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Family Matters: Creating Family Memories


When the holidays roll in and school lets out, it’s a great time to stop and enjoy some free time with your children and grandchildren. Yes, I know it’s the most hectic time of the year, but it’s also the most wonderful from what I hear. And these little moments with our little ones disappear before you can say, “Happy New Year!” 

I have teenage sons and they are way more interested in what their friends are doing than spending too much time with me in the kitchen, so I try to grab every opportunity I can to draw them in to hanging out with me. It’s a great time to talk, as everyone is pretty relaxed and knows some good food is on the way soon! 

These two recipes were some of my sons’ favorites when they were younger. They loved chicken nuggets, but I just didn’t care for the frozen kind – or for frying the nuggets too often. I bake mine, and no one notices that they haven’t been in the deep fryer. The quality of the chicken is also so much better than anything you can get in a drive-thru! 

And once you’ve made Homemade Applesauce, you’re going to be hooked for life. Yes, it takes a bit of time to prepare and to allow too cool down, but it’s worth every single delicious spoonful. Depending on how sweet you like yours, choose a variety of apples and play with the flavors. You really can’t go wrong, and its five simple ingredients I bet you already have at home. 

We still make these recipes from time to time, and it’s adorable to see them flashback to memories from their preschool days. We have had some sweet conversations simply because the food triggered fun days back when I could still carry them on my hip and read Dr. Seuss every afternoon at nap time. Those days are gone, but the memories and the food will stay with us…until grandchildren one day (a long, long way away!). 

Enjoy! 

Baked Chicken Nuggets

Ingredients:
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 tsp garlic salt
1/2 cup butter, melted

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400° F. Line the baking sheet with aluminum foil. Cut chicken into bite-size chunks. Mix bread crumbs with parmesan cheese and garlic salt. Dip chicken into melted butter. Roll in crumb mixture. Lay on foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.  Remove from oven and serve warm. Also good cold for leftovers. 

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 458, Total Fat: 27 g, Sodium: 360 mg, Carbohydrates: 7 g, Protein: 44 g 

Homemade Applesauce
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
6 red apples, or whatever kind you like
1 cup water
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar

Directions:
Core and peel all apples. Quarter the apples, and then cut into chunks. Place apple chunks in a medium saucepan. Add all remaining ingredients and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover to simmer until apples soften and break apart. Stir every few minutes. Transfer mixture to a food processor and pulse until you reach your desired consistency. Refrigerate until cooled. Keeps about a week in the refrigerator.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 128, Total Fat: 0 g, Sodium: 3 mg, Carbohydrates: 34 g, Protein: 1 g

 



Family Matters: Baby Wearing


When I had my first son, I knew everything about parenting.

Cough.

Choke.

Snort.

Sputter.

OK, I didn’t. I didn’t know a thing.

Phew. There, I admitted it.

But when I had my second son, 17 months later, I knew all there was to know about parenting.

**crickets**

Busted.

I’m not going to pretend I knew everything then, either, but I did do things a bit differently with son number 2 than I had with son number 1.

One of the biggest things I did differently was embrace babywearing.

What’s that, you ask?

Babywearing simply means holding or carrying a baby or young child using a cloth baby carrier.

My friends wanted to buy me a ticket to Woodstock and make sure I had some recycled sandals.

It’s not like that at all, people!

And truth be told, it was as much as having my hands free for my 17-month old as it was having my newborn up close next to my body. We called my sling, the cloth wrap I wore Luke in, the “papoose.” Luke was often not happy at all if he wasn’t in the blue denim sling I wore him in for hours and hours every day.

(Before you argue with me, he’s 9 and has no attachment issues, thank you very much)

Experts say some of the benefits of baby wearing include:

• Happy Babies. It’s true carried babies cry less! In a study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers found that babywearing for three hours a day reduced infant crying by 43 percent overall and 54 percent during evening hours.

• Healthy Babies. Premature babies and babies with special needs often enter the world with fragile nervous systems. When a baby rides in a sling attached to his mother, he is in tune with the rhythm of her breathing, the sound of her heartbeat, and the movements his mother makes—walking, bending, and reaching. This stimulation helps him to regulate his own physical responses. Research has even shown that premature babies who are touched and held gain weight faster and are healthier than babies who are not.

