Learning to Live Amongst Chaos

Not that my life isn’t normally chaotic on a daily basis, but recently it got a whole lot more interesting….

On Sunday morning, my husband pulled up a few tiles in front of our kitchen sink when I realized they were squishing under my feet and some water was coming up between the grout….fast forward a few hours and my floor looked like this ….thanks to a broken $6 piece from the dishwasher.

img_2887

Monday we called the insurance company to see if we could file a claim and Tuesday they sent some contractors out, who looked around and took pictures and informed us that our basement had a lot of moisture in the walls. They left us boxes and said whatever we didn’t pack up that night, they would do the next day and they would move everything out of the basement and kitchen.

img_2905

On Wednesday, they came back and took out pretty much everything in my kitchen minus the upper cabinets and tore up the tile floor that my husband and father in law took almost a week to meticulously install a couple years earlier. It was sad to see all that hard work and money get basically thrown away.

img_2912

Later that day, a guy came to run some tests for asbestos, which he said he was 99.9% sure our basement and kitchen floors both contained but we have to wait for the official results from the lab, so that is going to slow down this whole process.

After the guy testing for Asbestos left, my husband went in the basement and realized they must have broken part of the hot water pipe when they took the sink out and now we had more water in the basement ceiling and puddles on the floor…so we ended up being without water for the night but on a plus side, we didn’t freak out because, thankfully, they were already going to be giving us a new basement eventually.

Since we have no sink, working stove or counters, cooking, eating, packing lunches, etc is kind of interesting. I managed this morning to use our patio table to cut a few potatoes and onions to throw in the crockpot with sausage and baby carrots. My awesome husband set up a small make shift appliance center in his workroom to do some cooking. There’s a microwave, crockpot, Nutribullet and griddle that we can use, so that should be somewhat helpful. We have enough paper plates and utensils to last us a while and can use the bathtub to wash whatever real dishes and utensils we have to use.

img_2915

The kids aren’t sure what to make of it all…John and Abigail think it’s fun at the moment. Joshua, on the other hand, doesn’t deal well with change and because he doesn’t understand what is going on, he’s been struggling. They all think walking through our “E.T.” door is fun though.

img_2914

I’m trying to be positive about the chaos because, in the end, it means I get an updated kitchen, which we have really wanted for a while anyway and a new basement floor and possibly walls and ceilings too. I know insurance companies can be fickle to work with, so we are praying really hard that they don’t skimp on repairing the damage.

Until then, we are going to learning to live very simply…..

Save

Save

5 Inexpensive, Summer Fun Ideas for Kids + a way to control screen time

Summer is in full swing in our house. We are loving the relaxed schedule, but with it come the need for some ideas to keep the kids busy. Since this site is about being thrifty, here are some of the ideas we have tried so far and most of them don’t require you to buy anything.

DIY Bird Feeder

IMG_1353

This project is very inexpensive and my kids loved doing it. I suggest doing it outside because it can be pretty messy depending on the age of your kids. The only item I didn’t have was birdseed, but I was able to purchase a box of seed at Walmart for $1.97. You will also need toilet paper rolls, some peanut butter and something to hang it with. Yarn would work great, I used floral wire cause that was the first thing I found in the craft bin. Just spread the peanut butter on the toilet paper roll and sprinkle birdseed on top. (We put our wire in first so we weren’t trying to string it through the peanut butter and bird seed.)

IMG_1350 IMG_1351

30 Day Lego Challenge

If you want to help your kids imagination, this one is for you. This 30 Day Lego Challenge forces kids to use their imaginations instead of the step by step directions that come with the Lego sets. My son ended up spending over an hour doing his first creation and hasn’t stopped playing Lego’s since. It has, all of a sudden, spurred his desire to create stuff.

Another Lego activity we loved was this Lego candy dispenser.

FullSizeRender(15)

It was super easy to build and used pieces that were really common with most Lego sets. It only took us about 45 minutes, including trying to find the pieces in my sons massive box of Lego’s.

Creative Kid’s Cooking Challenge

IMG_1361

If you have a kid who is interested in cooking, this would be a fun activity. John and I love watching the Food Network and they currently have a show called Chopped Junior running. John really wants to be on the show but I told him he will need a lot of practice to get ready. This is a fun way to get your young cooks in the kitchen by starting them off with simple tasks, while making it a fun game at the same time.

