My new adventure starts now

person jumping over large gap

I turned 40 last year. I don’t know what clicked in my brain then, but something is giving me acne and the desire for more.

“More” is tough to explain because I’m not talking about material things. I want to enrich my life. It’s time to make changes.

The first thing I did was take two weeks off work. I needed to find out if this was feasible from a mental health standpoint — my mental health. Could I be a stay-at-home mom? Could I have all my focus on my kids and home? It’s a noble calling, but I never thought of it as mine.

But you know what? I liked it.

I liked having one less thing to stress about. I liked that my head was in the game, not half in, half out. I liked being able to keep the house in some semblance of order, not just spic-and-span on Sundays post binge-clean.

Stay-at-home moms are thinking, “Honey, two weeks won’t cut it.” I believe you. I do. But it was a good litmus test for me. I enjoyed my time and didn’t want to go back to my desk job. (Not that I don’t love you guys, I do.) I just didn’t feel fulfilled with it anymore. So, I did something completely out of character: I resigned.

I’m not going to kid myself and say the SAHM role is for me. I don’t think it is. So, in addition to my “enhanced mom” title, I’m going to write more and see what I can make of myself. I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking the “safe” way is the only way. They need to know that “smart jumps” are sometimes the only way to test your own limits and not doing something just because it’s new or scares you isn’t the right reason. It’s a lesson in calculated risks. And that’s a lesson worth learning.

When I became a mom five years ago, I would daydream about what I could do to make my kids proud of me. I hope this is the ticket.

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

Making memories through reading

dad reading to boy and girl

Cropped image. Paul Hamilton, Flickr. CC license.

I’ve been speaking about play and reading to parent groups for many years. I’m not a teacher or reading expert by any means, but it’s been very easy and fun to be an advocate for the importance of reading to (and with) children.

Many of us already know the value of reading and I always ask my groups, “Why should we read to our babies?” The answers are plentiful: brain growth, cognitive connections, vocabulary development, language skills, bonding, fun, etc.

Then I ask another question: “Do you remember being read to as a child?”

Not everyone has such a memory, but those who do often remember the books as well, such as Berenstain Bears, Golden Books, Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, etc.

And there is always an obscure title mentioned with a smile and a brief nostalgic nod.

Looking deeper, these memories come from time spent together as child and parent with books at the center. Memories that incorporate books and reading are there for the making! Some fun ideas include:

  • Family trips to the library.
  • Gathering books to donate.
  • Saving an allowance to buy a book.
  • A special book that only grandma reads with them.
  • Planned reading time together, taking turns reading to each other (especially good for older children).
  • Talking about favorite books at dinnertime.
  • A book exchange with neighbors and friends.

It’s hard to predict what memories will linger as we grow into adulthood, but these activities are valuable even if long forgotten.

– Betsy Clancy is a group coordinator for the Beaumont Parenting Program.

Irish eyes are smiling

bride dancing with her grandpa

​I guess when you have a name like Kelly Cathleen Ryan, you shouldn’t be surprised when you’re asked to write an article about St. Patrick’s Day. My first idea was to write about our family traditions and how we incorporate our kids into the festivities. My thoughts centered around making sure the kids have something green to wear on March 17th, the buttons we have that say “Kiss Me I’m Irish,” and the corned beef and cabbage we enjoy on that special day. I also thought about how our St. Patrick’s Days have changed over the years to become more family friendly if you know what I mean. I remembered our college days and that certain cold, green beverage and going pub to pub with friends. I found myself getting a little nostalgic as I recalled these fun memories. My mind kept going back to how it all began and the reason why this day of celebrating all things Irish is important to me. I couldn’t stop thinking about my grandpa, the first Irishman I ever loved, and then this article went in a completely different direction.

​My grandpa was simply the best. He was proud of his Irish heritage and passed that pride along to his six children, and seven granddaughters. My parents decided my name before I was born, so even though I came out with lots of dark hair and brown eyes, favoring my Dad’s Italian looks, I was “Kelly Cathleen” and there was no going back.

My grandpa loved my Irish name and always called me “Brown Eyes.” He was short in stature and I remember he had a long, thorny shillelagh that leaned against the wall in the corner of his bedroom, and he would sometimes use it when we went on walks. (For the Detroit readers, yes, an old shillelagh is more than just that infamous bar downtown!) Grandpa didn’t know a stranger, and I don’t know anyone who didn’t like him. Grandma often said he was full of blarney, but it served him well in his career as a salesman. He always had a twinkle in his eye, and I think that is what I remember most. He was quick with a joke and had lots of fun sayings; one of my favorites was “You can always tell an Irishman, but you can’t tell him much.” There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of him, but he is particularly on my mind on St. Patrick’s Day.

