Raising Superheroes

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What do you envision when you think of a superhero? Does your mind wonder off to Marvel & the Avengers? Do you picture Superman flying through the air or Catwomam sneaking through the night fighting bad guys? First responders & our military? Or maybe you think of a particular person in your life or someone you may not know personally but know of their accomplishments through the media.

Have you ever stopped to think how they became so heroic? I mean if you’re Superman, you’re kinda born that way, with super human powers & strength. But even Superman could have used those powers for evil or unethical things. It’s all in how he was raised. That goes for most of us. And I said “most” because there are some heroes who grew up not having a healthy, respectable role model to look up to & learn from. The majority of our lives can all be connected back to our upbringing with our parents and/or caretakers.

So how do we do this? How do we raise our children to be heroes? And what is a hero? It can mean so many different things to each person. For me, a hero is anyone who overcomes adversity with faith, dignity, kindness & humbleness. An adversity can be anything that creates a challenge, turmoil, or grief in a person’s life. I started thinking about this after watching the movie I Can Only Imagine. It’s a beautiful film. I highly recommend it. Tiny spoiler alert though, it may trigger some stuff if you’ve ever gone through/dealt with abuse in your life. It’s about a father-son relationship & basically how it created a powerful testimony of God’s love & purpose in these two lives.

Photo from https://www.courageouschristianfather.com/i-can-only-imagine-movie-review/amp/

The movie is extremely encouraging to any parent, in my opinion. I related to it in the fact that I struggle with guilt after disciplining my children. My husband & I would never physically or emotionally harm our children. We would never harm them in any way. Period. But I always think, “Maybe I could’ve handled that differently.” Or, “I shouldn’t have yelled.” But my husband is always so great about reminding me that we are just trying our best to raise strong, loving, independent & rule-abiding adults. Our littles get upset when they get in trouble & I just hate seeing them cry. But we get down on their level & explain why we can’t do certain things- for theirs/others’ safety, it’s not kind, they’ll get too full & not eat dinner. The list goes on.

But then it happens. It clicks with them. Whatever the lesson may be. And you see them implementing them in their day to day lives.

One thing I have learned being a momma is that children, especially little bitties learn best by their environment. So lead by example. SHOW them how they are expected to act & speak. That’s how you raise superheroes. This is not to say you can’t ever be angry or sad or what have you. But it’s in the way you handle yourself & cope in those situations. You raise heroes by being a hero yourself. Be the best version of you. And you may not feel like it. But just by taking the time to play with them. Putting their dolls clothes on. Get on their level. Opening their juice [it really can be that simple!] or making them lunch. You do everything for them & they see it. Holding them when they have a bad dream & reminding them it will all be okay. It all matters. Much more than any of us realize.

Related: He’s Not Just a NICU Survivor

My kiddos are my heroes. Hands down. My Noah has overcome some huge obstacles even before he was born. And same with my baby girl. My Paislee. She is so full of life & knows no stranger. God is working through them both in so many ways already.

Related: My Beauty and the World’s Beasts

Making them feel loved, important & heard is the most heroic thing you could ever do for them. I promise you they see it. You are their world & it’s your job to guide them down the right path so they can survive in this world of sidekicks. A great leader creates more leaders. Why do you think God created us?! So we can lead others to Him!

Just some food for thought on this quiet Sunday 💕

As always, God bless †

Brittany

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He’s Not Just a NICU Survivor

Have you ever stopped to think about all of the little things you love about your children? I mean the really little things. Have you ever just stopped to look at them? Study them? Watch them? I’m not a creeper mom I promise! I just get caught up in a moment sometimes. Watching my kiddos. Here the past few weeks I have really been watching my Noah. My sweet boy.

We are big advocates for NICU families, survivors & angels. All because Noah was born 11 weeks premature & spent 12 weeks in the NICU overcoming obstacles most grown ups couldn’t overcome. Given that September is NICU Awareness Month AND Noah’s birthday month, I love to share his story. Even though it’s an amazing story & testimony of faith, struggle, motherhood, & birth that I love to tell- I’m not gonna talk about that today.

