Friday, February 5, 2016

The Mom Behind the Blog

Let's face it.  My kids are the stars of this blog. I just work behind the scenes!  

I'm trying to make more of an effort to step out from behind the camera and get in the picture.  I'm also trying to make an effort to share more about ME. 

I'll start by keeping it real. In the blogging world, it's all about appearances, and I completely get that.  I could include a picture of me posing in a really cute outfit while I'm out and about like many bloggers do.  But the reality is, I don't think I even had more than 30 seconds to myself today. Even if I wanted to, finding the time to pose for a shot that made me look pretty and put together would have been impossible today.

Dylan took this picture of me tonight while he was annoying his sisters (what he does best these days) by continuously snapping pictures of them. It's about as real as it's going to get. 

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After a nonstop day of getting kids off to school, a birthday party drop-off and pick-up (On a Thursday afternoon...what?!?), constantly wiping Liam's runny nose caused by his sinus infection, spending WAY too much money on a new car seat, helping Dylan with hours of homework, trying to figure out an increase in our insurance, and dealing with all the other chores and responsibilities, I was DONE. 

My head was pounding, and it was nearing the point of becoming a migraine.  I took some medicine, felt grateful that I had dinner cooking in the crockpot, put on my pjs, then chugged a very strong cup of tea in front of the fire.  I sat there, just thinking about all the things I had to check off my to do list before I could go to bed.  I sat there, completely immune to the chaos that was occurring around me.

That, my friends, is my fashion shot.  That's me with faded makeup, tired eyes, pjs, and a pounding headache.  And I'm not the least bit embarrassed to post it. Because even though I was stressed and not feeling my best, I was HAPPY.

Here are 27 random facts about the tired, overworked, but oh so thankful mom behind the blog:

1. I'm the youngest of 8 children.  My oldest sister is 15 years older than me and the next youngest sibling is 6 1/2 years older than me.  All of my siblings are my half siblings.  My dad had 2 daughters and a son from a previous marriage and my mom had 4 daughters.  They got married and had me.  I don't use the "half" title.  They are just my sisters and brother.

2. Because they were older than me, I had many years as an "only" child.

3. I became an aunt at age 5.  I'm closer in age to my nephew (and two nieces) than I am to my siblings!

4. I now have 16 nieces and nephews and 7 great nieces and great nephews (+1 on the way)!

5. If you read yesterday's post, you know that I met Grant in a musical called "The Apple Tree" and we starred as Adam and Eve.  I have been with him for my ENTIRE adult life.

6. I always wanted 4 kids. Grant wanted 1.  Maybe 2. Obviously, we compromised! If we had a bigger house, I would totally push for a fifth!

7. After having Liam, I feel a strong urge to foster or adopt a child who has Down syndrome. It breaks my heart that so many children are unwanted due to a very misunderstood genetic condition.

8. Once upon a time, I acted and modeled.

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9. My other passion is musical theater.  Prior to having kids, performing ruled my life. I attempted one show after having Dylan and it was way too much to juggle. I miss it so much.  For now, I settle for torturing my kids with show tunes. Every time I see a show, I get that itch...

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10. My first love was the horse my parents surprised me with when I was 13.  Countless hours were spent at the stable.  I preferred riding and competing in horse shows over dating.  Over 20 years later, I still have my horse.  Unfortunately, I rarely get to see him.  It's really hard to find time to visit while maintaining 6 schedules for our family.

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11. I'm afraid of the dark.  I will run to my bedroom at night after turning off all the lights!

12. Losing my loved ones is my worst fear. 

13. I hate selfies.  Hate them!  They just make me feel incredibly awkward.  I much prefer having someone in the picture with me!

14. I love sweets.  Chocolate is my addiction.

15. I don't drink alcohol.  At all. I hate the taste.  It's also a control issue.  I don't like the "numbing" factor that comes from drinking.

16. I used to be able to read one book a day.

17. I was really smart in school, received a bunch of academic scholarships, and was accepted at all the colleges I applied to. Sometimes life goes in a different path, though. That was NOT my path in life.  Occasionally, I feel like I missed out on the traditional college experience, but I don't regret anything.  I have everything I need right at this very moment. That being said, I embrace my inner nerd.  I love trivia, word games, and algebra. I enjoy learning about anything and everything! 

18. I'm always cold, even in the summer. I take a sweatshirt everywhere I go and I really dislike central air!

19. I have to sleep with a very soft, fuzzy blanket covering me.  No preference on the blanket.  It just has to be super soft!

20. I hate conflict. I have the ability to be able to see both sides of the argument (in most cases).  I try to stay neutral and stay away from the drama!

21. I'm very loving and empathetic. I have the most difficult time saying no to people.  I just want to help everyone.  I always take on more than I should handle!

22.  I am so emotional and I cry over EVERYTHING.  It's really embarrassing at times!

23.  I prefer hot tea over coffee. I drink it every single day.

24. I shop WAY too much.

25. Every time I leave the house, I make sure I look put together.  I have to wear a nice outfit, brush my hair, and put on a little bit of makeup.  If I'm staying home all day and not expecting any visitors, I wear comfy clothes and stay makeup-less. If I'm out and about, I change back into comfy clothes as soon as I possibly can after I arrive home!

