THE LIFESTYLE MANUAL FOR THE MODERN MOM
FEBRUARY 2018 Â· THESAVVYMOMS.COM
ADOPTION A Family Finds Love A World Away
us p lMEET THE CUPID SQUAD!
SPREAD LOVE WITH VALENTINE'S DAY CRAFTS, RECIPES AND MORE
HOW TO HAVE A 'GOOD' DIVORCE EXPERTS LAY THE PATH FOR POSITIVE CO-PARENTING
Heart Institute 2
FEBRUARY 2018 | THESAVVYMOMS.COM
THESAVVYMOMS.COM | FEBRUARY 2018
FEBRUARY 2018 MODERN MOM
16 MAMA SAID BRING IT ON, 2018
18 MIND, BODY & SOUL THE PERFECT BLEND: UNITING FAMILIES TAKES LOVE, PATIENCE AND UNDERSTANDING
SAVVY FAMILY 20 MOMS’ CHOICE AWARDS CAST YOUR VOTE FOR THE BEST FAMILY-FRIENDLY BUSINESSES IN ARKANSAS
22 THE CUPID SQUAD SPREAD SOME VALENTINE'S DAY LOVE AND CHEER WITH GOOD DEEDS AND SWEET ROLLS
26 LOVE WITHOUT BORDERS DINA VINSON MADE THE LIFE CHANGING DECISION TO ADOPT INTERNATIONALLY
30 LEARNING TO BE LOVED AFTER SEVEN AND A HALF YEARS IN THE FOSTER SYSTEM, CHASE BAILEY FINDS HIS FAMILY
32 ABC'S OF ADOPTION IN ARKANSAS A GUIDE FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES
33 THE CALL ARKANSAS REPERTORY THEATRE BRAVELY TACKLES THE TOPIC OF ADOPTION ON STAGE
34 HOW TO HAVE A 'GOOD' DIVORCE EXPERTS WEIGH IN ON HOW TO CO-PARENT IN HARMONY AFTER A SPLIT
IN EVERY ISSUE 6 EDITOR’S NOTE 10 NEWS & NOTES CALENDAR, CRAFTS & MORE!
38 MOM APPROVED JOBETH MCELHANON ON THE COVER: DINA AND KENT VINSON CROSSED OCEANS AND CONTINENTS TO FIND THEIR CHILDREN TYCE, 7, AND JETT, 5. PHOTO BY KATIE CHILDS.
FEBRUARY 2018 | THESAVVYMOMS.COM
Foster to Family Path THERAPEUTIC
Working with Therapeutic Foster Parents to provide a safe home environment for children with special needs.
Facilitate competitive work experiences to increase job skills for local youth to obtain meaningful employment and successfully transition into adulthood.
Offer statewide assistance including: activities of daily living, community integration, transportation, medication management, and respite services.
For more information contact Debbie Stehling at (501) 690-7351 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org THESAVVYMOMS.COM | FEBRUARY 2018
Photo by Stacy Kinzler
CUPID'S EBB AND FLOW This issue of Savvy covers some heavy topics that families deal with: coming together and breaking apart. I know what you're thinking—"But, it's Valentine's Day!"— and don't worry, we have all that touchy-feely, fun stuff, too. But, sprinkled between some great V-day crafts and love-themed recipes you'll find info on how to focus on your familial love by caring for your blended family, navigating a divorce so everyone comes out on good terms, and the love and compassion it takes to welcome new members through adoption. Arkansas has the highest divorce rate in the county, but Arkansans are also the most willing to give love a second chance, having the highest rate of second marriages nationwide. Second and third marriages often come with a few strings attached, in the form of kids and co-parents, and without a little work, communication and flexibility, it can lead to tension within your home. We talk with Beth McAlpine, parent education coordinator at Centers for Youth and Families about tips for blended families to achieve sibling harmony, be the best stepparent you can, and ways for co-parents to work together. She gives great insights on page 18. The journey to harmonious co-parenting begins when couples make the decision to part ways and work together to stay amiable for the kids. Beginning on page 34, we let local lawyers and a licensed clinical social worker weigh in with advice on communication, re-entering the work force, child support, mediation and the importance of putting the focus on the kids. Finding love doesn't always have to be romantic. In this issue, we put a focus on adoption and share the stories of two very unique local families who heard the call to adopt, and welcomed new family members into their homes. Meet Dina Vinson on page 26, and read her story of how a mission trip to Ethiopia with her husband, Kent, led to the adoptions of their son, Tyce, and daughter, Jett, as well as a career change to become an adoption specialist and aid others in their search for love. Many teens in Arkansas are in need of adoption, and they are so often overlooked. Read the story of how Dawn Bailey found her son, 17-year-old Chase, who had spent more than seven years in the foster care system. Dawn and Chase are an inspiring duo who share tips on how to love and how to learn to be loved on page 30. We hope you find some good family guidance in this issue and will take some time to celebrate love this month—whether it's with a significant other, friends or the whole family!
Amy Gordy Editor, Savvy email@example.com
FEBRUARY 2018 | THESAVVYMOMS.COM
Yes, recovery may take 12 steps… But The BridgeWay has always been the ﬁrst. As the ﬁrst psychiatric hospital in the state of Arkansas, The BridgeWay has helped thousands of Arkansans recover from addictions. From legal to illegal substances, we have treated them all.
Under the care of a certiﬁed addictionologist, The BridgeWay was the ﬁrst to oﬀer two treatment options: n Abstinence-based treatment n Medication-assisted treatment with Suboxone Whether you need inpatient care or outpatient treatment, The BridgeWay has always been the ﬁrst place to call. We provide services that treat addictions for adults, ages 18 and older, within a medical setting: n Medical detoxiﬁcation n Outpatient n Yoga n Crisis stabilization n Support by AA and Al-Anon n Nutritional guidance n Dual diagnosis n Pet-assisted therapy n Computer access n Rehabilitation n Art therapy n Visitation n Intensive Outpatient For over thirty years, The BridgeWay has been the ﬁrst and only program with a dedicated program for the treatment of substance abuse. Let The BridgeWay be your ﬁrst call.
The BridgeWay may be reached toll-free at 1-800-245-0011 Our assessment and referral staﬀ is available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Assessments are provided at no charge and are always conﬁdential. The BridgeWay is an in-network provider for Medicaid, up to 21 years of age, and all other insurance companies in Arkansas including Medicare and Tricare.
WHERE CARING MOVES
Some of Our Red Carpet Clients Would Rather Be on the Green Snell's goal is to help you get where you want to be. We believe every patient we serve merits VIP treatment; and to us that means providing the proper tools, encouragement, skilled service and caring support to enable you to achieve your goals, whatever they may be. For Maurice Porchia, that meant a myoelectric upper extremity prosthesis with a BeBionic Hand that is flexible and functional enough to hold and place a golf ball on the green. Ask about where Snell Prosthetics & Orthotics' red carpet treatment can take you.
www.snellpando.com Accredited Facility
Offices located in Little Rock, Russellville, Fort Smith, Mountain Home, Fayetteville, Hot Springs, North Little Rock, Pine Bluff, Conway and Bryant.
THESAVVYMOMS.COM | FEBRUARY 2018
PUBLISHER BLAKE HANNAHS | firstname.lastname@example.org EDITOR AMY GORDY | email@example.com CREATIVE DIRECTOR MANDY KEENER | firstname.lastname@example.org ART DIRECTOR KATIE HASSELL | email@example.com EDITOR AT LARGE REBEKAH LAWRENCE | firstname.lastname@example.org SENIOR ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE LESA THOMAS | email@example.com ADVERTISING TRAFFIC MANAGER ROLAND R. GLADDEN | firstname.lastname@example.org ADVERTISING COORDINATOR LARISSA GUDINO | email@example.com
INTERACTIVE CHILDREN’S BALLET Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra
GRAPHIC DESIGNERS MIKE SPAIN | JASON HO PRODUCTION MANAGER | CONTROLLER WELDON WILSON IT DIRECTOR ROBERT CURFMAN ACCOUNTS PAYABLE/OFFICE MANAGER KELLY JONES
Saturday, February 17th, 2PM UA Pulaski Tech CHARTS Theater
EXPERIENCE THE JOYS OF MUSIC AND DANCE WITH BALLET ARKANSAS! Crafts, Meet and Greet with the Dancers and Narrated Ballet $20 Tickets available atuaptc.edu
FEBRUARY 2018 | THESAVVYMOMS.COM
BILLING/COLLECTIONS LINDA PHILLIPS CIRCULATION DIRECTOR ANITRA HICKMAN
FIND US ON
Upcoming Travel Plans? Start your trip with Laman Library's Passport Service Â Convenient hours Â No appointment needed Free photos for first-time applicants $5 photos for renewals
KERRY GUICE is a writer, recipe developer and photographer living in Little Rock with her husband and two busy kids. When she's not working or driving kids from one activity to the next, she's planning her family's next outdoor adventure.
