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Why do our bellies go from being celebrated during pregnancy to being shamed post-baby?

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You'd think the hardest part about having a baby is giving birth to and taking care of a baby. Well, for me… it wasn't.

The hardest part of my post-baby life is something that happens at the start of each and every day—getting dressed. But that's me being polite. What some may call getting dressed, I call "hide the fact that I just had a baby." And if you've had a baby, too, you know what I mean.

During pregnancy, the belly is where it's at. We patiently wait for our bellies to pop so we can officially look pregnant and share the good news. We buy overpriced, form-fitting maternity clothes, that we'll only wear for a few months, to accentuate our growing bellies. And why not? Pregnancy is an absolute miracle, and our bellies are the outward representation of the magic we contain within us.

Yes, for about 10 months, our bellies are something universally celebrated. From that very first "we're expecting" pic we post on Instagram, to the very last "baby is the size of a watermelon" pic we take right before we go into labor. Our bellies are "like" and comment magnets. They are the literal life of the party.

And then, just like that, poof. Baby out, belly acceptance out right with it.

The minute our babies are born, our bellies—once celebrated—must now, immediately, be hidden until they go back to "normal." Our bodies are worse than forgotten. They become Enemy Number One. It took 10 months for our bellies to become what they were, and yet our bellies are expected to disappear the moment a baby is born. (Spoiler alert: there's a lot of belly left over after a baby is born.)

And it's not just our bellies. From head to toe, we are expected to "bounce back" despite the fact that it's after a baby is born that the true work begins. Our bodies are busy healing, making milk, returning to "normal" by way of a hormonal roller coaster. And instead of nurturing them, we are busy hiding them.

We hide them however we can. With belly binders, with loose clothes, with eating and workout regimens we should be too tired to even think about. We rush to return to what we once were, as quickly and secretly as possible, even though we are not the same. Not even a little bit.

We get on the scale and hold our breath. We try four outfits before finding the one that hides the belly, the back fat, the overflowing boobs, the best. We hide in front of strangers, we hide even more from those who know us. Most of all we hide from ourselves.

I'm tired of hiding. So today I wore a dress. A tight dress. One that prominently showed the world the belly that two months ago had a baby in it, and hasn't bounced back yet. It took me 10 months to earn this belly. I'm giving myself at least 10 months to say goodbye to it.

I'm embracing the stretch mark that now sits where my baby's butt used to press against my skin. I'm enjoying the curve of my hip that now serves as my baby's perch. And when someone asks me again how much longer till I'm due (because that definitely happened when I was six weeks post-baby) I will smile and say the baby is out, without any shame about the fact that my belly is still here. Because my belly was home to my child. So shouldn't it feel like home to me?

Just like my baby changes every single day, so do I—physically, mentally, and emotionally. When I'm getting dressed and look in the mirror, what I strive for now is not to figure out how to hide, but rather, how to accept myself in all forms and in all moments. By refusing to hide my body, I remind myself not to hide my feelings either. Because as any new mother will tell you, there are a lot of those happening these days as well.

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Easter meals bring the family together in ways that few other meals can. Spring is finally in the air and the feeling of new beginnings and hope is all around. But we know it can be hard to find the time to make delicious meals, and even harder to find recipes your little bunnies will agree to eat.

But fear not, mama! We've searched around the internet and found some of the easiest, most delicious and, yes, kid-friendly recipes out there that will take your entire family from morning until night. So happy cooking and happy Easter!

Here are our 13 favorite easy + kid-friendly recipes:

1. Easter bunny waffles

easter_waffles

Fork and Beans

Waking up on Easter morning is a pretty magical experience as a kid. Add to the fun with these adorable, easy and actually kind of healthy waffles!

Ingredients:

  • frozen waffles
  • strawberries, sliced, for the ear, mouth and bow tie
  • banana slices, for the eyes
  • blueberries, for the eyes
  • raspberries, for the nose
  • shredded carrots, for the whiskers

Instructions:

1. Toast 3 waffles.

2. Slice one waffle in half and use it for the ears. Slice another waffle in half and use one part for the shoulders and then cut out two circles for the cheeks.

3. Add the strawberry slices and place them on top of the ears to fill in.

4. Assemble the face and bow tie.

Recipe from Fork and Beans

Baked French toast

french_toast

The Pioneer Woman

Breakfast meets casserole in this delicious make-ahead dish. It's perfect for prepping the night before a busy day, especially if you have overnight guests.

