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Yes, decorating for Christmas early *does* make people happy

It wasn't even Halloween yet when a fully lit Christmas tree appeared in the living room window of a house in my neighborhood. It looked out of place flanked by houses draped in faux spider webs and pumpkins. I wondered what would posses the homeowners to get in the Christmas spirit so early, but according to one expert, the answer is pretty simple.

Christmas stuff makes people feel good (so go ahead and get the tree out before Thanksgiving if you want).

“In a world full of stress and anxiety, people like to associate to things that make them happy and Christmas decorations evoke those strong feelings of the childhood," psychoanalyst Steve McKeown told Unilad. “Decorations are simply an anchor or pathway to those old childhood magical emotions of excitement. So putting up those Christmas decorations early extends the excitement."

As Unilad points out, McKeown's theory is backed up by a study in The Journal of Environmental Psychology that examined how homeowners use exterior holiday decor to signal feelings of friendliness and connection to neighbors. When your neighbor puts up Christmas lights early, they're basically saying, "I'm social and in the holiday spirit!"

If you've been itching to get your Christmas decor out of storage, there's no time like the present. A string of lights and a "Happy Holidays" might even help you make friends with your neighbors.

Decorating early can make us happier, but overdoing Christmas music too early can have the opposite effect (so maybe don't convert your whole playlist to holiday tunes just yet, especially if you've spent a holiday season or two working in retail).

"Music goes right to our emotions immediately and it bypasses rationality," Clinical psychologist Linda Blair told Sky News. At this point in the season, we can apply the same rule to music and egg nog: small doses are best if we want to stay happy.

I'm sure the Christmas-enthused homeowners in my neighborhood are already cranking the festive tunes. My own tree isn't up yet, but I've got to admit, the sight of theirs makes me happy every time I walk by.

[Originally published Nov. 20, 2017]

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If you thought the arrival of your baby meant the end of fun, urban vacations, think again. With the right planning (and the right equipment), it's still possible to get up and go with your little ones on every adventure. That's why we love BABYBJÖRN Baby Carrier One, a soft, supportive baby carrier that's as comfortable for your baby as it is on your back.

And New York City is one of our favorite places to take it for a ride.

We partnered with NYC mama Neha Leela Ruch of MotherUntitled to share her favorite Big Apple hot spots for littles. If you and your family are headed East on your next vacation, here are the places you can't miss with kids.

DO

Neha with her family at the Union Square Greenmarket.

The Union Square Greenmarket

You'll love the ready availability of locally grown produce and handmade goods―your kids will love sampling the wares and taking advantage of all the conveniently located activities nearby. "I love the efficiency of the location on a slow morning!" Ruch says. After shopping, hit up the nearby playground, visit the Barnes and Noble kids' area across the street, or head to Union Square Play for a movement or dance class to burn off any remaining energy.

LeFrak Center at Lakeside

Another attraction worth the subway ride out of Manhattan is the LeFrak Center at Lakeside in Prospect Park. With year-round skating (ice in winter, roller in summer), a splash pad in the summer, and all of Prospect Park surrounding for more exploration, there's something to keep everyone entertained no matter when you visit.

The Seaglass Carousel
Have your camera ready for this stunning ride in the Battery Conservancy. Unlike a traditional carousel, the Seaglass moves riders on four turntables as LED light fixtures mimic the bioluminescence found under the sea. Take a ride before taking in the waterside views or having a picnic in Battery Park.

SEE

Neha out and about in NYC with her BABYBJÖRN Baby Carrier One.

Domino Park

One of the newest parks in NYC, this Brooklyn-based hangout is sure to become a fast favorite of locals and travelers alike. The reclaimed-material playground teaches kids about the sugar refining process with silos and chutes designed to resemble the actual factory that used to reside on the park's location. There's also a Fog Bridge, sports fields, fountains, a dog park (in case Rover is along for the trip!), and more you can walk and explore with your little one in their BABYBJÖRN Baby Carrier One.

Central Park + Central Park Zoo

While there are plenty of reasons to visit Central Park on your New York City vacation, the convenience might be one of the biggest. Ruch says, "We grab coffee and treats from the Tavern on the Green to-go stand, walk east to the pretty carousel, and then onward to the zoo, which has a little kids' petting section for the smallest babies but also a pretty significant proper zoo with penguins, seals and bears."

