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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

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!


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

Valentine memories

Valentine mailbox

Kathy Rizzi remembers:

valentine exchange boxMy favorite Valentine memory is from my childhood. It was making my valentine mailbox, which would be placed on the edge of the desk where all our classmates to drop our Valentine “mail.” It required searching through the house to find the “perfect” box that will hold all of my valentines (usually a shoe box or a tissue box if there was one available). I would carefully cut the slit in the top so all those secret notes could be dropped in, silently hoping that my “crush” put something more than just his name on the card. I covered it with aluminum foil or maybe some old wrapping paper Mom saved, smoothing it out just so. Then came decorating it: Cutting out paper hearts to paste on or maybe Mom had a paper doily to glue on.  The best part was coming home after school, tearing into my mailbox to read all those special notes and then calling my best friend to see which valentine she got from her crush!

Wendy MacKenzie has a different story:

I had always felt kind of “meh” about Valentine’s Day. Perhaps it was the total and utter lack of any boyfriend-type personages in my formative years. Maybe it was that one February 14 in 1994 that ruined it for me; I sat in my incomprehensible Organic Chemistry lecture, surrounded by people who were not only smarter than I but also more loved (based on the number of roses they were having delivered to them in the middle of class). Or perhaps it was just that I already ate chocolate every other day of the year, so a day devoted to sweets didn’t really stand out for me. Whatever the reason, there I was, feeling meh.

cut out heartsUntil this year. A week or so ago, I got sucked into the bowels of Facebook (as one does), and made a discovery. Someone had posted a “Love Notes” idea in one of the assorted groups I peruse: Every day from February 1 until February 14, tape a heart to each of your children’s bedroom doors. In this heart you can tell them something you love about them such as their personality, their skills, their talents, their capacity for life. Upon seeing this, my view on Valentine’s Day instantly changed. Instead of chasing down reasons to enjoy the day for myself, now I had myriad reasons to remember why I enjoy my children. And so it was with pleasure that I sat down with my trusty Cricut® machine to cut out my hearts.

Valentine’s Day is the furthest thing from meh this year.

Betsy Clancy made one of her favorite valentines:

One year in the early stages of my mother’s dementia, I gave her an “old school” valentine card. It was something I would have made in kindergarten: red paper doily, pink construction paper hearts, glitter and a crayon signature.  It made her smile and she kept it on her dresser for a long time.

It made me smile too, as I remembered the simple pleasure of childhood creativity, the joy of giving, and the satisfaction of a completed project. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Lucy Hill received the “very best”:

handmade valentines

The best valentine memories were when my two boys would make their homemade cards, coloring big hearts and kisses and writing “I Love You Mom” with such sweet innocence that only my children could give! Of course on the back of the homemade cards was always the seal of quality. My boys would always point to the back were they would draw a symbol of a crown and wrote “Joemark” or “Ryanmark” that was their way of saying they were giving you the best!

Deanna Robb shares:

I have many fond memories of my kids bestowing me with handmade Valentine’s Day gifts and cards. It brings a smile just thinking about the carefully cut out (misshapen) hearts with love notes scribbled in the classic multi-colored crayon font. The glued-on, half-eaten, candy pieces spattered on cards were favorites for sure.

valentine notevalentine note

Valentine’s Day wishes come in many shapes and forms, but I think, for me, I was especially touched when I continued to receive thoughtful notes and cards throughout the college years (and beyond).

Sending out a special Valentine’s Day wish to my amazing hubby, three beautiful children and to my “you melt my heart” grandchild, Emilia Rose: Loved you yesterday, Love you still, Always have and always will.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all! Cheers to celebrating everyday with love!

The store

pretend gold coins

Today, in this moment, I feel like a genius.

We’ve wanted to establish a reward system for our kids for good behavior, manners and listening. Nothing was inspiring me. Nothing.

Then, out of the blue, it all came together in my head: The Store! My kids love getting things from the store, so why not create one in our home?

Using jars I had at home, a recycled gift bag and a $15 trip to the party supply store, we were up and running. Here’s how it works:

  • Each kid has a jar with their name on it. Every day they get two “gold coins” to start. The gold coins are from the Super Mario Bros. section of the party supply. I got about 30 of them for $2.
  • The rest of the coins go in “The Bank,” an additional jar near theirs.
  • If they show good behavior, good listening or good manners, a coin goes in the jar.
  • If they don’t, a coin is removed from the jar.
  • At the end of the day, each kid can count up their coins and “buy” something from “The Store,” which is a gift bag I filled with trinkets and small pieces of candy that cost anywhere from 40 cents to $1. The grown-up in charge of “The Store” that day sets prices. After all, we do live in a free-market economy.
  • The kid can also choose to set up an “account” with “The Bank.” They can save any coins they earn in a day, and when they reach a certain amount, they go on a special outing such as the ice cream shop or Jungle Java.
  • If the kid is having a bad day and loses all the coins, the grown-up in charge will start taking away one toy for each offence. The only way to get the toys back is the “buy” them back with earned coins. Kids cannot opt for something new from “The Store” or put anything in “The Bank” until all their toys are returned.

