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My most current (recurrent) marital complaint has been a lack of full-fledged effort.

“Hey…” I look up from meditating on the flames in the wood stove and attempt to catch my hubby before he flips on the tube. It’s a chilly winter evening in Vermont, but the fire is warm enough to allow him to emerge from his shower donning, well…less than a full set of pajamas. The house is quiet. The littles are sleeping.

“What’s going on with our marriage?” I begin.

Earlier, John Paul had put out the “bat signal” to organize a last-minute dads’ night out, but his buddies hadn’t bitten the bait this time. He was bummed, but happy enough to hang at home. Over the past few months, he had been planning more meet-ups, out and at home. He’d also been rallying friends to play hockey with him a few times a week and had taken our kids out for a special breakfast date here and there.

I guess I started feeling a bit envious. Whole-heartedly, I’m glad he’s filling his life with memory-making, but I want a piece of the pie. Whenever I plan a date for us, his RSVP is always “yes,” and we have a blast. But it’d be nice to receive an invite from him once in a while.

“I still feel like you’re not putting in effort…into me…choosing me,“ I continue. “I’ve been saying it for a while now that I’d love to see you plan things for us to do together. What’s up? What’s the reason? Do you not like me anymore? Do you not want to hang out anymore? Why are you being a bum, husband?”

A quiet pause ensues. I force myself (internally chattering away) to be silent and hope he’s actually processing my emotionally-charged bombardment. A few more uncomfortable (only for me) moments pass.

His regular excuses aren’t going to stick this time. In the past, he claimed he never knew my schedule and whether I had meetings or classes or plans. So we created an online family calendar. Now he can track me like a 12-point buck. Sometimes he’ll even call five minutes before a scheduled event to say, “Mrs. Arnoldy, your 10 o’clock volunteer slot is nearing commencement.”

Clearly, it’s a win-win.

The second excuse has been my on-call schedule. I work as a doula and live on-call for most months of the year. This can be tough on the fam. It’s hard to plan anything. Buuuuuuut these days, I’m on a two-month hiatus. No births plus shared calendar plus doting grandmother neighbor ready and willing to watch the kids should equal a perfect storm for mad dating, right?

“You used to be so flighty,” he starts, “I felt like I had to work really hard to keep you. Now I know you’re not going anywhere. I guess I’m not worried anymore.” He shrugs with tentative, yet unfiltered honesty.

This freshly surfaced revelation knocks us both a bit sideways. Here I was wondering if, after over a decade of love and marriage, our relationship was starting to wane. Turns out, his recent laissez-faire (a.k.a. “lazy ass”) approach to wedded bliss blossoms from its foundation becoming sturdy and solid. We’ve worked so hard to create stability, and now it’s a potential threat?!?

“Well…okay…yeah, I’m not going anywhere,” I respond in acknowledgment while soaking in his disclosure.

He has a point though. When we met, I’d left a short yet significant broken-heart trail in my wake. When I decided a relationship was done, it was done, and nothing could convince me otherwise. We all have our protective shields, right?

My husband witnessed the fallout of this when an old flame reached out three or four years ago to profess that I was his one true soulmate and that he would never forgive himself for losing me. It was horrible news to hear, so I attempted to convince my ex otherwise and offered forgiveness and resolution.

I was, and still am, a fiercely independent, bullheaded gal. I made it clear to my husband from the get-go that I would not be held prisoner in a relationship that proved anything less than healthy and mutually fulfilling. Apparently, I had begun to lower my shield (thankfully without dismissing my needs).

A few years back, I began putting more sincere effort into giving my husband the reassurance I thought he deserved (and probably needed) by verbalizing my true contentment. Although it exposed some vulnerability, it was important. He has always provided me with an unwavering, unconditional feeling of security. Out of fear, I had always retained my oath to bail “if needed.”

Yet, the more hurdles a marriage successfully jumps, the more resilient it becomes. You stop questioning its strength so much. Years of ending up in one piece on the other side of an issue will do that to you, I guess.

