Friday, January 30, 2009

How to Find Free or Inexpensive Items for Kids and Babies

Today’s column is written by Cheryl Maguire, a mother of boy/girl twin four-year-olds and a baby girl. A stay-at-home mom, she runs a website called Swap Savers, which is a social network for frugal folks who love freebies, coupons and rewards.

Kids and babies require everything from clothes to car seats and much more. Most of these items are expensive and are only used for a short period of time. Here are some ways to find free or inexpensive kid or baby items.

Ask Friends and Family: If you need specific baby equipment or are willing to accept any free kid/baby things, inform everyone you know. Most kid/baby items are large and take up a lot of space. Some people are only too happy to pass along their things to someone else, especially if they are able to get much-needed storage space back. I have received lots of free toys from my sister’s friend, a person I have never even met!

Consignment Shops: There are consignment shops that exclusively sell used clothes and gear for babies and children. Even though they are considered used, you can often find items in like-new condition or clothes with the original sales tags still attached. Another benefit to shopping in a consignment shop is that you can often sell your own used belongings or use them as credit to purchase new things. I am a member of a group for moms who have multiples (twins or higher) called Keeping Pace with Multiple Miracles (KPMM). KPMM is a non-profit organization, and they have a store where they sell used or like-new baby and kid items.

Yard Sales: Check your local paper to find out when and where the yard sales are being held. Sometimes, home daycares also have yard sales. Many yard sales are filled with kid or baby items. One time, I got a Cozy Coupe Car for $1 in like-new condition. The regular retail price is $50!

Freecycle: Freecycle is a network of people exchanging items for free. It is now present in eighty-five countries. You can join a Freecycle group in your area by going to the main website. I have given away a lot of items I would have had to pay to throw away. I have also received a free crib and toddler bed in like-new condition.

Craigslist: Craigslist is a classifieds website found in fifty countries. You can find items for free or for a fee. In addition to searching for items you need, you can also sell your used kid/baby items through Craigslist. My friend was able to purchase a like-new outdoor playset for a fraction of the price if purchased new.

eBay: eBay is another great site where you can purchase or sell used baby/kid items. They also have small businesses on their site. For instance, KPMM has an online store on eBay where they sell some of their used kid and baby items.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Stumped for a Great Valentine’s Gift? You’ll Love Photofiddle! (Plus, Giveaway!)

Every year, my husband and I struggle with what to get each other for Valentine’s Day. I’m still eating candy from Christmas, so I really don’t want any more. And my husband isn’t a big chocolate fan. Flowers are pretty, but they get expensive this time of year and only look good for a few days. Even the greeting cards are corny and say pretty much the same things they said last year! So, when I heard about the website, I knew I’d stumbled across the perfect Valentine’s gift!

You’ve got to see this site to believe it. They take an ordinary photo that you email to them and turn it into a true work of art! The artwork is beautiful, and they have a ton of options to suit everyone’s artistic tastes. Visit their photo gallery at to see what I mean. Styles include Modern, Oil Painting, Low Detail Watercolor, Fantasy, Impasto, Kaleidoscopic, Color Sketch, Pop Art, and many more. Best of all, they let you preview your picture in multiple styles so you can pick the one you like best!

Do you have a favorite photo of you and your partner that you’d like to display as a work of art? Perhaps you have a gorgeous scenic picture from your honeymoon or a romantic trip that the two of you took together. A picture of your kids or beloved pet also makes a beautiful piece of artwork. Imagine the look on your loved one’s face when you present him with a piece of artwork created just for him! I sent a picture into Photofiddle from a trip that my family took to Alaska several years ago, and it came out beautifully. It really looks like it was hand-painted! Photofiddle has been featured on the Today Show, in The New York Times, on Oprah’s O list, and more.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Photofiddle is offering a 15% discount for readers of this blog. Just enter the code parenting15 on the shopping cart page in the promotion code box and click Apply to receive the discount.

