Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 In Review

2015 was quite a year!  It had a few scary moments and a sad loss for our family, but mostly, it was a good year!

Here are a few highlights...


We ended 2014 and began 2015 with our framily (which we will be doing again this year), Liam scared us with his first big illness which resulted in an ambulance ride, and we somehow managed to survive the long, bitterly cold month (AKA my least favorite month of the year).



The girls and I headed into the city to see The Little Mermaid with our best friends, we celebrated Valentine's Day and attended quite a few birthday parties, we very sadly had to say goodbye to Bailey, our beloved Great Dane (and now I'm crying) and we celebrated Lexie's 8th Birthday.



 Liam turned 18 months old, we celebrated St. Patrick's Day, and we celebrated World Down Syndrome Day.



I celebrated my birthday, we participated in many Easter activities, we celebrated Easter, and Dylan fell out of a tree and we headed BACK to the ER.

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We kicked off the month with a very serious health scare with Liam which landed him in the hospital for a few days (Ever hear of Cellulitis? It's completely random and scary!), we celebrated Mother's Day, and we had a great Memorial Day weekend!



Dylan and Lexie had their last day of 4th and 2nd grade, summer officially began, we went to our 2nd Dream Night at the Pittsburgh Zoo for Liam, my niece, Aubrey, started her summers with us again, we celebrated Father's Day, and the kids won tickets to a Pirates game!



We had a wonderful 4th of July, spent our days swimming, Liam really took off with walking independently, and we celebrated Grant's birthday!



Lily turned 4,  we went to my annual family reunion, we had a party for Lily and Liam, Liam turned 2, and we ended the month with our family vacation to Virginia Beach (which I'm still desperately trying to recap)!

Vacation at Virginia Beach 


Dylan and Lexie started 3rd and 5th grade, Lily started preschool (her very first year), I kicked off teh Downright Blessed: Life with Down Syndrome series on my blog (and can't wait to share more stories in the new year), and I had a very exciting blog opportunity with Chick-fil-A!



We attended Family Night at the Zoo with Chick-fil-A,  we dashed for Down syndrome, we had quite an adventure at the pumpkin patch, and we celebrated Halloween!



We had Dylan's birthday party, Dylan turned 11 (HOW?!?), we celebrated Thanksgiving, and we put up our tree



We spent the month participating in so many fun Christmas activities and we had an amazing Christmas (recap coming after the New Year)!


With the exception of one sad goodbye and a few medical emergencies, 2015 was very kind to us! I hope 2016 is even better.  Here's to a year full of good health, laughter, and happiness!

How was your 2015?


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas Prep

Here we are, at the end of 2015!  Can you believe it?  I swear, each year goes by faster than the one before!

I took a step away from blogging for a bit so I could enjoy Christmas Break with my kids.  We're spending a lot of time together as a family.  I'll get back into my regular blogging routine after the new year, but I figured I would sneak off in the wee hours of the morning and share a quick update!

We had a wonderful Christmas, but we had JUST as much fun during the few days leading up to the big day!

On Monday, Lily had her preschool Christmas party.  I was photographing the party, so I was able to watch her have fun, too!

That evening, we headed into my hometown to see Santa in his tiny white house. It's the place I went to as a child, and we've been taking our kids there since Dylan was just 3 weeks old!


Dylan was in on a few secrets this year, but he still participated!


Lexie and Lily were eager to visit Santa and Liam dove into his lap and started clapping!


We had a long wait, and it was a very quick, but successful visit!


After we visited Santa, we continued our normal tradition. We drove a few blocks over to check out a neat Christmas Light Display.  Liam LOVED the displays this year!

Christmas Light Boxes
Christmas Light Boxes 2
Christmas Light Boxes 3

We ended our yearly tradition by picking up food from Pizza Hut and heading home for Christmas Family Movie Night!


The following day was Dylan and Lexie's last day of school before break. They both had their Christmas parties!

Dylan and Lexie Christmas Party

Meanwhile, Phase Two and I enjoyed the unseasonably warm Pittsburgh weather!

Lily and Liam December Days

Wednesday was the day my kids love to call Christmas Eve EVE.  We celebrated by going to see a local light show.  It was a 2 1/2 mile drive through light displays synchronized to music. Lexie and Grant had other things to do, so we went with my dad.  It was the perfect way to build up our Christmas spirit!

