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Family Matters: Thankful


FamilyI didn’t think this would be so difficult to write, but I think writing a blog about being thankful has given me pause to think about the myriad of blessings in my life this year.

First of all, I’m thankful for my health and for the medical community. I’ve suffered debilitating migraines, about once every 10 years, for the past four years. Recently, I think my doctor figured out the cause and has it under control. I haven’t had a migraine in six weeks (knocks on wood).

Secondly, I’m thankful for restored relationships. I had fallings-out with two people I love very much this year. It’s not like me to have a falling-out that goes unresolved, so the months it took to restore the faith, trust and love in those relationships felt like an eternity.

I’m thankful for our new dog. I knew that we’d know when the time was right to replace the pups we lost, and sure enough, we ended up with the best pet ever, the hound who loves eggplant.

I’m mostly thankful for my family and friends. Although my immediate family lives too far away to celebrate with today, I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that our connection is strong, and the ties that bind will remain unbroken. I’m thankful for my friends in the area who are like family and would do anything for me at any time. I’m thankful for my two boys, and words truly cannot express the depth of my love for them.

Finally, I’m thankful for my relationship with God: for with Him, all things are possible.

 

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Family Matters: Fingerprints of God


Three crossesI just got off the phone with Steven Curtis Chapman, the Christian singer/songwriter superstar, and I broke a huge professional rule: I cried.

I didn’t mean to.

It wasn’t some fangirl hysteria either.

I had an interview for an article I am writing about his Christmas holiday tour, and I was, of course, going to keep it strictly business. Professional, concise, pithy, witty, well-intentioned and informative. Everything a good interview should be.

However, toward the end of the 20-minute conversation, I let it get personal.

You see, in 1999, Steven Curtis Chapman released his album, “Speechless,” which includes a song that ended up getting me through a very dark period in my life.

In 2002, my older son was born, and in 2003, we strongly suspected he had autism. By the time he was officially diagnosed at age 2 1/2 in 2004, I was spiraling downward in a confluence of clinical postpartum depression following the birth of my second son in late 2003, and the stress and fear of the diagnosis.

At church one Sunday, the contemporary Christian praise and worship band played Chapman’s song, “Fingerprints of God,” and it struck a chord so deeply within me that it hasn’t stopped resonating yet.

I bought the CD but played that track over and over and over and over. When I converted to digital music, it was one of the first pieces I downloaded from iTunes.

When my son was old enough, I played it for him to explain the “masterpiece” that is his brain.

I simply wanted to thank Chapman for this bit of light among several dark years, but I couldn’t do it without sniffling a bit.

He was quiet.

Very quiet.

I knew I’d blown it.

Then, he said, simply and quietly, “Thank you for telling me that. That is why I do this.”

“Fingerprints of God”

I can see the tears filling your eyes
And I know where they’re coming from
They’re coming from a heart that’s broken in two
By what you don’t see
The person in the mirror
Doesn’t look like the magazine
Oh, but when I look at you, it’s clear to me that…

I can see the fingerprints of God
When I look at you
I can see the fingerprints of God
And I know it’s true
You’re a masterpiece
That all creation quietly applauds
And you’re covered with the fingerprints of God

Never has there been and never again
Will there be another you
Fashioned by God’s hand
And perfectly planned
To be just who you are
And what He’s been creating
Since the first beat of your heart
Is a living, breathing, priceless work of art…

I can see the fingerprints of God
When I look at you
I can see the fingerprints of God
And I know it’s true
You’re a masterpiece
That all creation quietly applauds
And you’re covered with the fingerprints of God

Just look at you
You’re a wonder in the making
Oh, and God’s not through, no
In fact, He’s just getting started and…

I can see the fingerprints of God
When I look at you
I can see the fingerprints of God
And I know it’s true
You’re a masterpiece
That all creation quietly applauds
And you’re covered with the fingerprints of God

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Family Matters: Spoiling Your Pets


Dog treatsI am not one of those people who spoils their pets.

Of course, by not “spoiling” him, I mean I don’t let my 90-pound dog up on the furniture. (Well, except for the overstuffed arm chair that’s his and the couch after we’ve all gone to sleep at night.) He doesn’t have a sweater to keep him warmer during cold months (yet), and I don’t feed him scraps from the table (except when he steals eggplant parmesan).

However, he’s quite spoiled with love and attention, and he’ll be spoiled during the upcoming holidays, as your pet should be as well!

Spoil your pet by spending some extra time with him. The weather is cooler, so it’s a perfect time for long walks with your dog and playtime in the park or a big yard where he can run. You might want to slip a tennis ball in his stocking and teach him how to play fetch for some extra exercise incentive.

As for your kitty, some catnip toys to throw around the house would be a great gift.

For cats or dogs, you can spoil them during the holidays with these tasty treats! Just remember, treats aren’t a substitute for nutritious food, though!

Chicken Liver Treats

Ingredients:
1 lb cooked chicken livers, finely chopped
1 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/4 cup chicken broth

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Combine all the ingredients, making sure the chicken livers are well-coated. The dough should be stiff, but if it’s too dry, add a little more chicken broth.

