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Dear Daddy

dad holding little girl

I was asked to write a blog post for Father’s Day and was finding it challenging. Not for lack of material or inspiration — I think because there was just too much. So I thought I would try doing this in the form of a letter and sharing it with the “world.” So … here it goes.

It’s difficult to put into words how much I love and appreciate you. As my life has gone on and I’ve had new experiences, both personally and professionally, I have learned more and more how important it is to not only have a father in your life, but that the true gift is to have a really good one.

I can say without a doubt that you are a really good one, Dad. There has never been a time when I haven’t been able to count on you. You can fix anything, you have moved me more times than you would like. If I need your help for anything, you always say yes without hesitation. The comfort and security that comes with having that in my life is priceless.

I have so many wonderful memories growing up with you as my Dad. Teaching me to catch a ball in the living room, you would say, “Just keep your eye on the ball, Baby.” You coaching my softball teams, and thanks to you, I’ll never forget to “always run through first base.” Then when you surprised me with a Care Bear after I had oral surgery when I was 6 or 7, or when we went to the movies just the two of us to see “Twins” with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito and we snuck in our own candy. Let’s not forget those walks in the woods, eating cold pizza for breakfast, you cooking venison and rice, lots of rides in your truck when you would quiz me on my spelling words, watching “Little House on the Prairie” and both of us always getting teary at the same time. I could go on and on with these little things, and they may seem random and little, but I think of them often and smile; there were so many happy times.

dad and daughter

And then there are the big things: graduations; moves; my wedding, walking me down the aisle and dancing at the reception to our song, “My Girl”; you being there when Cassie and Connor were born. All of it, everything, from little things to big milestone moments you are a constant. I am so lucky that you are my dad.

Billy Graham said, “A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.” So true, but I want you to know that it hasn’t gone unnoticed by me. Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!

Love you,
Kelly

­– Kelly Ryan, MSW, Parenting Program, Postpartum Adjustment Coordinator

Let’s go hiking!

family hiking

Spring is here and with summer right around the corner, it seemed like a good time to do an article about hiking. Just like camping, hiking is a great way for you to spend quality time with your family without spending a fortune. But how do you get started? Here are some tips that can help.

Location

First, decide how big of an adventure you want to tackle. Start small and work your way into longer treks.

  • The easiest trails can be found at nature centers or Metroparks. These are often just a few miles on groomed trails so they can be completed in a few hours.
  • You can then steadily increase the distance and/or altitude on future hikes. As you take on more challenging trails, you may eventually decide that you want to spend the night on the trail.

Boots

Absolutely, the most important equipment is footwear! If you don’t have boots that are comfortable or fit properly, you are going to have problems.

  • Generally you’ll want a boot that provides plenty of arch and ankle support (although some hikers like to wear lightweight shoes with very little support).
  • Spend as much as you can afford on the boots. It is true that you get what you pay for.
  • Consider getting your boots from an outdoor recreation store like REI. Stores like this often allow you to exchange the boots for a different style if you find them uncomfortable. Their staff is also going to be more knowledgeable about hiking than at a regular shoe store.
  • Wear your boots around the house or during the day to help break them in before going on a hike.

Equipment

Backpacking is all about saving weight. When you have everything in your backpack, it shouldn’t weigh more than one-third of your body weight. If it does, either you have too much stuff or you need to buy lighter equipment. Not surprisingly, lighter equipment is usually higher in price.