I’m not sure where this came from, or if it will even work, but I’m pretty proud.

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

Prepare to be “Bowl”ed over

nrg stadium

Cropped image. Urban.houstonian, Flickr. CC license.

The big game. That pinnacle of football achievement. The height of prowess. Best vs. the best. A final chance for the players to exude dominance. A final chance to admire Tom Brady’s form. (The way he throws a football, I mean. Of course that’s what I meant.)

If you’re a football fan, you tune in for the game. You watch as the offense outruns—nay, outsmarts— the defense. You observe the strategy on both sides as tempers flare and celebrations ensue. You analyze the replays with interest and deliver your own verdict on the judgments of the officials. If you’re especially savvy, you can decree with certainty if a player “completed the process of the catch.” This is a thrilling, four-hour competition that will be talked about for decades (or days). Either way it’s still thrilling!

However …

If you have less of a technical interest in the game, and are perhaps only watching because certain loved ones in your life have commandeered the remote leaving you without further recourse, then perhaps these supplemental game day elements may interest you.

Squares. You’ve probably heard of these. If you haven’t, please Google the concept because I thought about explaining it and quickly realized it would put me over my word limit for the article. Just trust me that they’re super fun (super fun! See what I did there?) and cause you to care deeply about those pesky two-point conversions.

Commercials. You’ve probably heard of these, too. Air time during the big game is highly coveted among advertisers; as such, they pay a lot of money for their 30-second slot ($5,000,000 per slot in 2016) and they work hard to make darn sure you’re paying attention to them. The commercials are usually creative masterpieces, some containing catchphrases that are sure to live on in the vernacular of our society for years. Think “Where’s the beef?

Halftime entertainment. If you only have the ability to tune in for a few minutes, try to time your viewing for halftime. Some acts are more memorable than others, but you don’t want to be that person at the watercooler on Monday who missed this year’s wardrobe malfunction display of talent.

Various furry bowls. No, not your toilets at home. I refer to the Kitten and Puppy Bowls airing on the Hallmark Channel and Animal Planet, respectively. If no one in your house is interested in seeing men slam each other into the turf, then turn your attention to the gentle carousing of the feline and canine varieties. The programs are both on earlier in the day, so they make for excellent family friendly viewing.

As that football guy Vince Lombardi once said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.” The big game is all about chasing perfection. And catching things. And all of the other excellent aspects of the day. So do try to tune in on February 5.

– Wendy MacKenzie is a mother of four, Parenting Program volunteer, and legendary loser at Squares.

Meet the Parenting Program Staff: Nichole Enerson

nichole and erik

Nichole Enerson, a group coordinator with the Parenting Program,
and her husband, Erik.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Clarkston, Michigan where I still live today. It is a great little town that isn’t as little as it used to be 😉

Tell us something about your family.

I am married to a wonderful man, Erik, who is also involved with the Parenting Program as a CPR speaker. We have two great kids: Our son Brody is 13 and our daughter Elise is 9.  Rounding out our household are our goofy, giant yellow Labrador Retriever, Sunny, and Alley, the orange & white stray cat that adopted us. J

What was your first job?

When I was 15, I got a job as a banquet server at a local golf course. I worked at the same course until I got my first “real” job after college.

Why did you choose to be part of the Parenting Program?

I heard about the Parenting Program while studying Counseling in graduate school. I was planning to become an academic advisor at the university level, but I kept hearing about this wonderful program. As I learned more about it, I was drawn to working with new families after my own difficult adjustment to motherhood. I abandoned my previous five-year plan and haven’t looked back!

What was your first job in health care?

Believe it or not, I used to be a registrar in the Emergency Department at another local hospital. It was very exciting and where I met my husband.

Who or what inspires you?

Our volunteers truly inspire me. I’ve never met and worked with another group of people who give so generously of themselves and their time. When I consider the generational impact of this program and these individuals on our community, I am blown away. The parents who we support today will pass what they’ve learned on to their children who will in turn impact their own children and so on. It is incredible.

Who do you most admire?

I admire my sisters, Brandi and Rena. We are very close and do as much together as we possibly can. They were role model moms to me and helped me through the challenges of life as a new parent. Each of them faces challenges every day that would test even the most steadfast.

Do you have a secret talent?

No, I am talentless.