We all drag our baggage around, though. For my husband to feel the assurance of my steadfast commitment is fairly incredible, given the wounds he carries from being a young child of divorce. The certainty of shared devotion has actually been a heartwarming place to reach, I realize.

“It’s so different when we go away together and it’s just us,” he adds with a half-smile. “I hate parenting with you.”

“Yup. I haaaate parenting with you,” I agree.

“You’re terrible at parenting.” He tries a harsh zinger on for size: “Just awful.”

Not pretty, but I’m usually the guilty party of unleashing such comments when I reach my breaking point. Parenting is a big deal to me – an unequivocal privilege and honor, and when my other half doesn’t hold what I consider adequate reverence for the job, I tend to react…

“I love so much about your parenting,” I retort defensively. “I love how involved you are with the kids’ activities and all the coaching you do. You play with them and teach them so much. I just wish you could be more understanding about their feelings…the intentions behind their behaviors.”

Time to return to the subject at hand. “Sometimes I do think we should live apart, parent separately, and date. Each other. Exclusively and all,” I add jokingly.

He rolls his eyes.

“We’ve both been so busy lately, too,” he reminds me. “You with the UVM doula course and me building our upstairs.”

More truth. I have been working more than double the hours expected during the past few weeks on an End of Life Doula Care certification course I’m developing. Some of the hours predictably land on evenings and weekends. Meanwhile, the hubs happily pours his creative energy and tons of time into framing, insulating, and sheet-rocking our second story every evening and weekend day possible.

“But, seriously – our marriage,” I protest. “Even though it feels secure, you can’t just throw it into autopilot. You’ve gotta water the grass. I want to stay happy together.”

A bit more banter, followed by a sheepish invite to hit the sack. This would mean John Paul would need to choose me (us) over an old MacGyver episode, mullet and all.

Even after a decade of co-habitation, co-parenting, co-struggling, and co-celebrating life together, I still didn’t know my husband well enough to know what he had been feeling. My guess was off. I felt ignored. He felt reassured by our steadiness.

Maybe assumptions won’t ever pan out. Marriage is a practice – an ever-unfolding journey only deemed successful by the willingness of two people to huff it together, and occasionally signal the other back to true north during moments of off-course meandering.

This time, I out-MacGyvered MacGyver. And by the next morning, the grass already looked noticeably greener.

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Anyone who has had a baby with colic knows: It's not easy. But despite how common colic is, the causes have stumped researchers (and parents) for generations. Yet, the fact remains that some 5 to 19% of newborns suffer from colic, or excessive but largely inexplicable crying spurts.

Parents of colicky newborns are often eager for something, anything, that will give their baby comfort. The good news is that while we don't have complete confirmation on what causes colic, we do have generations worth of evidence on how to best manage and treat colic.

1. Use bottles with an anti-colic internal vent system that creates a natural flow

One of the most commonly cited culprits in causing colic is tummy discomfort from air bubbles taken in while bottle-feeding—which is proof that not all bottles are created equally. Designed with an anti-colic internal vent system that keeps air away from baby's milk during feeding, Dr. Brown's® bottles are clinically proven to reduce colic and are the #1 pediatrician recommended baby bottle in the US

Distractions and a supine position while feeding can cause your baby to take in additional air, leading to those bubbles that can bother their tummies. If you notice an uptick in crying after feeding, experiment with giving your baby milk in a more upright position and then keeping them upright for a while afterwards for burping and digestion.

2. Offer a pacifier

If your baby is calm while eating, it may be that they are actually calmed by the ability to suck on something—a common instinct among newborns. Offering a pacifier not only can help soothe colicky babies, but is also proven to reduce the rate of SIDS in newborns, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Some babies have strong opinions about their pacifiers, which is why staying with the Dr. Brown's brand can help you avoid the guessing game: Designed to mimic the shape of the bottle nipples, Dr. Brown's HappyPaci pacifier makes for easy (read: calming) transitions from bottle to pacifier.