Ingredients:

French toast

  • Butter, for greasing
  • 1 loaf crusty sourdough Or French Bread
  • 8 whole Eggs
  • 2 cups Whole Milk
  • 1/2 cup Heavy Cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp vanilla extract

Topping

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 stick cold butter, cut into pieces
  • warm syrup, for serving
  • butter, for serving
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries, for serving

Instructions:

1. For the French toast: Grease the baking pan with butter. Tear the bread into chunks, or cut into cubes, and evenly distribute in the pan. Crack the eggs in a big bowl. Whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla. Pour evenly over the bread. Cover the pan tightly and store it in the fridge until needed (overnight, preferably). Or you can make it and bake it right away—it's delicious no matter what!

2. For the topping: Mix the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and some nutmeg in a separate bowl. Stir together using a fork. Add the butter and with a pastry cutter, and mix it all together until the mixture resembles fine pebbles. Store in a plastic bag in the fridge.

3. When you're ready to bake the casserole, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the casserole from the fridge and sprinkle the topping over the top. Bake for 45 minutes for a softer, more bread pudding texture or for 1 hour-plus or more for a firmer, crisper texture.

4. Scoop out individual portions. Top with butter and drizzle with warm pancake syrup and sprinkle with blueberries.

Recipe from The Pioneer Woman

Hashbrown egg cups

hashbrown_eggs

Life Made Simple

If you're craving something savory, these hashbrown egg cups will absolutely hit the spot. Just consider leaving out the cayenne for those littler taste-buds.

Ingredients:

  • 20 ounces refrigerated hash browns
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 tsp kosher sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp milk or half and half
  • 4 sliced cooked bacon, crumbled
  • chopped fresh parsley (optional garnish)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Generously spray a standard size muffin tin pan with baking spray, set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the hash browns, 1/2 cup cheese, salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne. Press the mixture into the bottom, creating a nest.
  3. Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees.
  4. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese, eggs, milk, and bacon. Pour into the baked hash browns, then return to the oven to bake for 12-15 minutes or until fully set.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tins for 5 minutes before removing.
  6. Garnish with a pinch of salt and pepper and freshly chopped parsley, if desired. Serve immediately.

Recipe from Life Made Simpleife Made Simple

Cucumber sandwiches

cucumber_sandwiches

Cherished Bliss

If your littles will be off hunting eggs, these quick and easy to grab sandwiches will be just what they need to keep them going.

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf of extra thin sliced bread
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ⅓ of an English cucumber
  • 3 tbsp finely shredded carrots
  • ½ tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped
  • ½ tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • ¼ tsp garlic and herb seasoning
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. With a bunny and Easter egg cookie cutter, cut out an equal amount of bread for each sandwich and set aside.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, add cream cheese, shredded carrots, fresh chopped chives, fresh chopped parsley, and seasonings.
  3. Combine all ingredients and mix well.
  4. Cut an English cucumber in half and slice thin slices of your desired amount of cucumbers.
  5. Spread the carrot and herb cream cheese on both sides of a sandwich. When spreading the carrot and herb cream cheese on don't forget to do the mirror side of the bunny.
  6. Place your desired amount of cucumber slices on each sandwich and top with the other the matching bread cut out.

Recipe from Cherished Bliss

Ham and cheese crescents

crescents

Six Sisters' Stuff

This is the perfect recipe for a busy lunch. It only has three ingredients, and is so yummy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 (8-ounce) can refrigerated crescent roll dough
  • 16 deli ham slices (you can use carved ham leftovers)
  • 8 slices cheddar cheese

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Separate dough into 8 equal pieces (they usually separate into triangles).
  3. Place 2 slices of ham and 1 slice of cheese (folded in half) on the larger end of the triangle.
  4. Roll the crescent up with the ham and cheese inside, and place it tip side down on a baking sheet (you can use a baking mat, or line it with aluminum foil for easy clean-up, too).
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, until tops are golden brown.
  6. Serve warm.

Recipe from Six Sisters' Stuff

Bunny veggie dip

bunny_dip

The Nesting Corral

Eating veggies has never been so fun… or cute!

