Car advice every woman should know

Car expert Jody DeVere of AskPatty.com became a single mom over night. She always had been interested in cars, but never knew much about the mechanics until her husband passed away. Now that Jody didn’t have someone to call on anymore, it became her job to make sure my car was tuned up and trouble-free.

Because she likes to take her kids out camping alone, Jodi knew that having a breakdown could be really dangerous. “I wanted to still be independent and to take them on adventures, so I started gaining knowledge about how to take care of my car. I learned how to change a tire and more about how the engine works. Not I always have jumper cables, and I always keep spare oil in the car.”

he also learned that if you properly maintain your car, you can make it last for a really long time.

How to Maintain Your Car to Make it Last

A car manufacturer has a very large staff of engineers who design vehicles to run optimally for a very long time if they are serviced regularly. Those services must be performed in the interval that they recommend to keep you safe and to keep you from breakdowns.

1.  Tires

Tires are the only separating you from the pavement, so it’s important to make sure they are in good condition. Ensure that your tires have good tread and are inflated properly, and if you live in an area with harsh winters, make sure you have all-weather tires. You can find out the correct tire pressure for your car on the inside panel of the driver’s door.

2.  Fluids

Get regular oil changes, of course. But also regularly check your wiper fluid, transmission fluid and brake fluid and make sure they are still good and new. All the fluids are usually labeled under the hood and have visible fill lines on their containers, making it even easier to check them. Anytime you get your car serviced, go ahead and ask them to top off or check your fluids.

3.  Windshield Wipers

Wipers that are not operating properly cause visual problems in rainy, foggy or snowy weather. Check them at least every six months because most of them are made out of rubber, and they do crack and rot. Changing windshield wipers is easier than you may think and can be done in less than 10 minutes.

4.  Brakes

Brakes are a very important safety feature of the car, so check them regularly and have them maintained. If you hear any noises when you’re braking, schedule an appointment with your mechanic. It may just be a little bit of moisture on your breaks, but it could be something more serious, and in matters of brakes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

5.  Owner’s Manual

Most people don’t read their owner’s manual when they buy a car, and then don’t know what to do if they get locked out or set off the alarm. Learn about your cars features and make a note of specific service intervals. You’ll save yourself a lot of angst if you do.

How to Avoid Being Ripped off by a Mechanic

You know where you’re getting your hair done. You know where you’re getting your nails done. You know where you’re taking your children to the doctor. So in my eyes, you also need to know where you’re going to be taking your car for a repair, or if you have an emergency. If you do that in advance of a car emergency, you can avoid putting yourself in a vulnerable position and avoid being ripped off.

1. Is the shop certified?

Is the shop that you’re taking it to ASE or AAA Certified? This means that they have certified master automotive technicians working there. Find out how many master technicians they have working there. If you choose to go to an independent shop instead, make sure that they have no marks against them with the Better Business Bureau.

2. Are they showing you the problems, instead of just telling you?

If you’re at a shop and they want to change your rotors or break pads, and you don’t think they need to be changed, they should be bringing those out and showing them to you. They should give you all the parts that they changed if you ask for them, so you can see that they are worn down.

3. Have you gone to the best place for your car?

If you bought your car from a dealership, that’s probably the best place to take it. You’ve already established a relationship with them, may have met the service team and they know the most about your new car. If you bought the car from a private owner and are taking it to an independent shop, then really make sure you understand the skill set at that shop. You want to make sure the persons that you’re working with are specialists in your vehicle make and with that problem.

How to Get a Great Deal in a Car Lot

A lot of women have a feeling that they’ll be taken advantage of by a car dealer. And that can be the case, if you don’t do your homework. There is so much information available to us, especially on the internet. You can actually find out the invoice cost that the dealer has and even what the incentives that are being offered on your vehicle.

1.  Pay attention to the contract you are signing

Don’t rush when reading the contract. It’s okay to take your time to make sure you understand it. For example, make sure you’re not paying for a 100,000 mile extended warranty because it’s a waste of money.

