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Fit Families Challenge: Meet the Nippers and Follow their Healthy Journey

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Editor's Note: Over the next six weeks, we're following along with the Nipper family as they take the Fit Families Challenge from Special Olympics Arkansas. The program is designed for individuals with special needs and their families, and encourages physical activity and healthy eating for the whole family. Read more about the free program here, and look for more installments from the Nipper family on our blog in the coming weeks.

"Ready, Set, Go" yells my wound-up 3-year-old as he races through the living room, dining room, kitchen and loops back around to the living room. He repeats this over and over and over again until our applause is clearly lacking as much enthusiasm as it had in the beginning. He stops to "stretch" and I can’t help but laugh and be amazed by how much he has picked up from tagging along to cross country practice with me every day.

My name is Christy Nipper and I am the head Cross Country coach at Little Rock Christian Academy and the mom of two sweet little ones -- Miles (3 years) and Molly (9 months). My husband, Luke Nipper, is the coordinator for 4-H ExCEL, a team-building and leadership program at the 4-H Center. We are both thankful to have jobs that keep us active and hope that our children will continue to be influenced by the exposure to physical activity.

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My son Miles began his career as my assistant coach at 2 weeks old. Nestled in a front carrier, he tagged along for the team’s second meet of the season…and he has been a huge part of the team ever since. It is so fun to see him try to imitate the runners as they warm up, do drills and run striders. When the workout starts, he changes gears and begins "coaching." He will imitate me by looking at his wrist and pretending to yell out times as the runners pass or cup his hands around his mouth to yell directions. I’m pretty sure Miles thinks he has 55 brothers and sisters as each member of the team will play with him, correct him, chase him, and include him in everything. The 7-12th grade students that run on our cross country teams are so supportive and inclusive of Miles and that means more than they will probably ever realize.

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When I was 16 weeks pregnant, I received a phone call from my doctor informing me of some "abnormal" test results. The next two weeks were a blur as we visited specialists and eventually learned our son would have Down syndrome. At the time, it was a very scary diagnosis as I knew very little about Down syndrome and had never really been around anyone with Down syndrome. In those early days all people tell you about is the potential health problems, the cognitive delays, and how much longer it will take your child to accomplish tasks such as crawling, walking, and talking. 

After three years I can honestly say that Down syndrome really is not the scary, hard journey we were warned about. In our experience, the journey has been filled with laughter, joy and some really fun dance parties. Sure, Miles receives 8 hours of therapy a week (PT, OT and Speech) and he does have to work a lot harder to reach some developmental milestones, but that makes the success that much sweeter! I remember and appreciate milestones many people probably do not even notice.

When we found out Miles would have Down syndrome, my biggest fear was how others would treat him. Watching the students on my team interact with Miles each day is a constant reassurance that he will be loved and accepted. The fact that Miles loves to be at practice reassures me that Miles will enjoy being active even with the extra challenges he experiences due to that extra chromosome.

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Miles has low muscle tone and a slower metabolism, which makes being active and eating well extremely important. When the fabulous staff at Miles’ school, Access, told us about the Fit Family program through Special Olympics, we were really excited to sign up! We want to start out teaching Miles and Molly the importance of being active, eating well and leading a healthy lifestyle.

The challenge comes with our busy schedules. By the time we get home from work, the kids are hungry and anxious for dinner, and then it seems like we only have about an hour before we have to begin getting them ready for bed. We are going to dedicate these next six weeks to really trying to find fun ways to fit in exercise. Follow us over the next six weeks as we strive to find fun ways to encourage exercise, target therapy goals, and make healthy eating choices!

How to Safely Include Pets in Halloween Festivities

Image by Shutterstock

Including pets in your family's Halloween festivities can be a fun, but with all the excitement comes the chance for pets to get into danger or trouble.

Keeping your pet away from candy and other Halloween treats is especially important because so many favorites include chocolate, which is potentially toxic for dogs. It's also an ideal time to practice obedience commands with your four-legged friends, as crowds of unfamiliar people, costumes and lots of open doors can create temptations too hard to resist.

To include your furry family members while still keeping them safe during the fun, follow this advice from the pet experts at PetSmart:

Trick-or-treating together

  • Before hitting the streets, make sure your dog is socialized around kids, adults and other animals.
  • Bring water and dog treats to reward your dog for good behavior and reduce the desire to go for kids' candy.
  • Increase nighttime visibility with LED leashes, collars or harnesses, or look for light-up Halloween outfits.

