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Family Matters: Babysitters


BabysittersSometime in your baby’s life, you might need to ask the grandparents to babysit.

That’s the position my sister found herself in this week. She had a once-in-a-decade opportunity to accompany her husband on a business trip to somewhere fabulous, and she decided to take advantage of the opportunity.

So, my parents in their late 60s flew across the country to stay with her four kids, ages 2 to 10 (in fact, the twins just turned 2 yesterday).

It’s not always easy for a grandparent to step in, but there are ways you can facilitate an easy transition.

  • Have a backup plan. Leave the caregiver the number of a neighbor or a friend who is very familiar with your children and can step in to help if necessary.
  • Enlist this same friend to take a child or two off the grandparents’ hands for an afternoon.
  • Prepare meals to leave in the freezer for the grandparents to easily reheat. Even if they are adept at parenting, they are parenting children they are not used to, and things will take them longer to accomplish. Plus, they are older than when they were parenting you and may wear out more easily, even if they are in the best of health. As an alternative, leave a gift card for a delivery meal.
  • Write down a schedule. Don’t assume they know that one child needs a sippy cup of water and a stuffed giraffe to go to sleep while he’s laying upside down in his bed with a nightlight shining. Write it all down.
  • Call your littles every day while you’re away and FaceTime if necessary. If this upsets them too much, skip this step, but it’s probably for their benefit.
  • If you have time, leave them hidden notes or a scavenger hunt that they can find during the days you’re gone.
  • Bring them back a treat and celebrate your return!


Family Matters: Car Seat Safety in Winter


Car Seat Safety in WinterOver the past year, studies have shown that babies and toddlers should not wear heavy, puffy coats or buntings in their car seats.

The reason is that the bulkiness of the coat adds about four inches to the length of the strap on the seat, and tests conducted have shown that baby is more likely to be dislodged from the seat during a crash than without lengthening the straps to accommodate a coat. A study from the University of Michigan showed in a crash test that the dummy child wearing a puffy winter coat was much more likely to be thrown from the seat on impact.

Luckily, you can still keep your child warm and safe in the colder months. Dress your baby in layers if you’re going on a car trip. Put him in a long-sleeved onesie with fleece pants, socks and shoes. Then, layer a fleece jacket over his onesie and strap him into his car seat. Use a heavy blanket or quilted car seat cover to put OVER the baby and the straps, so nothing is obstructing the safe and correct use of the car seat straps. Baby will be snuggly for the ride.



Family Matters: Cold Weather Skin Care


Cold Weather Skin CareIt’s hard enough to keep adult skin in tact during winter months, so it’s even more of a challenge to keep baby’s tender skin in tip-top shape when it gets cold and dry.

Babies are sensitive to temperature changes, so bundling baby up to go out in the cold might do as much damage to their skin as cold air. When baby overheats, red bumps will appear. Dress baby in layers instead of heavy garments, so you can help her regulate her temperature. Treat bumps with a 1 percent hydrocortisone lotion if they appear.

Babies get chapped lips, too. Use a thin layer of petroleum jelly or lanolin to keep your baby’s lips protected, especially before and after they eat.

If baby is going out in the cold, apply some Eucerin® or Aquaphor® lotion (or petroleum jelly) to his cheeks and nose, which can take the brunt of exposure.

Don’t over-bathe baby in the winter months, once a day at most. Follow the bath with a baby massage using lotion while her skin is still slightly damp to help her absorb the lotion best.

Lastly, keep baby hydrated. A little extra water, breast milk or formula will help hydrate their skin from the inside out.



Family Matters: Toddler Proofing


Toddler ProofingWeebles wobble, but they don’t fall down.

Babies do though, especially toddlers

There’s no need to put a crash test helmet on your toddler who is learning to walk, but there might be good sense in toddler-proofing the rest of the house.

Fireplaces, specifically their hearths, could use a good, padded edging and corner protection.

Corners of sharp dining tables and end tables could also use protection from baby’s teetering step. Foam padding, or just a heavy quilt and some duct tape, can help protect baby’s eyes and head from sharp corners.

Use duct tape or non-skid pads to secure rugs or throw rugs to the floor.

Secure things they can pull down on top of them, like tablecloths with candlesticks on top, towels with pots or runners with decorative dishes.



Family Matters: Repetition


Repetition Babies of this age like repetition.

“Itsy Bitsy Spider.”

“Itsy Bitsy Spider.”

“Itsy Bitsy Spider.”

“Itsy Bitsy Spider.”

“Itsy Bitsy Spider.”

“Itsy Bitsy Spider.”

“Itsy Bitsy Spider.”

You get the idea.

Repetition helps baby learn. It also helps them feel secure in their routine and gives them confidence to predict what comes next.

With that familiarity, baby has the confidence to learn and branch out.

He thinks, ‘I know what’s coming next, so I’ll venture to learn the next line.’

Repetition improves baby’s learning skills.



Family Matters: Dance with Baby


Dance with BabyWhen baby is about 6 months old, there are so many fun things you can do with him!

For instance, you can dance.

From birth to 6 months, baby has worked on strengthening neck and back muscles. So, when he’s six months old, you can dance!

All you need is music. Then, you can hold baby close to your chest and torso, and gently move him around the room. Baby will love the feel of being close to you and moving gently in time to the music.

