Painting Ceramics: I Think We Found a New Hobby!

Recently I took Jessie and her friend Ashley to paint ceramics. Both girls really enjoyed it and I was surprised how long Jessie hung in there.  I love the things Jessie painted and we already have plans to go back and for her to make some Christmas gifts.  I think next time we’re going to get together a group of girls and their moms.

We have a ceramics place really close to us and I went the first time with a group of Down syndrome mamas.  We had a great mom’s night out.  I am still regularly using the tray I painted.  Right now it is on my counter with fruit in it.

I’m sharing some details that might help you decide if you would like to do this yourself and or take your kids or grand-kids.

How Much Does it Cost?

At our local ceramics place this is how it works: you purchase the item you want to paint and all the supplies are included for the price of the item.  They have items ranging in price from $3 to $30.

You can take as little or as much time as you want to paint.  You can work on your project any of the hours they’re open until you finish it–all included in the one cost you pay for your item. You can finish in one sitting or work a while and come back another day.

As a frame of reference for you, on this day Jessie’s bowl was $8, her mug $10  (or I could have that backwards), Ashley’s angel was $20ish (it’s very large) and my trivet was $6.

Choosing Which Type of Paints to Use


Glaze paints leave your object with a shinier finish.  Although I tend to like matte finish in many other things, I love the look of glaze painted ceramics.  Personally, I haven’t seen as many things painted with acrylics that I just really love.

If your painted object will come in contact with food, you will need to use glaze paints.  With glazes, the color doesn’t look as vibrant when you first paint it, but comes to life when it’s fired for a 2nd time.  I show examples of both stages below.  Because it needs to be fired again, you leave it when you’re finished painting and pick it up later.  To get full, good coverage, you need to use 2-3 coats, letting it dry between.  Kids might get tired of re-painting the same area.  

This is Jessie’s bowl painted with glaze paints BEFORE it’s re-fired. It has a matte finish that will be shiny after firing. It’s hard to tell at this stage what your finished project will look like. The colors don’t look “true” at this point.

You can paint with fewer coats as long as you’re ok with coverage that isn’t completely filled in or is lighter.  Jessie didn’t want to paint multiple coats.  We still like how they turned out, but as an adult, I painted 3 coats on the two projects I have made so far.  If you want solidly filled in painted areas our ceramics place recommends 3 coats and letting it dry between coats.  It dries quickly so by the time you finish painting, it’s ready to re-coat.

Once it’s fired for the 2nd time your item is safe for food and microwave and dishwasher safe.


If you use acrylic paints, at our ceramic place they will spray with a sealer for you and you can take it home the same day.  The sealer adds a little shine, but it isn’t the high gloss of the glaze paints.  Acrylics are more for decorative items, they aren’t safe for food.

Why I Chose to Limit Jessie’s Choices of What to Paint

You may or may not want to help guide your child’s choices of what they purchase.  If your child doesn’t constantly create, their decorative ceramic project of any kind might be a sweet and treasured memory.

Jessie does arts and crafts year round.  She’s offended when I don’t display them ALL in the living room.  I’m just not a person who likes a lot of “knick knacks”.  It feels like clutter to me.  She makes so many things and there is a limit to what I can and want to display. In guiding her choice before we ever went I hoped (and it worked) to avoid potential hurt feelings.

I didn’t tell her what specifically to choose, but I told Jessie it had to be something she could USE, rather than an item that was entirely decorative.  I explained that if she made something decorative her feelings would be hurt if I didn’t keep it in the living room and that there wasn’t room.  We have been redecorating her room and I suggested she might choose a decorative bowl to keep her hair things in.  She was allowed to choose anything that could be USED in any way.

This might not be a hard and fast rule forever but that’s what we went with for now.  Since that time I’ve thought it might be nice for her to make something seasonal (fall, Christmas etc) to display.  On this particular day she wasn’t interested in that kind of item anyway.

Our Fun Day and the Projects We Chose

Jessie’s first project was a bowl, not one for her room as I had suggested, but one for eating.   Jessie loves hearts, but can’t draw them well herself, so the owner of the ceramic place drew the hearts  for her and she painted them.

This is after the 2nd firing.  I think she did two coats on the bowl and I know she only did one on the purple of the mug.  At that point she didn’t feel like re-painting what she had already done.   When she’s making gifts for others I’m going to try to get her to do 2 coats.  3 is beyond her patience, but if she only did one project 2 coats is very doable for her.

You know your kid.  I’m giving you these details to help you as you plan your trip to paint ceramics.

I LOVE how her bowl turned out!  Her favorite color is blue, she loves hearts and she likes a lot of sparkle.  We’ve already been using it and I know this bowl will be enjoyed in our home for a long time to come. It makes me happy when I open the cabinet and see it there.

Jessie’s brother, Evan, was actually the first person to use her bowl and he said it is the perfect size.  Since he said that it helped us choose what her next project will be, she’s going to make him a bowl for Christmas <3.

I’m showing the inside of the bowl so you can sort of see that the blue paint she chose actually has sprarkles in it! Not all glaze paints do, but there are some. This girl loves her sparkle.

Ashley chose an angel that she wanted to paint for her mom because her mom loves angels.  It took her several hours to paint but she never got tired of it.  And, her project taking longer helped Jessie to keep painting longer than she normally would.

Ashley did a great job! It took her several hours to paint and she enjoyed every minute, never getting tired. She wasn’t ready to stop till she finished and we were all starving and ready to get some mexican food!
Ashley’s favorite color is blue too 🙂

This is good fine motor work!

When Jessie finished her bowl and Ashley still had a ways to go on her angel Jessie chose a 2nd project, this time a mug. Her hands were getting a little tired.  Holding the bowl in position with her left hand while she painted with her right was a lot of fine motor work.  Because her hands were getting tired she didn’t want to paint a 2nd coat so you can see through the glaze.

Once the girls were set up with their projects I started working on mine.  I would stop and start when they needed help with more paint etc. so I purposely chose a smaller project so I could help them when needed.

I had not been sure how long the girls would want to paint but chose a day to go when we go stay as long as we wanted.  We painted all afternoon till we finished and our tummies were ready for an early supper before heading to church.

I am using this trivet (I painted something I knew I would use too!) by my kitchen sink with my handled sponge (that I use for washing glasses) and my scrubber on top of it.  I used a stencil they had to paint the medallions.  I painted 3 coats and then outlined with black using a pen/marker like thing they have for this purpose. You have to be careful not to get the outline too heavy but I would never have been able to do it with a brush!

Here are a couple of last thoughts/ takeaway’s from our day:

As with everything else, each of your kids might experience it differently.

  • Ashley easily stayed focused on her painting project without being tired of it or her hands feeling fatigued.
  • Jessie equally enjoyed painting but her hands did get tired and were shaking by the time she was finishing her bowl.  Having her friend there I was able to coax her into hanging with it longer which I think was good for her, since it was within her ability and not completely overwhelming.  I want to increase her attention span.  Working on something longer, to her stretching-but-not-breaking point is helpful.
  • Jessie LOVES to give gifts.  This will open the door for her to be able give gifts that are homemade with love that are an affordable price.
  • Now that Jessie has seen how the bowl has more full coverage and the mug does not, having that visual will help her to know the choice she is making next time.  Whatever she chooses is fine, but it was just words without much meaning to her when I tried to explain it the first time.  Just consider your first time with a kid a learning experience and fun without a lot of expectations.  

We really did enjoy it and look forward to going again soon.  If this inspires you to give it a try I hope you’ll let me know.  And I would love to see your projects too!

Till next weeks friends,


Painting $1 Dollar Tree Pumpkins

This year I have been excited about some Dollar Tree decor finds. They don’t look like much straight from the store, but I love how they turned out once these pumpkins were painted!

This is how they looked when I bought them. Very fake looking. All but the ones with the polka dots on them are made of styrofoam. Our cat, Bad Buddy, got ahold of them and made marks in some. I was able to salvage most of them though.

