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Family Matters: Making Memories


Making MemoriesAs I’m writing this, my boys are gone on a spring break trip with their dad. By the time you read this, they will be home and my heart will be full. Right now, they’re on an adventure and making memories.

They’re going camping at a national park that they’ve never explored before, and I’m excited for them.

When it comes down to it, they’ve been pretty spoiled by spring break trips. They’ve been to the beach, to the Grand Canyon, to Arkansas and camping all around the state of Texas.

You don’t have to take a spring break trip to make memories, though. A weekend staycation or small trip to somewhere special makes memories just as significant as flying over the Grand Canyon, I promise you.

Look into hiking your closest state park. You don’t have to stay overnight to enjoy the great outdoors. We take day trips and make use of the day-use sites, where we can still grill out over an open fire, make a fire pit and hike the trails without having to sleep on the ground if we choose not to.

Find some local museums, or visit ones in a city nearby. You never know the gems you’ll find, or the people you’ll meet, inside.

Tour a few historic landmarks in your area. You might want to explore an old cemetery, being utterly respectful, of course. The artistry and history can be captivating.

Go to an amusement park for the day, and ride one ride that terrifies you.

Most of all, take pictures. Put together a photo book from a photo-sharing website, and the memories will last even longer.



Family Matters: Family Walks


Family WalksA few weekends ago, my 13-year-old asked if we could go on a walk.

I was tired. I had mountains of laundry to do and piles of papers to sort and organize for the upcoming week.

I said yes.

We had the best 45 minutes of the week together.

We put our phones away in our pockets (they were still counting steps!). We talked about things that happened during the week. There was no electronic interference or other people interrupting.

It was wonderful.

We did it again the next day with his brother. We found lichen-covered boulders and wild roses, and we counted rings in a tree that had fallen near the trail.

We don’t always have time on a weekday to take a walk. However, every weekend since that first walk, we’ve taken 45 minutes to just be together on a trail and not worry about anything except being together as a family.



Family Matters: Snakes


SnakesI have bad dreams about snakes.

My sister, who is a therapist, explained that I need to get over my fear of snakes.

I’m not sure I can.

However, they can make good pets.

Corn, King, Gopher and Ball Pythons are wonderful to keep in your house.

For health reasons, a snake should be able to stretch out two-thirds of its body length inside its own cage. If your pet snake reaches an adult length of six feet, its container should be 4 feet in length.  You don’t want your pet snake to have to stay curled up at all times.

Make sure that the type of snake you secure for a pet has a good temperament, as do the four mentioned above. Don’t try to tame an unruly snake; it’s not going to happen.

Take into account their feeding habits. Corn, King and Gopher snakes will accept frozen rodents as feed. Ball pythons are much more finicky, but be prepared to handle rodents, no matter what.

Don’t force the situation. The four snakes listed above thrive in captivity. Not all snakes do so without expert care.

Don’t buy a pet snake because you think it’s cool without careful consideration and study.



Family Matters: Leaving your Dog Alone


Leaving your Dog AloneOver the summer, I went on vacation.

I was gone for a week.

I brought my dog, Astro, to a local boarder who has a deluxe operation for taking care of pets when their people are on vacation. I mean, this place has TVs for each dog, a pool, a run yard and lots of great care.

Astro hated it. I mean, hated with a capital “H.” He jumped out of the car, but he refused to go in. He laid down on the concrete and wouldn’t budge. He had to be carried in, and let me just tell you; he’s pushing 100 pounds easily.

There are so many great options for taking care of pets while you’re gone, but you have to find the right one for your pet.

  1. Your vet might offer boarding. Your dog will already be familiar with going there, so that could be a great option.
  2. There are lots of places all over that board dogs, and it’s the only thing they do. See above. They are fabulous if your pet is social and accustomed to leaving the house. Make sure they have all their shots and records from your vet when you make reservations.
  3. Pet sitters. I now use a service that comes to my house on my (or in this case, Astro’s) schedule. They come every morning, love on him, let him out, feed him, make sure he has water and play with him. They do the reverse at night, letting him inside for the night. It’s about the same price as the full-service boarding, and he gets to stay home, no carrying required.
  4. Use a teenager or responsible child in your neighborhood. My boys, young teenagers, dog sat last summer and thought it was the best gig ever. That pup got more attention than our own dog receives because they were so intent on doing a great job.

