Thursday, August 31, 2006

Fatherhood starts with YOU

The life of a parent is exciting, if not, totally nerve-racking. A man-child is born to a couple of people who, until that moment, assumed that they knew exactly where life was going to lead them. The spontaneity of life is a double-edged sword, as it were. Not only is life's unpredictability wildly attractive for this reason, but it is, also, its biggest downfall.
When a child is created by God, and lands into the hands of some young people, it is a time to celebrate, and revel in the moment. Pure innocence, sent directly from the hands of his or her Creator, life almost seems to start over, and a chance to improve the world has just been realized... once you can get past the grind.

You come home from a long day at the office, field, courthouse, job site, et cetera, and your expectant wife is not expectant, except for a half an hour to herself. In hasty fashion, a baby is handed to you, and you have to play, entertain, or at least maintain, this ball of emotions until she returns. Your dinner, which used to be prepared by the time of your return, has not even been schemed yet, and, when you finally... FINALLY, fall asleep, only to kicked, head-long, into the all-night cry fiesta.

On top of all this, you are the father of this... child. You feel exhausted, yet there is a urge of duty beating on your chest. Why do you get up with the child? Your wife, or in today's terms, your child's mother, has just spent all day with this person, with no adult conversation, profuse, and seemingly inane sobbing, having the kid drain precious fluids from their chest, and little, if any, rest.

Being the man of the house, and the hour, we can handle shoving a bottle in a wet, empty mouth and rocking the poor innocence. But, while you were rocking your child, and putting yourself to sleep, more than them, did you happen to even think on why you should do what you are doing?

My friends, it goes beyond duty. "Having to" is a poor excuse to do something that has not only been deemed upon you, but this journey has been given to you, as a blessing. Fellow dads, I am the proud papa of a very cute 6 month-old boy. Seeing his smiling, toothless (except for his two news ones) grin when I come through the door makes my heart sing. Knowing the right area on the back, or the leg, to make him squeal in laughter is almost a forbidden secret, meant only for daddy.

There are also times, like the other night, where I ask myself, 'how insane am I to put up with this?' As I have mentioned, the boy, name of Isaac, is currently teething. Two have shown on the bottom, and two on the top are due to appear any day now. Problem: the cutting of teeth to infants is quite painful, or in my son's case, bloody murder. So, me, being SUPERDAD run to my son's aid as he his weeping his slightly bald head off.

I rocked him for 40 minutes. Then, in comes Mom to relieve Dad, and in ten minutes, he is silent. At this point, two questions may enter your mind: how did that make dad feel, and, why am I relaying this obnoxiously long anecdote to you folks?

To be honest, I felt horrible. I was sore from rocking him, tired because I wanted my pillow, and on top of that, it simply did not work for me. In a word, I had failed. (This is where I tie into the second burning question of what my point actually is).
When I sat on the bed, and listened to my wife move in, and put the kid out, I realized that I was missing the point entirely. I saw that that boy needs me, and he needed me then. He got to experience Mom and Dad working together to comfort him. He got to see the ultimate in engulfing emotional expressions: love.

Dads, and dads-in-waiting, we have two functions when it comes to children, one practical, one emotional: we are to train the child (boys for the most part), and to love them, too. I have such a hard time understanding a situation where a young man will get his satisfaction with his girl, yet, when the pregnancy test says' when's Father's Day?', the man bolts. Some people see the female as their personal playground, but when the wind blows, they are off again.

Do they not see the opportunity that they are missing? Can they not see that the point in manhood is to begat a new generation, and the point in fatherhood is to train said generation to be men? There is a reason that God designed sex to be between man and wife, and that is so a child being sprouted from the family unit can have the love and discipline it needs. For a dad to leave, to shred the family is to kill the child before they can develop, ergo their decisions in life are messed up from the start.

Boys will look at Dad and see how a real man is to act. A girl sees Dad, and sees an example of the kind of man out there to pick for her spouse. To violate that by being abusive, or simply, flat-out leaving, is to doom that child to a life they do not deserve.

My heart truly aches for the next generation. Babies are being born into loveless, hopeless families, or are simply treated like garbage and like they do not deserve the right to breathe the same air that I am. I love my son. I can not see how a son can be hated, for any reason, regardless of the people they frequent on the Dr. Phil show. I have two lots in life, aside from glorifying God: to love my wife totally and solely, and to teach my son to do the same when he marries. If I up, and left my wife, Isaac would never know what a good husband or father would look like.

Now, we do have laws in place; laws that protect the mother, financially. Sadly, the elected government has no ability to order a father to be a dad. A father has a seed: a dad has a seed, and an inspiration to be a dad. I do not believe for a second that we come from apes, but, I do think that even the animals have a better concept of parenting than most humans. America is free, is it not? How come that kid has to be handcuffed to a life it does not merit?

Let me point out, I am not speaking necessarily about divorcees. My parents were divorced, and my dad was as good of a dad as one could be for a divorcee. I am speaking of those labeled 'deadbeat dads' and the like. Likewise, I have had friends who copulated outside of marriage, and ended up kicking out the dad, either due to abuse, or he was just a hopeless case.

Here is what it comes to: I have really wide feet. Now, just because I was blessed with huge feet, I do not have a license to grind people's toes, at random, into the pavement. In the same light, just because God gave men the right 'equipment', it does not mean we can sling it in any direction we please. And what else? If you trust in the Word, as I do, God made the man responsible for the family. He is not greater than the wife, but if the family falls, it is his head that gets rolled. A broken family is still a family, and he is still responsible for it.

Dads, if you get someone pregnant, a wife or girlfriend, please sit, and consider the tremendous repercussions that will ring out, like ripples on the water. The life of the mother has just become more difficult, the life of the child has become 100 times more difficult, and you are now under the gun of God.
Sink or swim, fellas...

Basic Babyproofing

If you have a baby in your life, it is important that you baby proof your home-- at least to some degree. While most expectant parents know that they should baby proof their homes by the time their baby is a few months old, grandparents and other family members should also make sure their houses are baby-friendly when baby comes to visit. It's not very expensive to baby proof your house and it's certainly a worthwhile investment regardless. Here are some baby proofing basics:

Outlet protectors. You should purchase a large package of plastic protectors for all of your wall outlets. This should be your first order of business, as curious babies love to crawl around and poke and prod at things. You want to make sure all of the outlets in your house are covered. Outlet protectors can be found at any baby specialty store or discount store.

Baby gates. You should have a baby gate at the top and bottom of every staircase in your home. It's not worth the risk to skip this one. All it takes is a quick turn of your back for a fast moving baby to try to hightail it up the steps. Baby gates can range in price, anywhere from 15 dollars to 50 dollars or more. Buy what you can afford but make sure that the gate fits securely in the space you are trying to block off. If you have a sunken or step-down room in your house, you may want to block baby's access to the step-down as he or she learns to crawl. If you can't afford to buy gates for all of your staircases, be diligent about rotating them as you are upstairs and downstairs with your baby.

Foam pads. You should cover any sharp edges (like coffee table edges or raised fireplace edges) with foam pads and corner guards. You can find foam pads at baby stores and specialty stores.

Cabinet latches. If you don't put latches on your cabinets and drawers, expect baby to drive you crazy opening and shutting them all day long-- as well as taking all of your pots and pans out of the cabinets. It's especially important to hinder baby's access to your utility drawers and to all cabinets that house chemicals or other dangerous substances.

Other baby proofing tips:

Keep detergents and cleaning products up on a high shelf or in a high cabinet, out of baby's reach.

Keeps your bathroom doors closed so that baby can't wander over to the toilet--serious accidents have occurred with young babies playing with the toilet.

Keep baby away from the kitchen while you are cooking. Keep hot pans out of reach and when cooking on the stove, make sure all pot handles are tuned inward so that your baby can't try to pull them down.

Keep baby's diaper rash cream, powder and baby oil out of reach. Even though these are baby items, they are extremely dangerous if ingested.

If you have a swimming pool in your yard, obviously you should keep the gate locked at all times. But don't leave baby unattended near a kiddy pool either-- top heavy, wobbly babies can tumble right in if you're not careful.

Be sure to put away plastic grocery and shopping bags-- these are a real hazard for babies and young children. Buy a plastic bag storage holder or take the bags to the recycling center. Most grocery stores even have bins where you can deposit your old plastic bags.

Baby proofing is such an important thing that some folks hire professional baby proofing company's to come to their home for a consultation. If you are truly concerned about how to baby proof your home, you should consider this service. Of course this will add quite a bundle to the cost of baby proofing your home, but you really can't put a price on your baby's safety.

And even if your house is completely baby proofed with all of the latest gadgets and devices, the number one way to keep your baby safe is to supervise him or her constantly. There is never an excuse for leaving a baby unattended so make sure your baby is always within your sight during his or her waking hours.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Easy Labor Without Medication

By Misti Sandefur

Many new mommies want to experience a natural labor without the drugs, because they want to be more alert as to what is going on around them. I am the mother of three, and I told myself that my labor would never involve drugs. I keep my word for my first two, but when my last baby was born I did finally ask for some "drugs," and I got them too. I did know what was going on around me, but I felt hardly any pain at all, and there were times when I drifted off to sleep for a brief moment, then, once my baby boy was born, I can remember holding him in my arms then handing him back to the doctor. I handed him back because the medicine they had given to me caused me to be very drowsy and I did not want to drop my newborn baby.

