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Your Online Magazine for Moms
May 2009 ~ Issue # 017

I think you'll be pleased with all the info I've managed to squeeze into this month's edition of The Merry Mother.

  • Special Mother's Day coupons
  • fun milestone-building activities
  • a yummy parfait
  • recall updates (cribs, playpens, and high chairs...oh my!)
  • ...not to mention 4 super-simple tips for stretching your dollars farther than the next paycheck.

I guarantee these ideas are not things you've thought of before, and yet when Cameron and I implemented them, they saved us hundreds every month (I'm not exaggerating here, ask our tax-man).

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In Case You Missed It...

Here are some of the newest articles at The Essential Infant Resource for Moms (EiR) you may have missed.
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  • Infant Swimwear: This Summer's Go-To Guide for Baby Fun in the Sun
      If it's getting hot where you live (apologies Aussie friends), this article provides a look at the newest beach gadgets and the cutest swimwear for your babies introduction to water.
  • Breast Feeding Help: Useful Products and Resourceful Articles
      New additions to our growing list of nursing gear and helpful guides to keep you motivated and successful in breastfeeding your baby.
  • Using Safeway Delivery: A Comprehensive Review
      Ever wondered if Safeway grocery home delivery would be useful? This article discusses the various pros and cons of using Safeway to get your groceries delivered at home.
  • Get Your Weekly Meal Planning Done in 5 Minutes (Yes, It's Possible)
      In this article, I reveal the simple steps I use to plan our meals in minutes every week. Not only do I avoid the 5:00 panic, but shopping is a stress-free, list-shopping experience (at least without the kids).
  • Free Baby Coupons
      An oldie, but a goodie, I've updated this article with some new coupons and opportunities. Go straight to the coupons, print them off on your computer, and save at your local store. Easy breezy.

    What Surprised You the Most About Motherhood?

    In honor of Mother's Day, I thought this would be an appropriate survey question. So what surprised you? What did you wish someone had shared with you when you came home from the hospital? I'll share the results next month!

    Since this is an archived edition, the survey has been removed. To see the results of this month's survey, see the next month's issue here.

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    Last Month's Results

    Thanks to everyone who shared last month what topic they'd like to read about in the EiR. The winner, hands down, was teething. So, expect to see a flood of teething articles popping up in the Essential Infant Blog and being featured at The Merry Mother.

    Don't worry Working Moms! You came in second, so you're next on the list. This fall I'll dedicate some specific time discussing your issues.


    Pages Coming Up at the EiR:

    If you haven't already, sign up for the Essential Infant Blog and be notified the moment these pages are online.

    • Reading the Signs of Teething in Your Infant
    • Choosing Your Baby's Doctor: 4 Sure-Fire Tips to find the Perfect Pediatrician
    • Heavenly Nipple Cream: A Review of Earth Mama, Angel Baby
    • Breastfeeding Tips for Working Moms
    • When do Babies Start Teething? Quick Facts for Busy Moms
    coupon

    What a month for coupons! With Mother's Day in May, and Father's Day coming up in June, businesses are stumbling over themselves to provide coupons and special sales to savvy Internet shoppers.

    Don't forget, these are all companies I feel comfortable recommending. They have good products and services. I use them myself. I would never recommend or share a coupon code for a sub-par company. If you've had a bad experience with any of them, let me know. So far, their record is spotless, but I'd like to be sure it stays that way.


    The Children's Place Logo (125x125)
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    The Children's Place

    The Children's Place always comes through for me. It is not uncommon for me to find better deals at their online store than I do at the mall. And with flat-rate shipping, it is now one of my "bookmarked" shopping sites.

    I placed an order this week for my girls and was thrilled with how much I saved. Here's a hint - this code below is also good on their clearance items, so stock up and save some serious cash.

    • Save 15% off with Coupon Code "SA249" - expires May 10th
    • "Mix and Match It" Sale lets you choose tees, tanks, and shorts 3 for $15.
    • Clearance section is marked down an additional 40%
    • Standard $5 shipping on all orders, no minimum.
    Click here to visit The Children's Place


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Signing Time

Teaching Elena and Lauren to baby sign was an amazing help and prevented a lot of temper tantrums. She knew what she wanted to say, it was just frustrating that she couldn't tell me. Just a few simple signs eliminated that frustration.

