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Family Matters: Hannibal the Hamster


When I was in second grade, I wanted a pet more than anything.

According to my parents, I’d had one, a dog, when I was…oh, two years old. Who remembers a dog from when they were two?

I mean, I had vague recollections of a dog named Flip, whom I somehow recount was party to me tumbling down the basement stairs as a toddler, but I wanted a pet I could…well, pet. And love on. And take care of.

I’m not sure how the whole hamster idea came into play.

I do remember a book, about a hamster, named Hannibal. So when I finally got a hamster who had a cool cage and awesome tunnels and a wheel and all that, I named him Hannibal.

One morning I woke up and Hannibal was not in his cage.

My mom gently broke the news that Hannibal had died overnight.

We buried him in a very formal ceremony in a shoe box lined with the white and pink rosebud flannel that matched my nightgown.

Who knew this breed of hamster hibernated during cold months?

Not me!

Not my parents!

I didn’t find this out until years later. (Nor did they, in their defense.)

I mourned that silly hamster for weeks. I didn’t want a new pet for years.

Point being, pets pass.

And as the saying goes, “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”



Family Matters: Family Recipes, Fond Memories


One of my fondest memories, when I was young, was getting off the school bus every afternoon knowing that my grandmother had cake ready for us to eat. My MeMaw made the most delicious old-fashioned loaf cake, and it was wonderful with a big glass of cold milk from our dairy farm. It never got old eating the cake each afternoon. Maybe it was the sitting around the table telling her about our day at school that made the cake taste that much better. My grandmother taught me so many memorable things like crocheting and cross-stitching, but the one I treasure the most was learning to cook from scratch. The recipe I am sharing is one that my family loves, and each time I make it, I am overwhelmed with the special memories of standing in my MeMaw’s kitchen, by her side, baking.  I have many of her recipes that are old, torn and faded, but the memories of her taking such care to teach me will never disappear.  These recipes will be passed down to my four girls for them to share with their families one day. 

1-2-3-4 Loaf Cake

         1 cup shortening
         2 cups sugar
         3 cups flour, sifted
         4 eggs
         1/4 tsp soda

 Mix with the flour:

         1 tsp baking powder
         1 tsp salt

 Mix Together:

         1 cup buttermilk
         1 tsp vanilla

Mix ingredients in the order given and pour in bundt pan.  Bake 1 hour at 350° F. Enjoy the cake just like it comes out of the oven. Bet you can’t eat just one slice…it is addicting! You can also add fresh strawberries and whipped cream and have strawberry loaf cake dessert. 

It is as easy as 1,2,3,4. Prepare the cake this week, sit together at the table with your family and delight in the goodness of building your own fond memories. It can be the smallest things that make the greatest memories for your children or grandchildren. Count your blessings daily and give thanks for the time you share with your family.  

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Family Matters: Salad Sandwhiches


Recently, my boys’ father shared with me that he’d woken up one Saturday morning to sounds coming from the kitchen.

He got up to investigate because usually the boys will just play a video game or wake us parents when they get up.

Not this time. He found our younger son in the kitchen, preparing “breakfast” for the family. He knows better than to try to use the stove without adult supervision, so he was improvising with things he found in the fridge and pantry.

Spread out on the kitchen counter was his creation – Salad Sandwiches. Ingredients: Bread, lettuce and tomato.

He was so excited about making breakfast for the family that they went with it, modifying his creation only slightly to add bacon and make BLTs.

It got me thinking: I should give the boys a little more freedom in my own kitchen. They usually get to each choose one meal per week, but I execute it. Maybe I should just let them have at it and let their imaginations run wild. They’d probably actually eat what they made, too.

Win/win.



Family Matters: Reading


My children are 11 and 9, and I can still recite “Good Night Moon” and “Guess How Much I Love You.” Very handy when you’re travelling and forget your toddler’s favorite books, or hopefully you’ve worn out that board book by turning the pages so often.

Reading to your child is such an invaluable experience. Besides the sweet cuddle time, this is the time when a child’s vocabulary blossoms. They might understand more than they can say, but rest assured your little sponge is soaking it all up.

Experts tell us that reading to a toddler sets the foundation for mastering their ABCs, developing phonemic awareness (meaning she’s starting to understand that words are made up of groups of sounds), and learning that those marks on a page represent letters and words (and things and concepts). It never hurts to point to an object or word as you’re reading it (pre-sight words, anyone?).

Your toddler is also learning voice inflections when you read out loud to them. They’re practicing fine motor skills when they get to turn a page. And hopefully, they’ll develop a love that will last a lifetime.

