Month: March 2020

It was a balmy March day when I figured I would brainstorm ideas towards the greatest birthday party any boy could want. After all, my youngest son was turning eleven in August and there was not going to be many more years of birthday plans to be had in the future, at the rate he was aging. (You know if you’re a mom and having been through this twice before, how around twelve or thirteen your sons no longer want what they consider something beneath them and embarrassing. They say things like: “Awe Mom, I’m not a baby anymore.”

So thinking I’m ahead at this game, I grabbed my son and asked for his opinion on my ideas. We decided on a bike party and I began to research ideas in magazines and on the Internet.

It being march-I guess I let down my guard and thinking I was so far ahead and having plenty of time, I kind of just poked along getting things for the party together until suddenly I turned around and my middle son-turning eighteen and not into kiddie parties had his birthday.

This was July and August sixth was fast approaching. I began to hastily make lists and start to purchase. The weather was so hot, we decided the hour for the party would be best early morning or evening. We set the date for the Saturday evening before my son’s birth date.

My first inclination of Murphy’s Law should have been when my son announced as we were readying the invitations, “TJ and Jimmy can’t come this day and Brendan has a game.” This was half his list of invites and of course he did not want to do it without them and they would also be upset if they missed the event.

So we switched the date. Now we were scheduled on a week past the actual birthdate, but it was so hot I was welcome for a time lapse. And besides i was having a time trying to find where to hold this thing at. We had to have an area to do a bike obstacle course with a shady spot to do the cake and Ice cream and place the presents. None of the schools would let us in for insurance reasons and the bike pit had no spot for the food to sit so with total- meltdown, literally and how can a mom let a birthday party stress her so much-my husband suggested the park down the street’s lot which very few people ever use since it is out of the way from the rest of the park.

That taken care of, we delivered the invitations and I ran all over town trying to find the “easy to come up with items”-at least that is what the websites’ had called them-pieces needed for the obstacle course and the other games my son had chosen. I finally had to make do and substitute another item for several such as cardboard boxes for pool noodles, etc. And breathing a sigh of relief and proud of my accomplishment, coming home I began to organize my paraphernalia.

“Where’s the cake?”, my son asked the morning of the party. Was I glad we had chosen an evening time to hold this party. I drove frantically around trying to find black paste food coloring, necessary for the black bike wheel tire cake I had planned to do. Have you ever tried to find black paste food coloring at the last minute? And as I was driving I noticed I didn’t need the air conditioning for some reason. The day previous had been in the 90’s, but that evening at the party the wind blew, the temperature was about 65-not that cold, but after being used to 90 and above-“freezing” with rain.

My son loved it though and it brought me great satisfaction having given him this, even if TJ, Jimmy and Brendan didn’t show.

From the first moment I saw her, I knew that parenting my firstborn daughter would be the biggest blessing of my life. She eased me into motherhood because she was the easiest going baby ever. The year she turned 5 was truly a special time for us and we wanted to give her a special birthday party to commemorate the event. However, we also had another new baby in the house this same year. To make it easier on ourselves, we decided we would have an out-of-home party so we wouldn’t have to invest the hours of time into having the party at home.

We decided to have a Build-a-Bear Party, with lunch at the nearby California Pizza Kitchen. We would have 12 children (including our daughter), as well as their families to celebrate at lunch with us. My husband would take care of ordering the cake. He was so into cakes and decided he wanted a two-tiered cake because they were so special. My only condition was that it had to have a bear on top of the cake to go with the Build-a-Bear theme. My husband found a bakery that would be convenient to the local mall where we were having everyone meet us for the lunch, and that could do the cake as we desired.

What started out as a simple idea turned into a rather elaborate and expensive idea. Just imagine 12 children ranging in age from 4-8 who were all invited to the party. Then, imagine all of the older siblings, babies, toddlers, and parents of those children who would also be joining us at California Pizza Kitchen. In total, 40 people ended up celebrating our daughter’s 5th birthday with us. We had a few very long tables reserved just for our party alone. We ordered a variety of pizzas, sodas, salads, and pasta to feed everyone. There were kids running around the restaurant noisily while poor bystanders tried to enjoy their lunch. To top off the event, my husband was picking up the cake from the bakery and bringing it to the restaurant (alone, mind you) as we ate.

Half-way into our lunch, he called me on the cell phone to let me know he just found a parking spot at the very crowded mall as everyone waited for the cake. He said that he was late because he had to drive very slowly in the hopes that the cake would not topple over in the car since the bakery could not cover the cake in a box without damaging it. After all, it was 2 layers and quite tall. On top of the cake, was not a plastic bear or a picture of a bear like I imagined, but a bear made completely out of frosting, sitting on its bottom on the top tier of the cake. In addition, California Pizza Kitchen was on the top level of the two-story outdoor mall.

