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Children's stories and fairy tales from Baby Bird Productions. Logo for a parents' free educational article on why reading is an important skill for children to master. A father reads to his child.
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Here are more articles I've written to
share ideas for keeping kids happy,
creative and involved in family life,
plus other topics of interest to me.
Sorry they're not indexed, but just
browse for topics that interest you.
- Barbara Freedman-De Vito
page 1

When Should Parents Start Reading to Children ? © 2005

Like singing a lullaby to a baby in your arms, even though the baby can't understand the meaning of the words,
it's never too early to begin reading to your kids. Start when they're very young, before they've learned to
speak themselves. Let them hear your words. The more small children hear the sounds of the words and the
rhythm of the spoken language, the more they absorb, imitate and learn to express themselves as they develop. 

Story time can be a precious time for strengthening the parent-child bond or the older-younger sibling bond. It's
a quiet time for relaxation and sharing, a special moment (away from the chaos of daily activities) that's just
between you and your child. A calm voice can relax both you and your baby, toddler or preschooler and give
your child an excellent start in associating books and words and pictures with positive and pleasant interactions
with you, with a feeling of security and with close physical contact. 

I'm reminded of the scene in the film "Three Men and a Baby" when Tom Selleck reads a newspaper sports page
to the baby, realizing that it's the tone of voice that counts, not the specific words. Words, before understanding,
still provide soothing rhythms and pleasing sounds. Colorful pictures still provide mental stimulation. 

Finally, in addition to brief children's stories, try books with a single word per page when your child is acquiring
vocabulary or first learning to spell. All exposure to language contributes to your child's developing language skills.
Children's Stories: Should I Be Concerned If My Child Wants
To Read the Same Children's Story Again and Again ? © 2005
No. For a child, there is comfort in the familiarity of a favorite children's story. So much in the world seems new
and strange. Daily life provides so many opportunities for your child to make the wrong choices and to get into
trouble for making them. In re-reading a favorite book, however, a child knows what the characters will do, and
knows what the consequences will be. Therefore, the child knows what the characters SHOULD do. 

A story can be both exciting and comforting, interesting, yet predictable, plus there are lessons to be learned
about responsible decision-making and accepting the consequences of our actions. In addition, the child's
ability to anticipate the story's outcome lets the child feel competent and clever in a world where children
seldom get to feel that sort of control over circumstances. A familiar book can reinforce a child's self-esteem. 

For a child who is just beginning to learn how to read, there is an added bonus. In an unfamilar story each word
may represent a struggle with pronunciation and comprehension. The re-reading of a favorite story can bring
some welcome relief. The independent reading of a book that is already known by heart may produce a sense
of accomplishment and give just the right boost in confidence that is required to encourage the child to tackle a
new or more complex book. 

Therefore, don't belittle a child for sticking with "baby books". Don't shy away from your child's insistence on
hearing old favorites for the umpteenth time but, at the same time, offer your child new stories that can be
read aloud by you or read alone by an older child. Your child can gain so much from both, and the child's heart
and mind have room for both. 

As the old childhood song goes,
         "Make new friends, and keep the old,
           One is silver and the other's gold".
There's no better childhood friend than a beloved book. 

Distinguishing Different Types of Traditional Stories - by Bob De Vito ©2005

I’d like to talk about the different categories of folk stories that have been created by humans throughout
history and all over the world. I will briefly define each type and later get into more detail about the most
well-known type of folk story today, the fairy tale.
First, what is a folk tale or folk story ? Folk literature is the literature of the common people and was passed from generation to generation by way of storytelling. There is usually no known author for these stories. This is in contrast with literary fairy tales, which have an author and were written to imitate the style of traditional fairy tales. An example of a literary fairy tale is "The Little Mermaid" by Hans Christian Andersen. The folk tale is a broad category which includes sagas, epics, myths, legends and tall tales, fables, and fairy tales. What Are Sagas and Epics ? The word "saga" originally referred to a story about the heroic exploits of medieval Scandinavian heroes. In time, the word came to mean a long story, usually spanning many chapters or even volumes, about one family or social group. The story is usually based on truth but the heroes of a saga may be real, they may be imaginary, or they may be a composite of real and imaginary. A saga is written in prose while an epic is a saga in the form of poetry. Medieval stories of Icelandic heroes are examples of sagas. "The Odyssey" is an example of an epic. What is a Myth ? Myths are legendary stories created by ancient people all over the world which helped them to understand and explain the mysteries of the universe. The secrets of life, death, the creation of the world, and the powers of nature are revealed in these stories. Myths contain imaginary characters (although they were not necessarily thought of as imaginary by the ancients) such as gods, giants and monsters. In many parts of the world myths were frequently the precursors to the religions which came later. Stories of the Greek gods are examples of myths. What are Legends and Tall Tales ? Legends are another type of folk story. These combine real people and real events with heroic actions and exaggerations. The term “tall tales” refers to a particular type of legend that grew out of the pioneer days of the United States. This type of folk tale is usually about an American “everyman” character whose actions, exploits and sometimes even physical features have been wildly exaggerated. It was not expected that these stories were to be believed. “Paul Bunyan” is an example of a tall tale character. What is a Fable ? Fables are another type of folk tale. They often, but not always, have talking animals, inanimate objects and other non-human characters. The specific aspect that defines a fable is that it contains a moral or lesson about life. The most well-known fables today are "Aesop’s Fables". What is a Fairy Tale ? "Once upon a time.." For many people this phrase indicates the beginning of a children's story, in the form of a fairy tale. Fairy tales have been enormously popular with children for many years, but fairy tales were not originally intended to be children's stories. A fairy tale is one type of folk tale, which is a story of the common people passed down through the generations by way of storytelling, and they have existed for many hundreds of years. Folk tales tend to be about peasant life long ago, and often contain universal lessons. These tales have no known authors but it is almost certainly the case that no folk tale originated with one person, in one place, at a specific point in time. Instead, they changed and acquired new details with every new teller and they evolved over time, from generation to generation. When we say "fairy" we mean a tiny imaginary creature with supernatural powers. The word comes from the Latin "fatum" - to enchant, and the French word "feerie" - illusion. The term "fairy tale" was originally used to describe French folktales of the 17th century, the "contes de fees", and these stories did include fairies. However, most of the stories that we call fairy tales today have nothing to do with fairies. What these stories all have in common is that they feature imaginary creatures such as goblins, ogres, giants, witches, elves, trolls, and, yes, sometimes even fairies. These stories usually involve magic in some form. Fairy tales almost always employ stock characters. By "stock characters" we mean fictional characters who are stereotypes, with predictable reactions and mannerisms that are immediately recognizable to members of a given society. These tales exist all over the world and any one fairy tale theme usually has many different versions from many different cultures. In today's versions of fairy tales the hero and /or heroine invariably ends up finding happiness by the end of the story. This idea that a fairy tale should have a happy ending is a relatively new one. Earlier versions of many of the fairy tales that we know today often had unhappy and even violent endings. In fact, violence and brutality were common in the versions of fairy tales that were widely known in centuries past and many of these tales have been considerably toned down for modern audiences. For example, in the Grimm Brothers' version of Snow White, from the 19th century, the wicked queen has to dance in red-hot iron shoes until she dies. Why were fairy tales often violent, sometimes graphically so ? As we said earlier, fairy tales were not originally intended to be for children. They evolved as a means of passing on cultural values and standards of behavior from one generation to another. Violence was much more common in everyday life centuries ago and the idea that violence in entertainment could have harmful psychological effects did not exist until recent times. Fairy tales and folk tales grew out of everyday human experience and emotions. Long before the average person had the opportunity to learn how to read, oral storytelling was a means of sharing and reinforcing cultural values, imparting moral lessons, and promoting social cohesion. Storytelling was also a great form of entertainment- the more exciting the story, the more rapt attention the story commanded from its audience, and although children might be listening, these stories were not toned down for young ears. Modern forms of entertainment such as films and video are dependent upon electricity, but throughout most of history people have relied on simpler, more personal means of entertaining themselves. Sitting around the hearth fire at night, people invented and shared stories. They repeated those they'd heard, and the more creative individuals may have added embellishments or more dramatic storytelling techniques. Storytelling must be one of the oldest and purest forms of human entertainment. Fairy tales were not put down in writing until the 1600s, when Charles Perrault published a collection in France. Literature that was written especially for children did not appear until the mid-1700s, and these were never fairy tales. Instead they were stories of religious and other instruction. The Brothers Grimm, who have provided generations of Europeans and Americans with many of their best-loved fairy tales, originally collected these tales in Germany in the 1800s. The Grimm Brothers were a part of a broader nationalistic movement in Europe which called for the preservation of one's own cultural heritage, and they had their counterparts in, for example, Scandinavia and England. Gradually fairy tales, with their fanciful notions such as fairy godmothers and wish-granting, became the domain of children, but not without controversy. Many people in the Victorian era believed that children should only be given stories that reinforced religious and moral values and that any element of fantasy was a dangerous thing for young minds. The original Grimm versions of some well-known tales contain many disturbing and violent elements that might shock today's readers - childeating mothers-in-law and violent deaths, among other things. As fairy tales have evolved from entertainment for adults to entertainment for children they have been modified quite a bit to suit modern sensibilities. Even today, if you're concerned about exposing your young children to frightening concepts and scenes, it is a good idea to read fairy tale texts yourself before reading them to your children. You may come across a collection of fairy tales that you think you know and yet be in for some unpleasant surprises, depending on the source material used for the story. If you read the ingredient label on a food product before adding that food to your child's diet, it makes equal sense to read a sampling of stories in a collection of fairy tales before letting those stories into your children's minds and hearts. Please click here to see some related stories : FAIRY TALES.

Make the Most of Your Public Library's Summer Reading Club © 2005

As I'm a former children's librarian, I'd like to remind all parents of what's waiting for their children at the
public library in the summertime. 

This summer, get your kids down to your local library so that they can sign up for the summer reading
club. Find out what activities your library has planned, as the public library's a great place for kids to
spend some of their free time. Library summer reading clubs encourage kids to continue reading and to
keep up their reading skills over the summer months. Libraries frequently give kids charts on which they
can list all of the children's books they read as the summer progresses. 

As the public library is not associated with discipline and hard work in the same way that school often is,
it can attract all children, not just the top achievers, and it can show them that books and reading are
fun, not drudgery. At the library, kids can read any kind of fiction they like, or about any non-fiction
subject that interests them. For reluctant readers, it's a great opportunity to discover that books can
open up new worlds of fantasy and adventure. Kids can meet up with interesting new characters or
become reacquainted with old familiar ones. They can test their problem-solving abilities through
mysteries, or their judgement when faced with moral dilemmas in more serious novels, or visit new
lands and past centuries through the magic of fiction. 

Many libraries put a lot of effort into helping kids experience all of this, and more, through the joy of
reading. Librarians may hand out stickers for every book read or provide prizes for top readers. Libraries
may also plan free special activity sessions to entertain kids throughout the summer - with visiting
performers, storytelling sessions, craft workshops, etc. There may even be a big party planned for the
end of the summer. So please don't forget to check it out. 

The public library summer reading club is one more step on the road to helping your kids develop into
good readers who can turn to books for information, for education, and for pure pleasure and diversion.

Let Your Children Help You Prepare for the Big Move © 2006

If you're moving to a new town or a new region, it can be rough on your children, as they may feel
uprooted and disoriented. This article has practical advice that will help to make the move to a new
house or apartment easier on your children.


Are you and your children moving house soon ? Moving can be difficult for kids, as they're losing the
comfort and security of the world they know - from their private spaces to their more public places:
their bedroom, their house, their yard, their neighborhood, their school, their local park, their town
and so forth. Worst of all, they lose regular contact with their friends and, possibly, aunts, uncles and
cousins in the bargain. In addition, they suddenly find themselves the "new kids in town," trying to
find their niche in a new community.

This article offers some ideas that you might try in order to ease the transition for your children.
They're all just common sense, but a little advance planning can go a long way.


First of all, let your children know the reasons for the move: why you MUST move or why you WANT TO
move: for a new job or a company transfer ? further schooling or job training ? for financial reasons ?
to be nearer to your own parents or other family members ? due to a divorce or remarriage ? for
health reasons ? for a new climate ? for a change of scene or simply for the adventure of it ? The less
of a mystery it is, the more likely your children are to understand the situation and to cooperate.

Try to get your children excited about the move - the more interested they are, the more they'll look
forward to it and the less they'll dwell on the wistful aspects of leaving their old home and familiar
surroundings. Encourage them to research the new locale - its topography and climate, local history
and landmarks. What interesting past events occurred in your new town or state or region ? What
interesting places are there to see in the new area: state or national parks ? historical buildings ?
unfamiliar birds and wildlife ? local festivals ? regional music styles ? fascinating local customs ? The
bigger the move, the more there will be that's different and exciting. For example, when I once
moved from the Northeastern United states to the Southeast, I found a fascinating and exotically
unfamiliar world of azaleas, swamps, alligators and clog dancing.

Make the research into a game: utilizing Internet, library books, tourist office brochures and other
information sources and encouraging your children to draw up lists of the types of things that will
be new, or comparisons between their old and new locales. Have them list sites they'd like to visit
and new foods and activities they'd like to try. They could list all of the positive points about the
move, the advantages of the new climate, and so on.

