Monday, October 1, 2018

Why I Share

Do you follow people (like me) and wonder...why do they share so much of their lives?  Or think, I'm such a private person, I could not put myself or my family out there like that?  Well, let me tell you sometimes I get anxiety about being the person with a public Instagram account and letting tons of strangers into a large portion of our world, but way more times than that I am reminded of why I do it! The good that comes from our little corner of the internet far outweighs the bad.  So I wanted to share with you a big part of why I share our lives so openly.  

Seven years ago, I had no idea that October was Down syndrome awareness month.  I was oblivious to the fact that there was a whole community of amazing people out there that celebrated such an occasion.  And I really had no clue that the very next month, I would be one of those people.


When Deacon was born with an unexpected diagnosis, I was completely ignorant to what that meant for our lives.  I thought it meant doom and gloom and that our life as we knew it was over.  I immediately started scowling the internet to find out what we were facing.   I discovered a blog and IG account of another family with a daughter who was a little bit older than Deacon and also rocked an extra chromosome.  As I scrolled through pictures and posts, their lives looked pretty "normal".  There was no doom.  No gloom.  In fact, what I noticed most was there was just a bunch of joy that radiated from those images.  That's when the picture I had painted in my head of Down syndrome completely changed, and I knew that we were going to be alright.  More than alright actually.  Life as we knew it was over, but in the best way possible!


I used to feel guilt over my feelings and thoughts during those first few weeks of his life, but I have come to realize that they are completely normal.  You don't know til you know.  And boy do I know now!  That little boy is the biggest ray of sunshine I could have ever imagined, and I cannot help but share such a gift with the world.  


So I share for the Andreas of seven years ago...those who are clueless as to what a blessing that extra chromosome is.  I share for the Momma who is scared to death of the diagnosis she just received.  I share for the people who tell me on a daily basis that they were going through a tough time or having a bad day, but seeing Deacon's video or picture brightened their mood.  I share for the people who don't think my son's life has value.  I dare you to look at my pictures and tell me there's no value there.  I share for the people who feel sorry for people like us.  And I actually feel more sorry for them.  I share because I feel so incredibly blessed to be walking this road.  I will continue to share and shout my guy's worth along with all of those like him, because we truly are the lucky few! And as  Deacon would say, "This is the life!"



Happy Down syndrome awareness month, Friends!

Friday, September 14, 2018

My Colorful Fall

Hey friends, it's been a while.  Instagram seems to take the place of blogging for me, but I think about it all the time and still love it.  I know I say this probably every time I post for the first time in months, but I do want to be better about sharing all the things that roll around in my head on a daily basis...Jesus, Down syndrome, adoption, oils, and other random stuff like what I'm about to tell you about.

If you know me, then you know that I am 100% a holiday freak, and I am not ashamed to let that flag fly high! If it's a holiday or a National something day, we're gonna do our best to celebrate.  I lurk the Target Dollar spot before each new season waiting for the newest season/holiday stuff to come out and have even been known to call and ask.  I also have the most random style of decorating my house.  I love so many styles that it is hard for me to pick just one.  I love color. I love things that have a story behind them.  I love unique pieces things that I find at garage sales, thrift shops, antique stores, and sometimes even the trash.  I also love me some Ross!  All that to say that there is no rhyme or reason to how I decorate...it's all just because I love it for some reason or another.

The 'ber months are my favorite, so when fall comes around I can barely make it to September before I start decorating.  Ok, let's be honest...I didn't make it that far this year.  I decorated around the second week of August, but who's to judge? You do you, man!

Now that my house is full of so many bright colors, I feel like too many fall colors don't really fit, so I was trying to merge the two together.    My fireplace is one of my favorite things to decorate.  We spiced it up this year by painting it teal blue, cause why not?!  Anyway, I had an idea for a garland to put up there that I actually ended up loving when it was done, so I figured I would share it for any of my fellow color-lovers who might want to do the same.

I went into my front yard and collected a bunch of pine cones that were similar in size. I put foil on a pan and baked them on 200 degrees for two hours to get all the bugs and yuck out.  I did get a little fancy and toss them in some cinnamon oil before baking them.  It made my house smell Ah-mazing!!  But I mostly defeated the purpose of that in step two.



I had a bunch of spray paint on hand, so we went outside and painted two pinecones each color.



After they dried, I was going to try hot gluing them, but my husband is a genius and pulled out some little eye hooks that we were able to screw into the bottom of each pine cone by hand.



