Just do your best. That’s what your kids will remember.

Mom and daughter sitting on playground equipment

Cropped image. Donnie Ray Jones, Flickr. CC license.

A few days ago I was semi-frantically running around my house in an attempt to return it to something that resembled order. As I eyed the pile of dirty dishes in the sink, I heard a tiny voice behind me say, “Mommy, you sit next by me.”

I turned around to see my 2-year-old emphatically patting the small spot next to her on the coffee table that she isn’t supposed to climb up on at all. Her dark curls were bouncing and her legs were swinging. “Please, Mommy, you want play with me?” I sighed.

The truth is that I did want to play with her. I had worked much of the day and hadn’t seen her. However, I also needed the dishes done, dinner made, the laundry folded and the dogs walked. And while I was at it, I should sweep the floor, organize paperwork, and go through my daughter’s clothes to see what I needed to get her for summer. The recycling needed to be taken out and I forgot to make her doctor’s appointment yesterday. And why in the world couldn’t I keep everything straight?

I often find myself questioning silly things like this as a mother. Am I making the right choices and decisions? Am I a good mother? Sometimes I feel like other moms have an answer book that is just perpetually out of my reach.

On Valentine’s Day, I went to the store and dutifully picked out a box of non-candy, paper valentines for my daughter to take to school. I wrote her name on all of them and was feeling pretty good about myself for getting things done in time. That is, until I saw the Facebook pictures start popping up. Friend after friend proudly showing off Pinterest-worthy creations. Robots crafted out of candy boxes, hand-created valentines with adorable sayings — all personalized to perfection. I had no idea that this was even a “thing”. I am not crafty.

I spent the rest of the evening convincing myself that my daughter would be the only one without these spectacular treats and think that I love her less. I imagined this as the turning point in her life where it would all start to go downhill to a life of crime and it would be all my fault. (Yes, I have an active imagination.) The truth is, there were a few of the crafty valentines, but the majority were just like mine.

I look up to my own mother as someone who I want to emulate. In my memories, she was kind and loving, patient and fun. When I brought this up to her recently, she didn’t have the same memories. She recalled times she lost her temper and rushed us. She said she wished she could’ve been more patient, like me. She is still questioning these imaginary faults when I think she was the greatest mom in the world.

In the end, I sat next to my daughter and we played for 15 minutes. Then I got up and did the dishes. But it would have been OK for me to just do the dishes, or to just play with her and forget the dishes altogether. These small and day-to-day choices are not the things she will remember. She will know she was loved and cared for just as I was.

So this Mother’s Day I plan to enjoy myself. No judging. Just fun with my kid. I hope that all moms will do the same. Even if you are one of those awesome crafty ones.

Happy Mother’s Day!

– Sara Kuhn is a Parenting Program participant and volunteer.

It takes a village

Grandma cuddling with young child

Unaltered image. Sherif Salama, Flickr. CC license.

Mother’s Day has always been a holiday I’ve dreaded when I saw it on the calendar — not because I didn’t love my Mom, but I didn’t know her. Since I was 8 months old, my Mom has battled schizophrenia, which never allowed me to form a true mother/son connection with her. Even on her good days I wasn’t able to make the connection every child wishes for with their mom because she wasn’t able to.

That’s what made every May difficult for me; it was a constant reminder of what I didn’t have, which was shortsighted thinking because that lack of connection allowed me to build stronger relationships with other female family members.

Old woman looking at camera

My grandma

Being a single father, my Dad leaned heavily on my Grandma to be the maternal influence in my life. She became my best friend and confidant, and Grandma helped shape me into the person I am today. I get my straightforwardness from her and my love of making sure everyone else is taken care of before I sit down. She lived till 92, a good run for a woman who helped shape multiple generations of my family into better people. Looking back on it, she passed away right after I married my wife. I wonder if she hung on until she was confident I had another strong woman in my life?

The torch my Grandma carried that kept the family together was passed on to my cousin Denise — a selfless woman who puts everyone’s needs before her own. Throughout the years, Denise babysat me and was there for my first breakup, many Little League games and other life milestones that mothers typically would be there for.

I’ve had a number of other people in my life who helped fill the motherless void I felt, no more than my sister Beth. Sure, we had our sibling rivalries and fights, but I knew she always had my back and is still just a phone call away to help me work through the hassles of life.

Looking back, I’ve been lucky to have three great women (four when you include my wife) who helped guide me through the ups and downs of life. Few of us have a traditional upbringing, so when we celebrate Mother’s Day, we should take the time to thank those who stepped up to fill a void and for those who would if they could.

We recently moved my Mom into a new assisted living house where she is making new friends and where I’m trying to reconnect with her as much as possible. Wish me luck!

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

 

Gardening for bees and children

Boy and girl laying in field of dandelions

Unaltered image. William Prost, Flickr. CC license.

Spring has finally handed Old Man Winter his coat and hat and sent him on his way. Life in our yards reemerges as the grass turns green, robins return, and bees begin buzzing. But one sign of spring isn’t always welcome: the humble dandelion.

However I dare to say: Let’s celebrate the little sun-like flower heads!