Shadruck's Lights
Shadruck's Christmas Lights

After the light show, we grabbed some hot chocolate before heading home!


By the end of the evening, we were all excited for Christmas! 

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I would like one of these in my front yard! ❤

I hope you all enjoy the last few days of 2015!!!


Monday, December 21, 2015

Downright Blessed: Life with Down Sydnrome ~ Sutherlynn Joy

Happy Monday, friends!  It's the 21st, which means it's time to share another story for the monthly Downright Blessed: Life with Down Syndrome series!

I smile the entire time I format these guest posts.  The love, the joy, and the beauty is so evident in all the words and pictures!

When you are faced with a life-changing diagnosis, it's crucial to find a support system.  Although I'm lucky enough to live in an area that has an active Down syndrome group, I also rely on my internet friends! I interact with them daily, and my Facebook and Instagram feed is filled with the most beautiful faces! I say it often, but the Down syndrome community is amazing!

Autumn is one of the people I connected with through Instagram.  (You can find her Instagram feed HERE.) Autumn is here today to share her story and introduce you to her gorgeous daughter, Sutherlynn Joy!


My name is Autumn. I am a SAHM to 3 wonderful children (a boy and 2 younger girls) and wife to my husband, Greg. My hubby is a police officer who works his bum off so I am able to be home.  I wouldn’t  have it any other way for now.   I am so honored and grateful that you are allowing me to share “Our Story”.  I have become very active on IG in trying to connect with other families like ours with a child with that “special extra chromosome".  It has been a huge outlet for me too reach out, learn, and connect.  So, again I’m honored that I am able to share our story of our Daughter, Sutherlynn Joy.


My husband and I decided we wanted to add to our family of four in the summer of 2013, and it didn’t take us long to get our third (+) pregnancy test!!  We were truly thrilled.  At the time our oldest was 7 and our middle was 2.  I had some complications (on my end) with both of my previous pregnancies, therefore, I was considered “high risk” and watched very closely.  All ultrasounds, exams, etc came back normal and healthy throughout my pregnancy.   When we were offered to find out the gender at 21 weeks, we accepted.  We had the tech put our baby gender in an envelope and came home to our close family & friends waiting for us for the “big reveal”.   It’s a GIRL!! <3 blessed="" e="" nbsp="" p="" were="">


My pregnancy continued to go very routine.  Any ultrasound, exam, etc showed a healthy baby girl. Nothing to cause suspicion about or any concern. Finally, at 34 weeks gestation my BP was too elevated and I needed to be induced.  So off we went.  After 3 days of induction I gave birth to our baby girl Sutherlynn Joy Baker, 7 lbs, 19 inches!! It was the third best moment of our lives.


It turned scary fast. Sutherlynn was placed on my chest after having her naturally.  She whimpered one small cry and began to turn blue.  I knew something was wrong. My instincts felt off and I didn’t know what was wrong; I just knew this wasn’t feeling “right”.  She was rushed too the NICU where the team of doctors and nurses got her to begin breathing on her own.  She was in the NICU on oxygen for a few days and then was able to breathe on her own.  We were there everyday, every second we could be.  She had a dome over her little head for the first few days so I was unable to hold her.  She also had an eye mask on as she had jaundice.  That being said, we were not able to really interact and bond yet. I couldn’t even tell who she looked like.  All I knew was she was perfect and being cared for, and that my time with her would come once she was stable.


It was a Tuesday morning that we got to the NICU and the Doc came in, shut our curtain, and sat down.  Sutherlynn had now been under care for about 4 days.  My heart sank. I had no idea what was wrong, but I knew this was different.  “Have you heard of Trisomy 21? Your daughter has characteristics that lead us to believe she may have Down Syndrome." The room went blank. I can’t tell you what I said as I don’t think I said anything.  My mind went blank and my body numb.  "He couldn’t be talking to me. I’m the mom; moms know everything about their babies.  I’ve been in here for days with her. I haven’t sensed or noticed anything different. She’s perfect.  My daughter was in here for jaundice and coming home soon just as we pictured it.  This was a dream, a nightmare. It's not happening.”


