Happy Father’s Day to the BEST Father Out There!

Early on in our relationship, I remember how much you wanted to be a dad. You could barely wait to become a father, and that  desire is one of the many reasons why I fell so madly in love with you.

We started trying for a family shortly after we got married, yet month after month for two years, I was unable to grant you fatherhood. Your journey to fatherhood would prove to be full of grief, pain, confusion and loss, yet you kept such a positive outlook on life. It took us two years to conceive Braxton, but when that happened, I can’t even begin to express the amount of love and admiration I had for you. Obviously, I already loved you and admired you in ways I couldn’t quite explain, but there is something about seeing the man you love become a father, that you can’t even begin to put into words.

After our son was about 6 months old, we immediately started trying for baby #2. This part of our infertility journey was the hardest, because we experienced a lot of loss, heartache, pain and grief in just  a few months time. After our miscarriage in November, last year, we had pretty much decided to stop trying for children. We were tired of fertility treatment and procedures. We just wanted to live and enjoy life with our toddler.

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I still remember that chilly, yet sunny, January morning when I called you in a slight panic. I had taken a pregnancy test, and it was positive. You were shocked as was I. Blood work and an ultrasound later that day would prove we were expecting our second miracle baby. In only a few short months, we will be welcoming our second son, and I cannot wait to see you with both of our boys.

I’m thankful each and every day that our sons are being raised by a man of integrity, faith, compassion, respect and love. I am confidant that our sons will grow to be kind and loving spouses and fathers like you.

Thank you for all of the hours you put in at work in order to provide for our family. Thank you for getting up at 5:30 a.m. to get ready for your 7 a.m. shift and for working nearly 7 days a week each week. Thank you for spending hours a week fixing up our forever home and working outside in our yard. Thank you for playing, supporting, loving and teaching our son so many things. And lastly, thank you for being an amazing husband.

The only thing better than having you as my husband is our sons having you as their father. We are so blessed to have you!

Happy Father’s Day! We ALL love you!

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20 Things You Actually Need in Your Hospital Bag

As a momma to one (and another one the way) it’s no surprise that when I was preparing my hospital bag for our first, I did a lot of research and asked a lot of questions from those who had previously given birth. So, what do you pack in a hospital bag? There are wants and needs, but there are also necessities-items you will most certainly need and use during your hospital stay.

Here are some things the hospital provides during your hospital stay. Confirm with your hospital just in case.

  • Mesh underwear– They’re pretty fantastic, considering, so snag a few if you can before you leave.
  • Diapers and wipes– There will be some in your hospital room, but it’s important to pack your own as well.
  • Ice Pack Pads– Your lady parts will be sore, and these bad boys will help soothe them.
  • Spray Bottle– This was a must have for me when I went to the restroom following giving birth. The water helped to dilate the urine and provided some relief from burning.
  • Pacifier: My son LOVED the hospital pacifier, but you might want to bring an extra just in case.

Here are 16 things you’ll want to bring in your hospital bag:

  • Breast Pump– You might not need this right away as a woman’s milk supply can come in at different times, but bring it just in case.
  • Socks– My hospital room was cold, so I was happy to have packed some socks.
  • Phone charger– This is important especially if you plan on keeping your family and friends updated and plan on taking pictures.
  • Loose/Comfy Pants– Make sure you have some comfy pants to wear during your hospital stay. You’ll want to wear some pants with an elastic band that aren’t super tight around your mid section.
  • Nursing/Comfy Shirts & bras– You’re going to be laying/sitting quite a bit, so make sure you have some comfy shirts packed. Having ones that are convenient for nursing are a bonus.
  • Underwear– Grab yourself a few comfy pairs of underwear. Bring some that you’re able to wear a pantyliner with. Grab those pantyliner also! Make sure they’re not super tight, either.
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste– Keep those teeth clean!
  • Clothes for Your Spouse– If your spouse is planning on spending the few days with you in the hospital, make sure to grab him some clothes including pants, shirts, boxers/briefs, PJ’s and socks. My husband did go home the second night to care for our pups and shower, so we only needed a few clothing items for him.
  • Blanket and Clothes for your Newborn– The hospital will provide a sleeper for your baby, but bring some newborn clothes, blanket and some socks for your new addition.
  • Glasses/Contacts– If you wear contacts and/or glasses, make sure you bring them both along with their storage containers and cleaning supplies.
  • Pre-Installed Car Seat– Make sure your car seat has been safely secured BEFORE going to the hospital to make sure it’s in correctly.
  • Reading Material– Like I mentioned earlier, you’ll be sitting/lying during most of your visit, so bring a good book or a few magazines for you and your spouse.
  • Healthy Snacks– You’ll get meals during your stay, but bring some snacks to enjoy for you and your spouse!
  • Boppy– I was so happy I brought our boppy. It made lounging and nursing way more comfortable and convenient.
  • Pantyliner’s– Trust me, just bring some.
  • Deodorant- You don’t want to smell, do you?