2.  Know your credit status.

You may be surprised to hear this, but dealers don’t make a lot of profit on new cars. They make their money on financing. This is where you have to do some research in advance. Go to your bank, run your own credit, understand what your credit score is and what you can qualify for in advance. That way, when the dealer gives you a financing offer, you’ll know whether you can talk them down or not.

3.  A car is the second biggest purchase that most people make, so make it a good one.

When considering a car, I think it’s very important to take a good test drive, and I’m not talking about driving around the block. Take it on the highway and see how it does. Rent the car for a week to get a feel for it. Really do a walk around, sit in the backseat, sit in the passenger’s seat, open up all the compartments, open the trunk, use all the latches, see how everything looks and get a good feel for it.

4.  You can avoid buyer’s remorse by simply taking some time to do your homework.

Go to a lot of dealers over a weekend or over a couple weeks and check out similar models. Go through the internet sales department before you even come into the dealership. You will save money working with the fleet manager, and you will save time because you will have done a number of steps before you get there. All of these factors will help you have an easy, comfortable and positive experience.

At the end of the day, it’s all about educating yourself, empowering yourself, and staying in touch with what’s important. It takes a little bit of effort, but the money you’ll save and the peace of mind you’ll have will make it all worth it.

Are you ready to educate yourself? Check out the following resources to get started.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

It Never Hurts to Ask
Visit AskPatty, the one-stop source for women to learn the ins and outs of car buying, safety and repair.

Perfect Match
Find your “car soulmate” at CarTango, a handy site that helps you decide what you should and could be driving.
The Car Chicks
AskPatty’s panel of auto-savvy ladies will help you find an answer to any car issue you may have.

4 tips for organizing kiddos

When I was a kid, one of four in my house who were in a race to see how quickly our parents could go nuts, my mother had an interesting approach to organizing our clutter.

She’d pick it up, walk calmly to the front door, and toss it all out on the lawn.

Shoes, back packs, books, toys – she would stop at nothing. We’d think it was hilarious, run out after our stuff, bring it back inside and drop it right where it was before… by the front door daring our dad to enter without breaking his neck.

Our parents eventually gave in to living in a perpetual state of disarray, and now that I do my family’s dishes and my family’s laundry and get my family’s mail and coordinate my family’s schedules, I can sort of grasp why giving up is easier than keeping up.
If only my mom had met the Organizing Junkie.

Laura, author of the uber-popular blog I’m an Organizing Junkie, has a peace of mind and bits of organizational wisdom that can turn madhouses into places of calm and tranquility – as far as the stuff in them is concerned.

Unlike Martha Stewart, who is so organized it’s artful, Laura gets that life happens, that personalities come with their own ideas, and that, despite it all, the clutter must be contained.

“I try not to be too uptight about it,” she said. “When you have three kids, you have to have a little give and take. I try to set up my systems so that they’re all user friendly for everybody and so that they can all take part in it without it being too high maintenance.”

Laura has a few secrets up her sleeve when it comes to containing kiddie clutter.

Adopt the “Toy Room Rule.”

Designate rooms for toys, and make sure your kids don’t cart their entertainment from room to room. Living room toys stay in the living room, playroom toys stay in the play room. Laura says you’ll be amazed at how this little rule helps you get a handle on little mess-makers.

Create a “Closet Library.”

Kids clothes aren’t usually long enough to fill the bottom of the closet, so make use of this space by adding a bookcase and storing their books.

Corral with containers.
Create easy homes for things in bedrooms, bathrooms, anywhere with containers. Containers teach kids that there are limits and boundaries and teach them how to make difficult decisions and prioritize their wants.

Keep it easy and accessible.
Create storage for things that are accessible to your children and won’t set them up for failure. If they can’t get easily follow the system, they won’t, and then they won’t understand the value of being organized.

Living an organized life means accepting that organization, like life, is a never ending process.

Take Laura’s backpack station, for example. As the year shifts from summer to back to school, she is constantly updating her front door corral to meet her family’s needs. As summer fades to fall and into a Canadian winter, space dedicated to shoes goes through seasons as well.

“I no sooner get things set up, and I have to rework it,” Laura said. “But once you taste that sense of accomplishment and experience having that organized drawer, that’s really powerful and that feeling is what I’m addicted to. That sense of accomplishment from one project will inspire you to do other projects.”

