Childcare: The Great Debate Rages On

Mary Poppins and Bert

image credit: Sam Howzit, Flickr

Mary Poppins wanted. Chimney sweep boyfriend not required.

That was how our ad for a new nanny read when we sadly posted it on SitterCity.com a month ago.

Our nanny, who has been with us since I returned from maternity leave two years ago, is moving out of state. After this winter, I really don’t blame her, but now we had to look for someone else to watch the kids while my husband and I work.

My kids have always had the nanny come to our home and care for them. It was easier for me in the morning to not have to pack up twins and get them to daycare and me to work with some semblance of punctuality. But now my options were open again. Daycare? Nanny? Spend more time at home? What’s a mom to do?

We did our due diligence and toured daycares and even considered me staying home more. But those options just weren’t for us. While the daycares were completely wonderful, it didn’t feel right for our kids. And the thought of me staying home all the time sounded good at first, but the more I thought about it, the more panicky I became. Nope, not an option.

We settled on a new nanny. After weeding through dozens of applications (When I specified that I wanted an “experienced” person, the 19-year-old with “10 years of experience” doesn’t count. Not even a little.), we settled on seven for phone interviews (to this day my husband and I both swear that one of them was either high or getting high while on the phone with us) and gave four in-person interviews. A job offer was extended and she accepted! A huge weight was lifted off our shoulders.

We’re looking forward to working with the new nanny, and at the same time, we’re sad to see Original Nanny leave. But we have a transition plan in place and our fingers crossed that all goes well.

How do you handle childcare? Do you ever feel like you’re being judged? What do you say?

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

A Letter to Parents of Typical Kids

Autism Awareness

Unaltered image. Credit: Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office.

Dear Parents of Typical Kids:

Do you know how exceptional many of your children are? Your kids are surprisingly open-minded about others and accepting of those who are different.

I see them learning in school with my eight-year-old son who has autism. I hear them on the playground interacting with him. I watch them in gymnastics class, Sunday school, and swim lessons. They don’t seem to mind when he squeaks because he’s happy or when he protests loudly because a light bulb is burned out.

My heart melts when they gently remind Evan to bow at the end of their music concert or when they wait for him because he takes longer to put his coat on.

As second graders they may not be completely familiar with the word “autism”, but for now they aren’t really interested in labels anyway. I know that this will probably change as they get older, but right now I am ridiculously proud of them and cautiously hopeful that they’ll remain accepting and tolerant.

April is autism awareness month and to build awareness we must all work hard on building understanding and acceptance. As adults we can learn a great deal about acceptance from our kids. Get comfortable with your child in the driver’s seat and let him or her be your guide.

Our children are accustomed to being around others with different needs. Most likely there’s at least one student who comes into the classroom with noticeable physical and or cognitive differences. In our defense, many of us didn’t have anyone with special needs in our classes when we were in school.

Take a moment and ask your children if there are students in their classes who need a little extra help from the adults in their school. If they’re older, ask them if any of their classmates have autism or other special needs. Encourage your children to talk about these students. What makes them unique? What do they like about them? How do they interact with them? What did they learn from having that particular student as a classmate?

I bet you’ll be impressed with their answers.

Many of your kids are a testament to good parenting. You are the parents who teach your children to embrace those who are different. You teach them how to respect others through your words and your actions. Even when you think they aren’t listening or watching, they’re taking in a lot more than you think. Keep up the good work so they continue to grow into altruistic big people.

Some children have compassion in spite of their parents. For every positive interaction I’ve seen from my son’s peers, I’ve also had the unfortunate experience of witnessing negativity, judgment and disdain from adults. For example when my son goes up to strangers and asks if they have spider webs in their basements, he‘s often ignored. Yes, it is a weird question, but not a hard one to answer.

Similarly when my son suddenly has a public meltdown, adults often look at him with hostility or annoyance. It drives me crazy when parents use his meltdown as a teachable moment to show their children how not to behave. While your intentions may be good, there’s a better, non-judgmental way to teach your child.

