Earth Day, plastic edition

Parents, it is our responsibility to step up our game. Ugh, I know. We are all doing the best we can in so many areas of our lives. You might say, “Please don’t push me to do better.” But I am going to do just that because wherever you are in your consumption of plastic (which is actually both figurative and literal), you can do better. We must all do better.

Earth Day is the best when it’s about the kids. Kid-centered activities of recycling crafts, seed plantings, and science experiments are so much fun! But it’s about the kids in another way, too. We have to think about what type of Earth will we bestow upon our children. Do we really want to pass on an Earth that is covered in plastic? Plastic pollution is everywhere: air, soil, rivers, lakes, oceans, beaches, even in our drinking water!

China and India are no longer taking the plastic we drop into our recycling bins. It’s piling up in some communities or being sent to landfills or incinerators in others. The answer: stop using so much plastic!

We use plastic for many reasons; it’s inexpensive, lightweight, but most of all it’s convenient. However, the convenience and the savings aren’t convenient or inexpensive if we stick our children with the bill and a big mess to try to clean up. (Our kids can hardly clean their rooms!)

Enough, I say. Let’s think about how, when, and where we can avoid plastic as if our children’s future depends on it.

  • Reusable bags: “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” has a new member: “Refuse.” If you haven’t gotten into the habit of bringing your own reusable bags everywhere, now is a great time to start. There are endless options for bags. You can even find bags that fold up into tiny pouches that fit into a purse. Yes, bringing your bags takes planning and you have to make it part of your routine, but it’s worth it. Plastic bags are the low-hanging fruit of what we can live without.

    Don’t just stop with bags at the grocery store. Take your reusable bags to big box stores, the hardware store, even take out for restaurants. Tell them why you are bringing your own bags and refusing the plastic. (It’s for the children!) If you’re kids are like mine, they may say, “Mom, don’t embarrass me!” Do it anyway.

  • Produce bags: OK, you’re a pro at bringing your reusable bags to the grocery store. But the first thing we do in the produce aisle is pull on that big roll of plastic bags and tear one off. Instead, put your produce in your own muslin cloth or recycled bag. Also, seek out produce that isn’t pre-wrapped in plastic. You’ve already created the habit of bringing grocery bags. Just add produce bags to the routine.
  • Water bottles: It’s 2019. Disposable plastic water bottles are so last decade. Fill up your own stainless steel or glass water bottle. Not only is the plastic hugely wasteful, but water bottling companies are draining the freshwater in small towns in Michigan, Maine, and other beautiful states. If you are providing the drinks for the soccer game or birthday party, bring a large dispenser and paper or compostable cups. You can encourage others to bring their own drinking vessel, too. Collapsible stainless steel cups are fun!
  • Coffee cups: Some of us drink as much coffee as water! (Hey, we’ve all got to get through the day). Many take-out coffee cups are lined with plastic and can’t be recycled. Find yourself a ceramic coffee cup or insulated thermos. Make your coffee at home or hand your empty mug to your favorite barista. You’ll skip the waste of the stirrers and lids too!
  • Pay attention to packaging: Wherever possible (grocery store, big box store, etc.) opt for items wrapped in paperboard or cardboard rather than plastic. Notice other places you can skip the plastic, like choosing cotton swabs with paper sticks rather than ones with plastic.
  • Lunches: The European Union just passed a law to phase out the use of many single-use plastics, including cutlery, plates, straws, and Styrofoam food and drink containers to help reduce marine litter, prevent 3.4 million tons of CO2 emissions, and save about $25 billion in environmental clean-up costs.
    • Kid-friendly options abound for reusable and non-plastic lunch packaging. Try beeswax wraps (they are fabric dipped in a beeswax blend) instead of plastic wrap. Consider stainless steel bento boxes with separate compartments for each lunch item. Reusable bamboo or stainless steel cutlery comes in compact cases or cloth pouches. Find reusable lunch packaging that fits your style as well. We can’t let the kids have all the fun. It can be a great conversation starter.

If all of this is new to you, it’s not too late to take action. Start with one or more of the action items. When you’ve mastered those, add another. Some of these actions may require us to expand our comfort zones. But hasn’t much of parenthood? And what better gift could we give our children than a healthy, thriving Earth? Parents, we can do this. Happy Earth Day!