Ingredients:

  • Bread loaf

Dip:

  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 container (16 ounces) sour cream
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 package Knorr Vegetable recipe mix
  • 1 can (8 ounces) water chestnuts, drained and chopped

Veggies for dipping:

  • carrots
  • cucumbers
  • cherry tomatoes
  • celery sticks
  • bell peppers
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower

Decorations:

  • olives

Instructions:

1. Combine all ingredients and chill for about 2 hours.

2. Carefully cut out a circle from the top of the bread loaf for the bunny's head. Then, cut the opening bigger so that dipping was accessible.

3. Using your hands, hollow out the rest of the shepherd loaf so that it can hold the spinach dip. Save the chunks of bread that you pull out for chowing down on with your dip.

4. Cut the two ends off of a baguette and situated them as the bunny's ears.

5. For the face, used black olives cut in half as the eyes, and quarter a half of a black olive to make the nose.

6. Make the whiskers from thin strips of celery, and the mouth is a cross section piece of celery. Put a little dip on the back of each of the facial features to keep it adhered to the bread.

7. Pour the dip into the bread bowl, arrange the veggies, and serve.

Recipe from Nesting Coral

English muffin bunny pizza

english_muffin

Kid Friendly Things to Do

These little bunny pizzas are perfect for serving your kids while the grown-ups eat their fancier dinner (though we totally get it if the grown-ups decide they just want to eat these, too).

Ingredients:

  • English muffins
  • Pizza sauce (jarred is great)
  • 1/4 cup mozzarella shredded cheese
  • 2 black olive pearls, sliced olives
  • 1 piece of sliced pepperoni
  • 1 stick of mozzarella string cheese
  • 1 breadstick

Instructions:

  • Spread some pizza sauce onto the English muffin (a few tbsp should be enough).
  • Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the sauce.
  • Add 2 sliced olives for eyes.
  • Cut the piece of pepperoni into 1/4 pieces and position a piece for the nose.
  • Bake the breadstick according to the package directions.
  • Bake the pizza at 425 degrees F for about 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted and is turning a little golden on the ends.
  • When the breadstick and pizza are done, slice the breadstick in half.
  • Grab a plate and place the pizza in the middle, add the halved breadsticks for your bunny ears.
  • Pull some pieces of mozzarella off of the string cheese to make whiskers and serve

Recipe from Kid Friendly Things To Do

Instant Pot leg of lamb

leg_lamb

Simply Happy Foodie

Is there anything the Instant Pot can't do? The answer is a definitive no—including the fact that it can make your Easter dinner a complete (and easy) win.

Ingredients:

  • 5 cloves garlic, divided
  • 4 lbs boneless leg of lamb (or bone-in)
  • 3 tsp Kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup chicken broth, low sodium
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar

(Optional) to thicken, mix together:

  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp cold water

Instructions:

  1. Slice 4 of the garlic cloves lengthwise. Pierce the lamb in several places and push the garlic slivers into the cuts. Then sprinkle 2 of the tsp of salt and the pepper over the entire roast.
  2. If the roast is coming apart from the bone being removed, tie it together with butcher's string.
  3. Turn on the pot's sauté setting. Wait for it to get hot, then add the olive oil. Place the lamb roast in the pot and let it brown for several minutes. Then turn it over and brown the other side. Remove it to a plate.
  4. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes, scraping the bottom of the pot, using a wooden spoon.
  5. Add the wine and continue to cook, still scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot (called deglazing).
  6. Add the rosemary and thyme sprigs, remaining teaspoon of salt, remaining clove of garlic (minced), chicken broth, and the red wine vinegar. Stir well. Then turn off the sauté setting.
  7. Add the lamb roast back into the pot.
  8. Press the pressure cook/manual button or dial. Then press the +/- button or dial to select 70 minutes (20-30 minutes for a rare roast). For a bone-in roast, select 85 minutes. This will yield a nicely fork-tender leg of lamb. If your roast is larger than 4 lbs, increase the time by 5 minutes.
  9. The pot will take a few minutes to come to pressure. When the cook time ends, let the pot sit undisturbed for 20 minutes (20-minute natural release, 10 minutes for a rare roast). Then turn the steam release knob to the Venting position to manually release any remaining pressure/steam. Turn off the pot.
  10. When the pin in the lid drops back down, open the lid. Carefully remove the roast to a platter and cover. Remove the herb stems from the pot.
  11. Skim the fat off the top of the liquid in the pot, or use a fat separator to defat the liquid.
  12. OPTIONAL: Return the liquid to the pot and turn on the sauté setting. Mix up a slurry of 1 tbsp cornstarch to 2 tbsp cold water. When the liquid is simmering, whisk in the slurry and stir until it thickens.
  13. Serve the roast sliced, with some of the defatted sauce over it.