Instead, ask your child why he or she thinks the other child is acting that way. Most likely your child will say that the kid is being bad. A more open-minded response is to point out that maybe the tantruming child (typically developing or special needs) just got hurt, is scared because he thought he lost his mom, or any number of alternative explanations. While this may or may not be the reason for the child’s meltdown, at least you’re teaching your own child that he or she shouldn’t be so quick to judge because things aren’t always as they seem.

I can guarantee that my son isn’t upset because I won’t let him have a cookie. More likely he’s bothered by a sight, sound or smell that you or I barely notice but to him is an all-out assault on his nervous system. Almost anything can set off a child with autism: from the sound of a fly buzzing to the smell of a burnt pancake. Others are bothered by the slightest change in routine. For example, if the child is used to entering a building through a specific door and that door is locked, a meltdown is likely to follow. Ask your child what sets off his classmate. My son’s peers will tell you that Evan hates it when the teacher turns off the lights.

On behalf of Evan and all the other children with autism, take a moment this month to help build awareness so that our kids continue to grow up in a world that accepts and understands those who are different. And while you’re at it, tell your kids that Evan’s mom says thanks for being so awesome.

—Jen Lovy, Beaumont Parenting Program Volunteer

Editor’s Note: Subscribe to our blog to read posts throughout April for more resources and about living with Autism. You can also search the tag “autism” on our blog. We’d love to hear your story, too.  Share it with us in the comments.

Heidi’s Hints: Top 5 Money-Saving Meal Tips

Heidi Wilson with her husband Brent and children Grayson (3½) and Ellie (1½).

Heidi Wilson with her husband Brent and children Grayson (3½) and Ellie (1½).

Hi! I’m Heidi Wilson and my passion is helping families save time and money in the kitchen while making quick, easy and healthy meals. The goal for my blog posts is to help you escape dinnertime chaos so you can enjoy the awesome bonding opportunity that the family meal presents. I’m excited to give helpful tips and advice on how to make meal planning and prep simple and affordable, and will answer the daily question of “What’s for dinner??” I’ll also provide you with some tried and true recipes that are sure to become family favorites at your house. Don’t worry; I won’t be asking you to clip coupons, shop 12 different stores, or become a gourmet chef. Let’s face it: very few of us have the time or energy for all of that. If you do, that’s amazing! You’re definitely more organized than I am. Instead I’ll share you with the tips/tricks I use on a daily basis to make my life as a working mom of two a heck of a lot easier.

Now let’s get to those money-saving tips!

  1. Take inventory of your pantry and freezer. Most of us have much more food hidden in those two spots than we think. Start by working your recipes around the items you already have.
  2. Keep recipes to a short list of ingredients. Not only will this keep meal costs down, it will make your prep time much quicker and easier. You can get a lot of flavor from just a few ingredients when you use them the right way.
  3. Choose recipes that share ingredients. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has spent $5 on a specific spice for a recipe only to use a few tablespoons and then have it sit in my pantry for months. When planning your meals, choose recipes that share spices, marinades and oils, so you get the biggest bang for your buck from the groceries you purchase. I love to buy spice blends instead of individual spices. You get great flavor and only need to buy one ingredient!
  4. Stock up on sales. I’m not suggesting you buy out your grocery store when chicken goes on sale, but if you see something on sale that you would use on a regular basis buy extra and freeze it. Many things besides meat/seafood can be frozen without compromising texture/flavor: bread, cheese, vegetables (when using in a cooked preparation) and fruit (great for smoothies). I always season and marinate my meat and sometimes even veggies before freezing to add the most flavor.
  5. Have a meal plan and shop from a list. I’m sure this one doesn’t surprise anyone, but this is one of the single, most important things you can do to save money! Having a plan and shopping from a list will help keep you from all of those impulse buys once you get to the store. If you inventory your pantry/freezer and plan meals before going to the store, you’ll be pleasantly surprised that your grocery list is much shorter. It also means less money spent on things you don’t actually need. Bonus: Fewer trips and less time spent at the grocery store. Yay!

