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Back in the ‘90s, as a teenager and devoted student of Oprah, I watched her show on keeping a gratitude journal. She passionately encouraged viewers to write down five things at the end of each day that brought them pleasure and gratefulness and said she knew this for sure:


“Be thankful for what you have, you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have you’ll never, ever have enough.”

I hungrily scribbled these words on a Post-It note, instantly convinced of their truth, and started my own gratitude journal that very night.

It was an indulgent teenage affair, full of long descriptions and emotional ramblings. But it helped me work through the usual high school angst and make sense of a world I had yet to make a contribution to. And the habit stuck.

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My journal accompanied me when I went away to college, and the nightly ritual of noting down the things I was grateful for during the day, now—almost two decades later—makes for some entertaining reading. (Oh, to be young again!)

But when adulthood beckoned, I left my journal and Oprah’s teachings behind. I got busy. I worked long hours. I drank cocktails in heels at night instead of scrawling in my journal. I got married and became somebody’s mom. And the days full of busy nothings chased each other by, unrecorded, unappreciated, sometimes overwhelming.

Then a few months ago, while unpacking boxes of my childhood possessions in my parents’ garage, I came across a pile of my dusty old journals. As I opened one at random, I couldn’t believe the treasure trove it contained—the words of my younger, optimistic self danced in front of me and I sank to the floor ready to revisit the past. And as I read I thought—why did I ever stop?

I made myself a promise: I would start journaling again.

The thing about keeping a gratitude journal is that it’s really the last thing you feel like doing at the end of the day. When you’ve been chasing after tiny humans and keeping the wheels of your daily life turning, it’s all you can do to crawl gratefully towards the pillow and pass out the moment the little people are asleep.

But so often it’s the things that take a little extra effort that offer the highest reward. It’s no exaggeration to say that my gratitude journal has completely changed my life because it has drastically changed my outlook.

The secret to gratitude is to search it out in the small things. Of course we’re all grateful for our health and our families, but the magic is in the little moments that pass by unnoticed if we let them.

The way that first sip of coffee tastes in the morning, the color of the setting sun, street lights dancing off the pavement in the rain, the feeling of a small hand in yours as you cross the street or the sound of a new phrase from the mouth of your toddler.

Making a habit of noting these moments down at the end of the day means having to look for them throughout the day. It’s made me see the world in a different way—I started, consciously at first and then subconsciously, to seek them out, to hold on to them. I mustn’t forget…, I would think.

And on the days I feel low or exhausted or sad—the days I don’t feel like sending thanks out into the universe—well, these are the days I know it’s more important than ever to seek it out.

And here’s the real clincher. Habitual gratitude can turn mundane situations, or even downright crummy ones, into something to take pleasure in.

Yesterday morning as I rose bleary-eyed at silly o’clock to get my toddler her milk, I was stopped short by the sunrise through the kitchen window—as the sky changed from navy to purple to orange to blue I thought about how glad I was that I wasn’t still tucked up warmly in bed, how glad I was to see this.

Later, as I inched along in traffic that was far worse than usual, I watched a ship pulling into the harbor, her deftness defying her size. I would never have absorbed this if I’d been driving fast, I would never have noticed it if I’d been watching the clock and worrying about the time.

The habit of gratitude has had a silver-lining-like effect on my whole life. Suddenly, there is nowhere that beauty can’t be found.

I see it in the extraordinary but even more so, I see it in the ordinary. It’s in the ponytail I fix for my daughter before school, it’s in the way the word “Mommy” sounds when it rolls off her lips, it’s in the $10 bill I found in last year’s coat pocket and in the grace of the person who let me in when I was driving in the wrong lane.

And perhaps best of all—something even Oprah never told me—is that once I’ve written these moments down, they can never be lost. The uneasy feeling I struggle with so much on this journey through motherhood, the feeling that time is slipping too fast through my fingers, is eased a bit by knowing that these sweet, ordinary moments are being safely preserved between the pages of my journal.

After all, our whole lives are made up of sweet, ordinary moments—how grateful I am to be able to revisit them whenever I want to.

