Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Weekend In Review: Parenting Conference and a Ball

This past weekend was jam packed for Adam and I. On Friday night and all day Saturday we attended a parenting conference Hope Conference 2014. It was geared toward foster and adoptive parents, of which we are neither, but there were so many things that were said that are pertinent to any parent who's trying to parent well. There are many "take aways" for me that I'm still processing, but I was thankful for some of the "tools" that the Monroe's shared that I can now put in my toolbox in order to get outside of my "default mode" of operation with my kids.
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Their main point was that from the beginning, we were made for relationships--with God and others. Our approach to parenting must always focus first and foremost on God and people (who are made in His image), rather than parenting methods, techniques or systems. Michael Monroe kept asking the question, "how do you measure successful parenting?"---I could go off with answers to that question in a a myriad of directions, everything from: assessing how my kids are learning educationally, spiritually, socially, etc. to what character qualities are being developed in them, how many Bible verses they have memorized, do they obey the 1st time every time (no!), are they potty trained by 3 (which Emerson is not!) Parenting is truly such a hard job. It's not the same for each of our kids, there will be struggles for one and then it'll come easier for another, there's the balance of training them in a way that each child can relate to and understand. There's not a "pat" answer…A+B doesn't always equal C and just because one thing works with one child doesn't mean it'll work with another…parenting is challenging, exhausting and keeps me in a place of real dependence on God.

Michael Monroe kept saying, successful parenting isn't just that "they live happily ever after" which is easy to fixate on as parents, sure, we want our kids to be happy and we want things to come easy and we want there to not be hardships---but thats not real life. What defines successful parenting should really be summed up with--- "and they lived faithfully ever after". When parents are always faithful to look to God for how to direct each individual child, to seek His face as they try to navigate the rough spots, by being open to God and asking Him what steps to take, it is really acts of faith for each parent. The Monroe's pointed out that things in our kids may or may not get "better" (God in His design has made us very capable of change so change is possible even if we've come from very hard places--usually-- "re-wiring" can occur); the child (in the end) may choose to walk away for a time, but those situations don't measure the "success" of our parenting. The Monroe's said parenting is unlike any other job out there, because "outcomes don't always measure success!" I thought that was such a freeing concept.

There were several other things that really stood out to Adam and I. We have one child in particular who struggles with what I'm beginning to realize might be sensory issues (everything from banging in his crib to needing to wash his hands constantly). The Monroe's had a lot to say on this topic and had a plethora of books to recommend, which I must get on Amazon and order several of, because I feel like there's so much to learn on this topic. We also heard a lot about how prenatal stress can create risk factors for kids. They shared about a recent study that showed a direct correlation between a mothers stress level and her baby's stress level by comparing each of their cortisol hormone levels after birth…they were almost identical. So as Adam and I thought back about that pregnancy we realized that I was under quite a bit of stress at the time (Adam was in the throws of finishing his Master's program and working full time, we were trying to sell our house which is stressful--but on top of that we were selling at the holidays--which is a really stressful time all on its own, we were trying to find a new job, and move to a new city all right after giving birth to our precious little guy, literally we moved two weeks later.) So it makes sense that there would be some residual effects from all of that. So, instead of us thinking some of these annoying behaviors are just that, ANNOYING…seeing that there may be some reason for these behaviors has given me more compassion and grace towards them, and it's made me want to investigate ways to help deal with the behaviors in a way that is really effective.

They suggested that we must parent with a balance of nurture and structure. I tend to lean more toward structure so in order to connect with my kids, I don't have to bring down my level of structure, but I do need to focus on bringing up my level of nurture. So in those moments when I want to send this one particular kiddo to the bathroom to wash his hands (for the 50th time today) they would suggest I go with him, help him get the soap, help him turn on the water and with a soft tone and nurturing care, wash his hands and dry them for him. Instead of harshly throwing on his shoes (that he wants to have on during ALL waking hours) they'd suggest I lovingly place him in my lap to put on his socks and shoes and use those few moments to connect with him instead of constantly being irritated by them. It's all simple things, things that don't take a ton of time, but it changes my response to him and therefore changes the dynamics of our household from me being regularly irritated to me being more compassionate and loving toward him as I acknowledge his different needs. I know, it's simple, but really transformative in my perspective.

