitudes that irritated me to the point of losing control.

That is not an easy sentence to write. Nor is this an easy time in my life to relive because truth be told, I hated myself in those moments. What had become of me that I needed to scream at two precious little people who I loved more than life?

Let me tell you what had become of me.

My distractions—

Excessive phone use, commitment overload, multiple page to-do lists, and the pursuit of perfection consumed me. And yelling at the people I loved was a direct result of the loss of control I was feeling in my life.

Inevitably, I had to fall apart somewhere. So I fell apart behind closed doors in the company of the people who meant the most to me.

Until one fateful day.

My older daughter had gotten on a stool and was reaching for something in the pantry when she accidentally dumped an entire bag of rice on the floor. As a million tiny grains pelleted the floor like rain, my child’s eyes welled up with tears. And that’s when I saw it—the fear in her eyes as she braced herself for her mother’s tirade.

She’s scared of me, I thought with the most painful realization imaginable. My six-year-old child is scared of my reaction to her innocent mistake.

With deep sorrow, I realized that was not the mother I wanted my children to grow up with, nor was it how I wanted to live the rest of my life.

Within a few weeks of that episode, I had my Breakdown-Breakthrough—my moment of painful awareness that propelled me on a Hands Free journey to let go of distraction and grasp what really mattered.

That was two and a half years ago—two and half years of scaling back slowly on the excess and electronic distraction in my life...two and half years of releasing myself from the unachievable standard of perfection and societal pressure to “do it all.”

As I let go of my internal and external distractions, the anger and stress pent up inside me slowly dissipated. With a lighten load, I was able to react to my children’s mistakes and wrongdoings in a more calm, compassionate and reasonable manner.

I said things like, “It’s just chocolate syrup. You can wipe it up, and the counter will be as good as new.”

(Instead of expelling an exasperated sigh and an eye roll for good measure.)

I offered to hold the broom while she swept up a sea of Cheerios that covered the floor.

(Instead of standing over her with a look of disapproval and utter annoyance.)

I helped her think through where she might have set down her glasses.

(Instead of shaming her for being so irresponsible.)

And in the moments when sheer exhaustion and incessant whining were about to get the best of me, I walked into the bathroom, shut the door, and gave myself a moment to exhale and remind myself they are children and children make mistakes. Just like me.

And over time, the fear that once flared in my children’s eyes when they were in trouble disappeared. And thank goodness, I became a haven in their times of trouble—instead of the enemy from which to run and hide.

I am not sure I would have thought to write about this profound transformation had it not been for the incident that happened one Monday afternoon. In that moment, I got a taste of life overwhelmed and the urge to yell was on the tip of my tongue. I was nearing the final chapters of my first book and my computer froze up. Suddenly the edits of three entire chapters disappeared in front of my eyes. I spent several minutes frantically trying to revert to the most recent version of the manuscript. When that failed to work, I consulted the time machine backup, only to find that it, too, had experienced an error. When I realized I would never recover the work I did on those three chapters, I wanted to cry—but even more so, I wanted to rage.

But I couldn’t because it was time to pick up the children from school and take them to swim team practice. With great restraint, I calmly shut my laptop and reminded myself there could be much, much worse problems than re-writing these chapters. Then I told myself there was absolutely nothing I could do about this problem right now.

When my children got in the car, they immediately knew something was wrong. “What’s wrong, Mama?” they asked in unison after taking one glimpse of my ashen face.

I felt like yelling, “I lost three days worth of work on my book!”

I felt like hitting the steering wheel with my fist because sitting in the car was the last place I wanted to be in that moment. I wanted to go home and fix my book—not shuttle kids to swim team, wring out wet bathing suits, comb through tangled hair, make dinner, wash dishes and do the nightly tuck in.

But instead I calmly said, “I’m having a little trouble talking right now. I lost part of my book. And I don’t want to talk because I feel very frustrated.”

“We’re sorry,” the oldest one said for the both of them. And then, as if they knew I needed space, they were quiet all the way to the pool. The children and I went about our day and although I was more quiet than usual, I didn’t yell and I tried my best to refrain from thinking about the book issue.

Finally, the day was almost done. I had tucked my youngest child in bed and was laying beside my oldest daughter for nightly Talk Time.

“Do you think you will get your chapters back?” my daughter asked quietly.

And that’s when I started to cry—not so much about the three chapters, I knew they could be rewritten—my heartbreak was more of a release due to the exhaustion and frustration involved in writing and editing a book. I had been so close to the end. To have it suddenly ripped away was incredibly disappointing.

To my surprise, my child reached out and stroked my hair softly. She said reassuring words like, “Computers can be so frustrating,” and “I could take a look at the time machine to see if I can fix the backup.” And then finally, “Mama, you can do this. You’re the best writer I know,” and “I’ll help you however I can.”

