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Family Matters: Halloween for Pets


Halloween is a fun time for the whole family – except, sometimes, for your pets.

Although some animals, especially dogs, love costumes and parties and parades of trick-or-treaters, other pets get irritated or anxious about all the commotion. And the holiday can bring some risks for pets, too. Our friends at Purina, along with the experts at the ASPCA, offer some tips on keeping your four-legged friends happy and healthy during this festive time:

Costumes? Maybe not. Dogs are often willing to play along and wear a costume, especially if they wear sweaters or other clothing during cold weather. But don’t force the issue if your dog seems scared or exhibits anxious behaviors, like whining or licking, while wearing it. Make sure any costume does not limit your dog’s mobility, including use of his tail, or obscure his vision. Most cats are far less likely to suffer the indignity of a costume; unless your cat is very easygoing, it’s probably best not to try.

 If you really want to play dress-up, almost all dogs (and even most cats) will happily wear a decorated collar or even a bandana, since they’re already accustomed to wearing collars.

Safe decorating:  Don’t let your curious cat get too close to a lit jack-o-lantern or lit candles including Halloween-themed luminaries. They can easily knock one over and start a fire, or even burn their tail or ears. If you want the glow of illuminated pumpkins, look for battery-operated synthetic ones, but avoid those with electrical cords, which animals may play with or get tangled up in, creating a risk of strangulation or even electric shock.

Watch the treats. Watch where you leave the candy intended for trick-or-treaters, especially if it is something you don’t normally keep around the house. Dogs may seize the opportunity to dive right in. And if they’re not too discriminating, they may eat the wrappers right along with the treats, posing choking hazards and intestinal issues.  In large doses, chocolate can even be toxic to dogs. So make sure candy – including the haul your own children bring home – is not left unattended. Put it in a high spot or a closed cabinet that animals can’t reach.  If you want pets to join in on the festivities, get them their own favorite treats, like Beggin’ Strips for dogs and Friskies Crispies for cats.

Meeting and greeting.  Even if you think your very social pet would love to help you greet trick-or-treaters at the door, it’s better for everyone if animals are secured during festivities.  Cats should stay in their kennel or a quiet back room. Dogs should be kept in their crate or in a back room during the busy part of the night, or at least on a leash.

Loose dogs may get frightened and snappish, or may get over-excited and jump on young guests – which can be traumatic for both parties. And, both dogs and cats may take the opportunity to make a break for it and slip out through an open, unwatched door. That’s bad news when there are lots of children and extra traffic in your neighborhood. Finally, do not leave animals unattended in the back yard. The extra noise in the neighborhood may traumatize them, and you don’t want them to be targeted for teasing or worse by pranksters with bad intentions.

Keep your pet safe and you’ll all have a happier Halloween!



Family Matters: Autumn trail mix


After a long, hot – OK, super-hot – summer, we’re finally getting into the fall mood around my house. One of our favorite fall traditions for the past few years has been making seasonal goodies together. It’s just more fun to get in the kitchen when there’s a hint of cool air outside.

My daughter Grace’s favorite treat to make is a Harvest Trail Mix, good for Halloween or any fall occasion. Grace loves making this because there’s no real recipe to follow. She can mix-and-match, depending on what we have in the house and what she feels like snacking on. This is a good treat to take to fall parties or to let the kids munch on after school; Grace likes to include a small bag in her lunchbox, for a healthy treat.

Making trail mix is so easy that even very young children can help. For younger kids, you can put a small quantity of each ingredient in a large bowl and let them scoop as much as they want of each into the container, rather than turning them loose with big, spillable bags and boxes. Let them mix it with their (well-washed) hands! Then, store in a tightly covered container.

If you’re taking it to a party, older kids can also help you package it in individual packs. You can just use sandwich bags, or for a themed event, buy individual goodie bags and secure with black-and-orange ribbon or raffia.

Your ingredients can vary, but here are some ideas for a simple autumn mix:

  • Popcorn
  • pretzels
  • goldfish (any flavor)
  • Cheerios
  • raisins
  • candy corn
  • M&Ms (fall colors are fun)
  • Peanuts (plain or honey-roasted)
  • Yogurt-covered or chocolate-covered raisins
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds
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Family Matters: Giving up the pacifier


When your baby was little, a pacifier may have been his or her – or your– best friend.

