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′.


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.)


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.


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!


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.


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.

My Favorite Thrifty Finds of the Week

This was an awesome week when it comes to thrifty finds! I was anxiously waiting for the stores to reduce their Valentine’s items so I could stock up on some things for Abigail’s birthday in April and Target did not disappoint. My other fabulous find this week, was at Goodwill during their 50% off the entire store on President’s day.

Daniel and I were able to go out and celebrate Valentine’s day on Monday, but because the roads were getting icy, we ate dinner at Ninety-Nine’s and then ran down the road to Goodwill just to see if they had anything left, before heading home. (I know, not the most romantic Valentine’s date, but we had a great time) Goodwill has always been hit or miss, (lately mostly a miss), but Monday totally changed that. Here’s what we found:


We found John 3 pairs of jeans, all name brand,(without holes!!) a pair of corduroy pants, a Gap shirt and a Tony Hawk shirt. Everything was $1.50! Jeans are so expensive once you have to buy anything bigger than a 5T and since he wears holes in all his jeans, I always try to find them either on clearance or at a consignment sale. So this deal made me very happy!


I actually found a few things for me too! A brand new Gap sweater, Under armor t-shirt, and Nike shorts.


We found Abigail a Carter’s tunic and Old Navy shirt, which I absolutely love. And this cute little pink bucket for her room to store some small toys in.

On Wednesday, I decided to pop into Target and see if they had marked their Valentine’s clearance down more than 50%, and was super excited to see it was down to 70% already! (Strangely, another Target store about 20 minutes away was still at only 30%) I was hoping to find some party decorations for Abigail’s birthday in April, as well as some small things for the goody bags to pass out to her friends.

Here’s what I found! (Almost all of these items were between .30 – .90 each)

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(Paper straws, small polka-dot bowls, 2 plastic table clothes and some pink heart goodie bags.)

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I love all these little items that will be perfect for gift bags and I couldn’t pass up these adorable gift tags, bakers twine and Washi tape. None of these things actually said “Happy Valentine’s Day” on them, so they will be perfect to use for any occasion.




The Lego’s, princess book, princess wand and coloring pads will get put in our gift drawer for those times when we need an extra gift for a birthday party. I also love the Princess and Star Wars canvas tote bags. These make great gift bags for birthday gifts since they can be re-used….and at .30 each, they were cheaper than a gift bag from a store.

If you haven’t had a chance to score some Valentine’s clearance, it’s not too late! A lot of stores are just now going down to 70% so you might be able to find some great deals. Let me know what you find!


5 Things I’ve Learned About Kids with Special Needs

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Whether you have a child, or work closely with a child, that has Down Syndrome, Autism, Aspergers, or any other type of disability, you know that your child has amazing potential. We have had the privilege of being able to raise one of these special little guys and have learned so much along the way. Here is just a small list of the things we have learned about kids with special needs:

Kids with special needs just want to feel loved and accepted.

Sometimes we forget that they actually have feelings and want to have friends too. They get sad when they are left out and want to feel that they are accepted for who they are. We have always shown Joshua more love than he could ever need and in return, he is one of the most lovable kids we have. He always wants to hug whoever he is with and loves knowing he has made us happy. We want him to always know that we love him for who he is and we don’t wish him to be someone he isn’t. Some kids are not very affectionate, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t need love. Shower them with as much love as they can take anyway and fill up their little love tanks. They need it.

Kids with special needs can teach us more than we can teach them.

I am not saying that you don’t need to send kids to school so they can learn. School has been amazing for him! But, In our experience with Joshua, we have learned more about life than we would have ever known if he was a typical child. We have learned that there are so many amazing, giving, and caring people that have journeyed this road before us and really want to help those who are just starting to try to figure it out. We have gained a new appreciation for how awesome people with special needs really are. I used to see them in the grocery store and would smile as I walked past and think how hard their life must be and completely miss how rewarding their lives really are. Some lessons are harder than others, like patience and perseverance, but when they finally grasp a concept or master a new skill, it makes us want to throw a party to celebrate their success. These kids have a better work ethic than most of us and don’t give up easily when they can’t figure something out.