9th Annual ANGELA E. THOMAS is a proud University of Arkansas at Little Rock graduate and a member of its Alumni Board. For 11 years, she served Central Arkansas as editor for a locally owned magazine. Thomas is founder and owner of the greeting card company GODsent Greetings.
February 14 - March 29 Methodist Family Health invites church groups, families, friends and neighbors to collect much-needed items during the season of Lent. Your generosity will aid Arkansas children in our hospital, alternative schools, group homes, clinics and other programs throughout our state.
DWAIN HEBDA is a writer and editor living in Little Rock. He and his wife, Darlene, are the parents of four grown children. The empty-nesters spend their time traveling, working out and spoiling their two dogs.
KATIE CHILDS is a wedding, lifestyle and commercial photographer based in North Little Rock. When she's not behind the camera, Katie and her husband, Jon, can be found rock climbing with their two pups in Northwest Arkansas and listening to embarrassing rap music.
See our wish list and donation locations at: methodistfamily.org/get-up-give Or contact Kelli Reep at 501.906.4210 or firstname.lastname@example.org
' S M O M Let your voice be heard and vote in the Savvy Moms' Choice Awards. Find the ballot on page 21 or online at thesavvymoms.com.
S D R A W A 2018
THESAVVYMOMS.COM | FEBRUARY 2018
FEB. THE SNOWY DAY AND OTHER STORIES BY EZRA JACK KEATS Bundle up and take a walk with Peter as he explores the delights of a freshly fallen snow at “The Snowy Day and Other Stories by Ezra Jack Keats,” at the Arkansas Arts Center’s Children’s Theater. arkansasartscenter.org.
SUNDAY, FEB. WWE PRE-GAME PANDEMONIUM Get in on the throw down before the Super Bowl at the WWE Pre-game Pandemonium at Verizon Arena from 1-3 p.m. Look for WWE names including Champion AJ Styles, Randy Orton, Shinsuke Nakamura, Jinder Mahal, Kevin Owens and many more! verizonarena.com.
SATURDAY, FEB. THE PEER REVUE
SATURDAY, FEB. TOMMY TERRIFIC'S WACKY MAGIC SHOW Little ones love Tommy Terrific's Wacky Magic Show. Catch this upbeat performance with plenty of crowd participation hosted by CALS Kids at the Main Library from 10:30-11:30 a.m. cals.org.
Enjoy an adult-only night of science, comedy, drinks and pizza at the Museum of Discovery’s new event, The Peer Revue. Watch as half a dozen local STEM professionals perform short comedy sets about science. Think of it as TED Talks, but funny! Doors open at 7 p.m. Admission $12 for museum members; $15 for non-members. museumofdiscovery.org.
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SATURDAY, FEB. SoMa MARDI GRAS PARADE
Laissez les bons temps rouler at the annual SoMa Mardi Gras Parade from noon until 3 p.m. on Main Street. All ages are invited to revel in the fun with live music, floats, costumes and, of course, beads! southsidemain.org.
SUNDAY, FEB. BARKUS ON MAIN
14 Valentine’s Day
The Mardi Gras celebrations continue with Barkus on Main along the Main Street Creative Corridor from noon until 5 p.m. The spotlight is on dogs as pampered pooches march in a parade along with live music, a beer garden, gumbo, crawfish boil, plenty of beads and more! The parade begins at 2 p.m. at the intersection of Seventh and Main streets and travels up Main to Fourth Street. Prizes will be awarded for best pet costumes. barkusonmain.com.
MARCH 16TH ANNUAL LITTLE ROCK MARATHON Head to the starting line for the 16th Annual Little Rock Marathon, which as been named to Runner’s World magazine’s “Bucket List: 10 Great Marathons for First-Timers.” Participate in the Marathon, Half Marathon, 10K, 5K or Little Rockers Kids Marathon. .
THESAVVYMOMS.COM | FEBRUARY 2018
UALR TROJAN'S BASKETBALL HOME SCHEDULE Men, Feb. 1 vs. Georgia Southern, 7 p.m. Women, Feb. 1 vs. Georgia Southern, 5 p.m. Men, Feb. 3 vs. Georgia State, 5 p.m. Women, Feb. 3 vs. Georgia State, 3 p.m. Men, Feb. 22 vs. Coastal Carolina, 7 p.m. Women, Feb. 22 vs. Coastal Carolina, 5 p.m. Men, Feb. 24 vs. Appalachian State, 5 p.m.
Do you have a budding author in your home? If so, check out the 2nd Annual Argenta Reading Series Writing Contest to inspire and encourage them to win scholarship money. The contest is open to Arkansas high school students (grades 10-12), and allocates a total of $2,500 in scholarships to three winners who plan to attend an in-state college or university. Complete rules for the writing contest can be found at ArgentaReadingSeries.com/writing-contest. Applicants must submit their entries via email by March 31.
Women, Feb. 24 vs. Appalachian State, 3 p.m.
All games held at the Jack Stephens Center on the UALR campus.
ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE...
BALLOONS & CANDY, TOO!
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BALLET ARKANSAS CHILDREN'S SERIES RETURNS Ballet Arkansas continues it Children's Series this month with performances of Benjamin Britten's "The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" at the University of Arkansas Pulaski Tech CHARTS Theater. This will be another interactive ballet experience targeted at youth. The narrated performance is a fun way to introduce kids to the joy of dance and music and help them feel involved in the production. The story is based on the 1945 musical composition by Benjamin Britten and features Ballet Arkansas dance members, who each represent a musical instrument that sounds each time the performer comes on stage. Audience members will learn the instruments and be delighted for a grand finale when the dancers come together, to show how instruments come together in a symphony. Guests are invited to arrive early for hands-on crafting fun, and stay after the show for a meet and greet with the performers. Catch the show Feb. 17 at 2 p.m. Admission to the Childrenâ€™s Series is $20 for children 12 and under; $25 for adults. Log on to balletarkansas.org/ children-series for more information.
99Â˘ EACH WHEN YOU BUY 12 OR MORE
11218 N. RODNEY PARHAM RD. / LITTLE ROCK 501.223.4929
4822 N. HILLS BLVD. / NORTH LITTLE ROCK 501.978.3154
THESAVVYMOMS.COM | FEBRUARY 2018
Create this cute vending machine Valentine box with your kids for the classroom party! It's sweet, unique and has plenty of room for cards and candy.
• Glitter paper • Sparkly pipe cleaners • Dollar bill • Black construction paper • White construction paper • Shoebox • Heart stickers
• Silver Sharpie • Cardboard • Miniature candies • Hot glue gun • Scissors • Box cutter
1. Create the vending machine inset by cutting a rectangle out of the front of the shoebox. Cut four strips of cardboard about two inches wide and hot glue them to the sides of the inset to create a box. Cover the inset with white paper. 2. Hot glue miniature candies in two rows inside the inset, and attach hearts with coordinating letters and numbers. 3. Cut out three black squares of construction paper to create the "push" door, "coin return" and dollar intake. Glue them to the box, label with the silver Sharpie and decorate accordingly.
4. Cover the box in red glitter paper, and create the vending buttons to coordinate with the labeled miniature candies. 5. Place the vending machine inset inside the hole and hot glue it. Our shoebox opens from the back so it was easy to hold it in place while the glue dried. 6. Add pipe cleaners around the edges for some extra sparkle!
