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As a tutor in writing and literacy for children, I learn so many valuable lessons from my students. Lessons like: paint the sky violet with pink hearts, ask how things work, and fall in love with the small things often.


For the last year, I’ve been sharpening pencils for an eight-year-old girl, Lilly, who fills her journal pages with scathing reviews of sad, soggy cafeteria food, stream-of-conscious rants about her younger brother giving her the finger when adults aren’t looking, bossy girlfriends, and how having to do everything grownups tell you to do is just, like, totally unfair. When we began working together, she was frustrated when I asked her to write fiction.

“Name three things that you can’t live without,” I prompted.

“I don’t know,” she replied

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” I tried.

“Nothing.”

“What if a unicorn could fly you to school every day?” I asked, trying to get her attention.

“That could never happen.”

I surmised that her imagination may take a backseat to her rigorous extra-curricular schedule of piano lessons, soccer practice, gymnastics, and academic tutors. She rarely just plays outside or visits the children’s park steps away from her house.

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While a lack of time may limit her daydreaming, Lilly is also an inherently a pragmatic person and, like me, she enjoys writing about the real. I stopped asking her to write about what she couldn’t see and focused on her feelings and real-life experiences – culinary delights, complicated friendships, and familial highs and lows. I cued up videos about Amelia Earhart, Rosa Parks, and Marie Curie and assigned her writing prompts involving inventions, discoveries, and top-secret cases. Anything that has a key or code is fascinating to her. She loves secrets and knowing the truth about things.

Last week, I asked her if she knew how our mail system worked.

“Planes,” she replied, rolling her eyes at me.

I pressed on. “What about before airplanes and trains?”

She shrugged her shoulders as I adjusted the volume of an animated film about the Pony Express. Afterwards, I gave her two options: write about delivering mail in the 1800s or choose a person to send a letter to and describe how it will be delivered to them today. She put her head down, pressed a number two pencil into the lined paper and stopped after the first sentence.

“Do you need help?” I asked.

“Why do I have to pretend to write a letter? Can’t I just write it instead?”

I squeezed the hand of my little memoirist. “Good idea. Write the real letter.”

I used to scribble down my own story alongside her and, at the end of the hour, we’d read them to each other. Since the school year started, we’d shifted focus to the editing process: penmanship, grammar, and spelling errors. I stopped writing and waited to correct her mistakes. As she was writing her letter, I was unconsciously doodling tulips on a piece of paper. Lilly looked down at my paper, flipped over my drawing, and patted the stark white sheet of paper. Write your letter, that pat said.

I nodded, wrote two words, and laid my pencil down to rest. I could’ve chosen anyone in the world, real or imagined, but these days, the only name my right hand will write is Dad. I knew that I couldn’t carry on without crying and, while I’d written and shared several essays about his recent passing in writing classes and at readings around the city, none of them were addressed to him. I looked at the glitter clips holding Lilly’s braided bun in place and remembered how my Dad weaved Goody barrettes into my hair and told me that everyone should see my pretty face. My eyes caught the edge of Lilly’s journal; she was writing about her dad too.

The pencil became a heavy weight to lift off the industrial wooden desk we worked from as I angled the leaden point onto the page and traced over the letters.

Dear Dad.

Lilly looked over her shoulder at my page, then respectfully gave me my space as I’d taught her to do.

Dear Dad,

The pencil negotiated the emptiness of the paper, creating loops and lines that were intrinsically intertwined. The soft “a” needed a straight “t” to be understood. Consonants and vowels spilled onto the page like a sudden rainstorm that left as soon as it came. I had no idea what my story was about. I frantically swallowed tears while racing through strategies to avoid sharing my letter with Lilly. Adults are not supposed to cry, especially tutors hired to teach verb-tense agreements, using the five senses, and how to be an awesome grammar girl. I checked my phone for the time. We had 10 minutes left for sharing.

“Let’s hear your story,” I said.

