Monday, December 05, 2016

10 Tips for a Great Family Photo Shoot


We just got our new family photos back (above) and I love them! If there's one thing I've never regretting investing in over the years, it's good family photos. We have so many great ones that hang in our home from different periods of our life and I love it! I love to see where we were as a family at the time--How many kids? Where did we live? What was our style?--and the different vibes each session brings (I'm loving the moody fall vibes of this latest session). Since Christmas card season is upon us I thought I'd quickly share 10 tips for a great family photo shoot. I'm certainly no professional, but over the years I've learned a thing or two about what I like and what works for our family.

1. If someone asks to take your picture, say yes!
I've had a couple of photographer friends reach out over the years asking if they could take photos of us for a project they were working on or even just to build up their portfolio and I always say yes--the results have been some of my favorite photos ever. Frankly, we've been just plain lucky to be friends with so many amazing photographers over the years, and while this certainly wasn't planned you might want to start making friends with good photographers. :)

2. Find the right photographer. 
First, I very much believe in paying for art and creative services but we've been lucky enough to call a lot of great photographers friends and have had anywhere from free sessions (they asked to take pictures) to trades (a painting for photos) to generous friend discounts that still ran us several hundred dollars (because they are really that good!). (I did one time ask a professional photographer friend to take photos of us and I wasn't sure about the price and it ended up being free and for a long time I felt bad/awkward about it. This friend assured me that we were cool however, but still... I won't ever ask something like again without making it clear I'm willing to pay.) First, the more professional they are, the more you should expect to pay. There is a big differences from someone who makes a living as a photographer vs. someone who dabbles on the side, or is just trying to get their feet wet. You should pay accordingly. A great, professional photographer won't be cheap, which also means you deserve to get what you pay for--so ask for references, look at portfolios on line and find a photographer who's style speaks to you and then pony up. If you're not happy with the final results you should be vocal about that as well. If you can't afford a pro that's fine! Ask someone who does it as a hobby, or who is just starting out. You should still pay them or offer a trade, but the prices should be much, much lower. We've actually been lucky in this area as well! I've had some really talented friends who weren't professionals but who did a fantastic job. 

3. Take photos in your home! 
This is my favorite thing ever. I LOVE having family photos of us in our home. It can feel a little revolutionary the first time you attempt this (and granted, parts of your home have to be clean and even a little styled to pull this off) but the end results are so great. 

4. Coordinate, but don't match and choose outfits you actually wear.

Easily one of the most stressful aspects of family photos--what to wear?! Are we going dressy, casual, is there a theme? A friend of mine, stylist Kendra Smoot, once gave me the tip of choosing one color and giving pops of that color throughout the photo. So if you're wearing a blue dress, someone else wears blue socks, while someone else has a blue tie or hair bow (as demonstrated above--Kendra helped style these photos). This is great advice! Over the years I've gotten a little more brave with branching out from that formula but keeping with the general idea of cohesiveness without being match-matchy. i.e. trying to mix patterns and solids, keeping the colors in a similar range (no mixing fluorescent with muddy neutrals) and also mixing dressy with casual. That's a personal thing of mine--I don't ever really like things being too dressy. 

And the last piece of advice is more for kids because I will totally cop to buying a new dress for family photos, but for kids, I try not to buy something brand new and expect them to want to suddenly put it on and take some photos. Kids are creatures of habit and springing too much on them before photos--even a new outfit--doesn't always have the best results. If I have bought new items for family photos, I made sure that they were able to wear it a few times before family photos, so it wasn't brand new.

5. Bribes!
Piggybacking off that last one be sure to have plenty of bribes on hand for young children. The idea of family photos seems so painless in theory, but for some reason there almost always seems to be a lot of tears involved for toddlers and this last time was no exception. We kept lollipops on hand and a promise of treats afterward for the big kids. We still had some incidents, but it sure helps!

6. Embrace imperfection and be flexible (in other words toddlers be crazy)
A week before this last family photo session Zuzu ran into the wall and got a big bruise on her forehead. I was a little bummed, but shrugged my shoulders and said whatever. And at the actual shoot it was chillier than expected so there are several photos of her wrapped up in her dad's sweater...I was sorta worried about that, but in the final photos it's fine--it's real life! She was even a little grumpy and frowny at times, but whatever! She's two and she's still adorable. 

However, you should also be flexible on the other end of the spectrum as well--we were supposed to do our family photos the week before we actually did them, but Zuzu had been sick and even though she was on the mend personality wise she would have been a wreck to work with. I called the photographer and asked if we could reschedule. I really wanted to get our photos done quickly, but in hindsight it was the right thing to do because even though she was still a little toddler-y in our photo shoot, she would have had the demeanor of a rabid hyena when she was recovering from being sick.

7. Be yourselves. 
Act natural. Ha! Worst advice ever because what does that even mean? But part of the reason I like doing photo shoots in our home is because we have a chance to do things we actually might do--like sit at the table and color, or go out back and swing on the swing set. I love getting shots of us being us. That being said it can feel really awkward to try and "be yourself" while someone is pointing a camera at you, but I find chatting--with the photographer or among ourselves--helps keep things light  makes me feel more at ease. 

8. Smile.
OK--this seems obvious, but what I mean is if you're taking lifestyle type photos, you want to make sure to still have a smile on your face, even if the moment isn't a "show me all your teeth" smile. This is hard for me as I'm not someone naturally super smiley, but the photos usually look better, softer, if you've got a smile, even a slight one. 