• Confident Parents. A large part of feeling confident as a parent is the ability to read our babies’ cues successfully. Holding our babies close in a sling allows us to become finely attuned to their movements, gestures, and facial expressions. Every time a baby is able to let us know that she is hungry, bored, or wet without having to cry, her trust in us is increased, her learning is enhanced, and our own confidence is reinforced. This cycle of positive interaction deepens the mutual attachment between parent and child, and is especially beneficial for mothers who are at risk for or suffering from postpartum depression.

• Loving Caregivers. Baby carriers are a great bonding tool for fathers, grandparents, adoptive parents, babysitters, and other caregivers. Imagine a new father going for a walk with his baby in a sling. The baby is becoming used to his voice, heartbeat, movements, and facial expressions, and the two are forging a strong attachment of their own. Baby carriers are beneficial for every adult in a baby’s life. Cuddling up close in the sling is a wonderful way to get to know the baby in your life, and for the baby to get to know you.

•Comfort and Convenience. With the help of a good carrier, you can take care of older children or do chores without frequent interruptions from an anxious or distressed infant—which helps reduce sibling rivalry. Baby carriers are also wonderful to use with older babies and toddlers; you can save those arms and go where strollers can’t. Climbing stairs, hiking, and navigating crowded airports all can be done with ease when you use a well-designed baby carrier.

But of course, never put safety second.

Some tips:

Make sure your baby can breathe. Baby carriers allow parents to be hands-free to do other things, but you must always remain active in caring for your child. No baby carrier can ensure that your baby always has an open airway; that’s your job.

1. Never allow a baby to be carried, held, or placed in such a way that his chin is curled against his chest. This rule applies to babies being held in arms, in baby carriers, in infant car seats, or in any other kind of seat or situation. This position can restrict the baby’s ability to breathe. Newborns lack the muscle control to open their airways. They need good back support in carriers so that they don’t slump into the chin-to-chest position.

2. Never allow a baby’s head and face to be covered with fabric. Covering a baby’s head and face can cause her to “rebreathe” the same air, which is a dangerous situation. Also, covering her head and face keeps you from being able to check on her. Always make sure your baby has plenty of airflow. Check on her frequently.

3. Never jog, run, jump on a trampoline, or do any other activity that subjects your baby to similar shaking or bouncing motion. “This motion can do damage to the baby’s neck, spine and/or brain,” explains the American Chiropractic Association.

4. Never use a baby carrier when riding in a car. Soft baby carriers provide none of the protection that car seats provide.

5. Use only carriers that are appropriate for your baby’s age and weight. For example, frame backpacks can be useful for hiking with older babies and toddlers but aren’t appropriate for babies who can’t sit unassisted for extended periods. Front packs usually have a weight range of eight to 20 pounds; smaller babies may slip out of the carrier, and larger babies will almost certainly cause back discomfort for the person using the carrier.

Baby wearing was such a great experience for us that I highly recommend you try it. Bottom line, you have to do what works for you.



Family Matters: Dinner on the Table. Done!


“What’s for dinner?” is such a hard question to answer day after day. It’s hard enough to come up with new and interesting recipes that each family member will eat and enjoy, but today’s fast-paced lifestyle leaves little time for creativity and leisurely cooking in the kitchen. 

Before we go any further, I need to dispel any false ideas you have about mealtimes in my home. I’m a full-time working mom and have two teenage sons who play sports and live very full lives. Our time is jam-packed, every day, but I would like to pretend that mealtime at our house happens every night, and is peaceful. 

In my dreams, I imagine we all sit down happily at the kitchen table while I serve my family a hot meal. We hold hands, take turns thanking God for his blessings, chew with our mouths closed and embrace each other before leaving for school or work. 

Of course it’s absolutely fine to order a pizza for dinner every now and then! But preparing food at home has never been more important to the family’s sense of well-being. Research from places such as Columbia University shows that eating as a family at least three times a week significantly reduces a child’s likelihood to end up on drugs. Eating together as a family also reduces the rate of teen suicide, depression, pregnancy and poor academics, just to name a few. 

