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Showing posts from 2020

BR Parents: Exceptional Lives - Teamwork Makes the Dream Work: Advocacy Leads to Unique Preschool Launch

Katrina Rivers Labouliere doesn’t feel like her life is particularly exceptional despite her years of advocacy work with the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing community. “I just feel like I am a catalyst for creating programs and making things happen and pulling together a team,” she says. “Team Blue, my team, they deserve the credit. They work tirelessly and trust every idea I come up with. I have an amazing team of passionate people.”Labouliere’s team is expanding in the Baton Rouge area with the creation of Blue Bridge Academy, a language immersion daycare and preschool for American Sign Language (ASL) and English that is scheduled to open later this year.The idea for the school was planted long ago. The oldest child of two Deaf parents, Labouliere’s first language is ASL, and she studied communication disorders in college. “Early on in my career, working in education I saw the disparities of children with disabilities, but my main focus was children with hearing loss,” Laboulie…

BR Parents: One Amazing Kid - Maddie Wilson

Turning 14 this month, Maddie Wilson already has experience as an attorney through Teen Court of Greater Baton Rouge. The diversion program helps teen offenders stay out of the judicial system and lower rates of recidivism. Starting ninth grade at St. Joseph’s Academy, Maddie has been part of Teen Court since fifth grade and was the youngest volunteer attorney.“I prepare a line of questioning, get to know the defendant and work to get them a constructive sentence that will keep them on the right track,” Maddie says. A licensed attorney serves as the judge, and a jury of teens makes each ruling. Maddie volunteers for other causes, including weekly service at an assisted living facility as well as hair donations, food drives and toy drives. She has also received many academic honors. “She’s never made a B in her life,” says Gina Wilson, Maddie’s mom. Maddie was recognized by the Duke TIP program and has received writing awards.As a St. George eighth grader, Maddie was a fina…

BR Parents: August 2020

As Education and Community sections editor, I wrote pages 16-23 and page 28 of the August 2020 issue of Baton Rouge Parents magazine. See the web layout on the magazine's website.

BR Parents Blog: Have You Had a COVID Test Yet?

The meme about Schrodinger’s virus speaks to me. We don’t know if we have COVID-19 at any given time, but we have to act as if we do while interacting with others to keep them safe. And we have to act as if we don’t have COVID-19 to remember to take steps to mitigate our own risk of becoming infected. Without robust testing, it doesn’t seem like we can ever get the virus under control. Our area has seen such spikes that Baton Rouge was chosen as a site for federal surge testing for a couple weeks. And I took advantage of the site nearest to me and was tested last week.My reasoning for getting tested was partly that it felt like the right thing to do. (And I’m a sucker for free stuff, let me tell you!) But the more pressing desire to be tested was a possible exposure.
Read the rest on Baton Rouge Parents Magazine's website.

BR Parents: Exceptional Lives - Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: The Long Road to COVID-19 Recovery

After the birth of her second daughter, Gracie, on April 2, Stephanie Melancon had two days at home with her family of four before their lives turned upside down.“Stephanie started feeling bad, and by that evening, she could hardly walk. She had a 104.8 fever,” says Mike Melancon, Stephanie’s husband. At the direction of her doctor, Mike rushed Stephanie back to Woman’s Hospital.Stephanie was initially diagnosed with viral pneumonia and a few days later tested positive for COVID-19. She ended up spending 52 days at Woman’s, experiencing a number of setbacks during her recovery, including a cardiac arrest and about six weeks on a ventilator. A tracheostomy was performed to help wean her off the ventilator, and Stephanie received a passy muir valve to allow her to speak. She was kept in a medically induced coma for much of her stay at Woman’s and experiences short-term memory loss from the sedation.“It was pretty bad for a while,” Mike says. “Every day she would point to he…