9. Mix it up
bottom: Mark Warnick
Make sure to get different combinations of people in your photos. Mom with the kids, dad with the kids, just the kids, a couple of the kids together, mom and dad... I love having all these choices for different people in different photos. I don't worry about having every possible combination (the bigger the family, the harder the task) but I definitely like to have some variation. 

10. Don't be afraid to look away.

For lifestyle type photos it's easy to look away, but even for a good ol' family sitting I love it when not everyone (or anyone!) is looking straight at the camera. Often this happens when we're chatting or telling a joke and the photo has a really natural feel to it. I don't mind a good ol' everyone looking at the camera saying cheese moment, but I think I like the other ones just a bit more. 

Anything I'm missing? I'd love to hear your best family photo tips!
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Friday, December 02, 2016

Special Needs Spotligt || Hannah, Katie, Nano and Davy



Miggy: Welcome Hannah! I'm so happy to have you here today to share not just your child's story with us, but your children's and yours, as 3 of your 4 children and you, have all been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Let’s start at the beginning. When did you first start to notice these symptoms and in what child first? How long was it from first signs and symptoms to actual diagnosis? Do you remember how you felt when you actually got the diagnosis? Can you compare those first thoughts and feelings with how you feel now?

Hannah: If we were to go back to the very beginning, we'd have to start with me :) I've had weird, unexplained symptoms my whole life of pain, fatigue, GI issues, heat intolerance, etc. I'd asked many doctors about my symptoms but none had ever been able to tell me why I had them so I just figured I was a wimp.

When my youngest son, Davy, was born, he had many medical problems and ended up getting a G Tube at the age of 2 months because he wouldn't eat. We went through several round of genetic testing with no answers. Then, we switched healthcare systems and he was diagnosed with an unspecified connective tissue disorder by his new geneticist. A few months later, I posted a picture on Instagram of his hypermobile ankle and someone asked if he had Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. I started researching it and it all clicked. Not only did it explain his symptoms, but mine as well. At his next genetics appointment, I asked his doctor about it and it was like a light went on in the room. As a result, Davy, two of his older siblings (8 year old Katie and 6 year old Nano), and I were all diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. 4 year old Anna doesn't appear to have it, but she will be re-evaluated in a few years.

Getting the diagnosis was a life-changing moment. It validated my whole life and I realized that I wasn't just a hypochondriac or a wimp. It truly was the best and worst news of my life. In the 8 months since, I've thrown myself into learning all I can about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. There's a constant grieving process that you go through when you learn you have an incurable disease and I've had my ups and downs with that. Not only am I grieving for myself, but for my children as well.


Miggy: As you mentioned, getting a diagnosis of EDS for you and your kids suddenly explained a lot! Will you please educate us on Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and how it affects you and your family's day-to-day life?

Hannah: Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is a connective tissue disorder that affects your collagen which is the glue that holds your body together. When that glue is faulty or missing, you literally fall apart from the inside. Because of this, it can affect every part of your body. You can read more about Ehlers-Danlos on my blog here.

Our lives now consist of MANY doctors' appointments (10-15 in an average month), but we're hopeful that things will slow down a bit on that front eventually. My health has been rapidly declining over the last two years and I recently became the not-so-proud owner of a rollater walker. I struggle to keep up with regular household tasks and my family has been stepping in to help me.


Miggy: What are the biggest worries you face for your children in respect to their EDS diagnosis, and yourself for that matter? What are your hopes and dreams for them?

Hannah: As EDS affects each person differently, I don't know exactly what the future holds for my kids. At this point, it appears that both of my sons are more severely affected than my daughter, but I know that that can change. I hope that I can teach my kids not to let their EDS hold them back while taking care of themselves at the same time. EDS is a very misunderstood, little known disorder and so I'm passionate about raising awareness for it among doctors and the general public so that my kids can grow up in a world that understands their limitations and health.

Miggy: Now for a lighter question, I’m a big believer in seeing the humor in life and learning to laugh, so have you ever had any funny conversations/moments you never imagined due to your special needs situations?

Hannah: I firmly believe in using humor as well! I recently wrote a tongue-in-cheek post about the benefits of having EDS. It never fails to scare people when I casually mention that one of my joints just popped out of place!

Davy had his G Tube removed when he was 18 months old, but that also lead to some funny statements such as "Hang on, I need to vent the baby" and "I need to plug the baby in."


Miggy: Having a disability that isn't visible or even well known can present its own challenges. How can people best approach or respond to your family in terms of EDS? Is there something you wish other people knew so as to avoid awkward or hurtful situations?


Hannah: I want people to understand that I am doing my best to keep up with life, but sometimes I just can't. It's disappointing to me when I miss out on things due to my EDS and having people tell me that I need to "get out more" isn't helpful at all. My kids and I may look perfectly healthy on the outside, but we have chronic pain and we just can't do everything that other people can.


Miggy: If you could say something to the mom who just starting on an EDS journey, what would you say? What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time, both for your children and in your own life?

Hannah: To someone who's just been diagnosed, I would encourage them to join a few of the many Ehlers-Danlos support groups on Facebook. EDS is a very lonely disorder as many people have never even heard of it and a lot of doctors don't know much about it. Isolation will just make things worse.

If I could go back in time, I would be more careful with my joints and take better care of myself as I probably wouldn't be in as bad of shape as I am now if I had. As my kids are young, there's not much I would change about their journeys so far, but I can make sure that they don't make the same mistakes I did.


