Sunday, July 30, 2006

Goals for Baby

When most people plan to have a baby, they do not consider what all they should do. I understand the feeling. You want to have a little one to put in your arms. You start thinking more and more about a baby and how it would feel to have one again. Then you and your partner agree that now is the time. At that point, you are ready to begin trying and do not want to wait to try for another baby.

My husband and I are at that point now, but we are committed to waiting. When we agreed that the time may be right to have a baby, we began to think about our lives. We want to be able to provide a wonderful home for our child, but we want to nurture ourselves as well. We sat down this week and made a list of three things that we want to complete before we begin trying for a baby.

The first item on the list is weight loss. I have to lose weight, per instructions from my doctor, to help make sure that I will have a healthy pregnancy. That is because of massive medical problems and medications from my first son. So I have set a goal of losing 32 pounds, which would put me at the same place I was before I got pregnant with my son.

Thirty-two pounds at times seems like little but at times seems overwhelming. So far I have lost two pounds, which means I am one-sixteenth of the way there. On the other hand, I am only on Day 2 of the Sonoma Diet. I have given up soft drinks, which were making me retain water.

Beginning this week, I will go to the gym to get on the treadmill three days a week. That should help speed the weight loss. I am hoping to lose five more pounds during the first wave of the Sonoma Diet, which lasts for ten days. I think that will be mostly water weight, but if I can lose it and then keep at a steady rate of about 2 pounds per week, then I will be able to lose the weight in about 13 weeks.

The second condition is that I finish the first draft of the manuscript for my book. I sat down yesterday and worked out a deadline for all of the materials for the book. My deadline is August 8, which is 14 weeks away. I want to finish the draft because my work is very important to me. I know that another baby will mean slowing the pace, so I want to be sure that I have at least one book completed.

The third of our goals is to pay off three bills that we have. They total about $3000. We are hoping that we will be able to pay them off quickly. Once we pay them off, we will have one credit card and student loans left. That will put us in a much better position financially. We will be able to pay off the remaining debt within one to two years so that we can save for college for the kids and retirement for ourselves.

We are happy that we sat down and talked about these goals. Now that we have specific benchmarks in mind, I believe it will make it much easier to meet our goals. A baby is strong motivation for completing a set of goals. Instead of working toward paying off the debt just because or losing weight to look better, we are making the commitment to do it for our new baby.

I wish more people could be disciplined enough to make significant changes for the sake of having a baby instead of just deciding that they want another baby and going about it without a plan. I believe that it is vitally important for the sake of our children to help make sure that we are able to provide for them and that we are otherwise at peace with our lives. Having a baby is only part of having a healthy, happy family, and by making these goals we are helping to ensure that the other parts of our lives are happy as well.

By Julia Mercer

Getting Healthy For Baby

I went to the doctor last week to find out about whether or not it will be safe for us to have another baby. My first pregnancy was wonderful. I felt great the entire time. I did not have any morning sickness, and I felt beautiful the entire time.

Labor and delivery, however, was a different story. I actually found that the labor part was okay. I kept repeating, this too shall pass, to myself every time I had a powerful contraction. That mantra kept me going and reminded me that at the end of this painful journey, I would get to see my child.

Then labor stopped. Nothing was happening. My contractions stayed the same, and I was not dilating. That is where things started to go haywire. My body began to fight against the baby. Then the baby got turned the wrong way. He was turned sideways and facing downward and there was no way he could get out.

My doctor could not be found, and I still have no idea where she was. When they finally found her by calling the office and demanding that they send another doctor, I had to have a c-section. I had not wanted a c-section and in fact was very upset that I had to have one. I called my mother, who worked as an obstetrics nurse for five years and asked her. She said that a c-section was my only choice, and I needed to do it quickly.

So they opened me up and could not get my baby out. He had been in the birth canal so long that he was suctioned against it and was not breathing properly. His breathing was dropping, and I was losing more blood than I should have. As it turns out the resident doing my surgery cut one of my arteries by mistake, and they had to clamp it off to get the bleeding to stop. Meanwhile my baby was fighting to stay alive.

