How to Find Balance for Life

If someone’s got a simple answer to the above I wanna know! I don’t propose to have the answer either, but I sure do a lot of thinking about it. As a mother of two, wife, business owner, best friend, daughter, neighbor, big sister, little sister, and Aunt, balance is one of the most important, if not at times elusive, things in my life. I think of it as not a place I expect to “get to” so much as a way I can choose to travel along the way. To say this in other words, I don’t expect to “get balanced” so much as I enjoy “feeling balanced”. Does this make sense?

What brought up these deep thoughts you ask??!! Today, cleaning out my home office (in a search of finding some much needed home office balance) I came upon my journal from New Years Eve, 2005. To give you some perspective, my youngest daughter Morgan was 2 years old and Reilly was five.

Here’s my journal entry from that day; the thing that led me to write to you on finding balance today:

Dec 31st, 2005

“…I told Shawn (that’s my husband) that lately I’ve felt like I was living inside a pressure cooker. We’ve all been sick this past week, bringing the cooker to a boil. I’ve been living out of the “get it done” side of me, the part that wants to work it out, figure it out, get it right…manage it. I think of this as the Yang side of me. I’m tired of getting things done.

There is something about the words BE STILL that call me. I am tired. I want to lie down and just be. I want to slow down my words, tell my tongue to just HOLD IT. I want to feel the action of inaction. I think of this as the Yin side of me. To be, to receive, to allow. Where have you been Yin??!! Boy, have I been neglecting you…”

In my jounal, I then made a list of things I wanted to give up in my life and things I wanted to embrace in my life. I was preparing for the New Year no doubt. This flowed right into a “Need To Do” list and an attempt to put all these “needs” into my week in an orderly fashion. I had a little weekly calender all charted out and everything, M-F, 6am – 9pm. I’m laughing now as I look at this because I remember what happened near the end of this little New Years preparation exercise. I ran out of time slots. My week did not hold enough time to fit all the things I had on my NEED to DO list.

Take A Look At Your Life

These words alone are telling. Life was not a “get to” for me at this point in time. It was more like a “need” to. I didn’t feel like I had much control over my life. If I did, the list might have read “Want to Do” or “ My Important Things List”. This may sound trite, but it’s really important because words can tell us a lot about how we are feeling, especially when we can’t admit to ourselves let alone other people how we are feeling. Looking back, that was exactly how I was feeling. NEED TO DO.

Today, life is full. I still wear alot of hats. But when I look at my week, my “Want To” list is a little longer and my “Need To” list a little shorter. (Of course my kids are three years older which helps. Let’s not kid ourselves here.) Today, I don’t expect to HAVE balance nor do I chase after balance. I am aware of balance. I think about it. I admire it. And it sure is nice when I feel it.

What Do Your Lists Look Like?

Look at your life. Make some lists. What looks like a “need” or “have to” in your life? Can you shift any of them to fall under “want to” or “important things” instead? All the needs and have to’s in life won’t go away (like last week when I HAD to get all our papers in order to get our new car tags…) but many of them will. Doing laundry is now happily on my important things list…as well as my husbands. Did I mention this last little tip? You can take things off your list and put them on other people’s lists. Aughhh yes! Balance…isn’t it a lovely thing?

Suzanne, aka Zen Mommy
In addition to mommying to two magical girls born in 2000 and 2003, Suzanne owns a holistic health center in St. Louis, Missouri where she practices as a physical therapist, Certified Infant Massage Instructor and health education teacher. Certified in a number of healing and life education approaches, Suzanne offers life coaching as Zen Mommy Coach.

How to Raise Sign Language Babies

\The moms in my baby massage class this week wanted to know what I thought about baby sign language. What do I think? I think it is wonderful. But I also think if you’re a mom, you already know a lot more about this topic than you may think you know. Let me share a few of my thoughts and tips on “raising sign language babies.