Miggy: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned since becoming an EDS mom?

Hannah: I've had to learn to give myself grace. My body doesn't allow me to be the mom I want to be and I need to accept my limitations and allow myself to grieve over that loss. It's okay to have bad moments or days, but at the end of it, I need to pick myself up and move on, both for me and for my kids.

***************

Hanna, thank you so much for sharing your story with us today and I sure hope we spread some awareness about Elners Danos syndrome. (For the record you are my third EDS spotlight--so we're on our way! Other EDS spotlights here and here.) The image of you crying in the elevator after your doctors appointment got me. I can't even imagine the mental weight that was lifted off your shoulders when you discovered that you're what you've experienced your whole life is real! I struggled with debilitating back pain for about a year and a half, and I came to have much more compassion for people who have unseen yet painful conditions that not only keep them from being able to fully participate in activities, but are also really misunderstood by others around them. I'm so glad that your children will grow up being able to take better care of themselves due to knowing about their syndrome. Your words, "I've had to learn to give myself grace." also struck a chord with me...it's always hardest giving it to ourselves isn't it? Thanks again Hannah and best of luck to you and your family. 

I'm looking for some new spotlightees out there, so if you or someone you know would like to participate in my Special Needs Spotlight series email me at thislittlemiggy at gmail dot com! I'd love to share your story. 

Have a great weekend. 
Happy December. 

XO
Miggy
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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Gilmore Girls Revival--Let's Talk!


Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

I went to the fanfest, I made T-shirts and I even woke up at 3am on the morning of the 25th to watch the first episode... Of course I'm going to write a post about the Gilmore Girls revival.

Again, MAJOR SPOILERS ahead, so if you're not up to speed, turn back now. If you are still in the middle of the original series, don't read this. It will ruin your life.

For my fellow die-hard fans, Welcome.

Gilmore Girls. They did it. For me (and for most people I've talked to and reviews I've read) it lived up to the hype. And OH MY GOODNESS did things happen. Major things. Big things. Life things.

And oh boy, do I have some thoughts. So get yourself a cuppa, settle in and lets talk!

What I Loved

The tributes to both Richard Gilmore/Ed Herrman. They could not have handled the passing of Richard Gilmore better, and I felt that their tribute was as much about the actor Ed Herrmann as it was about Richard Gilmore. I loved all the discussion about Richard, the portraits, the somber and the hilarious moments mixed together. One of my all-time favorite moments of the entire revival was Lorelai's phone call to her mom about her dad during the Fall episode. If you didn't cry during that moment you need a heart transplant. RIP Richard Gilmore/Ed Herrmann.

The Cameos.
So many cameos! First, I sorta hate that so many of the old cast members were essentially given cameos in this revival--like the Hep Alien crew, Steve and Kwan, Christopher, Dean, Mrs. (and Mr!) Kim and of course Sookie. I wanted to see more from each of these long time GG mainstays. But I also know they had a lot of ground to cover and not a lot of time. And in certain cases--like with Christopher it made sense.

There was also a lot of Bunhead's peeps (GG creator Amy Sherman-Pallidino's other series that only ran for a season). And of course a few of Lauren Graham's friends (and real-life boyfriend) from her other hit show Parenthood. And I guess we did get to see Rachel Ray. Also, the podcasters the Gilmore Guys were in a Dragon Fly Inn scene--crazy! Complete list of cameos here.

Inside Jokes and Quirky Town Stuff:
We get a wave from Mr. Kim!
Francie shows up in the bathroom at Chilton!
Another dream sequence with the real Paul Anka!
Another original film by Kirk!
Town meetings and town events like the international food fest!
I'm probably leaving off many more winks and nods, but man I loved Amy Sherman-Palladino (writer and creator of GG) for all those air-kisses she sent us fans.

Kirk: Speaking of Kirk, Kirk does not disappoint: First with his Ooober bit (like Uber, but worse), his appearance at Friday night dinner, his cute little pet pig, and eventually decorating the town and gazebo for the wedding (tear drop), I'm glad we had a decent sized helping of Kirk in the revival.

Paris Geller: Heavens to betsy Paris could not have been more on point. A true original, I'm so glad to see that her Parisness not only survived, but thrived over the years and she is exactly who you'd expect her to be. My favorite Paris moment is either when we first meet her at the fertility clinic or when she's having a meltdown, Paris Geller style, in the bathroom at Chilton.

The Rise of Emily Gilmore: I have never loved Emily more. I also never imagined Emily reinventing herself, but it seems that with the death of her husband, also came the death of her life as she knew it. While I didn't see it coming, her arc didn't feel forced at all and I love where she ended up--literally (Nantucket) and metaphorically. Of course there was still plenty of typical crazy-old-Emily moments, but when I heard her spit out bull$*% three times in less than a minue... my gosh, I stood up right then and there and gave her a standing ovation. Metaphorically, not literally. Hats off to you Emily.

Sookie: I didn't realize that Ms. McCarthy's entire return would be a mere cameo, but hot dang she nailed it. One of the best moments of the revival for sure. In classic GG style, just when you think you're gonna cry, you laugh.

