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'Wheels on the bus' making you nuts?: Why mothers should listen to music that enriches them, too

In the words of the renowned German writer Goethe, “One should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of one's life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”


Let's face it, it's a desert out there. It is just so easy to get buried under the sandstorm of the fast-paced world in which we live, rarely free from the constant distractions filling our calendars and buzzing on our smart phones. Add motherhood into the mix, with its pressures, worries and fatigue, and sometimes days can pass without a pause to savor and nurture our own spirit.

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So we try to wake up earlier, before the little ones, even if it is just to seize a few precious moments of quiet and a hot cup of tea. When we can, we take the tykes for a walk and enjoy just breathing in the outdoors. We try to think a few deep thoughts, even if it's while doing the laundry or driving to a meeting for work. Though all of this can be helpful, it is not always enough. It can sometimes feel more like a mirage than an oasis, a teasing taste of what we are really craving: inspiration for the soul. The arts can sustain us through “worldly cares,” life's ups and downs. They provide inspiration and add beauty to our challenging journeys. Can you imagine how boring life would be without music, without art, without poetry?

Time is limited. Some days a shower can feel like a stolen prize. But I suggest we challenge ourselves to take Goethe's advice and nourish our spirit in the three-step way he suggests. We can set a goal to give ourselves a daily dose of the arts “in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful.” If over the course of the day you have heard a little music (other than Elmo's Song) read a little poetry (other than “Goodnight Moon,” ) and seen a fine picture (other than a new finger painting) it has the potential to be a game-changer. If, as Goethe asserts, God has implanted a “sense of the beautiful” in our souls, then isn't it our job to water that garden through opening ourselves up to that wellspring of beauty, the arts? That connection has the power to nourish our souls, which then makes us better, more creative mamas.

How can a busy mother incorporate more of the arts into her own life and the lives of her children? Here are three easy ways to start making a big difference. If you do any one of these already, you rock! If you do all three, you are a maestro!

#1: Play great music for yourself—and your kids

Though as a new mother I was given and dutifully played the CDs of children's songs and nursery rhymes set to music ("Wheels on the Bus" anyone?), I also filled the house with an array of music, from classical to oldies from the fifties and sixties, from Chinese flute music to Flamenco... and I still do. That approach nourishes the adult need for musical variety and has the added bonus of teaching children musical diversity.

I also play a few tunes on the piano, showing that music is something that is created by a person, and cheer whenever little fingers find their way to the keys to experiment.

#2: Incorporate classics into your bedtime ritual with baby

What do children like best about bedtime stories? In order of importance: time spent snuggling with you, the sound of your voice, and hearing a good story or poem read aloud. So we needn't be afraid to get a little creative with what we read at night. For example, the poetry of Robert Frost or Emily Dickinson aloud can be as strange-wonderful to little ears as the cadences of Seuss or Shel Silverstein. (What Frost and Dickinson lack in silliness, they make up for in beauty). For a start? “Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening” can be read aloud to any child who likes nature and animals. You can even add sound effects like the ringing of bells or a hearty “neigh” when the horse “gives his harness bells a shake/ to ask if there is some mistake.” After a few nights of reading it aloud, you will have memorized a classic Frost poem.

#3: Put art history lessons onto the walls of your home

Who is your favorite artist? Is it someone whose art graced your dorm room? Did you ever visit a museum and stand so long in front of a great work that you almost forgot it was time for lunch? Bring that passion back! Do you have no idea who your favorite artist is or what your favorite work of art is? You deserve to know. I recommend discovering who your favorite great artist is and getting a few prints of their work to hang in your home as a way to bring some sophistication that adults can find peace in and children can learn from, growing in appreciation as those famous images become part of their soul's fabric.

For many, the arts is one of the most nourishing mainstays we can cling to when the going gets tough.


In an effort to provide a quick fix of great art, music and poetry all in one place, I recently launched the blog: Desert Bread. Its premise is the quote by Goethe, the pursuit of the arts to enrich life and keep the soul's "sense of the beautiful" strong. I write about everything from work to marriage, comedy to food. Choosing the music, art and poetry to feature is my way of staying connected to the arts each day, and meeting Goethe's challenge.

Whatever ways you choose to enjoy the arts to enliven your senses and uplift your soul, let some of them be simple enough to incorporate into the middle of your busy day, “in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful.” Soul food, baby. It's not just macaroni and cheese.