If you've been thinking about teaching your baby to use sign language, now's a great time to get started. It's incredibly easy and just-so-useful. Signing Time is the award-winning, Grammy-nominated program that I recommend. They've got some great offers this month.


garden
Gardenfort at Magic Cabin
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Magic Cabin Toys

Find incredibly unique and natural toys at Magic Cabin for summer fun. All the toys on their site are natural and battery-free. Promote creative play and build up a budding imagination with their innovative kid-powered toys.

  • Get 15% off your order of $50 or more with code "MCRA4" at checkout ~ (expires 5/24/09)
  • Visit their "Sale" section for crafts and toys 60% off.

Click here to view the crafts and toys at Magic Cabin.


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Switching Stores

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Baby Catalog

BabyCatalog.com Logo- 125x125
The online store Baby Catalog has been referenced in countless television shows and books (including Baby Bargains). They have almost everything you could want for your baby at the tip of your keyboard.

They are offering several specials, including a great coupon for Britax car seats. (Britax is the brand I personally researched and use. They are the safest car seats on the market today.)

  • The coupon code "SAVE10" gives you 10% off your entire order. This coupon will expire at midnight on May 13, 2009, when it will be replaced by the coupon TAKE10 (for the same 10% off).
  • The coupon code "BTXSAV" will give you a 10% discount on Britax car seats.

Click here to visit Baby Catalog.


angel baby
The "I Love My Mama" Kit
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Earth Mama Angel Baby

In honor of Mother's Day, Earth Mama Angel Baby is offering their organic lotions and herbal teas in special Mom-packages for 15% off in May.
  • "Pregnancy Pampering Kit" (including the popular Body Butter, Happy Feet, and other top sellers)
  • "A Little Something for Mama-to-Be" (with Happy Feet, Natural Stretch Oil, and more)
  • "I Love My Mama" (with Happy Feet, Body Butter, Natural Nipple Butter for breastfeeders, and more)

Click here to visit Earth Mama Angel Baby.

feature

This month concludes our series on "Balancing Life with a New Baby: Saving Time, Saving Money". In the April edition of The Merry Mother I asked you to tell me what topic I should center on next.

A vast majority of you voted for articles on teething, and since I aim to please...I'll be discussing the subject of teething, pacifier use, and basic baby oral care in the next three months.

(Hold on, working mothers! You came in second and will get my attention after this 3-month series is finished!)


Strategies to Save Money:
4 Practical Tips for New Parents

money
In today's economy, it seems like everyone is searching for strategies to save money.

New parents are probably at the top of this list. Your new baby, although an absolute joy, is a new expense!

Unless there's a modeling contract tucked in that diaper somewhere, your infant isn't going to be contributing any cash to your bottom line.

There's hope! It really is possible to finanically adjust to care for this new person. You are not as close to the cliff's edge as you may feel.

In fact, since our husbands seem particularly prone to "freaking out" about finances, (or is it just mine?) perhaps you should read this article together.smiley

These simple 4 steps will help you absorb your infant's needs into your current income.

That is why this section is included in The Essential Infant Resource (EiR). In order for this site to truly be essential, it must go beyond standard "take-care-of-baby" articles and discuss those larger issues that affect your infant's long-term well being.

And so I bring you to Strategies to Save Money. After all, every penny saved is an education earned, right?

Strategies to Save Money: Practical Tip #1
Budget Like You Mean It

If you decide to ignore all the other strategies to save money listed here, don't ignore this one. One of the strongest ways to secure your infant's wellbeing in the future is to create a budget, and then live within it. What mother really wants her baby to grown up experiencing eviction after eviction?

What mom thinks that being super stressed-out and angry all the time is a great way to interact with a baby who's into everything? It's a breakdown and a scream-fest waiting to happen. Save yourself, your family, and your newborn and create a workable budget.

When Cameron and I were first married, we took Dave Ramsey's course, Financial Peace University. It was SOOO valuable in learning how to manage our money. If you need help with budgeting, I'd encourage you to visit his site for help.