Related: The Littlest Warrior: An Inspiring NICU Story

Today is bub’s 2nd birthday. And I just want to talk about him. I want to share the little things that make him special. That make him “him”. God has sculpted this little boy perfectly fitting for our little family. He is so wonderfully made that I felt inclined to share with y’all my favorite things about him.

His smile

Since he came into this world, he was smiling. Always such a happy soul. His laugh is incredibly infectious. I pray you never lose this smile, bub. It has brightened my darkest days.

His snuggles

Noah gives the best hugs. Lately he’s been so busy. He is such a busy body. So I sneak in those cuddles every chance I can get! Snuggle your babies. Even if it’s just a quick hug or head on the shoulder. Soak up those moments. Two may seem young, but I want to look back when he’s 22 & think, “I stole all the snuggles I could!”

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His passion

This boy is so passionate about so many things. Some may call it obsessive, but he knows what he loves & he will talk your ear off about it! He’s so passionate about his blankie, baseball, hats, superheroes & shoes. Just to name a few. All very different things. I think it’s just a tiny look into the passion he will have as he gets older. When he begins to love & maybe play baseball. Or when his passion for Christ overcomes him & leads him down a successful path. I look forward to that time of watching him grow into the man he will be.

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His eyelashes

Everybody always talks about his eyelashes. It’s one of his many characteristics that are so, so precious to me. It just adds to his childhood innocence. Girls will go ga-ga over him & those dang eyelashes. I love them, but they’re gonna drive me crazy one day!

The love he has for his family

The love he has for us is undeniable. He may only be two, but he is the most loving boy. The random “I love you’s” & sweet goodnight kisses. He adores his sissy too. The way he plays with her & follows her every move reminds me of my little sisters growing up. I give Paislee a good bit of credit when I think about all of the things he has learned over the past year. He has learned so much from her it’s crazy. How much he talks & the motor movements he’s learned. All her! I can’t wait to watch their relationship grow as they do ❤

His strength

Okay, I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about the NICU, but just for this one I’ll mention that that experience was only the beginning of the immense strength this guy has. Throughout his whole two years of life, he has overcome some huge obstacles. Physical & occupational therapy. Possible speech delays, eye issues, hearing tests. Each one he showed how much of a miracle he is. Such a healthy boy. He started preschool this year & that transition was so hard. He had only been home with me most of his life. He had such a hard time at first. But now, when I drop him off he goes in & sits right next to his friends with that big handsome smile on his face. Although it’s hard for me to let go a little bit, it makes me feel successful as a momma to watch my sweet boy be so independent.

I could literally go on & on about this boy. I want to challenge every momma & daddy out there to do this with me. Write down the special things you love about your littles. Big & small. I think these things in my head, but actually writing them down is very therapeutic. Also going through old pictures & memories really makes this momma happy! Other people may think it’s annoying, but I take SO many pictures. And I’m glad that I do. Capturing all of these precious moments that I can have for a lifetime.

So take ALL THE PICTURES. Write down all the memories. You only get this one life to live & remember. This boy of mine is just starting his life, but it has been more full than I could’ve ever imagined. Although it is a huge part of who he is, he is NOT just a NICU survivor. He is a vibrant little boy full of so much joy. There are so many parts to him that we haven’t even discovered yet. Happy 2nd birthday bubba! We love you!

As always, God bless †

Brittany

Crock Pot Turkey Chili

I posted this easy recipe on my insta stories last week & had a ton of interest in it! And a ton of requests to publish it on the blog, so by popular demand….here it is! This is so perfect for fall & incredibly easy. You can even prepare it ahead of time & freeze it for later use. It’s a healthy & hearty meal packed with savory flavors!

