Posts Tagged 'holiday'

Create a holiday book together

boys with gingerbread houses

It’s hard to believe that once again the holidays are sneaking up on us and will be knocking at our doors before we know it. Last year I posted a book list for children of different ages from newborn through 18 months. If you’re looking for children’s books to give as gifts, please take a look at that article.

Like many of you, my husband and I took pictures of the special times together with our children during the holidays. We took pictures of selecting our tree and decorating it, baking cookies, visiting Santa at the mall, and the list goes on and on, culminating with the arduous task of taking down our tree. We did little with those pictures until the following Christmas, when we would look back at them and reflect on the special times we had together and the people in our lives that made our holiday so special.

Then one year I decided to capture all of our special times together and make our own book. Each time we did something for the holidays with our children, I captured those special moments with a photograph. Throughout the holiday season, we collected several dozen pictures. When the holidays were over, we looked through our pictures and chose our favorites, then put text with the pictures. I used my kids’ words and ideas. We even added a page with our puppy’s paw print.

That book became our coffee table book that year and the children looked at every day. It also seemed to be the book that houseguests gravitated to; they commented on it and asked questions. It was truly our family’s favorite holiday book. It was the last decoration put into the holiday bins, so it was the first item pulled out each year.

In January after the holidays are over, we often find time to do things that we weren’t able to do in December. Preparing for Christmas and Hanukkah is time consuming, so January is the perfect time to reflect, look at photos and make a special book together.

So this holiday season, capture those memories and enjoy them for years to come. There are several companies and apps that can help you accomplish this, including Shutterfly and Snapfish. Your book can be as simple or as elaborate as you’d like it to be.

Head over to Tom’s Guide for several ideas and updates on how to do this. The site also ranks the various photo book services. One service in particular, Mixbook, offers a step-by-step direction guide to first time book makers. However, look at the reviews on the website to find the place that works for you. Tom’s Guide also ranks the companies that are available for you to create a book that your children will love.

Happy reading!

– 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.

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

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.

Building Halloween excitement before the big day

house decorated for Halloween

With so many things to love about fall, it is definitely my favorite season. Football, cooler temperatures, changing leaves, apple orchards, cider, donuts, sweaters, boots, and of course … Halloween. Halloween is such a fun and exciting holiday, especially for kids. As soon as the calendar flips to October at our house, the spooky Halloween buzz begins. While I wouldn’t say we go Halloween “crazy,” over the years I’ve enjoyed doing simple little things here and there to make the month fun, and to build the excitement and anticipation of the day.

Halloween décor

Adding indoor and outdoor decorations always makes things seem more festive. You don’t have to go “all out” all at once. I’ve collected things over the years, often on clearance after the holiday. We always add one new decoration each year, and the kids love getting them out and helping me decide where things should go.

jack-o-lantern clementinesFun food

Pinterest is full of silly Halloween snack and food ideas. I usually keep it simple and the kids still love it. I always try to pick up a box of Halloween cereal to surprise them with, and you can make an adorable pumpkin for the lunchbox with just a clementine and a Sharpie.

Visit a Halloween supply store

Whether you already have the costumes set or not, visiting a Halloween store is lots of fun. There’s so much to look at, masks to try on, and even some spooky animatronics that might make you jump. Keep toddlers close by as many of these are motion activated. Older kids may enjoy this activity more than the little ones.

Local free events

Many cities host trick-or-treating at the local businesses before Halloween, and many schools have trunk-or treat events where you decorate your car and kids go car-to-car collecting treats. It’s nice to get some additional opportunities to wear those costumes!

Enjoy Halloween books and movies

Now is a perfect time to dim the lights, pop some popcorn and watch a Halloween movie or read your favorite spooky books together. Lighting some candles or giving the kids small flashlights, always helps to set the scene and make it even more special. There are many age-appropriate choices; here are a few of our family favorites:

Send out Halloween greeting cards

Receiving unexpected fun mail is the best! There are so many adorable Halloween cards in the stores or you can make your own. Pick a few friends and family and send them a Halloween greeting. I promise they will be surprised! People often expect a birthday card, but when was the last time you got a Halloween card? We have a family friend that sends one to my kids every year and they always look forward to it. You can also throw in some spooky stickers to make it even more exciting.

Happy Halloween!

– Kelly Ryan, LMSW, Beaumont Parenting Program Director. She is also mom to Cassie and Connor, and coordinator of Halloween shenanigans at the House of Ryan.




Celebrate dad this Father’s Day

man and little boy walking on trail

Moms get a lot of attention on Mother’s Day but dads are just as worthy of our love and appreciation. While you can take your dad out for brunch (yes, Father’s Day brunches do exist!), here are some creative and inexpensive ways to celebrate this coming Sunday. Most importantly, spend time together if you can.

  • Have your children sing a special song to their dad. These songs are sung to traditional kid tunes but the lyrics are specifically written for dad.

A Father’s Day I Love You (Sung to “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”)

Daddy, Daddy let me say
I love you for all you do.
You are greater than the rest.
Daddy you are just the best.
Daddy, Daddy let me say
Have a happy Father’s Day!

D-A-D-D-Y (Sung to “B-I-N-G-O”)

I love him and he loves me.
And Daddy is his name-o.
And Daddy is his name-o.

