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Parenting in NYC is all about perspective. What others see as challenges, we see as opportunities--to grow ourselves and our kids, to engage and create, to solve problems and to innovate. What we lack in space, we make up for in passion and ingenuity. And the right design can make all the difference: in the way we organize our days with our kids, in the strollers we push, in the spaces we call home.

This week, we continue our collaboration with our friends at Bugaboo, showcasing some NYC dads who embody passion and creativity, alongside a stroller that’s equally as innovative: the Bugaboo by Diesel. If there’s anyone that can appreciate the high level of design packed into this relatively small stroller, it’s interior designer and visual artist Gunnar Larson.

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Gunnar’s knack for small spaces first caught our attention with the impeccable nursery he designed for daughter Ihlen. No detail went unnoticed--from storage to wardrobe to hanging Dutch bassinet--all on the single bedroom wall of a tiny 400-square-foot apartment he shared with wife Sara.

Since then, we’ve followed Gunnar’s work in NYC residences big and small, as well as commercial projects that have spanned from skincare company to restaurant to even short film. His creativity and resourcefulness serve him well as a dad, too, as he navigates playgrounds and playdates, schedules and sleep training, in his North Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn with 22-month-old Ihlen.

We recently accompanied Gunnar on a stroll to one of his favorite prop shops, Film Biz Recycling, and learned about what inspires him as a designer...and a dad. We left big fans of both.

What do you love about raising kids in NYC?

My wife and I always tell people you should raise your kids where you feel at home. NYC is home for us. I love that my daughter is able to experience so many different people and walks of life around our city and community. I also love the fact that we don’t need a car to run errands; we can just get up and go for a walk around the city.

What surprised you most about becoming a dad?

How inspirational a little human can be. I was surprised at how your paternal instincts to protect, provide and share wisdom and truth with your child come so naturally.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A renaissance man. I may have discovered that term later in grade school, but when I was young I wanted to invent, explore and create. I was always building something; a horse out of leftover building materials, a jump rope and a hockey stick; a coffee table and side table out of my drum set; and lampshades out of rabbit fur pelts.

How did you end up doing what you’re doing?

It just happened over the course of time. I grew up outside of a small rural town of 650 people, so there were not a lot of career path options. I have always strived to have a beautiful home that is welcoming to all, and as a kid, I was building and repurposing things for my bedroom and around the house. I went to school to be a chiropractor and quickly switched over to art classes and graphic design. Throughout the years, I ended up working in set design, photo shoot propping and store visuals, which all lead me to interior design. My diverse background really has helped me to view homes and commercial spaces with a unique perspective. People want their homes to be a statement of creative inspiration, and commercial spaces want to be inviting, and have the ease and warmth of a home. It is a balance of an artistic eye and the effective use of space. I have evolved to where I am because of the people around me that see what I do as special, and hire me to create magical spaces for them and others.

What are some things you hope to teach your little one about your craft?

The power of perspective and risk. When designing any space you need to stick to your perspective and effectively communicate your vision to the client. You also need to take risks. Risks are hard but rewarding. My father taught me to take wise risks, and I want to teach my daughter to do that same. On the flip side, I definitely want to teach my daughter how to sew, saw and drill. The joy of being able to install a shelf properly or hem a curtain is rewarding and pretty practical.

How has becoming a dad impacted your work and creativity?

When Ihlen was about to be born, I finished her little nook in our old 400-sq-foot apartment in the East Village. It was then that not only me but everyone I knew affirmed my talents for small spaces and spacial design. Having Ihlen was what really made me stop and reflect on my own life, career and talents. I was able to understand my parents’ love and sacrifice for me as I was becoming a father. As I reflected on the past and looked forward to the future, I felt the freedom to take even larger, more creative risks in the name of being a father. There is power and strength in having the title of father, husband and best friend; it was becoming a dad that allowed me to stop and see this for the first time.

What’s your best strategy for achieving a family/work balance?

Schedule, schedule then let everything go! I secretly (now publicly) wish I was a yogi. I love yoga and had the best teacher several years ago in the East Village. I always loved doing poses and moves that were structured and difficult, and then the instructor would say, “Now let everything go!” Scheduled sleeping (sleep training) for our daughter was life changing! Everything she does is pretty much on a schedule. As two working parents, we need to be on schedules to get it all done, but then the best part is when you let it all go! We have set up our schedule to allow for some impromptu living. You need to schedule life, but then you also need to just live it. It is a balance, and sometimes it gets a little messed up, but then you just get back to your schedule and start over again...then let everything go.

How has your style changed since becoming a parent? Do you have a dad uniform?