You can also enter to win a $50 gift certificate to Photofiddle! Just go to their gallery at Then come back here and comment on which before/after picture you like best. (Warning: It’s tough to choose a favorite. They’re all terrific!) You must do this to qualify for the random drawing. You can earn additional entries if you:

2) Put a button for Susan Heim on Parenting on your blog. Post a comment with your blog’s URL.

3) Tweet this giveaway on Twitter or post it on your blog. Leave a comment with your Twitter name or a link to the post.

4) Subscribe to Susan Heim on Parenting via email, RSS or as a Follower on Blogger. Leave a comment with your subscription method.

This gives you up to four chances to win a $50 gift certificate to Photofiddle. A winner will be randomly selected from the qualified comments on Friday, February 6, 2009.

CONTEST CLOSED. Congratulations to Paula H, who won the gift certificate!

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Products to Keep Our Children Safe

Keeping our kids safe is one of the most important—and stressful—things that parents do. It’s a constant worry game. What if my child dashes out in front of a car in the parking lot? What if he wanders into the neighbor’s swimming pool? What if I lose him at the amusement park? All of these events could have deadly consequences for families.

I’m always amazed at the creativity and ingenuity shown by people in trying to resolve these safety issues. I’ve recently come across six products especially designed to help keep our children safe. Please check them out:

The Parking Pal

The Parking Pal is a magnet that attaches to the side of your vehicle. It has a picture of a colorful hand so that children know they should place their own hand on it while they’re out of the car. It’s easy to get distracted when you’re trying to unload groceries, find your keys or locate a cart in a store parking lot. When you teach your child to always place his hand on the Parking Pal when he’s not holding your hand, then you have the security of knowing that your child is in a safe place and not likely to be wandering away. Parking Pal magnets come in kid-pleasing designs, such as dinosaurs, fish and flowers. Visit to learn more and order a Parking Pal!

Safety: A Pool Owner’s Visual Guide DVD

I live in Florida, so I know about the dangers of swimming pools. Children die every day here after falling into pools. In fact, drowning is the number-one cause of death for children under age 5. The water is like a magnet to kids and attracts their attention. Seventy-five percent of the victims are babies between the ages of 12-25 months. If you, your neighbors or family members have a swimming pool, you’ve got to see this DVD. It’s only 10 minutes long, but it really could save your child’s life. Visit or call 1-877-TEN-MINUTES to order.


SafetyTats are temporary tattoos that can be applied to your children’s skin without water. They’re waterproof and cannot be easily removed by your child. When you write your cell phone number on the SafetyTat, your child is more likely to be returned to you if you become separated. SafetyTats can be safely used at the store, amusement parks, festivals or anywhere that your child will be with you out in public and runs the risk of becoming separated from you. Imagine if you found a child playing alone in the toy section of a store. Wouldn’t it be great if they had their parents’ phone number on their arm so you could call them to reclaim their child? This is a simple but ingenious product that every family should have. Visit


If your child started choking on a cookie at the park, would you know what to do? If she fell down and started bleeding, would you know how to treat her? The MEDBASICS Travel Pack was developed by medical professionals. It’s a small book that describes all the steps you should take for the most common childhood emergencies. Color-coded tabs help you quickly locate topics, such as CPR, Choking, Fever, Bleeding, Burns, and Poison. Best of all, it’s in a small little pack with a clip that can be attached to the stroller, diaper bag or purse. An inside pocket stores health documents, and there’s a page to record emergency contact information. It’s available in orange, red and gray. You can find the MEDBASICS Travel Pack—as well as Home Packs—at


If your kids are as active as mine, they’ve probably fallen down a time or two while you’ve been out and about, and you didn’t have a bandage handy for a bloody knee. But if you had a MediBuddy, you wouldn’t have that problem! A MediBuddy is a small case that holds everything you need in case of a minor accident or insect sting. The MediBuddy contains plenty of latex-free, kid-friendly bandages, a sting relief pad, gauze pads, antiseptic wipes, burn relief cream, antibiotic ointments and stickers. They’re all in a colorful little case that can be kept in the purse, glove compartment, diaper bag or anywhere you go! You can check them out at, along with the other great products they have. CONTEST ALERT: The Mom Buzz is giving away a free MediBuddy right now. Hurry over to before February 14, 2009, to enter!