Allbee Baby

With a nearly 100 year old story, this family operated business on New York's Upper West Side is the place to stop if you need something mid-trip. With a thoughtful curation of the best brands, it's full of solutions for parents and kids (as well as a selection of products from BabyBjörn)!

EAT

Maman Café

Need a quick pick-me-up? Maman Cafe is a popular spot for your favorite coffee and a snack. "There are a handful of locations around the city, but each has a pretty feel while still being warm and welcoming," Ruch says. "It's an elegant part of the day even when I have two littles in tow." Snag an iced coffee and an almond croissant before popping your baby back in their BABYBJÖRN Baby Carrier One and heading off on your next adventure.

by CHLOE.

And when that moment comes in the midst of every trip where you realize everyone needs to eat something nutritious, by CHLOE is a great stop to find healthy options to satisfy everyone in the family. Vegan, plant-based, and all natural, it will keep you energized for the rest of your adventures in the City That Never Sleeps. (Make sure to try the avocado toast!)


Making the time to explore is one of the greatest gifts you can give your family―and yourself. And thanks to BabyBjörn, now everyone can come along for the ride.

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

Taking to the friendly skies with an infant in tow doesn't always feel so...friendly. That's doubly true when you're traveling during the busy holiday season. But while we can't help waylay the dirty looks you might get for bringing your baby on board (just ignore them, mama!), we can help you feel prepared to tackle whatever your little one throws at you in flight.

Whether you're embarking on your child's first flight for the holidays or are seasoned jet-setters, here are six products that will help guarantee smoother sailing.


1. Tru Niagen

If you always find yourself feeling off post-trip, we have a solution. Before taking off, give your body a boost by adding Tru Niagen to your vitamin regimen. This innovative supplement increase your body's NAD levels, a vital resource for energy and repair at the cellular level. Winter woes, you've met your match.

Tru Niagen, Chromadex, $40

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2. Sago Mini Toys 

Keep your child entertained before and during flights with a fun toy designed to promote creative thinking. The Pillow Playsets from Sago Mini fold up for air-travel (we especially love the Harvey's Doctor Office!) and then unfold to help keep little ones distracted during any delays. Simply toss a couple in your carry-on to break out whenever a potential tantrum strikes.

Harvey's Doctor's Office Pillow Playset, $39.99

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3. BABY B'AIR

When traveling with a baby, safety is tantamount. Unfortunately, options to secure in-lap infants are limited. Which is exactly what inspired founder Greg Nieberding to create the BABY B'AIR Flight Vest, a soft cotton body and nylon strap harness.

Not only does the BABY B'AIR Flight Vest prevent dangerous movement or slips during travel, but it will also save you time in security check because it doesn't require an extra scan the way car seats often do.

BABY B'AIR Flight Vest, babybair, $39.95

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4. E-Cloth

If you've read those articles about the number of bacteria on your seat's tray table, you're probably thinking twice about letting your little one touch any surface on board. Rather than dousing the entire cabin in a strong chemical cleaner, simply toss a cloth from the E-Cloth 8-Piece Home Cleaning Set in your carry-on.

These genius cloths use just water to "charge" the microscopic voids between and within the cloth's fibers, thereby attracting particles of dirt, bacteria, and mold when you wipe a dirty surface. After your flight, simply wring the cloth out in clean water to release the nasty stuff and the cloth is ready to use again. (We also love it for cleaning surfaces in a hotel room!)

E-Cloth 8-Piece Home Cleaning Set, $39.99

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5. SnoofyBee Changing Pad

One of the biggest challenges of traveling with babies? Keeping them from touching all.the.things. Never is this truer than on public changing tables and surfaces. But thanks to the Snoofybee, you can carry a clean surface with you while also keeping little hands contained from touching anything unseemly.

Bonus: The pad's redirection barrier can also put a stop to baby's who are fascinated with touching their own dirty diapers. Because blech.

SnoofyBee, SnoofyBee, $29.99

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6. Pediped Shoes

Give your child some comfy kicks to rock in the terminal (while they hopefully burn off any extra energy before boarding). Pediped shoes are designed for safe foot development and made from soft, pliable materials that your baby won't try to rip off the moment you set them down—and many are machine washable, meaning you can quickly wash away any airport grime when you get home.

Pediped Shoes, PedipedOutlet.com, $19.99 and up

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As parents we do the best we can to keep our kids safe while also letting them experience the world, and sometimes this involves assessing risks and deciding what is appropriate for our individual families.