What? The scourge of green landscapes everywhere?

Yes! These bits of yellow dotting our lawns are a most welcome site to pollinators (and children) who endured the barren, winter months. Dandelions offer hungry bees their first source of nectar each spring, sustaining our pollinators until the abundance of the season blooms in full. And have you ever met a small child more joyous than one picking dandelion flowers, making dandelion chains, or blowing their white fluffy seeds?

European settlers intentionally brought dandelions to America for its nutrient-dense leaves (which are also a gentle diuretic), its liver-cleansing root, and its flowers that can be made into wine. It seems the plant is quite comfortable here, employing its long tap root to break up compacted soils everywhere. It’s fitting that this European native plant supports the European honeybee so perfectly.

Across the country — and the world — people are concerned about the continual and dramatic decline of bees, monarch butterflies, and other pollinators. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates a nation-wide loss of 42 percent of managed honeybee colonies in 2015 (some states lost more than 60 percent). Native pollinator numbers are harder to track, but a recent article in BioScience states that half of the 46 or 47 species of bumblebees in the United States are in some level of decline. The Xerces Society estimates 80 percent fewer monarch butterflies in North America than the average population over the past 21 years.

The good news: Anyone with a yard can contribute to helping these important species. The first step is to offer food in the form of nectar and pollen. Embrace pollen and nectar-rich flowers like dandelions, clover, goldenrod and aster that appear in your yard. The next step is to not poison your visitors once they do accept your invitation; in other words, avoid all lawn and garden pesticides. This will create a healthy place for children and pets to play as well. Don’t worry; gardens and lawns can still be beautiful. Visit the Ecology Center’s table and three pesticide-free gardens at the 2016 Grosse Pointe Garden Center Garden Tour!

Here are some additional ways to get started:

  • Go neonic-free. Ask garden centers if their flowering plants are free of neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides, which are particularly lethal to bees and other beneficial insects. In 2014, 51 percent of garden plants tested positive for one or more neonic.
    • Home Depot is now labeling plants treated with neonics. Both Lowe’s and Home Depot have agreed to stop selling neonics by 2019. Ask Ace Hardware and True Value to do the same.
    • The U.S. government temporarily halted the registration of any new neonic products.
    • The state of Maryland recently banned the sale of neonics in stores.
  • Treat grubs naturally with beneficial nematodes or milky spore, not Merit® or other products that contain neonicotinoids. Refer to Pest Patrol: Grubs for more tips on grub control. Wondering if your garden product contains neonics? Check this list of brand name products containing neonicotinoids.
  • Avoid weed and feed products. Believe it or not, they are pesticides. Most contain 2,4-D, a dangerous herbicide linked to cancer in humans and canine lymphoma. Learn how to maintain a lawn without pesticides.
  • Gardening for Bees and Children In 2015 Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, was declared a probable human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. In November 2015, glyphosate plus another additive in some Roundup formulations were found to have even greater potential health risks. Products are coming off store shelves in Germany and France.
  • Plant native perennials, shrubs, and trees to attract pollinators, as well as beneficial pest-eating insects and birds. Visit The Native Plant Nursery of Michigan, this list of bee-friendly wildflowers and flowers, or this list five spring plants that could save monarch butterflies. Remember: Using pesticides will poison all the bugs (including the beneficial ones) and the birds that eat them.
  • Learn more about successful gardening without pesticides with the Ecology Center’s spring checklist for a healthy yard.

– Melissa Cooper Sargent, Environmental Health Educator with LocalMotionGreen at Ecology Center. For more information, you can email her at melissas@ecocenter.org or visit http://www.ecocenter.org/lmg.

Dead squirrel

Close up of woman covering her face with her hands

There are many things I’ve said as a parent that I never in a million years thought would come out of my mouth: “Don’t lick the walls,” “Why aren’t you wearing underwear?” and the inevitable follow-up “Where are your pants?”

That’s part of the job, and frankly, it’s the part I don’t mind too much. Until recently.

My son and I were walking through a park together one sunny weekend. We were at a birthday party. My husband and daughter were under the pavilion nearby with the rest of the partygoers and The Good Sir (that’s what I call my kid) and I were on our way back to rejoin.

Because it was so early in the season, the grass still had not been mowed for the first time this year and fall leaves still littered the ground. But I still saw it and I was hoping to every deity I could think of that The Good Sir wouldn’t.

But he did.

The furry tail of a long-dead squirrel was too much temptation for him, so he bent down and picked the thing up.

At this point, life went into slow motion. He’s being perfectly adorable and curious. I’m covered in the heebie-jeebies. “Put it down and don’t touch anything! Keep your hands away from your face!”

I couldn’t think of anything else to say. Should I have said, “We don’t touch dead animals”?

All I could picture were the germs and diseases that squirrel could possibly be carrying. I know it was ridiculous, being as there wasn’t much left of the squirrel, but my skin was crawling nonetheless.

Yelling to my husband to have hand sanitizer (or “hanitizer” as the kids say) ready, he looks at me holding The Good Sir’s non-squirrel-cootied hand while the other hand was sticking out away from his body and says, “Why?”