26.  I stay up WAY too late.  Going to bed between 1-2 AM is the norm for me.  It's just the only time I can truly get things done!

27.  I absolutely love being a mom. I know it sounds cliche, but I feel like I was meant to be a mom.  I was meant to have Dylan, Lexie, Lily, and Liam.  I was meant to raise a child with special needs and I was meant to spread the word about what Down syndrome is REALLY like. I am not ashamed to say that raising kids is my life, and I wouldn't trade this life for anything in this world!

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That's me summed up in 27 facts.  I'm certain that summary is missing a lot of information, but I'll fill in the gaps another day!

Now I want to hear one fact about YOU.

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Love Story

We met in the Garden of Eden.  

From that moment on, my life was forever changed. We met in the Garden of Eden, and we fell in love under an apple tree. Every love story has a beginning, and this was our beginning. Our story begins with Adam and Eve.

I'm not getting biblical here.  Our story really DOES begin with Adam and Eve. Grant and I met in a musical called "The Apple Tree."  I was the Eve to his Adam!

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Not many couples can claim that they met when they were cast as Adam and Eve!

It all began when my dad told me about auditions for an upcoming musical.  He thought it would be a great idea for me to become involved in theater again after a short break. I really didn't want to audition at first, but on the day of the auditions, I felt compelled to go.  I was very surprised when I found out I was cast as Eve, which was one of the female leads. 

During the first read-through, I sat near the stage.  "Adam" was behind me. When I think back, I can't even remember our first meeting.  I'm sure it was a handshake and a "I'm happy to be working with you!" He was just a cast member. I had NO idea that my "co-star" was going to become my husband!

Over the course of the next few weeks, as we learned our lines and our songs and our blocking, we began to feel a spark. That spark grew and we were officially a couple by opening night!

We fell more in love as the weeks passed by, and 5 months after we met, we got engaged.  I know it sounds crazy.  We were SO young. I was barely 18. But it felt so right.

When Grant proposed, I didn't even hesitate.  I didn't even think about what he was asking.  I just immediately said yes.  

Our theater friends, who played a huge role in our story, were thrilled for us. My family was supportive, but worried. They worried that it was just a brief romance that wouldn't last, and that I would end up getting my heart broken. And I'm fairly certain the rest of the world automatically assumed that pregnancy was the reason we were getting married.  (It wasn't, and we enjoyed over 4 years of married life before we had our first child.)

Grant and I knew we were meant to be together.  We immediately began planning our wedding and planning for the future.

A year and a half after we got engaged, Grant and I got married.  Our wedding was absolutely perfect, but I will save that for another day.

Grant and I stood in the front of a church crowded with our family and friends, and prepared to love each other forever. The room was completely silent for a few seconds.  Then the Pastor spoke.

 "They met in the Garden of Eden and they fell in love under an apple tree."

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Over the course of 15 years, we created our story.  It wasn't always perfect. There were many times when it would have just been easier to walk away. But for every challenge thrown our way, there was an incredible moment that followed. 

There's something truly special about "growing up" with your spouse.  I have been with Grant for my ENTIRE adult life.  I watched him change from a teenager to a young adult.  I watched him become a father FOUR times. I watched him remain completely calm and stoic as we were told that our 4th child was far different from what we expected. I watched him grow into a responsible man who works hard for his family and loves his children with all his might.
  
Life may not always be perfect, but I am so proud of how far we've come.  I truly can't imagine life any other way.

15 years and 4 kids later, we made it. We stayed together, despite every hurdle along the way.  My best friend is at my side and our story continues with our four amazing sidekicks!

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Monday, February 1, 2016

14 Ideas to Make Valentine's Day Fun for Families

Happy Love Month!

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I know Valentine's Day isn't that big of a deal for most people, but when you have kids, even the little holidays matter!  I don't go overboard, but I do like to make holidays special for my kids. It really doesn't take much effort to make them happy!

 Here are a few of my family's favorite Valentine's Day activities:

14 Ideas to make Valentine's Day Fun for Families

1. Roll out some sugar cookie dough and let the kids use some heart-shaped cookie cutters.  Once the cookies are baked, let the kids decorate them with icing and sprinkles. 

2. If you have young kids, you probably have tons of broken crayons. Peel those crayons, break them into pieces, and place them in a heart-shaped baking mold. (I prefer a silicone mold.) Mix those colors!  Bake at 300 degrees F for 15-20 minutes.  You'll know they're done when the wax has completely melted.  Allow them to thoroughly cool before popping them out of the mold.  Voila!  New crayons!  Plus, you can bag them up and give them out as valentines!

3. Head to your local library and have the kids pick out some Valentine's Day books (or just use ones you already own).  Starting on February 1st, read one each night until the big day!  We love Happy Valentine's Day, Mouse!

4. Serve heart-shaped foods!  Make heart-shaped pancakes or heart-shaped eggs using a metal cookie cutter. Serve those eggs with heart-shaped toast.  You can make heart-shaped mini pizzas, heart-shaped sandwiches, heart-shaped grilled cheese, heart-shaped watermelon, and heart-shaped jello jigglers, too.  Get creative with those meals!  A simple cookie cutter can work magic!

