Teaching our Children with Down Syndrome About God

I don’t get any super mom awards for remembering to do it everyday, but as she’s gotten older, I’ve really been praying for a while about how to help Jessie understand salvation.  I have prayed for each of my children to come to  know and love God.  The hard thing with talking to Jessie about God compared to my other children is how abstract concepts, things she can’t see, are just jibberish to her. 

Jessie is maturing in so many ways.  She continues to learn and grow in all areas of her life.  In other areas of life she has shown that she is very capable of building on already learned concepts, but in this spiritual arena,  I have not been able to explain things in a way she understands.  

During VBS one year,  Jessie went forward when kids were asked if they wanted to talk with our pastor about salvation.  It was clear to Brother Dan and to me that although she wants to understand, she didn’t yet.

Jessie’s understanding of God is very simple.  Although I haven’t felt she was ready to understand deep or more complicated concepts about God, she has for a long time now expressed in her own words that she wants to please God.  Jessie has told me she likes to learn about God.  She has also often mentioned people that we know and will say, “so and so needs God.”  Sometimes she has expressed it so fervently that I’ve wondered if she knows something I don’t.

I had been brushing Jessie’s teeth one night when I asked if she had called a certain friend. When she said yes (I already knew she had) then I asked how many times she had called.  She said once.  I told her I was going to check her phone.  She instantly looked guilty and said, “Don’t check my phone.”  We’ve really been working on her not calling back multiple times when someone doesn’t answer.  Jessie knows she’s only supposed to call once and then wait for her friend to call back if they want to.  And it’s really, really hard for her to be obedient in this area.

If she’s going to grasp what salvation is, she first has to understand what sin is.

I’ve talked with Jessie before about sin, and it was clear at that time that she didn’t really understand.

While I continued brushing her teeth we talked about how it was important to obey and to always tell the truth.  I explained that when she disobeyed mama and when she didn’t tell the truth, it wasn’t just mama to whom she had done something wrong, but she had done something wrong to God too.  

We moved to her bedroom and  continued  her nightly routine.  I put lavender essential oil on some cysts/bumps she gets on her legs, I put some cream on calluses on her feet.  I looked through her phone and asked her a couple of questions.  She blew her nose and then while I was getting her CPAP ready she suddenly said, “It’s hard for me” and she burst into tears.

 I thought she meant it was hard not to keep calling back when her friend didn’t answer, but I asked her to be sure what she meant.  She said, “It’s hard for me to tell the truth.”  I saw that internal struggle all over her sweet face.

Bless that baby.  We all know that sometimes it really is hard to do the right thing.  I knew her statement represented so much.  

There was so much wrapped up in that one statement that encouraged me.  

Clearly she was thinking about what she had done wrong, and she knew it was wrong.  She was also expressing her feelings, that it was a struggle for her to do the right thing, to tell the truth.  It is sometimes hard for Jessie to express her feelings with the right words.  There was so much developmental and spiritual good stuff wrapped up in that one statement.

Before Jessie laid down to go to sleep I took her hand her in mine.  Her hand that has such sweet chubby fingers with little bits of polish left on the nails.  I held her hand and prayed for her.  I let her hear me thank God for her and thank God that he chose me to be her mother.  I told God in her presence how I can’t imagine life without my Jessie.  I prayed that God would help her to be able to obey.  I prayed He would help her to tell the truth even though it was hard.  And silently I prayed He would help Jessie to understand more than what was just said out loud.   

It was in these everyday kind of moments that my two older children came to learn and understand salvation and their need of a savior.  With them it was a gradual understanding too.  It just didn’t seem so hard to explain it in terms that they could understand.  

While she doesn’t yet really comprehend what sin is, I do feel we are making progress for her to begin to understand.   While praying with Jessie I felt this sweet confirmation that God was answering my prayer.  I don’t know the time-table, but I see God at work.  

How sweet it is to know that the mighty God of all things listens to my concerns and cares about them and me.  And you.  

 

 

Starting a Down syndrome homeschool coop

The Idea That Turned Into a Down Syndrome Homeschool Coop

I have been feeling that we needed something new in our homeschooling that was fun and fresh.  

When I heard about Surprise Ride from Crystal at Moneysavingmom.com I thought it sounded like just the thing that would be both educational and fun and completely different from anything else we were currently doing.  I hoped it would give Jessie a bite sized amount of information about whatever the subject of the month was, in a way that was fun and might inspire us to want to learn more about it.  

As soon as I dug into the first Surprise Ride box when it arrived, I realized this would be much more fun for her if she had a friend to do the activity with.  With a Surprise Ride subscription you get an activity box once a month.  There is an activity or project of some kind in each box which includes any materials needed.  There is also a book and a small snack.  The activity in our box was about the farmers market and I knew it wouldn’t be nearly as fun with just mom.  This made me think of inviting a friend to do it with us.  

I asked one of my closest friends (who has a son with DS) what she thought of the idea of us getting together a small group to do something like a coop, on a small and manageable scale, as a trial to see how it went. She was all for the idea and we agreed if it didn’t work for our schedule in the future we could discontinue it, but for now it sounded like fun and we thought it could fit into our schedule.   

We both already have a lot of other obligations, so we agreed we should keep it super simple so that it wouldn’t overwhelm us.  We asked two friends to participate with us. 

Our coop consists of 2 boys and 2 girls, all of which have Down syndrome.  Joshua, Isaiah and Jessie are close in age and currently homeschooling.   Ashley has already graduated high school so she is available during the school day to participate.  Although they vary in age, we hope they have enough shared interests and are close enough in age and ability for the materials we are using to be interesting to all of  them.  We’ve only had 2 coop days and so far they all seem to be enjoying it.  