What are your hobbies or special interests?

I like Stars on Ice, a touring ice skating show featuring national champions as well as world and Olympic medalists.

What’s your favorite movie?

One of my favorite movies is Grease! I love it! We watched it all the time when I was growing up. At any given moment, you might catch my sisters and me singing the songs. They once traveled four hours round-trip so we could all watch it together!

What’s your favorite meal?

Lasagna and breadsticks. I’ve been blessed with a husband who does most of the cooking and his homemade lasagna and breadsticks are amazing. Yummy!

What type of music do you listen to? Who are some of your favorite musical artists?

I have very eclectic taste in music that includes everything from Kid Rock to Dolly Parton and Depeche Mode to The Commodores! However, my absolute favorite artist is Tori Amos. She is amazingly talented and I see her live every chance that I get.

Do you watch or participate in sports? Who is your favorite sports team?

On any given day, if you stop by the Enersons’ abode, there’s likely some kind of athletic event on the TV or radio. My boys love baseball, but I am a die-hard Detroit Lions fan. Calvin Johnson is by far my favorite professional athlete despite retiring last year. I even have Calvin Johnson earrings and socks. 🙂

What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?

Coconut Almond Fudge from Cooks’ Farm Dairy in Ortonville, Michigan. It’s the absolute best local dairy farm around.

Tell us something about you that we might find surprising.

I hail from a very large blended family! Along with my two sisters, I have two half-sisters who are in college, four step-sisters, and one very outnumbered step-brother. 😉

What not to say (or do) to a pregnant woman

Pregnant woman sitting on bench

Cropped image. Nicu Buculei, Flickr. CC license.

As I enter week 34 of my second pregnancy, I am still surprised at the remarks that strangers say to me about my looks. Does somehow growing a child and carrying it around for 9 months gives people the right to comment on (or touch) my body? While I was joking with co-workers about the odd comments and stories we each experience, I decided to put a basic list together of things you should not say (or do) to a pregnant woman.

  • Do not tell her how huge/big/pregnant she is.

After age 5, hearing how big you are stops being a compliment. Don’t you think I know how big I am?! I’m the one who gets out of breath putting on socks.

  • Do not touch her belly without asking first.

Oh, hi complete stranger! I have no idea where your hands have been and if you are sick or not. Don’t get me wrong, I love when people touch my belly (you get bonus points if you lightly scratch my belly) but simply ask first. If you ask once and I give you permission, you can feel free to touch my waistline in the future.

  • Do not say, “Are you sure you’re not having twins?”

It’s 2016 and I am surprised that I am writing this. No joke, this happened to me twice during this pregnancy. The first time was while shopping with a friend and the cashier asked me this. Mind you I was only six months pregnant at the time; talk about a blow to my self-esteem. Even if it is twins, do not ask if it is twins. Instead say, “How exciting to welcome a baby!” and if a mother is carrying two bundles of joy, she may offer this information.

  • Do not say, “Should you be eating that?”

Most health care providers give a list to new moms on what foods to avoid or tips on where they can find this information. A pregnant woman’s diet is limited while her cravings are limitless. I am not a big meat eater and surprised myself when I found myself craving a Reuben sandwich (who am I?). Unless I accidentally grabbed a container of explosive material instead of my delicious corned beef, please let me eat what my body is craving.

Also under this category is to not mention how gross our cravings can be. Ice cream and pickles together? Pretzels and BBQ sauce? Hot wings and sour cream? Chances are good that I know how weird these combos sound. It’s baby craving that food combinations, not me!

  • Do not say, “I hear you’re having another boy/girl. That’s too bad. Guess you’ll just have to try again to get that little girl/boy!”

I love my 3-and-a-half-year-old boy and am so excited to be having another boy. Does that mean I will be the only female in the house and outnumbered by cars, trucks, forts, dirty hands, pee-covered toilets, NERF guns and swords? Yes. But does that mean I would trade any of that for princesses and bows? No. My family is perfect just the way it is. My standard response is, “I am going to focus on this pregnancy and loving this baby for now.”

  • Do not say “You look really tired.”

You shouldn’t say this to anyone unless you are offering them a cup of coffee, massage, and free babysitting.

Here’s what you should say to every single pregnant woman you see: “You look wonderful.”

Regardless of whether she is six or 36 weeks along, every pregnant woman has a whirlwind of emotions going through her body including being self-conscious. I mean, honestly, is there ever a more vulnerable time for a woman than when your waist is expanding, you can’t see your toes, and you wet your pants if you sneeze too hard? Be sensitive. Be kind. And offer her a snack or a nap (better yet, even both).

– Stephanie Babcock is an IFS coordinator with the Parenting Program. She’s a proud mom of one with another on the way.


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