My Momcation

I took a glassblowing class during my recent momcation.

I’ve been a mom for eight wonderful, amazing, exhausting, frustrating years. In those years, aside from overnight sleepovers, I had been away from my kids for about six days total, in three increments.

I was due for a vacation.

When my sister-in-law asked if I wanted to mooch on her work trip to Seattle, I jumped on it. Luckily for me, my husband did, too. He recognized I hadn’t had a break in a while and knew that it would be important for my mental health to leave the nest and recharge.

Right about the time I booked my flight, I expected the mom guilt to settle in. But you know what? It didn’t. I was too excited researching my trip. I had Monday through Saturday to do whatever I wanted. I only had to find my own shoes! I could eat at different restaurants that didn’t serve grilled cheese! I could just sit and read if I wanted. Or drink my tea in peace.

Honestly, I didn’t let myself feel guilty about the kids on this one. I felt a tad guilty about leaving my husband by himself with our punks, which he’d never done before, but I got over that pretty fast, too.

See, I’ve reached a point where I know that taking care of myself is important, too. Going out with friends, volunteering and freelance writing are all things that make me happy and healthy. So, I do them free of mental burden. I wish I’d gotten to this point sooner.

I thought that to be a good mom, I had to lose myself in motherhood. That I had to revolve my life around my kids. To an extent part of that will always be true, but not in the eclipsing way where parents become completely absorbed.

This getaway was just what I needed. It recharged me and gave me new energy. When was the last time you got away from it all? I’m not talking about a solo trip to Target or a bath with wine. I’m talking about silence. Dinner with cloth napkins. Non-animated shows. Uninterrupted showers.

You deserve it. It’s not selfish. It’s important. And so are you.

– Rebecca Calappi is a freelance writer, adoptive mom to twins, and past Parenting Program participant. Surprisingly, she’s mostly sane.

The Benefits of Soup

Soup is a quick, hot meal that offers plenty of benefits. You can throw a variety of ingredients into a slow cooker in the morning and return home to a delicious meal in the evening. Soups are easy to make in large batches, and are one of the most freezer-friendly dishes around. So, double up on ingredients, grab a larger pot and make multiple meals instead of one. You can also use up leftovers in a soup pot and create new variations of favorite recipes, since soup lends itself to experimentation.

The healthiest soups include lots of vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, a variety of herbs, and a minimum of salt and fat. Because soup contains so much water it fills you up with fewer calories, too!

Add plenty of vegetables to your soup

Federal guidelines recommend that adults, on average, eat at least 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day. Soups can contribute to that total. Almost any vegetable lends itself to use in soup —from creamy squash to chicken vegetable soup. You can use any combination of fresh, frozen, canned or leftover vegetables.

  • Chop fresh vegetables to the same size so they cook evenly. Add fresh or frozen vegetables to the soup at the beginning.
  • Add any leafy, canned and leftover cooked vegetables at the end so they don’t overcook.
  • Once the vegetables are soft-cooked, you can purée the soup or leave it chunky.
  • Add fresh or frozen vegetables to canned soups to increase the servings of vegetables and add flavor.
  • Use more vegetables in your soup than meats or grains.

Add protein

Add bite-sized pieces of lean meat, fish, skinless poultry, or alternatives such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu or raw whisked eggs. Beans also add fiber.

  • Add uncooked meats at the beginning and any cooked leftover meats at the end of making soup.
  • Dried chickpeas and beans take longer to cook. Make them ahead and add to soups at the end of cooking.
  • Dried lentils cook up quickly and can be added closer to the end.
  • Add low-sodium canned beans, lentils and chickpeas near the end. 
  • Eggs and tofu don’t take long to cook and can be added near the end of making soup.

Add some whole grains

If you’re thinking about ways to get more grains into your diet, think soup! Whole grains have higher fiber content than pasta and white rice, and because they’re slowly digested, they have less impact on blood levels of insulin than refined grains. Even light soups can be transformed into more of a main dish with the addition of whole grains like quinoa, barley, farro or bulgur.

  • Add uncooked grains at the beginning and any cooked leftover grains at the end of making soup.
  • Whole grains absorb lots of liquid so be sure to add extra stock or water to your soup.

Lower the sodium

According to the American Heart Association, most of us should limit sodium to 2,300mg per day, with an ideal limit of just 1,500mg for most adults. That is the amount of sodium in about 1 teaspoon of salt (or 1/2 teaspoon at the lower range).

