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I woke up early today, in the mood for an adventure.

It is a Sunday, mid-May, and the biting New England winter has finally retracted its fangs. I’ve just discovered that the unshapely, leafless monstrosity in the front yard of our new home, purchased in winter, is a lilac bush. And nearby, lily of the valley spring delicate white bells from their centers. I couldn’t be more pleased with having moved to a place where two of my favorite scents are already growing wild and plentiful, and it’s primed me for a great day.

I could take the kids to Montreal, a short drive from our home. I could drive them to the nearby Green Mountains. I could ferry our car across Lake Champlain and explore the quaint little city of Plattsburgh on the other side. I could drive until we feel lost, as my grandmother used to do with me and my brother as a way of getting us out of our routines and out of the house.

But I won’t be doing any of those things because today we are scheduled to attend another birthday party for one of my son’s classmates. The boy is turning seven. The invitation says the party runs from 2:30 to 8:00 p.m., which I’m hoping is a typo.

Our whole day will revolve around this event, though my son and the birthday boy have never visited each other outside of school. I will wrap a gift for this child, whose parents’ names I can barely recall. (The mom’s is something with an A, I’m certain. Amanda? Ashley? I’ve got no guesses at the dad’s name, and thus plan to avoid speaking to him or greeting him with a “Hey, you!” which creates an unwarranted intimacy.)

I will ensure my son doesn’t overdo it with physical activity during the first half of the day so as to prevent a hideous meltdown during the hours of bowling, laser tag, arcade playing, and sugar-binging that will ensue this afternoon.

The party invitation says that the birthday boy wants everyone to wear their favorite super hero costume, a fine-print detail that I failed to read when I RSVP’d a week ago, but which my son now insists—mere hours before we are to arrive—is non-negotiable. What fun! Thanks for that, kid!

Unfortunately, all I’ve got on hand are a size 3T Superman outfit for his size 7 body, a toddler-sized Buzz Lightyear get-up, and last year’s red ninja outfit, which my son has made clear will not cut it. After a tearful outburst, I assure my son that mommy can sew (hello, home-ec class 22 years ago). We resolve to make a makeshift cape and mask by hand, because I’m not about to run out to the store for a $30 costume. I refuse.

I feel comfortable dropping my son off for this party because he is independent and responsible for his age. But before I commit to that decision, I will have to take the parental temperature of the party. Are other parents dropping their kids off, or are they sticking around like flies?

Will they feel like they have to babysit my son if I choose not to stay? Will they see me as irresponsible, or as a freeloader? Are there other solo parents, like me, who typically care for their kids alone on weekends, and therefore have no place to stash younger, cake-fiend siblings during the party? We shall see.

I protest these parties for a few core reasons. First, the cost. The parties aren’t cheap to put on and every time another kid has an expensive, themed birthday party with fancy loot to boot, my kid wants one for his birthday and I become the bad parent who doesn’t love him enough to give him the party of his dreams.

Second, the celebration seems insincere. I want to make my son feel loved and special on his birthday, too, but a room full of semi-strangers doesn’t qualify, in my opinion.

Third, small talk. Oh, the small talk you will make at these parties. I find it really disingenuous to be welcomed into conversation by parents who I regularly see at drop off and pick up who have never gone out of their way to speak to me then. Will we be friends now? I wonder after these birthday parties. I’ve learned that mostly, we won’t be. Mostly, we don’t have much in common other than same-aged kids. And that’s okay.

It’s for the kids, you might be thinking. It’s not about you. You’re being selfish. I agree, it is for the kids. But do the kids need to be made to feel like little kings and queens? I would argue that these no-holds-barred parties contribute to the more worrisome qualities of today’s youth—a sense of entitlement, a “more is more” attitude, a self-validating superficial social network.

I don’t want that for my kid, and I don’t want that for yours.

I propose that we stop the lavish parties. That we cull back the invite list to a handful of friends—some number of kids a parent or two can comfortably supervise without asking all the other parents to stick around and give up their coveted weekends in exchange for awkward small talk.

That we focus on honoring our growing little ones without dipping into our savings accounts, without meltdown-inducing stimulation and diabetic blood sugar levels. That we create meaningful interaction between party-goers, rather than resentment and one-upmanship.

These parties create a difficult parenting dilemma: do I cling to my beliefs at the expense of my son’s social well-being? I shouldn’t have to make this decision. I don’t want him to feel left out, or worse, punished, by not allowing him to go to the party.

But I also don’t want him to get the wrong message and I refuse to give him a similar party for his upcoming birthday.

How can I teach my kid what’s important when other parents are handing out expensive gift bags stuffed with Star Wars swag? How can I convince him that my simple homemade yellow cake and buttercream frosting is just as good as the hundred-dollar themed cake in the shape of Darth Vader’s head he enjoyed at his friend’s party? How can I make him feel loved on his birthday when he’s equating love with the size and scope of the party?

Parents, hear me: Let’s find another way.

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Dear Jeff Bezos and all who have anything to do with Amazon Prime Day,

I just want to start by saying—I know you are trying to be helpful. I love you all for that. I honestly do. But, you are kind of making me feel a lot of pressure today. Like, in a good way, but also, in an anxious way.

