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How often do we have good intentions to be a more patient mom—and then we come up short… yet again? (Sigh.)

We want to yell less, enjoy our kids more, not stress the small stuff–we mean it when we say next time it’ll be different. We wait, thinking things will resolve themselves with good intentions.

But we’re still waiting. And still snapping. And the guilt and disappointment weighs heavy on our hearts.

No matter how many inspiring articles or books we read, in the heat of the moment, you can still snap, no matter what wise words you've read.

That’s because most of the things we read only touch upon tools to practice in the midst of the meltdown. But that’s only part of it.

We know we should breathe deep but in the midst of a meltdown (ours or our kids) we rarely remember to breathe. We just react. And it’s not your fault, it’s our hardwired habit.

To break that habit, it requires intention to train our mind BEFORE chaos strikes.

Here is your new and improved five-step plan to help you cultivate patience and become the peaceful mama you desire to be.

1. Start 15 minutes early

A lot of our stress and impatience comes from constantly rushing through our day.

Possibly the most patience-testing time for moms is when we are trying to transition our kids.

Out of bed. To school. Get homework done. To the car. To bed.

Instead of setting ourselves up for disappointment, frustration or aggravation, plan to start 15 minutes early.

When we give ourselves a buffer, we don’t put the added pressure of feeling late and delayed on our shoulders.

Planning in that extra buffer time allows time to relax and be more patient as unexpected events arise.

For example, I know my son doesn’t like to be rushed from the moment he wakes up to go out the door for school. I give us a 15-minute buffer, so if the unexpected meltdown hits, I don’t panic and get impatient. Which means I must put him to bed a little earlier on most nights.

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Of course meltdowns aren’t an everyday thing, so on the days things go smoothly, we have a pleasant 15 minutes of playtime before we get out the door and start our day.

And as a bonus I find that those simple and ordinary moments I’m present and patient tend to be the most memorable moments of my day.

Of course this won’t ALWAYS work, but on most days, this keeps me peaceful and my son happy.

2. Don’t multitask

Often times the root of our impatience is because we’re not “all there.” We are distracted while trying to do too much all at once and not fully paying attention to any one particular thing or person.

Being fully present and “all there” with your children eliminates being stuck in our mind and allows us to fully enter what’s happening in this moment.

I find that when I am feeling stressed about “waiting” or when I am prone to snap over some behavior, I am usually focused on something else than what is in front of me.

My son could be taking a long time taking a bath—and I’m already worried about brushing teeth, getting the dishes put away and wondering if we are ever going to get to bed on time. But, if I step back and try to do one task at a time, I am less likely to lose my temper and more likely move through the present situation with focus and patience.

The trick to getting present is getting out of my head and into my body. I take a few deep breaths in through my feet and out through my head. This quickly grounds me into my body and into the moment.

3. Breathe together

Meltdowns are emotionally draining for both you and your child. When we become angry, we are not best place to make rational decisions. Why? Because any strong emotion will block clear, rational thinking.

Instead of trying to talk and rationalize with your child in the midst of chaos, just breathe together.

If there is anything I’ve learned in my seven years of teaching mindful breathing to kids, it’s that we can’t expect our child to practice deep breathing in the moment of chaos unless they have practiced the technique when they are happy and playing.

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In moments of meltdowns (yours or there), it’s important for you and your child to know that feeling intense emotion is OK. So use this script: “I see you are feeling angry. You are safe to feel angry and mommy loves you very much. Why don’t we breathe together to feel better.”

Even if your child doesn’t follow your lead with the breathing, you model the calm breathing. If anything, it will help you stay centered and move through whatever emotion is being triggered within you from their outburst.

Try this breathing technique: Breathe in through your nose for four counts, hold the breath for a heartbeat and exhale the breathe through your mouth for eight counts slowly.

Counting in your mind just ensures your “thinking brain” is still engaged, which will further dilute any anger.

