November 23, 2016

Help Grieving Children Through the Holidays

The holidays can be a painful time, for adults and although no one wants to admit it, even children can have a painful experience during this time of year. Possibly they have lost a grandparent or even a beloved family pet. Courtesy of Ele's Place, a healing center for grieving children, here are some ways to help grieving children through the holidays:
  • Share photos and holiday memories of the person who died - Children want to know they're not alone in grief. 
  • Make an ornament, or prepare a favorite photo to hang on the tree that reminds the child of the person who died. 
  • Decorate a candle and light it at meal time in memory of the loved one. 
  • Help the child make a donation to a charity in memory of the person who died.
  • Help the child decorate a wreath with pictures and items that were loved by the person who died and place the wreath at the grave. 
  • Listen to the loved one’s favorite holiday music. 
  • Help the child with a blessing at meal time that mentions the person who died. 
  • Encourage the child to draw pictures and create gifts inspired by their memories of the loved one to give to other family members.

“It is important to help children acknowledge the loss of a loved one during the holidays,” said Wendy Brightman, Managing Director of Ele’s Place in Ann Arbor. “Children often need ‘permission’ to talk about the person who died. Let them know you would rather keep the memory of your loved one alive than pretend nothing has changed.”
Ele’s Place provides creative, age-appropriate support groups year-round for children and teens, 3-18 years old, throughout the Ann Arbor area. All services are provided at no cost to families. For more information, visit the Ele's Place website or call (734) 929-6640.

republished from my article on in 2009

November 15, 2016

Safe Food Prep When Kids Cook

This article is reprinted from an article I wrote for the parenting group on in 2010.

Food comes to mind when I think about the holidays. Casseroles. Roasts. Ham. Appetizers and finger foods. Cookies and cakes. Now that I have children, my appreciation for family traditions and the food we eat around the holidays has deepened as I try to impart our traditional recipes to my children for their lifetime of memories.
I enjoy cooking and have been teaching my children about the joys of cooking at home. Step by step, I have guided them through many a meal, treat or snack. I suppose that’s why I was impressed with the homework project that was sent home with my son this week. It ties in nicely to the holiday season and helps me to deepen my son’s culinary experiences while teaching him a new lesson.
The directions given to us were that we needed to allow our first grader to write the recipe for his choice of holiday food from a list he created. I think we lucked out, because the two foods on my son’s list that were circled were “pizzas” and “jalow.” Assuming that jalow is JELL-O, we’re in business. Now all I have to do is to allow him to write, in his own words, the step by step process of preparing his dishes.
I have been working in the kitchen with my kids since they were old enough to hold a spoon, even if that meant only smearing peanut butter on bread or frosting cookies. I even signed them up for a cooking class at the community center last year, although I suspect that was due to the fact that the two-hour session allowed me some much needed down-time while they were in class.
What I haven’t harped on them about, though, is thorough surface prep. Yes I’ve talked about washing their hands and cleaning their work area, but I haven’t focused on a thorough cleaning. This might be due to the fact that I am not as likely to actually consume the wonderful gourmet selections they have prepared, but it is still something I need to teach them as much as I have harped on proper hand-washing or tooth-brushing skills!
Did you know that one single bacteria cell can become more than 8 million cells in less than 24 hours and that the number of bacteria it takes to make people sick can range from as few as 10 up to millions. It’ll be easy to teach my children more about this important step, making our holiday eating much safer. It’s really not much more challenging that using hot soapy water followed by disinfectant!
Thankfully adding an additional step to his recipe prep is easier than figuring out what "hadrg" or "bagin" is on my son's list! Thankfully neither of those items was circled, although I suspect that bagin is actually bacon!
Here are some great resources for getting your kids into the kitchen this holiday season:
To get your kids cooking, check out the kids cooking classes available at Sprouting Chefs or even your local recreation center. My children took their Little Crumbs Cooking Class through the Ypsilanti Township Recreation Department.
For great recipes for children, I often turn to the recipes I read about in Family Fun Magazine. Their magazine and online reference offers kid-friendly recipes, easy how-to directions and simple recipes for kids of all ages.
Information on proper cleaning of food prep surfaces is available at Disinfect for Health. Parents can also get a free refrigerator magnet featuring simple directions for disinfecting kitchen surfaces to remind young budding chefs.

Where To Visit With Santa for Free

Local malls always have colorful Santa displays where children can visit and have their photo taken with Santa. What about families that don’t have the means to pay for Santa photos, though? Where can they go? Luckily there are several places available for kids to see Santa and have their pictures taken with him — for free! Here is a line-up of a few great locations in and around Ann Arbor where kids can see Santa.

The Dixboro General Store (5206 Plymouth Road, Ann Arbor, 48105) will have Santa available for photos on Sundays. From 11:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., families can visit with and take photos with Santa for free.

On Saturdays now through Dec. 18 from at Kerrytown (407 N. Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor), Santa can be seen and heard as he jaunts through the Farmers Market greeting shoppers and children. Photos with Santa in the Kerrytown Markets and Shops are free, with other live performances, to make the season and your day brighter!

