Monday, October 31, 2005

Why We Don't Go To Baby Class

I see the signs everywhere just like you do. There is Kindermusik. Then there are swimming classes, ballet classes, and language classes. You can get overcome with the number of classes out there for your baby.

We have made the decision not to attend these classes. We will send our son to swimming lessons when he is a little older, and we may offer him dance classes. My husband cannot wait until mini-soccer comes calling. I am tired just thinking about it.

In the meantime, we have decided to educate our son on our own. We have some advantages. I played several instruments for 12 years, and although I no longer play professionally, I can still strike up a tune that will interest my son. We purchased castanets, triangles, and other toys for him so that he can learn to make music. We play classical tunes in the mornings and silly children's songs in the car. Our son will learn more about music through our little informal lessons that in a course with other little tykes.

We also are teaching our son Spanish. Language skills are invaluable, and children who are bilingual before the age of five have a higher IQ. It is important to us to give him these skills. I speak French, and my husband speaks a little Spanish. We decided that Spanish was more practical, and we are learning the language and all about the customs to teach Jayden. He does not need a class; he has his everyday life where we will celebrate Spanish holidays and learning uno, dos, tres, along with one, two three.

Other parts of life, too, we can teach Jayden through informal (or even some formal) learning at home. Our baby does not need a structured environment for every moment of his day. While story time at the library will be fun when he is old enough to go, we will not need extra reading classes or craft classes.

We have decided in this time when parenting is about over-scheduling even your baby that we will stand up for Jayden's babyhood. We will let him learn for himself by pulling pots out of the cabinets and banging on them. We will let him learn for himself by playing with leaves in the park. We will let him learn by himself by sitting with a crayon and coloring book without someone hovering over him and holding his hand.

In short, we will let him be a baby. While we do believe in fostering Jayden's intelligence, we also believe that being a baby is about exploring and forming an identity, not about running to classes. I hope that in the next few years, parents will see that they can sit back and enjoy their babies. These little ones need to be permitted to find themselves and experience their inner creativity on their own. That does not mean that we should eschew all lessons, but perhaps we should wait until the baby gets old enough to express an interest.

By Brandi Rhoades

Learn To Calm Down - Even With A Baby

Sometimes, we get into the habit of working ourselves to the bone, especially when we have a baby in the house. That habit can become a problem, though, when you cannot calm down. You will want to experience your baby's time in this precious little state, so learn to relax using these techniques.

Cut back on your commitments. You need to value your time with your baby, so cut back civic, church, and other commitments when the little one is tiny. You need to make sure that you have enough time to spend with your baby. Be wary of classes for babies, too. One may be okay, but signing up a little guy for five or six events a week will over-stimulate him and keep you exhausted.

Next, stop multitasking so much! Sometimes, multitasking is necessary. If you can talk on the phone and balance the checkbook at the same time, go for it. If you are trying to juggle three or four activities constantly, however, you need to stop. The end result is that you cannot focus enough on any one task, and they all suffer. Plus you can get overwhelmed with the jobs you have to do because you will feel as if you are always running.

Planning ahead should become part of your life when you have a baby. They require a lot of pre-planning. A trip to the mall means that you will need to pack a diaper bag with wipes, diapers, a change of clothes, bibs, and other items. You need to learn to pre-plan if you want to get off on the right foot with your baby. Learn to get the diaper bag together the night before along with your clothes. If you will have a babysitter, be sure to gather everything for him or her before the time to leave arrives.

Take the time to enjoy playing. You and your baby can play together all day if you would like. When you first start playing with your baby, you may find that your mind wonders. You may be thinking of all of the things you could be doing - laundry, dishes, finishing that report - but eventually you will learn to let yourself go. While it may seem counterproductive to sit down and play when you are trying to get everything done, the down time can help you to recharge for the rest of your day.

Finally, take a deep breath. Sometimes we get so accustomed to rushing all the time that we cannot find the time to sit back and enjoy the world. We speed to get everywhere. We run around the house getting chores done, even when we don't have to. If you stop and take a deep breath before you start an activity, it will help you prepare your mind for a slower pace. Learning to calm down will help you enjoy the time you spend with your baby. In addition, it will help you to de-stress so that everyone enjoys you, too.

By Julia Mercer

What To Do When Baby Means A Demotion

First things first, your company absolutely cannot fire you because you are pregnant or because you had a baby. If you return from maternity leave to find that your office has been giving away and your things stored in a nice cardboard box, you have been wronged.

It is likely, though, that employment discrimination will take more subtle forms, and that is what moms of most little ones report. Everyone suddenly assumes that Mom is less likely to be committed to her work, and she suddenly finds herself with a lot of time on her hands at work. If you think that you are being discriminated against because of baby, there are some options at your disposal.

First, you should have been required to complete Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or short-term disability forms when you gave birth. Pay attention to them. Read through them carefully if you suspect a problem because you need to know exactly what your rights are. Write down the provisions you think your employers is not upholding so that you can be sure to have the information handy when you ask about it.

Next, you should keep strict documentation. It may be a moot point now, but you really need to know when you told them your were pregnant and their reaction. Now, though, you should keep in mind that if you decide to pursue this issue, you need to know when everything happened. Keep the date, time, and events that you find important.

Ask your boss about the problems. You need to be realistic, too. If there was a client deadline coming up three weeks after your return, you may have been taken off the project for purely practical reasons - because someone needed to be handling the issue for the six weeks you were not there. If, however, you are having a long-standing customer account moved permanently from your charge, then you need to address this issue.

Give your boss the chance to explain his or her position. Maybe he assumed erroneously that you would not want the client who requires after-hours commitment once you had the baby. You can explain that you fully intend to continue in your duties as normal. You may find that this simple discussion can get things back in line, and everyone will be back on track. Often, managers think they are helping out and do not realize that they are causing a problem with such decisions.

If you cannot resolve the problem, you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and ultimately sue your employer. (Remember, though, that your employment record will be on trial here, too.) Another option is simply to leave the company. If you do decide to seek another job, be sure to let your current employer know in your exit interview that you are leaving because you feel baby discrimination. Let someone higher up than your manager know so that someone in the company will (hopefully) deal with the problem. It is a serious issue, and your company should address it for future employees.

By Julia Mercer

That First Birthday Milestone

When your baby turns one, you will experience a range of emotions. Part of you will be happy for this little baby milestone, but another part of you will be sad that your baby is no longer a baby. Still you will want to remember this day fondly by planning a fun birthday bash.

Do not feel the need to offer an extravagant birthday bash for your little one. Parents who have those parties do it for themselves, not for their babies. Your baby will not care if you have hired 50 clowns at the baby. She will be happy with a much less stated affair.

Still you probably want to invite over the grandparents and a couple of friends. Make sure you let everyone know well in advance when the party will be and at what time. Before you invite anyone over, be sure to know what you are planning for the party. That way, if Grandma offers to help out, you know what to tell her. "You know, if you could make some meatballs, that would be great." She will feel included, and you will not have to worry about the meatballs. It works for everyone.

Decide beforehand what you will do at the party. A one-year-old is too young for games, but that does not mean that you shouldn't have some planned if there will be other children there. Plus your one-year-old will be able to play in some fun games, and you can plan to play them when everyone arrives.

Many families have the tradition of having a birthday cake just for the birthday boy. This little cake is the equivalent of a personal pan pizza. It is small, and baby can just have at it. If you plan to have this tradition, you cannot panic about mess! You probably want to save it until the end of the party because unless you gave birth to someone who had been to etiquette school, your baby will make a mess! He or she will dig into the cake and love it! You should sit back and enjoy - just have the bath stuff ready.

Be sure that you get cameras and other items ready before the party. Check the film and the batteries in the camera as you will not want to miss out on this event. Your baby is growing up, and as sad as that may be to you, later on will be the time to look back on it and laugh.

It is most important to relax during the big day. Many moms and dads (but especially moms) get so worked up over the day's events that they find they do not enjoy it. They are so busy trying to make sure that everyone else has a great time that they forget to have one themselves. Do not be one of those moms. Start preparing now so that when the day comes, you have no stress. Plan ahead so that you can enjoy the moment, too!

By Julia Mercer

Reaching Goals With Baby

Many women give up their own dreams when they have a baby. Instead they decide to put their full attention into giving their baby the best they can. While it is admirable to devote yourself to your baby, you need to work on your own needs, too.

First, you need to set some concrete goals. Take a few minutes to think about what is it that you want. You will want to start with only one goal. You can jot down several issues right now, but you will need to focus. Be realistic. What goal can you accomplish in a week or a month, depending on how motivated you are? Try to select an initial goal that you can meet quickly - and with baby at your side. You may want something that is part of a larger goal. For example, if "getting in shape" is your larger, abstract goal, you may want to start with increasing the amount of fruits you eat and move from there.

The second key to having a goal once you have a baby is to make sure that you can allot a certain amount of time to the goal. You may be able to give up only 10 minutes a day, but you should know now what kind of time you have to devote to your goal. Be sure that you work this time into your schedule. While you should not beat yourself up if you cannot meet your time allotment, you should remember that it is especially important once you have a baby to be sure to take care of yourself. Make the time for your goal a key part of your daily schedule.