A couple of weeks ago when I chalk painted my coffee table, I painted my pumpkins at the same time with the base color of a creamy off white chalk paint. It took 2-3 coats. It was a chalk painting and watching movies kind of day!

It was a couple of weeks later before I got a chance to put the final touches on with acrylic paints. Once they were chalk painted it really didn’t take long at all to finish them up.

The slightly raised pieces you see are damage to the styrofoam from my cat’s claws.

On some of the pumpkins I used an antiquing glaze to shade the indented part of the pumpkin .

You only want a very small amount on a paper towel. After I dipped it in the glaze I wiped most of it off before I applied it to the pumpkin. And then still wiped most of the glaze off the pumpkin too. It takes so little!

After painting, you can still see a crease/seam in the edge, that they’re cheaply made, but once they’re next to other pumpkins and greenery it wasn’t noticable to me at all.

Some I accented with shades of green. I dry brushed the paint on- meaning I had wiped off most of the paint on the brush before I brushed it on the pumpkins.

Others I accented with shades of light tan and a very light peach.

For the stems, I painted all of them gold first. I left some of them gold, and others I used shades of brown to mottle it some, to look a little more natural. I love both looks, the gold and the slightly more natural looking ones. I didn’t want them all to look exactly the same.

For now, I used most of the pumpkins on our piano. I love how it all turned out once I added some greenery and tiny pine cones.

I don’t know how to take a picture with a mirror in it without getting myself in there!

I switched up the Dollar Tree flowers a little and added a half price sprig of greenery from Hobby Lobby. The bookends on the right are a thrifted find made over a year or two ago.

I added a couple of the pumpkins to the mantle and a string of lights I bought last year at the Target dollar spot. After I bought them last year I never used them. I contemplated returning them but never did. I’m liking them in this spot now. I’m still enjoying the dollar tree florals here.

As this posts, we don’t have power back yet after Hurricane Michael but we’re thankful to have sustained very minimal damage. My sister in law just loaned us a generator. In addition to saving the food in our freezer, this menopausal mama is super thankful to be sitting in front of a box fan powered by the generator.

Praying for all those affected by this storm.

Till next week friends,


Jessie’s First Sleepover At a Friend’s House! (And Learning Something New)

For the first time, Jessie went for a sleepover at a friend’s house.  Quite a few years ago she spent the night with a friend from church for a birthday sleepover in their camper–but I don’t count that in the same category because she slept with the mama, a friend of mine from church.

This time, Jessie packed for her overnight trip the day before, and she made a list in her phone of the things she needed to pack the next morning before leaving home.  Then, without a second thought about her mama, she spent the night with her friends.

Ready to go!

I’ve known Karen, her friend Melissa’s mama, for quite a few years and felt very comfortable with Jessie staying there even though Jessie had never been to their house before.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not a huge fan of sleepovers even with my typical kids for a whole host of reasons too much to outline in this blog post. But on this day, in these exact circumstances, with this particular friend in their particular home I felt very at peace about it.  Which is saying a lot 🙂

Okay, onto the sleepover.  There were four girls, all who had Down syndrome, all of whom Jessie has known for many years.  Jessie was thrilled to be included and didn’t express any hesitation about going or spending the night.

Remember when I blogged about becoming an accidental homeschooler?  We might not have done a lot of sit-down-at-the-table kind of homeschooling so far this year, but there are always so many opportunities for learning in our every day life.  This sleepover is one example.  Planning what to take, packing, making lists, checking them off, so much good stuff to learn in ordinary life experiences.

On Friday, Jessie and I talked over what she would need to take. Saturday, they had plans to go to Wal-Mart together so she wanted to take her purse and wallet with spending money.  Sunday, they were going to church so she wanted to pack a dress for that. Although she would be okay to skip one night without her cpap, she took it.  I worried if she didn’t that she might wake up throughout the night (what she did pre-CPAP) and then wake her friends up or think more about being away from home.

First, by herself, she packed everything she knew she needed in her overnight bag. Then, together we talked through what she had in her bag and what couldn’t be packed till the next morning (toothbrush, cpap etc).  As we talked, she made a note in her phone of anything she would need to do or pack the next morning.  I helped her spell anything she couldn’t.

She was spending the whole day Saturday with them and we planned to get up, get her remaining items and head out as quick as we could.  She’s not a morning person.  I wanted her to be able to get up and check her list and not have to think too much or have a lot of questions when we were in a rush to get out the door.

She did so great with making her list and checking it the next morning. She has already been packing for her overnight swim team trips and when she goes to her sister’s.  She was already doing well with that, but I’ve been mostly making her lists. By making the list herself, she has taken one more step toward independently packing and readying herself for a trip. And, she’s learning how to pack her CPAP, but it’s a very expensive machine, so that is still well supervised.  

Jessie had so much fun spending the day with her friends and her friend’s family. When they went to Wal-Mart she used her allowance to buy a new game, Gouey Louie.  I’ve played it with Jessie just last night.  One of the “boogers” is hooked inside and the others are loose.  The object is to pull the boogers out without making Louie’s brain pop out!  It’s a cute and very simple to play game.

Jessie giggles and giggles over this silly game.
Playing Gooey Louie!

When Jessie FaceTimed me while with all her girl friends, I told her if I had known they wanted to pick boogers I would have just let them all pick mine…which set them off giggling and cackling like crazy.

Karen told me that when Jessie got her CPAP mask on she easily and quickly went to sleep.  She had gotten up earlier than usual that morning and had a full and fun day so I had hoped she wouldn’t have any trouble going to sleep and she didn’t.  I was surprised that she didn’t even call me to tell me good night like she usually does at her sister’s.

She went to church with Melissa and her family and then had lunch with them before I picked her up.  She didn’t act in any hurry to leave when I got there either.

Jessie and Suzie at church.

When she got in the car I said, “So, tell me all about it! How was your sleepover?”  She replied with, ” I had a good time, that’s all.”  Sigh.  She did continue over the next few minutes with a trickle of details here and there but in general her description was anti climactic.  She had a good time, that’s all.

It was such a treat to have a little time where I wasn’t “on call”. Jordan and Josh had come home from a vacation and we spent a little time with them. Evan was out-of-town so it was just Jay and me at home at bedtime.  It felt weird, not to tuck Jessie in and put her cpap mask on.  But it felt nice too.  It is good to have a break now and then when she’s with someone we trust.

Her first sleepover was both a fun experience for her (and for me) and an opportunity to learn and grow.  Win-win.

I hope YOU’VE had a good week.  I say that often, but I really do mean it.  There’s a mama I’ve been following on Instagram recently.  She has a newborn just a few weeks old with DS who will soon have open heart surgery.  I will never forget as long as I live what it felt like to be in that place.  Then just a couple of days ago her precious baby started to have seizures.  My heart has been heavy and I’ve been praying for them.

I haven’t had every experience related to Down syndrome that there is.  But I’ve been on this DS journey for 17 years.  I genuinely love connecting with other mamas, celebrating their successes, and sharing their sorrows.  Whether by blog comments, Facebook or Instagram I love connecting with you and getting to know you better.

Till next week friends,


DIY: Chalk Painting My Coffee Table With Homemade Chalk Paint

This past Saturday, I enjoyed a semi-relaxing day working on projects and watching chick flicks.  I had known that both of my grown up kids were going to be out of town.  On recent weekends we’ve been watching the Bama football games together each Saturday.  With both of them gone, a project day seemed like the perfect idea, partly so I wouldn’t have too much time on my hands to miss them.

I’ve been getting a lot of inspiration from Instagram these days and it’s been motivating me to work on some projects I’ve been putting off.  One of my current Instagram favorites is Natalie at My Vintage Porch.  She has great style, and in the short time I’ve been following her she’s constantly working on a budget friendly (my favorite kind!) project.  In her Instagram stories she’s hilariously funny. I literally laugh out loud sometimes.  Her Simplified Fall Decor where she used Dollar Tree florals was the inspiration for freshening up my living room with Dollar Tree florals.