Several of my friends really enjoy heading over to the Three Cedars Farm (7897 Six Mile Road, Northville, MI 48167) and have assured me that the holiday display is worth the short drive. The farm celebrates a Country Christmas with Santa and Mrs. Claus with picturesque grounds for photo ops and of course Christmas trees, wreaths and hot cocoa for sale. Santa is available for free photos from 4:00-8:00 p.m. Fridays, 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. and 4:00-8:00 p.m. Saturdays and 1:00-5:00 p.m. Sundays now through Dec. 18.

Finally, for those of you not able to get to visit directly with Santa, your children can have the opportunity to speak with him when he appears on Community Television Network Public Access Channel 17 (on Comcast Cable) on Dec. 8. From 6:00-8:00 p.m., children can share their wishes, ask Santa questions or send good thoughts into the world when Santa appears via telecast on the Santa Satellite Network LIVE from Santa’s home in the North Pole. Boys and girls are invited to call into the CTN studio hotline at 734-794-6155 to talk with Santa.

Do you have a special place where you like to visit Santa? What are the great holiday locations for family photo ops?

November 3, 2016

CHI-CHI's Salsabration Giveaway

Do you need some chips and salsa for your next #Salsabration? Do you like when the Ann Arbor Mom does give-aways? Then today's post should make you very happy.

From now until noon Saturday, comment on the blog post or on the Ann Arbor Mom Facebook Page on your favorite CHI-CHI's Mexican Food. A random winner will be chosen from all entries to receive an assortment of CHI-CHI’s products - chips and salsa of course!  Of course this is in anticipation of Saturday's game (Go Blue), so go out and get some CHI-CHI's today.

Going to the Michigan game Saturday? Be sure to get there early so you can experience a CHI-CHI’s Salsabration, compete with free merchandise, a virtual congo line, and an endless supply of their zesty salsas and chips.

Disclaimer: This is a promoted post. The Ann Arbor Mom will also be receiving chips and salsa for a salsabration!

October 12, 2016

Tempering a Tantrum

When I was on maternity leave for my daughter a few years ago, I felt it was also important to bond with my 2-year-old son so that he didn’t feel left out.
So instead of holing up in the house, I decided to take him to story times, art classes, indoor play areas and anywhere else I thought might interest him.
On one memorable occasion, we went to a story time at Barnes and Noble. It was a sunny February day, the story was great, and my son seemed to really dig the energy of the storyteller. Even more interesting to him though, was the Thomas the Train set in the kids’ area. He loved playing with it and probably could have stayed for countless hours.
After a time though, we needed to go. And what started as the perfect day quickly became a major fit-throwing episode.
I initially tried reasoning; I nicely and politely stated more than once that it was time to go, and Mommy would not tolerate his throwing a fit. But desperation set in, and right before that moment of no-return anger, I literally tossed my son under my arm and grabbed the stroller, scooting it down the elevator, across the sales floor and out the front door while he screamed.
This “pick-up-and-go” tactic is a well-known parenting tool: When your child is out of control, react nicely first, and when they don’t listen, remove them from the situation. It shouldn’t be considered giving in, and in fact should teach them that there will be consequences for not listening to a parent. I know it works, but somehow I have been forgetting to use it recently.
A few weeks ago my children acted up in the grocery store. Wait, let me rephrase that: They acted like wild, crazed animals in the grocery store. They were OK until we got into the checkout lane, where they unleashed the crazed-animal scene. I tried my menacing mom growl and stink-eye, however my children continued down their path of insanity until I very loudly snapped.
I am certain the checkout gal, who knows me as a regular, now thinks I am a terrible parent. But I was simply out of patience and worn down, which resulted in my not-so-perfect parenting moment. I wanted out of the store, but I did not remove myself or my children from the situation, even after warning them. What I should have done is left, despite being in the checkout lane.
I’m amazed it took me weeks to realize this, but it seems my children now know they can act up in public because I have been letting them slide. When we’re in public, I don’t want others to judge my parenting. Ironically, when my kids act up and I do nothing, I am the one to look bad because I appear to not be “parenting.”
These are scenarios almost every parent has had to face at one time or another. While lamenting over the grocery store scene, I was reminded of some expert tips to help parents deal with tantrums in public.
Schedule accordingly: If you know your child needs a nap or otherwise becomes cranky at specific times of the day, try scheduling around those times.
Extraction is best: If children misbehave, no matter what is happening or where they are, be willing to remove them from the situation. It shouldn’t matter how costly or fun it is; leaving will help them understand who is the parent and whose word is law. Give a clear warning in a calm yet firm voice and explain exactly what will happen if the behavior continues. Then - and here’s the important part - follow through with your action. It’s tough when a child leaves kicking and screaming, but in the long run it will make life easier.
Set clear rules, and reward the positive: Parents need to define expectations at an understandable level, and repeat these laws faithfully. Parents can also use positive rewards — anything from a favorite activity to a special dessert. Rewards of praise or small treats can also be handed out on the spot for good behavior.
What parenting tools have you used to get your children to behave? Have they worked? How have you changed these tactics as your children age?

First published on in 2010.