In the end they got him, but it left me terrified of having another baby. Plus I have had so many complications since my son was born that it is sad to think about the whole mess. So the point is that I wanted my new doctor to tell me whether or not she thought we could have another baby.

I must admit that I was not prepared for what I heard. My blood pressure is down, and most of my other medical problems are under control. I am safe there. The problem is my weight. It has crept up slowly with all of the medications I have been taking and the fact that I have not been able to work out with all of the medical problems I have had.

So now I am faced with a dilemma. My husband and I want another baby, but we know that I need to lose a significant amount of weight to do so safely. I have always felt very strongly opposed to putting myself at great risk to have a baby, and I still feel that way today. Instead I have decided to heed what my doctor advised and lose weight before we begin trying to have a new one.

I need to lose at least 35 pounds to put me back to where I was when I got pregnant with my son. I also promised my doctor that I would begin a walking regime and walk at least three times a week. I am determined to keep that promise, not for my doctor but for myself. I want to be healthy when I try to have another baby.

So now my husband and I have spent the past few days thinking about our situation and how to handle it. We have committed ourselves to a new lifestyle that will help get my health to where it needs to be. I am excited for the changes, and the thought of a new baby in the future makes it more enjoyable to make the changes. A new baby adds so much joy that a few sacrifices now, sacrifices which in the end will be healthy for me, are definitely worth it.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Keeping Baby Cool when it's Hot Outside

By Christina VanGinkel

This summer is coming down to being one of the hottest ever on record. Heat, infants, and toddlers do not go together. Keeping them cool is a huge concern for parents and caregivers. While you should never, under any circumstances, leave an infant or other young child unattended in car, they can also become overheated in many other common scenarios. Beating the heat before it becomes a problem should be a major goal.

If you have air conditioning available, take advantage of it. Do be cautious when moving a child from one extreme of temperature to another though, and never depend on it to keep your child cool. Air conditioners can and do fail. Keep a couple of fans on backup, and use them to keep the air moving. Open windows to keep the air moving, but be sure you have baby window gates in place if there is any chance that baby may get close to a window higher than ground level.

If all you have is a single room air conditioner, and it is not keeping up with tackling the obsessive heat this summer, block off a single room, so that it does not have such a large are to cool. Move baby and yourself into that space temporarily. Not only will this help keep you both cooler, your air conditioner will not have to work so hard, saving you both money and wear and tear on the unit.

Head to the bathroom, the tub that is! Fill the tub with a few inches of cool water, not cold, and toss in a couple of toys. Either climb in with baby for a quick cool down or sit 'poolside' and watch as baby plays.

Strip baby down to the bare essentials. If it is so hot that clothes are sticking, making baby hotter than need be, then remove them. If you want, leave the diaper in place, otherwise, even remove that. Toss a towel or blanket that can be easily washed down on the floor, where it is the coolest, and place baby down to play. Holding baby when it is very hot will only increase their level of warmness. If they are still craving contact, get down on the floor with them to play, but avoid holding them unless it is necessary.

Head to your lower level, such as the basement, keeping in mind that the higher you go the hotter it will be. If you are in an apartment and are situated on a higher floor, ask yourself where else you might be able to go.

Make a plan of action ahead of time on where you could go in extremely hot weather if your home cooling system did fail, such as another family member's home, a local mall, etc. In cases of power outages, listen to the radio to hear any announcements that will provide you with information on such issues. Be prepared by keeping a battery-operated radio on hand with fresh batteries just for such occasions. In this power run world that we live in, these occurrences are more common than we would like to think they are. Communities will often open up senior centers, hospital conference rooms, and other buildings with large, open areas to those without power.

If you live far out in the country, consider purchasing a generator for occurrences such as these. If there is a power failure, even a smaller generator will often be enough to run a room-sized air conditioner.

Make sure your child is staying hydrated. Offer water and other fluids more often than you normally would. Popsicles and other cool treats are also great ways to help keep them cool.

