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The start of the new year is always fun. I like reading the various blogs, articles, videos, and news stories about people starting their year. I guess what makes it interesting is the sheer amount of reflection that is expressed this time of year – more than any other. Everyone feels the opportunity to start fresh.

Out on my walk this afternoon I thought about some of the themes others have shared: seeking happiness, losing weight, doing better with finances, and clearing out clutter are a few. If I had a theme for last year it would be “pick up the pieces.” I think I told anyone and everyone - regardless of appropriateness – that I had broken 7 ribs in 11 places. Seriously. The theme for 2011 was – still am – picking up the pieces.

As I mulled this over, I realized having a theme – and really sticking to it – for a year would be an interesting thing to do. What would be a thoughtful theme for 2012?



I chose this on that same walk. Connect is a key concept for people with Down syndrome, their families, and those who support them. It fits in every area of life. I was excited as I thought of ways we could explore “connect” together. It makes so much sense! I've been feeling the need to work on this concept in my life and for Andy, Ryan, and Rex. So why not do it together?

Let’s start by connecting online for 30 minutes for my second annual Vision Webinar  Saturday, January 14th,

We will  connect to a vision for a healthy life for you and your family.

I’m excited about the journey ahead – to see where connecting leads.

I look forward to seeing you!

Create Your Vision of Health for Your Family...and YOU.

Date:  Saturday, January 14th 2012

Time: 8am HAT, 9am AKT, 10am PT, 11am MT, 12pm CT, 1pm ET

Where: On your couch, in bed, in the park, at the coffee shop. Use your computer, laptop, or cell phone to connect (you can even just call in and listen).

How:  Log in details will be sent after registration.

How much?  FREE!

Register Today!

(Space is limited)

Create Your Vision for Wellness in 2012

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Happy New Year!

Like most people, I am in a reflective mood this week. I’ve been reading the usual articles about people setting New Year’s Resolutions, advertisements for helping people be healthy. It happens overnight, they say. Does it?

We’re all dreamers. For the most part, New Year’s Resolutions are a rite of passage. Something we do each year with little thought to how we’ll accomplish it. To top it off, if you’re anything like me, you dream BIG.

Typically my goals and resolutions are mostly about my own health. This year, though, I have big goals for Andy’s health that will truly impact his quality of life, health, and his community connections. They all seem do-able individually. But what about when I put them together?

iStock 000014911902XSmall-NY resolution-web

If left unchecked, my New Years dreams are so ambitious that it takes a 48 hour day to accomplish them. I think this is part of the New Year’s tradition. That tradition rarely leads to long-term results for anyone. This is especially true for families that include a person with Down syndrome and related disabilities.

Face it. We’re not like other people. We have all the same issues, with a teeny bit more. Focusing on ourselves, on our health, is harder. Focusing on our family’s health and creating a quality life for everyone can feel like climbing Mt. Everest.

It can be done! And you do not need to do it alone.

From my observations as both a parent of a child with Down syndrome and autism, and health care professional, we can do it when we create a vision that includes the extra pieces we experience. We can shape our families to live a healthy, quality life in the same way.

The barrier? Not being able to share. Sharing your vision and creating the goals toward that vision with someone who is skilled in wellness coaching and understands the uniqueness of your life gives power to your vision. You need someone to walk beside you on your journey to wellness.

Many years ago, I looked for someone I could talk to. My marriage was in trouble. My health was a mess. I hired a counselor recommended by a friend. I found that I paid more money to educate this person on why I could not do what she suggested to reduce my stress than receiving support because she had no idea what it meant to be a parent of a child with Down syndrome. So I looked for someone else. The second person chose worked in the disability field before going into private practice. What a difference it made! I didn’t have to describe an IEP, explain that I can’t leave my 11 year old in charge of his brother so I can go for a fitness walk, or that I needed to spend time advocating for my family so we could live a quality life. It made the world of difference. Is our life picture perfect? Of course not! But it’s 100% better because I had a coach who understood the influence of disability on life.

The second lesson I’ve learned is that the disability community uses some terrific tools such as person-centered planning and MAPS/PATH tools. We also endure other planning methods like Individual Education Plans and Individual Support Plans (for adults). Our family has experienced all of these. In fact, we use a Person Centered Plan to guide us in the bigger goals for our son.

One of my good friends, the Executive Director of the Northwest Down Syndrome Association, shares her opinion that a person centered plan for someone under 18 is really a family centered plan. It’s true. But I believe it is always a family centered plan. Seriously. If my kids aren’t living a quality life, no matter their age, I am not living a quality life.

Even so, when I see these tools used and implemented, they are missing a key element: Wellness.

It needs to be an integral part of the plan! In fact, it’s why you do the plan!

This is what led me to name my coaching services the Wellness Walk and to focus my practice on creating quality lives, quality health, with a community vision….for you. You and your family deserve no less.

