Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ensure an Awesome Massage: 5 Things You Can Do

Have I convinced you of the importance of taking care of yourself as a parent or caregiver to a young child?

For the sake of this post, let's say so.  Let's also say that a great massage is one of the ways you've chosen to make that happen.  You've done your homework, and taken all the steps to prepare for a great what?

There are a few things you can do during and after your massage to make sure you have a great experience.


1. Relax....and Feel Comfortable

Unless you're getting a seated or chair massage, it's likely that you'll be invited to remove some or all of your clothing before beginning your massage.  Doing so allows the massage therapist to access muscles more easily, but it's up to you which pieces of clothing stay.

In order to get the most out of your massage, you have to be comfortable!  If you're tense and worried about feeling bare, you won't enjoy your massage.  Better to leave on a few bits of clothing and enjoy the experience than ruin the whole thing trying to conform to what you think the expectation is!  At least in the US (other countries may allow different practices, always ask first!) you will always be fully covered except for the area being worked on, so no need to worry about feeling exposed!

How this is handled will vary from place to place.  Some spas I've visited have had a locker room, and I've been given a robe to change into.  Other places have showed me to the massage room then given me some privacy to change and climb onto the massage table and cover myself. (Outside the US, practices may vary - best to talk with your spa beforehand if this is a concern!)

2. Relax...and Clear Your Mind

I know how hard it can be to try to remove the thoughts of your kids, your to-do list, and everything else we have to handle on a day-to-day basis.  I may or may not have written this post in my head while lying on a massage table (it wasn't the best massage I've ever had, needless to say...) so I definitely get it.

Try hard to to listen to the music playing, relax, and just be in the moment.  A simple meditation technique I sometimes try is to just count deep breaths.  Close your eyes, and breathe in slowly while counting 1...2...3...4...then breathe out slowly 1...2...3...4... do this for several cycles, and you should feel relaxed, and have a clear (or at least clearer mind).

3. Relax...and Make Sure You Enjoy the Experience

A good massage therapist will know how to listen to your muscles and apply the right techniques to work with what they need.  That doesn't mean they can read your mind, though!  Sometimes, they might ask about areas you'd like to focus on, how much pressure you prefer, etc. before they start, others do not.

Regardless, if you're in the midst of a massage, and you'd like them to use more or less pressure, speak up! Sometimes massage might be a bit uncomfortable, especially if a therapist is working with especially tight muscles, but you should never be in ought right pain.  Don't ever be afraid to ask the massage therapist to back of the pressure a bit or to let them know that you are experiencing pain.

A massage isn't one of the places I feel the need to chat with my practitioner throughout our time together.  Don't feel like you have to be absolutely silent, though.


4. Drink Plenty of Water

Drinking lots of water is always a good idea.  After a massage, it's especially helpful.  

All that work on your muscles also drains water from your soft tissues.  It's important to re hydrate after this workout.  

Plus, all that released water has to go somewhere.  In this case, it goes to your kidneys along with all the waste/toxins that were released from your muscles.  Drinking plenty of water helps to flush them right out of your body.  

5. Expect a few Sore Spots

Especially if you've had some serious knots worked out, you might have a few sore spots after your massage.  Again, these spots should be painful, but might feel like you've just had a good workout.  This should dissipate after a day or so.  If not, I suggest getting back in touch with your massage therapist and/or your medical provider!

Some easy stretching and/or a warm bath might help to care for your original tension as well as your newly sore spots.

We've looked at using a great sugar scrub and lotion, an easy stay-at-home date night, and massage as great ways to care for yourself so far.  What else is on your list of self-care musts?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

7 Ways to Prepare for a Tremendous Massage

Taking care of yourself is so important.  It helps you feel great, and in turn be a better caretaker, co-worker, spouse, friend, etc. I can't stress enough the truth I've found to the statement "you can't give what you don't have." Treating yourself to a massage - weekly, monthly, occasionally - can be a super part of that self-care.

Massage is a great way to relax, relieve tight muscles, and can even be a beneficial part of healing an injury.  To make the most out of your massage though, it's important to do certain things before, during and after your appointment.  In this two-part series, I will share with you simple things you can do to help yourself have the most awesome possible experience treating yourself to a massage.

*I am not a medical professional, and this is not medical advice.  Please speak with your medical professional before starting a massage regimen*

Title text on wooded background - 7 ways to prepare for a massage


1. Determine if Massage is Right for You

I greatly enjoy a good massage, and encourage you to enjoy one too.  It's important to know that massage isn't for everyone, though.  Certain conditions such as fever, cold/flu, early pregnancy, heart problems, cancer, and many others might be contraindications for massage.  If you have any medical conditions, you should first discuss with your doctor and your massage therapist if massage is the right fit for you.  Maybe you just don't enjoy massage - that's OK too.  There are other ways you can relax and care for yourself if massage isn't for you.

