Posts Tagged 'tips'

Kindness counts

"be kind" in chalk

Sunday marked the beginning of “Random Acts of Kindness” week. Knowing it was coming up, I decided to run a two-week experiment in our household; I’ve heard it takes two weeks to make something a habit.

Our family dinners always include a report of the day by each family member. My husband and I ask our kids to share a banana split (something good about their day) and a banana peel (something hard). A few weeks ago, my husband decided to also ask the kids, “What was something kind you did for someone today?” In theory, this was a great idea! Unfortunately, we sometimes got side tracked by our banana splits/banana peels and forgot to follow up with the kindness question.

For the past two weeks, my husband and I recommitted ourselves to asking our kids every evening at dinner, “How were you kind today?”

Here are some highlights:

  • By the third night, the kids were reporting their kind act without being prompted by the adults.
  • The gestures progressed into more authentic acts of kindness as the two weeks progressed. For example, “I held the door open for my teacher” became “I asked John to sit with me at lunch because he looked unsure about where to sit.”
  • One act of kindness became several acts of kindness throughout the day.
  • By participating ourselves, we modeled a variety of kind acts and that encouraged our kids to show kindness in different ways (to a friend, to a stranger, to themselves, to a pet, etc.).
  • The kind acts began — and I use that term lightly 🙂 — to filter into the kids’ relationships with each other.

In our house, kindness counts. It’s a family value and now it’s become something we all practice daily.

– Andree Palmgren is a licensed professional counselor with a private practice in Westport, CT. She is also a mom to a 15, 13, 10 and 5-year-old.

Fabulous winter outdoor photography tips

silhouette of boy and girl jumping at sunset

You’ve been waiting for what seems like forever. Gazing wistfully through the icy windowpane, you sigh in impatience as each day passes with less-than-ideal conditions. Just as you reach your breaking point, it comes: An overcast day … and it’s just what you wanted.

The lighting is finally perfect for your outdoor photo shoot!

OK, so it seems strange to desire an overcast day. But believe it or not, sunlight isn’t the best to work with when taking pictures outside. Why, you might ask?

When mixed with clouds and trees, sunlight can cast erratic shadows that are difficult to erase even with editing software. Your subjects may be well-lit in the front, yet they’re squinting because of the light shining into their eyes. Put the sun behind them and their faces might be draped in darkness. The best solution is to remove the sun from the equation completely.

With the lighting set, you should consider your setting. Winter can seem very stark and bland—void of color. So instead of color, focus on texture. Tree bark, bricks and stone are all great options against which to pose your subject. Weather-beaten boards, such as the side of an old barn, look great too. If you do want some color, look around for some graffiti; some buildings in Berkley and Royal Oak feature buildings on which an entire side is dedicated to a gorgeous work of art.

You have your lighting and your setting. Something else to think about is your style. Do you want all posed shots, where everyone is facing (and smiling at) the camera? Do you want everyone centered? Go ahead and get some of those. Then consider sneaking in some candid shots. Get the one where everyone burst into laughter because someone tooted.

The “Rule of Thirds” is a popular one in photography; there are different levels of complexity to this. In the simplest terms, the subject(s) are in one-third of the frame, be it the left, right, or bottom. Shoot some off-center. Also consider tilting the camera and snapping faces from a different angle. Lie down on the ground and shoot up. Climb on a picnic table, gather everyone close to you, and shoot down. You may find that some of the best pictures are captured when conventional poses are tossed out the window.

If Mother Nature somehow confounds you and presents you with one sunny day after the other, you do have some recourse. Find a hill. At sunset, have your subjects gather at the top of the hill and take some pictures as the sun dips down towards the horizon behind them. Use your editing abilities (this can be done on a phone as well as with computer software) to tone down the amount of light in the image. The resulting picture is a timeless silhouette, framed in the vibrant colors of that darn winter sun.

– Wendy MacKenzie is a mother of four, Parenting Program volunteer, and a huge fan of silhouette photos.

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.

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.

Five tips for raising emotionally secure children

little girl hugging her dad and a teddy bear

If you read my post on Tuesday, you know I believe that a strong emotional security is one of the most important qualities you can instill in your child. Here are five tips to help you along your journey of bolstering that emotional security.

  1. Consistency. I can’t stress this one enough! Children thrive on routine and consistency because it makes them feel safe and secure in knowing what to expect. This starts in early infancy and carries through into adolescence.

    Consistency on the part of adults is of prime importance. When you act consistently, children know where they and their surroundings stand. Otherwise, children can feel confused and become unpredictable. Always do as you say. Be consistent in your actions and follow through with promises or consequences.

    Children sense chaos, so when things are getting chaotic, I often ask myself, “Am I staying consistent?” If not, I try to regroup and create a sense of routine in any way possible, this helps create a safer, more predictable environment, which in turn helps children feel more secure in the happenings of their lives.

  1. Encouragement. This is simple but very important! Try to let your children know that they are good at things, that they are nice people, and that you like them. It’s important that they know that we don’t just love them, but that we like them. We like being with them, we like spending time with them.

