How to Overcome Fear

Overcome FearI picked up The Alchemist this evening, looking for an “easy” read in the tub. Did I mention that Paulo Coelho is my idol?! 🙂 In the preface, he tries to explain the secret behind the success of this book, having sold over 20 million copies and having been translated into 56 languages! Interestingly enough, his honest response is, “I don’t know. All I know is that like Santiago, the shepherd boy, we all need to be aware of our personal calling. What is a personal calling? It is God’s blessing, it is the path that God chose for you here on Earth. Whenever we do something that fills us with enthusiasm, we are following our legend. However, we don’t all have the courage to confront our own dream.”

Coelho goes on to say that there are four obstacles to living our personal calling: 1) we are told from childhood that our dream is impossible, 2) we are afraid to hurt the people around us by abandoning everything to pursue our dream, 3) fear of the defeats we will encounter along the way and finally… 4) the fear of realizing the dream itself for which we fought all our lives! Wow! Essentially, what keeps us from our dreams… our calling… our bliss? FEAR.

I recently separated from my husband of eleven years. [Read more…]

How to Find the Perfect Gift

I’ve been receiving a flood of great gift ideas from my friends all over… the blogosphere and the real world. And the lovely thing is that these ideas are not extravagant or expensive but instead, thoughtful and meaningful, expressing pure intentions to make a difference. From my friend, Kate, I received an introduction to World Vision. She says, “… an important way to give back and support others whose needs are so modest in comparison to the relative excess of my daily life.” Another one similar to World Vision is Hiefer International. My kids like saying they gave someone a flock of geese!

From my friend Emma, a sweet reminder in the form of her Daily Kindness email arrived: “…small acts of kindness (sharing the popsicles & sharing the bread) are the lovely, simple, close-to-home connections that make life meaningful.”

My favorite so far is The Mother Letter Project that I found out about from Tales from Oakbriar Farms. It’s so in line with our mission here at My Mommy Manual. The project is one man’s Christmas gift to his wife:

Share your stories—no matter how raw or difficult. Share you concerns—no matter how foolish they may seem. Share your wisdom—no matter how you came by it. Share your mother story. The only request? Start the letter “Dear Mother” and sign it. I will compile all of the letters in a Christmas book for my wife.

As of today, there are 97 letters. I’m writing mine this weekend!

But I don’t know if I can beat Beth Kanter’s Gift List. Thanks to Chris Brogan who turned me on to Beth and Beth, who turned me on to this amazing explanation on the nature of giving by Tara Hunt:

In The Gift, Lewis Hyde explains through several folk tales and anthropological studies that the Gift Economy is not one of reciprocation at all. In fact, this obligatory reciprocation has sprouted from the idea of trade in our current market economy. A gift is not, in fact, a gift unless it continues circulating. So, I buy lunch for person A, then person A gives away her last $10 to person B, who uses it to buy sandwiches, which he shares with person C, who is now well fed enough to get creative and paint that amazing piece of art, which she gives to person D, who is so inspired by that art that he donates it to the local artist community, who displays it in their community garden, which many walk by to admire, one of whom decides to donate some money to a local neighbourhood beautifying project, which builds a spectacular park where I can now enjoy reading in, which will lead to all sorts of wonderful things.

The gift, as it moves along, actually becomes more and more valuable. In my example, a gift of lunch from me could turn into a large improvement in my community, but in really basic terms, the very nature of the gift is to continue to grow in value as it gets passed along and the increments don’t tend to be felt as burdens to the person passing the gift along, either as it is a natural process. Remember the story of the guy who ‘Traded up’ the paperclip for a house in Saskatchewan? Well, that’s kind of the idea…each ‘trade’ became a simple increment between a red paperclip to a whole house.

My kids have been collecting money in their charity jar all year and like Kate and her two young boys, the kids will pick who they want to help with their contributions.

What gifts will you share this season? Popsicles? Cookies? A hug? Hey, it’s clementine season! They make great “red paperclips.”

Practical Mommy is Ria Sharon. Click the links for Practical Mommy’s recommendations for travel car seats, affordable and fun diaper bags (skip hop bag), and the best-selling crib brand, Da Vinci Crib.

How to Teach Unconditional Love

I’m a big fan of Becky Bailey’s work. My daughter attended a preschool that based their teaching approach on her Loving Guidance principles. Since then Becky’s book, Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline has been my parenting Bible. This morning, I happened to flip to a page titled THE POWER OF POSITIVE INTENT. It said the following:

When you attribute positive motives to yourself and to others, you achieve an amazing number of good ends. Among them:
• You uphold the highest image of yourself and of others
• You foster cooperation by joining with others to solve a problem
• You foster a sense of security
• You foster responsibility
• You set your child up for a teaching moment
• You convey healthy responses to your child that will help him handle and embrace diversity
• You encourage your child to develop his own will by acknowledging that he does not need to obey you in order to keep your love
• You model unconditional love
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How to Personalize Your Christmas Card Greetings

‘Tis the season to spread holiday cheer! One of my favorite things about the season is receiving all those wonderful Christmas card greetings from my friends all over the world. Practically speaking, it’s tough to stay in touch when all of us lead such busy lives. But come December (at the peak of all the busyness) I can count on bushels of cards that remind of a great friend and maybe even give me an update on their lives.

The ones that are most meaningful to me are the ones that have been personalized. These days, there are a million services that make it easy to order cards that are as unique as you are. Almost any retailer (even Sam’s) has photo cards available for a song. I prefer to do all of my shopping online (Surprise! Surprise!), which minimizes impulse purchases and saves me money in the long run (Really!).

By personalizing, I mean something as easy as selecting and uploading a sweet pic of your babies from the recent past. I just loooove collecting these from all my friends because kids just grow so fast!

Shhhh! I’ll give you a sneak peak at mine… Personalize Your Christmas Card Greetings

It took about 20 minutes on Tiny Prints to browse, select, personalize, order and be done with this project. So get to it, Mommies! Can’t wait to see what you come up with for Christmas card greetings this year.

Share your holiday greeting ideas with us for a chance to win a $25 gift certificate from Build-A-Bear. That’s enough to buy someone special a holiday gift!!!

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 Put Your Baby to Sleep

Infant sleep is a hot topic for new parents… and understandably so. I’ve always been an eight-hour-a-night gal. No all-nighters for me in college… not even with no-doze, coffee, etc. So it was with much delight that I celebrated my firstborn’s sleeping through the night at seven weeks! Good girl!

On a friend’s recommendation, I bought On Becoming Baby Wise. It’s tauted on Amazon as “The Classic Sleep Reference Guide Used by 1,000,000 parents.” But it wasn’t that plug that sold me as much as the fact that I trusted my friend’s opinion and… being Practical… it was a pretty THIN book.
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