If your child has food allergies, celiac disease, asthma, a seizure disorder or some other health or medical condition that people need to be aware of, head on over to to check out a product line that will be of great interest to you! I was amazed at the variety of products they offer: wristbands, lunch bags, travel packs, back packs, stickers, emergency cards, snack bags, and more. If your child is allergic to peanuts, wouldn’t you feel better knowing that he had a “peanut allergy” lunch bag and wristband so that others will immediately know not to give them a bite of their peanut-butter cookie? These are great products that help to give parents peace of mind.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Helping Children Adjust When a Parent Travels for Work

Yesterday’s post was about travel, and I’ll be continuing with that theme today! This time, I’m going to address the issue of helping children to cope when a parent is often away from home on business. This scenario is typical for my sister’s family. Her husband works for a multinational company in sales management, and he is on the road nearly every week. My sister is almost like a single parent, having to handle all of the parenting and household duties most of the time. Children can have a tough time with having a parent gone. My niece and nephew are entering adolescence, so they understand the situation a little better now, but in the early years of his career, my brother-in-law often had to tackle difficult questions such as: “Why can’t you come to my hockey game?” or “Will you be able to attend my school party?”

Tom Daly is also a business traveling parent with four young children. When he got those “tough questions” from his kids, he had difficulty explaining why he had to leave home in language that they could understand. He knew this was a challenge for other traveling parents, especially when their children were between 4 and 8 years old. Children this age rely on rituals and routines to help them feel secure, which are often disrupted when a parent travels. Therefore, Tom consulted with Dr. Sherryl Goodman, an Emory University psychologist and expert on children’s issues, to get some tips on helping his children feel less stressed about his absence. Here is her advice:

1. Recognize that your child may feel anxious about you leaving. Children between the ages of 4 and 8 are often dependent on their parents’ presence to help them to feel secure. They also like to count on the routines of their daily lives. Parents going on business trips stir up both of these needs.

2. Give your child basic information about your trip.

3. Let your child know about your trip a few days ahead of your leaving. Give him or her lots of opportunities to ask questions about your trip. When preparing for your trip, plan to spend a little extra time with your child before you leave.

4. Let your child know what they can count on about being in touch with you during your trip.

5. Develop a routine that involves your child in your trip preparations. Show your child some pictures on the internet of where you will be.

6. Review with your child what he or she will be doing while you are away and who will be there to take care of him or her.

7. While away, make every effort to call home at a time when you will be able to talk with your child.

8. When you return, take time to transition back into your child’s life.

9. Let your child know what your trip was like. Reading a book from the “Sometimes I Work in...” series gives you an opportunity to tell your child about all different aspects of your travels. And reading together gives your child a special time to reconnect with you.

10. After your trip, use the opportunity to reinforce your child’s coping skills so they can manage stress even better in the future.

Tip number 9 above refers to a series of books that Tom Daly developed that helps parents and children talk about the trip so it’s less mysterious. The four books in the series include:

Sometimes I Work in…New York

Sometimes I Work in…Atlanta

Sometimes I Work in…Chicago

Sometimes I Work in…Ft. Lauderdale

The books are customizable so parents can fill in their own details as they read them to their children. For instance, one page says, “Getting ready to leave, I have so many things to pack!...What do I take with me to Atlanta?” And then the adult can talk with the child about the kinds of things he will need for the trip. Another page gives the parent a chance to talk about the activities he does at the hotel. Several pages allow the parent to describe his plans, but then the child is also encouraged to talk about what she will be doing while Dad or Mom is gone. There’s even a removable postcard at the end of the book that parents can send back to their children. There’s also a fill-in-the-blank page where parent and child can write down details about the trip so the child can revisit it while he’s gone. These books are an excellent tool for opening the lines of communication about a parent’s absence and a child’s anxiety.