Recipe from Simply Happy Foodie

Slow cooker ham with brown sugar glaze

ham

This Delicious House

Ham is, perhaps, the most quintessential of Easter meal choices. And with the ease of a crockpot, this recipe will become your go-to favorite.

Ingredients:

  • 1 boneless ham
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Instructions:

  1. Spray the inside of a slow cooker with cooking spray. Remove ham from packaging and place in a slow cooker set at low heat.
  2. Make the glaze by combining the brown sugar, dijon, and vinegar in a small bowl. Pour over the ham. Cook ham at low heat for 5-7 hours or until thermometer reads 140 degrees F.

Recipe from This Delicious House

Brown butter garlic honey-roasted carrots

carrots

Rasa Malaysia

These carrots are so good you won't have to convince them to eat their veggies before dessert.

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb baby carrots
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 dashes ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp chopped thyme or parsley

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Heat an oven-safe skillet and cook the butter on medium heat until it starts to form and turn into golden brown. Add the garlic and quickly saute before adding the carrots. Stir a few times, then add the salt, black pepper, honey and thyme or parsley.
  3. Transfer the skillet and roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the carrots become tender. Serve immediately.

Recipe from Rasa Malaysia

Birds nest cookies

birds_nest

Dinner at the Zoo

These no-bake treats are the perfect easy Easter dessert (and oh-so-cute)!

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces milk chocolate chips
  • 12 ounces butterscotch chips
  • 12 ounces chow mein noodles
  • 36 candy eggs

Instructions:

  1. Place the milk chocolate chips and butterscotch chips in a large bowl. Microwave in 30-second increments until melted. Stir until smooth.
  2. Add the chow mein noodles to the bowl and toss until coated in the chocolate mixture.
  3. Spoon 2 tbsp of the cookie mixture onto a piece of parchment and shape into a nest; top with 3 candy eggs. Repeat the process with the remaining cookie mixture and eggs.
  4. Let nests set until firm, then serve. These cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Recipe from Dinner at the Zoo

.

Easter egg fruit pizza

fruit_pizza

Persnickety Plates

For a dessert that is delicious and healthy, this Easter egg fruit pizza checks off all the boxes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package sugar cookie mix (1 lb 1.5 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter melted & cooled
  • 1 egg
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup strawberries chopped
  • 3 cups fruit (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries) sliced

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and grease a 13″ pizza pan and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, add the cookie mix, melted butter, and egg and mix with a spoon until a soft dough forms.
  3. Press the dough evenly onto the pan.
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Let it cool completely, about 45 minutes. Cut into an egg shape (I just used a butter knife).
  5. In a food processor or blender, add the softened cream cheese, ½ cup chopped strawberries, powdered sugar, and vanilla and pulse until fully combined and smooth.
  6. Spread the cream cheese mixture onto the cooled cookie.
  7. Decorate with the cut-up fruit.
  8. Slice with a pizza cutter and serve.

Recipe from Persnickety Plates

Easter chocolate lasagna

chocolate_lasagna

Oh My Goodness Chocolate Desserts

There's really no explanation needed here. It's chocolate layered with more chocolate. Done.

Ingredients:

Oreo crust:

  • 36 Oreo cookies
  • ½ cup unsalted butter-melted

Cream cheese layer:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter-softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup Cool Whip

Chocolate pudding layer:

  • 2 (3.9 oz.) packages chocolate instant pudding
  • 2 and 3/4 cups cold milk

Topping:

  • 2 cups Cool Whip
  • 1 ½ cups crushed Oreo
  • Peeps bunnies, Easter egg candies, and other fun toppings

Instructions:

  1. In a food processor, finely crush Oreo cookies into fine crumbs. If you don't have food processor, place Oreo cookies into ziplock bag and crush the cookies with a rolling pin.
  2. Using a fork mix crushed Oreo with melted butter, then press the mixture into the bottom of 9 x 13 inches dish. Place in the fridge to firm.
  3. Beat cream cheese, softened butter, sugar and vanilla until it's light and creamy. Stir in 1 cup Cool Whip. Spread the mixture over the crust and place in the fridge.
  4. In a medium bowl mix chocolate instant pudding with 2 and 3/4 cups cold milk. Whisk for a few minutes until the pudding starts thickening. Spread the pudding over the cream cheese layer. Place in the fridge for 10 minutes.
  5. Spread 2 cups Cool Whip on top and sprinkle with crushed Oreo. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.
  6. Garnish with Peeps and Easter egg candies.

