Tuesday, July 26, 2016

There's Something Fishy About Those Pinterest Pins - Camp Mom Week 7

Happy Tuesday! 

Can you believe it's already the last week of July? I actually saw first day of school pictures in my Facebook feed today. WHAT?!? That just seems way too early. We still have one month of Summer break left and we have so much planned! I know that time is going to pass by so quickly, though.

This past week was a blur. The end of last week wasn't the best and I had 4 big projects due in a 24 hour time period. My entire weekend was spent working, with the exception of going out to dinner with my husband for his birthday. And today? Let's not go there! I'm just now sitting down and it's almost 2 AM!

Although the kids enjoyed this week's Camp Mom activities, some of them were essentially a Pinterest fail. This was the first week I relied on Pinterest for more than one activity. Lexie really wanted to do a fish theme this week and she chose a few while browsing Pinterest. Well. Even the fails need to be shared, right? Even though they weren't quite what we expected, the activities were definitely fun!

For "Fish Week" we made a foil fish craft, created sensory bottle aquariums (Pinterest Fail), whipped up a Jello Aquarium recipe (Pinterest Fail) and made fish slime (Semi-Pinterest Fail). I'm learning that it's best to just alter some of our favorite activities instead of relying on Pinterest! For our "field trip" we planned to go to the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, but it was way too hot outside. We changed our plans at the last minute and headed to the spray park instead!

Here's a recap of all the fish-themed Kids Activities we did this week:

CAMP MOM Fish-Themed Kids Activities

Fish Slime - Camp Mom Day 31

Homemade Glitter Slime

  • 1 Bottle Blue Glitter Glue
  • Borax
  • Water
  • Bowl and Spoon for Mixing
  • Clear Bag
  • Rubber Band
  • Ribbon
  • Plastic Fish

  1. Mix 1 tsp Borax into 1 cup warm water.
  2. Empty glitter glue into a bowl, add 1 tbsp warm water and mix.
  3. Slowly add Borax mixture to the glue mixture while stirring.
  4. Form slime into a ball and press a fish into the front.
  5. Slide slime into clear bag, tie with a rubber band and embellish with a ribbon.

We made the slime according to the Pinterest recipe, but it turned out much too dark.  We tried it again using our slime recipe and it was a bit lighter, but still wasn't anything like the pictures on Pinterest. There's simply no way to see the fish if you put it IN the glitter slime, so we just pressed it into the front of the slime before sliding it into the bag!  Although it wasn't what I expected it to look like, it was still very cute and my girls loved it!

Foil Fish Craft - Camp Mom Day 32

Foil Crafts for Kids

  • Cardboard
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Sharpies
  1. Draw a fish shape onto a piece of cardboard and cut it out.
  2. Cover the cardboard fish shape in a sheet of foil. 
  3. Give the kids some sharpies and let them decorate their fish!
The foil fish craft is just a version of other foil crafts my kids have made before. It's really simple and doesn't require much preparation or assistance!

Sensory Bottle Aquariums - Camp Mom Day 33

Sensory Bottles
Sensory Bottle

  • Water Bottles with a large opening (I bought Voss water.)
  • Plastic fish and sea creatures and shells
  • Sand
  • Water 
  • Blue food coloring 
  1. Add about 1-2 inches of sand to the bottom of the bottle. 
  2. Fill the bottle with warm water, add a drop of blue food coloring and shake.
  3. Drop plastic fish and sea creatures into the bottle.
  4. Seal the lid very tightly!
The sensory aquarium bottles didn't look anything like how they looked on Pinterest but the kids (especially Liam) loved shaking them and watching the sea creatures and sand swirl around. I think I'm going to have the kids make these again. We're going to skip the sand and just use blue hair gel so the sea creatures "float" better!

Jello Aquariums - Camp Mom Day 34

Jello Recipe

  • 2 small boxes blue Jello
  • Swedish Fish
  • Nerds
  • Clear Cups 
  1. Cover the bottom of a clear cup with a thin layer of Nerds.
  2. Prepare Jello as directed and allow to cool to room temperature. 
  3. Fill the cups with Jello and refrigerate. 
  4. After about an hour, carefully push the Swedish Fish into the Jello.
  5. Allow to set for 4 more hours.
Okay. I'm going to be completely honest. Out of all the activities this one was the worst in Camp Mom history! Even though the Nerds looked pretty at first, the liquid made the Nerds start to melt and lose their color. The Jello was too dark and the Swedish Fish could barely be seen. I think the finished product looked just like swamp water. And remember those melted nerds? They made the Jello taste sour. No thank you!