All four books are available through Amazon at the links provided above. Tom also writes a very helpful blog for traveling parents at If you’re a business traveler with young kids, I encourage you to visit the blog, check out Tom’s books and, especially, communicate with your children frequently. This will help them feel secure in your absence and reassure them of your love.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Raising Global Children (Plus, a Little Travelers DVD Giveaway!)

I’ve always been fascinated by different countries and cultures. When I was 16, I had the pleasure of staying with a Japanese family for six weeks in Osaka. It was a wonderful experience during which I rode the bullet train, tried octopus and squid, visited many temples, attended festivals, and got fitted for a kimono. I made memories that will last a lifetime! The following summer, I went with my high school French class to England and France. We saw the sights of London and Paris. I had so much fun!

My oldest son graduated from an International Baccalaureate high school program last May, and my second oldest son is a sophomore in the same program. It’s always so heart-warming to see them interacting with teens from many different backgrounds. There are kids from China, India, Russia, Finland, and many other countries. Students are required to study a language they don’t speak at home, and they often share their customs and native foods with each other.

The world is getting smaller and smaller as communication and transportation methods improve. I truly believe that children should be exposed to various cultures and traditions as early as possible. This helps to foster acceptance of cultural differences and discourage racism and prejudice. Of course, many of us can’t afford to take our kids to different countries, but we can teach them about other cultures at school and at home.

There’s a fabulous DVD series called The Little Travelers that is perfect for younger children (although older kids and adults will love it, too). The hosts of the show, preschool-aged sisters Chantelle and Nakia, travel to various countries and share their adventures. I recently viewed The Little Travelers: Japan with my five-year-old twin boys, and they were mesmerized by it! Chantelle and Nakia went to many of the cultural hotspots, like temples and gardens, but what I really liked was seeing how people actually live in Japan. The sisters spent their three-month stay in a typical Japanese home, where shoes are always removed and everyone sleeps on the floor! They showed the small appliances, like refrigerators and washing machines (no dryers), that are typical in Japanese homes. They visited the grocery store, preschool, and neighbors’ houses. Even though I had been to Japan before, I loved rediscovering daily life in Japan and seeing it through my children’s eyes.

You and your kids can learn more about the adventures of Chantelle and Nakia at They sell DVDs of their trips to Japan, Bali and the British Isles, and even sell dress-up sets for your children to pretend they’re living in different countries! There’s also a kids’ blog and a mom’s blog, where they share more about their travels and their quest to learn about other cultures through cooking exotic meals and more. I was amazed at the kinds of foods that Chantelle and Nakia were willing to eat in Japan!

You can win a Little Travelers DVD for your family! To enter, go to and view the trailers for each show. Come back here and tell me in a comment which one you liked the most. For optional additional entries:

2) Put a button for Susan Heim on Parenting on your blog. Post a comment with your blog’s URL.

3) Tweet this giveaway on Twitter or post it on your blog. Leave a comment with your Twitter name or a link to the post.

4) Subscribe to Susan Heim on Parenting via email, RSS or as a Follower on Blogger. Leave a comment with your subscription method.

The winner will be randomly selected on Friday, February 6, 2009. Thank you, Chantelle and Nakia, for teaching us about the world!

CONTEST CLOSED. Congratulations to Stephen, who selected The Little Travelers: Japan!

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Helping Preschoolers Handle Bedtime, Brushing Teeth and Other Daily Routines

If you’ve got toddlers or preschoolers, you know how stubborn they can be! Getting them to do what’s good for them, such as going to sleep, brushing their teeth, getting dressed and eating the right foods, can become a fierce battle of wills that frustrates both parent and child. So, parents are always looking for solutions to help make these activities easier.