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 lb lean ground turkey

1 15 oz can organic diced tomatoes

1 8 oz can organic tomato sauce

1 15 oz can organic, low-fat/sodium pinto beans

1 15 oz can organic, low fat/sodium dark red kidney beans

3 cloves garlic

Half a purple or white onion

3 stalks celery

3 Tbsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

1 Tbsp oregano

*optional* 1 tsp red pepper flakes

*optional* about 1/4 cup chicken stock

Sour cream & shredded cheddar cheese for topping

Salt & pepper to taste

First you’ll want to chop up you onion, celery & garlic. I don’t like huge chunks of veggies so I cut all of mine up pretty small. That’s to your own discretion though 🙂

While you’re chopping your veggies, heat up some olive oil in a large skillet. I used about a tablespoon or so.

Toss everything in the skillet & sauté for about 3 minutes or so. Or until the veggies begin to soften. Then you’ll want to add in your turkey.

I like to push the veggies to the sides of the pan to get the meat started. Once it starts to brown just keep giving it a good stir to makes sure it all gets cooked through.

Let that meat sit & cook for a few & start adding in your other ingredients to the crock pot. Pour in your tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans [do not drain or rinse] & seasonings.

The last thing I add in is a water & chicken stock mix. I get one of the 15 oz cans and fill it 3/4 with water & 1/4 chicken stock just to give it a tad more flavor. Pour that in the crock pot with your turkey/veggie mix & stir it all together.

Then you let it sit for 2-4 hours on low. Or, at this point I would let the meat and veggies cool then bag it up to stick it in the freezer. If you can let it sit closer to 4 hours the flavors will really mash up!

I like to top mine off with some shredded cheddar or Colby jack cheese & sour cream.

Crackers & cornbread are 👌🏻 with this too. Or pour it over some Fritos for a fancy Frito pie 💁🏻‍♀️.

As always, God bless †

& happy eating

Brittany

Our Family Favorites: 17 Children’s Books Your Littles Will Love

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Every family has their particular bedtime routine with their kiddos. I mean evenings would be pretty chaotic without them right? They’re pretty chaotic even WITH them. Our routine with our littles has always included a bedtime story. We started incorporating books into our routine with Paislee when she was a brand new baby. It took us a little while to get Noah into reading, but he loves it now. We all like to cuddle up on the couch after bath time with their lovies & read a book they pick out. Sometimes Tommy & I will tag team it & he will read to one kiddo while I read to the other. Other times we will all read together as a family if the kids are into the same book that night.

I recently started thinking about new parents & how sometimes it can be a little overwhelming how many books there are out there. I decided to go through what my family already had on our little bookshelf & share our favorites with y’all. My hope is to help any new parents kinda narrow their search down a bit to ones I know my littles love. Some of these books I’m going to share with you are classics & ones you may already have in your home. I have a few categories I’ll break them up into & tell you our faves & share why they can also be important for developmental reasons.

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Touch & Feel Books

These are amazing! Especially for those really little guys. Using those sensory input skills by touching and exploring their curiosity with the different textures. Seriously, whoever invented these is a genius. There are a plethora of different touch & feel books to chose from. For this one, I’ll give you Paislee’s pick. Because this is her favorite book right now. We read it pretty much every single night.

That’s Not My Princess- Usborne Touchy-Feely Books

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There are many different versions of this books as well if you have a little boy. That’s Not My Monster, That’s Not My Dragon, etc. This one has velvet, faux fur, & silky fabrics inside. Paislee absolutely loves it!

Literally laughing out loud to the pic on the right.

Books About Hard but Meaningful Topics

You might think this category is weird for littles & babies. But our goal as parents is to raise our kiddos up right. In the most loving & intentional ways possible. I have found that teaching our kids manners, coping with their emotions, & following the rules at an early age has really set them apart from others at times. I don’t mean to sound boastful or say in any way that my kids are better or “perfect”, but not only do we teach them these things every day but we read about them too. These next four books are our favorites that our littles enjoy too. The first three are all by the same author. Todd Parr. Who, if you haven’t heard of him, does an amazing job portraying difficult topics into fun & colorful life lessons.