For Laura, being organized at home makes her life much more manageable. She said her family is able to function better when it’s operating in a place of order, and that helps her feel calm during even the most chaotic storms.

Feeling like you need more of an organizing fix? Check out Laura’s I’m an Organizing Junkie blog!

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Keep it Off the Floor!
At the Lillian Vernon online home store, you can buy cute yet functional organizing accessories for the kids’ room.

Crafty—But Clean
At Family Fun, you can find tons of family craft projects that double as storage and organizing pieces, like a pocket wall organizer made from plain curtains!

Regain Your Sanity With NAPO
Contact the National Association of Professional Organizers to find a specialist who’ll help you get your life back in order!

Neat or Not?
HGTV organizing guide will help you control your clutter, once and for all.

Crazy Adventures in Parenting
A blog about raising 6 children living in the military

What mommy means

When you’re out and about and you see another mother, for whatever reason, there’s an instant connection. You know, that glimpse and half smile you give to a woman whose changing a diaper or that accidental buffer we form around pregnant women in crowds.

As different as our lives may be, and unique and special as our own children are, there is something about being a mommy that is almost cliche it’s so universal.

Only moms understand what mommy means and that to earn the privilege of the title means you’ve made the shift from selfish to willing to die for another human being without ever really considering it.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Mission Impossible
Give up on being mother of the year (they think you already are) and relish in your perfect flaws at Imperfect Parent.

Some Friendly Advice
Rebecca Odes and Ceridwen Morris have been in various stages of pregnancy or new momdom for 5 years running. The two friends created a go-to site offering decent, open-minded and agenda-free advice at The New Mom.

Productive Parenting
From infants to young adults and everything tween, Parenting.org offers tips and advice to help your child be all you wish you could have been and all she is capable of.

A Lactation Education
Get news, product information, how-to videos and a hearty laugh from the women of Breastfeeding.com.

Potty training… A laughing matter

Want a recipe for potty training success?

Here goes: one sturdy toilet, an infinite amount of patience, and a good sense of humor. That’s exactly what Sheila used when training her two boys.

“Potty training was frustrating, but for us, it was also funny,” she said. “It’s so hard to teach them how to do it, but if you can make it light-hearted, the frustration will go away.”

Being able to laugh definitely helped keep the accidents from becoming exasperating, not just for Sheila but also for her two boys. She remembered how anxious her little brother would get when he was potty training and had an accident, and she didn’t want to make her boys feel the same tension.

“My parents never punished my brother or anything, but there was still the fear and the embarrassment,” Sheila said. “My kids, I guess they just don’t have that because we made it so much fun.”

Here are 4 techniques that Sheila and her fiance use to make potty training fun:

1. Introduce them to the toilet.

By using the potty in front of her sons when they were about 2 years old, Sheila and her fiancé were able to show her sons the purpose of the toilet. She also got them involved in its function by letting them flush afterward. “The fun part was always flushing because they liked the sound and they liked watching it go down,” she said. “They had fun with that.”

Dumping diaper messes into the potty also helped her boys understand that, oh, that’s where that stuff goes.

2. Give them a target.

Cereal’s not just for breakfast anymore. Throw a couple Cheerios or Fruit Loops into the toilet and give little boys a target. “It’s a little game so it’s fun, but at the same time it’s teaching them to pee in the water and not all along the side of the toilet,” Sheila said. “Very helpful, especially for boys.”

3. Track their progress.

Sheila made a progress chart and bought some stickers so that each time one of her boys went pee or poop successfully they could celebrate by decorating their chart.

“Praise was really important to my boys,” she said. “When they’d finish going, they’d say, ‘I want stickers.’ They loved the progress chart.”

4. Communicate your strategies with others.

Since Sheila and her fiancé were enrolled in school full time, her twin boys had to go to daycare or to their grandparents house sometimes during the course of potty training. She explained the strategies and reward systems they were using and also got some helpful tips from the daycare. “We were surprised to find that the daycare kind of potty trained them by taking them to the bathroom as often as possible,” she said. “They also said a lot of times they use washing hands as an excuse for them to go potty. The teachers reiterated what we were doing at home, and we reiterated what the teachers do at daycare.”

