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Family Matters: Hand-Me-Downs


I don’t know about your family, but our kids love to get “hand-me-downs.” It is getting new things without the hassle of shopping and it costs nothing…what could be better! When we get a bag of hand-me-downs from a friend, our girls put it in the middle of our living room and tear through the bag to see what fits and what looks good on them, and then they claim it as their own. Of course in a house where three of the girls wear the same size clothes, nothing is really ever your own, but it feels good at the moment to think it is all yours!

Our family takes all of our hand-me-downs to a local clothes closet that benefits less fortunate families.  We can take clothes, shoes, toys or anything that is still in good shape and donate it to be used for the good of others. We have a saying at our house: “Your hand-me-downs can raise someone else up.” This means that something we can no longer use or wear can be given to someone who is in need, and it will bring them comfort and a sense of joy. What is more rewarding than knowing you are helping others by just giving — something that cost you nothing? 

Don’t throw good, used clothing away for there is always someone who can benefit from items that your kids have outgrown. If you can’t find a local charity that takes used clothing, I promise there is some friend with kids that would love to have them, just ask. Rule of thumb: don’t donate items that have holes in them or stains (things that your kids would not wear).  When you want to raise someone else up, make your hand-me-downs something they will be proud to wear. A great time to do this is right before your kids go back to school. If they are like mine, they grow out of everything by the next school year. Clothes and shoes are expensive so this is a great way to teach your kids how to give to others.

Count your blessings daily, and give thanks to the Lord for the time you have to share with your family and the opportunities you have to raise others up!



Family Matters: Pets


Summertime poses a pet problem you might have not considered: water.

Yep, I said “water.”

I’m not talking about the kind you pour into their bowls from the tap, but the kind lurking in all other kinds of summer situations, particularly salt water and pool water.

If your pooch likes to play in the surf at the beach, keep a careful eye on him. Salt water can be toxic to pets. Sure, they’ll lap at the water, but they don’t know that excessive salt water intake can result in severe hypernatremia, or salt poisoning.

The first signs of hypernatremia include vomiting and diarrhea, but the condition can progress quickly to neurological impairment with physical incoordination, seizures, depression and, ultimately, brain swelling. It can be treated with IV fluids at the vet’s office.

To avoid the problem all together, designate a bottle (jug!) of fresh water for your dog to enjoy at the beach. Whenever you hydrate, make sure he hydrates, too.

The other danger comes from your backyard pool. Well, the chemicals to be exact. Algaecides and chlorine shock water treatment products are generally safe once these chemicals are diluted appropriately (i.e. in the pool water), but when undiluted, pool chemicals can quickly be fatal to your pet. Corrosive chemicals can result in severe ulcers in your pet’s mouth, esophagus and stomach, and they can ultimately cause holes in the GI tract. Always store your pool chemicals and cleaners in a locked closet that your pet cannot access.

Always have fresh water available at all times for your pet, too.



Family Matters: Chocolate Dipped Cherries


What’s better than chocolate and cherries? How about cherries dipped in chocolate! Don’t let the season come and go without dipping some beautiful ripe cherries in chocolate. There is really no skill required to make these fun, kid-friendly treats.

My daughter and I look forward to cherries being in season. I buy them weekly for us to snack on or to make a fresh tart cherry pie! This week when I buy cherries, I’m going to let my daughter make these adorable and delicious chocolate dipped cherries. She will love making them, and this will allow us some quality mom and daughter time in the kitchen.

Chocolate Dipped Cherries

Finely chop one pound milk, white or dark chocolate. Combine three-quarters of the chocolate and two teaspoons shortening in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring, until chocolate is melted; stir in the remaining chocolate until smooth. Dip fresh cherries by the stems into the chocolate, add festive sprinkles and set on parchment or wax paper. Let harden at room temperature.

Enjoy and have fun in the kitchen with your pint-sized little one!



