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Family Matters: Brownie Cake Pops


Brownie Cake PopsKids Love Cake Pops! 

It’s 7PM Saturday night before Easter Sunday, and I’m in the kitchen finishing up my cooking and baking for Easter lunch when my 12-year-old daughter, Grace, comes into the kitchen. She asked me if she could make cake pops. She went on to tell me that she would make them herself, and they would be in the shape of Easter eggs and would be all different colors with sprinkles and decorations. I explained to Grace that cake pops are not easy to make and that it takes a lot of time to bake, cool the cake and decorate, not to mention it is 7PM on the Saturday before Easter Sunday. Grace did not really care what time it was; she had her mind made up that she was going to make cake pops!

One of my platforms in life is “seize the moment.” I already knew I had on hand: brownie mix, a can of frosting, almond bark, cake pop sticks and tons of decorations. So, there was no excuse not to seize the moment with my daughter except for that time was not on our side. I gave into her begging to make cake pops, but I told her this was her project and that she needed to do most of the work.

Grace worked all night on her cake pops and even made a step-by- step YouTube video of her baking adventure! I tried to get in the video a couple of times, but I’m sure she edited me out!

Come Easter Sunday lunch, when everyone was sitting around the table, Grace proudly placed her decorated jar of cake pops on the table. She beamed with pride and told everyone that she baked these all by herself! This was a special time in the kitchen with my daughter and one that I am going to cherish. Don’t miss out on opportunities to seize the moment with your family. Count your blessings and give thanks for those special moments.

Grace’s Brownie Cake Pops

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30-40 minutes
Decorating Time: 30 minutes
Makes: 12 Pops

Ingredients:
1 box brownie mix
1 can cake frosting
1 pkg almond bark
sprinkles
cake pop sticks

Preheat oven to 350° F. Bake brownies as directed. Cool completely.

Directions:
In a large bowl, crush cooled brownies and mix in cake frosting. Mix all together well to form dough – it will be a sticky mess!

Shape the dough into 1 ½-inch balls. Place balls on wax paper and freeze for at least 30 minutes.

When ready to decorate, place the cake balls on the cake pop sticks and dip in melted almond bark. Place each ball on wax paper and immediately cover with sprinkles. Allow at least 30 minutes for almond bark to harden.

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Family Matters: Runaway Pets


DogsA little over a year ago, my three dogs ran away.

I say “ran away,” but in reality, the next door neighbor let them out of her gate.

You see, they’d dug under our adjoining fence a few times, twice that I knew of, actually. I’d get home from work and it would be dark. I’d walk along the fence line trying to make sure the holes were filled.  Apparently, I wasn’t always successful.

I understand it’s irresponsible and annoying to let your pets dig out, but honest to goodness, I was trying my best. Two of my dogs were still puppies and were seriously high-energy. I wish the neighbors would have called me instead of just opening the gate. I never found any of them.

So, 18 months have passed and today a friend posts on Facebook that her friend is looking for a new home for my ideal dog, a 3-year-old German shepherd.

The holes in my yard are now filled. This isn’t a puppy. My kids are older and better equipped to help me take care of her. She’s mainly an indoor dog, but I can’t decide. It was horrible to lose my dogs. Even though they were diggers, I took good care of them.

Owning a pet is a huge responsibility. There’s also a huge reward with having a loving, loyal pet.  However, I still can’t decide whether or not to venture back into the world of pet ownership after having failed before.

Decisions. Decisions.

 



Family Matters: Baby Proofing


BabyBy the time my older son was 2, he had defeated all the child safety locks in the house. Now, keep in mind that this is not typical 2-year-old behavior, but we weren’t taking any chances. We had to install chain locks on the exit doors of the house, high enough so he couldn’t reach them. Any of the locks on cabinets or drawers, he could open in a matter of minutes, so anything hazardous went outside into the garage or on a high shelf for storage.

