From the Publisher...
It’s Mother’s Day. I am blessed to I have the privilege of watching both of my children grow up.
Having worked my entire life, I have always thought of myself in that way – as a job title, making a salary, learning, and doing well in each position I held. However, this month, I remember that bringing up my children is the most significant role I’ve ever taken on. Being a mother is one of the most essential responsibilities in the world!
The next generation (and ultimately the world) relies on us. We give them life, and we nurture them when they are babies. We are there for all the firsts – sitting up, crawling, standing, walking. As they grow up, we teach them manners, respect, and how to give and receive love. We shower them with love, praise them, and reprimand them when they do something wrong (like hitting them with their iPad.) We catch them when they fall. We care for them when sick, soothe them when upset, and kiss their booboos. And they trust us with everything they have.
We show them how to love, live, and enjoy life as they age. When they are happy, we are ecstatic. When they are sad, we are there to cry with them. We learn to strike a balance between spoiling and discipline. We teach them how to cope. We encourage them to have compassion for those less fortunate than themselves. And we pray that whatever their dream is for their life, it will come true. Our goal is for our children to be independent, well-rounded adults.
Eventually, as they become young adults, we learn to allow them to make their own mistakes, as hard as that may be. They have to prepare to be adults, independent human beings that will make their own mistakes. We only hope that we have taught them enough to be ready to make mistakes and take ownership of those, apologizing when they are at fault and forgiving those that have done something they consider unforgivable.
We are their cheerleaders. We are there in the good times and the bad. We know it will happen, but our hearts celebrate or break, no matter what. As they become adults, we may not be there to kiss their bumps and bruises, but we are still there with our whole being. We know we have instilled in them all the values they will need to become wonderful members of their community. We know that somehow they, and we, lived through all the good and bad.
I am very proud of my children, Michael and Jaclyn, for the adults they have become. Michael is an IT expert in Prosper, Texas, and Jaclyn is a Texas State Trooper living in Del Rio, Texas. They both are very competitive and are doing excellent in their careers. Evidently, I did something right!
Happy Mother’s Day – whether you are a mom to human children or pets, you still care for your babies! And that counts! Love you all!
May God bless you and yours…
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Living a life filled with hope, strength, and faith for the precious miracle found in BRAYDEN WHITE
BRAYDEN'S BANDAGED HEARTBy: Anne Granado
From the first home pregnancy test, when the little lines seem to change your world, pregnancy is a roller coaster of emotions, especially for firsttime mothers. To feel such excitement and anxiety together is a unique feeling, and many mothers vacillate between the two. However, whether it is extreme morning sickness or the fear of bad news at an exam, many mothers experience pregnancies far from the fairy tale. Hollywood makes it all seem easy—pregnancy glow, good news at every appointment, beautiful baby showers. However, very little is shared about moms with vastly different experiences, even though telling the truth about a stressful pregnancy could help others feel less alone.
Brad and Brandi White’s story is precisely the kind of tale that some movies would shy away from, but this couple’s hope, strength, and faith could inspire so many. Brad and Brandi White found out on February 23rd, 2022, that they were expecting their first child. The couple had been at the horse track the weekend before, and though Brandi found herself wanting one of their famous Bloody Mary’s, something held her back. “I was talking to my best friend, Madison, about how I was a little late and feeling a little off. She told me I was pregnant, and I needed to take a test,” Brandi says. “I kind of blew her off, but I thought I would pick up a cheap test just to put my mind at ease.”
At the time, Brandi was a branch supervisor for Commercial National Bank, and work was rife with stress, which Brandi took as the reason for her irregular cycle. However, she stopped at the
store and bought a test anyway. “When two lines appeared, Brad and I just smiled and were so excited,” Brandi says. “We had been trying, so it was a very positive thing, but I instantly knew my life would be completely different. It’s an exciting yet scary feeling!”
Although, Brad was instantly excited, but trying to think rationally, he recommended they take a second test in the morning. “The first test I took was the one with the two pink lines, and the second line was there but light,” Brandi says. “The second test showed a + and a -. It immediately showed a +!”
After the second test, Brandi called and made an appointment with Dr. Sudheer M. Jayaprabhu (or simply Dr. Jay to many of his patients) an obstetrics and gynecology specialist at Women’s Specialists in Texarkana. Then, on Easter of 2022, Brad and Brandi announced they were pregnant. “We just knew we were having a boy the whole time. We both just felt it,” Brandi says. “We went to Stork Vision and gave the results to my sister-inlaw for our upcoming family gender reveal, where we confirmed it was a boy! It was also my birthday and the best birthday present ever!”
Immediately, Brad and Brandi began to imagine their future and the changes this little one would bring, but their dream of a perfect pregnancy changed at Brandi’s 20-week anatomy scan.
After the scan was completed, Brad and Brandi were sent to a room to wait for Dr. Jay and go over the results. When he came in, Dr. Jay told them
that an issue had appeared on the scan. “Dr. Jay told us that one side of our little one’s heart was smaller than the other, and he wanted us to see a specialist,” Brandi says.
Still hopeful, Brad and Brandi went to see Dr. Christian Briery, a specialist in maternal-fetal medicine at Willis Knighton Health System in Shreveport, Louisiana. But, on their visit with him, Dr. Briery diagnosed their baby with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). “Dr. Briery was looking at the monitor then looked at me and said, ‘Mrs. White, your son has Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome,’” Brandi says. “My face just fell, and my world stood still.”
Brandi knew all about HLHS from her best friend, Debbie. The two friends grew up together in their hometown of Nashville, Arkansas, and Debbie is the one who originally introduced Brandi to Brad in 2010. Debbie knew all about HLHS because she had a nephew with the same heart condition. Through their friendship together, Brandi had prayed for Debbie’s nephew, Kane, and had even been at the hospital to support Debbie every time Kane had heart surgery. “I knew what to expect,
but it hits differently when it’s your child. Dr. Briery explained HLHS and how it would affect our son’s life. We left that doctor’s appointment in tears. We pulled into a Walgreens and sat in the parking lot just crying for about an hour afterward,” Brandi says. “We called our families and gave them the news. That was the only day I let myself break down and cry about his diagnosis.”
