My favorite day in November

Christmas decorations in mall

For most people, Thanksgiving is about family, food and tradition. That’s true for my family too, to some extent. But for us that’s even more the case for the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday is the day that I celebrate my mom and pass on some of things that were important to her to my kids. We embrace her traditions, and we have started some of our own.

Mom passed away almost 22 years ago. We lost her 14 months before my oldest child was born, so my kids never got to meet her. They do know her though as I’ve made sure that she is still a part of their lives.

One day when we especially do this is Black Friday. My Mom loved shopping. She was a master of it. In some ways it was her faith – so much so that when Somerset North opened, she called it “the cathedral.” Where shoppers go to worship. Clearly then Black Friday was a favorite day of hers.

Understand that this was before Black Friday leaked into Thanksgiving (she would not have approved). My mom would get up at the crack of dawn (she usually did that anyway) to be there when the stores opened to take advantage of all the great deals. She taught me to appreciate the value of a good sale, and it was something we did together. The year we lost her, she was too sick to shop on Black Friday, but she made a list and sent me off with my best friend to practice what she had preached. From that Black Friday forward, I’ve continued to shop with my best friend and we started taking my daughter when she was old enough. That kid is now 20 and she is her grandmother’s girl – a shopping superstar practicing her faith on the biggest shopping day of the year.

When we finish shopping, it’s time for breakfast. Yes, I said breakfast. Mom used to say that you had to get done early before the “amateurs” came out. That is when we indulge in a tradition all our own:  Cinnabon. Some years my husband would wake our kids up and bring them to meet me at the mall, but now we pick up a pack of the calorie-laden treats and bring them home to our non-shoppers. Those of us who have been raking in the deals since dawn need a boost, and the others will need their energy for what comes next: decorating!

Another of my mother’s favorite things in the world was Christmas. I think that may be because of the child-like wonder with which Mom always viewed the world. With a sparkle in her eye, even in her 50s, she delighted in the joy the world had to offer. But never so much as at Christmas.

The official start of the Christmas season at my house is Black Friday. Christmas music isn’t allowed on the radio before that day, but starting that Friday we embrace the joyous Noel. We put up seven (yes, seven) Christmas trees, yards of garland, thousands of twinkling lights, and some of my other favorite decorations. My mom’s “Christmas in the City” collection goes on the mantle. We talk about how her favorite pieces were the cathedral and Hollydale’s Department Store. Then there’s my crèche – the one my Mom and Dad got (the very last one!) for me on the day after Christmas, 27 years ago for half-off because I fell in love with its peaceful simplicity. And the only ornament I place on our living room tree: the little green and white angel who represents my mom watching over my family.

After all that hard work, we need some sustenance. And that brings me to my final favorite of my mom’s for the day: good food. Mom was an amazing cook. Every day was a feast and holidays were even more glorious. But she never really ate much at Thanksgiving dinner. I didn’t understand that until I took over the family meal when I got married. After spending all day making all that food – I guess neither of us really wanted to eat it. That wore off by the next day, however. Is there anything better than Thanksgiving leftovers?! Our special tradition for the day after Thanksgiving is my Mom’s creation: Mush-Mush. Yes, I know how it sounds, but trust me, it’s delicious. Mom would take the leftover mashed potatoes and leftover broccoli and mash it together in a frying pan with a ton of butter. Frying it up until it was golden brown; it was and still is my favorite thing to eat from the Thanksgiving feast. Now my husband is the one who makes Mush-Mush as he honors the woman who never used the term “in-law” when she called him her son.

It’s almost Black Friday now. As I type this, I’m smiling and my eyes are a little shiny with unshed tears. I love that I have a day that has such strong happy memories of my beautiful Mom. Ones that I can share with the grandchildren she would have spoiled rotten, but who still feel her love. I hope that your holidays are filled with beautiful memories, and traditions – new and old!

– Nicole Capozello, Parenting Program staff

10 positioning and latching tips for breastfeeding

breastfeeding baby latched onto mom's breast

1.  It’s important that mom is comfortable. For an upright feeding position, use a supportive pillow. Remember to have back support.