In our home, we try to make the evening meal our time to unwind and discuss the remains of the day. It takes work to get everyone’s schedule to somehow align and get food on the table. And of course, like I said earlier, many nights it doesn’t work out as planned. 

But we try, even if it means having a simple soup night, I don’t think it matters what the meal is as long as you are eating together, sitting down, with as few interruptions as possible. 

I have seen that the more often we make time to eat together, the better our family relationships become. We have learned to work together to get the food on the table; the boys open up about their day and their thoughts more easily, and even their manners have improved. And I love the laughter that comes from full stomachs and the sense of security a family dinner can give. The sharing, laughing, relating to one another that naturally will come…it’s priceless. 

It’s not easy to get dinner on the table; I struggle with it just like you do. But I’m convinced more than ever that it’s one of the best things we can do to guard the hearts and minds of our children. 

Easy Weeknight Three-Cheese Broccoli Soup
Serves 4

Ingredients:
6 Tbs unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground white pepper
Dash ground thyme
1 (13 3/4 oz) can chicken broth
1 cup low-fat milk
3 cups bite-size broccoli florets
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/8 tsp hot pepper sauce
1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded Havarti or Gruyère cheese
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese 

Directions:
Melt butter in 3-quart saucepan over low heat. Blend in flour and seasonings. Gradually add broth and milk; cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Stir in broccoli; simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in cream, Worcestershire sauce and hot pepper sauce. Add cheeses; stir until melted.

Nutritional Information: Calories: 560, Total Fat: 45 g, Sodium: 723 mg, Carbohydrates: 19 g, Protein: 22 g



Family Matters: Apple and Eve Fruitables


It’s that time of the year again. 

No, I’m not talking about Thanksgiving, Christmas or Hanukkah; I’m talking about ARD time for our family. 

ARD is the acronym given by state’s education association for an “Admission, Review or Dismissal” meeting. If you have a child in special education, as I do, you have an annual (at least!) ARD meeting to check on your child’s progress, review his goals and set new ones for the year, assess his needs and put in place anything that needs to be changed in his education plan. My son’s team attends his ARD meetings; his father and I are present, as is his homeroom teacher, the school principal, the diagnostician, his occupational therapist and the school resource representative. ARD meetings can be stressful, but luckily ours this year was smooth sailing. 

When my older son, Curt, was diagnosed with autism at age 2 1/2, we didn’t know what the future would hold for the little boy with the big brown eyes who didn’t speak, but who loved lights, ceiling fans and anything else that spun or sparkled. 

Today, those brown eyes are even bigger and he talks a blue streak. He still has an affinity for spinning objects, but he can also tell you any fact you want to know about the Titanic, is developing a Power Point presentation for this fifth grade teacher about division and just earned his yellow belt in karate. 

I don’t know what caused his autism and this is not the platform for the varied theories on the topic. I do know, however, that when he was diagnosed with a disability (or different ability, as I like to think of it) then my mind kicked into overdrive trying to think of ways to make all other aspects of his life healthier and happier. 

For a long time, Curt was on the GFCF diet – gluten free and casein free. While many children on the autism spectrum benefit from this diet, we didn’t see any significant change in Curt during the time he was on the diet.  What the diet did do, however, was emphasize the importance of whole foods, fruits and vegetables, not only in his diet, but in the eating regime of the entire family. 

As Curt did not like hot foods, but loved cold ones, we ended up making a lot of homemade popsicles when he was younger (and still today!).

Apple and Eve Fruitables have one full serving of the USRDA of fruits and vegetables, and 1/3 less sugar, to boot. 

In a Popsicle mold, pour your favorite flavor to fill halfway. We like Strawberry-Kiwi. Freeze until set. Fill the other half with another flavor, like Apple Harvest. Freeze until set and enjoy! These treats are pretty to look at and parents can rest assured that their kid – any kid – is getting some of the nutrients they need.



Family Matters: Friends and Family


When you think about friends and family, some people may consider them separate, but to many of us, our friends are part of our family.  We all have people in our lives who are more than just a friend; they are sometimes even closer to us than some of our own family.  When you find that special friendship, it is something that you cherish and hold tight too.  