5. Make some popcorn, curl up on the couch, and watch Valentine's Day movies together.  Our family favorites are Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown and The Princess Bride.  My husband and I like to watch old favorites like Love Actually, Sleepless in Seattle, French Kiss, and Notting Hill. (They don't make romantic comedies like they used to!)

6. Make some Valentine's Day slime.  This is my favorite slime recipe.  Dye it red, add in some confetti hearts, and it will be the most festive slime around!

7. Some red or pink playdoh, some heart shaped cookie cutters, and some craft supplies (pipe cleaners, beads, etc) will buy you hours of time!

8. Buy a Valentine's Day shirt, outfit, or pajamas for your child.  Check out THIS BANDANA BIB from Anchored Arrow Co or THIS ADORABLE OUTFIT from The Hair Bow Company.  I just ordered the outfit for Lily and it's so cute!

9. Make a Valentine's Day craft.  If you're extra ambitious (AKA not me), you can plan one for every day leading up to Valentine's Day.  We've made thumbprint heart keepsakes,  a bouquet similar to this one using foam hearts and ribbon, and paint chip bookmarks.

10. Make those Valentine's Day boxes for school. They don't have to be perfect!  Just brainstorm ideas together and have fun!

11. Store-bought valentines are perfect in my book, but every so often, we get creative.  The heart-shaped crayons paired with mini notebooks were a hit each time the kids handed them out.  I love these ones for when Liam is in preschool! I need s'more friends like you and tic tac toe are two more of my favorites!

12. Take a Valentine's Day picture of your kids each year.  We love looking back on how much they have grown!

13. Buy your kids a small treat and set it out on the table so it's the first thing they see when they wake up on Valentine's Day.  We usually do a small box of chocolates and a very small toy for each child. They get so excited about these little treats!

14. Have a special meal on Valentine's Day.  Choose breakfast, lunch, or dinner (or all of the above) and serve those heart-shaped foods.  Valentine's Day plates, napkins, and cups make it extra special!

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The countdown to Valentine's Day is on!

How do YOU celebrate Valentine's Day with your family?

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Linking up with Our Pretty Little Girls for Tuesday Talk. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Capturing Life's Little Moments

Ahhh, January.  My least favorite month of the year.  It's just so cold and unexciting. 

This year, however, it wasn't too bad!  The weather was fairly mild, and despite the cold that made its way through our family, it was a positive month. Plus, it just went by so quickly!

I really enjoyed posting my first round of Life's Little Moments.  I'm trying to step away from taking so many posed pictures.  Instead, I want to capture those sweet moments that take my breath away. 

Life is made up of so many special moments that are easy to overlook.  Here are the moments that made January so special...

Our first big snow.  And by big snow, I mean 2 inches.

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That happiest, strongest boy who doesn't even let an ear infection and probable pneumonia bring him down.

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Afternoons playing in front of the fire.

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Curling up on the couch after school.

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Spending quality time with siblings.  (In the best chairs around. Scoop rockers.  Walmart.  Less than $5. GO!)

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New tricks!  AKA, scratching his head like a monkey!

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Brotherly bonding.

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Brotherly Bonding

And sisterly bonding.

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Afternoon snacks.

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A sick little girl who refused to miss school because she loves it too much. (She ended up missing 1 day...her first day all year.)

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All the time spent sitting in front of the fire. It's the best spot on a cold winter day!

Snuggling by the fire
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Trying out new hand-me-downs from wonderful friends. 

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His reaction to cold weather.

Liam hates winter

Before bed moments.

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Life with Lily. Not the least bit boring.

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Opting for math workbooks over toys.  Nerds rule the world!

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Rare moments when he smiles for the camera.

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A face that can break my heart.

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Eyes that stare into my soul.

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Quiet moments.

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Itty bitty hands.

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Snuggles with my babies.

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Pom pom hats, sweater rompers, moccasins. and tippy toes.

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Resting after an exhausting OT session.

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Excitement over bringing the class "pet" Snowball home.

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Afternoons with Lily and Liam.

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The sweetest face I know.

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Countless hours at the library.

This puzzle. All day, everyday. And even though we have it at home, it's the first thing he runs to at the library! ❤ He doesn't even realize he's getting some extra OT!

Sibling sleepovers.

My girls! ❤ Lily recently started sleeping in Lexie's bed at night and she curls up against her. I'm not sure how either of them get any sleep, but it sure is sweet! #sisters

A newfound love for basketball.

Basketball 2016. Look at that handsome dude! ❤

Lazy Saturday afternoons.

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He goes through our house stealing all the cups. Those tiny hands though! ❤

Sleepovers and fashion shows.  AKA a rocking Saturday night.

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Celebrating a framily member's 14th Birthday. Happy Birthday, Dom!

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66 degree end-of-January days!

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LIFE IS GOOD.

The first month of 2016 is officially over!  It treated us well. I'm so thankful for all those little moments that made life so special.

How was your January?

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