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Family Matters: First Foods


Around six months old, baby will start eating solid foods!

Some pediatricians recommend the transition around four months; pay attention to your baby. If he’s still vigorously thrusting a spoon out of his mouth at four months, try again at five or six. I think I tried at four months with my first child, which caused some digestive issues, so we tried again at six months with no problem. Jjust pay attention to your child’s needs! Baby should be able to hold his head erect and upper body stable before he starts solid foods.

Cereal is a good first food. I preferred single-grain oatmeal to rice (rice was constipating for both of my boys). I mixed it with breastmilk. You can use formula or water to get it to a consistency your baby can eat easily. Just a few spoonfuls should be enough to start.

When introducing solids, you only want to introduce a new food every three to four days. This way, you can make sure that if baby has a reaction, you know which food he is reacting to. After cereal, mashed avocado is a good one to try, or pureed sweet potato. Cooked and pureed carrots and other nutrient-rich veggies are good first foods. Then, move on to fruits, and cooked and pureed meats after that.

Don’t get discouraged if baby rejects a food once, twice or several times. This is normal! Keep trying. After you’re sure he is not allergic, mix it with something you know he likes to introduce it again.



Family Matters: Gifts of Time


Gifts of TimeIt’s the holidays again, and I broached the subject of Christmas gifts with my boys before Thanksgiving.

“What do you think you might like for Christmas this year?” I asked.

They both struggled for an answer.

At ages 15 (almost 16, it’s important to note) and 14 (and a half), there really aren’t many things they WANT.

They are the first to admit they’re pretty lucky guys.

They have the phones, the computers, the gaming consoles and most things kids want these days. They each have a bicycle they’ve put many miles on. They each have their own room, with their own stuff, in their own place.

They were kind of at a loss as to what to ask for.

However, one child loves roller coasters and theme parks, and it happens that a theme park within easy driving distance is getting a new roller coaster when they reopen in the spring. That child will be getting tickets to opening weekend (Shhhhh! If you see him before Christmas, don’t tell!).

The other child has poured his heart and soul into his theater class for the past three years, taking extra lessons at our local civic theater. That child is getting tickets to a premier show in a nearby big city this year.

This year, Christmas gifts are not a toy or an electronic. They’re an experience. Their tickets will come with an entire weekend away with the entire family to experience a city, it’s culture, it’s food, their favorite things and their family.

To me, and hopefully to them, that’s better than any video game you can buy.

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Family Matters: Safe and Fun Feline Treats for the Holidays


Safe and Fun Feline Treats for the HolidaysWhile cats don’t always eat table scraps, they are kind of sneaky about going into the kitchen and munching on your holiday feast while you’re eating in the dining room.

However, holiday indulgences that we love aren’t always good for your feline friend.

Turkey is one of them.

Turkey isn’t bad for your kitty (well, the bones are), but the richness of a roasted bird might not agree with his digestive system. You know what that means for you.

Do not give your cat anything with bulb vegetables like onions, garlic or leeks. They cause anemia in cats.

Absolutely no gravy, which typically contains garlic, onions or mushrooms.

Speaking of mushrooms, they are toxic to cats. Keep your kitty away from them.

Don’t give your cat bread: yeast also causes digestive issues.

Liver, while it sounds like a good idea, can cause organ toxicity in cats. Just avoid it.

Of course, avoid chocolate, candy or any other sweets.

Your vet probably has an emergency number for holidays. Post it on your fridge. Also, have the number for the Animal Poison Control Center (ASPCA). Their number is 888-ANI-HELP, or 888-426-4435.



Family Matters: What Treats NOT to Feed Your Dog During the Holidays


What Treats NOT to Feed Your Dog During the HolidaysWith the holidays upon us, it’s tempting to feed our canine best friend some treats from the table. After all, we’re indulging, so why shouldn’t he?

There are a list of good reasons why!

I want to feed my dog, Astro, all the same treats that I’m enjoying, but not everything that’s good for me is good for him.

First of all, please don’t feed your four-legged friend bones from your holiday turkey, ham or even crown roast. No bones, period, unless they come from the pet food aisle at Brookshire’s and are engineered specifically for dogs. Real animal bones can fracture and cause serious, even fatal, damage in your dog’s digestive system.

Secondly, beware of holiday plants. Poinsettias and mistletoe are both poisonous. You also don’t want your pup ingesting needles from your Christmas tree! Keep these plants out of reach of your dog, and keep him away from your tree.

Chocolate is also poisonous to your dog in certain quantities. Don’t leave out dishes of chocolate, and closely monitor any chocolate treats in the house during the holiday season.