One company, Haydenburri Lane, has created a series of products that focus on healthy habits and routines for children. Their Rascals & Routines brand for preschool children is a learning system of books, music, media, and toys that introduces children to a world of lovable characters who turn daily routines such as bedtime, morningtime and mealtime into playful adventures! Their products are centered on five loveable characters:

Bubbles the purple hippo loves bathtime and getting clean!
P.J. the blue bear loves to get dressed and go to bed!
Chomper the crocodile likes to take care of himself by eating right and brushing his teeth.
Paige the elephant loves storytime and reading!
Rory the tiger is very brave and likes to try new things.

These colorful characters appear in adorable books and as plush animals to help your children with their daily routines. My twins received a special item called the Carry Me Everywhere Suitcase. It’s a mini-suitcase filled with five finger puppets of each of the characters, a super-soft fleece/satin blanket and a Bedtime Safari book. The first night we got them, Austen was already snuggled up in bed with Bubbles the hippo and the blanket! He fell in love with the characters, as well as the book we read before going to bed. And Haydenburri Lane will be developing more products in the near future.

Until February 1, 2009, they’re offering $5 off the Carry Me Everywhere Suitcase. Just visit their site at, click on the “Shop” button and add the suitcase to your cart. Enter the code safarimoms to receive your discount. The Rascals & Routines products are great tools for helping parents handle life with little ones.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

“Trust Me” on TNT Will Hook You with Its Sharp and Witty Take on the Cutthroat Advertising Business

Taglines are big business in advertising. A great tagline makes you think immediately of the advertised product. For example:

Betcha can’t eat just one (Lay’s potato chips)
M’m! M’m! Good! (Campbell’s soup)
Just do it! (Nike)
Once you pop, the fun don’t stop (Pringles chips)
Leggo my Eggo! (Eggo waffles)
Breakfast of champions (Wheaties cereal)
There’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s (Reese’s peanut butter cups)
Because you’re worth it (L’oreal cosmetics)

So, who makes up these taglines? Advertising agencies! And until I watched the upcoming new drama from TNT, Trust Me, I never knew that coming up with the perfect tagline was such a cutthroat business! I was recently offered a sneak preview of the first two episodes of Trust Me, and now I’m hooked! Let me tell you why.

First, there’s the hunky Eric McCormack. In Trust Me, he plays a completely different character from Will in Will and Grace. This time, he’s a married father of two who’s trying to balance all of the challenges of his demanding job and his family. I bet you can guess who gets the short end of the stick, especially when Eric’s character, Mason McGuire, is promoted to creative director—a job he’s not so sure he wants. You see, Mason’s known for being a nice guy, but nice guys tend to finish last in the advertising biz. So Mason’s got to start sharpening his teeth if he’s going to survive!

Tom Cavanaugh plays Mason’s best friend and professional partner, Conner. The two guys make a mean advertising team despite having completely opposite personalities and lifestyles. Conner is a single, fun-loving guy who’s brilliant at coming up with winning taglines—if only Mason can get him focused on the task at hand!

The new girl in town is Sarah Krajicek-Hunter, played by Monica Potter. She’s brilliant at what she does but always manages to rub everyone the wrong way, from her demands for her own office to her aversion to pitching shampoo! Every once in a while, she shows a crack in her high-maintenance fa├žade—just enough for those around her to realize that there might be more to her than the argumentative, um, witch they see most of the time.

I love the supporting cast in Trust Me, too. Mason’s wife Erin, played by Sarah Clarke, shows signs of being much more complex than the typical “supportive wife” often portrayed on TV. Her brilliance in saving Mason’s account in the second episode will have you cheering for her. Griffin Dunne, as Mason’s boss, Tony Mink, is also a joy to watch, as are Tom and Hector (Mike Damus and Geffory Arend), the goofy junior members of the creative team.

I predict that Trust Me is going to be a huge hit for TNT, so make sure you’re in front of your TV set (or have your DVR programmed) for Monday, January 26 at 10 PM (ET/PT). Trust Me airs right after another winning show, The Closer, which will debut a brand-new episode at 9 PM.

And, speaking of taglines, I love the one they came up with for Trust Me: A new series about good guys and ad guys. Brilliant! Trust me, you’re gonna love this show.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Encouraging Tween Girls to Read -- The Cupcakes Club (and Giveaway!)

