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Family Matters: Cubby Boxes


It’s been this way for ages: kids love boxes. Ever noticed on Christmas morning that the gifts are great, but the boxes are even better?

Kids like simple things and you can help them. If you ever get a new appliance or other large item, save the box! Depending on the size and shape, you can cut a door and windows for a great little house, or flip it over to make a car or boat. Tape on some fabric for curtains or make a couple of peepholes. Kids will really enjoy playing peek-a-boo with Mom and Dad, and they’ll fill their boxes with teddy bears, dolls and whatever else suits their fancy. This type of activity encourages creativity and the boxes are generally free.  If you don’t have a big purchase planned, ask at the appliance store and they may have an extra box you can have.



Family Matters: Those Growth Spurts Do Slow Down!


In those early months, babies grow—and eat—at a tremendous rate. They nearly triple their weight and grow nearly 12 inches by their first birthday. It’s important to remember that this growth rate will slow down a bit after the first year. Babies will lose their “baby fat” and slim down a bit.

Preschoolers only need about half the calories per pound of body weight than babies do! If you’re not ready for it you may worry that your child is eating less and perhaps has a health issue. 

Kids often go on ‘food kicks’ where they develop extremely picky habits, refusing to eat whole food groups, or insisting on eating the same food every day. For the most part, that’s really not anything to worry about, though it’s also a good idea to suggest kids “try” foods whenever they’re served…to help develop new tastes. Experts say it can take 15 or more tries before a new food becomes one a child will eat. 

It’s important to remember that some people love to eat  and others only eat to survive. If your child isn’t a recreational eater, don’t worry! It’ll be easier for him to eat healthy when he’s not tempted by all sorts of goodies!



Family Matters: Leftover Pasta, Anyone?


The one drawback to pasta is that it’s hard to judge how much to make, because it expands as it cooks. I sure hope you don’t throw away that leftover pasta! Besides serving up more leftovers for lunch, extra cooked pasta can come in really handy.

You can make Mexican Pasta Skillet in a snap! Heat a teaspoon oil in a skillet. Brown 1 pound ground turkey, 1 chopped onion and 2 teaspoons cumin. Stir in 1 can mild enchilada sauce, 1 can Mexican-style corn and 1 cup of leftover cooked pasta. Add some chopped parsley or cilantro and shredded cheese just before serving. 

Or Try Spaghetti Pizza. Mix 2 cups leftover spaghetti  with a beaten egg, and press this pasta crust into the bottom of a baking pan. Top with spaghetti or pizza sauce, some pepperoni and handfuls of mozzarella cheese. Bake to melt it all, and serve in wedges.

Wow, it almost makes you want to cook up extra pasta on purpose, just so you can make these recipes!

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Family Matters: Touch


Kids gain so much when they’re able to touch things. So when they help prepare a meal, they feel a connection with the food—and are more likely to eat some of it!



Family Matters: How Do I Take Care of a Stray Cat?


If you find a stray cat hanging around your house, what should you do? First off, make sure the kitty is a stray. Some cats just like to wander and they have a permanent home somewhere else in your neighborhood. Give the cat a chance to go home.

If you determine that this cat has adopted your family, then you need to do some serious thinking about the responsibility. Just feeding it every once in a while isn’t doing the cat a favor, because you’ll create a dependency on your food that won’t be consistently met. If you feed a cat, you need to be prepared to do this permanently.

If this isn’t something you’re prepared to do, then you really shouldn’t start feeding the kitty. If no food is forthcoming, he’ll probably move along to a more receptive household. If you do end up feeding the cat, use good-quality dry food and provide fresh water as well.



Family Matters: Try a Tomato!


Kids are just like the rest of us: they learn best in a hands-on atmosphere. So when you’re trying to instill a love of vegetables with your children, maybe the hands-on method will help! 

Next time you’re at the store, pick up a variety of tiny tomatoes. Let your kids help pick them out, or just bring home a good selection. Grape and pear tomatoes (shaped just like they sound) are tiny bite-sized bursts of flavor. Cherry tomatoes are just a bit larger, but still small. From there, plum (or Roma) tomatoes are a big larger and egg-shaped. Slicing tomatoes are the full-sized ones. 

So what do you do when you get all these tomatoes home? First, everyone washes their hands. Then help your kids identify the different types of  tomoatoes. Pear, grape and cherry tomatoes should be easy! Talk about the thin skin that is fragile yet strong enough to hold all the juice and seeds inside.

Then get a knife—plastic or metal, depending on your child’s abilities—and cut one in half from top to bottom. Notice the pretty patterns. Cut another in half from side to side. Wow, there’s a difference, isn’t there? Slice up several more tomatoes, put them in a bowl and sample them. Save the rest for a salad tonight. And you know what? There’s a good chance your children will actually eat some!



Family Matters: Swaddling a Baby: Why?


For thousands and thousands of years, babies have been swaddled—you’ll read references in the Bible. This is when a blanket is wrapped snugly around the baby, holding the arms by his side. 

Why swaddle? Many experts believe that swaddling helps a baby feel secure and warm—much like his pre-birth environment, which was a little tight and cramped. It may also mimic the feeling of being held in Mother’s arms, as well—that close warmth is comforting. 

Something about it must work, or otherwise, mothers for centuries wouldn’t have carried on this tradition. If your baby gets fussy, give swaddling a try!



Family Matters: No Laughing Matter!


Parents never stop trying to find a snack that their kids will love—that’s good for them. Here’s an idea that will probably fill the bill: Laughing Cow Cheese. You’ll find them in the dairy or deli areas, and they come packaged in a round container filled with 8 wedges of foil-wrapped soft cheese.

It’ll remind you of cream cheese, and you can get several flavor varieties. The big difference, though, is that one wedge (enough for several crackers’ worth) is only 35 calories! This makes it a healthy snack for kids, and a smart choice for adults.

Great idea! Laughing Cow is no laughing matter—it’s good food!

 



Family Matters: Slowpokes, Rejoice!


Are you always the last family to take down holiday decorations?

If you still have piles of Christmas gift wrap sitting around, you’re in luck! 

This will provide the perfect family activity—and it’ll save you from having to find a place to store all that paper, as well.   

 

Here are several ideas for using leftover gift wrap:

  1. Wrap paper around an empty vegetable (clean) can and make a pencil holder!
  2. Make a bookmark from a gift wrap glued onto a rectangle of cardboard (maybe cut from a cereal box).
  3. Make book covers for school books or read-at-home material.
  4. Make greeting cards by folding paper in half or quarters. Hint: send some thank-you notes!
  5. Wrap cardboard boxes to make pretty storage totes.
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Family Matters: People Food For Pets?


You hear it everywhere: Don’t feed people food to your pets. Some people foods are deadly!

But if reality means your dog or cat will indeed have a few people foods, here are some foods that are healthy choices for pets: 

Green beans

Carrot sticks

Cucumbers

Zucchini

Apple slices (without seeds)

Cooked lean meats 

Baked potatoes

Bread

Unsalted pretzels 

Bananas

Unsalted almonds

Plain, cooked pasta 

 

Source: ASPCA.org



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