Form the dough into pea- to marble-sized balls and place on a greased cookie sheet.

With the tip of a spoon, press a tiny indentation into the top of each ball.

With a spoon, carefully drip a few drops of chicken broth into each indentation.

Bake the treats for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the bottoms of the treats are golden-brown.

Remove from the oven, let cool thoroughly and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 141, Calories from Fat: 34, Fat: 4 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (1 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 244 mg, Sodium: 60 mg, Potassium: 152 mg, Carbohydrates: 14 g, Fiber: 1 g, Protein: 12 g.



Family Matters: Picky Eaters


Picky EatersBoth of my boys went through a picky-eating phase.

When my older son turned about one, he stopped eating anything that was remotely nutritious. He was the kid who ate pureed Brussels sprouts, for goodness sake, and then he just stopped eating. His diet consisted largely of cheese toast, applesauce, bananas and milk.

I had to get sneaky. Did you know cooked and pureed broccoli and carrots are GREAT in pancakes? They sure are. Pumpkin is delightful mixed into oatmeal and sweet potatoes pass as french fries.

Now, a lot of toddler food comes in easy-to-handle, delicious pouches in a variety of flavors and combinations, so parents have a lot more choices for their toddlers without having to resort to stealth tactics.

From peas to potatoes and carrots and everything in between, pouch foods offer parents an excellent option for on-the-go nutrition or just a sit-down dinner at home.

You can also sneak veggies into pasta sauce, like this:

Chock Full o’ Veggies Pasta Sauce

Ingredients:
1 (32 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (16 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
2 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 zucchini squash, diced
1 Tbs dried oregano
1 Tbs dried basil
1 Tbs garlic salt

Directions:
Heat olive oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Sauté all vegetables until tender. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, oregano, basil and garlic salt. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Turn heat to medium-low and simmer for about an hour. Serve over pasta. To put this sauce into stealth mode, puree the sauce in a food processor immediately after it comes to a boil, then return to pan to let simmer.



Family Matters: Baby Skin Care


Baby Skin CareWhen my little guy was an infant, I had a very hard time taking care of his skin.

First, he had baby eczema, which is totally normal. Then, it dried out and he had cradle cap. Then, the eczema flared up again.

With his sensitive skin, there weren’t any products I found that wouldn’t irritate it even further, until I found Aquaphor.

Aquaphor Healing Ointment is perfect for a newborn’s skin because it is fragrance-free and preservative-free.

You can use it to help heal AND prevent diaper rash. Luke had diaper rash so frequently that his bottom would bleed, until I began applying a preventative layer of Aquaphor at each diaper change.

I also used it on his eczema. It was the perfect balance of soothing, healing and moisturizing, so the eczema cleared up and stayed away.

When he started teething, you’d have thought he rubbed sand paper on his chin because it became so irritated by the constant drool. Aquaphor to the rescue again!

Along with the Healing Ointment, Aquaphor makes a shampoo and baby wash as well.

(P.S. The Healing Ointment is also extraordinary for nursing moms!)



Family Matters: Many Uses for Baby Wipes


Many Uses for Baby WipesI’ll admit, even LONG after my babies have grown, I still stock a great supply of baby wipes.

Why?

Because you can use them for so much more than just cleaning a bottom.

For example, you can use Tippy Toes Baby Wipes to clean off eye makeup.

A recent report shows that 57 percent of us have used them as toilet paper. Camping, anyone?

You can use a baby wipe to clean the interior of your car. All that dust and french fry residue will be gone in a flash.

Keep them in your picnic basket or cooler for easy hand cleanup.

Soothe hemorrhoids during pregnancy.

You can use baby wipes to dust off the leaves of your houseplants or use on a dry mop in place of the brand-name cleaning pad.

Baby wipes remove pen, crayon, pencil and paint from most surfaces, including skin. They get deodorant stains out of clothes and pet hair off of furniture.

They clean hairspray goo off of any surface, and they polish shoes.

You can use them to wipe off the screens on your electronics and temporarily tame flyaway hair.

Oh, did we mention you can use them to clean baby’s bottom?

Reading Books



Family Matters: Halloween Through the Years


Family Matters HalloweenLast night, I was thumbing through 12 years of Halloween pictures and it made me nostalgic.

My older son was 10 months old when his first Halloween rolled around, and I probably have seven dozen pictures of him sitting in the lawn in his green frog costume. It was probably also WAY too hot for the fleece costume, being October in Texas, but he was going to wear it, by golly.

My second son didn’t have to suffer through as many pictures, but he was only five weeks old on his first Halloween. He wouldn’t have known any better. He was a pea-in-the-pod for his first Halloween, a costume his father wouldn’t let me live down for months. However, when I was pregnant with him before we knew his gender, I called him “Sweet Pea,” so he was going to be a pea that Halloween come heck or high water. He was the sweetest, fattest little pea you’ve ever seen.

