Posts Tagged 'holiday'

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

Tips for Mother’s Day from a Mom

MOM decorative letters

What does Mother’s day mean?

It is one day of out 365 to highlight the main woman (or women) in your life who works endlessly, tirelessly, and often unnoticed, in your family to keep things running smoothly.

This day is a celebration honoring the mother in your family, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society. How should this day be celebrated? How do you take one day out of the year to show your appreciation for all this love and hard work? Here’s my take on some tips for Mother’s Day:

  • Make the entire day about what the women in your life want to do. No joke here when I say that last year I spent some of my day in Home Depot picking out paint colors for our house. Take my advice when I say do not do this! Don’t treat Mother’s Day as any ordinary Sunday where you can cram in some house chores. Instead, have the men take the kid(s) out of the house to lunch or to the park so mom can enjoy some quiet time to take a shower without children barging in, read a book she’s been behind on, or do anything that she wants to do!
  • If you have young children who can’t make a cute project or pick out a present for their mother, dads you are responsible for getting something for your other half. Yep. Although she may not be your mother, your significant other is the mother to your children. Get her a meaningful gift from your little one to show her how much she means to the both of you. Hands down, I would prefer a handmade gift from my husband and little ones over a store-bought necklace or candy. Pinterest is full of ideas, but suggestions can be these adorable handprint canvas sign, this salt dough footprint craft, or this floral perfume spray that little hands can easily pick out, cut and stuff into spray bottles!
  • Although flowers are nice, even better than that is a nap and a day off duty from being a mom. Don’t get me wrong, I love both my children. I have two young boys (4 years and 4 months) and give them everything I have every single day. But for Mother’s Day, I would really like to have a day off from being Mom. I would like for my husband to be the one to get the cup of water, peel the banana, put a Band-Aid on my son’s knee, fix the broken toy, and help rock by baby to sleep. Being a sleep-deprived mother means that all my daydreams right now are currently of scooting away from my responsibilities and catching a 15 minute power nap. If you really want to spoil the woman in your life, give her money and time to go to Target by herself or a trip to the spa to get some pampering!

These tips are just from my point of view, but from my talks with family and friends, I know that I’m not alone. The most important point I’m trying to make is that moms want this day to be meaningful. Take the time to tell your mother, your wife, your sister, your mother-in-law, stepmother, friends and others how much they mean to you and your family. One day out of the year to show gratitude and appreciation for all the work moms do for their loved one the rest of the 364 days of the year.

P.S. Moms, feel free to give a “subtle hint” by sharing this post.

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

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

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!

Holiday travel tips for parents

Family with luggage at train station

Cropped image. Sigfrid Lundberg, Flickr. CC license.

Traveling during the holiday season can sometimes be scary: traffic jams, winter weather, delayed flights, and crowded airports are a few of the concerns. When you add squirming kids into the equation, you may be tempted to simply stay home. Nevertheless, millions of Americans will hit the road, looking forward to visiting relatives, reconnecting with old friends, or even taking a long-awaited vacation to a warm and sunny family resort. Exploring with your family creates wonderful memories for the future. So don’t be afraid; go and enjoy your time away!

General Travel Tips

  • Pack only what you need for the trip. Diapers, wipes, etc. can be purchased once you’re at your destination. Some equipment like strollers, pack & plays, and feeding chairs can often be rented. One site to check out for baby equipment rental is Traveling Baby Co.
  • Dress baby in comfortable clothes.
  • Keep a spare set of clothes and/or shirt packed and easily accessible in case of spills and spit ups.
  • Keep your baby’s routine the same whenever possible.
  • Be mindful of little travelers’ limits. They need to have time to rest and be quiet.
  • Provide opportunities for kids to just be kids. Do not overschedule activities.
  • Be prepared for last minute adjustments.
  • Use bottles with disposable liners so that you have less bottle washing.
  • Purchase a special gift/gifts (do not need to be expensive) to help entertain your child.
  • It’s OK to relax some of your guidelines, such as treats and screen time, when traveling long distances.