BR Parents: One Amazing Kid - Rylan Carruth

Everyone needs clean water, but not all of us think about what it takes to have that access. Rylan Carruth, 12, does, and he’s active in sharing ways to get involved and ensure Baton Rouge’s drinking water stays as great as it is.When he first learned about the Louisiana Environmental Action Network and the Save Our Water campaign, he took action and got involved. His advocacy has led him to speak with Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome and her Youth Advisory Council, present at a meeting of the Metro Council, and meet with Robert Kennedy as part of Riverkeepers Alliance.“I don’t consider myself an activist,” Rylan says. “I think we should have clean air and water, and I think corporations should be good neighbors.” Along with older brothers Liam and Adam, Rylan says their environmentally conscious family has always reduced, reused and recycled as much as possible.A seventh grader at University Laboratory School, Rylan is applying his mindset to improving his school. “T…

BR Parents: July 2020

As Education and Community sections editor, I wrote pages 16-23 and page 26 of the July 2020 issue of Baton Rouge Parents magazine. See the web layout on the magazine's website.

BR Parents Blog: A Summer Without Bug Bites or Sunburn? Adventures in Virtual Camping

We may be “over” coronavirus, but it’s clear this pandemic is not over for us. Summer has looked a lot different for our family, and we’re certainly living a smaller life.I wouldn’t have called us an on-the-go, big-life family necessarily, but in hindsight, we definitely were! Last summer, my now-eight-year-old attended her first sleepaway camp with the Girl Scouts. We took a trip to the beach with my in-laws. Other day camps and church events were consistently on our calendar last year. Regular trips to the library for summer reading activities and overflowing bags of checked-out books have been features of every summer of my girls’ childhoods.Until now.Read the rest on Baton Rouge Parents magazine's website.

BR Parents Blog: Does Anyone Else Feel Extremely Not OK?

I haven’t been able to write a post for this blog in more than a month. I could blame being busy–I have taken on a temporarily bigger volunteer role with my church (ask me about video editing or live streaming!)–but that’s not it, or at least not entirely. Writing is normally my oxygen.  For blogging, I typically turn to my life and my daughters’ lives, but there’s much less to mine from life right now. Because of the pandemic, my family and I are living a much smaller life.
Read the rest on Baton Rouge Parents Magazine's website.

BR Parents - Exceptional Lives: Thriving Theater Passion Follows Hearing Loss Recovery Journey

For 21-year-old Grace Graugnard, hearing limitations never registered when she was a child, even though she wore hearing aids and eventually received cochlear implants.“I knew I was different and had to do some things differently,” she says. One of those things was taking speech therapy instead of P.E. “As a kid, I wanted to play dodgeball and not go sit in the classroom.” The time spent in speech therapy paid off for Grace, who majors in theater and international relations at Tulane University and applies those lessons to learning new accents for roles.

Grace remembers noticing her hearing limitations when she was listening to the High School Musical soundtrack as her mom tried to explain the difference between harmony and melody. Grace just couldn’t hear the notes. “I think that’s where I was like, OK, something’s up.”Read the rest on Baton Rouge Parents magazine's website.


BR Parents: One Amazing Kid - A.B. Perk

A.B. Perk knows how to make a garden grow and prepare delicious food from its produce. A.B., which is short for Annabella, is a sixth grader at St. Jude the Apostle School.Dyslexia and dysgraphia make reading and speech difficult for A.B., but she has always been able to use cooking utensils with ease. “She started cooking when she was young as a way to practice those fine motor skills without her realizing she was practicing,” says Michelle Perk, A.B.’s mom.
Read the rest on Baton Rouge Parents magazine website.

BR Parents: June 2020

As Education and Community sections editor, I wrote pages 16-23 and page 26 of the June 2020 issue of Baton Rouge Parents magazine. See the web layout on the magazine's website.

BR Parents Blog: My Dream Role: Being the “Yes” Mom

Once upon a time, in a life not so long ago, I got a chance to play the role of a lifetime: the “yes” Mom.In my normal life, I find myself saying “no” or some variation to my girls a lot. “Not right now,” or “We can talk about it later,” or “Let me finish this email (or blog post!)” or my favorite, “Ask your grandparents for that giant, expensive present you want.” Basically, there are many ways to say no even though I would certainly prefer to give them everything their hearts desire exactly when they want it!Read the rest on Baton Rouge Parents magazine's website.