If it's feasible, it might be nice to take your kids to see the new place in advance of the move. On
the other hand, that might make the move itself anticlimatic, so it may depend on how inherently
interesting the new location is. The more interesting and different from your old locale, the more a
sneak preview visit might tantalize your children and peak their eagerness for the move itself.
Either way, use books, Internet and travel videos to view glimpses of the new region.

When the time comes to house hunt or apartment hunt, involve your children in drawing up a list of
criteria or desired features. What do you and they want in a new neighborhood: other kids to play
with ? proximity to stores, school, park ?  some woods to play in ? And what about your new home -
will it have a big yard ? lots of trees ? space for a flower or vegetable garden ? How many rooms will
it have ? Will there be a bedroom for each child ?

If possible, let the children house hunt with you and then compare notes with them on each place
that you visit. Keep them in on the decision-making process whenever you can. The more input they
have into choosing a new home, the more quickly it will feel like home to them.

Once you've committed yourself to renting or buying a place and so know what school each of your
children will be attending, let them learn all they can about it. Perhaps the school has a website that
they can look at.

As you work your way through the myriad of details that you must take care of to ensure a smooth
move from one locale to another (packing, moving vans, electricity, telephone lines, change of
address cards,...), try not to get mired down in the minutia. Be sensitive to how your kids are feeling
and try to answer any questions that they might have. Weeks in advance you could help your
children set up a countdown calendar to build their sense of anticipation as the big day approaches.


No matter how exciting the move will be, moving inevitably entails the sadness of leaving friends
and, perhaps, family behind. Make time for special activities your children can do with their friends.
Have special family days with grandparents or cousins for farewell parties, and so forth, in the
weeks leading up to the big move.  Take lots of photos during these events.

Don't forget to collect addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and photographs of everyone
that you and your children want to stay in touch with. Take home videos, too. (Later on, your
children's photos, scrapbooks and home videos of life in and around their old home can be shown
to new friends and complete the bridge between their old world and their new one.)

Try to think of novel ways that your kids will be able to continue established relationships. For
example, your children could create a simple personal website for posting family news and recent
photos and updates on their new life in the new place and for exchanging emails with old friends.
They could start a group blog. Buy them pretty stationary for traditional penpal-style contact with
old friends. Draw up an extensive Christmas card list that leaves out no one. Consider making
advance promises (and then keeping them) for having your children's closest old friends come
stay with you in your new home next summer, or whenever.


As you're moving into your new home and unpacking, try to make the setting up of your children's
special places a priority. Let them help make decisions about how to decorate their own rooms and
make them as homey as possible as quickly as possible. Some of their old furniture and keepsakes
will provide them with some security and continuity and help them settle in more quickly and easily.
Don't forget other spots that contribute to making your kids feel at home - such as a playroom or a
sandbox, swingset, or picnic table in the yard, depending on your children's ages and what they're
accustomed to.

In addition to this, make it as easy as you can for your children to make new friends; you might have
a housewarming party and invite neighborhood kids, encourage your kids to invite new schoolmates
over after school, and participate in local events at school, the public library, or a nearby community
center. Let them join afterschool clubs, scout troops, the local band or choir, an amateur theater
group - whatever interests them. You can also get yourself involved in things that affect your
children's lives: join the local carpool or the PTA, for instance, for the sooner you all ease into daily
routines, the more quickly you'll all feel like you're truly "home."


If the entire family pitches in to handle preparations for the big move, your children will feel more
like they are important members of the family. Let each of them have a part to play in learning about
your new locale, preparing for the move, keeping ties to loved ones in the old locale, and settling into
your new home. Your children's attitudes should be improved, their excitement about the move
heightened, and their fears diminished, if you make that extra effort and take that extra time to get
them involved in every step of the process.

Good luck with your move, and remember that there's no place like home - be it old or new !

Raising Children With Choices © 2006

It's undeniably difficult raising children in a changing world. You want the best for your children and
you want them to fulfill their potential with each new activity that they undertake but, in a society
where certain endeavors are still too often considered to be the domain of males only or of females
only, it may take a bit of effort to create a maximum of opportunities for your children, whether they
be girls or boys.

Every child, and for that matter, every adult, has innate aptitudes for certain things. Some kids may
do better in school than others do, some excel in verbal skills, and for others their forte may be
analytical skills or problem-solving. Mathematics and science come more easily to some children
than to others, while some are good with their hands. Many are curious about how machines function.
Some have the patience and perseverence to stick with a complex new project, and some don't.
Certain children have a talent for drawing or for music. The possibilities and the individual variations
are limitless.

As children grow up, what each child becomes is a combination of these innate aptitudes, exposure
to a variety of topics and activities and experiences, plus the character-building lessons learned
from parents, teachers, siblings, peers and others. One part of the equation, without the others,
may lead nowhere. A particular child may have the potential to become a great musician but, unless
that child is exposed to a variety of musical forms or has the opportunity to see and touch musical
instruments and learn to play whichever one appeals to him or her, it may come to nothing. Another
child might grow up to contribute great things to medical science but, unless taught basic biology
and other sciences, that child will never see medicine as a possible career choice.

To allow your children to develop into the most that they can be, it's up to you to guide their
education, in terms of their choices, from the variety of classes available to them at school, to
their afterschool activities, public library use, the joining of local clubs, and the use of other
resources which are available within your community or beyond it. You can also pass your own
special skills, storehouse of knowledge, and interests on to your children.

Children are little bundles of potential. When raising your children, try to be ever conscious of this,
and of the subtle sex role stereotyping that you yourself may have grown up with and how it might
affect what you offer to your daughters or to your sons. As toddlers, are girls given dolls and boys
given toy trucks ? Is a seven-year-old boy signed up for Little League, while a girl is offered ballet
lessons ?

There's nothing wrong with little girls playing with dolls and taking dance lessons. Those activities
are fine. Dolls are fun and they allow little girls to vicariously experiment with and prepare for real
life social interactions. Dance lessons may reveal a future professional dancer or give your daughter
the pleasure of a lifelong hobby, a great way to stay trim and fit, or a passion for ballet music. The
problem arises if little girls are only exposed to traditional "female" pursuits and interests, such as
dolls and dance lessons. Starting from the youngest age, give girls the opportunity to play with toy
boats and cars and trains, as well. Encourage participation in organized sports and, when old enough,
give your daughters science experiment kits. Don't limit your children's potentials by restricting their
activities to traditional gender-based categories.

As your daughters grow up, expose them to as many different pursuits, of all types, as you can. Let
them know how important their intellectual achievements and success in school are to you. Show
them your pride in their accomplishments, but without making them feel unduly pressured. With
time, their natural proclivities, abilities and talents will become more apparent and they will gravitate
towards certain activities, while dropping others. In order for each to find the career and the leisure
time activities that are a perfect fit for them, however, they need to have a smorgasbord of things
from which to choose. Sure, this is all just common sense but, amid the hustle and bustle of everyday
life, it's easy to reinforce old gender roles and girl/boy stereotypes without even being consciously
aware that they exist. 

After a childhood rich in opportunities and choices, a young woman still may ultimately choose a
profession that's always been a female-dominated one and become a nurse or a teacher, for example,
and that is fine. Those can be wonderful choices and they're important jobs in our society. I'm not
denigrating any one job in relation to any other job. I just feel that a choice can only truly be a choice
when it is chosen from a maximum variety of possibilities. If a girl (or a boy) becomes a nurse because
it is the job that most appeals to her or him, that's wonderful. If a girl grows up to be a nurse, however,
because she never realized that her interest in health care might have led her to become a great heart
surgeon, then that is sad and not a true choice.

It's not just little girls who might suffer from an unnecessarily restricted set of choices. Little boys should
also have the opportunity to experiment with the widest possible range of activities and interests. If
dolls can help little girls practice for motherhood or for social interactions with their peers, then why
can't they help little boys learn to be more nurturing future fathers ?

Doing their share of household chores can help all chidren become more responsible and cooperative
adults, but don't automatically make girls wash the dishes while boys take out the garbage. Teach both
sexes that all family members share both in the labors of and the rewards of family life. Both can help
with the housework, both can help care for the new baby, and both can learn to be responsible for the
care of family pets. That way, everyone wins. The world could do with more men who see housework
as something that everyone in the family shares equally, who become equal partners in the raising of
their own children, and who develop their interpersonal skills, along with their muscles. With that in
mind, don't restrict your sons' extracurricular activities to all things macho. Your son may be a budding
Njinsky or Fred Astaire but he, and you, will never know it if he's never exposed to a single dance step.

As with other types of unfair limitations on individuals' aspirations or lack of opportunities because of
culture, race, income level, or physical handicap, for example, gender is a poor excuse for narrowing
children's choices or placing ceilings on their dreams. It's all too easy for all of us to revert to old sex
roles without even thinking, as some of these are so deeply ingrained in our society, in popular culture,
and in the media. With a bit of care and thought, though, we can help the next generation build a society
where boys and girls, women and men are all freer to find meaning in their lives by following their
personal dreams, choosing the career track that's right for them, and developing hobbies that are a
perfect fit for their individual interests and abilities. To do this, all they need is plenty to choose from
and the chance to try out whatever interests them.

Babies: How to Get Your Children Excited About the New Arrival © 2005

The sudden appearance of a new baby can be rough on the other children in the family. Daily routines
are disrupted and suddenly mom and dad are too busy to pay attention to older siblings. Worst of all,
the new baby is the instant star of the family - the center of attention. The adorable baby is the big
attraction for everyone from mom and dad, to visiting relatives, to casual acquaintances bumped
into at the mall, right down to strangers on the street. Everyone is talking baby talk, cooing at the
new baby, and making a fuss over the newborn. The older kids may feel shunted aside and resentful.
This is especially true for the displaced former baby of the family.

Given these natural reactions, anything that you can do to prepare your other children for the new
arrival will ease the transition. Everything you can do to involve your kids in advance and to get
them to actually look forward to the birth will make a big difference in how they experience it. It
might even help establish a stronger brother or sister bond with the new baby that will contribute
to the lasting closeness of a positive sibling relationship. 

Here are some simple ideas that expectant parents might try, to smooth the road ahead for their
other children. Most are common knowledge or simply common sense, but sometimes too easily
forgotten amid all the excitement and activity surrounding the birth of a new baby. A few might be
new ideas that are worth a try. A little advance thought and preparation may go a long way towards
making the "blessed event" a blessing for the ENTIRE family. Hopefully, you'll be inspired to try
some of these ideas, so here goes. 

Let your other kids in on the secret as soon as the pregnancy is confirmed, well before it is obvious
just by looking at mom. Even with your youngest children, try to give them some understanding of
the changes that mom is going through and what they mean. Check out your local public library.
It should have books geared to all different ages that can explain, in terms that children can
understand, the biological process of having a baby. Picture books about baby animals may also
help crystalize the concept and relate it to something your kids have already experienced, like
watching newborn kittens, for example. 

The library or local bookstore should also be able to guide you to works of fiction, including picture
books for preschoolers, that focus on the arrival of a new baby in the family and such issues as
jealousy and feelings of neglect. Quiet parent-child story reading times can provide an ideal
opportunity to prepare young children for changes that are on the way and to reassure them of
their own importance and irreplaceable position in the family. Discuss things openly and answer
your kids' questions. 

Encourage your children to think about life with the new baby and how family routines will be
altered. Coax your kids to develop their own lists of things that will be fun about having a new
baby in the house - for example, they can push the baby carriage and help dress the baby. Help
them think about all the things that they'll be able to share with and teach the baby as he or she
grows up and how important their role will be as a "big brother" or "big sister."

At other times, let them focus on coming up with ways that they can help care for the baby or
have them think of things they can do around the house to ease the burden on mom and dad.
Also, take this opportunity to make your kids aware that babies require gentle handling and a
quiet environment. You might even use a baby doll with your younger children to role play
baby's diaper changing and feeding.

Nurture the feeling that every family member is of equal importance and that each occupies
a special niche and has special contributions to make. No one is being replaced by the baby and
the family cannot be whole unless EVERYONE is a part of it. If your kids internalize this belief,
you may be able to avoid some of the trauma and the understandable resentment toward this
little stranger who has stolen mommy's and daddy's hearts. The better your children are prepared
for the impending event, the better they'll be able to cope with it emotionally. 

As part of that preparation process, from time to time plan special activities with your kids that
relate to babies. For example, they might draw pictures of babies or collect baby photos from
magazines and create a collage. Sit down and go through photo albums of your kids' baby
pictures and reminisce with them about their own arrivals into the world. Re-tell any family
anecdotes surrounding their births. Teach your children lullabies that they can sing to the baby,
plus finger games and "peek-a-boo" games to entertain their new brother or sister.

Arts and crafts projects can furnish a special parent-child discussion and sharing time and
may sometimes revolve around preparations for the new baby. Kids can make pictures to
hang in the baby's room, or create a baby-safe mobile to hang over the baby's crib, or draw
scenes in which they imagine their lives with the new baby - rocking the baby in their arms,
and so forth. 

Let the kids be involved in every facet of the preparations that you yourself are making for the
baby's arrival. Your kids can help you repaint the nursery or paint a mural on the nursery wall,
and help you pick out baby furniture, bedding and nursery decorations. They can choose baby
clothes that appeal to them. All of these things can later give the children pride and a sense
of importance and inclusion in the baby's life. When grandma says, "What a cute bib the baby's
wearing," your preschooler can say, "I picked it out !" 

In addition, make your children key members of the family committee that chooses a name
for the new baby. Keep the kids involved and actively participating and then, as the birth
becomes imminent, dad and the kids may even conspire to prepare some extra, special,
secret surprises for mom and the baby, like buying or creating a special keepsake item or
putting together a "welcome home" party. 

