Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Your Questions Answered: The Real Truth About Down Syndrome {Tuesday Talk}

Happy World Down Syndrome Day! I can hardly believe that we have been celebrating this day for four years. Our surprise baby is growing up far too quickly!

World Down Syndrome Day

People often question why we celebrate something that causes widespread fear. The truth is, you can never really understand something until you live it. We've been on this journey for 3 1/2 years, and I can honestly tell you it's nothing to fear! Today, we are celebrating the beauty of Down syndrome and all of our fellow human beings who are rocking an extra chromosome, including our beautiful son, Liam!

Many of you were reading my blog when I was pregnant with Liam, and were there for the shocking announcement after he was born. There are some new readers, so for those who are interested, you can read the full story HERE.

One of the things that surprises me the most is how many people reach out to me after finding my posts on Pinterest. Emails and questions come in weekly, and one of my favorite things is helping the scared moms who are beginning this journey. I was that scared mom once, and I love being able to give them some hope!

I firmly believe in open conversation about Down syndrome, so I do my best to answer every question that comes my way. Sometimes people feel awkward and are afraid to ask, but I welcome questions and love to discuss it. In honor of World Down Syndrome Day, I'm sharing the most common questions I receive about Liam, a Down syndrome diagnosis, and life with Down syndrome. 

Did you know before birth? 

We had NO idea! We were told our baby was textbook perfect, so that's exactly what we expected. To say we were surprised is an understatement! I had no idea that a birth diagnosis is actually quite common.

World Down Syndrome Day

When did you find out the news?

Right after Liam was born, two of the four doctors in the room suspected Down syndrome while the other two did not.  There was some debate between them, but they decided he needed to be thoroughly examined and they ordered a blood test. We were supposed to receive the results in 24-48 hours, but we ended up taking our newborn home without any answers.

Every single day I called, and every single day I was told they were having trouble getting accurate results. As the weeks went by, we began to worry that it was something worse. Finally, when Liam was nearly a month old, his pediatrician had enough. She called the lab on the spot and demanded answers within an hour.

One hour later, I received the phone call. As I cradled my tiny 3 1/2 week old baby in my arms, I listened to his doctor confirm the news that I had known since the moment my eyes met his for the very first time.

How was it missed?

Down syndrome was not detected during the initial blood screening or in all the ultrasounds that followed. Just like his two sisters, Liam had a white spot on his heart which can sometimes be a soft marker for Down syndrome, but that's almost always present with other markers, which are spotted during ultrasounds. Every ultrasound showed a perfectly healthy baby with normal measurements.

Even if we HAD known, it wouldn't have changed anything. We just would have been better prepared. Our chances of having a baby with Down syndrome was 1 in nearly 900. Just let that sink in!  It's obvious why it was never even on our radar. One important thing to remember is that unless it's an amnio result, prenatal screening is not fail-proof!

Aren't you too young to have a baby with Down syndrome?

This one is a fair question, because I once thought the same thing. The fact that only older mothers have babies with Down syndrome is one of the biggest misconceptions!  Although the chances of having a baby with Down syndrome increases with age, more babies with Down syndrome are born to mothers UNDER the age of 35! I personally know many teenagers, and first time moms in their twenties, who gave birth to a baby with Down syndrome.

Will it ever go away? 

Many people confuse genetic condition with chronic illness. Down syndrome is a genetic condition and it will never go away. No miracle vitamin, pill, or magical therapy will take it away. Liam will always have that third copy of his 21st chromosome.

What caused it?

I think this answer scares people the most. In almost all cases of Down syndrome, it occurs by chance. There is absolutely no way to prevent it, other than by not having a baby. It happens by chance at conception, and nobody is exempt.

When Liam was conceived, I was young, healthy and fit. I exercised several times a week, ate a healthy diet and took a prenatal vitamin. I don't drink any alcohol, smoke, or take any pills other than the occasional OTC painkiller.  I did EVERYTHING right. I couldn't have done anything to prevent it.

What was your reaction?  

I can't sugar coat this answer in any way. I was devastated, and my feelings were UGLY. I can't even talk about it without feeling guilty. I didn't want this baby. All I wanted was the perfect baby I expected.  I felt as if life as I knew it was ending, and we were doomed to living the rest of our lives in depression, secluded from the rest of the world.