Once your budget is set up, put your bills on auto-pay. With a newborn ruling the roost for a while, paying bills is going to be the last thing on your mind. Put them on auto-pay and avoid those late fees!

Strategies to Save Money: Practical Tip #2
Bye Bye Debt...Hello Bahamas!

strategies to save money
Once you've set up (and are following) your monthly budget, take a look at how much you spend every month on debt.

Close your eyes for a moment. Imagine a world where all those monthly debt payments were floating into a savings account instead.

What would you do with all that extra income? A family vacation to Bahamas? A safer mini van? A larger home? Let those dreams motivate you to work harder towards debt reduction.

To avoid being overwhelmed, I recommend splitting your debt into three categories.

  • Your mortgage (and any home equity lines)
  • Other loans for your car, boat, rich-Uncle Harry's loan, etc.
  • Your credit card debt
Choose the category with the smallest debt and attack that first. Within that category, start with the lender or card with the lowest balance. Once that is paid off, close it, and apply the amount you were paying on that debt to the next lowest payment.

Strategies to Save Money: Practical Tip #3
Pick Your Own Pocket

Look through your budget - are there ways to trim the fat? Are there expenses that can be eliminated? During a particularly lean time in our marriage, Cameron and I took drastic measures to lower our monthly bills.

We removed cable. Yes, we survived. smiley We switched to a pre-paid cell phone. We elminated a vehicle, and Cameron car-pooled to work.

Cutting budget costs is one of the time-proven strategies to save money most overlooked by new parents. Many times the question isn't what, but really Am I willing to.... Here are a few articles I've written that can help you start thinking of areas you can cut back.

Strategies to Save Money: Practical Tip #4
Need More? Make More!

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Adding Another Income

Perhaps the most logical of the strategies to save money is to simply get more of it. If you just can't seem to make the numbers work, you and your spouse will simply have to make more. Easier said than done, I know. There was a period of time where my husband Cameron took a second job delivering pizza to help cover the bills. It was hard at first, but humility pays off in the long-run.

That was before I started working from home. Now I'm a stay at home and a work at home mom. It's hard to live today on a single income. This site is the answer we needed. I'm able to stay home and care for our precious offspring, but also contribute to our monthly income.

If you want to see how I got started, and went from doing email-only to this site, check out Site Build It. I was an Internet-imbecile. They gave me everything (and I mean everything) I needed to learn how to do this - at a yearly price we could afford to "risk".

Their free ebook, The Affiliate Master's Course, changed my life (and I didn't even know what an "affiliate" was!).

strategies to save money2
{Photo by TW Collins}
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Are You Over-Insured?

Getting a second job isn't the only way to make more money. If you're young (below 40), you and your spouse are in the "productivity" stage of life. Despite what you may want, you don't need a million dollars worth of coverage!

Figure out who's income will be missed the most, and then over-insure that person. For example, I work part time at home (on this site), while my husband works full-time.

My insurance coverage is about half of his, because I bring in about half the income. This little trick "found" us an additional $40 bucks a month. That's $480 a year.

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Don't Make Interest-Free Loans to Uncle Sam

You can do the same thing with your tax deductions. If you're not taking any exemptions, you are loaning your money to the government, interest free. The best way to determine if you're taking enough exemptions is to look at last year's return. Did you get a HUGE refund? Then you are not taking enough exemptions.

You can let the government take extra money from you every paycheck, and then get a larger return, OR you can add some exemptions, get more monthly income, but get a smaller return. This little trick provided Cameron and I with an additonal $100 a month in spending money and is one of the best little-known strategies to save money out there. (And we still received a nice little return from Uncle Sam!)

A talk with your accountant or company's HR representative can help you decide how many exemptions you should take.


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Implementing these simple strategies to save money can provide you extra cash as soon as the next pay-check. Did you know that the #1 reason couples divorce is over money troubles?

Protect a happy home for your newborn by developing your financial IQ. When you live on a budget, and are working to reduce debt, it's amazing how much brighter and happier the world appears!


A new series on teething will start up on June 2nd with:

Reading the Signs of Teething in Your Infant

infant activities

Spending time interacting with your baby is an important part of bonding and development. Use this month's activities as a launching pad for fun.

