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The one question I ask myself when I feel my anger rising

I commonly ask myself this when the control freak inside me began to get agitated.

one question to ask when your anger is rising

There was a time in my life when I barked orders more often than I spoke words of love. When I reacted to small everyday inconveniences as if they were major catastrophes. When normal human habits and quirks raised my blood pressure to dangerous levels.

Rather than nurturing my family members, I took it upon myself to manage my family members—until there was no room to bend or breathe.

My artistic, busybody, dream-chasing older daughter's desire to start projects, try new recipes and leave trails wherever she went received disapproving looks on a daily basis.

My stop-and-smell-the-roses younger daughter's desire to buckle in stuffed animals before we drove off, accessorize every part of her body before walking out the door and tendency to move at a snail's pace drew exasperated breaths and annoyed frowns.

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My fun-loving, laidback husband's spontaneous approach to weekend plans and his ability to totally chill out got the silent treatment more times that I could count.

The people I was supposed to love unconditionally possessed qualities that irritated, annoyed and continually derailed my carefully planned agenda—an agenda that was all about efficiency, perfection and control.


I was not acting as a mother, a partner or even a decent human being. I was acting as a surly manager who was intent on creating a toxic environment—a place where it was pretty hard to show up each and every day.

How do I know?

Because even I could barely stand myself. I woke up angry and irritated, bracing myself for another day of managing the unmanageable. Forget about living. Forget about smiling. Forget about counting the blessings. The Grumpy Manager didn't do that. And everyone in the home began following suit.

Hair brushing was a point of contention. Each morning my older daughter obediently allowed me to brush hastily as I pretended not to see her wincing. We were in a rush after all. I hated to be late.

When it was my younger daughter's turn she would always ask if she could brush her own hair today. My response alternated between, "We don't have time today," and "When you get a little bigger."

On this particular morning my then 4-year-old child did not ask if she could brush her own hair. I was relieved. I calculated that I could get this hair into a ponytail, prod her to put on her shoes quickly and be out the door in less than two minutes—because managers always calculate.

As I hastily gathered her unruly curls into my palm, I happened to get a glance at my reflection. My brows were knotted together tightly. My mouth set was in a hard, thin line. I looked haggard, hopeless and sad. I would have dismissed this disturbing sight had it not been for the fact that my child was staring at my reflection, too.

If expressions could talk, my child's face would have said this loud and clear: Who are you? Where did my mama go?

I felt my face grow hot. I felt tears wanting to come forth, but I blinked them back—because managers know there's no time for tears.

But instead of continuing to brush with vigor, I suddenly stopped. With trembling hands, I held out the hairbrush to my child.

"How would you do it?" I asked in a shaky voice.

She looked shocked, as if I was offering her a furry tarantula. But as I continued to hold out the brush, she eventually picked it up.

With small but agile hands, my daughter brushed the sides of her hair from top to bottom until it was silky smooth. She then carefully draped her hair softly over her shoulders and smiled proudly at her reflection. The manager in me noticed she did not brush the back of her head, but I remained quiet.

My child met my eyes in the mirror. "Thank you, Mama! I always wanted to do that."

With those words, I felt as though I'd been given a gift. I vowed to look for more potential hairbrush offerings to reduce the managing and increase the nurturing in my interactions with my loved ones. It didn't take long to see there were many opportunities to open my hands and ask: How would you do it?

The way my partner took care of the kids, tidied his area of the bedroom, prepared meals, put away the groceries and paid the bills were not wrong—just different from the way I do things.

The way my older daughter packed her swim team bag, emptied her swim team bag, saved money, selected gifts, completed projects, did homework and baked cookies were not wrong—just different from the way I do things.

The way the clerk bagged my groceries, the way my colleague took ten extra steps to accomplish a task, the way my sister sipped coffee and read the paper before starting her day were not wrong—just different from the way I do things.

How would you do it? I commonly asked myself when the control freak inside me began to get agitated. As I watched the people in my life do it their way—in their own time—with their own flair, I saw sparks of joy I didn't see before.

And just like with my daughter and the hairbrush, I learned each person had specific Soul-Building Words which fueled that spark. Over time, I've collected quite a powerful list of words that helped me love my people in ways that helped them thrive. Like sunlight and water to a plant, these words nourish the deepest parts of their human hearts and foster growth in all areas of their lives. Hence, I call them Soul-Building Words.

Soul-Building Words:

"I will wait for you."

"Take your time."

"You make my day better."

I say these words to my slow-moving, happy-go-lucky, Noticer of life child. I watch as grateful eyes light up and tiny shoulders relax. Those words are Soul-Building Words to her.

Soul-Building Words:

"Mistakes mean you are learning."

"It doesn't have to be perfect."

"Sure. You can have a few more minutes to work on your project."

I say these words to my driven, contentious planner and pursuer of dreams child. I watch as pressure escapes from her chest and aspirations soar higher. Those words are Confidence-Boosting Words to her.

Soul-Building Words:

"I appreciate you."

"I'm listening."

"You matter."

I say these words to my hard-working, often underappreciated love of my life. I watch as tensions loosen, eyes meet and conversation comes easier. Those words are Affirming and Connective Words to him.

Soul-Building Words:

"It's good enough for today."

"Be kind to yourself."

"Today matters more than yesterday."

I say these words to my own perfection-seeking, worrisome heart that tends to replay past mistakes. I watch as my clenched hands open and tears fall as scars come to the surface. Those are Healing, Hope-Filled Words to me.

The words "I love you" should never be underestimated, but every human being has a few words that make their soul come alive. Find out what they are by removing the manager name plate and asking five powerful words: How would you do it?

As an unplanned blessing unfolds in your open hands, don't be surprised if a long-lost smile returns to your face.


—Rachel Macy Stafford, from the book LIVE LOVE NOW.

Originally posted on Hands Free Mama.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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This is my one trick to get baby to sleep (and it always works!)

There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

Enter the beloved by all—sound machines.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.

So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?

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