My mind went back to every ultra sound, every heartbeat we heard, every kick and movement I felt.  My eyes welled up with tears and I broke down.  I cried like a baby. I was truly in shock.  My husband held me, and we sobbed.  The doctor gave us some time and came back after a bit.  I took a deep breath and began asking questions.  I wanted to know how this had not been detected on an ultrasound. I assumed any chromosomal abnormality would be picked up.  This was my third baby. I’m a natural, but this somehow got by me.  Mind you, these are all of my PURE, RAW, and HONEST emotions THAT specific day.  “THAT" day that has changed our world for the better, and greater of God.  BUT, I didn’t know that then.  I couldn’t see past tomorrow on ‘THAT” day.  We went home that night to be with our other children. They ran too me with no idea that I was lost and scared.  I sobbed hugging them. I couldn’t stop myself.  I had all of these thoughts “How will they change from this?"  “How will I change from this?"  “Will things ever be the same?"  “Can I do this?"  “Can we do this?"……


 I NOT ONCE doubted my love I had for my daughter that I felt the moment I laid eyes on her.  BUT, it was all so new, raw, and uncharted.  I was so caught off guard. I was shocked.  I had to change my focus.  She needed me, she needed us, and we were going to embrace this with all we had.  We have to; this is our gift from God.  It didn’t matter that I was not prepared or educated. I still had time to become educated and dive into whatever she may need.   We will grow and learn with her and for her.


Sutherlynn has opened my eyes and heart in a bigger way.  She has changed our family, changed my outlook, and made me become more driven in a way I have never felt.  I want to show her to the world, and show how awesome she is.  I want the world to know that she is not Down Syndrome. Down syndrome is just a tiny spec of who she is.  She’s silly, she’s beautiful, she’s my angel.  She lights up the room when she smiles, and takes me to a special place when I hold her.  She generates a light within my soul that I have never felt.  She’s changed me. I have vowed to be her advocate for the rest of her life.  I will fight for her rights and chances at being whatever she may want to be.


Love is so powerful. It is the most powerful feeling in this world.  If it's true and genuine it can and will conquer all.  She has taught us this.  I hope anyone reading this knows that different is beautiful. The world needs variety, and acceptance of that variety.  We need to educate and advocate for all families and children with any type of disability.  God would want us to spread the love for all of them.  It can be beautiful, and create a dynamic that enhances the joy that should be shared in our world.  Life is for the living, and I plan to do just that with a little extra because we have been blessed. We truly adore our beautiful girl, who just happens to have Down Syndrome.


Sutherlynn Joy is now 16 months old.  She loves playing with her older “bubby” and “sissy”.  She follows them around the house doing her little belly crawl just wanting to be with them. She truly loves being among us and being put in the middle of whatever is going on.  She is a snuggler and loves too eat, play, and laugh.  Her heart is healthy and her body is strong.  She is truly “More alike than different."  Thank you God for giving us this precious spirit.   Please feel free too share and spread awareness!  Thank you all for taking the time to read “Our Story.”  I pray that you all got just a little something “extra” from me sharing our story with you. God Bless <3 br=""> 


Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful story, Autumn! I'm thankful we connected on Instagram.  Sutherlynn is absolutely perfect and gorgeous, and that smile could melt anyone's heart!

Head on over to Autumn's Instagram feed and show her some love!

If you would like to contribute to the Downright Blessed: Life with Down Syndrome series, please send an email to

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Christmas Spirit

I have a confession.  I'm a total Grinch this year.  I'm just not enjoying the holiday season as much as I typically do.

I'm not sure if it's the constant busyness, the unseasonably warm weather, or the fact that I've been sick since before Thanksgiving. It's hard to rest and get better when you literally can't stop! There are just so many activities and obligations for my 4 kids right now! I feel like I'm just going through the motions for my favorite holiday.

I'm trying desperately to get out of my funk.  Thankfully, my cough finally seems to be improving, and we've had a few events over the past week that helped give me a glimpse of that Christmas Spirit that has been missing all month!

First up was the warmest Christmas Parade we've ever experienced! We go to our town parade/light up night every single year.  It's ridiculously short, but the kids love it, and they get to visit with Santa after the parade.