It’s very important to communicate with whoever is taking care of the children, whether it’s the parents or the grandparents or a babysitter or the child-care center. If it’s the same routine, then the kids will be more comfortable that way.

Potty training hasn’t just given Sheila’s twin sons a sense of accomplishment, but it’s also made her feel proud of her boys – even if she is sad that the independence means they’re growing up.

“It makes me feel like I’m doing it right, or at least I’m doing something right,” she said. “I’m really happy and really relieved that they’re potty trained, but at the same time they’re getting closer to growing up. They’re not babies anymore.”

For more help with potty training, check out these resources we’ve found, including one with a sticker chart just like Sheila’s.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Toddler Terror
About.com’s resident pediatrician teaches you the best ways to deal with your formerly-sweet bundle of joy.

Be A Pampers Parent
Get advice from Caroline and other parent experts at the Pampers Parenting Institute, where you can find information on your toddler, preschooler or infant.

The Potty Place
At Let’s Talk Potty Training, the experts at Pampers offer advice, videos from other potty training mommies and even printable toilet-time activities to share with your toddler.

The reality of a natural childbirth

Linda and her husband were beyond excited when they found out they were pregnant. As they got farther along, Linda became deeply aware of what her body was doing and decided in her second trimester that she wanted a natural childbirth.

“Pregnancy was a really wonderful and interesting experience,” she said. “I got very involved with prenatal yoga, and I learned so much about pregnancy and about infancy and motherhood from my yoga experience.”

To prepare for labor, Linda used a yoga technique called Sat Nam. In Sat Nam, you close your eyes and focus on what’s called your third eye point, which is the point between and above your two eyes. With “Sat,” you breathe in, and with “Nam” you breathe out. It’s intended to take your focus off of everything else and in turn help you to not think about the pain.

“By doing the Sat Nam breathing, I realized, ‘Wow, I can do this,’” Linda said. “I took that attitude with me into the delivery room to get through my contractions, and it worked.”

Although friends and family were shocked at their decision to go natural, Linda and her husband were looking forward to it. Their original ob/gyn wasn’t supportive of their decision, so far along in her pregnancy, Linda sought out a new doctor. She looked for one that relied on midwives first and had a hospital at the ready should anything go terribly wrong. Even late in her pregnancy she was able to find the right doctor to accept her as a patient, and that made settling into a natural birth much easier.

Linda’s water broke at four in the morning, and after that, she said things got incredibly intense. She went from being two centimeters dilated to her son, Zachary, being born in two hours.

Linda said the doctors and nurses were astounded at how quickly the delivery was, and Linda was amazed at how alert her newborn baby boy, Zachary, was. When they laid him on her belly, he squirmed his tiny little body right up to her breast, following his instincts that weren’t dulled from medication.

“Being able to have a natural child birth was the most amazing, beautiful, wonderful experience I could have ever imagined,” Linda said. “While it certainly wasn’t easy, it was worth it. I was so aware of what was going on with him and in my body, and he came out healthy and alert. We were able to start bonding immediately. It was incredible.”

If you’re thinking of going the natural route, BabyCenter has answers to all your questions, including the most popular, “How bad will it hurt?” Also, take a look at these helpful resources:

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Talk It Over
Visit the forums at NaturalChildbirth.org to discuss birth plans, find midwives or doulas, and even learn a few of the yoga moves Linda used in her delivery.

The Bump Project
A hilarious blog about baby bumps, bump fashion and the celebrities who race to lose their baby weight at ungodly speeds.

Making Plans
Baby on the way and no where to turn? Not if you’ve got a Planned Parenthood in your community. Find information, support and prenatal care (even if you’re uninsured) no matter what your decision.

Just a Little Pregnant
Julie talks about infertility, in vitro and proud parenthood in this amusing, inspiring online journal.

Is organizing a gateway drug to happiness?

We’re all addicted to something. We might as well admit it.

Some of us are addicted to sweets, some of us are addicted to attention, some of us are addicted to shoes, and some of us are addicted to television.

Whatever your vice, wouldn’t it be nice if you could get your fix and organize your junk drawer at the same time?