As years pass, we find ourselves in situations we thought we would never see ourselves in and face things that seem impossible.  It may be something with a spouse, a child, our health, church, work or life in general.  It is during these times that we rely on our friends to pick us up, dust us off and help us put one foot in front of the other and make some sense out of what has happened.  If you stop and think, for just a moment, you can remember a time when one of your friends did this exact thing for you.  Think now…have you done that same thing for them?  It is great to have a friend, but even more so to be that special friend to someone else. 

A friend is someone who helps you move forward when you think it is not possible, gives you a hug, a shoulder to cry on, listens when you talk, believes in you when others don’t, and someone that no matter what, is there to support you in any situation.  Most importantly, a friend is someone who will pray for you daily, pray with you when you need it and gives thanks for you and what you mean to them.  We are blessed with extraordinary friendships during our lifetime and it is up to us, not to take them, for granted.  Having a special friend(s) is a true gift from God. 

Focus on your friends and family. It is time well spent and most rewarding.  Count your blessings daily and give thanks for the time you are given with them.  

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Family Matters: Holiday Preparation for Your Pet


When the holidays arrive, many of our houses get a complete makeover inside. From decorations and candy to firewood and candles, the cold outside gives us the perfect opportunity to make it warm and cozy inside. 

But don’t assume your indoor pets are going to accept the seasonal décor without being a little adventurous, especially those curious little cats we like to pet in our laps. Unfortunately, there are many dangers for your kitty cat that come with the holidays, and it’s just a good idea to make sure you have created a safe holiday home. 

Don’t give chocolate to your cat. Chocolate contains theobromine, which is deadly to cats. It’s best to stick to the special cat treats (not people food) your pet has been used to eating all year. 

Watch out for the food prep areas. If your cat likes to climb on the countertops, make sure you don’t leave any food unattended, especially bones. Poultry bones break apart easily, which can cause serious internal injury, not to mention upset stomachs. 

Keep the holiday spirits out of kitty’s reach. It sounds funny to mention a cat ingesting alcohol, but it’s very serious. Alcohol makes felines very sick and weak, often causing respiratory failure.

Decorate with cat-friendly plants and floral decorations. Many popular holiday plants are poisonous to cats. Lilies can cause kidney failure in cats, and mistletoe and holly berries also can be toxic. Poinsettias are considered to be very low in toxicity, but they could cause mild vomiting or nausea if ingested. Safe alternatives can include silk or plastic artificial flowers. 

Cat-proof your tree and the water in the tree stand. Just like toddlers, the Christmas tree seems like a great new thing to climb, and you kind of need to follow the same rules as if you had a small child around. Be sure your tree is secure, place ornaments out of paw’s reach, and, if possible use non-breakable ornaments. Also, watch out for stagnant tree water, which can cause all kinds of illnesses. It’s just a good idea to keep the tree stand covered.

No tinsel. Yes, cats are known to be curious about tinsel, and often try to eat it. Those that do can suffer serious intestinal problems that require surgery. 

Keep kitty safe during parties. If you’re hosting a holiday gathering, place your cat in a separate room during the festivities. Cats tend to get stressed when their routines are interrupted, and this way you don’t have to worry either.

A dry, warm cat is a happy cat. Cats shouldn’t be taken outside after a bath unless they are absolutely, positively, 100 percent dry. And make sure you cat has a warm place to sleep. Their usual place may be colder than usual, so it’s time to check for drafts.

 Kitty-proof the fireplace. If you have a fireplace or wood stove, always use a protective barrier or screen to keep your cat from getting burned by his curiosity.

Use safe antifreeze. Antifreeze smells and tastes good to cats, but ethylene glycol-based antifreeze is a lethal poison for animals. Even just a few licks can be deadly. While no antifreeze is safe for ingestion, a propylene glycol-based antifreeze generally is much less toxic. Be sure to keep the product stored in a clearly marked, sealed container in a place where pets don’t have access, and clean up any antifreeze spills immediately.



Family Matters: Turkey Cookies


Over the past five years, my little family has started a new tradition of taking a vacation during the week of Thanksgiving. Every year now, we travel to a different state or town to enjoy this holiday. Most of the time we take the grandparents with us so they can spend time with the grandkids and also enjoy the location whether it’s the snow in Colorado or the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.