– Melissa Cooper Sargent is Beaumont Parenting Program blog contributor with a background in green living.

You’ve just gotta laugh

When I was 10, my dad made his television debut. Drumroll please… He was interviewed on the local news about what it was like to be stranded while driving through a blizzard. While my dad was at a dead stop on the Southfield Freeway, a reporter approached his 1981 black Ford Escort to talk about being stuck on the highway.

“You just gotta laugh at it,” my dad responded (at least that’s how they edited his entire interview). His 15-minutes-of-fame lasted for just a few seconds. Still, truer words could not be spoken. My dad couldn’t get to work. The freeway was a parking lot and he had no choice but to wait it out in his car on a snow-covered expressway that was temporarily turned into a parking lot. He was unavoidably stuck.

But my dad was right. You just gotta laugh at it. What else could he do? Getting upset wouldn’t prove anything and wishing his situation away would have been a waste as well.

That was a mantra that we frequently used growing up. But beyond laughing in the face of frustration or other unpleasant situations, humor plays an important role in our family.

For most parents, laughter is an incredible way to connect with a child of any age. It just sometimes gets harder as our kids get older. Seeing a baby smile for the first time is beyond magical. Toddlers are easier to amuse as are most elementary-school-age kids. Beyond those earlier years, eye rolls are so much easier to evoke than actual laughter.

With two teens and a pre-teen in our house, sharing a laugh helps keep us connected. It’s so much fun to bond over an inside joke or make a family member laugh uncontrollably.

As an added benefit, there are actual health benefits to laughing. According to various researchers, a good chuckle can possibly lower your blood pressure, reduce stress hormone levels, improve your cardiac health, and increase your immunity. There is even a pair of researchers who touted an abdominal workout as one of the benefits of laughter. Imagine that: being able to skip a workout if you laugh enough!

OK, so I wouldn’t cancel my gym membership, but those are some good reasons to find more ways to laugh it up.

Parents, particularly dads, tend to rely on humor to connect with their children. There’s even a term for this phenomenon. They are called “dad jokes” – a.k.a. the kind of humor that often leads to loud groans and lots of eye rolling. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “dad jokes” likely help build stronger relationships between dads and their kids.

I spoke to a handful of local parents, including two comedians, about how and why they incorporate humor into their family lives, with each touting various benefits humor brings to their families.

One dad, a rabbi and father of five, uses humor to navigate some of the many challenges of parenting. Because discipline can be stressful for both parents and children, he finds that breaking the tension in an appropriate way is beneficial for him and his kids. Not that he doesn’t discipline. He just goes about it in a different way. So, for example, if one his kids doesn’t want to take a bath, they get stuck on the child’s refusal to get in the tub. If the dad can open his child’s mind with a little humor, it gets that child over the speed bump and willing to corporate.

How does he do it? A little bit of bathroom humor, like making a gas sound, always seems to work but he gets a lot of mileage out of tickling them too.

Family banter works well in another family, although they are careful not to cross the line and embarrass each other. And nobody gets offended because they know it’s all in good fun.

One local comedian plays improvisation games with his sons who are 12 years apart. Another way they keep things fun is by ignoring some of the rules when playing board games. This comedian’s advice: Be more spontaneous than what the rules allow and just have fun.

Other ways these families incorporate humor into their lives is by watching comedies together and capitalizing on shared experiences that are unique to their families. No matter how you chose to bring laughter in your family, remember – you just gotta laugh at it.

– Jen Lovy, Beaumont Parenting Program Volunteer

Thank you, Parenting Program Volunteers (Jimmy Fallon style)

It’s National Volunteer Week, so we are celebrating, recognizing, and doing everything we can to make our Parenting Program volunteers feel the love. Speaking of love, I love Jimmy Fallon. After a long day of work at the hospital, and then the work at home — you know, dinner, supporting homework efforts, transporting to and from sports practices, just all. the. things — after all that is done, I love a few laughs before heading to bed. One of my all-time favorite parts of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon is the “Thank You Notes” bit he does. If you haven’t ever seen this segment, Google it or throw it in the search bar on YouTube; I promise you won’t be sorry. Where am I going with this? Well, in the spirit of National Volunteer Week and my fandom of Jimmy Fallon, I present to you, the Parenting Program version of “Thank You Notes.” Some funny and some more serious, but please know that every single Parenting Program volunteer is valued. The work you do affects families for a lifetime, so with that …