On the way home from Shreveport that day, Brad and Brandi decided their little one was getting ready to be put through the fight of his life, so he needed a name. “We decided on Brayden,” Brandi says. “Because our two names are so similar, we wanted his name to be close to ours as well.”
For the next 20 weeks, Brad and Brandi leaned on each other and the love of their family and friends as they navigated the ever-changing emotions that a diagnosis like this can bring. However, the two had a solid foundation that kept them steady through the storm.
Brandi grew up in Nashville, Arkansas. She said her family had little money, but her childhood was great. Her father drove a truck, and her mother worked at
Walmart. Brandi was the oldest of the two children; her sister, Brittany, was six years younger than her. “My dad’s dream was to buy land in the country, so his kids could run around in nature. And man, my sister and I took full advantage of that. We rode four-wheelers, made forts in the woods, and just had the best time being outside,” Brandi says. “We stayed out all day, and we knew that when it was getting close to dark, it was time to go home.” On the weekends, Brandi’s family went camping at the various local lakes. “My dad taught me to hunt and fish, which is now something that Brad and I love to do together,” Brandi says.
Just 49 miles away, Brad grew up in Texarkana and attended Liberty-Eylau Schools. Brad’s father was originally from New York, but his family moved to Texas due to the rising crime rate in the northern state. Even though Brad embraced many things about Texas, he still kept hold of his love for the Yankees. “Brad has always been a fan, but I never really watched baseball until I started dating him. However, in our time together, I’ve fallen in love with the game and have become a Yankees fan myself,” Brandi says. “Our goal is to visit every baseball stadium in the country, and we plan our vacations around baseball season and where the Yankees will be! I’ve been to seven stadiums, but Brad has been to more! We dream of taking Brayden to all the stadiums one day.”
Brad and Brandi met through Debbie, Brandi’s before-mentioned best friend. Debbie and Brad’s sister, Ashley, were sorority sisters together. So when Debbie threw a 21st birthday bash for Ashley, Brad and Brandi were in attendance. “That night was so much fun, and I met so many of my now closest friends,” Brandi says.
After that night, Brad and Brandi began dating. They bonded over their shared love of the outdoors. Then, after 11 years of dating, Brad and Brandi married on July 17th, 2021. “He is my best friend,” Brandi says. “I couldn’t imagine doing this life with anyone else!”
Brandi knew Brad wanted kids but was not very keen on the idea. “I really didn’t want children because of the crazy world we live in,” Brandi says. “I love kids, but we live in so much uncertainty, and I just wanted my child to experience the same childhood fun that I did.”
To that end, Brandi thought that giving Brad a dog would do away with his desire to have children, and the two ended up with Winston, an English Springer Spaniel, who stood right beside the groomsmen at the wedding. “He walked us back down the aisle, and he did such a great job,” Brandi says. “However, the dog didn’t work. Brad still wanted kids.”
Surprisingly, Brandi began to change her mind when she watched Brad with their nieces. “I really knew he would be such a great dad,” Brandi says. “So, I finally gave in and told Brad that we could have a child, but we would have to get married first! I’m still a little old school when it comes to my values!”
After the wedding, the two began trying and were overjoyed at finding out they were pregnant. However, after getting Brayden’s diagnosis from the appointment with Dr. Briery, the couple was constantly bombarded with worst-case scenarios. “All throughout my pregnancy, we were hit with mortality rates, possible in-utero interventions, and the possibility of our son being rushed to the operating room the moment he was born,” Brandi says.
Because of the complexity of Brayden’s condition, Brandi needed to give birth to him at the Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, Texas. She actually had to relocate to Houston on September 26th, 2022. Brad was able to take leave for each surgery, but he was back and forth between Houston and Texarkana every weekend because of his job as a teacher at Premier
High School. “Brad would get off work on Friday and drive to Houston. He would arrive about 9 p.m. and then have to leave again on Sunday around noon to get ready for his work week,” Brandi says. “Brad has made many sacrifices to ensure that Brayden and I have everything we need/want. He is the BEST dad! There is no way I can thank him enough for stepping up and doing what had to be done for me to be in Houston to care for our son.”
Two weeks before she was induced, Brandi discovered that she had cholestasis, a liver condition that can occur late in pregnancy. The diagnosis led to an earlier induction date of October 9th. “Well, that was the plan anyway, but Brayden had other plans,” Brandi says.
Brad arrived in Houston, Texas, on October 7th, and Brandi’s water broke on October 8th at 9 a.m. on the dot. “I jumped out of bed and ran to the bathroom, thinking I just had to pee really bad. Nope. I called my sister-in-law and said, ‘How do I know if my water broke?’” Brandi says. “She gave me some advice, and I figured it was time to wake up my husband.”
However, Brad and Brandi still questioned whether or not Brandi’s water would break without having contractions, and they waited a few hours to go into the hospital. When they arrived, doctors confirmed that Brandi’s water had broken, but they started her on medication because she was not progressing as she should have been. Soon after, Brandi’s blood pressure suddenly increased, and doctors diagnosed Brandi with preeclampsia. They started a magnesium drip, and after a while, Brandi was asked to push. Brayden was born at 9:51 a.m. on October 9th, 2022, in a room of at least 15 people. “Most of them were waiting to take my baby and check him out to determine if surgery was needed immediately. There is only so much the cardiologist could see when doing an echocardiogram on him in-utero,” Brandi says. “When he was born, they took him, hooked him up, and did an echo while still cleaning him up. By the grace of God, they determined that a stint wasn’t needed at the moment and that he could wait a couple of days for his first open-heart surgery. I held him for two minutes before they said, ‘Ok, Dad, are you ready to go?’ They went to the cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU) floor with my son in a different tower.”
While most couples spend the time after birth holding the baby and celebrating with family, Brad and Brandi had a different experience. Due to Brandi’s preeclampsia, she was on bed rest for the first 24 hours after giving birth. She had to wait until the next day to be wheeled to the CVICU floor to see her son. “I got to hold him for about 30 minutes before I had to go back to my room in the connecting tower to get my discharge papers,” Brandi says. “I didn’t hold him again until he was five weeks old.”
