christian blog, Down Syndrome, Fitness, get fit, Health blog, self care

How A Special Needs Mom Fought Loneliness With Three Easy Steps … and Won!

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I’ve been a special needs mom to a princess who rocks an extra chromosome for more than 13 years, and thanks to the miracle of adoption and a red-headed cheese puff who also rocks that extra something, I’ve been a special needs mom to two kiddos for 10 years.  Both are non-verbal, and both are a handful of mischief, drama, and constant giggles.  Like typical siblings, they fuss with each other (which amounts to grunting back and forth for what seems like an eternity at times).  They take things from each other, occasionally pinch one another, and even manage to tell on each other.  Picture little man grabbing my hand and pulling me to his big sister, then bursting into tears … while at the same time, big sister rolls her eyes and looks away.  Yep.  She’s usually guilty.

hope and charlie with momma!

Neither can take care of any of their needs independently.  They rely on me completely.  I dress them, bathe them, feed them, put them to bed, and read their minds (at least I try).  I talk to them, filling in their quiet with my own version of what they’d probably like to say if they had a voice.  Hopey has a high cartoon voice when I speak for her.  She thinks it’s hilarious, especially when I roll my eyes, stomp my foot, and act like a true teenage girl.  For Charlie, I use a sweet baby voice … because he’ll always be the baby of the family.

We try to agree on music in the car.  If I choose a Luke Bryan or Bruno Mars song, we’re always good.  But when I step outside the box, they sometimes break down into sobs.  We try to agree on clothing choices, but they’ve been known to rip off their clothing just as I finished getting it on their wriggling bodies.  Charlie, for added affect, likes to throw his shirt across the room.  Uhhhhhm, I guess you don’t like the shirt choice, dude?  haha.  (Did I mention they are full-on drama?)  I can laugh about it now.  I mean, c’mon, it’s funny.

The stress level of a special needs mom has been likened to the stress level of a combat soldier.  I’m convinced it isn’t necessarily because the role is so difficult, but because special needs moms never feel like they’re doing enough for their kiddos.  We question ourselves constantly.  Have we provided enough opportunities?  Therapy?  Education?  Are we feeding them too much?  Are they exercising enough?  Did I remember to double lock the doors so she can’t escape during the night?  Is his sniffle worth a doctor’s appointment?  Or is the risk of him catching something worse too great for that appointment?  And don’t even get me started on how much we worry about our child’s future.  Honestly, our minds never shut off.

There was a time when I was so caught up in figuring out how to be a special needs mom that I forgot how to live.  Unintentionally, I closed doors on friends and family who’d been in my life for years, because I felt they couldn’t possibly understand my new normal.  One day, I awoke to an overwhelming feeling of loneliness and regret.  I’d been so laser focused on reaching my two kiddos, that in the process, I forgot that I needed a support system.  I felt lost.  I thought I was being the best mom in the world.  But you know what I realized?  If I lose myself, I’m not being the best mom I can be.  More than anything else, they need me to be me.

I’d like to say that with this realization came a sweeping life altering shift.  As with most change, however, it was slow and steady.  I began by hiring a trainer.  I felt if I committed to her and to a schedule, I’d stick with it.  As it turns out, she became my biggest cheerleader.  Not only did she daily encourage me to push through my workouts, as I got to know her, she slowly invaded all of my empty, hurting spaces.  She asked me questions about my life.  She listened.  And she reminded me that I’m enough and that God is always with me.  Last year, she challenged me to run a 5K.  I ended up running thirteen.  She’s been my trainer for four years now, and I count her as one of the best friends I’ve ever had in my life.  The gym quickly became my community as I met new people.  In the process, I became physically stronger.  The more fit I became, the happier I felt.  My energy increased as endorphins kicked into high gear, I went from a size 8 to a size 4, and then one day I realized I felt like myself again.  It had been years.

tonya and me --- hot chocolate race 2018

Around the same time, I decided to open my home once a month to a group of my best buddies for a pizza party and karaoke.  They are all so much fun, I knew they’d usher happiness right into my life on a regular basis.  And they never disappointed.  What I didn’t expect, though, was what a tremendous role their parents would play in my fight.  These selfless moms and dads would drop off or pick up their adult children, and instead of walking away, they’d hug me.  They’d look me in the eyes and thank me for hosting a party.  Sometimes they’d come into the house and chat with me.  They made an effort to get to know me and my children.  Welcoming me into their lives without any walls, prerequisites, or expectations, they made me feel like a part of their families.

