Disaster Preparedness: Tornado Safety

Photo of large, close up tornado

Unaltered photo. Paul McEnany, Flickr. CC License.

After the “Polar Vortex” this winter and recent mass flooding, many Michiganders have a new appreciation for disaster preparedness. Michigan’s most common potential disaster situations include thunderstorms, power outages, tornadoes and extreme winter temperatures. This special series will offer a few suggestions on how to make sure you and your family are ready.

Each year over 1,200 tornadoes hit the United States, causing about 60 deaths per year. It’s estimated that wind from tornadoes can reach up to 200 miles per hour, with most injuries and fatalities occurring from flying debris. A tornado can happen at any time, but most occur in spring and summer, often during the day between 3:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Here is what you need to know to keep you and your family safe from tornadoes.

  • Sign up for weather text alerts to notify you if you are asleep or outdoors away from the TV and radio. I use the free American Red Cross tornado app .
  • “Tornado Watch” means that weather conditions are capable of producing a tornado.
  • “Tornado Warning” means a tornado has been sighted; this is time to take cover! The average warning time from until touchdown is 13 minutes, so move fast!
  • If you have a basement, gather the family there. If there’s not a basement, go to a first floor room away from windows, such a closet or bathroom.
  • Mobile homes don’t offer safe protection during a tornado. It’s important to seek alternative shelter early so you avoid driving when a tornado has been sighted.
  • If you’re in a car, seek shelter if possible or drive to avoid the tornado’s path.
  • When outdoors without shelter, lay flat in a ditch, cover your head and hang on to something sturdy if possible.

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

Pinterest Wins and Fails

Photo of giant water blob in a backyard

Pinterest inspired me to make this giant water blob.

Confession: I’m not “crafty.” I can’t crank out beautifully handmade Christmas cards, or “ooh” and “ahhh” over my kids’ scrapbook. But Pinterest has a strange power over me. I look at it and think, “I can bake a three-tiered, Mickey Mouse-themed birthday cake.”


Still, I keep trying projects on Pinterest, hoping that one day something will work.

A Few of My Greatest Hits

  • The hidden objects bottle was awesome for a long car trip. I used orange juice bottles, which in hindsight were a bit too heavy, and put all kinds of objects in it to find. The kids loved it.
  • My husband made the PVC car wash sprinkler out of scraps in the garage. He felt very manly. This toy soaks the grass, so make sure you move it around frequently.
  • This one has nothing to do with kids, but I’m telling you — it turns out perfect every time and it’s easy. Make this bread once, and it’ll be your signature dish forever.
  • Then there was my home organization kick. My kitchen cabinets were driving me nuts so I reorganized them. Why didn’t I think to store water bottles on their sides, instead of standing them up so I have to knock them over and catch them before they hit someone, or make a loud noise that wakes the kids? It’s brilliant!
  • I also loved hanging the scissors on the inside of a high cabinet. Note: I tried this with a small nail first, but the scissors kept flying out of the cabinet when the door opened, which freaked out a few people (including my unsuspecting husband). So, I bought some small screw-in hooks. Worked like a charm.
Scissors hanging inside a cabinet door

Hanging the scissors inside a high cabinet keeps them out of the reach of curious kids.

Some of My Pinterest Fails

  • I saw this system of tunnels and thought it was a great way to use empty diaper and wipes boxes. So I carved out tunnels to drive cars through. Unfortunately, the kids didn’t actually use the tunnels for what they were intended. Nope. Instead, they pretended the boxes were cars and flipped them over and sat in them. And, no. I didn’t get all fancy with my tape.
  • Let’s not forget the water blob. The kids were only “eh” about this one. So, yeah, it was more trouble than it was worth and I ended up looking like a Smurf because of a blue food-coloring backfire. Also, the instructions said I’d be done ironing by the time the Doc McStuffins “I Feel Better” song was over. Not so. I watched two episodes of Downton Abbey.

What are your Pinterest wins/fails? C’mon! We’ll always applaud the effort.

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

100,000 Families: A Milestone to Celebrate!

