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Family Matters: Blended Families


My boys have a mom. And a dad.

And now a stepmom, stepbrother, step grandparents, step cousins…the whole nine yards.

And you know what? It’s great.

Oh, let me introduce myself. I’m mom, by the way. Mom-who-gave-birth to those two boys who now have a network of “steps.”

More and more of us moms, and dads, find ourselves in the position we never expected to be in when we said, “I do happily ever after.”

In some states, the divorce rate is as high as 70 percent.

I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Vows broken are never easy, but the life after, especially for your kids, doesn’t have to be bad.

When your ex picks a new partner, you’re now a team, not adversaries. Work as a team. Your child now has three, or four, parents…tap into each other’s strengths and talents.

Put the kids first.

Never, EVER badmouth the ex or a step. That only causes dissention between the adults which the children do not need to be subjected to.

Put the kids first.

Cooperate with each other. You can’t control everything now (you never could, actually) but you can control what happens at your house. Before each decision, ask yourself, “Is this in the best interest of OUR children.”

Put the kids first.

Speaking of OUR children, remember why you loved the ex in the first place. This may require YOU to dig deep, but I bet you can find something in your children to remind you. Celebrate that.

Put the kids first.

And when there are not ‘rules,’ put the kids first.



Family Matters: Social Interaction


When your toddler is about 2 years old, he’ll really like social activities like story time. However, don’t expect him to get down and interact with all the other kids. Little ones at this age still primarily parallel play, that is, they engage in their own activity next to another child. This is perfectly OK. You don’t have to force Jacob to share with Sophie or even be interested in her toys or acknowledge she’s there. He’s still primarily interested in his caregiver and whatever toy he finds most amusing at that given moment. But introducing him to other kids in group settings (whether that be one other child or 10) is good for his development at this point. So maybe try a library story time, or a group music class, or just take your toddler to the park and let them sort out the early social cues.

TIP 12 to 36 Months: Say no to your toddler. That’s right. A simple word, “No.” This is what a toddler can understand. Rationalizing with them, “Do you think that’s a good choice?” is more appropriate for a school-age child. But when they’re 2 and 3, keep it simple!



Family Matters: Car Seat Safety


Your baby is probably big enough now to transition from an infant carrier car seat to a convertible seat. But always, always, always keep it rear-facing. A lot of experts are now recommending that you keep baby in a rear-facing position longer than age 12 months.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends, based on a 2007 study from the University of Virginia, “children under 2 are 75 percent less likely to suffer severe or fatal injuries in a crash if they are facing the rear.”

“A baby’s head is relatively large in proportion to the rest of his body, and the bones of his neck are structurally immature,” said the statement’s lead author, Dr. Dennis R. Durbin, scientific co-director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “If he’s rear-facing, his entire body is better supported by the shell of the car seat. When he’s forward-facing, his shoulders and trunk may be well restrained, but in a violent crash, his head and neck can fly forward.”

What more information do you need?

TIP 7 to 12 Months: Babies this age are now eating solid foods. To help them stay full, make sure to provide about 3 full tablespoons of protein at each meal. 



Family Matters: Thumb Sucking


When my best friend’s baby was born a few months ago, she swore two things: that she would never speak to Baby in nauseating, high-pitched ‘baby talk’ nor would she ever let her suck her thumb.

HA!

Both of those promises went out the window within minutes of that sweet girl’s birth. She was practically born sucking her thumb, and I think Mama told her “Your little thumby-wumby needs to come out of your mouthy now…”

Best laid plans, right?

Thumb sucking is not the end of the world. I didn’t have to deal with it, because both of my boys used pacifiers, but my sister sucked her thumb. And guess what? She’s a fully functioning adult who graduated with her master’s degree without a thumb in her mouth. There’s hope, I promise.

Babies suck to soothe. If your baby sucks his thumb, you’ve got the built-in convenience of not having to get up 19,002 times a night (not that I counted) to find their pacifier for them.

Now, too much thumb sucking can cause alignment problems with teeth, but experts say MOST kids stop by around age 4. And if they haven’t, rest assured a preschool or kindergarten classmate will help things along by point out that sucking your thumb is for babies.

TIP- 0 to 6 Months: Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Babies thrive off of repetition. “Mixing things up” isn’t what your infant wants. Instead, it’s perfectly ok if you read “Goodnight, Moon” to them every evening for the first years of life. They love it. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. 