As we began a new tradition with my family, some old traditions can never change. My mom has to make the dressing, which is a recipe handed down from her mother. My sister-in-law has to make the potato casserole which is a recipe handed down from her mother as well. I have to bring the turkey cookies. Yes, turkey cookies. And no, it’s not a recipe handed down from my mother! Well, maybe the sugar cookie ingredients are handed down from her.

Since I was about ten years old, every year at Thanksgiving I would make turkey cookies. Which is actually sugar cookies cut out in the shape of turkeys and decorated with icing.  To this day, the family always asks if I’m bringing the turkey cookies to Thanksgiving.  Now that my daughter has turned 10, I am happily passing this tradition down to her!

Turkey Cookies

Cookies:
1 cup Crisco
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
2 Tbs milk
3 cups flour

Directions:
Preheat Oven to 350° F. Combine Crisco, sugar, eggs and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and beat with a mixer until creamy. Stir in baking powder then gradually add flour and milk and stir until blended together. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least up to 3 hours.
Lightly sprinkle an inverted cookie sheet and rolling pin with flour. Roll dough out onto an inverted cookie sheet. Press cookie cutter into dough and remove excess dough around cutter. Work excess cookie dough back into a ball and repeat process. Bake cookies for 8 minutes (they should not turn brown).

Icing:
2 egg whites, beaten
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
2 Tbs lemon juice

Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until peaks form. Gradually add in sugar and cream of tartar until mixture is thick enough to hold its shape. Spread on top of cookies and serve.

Whatever your tradition is for Thanksgiving, remember that time spent with family is by far the best tradition of all. Share Meals. Share Life. 



Family Matters: Holiday Traditions


There are certain traditions my boys expect to occur during the holidays or the earth just might spin off its axis. 

The boys love to eat white chocolate popcorn and watch “Elf,” even though they might not admit it in public. I try to act nonchalant when they ask to watch it, but inside I’m dancing because I will watch that movie every time it comes on TV. It’s like “Sleepless in Seattle” or “Sweet Home Alabama” for me; I simply can’t stop watching once it starts. 

We also have made a point to ring the Salvation Army bell together (yes, they get school volunteer hours), and it always turns out to be fun even though getting them there requires nothing short of threatening to cancel Christmas. 

Last year, my older son and I were working our shift in front of Brookshire’s when I noticed his hands weren’t moving but the bell was still ringing. Yes, Virginia, there is now an App for the Salvation Army bell, and of course, he had found it. 

One of my personal favorite Christmas traditions is setting up our nativity scene for the first time each December. The set I use now was given to me when my older son was born, and it is one of the few material things I hold dear. 

A nativity scene is a wonderful idea for a baby gift – and not one most people think about giving. It has always been a time for me to stop and think about Mary as a mother – and of course her baby son, Jesus. As a mother of boys now myself, I just don’t know how Mary did what she did. 

Christmas Popcorn
Serves 8

Ingredients:
8 cups popped popcorn with no salt or butter (air-popped works best)
2 oz high-quality white chocolate or almond bark, chopped
1 tsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
3/4 tsp salt

Directions:
Place popped popcorn in a bowl large enough to “toss” with other ingredients. Melt white chocolate or almond bark with butter in the microwave on low, stirring every 30 seconds. Drizzle over popcorn and toss well. Add berries, buts and salt. Toss again. Spread on aluminum foil or waxed paper to set. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.   

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Snack Serving (made with air-popped popcorn): 114, Total Fat: 6 g, Sodium 233 mg, Carbohydrates 15 g, Protein: 2.0 g

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Family Matters: Pumpkin Butterscotch Fudge Bars


Fall has always been my favorite time of year. It has nothing to do with the fact that I was born in October. (No, really, it doesn’t, I promise) And fall is rapidly becoming my boys’ favorite time of year, too.

First of all, there’s the weather. When it got chilly last weekend, the first thing my older son asked for when he woke up was hot cocoa. Who doesn’t love a steaming mug of chocolaty goodness on a crisp fall morning?  With the cooler weather comes camping, one of our favorite family activities. There is nothing better than spending the day hiking, crunching along in the colorful leaves, then cooking over an open flame, making melty, delicious s ‘mores and going to sleep under the stars – after the ghost stories, of course.