There's so much more that I'm still processing and thinking through but if any of this has been encouraging to you or challenging in some way, I'd like to point you to the Monroe's website (www.empoweredtoconnect.org), where they've uploaded a lot of their conference videos, research information and lists of books that they suggest parents read as well as books for children. I found all that they shared to be so incredibly fresh and encouraging! Michael Monroe said it best, this type of parenting---this switch in your normal mode of operation-- "is the highest cost with the least convenience" but it is worth it! Don't we all want to learn to love our kids better, don't we all want to connect daily with each of them? We all want to live "faithfully ever after" but it takes intentionality as well as hard work.

After the conference, we attended the American Heart Associations, Heart Ball. We literally just went from one event to the next with a few minutes to freshen up and get ready.
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It was fun getting to be apart of an event that helps to fund an organization that has become so near and dear to our hearts now because of Ava Jane.

When you hear the startling statistics its unbelievable!
-About 600,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.
-Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.
-Every year about 715,000 Americans have a heart attack.
-Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect in the United States, affecting nearly 1% of―or about 40,000―births per year.
-The prevalence of some congenital heart defects, especially mild types, is increasing, while the prevalence of other types has remained stable. So research continues to help find answers and cures.

With Ava Jane, we just had one defect, Coarctation of her aorta, and we were so thankful that it was just the one and that it was surgically fixable! So as we listened to people share their stories and watched the videos of other kids who have struggled, this disease once again took the fore front of our thoughts. We are so grateful for the people who gave in order to fund research that helped save Ava Jane, so we were glad to be given the opportunity to fund research that will help save others. It was a great evening celebrating all the lives that have been touched and as we got to see what it can look like when many ban together to help defeat a disease!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Allergies...

I mentioned this the other day in a post, but didn't go into much detail. At one of Lawson's last doctor's visits I told the Doctor that we use the Albuterol (rescue inhaler) at least every month or two and I learned that if we're using it more than four times a year, then we have a problem. After I told Dr. Byrum about Lawson's frequency of use coupled with the fact that he's been in the hospital five different times due to breathing problems (of which I was pretty sure they were allergy induced) our Pediatrician said, lets go get him tested to see what's going on.

So that's what we did. I set up an appointment with Arkansas Allergy and Asthma Clinic and was shocked when in early November, the first available appointment wasn't until January. So we recently had our first appointment and I must just say that it was terrible. It started when he wouldn't answer the nurse or Doctor's questions and said "I don't want to talk to them" in a very stand offish voice which is totally rude and embarrassing, but even that behavior can be overlooked when they're a young, shy, child. It's when he started hollering, "I DON'T like this place", "NNNNOOOOO, I don't want to do that again" screaming at the top of his lungs, after being in the office for 3 plus hours, this Mama wanted to go jump out the window. You know what I mean?

After answering many many questions, Dr. Ingram (whom I must say is WONDERFUL) said he thought we definitely needed to do allergy testing. BOO!! So Lawson was told to take his shirt off and to lie down on his belly, that wasn't a problem until the nurse wheeled in a cart with all kinds of little vials and needles, etc. He FLIPPED out and pretty much never recovered!
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Literally, Dr. Ingram, me and a nurse had to pin him down in order to do the 40+ little stick tests on his back. That part was misery, but trying to keep him on his belly, flat, so that all the oils they'd injected him with wouldn't run all down his back was pretty challenging too. After we waited the allotted 15 minutes, Dr. Ingram came in to see what his back looked like, honestly it didn't look to bad to me, there wasn't much redness or swollen spots, so I kind of thought he didn't have much of anything going on.
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Boy was I wrong! Dr. Ingram came back in and said there were several things he was initially allergic to and that he wanted to do five more injections with more potent allergens in them to see how he reacted to those. That was no fun, because those were 5 separate shots, which he said "really hurt". It didn't take long with these to see redness and swelling occur.
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Turns out our sweet little guy is allergic to a TON of environmental things, from dust mites to every kind of grass, tree and molds. That was a bit surprising to me, but not totally shocking. It pretty much explains why he has a constant runny nose and breathing issues, because those allergens are all around him all the time! The doctor recommended that we immediately start allergy shots (1 time per week) for about 3 months then we'll hopefully go to 1 shot a month for 3 to 5 years and be done with them. Oh how I hope its just 3 years and not all 5!! We've now gone twice for our weekly shots and both times its been HORRIBLE; he flips out, screams, kicks and flails around on the ground…Lord help me! And we're now on quite the daily regimen of meds: Flovent-2 puffs/twice daily, a nasal spray, Benadryl at night and Claritin in the morning with an allergy shot thrown in one time a week with an Epi-Pen too, just in case he has a reaction.