At only three days old, Brayden had his first open heart surgery, the Norwood, and did well. The surgeon closed Brayden’s chest on October 14th, but on October 16th, Brad and Brandi became very concerned with Brayden’s swelling. “We were told that swelling was to be expected and that it should go down in the next day or so. However, we received a phone call at 5:30 a.m. on October 20th from a surgeon saying that he needed to reopen Brayden’s chest to relieve some of the pressure and help the swelling,” Brandi says. “We also learned that Brayden had an E. coli infection. By this point, Brayden was so swollen that he didn’t look like himself.”
On October 21st, the surgeon called the couple while they were out for dinner. He thought that it was time to put Brayden on ECMO. “At first, this was scary, but this machine saved my son’s life! It allowed his body to rest while recirculating oxygenated blood into his system. I will never forget hearing the words, ‘Your son’s life hangs in the balance,’” Brandi says. “I sat in the hospital’s parking lot and cried while waiting to get the update that Brayden was safely on ECMO. I prayed over and over for God to let me raise my son. I pleaded because we hadn’t had enough time together yet!”
Brayden stayed on the ECMO for eight days. Determined and strong, Brayden started improving. Then, on February 23rd, 2023, Brayden had his second open heart surgery, the Glenn. Even though that went well, Brayden was still not eating by mouth, leading to his inpatient status. He had a gastronomy tube inserted on March 31st, 2023, and after tolerating feeds through the tube, he was discharged and free to go home six long months after he was born. “We left Houston at 6 p.m. and didn’t arrive home until midnight, but it was worth
it to be home! Brayden slept in his bed that night for the first time, and he LOVED it! He still wants to take all of his naps in his bed,” Brandi says, “We did catch a sinus infection after being home only five days, but you would never know that our Baby B didn’t feel good! He is still a happy baby!”
At home, Brayden started thriving; he even started rolling over all by himself, and finally, Brandi, Brad, and Brayden got to experience what “normal” felt like for the first time in a long time. But even while breathing a sigh of relief, Brad and Brandi are forever changed by their experience. “Having a medically complex child has opened my eyes and my heart. I am more patient. I love a lot harder. I’m learning to speak up and to not take no for an answer,” Brandi says. “I’m learning to not take things for granted as our time with our little one is not promised.”
The family’s next steps are to continue their followup appointments in Houston and monitor Brayden’s heart until his next open-heart surgery. Brayden’s next surgery, the Fontan, should fall around his fourth birthday. “We are hoping that his heart will continue doing well until then,” Brandi says. “We pray that this series of surgeries will prolong Brayden’s time with this heart before he has a transplant.”
On top of the stress of Brayden’s condition, Brad and Brandi have had the added stress of medical bills, the cost of living expenses in Houston and Texarkana, and gas for Brad to drive back and forth every weekend. After seeing the couple’s stress, their friend, Emily Henderson, decided to help put together a community benefit so family, friends, coworkers, and loved ones could all help the family.
Emily’s husband and Brad have been friends since grade school, and Emily immediately took a liking to Brandi when she and Brad began dating. “We are all really close, and seeing them go through this just really hit home,” Emily says. “You can never imagine having to go through this kind of thing, and it makes you really thankful for the health of your kids.”
Emily started her mission to spread the news about Brayden’s story by sharing Brandi’s posts on social media. Emily also contacted Debbie Brower, Owner and Editor of ALT Magazine. “I have always seen all the heartfelt stories in ALT magazine, and I just
thought that this could be a good way to get their story out,” Emily says. “Brandi and Brad deserve the recognition and the help for what they are going through. They are good people, they work hard, and the little man is just as cute as he can be!”
Emily also helped organize a benefit for the family on March 25th at Texarkana Golf Ranch, and Brandi was able to drive home and attend. “People from all over our community have come out to help us. People we’ve never met have reached out or prayed for our son,” Brandi says. “Also, our families and friends have been the biggest blessing! They have been right there if we needed anything! They are truly the best, from doctor appointments to the benefit golf tournament, from getting the house ready for a baby to being there for Brayden’s open heart surgeries! I have no way to say thank you enough to them!”
As Brad, Brandi and Brayden continue their family journey, they enjoy every moment together. Brandi says that the whole situation has taught her a lot about patience. “I am not
normally a patient person, but I’ve learned that I have to be,” Brandi says. “We are on Brayden and God’s timing, not mine.”
The couple has also learned not to take the small things for granted. “After hearing the horrific screams of a mother trying to save her little one’s life as the machine that was supposed to keep him alive malfunctions and causes significant blood loss and brain damage, I’ll forever be grateful that Brayden is doing so well. There are so many moms and dads at Texas Children’s Hospital who put their entire lives on hold to ensure they are receiving the best care for their little ones,” Brandi says. “These parents go to sleep to the lullaby of monitors beeping, if they even get any sleep. Most are walking the halls like zombies due to lack of sleep and worry that their child will get the call that will change the rest of their lives. I’ve sat and cried while holding my baby close, praying for those families that ran out of time.”
While Brayden’s story has been anything but a
fairytale, it is certainly a miracle. Brad and Brandi can see God’s hand guiding them from that first diagnosis to Brayden’s most recent open heart surgery, and instead of dwelling on questions like “Why me?” the couple’s faith has grown through the experiences they have faced. In addition, even though Brayden is home and doing well, he has a long road ahead, and the couple prays for peace and strength in the coming days. “We now live in a world of uncertainty, but it’s also full of faith,” Brandi says. “This journey has brought us so much closer to God. I know He’s watching over us.”
If you would like to donate to Brayden's recovery, use this GoFundMe link: https://gofund.me/b3619eed
You can also follow their journey through the Facebook page: Brayden’s Bandaged Heart
Laura Harvey became a mother in 1996. She said that it was “scary but breathtakingly beautiful.” Today, she is the mom of three children: Erica Estrada, 27; Kelly Cogan, 24; and Joseph Cogan, 22. “Erica is all girl mixed with a tomboy attitude. Kelly is the quiet one to watch out for,” Laura says. “Joseph is my sweet one with a heart of gold. I have loved watching each of them figure out life and succeed.”
