Monday, November 30, 2015

Holiday Happenings and an Extra Special Birthday

It's amazing how quickly an entire week can fly by!  Celebrating Thanksgiving and Dylan's Birthday took up all my time, and there wasn't any time left over to blog!

Dylan's Birthday always falls just before or even on Thanksgiving, so Thanksgiving week is always very busy for our family. This past week was packed full of celebrations (and illness), and I'm just now getting a chance to sit down and breathe!

The craziness kicked off with a Thanksgiving event at Lily's preschool.  Thanks to being the class historian, I was able to attend and photograph the event!

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After I finished taking pictures, I had to prepare for Dylan's birthday parties and birthday.  There was lots of shopping, cleaning, and preparation involved!

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Dylan had two very small parties on the day before his birthday.  We had a few close family members over for the first party.

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Dylan's family birthday party
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After our family left, a few close friends arrived.

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Even though his parties were very small, Dylan was still excited to have his closest family members and friends over to celebrate.  After Christmas, he is having a small celebration with a few of his classmates. Having a birthday during Thanksgiving week is tough because everyone tends to be busy!

We had 6 extra kids spend the night after the party!  It was a late night.  Meanwhile, Lily woke up covered in puke, and the house was trashed.  I finally headed to bed around 3 AM, and 4 of the kids were still awake with Grant!

Which leads to a few hours later...when we all woke up LOUDLY, Dylan was officially 11!!!

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After all the extra kids left, Dylan got to open his presents from us. He was a happy kid!

Dylan's Birthday
Dylan's 11th Birthday
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That evening, Dylan chose Taco Bell for his birthday dinner!

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After dinner, he posed for a quick picture with his parents, then headed over to a friend's house to watch a WWE event.  His social life is busier than my own!

Dylan's Birthday

And just like that, our firstborn baby was ELEVEN!!!

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And just like that, *I* got sick.  Nausea, body aches, fever, chills, and a bad headache. Once that passed, it turned into a nasty cold, which caused me to miss Lily's Thanksgiving party at school!  I was so bummed, but I only had enough energy to drive her to and from school that morning. I still have lingering mom guilt over missing it.

Then, Thanksgiving arrived!  We had dinner at my parent's house with my niece and her family, then stopped by Grant's Nannie's house to have dessert with his family. I didn't take very many pictures, because I was still feeling sick, but I am so thankful for my four little turkeys!

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Thanksgiving
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This past weekend was filled with another birthday party, middle of the night grocery shopping, and decorating our tree. Everyone is off tomorrow, too, so the holiday fun will continue. We'll be spending the day baking cookies and surprising a few special people with them (stay tuned), and Dylan has big plans to purchase an iPod Touch with his birthday money!

Dylan's birthday and Thanksgiving came and went so quickly, but we easily transitioned to Christmas!  I love the holiday season!

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How was your Thanksgiving?

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Spreading Comfort and Cheer with Kleenex®

Last night was rough.  I battled a fever, body aches, nausea, and a headache all night.  By the time morning arrived, I had a sore throat and stuffy nose, too. 

If I'm not pregnant or nursing on Thanksgiving, I have a cold. This unwelcome illness arrived JUST in time! I ended up missing Lily's Thanksgiving party at her preschool today.  Instead of volunteering as planned, I could only muster enough energy to drop her off. I felt some major mom guilt, but there wasn't anything I could do.

'Tis the Season!  Cold and flu season, that is. It's very fitting that I just stocked up on Kleenex® at Sam's Club on Friday!

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Kleenex® is a staple in our home.  As a family of 6, we go through it quickly.  I'm very thankful that Sam's Club carries Kleenex® so I can buy it in bulk at a great price! We purchased a Sam's Club membership just so we could get great deals on all the items we regularly buy!

My husband is picky when it comes to tissues, and prefers plain old Kleenex®. He always tells me it's better than any other brand.  I suppose it's a comfort thing. In my experience, it is softer and more durable than other brands!

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We fill our home with Kleenex® comfort. However, kids need a little comfort away from home, too!

It's just as important, especially during the cold and flu season, to spread the Kleenex® comfort and cheer to the places where our children spend a lot of time: their classrooms.  From wiping noses to drying tears, Kleenex® is there to help!