  • Use less salt than the recipe lists.
  • Use onions and garlic instead of onion salt and garlic salt.
  • Use low-sodium stock/broth or make your own (see Make the Stock for the Soup below)
  • Rinse canned foods such as beans to reduce the sodium by almost 40 %.
  • Replace dried herbs like parsley, rosemary, thyme or oregano with fresh at a ratio of 1:3 (If a recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon dried, use 1-1/2 teaspoons fresh). Add fresh herbs at the very end of cooking.
  • Lemon, lime and vinegar trick our tongues into thinking there’s more salt in food and it transform the flavors. Add a squeeze of lemon or lime right before you serve up a steamy bowl of soup.

Make the Stock for the Soup

(Tip: Make a big pot of homemade soup stock on the weekend and freeze the extra.)

  1. Fill a large pot with water.
  2. Add vegetables (onions, carrots, celery), chicken, beef or fish bones, pepper and herbs.
  3. Bring to a boil, and then simmer.
  4. Skim off any foam that rises to the top of the pot.
  5. Strain the stock and remove any bones, vegetables or herbs.
  6. Let the stock cool in the fridge and skim off any solid fat. You’ll be left with a tasty stock to make soup.

– Mary Ligotti-Hitch, R.D. is a registered dietitian with the Weight Control Center at Beaumont Health Center.

Information adapted from:
https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Cooking-And-Food/Cooking-Methods/How-to-Make-a-Healthy-Soup.aspx
https://www.livestrong.com/article/254373-what-are-the-benefits-of-eating-soup/
https://www.tasteofhome.com/article/cut-sodium-in-soup/

The Face of Beaumont Parenting: Bonnie Backing

“There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others.”
– Mandy Hale, “The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass”

The Beaumont Parenting Program volunteer I would like to introduce you to is one of those “someones.” Bonnie Backing is a current group leader and speaker. Her first experience with the program was as a new mom when she joined a parent group with her firstborn, Maggie. Bonnie is now the proud mom of three girls: Maggie (now 4), Paige (2) and Anna (1). She and her husband Daniel are raising their trio in Troy, where Bonnie is a stay-at-home mom.

Before Bonnie was making life beautiful for her girls and the families in her groups, she was doing so for the students she taught. Shortly after her college graduation, Bonnie spent three years teaching in the Philippines. When she came home, Bonnie undertook the challenging role of special education teacher, a position she held until she decided to make little Maggie her sole student. Now Bonnie is back to teaching a larger audience as she shares her knowledge and expertise as a group speaker on the topics of Play, Learning and Reading, and Development and Temperament. She has also led two groups full of families who benefitted from her care and concern in each meeting. The BPP is not the sole recipient of Bonnie’s volunteer efforts; she is also a volunteer at her church where she acts as a buddy for a student with autism.

When Bonnie is not volunteering, and isn’t busy with her three kids (that’s probably about 90 seconds per day), she enjoys making Shutterfly books, camping, being active within her church, and reading. Her favorite book is “The Blue Sword” by Robin McKinley, and while her list of favorite children’s books is too long to share, some of them are:” The Gruffalo” by Julia Donaldson, “Dandelion” by Don Freeman, “Alice the Fairy” by David Shannon, “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss, and “Bubble Trouble” by Margaret Mahy. Bonnie clearly practices what she preaches when she speaks on Play Learning and Reading for parent groups! She even organized a book exchange for the last meeting. Bonnie is passing her love of books down to the next generation; her daughter Paige’s favorite thing about her mom is when they read together. Maggie’s favorite thing is also spending time with her mom but she prefers TV time together.

Like many who enjoy their time in their Beaumont Parent Group as new parents, the experience is what led Bonnie to become a volunteer for the program. Her favorite thing about being a BPP volunteer is meeting the new parents and their babies. Her advice to new parents? “You’re not alone. Find other parents who have gone through what you’re going through and can tell you how normal your struggles are.” Bonnie is able to be that parent in her dual roles as a Beaumont Parenting Program volunteer: making life beautiful for the families she sees, and for the staff as well!

– Nicole Capozello, Beaumont Parenting Program Staff

Christmas Magic is a Feeling, Not a Thing

It’s that time: the holidays are upon us. With Thanksgiving being so late this year, it feels like they came on fast and furious. It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed; even when you are aware and intentional about trying not to let the stress get to you, it can creep in as there is just so much to do.

