Parenting

By The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Published April 19, 2007 at 2:55 a.m.
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— 'I hate my husband's friend' By Denene Millner

Q: My husband's best friend is obnoxious, and it seems like he's at our house practically every weekend. How do I get rid of him?

A: Here's the thing: You have every right not to like this guy or want him around, but your husband has every right to have a pal. Plenty of us have friends our men don't care for, but woe to him who's crazy enough to try to keep us apart. So what right have we to tell our husbands they can't have the same kind of companionship we want?

But you can accept your husband's choice of friends and still take your house back. Go ahead and set some limits on how often friends - whether it's his weekend grubber or your own gossip pal - can stop by. And when his buddy comes over, why don't you go out and have a little "me" time of your own while they watch the kids? Or you both could agree to get your friend fixes outside the house - the two of them can catch a movie or meet for drinks; you could set aside a night every week or so to do something similar with your friends. Together, you can decide when is the best time to have houseguests - and limit it to a few times a month. But mind you, when his friend does come over, you'll have to fix your face - no pouting or whining about how he eats all the chips or laughs too loud.

Myth Busters By Laura Flynn McCarthy

Avoid eating spicy and gassy foods if you're breast-feeding. The truth: Don't bother. Spicy foods (like hot salsa) and gassy ones (such as beans) rarely affect babies, said Dr. Joan Younger Meek, assistant professor of pediatrics at Florida State University in Tallahassee. If your diet is healthy, stick to it; this'll help your baby get used to the flavors of the household. If he cries more than usual or has loose stools after you eat certain foods, then avoid them and see if the symptoms go away. If they don't, talk to his doctor.

When your child bites her tongue By Lisa McElroy

Mouth wounds bleed a lot, but they're usually not as bad as they look. Try to keep your child (and yourself) calm - a hug and a quiet voice go a long way with kids. There's no need to call the pediatrician unless the bite goes all the way through. Just:

◊Rinse her tongue with cold water if there's dirt or food in her mouth.

◊Apply cold pressure with ice or - even better - a frozen fruit bar. (If her tongue is still bleeding after 30 minutes, call the doc.)

◊Offer soft foods for a day or two, and try to avoid anything acidic.

◊Be patient. Most wounds heal within seven to 10 days, and it's rare for tongue bites to become infected.

Drop-in daycare checklist By Jeannette Moninger

The child-care facilities at many health clubs, supermarkets, and malls make life easier for you - and they're fun for your kids. But unlike regular day-care centers, most aren't state-regulated, so there's no official way to look into their safety. It's up to you to check for:

◊An identification policy: ID should be required when parents both drop off and pick up their kids.

Most centers will requireyour child to wear a wristband with his name and your name on it.

Always leave a contact number at the desk in case he needs help.

◊Red Flags: Check that the place is clean and childproof. And are the caregivers attentive?

◊A plan for potty break: Many centers don't allow caregivers to change diapers or assist kids in the bathroom. If yours doesn't, make sure your child goes (or has a clean diaper) before you leave him.

Family downtime By Denene Millner

There's school, homework to be done, hair to be washed and braided, play dates to honor, birthday parties to attend. Ballet and gymnastics and track. Hardly a minute of my family's time goes unscheduled, and when we do get a breather, we often spend it planning the next activities.

Sympathetic to our plight - and the frantic look on my face when I saw her recently - my friend Val made a simple but revolutionary observation: "You need some family downtime." At Val's house, that means Saturday mornings, when she, her husband, and their three kids go without answering the phone and doorbell, and forsake all invitations, activities, chores, and sometimes even brushing their teeth, to sit around in their pajamas, reading, watching TV, or napping. "This," she said, "is the way my family stays sane."

So, taking a cue from Val, our clan is now carving out nonnegotiable blocks of uninterrupted, lazy bliss on Sundays, during which we spend the morning and early afternoon inhaling Nick's cinnamon-honey waffles, thumbing through The New York Times (we read the kid-friendly stories to the little ones), watching a favorite movie, and eventually putting on clothes just clean enough to present ourselves for an early dinner at our local pizza buffet. No invitations or phone calls accepted. Just us having a good ol' quiet, relaxing time. Together.