Toddlers are curious by nature. They want to get into things. Here is a list from Baby Center of just a FEW of the things you need to think about when baby proofing your home and environment:

  • Put safety plugs or outlet covers over unused outlets or block them with furniture.
  • Hide electrical cords behind furniture or use a hide-a-cord device.
  • Keep blow dryers, toasters and other appliances unplugged and out of reach.
  • Keep knives, breakables, heavy pots and other dangerous items locked up or out of reach.
  • Restrict access to unsafe areas with safety gates, door locks and knob covers.
  • Put locks or latches on accessible cabinets and drawers that contain unsafe items.
  • Keep trash cans in inaccessible cupboards or use cans with child-resistant covers.
  • Cover or block access to radiators and floor heaters.
  • Secure refrigerator with appliance latch.
  • Keep electronic equipment like DVRs, DVD players and stereos out of reach or locked up. Store remotes where prying fingers can’t get to batteries (which might seem like enticing objects for your child to put in his mouth).
  •  Don’t use tablecloths or placemats because your child can pull them – and what’s on top of them – down.
  • Keep one cupboard unlocked and filled with lightweight, child-safe items to distract him from the cupboards you don’t want him to get into.


Family Matters: Child Development


BabyLet me start by emphasizing that each child develops at their own pace! There is no hard and fast rule for when a baby should be doing something. My mom tells me I never crawled, just went straight to walking at age 9 months, whereas my boys didn’t walk until 13 months and 15 months, respectively.

I found people are quick to point out when they think your baby isn’t doing something he should be, and that can be nerve-wracking on a parent, especially a first-time mom or dad. So, remember that each baby is different.

With that said, there are some things to watch for as baby grows.

If he’s NOT doing these things between 7-12 months, you might want to check with your doctor.

  • Doesn’t crawl
  • Seems to drag one side while he’s crawling for a month or more
  • Can’t stand with support
  • Doesn’t try to find objects you’ve hidden in front of him
  • Doesn’t say any words
  • Doesn’t use gestures, such as shaking his head “no” and pointing


Family Matters: Are You Spoiling your Baby


BabyWhen I had my first baby, I always heard experienced mothers – that means much, much older mothers – tell me that I’d “spoil” the baby if I picked him up when he cried or jumped when he sneezed.

That’s not really true.

Responding to your infant promptly helps him feel secure and conveys that he is loved. You can certainly help him learn to soothe himself by offering him a pacifier or a comfort object, but letting him cry at this age only frustrates him. You can continue to “spoil” your baby by talking to him throughout the day and carrying on a dialogue with him. He can’t respond verbally, but his physical cues should let you know how he’s feeling. Hold him while you read books, share cuddles, play games and stay in close proximity during tummy time. 



Family Matters: The Last Word…


Last WordsRecently, our family has endured the loss of several parents and close friends. These times bring sadness, but they also bring to light the life that was lived and to be remembered by those left behind.  As I have sat through the services, it has made me evaluate my own life and how I live each day. If it was me, what would be the “last word” said about the person I was?

Are we kind, considerate and loving to those we meet each day? Are we generous and giving of ourselves, our time and our talents? Do we judge others by who they are or where they came from? Do we greet everyone we meet with a smile and give words of encouragement? Are we honest, trustworthy and dependable? Do we work hard and diligently in everything? Most importantly, do we have a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do we live daily to reflect it? The list may be different for each of us, but the question is – when they stand to honor your life, what do you want the “last words” to be?

I want my life to reflect things that will make my husband, kids and family proud. I want to be known as a Christ-centered wife, mother, sister, friend and (one day) grandmother who loved the Lord and had a faith that changed the lives of those around me. I had several friends who attended my father’s funeral tell me, “I wish I had met your father; he sounded like a wonderful man”…and that he was.  What a legacy he left for his kids and grandkids that he was loved, admired and respected by so many over the years. 

It isn’t too late to finish writing your story. It is up to you who you want to be. We all make our own choices in life; we just have to decide if they will be something that we want people to remember about us. What do others see when they look at you? What will your legacy be when you are gone?