Liam, however seemed to enjoy it. He had some after a meal of Spaghetti. By the time he was done he looked like a Zombie who devoured a Smurf.

My advice? Just make a cup of Jello and enjoy! Toss a few Swedish Fish on top if you're feeling inspired!  Just keeping it real...

Pinterest FAIL.

Spray Park - Camp Mom Day 35

 Summer Activities for Kids
Summer Activities for Kids

Sometimes a last minute change in plans works out well. The spray park was a much cooler option than the zoo on a 95 degree day! Plus, it was even better with friends!

Here's to better luck next week!

Coming up next week:
  • Banana Pops Recipe
  • Sponge Bomb Battle
  • "Field Trip"
  • Sand Foam
  • Window Garden Craft

You might also like the kids activities in these posts:

Camp Mom Week One
Camp Mom Week Two
Camp Mom Week Three
Camp Mom Week Four 
Camp Mom Week Five 
Camp Mom Week Six

Have you had a Pinterest Fail lately?


Linking up for Tuesday Talk.

Monday, July 25, 2016

From The Cutting Room Floor

I have nearly 2800 pictures in my June 2016 folder. 2800. Those are the pictures that made the cut. Thousands more got deleted permanently. It's no secret that I love photography and those pictures add up quickly! Most of those pictures never make it onto my blog or social media. They either aren't relevant to what I'm posting or aren't up to par with my standards. But every so often it's fun to share some of those pictures from the cutting room floor!

My love of photography began when I had Dylan. I suddenly wanted to take pictures all the time and I challenged myself to improve each month. When I got my first Nikon DSLR, I was in heaven! Before long, I decided to upgrade and purchase a few lenses. What started out as a way to just take free pictures of my children turned into one of my most favorite hobbies!

Right now, I shoot with my Nikon D90, and most of the time, I use my favorite 50 mm lens. I've owned this camera for 8 years now and I'm reaching the point where it's time to upgrade again. It just isn't working quite as well as it used to, plus new technology would be awesome!

Thanks to blogging, Liam's work as a brand rep, and the occasional photoshoot for family, friends and acquaintances, I get to take pictures every single day. I'm constantly learning and I push myself to improve and try different methods. My goal when I take pictures is to capture a shot as close to the final product I'm aiming for so the picture requires minimal edits. I'm a bit of a perfectionist, so most of those pictures never make it off the cutting room floor or just don't have a place on my blog. But I still want to find a way to share them, because they capture the magic of childhood, the bond my children have with each other and what life with kids is like so perfectly!

Here are a few of my favorite June snaps from the cutting room floor:

From The Cutting Room Floor
From The Cutting Room Floor
From The Cutting Room Floor
Brotherly Love
From The Cutting Room Floor
From The Cutting Room Floor
From The Cutting Room Floor
From The Cutting Room Floor
From The Cutting Room Floor
From The Cutting Room Floor
Farm Life
From The Cutting Room Floor
From The Cutting Room Floor
From The Cutting Room Floor
 The Lucky Few
From The Cutting Room Floor
 From The Cutting Room Floor
 Nothing Down About It
From The Cutting Room Floor
From The Cutting Room Floor
From the Cutting Room Floor
From The Cutting Room Floor
From The Cutting Room Floor
From The Cutting Room Floor
Summer Fun
From The Cutting Room Floor
From The Cutting Room Floor 

These were, without a doubt, some of my favorite moments in June! They may not have made it off the cutting room floor for a specific blog post, but when I put them all together, they told the story of an awesome month with my sweet kids!

 I want to know if you're like me! How many pictures do you take each month?

Let's Connect! 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday, friends!

I am so glad the weekend is finally here! There are so many good things in life right now, but this week has just been a series of unfortunate events.

