Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Becoming Your Baby's Speech Teacher

by Deborah Rosalind Nieto

Imagine that you are a speech teacher to a student; only she is bald, toothless, doesn't know how to read and write, and oftentimes does not respond to your efforts in the way you expect. This may be the exact situation that most parents are in when encouraging their babies to talk.

For these parents, I have created a list of suggestions to make the learning process of talking easier, more effective and, at times, enjoyable. Of course, there are some cautions, too, as to what things you should avoid to help your baby maximize his speaking skills.

Concept correlation. By often pointing at objects or people and telling your baby their names, she will find it easier to learn to associate them with each other. You could hold out her bottle and say "bottle", touch her cheeks while saying "cheeks" or point to her father and say "Papa". Also, holding out a mirror in front of her and saying "That is Eloisa" may be a good idea. Making actions, while associating objects or expressions with them, is also an easier way for her to learn. You could say "hello" while waving your hand or utter a "no" while shaking your head.

Broken record. The key to any teaching activity with your baby is repetition. By holding out things or pointing at people while saying their names several times, your baby finds it easier and faster to utter their names. For the first few months, you may get only a coo or a gurgle as a response, or no response at all. But after awhile, you may even be surprised to hear him utter his first words. Risk the silliness of becoming a broken record for the sake of your baby's communicative development.

The Socratic Method. The Socratic Method is a strategy used by teachers which involves asking questions from the students to elicit answers. This method may also be employed when communicating with your baby. Although you can't expect her to give you the right answers, it helps to ask her questions instead of always bombarding her with words and concepts. This way, when the time comes that she's able to talk and you ask her a question, answers will come out from her naturally since she has grown used to being asked questions.

Simple questions like "Where is Papa?" or "Where is your nose?" can make for good questions for your baby. You may also ask him about what he's doing when he's eating or bathing, wait for him to answer, then after a pause, tell him "Mama, I'm eating" or "Mama, I am taking a bath."

Asking your baby questions which require phrases or words other than yes or no, is a good way to have an effective conversation with her. Ask her what food she would love to eat and other questions about her or the world around her to let her explore the different ways people talk to her.

Lastly, one value which your baby may learn from answering questions is making his own decisions. While you may ask him questions which involve knowledge you've taught him, it would be interesting and even more effective if you ask him questions which incorporate these knowledge in matters related to him.

Instead of asking him the colors of his pairs of socks, you may ask, "Which one do you like better, your green or yellow socks"? This question does not simply ask your baby to identify the colors of his socks; he is asked for his opinion as to what he likes better. You may even tell him, "Which one do you want to eat, banana or apple?" Like the first question, he is trained to decide for himself based on the knowledge he has gained in the past.

Baby mimicry. Imitating your baby's gurgles makes her feel and think that you are acknowledging her attempts of communicating with you. When she utters "eeeehh", you may do the same, or when she responds to a question with an "aaaaah" you may echo her. This is one way of reinforcing the communication skills she presently has, thus encouraging her to talk more.

Gibber games. I bet you're quite familiar with baby games similar to peek-a-boo. There is a good reason why it is famous among parents and their babies. You see, games which involve gibberish words and movements stick easily to your baby's mind. This is another way of making the learning experience of talking pleasurable. Do this several times and in no time your baby may finish your phrases and eventually learn saying the whole phrase himself.

Speech through song. Singing "Twinkle twinkle little star" and other nursery songs is another effective way of providing an entertaining learning experience to your baby. Also, by singing lullabies, you not only improve her communication skills, you also get to put her to sleep in a less stressful way.

Singings songs to your baby benefits both of you since it breaks the monotony of talking to him in the same manner. You don't even have to stick to nursery songs or lullabies. You may sing to him popular songs nowadays or anything that may come to your mind. To make the experience more interesting for both of you, you may pepper your songs with facial expressions and body movements. You may also provide additional sounds by stamping your feet or clapping your hands while singing.

Book buzz. Another great opportunity to talk to your baby in a different way is reading books to her. Babyhood is the perfect time to expose her to different words, rhyming sounds, alliterations and assonances. Although you may not be able to read to her every single word in her book since she's more interested in drooling over the book or eating it, it still develops her communicative skills. You get to talk to her about the pictures on her book, the shapes, colors and characters in the story. You may even ask her questions about the book. While your goal may just be to develop her skills in speaking, she may even develop a liking for reading books even after babyhood.

Sound of silence. You may be proud about the active household that you have: the presence of your relatives, the frequent visit of friends, the constant watching of television or listening to music. With the multitude of sounds, conversations and music your baby hears, he may have a big chance of learning words and their meanings fast.

Then again, you must set some time each day for tranquility. Perhaps the perfect opportunity to have this quiet time is when the least number of people is around the house. Make sure that equipment like the television or the radio is turned off. The reason for this need is not only to reduce the stress experienced by your baby, but also to encourage her to speak or blurt out her own sounds. If we older people tend to speak to break the silence, the same is true for your baby who may take the tranquility as an opportunity to say what she wants to say since she knows she will be heard.

Broadcast for babies. Be like a public announcer. As you do your everyday activities with your baby, try to broadcast everything to him. As you feed him, you may say, "Okay, Luis is eating now. He's going to love this mango mush." You may tell him "Now we're finished eating, Mama will sing a song to you. I'm just going to get your little book from your crib and then we'll be singing together."

Just imagine that you're on the phone with someone with whom you have to discuss in detail what you are doing as you talk to her. This means grabbing every opportunity of saying something to your baby. It's putting your speaking skills to the limits. It may feel stupid at first and may feel tiring after awhile, yet you may enjoy it once you get the hang of it.

Bravo baby! As a baby's parent, you are entrusted the role of being his first teacher. One of the essential jobs of teachers, which they must not fail to remember, is reinforcing the child's right answers or good behavior. The same is true when communicating with your baby.

When you ask her something and she responds to you by babbling or gurgling, acknowledge her answers. When you ask her, "What is my name?" and she responds with even a simple gibber, clap your hands and say, "Very good, Chloey, that is right, I'm Mama."

To get the hang of reinforcing your baby's attempts at communicating with you, start doing this even while he hasn't learned a single word. When the time comes that he can utter syllables or even whole words, you may realize that reinforcing his learning comes out naturally from you.

You may do these reinforcements when she points or looks at something that you ask for or utter a word which is the answer to your question. You may give her a peck on her leg, a warm embrace, or a gentle rub on the back while telling her how smart she is. You may bring your face close to hers and give her a big smile. Since these actions bring pleasure to her, they translate to acknowledgement of her actions and encouragement for her to learn more.

Widening words. When your child reaches the stage where he can say words and even associate them with the right things, besides reinforcing him for his development, add more details to his words. If he says apple, you may tell him, "Yes, it's a delicious red apple." This way, while reinforcing his right associations with words, you get to strengthen the brain connections made in his brain and add new ones by giving further details.

Riding with words. Having rides in your car with your baby is another interesting way to talk to her about different things. While she may not be able to appreciate right away the street signs and people on the road, you may start by talking to her about the feeling of moving while inside the car. You may point at different parts of your car or hold out stuff found inside it.

To make the riding experience even more enjoyable, play children's music or nursery songs. Your baby may respond by kicking his feet or bringing his hands together, or he may not respond at all. Just keep at it and in no time you'll realize that he already knows some of the syllables or words in some songs.

Don'ts

I have also created a short list of don'ts when encouraging your baby to talk. While these are just suggestions, you will find that it helps to avoid them when dealing with your little one.

Don't..

