How To Take Care of a Baby

July 14, 2008 by  
Filed under Family & Parenting

how to care for a babyA newborn baby is exciting, but no matter how ready you think you are, new parents often find themselves a bit confused and panicked when that new baby comes home. There are many things involved to effectively take care of a baby, but once you have the basics sorted out, the rest just falls into place. Here is how to care for a newborn baby.

The adage about new babies claims they only do three things – eat, sleep, and poop. Many new parents find this to be startlingly true, at least for the first few weeks. Thus, care for a newborn baby involves taking care of these three activities.

Eat

A newborn baby eats only one of two things, or possibly both. Breast milk is the preferred choice for its many health benefits, but formula is certainly healthy and the natural alternative if breastfeeding does not work out for any reason. A newborn baby starts a feeding every 2-3 hours if breast fed, and every 2-4 hours if formula feeding.

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Most experts agree that feeding on demand, or when the baby wants to eat, is the best way to feed a baby for the first 4-12 months of life. So, when your baby begins fussing, crying, or chewing on his hands, offer him the breast or the bottle. A newborn will eat less than 2-3 ounces per feeding, and may take up to forty-five minutes to complete each feeding. Be sure to burp the baby periodically during the feeding to decrease chances of spit up.

Sleep

After your baby eats, he will most likely fall asleep. Lay him on his back in a safe sleeping environment such as a bassinet or crib. Avoid letting him sleep on your bed as the blankets may be too thick and your baby is simply safer inside a crib or bassinet. He can sleep in a playpen, car seat, swing, or bouncer as well for the first few weeks or months if he sleeps better in those positions. Dress him comfortably, and consider swaddling as this makes a newborn more comfortable and promotes longer and better sleep.

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Poop

Caring for a newborn involves quite a few diaper changes. You should change his diaper following every feeding. Most newborns make dirty diapers while eating as the feeding stimulates the bowels. Expect your newborn to have a dirty diaper with almost every meal for the first few days, but after the first week or two, dirty diapers will only appear 1-3 times a day.

Wipes are abrasive on the sensitive skin of a newborn, so consider using warm water and a washcloth or simply letting running water clean away the poop. This will help prevent diaper rash, but you should have ointment on hand to help with any that appears.

Love

Most of all, a newborn needs constant love and attention. His needs and comforts now come before your own, but you most likely won’t mind as he will have easily become the center of your world the moment he was born.

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How to Prepare a Nursery

July 14, 2008 by  
Filed under Home & Garden

how to prepare a nurseryAh, the nursery! When a new baby is on the way, the nursery presents the most fun and the most challenges. It doesn’t take long to realize you need more than a crib and a few outfits, but how do you know when you’ve gone overboard? Need to plan a nursery? Here’s how:

Pick the Room For Your Nursery

Your nursery should ideally be a room that is away from loud traffic or the neighbor’s barking dogs. You might prefer it have a western window to help your baby sleep later in the morning without the sun streaming in as it rises. It does not have to be large, but it will probably help to have a closet and some wall space for furniture placement.

Pick the Theme

How is the rest of your house decorated? Will this room be similar? Sketch out a rough plan in your head of what you would like the room to look like. What colors do you like? What kind of furniture do you need? Will the wood be dark or light?

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Buy the Linens

While it might seem like the furniture would be next, you should buy the linens. The dust ruffle, crib bumper, sheets, quilt and curtains will determine the color and overall look of the room. Neutral will suit future babies in the room, while gender specific colors and patterns can be more fun. Sheets will get the most use, so buy a few extras. Quilts can’t be used in the bed until much later, so consider buying a rod and making it a wall hanging for decoration.

Paint Your New Nursery

After you have the color scheme, buy paint and/or wall paper and get busy putting color on the walls. Remember to let Dad do the painting; pregnant women should avoid the fumes if possible.

Buy the Furniture

Now it’s time to buy a crib, dresser, changing table and any other furniture you might need in the room. Changing tables are often used only for a year or two, so it might be better to get a pad for the top of the dresser. Also consider putting a full or twin bed in the room for times a parent wants to sleep near baby. Be sure to get coordinating linens if you do get a bed for the room. The furniture may take some time to be delivered, but set it up once it does arrive.