Why a specifically Down syndrome homeschool coop?

We have enjoyed a homeschool coop before as my family is part of a large homeschool group in our area.  When I was homeschooling all three of my kids they participated in a coop one day a week for much of the school year.  This was a huge benefit to them and to me, especially when my older two were in high school. 

As her siblings graduated and Jessie got older, our homeschool group coop wasn’t as good of a fit for her.  As she got older the gap was bigger and bigger between her and her same age peers.  Even though she was very warmly received and made welcome, it wasn’t easy to find classes that were a good fit.  

Jessie is involved in several different activities on a regular basis.  We are so blessed to be in a community that offers many good things for people with disabilities. So much so, that a couple of years ago when our schedule was overcrowded we decided we needed to let something go.  We felt that Special Olympics and her other activities were benefitting her more than coop, so coop had to be the one to go.  At the time, it was a hard decision. We’ve been a part of the same homeschool group for over 15 years (I’m too lazy to actually count how many years, it’s more than 15 🙂  and were very involved during the years I homeschooled my older two.  

After 19 years of homeschooling, what continues to be my favorite thing about homeschooling is the ability to tailor your teaching and schedule to what fits your family, your students and your season of life.

This past spring as I evaluated my commitments I let go of one responsibility I’ve had for a long time.  Eliminating that from my schedule has freed me up to commit to this coop with Jessie.  We’ve been in a bit of a rut in our homeschooling and just needed something new.   I feel this coop has potential to be both educational and fun in a fresh way for Jessie, so I’m glad it was something we could add to our schedule.

Here are some things that are making our coop doable and not too complicated or stressful:

  • We kept it super small.  This makes it easy to coordinate.  Everyone fits around the kitchen table.  
  • The parents stay and this makes enough hands or help for whatever we are doing. It also means each parent knows what we did if they want to build on that lesson at home or when it’s their turn to host.
  • It wouldn’t have to be this way, but we all were already friends.  The moms all know each other well, this makes it easier in my opinion, but wouldn’t be a deal breaker.  
  • We have an equal ratio of boys and girls.  This isn’t essential, but since we kept it so small this means no one is the only boy or girl.  We don’t always have time to socialize after (some have another activity immediately after) but we want that to be a part of the coop as well, them having time to play together.  The activity that is after our coop will be over in  few weeks and allow for some play/fun time.  
  • We alternate each time who hosts and plans the activity.
  • Our coop is just every other week so it isn’t a burden for anyone to plan for.  We start at 1:00 p.m so everyone has already had lunch and it lasts around 2 hours.  We can adjust that in the future if needed.   
  • Whoever hosts in their home plans the activity.  It is at their discretion what to plan.  It can build on something from the previous meeting or stand alone.  

I’ll share more of what we’re doing and the resources we use for our coop in weeks to come.

Hope you’re having a great week!

Josette

 

Why You Should Read “Daring to Hope”

I don’t know about you, but events in our news from shootings and hurricanes, constantly hearing about strife and conflict in the world, all these things cause anxiety in me.  I purposely don’t watch the news; my heart just can’t bear it.  Even so, much of it comes across my Facebook feed.   It is so easy for my soul to be in a place of unrest.

I had never considered myself to be an anxious person, but in recent years I have struggled some with anxiety.  I think it’s a combination of hormonal issues that started with the perimenopause phase (just before true menopause) and as I age, a more full understanding, sadly, of the state of our world today.

When I had younger kids my thoughts were so busy with them and with homeschooling I was doing good to know what day it was, much less pay much attention to world events.  I’ve always had a tender heart though and tended to keep such things at a distance.  I know in some ways that it isn’t good, but my husband watches enough news for both of us and keeps me informed enough, as much as I can take that is.

This new book of Katie’s, Daring to Hope came to me at just the right time.  Isn’t it interesting how that seems to be?

I don’t believe in coincidence.   When I “happened” to look at her blog in order to link to it in a post I was writing, I saw that she had written a 2nd book and that I could apply to be a part of the launch team, which I promptly did.  I stated in my application that my blog only had a small number of readers and that I would completely understand if they needed bloggers with a larger audience to promote Katie’s book.

***this post contains affiliate links. I will earn a small commission if you purchase through one of my links.  My promise to you is I only recommend things I love.  See disclosure policy here***

Although I tend to dread checking my email, I daily and eagerly kept looking for that reply, even though I felt being chosen was unlikely.  I was surprised and beyond thrilled when I was chosen and received an early launch team edition of the book.

I knew without reading it, that her book would touch my heart in an eternal way, and it has.

When I read “Kisses From Katie” (her first book) and Katie’s blog, I’ve never stopped thinking about her story.  Never stopped thinking about how God is using her.  Never stopped thinking about how young she is and yet how radical her obedience to God seems.

To give you a little background, Katie Davis Majors is from Tennessee but currently lives in Uganda.  By the time she was 23, she was mom through fostering and adoption to 13 girls in Uganda before she married her husband, Benji, and they had a baby boy.  She is founder of Amazima Ministries, an organization that cares for young and vulnerable children and families in Uganda.

 All this, and she’s not even 30 years old yet.

I read all but the first 2 chapters in one day.   Every time I felt like I should be doing something productive, I reminded myself that on that day I had given myself permission to read and rest for several hours.  It was just what both my body and my anxious soul needed.

