Hold Daddy’s Hand

Father and daughter holding hands

Cropped image. Spirit-Fire, CC License.

I have a confession to make: I hate bridges! That’s right, the necessary evil of the highways and byways. My extreme dislike (I forgot…hate is a four-letter word in our house…but I digress) started when I was about 5 or 6 years old on a family trip to Greenfield Village.

My oh-so-loving big sister thought it’d be funny to pretend to “fall through” a wooden bridge they have at the village. She, and my eventual stepsister, kept putting on a show and made the bridge shake as they jumped up and down. That episode planted a seed for my disdain for anything that didn’t have soil directly underneath it.

Fast-forward a couple of decades to my first trip north to meet my future in-laws. The only thing that stood between me and meeting my future wife’s family was the Zilwaukee Bridge. The same bridge that nearly collapsed during construction…the same bridge that feels like you’re climbing stairs and not driving on a stable structure. Luckily somehow I was able to make it over and have been happily married for nearly nine years (no thanks to my sisters).

My feelings about bridges have been a running family joke for years, but just ask my white knuckles if I’m joking. My wife and I were blessed with two kind-hearted girls; how do we know that we’re raising them right? As we get closer to the dreaded Zilwaukee Bridge, both Abby (our oldest) and Maddy (our little dare-devil) offer to hold my hand!

So if you’re ever next to a vehicle just north of Bridgeport on I-75, and you see a grown man twisted around to hold two little hands, smile knowing that he’ll be just fine in a mile or so.

– Jim Pesta, Parenting Program participant and father of two girls

Summer Scrapbook

Photo of a scrapbook cover

We’re about half way into summer now and for some kids the excitement of outdoor fun is starting to wear off.

Here’s a great activity to keep your kids entertained for hours while they practice skills like fine motor movement, literacy and creativity: A summer scrapbook! You can either buy a blank scrapbook or make one. This is the one we are using from Amazon.

Now’s the fun part! Brainstorm a list of activities your child can add to their summer scrapbook. This is appropriate for ages 2 and up. The older the child is, the more independent this activity will be.

I wrote a title on the pages for my 5 year old to remember what the theme of each page would be. Some examples we came up with were: family time, sisters, summer play dates, the lake, and so on. I put together a zip-top bag of supplies for her like stickers, scissors, glue, markers and construction paper. Then I let her have her fun with creating. We also talked about adding captions to some of her pictures so many years from now, she’ll remember where they were taken.

Photo of interior scrapbook page

My daughter has fun customizing each page.

Some days she asks me to sit and scrapbook with her and I will help her add to a page but for the most part, this is a quiet, independent activity. This is a project of her own that she’ll be able to enjoy looking back on for years to come!

– Maria Dismondy, mother of three, reading specialist, fitness instructor and bestselling children’s author living in Southeast Michigan.

Be “Great Lakes” Safe

Photo of boy on wet, sandy beach

Image credit: Erica Surman.

One of the biggest advantages to summertime in Michigan is spending time in and around the beautiful fresh water lakes. Unlike pools, fresh water bodies cannot be regulated, and conditions such as temperature, water currents, and motorized boats and water crafts must be considered prior to your swim. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported “In 2007, at least 43 percent of all recreational water drownings occurred in natural water settings. Another 9 percent of drownings occurred in boating incidents, for a total of 52 percent. This is almost three times the number of drownings occurring in swimming pools in the same year (19 percent).”

If you or your family participate in recreational boating, it is also important to be familiar with Michigan boating laws to keep you and your passengers safe. “The Official Boating Handbook of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources” is available here; it’s also available as a PDF and as an e-reader download. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the cause of death for nearly 75 percent of all people killed in boating incidents in 2009 was drowning. Of those who drowned, 84 percent were not wearing a life jacket.

Some open water safety tips to consider:

  • Check the weather conditions for the day, and leave the water at any sign of lightning or thunder.
  • Have all family members take an age-appropriate formal swimming class beginning at age four.
  • Be aware of the colored beach flag meanings and follow their warning. Special note: the meaning of each color represented may vary from one beach to another.
  • Swimming is a buddy sport. Pair people up to watch each other, with children always watched by an adult.
  • Bring a cell phone for emergencies, but eyes should be on the swimmers at all times. Drowning can occur both quickly and silently.
  • Swim only in designated swimming areas, and ideally, with a lifeguard present.
  • Diving in open water can be extremely dangerous due to low water visibility. There may be unexpected shallow areas that can lead to severe brain and spinal cord injury.
  • Don’t rely on inflatable water toys or foam pool noodles in place of a Coast Guard-approved life jackets. The Coast Guard requires that all children under age 13 wear a personal flotation device while on a recreational vessel.
  • Anyone with a known seizure condition should be watched closely, and should always wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket, especially on boats.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol. Swimming, boating and supervising children in water requires you to use your best judgment.
  • Look out for signs of a rip current including choppy, foamy or debris-filled water moving in a channel away from shore. If find yourself caught in a rip current, swim parallel to shore. Once free of the current, swim diagonally toward shore. A rip current pulls swimmers away from the shore into deeper water at speeds of up to 8 feet per second – faster than an Olympic swimmer.
  • Don’t underestimate shallow water, especially a fast-moving river or creek.
  • Learn CPR! Beaumont offers a Friends & Family course to those over age 12.

