Is she really ours?


When they put our oldest daughter in my arms at the hospital, I had an odd feeling that someone would come and take her away. She was too perfect, too precious to be ours. I waited for them to come back and say “our bad” and give us the right baby. They never did.

I realize now I was scared to ruin something so beautiful and right if that makes sense. I wasn’t sure if I had what it took to be a father—still don’t some days—and that sense of doubt makes parenting a challenge. You second-guess yourself a lot. You wonder if what you’re doing is setting up your child for success or a lifetime of therapy … or both!

There are a ton of books on parenting, but not one is titled “Being the Dad of Abby,” so they aren’t much help to me. Sure, they give great advice on raising a typical child, but as every parent knows, there is no such thing as a typical child. Every child is different, and in our house the difference between Abby and her sister is night and day.

Let me say I had the same feeling at the hospital with our youngest as I did with Abby, but on a different level. She was just as perfect and couldn’t be ours, but when Abby saw her sister and held her for the first time, I knew both of them were ours. I digress.

Those parenting books tell you never to compare your children, but we do. Your oldest set the bar and reached certain milestones that we all compare to our future children. It’s human nature for a parent to see how one is doing over the other, but what’s not right is pushing the younger ones if they aren’t meeting those milestones in the same amount of time. Allow the younger ones be their own people. Society will try to pigeonhole your children, so let them be themselves at home.

We’ve been a little freer with our little one, but not because we have become lax. Far from it. But we recognized early on that she’s more of a free spirit than her sister and she’s going to take a different path. Oh sure, she wants to do everything her big sister does, but she has an independent streak the Founding Fathers would have been envious of. She’s our comedian, our peacemaker and above everything else, our helper.

Self-doubt creeps into every parent’s head, but when you see your children use their “please and thank you” manners, you feel like you’re doing something right. This whole parenting thing can be boiled down to little victories—be it sleeping through the night for the little ones to walking out after parent/teacher conferences with your head held high, you start to realize you’re doing OK at this parenting thing.

It’s been a little more than nine years since they put Abby in my arms and they haven’t come back to get her, so I guess she’s here to stay and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

– Jim Pesta is a Parenting Program participant and father of two girls.

Myth busting: Speech delay in siblings


Myth: Younger siblings can have a speech and language delay because the older sibling(s) will interpret or speak for the younger child, possibly resulting in a need for speech-language therapy.

Truth: Parents often attribute a speech and language delay to a child being a younger sibling. However research shows that birth order isn’t a risk factor for speech and language delays; having an older sibling who speaks for a younger sibling doesn’t cause a delay in speech and language skills Although if a child has a delay, it is more likely others will talk for him/her.

While being a second (or third, fourth, etc.) sibling does not cause a speech and language delay, it can impact early language skills. Several research studies found:

  • First-born children reach the 50-word milestone earlier than later-born children. Later-born children quickly catch up, so there are no lasting differences in vocabulary.
  • First-born children have more advanced vocabulary and grammar skills, while later-born children have more advanced conversational skills.
  • Second-born children are more advanced with use of personal pronouns (e.g., he, she, them, they).

Birth order contributes to different language learning environments. First-born children may benefit from more one-one-one attention, while later-born children may benefit from hearing and participating in conversations between parents and other siblings. Neither of these environments are detrimental to speech and language development and there are no lasting developmental differences between first-born and later-born siblings.

Rather than compare first- and later-born children, it is important to focus on whether an individual child’s speech and language milestones are being met. Important milestones can be found here:

Ideas for stimulating speech and language skills can be found here.

If you have questions about your child’s language development, talk to your pediatrician or contact a speech-language pathologist.

– Amanda Vallance, M.A., CCC-SLP, Speech and Language Pathologist, Children’s Speech and Language Pathology Department, Beaumont Health


  • Berglund, E., Eriksson, M., Westerlund, M. (2005). Communicative skills in relation to gender, birth order, childcare and socioeconomic status in 18-month-old children. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 46, 6, 485–491.
  • Reilly, S. (2007). Predicting language at 2 years of age: a prospective community study. Pediatrics, 120, 6, e1441-9.


Should I be concerned about my child’s “W sitting”?

Boy sitting in W sit position

This is a frequent question pediatric therapists hear from parents of young children. W sitting is described as a child sitting with their buttock between their two feet, knees bent, and out to either side. If you looked at this child from above their legs make the letter W.

