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Debate Club: Is There a Place for Gore in Halloween Lawn Displays?


More guts, more gory 

by: Phaea Crede

While there absolutely are some Halloween decorations that go too far when it comes to graphic gore, I love décor that walks the razor edge between just “scary” and “gloriously gross.” 

Halloween is the one time of year that children are encouraged to break the rules. Instead of the normal bath-and-books routine, they’re allowed to play outside in the streets of their neighborhood long after bedtime. Instead of being polite, they get to transform into animals, heroes, and monsters. Instead of avoiding strangers, they can march right onto their porches, shamelessly ring the doorbell, and rudely demand candy. Literally, our kids get to take candy from strangers. And eating too many sweets? That’s not just tolerated; it’s a must.

Halloween is a night for kids to run wild – in a totally safe and protected way.

Fear, in its most basic form, is an emotion that keep humans alive. When something scares us, our deep-down lizard brains scream out, “run!” or, “fight!” This “threat response system,” Margee Kerr Ph. D. says in her article “Why We Love to Be Scared,” “…triggers a chemical cascade meant to help us survive: adrenaline, endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, among others, flood our bodies and brains during (and for a while after) a scary situation.”

Interestingly, a lot of these chemicals are also present when humans feel joy and excitement. It’s exhilarating to be scared! But only if we know in our hearts (and lizard brains) that we are totally and completely safe. Over-the-top Halloween displays – especially those that don’t hold back on the scares – are the perfect way to experience the thrill of fear with mom ready at any second to whisk us away if need be.

In polite society, reveling in blood, guts, and gore is seriously frowned upon (thank goodness). But we humans are also fascinated by it. Gruesome Halloween decorations give us permission to safely explore that fascination. Obviously fake but disturbingly gory lawn scenes allow adults and children alike to honor our naturally inquisitive nature: “Oh, THAT’S what happens when you decapitate someone. Huh.”

But the freaky and scientifically accurate “dude being electrocuted” diorama the neighbor throws up every year also gives us the chance to tap into a delicious adrenaline rush while patting ourselves on the back for being brave enough to face something really, really scary. Maybe standing up to extreme Halloween décor is good for a kid’s self-esteem!

Thinking back to myself as a tween – a truly frightening age for any kid – helping to create gory and bloody decorations was extremely therapeutic. Just being a young girl scared the crap out of me on a daily basis, so hanging a bloody leg or two on the front porch seemed tame in comparison, not to mention hilarious. Life was scary in a vague, uncomfortable way. A bloody leg was scary in a direct bone-jutting-out-in-your-face way. A bloody leg gave me something to hang on to, a chance to playfully scream while getting some real pent up screams out. It worked because I knew I was safe.

I’ve noticed that my tiny children love to scream, too. In play-fear or excitement, screaming feels good. I’m constantly telling my son and daughter to stop screaming or the neighbors will call the police. On Halloween, thank goodness, my kids can make all the noise they want and not only will our neighbors not call the cops, they’ll encourage the screams with their lawn full of gory, blood-soaked decorations. Go ahead, kids! Scream as loud and long as you want to! 

On the flip side, when a child is freaked out by the bloody murder scene next door, we as parents have a great opportunity to show that we honor their feelings of fear, which we know are designed to be life-saving. “Yes, Timmy,” we can say, “I hear that you are scared of the fake person whose intestines are splayed all over the Flibertson/Malick’s yard. And that is totally and completely a valid way to feel. In fact, I feel the same way. Now let’s hug and go get some cookies.”

That’s what I call a bloody good time. 

Gory Halloween displays have no place in a family neighborhood

by: Julia Pelly

Earlier this week, as I took an evening stroll with my preschooler, we chatted about his day. He talked about playing with trains during his time in the early class at school, how he helped a friend go down the slide on the playground, and how he hoped we could have a Popsicle after dinner. And then, as his hand clasped mine and his little eyes peaked upwards, his tiny voice asked, “Mommy, how do heads get off bodies? And why do they hang in trees?”