Plane Travel Tips

  • Take early morning flights whenever possible as planes tend to be more on time in the morning and flight crews are refreshed.
  • Allow for extra time at the airport.
  • If possible, book your flights during non-peak travel times, Mondays–Wednesdays. Try to book non-stop flights whenever possible.
  • Check as much luggage as possible at the front ticketing counter. Walking or running through an airport is much easier without luggage. Keep stroller to push baby and simply check it at the gate.
  • Board the airplane last so as not to have extra time sitting on the airplane. If two adults are traveling, have one board with the luggage to get it stowed in advance and have the other wait in the terminal with the baby.
  • If traveling alone with baby/child, book a window and aisle seat and hope that the middle seat will remain vacant. If it becomes occupied, the passenger will always switch with you for the aisle or window.
  • Don’t feel strapped to your seat for the entire flight, it’s OK to get up and walk around when the “fasten seat belt” light is off.
  • Consider sitting in the back of the airplane where the engines are a little noisier. It provides white noise to calm baby if baby is crying.
  • If baby is sleeping on takeoff and landing, let them sleep. If not, try feeding. Have older children chew gum or drink beverages.
  • Log on to your airline’s website to receive notifications about flight delays.
  • Websites to visit prior to flying include:

Car Travel Tips

  • Travel at night or during nap times when babies are most likely to sleep.
  • Stop and stretch every few hours. Plan for the trip to take more time than when you traveled without children.
  • Avoid rush hour in big cities.
  • Try to keep kids entertained by playing games, reading books, etc.
  • Never leave baby in car unattended.

– Lori Polakowski is an IFS coordinator for the Parenting Program. This former flight attendant traveled extensively with her children.

Gifts for your mother (Earth, that is)

Furoshiki gifts

image credit: agata.org.ua

 

As with most mothers, it’s the simple things—the heart-felt things—that matter most to our planet Earth. Practicing simple habits throughout the season can make a big difference.

Gift-giving

Before purchasing a gift or other item for the holiday, do a quick mental checklist. Does the item have:

  • Low mileage? (Is the backstory like a retelling of “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles?”) When you opt for locally and regionally made products, you significantly reduce the transportation pollution connected to your gift. You will boost the local economy, too.
  • Minimal or no packaging? According to the EPA, almost one-third of municipal waste in the U.S. is discarded packaging. Paper or cardboard packaging is more easily recycled than plastic.
  • Natural content? From cradle (production) to grave (disposal), plastic and other petroleum-based materials (such as polyester fleece) wreak havoc on the environment and the health of the people who live near the facilities. A gift made of natural materials is also the least toxic option for the recipient.

Tip: Give homemade gifts; an “experience” such as tickets to a play, museum, or movie; an activity such as ice skating; or a service (e.g., a massage) for a perfect score on your checklist.

Energy

  • When updating and adding to your holiday light collection, opt for LEDs. They use 70 percent less energy than traditional bulbs.
  • Use a timer to control when the holiday lights turn on and off.
  • Wrap your home! No, not with yards of gift paper and bows! Install storm doors and windows. Cover windows with plastic if you don’t have storm windows. Block drafts under doors.
  • Ask Santa to install a programmable thermostat for an estimated 10 percent cut in energy costs and use.

Waste

Americans throw away about 25 percent more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. Non-material gifts win in this category as well because experiences or services don’t need wrapping. We would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields if every American family wrapped just three presents in reused materials. Ways to reuse materials:

  • Reuse gift bags.
  • Repurpose old t-shirts, maps, sheet music, newspaper comics, scarves, fabric, or handkerchiefs instead of using new wrapping paper.
  • Turn cereal boxes inside out and decorate them.
  • Use reusable tins or decorative storage boxes.
  • Save used gift wrappings for the next holiday. Recycle any wrappings that can’t be reused.
  • Close the loop: Buy gifts made from recycled content.

Food waste

About 40 percent of the food grown in the country is wasted, according to Forgotten Harvest, a food rescue organization in southeast Michigan. One way to make a difference is to adjust your expectation of cosmetic beauty and buy “ugly” produce. Oddly shaped produce often sits on the shelf and becomes waste before it is even sold. More ideas:

  • Make a grocery list and stick to it. Don’t buy or make more than you need.
  • Keep reusable containers on hand for leftovers for you and others. Look up new recipes for leftovers.
  • Compost any food waste in a backyard pile or a vermiculture (worm!) bin.

Decorations

Keep it real whenever you can. Whether it’s a tree, a wreath, a swag, or table centerpiece, real greenery is healthier for you and the planet. Artificial trees and decorations are made of PVC plastic and cannot be recycled. They can also have lead, phthalates and other toxic chemicals. Experts recommend that parents don’t let children play under artificial trees. Real trees, on the other hand, are renewable, recyclable and produce oxygen. Farmers plant one to three seedlings for every tree cut.

Consider these ideas like the ultimate handmade card to Mother Earth: They aren’t hard, they just take a little extra time, consideration and love.

– 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.

Ways to avoid being mean and green this holiday season

Grinch ornament

Unaltered image. Michael Bentley, Flickr. CC license.

Through the years, I’ve experienced a kind of love-hate relationship with the holiday season. On a scale, most weigh in as amazing and incredible, but there have been times when the festive season just stink, stank, stunk!