All three of my pregnancies were quick -- the longest and first was six hours -- and the other two was one hour and two hours. Even though I asked for "drugs" the last time, I did not have any at all with my first two children; the last child was a bit more painful than the first two, and he came a little earlier. I was, however, in all three cases, able to make my labor easier.

Today, I am going to share with you a few things you can do to prepare for and make your labor easier. Please, do not think these methods will make your labor totally pain-free, because they will not -- labor is very painful -- but I hope that the following methods will make your labor less painful and quicker.

Walking

Walking while in labor helps things progress quicker. Once I arrived at the hospital with my first pregnancy, the nurses suggested I walk up and down the halls. They told me it would help make my labor easier, and as I already mentioned, they said it would help move things along too. They were right, it made my labor easier, and not long after I got back into bed I had dilated more and my contractions came much faster.

Aerobic Exercise

During pregnancy, you may want to consider learning a few aerobic exercises. Video tapes, books or even classes can teach you some aerobic exercises that are safe for pregnant women. In addition, you can check with your doctor to see what he or she recommends.

Aerobic exercises will reduce the stress you will encounter during pregnancy, help you stay fit, and, when the time comes, they may make for a shorter and less painful labor. Some aerobic exercises you can try are swimming, walking or pedaling on a stationary bike. Do not engage in any type of exercises that are strenuous, require you to lift, or exercises that would cause you to lose your balance and fall.

Changing Positions

While in labor, change positions until you reach a position that is comfortable for you. Many women prefer to be in a sitting position, because they say it is much easier since the gravity helps by pulling things down. For me, I tried many different positions, and the one I found to be the most comfortable was sitting up slightly in the bed. While lying on my back, I grabbed a hold of my knees (slightly bent) with my hands and pulled myself up when it came time to push, but every woman is different, so do what is most comfortable for you.

Bathing

At some stage in labor, consider taking a shower. A shower will provide relaxation and may ease the pain. However, if your water has already broken, check with your doctor before taking a shower.

Meditation

When your contractions start getting closer, and the pain becomes unbearable, you can try meditating. Meditation is a process used to slow and control your breathing. Because your mind focuses on controlling your breathing, it can help relieve your pain.

Support

Having your partner by your side will aid in making the entire labor process easy for you. In addition, depending on the hospital's policy, other family and friends being there for support can help as well.

When I had my first child my now ex-husband, mom, best friend and mother-in-law were all in the room during my labor, and even when the baby was born. They all took turns wiping my head with a cool rag, breathing with me, walking the halls with me, and they talked to me. Their support, the friendly nurses, and my doctor (he had a sense of humor) made the experience worthwhile.

Music

If you want to focus your mind on something other than the pain, try listening to soothing music. Moreover, once the baby is born, the song playing at the time will remain a memory forever.

All the above is advice. I am not a doctor, midwife or professional, I am just a mother who has been there three times, so you should ALWAYS check with your doctor before utilizing any of the advice given above.

How to Ward off the Food Police

Decisions regarding infant feeding are all too often viewed as a matter open for discussion or debate. Many relatives, at family gatherings, might actually feel like a group consensus is suitable when it comes to decisions regarding infant feeding. If you have made the decision to delay solids for the current recommended time frame based on the American Academy of Pediatrics (which is currently no earlier than 6 months) you might find yourself in an awkward predicament when at holiday gatherings or family functions where there is a lot of food available. How exactly can you handle any questions or offers you receive for feeding your infant?

You can remain tactful and at the same time not compromise your baby's health. Studies have demonstrated that early introduction of solids prior to 6 months is associated with an increased risk of allergies later in life. Solids are generally intended to be introduced during the first year of life to allow your infant to experiment with taste and texture; they are not intended to be a primary form of nutrition prior to one year.

Despite your best intentions as a parent to follow current recommended medical advice, you might find yourself exasperated when you are attending a family function. It is not uncommon, even if you have a baby as young as four months, for adults to offer "soft" foods to your child including ice cream, despite the current recommendation that infants under one year of age be given no dairy.

I repeatedly had to deal with offers of ice cream beginning when my baby was about 5 months of age! It didn't matter that she hadn't begun solids yet. It didn't even matter that she was an exclusively breastfed infant. The conflict in opinions clearly resulted from the generational gap and the fact that many older individuals clearly still have outdated opinions on issues of infant feeding. It got to the point where it was not even enjoyable for my husband and me to visit homes where repeated requests would be made despite already indicating our preference and doctor's recommendation. It's not that I solely rely on doctor's advice (in fact, I rarely do). I had done a lot of research myself on the issue of early introduction of solids, but in some situations, mentioning your doctor as a reliable resource eases intrusive inquiries.

There are many contributing factors for why you might experience adults offering your infant food. Often, adults from prior generations only rely on what they have done when raising their children, and in recent decades introducing solids at two months of age was unfortunately common. In addition to that, many adults delight in seeing a baby's reaction to eating new foods. Obviously, such offers of food are based on self-interest. Viewing feeding an infant as a some form of novelty is a poor choice for entertainment. I really am unwavering in my opinions on this topic. I find it incomprehensible that there ever exists a benign motive for offering unsuitable foods to an infant other than the perverse entertainment of the person offering the inappropriate foods.

Other studies have indicated that an infant's parents, specifically the mother, or the primary caregiver should be the only person introducing and feeding a baby. There has been some evidence to suggest a correlation later in life with being fed from multiple people as an infant and being susceptible to peer influences pertaining to alcohol and drug use as a teen. And honestly, many parents (including myself) simply don't feel their baby should be viewed as community property. Regardless of your stance on this hot topic, if you've established your opinion on when is the most appropriate time to introduce solids, you are going to be overwhelmed with having to ward off the food police at every holiday celebration.

I realize that cultural variations strongly influence approaches to child rearing and issues concerning infant feeding. Some families have a very multi-generational approach to child rearing where every adult relative is given equal authority or responsibility for nurturing and raising the next generation. My own approach to child rearing involves both myself and my husband being the primary role models in our child's life and other adults being exactly what their labels imply: grandma, aunt, uncle, etc. Extended family are great for entertaining and playing with our child when visiting, but they are not consulted as an expert source for matters of childrearing. We also don't welcome unsolicited advice very well either. Our parents raised their children, and due to personality differences and the beauty of being human, we aren't necessarily raising our children in an identical way.

I also personally feel that babies in our country (despite the small fortune spent on nursery furniture and baby gear) are not viewed respectfully enough. If an adult finds it fascinating to gawk at the reaction a four-month-old has to ice cream or mashed potatoes, that adult needs to seek out other interesting hobbies. Babies are not a novelty or "for display purposes only." A baby's safety and comfort is the most important consideration because babies are not equipped physically to address their needs. They need attentive and nurturing mothers to read their cues, and other adults need to be respectful of that. Clearly, Aunt Bertha who sees the baby for the first time and won't be seeing him for many months is not equipped to address important issues such as infant feeding. Innocently claiming "a small taste won't hurt" is not justification for following one's own agenda and ignoring the parent's wishes. At the very least, it represents bad manners.

The delicate line of parental responsibility is being blurred as average family size is decreasing. Many adults are having fewer children than in previous generations. This can cause an imbalance in the perceived role of extended family members because the adult-to-child ratio is unhealthily distorted, at least in my family. Adult family members who have no children have to compete with other adults to be the fun aunt or uncle to the lone child of the family. If you have an enormous family with lots of kids laughing and playing at holiday gatherings and if you actually have enough family members living to host a family reunion, consider yourself lucky. The demands placed on parents in larger families are much more realistic than in smaller families.

If you've made the decision to introduce solids according to the American Academy of Pediatrics current recommended timetable, there are a variety of things you can do in order to make sure others don't senselessly disrupt that goal. If your 4-month-old is offered ice cream, you can easily inform the food police that your doctor strongly recommended no dairy for the first year. Dairy really is biologically intended for calves not human babies, but that topic is best discussed at length elsewhere. You might be tempted to cave into demands when surrounded by many adults of a different (sometimes alien) generation. Consider if this is wise, though. Do you really want your baby's first taste of solid foods to be highly-salted mashed potatoes or strawberry milk? There are more suitable choices such as mashed peas or mashed avocado. If your firm reminders when declining food offers don't work (because there are some individuals who will do what they want anyway), you have two choices: don't let your baby out of your arms or leave the event. Fortunately, in many cases people are reasonable enough to view mom's opinion as the golden rule and not intrude further. If your baby is happy and healthy, it is really not anyone else's concern how or what you feed your baby.

Your child is most vulnerable to being spoon fed when out of your reach. Consider having your husband hold your baby when there are many adults around. Many cooing adults will easily snatch a baby away from mom but think twice about intruding on dad's space.

It wasn't my intention to debate the merits of and scientific evidence for delaying solids, but rather to provide you with some helpful advice for interacting with the food police. They are on the prowl in every state and might be coming to your neighborhood next!

Money Saving Tips

By Heather Pohlabel

Let's be honest; children are expensive. Very expensive. They never really get any cheaper as they grow, so the time to start being sensible about money is as soon as they are born! There are many different areas where you can control expenditures when it comes to that extra member of your family!