Now to circle back a bit to that Irish name I carry with me. My first and middle were given to me by my parents of course, but that Irish last name came from my husband, the second Irishman I’ve ever loved. Chris and I met outside of a house party in Kalamazoo. The night we met he was wearing a white t-shirt with a huge green shamrock on the front. Funny thing is, it was in summer not on St. Patrick’s Day!

girl with arm around brother

In keeping with the Irish names, our daughter is Cassie Cathleen and our son is Connor.

I should’ve known what I was in for. Like my grandpa, Chris also had (and still has) a twinkle in his eye. Just like my grandpa he is successful in corporate sales. There are many traits Chris has that remind me of my special grandpa. Life with an Irishman is never boring!

Sure, we will do all of the traditional St. Patrick’s Day stuff on the 17th (like a shamrock hanging on our front door), but our Irish pride is with us every day. It was passed on to us from loved ones who are now gone, and we will do our part to continue sharing it for generations to come. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

– Kelly C. Ryan, LMSW, Postpartum Adjustment Coordinator and Team Leader for the Beaumont Parenting Program

She’ll be fine

young girl reading

As a father of two great girls, there have been many firsts to be proud of – first steps, first words, first time using a spoon, and of course the first time using the “big girl” potty. As my daughters age, the “firsts” come with a little space between them, but they don’t stop.

In fact, I am proud to say my youngest daughter is now a reader! That’s right, watch out world. If there is a sign or level-appropriate book to be read, she’s there to do it. As a writer, and as a Dad, there has never been a sweeter sound than hearing a five-year-old read book after book or let you know aisle nine is paper towels and cleaning supplies.

Sure, hearing “enter” and “exit,” or “frozen foods” and “sporting goods” on a quick trip to the store can be a little taxing after a long day, but honestly it makes me smile. I’m not sporting an ear-to-ear grin just for fun; I’m doing it knowing that she’s going to be just fine.

What do I mean by that? I know there must be a hundred clichés about teaching children to read is the best thing you can do for them, which are all true. But I know my little one will be just fine because now I know she can read “Do Not Enter” signs, be able to heed the “Hot! Do Not Touch” stickers, and in the coming years, she will be able to read an acceptance letter from the college of her choice.

I give all the credit for her having this life-changing skill to her teachers and my wife. Sure, I encouraged her, but these ladies spent years getting my daughter to this point. And for that, I’ll be forever grateful because they’ve given her the keys to whole new worlds – both fiction and non-fiction.

If I can take a second to talk about my other daughter; she is a mean, lean reading machine! Recently, she and her team finished third in a school-wide reading competition. She was tasked to read a select number of books to qualify to get to the end of the contest, and she and two other members of the team finished those books.

Her team started off much larger, but for various reasons my daughter’s team of three went into the book battle against teams that were much larger, so the third place finish was that much more impressive.

I’m a proud dad not only for the strong finish, but for the times our oldest and youngest are sitting reading quietly and not have their nose buried in a screen. It might not happen as much as my wife and I would like, but we are both proud knowing that through reading, our girls will be just fine.

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

Oatmeal chocolate chip softies

oatmeal chocolate chip cookies on cooling rack

Unaltered image. Ted Major, Flickr. CC license.

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup brown sugar (not packed)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light whipped butter or light buttery spread, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons fat-free liquid egg substitute (e.g., Egg Beaters® Original)
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup old-fashioned oats
  • 2 tablespoons semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
  • ½ ounce (about 2 tablespoons) chopped macadamia nuts or walnuts

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, thoroughly whisk brown sugar, sugar, butter, applesauce, egg substitute and vanilla extract.
  3. Add flour, baking powder and salt. Stir until smooth.
  4. Fold in oats and chopped chocolate chips.
  5. Spoon batter onto the baking sheet in six evenly spaced mounds. Use the back of a spoon to spread and flatten batter into 3-inch circles. Top with chopped nuts, and lightly pat to adhere.
  6. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a softie comes out clean, about 10 minutes.

Yield

Makes 6 servings.
(Serving size equals 1 softie. Each serving counts as 1 starch serving.)

Nutrition analysis per serving

  • Calories: 140
  • Fat: 5 g
  • Saturated Fat: 2 g
  • Trans Fat: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 5 mg
  • Sodium: 110 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 21 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Sugars: 11 g
  • Protein: 3 g
Recipe adapted from hungry-girl.com.