One of Laura’s favorite memories relates to past trips taken with the children. “When Erica was a year old, we lived on Fort Hood Army base and took a day trip to Waco, Texas. We went to the Texas Rangers Museum and purchased a really cool souvenir cup in the gift shop. As the three children got older, they argued over who got to drink from that cup. So when planning our spring break trip, I decided to return to Waco to find each one of them their own souvenir cup,” Laura says. She took the children back to the Texas Rangers Museum to increase their knowledge of the Rangers and their job duties. They even learned the history of the Texarkana Phantom Killer, which
became the coolest part of the children’s time spent there. “Sadly, they no longer have the really cool souvenir cup.” The next day’s adventure included the Dr. Pepper museum, where their family found Dr. Pepper made with Imperial Sugar in glass bottles. Laura remembers, “That has been the best flavored Dr. Pepper we ever tasted. Seeing all the logos and bootlegs through the years was exciting to see. They even have a life-size horse made out of bottle lids and cans. We all were amazed to be able to look down the well that they pumped the water from to make the drink when they first opened.” Their final day was at the Cameron Park Zoo, where all the animals were very entertaining. “Watching each of them being in ‘aaahh’ of the animals made my momma heart happy. We got to see real-life ‘Timon’ and ‘Pumbaa’s’ along with leopards, chimpanzees, tigers, birds, otters, tortoises, and a komodo dragon,” Laura says. “This trip was my all-time favorite memory because seeing the children come to life with excitement, adventure, and curiosity at each place was fun and exciting.
Laura’s biggest challenge as a mother was having to do it all on her own. “I was a single mom, but I never used my status as a crutch for sympathy. I just did what I could to give them the most normal life they could have while guiding them,” Laura says. “On the hard days, I have always received my strength from God, my mom, and a handful of wonderful ladies God has put in my life as a blessing.”
During her childhood, Laura felt she was always supported and loved, and she wanted her children to feel the same. Her favorite memories of the children always revolve around the love and enjoyment Laura experienced as a mother to them and their friends. “My children’s friends were always hanging out at my house. It was always full of laughter. There was always a messy kitchen (thanks Cam), girls screaming, boys rough-housing, sleepovers, serious talks, and life lessons. I loved every minute of it,” Laura says. “Being a mom to all my children’s friends really made my heart full. Each one of them is still a blessing to me.”
If she could go back in time, Laura would tell her younger self how hard it would be when her children grew up and became adults. “I would have done some things differently, such as going on more adventures to make memories,” Laura says. “But motherhood has been my greatest JOY. I have loved every aspect of being a mom and now ‘LaLa’ to my granddaughter, Brinley.”
1. My dream Mother’s Day would include having my husband, children, son-in-love, bonus children, and granddaughter together, laughing, and making memories to last them a lifetime.
2. The best advice I’ve ever received as a mom is, “Wait till you become a grandparent; it’s better than being a parent.”
3. The best gift my kids could ever give me is more grandbabies to love and spoil.
4. Moms deserve more than just one day a year to be celebrated. If I could create another holiday for moms, it would be Superhero Day because all parents are superheroes.
Mother of Three
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a love for Jesus and a love for nature. His favorite thing is to be outside with his four-wheeler and a fishing pole.”
On the other hand, Jessica says that Ellisyn is “Miss Independent” and acts much older than her five years of age. “She has the silliest personality and always loves to be in the middle of everything. She loves all things girly and developed a hobby of shopping at an early age,” Jessica says. “Ellisyn loves gymnastics and watching YouTube videos of gymnasts. She is always trying to mimic what the Olympians do. Ellisyn also loves music and dancing. She will bust a move whenever she hears a good beat, no matter where she is.”
Jessica Hoover first became a mom in the summer of 2015. Though it was scary at times, Jessica says it was also the most beautiful thing she has ever experienced. Before becoming a mom, Jessica worked as a Pre-K teacher and cared for twenty-plus Pre-K students for eight hours daily. “Through teaching, I thought I had the ‘mom gig’ figured out, but the moment I gave birth to Koy, I realized I was dead wrong. It’s all fun and games when you send kids home back to their parents, but when you have the sole responsibility of a little life, it’s a whole ‘nother ball game,” Jessica says. “That little life depends on you for the tiniest thing to keep them alive and thriving, and the only option you have is to survive it with grace and a very helpful husband.”
Today, Jessica has two children: Joshua “Koy” Hoover, 7 years old, and Ellisyn Gray Hoover, 5 years old, and they both have very different personalities. Jessica says that Koy is a very dependent child. “He is momma’s boy through and through. The bond we have is impeccable. Even though he is dependent on his parents and wants us in arms reach at all times, he is the most curious little fellow,” Jessica says. “He likes to figure out the ‘science’ behind everything, and he will ask you a million questions until he thinks the answer is valid or until he understands.”
Jessica also says that Koy is a careful kid who likes to sit back and observe before he tests the waters. “Even though he’s cautious, people of all ages are drawn to him and his genuine personality,” Jessica says. “Koy has
To Ellisyn, everything is funny, and Jessica says she is the type of kid who finds joy in the smallest things. “She loves hard, and she loves people. It breaks her heart to see kids playing by themselves,” Jessica says. “She wants to be that friend to everyone and wants ALL people of ALL ages to be included.”
The type of unconditional love and acceptance that Ellisyn displays is something that Jessica wants to instill in her children, especially due to her own life experiences. At the age of seven, Jessica lost her brother, Joshua. He was five years old and had special needs. “Even though I was young, I vividly remember my parents’ struggles and the adversity they had to fight through. Experiencing his death was horrific and lifechanging for our family,” Jessica says. “Watching my parents develop through their experience with Joshua and learn the true meaning of unconditional love taught me a lot at a young age. Unconditional love is a word that my two children always hear. Koy and Ellisyn know that through the good and bad times, we will always show/practice unconditional love.”
One of Jessica’s most significant challenges as a mother came recently when Koy was diagnosed with dyslexia and ADD. Because of her background in education and working with all types of learning disabilities, Jessica knew something was wrong, but she had to wait until he was the right age to receive a diagnosis. “Koy struggled severely with staying focused in the classroom and coming home to do homework. We would spend hours on spelling words. So many tears were shed by him, and he would always say he wasn’t smart enough to learn those words,” Jessica says. “I will never forget the heart-to-heart conversation he and I had one day as I
tried to explain his worth and value in this life.”