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Kids with special needs are smart.

Most people assume that special needs kids aren’t able to learn what typical kids can, but I have learned that is so wrong. All kids learn at different speeds, so don’t underestimate their ability or put restraints on what you think they are capable of learning…they may surprise you. My family was friends with Dick and Rick Hoyt. Rick has CP, is confined to a wheelchair and can’t speak. He and his dad were famous for running marathons and tri-athalons together…(If you want a tear jerker, Watch this video) When Rick was born, his parents were told to put him in an institution because he wouldn’t amount to much but his parents knew that he was worth the hard work. He eventually received a communication board that could speak for him after he spelled out the words. He was able to converse by spelling everything he needed. He graduated from high school and college! Inside, Rick was very smart, just stuck in a body that wouldn’t allow him to move very much or talk.

Kids with special needs, want you to learn how to communicate with them.

I’m not saying you have to learn a new language, although in our case, we did learn sign language. When many kids with special needs try to communicate they aren’t always able to convey exactly what they mean even if they do speak. This is where patience and a little effort to understand how the child learns and express their needs comes into play. Some children can get “set off” by certain things or sounds and knowing how to prepare for and handle those situations can make life so much easier. I’m not saying you can prevent every issue but taking time to figure out what makes each kid “tick” can be extremely beneficial.

Kids with special needs are worth it!

Having a child with any kind of special need or delay you know that sometimes life is down-right exhausting. (If you missed it check out Saving Houdini) There are so many appointments, specialists, therapies, meetings for school, etc, but all of that hard work and time spent is rewarded when we see our kids accomplish the things we have worked so hard to help them achieve. People with disabilities can lead very productive lives. Many go on to college and even get married. It’s amazing what a little time and love poured into a person can do. Many parents would even tell you that, if they had the choice, they wouldn’t want to change their child.

(Obviously, I am not an expert in the field, nor do I know what every special need kids’ ability is, I’m just speaking from our daily experience with a child with Down Syndrome.)

Saving Houdini

Our son, Joshua, just celebrated his 5th birthday in December….honestly, we were surprised he got this far. This boy has a knack for finding danger and mischief, no matter where he is. We lovingly refer to our home as Fort Knox and when friends come over they have to ask what alarms are still activated for fear of being given a heart attack while opening our refrigerator to get a drink.

This child can also literally disappear in a split second, no lie! I will be watching him like a hawk, look away for a split second and the kid is gone. And he’s smart. He will be watching you and the minute your eyes leave him, he bolts….right for the nearest exit. People probably think we are crazy as we race after him and scoop him up before he runs out the nearest door.


(This was the day Joshua learned to drag a bench from the table to undo the chain lock)

Back to Fort Knox….our house has obnoxious alarms on every exit, as well as the refrigerator and stove. All bathroom doors, the pantry, the door to the boiler and the closet we store decorations in, all have hotel style chain link locks. For those of us who are tall enough, we can reach our hand around the door and either lock or unlock them. Even with the best security, Joshua will be watching and when of those doors should be left unlocked, he makes his move. Just this past week, his brother grabbed the stool from the bathroom to reach something in the kitchen and left it unlocked…a split second later I heard the toilet flush and raced in to see my phone making it’s way down the hole.

For a while we tried velcro to keep him from being able to get in the fridge but John had a hard time getting what he wanted because he couldn’t reach the velcro to undo it. Then we tried to tie something around the handles and that was more of a no-win situation as well since no one could ever get the knots undone. Now we have the alarm, but when that doesn’t get turned back on, we find Joshua grabbing the milk and pouring it all over the floor. He merely climbs up all the shelves in the fridge to reach what he wants and throws it out so he can retrieve it when he climbs down.