What a sight it must have been for onlookers to see my husband get out of the car with a very large uncovered, two-tiered cake with a frosting bear sitting on top, as he precariously balanced it out of the car, slowly through the parking lot, even slower up the flight of concrete stairs, and into the restaurant. All the while, he was praying that he would not stumble or drop the cake as he walked at a turtle’s pace with it in the open air. My husband later told me that all he could picture in his mind as he carried our daughter’s cake was that baker guy from the old Sesame Street segments carrying several pies and yelling, “Twelve Chocolate Pies!” just before he slipped and toppled down the stairs, ending up with pie all over himself.

Thankfully, he reached his destination with the cake intact and placed it at the end of the table right in front of my daughter. Her eyes lit up when she saw that elaborate cake. Everyone thought the cake was beautiful of course, and the kids had fun making bears at the Build-a-Bear Workshop afterwards, but I will never let my husband forget how hilarious it was to see him with that big cake with the frosting bear on top walking slowly into the restaurant with beads of sweat running down his face. Nor, will we ever forget that even though it was the most expensive birthday we have ever thrown, it certainly was the most memorable.

My family recently went from a one dog household to a three dog household and were in desperate need for a better vacuum when we found theBissell Healthy Home HEPA Upright Vacuum. Our new Bissell vacuum has outperformed every other vacuum our family has tried or owned in the past, but like all vacuums, it does have its flaws. The suction and features are incredible and the reason why I recommend the Bissell Healthy Home, but the maneuverability and weight could be improved.

If you have several pets or are dealing with allergies, I would highly recommend the Bissel Healthy Home HEPA vacuum because of its almost unparalleled suction power. If, on the other hand, you are just looking for something to do light cleaning with and don’t have to worry about pets or allergens, there are several vacuums on the market that perform well and are slightly easier to handle.

One of the main reasons I think the Bissell vacuum is so great, has to do with its cleaning performance. After all, suction is the first thing you look at in a vacuum cleaner and with all the dogs I have running around, this is my main concern. According to the manufacturer, the vacuum has 12 amps of power, which was more or about the same as similar HEPA bagless models, but came at a competitive price. All that suction power translates into clean floors and carpets when you come through with this model, more so than other models that I tried.

On Berber carpet the Bissell Healthy Home is amazing, getting out dirt and pet hair that has been lodged in the pile for way too long. On the surface, there is no longer the noticeable presence of dog hair trapped in the loops of carpeting. The more obvious difference was apparent after I used the Bissell for several weeks and then steam cleaned all the carpets and rugs in my home. Generally, the water sucked back up during a regular steam cleaning was filled with dirt and dust to the point of being murky. After vacuuming on the same schedule I always have, the water sucked back into the steam cleaner was slightly discolored, but without the buildup of dirt and dust piling up at the bottom of the reservoir.

The parts of our home that are covered in hardwood or plush carpeting look even better, and are much easier to clean with the Healthy Home HEPA. In these sections of my home, a single pass through with the vacuum is enough to get the job done and the wide brush helps me get rooms done quicker. Because the cleaner is bagless, disposing of the dirt and hair picked up is quick and easy, I love not having to deal with bags. Other features and attachments include the crevice cleaner, dusting brush and Turbo Brush. All of these are invaluable, and the dusting brush especially, really make this machine a huge multitasking cleaner.

As for cons, the Bissell Healthy Home vacuum could be a little lighter, it is definitely not the easiest machine to move around. Overall maneuverability is a little disappointing, especially when it comes to hard to clean sections like stairs or awkward hallways. The extension wand and hose could also be made a little longer when you consider the effort it takes to pull the vacuum around.

Overall though, the performance and cost far outweighs any weight concerns. I am more than happy to wheel around the Bissell using a little more arm muscle than go back to the hair being left behind by other brands. Definitely a must for pet owners.

Toy boxes are a tradition. They are often passed down from generation to generation and seem as necessary as the bed in the bedroom. But they leave your child’s toys unorganized, allowing for pieces to get lost and parts to break. Organize your child’s bedroom or playroom like a classroom, and get rid of the unnecessary clutter.

Sort toys into boxes and baggies.

All small parts belong in Ziploc baggies. Sort all toys by type, and put them into a plastic box with a lid. Label the box in multiple places, using a sticker or piece of masking tape that can be easily replaced should the contents later change.

Jigsaw puzzles could have a colored dot or shape on the back of each piece, to distinguish pieces should they get mixed up. Cut the picture from the lid of the box and place it into the bag with the pieces.