Here are some optional items to consider:

  • Make-up– I brought make-up, but some people prefer not to. It’s your choice.
  • Hair Dryer/Brush– These are not provided in your hospital room, so if you want your hair looking nice, consider bringing these items.
  • Bathrobe– Depending on the time of year, you might want to consider bringing your bathrobe. My first son was born in March-the night of a snowstorm- so having one was perfect, but our next son is due in September, so I doubt I’ll bring it this time around.
  • Camera– You can certainly use your smart phone for taking photos, but you might want to consider bringing your main camera as well.

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Have your bags packed a few weeks prior to your due date. Our son was over two weeks early, so we were glad to have had our bags packed and ready to go!

Have you given birth before? What did you have in your hospital bag?

6 Difficult Lessons I’ve Learned in Six Years of Marriage

I’d be lying if I said that marriage was easy. It certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s for the ones willing to risk it all who are brave enough to open their hearts to someone else on a level they have never done before.

Finding that person you’re to share the rest of your life with is beautiful and so incredible, and I wouldn’t trade my marriage or my spouse for anything or anyone.

One thing I think I should point out, and you’ve all seen it, is that social media portrays a picture perfect marriage. One without struggle, heartbreak, disagreements, messiness and  hard times. It’s unrealistic and I’m here to set the record straight. Struggles are legitimate and very real. It’s important that everyone has a realistic picture of what marriage is really like.

With that said, here are 6 lessons I’ve learned in my six years of marriage. Lessons that are great and informative and others that are difficult. Either way, regardless of the lesson, they’re important to share.

Date Nights are Planned

Gone are the days when we can have spontaneous moments and date nights. We used to be able to just go out to dinner or leave on a mini road-trip with little or no thought, but now every plan we make, has to be thoroughly discussed and oftentimes planned out days or weeks ahead of time. When we started adding children into the mix, we had to strongly consider if eating out was worth the mess and chaotic scene we would experience at the restaurant. When we want to go away for the weekend, our truck looks as though we’re moving because of all the things we must pack to accommodate our children and our dogs.

Date night includes scheduling out a few days or weeks and ensuring we have a babysitter or family member available to watch our son.

Every moment has to be planned. Spontaneity doesn’t exist anymore for us, so it’s important to make time for each other.

Parenting Adds New Dynamics into Marriage

It’s challenging to be a parent, and there are days my husband and I wonder if we’re failing as parents. Some days I want to lock myself in the closet just to get some quiet time, but the stresses, successes, challenges and triumphs make our marriage that much stronger, yet weaker depending on the day and the season.

We disagree from time to time when it comes to parenting. We get worn down, frustrated and zapped of all energy, which can take a toll on a marriage. There are other times when parenting makes our marriage so much more beautiful, interesting and so full of love that it makes it all worth it. We learn crucial lessons as parents and as spouses to one another.

Finances Become a Heated Argument (at times)

I’m in charge of our finances as far as budget and paying our bills, and as our family grows, budgeting became more challenging. Do you guys have any idea how expensive diapers are? Holy crap, they’re expensive!

With us both working full-time as well as working on our books and running a business on the side, and being parents, it’s important that we sit down and discuss our finances monthly.

When we work together and both have an understanding of our finances, it really allows us to be on the same page and team.

Give Each Other a Break

Work together to give each other a break from time to time. By letting your spouse sleep in on the weekend or help taking on some household chores allowing them to relax and gives them a much needed mental health day.

I always encourage my husband to go out with his friends every few weeks. I know he needs the break from parenting and spousal responsibilities, and he knows that I need the same, so we work together to make this work for us both.

