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Family Matters: Self Care


FamilyMatters_Baby1336Months_91313_228x173This is about the stage for your toddler when they not only WANT to do everything for themselves, but it’s about time for you to start letting them.

Curt always wanted to brush his own teeth. Now, I wasn’t going to completely relinquish care of his teeth, but I let him brush first before I took over, and that eliminated so much of the power struggle that is common in kids this age. The same thing happened with washing his hair. He no longer wanted me to rinse the shampoo out of his golden-brown baby locks; he wanted to do it himself. So, I let him dump that cup of water over his head, repeatedly. It made him giggle, too. Go figure.

At this age, they can try to comb their own hair. They can help choose what foods they eat (within reason, obviously). They can feed themselves. They can pick up and put away their own toys with help. Independence, here we come!

Tip 13-36 months: Have child-sized brooms, mop cloths (for wiping the table) and sponges available for your toddler, and allow him to clean like the adults do.



Family Matters: Strollin’


BabyBetween 7 and 12 months, baby will start to toddle around. It’s MUCH more fun, at this age, for baby to push your stroller instead of having to ride in it all the time. It’s not always practical to let baby push, but when you can, put the stroller in a safe spot (backyard, inside hallway) and let him go to town. He’ll feel important and powerful. Just make sure he doesn’t tip it back on top of himself!

Tip 7-12 months: Bring out the balls. Rolling a beach ball back and forth is a great inside activity.



Family Matters: Rolling Over


Baby

Rolling over was one of the first, big “Mom-screech” moments in my baby’s development. It happened around four months old for both of my kiddos, although between four and six months is in the range of normal. Belly-to-back rolling usually happens first, maybe during a tummy time session. About a month later, baby will roll from back to stomach in their first venture toward mobility. Luke, my second son, was a rolling machine. In fact, at one point, I was certain he’d never bother learning to crawl because he could just roll everywhere he went. I was surprised he didn’t make himself dizzy. Curt, my older son, was never much on rolling. He only did it when he needed to and without the enthusiasm Luke displayed for the feat. Once they start rolling, use caution about where you place baby and make sure nothing dangerous is within reach.

Tip 0-6 months: When baby becomes mobile, it may be time to pad sharp corners of furniture, fixtures and fireplaces with some kind of buffer between the object and baby’s noggin. Store-bought pads for all kinds of furniture are available, and you can certainly fashion homemade padding as well.



Family Matters: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with the Taste of Food


Hispanics love celebrations! One of the best times to celebrate their heritage and history is Hispanic Heritage Month. During National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 to October 15), companies can recognize the contributions and the important presence of the Hispanic community in this country. The Hispanic culture has had a profound and positive influence in the United States through their strong commitment to family, faith, hard work, service and food.

Naturally when we think about this holiday, we think about food. Hispanic food is one of the most celebrated cuisines in the world, and it typically provides the opportunity for families to get together and pass along their traditions. One of the customs of Hispanic Heritage Month is simply eating and cooking their favorite Hispanic dishes, such as mole, tamales, ceviche, quesadillas, enchiladas, tacos and tortillas…so many delicious choices!

When it comes to Hispanic food, there are so many different alternatives to choose from. Every Hispanic country and Mexican region has its own typical foods, drinks and cooking styles. This makes it fascinating and exciting for food lovers with all of those choices.

Hispanic cuisine influences come from all over the world, including Europe, Asia, the Caribbean and indigenous cultures. Some of the dishes, like tortillas and tamales, are made out of corn. The ingredients or spices used while cooking also play an important role. They are used slightly differently from region–to-region and country-to-country to give salsas, marinades and other sauces a distinct or unique flavor.

Most Hispanics view food as an extension of their culture, an extension of family’s love and tradition passed from one generation to another. It’s a smell or a particular taste that reminds you about a special time in your life. It is history and memories!

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Family Matters: Twice the Fun


Last week, my twin daughters turned 14 and decided they wanted to decorate their own cake for their birthday. I make cakes for family parties and have the decorating tips and coloring, so they have watched me prepare cakes for years. I was excited they wanted to decorate their own cake, knowing this would save me hours of work…nice break! I baked a large cake, mixed their desired colors of icing and let them go. 

First came a long discussion of what each was doing on “their side” of the cake. They wanted to make sure whatever the other one was doing would not make their side look bad. A line was then drawn across the center to mark boundaries. Now, picture two teenage girls in the kitchen working beside each other for hours…not all fun and games. Immediate frustration came from them both trying to decorate at the exact same time and needing to turn the cake closer to them. This was followed by the critical evaluation of the other’s decorating skills (and impact it was having on their side). I finally decided that mowing the lawn would be a good escape from the kitchen trials.

The funny thing is that after it was all said and done, the cake looked great. Apparently,  they actually learned something from watching mom over the years. They worked together to accomplish a task and realized how much hard work, time and effort it takes, and according to both, their back and feet were throbbing (all along I thought it was my old age!). They have never volunteered to help me on a cake, and I am pretty sure after doing their own, that will still be the case!  We laughed as we listened to them tell their friends at the party how much fun it was to decorate. Even after all the drama, the end results brought much joy and trials were soon forgotten. The next life lesson will be how to clean up the kitchen after you get through decorating a cake! 

Homemade Cake Icing

Ingredients:
1 Crisco Stick
2 Food Club Butter Sticks
2 tsp vanilla
3-4 Tbsp  milk
1 bag powdered sugar (sifted)

Directions:
Mix Crisco, butter and vanilla well, and then slowly add sifted powdered sugar. Add milk one tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency.   