Alcohol can also be fatal to your pooch. While he might not WANT to attack your glass of glog, keep anything with alcohol in it far away from your pet.

Onions or any other bulb vegetable (like garlic, leeks and chives) are also bad for your dog. Don’t feed him table scraps with any of those ingredients.

Raisins and grapes are also super bad for your dog, so if he gets into the fruitcake or cinnamon bread, call your vet immediately.

Most vets offer emergency service (or a backup) on holidays. Make sure you have that number handy in case your four-legged friend DOES indeed get into something he shouldn’t eat.

In the meantime, provide his favorite (dog-approved) treats and his regular foods, and give him lots of love and attention to keep him from focusing on table scraps.



Family Matters: Potty Training Tips


Potty training may start during this time period in your child’s life, but let me just stress to you that if it doesn’t, don’t fret and don’t push it.

While some little girls may potty train right around age 2, some little boys might not be ready until they’re well over age 3. They will do it when they’re ready. From my experience, there’s only so much you can do until they are ready!

In the meantime, let them pick out some fun underpants! For my younger son, potty training amounted to a basic request, “Don’t pee pee on Thomas the Train, okay?” He didn’t. My older son didn’t care who was on his underwear, however.

Get a potty chair that your child likes. For some, this is a small, freestanding chair. Others might prefer a stool with a potty insert for the “big” potty, like they see mommy, daddy or an older sibling using.

Plan to stay home in the early days of potty learning, and bring them to the potty often. Read books about the potty. Sing songs about the potty. Watch videos about the potty. Camp out on the potty, if necessary. Some children’s first success on the potty is by accident! They just go, realize that’s what all the fuss is about, and that helps them learn.

Some parents choose a reward system. My mom kept a jar of M&M’s® in the bathroom (eww, maybe in the kitchen instead). My brother got one every time he went, after he washed his hands of course. For him, this was major motivation. For your child, it might be a sticker or a success chart.

Praise him when he goes and expect some accidents along the way. Again, just wait until he’s ready!



Family Matters: Teething Pain


Right around this time, if not already, your baby will be sprouting teeth!

For some, this is a painless process, and they seem to wake up one morning with a pearly white popping through their gums. That’s how it was with my first baby; I didn’t even know he was cutting a tooth until he bit me!

My second son didn’t have it so easy. He drooled so constantly that we had to change clothes frequently. His gums were swollen and irritated. He was irritable and didn’t sleep.

There are many ways to help relieve teething pain.

You can give your baby something to gnaw on, like a teething biscuit or a toy designed for teething that’s made of hard plastic that has textures that feel soothing to baby’s gums. My son liked a soft, rubbery teething toy that we kept in the freezer, and I let him gnaw on it when he needed relief. He also liked a cold drink in his sippy cup to help relieve some pain.

A small dose of Tylenol® or ibuprofen is probably fine to help relieve pain, too. Just check with your pediatrician on the correct dosage for your little one.

Some doctors recommend a topical pain reliever, like Orajel™, applied directly to the gums.

Sometimes, you’ll need to try all of the above, but know that this too shall pass!



Family Matters: Sucking to Soothe


Studies (and tons of moms and dads) have shown that most all babies use sucking as a soothing mechanism.

Whether it’s the breast, a bottle, a finger (yours or his own), pacifier or other object, sucking is reflexively soothing to your infant.

You can help facilitate baby learning to self-soothe by leaving his hands free (no mittens or hand coverings) so he can find his fingers, or by providing a pacifier for the times he’s not eating.

Besides sucking to soothe, some babies like motion, white noise or skin-to-skin contact. You might have to try all of these, sometimes in combination, to help meet your baby’s needs. He’ll eventually learn to seek out what he needs and provide it for himself.



Family Matters: Thanksgiving Fun for the Kids


Thanksgiving Fun for the KidsGrowing up, Thanksgiving with my mom’s side of the family was a big, raucous affair.

We’d load into the three-seat station wagon (you know, the kind with the rear seat facing backward) early that Thursday morning and head north to my aunt and uncle’s home about two hours away, depending on traffic.

When we got there, we’d tumble out of the two-toned station wagon: ourselves, the bountiful side dishes we’d provided and usually a few boxes of hand-me downs for assorted cousins or gear promised to various relatives. “Do you want Amy’s box of old Nancy Drew books for Megan?” “Sure, just bring them at Thanksgiving.”

Then, the food preparation would ensue, and the kids would be left to their own devices, which usually involved messing with Uncle Jerry’s big-screen TV (the very first of its kind) in the basement, or knocking cans of soda off the soundproof wall onto the Beltway below. Neither were sanctioned activities.