I laid out my twine and just eyeballed how far apart to spread them out.  (I could have gotten out a tape measure, but I suck at math, and aint nobody got time for that!) I just slid them on one at a time in the order I wanted them, and then tied a knot around the hook.  It ended up being too many after I hung it so I had to take a few off.


 Y'all, I ain't no Martha Stewart, so I was pretty proud of myself for this one!  And looking at it makes me happy.  Also, lurking that Target dollar aisle paid off, and I found some twinkle lights (which also make me happy) on twine that I strung through the hooks right up next to the other twine so it still looks like one strand.  I just haven't had a chance to get a picture of that.  I keep those clear hooks up at all times so I can easily decorate for all the occasions!  So if you, too, want to add some colorful flare to your fall decor, here's a super simple and CHEAP way to do that.

My "Gather" picture is from Smallwood Home.  Love their stuff too, and they always have great prices.



I put the rest of the pine cones in a little basket, and they still smell yummy!  Here are the other touches I added into my randomness. :)






Now if only the temperatures outside would match the inside of my house!  Haha.  Happy Fall, y'all!  Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

World Down syndrome Day 2018

In honor of World Down syndrome Day,  Deacon wanted to share a little bit about himself.  This kid, y'all!  He brightens my days, keeps me on my toes, and I love him like crazy!


Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Struggle is Real: Reading and Writing Tips & Tools

I'm not usually a person to choose a word of the year, but one that keeps coming to mind is "Intentional".  There are so many areas of my life where I want to work on being more intentional.  One of them is working more with Deacon outside of school.  I'm going to be real honest, homework time with him sometimes stresses me out to the max and there were some weeks leading up to the holidays that we just didn't do any of it.  But the thing is, he needs the extra attention.  Learning to read and write are a huge struggle for him.  Therefore he has pretty much zero interest in them.  So I have to get creative in ways that I work with him so that it doesn't really feel like work.  In my last meeting with his teachers I was given some tips and tools to use, and I wanted to share them with you along with some of the other helpful items we have purchased over time.  I have added all the links.

Deacon has a really weak pincer grasp which is what makes it more difficult for him to write.  In fact, they told me that he is just not ready and we need to focus on strengthening it.  Here are a few ways that we do that...

Theraputty (We bought firm and you can find it here.)


I take a small object and press in into the putty.  He has to use those fingers to pull apart the putty and find the object.  You can use whatever you have around the house.  This time we used a penny.  At Halloween, I put a tiny toy bat inside of there.  You just want it to be small so they really have to dig for it.




Another tool we use are these Crayon Rocks.


Their small shape encourages him to use his thumb along with his first and second fingers thus strengthening his tripod grip and helping to prepare him for using a pencil or regular crayon.

In this exercise I drew random shapes for him to color in.  We also worked on staying in the lines.  We made it a game, and if he went outside of them I dramatically told him he was in hot lava and to get back quick.  He thought it was hilarious and started taking it more seriously after coloring the heart.  Now he will probably go back to school doing this, and his teachers will be clueless as to what he's talking about.  Oh well...whatever works!


Also, lacing tools are good for this.  I got these from the dollar aisle at Target, but you can also find some like this on Amazon.


Apparently they are entertaining at all ages. :)


Another great tool is using some type of tweezers or grabbers to pick up small items and move them from one container to another.  This is the package that I purchased from Amazon.

When we do work on writing, I have found that these Lyra Ferby pencils work best.  A follower suggested them to me a while back, and we love them.  They are short and triangular which make it easier for him to grip them.  When he first saw them, he said, "Well that's a weird shape!"



To practice cutting, we use these Smart Loop Scissors.  I will cut out strips of paper and draw lines using a marker.  Then I will have him use these scissors to try and cut the lines.


And then there are Sight Words...Dear Lord, help me!! This child has a vocabulary and a memory that will blow you away, but when it comes to learning sight words the struggle is REAL!  Thankfully I discovered this DVD that actually holds his interest and makes him practice them.  If you have internet unlike us (country life probs!) you can also find them on Youtube kids for free.  This is the only one have right now, but I plan on buying more.



After he watches them, I try to work with him on the words in some way.  I found these dry erase dice at Dollar Tree and thought they would be good to use for a variety of things.  We throw them in the air and then have to say the word that it lands on.  He thinks it's fun, but the marker rubs off pretty easily.  (If you can't find them or don't have a Dollar Tree, ole trusty Amazon has some too.)


We also purchased this sight word pizza game.  He's not quite ready for it yet, but when he is, I think it will be a great tool! Plus, putting anything with pizza is bound to get this kid's attention!


He got this game for Christmas.  We haven't played it yet, but it looks fun!