There’s no doubt that today’s kids are excited about reading books! Thanks to terrific series like Harry Potter, Captain Underpants, The Wimpy Kid, Twilight and others, more and more children, tweens and teens are talking about books and lining up at the bookstores. I was always a huge reader as a kid (and still am!), so this really warms my heart. I spent hours in my room reading the Little House on the Prairie books, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle adventures, everything by Beverly Cleary, and the Narnia series. Of course, back when I was a kid, we found out about good books from our friends and the school librarian. Kids today have so many more ways to talk about books, especially on the Internet.

Donna Benson, an elementary school teacher and writer, is also excited about children’s enthusiasm for books—so much so that she created a website called The Cupcakes Club, an online book club for tween girls. It’s a safe and monitored website where young girls can talk about books, chat with the girls in The Cupcakes Club, play games, earn prizes and more! Girls can become a “cupcake” by signing up for free, or parents or grandparents can upgrade them to a V.I.C. (Very Important Cupcake) for a one-time fee of $19.95 (a $35 value). With V.I.C. status, they receive two books in the Cupcakes series, plus a free Cupcakes Club T-shirt! Any future purchases are completely optional.

And I just got news of a little secret: Starting in February 2009, they will be giving away $100 cash each month on The Cupcakes Club! Members will be given a clue and a page number to go to in one of the books. A winner will be drawn from the correct entries received to get $100! Tween girls can buy a lot of books with that!

Donna was kind enough to send me two Cupcakes Club books, Shakin’ Up Soccer, Summer Style and Dog Gone Drama, and a T-shirt (girls’ size Large) to give to one lucky reader of this blog! To enter, go to, and then come back here and leave a comment on this post giving the name of one of The Cupcakes Club girls, along with something special about her.

For optional additional entries:

2) Put a button for Susan Heim on Parenting on your blog. Post a comment with your blog’s URL.

3) Tweet this giveaway on Twitter or post it on your blog. Leave a comment with your Twitter name or a link to the post.

4) Subscribe to Susan Heim on Parenting via email, RSS or as a Follower on Blogger. Leave a comment with your subscription method.

The winner will be randomly selected on February 1, 2009!

Your tween daughter or granddaughter will love The Cupcakes Club, as well as getting to know the characters and their adventures. It’s a great way to encourage her to read fun and age-appropriate books, and to interact on a website that you’ll feel comfortable having her join.

CONTEST CLOSED. Congratulations to Terra H., who won The Cupcakes Club prize for her daughter!

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Coming Soon: Video Game Reviews

For most families with children, video games are a common sight in their households. Ours is no exception! My four boys love video games as much as the next kid. Therefore, it’s important that parents be informed and educated about the games their kids are playing. I’ll be testing out some new video games in the next few weeks and will post my opinions on this blog.

One of the games I’ll be trying is the upcoming Big Bang Mini, an arcade-style fireworks game for Nintendo DS. It will be available in stores on January 20, 2009. You can find more information about this exciting game here.

So, stay tuned as I review Big Bang Mini and some of the other games for our kids.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Lock Jaw Gives Parents Peace of Mind (Review and Giveaway)

In my book, Twice the Love: Stories of Inspiration for Families with Twins, Multiples and Singletons, there’s a true story that makes every parent’s blood run cold. As the author wrote, “When you find the police at your door at 5:00 in the morning, it’s never a good sign.” In this case, the police were asking if they were missing one of their five children! Apparently, one of their three-year-old twin daughters arose in the middle of the night, turned the deadbolt on the front door, and went outside. Dressed only in a diaper and a T-shirt, she crossed a busy street and arrived at a house in the back of their community where their nanny had taken them to visit a friend. The little girl stood crying at the doorstep until someone heard her and let her in the house. They had no idea who she was and called the police! Fortunately, the police were somehow able to track down the parents and return the girl safely home. Imagine the alternative endings to this scenario: The little girl could have been hit by a car. She could have drowned in a lake or swimming pool. She could have been picked up by someone who had dishonorable intentions toward her. The horrible possibilities are endless.