  • Talk in a stressful voice within your baby's earshot. I bet you have an idea of the possible repercussions of shouting at your baby or simply letting her hear your voice in an unpleasant tone. The last thing you want to happen is for your baby to associate your voice with negative emotions she may feel. This may produce bad effects not only on your baby's emotional health, but also on your relationship with her.
  • Spoonfeed him through over-coaching. Once your baby knows how to utter some words or phrases, you may find that he is still struggling with the application of these in his speech. While you may help him by coaching him the appropriate words in every situation, you may be doing harm than good. You may help your baby when you find that he fails to remember a certain word but you can do it without spoonfeeding him. You don't want to be his crutch whenever he gets lost for words. You have to train him to remember the words you teach him. This means you have to give him thinking time to find the right words in his memory bank. Coaching him the right word should just be a last resort in case he really forgets it or says a different word.
  • Make the television too accessible to both of you. Set boundaries for the use of your television. It is better to place your television in a place not too available to you and your baby like cabinets or other rooms both of you do not frequent.

You need to establish communication with your baby through the simple things you see. There is a reason why the television is called an idiot box. It's like a machine which replicates a person who always does all the talking. Chances are, your baby will just stare at the television for a great fraction of the time it is open. If you want her to maximize her learning of the spoken language, then engaging her in a one-way activity where she barely does the talking is not a good idea. In fact, most psychologists say that it is not advisable for babies younger than 2 years to watch the television.

Encouraging Your Baby to Read

by Deborah Rosalind Nieto

Almost all parents, whether bookworms or infrequent readers, intend to foster the love for reading in their children. They know that it brings about benefits in their little ones' development and that it is best to ignite that passion for reading during babyhood.

Yet a few parents may know the full benefit of this noble activity. Still, even fewer may know how to maximize reading to their babies. However, whether you have started reading to your baby, or have yet to experience this activity with her, you may learn more from the benefits listed below and the suggestions included in maximizing book reading with your little one.

Benefits of reading to babies

Besides the advantage of developing in your child a love for reading, here are other amazing benefits of reading to your offspring while he is still a baby:

Books as brain sowers. Scientific studies have proven that new things experienced or encountered by your baby bring about the growth of new brain cell connections. This means that for every line you read to your baby, for each word you utter or rhythmic sound she hears, one or two brain cell connections are formed. Thus, if you read the same book to her, the brain cell connections that have previously grown will be fortified.

All ears. Reading to your baby trains him to pay attention to what you are saying. This is a good foundation for your baby to learn the best skill in becoming a good conversationalist: listening. Moreover, it better teaches him the skill of paying attention to certain things as he grows up, making it easier for you to develop patience in him gradually.

An eye for an eye, a book for a book. As you read, you may be pointing to some pictures or particular colors on the pages. This is a great way to develop not only your baby's attention, but also her eye muscles. So next time you read a book to your baby, take time to point at shapes, colors or pictures to help her better use her eye muscles.

Comfort activity. If you read to your baby in a soothing tone, your baby tends to associate your voice with calmness or warmth. The same is true if you read in an enthusiastic way to him, he gets an idea that your voice can bring much joy to him, thus making him consider your voice as a positive part of his life.

Succumbing to books. Make sure you not just read to your baby while she's lying in her crib. Make that effort to hold her while reading to her a good book. Since your baby feels comfort and security while you hold her and read a book to her, you may not realize it but your baby grows to make a connection between reading and being held. This then makes her look forward to reading since she considers it as a comforting activity.

Echoing everything. Babies are very fond of imitating sounds. Besides the usual sounds he hears around him, like the hum of the electric fan, the sound of your steps or the very words you utter, it would be great if he could imitate certain words which you read straight from a book. Of course you cannot expect your 5-month old baby to immediately echo the sounds you read, but after a while you'll be surprised to hear him finally grasping the words and uttering them himself.

Language teacher. Reading is all the more important for your baby if you want her to learn more than one language. Exposing her as early as babyhood to books which use the particular languages you intend for her to acquire, will make her language acquisition a more meaningful and fun experience. She gets to learn them the unconventional way, not just through translating separate unrelated words or facing grammar books, but instead through rhythmic sounds, unique combination of words and colorful pictures found in her baby book.

Romancing language. Without you realizing it, through hearing you read stories or even simple lines to him, your baby gradually acquires the love for the language. With the sounds of rhythm, alliteration, assonance, onomatopoeia, and other fun sounds in language, he gets to enjoy words and the very language itself.

School whiz. Research shows that children who are exposed to language at an earlier age tend to do better in their studies. Of course it is best to start during babyhood. When you have started a routine with your baby before she becomes an impatient toddler who cannot even sit down with you, you'll be surprised that she picks up her book voluntarily and insists that you read to her.

Maximizing the benefits of baby book reading

Handy for baby. Instead of keeping your baby's book tucked in some closet or shelf, it may be a good idea to place it among his toys. This way, he is likely to develop interest for his book the way he has grown to like his toys. Making books accessible to him is the key to making books become a great part of his babyhood.

Also, some parents I know consider placing their baby's books all over the house. They make sure they have some books in the baby's room, living room, dining room, bathroom, and all other parts of the house where they bring their baby. You may consider doing the same since you never know when your baby is in the mood for reading. After all, her undivided attention is a precious gift in reading sessions.

This is even helpful for you when you have to perform a task on your baby and you need him to become absorbed over something else. For instance, giving your baby a bath may be daunting, yet you may get the help of soft plastic books in the tub instead of some toys. This way, bathing your baby becomes an easy task plus he becomes even more interested in books since he gets to encounter them almost everywhere.

Book bonding. While you can always let your baby chew on books or play with them on her own, still, there is nothing like the bonding time you can spend with her each day as you read to her a book. If possible, choose a place in the house where the only sound she hears is your voice. Hold your baby and as you read to her, make sure that she has your undivided attention. The important thing here is to let your baby feel that you're with her as she explores a book; and she has your focus each and every time you have a reading session.

Beyond the written word. You don't have to stop at what is written on every page of your baby's book. You may spend time talking about the pictures before turning the page. You may do this by asking him questions or relating the pictures to what is around him.

Discuss with her the story thoroughly as if you are talking to someone who can understand every word you say. This way, reading becomes more than a routine where you read word for word to your baby. This is also an excellent way to stimulate greater interest in your baby.

Picture is the mother of invention. There are available baby books where no words are present and only pictures are shown. You may connect a picture to another by inventing your own story to create greater meaning in the pictures. You may also do this with books which already have words in them. This way, book reading becomes a fun and learning routine for both you and your baby. While she learns by listening, looking and touching, you get to learn, too, by enhancing your storytelling skills.

100% Entertainment. Be more than a Mother Goose to your baby. Try to be entertaining by changing your voice for different book characters. You may also couple your otherworldly voices with funny facial expressions to make your baby smile or laugh.

Try also doing several gestures to emphasize verbs in the book or imitate animals present in it. Clap your hands, stamp your feet or whistle a tune to make things more enjoyable. You may also play with your baby's feet or hands when reading onomatopoeia such as "boom, splash, blag, kaboom". This not only adds fun to your book reading, but also lets your baby appreciate non-verbal communication.

Book boundaries. Don't be too pushing when reading to your baby. You may find that instead of letting you finish reading a page, he would turn the pages and skip on some of them. This is just natural. You may pick another book if he wants another one or stop the reading session if he loses the mood.

Remember to start only reading when your baby's comfortable, meaning she's in a comfy position and is not hungry or tired. Just keep sessions short every day. Like exercise, it's better to spend a few minutes every day reading a book to your baby than reading for a great period of time for a few days every week.

Home Schooling

Home Schooling
By Leigh A

Have you ever considered home schooling your children? Have you ever wondered what the benefits and disadvantages of home schooling might be? Well, here is some information to show you some of the pros and cons of home schooling your children.