Amazon has so many great resources.  We use it the most because we live in the middle of nowhere and it is easiest, but I also love to hit up our local dollar stores and my favorite...the Bullseye section at Target (aka the dollar aisle where most things are not really a dollar anymore).  They usually have some great tools as well like these little felt books we got to help with counting.  


I hope some of you will find these tips, tricks, and tools helpful.  I would also love to hear any ideas or products that work well for you, so please feel free to share them with everyone in the comments below.  I know I need all the help I can get!!! :)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

A New Holiday Tradition and 25 Ways to Love on Others

I cannot believe the holiday season is already upon us!  The "ber" months are my absolute favorite.  And yes, I am that person whose tree has been up for a week already.  Don't judge.  I promise it doesn't mean that I am not grateful or do not love Thanksgiving.  I am just really, really, thankful for Christmas! ;)

I am so excited to share with you a new tradition we are starting with our family this year...The Giving Manger.  This product was created to promote the true meaning of Christmas.  It encourages acts of service and spreading kindness.


Included in the set is:

*A Book- We will read this heartwarming story together to get us all excited about starting this new tradition.



*A Wooden Manger-We will place this somewhere visible in our home.


*A Bundle of Straw-With each act of service, we will place a piece of straw in the manger.


*A Baby Jesus-On Christmas Day, we will place this in the manger full of service and love.


If you would like to order one of these sets and start this tradition with your family, just visit www.thegivingmanger.com.



Also, I have compiled a list of ideas on how to love on and serve others as a family this Christmas season.

1.  Provide baked goods for someone who services you and your community. Think firefighters, policemen, medical staff, postmen, etc.  I know I will be hitting Amazon pretty hard this holiday season, so I plan to do something for the UPS/Fedex drivers who will be working overtime to make all of the special deliveries.

2.  Reach out to the special needs community.  If your area has an organization that services individuals with special needs, donate your time to them.  Or maybe you know a family who has a child with special needs.  Let them know they are seen, heard, and cared for.  It can be as simple as just spending time with them.  Or offer to babysit while the parents go Christmas shopping or just have a break.  There are also great organizations you could donate to.  Ruby's Rainbow is one of my favorites.  They help make people with Down Syndrome's dreams of higher education come true by providing scholarships. 

3.  Support a foster family.  If you know a foster family personally, reach out to them and find out how you can help meet their needs.  If not, you could check out my friend's Foster Joy Project.  Or Together We Rise is a great organization that helps enhance the lives of foster children all across America.

4. Visit a nursing home.  Take a group and go caroling.  Make the residents cards/gifts or take a craft to do with them.  You may be the only guest for some of them.

5.  Volunteer in your community.  Look for local organizations where you can donate your time or money.  If you are near the Shreveport/Bossier area, The Hub Urban Ministries is a great place to start.  The opportunities to serve there are endless and year round.

6.  Offer to help someone wrap presents.

7.  Invite someone you don't know well over for dinner.

8.  Send a thoughtful/just because text message.  This can be done daily.  Just letting someone know that you are thinking about them can brighten their day.

9.   Support an orphan.  Maybe you know someone who is in the process of adopting, make a donation towards their adoption fund.  Or there are amazing organizations like Reece's Rainbow. Go to their site, select a child, and donate to their adoption grant.

10.  Pray for people in need.   Think about our soldiers and their families as they are away from each other.  Or the person who is grieving the loss of a loved one and finds the holiday season to be hard.  Maybe it's someone who has lost their job and is worried about how they will provide for their family, much less buy Christmas gifts. Serving others can be as simple as stopping to say a prayer for them.

11.  Prepare a meal for someone. Maybe it's a pregnant mom or someone who is sick.  Find someone in need, fix them a meal, and drop it off.

12.  Donate to a local food pantry.

13.  Donate to a local homeless shelter or organization. Collect socks, hats, blankets, coats, etc. and drop them off to your local organization.

14. Offer to do yard work for an elderly person.

15. Host a hot chocolate or apple cider stand and donate the proceeds to a charitable organization.  I'll insert a couple of suggestions here.  Numana, Inc is a wonderful organization that helps empower people to serve the hungry all over the world.  I have personally been a part of their events.  Just $9 feeds a child for a month! Another great organization is Compassion International.   They are a child advocacy agency that connects people with compassion to those who suffer from poverty.

16.  Offer to babysit for free.  This is a great way for teenagers to volunteer their time or you could do this as a family.  It could be especially helpful for a single parent.

17.  Participate in a fundraising walk.  Check to see if your area has any walks that support a great cause and do them as a family.