Recipe from Oh My Goodness Chocolate Desserts.

Lifestyle

I have been pregnant for 245 days, and in the past 12 of those, everything I have come to know about how this baby will enter the world is on the chopping block.

It began when I walked into a lab three weeks ago to do an elective urine test to keep an eye on my proteins. It was two days before things became unglued in California due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and when I walked into the lab everyone was wearing masks and gloves. The woman at the counter pointed to the iPad to sign in.

"I'd rather not," I said hesitatingly, not wanting to touch the screen. "I just need to pick up a jug to pee in."

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As I waited for the lab to supply the jug, a man walked through the door with sad and frantic eyes. He went on to plead, "I see on the door it says that you guys don't have the tests and not to come in if you're not well... but I think I have it. I need the COVID-19 test and my doctor told me to find a place to do it. I don't know where to go!"

My stomach dropped and I instantly recoiled, feeling immediately vulnerable. I was standing there, not only pregnant but also with my child. I grabbed my daughter's hand, scared of the world in a way I hadn't ever been before.

Get me out of this room! I made a sharp turn for the door and went straight home. I haven't been out to a medical appointment since that day, and my whole paradigm changed at that lab.

California went on lockdown two days later. And with these snowballing changes, I began questioning what a birth at a medical facility would look like as thousands of people—sick people and healthcare workers—get hit by this pandemic in a place without enough resources to help them out.

There is no short supply of unsettling tales to lose yourself in. I have heard stories of mothers in Seattle giving birth in hallways because there are no beds left. There have been many stories of overcrowding due to the influx of COVID-19 patients. I've read accounts of women in New York being told they must deliver their babies without even one support person or partner in the room in an attempt to keep visitor numbers down and protect undersupplied hospital staff.

These stories replay in my mind as I float through day after day in quarantine at home with my 2-year-old daughter. "Can I kiss baby sister?" she asks innocently.

"Ohhh! Yes, baby," I reply to her as I snap out of my thoughts and into my current reality, smiling at her sweet face.

I am living in a world of two extremes. On one hand, it is intoxicatingly beautiful—we have been "forced" into slow quality family time with one another. But we're also living in anxiety about the fear around us. Thousands of people will need hospital care in California and I can't help but wonder how this will affect my baby's birth.

So this begs the questions I believe we must all ask of ourselves: What do I have control over at this time? What will my takeaways be when I look back and reflect on how these pages of my life were written? What are the things I find the most valuable and how do I retain those things so when I look back at how this all played out, I will still be in awe of the beauty within chaos?

For me, this experience has led me to deeply consider the idea of having our daughter at home as long as that is a safe option for me. After much research, I have found a midwife I trust. I have also started looking into my insurance options and playing out worst-case scenarios knowing that decision time will soon be upon me.

This change means facing my fears about pushing a baby out without the safety net of already being in the hospital should an emergency occur. This challenge means believing in myself, my baby and my midwife to work together in order to do something I feel I was made to do. This new potential birth plan means casting aside worried friends' and my OBGYN's judgments about my having a homebirth and instead, confidently believe in my own decision—should it be the one I make.

But quite candidly, deciding to "follow my mom gut" has been an exciting and freeing feeling from the stress of this pandemic. The idea of walking freely in my backyard while in labor, potentially sleeping in my bed the night of delivery and importantly, holding my husband's hand throughout the birth of our last baby gives me romantic feelings for a reason.

We enter this ocean of motherhood accepting an atmosphere of imperfection and uncertainty. Very quickly after giving birth, our bodies and natural instincts remind us that the world doesn't always feel safe enough for our perfect little babies. Our minds paddle over small waves of fear like surfers going out to sea—distracted drivers, chemical pollutants, too much screen time—we let the water break over our heads, emerging in the valleys of the waves. We see the beautiful break in the water in front of us and forgive ourselves for the fear, as our hair has become wet and our skin a little more wrinkly and sunkissed.

Our children are the future in front of us. We mothers are propelled to move forward and past fears by our innate love for them. When looking at the big picture in front of me—delivering a child at this very scary time—I am finding it more important than ever to remember I am still pointing towards my own destiny, no matter what decision I make.

