Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Fit Challenges for Real People

We just finished out workout for tonight. Technically it was our day for T25 Cardio, but I smashed my pinky toe this morning on a door and the nail split all the way down. Blood. Pain. Yep! 

No way was I putting a shoe on my right foot tonight so we lifted weights again today. I'm not complaining about the workout - I love the weight lifting! My competitive nature comes out and I push hard because I want to one day out-lift my husband. Will that happen? Doubt it! But at least it pushes me harder!

Peter and I have been coming up with 2 week mini-challenges for you - and us! 

Do you ever feel lost when it comes to making healthy and fit choices? 

Do you see your Facebook feed flooded with skinny and muscular bodies? 

I may have been working out consistently for 2+ years and I can guarantee I don't look like those toned models. 

We've created these challenges for the normal people like you and I. 

Ready to take some baby steps, learn a bit, and make make some new habits? 

Our first challenge post is already scheduled and will go live right here on the blog next Tuesday. 

Come back and join us for the Simply Fit Challenge #1 - August 29!

All you'll need to do is follow along here on my site for each bi-weekly challenge. Make sure you follow the Jess Newland Fitness Facebook page and my Instagram for videos & ideas throughout the challenges.

But until we start August 29, you're not off the hook! 

I have a couple mini challenges for you to get started on now...

1. Make a schedule for when you'll make time for exercise. Start with just 4-5 days a week. Schedule it and make it happen! Deal? 

2. Spread the word and find an accountability partner to join you on these little challenges. Daily exercising with my hubby and keeping track of my workouts in an accountability fitness group online has been critical for me.

Follow our family's stories in our daily vlogs on YouTube HERE!
Monday, August 22, 2016

Family Nights

“Can we have a family night?” 

I hear it ALL the time. One thing our kiddos love are family nights. Typically what they mean when they ask for a family night is “Can we stay up late and watch a movie?” 

There’s not much I love more than evenings in the family room on the couch watching a cartoon with my kids. Piles of pillows, blankets, popcorn, a cartoon, and my family of 6 making memories that will last a lifetime. (Of course a certain 8 and 12 year old love to take advantage of family nights as an excuse to stay up late and watch a movie any day of the week. They aren’t always granted their wish!)

Filling the dining room table with board games and late night trips to the ice cream parlor or coffee shop also top my favorite “family night” memories to make.

I’m sure you too have those favorite moments with your family, enjoying these kiddos while they’re young. As a mom of a now junior in high school I believe it more than ever - these years go WAY. TOO. FAST.

Need a new family game? Here’s some of our favorites! 
(Click on the images below to check them out!)

Our growing children remind me to truly savor every moment and take time to stop. To stop sitting at the computer, turn the phone off, internet distractions, and just BE

Disconnecting is SO hard in the cyber world we live in. We have so much constantly available at the click of a button on a screen. 

It’s hard for me to shut down. I struggle to sit and watch a movie without thinking I need to check my phone. I fail at this again and again. But when I do turn it all off, I’m so grateful I made the choice to unplug, look in my children’s eyes, and see and hear them with nothing else to grab my attention.

So turn it off. Make those family nights happen!

And I’m happy to have you help me be accountable to shut down the screens. Every day. Every week. To just stop it all and make time to just BE - our family of 6 who sees and hears each other.

Each Monday I participate in the #SimplyBloggers Blog Hop! This week we are talking family nights. Check out more fun ideas...

Allie is sharing a Scavenger Hunt idea!

Heather is sharing 5 Naturally Fun Family Activities

Melissa is sharing Top 10 Family Fun Night Ideas


Follow our family's stories in our daily vlogs on YouTube HERE!

Jessica Newland is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Special Needs Daddy's Perspective / Patience & Time

As I began to formulate what I wanted to write about in this post, I asked myself “What virtues do special needs parents require in order to do what they do?”

It wasn’t difficult for me to come up with a long list. And as I ask this question, I’m sure that it would not take long for anyone who reads this to do the same thing - even with a little exasperation and a little mental thought of “You have no idea!”