There are a few things to remember before leaving your pup alone.

Make sure he has all his shots.

Make sure he has on a collar and tags, in case he does get lost. Even better, get him chipped. Many pet facilities offer this for no-to-low cost.

Make sure your sitter/facility has plenty of food (if you’re boarding him, you might need to provide your own food to avoid intestinal distress) and treats.

Make sure his caregiver has access to his favorite toys and knows his schedule, routines and any quirks. For instance, Astro will not eat if anyone is in the room, and I’ve trained him to only accept treats in one particular spot in the house.

Leave emergency contact information, and make sure there’s an in-town backup person if necessary.

LOVE your dog when you get home! He’ll have missed you as much as you missed him.



Family Matters: Bird Cages


Bird CagesWhen you bring your pet bird home, you can just use one little cage, right?

Wrong.

Your pet bird should ideally have two cages: one to live in and one to travel in. This is the cage your bird will identify with when it’s time to go to the vet, or to clean his primary cage.

Your bird’s cage needs to be large enough for him to spread his wings. For some birds, the traditional oblong cage is enough, but for other birds, a rectangular cage is necessary.

Provide a variety of perches for your pet’s comfort. Some like wider perches, but some like a more narrow space as it makes them feel more secure. They might like a wooden ladder, a rope, a swing and something in textured plastic for variety.

To clean, use diluted white vinegar and water.

Most of all, provide a variety of toys on a rotation to keep your bird interested and stimulated. Switch between toys that will provide different skills stimulation every day, such as balls, cardboard tubes, feathers, rings and bells.

When you transport your bird, keep the cage sterile and clean with one reminder of their regular home, such as a soft wash cloth that bears the scent of home.



Family Matters: Bathing Your Cat


Bathing Your CatNot only does your dog need to be groomed, especially if he’s an outdoor sort, but your cat should get some pampering, too.

Cats are somewhat self-cleaning. Their tongue is designed to help keep them clean and neat, but if your cat gets smelly, you might need to step in.

Bathing a cat can be about as fun as wrestling an alligator, but here are some tips to make it an easier process.

Choose a time when your cat is most mellow, maybe after an afternoon nap in the sunshine. Don’t attempt this right after they eat, however. It can upset their stomachs if they get stressed out during the process.

Trim their claws before you attempt a bath, for your safety.

Place a fluffy towel or rubber mat in the bottom of a sink or the tub, whichever you use. This will help with traction.

Place an oven rack or cookie-cooling rack in the tub or sink. This gives kitty something to cling to, besides your arm, during the bath process.

Make sure water is warm, but not too hot or too cold. Don’t suds their faces; they usually hate that. Using the water wand, gently and thoroughly wet the cat. Massage some specially formulated shampoo (made for cats, not for humans and definitely not dish soap) into his coat. Rinse thoroughly.

Immediately scoop your cat up with a towel wrapped snugly around him; dry thoroughly.



Family Matters: Sleep Pattern Disruption


Sleep Pattern Disruption A lot of my (younger) mommy friends have been complaining that their toddlers have a significant backslide in sleep between the ages of two and three.

This throws them for a loop.

First of all, they’ve had at least a year of blissful, uninterrupted sleep from when their little one finally slept through the night after infancy.

Secondly, a lot of these moms have introduced a new sibling to the mix, so their older baby getting enough sleep is crucial.

Ironically, the older child may backslide because of a new sibling. Whether it be due to a little unconscious jealousy, insecurity, disruption in their routine or being woken by the new baby, your toddler might start waking up during the night, too.

One friend’s son was having bad dreams. Nothing she did would get him to settle back down into his own bed. Against everything she said she would never do, she put him in her bed for a few nights, and then he was fine to go back to his own bed after the brief phase of night terrors passed.

Another friend’s son woke up around 2am to get a drink of water one night. Then, he did it the next night, and the next and the next and the next. The doctor finally advised taking him out of his routine entirely. My friends sent him to his grandmother’s house for the weekend, and when he came home, the pattern had been broken.

