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Forever engrained in my mind will be a scream so maniacal, so ear-piercing, so desperate that my older daughter ran and put her arms around her baby sister. They were afraid, but no more afraid than I was of myself. Yelling was my cry for help, my distress flare sent into the sky, my lowest point of desperation. That scream, the one that actually hurt my throat, is one of my greatest regrets and one of my greatest blessings.


Although I did not know how I was going to stop yelling, I was certain I didn’t want my children to grow up afraid. I wanted to be remembered for my smile, not my scowl. I wanted my children to wear love like armor, not scars from sharply delivered words. I wanted to be a safe haven, not someone to avoid. I wanted my children’s inner voice to sound like grace, not inadequacy.

Fast-forward six years to today. I am no longer a yeller. Yes, I get sad, frustrated, angry, hopeless and insecure, but there is a profound difference in what I do once I get there: I don’t stay there.

My ability to come back to love, patience, grace and positivity did not happen overnight. Maintaining a sense of calm in challenging situations took years of work and painful introspection which I catalog in my first book. But for today’s purposes, I’m going to start small. I want to help someone right now with actionable steps. This small-step approach to change is the whole premise of my new book, ONLY LOVE TODAY. Unlike most books, a powerful takeaway can be gained through a two-minute reading from any point in the book. When taken to heart, the words have the potential to inspire lasting change in your heart and home.

The beauty of the seven suggestions below is they will improve any relationship, not just parent/child. Above all, these suggestions provide what I believe is most critical to ending yelling in your home once and for all: HOPE–hope for who you already are and hope for who you can become.

1. Find your truest voice

Your truest voice speaks fears. It speaks truths. It speaks hopes. It speaks desires. It speaks dreams. It speaks hurts. Unlike the voice that barks empty threats and sweeping generalizations, your truest voice can be heard. Unlike the voice that spews sarcasm, accusations and defensiveness, your truest voice feels like peace when it is spoken. Unlike the voice that hurls insults and patronizing words, your truest voice won’t drive you away from the people you love.

I found my truest voice by writing down my thoughts in tiny notebooks. Over the past several years, I’ve released trapped emotions, let go of suppressed memories and liberated shameful thoughts in my pocket-size notebooks that I carry with me at all times. Through these pages, my angriest voice got weaker and my truest voice got stronger. Through the notebooks, I was able to put feelings into words. I was able to gain clarity. I felt heard by something far greater than myself, and that gave me comfort.

Whether it’s through a notebook, an easel or the lens of a camera… whether it’s through dancing, singing, cooking or meditating on a rubber mat… whether it’s through running, coloring or coin collecting, finding your truest voice and listening to what it uncovers will bring healing.

2. Go public with your intention

Making a public declaration of my goal was instrumental to breaking my yelling pattern. I informed my daughters what I was trying to work on. I let them know that when I felt like I was losing control, I would say these words: “I’m having a hard time right now.” When they heard that phrase, they knew I either needed space or to do what I was asking them to do. Talking about my outbursts before they happened provided my family with a “heads up” to be gentle with me when I was on the edge.

Other public declarations might sound like this:

I’m making an effort to use a kinder tone of voice. I may need your gentle reminders.

I’m making an effort to let you do more things on your own without my comments, judgment, or criticism. When you say, “I got it, Mom,” I will step back.

I’m making an effort to use a peaceful response in times of stress and overwhelm. Would you put your hand on your heart when I am hurting you with my words or tone as a reminder of my promise?

Post your declaration and read it often. I keep this one by my bedside to recite each morning before I get out of bed:

“Today I will choose love. If I mistakenly choose distraction, perfection, or negativity over love, I will not wallow in regret. I will choose love next.” RMS, Only Love Today

3. Look directly at your loved one before responding

In moments of frustration, challenge and overwhelm, I make sure I am looking directly into the faces of my loved ones before I respond. In that critical pause, I see people who count on me to care for them, love them and guide them. I see people who are learning how to live by watching me live. I see people who will use similar responses when they are having a hard time. Taking a three-second pause to look at them, really look at them, enables me to model a response I would be proud see them use in stressful times. Really seeing them helps me come back to a place where my voice can be heard instead of hurtful.