What I soon found out was that every feeling I had at that time was justified. Thankfully, I started to accept our new normal within 24 hours and was able to move forward.

What surprised you the most about Down syndrome?

Honestly, how normal life can be. We are doing everything a "typical" family does and most days, we forget Liam even has Down syndrome!

What were your struggles?

Getting Liam to gain weight was incredibly difficult! He ended up hospitalized at two months old, because he was still under his birth weight of 7 lbs 11 oz. The doctors checked for every possible cause during that stay and they couldn't find a single thing wrong with him.

Liam was just high energy from the start. He rolled over at 3 weeks old and never stopped moving. (Just FYI, he still hasn't stopped!) He burned off more calories than he took in, and the result was a baby that was so scrawny. He didn't reach 10 lbs until after he turned 6 months old and even now, at 3 1/2, he's only 27 lbs.  He's just a lightweight dude!

What do Liam's siblings think of him?

Dylan, Lexie and Lily adore him and they are so proud of him! They fell in love with him right away. We were open with them about Down syndrome from the start, and immediately started exposing them to the Down syndrome community. Watching them grow into compassionate, accepting, loving human beings was a beautiful thing. I can't even adequately describe the love that they have for Liam. It literally brings me to tears. The moments I capture on camera speak volumes about their love for each other. They are all so blessed to have each other!

World Down Syndrome Day

Are you sure he has Down syndrome?

This question always makes me laugh, and it has even been asked by parents who have children with Down syndrome! I understand, though There are times when Down syndrome completely disappears from his face, and even I questioned it at times. Yes, we are sure, but we will never know for certain which type he has. 

All of Liam's medical professionals believe he has mosaic Down syndrome, in which the extra chromosome is only found in a percentage of cells in his body instead of every cell.  It's still Down syndrome, but the physical traits are less noticeable, there's usually a lack of health issues, and the delays aren't significant. It describes Liam perfectly.

In order to find out for sure, we would need to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket to get a test done that checks 500 cells for the extra chromosome.  While it would be awesome to know for sure, it truly doesn't matter. Down syndrome is Down syndrome, and he's still going to have it whether that extra chromosome is in every cell or only in a few.  The only thing that matters is that Liam is happy, healthy, thriving and completely rocking it! 

I hope you learned a little bit more about Down syndrome today, and we hope you will join us in celebrating World Down Syndrome Day by wearing blue and yellow, and rocking crazy socks in support of those who are rocking an extra chromosome! 

World Down Syndrome Day

If you have any other questions, feel free to email me or leave them in the comments. I'm an open book! 

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Let Them Be Little {Featuring Spring Style from Carter's at Kohl's}

DISCLOSURE: This post is sponsored by Kohl’s.  I was paid for this post and received the included Carter’s clothing as compensation.

During my 12 years of motherhood, I learned one very important lesson: kids grow up far too quickly. I took all those little moments that make childhood so special for granted. I naively believed that time was on our side, but the harsh reality is that the magic of childhood was gone before I even realized it.

Thankfully, I learned that lesson with my two older kids. I can’t get those moments back, but I did get a second chance. I now embrace all the little moments with my toddler and kindergartener. I know from experience that childhood is fleeting, so I remind myself daily to live in the now and enjoy watching my little ones play. 


I truly believe play is crucial for childhood development. Allowing kids to explore and use their imaginations is every bit as important as their education.  When my little ones aren’t in school, we make crafts, do science experiments, have fun with sensory play and block building, visit zoos, parks and museums, and spend plenty of time outdoors. Not only are they learning, exploring, and building important skills, but they are making memories together along the way!


Childhood should be fun and full of happy moments. I’m working hard to ensure that my kids have a childhood worth remembering and I’m savoring the moments spent with them. Allowing them to be little is the most important thing I can do for them right now!


Over the past two weeks, we traded our days spent with play dough and indoor toys for hours spent outside burning off pent up energy! Spring came early to Pittsburgh this year and we are loving it! We didn’t expect the warm weather streak to last, but it has, and I quickly discovered that my kids needed new Spring clothes.

Thankfully, my go to store had us covered! Kohl’s had all the latest Spring fashions, including the new Spring line from Carter’s. 