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Buy the Rocker or Glider

You should have something to rock your baby in. Gliders are popular, and traditional rocking chairs will also do the trick. Buy one that is comfortable and sturdy. You’ll be spending a lot of time in this chair.

Buy the Decorations

Up to this point, you’ve taken care of the big items. You’ve painted, and you’ve set up furniture. You’ve got the linens. Now you get to buy decorations. Buy picture frames, rugs, wall signs or letters, toy boxes, lined baskets and anything else that suits your fancy.

Buy the Extras

Don’t forget to include the extra baby items in the room as well. You’ll need something for wet and dirty diapers, storage for clean diapers, a mobile, a place to store toys and linens, possibly a white noise machine or fan, a humidifier, and a baby monitor.

Buy the Layette

Now, it’s time to buy the layette. Layette is a fancy word for all the clothing and blankets a newborn needs. You should buy a few clothing items in the newborn size along with receiving blankets, burp clothes, washcloths, swaddling blankets and socks or booties to be ready. Be sure to pre wash all linens including sheets and blankets that will come in contact with baby’s sensitive skin.

Put Your New Nursery All Together

Finally spend a few days putting it all together. Remember to get help moving and setting up heavy items and take your time. Put the linens on the crib and hang curtains in the window. Hang pictures and place your rug. Then put the layette into your new dresser, sit in your rocker and anticipate bringing that new baby home.

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How to Dress a Baby

July 14, 2008 by  
Filed under Family & Parenting

how to dress a baby The rules to dressing a baby are simple. Once a baby has learned to regulate her body temperature, which happens within days of birth, she should be dressed the same way as you, but with one additional layer.

What this means is that if you are wearing a t-shirt, shorts and tennis shoes, you can dress your baby in essentially the same outfit. Pull on a one-piece t-shirt, or onesie. Then put on the coordinating pants or skirt. Your baby won’t need shoes for many months, but she should wear socks to help keep her feet warm.

General Tips for Dressing a Baby

For the additional layer, you have a few options. Many parents put a hat on their baby and this is an excellent idea. But a lightweight jacket, hoodie, or sweater may be an excellent idea as well.

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Dress a Baby in Layers

The best bet to dress a baby is to always have her in layers. This way you can remove a jacket when it’s warm outside, but put it back on should the air conditioning make a room cool. Babies sitting in strollers are not especially active, but they may not be getting much air circulation either. To check your baby’s temperature and comfort level, feel her chest or back. Baby’s feet and hands are often cool to the touch thanks to developing circulation.

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Your Baby’s Shoes

Babies don’t need shoes until they start crawling or pulling up to stand. And even then, they are not really required unless the baby is outside on an abrasive surface. Hard sole shoes should be avoided while your baby is learning to walk. Use soft soled crib shoes or even slippers to protect your baby’s feet but to let her feel the ground as she is learning to balance. Babies also tend to curl their toes and feet, and hard soled shoes can fit their little chubby feet uncomfortably.

Your Baby’s Socks

Many parents have a hard time finding socks that stay on baby’s active feet. Socks help keep your baby’s temperature stable, but can be kicked off in seconds with the right movements. Find socks that roll or cuff at the top as these stay more securely on baby’ feet without making indentions around baby’s ankles the way elastic topped socks might.

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How to Buy a Baby Crib

July 14, 2008 by  
Filed under Family & Parenting

how to buy a cribBabies can sleep in many things, but the most traditional bed is a full-sized crib. Other options include a bassinet, a play yard, a co-sleeper, or a Moses basket. But if you’re ready to put the nursery together, here’s how to buy a baby crib.

Assess Your Needs

Baby cribs come in many forms. Some are just a crib and others transform to toddler beds, and then headboards once the baby is grown. If you already have a full bedroom of furniture, you probably don’t need to buy a convertible crib. A basic crib will do for the two years before your baby is ready to graduate to the existing bed.