In my time of “trouble,” there she was, a patient and compassionate encourager who wouldn’t think of kicking me when I was already down.

My child would not have learned this empathetic response if I had remained a yeller. Because yelling shuts down the communication—it severs the bond, it causes people to separate instead of come closer.

“The important thing is...my mom is always there for me, even when I get in trouble.” My child wrote that about me, the woman who went through a difficult period that she’s not proud of, but she learned from. And in my daughter’s words, I see hope for others.

The important thing is...it’s not too late to stop yelling.

The important thing is...children forgive—especially if they see the person they love trying to change.

The important thing is...life is too short to get upset over spilled cereal and misplaced shoes.

The important thing is...no matter what happened yesterday, today is a new day.

Today we can choose a peaceful response.

And in doing so, we can teach our children that peace builds bridges—bridges that can carry us over in times of trouble.

This article was originally published on Hands Free Mama.

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As a mid-Spring holiday, we never knew exactly what to expect from the weather on Easter when I was growing up in Michigan: Would we get to wear our new Sunday dresses without coats? Or would we be hunting for eggs while wearing snowsuits?

Although what the temperature had in store was really anyone's guess, there were a few special traditions my sister and I could always depend on—and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite memories revolved around food. After all, experts say memories are strongest when they tie senses together, which certainly seems to be true when it comes to holiday meals that involve the sounds of laughter and the taste of amazing food.

Now that I'm a parent, I'm experiencing Easter anew as my children discover the small delights of chocolate, pre-church brunch and a multi-generational dinner. While I still look forward to the treats and feasting, I'm realizing now that the sweetest thing of all is how these traditions bring our family together around one table.

For us, the build-up to Easter eats is an extended event. Last year's prep work began weeks in advance when my 3-year-old and I sat down to plan the brunch menu, which involved the interesting suggestion of "green eggs and ham." When the big morning rolled around, his eyes grew to the size of Easter eggs out of pure joy when the dish was placed on the table.

This year, rather than letting the day come and go in a flash, we are creating traditions that span weeks and allow even the littlest members of the family to feel involved.

Still, as much as I love enlisting my children's help, I also relish the opportunity to create some magic of my own with their Easter baskets—even if the Easter Bunny gets the credit. This year, I'm excited to really personalize the baskets by getting an "adoptable" plush unicorn for my daughter and the Kinder Chocolate Mini Eggs that my son hasn't stopped talking about since seeing at the store. (You can bet this mama is stocking up on some for herself, too.)

At the same time, Easter as a parent has opened my eyes to how much effort can be required...

There is the selection of the right Easter outfits for picture-perfect moments.

There is the styling of custom Easter baskets.

There is the filling of plastic eggs and strategic placement of them throughout the yard.

But when the cameras are put away and we all join together around the table for the family dinner at the end of the day, I can finally take a deep breath and really enjoy—especially with the knowledge that doing the dishes is my husband's job.

This article was sponsored by Kinder. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


Our Partners

There's no denying that Christmas trees bring the joy of the holidays to life into our homes. They make us happy and decorating them creates moments of happiness with our family. And now during these trying times, people are finding that same joy decorating Easter trees.

Some parents are digging out their faux Christmas trees and redecorating them for Easter.

"Given the current situation and the craziness of it all, I thought we'd try and cheer the house up a little bit, because we're all stuck here for the foreseeable future," says mama Louise Connolly.

"And it gave the kids something to do. They thought it was hilarious! I just want to make this time memorable for them in nice ways," Connolly says.

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While the trend is fairly new in the US, Germany and Sweden have followed the trend for centuries. Known as Ostereierbaum, the tradition symbolizes the start of the spring season.

Some mamas are opting for minimalist versions while others are going full Christmas with faux evergreen trees.

From whimsical pink and farmhouse to sparkled and rustic, there are a rainbow of Easter tree varieties to buy or DIY. Just don't forget a pair of bunny ears at the top!

Need ideas? Here's what to put on your Easter tree for a cheerful pop of color:

  • Plastic dyed eggs
  • Rabbit-themed stuffed animals
  • Feathers
  • Faux peonies + roses
  • Pastel-hued lights
  • Faux carrots
  • Paper bunnies + chicks
  • miniature birds or bugs
Instagram mama Ania Krezalek says her kids had so much fun with their indoor minimalist version that she's now doing her outdoor trees, too.

Krezalek tells Mothery some moms in her neighborhood suggested outdoor Easter trees as a way to cheer up everyone's kids.

"A lot of moms are resorting to drives with the kids to get out safely, and for the kids to spot out homes with trees decorated for Easter I'm sure would put a smile on their faces," she explains.

From outdoor trees to indoor lights, mamas are making the most of anything festive right now.
Grey's Anatomy star Camilla Luddington dug out her Christmas lights (sans tree) to cheer up her daughter.
She tweeted "We've renamed them Easter lights :)"

During these hard times, we all need something to smile about, and if you're one of the people who can't wait to get their Christmas decorations up you now have the perfect excuse to get them back out.