4. Stop self-sabotage with a sticky note

Once you get into the habit of being hard on yourself and focusing on your mistakes, it’s difficult to stop. But breaking a yelling pattern is not going to come from a place of shame and condemnation. Positive change is going to come from a place of grace and encouragement. To help me when I get into a pattern of harsh self-judgment, I put a sticky note in my pocket. Each time I do something kind, helpful, loving or patient, I make a hash mark on the note. At the end of the day, I look at my hash marks–whether it’s two or 22—I celebrate the times I chose love over the alternatives.

Recording every positive action with a mark makes this an active process. We are then more apt to notice our goodness, which shifts it away from the failings. By focusing on our positives, it has the tendency to carry over to others.

5. See what is good in others

Another way to stop the yelling pattern is to challenge yourself to voice any and all positives about your loved ones—what they say, what they do, and who they are.

Examples:

“I appreciate the kind way you responded just then.”

“I love the way you dug into that meal I made! Thank you for that!”

“You treated your sister so lovingly. Did you see the way she looked at you?”

“I love spending time with you. You come up with the best ideas.”

Human beings, no matter age, respond to praise and affirmation. They will want to do more actions that make you proud. Be sure and notice the joy in his or her face and grab it. Hold on to it. Let it then give you hope that you are making progress and creating a positive home environment.

*Important note–If there is an issue or problem you need to mention, make it a statement with no judgment. I use Sandy Blackard’s positive approach of Saying What You See: “Your clean clothes are on the floor,” instead of, “Pick those up.” This way, my child is the one who comes up with the solution. Sandy writes, “By listening and letting children solve their own problems, they learn how to get along without your intervention, which you can then point out as a strength.” Through Sandy, I’ve learned the power in leaving out all suggestions unless I know my suggestions will feel like help to my child. My daughters know what is expected of them (they have a list they mark off each morning and each evening that must be completed before screens can be enjoyed.) Utilizing lists alleviates nagging that turns into yelling.

6. Post and recite mantras until they become go-to phrases

Plastered throughout my house (on kitchen cabinets, bathroom mirror, closet door and the daily calendar) were pressure-reducing mantras. When I saw them, I recited them. Like stop signs, they helped me slow down to love and be loved:

Mistakes mean we’re learning.

See flowers not weeds.

Come as you are.

It’s good enough for today.

You are doing the best you can.

Today matters more than yesterday.

Only love today.

7. Give yourself grace

Sometimes by 8 a.m., I can already name a few things I wished I’d done differently. But instead of beating myself up over them, I remind myself of this: My humanness allows my loved ones to be human. My courage to get up after I stumble gives my loved ones the courage to get up after they stumble. Loving myself despite my failures, flaws, and imperfections gives the people in my life permission to love themselves “as is.” Love doesn’t have to be perfect (or anywhere near it) to be felt, absorbed, and transformative.

You can feel like you’re failing and still BE LOVE.

You can feel like you’re in the dark and still be someone’s light.

You can feel like you’re going under and still lift someone up.

Love prevails over failures, flaws, and imperfect days.

That’s what I believe. That’s what I live. And that brings me hope.

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

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

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We are almost into Pumpkin Spice season—this summer, this month and this week have flown by! But don't worry, we've been taking note of the good news stories you need to read when you have a moment to slow down.

Grab a coffee and get comfortable, mama, because these are the headlines that made us smile this week:

This kindergarten father is total #dadgoals

As Today reports, dad Jamie DeSpain is going viral for making his kindergarten daughter's day by taking her stuffed cat, Sophia, to work with him and putting her to work.

DeSpain's oldest daughter, Hadley, had been taking Sophia the cat with her to school as she made the big leap into kindergarten this month, but last week her dad realized she'd forgotten Sophia in the van when he'd dropped her off at school. DeSpain didn't want to cause an interruption at school, so he just brought Sophia into work with him and began texting his wife, Erica, photos of Sophia doing work around the office.

"I kind of have a goofy streak and Hadley really appreciates goofiness," Jamie DeSpain, who lives in Madison, Alabama, told Today Parents. "Combine that with her love for stuffed animals...[it] made for the perfect dad setup."