Be Practical:
First of all, you don't NEED everything at once, and you don't really need EVERYTHING! This is a hard concept for new parents, and even some seasoned veterans, as baby stuff is very "cute", but don't fall prey to over purchasing. Advertising agents and department stores will target you with tiny little over priced outfits, elaborate bedding outfits, and unrealistically priced accessories. Buyer, beware! You will not be able to resell these items for anything close to what you paid for them.

In all practical terms, babies need somewhere to sleep, something to wear, and something to eat. Of course all of these needs come with many accessories and a price tag, so keeping the necessary supplies minimal and replacing them when you need them will not only help you control your baby budget, it will keep you from gathering too much extra!

Some other practical advice when shopping for a baby need is never pay full price; the item will inevitably go on sale in the next week or two, and scour the clearance racks; it's amazing what you can find there! Also, utilizing coupons helps, especially if the item is already on sale. However, comparison shop products; name brands aren't always the best and the coupon value may not reduce it enough to equal on off brand or store brand on a comparable item.

Buying Used:
We all know that this is the best way to go with babies. Buying everything used from clothing to furniture saves an enormous amount of money for the family. Babies outgrow things - even furniture - within weeks sometimes, and buying brand new items, while nice in concept, is just not very practical.

You can purchase used items online, at resale shops, or at garage sales. If you have friends with babies, you can each keep your eyes out for items that the others need. Even friends without babies like to window shop, and they can lead you to that next great bargain, or they may even purchase it for you if they know that you buy used. The Salvation Army also has very inexpensive baby items, but much like a garage sale, you will spend more time searching for cuter and better quality items in a store such as this.

Discount Shopping :
If you are looking for brand name bargains on new items, shop stores such as Valu City or Burlington Coat Factory. While some of these items are irregular, they are usually very wearable and very affordable. Check the clothing very closely before purchasing it, as you may not be able to return it. There are more strict return policies at discount stores, but you can really find incredible trendy and modern merchandise at bargain prices at these stores.

Hand-Me-Downs:
While "hand-me-downs" get less popular as children get older, don't refuse free things from anyone. Take what you can use, and use them! Be sure to ask the giver if she would like the items back when your baby is done using them.

Household Tips:
Making use of household tips from the Internet or from friends will help you to save money as well. For example, there are stain removal tips of all kinds all over the Internet. You can even make your own baby wipes and dryer sheets with a little creativity. Making your own baby food is another popular household money saving tip.

If you have a craft such as sewing, you can mend items instead of replacing them and even make your own baby clothes if you find reasonably priced material.

As always, using common sense such as washing clothes with a full load and with cold water will save a little bit of money here and there on detergent and hot water costs.

Barter:

This may seem like an ancient practice, but if you have a service or product to offer, you could very well exchange that for the service or product from another mother. If you know a hairstylist, perhaps she would cut your hair or your family's hair in exchange for baked goods or babysitting. If your child has outgrown something, you could exchange that with another parent who needs it for something that they have that you need. There are also websites where you can advertise your need for exchange or products and services such as craigslist.com.

Use your head when it comes to purchasing baby items, not your entire paycheck. While brand new items are initially appealing, they are seldom worth what you pay for them!

How to Pass Christmas Cheer to the Kids

By Brandi M. Seals

For youngsters it is easy to get caught up in Christmas, but often times the reason they get excited is the presents. Not giving them, but getting them. For kids, Christmas can seem like a never-ending gift receiving adventure, but its time they learned it is about something more.

Parents can teach their children the origin of Christmas lies in the birth of Christ or if you are going for more of a secular Christmas there is still plenty that can be done to get kids in the spirit. Whatever you do, try to make sure kids understand that it is better to give then to receive.

Music
Children respond to what is going on around them. If you want them to get excited for Christmas, try playing some Christmas music. They can sing along with Jingle Bells and Silent Night. CDs filled with Christmas music are readily available at most music stores. However, if you are trying to save money, there is usually at least one radio station that switches completely to Christmas music right before the big day. So turn up the radio and have a little fun.

Stories
Use story time to really hammer home the message of Christmas. Choose a biblical story about the birth of Jesus or read something about Jack Frost. There are many options available. Check out your local library for a great selection. Try to find something that reinforces your beliefs about what Christmas should be about. Keep in mind that a favorite of young and old alike is "The Night before Christmas."

Movies
Each year more and more Christmas related movies pop up. There is bound to be one out there that you and your children love. Try watching the classics, like "It's a Wonderful Life" starring Jimmy Stewart. If you have a television signal and a T.V. you can surely watch this movie for free. It's on every year.

If you are looking for something more upbeat and humorous try "National Lampoons: Christmas Vacation." This film is not appropriate for all ages, but if your children are a little bit older they will enjoy the Christmas hijincks shown in the film.

For little kids get a cartoon. "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" is a classic film based on a book written by Dr. Seuss. This half-hour movie shows kids that even though the Whos had no presents on Christmas morning, they still had Christmas spirit.

Gift Giving
If you want your kids to really understand that Christmas is about giving, there is no better way than to get them involved in the gift giving process. If they previously haven't gotten gifts for mom and dad, it is time they started. Have them use their own allowance (perhaps supplemented with some funds from mom and dad) to buy gifts for parents and siblings. Do not buy the presents for them unless they are too young to earn an allowance. You want your kids to know that someone does indeed have to pay for the gifts.

If your kids are already buying gifts for their immediately family, why not have them help you brainstorm ideas for other people you are buying for. Perhaps little Suzy can come up with the perfect gift idea for Grandma. By seeing all the thought and time that goes into getting the perfect gift, your child will not be so hasty to toss away presents that do not immediately please her.

Make Cookies
Lots of people make cookies or other treats for the holidays. If you are one of those people, get your kids involved. Not only will they learn how to handle themselves in the kitchen, but they will have a sense of pride when Uncle Billy comments on how much he loves the snacks.

When you make Christmas dinner, try to get everyone involved. Kids can do easy things like cook the corn. If they are too young, they can at least set the table. Make sure everyone has a role and your children do not grow up seeing just one person making an effort. People tend to take the Christmas dinner for granted when they do not prepare it or help out. Let your kids know that a lot of thought and hard work goes into the process.

Getting a Family Pet

By Brandi M. Seals

Selecting a family pet can be difficult, especially if there are small children involved. Some animals are better for homes with children than others. Choose one of the following kid-friendly pets for your family. Do a little research and decide which is best for you and your family.

Kid Friendly Pets

1.) Dogs
Dogs can be excellent pets for children. They are loyal, fun to play with and can be very gentle around children. Before picking a breed read up on their tendencies. Large dogs like Great Danes, St. Bernards and Dobermans are not great choices if you have small children. Large dogs grow quickly and inadvertently injure children by playing too rough or rolling on them. You may also wish to steer clear of Dalmatians. These cute puppies have a tendency to be deaf (deafness affects approximately 10% of these dogs) and may react poorly when surprised. Do a little research first and find the perfect dog for you and your family.

2.) Cats
Cats seem to come in two varieties - those that love neck scratches and lap time with their owners. The other type likes solitude and has little to do with the humans who care for them. While you may like a lap kitty and your child may get more one-on-one time with the animal, both cat personalities can work well in most households. Pay attention to whether your child exhibits any allergic reaction symptoms to cats. Many people are affected by cat allergies. Keep everyone in your home healthy and happy by making sure there are no cat allergies before you adopt one of these fun bundles of fur.

3.) Hermit Crabs
What is easier to take care of then a hermit crab? These interesting pets live in shells that they scavenge for in nature. Keep them in a dry tank with some extra shells so that they can move up in the world if they want to. Also, don't have a lonely crab. Buy more than one so your crab will always have company. Before heading home with your new hermit crab check with whoever sells it to you to determine if your species drinks fresh water or salt water.

4.) Rabbits
These furry little guys live for 5-10 years and can be kept indoors or outside just be sure to give them plenty of space to exercise. Each rabbit is different but in generally they love to run about and hide when scared. If you have a quiet home and want to spice things up, a rabbit could be the answer.

5.) Fish
Fish are easy to keep and care for. Beginners will need to invest in the necessary equipment like a tank, filter, fish food, etc. But once the basic supplies are bought, fish are generally very easy to care for. Remember to keep their tank clean and to feed them regularly. If you are looking for more of a challenge after awhile, why not try to create a self-supporting saltwater tank?

6.) Gerbils
These low-cost animals make great first pets. They live in their cages year-round and can be fun to watch. Caretakers simply keep the cage clean, feed and water the little critters and make sure the gerbils have something to chew on. Tubes from toilet paper rolls and paper towel are wonderful chew toys and will keep your gerbil busy. Just keep in mind that these little guys are nocturnal and it may not be the best idea to keep them in your child's room as they will run on their squeaky wheel all night long.

Taking Your Pet Home

Once you have decided which pet would be best for your family, follow these tips to keep your child safe and help adjust to owning a pet:

Take your pet to the vet for a check up. The place you got your pet (from a breeder, shelter, or pet store) may allow you to have an animal examined and returned within an agreed-upon time period if the animals unhealthy. Discuss this with the manager where you want to get your pet. It may already be part of your pet-purchase contract.

Watch your child and new pet interact. Pay close attention to how the animal is handled. Teach your child to never to squeeze the animal, not to drop them, play too rough or pick up an unsuspecting pet.