2. Decide What Kind of Massage You Want

There are lots of different types of massage.  Most frequently, I go for Swedish or relaxation massage  - probably what you see most often portrayed as massage.  Other common types are deep tissue massage (deeper layers of the muscles are massaged to relieve chronic tightness or muscle pain), hot stone massage (smooth stones are heated and placed on specific areas of the body to loosen tight muscles and balance energy) and pregnancy massage (specially trained massage therapists provide a massage using the proper positioning and support to care for both mama and baby).  There are lots more, too.  

Most spas will have a menu on their website describing the different types of massage they offer. Decide what sounds best, and start there.  If you have questions about what a particular type of massage entails or if it's right for you, don't be afraid to call the spa and ask!

3. Choose Where to Get Your Massage

It seems like you can find massage offerings almost anywhere these days.  Do you prefer a more medical setting or something more spa-like?  Ask for suggestions or check out some websites for local spas, salons, or private practitioners.

4. Call and Ask Questions

using a tin-can-phone

Are you trying to decide between a few different places?  Are you still trying to decide which type of massage is for you?  Call and ask!  Any good business should be willing to answer any of your questions.  If they seem hesitant to help you or un-knowledgeable about their offerings, it should be a red flag.

Other important questions to ask should be about pricing, tipping policies (some spas don't allow tipping, others automatically add a tip to the price of the massage, others leave it up to your discretion), cancellation policies, and anything else you want to know about making your massage a great experience.

5. Make an Appointment

Some locations will require to make an appointment for your massage.  Others will accept walk-ins.  I suggest making an appointment to get the most out of your time.  Even though a spa accepts walk-ins, it doesn't mean someone will be available when you arrive or that they are the best at performing the type of massage you want.  To make sure you get the best massage possible, I suggest making an appointment as far in advance as possible.

This is also the time to let the spa know if you prefer a specific massage therapist, would rather a male or female, or other special considerations.  Don't show up for your massage and expect that they will be able to make accommodations - while they might be willing, they may not have the staff available to do so.

6. Hydrate

To get the most out of your massage, you'll want to drink plenty of water leading up to your appointment.  Make sure to visit the restroom just before your massage to avoid any discomfort, though!

7. Arrive a Few Minutes Early

You want to be relaxed during your massage.  Make sure to allow yourself enough time to arrive, park, and check in a few minutes early.

The spa might have some forms for you to fill out indicating your areas of soreness, injury, etc. Many will also offer you the chance to change into a robe, have something to drink, and relax in a quiet room before your massage starts.

This is also a great time to ask any last minute questions, if you have any.

Hopefully, by preparing, you'll have set yourself to have an awesome massage.  It's time to meet your therapist, and enjoy!  Stop back soon to see my suggestions for enjoying you massage to the fullest, and how to take care of yourself afterwards.

Do you take care of yourself with massage?  Do you prefer a spa setting or somewhere else? What other things do you do in order to take good care of yourself?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

2 Sure-Fire Steps to A Great Flight with Your Little One

Recently, we were lucky enough to be taken to Disney World for vacation by a set of very generous grandparents (Thank you!).  We had lots of fun, and even learned some important lessons along the way.  The lessons started immediately - at the airport.  Flying with a toddler and a pre schooler is no joke; but it doesn't have to be a disaster!

Family standing with circus performer Daisy Duck

I'm not going to give you my list of 30 things to pack when you fly with toddlers.  I can't tell you what snacks to pack that will magically keep your little one happy during the long travel day.  I have no idea what activity or what movie will keep your child occupied long enough for you to drink your 3 oz. of complimentary beverage. 

Do you know why?  Every kid is different, and every trip is different.   What worked wonderfully for someone else might not work at all for you.  What worked on the flight TO your vacation might be the worst thing in the world on the way BACK from vacation.  (If your child is anything like mine, nothing ever works twice, so you're used to inconsistency.  If not, welcome to the club; let your creative juices flow!) What works great for one of your children, may not be the right fit for a sibling.

Backs of boys watching planes take off through giant window

Let's face it, flying is a great way to get somewhere, and there are some cool parts about it, but it makes for a long, stressful day.  Most kids love watching planes take off  and land through the giant terminal windows.  It can be a fun adventure: seeing the cockpit, soaring like a bird, etc.  There's lots of waiting and lines, though.  For little ones, without a fully developed ability to wait patiently, all that time between take-off and landing where you can't really move around too much can become a problem pretty quickly.

