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Family Matters: Save, Spend, Give


Save, Spend, GiveBoth of my boys got their first jobs recently. I’m so proud of them both for wanting to earn money, for the responsibility it takes to hold down a job, and for the life skills they are gaining while working in their early teenage years.

With the first job comes the first paycheck. Seriously, nothing was more thrilling for them than holding that piece of paper in their hands.

That first paycheck brought the opportunity for new life lessons. They opened their own savings accounts. They are responsible for their bank ledgers. They will learn how to reconcile a bank statement.

They will learn the value of the dollar.

My older son wanted to spend his first paycheck immediately. He knew what computer part he wanted to buy.

My younger son had an idea of something he’d like to purchase, but he also wanted to save his paycheck.

It was time to introduce “Save, Spend, Give.”

My parents always taught us to “pay yourself first,” so that’s what I’m teaching my boys. Seventy-five percent of their paycheck went into their savings account. They can buy a car with that money later on, if they can wrap their heads around the fact that this is an investment in their future.

The next part of their paycheck was cashed for spending money. You can decide what percentages work best for your kids and your family. Since 75 percent went into savings, we decided on 20 percent for spending, and the remaining 5 percent goes to giving. Philanthropy is an important value in our family. Whether the money goes to church or to a nonprofit agency, I want them to know that it’s important to give back.

Some families do 40/30/30, and this is great, too! With younger kids, you can use clear jars and actually divide the cash out so that the visual makes an impact on your children.

I hope this lesson will stick with my kids and carry on the very valuable skills they are learning as contributing members of the workforce.



Family Matters: Small Animal Exercises


Small Animal Exercises Your small pet, like a hamster, gerbil or rabbit, might seem to always be active (especially in the nighttime hours), but that doesn’t mean they don’t need some encouragement to exercise.

You can take your rabbit, ferret or other larger small breed animal for a walk on a leash, or provide time for him to move about outside his cage in a safe environment. Rabbits like to hop around in soft grass, so provide an enclosure for them to do so. A harness made for rabbits or other small animals can allow you to take them on a walk as well. (They don’t need to go far.) Just be mindful of keeping your small pet on a softer surface and out of harm’s way.

For your small pet that lives in a cage, like a hamster, gerbil or mouse, provide lots of tunnels that extend beyond the confines of the cage. Your pet will like to climb, explore and run. A running wheel in the main cage is also great exercise, and it will provide hours of movement and entertainment for your small pet.



Family Matters: Caring for your Puppy


Caring for your Puppy Puppy breath, puppy kisses, puppy snuggles. Nothing is better really, but it’s up to you to keep your puppy snuggable, happy and healthy.

When your puppy comes home at about 8 weeks old, you’ll want to have the house ready for him by having an established sleeping area, setting boundaries on where he’s allowed to be, having a designated area for his food and water, and making sure your house is safe from harmful objects and chemicals he might get into.

Although he won’t be fully vaccinated yet, make sure you have a vet and someone you can visit when his next round of shots are due.

Socialize your puppy with any other pets and with family members, especially children. Let them get used to each other slowly, if necessary. Teach small children how to be gentle and play safely with the puppy. Teach your puppy commands so that he also plays safely with the children.

If he is going to use a crate, introduce him to the crate on the very first day.

Take him outside often, on a leash, to the area of your yard where he can use the potty. Reward him for going in the right places.

Establish a routine for feeding, and stay on schedule. Take him outside after he eats to his potty area.

You might want to hang a bell from a ribbon on the back door knob, and teach your puppy to bat at the bell when he wants to go out.

It’s fine to tell your puppy “no” when he’s doing things he shouldn’t. It’s also great to praise his good behavior.

Have plenty of toys for your puppy to play with (so he leaves your shoes and your daughter’s dolls alone). Take him for walks for exercise. Puppies need a lot of exercise!

Make sure your dog is spayed or neutered when it becomes age-appropriate.

Finally, give your dog lots and lots of love, and you will have a best friend for life.



Family Matters: Bird Exercises


Bird ExercisesYour bird probably spends a lot of time in his cage, but he also needs exercise to stay happy and healthy and to have a good temperament.