Thank you, Hospital Visitor, for navigating doctors, nurses, birth certificate representatives, social workers, lactation consultants, and photography to make your way in to visit our first-time parents. It is no easy task! Thank you for being the first “face of the Parenting Program,” for sharing all the support and resources the program can offer brand-new families, for gently encouraging them to sign-up, while acknowledging how overwhelming the hospital stay can be. That interaction is vital. Often times your words are the first new parents have heard about the Beaumont Parenting Program; they don’t yet know how valuable it will be in their adjustment, but you do, so thank you for giving of your time and sharing from the heart.

Thank you, Hearing Screener, for being a highly skilled asset to our nurses and mother-baby care units. Thank you for your communication skills in talking with new parents who are likely anxious about the test being performed on their baby. Thank you for having tricks to calm a fussy baby so the important screening can be completed. Thank you for maintaining your knowledge base, fielding questions, and for providing accurate information to ensure babies get the important follow-up they may need.

Thank you, NICU Volunteer, for being a listening ear to parents of hospitalized babies. Thank you for teaching, helping with crafts, and creating opportunities for NICU families to come together to support each other. Thank you for being an extra set of arms to hold a baby if needed. Thank you for taking something you many of you have experienced yourselves and using it as a motivation to help others. Your presence alone is a tangible symbol of hope.

Thank you, Individual Family Support Volunteer, for being such an incredible support to first-time moms and dads during those challenging first months. For being encouraging and building confidence, for pointing out all the things your moms are doing right, during a time when they often feel so unsure. Thank you for being a source of accurate answers to their many questions. Thank you for listening and pointing them in the right direction when they need something more, whether that be a call to their pediatrician, a lactation consultant, attend a support group, or access a counselor. Your consistent contacts and support will never be forgotten.

Thank you, Parent Group Leader, for your passion for bringing together new parents. For the phone calls, emails, scheduling, and all of the coordinating that goes into creating this amazing experience. Thank you for committing five months of your life to ensure new families have a great start, filled with education and social support. Because of you, many new parents meet their very best friends and form bonds that last a lifetime. Thank you for leading them, answering their questions, and addressing their concerns. Our parent groups are such a huge part of the first year of these new families lives, and they would not be possible without you!

Thank you, Group Speaker, for being willing to share your knowledge and expertise with brand new families. The topics you present are critical, and help these new families deal with current challenges, and prepare them for the milestones ahead. Thank you for taking calls from our group leaders and group coordinators and often times juggling your schedule to be able to make it to a group. The knowledge you impart on these new families is priceless. We are so grateful for you, we could not provide these groups to families without you.

Thank you, Parenting Office Volunteers, for helping us with all the little details that make everything else possible. Thank you for entering data, filing, sorting, and helping with whichever special office project we have going on. Each task you complete is integral to everything else running smoothly. Please know how much we appreciate you; your support is invaluable.

Thank you, Blog Authors, for keeping our Parent Talk Blog interesting and fresh. We love having such a diverse group of contributors. Your articles teach, inform, entertain, and often let us into your personal lives. The articles you submit touch the lives of people locally and around the globe. We are so appreciative of your time and talents.

Happy National Volunteer Week!

– Kelly Ryan, LMSW, Beaumont Parenting Program Director

The Face of Beaumont Parenting: Denise Duncan

Sometimes we start a journey without knowing where it will lead us. Denise Duncan decided that she wanted to “give back,” only knowing that she planned to start volunteering at a hospital familiar to her, and that she wanted to work with babies. That decision brought Denise to the Beaumont Parenting Program for an interview to become a BPP volunteer. That road has since led Denise to become a seven-year (so far) volunteer for the program who has served in three different roles: group leader, hearing screener, and hospital visitor. Her journey has brought continuing friendships with both staff and participants, and it’s brought the program another inspiring volunteer.