It’s Okay to be Different
The Feelings Book
& Do’s and Dont’s by Todd Parr

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I first was introduced to these books in college when I attended a camp for adopted children & their families. It’s Okay to be Different was one of the books that was read to the children at camp because it talks about being adopted. Some illustrations are so silly & kids really eat it up. There are also a few more “serious” examples of being different in the book as well [i.e. being adopted, being in a wheelchair, saying no to bad things, etc.]. It’s all incorporated in a tasteful way & really educates kids about topics you may not even think to talk with them about.

He leaves it open too. Like saying no to bad things…you can relate that to real life situations with your kiddos. Something they can understand. I just love these books so much. They’re awesome!

The fourth book is Tommy’s (my husband) pick. Growing up he loved the Berenstain Bears books. Their whole collection is great for teaching all kinds of useful life lessons. They also have a lot of Christian based topics & stories. Our favorite right now is this one.

Please & Thank You Book by Mike Berenstain

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This book is a simple illustration of using please & thank you during every life. And it’s great at showing how it makes the other person feel when you use/don’t use them. This is something we started teaching really early on in our kids’ lives. Now Noah, our youngest, will say please & thank you 90% of the time without us having to prompt him. It really helps y’all!

Sing-A-Long Books

Our kids LOVE music. They love to dance around to their favorite song, but lately they have really loved sing-a-long songs. I think because they do a lot of these at school. Baby shark is all Noah sings. Our two favorite sing-a-long books are also by the same author [we’re pretty consistent in this house].

Pete the Cat Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
& Pete the Cat Old MacDonald Had a Farm by James Dean

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I feel like children learn best through songs. Especially at young ages. We have a song for everything. Brushing teeth, going potty, feeling mad. Pete the Cat is just so fun. There are so many other PTC books out there. Some even have CD’s that sing along with the books. I also like the “groovy buttons” one. I used to sing that one with my preschoolers. But these are great for starting out. Paislee used to read these every night too. She would fall asleep singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. It was the most precious thing. You could even incorporate instruments into storytime. More sensory input! How fun!

Flap Books

These books were the very first ones we introduced to Paislee when we began to read to her. So many developmental skills can be used with these. Fine motor skills, object permanence, problem solving. And again there are so many different versions depending on what your littles are into. These two were our favorites!

Animals
& Things That Go- Lift-a-Flap Books

A couple of flaps may or may not have been ripped off. The excitement of reading must have gotten a little out of control.

Books about Faith & Jesus

I have a lot of these! Teaching our littles about God’s undenying love & our faith in Him is extremely important in our home. If you share the same values, I have some really precious books to share! The first is a prayer book. It’s a collection of bibles verses, poems, & prayers you can read with your kiddos every night before bed. We usually read through a few because they can go by pretty quickly. Or you can pick out a main book to read & then pick out a prayer to read from the book. Either way it’s a great way to encourage prayer in your child’s life.

Bedtime Bible Promises by Bonnie Rickner Jensen

The next three are all a little different but have important messages that your littles need to hear all the time. You Are Special & God Gave Us You are very alike in their theme. It teaches kids that no matter how sparkly someone else may seem or how much more they have than you, you are special in your own way. God made you special, for a special reason & a special family, because He knew you would do great things. A Very Thankful Prayer is based around the season of fall and Thanksgiving. It encourages kids to give thanks for the things around them. No matter how big or how small. The author is the same who wrote the prayer book above! We have many books similar to these but these are our favorites!

You Are Special by Max Lucado
God Gave Us You by Lisa Tawn Bergren
& A Very Thankful Prayer by Bonnie Rickner Jensen

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Our last Christian based book is my pick! This book made me cry the first time I read it to the kids. It is so sweet & not only portrays my love for them, but more importantly describes God’s love for them. It is so special to my heart & I will keep it & read it to them until they won’t let me anymore!…& even then I still will.

Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman

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Randoms

These two don’t really fall into any of these categories, but are still worth mentioning nonetheless. They really are some big favorites in our house. The first one is a classic. This one we literally read every. single. night. for almost 2 months. No joke. Goodnight Moon might seem like a simple, short & sweet little bedtime story. But you can really turn it into a learning experience. We would have Paislee point to certain things in the “green room”. It’s a great book to learn basic items you might find in a house or bedroom. The black & white contrast has also shown to be very incising & healthy for little eyes.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

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This one is Noah’s pick. He is obsessed with Llama Llama right now. He loves to read these books. We only have a couple versions right now, we need to stock up though because he is just all about them! These are more fun books, but are pretty repetitive. Which can be really great & helpful for speech development. They mostly teach good morals & manners.