I’ve painted a couple of other pieces of furniture but I’ve never used chalk paint before.  I’ve wanted to try it, but it’s pretty expensive.  I had seen many bloggers say they made their own chalk paint for much less $ with good results. A couple of real life folks told me they made their own and both of them had used plaster of paris as their “chalky” ingredient.

Choosing a Chalk Paint Recipe

If you’ve been following me a minute, you know I over-research everything 🙂 I spent some time googling and reading several articles in preparation.  I read this comparison of 4 recipes for homemade chalk paint. Because the plaster of paris was given to me, I ended up using what was her #2 choice, plaster of paris. I also read My Vintage Porch’s  post about her chalk paint recipe and painting techniques.  

My coffee table before, in need of a makeover.

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My sister-in-law had recently chalk painted her coffee table and had given me her leftover plaster of paris–the ingredient she used to make latex paint into chalk paint.

If I had been starting from scratch I probably would have ordered (lots of articles said it’s hard to find locally) this calcium carbonate.  This calcium carbonate is a good price and has good reviews by people who used it specifically for chalk paint.  Calcium carbonate is essentially chalk, so it makes sense that it seems to be the favorite among some chalk paint makers.

The plaster of paris mixture worked just fine for me. Everything I read said if you want the look and feel of chalk paint, you should use flat latex paint to mix with your “chalk” ingredient.

I really like Valspar brand paint, it’s what we have used the last couple of times we painted rooms in our house.  I went to Lowe’s and got one quart of Valspar flat latex paint mixed to a color I chose.  It did take me 2 tries to get the color I wanted.  I got it mixed the first time, then took it back and they added colorant to help me get the color I wanted.

A quart was more than plenty! I only used 1 cup of the latex so I’ve got a good bit left for other projects.  I had originally planned to just get a sample size mixed but found out those only come in satin finish.

Mixing the Chalk Paint Recipe

I used this recipe on the Lowe’s website 1/3 cup plaster of paris mixed with 1/3 cup water. I whisked it together and it quickly became a smooth consistency.  I then added 1 cup of the latex paint.  On other sites and in my SIL’s instructions I saw that they gave directions for a certain consistency and not necessarily an exact amount of water.  Next time I mix this chalk paint I will try it with a little less water.  I think it could have stood to be a little thicker, and then might cover in 2 coats, but worked just fine the way I mixed it.

Although I’ve read you don’t have to sand before chalk painting, I did sand my table some because it had deep dings and dents in it.  My favorite finish is a slightly distressed finish. I don’t want it to look new and shiny but not too beat up either.  I want it shabby but not too shabby.

The hubby watched football most of the day and Jessie was happy on her own so I enjoyed watching several movies while I painted and then added a protective finish to my coffee table.  It had been several years since I had last seen Sleepless in Seattle and that was my favorite of the day, love that movie.

Painting Your Project

I used 2-3 coats of the paint.  In most places it seemed to need 3 as I was covering a dark green.  The paint dries so quickly that by the time I could finish the whole piece I could pretty much start the next coat.

You want to use a good quality brush if you’re brushing.  I had bought a small foam roller but decided to brush since I would need to use a brush on the leg spindles anyway.  I can’t see many brush strokes in my finished project, it looks pretty smooth.

Where you see the brownish color in the cream paint, there was a little sanding dust that I hadn’t cleaned off well. So you will want to clean yours better than I did mine before starting to paint. Sometimes I get in too big of a hurry and just want to get done.  Anybody with me?  It was easy for the sanding dust to pool in the grooves and not super easy to see.  After I realized what was happening I wiped the rest of table better before I continued painting.

It’s not anything that’s bothersome to me because of the color I chose and the distressed finish, but if you weren’t distressing your piece it might be more obvious.

When it was completely dry, I used sandpaper to distress the painted finish a little.  I sanded just the areas that it seemed would naturally show wear.

I bought this Valspar antiquing wax at Lowe’s and had planned to to use it over the cream colored chalk paint.

I decided though that I wanted to leave it looking as it was, slightly distressed without the antiquing.  I already have a project in mind though that I will use this wax for soon so I won’t return it.

Sealing/Protecting Your Painted Piece

I sealed the coffee table with 3 coats of water based Polycrylic, per the recommendations on the can.  Luckily for me, my sister-in-law had lots of  Polycrylic left over from her project and gave it to me.

Although the instructions say to wait longer between coats, when it seemed dry and not at all tacky to the touch, I went ahead and re-coated. My SIL said she did the same and it worked fine for both of us. I did read that you don’t want to let the polycrylic pool (use too much) or it could cause a yellowing in the pooled areas.

Although it says matte finish, it does leave just a little bit of a sheen.  I like the amount of shine it has, it’s ever so slight, just not 100% flat.

When I paint my kitchen table I will definitely use Polycrylic which gives greater protection for more heavily used pieces. For the coffee table I think I could have used either–the polycrylic or a wax, which is for pieces that receive lighter use.  It’s my understanding that the wax has even less shine and just offers a little protection.

While each coat of my polycrylic was drying I used the leftover chalk paint to paint some Dollar Tree pumpkins. Straight from the store they are not pretty, but I have pretty plans for them! They aren’t finished yet but you’ll see them soon.

Teddy (the grand-dog) is perfectly posed in this picture and Stella is chillin’ in the background. I kept trying to take a picture without them and gave up.

I’ve thought about painting this table for years. I love how it turned out and wish I hadn’t waited so long to do it.

I plan to sand and re-stain the top of the table a darker shade. I started sanding a little by hand as I can’t currently locate my hand sander in the beast of a shop out back.  I decided it was going to take too long without my sander and will save that part for later.

I’ve been researching and love some stain projects I’ve seen where they mixed a darker stain with grey.  You can watch for that project in the future 🙂

Till next week friends,


Jessie: A Trip to Walmart and Spending Her Allowance

Yall, there’s just so much good stuff to be learned by earning an allowance and then going through the process of making decisions about what to buy with your money. The entire process from start to finish is so full of learning opportunities.  Yes, about money, but honestly so much more too.

If you’ve missed my other posts on allowance, I’ve talked about what my other 2 kids learned from earning an allowance and how allowance has specifically benefited Jessie, who has Down syndrome.

On this particular day, we were out running errands mostly for her brother, Evan. I knew we would be going to Wal-Mart (he needed new work pants) so I told her she should bring her wallet, just in case she found something she wanted.

We don’t always take her wallet so that she won’t have to keep up with a purse, but I had a feeling she would want to see if Wal-Mart had any new wrestling diva (the girls) action figures since the last time we had been.  Well, they didn’t have any divas that she didn’t already own, but boy did she hit the Barbie section hard today.

Jessie earns $5 a week and usually saves it for a good while before she goes shopping. Today, she also had a Wal-Mart gift card (we had not remembered how much was on it till check out) for $15.

I used to be more cautionary about Jessie spending a lot of her money at one time but I’ve seen for a while now that she really knows what she is willing to spend her own money on.  I can’t remember a purchase she’s made with her own money that she has regretted. She’s happy to spend MY money on things that she wants in the moment, but she is only willing to spend HER money on something she really wants. This is one of the biggest learning benefits of allowance (decision-making) and it eliminates so much waste or the guilty feeling I have when she wants things I can’t or won’t buy for her.

Today, even though the dream house has a small closet, Jessie bought this separate closet. She is currently obsessed with the organization of Barbie’s clothes and shoes. For her birthday she had gotten a washer/dryer/ironing board set for Barbie.

The last few times that I’ve organized her closet Jessie has been in on the process.  Maybe that’s one reason she is obsessed with Barbie’s clothes organization!