TIP:  It’s never too early to protect your child’s skin. Starting at about 6 months, you can use a child-friendly sunscreen on your little one. If their skin isn’t covered with light clothing, make sure it’s covered with a layer of sunscreen!



Family Matters: Stroller


By the time your baby is about 6 months old, he’ll be ready to hit the road with you in a jogging stroller.

Because of the way a jogging stroller is designed, a baby should have really good neck and back strength before you use one with your little one (unless it is specifically designed for a baby under six months).

A jogging stroller is a great way for mom and dad to get in some exercise and get baby some fresh air. You don’t have to jog with one; you can walk, too.

A jogging stroller is generally more aerodynamic and much lighter than a traditional stroller. They usually have one wheel in the front and two wheels in back, making it easier to turn and maneuver. They also come equipped with a safety strap for the parent’s wrist so baby doesn’t accidentally get away. Most jogging strollers also have hand brakes for the parents, too.

To buy a jogging stroller, look for:

  • A fixed front tire that doesn’t swivel but can still maneuver around bends so the stroller stays on a straight path as you move.
  • A deep child seat and five-point harness safety belt so there’s no chance of your child sliding out of the seat while you’re on the run.
  • A safety wrist strap for you so the stroller doesn’t take off on its own if you accidentally loosen your grip.
  • A hand brake to keep the stroller from traveling faster than you can manage down a hill (or anywhere else, for that matter).
  • Be certain your jogging stroller has the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) seal, which indicates the product has passed rigorous safety standards.

Happy exercising!

TIP: While baby might be starting on solid foods during this time, there are still a few to avoid. Don’t give baby honey, strawberries or peanut products until after they turn 1 year old.



Family Matters: Fever


Uh oh! Baby feels warm. Seems to have a fever. She can’t tell you she doesn’t feel good, but she’s fussy, lethargic and doesn’t want to feed.

It’s not easy to know when your baby has a temperature, and it’s really not easy taking your infant’s temperature. Back in the day, you had to use a glass mercury thermometer, rectally, and hold baby really, really, really still to get a good reading.

Those days are over!  Luckily you now have several options for temperature-taking devices.

The Mayo Clinic recommends these:

  • Digital thermometers. These thermometers use electronic heat sensors to record body temperature. They can be used in the rectum (rectal), mouth (oral) or armpit (axillary). Armpit temperatures, however, are typically the least accurate of the three.
  • Digital ear thermometers (tympanic membrane). These thermometers use an infrared ray to measure the temperature inside the ear canal. Keep in mind that earwax or a small, curved ear canal can interfere with the accuracy of an ear thermometer temperature.
  • Digital pacifier thermometer. Your child simply sucks on the pacifier until the peak temperature is recorded.
  • Temporal artery thermometers. These thermometers use an infrared scanner to measure the temperature of the temporal artery in the forehead.

Of course, no matter what type of thermometer you use, read the instructions (everything but the baby comes with them). Clean with rubbing alcohol or soap and warm water before and after each use.

If you plan to use a digital thermometer to take a rectal temperature, get another digital thermometer for oral use. Label each thermometer, and don’t use the same thermometer in both places.

Finally, never leave your child unattended while you’re taking his or her temperature.

TIP: To effectively burp your baby, place them on your shoulder so their tummy balances closer to your shoulder than your chest. You can also place them face down on your thigh. Pat their back FIRMLY  (a lot of new parents make the mistake of not patting hard enough). Alternately rub their lower back, also firmly (make sure their head isn’t bumping into your shoulder or knee). That should do the trick!



Family Matters: Let the Eating Frenzy Begin


I’d always heard horror stories of the bottomless pits that teenage boys have for stomachs. My friends who have older children have intoned, “Just you wait.”

I think the wait is over.

With an 11-year-old and a 9-year-old, it seems food is flying out of the house as quickly as I can go to Brookshire’s to restock.

Last night was the boys’ first night home after a spring break trip. They asked for a veritable feast of hot dogs and hamburgers, so I got out the grill and fired it up. I had purchased a pound of 80/20 hamburger meat, so I made four patties, about a 1/4 pound each. I’d planned on bringing one leftover burger to work today for lunch.

The 11-year-old ate three of them – on a bun, with oven-baked fries, THREE. After the second, I cautioned him about being hungry, waiting a few minutes, listening to his stomach, etc. So he waited…and was still hungry. I couldn’t believe it.

Meanwhile, little brother was the hot dog king, devouring three as well, on buns, with oven-baked fries.

I couldn’t believe it. No leftovers. Not a single one.

Then they ate a cookie. Then the 9-year-old ate a banana. 

Where do they put it all? Where am I going to get it all?