My husband's brand new car was the victim of a hit and run. (Thank goodness for a vanishing deductible.) I rolled my ankle while coming down the steps and could barely walk for 2 days. Now it's just a dull ache. Our water heater is starting to go and it heats up the water to approximately 5000 degrees (or so). It feels about as lovely as it sounds. Grant is putting in long hours at the office due to an increased workload. I had a work issue today that left me in tears. And to top off the week, my parents had to put their dog down tonight. It was a dog they got when I was still living at home so now I'm just feeling sad and old and pathetic. Oh, and did I mention that I have 4 blog posts and 2 photoshoots due by Sunday night and 2 weeks to find a new SUV to lease? I really could use a vacation from everyday life right now!

I hate to complain. I really do. But sometimes I just need to vent! Now that I got it out of my system...

Here are the Friday Favorites that I'm loving this week!


Weekly visits with our horse!

The kids and I head to the stable every weekend for a visit with our horse. Notice I left out my husband? Grant and Cherokee have not been friends since Cherokee nearly bucked Grant off while he was riding! The kids, however, love him and I am so thankful that one of my four children is a natural on horseback!

On Friday, Lily told me she wanted a saddle and a helmet for her upcoming birthday and wants me to teach her how to ride the real way. I was unbelievably proud!



A new show addiction on Netflix!

Is anybody else watching Stranger Things? Grant convinced me to start watching it and we're hooked! We only have 2 more episodes left! #StreamTeam

Stranger Things


Liam's new water table!

The kids use our water table almost every day all year round and after a decade of use, it was time to replace it. We bought Liam the Step 2 Cascading Cove Sand & Water Table as an early birthday present and he loves it!

Step 2 Cascading Cove Sand & Water Table


A gorgeous birthday gift for my husband!

Grant's birthday is on Sunday and he's going to absolutely love his gift. He has been jealous of my beautiful JORD watch since I got it, so he's going to be thrilled to have one of his own!

JORD watches


Summer days spent with my four sweet kids!

Summer is my favorite time of the year and I'm savoring all these moments with my kids at home. Do we really have to go back to school?!?

Friday Favorites


This super easy, super cute puffy paint craft! It was one of our Camp Mom activities this past week. My kids love puffy paint and this craft turned out to be one of my favorite keepsakes so far! (You can read more HERE.)

Puffy Paint


 $150 Minted Giveaway and these awesome personalized name labels!

I'm labeling everything to prepare for the school year ahead and I love these stick on labels. There's a $150 Minted credit up for grabs on my blog HERE!

Minted personalized name labels


An awesome new photoshoot location!

On Tuesday, we headed to a nearby conservancy for Liam's Down syndrome awareness photoshoot.  My friend took the pictures for the calendar, but I snapped a few of her taking their pictures. We went to a wedding at this conservancy 4 years ago but I forgot how gorgeous it was AND that it's not too far from our house! I'm definitely going to start heading there for photoshoots because there are so many photo perfect backgrounds, including this one!  (And, well, these four are my absolute favorite things!)

friday favorites

What are you loving this week?

Let's Connect!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Downright Blessed: Don't Be Sorry

When you find out that you're going to have a baby, you immediately picture a perfect bundle of joy.  Every parent wants and expects a perfect, healthy baby. But for some parents, that bundle of joy isn't quite what they expected.

It can be shocking or awkward when you find out that a family member or a friend's baby has a birth defect or genetic condition.  Saying "I'm sorry" is the natural instinct, but it really isn't the right thing to say. A simple "Congratulations! He/She is beautiful!" or even a "What can I do for you?" is a much better option!

Cathleen, from The Small Family Chronicles, is here to explain why you shouldn't feel sorry!


Last night I went to our Down syndrome organization’s annual charity gala. It was a fabulous night filled with fabulous people. At one point, though, I almost had to step outside for a moment. To introduce our Fund a Need portion of the event, a mother gave a speech that nearly brought me to tears (probably along with the rest of the audience).

This year’s Fund a Need was our New Parent Support program. This is exactly what it sounds like: Our director of new parent support, Nancy, reaches out to new families who either have welcomed a child with Down syndrome or are expecting a baby with Down syndrome. She visits them in the hospital, at their home, or at our office—their choice. She invites them to attend our Early Connections support group so they can meet other families with babies and young children with Down syndrome. She throws them a lifeline and safety net at a very tender time. I remember that time myself, very well. Nancy wasn’t on board then—Martha, the founder of the Down Syndrome Connection, was. I talked to her on the phone, and she was so supportive and understanding and encouraging. And then I came into the office with a tiny newborn Sam in person, and I immediately felt like I had found a second home.