If you get tired of doing these suggestions every day, read these book reviews of several of the most popular baby game books published today.

Naturally, if you're curious about your baby's development ("Is this normal?" "When will she walk?") check out this article on important milestones and how to track them.


0-3 Months: S-T-R-E-T-C-H

froggy
{Photo by Ron and Nancy}
Your baby loves being touched by you. Since she's spent the past 9 months in a increasingly-cramped space, it's not uncommon for her to be "all bunched up" in the first few months. (Don't they look like little toads, all curled up in themselves?)

Teach her to stretch by performing some simple exercises. First, lay a blanket on the floor, and place your (awake) baby on the blanket facing up. Holding your infant's calves just below the knee, gently flex one leg so her thigh touches her tummy, then gently stretch her leg out and down to a resting position. Repeat with the other leg.

(Remember, your face will be the most interesting thing to her, so keep your eyes bright and your mouth smiling!)

Holding her hands in your own, gently raise her arms above her head, and then bring them back down to her sides. Say "up, down...up we go...down we go...reach up...reach down...touch the sky!"

Use your fingers to gently massage her palms, moving out to each finger and helping her to spread her fingers wide. Do the same with her toes. Warning, this may make her sleepy!


3-6 Months: Roly Poly

At this age, many infants are getting ready to become more mobile. Usually the first step in that process is learning to roll over (although some babies will skip this all together). This activity will boost his confidence and encourage him to push over that elbow and roll over.

First, lay a soft blanket on the floor with your baby laying down and facing up at you. Gently hold his hands at his sides and stretch his legs out flat, rolling him gently like a rolling pin and singing "Roly, poly, roly poly". When he gets on his side, lean forward and tickle his cheek with kisses. Repeat until you gently help him roll over onto his tummy, praising him for his hard work. Naturally, if your baby is sensitive and appears afraid of this exercise, skip it.

For the more boisturous babies who enjoy a lot of movement, lay your infant on your chest and gently rock (with your entire body) back and forth. When you get to your side, gently let your baby slide off and set him on his tummy. This will help him prepare for the sensations of rolling over.


6-9 Months: The Busy Box

For your growing explorer, set up a box of new "treasures" for him to explore. Include things like large seashells, large smooth stones, large wooden blocks, wooden beads on a rope (securely tied), large bells, stuffed animals, a tea cup, small ball, etc. Play with him while he explores the box, naming each object and showing him things to do with each (hug the stuffed bear, blow on the horn, sip the cup, etc.)

Change the items at least every other day, adding a few items, taking a few away. Look for things that make interesting sounds, or have different textures, or smell good (a hankie with a drop of perfume, etc.), or things that can be crinkled ripped, folded and tossed like waxed paper, etc.

As your baby becomes proficient at sitting up without support, he will start leaning over to pick up toys that interest him. If a toy is out of reach, he may even scoot or crawl to get what he wants. Then he will sit up so he can play with his toy. The box provides motivations for him to learn the gross motor skills he'll need to play with the interesting things he finds.


9-12 Months: Conquer the Mountain

stairs
{Photo by Sean Dreilinger}
Regardless if there are stairs in your home, your baby should learn the safe way to go up and down them. This game will provide a fun experience for him to learn to do so safely. It's best to play this game on carpeted stairs, but beggars can't be choosers! If your stairs aren't carpeted, keep a close eye and a steady hand nearby. (If your baby isn't a strong crawler yet, you may want to shelve this activity for a while.)

Begin by placing him on his hands and knees at the bottom of the stairs, adding a favorite toy two or three steps above his reach. Tell him to "go up the mountain and get the toy!". If need be, hold on to his waist so he feels secure. If he's feeling confident, encourage him to head to the top.

Praise your mountain climber for being so big and strong. Repeat this several times a day for a week before you allow him to try climbing the stairs on his own. Climbing up the stairs is an act of balance and coordination he will need to safely master.

When he's accomplished the "climb up the mountain", teach him how to "slide down the mountain". Start on the couch by setting cushions in a stair-step pattern up the couch. Let your baby play on the three levels and practice moving forward and upward.