I hope you find these tips helpful and I’m looking forward to sharing more great tips/tricks in the weeks to come.

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

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

Books, Books, Everywhere!

Madeline reading Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

I don’t know about your house, but mine has books all over it. They’re under the tables, in the bedrooms, in the diaper bag, the closet, the bookshelf and they’re in that bucket that sits in the corner of the living room because it’s too heavy to move.

I love that my kids love to read with us. We used to do “Books on a Blanket” in the evenings. I’d spread a fleece blanket on the floor and tell the kids to go get three books. They’d come back with armloads and we’d read all of them. With one twin sitting on my lap and the other sitting on my husband’s lap, we’d each read different stories. Until one twin got interested in what the other was reading and strayed to greener pastures.

But we don’t do that anymore. It’s too structured. I like watching the frenzy that happens when we declare, “Reading time!” and the kids hustle off to get every book possible because we don’t want to miss a single one. We have to make sure Chicka Chicka Boom Boom ends at the top of the coconut tree, just as it always does.

I’m an avid reader myself. As a kid I remember reading under my blankets at night with a nightlight and taking a book outside for recess. I loved the Little House on the Prairie series, the Chronicles of Narnia, the Baby-Sitters Club, Sweet Valley High and anything Judy Blume. It’s probably why I became a writer.

It’s nice to have something in common with my kids. Even though they’re 2 and I’m — ahem — not, we all love to read. Sure, we don’t get as much fulfillment out of each other’s book choices, but that’s OK. Reading is reading. It’s good for us.

Maybe tonight instead of watching Barney we’ll have a barnyard dance then we’ll hop on pop and say good night moon.

What are your favorite children’s books?

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

The Goodness of Homemade Baby Food

Ann in Baby food class

Have you ever thought about making your own baby food? Homemade baby food can be reassuring because you know exactly what goes into the food you serve. You avoid preservatives and fillers, which can be especially helpful when babies have food allergies or sensitivities.

Did you know homemade baby food is also:

  • Nutritious? By choosing fruits and vegetables that are either in season or frozen (which are picked at the peak of freshness) you help retain nutrients. You can also opt for grains, meats, beans and lentils.
  • Versatile? As baby grows and chewing abilities develop, you can prepare food as thick or chunky as your child can manage.
  • A cost-savings? Preparing your own baby food can be less expensive than buying commercial food.

Getting started can feel daunting though. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, come join our interactive class!

In one night, we’ll talk about necessary equipment and supplies, different cooking methods, and safe storage options. Most importantly, we’ll prepare several recipes from the first introduction of solids moving into finger foods.

You’ll leave with a wealth of information, a handout and a great booklet of baby recipes like the one below.

Our next class will be on March 24, 2014. We’ll meet at the Beaumont Health Center at 4949 Coolidge Highway, Royal Oak, MI 48073 from 6 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. The cost is $15 per person, but there’s no fee for Parenting Program volunteers.

To sign up, call (248) 633-7377 or register online.

We look forward to seeing you!

Apple Puree
For babies 6 months and up
(Recipe from Cooking for Baby by Lisa Barnes)

Ingredients:

  • 6 apples, quartered and cored just before cooking (Gala, Fuji, Pink Lady, Golden and Red Delicious are naturally sweet).

Directions:

  1. Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a saucepan. Put apples in a steamer basket, set in pan. Cover and steam until tender when pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes or longer if necessary.
  2. Let cool, reserving cooking liquid. Scrape flesh from skins and puree in a food processor until smooth. Add reserved cooking liquid to thin puree if desired.

Storage:

  • Refrigerate cooled apple puree in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
  • To freeze: spoon individual portions into ice-cube trays or other baby food freezer containers and freeze up to 3 months.

Note:
Cooking apples with the skin on retains more nutrients. Golden, Red Delicious and Fuji are least acidic, making them good choices for baby.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

image credit: Paul Hamilton, Flickr

image credit: Paul Hamilton, Flickr

The more I read about how to raise happy and healthy children, the more I learn that it’s all about being a role model. You can tell them over and over again to be a certain way, but what they’re really going to do is learn by watching you.