If you are starting from scratch and the nursery is bare, a convertible crib might be the best option. These cribs usually have matching furniture available, so you can purchase an entire bedroom of furniture and the crib will coordinate for years in one form or another.

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Assess Your Price Range

There are sturdy cribs in every price range. Some baby cribs start as low as $100 and are just as safe and sturdy as those that retail for $1000 or more. Find an amount that is comfortable for you. Remember, most babies are out of the crib by 30 months of age, so this is not a long-term investment unless you are buying a convertible crib or plan on using the crib for more children.

Start the Search

Begin searching for cribs that appeal to you. You can find cribs at baby specialty stores, large retailers such as Wal-Mart or Target, department stores, furniture stores and many online retailers. Many of the different locations carry the same brands of cribs, so it is wise to do a bit of price comparison before buying. You can also look for cribs at garage sales or baby resale shops, but be careful to check for quality and safety with used cribs.

Keep it Safe

Keep in mind the recommended safety guidelines for cribs. Your crib should have a drop side to allow you to get the baby in ad out of the bed safely. The level of the mattress should be capable of raising and lowering for safety and convenience. The mechanism that controls the raising and lowering of the mattress should be sturdy and foolproof to keep your baby or toddler from knocking it loose.

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The slats on a crib should not be more than 2 3/8 inches apart. This prevents your baby from slipping through or getting stuck. When the drop side is lowered, it should be 9 inches above the top of the mattress to keep the baby from rolling out. When the drop side is up, it should be at least 26 inches from the top of the mattress.

Give the crib a good shake in the store to check for stability. If it’s wobbly or rickety, pass on it. Your toddler will do more than a simple shake to this crib and you want it solid. Also check to see how snug the mattress fits inside the crib. If you can fit more than two fingers into the crack around the edges, it isn’t safe.

Keep it Easy

The drop side should lower quietly and easily – preferably with one hand since you’ll be holding a sleeping baby when using it. Try it out in the store a few times. A crib on casters will be easier to move around the room – a feature that is especially nice when trying to change the sheets.

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How To Write A Love Poem

July 14, 2008 by  
Filed under Education & Reading / Writing

how to write a love poemWriting a love poem is both the easiest and also the most difficult thing to do in poetry.  It is easy to write a love poem because writing about something that feels so good simply comes easily.  Certainly easier than writing a poem about something painful or even grievous.  However, writing a love poem is also difficult, especially if you aspire to write something interesting.  Trite love poems are ubiquitous.  A quick search online will immediately pull a wealth of poorly written love poems praising the charms of the beloved using phrases and metaphors which are not unique let alone interesting.  The primary goal of someone writing a love poem should be to write a poem that rises above the banal.

So ,although writing a love poem can be easy because you know what you are feeling, trying to write a poem that expresses your love in a new and exciting way may not come as easily. Even the most masterful poets struggle with writing love poems.  I confess to not only writing but publicly sharing some admittedly horrid love poems.  I say this to encourage you not to get so caught up in the suggestions which follow that  you never write a love poem.  I hope that you will, however, at least try to write something that will reflect the most essential experience of your emotion for your beloved.  And to this end, I offer the following  exercises.

The first exercise I would recommend is to write a love letter instead of a poem.  In the letter, write directly to the person describing how you feel about them and why.  Or you can write a letter to someone else, telling them how you feel and why.  It is not enough to say what you feel because the truth is that we all experience the feeling of love in similar ways–the excitement of seeing the one you love, the "butterflies in the stomach," the breathlessness.  By saying "why" you feel what you feel, you are taking your emotions to something more personal.  Is it the way the person dances?  Not everyone dances.  Does the person you love make you breakfast in bed?  These are the details which make your relationship and what you feel and experience different from everyone else’s. 

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Another way to approach a love poem is to make a list of things you love about the person.  Many love poems and songs are simply a list of things the the lover/writer loves about the other person.  Elizabeth Barrett Browning counted the ways she loved her husband Robert Browning in a sonnet.  You can do the same.  I would even challenge you to try to make the list as long and as detailed as possible.  The longer you can make your list, or letter, the more details from which you will be able to draw when it comes down to writing your poem.