There are many schools of thought as to why a child sits in this position. It’s normal for a young child between the ages of 3–5 to move in and out of this position while playing. Children are born with more femoral anteversion or the thigh bones are turned in, as they grow the anteversion becomes less. This explains why a child can easily move in and out of this position but an adult would experience much more discomfort.

Many children choose this position for brief intervals of time because it’s comfortable and gives them a wider base of support to help maintain balance. However, there is however cause for concern if this is the child’s only preferred method of sitting, sits in this position for extended periods of time, or if there are other warning signs that accompany W sitting.

Some children lack the core and hip strength required to maintain an upright position while engaged in play. Core and hip weakness in children may present itself in different ways. Key things to watch for include

  • the inability to keep up with other children the same age,
  • toe walking,
  • a limp while walking or running,
  • a strong preference for only one side of the body,
  • walking “pigeon toed” and
  • complaints of pain or fatigue.

Sitting in the W position also limits a child’s ability to fully rotate the upper body resulting in delayed hand preference, decreased table top skills, and decreased ability to integrate both sides of the body into purposeful movement. This may affect a child’s school performance, handwriting and body coordination.

It’s also important to remember that young, growing bodies are affected by habitual patterns. If your child spends an extended period of time in this position, it will affect your child’s growth pattern, possibly leading to orthopedic complications down the road. Muscles may become shortened and tight affecting balance, coordination, and gross motor skill development. All of these above warning signs warrant a trip to the pediatrician and further investigation from a pediatric physical and/or occupational therapist as appropriate.

Not all children who W sit will encounter these health issues but it does increase the risk. Many of these conditions are treatable and preventable. Our advice to parents is to limit the amount of time spent W sitting. Children are wonderful at adapting an environment to engage in more meaningful activities of play. Give children different options for seated play, for example: side sitting with both legs out to one side, long sitting with feet out in front, crisscross or tailor sitting, and sitting on a small bench. These positions allow a child to develop strong core muscles, weight shift from one side to the other, use both sides of the body, develop rotation and hand dominance. Children may be resistant to the change of position at first but over time it will become easier, and more importantly positively affect their future growth and development.

– Christina Paniccia, pediatric physical therapist and supervisor at the Neighborhood Club Grosse Pointe

First in our hearts, then in our arms

Mom, dad and young girl closeup

Our adoption journey started the way many do. After a couple failed IVF attempts, my husband Greg and I began researching adoption. We knew a few people who adopted internationally and decided to explore Russia as an option. It was a well-established program and we could select an agency with a physical presence in the country, which would aid us when we traveled.

In February 2010, we met with our agency consultant and began filling out our initial application. We knew there was a possibility of a long wait—a year and a half to two years—to get a young child. Our families and friends were very supportive and excited, but also cautioned us not to get too far ahead of ourselves with preparations.

After a few months completing our initial paperwork, home studies and parenting classes, we submitted our dossier (the packet that details every part of your life from birth to present) to Russia. Time flew from February to May, but once those documents went into the FedEx envelope, it felt like the clock stopped. We busied ourselves with prepping the baby’s room and purchasing things we knew we would need when he or she came home, but there were many days where that wait took its toll.

In a matter of a mere two months, our lives forever changed on July 23, 2010.

The phone rang as I was getting ready for work, but I didn’t recognize the number so I didn’t answer. Within a minute, our landline rang. Caller ID showed our agency’s number, and I started thinking, “Oh no, what document did we not have stamped correctly?” or “Maybe we’ve been registered in a region, making us one step closer to receiving a placement.” When I answered, I could hear the excitement in our consultant’s voice. She was calling with wonderful news and was forwarding me an email regarding a 9-and-a-half-month-old baby girl in the Kaliningrad region. No words can describe how I felt at that moment! After hanging up, I immediately called Greg to share the news. He was in disbelief as well, as neither of us expected this to happen so quickly. I had waited to open the email until I was on the phone with him; we looked at the words on our screens, then finally saw the two beautiful pictures of the little girl who was already ours in our hearts. With our emotions in overdrive, we reviewed her medical information and social history, then made the decision to travel to meet her.

