Archive Page 2

Successful solutions for the homebound spring breaker

 

As the weather vacillates from winter to, well, still winter here in Michigan, one’s thoughts inevitably turn to more exciting times. Something must be on the horizon to break up this monotony, one thinks. And indeed, something is coming. No, not the zombie apocalypse.

Spring Break!

At this point in the school year, chances are high that spring break is right around the corner.  Many families use this time to travel – vacationing or visiting family elsewhere. Others, however, remain close to home and fill their time hiding from their children doing fun local activities. You may think, “But what can we do? My town is so boring.” Fear not! There is so much out there that this article won’t be sufficient to capture all of the possibilities.

  • Museums. The Detroit metro area offers several options that are specifically geared toward kids such as the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum.
  • Indoor waterparks. Frankenmuth and Sandusky have a variety of fabulous ones. Live across the border? Adventure Bay Family Water Park is right in the heart of downtown Windsor.
  • Aquatic centers. Troy and Warren have indoor facilities.
  • Pottery and painting studios.
  • Zoos. Detroit and Toledo both boast excellent ones.
  • Metroparks and county parks offer hiking, bird watching, and nature centers.
  • Local farms. Lots of baby animals arrive during this time of year.
  • Libraries. Many have programs for younger kids.
  • Gyms. Even if you aren’t a member, many gyms offer day camps for kids whose parents still need to work.
  • Indoor climbing and play centers. Jungle Java and Detroit Kid City are popular choices.
  • Bowling!
  • Movies
  • Mini golf and/or the driving range

If transportation, finances or time are factors, then there is always the tried-and-true, time-honored, parent-approved activity that is sure to please all of the children: chore time! Surely there is a room that needs tidying or some dishes to wash. Many hands make light work, as Ye Olde Saying goes. And the kids sure do like those “Olde” sayings. Before they know it, they’ll be asking to go back to school.

– Wendy MacKenzie is a mother of four, Parenting Program volunteer, and former teacher who used to love Spring Break.

Kids and lead exposure

close up of little hand holding toy car

Unaltered image. Patrik Nygren, Flickr. CC license.

“There is no safe level of exposure to lead for a child.” This is the mantra that Ecology Center staff, parents and others carried to Lansing on March 8, 2017. About 60 environmental advocates, public health professionals, lead-abatement contractors, and other citizen-lobbyists braved gale-force winds for the fifth annual Lead Education Day. Leading the charge was the Michigan Alliance for Lead Safe Homes (MiALSH), who connected constituents with 40 legislators or their staff to discuss the real hazards of lead still lurking in many of our homes in the state.

Each time a window or door is opened or closed, friction occurs that can create dust. In houses built before 1978 — the year lead was banned for use in paint — that dust can be contaminated with lead. Plus, the potential for exposure increases anytime an old home is remodeled. Michigan’s housing stock is older than the country average; 70 percent of the homes in the state (versus about 50 percent nationally) were built before 1978 and likely have windows, doors, cupboards, and porches coated with lead paint.

What legislators can do

There’s much we can do on the state level to prevent lead poisoning. On March 8, lawmakers learned about vital strategies, including:

  1. Universal lead testing of all children 1 and 2 years old. In 2015 about 5,000 Michigan kids had elevated blood lead levels (above 5 mg/dL). But the true total is likely much higher, because only about 20 percent of Michigan’s children under 6 are currently tested for lead exposure.
  1. Continue funding to support the state’s lead cleanup program. This money is leveraged to bring in federal funds to remove potential lead hazards in homes. After a child is discovered to have an elevated blood lead level (BLL), the source of exposure must be identified. Most often the cause is lead paint in the home. The second most common exposure source is soil around the home. Both of these hazards can be mitigated through state programs that replace old windows and doors, and remove contaminated soil.
  1. Stop using kids as lead detectors by requiring that homes in Michigan undergo a one-time lead inspection risk assessment to identify lead hazards before a home is sold or leased to a new resident.

Following on the heels of the Lead Education Day, Governor Snyder passed an executive order to create a permanent Child Lead Exposure Elimination Commission on March 16. This commission will work with the administration and legislature to implement these and other policy recommendations to end childhood lead poisoning.

Money sense

Lead Education Day advocates pointed out that investing in lead poisoning prevention is not only good for our health, but it’s also good for our collective wallet. The annual cost of lead exposure in Michigan children is approximately $270 million ($112 million of which is paid by taxpayers), according to the Ecology Center’s 2016 report, The Cost of Lead Exposure and Remediation in Michigan. For the report, researchers added up conservative estimates of four societal costs directly impacted by lead poisoning: increased health care, increased adult and juvenile crime, increased need for special education, and decline in lifetime earnings.

Remediating the most at risk homes, however, would cost the state approximately $600 million, giving a profitable return to the investment in less than three years. This is timely information for the legislators, as they will be working on the state budget over the next few months.

What can you do at home

  • Don’t allow children or pets to play in bare soil.
  • Remove shoes before entering the house.
  • Wet-mop floors weekly.
  • Remove dust with a wet cloth instead of dry dusting.
  • Frequently wash children’s faces, hands and teething toys.
  • Always use cold tap water for cooking.
  • Eat a diet rich in calcium, iron and vitamin C.
  • Get children under 6 tested for lead.
  • Contact the Ecology Center to see how you can get involved! Email Rebecca Meuninck (rebecca@ecocenter.org) or Melissa Cooper Sargent (melissas@ecocenter.org).

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.

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


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