My wife and I love fashion! My style has become even more crazy, elaborate and bold. Maybe it is because it is so fun dressing Ihlen up in fun outfits, and that is inspirational to me. The one uniform aspect I do have is my slippers. I have two pairs: my work-from-home black slippers and my off-work-at-home brown leather slippers. It is weird, but it helps me know when to relax and when I need to be focused on a work task.

What everyday things have made you realize that being a parent involves bravery?

Playgroups and the playground. These activities can be overwhelming and scary. You have the parent cliques, the nannies that don’t care, the kids who bite, the parents who freak out at everything and then the parents who are nonchalant in just about every way of life. It takes bravery to break through to other parents and caregivers and also to let your child interact with other kids. One day your kid is getting pushed and bitten, and the next day your kid is the one biting and pushing. You need bravery, thick skin, patience and love for everyone--both children and parents.

Photography by Justin Borucki.

This post was brought to you by Bugaboo.

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There are few kids television shows as successful as PAW Patrol. The Spin Masters series has spawned countless toys and clothing deals, a live show and now, a movie.

That's right mama, PAW Patrol is coming to the big screen in 2021.

The big-screen version of PAW Patrol will be made with Nickelodeon Movies and will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.

"We are thrilled to partner with Paramount and Nickelodeon to bring the PAW Patrol franchise, and the characters that children love, to the big screen," Spin Master Entertainment's Executive Vice President, Jennifer Dodge, announced Friday.

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"This first foray into the arena of feature film marks a significant strategic expansion for Spin Master Entertainment and our properties. This demonstrates our commitment to harnessing our own internal entertainment production teams to develop and deliver IP in a motion picture format and allows us to connect our characters to fans through shared theatrical experiences," Dodge says.

No word on the plot yet, but we're gonna bet there's a problem, 'round Aventure Bay, and Ryder and his team of pups will come and save the day.

We cannot even imagine how excited little PAW Patrol fans will be when this hits theatres in 2021. It's still too early to buy advance tickets but we would if we could!

News

In the middle of that postpartum daze, the sleepless nights, the recovery, the adjustment to a new schedule and learning the cues of a new baby, there are those moments when a new mom might think, I don't know how long I can do this.

Fortunately, right around that time, newborns smile their first real smile.

For many mothers, the experience is heart-melting and soul-lifting. It's a crumb of sustenance to help make it through the next challenges, whether that's sleep training, baby's first cold, or teething. Each time that baby smiles, the mother remembers, I can do this, and it's worth it.

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Dayna M. Kurtz, LMSW, CPT a NYC-based psychotherapist and author of Mother Matters: A Holistic Guide to Being a Happy, Healthy Mom, says she sees this in her clinical practice.

"One mother I worked with recounted her experience of her baby's first smile. At eight weeks postpartum, exhausted and overwhelmed, she remembered her baby smiling broadly at her just before a nighttime feeding," Kurtz says. "In that moment, she was overcome by tremendous joy and relief, and felt, for the first time, a real connection to her son."

So what is it about a baby's smile that can affect a mother so deeply? Can it all be attributed to those new-mom hormones? Perhaps it stems from the survival instincts that connect an infant with its mother, or the infant learning social cues. Or is there something more going on inside our brains?

In 2008, scientists in Houston, TX published their research on the topic. Their study, "What's in a Smile? Maternal Brain Responses to Infant Facial Cues", takes data from the MRI images of 26 women as they observed images of infants smiling, crying, or with a neutral expression.

The images included the mother's own infant alternated with an unknown infant of similar ethnicity and in similar clothing and position. In each image, the baby displayed a different emotion through one of three facial expressions; happy, neutral, or sad. Researchers monitored the change in the mothers' brain activity through the transitions in images from own-infant to unknown-infant, and from happy to neutral to sad and vice versa.

The results?

"When first-time mothers see their own baby's face, an extensive brain network appears to be activated, wherein affective and cognitive information may be integrated and directed toward motor/behavioral outputs," wrote the study's authors. Seeing her infant smile or cry prompts the areas of the brain that would instigate a mother to act, whether it be to comfort, care for, or caress and play with the baby.

In addition, the authors found that reward-related brain regions are activated specifically in response to happy, but not sad, baby faces. The areas of the brain that lit up in their study are the same areas that release dopamine, the "pleasure chemical." For context, other activities that elicit dopamine surges include eating chocolate, having sex, or doing drugs. So in other words, a baby's smile may be as powerful as those other feel-good experiences.

And this gooey feeling moms may get from seeing their babies smile isn't just a recreational high—it serves a purpose.

This reward system (aka dopaminergic and oxytocinergic neuroendocrine system) exists to motivate the mother to forge a positive connection with the baby, according to Aurélie Athan, PhD, director of the Reproductive & Maternal Psychology Laboratory (a laboratory that created the first graduate courses of their kind in these subjects).

