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Family Matters: Summer Saving Ideas


Summer Saving Ideas

During the summer months with teenage kids at home, our electric and grocery bills greatly increase. So, during this time especially, we try as a family to make good use of resources and find ways to cut back and save. A few ideas:

  • Plan meals the kids can cook for supper. This keeps parents from picking up fast food on the way home. 
  • Use your slow cooker. Go through the freezer and find meat you have not had time to prepare. Put the meat in the slow cooker when you leave for work, and when you arrive home, the main dish will be ready. Just open a few cans of vegetables or make a salad. 
  • Freeze leftover vegetables from meals and use them to make a stew, soup or pot pie one night.  Do not throw out any leftovers. Use for another meal or make something else later.
  • Refrigerate leftover breakfast foods like eggs, sausage or biscuits to be eaten the next day.
  • If you want fast food, find a cheap burger deal and make fries and drinks at home.
  • Rent a new release and watch at home as a family instead of going to the movie theater.
  • Cook a pot of pinto beans and cornbread one day, and then add beef and chili seasoning to leftovers and have chili for another meal. 
  • Teach the family to be mindful:
    • Don’t pour more milk than you need for cereal. If you do, drink it.
    • Don’t forget to tie the bread package so it does not dry out.
    • Don’t forget to close the chip package so they do not get stale.
    • Watch TV with lights off, especially during the day. 
    • Wash full loads of clothes, not just an outfit or two. This may just be a girl thing!
    • Hang clothes on a clothes line outside to dry, and then toss them in the dryer for a few minutes to soften them up.
    • Push the thermostat up when you leave for work. Anything cooler than outside, the kids will be fine.

With the cost of living and food prices rising, we need to all look for ways to save. Some things don’t appear to be big, but in the end, it all adds up. Teach your children to be good stewards of time and money, a great lesson in responsibility. Count your blessings daily and give thanks for the opportunities we have to work together as a family!    

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Family Matters: Running Buddies


Running Buddies“Mom, will you go running with me?” These were the words I had been waiting to hear from my 16-year-old son Luke! I had been asking him for some time if he wanted to go running with me, but his answer was always “no.”

I’ve been running for almost a year now, and one thing I know for sure is that I enjoy running with a buddy any day over running by myself. When running with a buddy, you can talk and fellowship to take your mind off actually running. Most importantly, you have someone else to help hold you accountable for reaching your goals.

Of course, I said YES to Luke asking me to run. This was the day I had been waiting for. I could just see us running together, Mom and son talking, laughing and bonding. We got on our running gear and headed to the running path. Once at the path, Luke said “Are you ready?” Before I could even say “yes,” he was gone, leaving me eating his dust! This was not what I had envisioned; this is not what I had planned for. We were supposed to be running together and bonding. He should know I hate running by myself!

We met back up at the high school football field where he wanted to work out with me next. Oh, I knew where this was going—he would be leaving me in the dust again. To my surprise, we ran bleachers together, pulled the weight sled together, did lunges together and even did some sprints together. We had a great workout together. Luke loves physical activity and enjoys someone either watching him or participating with him. Without Luke really knowing it, this is how he likes to bond with others.

After our workout, we lay in the middle of the football field. I lay there exhausted while he told me of all his athletic dreams he hoped to achieve. Now, this was my kind of mother and son bonding time. That day was another day that I decided to seize the moment with my son. It mattered not that we didn’t actually run “together” or the fact that he made me run bleachers. The point is we were together doing something we both enjoyed.

After our long talk, it was time to run back home. I’m sure you can guess that he beat me back home!



Family Matters: Lost Dog


Lost DogI’ve mentioned before that I lost my three dogs about two years ago. More accurately, my neighbor opened the fence gate and let them out. They were never to be seen or heard from again.

Now, there are so many pages on Facebook to help reconnect you with your lost pets. We have one managed locally that has had so much impact; it has helped pet owners in the United Kingdom find their lost dogs.