During our sessions, we’d worked on projecting our voices, pausing at the end of each sentence, and reading with intention and emotion. Our voice tells its own story, I’ve told her.

That night, she spoke uncharacteristically clear and loud. There was an urgency in her voice. A determination to be heard, for her needs to be met.

“Dear Dad, I miss you soooooo much!!!! When are you going to visit me? I hope that you will be here soon and we can go to the movies together. I learned that it will take eight or 10 days for you to get this letter, but it used to take a month with the Pony Express. Now they have airplanes and postmen. I was a bumblebee for Halloween and Jake was a pirate. So can you be here soon? Love, your daughter (who hasn’t seen you in a long, long, long time).”

I knew that her dad lived in London and visited a few times a year. I’ve picked up on the ways that his absence has shaped her personality. She’s guarded, but sometimes she forgets herself, slipping an arm around mine or resting her head on my shoulder while we read books to each other. She’s not overly sentimental, but she’s intensely thoughtful. She’s taught me the difference between the two.

“Read me yours,” she prompted me.

I inhaled. “Not today. Why don’t you design a stamp and envelope to send your letter with?” I tried, hoping to distract her.

If there’s something Lilly could do all day, it’s art projects. No matter how many times I’ve reminded her that I’m her writing tutor, she still begs me to let her draw and make things. I allow her to sketch pictures to accompany her stories; sometimes we make books or writing wands or mobiles. But that day, she ignored my question, gently removed the tear-stained paper from my hands, and read my letter aloud:

“Dear Dad,” she started as she swung her head back like an adult. “I was thinking of the time you bought me a kid’s bed that you swore was a full-sized mattress. You came to visit me because there was a train strike and called dibs on my bed. I listened to you tossing and turning from the pull-out couch followed by a loud thud as you fell off the stupid mattress.”

She paused. “Wait, why did he buy you a kid’s bed? Didn’t he know that you were a grown up?”

My irises sunk to the bottom of two wishing wells. “I guess not.”

She cocked her head and returned to the page.

“We laughed uncontrollably as the moon threw a spotlight on the wooden floor of my tiny West Village apartment, not just because the bed was ridiculous, but because we were both so stubborn.

“What’s ‘stubborn’?”

“When you really want to have things your way,” I supplied.

“Okay.” She continued. “We dress in rough leather jackets to hide our eggshell hearts.” She looked at me again. “How is a heart like an egg?”

“It means that our hearts are fragile and can be broken.” I knew that this was something she’d ask me about weeks from now. When we think that kids don’t understand or are aren’t listening, they are turning our words over in their minds like a song.

“You forgot to write ‘The End,’” she reminded me.

The end. Everything that I’d stuffed inside me found its way outside of me. I coaxed heaving sounds down my windpipe and wiped my face on my sweater as she put her tiny arm around my shoulders.

“It’s okay, Marnie,” she told me.

I cried even harder.

“You miss him a lot…I miss my dad too.” She hesitated. “Then, your dad… he died?”

“Yes, but he was very old.” I regained my composure, reminding myself that I was there to do a job. Not just to teach, but to be the adult for her. “You know, he’s an angel now, so I don’t have to write him letters. I can talk to him anytime.” I didn’t believe this, but it sounded good, I thought.   

She considered this. “I think that you should still write him letters.”

“Where do I send them?” I was asking myself, but I said the words aloud.

For years, I’d written letters to my dad that I’d never sent, especially during the times when, like Lilly, I felt like I wasn’t being seen or heard by him. I wanted to be the most important person in his life. But unlike Lilly’s father, my dad was a constant in my childhood. He was my best friend, my protector, my first date, my superhero. When I grew up, we drifted apart. I spent years trying to find a way back to him, but before I could figure it out, his heart gave out. Mine carried on, aching for the dad I knew that he was capable of being.

During that writing session, my eight-year-old first grade reader gave me the answer on how to speak to my father again.