Paw-sitively good party manners

  • Before guests arrive, practice "leave it" or a similar command. This is useful to help pets avoid candy or food they might encounter on the ground. Trainers can help you get it down right.
  • Establish a rule that guests don't feed the dog -- candy or human food. Many ingredients commonly found in Halloween candy can be harmful to your pet. For example, xylitol, found in gum and candy can cause dangerously low blood sugar or liver disease in dogs. Chocolate can create a range of symptoms, from vomiting to abnormal heart rhythm to death. Even snacks that are healthy for humans, such as raisins can cause a toxic reaction. Instead, offer a new interactive toy or long-lasting rawhide to keep your pup busy and out of temptation's way.
  • Prevent your dog from running out an open door by working on a "stay" command. PetSmart's expert trainer Debbie McKnight explains how to teach this trick: Ask your dog to sit, and praise him when he obeys. While your dog is sitting, say "stay" and place your hand flat with your palm facing the dog. Wait 2-3 seconds then give your dog a treat. You can increase the time he stays by a couple of seconds every three repetitions, working up to 30 seconds.
  • If you aren't confident about your dog's abilities, keep him on a leash while the doorbell is ringing.

Costume comfort and safety

  • A costume should never constrain or bother your pet. If your pet isn't comfortable, try a strap-on costume that attaches loosely with snaps, or find other ways to look festive.
  • Once a costume fits properly, make sure your pet won't trip on anything like a cape or ribbon. Check for little parts within chewing distance and keep identification tags on collars.
  • Throughout the evening, watch your pet and make adjustments as needed. You may need to cut or remove portions of the costume to increase a pet's comfort. The most important part of the evening is your pet's safety.

For more tips on pet safety, as well as costumes and events, visit your local PetSmart or PetSmart.com/halloween.

Article courtesy of Family Features and Petsmart.

5 DIY Halloween Costume Ideas, Plus How To Save

Gallery by Savers

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Thrifty parents know where to go to find affordable Halloween costumes -- local thrift stores like Goodwill and Savers, where you can cobble together your own DIY costumes (see five ideas below) while sticking to your budget.

Not into DIY? Even the most craft-challenged will find options at some of these stores. For example, each Savers location has a costume consultant to help customers create unique get-ups. Plus, the Halloween section has new and used costumes, wigs, masks, makeup, jewelry and more. That's right: If you aren't feeling up to the costume challenge, you can still pick out a packaged costume at a lower price.

Now for the hard part: Helping your family choose who (or what!) they want to be for Halloween! Find several ideas, including mad scientist and Charlie Brown, in Goodwill's "Chamber of Costumes" here.

Plus, here are five DIY costume tutorials from Savers:

1. Elsa from Disney’s Frozen

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What You’ll Need:

  • Fancy or frilly blue dress, blue slippers or flats
  • A wand, cape, and blonde wig

How to Create the Look:

Stay within your budget by combining a base piece, such as a fun or fancy blue dress from your child's closet (or thrifting one). Pair the dress with accessories like a blonde wig, snowflake wand and shimmery cape to create an Elsa look.

2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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What You’ll Need:

  • Mix a solid color shirt or shorts in your favorite TMNT color—Raphael (red), Michelangelo (orange), Donatello (purple) or Leonardo (blue)— with black or green (shirts or shorts/tights) and black boots.
  • A TMNT backpack, nunchucks and matching bandana and/or socks. Other options include: gloves, matching sweat bands.

How to Create the Look:

It’s easy to put together a fun costume by mixing and matching solid color tops or bottoms in a mix of your favorite TMNT color, black and/or green. Don’t forget to accessorize with a TMNT backpack, nunchucks and a pizza box.

3. Katniss from The Hunger Games

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What You’ll Need:

  • Black long sleeve shirt, black pants, brown leather jacket, and boots
  • Bow and arrow set and brown wig long enough to braid

How to Create the Look:

This is an easy costume to put together. Many of the basic pieces can be found in your own closet, including black shirt and pants, and brown leather jacket and boots. Finish off the look with a bow and arrow set, and a long brown wig (if you need it).

4. Dracula

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What You’ll Need:

  • Black pants and red or black shirt
  • Patterned vest, Dracula cape, fangs, vampire makeup and Gothic jewelry

How to Create the Look:

Start with a button down red or black shirt, black slacks and dress shoes from your closet, and pair them with a patterned vest, Dracula cape and some Gothic jewelry from the Halloween section. Vampire fangs and makeup pull the whole look together.