Teach him to turn around on the couch and slide down the "steps" on his tummy. When he's accomplished this, have him slide down a few steps on his tummy. Don't forget, you are also a great "mountain" for him to practice climbing and sliding down!


12-18 Months: Follow Me!


If your baby is already toddling, you can do this activity on your own. If she needs "finger assistance", it is best to do this activity with an older child or adult to provide encouragement and help.

Find a small stuffed animal that your baby enjoys playing with. Tie one end of a long string (5-6 feet) around the animal. Place the animal near your baby, taking the string and moving out of sight.

As your baby moves towards the animal, pull the string so animal moves out of reach. (At this point, another person could either help your infant practice her walking towards the animal, encouraging your baby "Let's catch the lion! Look! There it goes!")

Pull the string through your house or apartment, guiding her through various rooms before congratulating her on "catching" the animal at the end.

heather's hints

Make a May Parfait

yogurt
{Photo by Sifu Renka}

There are fewer things as healthy for your baby as yogurt. Add a little fruit and your little one will be begging for seconds. This recipe can be used to feed an infant as young as 6 months old (leaving out the wheat germ).

You can use the store bought yogurt below for a quicker meal, but if you're feeling adventurous, check out this crockpot recipe for making homemade yogurt. I've not tried it myself yet, but it's on the list!

If you don't have a crockpot, the book Super Baby Food has instructions on how to make yogurt (and frozen yogurt) from home using your oven. You can see Super Baby Food reviewed here.

Also, to speed things up I've listed jarred fresh mango (found in the produce section of your local grocery store). Feel free to substitute fresh mango instead. If using fresh mangoes is new to you, see how to cut a fresh mango (it can be a bit complicated).

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Ingredients and Directions

  • 3-4 Tbs, full fat plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup mango, Del Monte jarred
  • 1 Tbs Wheat Germ
If your baby is younger than 8 months and being spoon fed, puree the mango with a little water until smooth before using. If your baby is older than 8 months, dice the mango into small pieces that can easily slide whole down your babies throat.

In a small clear plastic cup layer the yogurt and the mango. Repeat once and top with sprinkled wheat germ. If your spoon feeding your younger baby, swirl the mango so there is a pretty contrast of white and yellow in the bowl. (You could even point the colors out while you're feeding.)

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Freezer Notes

Unbeknown to many, yogurt can be frozen in its original container for up to 6 weeks. Yogurt bacteria will survive the freezing process. Mango puree can be frozen for up to 10 months. To prevent discoloration, add a little lemon juice (citrus is approved for babies older than 12 months).

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Age Notes

  • Infants as young as 6 months can eat mango puree.
  • Whole milk yogurt can be given to babies as young as 6 months old. If there is a dairy allergy in your family, you should look for yogurt made from other kinds of milk (soy, nut, etc.) or make your own non-cow yogurt at home. If there are no dairy allergies in your family, doctor's agree that feeding your infant cow's-milk yogurt is fine, but cow's milk should not be given until your infant is a year old.
  • If there are no wheat or gluten allergies in your family, your baby can eat wheat germ at 8 months (otherwise wait until he's at least a year old).

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Nutrition Notes

cup
{Photo by efilpera}
Yogurt is a must-have first food for your baby. Althought it is an excellent source of calcium, protein, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, and vitamin B12, it is the living bactiera (called Acidophilus) that makes it so wonderful for your baby (and for you).

This good bacteria fights the bad bacteria found in the intestines. It sooths stomach ailments and helps in digestion. It is even proven that babies who frequently eat yogurt have less diarrhea.

Antibiotics common kill friendly intestinal flora, yogurt replaces those, so many doctors recommend eating 2 servings of yogurt every day you (or your baby) is on an antibiotic. It will help prevent diaper rashes (a symptom of missing flora in the intestines).

Mangoes are high in Vitamin A, (beta carotene) C, and D. They are also considered antiviral: mango juice poured into a test tube with live viruses actually deactivates them.

Wheat Germ is a high fiber food that also carries a big protein punch for your babies growing brain and bones. Trace minerals are also present and necessary for well-rounded infant health.