Looking back, the love part includes traditions such as baking cookies with the kids, decorating the tree, ice skating, and celebrating our many blessings with family and friends. Favorite memories of Christmas Eve comprise gatherings with family, attending church, and ending the evening with tucking in the amped-up kids, wrapping last-minute gifts with my husband, stuffing the stockings, while watching our favorite holiday movie. If we crawled into bed before 3:00 a.m., we counted the night a success. The highlight of the magical season came on Christmas morning when squeals could be heard and they spotted their presents under the tree. Oh, what bliss! Gotta love that guy Santa; it is a magical moment indeed.

Now for the darker side of the holiday season. It’s during those hustle and bustle moments of pushing through crowds, waiting in lines, endless cooking and cleaning, and the constant rushing, when I completely succumb to siding with the grouchy and ever-brooding Grinch. I admit, I may have even exhibited some of his mean-spirited expressions and affronted frowns. During times when I had to face loss on a grand scale, some holidays in particular have been especially difficult. With the loss of both parents and a brother near the holiday season, it gave me some insight as to why there is a high prevalence of depression, anxiety and loneliness around the holidays. Amidst those sorrowful and burdened times, leaning on my faith, my family, and friends helped tremendously. But honestly, I had to work extra hard to try to find any kind of endearment or comfort in little Cindy Lou Who.

This holiday season, I am planning on an over-the-top and madly in-love year. With the birth of my granddaughter, I’m excited to start some new traditions, while keeping some of the old intact. Like most holiday gatherings, I expect there will be some bumps in this year’s festivities, but I’m determined to enjoy the true meaning of Christmas, with all of its trimmings, including a delicious Whos’ feast.

To de-Grinch your holiday season, here are 10 tips to help you relax and enjoy.

  1. Keep active.

Exercise helps decrease anxiety, elevate mood and improve sleep. A 30-minute brisk walk outdoors, on a sunny day, will not only combat seasonal affective disorder, but will also help to relieve those guilty feelings for indulging in that extra piece of pie.

  1. Set the mood.

Throw a party that sends a message of no-fuss and relaxation. Let your guests know that you will be donning slippers and encourage them to bring a pair as well. Laughter reduces stress hormones, so be sure to include some simple, but fun activities.

  1. Plan a pajama day.

Rest and refuel with a PJ day. Encourage your family members to lay low and do what brings them joy. Ideas include: playing a favorite board game, bingeing on holiday classics, reading a good book or listening to relaxing music. This day is all about you.

  1. Stop the madness.

Throw out perfection by leaving Martha Stewart and the lavish Pinterest ideas to those who have an abundance of time on their hands. Know your limits. Ask for help. Stick with clear and realistic expectations for not only yourself, but others as well. To avoid overscheduling, keep it simple and remember that it is OK to say no sometimes.

  1. Volunteer.

Serving the community and performing small acts of kindness, not only brings joy to others, but it can help improve your health, boost self-esteem and create lasting impact. The benefits all-around are priceless.

  1. Minimize overindulging.

To help with overstuffing, begin the day with a healthy breakfast. Before heading out to a festive event, be sure to eat a healthy snack. Drink plenty of water.

  1. Create healthy boundaries.

For unresolved conflicts, set aside differences during the holiday season. Promote the positive by staying clear of hot topics and confrontation. For those toxic and high tension times, choosing to take flight rather than risk a fight may be in your best interest. There are tons of travel ideas available.

  1. Reduce holiday spending.

To avoid the post-holiday spending blues, determine your budget ahead with a list that prioritizes the essentials versus the luxuries. Consider opting for experiential gifts that create long-lasting memories rather than rising debt. Ideas include: zoo passes, museum memberships, concert tickets, gym memberships, sports tickets and cooking classes. Homemade gifts add a personalized touch without breaking the bank. Adopting the Four Gift Rule is a trendy idea that helps discourage materialism, while reducing spending. The concept is simple: buy your children no more than four gifts. Include something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read.

  1. Start new holiday traditions.

When cookie and ornament exchanges no longer bring zest to the crowd, it may be time to start some new traditions. Keep the focus on fun and easy. Ideas include: ice skating, sledding, parades, caroling, making ornaments, recording a video message to Santa, planning a “small act of kindness” outing or adopt a family in need.

  1. Reach out for help.

When isolation sets in, reach out for support. Lean on loved ones in times of need. For persistent sadness, anxiousness or feelings of hopelessness, talk to your doctor or seek professional help.

Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas means a little bit more.

– The Grinch 

Happy holidays to all of you!

– Deanna Robb, Parenting Program Director


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