    We generally tell our children when they fail, when they annoy us, or when we feel let down by them, but we may forget to mention the good things. Thus, many children get the impression that they aren’t “getting it right” and can easily feel emotionally insecure and develop a poor self-concept. Remember, success breeds success. Children need to have successful experiences and have their achievements recognized to develop self-esteem and emotional security.

  1. Listen and explore their feelings. Try to accept your child’s reality. If a child is upset or scared about something (regardless of how irrelevant or trivial it may seem to you), accept that this is the real feeling of the child.

    Rather than brushing over the issue/feeling or trying to fix the problem (as we tend to do as parents), dig deeper. In other words, ask what the child is feeling and then help to go through these feelings to either accept or work around the worrying feeling. This can lead to your child’s better understanding of his feelings and teaches good coping techniques. The result: Your child feels more emotionally secure.

  1. Realistic expectations. Keep your level of expectation within the realms of the child’s ability. It is great to challenge our kids to be the best that they can, but keep it realistic. We shouldn’t expect kids to do more than they are capable of achieving. Success is a progression of small steps, not one giant leap.
  1. Lead by example. This is one of my favorites! Children are always watching and listening. It is extremely important to lead by example, in our daily interactions with our partners, our loved ones, our friends, our community. Be aware of how you interact with your children. Be aware of how you interact with others. Listen to yourself. Stay aware that children emulate us and use us as role models.

    Hey, I get it. We are all human and we lose it sometimes. But if you start focusing on what your children are doing or how they are feeling, you may start to see a mirror image of yourself in your children (like a *gasp* “I’ve become my mother” moment). Stay cognizant that we lead by example in our everyday interactions. When our children see us as confident, responsible, loving, mature, and secure parents, they will emulate the way we interact and sense the way we feel. Strive for your own emotional security and chances are your children will sense it and feel more secure themselves.

– Dr. Hannan Alsahlani is a Beaumont pediatrician and proud mother of four girls.

Childproofing your home

Toddler opening a cabinet

Unaltered image. Jed De La Cruz, Flickr. CC license.

As a parent, it is our job to keep our children safe. So how do you know when to start childproofing and where to start? This can be an overwhelming process for many parents. Have you ever just stood in the safety section at your local baby store? There is an entire wall chock full of products with a variety of door handle covers, outlet covers, drawer and cabinet locks, and other items that you never even knew existed. Here is some advice on how to make sure your home is safe for your baby.

  • Get down on the floor at baby’s level. The world looks a whole lot different from there. Pay attention to what baby can see and reach.
  • When should I start? The sooner the better, however once baby is able to start rolling (typically 4 to 6 months), you want to make sure you’ve started your childproofing.
  • Know your baby. Some babies are much more mobile and curious than others. Some babies need to climb and get into everything. For these children, you may need to be much more thorough.
  • Keep all medications, chemicals, soaps, and detergents away from baby. Make sure these items are in locked cupboards or above baby’s reach in the kitchen and bathrooms.
  • All items that fit within a toilet paper tube pose a choking hazard to baby. Anything that fits inside should be kept away from baby, especially small items like coins.
  • Make sure you have the number for poison control in your cell phone and a central location in your home (800) 222-1222. You can also download an app to your phone.
  • Register for the Consumer Product Safety Recall list to be alerted for recalled items.

Recommended safety items

  1. Outlet covers
    1. Babies are very curious and the outlets seem to attract little fingers.
    2. If you don’t like the outlet covers, you can swap out all of your outlets with ones that have covers built into them.
    3. When traveling to a relative or friend’s home, bring an extra pack of outlet covers to keep your baby safe.
  2. Gates
    • You must use gates mounted with hardware at the top and bottom of stairs.
    • Pressure-mounted gates can be used in hallways and doorways.
    • Some gates have extension pieces to make sure they fit your space properly.
    • If you need to mount your gate to the banister, you can purchase a kit that lets you install the gate without drilling holes into your banister.
  3. Furniture straps
    • All furniture (including dressers and book cases) should be strapped to wall in rooms that baby will be in. These help to prevent furniture from falling on top of baby.
  4. Door locks/handles
    • Make sure you have the correct type of door lock for the correct door:
      • Bi-fold door locks
      • Sliding door locks
      • Universal locks
      • Appliance locks (e.g., refrigerator, drawer under oven/washing machine, dishwasher, etc.)
      • Door latches are very inexpensive and perfect for basement doors.
      • Toilet locks keep children from “playing” in toilet.
  1. Drawer and cabinet locks
    • Plastic locks that screw into the inside of cabinets or drawers.
    • Magnetic locks are less visible, but more expensive).
  2. Cord protectors
    • Mini blind cord protectors
    • Power strip protectors
  3. Thermometer for bathtime
    • Ensures water is not too hot or cold for baby

– Amy Weiss, MPT  Supervisor of Outpatient Physical Therapy at Beaumont Physical Therapy Berkley

 

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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