Shortly after my son started preschool, I spent some time in his classroom.  I couldn't believe how many tissues the kids went through in just one short hour! That was a learning experience for me. Since then, I regularly donate boxes of Kleenex® to my kids' classrooms.

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If you have a child who attends school, please consider donating a box of Kleenex® to your child's classroom.  I'm certain the teacher would be very thankful!!!

An added bonus to purchasing Kleenex® brand facial tissue?  All those box tops to give to your child's school!

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Although I prefer to purchase the Kleenex® Facial Tissue Mainline Club Pack at Sam's Club, they also carry:
More information about getting a Sam's Club membership can be found HERE.

As for me, I'll be going through a lot of Kleenex® over the next few days! Hopefully I can kick this cold before Thanksgiving!!!

How do you spread a little comfort and cheer with Kleenex®? #SpreadKleenexCare

Thank you to Kleenex® for sponsoring today's post and reminding me how important it is to spread a little comfort and cheer during the cold and flu season!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Happy 11th Birthday, Dylan!

11 years ago today, this boy came into our lives a month early and made us parents for the first time. 

I can barely remember life without Dylan in it, yet he grew up in the blink of an eye.

Dylan is an amazing kid. He has an incredibly big heart, he loves like no other, he is kind to everyone he meets, and he is a wonderful big brother. He is thoughtful, determined, and hard working. He aims to please and tries to make everyone around him feel loved. We are so proud of him!

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Happy 11th Birthday, Dylan! We love you so much!!!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Downright Blessed: Meet Ella!

In the 2 years since Liam was born, I've had the opportunity to meet some truly incredible people! 
They are people I never would have met if Liam wasn't diagnosed with Down syndrome. My family was lucky enough to personally meet many of these incredible families, but just as many connections were made online. 
The Down syndrome community is simply amazing, and my life is fuller with all these wonderful people in it!

Shortly after Liam was born, a new friend connected me with the Down Syndrome Diagnosis Network.  I was added to a Rockin' Mom Facebook group and met other moms who were new to this journey.  I immediately felt like I belonged!

Amanda is one of the moms I connected with through the DSDN! 
Amanda is a former fifth grade teacher, turned stay at home mom. She and her husband live with their beautiful daughter Gabriella aka Ella, in Maryland. She loves to craft and bake, especially specialty sugar cookies for her friends special occasions. She loves reading blogs, and one day hopes to be able to keep up with writing one. Until then, you can likely find her, on preschool days, wandering the aisles at Wegmans or Target. 
Amanda is here today to share her perspective on raising a child who has Down syndrome! 