Advantages of Home Schooling

Home schooling can create an awesome bond between parents and children and between children and siblings. Home schooling is a family affair. Both parents can get involved in the education of the bright young minds at home. Home schooling provides many wonderful opportunities for parents and children to spend quality time together, enriching not only the child but the parent as well. Children who are home schooled are frequently more rested and less likely to get sick because they are not around so many sick classmates. Home schooled children are more rested because they do not spend hours doing homework after class and do not have to get up early to catch a bus.
Parents who home school can provide themselves and their children with much more freedom than children in public school. Parents are free to decide what and when to teach different subjects and if desired can spend more time on subjects of interest than a public school classroom could. Parents who home school children can take more field trips than a public schooled child would because of the time and money constraints of taking a large group. Parents and children who home school have more physical freedom than public school families. Their lives do not have to revolve around the school calendar for nine months a year. Instead they can plan vacations and field trips during off-season times thus saving money and avoiding crowds. There is also a sense of emotional freedom that comes from avoiding the pressure of peers to act or dress a certain way. This can lead your children to become free thinkers as adults. Religious freedom can also be an advantage to home schooling because you can teach your children your values and beliefs without outside influence.
There is consistency offered with home schooling that may not be found in the public school system. For example if your family moves around a lot your children will still have to make new friends but they do not have to worry about new teachers and that scary first day at school as the new kid. Home schooling also offers the advantage of one on one teaching that will never be found in the public school. You can spend extra time on subjects that are difficult or interesting to your child. You can also teach your child in the style in which they learn best.

Disadvantages to Home Schooling
Of course there are two sides to every story and home schooling has some disadvantages as well. If you home school your kids there is the possibility that you may have to spend twenty fours hours a day with your kids for several days in a row. Some parents just cannot handle that and if you are one of them you should probably not home school. Home school parents may have to explain and defend their position on education to their family and friends. Parents who home school their children are very likely to have to spend more money on education than they would if their children were in public school. Home school parents may have to seek out other home schooling parents when issues come up that you are not prepared for. You as the parent will have to continue encouraging your children even when you do not feel like it or have become frustrated. You may have to try several curriculum programs before you find one that fits your teaching style and the way your child learns best. Parents will have to make an active effort to find activities for children where they can meet other children for social development. You as the parent and teacher will have to be disciplined to keep up with studies.

Statistics on Home Schooling
Here are some statistics I found on home schooling that you might want to consider. There were 1.1 million kids home schooled in the United States during the 2003 school year. There were roughly 2 million kids being home schooled in the United States for the 2005 – 2006 school year. Home schooling is growing rapidly with non-white families, and they currently represent about 15% of home school families. The number one reason parents and students give for wanting to home school is to accomplish more academically than they could in a public school setting. On standardized tests (including those being used with No Child Left Behind) home school students score between fifteen and thirty percentile points higher than public school students. Home school students scored above average on their achievement tests regardless of family income levels and the formal education level of their parents. Students that are home schooled score above average on the SAT and ACT tests, and are being actively recruited by colleges and universities.

Carrying Our Own Load

Many couples talk about when is the best time to have a baby, depending on job status of the parents, money saved, health insurance, home situation, etc. If possible, most couples like to plan to have their babies at the right time, when all their proverbial ducks are in a row. Yet, most seasoned parents know that there is no "good" time to have a baby. Babies are demanding, amazing, and all-consuming. Regardless of the apparent material preparation one can make for the arrival of a new baby, there are always unknowns and unexpected issues that pop up, ranging from sleepless nights to illnesses. Many times the best laid plans can be derailed by an unexpected pregnancy, as well. Yet, what stumps me is the couple who is clearly not ready to have a baby, but either society, their parents, or just that old biological clock is telling them that since they are married and "of age" to have children, the time must be now; this, regardless of the fact that money is tight, both parents must work full time, and the tiny apartment in which they live is simply not big enough. I have seen many young couples get so excited about becoming parents that they do not think through what is involved until after the baby arrives.

I know a couple currently who has been married about five years. The wife is twenty-nine years old and the husband is thirty-nine. He has very little background or education and is constantly changing jobs. He is a hard worker, but they would have to go on government assistance if they depended only upon his salary, which is just above minimum wage. He works very long hours, six days each week. The wife is a high school music teacher who also plays in the local symphony orchestra. Although a teacher's salary is larger than minimum wage, life is expensive, and this couple relies heavily on the jobs of each of them. Just last year, the husband felt he was getting older and wanted his wife to have a baby. They both felt very strongly that one parent should stay home with the baby, so they discussed it in great depth. In the end, though they knew they could not currently support their convictions about staying home with the baby, they wanted one, anyway. Surely they could find a good day care.

The baby came and the father was able to take a few days off to help the mom. Thankfully the baby was born in the summertime, so the mother was able to have a bit of time with the baby before putting him in full time day care. The day care they chose is not their ideal, because the day care provider does not share their religious beliefs, but as with many other things, they were forced to compromise out of necessity.

I am not trying to make a judgment here; many parents choose this route and while my belief is that the baby is better off at home with a parent, people have to make their own choices. The problem with the aforementioned couple is that they now are trying to push their unwise decision on those closest to them. The wife is pressuring her mother to quit her job so she can baby sit the infant during the day; the husband hints to friends about how wonderful it would be if they could spend time with the baby so he and his wife could have a date (i.e. free babysitting); and the wife is constantly looking for friends who will accompany her to the symphony so they can watch the baby there, backstage, while she plays - again, free of charge. We, the friends of this couple are feeling as though they want their life to go on as it always has while their friends and family pick up the slack. Yes, the idea of friends and family being a part of this baby's life is very important, but it seems that this couple either should have thought ahead a bit more, or they should alter their current living arrangements. Perhaps a second job on the part of the husband and putting off the symphony on the part of the wife would be a good idea.

Hosting A Fantastic First Birthday Party

Baby's first birthday is a special experience; it's the very first day that is all about him or her, celebrating the first big life milestone. Most of us might be tempted to give the babies in our lives an all-out bash complete with pony-riding, games, huge plates of cake, and entertainment; we have to remember that most of those things are for grown-ups, and since babies won't remember their first party, presents and a special meal should be all that's really needed. It will be nice to have the memories, but do you honestly need that clown that charges $300 an hour when baby won't remember the occasion? Love your baby and give him or her attention on this day, and chances are that Baby will be more receptive to these kinds of things.

If you are wondering what to buy Baby for the first birthday, here are some suggestions: Your baby's personality is unlike any other, so gifts should be chosen according to the speed at which the child seems to be learning. If your child already has an ear for music, a CD of children's songs is a great choice. Storybooks are loved by all ages, and many believe the earlier you read to your child, the faster they will learn. Crib bedding, special food, and soft toys offer different choices, but keep in mind that some of your guests will probably duplicate your ideas and you don't want to spend money on a stroller only to discover that you could have gotten one for free as a gift.

If you do want entertainment, don't choose loud music or anything that might scare Baby; after all, nothing's worse at a birthday party than the guest of honor being cranky. If you know your child likes bright colors, consider a tropical theme or any theme incorporating these flashy colors into the party scene. Even if he or she can't remember the activities, the colors will entice and excite Baby. Always watch your guests, particularly young ones; some younger children would probably have a grand time trying to feed Baby lots and lots of cake or carry him or her around to see the decorations. It's wonderful to invite cousins and friends, but you always have to watch who is trying to further include Baby in the celebration. It's a good idea to keep in mind that a lot of people in one space might be too much for the little one, so if you can, keep your guest list small and only invite those who are very close to the family or a few very special friends.

Does your little one already have a sweet tooth? If you don't want to go the traditional route, there are other suggestions besides cake. Birthday cupcakes and huge cookies can be found or homemade if you can't find anything that suits you. You might find it more special to make the birthday cake or cupcakes yourself. We've all seen the shows where, as soon as Baby's birthday cake is sat down on the highchair, hands plunge into the cake and it's "goodbye, dessert." To avoid disappointment and still give Baby his fun, consider a smaller, "just-for-decoration" cake that Baby can "play" with, and have a larger, fancier cake that guests will actually consume. If you don't want to buy or make two cakes, Baby's own personal cake can be a cupcake; less mess if he decides to play with it, and not too much sugar if he actually eats it!