There’s not a lot of reason for your toddler to wake up at night. They may wake up because they have a wet or dirty diaper, and they are starting to be aware and uncomfortable (in this case, it’s probably time for potty training). They may actually need a drink. (You can leave a sippy cup of water near their bed for easy access. Don’t leave milk or juice as it could spoil, and it pools in the teeth overnight, which is bad for dental development.)

They might just need some comfort and to be tucked back in. If sleep disruptions persist, consult your pediatrician.



Family Matters: Make Your Own Baby Food


Make Your Own Baby FoodOne of my favorite gifts that my friend received at her baby shower last week was a baby food cookbook, for when her 6-month-old is about ready to start solids.

Note: Some babies start solid foods earlier, but both of my boys were ready at 6 months.

It was an organic cookbook full of great recipes for first foods for their precious daughter. Since Mom is quite the gardener, I’m sure she’ll have tons of options available for when her daughter is ready for solid foods.

You don’t need an organic cookbook or a garden to make your own baby food.

Making my sons’ food was one of the joys of that age period for me. It’s simple, and you know exactly what’s going into their meals.

All you really need to get going are some storage containers (use ice cube trays and freeze individual portions if you’re going to prepare food in bulk), a good food processor or food mill, and lots of beautiful produce and whole-grains.

To prepare foods, most vegetables just need to be steamed until they’re very soft, and then pureed. I would use either the liquid from the cooking pot, or some breast milk or formula to help thin the puree mixture and add extra nutrients.

It was fun to make different combinations of foods. Sweet potatoes were good pureed with apples. My boys liked peas and carrots, and broccoli and carrots together, too. If you’re not freezing your portions, avocado or banana is great mashed with other foods.

Your baby will guide you as to what textures and consistencies he likes. Both of mine had to start out with a thinner, more watered-down mixture and build up to a thicker consistency.

You can even puree and serve baby leftovers of your own foods, if they are age-appropriate.



Family Matters: “Must-Have” Gadgets


Must-Have GadgetsI went to a friend’s baby shower last week, and let me just tell you, it’s been a long time since I went to a baby shower.

It was fun to see all the new “must-have” gadgets and products for your newborn.

The one that probably surprised me the most was the new style of nasal aspirator.

You want a nasal aspirator around when you have a baby because they can’t blow their noses or clear fluids from their noses and mouths, which can impede eating and even breathing. When my kids were babies, we used a bulb syringe, a suction device with a balloon-shaped piece at the end of a tapered cone that you simply inserted into the baby’s nose and squeezed (then thoroughly sterilized between each use).

Now, the hot nasal aspirator also has the little tube that you insert into the tip of baby’s nose, but instead of bulb suction, there’s tubing attached so you can use your mouth to suck out the baby’s blockage. It doesn’t make it all the way to your mouth, mind you, and the thought is that you can better control the level of suction with your mouth, instead of with the bulb.

My friend received three of them, so they are probably a big deal.

Whatever style you use, keep one on hand, as a clear airway is imperative to baby’s health.



Family Matters: Peanut Butter for the Win


Peanut Butter for the WinBrookshire’s Peanut Butter makes snack time more fun.

Peanut butter is a great source of protein for little ones who often don’t like – or have a hard time chewing – meat. Peanut butter to the rescue!

Tasty, delicious, nutritious and just plain fun, peanut butter can be the star of your kids’ snacks.

  • Dip apple slices into peanut butter or sandwich peanut butter between two thin slices of apple.
  • Spread peanut butter on celery and top with raisins.
  • Combine peanut butter with chia seeds, oats and mashed banana for high-powered energy bites.
  • Add peanut butter to your smoothie for extra protein.
  • Mix into plain Greek yogurt for a yummy fruit dip.
  • Drizzle over apple slices and sprinkle with toasted coconut to make apple “nachos.”
  • Use as a topping on pancakes.
  • Slice a banana in half lengthwise and spread each half with peanut butter, topping with granola.
  • Slice bananas into rounds, spread with peanut butter and make little banana “sandwiches.”
  • Flatten a slice of sandwich bread with a rolling pin. Spread with a thin layer of peanut butter and jelly. Roll into a log; slice into rounds for a PB&J roll-up.
  • Spread a whole-wheat tortilla with peanut butter. Top with thin slices of banana. Roll up; slice into rounds.
  • Peel a banana and freeze it. Spread with peanut butter, and roll in sunflower seeds. Store in freezer for a banana pop.


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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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