Life

Have you found yourself already thinking, "Alexa, teach my children" or channeling your inner Ross Gellar saying, "I'm fine" when someone asks you how homeschooling is going so far?

I can assure you, mama, you are not alone.

In these unprecedented times, feeling overwhelmed is an understatement. And totally understandable. The world as we knew it has been completely flipped upside down. You now find yourself unable to go about your normal routine, potentially working from home full-time with your children as your new co-workers and on top of thathomeschooling too (for who knows how long).

You may be worrying like every other parent is likely worrying right now, "How will I make this all work?" or "How can I teach my children? I don't have a teaching degree!"

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Well, I hope I can assure you—in any small way—that you can do this. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, you are already an incredible teacher. You've taught your children to walk, talk, feed/dress themselves and have helped them with their math homework (even though it is completely different from how you learned in school—"borrow," "regroup"... potato, potahto).

From me, a teacher and fellow mother, to you, I want to emphasize that your family's well-being comes first. Academics are secondary at this time.

You may be thinking, "Why would a teacher be telling me not to worry about school?!" Well, quite frankly, because this is unchartered territory. I NEVER learned—in college or throughout my nine years of teaching—how to teach during a pandemic.

We, as in teachers, parents, caregivers and students, are making history and setting the tone for these unsettling times.

I am not saying to completely disregard academics, but just be gentle with yourself and remember you're doing your best. These tips might help you and your kiddo both feel more confident on this new-to-both-of-you journey of "distance learning."

1. Provide a predictable routine.

One that you can adapt to your family's situation. Maybe mornings are too hectic because you have conference calls to make, so the afternoons would make more sense to work on academics. Be realistic, flexible—and most importantly, gentle with yourselves.

2. Monitor and keep track of expectations given by your child's teacher.

Maybe it is completely digital, maybe your child has packets to work on—sit with your child when you are able to have focused time together (even if it's five minutes or less!) and create a plan in the beginning of each week. Maybe it's Sunday afternoon, or maybe it's Monday morning after breakfast. Whatever works for you.

This is a great time to teach time management skills—utilize checklists, sticky notes, a notebook—you may have some trial and error figuring out what tools will work best for your kiddo. Don't be afraid to reach out to your child's teacher for help or clarification.

3. Give your child the opportunity to have a say in their learning.

This'll give your little students a sense of autonomy and ownership. For example, ask them which subject they would like to work on first—math or reading. Little do they know, they'll eventually have to complete both! Even small things like giving them a choice to use a pen instead of a pencil can make a BIG difference.

4. You have two new BFFs: Google and YouTube.

Don't know how to teach something specific or you want to give your children some extra practice? All you have to do is type the grade level, skill and "worksheet" in the Google search bar and you'll get links to many different website options—even free ones.

YouTube has a plethora of videos to utilize, although I do suggest screening them yourself first. You can also use Safeshare.tv or Viewpure.com to take away advertisements before and during the videos.

5. Use this time to focus on life skills.

Cursive writing, reading and following recipes, writing a letter, taking care of a plant, completing a research project on a topic of their choice, doing laundry, how to write a check—now is the time to teach or reinforce these life skills (all of which have some sort of academic tie-in).

All in all, just remember this won't last forever.

Despite what any meme says on social media, we are not going to evaluate your teaching abilities—promise. Be patient with your children, their teachers and most importantly, yourself.

Have you ever heard yourself saying (or maybe just thinking) , "If I only had the time…" or "They grow up so fast, I wish I could…"?

Well, now can be that time.

So let them sleep in, wear their PJs all day, make blanket forts in the living room—those are the things they will remember most vividly.

Remember to give yourself some grace, mama, you're doing the best you can.

And know that we miss your (our) kids, and we're cheering you all on!

Love + Village

Expecting parents look forward to meeting their newborns and bonding in those early days of their infant's life, but the coronavirus has changed so much about giving birth in America, and for some mothers, this means they are separated from their babies to protect their infants from COVID-19.

Separating moms and babies is rare—it is only happening in cases where the mother has or is presumed to have COVID-19. We are not telling you this to scare you, mama, but rather to inform you about the way the maternity ward experience has changed in recent days so that you can prepare, protect and advocate for yourself.