3. Practice babywearing

Beyond tummy troubles, another leading theory is that colic is the result of newborns' immature nervous systems and the overstimulation of life outside the womb. By keeping them close to you through babywearing, you are helping ease their transition to the outside world as they come to terms with their new environment.

During pregnancy, they were also used to lots of motion throughout the day. By walking (even around the house) while babywearing, you can help give them that familiar movement they may crave.

4. Get some fresh air

Along with the motion from walking around, studies show that colicky babies may benefit simply from being outside. This is one thing for parents of spring and summer newborns. But for those who are battling colic during cold, dark months, it can help to take your stroller into the mall for some laps.

5. Swaddle to calm their nervous system

Unlike the warm, cozy confinement of the womb, the outside world babies are contending with during the fourth trimester can be overwhelming—especially after a full day of sensory stimulation. As a result, many parents report their baby's colic is worse at night, which is why a tight, comforting swaddle can help soothe them to sleep.

For many parents coping with a colicky baby, it's simply a process of experimenting about what can best provide relief. Thankfully, it doesn't have to be as much of a guessing game now, due to products like those in the Dr. Brown's line that are specifically tailored to helping babies with colic.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

It's a conundrum many parents wrestle with: We don't want to lie to our kids, but when it comes to Santa, sometimes we're not exactly giving them the full truth either.

For Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard, lying to daughters Lincoln, 5, and Delta, 3 just isn't an option, so everyone in the Bell-Shepard household knows the truth about Santa.

"This is going to be very controversial," Shepard told Us Weekly earlier this month. "I have a fundamental rule that I will never lie to them, which is challenging at times. Our 5-year-old started asking questions like, 'Well, this doesn't make sense, and that doesn't make sense.' I'm like, 'You know what? This is just a fun thing we pretend while it's Christmas.'"

According to Shepard, this has not diminished the magic of Christmas in their home. "They love watching movies about Santa, they love talking about Santa," Shepard told Us. "They don't think he exists, but they're super happy and everything's fine."

Research indicates that Shepard is right—kids can be totally happy and into Christmas even after figuring out the truth and that most kids do start to untangle the Santa myth on their own, as Lincoln did.

Studies suggest that for many kids, the myth fades around age seven, but for some kids, it's sooner, and that's okay.

Writing for The Conversation, Kristen Dunfield, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Concordia University, suggests that when kids come to parents with the hard questions about Santa, parents may feel a bit sad, but can take some comfort in "recognizing these challenging questions for what they are—cognitive development in action."

Kids aren't usually the ones who are upset when they figure it out, researchers note. Typically, kids are kind of proud of themselves for being such great detectives. It's the parents who feel sadness.

Some parents may not choose to be as blunt as Shepard, and that's okay, too. According to Dunfield, if you don't want to answer questions about Santa with 100% truth, you can answer a question with a question.

"If instead you want to let your child take the lead, you can simply direct the question back to them, allowing your child to come up with explanations for themselves: "I don't know, how do you think the sleigh flies?" Dunfield writes.

While Dax Shepard acknowledges that telling a 3-year-old that Santa is pretend might be controversial, he's hardly the first parent to present Santa this way. There are plenty of healthy, happy adults whose parents told them the truth.

LeAnne Shepard is one of them. Now a mother herself, LeAnne's parents clued her into the Santa myth early, for religious reasons that were common in her community.

"In the small Texas town where I grew up, I wasn't alone in my disbelief. Many parents, including mine, presented Santa Claus as a game that other families played," she previously wrote. "That approach allowed us to get a picture on Santa's lap, watch the Christmas classics, and enjoy all the holiday festivities so long as we remembered the actual reason for the season. It was much like when I visited Disney World and met Minnie Mouse; I was both over the moon excited and somewhat aware that she was not actually real."