In short, it's always worth the effort to do as much as you can to get your kids involved in
and excited about the arrival of a new baby. Include them in every step of the process.
The more they feel that it is THEIR baby, too, the more positive their attitudes will be
towards the baby. In this way, you can try to minimize the natural insecurities and feelings
of jealousy that go with the territory.

The suggestions mentioned in this article can help lay the groundwork for good sibling
relationships but, of course, you can't rest on your laurels once the baby is born. After the
baby  arrives, try to do everything you can to set aside some special time each day that's
just for you and each of your other children. Offer them special little treats or outings or
surprises, and encourage grandma and grandpa to do the same. To reduce jealousy, give
your kids pride in the things that they CAN do that the baby can't do, like dressing
themselves or enjoying a movie or reciting their ABCs. Continue along the path that you
started on months earlier - reassure your kids that each of them is just as important as
the baby is, so that they won't feel that they must compete for your love and attention.  

Good luck and oh, by the way, congratulations !

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Let Your Children Name the New Baby © 2006

Choosing a baby name is an important job, so make your children feel important by
letting them help you name the new baby. After all, you're not the only one who's
having a baby - your whole family is ! Use the process of naming the baby as an
opportunity to get your other children involved in and excited about their new brother
or sister, and make the process fun. Try a little humor, with wild list-making sessions
that may eventually lead you to the perfect baby name that will fill that vacant space
on your family tree.

Here are some of the points, both serious and silly, that you can encourage your
children to consider when sifting through the thousands of possible baby names that
are floating around out there. I've added a few sample names, from appropriate to
absurd, to make your children laugh and enjoy the name choosing process, and to
get your whole family thinking.

First of all, don't choose a first name that is so odd and unusual that, as your child
grows up, his or her friends will endlessly make fun of it. Perhaps "Sassafras" or
"Tintinabulation" are not the best name choices. On the other hand, you may not
want a name that is so common that every third child in the playground has it, too.
Of course, what is "too common" changes every few years. When I was a child in
the early 1960s, every other kid answered if someone called out "Bobby" or "Joey."

You might also want to avoid a baby name that is so up-to-the-minute and trendy
that it may sound ridiculous by the time your child hits kindergarten. I'd think twice
before naming a baby "Megabyte" or "Bloggy." Then again, if the name is VERY old
fashioned, that can also lead to taunting by other children. How would you like to be
in the third grade and be named "Horatio Cornelius?" Other old fashioned names,
though, such as Rachel and Sarah, never seem to go out of style. 

Sometimes a name sounds really cute on a tiny baby, but inappropriate on a mature
adult. Should anyone have to go through life as "Dimples" or "Pinky" or "Bitsy" ? Still,
there are other names that may suit a serious bank executive, but sound too somber
for a toddler - take "Harold Thaddeus" or "Mildred Hortense," for instance. Shoot for
some sort of middle ground between cutesy-pie babyish and dour fuddy-duddy. 

You may also want to avoid names, or combinations of first and middle name, that
have a very strong negative association with a particular person or event in history,
like "John Wilkes" or "Lee Harvey."

Consider the spelling of any baby name that you and your children like. Will it be so
difficult to spell or to pronounce that your child will be condemned to a lifetime of
seeing and hearing people mangle his or her name and having to endlessly correct
them ? As a case in point, I might have been named "Ides" (pronounced "Ee-dess")
but, luckily for me, my parents dropped the idea for fear that I might wind up being
called "Ides" (as in "Beware the Ides of March.")

After all of the "don'ts" I've mentioned, how about some "dos" for your kids to ponder.
Maybe you'd like to name the baby in honor of a special relative, past or present, or a
close friend of the family. Think about all the people in your life who've been dear to
you. You may even choose to show respect for a famous person you really admire. 

Another possibility is to celebrate your ethnic roots by choosing a current or traditional
name that comes from your family's cultural heritage, or some branch of it, if your
lineage blends several different ethnic backgrounds. 

How about naming the baby for a book or movie character that you and your children
love ? Perhaps a little "Harry" or "Dorothy" is waiting to be born. (Possibly a tiny
"Pinocchio" or "Thumbelina," although those may be a bit extreme.)

The meanings of baby names are a popular element to consider. You could begin
with a special meaning, like "beloved" or "gentle" or "courageous," and then see
what names stem from those words. Different languages and cultures can lead you
to various name choices, all with the same specific meanings. If you want to avoid
negative meanings, however, I suppose that "Picklepussia" would be out of the running. 

You may want to use a particular letter of the alphabet as your starting point. If you're
expecting a baby girl you might, for example, list every girl's name that you can think
of that begins with the letter V - Valerie, Victoria, Veronica, Violet, and so forth. For a
more novel approach, how about drawing from all the first names that contain six
letters - Joseph, Daniel, Joshua... or seven - Matthew, Malcolm, William...

If you find a first name that you all like, consider its variant forms, too. For example,
Christine might also lead you to Kirsten, Christina, Kristen, or Crystal. A potential baby
Mary might wind up being named Miriam, Marion, Maryanne, Marie, Maria, Marilyn, or

For any name that you all like, try it on for size and live with it for a while. If you name
the baby Melissa, will she end up being called "Missy" or "Mel" ? Think of all the nicknames
that any given name might spawn and be sure that you can live with the nicknames, as
well as the full version of the name.  Avoid inadvertently negative nickname-producing
names. Don't name the baby "Smellonius" if you don't want him to be called "Smelly" by
his schoolmates. 

Once you've arrived at a short list of first names that you, your spouse and your children
can all agree upon, look at each name within the context of the full name that it will be a
part of. Find a first and middle name that suit and go nicely with each other, and with the
sound of your last name. "Ernesto Casimir Jones" might not create the most pleasing
effect and "Calliope Bathsheba Schmidt" may not quite roll off the tongue. 

Test lots of combinations of your family's favorite name choices until you hit upon the
perfect one. Then be sure to examine the resulting set of initials. You don't want to give
your baby a beautiful and well thought out full name, only to later discover that the
monogrammed handkerchiefs will read "P.I.G" or "Y.U.K." or "D.U.M." So avoid the likes
of "Philip Ian Green" (alias "Pig") or "Yelburton Uriah Keep" (commonly called "Yuck")
or "Doris Ursulla Martin" (a.k.a. "Dumb.")

If your favorite name passes that test, next imagine it as it will be used by different
people on different occasions. Using John Q. Public as an example, let's look at all of
its forms: John Quincy Public, John Q. Public, John Public, J. Q. Public, Johnny P.,
J.Q.P., J.Q., and even "J.P. loves S.A." carved on a tree. Explore every possibility for
any inadvertent gaffs.

Picture your chosen name as it will appear in various real life situations: how will it
look on a school register  or on a diploma ? How would it look on a resumé, or in the
oval office ? What impression will it create ? Will it sound dignified or snobbish ? Will it
sound pretentious ? Will it sound dumb ? Would you like to shoot for  interesting and
harmonious, but neither too weird nor too dull ?

Once you've found a combination of names that can pass muster and meet every
criteria set forth, and that you're all just crazy about, there's one more factor to
consider. How does this new name go with those of your other children ? Imagine
shouting down the street to call your kids in for dinner, or listing your children's
names on a government form, or signing a holiday card. Do you really want that
birthday card to your favorite aunt to read "Happy Birthday, Aunt Emma ! Love
Terry, Jason and Tondaleo?"   

If you can jump over this final hurdle you've done it ! You've found the perfect baby
name for that little someone who's soon to be a part of your family, and your children
will be more enthused about the baby's arrival if they've helped you choose that
name. It will truly be their baby, too. 

Make the process as lively and amusing as you can to get them into the spirit of it.
For each point that I've mentioned, encourage your kids to draw up long lists of
possibilities, including silly lists. Let them have fun and get all of their wildest name
suggestions out of their systems, too. Create your own "name the baby" games,
such as "What would we name the baby if we were Martians ?" "What if we'd lived
300 years ago ?" "What if the name had to end with the letter 'a' ?" Use your
imagination, and your kids will be sure to use theirs, too. That perfect name is out
there somewhere, you just need to find it.

Have fun !

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A Few Words In Praise of Birds © 2006

Why do birds appeal to us ? Most people enjoy the sight of birds, even people who have
never been active birdwatchers. Although birds are less like us in appearance and habits
than our fellow mammals, birds undeniably hold a special place in our hearts.

One reason that birds capture our imaginations is that they can fly, while we remain
trapped here on earth. What child hasn't watched a bird fly overhead and dreamt of being
up there in the sky flying alongside ? What adults have not, at one time or another, wished
that they could take wing and fly away from all of their everyday troubles and cares ? Birds
are natural symbols of freedom and escape. After all, what could better encapsulate our
vision of pure freedom than the ability to fly off into the sunset ?

Birds can soar overhead and they can also cover great distances. They are privy to a "bird's
eye view" of a single building or a park, or an entire city or landscape, making them a perfect
metaphor for obtaining a fresh perspective on a situation, or for taking a larger view of an issue.

Birds often symbolize other things, as well, such as human character traits and qualities. There's
the proud peacock, the noble eagle, the thieving magpie, squabbling crows, and billing and
cooing love birds. Gliding swans are the perfect picture of grace and elegance in motion. The
hawk is a symbol of war, the dove a symbol of peace.

What else attracts us to birds ? Birds have feathers, soft to the touch and a joy to look at.
Plumage seems to come in an infinite variety of lovely colors and patterns, from the subtle,
earthy tones of the common house sparrow to the outrageous, iridescent regalia of the showy
peacock. Birds are beautiful works of art, signed by nature. Their plumage adds color and
spectacle to a humdrum world. Their colors may also suggest many different locales and
associations to us.

For example, those small, round, brown sparrows are homey, comforting and familiar to those
of us who live in temperate climates. They are our backyard friends and neighbors. American
cardinals and blue jays are highly colored, cheerful sights to behold on gray days, from the tips
of their tail feathers to the fanciful crests on their heads. They are a bit more exotic, yet they
are still familiar backyard friends. Then there are those birds who live in far off exotic places,
such as African pink flamingos and tropical parrots, who sport wonderful tropical colors. We love
them, not only for their magnificent colors, but also for their association with far-flung lands and
exotic adventures.

Birds also come in a great variety of shapes and sizes, which further adds to their appeal. We
can relate to them, in so far as they, and we, have two eyes, one mouth and bilateral symmetry.
Yet, they are also very unlike us. They have protruding beaks, from the sparrow's tiny jabbing
beak to the toucan's enormous appendage. They have wings, more unlike human arms than those
of other mammals, or even of reptiles. In fact, when their wings are folded against their sides,
birds appear to have no arms at all. They also have thin, bare legs and they have claws. Their
heads and necks flow smoothly into their bodies. Their forms create graceful outlines, whether
round like a chubby European robin, long like an African parrot, or sleek like a regal swan.

Yes, birds are beautiful to look at, but the beauty of birds is not confined to the visual aspects of
shape and color alone, because birds also fill the air with music. They seem to offer us their song
simply to entertain us, and they ask for nothing in return. Like a garden bursting with colorful
flowers, the fantastic colors and songs of birds seem frivolous and out of place in a world full of
harsh realities. It seems as though they were put on earth expressly to make life more beautiful.
They were not, of course. Their color and song serve biological ends in the process of natural
selection, but that does not prevent us from enjoying such sights and sounds. We can listen in
on their free concerts and derive pleasure and serenity from the experience. We can also be
amused when a few species of birds even mimic our own speech.

Another characteristic of birds that we humans respond to is the fact that they build nests. They
seem so industrious and we watch with wonder as each type of bird builds its own species-specific
nest, ranging from a simple assemblage of twigs to an intricately woven masterpiece of craftmanship. 
"Nest" is such a cozy word. Birds build their cozy nests, care for their young, and raise their families,
all in the course of a single spring or summer. We admire their patience and devotion and attentive
care to their offspring. We observe and marvel at a parent bird's countless trips to and from the nest
to diligently feed the helpless chicks. Birds provide us with fine role models for parenting.

Yes, birds are homebodies during the nesting season, but they also migrate. Birds are free to come
and go and many cover vast distances each year, as they travel between their summer and their
winter homes. They are social creatures, moving in flocks and creating great spectacles as they fly.
A glimpse of a V-shaped flock of geese passing overhead thrills us and stirs something in us. We
admire their strength and endurance in carrying out such grueling journeys year after year. We envy
them, too, for they are free to go beyond mere political boundaries and to cross entire continents. We
up north are sorry to see them part each autumn and we are heartened to see them return each spring.
The return of such birds as the swallows signals the return of spring, with its promise of birth and renewal.

Each spring we are able to welcome them back into our midsts, for nearly everywhere that humans live,
birds live also. Birds cover the earth. There is such a diversity of bird species to fill each ecological niche
on earth and to contribute to its balance by doing such things as eating insects and dispersing plant seeds.
There are the ducks and moorhens of rural ponds. There are birds who live in the forests. There are birds
in the mountains and birds in the deserts. The forbidding oceans have their hardy puffins and pelicans.
Even frozen, icy places have their own birds, the lovable penguins.

Birds adapt to so many different habitats and situations, including human environments. The often ignored
pigeon is a beautiful bird. (I have cared for and been grateful to have known many individual pigeons over
the years.) As a species, they have managed to adapt to modern cityscapes, substituting cliff-like building
ledges and bridge girders for their ancestral cliffs of rock. Other bird species may be less tolerant of such
disturbances and avoid the prying eyes of humans.