CUT A HOLE IN THE TOP TO INSERT VALENTINE CARDS AND CANDY!
S'MORE TO LOVE
These fun, campy Valentine treats are unique and easy to assemble—and who doesn't love s'mores?
You'll Need • Graham crackers • Chocolate bars • Marshmallows • Plastic treat bags
• Small sticks • Outdoorsy fabric cut into thin strips or ribbon • Construction paper
Place a generous square of your favorite chocolate bar, graham cracker and jumbo marshmallows in a small treat bag. Collect some twigs from the yard to add an authentic look, and when you tie the bag shut attach the twig with a strip of buffalo check or bandana print fabric. Don't forget to add a little love note signed by the sender, and attach it to the bags.
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I GET SO EMOJINAL, BABY Text-savvy kids love emojis, and these happy, heart-eyed faces are really cute and simple to make.
THE CENTERS FOR YOUTH AND FAMILIES find hope • build resilience • rediscover possible
• Yellow and black construction paper • Heart-shaped, individually wrapped candy • Emoji sticker • A glue stick • Tape • Scissors
Draw a large circle on the yellow construction paper (we used an upside down cereal bowl to get the perfect shape). Cut out the yellow circle and then cut out a slightly upturned half-moon shape from the black construction paper. Come up with an emoji-themed sentiment and either write it on the back or print and glue it. Tape a few emoji stickers to the back for an added bonus, and tape two heart-shaped, individually wrapped candies to create the emjoi's eyes.
THE PARENT CENTER
Offering parenting classes to help you be the best parent of your toddler, child, or teen. Our Parent Educators help you navigate basic child development to more intense needs such as trauma,divorce, ADHD or other behavioral challenges. Check our website for the full listing of diverse classes.
OUTPATIENT COUNSELING CENTER Same Day Appointments Available Monday through Friday , Serving Families and Children up to 26 years
RESIDENTIAL TREATMENT CENTERS
When more intensive care is needed to help your child recover from trauma and build resiliency , we offer residential treatment for children 5-17 year old in Little Rock and Monticello.
501.666.8686 or 888.868.0023 www.cfyf.org Follow us online @TheCENTERSAR THESAVVYMOMS.COM | FEBRUARY 2018
Bring It On, 2018
orever known in my house as the year in which I did not have my stuff together, I’ll admit 2017 was not my favorite. It was a year of struggle, both professionally and personally, a year in which I dog-paddled across the wide end of a wave pool. On New Year’s Eve, I held my champagne flute high to welcome the new year and warned the old one to get out or I’d find a bouncer. What was so bad about 2017? Well, it wasn’t one big catastrophe, but a series of small dings that added up over time—normal stuff that most adults have faced at one time or another. As a parent, I’m still learning as I go and, well, I think I went too much. Our oldest joined a serious soccer league, which practices at least three times a week with games every Saturday, and occasional out-of-town tournaments. That’s a lot, especially considering we have two smaller children. School, sports, music and activities had me burning up the road this year, and my car is approaching 100,000 miles! I like to be at home, to cook, to hang with the dog and read, and there hasn’t been a lot of time for that. In 2017, my worldview took several hits. It has been difficult both resolving in my own mind and explaining to my children some of the inexplicable things happening in our treasured democracy. I’m not alone. Mental health professionals across the country have reported an increase in both the number of patients and their stress levels. In a world of 24-hour news and social media cycles, it can be tough to breathe. Experts suggest empowering yourself by taking action, by connecting with real people, and by getting physical. Walking 30 minutes a day can reduce stress levels, not to mention its other health benefits. Also of note last year, I turned 40. While there was some trepidation as The Big One approached, I did not, in fact, throw a hip in October. Do I love saying I’m in my 40s? No. I don’t think those words have passed my lips. I will say, though, that despite my skin’s ever-decreasing elasticity, I am increasingly confident with what’s on the inside. A better understanding of myself and my place in the world around me has lent both self-confidence and appreciation.
The primary reason 2017 wasn’t my favorite is because I felt restricted professionally and creatively. A lot of parents experience this. It’s a real struggle to balance work and home life. I love writing. Knock on wood, I’ve never been plagued with writers’ block. My problem is time. With three kids, things too often come up during my “office hours.” Working from home is great, and over time I’ve trained myself to commit to the tasks at hand. No laundry, no yard work, no errands during creative time. Invariably, though, someone gets sick or there’s no school, or the dishwasher goes out again. I’ve spent a lot of time this year spinning my wheels professionally with not a lot to show for it, and that’s discouraging. I learned my lesson, though. This year I’ve set realistic goals, and when I reach one I’m going to stop and celebrate. I plan to reflect on what goes right more than what went wrong. Much of the problem, I’ve come to realize, was me. I concentrated altogether too much time last year on the things I was unable to accomplish—and far too little on the things I did. Why? Why do we do that? If we spent half as much time reflecting on the successes and small joys in life as we did struggles, we’d have far better outlooks. And, OK, so 2017 wasn’t all bad. Something I wrote won its category, and who doesn’t like validation and recognition from their peers? My husband and I are a great team, and we’re very happy. The two little kids are (mostly) dressing themselves. And, while a pre-teen daughter is a thing to behold, I actually like mine. I’m enjoying our increasingly meaningful conversations. Another success in 2017: friendships. I spent more time with friends I cherish, and even made a great new one. Nurturing friendships was a goal of mine for the year, and one into which I’m glad I put time and effort. An idea I’m pilfering from one of those friends is a gratitude journal. As I flip through my calendar to plan days and weeks, I’ve been jotting down things I’m grateful for, things that are going right. Already 2018 is looking up, and it’s because I’m taking the time to stop and appreciate the small joys and the little successes. Hoping your year is filled with them, too.
DON'T FORGET TO LOOK BACK AND CELEBRATE YOUR MONTHLY ACHIEVEMENTS!
Jen Holman is determined to be a voice of reason amongst reality TV and momjudgement-gone-wild. Her newest novel (as yet unpublished) won the 2017 Rosemary award for excellence in young adult fiction. She lives in Little Rock with her husband and three (im)perfect children.
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Get ready to go wild E with us!
ENTUR Take a ZOOV
Twilight Hikes Parent's Night Out Zoo Behind the Scenes Animal Ambassador Shows and much, much more!
Paul Caster photo
Learn more at littlerockzoo.com 501.666.2406
THESAVVYMOMS.COM | FEBRUARY 2018
mind, body & soul
THE PERFECT BLEND
For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, ’til death do (we all) part. Blended families are increasingly common and can be a lot of work. Combining siblings, learning boundaries, forming connections and navigating co-parenting doesn’t happen instantly when you say “I do.” BY AMY GORDY
n a 2015 study released by the United States Census Bureau, Arkansas ranks No. 1—at 35 percent—in the number of adults who have married two or more times. Second and third marriages often bring children into the mix, which can make a union between households a little bit trickier. Blending families is not something to take lightly. New siblings, new stepparents, a new living arrangement and new rules can really throw everyone out of whack. Beth McAlpine, parent education coordinator at Centers for Youth and Families, guides many parents who either come to her step-parenting class before they take the plunge into matrimony, or once they start to feel in over their heads. “There are a lot of expectations that people don’t examine ahead of time. The class really starts with, first of all, examining where you came from. How were your parents? What are your views? What’s your parenting style? If parents are not on the same page and can’t create a united front, that’s where the sibling rivalry comes in and the family suffers. If kids feel accepted and secure they will be more likely to get along with each other,” McAlpine said. Primary concerns she hears with blended families are problems between stepsiblings, gaining confidence in step-parenting and getting along with co-parents.