For a while Jessie had stopped playing Barbie’s. Until she started collecting wrestling diva action figures, Barbies had been the only toys Jessie has played with in several years  When she moved into a larger room when her sister got married, she told me she didn’t want to move the Barbie house to the new room; she only wanted grown up things in her “teenager room”. She used to tell me regularly, “I’m a teenager now”,  but she has recently taken to telling me she’s an adult.

When she moved into the new room I went against her wishes and moved her Barbie stuff in with her.  There were a few tears about that.  We had a LOT of money invested in Barbies with the dream house, a camper and SO many accessories that I had just wanted to be sure she was done before I got rid of it all.  I’m glad I did because shortly thereafter she started really enjoying her Barbies again.

Jessie bought FOUR new Barbies! She told me she needed a new Ken doll, that she only has 1 right now. She always appreciates a man in a tuxedo so I was pretty sure he was coming home with us.  She chose the two girls based on their pretty colors of dyed hair.

While on the Barbie aisle I had counted her money and determined she had enough but that this would use almost all of her money. She said was fine with that.

If your kid is younger or doesn’t seem at all to understand the concept of when they have enough money or don’t for a particular item, take heart! I’m still doing the math of it, but through practice Jessie takes it like a champ now when she doesn’t have enough money. She’s getting better and better about knowing if she would rather choose something less expensive or save for a specific item. It takes lots of practice!

We went through the self checkout and Jessie scanned all of her own items. I talked her though the payment process and she used her gift card first.  Then, I counted in front of her the cash she needed (I had already organized her $ in her wallet with like bills together so it would be easy to count. I hope to teach her to do that herself one day.). Then she put the cash in the machine bill by bill (she had 10 or more ones).

I can remember when this would have been a completely stressful event for the both of us.  She has learned SO much through the experience of earning and spending her own money.

Talking through and making the decisions of what she wanted to purchase would have been confusing and frustrating for the both of us.  Just like with everything else, decision-making gets easier with practice.  Not that it always is, but today was completely painless for me and entirely fun for her.  A win-win.

She was so excited to come home and open all her new goodies!

Till next week friends,


Freshening Up For Fall Using Dollar Store Decor

This year I have enjoyed freshening things up a bit for very little money.  I bought all the flowers for two arrangements and the fall wooden pumpkin for the porch for just $19 plus tax!  If you want to freshen up your home for fall don’t forget about the dollar stores if you have a small decorating budget.

It barely feels like fall here yet.  It’s been slightly cooler during the day and the evenings have started to be nice for sitting outside. I may add a couple more things when it feels a bit more like fall.  That’s my typical way anyway, to do it a bit along and not all at once.

I’ve never been one to decorate much for season changes other than Christmas.  When my kids were younger, this time of the year starting back to homeschooling, was so full and decor was not at the top of the list!  When I do any seasonal decorating it’s very simple and small changes.  That’s kind of my style anyway and I never spend a lot.

I have never given much thought to Dollar Tree for decorating and especially for flowers.  Passionate Penny Pincher has some DIY tutorials of super cute things she’s made by shopping at Dollar Tree and that’s what first got me to thinking about  Dollar Tree for decor.  Then, last week I was inspired by The Vintage Porch when she bought flowers from the Dollar Tree and showed how she arranged them on Instagram stories.

I bought 11 stems of flowers at Dollar Tree and was able to make TWO arrangements with them!  I won’t be forgetting about Dollar Tree anytime soon for flowers. You just can’t beat two arrangements for $11!

I already had both of the decorated mason jars as they were part of my daughter’s wedding reception decor.  I really like how simple they are and have used them for fresh flowers several times and love them with these arrangements.

Although in this first pic (I had to edit for bad lighting) the flowers look a little bit yellowish, they’re all a really creamy neutral color except for the brown and yellow long furry pieces (cattails).  The neutrals are what has really been appealing to me this year.  Dollar Tree also had the traditional fall colored flowers I just chose to go with neutrals this time.

These same flowers would be beautiful on a wreath!  I’m contemplating making one for another room as I don’t want to add more of the same to this room and already have something for the front door.

I love how these turned out.

A couple of tips for using Dollar Tree florals:

  • Some definitely look more fake than others.  Pick through for the best looking ones.  Some types of flowers look more cheap and fake no matter where you buy them.  I look not only for my favorites but the ones that look less fake.
  • A few of the Gerber daisies petals wouldn’t lay the way they were supposed to.  A couple of them were that way when I bought them and a couple got smushed in the arranging.  I used just a tiny dot of hot glue to make the petals lay down the way I wanted. (They were kind of sticking up awkwardly.)
  • We have several Dollar Trees in our town.  Another location has a better selection of florals than the one closest to me.  If you have more than one, you might find one that has a better or just different selection.

This arrangement is on top of the piano.  I don’t like how everything on the piano is looking together so I’m planning to shop my house and rearrange things when I get a chance.  Till I’m happier with it, you only get to see this part.

Tricks when arranging faux/silk flowers:

  • If you’re not using styrofoam (since it’s glass and see through I couldn’t) add the long, spiky (in this arrangement the cattails) first and spread it out the directions you want first, then place the flowers.  On one of the arrangements I added them after the flowers and the spikes stuck up too high and I had to redo the whole thing. FYI, each of these arrangements has two spiky longer things; one brown and one yellow.
  • I left some stems with all the flowers in tact (4-5) blooms and then others I cut apart with wire cutters and placed where I wanted them.
  • Many of the flowers have stems that will bend a little to give the look you want.
  • When I was finished and a couple of flowers just wouldn’t lay the way I wanted I used a little hot glue on the stem and then stuck it where I wanted and held it till it dried.  I recently bought Gorilla Glue glue sticks and I love them! They’re more expensive but I had a good coupon.

I found this wooden pumpkin sign for my porch at the Dollar General for just $8.  Some of Dollar General’s home decor is on the tacky side, but sometimes I find things I really like for a great price.  My porch doesn’t get enough sun for mums so I’m not sure how I will change up the flowers later.  These impatiens need a little drink and I hoped they would distract from how dirty the siding and porch is 🙂

If like me, you’re scouring Instagram and Pinterest and seeing beautifully decorated homes, don’t be discouraged.  You can make small changes that make you fall freshly in love with your home without breaking the bank.  I’m all about that!

Hope you’re having a great week,


10 Tips for Teaching Chores (or anything else) to Kids with Down Syndrome

Let’s talk about chores.  Most kids, with or without Down syndrome, try to get out of them.  There are very few kids who just love doing chores; why should our kids with Down syndrome be any different?

But, I made my other kids do their chores and brush their teeth and lots of other things they would rather not.  Jessie isn’t exempt from that, but she is more easily frustrated and getting frustrated makes her want to shut down.

The tips I’m sharing are what I’ve learned is the best way to approach teaching Jessie something new or coaching her through something she finds difficult.  They help her be more willing to try and to give it her best effort. Once she has a little success she is more willing then to learn the next step.

Let’s just get something out of the way first.  As I share these posts that have a how-to feeling to them, it makes me a little uneasy.  I don’t even a tiny bit think I know it all.  I’ve sat in circles with other mamas, whose kids are in the same place or just a little further down the road, and we’ve all shared ideas.  I’ve been inspired and learned from lots of other mamas.  Other mamas are at the top of my list of go-to people when I need some help.  I don’t have to know it all to be helpful to you –I just need to be one step ahead of where you currently are.  If I have struggled and made it through,  it feels a little selfish to keep it all to myself once I’ve learned something.

Tips for Teaching Chores (or anything else) to children with Down Syndrome

1)  Start and end with an easier skill, or one they already know.

I learned this tip at a teaching reading to kids with Down syndrome seminar. We were advised to start and end the reading session with something easier and sandwich the more difficult stuff in the middle of the learning session.  I’ve found that to be good advice that goes way beyond the bounds of teaching reading.

Starting with something not too hard can help them begin with a positive attitude, then you can progress to a skill they need to learn, and finish with a skill they have mastered.  This way your child feels a sense of accomplishment and the teaching session ends on a good note.