Just two-and-a-half weeks later, we took our first of two trips to Russia. Our nerves were high; we were traveling to a nation where we didn’t speak the language (we planned to learn more, but due to the short wait time we had, we only got through basic pleasantries). We were comforted knowing our agency had a strong presence in Russia, and that we would have a guide to travel with and an interpreter when meeting with orphanage personnel and government officials.

The first time we saw our daughter, we held back our desire to scoop her up, hug her and tell her how long we had waited for her because as much as we wanted to do those things, we didn’t want to overwhelm her. As we had learned from adoption professionals, while we were feeling the excitement and anticipation of creating our beautiful family, this child—regardless of how young—had experienced great loss through her life, and didn’t have continuity of care during time spent in an orphanage. We approached her with nothing but love in our hearts, and patience unlike we had ever known. We had a week in Russia on our first trip; only a few of those days included visits with our little girl, but we spent quality time bonding with her and were very grateful for every second. My husband and I instantly connected to her and it was painful to say goodbye when our trip ended. We felt blessed knowing that the caregivers in her orphanage seemed to take incredible care of her, and although there were a number of them, she responded very well to their love and affection.

Many families wait months after coming home the first time before receiving their next travel date, but we were given the return date for our second trip (and court date) before we even left Russia. We had to wait only six weeks before returning to go to court and bring our baby girl home.

Dad, mom and infant girl

A family photo after picking Anna up from the orphanage.

We were awarded custody on October 1, 2010, three days before our girl’s first birthday. The judge who presided over our case allowed us to have our daughter stay with us almost immediately after we were given custody. Russian law usually mandates a 10-day wait from custody being awarded to the day when parents were allowed to pick up their child, but in our case, we could bring her back to our hotel and begin our lives together from Day 3.

For those unfamiliar with the Russian adoption process, imagine having a child in your care for less than 24 hours, then boarding a plane from the child’s birth region, to fly to Moscow and spend 48 hours (including a long meeting at the Consulate’s office), only to board a plane and fly many hours to get to your home. In many cases, those first few days are the only time families have spent together, and children have no bonding time before they head to their new homes. Those extra days together allowed us to bond in a way that my husband and I will be forever grateful.

Our homecoming was very low-key. Our immediate families met us at the airport and helped us to reacclimate. Everyone was excited to meet our new addition, but because the three of us were so incredibly exhausted—physically and emotionally—we kept things pretty quiet. In the weeks that followed, family members hosted baby showers and welcome-home parties, and everyone was able to meet our beautiful daughter.

Over the last six years, we’ve watched our daughter grow and become an amazing little girl. Her heart is bigger than we could ever dream, and the love she shows to her family and friends is incredible. We’ve always talked very openly about her adoption, and have made it clear that she can ask anything she feels comfortable asking. We know that all adoptions are rooted in loss, and while we are incredibly blessed to have each other, there will be days when the questions may become more difficult, and that is something we prepare for. Each night, we pray a special prayer for her “tummy mommy in Kaliningrad” and do what we can to foster the knowledge that our family is blessed by adoption.

We are thankful for the path that we walked, because without our struggles many years ago, we would have never known this amazing gift of adoption.

– Brooke Schemers is the proud mom of Anna

Beyond the usual blessings

hot air balloon fiesta

During this time of year, the leaves turn to husks and the bitter winds sweep down from the north. In this season, we take stock of our surroundings and focus not on what nature takes away, but what is brought into our lives (and dinner tables). As we look forward to our Thanksgiving turkey with salivation, we should also consider the richness of the other bounty before us.

Of course, we are grateful for the usual things: family, friends, good health, and having our basic needs met. But the world is full of other wondrousness; this crisp, food-fueled time of year is the perfect opportunity to sit back, fold our hands upon our bellies, and contemplate just how blessed we are in other ways.

I offer for your consideration:

  • New Kids on the Block will be touring next summer. With Paula Abdul. It’s just like 1989, but without the jelly bracelets and stress about 9th grade geometry.
  • Euchre parties. I haven’t been to one in a really long time, but they are out there, being fun.
  • Cedar Point. The Demon Drop is gone but it’s still a thrilling way to spend the day.
  • Kittens. Because … kittens.
  • Hot air balloons. If you have not been to Albuquerque for the International Balloon Fiesta, I suggest you get on Expedia and book your plane tickets without further delay.
  • Bubble gum. It’s extremely satisfying to pop bubbles in an obnoxious manner.
  • Young Adult novels. It matters not if you are Team Edward or Team Jacob; stories like these are perfect companions for whiling away winter evenings.
  • The Mannequin Challenge. Even with all of our fancy devices and apps, humans are still very easily entertained.