Hands Free Bubbles

If you follow Simple & Thrifty on Facebook, you’ve already seen this, but I thought it would go well in our list of cheap summer ideas. Bubble are a timeless activity that all kids seem to love. If you have children like mine, the bubble solution runs out very quickly. We have one child who is a bubble dumper and another one who bends over and accidentally spills all her bubbles. In order to remedy the problem, I taped the tall bubble wands to our deck stair rails and now it’s much easier for the kids to play bubbles. I’m sure this concept would also work with the small bottles of bubbles. They love not having to hold the bubble solution and I love that I don’t have spilled bubbles all over the place.

Summer Vacation Screen Time Rules

It’s hard to always have activities planned for your kids and you shouldn’t have too. It’s important that they can learn to entertain themselves for awhile so you are able to do the things you have to. It’s very easy to allow the TV and other electronics to take over during the summer when the kids start complaining that they are bored. I had a feeling this would happen in our house, so before school got out, I found this nifty chart on Pinterest to give John a list of things to do in order to earn screen time. What usually happens is he gets distracted by doing one of the activities and a long time goes by before he remembers to move on to the next item on the list. I have it posted on our fridge so I don’t have to keep telling him what to do, he knows that he just has to go look at the list. It makes my life much easier.

Stay tuned for more great inexpensive ideas to keep your kids busy this summer.

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Everyday is a Gift

I recently read a quote by Lysa TerKeurst, an author and public speaker, who had recently experienced what doctors called a medical miracle. The quote says, “When the baby is crying and the deadlines are pressing and the stress is mounting and the enemy whispers “just get through this crappy day.” Look up and shame the enemy back to hell by acknowledging today is a gift.”

We’ve all heard people say familiar quotes such as, “Life is Short” and “Everyday is a gift”, but it wasn’t until Lysa added the last part on there, that I realized that there are a lot of days that my goal is to just get through the hard, stressful and” crappy” days. To survive. In the past, those expression always seemed appropriate when someone close to me was injured or passed away too soon, but I never thought they applies to the stress of daily life.

You know the saying, “tomorrow is a new day”, but by always looking to tomorrow, I’ve missed so many precious opportunities and memories that could have been salvaged from the rest of the each day. I would mentally check out and allow the stress and frustration of the day to distract me from what was truly important and tell myself, that tomorrow would be better….just make it to tomorrow.

This week, Daniel and I decided to cut out all sugar and any other junk that we would occasionally eat and by the end of the first day I had a massive headache. I survived and got through the day by looking forward to the next day. Day 2 was not much better and I found myself dragging through the day and for the first time ever, I yelled at one of my kids. I’m not a yeller…I tend to say “please” and “no thank you” when I am correcting them and pretty much always talk to them calmly even when they probably could use a slightly raised voice of correction.

Well, Joshua would not stop going in the fridge, Abigail had just spilled her cereal all over her lap and the floor and I was already currently cleaning up Joshua’s spilled cereal. I yelled very loudly, “Stop It” to him to get him to leave the fridge alone. He stopped immediately and started crying. I felt like the worst mom ever. I had clearly scared him. (although I did note that maybe a slight raise in my normal voice might produce a little bit of healthy fear in him, maybe even enough to get him to listen better.)

I was tempted to throw in the towel on the rest of the day. I quickly swore off dieting because it makes me grouchy and made me yell at my kids. I told myself that tomorrow would run smoother and maybe I wouldn’t be so grouchy from sugar deprivation but then I remembered that quote and realized that I had 8 more hours to spend with these kids. Was I going to waste those 8 precious hours and not poor my heart and soul into all the moments we had for the rest of the day and salvage what was left, even if it wasn’t any better than the start of the day? Was I going to be grouchy to them for the rest of the day because the day was” worthless” now that I had messed up?

Now, when I complain about just wanting a moment to sit down or wish my kids would just play quietly and not need me to play with them all the time, I remind myself that every day is a gift. What if tomorrow never comes? What would my kids remember of our last days together? Did I mentally check out when things got overwhelming? Or, did they know that I loved them and gave my all to showing them that, regardless of the circumstances of the day or their behavior? Did I show them that they are more important than all the struggles of the day? Did I grab my phone to mentally check out or grab them and hug them and tell them how much they mean to me?

