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Family Matters: Going All-natural


Hyland’s Baby Teething Tablets I’m always very aware and very cautious about what I’m putting into my kids’ bodies, and this was especially true when they were babies.

I was first introduced to Hyland’s products when my first son started teething, and he needed relief. Let’s be honest: I needed relief, too.

I turned to an experienced mom whose parenting philosophies were pretty much in line with my own for advice, and she recommended Hyland’s Baby Teething Tablets.

Hyland’s makes homeopathic remedies for babies and kids. Homeopathic is really just a fancy word for “natural.”

According to the Hyland’s website, the product line was started by pharmacist George Hyland in 1903, driven by the notion that the body can call upon its own natural defenses to heal and restore balance.

Homeopathic medicine has been around for a long time, and it’s great to put to use for children and babies because there are no harmful side effects or drawbacks to trying these methods.

Hyland’s teething tablets reduced the pain of cutting teeth for my son and the stress of his discomfort for me. I loved that I could rest assured that what I was putting into his body was natural.

TIP: In addition to using a homeopathic remedy for teething, try dampening a very soft washcloth and putting it in the freezer for a little while. It will be cold enough to help soothe baby but not frozen so solid that it would irritate baby’s gums.



Family Matters: Going Green


Going GreenI was one of those moms who was determined that my child would only eat the healthiest of organic foods.

That went pretty well until he went on a hunger strike. That aside, for many months he did only eat the healthiest foods, and his introduction to solid foods started with avocado.

Avocado is a great first food. I started my older son at four months but then backed off until six months, as he still had a bit of a gag reflex and couldn’t handle solids very well. Four months is the earliest pediatricians recommend introducing solids, and six months is about average for American babies.

At six months after whetting his appetite with rice cereal, I mashed an avocado and let him try it. He loved it. His baby bird mouth opened time and time again, and I had to mash the second half of the fruit as he devoured the first portion quickly.

Avocado is mild. It’s easily mashed or cut into small pieces, and it’s easy for baby to eat.

Plus, it’s chock full of nutrients.

Avocados provide baby with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are the heart-healthy fats. Avocados also contribute almost 20 vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds to baby’s diet. Baby can eat it plain, mashed or mixed in with cereal, bananas or other first foods.

TIP: Not all babies can tolerate baby wipes; they give some children a rash. It’s perfectly fine to use a damp washcloth or a wet paper towel as well!



Family Matters: Being Different Makes You Unique


FamilyRaising four girls is a challenge, but we have been blessed with extremely good children. Though they are not perfect, we are proud to call them ours. As the girls have grown, we have tried to instill in them that they are each unique in their own way. Some days I wonder how they were all born from the same mother…you know what I am talking about! They have unique personalities, different ways of handling situations, different thinking, different styles, etc.

In today’s culture, kids seem to “follow” others so they can “fit in” or “stand out” from the crowd. We have always taught our girls that being different is not a bad thing. It makes you unique from others, and you normally stand out because of it. Of course, if you stand out, you need to make sure you are setting a good example for those watching. Your daily actions can ultimately change someone’s life.

For our girls, that different and unique person they work daily to portray to others is Christ-centered, compassionate, humble, responsible, kind, grateful, bold in their beliefs, and full of patience and hope. We teach them to have a servant’s heart, find the good in every situation, persevere in all they do and that through it all they will reflect their passion for the Lord.

Lesson for us all: be content with your life and give thanks daily for every situation because it is those things that make us who we are. Pray daily (multiple times if you have kids), and live a life full of faithfulness – always trust you are in His hands. We are each different and unique. He planned it just that way. Strive daily to portray what you believe. Live your life so that others look at you and want whatever it is that makes you the special and unique person they see.

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Family Matters: Giant Christmas Tree Cookie


Giant Christmas Tree CookieAre your kiddos crushing on cookies this Christmas? Make a giant treat for your little ones to decorate, a sweet and easy, memory-making activity to share with loved ones during the holidays.