But if your baby is approaching a year and still using a binky, you may feel it’s time to take it away. And even if you don’t care, you may be feeling outside pressure, from well-meaning family or friends.

For some babies, that’s easier said than done. That’s because the pacifier is often one of the earliest and best ways a baby learns to soothe himself. To a young child, it often represents familiarity and security and helps them calm down and even fall asleep. No wonder some don’t want to give it up without a fuss!

If your baby still has a binky habit, however, there’s some good news.

  1. Most give it up on their own – when they’re good and ready. For most  toddlers, it will happen naturally between the age of one and two years – even if you don’t do a thing.
  2. There’s no rush to eliminate it by age 1, no matter what the neighbor or your mother-in-law says.  In fact, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry doesn’t think you really need to worry about it until about age three. If your child is still relying on one after that, however, you should step in to help eliminate the habit. Otherwise, your child may develop teeth, gum, and bite problems.
  3. Relying on a pacifier is no worse than sucking a thumb – and it might be better. For one thing, it’s often easier to get a child to give up a pacifier than to quit sucking his thumb, which, after all, is always right there.
  4. If you’ve decided the time has come to banish the binky, many choose to go the cold-turkey method. Depending on your child’s age and personality, you may choose to make a big deal of it, explaining that they are now a big boy or girl and don’t need a paci anymore. You might even make a celebration of it, gathering up all the binkies in the house and making a show of tossing them away. For other toddlers, a less-direct approach might work better: During naptime, hide all the pacifiers, and then play dumb when your child asks for one. Either way, experts say, most children will be upset for only a day or two before moving on.
  5. For other toddlers, a weaning approach works best. First, limit pacifier use to your home; then to just naptime and bedtime; and finally just bedtime. After a few weeks, the habit will be less ingrained, and your child will probably quit on his or her own.
  6. Don’t stress!  Your baby won’t go off to college – or, most likely, even preschool – still using a pacifier. If your family is going through some other stress, like a move, a family illness or a job loss, postpone the pacifier problem a few weeks until the other situation is under control.
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Family Matters: Pet Loss


You can never imagine the pain that accompanies a loss of a pet until it happens to you. 

Our pets are loyal companions who quickly turn into best friends. Many of us have bought clothes to keep our pet warm, made a special cupcake for their birthday, and even taken them on our family vacation. Why would we not grieve when we experience the loss of this treasured family member? 

To an outsider looking in it may seem silly, but these feelings are normal. Talk to someone you’re comfortable with, like a family member or friend. Don’t bottle up your feelings, but express them. Like any other loss you may feel guilt, denial, anger and depression. 

If you have children, pay special attention to their feelings, so they can understand and accept the loss, too. For many children, the loss of a pet may be the first experience they have ever had with serious illness and death. 

Most grief experts suggest that you don’t try to “hide” the pet’s death from children but treat it honestly and openly. If you use vague terms or make up a false story about the animal’s disappearance, you will only create more stress, anxiety and sadness in the child. 

Use simple, direct, but compassionate language that is appropriate to your child’s age and understanding. For instance, children under 5 do not understand that death is permanent, so you may need to explain simply that the animal can no longer move and will not wake up again. 

No matter the age of your child, give them time to get over the loss. Let them talk about their pet, share stories together, and explain that it’s normal to miss them for a long time. 

Finally, it’s important to pay extra attention to any other pets in your household, too. Your other pets will notice the loss of their companion and will grieve just like you. Losing a pet can be hard on your whole family. Just remember these feelings are normal and you need to express them.

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Family Matters: Family Dinner Night


Your smooth, slow summer schedule turns fast and furious as soon as the school bells ring. Getting the kids to soccer practice and dance lessons can quickly bump a nutritious family dinner down on the priority list. 

The solution? At least once a week, make family dinner night a priority – no excuses. 

As a family, plan your menu for the upcoming week.  Let your children have input on what they want for dinner. If your children’s favorite food is pizza, plan a night the whole family gets together to make a nutritious homemade pizza. 

Take your kids to the grocery store. Let them have a choice in what foods they eat. Ask questions: Do you want carrots or broccoli? Give them the power on what they want to eat. Teach your kids how to use the NuVal scoring system. Make a game out of picking the most nutritious scores.  Pick a lower scoring item in a category and see if your kids can pick out a higher score than you. Teach your kids the higher the score of the product the more nutritious it is for them. 