One of the things that may happen when you are a mom is that you will have so many things competing for your attention that you can forget easily. In this case, make your goals something that you can achieve without a lot of work. Your first step can be as small as, "I want to get the kitchen organized. I will work on it for 15 minutes everyday until I am done." Or, "I want to finish my novel, I will write at least 500 words daily." Then you have set a goal that is doable in the amount of time you have. Both of those goals can be reached during one of baby's shorter naps.

Goals are important, but the journey should not overtake the end result. If you had your novel as your goal, for example, you should plan to revisit the goal weekly. First, be sure that you are making good progress. You may need to move backward and rework some parts. That is okay because it is part of your goal. You also may find that your goal is simple to achieve, which is great because you will make it but it will not provide any challenge. You may want to increase your goal to 750 or 1,000 words a day. Be sure that your goal is challenging so that it will be important to you.

By Julia Mercer

Packing For Baby

Now that you have a baby, you understand that saying, "everything but the kitchen sink." That is what you have to bring with you on trips. When you have a big trip with baby coming up, you will need to plan ahead when you are thinking about what to bring with you.

The first rule of packing baby, and yourself, is to limit the number of shoes. While baby shoes are cute, most doctors recommend that you do not put them on babies who cannot walk. Still when you are visiting somewhere for vacation, you may want baby to be dressed completely. Although the shoes are little, they begin to take up a lot of space because of their shape, so you should limit your baby to two pair.

Do not bring what you can buy there. If you are going to a resort area, you may spend a little more, but it will not be a huge difference. Your baby will need the diapers still left in the diaper rack at home. There is no need to lug them all with you when you can bring a few for the trip and stop by a store when you get there. This rule applies to other baby items, such as wipes and baby food jars (which are too breakable to travel anyway).

You can avoid bringing many of baby's bulkier items with you. If you will be renting a car, you can add on a car seat for very little charge. In addition, you can find portable cribs in most hotels, or as a last resort, you can allow baby to sleep with you on the trip. Do not bring all of these items with you. If you are flying, you have to be conservative about what you bring anyway, and there is no need to pack the whole house when you can find many items when you get there.

Also keep in mind that you do not have to bring the baby's entire wardrobe. Okay, you cannot decide what to let him or her wear for the vacation. Bring more than one outfit a day, to be sure, but do no overdo it. You will find it simple to over-pack baby because the clothes are so small. Still, you should limit yourself to pajamas and two outfits per day. Otherwise, you are carrying around a lot of extra weight.

Keep toys to a minimum. You should be doing something fun, and baby will enjoy seeing new sights and hearing new sounds. That means that you should not stuff a carry-on bag with toys galore because baby probably will not have time to play with them. Instead pick a few toys that baby really likes, and preferably are quiet, and put them in the bag. You can use makeshift "toys," such as pen and paper or plastic hotel cups, if you get really desperate. Chances are, though, that you will be able to entertain baby with a walk to the lobby to see all of the people. By planning your baby's packing, everyone will be able to enjoy the trip more.

By Julia Mercer

Including Your Baby In Chores

It is never too early to start your little one working on helping with the chores. Many parents today believe that they should complete all of the housework without involving their children, but that tactic will raise adults who are not capable of looking after themselves. Instead you should start when your child is still a baby to teach that there are ways he or she can help out.

You can help your baby begin to understand chores when she or he is only a few months old. You cannot require any work of the tiny one, of course, but you can talk about your chores as you are doing them. "Daddy is changing the trash can in your diaper pail. Pee-Yew! Dirty diapers are smelly." Your baby eventually will understand you, and you are setting the stage now for explaining rather than just doing.

Seeing you complete your chores will be helpful, too. While it is tempting to wait until baby is asleep to zoom through the living room and pick up, your baby will begin to need to see you in action to understand. The living room does not magically get clean as many toddlers and older children think. You can teach your baby now that you must work on the house.

As soon as baby is old enough to play with her or his toys, you need to start teaching that we must all pick up after ourselves. There is a reason that children's shows are overrun with songs, and that is because they work! Children learn through music. There is a little clean-up diddy that goes, "Clean up. Clean up. Everybody everywhere. Clean up. Clean up. Everybody do your share." You can sing this little tune with baby while you are helping him put toys away. While you are putting all of the toys away at the beginning, by the time your baby reaches one, he or she will be working right along beside you, even if baby only gets one toy to the box by the time you pick up the others.

You also can allow your baby to "help" as soon as he or she can grasp objects. As you are cleaning up from one of baby's meals, hand him the baby food jar. "Hold this for Mommy. It's trash." Then walk over to the trash can and help him toss the jar into the trash.

She can help by sitting with you while you fold laundry, too. While she may unfold a few pieces along the way, it is important for her to feel involved and will help you reinforce the idea that everyone is involved in housework. When parents complain that their three-year-old or seven-year old refuses to help around the house, it is because of parents' poor discipline techniques that allow children to get out of facing any responsibility. By teaching your children early that no one like housework but it must be done - and everyone must help - you are giving them lifelong lessons about the responsibilities of life.

By Julia Mercer

Handling Baby Problems at Work and Vice Versa

Career women will find that having a baby means that they have something to take on a new role in their lives. Instead of working filling the void between the times they eat, sleep, and have fun, there is someone new competing for that attention. Even for moms who learn to juggle the responsibilities early, it can sometimes seem as if baby's needs are overtaking work time and vice versa. There are some ways to combat this work-baby struggle, though.

Keep lists. Many people eschew lists, thinking that they are for people who cannot remember anything. Here's a hint: moms cannot remember everything. There is so much to do in the first months of baby's life, and much of it is new territory. Just give in and keep a list of what you need to do. While one big list may seem like a good idea, most moms will prefer compartmentalized lists. You can find a way to keep them all in your day planner, or you can get separate little notebooks for each. Still, home, work, and baby all need their own lists so that you can control what needs to happen when.

It also is a good idea to purchase a journal for work and one for home. Here is the key. Use the one at work when you remember that you wanted to make greeting cards of baby's pictures to send to grandma this weekend, jot it down in your journal. You can also jot down something about baby that you wanted to share with your husband but forgot.

Use the journal you keep at home to jot down that you need to re-schedule the meeting with Julie or the perfect phrasing for how to tell Steve that his work performance is not on par with his skills. You will think of the phrase while you are feeding baby; it is inevitable. Put it down before you forget. You can transport these journals back and forth, but if you do so, then you need to get ones that are easily distinguishable. Sometimes, though, just writing it down is enough to jog your memory later.

Never underestimate the ability of coworkers to help you out. Sometimes you are not sure if something is normal that your baby is doing or how to handle not getting enough sleep. Your coworkers can help with these problems because chances are, someone in your office has been there and will be happy to share tips. Use the network you have created on the job to help with your new baby.

If you are at work and cannot get baby off your mind, or keep thinking about what you need to do for baby tonight, then you should take a walk. It will waste less time to take a 5-minute break and go for a quick walk outside than to keep thinking about the baby's needs at work. You will learn eventually how to balance the two, and then you will be the seasoned pro giving advice.

By Julia Mercer

Baby Doesn't Want To Play!

While many moms and dads spend much of their time trying to entertain their little ones, it is important to note that babies do not need too much entertainment. They can get burned out easily when you try to do too much with them because their brains are processing everything you do. Plus they do not have a long attention span, so five minutes is a long time for a baby to try to pay attention.

Watch for signs that your baby is tired of playing or that his or her stimuli are overloaded. Your baby will learn quickly not to make eye contact with you if he does not want to play any longer. He also may seem to zone out, and that means that his little brain needs a rest.

You should work to give your baby the opportunity to be intrigued without you there. When you hear your baby get up in the morning or from a nap, you do not have to rush in to pick him up. Like adults, babies may need a few minutes to gather their thoughts. They may want to watch their mobile swaying. Give them that opportunity because they are learning to enjoy themselves while they are watching such motion.

You do not have to play with your baby always. Of course, you should sit on the floor and stack blocks together. Those activities will help stimulate your baby, but at the same time, they are too much for you to do all the time. You need to allow your child to be independent from you. Many babies want you in the room during certain parts of the day, and you should grant that desire because it often shows a need for a sense of security. Still, your baby can play while you are working. When you are going through the day's mail, you can give baby the junk mail or the envelopes while you are taking care of everything. He or she will enjoy this playtime, and Mommy will get some work done.

Your baby does not need to make noise all the time. Many babies seem to be babblers from the crib, but others enjoy playing quietly. Even if you have a "talker," he probably likes to just sit sometimes. Do not rush in on those occasions. Let him enjoy the time to himself. You should work to provide a quiet atmosphere at least some of the time during the day as well. Babies can get too much stimulation from everything going on around them, and many parents talk to their babies or play music for them incessantly. Give the little one's ears a break and create a calming mood for a few minutes everyday.

Finally, know that sometimes baby will just want to sit with you. She will not need you to do anything but will just want a little rest. She may come over when you are sitting on the couch and then just veg in your lap. Allow this relaxation; it's good for both of you!

By Julia Mercer

A New Kind of Hippie Mom

Okay, if you looked at me with my husband and son, you would (wrongly) assume that we are your typical suburban family. We look like it - right down to our blonde-haired, blue-eyed Aryan child. My husband is a software programmer, and I work from home, which most people (again, wrongly) assume means that I don't really work.

I'm not that kind of mom, though. We're liberals - very left-wing, not just your average mainstream Democrats. We believe in direct political action; we have been involved in our share of protests, rallying, and lobbying campaigns.