As I go about all the tasks of getting ready for the big day — many of them revolving around my kids and making things special for them — I find myself thinking back to my own Christmas memories. It definitely puts things in perspective. Of course there are a few memories of seeing a certain toy under the tree that I had been hoping for, but mostly what I remember is the overall experience and how it all felt. I think of decorating our tree while a fire glowed in the fireplace, the stockings hanging from the barn-beam mantle of my childhood home, playing in the snow with my sisters and coming in to the chocolatiest hot cocoa that my mom made in a big cast iron pot. I remember Christmas Eve parties at my grandparents’ house with so much laughter and happiness. There were the different kinds of cookies my grandma made; she made extras for replenishing the trays and stored them in shirt boxes hidden from my grandpa so he wouldn’t get into them. Then coming home late, getting tucked into bed, waking up and sitting at the top of the stairs with my sisters, while my parents went downstairs, turned on the tree lights and oohed and ahhed about the gifts. My dad would always say, “Oh boy, Santa has been here!” We waited — impatiently — for him to tell us we could come down to see for ourselves. The morning was just our family of five, but I remember being excited to see my cousins and celebrate with our extended family in the afternoon.

With that, I think the Grinch had it right: “What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?” So when you feel yourself getting caught up in the frenzy, let this serve as a reminder: Christmas magic is a feeling, not a thing.

Here are a few of our traditions that don’t involve “stuff”.

  • Christmas tree campout. The first night that our tree is fully decorated, the kids make beds with lots of blankets and pillows and sleep beneath it.
  • Holiday movie nights. We have a few favorite movies that we watch together in the weeks leading up to Christmas Day. We turn off all the lights except for the twinkle lights from the tree and other decorations, there is popcorn and sometimes peppermint stick ice cream.
  • Light tours. After dinner one evening in December, we make hot cocoa and drive around to look at the lights and decorations while the Christmas music station plays on the radio.
  • Volunteer. We have been bell ringers for The Salvation Army to help and also spread a little Christmas cheer.
  • Cookies. Many years we baked chocolate chip cookies (a little less time consuming than traditional frosted cutouts) and packaged them on festive plates and delivered to random neighbors, some we knew well, and some we did not, just to bring a smile.
  • The Elf. I know this can be a polarizing subject, but we have a very boring elf who merely moves from place to place each night. He doesn’t make messes or meals or play tricks, and the kids still love the simple excitement of finding him in the morning.
  • Carry on traditions. I kept some of the traditions from my childhood Christmases that I loved. Let’s just say my kids also wait at the top of the stairs.

Happy holidays!! Tell us what you do to create Christmas magic!

–  Kelly Ryan, LMSW, Parenting Program Director

Holiday Minefield Tips

image credit: Freestocks.org, Flickr. CC license.

Families with young kids are supposed to have a magical holiday. Lighting the menorah, getting ready for Santa, and celebrating with family are all part of the joy of holidays with children. The challenge is to make sure the kids aren’t so overtired and over-scheduled that they can enjoy it.

Most of our relatives and friends mean well. Almost all of them had young children of their own at one point too, yet they seem to have forgotten how important it is to keep children in their usual routines (more or less) as they plan the holiday events for the group. Whether it’s a Christmas gift exchange in the middle of nap time or Hanukkah dinners that go until 10 p.m. night after night, little ones can’t keep the magic alive if they are cranky and crying.

We all need some strategies for the minefield ahead.

Your party is right in the middle of naptime! Most kids who nap won’t nap well at other people’s houses, so your best bet is to plan your attendance around the nap.

  • Go early and leave early. That way you can see everyone and still get the nap in.
  • Arrive later. This is often a better option since leaving can be really tough if some of the folks at the party are less supportive of the idea that napping during the holidays is mandatory.
  • Gracefully decline the invitation. Sometimes turning down the invitation altogether is the best option, depending on the importance of the event. Simplifying whenever possible is great.

My family Christmas Eve celebration starts at 7 p.m. and goes until midnight. My little ones need to get ready for Santa. What do I do? This is a tricky one. Family traditions are hard to change. And no doubt when you were little, your parents took you along only to tuck you into bed after falling asleep in the car on the way home. Then they stayed up to complete the Santa transformation and collapse in bed at 2 a.m., so they may not understand why you want to change this tradition with your family.

  • Start early to communicate your plan to do things differently with your family until the children get older.
  • Consider asking the group if the party can start a little earlier so your family can join in on the fun and leave in time to get the kids ready for bed. Explain that you don’t want to miss out entirely but be prepared to miss out for a few years if the plans can’t be changed.
  • Consider hosting an open house event at a different time to see the relatives who may want to visit with you and the children since you won’t be at Christmas Eve. Be prepared for the parent/grandparent pleas and stand firm on your plan to either go for a bit and leave or not attend at all.

Our days are so hectic. Splitting the day between two families (or more!) is too much. We’ve decided to see only one side of the family on Christmas this year. This can be a tough one for grandparents to understand because they are missing out on seeing their child and their grandchildren. Maybe they’ll miss seeing all their children and grandchildren together. It’s understandable that they would be a bit upset.