The stove has the same problem. We even took the oven door handle off so he couldn’t open the door. It makes trying to open the door with a casserole in your hand rather challenging but somehow the kid can still easily open it. One day, I had just put dinner in the oven and ran to help another child put shoes on (literally gone less than a minute) and I found Joshua standing on the open oven door climbing onto the stove top. He never wears shoes in the house, but thankfully that day he had shoes on. The oven was at 375 and the kid didn’t seem fazed!

I honestly always feel anxious when we have to take him out in public because I cannot control the situation. When we go anywhere I always survey the exits and areas where he could disappear for the chance that he might get out of my sight and I have to pick a place to look first. My husband has told me many stories of me, talking in my sleep and hitting him while yelling, “where is Joshua?!”

I honestly always thought that people with Down Syndrome were very calm and went where they were told (I’ve seen them in the grocery store and they always stay with the person they are with….I’ve never seen one running away down an aisle while laughing and yelling)….boy did I have that stereotype all wrong! This child has not stopped moving since he started walking at 22 months. When people ask how I stay so thin…my response is always, “Joshua!”.

So, I have yet to find a way to keep Houdini completely safe, other than follow him around all day (which I pretty much already do), but then again, it would be impossible to keep any kid out of harms way all the time. We are hopeful that, one day, he will slow down and allow us to actually sit down for a few minutes. Until then, we tell him that he’s lucky he’s so cute….

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The Comparison Trap

The Comparison trap, it’s real folks….you all probably battle with this in some form everyday, as do I. It’s an inward struggle that drives us to sometimes extreme measures to become what we think we need to be based on what other people are or have. From comparing our houses, our cars, homemaking skills, and behavior of our kids, to those of our friends; the struggle seems endless. You may go visit a friend and take a look around her house and wish you had as much space or had half the decorating talent she does. Or wish you had your life organized and pulled together like other friends appear. Sub-consciously, this can drive us to envy, then possibly bitterness and can cause strain within a family because of all the pressure we put on ourselves and our loved ones to change into something we are not. It can be a downward spiral that does nothing but cause emotional pain and depression.
Those of us with kids may feel this even more. The minute your baby is born, there is a “chart” of milestones they should accomplish. Can they hold their head up? Are they able to roll over by 6 months? Are they babbling? Did they walk “on time”?
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Firstborn children are the worst…we all have such high expectations and work so hard to make sure our kids meet those goals. Should they start nearing the date they should have mastered the skill and are still not getting it, we take them to therapy because we don’t want them to fall behind (nothing against therapy…all of my kids have gone!)


You may go to visit a friend so your kids can play and you hear and see all the things their child can do that yours is not quite doing yet and the thought comes to your mind, “what is wrong with my kid?” Then your kids get older and you hear what a great athlete their kid is, how awesome their grades are, that they learned to ride a bike at 4 years old (while your 8 year old still is too afraid), or awards they earned and you again think, “what is WRONG with my kid!” Then we go home and put undo stress on our kids to be something they are not. Nothing crushes a child spirit more than feeling like they aren’t good enough, especially in their parents eyes.


(There is nothing wrong with sharing great news about our kids, kids love to hear that you are proud of their accomplishments, please don’t think you shouldn’t share the great things your kids have done with others. I am just asking that you try to be sensitive if someone’s child isn’t achieving the same things as yours whether they are typical or developmentally delayed)
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I will honestly admit my biggest comparison trap involves my kid’s milestones. John needed speech at 3 because no one could understand him and even Abigail needed physical therapy to learn to roll over cause she was way past due for that milestone (by time she came around I didn’t have time to look at the chart and only knew she needed therapy when the pediatrician mentioned it), but neither of those bothered me as much as Joshua. When Joshua was born I was so adamant that we were going to keep up with the “Jones’ kids”. I worked so hard with him, I feel like I did brief physical therapy sessions all day in order to help him keep up. Every time he had therapy, I would question them in regards to where he was at developmentally in comparison to the typical child. Eventually, there were areas he started to not be able to keep up in and I would work even harder with him. Poor kid probably thought he was in boot camp! Sadly, this was my way of making my son be something he wasn’t ready for but my pride wanted him to look like everyone else.