BR Parents Blog: Pandemic Perfect on Paper But a Mess in Real Life

“Does your house always look like this? Like, so messy?”My daughter’s friend asked innocently enough. I’ve pondered this question in the months since it was asked during that one-and-only sleepover we hosted. I was knee-jerk offended in the moment, of course, especially because the mess at hand was from the girls pulling out loads of toys to play with. But the more I sat with the question, I realized part of what she meant was: “Do you always keep toys out and easily accessible?” And the answer is yes, we do, and our house does always look like this: messy and overflowing with kid ephemera! That isn’t to say I don’t make an effort to corral the mess; I just know my family’s limitations and lifestyle.
Read the rest on Baton Rouge Parents magazine's website.

BR Parents - Exceptional Lives: Finding Strength in Family and Fundraising to Help Others

Looking at Maddee Helaire, you wouldn’t know anything is wrong. Although her struggle isn’t apparent, the 12 year old has been through a lot, starting in infancy.

The Helaire family didn’t have any time to prepare for the medical issues Maddee would face. Her mom, Tongé Helaire, had a normal, full-term pregnancy, but once Maddee was born, no one was sure what was going on.

Read the rest on the Baton Rouge Parents magazine website.

BR Parents - One Amazing Kid: Matthew Bui

Matthew Bui can solve a Rubik’s Cube in 40 seconds, although his best time ever is 17 seconds. His older cousin taught him just last year, so Matthew’s progress on solving the 3-D puzzle is dazzling.

“It took me awhile, like two hours sitting with him to learn,” Matthew says. “I still solve it today because I find it to be a good hobby and a good way to pass the time.”

Read the rest on the Baton Rouge Parents magazine website.

BR Parents: May 2020

As Education and Community sections editor, I wrote pages 16-23 and page 26 of the May 2020 issue of Baton Rouge Parents magazine. See the web layout on the magazine's website.

BR Parents Blog - A Love Letter to Baton Rouge: All the Things We Miss

As my family begins its seventh week of isolation, home-centeredness, physical distancing, lockdown or whatever you want to call it, we’re all feeling itchy, missing the things we love most. Beyond missing physically seeing our family and friends, of course we miss going to school and regular activities like birthday parties, gymnastics, swim lessons and soccer, and generally having a routine that includes other people. (Also: Target, oh Target.) Many things we miss most are only available here in the greater Baton Rouge area. I’m not a native, but my husband and I are coming up on a decade living here. My kids, who are native Louisianans, helped me compile this list, and I’m sure you can think of many, many more. We’d love to read them in the comments and miss them together!

Read the rest on the Baton Rouge Parents magazine website.

BR Parents Blog - Into The Fire: Social Media at Eight?!

I never thought I'd see the day when I'd let my eight year old have access to any form of social media. But I never thought I'd see a global pandemic that keeps us away from our normal lives, so my parenting priorities have understandably shifted. I'm sure yours have, too.

We dipped our toes in with Google Classroom with her school, the Meet video chats extended after the actual lesson for general socialization. Zoom meetings for church small groups and Google Hangouts with her good church friend she misses so much quickly followed. (We learned to try Mad Libs as an undercover learning opportunity!) We used the Google Chrome extension Netflix Party to watch a movie with her Girl Scout troop, and the girls chatted with text on the same screen.

Read the rest on the Baton Rouge Parents magazine website.

BR Parents Blog - A Home-Centered Birthday: A Fourth Trip Around the Sun

A year ago, I was writing about our play date style birthday party for our younger daughter. This year, she turned four without a party, but as a family of four, we did celebrate her with everything we could muster.

We are not alone celebrating a birthday during this time of physical distancing to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Amy wrote about how their family celebrated 12-year-old Kylee’s birthday. I’m hoping my four-year-old’s concept of time is pliable enough that this delay in a “real” celebration for her birthday won’t cause lasting memories or at least no trauma.

Read the rest on Baton Rouge Parents magazine's website.

BR Parents: Exceptional Lives - Perfect Match Kidney Transplant Makes Dream Come True

The summer before going to college, Ali Hooks began noticing something was wrong. After her move from Opelousas to Lubbock to attend Texas Tech, she sought medical help for the first time in her young, healthy life.