He was, of course, referencing the plastic, bodiless heads hanging from my neighbor’s oak trees. Though his eyes were trained upward on the swinging heads mine quickly found the amputated and bloody arms and legs scattered across the lawn, and headless bodies covered in blood tucked behind the newly raised gravestones.

As I shooed my son quickly away from the lawn in question, explaining that the heads in the trees weren’t real, I silently cursed the decorating neighbors and wondered why they couldn’t simply keep their Halloween decor PG.

I’ve always loved Halloween. As a kid I thought about my costume all year, planning and changing my mind again and again as I looked forward to the thrill of trick-or-treating. As a teenager and in college I scoped out haunted houses and haunted hikes in the woods (the scarier and gorier the better!) and headed to bonfires or parties on the big night.

And now, in parenthood, I look forward to the thrill of letting my little boy choose a costume (a kitty cat this year) and experience the door-to-door joy of gathering more candy and treats that he’ll ever possibly be able to eat.

I also love watching his anticipation and excitement build as the pumpkin patches pop up across town and the decorations appear in front yards. The decorations I’m referring to include scarecrows and jack-o-lanterns, hay bales and miniature ghosts. I’m not talking about the goriest of displays that seem to be common in today’s suburban neighborhoods. While it may make me the lamest mom on the block, I think displaying something scary and gory in a family neighborhood is simply inconsiderate.

I understand that Halloween is supposed to be scary, that scaring and getting scared is part of the thrill, but a family neighborhood simply isn’t the place for the scariest or goriest decorations. When gore is on display in a neighborhood it can’t be avoided. Little ones driving to preschool or walking or biking in the evening must pass these displays and feel the feelings they inspire.

There’s a time and place for everything and if chopped up bodies and bloodied zombies are part of your Halloween fun, there are all kinds of places (preschooler-free zones) where you can indulge in your terrifying fun. Haunted houses, warped trails, and escape rooms all offer scary thrills without passing the fear on to little ones.

The thing about preschoolers is that they’re just figuring out the world and very often can’t tell reality from fantasy. They wonderfully believe in fairies and Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny and would never think to question you when you tell them that their stuffed animals play together when they go to school.

Most parents would never let their little ones watch “The Shining.” It’s a terrifying movie and adults know their little one won’t understand that it’s not real. But when forced to walk next to a gory display the same feelings are being evoked for the child and telling them that it’s not real won’t erase their big feelings.

While scary is a big part of Halloween, fun should be a bigger part. When little ones are scared simply walking around their neighborhood, the fun is lost.

Even if a preschooler isn’t inherently scared by a gory display, exposure to violence (real or plastic) desensitizes them and makes the blood and gore seem normal. It also makes them more likely to act out what they see. While a bad Halloween display won’t turn your tot into a serial killer, continued exposure may make them more likely to pretend to chop off their friend’s arms or legs in a very ungentle manner.

So, this season, as you pull out the decorations and dust off the candy bowl I ask, beg, and plead for you to think of the preschoolers before you adorn your lawn with decorations better fit for a haunted mansion. Keep it light, keep it fun, and don’t ruin a little kid’s Halloween with a gory display.   

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If there's anything better than dressing your kids up in adorable holiday outfits, it's gotta be matching them.

We rounded up seven of our favorite looks for this season. 🎁

1. Classic Christmas for kids

Go crisp, clean, classic and Christmassy with a Short Sleeve Smocked Holiday Dress from Feltman Brothers.

Short Sleeve Smocked Holiday Dress, Feltman Brothers, $67.95

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Classic Christmas made modern for mama

Match your cotton cutie in a crisp and modern shirtdress that can last you far beyond Christmas.

Kowtow Monologue Shirt Dress, Garmentory, $93.00

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2. Nordic-themed sweater set

Get cozy + complimentary with black and red family sweaters that you can wear all winter long.

Oh Sno Happy Christmas Collection, Hanna Andersson, $68 - $92

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3. Matchy matchy mommy

A super-affordable option for the matchy matchy mama.