And since Emerson too, has had a fairly constant, yucky, runny, nose, Dr. Ingram suggested we go ahead and have him tested as well, so this Friday at 8:45am I'll be steeling my nerves yet again for another several hours of testing…I think I'll bring Adam with me for reinforcement!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Quick Trip To Sin City

A week and a half ago Adam was asked, by his boss, to accompany him on a business trip to Las Vegas for the American College of Cardiology's yearly conference. When Dr. Murphy asked if I could join them too, it was a no-brainer. I, of course, was more than happy to do a little un-planned, quick trip, all I had to do was make sure and get child care covered. So I immediately called both our parents and they were more than willing to help with the kids. We split them up this time (the two oldest were at one house while the younger two were at the others, then half way through our 3 nights/4 days, they swapped kiddos.) I know the kids had fun, hopefully the grandparents aren't too worn out from all our hooligans!!

We flew out on Wednesday late afternoon. I don't normally have coffee or Starbucks but I usually treat myself to some tasty drink before a flight so a carmel cappuccino and banana bread was what I chose.
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And Adam did his usual, doze-off and cat-nap, for most of the flight…
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We arrived, settled in and changed then had a late dinner. I must say, since I'm quite used to my "nursing home schedule" where my kids are dying for dinner at 5:30 or 5:45, eating at 8:30 was quite late for me, but it was oh so delicious! Here was the night time view from our 53rd floor.
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On Thursday morning we had some time before the conference started so we ate breakfast and headed out to see the sights. This was our view as the sun was coming up that morning…
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We started off at New York New York and tried to ride the roller coaster that starts inside the hotel then goes outside, but it didn't open for a couple of hours, boo!
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Then we saw…
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The Bellagio...
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I do have to say my favorite hotel was the Venetian. I've not yet been to Italy, but from what I've seen and what I've heard, the hotel is a perfect replica of what Italy is like…I definitely want to go there some day! There were canals with gondola rides and of course men singing opera in Italian at the top of their lungs. They literally made the inside of the hotel feel like you are outside, it was really so amazing!
Canal inside Venetian Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Venetian Hotel, Las Vegas
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We had lunch along one of the canals at Taqueria Canonita, it was very good food (similar to Local Lime here in Little Rock) and had such a fun scene to take in all around us.
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While the guys went to the conference Teresa and I walked along the strip shopping, talking and taking in some of the crazies. I got my picture with these Transformers, the boys would've loved seeing them in person. I decided not to take a picture of the many show girls lining the streets or the gladiator man dressed solely in a loin cloth with his armored mask, shield and javelin…I shouldn't have been surprised, but I did have to ask myself, "why do people do this?" Is is for attention? Or just for fun? Or maybe its really all they know to do, either way, it does seem a bit crazy to me.
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We also went to Sigfried and Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. It was pretty cool to see all their many cats: lions, leopards, white tigers, orange tigers, etc.
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I learned that one of the dolphins had been rescued after being shot in the head out at sea; thankfully they'd found it and been able to fully rehabilitate the animal. I also found out that they have to train the dolphins to eat dead fish, of course in the wild they eat living fish and all different varieties, not just one kind, so they have to train them to eat dead fish and usually offer them 3 different types, in case there's ever a shortage, like they're experiencing now.
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While we were watching the dolphins an airplane made this heart in the sky…I guess somebody got proposed to?!
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That evening as we left our hotel and waited for a taxi we got to watch a great water fountain show as we headed to dinner at the Wynn Hotel, which is where Garth Brooks has been having his show for the past 10 years and just finished up out there this month. I must say, it was beautiful, truly amazing decorations, and the restaurant was superb!
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This was just one of the many spectacular displays, this entire hot air balloon was made out of flowers, is that not amazing?!
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Friday morning Adam had conferences so I worked out in the gym then came back read some then took a leisure time getting dressed. We had lunch together then did more exploring. We had a helicopter tour planned for late afternoon and that was really a treat! We got to see the Vegas strip, the Hoover Dam (with the Colorado River feeding into it) then saw Lake Meade (the huge man made lake there in Las Vegas). I've never been in a helicopter but I must say it was fun and totally repeatable! We were in there with 2 other couples and the pilot, you have to sit according to balanced out weight, thankfully Adam and I got to ride next to each other as well as shot gun, so we definitely had the best seats! I should've known this (since helicopters don't have wheels, but in order to take off, they hover over the ground for a ways kind of "hopping" along the runway). I guess I sort of thought they just lifted up off the ground like the military helicopters I've seen…but NO!
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Directly over our hotel, the Aria.
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That evening we ate at Tao (a Japanese restaurant) in the Venetian, which is spectacular at night...
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I had my first ever Japanese fondue, shabu shabu, which I must say really was good, being that it was all raw fish, I wasn't sure if I'd like it, but it really was great!
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The best part of the evening started at 9:30, the Soul to Soul tour of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, it was awesome from my 6th row, front and center seats…truly A-MAZ-ING!
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They started off with her "Hey, Baby Let's Go to Vegas", then proceeded to sing almost all of their major hits, it was really a great show!!
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Obviously we were in Vegas, most known for its gambling, which I've got no experience doing, so that was a bit intimidating to me, but I did give it a little go with a $20 bill in the slots and won $60, that was enough for me, then Adam tried and won $75, that was enough for us, we aren't big risk takers!
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Vegas was a lot of fun, we really enjoyed our time together! Here, we're leaving the Aria headed back to reality…On our elevator down, we rode with a woman who was dressed in a short white dress with white "go-go" boots. She informed us that she was headed to get married and was quite nervous…ya think?! Really?! It never ceases to amaze me the things people do…it's kind of hard to believe that those weddings that take place out there really do have legally binding reality attached to them, because it seems that the people just make the most flippant decisions about marriage…oh well. I wished her all the best!
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It was fun but we were ready to get back and re-enter life…though I must say "re-entry" is a beast; getting back into the groove is terrible! Thankfully we had off for MLK Day to add onto our weekend which was a blessing! Now it's Monday night and the week is truly in full swing! Here's hoping you had a fun weekend and have a great week ahead of you!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Celebrating Emerson!