We actually encourage each other to take some time if we need it, even if it’s just a few minutes to enjoy a hot cup of coffee in the morning or escaping to do some hard work for a few hours. We both enjoy a bit of peace without our children, and that’s perfectly OK!

Support and Be there for Each Other Regardless of the Season

One thing we do really well within our marriage is support each other. We have gone through a lot in the 6 years we’ve been married and almost 9 years of being together: loss of a parent, cancer diagnosis of another parent, surgeries, career changes, moves, infertility and infant loss. We’ve been through enough  to break us, yet we have been supportive and been there for each other throughout it all.

My husband is my #1 fan. I’m not just saying that! He truly is so encouraging, supportive, and motivating, and I try to be those things for him as well.

We aren’t perfect and we still lose our tempers and argue at times, but we’re a work in progress. We are grateful to have each other and to have such supportive spouses.

Have an Open Line of Communication and Speak Your Mind

We are both guilty of speaking our minds. Sometimes we do this before thinking about what we’re saying, so there are times when we say things we really didn’t think through first that may be hurtful. We encourage each other to communicate and speak our minds whether it means discussing tough topics, serious topics or light-hearted topics.

Rather than bottling up what’s on my mind and then having it boil up inside of me resulting in an argument that probably wasn’t necessary in the first place, I’m able to avoid it through openly discussing it. I encourage him to do the same! When we’re upset or stressed, I want us to be able to come to each other and talk things out. That’s an incredibly important part of a marriage.

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Our marriage is far from perfect, but it’s pretty darn perfect for us. We’ve learned a lot in our six years of marriage that have truly made us stronger. We’ve had our fair share of arguments and challenges, but they’ve only helped us grow closer and learn to work together more!

We continue to work, every day, at strengthening our marriage, planning our future together and regularly discussing our finances, our children and life in general. I’m truly fortunate to be married to my spouse, and I’m looking forward to all that the future has to hold for us!

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10 Tips to Stay Madly In Love with Your Spouse

The truth is, I’m madly in love with my spouse. He’s the man I chose to “do” life with, through sickness and in health. We have our share of disagreements and we drive each other mad sometimes, but at the end of the day, we have navigated through this life through 6 years of marriage, 9 years of dating, 1 child and another one the way, multiple career changes and a few moves. It’s been hairy at times, but through it all, we are stronger than in the beginning.

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Love is a choice, not just a feeling, and it’s up to us to team up, partner up, parent together and navigate through life no matter what is thrown our way.

So, how have we been able to get through all of the ups and downs and remain so in love? Here are 10 tips or suggestions on staying madly in love with your spouse.

  1. Show Gratitude:  Thank each other daily for the individual tasks and duties being done by each other.
  2. Encourage One Another: Be each others biggest fans. Motivate and encourage each other daily!
  3. Don’t Compete: Don’t try to one and up each other. Parenting is not a competition, and it’s pointless to compare whose day was harder.
  4. Accept your Body: Don’t beat up your body in front of your spouse. My husband thoroughly dislikes when I criticize my body because he loves my body regardless of the season (pregnancy or non-pregnancy). He did marry me when I was almost 20 pounds heavier. 🙂
  5. Men, tell your Wife she’s Beautiful: This small gesture truly does go a long way. Compliment her mind and body.
  6. Be Affectionate: Make sure to start each and every day with a hug and kiss. The affection will be appreciated after a long day, and it may lead to even more affection!
  7. Make Time for one Another: Life is busy especially when you add kids into the mix. Try and secure a day each week where you can devote time for each other without kids. If once a week is too difficult, aim for twice a month.  This will allow you to reconnect on a relationship level.
  8. Be Patient with Each Other: We’re humans and we all make mistakes. Instead of being impatient with your spouse, grow and learn together.
  9. Protect your Marriage: There will always be outside influences who might threaten your marriage, but it’s important to actively protect your marriage and your spouse from such attacks.
  10. Respect Each Other: One of the most important things you can do in your relationship is to respect each other. Without respect, you’re left with very little.

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This is merely a benchmark to strive for in marriage, and although my husband and I don’t have them all down yet, we are certainly working towards it. When you’re constantly putting effort towards enriching, growing and enhancing your marriage, your children, your spouse and yourself will greatly benefit from it.