halloween pizza party

And finally, I became intentional about hiring sitters so that I could get out and do regular things that other moms get to do.  I have to say, God really showed off in this area.  I was terribly slow to trust others with my munchkins, because remember, I never left them.  So it was going to take some super fantastic girls who had a true desire to spend time with Hope and Charlie before I’d be able to leave them.  He brought me Nancy, Dana, two Hannah’s, Kelsey, Katie, Bryn, Bethany, and Rikki.  I can’t say enough about these girls, who are my superheroes.  Each wear their love for my kiddos on their sleeve.  They’ve worked tirelessly to break into Hopey’s tiny circle, they’ve tried every trick in the book to get Charlie to eat solid food (at 10 years of age, he still has his food puree’d and put into a bottle), and they’ve recklessly embraced all of me.   Whenever I attempt to show them more love and appreciation, they immediately meet we with the same.  They’re like beautiful mirrors reflecting everything I have to give right back to me.   I treasure them.  In every way, they are the hands, feet, and heart of God.

hannah and bryn

Life is messy.  There are times when we wake up and wonder how things became so crazy.  Can you relate?  But my message is that it’s never too late to make changes.  Maybe you’ll be blessed by getting a chance at a re-do.  Or perhaps you’re like me, and you’ll have to start all over from scratch.  It doesn’t really matter as long as you dig your heels into the dirt and move forward with intention.  I began with three simple goals.

  1.  Exercise so I can be healthy enough to raise my kiddos
  2.  Open my home to others
  3.  Hire sitters so I can occasionally get out

I stuck with them, continued to move forward, and my life totally turned around.  Not only am I not lonely, my life is filled and overflowing.  If I can do it, so can you.  What are your three simple goals?  Write them down and make a decision to hold yourself to them.

Just my thoughts,

~Mel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fitness, get fit, get healthy, Health blog, self care

Four Easy Ways To Make Time For Fitness

The Cheese-Puff is nude more often than he’s clothed.  Shirts, shorts, and shoes are such an unnecessary bother when sensory processing is a daily struggle.  “Clothes on,” I say, at least twenty to thirty times a day.  Pulling a shirt back over his skinny-winny little bare naked body, I take time to kiss his tomato red hair.  Who could resist?

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Hopey dumps waaaaaaay more water from her cup than she drinks from a straw.  She sometimes pours it over her own head … sometimes over mine.  Why?  I wish I knew.  But she thinks it’s hilarious.  After the water is spilled, she runs off on her tippy toes and giggles with abandon.  “No, Hopey,” I yell, as she ditches me for the hidden shadows.  At every moment, though, I choose my battles.  And water just isn’t that big of a deal.

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Bringing up two kiddos who sport an extra chromosome and who are non-verbal is challenging.  Neither speak one word, but they still fuss and fight like typical siblings.  And both vie for my attention constantly.  One goes to bed with the chickens and rises early.  The other is a night owl and is like waking the dead.  One can tag you in the head with a ball from twelve feet away.  The other can climb your body like you’re a tree and have his arms around your neck before you know what’s happened.  They try to get away with jumping on beds, climbing on tables, and rolling the house in toilet paper … every single day.  They’d rather dance to a Luke Bryan song than eat.  They’re master escape artists.  And if I leave the house without them, you’d think the whole world has come to an abrupt end.  You’ve never seen the drama these two can cook up.

I travel, kayak, explore, and dance like a fool with Hope and Charlie.  My life is so much fun, but it can also be chaotic.   And hard.  If I didn’t take time to be on top of my game, I’d be overthrown in a minute.  My secret to being the consistent queen of my brood is fitness. Exercise boosts my mood, gives me energy, and is empowering.  Do I have time to be fit?  Ummmmm, the answer to that question is a hard no.  Do I always feel like working out?  I’m fifty years old and am outnumbered by two kiddos who have more energy than a zoo monkey, so the answer to that question would be a hell no.  But I make fitness a priority so I can remain the queen.  haha.  At least in my own mind.

This begs the question of HOW to make time for fitness.

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If you’ve read this far, you’ve checked off the biggest and most important box by realizing you need to make fitness a part of your routine.  If I can do it, you can too:

First, make a schedule and stick with it.  Carve out thirty-five minutes of time, five days a week, and make that time a priority.  Even if you don’t feel like working out, push through it.  Eventually, it will become a habit.

