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How to Party, Bear-style!

What rock have I been under? My oldest is 6 and I had yet to take her to Build-A-Bear or actually attend a Build-A-Bear party. She and my son have no shortage of bears (thanks to grandma) but until just recently, I had not experienced the magic myself. On October 26, I attended a Mom Blogger Mixer hosted by Build-A-Bear Workshops and MomSelect. The theme was High School Musical 3 to celebrate the movie’s opening weekend so I got to take my two rabid HSM fans. We also got a chance to meet Maxine Clark, who true to her reputation got right down on the floor with the kiddos and played all the games.

Again, I’m probably the only mom on the planet that hasn’t been to a Build-A-Bear party already but I was impressed that the party was a lot more than just bear stuffing! The party leaders led a number of games and activities… in this case, each kid got to sing a line from their favorite High School Musical song. FYI, my girl sang “Can I Have This Dance.” I would say that even for kids as old as six or seven (like mine), Build-A-Bear is a great birthday party option.

How to Choose Birth Classes

You’re expecting your first baby…what an exciting time! So many questions. So much information. Where to begin?? Families are excited about the addition of a new family member. However, parents are often apprehensive about the actual birth. Get the information and confidence you need by attending a Childbirth Education Class. There are several options available to you so it’s important to find the birth classes that best fits your needs.

What should you look for in a childbirth education class?

  • A comprehensive curriculum, usually 12-hours or more over multiple days
  • A certified instructor
  • Lamaze International, International Childbirth Educators Association (ICEA), and Bradley Childbirth Method certify instructors
  • When taking classes from a certified instructor you know you will receive the latest research available

Topics that should be covered

  • Stages of labor
  • Coping techniques and comfort measures
  • Medication options and interventions
  • Recovery and postpartum
  • Newborns
  • Breastfeeding

Where can you find a class?
Many hospitals offer childbirth classes. This is a good place to start if you are delivering at that hospital. You will learn about the procedures unique to that facility. If you are delivering at a hospital that doesn’t offer a full education series (e.g., just an orientation and tour) or you are planning a home birth you will need to look elsewhere. You can attend classes at any hospital. Patients are welcome regardless of their birth place choice. There are also independent educators that teach from their homes or local businesses. To find an educator in your area you can look on the Lamaze International or Bradley Childbirth websites. Ask your OB if he/she has a referral.

When should you take class?
It is best to take class around your 28th week of pregnancy. This will require you to enroll around 20 weeks.

What should you expect from the class?
You should acquire a basic understanding of the birth process and how to prepare for it. You should get the information necessary to make informed decisions about your care or at least formulate the questions to ask your health care providers. You should master a wide range of “tools” to help you through the labor process. Partners will learn ways to support mom and be active through the labor and birth. Moms and Dads will build confidence in life after birth, postpartum issues for mom and all about babies. Most of all, you should come away feeling better informed and empowered to be an active participant in your birth rather than a puppet in the process.

Kim Amos is a Childbirth Educator certified through Lamaze International and International Childbirth Educators Association (ICEA). She is also a certified Breastfeeding Educator, certified Birth Doula (DONA International) and Postpartum Doula. Kim is married with 2 grown children. She can be reached at kim @ birthnbabies.info or through her website, www.birthnbabies.info.

How to Connect to Your Baby…and Yourself

“How was your weekend?” “Fine. Thanks for asking. How about yours?” Pretty standard, right? I’ve said it. That’s just what people say on Monday. But today if you’d asked me this question over a cup of coffee, my answer would have been different. Not longer really, just different. How was it then you ask? In a word, it was “connected”.

It was one of those rare treats of a weekend. Dinner with my husband, drinks with a couple we hadn’t seen in years, a family BBQ in the backyard, complete with roasting marsh mellows (in the fire pit we bought 3 years ago that has seen about as much action as my bread maker…not much…), a “clothes swap” with 15 girl friends where we all picked through each other’s unwanted items over gooey butter cake, each leaving with an armful of free “new” clothes… and to top it off, a beautiful Sunday morning walk with my 5 year old daughter and our puppy Trixie. Sometimes “fine” just doesn’t cover it.

Sure, the laundry is insane, a tall pile of bills still sits here by my computer begging for attention and my dog isn’t quite there when it comes to being house broken (as I just discovered on the dining room rug). No, I did not fall off planet Earth into Bliss-ville. I’m still here, two feet planet firmly on the ground. But this past weekend and the sense of connection it left me with, spending time with friends, family…and myself, makes the other things feel just a little bit easier to accept today.