The natural breathing response when you become exasperated is to take a sharp in-breath and keep breathing in—which is how we breathe when we are angry or anxious. We naturally sigh (an extended out-breath) when we become stressed—which is nature's way of helping us destress.

You can teach this to your kids by practicing “hot chocolate breath” during playtime. Tell them they have a cup of hot chocolate in their hands, but it’s much too hot to drink. Tell them to take a deep breath in and blow their hot chocolate to cool it down. Take a deep breath through your nose and blow out your mouth in a long and slow breath into your cupped hands so they can feel their breath.

4. Take a break and let them know you love them

When we respond poorly to our children’s emotions (with anger, frustration, rudeness, annoyance, etc.) it truly rocks their world.

Our children need stability, to feel safe, to feel accepted despite their emotional outbursts—and to know they are loved in those moments difficult emotions are taking over their little bodies.

When we display anger or impatience, we teach them it’s not acceptable for them to feel uncomfortable emotions. If we walk away in anger, they misinterpret it as rejection or abandonment. When we stifle or make our children feel bad about getting upset, they may grow up to learn to repress and numb uncomfortable emotions.

Being mad doesn’t teach our children anything except, “If Mom can fly off the handle, so can I.”

If we can’t respond in LOVE in the moment, it’s absolutely OK to walk away and take a little break to calm down and postpone a response.

Just let your little ones know that you need a break and preferably let them watch you breathe it out or do jumping jacks or whatever you need to feel centered.

Be honest with your child about how you feel: “Mommy feels frustrated and she is going to get some fresh air. Mommy loves you very much and when you calm down and I calm down, then we’ll play together again. “

And as quickly as you feel calm, reconnect with your little one so you can compassionately help them through their feelings too.

5. Take peaceful pauses

The level of patience we bring to an unexpected challenge has a lot to do with how many peaceful pauses we have accumulated throughout the day.

Transforming daily mindless routines like brushing your teeth, opening the car door or sipping your cup of tea are all opportunities to infuse taking a peaceful pause. When we focus on infusing as little as one minute of peaceful resets throughout our day, we have a huge peacefulness reserve when a challenging situation hits.

Setting the intention to take 30 seconds to a minute to reset, refocus and re-energize throughout your day means you’re ready to take on any challenge with calm, clarity and focus.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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Baking Christmas cookies together is a family tradition for many, but the Centers for Disease Control is warning parents that if your recipe contains raw flour or raw eggs, you really shouldn't sneak a bite before it is cooked, and neither should your kids.

The CDC is warning people not to eat raw cookie dough, cake mix or bread as we head into prime baking season.

The agency acknowledges the appeal of a spoonful of chocolate chip goodness but asks that we "steer clear of this temptation—eating or tasting unbaked products that are intended to be cooked, such as dough or batter, can make you sick."

Salmonella from raw eggs is, of course, a concern, and so is the raw flour. According to the CDC, flour needs to be cooked in order to kill germs like E.Coli. That's why the CDC is asking parents to "say no to raw dough," not just for eating but even for playing with.

"Children can get sick from handling or eating raw dough used for crafts or play clay, too," the CDC posted on its website.

On the Food and Drug Administration's website, that agency advises that "even though there are websites devoted to 'flour crafts,' don't give your kids raw dough or baking mixes that contain flour to play with." Health Canada also states that raw flour should not be used in children's play-dough.

The warnings follow a 2016 E.coli outbreak linked to contaminated raw flour. Dozens of people got sick that year, and a post-outbreak report notes that "state investigators identified three ill children who had been exposed to raw flour at restaurants in Maryland, Virginia, and Texas. Restaurant staff had given them raw dough to play with while they waited for their food to be served."

The CDC worries that with flour's long shelf life, products recalled during the 2016 outbreak may still be in people's pantries (although the CDC notes that any raw flour—recalled or otherwise—should not be consumed).

If your kids do have flour-based play dough, don't worry.