5. Zombie Princess or Bride

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What You’ll Need:

  • Princess dress or fancy white dress
  • Princess crown or wedding veil, colorful hair extensions, tights, dress shoes or boots and zombie makeup

How to Create the Look:

Zombify your costume this Halloween by ripping and shredding the skirt of an old dress. Next, throw it in the dirt or even run over the costume with your car. Add black combat boots, ripped black tights, colorful hair extensions and a tiara to create a deathly frightening costume. Finish the look with a zombie makeup kit.

8 Trends from Bridal Fashion Week in NYC—Part II of II

Gallery by Lindsay Irvin, Erin Lang, Assorted Gown Designers

Today, we pick up where we left off from Thursday's trend report from bridal fashion week. The remaining four trends are coming soon to Arkansas, and we can't wait to see you rocking these fashionable styles. 

  • Which trend is your favorite? 
  • Would you go barely-there with illusion lace? 
  • What about geometic patterns?
  • Tell us in the comments.

Nos. 1–4.

No. 5—Illusion Lace
This was EVERYWHERE! We heard someone else call it "naked lace." From high necks and long-sleeves to plunging V fronts and backs, illusion lace put a sexy spin on a wide variety of wedding gown silhouettes. Romona Keveza did it best. You could hardly tell it was there!

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1. Legends by Romona Keveza 2. Reem Acra 3. WToo by Watters

No. 6—Geometric Details
Linear beading…chevron patterns...horizontal and vertical pleats…structure…clean lines—we're head over heels for this trend. I particularly loved the geometric beading I saw (like the Xs and Os pattern on the Modern Trousseau gown pictured below). This trend is perfect for an individualistic, fashion-forward bride.

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From left to right (top to bottom): 1. Hayley Paige 2. Watters 3. Jenny Lee 4. Modern Trousseau

No. 7—Short Dresses
This isn't anything new, but I was surprised by the sheer number of little white dresses designers added to their collections this season (it was the fall 2015 collection, after all). It just goes to show the "reception dress" / "wardrobe change" trend is alive and well. And we're so glad!

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From left (top to bottom): 1. Legends by Romona Keveza 2. Sarah Seven 3. Modern Trousseau 4. Jenny Lee

No. 8—Twinkling Gowns
This trend was mesmerizing! The use of iridescent sequins and beads turned many gowns we saw into glamorous little light shows on the runway. I can only imagine the impact of a twinkling gown coming down the aisle towards the groom. You'll have to look closely to see this subtle but impactful detail.

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1&2. Ines Di Santo 3. Watters

Want more from Bridal Fashion Week? You got it!

On Thursday, I'll reveal my favorite gowns from fashion week in a top 10 round-up. And let me just say... Narrowing it down to 10 is gonna be the hardest thing ever! Plus, I'll share my favorite moments from the trip. 

XO, Lindsay

The Sprint Diaries: But I'm Hungry Now

Image by Shutterstock

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Jess is participating in the Little Rock Half Marathon and is scared out of her mind. She's never done anything like this, but is chronicling the whole process, blisters and breakthroughs, right here on Little Rock Soirée. Start with the first installment here. 

 

If you’re reading this, then the apocalypse hasn’t happened yet, and that means I’m probably hungry. 

Eating habits are a strange thing. Sometimes I could just snack my way through a weekend and think nothing of it. Other times I need a chicken fried steak sandwich with gravy for lunch and a $5 Hot-N-Ready from Little Caesars for dinner, all washed down with a gallon of Dr. Pepper.

Now that I’m up to running five days a week (what?), those old light snacking habits died harder than Hans Gruber. I’m hungry. All the time. I can’t get through my day without second breakfast, elevensies and afternoon tea.

I’m not a rocket scientist, but I had an inkling the box of Junior Mints in my desk wasn’t cutting it, so I stopped by Go! Running to talk to Erin and Gary Taylor about what a human body should actually be consuming.

Your energy storehouse is like a bucket with a hole in it. It leaks all day, even if you’re just sitting around. If you expect to do any sort of physical activity, you have to top off the bucket so you don’t fall short and flop over, crying for a Big Mac.

The goal is to keep your metabolism in gear by eating more often throughout the day, which probably isn’t news to you. What might be a surprise is that if you expect to cut out calories, sugar and sodium from your active diet, you’ll end up right back in the flopping position.