Make sure your child knows not to tease animals or pull their tails or ears.

Remind children that pets do not like to be bothered while eating, sleeping, or tending to their young. And teach your child never to take a toy or bone away from a dog.

As much as you love and trust your pet, it should never be left unsupervised near an infant or toddler. Too much can happen too quickly. Young children have a tendency to pull or tug on animals and handle them too roughly. Pets may be alarmed by this behavior and react inappropriately.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Last Month of Pregnancy

For anyone out there who has had a child, you know what the last month of a pregnancy is like. Each day going by just a little bit slower than the day before. It is an awful feeling wanting your baby to come and not being able to do anything about it. We have all heard the different things that you can try to speed up the process. I've been working on a few but I just do not think that any of it is going to work.

Then there are my daily chats with my baby. Trying to coax him out verbally does not seem to be having much affect either. I have heard that eggplant parmesan is supposed to induce labor. Maybe that will work but I have yet to make it to an Italian restaurant. Truth be told I have not wanted any. As of late the baby only really seems to want Chinese food and tomatoes.

With everyday dragging by I have been hard pressed to find things to keep me distracted. Especially now that I am not working since I'm only two and a half weeks away from my due date. Writing these blogs is one thing that I am trying, plus financially making a little money on the side never hurt anyone. I do not plan on going back to work for a while, hopefully a long while if I can manage it. My game plan is to find a way to help my husband out money wise so that I can always be at home with the baby so the internet is the perfect solution.

Some women I think get more nervous as they get closer to their due date but I feel the exact opposite. I think that I was a lot more scared at the beginning of the pregnancy and as I get closer I feel surer that the experience is going to be one that I will always cherish. Have I mentioned that this is my first? Very exciting. I am not even that worried about the pain but I am sure that the labor will rectify that for me. There is always the epidural even though I am still not sure how I feel about that and everyone seems to have a different opinion.

I was scared to wait till the last minute to get the nursery together so I have had that done. That was probably a project that I should have saved for my last month to give me something else to do. The whole pregnancy I kept feeling like I was not going to have enough time to get everything done. It was just going by so fast that I just think that there was any way that we were going to be ready. Boy was I wrong. I think that next time I will do things just a little bit differently.

Thank goodness for the nesting syndrome because cleaning can take up a good bit of time. An even bigger bit of time if it is the heavy duty, crazy, it is never going to be clean enough cleaning that some pregnant women including myself tend to do near the end. Even before I left work I had gotten so bad that people at work were fussing at me all the time because I could not stand to see a piece of trash on the floor. If there was trash I had to pick it up. Sometimes I would try to walk by and ignore it but then I would just end up turning back around to go get it because that was all I could think about. That one little piece of trash on the floor.

I have scrubbed the house up and down. I have started doing anything and everything I can think of on my computer. I have even started helping my husband with his business. That man really needs to get organized. Even with everything that I have been doing I still only seem to have one thing on my mind. The baby. Daydreaming about when the baby gets here. Being angry that he is not here yet. Wishing that I would go into labor. Every little pang I feel I hope that I feel something else similar to it, hoping that contractions have started. I have no idea what a contraction feels like but maybe when I have one I will just know. My mother says I will and mothers know everything.

By Crystal Bowden

How to Have a Great First Year of School

By Heather Pohlabel

It can be a scary thing - sending your child to school. We've all had nightmares of our young child screaming for us as we walk away and leave them in the care of a virtual stranger. If you are a first time pre-school parent, here are some simple suggestions to help you survive your first year at school!

Communication

You MUST be able to communicate effectively with your children's' teachers, no matter what your personal feelings are toward them. In school, the teacher is the teacher, and he or she is guiding your child in learning and social activities through the duration of your child's stay at school. Teachers, more often than not, have the best interest of your child at heart and really want to do a good job of teaching them what they're there to learn. However, it is a good idea to establish some sort of relationship with your children's' teachers throughout their educational careers, so starting in pre-school will be good practice.

Communicating through short notes on a frequent basis is a good way to keep in touch with the teacher if you are not the one dropping off or taking your child to school. This ensures the teacher that you are interested in what your child is doing, and even though you don't see her often, you support her in her job of educating your child. If you do take and pick your child up from pre-school, coming a little early and observing or staying after a little bit to chat will help you to communicate with the teacher. Teachers welcome the opportunities to show off what they're doing and to show you your child's progress.

It is VITAL that if you have any questions or concerns that you address them immediately with the teacher. Not only will you feel better about sending your child to school, but the teacher will appreciate your concern and your willingness to ask questions! If you communicate well with your child's teachers, your child will benefit immensely. Not only will you and the teacher share a better relationship, the teacher will respond better to your child if he/she understands you and where you're coming from. Your child will also learn how to communicate with people and to be comfortable with his/her surroundings!

I always say that I went to pre-school with my daughter. I was in there every day, sometimes staying all day. The teacher actually got sick a few times during the year and went home and I took over class because I knew the routine so well (and I was a certified substitute). I developed a relationship with her teacher that was useful for the next year when she went back to pre-school, and the relationship lasted beyond the classroom and still continues today. We still talk and catch up when we see each other, and she has never forgotten my daughter.

Allow Play!

Pre-schoolers are establishing routines, exploring social situations, and learning a bit about the ABCs and 123s. Beyond this, you should not expect your child to come home and be able to read or write to a great extent. Playtime is learning time. There are many things to be said for play-based learning. Don't be upset if you visit your child's class and he or she is "just playing" all day.

Hand and eye coordination and motor skills are built in pre-school, and the best way to develop these skills are through playing with building blocks and other manipulatives. Many preschools are filled with puzzles and playdough and sand tables. These are all sensory based play activities that help to stimulate your children's' senses, which, in turn, will help them to be able to grasp a pencil and write or a crayon to color. The stimulation provided through these activities helps the brain and the hands learn to communicate and work together.

Gross motor skills are developed by playing games such as duck duck goose or hopscotch. Many pre-school classrooms have small trampolines for children to work on developing the muscles in their legs and torso. It is also a great stimulant for a bored child or a great outlet to burn off extra energy for an over energetic child.

Remember, Your Child has a Lifetime of Learning

If your child does not leave pre-school not being able to spell his last name correctly or knowing how to read, the school has not failed you. Your child is gearing up for a lifetime of learning while in pre-school, so let him enjoy it. There will be challenges throughout his academic career that he will learn to handle through the social and play skills he learned in pre-school.

The best way to handle your child's pre-school years is to not stress. The teachers are there to help you, so communicate with them as much as possible. Your child is there to learn through play and exploration, which will lead to a lifetime of learning. Enjoy the pre-school years. They'll be in Kindergarten before you know it...and the pressure is on!

5 Reasons to Let your Kids get a Pet

By Brandi M. Seals

Getting a pet may seem like the last thing you want and the only thing your kids want. At some point or another just about every child decides he or she would love a pet. While a pet may not be on the top of your list of things to have, perhaps getting one would not be so bad.

The following are five very real reasons a pet may be beneficial for you and your child.

1.) Pets Teach Responsibility
If you get a pet when your child is old enough to help out, the experience will greatly help teach responsibility. If you have a dog, your child can feed, water, and let the dog out to use the bathroom. Just be sure to keep an eye on the situation. Children can often forget to do stuff. Make sure Fido has the food and water he needs daily. If your child forgets to feed or water the dog, do not take over for him or her. Remind your child of her daily duties and that Fido's life depends on her. There may be some resistance to this new found responsibility but with time your child will begin to grow accustomed to these additional demands.

2.) Pets Are Great Best Friends
Children in one-child households are often left to their own devises to entertain themselves. They can get lonely and may need a friend, just like any other child who does not immediately identify with his or her siblings. A pet can be like a built in friend for anyone. Children can tell their secrets to their pet, spend time with it and otherwise bond with the pet. If a child identifies with a good friend or pet, he is less likely to give into peer pressure, will be more willing to stand up for himself and most likely will not tolerate cruelty to any animals.

3.) Pets Teach Kids about the Cycle of Life
Most pets, as loveable and cute as they are, do not live as long as humans. Inevitably they die. While you may think that is traumatic for children to deal with, life and death are part of life. They will need to learn about the concept of death at some point. If you hide death from them, by saying that their favorite pet just suddenly ran away or by constantly replacing a dead fluffy with an identical gerbil, the child may actually be more upset when they find out the truth. Simply explain that Fluffy's body is still here but her spirit (what makes her Fluffy) has died. You can tell your child about your beliefs about death or go with the tried and true - "she's in a better place now."

4.) Pets Offer Health Benefits
Generally the health benefits of owning a pet are only discussed in reference to the elderly or the disabled, but the benefits of owning a pet are felt by all pet owners. Just by owning a pet one's blood pressure can lower and triglycerides and cholesterol levels can decrease. In a day and age where children are becoming increasingly overweight, they can have these increased levels that were previously only routinely associated with adults.

5.) Pets Allow for Increased Activity
Sometimes it is hard to get children up and moving. A pet, especially a dog, cat, or ferret can get children moving. They can play together. Toss a ball around. And otherwise just get moving. Your child and pet may spend time outdoors or indoors together. The increased activity may help children stay toned and maintain a healthy weight.

