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From Chaos to Connection: How Routine Can Transform the Energy of Your Home

Welcome to 2018! If you’re anything like me, the last few weeks might have thrown you a little off course – bedtimes are later, you (and kids) are sleeping in, pumpkin pie is a legitimate breakfast option, and days are filled with either fun activities or space to do a whole lot of nothing (in your pajamas, of course). It’s all too easy to fall into the “no plan” plan, which is great for vacation but not so sustainable for everyday living.

As the holidays come to a close, it can be really hard to get back into the swing of things, and returning to school and work can be even more challenging when there’s no routine or structure to fall back on.

Fear of the unknown

As for all humans, the unknown can be very scary. Not knowing is hard! When we don’t know what to expect or what’s going to happen next, we might feel anxious, tight, angry, or notice a desire to control things (or others). There’s only one constant about life – that it is constantly changing – and the unknown lurks around every corner. For kids, especially, there is constant change both within and around them, and they often have little control over the change that is occurring. No wonder so many kids struggle with anxiety!

A structured, consistent routine provides a sense of safety and mastery. Especially during large transitions (like going back to school after three weeks of family, friends, play, and gingerbread men), it helps them to know when things are happening, what to expect, and what is expected of them. Lack of structure and routine can lead to anxiety, tantrums, lack of impulse-control, challenges with attention and concentration, and a general overactive nervous system. For kids and adults alike, routine makes life (more) predictable and creates a safe container in which the normal ups and downs of life can be managed and processed.

A regular schedule helps children learn self-discipline (and consequently gain self-confidence) as they gain mastery over their schedule and learn to take care of their own needs. It is the foundation of organization, stability, delayed gratification, and ability to handle the hiccups and bumps life inevitably presents.

This doesn’t mean that routine needs to be so strict that there’s zero flexibility, though. Change is part of life and will happen no matter what, and breaking from routine for important events (holidays, vacations, global events, family outings, etc.) also offers the opportunity to learn flexibility and handling both small and large changes. It also helps them learn that though they might have strayed from routine for one day, they’ll be back on the wagon tomorrow.

A consistent plan creates space for connection – to be seen and heard. For example, when families sit down together for meals with the expectation that there are no electronics, a container is built where each member can “be” with each other. They can hear/talk about the ups and downs of the day, feel each other’s energy, and truly build safe relationships. As with most family meals, there might be struggles, but having a routine that provides opportunities for connection also creates opportunities for overcoming and working through interpersonal challenges. Further, the sense of safety also created with a schedule promotes regulation, during which that deep connection of feeling seen and heard can also be fostered.

Where to begin?

So, how does one even begin to implement a regular routine? Well, let’s think of the two times of day when things may be most hectic around the house: waking up and going to school, and evenings after school.

Morning and evening routines can be the most important to assist in transition to school and unwinding for bed. A good night’s sleep is critical for a growing body and brain, and a regular night routine is essential for helping an anxious child unwind after a long, exhausting day.

Maybe create a bedtime checklist for your child to accomplish – bath time, PJs, brush teeth, get in bed. Or set a time when you join them to read a book or listen to some calming music.

A regular morning routine is also important in allowing your child (and you) to start the day at a sustainable pace and in connection, rather than in chaos and anxiety. And who wouldn’t like to start off the day calmly and peacefully?

Consider this: Is there a set breakfast time? What’s expected to be done before coming to the breakfast table? What time do you need to leave to avoid being tardy? Imagine the challenges you face during these times and plan ways to structure the morning so that everyone is aware of what happens in what order and who is in charge of which task.

I know – it can seem overwhelming! Even in just writing this, I think, “Is this real? Can it be done?” But time after time, I have seen how creatively incorporating a structured routine helps families and kids with even the most challenging of behavior.

I know for me, getting back to routine can be really challenging after such a long break. And trying to transition back into everyday living without a schedule tends to look a lot like chaos. A very practical and efficient practice is to have a physical, visual schedule to keep things straight. For me, it’s just a white board with the days on it. Or the calendar is filled in and blocked off on my phone. With kids, you could get more creative – maybe enlist their assistance in creating reminders around the home for who needs to do what when. Make it meaningful to your family – the more meaningful and cooperative in nature, the more cooperation you may get!

Don’t get me wrong, those first few days might be really hard – but don’t give up! Just because day three doesn’t go completely according to plan, doesn’t mean it’s time to throw in the towel. Your kids have had several weeks off of the normal schedule, so it might take some time to get back to it. Help them learn to overcome challenges and stick with hard tasks by naming the slip-up, exploring how you got off track, and recommitting to the plan tomorrow.

If you can hang in there through the difficulty of restarting an old routine or incorporating a new schedule, you might find more space, connection, peace, and joy on the other side.

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Parents in New Jersey will soon get more money and more time for parental leave after welcoming a baby.

This week New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed off on legislation that extends New Jersey's paid family leave from six weeks to 12.

It also increases the benefit cap from 53% of the average weekly wage to 70%, meaning the maximum benefit for a parent on family leave will be $860 a week, up from $650.

It might not seem like a huge difference, but by raising the benefit from two-thirds of a parent's pay to 85%, lawmakers in New Jersey are hoping to encourage more parents to actually take leave, which is good for the parents, their baby and their family. "Especially for that new mom and dad, we know that more time spent bonding with a child can lead to a better long-term outcome for that child," Murphy said at a press conference this week.

The law will also make it easier for people to take time off when a family member is sick.

Because NJ's paid leave is funded through payroll deductions, workers could see an increase in those deductions, but Murphy is betting that workers and businesses will see the benefits in increasing paid leave benefits. "Morale goes up, productivity goes up, and more money goes into the system," Murphy said. "And increasingly, companies big and small realize that a happy workforce and a secure workforce is a key ingredient to their success."