Entering a new family unit can be a difficult time for kids—no matter how happy they are about the union. Often, everyone goes
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in with excitement and high expectations and quickly come back to reality once they hit that first bump. Stepsiblings’ personalities may clash, there may be new competition for a biological parent’s attention or resentments toward a new stepparent. To deter this, McAlpine stresses the importance of couples displaying a strong, respectful relationship as well as both parents providing strong leadership—not just friendship—to the kids. “Strong leadership and a united front between parents will create happier kids who tend to get along far better; more secure kids who have fewer conflicts with each other; and kids who respect you enough to stop arguing with each other when you ask. Displaying relational weakness will surely result in chronic sibling conflict,” she said. If you are experiencing intense sibling rivalry, the first thing to do is determine what is motivating the behavior. “When you have a stepfamily situation sometimes the tension can be competition. If you’ve rearranged the birth order, kids may be jockeying for rank. You may have one who was an only child and now has siblings, and that can be stressful. You must determine the motivation in order to discover how to stop the behavior. Do they need attention? Do they need privacy? Are they angry about having to share? Are they just wanting some control? There are all kinds of reasons why,” she said. McAlpine suggests having a family meeting to talk about expectations. “You have to have that talk with the kids and you have to tell your own biological children that you expect them to
make an effort to get along. They have to be respectful of everyone in the house.” If you feel the kids need more room and space—maybe they went from having their own room to sharing with a sibling—McAlpine suggests looking for ways to allow them to make private space for themselves. If there is a certain toy or item that is important to them that they don’t want anyone to touch while they are away at the other house, allow them to keep it in a place that’s safe. Many blended families cringe at the thought of making kids do chores—you want them to enjoy their time at your home—but McAlpine says giving kids chores is a great way to help them feel like part of the family unit. People feel guilty about their situation and kids having gone through the tough time of getting a divorce, and now you’re blending a family and there’s more change. This is actually a really good opportunity for kids to learn that life is like this and you have to adapt. You have the opportunity to really let the child take on a little more responsibility. Kids need chores to feel valued in the house. Kids who feel capable and confident are more likely to be compliant, and more likely to take a good risk like trying a difficult math problem or going out for a team sport.”
EFFECTIVE STEP PARENTING
The stepparent can often find themselves in situations of conflict between their spouse, stepchildren, the co-parent or their own biological children if there is no united front or parenting plan within the home. McAlpine emphasizes the importance for couples to talk ahead of time about discipline and how to handle issues that may arise so everyone is comfortable with how situations may play out. “As a couple, you need to decide: if this happens do we do timeout, are they grounded or do they just get a talk? If the stepparent or biological parent disagrees and discipline has already happened don’t undermine the other parent in front of the kids. In private, say ‘I know this is how you handled it, I would have done it this way, what do you think?’ You can’t go back and undo it, so just learn from it,” she said. Many stepparents hesitate to get involved in discipline at all— sometimes it’s hard enough to establish a bond with a stepchild, and being the one to put them in time-out feels like it could damage the delicate bond. While McAlpine encourages stepparents to be part of the discipline in the home, she says its OK to let a biological parent handle the big issues. “In the beginning it’s OK to defer to the biological parent for discipline, but you can’t look weak. Parents need to come up with a discipline plan. There are usually three roles parents tend to take on: dictator, consultant or doormat. It’s OK to be all of those, and couples don’t always match. If you have two dictators that would be stressful. If you have two doormats, the kids would run all over you. It’s a process and it can take a long time to find your groove.” Besides offering strong leadership, stepparents also must work toward creating a strong bond with their stepkids. McAlpine offered these tips to help stepparents achieve that goal: • Be able to empathize • Don’t be defensive • Avoid being judgmental • Show acceptance • Be open to change • Have a strong sense of personal identity (don’t take behaviors personally) • Believe in children’s abilities, and allow them to be responsible for themselves
CO-PARENTING IN HARMONY
Working to build a healthy relationship with your co-parent is vital to the harmony of your household. Things as small as simply changing your language with the co-parent can do a lot to help establish a cooperative relationship. “No matter what, you are always going to have that biological parent present in your life and household,” McAlpine said. “Whether or not the children have a good relationship with that parent, have shared custody or don’t see them often, that parent still has a presence. You just have to say to yourselves, ‘We know this is part of our family, but we aren’t going to let that person have control over every thing we do.’ You should be prepared to make concessions sometimes, and never disparage the other parent to the children because that tells the child you don’t like who half of he or she is,” McAlpine said. Taking yourself out of the conversation is another way to avoid conflict when communicating with a co-parent. “If you don’t agree with something the parent did, never tell the other person ‘Here’s what I would do.’ The co-parent may do the opposite if they are strong-willed. When you get divorced the focus really goes onto the kids. You have to take all the emotional stuff out. You are not tied to that person anymore. We recommend you don’t say even say ‘ex,’ they are your co-parent or the child’s father—it's all about the kids,” McAlpine said. Some tricks you can use to ease tension and get conversation going are to offer some insight to what goes on at your house and ask the co-parent if they’ve seen the same thing and ask their opinion on how to handle it. “Saying something like ‘Here’s what the children are doing at my house, this is what I tried, what do you think?’ Ultimately, If you have feelings of anger toward your former spouse that’s going to have an affect on your new relationship and your family,” McAlpine said.
EFFECTIVE STEP PARENTING WITH THE 4 A’S 1. Attention: Notice things about the kids that are not tied to any judgment. You can say things like, “I notice you have on blue shoes,” or, “I noticed you are wearing your glasses today.” What you are doing is telling the child, “I see you for who you are.” As parents, so much of our dialog is critical or giving a direction, this cuts all that out. Attention can be praise— verbal praise or writing notes. Even a wink, high-five or simply looking at them when they are talking to you. 2. Acceptance: Accept the child for who they are. If you discipline them, separate the deed from the doer. 3. Appreciation: If they do something you like or appreciate, tell them. Thank you so much for helping your brother, or for hanging up your backpack. Just say thank you. 4. Affection: You have to know the kid and their comfort level. Little ones will be more affectionate. With older kids and teenagers, that may not be the case. High-fives, pats on the back, even facial expressions, notes and letters—those are ways to show affection. You don’t have to automatically feel love for those kids. It’s a process. People feel so guilty about that. Siblings feel guilty about it, too. Recognize it’s a process. Love can be shown in so many different ways. Provided by Beth McAlpine THESAVVYMOMS.COM | FEBRUARY 2018
' S M O M
E C I O H C
S D R A AW 2018
Savvy Moms do their research and choose only the best for their kids. We want to know your favorite family-friendly shops, restaurants, services and more. Let your voice be heard and vote in the Savvy Moms' Choice Awards. Tear this ballot out and mail it in, or find it online at thesavvymoms.com.
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Best Pediatrician ___________________________________
Best Kids' Hair Salon _________________________________
Best Orthodontist ___________________________________
Best Spa for Mom ___________________________________
Best Pediatric Dentist _________________________________
Best Family-Friendly Fitness Center ______________________
Best Pediatric Asthma & Allergy Specialist __________________________________
Best Yoga or Pilates Studio _____________________________
BIRTHDAY PARTY Best Kids’ Party Venue ________________________________ Best Kids’ Party Entertainment _________________________ Best Party Decorations ________________________________
TASTY EATS Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant ___________________________ Best Kid-Free Date Night Restaurant _____________________ Best Pizza ___________________________________ Best Healthy Kids' Menu ______________________________ Kids' Favorite Dessert ________________________________
Best Children’s Photographer ___________________________
EDUCATION Best Daycare ___________________________________ Best Parents’-Day-Out Program _________________________ Best Preschool ___________________________________ Best Public School ___________________________________ Best Private School ___________________________________ Best Dance Lessons ___________________________________ Best Theatre Programs _______________________________
GET OUT THERE Best Free Family Outing _______________________________ Best Family Day Trip _________________________________
Best Locally-Owned Children's Clothing Store _____________________
Best Field Trip for Kids _______________________________
Best Kids' Consignment Shop ___________________________
Best Overnight Summer Camp __________________________
Best Local Store for Baby Gifts __________________________
Best Recreational Outing for Families _____________________
Best Local Place to Buy Toys ____________________________
Best Annual Event for Families __________________________
RULES: Ballots must have at least 50 percent of categories completed. Only one vote per reader, please. We reserve the right to discard any ballot we deem fraudulent. Balloting closes at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 28.
Mail to: Arkansas Times Attn: Savvy Moms' Choice 201 E. Markham St., Ste. 200 Little Rock, AR 72201 THESAVVYMOMS.COM | FEBRUARY 2018
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d i p u C quad S
Rally your squad and spread some love and cheer with a few good deeds this Valentine’s Day!
STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY KERRY GUICE
n these days of social media, political tension and declining personal interactions, it's more important than ever to teach our kids the value of spreading kindness. I don't mean with grand gestures and spending lots of money (as wonderful as that is), but small and simple daily tasks that can truly lead to living a much happier life. With that thought in mind, this Valentine's Day I decided to tell my own sweetheart that I didn't want a gift this year; I would instead spend that money on a full day spreading love through random acts of kindness led by my kids and their friends—“The Cupid Squad.” We went all over town with one goal in mind: to create smiles. I have to say, we succeeded, and we may have been left at the end of the day with the biggest smiles of all. That's the funny thing about love: the more you give, the more you get, and I mean that quite literally. According to Emory University, when you are kind to another person, your brain’s pleasure centers light up as if you were the recipient of the good deed rather than the giver. Showing kindness also produces oxytocin, which contributes to overall heart health and creates feelings of optimism and higher self-esteem. Several studies show that consistently being kind leads to living a longer and healthier life. This “Helper's High” can even be felt just by witnessing acts of kindness (which explains why we all love Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah so much)! The Cupid Squad started the day at the Hilary Clinton Children's Library, where they hid homemade bookmarks inside of books for readers to discover. We wrote sweet or encouraging notes on the bookmarks and even taped a quarter or two to a few of them. The kids sneakily giggled the whole time. When we left the library, we (along with Ozma the puppy) went to the neighborhood fire station where the Cupid Squad surprised the firemen with homemade Strawberry Sweetheart Rolls and a thank you note for helping keep the community safe. The kids got to see the firehouse and the truck, and smiles were definitely all around! We left the fire station and headed to the grocery store, where the Cupid Squad passed out flowers to shoppers. This was my favorite part of the day. I was worried that a lot of people would be skeptical about the Cupid Squad's intentions or ignore them. None of us will forget the looks on people's faces when approached by a child with a flower and a smile. Halfway through this stop Matilda said, “I can't stop smiling!” Neither could us moms. Eventually we kept passing people who'd already gotten a flower and everyone looked lighter and happier. It was amazing. When we left the grocery store, we stopped at the laundromat and left some laundry detergent out for anyone to use, and a little bin of activities to keep kids entertained while waiting with their parents for their laundry to be done. The next stop was at our school to hide a few small garden stones around for students to find. The Cupid Squad finished the day by leaving bags of hand warmers and ponchos on bus stop benches throughout town. It was a long day, but the Cupid Squad didn't want it to end! Start your own Cupid Squad, then share your experience to spread kindness even further. It doesn't take much—all you need is love. THESAVVYMOMS.COM | FEBRUARY 2018
The Cupid Squad had a great day spreading love across the city! (Top left) Olive Sutterer delivers flowers to unsuspecting shoppers. (Middle left) The kids,(from left) Matilda Thessing, Cooper Sutterer, Archer Guice, Ian Fiser, Fiona Fiser and Violet Guice delivered Strawberry Sweetheart Rolls to firefighters.
Cupid Squad Ideas: • Give compliments to at least 10 strangers • Write a thank you note to every teacher you've had • Leave a nice note on someone’s car • Pay for parking meters • Bring pizza (or hot coffee) to construction site workers • Pass out fun stickers to kids in the store • Leave a generous tip • If you have an elderly or disabled neighbor, rake their leaves • Leave an umbrella and/or hand warmers at a bus stop with a nice note • Take treats to your police and/or fire station • Take treats to the post office • Write a note to your grandparents saying you love them
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• Bring flowers to a nursing home and pass them out • Help someone load their groceries into their cart • Pay for coffee or lunch for the person behind you in the drive-thru • Tell three friends what you love about them • Pick up litter at your favorite park • Bake a homemade treat and take it to your neighbor • Post a good review on your favorite local business' website or social media site • Donate clothes and toys to a local shelter or foster family non-profit (such as The Call) or quotes all over town • Donate books to your local library or school library
Strawberry Sweetheart Rolls Makes about 20 rolls
2 cups whole milk (or almond milk) ¾ cup (1½ sticks) melted butter ½ teaspoon vanilla extract ¼ teaspoon almond extract ½ cup sugar 1 packet active dry yeast 5 cups all-purpose flour ½ teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon baking powder 2 teaspoons salt For the filling and icing: 2 cups white chocolate chips, divided 1 tablespoon granulated sugar 2 16-ounce bags frozen, sliced strawberries Pinch salt ½ cup powdered sugar 1 tablespoon orange juice ¼ teaspoon almond extract ½ teaspoon vanilla extract 4 ounces cream cheese Pour milk in microwave-safe bowl. Heat 1 minute or until warm. Over medium-low heat in small saucepan, melt butter completely (without letting it brown), then whisk in sugar. When sugar is dissolved (about 1 minute), slowly whisk butter and sugar into the milk. Milk mixture should be warm—if it's room temperature, microwave for 30 seconds at a time until warm (but not hot). Sprinkle the packet of yeast over the top, and let sit 3-5 minutes, or until the yeast begins to bubble. Stir the almond and vanilla extracts into the milk and yeast mixture, then carefully stir in 4 of the 5 cups of flour. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let rise for 1 hour. While dough is rising, mix the remaining 1 cup of flour with the salt, baking soda and baking powder. Carefully knead the remaining flour mixture into the dough until completely combined and dough is no longer sticky. Place dough back in the bowl, cover with a dish towel and set aside while making the filling and icing.
For the filling:
Stirring often on medium heat, bring the frozen, sliced strawberries to a simmer in a medium saucepan with powdered sugar and salt (use frozen berries because fresh aren't in season and will be less sweet). Simmer about 10 minutes, then remove from heat and add the orange juice, almond and vanilla extracts, and stir to combine. Carefully strain/separate berries from the liquid, reserving both the liquid and the berries. Set berries aside and return the liquid to the pan. Over low heat, stir in 1 cup of the white chocolate chips and the 4 ounces of cream cheese. Stir constantly until completely combined and thickened, then remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.
Preheat oven to 375°F. On a liberally floured surface, roll the dough out into a rectangle. Dough should be fairly thin (about ¼ or ⅓ inch). Sprinkle the sugar over the dough, then spoon dollops of the strawberries over the dough, spreading as well as you can. It won't seem like enough, but too many strawberries would make the rolls too wet. Add a tiny drizzle of the icing to the dough if you need to. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup white chocolate chips over the strawberries. Very carefully roll the dough up, starting with the side furthest away, rolling the dough forward, toward you. Roll as tight as you can while making sure strawberries and chocolate chips are being rolled up evenly into the dough rather than squeezed down. With a thin, sharp knife, slice 1-inch-thick rounds from the roll (discarding the ends), and place in a well greased pan about ½-1 inch apart. Cover with a dish towel and let rise about 20 more minutes, then bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool slightly before drizzling icing (you will NOT need all the icing—use as much or as little as you want, and store the rest for up to one week in the refrigerator). Top with a few more white chocolate chips (optional), and serve warm. THESAVVYMOMS.COM | FEBRUARY 2018
Dina Vinson had always wanted to be an adoptive mother. It’s a passion that she realized after a mission trip to Ethiopia that set her on the long and life changing path to adopt a son and daughter internationally. BY ANGELA E. THOMAS, PHOTOGRAPHY BY KATIE CHILDS
ina Vinson is a degreed social worker. She has worked in long-term care for the elderly, with children with intellectual and development disabilities and in a middle school as an assistant to the therapist. Each of these steps along her career path has prepared her for “heart work,” within her home and without. Today, Vinson works with a private adoption agency, helping prepare potential families for the adoption process. “I’ve always known this was my passion. This is where I wanted to end up. It’s my heart, my passion, to care for these families,” Vinson said. When she performs home studies, she prepares the families for the joys and heartbreaks associated with adoption. She does so with compassion, from a place of true understanding and experience: She and husband Kent are the loving parents of two adopted children, Tyce, 7, and Jett, 5. “Kent and I talked about children early on. I expressed that I didn’t have a desire to carry a child. He had a heart for adoption as well,” Vinson said. The couple spent their first years travelling and simply enjoying their family of two. A mission trip to Ethiopia to build a playground at an orphanage planted the seed of their desire to grow the Vinson household. “We spent a week in an area with no running water and [very limited resources]. I had this pair of blue Pumas. They’d become so full of dirt, and I’d sat for the longest, trying—in
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vain—to clean them when a woman from the village took them from me. Later, while I was eating dinner, she tapped me on my shoulder and handed me the shoes. They were spotless,” Vinson said, with great emotion. “She’d seen that getting those shoes clean was important to me, and she went out of her way to clean them. And they were spotless. I was changed in that moment.” So much so that she and Kent decided to adopt a child from the country. “When we came back, we began to talk about adoption and how we’d fallen in love with the country. I was changed there. We knew that’s where we needed to start.” The Vinsons began the adoption process in mid-2009. “We hoped for a son, so our younger children would have a big brother, but it didn’t matter,” Vinson said. Several trips back to and from Ethiopia, a ton of paperwork and two and a half years later, Tyce officially became a Vinson. He was just 18 months old. Holding him in her arms that first time, knowing he was finally hers, Vinson said she felt, in that moment the responsibility of parenthood. “A year later we started talking about adopting again. We met with an agency and started the process again,” Vinson said. This time, they sought a child from South Korea. “We took a different route due to changing circumstances and unknowns in [Ethiopia]. And we actually felt God was leading us elsewhere.”