Prepare the family meal together. When the kids get involved in the meal preparation, they appreciate the meal more. Let the younger kids count ingredients out,  and wash and dry the produce. The teenagers can actually start participating in the cooking of the meal. Let them sauté the onions or brown the chicken. 

Make cooking educational. Have your child work on their reading by letting them read the recipe to you. Have them measure ingredients and teach them that two half cups equal one whole cup. Show your kids that cooking is a science. Let them see that oil and vinegar don’t mix on their own or what happens when vinegar and baking soda are combined. 

At the dinner table, turn off your electronics. We have become so accustomed to having our cell phone sitting on the table while we eat. Turn the ringer off on your phone and set it in another room. Turn your TV off and talk to each other about your day. Ask your family what the best and worst parts of their day were or something new they learned that day. If your family is trying a new food that night, talk about the taste, texture and appearance of the food. 

For busy evenings, plan ahead. If you know Tuesday nights are busy, prepare a casserole in advance, freeze it, and heat it up for Tuesday’s dinner.  If you find a recipe that requires a lot of preparation, do some prep work the night before. Find creative ways to use your leftovers, like adding the leftover taco meat to your macaroni and cheese. If you see canned or frozen vegetables are on sale, stock up. Whenever a busy night comes up, those vegetables will come in handy.

Make family dinner night fun and exciting. Have themes for family night; like Fiesta night or Italian night. You can choose a night where the kids are in charge. Let the kids make the menu, help your kids prepare the food and let them serve the food. Make family dinner night a night your family looks forward to. 

Dinner time is not only a time to share a meal with your family, but a time to share a part of your life.

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Family Matters: Safe diets for dogs


Those big brown eyes, that puppy dog gaze. Even if your dog isn’t usually a beggar, it can be tempting to want to “reward” him or her with the occasional people-food treat.

But in trying to reward your dog, you can actually do it harm. Some common foods can actually be poisonous to your pet.  

You have probably heard that you’re never supposed to feed chocolate to your dog, but there’s actually a much-longer list of foods that can be dangerous. 

 Even a small amount of some of these foods can harm your dog.

  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Raisins
  • Grapes
  • Macadamia nuts (and many other nuts, including walnuts)
  • Alcohol
  • Rhubarb
  • Avocados

Just avoiding that list, however, isn’t enough to keep your pet healthy. Hidden ingredients like garlic, onion powder and extra salt can lurk in many prepared foods. And most dogs do not need the extra fat and salt that’s present in many “table scraps” that you may be tempted to offer. Too much fat in a dog’s diet can lead to obesity, heart problems and other health problems just like in a human. And because most dogs are so much smaller than the average person, it doesn’t take much of the bad stuff to cause illness or obesity.

That’s because dogs, like people, have specific needs when it comes to calories and nutrients. Commercial pet foods tailor these formulas specifically to these needs, and in the past few years, have increasingly created specialized foods for the different stages of a dog’s life.

 While puppy food, for instance, has long been available, you can now also buy foods especially for older dogs,  for those that need to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, or formulas made from all-natural ingredients.

If you still want to give your dog the occasional treat, consult your veterinarian for recommendations on vet-approved, made-for-dogs snacks. However, it’s generally considered safest to keep any “people food” to a minimum, and limited to simply cooked, lean foods like chicken, beef and plain white rice. Since your dog can’t exactly make his own lunch, you owe it to them to give them the food they need to thrive.

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Family Matters: Hammock Days


Do you remember going out in the backyard and lying in the hammock for hours back in the “good old days?”  Well, with all the hot temperatures this summer, even late at night, lying in the hammock is not the place you want to be.  

I took a week of vacation to spend time with my family prior to school starting back. We had been wanting a hammock, so we decided to just splurge and get one during this time. We put the hammock together in the middle of the living room (it was just too hot outside) and funny thing, once we got it put together we decided to just leave it, since it was cool inside. Who wants to be outside in the heat?  

My week of vacation was spent lying in the hammock in the middle of my living room with my children – watching television and movies, playing Nintendo and computer games, taking naps and most of all, talking about things happening in their lives. I can honestly say it was one of the most relaxing and rewarding weeks I have spent with my children. We laughed and played and everyone fussed over whose turn it was to lie in that hammock.  