I find myself wrestling with anxiety about a variety of things, struggling with fears that I can’t do anything about.  Do you ever find yourself feeling this way?

I worry about Jessie if something happens to me.  I worry about the world my kids and future grand-kids will be living in if Jesus doesn’t come back soon.  Your fears and anxieties might be different from mine, but if like mine, they are outside of your control, they are stealing our joy and possibly causing physical pain.

I can’t do one thing about any of those fears except talk to God about them and ask Him to help with the fears that threaten to overwhelm at times.  I was in need of a fresh dose of hope from God.

Katie, living in Uganda has witnessed more poverty, sickness, and death up close than most of us ever will.  As I read Daring to Hope, I saw how in the midst of witnessing great suffering and being unable to change those circumstances, God refreshed Katie’s hope in Him.

You see, God has brought into Katie’s life and home many people who were suffering and she was called to be with them and  to love them.  Sometimes she loved and served them until they were physically healed and sometimes she held their hand as her friends,  “beheld the face of Jesus for the first time.”

In her time of sorrow and needing a word from God, He reminded Katie that His love is better than life.

 

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,

beholding your power and glory.

Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.

So I will bless you as long as I live;

In your name I will lift up my hands.

Psalm 63: 3-4

 

As Katie tells of the ways that God has continually refreshed her hope, I find Him doing the same for me.

These verses from Psalms have been meaningful to me for a long time.  They came through as a fresh dose of hope as I pondered the truth of them in my current anxious state.  God’s love and his faithful, steadfast presence for this life and eternity, really is better than anything, even life.

This book is many things.  It is an up close view of the ways that God is using Katie and how he is working in Uganda.  It is a messy and beautiful story of how God has built her family through adoption. It is a sweet love story of how when she had given up hope of a husband God brought her Benji, who not only loves her, but is a loving father to all of her girls.   It is a telling of stories of how God brings people together for their good and His glory.

Does your soul feel anxious?  Does your heart need encouraging?  Daring to Hope encouraged my heart and lifted my spirit.

Surprisingly, because I think of Katie as doing such BIG and meaningful things for God, one other thing God reminded me of through this book was the importance of “small” things.

“God was glorified, is glorified, when we give him our hearts, give Him ourselves, and faithfully do the thing right in front of us, no matter how small or seemingly trivial.”

“He has shown me the beauty of being attentive to one person, in the mundane, again and again.”

“He showed me that He is glorified in the small too.  He is glorified in each pot of pasta faithfully put on the table for our people…..when no one saw all the noses wiped and laundry folded and toilets scrubbed, God was being glorified.”

“Small acts of love become whispers of His glory in the midst of  our everydayness.”

That was a sweet reminder too.  So often as moms, our daily work is the same day after day.  It is good to remember that done with the right heart, even such mundane work honors God.

I know Daring to Hope will bless you too.

Josette

Hope for When Your Marriage is in a Hard Season

I almost didn’t write this post.

When I was asked to be a part of this blog series, Reclaiming Hope and Joy In Your Marriage, I waited until the last possible moment to join.

I was so honored to be asked to join this great group of Christian bloggers.  And while I loved the idea of being part of a group of Christian women encouraging other women, I knew that writing about marriage would be especially personal and vulnerable.  

We tend to imagine while we struggle at times in our marriage, that it is so much easier for other Christians, but we can see from the divorce rate among Christians that likely isn’t true.

I will soon celebrate my 30th wedding anniversary.   I have a good marriage, but like all folks that have been married a good minute we have weathered hard seasons in our relationship. When you’re in the midst of a difficult season, it can be hard to see that you’ll ever get to the other side of it. Now,  I’m so glad and thankful that when we were going through a hard season, we didn’t give up.  

Here are four things that can help you find hope when your marriage is in a hard season:

Continue reading at Hope Joy in Christ 

 

Easy DIY: How to Reupholster an Ottoman

This was a super easy and super inexpensive project, it just took a little time.  The matching chair and ottoman were given to us and each had only a small tear in them. This chair wasn’t used a lot at their house but between our heavy use and the dogs….well, the rips got bigger and bigger quickly.

I’m starting with the ottoman, the much easier project, but planning to soon give slip-covering a try for the first time with the chair.  Both are very comfortable and fit well in our living room.  Structurally, both chair and ottoman are in great shape so I think it will all be worth the effort.

I had been planning all summer to tackle this project.  Finally, one Saturday afternoon when the house was quiet and calm I put a show on Netflix and got to work.

You can see that our ottoman REALLY needed to be re-upholstered.

Honestly, it took longer to take all the staples out to get the old material off than it did to recover with the new fabric. I used a really small flat head screwdriver to lift the staples out.  Some lifted out easily that way and some would straighten out and make it hard to pull them out.  For those, I used pliers to grab hold of them and pull the staple out.  

In some sections I was able to pull the fabric off without removing every staple.

I didn’t remember to document this in photos, but on top of the cushion I first stapled a cotton/muslin type fabric over before adding the final drop cloth fabric that would show.  I already the cotton fabric on hand. I may not have done this step if I had to buy something extra.  You don’t have to do this, but since it had a thin layer done similarly under the decorator fabric when I took it off,  I decided to do the same.

I originally bought two canvas paint drop cloths at Walmart for 9.99 each, planning to use them as curtains in our spare bedroom I was redecorating at the time. I only used a part of one of them for this ottoman project.   I no longer have the packaging, but I think this is what I bought.  I knew when I bought them, that if I didn’t use them in that bedroom I would use them on this ottoman and the chair.