While this article mainly discusses the benefits of larger animals, smaller pets are also great for children. Hamsters, gerbils, snakes, lizards, and much more can all play an important role in your child's development. Get whatever fits you and your child's life. If you live in a small apartment that does not allow pets or are allergic to cat, do not limit yourself to the typical everyday pets. Investigate getting something more unusual like keeping and maintaining a salt water fish tank or sugar glider. However, do not get too creative. If you are terrified of snakes, think twice before you allow your son to get a corn snake. What are you going to do if it gets out?

One of the Best things about Having Children is...

By Christina VanGinkel

With summer winding down, we are finally starting to put some of the hottest days of this year behind us. This also means that playing outside is becoming much more tolerable, whereas a few weeks ago, when my grandson came over to play, it more often than not meant heading indoors to the air conditioning. Now, we can enjoy the simple tasks of climbing and swinging on the play set that was once his mother's and uncles', and pursuing pretending to be Picasso as we color my walkway with chalk drawings in every conceivable design.

When friends stopped by this past weekend with their two young children, I could see the parents glancing at the chalk drawings with somewhat of a surprised look. An obvious dragon stood guard by a castle, while just down the walkway was a decent rendition of a T-Rex and a Brontosaurus. They could easily tell that more than just a busy three year old had been at work. If getting down and playing with young kids in activities such as these are not on your list of things to do, I can with all sincerity recommend that maybe they should be.

When these same friends suggested that maybe we were spending too much time playing with our grandson these days, I quickly suggested back that maybe they were not spending enough time playing with their own children. They are good friends, so no offense was taken on either side. It did lead to a discussion though on how much time we spent in leisurely pursuits with our own kids when they were small, and I think it surprised the couple who both work outside of their home and raise a family. They say that finding time to accomplish the necessary tasks of keeping up a home and kids is hard enough, that if they were to add in activities as leisurely as sidewalk chalk art, they would have to give up something of importance to do so.

When our two oldest children were small, I did work outside of the home. I also spent time writing, something I have pursued since my teenage years, and worked as a freelance craft designer. I still found time to head to the lake last minute, trek through the woods to collect sticks and leaves for crayon rubbings and sticky glue collages, and participate in one of our favorite pastimes, coloring! I also was known to bring work home, literally, as I was a supervisor at a company that sold handcrafted collectible wood figures. If an order was due and inventory was short, I would take unfinished wood pieces home to paint or assemble. I was not superwoman, far from it. I just had my priorities, and if I lost sight of what they were from time to time, there was nothing as gratifying as snuggling with my kids and reading a book aloud to remind me exactly what those priorities were.

As we chatted about all this, one difference that did become apparent was that our two oldest kids were not in as many organized sports back then. Our one teenager left at home is though, and currently, football practice alone takes up five evenings a week and Saturday mornings are games. When school begins next week, practice will cut back to three evenings a week, but we will also add in a full schedule of homework and school related activities. Still, we will sneak in some late mornings for extra sleep, followed by time to talk, via me running him to school instead of having him ride the bus. Sure, this will mean I probably will not get to vacuum the living room that day as I will have to spend those few minutes working, and we will most likely have take out for dinner the same day, just to make up for the hour spent sleeping and driving, but it will be well worth it. I will get a half an hour of talk time with a teenager who is not sleep deprived. If you think an extra half an hour of sleep is not that important to a kid, you obviously have yet to meet a teen!

When I pressed my youngest to share what some of his favorite times with us have been so far, he came back with moments from various parts of his life. Little League, Pop Warner, fishing, blackberry picking, hunting, watching cartoons, riding his motorized jeep down the hill in front of the house, trail riding his motorbike, to sleeping in on the weekends when we all just decide to play hooky! He also surprised me by saying that when he was in private school and I drove him to school each day. He elaborated by saying he loved the extra time in the morning when things were not so rushed. Sure, we had our busy moments back then, but it was more often than not more relaxed than it is now with him in public school. Time is important is what it came down to.
As our friends and we chatted more on the subject, we finally came about to the realization that no matter how busy a schedule parents have, making time for the kids you chose to build your family with, to spend time doing silly, nonsensical things with them, is very important. Bake some cookies, build a tent out of blankets, and sing at the top of your lungs even if you have a lousy voice! When it comes down to it, having kids is a good reason to still act like a kid ourselves occasionally, so do not waste a single, precious moment of it. Grab some chalk, and draw your own giant T-Rex today!

Monday, August 28, 2006

What age is a good age to have your first baby?

There are many factors to take into consideration when deciding what age is the best age to start a family. The overall trend in the U.S. in recent decades has been to have one's first child at a later age than in previous generations. I am probably among the minority, but I was a full decade younger than my mother and twelve years younger than my father was than the age at which my parents were when I was born.

Financial considerations seem to rank high for many couples when deciding when is the perfect time to start a family. Although financial concerns are important to consider, they should not be the lone deciding factor. There are many other issues to consider such as health of the mother. If you choose a conventional treatment route during pregnancy and delivery, a mother having her first baby at age 35 and beyond is quickly labeled as being of an "advanced maternal age." This easily contributes to an abundance of additional testing and prenatal care that younger mothers don't typically have to worry about.

Another consideration is the age and status of you and your spouse's own parents. Having a baby at age 24, my father was already deceased for 5 years, so my child's grandparents were already limited to three even prior to being born. Waiting until age 40 to have my first child could have possibly resulted in no living grandparents or older extended family members. I might be the youngest mom at the playground and dance lessons, but I am ironically not the mom with the youngest parents. Mothers who are a decade or more older than me often have parents the same age as my mother.

Career concerns are another important consideration to address. Many parents desire to have a decade or more invested into a career before taking time off to have children. Often, though that decision becomes the motivating factor behind not being a stay-at-home parent.

It would seem that parents who wait to have children until they are older would be more likely to have at least one parent stay at home (at least for a few years) because they presumably have achieved a greater degree of financial security and can survive on one income. Often, what happens is that parents who spend years working before starting a family have become accustomed to the lifestyle they have created based on two incomes and are reluctant to give up one income. The only foreseeable way to ensure a transition from two incomes to one income is to make lifestyle choices based on one income well before children come along. Otherwise, even individuals who have some desire to stay at home often change their minds and continue working because of the dependence they have created on a lifestyle of which they have grown accustomed. Also, once you have several years invested in a career, giving it up might be difficult because you are faced with the realization that it might be more difficult, if not impossible, to pick up where you left off.

Another consideration, though, is whether or not other family members or friends are having children. Being the only couple having a baby in both my husband's and my family was a very difficult adjustment because the demands placed on your time and divvying up holidays becomes problematic. Adults are eager to have a holiday filled with children's laughter, and there are no other children to share their time with. So, all of the burden falls on the only family members who have children, which was us.

Another important consideration is child spacing. If you wait until an older age to have your first child and want several children, there will be very little spacing in between children. That shortens the time spent breastfeeding. For my own personal circumstances, having my first child early allowed me to breastfeed for the length of time I chose and allowed for true self-weaning. If I felt pressured to wean my child by 18 months or two years in order to prepare for another pregnancy, I would be resentful of that hurried pace of trying to conceive again. When you have your first baby at a younger age, you can leisurely space your children out. Your toddler will not have to share the spotlight with a sibling. Oddly enough, though, having only one child causes more interference from extended family members. If you have at least two children, relatives are less likely to place demands on your time because you are instantly viewed as a "family" once you have more than one child. If you have one child, you all too often are unfortunately viewed as two adults who live with a kid.

If you don't mind being the only family member with a baby and you don't mind being the youngest parent (not to sound overly enthusiastic) wherever you go, then having your first baby in your twenties might be a choice to consider.

The age at which women begin having children is increasing well into their thirties. That is why it is beneficial to provide you with some often overlooked considerations worth evaluating from the perspective of a twenty-something parent. There is obviously no one perfect age for everyone to start a family, but considering more factors than finances is imperative when making a decision. In our consumer-oriented culture, we, all too often, are excessively preoccupied with financial considerations that we fail to look at the big picture.

Ready for School, or Not?

By Christina VanGinkel

If your child is not headed off to kindergarten or pre-K this fall because they are still too young to attend, and paying for a private school situation is just not within your budget, helping them get started on a life long love of learning is possible. This might be especially important if they were denied access to public school because of their age, yet frame of mind wise, they are more than ready to hit the ground running when it comes to learning. A child such as this can become bored with a daily routine that involves nothing more than playtime and the most basic of activities. They may beg for more interactive activities than their normal routine. Libraries, museums, and creating a school atmosphere in your own home can all help alleviate the boredom that might otherwise encroach during another year at home waiting for their big school debut to begin.

Library

If your child does not yet have their own library card, now is the time to get them one and introduce them to the library system itself. Sure, you might have taken them there before, or it might even be something you include in your weekly activities already, but maybe now is the time to step it up a bit. Have them find a book on their own and check it out. At home, have them mark on a calendar when the book is due back, and make them responsible for reminding you the following week which day is library day. Having them take responsibility for the book they checked out, is a good lesson in dependability.

