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There's a natural momentum to a new year that spurs people to hop on their treadmills clean their closets, or finally stop chain-surfing the web until way past their bedtimes. But while the new year naturally helps you think about what you want to add to your life, implementing changes works better if you first close certain experiences and clear space by letting go of the parts of your life that are dragging you down, are sapping your energy, or are no longer needed.

It is not just an act of getting rid of things, it's an intentional practice of brightening energy by making room for the new.

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This is a great time for strategically removing from your life all the things that are not working or not flowing. Reflect on the parts of your life that are weighing you down—bad habits, stressful activities, addictions, negative thought patterns, old resentments or things that puts you in a sour mood every day. When you declutter your life, you create an invigorating, inviting space for passion, action and creativity to take hold.

Here are a few practices that help parents clear the old to make room for the new:

1. Create closure with gratitude

One of the best ways to achieve closure on the year is by expressing gratitude. Reflect on the few people you've been most grateful for during the year and creatively thank them.

One man was grateful to his chiropractor for helping cure his chronic migraine headaches, so he sent her a thank you card stating what her care meant to him. A mom was thankful for the friendly crossing guard who not only helped her kids cross the street every day, but who also greeted them with warm smiles or compliments—sweet and simple gestures that made them feel welcomed onto the school grounds. She thanked the crossing guard with a snuggly scarf for winter, hot chocolate and a card that her kids helped make. One couple was grateful for their reliable, patient and fun-loving babysitter who made it possible for them to enjoy date nights without guilt. They wrote her a letter detailing the positive things they appreciated about her.

Closing with gratitude lets you reflect on the year and sets you up for continued positive experiences in the year to come. As a bonus, research suggests that when you thank others, it creates an enormous increase in your own happiness as well.

Action step:

Think of one person to whom you're especially grateful toward this past year—such as a friend for listening, a grandparent who helped with child care, a teacher for helping your child, a mentor who gave you new ideas, or a boss who treats you great—and write them a detailed thank you card (or bake them cookies).

2. Declutter your to-do list

Decluttering your to-do list—especially the tricky stuff—frees up energy for creativity and playfulness. There are to-dos that all of us get stuck procrastinating on, whether due to an unconscious or conscious "block," an underlying fear, or a timing issue. Create a tiny bit of movement in your most-stuck tasks.

Action step:

Think of at least one thing hanging over your head or causing you stress—that complex medical bill that's hard to sort out, the enormous pile of socks without matches that stares you down every weekend, an old friend you've always been meaning to call—and take a small step toward taking care of it.

3. Declutter your space

Clearing your environment encompasses throwing out expired food from cabinets, decluttering closets, giving away toys or clothes, or going through old papers. Research suggests that managing a huge volume of possessions is a "crushing problem" in many homes, which often increases mothers' stress levels.

One study by Princeton researchers found that physical clutter in your surroundings competes for your attention, resulting in decreased performance and increased stress. Decluttering "stuff" may help kids too. For example, a recent study showed that too many toys actually reduced the quality of toddlers' play, whereas fewer toys helped toddlers play more creatively and in a more focused way.

Action steps:

  • Get rid of 10 toys
  • Get rid of 10 pieces of mail
  • Get rid of Tupperware without matching lids
  • Get rid of 10 things from your garage
  • Empty 1 drawer
  • Get rid of 10 food items from your kitchen and donate them to a food pantry
  • Get rid of 10 pieces of clothing from your closet and donate them
  • Clean the papers off your fridge
  • Delete 10 old voicemails

4. Declutter your schedule

There is increasing pressure to sign kids up for structured activities such as karate lessons, gymnastics, painting classes, chess clubs, and the like. A Pew Research Center survey showed that a full 31% of parents say they always feel rushed. Constantly running from here to there increases stress levels in both parents and kids. Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting, argues that children experience a "cumulative stress reaction" from too much enrichment, activity, and choice.

Decluttering your schedule helps rebuild time for free play, time for connection, and cozy time (also known as hygge). Reclaiming children's unstructured time is especially important, as research consistently finds that children absolutely love free time, especially outside. One survey of mothers in 16 countries found considerable agreement that free time—especially playing outside, at playgrounds, or at parks—was their children's most enjoyable activity. Backing off a busy schedule also allows children to spend time nurturing natural friendships through imaginative, kid-directed play.