  • Who doesn’t love a good Mad Lib? Older kids can fill out this fun “Dad Lib” and read it aloud to him. No doubt there will be a lot of laughter!
  • Help your child have this coloring sheet questionnaire from The picture below will take you the full-size printable. 
  • Read a book together! Each of these 10 books has a father as the main character.
    • Oh, Daddy!” by Bob Shea. Daddies sure can be funny and silly!
    • I Love My Daddy Because …” by Lauren Porter-Gaylord shows how human and animal daddies help take care of their children.
    • Just Me and My Dad” by Mercer Mayer is a classic about a dad and son going camping together.
    • How to Cheer Up Dad” by Fred Koehler. Little Jumbo is determined to turn his dad’s day around and make it better. It’s a homage to Dads and their little mischief-makers.
    • When Dads Don’t Grow Up” by Marjorie Blain Parker. These dads may be all grown-up but they’re kids at heart.
    • Interrupting Chicken” by David Ezra Stein. Papa Chicken tries to read a bedtime story to Little Chicken who just can’t help but interrupt.
    • Hero Dad” by Melinda Hardin is the perfect book for families with Dad in the military. The boy compares his soldier-dad to a superhero.
    • Daddy is My Hero” by Dawn Richards highlights the dads who help around the house and the kids who see them as heroes in imaginary scenarios.
    • Froggy’s Day with Dad” by Jonathan London. It’s Father’s Day and Froggy can’t wait to celebrate with his dad. But things never go smoothly for poor Froggy. Prepare for some giggles!
    • Darth Vader and Son” by Jeffrey Brown. Are you Star Wars fans in your house? Check out this fun comic-style book.
  • Take a family hike on a local nature trail or a bike ride down a favorite path. There are several county parks and Metroparks around our area.
  • Go strawberry picking together. Find a u-pick farm.
  • Play some board or card games together.
  • If you have older kids, play a game of “How Well Do You Know Dad?” trivia. Write up some questions ahead of time to ask your kids and see how much they actually know about him. You can even include things from before your kids were born for some extra fun.
  • Make a “Following in My Daddy’s Shoes” craft.

footstep prints from


Mother’s Day in the NICU

adult hand with NICU infant

Mother’s Day is supposed to be a day of pampering; a day the family goes to brunch. Or your children make you breakfast in bed decorated with flowers they picked themselves. Or maybe you simply spend all day in your pajamas cuddling your little one.

But for moms who have a baby in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), none of these are an option.

Instead, a NICU mother wakes up in a home without her baby. She quickly gets herself together and hurries through congested streets to the hospital. She checks in at the front desk before entering the guarded door. She diligently scrubs in and shuffles her way down the hall carrying bags of freshly cleaned blankets, onesies and bottles. She passes bed after bed of babies with varying levels of illness, until she finally drops her bags on the well-worn chair she sits in day after day, next to one special crib.

“Good morning, sweetheart!”

There is no sugar coating this. Mother’s Day in the NICU completely and irrevocably stinks.

This year will be my first Mother’s Day, and while I am dreading spending the day in a hospital, I am over-the-moon excited to celebrate.

A few months ago I never imagined I would have anything to celebrate this May because my baby was not expected to survive. But thanks to the wonder of modern medicine, and a few miracles, my baby girl is still with us.

And no one can relate to this grateful feeling better than my fellow NICU moms.

This Mother’s Day, I am guaranteed to be surrounded by an incredible sisterhood. It’s a sisterhood no one wants to be a part of, but when you are, it’s a bond you can never break.

We can talk about blood transfusions, CPAP, RetCam eye exams or the litany of other NICU services with complete understanding and empathy—a feat that is nearly impossible for those who haven’t experienced the Unit.

I can also take comfort in the fact that my daughter is surrounded by top-notch medical professionals. So in case something does go wrong, I know she is in the absolute safest place in the world.

I am going to spend my first Mother’s Day cuddle with my baby while also watching her heart and oxygen monitor to ensure she keeps breathing, and that is OK.

Do I wish I was going out to brunch with my baby? Absolutely.

But, no matter where my child may be, I am a mom.

If you know a mom who will be celebrating Mother’s Day in the NICU, tell them “Happy Mother’s Day” and give them a big hug. Because a NICU mom is also a “NICU warrior.”

– A NICU mom

Love scavenger hunt

scavenger hunt clue

Valentine’s Day used to mean I looked forward to flowers and candy from my hubby (And I still do like those things if you’re reading honey,) but besides my husband’s modeling this for my two young boys, I questioned how do I explain this holiday to them?

Anyone could look up the history behind St. Valentine and end the discussion there. However, I’ve been on a mindfulness journey recently and taking an extra minute to really think about the decisions I make for my family. Do I want to show my children that this holiday is another event for candy? (There are just too many of those already!) Along this journey, I’m also paying extra attention to the lessons and traditions that I start for my family. After all, this will shape their lives and eventually how they celebrate this “holiday” in their own adult lives—maybe even one day carry on the traditions with their own children.

Instead of candy, giant teddy bears, or a love explosion concentrated in one day, I started the tradition of a Love Scavenger Hunt.

I created little rhymes and riddles that lead my oldest son, who is almost five, on an adventure throughout our house to highlight the everyday kind of love we have in our family. Once my youngest is old enough, he will get his own set of clues to play detective and join in on the fun.

My husband will tell you that I’m not the best at rhyming, as evidenced by my constant questions of “What rhymes with …..” in bed while writing the clues, but I’m the best at being grateful for everyday moments with my kids. I’m a big fan of gentle tickling my little ones wake them up, bedtime stories, card games at the kitchen table, and movie cuddles. So why not highlight these ordinary moments of love to show my boys that my love isn’t overflowing for them on Valentine’s Day? My love for those two rambunctious boys overflows for them every day.

I will disclose that at the end of the scavenger hunt my 5-year-old boy gets a big prize of dinner and movie (both his choice) with mommy or daddy. I feel this prize is fitting because it highlights that the importance of Valentine’s Day isn’t on the present or candy, but with the people who you love.

– Stephanie Babcock is an IFS coordinator with the Parenting Program. She’s a proud mom of two.


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