2.  Bring baby to you. Don’t hunch over baby as it can cause pain and be detrimental to your neck and back.

3.  Take a deep breath before positioning baby. This helps relax you and baby relaxes, too.

4.  Try to vary nursing positions. It takes practice to get into these positions, but well worth the awkward learning!

  • While you and baby are still learning to breast feed, I like the cross-cradle position.
  • When more confident and no discomfort, you can transition to cradle hold.
  • The football hold is also a good position to try when baby is newborn. As baby grows, discomfort can happen from baby kicking.
  • Try the side lying position. Some moms also like the laid back (also called biological) nursing position.

5.  Bring baby nose-to-nipple so baby can reach up, chin first to breast. This helps relax baby’s jaw and attain an asymmetric latch.

6.  If baby’s latch doesn’t feel right or you have pain lasting more than 10 seconds, detach baby and try again. Don’t compromise good latching. Nipple damage from poor latching takes a while to heal.

7.  Detach baby safely by putting pinky or finger with a shorter nail into side of baby’s mouth and listen for suction to break, then pull baby away from you. Do not pull nipple out of baby’s mouth. It can cause damage along the shaft of the nipple and cause discomfort.

8.  If struggling to get baby to latch for the first time, hold baby skin-to-skin. Babies regulate their heart beats, breathing, blood sugar and metabolism on mom and dad. Mom holding baby skin to skin facilitates latching. You can also get baby into a sucking rhythm on your clean finger and then transfer baby over to breast.

9.  Compare your position with this visual of baby’s position when approaching breast.

mother's view while latching baby

10.  Check these signs of a good latch:

  • Baby’s mouth opens wide.
  • Baby’s lips are curled out (flanged) and cover about 1 to 1.5 inches of area below the nipple. This may be less for a small or premature baby.
  • Baby’s lower lip covers more of the areola than the upper lip.
  • Baby’s chin is pressed into the breast.
  • Baby’s cheeks appear to be full and rounded (not dimpling in).
  • Baby’s mouth does not slip off the breast.
  • Baby is supported in chest-to-chest position and baby’s neck is not turned.
  • Mom feels a tugging sensation without pain.
  • Baby shows signs of sucking and swallowing breast milk.

– Dennette Fend, RNc, WHNP, IBCLC, runs the Beaumont Breastfeeding Services in Rochester Hills. To learn more about the clinic and how to make an appointment, view this flyer.

I’m the mom of the “bad” kid and I’m done being sorry

boy with slingshot

I’m writing this with tears rolling down my face.

You see, I’m the mom of “the bad kid.”

My beautiful, funny boy has a reputation, even in first grade, and my heart is breaking. This was all triggered for me today when I got a text from his teacher. At recess he kicked and spit in the face of another kid. Apparently, the other kid said, “I hope you die,” to my son, but still, the behavior is unacceptable.

Without making excuses for my kid’s behavior, I’d like to help the majority of you understand what it’s like being the parent of “that” kid. The “bad” one.

As parents, we are trying with every ounce of strength we have.

We have therapists for kids and families, pediatricians, evaluations, 504 plans, ADHD-combined diagnosis, and meetings with school counselors, principals and teachers. We have good behavior award plans, bad choices consequences and the will to help him succeed.

It is exhausting, physically and emotionally.

My kid isn’t bad, and I’m not a bad parent.

He’s not a rotten apple, a statistic, poor sport or bully. He has a mental illness and it’s called ADHD. We are working very hard to teach him the skills he needs in life to manage his emotions appropriately and make good choices. But, as a mother who loves her son with every fiber of my being, it shatters me to think someone doesn’t see the boy I know. The boy who protects the two-year-old next door from a stray cat. He unplugs the battery on our power wheels so that same little girl can sit in it without driving out of control. He’s the first one to defend his sister and can sense when someone is sad. He is beautiful.

ADHD sucks.

