most likely the only craft-related post you will ever see from me


Just call me Martha Stewart.

Actually, don’t. I saw her on Oprah the other day (or really the other night cause we’ve got a 2:30 am standing date) and damn, was that woman smug. No, no, no, not Oprah, Martha. Oprah doesn’t do smug. Oprah does grateful and poised and humble and damn, I SO want to be her when I grow up. But Martha? Martha was SMUG, people.

Did you see the show? She took us on a tour of her estate (you did lock your bottom jaw when you said that, didn’t you?) as she was getting ready for company. Don’t you just hate when television crews stomp through the house as you’re scrambling to get ready for a casual visit from friends? I know I do.

Anyway, I gotta tell you, if I had not one but TWO chefs slaving away in a kitchen large enough to house well, my house and if I had a professional florist squirreled away in my dedicated, custom retrofitted floral design room (with a vase closet) – or if I were for some bizarre reason to HAVE a dedicated, custom retrofitted floral design room (with a vase closet) in the first place – well, I’d throw a heck of a party too. So take your smug and stuff it, Martha.

But don’t go far. I’ve got a story for you. You’ll like it, it ends with a craft project. Whee!


Brooke has gorgeous skin. It’s the color of melted caramel. As the summer wears on it turns an enviable deep bronze – impervious to the 50 SPF sunscreen that we continue to use anyway. As the autumn creeps in and the rest of us return to pasty white, Brooke somehow holds onto brown.

And then she tears that beautiful skin – that glowing, perfect canvas – to shreds.

It’s been happening for years.

It has both broken my heart and paralyzed me. Because you see, as her Mom, I’m programmed to beat the living crap out of anyone who hurts my girl. But when she’s the one hurting herself, my Mama Bear signals go haywire. I need to Do something. But just what, pray tell do I do? I’ve tried spinning in the corner, but it turns out it’s not much more effective than shaking an angry fist at the sky.

Pick by pick Brooke creates then deepens craters in her flesh. She is relentless. Her bed sheets look like a crime scene in the morning. Her clothing is constantly stained with blood. She cannot leave her skin alone.

We’ve tried it all. We’ve had behavior plans written into her school day. We’ve offered rewards for short periods of abstinence. We’ve put her in long sleeves and leggings by day and long pajamas by night. We’ve covered her in band-aids and slathered her in lotion. We’ve kept her nails trimmed and even filed any offending edges (which was about as much fun to do as oh, say herding wet cats.) We’ve put velcro on every surface in the house. Once I even conquered my fear of my sewing machine and made her a velcro bracelet, which we got her to wear for about an hour. We’ve tried every fidget toy under the sun. The one you’re thinking of? Trust me, we’ve tried it.

She has scars everywhere. On her nose, her forehead, her cheeks. On her arms and legs – don’t get me started on those poor arms and legs.

At the beginning of the school year, included in my usual Welcome to Brooke, A User’s Guide letter to her support staff was the following paragraph under Areas of Challenge / Concern:


This was something we tried (mostly unsuccessfully) to combat throughout the last school year. We used fidgets, velcro and good old redirection with very limited success. If she has any kind of scrape, cut or break in her skin, she will pick at it.

Enter her new aide, Ms K and her (soon to be) famous Sticker Picker Ball – the love child of necessity and ingenuity. For a total of about four dollars and approximately fifteen minutes work, Ms K has for the first time ever, made a dent in the picking.

Take it away, Martha.


Buy a bag of these ..


Take one out ..


Add one of these (that’s a rubber band)


String it through the ball and knot it, like this …


Pick out some of these (stickers) …


You can’t see it in this picture, but the stickers are all square-shaped.


Layer the stickers onto the ball, like this …

Lots of layers – they go faster than you think!


Give it to your favorite little picker …


The only rule is that you can only pick a sticker from the top layer.

(You have to be able to see all of its edges to pick it at.)


How bout THAT, Martha? Bet you and your two chefs and that poor guy stuck all alone in the custom designed floral room didn’t come up with the Sticker Picker Ball. But I guess I can’t blame you. It’s really not your fault.

You don’t have Ms K.