A few years later, they were Buzz Lightyear and Woody. Another year, they were Superman and Batman. I found a picture last night that was from one of my favorite years. Curt, the older son, was Mr. Incredible. Luke, the younger son, wanted to be a Sparkly Green Ghost. His words. I asked him what a Sparkly Green Ghost looked like, and he told me quite simply, “a green ghost who sparkles.”

Well, that was easy enough. We went to the fabric store, and he picked out a few yards of a sparkly green fabric. I cut eyes into it, and, voila, there was his costume. He loved it.

I made a spider costume one year, stuffing black tights with batting, sewing them onto a black sweatshirt then stringing the “legs” with fishing line so that the arms could move independently of each other.

There were two years of zombie costumes; those were easy ones and I got to play with gory, gooey costume makeup.

I thought this year could be the year they decided they were done with Halloween. Not a chance. They begged me to go to the Halloween store a few weekends ago. (I thought I could get ideas for homemade costumes, but they suckered me into buying some.) We’ll have a soldier and “Creeper” from Minecraft this year.

The fun part about my kids, and probably yours too, is that Halloween costumes aren’t only a big deal for a few hours one night a year. My boys wear their costumes out. I caught Luke sleeping with his foam Minecraft sword a few nights ago. So, even though I spent way too much money on a cardboard head and foam sword, you can’t put a price on that kind of delight.

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Family Matters: Getting Your House in Order


Family MattersAs a family of six, it is a task to keep our house straight and “tidy” as some would say. We are pulled in different directions, and the house sometimes is the last thing thought about, in the order of things that need to be done. As parents, we must remember the importance of teaching our children what it means to have responsibilities and to do their part at home and in life. “Getting your house in order” has more than one meaning and both, I believe, are essential.

A family must work together to keep the house running, straightened and ready for company at any time. I don’t mean it has to be perfect, but as I tell my kids, “If someone stops by unexpectedly, what do you want them to see?” They couldn’t really care less, but they know what I mean! It takes a lot to make a house a “home” and that means everyone working together to do their part. It is not the responsibility of one person to tend to the house. It is individuals working together to make it a home.

For our family, “getting our house in order” means we are active in our local church. We help weekly with a missions group, we volunteer where needed and we sometimes just spend more time in prayer. A church is like an extended family, and without everyone doing their part, it will not be as successful as it should be and the message may not be heard by all. Maybe it’s making a phone call, cooking a meal, making a house visit, stuffing envelopes, etc., but without each one, the church will not accomplish their mission.

I recently read an article with the example of a chain: one link is strong yet can’t do much by itself, but when chain links are joined, they are strong, unbreakable and can be used for so many things. Teach your children the significance of finding their place at home and at church. Age does not matter; there is a place and a need for everyone to serve. Teach them now how to “get their house in order.” What a wonderful legacy to pass on, especially in the world we live in. “Link” together as a family – step up, find your place and help make a difference!

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Family Matters: Don’t be spooked by these sweeties


Halloween CandiesWhat kid doesn’t love Halloween? Scary or silly, they get to dress up in their favorite costume. They can go trick-or-treating, trunk-or-treating, attend a fall festival or host their own party. I have discovered that my daughter really enjoys making fun Halloween treats. She likes to wrap them up in cute gift bags and pass them out to all her friends when she gets to school. One of her favorite Halloween treats is these stacked skeletons.

These stacked skeletons are a wacky and wonderful way to celebrate Halloween!

Buy a pan of brownies from our bakery and cut into squares.

Melt 8 ounces of Food Club White Chocolate in the microwave and dip small twisted pretzels into the chocolate to coat. Spread out on a rack to let dry or buy pre-made yogurt-covered pretzels.

Stack several pretzels on top of the brownie to form the skeleton body. Top with a medium-sized Food Club Marshmallow.

Using food-safe frosting pens (purchased at a craft store), draw a silly, scary, spooky or sweet face onto your skeleton. Place in a baggie, tie with a ribbon and you’re ready to go with a Halloween goodie bag that’s sure to be a hit.

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Family Matters: Pets


Family Matters | CatMy boys wanted a cat. Begged for a cat.

They told me they’d clean toilets for a year for a cat.

Well, I can’t have a cat; I’m allergic. I’m sticking with my big doggie.

However, one day while riding home with their bonus mom, they saw a small kitten trying to cross the busiest thoroughfare in town, dodging traffic and surely expending one of its nine lives. They pulled into the mall parking lot and rescued the kitten who was riddled with worms, had an eye infection and was clearly malnourished.

They dropped it off at the vet, hoping the vet could get it healthy.

The boys, plus their bonus brother, must have really worked on the parental units that night, begging to pick the small, white, fluffy kitten up from the vet the next day and bring it home with them because that’s exactly what happened.

The kitten, a Manx, has big blue eyes and a little nub of a tail distinctive to that breed.

Remember the promise about cleaning the toilets for a year? Well, apparently their dad didn’t extract that promise, but the boys DO have to clean the kitty’s litter box.

It’s not their favorite chore in the world, but cat litter is engineered to lock in moisture and odors. It’s easy to clean and clumps to be easily scoopable. Plus, the kitten is worth it.



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