“Just put it in the mailbox. They’ll know how to deliver it to him.”

Maybe it was that simple. If I write the words and address it to him, the words will find him.    

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Sometimes it can feel like toys are a mama's frenemy. While we love the idea of entertaining our children and want to give them items that make them happy, toys can end up taking the joy out of our own motherhood experience. For every child begging for another plastic figurine, there's a mama who spends her post-bedtime hours digging toys out from under the couch, dining room table and probably her own bed.

Like so many other moms, I've often found myself between this rock and hard place in parenting. I want to encourage toys that help with developmental milestones, but struggle to control the mess. Is there a middle ground between clutter and creative play?

Enter: Lovevery.

lovevery toys

Lovevery Play Kits are like the care packages you wish your child's grandparent would send every month. Expertly curated by child development specialists, each kit is crafted to encourage your child's current developmental milestones with beautiful toys and insightful activity ideas for parents. A flip book of how-tos and recommendations accompanies each box, giving parents not only tips for making the most of each developmental stage, but also explaining how the games and activities benefit those growing brains.

Even better, the toys are legitimately beautiful. Made from eco-friendly, sustainable materials materials and artfully designed, I even find myself less bothered when my toddler leaves hers strewn across the living room floor.

What I really love, though, is that the kits are about so much more than toys. Each box is like a springboard of imaginative, open-ended play that starts with the included playthings and expands into daily activities we can do during breakfast or while driving to and from lessons. For the first time, I feel like a company isn't just trying to sell me more toys―they're providing expert guidance on how to engage in educational play with my child. And with baby kits that range from age 0 to 12 months and toddler kits for ages 13 to 24 months, the kits are there for me during every major step of development I'll encounter as a new mama.

So maybe I'll never love toys―but I will always love spending time with my children. And with Lovevery's unique products, mixing those worlds has become child's play.


This article was sponsored by Lovevery. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Summertime is here, mamas! And while we couldn't be more thrilled about beach outings and pool days, both of those activities require one major thing—getting into a bathing suit. No easy feat when you're not pregnant (FYI: we tested many and these are our favorite five), but it's even tougher when you are prego and your body is changing daily.

To help, we've rounded up 15 super-cute maternity bathing suit options for you. From sweet one-pieces (like Old Navy's watermelon-pattered cutie that has matching options for dads, toddlers and girls!) to color-blocked bikinis that will ensure your bump gets nice and tan, we've got something to fit every mama's personal style and body. Because we want you to love your pregnant body and celebrate it—you know the saying: Suns out… bumps out!

The best part? They start at just $22! Happy shopping, mamas.

Motherhood Maternity ruffle front one-shoulder swimsuit with UPF 50+

Motherhood Maternity One-Shoulder Swim

Super flattering with a ruffle and in navy polka dots, this suit will be your go-to all summer long.

Price: $39.98

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Hatch Antigua maillot

Hatch Antigua

Did we mention we love ruffles? This beauty from Hatch is sweet as can be, and while it's on the pricier side, the quality is there and it will last you multiple pregnancies.

Price: $218

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ASOS Design maternity recycled glam high-neck swimsuit

Asos maternity high neck swim

Who says you need to be in a boring black bathing suit all summer? Let's embrace color (and some sexy drama!) with this high-neck suit that will have everyone asking where on Earth you found such a fun maternity look.

Price: Sale $33.50 (Regularly $48.00)

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Motherhood Maternity 'Beach Bump' maternity one-piece swimsuit with UPF 50+

Beach Bump Swim

This suit is anything but plain with it's adorable "beach bump" sign.

Price: $39.98

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H&M Mama swimsuit

H&M Mama Swim

Spice up your pool days with this super fun pattern that is also super flattering—after all, it's hard to spot flaws with all that leopard going on. The wrapped top, low-cut back and ruched siding all add to why we love this one so much.