There are 2 virtues that hung out in the front of my mind as I thought through the 5 years that we’ve had with Zachary so far. Patience and Time

Whether it was waiting nearly 3 years for a diagnosis, or our daily watching Zachary walk with his walker and wanting to yell “Dude, just let go and walk!” we have needed so much patience and time over the years.

The hard part for me about writing this is knowing that the amount of patience and time required of me is really nothing compared to what is required of my beautiful and awesome wife. And I know that our story pales in comparison to the many out there who are in far more difficult situations than us. (Serious high-fives to all of you!)

If you were to hang out in our house for a few hours here are some of the things you might hear. 

“Zach stop slamming doors!” 
“Zachary stop staring at the sun!” 
“It’s too quiet in here…Zachary where are you?!”
“Zach did you just poop again?”
“He’s throwing up again!”

I really can’t get mad at him - he’s just too cute!

Most weeks Zachary has at least one doctor appointment, if not multiple, in addition to his several therapy appointments a week. With these appointments come tests and test results. I think to a certain degree everyone knows how difficult it can be waiting for test results, especially when they can be life changing. So much patience is required while you sit by the phone waiting for the call with results. 

What we’ve learned is if they say 2 days, we try to lower our expectation automatically to a couple of weeks - keeping our anticipation down and irritation level at a minimum!

Lowering our expectations help with patience in many areas - such as trying to communicate with our mostly non-verbal child, waiting for him to learn to walk, the battles trying to get him to eat, the nightly time-consuming bed-time procedures, repetitiveness in playtime, and on and on. 

This doesn’t mean that we lower our expectation of him and how we push him to be better. It will always be our goal to improve communication and see him walk, it just takes a LOT of time!

On that note, that brings me to the other area I want to talk about, which is time. The amount of time that is required to take care of a special needs child is astronomical. For my wife and I it doesn’t seem to matter how much time we put in, it feels like we’ve not done enough. 

The natural reaction is to keep putting in more time with the hope we will improve his life. But somehow the only thing that happens is we seem to get more frazzled and our patience wears thin. There comes a point that the amount of time we put into our child begins to take away from other areas of our life that deserve our time. 

Here are some things that are hugely important when it comes to our time - areas that we’ve come to learn and can’t ignore.
1. Eating Properly: One of the first things that goes when time is lacking is eating properly. Not just eating, but getting the proper nutrition that our body requires. This not only helps us feel better, but adds energy to our life to accomplish the things that need to get done.
2. Sleep: This may simply mean breaking routine and getting extra sleep on nights we know we can, so we can be better prepared for those nights when we won’t get much sleep.

3. Quality time with the other kids: Kids have the incredible ability to adapt to any situation they are in, which makes it all the more important to set aside time where each of our kids can have our total focus.
4. Get-away time: Two things that have worked wonders for us are once a week date nights where we can focus on each other and relax, and once a year getaways to get a few extra nights of sleep and recharge.

We have found that when we intentionally try to maintain these areas of time not only does it improve our quality of life but it improves our patience with each other, with the kids, and with Zachary.

I do want to make it clear that we in no way think that we have it all together or that we can coast through life. We very much recognize that our journey with Zachary will always be an up-hill battle.

As I watch the Olympians, I see athletes dedicating their lives to their sport all for the chance at a medal, proving to the world that they are the best. For us, I see no medals or interviews about being the best in the world. Just a cute little boy who needs a lot of attention. 

As I take a step back, I smile. I hear on the TV about all the time and energy the athletes spend for those little medals. But those medals are really just going to sit around and collect dust and they will definitely never smile back! 

Our ultimate goals is to not be great in the world’s eyes but in the eyes of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who give us this promise...

“Whoever does it unto the least of these does it unto Me.” Matthew 25:40

Monday, August 15, 2016

Simply Fit Challenges

What do you think of when you hear people talk about fitness?

No time?

I'm going to say something I never thought I'd ever say...

I have grown to love working out!

More so - my husband has been working out daily with me for 2 years. That's almost more mind blowing!