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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.


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Maybe it's just me, but every time I look on my social media feeds someone is baking desserts or breads that look incredibly delicious. According to Google Trends, as the coronavirus continues to spread, searches for 'banana bread' have skyrocketed. In the last 30 days, these searches are up 84% in the UK and 54% worldwide. Maybe it's stress baking, or maybe it's boredom, but people are in the kitchen living their best lives.

But here's the challenge: I'm trying to skip going to grocery stores and with food deliveries being spotty, I'm finding it harder to create the desserts my family loves while stuck at home. I can't seem to keep enough flour, sugar and eggs around. Enter: 3-ingredient recipes designed for mamas like me, who decide to make large dishes only to realize I have half of the ingredients.

Here are our favorite 3-ingredient desserts your entire family will love:

1. Peanut butter cereal bites

Serves: 1

Total time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Honey
  • Peanut butter
  • Honey nut cereal

Instructions:

  1. Put 1-part peanut butter and 1-part honey in a bowl.
  2. Microwave for about a minute. Stir until combined.
  3. Add 3-4 parts cereal. Stir.
  4. Scoop into bite size pieces and place on wax paper to cool.

Recipe from Tasty.

2. Chocolate fudge

Serves: 6-8

Total time: 90 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • Walnuts and pretzels, optional

Instructions:

  1. Add semi-sweet chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk and butter (or margarine, if that's all you have on hand) in a large microwaveable bowl.
  2. Warm in microwave on medium until melted, about 3-5 minutes. Be sure to stir about every minute.
  3. Pour fudge mixture into a well-greased 8 x 8 inch glass baking dish. Refrigerate until set.
Recipe from Dear Crissy.

3. Shortbread cookies

Serves: 16

Total time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Confectioners' sugar, optional

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in flour. Press dough into an ungreased 9-in. square baking pan. Prick with a fork.
  • Bake until light brown, 30-35 minutes. Cut into squares while warm. Cool completely on a wire rack. If desired, dust with confectioners sugar.
Recipe from Taste of Home.

4. Healthy banana oatmeal breakfast bars

Serves: 1 bar

Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 6 to 7 mashed bananas
  • 1 cup of peanut butter
  • 4 cups of old fashioned rolled oats

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F. Line an 8 x 8 inch pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine your mashed banana, peanut butter, and old fashioned (rolled) oats and mix until a thick dough remains. If the batter is too thin, add some extra oats. If using chocolate chips, fold them in, using a rubber spatula.
  3. Pour the batter in the lined pan and spread out on an even layer. Top with some extra chocolate chips and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown on top and a skewer comes out clean.
  4. Remove from the oven and allow the breakfast bars to sit in the pan for 10 minutes, or until loose enough to transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe from a Big Mans World.

5. Peanut butter cups

Serves: 6

Total time: 1 hour and 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar, sifted
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup chocolate, melted

Instructions:

  1. Prepare a cupcake tin with 6 liners.
  2. Stir peanut butter and powdered sugar together until smooth.
  3. Spread 1 to 2 tbsp of chocolate in the bottom of each cupcake liner.
  4. Dollop 1 to 2 tsp of the peanut butter mixture on top of the chocolate.
  5. Cover each dollop of peanut butter with more chocolate and smooth out the top.
  6. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until chocolate has hardened.
  7. Remove peanut butter cups from the liners.

Recipe from Tasty.

6. Sugar cookies

Serves: 12

Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, plus 2 tbsp. salted butter
  • 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Sprinkles, optional

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Use an electric mixer to cream the sugar and butter, whipping the two until the butter is almost white and the mixture is light and fluffy, almost like a slightly gritty frosting, then stir in flour.
  3. Form the cookies into 1-inch balls, placing them about two inches apart on a baking sheet. If using sprinkles, flatten cookies into a disc shape and top with sprinkles.
  4. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are lightly golden.

Recipe from Delish.