And so it is with our babies. How’s that for transition? You knew I was going to bring this back full circle to parenting didn’t you? But I cannot help but think that this is exactly how our babies feel when we give them our full attention. It is the thing I like best of all the many benefits infant massage…CONNECTION.

Connect Through Massage

Speaking as a mother that once tried to breastfeed and change her babies diaper at the same time, I know the need for support in slowing down to just be with our babies. Simply creating special time for massage with your little one does this. It will leave you and your baby feeling, in a word, “connected”.

If we are moving fast, sometimes we can forget how connected we really are in this life. As parents, our children help make this “A-PARENT” for us. It’s part of their job description. They help us slow down and remember. This week, I invite you to connect with your children in a very simple way through massage. I hope you enjoy this short little photo film I created to help inspire you to make massage a ritual in your family. Just click on the title that follows“KNOW LOVE MASSAGE”.

So crank up the computer volume and get ready to feel that awesome feeling that we all want…for our children and for ourselves…connection. I’d love to hear from you if you already use massage with your children and what you and your children have gotten out of it. I hope you have a good week and that it’s better than fine!




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 Get Your Toddler to Bed

We’ve been having struggles getting my 3yo to bed in a timely manner of late, so my son and I just made a “good night chart” that I’m hoping will help him get to bed and STAY THERE! I printed out a bunch of pictures from Do 2 Learn and asked him to color all the ones he thought had something to do with going to bed. He selected “take off clothes”, “put on pajamas”, “put on toothpaste” (to symbolize brushing teeth…he liked it better than the actual brushing teeth one), “bath”, “sleep”, “television” (he likes to watch “the Good Night Show” on Sprout as a calming activity in the evening), “no crying”, and “no kicking” (which he said means no getting out of bed). We also selected a food picture and he drew a circle with a line through it to show no eating after bath.

After he selected his pictures and colored the ones he wanted, I helped him cut them out. We then talked about what order they should go in and he glued them on the paper. The actual activities formed a column with the “no” ones off to the side as a reminder. I wrote a starting and ending time on the chart along with pictures of what those times look like on the clock in the living room. I’m going to hang it on the bathroom door, where we have a number of other family business papers he is familiar with. My son is quite pleased with his chart.

Contributed by Chris Keith.

Yoga Parenting F.A.Q.’s

What does the course include?
Each of the eight lessons include an audio segment and a written component — you can choose to read or listen to each lesson.

Within each lesson, an overview, parenting tools, and journal exercises will help you to transform your every day parenting experience.

Your enrollment includes ongoing access to the Yoga Parenting Discussion Group, where you can connect, share, and support each other.

You’ll get downloadable .pdf copies of the lesson material.

You’ll also get downloadable mp3’s of the lesson audios.

How does the course work?
As soon as you buy the course, you will receive an email message asking you to confirm your registration. Within moments of your confirmation, you’ll receive links to your first lesson via email. Links to subsequent lessons will arrive in your inbox every seven days.

The material for each lesson is presented in both audio and written form to accommodate your learning style. You also have the option of accessing the lesson content online or downloading the information and reviewing it offline, at your convenience.

How much time does it take?
Each lesson takes about 30 minutes to review. The audios range in length from eight to 20 minutes.You decide how much time to spend on the journal exercises every week. Of course, we hope that you will apply the lessons on an ongoing basis to your daily life.

What do I need?
You’ll need access to a computer, the internet and an email address. If you want the full experience of all the printable downloads, you’ll also want access to a color printer. You’ll need an mp3 player if you choose to listen to the audios offline. If you choose not to use the Yoga Parenting Notebook, any notebook or journal will work! And of course, the desire for a healthier and more joyful family is a requirement!

When does the course begin?
Whenever you are ready. The beauty of the course is that you can take it on your schedule, at your pace. You can start right now!

What if I have more questions?
Feel free to send us a message info(@)parenting-course.com or use this form or call (314)329-1351.

Registration for the eight-week session is now open! Reserve your spot now with a fee of $97 USD per person.