\Looking back to when my girls were born, 8 and 5 years ago, I’m quite sure they were both born “talking.” Beyond all the cooing and crying, each came into the world using their own version of baby sign. Pulling on ears or rubbing eyes? Baby sign for “tired.” Great eye contact and a winning smile? Baby sign for “let’s play!” Looking away and getting real fidgety? Baby sign for “I don’t want to play…too much stimulation for me now…can you turn off the TV and lights, wrap me up real tight in my favorite blankie and hold me please?…thank you!.” Each had their own variation. Once I figured them out, I could “hear” what they were saying just by tuning into their body language. Mind you, I wasn’t 100% accurate as their language interpreter…but boy was it better than nothing!

I’m thinking “Body Language 101” and “Crying to Get Your Parents to Take Action” must be prerequisite courses for being born. So when it comes to the question of whether or not to use Baby Sign Language with your 7+ month old, that’s a no brainer. You’ve already been learning and using it in some form or another since the day they were born. You know this stuff! So now that your baby is getting a little bit older, why not take it up a notch?

Why Learn Baby Sign Language

Scientific studies suggest that “typical” children who learn to sign have higher IQ scores, are better adjusted and read at an earlier age. But if you want my opinion, the REAL reasons to learn Baby Sign are to:

  • foster a vital sense of connection that your baby needs to feel
  • deepen the bond that exists between you and your child
  • strengthen your child’s trust in you and in the world around them
  • avoid the frustration of miscommunication

Learning better communication skills, whether at 7 months of age or 7 years of marriage, is always a good thing. Now assuming you want to continue using sign language with your child, here are a few tips.

How to Start Signing with Your Baby

There are hundreds of hand signs you can teach your baby, words for everything from mealtime and bedtime to bathtime and playtime. For starters though, take it slow. Think of just a couple words you think would be helpful and start there. “Eat,” “drink,” “more”, and “all done” (much better than your child throwing food off their high chair to tell you the same thing!) are my personal favorites and good ones to start with.

Next, be sure to ALWAYS use the word and the sign together and to repeat this combination several times when you know your baby is watching.

Finally, be flexible, be patient…and make signing fun! It will quickly become a part of your daily routine, helping you to both listen to and share with your child, a skill you will enjoy the fruits of for many years to come. I wouldn’t trade the many great, funny and humbling experiences I had signing with my girls (from age 7 months to almost 2 years of age) for anything.

There are great resources out there for learning to sign with your baby. A favorite is the DVD, Baby Signing Time! Another is the book, Sign with Your Baby.

Do you have a great, funny or humbling experience using baby sign language with your little one? Send me your stories!!!

Suzanne, aka Zen Mommy
In addition to mommying to two magical girls born in 2000 and 2003, Suzanne owns a holistic health center in St. Louis, Missouri where she practices as a physical therapist, Certified Infant Massage Instructor and health education teacher. Certified in a number of healing and life education approaches, Suzanne offers life coaching as Zen Mommy Coach.


How to Pick a Crib for Baby

Amisha, one of our Mommy readers who is due in the spring asked me how to pick the right crib for baby. The biggest challenge of this decision, as with many others regarding your changing family is that it is hard to predict what “system” will work for you. You can ask your friends but their lifestyle choices may not be quite in sync with yours. Do you go with one that converts from a crib to a toddler bed to a day bed? What about those ultra cool, designer round cribs? How do you even start to narrow down your choices?

May I make a suggestion? Let’s start with…

Safety
The advantage with buying new is that ALL new cribs must meet the government minimum safety requirements so even the most affordable new crib is going to fit a standard crib mattress snuggly and firmly, will have no missing/broken hardware or slats and no cutouts in the head- or foot-boards, slats will be no more than 2 3/8″ apart (the width of a soda can), and corner posts no higher than 1/16″.

If you are inheriting a crib from a friend or buying one used, make sure that it complies with these basic safely guidelines. Pass on any used cribs that have been repainted. You just can’t be assured that it is free of toxic chemicals. Saving a few bucks is just not worth it. There are plenty of great deals on new cribs that will allow you peace of mind… there’ll be lots of other things that’ll be keeping you up at night! 🙂

Even when you are buying new, make sure you are aware of any safety recalls on baby cribs. We bought our first crib and then borrowed the second, since my toddler was still in her crib when my second baby was born. The one I borrowed was relatively new and safety compliant.