Emmababy Mommy and Me Matching Plaid Long Sleeve Shirt Dress + Princess Tulle Tutu Dress, $14.99

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4. Mommy + me tutus

Tutus make everything, including the holidays, a bit more magical. Grab a matching set to enjoy a twirl with your girl.

Mommy and Me Tulle Tutus, Etsy, $110.00

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5. The perfect plaid dress

Quick! This one is perfect, grab it fast.

Ruffle Trim Babydoll Dress for Toddler Girls, Old Navy, $20.00

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Mama's plaid

Mama deserves ruffles and plaid, too.

Relaxed Plaid Twill Classic Shirt, $24.00, Old Navy

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6. Best sweater set yet

Moms and sons can play match-up, too. Grab a sweater set you can return to the entire season.

Festivewear Sweater Sets, Boden, $55.00-$130.00

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7. Big blue

Light up the night with Santa's sleigh and a sleek little number for mama.

Festive Big Applique Dress, Boden, $48.00

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Blue for you, too

The perfect LBD (little blue dress).

Flippy Pencil Dress, Boden, $170.00

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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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Ask a group of 10 mamas to define or describe mom guilt and you will likely get 10 different responses. We all associate feelings of guilt with different parenting situations that are as unique as we are. It ranges from feeling guilty about snapping at your children when you're run down, feeding them sugary snacks or leaving for an overnight work trip.

We feel guilt for big and small things, for things we did and didn't do and everything in between.

As a coach helping new moms adjust to motherhood, it's a big topic and one that repeatedly comes up. While it's not always labeled as mom guilt, those feelings of overwhelm, balancing what we're focusing our time on, or feeling bad that we haven't had a date night or a girls' night out in months, it usually circles back to guilt.

Guilt, when not addressed, can be quite a consuming feeling. It can become a bad habit, one that grows over time until soon you second-guess everything that you do for fear of feeling guilty afterward.

While I could certainly share my own experiences with guilt, I know they may not encompass the wide spectrum of mom guilt. So I asked some of my friends, colleagues and fellow moms to help me share stories of mom guilt, and I was surprised at some of the answers.

Here's what they had to say:

When do you experience mom guilt?

1. When I'm trying to blend work and life

"I have a job that has a lot of flexibility so I am around a lot more than other full-time jobs but a lot of the time I never feel like I am fully present. I am always taking phone calls and worrying about clients. It's hard to push that out of mind and focus fully on the kids."

2. When I lose my temper

"I lose my temper with my daughter all the time, and it's usually because I'm tired. When I don't parent with grace and instead react out of anger or frustration, I feel terrible, especially because it probably could have been prevented if I had gone to bed earlier the night before."

3. When I have to travel for work

"Two weeks ago I was out of town for a work conference and found out our 1-year-old had fallen down the stairs the night before and was taken to the hospital via ambulance. He was completely fine (just had an ear infection), but I felt guilty that I wasn't there.

"I kept thinking if I had been there I would have been an extra pair of hands and my husband wouldn't have been so stressed trying to get everyone ready for bed. I felt guilty that my husband had to go through that terrifying experience alone. I felt guilty that I couldn't be there for several more days to hold my baby and have physical proof he was okay."

4. When I had a hard time with breastfeeding

"I was unable to exclusively breastfeed my babies past four months. My milk supply couldn't keep up, and truthfully, I wasn't willing to be attached to my pump and eat all kinds of supplements to try to increase my milk. So we just started using formula. With my first born, I cried over this many times. I was disappointed and felt guilty that I wasn't giving her breast milk. But eventually I came to appreciate the conveniences of formula, and my guilt subsided.

"I was surprised when my son was born and we made the switch to formula again that [the guilt] crept back up. I remember bottle-feeding my newborn and feeling like I had to tell everyone in the room that the bottle was breast milk. Why is that?! Why do we need to slip it into the conversation that we're giving our kid breast milk or justify why we're not? When I stopped producing enough, that was disappointing but to be honest, I didn't love breastfeeding and felt a little relieved that it was over, and that made me feel guilty too. Why didn't I love something I was literally designed to do? Did I give up too easily? And would I have loved it if I had had a normal supply? I wrestled with these questions a lot."