Woman with interacting with 2 babies

Shout it from the mountain tops! Put on your party hats! Break out in dance! Rejoice in song! This week, the Parenting Program celebrates providing support and education to over 100,000 families! Woo! Woo!

A Bit of History

The Beaumont Parenting Program began 34 years ago as a research project with Michigan State University. With a focus on community outreach and primary prevention, this free program was designed to provide a safe environment where new parents could share, learn and grow together. Central to the project: matching experienced, trained parent volunteers with new parents to help educate and mentor them.

Ever-Growing, Ever-Changing

Since its inception in 1980, Beaumont’s Parenting Program continues to grow in scope and size. What began as a small “neighborhood” project, with only a handful of volunteers, has grown into a program with over 300 dedicated volunteers who provide support and education to more than 5,000 families annually. As market trends shift and family’s needs change, our program continues to evolve finding new and innovative ways to meet the needs of the community. Some recent highlights include:

  • In 2008 we became the first hospital in southeast Michigan, among only a handful of hospitals in the nation, to develop a comprehensive program focused on postpartum adjustments and depression.
  • In 2009 the Parenting Program developed Beaumont’s first consumer Facebook fan page that now has a following of close to 2,000 fans.
  • In 2010 we launched Beaumont’s first consumer blog for new parents. In the first two months, we had over 4,000 viewers and now we have a fan base that reaches out to over 91 countries.
  • In 2012 we successfully launched an “in-room” car seat safety education program.

Award Winning and Unique to Beaumont Health

We are especially proud that for almost 35 years, we have what no other hospital in the state of Michigan has: an award-winning Parenting Program. When comparing our local and national hospital systems, there is no other hospital-based program that offers such in-depth and comprehensive services. Presented with two national awards in the past five years, the Parenting Program continues to be commended for inspiring community impact, collaboration, innovation and best practices. Recognized as a “Program of Excellence” and considered a “Jewel in the Community,” the Parenting Program is a shining example of service at its best. It embodies the true spirit of giving and generosity. It embodies the true mission of Beaumont Health.

Program Impact

When you stop to think about the sheer number and measurement of “100,000” families, it is indeed an astounding sum and achievement. But when you think about the true impact, the uniqueness is in the stories from the touch of one person to a plenitude of families. The stories come in many shapes and many forms and the paths lead to incredible accounts of success, dedication, compassion, friendships, heroic actions, and even life-saving measures.

Volunteers are the Foundation of Our Success

Beaumont Parenting Program Advisory Board

At the heart of the Parenting Program is a group of compassionate and dedicated volunteers who give selflessly of their time and passion to help provide support to new parents. A special shout out to all of our volunteers past and present: It is through your efforts that we have been able to support and educate over 100,000 Beaumont families. Thank you for making every effort to ensure that our focus and commitment remains on the needs of our children and their families, that our focus remains on building a strong and healthy community. To our amazing volunteers, keep your passion for new parents filled with the genuine belief that you are making a difference in the world each and every day.

A very special thanks goes out to our amazing staff, generous donors, and our community partners for your dedication and commitment to serving the diverse needs of our community.

We are filled with great pride and exuberance as we announce this major achievement. Please “like” this post if you are proud and exuberant too!

This post is dedicated to Beth Frydlewicz, our fearless leader of the Parenting Program for more than 25 years. You are an inspiration to all!

Picking Healthy With the Family: Pumpkins

Boy in pumpkin patch holding pumpkin

Fall is here! To me, fall is about three things: pumpkin spice lattes, leggings with boots, and most importantly, timeless moments spent with my family. I gather up my favorite recipes for things like homemade pumpkin pie, breads, muffins and even pumpkin ravioli! Seasonal recipes are always a favorite within families, yet many people may not know how amazingly healthy and pumpkins are in themselves.

When we visit Blake Farms, we make sure to stop at the pumpkin patch where we select our own pumpkins right from their birth places (although I feel as if the pumpkin is the one who chooses you).

Like apples, pumpkins come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. I enjoy growing my own pie pumpkins (the small, round ones) but you can certainly find these at most pumpkin patches, road side stands or cider mills as well. My daughter especially likes the little mini “baby” pumpkins used for decoration, while my boys boast over who found the biggest/most round/coolest looking pumpkin in the patch (and then leave me to do all the carving!).