Steal one (or all!) of the following mom-approved approaches to getting an unpressured retreat your family will treasure.

SHUT OUT THE WORLD

Don't bother inviting the Hunter family to a Fridaynight event: Jessica, Scott, and their kids, Abby, 5, and Sam, 4, have another bash to attend: their Friday Night Party, during which they do marathons of activities at home -- watching movies back-to-back, buckets of popcorn in hand; playing kidfriendly board games; having family slumber parties in the living room. Anything goes, so long as it's inexpensive and they're "focusing on each other and being happy," said the Des Moines mom.

This, she admits, isn't always an easy feat. "I don't let myself relax when there's work to be done," she said.

"It is sometimes hard for me when I get home on Friday and the house is a mess.

"But I force myself to stop obsessing and tell myself: 'I am going to take care of this stuff tomorrow. Focus on Abby and Sam.'"

Putting the laundry off to party with your husband and kids can be well worth it.

An easy dinner will be more than satisfying, especially if you serve it up as a picnic outside or on a sheet laid out on the family-room floor.

One summer night the Hunters played flashlight hideand-seek in the dark with their kids, then sat around talking about nothing in particular until bedtime. "It was perfect," Hunter said.

You can even take the party on the road.

Dede King and her husband, Greg, who live in Brownsville, Penn., jot down ideas for activities they'd like to do with their four kids and put them in a bin marked "Friday Box."

Then the kids take turns each week picking what the family will do over the weekend.

They might go to a drivein movie, play mini-golf, hit the local park to play baseball or the library for some new books to read to one another, or roast marshmallows in the fireplace.

"We all look forward to that time together," King said.

Their family and friends all know about the ritual, and the only time it gets canceled is if there's an emergency or the kids have had a "bad behavior week."

If you want to try this, let your child choose some activities so she feels that her ideas are represented. But be sure to include activities that appeal to you and your husband, too, and make it clear that no matter what's picked, no one can complain, because even if the activity she wanted isn't chosen this week, it may be next week.

MESS WITH MEALS

Just as kids find comfort in routines, they also take special delight in seeing those routines turned on their heads. So one way to tug the family out of the humdrum together is to tweak something you do every day: eat. Try this some weekend night: Everybody gets to eat whatever he wants (junk is totally allowed) - no questions asked.

The only rule is that everyone has to pick from what's already in the refrigerator (or from takeout menus if the cupboard is bare); that way, no one has to make grocery-store runs or pick up dinner.

Relax - one night will be neither harmful nor habitforming, just a much-needed cooking break for you and something memorable your family did together.

Some easy ways to spin the everyday into a mini-event:

◊Eat a cozy dinner by candlelight. (Soup and toast boosts the fun by keeping cooking minimal.)

◊Hold a "kids cook" night. Our girls help plan the menu and then whip up dinner while I serve as the "consultant." Then I'm their "assistant" when they're measuring ingredients and sauteing and plating dinner. An added benefit? Since they picked it, Mari, 7, and Lila, 4, devour it.

JUST PLAY

Bowling. Touch football. Soccer. Kickball. They're all sports activities that little kidsand the kid in us-can have fun with starting at very young ages. You'll get your hearts pumping, and collapsing together in exhaustion afterward can be a nice time for a quiet family chat (or nap!).

The key: Keep it simple and laid-back.

◊Take the basketball out into the driveway and shoot into the garbage can.

◊See who can kick the soccer ball the farthest, or the highest, or in the silliest way.

◊Pick out targets around your yard or in the park and play Frisbee golf, trying to hit trees or other stationary objects.

◊Fill your driveway with a huge chalk-drawn hopscotch board. (Mari and Lila decorate ours with flowers and butterflies, and then laugh as Nick tosses his rock and feigns awkwardness as he bounces from box to box.) Square off in a snowball fight, or see who can make the most perfect snow angel ever. (Decide from the window afterward while sipping hot chocolate.)

None The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette can be reached at news@arkansasonline.com.