7. Cake mix cobbler

Serves: 8

Total time: 55 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans peaches in light syrup
  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Pour peaches into a baking dish. Sprinkle cake mix on top and pour melted butter all over.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown, about 50 minutes.

Recipe from All Recipes.

Lifestyle

Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel are abiding by social isolation recommendations with their 5-year-old son, Silas. The family of three has been holed up in their vacation home in Montana and while Timberlake says they're doing good (and grateful to be in a place where they have some outdoor space for Silas) he admits he and Biel are missing having help.

During an interview with SiriusXM's Hits 1 this week Timberlake was asked how his marriage is holding up under the stress of isolation. "We're doing good," he said. "We're mostly commiserating over the fact that 24-hour parenting is just not human. It's not. "

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He's not wrong. Parenting isn't something we are supposed to do in isolation. Throughout history, we've had support from extended family, friends and our communities, the proverbial village. And now we don't have that, which means we don't have breaks from our kids—something Timberlake is missing.

Justin Timberlake on Being in Quarentine with Wife Jessica Biel youtu.be

He says sometimes even Silas looks up at him with an expression that shows he is needing some space from his dad, too. "Just a commercial break," Timberlake jokes.

We all need a commercial break from our kids sometimes. Experts say that in these tense times when togetherness is necessary and our kids need us more than ever, we also need to carve out space when we can by doing things like waking up 15 minutes before our kids do for a quiet coffee break, or maintaining a bedtime schedule to allow for some adult time at night.

Encouraging independent play is another way for parents to get some space when they need it. According to Biel, Silas (who just turned five this week) is super into Legos right now, so maybe he can build some projects on his own the next time he needs a commercial break from this dad.

News

A lot of people remember actress Jennifer Stone for her teenage role opposite Selena Gomez on Wizards of Waverly Place, but these days the 27-year-old actress is all grown up and has a new career as a registered nurse.

Stone still acts, but she's also been busy pursuing a career in nursing and graduated at the end of last year. On #worldhealthday this week she posted a photo of her hospital IDs, and later added an Instagram Story showing off her scrubs and nursing shoes for a day of work at the hospital as an RN resident.

"I just hope to live up to all of the amazing healthcare providers on the front lines now as I get ready to join them," she captioned the pic of her hospital IDs.

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Stone's post is going viral and reminding people that nurses are the real superstars in our society right now.

Nurses are the backbone of the fight against COVID-19, but we don't have enough of them, the World Health Organization (WHO) pointed out this week. WHO says globally, we're about 6 million nurses short of how many we need to fight this pandemic, and notes that about 90% all nurses are female but few nurses (or women) are found in senior health leadership positions.

"Nurses are the backbone of the health system," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said this week. "Today, many nurses find themselves on the frontline in the battle against COVID-19. This report is a stark reminder of the unique role they play, and a wakeup call to ensure they get the support they need to keep the world healthy."

Meanwhile nurses and the unions supporting them continue to raise the alarm about the lack of personal proactive equipment (PPE) and N95 masks for these critical workers. Nancy Nielsen, former president of the American Medical Association recently told CNBC that it's important to understand that "health-care workers are at risk, and they need to be protected with protective gear to prevent infection," and that "these women [in health-care professions] also have responsibility to take care of parents, who are older, and school-aged children...So their lives are enormously impacted by worrying about elderly relatives and by school closures."

Nursing is a career that doesn't get enough respect in our society, and while we need more nurses, it's hard to get them right now. Stone's December graduation made it easier for her work than the students who would be graduating next month and are stuck without necessary requirements.

Stone went viral this week because it's not every day that you see a Disney Channel star switch to hospital scrubs, but we have to remember all the nurses that are working to save lives with little recognition or support. Kids are still watching Stone on old Wizards of Waverly Place reruns, but society needs to watch out for women she'll be working beside, too.

News

So much has changed for our kids in recent weeks. The normal routines are gone, they can't see their friends and extended family (or in some cases, even their first responder parents). If you're noticing your child regressing a bit during this difficult time, don't worry, mama. It's totally normal if your preschooler is suddenly wanting to pretend to be a baby or if your school-age child wants way more cuddles and comfort than they did two months ago.