In celebration of March is Reading Month, be a reading role model for your children. If we want them to read, let them see us reading!

You might be thinking, “I haven’t read since my child was born! Where do I begin?” Start getting ideas on what to read either on Shelfari or Goodreads. Here’s what I’ve read on Shelfari. I love getting suggestions from other readers and I like references to what I’ve read in the past.

Here are some helpful tips on becoming a reading role model:

  1. Set your alarm and wake up a little early to read with a cup of coffee.
  2. Keep your books next to your bed and wind down in the evening by reading.
  3. Sit next to your child during quiet time (normally for older children who have outgrown naps) and read your book while they read or browse their own. Remember the importance of reading to your child as well, but sitting down together for quiet time is special.
  4. Ask your partner to have an hour to yourself on the weekends. Maybe you escape to a quiet room in your house and read. I personally like to bring my book to read while I get a pedicure!
  5. Keep your book handy. You may have to wait a good 30 minutes at a doctor appointment. With today’s technology, you can read your book on your phone while waiting.
  6. Take your book with you in the car so when you arrive early to pick up your child from school, your time waiting in the car can be spent reading.
  7. A lot of people complain they don’t have time to read. Think about what you’re doing with your time in the evenings after the kids are in bed. If you’re tuning into reality show after reality show, then you do have time to read but are choosing to use your time in a different way. I was hooked on Lifetime movies for a few months and I was going to bed feeling anxious because I knew how much more I enjoyed reading than watching reruns of really bad movies!

Make the time to read!

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

Have You Ever Heard Snow Fall?

image credit: Rob Shenk, Flickr

image credit: Rob Shenk, Flickr

Can you believe the amount of energy we’ve poured out in the past month? Let’s spend time connecting more with ourselves.

Answer “Yes” or “No” to the following statements:

  1. Do you have enough time for yourself?
  2. Is every minute of every day scheduled for something?
  3. Do you feel you’ve lost sight of who you are?
  4. Can you remember the last time you took a day off to do something fun, something just for you?
  5. Do you feel stressed out most of the time?
  6. Do you sometimes feel as though you never have a chance to catch your breath before moving on to the next project?
  7. Can you remember the last time you finished a book that you read purely for pleasure?
  8. Do you wish you had more time for some outside interests and hobbies, but simply don’t?
  9. Do you often feel exhausted —  even early in the week?
  10. Do you do what you do because so many people (children, partners, parents) depend on you for support?

You probably see the theme presented as you answer those questions. As caregivers, our focus tends to be on those around us rather than ourselves. Every article or magazine we read on “taking care of ourselves” says the same thing: if we don’t do it, we will pay the greatest price, our own health and well-being.

A healthy life balance includes five areas: intellectual, physical body, social, emotional, and spiritual. These forces are in constant motion. When we feel a sense of control over our world and ourselves, we feel steady and comfortable. There is balance between giving and taking.

“Intellectual wellness is the ability to learn new things and expand your mind… Physical wellness is eating healthy, exercising, resting, and avoiding harmful habits… Social wellness relates to your ability to connect with others and maintain healthy relationships… Emotional wellness is the ability to recognize your emotions and deal with them is a healthy way on a daily basis… Spiritual wellness is finding meaning and purpose in your life.” (Jennifer Treger, University of Maryland, 2002)

A life-changing moment came when I wasn’t caring for myself. It took place at a parent group. We were talking about our favorite moments as a child and a Dad said, “When I heard snow falling.” I never heard snow falling and asked him to explain further. His reply was, “I walked outside during a snowfall, closed my eyes and just listened. I could hear the snow fall.” I asked, “ What does it sounds like?” His silence was followed by the comment, “Slow down, stop and listen.” I followed his recommendation and actually understand the beauty in hearing snow fall!

– Beth Frydlewicz, System Director Volunteer Services, Beaumont Health System


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