It has been weeks now and the hammock still remains in the living room. It is occupied daily after school with the kids reading their books, taking catnaps or talking to each other about how their day went. I am not sure when we will remove the hammock from the inside of the house. Our living room is not large – you have to push the hammock to the side to get to the couch-  but it doesn’t seem to matter. This is a time I know they will never forget. (And neither will their friends who have been over and laughed in disbelief at the sight of it.) It is the small things that can make the largest impact in the life of your family.

Set aside some quality time this week for your own family.  Count your blessings daily and give thanks for the time you share with them. 

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Family Matters: New from Huggies!


Diapers would be a lot easier to change if babies would just sit still.

But as any parent knows, babies have a lot more interesting stuff to do than just sit there while you’re trying to change that dirty diaper – grab your necklace, practice sitting up and rolling over, or flat-out making a break for it.

So parents of escape artists and wiggleworms should check out the new style of diaper from Huggies. Just arriving in stores, Huggies’ Little Movers Slip-On diapers are designed to slip on and off faster and easier.

They look much like training pants, but with the same great absorbency and leak protection as disposable diapers.

The design of Little Movers, in fact, does look similar to Huggies’ Pull-Ups. Little Movers are all one piece, with stretchy, pre-attached sides that allow them to be pulled on quickly, just like underwear. No tabs to line up and fasten (or re-fasten, if your baby squirms.) And if your baby balks at lying down on a changing table, you can pull these on even while she’s standing or sitting.

They also have breakaway sides, so you can remove soiled ones as quickly and easily as taking off a regular diaper.

These come in three sizes. The smallest size will work for babies as small as 16 pounds. By the time most children grow out of the largest size, they will be old enough to begin potty training, so you can move them right into the thinner, less-absorbent training  pants. Or, if you’re really brave, underpants.

They are arriving in many stores now; check in the diaper aisle.

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Family Matters: A more natural dog food


The biggest trend in pet food the past couple of years has been the rise of natural, healthier foods _more meat that pets need, fewer fillers and artificial ingredients that they don’t.  But until recently, many of these ultra-premium pet foods came from newer, smaller, sometimes untested companies, and were often hard to find in your favorite stores.

That’s why we are happy to announce we’re now carrying a new, natural pet food, from a company you probably already know and trust: Purina.

The longtime pet food leader has just introduced Purina One Beyond, a high-quality dry kibble that has no fillers and no artificial preservatives.

The first ingredient? Real meat. (That means no meat byproducts.) Each recipe also includes vitamins, minerals, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables, like spinach, carrots and apples, to provide all-natural nutrients to keep your pet their healthiest.

There are two adult dog flavors, one with chicken and whole oatmeal, and the other with lamb and whole barley. Purina One Beyond also offers two recipes for adult cats: salmon and whole brown rice, and chicken and whole oatmeal.

Beyond the emphasis on good nutrition, Purina is committed to sustainability with this new product. The manufacturing facilities are committed to responsible processes; the Denver facility, for instance, uses some solar power. The pet food comes in packages made from 92 percent renewable materials, printed entirely with vegetable-based soy inks, which are also more renewable than other inks.

The brand has also made a commitment to help homeless or abandoned pets. Last year, the Purina ONE brand donated more than a million pounds of food to U.S. animal shelters.

Purina One Beyond is a natural extension of the Purina One line, which includes more than a dozen canned foods, dry formulas and treats for dogs, and several other dry food recipes for cats. Look in the pet-food aisle of your neighborhood store to  see which one might best suit the four-legged members of your family.

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Family Matters: Back to School Nutrition


Walking into a new classroom with new faces can be scary! The easiest way to make a new friend is to just smile. A beautiful smile results from having adequate amounts of calcium, fluoride and vitamin C. Calcium and fluoride help our pearly whites have the strength to bite into a juicy apple. Vitamin C aids in keeping our gums looking healthy. Dairy is a great source of calcium, so fat free milk, low fat yogurt and 2% cheese are good additions to our lunch menu.

Reading, writing and arithmetic all require good vision. Vitamin A is the vitamin of choice when it comes to vision. Red, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables are a good source of vitamin A. To see different colors you must eat different colors!  

New friends can also bring along new germs. Vitamin C and zinc are heroes in the immune system. Oranges, lemons and limes are full of vitamin C, along with cantaloupes, broccoli and strawberries. We can add zinc to our diet through meat, seafood and whole grains.

Make this a great school year by picking nutritious foods! 

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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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