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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.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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There's so much noise.

All. The. Time.

It feels like it's 24 hours, 7 days a week.

There's whining, crying, chatting, banging, tapping, scratching, singing, buzzing, yelling, snoring, crunching, schlopping, chewing, slurping, stomping, clapping, singing, laughing.

There's sound machines with crashing waves coming at me around every corner. There's a baby (doll) crying, and then my real baby crying. There's toys going off even when no one is playing with them.

There's requests, questions, demands, negotiations, plans, adventures, stories, performances—at all times.

There's ringing phones, alarms going off, voicemails, television theme songs (Daniel Tiger, I'm looking at you), Moana and Sing soundtracks playing. There's random loud videos playing when you're scrolling through Facebook and think you have your phone on silent.

I even hear things when there's nothing to be heard. Like the baby crying when I'm in the shower and she's sleeping. Like a bang from someone falling when everyone is fine. Like Imagine Dragon's 'Thunder' when it's not even on but it's stuck in my head because my daughter has requested to play it over and over and over.

At times, it makes me feel like I am going crazy. Like my brain doesn't work because I can't think clearly because the noise is all-encompassing.

This noise, paired with the never-ending, running-forever list of things to do in my head is one of the areas of motherhood that is hard for me. Really, really hard. It triggers my anxiety more than anything else does.

Sometimes, I just want to sit in silence. Alone. Not listening to anything or anyone.

Sometimes, I just want to hear myself think.

Sometimes, I just want the whining to stop.

Sometimes, I just want the brain fog to go away and never come back.

But what I've realized is that this is part of motherhood. Of my journey. Because, I have three children and it's never going to be quiet.

I need to get used to the noise, embrace the noise and know when I need to step back and take a break from the noise.

And I am used to the noise on some level.

I function fairly well on a daily basis getting work done and to-do lists checked off and taking care of my (loud, but wonderful) children. When all of the noise is overwhelming me, I've gotten into the habit of taking deep breaths and focusing on my task at hand.

It's not perfect, but it's something.

And I can definitely embrace the noise—especially the lovely noises of childhood.

Because when I think about it—is there anything better than hearing my 4-year-old belt out 'Thunder'?

Is there anything better than hearing my 2-year-old giggle uncontrollably?

Is there anything better than hearing the coos of my 3-month-old?

Is there anything better than hearing one of my daughters say "I love you, Mama"? Or "See you later, alligator"?

Is there anything better than hearing cheers from my kids to celebrate their siblings' accomplishment? ("Lucy went potty! Yay!")

Is there anything better than hearing your preschooler say "sh-sh-shhhhh" over and over to soothe her newborn sister like she sees her parents doing?

No, nothing is better. Not even silence.

But there will be days when it feels like it's too much. And I just want to say—

It's okay.

It's okay to want to sit in silence.

It's okay to look forward to the quiet that nighttime offers.

It's okay to admit to ourselves that sometimes the noise is too much.

And it's normal.

Our brains can only handle so much at one time. So, be gentle on yourself, mama. I know I'm trying.

I am learning to recognize when I need to step back and take a break from the noise.

I stay up late sometimes to enjoy the quiet—to listen to my thoughts.

I wake up early sometimes—to meditate and look inward.

I plan "me time" outside of the house—to spend time with myself and decide on choosing noise or not.

I hop in the shower when my husband gets home—to hand over the noise for a while and enjoy only the sound of rushing water.

There are moments of motherhood that challenge me—mind, body and soul. The constant noise is one of them. But these challenges will never beat me. I love being my children's mother too much.

So on the days when the noise is taking over, know that you're not alone. And know that peace and quiet is potentially just a shower away.

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This past year, I was diagnosed with depression. I was fighting what I believed to be a stubborn case of PPD. I thought things would get better as my baby grew, when I wasn't postpartum anymore. I was in denial, not receiving any kind of help, and definitely not getting any better.

Finally, I sought out help from a doctor and was diagnosed with clinical depression and am now receiving treatment. Part of this treatment involved visiting with a therapist for the first time in my life in hopes of combating the powerful force of negativity that has insidiously planted itself inside my mind.

I learned something significant in that meeting: that my thoughts were caused by something that was physically going wrong inside of my brain. Deep down, I believed I had been allowing the darkness—that it, too, was my fault. I found hope in that meeting, the hope of rewiring my brain.

I now know there are steps I can take to change how I think, to find the true me again. That is why I am going to take better care of myself this year. In fact, that's the only resolution I care to make.

My therapist advised me to do an exercise that's proven difficult for me. I literally have positive affirmations about myself taped to my bathroom mirror. My sarcastic side really fights this. I envision that I'm wearing a colorful collared shirt or sweater combination (a la Stuart Smalley) as I repeat these mantras to myself. The truth is they're a powerful counterbalance to the way I normally think about who I am.

Most people struggle with this at one time or another. I think we could all benefit from practicing a little self-love.

So for this year, I resolve not to make any resolutions about losing weight. I am at a healthy weight, and although I would love to re-lose the 10 pounds I lost when I began depression medication, I will instead resolve to replace the negative thoughts I have about my body with healthy ones.

My critical observations regarding my body began very early for me, as they do for most women. It may take some time, but I'm going to work on appreciating my body for what it can do, instead of worrying about how it appears to others.