IMG_1357

Everyday will not be perfect, I am sure I will fail miserably most days, but by having this phrase visible in my house, it will be a moment by moment reminder that each day is a gift. A gift I get to spend with 3 beautiful children and an amazing husband, all who love me. We have a home and a job which is more than a lot of other people. No matter how hard life gets, being alive is a gift we should celebrate every day.

 

Save



Save

Schools Out for Summer!

 

IMG_1243

Summer vacation is here!

In the past I have always dreaded these almost three months of no school, but this year I have my bucket list of ideas ready to go and am so excited to enjoy this summer vacation with my family. We picked activities that would be possible to do with Joshua, but that everyone would enjoy doing.

To celebrate the last day of school, we made homemade pizza, had a water fight and made s’mores on our new fire pit that was built just in time for the special occasion. We ended the evening by watching Zootopia as a family. It was such a fun way to end the school year and a great way to usher in vacation.

P1000645

We bought these balloons special for this occasion, plus a few extra packs to use over the summer. I got them really cheap, so I couldn’t be too disappointed when they weren’t as awesome as I had hoped, (see all the random balloons that are floating in the water, those were the duds) but the kids still loved them. (The duds are still far better than filling them all by hand!)

P1000661

P1000663

P1000666

Then the fun part, the opportunity to throw things at John, while he ran away laughing hysterically…..he finally got smart and starting using the sandbox cover as a shield, but not before he got totally soaked. So fun!

P1000672

The kids were super excited to use our new fire pit. They had helped their dad build it the night before and were looking forward to roasting marshmallows and making s’mores all day.

Since we will be away celebrating our 10th Anniversary next weekend, I bought Daniel two Adirondack chairs to use around the fire pit for an early Father’s Day present from the kids. The 2 smaller kids already had Adirondack chairs and John got one as a gift from his grandparents for finishing 3rd Grade, so everyone had a place to sit. It was fun to see the kids get so excited over roasting marshmallows. This was such a fun activity to do as a family and I’m sure we are going to be getting a lot of use out of our fire pit this summer.

P1000679

P1000680

I don’t know why we waited so long to make a fire pit! The moment I sat in one of those Adirondack chairs and put my feet up, I honestly did not want to get back up (until the kids started yelling about needing something lol). I know where I’ll be sitting this summer while I watch the kids play outside.

P1000685

This boy was so focused on making perfect s’mores for everyone. I think this was the highlight of the evening for him.

P1000688

I’m excited to write about all of our summer plans as we do them. I’d really love to hear what fun things are on your bucket list to do with your kids this summer.

DIY Patio Table Planter

It’s Spring! (depending on the day in New England) I love Spring, with all the trees budding, flowers blooming, birds chirping, sun shining and the sounds of kids playing happily outside.

I also love flowers. I’m not much of a green thumb and kill more plants than I manage to keep alive, but I do love them anyway. Every year, I plant flowers and put them in pots up on my deck railing….and every year, they last about a day before Joshua pushes them off of the edge and breaks my pots. He has an obsession with watching things fall, so anything not bolted down is not safe.

This year, I got smart and found a way to have plants that will hopefully last longer than a couple days.

Here’s what I did, I made an angel food cake pan into a flower pot that can’t be pulled off the table! I wish I had seen this idea sooner because it looks so cute on my table.

Here’s my before:

IMG_0965

This is the type of angel food cake pan that has the removable center piece. After I spray painted the pan, I placed some rocks in the bottom before adding the potting soil, to reduce any dirt that might come out when watered.

And here’s the after:

IMG_0971

The pole for the umbrella fits perfectly in the center hole of the pan, so this flower arrangement isn’t going anywhere. I love having this burst of color on my patio table, it makes for a beautiful centerpiece.

Now to think of a way to save the rest of my plants…….