Wherever they choose to live, birds remain symbols of untamed nature, surviving despite man's interference
with their habitats. They remain proud and free to the present day. They are also a living link to the
mysterious and fascinating history of life on our planet, as birds are the surviving heirs to the dinosaurs.
One look at unfeathered baby birds, with their oversized beaks and feet, and it is easy to see the dinosaur
in them.

Each of us may have our own reason, or combination of reasons, for loving birds, but their appeal is
indisputable  and universal. Birds represent the perfect blend of beauty, strength, grace and endurance,
from the cuteness of a tiny sparrow to the majesty of an imposing raptor. Birds fill both the eye and the ear
with beauty. We enjoy them. We admire them. Sometimes we envy them. They add appreciably to the
quality of our lives and to the diversity of life on earth and the world would be a smaller, sadder, emptier
place without them.

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Dogs Are Our Best Friends and with Good Reason © 2007

Why are there so many dog lovers out there ? Dogs share our lives in a way that most other animals can't,
and they're so commonplace that it's easy to take their faithful companionship for granted. The purpose
of this article is to remind us of why we love dogs so much, to spare a few minutes and to spare a few words
in praise of "man's best friend," the dog. 

Dogs are friendly and they love human companionship. Whose ego would not be gratified at the sight of a
happy dog who can't wait to greet you at the end of a hard day ? Your dog waits for you by the door, face
smiling, mouth open and tail wagging, ready to dote on you, his best friend in the world.

Dogs are loyal and, as pack animals, they respond to the presence of a leader - you ! Dogs are eager to
please you in any way they can. When you're feeling blue your dog will remain by your side silently
comforting you. When you're happy and excited, your dog will leap about you and share in your joy. 

Dogs are playful. They love physical activity such as going for walks, fetching sticks, leaping into ponds,
and racing wildly to and fro. Dogs will join you for a jog or for a day in the park or even for an exhuberant
game of frisbee. Yet dogs can also be soft and cuddly and ready at anytime for a loving pat and a
reassuring hug. They're affectionate and they're soothing to stroke, plus most dogs can also remain
calm when necessary and be tolerant of small children who don't yet know how to be quiet or to behave
gently around animals.

Dogs can be trained so that they can easily cohabitate with us in our human-built dwellings. They can
also be trusted to act appropriately around other people and in public. Dogs can learn to save nature's
call for outdoor walks, to walk on a leash when on public roads where cars lurk, and to sit and to stay
whenever and wherever necessary.

The family dog is as much a part of daily life within a home as is any human household member. Our
dogs are always there for us, day and night, sharing in every activity from breakfast time through a
cozy evening spent watching TV. They can share both our indoor and many of our local outdoor
activities, but that's not all. Dogs also play a big part in family life even when the family isn't at home.
They can readily go places with us in cars, everywhere from a romp in the local park to a family
vacation. Because they can travel with us, they can be a part of our lives in a way that most other
companion animals can't. As dogs can participate in  many of our most unusual experiences and
outdoor adventures, they become forever associated with many of our most treasured memories.

Dogs, in all of their various shapes and sizes, are also beautiful animals to admire and to look at.
From their big beautiful eyes and lovely faces, to their soft, sleek, shiny coats, to the tips of their
joyfully wagging tails, dogs are a pleasure to behold. With so many different breeds to choose from,
everyone can choose the dog whose appearance most appeals to them, whether large or small,
short or long-muzzled, short-haired or long-haired or curly or straight-haired, with a muscular build
or a slim build, with an elegant face or a comical face, and in any number of colors.

Each family can adopt the perfect dog to suit their taste and lifestyle by considering factors such as
a dog's size and temperament. Does the family have a large fenced yard where a big dog can romp
in safety, or a cramped apartment suitable for small dogs only ? Can the family pet care budget
support a large dog with a large appetite ? Are there lots of flower beds that might be dug up and
ruined by a breed such as a terrier ? Are there children in the house who require an extra-gentle
dog who'll tolerate the uninformed tail-pulling of a pre-schooler or the roughhousing of a ten year
old ?

Does the family have the time available to give a dog all the love, attention, exercise and play that
he deserves, or will he be alone all day ? How about two dogs to keep each other company when the
human members of the family aren't around ? Perhaps a lovable mutt or two would be the ideal
choices ! The local dog shelter is likely to be harboring many abandoned dogs who are sad and lonely
and desperately in need of a second chance to find true happiness with a loving family.

Dogs give us the best of themselves : their love, loyalty, unconditional acceptance and affection,
playfulness and companionship. In return, we owe them our best and the best care that we can give
them, including a healthy, well-balanced diet, constant access to clean water and shelter from the
hot sun or extreme cold, regular brushing and other grooming, ongoing veterinary care, plus annual
vaccinations. Dogs should also be spayed or neutered, so that they do not contribute to the tragedy
of the pet overpopulation problem.

A safe environment is, of course, a must. Indoors, be sure that cleaning products, medications,
houseplants and other potential poisons are kept safely out of reach. Upper floor windows need
secure grills or screens if they are to be opened. Heavy objects must not be left where they might
fall on and injure dogs. Outdoor yards need secure fences if there are roads with cars nearby. (Please
don't chain dogs outside and deny them their freedom of movement.) Antifreeze and other poisons
mustn't be allowed to leak where any animals might have access to them and try to drink them.

A leash should be used for walks where traffic poses a threat to safety. Don't skimp on daily exercise
and provide lots of opportunities to run around and play but, if a little dog has short legs, remember
to slow down and not force him to overwork his little legs in trying to keep up with your larger stride.
Don't force dogs to hurry past every tree when out for a walk, either. Sometimes dogs just need to
sniff, so don't rush them too much. 

Above all else, dogs deserve gentle handling and an abundance of our time and attention. Love can
make a dog's world go round as much as love makes our world go round. When we give our love
freely to our dogs, we receive their love in return. Dogs can truly be man's and woman's and children's
best friends, and we should feel honored to be theirs, as well.

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Dog Sayings : Barking Up the Wrong Tree ©2008

If "Dog is man’s best friend," then why does our language have so many expressions that portray dogs
in a negative light ? English abounds with sayings that focus on canine aggression or the sadness of
"a dog’s life," at the mercy of cruel human "masters." Many of these date from past centuries when
life in English-speaking nations was truly more harsh than it is today, and little thought was given to
animal suffering. It’s interesting to examine our myriad of dog references in everyday sayings from the
past, and to appreciate whatever advances human society has made since then in its treatment of
other creatures.

Let’s begin with metaphors of aggression which stem, no doubt, from behaviors observed in a "pack
of wild dogs" (which is itself a commonly used expression) and from the barbaric practices of people
who engaged in the so-called sport of dog fighting. Examples that jump to mind include "barking mad,"
"His bark is worse than his bite" and the nickname "mad dog." Who wouldn’t heed the warning
inherent in the phrase "once bitten, twice shy ?" In any dog fight there’s bound to be a "top dog"
and an "underdog," while "It’s a dog eat dog world" brings a particularly vivid and gruesome image
to mind. We even evoke images of interspecies animosity in such phrases as "fighting like cats and

Humans have too often been instrumental in forcing dogs to hone their aggression and fighting
instincts, training them for dogfights or to be used as guard dogs or attack dogs. Certain people still
use dobermans and pit bull terriers as dubious extensions of their own masculinity, parading them
around to impress or intimidate others.

It is therefore fitting to next discuss expressions that compare human circumstances in life to the
sadness expressed in  "It’s a dog’s life." You might be feeling "dog tired" or be "in the doghouse"
for something stupid that you’ve done, which might lead you to wear a "hangdog expression." This
sad sack quality that some dogs have in their faces may have also led to such phrases as "You ain’t
nothin’ but a hound dog." We even refer to our feet as "dogs."

I’ll leave out some of the most unflattering and offensive comparisons of women to female dogs, but
must point out that whoever decided that a homely girl was "a real dog" certainly didn’t have a
very high opinion of dogs’ facial features. There is also the "dog-eared" book, which presents an
apt image of something with tattered, uneven edges.

Other imagery that refers to the dog’s physical appearance or behaviors includes "Don’t get your
hackles up" or telling someone to "Stop your whimpering" or accusing someone of being a "lapdog."
The term "mutt" oddly mixes a scurrilous questioning of a dog’s lineage with a more affectionate
connotation of lovableness.

Interestingly, the term for steamy hot summer weather, the "dog days," didn’t originate with the
cruel treatment of dogs, but rather with the position of the "dog star" Sirius or Canis Major (big dog),
which happens to be the brightest star in the night sky during summer months in the northern
hemisphere. Speaking of natural cycles of seasons and weather, we also have "It’s raining cats and
dogs" and the exclamation "hot dog !" 

Some sayings, though, focus on a possibly more admirable quality that some dogs possess, their
"doggedness." You might "hound" someone or have a "nose like a bloodhound," but it could 
ultimately lead you to erroneously be "barking up the wrong tree."

Finally, there are those expressions that focus on canine offspring, from the desirable "pick of the
litter" to the disadvantaged "runt of  the litter." These inevitably lead me to perhaps the sweetest
of all dog-related metaphors, "puppy love." Oh well, I guess it’s time to wrap up this insightful look
at dog sayings and metaphors in our culture. "Doggone it !"

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Cat People ©2008

Cats: the mere word conjures up images of mystery and beauty, of ancient Egyptian goddesses, of
Halloween night and witches on broomsticks. What other animals are so associated with occult
imagery, while also being commonplace companions in our daily lives ? Wolves may share a spine-
tingling association with ancient legends, from the werewolf to the big bad wolf of fairy tale fame.
Dogs may share our lives and can be found in most suburban backyards. Yet only cats move silently
and comfortably between the two worlds of the mystic and the mundane. Why do cats fascinate us
and why do we love cats so ?

Cats are beautiful. Cat lovers and non-cat lovers alike must admit to the beauty of their large, soulful
eyes and lovely faces, their elegant silhouettes, their dainty noses and paws, and their metronomic
tails. Cats may have shimmering green eyes, cool blue eyes or surprising yellow eyes. Their fur may
be long or short, smooth or bushy, uniformly colored or patterned like tigers or calicos, and come in
many shades of orange, yellow, brown, gray, black, and white, or some combination of the above.

Cats are fascinating to watch. We're amused by the comical antics of lively kittens playing, leaping,
bounding, and rolling about the floor, sometimes reacting to things that we mere humans can't even
perceive. We're entranced by the graceful movements of adult cats, their ability to move silently and
stealthily, the ease with which they can leap and climb and walk along sloped surfaces or narrow
ledges that only a trained human acrobat would attempt.

Some people admire cats for their mysterious ways and associations with the night and with past
ages when magic seemed more possible. Some respect them for their reputation of being aloof loners.
Dog people claim that cats, being too independent, view humans with disdain. Cat lovers say that
being loved by your cat means much more than being loved by your dog because, while a dog is a
social animal who needs a master or pack leader to slavishly follow, the cat is by nature solitary. If
a cat craves your companionship it is because she has chosen you and because you have earned her
love, trust, respect and affection.

In my own experience, cats are wonderfully loving and affectionate friends. True, they may not be
waiting by the door, wagging their tails, when you come home. On the other hand, one of our cats
does wait by the door when we come home and our other cat is constantly seeking eye contact with
us. As soon as we look at her, she meows to solicit our attention. They both show affection and they
love to receive it and few activities are more relaxing than sitting on a sofa stroking a cat for hours
on end. Cats are so soft and warm to the touch, and they love to curl up on your lap to be patted and
given chin and belly rubs.

In addition to the emotional reasons that so many people love cats, there are also many practical
reasons that cats share so many of our lives and homes. They are a very practical choice of house
pet, especially for city dwellers. They are small and thus easily adapt to life in a small urban
apartment. They don't need to be taken outdoors for daily walks, making them easier to care for
than dogs, especially for people who are at work all day or who lack a big yard or who hate to walk
in the rain. Cats are also very clean and quiet and they don't track mud onto your carpets, chase
cars or bark at passers-by, which could attract the wrath of your neighbors. 

Cats are smart and kittens are easily trained to use litter boxes, making them far neater and far
easier to assimilate into a household than are puppies. Because of their small size, cats don't eat
the quantities of food required by large dogs, making cats more practical than dogs for families with
smaller budgets. It's also feasible to share a home with several cats at one time.

Cats were first welcomed into human homes for their ability to kill mice, for their usefulness to
humans, but for me this is a negative point. First of all, I see companion animals as independent
beings of another species who share our homes. It's an honor to be accepted and trusted by fellow
creatures, and my goal is to deserve that trust, to give them a safe and happy home with proper
care and plenty of love and affection. They're not here to serve me in some way. Also, as an animal
lover, I don't want to see mice killed, and so my cats don't have access to smaller creatures.

Cats fill a special place in our hearts and in our homes and I can't even imagine my life without them.
They give me so much pleasure every day. They are individuals and quite varied in their personality
traits. Our two cats, although they are sisters, are different from each other in everything except
their black and white coloring. Becky is large, while Polly is small. Becky is well-mannered and
demure, perfectly fitting the image of the elegant queen-like cat. Polly is playful and comical and
relentless when she wants something from us. Becky, of her own accord, jumps onto the table when
she knows it's time for her daily brushing. Polly makes a game of it, running away like a scamp and
dodging us until she is ready to be caught. Becky is always receptive to a good patting or belly
rub and frequently solicits our affection. Polly is more of a loner who consciously selects the times
when she wants to cuddle up and be patted. They are so different from each other, yet both are so
lovable and necessary to our lives.

