Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Scheduling With Baby

Now that we may have another little one on the way, I will have to look at my schedule again. I am due to start back to graduate school in less than a week, which is going to be a tight schedule now that I may be pregnant. For starters, babies do not seem to understand that libraries mean quiet. I know. I know, but they just do not get it. My son loves to spend time in the library, but he thinks that it means he is free to run and play. He adores books, which I love, but the librarians have some strange notion that you should not pull all of the books off the shelves. Hmm.

So this little one will be re-evaluating how I am going to finish school. The baby would be due in October, just a few weeks after the fall quarter starts. If possible, I would like to be able to still go to school. I started writing again on Friday after my son was born on Monday, so I think that I can do it if it is all that is on my plate at that time.

My writing, of course, is something else that I have enjoyed doing and want to continue. I do not just write a little on the side. Writing is my income, and although it is not what I made before I started working for myself, it is money that we use for our family. Right now I keep a strict 40-hour a week schedule for writing. That means that I working on writing projects, marketing my writing, and sending queries for 40 hours a week.

That might not be so bad if it were not for the fact that I have other work I do, too. See, while I absolutely love writing, it can get tiring to sit at the computer as often as I have to. In fact, I find that my fingers start to feel numb, and my whole body and brain need a break. That is where my other work comes in.

I sell items in online auctions. I am just beginning, but it is something that I thought could help pad the small college fund that we have going. Now I am going to have to reconsider that issue because I am not sure how it will all get done. My initial impression, and what I have learned from watching my one-year-old, is that babies understand physical actions. He gets that I am vacuuming or washing the dishes. While he does not know what I am doing, he can see me moving around. When I am at my computer, that is harder to conceive of as busy for a baby.

I think that my online auctions may just come in handy when the baby is born. I may find myself switching over some of my writing time to auction time. I can go out with the baby (and toddler!) to garage sales, second-hand stores, or to other places looking for items to sell at auction. Going with me is something that the babies will be able to understand and enjoy rather than occupying themselves while Mommy is writing. (And I am not sure that I want to leave the toddler in charge anyway.)

They also will make time with my husband more imperative than ever. One of our initial concerns is that the baby will mean that one of us is with a child at all times. Although certainly I am here during the day, and he will keep watch at night, we probably will find that we will spend much of our time with one or the other child because two of us and two of them works well. I am determined that we will not grow apart the way that I see many people say that they do once they have children. Instead I want to be sure that my husband and I are able to spend quality time together. We are going to have to find a sitter and start to go out every month or so just to get some alone time without the current or future baby in the way.

By Julia Mercer

Finances With Baby

Having a baby puts serious strain on your financial state because babies require so much care. Here are a few of the financial concerns that you will need to think about if you have a new little one coming.

First, how much new stuff do you need to buy?

Well, that depends in part on how old your last child is now. If you have children fewer than three years apart, chances are that you still have most of your old stuff. Otherwise, you have probably discarded much of it. If you are not in the financial shape to purchase everything new, begin looking now for the new baby. You should be able to find clothing as well as furniture for less money at discount stores. If this baby is your first, then open your wallet. They are expensive little buggers, but they are worth every penny.

How will you save for college?

Yes, it is 18 years down the road, but it will be here before you know it. You will not be able to go backward and save for the baby in retrospect. If you are like us, you paid much of your own way. My husband and I paid our way through college with a little help here and there from our parents when they could afford it. We understood the reasons. My mom was very young when I was born and had worked hard keeping her head above water. My in-laws had five children, so their finances were always stretched thin.

We want to provide a different opportunity for our children, as most parents do. That means that we want to provide them with enough money to fund their college education. While in an ideal world, we would be able to pay for everything, including their living expenses, I am just not sure that will happen. Instead we are going to want to pay at least the actual cost of attendance. Looking at projections, if you are having a baby right now, you will need about $200,000 for college! We are aiming for $100,000 because that estimate includes living expenses. You should begin thinking about financing options now for your college fund.

Do you need a new car?

Now is not the time to get that sports car you have always dreamed of owning. Talk to my husband. He was all set to start looking at Dodge Chargers, but with the possibility of a new baby, we are not sure that is a good move to make. If you have a small car or one that is not reliable, you will want to think about upgrading. Reliable transportation will become very important, and you will want a car that is large enough for you to fit everything.

What about diapers? And baby food?

Yes, these parts of having a baby are expensive. The costs are so much that we actually had a separate budget for our son during his first year. We did not want to include it in our grocery bill because it would skew what we were spending. You can prepare yourself now (do it now, there will not be time later) for saving some money. You can make your own baby food, for example, or opt to use cloth diapers, at least a portion of the time. Learn now how you can start to save money with your baby so that you will not be overwhelmed by the cost. At the very least, you can begin picking up some things every time you go out so that you will have a stockpile when the baby is born.

So the final result is that babies are expensive. They can be less expensive if you are committed to raising them in a frugal lifestyle, but there are many items that babies simply have to have. Instead of worrying yourself about the cost, you should try to focus on planning. It is best if you can begin to get a handle on what you need to do to take care of your financial concerns. Sit down with your partner. Talk it out. Know what you plan to do and then hop on it. Especially if you are dad, being proactive here can make you much less stressed about the whole prospect.

By Julia Mercer

A New Baby On The Way!

We may have an unexpected surprise coming to our family. We are thinking that the surprise will be here around October! Yes, that is right. We may be expecting a new baby! It was completely unplanned, and we are not certain yet. I have taken home tests, but they have come back negative. Still my doctor ordered blood work because she thinks that it is most likely that I am pregnant. I will find out for sure when they get the results of the blood test tomorrow.

The thought of having a new baby is scary and kind of exciting. I feel that we will be excited by the time the baby gets here, so it is okay if we are a little upset right now. My husband said that he is already getting used to the idea, so the only one left is the other man in my life.

Our son is far too young to understand about having a new baby. He is only 13 months old himself, so he has barely left the world of babyhood. He certainly will not be able to grasp the concept of a baby growing in my tummy before the little one arrives. My biggest concern with him, as I am sure is the case with many parents who find themselves in this position, is that they will be under two years old at the same time! That is not something that I ever anticipated, so I am a little unsure how I am going to muster the energy to finish my master's degree, write forty hours a week, sell things online, run my own websites, and have two small children. Okay, maybe something will have to give. Scheduling changes are pretty common when a new baby is going to arrive, and I think that if the answer tomorrow is a yes, then we are going to have to sit down and talk about what all I do with my time.

Money, of course, is a concern, as it is for anyone who is having a baby. My husband makes more than enough to pay the bills. In fact, he pays only a couple of bills as I cover our debts and utilities with my writing. He covers car insurance and mortgage payments. Still we wanted to have all of our debt paid off in about a year, and we were going to be able to do that, but now the baby will come first, of course. A baby can put a significant strain on our financial lives because we want to provide the best for them and because they need new things constantly as they outgrow what they have. At the very least, a second baby means less money spent on new items because we already have so many of them from when our first son was born.

We do not have car payments, but that brings up another issue. We will have to get a bigger car! I cannot bring myself to drive a mini-van, so it looks like an SUV may be the route we go. With babies, it is important to be able to get them in and out of the car. My car is a compact car. I love it, but it will not fit two adults and two small children comfortably at all. My husband has a car that is a decent size but is not as reliable as we would like. So the new baby will mean getting a new car for the family. And do not even get me started on two college funds.

The final concern that we have is where the baby will stay once he or she arrives. We have changed our house around in the last few months so that my office is a perfect distance from the kitchen and living room. It is close enough that I can hear what is going on but am buffered from the bulk of the noise. I like it that way, but now I am not sure where a new baby will fit. We will have to put him or her in with our son and move everything around, or we will have to have our own roommates. Either way, I am sure all will work out fine.

By Julia Mercer

Pregnancy Books

Knowing what advice to trust when you are pregnant can be really tough. If you go to any local bookstore, you will find shelf after shelf of books available to you about pregnancy. Some are serious, and some are funny. Some deal with the biology, and some deal with culture. You will be overwhelmed by the number of books available, and you have not even come to the parenting part yet. How do you know when you are buying a good book?

First you should check the credentials of the author who wrote it. Books written by doctors, nurses, and midwives all have very different tones. Doctors tend to be more matter of fact. The patient will become more of an abstraction from a textbook, and the pregnancy will be explained in very clinical terms. Nurses deal with the real-life questions they hear from their patients all the time. These questions often are more related to how to ate, what to eat, and other topics that are not strictly medical. Midwives believe that pregnancy is beautiful and that every woman is capable of making it through. Their books tend to have a more informal spiritual feel than the others.

If you are looking at books that deal with other aspects of pregnancy, then you should take the credentials into account, too. If you are looking for something that will help you with the practical issues you will face, such as finding attractive clothing, then the woman who has 10 kids who wrote a book on pregnancy would be the way to go. Just check out the people who wrote the book and see why they wrote it and whether or not you think they can offer advice that you will need. A financial professional will offer different tips than a schoolteacher, for example, and there are pregnancy books out there by all of them. You can find out how to finance your baby beginning now and how to teach him or her in the womb. When it comes to pregnancy, if a book can be written, it has been, and you will be tempted to buy it.

Be sure that you are checking out any hint of parenting philosophy in the books. Although that is more important in the baby books, you will notice it in the pregnancy books as well. For example, some people believe that parenting not only can, but should, be done as frugally as possible. Those people are going to advise you not to get changing tables, baby bathtubs, and other items that most people get because they are not absolutely necessary. And they are right. Those items are not necessary, but you will find that you really like having some of them. You can get these books for the great tips they may offer, but you should be careful of the advice you are receiving from all books.