How to make Money with your smartphone

How to Make

If you own a smartphone, wouldn’t it be nice to use it to make some extra money? Imagine being able to do all of your Christmas shopping by just using the money you’ve earned with a few apps throughout the year!  There are a ton of apps out there to help you make money, from buying groceries, watching videos, mystery shopping and even logging your workouts. I don’t have time to do all of those and honestly, I don’t want to be hooked to my phone all day. So, here is a list of my favorite apps that I use each month. They don’t take long to use once you have it downloaded and your account set up. Using these apps can easily save you up to $50 a month!

(Keep an eye out for Part 2 of this post next month for more money saving apps)

Ibotta – I love this app and it is super easy to use. Download the app and create an account. Then, simply find the store you shop at in the app, browse through the rebate offers, unlock the rebate for the items you purchased by answering one question, watch a short ad, or read a recipe. (literally takes a couple seconds) Take a picture of your receipt with your phone and they will credit your account with the value they assigned that item. If you sign up using my link, you should get $10 after you download the app and submit your first receipt! (You can create an account on your computer then log in once you have the app downloaded on your phone)

FullSizeRender(9)

FullSizeRender(8)

Saving Star – Once you download this app and create an account, you need to load your store loyalty cards to your account and then click on the items that you plan on buying before you go to the store. Once you check out at a store, the app will credit your account with the value assigned to the item that you purchased as long as you are shopping at a store that you’ve already linked your savings card too. (it takes a few hours to see the money deposited into your account). Super easy!

FullSizeRender(7)

Checkout 51 -Download the app and create an account. Pick an item from their list that matches what you purchased at any store, take a picture of your receipt with your phone and that’s it! This app requires that you accrue $20.00 before you cash out and takes me a little longer since the items it offers aren’t things I regularly buy, but I still check it before and after I shop to see if they have an item I might be buying.

checkout 51

Paribus – My newest favorite is Paribus. (This works without a smartphone too! Create an account on your computer and make sure you sign up using the same email that you enter when you make purchases online) This app does all the work for you once you set it up. If you buy anything online at Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Gap, J. Crew, Zappos, Macy’s, Staples, etc and get a receipt emailed to you, this app is for you.  Paribus will watch for the price to drop, and once it does, they email the company on your behalf and request a price adjustment. In return, they take 25% of the refund. It seems like a lot, but I don’t have time to constantly look up every item I bought online every day for 30 days to see if the price has changed and then email the company to ask for an adjustment, so any money I get back is more than I would have on my own. Not even 24 hours after I signed up, I had 2 items we had purchased on Amazon a few days prior, change price and the price adjustment credited to our bank account thanks to Paribus. Easy money! (Make sure to use the same email address for the app/computer that you do when you make the purchases or you won’t get a refund)

paribus

Walmart Savings Catcher – This one is similar to Paribus. Download the Walmart App and every time you make a purchase at Walmart, simply scan the barcode on the bottom of your receipt. Walmart then compares it’s prices with retailers in your area and, if it finds a store that sells the item cheaper, it credits your account with the difference.

savings catcher

A couple other apps that save me money but don’t require much work are:

Retailmenot – This app is great if you are in a store and need a coupon code. Simply type in the store and it will list every coupon that you could use in store or online. I use this all the time at craft stores. Extra tip: ACMoore, Michaels, and JoAnn’s fabric will usually let you use either of their coupons at any stores. So I always look up who has the biggest percentage off an item and use that stores coupon code at a different store.

Favado – Need Ice cream but don’t know who has it on sale this week? Type the item you want in the search bar and it will tell you all the stores that have that item on sale. It will also tell you if there is a coupon that you could use to make the deal even sweeter and you can even pick your store and see the top sales going on that week. I use this at Walmart all the time to price match. I check all the name brand items I am purchasing and see if they are cheaper at another store. Then show the cashier the app with the item and sale price and they automatically adjust the price for you. One shopping trip at Walmart, this app saved me $11 just by price matching!

favado

So, download an app or 2 and let your smartphone start making you some money. You will be surprised how quickly it adds up.

Our Favorite Learning Toys

In our house, toys are usually only purchased for special occasions such as birthdays or Christmas, unfortunately for Joshua, his birthday and Christmas are only 2 days apart, so we have learned to be very strategic in what toys we purchase for him. Usually, some of our family will call and ask us to research what we feel he needs.Then, we either order it for them, or tell them the toys that we think will encourage a continuous, yet fun, state of learning for the next year.

