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Family Matters: Babysitters


BabysittersSometime in your baby’s life, you might need to ask the grandparents to babysit.

That’s the position my sister found herself in this week. She had a once-in-a-decade opportunity to accompany her husband on a business trip to somewhere fabulous, and she decided to take advantage of the opportunity.

So, my parents in their late 60s flew across the country to stay with her four kids, ages 2 to 10 (in fact, the twins just turned 2 yesterday).

It’s not always easy for a grandparent to step in, but there are ways you can facilitate an easy transition.

  • Have a backup plan. Leave the caregiver the number of a neighbor or a friend who is very familiar with your children and can step in to help if necessary.
  • Enlist this same friend to take a child or two off the grandparents’ hands for an afternoon.
  • Prepare meals to leave in the freezer for the grandparents to easily reheat. Even if they are adept at parenting, they are parenting children they are not used to, and things will take them longer to accomplish. Plus, they are older than when they were parenting you and may wear out more easily, even if they are in the best of health. As an alternative, leave a gift card for a delivery meal.
  • Write down a schedule. Don’t assume they know that one child needs a sippy cup of water and a stuffed giraffe to go to sleep while he’s laying upside down in his bed with a nightlight shining. Write it all down.
  • Call your littles every day while you’re away and FaceTime if necessary. If this upsets them too much, skip this step, but it’s probably for their benefit.
  • If you have time, leave them hidden notes or a scavenger hunt that they can find during the days you’re gone.
  • Bring them back a treat and celebrate your return!


Family Matters: Car Seat Safety in Winter


Car Seat Safety in WinterOver the past year, studies have shown that babies and toddlers should not wear heavy, puffy coats or buntings in their car seats.

The reason is that the bulkiness of the coat adds about four inches to the length of the strap on the seat, and tests conducted have shown that baby is more likely to be dislodged from the seat during a crash than without lengthening the straps to accommodate a coat. A study from the University of Michigan showed in a crash test that the dummy child wearing a puffy winter coat was much more likely to be thrown from the seat on impact.

Luckily, you can still keep your child warm and safe in the colder months. Dress your baby in layers if you’re going on a car trip. Put him in a long-sleeved onesie with fleece pants, socks and shoes. Then, layer a fleece jacket over his onesie and strap him into his car seat. Use a heavy blanket or quilted car seat cover to put OVER the baby and the straps, so nothing is obstructing the safe and correct use of the car seat straps. Baby will be snuggly for the ride.



Family Matters: Cold Weather Skin Care


Cold Weather Skin CareIt’s hard enough to keep adult skin in tact during winter months, so it’s even more of a challenge to keep baby’s tender skin in tip-top shape when it gets cold and dry.

Babies are sensitive to temperature changes, so bundling baby up to go out in the cold might do as much damage to their skin as cold air. When baby overheats, red bumps will appear. Dress baby in layers instead of heavy garments, so you can help her regulate her temperature. Treat bumps with a 1 percent hydrocortisone lotion if they appear.

Babies get chapped lips, too. Use a thin layer of petroleum jelly or lanolin to keep your baby’s lips protected, especially before and after they eat.

If baby is going out in the cold, apply some Eucerin® or Aquaphor® lotion (or petroleum jelly) to his cheeks and nose, which can take the brunt of exposure.

Don’t over-bathe baby in the winter months, once a day at most. Follow the bath with a baby massage using lotion while her skin is still slightly damp to help her absorb the lotion best.

Lastly, keep baby hydrated. A little extra water, breast milk or formula will help hydrate their skin from the inside out.



Family Matters: Vacation Jar


Vacation JarThis year, we implemented the Vacation Jar.

We already had the Treat Jar. It’s a one-gallon, pottery jar with a red, white and blue motif I bought years ago on a trip to Poland. We drop our spare change into the jar and save it all year for a dinner out, or a treat we otherwise wouldn’t have.

This year, we decided we’d have a goal for our jar.

We sat down one night with pads of paper, and we all wrote our vacation goals on the pink, lined notebook paper.

Curt wants to go on a Disney Cruise.

Luke wants to go mountain climbing in Colorado.

Paul wants to go to a secluded beach in Mexico.

I want to go back to Bermuda with my family.

Ok, so a gallon jar full of change might not get us to any of those places in one year. It will allow us to go paddle boarding on the Back Bay on our beach trip this year, and possibly stay an extra night so we can visit Colonial Williamsburg while we’re in Virginia.

If we hadn’t planned a vacation already, it might have paid for a weekend in a nearby big city with a hotel stay, some museum admissions and a fun dinner out.

It’s a great goal to save as a family. It teaches the kids exactly what it takes to reach a financial goal for a family vacation. It gives them a sense of pride and ownership in the trip, and it’s fun all around.

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Family Matters: Electronic Timeout


Electronic TimeoutA few weeks ago, we were out to dinner as a family.

One kid was on his phone, texting friends.

The other kid was on his phone, too, checking for Pokemons. (He said that the plural of Pokemon is still Pokemon, but I’m not sure whether to believe him.)