Some parents are still choosing to use flour-based craft dough to make Christmas ornaments or other crafts this holiday season and are reducing the risks by A) making sure the kids aren't eating their art, and B) thoroughly washing little hands, work surfaces, and utensils when the dough play is over.

Other parents are choosing other types of craft clay over flour-based dough.

During the 2016 outbreak, the FDA called for Americans to abstain from raw cookie dough, an approach Slate called "unrealistic and alarmist," noting that "the vast, vast majority of people who consume or touch uncooked flour do not contract E. coli or any other infection."

Two years ago, 63 Americans were made sick by E. coli infections linked to raw flour, according to the CDC. We don't know exactly how many Americans ate a spoonful of cookie dough or played with homemade play dough that year, but we do know that more than 319 million Americans did not get sick because of raw flour.

Are there risks associated with handling and consuming raw flour? Yes, absolutely, but it's not something to panic over.

Bottom line: Don't let your kids eat raw dough when they're helping you bake cookies for Santa, and be mindful of raw flour when choosing crafts for kids.

(And if you have just got to get your raw cookie dough fix, the CDC notes that cookie dough flavored ice cream is totally safe as it "contains dough that has been treated to kill harmful bacteria." Sounds like mama's getting Ben & Jerry's tonight.)

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Twinkling lights are everywhere I look, and the magic of the holiday season is filling our house. The kids are growing more excited each day anticipating Santa's arrival and gifts are accumulating, ready to be wrapped in beautiful paper and bows.

Elf and The Grinch have been playing on repeat and the nativity scene has found a safe spot among our decorations. It's one of the busiest times of the year and it can be hard to catch your breath in the hustle and bustle of it all.

But then something stops you.

Maybe it's a pang in your heart or a memory of someone dearly missed. Maybe it's a familiar feeling of emptiness—of wanting this person to be a part of this magical, joy-filled time of year.

It's so easy to forget that many people are struck with sadness around the holidays and are longing for someone who's missing from their lives. We give and give to our families and friends and communities this time of year—food for dinners, and toys for less-fortunate children—but people don't always realize that another type of giving is needed.

The gift of comfort.

Because someone who is missing their mother, father, brother, sister, child, friend or spouse needs your connection and warmth. They need a reminder of their loved one is not forgotten, and maybe above all—just needs a hug.

Family traditions are wonderful and cherished, but they can also feel incomplete when someone is missing.

For me, I love the holidays, and watching my kids experience all the joys this season has to offer truly fills my heart. Yet, not a Christmas goes by that I don't think about what Kendrick (my first child lost at 2 months old) would have thought of this time of year.

Would he have loved hot cocoa like his sister and brothers? Would he have gotten into all the ornaments on the tree as a toddler? What toys would he have asked Santa for? What Christmas wishes would he have made for others?

I am left to wonder these things without answer. And even though I fully embrace this time of year and relish the holidays, I can't help but miss him.

I wanted to share my story as a reminder that even though your holiday cup may be filled with joy, someone you know may be wrestling with sadness. With all the merry and bright and cups of cheer, it's important to be mindful of this and to treat people with extra care. Reach out to someone you know who has lost someone, and let them know you're thinking of them. It won't go unnoticed.

Many of us have dealt with loss at some point in our lives, and we've learned to carry these special people in our hearts so that they are always with us. But missing someone never goes away. There are so many experiences in our lives we wish we could just snap our fingers and have them right by our sides—the holidays being one of those.

So as you check off your shopping lists, make your donations, trim your tree, or light your menorah—please don't forget to show care to those who may be hurting a little this holiday season.

They're certainly in a position where they could buy every item on their kids' Christmas lists, but Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher aren't planning on piling up the presents under the Christmas tree this year.

"So far, our tradition is no presents for the kids," Kunis said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight. Mom to 4-year-old daughter, Wyatt, and 2-year-old son Dmitri, Kunis says she and Kutcher are determined to not raise entitled kids—and are learning from the mistakes of Christmases past.