Downright Blessed Life With Down Syndrome
Amanda and Ella
When I began writing this blog post, I really had a million thoughts about Down syndrome. There is so much I want you to know, mostly that my child is not all that different than yours. I don't write my own blog, so I've been having some trouble finding my voice. I went back to Stefanie's blog several times to figure out how to describe Down Right Blessed...
I'm blessed. Not only with a child who has Down syndrome, but to be raising her in a world where our education system values early intervention. She has therapists who know and believe that she can learn, and that she sometimes needs a different path than her peers. We are blessed too that we have social media outlets that allow us in the Down syndrome community to connect just by posting a question to other moms and dads who can help us troubleshoot with connections and suggestions.
I must admit, before having a child with Down syndrome, I thought I knew more than your 'average bear' about children with special needs. After all, I have a double major in elementary and special education. I taught in an inclusive classroom. I sat in countless IEP meetings. I saw, brainstormed, and worked through strategies to help students succeed. So when my first child was born with Down syndrome, I thought I had a "leg up". However, I was so entirely wrong.
I knew technical pieces of how to support a child with special needs to aid learning. But there is a whole different world of Down syndrome that I had turned a blind eye to. First there were the health factors. Ella was born with a large VSD, a common heart defect among people with Down syndrome, which meant there was no lower wall between the bottom chambers of the heart. This  led to many trips to the hospital. Not only were we new to the parent world, we were also new to heart failure symptoms. This led to many worried phone calls to doctors, nurses, and trips to the ER. I remember one night when her heart was in such failure, she refused to eat. She was two months old and I felt defeated. Not only did she not breastfeed, she stopped taking a bottle. We spent Memorial Day weekend in the hospital to put her on a Nasal Gastric tube (NG tube) since it took more energy than she could spare to physically eat by herself. She then had open heart surgery at 3 months old and came home on a nasal cannula providing her oxygen, which we were weaned off of officially in April! 
After that, Ella had to, and still has to, work hard to continually overcome her hypotonia (muscle weakness that children with Down syndrome are born with). It caused her to crawl late and walk late and still many everyday activities continue to be harder for her because hypotonia doesn't just affect gross movement. Her mouth, her face, her digestion, her vocal cords, etc. all rely upon muscle tone. 
Another thing you may not know is that everything tends to be smaller in a child with Down syndrome. Her ear canals, sinuses, nasal passages, etc. This leads to more ear infections, sinus infections, and the need to have her tonsils and adenoids removed so she can breath and swallow easier.
These are things I managed to not learn about before having a child with Down syndrome.  So I completely understand why society is so naive about people with disabilities. We tend to not learn about their specifics. We know the 'label', we know it makes a person different, and we likely can identify a disability based on looks. But beyond that, we haven't spent much time educating ourselves beyond the stereotypes. 
This is why I'm still a little sore over Down syndrome awareness month. There is only a small percentage of people who are spreading real awareness. Those people likely have a child with Down syndrome. The rest are spreading what they believe are inspirational stories about people with Down syndrome and others in the disability community. They share photos and videos that make society feel good about inclusion: a woman with Down syndrome gets crowned homecoming queen, a man with Down syndrome works a job, a super cute photo of a child with Down syndrome with the title "like if you think she's beautiful", etc. You see, this is fluff, a feel good piece. Our media allows you to feel good about inclusion. A piece we (parents and members of the disability community) want you to stop sharing, because it segregates our children. Your typically developing child can: work a job, be homecoming queen, take a beautiful picture; but ABC 7 doesn't  do a story about  it on the 6 o'clock news. Certainly my child works hard to overcome indifferences but doesn't yours? Aren't we always struggling with something? Whether it be out in the open or a private, that's what makes us human.

I understand my daughter will be different than yours, but isn't your daughter different than your neighbor's daughter? 

You see we all strive for our children to be valued for their unique differences, but we too, wish for them to be included. 

Which is why I think all mothers (parents), not only the ones who have a child with a disability, can relate to these sentiments, because we as humans are all a lot more alike than different...
I want you to see my child as an equal,
But respect and celebrate her differences.
I want you to expect the same from my child as other children,
But value that expectations look different for each person.

I do NOT want you to baby my child,
But understand that she may last a little longer in baby stages.

I want you to know my child is hard working and has strong perseverance,
But remember to celebrate the little milestones she worked so hard to accomplish.

I want you to know I'm a mom just like you... I worry, I fret, I celebrate, I love, 
But even though my struggles may look different than yours at times, please don't feel sorry for me.

I want you to be aware and ask questions, and know that I'd rather you ask questions than to assume based on stereotypes about Down Syndrome.
So in this holiday season, while we reflect upon our year and resolve to make changes for next year, I encourage you to take some time to become more aware of others in your community. By making yourself more aware of someone else, understand their differences, and celebrate who they are, we can all begin to see that all our children are more alike than different.  




Thank you so much for sharing your story and beautiful Ella with us, Amanda!

You can find Amanda HERE.  
If you're interested in contributing to the Downright Blessed: Life with Down Syndrome series, please send an email to lexieloolilyboodylantoo@yahoo.com

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday, friends!

I'm currently enjoying the calm before the storm. We have so much going on over the following week.  I'm not going to get a break until the Sunday after Thanksgiving!

Here's a glimpse at life lately...

{ONE}

My firstborn is turning 11 on Sunday!  I truly can't believe it.  It feels like he has been with us forever, but on the other hand, 11 years went by so quickly!  We're having two small parties on Saturday, and, of course, celebrating all day Sunday!

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{TWO}

I love Scentsy!  BUT...I discovered these Glade Wax Melts last year, and I fell in love.  My house smells so good right now!

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{THREE}

Shop Small Business Saturday is coming up!  Liam currently reps for Anchored Arrow & Co. and they have the cutest bandana bibs.  Eliza is an incredibly sweet person, and I would love for you to check out her shop!