I washed both the drop cloths together on the longest possible cycle in hot water and added a good amount of Downy to the final rinse as this fabric has kind of a rough texture.  I LOVE textured fabrics, so I wanted that but also wanted it not to feel rough when we sit in the chair.  I may end up needing a third drop cloth when I slipcover the chair.  Even so, that will still be a really inexpensive way to get a new look!

After all the staples (the ones that needed to come out) were removed I laid the drop cloth over the top of the ottoman and cut the fabric, leaving enough hanging over the edge to staple underneath.  My cuts  were not perfectly straight and I didn’t measure. I knew I was planning to tuck the edges under and that they wouldn’t show.  Once my fabric was cut, I turned the ottoman upside down on top of my coffee table for the stapling.  That made it much easier to get to while sitting comfortably in my recliner.

When you make the folds around the legs it makes for a bunch of fabric to staple through, that’s why you see so many staples in those areas.

I turned the fabric under like a hem so the edge doesn’t show and stapled it to the wood.  I looked at a couple of other blog posts ( I searched on Pinterest) to get an idea how to do the corners.  I read somewhere to do it like wrapping a gift.  With that in mind I kinda winged it.  Wish I could show you precisely but I wasn’t very precise 🙂

This mesh looking fabric was under the ottoman to begin with and I put it back there, covering the fabric and staples.  If it hadn’t already been on the ottoman I wouldn’t have bothered with it.  It took a lot of effort to get all the staples out without tearing it, as it is fairly delicate, so if you don’t want to bother with it, it won’t really show anyway unless you turn the ottoman upside down.

This pic is a little blurry but you get the idea.
Finished product from the side.


Voile’.  I’m very pleased with how it turned out.  My corners are not all perfectly the same but I don’t think it’s terribly noticeable.  I’m happy with it.  I have sat in the chair and put my feet on the ottoman every day since I finished it.

Cost Breakdown:

  • I didn’t own a heavy duty stapler and had to buy one.   My husband got ours at Harbor Freight for around $15. They sell them at Walmart too.
  • With buying the stapler this entire project cost only about $25! If you have a stapler, the fabric was just $10, which makes for a crazy cheap and great project.  I still have some of the drop cloth left and may be able to use it in slip-covering the chair, not sure yet.

So, if you have an eye sore of an ottoman, you can fix it right up with some drop cloth and Netflix!  I first saw drop cloth used as a bed-skirt and curtains on Instagram which gave me the idea.  I like that it is textured, durable and some folks bleach (to make them more white than beige) or dye them too.  If you google paint drop cloth and upholstery or curtains, you can find a lot of projects on Pinterest using them. I’m sure this won’t be my last drop cloth project.

Hope you’re having a great week,

Josette.

5 Reasons Giving Your Kids an Allowance is a Really Good Idea

5 Reasons Giving Your Kids an Allowance is a Really Good Idea

My 21 year old son recently bought and paid for his own $15,000 car.  He saved first for a $5,000 down payment, then paid his $10,000 car loan off in 6 months!  I’m going to share in a future post additional factors that lead to him being able to do this.  Both of my now adult kids at 21 and 23 are very smart with their money.   Their very first lessons of learning the value of money and getting what they want from their money began with getting an allowance.

When they were pretty young, around 4 and 6, we started giving them a really small weekly allowance.  I had a friend just a little ahead of me in this parenting gig and I saw it working well for her kids.  And, of course, as soon as my kids saw their friends getting an allowance, they wanted allowance too.  

One other thing that influenced our thinking about allowance was having hosted an exchange student from The Netherlands in our home for a school year. This was before we had any kids of our own.  Our exchange student was 17 the year he lived with us.

 I was intrigued when he shared with us how from a young age his parents would give him an allowance for different types of things that allowed him to make choices about how to spend his money.  His parents would give him his school clothing allowance at the beginning of the school year.  He could choose whether to buy fewer expensive name brand pieces of clothing or more pieces of less expensive clothing.  His parents gave him money for his lunch and other discretionary spending at the beginning of the month.   If he spent it too early in the month, he would be scrambling to figure out how he was going to eat lunch at school for the rest of the month.  

Before we started giving them an allowance, the kids and I had a routine of once a week going out to lunch and spending time with our friends.  We would eat lunch first, then my friend and I might do a little clearance shopping at JC Penney.  Back then, I shopped a season ahead and got much of their clothing that way. 

 After we did any shopping we wanted or needed to do, if the kids had behaved we would usually take them to the Dollar Tree that was inside the mall for a little treat.  After their shopping was completed there was an area in the center of our mall that the kids nicknamed “the circle” and they could run around there and play.  Where we live in south Alabama, if you don’t have a pool, you stay in the a/c most of the summer. On our outings I got to have adult conversation with my friend and they got to play with their friends.   

At the Dollar Tree the kids would each pick out 2 things, sometimes 3, and sometimes ask for more. They would sometimes ask for other things in the mall too and then again when we went to Walmart for groceries they would want to look in the toy section and ask for things there.   

Of course, they didn’t get all the things they asked for, and it was very stressful for me that they were constantly asking for things and I was constantly having to assess what I  could or would buy them and what I would say no to.  Sometimes I felt guilty for saying no a lot.   If I said no at the Dollar Tree because we had gotten something earlier in the week at Walmart, I mean, it was just a dollar.  That felt kinda wrong.   But it was rarely just one item they wanted.  