The fact of the matter is that when a pet gets out and is picked up by animal control, it goes to a city or county shelter, depending on where it’s found. The shelters are all overcrowded, through no fault of their own. If a pet isn’t claimed, it may or may not be adoptable, depending on the breed of dog and the shelter’s policies. Locally, shelters consider pit bulls, pit mixes, German shepherds, Rottweilers and their mixes to be “not adoptable.”

The vast majority of government-run shelters then euthanize those animals, plus the ones who are sick or have been in the shelter too long. So, check out Facebook. Look for pages for “lost and found pets” in your area and share those status updates. You’ll help reunite a pet and its owner, or you might find out you want to give a “furever” home.



Family Matters: Just Dance


Dancing BabyIn this day and age of YouTube, you’ll want to be ready when your toddler is about 17 months old and starts to dance to music.

Who doesn’t love a good dancing baby video? In fact, do you remember the one from a few years ago with the little one dancing in the diaper? It made the rounds of social media, often more manipulated than it looked originally.

Put on some music and dance with baby. He’ll love it and its good exercise for you, too.



Family Matters: Cruising


CruisingI remember when my older son started pulling up on things. I was so excited he was standing, holding onto things and pulling himself up.

What was I thinking?

Because after he did that, he started cruising. You know, “walking” around holding onto objects? More often than not, he’d trip over his own feet and tumble after a few sideways shuffles holding onto the couch, but he’d just get right back up and keep going.

Around 9 months old, a baby will start to cruise. Make sure his environment is safe and there’s nothing he can reach or fall on that would be harmful.



Family Matters: The First Diaper Change


First Diaper ChangeLet’s talk about poop. Not what you expected, huh? Poop is important. You’ll be changing A LOT of diapers over the next six months, so it’s best if you’re well-informed on this subject.

When your baby is born, he will pass meconium. Make sure your spouse or another well-wishing family member changes this diaper. It’s startling if you’re not prepared for it. Meconium is made up of mucus, amniotic fluid and everything your baby has ingested while he was in utero.

Meconium is green-black in color and has a sticky, tar-like texture. It may be difficult to wipe off that tiny bottom, but its appearance is a good sign that your baby’s bowels are working normally.

First milk, colostrum, acts as a laxative, pushing all the gunk out of baby’s system. Once your milk comes in if you’re breastfeeding, or once baby’s system gets accustomed to formula, his poops will become more regular.

A breastfed baby might only poop once a week. This is normal. It will be greenish or yellow in color and somewhat loose.

A bottle-fed baby will poop more frequently, and stools will be somewhat formed, darker and maybe a little on the stinky side.

This will change when you introduce solids.

If baby’s stool is loose or explosive, consult your doctor.



Family Matters: Laughter Matters


Laughter Matters

When is the last time you laughed…I mean really laughed? Remember as a child when you used to get so tickled at something that you laughed until you cried (or almost wet your pants!)? Well, those days do not have to be gone. Recently, my family and I purchased some Christian comedian videos and sat down one night to watch several of them. You talk about funny (and clean). This made for such a refreshing and fun family time.

I know in our house we have several jokesters, so we laugh quite a bit. There is such a need for true, heartfelt “belly” laughter that just takes over your body and restores our hearts to a good place. Life keeps us all busy and we so often miss things that should bring us joy. I think laughter is one of those things. There are two commercials that literally make me laugh out loud, and my family gets a kick out of watching me get so tickled, even though I have seen them a dozen times.

This past weekend, we had a women’s event at church, and we watched a female Christian comedian tell her life stories and her testimony. She was one of the funniest women I have ever heard, and it was such a blessing to be in a room full of women enjoying fellowship and “true laughter.” Looking back at our lives from childhood, there are some pretty amazingly funny stories we all have, but some people are just gifted to share those.

Whether it is your family or a group of friends gathered together, laughter matters. Don’t forget to take time with those you love and find the blessing of “true laughter.” God has given us so much to find joy and laughter in. Don’t let those moments get away. Rent a Christian comedian video and see what a difference it makes to have an hour of really good, clean and refreshing laughter. Count your blessings daily, and give thanks for the times you are given to laugh together.