Giant Christmas Tree Cookie

Ingredients:
1 egg
1 pouch Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie Mix
1/3 cup Brookshire’s Butter, softened
green gel food coloring
1 (12 oz) Betty Crocker Whipped Fluffy White Frosting
1 (12 oz) Betty Crocker Whipped Chocolate Frosting
decorations or candy, as desired for decorating

Directions:
Heat oven to 375º F. In a medium bowl, stir cookie mix, butter and egg until soft dough forms.

Line a 15 x 10 x 1-inch pan with foil. With moistened fingers, press dough in bottom of pan. Bake 10 to 14 minutes or until light golden-brown; cool completely, about 30 minutes.

With the help of mom or dad, cut tree shape from baked cookie. If you need help, create a tree template. Place the template on the baked cookie and cut around it using a sharp knife.

Stir food coloring into frosting as desired. Decorate cookie tree with frosting and candies.

View this recipe to print or add items to My Shopping List.



Family Matters: Holiday Hazards for Pets


Holiday PetsOne of the best gifts you can give your pet this howliday season is time, attention and love, but because you love them, you also want to keep them safe!

There are a lot of hazards during the howlidays, and you don’t want your beloved friend injured. Here are some tips from pet expert Steve Dale about keeping your pet safe, healthy and happy this time of year.

  1. LIMIT TABLE SCRAPS. When you have a dozen dinner guests and everyone from Aunt Ethel and Uncle Fred are all offering table scraps, it may be too much for a small dog or cat to handle. Even big pets are too often treated for everything from minor upset tummy to pancreatitis on Christmas Day.
  2. WATCH WHAT YOU LEAVE OUT FOR SANTA. When leaving Christmas chocolate cookies out for Santa, remember chocolate can make pets sick (and Santa doesn’t need the calories). Avocado is hazardous to birds (no guacamole for Polly). Pets can choke on chicken or turkey bones, which may also cause a gastrointestinal obstruction.
  3. CANDLES IN THE WIND. Candles may look nice, but they can easily be knocked over by playful kittens or curious cats. Aromatic candles may smell good to us and seem benign, but they may be very dangerous to pet birds (who have very sensitive respiratory systems).
  4. AVOID PRICKLY CHRISTMAS TREES. When choosing a tree, consider one with pet friendly needles such as white pine or Douglas fir. They’re not as likely to stick to pet’s paws.
  5. TIDY TREE NEEDLES. Puppies and kittens can munch on errant needles, and that may cause choking or upset stomach. Pet parrots (given the chance) may naturally perch on a branch of your Christmas tree, no harm done – great photo opp. However, if Polly begins chewing on real needles or those from an artificial tree, it may be life-threatening.
  6. NO CHEMICALS UNDER THE TREE. Don’t add chemical preservatives to prolong the life of your tree if pets have access to that solution. While the solutions to prolong tree life don’t seem to cause severe reactions, pets can get an upset tummy.
  7. HOUSE GUESTS. Some pets are social butterflies; others not so much. For some pets, the commotion caused by little children is simply not the peace and quiet they’re accustomed to. Those pets might be happier secluded in a room, door shut with Christmas carols playing in the background. Also, with that front door frequently opening and closing, some dogs get out and so do indoor cats. Be sure all pets are microchipped for identification (and registered with the microchip provider) and that they have a collar and an I.D. tag.
  8. HOLIDAY PLANTS MAY NOT BE SO FESTIVE. In truth, poinsettias are generally not the poisonous killer they’re made out to be, although too much may potentially cause upset stomach. Fresh holly and mistletoe are toxic, particularly the berries. Also, cats may be attracted to amaryllis lilies and red azaleas – all potentially dangerous.
  9. TINSEL AND RIBBON IN THE TUMMY. Cats and puppies love to play with tinsel and ribbons. If they ingest enough of this glittery stuff, it can create serious gastrointestinal obstruction and may be life-threatening.
  10. WHAT ARE TREES FOR? Ask any cat – Christmas trees are all about trying to climb them. Secure the tree so that if a cat takes a flying leap, the tree won’t topple over.
  11. ORNAMENTS AREN’T MADE FOR CATS. If you have cats, glass ornaments should be kept off the tree. Find a cat-proof place, such as behind a glass cabinet where they can be shown off. Cats tend to believe that shiny glass ornaments are, of course, meant to be batted at. Broken ornaments are a hazard to people and pets, and some may have lots of sentimental value. Also, tinsel hanging from a tree is an equivalent to an invitation for any cat to jump and grab.