“I saw a couple doctors and none of them could really diagnose me with what was happening,” says Ali, now 20. As a first-generation college student, Ali was told she was experiencing anxiety and nerves, and later, doctors thought she had a stomach ulcer. But she continued to feel worse, and on October 5, 2018, she walked into the emergency room unable to breathe. Further testing revealed end-stage renal disease, and Ali was immediately rushed into an emergency surgery.

Read the rest on the Baton Rouge Parents magazine website.

BR Parents: Pathways to Parenting - Allergic Asthma

Runny nose and red eyes that come on every time the pollen blows are typical allergy symptoms many of us deal with this time of year. But when the lungs are involved, an allergic response can include asthma.

“In general, an allergy is where the immune system is over-reacting to something in the environment,” says Joseph N. Redhead, Jr., MD, physician at the Baton Rouge Clinic specializing in allergy, asthma and immunology. Typical triggers include pollen, dust mites, mold, cockroaches and pet dander.

Read the rest on the Baton Rouge Parents magazine website.

BR Parents: April 2020

As Education and Community sections editor, I wrote pages 16-24 and page 30 of the April 2020 issue of Baton Rouge Parents magazine.

See the web layout on the magazine's website.

BR Parents Blog: Brainstorming Boredom Busters While Stuck at Home

I love a good challenge, but at least four weeks (eight weeks?) at home with my girls, ages 8 and almost-4, may be my biggest mama challenge to date. I am committed to doing our part for public health and staying home as much as we possibly can. I am so fortunate to be able to do so as a work-from-home mom (let’s see how much work I can actually get done though, sorry to my editor!).

We have a backyard and live in a walkable neighborhood (as long as we don’t get close to other people bike rides especially should be doable), but most of our time will be spent inside our house to avoid becoming sick or spreading the novel coronavirus to others. Lives are at stake, so it’s almost like we’re superheroes! Challenge accepted.

Read the rest on the Baton Rouge Parents magazine website.

BR Parents Blog: A Pox on Our House: Quarantine Dreaming

I can’t be the only one who, when first hearing about the coronavirus COVID-19 thought a two week quarantine wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. As an overextended mom and introvert, putting pause on my life to stay home for a while is the stuff of dreams.

But as the virus has spread and scary news coverage has continued, I’ve changed my tune and realized it might be more of a nightmare. Our family has actually had a couple weeks of actual non-coronavirus illness hit our house. Being stuck at home is not as shiny as it seemed to me at first glance. (Although, it surely wouldn’t be better if we were all healthy.)

Read the rest on Baton Rouge Parents magazine's website.

BR Parents Blog: Silver Lining to a Scary Situation: My Daughter Was Lost, But We Both Found Friends

Life is a balancing act, and I find that especially true with my roles as mother and writer. Last December, I was on deadline, finishing up some briefs for the Community section of Baton Rouge Parents Magazine. One of the briefs I’d just finished was about a Pennington Biomedical Research Center study on reasons why mothers don’t let their children play outside enough. Writing it inclined me to let my eight year old stretch her wings.

When she asked if she could ride her bike around the block, I hesitated just briefly before assenting. The procedure for “riding around the block” at our house is to make one loop around the block in front, come back to check in, repeat. Unfortunately, she did not stick to the around-the-block plan.

Read the rest on the Baton Rouge Parents Magazine blog.

BR Parents: March 2020

As Education and Community sections editor, I wrote pages 16-26 and page 32 of the March 2020 issue of Baton Rouge Parents magazine.

See the web layout on the magazine's website.

BR Parents Pathways to Parenting: Pink Eye

Pink may be perfect, but when it comes to eyes, it’s never a color you want to see. Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is an inflammation of the lining of the eye’s white and eyelid, and it is common, especially among children. There are three main types: bacterial, viral and allergic, says Joshua Davidson OD, FAAO, FSLS, optometrist with Williamson Eye Center.

“Bacterial presents with a typical kind of crusty, matting of the eyelids. You tend to get this white yellow discharge,” Dr. Davidson says. Bacterial pink eye is an infection and would be treated with antibiotic eye drops. These take about 24 hours to get in the system and start working, and bacterial pink eye resolves between three and ten days. “As soon as symptoms appear, and as long as the eye is weeping, you’re contagious,” Dr. Davidson says.