That’s how it is for Laura, a self-diagnosed Organizing Junkie.

A mother of three, Laura wasn’t always an order addict. In fact when she was growing up she admits to being a bit of a clutter bug. But necessity is the mother of, well, in this case, organization.

“It’s very calming for me to organize,” she said. “If I was having a bad day or something, I would just want to close the door, dump a drawer and focus in. I know that sounds crazy, but being able to focus in on sorting and purging, I could forget about everything else. I felt so much better afterwards.”

Like any good junkie, Laura helps others who share her condition (and some who wish they did) get a fix with her blog, I’m an Organizing Junkie. Started as a way to connect with other adults when her youngest son was 6 months old, the blog has become an online haven for those looking for the next must-have container or backpack station solutions.

“I had no idea what I was going to blog about,” she said. “I mean, my life is just not that exciting. But I went with what I’m so passionate about, and after a couple months, I realized what an amazing community of women bloggers are out there and it was exciting to see that they were responding to what I was saying about organizing. It really motivated me to do more.”

Laura implemented events on Organizing Junkie to inspire other mothers contain the madness that is life. She’s run 30-day organizational challenges to help women tackle specific areas of their homes and hosted basket carnivals to share new and interesting storage ideas.

Most popular of all her events, however, is Menu Plan Monday, a web-wide collection of more than 300 weekly answers to the ever-pressing question, “What’s for dinner?”

“Menu planning is one of the best places to start with the organizing process,” said Laura. “The brain space that menu planning frees up is incredible and incredibly worth it. Not having to have that moment of panic at 4 o’clock every day about what you’re going to cook is amazing. You don’t have to have that stress if you’ve already planned it out on Sunday or Monday. It makes life so much easier.”

While menu planning may seem like a chore, the way Laura approaches it really does make it addictive. She’s built a community of share and tell, and the enthusiasm is enough to get you motivated without making you feel like a loser for avoiding it all this time. You’ll sit down to plan your menu for a week, and the next thing you know you’re organizing your recipes. Then the spice rack catches your eye and you go into “the zone.”

Laura makes organizing as fun for everyone else as it is for her, partly because of her practical approach to it and partly because of her owning up to being borderline freakish in her passion for it. It’s this good humor that keeps you coming back for more — that and the fact that you’ve just discovered the chaos underneath your bathroom sink and you have no idea where to begin.

“Organization is a process,” Laura said. “I no sooner get things set up the way I like them, and I’ll have to rework it.”

Because it is such a process, Laura has devised an acronym (aptly named P-R-O-C-E-S-S) to help aspiring junkies give in to organization.

Plan of attack.
Plan your project – which area(s) do you want to address – make a list – evaluate your present system, what is working, what isn’t working, devise a new system – determine budget – develop timeline .

Remove items.
Start from a clean slate – empty the space completely – remove then sort & purge

Organize into piles.
Donate/toss/sell/keep/relocate – sort like with like – purge excess – the more you purge the less you have to find a home

Containerize.
Find storage solutions – containers establish limits and boundaries – designate a space for items being kept – consolidate.

Evaluate your plan.
How is your system working for you – are you able to work your system? What needs to be modified? A good system should be easy to maintain

Solve/simplify anything that isn’t working for you and revise accordingly

Smile, relax and enjoy your hard work!

Sometimes the hardest part is just getting started, but Laura insists that there is no wrong way to organize.

“There’s no one right system,” she said. “It’s what works for you. Just because I’m showing you how I do something doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. Certainly start there and then tweak it as you go along. There’s no way to mess it up really. If it’s working, if you are able to feel that sense of knowing where something is and the calmness that comes with that and it’s being maintained by the family in an easy way, that’s good. Go with it.”

For more from Laura on organizing kids, including staving off your inner organizing junkie fits that come from the messes they make, visit her blog I’m an Organizing Junkie.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Old Habits Die Hard
Figure out how to take your home from disorder to order with this blog by organizing consultant Megan Spears. (Read: FREE HELP!)

Lazy Fixes
Follow the Lazy Organizer as she tries to make sense of the chaos in her home despite a tendency to relax.