Annabelle Moseley is an award-winning poet, author of nine books, professor, and speaker. She recently launched a blog, Desert Bread: “Your Source for the Soul's Sense of the Beautiful.” Find her daily updates from the front lines of motherhood and meaning.

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    These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

    Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

    While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

    I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

    I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

    My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

    The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

    Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

    Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

    1. Go apple picking.

    Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

    To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

    2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

    We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

    To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

    3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

    Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

    To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

    4. Have a touch-football game.

    Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

    To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

    5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

    Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

    To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

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

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    Tips parents need to know about poor air quality and caring for kids with asthma

    There are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    When wildfires struck the West Coast in September 2020, there was a lot for parents to worry about. For parents of children with asthma, though, the danger could be even greater. "There are more than 400 toxins that are present in wildfire smoke. That can activate the immune system in ways that aren't helpful by both causing an inflammatory response and distracting the immune system from fighting infection," says Amy Oro, MD, a pediatrician at Stanford Children's Health. "When smoke enters into the lungs, it causes irritation and muscle spasms of the smooth muscle that is around the small breathing tubes in the lungs. This can lead to difficulty with breathing and wheezing. It's really difficult on the lungs."

    With the added concern of COVID-19 and the effect it can have on breathing, many parents feel unsure about how to keep their children protected. The good news is that there are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    Here are tips parents need to know about how to deal with poor air quality when your child has asthma.

    Minimize smoke exposure.

    Especially when the air quality index reaches dangerous levels, it's best to stay indoors as much as possible. You can find out your area's AQI at AirNow.gov. An under 50 rating is the safest, but between 100-150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as children with asthma. "If you're being told to stay indoors, listen. If you can, keep the windows and doors closed," Oro says.

    Do your best to filter the air.

    According to Oro, a HEPA filter is your best bet to effectively clean pollutants from the air. Many homes are equipped with a built-in HEPA filter in their air conditioning systems, but you can also get a canister filter. Oro says her family (her husband and children all suffer from asthma) also made use of a hack from the New York Times and built their own filter by duct taping a HEPA furnace filter to the front of a box fan. "It was pretty disgusting what we accumulated in the first 20 hours in our fan," she says.

    Avoid letting your child play outside or overly exert themselves in open air.

    "Unfortunately, cloth masks don't do very much [to protect you from the smoke pollution]," Oro says. "You really need an N95 mask, and most of those have been allocated toward essential workers." To keep at-risk children safer, Oro recommends avoiding brisk exercise outdoors. Instead, set up an indoor obstacle course or challenge your family to jumping jacks periodically to keep everyone moving safely.

    Know the difference between smoke exposure and COVID-19.

    "COVID-19 can have a lot of the same symptoms—dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and chest pain could overlap. But what COVID and other viruses generally cause are fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and body aches. Those would tell you it's not just smoke exposure," Oro says. When a child has been exposed to smoke, they often complain of a "scrape" in their throat, burning eyes, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or wheezing. If the child has asthma, parents should watch for a flare of symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing or a tight sensation in their chest.

    Unfortunately, not much is known about long-term exposure to wildfire smoke on a healthy or compromised immune system, but elevated levels of air pollution have been associated with increased COVID-19 rates. That's because whenever there's an issue with your immune system, it distracts your immune system from fighting infections and you have a harder time fighting off viruses. Limiting your exposure to wildfire smoke is your best bet to keep immune systems strong.

    Have a plan in place if you think your child is suffering from smoke exposure.

    Whatever type of medication your child takes for asthma, make sure you have it on-hand and that your child is keeping up with regular doses. Contact your child's pediatrician, especially if your area has a hazardous air quality—they may want to adjust your child's medication schedule or dosage to prevent an attack. Oro also recommends that, if your child has asthma, it might be helpful to have a stethoscope or even a pulse oximeter at home to help diagnose issues with your pediatrician through telehealth.

    Most importantly, don't panic.

    In some cases, social distancing and distance learning due to COVID may be helping to keep sensitive groups like children with asthma safer. Oro says wildfires in past years have generally resulted in more ER visits for children, but the most recent fires haven't seen the same results. "A lot of what we've seen is that the smoke really adversely affects adults, especially older adults over 65," Oro says. "Children tend to be really resilient."

    This article was sponsored by Stanford Children's Health. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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    100 unusual + surprising baby name ideas

    From Adelia to Ziggy.

    Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

    Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

    Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.


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