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2017 Speakers Will Inspire More Joy in Your Life

I am very excited about the speaker line-up we have for the 2017 Happy Mama Retreat, and what they will offer our mamas! You don’t want to miss this year’s retreat (if you haven’t registered yet, click here).

First, I will start Saturday morning by welcoming you all to the retreat and talking about the Power of Your Child’s Personal Truth. Then, Heidi Bolden, a psychologist from Fast Braiin, will share Essential Principals for Mama Self-Care. She will be followed by parent coach Elaine Taylor-Klaus, who will lead a presentation and workshop on Strategies to Nurture Relationships and Get Your Family Working Together as a Team. We will round out the conference portion of Saturday with our own Sarah Wayland, educating us on The Critical Impact of Stress on Behavior, for Child and Parent Alike. By the time we reach our big relaxation and self-care break Saturday afternoon, you will have the tools and inspiration to choose and create more joy in your life.

>>> View the 2017 Retreat Agenda Here <<<

But, that’s not all! Sunday morning we will come together again to learn from John Wilson (aka “Big John”), the director of SOAR — he will teach us how to Unlock the Super Hero in Our Children with Special Needs. John already greatly impacted my family once, and I know he’ll bring the same powerful insights and truths that helped us to his presentation at Happy Mama.

>>> View the 2017 Speaker Bios Here <<<

Of course, the speakers are only a small part of this life-changing retreat. We will continue to relax, unwind, and build community and support one another as only mamas on this special parenting journey can do.

I hope to see you at the retreat in May! Register here, if you haven’t already done so for the 2017 event.

Happy Mama Retreat 2017 Speakers on Self-Care and Special Needs Parenting

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Do you ever allow yourself to hope?

Do You Let Yourself See Your Child’s Future?

Guest post by Happy Mama Retreat 2016 sponsor, Leslie Josel, Principal, Order Out of Chaos

My son turns 18 today.  Eighteen! Do you mind if I just take a second to process that? Now, I’ve been through the whole “my-child-is-turning-18” thing when my lovely daughter did so four years ago. But there is something about Eli turning 18 that hits me in my core so deeply that when I truly think about it I can’t breathe.

Since Eli is my youngest, I know his birthdays mark me in time. But that isn’t it. I also know that I might hear the “I’m 18 and I can do what I want” mantra. Doubtful. Truthfully, as long as my husband and I are “paying his way” that doesn’t really hold true.

If I am really honest with myself it’s that I never allowed myself to “see” what 18 would look like on him: Who Eli would be; what our lives would be like. And I am sure many of you can relate. All through Eli’s early years it was enough just to make it to the next minute, hour or day; projecting to the next ten years was a luxury I didn’t really afford myself.

I had very small goals ten years ago. Tiny. “Let’s see if Eli can get dressed for school this morning without my husband having to sit on him to do so.” “What are the odds that Eli will make it through a birthday party, karate lesson, trip to the supermarket without demanding we leave within 5 minutes of arriving?” “How many minutes of peace will I have before Eli starts yelling at me that he doesn’t want to…”? And on it went. Sound familiar? Now not every day was like that. But many were and many were rough. Really rough. But I don’t have to go there. You get it.

So how the heck did we get here? It feels like I turned my back for one second and when I turned back found this tall, handsome, kind, quirky, happy, talented love of a son staring down at me. The son who would scream for hours now uses that voice to act in a Shakespeare troupe at school. The son who impulsively ran across the street without looking where he was going is now a cautious and responsible driver. And the child who was told by his elementary school in 3rd grade that they couldn’t “educate” him and would need to go elsewhere has become a second semester senior who will be attending college in the Northeast this fall.  It’s all a bit much.

Truth be told, even during all of the tough times, we always saw glimmers of the young man Eli might become.  My husband often said, “If we can just freeze dry him and wake him up when he’s eighteen things will be different.”  While I may have thought that was wishful thinking, deep down I was hoping he was right.