Love is in the details: So many little details that made this revival work on a sentimental level. Notably, the song played during the Wedding scene, Reflecting Light by Sam Phillips, was also the same song in season 4 when Luke and Lorelai share their first dance. Killed me! Also, I was really missing the opening credits and the song Where You Lead by Carol King, throughout the entire revival... but when they played it moments after the final four words and wrap up the whole show?  Perfect. Or how about when Rory chooses to write her book in her grandfather's office? Also, when Rory passes her first 3 chapters to Lorelai of "The Gilmore Girls" manuscript, I lose it. For us, as an audience watching Rory put to words the very story we all fell in love with? As Lorelai says, full freaking circle. It's all in the details. Well done guys.


What I didn't Love:

Paris and Doyle's divorce: I'm really sad that Paris and Doyle broke up. Obviously Paris is nightmare-on-marriage-street material, but they were one of my favorite GG couples ever. I do think it was clever that Doyle is now a big-time Hollywood screenwriter-- another wink-y and a nod-y moment as Danny Strong's real life fame as the creator of Empire--but still, I thought Paris + Doyle = forever.

The Star's Hollow Musical: This was, by far, my least favorite sequence in entire series. It was simply way too long (20 minutes?) and felt too forced. I would have liked to catch up on other GG peeps that we only caught a glimpse of rather than spend 20 minutes watching Sutton Foster sing and dance in Stars Hollow for no apparant reason.

Paul: I really hated this random relationship that was used as one extended punchline and only served to make Rory less likeable. It just didn't feel like something the old Rory would have done. That being said, it does give us another option besides Logan for the final four word shocker.

Gypsy as Berta: I LOVE Rose Abdoo and I love Gypsy, but I didn't love the double shot of Rose playing both Gypsy and Berta. It was just a little werid.
me and my computer in front of the fire Friday evening. 

Now for the good stuff:

OK enough with the periphery, lets get to the real meat of the show--including the final four words.

First Lorelai and Luke. Finally. This was everything us die-hard GG fans had been waiting for. If it felt like a bit of a stretch that they were together 9 years without being married, lets keep in mind that since the original creators Amy Sherman-Pallidino and Dan Palladino were basically kicked off the last season of GG, I'm sure they, more than anyone, would have loved to see this resolved oh say, 9 years ago. I think they did a brilliant job of bringing us seamlessly back into the world of Stars Hollow, creating that tension that still made us think, "will they or won't they?" and then capping it all off with a magical private wedding before the real wedding that was so fitting for Luke and Lorelai. I also couldn't help but think this wedding with it's Alice-in-Wonderland-esq feel was a nod to Amy S-P's style and taste.

Now about Rory and her men. I don't know... this one is complicated for me.

Rory was the golden child of Gilmore Girls, who definitely took her falls and removed her halo more than once during the original series, but she always managed to regain her golden child status. Sleeping with her married ex-boyfriend and dropping out of Yale come to mind, but she also staged a triumphant return--going back to Yale and becoming the editor-in-chief of the Yale Daily News. Although I never really liked the way the Dean saga was handled--break up his marriage, then peace-out the second you see another pretty boy you want to have relations with--I could overlook it as a youthful mistake.

So it was really disappointing to see her once again the "other woman", this time with her engaged ex-boyfriend Logan. It's one thing to struggle in your early 20's as she did when she dropped out of Yale, it was a bit of a downer to see her in a similar rut nearly 10 years later, and basically giving up on journalism. Also, it's been almost 10 years...has she really only had a handful of articles in the Atlantic and New Yorker under her belt? What else has she done in that time? I don't know... it was a bit of a downer to see ambitious and well educated Rory so underaccomplished.

BUT we have to keep in mind that this all leads up to those fateful, final four words.

"Mom?"

"Yeah."

"I'm pregnant."

Amy S-P has known from the beginning that those were the words she wanted the series to end on and naturally she intended for those words to be uttered by a 20-something Rory, not a 30-something Rory. And this journey was all about getting us to that point.

By Rory's own admission she's in a rut. Her life is a mess and it all starts with her unraveling career. Rory was always focused on her career and the great things she was going to accomplish, so when things don't work out as planned, she feels like a loser. And when you don't feel great about yourself well, you tend to make some bad choices. Like sleeping with your engaged ex-boyfriend.

I was initially super bummed to see that Logan got the most screen-time out of all her ex's, but here's the thing... Logan's prolonged presence only serves to really drive the point home that he is no good for Rory. This is who Logan is, and this is who Logan will always be. There were many yucky moments for me as he casually mentions Odette over and over again, even maintaining his intent to marry her, without the slightest hint of self-loathing or remorse. Gross. I felt the same disdain for Rory as well... she of all people should know better.

And while Amy S-P doesn't give us a nicely wrapped up love-life for Rory, it's clear that she closes the door as much as possible with Dean (married, 3 kids and 1 on the way) and Logan (even for Logan he's slime-bagging it up to the core and she finally has the strength to let go of easy affection...their good-bye was surprisingly tender) and points us in the possibility of the best option of all, Jess.

If there's one thing that irks me it's that Jess never gets the credit he deserves. He never got credit for giving Rory the verbal slap in the face she needed in season 5 ("What's going on with you? This isn't you! Living in the pool house? Why did you drop out of Yale?") that lit a fire under Rory and got her out of the pool house and back on track. When Jess came to give Rory a copy of his book, he tells her that he couldn't have done it without her. Rory owes him similar gratitude, but never cops to it--never tells Lorelai either. And wouldn't you know it, in the revival it's Jess who once again not only tells Rory that she should write a book, but tells her what she should write about. And once again it's exactly what she needs to hear. They give us the satisfaction of giving us Jess' longing look at Rory through the window, but I certainly wish we had gotten a little more affection from Rory in return.