Denise is retired and previously worked as an administrator at the First of Michigan brokerage firm. She currently resides in Grosse Pointe Woods with her husband, Bruce. They raised two sons, Alexander, 30, who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Trevor, 25, who lives in Arlington, Virginia. In addition to volunteering for the BPP, Denise enjoys reading, knitting, drawing, redecorating her home, skiing, and travelling with her husband – especially when it lets her spend time with their boys. When asked for her favorite book, Denise responded “whatever she is currently reading,” but recommends “The Secret Garden” by Francis Hodgson Burnett and “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown for children.

Denise is very much a family woman. She spends her time helping new parents learn and grow as they build their budding families. She enjoys her time spent with the BPP participants, and wishes that she could’ve been involved in the program when she was a new mother. She keeps in touch with families who were in groups she has led, and proudly shares that the kids in her first group have started kindergarten (where did the time go?!). Of course, Denise’s commitment to Beaumont families reflects her commitment to her own family. She describes her husband Bruce as her hero, saying that he makes her a better person. Her sons said that their favorite things about their mom are that she encouraged them to do the things they love, and that she gave them the freedom to be themselves.

I asked Denise what advice she would offer to new parents; she would encourage them to enjoy all the moments, and to listen to their kids. Not just when they were having conversations – but when they were hanging out with friends, or even talking to themselves. She also encourages parents to look for the moments when they could be their kids’ friends, and when they need to be their parents. To us all, she says, “Sing as though no one is listening, Dance as though no one is watching, Love as though you’ve never been hurt, Live as though it were heaven on earth!” We are watching though, Denise, and we love the way you’ve danced through the journey that has made you such an asset to the Parenting Program and its families!

– Nicole Capozello, Parenting Program staff

What is Whole30®?

The Whole30® is a 30-day program co-created by Melissa Hartwig, with the intention to change food habits and cravings though a short-term “nutrition reset”. The program aims to remove foods from the diet that may cause undesired symptoms in some individuals such as, fatigue, aches and pains, skin issues, and gut ailments that may be interfering with the ability to perform daily activities.

Acceptable foods

  • Meat, seafood, eggs
  • Fruit and 100% fruit juices
  • Natural fats
  • Ghee or clarified butter (as dairy)
  • Vegetables and “pod” legumes (green beans, snap peas, and snow peas)
  • Coconut aminos (a soy sauce substitute made from coconut)
  • Vinegar, herbs, spices, and seasonings

Foods to avoid

  • Added sugars (real or artificial)
  • Alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy
  • Carrageenan, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and sulfites
  • Baked goods
  • Junk foods, even treats made with “approved” ingredients

Pros of the Whole30®

  • Focuses on whole and unprocessed food choices
  • No calorie counting
  • Prohibits self-weighing and body measuring
  • Limits consumption of sugar and fats; can reduce blood sugar levels and cholesterol
  • Short-term program that can be repeated as needed

Cons of the Whole30®

  • It is a restrictive diet; removing large quantities of foods from the diet may cause fatigue, irritability, and increased hunger.
  • There are many food rules to the plan that can negatively impact personal relationships with food.
  • You must plan ahead for meals and cook everything from scratch.
  • Restricting consumption of grains and dairy can result in deficiencies of vitamins and minerals such as, vitamin D, calcium, fiber, iron, and B vitamins.
  • The program can be costly and time consuming to follow.

Megan Heath is a dietetic intern with Beaumont Health. The Beaumont Weight Control Center offers cooking classes to kids in the community. View a list of upcoming classes here.

ADHD: You can survive and your kid can thrive

My posts lately have been themed around ADHD and the struggles we’ve had with it. I’m here to tell you, it’s not all bad. I promise.

We’ve seen amazing progress with medication, therapy and a 504 plan. We’re seeing more school work come home with higher and higher grades, and fewer reports of behavior problems. I’m truly about to burst with pride in the progress my son has made.

Have there been hiccups? Absolutely. But they aren’t as intense, and they are less frequent. It’s like we found the little boy we knew was in there somewhere.

I just wish we did this sooner.