When we hear the “last word,” it comes with tears, a deep sorrow and, in the end, an everlasting remembrance of those lost. Though they are gone, they will not be forgotten because their legacy lives on in the lives of those left behind. Praying your “last words” will be an encouragement and life changing to those who hear. Give thanks daily for the time you have with your family.

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Family Matters: Don’t Run Out of Time


RunningI’m sitting at my desk; it’s 5:45 p.m. and I have no idea what I need to do next. My email is 12 inches deep. Do I need to stay at work and finish returning emails? Do I need to go home and cook dinner for my family? I missed my workout earlier this week, and I would really like to go work out tonight. My son, Luke, has a track meet tonight. Should I go to his meet since I have not been able to attend one this season? I have no idea what I need to do, but I need to make up my mind right now!

I chose to go to my son’s track meet. Thank the Lord I did because he placed first in both of his races! Had I not gone, yes, he would have been disappointed, but I would have been heartbroken that I did not get to share that experience with him. 

Life is about finding balance every day. We have to learn to put our lives into compartments. We get up in the morning and focus on our families, making the most of the morning rush. Then, we get to our jobs, and we need to do the very best we can to be successful in our careers. At the end of the day, we should turn the office lights out, go home and focus on what’s really important: our family, our personal life and our health. 

The benefits we will gain from finding daily balance in our lives is so rewarding. Picture my son down on the starting block about to run his race. He turns around and waves at me saying, “Mom!” He was making sure I was watching. After he won the race, he runs to the stands and calls me down to the track — me, his MOM! We high-five each other and cherish the moment. 

In twenty years, I will not remember all those work emails, but I will never forget my son turning around on the starting block and waving at me, his MOM! Don’t miss out on opportunities to seize the moment with your family. Count your blessings and give thanks for those special moments.

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Family Matters: Pets


Washing the DogMy friend lives in a beautiful home in the country where her four big Labrador retrievers have plenty of space to run and roam.

They take full advantage of it, coming home sweaty and more than a little stinky most times. But there’s nothing worse than when they encounter a certain black and white adversary on their adventures.

This happened not too long ago, and all four dogs came home “skunked,” that is, sprayed by their furry foe as it tried to protect itself.

Luckily, she knew exactly what to do.

She kept the dogs outside while she prepped the anti-skunk wash.

Then she mixed together:

  • 1 quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 tsp liquid dishwashing soap

Of course, she had to make four times this much.

Wearing rubber gloves, she washed the dogs with this solution, being careful not to get it into the dogs’ eyes. She rubbed it in, but don’t let it sit too long as it can bleach their coat. Then she rinsed each dog with the garden hose (luckily it was warm outside).

After that, she shampooed the dogs with regular shampoo and left them outside in the sun to dry completely. By that night, they were ready to come back into the house, stench-free.



Family Matters: Finger Painting


Finger PaintingThis age is a great time to get crafty with your little one! Try this homemade finger paint recipe. It’s non-toxic, so don’t be overly concerned if baby wants to taste!

Ingredients:
2 cups cornstarch
1 cup cold water
4 1/2 cups boiling water
liquid food coloring

Directions:
Mix the cornstarch with the cold water and stir together. Pour in the boiling water and stir between each cup. Keep stirring until it reaches a pudding-like consistency. Separate it into individual jars or bowls, and add the color. Paint away!



Family Matters: Teething Biscuits


Baby BiscuitsBaby should start getting teeth, so make sure they have something to gnaw on to soothe their gums. You can make your own teething biscuits, just remember to never leave baby unsupervised with anything that goes in their mouth!

Teething biscuits

Ingredients:
1 cup infant rice cereal
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp coconut oil
1 mashed banana
2 tsp cinnamon
4 to 8 Tbsp water

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 425° F. Mix everything together in a medium sized bowl, starting with 4 tablespoons of water and adding more if necessary. Mix well until a dough forms. Roll out on a floured surface until about 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick. Cut out shapes using cookie cutter or cut into squares. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment and bake for 15 minutes.

Let cool completely. Store in air-tight container. These can also be stored in the freezer. 

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