You can either host a sit-down meal or a salad-bar style lunch where guests can come and fill up on sandwiches, desserts, and drinks. If you are having the party at home, make sure a big enough area can be cleared for children to run around without breaking anything or causing distress. A garage is a good idea for this; there usually aren't many pictures already hanging on the garage walls, so you don't have to pull down lots of frames to hang decorations. If it's cold outside and your garage isn't heated, a space heater will help the guests stay cozy. If you don't want Baby to feel overwhelmed, the party should probably be fairly shorter than an older child's celebration; don't forget that one-year-olds often can't make it through the day without a nap or two.


By Lacie R. Schaeffer

Monday, October 30, 2006

Have a Fun and Safe Halloween

By Leigh A

Here are a few tips and suggestions to make sure that your little ghosts and goblins have a great Halloween night.

First of all make sure your child has a costume that is safe. Make sure that the costume is short enough to avoid tripping over. Try to find costumes that are flame retardant, and review stop, drop, and roll techniques with your children should their clothes or costume catch fire. Check to make sure that shoes fit well and consider using non-toxic hypo- allergenic make-up instead of a mask. Hats and scarves should be tied securely to prevent them from slipping over the eyes of a child. Make sure that any costume props like swords or scythes have smooth tips that are flexible enough that they will not cause injury if they are fallen on. Place your name, address and phone number discreetly within the costume of your child or have them wear an identification bracelet or necklace. Have your child wear a watch that glows in the dark so they know what time to be home.

Now for the best part the trick or treating! If you are not going trick or treating with your child make sure that he or she goes with a responsible adult or for older children in a group. Be sure to know all the activities your child plans to attend such as parties or fall festivals and set a time for them to be home. Make sure that your children know to observe all pedestrian rules such as crossing the street at a corner or in cross walk, and walking on the sidewalk or if there is no sidewalk to walk at the farthest edge of the street facing traffic. Remind children not to cross the street between parked cars. Know the route your children plan to take and make sure that they know not to cut through back alleys or fields, try not to wander off the beaten path and stay in well lit areas. Teach children to only stop at homes that are familiar to them and those that have the lights on and to never ever accept treats or rides from strangers. Only accept treats in the doorway do not go inside the home and always say thank-you for treats. Remind children to walk and not run, place reflective tape on costumes and treat bags and make sure that your child has a flashlight or glow stick to make them more visible to motorists and other pedestrians.

Explain to your children the difference between vandalism and tricks and if caught vandalizing make sure they cleanup the mess. Teach children to be wary of strange pets and remind them that torturing animals is against the law. Tell your child not to eat treats and to they get home and you have inspected them and to never eat anything that is not commercially wrapped. A good meal of favorite foods before trick or treating will discourage children from filling up on treats or eating candy before you can inspect it.

Here are some preparations you can make for trick or treaters who might visit your home. If you plan to use jack o lanterns with candles place them far enough back and away from the door that costumes do not accidentally catch fire. A safer alternative would be to use the plug in kind just make sure you tape down the cords so no one trips. Take extra precautions and remove tripping hazards on your walk way and property. Examples might be low tree limbs, garden hoses, and flower pots. Sweep any wet leaves from your steps and walk way so that no one slips and falls. Consider purchasing individually packaged healthy food alternatives or non-food treats for visitors to your home. Some healthy choices might include individually wrapped cheese and cracker packages, sugar free gum, small bags of raisins, pretzels or nuts, granola bars, fruit roll-ups, gummy bears, peanuts in the shell, or fruit. Some non-food alternatives might be stickers, temporary tattoos, fun shaped erasers, colored chalk, crayons or color pencils, rings, and small balls or whistles. Make sure to leave your front porch light on so visitors can clearly see the path.

Hope every one has a wonderful Halloween and be safe out there!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Bathing Your Babies and Putting Them to Sleep

Many mothers find it an exceptionally fulfilling experience to bathe their babies. As a general rule, you need to give your baby a nice bath every two to three days. Between this time, you can top and tail like cleaning the bottom, neck and skin etc. Following are some tips and bits of advise that will help you in making your baby's bath safer and more pleasurable.

Baby Bathing Tips

Most importantly, you need to regulate the room's temperature. It should be warm enough for the child.

Before undressing your baby, check carefully that you have gathered everything you need for and after the bath. It is not advisable to leave the baby alone every few minutes.

As you let the water run, place the baby on a changing mat on the floor.

The ideal temperature of bath water is 36 to 38 oC (i.e. 97 to 100 oF). Always remember to run cold water first. Before you put your baby in the bath water, check the water temperature with your elbow or by using a thermometer.

Don't overfill the bath. Keep the water depth at 5 to 8 cm (i.e. 2 to 3 inches) deep.

To support your baby's shoulders, tuck them with one hand, keeping your fingers under the baby's armpit. Support the baby's legs with the other hand. Now slowly lower the child into the bath. Use both hands while lifting him/her out of the bath.

Keep the towel and mat close by the bath. While rubbing the baby dry, make sure you dry the folds of the baby's neck, legs, and under arms.

Remember, never ever leave your baby alone in the bath even for a jiffy. Take the baby out with care and let the door or phone bell ringing till you place the little one safely on the mat, wrapped in the towel.

Washing the Baby's Hair

Follow these easy steps to wash your baby's hair better.

Wrap your baby in a towel.

Tuck him/her under one arm, holding the baby's head over the bath.

Dampen the hair.

Gently and carefully pat the hair dry.

Giving Your Baby a Sound Sleep

To ensure your little one's better health, it is necessary that the baby be provided sound, safe, and peaceful sleep. Following is a bit of advice on safe and restoring sleep for your child.

Selecting the Right Mattress

Choice of the mattress for the baby is of primary importance. A few considerations are to be remembered in this regard. Foremost comes the size and shape of the mattress whether it is for the child's cot, pram, bed, or basket. Wee limbs of babies can easily get caught in gaps at the sides and ends. The size and shape of the mattress should be such that no gap larger than 4 cm remains after placing the mattress.

Type of Mattress

There are many choices available in market in the type of mattress for children. Depending on your individual taste and need, pick any good mattress, whether foam or spring interior, preferably having the following qualities:

· Resistant to odor and mildew
· Lets the air circulate through it
· Has a liquid dissipating middle layer
· Easy to clean of spills

Mattress Hygiene

To prevent any possible allergic reactions of the baby, regularly clean his/her mattress. Wipe its surface and vacuum or sponge clean the non-removable covers. To maintain its shape, turn the mattress regularly. Also, rotate it head to foot so that both its ends are used equally.

Buying the Right Cot

The right cot for the baby is strong and does not have cracked or broken slats. Also, it lacks any points or edges. It gives a firm support to the mattress. It has a structure that does not leave gaps after the matching size of mattress is placed over it.

Location of the Cot

A vital role is played in your baby's sound sleep by the position of his/her cot. It is advisable to position the cot away from ledges or such appliances that can easily come in the grip of the baby's hands. Also, never place the baby's cot near a radiator, beneath a shelf, under a hanging frame, or under clocks etc. Keep your baby's cot away as much as possible from glasses and mirrors.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Birthday Parties on the Cheap

Well, it may cost you a bit more than a dime, but here are a few ideas I have come across to having a fun birthday party and not breading the bank.

Ah, birthdays, the time of year that my children look forward to with much glee. But planning the birthday party is not high on my Fun Things to Do With my Time List. I do not know about you, but visiting a dentist might be more little fun than running a birthday party for a kid. But birthdays are a time for my little darlings to have fun with all their friends and get a few presents in the mean time.

So what do you do to make a birthday party for a child successful? Two words! PLAN AHEAD! Having an at home party for a child is no easy feat that can be thrown together in a few hours before kids are likely to come.