“We've told our parents, 'We're begging you: If you have to give her something, pick one gift,'" Kunis said. “'Otherwise, we'd like to take a charitable donation, to the Children's Hospital or a pet... Whatever you want.' That's our new tradition."

The minimalist Christmas that Kunis and Kutcher embrace makes sense on a lot of levels: It teaches kids how to be more mindful consumers, removes the emphasis on material goods... And saves you from those chaotic trips to the mall.

Going without presents doesn't mean going without

Putting a halt on presents these upcoming holidays is one way to reinforce what the season is really about: Spending quality time together as families and cherishing what we already have. But "no presents" doesn't mean "no fun," either.

Some of our favorite non-material gift suggestions include:

  • Experiences
  • Lessons
  • College contributions
  • Coupon booklets
  • Piggy bank donations
  • Gifts for others

Or you could take a cue from Kunis and Kutcher without going all the way: Maybe you only focus on one or two quality gifts. Or pass on anything that will likely get discarded to the bottom of the toy box before next year's holidays.

Think of Christmas gifts for kids kind of like eggnog: A little goes a long way.

[Originally published October 11, 2017]

After feeling alone and suffering silently for years, Gabrielle Union has been very open about her struggle with infertility since her memoir, We're Going to Need More Wine, came out last year. She surprised many by writing about how she'd suffered "8 or 9 miscarriages" while trying to conceive with husband Dwyane Wade, and just over a year later the couple surprised the world again by announcing they'd just welcomed a baby girl via surrogate.

Union's story is incredible, and one so many women needed to hear, and that's why Oprah's OWN network just aired a sit-down interview special with Union and Wade: Oprah at Home with Gabrielle Union, Dwyane Wade & Their New Baby.

(The audio version of the interview drops in two parts on 'Oprah's SuperSoul Conversations' podcast on Monday, December 10, and Wednesday, December 12.)

The interview, which first aired over the weekend, saw Union open up about how the years of IVF treatments and disappointment left her questioning everything she knew. "I've just always been of the mindset — because this is what people tell you: 'You work hard, you do the right things, you're a good person, it will happen for you,' eventually," Union, 46, told Oprah.

"I could not let go of this idea of creating this life within me," Union explains, adding that she felt the "need to be pregnant for everybody, including myself."

As the medical interventions escalated, Wade became worried. "I'm watching her do things to her body and to herself that it's getting to the point where it's not healthy," he told Oprah, adding that he always told Union that he wanted a baby as much as she did, but that he married her and that she was the most important thing to him.

"So it came to a point where, you know, I started to feel a certain way about that because I didn't want something to happen to her," Wade told Oprah.

So when the couple decided to explore surrogacy, Wade was pleased to see the medical part of his wife's journey come to an end.

When the couple surprised the world by announcing the birth of their daughter, Kaavia James, Union was puzzled by comments that insinuated the skin-to-skin photo she used in the birth announcement was an attempt to "act like" she'd been pregnant herself, or that she really had been pregnant herself.

She notes she never tried to make it seem like she'd been pregnant, as she explained her daughter was born via surrogate in the caption for that photo, which was taken after the surrogate had a C-section.

"Our surrogate went into recovery, and we were able to go immediately into another hospital room," Union told Oprah. "I had one of my New York & Company sweaters on, but skin-to-skin was kind of hard. And because the doctors kept coming in…it was easier to have skin to skin in a hospital gown."

Wade said he found the comments painful. "I think for me the most hurtful thing was once we had the baby, and everyone started talking about why is she in the bed holding the baby, why does she have a gown on, why is she acting that she just had a baby," Wade said.

Union and Wade say they hope talking about their story will help others tell theirs, and know that they are not alone. "So many people are suffering in silence and every time, when we're candid and transparent about our journeys, no matter what those journeys are, you are allowing people to be seen and heard and empowered in ways that they've never been," Union told Oprah.

She may have felt alone during her journey to motherhood, but by telling her story, Union is making sure other mamas don't.

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