This weekend we had a Dinosaur themed party for Emerson's 3rd birthday. We had family and friends over to our house to help us celebrate.

Here's the invitation…
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These dinosaur footprints greeted our guests as they arrived…
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And you can't have a party without a food table…
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I made Dinosaur Toenails (by dipping Bugles in melted chocolate almond bark)…
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There were several different dinosaur cookies (I used small dinosaurs to make the footprints in my sugar cookie dough then sprinkled them with cinnamon and sugar and then glazed several too)…
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There was all kinds of sugary goodness offered…
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I used one of our decks to set up child size tables and chairs that I rented from Confetti's…
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Each child got a dinosaur mask, and "archeological-excavation" tools for the dinosaur dig…
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Each sandbox had dinosaurs, dino skeletons and "surprise rocks", I do believe the surprise rocks were quite the hit!!
Baked Surprise Rocks
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Emerson loved digging for his dinosaurs. Look what he found inside his rock…
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We did our first ever, piƱata, I must say it was quite challenging for that sucker to break loose!
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It was mass mayhem when it finally broke and set free more sugary goodness!
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We sang Happy Birthday to our special little guy…
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I think he really enjoyed his cupcake and jello cup!
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He had fun ripping open and seeing all of his new toys.
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After the party I asked him "what part of your party was your favorite?" His response was, "I loved all the dinosaurs!" So I guess it was a hit for him, and that is really all that matters!

It was fun having a bunch of our friends and family there to celebrate with us…
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Happy Birthday sweet Emerson! We love you so much and were so glad to be able to celebrate the 3 years we've had with you!!
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Lakin' it with friends

We have gotten to know the Livers over the last two years and truly enjoy their friendship. Two years ago we were one of their boys Sunday ...