Read the rest on the Baton Rouge Parents Magazine website.

BR Parents Exceptional Lives: Unlimited Independence Despite Physical Limitations

Not many kids receive bicycles as gifts from their school friends, but most don’t face the physical challenges Camilla “Cami” Rios does. She was recently surprised with a pink specially made adaptive bike.

A third grader at Seventh Ward Elementary School, Cami deals with many physical limitations.
When she was only two years old, a severe meningitis infection led to both her legs being amputated above the knees, and her left arm was amputated above the elbow. Her right upper arm was also damaged, and Cami also has a deviation in her hand and damaged fingers. Despite this, Cami has remained in high spirits.

“She’s always had the best attitude,” says Cheryl Cooner, Cami’s grandmother. “She takes everything in stride and never stops to feel sorry for herself.”

Cami, who will turn 10 in April, has prosthetic limbs that allow her to walk, and about six months ago, she graduated to prosthetic legs with knee joints to allow stair climbing and to provide a smoother stride.

R…

BR Parents One Amazing Kid: Niles Babin

Math and music are Niles Babin’s two main focuses. Niles, 16, began participating in math competitions in fourth grade and has been playing music for nearly a decade, starting with piano then tuba and guitar.

A sophomore at University Laboratory School, Niles earned second place at the National Beta Club Convention’s math competition last summer. “It was a lot of recall for me,” Niles says of the test that featured a lot of algebra and geometry.

Read the rest on the Baton Rouge Parents Magazine website.

BR Parents Blog: Gift Getting Made Easy? Including a Wish List on Birthday Invites

Happy birthday, baby! Another year has passed, and it’s time to mark the occasion with a party (or at least a cake). As the years add up, the parties may get more complex, adding school friends and others into the mix for invitation consideration. With extracurricular activities, the guest list can quickly get long, including those very much tangential to everyday life.

The last thing I need–and I’m guessing it’s true for you too–is more stuff, especially more toys. When a birthday comes on the heels of or just before a major gift-giving holiday, the urge to purge can be overwhelming, and the thought of an onslaught of additional toys feels like a burden rather than a gift.

Read the rest on the Baton Rouge Parents magazine website.

BR Parents: One Amazing Kid - Bella Jay Bickley

Bella Jay Bickley loves to stay busy. The 10-year-old fourth grader at Parkview Baptist School is an active volunteer, dancer and athlete in addition to keeping up with her academic pursuits.

“She loves to volunteer her time to help in the community, and that’s what makes her amazing to me,” says Brooke Bickley, Bella Jay’s mom. Bella Jay is a junior volunteer for the Bella Bowman Foundation, a local nonprofit supporting pediatric brain cancer patients, families and research. “She enjoys that more than anything in the whole world.”

Read the rest on the Baton Rouge Parents magazine website.

BR Parents: Pathways to Parenting - Dentophobia

From the whirring of drills to strange new smells and bright lights, the dentist office can provoke anxiety for anyone. Children especially may become anxious. Mild dislike can progress to dentophobia, or general fear of receiving dental care.

Research shows 5-8 percent of Americans refuse dental care because of fear, and up to 20 percent will only go to the dentist when necessary due to fear. Parents and dentists can help alleviate the fear for children. Erin Smith Piper, LCSW, a Baton Rouge therapist in private practice, says parents should trust their gut when managing anxiety. “No one knows your child better than you. You have to choose your path and the way that is best for your child and stick with that.”

Read the rest on the Baton Rouge Parents magazine website.

BR Parents: Exceptional Lives - Dishing Up Love While Waiting for a New Heart

As a heart patient, Hunter Chase Henry is unable to do many of the active things other kids take for granted. But he shines as a chef, perfecting recipes and going by “Uncle Hunter” in the kitchen. The name comes from his nephew, Dustin, and nieces, Emma and Claire, whom he calls “Big Bertha” to aggravate their mother, Kacy.

Uncle Hunter started cooking when he was a patient with Pediatric Cardiology Associates in Baton Rouge and his doctors put him on a low-sodium diet due to swelling. “What I did to make food kind of taste better was get a bottle of Tabasco and put it on peanut butter and jelly,” he says. He continues to experiment with spices and flavors to make tasty foods that work for his dietary restrictions.