– Erica Surman, RN, BSN, Pediatric Trauma Program Manager, Beaumont Health System

Heidi’s Hints: Plan the Perfect Picnic

Photo of a picnic basket

Cropped image. Jeremy Noble, CC License.

Summer is finally here, and it couldn’t come soon enough for our family! After a long winter, the kids and I couldn’t wait to get outside. We’ve been spending a lot of time at the park, the beach, and in our own backyard. One of Grayson’s favorite things to do is to have a picnic outside. Sometimes we sit on the deck or a blanket in the backyard, or sometimes we’ll bring a lunch when we go to the park or the beach. If you have a picky eater or a child that has trouble at mealtime, this is a great opportunity to switch up your meal routine. There’s just something about being outside with the nice weather and change of scenery that can make a usually mundane task like lunch seem so much more exciting to your children!

Here are a few picnic tips and tricks:

  • Don’t limit picnics to lunch or dinner. A pajama breakfast in the backyard is a really fun way to start the day!
  • Prepare in advance. Pack up your picnic the night before once the kids go to bed so that in the morning you can just grab and go. I also pack a small bag that has wipes, paper towel, a bib for Ellie, and a blanket (if necessary). Since Gray and Ellie are still pretty little, I find that a picnic location with a table works best for us so that they aren’t trying to balance their food on a blanket—especially since there is a lot of up and down and running around that usually takes place during our picnic .
  • Keep It Simple. Finger foods are key. I like to bring only items that we can eat with our hands or a straw such as veggies, fruit, crackers, sliced meats, squeeze yogurts, string cheese, smoothies, water bottles, etc. Keep in mind that if something needs a fork or a spoon it probably will also need a serving spoon and a container to put it in, which are just more items that you need to bring with you and take home.
  • Don’t forget the ice packs to keep your food cold and fresh. I recently saw a great idea for a homemade ice pack—wet a sponge, pop it in a sandwich bag, and toss it in the freezer until ready to use. Bonus: the sponge will keep the water absorbed as it starts to melt so you won’t have a leaky lunch.
  • Plan for the cleanup. I always bring wipes, paper towel (in case we have a bigger spill), and a plastic grocery bag to use for garbage.

Hopefully, you can use some of these tips to help plan a fun picnic with your family. Just remember that you are creating memories not a postcard so keep it simple and have fun!

Questions? Recipes? Resources? Meal Planning Advice? Feel free to call me at (248) 259-9634.

– Heidi Wilson, Heidi’s Hints: Meal Planning Made Easy

Ahhh … My First Trip Away From the Twins

Interior photo of Montreal's Notre Dame Cathedral

I put my photography hobby to good use inside the Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal. The photo is unedited, so those are the true colors.

It finally happened. After 2.5 years, I left my kids to go on a short trip with my husband. It was divine! Glorious! Relaxing!

And I felt guilty.

Up until May, I had never spent even one night away from my twins. Not one. But the time had come for mom and dad to get away and recharge our batteries. We aren’t spring chickens anymore, you know.

In April, my husband told me about a work trip he was scheduling in Montreal. It would be from Monday night until Thursday night. Three whole nights of uninterrupted sleep. Two whole days of grown-up meals and restaurant visits that didn’t end in one of us cleaning the floor. I was excited.

And I felt guilty.

I planned my alone time (wah-hoo!) carefully. I wanted to do some window shopping and practice my photography hobby that has been sorely neglected. I wanted to take long, hot showers just because I could. And most of all, I wanted to just kick back without a schedule, without structure and just be.

Without feeling guilty.

When the day came for us to leave, I spent the last hour snuggled on the couch uncharacteristically letting the kids watch back-to-back episodes of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, just so I could hold them. At T-minus 30 minutes to departure, I was starting to blink back tears. What were they going to learn while I was gone? What if they missed me too much? My daughter is very attached to me. What if she doesn’t do well?

And then I felt really guilty.

When the time came to leave the kids in the hands of our wonderful nanny, I kissed and hugged them until they got annoyed with me and I cried all the way to the car. They, however, were in their own little world, which was great. No tears from them. I decided I had to get it together. I didn’t want the TSA thinking my husband was putting me on a plane against my will. So I put on some music that didn’t involve wheels on the bus or weasels popping, sat back, and enjoyed the ride.

And tried not to feel guilty.

Once we were there, I remembered how much I love traveling and enjoyed myself thoroughly. We had a fantastic dinner at a posh restaurant, saw the sights at night and during the day and, you guys, I even took a nap and relaxed in a hot tub! I was like a kid in a candy store.

And I tried not to feel guilty for not feeling guilty.

The kids did great while we were gone. Our fabulous nanny stayed with them and they did art projects, went to the park, and even met nanny’s dog. Our son really didn’t care where we were. As long as he had food, his bed and his trucks, all was well. Our daughter had a little rougher go of it. The first night, she had a tough time going to sleep, but after that she was fine. She asked about us a lot, but was satisfied with knowing that we would come back. All in all, it was good for us as adults to have some time together. We are better parents for it.