Second, plan your workout ahead of time.  If you try to workout on the fly, you won’t make near as much progress.  Every other day, use weights to focus on arms, shoulders, and back.  The other days, work legs and glutes.  Take five minutes each day for abs and set aside fifteen minutes each day for cardio.  It’s can actually be that simple.

Third, find someone who will hold you accountable.  Without an advocate who will push and encourage you, the beginning of this journey will be nearly impossible.  Your head will give you every reason under the sun why it’s not normal for a woman to sweat.  You won’t be able to sit down on the toilet seat, climb out of your car,  or bend down to pick up the quarter you dropped when checking out at Publix, because your muscles will be aching.  You’ll wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into.  You’ll think you’re too old, too fat, too tired, too busy, or too depressed.  Trust me, you need someone lined up who will remind you that if you want to be a queen, you must continue to tackle those push-ups, squats, and burpees.

Fourth, change your point of view.  Your workout isn’t optional.  It’s sacred.  You wouldn’t skip eating or sleeping.  You wouldn’t miss an episode of The Bachelor or that Starbucks visit with your college roomie.  With statistics overwhelmingly proving how a regular fitness routine boosts your health and increases longevity, why wouldn’t it be sacred?  It’s a no-brainer, and can be achieved with only 35 minutes per day.  Yassssss, Queens (and Kings)!!!!

Here’s a quick 35 minute routine to get you started:

Download Tabata Stopwatch Pro

Settings:

  • Initial Countdown = 5 seconds
  • Exercise Interval – 25 seconds
  • Rest Interval = 10 seconds
  • Number of sets:  30

 

Week 1:  

(Use your Tabata stopwatch with the settings above.  It will prompt on when to begin each exercise and when to rest … Just do as many reps as you can within the exercise interval, making sure to implement correct form.  Don’t rush.)

Arm Day:

  1. Bicep Curl and Overhead Press
  2. Tricep Dips
  3. Bent Over Flies
  4. Chest Press (lie on mat or on bench)
  5. Chest Flies (lie on mat or on bench)
  6. Skull Crushers (lie on mat or on bench)

Leg Day:

  1. Prisoner Squats
  2. Front Kicks
  3. Side Lunges
  4. Squat Jumps
  5. Donkey Kicks
  6. Walking Front Lunge

Fifteen minutes of cardio:

Walk three minutes, jog three minutes, walk three minutes, jog three minutes … alternating until you’ve completed fifteen minutes.  Go as hard as you can.

Five Minute Abs:

  1. 20 crunches
  2. 20 crunches with legs bent into stomach
  3. 20 crunches with right leg up in the air / left leg still crunched to stomach
  4. 20 crunches with left leg up in the air / right leg still crunched to stomach
  5. 20 crunch toe-taps (crunch legs into stomach, then extend legs down to tap floor)
  6. 20 crunches (cross right leg over left knee — bring left elbow to right knee)
  7. 20 crunches (cross left leg over right knee — bring right elbow to left knee)
  8. 20 bicycle crunches
  9. Two 30 second elbow planks 

PLEASE send me a private message if you have any questions … or feel free to comment.  I’ll be your advocate, your cheerleader, and your go-to!!!

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Just my thoughts!

Melanie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fitness

So You’re Over Forty And Ready To Begin Building Muscle?

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Getting older is such a pain, isn’t it?  What used to come so easy requires much more effort.   Even sleeping now requires effort … what is that about and whyyyyy?  Just over three years ago, I found myself at a real crossroad in life.  Everything fell apart in one fell swoop, and I wanted to curl up in a hole and disappear.  But I was still responsible for two kiddos who have special needs and who require constant care, so retreat wasn’t an option.  You’ve heard of flight or fight?  I thankfully chose to fight and have been fighting like hell ever since.

You may not be at a major crossroad in your life, but perhaps your waistline is.  haha.  You can’t really run from your waistline, so maybe it’s time to fight back.  Want to lose some of that fat?  Decrease the risk of Osteoporosis?  Burn more calories?  And improve your heart’s health?  Then, you better hit the weights and get to lifting.  When you’re ready to take that first step toward build muscle, as with anything, it’s best to begin with a simple solid foundation.  Three really good tools for your cache are the foam roller, the medicine ball, and Yoga.  I’d suggest to begin by spending one month, 30 minutes a day, becoming a student of these three fitness weapons that will assist you in initial steps toward slaying your body.