Though Koy has learned at a very early age that he will struggle in some academic areas, Jessica hopes this experience has taught him that he must work harder to succeed. “Koy sees his daddy and I work through struggles and how we do not give up just because things get a little hard. Communication is vital in our household, and we communicate with Koy and Ellisyn and let them know/see when we are struggling,” Jessica says. “I want my children to see how their mommy and daddy never gave up and what perseverance looks like. The most significant impact motherhood has had on my life is teaching me the value of grace. Through Jesus, I have received, enjoyed, and soaked in grace because the grace that I have soaked in is the grace that seeps out for my children.”
While teaching and modeling grace and unconditional love, Jessica sometimes struggles with not rushing in to save her kids when mistreated. “There have been a couple of times when I wanted to save Koy from a situation, but because of the type of person I am, I want Koy and Ellisyn to know how to work through the hard times and what conquering hardships is like,” Jessica says. “It’s my role as a mother to teach them these things. Even though the easiest thing would be to rescue them and fix it for them, I enjoy helping them work through the hard times and guiding them through the hard times.”
When Jessica needs motherhood advice, she always reaches out to her mother. “But, I am also drawn to older people. I have a handful of women from church and work who I consider wise,” Jessica says. “I always find myself reaching out to them and inquiring about their knowledge
and experiences with motherhood.”
The number of life lessons Jessica feels she has learned through parenting is “quite comical and humbling.” But, the one thing that she wishes she had known when she first became a parent is to never say never. “Before you become a parent, you tend to say, ‘My kids will never’ or ‘When I become a parent, I will never,’” Jessica says. “These sentences will humbly make you eat your words because you never know how you’re going to react/ respond or what your kids will do when put in certain situations.”
Looking back, Jessica says that it is always the small things that make motherhood special, and she has several precious memories from traveling with her kids. “Seeing my kids experiencing new things and learning about the history of different places we have visited makes me happy. We took the kids to Navarre, Florida, last year, and seeing them fly kites on the beach and hearing their little giggles as they watched their kites fly higher and dance in the wind is a memory that will permanently be etched in my mind,” Jessica says. “I am learning through motherhood that the smallest things have the most impact.”
Jessica says she loves many things about being a mom, but hearing her kids worship the Lord is the best. “Whether they are singing worship songs in the car, talking to others about Jesus, reading their Bible on their own, or simply admiring the beauty in front of them that the Lord created, it brings me great joy,” Jessica says. “Just experiencing the pure intimacy that flows from them talking about the Lord makes my heart smile with warmth and hope for their future.”
1. My dream Mother’s Day would include attending church with my children and having a nice lunch afterward. Then, my husband, Bradley, would watch the kids for the rest of the day so I could take quality time and invest in myself and my well-being. That would include working out, a nap, a hot bubble bath, and self-reflecting in peace and quiet. I have learned that I cannot fill anyone else’s cup until I fill mine first.
2. The best advice I ever received as a mom is, “Don’t sweat the small stuff and choose your battles.” Once I finally started practicing that advice, my life has been a lot less stressful.
3. All moms should be given a day to be invisible. We are still present in the house but invisible to the children. My two kids will always come to me for everything before they go to their dad. I always joke around with Brad that I wish they went to him for just one day for everything.
4. The best gift my kids could ever give me would be for them to receive Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, marry spouses who love the Lord, and for their spouses to love them unconditionally.
5. Moms deserve more than just one day a year to be celebrated. If I could create another holiday for moms, it would be called “Mom’s Yes Day” because we constantly say yes to our kids. I would love to give commands all day long to my kids, and they respond with “yes” instead of needing an explanation for everything.
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Kendal Dockery Thompson became a mother for the first time in 2020. “Being a new mom is stressful, but then the added stress of it being twins and COVID made it a roller coaster for sure!” Kendal says. “The twins went to the NICU first thing after they were born, so the feeling of going home without them those first few days is a feeling I will never forget.”
Today, Kendal is mom to her two-year-old twins, Charlie Sutton Thompson (Sutton) and Kenneth Owen Thompson (Owen), and the baby of the family, Sawyer Rey Thompson, who is 15 months old. “They are my three tiny tornadoes!” Kendal says.
Each of her three children is unique. Kendal says that Sutton, the firstborn by only a minute, lives up to her birth order. “She is my little mother hen. She is so quick to help her siblings and keep them in line when it’s needed,” Kendal says. “If she could snuggle her momma and eat snacks all day, her life would be complete! She’s my little best
friend and will make the most wonderful, loving mommy one day.”
On the other hand, Owen is Kendal’s wild man. “This kid plays hard and loves even harder. He is one of the smartest little guys I have ever met. I mean, he can already spell his name!” Kendal says. “His constant need for a challenge reminds me a lot of myself, so I am guessing this is my payback! He will be the class clown, but hopefully the class clown at MIT or something like that.”
Lastly, Kendal’s caboose, Sawyer, or “Dumplin,” as everyone calls her. “She is the sweetest, happiest, most snuggliest angel there ever was. God knew I needed her a lot more than she would ever need me,” Kendal says. “She will absolutely be the one to rule the world one day!”
In the evening, after bath time, Kendal says that their favorite thing to do as a family is snuggle in bed and watch Minions or The Lorax. “I think this is such a wonderful bonding time (selfishly) for
all of us,” Kendal says. “Also, one of my favorite memories was when the twins started showing interest in the baby. They were only 16 months old when she was born, so they did not know what was happening. Now they ADORE her and can’t wait for her to wake up every morning.”
Even two years ago, when Kendal had the twins, she wished she had known how fast time goes. “That’s a cliché answer, but it’s beyond true. Take videos, photos, and selfies; it all goes by so fast, and every single day is a chance to make a memory. Daily I look at pictures and videos of all the kids when they were little!” Kendal says. “I also know that you will survive. No matter the lack of sleep or the pain, you will come out better for it all. Believe me, there were days when the twins were first with me that I did NOT think I would make it to bedtime. Some days are still like that!”
The biggest challenge Kendal has faced as a mom is having patience for all three kids. “It’s HARD, and I fail daily. But, I always make a point to apologize to the kids if I lose my cool over something,” Kendal says. “Thinking back on my childhood, I wanted to make sure my kids knew that they can always come home, and I will always be there, no matter the circumstances.”