He took pics of Sophia taking phone calls, doing emails, having coffee and even having a pensive look out the window, which DeSpain captioned: "wondering what Hadley is doing."

When dad got home, his daughter was thrilled with her stuffed animal's big day out and was happy to be reunited with both her father and Sophia. Hadley was so thrilled with the experience that she asked her dad to repeat the mission the next day with her stuffed dog, Mocha. The cotton-filled canine was spotted doing various office tasks and, of course, drinking some coffee. 😂

Hadley's mama says her husband's antics were a welcome bit of fun and helped the family remember that while kindergarten is a big step, Hadley's still a little kid (and it seems her dad is too, at least at heart).

"Sending Hadley off to kindergarten has been a big transition for us as a family, but this activity reminded us that she's still little," Erica DeSpain said."We want to soak up that childlike wonder as much as we can, and this activity was a great way to do just that."

We think office buildings are about to see an infestation of stuffed animals!

This father's viral Instagram video is total #dadgoals

Father Jimmy Howell has gone viral for giving his 9-month-old daughter Kensley an adorable pedicure.

"She got a little crazy with me today due to the fact that I was filing her nails a little too rough, y'all see why I can't do anything for free, I'm charging her next week, just watch," he captioned the video he posted to Instagram.

"Kensey, this is free," He jokes in the video after Kensley seems to protest the spa service for moment. 😂

With the power of dad humor, Howell not only got the baby's toes clipped (which is hard to do!) but got her laughing, too. He says he has weekly "spa talks" with his daughter, so it's no wonder his baby nail skills are so on point.

Viral kindness: "Please ask me if I have sunscreen" 

We have all been there—sometimes you're the one who needs an extra diaper and sometimes you're the one who has one to give. The point is, every parent needs help sometimes and most are happy to pay it forward when it is their turn to give a diaper to a stranger in need.

Wisconsin mom Shelby Beck captured this perfectly in a Facebook post this week after she went to the park with her daughter and a fellow mama had to ask her for a favor.

When the stranger approached Beck, she could tell she was uncomfortable. "She shrugged her shoulders and quietly said 'I'm embarrassed to even ask, but do you happen to have sunscreen we can use?' As if she was somehow ashamed that she forgot to pack sunscreen today." Beck wrote.

She continued her Facebook post with an open letter to parents who find themselves in the same situation as the sheepish stranger.

"Dear fellow mamas,

Please ask me if I have sunscreen. Ask if I have baby wipes, diapers or even extra snacks.

Ask me if your toddler can sit down and play with us while you find a shady bench to nurse your newborn.

Hand me your phone and ask me to take a picture of you with your sweet babies - we all know mamas aren't in enough photos.

Ask for help. Ask for love. Ask for anything.

Even though we are strangers, please ask me.

It's not easy being responsible for little humans but it's easier if we help each other out.
We're all in this together.❤️"

We could not agree with Shelby more. Mamas helping mamas is a beautiful thing (and asking for sunscreen could even lead to making a mom friend!).

Oh, and one last thing...

Oh, and if you need a good cry this weekend, check out this viral Michael Bublé video that has parents everywhere crying about our kids growing up. Team Motherly could not get through it without sobbing! Just like summer, their childhoods will be over before we know it so take some time to connect with your babies this weekend. They're off to kindergarten today—off to college tomorrow! 😭


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Discovering the best foods for lunches and snacks is an important step in back to school preparation. But with new routines and packed schedules on the horizon, finding time to think about what to pack for back to school lunches can be a challenge. Some kids are super picky and won't eat anything but grilled cheese. Others could eat endless amounts of nutritious snacks all day, everyday. Regardless of where your child falls on the food spectrum, we're here to help you find what works best for your family.

We asked #TeamMotherly to share their favorite go-to lunches and snacks for the back to school season. Mix it up and add some variety in there and you'll be good to go! Here's what they had to say:

1. "Cubed ham, cheese, cut grapes, yogurt covered raisins."—Tiffany S.

2. "Granola bars, carrots or cucumbers and ranch, peanut butter crackers, fresh fruit."—Melissa B.

3. "For me? Wine."—Nicole N.