Yes, it’s a real thing and yes, I believe this diagnosis. ADHD isn’t just the inability to pay attention. It’s also the inability to think things through with no concept of cause/effect. Because my son has this, he’s more prone to losing friends, being labeled the class clown and getting in trouble. Later, in his teens, he’s more likely to make dangerous decisions. Kids with impulsive issues are more likely to run into the street without looking, jump off the garage roof because it looks fun, try drugs/alcohol and drive at reckless speeds.

I tell him his brain works differently than mine. My brain is a regular car and his is a race car. We are not the same and because I’m the adult, I need to meet him where he is, wherever he is, and sometimes, he’s hard to find.

It’s easy to judge.

I get it. I really do. If another child acted toward my kid the way my son does, my inner mama bear would come out, too. It’s only natural.

But understand this: My son will apologize for any of his inappropriate behavior and there will be consequences for bad choices. However, he will never apologize for being who he is or for his diagnosis and neither will I.

Please try to understand.

After-school activities are fun. So are birthday parties, soccer games, family events, holidays and class projects.

Parenting an ADHD kid requires adjustment though, which means I can’t always commit to activities, especially after school. My kid has been trying to keep it together all day and to ask him to hold on even longer is setting him up to fail. Kids with ADHD tend to have self-esteem issues because they’re constantly being corrected. If I can give him one less opportunity to goof, I’m doing that.

Also, think about how we parents feel. Every day, we get reports on how the being we love most in the world is messing up. Every day. We’re the parents on the playground who are always having a chat with the teacher, who are always listening to the list of complaints from another parent. It takes its toll.

I’m going to put this to you straight. Yes, it’s embarrassing. But it’s also frustrating, heart breaking and I’m sick of it. He’s my son. I’m going to will him to succeed and I will be his biggest fan along the way. He was born in my heart and he’ll always have a place there. And no matter what anyone says or thinks about him, I’m only ever going to see one thing: a diamond in the rough.

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

Meet the pomegranate

pomegranate pic from Pixabay

Pomegranate (literally “apple or fruit of many seeds”) is originally from Persia, but crops are now grown in California. These are interesting fruits because we don’t eat the flesh or meat, instead eating the many seeds found inside.

How do I know if a pomegranate is ripe?

You can usually find them in local grocery stores between late September and early January. Ripe pomegranates are heavy, large and taut. As they’re stored, they tend to shrink and dry out, making them lighter and smaller. Ripe pomegranates bruise easily and can even split naturally; split specimens are perfectly fine to eat, especially if you find them at a farmer’s market. Avoid pomegranates with cuts or soft spots.

How do I store them?

Pomegranates can be left out on the counter for about a week without any problems. When refrigerated, they can last for several weeks; simply wrap the fruit in plastic and place it in the fridge.

How do I use them?

  • In drinks. Drop pomegranate seeds into calorie-free tea or sparkling water for color, flavor and festiveness.
  • Make pomegranate dip. Whirl some pomegranate seeds with roasted red peppers, walnuts, and a bit of fruity olive oil (season to taste with salt and pepper) to make a zingy spread perfect for spreading on whole grain crackers or serving as a dip with low-starch vegetables.
  • Add to salads. Pomegranate seeds glisten like little rubies and dress up any salad. Just sprinkle a few pomegranate seeds in your favorite green salad.
  • Great as a snack. Enjoy them alone as a refreshing, crunchy snack. Serving size of ½ a cup fits perfectly into most meal plans.

What is a pomegranate’s nutritional information?

Serving size: ½ cup of arils (seeds)

  • Calories:  80
  • Fat:  0g
  • Cholesterol:  0
  • Sodium:  5 mg
  • Potassium:  180 mg
  • Carbohydrates:  18 g
  • Fiber:  5 g
  • Protein:  1 g
  • Vitamin C:  4%
  • Iron:  2%

– Amy Stevens is a dietetic intern with Beaumont Health. The Beaumont Weight Control Center offers cooking demonstrations to the community. View a list of current demonstrations here.

Meet the author: AnnieMarie Chiaverilla

anniemarie ciaverilla

Like many families across America, my family enjoys special days trips that we try to do at least once a year, including an annual adventure in Frankenmuth. Yes, in a little over an hour away, we savor the world-famous chicken dinner, wine tasting and cruising the Cass River on the riverboat. However, this trip was a little different as I discovered a different little part of Michigan.