“Because he picked up a dead squirrel by the tail.”

I can’t even describe the look of shock, disgust and finally humor that crossed his face.

“If you only had a nickel, right?” I say.

“Yeah,” he says, laughing, as he lathers the sanitizer on The Good Sir.

You know what? I’d rather ask about the current location of underwear than have to talk about that again.

– Rebecca Calappi is a Publications Coordinator at Beaumont Health and adoptive parent of multiples.

Hey, Mom and Dad! What is Earth Day anyway?

Black & white hands holding color Earth

Unaltered image. Steven Guzzardi, Flickr. CC license.

We’ve been celebrating Earth Day on April 22 since 1970. What started out as a small grass-roots effort for environmental protection has turned into a day celebrated by 193 countries! Here are some fun ways to celebrate with your children, while showing them how important being earth-friendly is.

Activities and crafts

Learn together

  • Watch this tour of a recycling center with LaVar Burton from “Reading Rainbow.” I’m sure many of our kids have wondered what happens to the stuff in the recycling bin after the truck takes it away.
  • Did you know that water conservation is incredibly important?
    • Learn why, what you can do to help, and check out the game for kids.
    • Then discover 20 ways your family can help save water.
  • Read a book.

Take action

  • Take a walk and discuss how you can help the earth stay healthy.
  • Turn off lights and electronics whenever they aren’t in use.
  • Recycle at home. When you’re out and about, look for recycle bins; remember, you can always bring your things home to recycle.

Individual Veggie Frittatas

Veggie frittata with strawberry garnish

Unaltered image. Jason Bachman, Flickr. CC license.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 small red potatoes, finely diced
  • 6 ounces Canadian bacon, chopped
  • ½ small onion, finely diced
  • ½ red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach, chopped
  • ½ cup mushrooms, chopped
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon pepper
  • 6 eggs
  • 4 egg whites
  • ½ cup skim milk
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • Non-stick cooking spray

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add potatoes and Canadian bacon.
  3. Cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are softened and bacon begins to crisp, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add onion and bell pepper.
  5. Cook for 3 – 4 minutes or until softened.
  6. Add spinach and mushrooms.
  7. Cook, stirring occasionally until spinach wilts and mushrooms soften.
  8. In large bowl, whisk together salt, pepper, eggs, egg whites, milk, and allspice.
  9. Add vegetable mixture to the eggs and stir to combine.
  10. Spray muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.
  11. Fill 12 cups with vegetable and egg mixture.
  12. Bake for 20 – 28 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  13. Allow to cool for several minutes before removing from tin.

Yield

Makes 6 servings (Serving size equals 2 frittatas.)

Nutrition analysis per serving

  • Calories: 240
  • Fat: 11 g
  • Saturated Fat: 5 g
  • Trans Fat: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 205 mg
  • Sodium: 490 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 18 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Sugar: 2 g
  • Protein: 18 g

Recipe adapted from Prevention RD.

– Mary Ligotti-Hitch, R.D. is a registered dietitian with the Weight Control Center at Beaumont Health Center. Beaumont Weight Control Center offers free cooking demonstrations to the community. View a list of current demonstrations here.

Volunteers: Lessons I’ve learned

Cake with "Thank you volunteers" written on it

Altered image. San Jose Library, Flickr. CC license.

As I reflect back on more than 20 years of working alongside volunteers, without a doubt, some of my most notable lessons in life come from those who give so freely of their time and efforts. In celebration of National Volunteer Week, I thought it would be most appropriate to highlight some of the valuable lessons I’ve gathered along the way.

  • There are many volunteers who have amazing stories to share. Yet their best virtue is their gift for listening to others.
  • I am often humbled by those who have suffered and experienced great loss. It is their ability to stand with such strength and give with such heart that leaves me in awe.
  • When it comes to volunteering, age isn’t a factor. It’s more about the heart.
  • Volunteerism is the opportunity to be a part of something that bring all walks of life together with common goals and meaningful purpose in mind.
  • There are indeed angels in this world. We are often touched by them — just ask any Parenting Program staff member and they will confirm that this is true.
  • Amidst stressful days and questionable times, I’ve been lifted and held by volunteers. I continue to be amazed by the magnitude of heart and compassion that volunteers can exude.
  • From my student volunteers, I learned to dream big and to keep marching towards your goals. Persevere and you will succeed.
  • Superheroes do exist! They may not wear capes, but I see them out in our community and at the hospital regularly.
  • Be open to change. It cultivates innovation and creativity. Implementing our Parent Talk Blog and Facebook page are just a couple of examples of how our volunteers encouraged me to push the envelope and think outside the box.
  • It has been demonstrated to me over and over again that one person can indeed make a difference. At the top of my list is the story of a single mother who literally changed the course of this program. Thousands of families benefitted from her generous donations.
  • I am compelled to give more and do better each and every day, because I am surrounded by those who give more and do better each and every day.
  • The best way to get something done: ask a volunteer. When we work together, we can achieve so much more.

From my heart to yours … thank you for your continued dedication and abundant contributions!

Happy National Volunteer Week!

– Deanna Robb, Parenting Program Director


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