When I first heard about the Lock Jaw Security system, this story immediately popped into my mind. The little girl could never have left the house if her parents had installed a Lock Jaw on their door. A Lock Jaw is a very simple device that attaches to the inside of your door and prevents the deadbolt from being retracted, even if someone has a key. It can be installed permanently in less than five minutes with the screws that are included, or it can be installed temporarily with your own two-sided tape or Velcro. My husband put a Lock Jaw on our door and had it installed in mere minutes. (Go to and click on the video, which shows you exactly how to install it.) We were really impressed with how simple yet effective this product is. Lock Jaw works on any deadbolt, regardless of the direction it gets turned to be locked. You can even take a Lock Jaw with you on vacation and use a temporary installation method on your hotel room door for added peace of mind.

Of course, the Lock Jaw does more than keep kids inside. It keeps intruders out of the house. Did you know that 1 out of every 5 homes will experience a break-in or home invasion? Or that 38% of assaults and 60% of rapes occur during home invasions? And those numbers are increasing as potential invaders can now find out on the Internet how to open a deadbolt through a technique called “lock bumping,” which can unlock 90% of doors. (And if you are the victim of lock bumping, your insurance company will likely deny your claim because there’s no sign of “forced entry”!)

I strongly encourage you to visit today and read more about this essential product for families. Check out the video and the statistics. Lock Jaw is very reasonably priced and can be bought in sets so you can secure all of the doors in your home. If you have a kid in college, get one for his dorm room door! Lock Jaw is available in brass or flat nickel.

Would you like to win a brass Lock Jaw? I will randomly pick three winners from those who comment on this post by Friday, January 30, 2009. Here’s how to enter:

1) Go to, and then come back here and comment on one of the benefits of Lock Jaw.

For optional additional entries:

2) Put a button for Susan Heim on Parenting on your blog. Post a comment with your blog’s URL.

3) Tweet this giveaway on Twitter or post it on your blog. Leave a comment with your Twitter name or a link to the post.

4) Subscribe to Susan Heim on Parenting via email, RSS or as a Follower on Blogger. Leave a comment with your subscription method.

This gives you up to four chances to win one of three Lock Jaws. Three winners will be randomly selected on Saturday, January 31, 2009, from the valid comments received.

CONTEST CLOSED. Congratulations to KLM39, mom2anutball, and Sarah, our three winners of a Lock Jaw security device!

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Helping Our Children Eat More Nutritious Foods

Next to bedtime, the second most stressful time of day for parents is dinnertime. In fact, pretty much any time of the day is tough in our house when it comes to food. My five-year-old twins beg constantly for candy, drinks and sweets—or, as author Vicki Lansky terms them, Continuously Advertised Nutritionally Deficient Yummies, aka C.A.N.D.Y.! Vicki Lansky has been in the parenting business for a long time, not only as a mom (and now a grandmother), but as the author of more than 30 books that have been bestsellers for decades. So, she knows how to tame tricky parenting problems, especially when it comes to getting kids to eat more nutritiously.

I don’t have to tell you that obesity has become a real problem with today’s children. They’re coming down with obesity-related complications, such as diabetes and heart disease, that previous generations never saw until adulthood. Today’s parents need to take control of their children’s eating habits before they become so ingrained that they follow them into adulthood. But hand a kid a piece of broccoli and he’s likely to sneak over to his friend’s house to gorge on a bag of M&Ms. Healthy foods just don’t look all that appealing next to the bright wrapping and interesting flavors of typical junk food. So, how can we make kids want to try—and love—food that’s good for them?

Fortunately, Vicki Lansky has quite a few ideas on the subject, which can be found in two of her books, Feed Me I’m Yours and Taming of the C.A.N.D.Y. Monster. These timeless classics have been around for a long time, but they’ve been updated and modernized for today’s families.