We were a one income family and money was often tight.  At that time we didn’t buy a lot of toys outside of Christmas and birthdays but we did buy some.  Deciding what would have lasting value to them (what they would play with for more than 2 weeks) and what what be a waste of our money seemed so hard.  When our friends started giving their kids an allowance we decided to give it a try too.  

One crucial point to making this system work. They need to need their allowance.  

We stopped buying toys and gifts except for Christmas and birthdays.  We might buy a movie, VHS back then, but it was rare for us to buy any kind of toy.  Other than that, they had to spend their own money.  This made them NEED their allowance.   If you continue to spend money on toys and things they want, you take away their ability to learn the lessons below.  

Life-long Lessons My Kids Learned From Earning Allowance

When we started giving our kids an allowance, it was really amazing to see how quickly at their very young age they began to think about money differently.

  • Right away, almost immediately,  it helped them and me see what they really valued.   In the beginning my son would very often say to me, “Will you buy this?  I want it, but I don’t want to spend my money for it?”  Wow.  I suddenly saw that much of what my kids “wanted” and asked for wasn’t worth THEIR money.  Exit all guilt about having said no in the past.  It was a passing, “I see it and like it” want, not, “I really like it and want to spend MY money on it”.  This was a really big revelation.  I even saw this with our youngest who has Down syndrome when she started getting allowance.  
  • It put them in charge of deciding when to spend and when to save for something better.  We would talk it through with them, but really left it up to them for the most part how to spend their money.  More often they started choosing not to always spend their money at the Dollar Tree but save for just a few weeks for something they wanted more.  Some things at the Dollar Tree were good and fun, but some were just junk.  They were happy for me  to buy those things, but when it came down to it, they often realized they would rather have other things that required a little saving.
  • They could make mistakes with their money, and learn from those mistakes while it wasn’t a critical decision or a large amount of money.   Because they didn’t get a lot of money, they really had to think about how to spend it.  Most of the time it was well thought out.  Occasionally they would later question whether a purchase had been the best decision. This was more the case with my son.  He really became a saver.  By the time he was a teenager and started doing yard work for pay, he would stretch that summer income to make it last the school year when he didn’t have a job or a way to make money.  
  • Delayed Gratification: By having to save for what they wanted, rather than it being given to them or them being able to buy everything immediately, they learned to both work and wait for what they wanted.    Patience.  None of us like waiting, myself included.  It’s a fact of life though that sometimes it’s best to wait.  It was good to learn this lesson when they were young.  It helped both my older two kids when it came to buying a car.  They weren’t overly tempted to buy a car sooner than they should or spend more than they could afford.  They had been practicing for this type of purchase for many years when that time came.

It benefited us as parents too.

  • Since the decisions were up to them, NO MORE ASKING or begging.  Yippee! No more decisions to be made on my part.  This was a huge benefit to me.   Like I said before, initially for a little while, they might still ask me to buy something for them while we got used to this new system.  I would just remind them they had their allowance and they could choose what to buy.

Allowance really solved so much of the decision fatigue on my part as well as teaching my kids some important life-long lessons about money.  It was a complete win-win.

Was this allowance tied to chores?  Yes.  And no.  

Our kids were expected to do chores from a young age.  There are many reasons why we felt it was good for them.  We didn’t set an amount they earned per chore.  We framed it up as:  when you keep up your responsibilities at home, you earn the right to have a little spending money.  

They were expected to do the chores, period.  But, we did consider receiving their allowance to be contingent on their willingness to do their part at home.   From time to time there would be threats of not getting their full allowance if they didn’t do their chores, but we almost never had to make good on that threat.  

How much allowance should I give?

We started them off at a paltry $2 per week.  It wasn’t too long before we decided to bump them up to $3.  At some point they earned $5 a week.  Everything changed again when they were teenagers, but at a young age this is how it worked, and worked very well for us.

Jessie, our youngest who has Down syndrome and is 16, currently earns $5 a week.  Earning an allowance has been a good learning experience for her too.  I foresee a future post about our experience with allowance specifically with her since the situation is a little different.

How much are you already spending on toys/odds and ends/not necessities?  What is an amount you think is a good number for non-essential spending for each child that is affordable for you?  You can always bump it up, but nearly impossible to go back down without a mutiny.  If you have any doubts start with a smaller amount with room to “give them a raise.”  You want it to be small enough they have to save and think through their purchases and large enough that it covers what you would want them to have the ability to spend since you will no longer be buying toys.

Last thoughts…With parenting and teaching about money, begin with the end in mind.

If we were out somewhere and the kids saw something they wanted to buy with their money and their money was at home I would buy it for them and they would repay me when we got back home. They were young and it was too complicated to have them bring and keep up with their money every single time we left the house.  That is a whole different lesson and it wasn’t our focus at the time.

When you’re trying to come up with a system that will work for your family, keep the big picture in mind. Don’t get hung up on particular details.  Think through what the main things are that you want them to learn and devise a system with those goals in mind.  Amend your plans as necessary.

I saw a meme once that said something to the effect that their parenting strategy (showing a gps) was recalculating, recalculating.  Yes, isn’t so much of parenting like that?

Till next week,

Josette

DIY: Sparkle Up Your Plain Ole OtterBox

This was so super easy and fun!  When Jessie inherited my old phone, it needed a new case, and we were afraid to get anything but the very protective OtterBox Defender.  In fact, I use that kind of case myself as I am prone to drop my phone.

*this post contains affiliate links, read disclosure here, we appreciate your support*

Jessie saw sparkly and pretty ones when we looked on Amazon but we went with the pink OtterBox.  She was sweet about it but she was a little disappointed.