Cats give us so much and, in return, we must always give them our best, from the best of care to
an abundance of love and affection. If you welcome cats into your world be sure to give them
everything they need to lead happy and contented lives. Critical elements include healthy balanced
diets, constant access to clean fresh water and litter pans, and daily brushings to keep fur glossy
and healthy. Regular veterinary visits for shots and prompt veterinary attention in case of illness
are both a must, as is a safe environment.

Indoor cats need enough space to feel comfortable, including furniture of varying heights, because
vertical space is important for cats, just as floor space is. Cats also require cozy corners where they
can get away from people. Before adding cats to your household, walk around and examine your
home as if you were trying to make it childsafe and watch out for drawers and cabinets that can be
opened too easily. Because cats can climb, you must take more precautions than with children or
dogs to prevent access to household cleaning products, potentially poisonous houseplants, and
electrical wires. 

Remove heavy objects that could fall and injure cats and don't carry heavy objects or pass hot cups
of coffee (lest they slip out of your hands) directly over your sleeping cats. Be aware that (despite
the cliche of kittens playing with balls of yarn) long strand-like objects such as yarn and tinsel are
very dangerous. Playful cats may get tangled in them and choke and, if swallowed, these items can
obstruct the intestines. Outdoor cats also need protection from cars, busy roads, dogs, extremes
of heat and cold, and other dangers. Be aware that on cold winter mornings cats may climb up
under the hoods of parked cars, seeking warmth. Look under the hood before you start your engine.

As you check out your environment, making it cat-safe, remember that cats are clever and can
sometimes learn to open doors. They also love to sleep in warm cozy spaces, so be careful not to
inadvertently shut them into drawers or closets. Be sure that they haven't climbed into open
washing machines or other appliances before you turn them on. Children need to learn the
importance of handling cats gently and you need to be almost as agile as your cats in order to
not step on any little cats' feet or tails. As cats love to shoot out of nowhere at the last second and
get under foot, I tend to glide around my apartment rather than lift my feet and risk stepping on

A few extra precautions, that will soon become second nature to you, can go a long way towards
keeping your cats healthy and safe for many years to come. Good care, plus lots of love and plenty
of play and affection will enrich your cats' lives. In return, your cats will enrich your life in so many
ways that are impossible to count. It's not hard to see why the ancients revered cats, but it's more
important to love them and to share our lives and homes with them. Cat lovers of the world can
unite in saying that they're cat people and proud of it !

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Cat Sayings : The Cat’s Meow ©2008

Cats ! What beautiful, graceful animals. Cats have lovely, delicate faces, soft glossy coats, precise
acrobatic movements, and exhibit fastidious cleanliness. Cats are also famous for their hunting
prowess, their solitary natures, their inscrutable expressions, and their mysterious ways, giving
rise to centuries of folklore and superstitions related to their nature. They have been worshipped,
but they have also been unfairly maligned and mistreated for their supposed association with
witchcraft and black magic, a connection that survives to the present day in the omnipresent black
cat decorations of Halloween. 

From those first cats who hunted mice near human dwellings so long ago, striking up the first mutual
friendship (or at least symbiotic relationship) between cats and humans, to today’s loved and
cuddled and pampered house cats, there have been countless generations of close contact between
our two species. I wonder if cats share collective observations and assessments of human
appearance, behavior and peculiarities, because we humans have certainly done our share of
observing cats and their manner of doing things, as evidenced by the plethora of cat-related sayings
that survive in modern English.

Let’s begin with the cat’s proclivity for gathering in groups for the purpose of romance or for nocturnal
fighting. We have "caterwauling" and "alley cat" and "Tom catting around." We have "cat on a hot
tin roof." It can be "raining cats and dogs." Likewise, people can "fight like cats and dogs." The cat’s
associations with both aggression and with the feminine side of things have led to such unflattering
(both to cats and to women) expressions as being "catty" and having "a real cat fight" where "the
fur is really flying" and someone might "scratch your eyes out." We won’t even get into the
symbolism of a "cat house."

Despite these negative stereotypes, our language is also peppered with metaphors that focus on
the sweetness of cats and their love of a good patting and a cuddle. A nice guy is a "real pussycat"
and a smoothly running motor is "really purring." A doting father may call his daughter by the pet
name "Kitten." Some expressions have come and gone in our culture, such as the 1920s' "the cat’s
meow" and the 1950s beatnik expressions "hep cat" and "cool cat." 

The cat’s reputation for being a skilled hunter has spawned many a saying, as well, from the
unpleasant "Look what the cat dragged in" to the predatory "cat bird seat." When someone is
holding out on us we refer to them as looking like "the cat who swallowed the canary," while any
time two people match wits we call it "a game of cat and mouse." 

A strong sense of curiosity is another attribute that we assign to cats and there are, of course,
expressions that reflect this, the ultimate being "Curiosity killed the cat." Other related items
include being "a copy cat" and sitting "kitty cornered" (both of which I've seen my own cats do),
plus there’s "What’s new pussycat ?" which has been immortalized in song and film. 

Cats also get accused of being overly sensitive and jumpy. Possessing senses far more acute than
our own, from eyesight and sense of smell to a heightened sense of hearing, is it really any surprise
that they sometimes react to stimuli that we can neither see nor hear ? This perceived jumpiness
has been recorded in such unfeeling sayings as being "more nervous than a long-tailed cat in a
room full of rockers." When someone becomes overly agitated, we implore them not to "have
kittens" and when someone can’t restrain him or herself and reveals a secret we say "Who let the
cat out of the bag ?"

Finally, there are cat expressions that allude to cats’ silent and mysterious ways. Their stealth, as
it were, is celebrated in phrases such as "cat burglar" and their balance and grace in "catwalk."
Their uncanny abilities to run, leap and land on their feet are literally translated into sayings like
"He always lands on his feet" and "Cats have nine lives." Their mystery is noted in "Cat got your
tongue ?" and "in a cat’s eye." Superstitions about black cats crossing one’s path are a clear
throwback to the days of belief in witchcraft, and the cat’s role as a supernatural witch’s "familiar."

The myriad cat sayings in the English language, and their reflection of our complex relationships
with cats down through the ages, add to our admiration for and devotion to the cats who share our
daily lives. There will always be a bond between us. Cats have even been immortalized in English
literature and popular culture, from centuries-old nursery rhymes, such as "Pussy cat, pussy cat,
where have you been ? I’ve been to London to visit the queen !" to modern incarnations like "The
Cat in the Hat" and Garfield the cat.

Too often, for my taste, modern films portray cats as sinister conniving types, using affable but
hapless dogs as their victims. Therefore, I prefer to end on a more cat-friendly note. Here is a
lesser-known, but touching Mother Goose rhyme about cats : "I love little pussy, her coat is so
warm, and if I don’t hurt her, she’ll do me no harm. So, I’ll not pull her tail, nor drive her away, but
pussy and I very gently will play."

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Let Your Children Help Choose the Family Pet ©2008

Let Your Children Help Choose the Family Pet - Part One

Have your children been hounding you for a dog, cat, rabbit or hamster ? Are you already
contemplating adding a new family member in the form of a pet ? Let your children have a say
in your choice of what type of animal you'll be welcoming into your home. As with many big
decisions in life, such as moving to a new home, the more you keep your children involved in
the decision-making process and preparations, the more they'll be excited about, and ready
to participate in, the responsibilities and adjustments that the change entails. In the case of
a new pet, this early involvement in the choice of an animal will help your children along the
way to accepting responsibility for their choices and their actions, plus it will contribute towards
their growing up to be caring and accountable as adults.

The first decision to be made regarding a new pet is, what species shall it be ? Have your
children always dreamed of having a dog who would accompany them on their adventures ?
Pehaps they want a soft, warm and affectionate cat to cuddle up with on a rainy day and tell
their troubles to. Have your kids wished for a whiskered little brown mouse who would climb
into a snug shirt pocket to retrieve a hidden nut or take a little nap ?

In addition to such heart-based desires for particular types of pets, there are also some
fundamental issues that must be addressed. What type of pet is your family in the best position
to house and care for ? How much space, money and time do you have to devote to your pets ?
Animals are not toys to be bought on impulse and then tossed away when they cease to amuse
or become a burden. By considering such important questions and making well thought out
decisions at the outset, you can avoid contributing to the sorrow of animals who are abandoned
or end their short lives in animal shelters.

The first issue to think about is space. Do you have a larged enclosed yard safe from cars and
other dangers, such as broken glass or harmful chemicals ? Do you live in a city apartment
where a dog would have to be cooped up all day, with nothing to do but look forward to brief
evening walks ?

Cats can settle more comfortably into apartment living and, in an urban environment, cats are
far safer remaining indoors than allowed to roam where all sorts of dangers like cars, dogs,
diseases, or discarded antifreeze could prematurely end their lives. The outside world can be fatal
for cats. For example, in winter outdoor cats may climb up under a car's hood for the residual
warmth of the engine, and then be killed when the unsuspecting driver starts up his car.

Small rodents don't require much space, although you should build them as large a house as
you possibly can, and never confine them to sad little cages devoid of space to run and play,
or lacking in platforms, wheels and trapezes to entertain them. Large wood and screen homes
are also better ventilated than those with glass or plastic sides and thus much healthier for
small companion animals.

Money is another easily overlooked, but important factor to consider when deciding what pet
your family would like. You can avoid later heartbreak by doing a few calculations in advance.
While small pets such as rats, mice, hamsters, and gerbils require that you furnish them with
a living space of their own, their food, water bottles and such are inexpensive. Cats and dogs
are much larger and eat more, increasing the size of your monthly food bills, plus they require
regular visits to the vet for routine shots, not to mention the one time expense of spaying or
neutering procedures. Once you've made the decision to welcome any animals into your home,
you have the responsibility to give them the best care and treatment possible, in sickness and
in health.

Time is of the essence. Is your entire household off at work or school all day ? Will a highly
social animal, such as a dog, spend most days alone and forlorn ? Certain types of pets demand
more of your time, in more ways than one. First of all, consider the daily time needed to handle
your pets' daily needs, such as feeding, washing water dishes, cleaning out litter pans, changing
fish tanks, grooming, or dog walking. Will these routine chores be a pleasure to perform for the
animals you love, an unpleasant necessity that you really don't mind, or an unwelcome burden
that leads you to resent the presence of these animals in your home ?

The second critical part of the question of available time is the important role that love and
affection play in your pets' well-being. While a colony of mice might not mind if they're not
played with by you or your children for a few days, dogs and cats will suffer for it. Some animals'
emotional stability depends on the love they receive from the human members of the family.
Cuddling, patting, and play can make all the difference in a pet's happiness, and in how well
they fit into their home environment. Would you prefer a cat who runs and hides or tries to
scratch you when you approach her, or one who rubs up against your leg and climbs into your
lap for a cuddle ? To a large extent, it is your behavior and that of your children that will
determine the personality and behavior of the pets who share your home. Happy and sweetly
dispositioned pets are those who are well cared for and well loved. Before taking on pets who
need a lot of your time, be sure that you have the time to give. In addition, give thought to what
will happen to your pets when you head off on vacation. Would your pets go with you, or do
you have friends or relatives who can come into your home and care for your pets, as well as
spend time with them ? Or would you board your pets ? Would it be a good idea to have a pair
of cats or a pair of dogs, rather than one, so that they have each other's company when
family members aren't home ?

Pets are often seen as a way to teach children responsibility, and the children are the ones
who will be expected to take the time to attend to their pet's physical and emotional needs.
This approach can be of great value to children. If, however, the children are not yet ready to
handle such reponsibilities, or they neglect their duties and lose interest in their pets, it is the
animals who suffer the consequences. Therefore, in the process of selecting family pets, you
must decide how much time and devotion you yourself are willing to give to your household
animals. You need to be willing to clean those litter pans or walk the dog in the pouring rain,
if necessary. Your pets cannot be made to suffer . Animals are living beings with needs and
feelings and they cannot be made to bear the brunt of neglect in case the children renege on
their promises to do everything, if only they were allowed to have that dog or rabbit or other

Let Your Children Help Choose the Family Pet - Part Two

Caring for pets should be a joy and a privilege for children, not a punishment. If your kids
come to see their pets as nothing but chore-inducing nuisances, then you may be reinforcing
negative attitudes towards animals and a lack of empathy for them, the exact opposite of
your original intent. If your children aren't ready to make good on their promises, you must
be prepared to do everything yourself, at least for a time.

Get the kids invloved at the outset. Encourage them to compile lists of the pros and cons of
each type of pet in relation to your family's home situation and lifestyle. Make charts
comparing different types of companion animals. If you are contemplating adding more than
one type of pet to the family, be sure that each one's safety can be assured. How will you
mix cats and rabbits, or fish ?

You might also consider acquiring two new pets of the same species. Each animal deserves
to have the companionship of a fellow member of its own species. Two cats, for example,
could keep each other company when the rest of the household is out during the day. My own
two cats, who are sisters, don't exactly interact with each other a lot, but they do take
comfort in each other's presence, particularly when something such as a thunderstorm makes
them feel insecure. If you like mice, housing several mice together in a large airy home will
give them more opportunities for play and provide you with an entertaining daily circus of

Once your whole family has settled on the right species, you can start to think about your
new pet in more detail. If it will be a dog, do you prefer a mongrel or a purebreed ? What size,
color and features would best suit everyone's taste ? Do you need a dog who can be trusted
around a baby and who is tolerant of the behavior of very young children ? If you have lots
of flower beds that you would hate to see dug up by a dog avoid terriers, as they have a
propensity for digging. What color cat would you like ? If your kids go in for small rodents,
would they prefer rats or mice, gerbils or hamsters ? If they want variety, then a little group
of mice might be just the thing, as they can be found in all sorts of colors and patterns, making
it easy to tell each individual apart from the others.