As you are writing the letter and/or the list, do not discard anything as being too trivial or unimportant.  Remember that your goal is to celebrate your relationship and the qualities of your love which make it different from anyone and everyone else’s.  For this reason, you want to include the things about your relationship and the person you love that define what the two of you share.   Do not be  afraid to celebrate the trivial aspects of your love because these, ironically, will elevate your poem above the trivial and typical love poem.

After you have written the letter and/or the list, you should have plenty of information from which to draw and write a poem that is emotionally relevant to you and your beloved.  Poetry is an ideal means of communicating familiar emotions because the abbreviated lines and careful choice of words allows the poet to take the mundane and make it profound.  As you read through your writing, look for those things which jump out to you as interesting.  The things that jump out may be physical or personality traits, things the two of you share in common, and experiences that the two of you have had together.  The goal here is not to highlight everything but to choose the highlights of your emotions and experience.  These are the elements you will want to weave into your poem. 

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How you choose to write the poem, whether you choose to write a form poem (ie. a sonnet, vilanelle, et al) or free verse is completely up to you.  You might want to write more than one poem, using more than one form.  While I realize that this sounds like an awful lot of writing, look at it as an opportunity to celebrate your relationship, to explore the things about it which make you happiest, to not only relive the best but also immerse yourself in the experience of being in love with this other person.  (You may even want to save what you don’t use this time and share it at some future time.)

I assure you, if you take the time to do these things you will be able to present your beloved and the world with a wonderful gift–a synthesis of your love in your words that only you can offer.  I hope you will share them with me if this article has helped.  I would love to celebrate your love with you and know that this article helped you do the same.

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How To Read a Poem

July 14, 2008 by  
Filed under Education & Reading / Writing

poetry readingThe first step in learning how to read a poem is to find a poem you like. An obvious observation, I suppose, but many people leave their high school English classes afraid to even approach a poem for appreciation having had the details of poetry so thoroughly beaten into them by some well meaning teacher that the beauty of the verse is lost. If you do not already have a favorite poet whose work excites you to learn more about poetry then an excellent place to start is with simply reading poetry. 

Go out and purchase an anthology or two. You can spend as much or as little as you like on a collection of poetry. The anthology itself can be as broad as a complete history of poetry including texts from every era and nation to being as narrow as a collection of poems a slam team performed in a national competition. It might be a good idea to find an anthology that includes at least one or two poets with whom you are already familiar as well. I would also suggest that some publishers have begun including cd’s of the poets reading their own works.

Read through the anthology and do not be afraid to skip a poem you do not appreciate. If you want or need capitalization and you find a poem where there in none, don’t read it. Or if you do not like free verse and prefer a poem that has end rhymes by all means read only the poems that have end rhymes. You can always return to the poems you have skipped at a later time. 

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Once you have a few poems you like and want to fully appreciate you can begin the real fun of fully reading a poem. Poetry is deeply rooted in oral tradition. Therefore, most poetry is written to be "heard." I say "most poetry" because there are some poets (cummings, for example) who played with the poetry form to such a degree that certain poems are virtually impossible to read aloud. However, when seen on the page, these poems are lovely to look at and this was the poet’s purpose in manipulating the form of the poem so that the reader would have a visual stimulation beyond the words. 

Nonetheless, most poetry was written to be read aloud and to fully appreciate a poem the reader should take a moment to read the poem out loud. Feel the words on your tongue. Notice how the sounds are either soft full of s’s, f’s, and h’s or hard with sharp k’s, b’s and p’s. Listen to where you naturally pause for breath and how this influences the movement of the poem. Pay attention to where you find yourself slowing down or speeding up. Your appreciation for the skill of a poet will grow by leaps and bounds by simply reading the poem through a few times. If you can hear the poet read the poem on a recording, try to do so after you have done this for yourself. See where your reading of the poem is different from how the poet reads the poem. 

If you suffered through those high school English classes, you are aware that there are certain poetic devices a poet uses. Such words as metaphor and iambic probably still haunt you to this day. Let me reassure you that I will not try to exhaust the lexicon of poetry terms. However, there are a few things you will find in most well written poems and looking for these elements will bring you a greater appreciation for what you are reading. 