The funny books out there about pregnancy deal with the craziness of the whole situation. I purchased a book called Breathe for my husband when I found out I was pregnant. It is all about the hilarity of pregnancy from the perspective of a dad-to-be. My husband thoroughly enjoyed the book because it helped him to get a little perspective on some of his concerns, such as seeing me having the baby and paying for college tuition. Everyone should get at least one funny book about pregnancy because there are times when you will get so stressed that you need someone to help you see the lighter side of the situation.

Pregnancy is a stressful time in the lives of many future parents. You are unsure what to expect when your body begins to change, and you often cannot explain your moods. You may know that you are being irrational, but you are not sure what to do about it. Be sure that you check out some pregnancy-related books because you will want to get advice from other people who are experienced in this area. Just be careful that you get the right books to fit your lifestyle. Take some time and look over your choices. Read the back cover. Flip through a few pages. Make sure that you are getting a book that will add to, and not take away from, your experience of pregnancy.

By Julia Mercer

Ocean Wonders Aquarium from Fisher Price

By Christina VanGinkel

Crib toys are a wonderful way for parents to sneak in a few extra minutes of sleep upon baby awakening in the morning, as baby will often play with them instead of immediately wanting out of their crib. Too often, parents may think they can just toss a toy or two into the crib with baby, but this is never a good idea, for many reasons actually. If baby is a climber, the toys could become nothing more than fuel for their feet to climb on for one, and if they are restless sleepers, they could easily roll onto the toys in the middle of the night.

A toy such as the Ocean Wonders Aquarium from Fisher Price, which attaches to the side of the crib is an excellent choice in place of those toys that are just tossed in a half hazard fashion. It can be securely attached to the side of the crib, allowing the parents to choose exactly where to place it. With my youngest son, we attached his crib toy to the side of his crib that faced the wall, as he was a climber, and would use anything left in his crib to help him reach his destination (the floor!). While we did not have the luxury of the Fisher Price Ocean Wonders Aquarium, I would have bought it in an instant.

It is easy enough for young children to learn to operate on their own, and combines play with soothing music to help lull baby to sleep when it is bedtime. Depending on your infant though, this might be too much temptation, and instead of lulling them to sleep, it may entice them to stay awake and play, so that could be a concern. When I mentioned this to a friend with a young toddler, who is who showed this amazing toy to me in the first place, she admitted that they went through a transition when she had to take the toy out of the crib before putting her daughter to sleep. Then, she would slip it back on once she was asleep, so that it was there in the morning to keep her occupied. There are three setting though, and she said that now that her daughter is a bit older, she knows that when mom puts the music on by itself on low, melodic sounding setting, it is bedtime. She will occasionally also turn on the soft, glowing lights with the music, especially on nights her daughter might be a bit restless. When she wakes up though, you can always find her daughter with all of it turned on, full light, music on one of the more spacey sounding settings, and the fish swimming around. The different sound settings are suppose to sound like a babbling brook and other water sounds, but we both decided they sound more like something you would hear on a space cartoon! Overall, a fun crib toy to have.

The Ocean Wonders Aquarium from Fisher Price would make an ideal choice for a gift to give at a baby shower, or to a friend that is expecting a second or third child. They will be able to really appreciate the few extra minutes of sleep this toy might afford them on some mornings when it captivates baby's attention for a while when they wake.

If you are looking for a toy for your own child to place in their crib, this might be just the toy you have been looking for. Also, keep inn mind that if you have a pack and play type crib that baby uses frequently at a sitter's house or at a grandparents, you might want to pick up two, so baby always has the familiarity of the music to go to sleep with. I am not sure exactly how it would attach, but the same friend who showed me hers, said there are attachments that you can buy to attach a crib toy to a pack and play type crib. If not, I would not recommend placing it into the playpen anymore than I would the crib, as I am sure baby would soon be using it as something to stack and crawl onto.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Shopping for Car Seats

When your baby is riding in the car, you need to have him safely buckled into a car seat. There are many different kinds of car seats and booster seats with different regulations. When you are shopping for a kid's seat, you need to read the boxes, and make sure you are buying a seat that is safe for your child. Different seats are made for children of all different sizes and weights. There should be a chart right on the outside of the box.

You can go to any large retail store to shop for a baby car seat. If you are shopping for a seat for an infant, you will need to be looking for a rear facing seat. From the time your child is a newborn to the time he is over twenty pounds, it will be required that he is in a rear facing seat. This is a law because a young child's neck is not able to take much movement without seriously injuring a child. Never put a small baby in a regular car seat before they are big enough. You could cause serious injuries in your child, or even death. In baby seats that face backwards, you can buy them with or without a base. If you get one with a base, you can just strap the base into your car, and the seat part clicks into the base. You can even buy car seats that click into certain kinds of strollers. If you buy a car seat without a base, you have to strap the seat in every time you get into the car.

If you are buying a seat for a child that is old enough and big enough to face forward in a vehicle, there are a few different things you can look for. Some car seats come with cup holders, pockets, and other different commodities. Though those seats will be more expensive, they are more versatile, and will keep your car neater. If you travel a lot, a cup holder is a good thing to have for your child, so you will not have to be turning around every time your child needs a drink. Also, when you are shopping for a car seat, there are lots of different kinds of buckles on them. You will want to look for a buckle that is easy for you to strap, and hard for your child to undo. It is a good idea to put your child in the example car seat inside the store. This will let you know if your child fits well, and if he is comfortable or uncomfortable in the seat. It will also let you know if your child is able to undo the buckle. If he can undo it, it is probably not a good idea to buy that seat.

When your child gets to a certain age and weight, you might want to put away the car seat, and start looking for a booster seat. A booster seat for a car is just a little seat with arm handles. You strap your child in the same way you strap yourself in, except you put the strap over the seat, and under the handles before you strap it into the buckle piece. It is a law in every state for your child to be strapped into a booster seat until a certain age and weight. This law keeps many children from dying in vehicle accidents, and it is much safer to have your child strapped in. Even if your child screams and cries, explain to him why it is important to be strapped in, and what the consequences can be if he does not stay in his seat, and stay properly strapped in.

When you are shopping for seats, you can buy many different colors and models. If you have a boy, you probably want to buy a seat that is blue or black, and not one that is pink and white. Pick one out that has good safety standards also. You can look car and booster seats up on-line to see what their safety rating is. You can also buy toys that are specially made to strap onto car seats. You can buy toys that sing and light up, or you can buy rattles and books that hook to the seat so if your child drops them, they can easily pick them up. These will keep your children entertained while you are driving.

Keeping your child safe and comfortable in a car seat is one of the most important things a good parent can do. Shop around and pick a seat that is good for you and your child, and you will be a much happier parent!

Baby's First Pictures

Getting your baby ready for his or her first professional photo appointment is a fun and exciting time. It will be a time in your life that you and your family will never forget, and you will have a picture to remind you of it also! A first picture should be cherished and loved forever. You will want to put your baby's picture into a scrapbook or picture book, and hand them out to all of your family and friends.

When you are picking out an outfit to put your baby in, there are a few things to think about. First of all, you do not want to put your baby in some wild, outrageous outfit. If you think it is a popular look now, it probably will not be for long. Even if you think it is cute now, you probably will change your mind in the future. It is best to keep your baby in something traditional and in a traditional color too. Also, if it is winter, you do not want your baby to have his picture taken in shorts, so be sure that the outfit your baby is in matches the season it is. Another thing that is important is the size of the outfit. If you cannot find the right size of an outfit you really like, do not buy it unless you can get it taken in or fitted before your photo appointment. Your picture might look tacky if your baby's pants are too long or too short, or if your baby's arms are way to long for the sleeves of his shirt.

If your baby's first picture is a holiday picture, you might want to coordinate the picture with the holiday. If the holiday is Christmas, you could put reindeer ears on your baby, or maybe put a Santa Clause hat on him. You can also put a copy of your baby's picture in your Christmas cards, or get the picture made into a Christmas card. It is a cute and inexpensive idea, and your friends and relatives will love it. If it is Easter, you could put bunny ears on your baby, or put Easter eggs and bunnies around him. If it is the Fourth of July, dressing your baby in red, white, and blue, or dressing him in stars and stripes might be a good idea.

If it is not around a holiday when you take your baby for his first pictures, you might want to think about what kind of background you want in your baby's pictures. If you know what kind of background you want, you can coordinate your baby's outfit to match it. At most picture places, you can get a brochure of all of the different backgrounds that they have available. You might also want to think about changing your baby's outfits and get multiple pictures and backgrounds. Another thing you can do instead of changing your baby into different outfits is change your baby's accessories. You can add a jean jacket, a hat, or maybe even a button, or bows in your little girl's hair. This will be easy for you and take less time during your appointment, but it will make your pictures look and feel different.

Although it will cost more to get different backgrounds and poses, you can do a lot more with your pictures. Instead of just hanging one of your baby's pictures on your wall, you can do a large picture frame with a collage of all of your baby's first pictures. You can also do multiple scrapbook pages with them, and hand out different pictures to your friends and family. You might want to give your grandparent's traditional pictures of the baby, and give more fun and vibrant pictures to your friends.

Another thing to think about while your baby is getting his pictures done is getting a family picture. If you have other children, you might want to get pictures of all of your children together, or maybe get pictures of just you and your new baby. Another thing you can do is get pictures of the baby and his father together. It is always nice to have multiple poses. At many places you can buy packages that will allow you to get different people in the pictures, but still pay one package price.