When he was in preschool, I was the parent pulled aside just about every day. The teachers said not to worry, he’s just maturing. Somehow, I knew it wasn’t just a maturity thing, but they’re the experts and I listened. I don’t even know if anyone will diagnose a 4-year-old with ADHD, but that gut feeling was there.

See what I did there? Mom guilt. I’m still working on that, too. I have to tell you though, this is much easier to deal with knowing that it’s not a “bad kid” thing, or a “bad parenting” thing. Me realizing what my son’s brain is and isn’t capable of was a huge help for me. Simple things, such as me giving one direction at a time, have made an amazing impact on his frustration level and mine.

Another life saver has been setting timers. His brain, at this age and with ADHD, works in absolutes. Me saying, “We’re leaving in a few minutes,” means nothing. Me setting a timer and saying, “When the timer goes off, we’re leaving,” is an absolute. No arguing with that—and it works. Plus, I’m not the bad guy, the timer is. Win-win.

Once we started figuring this out, things got better.

I guess what I’m getting at is this: You don’t have to struggle. Much. Pediatricians, your own physician, a school counselor, teachers, principals and other parents are all there to help your child succeed. Let them help you. The support system I have with all these people in my life is the foundation for my strength as a mother. I’m not sure where I’d be without their humor, strength, confidence and non-judgmental actions. I love them all for the compassion they show my family and the shoulder they offer me.

So, there they are. The positives of ADHD. You can do this. If you are struggling and need a sounding board, reach out. We’re all in this together.

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

Emergency preparedness for infants and pregnant moms

close up of woman's hands on pregnant belly

Leah Kelley, Pexels.

Emergencies and disasters are unpredictable! The time to get ready is now – you don’t want to be caught unprepared in a tornado or flood. And, as we all know in Michigan, a strong thunderstorm can knock out power in your home for days.

Keep your family safe and healthy by following these tips for pregnant women and families with infants:

  • Ask your doctor what the options are for prenatal care and delivery if your doctor’s office or hospital closes.
  • Stay informed. Be sure you are signed up for emergency alerts through email, phone or text. You can usually sign up with your local emergency management agency.
  • Be sure you have a family communication plan. How will you contact one another? Determine the steps you will take in various situations.
  • Have an emergency kit! Make sure you have everything you need, including pre-natal vitamins if you are pregnant, a portable crib for an infant, emergency phone numbers, and any special medications. Check out this guide from the March of Dimes.
  • If you have to evacuate your home, ensure you have a safe sleep option so baby can sleep in his or her own space that can be kept clear of pillows, blankets and toys.
  • If you are pregnant and must stay in a shelter or other temporary housing, be sure they know you are pregnant and inform them of any special needs you may have.
  • No matter where you are, continue to take prenatal vitamins and any other special medications. Same goes for baby if he or she needs medication.
  • As soon as possible, continue with prenatal medical care, even if you must use a different doctor or clinic. Save any paperwork so your primary physician can add pertinent information to your medical record.
  • Washing your hands is important for keeping viruses and bacteria at bay, and it’s especially important if find yourself in a shelter or temporary housing with many other families.
  • Natural disasters may release dangerous chemicals into the air or water. Listen to public service announcements. If you are concerned, call Mother to Baby at 866-626-6847 or the nationwide poison control center at 800-222-1222.
  • Disasters and emergencies are stressful – Dad, this means you, too. Drink plenty of clean water and get as much rest as possible. Talk to someone – a professional, family member, friend or clergyperson – about how you are feeling. Stress comes with the territory in pregnancy and new parenthood, but too much stress can be harmful!
  • Breastfeeding is the safest way to feed your infant, but if you are using formula, be sure you have prepared formula in your emergency kit. Remember there may not be safe water or clean supplies for mixing formula.
  • If you have any signs of labor, call 911 or go to the hospital immediately if it is safe to leave. But be prepared with a safe birthing kit in case you find yourself unable to go to the hospital. As soon as possible, get yourself and baby to a postpartum visit, even if you have to go to a different provider or clinic.

Make a plan for your peace of mind. Even the most unpredictable situations can be managed safely when you are well-prepared.

– Kathy Henry is an adoptive parent to two teenage boys. She is also a marketing consultant, business coach and copywriter who volunteers for several organizations, including the Beaumont Parenting Program.