Organizing Made Simple
Real Simple magazine arrives in the mailbox and suddenly that endless stack of bills doesn’t seem as powerful. Enjoy these simple solutions from the online version of this way-too-good reading material!

The Queen Bee
South African Marcia Francois proves that organizing isn’t just an American phenomenon with her blog Organizing Queen.

Baby Get Green
One woman’s tips on living a greener and more organized life.

A Woman’s Guide to Saner Living
A site about inspiration and making choices to help live the best possible life.

3 essential potty training tools

Fara thought that having an older son would make potty training easier for her little boy. But she quickly learned that it’s not always easier the second time around.

Her first son was very cooperative through potty training and caught on fairly quickly, but her younger son, even though he wants to be just like his big brother in every other way, wasn’t as eager to use the big boy bathroom.

“My younger son plays the games his brother likes, he wants do to karate like his brother, everything, but he hasn’t been working with us to potty train like I thought he would,” Fara said. “We know he has to go, and he knows he has to go, but he’s so playful and energetic that it’s been a challenge to get him to stop playing and go to the restroom. We’ve learned a lot this time around.”

1. Rely on family and friends for help and ideas.

Fara said her mom has provided a lot of help this time around, especially because Fara works full time. Her mom takes her son to the bathroom every half hour or every hour, and Fara said she was so grateful for that suggestion and those she’s received from other moms.

“It’s also useful when you talk to other moms who can share tips about what worked for them,” she said. “Somebody might have a different idea than you do and if yours gets old, you might try something new.”

2. Invent games that make going to the bathroom fun.

Fara gets her son excited to potty by telling him to “put the fire out, you’re the fire engine.”

She also add flushable things to the toilet, like leaves or flushable toys, and lets her son practice target shooting. “He tries to point at them and that makes it a little more interesting for him to go,” she said.

3. Reward your child’s successes

When her son first started using the potty to pee, Fara would buy him little gifts, but when he went poo, she said it was a huge deal.

“We would either take him to Chuck E. Cheese or get a bigger gift so that he would feel like this was a big achievement for him,” she said. “We made sure he knew why he was getting this gift – because he went to the potty – and we would tell him that he was growing up, and if he kept doing well, he could do more of the things his brother does, like taking different classes.”

Fara admits she was hesitant at first about using rewards. She said she didn’t want to have to bribe him to do what was expected of him, but now she thinks of it more as encouragement than a prize.

“It’s more like telling him, ‘You did something very important and you’re being appreciated for it,'” she said.

Fara expects that in the next few months, her younger son will be an old pro at using the potty. In the meantime, she’s continuing to push, encourage and keep it as fun as possible.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

The Potty Place
At Let’s Talk Potty Training, the experts at Pampers offer advice, videos from other potty training mommies and even printable toilet-time activities to share with your toddler.

Toddler Terror
About.com’s resident pediatrician teaches you the best ways to deal with your formerly-sweet bundle of joy.

Productive Parenting
From infants to young adults and everything tween, Parenting.org offers tips and advice to help your child be all you wish you could have been and all she is capable of.

The Twos and Threes
Parenting Toddlers gives you useful tips on everything from maximizing your baby’s safety to avoiding mommy burnout.

7 tips for communicating with young children

Caroline is a child psychologist, but when she’s dealing with her own kids, sometimes all the knowledge she has goes out the window.

“When Isabel was first born and I was looking at her, my first thought was, ‘I have no idea what I’m doing,’” she said. “With kids, everyday is a new adventure. Every day brings new things. While my professional training has helped in those moments where I need to be patient, it’s still very different when it’s my own child.”

Because children’s brains are still developing, Caroline suggests keeping things as concrete as possible when communicating. Kids don’t pick up on subtlety and innuendo like adults do, so while a long sigh may be intended to let them know you are nearing your wit’s end, using your words will work a lot better to settle them down.

Keep these things in mind as you communicate with your children:

1. Keep things clear, concise and simple.

Sometimes, explaining and rationalizing all the reasons behind something is not helpful. Your kids don’t understand where you’re going with it, so you’re likely to lose them.