I have no doubt that Logan loves Rory, but it's a selfish love. Regardless of their agreement, Logan can see that their relationship is hurting Rory--but he doesn't care. He still wants her and will use every weapon in his privileged arsenal to keep her close--like a key to his families vacation home where she can write--even when he ultimately won't give her his heart.

Jess loves Rory in a selfless way. In season 5 he gave her a piece of his mind without caring if it was going to hurt their friendship and in the revival he gave her the golden idea to write a book with no strings attached. Yes he hurt her in high school, but he was a broken kid from a broken home. Luke taught him--in more ways than one--how to love without conditions and Jess has been sharpening that skill ever since.

So now Rory is pregnant and while there is a strong implication that the baby is Logan's there is also the possibility that the baby is Paul's, the Wookies or even that she has agreed to be one of Paris' surrogates (although I highly doubt that last one.) Is it possible that Logan will dump his heiress to be with his unaccomplished, struggling baby mama? It's possible. But again, I think it's clear that all signs point to Jess.

I think it's hard to refute that we're to see Rory's life as a mirror of her mother's--especially as she now finds herself pregnant and with little resources and accomplishments under her belt. And if Logan is her Christopher, then Jess is her Luke. My only question: Is she worthy?

But perhaps just like Lorelai, this baby will turn out to be the best thing that ever happens to her.


OK--what did you think? Good, bad, in between? Any team Logan's switch to Team Jess? Or vice versa? What about the ending--was it a shocker for you? For the record I actually liked the ending! Probably because it felt more like a new beginning than an ending, and that made me less sad for the show to be over. Also, the pregnancy wasn't a surprise to me--my final four word guesses included Rory announcing a pregnancy (except I thought she'd say, "Mom, it's a girl.") And overall I loved the series mainly because much of it felt like just regular old Gilmore Girls filled with the same witty banter and terrible eating habits we've all come to love. Also, are you hoping for more GG? It seems unlikely as Amy S-P has said this is how she always envisioned the show ending, but anything is possible. Personally I'm torn... I'd always love to see more GG, but there's nothing worse than a show that drags on past it's time. Thoughts? Theories? Dish!


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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

How To Do A Pull Up (when you're almost 40!)

Hey you guys! It's been a while since I've done an update on my fitness goals for my upcoming 40th birthday. You can read my other fitness posts here, here and here.

If you remember I want to do 10 pull ups by my 40th birthday. Before starting on this goal I've never even been able to do one pull-up. Not one! Not even a little bit! My current record is 4--which feels really big for me! And it has taken a lot of effort to get here. That being said I have less than 2 months and 10 pull ups is A LOT. So we'll see.

Today I thought I'd tell you a little about how I got to the point of actually being able to do a pull up. I mean if you can't even pull yourself up a little bit, how are you going to be able to get to the point of doing an actual pull up and eventually many pull ups? So here are my best tips for getting to the point of actually being able to do a real deal, legit, big-girl pull up. First, it should be noted that you'll need some sort of bar to pull yourself up on. I purchased this one.
1. So my first tip comes from my sister-in-law. If you can't even do 1 pull up you start by jumping up to the top of the pull up bar and slowly lower yourself down (as illustrated by my little GIF above). Do that everyday, 3 times a day and each time slowly count to 10 as your lower yourself. In the beginning this was really challenging for me, especially by the third one! This is a really great exercise and starts to give your body a feel for all the muscles involved in doing a pull up--lats, abs, and arms! According to my sister-in-law this exercise alone done daily can help you achieve pull-up goals. But for me, a super weakling apparently, it wasn't cutting it.

2. Which brings me to my second tip--weight training. My arm routine is 20 push ups, 10-12 bicep curls, 10-12 shoulder presses, 10-12 standing upright rows, 10-12 lateral raises and 10-12 front raises (I do these together as a set), and 10-15 triceps dips. I do this entire set 3 times (decreasing my push-ups from 20 the first set, to 15 and then 15 the next two sets.) Um, it's hard! But I love that overtime I've seen improvement in my ability and strength. I've increased my weights starting with 8 lbs. per arm to 13lbs. per arm and even 15 lbs. per arm on some exercises. I know many women are afraid of lifting with heavy weights, but from everything I've read if you want to see results, lift heavy and fewer reps. I used to hear all the time that you should lift lighter with more reps, but it's really, really hard to bulk up like a true weight lifter. For me, it's been less reps, heavier weights. Additionally, as mentioned in previous posts I've started to include a protein shake after my workouts and in general have been more mindful of my protein intake, as means of getting my guns in shape.

3. This last exercise is great option if you already happen to have a set of workout straps or a low bar somewhere in your house. We have work out straps similar to these ones, but my husband got them for less than $10. Personally I wouldn't invest in any special equipment just for this one move, but I thought I'd show it to you just in case you have the equipment as it is rather helpful. This is called an angled pull up. The great thing about this is that you can slowly increase your weight resistance just by changing the angle at which you do this pull up. In the beginning you start at a very high angle and pull yourself up with little resistance. Eventually you should work your way up to laying on the floor with the straps hanging directly above your arms and shoulders and pull yourself up.

So that's it! With these three tips, and an overall workout routine that includes 20-30 minute total body workouts, yoga, walking, I've been able to get to the point of doing pull ups. In real life! This is seriously exciting for me.