Please don't ever consider trying to turn wild animals, such as raccoons or squirrels, into pets.
It's cruel to deprive wild animals of their natural lives in their natural habitats. Those adorable
little baby animals are likely to grow up to be destructive when kept in a human house, or
quick to bite, as they mature and their instincts fully develop. They'll become impossible to
keep, and yet unafraid of humans and poorly equipped to survive the rigors of life in the wild.
Making a wild animal into a pet is a recipe for disaster and it's the animal who inevitably suffers
the consequences. Please think twice, too, before caging a bird, as birds are born to fly and to
cover large distances.

When you've finally settled on the species, decide which sex you want. Male cats may spray
the furniture when indoors, if not neutered. Two male mice, when kept together, may fight,
while a colony of female mice can live together harmoniously. If you're adding small caged
pets like rodents to your family, be sure that you don't inadvertently bring home a male and
a female, or you'll soon find that you have more little critters than you can manage.

If you welcome female cats or dogs into your home, do not let them have babies so that your
children can witness "the miracle of birth." It's a far better lesson for your kids to see you
take on the responsibility of spaying and neutering cats and dogs so that you do not contribute
to the problem of pet overpopulation. There are already far too many unwanted pets who end
their short lives in shelters. Spaying and neutering bring health benefits to animals, as well.
For example, neutered male cats will not spray in the house or roam far afield getting into
fights, and spayed female cats will be less subject to certain medical conditions as they age.

Once you've decided on the perfect family pet you'll need to gather information to better
prepare you for life with your new friend or friends. Involve your kids in the research and
reading as much as you can. Don't confine your research to aspects of pet care, important
as that is, because it's also a good idea to have information on hand that can help you out
if your pets ever show symptoms of illness. Information on signs and symptoms and their
possible causes can help you determine when it's safe to "watch and wait" and when immediate
veterinary treatment is vital.

Take your kids with you when you are ready to start shopping around for that perfect pet. Be
sure to stick to reputable sources (ie. no puppy mills) that provide hygienic conditions for the
animals in their care. If the caregivers also display gentleness and spend time playing with their
animals, the animals will be more likely to develop into affectionate and sociable pets.
Consider adopting a cat or dog from a reputable animal shelter. Here you'll find animals who
have already suffered at human hands and been abandoned or mistreated. You'll be rescuing
them and offering them a second chance for a happy life. Although they may require some extra
patience on your part and lots of TLC to get them over their past traumas, you'll be rewarded by
knowing that you've given a good home to an animal in need, one who may otherwise have
faced euthanasia.

When you're out pet hunting, be sure that your kids know how to move slowly and quietly, so
as not to frighten the animals they're looking at. During your search of shelters, pet shops or
private homes that have placed classified ads, at some point you and your children will find
yourselves looking into that face, the sweetest face on earth, the face of the little creature
whom you absolutely must have. It will be love at first sight, your hearts will melt, and you'll
all be sure that this is the one, even if he or she does not meet all of the criteria that you had
so painstakingly defined beforehand !

Let Your Children Help Choose the Family Pet - Part Three

Have your new pets checked over by a vet, especially before bringing them into a home where
you already have other animals, to quickly catch, treat and prevent the spread of any diseases
that may have been contracted  while in the pet shop or shelter. You wouldn't want a joyous
moment to turn into a tragedy. It's also important to have the vet take care of any necessary
shots and routine worming treatments and such.

Have your home all ready for your new arrivals before you actually bring them home. Buy pet
beds and food bowls, toys and litter boxes, brushes and leashes. Have everything in place when
you welcome your pets to their new home and, of course, lay in a good supply of pet food that
will provide them with well balanced diets. Junk food is just as bad for pets as it is for people !

Before your pet arrives you and your children should give your home a good going over to remove
anything that might be dangerous to pets. The image of a puppy chewing on a slipper is a familiar
one, but that same puppy or a kitten might also chew on electrical cords. Poinsettias are poisonous
to cats, plus cats may swallow Christmas tinsel or pieces of string and yarn which can block their
intestines. Go around your home and conceal wires, store medications and household cleaning
products, and put sharp objects out of reach. Learn which house plants might be poisonous if
ingested, and don't leave heavy objects where they might get knocked over. Make it into a game
in which your children search for potential pet dangers and come up with ways to remove each one.

Puppies and kittens will invariably get into everything that they have access to, so be careful that
they do not get closed into drawers or climb into kitchen appliances. Take the same kind of
precautions that you'd take with very young children in the house. Teach your kids to keep your
pet's safety in mind at all times. Animals have a tendancy to be forever underfoot, so teach your
children to move slowly and gently and to look before they take a step or sit down. Teach them to
open doors slowly, in case a furry little someone is just behind that door.

When your new pets first come home, try to give them a quiet spot and plenty of time to acclimate
to their new environment. Sights, sounds and smells will all play a role as your pets gradually learn
their way around their new home. Don't overstress new pets with too much noisy attention and
fussing. Too many hands reaching out to pat them or pick them up may be frightening. Let pets
gradually get accustomed to the children in the house. With lots of love and affection and socialization
practice your new pet should soon find its place within the family. Supervise young children until
they've learned how to be gentle and considerate of pets' needs and feelings: no sudden noises, no
tail-pulling, no dressing pets up in human clothing, no teasing them. As your children come to
understand why they should not do these things, they will learn to respect their fellow creatures as
autonomous beings and they will grow up to be compassionate, caring adults.

Be cautious when introducing new pets to pets already living in the house, to avoid conflicts. Give
your older pets plenty of attention and affection, so as to prevent jealousy and any resulting
aggression. Take care not to ignore them in favor of the new arrival, just as you would be careful to
not ignore your older children when a new baby is born into the family. For animals there may be
territoriality issues to work out and strange new scents to decipher. You must also take precautions
when introducing your new pet to his outdoor environment and new yard or neighborhood, to avoid
undue disorientation and anxiety or worse.

As new pets settle into the routine of daily life at your house, you and your kids can put into practice
all the pet care tips that you've read about: provide your pets with a healthy diet, always give them
access to fresh, clean water, encourage plenty of exercise in a safe environment and keep up with
all required vaccinations and other medical treatments. And never leave pets in hot parked cars in
the summertime, as temperatures inside cars can quickly rise and threaten the lives of animals
closed inside.

Take care of every one of your pet's needs, from daily brushings to periodic toenail trimmings to
annual shots. Give pets toys that are safe to play with, with no pointy edges that could poke eyes or
jab throats. Your pets use ther mouths to play with objects, so avoid toys with small parts that might
be bitten off or swallowed. Respect an animal's need for privacy. When your pets need some quiet time
alone, be sure that they get it. Give them nice soft beds, boxes to climb into and other safe hidey holes
in out-of-the-way places. Teach your kids to respect your pets' moods and to not bother them when
they're sleeping. The better your children know the animals who live in your house, and the more
involved they are in your pets' care and daily routines, the closer they'll be to them and the more
they'll love them.

The unquestioning love that animals, such as cats and dogs, can give to humans is one of the nicest
gifts that you can give to your children, and the best gift that you can give to your pets is the
unconditional love that you and your kids feel for them. The love that pets give to humans can also
help kids through difficult times. Trusted dogs or cats will actively seek out attention, play and
cuddling, and their companionship will be constant when friends and schools and other things may
change. Pets are always there to listen to children's troubles, share their joys, and keep them
company during times of loneliness, and children can confide their secrets to their pet with the
absolute certainty that the animal will never betray their confidence. That sort of absolute love and
devotion can bring children and animals together in such a special way, and that inter-species bond
can help your children grow up to be compassionate adults who feel more connected to the natural
world. Pets give their best to us and, in return, we should do our best for them. They deserve all the
love, time, attention, play, and affection that your children, and you, can give them.

Pets are not toys, they are members of the family. When new pets are added to a household, with
proper care and with plenty of love, they will soon find their place within your hearts and your lives
and you'll all wonder how you ever could have gotten along without them !

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Children and Holidays : A Year Round Celebration ©2006

For children, every month of the year should be a fun-filled celebration of something special, from
large occasions like the birth of a new brother or sister, a child's birthday, or Christmas, to the
smaller milestones of everyday life, such as losing the first baby tooth or coming to the end of
another school year. Often families hold large-scale celebrations surrounding certain events, but
may pass others over entirely. The purpose of this article is to suggest ways in which parents can
make every month special and uniquely memorable for their children.

Picture the scene. It's Christmastime. Many homes, especially if there are children, are framed in
twinkling lights, have Christmas wreaths hanging on the front doors, and perhaps Santa's sleigh
adorning the front lawn, in addition to a lovingly trimmed Christmas tree in the livingroom. The
act of making or putting up these decorations provides a special opportunity for parents and
children to participate in a creative endeavor together. It heightens the child's anticipation of the
big holiday to come and provides an enjoyable day spent doing things together.

Because of its association with a very special annual event, it may particularly stand out in the
child's mind and even become a cherished childhood memory, lasting long after the child has
grown into adulthood. Moments such as these linger and contribute to the special bond between
parents and children and become tender memories that grown children and their parents can
hold onto forever.

After New Year's Day, when the Christmas tree comes down and the last string of tiny light bulbs
has been packed away, it's a bit of a letdown and signals a return to the routine passing of the
days. Well, instead of just packing away all of these fanciful flourishes for another year, why not
segue directly into another  holiday ? In January, this could be preparations for Chinese New Year
or for Valentine's Day. Why not put equal care and attention into doing up the house for each
subsequent special event throughout the year ? With a bit of planning and effort, every month
can mark a new festival of creativity, excitement and anticipation. The house need never revert
to dullness and children need never feel that the fun's all over until next year. This practice will
also allow your children to take pride in their own artistic accomplishments, the fruits of which
will be on display all around them.

Here is a list of just some of the annual events that you might wish to make a bigger fuss over,
in terms of decorating a single room or decorating your entire home, inside and out. You may
even choose to make gift-giving a part of a broader range of annual events, just for the pleasure
of giving. You might bake a special cake and have a party with a particular theme in mind, and
incorporate that theme into all of your table trimmings. Some of the following widely celebrated
holidays and other special observances have fixed dates, while others vary a bit from year to year :

January 1 - New Year's Day
midJanuary - Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
January - Chinese New Year
February - African-American History Month
February 2 - Groundhog Day
February 14 - Valentine's Day
March - Women's History Month
March 17 - Saint Patrick's Day
late March or April - Easter
April - National Library Week
May - Older Americans Month
May ­ Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
May - Be Kind To Animals Week
midMay - Mother's Day
midJune - Father's Day
July 4 - American Independence Day
September  - Grandparents Day
September 15 to October 15 - Hispanic Heritage Month
October 12 - Columbus Day
October 31 - Halloween
November - American Indian/Alaska Native Heritage Month
November - National Children's Book Week
late November - Thanksgiving
late November or December - Chanukah
December 25 - Christmas
December 26 to January 1 - Kwanzaa

To find detailed information on designs to use or special pictures and symbols to go with each
event, you can consult Internet or find a book on holidays at your local library. Whatever your
religion, you may also want to decorate your home for your faith’s unique holidays and traditional
celebrations, the Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot, for example. Don't forget to doll up the place
for all personal family events, too, such as each family member's birthday, graduations,
anniversaries and the like. How about celebrating when your child successfully learns to ride
a bicycle or loses a baby tooth ? You might even mark the arrival of a new pet, or a long overdue
visit from a favorite relative who lives far away.

For each event, you may or may not choose to use some store-bought ornaments and objects
related to the festivity, but you should also always include many homemade decorations. The art
sessions during which you and your children design and make your own decorations add to family
closeness and create special memories in and of themselves. They also encourage your children
to tap their own creativity, to develop original ideas and see them through, and to trust their own

You might buy some basic materials, such as rolls of ribbon or crepe paper or rolls of colored
cellophane and pipe cleaners, or really maximize your resourcefulness by relying primarily on
odds and ends that you already have lying around the house. These could include bits of colored
construction paper, tin foil, crayons, cotton balls, leftover ribbons and yarn. Be careful, of course,
to keep scissors and swallowable objects out of the reach of small children and exercise caution
if you have pets in your house. Please be careful not to use any decorations or materials that
may be poisonous, such as poinsettias, or otherwise harmful to pets. For example, cats may
swallow tinsel, which can then block their intestines, or pets may become tangled up in or choked
by long, string-like strips of ribbon and such.

When planning each project, let your kids decide what to make and where to put each item, or
start with one room plus an idea of that room's overall decorative potential, such as a garland
here, a mobile there, and a picture over there, and then set about to construct each desired
element. Take plenty of photos along the way, not only of your resplendant rooms once they've
been all gussied up, but also of your family's "making of" activities.  You may even decide to
start a special photo album just for this purpose.

Later, when the time comes to take down all of the decorations from a particular special event,
pack them lovingly away so that next year you can reuse some, in addition to creating some
new ones each year. You can gradually build up your own personal inventory of special ornaments
and trimmings for each event in the year. Then, in years to come, they can be brought out for
nostalgic afternoons with your adult children, or for sharing with your grandchildren. Each decoration
or photo will have its own story to tell and, after all, these are the special moments that lifetime
memories are made of.