And somehow, that tenderness doesn’t go away. That feeling of being so scared…but then so accepted and supported, too. It’s a whole range of emotions wrapped up in one ball—some good, some scary, but all powerful.

So when the young mother of an infant girl with Down syndrome got up and spoke about the New Parent Support program, which she reached out to when she got a prenatal diagnosis, it tugged at my heart. And when she said, with her voice breaking, that the doctor who called to deliver the prenatal test results over the phone said “I’m sorry…,” my heart cracked a little bit. Because, like me, that mother hadn’t gotten a positive view of Down syndrome at first. She had only gotten the negative, and it had hurt her…just as it had hurt me when it happened to me. It’s a bruise on my heart that never really goes away and remains tender when poked, and it’s why I do what I do. By doing medical outreach, I get our organization’s name and contact information into the hands of medical providers so they can direct families receiving a diagnosis to Nancy, who can then welcome them into the organization and provide them whatever support they need.

And I got to thinking about that “I’m sorry.” Another friend in the community recently commented that her husband got the “I’m sorry” remark about their son the other day. And I thought, what a tough one that is. What’s our immediate response when we hear someone we care about is facing a challenging situation? “I’m sorry.” Because you are sorry; you don’t want to see someone you care about struggling. So I think it’s a natural response, but on the other hand, I want to say, “Don’t be sorry. Because I’m not.”

2016-06-04 13.43.22

How could I be? How could I be sorry that I get to raise the most amazing little guy? A child who greets every day with a huge smile and a cheerful “Hiiiiiii!!!!” when I come in his room?

How could I be sorry that I get to witness perseverance at its best? A child who works so very, very hard to accomplish things, and then is ever so proud when he does? Just this morning, we reached the major milestone of him being able to pull up his pants on his own. Sound like something tiny? Yes, but it was huge. It’s years in the making, and it’s exciting! He was incredibly proud of himself, with a huge smile on his face to match mine!

How could I be sorry that I get to raise a little boy who has prompted so many people to say to me, “He has changed my life”? Four short years he’s been here, and he’s already changing lives. He gives people a glimpse into a world that they might not have gotten to be a part of if it weren’t for him.

How could I be sorry to get to watch an incredible brotherly bond between him and Theo? Their adoration is absolutely mutual, and it is probably the thing that makes me happiest in life—watching my two boys playing together and supporting one another.

How could I be sorry to live with a child who embraces every last bit of life? Who is downright joyful about the simple act of loading up in my Ergo back-carrier and walking his brother to school every morning? “Pouch!” he says to me, handing me the Ergo to put on, and then he stands there, literally bouncing in excitement, while I strap on the Ergo and pick him up to swing him into it.

And how could I be sorry when his tantrums remind me how very, very typical our life really is? It’s a funny thing to appreciate tantrums, but it reminds me that he’s very much a four-year-old boy, before anything else.

2016-03-09 17.15.09-2

How could I be sorry, too, when I get to meet so many other excellent people who share his chromosomal anomaly? Like Eli, who identifies himself as a rocker and self-advocate, and who is instrumental in the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign, encouraging local students to pledge not to use three words: retard, retarded, and Trump. (That last one was his recent addition. His mother is slightly mortified about him politicizing, but I for one was delighted to see that he is now a registered voter and can cast his own vote to help end the T word. ;-) ) And Marissa, another self-advocate, a poised and lovely young woman who works our local events and is such a positive face for our organization. And Adam, who just turned 21 and couldn’t wait to buy his first beer! And Joseph, who calmly announced during his short speech at the Gala that his favorite part of working for our organization is payday! Smart man, Joseph…that’s my favorite day, too. And Blair, who loves to talk sports with visitors to our office and calmly offers his condolences to families who do not have children with Down syndrome.

There’s no sorry about it—my life is better for having Sam in it, and it’s better for knowing a huge group of people who I never would have met if it were not for having Sam. I am, for sure, one of the lucky ones.


{Post originally published on The Small Family Chronicles on May 22, 2016}

Thank you so much for sharing your incredibly wise words, Cathleen!  Sam is adorable!  

Downright Blessed Life With Down Syndrome

If you would like to contribute to the Downright Blessed: Life with Down Syndrome blog series, please send an email to lexieloolilyboodylantoo@yahoo.com.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Days Are Long But The Years Are Short

"The days are long but the years are short." It seems like most moms are saying those words these days. But I disagree. The days are short and the years are even shorter.