(From left) Tyce, Dina, Kent and Jett Vinson THESAVVYMOMS.COM | FEBRUARY 2018
She explained their decision to adopt their children simply, eloquently and as a matter of destiny. “People ask me, ‘Why did you adopt internationally?’ I tell them, ‘Because my son was in Ethiopia. My daughter was in South Korea.’ It may sound smug. Everybody has various reasons for adopting internationally, but we did it because that’s just where our children were.” She’d fallen in love with each of them, instantly, that first time she saw their faces on a computer screen. “I get so uncomfortable when people say ‘Those children are so lucky to have you,’ because, no, I’m lucky to have them. I often feel people adopt to ‘save somebody,’ but you end up being saved.” “If you’re intentional and want what’s best for your children, you’ll learn about their cultures and traditions. Adoption requires that you step out of your normal. Adopting internationally requires this more so,” Vinson said. She realizes their family is unusual. She describes herself as color aware as opposed to colorblind. “When you receive placement of an African or African American boy, you must realize the way people see him at 2 years old, holding your hand is not the same way they’ll view him as a 27-year-old man,” she said, frankly. Thus, she and Kent are relying on family members and their “village” to help them understand and to help teach Tyce things they cannot. She reiterated, “You must be intentional.”
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To ensure that Jett learns about her culture, they enrolled her in a Korean daycare, and they’ve also cultivated relationships there. “Our lives aren’t just about us anymore. It’s not about what makes us comfortable. We want our children to grow up knowing that we’ve been intentional about honoring where they’re from. The artwork in our home reflects that. We celebrate holidays [that originate from their countries]; for instance, we recently had a coffee ceremony, [which is a big part of the] Ethiopian culture. We also celebrate Children’s Day, which is celebrated in Korea,” the mother of two said. “You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to have all the answers, but be honest. Continually educate yourself, and do your best. It’s OK to be uncomfortable. Give yourself a break.” Vinson laughs as she speaks of the various foods served in their home; they include cheeseburgers, Korean and Ethiopian foods as well as traditional Mexican food, such as tamales, as her mother is from Mexico. Vinson said it’s also important to share with your adoptive child his story in age appropriate terms. “Adoption is built on loss. Yes, you gained a child, but someone made a selfless decision to create an adoption plan for their child because they believed in their heart that it was best for him. You get all of your child, which includes his story. It’s important to respect their stories. Yes, it’s messy. It’s beautifully messy.”
DINA’S ADOPTION ADVICE
Vinson said adoption, whether domestic or international, is a process. She offers the following insights/advice. 1. Educate yourself. Ask questions. Speak to adoptive families. The truth is you’re bringing a stranger into your home, and, Vinson said, “it’s not a Lifetime movie, where your child comes running into your arms. You’re a stranger, and there’s an adjustment period. The love you feel for them may be instant, but love is different than attachment, of course.” Jett came home to the Vinsons when she was 3. “Bonding takes time.” 2. Expect to spend $22,000 to $35,000 or more for travel expenses, background checks, medical expenses, and fees. 3. Research adoption agencies. Again, speak with families who’ve gone through the process. Ask for referrals. 4. Be prepared for the paperwork. It’s never ending. 5. Once you’re matched with a child, you’ll receive a referral and a profile of your child. You’ll get to “know” him through monthly emails, pictures, medical updates and letters. 6. Be prepared to travel, if your child is in a different state or country. You’ll have an opportunity to meet and visit with your child, and later, after you’ve received approval, you’ll need to return to pick him up.
The Vinson family knows how to have a good time. Dina says the kids love each other intensely with occasional sibling bickering, just like all families.
THESAVVYMOMS.COM | FEBRUARY 2018
Learning to be
After seven and a half years in the foster care system, 17-year-old Chase Bailey is learning how to trust and let his new family really love him. BY DWAIN HEBDA
ne of the first things Chase Bailey's mother, Dawn, will tell you about the 17-year-old is he's a mama's boy. He's also a bright student, a basketball fanatic and busy, balancing his time among school, family, church and a new job. Most of all he's loved; although it's a concept that's taken time to get his arms around. "I had to learn to trust [my family] just like they learned to trust me. Love is just another part of that," he said. "It’s great to know that somebody’s love is unconditional. But it’s really hard to understand that, especially if you haven’t learned that from the beginning." It's nice to think all children know they're loved—loved when they win and when they fail, loved when they're little darlings and loved when they're grounded—but life doesn’t always work that way. To Chase, real love was largely a foreign concept. "Being in the situations I've been through, you don’t really know if somebody’s going to be there," Chase said, "or keep you for a couple days and then get rid of you." Arkansas's foster care system manages more than 5,000 children and while 91 percent go home, to a relative's or are adopted, that still leaves hundreds to bounce around the system. Chase was one of these. The national average for children staying in the system is 13.5 months, 27.3 months for kids who are adopted—Chase was in for 7.5 years. According to Texas-based adoption advocate Kenneth A. Camp, the average child changes foster residences seven times; Chase experienced more than double that. "He had 11 homes in those 7.5 years, in addition to five facilities and group homes, that took him in and then sent him
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away," said Dawn. "He acted up or got in trouble and they didn’t want to mess with him." A teenager's prospects of being adopted are comparatively dim and with Chase's string of failed placements, it looked like a happy ending would be nothing short of a miracle. Fortunately, God had the Baileys' number. "It was really all a Jesus thing," Dawn said. "We have seen the Lord intervene with the people that we have connected with and the people that helped us. It has been absolutely crazy how God has had his hand in, every step of the way." That said, the Almighty had to play hardball to get Dawn on board initially. Having already raised two girls and in the home stretch with another, Dawn wasn't in the market for another child. But that didn't stop
friends from needling her and husband Brad on the subject; in 2015 some went so far as to send a link to a local news report on adoption profiling Chase. “Three different friends of mine sent Brad and I messages saying ‘Y’all need to watch this video. Y’all need [Chase],’” she recalled. “Honestly, I was kind of irritated. I said, ‘I’m sorry. I will pray for this boy to get a family, but I am not adopting a teenage boy. Y’all have lost your mind.’” “That was Thanksgiving weekend in 2015. That Sunday the Lord convinced me that this is supposed to be [my] child,” she said. “I just got to thinking, what if something happened to Brad and I? Who would take care of our kids? I would want somebody to step up, no matter what age they were, and make a difference.” “So I spent two days crying, going ‘OK. I guess this is what we’re supposed to do.’” The Baileys underwent six months fulfilling requirements of Arkansas Division of Children and Family Services to become what's known as an open home. Again, strictly on faith. “We had to be an open home before they would say ‘Yes, he’s still available,’” Dawn said. “We went through that whole process and it was actually May before we found out if he was even still available for adoption.” Chase moved in July 8, 2016, and after a mandatory six-month trial period, his adoption was official in January 2017. The family minces no words describing the joys and challenges of their journey so far, particularly as Chase's festering trauma over abandonment wormed to the surface. “In his eyes, anytime he did something wrong he would just be sent away,” Dawn said. “That’s where a lot of the trauma from his life has come from. The healing for us was to teach him that even when he makes mistakes, he’s not going anywhere. Mom and Dad are going to be there no matter what.” Today, the good days outnumber the bad. Through Immerse Arkansas, Brad and Dawn learned Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI), an alternative parenting methodology for children with trauma. It's had a marked impact on Chase, allowing him to develop perspective on the nuances of a forever family. “I learned there’s always going to be consequences, good consequences or bad consequences,” Chase said. “I’ve also learned that families don’t give up on each other when you mess up. And I’ve messed up a lot, but they never gave up.” “Right now, I find myself probably at the best position I can be. I’ve still got to work on some things between me and some of the stuff that I’ve been doing. It’s all part of the family; you’ve got to improve yourself to improve others sometimes. That’s probably the best thing you can do.”