Please click here to see some related products from our shops :  HOLIDAY CLOTHING AND GIFTS.

Learning the Alphabet - Is It Really as Easy as ABC ? ©2008

Learning the alphabet and learning to read must be a piece of cake, right ? If nearly every six year
old can master it, then it must be simple ... or is it ?

The alphabet, and its use in written language, is one of the most astounding developments in
human history. The ability to share knowledge and information through writing has had an impact
on every other human endeavor in history. For each new generation of children, reading is a bit of
a miraculous accomplishment, which requires a sophisticated set of skills.

To a young child, the written word is no more than seemingly random scribbles on a page. For
those squiggles and lines to fall into place and form recognizable letters, and for those letters to
have specific names with predictably constant sounds, and, incredibly, for each sequence of letters
to come together to create a unified whole - wow ! Successfully making that journey is one of the
crowning achievements in any child's life. Learning to read means learning that written letters
translate into spoken sounds. Those sounds represent known words. Those words convey
meanings - they signify real objects in the real world or they refer to concepts.

"D" is the letter "dee." The letter "D" gives us the sound "dih." "D - O - G" equals "DOG," perhaps
some specific dog that the child knows and loves. For a child to unlock that secret is right up there
with taking his or her first steps, and soon learning how to walk, and then run. From scribble, to
symbol, to complete word with meaning in the physical world !

Once a child can read, new worlds of knowledge and pleasure open up, and a lifetime of learning
and vicarious fictional experiences can begin. What a child reads will play a role in the kind of
person that that child becomes: what she or he knows, believes, values, enjoys. It may contribute
to the choice of a career or provide an avenue for lifelong entertainment. 

In the western industrialized world, education and literacy skills are sometimes taken for granted,
but the reality is that learning to read, this most powerful of cognitive skills, cannot just happen by
itself, and it is not a quick process. It takes time, and different children master it at different rates.

Parents need not, however, just sit back and wait for it to happen, or leave the entire burden to the
school system. They need not simply hope that their children will prove to be quick studies. There is
plenty that parents can do to get their children off to a good start and to reinforce reading skills at
every step of the way.

In "Teaching Our Youngest," from the U.S. Department of Education, it is stated that "Children who
enter kindergarten knowing many letter names tend to have an easier time learning to read than
do children who have not learned these skills. In fact, it is unreasonable to believe that children
will be able to read until they can recognize and name a number of letters. To read, children
recognize letters and know how to connect these individual letters and sometimes combinations
of letters with the sounds of spoken words."

This article provides some easy and practical tips for parents who want to enhance their children's
liklihood of success, and to do so in ways that create effortless fun for their children. Learning does
not need to be drudgery for parents or for children. It can, and should, be creative and enjoyable !
The trick is to work it into everyday situations, to make learning a spontaneous and natural part of
everyday life.


The more you read to your children, the more they learn that books are powerful magic. Alphabet
letters, written words, and books tell us exciting stories. They can let us discover new worlds and
they can teach us things we've never dreamed of. Let your children see the words on the page as
you read them aloud. Your kids can then make the connection between the written words and
the words you speak, long before they are able to read those words for themselves. Let them
understand that there are coded meanings to decipher from that mysterious printed page. 

According to the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics, "At the
beginning of kindergarten, children's reading skills and knowledge were related to their home
literacy environment. Children from a 'literacy-rich' home environment (i.e., those who are read
to, sung to, and told stories more frequently and those who have more children's books, records/
audiotapes/CDs in the home) demonstrated higher reading knowledge and skills than other
children. This relationship existed whether their families' income was above or below the federal
poverty threshold." 

This effect continues once the children are in school. For example, government statistics reveal
that "... children with rich literacy environments at home were more likely than other children to
perform well in reading at the end of both kindergarten and 1st grade."

Therefore, it's important to set aside a quiet sharing time every day, just for reading to your
children. Share picture books, share longer stories, and share online or CD-ROM picture stories.
If children associate the written word with pleasurable experiences, both their learning AND their
motivation to learn how to read will be enhanced.


Sing simple songs to babies and very young children; teach songs to toddlers and preschoolers
and older children. Help them tune into the rhythms and the rhymes, to the beauty of the sounds
of words, spoken or sung. Try lullabies, familiar children's songs, chanted Mother Goose rhymes,
even bouncy pop songs. You can also play finger games with rhyming jingles, both for the
soothing sounds of the words and to help young fingers gain dexterity.


Help your children master the alphabet before they begin kindergarten or first grade. Help them
associate letters with the sounds that they make, for the same government report confirms that
"... children who had certain early literacy knowledge and skills (e.g. could recognize letters of
the alphabet, recognize numbers and shapes, and understand the concept of the relative size of
objects) when they entered kindergarten demonstrated higher reading proficiency in the spring
of both kindergarten and 1st grade than children who did not have this knowledge and these skills."

Therefore, it's important to maximize your children's exposure to the letters of the alphabet.
Give them alphabet books, alphabet blocks, alphabet magnets and clothing decorated with the
alphabet. Here are some ideas for using such objects in simple alphabet and spelling games that
you can play with your young children, to help them get off on the right foot, and do it all while
making it an enjoyable part of everyday life.

Make a game of naming the letters of the alphabet and pronouncing the sounds that they make.
Practice them in alphabetical order and, later, in random order. Sing the alphabet song, while
pointing to the letters of the alphabet. Go around the room and hang signs on common objects
with simple one and two-syllable names: "table," "bed," "lamp," and such. Help your children
name the letters in them and spell and pronounce the words. Later, once the spellings are known,
remove the signs, but continue to have the children spell the words for you. Look at pictures of
everyday objects and use movable letters, such as alphabet magnets or blocks or flash cards, to
form the words and practice their spellings.

Always try to reinforce that magical connection between the names of letters, the sounds that
letters make, and how the letters come together to form pronounceable words that represent real
objects, but always keep it within the confines of fun and games. Create no pressure and don't
criticize for wrong answers, but give plenty of praise for correct ones. Be imaginative and light-
hearted in your approach.

Don't force dull rote learning on young children (although chanting games combined with hand clapping
rhythms can encourage lots of useful repetition), and never forget that individual children learn at
different rates. Let them absorb what they can, as their cognitive skills develop, and reinforce
progress made by practicing it in as many different settings and contexts as possible. For example,
one day it might be pictures in books, another day it may be alphabet blocks or magnets spelling
out words, another day hang signs on objects, another day wear an alphabet T-shirt and point to
the letters on it. Indoors and outdoors, you might sometimes look at objects and name them, then
write out the words and spell them. At other times, with a child who's already mastered the basics,
you could make simple rebusses to demonstrate the connections between pictures and written words.

Create artwork with your children. While fingerpainting a flower, you might help the child fingerpaint
the letter "F" for flower. Guide your child's hand in forming letter shapes to imitate those seen on
alphabet blocks and such, or paint a letter and work it into a design. Create letters in paint and in
clay, carve them into bars of soap, draw them in crayon, scratch them in the sand at the beach,
form letters in shaving cream on the bathroom mirror - use whatever is at hand to create spontaneous
moments of joyful sharing with your child.

Variety of media, times of day, and places will keep it all fresh and fun and reduce the risk of boredom.
Learning should not be dull or tedious. It's a key part of life and there should be no arbitrary boundaries
between daily life, learning and play. (Also, beyond the immediate goal of promoting alphabet skills,
positive learning experiences at an early age can make learning, itself, an exciting opportunity for
discovery and feelings of accomplishment. Self-affirming early learning experiences help children start
school with more positive attitudes that can affect their success in school... and in life.)

As time goes on, show your child how to print his or her name and, as alphabet learning progresses,
don't forget that both capital letters AND small letters are equally important. Help your child sign his
or her first name on any pictures that are drawn, and on any birthday cards to grandma and grandpa,
etc. The stronger the connection grows between alphabet letters, sounds and written words, the more
reading-ready your child becomes.

Muster up all of your creativity. Pose your body in the shape of a simple letter that's familiar to your
child and have him or her guess what letter you are. Outstretched arms and you have the letter "T,"
arms and legs out at angles, and you've created an "X". At Christmas time, lay a string of twinkly
Christmas lights on the floor and form letter shapes with them. Lay building blocks or dominoes end-
to-end to create giant letters. Perhaps try alphabet magnets, with one animal picture for each letter
of the alphabet. You might line them up on your refrigerator to make a complete alphabet. Then at
unexpected moments, like while you're preparing breakfast, choose an object in the room, such as
a cup and spell it out on the fridge. Spell family members' names, play a simple scrabble game, or
leave secret messages. 

You may decide to give your child an alphabet t-shirt, and you could wear one yourself. That way,
every time your child looks up at you, the shapes of the letters of the alphabet will be subtly reinforced.
Such tender moments of sharing, with your young child cuddled in your lap, can turn into fun,
unforgettable learning milestones.

It's impossible to stress strongly enough the importance of working some of these alphabet learning
games into your child's life. U.S. National Institute of Health studies have shown that "... at least 95%
of even the poorest readers can learn to read at grade level if they are given proper instruction in
sound-letter relationships." So, if you haven't done so already,  please get going with your own kids
now !

There's really no limit to the ways in which you can integrate alphabet practice into the daily life of
your child. Just use your "I-M-A-G-I-N-A-T-I-O-N."

Please click here to see some related products from our shops :  ALPHABET CLOTHING AND GIFTS.

Why I Like the English Language ©2008

I really like the English language. I've been speaking it all my life, but it's not until I became an English
teacher, teaching English as a foreign language, that I really started to understand how it functions and
to appreciate both its richness and its versatility.

I believe that, at an elementary level, English is easier to learn than some other languages. A beginner
can form good basic sentences without knowing a lot of complex grammatical forms. English verbs
don't have many different endings to memorize before one can express the simplest of thoughts. For
example, if you conjugate a verb in the present simple tense, you get: I eat cake, you eat cake,
he/she/it EATS cake, we eat cake, you eat cake, they eat cake. It's a piece of cake, literally !

Another strong point is that English does not, as a rule, have masculine and feminine nouns and there
are no changing forms for adjectives to slow a learner down. For instance, in French you must memorize
a number of verb endings and match adjectives to nouns before you can verbalize even the simplest of
ideas, but a novice does not need to study English for long before being able to construct good basic
sentences. Here's a case in point: "He is a good dog." "She is a good dog." "They are good dogs."
Neither the adjective "good" nor the noun "dog" changes form to suit the sex plus the number of dogs
involved, and for the plural "dogs," we simply add an "s". French would require four separate spellings of
"good dog" to reflect sex: two forms in the singular and two others in the plural.

English has a mix of vocabulary with Germanic roots and vocabulary with Latin or French roots, allowing
speakers of numerous European languages to recognize and understand many English words. Although
sometimes the meanings are no longer the same in the two languages, they are often still similar
enough to serve as an aid to comprehension and to help a learner get the gist of texts.

Once English learners have reached a more advanced level, they become exposed to additional
structures that reveal some unexpected complexities in the language. For example, the uses of the
present perfect tense can be quite confusing. On the other hand, English verb forms allow for a
wonderful element of subjectivity and point of view in expressing attitudes towards events. Consider
"I've just lost my glasses" and "I lost my glasses an hour ago." Both are fine, but your choice of one
or the other reflects your attitude toward the situation. Do you want to emphasize the consequence
of losing your glasses? If so, then choose the former, the present perfect form. If you prefer to focus
on when the glasses were lost, then use the latter, the past simple tense.

English can be wonderfully expressive. Because it has accumulated vocabulary from many different
languages, there are far more words to choose from than some other languages offer. You can discuss
a topic at length without ever repeating yourself or overusing a specific word. You can choose from an
array of words with similar meanings to find the most perfect match in meaning and connotation to suit
the thought that you want to express.

Sure, you can simply walk down the street, but you can also stroll, march, amble, trot, mosey, shuffle,
skip, run, race, promenade, lope, slink, fly, zip, crawl, gallop, whiz, zoom, or careen down the street. A
cursory glance reveals that the English section of my bilingual dictionary is considerably larger than
the French portion. The enormity of English vocabulary allows for precision and economy of expression.
Ideas and instructions can be concisely stated. When viewing multilingual signs and equipment usage
manuals, the English version is frequently shorter than that of many other languages. To take a simple
example, in French it takes four words, "sautez à cloche-pied," to express what English does in just
three letters: "hop."

English easily absorbs new words from other languages and cultures. Just think of "salsa," "smorgasbord,"
"taboo," "wampum," and "pajamas," for starters. When necessary, English also seems to revel in
inventing entirely new lexicons of words, such as for new technologies like the Internet. Internet is full
of colorful and amusing imagery from "the web" to "spidering" and "click on the mouse," let alone such
silly sounding words as "googling," "blogging," and "WIKI." It is a riotously "living" language and this
flexibility has helped English become such a widely used international language.

I also love English because colorful wordings and vivid imagery abound in both old and new expressions.
I picture tall sailing ships and Errol Flynn films when I hear someone say, "She passed her exam with
flying colors." Think of other expressions, too, such as "That makes my skin crawl," "It sent shivers up
and down my spine," "He's got his head in the clouds," "She's full of get up and go," and "They're head
over heels in love."