If you have to be outside, make sure to keep the sun off baby as much as possible. Stay in the shade as much as possible. Place a loose fitting sunbonnet on your child's head, take advantage of the canopy on your stroller, or utilize an umbrella. Even an umbrella meant for the rain will be better than no umbrella at all. Avoid blacktopped areas as they reflect the heat making it even hotter than it already is. Use a baby play shade tent at the park. This way, baby can get out of his stroller, but still stay in the shade.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Pet Lover? Choosing a Cat for your Toddler

Everyone knows there are "dog people" and "cat people" whose personalities reflect which pet would better suit them. If you've decided you're a "cat person" and want to choose a furry feline pet for a companion for your little one, there are of course a few ground rules it's imperative to follow. First of all, what kind of cat do you want? A newborn, a kitten, or an adult? A newborn or kitten will be easier to "train" (well, at least as much as one can train a cat!) than an adult who's already settled into the idea that he or she is master of the domain.

Something to evaluate before you even step into the pet store: Do you know if your child may have any allergies that could be triggered by having a cat? Does anyone else in your family? No allergies? Then you're safe to proceed.

Where do you want to look for your cat? Online breeders may or may not be reputable; it's probably best not to take the risk. Check out your local pet stores, but only if they're willing to answer any questions you might have about a cat's health, disposition, and history. If they don't seem to know much about the animal's past, look elsewhere.

Another good idea is to find out if the cat was taken to the vet in the past (if it's not a newborn, of course); contact the vet's office directly and obtain medical records and any additional information. No one wants to be assured they have a healthy pet, only to come home and find the "new member of the family" infested with worms or fleas.

All right, so you've chosen a pet shop and your little tyke is excited about choosing a "kitty" to love. The next step, though not vital to owning a cat, will still be important. It's time to determine what kind of cat you are looking for. Long-hair or short-hair? Almost every breed of cat sheds, so be prepared to deal with this problem no matter what the length of hair. Do you want a Siamese, a tabby, or a black-and-white? Discuss this with other members of the family until you've decided.

There are major transitions within the home that will occur after you bring the little bundle of fur home. There will need to be a place for the cat to sleep and play; many places sell cat beds, pillows, or soft mattresses to cushion Kitty while she naps. Remember that, especially in the case of older cats, your new pet may not settle in right away. Sleeping in a strange home on a strange bed with unfamiliar food creates trauma in many felines. Over time, as your cat trusts you, this behavior should diminish. It's also possible that the first few days will consist of plaintive meowing. Patience is the key.

Routine vet visits are *always* a good idea. That way, even if your kitten or cat develops problems, they can be detected and remedied quickly. Some professionals believe you should not be in the room when your pet is being examined, or any discomfort or trauma they undergo may be associated with you (there are few things more dangerous than a vengeful cat!). Medicine and vet visits will most likely get expensive, so consider all these things before welcoming a cat into your home.

Be sure you have a family member who will offer to clean the litter box when it becomes necessary and once your cat learns how to "do his business," this will be a daily chore. You might enjoy having the child pick out a variety of toys for your pet; little toys and gadgets usually aren't expensive. The most expensive things you will need for Kitty? A supply of litter and cans or packets of cat food as well as dry food.

Keep in mind that you will be buying cat food almost constantly, and money may be wasted if your picky feline decides she doesn't like what's on the menu. Cats are fickle creatures but once he or she finds a favorite food, you can rest assured at least *one*
kind of cat food you offer will be eaten.

A cat is a wonderful pet, very loving and loyal and bursting with personality. Some people lament the fact that cats can't be "trained" like dogs, but some of us happen to think that a cat's stubborn independence is a beautiful part of its nature. Good luck on your search for that perfect family feline!

By L. R. Schaeffer

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Throw a Perfect Baby Shower for Your Friend!

Baby showers are just plain fun! Planning one can be as much fun as attending as long as you keep some fundamental things in mind. Many of the "rules" that were in place for the past years and decades are no longer followed and that is actually a good thing in most cases.

One thing that is different now is that sometimes the mom-to-be wants her partner to have a part of the baby shower. This is fine now but as planner, be sure that your menu and games reflect the fact that the guest list will include the new dad and his friends. Inviting male guests is great, but then don't serve only dainty little tea sandwiches and cakes. Just expand the menu into more of a universal fare.

