Posts Tagged 'daily life'

Chicago with kids: Nonstop fun

Let’s pretend we’re penguins!

My husband and I have a serious travel bug, but we’ve been grounded since having kids. For either cost or reasons lacking courage, we haven’t had it in us to go anywhere far with twins.

But we just got back from Chicago, and I’m so glad we went. The kids had a blast. We had a great time. It was amazing.

We started by driving to New Buffalo, Michigan, then taking an hour-long train ride into the city. The kids thought this was amazing and we thought it was economical and relaxing. For all four of us to take the train round-trip, it was $120. We’d have to pay $50 a day to park in Chicago.

girl at Adler Planetarium exhibit

Mission control at Adler Planetarium

After a short cab ride (another thrill for the kids) to our Airbnb, we set out to explore. My husband did great research and found a reasonably affordable place to stay that was central to what we wanted to see and do, as well as close to public transport. Luckily, the kids are just 5, so they ride for free on city buses and trains. Do your research, though. I thought we’d Uber around with them, but in Illinois, Uber has to abide by car seat laws, which means we’d have to tote their boosters around or pay an additional $10 per seat through Uber. Public transportation such as taxis and buses are considered commercial, so boosters aren’t necessary.

Our first stop was the Field Museum. I was warned that the museum was outdated, stuffy and not too kid-friendly. I found it the exact opposite. Just as we passed through the admission area, a dinosaur walked out — and not a Barney type, either. This guy was impressive! The museum was awesome with lots to look at, touch and do. But take this little bit of advice: Pack your own food. We had a small snack from the café there of three bags of chips, a water and two chocolate milks. Our total was $18.

boy watching two dolphins

Dolphin watching at Shedd Aquarium

The next day, we went to the Shedd Aquarium. It was a blast. From climbing rocks dressed like penguins to seeing the dolphin show and even watching a 4D SpongeBob movie, we all had a great time.

Finally, we headed to the Adler Planetarium. We didn’t spend a ton of time here, but what time we did spend was fun. It was definitely my least favorite of the three; it had a great play area for kids, but the rest of the museum went way over my 5-year-old’s head.

All in all, it was a great trip. I wish we’d been able to experience more of the cuisine, but time for that wasn’t in our favor. I guess we’ll have to go back again!

– Rebecca Calappi is a freelance writer enjoying her newly enhanced mom status and past Parenting Program participant.

Stuck in cyberspace? The hidden dangers of internet addiction

We are surrounded by cyberspace! Computers connect and help us in so many ways. We often take for granted all of the resources at our fingertips, at least until the power goes out! I’m enjoying the wonders of technology right now as I write this post on my computer and technology will allow you to read it. Technology is an amazing tool.

However, any tool can be used as a weapon. This same technology can be used for cyberattacks, cyberbullying, and even increased depression and anxiety resulting from too much negative news consumption. Too much screen time can horribly impact our relationships, health and mood.

How does this happen?

The immediate gratification from computers and mobile devices create a powerful reward loop that works something like this:

feel bored or unhappy → tap into internet or game → feel entertained/better

The reward pathways that light up in our brains when we use the internet are the same pathways that light up when we use alcohol, nicotine, or other drugs. Wow! Whether we use technology to escape bad feelings or just in a habitual way, risk factors for significant problems.

Taken to extremes, people can actually become addicted to the internet. There is scientific debate whether it’s truly considered a “mental disorder,” but we do know that psychological and social problems occur. Both China and South Korea identify internet addiction as a significant public health issue, and the United States is starting to take this issue more seriously as well.

How do you know if you or someone you love is addicted to the internet? A recent study describes signs, and you should consult a professional if you see:

  • “changes in mood,
  • preoccupation with the Internet and digital media,
  • the inability to control the amount of time spent interfacing with digital technology,
  • the need for more time or a new game to achieve a desired mood,
  • withdrawal symptoms when not engaged,
  • continuation of the behavior despite family conflict, a diminishing social life and adverse work or academic consequences” (Cash et al., 2012).

Parents know that kids need reduced screen time and lots of face-to-face, active interactions to thrive and grow. But at the same time, screens are all around us and the constant pull of notifications from emails, text messages, games and apps can leave us distracted and scattered. So how do we balance the benefit of technology with the hidden dangers of these amazing machines?

First and foremost, practice what you preach! If your phone is your constant companion, start being more mindful of how and when you use it. Specific tips for breaking digital addiction in our next post, so stay tuned!

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

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

Code brown: Adventures in potty training

Little girl potty training her teddy bear

Cropped image. Manish Bansal, Flickr. CC license.

Take 1

At 18 months old, my daughter, we’ll call her C, started to show an interest in the toilet. I thought it was too early, but my mom insisted on getting her a potty. “She’s ready, honey,” Mom would say.