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Of the poems you have chosen from the anthology, choose one of the longer pieces. It is easiest to find one or more of the following in a longer piece. Once you have a poem chosen, read it through slowly, looking for some or all of the following:

  • Sensory Words and Imagery: As you are reading, notice what senses the poet tries to stimulate. Does the poet describe a scene, mention a fruit, or even a season? An orange will draw up a visual image as well as a taste and aroma. A season will have a certain feel to it that goes beyond merely physical. (For instance, winter is usually associated with endings.)
  • Metaphors and Similes:  Here are two of those dreaded poetry terms you probably hoped you would never see again. Don’t run away just yet. Read through the poem you chose and see if you can’t surprise yourself by recognizing a metaphor. For instance, I alluded to the idea that winter is associated with ending on an emotional level. Winter can often be a metaphor for death but it can also be a metaphor for new renewal, hibernation. Or it can be a metaphor for the emotional coldness someone feels towards another person. Footprints in the snow may be a metaphor for the past. Look for the metaphors and similes and if you find none, don’t worry about it. 
  • Rhythm and Rhymes:  If you have already read the poem aloud a few times you will have already discovered these things in the poem. Even in free verse, the lines will have a certain rhythm. There may even be some rhyming words although you won’t always find them at the end of the line. Also look for repetition in sounds, which creates a rhythm in the poem as well. Vowels can be long or short and certain consonants, like c and g, can be hard or soft. In the hands of a masterful poet, these details will not be coincidental.

By no means is this list exhaustive but these few details are recommended as a starting point. Nor am I suggesting that you do this for each and every poem you read. It is not necessary to do these things to enjoy the poems you are reading. 

If you have the time to do so then by all means make the effort. But I am guessing that you do not have the time. Making a commitment to read poetry regularly and to pick out the poems you like most is an excellent beginning. Once you have a few favorite poems, purchase collections of poems by the poets you like best. Perhaps read a biography about the poet and find out who inspired him or her and read that poet’s works as well. Or find a contemporary poet whose works are influenced by your favorites. And, as you become more comfortable with reading poetry and appreciating the craft of the poem, I hope you will make the effort to learn more of those poetry techniques you probably hated in high school. Even if you don’t, doing the above will take you a long way in learning to love poetry.

* Footnote: I have learned that not all poets know how to read their own poetry, surprisingly enough, and their voices do not do justice to their own writing. There are, however, recordings of actors reading poetry and, because of the dramatic training these men and women have gone through, the recordings often elevate the poem to wonderful heights.

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How To Not Write a Poem

July 14, 2008 by  
Filed under Education & Reading / Writing

how to not write a poemThe following is a list of the mistakes immature poets often make. The truth is, even practiced poets will make these mistakes. Nobody is immune to lazy writing. But if you want your reader to realize that you are not a talented poet, that you have nothing new or interesting to say, then be sure to include one or more of the following things in your poetry.

1. Use archaic language.

Once upon a time when people spoke, they used such words as "thou" and "methinks." A lot of poetry was written at this time and we are still reading these poems today even though we no longer talk that way. Contemporary poetry should be written in contemporary language. When Shakespeare wrote, "Methinks thou doth protest too much," this is actually how people spoke in his day. When you choose to use archaic language for the sake of sounding poetic, you only make yourself sound like an amateur.

2. Use cliches in your writing.

Cliches are useless unless you are writing about cliches. If you fall back onto cliches you reveal yourself as a lazy writer. If you describe someone’s eyes as being deep as the ocean or your love being like a rose or any of the other typical metaphors, your reader will quickly lose interest.

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3. Rhyme for rhyming’s sake.

There are many people who write form poetry which usually means lines of verse that have end rhymes. When done effectively, some of the most brilliant poetry will rhyme and rhyme well. However, too often it is done poorly. If you have to invert sentences to force a line to rhyme, revise the poem until you can do it without compromising your syntax. My son likes to mock certain rappers for making rhymes out of nonsense words or, worse, rhyming the same word with itself. If you can’t rhyme creatively, better to just not rhyme at all.