But beyond the hope, there was something actually happening that I was certain about. My son worked hard to get here. Heck, my whole family did along side him. But we didn’t do it alone. There were teachers, guidance counselors, therapists, camp counselors, family, friends, theater coaches, one tough fencing instructor, one even tougher driving instructor and countless other mentors along the way. We called it Team Eli. And still do. People that believed in my son, his strengths, his gifts and most important, his purpose. And that allowed Eli to believe in himself.

So happy birthday my Eli. We can’t wait to see where the next ten years will lead you.

Leslie Josel, Principal, Order Out of Chaos

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Inspiring learning

2016 Speaker Lineup Can’t Be Missed

This year’s speaker lineup offers something for everyone. Sarah Wayland will be providing effective strategies for parenting challenging children. Educational advocate, Karina Hayes, will be teaching us how to successfully advocate for our children. And, Ann Palmer will offer tips and strategies for protecting and nurturing our relationships when we have special needs children in the mix. Here’s more about each speaker:

View More: http://erikanizborski.pass.us/sarahwaylandSarah Wayland, PhD

Special Needs Care Navigator & Relationship Development Intervention (RDI™) Consultant

Sarah Wayland is a Special Needs Care Navigator with the goal of ensuring that no parent ever feels as lost and confused as she and her husband did when embarking on their journey as parents of two exceptional children with special needs.

Nothing gives her more joy than teaching parents about effective strategies for raising their challenging children, and working with individual clients as an RDI consultant. These parent education programs helped her and her husband figure out the best ways to teach their children the skills they need within the rhythm of normal daily life. This was especially profound, as their lives had become anything but normal. Sarah works to give other families what RDI and parenting classes gave her family: Hope.

In addition to teaching and working with individual clients, Sarah is co-editor of the book, Technology Tools for Students with Autism, and has written articles for the 2e Newsletter, Washington Parent Magazine, the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum, andExpert Beacon.


yellow headshot 2014Katrina Hayes

Special Education Advocate

Katrina Hayes is a passionate Special Education Advocate who currently resides in Cary, North Carolina. Amongst her numerous accomplishments, she was the 2011 Girls Inc. of NYC Volunteer of the Year. Being the strong, smart, and bold individual that she is, Katrina is also a Graduate of Partners in Policymaking and a Disability Rights North Carolina Board Member.

Education-wise, Katrina studied Medical Biology and obtained her M.Sc. During her free-time, she loves to stay active by bowling, playing skee ball, and even rock-climbing. Katrina has a brother and is the proud mother of a son—both of which have autism. She urges them—along with everyone else to NEVER be afraid of who you are. Her courageous and positive spirit is contagious.   www.speakupadvocacy.com


Palmer headshotAnn Palmer

Author, Speaker, Autism Professional

Ann Palmer is the parent of an adult son with autism, an author and presenter, and a professional working with families for over 20 years. She is currently a faculty member of the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities (CIDD) at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, training multidisciplinary graduate level students on working with families.

Ann is the author of three books: Realizing the College Dream with Autism or Asperger Syndrome, Parenting Across the Autism Spectrum (winner of the Autism Society of America’s Literary Work of the Year), and A Friend’s and Relative’s Guide to Supporting the Family with Autism. She is also the co-author of Working with Families of Children with Autism. She has been published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, the MAAP, the newsletter of the Maap Services for Autism and Asperger Spectrum, the Autism Asperger’s Digest, Exceptional Parent Magazine, and Tweens and Teens News Magazine.

In addition to these great speakers, the Happy Mama Retreat offers a weekend of respite, and a community of mamas who “get it.” Register today (click here)!

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Woman with Arms in the Air

Find a community that gets it.

This guest post is by Sarah Wayland of GuidingExceptionalParents.com, who will be speaking at the 2016 Happy Mama Retreat.


I lost my friends so gradually, I didn’t realize it had happened.

One friend told me she’d prefer to have lunch with me, without my son, on the days I took off from work to be with him.

Another told me there was nothing wrong, and she had no idea why we were stealing our children’s childhood by taking them to so many appointments.