If your library offers classes or sessions for preschool aged children, inquire if any of them are geared towards kids a bit older, with projects that require more aptitude than the youngest toddler groups. Because libraries may recognize the strength of early readers, they may very well offer a class for kids who just missed the cut off dates for attending school and for early bloomers. A library just one town over from where we live has even offered beginner photography classes for 4 - 6 year old kids in the fall, that were either too young to attend school or were in Homeschool situations. Who would have thought that kids that young would be able to participate in such a class, but by keeping the class size small, and keeping the lessons short and simple, it was a huge success. The kids loved it, and they actually learned quite a bit about taking a picture. The same library also holds a spring gardening class for the same age group. Kids get to plant a sunflower in a container, and they make reports throughout the summer on how well their plant is growing.

Museums

Obtain a list of local and regional museums and create a schedule to visit each one. Too many children go without ever stepping foot inside the wonders of a museum. From children's museums with exhibits and learning opportunities geared directly towards youngsters, to traditional art and science museums, kids may find that they have discovered a completely new world of knowledge and cultural choices. If your child has a special interest, such as dinosaurs or aviation, research it to discover if there are any museums within driving distance of your home or someplace you are planning to vacation soon that ahs an exhibit about the interest.

Create your Own School

Set aside time each day to play school. During this time, get your child to participate in activities that would be common for him or her to take part in at school, such as coloring, counting, practicing the alphabet, art projects, and even simple science experiments. This can break up the monotony for the child still at home.

While there are many differences of opinions when it comes to the age a child should begin school, most states have strict guidelines that parents must follow. If your child is craving the structure that is often associated with school, check out as many of these activities as you can. Get them involved in areas that they show an interest, and do not try to think too much about their age. While you should of course keep their age in mind if a safety concern is at issue, if they are ready to delve into reading, or more complicated mathematic problems, let them try. Whether they complete such a task, or just attempt it, at least they are testing their skills instead of letting them go stagnate during another year at home.

Baby Naming Trends to Avoid

By Brandi M. Seals

It seems now days as if everyone wants their child to have a totally unique, one of a kind name. I'm all for unique names, but at some people are taking things too far and naming their kids absolutely atrocious things. Actor Jason Lee has a son named Pilot Inspektor, actors David Duchovney and Tea Leoni have a kid named Kyd. The examples in the celebrity world are endless, but it seems these ridiculous naming trends have begun to trickle down into the lives of every day people.

Avoid naming your kid something that he or she will need to change later. Anything that will get their butt kicked should be avoided along with tongue twisters. Avoid these common naming mistakes and your child will thank you someday.

1.) Creative Spelling - People seem to want to throw y's in any name these days and otherwise just spell things wrong. I have seen things like Violet spelled Vylot; Jackson spelled Jaxon; and Daisy spelled Daysey. While some people may not like non-traditional spellings, I say some are not that bad. Those like the examples given show that different spellings are not that bad as long as you can still make out what the name should be.

However, some people take creative spelling too far. Some people spell some names so differently that one cannot easily determine what the name is. For example, Ansley has become Ainsleigh. Kylie is now Kyly. Casey has become Kaycee. How about the name Layne'? How would you pronounce that? Lane? Maybe Laynie? Do not make people confused. If someone must pause for several seconds to figure out what name they are attempting to read, then you have gone too far. Cut back on the creative lettering, your child will appreciate it.

2.) Stupid Names – Being different is great. Being too different is not. Growing up in the 80s I had enough trouble with the name Brandi. Before the name really caught on I was constantly asked if my name was Brandon and why on Earth would anyone name a girl Brandon. And really I don't think my name was that odd at the time but it does take people awhile to warm up to things. So why are people naming their kids things like Apple?

I read through the birth announcements in the local paper ever week and there are always a handful of names that are just plain awful. For example, this past week featured names like Creek Ashton, Yeni Yazmin, Thorin Isaiah, Aneyia Small, Esmeralda Consuelo, Ledessa, and America Rose. That is from a newspaper in Northwest Arkansas. I can only imagine how 'creative' the names have gotten elsewhere. Basically a good rule of thumb is to name your kids something creative but not so creative that she will get her butt kicked just for having the name. Or, at least let them go by a nickname.

3.) Poor Paring of First and Last Names - Sometimes I guess these things are just overlooked by the parents, but when deciding what to name your kid please take your last name into consideration. Since my last name is Seals, you can be sure I will never get the urge to be creative and name my kids something like Artic or Easter. I will also be careful not to create bad initials. There is no Ashley Samantha in my future because her monogram would read A.S.S.

Some people embrace these sorts of names that can cause embarrassment. I have seen someone with the last name Oates sporting the name Barley Buckwheat. His parents were just mean. How does one go through life being Barley Oates? I have also seen Steve Stephens, Hugh Hughes, and several other doubled up names like these. So as much as you might like a name, if it makes some sort of quirky name when paired with the child's last name, it is probably best to pick something else.

4.) First and Middle Names that do not go together – This rule can actually be overlooked for the most part. Most people don't use their middle names too often and really only family and friends are usually aware of the name. For that reason, I say go crazy with the middle name. If you have a burning urge to name your kid Yayabella or other bizarre name, use it as the middle name. But, if you want to give your kid a really good name, make sure the first and middle name go together as smoothly as the first and last name do. August and Azarai do not go together and neither do Jessica and Marlene. Just say the names together a few times. You should be able to tell if they sound good together.

Tips on Bathing Baby

By Brandi M. Seals

Certain things about motherhood may seem easy, like how to bathe a baby, when in fact there is actually a little bit of a trick to it. Maybe you have down pat the hold the baby still with one hand while lathering up soap with the other one, but do you also know that it is often better to bathe your child every other day? There delicate skin can dry out easily especially when washed frequently. Here are some tips to help new mothers settle into their new role and keep their babies clean, healthy and happy.

Sponge Bathing
If your baby's umbilical cord has not fallen off yet or he has been recently circumcised, he should take sponge baths until those areas have healed. To sponge bath a baby, lay him or her down on a flat level surface. If the surface is not naturally cushy, try to pad their bodies with a mat or some towels. Using a wet sponge or wash cloth and warm water, wipe off your baby's face and scalp. Babies do not need to be shampooed at every bath. Once or twice a week is plenty.

Next, use your hand or wash cloth to soap up the baby's body. Pay special attention to the folds of flesh. Be sure to get in there and get everything clean but keep in mind that a little soap goes a long way.

Now the baby is ready to be rinsed. Use a rinsed out washcloth to go over the baby's body several times removing any soap or dirt. Rinse the washcloth frequently with warm clear water and continue to rinse the baby off. When done bathing pat the baby dry with a towel.

Tub Bathing
If your baby is ready for tub bathing gather up all your supplies you will need first. They should include two towels, one to place the baby on, one to dry him off; a washcloth, mild soap and a basin or tub. If you do not have a basin or baby bathtub, use the kitchen sink or a large pan for bathing the baby. It is too hard to hold on to one little baby in a large bathtub, so always use something smaller.

Fill the tub with a couple inches of water. Make sure it is not too hot or too cold by testing the water on your wrist. When the baby is in the bath, be sure to always hold his head up. Keep your wrist behind his head at all times and using the same hand, hold on to your baby's armpit/shoulder area. Never ever leave the baby unattended. All it takes is a second for something horrible to go wrong.

Wash the baby the same way you did when he or she still required sponge bathing. Clean his head and face first with just warm water - using shampoo for the scalp and hair once or twice a week. Then soap up the rest of him. If you notice your baby's skin is becoming excessively dry, try to cut back bathing so that it is done every other day or every three days. If that does not work, cut back on the soap used. Try switching to a milder variety, or only use soap every other bath. As long as you keep the folds of the skin free of any dirt or debris, there will be no problems. Keep in mind that babies don't have to be cleaned as regularly as we do because they are generally very clean and they don't have anything to get into.

Once the bath is done, gently place the baby on a dry towel and blot him dry with another towel. Be sure to get everything dry. Avoid using lotions or powders. They can cause rashes and are generally not needed. However, if the baby has overly dry skin, a light coat of lotion may help. Use a cotton swap to clean the outer ear of your baby. But, never use the cotton swap in the ear canal. The ear wax is there to protect the ear and to keep it clean.

Baths usually relax babies and can be easily incorporated into a night time schedule. Many often enjoy baths just prior to feeding as well. So find what works for you and go with it.

Gearing up for Baby on a Strict Budget

By: Heather Pohlabel

A few years ago. I was warned by a friend of mine that once I sold all of my baby supplies, I would inevitably get pregnant again, most likely when I least expected it. I held on as long as I could to my daughter's belongings, but lack of space, a need for extra cash from time to time, and the fact that my daughter was now in school full time and I hadn't gotten pregnant again led me to finally rid our home of all things baby - even down to the swing set. My thirteen year old was too big for it, and my eight year old had lost interest in it as well. They were growing up and their needs and tastes were changing.

Exactly one month after the last item was gone (that swing set), I found out that I was - you guessed it - pregnant! What kind of dirty trick was this anyway? Was there some karma due me? Had my now former friend jinxed me? I did not look forward to the "I told you so's". Even more, I did not look forward to buying all of that stuff all over again!

I thought about how much money I had invested in my first two children. With the first born, I went crazy buying cute little boy outfits and everything that advertised as a necessity for babies. I had an abundance of diaper rash creams, bottles, onesies, blankets, toys, bath supplies, and several different types of car seats and bouncy seats. I needed options...there were so many to choose from, and they all were perfect in one way or another.