2. Have empathy for where they are.

Understand that certain things, like blowing out the candles or seeing mommy leave for work or the first day of preschool, are really big and important in their minds. Try to see life from their perspective.

3. Schedule time to catch up.

Create deadlines and intentions for things you want to accomplish with your children, just like the deadlines you have at work. Make time to find out if anything’s bothering your kids, and they’ll be more likely to approach you when they are upset.

4. Use distractions to your advantage.

The shorter and quicker you can communicate about a conflict and move on, the better. Give them something new to think about by saying, “No, you can’t do this. But let’s do this instead.”

5. Keep your messages consistent.

The more consistent you and your partner are together, the more that everyone will understand the expectations. If my husband and I are on the same page, then our kids are getting the same messages from both of us.

6. Pick your battles.

Decide what’s really important and what just isn’t. Because they are kids, some things are okay. If they want ice cream before dinner one time, it’s okay. But when it has to do with their safety or good behavior, for example, then it’s important to give it complete attention.

7. If you say ‘no,’ say it quickly and firmly.

“I’ve found that when I say no, but I feel guilty or don’t really mean it, my kids pick up on that,” Caroline said. Learn to say “no” and mean it. In our family, we have a saying: “No is no.” It’s almost like a song—and for my kids, the bottom line.

Being a professional psychologist has helped Caroline take a unique approach to parenting.

“It’s helped me look at life from my kids’ perspective,” she said. “It’s not always easy, but I feel like my husband and I are able to communicate with my kids, which makes me really happy.”

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Be A Pampers Parent
Get advice from Caroline and other parent experts at the Pampers Parenting Institute, where you can find information on your toddler, preschooler or infant.

The Twos and Threes
Parenting Toddlers gives you useful tips on everything from maximizing your baby’s safety to avoiding mommy burnout.

Toddler Terror
About.com’s resident pediatrician teaches you the best ways to deal with your formerly-sweet bundle of joy.

Mission Impossible
Give up on being mother of the year (they think you already are) and relish in your perfect flaws at Imperfect Parent.

Coping with brain drain after having a baby

Marin graduated from law school seven months pregnant and gave birth to her first child in July. She expected the shift from student to stay-at-home mom to be a transition, but she didn’t expect the mental adjustment it would require.

“I went from constantly being intellectually stimulated and busy in law school – definitely setting my own time and pace – to being not really intellectually stimulated and just physically so tired all the time,” she said. “I had no idea what kind of a strain it would be on me.”

After years building confidence through educational accomplishment, Marin found her self-esteem crumbling as she struggled with things that seemed to be a breeze for other women. How much she knew about law was completely irrelevant when it came to breastfeeding.

“Breastfeeding was so hard for me for about three months,” she said. “I put a big black X on our calendar. I was like, ‘If it still hurts by this day, that’s the day I’m stopping.’ But it got easier and easier — or maybe I got tougher and tougher.”

Marin describes motherhood by saying it “rocked my world.” The lifestyle change was so immediate and so dramatic, she had no choice but to hang on for the ride and build a new life for herself.

Marin decided to apply the problem-solving and multitasking skills she used in her education into her new role as a mother. Rather than accept loneliness and feeling drained, she began to gather information and do a little bit of research.

Here are some other tricks Marin tried to ease her way into motherhood:

  • Get some perspective.

“My mom has seen all of her kids from babyhood to adulthood,” Marin said. “When I would complain about it all, about how I was so tired, like, ‘He had to sleep with us all night long and I couldn’t even put him back in his crib,’ she would say, ‘Oh, I miss the days when I could sleep with my baby in the bed.’ Having a new baby was a golden time for her, and being able to have that perspective really did help me think.”

  • Share your experiences.

Marin said she wasn’t shy about picking up the phone and calling family whenever she needed help.

“Advice from other women was always really important to me, not because I couldn’t have gotten by without it, but just because a lot of experiences are the same, and it’s just nice to share common things,” she said. “It’s definitely reassuring.

  • Find your rhythm.

By sleeping when her son slept and giving up keeping a day planner Marin was able to more easily adjust to life with a new baby.

“Not scheduling out my time was unsual for me, but it works,” she said.

  • Seek out stimulation.