Family Matters: Kids and Summer


I have a rule in my house: If I hear the words “I’m bored” during the summer, my boys, ages 9 and 11, automatically incur SOMETHING TO DO.

And frankly, ‘something to do’ is often something they don’t want to do, like clean the bathroom or dust the baseboards (a ‘chore’ my mother loved to have us do…we had the cleanest baseboards in Richmond, Va.).

The point here is not to punish your kids all summer. The point is to encourage them to find other things to do to occupy their time. I catch myself saying, “When I was a kid…” but let’s be honest, times aren’t the same as when I was a child. We would head outside in the morning and not go home until dark. And that was just fine. Well if I didn’t know where MY kids were during the day, I’d panic with a capital ‘P’. In this day and age, we can’t just send our kids outside unsupervised in most cases.

But there are things they can do. Scavenger hunts in the back yard. Tried-and-true favorites like sidewalk chalk (it works really well on wooden fences, too) and bubbles. Plant a garden with your kids. Checking on it and pulling weeds is something they can do every day. Summer reading challenges: do them. Visit your local library. Go on an adventure every week. Don’t tell your kids where you’re going and give them clues so they can try to guess. Make it a challenge to go on an adventure that is completely free. Let them plan an adventure. Camp in the yard. Eat as many meals outside as possible. Give your kids a project – let them choose what to study.

Summertime, or anytime, isn’t a time to be “bored.” There’s so much do to and discover no matter where you live.

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Family Matters: Chores


The other night I asked my 11-year-old daughter Grace if she wanted to wash dishes or cook dinner. I really didn’t want her to choose cooking dinner because I knew I could do it faster and get it over with sooner, and besides, I did not want to do the dishes! But she chose cooking dinner, so I let her go for it.

I gave her the choice between two meals I knew she could handle, tacos or Hamburger Helper. She chose her favorite, Hamburger Helper. I gave her the Hamburger Helper box, told her to read the instructions and stayed close by in the kitchen in case she needed my help. She was able to brown the meat, add the sauce, milk, water and noodles and let it simmer all without my help.

After giving thanks for our dinner, Grace proudly announced that she had prepared the dinner all by herself. She was very proud of herself that night and, even being the picky eater that she is, ate everything on her plate!

Kids are often more willing to eat foods they have prepared, and the process encourages communication and family togetherness. It all starts in the kitchen. Whether that means the young ones wash the greens or older siblings help with some of the more involved recipes, a little cooking camaraderie goes a long way. There are many easy tasks that kids can do in the kitchen to help you out:

• Washing fruits and vegetables
• Measuring using a measuring cup
• Pouring liquids
• Stirring with a spoon
• Cracking eggs (Kids love this one!)
• Setting the table
• Cleaning up after dinner 

Kids have so much fun in the kitchen – so don’t keep them out. Involve your kids with specific kitchen jobs and watch their culinary interest and ability soar. I think next week we’ll have “Taco Tuesday,” and I’ll let Grace be the chef!

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Family Matters: Middle School


I woke up one day last week and, seemingly overnight, was staring straight into the strange face of Middle School.

How did my BABY, my firstborn, end up ready to go to middle school?

It’s not possible.

After all, he was just born yesterday – or the day before – or ELEVEN years ago.

How did that happen?

The thought of middle school has been a scary one for us. There are lots of good middle schools in our area; the scary part was finding a good one for our son.

Curt has autism. Yes, he’s high-functioning, but still, the thought of navigating the social mores of middle school has been scary.

Every parent of a middle school student faces this. Every. Single. One. Whether your child has special needs or not. Will he make friends? Will he be able to work his locker combination? Will he be able to stand up to the inevitable bullies or mean kids? Will he do well academically? Will he be happy?

And that’s the bottom line, really. Will he be happy?

He’s going to a great school, a small school. Where I don’t worry as much about lockers and getting lost in the hallways. He’ll still face mean kids. He’ll still face the rigors of academia. But as a parent, whatever I can do to reduce the other, outside factors, I’ll fight to do. And I feel good about him going to this middle school. I’ve prayed about it. I’ve given it to God’s hands.

Now, when I look into the face of Middle School, he’s not so scary after all. 

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Family Matters: Collage of Times Past


As I near the high school graduation of yet another child, my family and I have begun gathering items to celebrate this special occasion. We pull out our large plastic containers of family photos from birth to present and begin the process. As the family sits on the living room floor and thumbs through the photos one by one, what memories it brings back. First we laugh, then I cry, then we laugh (rolling on the floor), I cry again and it goes on for days.  My family finally told me if I did not stop with the tears, I was not going to be allowed to look at any more photos! 