While I know that hippies were not necessarily liberals and I have been reading some of the horrors of being raised on communes, I think of us as sort of nouveau hippie parents. Or at least I hope we are.

One of the downsides to being raised to be the perfect everything is that I did little exploration about my own identity until I was out of college. I bounced around in various disciplines, but I didn't really delve into who I am.

I want life for my son to be different. I want Jayden to enjoy life - to explore whatever strikes him. And I want to share it with him - maybe because I didn't have it as a child. When he picks up a leaf, even now at 9 months old and looks at it (or eats it), I try to see it from his viewpoint. I try to let him explore. Instead of stopping him from getting into the cabinets, which I was never allowed to do, I'd prefer to turn them over and use them as drums with him.

My husband and I are making every effort to provide him with toys that will enhance his exploration and imagination. Instead of hovering over him as people of our generation are apt to do, we allow Jayden to play on his own. We give him the space to try out new toys or to talk to the stars on his crib bumper. We want him to be creative without us interfering in that process.

While we do purchase learning toys, our approach is more relaxed. We will help Jayden with whatever interests him. If he wants to explore chemistry, we will get him a chemistry set. If he wants to try ballet or Congo drumming, we are all for it. My job as his kinda-hippie mom is to make sure that he becomes the man he was born to become.

One of the repeated upsides I have read about having hippie parents is that the lifestyle teaches tolerance and open-mindedness. Here, too, I hope that Jayden takes the lessons. We will expose him to different cultures, religions, and ideas through our friends as well as more thought-out methods - by going to museums, getting books and toys from other cultures, and making a conscious effort to learn about other people.

Being Jayden's hippie mom is fun now but is only going to get better as he gets older. I may not wear a broom skirt or braid my long hair, but I can give him the values that those who do possess.

By Brandi Rhoades

Explaining Your Holiday Plans

One of the problems with having a baby is that everyone wants to be around! While that may seem like a lot of fun, it can turn into a problem easily because you will find that you cannot accommodate everyone. The holidays are one of these times, and they can be stressful when you are having a baby.

You and your partner need to decide how you want to spend the holidays. Be honest with each other. If one or the other has holiday celebrations that are not very exciting, then say that you would like to spend the holiday with someone else. If you are close enough to everyone, you can work out a schedule to see both families (or all families if there have been any divorces) around the same time. If everyone is spread out, then you may be looking at Thanksgiving with one set of grandparents and Christmas with another.

Be honest with each other. Think about who has other children at the celebration, who has a more baby-friendly celebration, and who gets to see baby often. The holidays are a time to be with family, so if you often spend the time with one set of grandparents, you should make the effort to see the other set at Christmas. For example, in our family, my husband's sister never comes down for Christmas. Her husband has a child from a previous relationship, and they stay close to him for Christmas. We have decided that we will spend Thanksgiving with the in-laws instead since my family has a huge Christmas celebration.

You need to let everyone know your plans in advance. Because Grandma will be making plans in her head even if she has not started planning, you should let her know if you will not be there. This situation definitely can be a case of "easier said than done." The best way is the direct approach. Give Grandma and Grandpa a call or visit. Sit down with them and explain what you are doing for the holidays.

If this family will feel shafted, then you should have your explanation in hand (and the two of you should be together). Just tell them that you are going to divide your time X way and then let them deal with it. You can explain why. "Well, we feel that her parents have a bigger Christmas thing. They're very religious, and we're not, so it's just a holiday to us. We want to share it with her family." Do not be negative or make another family sound better; just explain it the way it is.

Whatever you do, do not allow the grandparents to make you change your mind. Their reasoning may sound logical at the time, but you have to remember that they are biased. They want you to be with them, which feels great, but you and your partner must stick to the plans you have made with each other. Take charge of your family while your baby is still young so that it will be easier as he or she ages.

By Julia Mercer

Get Into Post-Baby Exercises

While you may not feel like working out after baby is born, you should try to get into a good workout. Exercising releases endorphins, which makes you happy. You also will find that you need some time to yourself, to worry about only yourself. Exercising can be the perfect outlet for such a need.

Remember that you should start slowly. You will not feel up to running a marathon two weeks after your baby arrives. Don't worry, especially if you have not really been in shape before. Set doable goals, such as walking for 15 minutes. Then work toward reaching it.

A Mommy's schedule is hectic as it is, and you may think that adding in exercise is impossible. Still, you need to work the exercise into your schedule. Do not think, "I'll do it when I have time." You will never find the time with that attitude. So in between feedings, diaper changes, and rest, schedule just a few minutes to pamper yourself.

Try to work out in a routine. Babies like routine, and quite frankly, they help moms out, too. They can make you feel better because you will know what is happening at what point in your day. The best way to fit in exercise, then, is to make sure that you make it part of your schedule. If you are at home, you can work out every morning at 11. If you work, do it as soon as you get home. Help working out to become an ingrained part of your life.

Work out alone or with baby. Give both a try and see which one works for you. Some women want to clear their heads when they exercise, so they need to get hubby to watch the baby while they work out. Others will feel great taking baby along. If you are one of those moms, you can look into a great jogging stroller so that the two of you can enjoy your time together, and the ride won't be too bouncy for baby. Try out these strollers by letting baby go for a test ride and by checking out other buyers' recommendations. You want something that will be easy for you to steer and will be a comfortable ride for baby.

The most important tip for new moms who are beginning to exercise is to stick to it. You may let exercise slip in the midst of the million other things you have going on in your life. Do not give in to that temptation. Instead you must make it a priority. It may not sound like much, but even if you can give only five minutes a day in the beginning, that is a start. Work your way up slowly until you have reached a more respectable amount. You need about 30 minutes of vigorous exercise five times a week, at minimum. Make that your goal and map out how you plan to get there. Your health is important, and taking care of it should be, too!

By Julia Mercer

Flying With Baby

With the holidays approaching, you may find that you will need to fly with your baby in tow. Try to make the flight as smooth as possible but know that some glitches are not uncommon.

You should apologize to the people sitting around you in advance. Explain that you know they do not want to fly near a baby, but you will make every effort to make the flight pleasant for all parties. People are more likely to be lenient instead of giving you death stares if you apologize beforehand. That way you are letting everyone know that you are aware of their problems.

Avoid bringing too much stuff with you. Instead you should try to limit what you carry with you. Limit your own items to the necessary documents you need and one book or magazine. If baby naps on the flight, you can stay entertained, but don't think that you will be able to get work done. Limit what baby can bring, too. You will need the necessities, such as diapers and wipes, and you should bring along two or three toys. Make sure they are small and quiet.

Bring snacks for your baby. You should bring something quick and easy - and not messy. You can try Cheerios or other similar cereals or some small crackers. Be sure that you have something to wipe up any mess. You also can try the little nipple-ready juice bottles so that you can avoid feeding your baby milk, which can get much messier, if at all possible.

You also should nip bad behavior in the bud. Do not wait for it to get worse before you deal with it. If your baby is squealing, distract him or gently put your finger over his mouth to let him know that he should stop. Do not permit him to get enraged or have a meltdown on the plane. If baby does something specific to another passenger, such as pull the hair of the woman in front of you, acknowledge it and apologize. Don't try to pretend that it didn't happen.

Try to schedule the flight around baby's naptime. Doing so is difficult, especially if you have connecting flights. It is much simpler when you can work it out, however. Instead of trying to feed and change baby on the flight, you should make every effort to get those issues out of the way before you and baby fly. If you can feed baby right before the flight, then you will be better off.

Also ask your pediatrician about the possibility of motion-sickness medicine before you go. Being on a plane for hours with a sick baby is not something anyone wants to experience, so you should see if there is something you can bring to give her just in case.

Remember that at the end of the day, you don't know the other passengers. They may be uncomfortable for a while, but they will get over it when they get off the plane and so will you.

By Julia Mercer

Childproofing Your Home Office

When you are a work at home parent, you will find that you will need a new set of childproofing techniques. You need to keep baby safe in the office, of course, but your work items need to be kept safe as well. Here are some ways you can childproof your office so that both your baby and your work are safe from harm.

First, put away important papers. No, your baby should not eat your report, but he will. That is just the way of babies, and there is nothing you can do because you cannot reason with a baby. Your best bet is to find a place to keep important work documents. You can use a drawer she cannot reach or an accordion file if you would like. Just make it something that stubby little fingers cannot reach and make it a priority to put your work there every time you get up from your desk.

Second, secure the trashcan. It often seems that babies go for the most disgusting things they can find, and that includes the trash. While your baby may not be tall enough or strong enough to get into the kitchen trash or a diaper pail, your home office probably has a smaller trash bin. You should secure it to the wall or floor or put it in a place the baby cannot reach. The danger here is baby eating something she should not as well as pulling the can on her head before you can grab her. Think about securing any other office items, such as printer tables, that your baby could topple.

Third, keep cords at bay. Babies love cords; there's no doubt about it. They are often bright and are generally interesting to someone exploring the world. Try to keep the danger away from your baby by using the little cord ties you can find in electronic stores. Also keep cords position along the wall so they are not quite so tempting.

Next, you should back up your files. If you have to type with baby at the keyboard, which will be likely when you work at home, your baby will want to reach out and help. While it can be frustrating, it will be devastating if he manages to delete files or cause other problems by hitting hotkeys. Avoid this problem by doing nightly backups and keeping the files away from your desktop on a disk of some sort.