Can I just tell you, this process of picking out toys that are both educational and fun is no simple task. (Not to mention, they must be extremely durable because he is very rough on toys!) This venture usually ends up with Daniel and I both watching YouTube videos of all the products before we decide which ones we think will work best for him. I’d honestly say that around Christmas time, we spent hours researching all of our options. It may seem like overkill to many, but Joshua has such different needs that we had to make sure the toys fit the bill on many different levels before it made the list.

Here are a few of our favorite picks:

P1000307

Our first pick is the VTech Write and Learn Creative Center. It has so many different option such as writing upper case letters, lower case letters, pictures that coincide with the letter sounds, etc. It even teaches kids the proper way to form the letters. Joshua can easily sit for 15 minutes, at a time, playing with this toy and he uses it often.

IMG_0595

Our next pick is also from Vtech. It’s the VTech Lil’ Speller Phonics Station. We used to have something similar that was a magnet that went on the fridge, but we were always losing the letters. This toy comes with a nice carrying case so you can take it wherever you go. Even if your child can’t spell words yet, it will sound out the letters when they go into the slots and has multiple categories so this toy can grow with your child.

P1000310

This next toy was something I just found on Amazon while looking for a product that will encourage Joshua to practice what he is learning in school. It’s such a neat product that has so many additional books that you can purchase. We found them all the way up to 3rd grade math and reading. They have options for numbers, colors, shapes, vocabulary, etc. The learning ability of this toy is endless and my kids all loved to use it.

Hot Dot Jr

EDUCATIONAL INSIGHTS HOT DOTS JR. LET’S MASTER PRE-K READING SET WITH ACE PEN

P1000313

In this set, they work on matching letters, letters with pictures, colors, sequencing, etc. It includes 2 books and the special dog pen that lets them know if they chose the correct answer. It’s super cute and the kids love it when they make the right choice.

Our next favorite, is not only educational, but a great “busy” activity if you need your child to sit still for long periods of time. This is the Melissa & Doug Alphabet Splash Cards. (They sell a bunch of different sets as well as books, we have quite a few and love them all!)

IMG_0466

FullSizeRender(5)
It uses a small paint pen filled with water to “color” the picture. Once it dries, the picture goes back to it’s original state and is ready to be used again. When Joshua first got these, he literally used them for 5 hours straight! I actually had to put them in front of a fan to dry them quicker so they would be ready when he finished a different set. We use these when we go to church to give him a “busy” activity to do so he stays out of trouble.

Let me know if you end up trying any of these toys for your kids!

 

The Secret to Getting Everything Done

Have you ever wished there was more time in a day? Wondered why you can never get everything done that you planned on doing? Or you saw on Facebook that your friend was able to homeschool her kids, make bread from scratch, go grocery shopping with 5 kids in tow, hang all of her laundry out on the line, sew a new set of curtains, plant a garden, workout for an hour and even have time to play board games with her kids and wondered what you were doing wrong? I know I have!

Here’s the secret…..

Most people CAN’T really keep up with this schedule every day, especially if you have kids! We all have productive days now and again. Social media is great for making us feel guilty when we see everyone’s posts about their “perfect” lives. Not often do we see people post what their lives really look like; the piles of dirty dishes, baskets of clean but not folded laundry, unswept floors, frozen pizza and french fries for dinner, etc….

I used to let it bother me that everyone on social media seemed to have it more together than I did. I would spend each day trying to achieve everything I felt everyone else was apparently able to do. Then I would try to change too much in my life at the same time. I would make everything for our meals from scratch, while making all natural soaps, lotions and laundry detergents (mainly for Abigail because she has super sensitive skin), clip coupon to save as much money as possible, try to keep the house spotless, the laundry washed and hung out on the line to dry (to save electricity), read the latest parenting advice and keep my kids entertained with fun projects so they weren’t watching tv. All this while trying to keep up with all of Joshua’s appointments and cleaning up everything he got into.