Schedule a time to try this icing and encourage your kids to work together to decorate a cake of their own – life lessons learned. Count your blessings daily, and give thanks to the Lord for the time you share with your family. It “bakes” a difference!      

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Family Matters: Pets


A few years ago, I got a box in the mail that was labeled “Living Contents. Open Immediately.” 

Intrigued (and thankful I was home at the time of delivery), I ripped into the box. 

Inside was the most wonderful gift!

My mom had sent my boys a “Grow-A-Frog” kit. Along with a clear plastic aquarium, a lid and special food, there was a baggie of two tiny tadpoles. 

The boys wanted to get started immediately, so we carefully rinsed the aquarium and set it up to be the tadpoles’ new home.

Over the next months, we watched the tadpoles develop into frogs. We saw them grow tiny legs, develop a distinct head, lose their “tails” and finally morph into two good-sized frogs!

We eventually found new homes for the frogs in a friend’s pond, but then we ordered new tadpoles and repeated the process.

The joy of the pet tadpoles came in the daily discovery and the renewed wonder in my boys’ eyes each day. It’s definitely one of the best gifts we’ve ever received.



Family Matters: The Beach T-Shirt Tradition


Every year, my family congregates at the beach. In addition to other traditions we hold sacred, all of the kids make an annual beach T-shirt to commemorate the vacation.

One year, the shirts were lime green with the year written on the breast pocket in Roman numerals. Another year, they were light blue with a skull and crossbones in homage to our annual “pirate scavenger hunt.”

The kids often decorate their own shirts. A few years ago, they used puffy fabric paints to detail fish on the front of their white T-shirts. We learned quickly that children really love decorating with large clumps of puffy paint that take days (and days and days) to dry.

Last year, the kids tried a new technique. They drew on the front of their shirts with permanent markers, then used a medicine dropper to drop small amounts of rubbing alcohol on the ink. The ink spread, almost like a tie-dye pattern. They were lovely!

This year, each kid received a bright orange T-shirt already emblazed with a superhero-esque styling of their initials on the front. The Man of Steel has nothing on CP, LP, JB, RB, GB, BH, CH and BB! My son Luke decorated his with thunderbolts. My nephew Greycen, who also answers to “Thor” this year, drew hammers on every available surface of his shirt. Claire, the only niece, got almost exclusive use of the purple, pink and silver fabric markers.

Throughout the week, the kids wear their T-shirts. Here’s to hoping we get them all in clean shirts, in one place at one time, for a picture. 

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Family Matters: Snacks Rule in the Toddler World!


You don’t have to keep resorting to the same old, same old. Break out of the snack rut and help your toddler learn new foods.

Some fun toddler snacks include cucumber slices, cheese sticks or cubes, peanut butter on mini waffles, zucchini bread, dried fruits and vegetables, tofu, whole grain cereals, quesadillas, yogurt, eggs in a pita, baked sweet potato  fries, kale chips, hummus with veggies, pasta (cold or warm), yogurt and fruit smoothies, graham crackers, homemade fruit leathers or granola, unsweetened applesauce and meats cut into bite-sized pieces.

TIP 13-36 months: Sometimes a simple “no” is best. Explaining, rationalizing and giving choices about good and bad behavior is appropriate for an older child, but if your toddler is doing something wrong, sometimes “no” is more effective.



Family Matters: Stacking Toys


At this point in life, baby is sitting up pretty well (maybe with help at the 6-month mark and like a champ by 12 months) and likes to play!

Use stacking toys for baby at this stage of development to teach many different skills.

Stacking toys promotes gross and fine motor skills.

They teach organization as you can stack by size or color.

Use stacking toys to introduce other simple words and descriptions, like yellow or red, big and little, or top and bottom. You can also use these toys to reinforce understanding of cause and effect.

Of course, you can also make the stack topple at the end! Everyone loves a good mess.

TIP 7-12 months: Don’t forget to introduce foods like mango, kiwi and lentils into your baby’s diet. Don’t be discouraged if they don’t like it at first; some foods have to be presented up to 10 times before a little one takes to it.



Family Matters: Tummy Time


Starting when baby is very tiny, it’s good for them to get supervised tummy time! Putting junior on his belly on a soft blanket helps him develop both physically and mentally, according to experts.

Tummy time helps strengthen baby’s neck and upper back muscles as they try to turn their head, look around and reach for toys, reducing the risk of SIDS because he can move his head away from objects blocking his airway.

When you first start tummy time, baby won’t be able to do much but attempt to move his head from side to side and maybe look up. However, it gives him a different view of the world than being on his back. Spending time on his tummy also helps prevent the flat spots many young ones develop on the back of their heads from always lying in that position.

Start tummy time right after birth, at least once a day, for about five minutes at a time and work up as your baby develops. Don’t push them. If baby is screaming, roll him back over to his back. Only go for as long as baby can tolerate it. You might want to wait until after their umbilical cord stump has fallen off, though, as that can cause some discomfort.

Soon, they’ll turn themselves onto their tummy to play. I had a textured blanket that we used for tummy time. It had bumpy fabric, silky fabric, ribbons and ties that my boys could feel and grasp for.

TIP 0-6 months: Sweet potatoes are a wonderful first food for baby. Buy organic sweet potatoes at Brookshire’s, bake them until soft, puree with a bit of formula or water and voila, a perfect meal for baby!



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