These networks also promote a mother's ability to share her emotional state with her child, which is the root of empathy. "A mother cries when baby cries, smiles when baby smiles," Athan says.

While there's a physiological explanation underlying that warm-and-fuzzy sensation elicited by a smile, there may be other factors at play too, Kurtz says.

"In my clinical practice, I often observe a stunning exchange between a mother and her baby when the latter smiles at her. A mother who is otherwise engaged in conversation with me may be, for that moment, entirely redirected to focus on her little one," Kurtz says. "This kind of attention-capturing on the part of the baby can enable and cultivate maternal attunement—a mother's ability to more deeply connect with her infant. The quality of attunement in early childhood often sets the stage for one's relationship patterns in the future."

Whether a physiological response, a neural activation, simple instinct, or the tightening of emotional connection, the feeling generated by babies' smiles is a buoy in the choppy ocean of new parenthood.

And while the first smile may be the most magical by virtue of its surprise and the necessity of that emotional lift, the fuzzy feeling can continue well into that baby's childhood and beyond. It keeps telling parents, you've got this!

[This was originally published on Apparently]

Life

Chrissy Teigen is one of the most famous moms in the world and definitely one of the most famous moms on social media.

She's the Queen of Twitter and at least the Duchess of Instagram but with a massive following comes a massive dose of mom-shame, and Teigen admits the online comments criticizing her parenting affects her.

"It's pretty much everything," Teigen told Today, noting that the bulk of the criticism falls into three categories: How she feeds her kids, how she uses her car seats and screen time.

"Any time I post a picture of them holding ribs or eating sausage, I get a lot of criticism," she explained. "Vegans and vegetarians are mad and feel that we're forcing meat upon them at a young age. They freak out."

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Teigen continues: "If they get a glimpse of the car seat there is a lot of buckle talk. Maybe for one half of a second, the strap slipped down. And TV is another big one. We have TV on a lot in my house. John and I work on television; we love watching television."

Teigen wants the shame to stop, not just for herself but for all the other moms who feel it. (And we agree.)

"Hearing that nine out of 10 moms don't feel like they're doing a good enough job is terrible," she said. "We're all so worried that we're not doing all that we can, when we really are."

The inspiration for Teigen talking publicly about mom-shame may be in part because of her participation in Pampers' "Share the Love" campaign. But even though Teigen's discussion coincides with this campaign, the message remains equally important. Advertising can be a powerful tool for shifting the way society thinks about what's "normal" and we would much rather see companies speaking out against mom-shame than inducing it to sell more stuff.

Calling out mom-shame in our culture is worth doing in our lives, our communities and yes, our diaper commercials. Thank you Chrissy (and thank you, Pampers).

News

Dear fellow mama,

I was thinking about the past the other day. About the time I had three small boys—a newborn, his 2-year-old brother and his 5-year-old brother.

How I was always drowning.

How I could never catch my breath between the constant requests.

How I always felt guilty no matter how hard I tried.

How hard it was—the constant exhaustion, struggling to keep my home any kind of clean or tidy, how I struggled to feed my kids nutritious meals, to bathe them and clean them and keep them warmly dressed in clean clothing, to love them well or enough or well enough.

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Those years were some of the toughest years I have ever encountered.

But mama, I am here to tell you that it doesn't last forever. Slowly, incrementally, without you even noticing, it gets easier. First, one child is toilet trained, then the bigger one can tie his own shoelaces, then finally they are all sleeping through the night.

It's hard to imagine; I really really get it.

It is going to get easier. I swear it. I'm not saying that there won't be new parenting challenges, that it won't be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life. It will be. But it will get easier.

These days, all of my kids get the bus to school and back. Most of them dress themselves. They can all eat independently and use the toilet. Sometimes they play with each other for hours leaving me time to do whatever I need to do that day.

I sleep through the night. I am not constantly in a haze of exhaustion. I am not overwhelmed by three tiny little people needing me to help them with their basic needs, all at the same time.

I can drink a hot cup of coffee. I do not wish with every fiber of my being that I was an octopus, able to help each tiny person at the same time.

I am not tugged in opposite directions. I don't have to disappoint my 3-year-old who desperately wants to play with me while I am helping his first grade bother with his first grade reading homework.

And one day, you will be here too.

It's going to get easier. I promise. And while it may not happen today or even next week or even next month, it will happen. And you will look around in wonder at the magnificent people you helped to create and nurture and sustain.

Until then, you are stronger and more resilient than you can even imagine.

You've got this. Today and always.

Love,

A fellow mama

Life
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