10520835_10152987504225519_8259386682500916777_o

Joshua milk spill

The only thing this accomplished was to wear me out and stress my family out because they couldn’t really “live” in their own house. I realized I was having an issue with pride…I wanted to be able to “do it all” too….then I asked myself what benefit this was going to be in the long run. It’s not like I was going to win a prize the day I accomplished everything on my “to do list”. Sure my house would be clean and my family well fed but what would my kids remember? Would they remember the homemade healthy meals or that their mother only cared about a clean house? I want them to remember the time I spent with them, not the time I spent cleaning the kitchen counters for the 50th time that day. I was allowing my pride to get in the way of enjoying my kids fully.

12248232_10153661176210519_1326508767834095373_o

I’m not saying that it’s wrong to want all of those things and if you are able to do it all, everyday, I’m happy for you! But I’ve decided for myself and the happiness of my family, during this crazy season of life, that I needed to “let it go”. This doesn’t mean that I’m not doing housework anymore, I’m just working on not needing my house to be “perfect” all the time and learning to be CONTENT!  I’ve made some changes to my daily routine to save me some time and allow me the chance to spend more quality time with my family.

Here are a few things I do differently now:

  1. I don’t always make my bed … yikes!!
  2. I’ve started shopping at Aldi because they don’t take coupons but still have great prices that allow me to stay within our grocery budget and they have a good selection of gluten free food for Joshua. (I do occasionally use coupons at other stores if I happen to have time to look up the coupon match-ups)
  3. I do a load of laundry a day so I don’t get overwhelmed on the weekend.
  4. I found some products on Amazon that work for Abigail’s skin so I don’t have to make them all.
  5. I made our menu plan super simple. (I love to cook and used to make elaborate meals only to find out my kids wouldn’t eat it, so I’ve decided to keep it simple and make healthy meals that I know everyone will eat. I end up not spending so much time cooking and my kids eat their dinner so it’s a win-win!
  6. I do my main kitchen clean up once the kids go to bed so the next morning I don’t start with a disaster. This makes a huge difference. The days I skip this step, I feel like I can’t catch up.

These small changes have allowed me to maintain a (relatively) clean house, feed my family healthy meals and even work on a few DIY projects around the house. I wish I had learned that I don’t have to feel guilty for not being able to “do it all” years ago! (I will admit that it’s tempting to relapse when Martha Stewart tells me what my house “should” look like.)

Life is short and I want to enjoy my kid’s little years. The laundry and dishes will always be there, but those precious little faces won’t. One day, they will be all grown up and not need me anymore….then I will have plenty of time to clean my house.

11885643_10153482509690519_7627110789866448014_o

 

The easiest DIY Shelves

DIY Shelves

I seriously love these shelves! I actually have 2 other sets of these shelves hanging in my house because they are so versatile and are great for filling up large walls when you can’t think what to put on them. They are the easiest, quickest and probably cheapest shelves you will ever make.

Today we decided to make just one shelf to put in Abigail’s room next to her bed to hold her books. This girl hates to go to sleep, so having a shelf of books will give her a quiet activity to do while staying in her bed.

Here’s how we made ours:

You will need (2) 1×4’s & (1) 1×3  – all 3 need to be cut to the length you would like your shelf to be. I believe these come in 8′ at the hardware store and most stores will even cut them for you. (For the shelves in our living room, we chose to go with 4′ so the hardware store cut the boards in half for us and we ended up not having to do any cutting at home….talk about easy.)

For Abigail’s book shelf, we used some leftovers we found in our garage and measured and cut them all to 3′.

P1000215

Once cut, we gave each piece a quick sanding to make sure that she wouldn’t get a splinter when reaching for a book.

The next step is to put your shelf together. We started by taking the back part of the shelf that will be screwed into the wall and attaching it to the bottom of the shelf. This will be your (2) 1×4’s. We used long and thin screws so that they would make the shelf secure but not come through the wood. We also pre-drilled our holes to make it easier to put the screws in. (Make sure to screw them in very straight.)

P1000219

Finally, screw your front piece (1×3) to the bottom of your shelf. We used these awesome vice grips
to help keep the boards together while we pre-drilled the holes. (I bought these vice grips for my husband for Christmas and they were well worth the money for all the projects he’s been able to use them for!)

See how easy that was! It took us maybe 10 minutes to do all of this. The next step is just as easy – apply your favorite paint or stain to your shelf. We did the whole shelf except the back because that will be screwed into the wall. We chose to stain our shelf instead of paint it mainly because we didn’t want to wait for the paint to dry. We’ve used this stain
on all of our shelves and love the way it looks.