It isn’t always possible to follow this course, but it is helpful when you can at least end on a good note.

2) Look for ways to infuse humor into the situation.  Be silly.  Make them laugh. 

Whenever possible, if your child enjoys it, infuse a difficult task with humor.  Be willing to make a fool of yourself if necessary.  Really, this is my secret weapon.  I tease Jessie, do something silly (make a fool of myself in a way I would NOT want recorded for sharing).  This often helps distract her from feeling, “This is gonna be hard.”

I find that when Jessie has her mind made up that a task is going to be hard, it is, whether it truly is or not.  I’m willing to sacrifice my dignity if it helps us over this hurdle.

3)  Praise, Praise, Praise, but always tell the truth.

There’s a difference between praise and flattery.

Find something genuinely worthy of praise and then be lavish with it.  There are many things you can praise genuinely even when a skill hasn’t yet been mastered.

  • willingness to try when it’s something they think is hard
  • making progress
  • point out if it was easier for them than the last time

Every step of the way, find something you can be genuine in praising. I find it can make a big difference in Jessie’s willingness to keep trying.

4)  Use words that inspire a level of competence you want them to achieve or that they desire.

For Example:

  • “You’re a big girl; big girls put their dirty clothes in the hamper.”
  • “Teenagers make their own sandwiches, their mamas don’t make them for them.   You’re a teenager and I know you can do that too.”

Big girls….(you fill in the blank)

Teenagers…(you fill in the blank)

Make sure what you’re saying is true 🙂  And don’t over use it.   If you say it constantly, it will be tuned out.  You want to motivate not exasperate.

5)  Typically, new privileges come with getting older and so does responsibility. 

As much as possible, I tie the two things together in her understanding.  It must be working, because after Jessie does something she knows is a big kid/teenager thing to do she says, “I’m a responsible kid.”

Ex:  You have an iphone because you’re getting older, because you’re a teenager.  Teenagers have more responsibility.  Teenagers….(insert…make their own breakfast, clean up their mess, can make a pitcher of koolaid, can wipe the bathroom sink…)

Jessie really enjoys her swim team and gymnastic team practices and lots of other fun activities.   Knowing how much she enjoys those, I remind her that if we want to be free to do fun things there are certain things we have to do during our time at home.

No, when we’re home I don’t always make her do chores before free time. I’m really laid back about when, which might not work well for a kid who who needs more structure.  What’s important to me is that she have a general understanding that  we have to work so we can be free to play.

6)  Explain that they’re a necessary part of the team.

With all 3 of my kids I’ve explained that if we want to have time for fun, mom can’t do everything in the house that needs to be done.  We all have to work as a team to get things done so we have time for fun.  Jessie LOVES her activities.  I regularly remind her that if she wants to be on the swim team and gymnastics team (which require us be at practices away from home) she has to do her part to make it all work.

She loves to be on the go and knows her mama likes to stay home. Sometimes this reminder is the best motivator.

7)  Know their “currency” and hold it hostage.  Use First, Then. 

“If you want to ….then first we need to…..”

I know I’ve used Jessie’s activities as examples a lot because that is what means the most to her. In second place is her phone.   For your child it might be something else.  Whatever it is they want; you probably hold the key to it.  Make them earn the key.

8)  Consider giving an allowance.

I’ve blogged about how allowance has been a great teaching tool in our family.  Its been a great  experience with my other two kids and with Jessie.  It works both to teach your child about money and as a motivator to earn spending money.  You can read specifics in this blog post, “What My Kid With Down Syndrome is Learning From Earning an Allowance.”

I don’t tie specific amounts of money to specific tasks.  It doesn’t have to be a lot of money or break your budget to be a good motivating tool. Use money you would spend on them anyway and just put them in charge of it.

Jessie gets paid on Thursdays (that’s Daddy’s pay day).   If Jessie has gotten lazy about doing her chores I sometimes tell her she won’t get paid until she’s finished them.  This usually gets her motivated.  Sometimes on Thursday she remembers that there are things on her white board she hasn’t completed and she gets busy cause she wants her pay! She loves having money she can choose to spend for things she wants.

9)  Don’t use too many words at one time.

When Jessie was really young I learned that using fewer words, just picking the important ones and leaving out the connecting words sometimes helped her understand.

Even now, when she can understand so much, when I ramble on using too many words I think it gets to be like on Charlie Brown (if you’re old enough to get the reference) whomp, whomp, whomp, or blah, blah, blah.

You don’t have to use a lot of words at the same time.  None of these teaching tips are “once and done” conversations. You will continue to teach these concepts over time.

10)  Your aim is progress, not perfection.

When Jessie was first folding towels it was so hard for me.  There weren’t folded exactly as I liked them.  It bugged me every time I saw them in the closet.  Sometimes I refolded some of them and sometimes I could restrain myself.

Now, Jessie folds towels as neatly as anyone could.  When she packs her swim bag, her clothes are folded so small and neat and she doesn’t like me to mess with them once she’s done.  (I’m trying to make sure she has everything she needs and that’s okay with her but she doesn’t want me to touch them.)

It can be discouraging to our children when we aren’t satisfied with what really is their best effort.  If we can be patient, many times they will improve to a level we can be quite excited about.  But that requires patience.  I don’t know about you, but that is sometimes hard for me.

Let’s all try to be to patient and content with progress until it reaches perfection.  Sometimes that’s a short time and sometimes it’s a long time.

These are the tips that I’ve learned over time.  I hope they’re of help to you!

It might not be the next post, but I will soon post a list of the chores Jessie can do and the steps we’ve broken them down into.

Till next week friends,



Alopecia Update: Trying Steroid Injections in the Scalp

If you’re new to our alopecia story, I first wrote about Jessie’s Alopecia Areata, what is is and what causes it.  Later, I wrote an update of what we were trying (oral and topical steroids) and natural options we were looking into.

It’s been about a month since Jessie finished the oral steroids.  Jessie does have some new hair growth! Within a few weeks (maybe 3? 4?) of when she started them we could see dark spots under the skin, new hair.  Those have poked through the skin now and are still very short, but hair is definitely coming in.  It’s spread out; it isn’t filling in the bald areas, but we’re just pretty happy to see some new hair at this point.

When she finished the steroids and we went for a recheck with Dr. R. she asked if Jessie might tolerate steroid shots in the scalp.  I tried to convince Jessie that day, but she wasn’t having it.  It just seemed too scary.  Dr. R. said it is pretty intense.  By her facial expression and description I didn’t feel it was a good fit for Jessie.   She recommended we see a pediatric dermatologist to see if they knew of any treatments for children that she might not be familiar with.  Her office made our appointment with a pediatric dermatologist at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, AL.

I honestly didn’t feel very hopeful about there being anything new to try but didn’t want to not take this opportunity if there was any chance there was something more that could help.  It isn’t every day that Jessie feels sad about her hair loss, but sometimes it really bothers her.

We have always enjoyed a day trip, even if it’s just for a doctor appointment.  Birmingham is about a 4 hour drive for us.  Although Jessie isn’t crazy about being in the car all day, she does love to go out to eat.  We drove through McDonald’s for a chicken biscuit, which she loves.  We have unlimited data, so she watched videos on her phone most of the way there.

That daddy is such a prankster, can’t take him anywhere. He added a smiley face to the O on their white board in the room. We were gonna tattle on him but we forgot. He erased it before we left.
And….he tried to convince Jessie he could magically make the water turn on when he said Abracadabra. Silly daddy. He was, of course, pushing the lever with his foot.

When Dr. T. came in to talk with us after reviewing Jessie’s history (another younger/newer doctor working with her had come in and gotten information from us) the first option she recommended was trying  steroid injections.  While there is another option to try if Jessie wouldn’t go for it, the injections have the best success rate.  She said they would use a numbing cream and although she did say it would hurt some,  she described it in a way that we felt might be tolerable for Jessie.