Llama Llama Gives Thanks by Anna Dewdney

This last one that I’m going to share with y’all is more of a gift you might give to your littles. We gave this to Paislee for her first Valentines Day. She was only 6 months old & we couldn’t give her candy or anything else really “Valentines-y”. We lived in California at the time & didn’t see our family much. I thought of this idea to make her a book with her family in it. Something that she could look at all the time & know who everyone was. I just started with a blank board book & added each member of our immediate families. They each have their own page with a picture of them & Paislee next to their name [or what she calls them]. It came out so cute & you can tell how much she loves it because it’s really worn out already. It’s great for military families since, most of the time, we are away from our families for long periods of time. I really need to make a new one that has both of the kids in it. Maybe a Christmas gift for this year!

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In case y’all want to order one for your littles, I ordered & created it at http://www.pintsizeproductions.com

I’ll leave picture links below for y’all for all of the books in this post if you’re wanting to purchase any 🙂

Books mentioned in this post:

 

As always, God bless †

& keep reading 🙂

Brittany

ABA: Why Do It? A Therapist’s Perspective

I always tell people how much I LOVE what I do. And I. DO. But just like any job, there are some really rough days. I have just recently started with a new company & it has been quite an adjustment. New clients, new coworkers. But one thing that stays the same is the therapy that is given. I’m gonna shine a little bit of light on what I do & the amazing outcomes & benefits I have witnessed first hand.

“I LOVE what I do”

ABA, or Applied Behavior Analysis, is basically is a therapeutic intervention mainly used with those who have special needs. But the amazing thing about it is that it can be used with literally anyone. More specifically though, it has shown substantial improvement with children who have autism. I have seen it firsthand. I have worked with children & adults ages 3 to 21. Not one person is the same. Autism is such a complex thing. There are so many different behaviors & delays that you would never even think of. That’s where myself & my supervisors step in.

The supervisors, or BCBAs,  on each case [child] create the programs and targets that need improvement basically. The therapist, that’s me, applies those programs & hits those targets during each session with the client. Let me emphasize the importance of this program by saying that EARLY INTERVENTION IS KEY. Red flags start to show their color early on in life- as early as the first year of life. Kiddos can be placed in ABA programs as early as 18 months old. The biggest sign that is the most prominent is regression. Parents will say that their child was hitting all of their developmental milestones- crawling, babbling, even talking in 2-3 word sentences. Then all of the sudden they start to lose those skills. Their child will stop making eye contact, seem disengaged, & participate in repetitive movements or sounds. Or others may display some serious social deficits- not picking up on basic social cues, laughing out of context, or making inappropriate comments that don’t fit the current situation. Like I said before, every kiddo is different. To make the diagnosing process a little easier there are very descriptive guidelines & criteria a child must meet in order to receive the diagnosis of autism.

“EARLY INTERVENTION IS KEY”

I do not have any personal ties with autism. Which might seem a little weird. I feel that most people I come into contact with in my line of work have some sort of common ground with it. Which inspired them to get more involved with special needs. I’ll save my story of how I became a therapist for another time, but for now I’ll just tell you that it is truly my passion. I become so invested in my clients’ success & watching that “click’ happen is a miraculous thing, y’all. I can’t even begin to explain it to you. I have been an ABA therapist for about 1 year and 9 months now, & here are the three most important things about ABA I can pass along to you.

No. 1 It’s Effective

Now, I’m not going to give you stats [which are pretty high btw], but I will share with you what I have witnessed with this program. At the first center I worked at, I was placed on the case of an adorable little 3 year old. She was mostly nonverbal, meaning she didn’t use words or many sounds to communicate. I started with her after she had been with us for about 6 months or so. I watched her go from making some letter sounds to saying full words requesting things she wanted & random objects around her. It was so awesome! All because of the intensive ABA therapy she was receiving.