I resolve to be the best mom I can be. And that is only possible when I work on taking better care of myself. For many years, I've devoted myself completely to my children, believing it was best for them. But you can't pull water from an empty well, and this past year my well went dry.

I resolve to take more breaks, indulge in some mental health days, and spend more quality time with my family.

Society is hard on mothers, so I'm going to pull a Taylor Swift, and "shake it off." I will ignore the negative commentators who feel compelled to troll my writings. I will look to the positive instead of dwelling on the negative.

I will support and seek to uplift other mothers. We should be each other's biggest fans, not harshest critics. I will stand up for those who are belittled, judged, or misunderstood.

I resolve to let go of past mistakes and less than perfect parenting moments. I will seek to learn from the past instead of dwelling on it. I will work on treating myself with more kindness, moving forward in hopes that my three boys will learn from my example and speak kindly toward themselves.

I will continue my treatment—even the daily affirmations—and be patient with my progress.

So here's to a new year and a new way of thinking, to not giving up, and to practicing kindness that begins from within.

One of the best—or worst—parts of the holiday season is taking our littles to get their pictures with Santa. Some kids relish in those few minutes of telling Santa Claus exactly what they want under their tree, while others are terrified and hate every second of it. Either way, it usually makes for some adorable photos to look back on over the years.

We asked #TeamMotherly to share their best Santa pics. With nearly 700 responses, it was hard to pare down our favorites. Here are some that we adored.

1. Pure happiness

—Aimee R.

2. A magical look

—Jen L.

3. Everyone is a bit unsure...

—Holly H.

4. The cutest elves

—Julia V.

5. A sweet encounter

—Rosanne S.

6. A little bit of drama

—Besty P.

7. Santa cuddles each year, please

—Chelsey S.

8. Mama said she cried after she took a good look at him 😂

—Chantille B.

9. Third time isn't always the charm

—Gina M.

10. Playing in the snow

—Liz T.

11. SO much excitement

—Ieena S.

12. Nope

—Melissa H.

13. She definitely made the 'nice' list

—Janesa N.

14. Mama, no!

—Jenny S.

15. One mama's heart grew by three sizes this year

—Melanie R.

16. Two loved this, two hated it

—Rose E.

17. This baby was happier than Santa

—Angelica A.

18. A precious encounter

—Stacy B.

19. "I'm only here for the cookie." 🍪

—Laura R.

20. Two Santas are better than one

—Menakshi S.

The temperatures are dropping and that can only mean one thing. Whether we like it or not, winter's cold chilly months are upon us. As a born-and-raised Alaskan, and mama of three, I've got a lot of cold weather experience under my belt, and staying inside half the year just isn't an option for us. As my husband likes to say, "There's no bad weather, just bad gear."

Here are some of my favorite picks to keep your family toasty warm this winter.

1. Bear bunting

This sherpa bear bunting wins winter wear MVP for being a comfy snowsuit for your littlest babe, or base-layer under another snowsuit for the chilliest of winter outings. Bonus: your baby bear will never look cuter!

Sherpa Hooded Bunting, Carter's, $15.20


2. Patagonia Capilene base-layers

Speaking of base-layers, for any prolonged winter activity outside in the cold, it's best to layer up to create air pockets of warmth. These moisture wicking base-layers are a family favorite.

Baby Capilene Bottoms, Back Country, $29.00


3. Arctix Kids limitless overall bib

These adjustable snow pants keep kids warm and the bib style keeps snow from going down the back of their pants. Bonus: the price is excellent for the quality and they can grow with your child. The Velcro strap also makes bathroom breaks for kids so much easier.

Arctix Kids Limitless Overall Bib, Amazon, $14.99-$49.99


4. Hooded frost-free long jacket

Keep your little one warm and stylish in this long puffer jacket. Great for everyday outings.

Hooded Frost-Free Long Jacket, Old Navy, $35.00


5. Patagonia reversible jacket

This jacket is windproof, waterproof and the built-in hood means one less piece of gear to worry about (or one more layer for your little one's head). It's a best buy if you live with cold winter temperatures for many months of the year and still love to get outside to play. It also stays in great condition for hand-me-downs to your next kid.

Reversible Down Sweater Hoodie, Nordstrom, $119.00


6. Under Armour Decatur water repellent jacket

Made of waterproof fabric and lined with great insulation, kids will no doubt stay warm—and dry—in this. It features plenty of pockets, too, so mama doesn't always have to hold onto their items. We love that the UGrow system allows sleeves to grow a couple inches.

UA Decatur Water Repellent Jacket, Nordstrom, $155.00


7. Stonz mittens

Ever tried to keep gloves on a 1-year-old? It's a tough task, but these gloves make it a breeze with a wide opening and two adjustable toggles for a snug fit they can't pull off! Warm and waterproof, and come in sizes from infant to big kids.

Stonz Mittz, Amazon, $39.99


8. Sorel toot pack boot

Keep their little toes warm with these cozy boots from Sorel. With insulated uppers and waterproof bottoms their feet are sure to stay warm. They're well constructed and hold up over time, making them a great hand-me-down option for your family.

Sorel Kids' Yoot Boot, Amazon, $48.73-$175.63


9. Stonz baby boots

These Stonz stay-on-baby booties do just as their name says and stay on their feet. No more searching for one boot in the grocery store parking lot!

Stonz Three Season Stay-On Baby Booties, Amazon, $29.99-$50.29

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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