Read the rest on the Baton Rouge Parents magazine website.

BR Parents: February 2020

As Education and Community sections editor, I wrote pages 16-26 and page 32 of the February 2020 issue of Baton Rouge Parents magazine.

See the web layout on the magazine's website.

BR Parents Blog: Mardi Gras Grinch

Can you imagine living in south Louisiana and not being enamored by Mardi Gras? The parades! The floats! The throws! The bands! The galas! The king cake!

That imagination is my reality, as someone with a low tolerance for crowds, lack of facilities access and not knowing what to expect or where to park. This year marks my tenth Mardi Gras season, and my lack of enthusiasm has slowly built up since that first year, mostly because of my parade experiences.

Read the rest on the Baton Rouge Parents magazine website.

BR Parents Blog: Mama, Get in the Photos

While looking for photos for a blog post about remote work with a baby, I realized how few photos I have of myself with my daughters, especially when they were babies. As a technology holdout, I didn’t have a smartphone when my oldest was born in 2011. So, selfies weren’t as easy as they are now.

My very best baby purchase was my Canon DSLR, which is still going strong. I used it every day for years to capture both daughters’ early lives. We still use it now, although with our cell phones, we now have a decent camera in our hands most of the time and those have taken over as the most frequently used way we capture memories. The best camera is the one you have with you, the old saying goes.

Read the rest on the Baton Rouge Parents magazine website.

BR Parents Blog: Be It Resolved: 2020 Parenting Resolutions

January is here once again, and after the excess of the holiday season, the start of a new calendar feels like a good time for a clean start. (It also seems like a good time to buy some new toy storage solutions, but that’s probably another post!) Although time is arbitrary, the annual ritual of refreshing our lives in big ways or small can provide meaning.

As a work-from-home mom, my life is very much oriented around my family. My constant wish is to “be a better parent.” I strive for that year-round of course, but I continually fall short. And that’s an audacious and ambiguous resolution. Perhaps in 2020 I can take some steps to be a more mindful, present parent, or at the very least yell less… Here are some ideas for what that might look like for me:

Read the rest on the Baton Rouge Parents Magazine website.

BR Parents: One Amazing Kid Alvin Murphy III

When nine-year-old Alvin L. Murphy, III, wrote a research paper about Henry Ford, he didn’t know where it would lead him. Kerri T.S. Overstreet, guidance counselor at Westdale Heights Academic Magnet School, where Alvin is a fourth grader, nominated him for the National Youth Leadership Forum: Pathways to STEM. The Envision program introduces elementary students to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Alvin’s parents, Valecia Murphy and Alvin Murphy, Jr., didn’t know about the nomination until Alvin’s acceptance came in the mail. Alvin traveled to the University of Houston and spent a week participating in hands-on workshops and simulations in medicine, engineering and crime scene investigation.

Read the rest on the Baton Rouge Parents magazine website.

BR Parents: January 2020

As Community and Education sections editor, I wrote pages 16 to 25 of the January 2020 issue of Baton Rouge Parents Magazine. See the web layout on the magazine's website.

I also wrote Pathways to Parenting: PANDAS Syndrome and Exceptional Lives: Dancing Through Life Despite Diagnosis

BR Parents Exceptional Lives: Dancing Through Life Despite Diagnosis

The day after Kelli Guillory was born, she stopped breathing twice. The code blues were terrifying experiences for her mother, Jennifer Guillory. But the medical professionals weren’t sure why baby Kelli was having trouble.

It wasn’t until Kelli was out of intensive care and following up with their pediatrician that Jennifer finally heard of very-long-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency (VLCAD, pronounced V-L cad), the condition with which Kelli, who turns 11 this month, is living.

Because of the rare genetically inherited disease, Kelli’s body is unable to break down certain fats. “For us, our food sticks to us and turns to energy,” Jennifer says. “For her, it doesn’t. It burns right through her.” So Kelli must stick to a strict high carb diet with less than 20 percent of fats per day. A fourth grader at Parkview Elementary, she has extra snacks built into her days at school, and any time she’s more active, she must also eat more.

Read the rest on the Baton Rouge …