This year for the 8th birthday of my daughter, we are had a princess party. So that was the theme of the whole party. I drew out a simple crown and glued jewels to the top with glitter glue and viola, those was the birthday invites. Each girl invited will get a plastic crown to wear when they come and enjoy games such as pin the jewel on the crown (much the same as pin the tail on the donkey), (for boys, you can use this same game and just change it to pin the skull to the crossbones for a pirate theme or pin the car to the race track. Well there are endless possibilities for this game! I was lucky enough to find a crown paper punch at the dollar store that I used for gluing onto the picture frames they made (cardboard frames that I punched out at a store that teachers can use and for those I bought stickers and used the rest of the jewels from the invites and then put magnetic tape on the back of so they could be hung on the fridge).

Another game we play pretty much every year is to put interesting objects (such as a large shell, a stuffy etc) Place one object per lunch bag and number each bag. Let the children feel the bag and guess what it is and make a list of each guess. This results in some pretty interesting answers. For older children, I play a memory game. I place a lot of items that they would use (my older daughter is a teen, so stuff a lip gloss, a pin back button of her favourite star, or earrings) Place all the items on a large tray, give the gang 10 minutes to memorize the stuff and take it away and give them each a pen and paper and see how much they remember.

Last year, my oldest had an Island theme party. Each guest was encouraged to wear their best island themed outfit, we had a limbo in the living room, (had 2 girls hold either side of a pool noodle) and played some Latin jazz, then we played pass the pineapple (much the same as hot potato) but using a can of pineapple (or a fresh one).

Another idea is just to take a bunch of friends and the birthday person to the beach. My oldest daughter has a May birthday, well this year we differed it until August and allowed her to have 3 friends stay over night and then had a big breakfast (courtesy of dad) then headed off to the beach and spend the day shopping (it is a beachy resort town), swimming, sunbathing and eating. I brought snacks and drinks and we bought hot dogs for lunch. She had a really great time.

As long as you have it planned ahead of time, the party can be a lot of fun. For goody bags for the kids to take home, I look for sales at dollar stores and the like and shop all year round for treats. If I see something that would be good for a goody bag, why not buy it then? Of course, depending on the season, you can also include seasonal related things in the bags. Items like a unique Christmas ornament for each of the attendees (which was bought after Christmas, of course and put aside for the following year!), or items that are themed with the party, like the crowns that the girls got at our party. For the goody bags themselves, we use brown paper lunch sacks that the birthday child has decorated and put stickers on. For food, I find that a cake is not always the best thing. A lot of little eyes tend to be bigger than their tummies and the cake ends up going to waste, so I either make my own, or I have been doing decorate your own cupcake. I just have mini candies, gummies and sprinkles on hand and let each child go to it. My eldest does not like cake (she definitely does not take after her mother!), so we have had make your own sundaes.

But no matter what you do, you can have a successful home based birthday party for your child that will not cost you a lot of money. Just be a little creative, plan ahead and make sure you have help for the day of the party (in case of emergencies, like what happened to my sister in law at the party for my niece. They went to a park and one of the partygoers ended up getting scrapped up a bit and his parents had to be called; so having extra help is great and it also keeps the party moving!) and your party will be a success, mom will have survived and you will have one happy birthday kid on your hands!.

Minding Our Own Business

In recent years, I have met and gotten to know many families with several children. I grew up in a family with only two children, and now I have three of my own, so in my extended family, three children constitutes several. However, when I speak of having several children, I mean more than four; more than a set of parents could have without owning some sort of very large car, van, or sports utility vehicle. For instance, I know one family with seven children. The parents are in their early fifties and the children range in age from twenty-three to nine. The family is very close-knit and when the little ones were babies, the older siblings helped out. I have a good friend who is about to turn forty-four and she just discovered she is pregnant with her fifth child. I have another friend who is forty-one and, brace yourself; she is pregnant with her ninth child. Yes, ninth. I know several others who have multiples, but you get the idea.

My husband have three children because we were blessed with three precious babies; end of story. It is nobody's business why we had as many as three or why we have no more than three. Yet, in recent years I have met many people who have very definite ideas about the number of babies other people should be having. There is no definite number, per se, but out of the people who hold strong opinions on this subject, I find that there are two camps of people out there: those who think families should only have a couple of children and those who think families should have as many babies as possible. I for one, fall into neither camp, because I believe the choice of how many babies to have is between a husband, a wife, and God.

I have one acquaintance on the side which thinks families should only have a minimal amount of children because pregnancy is so hard on the mother. This acquaintance knows the family with nine children and thinks they are mad. In fact, she has made noises about talking to the husband about the issue, since she is concerned about the wife's health. My opinion is that she is treading on very dangerous ground. I have another acquaintance who would never say anything to this family, but she continually gossips to others about how awful it is that they have so many children. She bemoans the fact that the children must share rooms, wear hand-me-downs, and not have the "proper" amount of time with each parent each day. It seems very odd to me that this person is so emotionally involved in the life of a family which has nothing to do with her; a family, I might add, that is extremely happy, has well-adjusted children, and is financially well-off.

Yet, I have been surprised at the other side, as well. There are groups of people out there (mostly women, I am afraid) who believe that every family should have as many children as possible. While I have no quarrel with this concept, I find it odd that these people try to impose their beliefs on others. I have had these people ask me why my husband and I stopped at ONLY three children, and I have heard them gossip viciously about families with only one child. I am horrified that anyone would presume to enter into such a private domain. Not only is is none of their business, but they also have no idea the sadness or damage they might be inflicting on a family which truly wants more children but cannot conceive, or those in which health issues prevent further pregnancies.

I am delighted with my friends who have multiple children and those who have only enough so the entire family can fit into a compact car. Babies are a blessing, regardless of how many we have, and that should be the focus. When we judge others based on the size of their family, we are entering into dangerous territory and we best get out as soon as possible. We can only imagine the hurt that might be inflicted by insensitive words about so private a matter. When we can learn to keep our eyes on our own babies, our own families, and our own way of doing things, without imposing these parameters on the rest of the world, perhaps then we might be able to train our own children to do the same.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Great Gifts for Dads

By Brandi M. Seals

When kids buy presents, they often need a little hint from mom or dad on what might make a good present. If they are young enough, most children have no concept of how much things cost. Parents can opt to have the kids buy gifts with their own money or they may help them out with the cost. However, you do not want to start your child off on the wrong foot by letting them believe they are paying nothing or close to nothing for a new saw for daddy's workshop. Help your kids determine how much they should be spending on gifts as well as what might make a great gift within that range.

Dads will love anything they get from their kids. But if you need a little help steering your kids towards good gift ideas, consult the following list.

Tie
If your husband wears ties, then what could be better than a new tie from the kids? Try to keep them away from the #1 Dad ties or other pieces that are too flashy to get any real wear. The kids will watch for dad to wear that tie and if he does not, it could hurt their feelings.

Gloves
Many men will try to act tough and say though do not need gloves even in freezing weather. Change their minds with a pair of gloves from the kids. Not only will your husband's hands stay softer, but the kids will have fun picking from leather, knitted or even suede gloves.

Slippers
Nothing is more cozy then spending the weekend in your PJs. Direct the kids to a pair of slippers that dad will enjoy all day long. Any time he gets up from bed or wanders around the house in PJs, the kids will see those slippers come out.

Music
Before shopping tell the kids to listen to the radio with dad. Have them see if they can pick out a particular song or artist that he listens to a lot. With that knowledge in hand you can head out to the music store and pick up the appropriate CD. This way the kids get a better idea of how to go about picking out gifts for others in the future.

Clothing
Clothing is an easy out for anyone. Tell the kids to be stealthy sleuths and find out what size shirt and pants dad wears without asking him. It does not matter if you already know the sizes, let them play an active part in the planning. Then hit the stores. Look around see what they pick out. When they find a shirt they like (inevitably kids always seem to love the shirts) have them explain why they want to get the shirt. Is it the design? Do they love the color?