During our stroll through the stores, something magical happened in the Michigan Shoppe. There in front of me was an amazing display of children’s books, all written by Michigan authors.

close up of The Twelve Months of Michigan bookAmong all of the books on the table, a particular one caught my eye with its characters and watercolor illustrations: “The Twelve Months of Michigan.” I knew immediately that this book could be sung to the holiday song with almost the same name and I was so captivated that I couldn’t put it down until I had read it through. The story is about a family of mice, including Pirate Paul and Ana Mae, and their adventures across Michigan.

After I read the story, I wanted to meet this author and share all I could about her and her writing. I came home, called her and she graciously accepted to meet with me.

Let me introduce AnnieMarie Chiaverilla, an author, illustrator, publicist, marketer and songwriter. Growing up in West Bloomfield (when it was a blooming field), she and her siblings had lots of room to run, play and experience the outdoors. Her parents taught their children about our great state by exploring fun and unique places, especially in upper Michigan (in particular Mackinac Island and Drummond Island).

As a right-brained learner, AnnieMarie’s interest lay in the creative parts of the school day. Believe it or not, this now-writer received additional support in reading to keep up with her peers. But it was a life-changing 11th grade teacher who took the time to teach AnnieMarie strategies to become an independent and successful student.

AnnieMarie went to nursing school, and after a few years, she realized that her heart wasn’t in it, but rather in art.

She shares, “I was studying for a pathology exam early on a Saturday (about 5:30 a.m.) when an animation, The Selfish Giant, was playing. It was so beautiful and moving. The animation was stunning and the story so lovely. I was pouring myself into my studies to be a nurse but, in reality, I always wanted to be an artist.” She ran upstairs and announced to her parents, “I don’t want to be a nurse, I want to be an artist.” Her dad, still half asleep, replied, “It’s about time,” and went back to bed.

With her parents’ support, AnnieMarie finished an associates degree in respiratory therapy so she could work as a therapist while going back to school for art. She eventually entered Michigan State University’s art school, gaining access to computers and state-of-the-art programs. She later worked at a local television station, where technology and art programs were her playground. Each of these laid the foundation and lead her to the place she is today.

Inspired by “The Nutcracker,” AnnieMarie uses mice as her characters in her book. In fact, the characters and illustrations are ones she began drawing many years ago at 7 years old. In addition to Pirate Paul and Ana Mae, you’ll find the author throughout the book. Since “The Twelve Months of Michigan” is set in Michigan, there are a multitude of fun Michigan symbols throughout the book and I guarantee that, even as an adult, you’ll learn a few things. The book won the Children’s Picture Book: All Ages category for the 2015 USA Regional Excellence Awards and was nominated for “Children’s Book of the Year” in Creative Child Magazine.

I asked AnnieMarie for advice she would give to young writers. She offered these tips whether your child is a reluctant writer a typical writer for their age or an aspiring writer:

  • Start your writing on paper not the computer.
  • Keep a journal.
  • Write every day, even if it’s only a sentence or two.
  • Learn to be an effective communicator and speaker.
  • Color outside the lines.
  • Free yourself from being perfect.
  • Keep stumbling.

AnneMarie’s books are sold at over 80 stores across Michigan. She is currently working on a new book, “The Twelve Months of America” and a CD to go along with it. As you search for books to read with your children or purchase for special occasions, remember that our Michigan authors have unparalleled talent.

– Lori Irwin, M.Ed., is a Parenting Program volunteer. She’s a former teacher of children with severe disabilities in reading, a consultant with a leading educational book publisher, and a mother of two adult children.

Adoption, luck and gratitude

woman with baby comforting a toddler girl

“Your children are so lucky!” “They must be so grateful.” These are comments adoptive parents often hear in regard to their children, but they reflect an adult perspective on a life event that is experienced completely differently by a child.

One thing non-adoptive parents often fail to understand is that adoption is a joy born from grief and loss. So when we are talking about luck and gratitude in the context of adoption, we need to clearly define what those terms really mean from the child’s perspective.