We were lazy. We were tired. We were, well, lets call it "fluffy." We were fluffy and we didn't know it!

After 2 1/2 years we are still going strong with our workouts and I get asked a lot how I find time. You can read my recent post about 5 Beginner Fitness Tips where I touch on some of this.

Truly it's all been about:

1. Making the time

2. Setting a goal to complete an entire program

3. Staying accountable with someone else

4. Not letting the kiddos keep us from exercise

Making the time includes setting a schedule and sticking to it. For us that's every evening after dinner. For you it may be first thing in the morning or on your lunch break. Write it down on your calendar and MAKE IT HAPPEN each day!

Setting a goal to complete an entire program is fulfilling and gives you a chance to really record and notice your progress. Our first program was Slim in 6 and we did it! We finished a full 6 weeks. We took before and after pictures and saw a massive difference. Our next program was P90X3 and we did that one too. We completed the full 90 day program and again saw results. I love programs that include a schedule, and have a big variety of workouts to keep me from getting bored. Whatever you choose, set a goal and complete it! Maybe choose a fun reward for yourself for when you make it to the end!

Staying accountable with a friend has also been critical. Whether it's a spouse, friend, or an online accountability fitness group, joining forces with someone else who is also trying to reach similar goals can keep you pressing play on that workout even when you'd much rather sit down with the remote and veg out.

Not letting the kiddos keep us from exercise can be a challenge. Kids can sure be the first reason I try to say no to exercise. Whether I'm completely exhausted because I was up with the baby all night or he's trying to crawl under my legs while I'm trying to do active cardio workouts, I've found I can always instead come up with a way to keep him entertained.

Here's some ideas...

If the kids are older, have them join in! Our elementary and middle school aged kids LOVE when we ask them to workout with us. On school nights the 30 - 45 minutes for a workout is a perfect time for them to take a shower and get pjs on or even sit nearby on the couch and finish up homework. I've definitely helped my kids study for spelling tests while exercising!

If your kids are babies, pop them in the baby swing or set them in a play pen in the room with some distracting toys. I've had countless yoga or pilates days where Zachary is crawling under or over me. But you know what? It's okay! He's usually giggling at his clumsy mama and it's fun to have the whole family in on the action.


Do you ever feel like you don't know where to start? My husband and I have been coming up with little, attainable challenges to spur you on. To spur us on too! (I really need the nutrition challenges to keep me eating right!)

We're calling them Simply Fit Challenges. Every two weeks we'll introduce a new goal to work on. Each challenge will focus on a different area to INCREASE and DECREASE.  Follow along and hopefully by the time the New Year comes around you'll already be way ahead of everyone else who is trying to just begin to set their weight loss resolution goals.

The first Simply Fit Challenge will begin August 29! All you'll need to do is follow along here on my site for the next challenge. Make sure you follow the Jess Newland Fitness Facebook page and my Instagram for videos & ideas throughout the challenges.

But until we start August 29, you're not off the hook! I have 3 mini challenges for you today...

1. Make a schedule for the next 2 weeks of when you'll make time for exercise. Start with just 4-5 days a week. Schedule it and make it happen! Deal? 

2. Spread the word and find an accountability partner to join you on these little challenges. Daily exercising with my hubby and keeping track of my workouts in an accountability fitness group online has been critical for me.

3. Read the posts below from my friends. I have found an incredible group of online blogging friends who push me to be better. They are all sharing today about how they make fitness fit into their busy lives as well. I'd love you to pop in. Leave them a friendly comment and tell them I sent you! :)

Heather from The Crunchy Trail

Allie from Simply St. Augustine

Melissa from Blessed Simplicity

Friday, August 5, 2016

Favorites Friday

I find it funny that right before I sit down for my scheduled time in the early morning hours to write this post about my favorites from the week that I hear Zachary beginning to throw up in his bed. Ironic? Favorite moment? I'm not so sure!

My head had been spinning since late last night about this post. How I planned to highlight some of the great and beautiful moments of the week amidst the difficult moments. I guess today was just meant to start off difficult - and give more reason to look to the positives and how I find God amidst it all!