4. Be vague and abstract.

Henry Miller says that he always set aside his writing for a year. I have done this and been surprised to find a poem I wrote was utterly meaningless to me. It sounded lovely, used typically poetic language with metaphors, allusions to literature. But when I try to get to what the poem means, all I see are pretty phrases with no substance.

5. Stop reading poetry.

If you want to write bad poetry, you either need to expose yourself to only bad poetry. The problem is that if you read any poetry you risk reading good or even great poetry so it is probably best to read no poetry at all. If you simply must read poetry, only read poetry that was written over 500 years ago. You wouldn’t want to read anything contemporary, anything written in your vernacular. Better yet, try to read poetry written by people with whom you have no connection. Most older poetry is written by highly educated, wealthy, white men. If you are none of these, you won’t be able to identify with them as poets and what you write will lack authenticity.

6. Read books about poetry–all of them, all of the time.

Rather than actually write poetry, spend your time reading about writing poetry. Memorize everything you can about meter, be ready to define any and all formal poetry types from haiku to vilanelle, and memorize not only the difference between a Shakespearean sonnet and an Italian sonnet. If you can actually quote from memory examples of all of the above, that is even better. The time you spend learning all of this information could have been spent writing poetry and that is not what we are trying to do here.

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7. Throw out all spelling and grammar rules.

Whitman and Dickinson started it and then came cummings, who wouldn’t even capitalize his own name. With modern poetry came a wave of waving goodbye to the conventional rules of spelling and grammar. These genius poets paved the path. No longer were poets confined to conventions. Not only did lines not have to rhyme but now poets didn’t even have to capitalize a proper name or follow the most common grammatical rules. The problem is that these people who most perfectly ignore the rules first mastered them which is why they break them so beautifully. They don’t break the rules for the sake of breaking them, they break them to say something more meaningful than conforming to the rules would have afforded them the opportunity to do.

8. Avoid yourself as a poet.

If you are writing poetry then you are probably comfortable with a certain style of writing. Perhaps you are comfortable with free verse or you may prefer for your poems to have a tight rhythm with carefully chosen end rhymes. Neither choice is better than the other but if you write other styles of poetry then you risk actually growing as a poet. Stretching creatively beyond your personal comfort zone will likely result in your becoming a better poet. I caution you to find your one style and stick to it no matter how boring your poetry writing may seem.

9. Mistake prose for poetry.

This offense occurs most often in haiku where someone writes a seventeen syllable sentence and breaks it into lines of five/seven/five and declares themselves the writer of a haiku.

- I hate you mostly
- when I talk to your wife on
- the phone as she cries.

Technically, this meets the haiku standard for line breaks but offers nothing else. It lacks the emotional subtlety of a true haiku. Any poet who would dare to proclaim this a haiku only shows their ignorance of what a haiku should be.

10. Be afraid to break the rules.

Although you definitely want to break the grammar and spelling rules (as mentioned in rule seven above), you want to be careful to the point of paranoia when doing so. Consider all rules sacred. If you do this then you are more likely to write in a very formal tone, using those archaic words that are no longer a part of your natural vocabulary, and you will do whatever it takes to make that line rhyme the way it should.

If by some chance you are reading this article because you actually want to write a good poem, maybe even aspire to write some great poetry, and wanted to read some rules of things to avoid, then you would do well to follow number ten closely. Even these ten points are not sacrosanct. You can and should have the courage to do whatever you must to make your poem as powerful and potent as you can. If that means using archaic language or a cliche, manipulating a line so that the rhyme works, etc., by all means do it. But only do it if it is truly effective and there is no other way to make your poem relevant.

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How to Buy a Used Car Online

July 4, 2008 by  
Filed under Automotive & Mechanical

buy a used car Whenever large sums of money are involved then risk becomes an issue. Buying a car online is no different to buying one offline in this respect; and if you are cautious about buying a car on the internet then that caution should be applied equally to any deals you do elsewhere. The first thing to consider, before even looking at potential cars, is what your needs are.