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How to Get Your Baby to Try Something New

Most babies are not "adventurers" in regards to their foods. They tend to like a few things a lot and prefer to stick with those. Don't be swayed! A diet that varies will give your infant the best balanced nutrition. Here are some tips to introduce new foods.
  • Start with a favorite food, like applesauce. Then offer every-other-bite with the new food.
  • Take the new food, and place a little inside his favorite food. Over a period of days, increase the "mix in" amount as he gets used to the new taste.
  • Spread some of the new food on his tray, letting him touch and taste it at his own speed.
Remember that, statistically, you'll have to introduce this food to him at least 7 times before he is used to it. Stick with it, and he'll come around.
If you are interested in making your own baby food at home (and saving hundreds every year), I've reviewed several of the best "how to" books on the market. You can read these baby-food book reviews here.


recalls

There have been 11 recalls since the last Merry Mother was published in April. Just as a reminder, these are all pdf documents. You will need a PDF Reader installed on your computer to read them. If you don't have one, you can download Adobe Acrobat Reader for free at this site.

Although these reports are always free, they take a lot of work to update every month. Please consider giving a small donation in return for the reports. $1, $2, $5...the amount is really irrelevant. I just appreciate the gesture! After all, I've a family to feed too!


Toys Recalled


Pacifiers, Teethers, and Rattles


High Chairs and Booster Seats


Bassinets and Portable Cribs


Playpens and Play Yards


Dangerous Cribs


Clothes and Shoes


Medicine

closing

A Mom Moment for May

I'm a sucker for beautiful photography. Take a deep breath and lose yourself in this month's photo. Of course, if you're looking for more of these "moments", visit the Mom Moment Page.

mom moment
{Photo by dreamscapes}


What Makes a Mom?

I have know idea where these came from originally, but they've found themselves in my Inbox recently and I had to share them. Several elementary school-age children were asked questions about their moms. Here's what they said:

Why did God make mothers?

  • She's the only one who knows where the scotch tape is.
  • Mostly to clean the house.
  • To help us out of there when we were getting born.

How did God make mothers?

  • He used dirt, just like for the rest of us.
  • Magic plus super powers and a lot of stirring.
  • God made my mom just the same like he made me. He just used bigger parts.

What ingredients are mothers made of?

  • God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of mean.
  • They had to get their start from men's bones. Then they mostly use string I think.

Why did God give you your mother and not some other mom?

  • We're related.
  • God knew she likes me a lot more than other people's moms like me.

What kind of little girl was your mom?

  • My mom has always been my mom and none of that other stuff.
  • I don't know because I wasn't there, but my guess would be pretty bossy.
  • They say she used to be nice.

What would it take to make your mom perfect?

  • On the inside she's already perfect. Outside, I think some kind of plastic surgery.
  • Diet. You know, her hair. I'd diet, maybe blue.

If you could change one thing about your mom, what would it be?

  • She has this weird thing about me keeping my room clean. I'd get rid of that.
  • I'd make my mom smarter. Then she would know it was my sister who did it and not me.

Know Someone with a Baby?

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Thank You Readers!

I hope you've enjoyed reading the May issue of The Merry Mother. The next issue will be published on June 2nd.

Thank you so much for reading and subscribing to this online magazine. It is a labor of love. I'm happy to know others enjoy reading it as much as I do writing it.

My growing subscriber list shows that you have been sharing it with your friends, and for that, I am deeply grateful. After all, this online magazine is focused on one thing: helping us all become merrier mothers - because merry mothers = merry babies!

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P.S. Be sure to check back at The Essential Infant Resource for Moms, your friend-next-door for questions-answered, stories-told, and laughs-had.

Newsletter Archives

All the previous editions have been archived and are available for you to examine at your leisure.

You can find the link to this page at the Merry Mothers Only Page.



Balancing
Baby and Home

May, 2009

Declutter Tip #14

Baby steps to a clean house...

Set a kitchen timer for fifteen minutes and designate an area to declutter or clean (like that smelly fridge!).

When the buzzer's up, you're done. Do this 3-4 times a day and you'll be amazed at the progress you'll have made!

Get More Free
Tips From
Declutter Mastery

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garden path

Click on the path above to enter the Subscriber's Only Section.