“Luck” is something many adopted children believe they do not have. Is it really “lucky” to be born into a situation where, for whatever reason, you cannot be raised with your birth family? Is it “lucky” to be taken, through no fault of your own, from the mother whose voice you heard and whose food you ate for months before you were born and perhaps for months or years after? Is it “lucky” when every family event features a comparison between your cousins’ and grandfather’s big ears, highlighting the physical traits you don’t have in common with your adopted family?

“Gratitude,” as any of us who parent teenagers know, is often in short supply with our children. To expect an adopted child to be any more grateful than a biological child is unrealistic and unfair. The adoptive parents presumably wanted to be parents and persisted in that quest until they were able to bring children into their family through adoption. Most adoptive parents believe that we are the grateful ones – grateful to our children for allowing us to love and parent them after a very difficult and painful separation that they didn’t ask for and were likely too young to understand.

It’s also important to remember that adoptive parents have often (not always, but often) come to adoption after losing their dream of having a biological child. They are also grieving the loss of the “idealized” family they had in their mind – the loss of the experience of pregnancy, perhaps multiple losses of children through miscarriage, the loss of that little kid with grandpa’s ears. The notions of “luck” and “gratitude” are often very different for adoptive parents as well as for their children.

In an ideal world, every child born is wanted and every birth mother is able and willing to raise a child born to her until that child is an adult. But we don’t live in an ideal world. And adoptive families don’t live in a morose and grief-filled world, but we do have to acknowledge the loss is there, to give our children the ability to express it when they need to, to understand that their grief is not a comment on our parenting but is simply a reality, a faint backdrop that becomes more pronounced from time to time.

Are we all lucky and grateful that somehow the universe brought us together and allowed us to become a family? Yes, of course, but it’s a very different kind of luck and gratitude, the kind that defies loss and grief and brings us together in joy.

– Kathy Henry is an adoptive parent to two teenage boys, makes a living as a marketing consultant and copywriter, and is a “professional” volunteer for several organizations, including the Beaumont Parenting Program. The pay is lousy but the rewards are great!

Halloween safety

kids in costume holding "Halloween" sign

As much as I loved Halloween as a child, experiencing it as a mother is even more fun. While it’s easy to get caught up in the preparation for school parties, finding or making the perfect costumes, and stocking the candy bowl, taking a few moments to focus on Halloween safety can make the night even more enjoyable. Below are a few safety tips to help you and your family enjoy a safe and happy Halloween.

Getting ready

  • Costumes should fit well to prevent tripping.
  • Choose hats or face paint instead of masks that could obstruct vision.
  • Make sure accessories aren’t dangerous. Swords or sticks associated with a costume should be flexible and wigs should be flame resistant.
  • Never use “one size fits all” contact lenses.
  • Have each person wear or carry a flashlight. Consider adding light-reflective tape to treat bags and costumes.

Going out

  • Accompany kids under age 12. With older kids, agree on a preplanned route and time to be home. Remind kids how to call 911 or for help if needed.
  • Only visit well-lit homes and never enter a home or car for a treat.
  • Be mindful of potential fire sources such as candles in lit jack-o-lanterns.
  • Discuss pedestrian safety with kids before going out.
    • Always walk on sidewalks and use cross-walks to cross streets.
    • If walking on a street without a sidewalk, keep to the far side of the road and walk facing traffic.
    • Put mobile devices away while walking.
    • Be cognizant of cars backing out of driveways. Teach kids to listen and look for back-up lights.

Coming home

  • Inspect all candy once home. Remove all homemade treats and those that may be spoiled or not fully sealed.
  • Some candies may not be appropriate for young children so adjust based on age.
  • Check ingredients for potential allergens if a child has a food allergy.

Take the time to make Halloween safety a part of your family’s tradition. With good preparation and a focus on safety, you can ensure that the night is full of only treats for your little ones!

– Melissa Rettmann, M.S., PA-C, has a background in pediatrics and allergy. She is the mother of three young children and volunteers with the Parenting Program.


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