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

Phubbers and the “iPhone effect”

college students on phone and texting

Cropped image. John Morgan, Flickr. CC license.

iPhone Effect: Shortly after one person in the group brings out their iPhone, the rest follow suit, ultimately ending all conversation and eye contact.
– Urban Dictionary

The term “phubber” comes from a blend of “phone” and “snubber.” We’ve all been phubbed. You know the feeling: you’re talking to someone and his eyes drift down to his phone. Maybe the person checks it and replies in the middle of talking to you, without even acknowledging he’s doing it.

But, are you a phubber? Let’s find out! Here are a few of the indicators. Do you:

  • Check your phone during meals with others?
  • Check your phone during a lull in conversation?
  • Glance often at your phone while talking to someone?
  • Place your cell phone where you can see it when with others?

Take the full quiz!

comic-for-phubbing-app

How do “phubbees” feel? Surprise: Not great. In fact, it’s one of the newer factors in relationship dissatisfaction. A recent study at Baylor University found that phubbing your partner can become a significant source of conflict and leads to less relationship satisfaction. Why? Basically you’re prioritizing whatever is coming in on that phone over spending time with that person. Another study compared quality of conversations with and without cell phones present, and found that conversations were much more engaging and empathetic when phones were not in view or in a hand.

Why do we phub others? Simple: our phones are addicting! The reward pathways in our brain light up when we check our phones. These are the same reward pathways that drugs and gambling activate, by the way. Think of a phone like a slot machine — there could be something useful or interesting going on, and we don’t want to miss it! Pretty soon it’s habitual, we just pull out our phones and check whenever we are bored. Notifications pop up constantly from text messages, emails, social media or games. No wonder we can’t pay attention for long.

We’ll have more posts on this topic, but for now, you’ve learned about the “iPhone effect” and what phubbing is and why it’s harmful. Let’s not sacrifice the real world for the digital world. Do your relationships a favor and put the phones down! As I tell my kids, “The internet will still be there when you get back.”

– Dr. Lori Warner, Ph.D., LP, BCBA-D, Director, HOPE Center at Beaumont Children’s

The Face of Beaumont Parenting: Lillian Stier

mom, dad and twin boys

Lillian Stier with husband, Eric, and twins Zachary and Jackson

Winston Churchill said, “we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” So when Lillian Stier became a stay-at-home mom, you can say that she was no longer making a living, but she was most definitely making a life. She is also making the lives of those around her much better by her efforts as a mom and as a Beaumont Parenting Program volunteer.

Lillian is a registered nurse who is currently staying home full time to raise her twin boys, Zachary and Jackson, age 3. She and her family live in Troy, Michigan, where Lillian volunteers as a Parenting Partner in the Beaumont NICU. As a Parenting Partner, she teaches parenting skills to new parents, such as bathing and swaddling, thereby providing help to both the new parents and the nursing staff. Lillian is uniquely qualified for this position because of her experience as a nurse, but also due to her experience as a NICU parent with her boys.

She became a volunteer for the BPP “to be able to offer support to other new parents. Adjusting to parenthood can be very overwhelming and being able to talk to someone who understands can be helpful. [She] remembers being a parent in the NICU when Zachary and Jackson were born and [she was] so grateful for all the support and care that [she] received. [She] wanted to be able to give back in any way that [she] could, even if it was just making a difference to one parent.” Lillian has made a difference to more than one parent, and plans to reach even more new families by becoming a group leader for the BPP. The role of a group leader is to organize a group of new parents and facilitate meetings for them and their babies where expert speakers give helpful information, parents offer invaluable support to one another, and children make their first friends.

In addition to being a mom and a BPP volunteer, Lillian also volunteers for Kensington Community Church. In her spare time (which I’m sure there can’t be much of with all of the hats she is wearing), Lillian enjoys knitting, tennis, swimming with her family, and drinking coffee (which is no doubt a necessity to accomplish everything else she enjoys). Lillian thinks many would be surprised to know that she is fluent in Cantonese, which she is teaching her children, and that she was born in Hong Kong. Her favorite book is “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown, and her kids’ favorite things about her are her hugs and kisses.

Lillian found, as so many BPP volunteers have, that she gets back as much as she gives to the program, and told me that she’s grateful for the connection to one parent she was helping who turned around and helped her through a difficult time. She would like to tell new parents, “You are doing the best that you can. Don’t be afraid to ask for help because being a new parent is hard! Also, make sure you take time for yourself. I can better take care of my kids when I take care of myself; it makes me a better mom. “

After all, making a life is hard work. And everyone in the BPP family thanks Lillian for her efforts at making hers, and theirs, a better one.

– Nicole Capozello is a Parenting Program volunteer.


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