Action steps:

  • Remove at least one structured activity from your schedule.
  • Take your kids outside for free play over the holiday break, even if it's cold.
  • Remember something you or your kids used to like to do for fun (like snowshoeing, knitting, having dance parties, doing puzzles, or watching animated films) that got edged out of your schedule due to busyness, and make a plan to reintroduce it into your life.

5. Clear a bad habit

Think of one aspect of your parenting you don't like, are exhausted by, or are tired of, and identify one way to clear it by "doing something different."

One mom hated the way she nagged her daughter to get her socks and shoes on before they went somewhere. She "did something different" by putting a bin of her daughter's socks and shoes by the door and, if her daughter had them on by the time they left, she played her daughter's favorite song as soon as they got in the car.

A dad got tired of yelling at his sons to go to bed, so he "did something different" by adding a few extra rituals into the bedtime routine—some time for playfulness, some time to talk about their day—and giving them 10 minutes to read or look at books before turning off the lights.

Action step:

Identify one thing you dislike that you do as a parent and get specific about how you'll "clear it" by handling things differently. The more you clear and work toward closure, the more you make space for all the good waiting for you around the corner in the new year.

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As a dentist and a parent, I know getting kids pumped about dental care is not always easy. Especially when quality time with the toothbrush means an inevitable tantrum, as it does for some toddlers.

While the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a visit to the dentist when the first tooth appears, or no later than your child's first birthday, establishing a few simple habits before your toddler's first dental appointment could be your best bet for an easier first time in the dentist chair.

Here are five easy ways parents can prepare their toddler prepare for the first dental visit.

Start brushing early

I know how important (but tough) it is to get kids into any sort of routine—let alone a dental one. We began our children's dental routine as infants by cleaning their mouths and gums regularly with a soft infant toothbrush or cloth and water. Between 12-18 months, we started a brushing routine with non-fluoridated toothpaste.

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The earlier children fit toothbrushing into their daily routine, the easier their first dental visit will be. Just like adults, children should brush their teeth twice daily for 2-3 minutes, ideally early in the morning and before going to bed.

Schedule your child's nighttime brushing before they get too tired. For example, if your child usually nods off at 8 pm, have them do their nightly brushing and flossing at 7:15 pm. We're all a bit more cooperative before the Sandman comes knocking.

Make it tasty

Finding a gently-flavored children's toothpaste your child likes to brush with can make brushing a lot more enjoyable—and may make that first dental visit go more smoothly, too. While mint flavored is a good go-to for adults, bubble gum or chocolate-flavored toothpaste may be more appealing for the little ones.

Parents can begin brushing their children's teeth with a tiny pea-sized amount of non-fluoridated toothpaste as early as 18 months. Once your child learns how to spit (around 2 years old), switch to fluoride toothpaste to protect against dental decay.

Avoid surprises

Most kids don't particularly enjoy bad surprises—and who can blame them? Showing up to a strange, sterile place like a dentist's office, with loud, scary noises and "a big person" putting their hands in your mouth? No, thank you!

The best way to prepare a child for the dentist is to tell, show and do:

Tell: Start by spending some time telling your child about the dentist and why it's important to visit.

Show: Demonstrate for your child what the dentist does by reading a children's book (and explain why it's not scary!).

Do: Bring your child on a quick field trip to the dentist and let them see, touch and experience the office before their first visit.

Play pretend

Before the first visit, try play-acting "trip to the dentist" with a stuffed animal. Encourage your child to count and brush teeth, floss between their chompers and have fun taking turns in a pretend dentist chair.

Use praise + positive reinforcement

Visiting the dentist is a new and sometimes scary experience for children. While starting and prioritizing a brushing routine helps in the long run, no amount of prep can guarantee a perfect first time dental visit.

Praise and positive reinforcement helps kids become excited to care for their teeth. Rewarding healthy habits and your first dental visit with a trip to the park, smiley stickers and big hugs makes the process less frightening for kids—and less troublesome for parents.
Learn + Play

The grey days of winter are coming to an end and spring is in the air! ? The sidewalks will no longer be icy and soon flowers will start poking up. This month is a wonderful time to become a mother, and a pretty great month to be born, too.