Baby Crib Features
With safety considerations out of the way, now you’re going to have to select the features you think will be helpful or best for you and your family.
• Do you want wheels?
• Do you want drop sides or not?
• If one or both sides drop, how do you control it?(knee-push, foot bar, double trigger, fold down)?
• Do you want an adjustable mattress height? (available on all but the most inexpensive) And if so, how many levels? Ours had three.
• Do you want the crib to convert to a toddler bed/day bed?

A lot of people suggested that we choose a convertible crib since it is designed to grow with your child into practically adulthood! Although that appealed to my practical sensibility, I chose a traditional crib because… well, I fell in love with a sleigh (see how aesthetic wins over practicality???). Perhaps if we had gone with the convertible option, we would have transitioned our daughter into her crib-turned-toddler bed. Instead, she moved straight into a big girl bed and we’ve paid it forward… passing on our exquisite sleigh crib to a cousin. But if crib reviews are any indication, convertible cribs win lots of points from parents.

Here’s a starting point for you…

5 Great Cribs in 2008 (click to view cribs)
1. Simplicity Ellis
It’s no wonder that the Simplicity Ellis is one of the best-selling cribs around. It’s convertible design is still beautiful while providing 4 transitional stages for baby… saving you from making another purchase through toddlerhood and beyond. And it’s affordable!

2. Da Vinci Kalani
The Kalani Crib also converts from crib to toddler bed to daybed and it’s contemporary styling is a hit with today’s hip parents. One mommy says, “This crib is stunning. It has a very high-end look and feel. It’s hard to find baby furniture in this shade of espresso and it is abslolutely gorgeous, sturdy and easy to assemble.”

3. Sorelle Vicki
Yet another convertible, the Sorelle Vicki gets rave reviews for its sturdiness, which (if the reviews are any indication) seems to be a crucial factor for active toddlers. The Vicki is also easy to assemble.

4. Storkraft Regan Traditional
Both experienced and first-time parents love this crib. A mommy’s review: “My husband and I are very pleased with this crib! I was amazed at how quickly it arrived, how easy it was to assemble, and how sturdy it is. It is true to color and matches our woodwork perfectly. It is a great crib for a great price!”

5. Da Vinci Jenny Lind Baby Crib
A Jenny Lind crib offers classic styling, usually at a budget price, and this Jenny Lind crib from Da Vinci is no exception. The crib’s slats are turned and curvy rather than straight, adding visual interest. Four mattress levels, caster wheels and a “safety glide” drop side system add convenience for parents. A conversion kit is available separately to change the crib into a toddler bed. One mommy reports, “It is a simple, classic crib for a really great price. I ordered it online, it arrived quickly, and was easy to assemble. It is sturdy and easy to use — the value can’t be beat! It’s a great crib for baby.”

Tell us and others about YOUR pick!

How to Tap Into Source

There’s a watercolor that hangs in my mom’s dining room. Flowers. Really beautiful. I first spotted it on a trip home and was immediately drawn to it. I had just graduated from an art program in Chicago. I had studied with James Yood, the art critic. So I was intrigued by this little painting’s technical execution and something else — it’s spirit. So as I stood staring at it, my mom walks up and says, “I love that painting you did. I think you were eight or nine.”

Wha?!

Have you ever started a creative project, lost time in it, and looked down later to see something has blossomed as if all on it’s own? While you were off daydreaming, this perfectly formed image or blog post dripped from your fingertips. Then you, like me, have experienced the magic of pure creation. Reflecting back on that painting, I vaguely remember the feeling of being there and observing my hands as they dipped brush into gooey pots of paint. It was exactly the same in art school. It was as if I woke up one morning in the spring of my senior year with a stack of lithographs that emerged from last night’s dream. Each one, a souvenir of something magical that had transpired. And so it was as a designer… after days of ruminating over a client’s “problem,” filling pages with sketches, moving typographic elements and images on my screen… after my problem-solving brain surrendered in frustration, then the creative dance truly began.