Finally, let baby have a desk. You can improvise as he gets older, but for now, get him a short basket with some papers. You can put in blank paper, or better yet, gather some bright junk mail. Even a six-month-old can have a blast going through it. That way, baby will be "working" when you are, and he won't be working in your materials. As she gets older, you can add a little table, some supplies, and a chair. Then your little one will enjoy going to work with Mommy or Daddy everyday!

By Julia Mercer

The Great Television Debate

Should you let your baby watch television? Will a little Baby Einstein be a problem? There is no bigger debate in the world of parenting today. What exactly do we know?

First, we know very little about the actual impact of television-watching on very small children. The American Academy of Pediatrics warn that children two and under should not be permitted to watch any television, but other research shows that we do not know the real effects of television.

People who support permitting television-watching for small children argue that children can watch educational television. While plopping them down in front of the TV for the day is not a good idea - regardless of the child's age - allowing an occasional stimulating video with classical audio for baby cannot be harmful.

In fact, by the end of the baby days, your little one will be able to learn from television and can begin to pick up on colors and numbers gained from the television. This group of parents argues that the problems with too much television are there because parents permit their children to watch television anytime they want and for as long as they want. Instead, limiting television to a reasonable amount of time, about half an hour for babies, means that children will not see any negative long-term effects.

The other side of this argument is that television is the source of many of the problems in today's society. Indeed, many an overweight child sits and whiles away the hours in front of the boob tube. These kids do not get any exercise. They would rather watch sports than play them. Television, of course, is not the only factor at play here. Poor diet and other lifestyle choices add to childhood obesity.

These parents also argue that the rise in attention problems among this generation of children can be attributed to television. Children are required to pay attention in small spurts. They may have to watch only 10 minutes before commercials come on. The commercials themselves can be a problem as children find that they are being sold items fast and furious by marketers. Many teachers, too, believe that they have to alter their lessons because of the television generation. Teachers claim that they can teach only small five to ten minute lessons because the children cannot pay attention for longer.

The truth about television probably lies somewhere in the middle, and the reality is that while large numbers of parents eschew the idea of television, children are watching it. And they are by and large watching too much of it. While half an hour may be okay for a baby or toddler, hours of television everyday are not acceptable, but many babies spend their early days mesmerized by the television screen. Parents should relax on this issue as it will blow over and a new debate trend will take its place. Instead parents should focus on the important underlying message - encourage your children to pursue their own imagination, not one handed to them through television shows.

By Julia Mercer

Make Everyday A Learning Experience

When you have a baby, you will begin to see the world in a new way. Everything is new to your baby, and you can feel overwhelmed with the idea of "teaching" all that is the world to your baby. The best approach is to make everyday a learning experience for both of you. That way you can begin to incorporate learning into the baby's life naturally.

You should drive a different route to work or visit a different grocery store occasionally. While you may not think there is much to see in a grocery store, your child is taking in everything - the sights, sounds, and smells. It is your job to make sure that he or she sees as many different places as possible to facilitate learning.

Also try taking hands-on field trips with your baby. While you may not think that your baby will get much out of them, you are improving his or her brain function. The connections you are helping baby make now are helping him or her later as well. Try going to a museum or picking up shells at the beach. Look at leaves when you go to the park instead of just swinging or letting baby relax in a stroller. Experience the world with your baby.

Plants are proven to help with all types of stress-related problems. They also brighten up your house. Consider planting a small indoor garden. Your baby will be able to see food growing and will get a kick out of the bright colors. You can use small containers, such as coffee tins, to grow simple plants, like carrots and radishes.

Make a photo album with your baby watching. Obviously baby cannot help you to make the photo album. That would be a disaster! Still, he or she can sit and play with bright pieces of construction paper while you are sifting through photos. Talk to your baby while you are working on the album. "Oh look, here's a picture of Mommy and Daddy at the beach!" Carry on a conversation with your baby; you are improving brain waves.

Finally, you should just let your baby play. While it is important to provide some structured learning, your baby will learn simply through the play process. While you may not understand it, your baby's babbling at his bumper pad could be an important conversation with the characters on it. Research shows that babies with the most intellectual development experience a good bit of free play without Mom or Dad interrupting to show them how to do everything. Your baby will figure it out on his or her own. Give baby some room; she will learn on her own, too.

Be sure that you do not allow your need for structured learning to overcome baby's need to be a baby. Allowing your little one to explore the world will help with the learning process, and you will be able to see his joy when he has learned something new. So sit back and enjoy the time you have with your little one.

By Julia Mercer

Keep Your Baby On Your Mind When You're Working

Many a mom and dad regrets the moment that parental leave is over. Moms who have been home for six weeks or longer hate the thought of not being around their little one for eight to ten hours everyday. There are some simple ways you can keep baby on your mind, however.

First, you should fill up your desk, cubicle, or other workspace with pictures of your little one. If you happen not to have a workspace, then you should put a picture in your wallet. Be sure that you can see your little one often, so you can take a pictorial glimpse even if you can't see the little one. Change these pictures out when you need to and make sure they are cute.

There are other items you can purchase such as mouse pads that will have your baby's picture. some hospital photographers offer this service, but if yours does not or you did not think about it then, you can have a screen printing done at any print shop. You can get a mug or a mouse pad with your baby's picture so that you are reminded constantly of the greatest love in your life.

Another way to see baby's face often is to install a screensaver if you are allowed or put a picture of your baby as your desktop background on your computer. You will see that precious smiling face every time you close out a program on your computer. It will help you get through those first, long weeks.

One great idea is to let your baby leave you a voicemail. Before you know it, your baby will be giggling cute little giggles and then babbling away, saying things that you have no hope of understanding. Still you can call your work phone and have baby babble into it. Then when you are feeling overly sentimental, have a listen. Save it to play back to yourself. Just make sure no one's around in case the sentiment overcomes you, and the tears won't stop.

You also can use some of the baby's lotion or bring in some of the baby's wipes with you when you come to work. That way, anytime you lotion or wipe your hands, you will be reminded of a smell that is associated with your baby. You can try this trick with baby powder or other baby-related items as well. Since smell has the closest association with memory, you will think of baby when you use these products.

Finally, you can get jewelry made that will remind you of your baby. You can have mothers' rings or necklaces with the baby's birthstones, or you can try a charm bracelet. Add little charms for special remembrances of the baby, such as a rattle when she or he learns to play with toys. These types of reminders can help you think fondly of the time when you will head out the door and go home to your little one. Until then, though, be sure that you have enough reminders around to keep you sane.

By Julia Mercer

From Mom To Manager

There are many benefits from being a mother that extend outside your role as the matriarch in your family. You can use valuable skills that you master when you have a baby to transfer to workplace issues. Here are a few examples.

First, you can learn to set clear limits. When your baby starts crawling, you will need to set boundaries, even if that means putting up a baby gate. You can apply the same principle to your employees. You are so clear with baby because you understand that he needs it; being as clear with employees by implementing concrete policies (you are allowed one five-minute personal phone call a day) instead of abstract ones (don't use the phone much for personal business).

The second Mommy lesson that you can transfer is learning not to overreact to mistakes. When baby gets excited and slaps a bowl of cereal, spilling milk, you react calmly (or you should). It is not the baby's fault; mistakes happen. Your employees are the same. They make mistakes - forgetting a staff meeting or running late once. You should be as forgiving about human mistakes with your employees as you are with your baby.

If this baby is not your first one, you likely have realized that your children are very different, despite having the same environment. Still, you do not say, "well, Jane, why can't you talk? Brenda had said her first word by now?" Similarly, why would you say to an employee, "David had the system down after one week. Why don't you?" Avoid making idle comparisons of your employees and focus on helping the specific employee who needs you.

Learn to allow your employees some independence. Although it hurts for a mom to see her little one gain independence, especially if that independence comes with a fall or bump, it is a necessary part of parenting. The same concept applies in the workplace. Employees need you to teach them about their jobs, but then they need to practice on their own. You may be reluctant to allow your green agent to host her first open house without you, but you must permit her to grow as an employee even if she makes mistakes.

The final lesson that we learn from motherhood is to stay calm when things go wrong. Murphy's Law is especially harsh when it comes to parenting issues. Anytime you need to get somewhere on time, you will find a sick baby, spilled milk, or a lost shoe. Those problems, in adult form, crop up in the workplace. Everything does not work out perfectly. Keep that fact in mind and be sure that you account for problems. Stay calm. Your employees will appreciate you, and you will be a better manager.

These parts of motherhood are perfect for transferring managerial skills to the workplace. Many stay-at-home moms who decide to go back to work find that they do not think they have gained any skills while they have been at home, but in reality, motherhood is all about valuable skills that you can use at work, too.

By Julia Mercer

A Good Dusting For Baby

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that doctors cannot officially diagnose asthma until the age of two. This decision is mainly because babies' lungs are still developing, and wheezing and coughing may be signs of other medical problems.

Still, many moms and dads will attest that they were certain their children had asthma, even as babies. If you suspect that your baby could have asthma, you can give your house a good cleaning to help with breathing. Even if no one has breathing problems, these measures will help keep the air in your house much cleaner.

The first job you have is to fix any leaks. Any plumbing leaks can add to the moisture in the house, causing an increased likelihood that you will find mold in your home. The first stop to improving the quality of air, then is to fix any problems with leaks that you have. You will want to get rid of moisture of any kind in your home, so be sure that you look for any likely moisture areas, such as in the bathrooms and laundry room. Replace any panels or floor covering that needs it.