 

10 Ways to Raise a Happier Kid

We all want our kids to grow up happy, right? There are simple things we can do each and every day to ensure just that.

Here are 10 ways to raise a happier kid:

  1. Point out their Strengths by Complimenting them: Always make sure to compliment them on the things they’re good at. Compliment them and let them know how much you admire them for that strength.
  2. Let them Express their Feelings Openly: Let your child express their feelings regardless of if it’s frustration, happiness or some other feeling. This will reinforce the fact that you’re there for them and are there to listen to them and offer advice when needed.
  3. Avoid too much Screen Time: Encourage your child to enjoy the outdoors. This is pretty easy if you’re willing to be out there with them or if they have other kids their age nearby. By limiting their screen time, they are more likely to be more active. My husband and I both grew up outdoors, so it’s important for our children to also be outside as much as possible.
  4. Encourage their Friendships with other Great Kids: Encourage play-dates with other good kids. This reinforces good behavior and helps minimize the amount of facetime they could possibly have with kids that might not be the greatest influence on them.
  5. Teach them how to Pay Attention to Other’s Feelings: By teaching them how to understand other’s feelings, it’ll teach your child how to better communicate with them and possibly help them.
  6. Truly Listen to them when they’re Talking: We’re all guilty of it: Your child comes home from school and is so excited to tell you all about their day, but you’re still responding to work emails. This will make them feel  unimportant and over time they might be less likely to open up to you about things.
  7. Eat Dinner as a Family: Eating dinner as a family is a great time to have a conversation, discuss each other’s day and just spend time together. Sometimes it can be hard, but try to make it a point to do so.
  8. Have a Movie Night once a Week where they Pick the Movie or Have a fun Family outing: Try to have a movie night once a week where your child gets to pick it out. If you want to go out and do something, you can skip the movie night and hit the local miniature golf course. Just make sure you’re spending time together.
  9. Let Your Happiness Show: If you’re happy and you know it, share it! If your kid sees your happiness, it’s much easier for them to express their happiness.
  10. Reward them for Good Behavior or Grades: If your child is doing something great, try rewarding them every once in a while. If they’re maintaining good grades, take them out for their favorite ice cream. Whatever it might be, let them know you’ve noticed. This will reinforce the good behavior and let them know you’re paying attention.

If you practice these 10 tips, your child is more likely to be happy. There is enough negativity in the world, so lets try our best to make the world a bit brighter for our kiddos by showing them happiness.

Who’s in Charge? Take Back your Parental Authority with these 5 Tips!

You may be giving up your parental authority without even realizing it! You might be reinforcing their less-than-appealing behavior by not acting on your threat to discipline. Lets be honest here, we are all guilty of doing this whether we realize it or not. When showing your children who’s in charge, it’s important to consider the following:

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Photo Credit: London Scout

  1. Follow-through with discipline: When we threaten our children with discipline and then fail to act on it, it tells them that you have no intention of follow-through. If you threaten to take their favorite toy away for throwing it, then you must do it. This will help prove to them that if they misbehave and that even after a warning still does the same naughty behavior, that they will lose their toy for a period of time.
  2. Do not tolerate laziness: If you are constantly cleaning up after them, you’re only reinforcing the lazy behavior. They will realize that even if they create a mess, they won’t have to clean it up because you have cleaned it up in the past. Work with them on cleaning up their messes daily.
  3. Teach them respect: By ignoring their disrespect, you’re again reinforcing their behavior and their lack of respect for you will only deepen. You are giving them permission to trample on your rights as a parent. Our son says “Just leave me alone” or “Just go away” and we have to work with him and tell him that we will not leave him alone or go away. It’s a constant battle, but he needs to know that he can’t speak to us that way.
  4. Don’t let them lash out in emotion like crying and screaming: Children will cry and scream, but if we work with them on handling their emotions, we are able to better control the situation. As parents, we tend to cater to our crying or screaming child quickly especially if we’re out in public. This is your child’s way of you catering to them and their needs in that moment. Sure, it’ll be hard to not run to their side while those big blues are welding up with tears, but you’ll thank yourself down the road when your child realizes that crying or screaming won’t make you cater to them.
  5. Don’t allow for slow obedience: Oftentimes our child will openly admit that they don’t want to be punished, yet they don’t want to do what we are telling them to do in that moment.  Our son’s way of practicing slow obedience is by saying things like, “Just give me a minute,” or “After I finish playing.” They want to continue doing what they’re doing, but will acknowledge that you asked them to do something as well because they think it’s a win-win if they propose an alternative to your initial request. Remember that slow obedience is disobedience, and we, as parents, need to remain in charge. Don’t let them practice this.