Another told me she couldn’t understand me when I told her that I had ceased to feel emotions because when I allowed myself to feel them, it was too overwhelming.

One day I realized that the circle that had supported me and my family was no longer there. One by one, they’d moved on, leaving us alone to navigate supporting our kids. A few remained. Always ready to help. Always willing to distract. Always willing to listen.

But our community was shifting.

Over time, I found new friends. They were parents of children who were also struggling. Who understood the incredible gift of language. Who understood how precious it is to be able to move on your own. Who understood how overwhelming the world is for a kid who is “different”. Who knew what it was like to live on eggshells.

There was no judgment, only support.

One of these new friends told me about the Happy Mama Retreat. She thought it would be fun to take a weekend together to go there. We made arrangements. We drove to North Carolina.

The first morning we walked into the room with the other Mamas, there was no judgment, only support.

For two days we learned, laughed, and connected with others who got it. I didn’t need to explain my kids, my choices, or my life. I was just me.

Now I know there are other Mamas who get it. We support each other. And together we are Happy Mamas!

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Powerful speaker lineup for 2015 retreat

Speakers are chosen for the Happy Mama Retreat with great care, focusing on individuals that will inspire and educate mamas on taking care of themselves, managing a special needs child, and thriving in your special parenthood. The retreat offers education and support to help you advocate for your child, and for yourself. Taking all of those needs into consideration, I’ve lined up an excellent panel of ladies sure to inspire and educate.

Michelle Perry

Emotional and Behavioral Interventions and Support

michelle perryMichelle is a Behavior/Autism Specialist with Buncombe County Schools. She works to help K-12 students, staff, and administration develop strategies and interventions for students with emotional and behavioral disabilities. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education and recently finished her Masters in Educational Leadership. Over the past 19 years in special education, she has served as a Title One Assistant, a regular education classroom assistant, an EC assistant, a special education teacher in a Day Treatment classroom, and a behavior specialist. In addition, Michelle is a Master-level CPI trainer and the owner of Know Behavior, LLC. She presents behavior workshops for agencies, schools, districts, and educational conferences.


Susan Ward

Remaining Calm Under Fire! Parenting Strategies for the Tough Times

susanward2Susan Ward is a therapist in private practice, working mostly with adoptive families whose children are struggling with behavioral, social, relational, and mental health issues related to attachment and early life trauma. In her practice, she utilizes a variety of therapeutic approaches including therapeutic games, art activities, parent coaching, trust-building games, and EMDR.  She provided therapeutic respite in her home for children with aggressive, defiant, and non-compliant behaviors for 12 years. She’s an adoptive parent, past foster parent, and was a therapeutic tutor working with children who just didn’t fit into a classroom setting. In another life, a long time ago, she was curator of Biltmore House.


Janet Lindsey

Emotional Regulation and Self-Regulation Strategies for Family Life

JanetLindseyJanet Lindsey is a Licensed Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA/L) in Asheville, NC, with 7 years experience working in a pediatric setting. She works with children with various diagnoses, including Sensory Processing Disorder, Autism, ADHD, and other developmental/cognitive delays. Her job as an Occupational Therapy Assistant is one of developing solutions to help her clients become as independent and successful as possible, despite any obstacles. She also helps families learn new ways to help their children thrive at home, at school, and in the community.


Laura Wright (aka, the ODD Mom)

I’m Not a Bad Mother: Moving Past the Blame and Shame of Children’s Mental Illness

LauraWrightI am “that” mother. You know the one I mean. The one whose child is melting down in the middle of the grocery store or is running up and down the aisle at church. Or maybe you don’t know me, because I’ve stopped going out in public with my child. But I’m not a bad mother, despite what people might think when they hear my child yelling obscenities at me. In fact, I deal with more parenting challenges in a week than most parents probably deal with in a year. I’m an ODD mother — the mother of a child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. I’d love to say this doesn’t define me, but something that consumes your every waking hour can’t help but define you. So rather than hanging my head in shame, I’ve decided to wear the label like a badge of honour.