Let me explain…

On any given day, as a mother to three children, I have a certain level of anxiety. While it's not constant, I do have my anxious moments. Why? Because there are various versions of the following: Me asking my two older daughters to get their shoes on what feels like 500 times as I am changing my 9-month-old's very, very, very messy diaper while I am trying to figure out what I can throw on to wear in about five seconds while I am repeating brush your teeth, brush your teeth in my head so I, in fact, don't forget to brush my teeth.

Not even to mention the mental load that weighs on my mind every single day. Remember to flip the laundry, fill out the school forms, cancel that appointment, reschedule this appointment, order more diapers, figure out what we're having for dinner, squeeze in a shower, lock the basement door so the baby can't get down the stairs, find better eczema cream for my middle daughter, get more sunscreen...the list goes on and on and on.

But then you Amazon Prime Day me and I'm having a lot of feelings about that.

Because you're reminding me of things I need to order, to think about, to be on top of more.

The little potty that's on sale reminds me that I need to step up my potty training game for my 2-year-old. That super cute dollhouse reminds me that I need to think about my daughter's first birthday in two months (WHAT!). That face mask reminds me that I need to remember to wash my face before bed because I forget waaaay more than I remember which is terrible.

But then I realize, these deals are going to save my mental load by fixing my life. Right?

Like, I never knew I needed an Instant Pot until you told me it was only $58. Now I am scouring Pinterest for meals I want to prep in my own. THIS POT IS THE TICKET TO GETTING MY LIFE IN ORDER.

Do we need more plates and cups for the kids? I mean really they only probably need about two plates and two cups each but YES. Yes I do need more cute kids kitchenware. THESE PLATES ARE THE TICKET TO BEING A GOOD MOM.

What would I do if I had five Echo Dots? I don't know, but let's find out because they're only $29! THESE DOTS ARE THE TICKET TO EFFICIENCY.

If I order a Vitamix at 30% off, I know I'll lose the baby weight. Think of all the smoothies I'll mix up! I mean, I just lost a pound even thinking about the smoothies that thing can whip up. THIS VITAMIX IS THE TICKET TO A SEXY BOD.

Buying this trendy, floral dress will step up my mom style significantly. THIS DRESS IS THE TICKET TO KEEPING MY COOL.

Okay, then after I add all the fixers to my cart, I realize… I have 99 things, but necessity ain't one.

I mean, I have everything from waterproof band-aids to bras to dresses for myself and my kids to an alarm clock and books. I basically feel like Oprah—You get an Audible subscription! You get an Audible subscription!—but instead of these products magically being paid for by Queen O herself, the money is coming from my bank account, which is a lot less fun of a game, TBH.

And if I am being honest, I don't need much help with my order-things-from-Amazon-and-pretend-it's-being-paid-for-with-Monopoly-money game as I am quite often coming home to an Amazon package wondering what it could be, opening it with the enthusiasm of a kid on Christmas morning—even though I am the exact person who ordered whatever is inside of that Amazon box.

But today, on Amazon Prime Day, you tempt me with all the deals. And yes, my anxiety, blood pressure and adrenaline rise. And yes, my bank account might temporarily decrease—BUT if we are being fair, with the savings I'm getting on things I would buy anyway, I am basically making our account increase overall. Right?

And while these things aren't going to make me skinnier, or cooler, or more put together—I'm okay with that. I am doing a pretty good job on my own. But some of them will actually help my life in a few different ways at a reasonable price, and I am grateful for that—for real.

Now, Bezos, please end this 404 error nonsense and let me purchase all the things!

Thank you for all the savings and excitement,

Mamas everywhere

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Usually when celebrities post swimsuit photos on Instagram they don't exactly look like your average beach-going mom, but former Bachelorette (and mom of two) Ali Fedotowsky posted a series of bikini photos on Monday that are both beautiful and relatable.

"This might be my most vulnerable post on Instagram ever," she wrote in the caption for the photos which show a postpartum belly that looks like a real postpartum belly.

"At the end of the day, I know it's important to be open and honest about my postpartum body in hopes that it helps even one person out there who is struggling with their own body image," Fedotowsky (who just gave birth to her second child in May) wrote.

In the first photo of the series she's wearing a sarong around her stomach, but in the second and third photos Fedotowsky reveals the kind of stomach many mamas sport: It's not perfectly taut, she's not showing off any abs, but it is definity beautiful.

"If you swipe to see the second photo in this post, you see that my body has changed. My skin around my stomach is very loose and stretched out, I'm 15lbs heavier than I used to be, and my cup size has grown quite significantly," Fedotowsky writes.

The photos are a sponsored post for Lilly and Lime Swimwear (a line made for women with larger busts) but that doesn't mean it wasn't brave. In fact, the fact that it's an ad makes it even more amazing because research shows that when advertising only shows us bodies that don't look like our own, women become "generally more dissatisfied with their body and appearance".