The one thing to remember when you get your baby's first pictures done is to have a lot of fun, and make it a memorable experience. It is something that you can never redo, so make it the best you can!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Baby-Friendly At Home Businesses

Working a business from home with your baby can be a tough prospect. You may find that you will want to work when the baby wants your attention. You definitely will find that the organization required to work at home and live at home with a baby is tough. There are some work at home businesses that are perfect for your life with your little one.

Running a website with affiliate marketing is a great way to work from home and bring in a little money without taking too much time from baby. If you have never built a website, the initial building process will take you a good bit of time to learn. You will find that you will need to work in hour-long blocks to make progress. That means that when baby goes down, you get to work. Once you get your site set up and have some ads running to direct people to your affiliate site, then you will be able to work on the site with only a couple of hours of maintenance per week.

Crafts are fairly easy to make while you are with baby. Even as baby gets older, you will enjoy being able to sit on the floor and work on a craft project while your baby is sleeping or playing quietly. Because most craft shows are on the weekends, your spouse will be home to help with the baby while you are selling your items. This part-time business is one that you can handle while your baby is asleep. You also may find that you enjoy working with your hands and having something to help you calm down.

Selling on auction sites, such as eBay, is another popular way to make money from home. You will discover that you can earn money in only a few hours a week by using this popular auction site. The process is simple. Take some time to go through the tutorials available online at the auction sites as well as the many that you will find elsewhere on the net. Then you should begin picking up items to offer for sale. You can find items at thrift stores as well as make them on your own and then offer them up for sale on an auction site. With this job, you will need to make daily or weekly trips to the post office, but you can add that errand in with your other weekly errands.

Many people start service-oriented jobs when they are at home with a baby. You could start a babysitting, house worker, or other type of referral service. You would need to get a cellular phone or an additional landline phone for the business. You would begin by pre-screening people. For example, if you were starting a babysitting referral service, you would screen people to be babysitters and keep files on them. People wanting a sitter would call and leave their information with you. With a baby, you could allow your voicemail to pick up and then call them back when the baby went to sleep.

Being a representative for a direct sales company, such as Avon, is another way that many people work at home with they have babies. Your daytime work would be minimal. You can have a website with many of these companies, or you could work on hosting parties. During the day, you would contact hostesses about having parties and take care of orders. Then you could have the parties in the evenings whenever you wanted. The business would fit your schedule, and you can host as many or as few parties as you like.

You can start many types of businesses when you are at home with a baby. All you have to do is be willing to put in some hard work and have the capital to advertise what you are doing for a business. Remember that the business will not come to you overnight. Instead you will need to work, work, work to have your business bring in a significant income. Keeping up with a baby is tough work, and adding a business can be challenging. Just keep in mind that in the end all of the hard work will be worth it.

By Julia Mercer

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Baby Shower Handcrafted Decorations

By Christina VanGinkel

Making your own baby shower invitations and decorations can be a fun way to personalize and coordinate all of these items, and make the mother-to-be feel as if she is as important as she really is! With paper crafting all the rage these days, it might even be an economical way to get everything all in a single coordinated theme, and you can have fun pulling it all together in no time at all. If you think you might be a bit overwhelmed making everything yourself, you could always ask a few of the guest of honor's friends to give you a helping hand.

Start out by thinking of a theme that will be easy, but fun to pull together via the invitation, table decorations, streamers, even the cake! My favorite is baby feet, as the shapes are meaningful to the occasion, easy to cut out even if you have to do them by hand with scissors, and can be cut out in a variety of sizes, not to mention that I just think baby feet are as cute as any baby shape I can think of. Cute enough that it was the theme we used for my own daughter's shower a few years ago. Matching things like the cake decoration is also easily accomplished, as the shape is so easy to reconstruct in just about any manner you choose. While I refer to the theme of feet, keep in mind that any simple baby item could become the perfect shape for the next shower you host, such as a baby rattle, duck, bottle, or even a pacifier.

Starting with the invitations, use blank note cards already cut, with matching envelopes, or cut your own from white cardstock, and just purchase the envelopes. Decorate each card with a pair of baby feet in your color choice. If the baby's sex is already known, then go with pink or blue depending on the baby, or else go with a generic green or yellow, or even a striped cardstock or baby themed paper in a variety of colors. You can either make a stencil on your own, or copy a set from clipart you most likely have on your computer already, or search online for readily available free clipart.

You could also purchase an inkpad and stamp in the shape of baby feet, if you would rather avoid cutting too many of the feet shapes. On the inside of each card, simply write the pertinent information relating to the shower's location and time, and if there are any special rules to take note of, such as if it is a surprise for the guest of honor.

Carrying along the theme, decorate plain white, paper tablecloths in the theme of your choosing. For the baby feet, you could stamp all over the tablecloths, or tape down little feet that you cut out of various colored cardstock and themed paper. Streamers can be decorated in the same manner. If you have a stamp and ink pad in your chosen theme, you could do some with the stamp and ink, and some cut from cardstock and papers, for some fun combinations.

Think of additional ways to use your theme in the decorations. The outside of the punch bowl could have feet taped to it using clear double stick tape, and you could make name tags for the guests and guest of honor in the same shape. This is especially helpful if there are going to be people in attendance who do not all know each other. For my daughter's baby shower, we even decorated the bottom of each plate in a simple baby foot shape cut out of cardstock, and attached each set of feet with a thin piece of folded over scotch tape so they could easily be removed. Under one of the pairs of feet, we had placed an X, for our door prize winner. We also made extra baby feet, which we handed out to guests upon their arrival, and asked everyone to take the time to pen a note to her about raising babies. At the end of the shower, we had her read a few out loud, and then after the shower she used them to decorate her first scrapbook she ever made with pictures starting with her ultrasound all the way through his first few months, including shots of the shower and all the fun decorations.

If you are hosting a shower for someone special, take a bit of extra time to make it as special as can be, and celebrate with decorations you made all on your own!

Preventing Germs: Keep Sick Children Home!

Okay, as the mother of three children, one in grade school, one in preschool, and a baby still at home, I realize that my older two kids are going to bring home a certain amount of germs. I also realize that it seems to be inevitable that all three of my children will probably be sick at least once this winter with all the germs floating around. It seems, in the town where I live (and it is probably a similar situation in the town where you live) that we have had several nasty viruses going around that include copious amounts of hacking, coughing, sneezing, runny noses, etc, etc.

But after having spent a small fortune taking all three of my children to the pediatrician several times apiece this winter, I have finally had enough. Never mind that at least half of the doctor visits were simply exercises in throwing away our hard-earned money because I had to hear (yet again) that my child's illness was viral and they could do nothing about it. Never mind that my daughter has missed a ton of school because she has had tonsillitis, bronchitis, that nasty viral thing going around and several colds for good measure. Never mind that my baby has not had four straight weeks since October when he has not contracted something his older brother and sister brought home. Never mind that I got a note from the preschool saying that several of the students had been diagnosed with RSV and had been attending school until their parents figured out what was wrong with them. The bottom line is, I am sick and tired of having sick kids because other parents don't bother to keep their kids home when they are sick. And it is only getting worse.

Yes, I'm talking about you people, the ones who don't want to or you think you can't take off work because you rationalize to yourself that your child is not TOO sick. The ones who would rather send their child to school, daycare, after school activities, etc, with fevers, runny noses, and enough cold symptoms to make anyone gag than have to argue with their boss or take a sick day to take care of their sick child.

To everyone who is guilty of this, I simply say, keep them home and do the rest of the world a favor! Change plans, call a friend or relative, just do the right thing. The rest of the world is tired of having their children get sick because you won't keep them home.

It's not like we don't try to keep from getting sick. We take every precaution we can at our house. We are constantly washing our hands. We take vitamins. We get flue shots and keep our immunizations up to date. We try to avoid people who we know are sick. I keep my children home if they are not feeling well.

So here is a little list of symptoms for you parents who perhaps aren't sure whether you should keep your child home or not.

-If they are running a fever, even a low grade one, keep them home. If they have a fever, they are sick, they have germs, and during fever is one of the times that most children are contagious.
-If they feel urpy, or like they are going to throw up, keep them home for at least half the day until you are sure they are not going to throw up. Trust me, the school nurse doesn't like other people's urpy kids any more than you do, the school janitor hates to clean it up, the school secretary gets aggravated when the urpy kid doesn't make it to the nurse's office, and just the smell alone can have other normally healthy children upchucking their most recent meal out in droves as they pass the problem on the way to their classroom. And if your child is anything like mine, they are completely embarrassed by the thought of throwing up at school in front of their friends.
-If they ache, have a really runny nose, seem more tired than usual, and generally don't look like they feel good, trust your parental instincts and keep them home. If it isn't serious, one day home from school is not going to keep them from attending an Ivy League college

So yes, when in doubt that your child is well, keep them home. And yes, I heard all the excuses for not doing it.

You have an important meeting/presentation/water cooler discussion planned for that day. You have to go out of town/visit all the stores in your district/interview someone. I have one word for you: reschedule. Yes, you're probably going to take some flak for it. But you're an adult, aren't you? Part of being an adult is life not always being easy or convenient.

You've used up all your sick days and don't want to waste a vacation day. There is always a solution. Buy a personal day. Ask a co-worker to donate one of their sick days. Bite the bullet and use a vacation day. Ask to telecommute from home that day, if possible with your job. Take a day without pay if you have to, which is really terrible, I know, but don't you think your child is worth it?