Join me for a free webinar to create your vision for quality living for you and your family. Together we will explore the elements of wellness so you can see how it all fits in to quality living, quality health, and a community vision. You will leave with a next step in mind and a tool to create your vision of health for your family.

As always, the focus is on practical tools you can use.

We don’t have time for anything less.

Webinar iInformation:

Create Your Vision for Health for Your Family - and  You - for 2012

Date: Saturday, January 14, 2012


Time: 8am HAT, 9am AT, 10am PT, 11am MT, 12pm CT, 1pm ET

Place:  On yoru couch, in the living room, at Starbucks...anywhere. It's a webinar.

Click here to register


Holiday Stress Tip #2: Quick! Roast a Turkey!

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Holiday Stress Tip #2?  Quick! Roast a Turkey!

It’s no secret that food and exercise plays a role in your ability to deal with stress. If family gatherings are stressful for you, consider including some known stress relievers in the menu.

The key is to get enough tryptophan on the menu. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that promotes relaxation. It also promotes the production of serotonin. Why is this important? Seratonin is a neurotransmitter produced by your body that helps improve your mood, fight off depression, and promotes good sleep. So increasing everyone’s serotonin levels through your good cooking is a gift to everyone during the emotional highs and lows of the holidays.

I can hear you already: “What a great idea! I’d love to see if I can’t keep Aunt Marge from bursting into tears – again – at the dinner table. How do I do that?”

You may not be able to solve Aunt Marge’s annual melt down, but here are some ideas for foods high in tryptophan that are more common during the holidays:

Why not create a holiday menu that is rich in tryptophan, which will increase everyone’s serotonin levels and, as a result, perhaps promote a jollier event?

Here are some high-tryptophan foods that are common holiday fare:

  • Turkey
  • Milk
  • Shrimp,
  • Chicken,
  • Pork roast
  • Eggs,
  • Spinach,
  • Asparagus,
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower

To further enhance your chances of improving everyone’s mood, increase the absorption of tryptophan by adding complex carbohydrates. Not only do complex carbohydrates improve your body’s absorption of tryptophan, they also help your body produce serotonin. Consider entrées such as brown rice, whole grain breads, or lentils for this effect.

If that doesn’t work, end your day with a cup of Chamomile tea to promote overall relaxation, reduce stress, and provide a good night sleep when all is said and done.

Remember , the focus of the holidays is best put on people rather than food. Choosing your menu strategically to can’t hurt!


PS – Doesn’t it make you wonder about the origin of traditional holiday menus?

Holiday Stress Tip: Put a Stick In It!

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Holiday Stress Tip:  Put a Stick In It

Even now that my children are grown, the biggest challenge the last few weeks of the year hold - also known as Winter Break -  is keeping everyone engaged and having good food ready 24/7.
Here’s one answer:

Fruit Kabobs!

They can be a real sanity saver in many ways. Here are two:

Situation One

This time of year holds countless extra demands on your time: parties at work, neighborhood gatherings, school parties, shopping for gifts, family gatherings, travel, and let’s not forget the big one: two weeks without school. Without school you find yourself looking for ways to engage your kids and doiFruit Kabobng endless cooking. Fruit kabobs can take care of both! Choose the fruit for the kabobs, store them in separate containers, and put the bamboo skewers somewhere easy to find. Keep the Fruit Kabobs recipe out so your kids can pull it out and follow the direction to making their own snack.

True, there’s a “mess factor” to this. You might want to do it once with them and be ready to praise them for their successes. Especially when they clean up after themselves.

If your kids are not ready to do it alone, that’s OK! It’s still a great learning activity – and snack!

Situation Two

Having the whole family over for a holiday meal? Do the kids tend to get a little wild waiting for dinner and presents? Keep them busy by having them make “Kabobs to Order.” Give them a check list with each guests name at the top. Have them ask each person which fruits they want on their kabob. Once they’ve taken the order, they can set about making them. When the kabobs are done, the children can deliver their order as a snack around the football game or at the dinner table. You decide!

Hint: this works best when you give them a specific area to create in that is out of the way. Cover the floor in newspaper or large garbage bags for easy clean up afterwards. And be sure to have a place for washing hands nearby!

Of course both of these situations have risks – especially the risk of mess. But they also have great opportunity for learning and independence. They serve as a nutrition education lesson, as a fine motor activity, a literacy activity, and a social skill or communication activity. There’s so much going on!

Where’s the recipe? At the bottom of the blog you will find links to a pdf for Fruit Kabobs from the Cooking By Color Collection in English and Spanish. (This recipe does not appear in the book)

So when the kids seem at loose ends, or if you’d like to avoid the fights that happen at the family gathering every year, give ‘em a stick and let ‘em stab it (the fruit).

Have fun!

Fruit Kabobs English Fruit Kabobs Spanish
CBC Fruit Kabob Eng thumb CBC Fruit Kabob Spanish thumb

Recipes are Copyright © 2011 Joan Guthrie Medlen.

May be used for personal use only - not intended for classroom use, nutrition education, or other activities.