Carter’s has been with us every step along the way on this parenthood journey. I vividly remember when I found out I was expecting my first child. My husband and I weren’t planning on starting a family for 7 more years, so I was in shock.  I roamed the baby aisle at Kohl’s on my lunch break, and picked up a white sleeper covered in ducks.  It was Carter’s, and I ended up leaving Kohl’s with it tucked safely in a bag. It was the first thing I bought for my baby, and it was the first thing my son wore on his very first day of life.

Carter’s has been with us to welcome four babies into the world. They were with us for their first holidays. And they were with us for their first days of school.  Carter’s is a quality brand that I have always trusted. Their clothing is adorable and comfortable, and perfect for every occasion. Even more important, it’s a brand that’s durable enough to keep up with my active kids as they play!


This Spring, Lily and Liam are going to look extra cute thanks to Carter’s!  The pastel colors and fun patterns in the Spring collection are PERFECT. We’re thoroughly enjoying this early Spring weather and making lots of memories. So many exciting things are planned for the next few months, and Carter’s will be with us for each adventure!

Here’s how my family has lots of fun in the Spring:

I firmly believe in spending time outdoors almost every day, so we go to the playground several days a week. Carter’s clothing comfortably keeps up with my little explorers while they climb, slide and swing!


We never let a little bit of rain ruin our fun! The adorable Carter’s raincoats protect my busy kids from the wind and the rain, so they can keep playing.


World Down Syndrome Day is coming up on March 21st, and my homie with an extra chromie will be rocking his designer genes AND rocking his blue and yellow for Down syndrome awareness! 


Now that it’s warm, we’re having lots of picnics outdoors. We often pack up a bag of books and toys, hike into the woods behind our home, find a clearing, and play on a blanket. Sometimes a simple change of scenery can be so refreshing, and make a bad day better again!


I believe in surrounding our kids with pets and introducing them to a wide variety of animals by visiting farms and zoos. Caring for a pet and loving them can be an incredible learning experience for children.
We accidentally welcomed baby bunnies into our home almost two weeks ago, because our two pet bunnies were NOT both girls. Instead of treating it like a burden, we decided to make it a learning experience. Our kids get to watch the babies grow and help prepare them for their new forever homes! And one of them just might be staying with us!


Easter is coming up soon, and Lily is practicing for the big egg hunt and trying to teach her little brother the ropes. He hasn’t caught on just yet, but there’s still time! The excitement is building, and Lily and Liam are going to look SO cute in their coordinating Easter outfits from Carter’s!


Finally, it was time to dust off those scooters, bikes and outdoor toys and get active! Making daily exercise a regular part of our routine is key for forming healthy habits that will last a lifetime. An added bonus is that they have so much fun that they don’t even realize they’re working. And they certainly look cute will doing it!


If there’s one thing I could tell new parents, it would be this: Enjoy life with your kids right at this very moment. Let them be little. Encourage them to play and use their imaginations. But most important, enjoy THEM and capture the little moments that you’ll always want to remember. Childhood is something you can’t ever get back.

Let Them Be Little - Spring Style from Carter's at Kohl's #PlayAllDay #ad @kohls

Thank you to Kohl’s for sponsoring today’s post and helping Lily and Liam celebrate Spring in style!

Shop the entire Carter’s Spring collection at Kohl’s! From 3/17 - 4/2 get $10 off a $40 purchase with promo code KIDSALE10!

*My blog may contain links to other websites. I am not responsible for the privacy policies of those other websites. When you click on a link, your information may be collected by those websites so I encourage you to read their privacy policies.

DISCLOSURE: These affiliate links are not associated with Kohl’s.

Friday, March 17, 2017

St. Patrick's Day Snack & Play {A Year of Color: Green}

Happy St. Patrick's Day, my friends!!!

St. Patrick's Day

We are wearing our festive green clothing and we will be spending our day snacking on lots of green food! That's pretty much the extent of our celebration. With four kids, that's how we roll!

The "A Year of Color" Link Party fell on the perfect day this month! 

A Year of Color

On the third Friday of each month,  I co-host a monthly linkup called A Year of Color with Little DoveMacke Monologues, and Work It Mommy. Each month focuses on one color and you can link up any post that revolves around that particular color: Fashion, Recipes, Activities for Kids, Crafts...ANYTHING is welcome! The link will be open for a month, so you can link up any time. We hope you will join us!

The color for the month of March is fitting for today!