When Kendal needs encouragement and mentorship from another mom, she goes to her mother. “I have always looked up to my mom and will go to her with questions I have,” Kendal says. “I also have a big group of girlfriends I am the baby of and the last one to have kids, so they always give me strength and encouragement on those hard days. Mainly, I see that they have survived
motherhood so far, and I will too.”
Even on difficult days, Kendal loves every moment of being a mom. “Even the hard moments, the moments that challenge me, the moments that make me think and grow, the sad moments, and of course the happy moments,” Kendal says. “I was never the type to want kids, if I am being honest, and one day, I decided I wanted them and got two! That’s how you know God has a sense of humor!”
Once she had the twins, Kendal says she became the girl who asked to hold a friend’s baby so they could eat. “You truly don’t know what mommas need until you become one. I told a friend the other day that I wish I had had kids sooner because I do not remember who I was before becoming a momma of three, and I wouldn’t change it for the world,” Kendal says. “I love the identity I have found in caring for them day in and day out. I also love that I have found a closer relationship with Christ through being a momma. It’s hard to imagine Him loving us more than we love our own babies, but He does!”
Kendal’s entire world changed on August 28, 2020, and again on January 13, 2022; the days she gave birth to her children. “I became responsible for raising good humans and suddenly held myself to an even higher standard for everything I did. Every move I make impacts them, whether I like it or not,” Kendal says. “Now that I am doing this on my own, my role has shifted to a full-time working momma and not a stay-at-home momma, and they have taken that with such stride. The twins have shown their momma a lot of grace. I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without those three!”
1. My dream Mother’s Day would include snuggles from my girls and some flowers from my boy…on a beach…with a cold drink and lots of food.
2. The best advice I’ve ever received as a mom is to show your kids grace in every situation.
3. All moms should be given an 18-year supply of wine and a weekly massage.
4. The best gift my kids could ever give me would be to grow up happy and healthy. Oh, and lots of grandbabies!
5. Moms deserve more than just one day a year to be celebrated. If I could create another holiday for moms, it would be called Silent Day because all moms need a little silence!
Dinner out is overrated
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Alex White’s first child was born in 2013. Like many first-time mothers, she was nervous and excited all at the same time. “I always wanted to be a mom, but nothing can prepare you for the overwhelming amount of love you have when you look at the sweetest little bundle and know that you are responsible for her,” Alex says.
Now, Alex has four children. Elizabeth Grace, called Ella Grace, is nine; Reese Adeline is seven; and twins Penelope Ann and Cutter Leo are five. “Ella Grace is named after my college roommate; the other three each have one of their grandparents’ names,” Alex says. “Four kids who are four years old and under can be a doozy, but our house is always full of kids playing, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. I wouldn’t mind a little less arguing now and then, but they come by that honestly. That’s a trait I passed down!”
Each one of Alex’s children is unique. She says that the oldest, Ella Grace (EG), cares deeply. “One time, her friend scored a goal, and EG cheered louder than everyone else even though she was on the opposing team,” Alex says. “When you don’t find her
in camouflage or hunting, she’s playing whatever sport is available.”
On the other hand, Reese is fiercely competitive. “Whether it is with sports or academics, she gives one hundred percent,” Alex says. “She is smart and witty. She’s the first to offer to care for babies, and she will draw or paint for hours.”
Penelope is the family’s only lefty and prefers her own space. “Penelope is the perfect sour patch! If her siblings leave her alone, she will create the most elaborate forts, activities for her dolls, or intricate artwork,” Alex says. “She is also extremely competitive and wants to keep up with her big sisters on and off the field.”
Cutter was born ten minutes after his sister, making him the baby of the family. “He’s the only boy, and he lives it up day in and day out. He could play baseball all day and keeps our neighbor busy throwing back the balls he’s hit over the fence,” Alex says. “He’s never met a stranger, will do anything for a laugh, and absolutely loves to snuggle with his mom.”
Even though it can be challenging, Alex loves the
little things that come with being a mom. She enjoys reading books together, going on walks, and watching the kids ride their bikes. She melts when they ask her to hold her hand or paint their nails. “Each one is so unique and enjoys different things,” Alex says. “EG loves to walk together and share AirPods; Reese wants to read me her books; Pip wants to help me cook; and Cutter loves to sit in my lap and watch a movie.”
Alex’s favorite memory of her kids was winter break in 2021. “There was so much snow! Real, fluffy snow, not the typical icy slush we usually see,” Alex says. “My kids went sledding, built snowmen, drank their weight in hot chocolate, and somehow played together with minimal pestering. It was a week of vacation with zero plans, and we enjoyed every minute.”
Alex’s biggest challenge as a mom is the anxiety of making sure that meals are planned, groceries are bought, and laundry is clean. “I also REALLY can’t handle clutter; that leads to ZERO patience, and I started to recognize that was a problem early on. My husband would have probably appreciated it if I recognized it a little sooner,” Alex says. “Wellbutrin is my best friend and has helped me tame that temper. Always a work in progress, but thank God for doctors!”
One thing that Alex wishes she had known when she first became a mother is that the laundry never ends, but it changes. “Those sweet, smocked dresses turn into a big pile of camouflage and athletic clothes,” Alex says. “Savor those adorable little wooden hangers and the scent of Dreft every time you open the closet door.”
One story that helps illustrate who Alex is as a parent occurs during family pictures. She enjoys planning her kids’ wardrobe for photos, and what better time than
Christmas? “Tartan plaids, red corduroy, green velvet, give it to me! Outfits were ironed; candy for bribes was in place. We went downtown, and as we were getting out of the car, I realized that everyone was put together head-to-toe except that I was barefoot and had forgotten my shoes at home,” Alex says. “I at least had my toes painted.”
When Alex needs advice about motherhood, she always reaches out to her mom. Alex says that her mom always takes the time to listen, and she knows when to stand firm and when to bend. “I consider my mom the best, and if I can be half as good as she is, then I consider that a win,” Alex says. “Also, my sisters and close circle of friends are there for the dayto-day questions and always have meaningful advice or know when to just offer a glass of wine.”
When she looks back on her childhood, Alex acknowledges the impact of going to church; this is a tradition she wants to continue with her children. “Church was always important growing up. We didn’t just go to check it off the list; we truly enjoyed it. Many of my friends were from church and still are to this day,” Alex says. “Having like-minded beliefs helps build a solid foundation and is something I hope to instill in my children.”