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{FOUR}

I already bought Lily's Christmas dress!  I was shopping for a gift at TJ Maxx, and it caught my eye.  The cut is simple, but it looks so pretty on her!

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{FIVE}

We recently had the chance to try out Apple & Eve Organics Juice and Quenchers, thanks to Influenster.  I really liked the Tart Cherry flavored juice, and Phase Two loved the Quenchers!  We are always on the go, so I like to keep juice boxes in the car for those just in case moments.  I don't feel guilty about giving these ones to my kids!

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{SIX}

Lily went to a classmate's birthday party yesterday afternoon.  I thought it was really odd to have a party at 1:30 on a Thursday afternoon, but it was actually really nice! 

It was a small party held at a local bakery.  Each girl got an apron with their initial on it, and they each got to decorate a half dozen cupcakes.  When I say decorate, I mean decorate step by step!

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{SEVEN}

When you have 4 kids, anything goes.  If it makes you happy, go ahead and wear your sister's underwear on your head!!!


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I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! 

What's on your agenda this weekend?

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Linking up for Friday Favorites  //  Oh Hey Friday  //  High Five For FRIDAY

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thanksgiving {Watch / Read / Create / Play}

Thanksgiving.  The much overlooked holiday.

I, for one, LOVE Thanksgiving!  Yes, the food is delicious, but there's so much more to it.  I love the meaning behind it and our family spends a lot of time focusing on what we're thankful for.  While many people jump from Halloween and go straight into Christmas, we celebrate Thanksgiving from November 1st until Thanksgiving Day!

The following day, I'm all for Christmas, but we're trying our best to teach our kids that Thanksgiving is just as important. Being thankful and spending time with family and friends are simple things that mean so much!

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{WATCH}


There is a serious lack of Thanksgiving movies! That being said, there are four that are worth watching!

The Top 4 Thanksgiving Movies
  • Garfield Thanksgiving (Garfield Holiday Celebrations)
  • A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (and the bonus feature The Mayflower Voyagers)
  • Free Birds
  • Planes, Trains and Automobiles

These were on our weekly Family Movie Night Schedule for this month!  The first three are great family choices.  We watch Garfield and Charlie Brown every year, but this was our first year watching Free Birds.  It was really funny and enjoyable for the entire family!  Planes, Trains and Automobiles is great to watch with your spouse/significant other!


{READ}


Our family reads every single day!  I think it's so important to expose my kids to a wide variety of books.  We have a vast collection at home, and we go to the library every week.

In the month of November, we focus on Thanksgiving-themed books!

For toddlers/preschoolers:

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For the girls:

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For boys AND girls:

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Liam and Lily's personal favorite is Five Flying Turkeys! We read it over and over and over again! Which leads me to this...


{CREATE} 


Occasionally, after we read a book, we like to follow it up with an activity!  After reading Five Flying Turkeys, I had Lily paint a picture of the 5 flying turkeys from the book crashing down on Plymouth Rock! 

Lily loves to paint, and I love handprint art, so this was a great choice.  It's just a neat spin on classic handprint turkeys! Lily just created a scene from the book using paint and googly eyes!

Thanksgiving Read & Create Handprint Turkeys

It was a warm and sunny November day, so Lily painted outside.  Lily LOVED this one!

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Five Flying Turkeys Read & Create
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{PLAY}


All four of my kids love play dough! Well, let me be honest.  Liam likes to EAT play dough, but I'm sure he will love it someday! I love fine motor and sensory play, so I'm a big fan of play dough, too.  It may be messy, but it keeps my kids busy for hours!

I always try to add in holiday/seasonal play dough activities to keep them interested.  This month, we created play dough turkeys!

Play Dough Turkeys Thanksgiving Sensory and Fine Motor Play

Items Needed:
  • Play dough
  • Googly Eyes
  • Pom Poms
  • Feathers
  • Pipe Cleaners 

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Any miscellaneous arts and crafts item will do.  The point is to have fun creating as many different turkeys as you possibly can!

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Every holiday is special and should be celebrated to the fullest!  We're having fun AND counting our blessings!!!


How do you celebrate Thanksgiving? 



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