Arts, Crafts & Motherhood

  • Nicole Hanks

Working as a co-host on a radio morning show, my life was an open book. I shared with my listeners about the good, bad, and ugly. Brutally honest about every aspect of my life. From infertility to struggles with our oldest son. It can be difficult to be so vulnerable to people you will probably never meet, but it's also so fulfilling when you connect with someone who is struggling in the same or similar way. It's that "you're not alone" feeling.

When I left radio to stay at home with my kids, it was an adjustment. I had worked in the industry since I was 17 years old. I was so grateful that many people still connected with me on social media after I left the show and had even reached out to ask how my oldest was doing. I wanted to write an update for those who have followed along and were curious about how things were going.

A little backstory for those who haven't heard it before.

We adopted Jaden when he was 6-years-old. He had been in foster care for a few years. It was a long process and he was out of state. We knew based on his past and the trauma that he faced at such a young age, that he would have some struggles. The honeymoon phase lasted about a month. Then, we started to see his behaviors. Some of those behaviors were age appropriate. Lying, stealing, temper tantrums. It was as he started getting older that those behaviors not only didn't disappear, but became worse. Instead of stealing a granola bar or a pencil case, he was now stealing iPhones and money. His ability to manipulate to get what he wanted or to say what people wanted to hear, became increasingly worrisome. He could see that it would work and that alone was encouragement to continue.

Because of the increase in negative behavior and some really poor choices (that we chose to keep private for Jaden), we knew he needed to get the kind of help that weekly therapy wasn't covering. He went to a therapeutic school in Utah for a year, where he focused on individual and group therapy, as well as school and additional tools to help him succeed.

He completed the year and returned home. He was home for a couple of months before he made more really poor choices and had been involved with the law. We looked into outpatient services locally, but his needs were too great to be accepted into any of those programs. We found an amazing ranch that specialized in kids and teens with his specific struggles. An opportunity for kids who had been diagnosed with his disorders and experienced the type of trauma he had. It was a process, but we were able to get him into the program. If anything has the ability to get through to him, we truly feel it's being exactly where he is now. Their approach is exactly what he needs and we pray that this is the answer to getting him on the right path.

  • Nicole Hanks

Cooper started 3-year-old Preschool this year. I am so glad we decided to start him early. Not only has he learned the typical preschool education, it's taught him how to socialize with kids his age and to listen to someone other than "mommy and daddy". We've seen such a growth in him overall.

We experienced his first school field trip today at the local pumpkin patch! We picked out our very own pumpkins from the field, rode a few rides, including a giant tractor, and snagged a chocolate covered rice krispie tractor on the way out!

I can definitely see myself being a "room mom" in the future. I really enjoyed seeing these kids light up as they experienced the day.

It's no secret that our favorite place to vacation as a family is Disneyland! It's an easy flight and there's so much to do. For this trip, we flew into LAX and made the drive to Anaheim. Our favorite place to stay there is Country Inn and Suites by Radisson. It's an easy walk to the main gates of Disneyland or you can purchase an ART bus pass at just $6/adult and $2.50/child for a full day of unlimited rides. (Discounts for multiple days available)

I am a germaphobe and worried about the cleanliness of the buses, but was pleasantly surprised at how clean and well taken care of they are. The city of Anaheim is proud to offer this service to their visitors and this is the main mode of transportation for us while we are in town.

The hotel has an incredible outdoor heated pool that we chose to enjoy on our first day into town. Both times we hung out there, we practically had the enormous pool to ourselves. We enjoyed the relaxation knowing Day 2 would be much busier! Even if you don't choose to swim, the pool area is the perfect place to catch the nightly fireworks!

Day 2 was all about Disneyland! We made our back to Toon Town to see Mickey and his friends, rode Dumbo 3 times per Cooper's request, and hit up Main Street for frozen pineapples and ice cream. That was just in the first 30 minutes!

One of the biggest tips I offer to families heading to Disneyland, is to download the app! You can see wait times for your favorite rides, find exactly where all of the characters are and who is doing photo ops, plus, my absolute favorite, sign up for fast pass directly from your phone! You don't have to go to the ride to get your fast pass. If you are on the other side of the park, simply sign in and grab a time, then plan to head over when it gets closer to your time slot. Another perk of the app, is the option to have all of the professional photos taken by a cast mate during your day at the park, directly on your phone. They will scan the QR code on your phone and voila, you'll be able to see them in a matter of minutes.

Here's another fun tip for the little ones. If you have photos taken by a park photographer, ask them to do something fun! They can add characters into your photos before they're sent to you. (See Tinkerbell photo above)

We like to do our Character Dining on a day where we won't be visiting the park. We do this for a few reasons. One, it allows us time to not have to rush back to the park to get our money's worth, and two, it gives us an extra day of characters without having to be at the park. Win win! If you're on the fence about a Character Dining experience...do it! You will NOT regret it. I will say, there are very different experiences depending on where you choose to go. For example, Goofy's Kitchen at Disneyland Hotel is vastly different from Mickey's Tales of Adventure at Storytellers Cafe in Disney's Grand Californian Hotel. Both are wonderful, but different food options and atmosphere.

I'll leave you with one of our favorite memories of this trip. JD does character voices and decided to be Mickey, in front of Mickey!