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I grew up in a family with one brother and a lot of core family values. My mom taught respect and unconditional love. At the time, I didn't see why I had to "like" my brother, or "be nice" to his friends. I never dreamed that one day I would be using those same values in my own family.

Now, looking back, I thank my mom every day for strong family ties and stronger values. With my own family of four children, there are times I sit back and wonder where their lives are heading. There is fighting, and arguing so severe sometimes, that I think they must hate each other. I am quick on those days to mandate a sit down dinner as a family. This is a time of communication and bonding. I don't allow cell phones or television and there is no judgment or disagreeing. It is a time of family renewal, where we all share our day's activities and talk about what has happened in our separate lives at work and school. No one is allowed to leave the dinner table until all six of us have had a turn. We speak open and honestly over a home-cooked meal about every topic called into question. It keeps us bonded in spite of our busy schedules. It is understood that between soccer practice, and gymnastics, football and work, this is a place where we won't be judged, laughed at or criticized. It is an open forum where we can find acceptance and love. We know that our family will be there to listen to one another, regardless of the fight that just happened over "whose turn it was to clean up after the dog." Our time together at the table creates a sense of peace and unity. Even if only momentarily.

As my kids get older and start lives of their own, I hope that they will take these small life lessons that I am teaching them and incorporate them into their own families. After all, a strong family is not simply about how you treat one another during the good times, but more importantly, during the bad.

Kris Starosta is a wife to Keith and a full-time mom to Nick (16), Kaylin (9), Andrew (9) and Kensington (6), and a devoted staff member of Fredericksburg Parent and Family magazine for the last three years.

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Pouches' Community Corner

This month Pouches learned about a very important resource for families who have lost loved ones to sudden tragedy, an organization called LLOST.

keepsake box

The foundation has helped 44 hospitals in 22 states through their Treasured Memories program. The program sends nurses to bereavement training, and provides or supplements the $55 memory boxes that include clothes, booties, handknot blankets, pictures, foot prints, hand prints, clipped hair and other mementos.