While pumpkins are fun to decorate and carve, they are also really healthy (no that doesn’t give you an excuse to eat more pumpkin pie!). Almost all parts of the pumpkin are edible, too. In pumpkins, you will find:

  • Carotenoids. One example is beta-carotene, which is responsible for the bright orange color. The body converts this into a form of vitamin A that is beneficial to eyesight, especially in dim light.
  • Vitamin A – It’s good for sight, but also helps regulate and maintain the integrity of skin and mucus membranes. One cup of cooked pumpkin contains more than 200 percent of the RDA.
  • Polyphenols.  Just like in the apples, polyphenols or flavonoids are chemicals found in plants that act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents.
  • Vitamin C. A powerful antioxidant.
  • Vitamin E. This antioxidant has properties such as removing free radicals from the body.
  • A variety of B vitamins. Includes folate, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, and B6. They are important for cell metabolism.
  • Minerals. Phosphorus, Potassium, Calcium, and Copper.
  • Dietary fiber. This keeps you full longer and gut healthy. It’s heart healthy and lowers LDL cholesterol.
  • Don’t forget those pumpkin seeds! The seeds also contain nutrients such as dietary fiber, monounsaturated fatty acids, protein, minerals and vitamins. Just 100g of seeds contain 110 percent of the RDA for iron, and also contain tryptophan, an essential amino acid that can help boost your mood by producing serotonin.

Wow! Who knew pumpkins were such a powerhouse of nutrients?

Selecting and Picking Your Pumpkin

As I mentioned before, pumpkins vary in appearance. Colors can range from red to yellow, and green to gray. They are closely related to squash and the names can be used interchangeably. The official “botanical classification” is actually based on the stem. Pumpkins have a more rigid, prickly stem that bends on an angle, while squash have more of a soft, rounded stem that flares where it attaches to the body. Here are some tips for selecting pumpkins at the orchard (or store) and storing them:

  • Look for a solid and attached stem that is dark green in color.
  • Make sure there are no soft spots or wrinkles.
  • Consistent coloring.
  • Listen for a “woody” sound when tapping on them.
  • If you are using your pumpkins as jack-o-lanterns, make sure they sit flat.
  • Never use the stem to pick up your pumpkin. You should always grab it by the body.
  • Pumpkin season ranges from September to November, with peak season in October.
  • Soak your gutted out pumpkin in a bath of ice water before carving. It will keep your pumpkin crisp for much longer when left outside.
  • Cut the bottom of your pumpkin out instead of the top so it stays upright as it gets old, instead of caving in.

Pumpkin Fun Facts

  • They are native to North America, and date back to 7000 and 5500 BC.
  • Antarctica is the only continent unable to grow pumpkins.
  • The biggest producer of pumpkins is the United States. Canada and Mexico are second and third, respectively.
  • There are 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins grown each year in the United States.
  • Illinois produces the most pumpkins, followed by Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and California.

– 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.



“Eight Impressive Health Benefits of Pumpkin”. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/04/pumpkin-health-benefits_n_1936919.html

National Institutes of Health: U.S. National Library of Medicine. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/

Self Nutrition Data. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2601/2

Picking Healthy With the Family: Apples

Photo of 3 kids holding apples

Fall brings cooler temps and changing tree colors, but nothing says fall more than a trip (or few trips) to the cider mill.

Cider mills and orchards are a big part of our family tradition and have been a part of my life as long as I can remember. I grew up with family who owned apple orchards in Mason County, so I was always around them. In fact, my great uncle used to own “Mason County Fruit Packers” or what I think is now called “Indian Summer”. My dad even worked there and I always had lots of apple juice and sauce around the house.  Being around cider mills (and even talking about them) makes me feel like a kid again!

Now that I have my own little family, every year my husband, kids and I go to various cider mills around our area. Sure, apples are available year round in most grocery stores, but there’s something special about going out together as a family and picking them fresh from a tree or farm. They just seem to taste so much better than the ones sitting under fluorescent lights in a grocery store.