That’s when Spirit flowed… sometimes late into the night when although tired, I would beg my body to stay up for just one more layout because I, more than anyone else, wanted the thrill of surprise — of seeing what would reveal itself! I was the Witness.

And so it is as I write for My Mommy Manual. Or create presentations or workshop material. Or as I listen to moms, coaching them through a dilemma or helping them through a decision. Just as an image flows from my brush, so the words flow from my soul to theirs. Wow! It’s so magical and yet so natural — this thing, this connection between women. And every time, I am so humbled to be the Witness as Spirit moves.

Practical Mommy is Ria Sharon, co-creator of the Yoga Parenting course. Are you ready for parenting to be easier, more fun and less stressful?

How to Massage Your Baby

… and change the world!

How would you like a massage every day of your life, given to you by someone you love and trust more than anyone else in the world? Would it make you a better person…a healthier and happier individual? Yes, in fact, it would, according to not only me (a big fan of massage) but a wide range of researchers. Alas, for most people, including yours truly…this is no more than a fantasy. A good fantasy, mind you…daily massage…someone I love…goodbye stress…hello healthy me…aughhh…reality check…hello?…who has the time?…the money? But if I were a baby…now there’s an idea worth exploring. [Read more…]

How to Save on Baby Room Ideas

According to the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, baby nurseries are a $7.3 billion industry. Jamila Robinson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that new parents spend $5,000-$15,000 turning their baby room ideas into reality. And this is for a room that will be used for 18 hours a day for sleep… At least, this is what new parents are hoping!

You might was well get used to sticker shock because having a baby means you’ll be adding line items to your Quicken account that you’ve never considered before! Yes… like “diapers.” But the upfront expense of setting up a comfortable and functional nursery does not have to put you in the poorhouse. Leave that to your little sweet pea’s college fund! Here are some great ways for you to pay below typical retail prices on the nursery essentials. [Read more…]

How to Tell If Your Baby Has Food Allergies

peanut allergiesA true baby food allergy is an immune system response to a protein in a particular food. If this is the case, your baby’s body produces antibodies to fight off the proteins with histamine. The histamine is what causes allergic symptoms.

In infants and babies, common allergic symptoms are hives, rashes, eczema (atopic dermatitis), swelling or troubled breathing. The symptoms can also be gastrointestinal, like vomiting, diarrhea, bloating and cramping. If the reaction is severe, it can be life-threatening.

If your baby shows any of these symptoms, talk to your pediatrician. Make note of what your child has eaten within the last two hours of the symptoms appearing. It’s important to note that an allergy can develop at any time. So even though your child has safely eaten something before, don’t rule out an allergy to that particular food.

If your baby is experiencing peculiar skin conditions like eczema, gastrointestinal discomfort like reflux or colic, gas or constipation or has a chronic runny nose, you may choose to discuss the possibility of allergies with your pediatrician. If you are formula-feeding, an allergy or intolerance to ingredients may be the cause of discomfort. If your baby is breastfed, make a note of the mother’s diet too because trigger proteins can be transmitted through breast milk.

The likelihood of an allergy is higher if either you or your husband has a history of allergic disease in the family (environmental allergies, pet allergies, asthma).

Preventing Food Allergies
The cause of allergies (food allergies in particular) is still a mystery. Many experts  like Dr. Kenneth Bock, M.D., (author of Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma and Allergies) believe that “genetics load the gun and toxins pull the trigger.” If this is truly the case, there is little that a parent can do except be aware of the possibility and then protect their babies against known triggers and toxins.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers some guidelines that do not guarantee the prevention of food allergies but over large population groups, are believed to help minimize the occurrence in high-risk children (those with parents or siblings with food allergies or other allergic disorders, like eczema).

* Breastfeed exclusively for at least four to six months, if possible.
* Breastfeeding isn’t possible, desirable, or workable in some circumstances. In these cases, doctors will likely recommend or prescribe hydrolysate formulas — formulas that have been broken down into simpler proteins that are considered easier to digest. At this time, extensively hydrolyzed formulas are considered the most effective for preventing allergic conditions.
* Wait until infants are four to six months old to introduce solid foods.