You are a single parent and can’t take off work and have no one to watch your child when they are home sick. Let me ask you, who did you put down on your child's school admission form as a secondary emergency contact? Everyone has someone they can prevail upon to watch their sick child if they absolutely can't be home with them. And if your boss is that much of a jerk about you staying home with your sick child, you might want to re-think that job. Any job that ignores the fact that you have a family is not a good job, no matter what they are paying you.

I know there are tons of other reasons you rationalize to yourself that are good ones for sending your sick child to school or daycare or wherever. But they're not. I alswo realize that even the best parent can send their child to school just fine and then have them come home sick later in the day. I understand. That happens. But if they are sick before you send them, don't send them. Do the rest of the kids at school and favor and don't spread germs.

Personally, I think parents who send an obviously sick child to school, daycare, activities, etc, should be fined for probably making it so that at least three other children will get sick.

Or, I can just send you my doctor bills. Eitehr way, maybe it will stop parents from being so stupid. Or maybe not. There seems to be an open door policy on parent stupidity these days. And dang it, I think I'm coming down with what my son had last week.

Making your own Baby Supplies

By Christina VanGinkel

Baby supplies can be costly, so finding inexpensive alternatives for those supplies that you use often, or are costly to begin with, can add up to big savings. One of my favorite alternatives to the original is handcrafted hooded bath towels. Anyone who has purchased these in a store, knows just how expensive an item they can be, yet we buy them because they work so well when bathing baby. To make your own though, with a basic bath towel and either two washcloths or a hand towel is actually so simple, that even if you only possess the most basic sewing skills, you can make them, and at much less than what the store bought alternative would cost.

Hooded Bath Towels

To begin, you will need a bath towel (a thinner, smaller sized towel actually works well) and matching hand towel, along with matching thread and either a needle for hand sewing, or a machine. I have been told you can also substitute two washcloths for the hand towel, and as long as you end up with a hooded shape, I do not see why the two washcloths would not work. Take the hand towel, and fold the middle so that it forms a peak, sew right over the fold. The two washcloths could be placed together in a similar fashion and sewn. Sew the bottom of this hood to the middle of the long side of the towel. As simple as that, you now have a hooded bath towel to make drying baby off after baths much simpler and convenient. I have seen some of these transformed with ears and eyes, making them look like ducks, frogs, even rabbits, and toddlers I am sure would get a big kick out of a hooded towel transformed into one of these. It might even work to entice a reluctant bather into the tub in the first place!

Baby Wipes

If there is one supply that you will go through time and again, and that can really add up dollar wise, it is baby wipes. There are generic brands, and off brands that are somewhat less than name brand ones, but these are often more in line with sandpaper or a dry wipe than a good quality wet wipe that will not bother baby's bottom, resulting in even more expensive baby lotions needing to be applied. To make your own, you will need a plastic container with a tight fitting lid large enough to hold a roll of paper toweling, cut in half width wise, the roll of paper toweling, two cups water, and two tablespoons of baby wash. I have also added plain baby oil in place of the baby wash, and I have heard that adding a few drops of melaleuca or lavender or chamomile essential oils to whichever mix you use, are great for keeping baby's bottom diaper rash free, as they cut the acid in baby's wet diapers. Do be careful if you choose to add these essential oils though, since some essential oils can cause problems in people that have allergies. For example, chamomile can bring about symptoms of hay fever.

Baby Powder

While not really a recipe to make your own, but a substitution, cornstarch is both easy on the budget and on baby's bottom. Baby powder may smell better, but cornstarch works just as well. If you miss the fragrant smell, you can always add a few drops of lavender oil to the cornstarch, mixing well and storing in an airtight container to keep the fragrance fresh smelling until the last bit of powder has been used.

Making your own baby supplies will not only save you money, it will also let you be fully aware of what is coming into contact with baby's skin. You can always read an ingredients list on a product, but when you find it difficult, to even pronounce the name of some of them, it is hard to know what they all are. When you make the product yourself, with some fairly basic ingredients, your mind can rest easy knowing you are not subjecting baby's skin to any harsh ingredients. This can be helpful if allergies happen to be a concern, or if baby's skin is more sensitive, to what it happens to come into contact with, than the average infant. This could be due to another health issue such as eczema or other skin drying factors.

Unisex Baby Gifts

Recently, I was involved in planning a baby shower for a friend of mine-- a friend who opted not to find out the sex of the baby when she had her ultrasound back at Week 20. It was amazing how many people were "annoyed" that our friend didn't find out the sex of her baby.

"It makes it too hard to pick out a shower gift" someone complained. Another person added that she didn't think it was appropriate to even have a shower for this person ("If she didn't find out the sex of the baby, we shouldn't even bother with a shower"). I took offense to that remark. As a woman who has given birth to three children and never opted to find out the baby's sex beforehand, I can't believe that people would act all put out when invited to a shower for a friend who didn't find out the sex. Is nothing sacred anymore? Are we all such organized planners that we can't even let nature take its course and just be "surprised' at the end of none long months and a long hard labor?

In any event, the shower went off beautifully and my friend received dozens of great gifts. Yes, there was a lot of yellow and green, but there was also a lot of creativity.

Here are some suggestions for some great unisex baby gifts for that special someone who just wants to keep her baby's sex under wraps until the baby's "birth day":

Baby book or calendar. Most women love recoding baby's milestones in a baby book, so this makes a great gift. Look for one that isn't too girly or isn't too boyish. Most baby books are perfect unisex gifts and come with pictures of teddy bears or something equally adorable on them. Ditto for "Baby's First Year" calendars. These cute calendars come with stickers to mark baby's milestones like the first time baby rolls over, laughs, or eats solid food. You can't go wrong with a gift like this.

Plush toys and rattles. All babies will want to play at some point. Look for unique plush toys, rattles and learning toys. Children's specialty stores like Learning Express and Imaginarium have great toys for babies of all ages.

A photo album or scrapbooking materials. Your friend will undoubtedly be taking loads of pictures of the new baby, so give her something to put them in. If your friend likes to do scrapbooking as a hobby, consider buying her a scrapbook for the new baby-- and include some cute paper selections and stickers, too.

Anything off of the registry-- that means mom needs these things. If the mother-to-be has registered at Toys R Us, Babies R Us, or any one of the many other baby registry sites, consider buying something off of the registry. Babies of either sex need the essentials--a stroller, a bouncy seat, a baby monitor, a Diaper Genie, etc. If mom has gone to the trouble of registering for these items, then she must actually want and need them. Don't get so caught up in being "original" that you neglect to check out mom's baby registry. If it's looking pretty sparse (as in most gifts have already been gobbled up) then you will know what not to buy, too.

Children's Books. Oprah likes to give this gift-- a basket filled with children's books (of course, her basket is probably a huge one). You can make your won version by purchasing classic children's books at a discount from places like Amazon.com (spend over $25.00 and the books can even be shipped for free). Some book suggestions include "Goodnight Moon" by Margaret Wise Brown, "On the Day You Were Born" by Debra Frasier, "Pat the Bunny" by Dorothy Kunhardt and "Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See" by Eric Carle.

Two adorable outfits-- one pink and one blue. If you're just itching to shower your friend with a gift of "the most adorable outfit in the world", simply select two outfits-- one for a boy and one for a girl. Include a gift receipt for both items so your friend can exchange the one she won't need for another gender appropriate outfit.

A gift for mom. My friend's favorite gift that she received was one that was just for her. A thoughtful friend gave her some elegant pajamas and a pedicure kit. Remember, after baby is born mom will need a little pampering too.

When Should Baby Go to the Dentist?

Years ago when I worked in a human resources employee benefits department, I was always amazed by the number of employees who added their newborn babies to their dental insurance plans. Why would anyone do such a thing, I thought? A newborn baby doesn't even have teeth yet! Turns out those employees were doing the right thing. In case of an emergency or an accident, a baby's mouth could need to be looked at by a dentist-- teeth or no teeth.

Recently, when I took my dentist-fearing 5 year old for her semi- annual checkup, I pointed to my 2 year old son and asked the hygienist when she would recommend that I bring him in. I had been planning to wait until he turned three, as I did with my daughter. The hygienist informed me that they recommend seeing a child for his or her first dental exam once the child gets any teeth-- as in, before the age of one year. I was dumbfounded. I know that my two year old will barely open his mouth and say "Ah" on command--especially if he knows someone is going to be poking and prodding around with his teeth. Needless to say, however, after checking with the dental hygienist, I scheduled my son's first dental appointment. He is already saying that he doesn't want to go.

You can start your baby off with good dental hygiene by establishing good brushing habits early on. At first, when baby doesn't have any teeth, be sure to clean his or her gums after eating. Most dentists recommend wiping the gums clean with a wet cloth. Once a few teeth do come in, its time to get a soft bristle brush and brush baby's teeth. Remember, very young children who do not yet know how to spit should not use fluoridated toothpaste. Instead, purchase one of the many brands of non-fluoridated toothpastes on the market, Like Tom's of Maine Grape flavored Toothpaste or Orajel Toddler Training Toothpaste. You can switch to a kid-friendly fluoride toothpaste once your child knows how to spit out the toothpaste.

To prepare your baby or toddler for his or her first visit to the dentist, consider watching a DVD or video about the subject-- just about every children's television series also has a dental episode (my daughter's favorite episode about the dentist is on PBS' "Calliou"). Another good idea is to bring your child to one of your dentist appointments and let him or her sit on your lap while the dentist looks at your teeth (of course, if you're getting a filling that day, leave baby home).

One of my favorite ways to prepare babies and toddlers for any event is to read a story on the subject. There are many books available about visiting the dentist. A few of my favorites are "Calliou at the Dentist" by Johanne Mercer, "My Dentist My Friend" by P.K. Hallinan and "Just Going to the Dentist" by Mercer Mayer.