What do you know? On the first day we had the potty, she pooped in it. I squealed with delight. High-fives were flying. I was jumping up and down, yelling to my husband to come and see. All while my inner monologue was running wild: “Could it be?! C is diaper free at a year-and-a-half?! Do I have one of those mythical children who potty train themselves at a super young age?! This. Is. Amazing.”

This enthusiasm, however, was apparently quite terrifying because C wouldn’t even look at the potty, let alone sit on it, for weeks afterwards.

Take 2

We stopped being potty pushers and decided to take a more relaxed approach — we would let C tell us when she’s ready to start. However, around the two-year mark, a group of kids in her daycare class began potty training and we needed to jump on the bandwagon.

“But she’s not ready. Real underwear? She’s too little for that. Can’t we wait a little longer?” I begged her teacher. Nope. We had to reinforce at home what was being taught at daycare. Fine, way to be totally logical. We’ll try again.

Take 3 and 4 and 5…

At daycare, potty training progressed nicely. In the beginning, she often had accidents when they were outside playing (she didn’t want to stop to go to the bathroom) or during naptime. Lately, it’s been very infrequent, maybe once a week if that. Go daycare!

At home, it’s a different story. Rarely will C use the toilet and we never leave the house without a diaper or training pants on. I don’t get it. We’ve tried everything: sticker charts, chocolate chip bribes, positive reinforcement, commando weekends. I don’t know if I can read another “How to Potty Train Your Toddler in Three Days” article.

We’re constantly taking her into the bathroom and sitting her on the toilet with no results. On several occasions just moments after we leaving the bathroom, she had an accident (once hilariously on my husband while they watched TV; it was an especially juicy bowel movement).

Another favorite: going poop in the bathtub. I guess it is relaxing. But seriously C, a “code brown” is never a good way to kick off the bedtime routine.

So here we are nearly year after her toilet interest piqued and still changing diapers. Friends and family say not to worry. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics says, “It’s best to avoid assuming that your child will begin training by a certain age.”

Most of my brain agrees – she’s only two and half. I get it; she has plenty of time. However, a small part of me is confused — why is potty training going so well at daycare and not at home? What’s their secret? Is C is just trying to fit in with the cool kids and go to the bathroom on the toilet? (I guess there’s worse forms of peer pressure.) But seriously, do I need a parade of toddlers to come through my house every hour and use the bathroom so C will too?

Oh, potty training. One of these days, we’ll figure you out. In the meantime, let’s commiserate. Share your potty training adventures in the comments below.

– Anne Hein is a volunteer with the Beaumont Parenting Program and mom of a strong-willed toddler. 

We had a lice day

3 girls and a woman at a delousing boutique

Thanks to Elyse Kolender for helping us delouse.

The discovery

After a letter came home about a lice outbreak at the girls’ school, I immediately went to check them out. I stood in the elementary school office checking my girls’ hair, and sure enough, there were little crawling lice and eggs staring back at me. I embarrassingly and mortifyingly looked at the secretary and gave her “The Nod.”

As it turns out, it was a family affair; all six of us had lice! That includes my four daughters (even our 3 month old) and my 45-year-old physician husband. How could this happen to us?! I thought we were so clean! Of course as a pediatrician I knew it wasn’t because we weren’t clean, but as a mom I felt dirty and ashamed. As a mother, my battle with lice ensued, and it oddly, it was more empowering than I thought it would be. We faced it head on. (No pun intended!)

Oh no. We’re now a statistic.

Most people are ashamed of lice. But let’s face it, lice is highly contagious and it shouldn’t be taboo. Did you know that between six and 12 million American children between 3 and 11 years old get lice each year? My family just became part of that statistic. Eeeeew gross! But honestly, it can happen to anyone.

It’s critically important to be open, transparent and educated about all contagious diseases. With lice, it’s not a reflection of cleanliness but rather just how contagious lice is.

As a mom and a pediatrician, my public service announcement is: Please let your school, friends and contacts know if you have something contagious. It will help decrease the spread of the disease and save health, time and money!

Our response

The first step was knowing it was going around; it is fiercely going around in schools right now. The second step was accepting it, facing it, not being ashamed of it and treating it. The third step was very important: We had to tell everyone we had it — brave, I know — but extremely important. So off went the emails and texts advertising our family had head lice and anyone who had contact with us should get checked.

A little about lice

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), infestation with head lice is most common among preschool- and elementary school-age children, and their household members and caretakers. However, we are now seeing it in high schools and other places.

Head lice are mainly spread by direct contact with the hair of an infested person. The most common way to get lice is through head-to-head contact with a person who already has it. Some studies suggest that girls get head lice more often than boys, probably due to more frequent head-to-head contact. Common ways to get lice include:

  • playing with others at school or home.
  • activities where your child interacts with others (e.g., sports, playgrounds, camp, slumber parties, etc.).
  • wearing clothing (e.g., hats, scarves, coats, sports uniforms, hair ribbons, etc.) worn by an infested person.
  • using infested combs, brushes or towels.
  • lying on a bed, couch, pillow, carpet or stuffed animal that has recently been in contact with an infested person.

