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Bye-bye antibacterial soap - a mom's perspective changes

I remember walking through the grocery not long after I first moved away from home. With $50 in my pocket I felt positively rich and proceeded to purchase only the best of the best ... you know, only Skippy Peanut Butter and Campbell's soup. Fifty dollars would buy enough food to last me three weeks!

Gone were the days when I would have to travel to the market with my mother, who was shopping for five, and compare the prices of generic Toasty O's versus my favorite, Lucky Charms, which were twice as expensive. I ate a lot of Toasty O's when I was a kid.

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Then I started shopping for three (a husband and a child had come into my life) and I soon started buying generic peanut butter so that I could afford organic baby food. My $50 was no longer burning a hole in my pocket; I spent at least that much in a week. Where did my mother find the Toasty O's?

With one new baby and another on the way, I was determined to provide the best nutrition and most natural atmosphere for my children. My children wouldn't watch TV. I bought only whole-grain bread, or baked it myself. I bought certified organic fruits and vegetables, at about $1 more per pound than "normal" ones. I bought cloth diapers (and then a washer and dryer). The cloth diapers were the only place I saved any money at all.

My grocery bill rapidly grew, but I wrote it off as providing the best for my wee ones. They ate only carob chip cookies, and I diligently washed every organic item that went into their overprotected mouths. We won't discuss the thousands of dollars I invested in antibacterial soap.

Then I had my third child. And my fourth. And you know what I found out? Regular apples are pretty cheap and are OK if you wash them really well. And lollipops from the lady at the bank can keep a foursome quiet for almost five - count them, five - minutes.

I also discovered that Ivory soap costs only 50 cents a bar and cleans hands just as well as the antibacterial formula.

Investing a fortune in "all-natural" wooden toys has netted me much less than I anticipated as a new mom.

My arrogance back then shocks me now. I looked disdainfully at the mothers pushing strollers in the mall, filled with children sucking on noisy plastic toys. How could they let their children play with those chemical-laced plastics, I thought. "How irresponsible," I would huff as I leaned over to pick up the wooden duck my 2-year-old had thrown out of his stroller for the 30th time.

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I can now look back on this version of myself and laugh. I know that my new way isn't for everyone, but it works fine for me.

I've learned many things in my yearsas a mom, and some of this wisdom I've passed on to my children: "Don't eat the yellow snow." "Don't put that bean up your nose." "Don't put that in your mouth." And simply "No."

I've also learned that SpongeBob SquarePants is funny, noisy toys are best when given to other people's children, and that cookies taste better with real chocolate chips. My bank account isn't any fuller because I know this now, but my life is a lot more fun.