Your body needs these things at reasonable levels to function. Ever heard of hyponatremia? It’s when your sodium levels get super low, usually from drinking too much water, which washes out all the essential electrolytes. It’s a life-threatening problem in endurance sports, so you might want to take a step away from the faucet and set down the repurposed milk jug for a second, there, Rocky.

So what guidelines should a runner follow to keep the bucket full? Glad you asked. Aim for the Fab Four: carbohydrates, protein, sodium and fluids. Stock your desk with snacks like almonds, granola, protein bars, string cheese, fruit or Gatorade to help get you through the work day without emptying your pockets for those old pork rinds in the vending machine.

Everybody’s looking for ease, for sustainability. Whatever change it is that you decide you need to make to your eating habits, make sure it’s something feasible enough to uphold, but challenging enough to make a difference. It's a balancing act. Restricting yourself to a kale-only diet is just an awful idea all around; it will kill you from boredom and that’s a fact.

All this to say: It’s not you, Junior Mints, it’s me. Mama needs some almonds. 

Giveaway: Win a Pair of Tickets to See 'Wait Until Dark' at The Rep

One of those people who likes to be scared? Then enter to win tickets to the Arkansas Repertory Theatre's latest show and thriller, "Wait Until Dark" written by Frederick Nott and directed by Robert Hupp. 

Enter to win tickets here. 

The thriller follows the story of a sinister con man, two ex-convicts and Susy, a blind woman who knows something is amiss. When the sun goes down, she plays by her own rules until the chilling end.

The play earned a Tony nomination for Best Actress in a Play and earned a movie adaptation starring Audrey Hepburn and Alan Arkin. It also earned a top-ten spot on Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments. Yikes.

Check out our Q&A with the cast here. 

 

Don't Miss the World Cheese Dip Championship This Saturday

Image by Shutterstock

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Lovers of cheese dip, read on. Naysayers, reassess your priorities.

The World Cheese Dip Championship returns for the fourth year to Little Rock this weekend at the Bernice Gardens in SoMa on Saturday, Oct. 25, from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Benefitting the Harmony Health Clinic, which provides free medical and dental services for the underserved in Pulaski County, amateurs and professionals alike will line up to put their cheese dip to the test and win the dairy crown. The championship attracts guests and teams from all over the country, as well as nationwide foodie jealousy.

“The public response the last three years has been overwhelming and once again proves that Central Arkansas is the Cheese Dip Epicenter,” said 2014 World Cheese Dip Championship Chairman, Marc Verbos.

Three years and over 10,000 attendees can’t be wrong. There can only be one winner, and we want to be there to console the losers.

Tickets are $8 now, or $10 at the gate, with kids 10 and under free of charge. You can purchase tickets by clicking here, or you find out more and can register your team at CheeseDip.net.

6 Ways To Help Your Kids Banish the Boogeyman

In addition to being a short-order cook, housekeeper, and 24/7 chauffeur, I’m also my kids’ #1 fear-fighter. I check under their beds for bad guys and stick my own arm in the toy bin “to make sure the crab isn’t real.”

My daughter believes zombies live in our attic and my son swears he’s seen a green ghost in my bedroom. I tell them, “Monsters are just pretend,” but neither child believes me. They’re convinced that danger lurks in the darkness.

Where Fears Come From

Kids’ fears are as unique as their personalities. Many young kids are afraid of animals and insects, characters in costumes, and things that go bump in the night. Others fear loud noises or believe they’ll be sucked down the toilet when it flushes. Even kids who don’t believe in the boogeyman may fret about schoolyard bullies.

“Some kids are more fearful than others because they are born with a predisposition to worry,” says San Diego, Calif., clinical psychologist Joanne Wendt, PhD. Other fears grow in response to trauma. For example, a child may start to fear bees after being stung himself or seeing a classmate get stung on the playground. A little information can be dangerous: Kids who learn about killer bees may believe backyard bumblebees are mini-mercenaries.

Adult role models can also fuel kids’ fears. A mom who is deathly afraid of escalators may pass along her anxieties by telling kids moving stairs are slippery and insisting the whole family take the elevator. Tamar Chansky, PhD, author of Freeing Your Child from Anxiety, says, “Parents need to be mindful of the signals they send so they don’t send fearful messages about objects or situations that are basically safe, or can be managed,” she says.