No. 2 It’s Positive

This is a HUGE one. the biggest thing that is drilled into our heads & what we are taught in our training is the power of positive & negative reinforcement. I know, I know. “Negative” doesn’t sound positive. But it can be! Sorry, don’t mean to confuse you…let me explain. Positive reinforcement is exactly what it sounds like. Giving a child, or adult, vocal praise or some type of preferred item in order to increase a behavior. Essentially, you’re adding some type of stimulus in order ensure that behavior will happen again in the future. Negative reinforcement would be like washing your hands then drying them off. The action of drying your hands off results in the water being gone, thus increasing the likelihood of you drying your hands off in the future. These types of reinforcements are engraved into every lesson, target, & behavior we come across on a day to day basis. Imagine if you made your hubby his favorite dinner. He got home & was SO happy. He gave you a big smooch & said, “Thank you babe, you’re the best!” Would you be more likely to surprise him with his favorite meal again in the future? Well yeah, most likely.

That’s what I do. Even if it’s the tiniest of goals. Like saying “b” for “ball”. Every time that kiddo reaches for a ball & says “b” you better believe I’m giving them that ball. And providing praise at the same time. “Great job asking for ball!” Then eventually that goal will be shaped into what the client can do. “Ba”, “Ball”, etc. I keep saying this, but y’all it’s amazing to watch these kids grow and see how powerful the impact of positive reinforcement can be! The overall goal is to improve their quality of life by helping mold basic & more complex life skills.

No. 3 It’s Flexible

There is no black & white when it comes to ABA. At least not in my eyes. Any kind of goal can be created for every kiddo. I had an older client who was really into anime, so there were targets created based on anime characters she liked that could also represent her emotional state. It was reinforcing to her & it was a functional way to help her communicate how she was feeling at any given time. You have to be really creative sometimes in this line of work. Actually, a lot of the time. If you make it too structured or too loose, it can be really hard to find what is motivating for that specific client.

So…why do it?

As a therapist we see a lot of these kiddos/adults. Most clients attend ABA 20-40 hours a week. For instance I only have two clients at the moment but I see them 6 hours a day. That’s 12-18 hours with just me. That’s what I love about this job. We get to really build rapport with our clients. Which is the base of all successful outcomes. If you don’t have a strong connection with your client, it’s very hard to have them comply with demands you place on them or to just have fun with them in general.

I work with a lot of challenging behaviors on a daily basis. Tantrums. Aggression- biting, hitting, kicking, scratching, pushing. Spitting. Elopement (running away). Stereotypes (repetitive behaviors). Noncompliance (big one!!). And self-injurious behaviors. Among many, many others. It would take me forever to list them all. But these are the most common I see. When I explain this to others they kinda give me the look like, “Why the heck do you put up with that?” and it’s simple really….because I just love what I do.  Yeah one minute my client may be pushing me in order to obtain a certain item they want, but then, after redirection & many times of practicing, they finally use their words to ask for it. Sounds silly & something that everyone should know how to do. But those with autism don’t know how to regulate their emotions properly. They don’t know how to express their needs in words most of the time. They may need to use an electronic device that talks for them because they just simply can’t get the sounds to come out [another reason why early intervention is essential].

“It challenges me & makes me stronger”

It’s a hard job. I come home, just after 6 hours of working & get back to it with my own little toddlers. My feet hurt. I can feel my arm starting to bruise from my client who got a little too frustrated & I was the closest person to them. I’m tired from waking up before the sun rose because there’s no way I’m going to the gym AFTER work. I’m hungry because I didn’t get to finish my lunch due to having to give my full 110% attention to my client to make sure they ate their food & stayed at the table. Please don’t misconstrue this as complaining, I’m just giving you a small glance into the life of an ABA therapist.

It’s difficult. It’s tiring. It challenges me & makes me stronger. And it’s so rewarding.

As always, God bless †

Brittany