English even has a strong sense of whimsy, and so lends itself to delightful combinations of alliterative
phrasings like "the whole kit and caboodle," or "footloose and fancy-free." It's also chock full of amusing
words that are especially for children. Think of "choo-choo train," "puppy dog," "kitty cat," or "do the
hokey pokey." Fun-loving authors have added to the festivities by feeling free to invent their own words,
just for the pleasing sound of them, from Edward Lear's "Dong with the Luminous Nose" to Dr. Seuss's
"Sneeches with stars on thars." J. K. Rowling has invented an entire vocabulary of her own to use in the
magical world that she has created for Harry Potter. The so-called "language of Shakespeare" has
contributed much literature and poetry to the world, plus other beautiful expressions of thoughts
through the abstraction of words. As someone who writes stories for children, I'm also fond of simple
jingles and fun forms such as Mother Goose rhymes.

Now that I'm an English teacher, I try to unlock many of the mysteries of the English language for
students who have other languages as their mother tongues. In doing so, I've taken a much closer
look at the language myself, in all of its complexities and inconsistencies, all of its rules and abundance
of exceptions to its own rules, in its enormous vocabulary and subtleties in shades of meanings.
Whenever possible, I try to give my students the logic behind the grammar, so that they can gain a
deeper understanding of the thought processes behind our many ways of looking at time, rather than
just have students randomly memorize rules.

To put English into perspective and make allowances for its many idiosyncracies, I try to briefly explain
the history of English and the many historical influences that have affected it, from a series of early
invasions of the British Isles, by people such as the Romans, Saxons, Vikings, and Normans, to later
British Empire building around the world, and then to America's melting pot of cultures and languages
from the world over. With each new group has come an infusion of new vocabulary. Some element of
comprehension of that historical perspective can explain to students both the richness of expression
and vocabulary that English possesses, plus the maddening inconsistencies in English spelling and
pronunciation. I'm no authority on other languages and I'm not saying that English is the best language
in the world but, as I've taught English to others over the years, my own appreciation of it has grown
immeasurably and I've really come to love it.

Please click here to see some related products from our shops : 

Happy Birthday to You ©2008

"Happy Birthday to You !" It’s one of the most commonly used phrases in the English language, sung
around the world on a daily basis, but what do birthdays really mean to us ?

People celebrate lots of events every year. We may celebrate religious holidays, or we may celebrate
anniversaries that mark the big events in our nation’s history, like the Fourth of July, or in human
history, but what significance do our own birthdays have? Most of us don’t change the world. Most of
us don’t lead noteworthy lives. We live our lives in quiet anonymity, and the world would keep on
turning even if we’d never been born.

Yet for our family and friends, for our own smaller, private worlds of kinship and friendship, our
presence can be felt and our absence missed. Thus we celebrate the anniversaries of our own and
of our loved ones’ births with very personal celebrations. We may just spend time together on those
special days, or perhaps renew our bonds with a larger circle of relations and acquaintances. Either
way, though, we like to just plain have a good time on birthdays, and why not ? The world finds the
time to mark all manner of occasions, both big and small, both global and national, so why not mark
our personal milestones as well?

Birthdays are celebrated as joyous occasions, from quietly given gifts, to intimate family dinners,
to enormous surprise parties, to raucous all night parties in glitzy nightclubs. For children, especially,
birthdays can be special occasions, and days for everyone to say “We love you and we’re glad that
you were born. We’re grateful that you’re a part of our lives and we want to celebrate your special
day !” It’s fun to make a big deal out of a child’s birthday.

Make it festive ! Make it colorful ! Make it bright ! Three hundred and sixty-four days of the year we
can teach our kids to be well-mannered , to get along with others, to share, and we teach them to
accept being treated just like everyone else by the world at large, with no special privileges. On that
three hundred and sixty-fifth day, however, break all the rules. Sure, children must still be polite
and cooperative on that day, too, but let them know that they really are special, and that birthdays
are special holidays just for them alone, celebrations of their births, and theirs alone !

If you’re putting together a birthday party in your home, decorate the place to the nines, with
intertwined rolls of crepe paper hanging from the rafters, and with three-foot high letters spelling
out “Happy Birthday!” stretched across the room. Decorate the party table with colorful paper
plates and cups and napkins, just for the sheer cheerfulness of the things.

Consider building an entire party around one special theme, like your child’s favourite story character,
or dinosaurs, or pirates, or princesses, or dragons, or any one of a thousand things. Sure, some of
these may be party clichés, but kids still love them! The use of a theme can extend to the party
invitations and table settings, as well as the room decorations. You can even develop party games
using the same theme, and you can show a relevant movie during the party. Of course, don’t forget
the traditional party hats, noisemakers and party favors. You might even want to try a costume party.
For example, have all of the invited kids come dressed as pirates, or as Harry Potter characters!

For most of these themes and party elements it’s easy enough to buy ready-made party supplies,
but you could make things even more special by creating everything yourself, instead. A home-baked,
home-decorated birthday cake really says “I love you and I made this cake just for you!” Decorations
and party favors made by your own kids in advance can also lend a more personal touch to the party
and create additional birthday memories that your children will always cherish.

Whatever you do to celebrate your child’s birthday, don’t forget to photograph or film the great event,
and to put aside a pristine sample of each party invitation, hat, napkin, etc., to save in a treasure box
of childhood memories. Years later when your children have grown up and are planning birthday
parties for their own children, echoes of “Happy Birthday to You” will still be ringing in their ears.

Please click here to see some related products from our shops :  KIDS BIRTHDAY T-SHIRTS.

You’ve Got a Job to Do: Reflections on Career Choices ©2008

What does your job mean to you ? Is it a career you’ve trained for, in a field you love and are
committed to ? Do you wake up every day happy and eager to get to work ? In contrast, is it a mere
job, just a means to an end, a paycheck at the end of every week or month ? Is it routine and
numbingly dull ? Does it make you dread getting out of bed in the morning ? Perhaps you gain your
livelihood in a so-so job doing something that’s bearable, but never stimulating or challenging.
It’s just okay, and you constantly tell yourself that it could be worse. Is your job some combination
of all three types ? You may do something that once stimulated and excited you, but has since
lost its spark, to the point where you’re now just going through the motions.

The release of the new Indiana Jones movie has got me thinking about the subject. Some
archaeologists are enthusiastic, because new Indiana Jones films boost enrollments in university
archaeology programs. I wonder how many of those recruits stick with it over the years and
actually become archaeologists, or other types of anthropologists.  How disappointed were some
of them when they discovered that archaeology doesn’t really involve daily battles between
good and evil, or bullwhip fights in far-off exotic lands ? Were they able to settle down to a life of
teaching, or of patiently sifting through soil, one square foot at a time ?

How often do you think about what your job means to you and how did you choose it ? Was it a
passion for a certain subject or did you back into it ? Did you study a discipline for years or receive
a token day of on-the-job training ? Exactly how do most people choose their jobs ? Are there
firefighters who had wanted to be a fireman since they were six years old ? Do family pressures
or family career traditions determine certain choices, such as the expectation that someone will
become a doctor or a lawyer just like mom or dad ? Are there people who enter a university with
a specific goal in mind and are never deterred from it, or do most students enter college with some
hazy sense of getting a liberal arts education, hoping that at some point some subject will click
with them ? Do changing job markets and employment statistics seriously affect career decisions ?

How much of an impact do a field’s perks have on choices made ? For example, flight attendants
are given the opportunity to travel, and insurance company employees may receive insurance
premium reductions. Do such priorities shift as we move from one stage of life to another ? Lots of
travel as part of a job may be a career incentive for a young single person, but it may become a
job liability when someone is later raising a young family.

What role do issues related to working hours play ? Is a day job necessarily preferable to the
graveyard shift ? Is a regular five day working week inherently better than a longer cycle of on-duty
and off-duty days ? What about jobs that involve seasonal cycles of slow and busy periods, such
as those of tax accountants and hotel workers in tourist resorts ?

How important is the geographic location of a given job opportunity or of a place-specific type of
career ? There are those who want to remain in their home towns or regions, while others are dying
to pull up stakes and experience new locales, or to find jobs that will pay them for having adventures
in far-flung corners of the earth.

Is money always a primary consideration, or is the importance of money drastically overestimated
as a deciding factor in career choice ? Certainly a high-paying job is the essential motivation and
goal for some people, yet there are others who dedicate their lives to public service work or to
working for justice and social change at the expense of a decent paycheck.

What points relating to temperament enter into the career decisions that we make in life ? For
example, breaking into any area of show business may require a certain type of personality. How
many of us could stand the discouraging frequency of rejection experienced by most would-be
actors ? Does the acting bug involve both a larger than average ego, plus a larger than normal
persistence of vision and resilience in the face of rejection ?

Speaking of temperaments, how do national characteristics and traditions affect career possibilities ?
In certain western countries the average person takes a job and stays in it for forty years with his
or her eyes on the prize ­ guaranteed retirement checks. There is an overall fear of ever taking a risk.
Most employees would never dream of trying to start their own businesses and people often seem
reluctant even to consider changing jobs, let alone to ever consider the unthinkable concept of
actually changing careers. Nothing can get in the way of that guaranteed retirement package.

Governments may not make it easy for people to start their own businesses, creating minefields of
time-wasting regulations and paperwork and charging social security taxes even when profits are
yet to be seen. Only the most intrepid souls take that giant step and shoot for independence. Even
those who stick to the conventional work world of secure jobs and stable paychecks find that
returning to school after years in the workplace and retraining for a career change are viewed with
suspicion and therefore are rather rare occurrences.

In contrast, in the USA it’s not that uncommon to find older students in university classrooms, to
see men and women returning to school or taking night classes so that they can enhance their
knowledge or change careers midstream and try out new things. For many there’s a love of or
even a need for new challenges now and then. In addition, to be your own boss is an integral part
of the American dream for many individuals. It’s no surprise, really. The USA is a nation of
immigrants: of people who had the courage to leave their old worlds behind and make a fresh
start, of people who were ready to take enormous risks in the hope of a better life. It's a nation
of people who were full of big ideas, and who passed both their ideas and their work ethic down to
their children and to their children’s children, and some of them succeeded in making those big
dreams come true, passing on a legacy of hope and optimism - that "can do" attitude.

With the recent advent of Internet, anyone can now start a new business with virtually no seed
money and without prematurely quitting a stable day job, and then nurture it and watch it grow.
Internet presents us with marvelous and limitless possibilities. Unlike opening a corner shop,
it also gives us the ability to reach a worldwide audience. Unfortunately, Internet involves
competition which is also worldwide and limitless !

In the past one hundred years or so, countless new jobs and entirely new fields have appeared,
particularly in the areas of services and technology. Think of personal trainers and airline pilots
and information technology specialists and genetic researchers, to name just a few. Certain
types of older jobs have dwindled down to a few surviving practitioners, or have disappeared
altogether. After all, village blacksmiths and cowboys are few and far between these days. Other
professions may have faded away but later experienced a sudden resurgence, as society’s values
have changed and counter movements have appeared. Midwives and chiropractors leap to mind.
Some intrepid souls reject the pace and mechanization of the modern world and make conscious
decisions to return to the land, seeking simpler and more personally rewarding ways of life in
agricultural pursuits or traditional crafts.

As lifestyles change, many activities that were once handled strictly within the family circle have
now become paid activities and thus employment opportunities for others, as witnessed by such
businesses as dog walking services and nursing homes. Also, as old-fashioned sex roles and
stereotypes are relinquished, women, who were previously restricted to such spheres of activity
as teaching and nursing, at last have countless other choices open to them.

With so many factors influencing our career choices, and with those choices in turn playing such
a major role in our day-to-day lives, it’s interesting to take a minute to stop and reflect on the
impact that our choices will have, or that our past decisions have had, in each of our own lives.
For those of us who have already been in the work world for several years, it can be enlightening
to look back over our lives and see how they have been shaped by the choices we’ve made over
the years. How have our jobs affected, for better or for worse, our economic situations and
resulting lifestyles, such as where we live, the type of homes we have, our family lives, and a
hundred other intangibles ? Do you have your career choice to thank for allowing you to meet
your spouse ? Would you never have met if you hadn’t been in that biology class together, or if
you hadn’t moved to Chicago for that big promotion ? If you backtrack through your school years
and working life, what would or would not have happened in your life if things had been different
at each crucial juncture ?

In the final analysis, are you satisfied with the rewards brought to you by the career choices
you’ve made, or frustrated by their limitations ? Do you have any regrets ? Maybe this would be
the appropriate time to either give yourself a good pat on the back, or a good swift kick. If you
tend towards the latter, maybe it’s not too late to return to the drawing board and reshape your
life into what you want it to be. Happy hunting !

Please click here to see some related products from our shops :  JOB T-SHIRTS AND GIFTS.

Visit page 2 of the Egg Blog for more articles.

We hope you've enjoyed our articles and found them to be useful.
Children's stories and fairy tales from Baby Bird Productions. Logo of our pigeon mascot on a nest with a newly hatched chick.Children's stories and fairy tales from Baby Bird Productions. Logo of our pigeon mascot on a nest with a newly hatched chick.
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Children's stories and fairy tales from Baby Bird Productions. Logo for children's free educational activity about fun with reading skills. A child reads a book.
To see a list of suggestions for reading-
related activities, CLICK HERE.
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additional hints for helping your children do their best, CLICK HERE.
Thank you for taking the time to read our article for parents and educators on
the importance of children's reading skills development. It includes educational
information on all of the ways in which reading skills can enhance children's lives.
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