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Dear Brand New Mama,

Tonight is a special night. It's the very first night of your baby's life. Yesterday, they weren't here, and today they are. You've known they were there coming for a long time, and, for months and months you've tried your best to imagine what they'll look like and who they'll be.

Now you know.

The moments before they came were hard, harder than you ever imagined they could be, but, with that first cry, you became their mother and them your child. It was seamless really; they slipped into your heart like they'd been there all along.

If they grew inside, you felt your baby's kicks and wiggles and hiccups, you sang to them and read to them, you loved them already but, also, you wondered. And if you adopted them, you wondered, too. You wondered about motherhood and love and what their voice would sound like.

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Today, when your eyes found theirs, you were shocked to realize how simply “them" they were. The moments were probably loud and happy—there were pictures and calls and tears of joy. Right now, though, in the darkness and the quiet of their very first night, take the time to look them up and down, to examine every perfect wrinkle and to kiss every crease.

As you examine them, mama, know that you have a big job ahead.

First you see those little eyes, opening and closing drowsily, dreaming already.

Those eyes will see, first, blurrily, your face. And then they'll see lights and colors and then, soon, the whole world. There will be sunsets that splash the sky in pinks and yellows and trains that move faster than they thought was possible.

They'll see your smile on their first birthday and watch you clap your hands with glee as they take their first steps.

They'll see the tears you cry as you walk them into their first classroom and the worry that creases your brow when their fever spikes.

Those tiny, beautiful, blinking eyes—the ones that will see the beauty of the world anew—they'll also, surely, see pain and sorrow and hate. They'll see their first dog buried, and their first crush turn away and the letter saying they didn't get in. They'll see people hurt others without reason and watch violence haunt our world.

Those eyes, those beautiful eyes, will turn to you mama, every time they see something new, to ask for help understanding. It will be your job to help them see that for every terrible thing that happens, there are a hundred wonderful things that follow.

It will be your job to teach them to see the good in the world and each person that they meet.

You must teach them mama, to use those eyes to look for ways they can help make the world a better place.

Right on the sides of that tiny little head, you see those ears—so small and round and soft.

Those ears will hear every word you that say. They'll hear you tell them how much you love them and how proud you are of the person they're becoming.

They'll hear you tell their teacher that they're trying and tell their dad you can't believe how fast they're growing up. They'll hear birdsong and thunderstorms and crashing waves.

They'll hear laughter and song and the secrets of friends but, along with the beauty, they'll probably also hear things they wished they didn't.

They'll hear small people with big microphones telling the world to hate and bullies, both small and grown, calling names.

They'll hear the cries of a friend less fortunate and the sadness that the evening news brings home. Even when you think, or hope, that they're not paying attention, those little ears will hear it all.

Your job mama is to teach that baby how to listen. To listen to what matters to other people and to what makes them happy and what makes them sad. To listen and then to respond. To comfort and to carry and to help.

Below those little ears and right above their rounded chin is their beautiful mouth.

Oh mama, do you see that mouth? All bowed lips and rooting, rooting, rooting. That mouth will one day be the vessel that carries your child's words out into the world. At first, they'll use that mouth to suckle, to eat and to grow.

They'll use it to cry when their belly is empty and to coo when it's full. That mouth will give first, slobbery, kisses and will utter first words with pride. It will sing and shout and yawn and laugh.

You'll come to know the voice that leaves that mouth better than your own and to be comforted by the simple sound of their “hello."

Sometimes, though, that mouth might be used to spit words with hate instead of love or with anger instead of peace. When a friend betrays them or a teacher grades them poorly, they might use it spread rumors or insults. When they've done something they're not proud of that mouth may twist into a lie and say things they wish they could take back.

Your job, mama, is to help your child learn to use that mouth for good, to spread joy and happiness and truth, to express sadness and pain, to tell someone that they love them. You must teach them how words can hurt or help or heal, and that when their angry or sad or confused, their voice will be their most valuable tool.

You must, mama, teach your little one that their mouth should be used to speak up not only for themselves but also for those who have no voice.

Below their chin and their chest, right at ends of those rounded arms and rolling wrists are the hands you've waited your whole life to hold.

Look at the beauty of those hands, the creases as they flex, the tiny fingernails, the softness of their palms.

Impossibly small, those hands squeezed your finger today, and your heart, already swollen, threatened to beat right out of your chest. Those tiny hands, flexing and pawing, will be the hands through which your child explores the world.

They'll tangle in your hair as they nurse or cuddle and be used to bring toys to mouth over and over and over again. Those hands will scribble with crayons and will pat the dog. They'll write out letters and then words and then sentences. They'll catch and throw and whittle and work.

Those hands will fold a first shirt and cook a first meal; they'll cup a lightning bug and hug a friend, they'll brush the knee of their first date and retreat, quickly, as their own heart begins to pound. Those hands will grow and harden but, whenever you take them in yours, you'll be reminded that they were once this small.

Those hands, as tiny and perfect as they are now, might also someday hit. They might push or slam doors or snatch a coveted toy from a friend. Those hands might copy answers from another child's test or slap the books from the arms of a classmate.

It'll be your job, mama, to help your child learn to use their hands with grace. You must teach them to be gentle and kind, to reach downward to help others up when they fall and to carry the load when others are weak.

It'll be your job to help them find meaningful, purposeful work to do with those hands, work that makes a difference and that leaves them happy and fulfilled.

Oh, the feet! Down their trunk and below their thighs and knees and ankles are their beautiful feet.