  • A backpack
    • Start with basic equipment. A regular school-type backpack is fine for going a few miles at a Metropark. You can pack a lunch, snacks, and a small first aid kit with plenty of room left for a raincoat, extra water, etc.
    • When you’re ready to start spending the night on the trail, it’s time to upgrade your equipment.
      • The duration of your hike will help determine the size of the backpack that you need. If you plan to continue expanding your hiking abilities, go with a bigger pack so you can grow into it.
      • For overnight hikes, you can probably get by with a 40 to 50 liter backpack. For a weeklong hike, you’ll want 80 to 90 liters.
    • Most backpacks now have an internal frame, meaning that the structure is built into the backpack instead of the frame being on the outside. When you’re at the store, try on several different brands and styles to see which one fits your build the best. Again, an outdoor recreation store is great for this because they have a wide selection and knowledgeable staff.
  • A sleeping bag.
    • There are generally two types of sleeping bags: down and synthetic. Down is warmer but can take longer to dry if it gets wet (although there are new styles available with water-resistant down). Synthetic bags will dry faster and are usually cheaper. Be sure to get a waterproof compression sack to store it in.
    • Note: You don’t want to use the same one that you use for tent camping because it won’t compress small enough to fit in your backpack.
  • A tent.
    • There are several styles of backpacking tents available in a wide range of prices. If you’re hiking with other people, you can get a two person tent and each of you can carry half of the tent.
    • Generally speaking, most tents are similar in design; you’ll have poles, a nylon shell, and a rainfly.
    • When you buy a higher price tent, you’re paying for lighter weight.
  • Some cooking gear.
    • Start with a backpacking stove. You can get ones with pre-filled canisters of fuel, ones with a fuel bottle that you can refill, ones that use fuel tablets, or even ones that use wood. Talk with a staff member at the store to determine which one is best for your needs.
    • For pots and pans, look for ones that nest inside each other to save space.
    • Again, higher price means lighter weight.
  • You don’t need to spend much money on plates, cups and utensils. Just get a plastic bowl, a cup, and a spork (a fork, spoon and knife all in one). You can even go simpler and use a Frisbee for your bowl!s
  • That’s it for the basic equipment that you need. You can consider getting things like collapsible stools, hiking poles, pillows, GPS, coffee pots, and more. Just remember to watch the weight.

Food

  • To save weight, go with freeze-dried food. It stores easily and is fairly easy to cook on the trail.
  • Bring high-energy snacks to eat while hiking. You will go through more of these than you would expect, so have plenty.
  • Water can be your biggest obstacle when hiking. If you’re doing a strenuous hike, you’ll want to have at least one quart of water for every hour that you’re hiking. Drinking water also helps combat altitude sickness. You’ll also need water for cooking and cleaning. Consider dedicating specific bottles for each of the categories. You’ll likely need to fill your bottles during the trip so plan ahead. Either know where you can find clean, sanitized water or bring a method to sanitize water from streams and lakes.

Clothing

  • Less is more with clothing. Believe me, you can go a whole week on two sets of clothes! Bring some biodegradable soap and you can wash your clothes in a stream. Hang them on the outside of your pack to dry as you hike.
  • Spend some extra money and get a lightweight, thermal, long-sleeve shirt. You can wear this in the morning so you don’t have to bring a coat.
  • Have a separate set of sleeping clothes. Shorts and a T-shirt work great.
  • Bring a couple extra pairs of socks so that you always have a dry pair to wear.

Miscellaneous Tips

  • A lack of sanitation is the enemy when hiking. Don’t drink untreated water from lakes and streams. Make sure you are properly cleaning and sanitizing your cooking gear. Determine how you are going to deal with your waste and use hand sanitizer as necessary.
  • Be sure to familiarize yourself with the trails before setting out. Even if you are hiking though a Metropark, print off a copy of the map so you know where you are. For longer hikes, purchase topographical maps of the area. Even though you can use a compass on your phone, have a regular compass as a backup.
  • Make sure to use sunscreen. Even in the woods, the sun can filter through and have an effect.
  • Always let someone know that you’re going on a hike (even if you’re with a group). Share your planned route and when you expect to return. This will assist rescuers should you need help on the trail. Remember, your cell phone may not work on the trail, so you may not be able to call for help.
  • Finally, follow the Leave No Trace principles. They can be found at lnt.org. It’s important that we all follow these principles so that everyone can enjoy the trails for generations to come.

Now, get out on the trail and see what the world has to offer!

– Dave Enerson started camping and hiking with his dad as a young child. He is a former Scoutmaster of a local Boy Scout Troop and spent a week hiking at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico last summer.

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!

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

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.


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