53 thoughts on “most likely the only craft-related post you will ever see from me

  1. Genius! We have a picker too. It hasn’t become as problematic as Brooke’s yet, but it racks up with anxiety. Hooray for Ms. K. I don’t watch Martha, but give me a show by Ms. K and I’d be tuning in!

  2. you may be not Martha Stewart, but who cares? you are a rock star all your own! Martha could learn a few tricks from Ms. K….

  3. E’s picking scars may very well rival Brooke’s. It is horrible to witness. But the SPB (trademark symbol pending?) is brilliant, I love it.

  4. Wonderful idea and fun craft project too! Think of the possibilities for Christmas tree ornaments! 😉

    Have you ever considered putting pieces of tape on her desk, wall by her bed, by her chair at the kitchen table? Picking scotch tape may help relieve the need to pick as well. I always think multiple options with Wyatt so the appeal lasts longer.

    • Jasmin – So funny you say that because as we were putting it together, Katie walked in and asked why we were making Christmas ornaments so early!!! So many in our community struggle with decorating Christmas trees – this would be a GREAT alternative to breakable ornaments and is something that most children could participate in in some form since it doesn’t rely heavily on fine motor skills.

      And tape? Yup. Thanks to the tape on the wall by her bed (which was right next to the square of velcro) we now have a hole the size of Montana in the paint and through to the plaster beneath. OK, I’m exaggerating. Maybe not Montana. More like Rhode Island, but still. 🙂

  5. I’m emailing my behaviorial therepist right now! That’s an awesome idea!
    Jasmin, great suggestion for the Christmas tree ornaments. I have some friends with typical toddlers that could use that. They can have the sticker balls and not the other ornaments and can make ’em themselves.

  6. What a fantastic idea. I hope it works wells for Brooke. Thank you Ms. K. from a very appreciative Grammy.

    Love you,

  7. FB comments ..

    AKB ~ wow. that was a raw and honest look into your life, and so amazing how you would use that to share a tip with the rest of us. thanks. and that Mrs. K is something else.

    DM ~ Great idea…….. and yah boo sucks to that Martha (what goes around comes around – hasn’t she had jail time?!!!!)

    CW ~ This is GENIUS! I have 2 super duper pickety pickers (I really thought they were unrivaled lol) I am so trying this TODAY! Thanks!


    Diary of a Mom ~ @AKB, – thank you. Your comment means more to me than you might know. Of all the things I’ve written about, this was one of the most difficult to share. I don’t know why I’ve found it so hard to talk about this topic, but I have.

    A while back, maybe a year or so ago when Brooke was really heavily into dress-up, I posted a bunch of pictures of her in various costumes throughout a day. A reader (and friend) made a light-hearted comment about how cute the band-aids were all over her legs in one of the pictures. I froze.

    When we FINALLY found something that made even an incremental difference, I felt compelled to share it because I couldn’t imagine that we were the only ones going through this. Even so, I struggled with writing the post.

    So thank you. Thank you for recognizing it – for seeing the raw in the middle of it all. It means a lot.

    • I’ll share here a little bit of what I’ve already said, But by sharing like you did, in the way that you did, you’re helping so many with their own struggles at home, and maybe more will share and use your technique. You are doing that for the hundreds (thousands?) of people who read your blog everyday who have no one else to tell them it’s ok to reach out, share, and get help.

      It’s a pretty incredible gift to be able to give hope to people who have none.

  8. I’m not sure what Martha has to do with your kid story, nor do I understand her broader appeal. I don’t watch any of those shows myself. But it’s good you made a little progress on the picking and digging

    • her broader appeal is a mystery to me too, though i’d attribute it our collective fantasy of homespun, gracious living.

      as for what she had to do with the story? not much, really. but i think of her as the doyenne of all things crafty, so she came to mind when i started the post. i got off on a tangent about her because i’d just seen her on oprah and then felt like i needed a shower.

      i kept her in the thread mostly as an attempt at humor. takes the edge off the hard stuff 🙂

  9. Nice!

    I feel compelled to share a Martha story: a friend of mine was in an elevator with Martha, and when the doors opened, Martha rolled over her foot with a loaded hand truck and kept walking – no apology, no acknowledgment that anything had happened, nothing. She’s just as you expected she would be.