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The CDC's Interim Considerations for Infection Prevention and Control of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Inpatient Obstetric Healthcare Settings states that in order to "reduce the risk of transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 from the mother to the newborn, facilities should consider temporarily separating (e.g., separate rooms) the mother who has confirmed COVID-19 or is a PUI [person under investigation] from her baby until the mother's transmission-based precautions are discontinued."

That means that when a mom has COVID-19 her doctors or midwives may recommend her baby be cared for in another part of the hospital temporarily.

For Missouri mom Veronica Batton, this meant four days apart from her newborn daughter, Theo. Batton developed a cough late in pregnancy and was tested for COVID-19, but her results were not yet back by the time she went into labor. As KSHB in Kansas City reports, Batton's test eventually came back negative for COVID-19, but not until after she'd been separated from her newborn.

"I saw her and felt her on my chest for like maybe three to five seconds," Batton told KSHB. "And they took her over to get cleaned up and everything, and after that, I didn't see her out of the room and I didn't see her again until [days later]."

Batton was thrilled to finally be reunited with her daughter, but calls the experience "heartbreaking" and hopes that her case can help hospitals determine better practices for keeping moms and babies safe without separating them unnecessarily. The hospital, St. Luke's East, has reportedly already made changes to make testing faster and hospital representatives say delays in testing are unfortunately beyond their control. Batton hopes the different levels of America's health care system can work together to address the delays in processing tests.

"The last day was really, really hard...That was the day I felt like I lost all hope," Batton said, adding that the nursing staff at St. Luke's East Hospital were great.

"They were so kind, they took pictures on their phone and brought it to me. They even used my husband's phone and took it up there so we could FaceTime with her," she explains.

Batton and Theo have been reunited and are at home with Batton's husband and the couple's 5-year-old son, who is finally able to be a big brother. "It feels amazing, like all the stress is gone," Batton told KSHB. "I don't have to wear a mask. I don't have to wear gloves."

Batton is holding her baby now and most moms giving birth in America this week are able to do that sooner than she was. Again, separation of newborns from mothers is not happening without careful consideration.

The CDC says that when it comes to separating a mother and baby due to COVID-19 concerns, the risks and benefits should be explained to the mother and that "if colocation (sometimes referred to as 'rooming in') of the newborn with his/her ill mother in the same hospital room occurs in accordance with the mother's wishes or is unavoidable due to facility limitations, facilities should consider implementing measures to reduce exposure of the newborn to the virus that causes COVID-19."

Basically, separating a baby from their mom is not the only option to protect the baby, depending on the severity of the mother's illness.

If you are concerned about your hospital's practices, discuss this with your doctor or midwife.

If you are healthy now, take care to maintain self-isolation and practice social distancing to avoid COVID-19.

If you do fall ill and your hospital recommends separating you from your baby, know that you are a decision-maker and can advocate for yourself. Ask questions, and if you determine that you should be separated from your child know that you can still pump to provide breast milk. Ask for a pump and frequent updates on your baby.

If you are able to room-in with your baby while recovering from COVID-19, the CDC says it is okay to breastfeed as long as you are wearing a face mask and washing your hands before each feeding.

Again, this is not happening to every woman giving birth, but it is one of the ways in which hospitals are trying to keep babies safe from COVID-19.

News

We're in a moment of huge change for families. With schools closed around the country, millions of children are adapting to online learning right now—and there's a lot more screen time in our children's futures than many of us planned. But there's more to streaming education the right way than just pressing play or downloading an educational app.

Fortunately, the internet is brimming over with high-quality recorded and live media that invite children to grow, learn and interact from home.

Here's how parents can get the most out of the huge wealth of digital educational resources online:

1. Get those bodies ready before screen time starts

Kids can't learn if they're not feeling good in their bodies. After breakfast, see if you can make 10 to 20 minutes of exercise time happen before you start learning time. That might mean riding a scooter around the neighborhood or doing a family yoga video together. Then settle into a comfy place where learning can happen, whether that's the kitchen table or a desk.

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2. Have a daily game plan

Your child's days in school are guided by predictable rhythms and routines. Your days at home need their own learning rhythms, too. When it comes to creating a daily learning routine, experienced homeschool families have lots to teach us.

Think about how you want to incorporate screen-based learning in your child's daily rhythm so that it's balanced with other kinds of learning.