Ali Fedotowsky

On her blog Fedotowsky notes that a lot of comments on her previous Instagram posts have been followers remarking how slim she looks, or how much they wish they looked like she does postpartum. By dropping that sarong and showing her tummy Fedotowsky is showing other mothers that there is nothing wrong with their own.

"While I appreciate the positive comments, you guys are always so good to me, I keep trying to explain that I'm just good at picking out clothes that flatter my body and hide my tummy," she wrote on her blog.

"I bounced back pretty quickly after I gave birth to Molly. But things are different this time and I'm OK with that. I'm learning to love my body and embrace how it's changed. I hope I get back to my pre-pregnancy shape one day, but that may never happen. And if it doesn't, that's OK."

Ali Fedotowsky

It is okay, because our bodies are more than our swimsuit selfies. They the vessels that carry us through life and carry our children and provide a safe, warm place for those children feel love.

Loose skin is a beautiful thing.

Thanks for keeping it real, Ali.

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Amazon shoppers were anxiously awaiting the countdown to Amazon Prime Day, but when the clock struck one, er three, the website went down.

On Monday afternoon shoppers were trying to get their hands on the much-hyped Prime Day deals but instead of low prices, many users just saw 404 errors, continuously refreshing pages, or had issues keeping or adding items to their shopping carts.

CNBC reports shares of Amazon were down during the shopping glitch, and many shoppers took to Twitter and Instagram to discuss how all they could see on Amazon were the dogs who decorate the site's 404 pages.

As cute as the dogs are, shoppers are getting tired of seeing them, so hopefully Amazon gets things back up and running soon. Analysts had projected Amazon would rake in $3 billion dollars this Prime Day. Time will tell how much of that was lost during the great dog picture debacle of 2018.

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"Say you're sorry!"

"Go apologize and mean it."

"You don't sound like you're sorry to me."

"She won't want to be your friend anymore if you don't apologize right now."

Sound familiar? This is a hot topic for many parents. We want our kids to have good manners, to truly feel and show compassion for another, to want to apologize from a heartfelt and authentic place—yet when we tell them to say they're sorry, what are we really communicating?

I think:

  • I need you to apologize so I can feel better about what just happened...
  • This is how we fix problems...
  • I need you to do what I say ...
  • You need me to tell you how to feel and behave...
  • I'm in control...(bigger and stronger wins)
  • Integrity is secondary to apologies—what you do doesn't have to be aligned with how you feel or think... just do it anyway.

Whew. Maybe not the message we really want to give.

Yes, manners are important and apologies are necessary. But, encouraging the growth of this from within—a genuine desire to (re)connect and show compassion, being in our integrity—is essential for healthy relationships.

Think about it. How might you feel if, after being hurt deeply by a friend they brushed you off with a cursory, "I'm sorry" or after a tearful yelling match with your teen that left you feeling raw, your spouse said, "How could you lose it like that?! You need to go apologize to him!"

I'd venture to say you might feel more hurt, maybe misunderstood and alone, or even mad.

Often, situations our children are in that we catch ourselves telling them to apologize are defined by just the same kinds of feelings. Hurt whether they are the one doing the hurting or being hurt; frustrated and mad that their favorite toy was grabbed, a cool idea rejected, some other injustice experienced; misunderstood because their feelings and thoughts weren't respected, because the adult missed all that led up to the conflict, because they weren't listened to; alone because they are misunderstood, not listened to, hurt on the inside, feeling rejected; MAD because they really didn't like what their buddy did and their feelings overflowed.

Having your child say "I'm sorry" is going to do very little for a child to grow an understanding of how they feel, why they feel, what they can do with all these feelings—all precursors to compassion.

The words I'm sorry" are more often about our need, not our child's. So what can you do to grow the genuine, integrity based, heartfelt ability to apologize?

1. Role model, always

Be genuine with your own apologies. Voice compassion for your child, others, and their situation.

2. Name and affirm feelings of all parties involved.

Just think, if your spouse, following the tearful yelling match with your teen, had said, "Honey that was really tough. Let me hold you for a minute while you pull yourself together," how might you now feel? How might that change the next step you took? I bet you'd feel connected, understood, cared for, and in a better position to now re-connect with your son and apologize for losing it. And it would have come from a genuine place within you.

3. Give choices or ideas.

"What can you do to help him feel better?"

"When you are ready to let her know you feel sorry, she'll appreciate it."

"Can you use your words or would you like to show her you feel sorry?"

Words, smiles, pats, sharing a toy, playing next to—these are all authentic ways kids can show they are sorry.

4. Notice what your child chooses or does on their own to express their apology and their feelings and name it.

"Thank you for offering your special stuffed guy to your friend. You wanted to help him feel better. What a nice thing to do to let him know you felt sorry."

And now you are helping your child learn a bit more about what healthy, caring relationships look like. Genuine apologies are on their way. It takes time to grow a child who can tap into their inner selves and respond with compassion and honesty in a difficult situation. Time, patience, and gentle guidance... trust this. "I'm sorry" will follow... and be truly meant.

Relationship building all around.

Originally published on Denali Parent Coaching.

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