Family Matters: Busy Bodies


Your toddler is on the go these days! Whether it is to the park, to story time, to Mother’s Day Out, to church or to play dates, your little one loves to be busy. Keep them fortified with Happy Baby organic baby food that’s easily portable and convenient to serve. The ‘Starting Solids’ series will guarantee your toddler the best in organic nutrition for their busy little lives. When you buy four pouches of Happy Baby solids, you get the fifth free.

Tip 13-36 Months: Keep baby powder on hand to easily remove sand from your toddler’s legs, tummy, arms and other body parts while you’re at the beach. A sprinkle of powder and the sand washes right off.

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Family Matters: Feeding Themselves


Beginning around 6 months, your baby is old enough to pick up small objects and get them to his mouth. Or if your baby is like my boys, to their necks, ears, cheeks or anywhere BUT their mouths. Point being, by 12 months your baby has mastered the pincer grasp and can feed himself. Happy Puffs organic snacks, such as Purple Carrot and Blueberry puffs, are gluten free and finger friendly. Made with organic whole grains and sweetened with 100 percent fruit juice, these super snacks contain choline for eye and brain development. To sweeten the deal: when you buy four, you get one free.

Tip 7-12 Months: Soft shoes are recommended as baby starts to toddle. Don’t brace your child’s foot in a heavy leather shoe that is unyielding; let baby get the lay of the land with a natural-feeling foot covering.

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Family Matters: Starting Solids


When my guys were babies, I couldn’t wait to start them on solid foods.

I started my older son on solids right at 4 months old, but he didn’t tolerate it so well. He still had a very strong tongue-thrust reflex (pushing the spoon out of his mouth) so we put aside the baby food and gave it another try when he turned about 6 months, at which point he did just fine.

I didn’t even try to start my younger son on solids until 6 months. He had…let’s just be honest…horrible gas issues, so I delayed the start of solids a bit.

Between 4 to 6 months is a great time to introduce “solid” foods into baby’s diet. Now, when I say “solids,” I mean something other than formula or breast milk.

Happy Bellies Brown Rice Baby Cereal is a great place to start. You can mix it with breast milk or formula to make it more nutritious and to get it to the consistency you want. Brown rice is mild on baby’s tummy and Happy Bellies is fortified with DHA, choline, and pro-and-pre-biotics, all important for baby’s growth and development. Even better, when you buy four, you get your fifth can free!

Tip 0-6 Months: Swaddling can help your infant sleep. Wrap baby tightly in a blanket, binding his arms close to his side and tuck ends in (like you’re folding a burrito!). Swaddling feels womb-like to your little one.

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Family Matters: The Beach


One month from today, I will be at the beach with my family – my ENTIRE family.

My parents. Two brothers. Two sisters. Two sisters-in-law. One brother-in-law. One boyfriend-in-law. Five nephews. One niece. Two sons.

It’s chaos – beautiful, wonderful chaos.

As my family is now spread out all over the country (from Virginia to California), this annual trip to the beach is the only time each year we’re all usually together.

The siblings immediately revert to old roles and habits. There’s copious sarcasm, more than a little competition (hello, volleyball!), swimming, surfing, digging in the sand, jumping waves, eating frozen yogurt and all the other great things associated with a beach vacation. The cousins (oldest is 11, youngest is 9 months) pretty much follow suit. They ride the waves on boogie boards, scuffle over the best shovels, compete to see who can dig the biggest holes and get a little territorial over whatever toys and games they’ve brought on the trip with them.

It’s not easy to stay in a house with 18 other people. But it is easy to see that for one week every summer that yellow house by the ocean is full of love and laughter. And that’s worth everything else.

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Family Matters: Sand, Shells & Sunrise


As we began planning a family vacation it was unanimous that we go to the beach. The beach has always been a favorite place for our family – strolling for hours enjoying the sunshine and sounds of the waves, picking up seashells and sitting on the deck at night playing games and enjoying family time. Our days are spent playing horseshoes, Frisbee, building sand castles, swimming, going crabbing for supper and just doing nothing but being beach bums. What a joy to sit on the beach and watch your kids laughing and enjoying each other with no worries in the world. These days, that alone is a blessing, even if just for a moment.