No matter why you want to tell your children the truth about Santa, know that it's okay to let the kids know that he's pretend. Kristen Bell's kids prove that knowing the truth about Santa doesn't have to make Christmas any less exciting. Pretending can be magical, too.

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Last year my sons and I gave my wife the one thing every mom really wants every now and then: the absence of us.

We woke up that morning, kissed her on the cheek, and got out of dodge. Ten hours later we returned to find her eating carrot cake in a bathrobe and listening to podcasts.

Like so many dads when they do any solo-parenting, I posted a picture to Facebook. It got a big response, with more moms than I expected saying that's just what they wanted, too. I'm not an expert in presents or parenting, but consider this my recommendation to dads to make "taking the kids and leaving" this year's gift for moms—and a much bigger part of your regular life.

Don't get me wrong, we love my wife Kate. She's everyone's favorite family member. She's brilliant and funny and full of adventure. She's both the strongest person I know and the most caring. She's amazing at freeze dancing. She can name one million Pokemon. She knows instantly which injuries need Band-aids and which need kisses... and which, like me stabbing my hand trying to open a coconut with a kitchen knife, need the ER.

That's precisely why on her birthday we needed to get out of there. For a few hours Kate didn't have to do our emotional labor or be the default parent. No one asked her to make his brother return a toy or to check the tone in an email. She didn't have to perform appreciation for a breakfast in bed we would have made wrong. For one day, she didn't have to take care of anyone. It's embarrassing this is rare, but I admit in my family it is.

This brings up some big questions.

Why couldn't we have just stayed and taken care of her for a change? Did we really have to leave?

The answer is yes, at least for now. Our family's modes should include times when we're all around and Kate's not working, but they just don't.

When the kids need a Lego separated, it's her name they yell first down the stairs. If they're bored and looking to gin up some interaction, it's her lap they cannonball onto from the back of the couch. And that all goes for me, too, only without the Legos and cannonballs (mostly). That means whenever we're with Kate she has to be at some level of "on."

She shouldn't have to feel like the decision-maker, problem-solver, and nurturer in chief whenever she's in the same house as her husband and children, but she does. That means, for now, the quickest way to free her from that burden is just for us to get out that door.

That brings us to the biggest questions.

Does one day make a difference when there's such an everyday imbalance in the parenting load?

If Kate shoulders so much of the practical and emotional labor in our house that a day on her own can be a *literal* gift, what does that say about us?

It says a lot of things, but here's the main one: we need to change. If you'd asked us on our wedding day if our plan for raising a family was to divide the load unequally, we'd have both said "no way." But here we are.

So what do we do about it?

Well, the better question is what do I do about it. The problem is—I need to transform my share of the work around here. It can't be on Kate to solve that, too. That means I need to step up, to start doing much more not only of the caretaking and meal-planning and cooking, but the playdate-scheduling, doctor appointment-making, and child-life-organizing.

Leaving the house for one day doesn't turn me into a co-primary parent, but maybe it can be a jump-start. Sometimes the best way to begin changing habits is to create situations where those habits are impossible.

I might not have the strength to change our caretaking patterns when all four of us are together, but if it's just me and the boys with mom inaccessible, no one has another choice. The more days where I'm the primary parent, the more all four of us get accustomed to me in the role we're used to just having Mom in.

Kate might be superior to me in every aspect of parenting—which makes sense, given she's been practicing more than I have for eight years—but it's important to remember that a shared load is better for everyone. Of course it's better for her, but it's so much better for the boys, too. And it's better for me.

Our children are wonderful, hilarious and exquisite tiny humans. The focus on my 5-year-old's round face as he tries to make a card tower. The sound of my 7-year-old's boot cracking a puddle of ice as he walks to school. Pokemon. I miss all that when I'm not leaned forward as a parent.

And it's now or never. I've been a father for eight years. In 10 more, if we're lucky, our oldest will be in college. Childhoods go by fast. If don't become a better dad now, when will I?