The Lows:

There were many tough moments this week in therapy. Zachary has easy weeks and hard weeks - all depending on his mood. There were lots of tears and screams and attitude in our daily sessions.

Eating is still a major battle. The screams start the moment I walk towards the high chair and he refuses to let me put him in. Getting him to eat is like trying to serve him everything on a restaurant menu and hoping one item he'll open his mouth for and take a bite.

One thing I've learned raising Zachary is that I have to be okay with changing my parenting methods. I would NEVER had allowed my other children to act this way. But when you're child cannot express himself with words at all and on top of that in many areas has the comprehension of a 1 year old, my previous parenting techniques have been thrown out the window. Many days I'm aching to know how to parent this kid!

We're professional puke cleaners again. Yep - we had a couple weeks of vomit-free bliss but I'm once again on puke alert. It's like my ears are trained to hear the beginning sounds of gagging from a mile away and I can jump out of my chair faster than an Olympic runner when he starts throwing up.

The Highs:

Thursday's Speech Therapy in clinic was so much fun and filled with smiles, cooperation, and pretend play! There will be footage up later on our Vlog of Zachary with his therapist. I love this pic of "Z" putting a hamburger in the microwave!

Honestly, I didn't smile as much at the sounds he was making but the genuine "pretend play" she got out of him. Zachary's play time is typically filled with light up baby toys. He'll push the buttons over and over again and press his eyes up against the bright lights. If he's not staring at the lights, he's lying on the floor flapping his arms like he's dancing to the music. Getting him to play let alone pretend to eat from a toy spoon is something I don't expect him to do anytime soon. But yesterday? His AMAZING therapist Kari got it out of him. It was a beautiful moment - a gift from God. And you can be sure I was immediately thinking where I can get cheap toy play dishes to try to encourage this at home!

THANK YOU JESUS for the encouraging moments! While there are many lows during the weeks with Zachary, there are beautiful moments that erase the gloom that may find it's way into my heart.

I find favorite moments in remembering the evenings this week lying on the floor and letting him climb and jump all over me.  We had nightly bath playtime and he learned to pour the water out from a cup! And then the moment last night he fell asleep quickly and easily at bedtime. I'm grateful.  SO very grateful.

Each week has it's moments of joy and heartache. Remembering these moments each Friday is life giving!

But enough of Zachary - ha! Let's have some fun with some of my favorite things this week online.

I am SO excited for the upcoming release of this new book from a website I love, Frugal Fun 4 Boys & Girls. You can head over to Amazon and pre-order it now. I see hours of fun in our future and no need to rush out and buy new lego sets! If only we didn't have to wait until October to get a copy!

Do you listen to podcasts? I love to listen while folding laundry, driving in the car, etc. One of my favorites is Mom Struggling Well. I met Emily Thomas in Dallas at a conference a few years ago. She's super fun, keeps me laughing, and her podcasts speak straight to my heart. Check it out!  You'll thank me later.

I very much dislike cardio. The jumping, jogging, sweating...I'd much rather break a sweat lifting heavy weights. But my body reallllly needs cardio. So Peter and I have been alternating our workouts between Body Beast (yay muscle work) and T25. (I'm sweating thinking about it!) Guys - I feel SO good and accomplished after that 25 minute cardio session. So T25 makes my favorites list this week. Need a good cardio workout? This is where it's at. And I'm SO grateful I get a major workout done in less than 30 minutes! 

If you want to try T25 for FREE for a month, consider Beachbody On Demand. We stream all our workouts to our TV from our Amazon Firestick so we're never popping in a DVD. And there's TONS of workouts on the On Demand app.
My final favorite has to be our new hobby of "VLOGGING." This new journey started as an idea and dream we had been mulling over for months. It's something we talked about doing but never took the plunge. I'm so glad we decided to quit talking about it and just give it a try. We're still learning - but it's been so much fun to document our days. Not only will we have hours of family memories to look back on for ourselves, we do have a passion and purpose to share our journey as a special needs family in the hopes others are encouraged and don't feel alone.  Take a look! We're really looking to reach our first goal of 100 subscribers so we can unlock the feature of getting our own URL. May seem silly, but it would be easier to share the link. So do it - head on over to our Newland Chronicles page and click the RED Subscribe button! We appreciate it!