News

With kids home from school doing more of their learning online—and parents across the country just trying to get a little bit of their own work done at home—kids are getting record amounts of screen time these days. Preschoolers have jam-packed video conferencing schedules, kindergarteners are watching read-alouds on laptops, and elementary and middle school kids are suddenly turning in every assignment online.

How can we help kids adjust to spending so much time on screens, especially when they may have a strong association with screen time as playtime? And how can parents adjust to letting kids have so much more screen time when we've been told we should cut back on how much time our little ones look at our phones?

FEATURED VIDEO

Here's how to help kids adjust to being on devices more than usual:

Create separation between learning screen time + play screen time

In the big picture, screen time is screen time regardless of how it's being used, and there are always risks to overusing something. However, it's helpful to differentiate between screen time used for learning activities and screen time for play activities.

For example, reading a book online or participating in a Zoom class meeting is different than playing a game or chatting. Establish clear expectations around what constitutes "learning time" and "playtime" on devices. For each type of activity, be clear about the where (maybe learning always happens at the kitchen table, and play is usually on the couch) as well as the when (learning in the morning and play during the hour before dinner).

It's important that kids aren't media multitasking by using multiple devices or apps at one time when they're trying to learn. Keep them on one screen at a time, which will help them stick with their activity until completion.

Set healthy limits around using devices, even for school

Use a timer or parental controls to set and enforce time limits for devices, even when your kids are using a computer or tablet for school activities. Children are used to having scheduled blocks of time at school. You can schedule your child's learning screen time so that there's a defined block of time for working on an online math lesson or for watching a video of a science experiment. This makes the expectations clearer for the kids—and makes screen time easier for parents to manage.

Parents can also use parental control apps like Qustodio to see what kids are doing on their devices and how long they are using different apps and websites for. The app allows parents to set a limit on how much time kids are spending on entertainment and recreational apps and websites and allow unlimited use for educational tools.

Include screen-free learning time

Creating a balance of screen time and other non-screen activities is important. Going back and forth between activities can help avoid the problems associated with using devices for lengthy periods of time.

Make sure kids get physical movement throughout the day, give them time to engage in hobbies and activities without devices and have them participate in tasks around the home, such as helping make dinner or folding the laundry. Including kids in activities like cooking, cleaning and organizing gives kids practice with reading, writing and math while encouraging the development of necessary life skills.

Give yourself a break

Ultimately, parents need to give themselves some grace during this time to try to do the best they can with finding balance. A recent study suggests that active screen time, such as playing an educational game or interacting with friends or family online, can have a positive impact on child development. Even if you were previously opposed to screen time for your kids, take heart: This situation isn't forever.
Learn + Play

This year Passover will be from April 8th to the 16th—and, in the middle of a pandemic. This means that beloved traditions may be harder to make happen. Gathering with family and friends for a Seder likely is not possible, and you may find yourself feeling pretty upset about the changes.

First, allow yourself the space to be sad. Passover is a very important holiday, and it's understandable to feel disappointed that so much may need to change this year.

Next, consider how you might be able to use virtual connections—can you FaceTime your family into your living room?

This might also be a wonderful time to incorporate new traditions, especially ones that allow your kids to participate in the Seder.

Here are 8 kid-friendly ways to celebrate Passover this year:

1. Review the meaning behind the traditions

Kids are naturally curious, especially where stories are involved. Before their questions start coming in, it would be helpful to review the story of Passover, along with the meaning behind the traditions, on your own. This article from Time Magazine gives a great overview of Passover (and will likely reignite your own curiosity, too!).

2. Find a kid-friendly Passover story

The Passover story is beautiful...and pretty scary, especially for a younger audience. Luckily, there are some excellent kid-friendly versions of the story out there that convey the meaning, but leave out the frightening details—we'll save talking about the plagues until they're a little older. Here are a few to check out:

3. Bring the story to life

passover_story

With Love, Ima

Kids love stories—especially when they can visualize what's going on. These adorable finger puppet templates are so fun, and will help your child appreciate the magic and power of the Passover story.

4. Explain the Seder in a way kids can understand

The Seder is, of course, at the center of the Passover holiday. There are so many unique ways to have a Seder so feel free to get creative and make it work for you. If your child will participate in the Seder, they'll likely want to understand what's going on! Chabad's brief overview of the Passover Seder is perfect for concise, easy-to-understand answers.

5. Make matzo ball soup! 🥄

Matzo ball soup is the quintessential Passover food—and your kids will love helping roll the balls! If you don't have a traditional family recipe, this matzo ball soup recipe from the New York Times gets stellar reviews. And, this lemony-twist on the traditional recipe looks unreal, if you are looking for something a bit different this year.