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Breakfast is often said to be the most important meal of the day, but in many households, it's also the most hectic. Many parents rely on pre-prepared items to cut down on breakfast prep time, and if Jimmy Dean Heat 'n Serve Original Sausage Links are a breakfast hack in your home, you should check your bag.

More than 14 tons of the frozen sausage links are being recalled after consumers found bits of metal in their meat.

The United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service announced the recall of 23.4-oz. pouches of Jimmy Dean HEAT 'n SERVE Original SAUSAGE LINKS Made with Pork & Turkey with a 'Use By' date of January 31, 2019.

"The product bears case code A6382168, with a time stamp range of 11:58 through 01:49," the FSIS notes.

In a statement posted on its website, Jimmy Dean says "a few consumers contacted the company to say they had found small, string-like fragments of metal in the product. Though the fragments have been found in a very limited number of packages, out of an abundance of caution, CTI is recalling 29,028 pounds of product. Jimmy Dean is closely monitoring this recall and working with CTI to assure proper coordination with the USDA. No injuries have been reported with this recall."

Consumers should check their packages for "the establishment code M19085 or P19085, a 'use by' date of January 31, 2019 and a UPC number of '0-77900-36519-5'," the company says.

According to the FSIS, there have been five consumer complaints of metal pieces in the sausage links, and recalled packages should be thrown away.

If you purchased the recalled sausages and have questions you can call the Jimmy Dean customer service line at (855) 382-3101.

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Flying with a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old isn't easy under optimal conditions, and when the kids are tired and cranky, things become even harder.

Many parents are anxious when flying with kids for exactly this reason: If the kids get upset, we worry our fellow passengers will become upset with us, but mom of two Becca Kinsey has a story that proves there are more compassionate people out there than we might think.

In a Facebook post that has now gone viral, Kinsey explains how she was waiting for her flight back from Disney World with her two boys, Wyatt, 2, and James, 5, when things started to go wrong, and the first of three kind women committed an act of kindness that meant so much.

After having to run all over the airport because she'd lost her ID, Kinsey and her boys were in line for security and she was "on the verge of tears because Wyatt was screaming and James was exhausted. Out of the blue, one mom stops the line for security and says 'here, jump in front of me! I know how it is!'" Kinsey wrote in her Facebook post.

Within minutes, 2-year-old Wyatt was asleep on the airport floor. Kinsey was wondering how she would carry him and all the carry-ons when "another mom jumps out of her place in line and says 'hand me everything, I've got it.'"

When Kinsey thanked the second woman and the first who had given up her place in line they told her not to worry, that they were going to make sure she got on her flight.

"The second woman takes evvvverything and helps me get it through security and, on top of all that, she grabs all of it and walks us to the gate to make sure we get on the flight," Kinsey wrote.

Kinsey and her boys boarded, but the journey was hardly over. Wyatt wolk up and started "to scream" at take off, before finally falling back asleep. Kinsey was stressed out and needed a moment to breathe, but she couldn't put Wyatt down.

"After about 45 min, this angel comes to the back and says 'you look like you need a break' and holds Wyatt for the rest of the flight AND walks him all the way to baggage claim, hands him to [Kinsey's husband], hugs me and says "Merry Christmas!!" Kinsey wrote.


It's a beautiful story about women helping women, and it gets even better because when Kinsey's Facebook post started to go viral she updated it in the hopes of helping other parents take their kids to Disney and experience another form of stress-relief.

"What if everyone that shared the story went to Kidd's Kids and made a $5 donation?! Kidd's Kids take children with life-threatening and life-altering conditions on a 5 day trip to Disney World so they can have a chance to forget at least some of the day to day stressors and get to experience a little magic!!"

As of this writing, Kinsey has raised more than $2,000 for Kidd's Kids and has probably inspired a few people to be kind the next time they see a parent struggling in public.

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