I had originally seen this idea when I got my own OtterBox.  I too had wanted a case I thought was prettier and I had googled how to fancy up my case but decided this was a little bit of a young look for me.

We watched this YouTube video together first. We followed her instructions.  We wiped the case first with a cotton ball with polish remover, to clean it and make the polish adhere well.

We used three different sparkly nail polishes.  We painted each coat and let it dry.  It dried quickly, then we added the next layer.  We had gotten out all 3 colors but I didn’t think we would actually use them all.  After each coat though, we weren’t quite satisfied with the look until we had used all three.

Jessie adding the second layer, the larger gold glitter.  It was still looking kind of plain at this point.  Yes, she is wearing pajamas and has wet from the shower hair. We always seem to get started on something when it is time to go to bed :). My sweet girl was so self conscious when she saw her bald spot in this picture. She decided it was ok for me to use it, but the “bald spot” makes her sad and self conscious.

Each of the polishes we used is a clear polish with floating sparkles in it. After the first polish, clear with pink and purple sparkles it was still pretty plain.   The gold was larger glitter and we liked what that added.  But it didn’t feel perfect quite yet.

Jessie was able to to do the back of the phone case and I did the sides.  It is important on the back of the case to keep the strokes going the same direction and I just needed to remind her a couple of times.

After a couple of coats she wanted me to finish it but she sat with me and we still enjoyed the project together and talking while we worked.


The third and last polish had silver and blue sparkles.  Blue is Jessie’s favorite color.  It finally looked “filled in”  and not plain.   Then we added a clear top coat . It is best to let it dry really well before handling.  We have one slightly smudged place because she was antsy to set her alarm clock before going to bed.

Jessie absolutely loved it!   She no longer feels there are prettier cases out there. She loves her case now AND mama feels good about the phone being protected.

It’s a win, win.   Mama’s happy and Jessie is happy.

Two things we are doing to improve Jessie's (our daughter with Down syndrome) conversation skills.

Two Things We Are Doing to Improve Jessie’s Conversation Skills

To varying degrees all people with Down syndrome deal with  communication issues and speech delays.  Some struggle with articulation more than others, but all deal with speech related delays.  

Jessie speaks fairly well.  People who know her really well understand much or most of what she says.  Like many  people with Down syndrome, it requires a little patience to have a conversation with Jessie.  She may use all the right words, but they might be slightly out of order.  She may use most of the right words but leave a little something out.  She finds it frustrating when she can’t get across what it is she has on her mind to say.  

To be completely honest, she drives us all nuts talking about the same things ALL the time.  It is for both her sake and ours that we need to increase the topics that she can talk about.  It would be a completely different situation if I felt that weren’t possible, we would love and accept her exactly as she is.  But she is capable of growing in this area, it just requires some patience and intention on our part.  

She loves to talk with us.  And we sincerely want to talk with her.  It has been an ongoing process since before she could say one word that we have consistently worked with her to increase her ability to communicate and increase the topics that she can communicate about.  What this has looked like at every age has been different, but it is something that has been on our minds from the beginning.  

Some of the reasons at this age we want to increase Jessie’s ability to communicate are:

  • She is very social and loves to be with and talk to people inside and outside of her family.  
  • Other than taking her out to eat, there isn’t one thing in the world that makes Jessie happier than for you to talk with her.
  • Other people are easily bored with the few topics she can talk about so we want to increase, however much we can, what she can talk about. We don’t want it to be that she can only converse if the conversation is about her and her activities.  

Barriers to communication at this age (teenage) and what we are doing to accommodate or improve them:

Jessie processes slower- it takes her a little longer to process what you said, formulate her response and then be able to get it out.  Too often, myself included, we are don’t wait long enough to give her time to respond.  We may smooth over and go to another topic or answer for her.  It is sometimes hard to give her the time she needs, but so worth it when we do.  It’s good for her and it’s good for us.   We need to, and are trying to, purposefully (sometimes painfully) wait for her to answer.  

The topics that she has enough knowledge of to have a conversation about is limited.  She lacks a frame of reference for many things that adults or her typical peers might talk about.  

Rather than all the questions being directed to Jessie about her so that the conversation is all one sided, and let’s be honest, boring and repetitive, Jessie has learned a couple of questions to ask others to help get or keep the conversation going.

Now, we are working on being purposeful about giving her good answers to her questions so she can increase the things she knows about, so she can converse  better.

For Example:   “How is your work going?”  She asks Daddy and her sister, Jordan, this question every time she talks to them.

Instead of responding with “Good, how was your day?” we respond with something specific about our day.  “I had a fun/sweet/hard/ patient today.” or “One of my patients brought me a cake today.”  (Jordan,  PTA)  “Well, I had a problem with the computer today, but it all worked out okay.” or “I walked down the hill to see about something with Mr. Richard today.” (Daddy) These responses  give her some knowledge she didn’t have before to build on later.  She now often asks Daddy how Mr. Richard is doing.    

When talking with her friends on the phone, if I’m nearby I will coach her to ask them what (not how, so she can get a specific answer that might spark further conversation) they’ve been doing that day.

These are just simple examples.  When she was younger we were trying to stretch 3 word sentences to longer sentences.  She does well with that now.  Now, our primary focus is helping her have meaningful conversation.  Primarily, we are doing this by teaching her questions to ask the other person, and when she asks questions we try to give answers that increase her knowledge by baby steps and little bits so she doesn’t get bored but learns something new.