If you happen to find mold, you may want to get a mold test done. The black mold that you hear about causing sickness is not too common, and you will get headaches and nausea from exposure. Still, you may want to consider having someone test for it just to be sure. When you are trying to get rid of mold spots on your own, you simply use bleach to do so. Wear a mask so that you are not inhaling the mold or the bleach. Put on latex gloves and spray down the mold and scrub.

Next you will want to discard any porous surfaces that have any type of moisture or mold. These materials cannot be cleaned, even with bleach. Materials such as insulation or sheetrock have holes in them, and you will not be able to get the mold out. You should just have new pieces installed.

Once you have finished the major cleaning associated with getting cleaner air, you can start on the maintenance work. You will need to vacuum and dust on a regular basis. Do not simply wipe off surfaces. You will need to use a dusting cleaner and actually get down and dirty with dusting. Be sure that you do not neglect fans and other high surfaces. You can use feather dusters to reach ceiling fans. You also should take the face off any oscillating or box fans and clean off the blades with a dry cloth.

Finally, be sure that you talk to your pediatrician if you are concerned. While you may not get an asthma diagnosis, you may find that you can use medication, humidifiers, or other devices to help make your home's air better for everyone. Your baby's lungs are still delicate, so any cleaning and dusting you do will make your home a better place for him or her.

By Julia Mercer

Keeping The Car Clean With Baby

If you thought you had problems keeping your car cleaned out before you brought a little one into the world, you will be shocked at how much stuff can accumulate there once you have the little guy or gal in the car with you. The car does not have to be a disaster spot, however. With these simple tips, you can help to keep your car cleaned out.

First, purchase a lint roller to keep in your car if you have cloth seats. You will be surprised at how many crumbs can get into the car, even if you do not eat in it. Your baby will track in dirt and food particles once he or she starts eating solid foods. You can use the lint roller, which you can store in the glove compartment, to get up these crumbs. If you have leather seats, keep a cloth with you to wipe down the seats.

You also should keep a few wipes in the glove compartment along with tissues. Both of these paper products can be invaluable if you encounter a mess and find out that you ran out of wipes and forgot to change out the package. If you have the room, you can even keep a little changing pad kit in your car. You will find these kits in most baby stores. They have a spot for wipes, a couple of diapers, and have a nice pad to put out for baby. You can use these kits in stores or in the car, making them perfect for quick trips when you do not need the whole diaper bag.

If you are one of those people who keep everything tossed in the trunk of the car, stop that practice. You should get a basket or bag to keep essentials, such as oil and jumper cables. You will want to keep these materials in their own container because you do not want them to spill or leave residue on the stroller that will now take up a significant portion of your trunk space.

Another must-have for moms is a trash bag dispenser. This nifty invention comes in a small, typically rectangular plastic unit. Each unit has a dispensing point and holds about 25 little garbage bags. They work well for grown-up messes, such as fast food wrappers, but they are perfect for dirty diapers! You can change baby and toss the diaper without making it obvious to everyone what you are tossing. They also can help you contain the mess on the way when you are traveling.

It is important once you have a baby in the car to bring in everything each time you come home. It is tempting to leave the toy baby dropped under the seat, but you will find that you are tired later. A trip to the car can be a hassle when you are watching baby, so get it now. Get in the habit of keeping your car in order, and it will become second nature.

By Julia Mercer

Leaving Information For Your Babysitter

The first time you leave baby alone without you, it is likely that you will be nervous. That's normal. One option is to leave for only an hour or so the first time. Have coffee. Take a nice walk. Then come back and get your little one. When you do decide to leave, though, you will need to make sure that you leave the babysitter with the appropriate information. Both of you will feel better, and your little one will be safer.

You should include a sheet with the basic information. Include your cell phone number and the number of a relative who will know what to do in case of an emergency. You also should include the name of your pediatrician and the office phone number. Also, and this may sound silly, but write the baby's name down, especially if it has an odd spelling. You also should include the baby's date of birth, which the sitter may need if he or she needs to call the doctor.

For emergencies, you should leave enough information so that the babysitter will not have to guess about anything. Include the name of the hospital you use. Also put any medical problems your baby has, allergies, or other important medical information. Though it is your worst nightmare, you also need to think about the possibility of the babysitter calling 911. Leave your street address and any cross street or other directions to your house. Do not leave it to the babysitter to determine this information in the middle of a crisis situation.

You will want to include emergency information that is not 911. Sometimes there are incidents that don't count as 911 emergencies but may require contacting someone. Put the phone numbers of the police station (including the precinct number if you live in the city) as well as the fire department and poison control numbers. You may want to include health insurance information as well since there can be problems with being seen without proof of insurance.

You should, of course, give the babysitter the basic information about where you are going and when you plan to be home. Include the phone numbers of the restaurant, theater, or other destination for your date. Let him or her know your basic schedule, but do not feel obligated to stick to it exactly, especially if you have a cell phone.

Before you leave, you should make sure that you have the basic childcare goods, including plenty of diapers and wipes, as well as basic medical items, such as pain reliever and ointment. Show the sitter where these items are before you leave. You can leave information about how to treat minor problems, especially if your sitter is a teenager. You basically need to let him or her know how to treat bumps and scrapes as well as when you think it is okay to give your little one pain reliever.

Remember that it is unlikely that your babysitter will need to contact you. Still, these precautions will help you feel better about the whole situation.

By Julia Mercer

Helping Your Baby Build Community

Good humanitarian values are something that everyone should learn at an early age. It is your job as parents to make sure your children see the value in being a good member of their communities. You can start when your child is a baby to help make sure that your little one understands the importance of good community work.

When you vote or otherwise participate in politics, make it a point to take your baby. Although your baby is too young to understand voting, you are starting a trend in letting him or her know that you participate in voting for your elected officials.

You also should engage in charity work and take your baby along. If you volunteer for a group that delivers meals to elderly people or you donate monthly to a food pantry, even if the donation is small, your baby will see that giving to others is important. As your baby gets older, you can have him or her help you pick out items to give.

You also should consider allowing him or her to donate change to causes. Babies can appreciate the bell ringing outside stores during the holiday season. Give your little one a bit of change to toss in. The cost is minimal to you, but you are teaching him or her valuable lessons. Some malls also have wishing wells where pennies tossed in help a local charity. These kinds of events are fun and helpful, making them the perfect opportunity to share a message with your baby about helping.

There are places where taking baby can be a delight to the people you are visiting. For example, people in nursing homes or assisted living communities may not be able to see their own grandchildren anymore but will enjoy the sight of your little one playing. Taking your baby along gives all of you a sense of fulfillment.

When you take your child to parades for holidays, he or she will enjoy the sights, even when still a baby. You should explain what is going on. Just make comments and help your baby to have fun. As he or she gets older, the explanations can get more in-depth, and you will be able to teach valuable lessons through these community-wide events.

If you are reading this article and thinking, "I don't do any of those things," then you should. There is no better time than right now to get involved. Don't wait until your child is older because other activities will start to take up your time. Start small with some of the suggestions here. Begin to purchase $5 a month worth of food to donate to a food pantry or school supplies for the Boys and Girls Club. Volunteer to sit with someone at a nursing home for one hour a week. Once you start to help out, you will begin to see other opportunities to help out. Make it a point to get your whole family involved, and you will feel better about your place in your community.

By Julia Mercer

Create Custom Christmas Cards Of Your Baby

Are you tired of getting the same Christmas cards every year? Are all of your cards generic? Are you beginning to wonder if it is worth it to send boring cards every year? Everyone else is, too. Sending cards is nice, and it lets others know you're thinking of them. This year, though, use your baby to create a card that people will remember. You can make custom cards of your baby if you plan ahead.

First, you will need to begin snapping pictures of your little one during November. Know how many cards you need and snap away. Try to get pictures of your baby doing something cute that has him or her as the focus of the card. Keep your camera with you all the time so that you can get pictures at him swinging at the park or of her riding the carousel at the mall. You should get as many pictures as you can so that you can have a great selection when you start making your cards.

Then you can pick up some pre-made Christmas cards that are customizable. You can find these cards at many mass merchandisers, such as Wal-Mart, or at office supply stores. You have two basic options that you need to consider. If you have a great printer and want to print out digital images, you can get cards that will allow you to print quality photographs on, or you can get tabbed cards so that you can print out copies of the Christmas card.

Once you have your cards, you can print a basic message on all them, or you can decorate them yourself. If you want to do the decorating, then you will need some stickers, markers, and a little creativity. You should put individual messages, such as "I make Grandma's Christmas special." Put messages that your recipients will enjoy. You can add stickers or photo tabs to make the cards more festive. Look online or in craft stores to get ideas for how to decorate your cards and make them all unique.

Then after Thanksgiving, you should begin selecting photos to use. If you have taken a wide variety, you may be able to get good pictures that will speak to the person receiving the card. For example, if Aunt Edna gave Billy a blanket, and you catch an adorable shot of him napping with the blanket, put that picture on Aunt Edna's card. She will love seeing him use her gift, and you will feel great for making her day.

Once you have selected the pictures, you are at the home stretch. Print the photos and then address the cards. Your friends and family members will love these cards because they will be unique. People feel much better when they get a card that is specific to them or that shows you have put thought into it. Plus these cards are much more precious than any generic "happy holidays" card you'll find in the stores. And don't forget to save one as a keepsake for yourself!