5. When I feel like I'm working too much

"Luckily, I do not have to do morning drop off (that's my husband's realm). Avoiding the daycare drop off has been huge in terms of avoiding mom guilt on a regular basis. I typically do not feel guilty while I'm at work because I get a fair amount of fulfillment from my work, which I think makes me a better mom at the end of the day.

"However, I feel very guilty when my work bleeds into what should be time with my family (evenings and weekends). This happened a lot last school year (new school districts and new preps = 55-60 hour work weeks). I felt very guilty having to tell my son I couldn't play or couldn't go to the zoo with him and his dad on a Sunday because I had to work."

How do you move past the guilt?

It happens to the best of us, and it happens pretty frequently. Feeling guilty over certain circumstances, behavior and decisions is a part of parenting. So how do you move past those feelings of mom guilt? What can you think or do instead?

These were some of my favorite tips:

1. Be grateful

"Instead of feeling bad about yourself for something you can't control, try to be grateful. For example, write out gratitude l that you can afford formula and that formula even exists."

2. Talk about it, normalize it

"Talk about your experience when it comes up in conversation to normalize it—for yourself and for any other moms who might be listening. If someone says something offensive or insensitive, give them the benefit of the doubt."

3. Keep busy

"Keeping busy at work or during work travel is the best way to distract yourself and keep your mind off of feeling guilty."

4. Forgive yourself

"Accidents will happen whether you are there all the time or not, no matter how careful you are. The same thing could have happened even if you hadn't been away and both parents had been looking out for the kids' safety. It's okay to let yourself off the hook.

"If you lose your patience with your little one and resort to harsh words or actions, make a point to apologize and ask for forgiveness as soon as possible. Talk about why you both got upset, and after you hug it out, your guilt will probably have melted away."

5. Set boundaries

"Try setting stronger work boundaries so you can be more present at home. Especially if you don't work a traditional 9-5 job, that flexibility can lead to never being fully present. Find the boundaries that work for you so you can focus on family or work and not both all of the time."

6. Ask yourself some questions

If you feel overcome with mom guilt, try asking yourself:

  • Is your child thriving and happy? (yes)
  • Do theyknow they have a mom who loves them? (yes)
  • Are they learning new lessons/skills at daycare that you maybe wouldn't have even thought to teach them? (yes)

Then, what a lucky kid!

Remember you are not alone

If I can teach you one thing about guilt, it's that whether you feel guilty or not, is completely up to you. You may say, "she made me feel so guilty when she said…" or "hearing her talk about the privilege she has in staying home with her kids made me feel so guilty."

But it's not true. She didn't make you feel guilty. You thought that what she does or how she mothers was better, and that thought created the guilty feeling. Or you felt like you are doing a disservice to your family.

Knowing that, being aware of that, is so powerful.

I hope that by reading these honest stories from other moms who are doing the best that they can, you realize that we all feel it. We all experience mom guilt.

Share your stories, talk about it, normalize it, or challenge yourself with some of those amazing questions about whether your kid is happy, healthy and knows he is loved.

I bet you can talk yourself down off that ledge or pick yourself up out of those feelings of guilt. We all get through them and we get better and stronger every time that we do. Don't avoid the situations that "make you feel guilty". Walk head-on into them knowing you're not alone and knowing you have the tools to get past it.

Many thanks to these amazing women who were willing to share their stories:

  • Brooke Lehenbauer - Stay-at-home mom & part-time family photographer, Mom to a girl and a boy (3 yo and 7 months)
  • Jackie - Sales/Account Management, Mom to 3 kiddos (5, 3 and 1)
  • Lauren Karas - High school teacher, Mom to 3 yo boy and one on the way!
  • MC - Realtor, Mom to 2 boys (4 1/2 and 2 yo)

Originally posted on The Mother Nurture.

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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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