Let's not forget the crib and bedding and all the accessories that go with that - the room decor, the mobile, the extra sheets and matress pads. The stroller, the walker, the swing, the monitor, the high chair, and the playpen; need I go on?

Baby two, a beautiful little girl, came four years later, and in addition to what I had kept from my first baby's baby days, we accumulated an Amelda Marcos worthy stock of baby girl outfits! The first granddaughter is an exciting time for grandparents dying to buy pink and frilly! We also fell prey to all things pink and pretty and overdid it - big time. Our daughter did not even get to wear most of the gorgeous dresses, stockings, headbands, shoes and bonnets that we purchased - some even at full price (because she was WORTH it). Things were everywhere, and things were out of control.

We spoiled our children with every new toy on the market for many years. It wasn't until they were about 10 and 6 that we started to back off on the over the top purchasing. Our son was outgrowing most all toys and was into electronics and money. Our daughter still liked toys, but mostly expensive baby dolls and build a bears or arts and crafts supplies. The years of Fisher Price were long gone, and we were happy!

As the children grew up and their tastes changed, so did our financial situation. Money was tighter than ever, and this was just not us; it was happening to everyone we knew. Even our doctor friends were struggling to make ends meet due to increased insurance requirements, and basically, an increase in everyday living expenses on everything from gas to food. We were not poor, but we didn't have anything to spare. So we sold the crib, the accessories, and the hundreds of beautiful, frilly unworn dresses . We said goodbye to the wagon, the Power Wheels, and the tricycles. We were a baby free house.

We sold ALL of the baby stuff. One by one, they were toted out of our lives for good, to be enjoyed by some other baby in some other house, but not our baby and not in our house. We were done having children.

Until I became pregnant that is. It was time to start shopping again!

This time around, I swore I was going to be much smarter about my purchases - in quantity, quality, and price. I now had three children, mounting household bills, and an increased insurance premium. Money was going to be an issue with this child.

I found out that I was pregnant in November, so it wasn't exactly a good time to start buying the really inexpensive items; garage sales would start in April, and that's when I'd really find my bargains. I did, however, shop some of the clearance racks for some cute outfits and purchased a few bags of diapers when they were on sale, I had a coupon, and a gift card was offered. I knew not to buy too many bags of diapers, as people always give these as gifts. I spent a total of forty dollars on diapers before my baby was born.

I also stocked up on baby wipes, utilizing sales and coupons. This was an everday need, so I made sure I had a good couple of months' supply of these. I spent about thirty dollars on wipes before my baby was born.

I am not a fan of used furniture, but if I HAD to, I would purchase my furniture used. Fortunatley, Wal-Mart sells furniture at or below used prices, and we were able to get a crib, matress, matress pad, sheet and bedding set for around two hundred dollars. This is very affordable, even with a tight budget. The crib is also able to convert to a toddler bed and a day bed, so this is a long term investment that will also offer a reasonable resale price.

We also purchsed our car seat/stroller combo at Wal Mart for one hundred twenty dollars. This is as cheap as they come unless you buy them at a garage sale, which I really wasn't wanting to do. Strollers and car seat get a lot of wear and most safety experts advise against used car seats, so new was fine with me. For about half the price, I could have picked one up at a garage sale, but it would have looked worn and probably would not have held up as well. Also, as I mentioned, used car seats are not recommended by safety experts.

We also were able to purchase a pack and play new at Wal Mart, which, unbelieveably, matched our car seat and stroller. This pack and play was very basic, and only cost fifty dollars. Most used ones that I found at garage sales and resale shops were thirty five. The pack and play is not a necessity, but is becoming more and more popular for families to leave in the family room for the baby to rest or for use as a quick diaper changing table. They also fold up and pack away to take on trips, and they don't take up much trunk space.

I did buy my furniture new, but when it came to clothing, I went used and extremely inexpensive. Downright cheap, actually.

For my onesies, I did NOT buy any new ones. I shopped garage sales for these and didn't allow myself to pay more than seventy five cents for one, and to pay that much, it needed to be pretty! Plain onesies were capped at twenty five cents. Sleepers were also used unless they were given as gifts - i allowed up to a dollar to be spent on these unless they were super cute, and then I'd pay a dollar fifty a piece. I only bought a handfull of each also. I knew I'd be home and doing laundry fairly often. I also knew I'd get some as gifts from friends and family. Being summer when my baby was due, I knew that she would not need to wear anything most of the time - it gets very hot in Ohio.

I did buy the receiving blankets new, but only one package because I had requested these as shower gifts as well. I did NOTbuy baby towels or washcloths; I've learned that babies can use the same ones as everyone else in the house! Baby washcloths are also very flimsy and small and shrink to amazingly small proportions when dried in the drier; they also curl up and are impossible to fold! I bought a pack of twenty regular wash cloths from the dollar store for five dollars, and they served as burp rags as well. I also purchased burp rags from Burlington Coat Factory - the dollar bargain ones (you get four for a dollar), and these have by far been the BEST burp rags that I've ever used. They are slightly like hand towels, have designs on them, and work amazingly well compared to the five dollar pretty pink Gerber brand that just let the spit up slide right down onto your shirt!

I did NOT buy any baby bath products. The baby can't bathe until the cord falls off, and the hospital provides enough for about a month of baths even after your baby can get in the water. It also seems that people who don't know what else to buy for your baby end up buying bath supplies as part of their gifts.

Also, during the course of my pregnancy, I made myself spend only one dollar per week on an item. This forced me to comparison shop and keep my eyes on products, sales, name brands, and my coupon supply. One week I'd get a pacifier for fifty cents; next week, a bottle brush or a bottle. I bought a dozen newborn bottles and requested Playtex Drop-Ins for my shower; I received plenty to get me through the first 3 months.

Even though genetically I am programmed to want the pink frillies for my baby girls, I refrained. I even told my family and friends to buy practical for me. A few frills were fine, but only if they couldn't resist. Most of them were more than happy to oblige, knowing that I would actually be getting use out of what they purchased.

I bought my toys at resale shops and garage sales at about a savings of seventy five percent off of retail, and I will in turn be able to resale them for the same amount that I paid for them unless we destroy them!

Overall, shopping this time around was more challenging, and in that respect, almost more fun. I had to really watch what I was buying and justify each purchase. I started early and kept some self control when it came to purchases - what was left over, I used for pickles and ice cream.

Raising an Only Child

I am an only child; my youngest daughter says that I was a 'lonely' child(what a play on words!). Perhaps that is true, and I used to always get asked 'don't you wish you had a brother or sister?" In my case, my parents just couldn't get pregnant again and yes, I did and still do wish I had a sibling. I see how my hubby interacts with his siblings and usually get the feeling I missed out on something. But whether by nature or by economics, how do you raise an only child to not be a spoiled brat or a shy and retiring child but to be a friendly and happy member of society.

Only children seem to have my myths and stereotypes floating around them. They are selfish; greedy; lonely; they rely too much on their parents; they don't interact well with peers because they hang around adults too much; but how much of these are really true?

Stigmas associated with only children date back a couple of hundred years when only children were considered to be not very well adjusted to their surroundings or even to be mentally disturbed. Only recently have studies have shown that only children are on the same behavior pattern as first born children are.

Small families present a whole new set of dynamics to the parents and while not overwhelmingly popular; 'only' represent about twenty percent of the American population. Raising an only child can be a challenge as well as very rewarding and here are a few tips on how not to raise the stereo-typical only child.

First, you will want to make time for interaction with other kids. Social skills can begin as early as eighteen months, so as a parent, you will want to make time with friends both at home in their own surroundings and away from home.

Start teaching your child social skills as early as a year. They can learn to share with others almost as early as they learn to walk. This is why it is so important to foster interaction between your child and other children. Also, children tend to grow up faster when they are primarily around adults. You need to let your child be a kid.

Learn not to over protect your child. Parents of onlys tend to smother their child (though not all parents are like this of course, but it does happen and it is easier for it to happen with onlys than with multi children families..) It is best to allow the child to fight their own battles. It is best to stand back and let your child work it out for themselves.

Separate yourself from your child, so your child can get used to having other kids around. This can start as early as shortly after birth. Take your baby to a daycare centre or a playgroup and expose them to other kids. Though they might not get the benefit of living with another child, they will certainly learn how to share toys, compromise and learn how to be considerate to others. Encourage your child to learn how to play by themselves. This uses their imagination and allows them to be their own best friend in later years.

Don't shower your child with gifts. My daughters think that I was so lucky because I got tons of Christmas presents while I was growing up, but I would much rather have had a sibling than lots of presents. I did get spoiled to a certain extent. I got a new book once a week while growing up and got quite a bit allowance. But I was also told 'no' when I requested a new toy sometimes when I was little. If the child is bombarded with gifts, they will get the message "I always get what I want." Learn to say 'no'.

Most onlys I have talked to either really liked being an only or totally hated it. In fact my husband and I decided long before we had kids that we would have two as not to have an only child just because I didn't want my child to have the life that I did (I had a fairly happy child hood, but spent most of my youth by myself interspersed every so often with friends).

Being an only child (from the child's point of view can be either lonely or a really great one. I found that growing up as an only child; you are forced to learn how to entertain yourself which is not a bad thing, but can be lonely. You learn how to be your own best friend early and you are in the company of adults a lot of the time which can or cannot be a good thing (this I believe has fostered my love of History, which started when I was a kid and still continues today). I find even now, that with my daughters, there are no cousins for them to play with on my side of the family. I do however have a very close relationship with my parents, so in some ways being an only was good and in other ways, not so much.

