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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!



Family Matters: Kraft Recipe Makers


I sit here writing this on about four hours of sleep. My sixth-grader caused me some major worry last night and I couldn’t get settled. Plus, my fourth-grader was leaving for camp this morning, and I knew we had to be up and at ‘em early. It’s raining and my full-time job has been hectic, as it is most days.

But, I know you, reading this, have NEVER been tired, worried, harried and bummed out all at the same time.

(SHE SAYS, LAUGHING SARCASTICALLY.)

Ha-ha, right? We’ve all been there- Some days more than others.

That’s where Kraft Recipe Makers come in. When you’re at the end of your rope (and even when you’re not), you can feel good about putting a nutritious, delicious meal on the table for your family with little effort and maximum comfort.

It’s quite simple; I can even do this math.

Take the Kraft Recipe Maker, add a few other ingredients and you have dinner. Voila! “Kraft Recipe Makers give you a jumpstart to a variety of fresh, home-cooked meals,”  according tothe Kraft website. “Each provides a recipe developed by our chefs, along with 2 carefully selected sauces that work together to provide layers of flavor. Just add your own fresh ingredients and follow the four-step recipe for a delicious dish your family will love.”

For the skillet, choose from sweet and sour chicken, chicken bruschetta pasta, beefy burritos, and sweet and sour meatballs, plus many more.

For the oven, choose from Asian fish tacos, Verde chicken enchiladas, Florentine stuffed chicken breasts and more.

Don’t forget the slow cooker, a personal favorite of mine. Try hickory barbecue beef, beef stroganoff, Tuscan stuffed flank steak and more.

Found on the shelf at your local Brookshire’s, Kraft Recipe Makers make dinner a breeze.

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Family Matters: Hand-Me-Downs


I don’t know about your family, but our kids love to get “hand-me-downs.” It is getting new things without the hassle of shopping and it costs nothing…what could be better! When we get a bag of hand-me-downs from a friend, our girls put it in the middle of our living room and tear through the bag to see what fits and what looks good on them, and then they claim it as their own. Of course in a house where three of the girls wear the same size clothes, nothing is really ever your own, but it feels good at the moment to think it is all yours!

Our family takes all of our hand-me-downs to a local clothes closet that benefits less fortunate families.  We can take clothes, shoes, toys or anything that is still in good shape and donate it to be used for the good of others. We have a saying at our house: “Your hand-me-downs can raise someone else up.” This means that something we can no longer use or wear can be given to someone who is in need, and it will bring them comfort and a sense of joy. What is more rewarding than knowing you are helping others by just giving — something that cost you nothing? 

Don’t throw good, used clothing away for there is always someone who can benefit from items that your kids have outgrown. If you can’t find a local charity that takes used clothing, I promise there is some friend with kids that would love to have them, just ask. Rule of thumb: don’t donate items that have holes in them or stains (things that your kids would not wear).  When you want to raise someone else up, make your hand-me-downs something they will be proud to wear. A great time to do this is right before your kids go back to school. If they are like mine, they grow out of everything by the next school year. Clothes and shoes are expensive so this is a great way to teach your kids how to give to others.

Count your blessings daily, and give thanks to the Lord for the time you have to share with your family and the opportunities you have to raise others up!



Family Matters: Pets


Summertime poses a pet problem you might have not considered: water.

Yep, I said “water.”

I’m not talking about the kind you pour into their bowls from the tap, but the kind lurking in all other kinds of summer situations, particularly salt water and pool water.

If your pooch likes to play in the surf at the beach, keep a careful eye on him. Salt water can be toxic to pets. Sure, they’ll lap at the water, but they don’t know that excessive salt water intake can result in severe hypernatremia, or salt poisoning.

The first signs of hypernatremia include vomiting and diarrhea, but the condition can progress quickly to neurological impairment with physical incoordination, seizures, depression and, ultimately, brain swelling. It can be treated with IV fluids at the vet’s office.

To avoid the problem all together, designate a bottle (jug!) of fresh water for your dog to enjoy at the beach. Whenever you hydrate, make sure he hydrates, too.

The other danger comes from your backyard pool. Well, the chemicals to be exact. Algaecides and chlorine shock water treatment products are generally safe once these chemicals are diluted appropriately (i.e. in the pool water), but when undiluted, pool chemicals can quickly be fatal to your pet. Corrosive chemicals can result in severe ulcers in your pet’s mouth, esophagus and stomach, and they can ultimately cause holes in the GI tract. Always store your pool chemicals and cleaners in a locked closet that your pet cannot access.

Always have fresh water available at all times for your pet, too.



Family Matters: Chocolate Dipped Cherries


What’s better than chocolate and cherries? How about cherries dipped in chocolate! Don’t let the season come and go without dipping some beautiful ripe cherries in chocolate. There is really no skill required to make these fun, kid-friendly treats.

My daughter and I look forward to cherries being in season. I buy them weekly for us to snack on or to make a fresh tart cherry pie! This week when I buy cherries, I’m going to let my daughter make these adorable and delicious chocolate dipped cherries. She will love making them, and this will allow us some quality mom and daughter time in the kitchen.

Chocolate Dipped Cherries

Finely chop one pound milk, white or dark chocolate. Combine three-quarters of the chocolate and two teaspoons shortening in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring, until chocolate is melted; stir in the remaining chocolate until smooth. Dip fresh cherries by the stems into the chocolate, add festive sprinkles and set on parchment or wax paper. Let harden at room temperature.

Enjoy and have fun in the kitchen with your pint-sized little one!



Family Matters: Busy Bodies


Your toddler is on the go these days! Whether it is to the park, to story time, to Mother’s Day Out, to church or to play dates, your little one loves to be busy. Keep them fortified with Happy Baby organic baby food that’s easily portable and convenient to serve. The ‘Starting Solids’ series will guarantee your toddler the best in organic nutrition for their busy little lives. When you buy four pouches of Happy Baby solids, you get the fifth free.

Tip 13-36 Months: Keep baby powder on hand to easily remove sand from your toddler’s legs, tummy, arms and other body parts while you’re at the beach. A sprinkle of powder and the sand washes right off.

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Family Matters: Feeding Themselves


Beginning around 6 months, your baby is old enough to pick up small objects and get them to his mouth. Or if your baby is like my boys, to their necks, ears, cheeks or anywhere BUT their mouths. Point being, by 12 months your baby has mastered the pincer grasp and can feed himself. Happy Puffs organic snacks, such as Purple Carrot and Blueberry puffs, are gluten free and finger friendly. Made with organic whole grains and sweetened with 100 percent fruit juice, these super snacks contain choline for eye and brain development. To sweeten the deal: when you buy four, you get one free.

Tip 7-12 Months: Soft shoes are recommended as baby starts to toddle. Don’t brace your child’s foot in a heavy leather shoe that is unyielding; let baby get the lay of the land with a natural-feeling foot covering.

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The products mentioned in “Share, the Brookshire’s Blog” are sold by Brookshire Grocery Company, DBA Brookshire’s . Some products may be mentioned as part of a relationship between its manufacturer and Brookshire’s.

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