Have a wonderful weekend! 


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Special Needs Journey - A Daddy's Perspective

I have a very special treat for you today. My husband Peter is breaking his online silence as it were and is sharing his special needs father's heart with you! As I read Peter's words and typed this post for him, I sat in our overstuffed recliner and wept. I'm SO excited for you to hear from Peter, my sweet Zachary's daddy.

If you were to have told me a number of years back that I was to one day be the father of a special needs child, I would have probably told you that I’m pretty sure that’s not a good idea. I most likely would have said that I’m not sure that’s something I could handle.

I remember many times growing up and coming across a handicapped or special needs person and feeling a bit awkward, not knowing how to interact or what to say. I’d instead find myself locating the nearest exit and high-tailing it out of there!

Now, however, things are very different. We were blessed with Zachary, a 5 year old boy born to us in 2011 with Lowe Syndrome. In short, Lowe Syndrome is a rare disease that affects only boys. Zachary has the mental capacity of a 1 or 2 year old with very little verbal skills and the physical frailty of an unhealthy 85 year old man. The chance of having a boy with Lowe Syndrome is about the same as winning the Powerball jackpot. But given the choice between having a half-billion dollars or Zachary, I would choose Zachary in a heartbeat even amidst the unknown difficulties - and even cleaning up his puke in the middle of writing this! Blah!

My reason for writing is to simply share with you some things that I have learned about being a father of a special needs child and why he is such a joy to Jessica and I and our family. These thoughts will in no way lead you to being the perfect special needs parent or provide you with more sleep at night, but maybe it will give you encouragement and make the times when you do sleep a little more peaceful!

I just told you I would choose Zachary over a half-billion dollars and you may have thought “of course you would! He’s your flesh and blood.” This is true, but this truth goes much deeper than the fact that he is my son. The truth is that God is all powerful and all knowing, that God is everywhere holding all things together including the heart beating in your chest, and that he is personal and nothing escapes his notice. So you and I must realize that God doesn’t make mistakes.

Let me say it again for my sake - God doesn’t make mistakes! Whether it’s something you see in the mirror or it’s your son or daughter suffering from something ugly that is out of your control and it breaks your heart, God doesn’t make mistakes. He doesn’t see Zachary as an “oops” or an “I didn’t see that one coming!” God sees Zachary as fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14)

I am reminded of the story from the book of John where we see two very contrasting views of a man born blind. (John 9) The disciples view was that it must be either because of his sins or his parents’ sins. Jesus’ view, however, was much different when he said “This happened so that the power of God could be seen in him.” This passage reveals to me that God doesn’t look at Zachary filled with regret at what He had made, but He sees Zachary as a portal through which His power can be seen! Not in this life will I really understand how this will all work or what God’s plan truly is. 

This also brings new light to Psalm 139 that God “knit together” not just the seemingly perfect human specimens of the world but also those who were born with sickness, disease, and disorders.

When I choose Zachary over all the treasure in the world, it’s not just because he is my son, but because it’s exactly how God wants him to be and God’s precious thoughts about him cannot be numbered. (Psalm 139:17)

It is my prayer for your family and ours that in the middle of difficult and hard to understand times, God would make known to you some of those precious thoughts that He has for you and your children. Knowing that in sickness, disease, and disorders, God’s power, whether we understand it or not, will be seen.


Friends, this is just the beginning! Peter will be sharing his heart and what he's been learning as a special needs dad all throughout the month of August. I hope you'll come back!

Follow our family's stories in our daily vlogs on YouTube HERE!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

5 Beginner Fitness Tips

Two years ago I was a tired mom of 4 who couldn't keep up with my kids. Over my 15 years as a parents so far I had started and stopped workout programs more times than I could count. Exercise just wouldn't become a habit and I never ever had success. I was carrying around the weight of 4 pregnancies and had lost all motivation. Something changed for me in 2014, and I'm SO glad it did! 