If the shirt is hideous and you do not think it will go over well, try to steer them towards something similar but better. For example, the kids love a bright lime green sweater for dad. Point out that you love that they like bold color, but don't you think dad looks much better in this color right here? If you cannot get the kids to go for it, you can either buy it or come up with some sort of an excuse. The choice is up to you but I would discourage crushing their hopes. Try a few things; I am sure you can persuade the kids to get something else.

Tools
All guys like tools right? Well maybe not, but if your guy has a collection, why not add to it? Make a list of tools you think their dad will like and then head out to the store. Show them the different items on the list and see what suits their fancy. Kids tend to like bright shiny objects. Avoid large things like saws. Instead stick to things like wrenches and screwdrivers.

Hobby Items
Most guys have a hobby or too. Maybe they play football or collect shot glasses. See if your kids can pick out daddy's hobby. If not, let them in on it and then ask if they have any gift ideas that would work for the hobby. If the kids get stumped, offer up a few ideas of your own. See what they go for.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Family Moving Tips

By Brandi M. Seals

Moving can be difficult, especially when little ones are underfoot. Even without children it can be difficult to remember to get everything done before you take that last step out of your home. With so much going on, be sure to make a check list of everything you must accomplish before moving.

A sample check list might include the following:
Disconnect Cable
Disconnect Phone
Disconnect Internet
Turn of Gas
Turn of Electricity
Close or transfer bank accounts if necessary
Forward the mail to the new address
Inform friends and relatives of new address
Update insurance information
Update your information at work, with insurance, and with your credit companies
Pick up moving supplies (boxes, tape, bubble wrap)
Pack everything
Make arrangements to have your items moved
Check all the rooms, drawers, and cupboards for forgotten items
Make sure the fridge is empty
Clean the apartment or home before you move

As you go along, you will discover more and more things you need to get done. One of the key things to remember is to always keep important documents together. Anything that is of vital importance, like birth certificates, medical records, or adoption papers should be kept separate from the rest of the items being moved. If at all possible, take these important documents in your own car. Do not let the movers take them or let them ride with the rest of your belongings in the back of the rented moving truck.

You will want to become a packing pro. Wrap anything breakable in bubble wrap if possible. If you cannot get your hands on enough bubble wrap or you cannot find any, use newspaper instead. Use a couple of layers and make sure items are not packed too tightly. Overcrowding can cause your items to break.

For large items like televisions, computer monitors or mirrors, use blankets. You have to move them anyway. They might as well do double duty. Wrap blankets around these large items and fasten them using masking tape. If the items happen to get jostled or bumped, the blankets will add a little extra protection.

Aside from your possessions, your children need the most attention during a move. The longer the move, the harder things will be on small children. While there is not much you can do to keep the kids entertained during a long car ride, there is plenty you can do to ease the transition your child is about to go through.

Start preparing your child long before you move. Let the kids know what is going on. Tell them you are moving and explain what that means. It may mean they are simply going to live across town and have a longer commute to see friends, or it may mean they will need to adjust to living in totally different city. Make sure they understand what is going on to the best of their ability.

The next thing that will help ease the transition is to save their room for last when packing. Pack up everything else first. Let their room remain normal looking for as long as possible. When it is time to pack up their portion of the house, have your kids help. Let them help put their belongings in boxes and make sure they leave out a few of their favorite toys. That way they will know where their prized possessions are immediately and they can play with their toys in the car on the way to their new home.

If you will be moving across town or somewhere nearby, try to get some of your belongings unpacked before you bring the kids over. Try to make the new place feel like home from the instant the kids walk in the door. There should be some furniture set up and some of the belongings put away.

Regardless of whether you are moving long distance or nearby, your priority should be to get your child's room set up as soon as possible. Put the bed together, move in the furniture and start unpacking. If all that is not practical because some stuff has not arrived with the movers yet, at least show the kids their new rooms and let them play with the toys they have brought along with them.

Excellent Cookies to Make for Family and Friends

By Brandi M. Seals

I love making cookies for Halloween, Christmas and Valentine's Day. Heck, I will make them any time of year when the mood hits. While the cookie shapes may change, the recipe never does. I got this cookie recipe from a previous roommate that loved to cook. It is pretty much the same as any other sugar cookie recipe out there. The only difference is an added touch of almond extract. Try it sometime even if you do not like almonds. You just might be surprised.

Sugar Cookie Recipe
2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract

Start by combining the butter and sugar. Mix until the butter becomes light and fluffy and the sugar is fully incorporated. This is the most important step in making the cookies. If the sugar is not fully incorporated, the cookies will be kind of gritty and the dough may even end up with sweeter spots.

Beat in the egg, vanilla and almond extract

Combine the flour and salt together and then beat it into the butter mixture.

After the dough is well mixed, divide it in two. Create two rounds, wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Once the dough has chilled, remove one round and roll it out on a flat, floured surface. Roll the dough to about 1/8 inch thickness. Use cookie cutters or a knife to cut out the desired cookie shapes.

If you want to make a specific shape but cannot find a cookie cutter in that shape, do not give up hope. Draw the shape you want or print off a picture of it. Cut the shape out and use that as a template. Place it over the rolled out dough. Using a sharp knife cut along the edge of the template until the shape is complete. Trim up the piece as best as possible.

Bake the cookies in a preheated, 350 degree oven. The cookies will take 10 to 12 minutes to bake. Take them out when the edges begin to turn brown.

Remove the cookies from the cookie sheet and let them cool on a wire rack. Allow them to cool completely before frosting them.

I like to make large cookies in the shape of a stocking at Christmas time. I try to make them about a foot long so that I can decorate them well. The use of frosting, sprinkles, dragees, or other candies can come in handy when decorating the cookies.

For the stockings, I like to personalize them. I start by frosting them in any design that suits my fancy, but one thing always remains the same. I keep the very top reserved from the design. I leave it a basic white. Then in the end, I will write the name of the person I am giving the stocking to in the white space I have reserved.

I use a basic butter cream frosting for my cookies. It is extremely easy to make and can be spread on the cookies with a knife or piped on in different designs.

Basic Frosting Recipe
1 cup (2 sticks) of butter at room temperature. If you need pure white icing, use vegetable shortening instead of butter.
1/2 cup of milk at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla or almond extract
2 pounds of confectioners' sugar (a bag of confectioners' sugar is generally 2 pounds)

Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and beat on low speed until it is smooth. You may find it beneficial to first sift the confectioners' sugar as you will avoid unwanted lumps.

This recipe makes plenty of frosting. You will be able to decorate to your heart's desire with this icing. Start by dividing up the frosting and color it as desired with food dye. Keep in mind that it is impossible to create black frosting. Try as I might one Halloween, I soon learned that it just cannot be done by mixing colors. I went online for help, but only found people saying the same thing. However, I did learn that there is black food coloring out there. So do not give up hope if you have your heart set on making some black bats this Halloween.

Home Remedies

By Brandi M. Seals

Every family has home remedies that have been passed down from one generation to the next. The following are a few home remedies for common illnesses. While I cannot guarantee that any of these work, there are a number of people that swear by them.

Constipation
Relieve constipation by eating bran cereal. The added fiber should help move things along.

Guava when eaten with seeds provides some relief from constipationAdd more fruits to the diet. Prunes, pears, grapes, and Orange juice are good choices.

Drink a small glass of water with one tablespoon of corn syrup added.
Add a small amount of sugar or some honey to a glass of milk. Drink twice a day

High Cholesterol
Onion juice reduces cholesterol. Onion juice is supposed to have many benefits. It is said to clean the blood, help the digestive system, cure insomnia and regulate the heart and lower cholesterol. Use sunflower seed oil instead of butter or other oils. Sunflower seeds contain an acid which helps reduce cholesterol deposits in the arteries.

High Blood Pressure
The best way to control blood pressure is to manage stress and exercise. To keep stress levels low consider taking up breathing exercises, meditation and yoga.