Alex believes that being a mother has impacted every aspect of her life. “Shoe shopping was my all-time favorite; now my kids have the best wardrobe in our house. Cooking and spices went hand-in-hand; now, it consists of only a little dash of pepper. Running for fun has turned into running for silence,” Alex says. “My prayers and devotionals seem to revolve around raising children with a love of Christ. Everything has been amplified, and it is something I do not take for granted. However, I keep crushed red pepper on hand.”
1. My dream Mother’s Day would include a spa day and a quiet hotel!
2. The best advice I’ve ever received as a mom is to choose your battles, and Dawn detergent removes all stains.
3. All moms should be given an espresso machine!
4. The best gift my kids could ever get me would be pictures or stories about their favorite memories together. Time is a thief, and I want to remember as many small moments as possible.
5. Moms deserve more than just one day a year to be celebrated. If I could create another holiday for moms, it would be called Maternity Eternity because appreciating moms and all they do should never end.
PLEASANT GROVE SHOWSTOPPERS
The Pleasant Grove Showstoppers traveled to Denton, Texas, for the American Dance and Drill Team National Championships and won every category they competed in.
• 2023 ADTS Medium Team Jazz National Champion
• 2023 ADTS Medium Team Kick National Champion
• 2023 ADTS Medium Team Prop National Champion
• 2023 ADTS Medium Team Military National Champion
• 2023 ADTS OVERALL MEDIUM TEAM NATIONAL CHAMPION
• Gussie Nell Davis Award
• Platinum Sweepstakes and Division 1 Ratings in Choreography, Presentation, Precision, & Technique
• 2nd Place Academic Champions 3.82 GPA
Sarah Beth Richardson
TEXAS HIGH SCHOOL eSPORTS
High school eSports has seen a surge in popularity and recognition in recent years. Gone are the days when gaming was considered a hobby or a waste of time. Now, more than ever, eSports is being embraced as a legitimate sport with organized competitions, teams, and even scholarships. eSports not only allows students to showcase their skills and talent, but it also promotes teamwork, discipline, and strategic thinking.
Educational Opportunities with eSports:
• Colleges offer millions in eSports scholarships every year
• eSports curriculum and competition has been proven to improve GPA and attendance
• Provides a unique after-school experience for students who may not participate in other sports or activities
Career Opportunities with eSports:
• eSports is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world
• Career options go beyond just pro-player: team management, content creation, IT, and more!
• Like other activities, eSports teaches students marketable skills and connects STEAM principles to something they enjoy
Life Skills with eSports:
• Similar to other sports, eSports helps students with teamwork, communication, and team bonding
• Students also develop personal skills like goal-setting, problem-solving, and perseverance
• These skills help student in multiple facets of their life
SECURE ACT 2.0 ALLOWS ROLLOVERS OF 529 FUNDS TO ROTH IRA
FAMILY & LIFESTYLE
Provisions of the SECURE Act 2.0 may allow for new flexibility with unused funds in certain education savings accounts.
Effective in 2024, beneficiaries of 529 college savings accounts may transfer unused funds directly to a Roth IRA. The industry is still striving to clarify certain specifics, but we do know the general requirements.
This is an innovative planning opportunity for families that overfunded 529 accounts for certain beneficiaries or who may now choose to intentionally do so to take advantage of this benefit.
Of course, there are rules that must be followed. The Roth IRA must be in the name of the beneficiary and the 529 plan has to be established for a set period of time, perhaps as long as 15 years. The lifetime amount that can be transferred is $35,000 and subject to the annual contribution limits. This means the rollover would need to be done over several years, and the Roth contribution for each year will reduce the amount that can be transferred from the 529.
ABOUT THE NEW 529 ROLLOVER LAW
A statement from the United States Senate Committee on Finance regarding the rationale behind this new law:
“Families and students have concerns about leftover funds being trapped in 529 accounts unless they take a nonqualified withdrawal and assume a penalty. This has led to hesitating, delaying or declining to fund 529s to levels needed to pay for the rising costs of education. Families who sacrifice and save in 529 accounts should not be punished with a tax and penalty years later if the beneficiary has found an alternative way to pay for their education."
Beneficiaries doing the rollovers must have earnings equal to or greater than the rollover amount. Any Roth IRA or traditional IRA contributions made by 529 beneficiaries would count against the $6,500 annual limit. Rollover amounts can’t include any 529 contributions or earned income on those contributions made in the preceding five-year period.
It’s also important to note that income limitations on Roth IRA contributions do not apply to these rollovers. 529 contributions and earnings go into a Roth IRA in like kind (no gain or loss is recognized). It appears there are no income limits or income levels at which your contribution to your Roth would be reduced or eliminated completely when making a 529-to-Roth transfer, which is a benefit when compared to a Roth IRA.
All in all, this new law helps alleviate your concern about overfunding a 529 college savings account because it gives you the option to reposition the unused funds to a tax-advantaged Roth IRA.
This material is general in nature and provided for informational purposes only. Raymond James does not provide tax or legal services. Please discuss these matters with the appropriate professional. As with other investments, there are generally fees and expenses associated with participation in a 529 plan. There is also a risk that these plans may lose money or not perform well enough to cover college costs as anticipated. Most states offer their own 529 programs, which may provide advantages and benefits exclusively for their residents. Investors should consider, before investing, whether the investor’s or the designated beneficiary’s home state offers any tax or other benefits that are only available for investment in such state’s 529 college savings plan. Such benefits include financial aid, scholarship funds and protection from creditors. The tax implications can vary significantly from state to state. Investment products are: not deposits, not FDIC/NCUA insured, not insured by any government agency, not bank guaranteed, subject to risk and may lose value.
© 2023 Raymond James Financial, Inc. All rights reserved.
Suzie TK SnippeTSBy: Suzie Tyler
We can get overwhelmed in a world where everything changes, and nothing stays the same. The whirl of time is so fast you want to say: “Stop the world and let me off.”
As we get older, the things in life lose their fascination! Your purchase pattern changes! You don’t buy green bananas; you purchase items in the light of need in days, not years. If you did not grow up in a world of technology, you could feel lost, but I have a little of Captain Kirk inside me. My curiosity and adventurousness get the best of me, and I become bold and explore new horizons!