I do have some advice about how to make your trip go as smoothly as possible, though, and it all boils down to just two things.

Toddler approximation of plane sign

1. Over Pack

Is your child still wearing diapers? Pack way more than you think you'll need.  If you get delayed for any reason, you don't want to run out!

The same goes for extra clothes.  Even if your kiddo has been using the potty for a while, you never know what's going to spill, leak, rip, etc.  Pack extras of everything - for you and them in your carry on.

Things to do, too.  Distraction will be your friend for passing the time.  You know your child and his or her interests - follow them.  Pack small toys, books, paper, crayons, stickers....whatever will keep them occupied for a while.  Electronics are fine too, if you use them.  I suggest making them a last resort - once they come out other things don't always seem so cool anymore.  A few new surprises never hurt, but familiar favorites are great too! (We packed everything in an individual back pack for each boy.  They felt special getting to carry their treasures, and it made them easy to get to when we needed to switch activities.  All except the lap top - that was stored safely in Daddy's carry on when not being used!)

2. Create a Mental Blueprint

This is especially important if your little one is taking his/her first flight or may not remember the last one.  They have no way to anticipate what will come next, which can be scary and frustrating.

Using stickers to make pictures on tray tablesOn our trip, Mr. L. loved the tray tables that pulled out so he was able to reach them.  He was really enjoying using his little personal table to play before we took off.  Then came time to put the tray tables up for take off. Without the experience to tell him what would happen next and that he would, indeed, get to play again, my tiny two year old got mad pretty quickly.  (Hey, you would too!)

That's where signs saved our day, yet again!  We used the sign AIRPLANE along with classifiers to explain what was about to happen....we would TAXI-DOWN-THE-RUNWAY, then we would TAKE-OFF and CLIMB before LEVELING-OFF. Right now we needed to WAIT.

Daddy Explains what will happen using AIRPLANE and classifiers
Mr. L. shows approximation of PLANE TAKE OFF
Mr. L. shows off his approximation
of Daddy's explanation

We had to re-iterate this fact several times, but it helped Mr. L. (and big brother, Mr. I.) make sense of their situation, connect to something they did have experience with, and have a successful flight.  In fact, but the time we got on our connecting flight, Mr. I. was using classifiers to explain to the stranger sitting behind us what was about to happen.  (Thankfully, she was very accommodating, albeit a bit thrown off.)

If all else fails....hope they nap!

Exhausted boys sleeping on a plane

Ready to make American Sign Language part of your communication with your little one?  Check out to find out about classes in Northeast Ohio, or Contact Me about scheduling your own in person or virtually!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Wonderful Teachers are Just Regular People in Disguise

As we're preparing for schools to start up again - does it seem to happen earlier and earlier every year where you live too? - I wanted to take a moment to salute our teachers.  Not just those our "big kids" will see in school each day.  We also have all the dance teachers, sports coaches, art, language, music, etc. teachers who we'll meet each day.  Cut them - and you - a break, we all have a passion to help you and your child be something wonderful!

When I take any kind of class I always see the teacher as magical creature who has all the answers both in and out of the classroom.

I watch the owner of the dance studio we attend teaching her youngest students with such accomplishment- a whole class of toddlers are excited to see her, they mostly cooperate with anything she asks of them, and the exit class smiling and excited. Surly she must have the same success with her own small child.  Or, take for example, the teacher in an online workshop in which I'm studying about deaf childhood development.  As a school employee, she must certainly have incredible victories with every child on her caseload.  Even my own fitness quest can provide examples as each instructor undoubtedly maintains a perfect fitness and nutrition regimen every day.

Now, in my head, I know this isn't the case.  Each of these teachers is human.  They have a some great information to share, but they have good days and bad days.  There are days when what they know *should* work  - doesn't.  There are days when they don't follow their own great advice.  There are days where it just seems that everything goes wrong no matter what you try.  Still there tends to be a mystical perfection I apply to people in such positions in my life.

If for no other reason, I should know this because I'm a teacher, and mystical, magical perfection is far from a part of my life!  I hope that the families I work with see me as someone a lot like them - a mom who's very much human and just trying to do the best I can for my family.  The fact that I get to share my passion for language and children and early communication with them, and that it helps them too, is just a bonus.

Here's a story to prove it  - in case you need a reminder like I often do:

I was having a heck of a day - one of those where it seems like the universe is just against you no matter how many nice things you try to do.  After dealing with teething-induced tantrums, running late to teach my class, ruining the birthday cake I tried to bake for my husband, and not having a birthday present to give him, I let myself have a good cry before going to pick up said teething 2-year-old from daycare.