A Year of Color

This month, I'm going to share a few of our favorite green desserts and green sensory play activities in honor of St. Patrick's Day, along with an adorable craft that we do every year on the holiday! 

St. Patrick's Day Desserts, Sensory Play & Crafts

St. Patrick's Day Mint Cookie Shakes

These green shakes, made with vanilla ice cream and mint cookies, and topped with whipped topping and peppermint patties, are a hit with my kids! 

St. Patrick's Day Shake


  • Vanilla Ice Cream
  • Mint Cookies
  • Milk or Cream
  • Frozen Whipped Topping
  • Peppermint Patties


1. Fill blender halfway with vanilla ice cream.
2. Crush 10 mint cookies and sprinkle into the blender.
3. Add milk or cream until the blender is about 3/4 full.
4. Blend until shake is only slightly thick. Add more milk or cream or more ice cream if necessary, and blend again.
5. Pour milkshake into cups.
6. Top with a scoop of frozen whipped topping and a mini peppermint patty candy!

St. Patrick's Day Creamy Jello

This creamy jello dessert is a staple at every holiday dinner. It's usually a different flavor, but I break out the lime jello in honor of St. Patrick's Day!

St. Patrick's Day Dessert


  • Two 3 oz boxes of lime jello
  • 16 oz frozen whipped topping


1. Sit the whipped topping on the counter for 15 minutes to soften.
2. Prepare jello according to the quick set method on the back of the box. 
3. Stir in 16 oz whipped topping and continue to stir until it melts.
4. Pour into small cups or bowls and refrigerate for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Homemade Glitter Play Dough

My kids love sensory play and one of their favorite things to make is play dough! A little bit of green food coloring and gold glitter make it perfectly festive for St. Patrick's Day!

Glitter Playdoh


  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • green food coloring
  • gold glitter


Mix the flour and salt, add a few drops of food coloring to the water, and slowly pour the water mixture into the flour mixture while stirring. Add more flour as needed until the mixture isn't sticky.  Sprinkle in some gold glitter and knead with your hands to blend.

Give your child some shamrock cookie cutters, a rolling pin and a plastic child-safe knife, and let them create!

Homemade Green Slime

Making slime is another sensory play favorite! Green always seems to be the preferred color!

St. Patrick's Day Slime


  • 8 oz white school glue
  • 1 tsp Borax (laundry detergent aisle)
  • 1 cup warm water
  • Green food coloring


STEP ONE: Empty glue into a large bowl. 

STEP TWO:  Fill glue bottle completely with 1/2 cup warm water, shake, then pour into the bowl that contains the glue.  Stir. 

STEP THREE:  Add several drops of green food coloring to the glue mixture.  Stir. 

STEP FOUR:  Mix 1 tsp Borax into 1/2 cup warm water. Stir until the Borax dissolves. 

STEP FIVE:  Slowly pour the Borax solution into the glue solution while stirring. Keep a close eye on this process!  This is where the science aspect of it begins.  You will see the glue solution almost immediately begin to form into a solid as it meets the Borax solution!

STEP SIX:  Dig in and knead the slime!

STEP SEVEN:  Store in an airtight container or a storage bag.

Thumbprint Shamrocks Craft

This is a simple craft/keepsake that we make every year! I'm sharing last year's version since we didn't make the 2017 version yet. I absolutely love pulling these out each year and adding them to our decor!

St. Patrick's Day Craft


  • White paper
  • Green paint
  • Sharpie


Have your child/children make a four leaf clover with their thumb. Carefully paint on a thin stem to each shamrock. Write the name(s) underneath each shamrock, and add the holiday and the year to the finished project!

These are just a few of our favorite ways to celebrate St. Patrick's Day! St. Patrick's Day books and movies, green shamrock pancakes, Lucky Charms, and green muffin pan meals are also part of our holiday fun. Maybe, just maybe, you will be able to use one of these as a last minute idea!

Feel free to link up your "green" posts on the widget below and start planning your posts for the upcoming months!

April 21st

A Year of Color

May 19th

A Year of Color

June 16th

A Year of Color

Happy St. Patrick's Day to you and yours! How will you be celebrating?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Building Literacy Skills with Ben the Rooster + Free Subscription Code

DISCLOSURE: I received a subscription in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.

One of the things I feel passionate about while raising my children is teaching them to love reading!  Raising readers is a job that begins in the home, so working on building literacy skills is a part of our daily routine.