By Julia Mercer

Picking Good Sandals

Yes, it is fall. Winter seems to be just around the corner in some places. So why are we talking about sandals?

Well, in some areas, people can still wear sandals. Just ask the Floridians. Plus, moms and dads may find themselves tempted to buy clearance rack sandals this time of year. You really should avoid that urge because you need to plan to wear sandals when you are picking them out. Here are the important points to keep in mind when you are picking out your baby's sandals.

First, do not get your baby sandals without a back strap. Their feet really are not formed enough to hold up the sandals. Plus, it is not like you can tell them to flex their little toes. Your best bet is to select a sandal that has a back strap. Otherwise, you will spend all of your time trying picking up the sandals that your little one dropped off his or her feet. In addition, make sure that the straps do not move on the baby's feet. The should be snug but not so tight that they cut off circulation.

Also, you may want to avoid the cutsie stuff that is on so many children's sandals. It is not that those things are "bad," but they often mask pretty shoddy construction of the shoe. Sandals are very important to fit right because your feet could hurt if they do not. For this reason, you should avoid flip-flops for babies or toddlers because they are too flexible for their little feet.

When you are picking out sandals, make sure the soles of the shoe are not too hard. If you pick them up and cannot bend them at all, they are too hard and will not have any give. These types of shoes can increase the chance of stepping wrong and twisting an ankle. The danger is there even for adults, but we have more experience and can catch our footing a little easier.

The sandal should bend near the ball of the foot. Any sandals that bend in the middle of the foot are a problem. You really want sandals that will bend slightly so that they will give when your child steps on a hard surface. Just be sure that they do not give too much, or the sandals could break or cause your child to fall.

You should not allow your child to wear only sandals because their feet should be barefoot or have good shoes much of the time. Sandals really should be viewed as more of a cute little item for your baby instead of daily footwear.

That does not mean that you cannot buy cute little sandals for your baby. Just keep in mind that they are a fun shoe only. Keep in mind when you are buying sandals for babies that they may be learning to walk in these shoes. Just be sure that they will not hinder your child's foot movement in any way.

By Julia Mercer

Walk, Baby, Walk

One of the most exciting parts of motherhood is seeing my son make new discoveries. He is amazed by everyday occurrences, such as my husband shaving. (Well, that is an almost everyday occurrence.) My son will watch with amazement.

We are on our third cabinet-locking device. He figured out the other two after a day or so of intense observation. Now we have just gone to an old-fashioned solution - a bungee cord. He cannot get the cabinets open, but he does think that it is fun to hold the cord while he sways backward.

Still, I am waiting for him to walk. He can do it, but we won't. I think it is a stubborn streak rearing its ugly head early in life. Jayden has been standing for four months now. He stands on his own. He can even bend over and pick up toys. He can crawl so fast you have to run to catch him. He can (unfortunately) climb the stairs.

He refuses to walk. If he needs to get somewhere, he will walk his feet out so that they are as wide as he can make them and them lean to grab whatever he wants.

It is so frustrating because I want this milestone to happen, but I think it is why it hasn't. Maybe we are trying too hard. When he is standing with my husband, I will say, "come here, baby. Come to Mommy." And he hops down and crawls over.

Crawling is faster, and it gets him everywhere he needs to go right now. Why bother walking? What's the point? Since he can scoot everywhere and can even catch the cats by crawling, I'm not sure that he feels any great need to start walking. It wouldn't even be faster at the beginning. Plus there are all of those bumps and bruises to consider from walking.

I read that some babies do not walk until they are 18 months old, and I keep thinking that I hope he is not one of those little tykes. I don't see how he could be because we give him so much room to run (crawl) and play. We don't hover over him, grabbing him every time he falls. We give him space.

I suppose that I just have to accept that he will do it in his own time. Maybe his personality is more like his father's than mine. My husband is never rushed. He is as relaxed as I am high-strung. He never lets anything make him feel pressured, and that includes work. Brian is so smart, but he never had any desire to push the limits of his abilities. He did well in college with no effort, and he is happy at his job. Maybe Jayden is that way, too, and if he is, then I should be able to accept it by now.

What am I saying? That's ridiculous. I'm going to go get him now and practice walking. Walk, baby, walk! Give your mommy peace of mind!

By Brandi Rhoades

Getting Ready For Halloween With My Baby

This year is my son Jayden's first Halloween. We are so excited! I never really celebrated Halloween much as a child, but we decided to do a little something extra this year. It still is probably less than most people do, but we have had fun.

Last week, we picked out a nice, big pumpkin and carved it. That was an experience! I had never carved a jack-o-lantern before, and it was not what I thought it would be. My husband cut off the top and then I worked on getting out the seeds and string. I thought that you would be able to just pull them out. I didn't realize that you would have to scrape and scrape along the edges of the inside. After what seemed like hours, we finished up the strings and seeds.

Then I drew the face onto the pumpkin with a marker. Since it was my first one, I went with the standard pumpkin face that you see on television. Then Brian and I took turns cutting out the pieces. All the while Jayden was toddling around in his walker. He watched us very seriously. When we cut out the nose, Brian gave it to him to eat. He really chomped down on it!

He seem to really enjoy it, so I may have to try a pumpkin dish or two with him. Once we finished, we went inside and picked out the seeds. I mixed them up with some butter and olive oil and roasted them. Yum! They were delicious. I had not had roasted pumpkin seeds either, so I was not really sure what to expect. I was very surprised. I read that you can sprinkle them in soups and on salads, and I can see why. Next year, if we do more than one carving, I will probably do that.

We put up our Halloween decorations, too. Jayden mostly watched, but he smiled at everything. He was particularly impressed with the string of lights we got with little jack-o-lanterns over the lights. He loved banging them together, and he got really quiet and observant when I plugged them up. Unfortunately, then he fell on them and broke several, so we had to toss them. Still, I have hope for Christmas!

We are going to dress up and have candy out for the trick-or-treaters. We live on a fairly busy road, so I hope we'll have some kids stop by. Jayden is going to be Harry Potter. We bought a little cape that I adjusted to (kind of) fit him. He also has the glasses, scar, wand, and broom. We found a party kit for Harry Potter parties, and it had everything included. Brian is going to be Dumbledore, and I'm McGonagall. We have robes. I'm going to put my hair in a bun and spray it black. Brian got a wig and beard, so we're all ready to take care of Little Harry. We're really excited about our first Halloween with baby, and we hope he has a blast!

By Brandi Rhoades

You Can't Have Too Many Kids

Now that we know why some parents believe that they should cut off the child-bearing at two or three, we should consider the opposite side. What do moms who have five or more children have to say about their family atmosphere?

The first lesson of a big family is teamwork. While we may cringe at the price of feeding a family of 14, we should consider how much work this family can accomplish in a short time. Cleaning the living room or doing yard work is much easier with that many people helping out. In addition, having a large family will teach the children about teamwork. Because they rarely will do anything alone, these children will have to work together to complete tasks, live in the same bedroom, and otherwise co-exist.

Plus, these families are fun! We should not forget that point. Moms and Dads who decide to have a large number of children often do so because they want to have fun. There is always someone to play with. There is never a shortage of things to do with this many people in the house.

Many a harried Mom and Dad wonder, "how can she make it with eight children?" Well, it forces organization, according to these parents. Neither your finances nor your sanity can afford the stress of disorganization. That means that you are forced to keep yourself together. You will learn to create cubbies for the children's work, prepare the night before, and find a place for everything in your house because you have no other choice. A family with many children would explode from the chaos without some sort of organization in place.

Large families can promote individuality. While that is not true for all large families because some of these parents expect cookie-cutter children, in other families, Mom and Dad do not have time to hover over the children. Instead the kids must figure out who they are and who they want to be on their own. This type of individuality can be very freeing.

Finally, large families teach children responsibility. In many families, children have precious few responsibilities. Instead they depend on the adults to dress them, set the table, and take out the trash. There is no way Mom and Dad can handle all of these tasks when they have a herd of little ones running around. That means that parents have to learn to delegate responsibilities to the other children, and the children must complete their chores for the house to run properly. Not taking out the trash can be a disaster in a huge family! These families, then, can teach children responsibility more so that living in a small family, where not pulling one's weight is not such a tragedy.

Whether you decide to have a huge family or only one child, be sure to experience fully the moments that make up your life. Do not just keep having children to relive babyhood. Enjoy your babies while they are little and then allow them to grow up!

By Julia Mercer

You Can Have Too Many Kids!

The debate over the size of families is not one that is likely to go away. At one time in our history, families were huge in part because of a lack of birth control and in part because children provided much-needed assistance in agricultural households. Today, though, the debate is more about money and time. Here are the reasons for why families can get too big.

First, many parents, particularly those parents who were part of large families, believe that you cannot give the same amount of attention to your children if there are a large number of them. Their point is factually sound. You cannot spend as much time with each child if you have six as opposed to two. That means that if you do have a large family, it is important to make more of an effort to have alone time with each child. Still, opponents of big families argue that it is impossible.

Their second concern is time in general. It is not just that you will not have enough time for each child, but you will find yourself strapped for time in every area of your life. It will be hard to find time for yourself or as a couple. In addition, you will spend hours driving to and from soccer practice, cooking and cleaning for the brood, and checking homework. There will be precious little time for anything else.