When it comes to games for the mixed gender shower, the guys you have invited may enjoy some of the guessing games, trivia games, or memory games, but they most likely won't enjoy guessing how many sheets of toilet paper it will take to fit around the expectant mom's tummy. (No, I didn't make that up; it's actually a favorite game for baby showers!)

Another thing that has changed is that these types of showers were usually surprise parties in the past. More and more expectant moms now prefer knowing about an upcoming shower for various reasons. Allowing her to help with the guest list is a good choice.

The guest of honor may also wish to begin a baby gift registry somewhere if she knows there will be a shower. She will be able to help with a menu as well as the guest list. Do not expect her to do any of the work for the party though, of course. She can be surprised with the games you plan. Don't forget to have prizes for the games. If it is a mixed gender party, it's a little more difficult to find proper prizes, but it will not take very long to think of things that either gender can use. (Things like a little basket of individually wrapped snacks, homemade baked goods or bread, picture frame, pens, and so on.)

There are a few things that often get pushed aside or forgotten when it comes to planning a baby shower. One thing in that category is what you will arrange by way of having the party photographed or videotaped. If you ask someone to videotape, be sure to have a copy made for the parents-to-be and perhaps a copy for the grandparents.

The timing of the shower might be another area in which your guest of honor can have a vote. Would she prefer to have a shower before the baby is born? Perhaps she would prefer waiting until after the birth so that gifts can be bought for either a boy or girl and the guests won't need to find all those green or white items that could be for either gender.

If you are planning the shower to be held before the birth, be sure to have it at least 3 or 4 weeks ahead of the due date. Most people end up choosing to hold the shower before the birth so that the parents will not have to buy a lot of baby products before the baby is born. A shower usually brings an abundance of sleepers, t-shirts, socks, blankets, and so on. It is always a welcomed thing to have those items on hand when the baby comes home from the hospital.

Assign someone to be the official "keeper of records." This often works well for a teen who wants to be involved with planning the shower. Keep a list of guests with addresses if you don't already have them; activities and food that were part of the party (for the baby book!); and very importantly, a list of the gifts matched up with the guest who brought the gift. This is needed so that the thank you notes can be written.

If your guest list (and thus the number of gifts) is large, you or the mom-to-be may decide that she will open the gifts at home. While most people enjoy seeing the gifts being opened, there simply isn't time for that at the shower sometimes (showers should generally last 90 minutes to 2 hours). As an alternative, help with the gift opening yourself or ask someone else, and they will be opened twice as fast.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Gift of Language

By Christina VanGinkel

The headline reads 'For the Love of Words', and was an editorial on how important it is for children to learn to understand and learn words early on. Language is very important, and as someone who read to each of her own children from the very earliest days of their lives, and who chose to speak to her kids from when they were just hours old as if they could understand every word being said to them, I wholeheartedly agreed. Still, as I read the article, I was reminded just how important language really is for a child. Without language, there would be no communicating, and if we could not communicate with our kids, life would be very different from what we know it to be. For this fact, each child should be given the right to language right alongside their counterparts, and as a parent, it is our responsibility to make sure that this right is given to our children.

Language allows us to teach our children, and to interact with them. It lets us tell them we love them, and it allows them to tell us that they are hungry, tired, thirsty, or that they want to go to the park, or have to go potty, and allows us to respond in a manner that our children can learn to interpret. Language is a building block that makes each of us who we are. Whether spoken vocally, signed, or even produced mechanically through the help of a computer for the impaired, language helps define each and every one of us. Without language, in some form or another, our lives would be very solitary.

As I read over the article, it touched on some of the basics, such as the importance of reading to our children. While reading is often a basic skill that some of us just take for granted, as I read the article, it brought to mind that not everyone does read to his or her children. Some adults do not know how to read, and some just choose not to. They feel that their day is too busy, to filled with work and other responsibilities. Maybe some feel that they cannot afford to buy books. To these parents I would advise that they go to their local library, download a free e-book online, or even to make up their own story. Even a simple rendition of a remembered story from his or her, very own childhood, is better than no reading at all. Reading a single book, even a short one, each day to your child can bridge a huge gap of future understanding between the two of you. It not only provides language skills, reading to your child provides a lot more, mainly interaction!