I’m a book lover, and I think it’s so important for my kids to see me reading. I encourage them to read as much as possible. We go on weekly trips to the library and I never say no to a book order or book fair. Building a library of books that they love is important, but it really doesn’t matter what they read…as long as they are reading!

Last Spring, Grant and I had an important decision to make. Lily was our first child who had a Summer birthday and it was a late one. She celebrated her 5th birthday just before the Kindergarten cutoff date, and we were on the fence about whether she would start Kindergarten or if she would stay in preschool for one more year.

Ultimately, with the input of her teacher, we decided to send her to Kindergarten. Lily loves school and thrives in a social setting, but I knew she would have a few struggles. It is very common in our school district to hold kids back if they have a Summer birthday, so Lily started Kindergarten with quite a few kids who celebrated their 6th birthday before she even celebrated her 5th, or celebrated their 6th birthday shortly after school started.  

I never expected her to be on the same level as her peers who are a full year older, but it feels like we’re constantly racing to bridge the gap. While some of them came to Kindergarten already reading, Lily was still working on letter recognition and letter sounds. We now have to aim for that higher standard for Lily, which means we put in a LOT of work at home.

Flash cards, phonics games, leveled reading books and learning apps are a part of our daily routine after Lily gets home from school. Everything is finally starting to click, but sometimes you need to think outside the box to really spark their interest!

Enter Ben the Rooster!

Ben the Rooster

Ben, who is an adorable barnyard rooster, wants kids to love reading, too! Ben is a great pen pal for kids ages 3-8. Through the postcards that he sends twice a month, Ben encourages young readers to read, think, create and write!

Lily was so excited when something arrived in the mail just for her! When she pulled the postcards out of the envelope, the first thing she said was that the cartoon rooster was really cute. But when I started reading the postcard, Lily’s eyes lit up. She was so happy that somebody wrote to her!

Ben the Rooster
Ben the Rooster

In the first postcard, Ben introduced himself and encouraged her to tell him about her favorite book and draw a picture about the book on the included blank, stamped postcard to send back. Lily immediately ran off to grab a pencil and markers, and got to work. She drew the picture of her favorite book, dictated to me what she wanted to say to Ben, signed her name and excitedly added a few hearts. The next day, she was beaming as she put her postcard into the mailbox. “I can’t WAIT to hear back from him!” And just over 2 weeks later, another postcard arrived in the mail!

Ben the Rooster
Ben the Rooster
Ben the Rooster

There’s no doubt that Lily loves her pen pal, but as a parent, I love him, too! The postcards, which are mailed on the 1st and 16th of each month, are beautifully illustrated in a way that appeals to young children.  In each postcard, Ben tells a story, gives facts, asks questions and encourages the child to draw a picture on the blank postcard to send back.  This service is FUN and educational!

Ben the Rooster
Ben the Rooster
Ben the Rooster

Lily recently received her third postcard, and she was so excited to read a story about a lost tooth! She can relate to that one! What I observed this time was that Lily immediately picked up the postcard and tried to read it on her own. She spotted every sight word that she knew, and shouted out the words. She began to realize just how much she could actually read, and her smile got bigger with each word. That was it! That was the spark I was waiting for!

Ben the Rooster
Ben the Rooster

I sat down next to her, and we read the postcard together. I read the more difficult words, and she jumped in every time she knew a word. She even sounded out a few new words along the way. When we were done reading, Lily counted her teeth for Ben, then immediately got to work on her postcard to send back. This time, she worked with me and wrote the words she already knew on her own. She mailed off her reply and is eagerly awaiting her next postcard!

Ben the Rooster

Ben the Rooster is a sure winner in our home. As Lily declared, “Ben’s one of my best friends forever and I just love him!”  Anything that helps inspire the love of reading gets my vote of approval!

Ben the Rooster


There are several subscription options for Ben the Rooster. You can subscribe on a month to month basis, purchase a 6 month subscription, or purchase a 6 or 12 month birthday subscription, which includes a birthday card.

Want to give Ben the Rooster a try? Use the code BENFORTWO to get two months free!

Thank you, Ben (and team), for helping to build Lily’s literacy skills! She is a big fan of Ben the Rooster!

Ben the Rooster

You can also find Ben the Rooster on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Building Literacy Skills with Ben the Rooster