Yoga Parenting: Parent and Expert Reviews

I was impressed at how learning to tune in and breathe, especially whenever things start to spiral downward with the kids, changed everything…my kids are really responding and I feel so much more centered and patient with them.
~ Anne and Josh, kids ages 6 and 8

My favorite activity was learning how we could use signs to get our kids to do simple everyday things like brush their teeth or get ready for bed… I get tired of hearing myself order them around so I am SURE they must be tired of hearing me too.
You need to do this!
~ Suzannah and Mark, kids ages 3 and 9

What a wonderful tool and novel approach to parenting! I especially like the fact that I can access the lessons at any time, at my convenience. Our schedules are hectic by nature, so it’s nice to have this available whenever I can find a quiet moment.
~ Sharon, aunt to 3

It is so important to stop, take a deep breath and step back. In my hurried and busy life today, I learned the value of breathing and centering from Yoga Parenting. I am glad I took this course as I am a key role model in my children’s lives. As my teens are developing, I want them to learn the value of calmness
and kindness.
~ Kim, kids ages 13 and 11

The course addressed boundaries, rituals, and power struggles… I can’t choose a favorite topic! They were all helpful and important to me. Well done. Thanks!!!
~ Melissa, Expectant Mom and Early Child Educator/Speech Pathologist

Through Yoga Parenting, parents learn to be more childlike and playful in their understanding and interactions with their children, which results in a completely different outlook on parenting.
~ Melody Meiners, mom and columnist for StlFamilyLife

Yoga Parenting is a terrific and very practical source of information and guidance from which every parent can benefit. Child development research confirms that the most important predictor of success in learning and life is a child’s social and emotional development, which is largely influenced by parents’ interactions with their child. A parent’s ability to model positive ways of managing child behavior and stress can dramatically affect the child’s self-control abilities and self-image.

With easy to understand principles and tips, Yoga Parenting helps parents tap into their best instincts to help their children master life’s conflicts and everyday challenges.
~ James Braun, President and CEO of Youth In Need

The lesson on intuition was extremely powerful for me. Ironically, allowing my children to follow their intuition was intuitive to me, but I wasn’t allowing myself to trust that instinct, as it seemed counter to popular parenting. Sometimes the most profound moments in our journeys aren’t when we learn new things, but learning that you’re not alone in feeling something.
~ Jennifer, kids age 6 and 4

The lessons move along at a perfect pace so one doesn’t get bored, nor overwhelmed. Thanks to what I’ve learned from the program, I do feel more empowered. I have been more mindful of the lessons – especially the play one. As a result my son and I have been laughing more and enjoying the strengthened bond that’s come with it. And for that, I am most thankful.
~ Lisa Bertrand, mom and columnist for ALIVE

Registration for the eight-week session is now open! Reserve your spot now with a fee of $97 USD per person.

Yoga Parenting Gift: Printable Journal

As our gift to you, we’ve also created this 55-page journal which is designed to go along with the lessons, giving you space to record your observations as well as templates for some of the Yoga Parenting Tools.

Registration for the eight-week session is now open! Reserve your spot now with a fee of $97 USD per person.

How to Introduce Your Baby to Real Food

I realize the food you’ve been feeding your baby isn’t exactly fake, but it’s certainly not the same as the food the rest of your family is eating. The goal is to get your baby eating the same foods as the rest of the family. Right now, we’re focusing on simply introducing these foods.

Up to this point, you’ve been feeding your baby breast milk or formula, cereal, and pureed foods. We added cereal and pureed foods slowly to identify any potential allergies. We’ll do the same thing with solid foods. If you’ve determined that your baby has a food allergy, avoid that food during this process.

Good Starter Foods
These foods are relatively easy to mush up with or without teeth. They’re also less likely to cause choking than other foods.
* Toast
* Crackers
* Bananas
* Spaghetti
* Canned Fruits in Juice – The idea here is to remove the peel. If you feel like doing it yourself, go for it.
* Cooked Carrots
* Cooked Peas – Mush them up slightly with your fork.

Foods to Avoid
These foods are choking hazards. Wait to introduce these foods until your baby has more teeth and is comfortable with chewing before swallowing.
* Grapes
* Hot Dogs
* Nuts
* Popcorn

Honey – No honey for the first year. It can carry trace amounts of C. botulinum spores that won’t harm you and me, but may harm your baby.

Milk – Avoid whole milk for the first year. Then replace breast milk or formula with whole milk. After your baby turns two, you can go down to low fat or even skim milk.

Real Foods They’re Already Eating
Chances are your baby is already eating some “real” foods. If they’re not eating them now, start introducing them now.
* Yogurt
* Mashed Potatoes
* Mashed Sweet Potatoes
* Pudding
* Jello
* Ice Cream/Sorbet/Sherbet

Remember that babies need a decent amount of fat in their diet. Don’t stress about the amount of fat in their diet. Babies also have a pretty good sense of when they’ve had enough. I know it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between the “I’m done eating” look and the “that’s gross” look. Be patient and trust your instincts on this one.

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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.