If you have not yet chosen a dentist for your child, there are a few things to consider. Is your own dental practice a kid-friendly place? Even if you love your dentist, ask yourself what kind of demeanor do the dental hygienists at the practice have (remember, the hygienist does most of the cleaning work and will spend way more time with your child than the actual dentist will).

In my own experience, the hygienists at my dental practice did not know how to handle my uncooperative daughter at her first visit. My daughter was crying hysterically, mostly over how "scary" everything looked and sounded. The frustrated hygienist told me to try bringing her back again in six months. I did try again in six months--- with a pediatric dentist. What a difference! The trained child-friendly hygienists practically had my daughter hypnotized with her soothing, calming voice. She had my daughter help count her own teeth and let her choose a prize at the end of the visit. The coolest thing? In my daughter's goodie bag, they included an egg timer that she still uses to "time" herself when she brushes her teeth-- she knows to keep brushing until the sand in the timer runs out.

Whenever you decide to take your baby or toddler to the dentist, remember that the first time will be the most difficult. Once your child realizes that it isn't going to hurt, he or she will be better prepared for the next visit-- and may even look forward to it.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Keeping Baby From The Germs

Germs can be rough. As some areas of the country are being inundated with the flu, others are just seeing the beginning. While you cannot protect your baby against all germs, there are some simple steps you can take to be sure that you are doing everything you can to keep your home clean for your little one.

First you need to be sure that everyone in your house washes her or his hands regularly. While the baby cannot be responsible for washing up, you can make sure that you keep him or her wiped up. Even babies of a few months old can touch things, such as their toys or little noses, that can have germs. Be sure that you wash your hands anytime you blow your nose or when you are going to be touching baby.

Many people these days are starting to brush little teeth before they even break the surface. Certainly if you have an older baby who already has teeth, you are likely brushing them. That is great, but toothbrushes can be a big source for germs. Most families allow the toothbrushes to touch each other in a small toothbrush holder. That means that if one person gets sick, that person passes his or her germs along to everyone in the family.

Babies are especially susceptible to germs, so you should change the toothbrush that baby uses at least once a month. They are cheap (and cost much less than a visit to the doctor), so stock up. Anytime baby gets sick, you should plan to change the brush as soon as the little one feels better.

Baby toys are a wonderful place for germs to hide. They are likely to be in cloth toys in particular. Since those toys are the best for baby because their soft texture makes them easy for little fingers, you should make it a point to wash the toys frequently. Cloth toys can be tossed into the washing machine on the gentle cycle and should be washed at least every two weeks or whenever another child has played with them.

Plastic or harder toys can be wiped down fairly frequently as well. Take the toys baby plays with and wipe them with a warm cloth when baby is done. Leave them out on a cloth to dry so that they will not mildew. If a toy has major germs, because it is the one baby wanted when sick for instance, then you should consider washing it in a mixture of four parts water to one part bleach. Be sure that you give it a good rinse with only hot water when you are done or toss it in the dishwasher if it will hold up.

You should be careful to bundle up the little one when you go out. Make sure that the baby is kept warm and be sure that others stay as far away as they can. I was appalled when my son was about two months old. We went to the grocery store and this little girl with a runny nose wanted to come over and touch the baby. Her mom was going to let her!

I explained that he was still very little and scared and dodged the situation, feeling badly about it. Now, I do not have that feeling anymore! He is my little guy, and it is my responsibility to protect him. Do not be afraid to tell other people that you would prefer they not touch or kiss your baby. You can avoid direct confrontation by saying that he has been sick and you would like to keep him away from everyone. You can pretend to be in a hurry. Do whatever you have to do but be sure that you keep others away as much as you can. It is unfortunate that babies are such a magnet for old ladies and little kids because they need to be protected from germs more than others.

Remember that if your little one does get sick, it is not the end of the world. All will be okay. You just need to be prepared to give a little extra pampering and a few more hugs and kisses.

By Julia Mercer

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Learning To Clean With Baby

When you have your baby, you may find that your cleaning routines have been called into question. If you have not kept house well, or at all, in the past, you will find that you will not be able to be so lazy once you have a baby. Many poor housekeepers point to research showing that a sparkling clean house is not healthy. They are right, but that is no excuse for living in dirt and chaos. If you have been less than diligent in caring for your home, you can begin, even after baby is born, to get better.

The first step is to make a routine. As soon as baby arrives, you will realize what many parents before you have learned. The baby will set the schedule. There simply is no way around it. A newborn essentially needs to eat, sleep, and poop, and you will have to work everything else around that. You will need to give yourself a couple of weeks to adjust to your schedule, and then you can begin to set out a routine.

Start by writing down what bothers you most. Do you wake up to dishes in the sink? Do you have to search for 10 minutes to find your keys? Do you know where important documents are located? Figure out one issue and then solve it. Using the examples above, you may need to make it a point not to go to bed until the dishes are done. (You may even go with using paper until you can get better.) You may install a key rack by the front door, and you should have a file of important documents located in an easy-to-reach place. Today, you can solve one of your organizational dilemmas, and then tomorrow you can begin to tackle everything else.

Despite what many gurus will tell you, I know first-hand that getting organized can be a painful process. In the end, you will be happy with the result, but getting there can be tough. You will need to spend some time, and enlist help if baby is still very new, cleaning every room in your home. You will eventually need to clean out every room, tossing and organizing, but for now, you need to learn to keep it clean. You should clean up every room over a weekend or a couple of days that you have.

Then you will need to make a list of daily chores. At a very minimum, that list should include dishes as well as straightening each room in the house. You will use this list to guide you through your first few days of cleaning up. While you will not need to completely clean a room, meaning that you do not need to dust and vacuum everyday, you should plan a pick-up of each room. During the pick-up, you will go through the room and toss trash, take things to their places in other rooms, and put away everything that goes in that room.

Do it at the same time everyday so that it becomes part of your day. You will not need to go back through rooms. Accept that it will need straightening again tomorrow. (Once baby gets a little older, you may want to move to more than one clean-through per day.) Just accept the day of clutter that accumulates and focus on the daily pick-up.

Once you have this pick-up down, then you can expand your cleaning efforts. If you have not vacuumed regularly, for example, that is a priority. Well before baby turns one, you will find him or her putting everything under the sun into his or her little mouth. Get yourself in the habit of vacuuming at least once a week. You should be vacuuming well-used rooms daily, but you can work on getting there as you go.

Remember that your baby will mean a lot of changes in your life. You should be prepared to make them with a smile. It is best to get into the groove of cleaning while you still have a little one because then you will be in a better position to teach your baby to help with the chores when she or he is older.

By Julia Mercer

Allergy-Proofing Your Baby

Having a baby who is not feeling well is a tough spot as a parent since your baby cannot tell you what is wrong. Instead you are left guessing, and that can be frustrating! If you or your partner have significant allergies, then chances are high that your baby will, too. You can watch for signs, such as runny nose and wheezing, but you should work even before baby arrives to keep the allergens away. There are some simple, and some not-so-simple, ways to help reduce the allergens in your life.

First you should use only dustproof pillowcases. Although baby will not use a pillow in the beginning, you should be aware of the need to use these cases before you buy a pillowcase for baby. Also be sure that you have allergy-free bedding for the crib. Check the tags and look online if you cannot find anything in nearby stores. Avoid feather down pillows. While they feel wonderful and are softer, they are awful for people with allergies. You should get rid of your own if you have allergies, but also think about the potential allergy danger when baby is lying down with you.

Be sure that you wash the bedding in the crib at least once a week. Despite the color of the sheets, use hot water. It will help to wash out any of the allergens that may be present, particularly if you have pets. Instead of washing on the sheets from the crib, make sure you toss in yours as well. All of the bedding should be washed regularly to help prevent the build-up of allergens.

Once baby is a little bigger, try to avoid letting him or her go outside to play when the pollen count is high. If you are unsure about the pollen count, you should check local weather stations or look online. Most of them provide the pollen count and tell you if it is a high or low day. While baby may love to go to the park, avoid it when there are many allergens out because it will make all of you miserable in the end!

Keep your home clean and dry. If you live in a moist area, be sure that you are keeping the inside of your house clean, or you are inviting mold, mildew, and other allergens into your life. If you have not been the best housekeeper in the world, that is okay. Now is the time to change. You will reduce the risk that your child will have allergies if you will follow a few basic principles when it comes to taking care of potential allergens. Be sure that you dust often with an allergy-free duster. Also get a HEPA filter vacuum if possible and work on vacuuming your home at least two times per week.

If you have pets, then you will discover that you may need to work a bit harder. Cat dander is almost impossible to keep away from baby. If there is any way that you can keep the cats from the nursery, that really is your best bet. You also may consider netting that goes over cribs that will keep away the cats. Be sure that you vacuum with HEPA filters everyday if you have cats, especially when baby starts moving around.

These tips will not keep your child from getting allergies, but they will help. If you can keep your child away from some of the allergens, then you may be able to reduce the amount of time that he or she spends sick. While you should not aim for a spotless house, as it is neither healthy nor practical with a baby, you should aim to have a home that is free from major allergens.

If you need to work on your cleaning routine, then do it. Now is the time to work on cleaning more often. As baby grows, he or she will take up more time. It will become more and more difficult as baby grows to add cleaning into the mix. Starting your family on this path now will help you to make cleaning a normal part of your routine. Make it a priority. It is important to your health.