  10. What a PERFECT example of how you can’t get RID of the need- you can only find another outlet. Go Ms. K!

    Martha- she appeals to the masochist in all of us who like to know the expectations that we can’t live up to, but we’ll take a run at them every now and then. I confess to having made fudge and some tabletop decorations from her book for Christmas. Since autism came into our lives, I have way more expectations that I can’t live up to so I don’t watch, nor enjoy her anymore. Oprah understands. Martha doesn’t.

  11. That’s good. I’ve tried to let my son have a go at the oil paint that someone put over latex in our house. He’s not bad at it, and doesn’t even put the pieces in his mouth. It’s a mess on the floor, but way better than picking at his lips.

  12. thats BRILLIANT!!!!!!!
    I’m adding it to my arsenal. I don’t have a picker just yet, however, new stims seem to pop up out of the blue..

  13. Whaddaya mean??? Doesn’t everyone have a staff in their kitchen? Pshht! Oh that Martha…. ( CeeCee shakes hear in wonderment)…

    BRILLIANT!!!! My son picks at his nails until they bleed – and when he runs out of fingernails he moves onto his toes. I’m buying a lifetime supply of these wiggle balls and stickers and giving them as ( very early) Christmas gifts to friends with kids who pick too ( as well as my son). It’s sad to see how many kids I know with the same pickmania. THANK YOU for skating and Ms K ROCKS!

  14. Ah, Mama. What a struggle. Glad to hear you’ve found something (something so simple, no less!) that’s working. And Ms. K sounds just dreamy. Love it when there’s a good fit with the aide. LOVE IT.

  15. THANK YOU MS K!!!! I am goin out right now to get me some wiffle balls and stickers! My girl is a picker but she picks her eyelashes we have tried it all too and I had just about given up on ever seeing her beautiful LONG eyelashes again this gives me some sort of hope!

  16. Oo, but that’s clever! Most excellent work by Ms. K!

    The next hurdle for such a project at our house, however, would be getting the picker not to consume the shreds.

  17. I am a picker! I don’t have autism or anything else but I do pick scabs and it is very hard to stop. For me it is the sensation of peeling off a perfect scab that is the subconcious draw. Yes, it hurts but it also feels good. The onlt thing I have come across that is in any way comparable is peeling dried on white glue craft off something hard. You know – the kind that you get at preschool and dries from white to clear and peels beautifully. You could try that too!

  18. Hmmm very interesting post and great idea re the stickers! when I was a kid i used to pick mosquito bites till they bled all the time. as an adult i can usually restrain myself, but if im stressed out and not thinking and there’s something to pick, i’ll usually pick it. although this time not to the point of bleeding, luckily. can’t explain why really. that sticker ball is a great idea!

  19. Ms. K, my new hero. Wonderful to read about this. I have to post about the topic, it’s a theme amongst the parent blogs, all of the efforts to problem solve when there are no answers out there, no all-purpose solutions. the way people are improvising, getting all creative, it’s amazing stuff.

  20. First off I have been reading your blog for about 6 months now and you have been a breath of fresh air for me. I love the idea of the SPB, my little boy is a picker. We can not get his arms and legs healed. Reading your blog reminds me that I am not the alone.

  21. Brill. Wondering–would nail polish accomplish the same thing if need be? Wiffle Ball is better b/c you can take it away, but nail polish, clear, is OH SO pickable!

  22. Fantastic idea! I showed it to my 6-y-o son and he can’t wait to make one…while he’s not a serious picker, he does have busy hands and thought it was cool. I can’t wait to share this post with teachers, paras, OTs, etc. at my son’s school! Thanks again, Jess.

  23. I’m set out to go to Walmart and make me a picker ball tomorrow.

    If Brooke is a Picking Princess, then I must be the queen. It’s so embarrassing.

    My only question is this: Where do the stickers go once picked? Are they still sticky, to be stuck right back on the other side of the ball and re-picked?