  1.  Foam Rolling:  Do you foam roll before or after a workout?  Yes.  Both.  It only takes a couple minutes of time and is worth every second.  Rolling Massagers reduce muscle tension and tightness, reduce soreness, and reduce levels of stress hormones.   Some studies say it even fires up your central nervous system, helping to regulate heart rate and blood flow.  I don’t know much about the scientific evidence, but I do know how foam rolling has benefited me.  I work out hard six days a week, and still run and do yoga on the seventh day.  As a result, muscle pain has become my norm.  I kept reading about roller massagers, but was a major skeptic until one day I found one on sale and decided to give it a try.  Aaaaaaand it works.  After rolling, my muscles feel energized and aren’t nearly as sore.  As with anything, rolling can be overdone, so I keep it to only a few minutes twice a day.  Most rollers are around $30.00, so it’s not much of an investment to add to your fitness arsenal.  If you’re looking for a first step, then buy one!    foam roller
  2. Medicine Ball:  Medicine Balls were used by ancient Greek Athletes and Gladiators, and they’re still around today, so there must be something special about them, right?  Absolutely.  Not only will you burn calories with the medicine ball, but you’ll build strength, power, balance, and work your core.  Abdominal curls, Russian twists, big circles, standing torso twists, woodchoppers, lunge twists, wall sits, chest pushes, hamstring curls, knee crushers, and squat leg raises are all examples of what you can easily do with one simple medicine ball.  With three sets of 12 reps, building muscle with these exercises will be no problem.  To buy a 6 lb. ball, click here.  For an 8 lb. ball, click here.pineapple clothing 2

    3.  Yoga:  Last, but far from least, is Yoga.  I cannot say enough about Yoga.  It has transformed my life and my body.  To build beautiful lean muscles the right way, you need to be physically flexible, and Yoga will definitely improve your flexibility.  More than that, however, yoga will also increase your muscle tone, improve your energy, help you maintain a balanced metabolism, improve your circulatory health, produce a gorgeous posture, and as an added benefit, will greatly enhance your mood.  Formal Yoga exercise classes can be found at most gyms, but Yoga instruction can also be found on DVDs and at your fingertips on convenient phone apps.  I have the Asana Rebel application loaded on my cell phone and use it every day.  The most magnificent thing about Yoga is you can jump in at anytime, at any age, and at any level … and grow into it.  It’s something you evolve into slowly, but the benefits are almost immediate.

     

     

    As with anything, building muscle takes time, dedication, hard work, and patience.   Consistency pays off.  If you begin with these three simple building blocks, you’re off to a strong start.  Just stick with it, and then slowly incorporate other exercises into your life.  Each new challenge will bring a brand new reward.
    If you ever need any help getting started, and if you live close by, just let me know!
    ~Mel

 

self care, skin care

3 Easy Ways To Tackle Health, Aging, and A New Attitude

Drink Green Tea :  The number one healthiest drink on the planet is green tea.  If you were hoping for Diet Coke, Chardonnay, or a Mojito to be in the running … well, no.  For a toast to good health, green tea is the way to go.  Not only does it prevent osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease, and the risk of Alzheimers, but people who drink green tea daily actually live longer.  Toss some mint leaves, orange slices and green tea bags into a boiling teapot for an amazing recipe.  Add a little cane sugar, and put it on ice or serve it hot.  Either way, it’s so yummy.  Cheers!!!

 

 

 

Utilize Microdermabrasion: Microdermabrasion really does erase fine lines and make your skin glow.  It absolutely works.  If you don’t have the money, time, or inclination to treat yourself to a microdermabrasion treatment from a professional Esthetician, I’d recommend the Neutrogena Microdermabrasion system.   At less than $20.00, it’s definitely worth a try.  I use this system two or three times a week, following up with a really good moisturizer, and have virtually no lines on my face at the age of 50!  In addition, it makes your skin super soft.  Microdermabrasion is a must if you’re over 40.  (Oh, and sleep on your back.  Just my extra two cents.)

microdermabrasion

Choose A Life Word & Own It:  Even though I’ve been a big believer in the power of positive words for a long time, I never really thought about having a life word until one of my (gorgeous, amazing, fabulous) sitters gifted me with a mug that had the word “Hustle” written on it.  When she gave it to me, she said:  “When I saw this, I immediately thought about how perfectly this word fits you.”  Fits me?  Hmmmm.