My plan was to pick him up early, go shopping together for birthday presents, then go to his weekly dance class.

3:45: Get in the car, give Mr. L. a snack and a sippy cup - he's thrilled!

3:47: Start "Elsa" in the CD player - life is grand!

4:00: Arrive at department store. "Doctor" is the exclamation from my back seat.  "You think this looks like the doctor's office?"  (The brick store looks nothing like our doctor's office with a white exterior.)  "This is a store.  We're going to buy some birthday presents for Daddy."

4:01: My phone rings as we're about to get out of the car.  We talk to Daddy for a few minutes about our game plan for the evening.

4:05: We enter the store, and I try to sit Mr. L. in a buggy.  He refuses, and he insists on walking. I'm learning to work with his newly demanded discovered independence, so I take a deep breath and make a mental list of all the tools I have to keep him in sight, buy birthday presents for Daddy, and still get to dance class on time.

4:15: My mental list is exhausted.  I am totally unable to keep him in my sight and do more than randomly grab things off of the shelf.

4:16: I take a deep breath and try to re-group while I retrieve Mr. L. from the little girl's shoe aisle. I kneel down to his level: "Mommy needs to be able to SEE (I sign see.) you.  If you want to walk, you need to stay where I can SEE you.  If you keep running off where I can't SEE you, you're going to have to ride (SIT) in the buggy.

4:20: We've made it through kitchen supplies.  Mr. L. let me hold him as we made our way down the aisles, so we avoided breaking any of the display items!  We're headed down the main aisle to men's clothing.  I'm feeling cautiously optimistic that we'll get what we need.

4:21: I bend down to look at golf shirts on a low self.  I look up, and can't see Mr. L.  Luckily, his winter boots are anything but quiet, so I know right where he is.

4:22:  I pick him up and try to sit him in the buggy with the reminder "Mommy needs to be able to see you.  You keep running off, so you're going to have to sit in the cart for now."  Can you guess how this disappointment went?

4:25: I remind myself that I'm doing fine.  I expected the resistance, the kicking, and some verbal protests. "Keep him engaged, let him help.  It will be short lived."  (Am I the only one who gives myself mental pep talks?)

4:26:  Mr. L. is still screaming and trying to climb out of his seat.  I'm trying to follow my own advice.  "Which one of these should we get for Daddy?"  "What color shirt do you like?" If anything, these questions only irritate him further.  Now instead of protesting, his screams sound as though I'm torturing him.  I'm certain everyone is staring at me even though it's mid-afternoon and the store is nearly empty.  Are the security cameras turning in my direction too?

4:27: With tears springing to my eyes, I pick Mr. L. up out of the cart and hug him to me for a chat. I feel the weight of the day sitting on my shoulder.  "Mommy feels the same way, bud. We need to find a birthday present for Daddy, though.  Can you help me?"  Momentarily, I contemplate leaving and buying nothing. Mr. L.'s tantrum intensifies.  Now he's screaming even louder (how is that even possible?!) and trying to throw himself out of my arms.  I sit him back in the buggy seat as carefully as I can and try to ignore his screams, talking to him as though it were any normal shopping trip.  I'm thinking of all the stories I've read about moms who've been applauded or criticized in similar situations.  "Just get what you need as quickly as you can.  Stay calm.  You're doing fine.  If anyone says something negative to you, just ignore them."

4:32: Realizing I've just walked the same path through men's clothing for probably the 50th time, I give up.  Nothing I'm trying is working. I can't focus.  I'm so distracted, I don't even remember there are bubbles in my purse!  I decide to purchase the couple of things I've already picked out and move on.

4:37: We're back in the car.  I'm trying to figure out how to kill time until dance class.  I'm disappointed with the results of our trip. but I'm proud that I kept my cool and dealt with the situation.  We end up driving around for a while.  Mr. L. calmly looks out the window and takes in everything going by.

6:15: Dance class lets out.  Mr. L. participated and behaved like any other toddler - mostly doing what he was asked and needing a few reminders.  We head home for dinner and bed.

I'm very much human!  

My tools and strategies aren't always successful.  In many ways, we are probably a lot alike.  We love young children, and we want to offer them the valuable gift of early communication.  No one has all the answers all the time, but we are invested in learning as many of them as possible!

If you're a parent, you are your baby's first teacher.  If you're a school teacher, a child care teacher, a teacher of teachers, a music teacher, a coach, etc., etc., etc., THANK YOU for all you do.  You are human, but you wear a superhero costume sometimes - you're a teacher!

You're doing a great job.  Stop for a minute today.  Take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back.  Not every situation will go off without a hitch - but you're doing great work!