By Julia Mercer

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Monthly Nursery Raid

Once you have a baby, you will learn that their things tend to multiply exponentially. While you thought that you would be able to have a baby with an organized life before he or she was born, you soon learn that you will have to deal with doting family members as well as the items your baby needs, and those you just cannot live without getting. That can lead to too much clutter! Here are some simple ways to help de-clutter your nursery.

First be sure that you go through baby items regularly. Your baby will grow so quickly physically and developmentally that you will find that the toy that enthralled her just last week will sit in the bottom of the toy box this week. You should go through baby toys every month or so and be willing to purge the ones no longer getting used.

Note, though, that it may not be necessary to toss the toys. I recently thought that my now one-year-old son had outgrown his rattles as I had not seen him play with them in ages. When I started cleaning out the toy box, I realized why. They had gotten lost at the bottom, and he could not get to them! I sifted through the supply of baskets and plastic tubs for organizing that I keep outside and discovered a small white basin that was a perfect fit for the rattles and other small toys. I put them all in the basin and on a shelf that he can reach. Now he is playing with his rattled again and using them in creative ways since he has a better grip on his coordination. Try putting items in places where baby can reach them easily to make them more desirable playthings.

You should go through baby clothes often as well. The easiest way to go through them is to decide early what you want to do with the clothes that baby has outgrown. If you will be tossing them away or giving them to charity, then you will want to get a couple of cardboard boxes to put them in. Should you be keeping them for future little ones, then you should get plastic tubs. Buy several at the same time so that you will have them when you need them.

When you notice that an outfit is getting a bit snug and know that it will not make it through another round, then you should put it in the cardboard or plastic tub that you are using to collect baby items. Be sure that you come up with a system for marking the clothing. An easy option is to get dryer-proof clips that you can put on the outfit so that you will remember when you are doing the laundry.

If you are getting rid of the clothing, then take the box once a month on a specified day to the thrift store where you are dropping it off. If you will be keeping the clothing, be sure that you put it by size. When the box is full or you have collected all of a certain size, then go ahead and put the box away. Be sure that you mark the outside so that you will know what you have in each box. Be sure that you rifle through the closet and drawers once a month when you are going through toys, and you will be sure to find clothes that baby has not worn that are too small.

Also go through miscellaneous items during this monthly raid of the nursery. We received a number of gifts that we thought would be useful but just did not make it into our lifestyle once our son was born. We have learned that it is easier to get rid of these items. One was the baby bathtub. We got three of them with different ideas behind the design. One was never used because it was too cumbersome and required blowing up. One we used, but our son did not like. The third one got the most use. We kept it for baby number 2 and got rid of the other two. You will find items such as that on this monthly raid, but it is much better to recognize them now than when you are going through years of lost stuff.

By Julia Mercer

Cleaning The Stuffed Animal Collection

Stuffed animals can become a problem early in your parenting years. You will find that all of the cute and cuddly animals you find somehow end up in your nursery. Relatives will buy bears, rabbits, and even reindeer that they have seen and think are cute. Chances are that they are cute, but you are the one who has to find a home for them.

When you have a baby, you will need to go through your stuffed animals every so often to determine what to do with them. How often you go through them will depend on how many your child has and how much energy you have. For starters, you should be sure not to let your baby near any stuffed animals that are broken or have small parts. Take buttons or bows off the animals before you let baby play with them. When you are going through the toys, or playing with them with baby, set aside any that have hanging threads or other problems. You will need to look at them later to decide whether or not you should toss them or repair them. If you are going to repair them, do it immediately. Otherwise, you will forget, and by the time you get around to it, baby will have outgrown them.

When you have stuffed animals that you are going to keep, you need to be sure that you keep them clean. Check the tags. Most of the animals will have tags to let you know how to clean them properly. You should stick with what is on the tags, or you could end up with a pile of fluff in the dryer when you are done. If you can wash stuffed animals by machine, that is ideal. (Look for machine-washable stuffed animals when you are shopping for baby.) You can just toss them in without any detergent if they are not particularly dirty or with a bit of detergent if they are really worn. Then you can put them in the dryer on the lowest possible heat setting. You should not keep them in the dryer long and check on them every 10 minutes or so.

If you will need to hand wash the stuffed animal, as is the case with many clothed animals, then you can stop up your bathroom sink. Run warm water with a gentle laundry detergent, preferably the ones you use for the baby clothes. Then you can use a washcloth and pat the areas of the animal that needs cleaning. Leave it out flat to dry.

Another option for cleaning the stuffed animals is to dry clean them. No, you do not need to take them out to the cleaners to get this done. Gather up all of the stuffed animals that you have that will need to be dry-cleaned. Then you should put two or three of them (or greater or fewer depending on size) in a plastic bag. Drop in 1/2 cup of baking soda. Use your hand or a twist tie to shut the bag tightly. Then you will shake for a couple of minutes. Get out the animals one by one and brush them with a very soft brush, such as the one you use on baby, to get the baking soda out of their fur. You can try a small hand-vacuum or the attachments on your vacuum cleaner if you are dealing with particularly sizable stuffed friends.

You should be sure that you go through this ritual at least once every couple of months when your baby is small. Babies put everything into their mouths, without regard to germs or filth. That means that you will need to be sure that you have all of the stuffed animals clean regularly.

You can make this process less painful by doing it while baby is asleep. Babies often latch on to a specific stuffed animal for comfort, and you should encourage this dependence on others. It is a healthy action for a baby to take. Unfortunately, these animals need to be cleaned more often, so you may have to get creative about what you need to do to clean them. Just keep an eye on the stuffed friends and be ready to clean them when needed.

By Julia Mercer

Staying Healthy While Pregnant

Most of us realize soon after we discover that we are pregnant that we will need to watch what we eat a little more than usual. In addition to things that we should eat more of is also a concern about what foods we should avoid not only while pregnant but after if planning to nurse the baby.

During one of your initial trips to see the doctor, you will be given a prescription for a prenatal vitamin. It may be tempting, especially if you don't have drug coverage, to just substitute a less expensive over-the-counter multi vitamin but that is not advised. Those are better than not taking any at all, of course, but the prenatal vitamins have some differences that are very important to you and to the baby.

Whether or not you speak with your doctor about dietary changes for the duration of your pregnancy, you should do some research on your own. There are a few foods that cause problems with indigestion and other maladies that can get downright uncomfortable. Find out on your own or ask the doctor what those foods are and how long you should continue to avoid them.

On the other side of the coin, there are foods that you should increase during the time of pregnancy. The first one that will come to mind for most of us is foods that are calcium rich. This does not have to be glass after glass of milk. Calcium is found in many things including yogurt and cheeses.

Remember that taking your prenatal vitamins is not a substitute for eating the foods you need to eat; it is a supplement to the vitamins, protein, and minerals that you will be getting from eating balanced meals.

Why is a balanced diet of healthy foods so necessary? For one thing, eating right during your pregnancy can help you avoid things that might otherwise plague you during these months of pregnancy. A few of the things that may be kept under control with the proper diet include anemia, morning sickness, and the overall feeling of exhaustion.

Your doctor will most likely tell you that this is not a time to be cutting your carb intake or be following many kinds of fad diets for that matter. What will be restricted is your sodium intake so start lessening that immediately when you find out the joyous news of your pregnancy. One thing that should be watched more than usual during this time is your fat intake and the nurse or doctor will probably tell you that during one of your visits.

The way that Mom drilled "eat your vegetables" into us when we were kids was actually never more important than it is when you are pregnant. Eat your vegetables just as often as you can and the baby will thank you for it. (Okay, not really, but he or she *will* have a better start in life if you choose a proper diet while you are pregnant).

The "other part" of having a healthy pregnancy includes making sure to get enough exercise for you and for the baby. History and society have gone back and forth on this a few times. During some periods of history, mothers-to-be were coddled and pampered so much (not that that's a bad thing!) that they sometimes weren't allowed to do much of anything and it must have gotten terribly boring!

There were also times that our ancestors had so many children, and one after another that they just did their daily work the same as always while pregnant. Often that lasted right up to the delivery. The right amount of exercise falls somewhere right between the two extremes.

This definitely is something to ask your health care provider about. Exercise is tremendously beneficial for all kinds of health reasons while you are pregnant, but there are different restrictions on each of us, so this isn't something to decide unilaterally. The recommendation from your doctor will probably be that low-impact exercises are fine and you should do them.

What he or she will not be recommending most likely is anything that could lead to an injury or that carries a risk of your falling. To stress it once again, do *not* decide on your own exercise program. Take an extra couple of minutes to discuss this during one of your doctor visits and don't take any chances of injury to you or the baby.

Baby Proofing Your Home

Before your baby starts crawling, and eventually walking, there are a few safety precautions you should take care of around your home. Baby's and toddlers are very nosy, and interested in everything around them. They want to know what everything feels like, looks like, and tastes like. Babies do not know that poisons can harm them, hot things can burn them, or that pulling a book off of a shelf is going to cause a lot of knick knacks to fall on their heads. But, lucky for you, there are some precautions you can take to make sure these things do not happen to your baby.

First of all, you can start by putting locks into all of your unused outlets that your baby can reach. The locks look like plastic plug-ins, but instead of a cord coming out of them, there is a plastic shield on the end. These locks are hard to pull out, and it will keep your babies fingers safe, so he will not get electrocuted. You can buy these locks at any hardware store, or any large retail store, such as Wal-Mart, Ace Hardware, and so on.