Perhaps your family sets a goal to create four hours a day of learning, in 30 minute blocks. Give each block a name just like the school does and post it on the fridge. Some of these blocks can incorporate screen-based learning, while others can be totally offline. For a preschooler, screen-based learning time might mean including blocks like:

  • Circle Time: Have a FaceTime chat with another family, where you sing a song together and share something each person is grateful for. Play a game of Roses and Thorns with other families from your child's class—parents can participate, too!
  • Nature Learning: Watch a video about your favorite animals and then talk about a few things that they have in common.

Elementary school blocks might be modeled after your child's real school day with structured time for science, math, language arts and D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read!). Or, you can be more fluid, like some homeschool parents, and let the learning emerge around daily tasks like cooking (lots of math opportunities) or gardening (which incorporates both science and art).

Don't forget to leave time in between for snacks (very important!), physical breaks and of course, lunch.

3. Look for variety + interaction

There's a lot more variety in educational media than you might think. Screen-based learning can take lots of formats and it's best to vary them throughout your day. There's a hierarchy of online learning, and the stuff that's interactive or includes real world activities is definitely on a higher level than passive screen time.

How can you spot a passive video? If your child watches it without interacting in any way (aside from maybe laughing, or—less good—drooling) then that's a red flag. In general, a lot of the educational videos you'll find on YouTube are passive, although there are gems out there. Passive media isn't "evil," but it shouldn't make up more than a small part of your child's screen-based learning time.

Educators who are trained in learning media design know about building shows from curriculum and engaging young viewers effectively. Parents of 2- to 6-year-olds should beeline to Sesame Street (episodes streaming on Hulu, HBO, and PBS Kids) and Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood (episodes streaming on Amazon Prime and PBS Kids), both great examples of interactive educational media for kids.

In every episode of Daniel Tiger, the beloved little guy in the red hoodie frequently looks right at the viewer and asks a question that has to do with the curriculum behind the episode—and he waits a moment for the answer, because kids love to talk back to TV characters. That's not just a cute moment of dialogue—ot's a design decision by the writers and educators behind the show that makes the viewing experience more interactive, and better for learning.

Here are more types of strong educational content to look for:

Digitally interactive: Some media involves interactive back-and-forth, like solving math problems or answering quizzes where the software helps you progress. You might already know about great mobile apps such as Endless Alphabet or Elmos's ABCs that do this. Looking for more? Common Sense Media has a terrific educational media section that reviews these apps in detail.

Physically interactive: Some digital resources involve movement, making art, mindfulness practice, voice/language practice or creative writing prompts that ask you to pause the video and do something in your real space at home. YouTube has so many art, dance and music channels in any medium your heart desires, and podcasts offer storytelling and meditation. You know you've found something really special when there's a joint engagement factor—when parents and children collaborate on the work instead of just plugging the kids in to go it alone.

DIY + maker-focused: Lots of screen-based resources help you make something to use in the real world, and then take that thing outside—like a special paper airplane or a grid called a quadrat for studying the life in your backyard. Sometimes the making is all virtual, like beginner coding games featuring Anna and Elsa, or, yes, Minecraft. Try the activities with a buddy family. What if you both did the activity and then had a video call to share your work?

4. Co-view

There's only so much energy a parent has to help out with alphabet practice and video science projects. When you are using passive video streaming as a solution, research shows that co-viewing (another type of joint media engagement) leads to much stronger outcomes for kids and their understanding of ideas. There's lots of ways to co-view:

  • Pausing the video to ask a question
  • Pointing things out that are interesting
  • Simply being there, beside your little one.
  • Siblings count! Can your older child take time out from what they're doing to watch a show together?
  • What about setting up a watch party? You and another family could tune into the same programming at the same time while you're on FaceTime or Skype. Use the mute button to avoid audio feedback and take breaks to share laughs or ask each other questions.

5. Report out

When an online activity is finished, circle up with your children and find out how it went. It's important to get feedback about the day that's richer than the usual tired-preschooler response, "It was good."

Questions to ask to start a conversation:

  • What was that video about? It seemed interesting but can you tell me more?
  • Was there anything new you discovered?
  • Would you recommend this video to your friends? What do you think so-and-so would learn from it?
  • Did the video give you any feelings? Did it make you happy, frustrated, bored, excited? Tell me about why you think that happened.
  • Do you want to try anything you saw in the video (singing the song, giving a hug, calling a friend)?

Based on their feedback, you can make an even better plan together for tomorrow's learning. Good luck! You've got this.

Learn + Play
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