Then, I got on my phone to check the weather.

My boyfriend had had it.

“Maybe we should all put our phones away,” he said, very nicely.

Sheepishly, we all did.

When I was growing up, we didn’t have electronics at the dinner table. We talked to each other (insert gasp here). We sometimes argued with each other. We laughed, joked and enjoyed each other.

We need to get back to that.

This year we’ve been trying electronic timeouts. It was nerve-wracking at first, but then we realized it was fine not to be holding the phone at all times, that people who “needed” us could wait an hour or two, and that we really ENJOY each other’s company.

So, maybe, just maybe, try putting all your phones far, far away during dinner, for an hour afterward, or for a pre-set time when you can just be together.

It’s pretty nice.



Family Matters: Staying Safe


Staying SafeYour small pet is exactly that, a small pet, so special care must be taken to keep hamsters, gerbils, mice, rats and other teeny creatures safe.

First of all, don’t let them run free. Keep them contained in a safe cage, roaming area or enclosure. This reduces the likelihood they’ll get stuck under or in furniture or stepped on by a larger creature.

Design a play area for them in a safe, enclosed space. Use cardboard boxes to create a playscape, but be sure to check for holes so they can’t escape. They are also likely to chew on cardboard, which could also lead to an escape route.

Don’t overestimate their climbing ability. Yes, your furry friend will likely tackle an incline or more vertical surface, but they’re not adept at climbing and can fall back, leading to spinal injuries.

Do not put their cages in direct sunlight; it’s too much for your small pet. Same with drafts, they can catch cold easily.

Finally, don’t mess with your nocturnal pet during the day. He wants to sleep and might not be so gentle in letting you know.



Family Matters: Putting Your Pooch on a Diet


Putting Your Pooch on a DietYou might not have been the only one to overindulge during the holidays; your dog might have gotten a bit fluffier as well. It’s easy for pups to sneak treats during the hustle and bustle of the holidays, and the colder weather is making exercise more difficult.

To tell if your dog is overweight, feel around his ribs and spine. You should be able to locate both with only a thin layer of fat separating the skin from the bones. If you can’t find the ribcage, you have an overweight dog.

Don’t worry; it’s pretty easy to take care of on your dog. After all, your dog can’t raid the freezer at midnight for that gallon of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream you have hidden in the back.

First of all, know the correct portion size for your pup. Consult your vet; they should be able to tell you quite easily how much you should be feeding him.

If necessary, cut back on the amount of food he eats. You might also have to evaluate the kind of food he eats and make a change appropriate for overweight or less active dogs.

Limit or restrict treats entirely. Just like with people, they can be empty calories. Use other rewards, like hugs or cuddles, for incentive.

Take your dog for a walk! It’ll be good for both of you.



Family Matters: Keeping Your Cat at a Healthy Weight


Keeping Your Cat at a Healthy WeightWe’ve all seen the grumpy cat memes where the fat cat is generally disgusted with life, but it’s not such a laughing matter in reality.

Cats can be prone to obesity because they don’t tend to get a lot of exercise.

First, talk to your vet about how many calories your cat should be consuming each day. This might be far fewer than you think.

Secondly, rethink the way you feed your cat. If you have food available to her all day every day, of course she’s going to want to eat it. Consider portioning out small amounts throughout the day, then removing uneaten food until it’s time to feed again.

Next, look at what kind of food you’re giving your cat, and have a discussion with your vet over what is the best for her needs. Read labels carefully. Just because a food says that it’s made from real meat doesn’t mean there’s much actual meat in the food, and cats thrive off of lean protein.

Try to get your cat moving by playing with her toys, giving her a scratching post or a place to climb, and by tossing objects for her to pounce upon.



Family Matters: Music To Your Ears


Music To Your EarsDid you know that your pet bird probably loves music?

We know birds sing, but that’s not even the kind of music we mean.

Letting your bird listen to music can make him a happier, healthier pet.

First of all, don’t play music too loudly. Nothing you play loudly will sound good to your pet bird. Keep the volume low, and experiment with what kind of music he likes to listen to. Nature sounds might be inviting to some birds, while others might like classical tunes.

Play it softly near their cages, especially if your bird is anxious or high-strung.

While you can let your bird listen to music for his enjoyment or to soothe him, don’t keep it on all the time or he will become dependent on the white noise.



Family Matters: Toddler Proofing


Toddler ProofingWeebles wobble, but they don’t fall down.

Babies do though, especially toddlers

There’s no need to put a crash test helmet on your toddler who is learning to walk, but there might be good sense in toddler-proofing the rest of the house.

Fireplaces, specifically their hearths, could use a good, padded edging and corner protection.

Corners of sharp dining tables and end tables could also use protection from baby’s teetering step. Foam padding, or just a heavy quilt and some duct tape, can help protect baby’s eyes and head from sharp corners.

Use duct tape or non-skid pads to secure rugs or throw rugs to the floor.

Secure things they can pull down on top of them, like tablecloths with candlesticks on top, towels with pots or runners with decorative dishes.



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