Price: $29.99

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Hatch color-block bikini frutto

Hatch Colorblock Bikini

Show off the bump in this color-blocked bikini that looks like something straight out of the 1950s.

Price: $208.00

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H&M Mama swimsuit with ruffles

H&M Mama Swim

Bohemian perfection, this suit is perfectly on-trend for the season.

Price: Sale $24.99 (Regularly $34.99)

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A Pea in a Pod rib knit striped maternity one-piece swimsuit

A Pea in a Pod Striped Swim

Preppy but also a little bit sexy thanks to the cleavage-baring peephole, this suit screams "summer" in the best way possible.

Price: $98.00

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Summersalt Maternity ribbed voyager bikini top + bottom

Summersalt Maternity Ribbed Voyager Bikini

Summersalt is one of our favorite swimwear brands and they just released maternity options! Giving their ubiquitous high-waisted bikini bottoms the prego treatment, this is one suit that will grow with you from first to third trimester.

Bikini top price: $50.00

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Bikini bottom price: $45.00

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Pez D’or stripe one-piece maternity swimsuit for Nordstrom

Pez D'or Stripe Swim

Love you some stripes? Then you can't go wrong with this halter-neck option that is flattering and cute all at once.

Price: $98.00

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Old Navy Maternity halter v-neck swimsuit with UPF 40

Old Navy Maternity Halter V-Neck Swimsuit

We're obsessed with this suite for two reasons: One, that crazy cute watermelon pattern! Two, the halter cut with tiny peephole is perfection and there's lots of support thanks to an extra strap at mid-back.

Price: Sale $22.50 (Regularly $44.99)

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Gap Maternity tie-back print one-piece suit

Gap Maternity Tie-Back Print One-Piece Suit

This one-piece is as pretty as can be with it's tiny floral print! We love that the straps criss-cross in the back and that the sweetheart neckline drawcord is adjustable.

Price: Sale $58.99 (Regularly $69.99)

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Pink Blush ruffle trim ruched one-piece maternity swimsuit

Pink Blush Light Blue Ruffle Trim Ruched One-Piece Maternity Swimsuit

Oversized ruffle? Check. Removable straps? Check. Ruched siding? Check. Adorable baby blue hue? Check.

Price: $46.00

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Jojo Maman Bebe flamingo halterneck maternity tankini

Jojo Maman Bebe Flamingo Halterneck Maternity Tankini

Tankinis for the win! Perfect for pulling up when you want the bump to get some sun, but tugging down when you don't want to show some skin.

Price: $59.00

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PregO Maternity Wear roll waist dot bikini set

PregO Maternity Wear Women's Maternity Roll Waist Dot Bikini Set

We love how sporty chic this suit is and that you can wear it after pregnancy, too.

Price: $68.00-$72.00

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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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Babies love it when their mamas sing to them, and Carrie Underwood's son is no exception. But does he love his dad's singing? Not so much.

If your mom has a voice like Carrie Underwood's, chances are your lullaby standards are a bit higher than most. And, if a recent video from the singer is any indication, even Dad's singing may not quite make the grade.

The country singer shared a cute video clip of her son, Jacob, reacting as her husband, Mike Fisher, sings him a song. Let's just say the little guy isn't having it: Jacob cries throughout his father's mini-performance...That is until Mama steps in to sing the same song.

The clip shows little Jacob calm immediately when he hears his mom's voice (relatable, right?). Mike takes that opportunity to step back in and resume his vocals...but Jacob begins to cry again. "Everyone's a critic," Carrie captions the adorable video.

But don't take this to mean you have to be a recording artist in order to sing to your children! Even the most tone-deaf among us can (and should!) sing to our babies—not just because it's fun, but also because singing to your babe comes with some pretty awesome benefits. The act may even improve your baby's attention span and increase positive their reactions towards you, as we've previously reported.