Use aromatherapy to lower blood pressure. Blue chamomile and lavender oils are soothing when under stress. Get some message oils in those scents and really relax as your mate rubs your back.

Manage your diet. Reduce intake of fatty foods and increase consumption of vegetables and fruits.

Cloves of garlic help lower cholesterol levels and increase circulation of blood. Increase the use of garlic in your diet or supplement with garlic pills.

Acid Reflux
To relieve acid reflux, take a piece of clove and suck on it slowly.

Eat some vanilla ice cream or drink a glass of cold milk to get relief immediately.

Heartburn Eat a handful of almonds to stop heartburn symptoms.

Lemons can prevent heartburn. Eat thin lemon strips dipped in salt before a meal to prevent heartburn.

If you prefer, eat a bit of lemon rind to prevent heartburn.

Bad Breath
Sweeten breath by chewing on some cardamom seed.

Those little parsley garnishes on the plate finally have a purpose. Chew on some parsley leaves to freshen breath.

Rinse the mouth with a glass of water that has the juice from half a lemon mixed in for relief of bad breath.

Bladder Infection
Drink a teaspoon of garlic juice. The garlic may be able to kill off the bacteria in the bladder responsible for the bladder infection.

Drink a teaspoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of garlic juice mixed in a small glass of warm water before meals to help combat bladder infections.

Ear Infection
Extract a teaspoon of juice from mango leaves. Warm the liquid a little and use as ear drops to treat the ear infection.

Use drops of garlic oil in the ear canal to treat an ear infection. To make the garlic oil, heat some olive oil and add 2 cloves of garlic. Heat the oil through for several minutes then remove the garlic bulbs.

Store the garlic oil in a glass jar in the refrigerator. To use, heat some of the oil, then drop it in the ear canal using a dropper. Plug the ear canal with a cotton ball. Repeat this process as needed until the pain goes away. Do not use this remedy if you have a punctured eardrum.

Acne
Pound a piece of orange peel with water then apply the peel to the areas affected with acne.Apply grated cucumber or cucumber leaves over acne to get relief.

Rub the problem areas with cloves of garlic. Make sure the cloves are fresh.

Yeast Infection
Be aware of what causes yeast infections and avoid them in order to prevent yeast infections. Common causes of yeast infections include:
-Taking broad spectrum antibiotics, steroids, and certain birth control pills
-Wearing tight pants or tight clothing that would restrict "breathing" room
-Staying in wet bottoms for an extended period of time
-Being pregnant or experiencing hormone shifts
-Douching and/or using harsh cleansers in the vaginal area

Yogurt is one of the best home remedies. Eat it regularly to avoid yeast infections.

Drink at least two glasses of buttermilk a day whether or not you currently have infection.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Vegetables may be the Key to Staying Sharp

By Brandi M. Seals

Finally some news has come out that should prompt all moms to make sure kids are getting enough servings of vegetables in their diet. Recent research on vegetables and aging suggests that eating vegetables actually is beneficial. Vegetable consumption appears to help the brain stay young and it may slow the mental decline that people go through as they age.

The vegetables seem to help older individuals keep their mental sharpness. Older men and women who ate at least three servings of vegetables a day appear to have a measured mental sharpness of someone about five years younger than those who ate few or no vegetables during the course of the six-year study.

Just because the study was only done on older individuals does not mean that you should let your kids skip their veggies now. Kids develop eating habits at a young age that they will take with them forever. Try to expose children to lots of different vegetables. They are more inclined to try them at a young age then when they get older. If your kids are picky eaters, try having them help you prepare dinner. Kids are much more likely to eat something they helped make.

The study was published in this week's issue of the journal Neurology and funded from grants given by the National Institute on Aging. The researchers studied nearly 2,000 Chicago-area men and women in the study. While the research does not prove that vegetables reduce mental decline, it does add to mounting evidence pointing in that direction.

Not all vegetables are equal when it comes to keeping the mind young. Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and mustard greens appeared to be the most beneficial. While the researches are not exactly sure why that is, they believe it may be because the leafy greens contain vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant believed to help fight chemicals produced by the body that can damage cells.

Try specifically to incorporate these foods in you and your child's diet. But of course, keep eating all types of vegetables. You may also wish to get kids hooked on fresh fruit too. Fruit is very good for you, but it does not help slow natural mental decline.

Vegetables may be more helpful than fruits in this area for a number of reasons. Veggies usually contain more vitamin E than fruits and they are also often eaten with healthy fats such as olive oil, which help the body absorb vitamin E and other antioxidants.

In addition, these fats from healthy oils can help keep cholesterol low and help arteries stay clear. Both of these would of course help the brain stay healthy.

The study involved 1,946 people aged 65 and older who answered questions about their eating habits. For the study, a serving of vegetables equaled about a half-cup of chopped vegetables or one cup of raw leafy green.

Those involved in the study had their mental function tested three times during the course of the six year study. The tests measured short-term and delayed memory.

As expected, most people gradually did worse on the tests as they aged, but those who ate more than two vegetable servings a day experienced about 40 percent less mental decline than those who ate few or no vegetables.

If you and your family are currently eating a diet that is not the healthiest, perhaps it is time to make a change. Fresh vegetables and fruits are not expensive. They can be picked up anywhere that you buy groceries. And, they can help set kids up on a healthy track. There really is no excuse why one cannot incorporate vegetables in their diet.

If you cannot use fresh veggies before they go bad, by all means invest in canned or frozen vegetable alternatives. They will not have as many vitamins and nutrients as their fresh counterparts, but they are better than nothing. If you grew up in a house like mine where the only vegetables served were corn and potatoes, you may not know how to prepare other vegetables. But do not worry, veggies are easy to prepare. Simply go online to search for recipes, flip through a cookbook or two, or ask someone you know who eats a lot of vegetables.

Trick or Treat Safety Tips

By Brandi M. Seals

Halloween is a great time of years. The kids get to dress up and play make believe. They also get to go door to door in search of candy. With so much excitement in the air, it is not surprising that mistakes are often made. The problem is these mistakes could threaten the safety and well-being of your children.

By carefully planning ahead you can prevent a number of potential problems. Talk with children. Let them know what is expected of them. Teach them to be careful around strangers and to always behave when they are near the edge of the road. There are a number of things to be aware of at Halloween time. Both parents and kids need to pay special attention to safety on Halloween. Follow these tips to help keep everyone safe this October.

Drivers
If you will be driving during trick or treating hours, take special care to follow these tips:
-Watch for children running out between cars.
-Watch for children on roadways, medians and curbs.
-Always enter and exit driveways carefully.
-If you are driving children, make them exit on the curb side, away from traffic.
-If you have a costume, do not wear the mask while driving.
-Watch for children in dark clothing.

Preparations for your Home
-Make sure the yard is clear of things that can trip children, such as ladders, hoses and dog leashes.
-Pets often get frightened by all the activity on Halloween. Put them in a separate room to keep them from being hit by a car and prevent them from biting a trick or treater.
-If possible do not use candles in the jack-o-lanterns. Battery powered candles are preferable because they do not catch fire easily.
-If you do use candles, keep the pumpkin away from the areas trick-or-treaters will be walking or standing.
-Make sure paper or cloth yard decorations cannot be blown into the lit candle.

Before the Kids Leave
-Designate an adult to supervise the outing for children under age 12.
-Tell children to only go in familiar areas and along an established route.
-Make sure the kids only stop at well lit houses or apartments.
-Tell the kids to never enter a stranger’s home.
-Make sure every kid has a cell phone or change to call home in case they have a problem.
-Set a time for the kids to return.
-Make sure the kids know not to eat any treat until you have inspected it.
-Plan and discuss the trick-or-treating route.
-Know the names of every child going trick or treating with your kids.
-Make your child eat dinner before setting out.