Every parent makes different choices based on their family's values and needs, and there's no reason for mom shaming—or in this case dad shaming—as Pink recently reminded the world via Instagram.

Pink's defense began when her husband, motocross pro Carey Hart, posted a pic of himself on a motorbike with son Jameson, who is nearly two. Internet commenters criticized Hart's decision and his parenting, suggesting that he was putting Jameson in danger by having him on the bike.

In the photo, Hart and Jameson are sitting on the bike while it is still, but some Instagram users were still very critical of Hart's decision to have Jameson up on the bike with him. Some suggested he was endangering his son, and others stated he was wearing the wrong kind of helmet.

After the controversy, Pink posted a photo of Jameson eating chocolate on her own Instagram, joking, "Chocolate is good for babies, right? Help me Instagram, we can't possibly parent without you."

The joke set some commenters off, reigniting the online debate about Hart's parenting skills. "With your husband being in the spotlight so often with his complete lack of regard for proper care or concern at times with your kids, this comment isn't funny, albeit Jameson is adorable, one Instagram user wrote. "Your husband, I'm sorry, lacks the responsibility your kids need in his care."

Pink replied to the commenter, asking (fairly) how this person could feel like they could judge Hart as a father when they'd only seen him parenting through social media posts. "How often have you spent time with my husband?" Pink asked the commenter. "How often have you watched him parent?"

Through that comment, Pink reminded the world that what we see on social media is just one slice of our very complex and busy lives. It's impossible to really know the thought and care each individual puts into the choices they make for their children.

We make choices for our kids every day and they're going to be different from the choices of the parent next door or the next person in our Instagram feed. Our parenting choices are informed by our individual experiences, our beliefs, and everything else that makes us ourselves, everything that makes us unique.

No parent is perfect, but as parents we are perfectly positioned to choose what is appropriate for our individual children.

And we can also make the choice to respect those who parent differently than we do. No shaming necessary.

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The color experts at Pantone recently named the pinky-orange hue Living Coral as the color of the year for 2019, but the Editors of Nameberry have some other shades in mind for 2019. Like Pantone, though, they're predicting nature-inspired colors won't just be big at the paint store, but at the playground as well.

Yes, natural colors and jewels-inspired hues (along with animal names) are predicted to be big trends for baby names in the coming year.

Nameberry's editors have been tracking the 2018 trends to predict which names parents will be picking in 2019, and the palette is more muted than Pantone's for sure. According to Nameberry's editors, parents are shifting away from the intense hues (like Scarlett, Ruby and Poppy) toward more chill tones.

These are Nameberry's picks for color-inspired names for 2019:

  1. Ash
  2. Fawn
  3. Grey/Gray
  4. Ivory
  5. Lavender
  6. Lilac
  7. Mauve
  8. Moss
  9. Olive
  10. Sage

You don't have to look to the crayon box for baby name inspo to be on trend for next year—you could also look in your jewelry box. According to Nameberry, jewel and gem-inspired names are surging for both boys and girls and some can even be gender neutral.

Namberry is betting some precious babies will be getting these precious names next year:

  1. Amethyst
  2. Emerald
  3. Garnet
  4. Jasper
  5. Jet
  6. Onyx
  7. Opal
  8. Peridot
  9. Sapphire
  10. Topaz

It's not just colors and gems from nature that are trending, but animal-inspired names, too. On-trend parents might look to the forest for more name inspiration in 2019.

According to Nameberry, these animal-based names are set to trend in 2019:

  1. Bear
  2. Falcon
  3. Fox
  4. Hawk
  5. Koala
  6. Lion
  7. Lynx
  8. Otter
  9. Tiger
  10. Wolf

Some of the names Nameberry has predicted here (like Jasper, which was within the official top 200 baby names of 2017, according to the Social Security Administration,) are already fairly popular, while others (like Koala and Bear) are so statistically unpopular right now they aren't even charting on the SSA's baby name list.

Time will tell which of these nature-inspired names can take on Liam and Emma in the near future and whether Coral can go from being Pantone's 2019 pick to parents' pick in 2020.

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Times are changing Britain's monarchy and you don't have to look further than the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's 2018 Christmas card for proof.

The Kensington Palace posted Will and Kate's annual holiday card photo on Instagram and it is candid, casual and absolutely perfect.