6. Make a cup for Elijah

cup for Elijah

Tori Avie

One of the beloved traditions of the Seder is to set out a cup of wine for Elijah. Why not let your kids make it? We love this DIY cup (and totally understand if you want to make one, too.)

7. Find the afikomen

afikomen

Creative Jewish Mom

When a Seder starts, a piece of matzo is broken, and hidden for your children find. This activity is fun on it's own. Enhance it by making a DIY no-sew Afikomen pouch.

8. Read a child-friendly Haggadah

kids_haggadah

The Haggadah is the book used during the Seder to guide the telling of the story and the traditions. Finding a children's version of the Haggadah is a great way to get them involved and keep them interested.

The Kveller Haggadah: A Seder for Curious Kids (and their Grownups) is an awesome choice.

Lifestyle

During a recent coronavirus press briefing at the White House, Dr. Deborah Birx, a leading physician on the federal coronavirus response team, emphasized the critical importance of social distancing over the next two weeks. Referring to the guidelines issued in March by the White House, Dr. Birx has been widely quoted as saying:

"This is the moment to not be going to the grocery store, not going to the pharmacy, but doing everything you can to keep your family and your friends safe, and that means everybody doing the 6 feet distancing, washing your hands."

Dr. Birx's comment has been interpreted as advising Americans to avoid grocery shopping in stores for the next two weeks. While most people already know the importance of doing their part to slow the spread of coronavirus, following this particular advice may be a challenge for many families.

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Snagging a grocery delivery spot or curbside pickup slot has become next to impossible in most areas (assuming delivery is available), and online grocery services are struggling to keep up with demand. And with a growing number of at-risk delivery service workers demanding better on-the-job protections, you may be having second thoughts about using delivery services, even if you can find a slot.

You may find, despite your best efforts, that you just have to go to the store.

If you do need to go to the grocery store or the pharmacy during this time, here's what you should know in order to shop safely.

1. Have a plan

Minimize your trips to the store as much as you can, and time your shopping trip for a day and time that foot traffic is as low as possible (so, not on Saturday afternoon, if you can avoid it). Early in the day is a good time to go, since aisles tend to be less crowded, and stores are at their cleanest right after opening. Many stores are offering special hours for older and immunocompromised customers—if you're pregnant, consider shopping during these hours. Shop by yourself if at all possible.

2. Make a detailed list

In order to complete your shopping as quickly as possible, make a detailed list in advance, and organize your list by grocery section—produce, dairy, meats, baking needs, household items, and so on—so that you can move swiftly through each section of the store. For in-demand items such as bread, meat, sauces and pasta, think of alternatives in advance so you can grab "plan B" if you need to. Experts suggest making a paper list that can be disposed of rather than using your phone in the store.

3. Wear a mask

The CDC and the White House have advised Americans to wear homemade masks to add an extra level of protection when out and about. To protect yourself and the grocery store staff who are working hard to provide much-needed supplies during a stressful time, wearing a mask is now the recommended (and considerate) choice.

4. Follow hygiene and social distancing guidelines

You know the drill, mama. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after you shop. Many stores are offering wipes for shopping cart handles, so make sure you use them to wipe down the cart handle. (You may want to bring your own wipes just in case, if you have them.) Bring hand sanitizer, and use it after you touch freezer case handles or other surfaces. As you can guess, now's not the time to squeeze half a dozen avocados to check for ripeness—touch only the items you intend to buy. Maintain physical distance between yourself and other shoppers as well as grocery store workers.

5. Bag your own groceries

Follow your store's guidelines for reusable bags (which have been temporarily prohibited in some stores), but whether you bring your own bags or use the bags provided by the store, be prepared to bag your own purchases.

6. Don't make yourself crazy with disinfecting purchases

Should you wipe down every last strawberry and Cheerio when you get home? The good news is, it's probably not necessary to disinfect every item you buy. Experts still say that the virus is much more likely to be transmitted person-to-person, rather than surface-to-person.

While there's a lot that's not yet known about the virus, here are the steps experts recommend when you bring your groceries home:

  • Wash nonporous containers: According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), "Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19." But Consumer Reports suggests that there's no harm in washing or wiping cans, plastic containers and glass based on its interviews with epidemiologists and experts.
  • Wipe cardboard containers: A March 2020 study by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases suggests that the coronavirus can survive on cardboard surfaces for up to 24 hours, and on plastic and stainless steel surfaces for up to 3 days. So while experts say the odds of a box of pasta transmitting the virus are slim, wiping boxes with a disinfecting wipe can't hurt.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables with water: Experts say that food is unlikely to transmit coronavirus, but you should always wash produce anyway to remove pesticides.

7. Wipe your counters after you unpack and wash your hands.

Once all your purchases are stored, clean your counters with a disinfecting spray, and wash your hands again.

News
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