    • unfortunately, the stickers aren’t reusable once she tears them off. they are often in pieces. so in answer to your question about where they go afterward – currently everywhere. lol. (but i’ll take it over blood.)

  24. Love it! Sharing it! G picks at his toes and fingers – mostly the nails. I’ve let it slide because it keeps him still and grounded – he used to be a wild runner.
    Yes, Martha is smug – perfect word for her uptight, haughty demeanor! She pretends to be fun, but you can see her aggravation peek through.

  25. More comments from FB ~

    PLP ~ I have a picker too – but with finger & toe nails (she has literally picked entire toenails off… ewww) – this is an awesome idea!!! I will have to get these supplies today!

    KNJC ~ Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! I am going to try this out today. This is one of the biggest issues we are having at home and school.

    MRD ~ Thanks for this tip–my 16 year old son does this and hopefully this craft will help.

    JMM ~ That is a hard one to tackle! Thanks for sharing such a distressing part of your and Brooke’s life. You are not alone when it comes to that area! And that was an awesome tip 🙂

    SCC ~ Jess that was a super post (thx for sharing), made all the better by the Martha references. Do you know how often I think of Martha (not fondly I might add) when creating a not-so-crafty “tool” to use in my home? So funny to know others clearly do too 🙂

    KC ~ I have to say I laughed right out loud when I saw your MS pic. It’s perfect. The sticker ball is a wonderful idea!

    REPLY ~

    Diary of a Mom ~ All, i’m so glad this was helpful. I hope it’s a hit for everyone. And above all, it’s so nice to know (yet again) that our individual struggles aren’t nearly as unique as they feel.

    KC, it wasn’t exactly hard to find one of her looking smug. Lol!

    TBM ~ have to try this sticker picker ball for myself. I have never been able to leave the skin on my thumbs alone. My poor parents tried everything! Going to share this idea at school also. Thanks for your honesty. I find once you bring up an issue, you find many who do the same thing!

    LB ~ re: scars… just a quick note in hopes it may be of news or help to some… Most drugstores now sell “silicone sheeting” in their baindaid aisle. You cut this to size you need and tape it over the scar areas over night and it will eventually help minimize scars… manufacturers have claimed it works on ones even old as from 10 years prior.

  26. I actually used star stickers, because it requires that I pick all 5 edges to be able to pull the sticker off. Basically, more picking to be done, wasting less stickers. I will add that the stickers need to be pretty sticky, or they don’t want to stay down on the ball. But boy does it satisfy the urge to pick! Thank you for sharing, Jess!

  27. What a wonderful idea! We solved bedtime picking by putting stickers all over the walls by their beds; they pull them off and stick them back up over and over until they fall asleep.. but PORTABLE pickers? How brilliant!! Yey!! Thank you, and Thank Mrs K!!

  28. It is very brave of you to share this. Cripes, I know we don’t want to scare the pants off people. Well, some people I WOULD like to scare the pants off of … Wait, see … that’s what we do, Jess. We use humor because that’s how we make it easier to deal with. Our kids’ challenges can be dark. Scary. And how hard is it to share this? Gah. We all want to offer suggestions. Can you tell? (see comments above). And I love that you share help back to the community. I, for one, cannot leave any thing on my skin either. I can completely understand Brooke’s challenge. If it’s a rough surface on my skin, in my anxiety throughout the day, I will pick at it. Cuticles, rough patches, whatever. I have something to do with my hands when I am not busy otherwise. Is it at all possible to put stickers ON her body, too? Maybe on her fingernails? Is she also good at picking out knots? Making a knotted, beaded, worry necklace to unknot and unbead?

  29. If you have an idea for a hair sucker.. I’m all ears. She rolls balls of dog hair in her fingers and puts it in her cheek while she drinks her bottle. yes like cowboy chewing tobacco. So I hid the dog. Now she is tearing the fur out of her stuffed animals and chewing it. She doesn’t talk yet. She’s 29 months. I’m worried her stomach is full of bear fluff 😦

  30. What a great idea! I wish I had known about this years ago, while my son was picking the border off of his wall in his crib!!! He’s 4 now and I still haven’t replaced it … due to his penchant for picking at it still! 🙂

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