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While Carrie and Mike opt to belt out the song "I Still Believe" by singer Vince Gill, you don't have to get too fancy. Singing a good old-fashioned lullaby to your kids is a great idea (they work for a pretty good reason). We are fairly certain that most babies out there love the sound of their mama's voice more than just about any sound (with the possible exception of the "Baby Shark" video), so keep up the family singing sessions even if you don't have a hit song on the charts.

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I am generally not considered a sentimental person, and I do not keep a lot of junk. When I moved to college, everything that wasn't part of my closet fit into a single trunk. By the time I got married, I had shrunk those keepsakes down to a single box. When I got pregnant, the box had shrunk down to a tiny container I shoved under my bed.

Then we had kids.

The sheer amount of stuff we received from well-wishers was overwhelming. I figured that we needed most of it—babies are high maintenance, right?—and took comfort in the fact that when our child got bigger, we could ditch the bassinet and the bottles and shrink down our lives again.

I could not have been more wrong. The stuff continued to pour in, and it became impossible to throw anything out. Some of it was useful and consumable, like diapers, and some of it was thoughtful and small, like a special stuffed animal, but most of it was simply too much…like the 1,398 toys that began a procession through our lives over the next three years.

It was nobody's fault. My children have four grandparents, two great-grandparents, and five aunts and uncles within a 20-mile radius. Many of them express their love through purchases. Constant purchases. For Christmas, birthdays, Easter, St. Patrick's Day, your regular Saturday. There was bound to be a build-up.

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The problem was that my children received so many presents the gift-giving itself began to lose meaning. Every time a family member came by the house, my 3-year-old expected a treat.

The amount of stuff piling up in our house started to grate on me, but I didn't know what to do. My oldest child has the memory of an elephant: the other day he cried because he couldn't find a specific drawing that he made in preschool 12 months ago. And my family was constantly checking up on their gifts: "Where's the special bear I gave you, little guy? Do you play with it a lot?" I didn't want to offend anyone.

Then I had an evening that changed my life as a mom. We went to a friend's house for dinner; they had young kids too, about a year or so ahead of us. We walked in and I was shocked at how completely their house had been taken over by their kids' belongings. You couldn't see the living room floor because there were toys everywhere—not in use but stacked up to the ceiling. They apologized for the mess, and it didn't seem to bother them, but I was panicking on the inside.

Was this what was in store for me as a parent? Were my children going to accumulate so much that I wouldn't be able to find my own life under all the mess?

We went home that night and put the kids to bed. And I ransacked. Three years of accumulated playthings, old "special" clothes, and my concerns and ideas about disappointing our relatives, were all ruthlessly sorted through.

If I was going to be a good mom, it would have to be on my terms, and my terms included the right to dispose of accumulation. It included the right to gently but firmly inform relatives that we may not have room for the stuffed bear as big as a house as a Christmas present this year, could there be a special place at their house to keep it? It included the right to shape my family's values, even when they clash a little with those closest to us.

I love our extended family very much, and I am glad they shower my children with affection, including gifts. But every mom has her own way of keeping her sanity, right? And for me, the key to a happy household now includes the occasional purge, when the kids are looking away, and knowing inside that your family will love you anyway.

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If you buy Parent's Choice baby formula at Walmart you need to check to see if your product is being recalled.

The manufacturer of Walmart's Parent's Choice Advantage Infant Formula Milk-Based Powder with Iron, Perrigo Company, is recalling the product because it may be contained with metal. There are no reports of babies experiencing adverse effects, but the company says it is proceeding with the recall out of an "abundance of caution stemming from a consumer report."


If you buy this formula look on the bottom of the tub to check the lot code and use by date. If it is lot Code C26EVFV with a "use by" date of February 26, 2021, it is part of the recall. Don't use it and take it back to Walmart for a refund.


These tubs retail for just under $20.

The FDA suggests "consumers with any health-related questions should contact their healthcare provider", and you can also call Perrigo Consumer Affairs at 866-629-6181.

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