PETS DESERVE PRESENTS, TOO. As the family gathers for opening presents, include all members of the family, even those with paws. This doesn’t mean you need to spend big bucks; simply take a dog’s toy away a few days before Christmas and open on the big day. Your dog won’t mind the “regifting” as long as you make a fuss. Cat toys can be as simple as a plastic bottle top, wine cork or used tissue box with catnip inside of it. Of course, the best thing you can do for your cat is to wrap the present in catnip-scented wrapping paper. The wrapping will be far more exciting than the gift.



Family Matters: Enfagrow is Great for Toddlers


Enfagrow is great for toddlersI could write blog post after blog post about how my kids were awful eaters as toddlers. In fact, I think I have. I did everything from making homemade baby and toddler food to sneaking pureed carrots and broccoli into pancakes.

Something that would have given me peace of mind is Enfagrow.

Enfagrow Toddler Next Step Powder is specifically formulated for toddlers 1-3 years old to help ensure they get good nutrition when they won’t eat anything but applesauce and cheese toast (true story).

Enfagrow Toddler Next Step Powder includes DHA and iron, building blocks of brain development. It also is fortified with calcium, vitamin D, zinc and 19 other nutrients to help support growth and development. In addition, the Natural Defense® Dual Prebiotics® Blend is designed to help support digestive health.

Enfagrow Toddler Next Step is available in natural milk or vanilla flavors to drink plain or mix into a smoothie with broccoli and carrots…just kidding…with fruits and veggies your toddler might love.

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Family Matters: Infant Reflexes


Infant ReflexesWhen my first son was born, I thought one of the cutest things he did was throw his arm back with his hand wide open, like he was grabbing for me.

Then, some nurse spoiled all my enjoyment and said ALL babies did that. She called it the “startle reflex.” Then, my mom, who has a medical background, told me it was called the tonic neck reflex. Infants are born with different reflexes, and even though they might look awkward, they are perfectly normal.

The tonic neck reflex occurs when baby’s head, when he is relaxed and lying face up, is moved to the side. The arm on the side where the head is facing reaches away from the body with the hand partly open. The arm on the side away from the face is flexed, and the fist is clenched tightly. Turning the baby’s face in the other direction reverses the position. This is sometimes called the “startle” reflex, and you’ll see it from birth through the early weeks.

The truncal incurvation or galant reflex occurs when the side of the infant’s spine is stroked or tapped while baby lies on the stomach. The infant will twitch his or her hips toward the touch in a dancing movement. (Remember Dancing Baby of the viral Internet video?)

The grasp reflex is when you place your finger or another object in the baby’s palm. Their hand will close around the finger. Trying to remove the finger causes the grip to tighten. Newborns have strong grasps and can almost be lifted up if both hands are grasping your fingers. How many times have you seen proud papas post about how strong their offspring is at birth?

The rooting reflex helps baby feed. This reflex happens when you stroke baby’s cheek. The infant will turn toward the side that was stroked and begin to make sucking motions.

Finally, the parachute reflex occurs in slightly older infants when the child is held upright and the baby’s body is rotated quickly to face forward (like he’s falling). The baby will extend his arms forward as if to break a fall, even though this reflex appears long before the baby walks. If you try this at home, please don’t drop baby.

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Family Matters: Private Label Diapers


Brookshire’s DiapersLet’s face it: no one wants to sink a lot of money into diapers.

If baby is healthy, they’ll wet and/or dirty about 12 diapers a day. That’s one every two hours. In addition, you KNOW a sort of Murphy’s law goes into effect when you change a wet diaper. Once the clean one is on, baby goes No. 2. It almost never fails.

Point being, you’ll go through thousands of diapers in your baby’s childhood.

Private label diapers are the answer to your prayers.

Brookshire’s Diapers are the same high-quality diapers that the name brands promote but much more economical.