While shopping for the outlet locks, you should also look for corner bumpers to put on all the sharp, square corners of your tables. The corners on tables can cause nasty bumps and bruises, and even cuts on your baby's head. When your baby first starts to crawl and walk, he will be very unstable, and fall a lot. Since coffee tables and end tables are the first things a baby usually pulls himself up on, it will probably be the first thing his head connects with when he falls. Corner bumpers are rubber, and fit over the edge of a sharp, square corner. The bumper turns the square corner into a rounded corner, and makes it much softer, so if your baby hits his head on it, he has a better chance of not hurting himself.

Another thing you will want to buy when shopping for baby proofing products are cupboard door looks. Cupboard door locks will come with screws, which you will need to screw into your cupboard doors yourself. They look like a straight plastic piece, with a hook on the end. The hook will grab behind the lip of your cupboard, and needs to be pushed down to open your cupboard door. It is simple for an adult or an older child to figure the locks out, but a young baby will not be able to open the door. These locks will keep your child out of your canned goods, and most importantly, away from your cleaning supplies. Different products can cause sickness, skin burns, and even blindness. Since cleaning supplies are very dangerous and toxic, you definitely want to keep your baby out of them.

Besides cupboard door locks, you might want to buy a toilet seat lock. Many babies' are very interested with water, and want to play in the toilet water. It is very dangerous, since your baby may fall into the toilet. Babies are not strong enough to pull themselves out, and your child can drown in the toilet. The toilet lock will lock the seat down, and your baby will not be able to get the seat open and into the water.

One of the most important things to buy is doorknob covers. Doorknob covers go over any round doorknob, and will keep your baby from opening the door on his own. The doorknob covers need to be squeezed in a certain area to be able to open a door, and baby's are not coordinated enough to figure it out. Doorknob covers will keep your child from going outside by himself. They will also keep him from going down basement stairs by himself, which is very dangerous.

Besides buying things to baby proof your home, there are a few things you can do yourself. Make sure all of your chairs are pushed into the tables, so it is harder for your baby to crawl on top of them. Also, make sure all of your cleaning supplies have covers on them, and the spray bottles are turned to off. Never leave cleaning supplies sit out in the open. Always keep the lids to your washer and dryer closed, because it is easy for baby's to fall inside and not be able to get out on their own. Keep kitchen knives and utensils off of counters and table tops. Also, keep anything with small pieces like puzzles, jewelry, and coins out of your baby's reach.

Your baby is starting to experience new things in life, and is very aware of his surroundings. By baby proofing your home, you are keeping your baby safe, healthy and happy.

Baby's First Scrapbook

By Rebecca VanGinkel

Starting a scrapbook for your baby is a fun and artistic way to keep up with your child's progress and growth. When you have a picture album, all you get to look at are pictures, but if you have a scrapbook, you get to journal and add special trinkets that remind you of the time you took the picture. A scrapbook is something that everyone loves to look at, and your baby will be grateful when he or she grows up that you took the time and effort to make something so special for him. As your baby grows into a young child, working on his scrapbook is something you can do together.

To start a scrapbook for your baby, start by gathering all the pictures you have of him and pictures of you while you were pregnant also. Pregnancy pictures are a great way to start out a baby scrapbook. That way, your baby will know what you looked like when he was in your belly he and where he grew until he was born. Next, put your pictures in sequence or into groups. You can do a scrapbook by arranging your pictures from the time you were pregnant until now, or you can arrange your pictures into groups such as bath time pictures and pictures of your baby sleeping. Whichever you prefer will look good.

Next, it is time to go shopping! You will first need to pick out a scrapbook. You can buy the kind with inserts, or the kind that you just put your pictures right onto the pages. If you buy the kind with inserts, you may want to buy extra page protectors, and twelve by twelve paper or whatever size paper your scrapbook needs. If you buy the scrapbook with page protectors, you can do your pictures out of order, and then arrange them later. You will have lots of different colors and styles of scrapbooks to pick from, so make sure you pick one that will grow with your child.

At some retail stores like Wal-Mart, you can buy a starter scrapbook kit. They include a scrapbook, some titles, die cuts, frames, stickers, scrapbook glue and scissors. The only thing that I do not like about the kits is you do not get to pick what comes in them. They come ready for a boy or a girl, so you usually only use half of the products in them, and the rest go to waste. You also usually do not know what the cover of the scrapbook looks like, and that is a very important feature of the book.

Some things that you will definitely need to start a scrapbook are glue, paper, stickers, and scissors. Make sure the paper and glue are acid free. Acid free glue will not make your pictures and paper change colors and turn funny over the years. Some things you might want to buy are ribbon, stickers, titles, journaling envelopes, die cuts, glitter, letters, and anything else you can think of. Journaling envelopes are important and make a page look great. You might want to write the time the picture was taken, the date, the baby's age, and why you think the picture is special.

You might also want to think about saving things from special moments like a clip of hair from your baby's first haircut, or a seashell from your baby's first time at the beach or the ocean. Those kinds of things are what makes your scrapbook special, and like nobody else's. Something else you might want to buy is little nylon bags with drawstrings, so you can put your baby's first tooth in it, or anything else special of your baby's.

Besides adding embellishments to your baby's first scrapbook, you might want to think about adding poems, letters written from relatives, the first picture your baby drew, and things like that. You might also want to write in the first word your baby said, when your baby first ate solid food, and other milestones that were special for you.

Let your baby's first scrapbook be fun and special for you. Your husband and other children will have fun putting it together with you. The most important thing is to have fun and enjoy the time that you put into it.

Decorating and Furnishing a Nursery

By Rebecca VanGinkel

When you are pregnant with a child, weather it is your first child or your third, your baby's nursery is always very important. It is great if you can have your baby's nursery decorated, furnished, and stocked with everything you need for him or her, before you come home from the hospital with him. There is a lot of planning, shopping, and work involved when getting a nursery ready, so you may want to recruit some helpers! Lots of people will be around, ready to hold the baby when he is born, but it may be a little harder to find people to work with you and help you out before he is born!

Before you can start shopping for your baby's nursery, it is ideal to find out the sex of the baby. It would not be good if you painted the room pink, and then gave birth to a baby boy! To avoid this from happening, either get an ultrasound so you know what you are having, or you may want to decorate the room with green and yellow, which are more neutral colors. Green and yellow will work with a boy or a girl.

After you find out what you are having, write a list of all the furniture you will need and want in your baby's room. Decide if you want a crib, a bassinet, or a pack and play. If you decide to buy a crib, you will have to choose if you want a regular crib, or one that turns into a toddler bed. The cribs that turn into beds are more expensive, but it will save you time and money. You also will not have to store the crib away so soon. If you choose a bassinet, you will eventually have to buy a pack and play, or a crib. Bassinets are only safe for baby's who are not old enough to sit up and be mobile. If you decide to buy a pack and play, you will eventually have to buy a toddler bed, but pack and plays are very versatile. Pack and plays now come with diaper holders, changing tables, and bassinets attached. Some even come with music. Pack and plays are also easy to move, and easy to store. No matter what kind of bed you decide to buy for your baby, you will have lots of colors and styles to choose from, so it is best to have an idea of what you are looking for before you go into the store.

Besides a bed, you will also need to buy a changing table. When shopping for a changing table, look for one that is sturdy. You do not want your baby lying on a table that is creaky and unstable. You will also want to choose a table that has adequate storage. It is nice to be able to keep diapers, extra clothes, and things like that right inside your table. That way, you will never have to walk away from your baby while he is lying on top of a table. Again, you will have a lot of different colors and styles to choose from. You also may decide that you want a rocking chair and ottoman in your nursery, so you can hold and rock your new baby. If you do buy a rocking chair, sit in it inside the store before you buy it. You do not want to get home and sit in it for the first time, and realize that it hurts your back! Most rocking chairs are hard on your back, but there are back and seat covers made just for them. You can buy covers to match the decorations in your nursery.

After you buy all of the furniture for your new nursery, it is time to pick out decorations. It is fun to start by picking out bedding for the crib, bassinet, or pack and play. It is dangerous to have any kind of pillow or stuffed animal near a new born, so if you do buy those things, make sure they are out of the baby's bed before you place your child in it to sleep. If you bought a crib, you will need to buy crib sheets, blankets, and a crib bumper. A crib bumper will keep your baby from hitting his head on the crib rods, which can be very uncomfortable. You can usually buy all of the bedding for a crib in a set. If you buy a bassinet, you need to buy sheets, and a few small blankets. If you have a pack and play, you will need to buy sheets and blankets also. When you put your baby in his new bed, you may want to lay a changing pad under him. Newborns tend to have leaky diapers once in awhile, and the changing pad will keep his sheets and bedding safe.

After you have all of the bedding picked out, you can start buying accessories for the nursery. You can buy stick-on stickers for the walls, which are easy to remove, without wrecking the paint, or you might choose to paint a mural, or put up wallpaper. You might also want to buy a crib toy for your baby. You can pick out a mobile, which will play music and spin around with toys on it, or you can choose a toy that straps onto the side of your baby's crib. Some of the toys will light up and move and some will just play music. Hopefully your baby will be interested in it, and eventually fall asleep. Besides crib toys, you might want to buy a baby swing. A baby swing almost always soothes a crying baby, and will also entertain him for long periods of time. You can choose between a wind up swing, or a battery powered swing. Some come with toys on the trays, and some play music, but they are more expensive than the ones that are plain.

After you furnish and decorate your nursery, it is time to stock it with all the baby essentials. Make sure you have enough clothes for your baby. Besides outfits, you will need socks, onesies, sleepers, hats, receiving blankets, and burp cloths. Have a lot of diapers and wet wipes ready also. You might also want to buy pacifiers, baby medicine, mittens, rubbing alcohol, baby bath soaps and lotions, and anything else you can think of that you may need in the first few months.