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Family Matters: How Does Your Laundry Grow


I’m pretty sure that last week I did 18,327 loads of laundry –  at least. 

Between me and my two sons, we can accumulate some serious dirty laundry. 

Curt went to camp last week on a school trip, so there was his sleeping bag, two towels that had been balled up under his bunk bed for three days, two washcloths, four pairs of socks he’d walked through the woods in, four pairs of pants he wore to sit on the bank of the lake, three sweatshirts that smelled like campfire smoke, sweat-stained T-shirts and a pair of tennis shoes I strongly suspect went into the lake. All needed to be washed, ASAP. 

Then, there was Luke. He had a soccer game Saturday. His new team uniforms are white –  all white. 

Who gives 9-year-olds all-white uniforms? 

It went through the wash twice, due to the copious grass and mud stains.

I’m not even going to mention the fact that my kids wear something for five minutes and all of a sudden it’s dirty. 

As for me, my work clothes go in cold, delicate cycles, so they have to be done separately from the yoga pants and UT Austin sweatshirt that are my weekend uniform. 

Luckily, we get all our household essentials at Brookshire’s, so stocking up on laundry detergent, especially when it’s on sale, isn’t a problem. 

Now, if only I could get Brookshire’s to come over and fold.

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Family Matters: First Times


Remember the first time your child smiled, their first tooth, their first steps, first words, first day of kindergarten?  These are moments as parents that we will always remember and cherish.  As our children continue to grow, they experience the first day of middle school, first boy or girl friend, first broken heart, first day of high school, etc…  No matter how old our children are, they will continue to have “first times” in every area of their life.  As parents we should hold these times close to our heart and not take these moments for granted.

I remember the first time our 18-year-old daughter played Little Dribbler basketball in third grade and the laughter there was in watching her attempt to dribble the ball (or run with it).  As years passed she continued to play, and each year, as she progressed, the more exciting it was to watch her play.  She loves the game of basketball, and in doing so, it taught her leadership, perseverance, hard work and dedication. This year she is a senior, and watching her play was even more extraordinary. We cherished the moments of each game (win or lose) knowing it was her last time on the court.  Senior night was a special time for her to be recognized for her hard work and love of the game and a moment that we were honored to stand by her side. 

Now, as she moves forward, there will be the first time she attends college, first time to hold a full-time job, first time…first time…and life goes on.  As parents, we will continue to be there for all the “first times” she encounters and encourage and support her. 

Life is unpredictable and “first times” will never come again.  Don’t let your children’s “first times” in life be something you take lightly.  Let them see you smile (or laugh), give them hugs and always tell them “I love you.”  These moments are times they will remember, and it will make a difference in their lives.  Focus on your children and all the “first times” you are blessed to be a part of.  Count your blessings daily and give thanks for the time you are given with them.  

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Family Matters: Brushing Pet’s Teeth


I’ll never forget the first time I took our dog, Jill, to the vet and the doctor asked if I brushed her teeth.

Um. She’s a dog. A DOG.

Exactly, the vet responded, and dogs need their teeth brushed just like humans do.

Dogs don’t get cavities the way we do, but they do get plaque, tartar, and gingivitis — all of which can cause foul breath and tooth problems for your pooch.

To avoid the doggie dentist, you want to brush your dog’s teeth every day.

SAY WHAT? I have a hard enough time getting my two boys to brush their teeth TWICE a day, let alone factoring my dog into the equation. And with the dog, it’s not like I can send her into the bathroom and trust she’ll come out with pearly whites.

The vet assured me that if I brushed Jill’s teeth once a week, I’d be doing well.

But, how to trick my cunning canine into allowing me to brush her teeth? I was guessing a pink princess toothbrush was not going to provide the incentive Jill needed to open wide.

The vet gave me a pamphlet with these tips:

Choose a time when your dog is a little tired and less likely to want to play.

Train her to let you touch her mouth. This could take some time.

Flip up her lips.

Wet the edge of a clean washcloth so you can rub your dog’s gums and teeth; hold a corner of the wet portion of the washcloth with your index finger and use a gentle, circular motion.

When she is used to this, it’s time to get her accustomed to brushing.

Get a soft, silicone finger brush made for pets. Don’t try to use a human toothbrush and NEVER use human toothpaste. Check your pet aisle for toothpaste appropriate for pets.

Flip up your dog’s lips and gently rub the toothbrush and toothpaste against your dog’s teeth and gums for a few seconds.

Give your dog a treat, even if she allows you to work on her teeth for only a few seconds.

Repeat steps one through three the next day, gradually lengthening the amount of time spent brushing.

Hopefully this will help when Fido gives you one of her enthusiastic kisses AND will keep her healthy.



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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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