As a side note, I am amazed sometimes at the words Jessie will use in a correct way out of the blue.  She has learned some good vocabulary from of all places, YouTube.  She learned about “wet ingredients” and “dry ingredients” and other cooking related terminology from watching cooking shows.  She has learned about products and techniques about makeup and makeup application as well.  When she was younger she watched videos of how other girls decorated their Barbie House.  Last Christmas we had a party where she and her friends decorated cookies and swapped gifts because she had watched some kids do the same on YouTube.  

Truthfully, she has learned a lot of good and interesting things from YouTube. We have also sometimes been surprised in a less good way from some language she has heard on YouTube.  While it’s been a good tool, it’s something we have to keep a close eye on.  I can’t remember the process but there is a way to filter some of what will come up in search or be displayed.  I can’t remember the steps but found this link that looks helpful .  It won’t keep every negative influence out, but is just one step of the monitoring process.  

I hope you find this helpful.  I hope if you love someone with Down syndrome or another speech delay it will give you an idea of how you might make your conversations with them more enjoyable and at the same time help them learn to communicate better.  

Always thinking and always sharing my thoughts,

Josette

p.s.  I had the opportunity to hear James Macdonald speak several years ago.  Here is a link with some of his main ideas.  These really influenced our approach when Jessie was younger.

Cooking In Bulk to Save Time in the Kitchen

Cooking in Bulk Quantities to Save Time In the Kitchen

I am all about saving time in the kitchen. The one thing I do on a regular basis that saves me tons of  time in the kitchen is cooking in bulk.  I very rarely ever cook just enough of something for our family to eat just once.

My oldest said something recently about me not really loving to cook.  It hit me kind of funny, because I’m a pretty good cook.  But it’s true.  I don’t hate cooking, but I guess I don’t love it.  I love having my family around the table together.  I really enjoy anytime we do any cooking in the family together, but that’s rare, and I just don’t enjoy spending a lot of time in the kitchen alone cooking.  I do it because it needs to be done.

The whole process of meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning up the kitchen takes so much time.   I am always looking for a way to eat yummy meals together, keep the meals for the most part frugal, and not spend all my time in the kitchen to do so.

My mother died when I was young, and my learning to cook and manage a home has been pieced together bit by bit.  It was only a couple of years ago I learned there were different measuring cups for liquids versus solids.  I’m 52.  That’s just one of those little facts that slipped through the cracks.

It’s only in recent years that I’ve been baking and cooking more from scratch.  Initially, mainly because it’s much less expensive than buying boxed/prepared ingredients and I was trying to find ways to save on our grocery bill.  Later, I also got interested in keeping the ingredients more “real” and less processed and without preservatives.

When it was just my dad, my brother and me at home, my dad taught me to cook a few things.  He was really good at those things, but his variety was somewhat limited. I still look back fondly though on the times we made pickles together and canned tomatoes.  We didn’t die, so I’m assuming he knew what he was doing with that 😉

Later, my stepmother taught me some cooking too.  At that time we were a blended family of 8, so the cooking I learned to do was for a large quantity at a time.  Truthfully, ever since then it’s been hard for me to cook in small quantities.  I have learned though to use that skill to keep from having to cook full meals every day.  Several days out of the week, either the entire meal or a portion of it, is leftover or partially previously prepared.  

Eventually, I purposefully started cooking more of everything than I needed at one meal so that we could have leftovers for the next day.  With homeschooling, since we were here for 3 meals a day most of the time, this was great.  We had something to eat for lunch that was “real” food that didn’t require much time.

One big advantage of cooking in bulk like this is saving tons of clean up time.  Cooking makes a big mess.  With Pots and pans, mixing bowls and measuring cups etc., it makes almost no difference in the mess as to what quantity you cook, the mess is almost the same.  Might as well cook and clean up once and benefit from 2 or more meals from the same amount of mess.

Here are some practical examples of ways that I cook in larger quantities to save clean up and preparation time.

  • If I’m making muffins I never bake just one recipe; at minimum, I double the recipe.   I recently made a double batch of banana muffin recipe and added chocolate chips to half of them.  Jessie and I (and Jordan when she is here) love the added chocolate chips and Jay likes his plain.  I kept out enough for the weekend and put the rest in the freezer.  As the fresh ones have been eaten I’ve pulled out a few more out at a time.  They’re so moist, this way you don’t have to worry about them getting moldy, just pull out the amount you think you will eat in the next few days.

 

  •  I don’t always make multiple kinds of items in the same day, but on this baking night I also made blueberry muffins  because I had some fresh blueberries.  My kitchen was totally blown up after this…..ONCE.   I used paper liners for the muffin pans so I could quickly refill them without having to wait to wash the pans.  With just 3 of us here full time and Evan on weekends I’ve had enough muffins to last a couple of weeks for breakfast or snacks.

 

  • So they won’t stick together in the bag, I freeze the muffins on a cookie sheet pan for roughly two hours first and then put them in a labelled ziploc bag.  I set the timer or else those muffins might be found days later on that cookie sheet 🙂

No matter what I’m cooking, I rarely ever cook the amount that we will finish that day.  Here’s what that looked like one week.  It doesn’t always work this way, but most often I cook a larger quantity a couple of days in a row and then don’t have to have to cook for a couple of days.  If you’re rotating what you’re eating between a couple of choices, you don’t tire of the leftovers so quickly.