Head lice are not known to transmit disease; however, secondary bacterial infection of the skin resulting from scratching can occur with any lice infestation.

Preventing and controlling the problem

Here are some simple things you can do to help prevent and control the spread of head lice.

  • Avoid head-to-head (hair-to-hair) contact during play and other activities.
  • Do not share clothing (including hats, scarves, coats) or things worn in the hair.
  • Do not share combs, brushes or towels. Disinfect combs and brushes by soaking them in hot water (at least 130° F) for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Do not lie on soft objects that have recently been in contact with an infested person.
  • Wash things that an infested person wore or used for the two days before treatment. Simply machine wash and dry them using the hot water (130° F) laundry cycle and the high heat drying cycle. Clothing and items that aren’t washable can be dry cleaned or sealed in a plastic bag and stored for two weeks.
  • Vacuum the floor and furniture, particularly where the infested person sat or lay. Spending a lot of time and money on housecleaning isn’t necessary to avoid reinfestation by lice or nits that may have fallen off the head or crawled onto furniture or clothing.
  • Do not use fumigant sprays or fogs. They aren’t necessary to control head lice and can be toxic if inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
  • To help control a head lice outbreak in a community, school or camp, teach your children how to avoid activities that may spread head lice.

Treatment

Lice is not difficult to identify and there are many options for treatments out there. Talk to your pediatrician about different options for diagnoses and treatment. My family went to a local delousing boutique that kindly got rid of our little friends for us.

After the delousing, we went out to dinner as the cleanest, lice-free family in town. It was only partially embarrassing and peculiar to be out with our shower caps, a night to remember for sure!

After the delousing, we went out to dinner. It was only partially embarrassing and peculiar to be out with our shower caps, a night to remember for sure!

Moving forward

We are officially the cleanest, most lice-free family in our community now. As for you, stop itching (I know reading about it can bring on the itchiness!) and go make sure you don’t have it, too.

Dr. Hannan Alsahlani is a Beaumont pediatrician and proud mother of four officially lice-free girls (Sophia 9, Summer 8, Serene 2, and Solei 4 months).

Dad’s van

1985 Plymouth Voyager LE

Unaltered image. CetteUneVoiture, Wikimedia Commons. CC license.

My Dad was the proud owner of a Plymouth Voyager minivan. She was a sweet ride, seating for seven, “suburban dad brown” color with only the best wood paneling appliqué from bumper-to-bumper. It truly was the best 1987 had to offer.

At the time, I had a stepbrother and stepsister along with my full-blooded sister (not sure if that’s the politically correct way of saying sibling, but that’s what I’m using in this case), so he needed the room. We had assigned seats on family trips; I sat behind my dad in the first row but sometimes I got lucky enough to sit in the “way back” where there seemed to be a little more freedom.

Eventually the need for the extra room went away, and it was just my dad, my sister and I once again. The one constant throughout the life’s upheaval was the van. I know it seems weird, but there was an odd comfort getting into that van. Through trips to baseball practice or heading to the hospital after separating my shoulder during a freshman football game, I knew we’d get there in one piece because of that van.

That van even saved my dad’s life when a drunk driver ran a red light and t-boned the van right in the paneling. Dad was sore, but he is still with us in part because of that van.

As I look back, that van was a big part of our family’s life. We grew up in it. We learned to drive behind the wheel of it. It helped us move four times and made more than a few trips to Mount Pleasant and Kalamazoo to ensure my stepsister and I (and our stuff) got to college safely.

Sadly, after nearly 400,000 miles, the van died quietly in a parking structure in downtown Detroit as my dad was out of town on business. It was better that way. And because of its legendary status, and I think some respect, my dad’s coworkers adorned the van with flowers and an RIP chalk outline fit for a vehicle that saw a family through some good times and some rough times.

Looking back on it, I think the van was a four-wheel-badge of honor for my dad. Being a single dad for most of the van’s existence, it became proof that he put my sisters (both full-blood and step) and me first. He didn’t need the latest vehicle to prove his worth, he had a van with a rocking seat and hatch held up by a two-by-four so his kids didn’t go without.

That van became a symbol of the sacrifice Dad made for our family. He did without so we could have what we needed to succeed. Our family has grown through the years — new members, new generations — and they learn the legend of the van, but they also learn why and who made that van so special because it was so much more than a van.

My dad has turned into Poppie to my girls and my sisters’ children, and he’s still putting his family first. He leads by example and he has made me a better dad than I ever thought I’d be, and for that I’m grateful. And who knows, maybe I’ll get my own “van” someday.

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

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.


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