The following eight proteins are responsible for 90% of all food allergy reactions: peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, soy, fish, shellfish and wheat. Take extra precautions when introducing new foods, especially these eight and especially if there is a genetic predisposition to allergies in your family.

Introduce new foods into your child’s diet with caution, i.e, one at a time for a duration until you feel certain that she is not reacting adversely to it. Although the idea of “preventing a food allergy” is controversial, you can still make it easier for yourself and your doctor to diagnose it by keeping foods simple and introducing new foods one at a time.

What is the Cure for Food Allergies?
Right now, there isn’t a cure for food allergies. The only available treatment for a severe reaction is a shot of epinephrine. If an allergist has diagnosed your child with a food allergy, he/she will prescribe an epinephrine auto-injector like the Epi-Pen Jr. or the TwinJect.

If your child is diagnosed with a food allergy, your challenge will be effective food management. Check My Tag’s online food allergy community provides ongoing tips on food allergy management for toddlers. Subscribe to the Check My Tag newsletter for exclusive tips on living with a food-allergic baby and toddler.

How to Write Your Birth Plan

There was a time not too long ago when women were wheeled into an operating room to deliver their babies under anesthesia. The doctor was in charge and there really wasn’t much communication regarding the mother’s wishes about the birthing process.

Fortunately, you don’t live in those times. Today, YOU the birthing mother is very much involved! Most midwives and OB’s want a written birth plan because it’s a tool in creating a safe and meaningful birth experience for a family. [Read more…]

How to Make Sense of Car Seat Ratings

With all the brands and styles of car seats out there, researching our baby car seat was more involved than my senior thesis paper. Fortunately for me, I had a gaggle of girlfriends who had just had babies so my first pass was just checking out their models. Then I jumped online to visit the sites of some well-reputed organizations who publish annually updated Car Seat Ratings! Yipee, huh? [Read more…]

How to Create Unique Nick Names for Babies

Parents usually invest time and effort in finding the perfect name for their babies. It is common that once a name is given to a baby, an appropriate nickname also follows. While there are a lot of uncommon and unique names for babies, the idea of combining two names for a baby is also common. Sometimes, one of these two names or the initials of the two names become the nickname.

Nicknames are given to shorten a name or a manner used to eliminate the formality in addressing a person. Babies are given nicknames to call them in an affectionate or more personal manner. Babies tend to have cute and fun nicknames. Depending on what is their real name, parents can always come up with something cute and affectionate to call their babies aside from their given names.

Some common baby nicknames that parents use to call their baby girls include Lily for Lilibeth, Jessie for Jessica, Annie for Annette, Lizzie for Elizabeth and Ella for Michaella and for baby boys, Bernie for Bernard, Mickey for Michael and Willy for William. Some parents with babies that have name combinations use the initials to come up with a nickname for their babies. Examples of these are; MJ for Mary Jane, JR for John Robert and RJ for Ronald Allen.

Coming up with a nice nickname to call your baby sometimes require a little creativity and a lot of affection for the baby. Some nicknames just come spontaneously like calling a baby girl Little Missy or a baby boy Little Mister for that sense. Some parents or even relatives and friends come up with their own nicknames for the baby thus creating a wide variety of nicknames. It is even surprising to know sometimes that a baby is called differently by different people despite of having a given name by his parents. This is how nicknames are, they are informal, spontaneous and more often than not, just elements of fun and affection. They are different adaptations of a person’s real name.

Giving your baby an appropriate nickname lessens the chances of people naming your baby any other way. Nicknames are sometimes used to make fun of a certain name or person. Parents should be careful in giving their babies nicknames as this may connote something else to other people. In creating baby nicknames, the integrity of the baby’s real name should be preserved.

Steve works for MTBBN where you can search Baby Names, Unusual Baby Names, and Top 100 Baby Names

Steve works for MTBBN where you can search Baby Names, Unusual Baby Names, and Top 100 Baby Names

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