When most people think “vacation,” they think sleeping late is a must, but for us, we wake up at dawn to see the sunrise over the ocean and take in the beautiful site from a deck view. We only go a few hours from home, so there is no white sand or seashores without seaweed (in Texas), but there is everything we need to make memories that will last our family a lifetime. 

This year we are taking three additional kids and grandma with us which will make for a house full of fun with seven teenagers…I did say “fun” right?  They have all been talking and planning for months – who sleeps where, what we will do and what we will eat…food is always important to teenagers! We share the responsibility of the kitchen during the week and eat a lot of sandwiches, pop tarts, cereal, frozen pizzas, etc., but we never get complaints, because it is not about eating out or eating hot meals three times a day, it is about the time we spend together that is important. Every day from sunrise to bedtime seems like an eternity. At the beach, time seems to stand still, and when we can enjoy life and put our everyday worries behind us for a week it is something to be thankful for.

My husband and kids joke with me about “leaving a shell for someone else to treasure” and that it costs more coming home than going because of the weight of the seashells we are hauling back. I tell them my plan is to one day build my own beach around my above ground pool in the back yard, spread out my seashells and remember the wonderful family vacations and the special times we spent together at the beach.

Vacations are a time relax, laugh (a lot) and just delight in your family, and for every family that special place is different. Take time to “find your beach,” count your blessings daily and give thanks to the Lord for the time you have to share with your family! 

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Family Matters: Pets and Ticks


My big dogs, Shiloh and Gretel, had thick, luxurious fur that I took care to keep clean and well-groomed, not to mention glossy and shiny by feeding them a great diet.

But, glossy, shiny, thick, luxurious coats also mean more places for ticks to hide during the spring and summer. I would brush Shiloh and Gretel pretty frequently, which helped, but there’s no substitute for carefully going through your pets’ coats during the summer to check for ticks, which can transfer diseases. Ticks will attach to your pet’s skin, but their fur can hide them.

There are several things you can do to help avoid ticks this summer.

First, use a spot treatment. The best ones are available from your veterinarian and are usually applied behind the neck or tail and repeated on a monthly basis.

Oral medications, also from your vet, are generally given once monthly and help kill fleas and ticks by making your pet’s skin and fur a hostile environment for unwanted pests.

Bathing your dog with a shampoo that contains medicated ingredients will generally kill ticks on contact. This method is usually inexpensive, but do it OUTSIDE. Enough said 

Tick dips, in which a chemical is diluted in water and your pet submerged, are effective, but best to leave in the hands of a professional.

Tick collars are another option, but pet owners report having the best success with these on small animals.

Tick and flea powders are available at most pet supply stores. These get into the areas needed, however, they’re often messy and leave residue on your hands after you pet your pooch. 

Finally, treat your house and lawn using an exterminator or keep your pets inside during warm months.



Family Matters: Blended Families


My boys have a mom. And a dad.

And now a stepmom, stepbrother, step grandparents, step cousins…the whole nine yards.

And you know what? It’s great.

Oh, let me introduce myself. I’m mom, by the way. Mom-who-gave-birth to those two boys who now have a network of “steps.”

More and more of us moms, and dads, find ourselves in the position we never expected to be in when we said, “I do happily ever after.”

In some states, the divorce rate is as high as 70 percent.

I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Vows broken are never easy, but the life after, especially for your kids, doesn’t have to be bad.

When your ex picks a new partner, you’re now a team, not adversaries. Work as a team. Your child now has three, or four, parents…tap into each other’s strengths and talents.

Put the kids first.

Never, EVER badmouth the ex or a step. That only causes dissention between the adults which the children do not need to be subjected to.

Put the kids first.

Cooperate with each other. You can’t control everything now (you never could, actually) but you can control what happens at your house. Before each decision, ask yourself, “Is this in the best interest of OUR children.”

Put the kids first.

Speaking of OUR children, remember why you loved the ex in the first place. This may require YOU to dig deep, but I bet you can find something in your children to remind you. Celebrate that.

Put the kids first.

And when there are not ‘rules,’ put the kids first.



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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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