The days are long but the years are short.

Perhaps it's just one of those things that you don't realize until you're surrounded by kids. After trying desperately to meet the needs of 4+ kids all day there simply isn't any time to ponder over the fact that the day felt too long. The truth is, there's not ENOUGH time in one day! I can't even remember what it was like to have just one or two kids, let alone remember life before kids, but I imagine there was more time. At this point in my life, I'm seriously considering just giving up on sleep entirely.

I was rushing around the house tonight, just trying to get the nightly chores done so I could go to bed before 4 AM. As I passed by Lexie and Lily's window, the full moon caught my eye and I was immediately drawn to it. I had what felt like a million things on my to do list, but in that moment, I was still. The beauty of it took my breath away and I realized that I'm never still long enough to enjoy the simplest things in life. My days pass by in a blur of activity and chaos and I'm always looking ahead to the next task. As I stared up at the moon tonight, the realization of how quickly time passes by hit me like a ton of bricks.

This is the part where I'm supposed to exclaim "Where did time go?!?"  But I know exactly where time went. It slipped away during all those hours I spent changing diapers, feeding kids, constantly worrying, cleaning up the endless mess, negotiating to end conflicts, continuously washing loads of laundry, and herding children to and fro. That's motherhood in a nutshell. It's just sprinkled with the most incredible moments of happiness that will take your breath away, bring tears to your eyes and make you feel like the luckiest woman alive.

I'm feeling all the feels right now. I don't want Summer to end. I don't want the school year to start. And I certainly don't want my babies to grow up so darn quickly. I know it's entirely selfish of me to feel that way because the point of having kids is to raise them and watch them grow. But time is speeding up and I'm losing control.

Every mother reaches a point in their journey where they stop and think "What the heck is going on?" I thought that moment for me was when the doctor sat down in the delivery room and delivered a life-changing diagnosis. To hear those incredibly terrifying words come out of his mouth made my heart plummet and made tumultuous thoughts fill my head. I was so angry in that moment and the only thing I could think was "I don't want THIS life."  But it's the life I was given and it's the life I would choose over and over again.

The days are long but the years are short.

That moment wasn't my what-the-heck moment, though. I'm currently experiencing my what-the-heck moment.  In the span of 4 weeks, my baby girl will turn 5, my BABY will turn 3, my oldest child will head into his last year of elementary school, my 5 year old will start Kindergarten and be away from me every day, and my sweet baby boy will start preschool which is a decision that I'm still struggling with. And I'm left standing here, thinking, "What. The. He$&?"

This motherhood gig is a tough one. It can be so frustrating and so incredibly rewarding at the same time. Thankfully the good outweighs the bad by far. There are so many moments when my family is together and I can't help but smile from all the joy and love that fills my soul and my heart literally feels like it will burst. I can't help but think that I will never be happier than I am at this very moment. I want to hold on to those moments as tight as I possibly can and never let go.

The next time I gaze up at that full moon, it will be hovering over the ocean. It will be Summer's last hurrah before the return to reality and the return of another school year. It will be the last moment of normalcy before life takes a drastic turn. I'm usually a glass half full kind of girl, but not right now. Not in this stage of my life.

Hold on tight, mamas. The days may feel long right now but it's only an incredibly short time frame in the story of your life. Enjoy the moment, live in the now and embrace every single beautiful and frustrating moment, because these are the moments that we will remember. These are the moments we will be wishing back in the not too distant future.

I definitely don't like this new reality and I don't like the feeling of time slipping rapidly through my fingers, but I will adjust. That's what mothers do. The truth is, motherhood is just a series of experiences that fall between full moons. Those full moons are just an indication of the passing of time, but what really matters is all the moments that fill up the days between.

Yes, the days pass by so quickly and the years pass by quicker than we could ever imagine, but the goal is to make each moment count! I want to be still. I want to enjoy the simple moments in life. I want to hold my four kids in my arms, close my eyes and pretend that they're still my tiny babies instead of these big kids who are racing toward adulthood. I want to savor the now. Those years that passed by so rapidly were the best years of my life but the now is absolutely incredible. No matter how quickly life passes by, my four blessings will ALWAYS be my babies and I will always be eternally grateful for the gift of motherhood.


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