 

 

If you want your children to grow up respecting parental authority, you need to take back your parental authority and get that healthy parent-child relationship back on track before it’s too late.

 

Chores for Kids (by age)

It’s never too early to get your kids active in helping with chores. Of course, based on their age, there will be limitations as to what they’re capable of doing, but it’s important to start them early so that they have the general concept of  chores down. As they get older, you can add more complex tasks onto their chore lists.

Here are some chores by age to help get your kids started.

Two Years Old

  • Encourage them to put away their toys. They may need help, but by putting their toys away, they become accustomed to putting them away as they grow
  • Have them find their socks and shoes and give them a few minutes to put them on
  • Have them place their dirty clothes in their laundry basket
  • Give them a broom and show them how to sweep floors. Again, they’ll get better at this task as they age

Three Years Old

  • Do all of the above, but they will have improved at these tasks by this time
  • Encourage them to place their toys in the correct bins
  • Though they may not be able to fold their laundry that great yet, show them where each item goes and have them place their clothes in the appropriate drawers
  • Have them go to the restroom by themselves. They might still need a bit of help, but they should be encouraged to to do as much of this task as possible
  • Encourage them to organize their shelves of books, dolls, toys, etc.
  • Show them how to use utensils correctly
  • Work with them on dressing themselves
  • Begin working with them on cleaning themselves in the bath and shower

Four Years Old

  • Should have improved at the above tasks
  • Set the table
  • Collect dirty dishes and have them sort them into the dishwasher and help wash necessary dishes
  • Make their own sandwich and prepare other small snacks and meals
  • They should be able to better clean themselves during bath and shower time
  • Show them how to use remotes and game consoles by themselves
  • Encourage them to pour their own drink
  • Start working with them to make their own bed

Five Years Old

  • They should be able to do the above tasks relatively independently at this point
  • Make their own bed
  • Work with them to build more complex sandwiches, snacks and meals
  • Show them how to set the table. Include plates, utensils, napkins, drinks, etc. Show them how to remove all the dirty dishes, place them in the dishwasher or wash a few and then dry them before putting them away in their designated areas.

Six to Eight Years Old

  • Should be able to perform all of the above tasks with relative ease
  • Sweep or vacuum
  • Rack and help with basic lawn and outside tasks
  • Get them involved in salad-making, baking and other complex tasks in the kitchen
  • Fold laundry and put them away
  • Manage allowance

Nine to Ten Years Old

  • Perform the above tasks with minimal supervision
  • Operate a washer and dryer
  • Introduce them to mowing the lawn
  • Wash the car
  • Clean bathrooms
  • Dust
  • Walk, wash and feed pets
  • Take trash to the curbs on trash days

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Photo Credit: Andy Fitzsimon

Middle Schoolers

  • Perform above tasks with ease
  • Wash, fold and put away their own laundry
  • Baby sitting and perform other tasks to earn allowance with supervision
  • Tidy rooms throughout the home
  • Mow the lawn, rack leaves and shovel snow
  • Clean out fridge
  • Vacuum and clean cars
  • Introduce them to kitchen appliance operation

High-Schoolers

  • Deep clean bathrooms
  • Deep clean other rooms throughout home
  • Make meals unsupervised
  • Iron clothes
  • Clean kitchen appliances
  • Drive younger siblings to school events, friends homes, etc.
  • Babysitting

By teaching your child to participate in chores at an early age, you’re less likely to receive push-back as they age. If you wait to introduce chores when they’re older, they may refuse to  do them and are more likely to fight you on them. By having your toddler start doing chores and by introducing them to more complicated chores through the years will set them up for success.