  • Thursday I cooked a bag of turnips with a bag of mustard greens together.  I cooked white peas from the freezer and yellow rice.  I made fried cornbread and served with sliced tomatoes and a little Vidalia onion (for the greens, yum).  We ate this Thursday night and Friday for lunch and still had some leftover.
  • Friday night I made a large quantity of spaghetti sauce (not homemade, my family likes the Ragu traditional).  The amount of meat I had cooked (4 lbs.) was too much for the sauce I had bought so I improvised and added a can of Hunts Four Cheese Sauce and some additional spices.
  • We also had on hand turkey, cheese, lettuce and tomato and sub rolls for sub sandwiches.
  •  Between what I cooked Thursday and Friday and the sub sandwich supplies I didn’t have to cook over the whole weekend!
  • When we were tired of those items I  froze a quart size bag of leftover cooked turnips (enough for one meal) and some spaghetti sauce.  We will enjoy them another time without me having to start the entire meal from scratch.

Bulk cooking is the biggest time saver for me in the kitchen.  Intermittently, I like to use these already prepared meal plans to give me a break from meal planning, something I don’t enjoy.  I’m starting to work out a schedule also using the Walmart Grocery pickup, which I absolutely love!

Because it is such a time saver for me I’m thinking I will share more on the blog or facebook live when I cook in bulk, to give you busy mamas more ideas of how to spend less time in the kitchen and more time snuggling your babies or reading a book, or floating in the pool!  If this is of interest and helpful to you please be sure to let me know, and share it with your friends.

Till next week friends,

Josette

Teaching our Children What the Flag Stands For

A funeral is always an emotional event.  A recent funeral flooded me with such a mixture of emotions.  Sadness for the family, pride in seeing my friend honored for having served his country, and sobering thoughts of how in some ways we are missing the mark with the current young adult generation.

I recently attended the funeral of my friend John.  He was a good man, a man who loved God and loved his family well.  He was also a veteran who had served in the US Navy.  Although it had been many years since his time in the Navy, it was an emotional moment to witness that his service still had value in the eyes of the Navy and our country. It was meaningful to me to see him honored at his funeral.  

I have always considered myself a patriotic person but I realize that the older I get, and the more folks I know who have served in the US military, the more fully I appreciate the sacrifices they have made.  Sacrifices the whole family has made.

There are many ways in which the military is so regimented, so structured, and precise in a way that I haven’t always appreciated. I saw that structure in a different light on this day.  

This wasn’t my first military funeral, but for a whole bunch of reasons I see things a little differently the older I get.  After three shots were fired, I stood captivated as a man and a woman, both in Navy uniform, folded the US flag with such precision and care.  It was a slow process.  A precise process. Such great care was taken.  

When this carefully folded flag was presented to the widow, sincerity and compassion could be seen in the eyes of the presenter. “On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Navy and a grateful Nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.”

Gulp.  Tears.  It really got to me and it was obvious I wasn’t the only one that was affected in this way. 

Many eyes were wet that day. We were sad for my friend who lost her husband. We were sad and concerned for her that she is now the only parent to her adult son with Down syndrome.  We were sad remembering how John had so worried over his wife having to care for him and worried about leaving her on her own.  He was diagnosed soon after Margaret lost her mother after being her caregiver for several years.  Unselfishly, his only concern wasn’t for himself or anything he faced, but for Margaret.   

Although seeing him honored didn’t take away any of that sadness and concern, I was also struck with the reminder that although this friend’s time in the Navy was many years ago; he had willingly put his life at risk for the good of all of us that get to enjoy the safety and freedom that we have in the US.  

I couldn’t help but contrast the care taken on this day, with both sadness and a bit of anger that some callously and purposefully disrespect our flag.  The flag is a symbol; a symbol of our country and our freedom.    A symbol of all that is fought for by those willing to leave their homes and families and risk their very lives for the good of all.  

How is it that some have so little thought of the very thing, our flag, that is treated so carefully by others as a revered symbol?

“And a grateful Nation.”  We must teach our children that our freedoms and our safety aren’t without cost. That freedom isn’t free.  The reverence for our flag and appreciation for our military is learned when we understand the cost.  

I remember a day many years ago now when my husband and kids were watching the Olympics.  My husband stood when the national anthem came on and covered his heart with his right hand.  He did this so that my young children would see him showing reverence for the flag and national anthem being sung.  They were young and impressionable and he spontaneously decided this was a good way to begin to teach them.   To be honest, on that day I thought it seemed a little overboard, a little silly.  I don’t think so anymore.

When I graduated high school I had a general appreciation for our military and our flag.  I do remember that pledging allegiance to the flag all my school years taught me a feeling of respect for what it stood for.  History, for the most part though, felt like a bunch of dates and events that happened a long time ago that didn’t seem all that real to me.

When we homeschooled, we didn’t do history the way I had learned it, with a textbook and dates to memorize.  We read biographies and historical fiction. We also read stories of real people with real families with real struggles making real sacrifices.  For me, this inspired much better understanding of the price paid for the life I am able to live.  I was thankful too that this helped my kids come to a different and deeper understanding much earlier in life than me.

This isn’t a post about homeschooling; my husband attended public school his entire school years and he is one of the most patriotic people I know.  When I asked what had influenced him the most he said: 1) saying the pledge of allegiance at school every day and 2) the example set for him by family members that served in the military.  Those family members knew firsthand that freedom isn’t free.  They showed respect for the fought for symbol of our freedom and safety.  

Whether they go to school or homeschool, we the parents must teach our kids what is most important for them to know.  We teach them the most by our example.  It is humbling and scary to think about that our kids are always watching us.  In all areas of life, what we do matters so much more than what we say.