Apples come in many sizes and colors. There are actually around 7,500 different varieties, with the United States growing 2,500 of those! The United States is second on the list of top producers of apples, with China as #1. You can find a decent variety at many u-pick cider mills and orchards, ranging from around five to more than a dozen different varieties.


Most people are aware that apples are nutritious. We all know the phrase “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” all too well. There’s a lot of truth to that statement! Apples are a low calorie treat, with no saturated fats or cholesterol; 100g of an apple contains only 50 calories. When eating apples, be sure to eat the peel as well, since most of the nutrients below are found there.

  • Vitamin C. Apples are loaded with vitamin C, which is needed for the growth and repair of your tissues. It’s also an antioxidant that can help your body develop tools to fight off infections. Further, it helps to find and eliminate harmful free radicals in your body that can lead to aging, and possibly cancer or heart disease.
  • “Phyto-nutrients” like polyphenols and flavonoids. If you’re not sure what polyphenols or flavonoids are, they are chemicals found in plants that act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. More research is needed to see if they actually play a beneficial role in the body, but in cell cultures they are shown to be effective.
  • B vitamins. This group of vitamins includes riboflavin, thiamin and B6, which are all co-factors for cellular metabolism and synthesis. More simply put: they turn the food you eat into energy.
  • Minerals. Nutrients such as potassium, phosphorus and calcium, can help regulate body fluids and help control heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Dietary fiber. Also known as insoluble fiber or “roughage.” This is a carbohydrate that slows digestion and allows you to feel fuller longer, helping you control your weight. It increases stool bulk and aids in preventing constipation.
  • Pectin. This soluble fiber draws water from your intestinal tract and forms a gel to also slow digestion. It helps prevent the body from absorbing LDL (bad) cholesterol leading to the prevention of coronary heart disease. Pectin is also thought to keep your intestinal flora healthy and in check, which means better nutrient break down, absorption and ability to fight off any viruses of bad bacteria.

Selecting and Picking Your Apples

Metro Detroit offers many locations for fresh apple picking. Our personal favorite is Hy’s Cider Mill in Romeo, Blake Farms in Armada, and Yates Cider Mill in Rochester Hills. Here are a few tips when selecting and picking your apples:

  • Look for firm, bruise-free apples.
  • Ripeness is not color dependent.
  • Apples ripen from the outside of the tree to the center.
  • Apples on the sunny side of the tree ripen first.
  • To pick an apple from the tree: Roll the apple upwards towards the branch and twist. Don’t pull straight down. If the apple falls, it’s fine!
  • Apples stop ripening once they’re picked.
  • To store apples : Keep them at room temperature for a few days, or store them in the refrigerator for two to three weeks. Apples also like to be kept in the cool garage or basement.
  • Don’t wash them until they are ready to be eaten.

Fun Apple Facts (That even I didn’t know!)

  • Apples are members of the rose family.
  • The study of apples is called pomology.
  • Lady apples are the oldest variety still in existence.
  • Apples originated in an area between the Caspian and Black Sea.
  • Pilgrims planted the first apple tree in Massachusetts.
  • In 2006–2007, 44,119,244 metric tons of apples were grown.
  • It takes 36 apples to make 1 gallon of cider.
  • A “Peck” = Approximately 10.5 lbs.
  • A “Bushel” = About 42 lbs.
  • They are grown in all 50 states.
  • Eight percent of all apples commercially available are grown in Michigan.
  • Apples are ranked #1 in antioxidant activity compared to 40 other available fruits and vegetables.
  • Red delicious most commonly grown variety in the United States.
  • Indians in the northwestern territory smoked apples to preserve them for the winter.

To find a cider mill or U-pick near you, visit pickyourown.org. It’s a great site that also includes recipes, and other interesting info on fruits and vegetables.

Where does your family like to go apple picking? Do you have a fall family tradition or recipe to share? I’d love to hear about it!

– 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.