The other part of this was taking Joshua out in public. I knew that people were going to look at us differently. I would dress him really nice so he didn’t fit the stereotypes and hope people wouldn’t notice a difference.  It also didn’t help when people would ask if he was actually mine and when I would claim him, they would say how I looked too young to have a child with Down Syndrome. I was very self conscious for a long time. I hated the stares. (Now we get even more stares cause he likes to yell and hear his voice in the store…at this point I can almost tune it out so it doesn’t bother me anymore)
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When Joshua was about 3, I went through a check out line at a local store. The cashier was friendly and handed Joshua a sticker. I told him to say thank you, and since he didn’t talk, he signed” thank you” to her. I interpreted his sign and she gave me a lecture that he should learn to use his words and it was rude that he did not verbalize it since he was old enough to talk. I thought it was pretty obvious that Joshua had Down Syndrome, but I didn’t feel like I needed to explain myself and my son’s condition to her so I let it go and left. Times like those, made me ever so aware that Joshua was different and would make me start comparing him to other kids and start feeling a little bitterness towards him and his disability because we weren’t a “normal” family….


When Joshua was in preschool I found myself fighting the comparison trap again. Now we were surrounded by kids his age and I was getting a glimpse of what I thought he “should have” been like. These kids were talking, jumping, playing with friends, coloring and writing. Joshua couldn’t jump, talk, or hold a pencil correctly. When other kids were having play dates, we were going to therapy. We skipped every birthday party he was invited too because he’s a danger to people’s property and I didn’t want to have to buy new decorations for everyone’s houses.



Now Joshua is in kindergarten, and his 2 year old sister is starting to be able to do some things that he can’t. I love that she helps him and often she will tell me what Joshua needs as if they have an unspoken language. I’m trying to not compare my own kids and allow this to sadden me, but to simply enjoy the fact that, at this moment in time, they love to play together and act more like twins than regular siblings.
At 5, Joshua still isn’t potty trained although we’ve been working on it for a year (I will honestly throw a party when he has finally used his last diaper), doesn’t talk, gives no heed whatsoever to safety, still doesn’t sleep through the night and is a complete handful. But inside that little 5 year old is a super smart little boy. He can sign anything he wants/needs, navigates an IPAD like it’s no ones business, can sign the whole alphabet, knows his colors and shapes, and has an incredibly memory among so many other things. He loves Curious George and I love how he giggles when George does something funny. He knows when his siblings get things he doesn’t, insists he should get the same thing and gets frustrated when he can’t communicate his feelings.


I’ve learned to accept Joshua for the little boy he is and know that he will eventually hit his milestones, just in his own time. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have moments where his disability hits me suddenly and I have to have a good cry, but then I put on my big girl pants and do my best to help him reach his goals.
As parents we want what’s best for our kids. Society has a set of guidelines to follow and although these are a great tool, we have to remember that no child is alike and they will learn things in their own time. We need to give our kids the space and time to develop on their own. Adding extra pressure and stress to their lives and making them feel like they aren’t good enough, isn’t going to help. Your child wants to know you are so proud of them, even though they may not be as talented as the kid next door.
Every milestone Joshua hits is so special to us. We all cheer for him and praise his accomplishment, and he gets so proud and happy knowing we have seen what he is able to do. Seeing him happy to accomplish something means more to me than making him frustrated by trying to do something he isn’t developmentally ready to do.
Hopefully this year I will be successful in not caring what people think and just enjoy the everyday moments and let my kids know that I’m proud of them regardless of where they fall on the charts.