4. "My little one loves to take tuna or chicken salad with grapes and crackers, yogurt and ice water with fresh cucumbers and garden tomatoes or chicken Alfredo with toast and veggies or peanut butter celery tomatoes cucumbers chips and water."—Jackie P.

5. "The cafeteria!"—Toni H.


6. "Once a week, it's usually ham and cheese sandwich with raw baby carrots and grape tomatoes. And for dessert, I do yogurt or fruit. It doesn't really matter if it's always the healthiest or the best lunch, what I find really good is alternating and rotating and trying to get creative."—Erica W.

7. "Bananas, string cheese, blueberries, apple sauce, raspberries."—Melina S.

8. "Cut strawberries or cut apples & peanut butter for snacks! & Sandwich with ham or turkey, tomato, lettuce, & mayo separately! And yogurt."—Melodi B.

9. "I roll a hotdog in a flour tortilla and toast it in a skillet until crispy. Like a hot dog burrito."—Elda E.

10. "Sandwiches (meat or sunbutter and jelly), quesadillas, hummusdillas (hummus in tortilla), leftover pizza, bean salad with tortilla chips, boiled eggs/cheese, pesto pasta salad, yogurt and granola, bagel with cream cheese, empanadas (bean and cheese or meat). And always fruit/veggies as sides."—Tran L.


11. "I make a sandwich with hummus then pack carrots, applesauce, Z-Bar and some crackers."—Suzanne W.

12. "Vary it between ham sandwiches, dairylea dunkers, breadsticks and then healthy snacks and juice box. [I also include] water in a sports bottle for during the day."—Danielle B.

13. "Gluten-free pretzels and peanut butter, ham and cream cheese rolls, GF tortillas with PB & J."—Heather T.

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Learn + Play

If Amazon is a large, impersonal department store filled with endless inventory and unlimited choices, Hullabaloo Book Company is a sweet, curated boutique where you know you'll find something that's just a little bit more special and a little more meaningful.

It's a new children's book gifting site you need to know about, mama.

Hullabaloo treats books as the ultimate experience gift. Each book you buy comes packaged up in a beautifully designed canvas bag with a personalized letterpress bookplate. It honestly makes my bookworm heart soar seeing how thoughtful the experience is for both the gift giver and receiver.

The only thing I never feel guilty buying too much of for my 3-year-old son is books, and books are also one of my favorite things to gift. But as he gets older, I find myself turning to books not just to entertain him, but to also open up his mind, explore new feelings and understand that we have shared experiences as people.

My favorite part of this site is the way they categorize their books by "Amazing Attributes." Parents (or aunts or grandparents or friends) can shop for books curated by these qualities. For example, "Kind Hearts" is a collection of books that "teach the importance of understanding and caring for family, other children, and our communities" and "Big Feels" is a collection of books that "focus on helping kiddos learn emotional intelligence."

If you're shopping on price alone, they also offer a tiered set of gift collections starting at $29. It's such an easy and brilliant way to find a special birthday or baby shower gift.

SHOP

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When you're a mama on the move, safe car seats are a necessity but can be a budget buster, especially if you're looking to upgrade or have to furnish multiple cars. Luckily, Target is here to fix that.

Target is bringing back their popular car seat trade-in program from Tuesday, September 3 – Friday, September 13.

Just bring your old car seat to the recycling bin near Guest Services and a Target team member will give you a coupon for 20% off a new a new car seat, booster seat, car seat base, travel system or stroller. And the coupon can also be applied to select baby gear, such as high chairs, swings, rockers and bouncers. 👏

The coupon is eligible through Saturday, Sept.14, 2019, so if you don't see the seat of your dreams in store when you drop off your old one, you'll want to check out the online selection and act pretty fast.

With the exception of the small format stores, all Targets will be taking car seats between September 3 and 13. (You can find a participating store near you here.)

Target has held several of these car seat trade-in events since 2016 in an effort to help parents recycle the seats, which are not eligible for curbside recycling and take up a lot of space when sent to landfills. The retailer hands over all the old car seats to Waste Management, and the materials are recycled to make grocery carts, plastic buckets and construction materials like steel beams.

The event is really a win-win—we get to keep our kids safe while giving the car seats that protected them a second life. Just another reason to love Target.

[A version of this post was originally published April 18, 2018. It has been updated.]

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