Counting the minutes I walked turned into completing an entire fitness program and the realization that regular people like me could lose weight and healthy set in. 

Today I'm sharing with you 5 beginner tips for starting your own journey to losing weight and feeling better.

1. Don’t just talk about it, start now!

We all talk about the need to get healthy and lose weight. It’s good for us, right? I’m the best at getting big ideas and saying I’m going to start something. But unless I make that first move? Reality is I’ll never get started. Whether it’s talking about weeding the garden or starting an exercise program, I’ve just got to make it happen. Don’t say you’ll start tomorrow, next week, or even at the beginning of a new month. Make a plan and start TODAY!

2.  Schedule fitness it into your day and put it on your calendar!

Let’s be honest. We’re ALL busy. I could list all the things I have to do in a day and you could too. We’re so busy, the days fly by, and if you’re like me you get to the end of the day and all you want to do is sit and do nothing. With school about to start up again, the routines will be getting even more busy running here and there. If I don’t have a set in stone plan as to when my workout is going to happen each day, it’s typically the first thing to get ignored. 

I challenge you to sit down with your calendar and block out your exercise time. We’re currently working through a program called T25 that takes literally only 25 minutes to complete. Even with my crazy schedule filled with caring for Zachary and all of his therapy and doctor appointments, I can carve out 25 minutes. 

For Peter and I, our time to work out is every evening after dinner and the dishes are done. It’s so routine now that our kids even know when it's workout time and they ask us if for some reason we don’t start our workout right away!

Grab that calendar and plan out your workouts for the rest of the week! Do it!

3. Pick a program and stick with it to the end!

How many exercise DVDs are sitting on your bookshelves? Especially after I started having babies I bought several. And by several I mean SEVERAL. They all come with a plan, right? Most fitness programs come with a calendar to follow laying out which workout to do when. I can honestly say that it wasn’t until my oldest kiddo was 15 years old that I completed an entire workout program. SHAME ON ME! No wonder I kept all that weight on me. 

Don’t start and stop. Pick a program, print off the calendar, and commit to finish it to the end! 

My first program I ever finished was Slim in 6. And I did it! I completed the full 6 weeks. And because I did, I had AMAZING results.

4. Find an accountability partner!

If it weren’t for my husband, I would have quit this whole losing weight goal 2 years ago. I’d probably still be in my extra large jeans and have no energy. Every day I push myself harder knowing Peter is watching and working out with me. On evenings I don’t want to work out, Peter drags me to the living room. And on days he’d rather take a nap on the couch I’m getting real loud, waking him up, and saying “lets get started!” 

I also have a friend that I text with to stay accountable. She texts and checks in on me to see if I’m working out and how my nutrition is, and I do the same for her. Knowing there’s someone who’s keeping an eye on you and checking up on you makes it that much more motivating to keep going!

5. Plan your meals ahead of time

Oh the nutrition battle. Here’s the truth. I started working out consistently 2 years ago and ate right. Within the first year I’d lost 40 pounds and 4 pant sizes. Serious. But here’s the deal. I  gained 10 pounds back. Did I quit working out? Not at all! 

Why then did I gain back 10? I slowly became lazy with my eating. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t eat bark and beans. Even on our nutrition plan I eat delicious food. But one donut can lead to two, and one latte can lead to another. I can’t stress enough how eating right is the key to ALL of this. When I started eating right again in addition to my exercise? The weight started falling off once again. It’s SO important.

Here’s my tip: plan your meals out down to even your snacks. Plan a week at a time and stick with it. Save your plans and once you have 4? You have a whole month’s worth of healthy eating plans and you’re on the right track!

For me a healthy lifestyle take constant effort. Now that I know it’s possible to lose weight and regain energy I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve still got lots of work ahead of me - I’m working on the next 30 pounds I need to lose and I’m daily fighting the nutrition battle. 

Let’s do this!


Follow our family's stories in our daily vlogs on YouTube HERE!