She differed also from Dr. R in that Dr. R. didn’t seem very optimistic about the front areas of Jessie’s hair regrowing (I talked about this in the last update). Dr. T didn’t seem to feel that the lack of pinkness to the skin meant she wouldn’t get hair back in those areas.  She didn’t express opinion either way, but didn’t feel the lack of pinkness/signs of current inflammation meant that those follicles wouldn’t respond to treatment.

I explained in terms Jessie could understand all that Dr. T had told us.  Jessie had understood most of it as the doctor was talking; but it’s helpful when I retell it to her in my calm mama voice.  She trusts me to always tell her the truth.  I told that her that it would hurt a little, but the numbing cream would make it only hurt a little.  We explained that if it hurt too badly, we would stop and she wouldn’t have to do it anymore. She felt hesitant and a little anxious but we convinced her to try it.

They applied a numbing cream, the script she later wrote for us called it “numbing butter”.  It looked like a cross between butter and chewing gum.  She applied it liberally and let it sit for about 30 minutes.  Because we weren’t sure how Jessie would tolerate it they just numbed a small area, a circle about 2- 2 1/2 inches circumference.  We talked to her constantly to help her not dwell on it while we were waiting.

You can’t see it very well in the picture, but toward the back of the bald spot there is numbing cream on Jessie’s scalp. We were talking and being silly to keep her distracted from thinking about it.

When Dr. T came back we kept Jessie talking to help distract her.  We tried to get her to watch a video, but she wasn’t having it.  She likes to tell people about WWE though and her favorite wrestlers 🙂 Dr. T made injections under the skin fairly close together in that small area.  We were too busy trying to distract Jessie while it was happening to count how many there were.   There was a tiny spot of blood at each injection site right afterward and I counted at least 10 of those, it might be closer to 12.

Jessie was a little distressed but she wasn’t extremely upset.  I was SO proud of her for being so brave.  She doesn’t think she FELT brave, but she was brave.  I really am just so proud of her.  Although it was distressing to her, her lack of hair is upsetting to her too.  If her hair grows I hope she will feel it was worth it and be willing to do more injections.

Dr. T called in a prescription for the numbing butter. Although they let it sit for 30 minutes, she said longer would be even better.  Their office was closing soon after we left or they may have waited longer on this day.  She said we could put the numbing cream on at home about an hour before her appointment and let Dr. R in our town do the injections. If we see hair growth from this first set, we hope Jessie can be convinced to do it again. Dr. T said we could do a larger area next time if Jessie will tolerate it and can do it in 4-6 weeks.

When we got back in our car we called Jessie’s older sister to tell how brave Jessie had been and Jordan was proud of her too.  Jessie told Jordan she deserved a treat–a treat to go see her sister.  It is so sweet to see how she adores her big sister and always wants to spend time with her.

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We ate supper at Moe’s Original BBQ in Vestavia before heading back home.  The food was delicious.  Jessie was thankful for the charging block that her brother had given her for her birthday cause her phone battery had died and we can’t be having that.

Later, we stopped for ice cream at Dairy Queen for dessert.  You can begin to see why Jessie thinks a trip to the doctor out of town isn’t all bad.

Today, the day of this posting will also be a beezy  (how Jessie says busy) day with Jessie having a friend over, lunch with friends, going to take school pictures for our homeschool yearbook, and a meeting with our Down syndrome group, FRIENDS.  Reading all that makes my introvert self tired.

Next week, unless something else distracts me, we’ll continue our series on skills for independence with discussing household chores.

Hope you’re enjoying the last little bit of summer.  At this point in the summer I’m usually soaking up the last pool days knowing it soon won’t be an option.  Now, our pool is green and in desperate need of a new liner.  Boo!  So, I’m mostly continuing to purge all the junk in my house.  Will share an update soon as I’ve made a LOT of progress! Slow and steady does still win.

Till next week friends,


PS  In my last post where I referenced natural options…Jessie is taking a probiotic, one I think is better than the gummies we started with, that I hope will be good for her overall and immune health.  We were doing some of the essential oils on her scalp in between treatments but it’s too soon to know if that has been helpful.  Dr. R. and the young dr. (sorry to refer to him that way I didn’t catch his name)  both were skeptical about those being of any help simply because there isn’t enough scientific evidence to say for certain.  The young doctor I referenced above said the steroid lotion we were prescribed is the best topical anti-inflammatory so we are going back to using that for now.

Jessie’s 17th Birthday

We interrupt our regularly scheduled and more serious topic, on teaching skills for independence, to talk about something REALLY important, Jessie’s 17th birthday.  She’s been telling me a lot lately, with a big smile on her face, “I’m growing up so fast.”

Ha! If you know Jessie, you know her birthday is a big, honkin’ deal.  She finds it to be worth talking about almost every day.  She loves her own birthday the most for sure, but truthfully, she loves celebrating everybody’s birthday.

One of her favorite things to do on Facebook (she calls it her social media) is to wish everyone happy birthday when she sees their special day in her notifications.  She genuinely loves celebrating everyone’s birthday.  She loves choosing cards, buying gifts, she loves everything about birthdays.

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Jessie wasn’t happy with me that I told her she couldn’t have a separate “friend” birthday party this year.  Jordan’s birthday is two days after Jessie’s.  Many years (before Jordan was married) we would have a party for Jessie with her friends, a party for Jordan with her friends and a family party for the two of them together.  That’s a lot of partying.  A lot of planning.  And a lot of $$, even if you keep it as simple as possible.  Even before some stressful uncertainty about Evan’s job came into play (as to when he would be starting to work in SC 7 hours away,  instead of FL 3 hours away) I knew I just wasn’t up for that this year.

I had burst Jessie’s bubble several months in advance so she wouldn’t be anticipating something that wouldn’t happen. I told her we would have the one party for both girls with the family, and we would do something special the day of her birthday, but we wouldn’t have a separate “friend” party.  We did last year for her 16th and will next year for her 18th, but this year mama was gonna save a tiny bit of her sanity.  What little there is of that!

There is no need to start feeling sorry for Jessie.  She was celebrated every single moment of her birthday in addition to the party we had with family the next day!  A week later as I’m editing this post, a friend texted me that they wanted to stop by.  They had baked her a cake that they know she loves.  It has german chocolate layers with toasted coconut in the frosting.  Jessie never liked coconut until she tried this cake for the first time and she fell in love with it. Her birthday has been thoroughly celebrated!

The night before her birthday,  I asked if she thought she needed to get 17 spankings (licks) and of course she was horrified.  I asked what about kisses? She smiled and giggled.

The morning of her birthday, I heard her awake before the time her alarm was set to go off.  I went in and sang happy birthday to her, which she loved and giggled at.  Then I proceeded to give her 17 kisses.  Twice, all over her whole face.

Jessie LOVES to make plans.  And change them.  And talk about them.  And talk about them some more.

I wouldn’t let her talk about the nitty-gritty details of the day of her birthday until sometime in July.  Cause I knew it would be a daily discussion from that point on.  In the days leading up to her birthday, she planned and schemed and changed her mind many times about the details of the day.   That got a WEE bit stressful.  She made plans with Jordan (her older sister) and Jordan’s mother in law, Marcia, and she would talk to each of them and tell them something different, then Jordan would call or text me for clarification.  Finally, I had to tell her she couldn’t change her mind again once the plan for the day was set for about the 3rd time.

I realized afterward, that part of her dilemma was she wanted to plan her day so that she ate two meals out on her birthday.  She didn’t want to wake up and eat at home, like any old ordinary day. She’s a princess like that.  But, her birthday only comes once a year.  Thank you, Jesus.

Jessie’s day was FULL, just like she likes it. 

We met friends for lunch at Chick-Fil-A, Jessie’s choice, and her friend Gracey gave her a monogrammed t-shirt.  Blue is Jessie’s favorite color and she loves monograms.  She’s a true southern girl in that way.