There’s More!

But that’s not all… We also have two talented ladies joining us to lead Zentangle and yoga classes, to fill your self-care toolbox with relaxing techniques.

Emily Van Eman


emily_yogaExperienced instruction and inspirational philosophy come together in this Gentle Yoga sequence for all levels of practitioners. Traditional postures are combined with some free movement, chakra therapy, and core strengthening, all with beginner to advanced options. Emily has been teaching for 13 years, with extensive knowledge of anatomy, physiology and rehabilitation techniques. Her style is spiritually uplifting, compassionate, and always different from class to class. This is a full-body “ahhh.”


Nancy Newlin


Nancy Newlin zentangle“The Zentangle(R) Method is an easy-to-learn, relaxing, and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns.” Founded by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas, the benefits of practicing Zentangle include fun, opening up your inner artist, better hand/eye coordination, a sense of accomplishment, creating something beautiful, slowing down, learning how to focus, and the list goes on and on. Some people don’t think they can possibly do Zentangle, but: anything is possible, one stroke at a time.


Gain the knowledge, expertise, and inspiration all of these women have to offer. Register for the Happy Mama Conference and Retreat 2015 today, before rates go up February 1, 2015!

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Letting go of Mama Guilt

contributed by Dr. Susan Orenstein, of Orenstein Solutions, P. A.

Earlier this year Rehtom, Inc. posted a “Director of Operations” position online that required 135+ hours a week (increased hours on the holidays) with no pay or vacation. Qualified applicants were also expected to stand most of the time, eat on the “associate’s” schedule, successfully manage 10-15 projects at once, and hold degrees in Psychology, medicine and the culinary arts. Of the 2.7 million people that saw the ad, only 24 applied for what was deemed the “world’s toughest job.”

As it turns out, the ad was part of a rather brilliant marketing campaign for a greeting card company gearing up for Mother’s Day (Rehtom, by the way, is “mother” spelled backwards). Over 20 million people have tuned in to watch the recorded Skype job interviews and the emotional reactions of the applicants when they realize their own mothers already fill the position. Although the campaign’s ultimate intention was to sell more greeting cards, it very frankly and effectively brought to light how demanding and unrelenting motherhood can be at times.

Our culture certainly expresses deep respect for motherhood but can simultaneously expect moms to not only take care of their kids, but also maintain a career or role in the community, a home, and healthy personal and romantic relationships (oh, and to stay physically fit all the while!). These societal pressures have added up to a pretty common modern plague of “mommy guilt” in which today’s mothers tend to feel shame if they aren’t doing something for their children, family, partner, employer, friend, etc. As a result many women today take little to no time for themselves, leaving them overworked and under nurtured.

Mothers of children with special needs, including emotional, behavioral, learning, social and health difficulties, are especially prone to exhaustion. Your child’s challenges naturally become your own and you may be struggling to relax, focus, sleep and stay strong during setbacks. Your patience and peace of mind may be on the brink of collapse. Special needs moms are most in need of a break, but even more acutely experience “Mommy Guilt.” The comments on Happy Mama’s Facebook page epitomize the paradox; most moms agree that the retreat sounds like an “amazing” and “wonderful” opportunity, but many are reluctant to come with several asking, “can I leave home for this long?”

The decision to step away from your children for a few days is not an easy one, but keep in mind that you are an anchor in your family’s emotional stability and “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” While your time away may be a challenge, your family will benefit from a more rested and empowered “you.” The weekend retreat may be just the refresher you need to to nip the nagging that has gotten out of control and perhaps laugh a little longer next time with your kids.

I look forward to speaking on the topic of “Mommy Guilt,” helping you understand the psychology behind it and working to break down mental and emotional barriers that have prevented you from investing in yourself in the past. I’ll share advice on how you can advocate for yourself and feel comfortable and confident knowing that you and your family can thrive.

Read more about the importance of demonstrating healthy self-care to your children, and discover other essential parenting principles, in our free report “5 Virtues of Great Parents.”

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