If you’ve got a baby, then Feed Me I’m Yours is where you should begin. It discusses the pros and cons of homemade versus store-bought baby foods, and provides recipes for making your own baby cereals, fruits, vegetables and meats. Don’t be intimidated; it’s much easier than you’d think! The second chapter tackles finger foods for babies from six months to more than a year. Another chapter discusses the challenges of feeding toddlers. Also provided are recipes and tips for preparing snacks, breakfast foods, and seasonal foods, and even planning birthday parties and having fun with kitchen crafts!

If your kids are past the baby and toddler stage, I recommend that you get Taming of the C.A.N.D.Y. Monster. The first chapter seems to be written especially for my family: “Tasty Alternatives to Junk Food Snacks”! I can’t wait to try out the Frozen Banana Rockets, Yummie Balls and Jell-O Pizza on my picky eaters! Subsequent chapters cover desserts (like Better-for-You Brownies), disguising vegetables, main courses, school lunches (and we all need help getting out of the peanut-butter-and-jelly rut), and eating on the run. There are even tips for shopping and reading labels so you can choose the most nutritious but delicious options for your family.

Feed Me I’m Yours and Taming of the C.A.N.D.Y. Monster can really help take some of the stress out of feeding your children. Vicki Lansky’s tips and delicious recipes have been time- and parent-tested. I’m really excited about trying some of the wonderful treats in these books with my family. Hopefully, I can convert my little junk food fans into healthy eaters! Please check out Vicki’s books and other resources for parents on her website at

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Protecting Children's Eyes from the Sun (Bonus: Ficklets Giveaway!)

My family lives in Florida, so we know the importance of eye protection in the “Sunshine State.” But, wherever you live, it’s important to protect your children’s eyes from the sun. Bright sunlight can cause harm to little eyes and even result in cataracts later in life. I grew up in Michigan, and I remember how bright the sun can get when it shines off the snow. Children are especially susceptible to sun damage because they spend more time looking up than adults do. If your children are playing outside during the day, whether it’s during the summer or winter, their eyes should be protected from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.

We’ve bought our share of cheap sunglasses from the store, and they never seem to fit right or last for long. But I recently found some children’s sunglasses that solve those problems! They’re made by Julbo, the leading manufacturer of eyewear for mountain climbers, sailors and extreme athletes, so they know the eyewear business! They have a great line of sunglasses for kids, ranging from newborns to teenagers. Their quality is so high because their children’s glasses are not just miniature versions of adult glasses. Julbo’s designers have considered the actual dimensions and structure of children’s faces to create glasses that fit comfortably and provide maximum protection from UV rays.

My twin boys love their Julbo sunglasses. (Caleb is modeling his at the top of this page.) They think they are very cool, and they grab them whenever we head outside. I encourage you to visit Julbo’s website at to see the wide range of styles they have available for children (and adults, too!).

Most children love to wear sunglasses, especially when they’ve got that “cool factor,” but if your child is resistant, you might want to try adding a little “bling” to their eyewear. Ros Guerrero, a clever mom of a thirteen-year-old “special needs” child, invented Ficklets to encourage her daughter to wear her glasses. They’re little charms that can be attached to eyewear (either glasses to correct vision or sunglasses), and they’re easy to attach and remove so your kids can wear a different Ficklet each day to express their personality or just have fun! I tried them out myself, and they’re very easy to use and, best of all, very stylish!

Would you like to win two pairs of Ficklets? The designs offered in this giveaway are pictured on this page. I’ll randomly select one winner from the comments left on this post. To enter, visit and tell me which design is your favorite!

To earn up to three additional entries (leave separate comments for each):

1) Tweet this giveaway and its link. (Provide your Twitter name with your comment.)
2) Subscribe to this blog via email or RSS.
3) Display the button for this blog on your blog or website.

A winner will be randomly selected from the qualified comments on Friday, January 23, 2009.

CONTEST CLOSED. Congratulations to lilyk, who won the flower Ficklets shown, PLUS the Panda Ficklets that she liked so much! Thank you, Ros, for providing the winner with a bonus set of Ficklets!