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Photo Credit: Hisu Lee photography

Jones Easter 2017

This Easter was so wonderful. It was full of family time, candy, Easter Egg Hunting, reflection and good food. Braxton was all about the Easter Egg Hunts this year, and he enjoyed the challenge of finding each and every egg. We had three for him because of that reason. We had one Saturday evening, one Sunday morning inside right when he woke up which lead to his Easter Basket and another one later Sunday afternoon at his grandma and grandpa’s house. The weather was beautiful, too!

 

It’s so fun to see the difference a year can make in the eyes of a toddler. He is beginning to understand the true meaning of Easter, and he participates much more in the Holiday.

He loved the Easter Basket’s he received!

He enjoyed his bubbles, gardening tools and the golf set the most! I’d be lying if I said he also didn’t thoroughly enjoy the candy.

As I mentioned, he really loved the Easter Egg hunts, especially at Grandma and Grandpa’s house!

It was a beautiful afternoon, and I’m so thankful Jason was home to enjoy it with Braxton and I.

I pray that you all had a beautiful Easter with your family and friends. I know we certainly did! God is good, and we are so thankful for the sacrifices Jesus made for us this special day and every day!

10 Habits of Wildy Successful People

We all grow up wanting to be successful. Success is measured differently for everyone, but most will agree that there are some habits that help define those who are most successful.

Here are 10 powerful habits to become wildly successful.

  1. Money Management: There are a ton of resources available to help teach you how to successfully manage your money. One of my personal favorites is The Millionaire Mind by Thomas J. Stanley. This book provides road maps of those who found their niches.
  2. Speed Learning: Focus on reading 15-20 pages a day. It can be from a book designed to help you become more organized or designed to help you focus more. Whatever it is, spend time reading each day.
  3. Set Goals: Write your goals down. Everything you wish to achieve should be written down and posted somewhere where you can view daily. Those who  set goals are more likely to earn twice as much as those who don’t write down goals.
  4. Wake up Early: Start waking up an hour earlier than you usually do. If you do the math, that’s 365 extra hours a year that you have to work towards the goals you have set for yourself.
  5. Visualization: Those who are able to successfully visualize are more likely to achieve their goals. One book I found quite fascinating was Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain. Gawain  explains how to use mental imagery as well as affirmations to produce positive changes in one’s life. The book contains exercises and meditations aimed at helping those seeking visualization obtain a more positive outlook on life, strengthened self-esteem, better health and relaxation.
  6. Prioritize: Focus on the most important task or tasks first, then work on getting those done. Once you’ve done that, you’re able to work through your “to-do’s” more efficiently and quickly.
  7. Diet and Exercise: By maintaining your diet and exercise, you’re equipped with more energy each day and it helps you maintain your health. When you’re feeling good, you’re much more likely to have the time and energy to work towards your goals. If you choose to ignore your health, you’ll lack energy and focus.
  8. Network: If you want to be successful, spend time with those that are successful. You’ll learn valuable information from them while building your personal network. If you choose to hang out with individuals who are not driven and lack the goals you have set, it’s easy to fall into bad habits and lose focus.
  9. Make a To-Do List: Make a to-do list each and every day with the things you need to get done for that day. If you’re unable to complete everything on that list, carry the undone items onto the next day’s to-do list and focus on those first.
  10. Find a Mentor: Finding a mentor is a great resource for you to bounce ideas off of, learn from and grow from. Finding a mentor in your industry will help you thrive.

If you’re on a mission to be the best version of yourself and create success, it’s important to implement these habits into your life. These habits will help keep you focused, they’ll help you grow, and they’ll teach you an incredible amount of information!

Be humble. Be kind. Be Hungry. And always be the hardest worker in the room.

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7 Steps to Becoming a More Patient Parent

Every night I pray that the next day I’ll have a little more patience. I wake up feeling like I can handle anything, but then my son decides he wants to grab my cup of water and and spills it onto the table where a book I was reading is sitting. I fly out of my seat yanking the book and other items affected by the water off of the table and yell at my son to sit down! And there it is…the start of another day where I’m lacking patience with my child.

It’s a roller-coaster, and at the end of the day, I seriously question my parenting. Do I yell too much? Am I not patient enough? How can I calmly deal with my rambunctious and curious three year old that doesn’t require yelling? I always told myself that when I became a parent that I’d do everything I could to be patient, loving and speak in a calm matter when my child was testing me. Man, did I underestimate this whole parenting thing.

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Here are 7 ways to become a more patient parent.

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