After lunch, we met Jordan and Marcia, (this was Jessie’s request) at Kohl’s for some shopping.  She loves Mrs. Marcia.  Mrs. Marcia is one of those special people who really listens when Jessie talks and is interested in what she has to say.  She goes along with any pretend plans and giggles right along with Jessie.

Jessie likes shopping at Kohl’s and she enjoys shopping for clothes for herself, but when she’s done, she’s ready to check out!  No more dilly-dallying around. And that’s even with her getting the princess treatment with us pushing her in a wheelchair.  (She walks just fine, but can’t enjoy shopping for as long as she wants to if she has to walk/stand the whole time.) We all tried on some clothes that day; Kohl’s was having a great sale.  Jordan gave her birthday money and Jessie had money as she had been saving her allowance for a while.  She picked out 2 dressier shirts and 2 tank tops that were on sale.

Any guesses as to how many of them were blue?  Three of the 4.  I’ve almost given up worrying about if she only wears blue.  I can hardly convince her to buy any other color at the moment.

Jessie didn’t want me to stay with them. 

In the big-day planning stage, she had said she didn’t want me to come along for her birthday with Jordan and Marcia.  She carefully explained that she didn’t want to hurt my feelings.  I could see on her face that she was worried that I would be upset with her.  It did hurt my feelings a little, but I also understood why.

No matter how hard we try, when we get together, Jordan and I (or other adults) tend to monopolize the conversation.  We try to include Jessie, but we spend a lot of time talking about things that she isn’t interested in.  On her birthday, she didn’t want that to happen.

After our Kohl’s shopping, I  left the girls shopping at Ross and went my own way to order them a Dairy Queen ice cream cake for their party with our family the next day.  Jessie felt so grown up to be shopping with the other girls without mama.  They shopped at Target, found lip gloss at Wal-Mart, and had supper at another of Jessie’s favorite restaurants, Things N Wings.  Wherever Jessie goes, she always orders chicken fingers and fries. I make her eat a little wider variety at home, but at restaurants I just don’t fight that battle.

Jessie couldn’t wait to get home and excitedly show Daddy all her purchases.  Isn’t it sweet how all girls want to do that?  Me, Jordan (when she lived at home) and Jessie when we get home from shopping all take our purchases to show Jay….just some of us might choose not to disclose how much money we spent.

Our party with family.

My birthday girls, 17 now and 24.

Jordan got to choose the location, Cheddar’s.  And Jessie chose ice cream cake over a baked cake.  Jessie loves blue; Jordan likes pink and purple.  I had the ice cream cake decorated in pink and blue and it ended up looking like it was for a baby shower.  Oh, well.  It tasted really good and this time they got the writing right.  They had gotten Evan’s cake wrong on his birthday which had been both annoying and quite entertaining.

Jessie was really happy her brother could come home for her birthday party. She would have given him serious trouble about it if he couldn’t!

If you like onion rings, you should definitely order some next time you go to Cheddar’s!  They’re sooo good.

She’s such a teenager. 

These days, like a typical teenager, she loves to pick out her gifts.  There is zero uncertainty in her mind about what she likes and doesn’t like.  It makes it much easier for everyone if we let her pick it out herself. She was thrilled to get an Amazon card from Aunt Tami.  She came home and immediately ordered a blue towel wrap , which she is calling a robe, for after her shower.  She got cash from  Aunt Debbie and Uncle Danny which she hasn’t spent yet, but she will and looks forward to it.  Marcia let her pick a gift while they were shopping  together and she chose a new make-up bag (to join the many others she owns) at Claire’s.  Like her mama, the girl loves bags.  Guess what color?

These days, all the stuff she still owns from the days when she loved hot pink and purple…she thinks they allll need a blue replacement.  Her brother, Evan, bought her a blue portable phone charger, which she is thrilled about.  When she is away from home she won’t have to worry about her phone dying anymore.  Oh, the worries you have when you’re 17.

Unlike the days when we bought lots of toys that she might never play with, she really enjoys the gifts she picks and will mention how much she likes them for days in a row.  It’s so sweet how thankful she is for new things when she gets them.  I think it helps that we don’t buy a lot and she has to earn and spend her allowance.  When she gets a gift she didn’t have to save for, she really appreciates it!

On a more serious note….

I’m really thankful that all 3 of my kids are so thoroughly celebrated by our extended family.  They have such supportive aunts and uncles and they love their cousins.  Jay has experienced job changes through the years and sometimes it has been hard to stay in our area and not take a job away from our hometown.

Aunt Tami explaining about the Amazon gift card. We weren’t home 15 minutes after the party before she placed her order. This girl knows what she likes and wants.

We feel it’s been such a benefit to all our kids that their aunts and uncles live close by and  have attended dance recitals, baseball games, gymnastics competitions and football games.  We already felt this way before, and when Jessie came along with Down syndrome, it intensified that feeling a little.  We are thankful for the all the loud birthday parties through the years.

It’s over!

It’s been several days now since Jessie’s birthday. She told me tonight she’s a little sad about how long it is till her next birthday.  Lord, help us.  I couldn’t help myself, I told her Christmas will be here in 4 months.  Soooo, I’ve probably started the Christmas talk.  It makes her happy to have something fun to anticipate.  And I like making her happy.  Even if it makes me crazy.  Jay says that’s a short trip.

A few days after her birthday we had lunch with our friends and Joshua gave her a card he had made for her <3 They’ve been friends their whole life. Heather and I became friends while we were both pregnant and then Joshua was born 3 weeks after Jessie. There’s never been a time that they weren’t friends.

Next week, we will finish up our series on skills for independence with talking about household chores and being involved in the day to day taking care of our home.  The not-so-fun-but-necessary-stuff.

Till next week friends,




Teaching Skills for Independence (Part 2) Start with Self-Care Skills

Teaching self-care skills to people with Down syndrome helps them gain confidence and independence.  My experience with Jessie has been that each new step of independence gives her confidence that makes it easier for her to learn, and want to learn, the next thing.

The actual teaching of some of these skills has been harder for me than I might have imagined.  Not so much because the teaching of them is actually difficult ( I mean, hello, I have two other kids that I taught these same skills!) but I have had to approach them sometimes very differently than I did with my other kids.

Last week’s post was Teaching Skills for Independence Part 1 (the WHY).  If you haven’t read that one, you might want to start there.  It might seem silly or unnecessary to explore why, but I find that keeping WHY in my mind really helps me keep at it when the going gets tough.

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If you’re just beginning to teach self-care skills try not to get stuck/overwhelmed in the decision-making process.

Sometimes I would get stuck in the decision-making process.  What to teach first? What is MOST important? With her current abilities what can she learn right now and what is best left for later when she has built up some skills?   I hope this blog series will help you more easily be able to think through those questions and not get stuck in the decision-making process.

Instead of trying to do all the things, start with teaching your child just a couple of self-care skills that will make the biggest impact in your daily life.

To be completely honest, when your child is young it can feel overwhelming to think about all the things your child needs to learn that you need to teach them.  That can lead to spinning your wheels.  Sometimes, worrying about too many things at once can actually keep you from progressing in the areas that matter the most to you.

What can you teach your child to do that will make your home run more smoothly for you and enable them to be more independent?  Assess what is causing stress in your home on a regular basis. This might help you know where to start.

Pick just just two or at the most 3 things to be priority.  It’s okay if you’re working on other skills but on busy or stressful days make sure you’re consistent on just these 2 things you’ve determined will make the biggest difference.  Don’t allow yourself to stress over all the other things.  You’ve decided what gets top priority for now.  When you master the 2 things you’ve determined will make the biggest impact on your everyday life, then you can choose two new things to be the main focus of your energies.   

If the skill you want to teach requires multiple steps, teach just one at a time if necessary.

If it feels overly stressful your child won’t be as motivated to want to learn new things.  Break it down into steps.