The parade was on Saturday and it was in the high sixties. That's so unusual for Pittsburgh this time of year.  We were stripping off layers of clothing as we waited for the parade to begin!

Grant's mom and Nannie met us for the parade, and our some of our friends joined us, too.  It just so happened to be Nannie's 91st Birthday!  She's the coolest 91 year old around.  She's still sharp as a tack, perfectly put together, and she races around town in her orange Camaro adorned with her initials!


The kids grabbed some drinks, cupcakes, and hot cocoa, then Dylan wandered off with some friends from school.  The girls and Liam are still happy to stay with their family and friends! They had plenty of fun while we waited for the parade to start!

Christmas Parade
Liam and MaNa at Christmas Parade

It seemed like it took a long time, but we finally heard the parade heading our way! Everyone rejoined our group and the kids got ready to catch some candy!

I must have bumped my camera just before the parade began, and the dial shifted out of manual.  I didn't even realize it until I got home, but all my pictures after that were "off."  I was bummed, but they still turned out cute!


Liam was a HUGE fan of the parade! He clapped his way through it!

Liam at the Christmas Parade

The parade only lasted about 5 minutes, but the kids enjoyed it!  The highlight, of course, was Santa arriving at the very end of the parade!

Christmas Parade and Light Up Night

We watched Santa light up the town, then got in line to visit with Santa.  Even though we were near the front of the line, people filtered in on all sides, and we ended up waiting a long time! It was worth it, though!


Liam had no fear of Santa.  By the end of their visit, he was grinning and clapping along with Santa's elves! Santa told us he was a big fan of Liam!

We said our goodbyes to Santa, and Liam took off down empty Main Street. We took that as our cue to pack up our things and head to our next destination!


That evening, we had a Christmas party with our friends, and I didn't even take a single picture.  Oops!

Lily had her snack day at Pre-K on Wednesday.  I let her pick something festive, and she ended up choosing a very time-consuming treat.  I did it, though, because after Pre-K, snack days are over!  The only free time I had was at 12:30 AM on Wednesday. One hour and 20 snowmen later, I headed to bed!

Middle of the night preschool snack assembly.  Nothing better to do at 1 AM, right?!? Out of everything Lily could choose, she chose this one. Of course. But, hey, I'm a doughnut snowman-making pro now! 20 snowmen later, I'm ready for bed! #thethingswedof

After I picked Lily up from school on Wednesday, we headed to the park.  It was 60 degrees, so we had to take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather while we had the chance!

Adventures of Lily and Liam
Park in December
Pittsbugh in December

That evening, our entire family attended Dylan's 5th grade band/chorus winter concert!


Fifth Grade is the first year the students can join band, and I'm really glad Dylan opted to join.  I think sports AND music is very important! Dylan chose the trumpet, but wants to switch to strings next year.  Dylan was in the choir club last year, which was optional, but in 5th Grade, choir is mandatory.

My parents and Grant's mom and Nannie came to the concert, too. Dylan was very happy they came to see him.

Although I didn't get many pictures, the concert was great!  The band played 6 songs and each song was just 30 seconds long. They were surprisingly good considering they have only been playing together for one month and only 3 days with their new band teacher (their regular teacher is on maternity leave)!

I honestly couldn't even spot Dylan in band, but I did capture a few videos.  I can't wait to see how they sound in the Spring after several more months of learning!

The chorus did a great job, too!  (Dylan is in the front row, far right.)


Lily and Liam were really well behaved through the entire concert, so I was actually able to relax and enjoy it!  I'm thankful for that!

I'm proud of myself.  I only cried two or three times. (Maybe more, but who's judging?) I just can't believe I have an 11 year old.  He grew up in the blink of an eye, and he didn't even need my help getting ready.  He chose his outfit, put on his crooked tie, gelled his hair, and put on cologne.  I can't handle this!


We had a great evening cheering on our sweet boy!   We're so proud of him!!! (And our end of the concert family photo is about as real as it gets. Two sleepy kids and two sleepy parents!)


It was a fun week!  We have a LOT of shopping and Christmas activities ahead of us over the next week.  I'm not quite sure how we're going to fit it all in before Christmas, but we'll do our best! 

How are you celebrating the holiday season?