18.  Put money in the Salvation Army bucket when you pass by or volunteer to ring the bell.

19. Call a friend you haven't talked to in a while. It will make them feel special to know you were thinking about them, and you will both enjoy getting caught up.

20.  Visit a children's hospital.  Take Christmas books to read to the patients.  Take gifts or bring a craft to do with them.  Maybe you don't have a children's hospital in your area, you can still visit the children's ward at a regular hospital.  Call ahead to make arrangements.

21.  Offer to run an errand for someone. Check with an elderly neighbor, someone who is sick, a single parent, etc. and see if you can help them by picking up groceries or Christmas shopping for them.

22.  Leave a very generous tip for your server.

23.  Send a handwritten or homemade Christmas card.  There is nothing like a handwritten note or card. Make someone's day by sending them one unexpectedly.

24.  Donate to a local toy drive.

25.  Random acts of kindness.  Smile at and compliment a stranger.  Hold the door open for someone you don't know or let them go in front of you in a store line.  Pay the tab for someone behind you in a drive through line.  Choose a table at a restaurant and anonymously pick up their tab. Or purchase gift cards and have the cashier/waiter hand them out. 

Do you have any more great service ideas or organizations to support?  I would love for you to share them in the comments below!


Happy Sunday, Friends! I hope you all have a very blessed holiday season!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Cooking with Archie and Deacon

One of my favorite parts of this journey is the friends that we've made along the way!  The connections we have developed in the Down Syndrome community through social media have been incredible!  The Eicher's are one of those families that we've grown close to.  Their visit for the weekend resulted in "The Archie and Deacon Cooking Show".  I had to share it with you!! I'm just sad they don't live closer so this could be a regular thing.  Enjoy!!



Saturday, July 29, 2017

DIY Homemade Lip Balm

When it is summertime here, I have zero desire to go outside unless I am near a pool, lake, or ocean.  Being stuck indoors puts me in the mood to craft, and lately I have been wanting to make all the things with my Young Living oils.  I decided to start with lip balm.  I love a good chapstick and wanted to make one that was all natural.  I searched around, got an idea of what to use, and kinda mixed up a few recipes.

Here's what I used...

Ingredients:
2 TBSP African Shea Butter
2 TBSP Organic Beeswax 
2 TBSP Organic Coconut Oil
6-10 drops of Young Living essential oils (I used Peppermint)
Small syringe (I used one of my kids' medicine droppers.)

Tools:
12 Lip Balm tubes
Glass measuring cup (Heavy duty and able to be heated like Pyrex or Anchor)
Egg carton
Frying Pan


I ordered almost all of my ingredients online except for the coconut oil.  You can click on each item and it will take you to exactly what I used.


First, I put some water in a frying pan and set the glass measuring cup in the center of it as I brought it to a boil.  Then I added the beeswax and waited for it to melt.


While waiting for that to melt, I poked holes in my egg carton, opened all of my tubes, and made sure they were rolled all the way down.  Then I stuck each tube into the carton to hold it into place so it wouldn't fall over as I added the mixture.


After the beeswax melted, I added the shea butter and coconut oil, let it melt, and then stirred it all together. Once it was completely smooth, I added my oils.  I used 6 drops of Peppermint oil for my first batch and wished I had added a little bit more.

Then, I turned the burner off and used a medicine dropper to slowly add the mixture to each tube.  You want to do this pretty quickly because it does not take long before it starts to harden.  It also sinks down quickly, so I went back and topped it off with the leftover mixture. 


I let it sit on the counter to cool for about 20-30 minutes, then I wiped off any excess mixture that dripped down the side with a paper towel.  Next, I put the caps back on and stuck them in the fridge for another 30 minutes or so.  I was able to get 13 tubes out of my first batch and had enough ingredients left over to do it again at least 4 or more times. 

Y'all....this is the smoothest stuff I have ever put on my lips!  I can't stop putting it on! I love it so much, and so does every one that I have given it to.


In fact, we like it so much that we made some more again today.  I let my daughter and nieces help, and they were so excited!  This time we added about 5 drops of lavender to the mix. 


To make them pretty, I let the girls decorate them with washi tape.  They were having a contest to see whose was the cutest.  I think they are all adorable. 


So there ya go...super simple lip balm!  If not, I would not have done it. :)  I figured I would share it with you incase you had the itch to make some too.  And speaking of itch, you could also use the lavender one as a stick to put on bug bites.  (We used some of the left overs on my husband's arm, because it is covered in poison ivy.)  Let me know if you'd like more information on Young Living oils.  Happy Saturday, Friends!