Example: making a sandwich.  Maybe on the first day you get out everything that’s needed and they mostly watch.  They do just one or two parts of making the sandwich.  Jessie has a hard time with bread ties.  I would open the bread; she would spread the mayo.  At first it took a long time to spread the mayo.  If she was frustrated after that point I didn’t try to teach her how to cut the sandwich in half (the way she likes her sandwiches) but once she mastered spreading the mayo she was ready to learn to cut the sandwich in half.

Watch for when your child is feeling frustrated.  You want them to leave the teaching session feeling successful; then they will be more open to learning the next steps.

A friend of mine once suggested to begin teaching them the last step first.  Example: making tea or koolaid.  She suggested just let them stir the pitcher at the end.  They had a part and end the session feeling successful.  The next time you include them one step before, like pouring in the already brewed tea or the koolaid packet and water.  Sometimes I approach teaching this way and sometimes I just let her observe the parts she isn’t ready to participate in yet.

When I think back to skills Jessie now has that have made the biggest difference for her independence and life being less stressful for me, here are some at the top of the list.

Your list might look different from mine according to your child’s strengths and weaknesses.

Showering Independently

We had different difficulties whether she was showering or bathing but this was an area where I was desperate for her to be able to manage independently. When she showered herself she needed help with hair and I always got soaked.  In the tub, I was up and down helping her with her hair and she has a hard time going from sitting to standing in the tub.  Although I still help daily with some personal hygiene, Jessie showering from start to finish independently (getting her own clothes, towel, showering etc) has literally made my life better 🙂

Jessie has always complained about her feet (one more than the other) hurting if she stands or walks for very long.  In the beginning, it was hard for Jessie to stand in the shower for the length of time it took for her to bathe herself and wash her own hair.  She would also complain that her arms were tired as she held her arms over her head long enough to wash and condition her own hair. To add another level of difficulty, I only wanted her to use conditioner on the bottom half of her hair so her scalp wouldn’t be too oily.

Among my friends, it seems that the guys with short hair master the showering process more easily and longer hair complicates it for the girls.  This was most certainly true for Jessie. The tip someone gave me that was a LIFESAVER….hold up a mirror for your child to see where she has and hasn’t gotten shampoo bubbles yet.  We were both getting so frustrated with me telling Jessie, “on the top”, “on the front”, “scrub the side”, she would start to cry that her arms hurt before it was all done.  Holding up a mirror for her so she could SEE as I described what she needed to do was a LIFESAVER.  For real, y’all.

She doesn’t yet remember to clean the hair from the drain before showering, so sometimes she’s standing in water.  She can’t reach where we hang the towels so she lays them on the sink when she’s done.  I should get a different towel rack, ours are hung on the back on the door right now.  BUT: she gathers her clean clothes for the shower, she puts a long towel that covers the whole floor (she doesn’t have good balance) down, she showers, she dresses, she brings me the leave-in conditioner (she conditions in the shower but still has tangles) and hairbrush to get the tangles out, leaves the towels on the counter for me to hang up, puts away the brush and conditioner and her dirty clothes.  Hallelujah! We will work on those other things in time.

Waking Up With Her Own Alarm Clock

I didn’t enjoy going back to wake up any of my kids multiple times.  I’ve had two kids that didn’t want to get up on the first try.  We could have used an alarm clock before she had a phone of her own, but she never wanted to and I didn’t make her.

Suddenly, when she got an iphone she thought it was fun to set an alarm to wake up.  We homeschool so she is able to wake up leisurely.  She sets an alarm for wake up time and then a second one for 15-30 minutes later (depending on the day’s activities) and watches a video till the 2nd alarm goes off.  Not everyone can or would want to allow the video time, but this removes the battle in it for us.

Bed Time Related Tasks

Each skill came separately, but Jessie gets dressed for bed, brushes her teeth, every other night she brings me the part of her cpap machine I need to wash, and she sets her box fan (everybody in my house sleeps with a box fan) on top of a tv tray.  Jessie can’t manage her cpap independently but I believe she will be able to in the future.  The machine is expensive (if she breaks something) and that hasn’t been a skill that has been top priority for me.

At bed time we have a routine of some things that I do for and with her and enjoy a brief before bed chat about the day we had or the day to come and a kiss goodnight.  But, I do appreciate all the steps she can do before bedtime that take away some of the stress at the end of the day when I’m tired.

Basic Around the House Skills

I’m not including here cleaning type chores, but just what most folks are expected to do for themselves. We’re home a good portion of the day together, so it makes a big difference for Jessie to be able to do basic things around the house for herself.

Aside from what we’ve talked about above (showering, waking herself and bedtime), the list below are things Jessie currently does that she learned over time. These are some of the things you can consider as you decide what you want to be your top priorities to work on.  Each of these are skills that were broken down into individual steps and we added new steps over time. 

  • She makes her bed and brushes her teeth (Umm, something on YouTube and a friend motivated her to make her bed.) Can’t take credit for that one, but I’m happy about it.
  • Most days she makes herself a biscuit in the microwave for breakfast.  I know that’s not the very healthiest choice.  That’s a whole ‘nother category.  But, she can open package, safely warm her biscuit, add jelly, fix her own drink,  throw away the trash and put the jelly back in the fridge.  She eats her breakfast in her bedroom watching a video and then brings her dishes to the kitchen.  I know, we’re super chill around here.  That’s what works for us in this season of life.
  • She can turn the oven to the temperatures we use most often.  Not every number is on the front of the oven, but she has learned the temperatures we use for re-heating food or cooking a frozen pizza.  If she asks for pizza she turns the oven to the correct temperature to pre-heat.  She can open the pizza box or chicken tenders etc and put them on the pan for when the oven is ready.
  • She fixes her own drinks from the pitcher in the refrigerator.   If the pitcher is very full sometimes there’s still a little bit of a mess.  Sometimes she needs help reaching a cup in the cabinet or help getting the pitcher if there are a lot of things in front of it.  I try to keep the cups and pitcher where she can get to it, but that doesn’t always work out perfectly.  Although she can drink from a cup without a lid, she likes to take drinks to her room so she uses Yeti type cup or other similar cup with lid and straw.
  • If I have prepared meals that we partially fix on our own, she does the part she can.  Ex: today for lunch we had soft chicken tacos.  I had cooked the whole chicken tenders.  I cut into bite size pieces to go in our tacos (when she eats tenders for her meal she can cut them and does) and she added the shredded cheese and microwaved her tacos to melt the cheese the way she likes.
  • She makes her own sandwiches most of the time.  She can make peanut butter and jelly or meat sandwiches.  She likes mayonnaise and bbq sauce on her turkey sandwiches.  Sometimes she gets a little too much bbq and it’s a little messy.  I used to help guide her as to how much bbq sauce to use and now she does it on her own pretty well.  She can safely use a steak type knife to cut her sandwich in half.  It took her a long while to learn all these steps but now shes a PRO.  She likes her sandwich meat rolled (who knows where she learned that!) and it looks quite pretty when she’s done.
  • You can let your child help you when you cook.  I said YOU can.  This is stressful for me so I don’t do it as often as I should.  She doesn’t love helping to cook, so when I do, it’s for the purpose of teaching her something specific or making something she enjoys.  We do other good things and it just isn’t at the top of my list for now.  If your child enjoys it, you might put this higher on your priority list.

Starting anywhere is helpful. Start with what you feel is most important or would be the most helpful to you.  If you see right away it’s a skill too hard for your child, even if broken into steps, scrap it and start with a different skill. Write that one off as a diagnostic session.  Having difficulty with one skill doesn’t mean they will have the same amount of difficulty with another one.

Keep it as positive as you can for the both of you.  Parenting any child, but especially a child with special needs, is a marathon not a sprint.  Try not to wig out be overwhelmed in the early stages. Be happy when your child is making progress, even if there is a ways to go before mastery.  I always find that when I’m teaching my child something new, God is usually working on his child (me) too.  Sometimes that training is more pleasant than others.  Hang in there, mama.

Till next week,