The adults finally caught on to the fact that they needed to keep us busy in order to direct our energies into a productive manner, so they put us to work making fun foods for the holiday meal.

One year, we made Thanksgiving cornucopias.

We took ice cream sugar cones, dipped the openings in melted chocolate, let them dry, and then filled them with candy corns and candy pumpkins. We set them on top of each plate for decoration. They were a sweet treat and lovely table décor for that year’s feast.

One year, we made turkey cookies. You could use Brookshire’s bakery sugar cookies. Then, you simply need white piped icing from the bakery aisle to pipe on a half-moon, outlining the top of the cookie. Line about a dozen candy corns over the icing (the icing adheres the candy corn to the cookie) to make the turkey “feathers.” Pipe on an icing face and use as a fun dessert! You can also use M&M’s® chocolate candies for the eyes instead.

One of our favorites was the “acorns” that we made for dessert one year. We took doughnut holes from the bakery, dipped them in melted chocolate bark found on the baking aisle, and then rolled them in crushed pecans (or the nut of your choice). They were delicious!

You can also make a turkey appetizer platter using pepperoni, salami and assorted cheeses to make a “turkey” on a platter or cheese board. Start by cutting a round head from a slice of cheddar, and then cut an oval body from a slice of Colby-Jack. Under that, fan an arrangement of pepperoni to represent the first layer of feathers. Under that, lay squares of cheese in a fan arrangement for the next layer of feathers. Alternate cheese and meats until you have a full plate and a festive turkey. You might have to visualize this from the outer layer to the inner layer, though, to make it easier to execute.

There are so many fun ways to include your kids in the holidays, and we have so many options to make it easy at Brookshire’s.



Family Matters: Choosing Your Dog’s Food


Choosing Your Dog's FoodWhen Astro first bounded out of his foster mom’s car onto my driveway, I had two immediate thoughts.

The first was, “Oh my gosh, he’s huge.” The second was, “Oh my gosh, he’s so cute.”

I picked Astro off the SPCA Facebook page. My boys and I were ready to get another dog, and we (I) fell in love with Astro’s soulful eyes and his hound face. We adopted him sight unseen.

We found out later that the SPCA was overjoyed because dogs his size are difficult to adopt out. People tend to be frightened of them, but little do they know that our gentle giant is the kindest, most docile, most loving, most friendly dog in the history of dogs.

Back to the issue at hand though… When we got Astro, he was still a puppy, and he needed puppy food.

You wouldn’t feed your baby a steak, right? So, you don’t want to feed your puppy any food that’s formulated for an adult or senior dog.

Now, I’ll be honest. It probably won’t hurt a dog like a steak would hurt a baby. However, take care of your puppy like you would your baby, and you and your four-legged family member will have lots of good years together.

Puppy formulations are designed to give your dog the best nutrients for growth; to develop the building blocks he needs for a long, healthy life; and to sustain his playful energy.

Brookshire’s Paws Happy Life™ foods have Puppy Formula that will do exactly this for your growing pup.

As your dog grows, he needs more protein, more balance or other formulations to serve him well through his life. Paws Happy Life™ helps with that, offering Butcher’s Choice, Kibbles, Complete, Lamb Meal & Rice, and Nutritionally Complete formulas. Paws Happy Life™ also offers formulations in cans and pouches that your dog will love, including beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, filet mignon and more.

Now that Astro is a 4-year-old, 100 lb. adult, we give him a variety designed to meet his large-breed, adult needs. I can personally attest that he is healthy, happy, and loves his morning and evening meals.



Family Matters: Choosing Your Cat’s Litter


Choosing Your Cat's LitterDuring the years that my boys begged to get a cat and I denied them time and time again, the reason was always that I did not want to mess with a litter box.

Clearly, cat litter technology has changed since the last time I had a cat.

With Brookshire’s Paws Happy Life™ Cat Litter, it’s almost like not even having a cat litter box in the house. Now granted, we have one that is hooded, vented and sealed from almost every angle, but I also use Paws Happy Life™ Lightweight Clumping, Fragrance-Free Cat Litter. I also have a great textured mat by the exit of the box that catches any stray spills.

This cat litter traps all the odors of a cat box and holds them together, making it easy to scoop on a regular basis and keep the cat box clean for Carl, our cat, and also for me (not sure who is more important here).

It’s not messy for either of us. It’s easy to scoop, and it’s virtually odor-free. Lightweight technology means it doesn’t make a mess either in or out of the cat box. Whether you have one cat or more than one, Paws Happy Life™ offers a kind of cat litter that will work best in your home.



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