Fall is also soccer season. My younger son plays and is pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. Saturdays at the soccer field, cheering him on, are a fun way to spend a family day too.

Fall means corn mazes, pumpkin patches, haunted houses and hayrides. Last weekend we visited four haunted houses at a local amusement park and crept through them, alternately laughing hysterically and clutching each other in anticipation of what was going to pop out from behind the next corner. We go to a nearby corn maze every year, too, and luckily for me my boys have a better sense of direction than I do, because they can sniff our way out much more quickly than I can. We pick up our pumpkins at the same place, searching the extensive field for just the right gourd to take home for our jack o’ lantern.

Fall also means baking. Lots of baking. Pumpkin bread, cinnamon rolls, spice loaf, peanut butter cookies and these pumpkin butterscotch fudge bars that combine all the delicious flavors of my favorite season.

Pumpkin Butterscotch Fudge Bars
Makes 4 dozen

Recipe Courtesy of Quaker Oats  

COOKIE BASE:
Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour 
1 cup Quaker® Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked) 
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar 
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup flaked coconut 
3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice 
1/2 tsp baking soda 
12 Tbs (1-1/2 sticks) butter or margarine, melted 

FUDGE: 
2 Tbs stick butter or margarine 
2/3 cup evaporated milk 
3/4 cup granulated sugar 
1/2 cup 100% Pure Pumpkin
1-1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice 
1/4 tsp salt 
2 cups (4 oz.) miniature marshmallows 
1-2/3 cups (11-oz. pkg.) butterscotch chips 
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, divided 
1 tsp vanilla   

Directions:
Heat oven to 350°F. Line 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan with foil. 

For cookie base, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, nuts, coconut, pumpkin pie spice and baking soda in medium bowl; mix well. Stir in butter; mix well. Press into jelly-roll pan.

Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until lightly brown. Cool in pan on wire rack.  

For fudge, combine butter, evaporated milk, sugar, pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice and salt in medium, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, over medium heat. Boil, stirring constantly, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in marshmallows, chips, 1/2 cup nuts and vanilla extract. Stir vigorously for 1 minute or until marshmallows are melted. Pour over cookie base; sprinkle with remaining nuts. Refrigerate until firm. Cut into bars.

Nutritional Information (per bar):Calories 128;  Calories from Fat 56; Total Fat 6 g; Cholesterol 9 mg; Sodium 84 mg; Total Carbohydrates 17 g; Dietary Fiber 1 g; Sugars 12 g; Protein 2 g

 



Family Matters: Patchwork of Memories


We all go through daily routines of things “we must get done” in order to feel like our day was a success.  In reality, sometimes we find out too late that it is really time with our family that matters the most and where our time should be focused.  

My dad recently passed away and my days now are not as busy as they used to be, because some things don’t seem to matter like they did.  I constantly encourage my kids to treat each day like it may be their last – speak kind words, help others, be a good friend, give a hug, share your faith and always tell those you love how much they mean to you.  We get so busy and wrapped up in things that we fail to speak the words “I love you” to those we care for the most. Words are powerful and can make a difference in the lives of people around you.  You may not think you need to hear it, but be assured there is someone you come in contact with each day that those three simple words are exactly what they need to hear. 

I was very close to my dad and talked to him every day, and I always made sure the last thing he heard was “I love you”.  I was (and will always be) a “daddy’s girl” and my life is forever changed without him in it.  I have great memories and stories to share but I wanted something more that would give me a sense of him being with me always – unlike photos that fade and memories that grow vague over time.  I had a quilt made of my daddy’s shirts and it will be a keepsake to be passed down for years to come.  It will keep me warm, bring me comfort and will help me feel closer to him.  When others see it, it will only look like a quilt, but to me it is a patchwork of memories…each square a beautiful reminder of my dad. 

I spent the last two weeks of my dad’s life at his hospital bedside caring for him.  I did not know it at the time, but looking back I know now, that it was a precious “gift from God” and I will be forever thankful for that special time.  The last words he heard me speak were “I love you”, so I have no regrets.  My family matters and I let them know daily…what about you?  

Focus on your family and tell them what they mean to you.  Count your blessings daily and give thanks for the time you are given with them. 

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