Keep board games in the original box as long as possible. When the boxes break, use the extra-large bags, such as those for clothing and bedding, to contain the game board. Smaller pieces can go in their own size-appropriate baggie, within that larger one.

Rotate the toys as if they were classroom activities.

Children easily get bored with their toys. They also get bored with activities in the classroom. To keep them entertained and engaged, teachers rotate the available works on the shelves. Do this with young children’s toys.

Look at dollar stores and other discount stores for attractive trays, baskets, and bowls. Display your child’s toys by placing one activity on each tray or in each basket. Keep all necessary parts together, so that when the child chooses it, she doesn’t have to look for missing pieces.

Within the shelves, keep activities organized by the type they are. Only put a few trays on a shelf, to keep the area looking neat and orderly.

Pay attention to what your child is using. If she asks for a specific activity, consider putting it out again. When it looks like she hasn’t touched a particular toy for a while, put it away in the storage area for a while. Then, when it reappers, she will be excited to see it again.

Also include her in regular maintenance of the toys. Pick a regular cleaning schedule, and let her help you do it. Have her help check for broken or missing pieces. Ask her to organize the shelves before going to bed at night, or at the end of a “play session.”

Use work rugs.

Purchase white or colored rugs, or special towels that can serve as work rugs. Have the children keep their activities on the rugs, instead of spreading the play all over the floor. Some activities are going to be too big for one rug, so use more than one when necessary.

When they are finished using their toys, they should be expected to put them away in the proper places. If they are truly in the middle of something, they could put a “save name” on it and finish it the following day. Rugs should also be folded or rolled up, and put into their special area.

It will take some time to implement the plan into your household. It will also take some time to get used to enforcing the rules. Stay consistent and persistent, and it will pay off.

Not too many years ago, the idea of an HIV infected woman choosing to have a baby brought about strong opposition from just about everyone, including medical professionals who were involved in the treatment of HIV disease. In the past, people with HIV were not expected to live long, and the chances of their children being born HIV+ was greater than 25%. Today, with the advances in the care and treatment of HIV, people are living longer, healthier lives. Many HIV+ women are now making the decision to become pregnant and start a family, with the support of their HIV treatment specialists.

Although there are still many people, including medical professionals, who would discourage an HIV+ woman from having a baby because of the risk of mother-to-child transmission of the virus, most HIV treatment specialists now have an acceptance that starting a family is in fact an option for an HIV+ woman. With the advances in treatment, the risk of transmitting the virus is less than 2% overall, and studies have proven that pregnancy and childbirth does not affect the progression of HIV in the mother in any way.

Women who take HIV medications and have an undetectable HIV viral load have the lowest risk for transmission of the virus to their babies; however, certain medications can cause serious birth defects and must not be taken if a woman is pregnant or trying to become pregnant. It is vital that the decision to become pregnant be discussed with the healthcare provider in advance so that the woman is on an appropriate regimen of medications.

Most couples cannot afford procedures such as sperm-washing, so they will make the decision to have unprotected sex in order to get pregnant; unprotected sex itself has risks (other than pregnancy) which the couple needs to consider. This is a personal and individual decision which both partners must make after they have been informed of the potential risks and the ways to minimize those risks as much as possible. If the man is HIV negative, he should know that unprotected sex with an HIV+ woman could put him at risk for becoming HIV+, although the transmission rate from females to males through unprotected vaginal sex is lower than it is from males to females; the risk is decreased even further if the woman is taking antiretroviral medications to treat the HIV and her viral load is undetectable. If both partners are HIV+, unprotected sex can cause one partner to become reinfected with a different HIV virus, potentially leading to treatment complications in the future. Either way, there is risk involved. If a woman is trying to become pregnant by having unprotected sex, she should be taking HIV medications consistently and have an undetectable HIV viral load (as should her partner, if he is also HIV+). The couple should receive preconception counselling from an obstetrician to determine the time of the month when the woman is most fertile, and engage in unprotected sex only at that time; condoms should be used for the remainder of the month.

As with any woman, an HIV+ woman who is trying to become pregnant should give up smoking and avoid all alcohol and drug use. She should have a gynecological examination and PAP smear and be screened for other sexually transmitted diseases, and she should start taking prescription prenatal vitamins containing folic acid and calcium before she becomes pregnant to help ensure the health of her baby.

A couple will most likely encounter some critical, negative, and unsupportive attitudes from certain family members or friends regarding their decision to have a baby, and they should be prepared to deal with this. Many people are unaware of the advances in HIV treatment, and simply educating them will help them to become more understanding and supportive. The couple should encourage people who are critical of their decision to ask questions, and assist them in getting the knowledge that they need to understand their decision. To reduce stress, the couple may find it helpful to seek supportive counselling from a mental health professional so that they can discuss their feelings openly.