Developmentally, baby is learning proprioceptive movement or, in other words, the feel of how his body moves through space.

He’s learning rhythm or the feel of how he moves in accordance to the music playing.

He’s also bonding with you from the close contact, laughing and enjoying the activity.



Family Matters: Budget-Friendly Christmas Traditions


Budget-Friendly Christmas TraditionsI remember my third Christmas.

There was a tree with large, multi-colored bulbs (this was the ‘70s, remember!) and big, plastic light-up lawn ornaments. I’ll never forget my gift that year: a set of “The Wizard of Oz” dolls.

My point is that I can remember my third Christmas, so chances are that your 2 or 3-year-old toddler might start retaining memories, too. Of course, you’ll want to make those memories magical.

Some of my favorite traditions from the holidays include decorating sugar cookies every year with my brothers and sisters. You don’t have to be a baker to make this tradition magical. Simply buy a roll of Brookshire’s brand sugar cookie mix in the store along with assorted sprinkles and frosting, and go to town. The more sugar, the better.

I also remember riding around bundled up in the back of the car, wearing my pajamas and a winter coat, with a mug of hot chocolate (with marshmallows on top) looking at Christmas lights. Christmas music played in the car, and it was a fabulous family experience (for free!)

Another cherished tradition was that my family was involved in “Advent Angels.” It’s the Secret Santa concept, but we drew names on December 1. Throughout the holiday season, we did nice things for the person whose name we drew, like leaving a nice note on their pillow or doing their after-dinner chore for them. Then, we handmade a gift to present to them on Christmas Eve.

There are so many wonderful Christmas traditions that don’t cost a dime but that you can enjoy with your children from an early age.



Family Matters: Babyproofing at Christmas


Babyproofing at ChristmasMerry Christmas to you and your little one!

If your baby is rolling, scooting, sitting up or even toddling, you might want to take precautions this Christmas. A mobile baby around lights, a Christmas tree, ornaments and breakables is an accident waiting to happen.

Luckily, it’s easy to protect your baby and your décor from a close encounter.

First of all, teach your baby “no.” If they are touching or pulling on the tree, firmly tell them “no” and move them away from it. You don’t want your tree toppling onto your baby.

Secondly, secure your tree. That might involve a few extra steps this year, but it will be worth it in the long run. Anchor your tree to the wall, so baby can’t pull it over on top of them.

Don’t put ornaments on low-hanging branches. You don’t want baby putting anything small or sharp in his mouth.

Make sure lights are not where baby can reach or pull them either. Use outlet covers when lights are not in use.

Remember Christmas plants like mistletoe and poinsettias are poisonous. Keep them out of reach of baby.



Family Matters: Baby’s First Christmas


Baby’s First ChristmasIn just a few weeks, you’ll celebrate your first Christmas with your newborn, and it will be a magical time.

Clearly, babies don’t need a lot for Christmas, but you’ll certainly want to get your little one something snuggly to wear, an age-appropriate toy and maybe a book.

A lot of families adopt a minimalist approach to Christmas, and I almost wish I’d started it right from baby’s first Christmas.

They buy four gifts: something to wear, something to read, something you want and something you need. I love this idea of keeping it simple and keeping the holiday focused on its true meaning.

Another wonderful tradition is to buy your baby an ornament, maybe with his name on it, every year for Christmas. Then, when he’s ready to be out on his own, you can gift him with all his ornaments, and he’ll be ready for his very own tree. My godmother bought me an angel ornament with my name on it each year until I was 18. Then, I took them with me when I moved out of the house.

Handprint traditions are fun as well. I have some kind of handprints from my sons each year of their lives. Sometimes the handprints make Christmas trees and sometimes they are reindeer, wreaths or other fun Christmas pictures, but it’s always THEIR own hands.

One thing we started doing in recent years is the “reverse” Advent calendar. Every day in December, we add a non-perishable food product to a large box and deliver it to the food bank right before Christmas.

Enjoy making memories and traditions with your baby this holiday season!



Family Matters: Transitioning from the Crib


Transitioning from the CribTransitioning your toddler from his crib or co-sleeping situation to his own bed can be a little daunting, but it might be an effortless move.

When it’s appropriate for your toddler, start by putting the new bed into his room. Talk about the new bed. Let him sit on it, climb up and down from it, and start to let him lie on it with his familiar blanket or stuffed toys.

His first bed might be a toddler-sized bed, depending on his age. You may or may not put a safety railing on one side, and put the other side against the wall. Your child might not need the safety rails, depending on his comfort level and yours, and whether he’s likely to wander.

You might start the transition with his nap times, and build up to spending the entire night in his Big Boy Bed.

Make his new bed exciting! Find bedding, pillows or stuffed toys in a theme he loves, and use those on his bed.

Some children need a quick transition, and it’s best to take the crib away when you introduce the new bed. Other children need the security of having their crib around, just in case.

My older son moved out of his crib at a pretty early age because his baby brother was taking it over. We moved him to an entirely new room, and he never missed the crib when he had his new toddler bed.

Whenever and however you choose to transition, you probably don’t need to fight your child over it. When he is ready, he will move. He probably won’t still be sleeping in a crib when he goes to kindergarten. At some point, he’ll want the “big boy” status the new bed imparts.



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