Fight Fears Together

Dismissing kids’ concerns isn’t the answer. “Parents can unintentionally feed kids’ fears by reassuring them they have nothing to worry about,” Wendt warns. The best approach is problem-solving. Here are some ways to do it.

Identify the issue. When your child comes to you for help with a fear, engage in some critical thinking. Questions like “Why are you afraid of this spider?” and “Have you been hurt by a spider in the past?” encourage your child define her fear more clearly. Once she’s defined her fear, she can start to question its legitimacy.

Teach kids to think twice. First, ask your child what worry is telling him about the situation, using a funny voice or puppet to represent worry. “Then, using his ‘smarter mind,’ ask your child what he really thinks will happen,” Chansky says. A worry might be saying, “The 6th-grade bully will toss me in the trash can,” but your child’s smarter side knows, “The trash can has a locked cover.”

Fight scary with silly. Have your child draw a picture of the thing that scares her. Then, do a goofy makeover complete with a ballet tutu and hair curlers. Coach your child to imagine the monster slipping on a banana peel or falling off a cliff. “This allows her to take charge of her fear and her imagination,” Chansky says.

Practice self-soothing. Kids can learn breathing and muscle relaxation techniques to calm themselves. The easiest strategy is to breathe slowly while counting to four and breathe out while counting to seven. This focuses your child’s attention and puts him back in control. “Repeating a special word, phrase or affirmation, such as ‘I can handle this,’ also eases anxiety,” Wendt says. Practice these calming behaviors every day so they become automatic.

Step it up. Use a technique called systematic desensitization to approach the feared situation gradually. “Make a simple drawing of a stairway from the side view and put your child’s goal at the top,” Chansky says. Then start at the bottom and write in steps from the least to most threatening. For example, a child whose goal is to pet a dog might start by looking at pictures of dogs, visiting a pet store or animal shelter and letting a dog sniff her hand. Remind your child to take deep breaths as anxieties escalate.

Be patient. Forcing kids to confront their fears when they aren’t ready will only increase their anxiety. Talk about your own insecurities and model a courageous approach to the unknown. When your child feels overwhelmed, allow him to step back and observe the scary situation from a distance. Before long, he’ll probably be ready to reengage.

If Ghosts Won’t Go

All kids have occasional worries, but some suffer from intense and persistent fears. “Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric disorders, affecting between 10 and 17 percent of children and teens,” Chansky says. “They are also the most treatable.” Using cognitive-behavioral therapy, kids can learn to turn down their over-reactive emotion systems and teach their brains new tricks.

If your child’s fears keep her from enjoying everyday activities at home and at school, reach out to your pediatrician or school psychologist. A professional fear-buster can help your child say “Boo!” to ghosts and other childhood anxieties.

Outsmart Anxieties

Research and logic can help kids shrink fears down to size. “Have your child write down three facts about his feared situation to put it in perspective,” says licensed professional counselor Neil McNerney, LPC, of Reston, Va. A child who is afraid of thunder storms might note:

  1. Thunder makes a loud boom, but it can’t hurt me.
  2. I can keep myself safer by staying inside during a storm.
  3. The odds of being struck by lightning are only 1 in 700,000.

Bottom line: Fear is a healthy response to a dangerous world. Encourage your child to learn from it.

Helpful Picture Books

Scary stories allow kids to practice coping from a safe emotional distance. These books confront kids’ fears head-on without inspiring nightmares.

"The Dark, Dark Night" (2008) by M. Christina Butler and Jane Chapman. A fearful frog mistakes his own shadow for a swamp monster in this sweet read.

"A Not Scary Story About Big Scary Things" (2010) by C.K. Williams. A growling monster begs a brave boy to believe in him in this silly story.  

"Wemberly Worried" (2000) by Kevin Henkes. Anxious kids will recognize themselves in Wemberly, a shy white mouse with lots of worries. 

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About The Author
What’s new in shopping, the arts, music, travel, fun parties and delicious food in Arkansas? Let Lauren James of InArkansas.com be your guide. An avid shopper, traveler and lover of everything-arts-related, she will show you the best of what Arkansas has to offer. Make InArkansas.com your go-to spot every day to learn the latest in entertainment, dining, attractions, activities and more.
Featured Post
We can't think of a better day to host a giveaway. On this Monday, we are giving away two tickets to see The Rep's thriller, "Wait Until Dark."

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