Here's what science tells us about babies born in March:

1. They're likely to climb the corporate ladder

Babies born this month are the most likely to get that corner office when they grow up. Research indicates a higher percentage of CEOs are born in March than any other month.

One study of 375 CEOs found 12.5% of those holding the position were born in March. The link is thought to be related to school enrollment cutoffs which often see March babies on the older end of their class spectrum.

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2. They're less prone to myopia than their summer cousins

While those expecting in June or July might want to up their optometry coverage, March babies are more likely than their summer-born peers to pass an eye exam. A study of nearly 300,000 military applicants found summer babies have the highest rates of severe short-sightedness, while spring kids are less likely to have myopic eyes (winter-born kids have the best rates, though).

3. They're naturally optimistic

A 2014 study found March-born babies (and their April and May peers) are basically born optimists. They have high ratings on the hyperthymic scale as adults, which means they've got a positive outlook on life.

4. They're at lower risk for asthma

Dust mites are abundant at this time of year, and while it can be annoying for those with allergies, it's great for babies with March due dates. According to a 2015 study, kids born in the have lower rates of asthma because exposure to all those dust mites in infancy strengthens the immune response.

5. They'll probably be a night owl

One sleep study suggests children born in the spring and summer generally go to bed later than those born in the fall and winter, so your March baby is likely to want to stay up past their bedtime in a few short years.

6. They'll be a Pisces or an Aries

These two astrological signs are known for their determination and passion, respectively. Babies born between March 1 and March 20 are known as optimistic Pisces, while those born after March 20 are officially spring babies members of the Aries sign. Aries are known for being fiery and passionate, so you might want to start practicing for bedtime arguments with your future night owl right away.

[This post was originally published March 1, 2018]

News

Irish baby names have been longtime favorites in the U.S., but historically, the ones that have been the most popular—such as Bridget and Caitlin, Connor and Kevin—are those that are intuitive in spelling and pronunciation.

Cut to 2020 where actress Saoirse Ronan is one of the biggest movie stars, Billie Eilish tops the music charts, and celebrity babies are getting previously unheard-of Irish names.

Milla Jovovich recently named her daughter Osian, a Welsh boy name that derived from the Irish Oisin. She and husband Paul W.S. Anderson are big fans of names with Gaelic roots—their older girls are named Ever Gabo and Dashiel Edan, but Osian is the most distinctive and complicated name of the bunch. (For those of you wondering, it's pronounced oh-SHAN).

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These days parents are more willing to embrace a name that may pose a pronunciation challenge, and society, in turn, is more willing to learn how to pronounce them. We've got Saoirse and Eilish down pat, so what's next?

20 unique Irish baby names for boys and girls

Irish baby girl names

Ailbhe: A Top 100 name in Ireland, Ailbhe could easily make a name for itself in the U.S. It's pronounced like Alva, a rising biblical pick for boys.

Aoibhe: The Irish variation of Eva, with a very similar pronunciation. Parents looking to distinguish their daughter from the Eva/Evelyn/Everly crowd might opt for this Irish spelling.

Aoife: One of the more familiar names from Irish legend, Aoife appears in many tales as a warrior woman. It hasn't reached the U.S. Top 1000 yet, but Aoife has nearly doubled in use in the past five years.

Eilis: Perhaps best known as the name of the heroine from the book and movie Brooklyn, in which she announces her name "rhymes with Irish." Music sensation Billie Eilish may give the alternate spelling a boost as well.

Fiadh: Homophonous with Fia, an up-and-coming successor for Mia. Fiadh is the fastest rising name in Ireland.

Niamh: Niamh of the Golden Hair was an ancient Irish goddess, making Niamh an apt choice for a blonde baby girl. Neve is the phonetic spelling.

Oona: Oona is delightfully quirky—and comparably easy to pronounce—with its double O's. It's gentle meaning, "lamb," is a draw for a spring baby.

Orla: Uncommon in the U.S. yet very straightforward—Orla is easily recognizable as an Irish name. Orlaith is another common spelling in Ireland.