Made of the best materials that won’t irritate baby’s skin, Brookshire’s brand diapers swaddle your baby’s bum in the gentlest of manners, while protecting him from leaks and wetness.

You’ll spend less money, while baby is just as happy. Win/win.

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Family Matters: Thankful


FamilyI didn’t think this would be so difficult to write, but I think writing a blog about being thankful has given me pause to think about the myriad of blessings in my life this year.

First of all, I’m thankful for my health and for the medical community. I’ve suffered debilitating migraines, about once every 10 years, for the past four years. Recently, I think my doctor figured out the cause and has it under control. I haven’t had a migraine in six weeks (knocks on wood).

Secondly, I’m thankful for restored relationships. I had fallings-out with two people I love very much this year. It’s not like me to have a falling-out that goes unresolved, so the months it took to restore the faith, trust and love in those relationships felt like an eternity.

I’m thankful for our new dog. I knew that we’d know when the time was right to replace the pups we lost, and sure enough, we ended up with the best pet ever, the hound who loves eggplant.

I’m mostly thankful for my family and friends. Although my immediate family lives too far away to celebrate with today, I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that our connection is strong, and the ties that bind will remain unbroken. I’m thankful for my friends in the area who are like family and would do anything for me at any time. I’m thankful for my two boys, and words truly cannot express the depth of my love for them.

Finally, I’m thankful for my relationship with God: for with Him, all things are possible.

 

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Family Matters: Fingerprints of God


Three crossesI just got off the phone with Steven Curtis Chapman, the Christian singer/songwriter superstar, and I broke a huge professional rule: I cried.

I didn’t mean to.

It wasn’t some fangirl hysteria either.

I had an interview for an article I am writing about his Christmas holiday tour, and I was, of course, going to keep it strictly business. Professional, concise, pithy, witty, well-intentioned and informative. Everything a good interview should be.

However, toward the end of the 20-minute conversation, I let it get personal.

You see, in 1999, Steven Curtis Chapman released his album, “Speechless,” which includes a song that ended up getting me through a very dark period in my life.

In 2002, my older son was born, and in 2003, we strongly suspected he had autism. By the time he was officially diagnosed at age 2 1/2 in 2004, I was spiraling downward in a confluence of clinical postpartum depression following the birth of my second son in late 2003, and the stress and fear of the diagnosis.

At church one Sunday, the contemporary Christian praise and worship band played Chapman’s song, “Fingerprints of God,” and it struck a chord so deeply within me that it hasn’t stopped resonating yet.

I bought the CD but played that track over and over and over and over. When I converted to digital music, it was one of the first pieces I downloaded from iTunes.

When my son was old enough, I played it for him to explain the “masterpiece” that is his brain.

I simply wanted to thank Chapman for this bit of light among several dark years, but I couldn’t do it without sniffling a bit.

He was quiet.

Very quiet.

I knew I’d blown it.

Then, he said, simply and quietly, “Thank you for telling me that. That is why I do this.”

“Fingerprints of God”

I can see the tears filling your eyes
And I know where they’re coming from
They’re coming from a heart that’s broken in two
By what you don’t see
The person in the mirror
Doesn’t look like the magazine
Oh, but when I look at you, it’s clear to me that…

I can see the fingerprints of God
When I look at you
I can see the fingerprints of God
And I know it’s true
You’re a masterpiece
That all creation quietly applauds
And you’re covered with the fingerprints of God

Never has there been and never again
Will there be another you
Fashioned by God’s hand
And perfectly planned
To be just who you are
And what He’s been creating
Since the first beat of your heart
Is a living, breathing, priceless work of art…

I can see the fingerprints of God
When I look at you
I can see the fingerprints of God
And I know it’s true
You’re a masterpiece
That all creation quietly applauds
And you’re covered with the fingerprints of God

Just look at you
You’re a wonder in the making
Oh, and God’s not through, no
In fact, He’s just getting started and…

I can see the fingerprints of God
When I look at you
I can see the fingerprints of God
And I know it’s true
You’re a masterpiece
That all creation quietly applauds
And you’re covered with the fingerprints of God

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