P1000236

Once it’s completely dry you are ready to hang it. Make sure to use a stud finder to know where to place your screws to ensure your shelf doesn’t fall off of the wall.

Once your shelf is level, securely screw it into the studs and you are ready to use it. We love the way our shelf came out and Abigail has thoroughly enjoyed having books within her reach at bedtime.

And the best part – it only took us a total of 20 minutes!

P1000242

Let me know if you end up making a shelf for your house – you may become like me and find a need for them in more than one room.

 

 

 

Horse Therapy

Horse therapy….sounds kind of strange. I must admit, I had a lot of doubts about what a horse could do for my son but “desperate times call for desperate measures”. When we first heard about the benefits of horse therapy for kids with special needs, Joshua was 4 and still not talking. We were told that a lot of children who struggled with Apraxia and other speech delays were known to make huge improvements with this form of therapy, so we figured that it couldn’t hurt to give it a try. Unfortunately, horse therapy is a hot commodity and there was a long waiting list to get in….so we signed up and waited…and waited…and waited. Months went by and then we finally got the call that Joshua could go for a summer session because a regular rider had decided not to ride for that session. We jumped on the opportunity and thus began a wonderful friendship between a boy and a horse. (Since then, a regular rider gave up their spot, so Joshua now has a year round spot, for which we are so thankful!)

I was so surprised when we went for Joshua’s first therapy session and he left me willingly to go climb on this giant animal that he had never seen so closely before. I had anticipated a screaming child who was afraid, but it was an instant bond and he absolutely LOVED it!

When we left that day, I remember buckling Joshua in his car seat and he looked at me and clearly said, “mama”. I think my jaw dropped and I just stared at him in amazement. It happened just that one time, but since then his babbling and attempts of more sounds has increased immensely. Some may say it was a coincidence, but I’m hopeful that this form of therapy will continue to expand his ability to talk and strengthen his low muscle tone among many other things.

How it works

While he rides, the instructor has the riders do various activities on the horse. One of Joshua’s favorite things is a wall with a board that has shapes cut out of it and he has to throw a bean bag through different openings. He’s actually a great shot! They do other exercises as well that encourage core building, as this is an area that many special needs kids struggle with.

P1000206

Horse therapy also increases sensory input, helps with body rhythm and awareness, as well as works on posture. Children are encouraged to use verbal cues to make the horse stop and go. Joshua does hand gestures to tell the horse to “walk on” and “stop”. Educational needs are also incorporated into lessons, all while the children are riding.

High Hopes, where Joshua rides, is largely made up of volunteers. They do anything from helping with horses, cleaning stalls, and being a side walker to make sure a child stays on their horse. Joshua has been blessed to have a wonderful volunteer who signs up each session (anywhere from 6-12 weeks) to walk next to him and keep him safe.  She gives up her time each and every Tuesday just to spend time with Joshua. We are so thankful for amazing people who want to invest in our son’s life. Without people like Ms. Barbara, High Hopes wouldn’t be able to allow as many children this wonderful opportunity.

Joshua barbara

The Cost

Horse therapy is not without a price. We went into our first session not knowing what the cost would be and then halfway through the 6 week course, we received the bill and were told that they had used up almost all of their scholarship money already, so they couldn’t help us very much for that session. We really wanted him to continue riding and give this therapy a chance to work, but definately would not be able to cover the hundreds of dollars it was going to cost each session. We prayed about what to do and then got a letter in the mail telling us that an anonymous donor had paid for Joshua’s tuition. I cried. It was such an amazing gift and confirmation that Joshua was supposed to be in the program as well as a reminder that God always provides. Since then, we have been able to get scholarships that cover a large portion of the cost and allows Joshua to continue to participate without us going into debt.

If you have a child with any kind of special need, delay, need for PT, speech, or OT…I highly recommend giving horse therapy a try. The success stories are amazing. Joshua loves it and often signs “horse” to ask if it’s the day to go. He gets so excited when he wakes up on Tuesdays and I tell him it is the day he gets to see his “horsey”. His smile and obvious love for it, makes it worth the time and energy it takes to get him there every week.