Money is also a worry for many families. Even if the parents make a hefty income, you will have to squeeze every penny if you have many children. Instead of being able to go on a really nice vacation, you will have to camp and bring lunchmeat because you will not be able to afford the cost of putting up six or seven children in a hotel room. Everyday expenses can become a hassle, too. Think of the cost for breakfast for the family in Cheaper by the Dozen! Yipes! Two dozen eggs just for one meal!

While Mom and Dad may be willing to make these sacrifices, it will be important to explain these choices to your children, who may not be as prone to understand your decisions. Children are more likely to see everything their friends have that they cannot afford, making it vital to push the importance of human relationships.

The final concern is over the peace of mind you will have. How much time will you have to get your thoughts together? None! It will be hard to find even five minutes by yourself with a large family. You should know that you can survive the noise and chaos of even an organized home with many children. The advocates of small families believe that inner peace is important but hard to achieve with so many other demands on your time and energy.

Now that we have considered the reasons you can have a family that is too large, let us look at the opposite side. What are the advantages of having many children? We will find out.

By Julia Mercer

Adding Value to Chores

Let's face it. No one likes chores. We'd all prefer not to ever have to do chores, but they are a part of life. Instead of avoiding them, you can make them a little more exciting for you and your little ones.

You can add math in when you are doing the chores. While that may seem silly with a baby, you can count the towels you have folded. You can use the dishes to help your child sort. "Plates go here. This is a saucer." You also can have your child help you with separating out clothes or at least can watch you in the process.

Try dancing when you are doing your chores. Most babies love music. While you probably play classical during naptime or to help stimulate baby's brain, you should pick up a couple of fun compact discs when you are out. You and the baby can pop in a CD and groove to it while you are cleaning. Yes, it will take you longer, but it is worth it. Your baby will have some fun from watching Mom or Dad dancing around and will enjoy the music as well. You can add some calorie-burning moves and get a mini-work-out from it, too.

While your baby cannot help pick out groceries, you can begin to teach valuable skills at this stage. When you take your baby to the grocery store, you can show him or her the items you are selecting. Talk while you are making your decision. "Well, we need spaghetti sauce. I really love the garlic-flavored, so we will get that." You also can give your baby a choice if you are getting something that comes in different colors. Hold them up, and chances are baby will go for one of them (probably the brighter one). Put that one in the cart and say, "okay, good choice." Your baby will begin to understand that he or she is part of the family and can make small decisions.

If you have an older baby who is toddling around, you do not have to wait until baby is sleeping to clean. Simply make baby cleaning supplies. Buy a couple of soft clothes, a duster, and a spray bottle filled with water. Explain that big people cleaners can hurt baby, but baby can use these cleaners. Put them in a basket, and your baby can "clean" along with you.

Start a chore chart now! Again, you will have to improvise, but by the age of one, you should have taught your baby that he or she will need to do work to be a full citizen of the house. Put up a small chart with pictures of the toy box. Then explain that baby must help pick up the toys every evening. While you will end up putting away the toys, make baby feel a part of the process. Then allow him or her to put up a sticker when the chore is done. It teaches responsibility, and that is your biggest job as a parent!
By Julia Mercer

Non-Emergency Information For The Sitter

Besides the emergency information, there are details you need to share with your sitter. While you should tell him or her the most important of these points in person, you cannot expect someone to remember everything. If you want to make notes, there are some key topics you should include. Just remember not to overload the sitter with information, or it will be hard to make it through it all.

You definitely want to include information about food, especially if you have a baby. You need to let your sitter know specific foods baby can have. Also point out information about what he or she cannot have. Many parents allow their babies to have Cheerios or other cereals, for instance. That does not mean they can have milk, so you need to make that clear. If your baby has any known allergies, you should include that information as well. With babies, it is best to get the foods you expect the baby to eat out before you leave and to ask the sitter to feed baby only food on your list.

Don't forget that the sitter will want to eat, too! If you are doing something such as giving her money to order pizza, make that clear. Otherwise, you should say where snacks or food to cook for dinner is kept. If you want to ask him not to eat certain foods, be sure to put that with your information. (You really should avoid this technique unless it is something you are planning to cook in the next day or so.)

Bedtime is another key issue for sitters. Include information about baby's bedtime and the routine you have. If baby has a certain stuffed animal she loves or if he wants a certain book read, then you need to get that out before the sitter arrives and put it on the information form you leave. Also let the sitter know if there are any special things to do, such as rocking baby or giving a pacifier for bedtime.

If you are specific about television, you need to let the sitter know. Some sitters, typically very young ones, will think that they can watch television indiscriminately because baby cannot understand what is going on. If you don't agree with that idea, then you need to your sitter know. Be specific about what is okay and not and whether baby is permitted to watch television at all. Let the sitter know what other "fun" stuff there is. If your baby has games or songs or other favorite activities, then you need to let the sitter know about them. You want to help them pass the time and have fun.

You also should include information about what the sitter is permitted to do, such as talk on the phone or use your computer. Do not assume that he or she will share your boundaries. Be sure to include information on your limits so that there are no conflicts later on because your sitter was on the Internet, and you don't approve. Giving your sitter the appropriate information will help you to be sure that your baby is in good hands.

By Julia Mercer

Children's Food Sensitivities and Allergies

By Christina VanGinkel

If you have an infant that is getting ready to make the jump from formula or breast milk, to regular milk, and at the same time you are starting to introduce more solid foods, be sure to keep track of what your child has eaten, especially important if allergies or any food sensitivities seem to run in your family. You should also try to introduce only one new food every few days. The reason behind this being that if your child does show sensitivity to a food, or has an outright allergic reaction, you may not know which food was the culprit, and you would be forced to exclude all the recently tried foods.

The best way to keep track of foods tried is to make a log of when a food was first tried, if they liked it, how much of the food was eaten, and if there was any reaction to it all. Reactions could vary from a mild rash showing up the diaper area, to hives or even trouble breathing, which would of course require immediate attention at a hospital.

Keep in mind that reactions to foods can manifest themselves in unusual ways. My youngest son kept breaking out in hives beneath his arms. I finally realized that anytime he drank quite a bit of juice, especially those with high levels of citrus, he would get this rash. What he was sensitive too was the citrus itself. We limited how much he drank at one time, and he is now able to enjoy the occasional glass of orange juice, though he still avoids juice mixes that have citrus added.

Just switching from formula or breast milk to regular milk can cause its own host of problems, and that is why most pediatricians will recommend that you avoid adding any other new foods to your child's diet for the few weeks surrounding the switch from one to the other. Some infants will have actual milk intolerance, while others will just need a few weeks for their tummies to adjust. If you are also introducing many other things at the same time though, it can be too easy top blame your infant's sudden bouts of gas on any number of things.

If at any time you feel that your child has a true allergy, whether it is to milk products or some other food, consult with your child's doctor, or as I said before, head right to the emergency room or call 911. Food allergies can be a significant danger and should not be treated lightly.

My son was fed two very tiny shrimp, and within a matter of minutes, we were on our way to the emergency room where he spent the remainder of the evening and night hours being treated for severe vomiting and hives. There was no warning to his reaction other than the symptoms sudden onset. With the citrus, he had a more gradual reaction. Each child and each set of symptoms can vary greatly, so be prepared to deal with them if your child happens to be a child that is sensitive or has an allergy. By simply keeping track of what foods you have introduced, and doing so one food at a time, you will be able to quickly let the doctors know what food brought on the allergy and this will help an y treatment they need be that much more successful and effective.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Differences amongst Children

By Christina VanGinkel

My house has always been the sort that children feel comfortable visiting. Toys are in abundance, yet there is room to play with them. Books are easily accessible, and there are not only lots of them, but also someone always prepared to read them to any set of willing ears. So, when my son and his girlfriend asked me to watch her two children for a few hours yesterday, and the children had been by the house on numerous occasions before, I replied that it would not be a problem. So when they left and the older of the two children, who is just over two years old, proceeded to cry for a while, then situate himself across the room from his sister and me and stare at us quietly, I could not fathom why.

It quickly became apparent though. I had decorated our home for Halloween, and his little sister who is thirteen months old was not only highly impressed, she wanted to pick up everything to show her older brother. However, he was not enthusiastic about all the Halloween decorations as she was. In fact, he was quite distressed by everything. Later, after his mother arrived back, she told me that her girlfriend had taken him to Wal-Mart earlier the same day and he had started protesting the minute they arrived in the parking lot. Seems he remembered his trip there a few days previous with his mom and did not want to go towards the Halloween section. While I have seen kids through the years spooked, literally, by a certain object, say a mask or some of the newer electronic decorations that move unexpectedly, I had never seen a child so afraid of it all.

His mother at this point has decided that she will be taking his little sister trick or treating, but not him. She said that the idea of subjecting him to everyone out in masks and all the lights and decorations would be way too much for him. I cannot personally fathom how I would deal with this, other than to try to introduce him bit by bit to things over the next few months. We decorate our home for Christmas with a lot of animation and lights, as do the stores. Where there is now a full size moving and talking skeleton, there will soon be an equally tall singing Santa. How he will react to these items, I wonder. I remember my two oldest children both being quite fearful of the Santa and the life size Easter Bunny at the mall, yet my youngest would walk right up to them and ask them if they had candy and start reciting his list of wants as if they were his long lost buddies.