One of the most difficult aspects of switching from student to mother was the lack of mental engagement Marin could get. In school, she was used to being fed new information all the time, but at home, she had to be proactive about getting it. She joined a book club, started taking trips to the library, became a volunteer teacher at an elementary school and began blogging to keep her mind busy.

“I realized I’m in charge of feeding my brain,” she said. “It doesn’t come to you anymore. You have to reach out and look for it, but there’s so much out there that once I changed my outlook, it wasn’t bad at all.”

Although the transition from law school to motherhood was a very difficult period of adjustment, Marin has found that seeing everything through the experience of her son, Charlie, has made her life richer.

“Last Christmas felt like my first Christmas as well as his, just realizing it’s his first time seeing snow,” she said. “This summer is the first time he’s played in the sprinklers. You see things that are normal or predictable for you with a fresh set of eyes.”

If you’re feeling the need for something a little more enthralling than the latest Baby Einstein, try joining Good Reads, on online book club where you can chat, track and discover books.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Some Friendly Advice
Rebecca Odes and Ceridwen Morris have been in various stages of pregnancy or new momdom for 5 years running. The two friends created a go-to site offering decent, open-minded and agenda-free advice at The New Mom.

Productive Parenting
From infants to young adults and everything tween, Parenting.org offers tips and advice to help your child be all you wish you could have been and all she is capable of.

A Lactation Education
Get news, product information, how-to videos and a hearty laugh from the women of Breastfeeding.com.

Your New Best Friend
Debra Gilbert Rosenberg has gone three rounds with new mom mania, which is why her book, the New Mom’s Companion: Care for Yourself While You Care for Your Newborn, comes straight from the heart and speaks right to the minds of the recently blessed.

Tips for keeping school clutter in check

Cindy is a professional designer and organizational genius. And above that, she knows how stressful trying to get kids to do their homework can be. But she has a theory, well not just a theory… she has put it to the test and it works!

The truth is… Kids like routines and they like organization. They thrive in structured environments. If you can provide that for them, you’ll be helping them be successful. Teaching kids how to be organized is really important because it teaches them a lot of good habits that they’ll use throughout their life.

(Plus, it just makes getting to school in the morning run a whole lot smoother if you don’t have to spend an hour looking for that test that they needed you to sign or the math homework they swear they did.)

1. Throw away things they don’t need.

It’s a good idea to go through your child’s backpack every day after school. It lets you see if there is any correspondence from the teacher or grades you should be aware of. Kids are not always going to remember, and they’re not always going to throw out the stuff they don’t need. By purging the junk, you’ll also be lightening their load, so take five minutes every night to clean out the backpack.

2. Set up a simple file system.

If they are always searching for their papers that they brought home from school, it takes away from homework time. A lot of time kids like to hold on their tests, or letters, or photos – it doesn’t have to be all school stuff – but they won’t have any place to put them. When you set up a simple file system for them, or even designate certain drawers for certain things, kids get in the habit of putting things away.

3. Give them a place to study.

If a child has a place to do their homework, they’ll be more likely to focus when they’re in that environment. Make sure they have a desk or a table to work at. Make sure it’s a quiet space where they can concentrate. And make sure they have appropriate task lighting.

4. Stick to the necessities.

Shopping for school supplies is an important ritual, for the parent and for the child. Some schools will give you a list of things to buy, but other times you do it on your own. It’s important to sit down with your child before you go shopping and make a list even if the school provides one for you. Go over what you’ve got that you can use from last year, and what are the new things that you’re going to get. A little planning will go a long way.

See Cindy in action on her website Details, Etc. and check out these other resources for more ideas!

Crafty—But Clean
At Family Fun, you can find tons of family craft projects that double as storage and organizing pieces, like a pocket wall organizer made from plain curtains!

Keep It off the Floor!
At the Lillian Vernon online home store, you can buy cute yet functional organizing accessories for the kids’ room.

Regain Your Sanity With NAPO
Contact the National Association of Professional Organizers to find a specialist who’ll help you get your life back in order!

Thinking inside the Box
Tap into every professional organizers’ handy bag of tricks by taking a tour of the Container Store.