Roisin: The Irish variation of Rose, pronounced ro-SHEEN. It's an unexpected floral option, as well as musical—Róisín Dubh, meaning "dark little rose," is a 16th century Irish poem-turned-song.

Saoirse: Actress Saoirse Ronan made herself a household name, and now almost every household knows how to pronounce her name—she's known to tell people it rhymes with "inertia."

Siobhan: Siobhan, the Irish variation of Joan, is frequently used as a character name for books and television—J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyers have named characters Siobhan, and it's the name of Logan Roy's daughter on Succession. It briefly ranked in the U.S. Top 1000 in the 1980s.

Irish baby boy names

Cashel: Cashel seems destined for success in the U.S. thanks to its fashionable Cash element, shared by such trendy names as Cassius, Cassian and Cash itself.

Cian: Kian ranks in the US Top 500, but Cian, the more authentic spelling, doesn't make the list. As Kian continues to rise, we expect Cian will as well.

Cillian: The first syllable being "kill" gives Cillian a strong, very masculine edge. It fits in with other tough-guy international names, such as Gunnar and Bruno.

Eamon: Soft but masculine names have never been more stylish (think Liam, Owen, Asher) so might we suggest Eamon? It's technically the Irish variation of Edmund, but we like to think of it as an Aidan alternative.

Fionn: This Finn spelling alternative has seen a slight uptick in use in America and ranks higher than the four-letter spelling in Ireland. It's the name of Irish mythological hero Fionn MacCumhaill, anglicized as Finn McCool.

Keir: Short, punchy, and authentically Irish—what's not to love about Keir? For those searching for a short middle name for a son, Keir is a unique and worthy option.

Niall: Americans of a certain age will undoubtedly associate Niall with Niall Horan, former member of the boyband One Direction, but is that really such a bad thing? Zayn, Harry, Louis, and Liam have all risen in popularity since the band's debut—now we think it's Niall's time to shine.

Oisin: O names for boys are having a moment—Otto, Otis, Odin, and Oliver are all in vogue—so we'd like to add Oisin to the mix. It's pronounced o-SHEEN and is a Top 15 name in Ireland. With the Milla Jovovich birth announcement drawing more attention to the name, might we see more baby Oisins in the future?

Tadhg: Tadhg has the least intuitive pronunciation on our boys' list, but comes with the easiest mnemonic device—it's said like "tiger" without the R. It's often anglicized as Teague and could easily be co-opted as a girl name—a la Milla Jovovich—to use in place of the fast-rising Teagan.

Which Irish names do you want to immigrate to America?

This post by Sophie Kihm was originally published on Nameberry.

Learn + Play

Is there anything cuter than adorable hairstyles on kids? We love when little ones look put together and a chic hairstyle is the icing on a cake.Mamas have upped their game and are delivering trendy, inspo-worthy looks beyond basic ponytails.

We get that creating no-fuss hairstyles (preferably ones that don't require toddlers sitting more than 10 minutes) isn't exactly stress-free and shelling out cash for a stylist isn't something we'll spring for. But we're all about easy styles that we can practically create with our eyes closed. Say hello to getting out the door faster! To be fair, there are a few here that are a tad complicated, so you'll want to screenshot them and share with your mama friend who is a master stylist.

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To help you nail the best kid hairstyles, we've compiled a list of 41 cool hairstyles for little ones from Instagram:

Pigtail buns

This classic style never gets old. If you're concerned about it being too light, loosen it up a bit by adding volume at the roots.






Criss-cross braids

Add a touch of style to a traditional braid.






Top knot

When rushing and don't have time, just throw up their hair in a top bun.



Side braided ponytail

After a few hours on the playground, braids tend to end up on the side of their heads, so why not create it into a style?



Cornrows

We're not going to front—cornrows are tough to create. But if you can get it, it's a style that will last weeks. Need help? Check out these YouTube videos.






Waterfall braids

To add a little more pizazz to a regular braid, braid hair on the side and loosen it a bit at the root.




Triple buns

A bun is probably the easier hairstyle a mama can create, but throw in a dash of style by adding two more bun. Create the look by securing buns from the top of the head to the nape of the neck.








Bun + bows

Add a bow for instant fun.









Lifestyle
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