When you are decorating your upcoming baby's nursery, keep in mind that you will be spending a lot of time in it in the next few years. Make it fun, functional, and most of all, a place that you enjoy!

Planning a Baby Shower

By Rebecca VanGinkel

Getting ready for a baby shower takes a lot of planning. If you are throwing a baby shower for yourself, your daughter, granddaughter, or a friend, there are a lot of things to think ahead about, and it is best to start planning at least six weeks ahead. You might want to start planning even earlier.

The first thing you will want to do is sit down and make a list of the people you want to invite to the baby shower. Think of where the baby shower will be held, and remember how many people will be seated comfortably in the area. If you are throwing the shower at a house, you might not want to invite fifty people, but if you are renting some kind of hall, you can fit more people. After you know where the shower will be held, you can finish your list. Remember to invite only relatives and close friends. If you start inviting everybody you work with, or went to school with, your invite list will get too long, and you will feel overwhelmed.

The next thing to do is go shopping for baby shower invitations. You can find invitations at any retail store, or even a drug store. For personalized invitations, you can go to an arts and crafts store, or a store that specializes in personalized products. It is cheaper to buy regular invitations, but having a baby is a very special moment, and you might want to go with personalized ones. If you know what kind of baby you are having, you can pick your theme starting with the invitations. If it is a boy, you can go with Blue Jean Teddy, or something else boyish. If you are having a girl, you might think about using Care Bears or something like that. If you are unsure of the sex of the baby, you can go with something neutral like Noah's Ark, or Winnie the Pooh.

When you fill out your invitations, make sure to include all of your information inside them. Write who the baby shower is for, who is throwing the shower, what time it starts and finishes, where the shower is being held, a R.S.V.P. date and phone number, and if there will be food served or not. You can also register for items you would like to receive at your baby shower at most retail stores such as Wal-Mart, and Target. When you register, you get receipts printed off to put inside your invitation. If you have registered at any store, do not forget to put your receipt slips inside. Make sure you have all of your information written correctly inside your invitations before you seal them. Also double check the addresses written on the envelopes before you mail them out.

After you have everyone invited, and the invitations sent out, you might want to start thinking about what baby games you will want to play at the baby shower. Three to four games is usually enough, because you don't want the whole shower to be taken up by game playing. You might want to give out small prizes for the winners of each game, but they can be small, inexpensive gifts. It is easy and cheap to go to the dollar store and pick out a few cute presents. Flower pots, photo albums, and bath sets are a few good prize ideas. Take a lot of pictures of the baby shower and all of the guests. Baby shower pictures are great for baby books and scrap books.

When you open gifts at the baby shower, read each card out loud, and then place the card back with the present. This will make it a lot easier for you to write your thank you notes. It is important to write thank you notes to all of your guests, even if they do not bring a gift. It is still nice to thank them for coming to the shower. When you write a thank you note to a guest who brought a present, thank them for it, and personally sign each thank you.

If you decide to serve food at the shower, it is a good idea to serve it as a buffet. Place all of the food on one table, along with paper plates, knives, forks, spoons, and napkins. If you use paper plates and plastic silverware, it makes your clean up a lot easier. You might even want to ask a few of your close friends to bring dishes to pass around, if they do not mind. Remember to take pictures of the cake!

A baby shower is a party for an unborn child. It is a party that you or your guests will not soon forget, and it will always be a cherished memory for you. The most important thing to do at a baby shower is to have as much fun as you can!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

When Baby makes four, because you have a Dog

By Christina VanGinkel

You are finally going to be the proud parents of a new baby. Everyone is so excited with the news, and warm wishes greet you every place you go, except home that is. There sits your four-legged friend, who until recently has been the recipient of your undivided attention. Now, he is not quite sure what is going on, but give him credit for being aware that something major is about to happen, he just cannot quite put his paw on what that specifically is.

Where his blanket has existed in the family room for years, now sits this strange contraption on four legs with a seat that swings back and forth in it. He and his blanket have been relegated to the corner by the door. His food dish has been moved from a spot of prominence right next to the fridge, to another corner. Then, when he was all set to jump into bed, where he has contentedly snuggled for years between his two masters, the one sprouting the newly thicken waistline, points to the floor, and firmly tells him he can no longer jump on the bed! What in the world, his world and the one he lives in, is going on?

Your dog can be as upset by the birth of a new family member as you are excited by it. Even the most docile dog can show aggression towards the newest addition if given enough provocation. And so, it is your job with all the others you now have going on in your already changing life, to make sure that your family pet neither feels displaced, nor has a chance to take that aggression out on the new baby.

As soon as you know that a new baby is coming, make any adjustments around the house that will directly effect your pet, such as moving his food dish or blanket, so that he does not directly associate these changes with the baby. Changes made early enough will long be adjusted to by the time baby arrives. If your house has been a quiet one up until now, and your dog is easily annoyed by noises, try to find some ways to get him accustomed to the new sounds that will most assuredly come home with baby, again, so that he does not associate the change with the infant coming into the house. The more you can do to make any changes long before baby's arrival, do them. A good friend of mine had never penned her dog in all of his many years with them. When she found out that she was expecting, she purchased a large pet carrier, and had it take up a place of prominence in their bedroom and family room. Throughout the ensuing months of her pregnancy, she would occasionally place her dog into the carrier, with a treat, making it seem like a wonderful retreat for him. With his favorite blanket and a treat to chew on, this became one of his favorite spots. By the time baby arrived, she used the pen to contain him during stressful times, giving the dog his own private sanctuary from the noise and many visitors that he was not accustomed to, as up until then, the household he had lived in had been very quiet. Your ultimate goal is to bring that baby home with as little fuss to your dog's existence as you can. The fuss should take place before baby is what I am trying to get across, so that if you dogs do exhibit any aggressions, you will have the time to deal with them without any risk to your child.

Be sure to talk to your family vet if you experience any concerns. They have most likely heard many scenarios of how others have dealt with exactly what you are going through, and they can often offer some of the best tips and guidelines. Talk to your family doctor or pediatrician too. The more ideas, the more likely you are to find the ones that will work for you.

Keep in mind that the size of your dog will not really play a big part in the overall risks that can occur when you bring a new baby home. Small dogs can pose just as big a problem as large dogs, and vice versa. Also, never trust your dog, no matter how docile they may seem, with an infant. Most dogs will eventually adjust, but on the rare occasion that you have a dog that is just not going to make home a happy place when the bouncing bundle of joy arrives, it is ultimately your responsibility to keep your infant safe.

Sometimes, you may have to make a major sacrifice, and remove your beloved family pet from the home. This is extremely rare, but it does occur. This is even more reason to take the job of readying your pet for baby's arrival as seriously as you can.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Toys R Us and Babies R Us . . . and Amazon?!

Most of us are familiar with Amazon.com because they have been an Internet icon for a number of years now. I have been shopping with them almost since the beginning and am always impressed with the selection and service. But many of us may not realize the great amount of expansion Amazon.com has done over the years.

So they sell books and music, right? Sure they do, but they are now teamed with Toys R Us, thus Babies R Us for all the online sales of those two places. What makes it so nice to deal with them is that although your packages will be coming from different places if you order from more than one store within Amazon, your purchases can all go into one shopping cart. One stop shopping is usually too good to pass up and Amazon.com is not an exception.

When you locate the Babies R Us section of Amazon (you can find it via their main page but I simply found it by trying "babiesrus.com" and it directed me properly) you will find various sections from which you can shop.

The first section is "Gear" and this is where you will find much of the "equipment" that you will be needing for babies whether they are newborns or older babies. This is where you will look if you need something like a car seat, stroller, playpen areas in which the baby can play and so on.

If you are looking for things to keep baby active and occupied, try the "Activity" section. Walkers, baby swings, and those wonderful activity centers are found here. In another section, "Bath and Potty" you will find things like your dressing table, bath supplies like a baby tub and anything else you will need, things to help you with potty training for older babies, and a selection of diaper bags.

After you take care of all the "odds and ends" things for baby, take a look at the clothing section of Babies R Us. The clothing categories are divided between "baby boys," "baby girls," and "unisex" so you should be able to find some adorable clothing no matter what gender you are shopping for.

Other items and store sections that you will be able to find include a health and baby care section as well as another for safety. Feeding supplies are found here whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding and this is where you would find baby's high chair. If your baby is older and eating solid foods, this is the section where you will find the bibs, special cups and utensils and additional things in that category.

After the little one is fed, clothed, and safe, you will be glad to know that you will even be able to buy nursery things here. Furniture, bedding, and decor is available and with the addition of toys to the list of things you can buy here, it is truly a one-stop baby shop. When it comes to buying things for the nursery you will be able to search everything separately or you can choose "collections by color" or "collections by theme."

If it is toys that you are looking for, the divisions within the store are called Imaginarium Baby, toys for babies birth to 12 months, toys for babies 12 to 24 months, and toys for 2 years and up. While you are shopping here, remember that you can hop over to Amazon.com and pick up some books to start building baby's personal library.

On that note, I think that it is very important to always have a library for children. It should be as extensive as you can possibly make it with a variety of reading genres available. If a child starts enjoying the adventures that can be found in books, I believe that it starts a lifetime of learning that will always stay with the child.

Keep in mind that Amazon offers a used book and music, etc. option, too. If there is a classic book you want (and I have often done this) check for what is being offered as a used selection. One word of caution here, though. Remember that if you ordered used items from other customers, you will be paying separate postage on each article. To buy them new directly from Amazon allows one single shipping cost and at least at the moment, orders over $25 are shipped free.