In my defense, I am the mother, and the photos bring back so many happy and sad times of our life together as a family. The pictures of my children when they were young and photos with them doing silly things makes me laugh, but also brings tears for how they have grown into beautiful young ladies, not babies anymore. Seeing photos of loved ones we lost floods my heart with sadness, as they will miss this special time of graduation. How quickly time passes us by and so many times we fail to slow down and savor the memories as they are happening.

I will use the photos we gather to make a photo collage slide show that we will share with extended family and friends after graduation as we celebrate her life. What a great thing she will then have to share with her kids one day. Our future grandchildren will be able to see their mother as a child up through graduation and see the joy that she has brought us as her parents. 

Our life is but a collage of events that make up who we are as an individual. Every moment from the time we are born, our accomplishments, our failures, each and every life decision we make determines who we become. Remember to take pictures and capture moments that define your family. Though life is not perfect, our children are a blessing sent from God, and we should give thanks daily for what they bring to our life.

Take time with your kids to sit and go through family photos; it is a great way to bring you together for a special time of laughter…and tears. You will be amazed at the feeling you will have sharing so many memories together. Count your blessings daily and give thanks for the time you have to share with your family. 

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Family Matters: Pet Boarding


It was so hard when I’d go out of town on vacation for an extended period of time. I wanted someone to take care of my pets as I would, but I hated to ask someone to spend all that time.

So a pet boarding kennel is a great option, especially when you have one you know and can trust.

With vacation season arriving,  it’s important to have good care for your pets while you’re gone.

Here are a few things to look for in a potential boarding situation, according to the Humane Society of the United States:

·      Does the facility look and smell clean?
·      Is there sufficient ventilation and light? 
·      Is a comfortable temperature maintained? 
·      Does the staff seem knowledgeable and caring? 
·      Are pets required to be current on their vaccinations, including the vaccine for canine kennel cough (Bordetella)? (Such a requirement helps protect your animal and others.)
·      Does each dog have his own adequately sized indoor-outdoor run or an indoor run and a schedule for exercise?
·      Are outdoor runs and exercise areas protected from wind, rain, and snow?
·      Are resting boards and bedding provided to allow dogs to rest off the concrete floor?
·      Are cats housed away from dogs?
·      Is there enough space for cats to move around comfortably?
·      Is there enough space between the litter box and food bowls?
·      How often are pets fed?
·      Can the owner bring a pet’s special food?
·      What veterinary services are available?
·      Are other services available such as grooming, training, bathing?
·      How are rates calculated?

If you’re satisfied the facility meets these requirements, by all means, book your pet into a pleasurable stay while you’re taking your own time off!



Family Matters: I Did it All By Myself – No- Bake Cookies


Building a strong foundation of skills early in your child’s life is the perfect opportunity to spend quality time and create unforgettable memories with your little ones. Turn your kitchen into a fun educational tool that your kids are sure not to forget – especially the yummy treats made with their own hands!

No-bake cookies are the perfect way to introduce your little ones to the basics of any recipe and even help develop life skills.

Planning, organization, time management and responsibility are all among a lengthy list of traits that correlate between executing a recipe and day-to-day tasks. Letting your children lend you a hand in the kitchen is a wonderful opportunity for them to learn and master a new skill. This boosts self-esteem, self-confidence and also gets the creative juices flowing.

The benefits of getting your kids involved in the kitchen are endless. This is a great way to accomplish a task and let your kids pave their way to some edible accolades!

You, as a parent, can easily give your kids the champion-like feeling of accomplishment that may serve as a launching pad to developing their hunger for success – not to mention you and your loved ones get to enjoy a tasty treat together.

Invite your kids into the kitchen and introduce them to skills they will use for the rest of their lives! 

Ingredients:

1 cup Food Club Creamy Peanut Butter
1 cup Food Club Confectioners’ Sugar
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
2 Tbsp butter softened at room temperature
1 cup coconut flakes 

Directions:

In a medium mixing bowl combine peanut butter, confectioners’ sugar, chocolate chips and butter; mix well.

Take a teaspoon of batter and roll into a small ball. Continue making balls with the remaining batter. 

Roll each ball in coconut. Chill in refrigerator.

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