“Apple Picking Tips”.  http://www.pickyourown.org/applepicking.htm

“Five Health Benefits of an Apple”.  http://www.eatingwell.com/nutrition_health/nutrition_news_information/5_health_benefits_of_an_apple

National Institutes of Health: U.S. National Library of Medicine. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/

Self Nutrition Data. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1809/2

Vaccine Awareness

Little boy playing in leaves

As we settle into fall and winter approaches, it’s inevitable that part of your little one’s exploration will include viral/bacterial contact. While it may only lead to a simple cold, it could be something more serious with vaccine-preventable illnesses such as pertussis (whooping cough), measles and influenza (flu) on the rise. The best way to combat illness is with prevention measures such as hand-washing and through immunizations.

The World Health Organization estimates that vaccines prevent 2–3 million deaths per year from vaccine-preventable illnesses. Immunizations protect people against communicable diseases that can be spread through contact or droplets in the air. Immunizations work by vaccinating using a dead or weakened virus/bacteria, which triggers an immune response that prompts the body to create an antibody that will attack and destroy that specific pathogen if a person is exposed again. Some vaccines will require boosters before a person is fully immunized.

Vaccines do more than protect individuals; they protect communities through a concept known as herd immunity. We rely on herd immunity to help protect those who don’t respond to a vaccine or who are unable to get the vaccine due to allergy or contraindications. Herd immunity relies on 95 percent of the population being vaccinated. Unfortunately due to a reduction in vaccination rates, vaccine-preventable illnesses such as pertussis, measles and influenza are on the rise in the United States and worldwide.

  • A decline in the vaccination rate of the population led to an increase in measles outbreaks where herd immunity had been compromised. In 2011 the measles vaccination rate in France dropped to 89 percent; following the decline in the vaccination rate, 14,000 people in France developed measles.
  • A spike in pertussis cases in 2012 led to 18 deaths in the United States, mostly in infants under 3 months of age. In 2013 the number of reported pertussis cases declined and was attributed to widespread immunization of adolescents and adults to pertussis. While pertussis cases still were quite high in 2013 even with the year-over-year reduction, hopefully with increasing knowledge a further reduction will occur annually.

While children receive the majority of vaccines in the first two years of life, children may not be fully protected until they’ve had all of their boosters. Infants are the most vulnerable to disease, which is why the immunization schedule specifies the majority of vaccines to be received by two years of age. In light of the natural vulnerability of infants, it’s important to make sure that the whole family is up–to-date on immunizations to protect those who haven’t been fully immunized or are too young to receive immunizations. Certain immunizations like the flu shot need to be given annually due to the ever-changing morphology of the influenza viruses.

Myths and misinformation may confuse parents who are trying to make sound decisions regarding vaccines. Certain allergies or disease conditions may make it so a person is not a candidate for a vaccine. Make sure to get the facts and speak with your child’s health care provider if you have concerns regarding the safety of vaccines.

While exploration is wonderful to a child’s development, it’s important to ensure they are safe while doing so. As influenza season begins in October, this is the perfect time of year to evaluate the entire family’s immunization status in preparation for a healthy winter.

– Melissa Rettmann, M.S., PA-C, has a background in pediatrics and allergy. She is the mother of a toddler and volunteers with the Parenting Program.



Meet the Parenting Program Staff: Lori Polakowski

Photo of Lori Polakowski

Lori Polakowski is an
Individual Family Support Coordinator with the Parenting Program.

Where did you grow up?
North Manchester, IN.

Tell us something about your family.
My husband and I have a combined family with five children, one dog, one Russian tortoise, and one cat.

Why did you choose to be part of the Parenting Program?
I volunteered for five years before becoming a student intern. My first contact with the BPP was Beth Frydlewicz who was incredibly enthusiastic which was contagious.

Who or what inspires you?
My 3 daughters—watching them become young women and seeing what choices they make for their own lives.

What are your hobbies or special interests?
Traveling to countries I’ve never been before

What’s your favorite family-friendly destination?

What’s your favorite movie? Book?
A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley

What’s your favorite meal?
An interesting vegetable dish with pickerel

What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?
I don’t particularly like ice cream because it’s cold. Much prefer carrot cake.

Share something about you that might surprise us.
I grew up in a town of 5,000 people. As a teenager I thought it was so boring but as a 50 year old, driving down country roads surrounded by corn fields makes me feel calm and happy.


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Free Developmental Screening

Confidential online developmental screening for children up to age 5



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