Here's what you need to know about child regression during the coronavirus pandemic:

Regression is a totally normal response to what's going on in the world.

Little kids don't have the vocabulary or experience to tell us that they are stressed and in need of comfort. Instead, they might say "pretend I'm a baby" or ask for lullabies you haven't sung in years. A potty-trained child might start having accidents and older kids may say "I can't do it" when asked to perform a task they have previously mastered.

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This does not mean you are failing, mama.

"Regression is typical in normal childhood, and it can be caused by stress, by frustration, or by a traumatic event," doctors Hermioni N. Lokko and Theodore A. Stern note in their research on the subject.

According to psychotherapist Noel McDermott, everyone (even us adults) is likely to regress or not function at our normal level during this pandemic. "Children are going to regress more than adults, and the younger the child, the more the regression is likely to be." McDermott tells The Huffington Post.

Comfort is key in addressing regression.

Regression can be frustrating for parents, especially during an already stressful time when everyone is locked in the house together. It's going to be frustrating to see a puddle of pee under your 6-year-old's feet or to have your preschooler throw tantrums you thought they'd outgrown.

It's okay to be frustrated, mama, but experts suggest that scolding or punishing a child who is regressing only makes it worse. We need to meet regression with kindness, comfort and open arms, even if our kids are refusing to do something we need them to do, like brush their teeth or wash their hands.

Dr. Laura Markham of AhaParenting tells Today "the best intervention is reassurance." Markham suggests parents offer a safe space to kids who are having a hard time and try using phrases like "'You are having such a hard time right now, aren't you? Don't worry, Sweetheart. I am right here to help.'"

She continues: "You step in, hold her kindly, make it fun, and get the hand-washing accomplished."

Recognize that you are your child's rock, but you are also human.

Parenting during a pandemic and economic recession is incredibly stressful. Alone time for moms was minuscule before and practically a fantasy now. You might be longing for a quiet moment. Our hearts melt the first time our children say "mama," but if your blood pressure rises when you hear it for the 10,000th time a day that's okay. It doesn't mean you're not a great mom, it just means you're stressed and so is your child.

"With more anxious children, they may be asking more questions than usual, and seeking reassurance that everything is going to be okay," Genevieve von Lob, a psychologist and author of "Happy Parent, Happy Child" tells The Huffington Post. "Parents may also find that their children are more unsettled at bedtime and are scared to be left alone."

But it is important that mama be left alone, sometimes. If you have a partner or another adult in your home this may mean that they take over caregiving to allow you to have an extra long shower or just some alone time in your bedroom. If you don't have another adult in the home, try to steal a moment for yourself where you can, even if that means the dishes go undone or the kids watch Frozen 2 for the 10th time.

"Try to be aware of your level of stress and anxiety and be kind to yourself," Dr. Tovah Klein, director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development tells Today. "Take 15 minutes in the morning to have coffee by yourself before children wake up."

Bottom line: Regression is natural, normal and hard.

Our kids express anxiety in ways that can be very difficult for parents. Sleeping and eating problems often develop when kids are stressed, and when you've been up all night worrying about how you're going to put food on your table during this economic turmoil it's hard to deal with a kid who is suddenly very picky about what you're serving for breakfast. But for kids, anxiety and stress often manifest as eating and sleeping issues.

It's rough, but this is the time where we need to come at our kids with kindness and connection. They need us more than ever. It's okay to sing a lullaby to 10-year-old or rock a 4-year-old to sleep. They need the extra cuddles right now.

We can't control how out of control the outside world has become, but we can help our children feel safe (even when the world isn't).

As psychologist and parenting coach Dr. Rebecca Schrag Hershberg previously wrote for Motherly: "Children show their stress in different ways: throwing more tantrums, being more moody, irritable or defiant, or regressing in a particular area such as language or potty training. However your kids are showing that they're worried—or even if they are not yet—there is nothing more valuable than giving them a hug and letting them know you've got them and it's all going to be okay."

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