All of these are just examples of no matter how many children someone has raised, or has had contact with through the years; you can always be surprised by the actions or reactions I should say, of the next child, you encounter. Each child is as different from the one before as you could ever imagine. That is the only thing you can be assured!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Baby Bottles and Teeth

By Christina VanGinkel

We have all heard reports that putting your child to bead with a bottle or a sippy cup can be bad for their health in several ways, mainly for the decay the milk or juice can cause when it settles on the teeth over night. Years ago, when my youngest son was a toddler, this was brought to our attention in quite a severe way. He had taken a fall off a small push toy that he thought he could use as a ladder. His older brother was about half a room away from him when he fell, and I was sitting on the couch in the same room. My oldest son saw him before I did as he stood up, and he started to shout to call 911. He saw blood, lots of it, and in his eleven-year-old mind, he figured his little brother needed help. I made a quick assessment and called our family dentist, who told me to bring him right in. At just over a year, his front baby teeth had just come in. They were soon to be out!

In the meantime, not knowing if the teeth would tighten up, but hoping they would, we took him back home. Everything was still in place, just loose. It was suggested that we not feed him anything hard, which would not be that difficult as he was more than content at his young age eating mashed potatoes and bananas. We were told we could give him a bottle, that if it hurt for him to suck, he would stop, and we should then offer him sips from a cup, something he was already familiar with anyway, only taking a bottle at night as it was. That evening, we put him to bed as we often did with the bottle. This evening, as he still had some bleeding going on around the gums, I offered him both a bottle of milk and a bottle of apple juice. He picked the apple juice. All I can say is the following morning we were not prepared for the revelation we were about to be introduced to. If you do not think juice can get into the little nooks and crannies of a child's set of teeth, I had first hand knowledge that it could. His teeth had actually shattered the day before unbeknownst to our dentist and us, and the juice had created a literal maze of all the cracks. When he smiled, it appeared as if he had little road maps painted in brown lines all across his front teeth.

He ended up having to go to an oral surgeon who removed his four front teeth. This resulted in years of speech therapy, followed by his adult teeth's struggle to come through years down the road. It also made me warn every young mother I came across for years, about how that innocuous bottle of milk or juice can do a lot more harm to their child's teeth than they can see. I did get to see, through very unusual circumstances to say the least, and it is not something I would ever want to see again!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Preparing Your Children for Your Childbirth Hospital Stay

Young children often think of the hospital as a scary place-- and indeed, sometimes it can be. But if you are expecting a baby, it is important that you try to ease your older children's fears about your upcoming hospital stay. As you know, most childbirth stays result in no complications and end up being a happy event for all. If you take the steps ahead of time to reassure your children that there is nothing to worry about, it will make your hospital experience better for your entire family. Be sure that they understand that soon after your hospital stay a new baby brother or sister will be joining your family. Here are some other ways to make the experience easier for all of you:

First and foremost, take your children on a tour of the hospital and make a pit stop in the maternity and nursery wing. Your children will get a kick out of seeing all of the newborn babies and they will come to see that the hospital does not have to be a frightening place-- in fact, some happy events actually do occur there!

In addition, there are many good books on the subject of going to the hospital. While some hospital stays can be scary, these are child-friendly books that will help to ease your child's anxiety about your hospital stay and hospitals in general.

If your children are familiar with popular children's characters, they may enjoy these books:

"Paddington Bear Goes to the Hospital" (Bond)
"A Visit to the Sesame Street Hospital" (Hautzig)
"Curious George Goes to the Hospital" (H.A. Rey)

All of these books feature familiar characters that will help your child better relate to the experience of going to the hospital.

Another great book, "Mommy's in the Hospital Having a Baby" by Maxine Rosenberg, features full color photographs of a real hospital stay. You will even get to see the newborn baby being cared or by the hospital nurses-- this book is as close as you can get to the real experience and it is highly recommended if you have preschool-age children.

Other ways to plan ahead for your hospital stay:

Decide who will be caring for your children when you go to the hospital to labor and give birth. Will it be a family friend or a grandparent? Make sure to have a bag packed full of comforting things for your child-- things like a favorite blanket, books and special snacks or treats. Labor and delivery can be unpredictable and you never know how long your child will have to be in someone else's care, so plan accordingly. Pack some favorite DVDs, toys and games to keep your child busy as well.

Take your child to one of you prenatal visits and let him or her share in the experience of hearing the baby's heartbeat.

Bring a picture of your child to keep in your hospital room. That way, when he or she comes to visit you and the new baby, your child will know that he or she is still just as important to you.

Monday, October 24, 2005

To Be a Mom

By Christina VanGinkel

If I could share only one piece of advice with a new mother, it would be simple. Take the time to be your baby's mother. If you do that, everything else will fall into place. Too often, a new mother is trying hard to be too many things at once, to keep their house spotless, to keep their infant from never fussing, to be a perfect working mother, or a perfect stay at home mother. There are always a million other things to do and be, and realistically, we know that many of these things must still be done, but in the same breath, they do not all have to be done at the same time, and to the perfection that they might once have been done. Housework may suffer on certain days, your hair may not be styled to perfection, meals may not be the elaborate creations you once enjoyed making for your spouse. This is part of being a new mom. From being tired, to suddenly finding boundless energy, from feeling as if you never want to get dressed again as you do not have a single clue as to where you would find the energy to go somewhere once you were dressed, to suddenly climbing the walls ready to get dressed up to go anyplace, even the grocery store.

If you can recognize that your emotions are going to run from hot to cold, from steaming to dry, and learn to coach yourself when your feelings are all so jumbled, that for the time being, not forever, just for the immediate time being, that being your baby's mother and nothing more is ok, you will be much more able to get through, and actually enjoy, this small blip in time that can seem so dramatic to your normal routine.

A friend of mine has a young baby, just a bit past the very early infant stage, and the baby was screaming as loud as she could. This was normal for her, she did it quite often, and I knew it was starting to wear on my friend's nerves. My friend was in her usual panic, as she could not get her to quit. She is the sort who has to have everything in her life in order. Her house is immaculate, her clothing are always looking stylish and pressed, her husband is the type who likes his things around him in order and is not quiet about telling the world around him that he expects it this way. She looked at me and asked me how I could sit there so calmly. Well, the baby was healthy, she was dry, and she had just been fed a bottle and burped. My guess was that she was tired, and I told my friend the more worked up she got, the more worked up her daughter would get. If she could just learn to take the screaming in stride, her daughter would learn from her calmness. If not, she could say a silent thank you that she lived rurally, and invest in a pair of earplugs. I am not condoning letting an obviously ill or uncomfortable baby scream, I am condoning learning what your child means when they do scream, and if that is their way they let off steam, who are we to stress out over a bit of noise? Love your child, be a mom, and know that not everything will be as perfect as it was before baby arrived, it will actually be better, because guess what, you are now among the elite group called Mothers!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

When You See a Child in Danger, What Would You Do?

By Christina VanGinkel

I am on several message boards online whose focus is parenting, and this morning there was a discussion going on about a young mother who is being charged with child endangerment because she left her infant son home alone for several weeks! She apparently left him in a playpen with a few bottles and off she went to party. She had lost one child to social services a few years past, and is pregnant as this is going on. How the baby was discovered, no one was positive, but it did state that several friends of hers knew she regularly left the child alone at night to go to clubs. Why no one had turned her in for those occurrences was under great discussion.. That he was still alive was a small miracle in itself out of the completely tragic ordeal that he had experienced. The discussion online turned to when would one of us, as a parent or grandparent, step in and call social services on a neighbor or acquaintance.

I had no definitive answer, other than if I saw something that bothered me, I would call or tell someone that I felt would have the authority to deal with it. I have been known to say things directly to mothers or fathers in public, which I never had met before the incident in question, and to talk to parent I knew. This may not be the best approach, but when an infant is in obvious danger, it is hard for me to not open my mouth. I once watched a young mother leave an infant in a car seat in a vehicle, crack the window a tiny bit, and head into a store. I could not in all good conscious let her leave an infant unattended and I spoke up and told her exactly what ran through my imagination when I realized what she was about to do. That a car can heat up quickly, even with a window cracked. That someone wanting an infant would not be deterred by a simple car door that was locked, especially when they had just watched the adult who should have been in charge walk away. What did she do? She actually thanked me and took her infant into the store with her. She replied that the baby had been fussy for days on end and she was finally asleep. She made a rash decision to leave her sleep instead of risk waking her up. She went on to say that, she had never done it before, and would never do it again. I honestly have no way of knowing if this was truthful, though it seemed to be. Another friend later told me I should have called 911 and let the police deal with it. In retrospect, that would have been the best approach. I had no way of knowing if the mother would respond as she did, or become violent for me 'butting in'.

Older children that are in as obvious neglect from the adults in charge leave me just as opened mouthed. When I had to run into the school that my son attends to pick up his homework as he had been out sick for the last two days, I passed a boy who was sitting in the back of the parking lot smoking a cigarette. The boy was in elementary school, and I knew his parents were separated and he was one of several children his mother was trying her best to raise. I called her upon arriving back home that morning and told her exactly where I saw her son, and what he was up to. I knew the mother though, and knew if she found out later that I saw him, and did not tell her, she would have been upset.

Parents make tough decisions all of the time, and as a parent, those decisions do not always directly reflect our own children. What will I do the next time I see a child being neglected or in obvious danger? Speak up to someone in charge. I could do no less and sleep with a good conscious.