The Budget

The second thing to consider is what your budget is. If you establish in your mind exactly why you are looking for a car and what you want from a car, and on top of that you know exactly how much you can afford – including how much you can afford to pay for any tax or insurance, then you will be far less likely to be tempted by things which aren’t exactly what you need, or which are more costly than you had budgeted for. If you merely need a car for transport, or for any purely functional reason, then make a list of the features you need or want and make a corresponding list of the kind of cars and models which would fit this list of features. Only focus on one make of car if it happens to be the only one which satisfies all your criteria.

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Ebay Motors is a great place to buy, and sell, cars; but it is not the only place. You can also check out classified sites like cars.com, carsoup.com and tradersonline.com; or another auction site like the one at Yahoo. Once you have your list and budget on paper, now go online and make a list of the cars which fit your criteria. Don’t pick one or two and focus on them; to begin with you need to look at everything on offer and create a list with the purpose of breaking it down into a smaller one.

Grade each used car

Grade each car you see according to ‘yes’ it’s a possibility, ‘maybe’ it’s a possibility and ‘no chance’. Fro every car you look at decide which category it goes into and make a list of all the ‘yes’ and ‘maybe’ cars – don’t worry, if you have done your list properly this shouldn’t be too big a list but it will certainly be in double figures.

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By making a list to begin with, and setting a budget, then grading cars according to these preset parameters, you keep your mind focused upon your goals. The problem with buying cars, and many other things, is it is very easy to get sidetracked. It is very easy to become emotional about what you are doing and instead of choosing to buy something based upon need, you begin to want something based upon ‘want’.

You begin to fantasize about having the nest class up or the newer model. You reassess your budget in your head and decide you can afford a few hundred more. You forget the functions and begin to fantasize about the appearance or the presentation. If you are buying for other reasons than functionality then maybe you’ll argue that these lists aren’t necessary – but they are. Even if you are looking to buy a sports car you will have a budget and you will have criteria for choosing one car above another.

Most important factors

The three most important factors of a car being sold online are its pictures, its description, and the communication of the seller. I read a remark by someone on another site about buying cars online, and they said – ‘you’re not buying the car, you are buying the seller’. I thought that was a pretty good way of looking at it. The attitude of the seller towards the car, towards the advert, and towards you are all signs of how genuine is the seller, and the car.

When you have your list of advertised cars you either are, or are ‘maybe’ interested in, begin to look more closely at the advertisements. First the photos, unless they are detailed and many then there is area for concern. The pictures should be good and clear and taken in a good light. You need to be able to see the car properly and you cannot assume that the seller is just a bad photographer – taking a picture in the shade might be a ploy to hide something. Make sure you can see the car from all sides, front, side and rear. Ensure there are interior shots, especially of the condition of the seats and dashboard. You will also want to see inside the trunk and there should be some close up pictures of the engine compartment and engine. If there are any special features, such as a soft top, then that should also be displayed – and look for photos of areas prone to rust or damage. A good clear photo of a wheel arch might not make for an attractive image but it will tell you a lot about the way the car has been stored and looked after.

Next, the description. Check the specifications of the car against how it is described and ensure the two match up. Does the car in the photos match the car in the description? It is better to ignore any emotional or descriptive language and rely upon the details only. Look to see if the description tells you essential details such as how long the owner has had the car and whether they know its history prior to ownership. Has the car ever been in an accident of any kind? Is it the original engine and what sort of work, replacements or resprays have been done? What’s the mileage and when was its last service? You should have a list of all the major details you need to know and check it against the description. If the photos and description encourage you then get in touch with the seller to find out how willing they are to communicate with you. Have some additional questions ready to ask, and see if the way they present the car is consistent with the advert.

When buying a car online it is always safer to buy from a dealer or at least buy within an area you are able to visit personally. All the rules of offline buying apply when buying online but when looking for cars online you can save yourself a lot of time and trouble if you check the photos and descriptions thoroughly before making a personal visit to inspect the car yourself. Always open up communications with a seller by email just to test them out and see if they are able to communicate with you. Don’t assume the rules are any different online, they aren’t you must still apply good judgment and be safe, but you will certainly save time in the process and find the choices available to you are far greater.

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