I recently watched a TikTok video of a young Hindu man on the approach needed to lead a person of Indian heritage to the Lord. Then I read this question in a blog:
“Why don’t you try reading God’s Word through the lens of another culture?”
This question/statement made me stop and ponder! It is something I’ve missed for sure. I grew up in a spiritual culture of single-mindedness; this is the only way mentality. I had to relocate to a different area to open my eyes and see what was important - the love of Jesus with a relationship, not a mechanical religion of rules. Yes, we are to conduct ourselves to be reverent and dress modestly but the styles of acceptability change from one generation to the next. For instance, the culture of the 30s would not have accepted a one-piece swimsuit with boy legs worn in the 60s! We can’t lose patience with the next generation and ignore them. We are left on earth for a purpose, as outlined in the biblical book of Titus.
As older men and women, we are to live reverently and teach the younger generation what is good and not to bring shame to God. You know, set an example and be a good role model.
From looking at some of the current TikTok videos, we have a real mission ahead of us!
Happy Mother’s Day!
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Fish Tales with Mike Brower
Equipment Question Answered
As most of you know, I cannot bass fish competitively anymore and have gone back to fishing with a fly rod, which I learned to fish for bream with in my youth. I was the four-foot-tall, 10-year-old at Spring Lake Park with a seven-foot rod flying about.
I have been in and out of trout fishing over the last 40 years but have fished with a fly rod for 57 years. Lately, I have been asked by several people about fly rods and reels as well as other equipment for both kids and beginner fly fishermen.
If you are looking into fishing with a fly rod, I suggest starting with a name-brand, but not expensive, rod and reel, like Reddington or Orvis. Both have “starter combos,” which won’t break the bank. A four- or five-weight rod and a four to five weight reel with a floating line would work well. This weight rod and reel will serve you in catching bream, small/medium size bass, and most all trout. The lighter four-weight rod will keep the fight fun but will still allow you to land some bigger fish, while the five-weight rod is an “all-purpose” rod that will still be fun for smaller fish but allows you to catch bigger fish.
I suggest a four-piece rod in whatever size you think is right. This will allow you to take it with you on trips and will fit in most suitcases, or you can take it as a carry-on. The problem is that you will likely start buying different sizes and weights for different fishing.
In addition to my five trout rods, I have fly rods and reels for bonefish, permit, and tarpon, which are somewhat heavier than the trout rods but are still lighter than bass rods and reels. Except for two fly rods, my others cost less than $250 for both the rod and reel.
No one said any fishing equipment was cheap! You might also want to invest in a fishing vest and a couple of fly boxes for your flies.
Next Month: The “other stuff” you might want/need.
6TH • JUST LOVE & KINDNESS COMMUNITY UNITY DAY
Students in 9th-12th grades are welcome to attend a 100% FREE event on May 6th. We’re here to have fun, make new friends, and UNITE as a community. The first 200 kids to arrive will receive an event T-shirt; there will be food, drinks, and plenty of fun things, entertainment, and free giveaways. Come see the Level14 Ent. Mobile Gaming, Mechanical Bull Rides, Zorb Bumper Balls, Jump A Roos Inflatables, Table Top Games, Puppy Bowl, Music, Dancing, Picture Stations, and more!
If you are going to the Wine Festival, drop the kids off and let them come and have some fun too.
13TH • BACK TO THE 80’S 5K & FUN RUN
Incorporated as a not-for-profit in 1982, Southwest Arkansas Counseling & Mental Health Center, Inc (SWACMHC) invites you to travel back to the 80’s with us. Participants are encouraged to lace up their Reeboks, push that ponytail all the way to the side, and dress in their 80s best. While we anticipate many unique individuals, teams are encouraged to choose a theme reminiscent of the time. Themes include, but of course, are not limited to, the fashion staples of the era; punk, preppy, BIG hair, spandex, ripped knees, leg warmers, neon colors, shoulder pads, and mullets (allowing for fake mullets in this event). Applause is expected for groups of 80’s bridesmaids and groups of 80’s dads, (knee socks available at most retailers). Proceeds will go to SWACMHC for the continuation of community mental health services.
Sign up at: https://shorturl.at/lnzP1
Special thanks to our sponsors. To become a sponsor, feel free to contact us at email@example.com
13TH • TEXARKANA DRAGON BOAT FESTIVAL
Paddles Up! Our 2023 festival will be held on Saturday, May 13th, at Bringle Lake Park! It’s time to get your team together and prepare for a full day of unique fun. Even if you are not competing this year, come out and enjoy great summer weather, selected food vendors, and a new race every ten minutes! All proceeds benefit the programs of HandsOn Texarkana, which provides volunteer services in the greater Texarkana area.
Email: HandsOnTxk@aol.com for more information or call 903-798-3211 for more information!
16TH • INFANT SAFETY AND CPR TRAINING
Join us for Infant Safety and CPR Training Class at Pathway Resource Center from 6:30 - 7:30pm. This class will be great for new parents and caretakers of infants. Space is limited to 8 attendees, and you can pre-register by texting 870-779-BABY (2229).
COMING UP IN JUNE - VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL
Northern Hills Baptist Church (6000 Sammy Lane, Texarkana, Arkansas) is taking you on a safari each day from June 12-16th! The safari will start at 8am daily with breakfast for all safari explorers. While learning about rescued animals at Proclamation Safari Park, we will learn about Jesus and our need for Him to rescue us. In addition, we will have games, music, crazy Olympics, and more! Each day’s safari will wrap up at 12:00pm. We will serve the explorers lunch before sending them off to rest up for the next day’s journey. The church will provide van service, offering pickup, drop off, or both! As part of the registration process, there is a permission form to print for this service. All explorers who register by May 15th will receive a free t-shirt! Register here: https://tinyurl.com/2p88d2ar
What a place to be...waking up in the mornings, overlooking the lake on SW Arkansas best kept secret, Beautiful Lake Erling. Privacy, seclusion, and serenity, all while watching the deer, turkey, and other wildlife in your own back yard. You are steps away from some of the South’s best fishing. These beautiful lots with lake frontage are limited and are beginning to sell quickly. This is a gated subdivision with limited access. Lakefront property is extremely hard to find and availability is very limited on this lake. B.A.S.S. ranked Lake Erling the top 100 lakes in the United States.