Notes:
--There is some discussion about the difference between a pull-up and a chin-up. Technically I've been doing chin-ups. Most people consider a chin-up to be easier than a pull-up. From what I've read it depends on the person. For example, my 9 year old finds pull-ups easier than chin-ups! For me the chin-ups are easier and are what I've been working towards. Since this is a personal goal I'm not going to split hairs between a chin-up and a pull-up and I feel great about my progress.

--I should also mention that I don't do my pull-ups (or chin-ups) from completely straight arms. I'm not a professional body builder. Again for me I feel really proud of my progress, but for any true fitness fanatics out there, they might cry foul if they see that I start with slightly bent arms. Just out of curiosity, are there any fitness fanatics who want to weigh in on this?

--It's interesting to see how different bodies are more naturally capable of and I try to keep this in mind. For example, when I was already in the process of working toward this goal but still couldn't do one pull-up a friend of mine said, "I've never tried a pull up before...let's see if I can do it." And she went to the pull-up bar and proceeded to do 2-3 pull ups right then and there! I couldn't believe it! She told me not to feel bad though because she didn't even think she could do 10 push-ups in a row. Which did make me feel slightly better because I can do 25-30 push ups. Like anything, natural ability can certainly play a role in fitness goals.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, this is not about how I look, but about how I feel. That's not to say I don't fight the demons of body image, I do. Daily. But it's been really satisfying to set a measurable goal, and watch and feel as my body has adapted to the stress I've been putting on it by growing stronger week after week. Hmm...sounds a little bit like life. 

Best of luck with those pull-up goals!
XO,
Miggy
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Friday, November 18, 2016

Special Needs Spotlight || Jahleel


My name is Kallie. I was born and raised in the Midwest, and now live with my wonderful husband, charming son (Jahleel), and adorable beagle in the Pacific Northwest region. I have a BA in psychology and have worked as an ABA therapist and a special education aide, but I've been a full-time wife and mom for the past few years. Jahleel keeps me very busy, but I occasionally enjoy choir, playing piano, and small sewing projects. We love to go for walks and visit parks as a family!
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Miggy: Welcome Kallie, and thank you so much for being here and for sharing your story and your son with us today. First, can you take me back to the day you knew your son would be born with special needs? Was he diagnosed immediately, or did it take some time? Do you remember how you felt? Can you compare those first thoughts and feelings with how you feel now?


Kallie: Our story is unique in that we adopted Jahleel from Hong Kong shortly after his second birthday. We did know that we were dealing with some level of special needs – we knew he had a feeding tube, a history of lung issues, low muscle tone, and that he had developmental delays, which appeared to be institutional in nature. One month before we traveled for him, we got a medical update stating that he had a diagnosis of Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS). At that point, we had been waiting for 11 months to get our son. We were scared, but we proceeded and brought him home in spring of 2014. We already loved him as our son, no matter what.

We got the PWS diagnosis confirmed in the U.S. later that year. The next year (2015), we pursued additional genetic testing, and learned that Jahleel’s genetic deletion goes from 15q11.2-14 - more than twice the size of what is typically seen with PWS. He is one of only a couple known cases in the world with this “expanded Prader-Willi syndrome.” After we heard those results, I clearly remember thinking that I should be grieving that news. Instead, it was a tremendous relief. The enormity of that relief still brings tears to my eyes. It was an explanation for why he is so far behind in the PWS world, and assurance that his persistent developmental struggles are not my fault – he is just missing an awful lot of genetic material.

In conclusion, we knew that we would be raising a child with some level of special needs from the very beginning, but the magnitude and complexity of those special needs is something that has been unraveled very slowly over time. 

Today, I feel strongly that expanded PWS does not define Jahleel, but it is an integral part of who he is. I can’t hate his diagnosis, because it would be like hating a part of him.
Miggy: I know most special needs exists on a spectrum, therefore can you educate us about Prader-Willi Syndrome and explain how Jahleel’s diagnosis affects your day-to-day life?

Kallie: Prader-Willi syndrome is caused either by a deletion on the paternal copy of chromosome 15q, or two maternal copies of 15q. It is a multi-phased syndrome. In infancy, babies with PWS have low muscle tone, sleep excessively, and have no appetite. Feeding tubes are commonly needed, and early therapies are crucial to support development. Later in life, the body loses the ability to feel satiated (there is much variety, but this seems to shift sometime around age 6-8, on average) and the individual has “hyperphagia,” or an excessive appetite that is never satisfied. A healthy diet and restricted access to food are necessary. Other complications that commonly occur with PWS include hormone deficiencies, learning disabilities, scoliosis, sleep apnea, and many more.

Jahleel is at the very low end of the spectrum of PWS. He missed out on early therapies during the first two years of his life, and his extra-large deletion makes his hypotonia and delays quite severe. In the PWS world, it is very unusual to be not able to walk or eat by mouth at this age (four and a half years old), but that is our reality.

