My son has special needs. I won't go into all of his conditions here, but one of his doctors recommended to us a few years ago that he thought a dog would be very beneficial for him. Studies show that dogs help to reduce cortisol levels and the number of disruptive behavioral incidents in children with ASD.

There are even organizations, like 4 Paws for Ability that train dogs to work with kids with ASD and other special needs. I contacted a few of those organizations in late 2011 and found out that the cost for one of those dogs was OVER $20,000!!! Yes, $20,000. And I just wasn't comfortable going to the animal shelter and adopting a dog because we really need it to be such a good match and it needed to come with some basic training already in place.

And somehow, not really sure how it all came about, but one of my gym friends told me about a program with Southeastern Guide Dogs. Some times, dogs that go through the training program become available for adoption. Dogs that become available for adoption are dogs "that have not met very strict standards required to be a successful guide dog and do not meet the criteria for other professions such as Arson Detection, Narcotics Detection, etc. for an assortment of reasons. Some of these reasons may include fear of children or animals, they may be easily distracted, or they may have some medical concerns that exclude them from guide dog work."

Call me crazy, but I thought this sounded like a pretty good option for us. So I applied OVER A YEAR AGO!! Honestly, I had even forgot that I had applied until I got a call on Tuesday that they had some dogs for us to come and see!! Apparently there is a L.O.N.G wait process Wink

WHAT???!!! I set up a time to drive down with the kids on MONDAY (they are off from school for MLK Day) and we'll get to meet the dogs (and hug some puppies) and see if we can find our VIP (very important pet). It's a strict process and they want to make sure (as do we) that it is a PERFECT match!! I'm already imagining running with my new best friend. And taking he/she to the dog park while the trio are at football/cheer leading.

Black, Chocolate or Yellow. We don't care. Boy or girl. We don't care. We just want to find a dog that is a perfect fit for our family. And I think we will.

5 tips for a Pilates Newbie....


Today I took my FIRST Pilates class. I'm not sure what I was expecting, because even though I had HEARD of Pilates and many of my friends on social media had posted updates about taking Pilates, they never described WHAT it was, and I NEVER looked it up. Bad librarian.

Here are my 5 newbie tips about taking your first Pilates class:

  1. Pilates is NOT yoga. Yes, you take off your socks and shoes like yoga, but for me, that is where the similarity ended. I did not have any sort of "zen moment" in Pilates. Nothing even close to zen.
  2. If you are doing mat Pilates, double or heck, maybe even TRIPLE up your mat. All the floor rocking/rolling has left my spine bruised and sore.
  3. Even if you are fit, and active, and you have strong core, you might be sore (cough cough) and that's a GOOD thing!! Doing something new showed me what muscles I'm not focusing on and how bad my posture is. So don't be surprised if after a Pilates class you feel muscles you haven't felt in a long time....or ever.
  4. Do the moves at your own pace. It's your workout! Ask the instructor for options if you need them! I saw way too many people struggling, or just flat out stop moving because the move was too difficult for them, and they didn't ask for help and the instructor while she gave many options, she might not have gone low enough for some of the participants in the class. And 4 years ago, I would have been one of them, so I get where they are.
  5. Stay for the entire class!! I was thinking of cutting out 5 minutes early so that I could set up my bike for cycle, but I was enjoying myself so much that I decided to stay and knew I could make up the time on the bike with heavier gear. I'm so glad I stayed!! I would have missed some great additional plank work.

I know I said 5 tips, but here is the thing. Pilates is CORE! It was amazing. It is certainly going on my workout rotation two times per week. Mat Pilates on Monday and Power Pilates on Wednesday. I am a bit sore besides the spinal bruising right between my shoulder blades which is weird to me b/c we used no weights at all.

My new fitness facility also offers Pilates Reformers but the looks of the machine is pretty intimidating!!

Have you ever taken mat Pilates? Or Pilates Reformers?? What are your thoughts??

Teach Your Children Well

When I began my lifestyle transformation in 2008 my kids were 2, 3, and 4 years old. I knew that not only was I changing my life, but I was changing theirs too.

We began bike riding with the kids at the beginning of my journey. Bike riding was something that my knees could handle and though we couldn't go far because I was pulling Ronin and Ella in a trailer and Haley was on training wheels, we kept it up. Soon enough though, both girls were riding on 2 wheels and I had a tag-a-long for Ronin and no longer were we bike riding...we were CYCLING!! 3 miles quickly built up to 5, to 7, to 10, and our longest ride to date has been 20 MILES! 20 MILES with 6, 7, and 8 year old kids. But we didn't just rush out and start off at 20 miles. We TRAINED, we PRACTICED, we ENCOURAGED, we MOTIVATED, we INSPIRED the kids. We let them have a say in WHERE we bike, WHEN we stop for re-fueling, and we ALWAYS make sure that a playground visit is included.

As a society we need to teach our children that fitness is FUN!!  We also need to teach them that eating healthy foods, food that nourish the body and the mind can TASTE GOOD!! We need to teach our children how to read menus and labels, how to ask questions at restaurants, how to make HEALTHY choices when they are on their own. I think too often we just expect kids to know what to eat, how to exercise, but the truth is, they need to be taught.
And they are looking to you, their parent(s) to show them the way. You are the the good example. It's in your control. It's up to YOU!

In our house, we do lead by example, and here is the proof of  Sunday Funday Cool

Today's ride took us to a new trail which connected to an old trail! We ventured off to the New Tampa Nature Preserve which just opened in late November, 2012. This is a great little park complete with a zip line (adult friendly too!!), rock climbing wall, and rope course for kids. We cycled out the 1/5 miles to the Flatwoods trail, and headed to the bathrooms another .5 mile up the trail. Took a potty break, drank some water, and then hit the trail back out hard! The kids did great. James and Ronin took off, and I stayed back and cycled with the girls. We chatted about form, technique, pedal stroke, friends in class, what we might want for lunch, we just enjoyed the time together. And I snapped a few pictures along the way! I didn't think of snapping mile marker signs until the way back in, so I only got the 8 mile and the 10 mile, but it's all good!! When we made it back to the park, the kids each took one more ride down the zip line and off we went to lunch! YUM!! We took the kids to a sit-down (NOT BUFFET) Chinese bistro. The kids picked Moo-Goo-Gai-Pan with brown rice. I had Buddha's Delight with tofu (all steamed) and James had a super spicy chicken with mixed vegetables and brown rice. It was a lot of food and we had enough to take home!!

It was a really nice day. We were able to spend some quality time with the most important people in our life, and teach them some valuable life skills along the way.

Life is Good.