The article that I read also relayed the facts of how as children grow older, their language skills should increase, that a simple word, for an everyday object, should expand to include more descriptive words when appropriate. A child that has been interacted with verbally will learn quicker than a child that has not been read and talked to, in my opinion, simply for the fact hat they are better equipped to understand that which is being taught to them. With this in mind, as your child grows older, continue to read to them, just increase the complexity of what it is you read to them. Switch to a simple chapter book instead of a picture book for example, and read a chapter or two a night, spreading the book out over several nights. This way, you still get the time to interact, and your child is not bored with books that might fit the time you can afford to spend reading to them, but are too childish for their current level.

If you strive to teach your child one thing while they are just young babies in your arms, teach them the one talent that will allow them the skills to learn others, and that is language. Through language, they will relate to others in their lives from here on out. First you, their parent, their siblings, other caregivers and school teachers, the man checking them out at the grocery store, their physician as she asks them what they are visiting her for. Language is how we each interact with nearly everybody in our lives. Give your child the gift that life as we know it is largely built on, give them the gift of language.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Introduce Your Child to the Library

By Christina VanGinkel

With my young grandson now living in the same town as I do, I have made a promise to both myself and to him to visit the library with him at least once a week. He not only loves the huge assortment of books, but also the children's section itself, complete with its variety of toys, including dinosaurs, a small-scale schoolhouse, and a time-honored favorite, Tinker toys! Now three years old, we have been visiting the library together since he was just over one year of age, but because he lived quite a ways from us up until very recently; these visits were few and far between. Still, he seemed to be hooked from our earliest visits, always happy and eager to go, no matter how long might have passed since our last visit.

The town that we reside in is quite small, and the hours that the library is open to the public are limited, with Wednesdays the only day of the week that they are open morning and afternoon. Thursdays they are closed, as well as weekends, with limited hours on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays. With this short schedule of open hours, finding a time that we both can go might be a stretch at times, but I feel that taking a young child and exposing them to all the wonders that even a small library such as the one in our community has to offer is important.

The library can help teach a child the most basic concept of sharing. It also is a great way to teach a young child that showing respect for possessions is an important fact of life. I remember the first time we checked out a book that we realized once we got it home had been damaged. The librarian had obviously missed the damage, as had I when I was helping my grandson pick out a few books to bring home. Two pages on the inside were nearly torn from their spine and several pages had been colored on. He immediately pointed out the tears as we paged through the book upon arriving back at his house. It gave us the perfect opportunity though, to talk about how important it was to take care of the books when we borrowed them, because eventually, someone else would be borrowing them, and they would want to be able to read the story the same as we had. We talked about how we could fix the book, and we not only taped the pages front and back to prevent them from tearing further, we made sure to point out the damage to the librarian when we returned the book. I let my grandson take the book to the counter and show the librarian where the torn pages were, and how we taped them. It was a good lesson in accountability, even though he had not been the one to tear the pages.

My grandson has his own shelf at home to put anything he has borrowed from the library on, including books and DVDs. My daughter limits him to one movie a week, and several books. In addition, even though he is only three years old, he is very good about putting everything back on the shelf between uses. He knows that if he loses something in his room, he will have to find it. The books and the video are his responsibility for the time that he has borrowed them. We have also talked to him about the fact that if something is damaged while in his care, he will have to empty his bank to pay for the damage or lost item.

Taking a child, even a very young one, to the library is a great way to introduce them to the larger world we live in. There are so many lessons to be learned, along with the sheer fun of the place. When every activity that we might want to take part with our children and grandchildren costs a seemingly small fortune, the fact that the library is still a no cost activity is a huge bonus. The next time you are looking for the perfect way to spend some time with the child or children in your life, be sure to check out your local library.