Our daily lives are very medical, but it’s our normal. Jahleel is 100% dependent on his g-tube for nutrition and hydration, so we hook him up to a feeding pump four times per day. There are also several medications and supplements that he is given through his tube throughout the day. He doesn’t do well on formulas, so I blend all the nutrition he needs for the day in real food (blenderized diet) and split it into four meals. He has obstructive sleep apnea and wears a bipap machine while he sleeps. Jahleel’s sleep schedule is not that of a typical 4-year-old’s; he still sleeps 11-12 hours overnight and naps for 2-3 hours every afternoon. He wears hand splints for several hours per day to keep his thumbs from subluxing, and also wears SMO braces on his feet/ankles when he’s working on standing. My husband or I give him a hormone shot every night. We also spend a considerable amount of time in therapy (5 sessions per week between OT/PT/speech) and doctor’s offices – at last count, he sees 15 doctors covering 17 specialties. Blood draws, x-rays, EEG’s, sleep studies, ultrasounds, surgeries, etc. are regular parts of our life.

For more on PWS, please visit pwsausa.org or fpwr.org.
Miggy: What are the biggest worries you face for Jahleel? On the flip side, what are your hopes and dreams for him?

Kallie: I try to take things day-by-day as much as possible, though I do wonder if he will ever walk, talk, or eat by mouth. In the next few years, if he still isn’thyn walking, things like getting him in and out of his car seat and changing him in public restrooms are concerns – my back already hurts all the time! To be honest, I try not to even think about his teen and adult years right now. There are just too many unknowns at this point. We will cross those bridges when we come to them.

I dream of Jahleel continuing to be as charming, cute, and endearing to others as he is now.  I also dream of hearing him say, “Mom,” and, “I love you.”


Miggy: Now for a lighter question, I’m a big believer in seeing the humor in life and learning to laugh, so have you ever had any funny conversations/moments you never imagined due to your special needs situations?


Kallie: YES! We are big believers in humor as a coping mechanism. Some of the ways we talk about his medical equipment are pretty funny, “Ok, time to hook him up!” (to the feeding pump or bipap). “Can you flush him, please?” (in reference to his g-tube).

We also find ways to make the medically complex life fun, when we can. I dress Jahleel in pajamas for surgery days. He has a couple stuffed animals with g-tubes in them. We buy the cute cloth pads for Jahleel’s g-tube, and we got a personalized sticker for his feeding pump from Etsy. I found a cute little monkey backpack and modified it to be a feeding pump backpack. My husband and I love to “store” his glasses on one of his stuffed animals when he’s not wearing them. We also decorate the IV pole for Christmas-- why not?


Miggy: I know first hand that it can often be difficult having a child with a visible disability--they never fly under the radar! That said, how can people best approach or respond to Jahleel? Is there something you wish other people knew so as to avoid awkward or hurtful situations?


Kallie: Jahleel is cute, charming, and engages well with others, so I think he’s pretty approachable as he is. Generally, we don’t mind questions so much as the tone they’re presented with. It’s ok to nicely ask what the tubing is for, or how we knew our toddler needed glasses, or why he wears splints/casts on his hands. I’m happy to share some of our unique needs with others.

However, the one that really bothers me is, “What’s wrong with him?” There’s nothing “wrong” with him. He just happens to have many medical challenges.

We also get the, “Wow, that’s an AMAZING stroller! Where’d you get it?” comment often. Spoiler alert: It’s a medical stroller, also known as a wheelchair. Our insurance covered it (thank goodness). Oh, and using a stroller does not make him a baby. I do get a bit tired of the, “What a cute baby!” comment regarding my four and a half-year-old.

Finally, I want people to know that they shouldn’t feel sorry for our family. Our son is our joy and we are very blessed to have him!
Miggy: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned since becoming a special needs mom?

Kallie: There are many, but learning how to speak up, ask questions, and advocate have probably been the biggest ones for me. I am very shy, quiet, and introverted, but in an ironic way, I’ve found my own voice by having to speak for my son. Also, in my faith life, I have learned how to fix my eyes on heaven and focus on things that truly matter. I see the deep value in all human life.

I also have to say that the way that my husband and I have heard the tough diagnoses, and just moved on amazes me. I impress myself with how I manage to get out of the house every day with all the supplies I need to keep Jahleel fed and hydrated, with all the medical skills I’ve acquired, and how I keep track of all his appointments. My point here is not to brag about myself, but to encourage any new special needs parents that might be reading this. You will figure it out. Your own capabilities will surprise you. You may not understand how you do it all, but you will find a way to just do what needs to be done for your child.

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Kallie, I love your last answer so much! Yes to learning how to be an advocate--even for those of us who aren't shy and reserved, that is its own skill and something with a pretty steep learning curve! And I love what you said about being impressed with all you do. A) I know you weren't bragging, but you absolutely should be impressed and B) you're right--other newbie special needs families you will find a way, even if it all seems overwhelming and insurmountable right now. Thank you so much Kallie. You know when people say, "special kids go to special families" I've often bristled at that statement because I didn't choose this road. And while I wouldn't change a thing now, I know that if given the option I probably would have opted out--I hate to admit that, but it's true and part of why I do what I do. BUT, when I think of "special kids going to special families" I have often felt that line is most applicable to adoptive special needs families who go into the special needs world with their eyes and hearts wide open. It is an amazing thing. Thanks for sharing your story and your sweet Jahleel with us today. Best of luck to you and your family!

You guys, I am in serious need of some spotlightees! So please if you know anyone have them email me at thislittlemiggy at gmail dot com. Have a great weekend!
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Monday, November 14, 2016

Hooded Towel Tutorial

This Little Miggy || Hooded Towel Tutorial
Christmas is just around the corner and it's time to start thinking about gifts. I always try--keyword try--to make something for the girls each year. In the past I've made Jess Brown style rag dolls, a pretend make-up kit, hand painted blocks, homemade memory game, + nightgowns.