Isn’t it nice when we unexpectedly get a glimpse of how others view us?  Since then, I’ve owned that word.  As a busy mom of two kiddos who have special needs and who constantly keep me on my toes, it’s imperative that I stay at least ten steps ahead of them or I will surely meet an early grave.  (Caregivers know exactly what I’m talking about. haha.)  But I want more than merely anticipating life.  I want to master it … to hustle.  And that means being my best self for my children and for me.

Focusing on that one word, and making sure everything I do fits into that theme, has completely changed my attitude.  Instead of going to the gym so I can check good health off my daily list, for instance, I started going to the gym because I’m a person who hustles.  Instead of cleaning house and staying organized because it’s a daily chore, I now do those things because I’m a person who hustles.  haha.  See what I did there?  Hustle has now become my designation.  The mark I want to leave on life.  Life is just as much about our mental game as it is our physical game, and this simple switch in thinking has worked wonders for me.  Maybe choosing a life word will work for you too.

Think about it for a minute.  What’s your life word?

~Mel

 

get healthy

Soak Your Troubles Away — Self Care

I’m turning fifty in April (insert a big gulp) … and like many of my best girlfriends, I’m refusing to grow old gracefully.  I mean, us gals could sit back and let age take over.  But why would we want to go and do a crazy thing like that?

Yes, I work out regularly, I eat healthy, and I step on the scale every single day.  But even more important, I pamper myself.  And no matter what stage of life you are in right now, you should too.

As a mom with four kiddos living at home, two who have special needs, it’s vitally important for me to stay as healthy and strong as I can.  That fact clicked with me a long time ago.  However, until fairly recently, I didn’t get the pampering part of the equation. As a result, I’m catching up on lost time.

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To put it plainly, pampering is equal to air.  Without it, we suffocate.  I didn’t even know I was suffocating until I started making self care a part of my daily ritual.  Now, I’d never go back.  I think of it this way.  If we don’t fill ourselves with love first, making sure to fill our tanks to the brim, how are we going to have enough love to give out to others?  So … with that in mind, here’s a quick tip:

One of the ways I show myself love is to soak in a hot tub WITH bath bombs and a 1980’s love song playlist (thank you Spotify!).

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Bath bombs can be found at most big retail chains for a variety of prices, but my favorite (so far) is the 100% Natural Bath Bombs from Natural Spa Bath.  They are made in the USA with premium sourced essential oils and use no synthetic dyes or preservatives, which is all a big plus.  They turn my bath time into sanctuary time and can be found on Amazon by clicking here .   If you haven’t tried bath bombs yet, by the way, you haven’t lived.

What about when you don’t have time to soak?  Do you skip the bath?  No, no, no.  Say these four words with me:  “Never forgo the bath.”  Seriously.  When I only have ten or fifteen minutes for a bath, I make sure I still pamper myself by using a body scrub and a bath brush.  Because bath time is self love time and plain water will never do:

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My favorite body scrub is the Ginger & Cardamom Olive Oil Body Scrub by Bath and Body Works.  The scent, for some reason, makes me feel like I’m Cleopatra in Egypt, and at only $6.00, it is an inexpensive extravagance.  (Cleopatra, by the way, believed herself to be a living Goddess … I’ll bet you a dollar to a donut that she pampered the heck out of herself.)   To follow up, since I’ve exfoliated with a scrub, I nourish my body with 100% Extra Virgin Coconut Oil by Shea Moisture .  Rich in Vitamin E, the Coconut Oil has natural anti-aging properties.  As a bonus, it is also very good for people who battle chronic dry skin, psoriasis and/or eczema.  If you combine these two products, I promise, your body will be as soft as a buttery biscuit.  (You know, the inside, when you pull back the outer layers and it’s like a yummy cloud.)

And after my bath, I always pull on something super plush:

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When you go to the trouble to get your body all soft and smooth, you can’t just throw on something scratchy.  And not to digress too much, but speaking of smooth, ladies, can we all just agree to shave or wax our legs regularly?  I get the whole movement toward “it’s our right and our bodies, so we don’t have to conform to society’s expectations” … but by shaving our legs, we are making our legs more beautiful.  It’s a fact.  Hairy legs are not pretty.  I know I don’t want to feel prickles of hair against my jeggings or my leggings, do you?  Lord, no!  It takes five minutes to shave your legs.  Just do it.  Anyhow, this comfy sweater is from one of my favorite stores, American Eagle .

So, to wrap up.  Pamper yourself and soak those darned troubles away.

~Mel