(Clockwise from top) Chase's adoption hearing (from left) Judge Evans, Abby, Dawn, Chase, Brad, Lauren and Brooke. (From left) Abby, Lauren, Brooke and Chase last Halloween. Chase's first school dance October 2016. Chase is an amazing musician—he plays guitar, drums and piano.
THESAVVYMOMS.COM | FEBRUARY 2018
THE ABCS OF ADOPTION IN ARKANSAS BY DWAIN HEBDA
o you've made the decision to open your home and family up to adoption...what's next? Savvy talked to Keith Metz, communications specialist with Arkansas Department of Human Services' Department of Children and Family Services for a high-level look at the steps involved to prepare for this important vocation. The first step is to complete an application called a DCFS Foster Family Home Inquiry, available on the website fosterarkansas. org/AdoptArkansas.aspx under the FAQ menu. This form gathers basic information about the applicant as well as preferences on the type of child or children they are interested in adopting. DHS will notify the applicant when the Home Inquiry has been received, and that the required background checks have been initiated. Once these requirements are satisfactorily met, applicants are encouraged to attend an informational meeting in their area. These meetings, held frequently at churches, community centers and DHS offices statewide, give a more in-depth look at the process of adoption and the expectations and demands this action requires. If an applicant is still interested, a home walk-through is conducted. This cursory inspection looks for the basic requirements of sufficient space and general safety of the applicant's home. Applicants must complete Parent Resources for Information, Development and Education (PRIDE) training to be approved for adoption. The two options for completing this training is through DHS, which can take up to eight weeks, or through the CALL, a Christian-based Arkansas organization dedicated to increasing foster and adoptive families. The CALL's coursework is identical to DHS', but is conducted over two intensive weekends of instruction.
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Upon completion of PRIDE training, DCFS completes a more thorough home inspection, which may indicate necessary home modifications such as handrails, fire escape plan or other elements. The last qualifying step of the process is a final walk-through, upon completion of which the family is eligible to welcome a child into their home.
QUICK ADOPTION FACTS
• Marital and family status does not affect one's eligibility to adopt; single individuals as well as married applicants are considered for adopting children. It's also not a disqualifier to already have children in the home, either biological or adopted. • The greatest need for adoptive homes are for teenagers, for sibling groups or for children with special needs. • The process of becoming an open adoptive home can be lengthy. Completing all training, background checks and home inspections take at least six months. And that's just getting approved—it can take equally as long or longer to match a family with the right child. • Once a child is placed, there is a mandatory sixmonth period before the adoption can be finalized, during which time DHS performs a series of in-home visits, both planned and unannounced. • For more information, please visit fosterarkansas.org or thecallinarkansas.org.
Whether you're considering adoption or not, "The Call" offers a nuanced and unflinching look into the complicated and prickly nature of domestic and international adoption. BY AMY GORDY
he Arkansas Repertory Theatre bravely tackles the sensitive topic of adoption in playwright and screenwriter Tanya Barfield's "The Call," which runs through Feb. 11 on the Main Stage. The story offers an insightful look into the lives of lead characters Peter and Annie, a white, heterosexual couple who have moved past years of battling infertility issues and gained a new, hopeful desire to adopt a baby from Africa. The story is told with only five characters. The couple's best friends Rebecca and Drea, a lesbian African-American couple, gently question their motivations behind adopting transraciallyâ€”causing them to dig deeper into their intentionsâ€” while providing plenty of tension-breaking, lighthearted jabs that bring up questions like who will do the child's hair. The fifth character, Alemu, is Peter and Annie's new African neighbor who is delighted to hear the couple will be bringing home a child from his homeland. Alemu introduces the element of our global responsibility to help the children of Africa, adding to the intense pressure Annie feels to go
through with the adoption when she gets news that makes her second guess her commitment. "Tanya Barfield has a unique perspective on this story as a biracial woman who was adopted and identifies as gay," said John Miller-Stephany, producing artistic director at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre. "Actually, we discovered that three of the five actors in the production and two staff members were also adopted. It's a story that's touched many lives in this production, and we are reaching out to those in the adoption community in the hopes of encouraging conversation, and who knows, there may even be a real possibility to inspire people to give a child a home," he said. What's refreshing about "The Call" are the intimate glimpses you get into the lives of a couple going through the emotional rollercoaster of adoption. The elated moment when you get "the call" you've been waiting for from the agency, devastating moments when things don't go as planned, and the mixed bag of feelings of self-doubt, insecurity, pure joy and knowing in your heart when it's right.
THESAVVYMOMS.COM | FEBRUARY 2018
HOW TO HAVE A ‘GOOD’ DIVORCE
Parting ways and dissolving a marriage can be one of the biggest obstacles—not only in the lives of the divorcing parents, but for the children affected as well. From dividing up assets, to determining custody, re-entering the workforce and learning to co-parent, there are many hills to climb and everyone needs to get to the top. BY DWAIN HEBDA
n the nearly 50 years that Little Rock attorney Judson Kidd has been in practice, he's seen a little bit of everything in the divorce arena, including those rarest of outcomes—a happy divorce. "It doesn’t happen a lot, but yeah," said Kidd, partner with Dodds, Kidd, Ryan & Rowan. "'Happy' may be a little bit over the top, but I see folks go through a divorce without coming out of it hating each other [and] the easier you can make the split, the better the kids are going to do." On the surface, divorce is pretty straightforward—dissolve a marriage and divide assets—but anyone who has ever been through it knows it’s much more complicated than that, particularly when emotions take over. "Some [clients] come in with an attitude that I want to do this, I want to take him for everything he’s got, I want to embarrass him, I want to file on our anniversary," Kidd said. "I explain to them, you’re going to be dealing with your ex-spouse as long as your kids are alive. Divorce is not the end of the road; you’ve still got parenting decisions to make together." For this reason, Kidd encourages clients to continue to communicate throughout the process. The fact that you don't like your soon-to-be ex is all the more reason to heed this advice.
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PUT THE KIDS FIRST
"I know some young lawyers, and even some older ones, tell their clients, ‘Never talk to your spouse during litigation during a divorce.’ I totally disagree with that," he said. "They’ve got to learn to communicate at some point." "If you take the position we’re only going to talk through lawyers all it does is delay the process, make it twice as expensive, alienate the parties and puts a communication barrier between them that makes the whole process that much tougher." Sidney Stewart, attorney with Taylor Law Firm of Little Rock, said some of the biggest hurdles dealing with divorce come after the order is finalized, such as re-entering the workplace. "From a financial aspect, the majority of the time it is the woman who struggles to get back on her feet," she said. "Often, women have put their careers on hold to stay home and raise their children. This puts them at a severe disadvantage when trying to reenter the workforce after being out of it for so many years." "The good news is, these types of women typically qualify for some form of spousal support to help them financially until they can get back in the workforce and build their career." This ongoing financial support is often how animosity lingers after a divorce, but Stewart said there are many misconceptions about how child support works. "I think there are some unfair and unfounded fears that child support will unreasonably burden the noncustodial parent," she said. "Many people believe that they will be punished with more child support because of actions during the marriage, such as infidelity. I think it is important for parents going through a divorce to know that child support is set by the Arkansas Child Support Guidelines." "It is true judges can award different amounts, but the Order must explicitly explain why that judge is deviating from the child support chart." Of course, the biggest consideration in any divorce is not only how children are provided for, but how well they process what's happening between their parents. "Divorce takes away their normalcy," said Katie Walker, licensed clinical social worker with Chenal Family Therapy. "It takes away foundation, it takes away consistency and it just completely throws off what their normalization is of the family." Walker said people don't stay married "for the kids" anymore; in fact, the thinking nowadays is divorce is the means by which children gain healthier parents. But that doesn't absolve adults from appreciating the enormous toll and potential negative effect the situation holds for their children. "Depending on what type of divorce it is and how well the parents communicate, [divorce] can be as significant as a death [to a child]. I mean, it can be that bad," Walker said. "With a death, you actually have time to grieve and move on. Divorce is in a consistent state of grief until the family realizes how to effectively do it, which can be years."