This is just the tip of the “beyond the usual blessings” iceberg. What else should have made the list?

– Wendy MacKenzie is a mother of four and counts them amongst her blessings every day. Mostly.

Roasted Brussels sprouts with apples: Your new Thanksgiving side

roasted Brussels sprouts and apples

image credit: Cooking Light

Why Brussels sprouts?

Brussels sprouts or “mini cabbages” are easy to cook and seriously good for you. Not only are Brussels sprouts a super food, but they make a delicious main dish or addition to any meal for any season! Whether you bake, grill, or sauté them, they are packed with flavor and nutritional benefits. They make a great side dish to any meal or special occasion.

Small, tender Brussels sprouts are usually sweeter and milder than larger sprouts, especially when cooked only until tender-crisp, not overcooked. Belgians traditionally season Brussels sprouts with nutmeg, but fruit, herbs and nuts also complement the flavor and balance the vegetable’s characteristic bitterness.

Nutritional benefits galore

Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable, which means they are rich in vitamins and minerals such as folate, vitamin K, vitamin A and vitamin C. They’re also rich in phytonutrients — plant-based compounds that may help to lower inflammation and reduce the risk of developing cancer. Cruciferous vegetables are also rich in fiber and low in calories, a combination that will help you feel full and satisfied without overeating.

It doesn’t take much to reap the benefits. Adults need at least 2½ cups of vegetables a day. One cup of raw and cooked veggies is equivalent to a 1-cup vegetable serving.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Apples


  • 1/2 cup diced apple
  • 8 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Combine apple and Brussels sprouts in an 11 x 7-inch baking dish.
  3. Add apple cider, olive oil, minced fresh thyme, salt, and freshly ground black pepper; toss well.
  4. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until sprouts are tender.


Makes 2 servings (Serving size equals 3/4 cup.)

Nutrition analysis per serving

  • Calories: 109
  • Fat: 9 g
  • Saturated fat: 7 g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 3 g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 7 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Protein: 6 g
  • Carbohydrate: 8 g
  • Fiber: 7 g
  • Sodium: 321 mg
  • Iron: 6 mg
  • Calcium: 47 mg



– Jessica Helmick, R.D. is a registered dietitian with the Weight Control Center at Beaumont Health Center.

In the hot seat

Liar sign on wall

Altered image. Alan Cleaver, Flickr. CC license.

Before I had kids, I was pretty proud of my honesty, and for the most part, I’m still an honest person. Except when my kids are involved. With them, I’m a liar.

I freely admit it. I tell untruths, spin yarns and tell tall tales. Heck, my pants catch fire on a daily basis. And you know what? It makes my life easier.

For example, if my kids want to ride the pony at the grocery store, but we don’t have the time, I tell them it’s not our turn today, it’s another kid’s turn. It works because they understand the idea of taking turns. Meltdown averted.

Sometimes I lie because the truth is too complicated, or I don’t want them to know the truth. I have some strange food issues, but I don’t let them know it because the last thing I want is for them to suddenly develop an issue with things they don’t want to eat. “Mom, why aren’t you eating ice cream, too?” is a question I get. The real answer is because I’m lactose intolerant, but my answer to them is, “Because I’m saving all the ice cream for you.”

Every once in a while, I get a little impish and just flat-out make up something. My favorite story is when my husband and I convinced our nephew that the area rug in our living room was a flying carpet. As the story flew higher and higher, we eventually told him we sold it to an uncle and made it the uncle’s problem. To this day, it’s a fun family joke.

I do have some parameters though. I don’t lie about the bigger issues: medicine is not candy; death is not sleeping; there is no such thing as a monster under the bed, in the closet or otherwise. Yes, it’s hypocritical. And yes, they believe in Santa Claus.

I know there are a lot of parents out there who always give it to their kids straight, but that’s not me. I love being able to give my kids a bit of magic in their childhood—it’s one of the best parts of being young. Plus, it helps keep my imagination and creativity lubricated. And if it turns out I’m wrong on this, then at least they’ll have something to say to their therapist years from now, right?

– Rebecca Calappi is a publications coordinator at Beaumont Health and adoptive parent of multiples.


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