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Family Matters: It’s Good to Unplug


Family MattersLast week on our summer family vacation, just a few miles from the Canadian border, I told everyone in the car to turn off their cellphones and give them to me. For the next 24 hours while in Canada, there would be no cellphones or iPads. You should have heard all the whining from the kids, “I’m going to be bored; there’s nothing to do; this is not fair!” Our time in Canada, with no electronics, turned out to be the best part of our trip!

It’s surprising how creative you can be when you do not have electronics taking up your time. The kids learned how to play road trip games like name five cities that begin with the letter “A,” name five things that begin with the letter “B” that you can get from a fast food drive-through and name all the things that begin with the letter “P” at a rest stop. They also showed their creative talent by making up drawing games as we traveled.

One of the funniest things we did while in Canada was seeing who could have the thickest Texas drawl while speaking with the local Canadians. I don’t think we have laughed that hard in a long time. My son, Luke, was by far the winner at “Texas drawl!”

Once we arrived at our cabin, we found out it did not have Wi-Fi as promised and the TV satellite was out! Once again, we had to entertain ourselves. Luckily, the cabin had lots of board games. Some of the best nights of our vacation were spent playing Charades, Outburst and Scrabble.

Sometimes in life, it’s just good to unplug. Turn off the electronics and seize the moments with your family!

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Family Matters: Pets


Chicken JerkyRecently, two of my friends hosted a wedding.

For their dogs.

No, really, they did.

Their new boxer puppies were wed in a backyard ceremony complete with a water fountain, doggie guests and a lavish buffet of puppy chow.

The bride wore a white bow tied around her neck, which clearly she wasn’t fond of, and the groom donned a sharp new black collar.

After the short ceremony, the couple began their new life together in a custom dog run, complete with a log cabin doghouse. I think they’ll live happily ever after.

What do you get the couple that has everything?

I decided to make homemade dog treats.

These chicken jerky treats aren’t just for dogs, though; you could eat them yourself if you were so inclined.

I packaged them in a Mason jar closed tightly, and although Mr. and Mrs. Boxer did not send thank-you notes, I’m assured they were well-received.

You can make these in a food dehydrator or right in your oven.

Chicken Jerky

Ingredients:
11/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders, sliced into strips about 1/4 to 1/8-inch thick
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 Tbsp salt
dog-friendly seasonings, such as parsley, rosemary and sage

Directions:
Rinse off chicken breast strips and remove any fat. Slice the chicken with the grain. Next, coat the chicken slices with your dog-friendly seasonings.

Place the chicken breast strips in an even layer across the entire tray, leaving an equal amount of space between pieces and making sure that they do not touch each other. This is so air can flow between them while they are drying out, which helps dehydrate them.

Once the strips are all set out, place the trays in the food dehydrator, turn it on and set the temperature for 140° F. It will probably take between 3 and 12 hours for the chicken to fully dry, depending on how thick you cut your slices and the exact temperature of your food dehydrator. Check the strips once every hour after the first hour. To do that, simply open up the tray and take one slice out; cut it open with a sharp knife and examine the inside. You should see no moisture at all, and if it is properly dried, the chicken will have the same color throughout. If it is not finished, put it back in for another hour. Once it gets close, start checking once every half hour.

In an oven, bake the chicken strips at 200° F for approximately 2 hours.

Once your chicken jerky is done, store it in sealed containers; zip-locking bags work great for this. Write the date you made it on them. You can also store the finished product in the refrigerator for an even longer shelf life.

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



Family Matters: Pools


Kiddy PoolToddlers love them some pools! At least, my boys did. I could fill a plastic wading pool with two inches of water, and they’d be happy for hours. 

Fill it with toys: balls, sponges, cups and anything they can manipulate and play with. Foam squirt guns are great for older toddlers. Cups and action figures occupy kids of almost any age. Water wheels are super exciting and teach baby about physics. 

A few drops of food coloring in your pool won’t hurt anything but will let baby experience something new. 

Shaving cream, marbles and floating plastic fish are also super fun for your little one.



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