Divorce is no fun for anyone, but it's especially hard on kids. Here are some cardinal rules for helping them through it, provided by Katie Walker of Chenal Family Therapy.
Kids Aren't Trophies Don't treat custody as a competition for children's love, or used it to "punish" the other side. You're only taking the strife of the marriage and prolonging it post-divorce. Learn to Co-parent This fast-growing new trend in family counseling develops specific skills and new ways to communicate with your ex on matters of great importance to your child's development. Watch the Nonverbals It's long been established to not bad-mouth your ex in front of the kids, but what are your body language or facial expressions saying? Kids "hear" that eyeroll as clearly as the words coming out of your mouth. Keep to the Plan If it's your weekend, don't cancel. If the agreed upon rules include eight o'clock bedtime, stick to it. Consistency is the key ingredient for happier, better adjusted children. Let Kids Process Emotions Many kids go through a “honeymoon" phase right after divorce, but don't be fooled. Even in the best, most amicable of splits, kids will mourn the loss of the family unit. Anger, depression or acting out are not uncommon, so pay attention to help them sort through their feelings.
THESAVVYMOMS.COM | FEBRUARY 2018
What is Mediation?
Coming to an agreement without the drama of a court battle may be ideal for some divorcing couples. Attorneys at Dodds, Kidd, Ryan & Rowan walk us through the pros and cons of mediation.
hen most people think of divorce, they think of a tense courtroom setting and two aggressive attorneys hammering away at the character of the other party in an attempt to land their client the largest slice of the post-marital pie. And while some of that is merely the stuff of Hollywood, there's no debate that divorce court can be a stressful, win-at-all-costs environment for the parties involved. "As a young lawyer, you want to win the case, period," said Judson Kidd, partner with Dodds, Kidd, Ryan & Rowan. "The older you get, you realize not only are you trying to win your case, but you’re trying to sever this relationship without these people hating each other because that hate’s going to bleed over onto their kids." For this reason, many clients today are benefitting from a tactic called mediation, a cheaper, faster and generally, less acrimonious tactic than slugging it out in the courtroom. "Mediation is really big in Arkansas now," Kidd said. "It probably started 15 or 20 years ago and was not well-received at all by the trial lawyers. But as it’s gone on it’s now very well received. We mediate probably 50 percent of our divorces now." Contrary to what the name implies, mediation has nothing to do with trying to reconcile the divorcing parties. Instead, it involves an independent third party to help couples, represented by counsel, work through the details of the divorce from financial matters to custody issues. According to the American Bar Association website, mediation is considered a highly desirable alternative to the courtroom for several reasons. One, it costs between 40 and 60 percent less and two, it's easier on the children than being in the middle of a courtroom drama. "Sometimes parties are really open and sometimes it opens the eyes of lawyers," said Lucas Rowan, another partner at Dodds, Kidd, Ryan & Rowan and the firm's mediator. "Sometimes it’s just reaffirming; their lawyer may have told them something 10 times, but when another person comes in it’s like a second opinion from a doctor." During the course of mediating a divorce case, Rowan wears several hats, including acting as a filter between the parties and
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leveraging his knowledge of a given judge's tendencies to align settlements accordingly. But his most potent asset is impartiality, which lends weight to his suggestions. "It's really valuable for the client to hear it from someone they see as an expert," Kidd said. "It's one thing to hear me say, 'You ought to settle this case,' but when they hear a mediator who’s been a circuit judge for 25 or 30 years and who’s presided over divorces say, 'You need to listen to Mr. Kidd. What he’s telling you is good advice and you need to take it,' it helps them get over the hump." Of course, mediation works best when the divorcing parties can be civil and rational in these talks, but even when things get tense the skill of the mediator can be the thing that keeps negotiations on track. "Sometimes when we have parties in separate rooms you are that big filter," Rowan said. "Someone may say, 'I’ll offer him $5,000 for the car.' Then she’ll add in all this stuff that’s just hateful or whatever that may turn off the other party. As a mediator going between the two you just leave it the $5,000 and cut out all the hateful stuff. It’s received a lot better." "I was in [a mediation] last week where no way my guy was going to pay alimony," Kidd said. "But the wife had to have something extra to make this case settle and we ended up giving up something else. It wasn’t called alimony but it was a financial reward and it was a theory that the mediator came up with that my client embraced." Of course, no strategy is perfect and there are divorce situations where mediation is not recommended, such as cases of spousal abuse. But as divorce becomes generally more complicated and includes more assets than they once did, Kidd predicts mediation will continue to grow in popularity as a viable alternative to court. "There are more assets involved now, a whole lot more paperwork, discovery process, expert witnesses. When I was a young lawyer the basic divorce file was an inch thick. Now I may have seven banker's boxes," he said. "You take two good lawyers and a good family law mediator and we will settle maybe 80 percent of those cases without ever going to court."
JUDSON C. KIDD
CATHERINE A. RYAN
LUCAS Z. ROWAN
DAVID W. PARKER
313 West Second Street Little Rock, AR 72201 Toll Free: 877-885-8839 Phone: 501-386-9508 dkrfirm.com THESAVVYMOMS.COM | FEBRUARY 2018
I PICK UP FRESH FLOWERS (I LOVE ROSES, TULIPS AND PEONIES) WEEKLY FOR THE HOUSE. IT’S SOMETHING I DID BEFORE BECOMING A MOM, BUT IT’S EVEN MORE OF A NECESSITY NOW. THEY HELP BALANCE OUT THE TOYS AND BOARD BOOKS TAKING OVER OUR HOUSE.
MY VINTAGE SILVER CARD CASE IS WITHOUT A DOUBT ONE OF MY FAVORITE THINGS. MY MOM GAVE IT TO ME ABOUT 20 YEARS AGO, AND I USE IT TO CARRY MY DEBIT CARD AND LICENSE. I ALWAYS GET TONS OF COMPLIMENTS WHEN I’M PAYING FOR ITEMS. I HAVEN’T REALLY FOUND ANOTHER LIKE IT.
JoBeth McElhanon MS, RDN, is wife to Phillip and mom to their toddler, Harrison, and rescued cockalier, Ollie. She is a registered dietitian-turned-nonprofiteur who currently wears multiple hats as director of prevention services and director of marketing for Centers for Youth and Families. She finds joy in creatively inspiring others to eat well, live beautifully and lead graciously.
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WE TOOK A TRIP TO SAN YSIDRO RANCH YEARS AGO AND THEY HAD THE SOFTEST BLANKETS ON THE BEDS. I BOUGHT ONE AT BELLA BOUTIQUE IN THE HEIGHTS WHEN WE RETURNED HOME. I THINK MY HUSBAND GREW TIRED OF SEEING ME WRAPPED IN IT WALKING AROUND THE HOUSE, AND HE GAVE ME A BAREFOOT DREAMS ROBE LAST CHRISTMAS. IT IS SO HEAVENLY SOFT.
ALTHOUGH I DON’T PRACTICE NUTRITION IN A CLINICAL SETTING ANYMORE, WE TRY TO LIVE A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE. I ENJOY DISCOVERING NEW FOODS AND KALOT FRUIT AND ALMOND BUTTER WITH CINNAMON, BLUEBERRIES AND WALNUTS IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE NEW FINDS.
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