And I finally don’t feel guilty.

– Rebecca Calappi, Publications Coordinator at Beaumont Health System and adoptive parent of multiples

Macy’s Glam Pass Benefits Beaumont’s Children’s Hospital

Get your glam on!

Got the shopping bug? No need to make excuses to splurge on great summer clearance items or the fall’s hottest trends. Grab a Glam Pass at Macy’s and shop for a great cause—Beaumont Children’s Hospital.

The Macy’s Glam Pass Campaign runs now through August 12. Glam Passes cost $10 with all of the proceeds directly benefiting Beaumont Children’s Hospital.

In return for buying a pass, you receive two shopping incentives, plus other special offers from sponsors. At Macy’s, you can get 15 or 20 percent off when you “Choose Your Own Sale Day” on any one day from now to August 12. You’ll also receive $10 off your purchase of $30 or more at Macy’s between July 14 and August 12.

In 2013, Macy’s stores in Detroit and throughout Michigan sold 13,415 Glam Passes generating $67,183 for Beaumont Children’s Hospital. For 2014, the goal is to sell more than 13,500 passes.

Glam passes are available at all Macy’s locations until August 12. You can also buy a pass at the Beaumont Foundation.

If you have any questions, please call Lisa Stewart, Beaumont Foundation, at (248) 551-3607 or email lisa.stewart@beaumont.edu.

From Seed to Table: A Great Way to Challenge Your Picky Eater! (Beware: It’s Fun!)

Boy with young plants in garden

It’s fun seeing our plants grow from tiny seeds.

Remember the days when trying a new food with your baby was as simple as opening a jar? Those chubby cheeks would squeal with delight when a spoonful of squash or peas landed right on their taste buds. Once your children are old enough to tell you they don’t want to try the green beans, or push their plate away because they can see tomatoes in the spaghetti sauce, you may be wondering where your once-adventurous eater went!

Grow Your Own Food

A really fun way to get your kids curious about fruits and vegetables is to help them to grow their own. I found great success in getting my children to try new foods when we garden as a family. You can do this whether you have a garden at home or simply have some patio pots lying around.

There are a lot of vegetables that can be grown in containers big or small: lettuces, mini carrots, radishes, green onions, beets, beans, peas, potatoes, and even zucchini. There may not be a lot of time left to grow some of the plants, but in July, you can certainly try to grow radishes, lettuces, cucumbers, beans, and some others from seed. If you aren’t sure what you can grow, check the back of the seed packet as a guide. Some plants really enjoy the shade, so know that you are not limited to the amount of sunlight your plants receive!

Plants Amount of Light
Carrots partial sun
Peas partial sun
Cucumbers full sun
Beets partial sun
Beans (bush variety) partial sun
Basil full sun
Kale partial shade
Parsley partial shade
Radishes partial sun
Turnips partial sun
Lettuce partial shade
Green Onions full sun
Spinach partial shade

Full Sun = more than 8 hours of direct sunlight

Partial Sun = at least 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight

Partial Shade = no more than 2 to 4 hours of direct sunlight a day,
or filtered sunlight all day

A good way to start is to plant one seed, remembering that you’ll get one plant per seed. In some cases, you can plant two seeds to make sure one of them germinates. If they both sprout, just snip off the weaker one with some scissors. For really tiny seeds, like lettuce and carrot seeds, a pinch will do. Again, snip off the weaker sprouts. Also, be sure to note the “planting depth” on the back of the seed packet.

As you will see, the plants go through stages as they grow. Even as a tender seedling it’s hard to tell which plant it will turn into.  Once the plant is ready, have your kids harvest it and clean it off.

Time to Eat!

Work together as a family to look up some interesting recipes and chose one that they like. You’ll be surprised at how much more enthusiastic kids will be when trying new foods if they get to decide! Another idea is to find an age-appropriate preparation or cooking task for them to get them involved. Keeping them involved from seed to table is a great way to encourage what I like to call “adventurous eating” (seriously, what kid doesn’t love the word “adventure”?).

Make Gardening a Game

  • Match the Seed to Its Plant: Make a grid on some paper, or put seeds in a baggie and try to have the kids guess what the seed will turn into when you plant it. The kids love to feel the seeds and try to guess. Even I was surprised at first!
  • Guess the Seedling to Its Plant: This works if you planted a variety of seeds. To keep the fun going, pick up some note pads, or make your own mini research notebook. Have your child draw the seed, then the seedling, and keep notes as it grows. What do the leaves look like? Is the stem fuzzy, smooth, prickly? What do the flowers look like? And finally, what grew?
Seeds and paper for guess the seed game

Here’s my setup for the “Match the Seed to Its Plant” game.

You may not turn that picky eater into a foodie over night, but this is a great way to make healthy eating fun. Before you know it, you’ll have fewer plates pushed away at dinner and more children asking you to make that bean dish again!

– Joohi Schrader is a nutrition and food science major at Wayne State University, a mother of three amazing children, and a certified Square Foot Gardening instructor. She’s also a Parenting Program volunteer.


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