Costumes
-Only fire-retardant materials should be used for costumes.
-Costumes should be loose but not too loose. Allow for warm clothes to be worn underneath.
-Costumes should not be so long that kids can trip on them.
-Outfits should be made with light-colored materials.
-Strips of reflective tape should be used to make children even more visible, especially on those where dark clothing.
-Shoes should fit; it does not matter if they go with your outfit.
-Carry only flexible props.
-Masks can obstruct a child's vision. Facial make-up is safer and more colorful.
-If masks are worn, they should have nose and mouth openings and large eye holes.
-Avoid wearing masks while walking from house to house.
-Do not allow children to carry sharp objects.
-Bags or sacks being used youngsters should be light-colored or trimmed with retro-reflective tape if trick-or-treaters are allowed out after dark.
-Carrying flashlights will help children see better and be seen more clearly.

While Trick or Treating
Make sure the kids know to:
-Walk from house to house, do not run.
-Avoid crossing yards and lawns where unseen objects or the uneven terrain can cause youngster to trip.
-Walk on sidewalks, not in the street.
-Walk on the left side of the road, facing traffic, if there are no sidewalks.
-Wear a watch you can read in the dark.
-Stay away from and don not pet animals you do not know.

Treats
-Although tampering is rare, tell children to bring the candy home to be inspected before consuming anything.
-Look at the wrapping carefully and toss out anything that looks suspect.

Preventing Premature Labor

By Brandi M. Seals

November is Prematurity Awareness Month. Did you know more than half a million babies are born premature every year and that number is on the rise?

More than 12 percent or 1 in 8 American babies are born prematurely each year. Premature birth is designated as birth before the 37th week of gestation. It is the number one cause of death for newborns and those born prematurely have an increased risk of developing lifelong disabilities.

A recent study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that premature birth contributed to over one-third of infant deaths within their first year. Healthy pregnancies are the way to preventing premature births

To have a healthy pregnancy, all should take care to:
Get regular prenatal care
Avoid alcohol
Avoid Tobacco
Avoid drugs
Take prenatal vitamins
Eat a balanced, nutritious diet
Get light exercise
Avoid uncooked meats
Steer clear of fish containing mercury
Do not ingest un-pasteurized dairy products
Keep the stress low
Keep you teeth and gums healthy

As you near the end of your pregnancy, take care to watch for warning signs of premature labor. If you think you may be in premature labor, call your doctor immediately. You may be able to stop the labor if you get to the doctor in time. Waiting too long could mean your baby will be born prematurely.

Premature labor symptoms include:
Contractions every 10 minutes or less, (five or more contractions in an hour)
Fluid leaking from the vagina (This may indicate that your water has broken)
Cramps similar to menstral cramps
Dull backache in the lower back
Pelvic pressure
Abdominal cramps that may be accompanied by diarrhea.
Unusual or increased of vaginal discharge.
Blood leaking from your vagina.

If you have any of these symptoms and think you are in premature labor, call your healthcare provider immediately. You will also want to empty your bladder and lie down on your left side and drink fluids.

If this is your first pregnancy, be aware that contractions are not unusual prior to labor. It is how frequent they occur that you should be concerned with. It is completely normal for your uterus to contract during the pregnancy. The muscle of the uterus may tighten sporadically throughout the pregnancy. Some women feel them early on, as early as four months into the pregnancy. But most women do not notice them until they are several months along, like during the seventh or eighth months.

These contractions are usually not painful. Most tend to notice contractions when they lie down, have an orgasm, have a full bladder, or after walking up and down stairs. These contractions are known as Braxton-Hicks contractions. Note that these contractions are generally irregular and do no open the cervix. If the contractions become regular for at least an hour, they may be regular contractions and cause preterm labor.

If you are unsure as to whether or not you are having a contraction, it is easy to check. Simply lie down and place your fingertips on your uterus. If you are having a contraction, you will be able to feel the walls of the uterus tighten and soften. Usually the entire abdomen will feel hard during contractions. When you are not experiencing contractions, the abdomen should be soft in all areas. However, remember that is also common for the abdomen to by firm over the baby's head and butt.

If you are experiencing contractions at regular intervals, it is time to see how far apart the contractions are. To time the contractions, start the timing when the uterus begins to tighten. The start of the next tightening is when you can stop timing. Remember to contact your doctor if the contractions come more frequently then every 10 minutes.

Some people are more at risk to have a premature baby then others. Those tend to have one of the following risk factors that have been associated with a higher rate of premature labor:
Premature labor or delivery in a previous pregnancy
Misshapen uterus
Your mother was prescribed DES (Diethylstillbestrol) during her pregnancy to prevent miscarriage. DES has been linked to shortening of the cervix.
Abdominal surgery during pregnancy and/or a stitch in the cervix
More than two second-trimester miscarriages or elective abortions
Previously undergone a cone biopsy or Leep Procedure
Pregnant with multiple babies
Dehydration
History of cervical change and/or excessive uterine contractions at less than 33 weeks in a previous pregnancy
Infection with fever (greater than 101 degrees F) during the pregnancy
Recurring bladder and/or kidney infections
Excessive amount of amniotic fluid
Unexplained vaginal bleeding after 20 weeks of pregnancy
Use of recreational drugs
Domestic violence
Smoking
Extreme stress

Monday, October 23, 2006

Labor and Delivery

After spending nine months anxiously anticipating the arrival of your little one when it comes down to that "It's time!" moment all those little fears just seem to leave you and all you can feel is the excitement of knowing that before long you'll have your baby in your arms. You feel even more excited when it has been nine and a half months instead of nine months. I spent the first hour of my contractions being in denial about weather it was actually real labor and not false labor because I was afraid to become too excited and then be sent away by the hospital.

I spent three hours at home postponing the trip to the hospital because I did not want to get sent home. My husband was a nervous wreck, as the contractions became stronger he seemed quite sure that we needed to take off to the hospital because for sure I was not going to make it in time. No matter how hard I tried to explain to him that labor takes many hours especially for a first time pregnancy he was convinced I was going to give birth right there in our house.

As I am sure you could have guessed we did make it to the hospital with plenty of time to spare. Actually we had a whole ten hours to spare. When we got there and I was admitted they sent me to go walking around for an hour. That is supposed to get your contractions coming stronger and faster. It kept me distracted for a little bit and by the time I was done I was starting to feel just a little on the awful side so when the nurse came in and asked me if I was ready for my epidural I told her to go ahead and get it ready. I have to say something about epidurals; I do not care what anyone says epidurals are the greatest thing that were ever created.

I actually was really scared to have the epidural done because I have a great fear of needles and the thought of a really long needle being stuck in my spine was scarier to me than the actual delivery part of the whole thing. Everyone says you cannot feel it and this that and the other. I felt absolutely sure that they all had to be full of it but I am here to tell you this, you cannot feel a thing. It was over before I even thought they had done anything. After that everything just flew by, possibly because I went to sleep for a few hours. There is just something wonderful about being able to sleep through part of the giving birth process. Plus that helps give you the energy that you are going to need to push the baby out. This is not so easy to do even when you have had an epidural much less if you have been enduring awful pain for hours and hours. I have great respect for a woman that chooses to do it but at the same time I think that they are just a little on the crazy side.

While I was sleeping that gave me some pitossin to speed up my contractions. After I woke up everything just went like clock work. Before I knew it, it was time to push. It took me about an hour to finally get my son out. I felt no pain what so ever pushing him out and I can remember the whole thing with such clarity that I feel like I really did make the right choice.

My whole pregnancy everyone kept telling how small I was to be pregnant but let me tell you this. I had to have and episiotomy because his head was so big that it wouldn't come out on its own. My son weighed eight pounds and eleven ounces and he was 21 inches long. The size you are when you're pregnant does not neccessarily reflect the size that your baby will be because everyone was sure that I would have a small baby, including me.

There is nothing like the moment when you first hear your baby cry out and you get to hold him in your arms. There is nothing more beautiful. You look down at him and you just know that without a doubt that the job of being a mother will most definately being the greatest thing that you do in your life.

By Crystal Bowden