Shot by photographer Matt Porteous, the family shot captures the royal kids, Prince George, 5, Princess Charlotte, 3, and 8-month-old Prince Louis being absolutely adorable while sitting on a tree with mom and dad.

The vibe is super casual, with Prince George standing on one foot and Prince William leaving the top couple buttons of his plaid shirt undone.

Prince Louis is a total star in tights and shorts.

While this is hardly the first candid shot of the royal family, this year's Christmas card is a pretty big departure from last year's, which was shot further in advance than this one and was more formal in every way.

We're betting that next year, when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will be celebrating their first Christmas as parents, their vibe will probably be more candid than staged as well.

This year the couple chose to use a snap from their May 19 wedding as their Christmas card. The black and white image by photographer Chris Allerton isn't exactly Christmasy, but it is definitely romantic.

Times are changing for the monarchy but we hope the Christmas card tradition stays the same because chances are Meghan and Harry's baby will be just as adorable as Prince Louis (and with a spring due date they will be at peak cuteness come Christmas card season).

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Finding the person you want to spend your life with is never easy, but when you're a parent, there's an extra layer of consideration. You're not just choosing the person you will spend lazy Sundays (and hurried weekday mornings) with—you're choosing the person your children will spend them with, too.

And when that person has children of their own, things get even more complicated. Blending two families isn't easy, but it can be beautiful, as Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez prove.

Each half of this power couple has two children each, and they're doing their best to make their relationship work not just for each other, but for those four children, too.

"We love each other and we love our life together," Lopez recently told People. "I was so loving to his kids and he was so loving and accepting of mine, and they embraced each other right away. [It was] 'I get a new bonus brother and sisters to hang out with all the time and it's nice.'"

A Rod agrees, telling People: "Our kids have become best friends and that keeps us both grounded and appreciative."

Here are five ways J Lo and A-Rod are totally #parentinggoals when it comes to balancing the needs of their blended family.

1.They bring the kids together

Lopez and Rodriguez each spend time with their own children, but they also bring all four kids (Lopez shares 10-year-old twins Maximilian and Emme with her ex, Marc Anthony, and Rodriguez shares daughters Ella, 10, and Natasha, 13, with his ex, Cynthia Scurtis) together for fun family outings, like ice cream dates and basketball games.

Research indicates that about 14% of kids in step families don't feel like they belong in their family, and report that their family doesn't have fun together. By bringing the kids together for fun family times, Lopez and Rodriguez are encouraging a sense of family belonging outside the relationship they have with each of the kids individually. Studies suggest an adolescents' sense of family belonging is linked to their overall well-being. So this ice cream date is actually healthy, in a way.

​2. They consider their children's other parents family, too

If their Instagrams are any indication, Rodriguez and Lopez have a great time hanging out with their blended family, but they understand that their children have other family members, too, and they don't mind hanging out with them.

A recent Instagram post proves Rodriguez considers Marc Anthony #famila, and that's how it should be.

Studies show supportive communication between a parent and their ex-partner's new partner is good for the family as a whole. Likewise, when the relationship between a parent and a stepparent is antagonistic, relationships beyond their own stuffer. It's truly better if a parent's co-parent and their current partner can hang.

3. They’re a united front with their co-parents

Rodriguez considers J Lo's ex family, and he also doesn't forget that (despite legal disagreements) his ex-wife plays a big role in his daughter's lives. So he celebrates their big co-parenting moments, like parent-teacher night.

Lopez, too, celebrates the times she and Anthony get together for their twins' big moments, recently telling Kelly Rippa the two are now in a really great place, and basically best friends. "The kids get to spend time with the two of us more together and see us working together," she said."It's just good for the whole family," says Lopez.

4. They make time for each other without the kids

Having all four kids together at once looks like fun, but hanging out with three 10-year-olds and a teen also sounds like it could be a little exhausting. That's why the couple takes time to unwind, without the kids, when they can.

As J Lo wrote in a recent Instagram post, "it's the lil quiet moments that matter the most."

5. They're doing it their way

Back in April Lopez was asked whether or not she and A Rod would be getting married soon (thanks to a Spanish language single "El Anillo," which is Spanish for "The Ring"), she told People, she's not in any rush, despite the song.

"I've done that before. I'm a little bit more grown up now, and I like to let things take their natural course," she said. "I know people are going to say that… we are really kind of good for each other and are really having the best time, and our kids love each other and all that."

[A version of this story was originally published July 12, 2018.]

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