By now, they've been graced with a thousand kisses. Eventually, those feet will be the way your child makes their way around the world. Kept warm in booties and socks, they'll kick with glee before they're used for walking.

The first, shaky, steps will turn quickly into the walk and then the run of a toddler and then a child. Those feet will take your little one around your house and your neighborhood and your city. They'll chase and kick and dance. They'll feel the sand between their toes and grass tickling their arches.

Those feet, so tiny now, will take your child to their first day of work and down the aisle and to faraway places you've never been.

Sometimes, though, those little feet might go astray; they may lead your child places they don't want to go or to places they shouldn't be.

Your job, mama, will be to teach that baby to use their feet wisely. You must teach them to run as fast as they can and to rest as long as they need. You must teach them that their feet should carry them to new and interesting places and that, when they get there, those feet should guide them towards people who will be kind to them.

You must teach your child to let their feet carry them to places of beauty and places of need and, with enough steps, help them realize they're often one and the same.

Oh, mama, tonight is a very special night.

Tonight is the very first night of your baby's life. As you hold them tonight and thank the grace and glory and magic that brought them to you, look deeply into their eyes and show them how happy you are that they're here.

As your eyes fill with tears, both of joy and of amazement, lean into their ear and whisper how much you love them. As you sing their first lullaby, trace their lips with your finger and listen for their coo's and sighs.

As you count their fingers and their toes, over and over again, rub their hands and feet and promise them that you be there, always, to guide them.

You've got a big job ahead—a job that's both harder and more wonderful than any other.

Your baby is here now mama. And tonight, this very night, is the night their life begins.

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With American officials now cautioning that Coronavirus outbreaks are highly likely within the 50 states, experts are also urging schools and businesses to prepare for disruptions. If it comes to this, the United States can follow Hong Kong's model—where protests through the fall shut down schools and then the threat of Coronavirus led classrooms to shutter again through the majority of winter.

With schools closed and the city effectively on lockdown as the threat of Coronavirus touched all aspects of public life, students around Hong Kong have been forced to adjust to virtual schooling, and that means mothers have been forced to adjust, too.

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"Extending the class suspension has been a difficult decision. Yet as the WHO [World Health Organization] predicted, the epidemic will last for a while and the Bureau thinks it is the safest decision to ensure the physical well-being of students," said Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung in a press statement this week, announcing the decision to push back opening schools until April 20.

For American mom Arcadia Kim and her family, this effectively put their lives in Hong Kong on standstill even though they were all healthy. Rather than wait it out in Hong Kong, the family decided to "self-quarantine" in Hawaii earlier at the beginning of February which they were able to do as American citizens. As the family hastily packed up their lives with just one hour of notice, they included their digital tablets and laptops—which have since become not only their lifelines to home, but also the children's method for schooling.

"Online classes and virtual school look like 'ready player one,'" says Kim, who runs Infinite Screentime, which helps families strike a better balance with screens. "[It's like] some dystopian future where you are plugged into the matrix."

Although screen time is a stressful topic among many modern parents, Kim had a unique vantage point on the perks and pitfalls: A former chief operating officer for Electronic Arts, Los Angeles, she was closely involved in the development of some of the most popular video games in the world—and understands exactly how they were created to be addictive.

After being conscious of her children's screen time throughout their lives, it felt strange for her to encourage them to log hours upon hours on their computers in the name of school. "They are in front of their computers for nearly six hours a day," she says of her children's virtual schooling. "It looks crazy, but this is crazy."

Still, for being pushed into this new way of schooling that they didn't request, Kim was impressed by the way her children quickly adjusted. Whereas they could have lost one year of education, the Kim children now wake up across the ocean from their school, log on by 8 a.m. to receive their assignments and then get to work for the day—which looks like anything from the 13-year-old Skyping with a tutor who is a PhD candidate in microbiology, the 7-year-old assessing the symmetry of objects using a tablet, or the 10-year-old learning scratch programming.

To provide a counterbalance at the end of the screen time-rich school day, the family makes a point of getting out and exploring their new surroundings.

While the circumstances in Hong Kong may be unique, students, parents and educators from around the world are embracing online classrooms for a variety of reasons. According to a 2019 report from the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), nearly 300,000 K-12 students in the United States were enrolled in full-time virtual schools.

However, experts from NEPC, a research organization based out of the University of Colorado at Boulder, expressed concern about the effectiveness of virtual schooling—which is still somewhat of an unregulated, "wild west" approach to education. Notably, the graduation rate from virtual schools is approximately 50 percent while the national average for public schools is 85%.

"Given the lack of understanding of what is actually happening in virtual education, policymakers should require that any virtual school operating in their jurisdiction be required to provide the necessary information to examine the effectiveness of the virtual education that is actually being provided," the authors suggested in the report.

Kim agrees the downsides to virtual schooling remain clear, especially because educators in Hong Kong had to scramble to offer this option on such short notice. "There are some things that seem better and more conducive to learning online than other things," she says. "Can a 7-year-old really understand the significance of the Day of Death by watching YouTube videos only? It would have been much cooler if they could have done the dress-up festival like the school had planned."

Yet Kim says her eyes truly have been opened to the possibilities that virtual schooling presents through this experience—even as she's looking forward to her children having the chance to go back to their normal classrooms. "This is going to be the future," she says. "[Online school] will force kids to be more self-reliant and motivated. Parents will need to be more flexible about what is to come."

News

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.
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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]

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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.

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