  • Consider offering an alternative: Christmas on New Years for example.
  • If one set of family lives out of the area, consider alternating holidays in and out of town with predictability so your parents can plan for which holidays they can expect to see you and the kids.
  • Consider hosting at your house so everyone comes to you. Have your house open all day and let folks come and go as they can.

As your family grows and as your siblings’ families grow, the traditions around the holidays will need to evolve. Communicating with each other, your parents and in-laws is the key to finding solutions that will fit your family.

Sometimes bold solutions come from taking action. Making sure you and your children have a happy holiday season is important, so as you think through what is best, have a plan to avoid the land mines that the season presents.

– Dr. Molly O’Shea, a board-certified Beaumont pediatrician, offers traditional medicine in non-traditional ways including newborn home visits and emailing parents directly. She has practiced pediatrics for nearly 30 years and was the “Ask the Pediatrician” columnist for the Detroit News for many years. A journal editor for the American Academy of Pediatrics, she also organized the AAP’s national continuing education programming for pediatricians. Dr. Molly loves cooking, traveling and spending time with her family.

Hectic Holidays and Schedule Shenanigans

You’ve heard the advice:

  • Slow down this holiday season.
  • Less is more.
  • Saying “no” to something is saying “yes” to something else: yourself.

Believe it or not, children need you to heed this advice more than you realize. Children of all ages (even teenagers) crave routine. Doing one super special, magical thing through the holidays is great, but trying to do something every weekend day is too much for many kids. They need downtime. Kids want time with you at home, snuggling and reading. Home time or play time can be more fun for kids than another festive event when that one follows Winterfest, Santaland, and a weekend at the in-laws for early holiday celebrations.

Parents want to make the holiday season special for their family and with so many events to choose from, it’s tempting to experience as many as possible. We want to enjoy the holiday season and bringing our kids along can make it a win-win. But think about your kids when you are strolling around or sitting at these “special” events. Are they content or are you constantly having to corral them into behaving? If you ask them a week later, do they really remember all the different things you did? Do you?

Sometimes our desire to make childhood memories ends up overscheduling the family. Add in the family holiday celebrations (and the routine shenanigans that come along with those) and the holiday time can get maddening rather than magical.

If you know that your holidays will have later nights, nap disruptions, and hectic socializing, plan some downtime. Do less. Snuggle up at home with hot cocoa and pajamas. Do a puzzle, read books, play a game, or listen to music together. If you can keep other routines in place, do so. Keep bedtime the same whenever possible, keep mealtime routines in place. If young children are in daycare, that routine is great to keep.

Memories are made with people, with family. Special events are great but too many can lead to stress and crankiness. Less really is more. Slowing down really is better. Saying no to something really is saying yes to your kids and yourself.

Happy holidays!

Dr. Molly O’Shea, a board-certified Beaumont pediatrician, offers traditional medicine in non-traditional ways including newborn home visits and emailing parents directly. She has practiced pediatrics for nearly 30 years and was the “Ask the Pediatrician” columnist for the Detroit News for many years. A journal editor for the American Academy of Pediatrics, she also organized the AAP’s national continuing education programming for pediatricians. Dr. Molly loves cooking, traveling and spending time with her family.

Crustless Broccoli & Cheddar Quiche

image credit: Low Carb Yum

We recently talked about the benefits of incorporating eggs into a healthy, well-balanced diet. How about trying this crustless broccoli cheddar quiche? It’s light and delicious, making it perfect for breakfast, brunch or even a light dinner.

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • 3 cups chopped broccoli florets
  • 1 cup reduced-fat grated cheddar cheese
  • 2/3 cup skim milk
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half cream
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350° F. Spray a pie dish with oil.
  2. Steam the chopped broccoli florets in the microwave with 1 Tbsp. water until tender, crisp and green (but not mushy), about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Evenly spread the broccoli in the dish. Top it evenly with the grated cheddar cheese.
  4. Make the custard mixture by whisking together the milk, half and half, eggs, salt, black pepper, and nutmeg.
  5. Pour the custard into the dish and bake 35 to 40 minutes, until the center is set.
  6. Cut the quiche into 6 pieces and serve.
  7. Each serving counts as a protein.

Yield

Serves 6 (Serving size: 1 slice)

Nutrition information (per serving)

  • Calories: 140
  • Fat: 9g
  • Saturated fat: 4g
  • Cholesterol: 170mg
  • Sodium: 410mg
  • Total carbohydrate: 4g
    • Dietary fiber: 1g
    • Total sugars: 2g
  • Protein: 13g

Adapted from Skinnytaste: https://www.skinnytaste.com/crustless-broccoli-cheddar-quiche/