Birds like to climb. Provide them with a ladder in their cage (and even one outside their cage for when you take him out). They will go up and down the ladder, and they’ll enjoy the exercise and movement.

Let him flap his wings. Take him out of the cage and perch him on your hand. Holding his feet with one hand, “fly” him around in a circle up and down, making large, slow motions with your arms so that he doesn’t get overly excited and flap too vigorously.

Take your bird on a walk. Yes, for real, but probably not outside. A harness made for your bird is perfect for walking him up and down hallways and corridors in your home.

Let him out of the cage, and let him do his own thing. He might fly, if his wings aren’t clipped. He might hop or walk around. Provide a safe environment for him to move about as HE chooses.



Family Matters: Caring for Kittens


Caring for KittensIt doesn’t get much cuter than a fluffy, fuzzy kitten, but you want to make sure your new kitten is as well cared for as he is adorable.

Prepare your home before you bring your new kitten home. Make sure it’s free from any dangers that could cause injury to your new ball of fluff.

Have a fresh, clean litter box ready, and start teaching your kitten to use it the minute you walk through the door. Make sure it’s in a semi-private area and not near any food or water bowls.

Have food and water bowls ready in a place that your kitten will become accustomed to being fed. Leave water out at all times.

Kittens have small stomachs and tolerate small meals more often. Dry foods tend to be best for kittens’ digestive systems. Consult your vet and follow package directions for the amount to feed your kitten by weight. Remember to adjust as your kitten grows.

Microchip your kitten, so if he gets out, you can find him easily when lost.

Spay or neuter your kitten as appropriate when they are old enough.

Keep his vaccinations current, along with any worming medications or flea-prevention treatments. Your kitten will likely keep himself clean, but help him out by cleaning his ears. Make sure he doesn’t get hair balls.



Family Matters: Getting Dressed


Getting DressedSomewhere during this time period, your toddler will develop an opinion about what they want to wear and how they want to wear it.

Don’t turn it into a power struggle. Give your child some freedom in choosing his wardrobe and dressing himself.

Getting dressed is great for developing motor skills. They need gross motor skills to do things like put their pants on or put on a coat. They need fine motor skills to fasten a button or pull up a zipper.

They may only like pants with elastic waists or short-sleeved shirts. They might only wear the color green from head to toe or like to wear their knit hat around the house.

A lot of this is great development as they determine their likes and dislikes. While you don’t have to let your daughter wear her Belle ball gown to story hour, it’s probably fine to wear around the house.

If your son will only wear green socks, that’s probably fine, too.

If choices become an issue, help your child by letting them pick between two objects. “Would you like to wear the blue shirt or the red one?” helps your child narrow down their choices, while still giving them freedom.



Family Matters: Baby’s First Words


Baby's First WordsSorry to break it to you, dads everywhere, but the “d” sounds are easier for your baby to make. Therefore, it’s much more common for a baby to say “Dada” before “Mama.”

Oh yes, he knows it’s you and he’s showing you affection. but it probably doesn’t indicate a preference by your baby for one parent over the other.

Typical speech development has a huge range of what is normal.

However, by the end of 12 months, your baby should be imitating sounds and saying a few words, including “dada,” “mama” and maybe “no.”

They should understand simple instructions, like “clap your hands” or “smile.”

They can recognize words for the common objects in their life like “snack,” “dog” and “cup.”

They should turn in and look in the direction of sounds.

If none of these are happening, consult with your baby’s pediatrician at his one-year checkup.



Family Matters: Tummy Time


Tummy TimeSomewhere during the first 6 months, your baby will learn to roll over on their own. For a lot of babies, this means they spend less time on their tummies.

However, more tummy time can strengthen baby’s arms, neck, shoulders and torso, and even help them get moving as all those body parts are essential elements for scooting and crawling.

Encourage baby to stay on his tummy by providing stimulation in the form of books, pictures, colors and textures that baby can easily access from a prone position.

You can also do “baby sit-ups” with him by having him lie on his back, letting him grip your fingers with his hands and helping him “sit up” into a seated position (you might want to do this on a bed or pillow in case he lets go and falls back).

You can also make a game of tummy time by moving different fun objects around baby’s field of vision so he has to look up, look around or push himself up more to see where the toy went.



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.



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