This year I decided to do hooded towels for the girls and I thought I'd post the hooded towel tutorial here. I know that towels don't typically excite children, but I actually think my kids will love these. First they love anything cozy. Second the they're into the whole matching-sister-thing but still having an individual look. The other great thing is that these towels can be made in 20 minutes or less each. Really! So fast. I found these beautiful towels at Target (yellow, pink and turquoise) and if you hurry you can still find them at your local store.

Supplies:
1 hand towel and 1 regular towel for each hooded towel
regular sewing supplies--scissors, pins, thread, ruler, sewing machine
This Little Miggy || Hooded Towel Tutorial

Instructions:
1. Gather your supplies. Cutting mat and rotary cutter a plus, but not necessary.
2. Fold your hand towel in half. The finished edge along the front is going to be the finished edge of the hood. Cut bottom portion off the towel so that the height is 12" tall. (You can make this smaller for smaller kids. I used these proportions for my 9 year old). Then cut the back portion off so the width of the hood is 12.5".  Again, I cut both of these measurements smaller for my 6 and 2 year old--about 11"X10.5" respectively. Try it out by placing it on your kids head with the back pinned together. The sides should come to the shoulders and the front of the hood should come past the face.
This Little Miggy || Hooded Towel Tutorial
3. To cut a curve in the back of the hood place a plate (a dinner plate with have better proportions than a salad plate) in the corner and cut along the side of the plate.
4. Keep hood piece folded in half with right sides together and pin along the back of the hood. With a regular sewing matching zig-zag stitch along the back. If you have a serger, serge along the back seam. When you open up your hood either zig-zag stick along the raw edge of the bottom, or serge along the raw edge of the towel.
5. Now grab your large towel and fold it in half along the long side. Find the half-way point of your towel and pin the seam of your new hood on the mid point. Again, make sure the right side of the hood and the right side of the towel are touching.
6. Spread the hood out along the side of the towel and finish pinning in place. Then sew the hood to the towel and you're done!
This Little Miggy || Hooded Towel Tutorial
This Little Miggy || Hooded Towel Tutorial
This Little Miggy || Hooded Towel Tutorial
I love how all three of these hooded towels look individually and as a set. These towels come together so fast and in addition to a great DIY Christmas gift they would also be excellent baby shower or birthday gifts!

Happy sewing!
XO,
Miggy

p.s. If any of you have been following along with me on Instagram you know that I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about the election. I am going to do a blog post sometime, but for now my head and heart need a break from the serious issues of the world. I just wanted you to know I wasn't glossing over anything. XO

Monday, November 07, 2016

What the World Needs Now is Gratitude

Between the election and the toddler emotional roller coaster I find myself trapped on daily I've been feeling a spent. I mean spent like a crumpled up, dirty dollar bill ya'll.

When life has me feeling overwhelmed and stressed for an extended period of time there's one solution I crave. But since I don't drink, I have to turn to the next best solution: Gratitude. 

Gratitude is a magical balm of healing and love. Gratitude is a conduit to God and is, in my opinion, one of the keys to a happy life. Obviously I didn't discover the secret of gratitude--that was Oprah-- but I've felt it's magical properties more than once in my life. And it's been too long since I've burrowed myself in deep well of gratitude and just let it soak there. The amazing thing about gratitude is that nothing in your life actually changes--your problems and pitfalls remain the same. But your heart and your perspective change and somehow the unmanageable becomes manageable, and the heavy becomes light and everything changes without anything changing at all. Magic. 

It's been a couple years, but this morning I decided to bust out a couple gratitude trees with the words Give Thanks in the middle. The last time I did a gratitude tree I used a painted on concoction of cornstarch and water (still a great option--will not be easily wiped off with little hands) but this year I wanted something even quicker and easier, so I just used regular chalk.

The dark wall behind our dining table isn't a chalkboard wall--it's an eggshell or satin finish, but the chalk worked great. I invited Zuzu to come draw on the walls with me while I did the lettering and the trees. What? Draw on the walls with mom?!? Dream come true!
As we stood together drawing on the walls I said, I explained that we were going to cut out some leaves and write what we were thankful for, then hang the leaves on the wall. I then asked, "Zuzu, what are you thankful for?" Fully expecting that I would have to explain what thankful meant.

But without missing a beat she said, "Love."

My sweet, little terrorist-of-a-two-year-old who has been draining me of my will to live this past week said LOVE. See? It's working already! Gratitude wins!
To make something similar simply use chalk on any colored wall in your home and draw a tree--everyone can draw a tree, just go for it. If you only have white walls, try colored chalk. For the leaves I used my Silhouette portrait to out out a bunch of leaf shapes in a snap. However, you could easily sit down with your kids and some construction paper and cut out simple leaf shapes as a family. This really can be as simple or as crazy as you want to make it.
Of course you don't need a gratitude tree to teach your kids about gratitude, but having something interactive that sparks conversation and action is always a great teaching tool for the littles. I'm really looking forward to hanging these leaves all month long and watching our wall fill with all the things we're grateful for.
While I'm a little anxious about the election tomorrow--it feels like the fate of the world is hinging on this one!--deep down I know that whatever ever way wind blows we'll be OK. Gratitude has seen people through a lot worse. (Also this.)

In the words of Coach Taylor:
Clear eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose.
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