But if you have an only by chance or by choice with a little bit extra effort, time and patience, you will be blessed with a great kid and a wonderful adult.

Recognizing when and why your Child is Angry

By Christina VanGinkel

We hear a lot of talk about when kids throw tantrums, but not always, that much dialogue about when we realize that far beyond a typical tantrum we find that we are dealing with an angry child. An angry child and a child throwing a tantrum are two extreme opposites. Recognizing the difference is important. Both are dealt with differently, and ignoring anger should never be an option you choose.

If you find yourself asking what the difference, from my own perspective is I would categorize each in the following way. A tantrum being when a toddler or young child shows his or her perceived power or lack thereof through a screaming, crying, and sometimes physical fit, most likely over some inconsequential item or task. They want a toy, the red one not the blue, until you hand them the red one when they then demand the first offensive blue one. They are essentially testing their powers. Or, you tell them to come to the table for dinner, but they are engrossed watching Sponge Bob on the television. When you follow up your request to come to dinner with the command to turn of the television, all order can be lost when their tantrum erupts. Sure, each tantrum is often about something different, but most follow somewhat of a pattern. The child is tired or hungry, they might feel momentarily out of control of their surroundings, and so they throw the proverbial tantrum to regain what they perceive of as power or control, their parent's undivided attention quite often. Ignoring such actions is often the best way to deal with the tantrum at hand. If you do not jump to the attention of them, they lose their power quickly.

An angry outburst is often about issues that are more substantial though. Issues that if you do not deal with them in a timely fashion, can lead to severe consequences. Children can be angry about many things. One somewhat common reason may be the separation from one parent through a divorce. It is often easy for two adults to stand before a child and tell them that they are divorcing each other and not the child, but even the most well intentioned parents may not realize the extent of the consequences that their child will experience from a decision that they had absolutely no say in. This is not to say to those adults that they should stay together, not at all. It is just to make them aware that their child surely has a different view of the ordeal than either parent does. Even when a child may somewhat be aware that the adults should not be together, if he or she has a good relationship with both parents, they may very well feel anger at one or both parents. They might even internalize that anger if they feel so out of control of such a situation that they feel they have no control whatsoever. Be sure that if you even glimpse a problem with anger from such a situation, that you seek out professional help immediately for that child.

Parental separation due to death or a lengthy absence because a parent may be stationed far away for work or military requirements are also big reasons kids may exhibit anger. They may feel that if the parent really wanted to be there, they could, no matter how unrealistic this attitude is. Recognizing why a child is angry, and confronting it head on will at least allow you the power of acknowledgement. Again, seeking professional help is warranted the first time you feel that you cannot handle the situation on your own. Too often, a parent may feel that they are somehow failing with the situation at hand because they feel the need to seek outside help. Not at all! If that is what appears to be the best course, it most likely is. Anger can too often lead to injury, be it the child themselves or someone that the child lashes out at.

Anger may arise for other reasons too. Problems in school, a move, a change of friends, the loss of a pet, or an imagined or very real slight by someone they depend on. No matter the reason that the anger arises, do not ignore it in the way we often ignore tantrums. A tantrum and anger are two different issues, dealt with in extreme opposites at times. Recognizing your child's anger will be the first step towards dealing with it successfully.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Choosing to Stay-at-Home

Many mothers dream of staying home with their children, being homemakers, keeping their husbands happy, and jollying around all day with PTO ladies at coffee dates and lunches. OK, maybe that's just me.

I know there are other mothers who want nothing more than to have it all - wonderful children, wonderful husbands, and wonderful careers, or at least a good paycheck so they can get their hair and nails done, pay for their SUVs, and buy name brand everything. Well, let's be realistic; we can't have it all. When we have children, sacrifices have to be made, whether it be the time with the children that we'd like to have or the income that we'd like to have - one of them is just not going to happen.

I am fortunate enough to have graduated from college, so in the last nine years, I have been able to parent my children nearly full time and work part time at a high rate of pay with some slight inconveniences and schedule conflicts from time to time. I have pretty much had a perfect set up going on. For some reason, I've gone and screwed that one all up by having another child - nine years after my last baby - at the ripe age of 33. This means I'll be 50 when my baby graduates from high school. This means I'll never have a career. This means...That I was meant to be a mom! I couldn't be happier!

For years I had resigned myself to the fact that I was never going to be more than what I was at my job - a part time college instructor and part time substitute teacher. I always put my children first, so there was no time to go back to college to further my education or to work full time; whoever would take the children to dance lessons, soccer, swim team, school, Brownies, boy scouts, basketball, volleyball, etc.? Their schedules were full time and they needed me working for them, and I did. Just when I thought I was ready to give it all up and go back to work, I became pregnant again. It was going to start all over again!

It took a lot of thinking, weighing options, and arguing with my husband about it, but I decided that I was done working. Retiring early, if you will. I was going to be full time mom and that was it. I would make the financial sacrifice to be the mother to my children that I longed to be and that they deserved.

No fake nails for me. No salon color. No fancy car. I was trading in the Lexus for a Town and Country. No more silk shirts - only baby spit-up approved attire for me. Forget a nice figure; bring on the curves! I was ready to tackle motherhood once again.

My friends thought I was crazy, but they were also slightly jealous. By now many of them or their husbands had chosen to become sterile so they didn't have the chance of messing up their established lives and routines, and most of all, financial situations. Children were and are too time consuming, too expensive...it wouldn't be fair to themselves or their other children. That was their philosophy - until they held my new baby. Then they were searching for a way to once again become parents.

Luckily I did not go through the same emotions. I had been wanting to expand the family, as I felt my career was going nowhere and I really did not enjoy it any more. I did, however, enjoy my children, who were getting older and didn't need me to go everywhere with them. They were spending more and more time with their friends and wanting to be alone more than with my husband or me. I needed a solution - another baby.

It was difficult making the choice between career and child, but I always knew which one I really wanted and which one was best for me. There is nothing I enjoy more than waking my children each day, helping them make good choices, teaching them about life, and watching as they take it all in and practice it on their own. Starting over with an infant will certainly give me that pleasure all over again.

There is no regret here. I am glad that I chose to stay at home with my children. Money is pale in comparison with what we give each other each and every day.

Potty Training Dilemma: Training pants

My friend's daughter is the same age as my little boy. My friend starting the potty training process months ago-- several months before I started with my son. Her daughter progressed nicely, using the potty when she needed to with very few accidents. She gets to wear Dora the Explorer underpants during the day and knows to tell her mommy when he has to go to the potty. At night her mother puts one of those disposable training pants on her-- just in case she has an accident. I find this to be odd. The child doesn't have accidents during the day-- she is fully trained at age 3. But her older brother, who is 4 and a half, also uses training pants during the overnight hours. I just don't get it.

Imagine my friend's surprise the other day when I handed her an unopened box of training pants and asked her if she wanted them. She looked at me in shock and asked me "Doesn't your son still need them?"

My son, you see, gave me some problems with the potty training. He was almost 3 years old before he even seemed to understand the concept of using the potty. Then, we had to start off with a potty seat (Fisher Price's The Royal Potty, which I highly recommend by the way). I trained him to use the potty sitting down, which caused a lot of flack from the people around me. But I always used regular underwear on my son-- both night and day. Once we stopped using diapers, there was no point in putting a diaper-like pair of training pants on him. Indeed, the few times I did do it he treated the training pants like a diaper--just wetting in them. And because the training pants are so much more expensive than diapers are, I vowed not to get too "addicted" to them. In fact, the huge unopened box of training pants that I offered to my friend were actually given to me by a neighbor, so I didn't even buy them (and this was a big $30 box).

It never ceases to amaze me how parents rely on training pants when their child is clearly potty trained. Take the case of my friend-- her son will be 5 in a few months. He goes to preschool and he uses the potty without any supervision. Yet at night eh ahs to have a Pull-UP or he will wet the bed. My 3 year old son, the boy who reluctantly began potty training just a few short months ago, usually sleeps through the night-- and he always wakes up dry. The few times he has had to go to the potty in the middle of the night he has toddled into my room and told me so. Of course, my friend with the Pull-Up addicted kids usually sends her kids to bed with a sippy cup of water-- a definite no no if you want your child to wake up dry. I usually cut of my kid's fluid consumption a couple of hours before bed time.

I'm not saying there is anything wrong with training pants-- in fact, they are a great option when you're on the go and your child has an accident. I just think people tend to rely on them for far too long these days. Besides the friend I am referring to, I know of several 3, 4 and even 5 year old neighborhood children who still wear training pants to bed. Some of the parents even admit that their kids wake up dry, but they just "know" that if they take away the Pull-Ups the kid will wet the bed. How do they "know" this without giving it a try? I wonder will these kids still be wearing training pants when it's time to go to a friend's house for that first sleepover? How humiliating would that be?

If you are having trouble with potty training your child, consider going cold turkey to an all-underwear regimen. Yes, you will have to wash underwear if your child has an accident. But, in my experience anyway, the accidents are fewer and more far between. And you may just find that this is one of those occasions where it's sometimes better to have some faith in your toddler and take a chance-- he or she just may surprise you!