The new benefits will go into effect in July 2020 (making next Halloween a good time to get pregnant in the Garden State).

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Whether you just need to stock up on diapers or you've had your eye on a specific piece of baby gear, you might want to swing by your local Walmart this Saturday, February 23rd.

Walmart's big "Baby Savings Day" is happening from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at participating Walmarts (but more deals can be found online at Walmart.com already and the website deals are happening for the rest of the month).

About 3,000 of the 3,570 Supercenter locations are participating in the sale (check here to see if your local Walmart is).

The deals vary, but in general you can expect up to 30% off on items like cribs, strollers, car seats, wipes, diapers and formula.

Some items, like this Graco Modes 3 Lite Travel System have been marked down by more than $100. Other hot items include this Lille Baby Complete Carrier (It's usually $119, going for $99 during the sale) and the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat (for as low as $199).

So if you're in need of baby gear, you should check out this sale. Travel gear isn't the only category that's been marked down, there are some steep discounts on breast pumps, too.

Many of the Walmart locations will also be offering samples and expert demos of certain products on Saturday so it's worth checking out!

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Any Schumer has not had an easy pregnancy. She intended to keep working, but if you follow her on social media you know she's been very sick through each trimester.

And now in her final trimester she's had to cancel her tour due to hyperemesis gravidarum, also known as HG. It's a rare but very serious form of extreme morning sickness, and on Friday evening Schumer announced she is canceling the rest of her tour because of it.

“I vomit every time [I] ride in a car even for 5 minutes," Schumer explained in an Instagram post.

Due to the constant vomiting she's not cleared to fly and just can't continue to the tour.

This is not the first time Schumer has had to make an announcement about HG. Back in November, just weeks after announcing her pregnancy, she had to cancel shows and again broke the news via Instagram.

She posted a photo of herself in a hospital bed with her little dog Tati, and spelled out the details of her health issues in the caption. "I have hyperemesis and it blows," Schumer wrote.

Poor Amy. Hyperemesis gravidarum is really tough.

Kate Middleton, Ayesha Curry and Motherly co-founder Elizabeth Tenety are among those who, like Schumer, have suffered from this form of severe morning sickness that can be totally debilitating.

As she previously wrote for Motherly, Tenety remembers becoming desperately ill, being confined to her apartment (mostly her bed) and never being far from a trash can, "I lost 10% of my body weight. I became severely dehydrated. I couldn't work. I couldn't even get out of bed. I could barely talk on the phone to tell my doctor how sick I was—begging them to please give me something, anything—to help."

Thankfully, she found relief through a prescription for Zofran, an anti-nausea drug.

Schumer probably knows all about that drug. It looks she is getting the medical help she obviously needs, and she was totally right to cancel the tour in order to stay as healthy as possible.

We're glad to see Schumer is getting help, and totally understand why she would have to cancel her shows. Any mama who has been through HG will tell you, that wouldn't be a show you'd want front row seats for anyway.

Get well soon, Amy!

[A version of this post was published November 15, 2018. It has been updated.]

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As a military spouse, Cydney Cooper is used to doing things alone. But when she delivered her twin daughters early after complications due to Influenza A, she was missing her husband Skylar more than ever.

Recovering from the flu and an emergency C-section, and trying to parent the couple's two older boys and be with her new infant daughters in the NICU, Cydney was exhausted and scared and just wanted her husband who was deployed in Kuwait with the Army and wasn't expected home for weeks.

Alone in the NICU 12 days after giving birth, Cydney was texting an update on the twins to her husband when he walked through the door to shoulder some of the massive burden this mama was carrying.

"I was typing up their summary as best I could and trying to remember every detail to tell him when I looked up and saw him standing there. Shock, relief, and the feeling that everything was just alright hit me at once. I just finally let go," she explains in a statement to Motherly.

The moment was captured on video thanks to a family member who was in on Skylar's surprise and the reunion has now gone viral, having been viewed millions of times. It's an incredible moment for the couple who hadn't seen each other since Skylar had a three-day pass in seven months earlier.

Cydney had been caring for the couple's two boys and progressing in her pregnancy when, just over a week before the viral video was taken, she tested positive for Influenza A and went into preterm labor. "My husband was gone, my babies were early, I had the flu, and I was terrified," she tells Motherly.

"Over the next 48 hours they were able to stop my labor and I was discharged from the hospital. It only lasted two days and I went right back up and was in full on labor that was too far to stop."

Cydney needed an emergency C-section due to the babies' positioning, and her medical team could not allow anyone who had previously been around her into the operating room because anyone close to Cydney had been exposed to the flu.

"So I went in alone. The nurses and doctors were wonderful and held my hand through the entire thing but at the same time, I felt very very alone and scared. [Skylar] had been present for our first two and he was my rock and I didn't have him when I wanted him the most. But I did it! He was messaging me the second they wheeled me to recovery. Little did I know he was already working on being on his way."

When he found out his baby girls were coming early Skylar did everything he could to get home, and seeing him walk into the NICU is a moment Cydney will hold in her heart and her memory forever. "I had been having to hop back and forth from our sons to our daughters and felt guilty constantly because I couldn't be with all of them especially with their dad gone. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life and I won't be forgetting it."

It's so hard for a military spouse to do everything alone after a baby comes, and the military does recognize this. Just last month the Army doubled the amount of leave qualifying secondary caregivers (most often dads) can take after a birth or adoption, from 10 days to 21 so that moms like Cydney don't have to do it all alone.

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