Tuesday, May 23, 2017

13 Lessons Every Parent Should Learn From Watching 13 Reasons Why

13 Lessons Every Parent Should Learn From Watching 13 Reasons Why



DISCLOSURE: This post is sponsored by Netflix. I am a member of the #StreamTeam and receive service and promotional products in exchange for monthly posts. All opinions are 100% my own. 

Have you ever watched a show or a movie that was so intense that it made you feel painfully uncomfortable, but you just couldn't stop watching? For me, that show was 13 Reasons Why. And despite the controversy, I think it's extremely important for parents who have kids of all ages to watch this show. Please let me explain...


Perhaps you read the book. Perhaps you watched the show. Or perhaps you read all the controversy surrounding this Netflix show, and you decided to skip it altogether. But I am urging you to watch. And if you have a child over the age of 15, watch it WITH them. 

13 Reasons Why is about a teenager named Hannah Baker, who took her own life. Before doing so, she recorded tapes giving the 13 reasons why she committed suicide, and they made their way to each person who pushed her over the edge.



13 Reasons Why on Netflix #StreamTeam

A big thing people have against the show is Hannah's lack of personal responsibility in taking her own life, but I don't think that is the show's intention. The show's intention is to show that every action, whether it be positive or negative, has an impact on another person's life.


Today, my oldest son, Dylan, celebrated his half birthday. When this post goes live he will be closer to his teenage years than he is to age 12. I did not watch this show with him, because it is not intended for a child his age. After watching the show, I am 100% terrified about the teenage years ahead of us, and 100% certain that I will be watching this with him in a few years, no matter how uncomfortable it may be for either one of us.



Parenthood


13 Reasons Why is the topic of so much discussion because experts feel that it glamorizes suicide. But this is a TV production. ANYTHING on TV is glamorized or exaggerated in some way. Parents have to take responsibility for what their children are watching, and this show is not intended for a younger audience in any way, shape or form. 

I'm not taking a firm stance on either side. I will say, without going into detail, that I know people who took their own lives and it's incredibly painful for the families. I have trouble understanding the reasons why a person would do such a selfish thing, but that's because I'm not depressed and I can't put myself in their shoes. But I can't say with absolute certainty that one of my own children wouldn't do it. NO parent can say that.


There are definitely points I agree with made by experts, but overall this show is a must watch if you have kids. Thanks to the immense talent of the cast, this show forces you to take notice of issues that are a very real part of teenage lives these days, and at times, it's often painful to watch. But that pain is necessary. That's the point. You're supposed to FEEL. You're supposed to think. And you're supposed to learn something from watching it.


13 Lessons Every Parent Should Learn From Watching 

13 Reasons Why



1 - Every teenager has a secret.

Think about it. When you were a teenager, you kept secrets. I was a responsible teenager at the top of my class, and *I* had secrets.

In 13 Reasons Why, every teenager had a secret, from the good kids to the troublemakers. Some secrets were small, while others were life altering.

I guarantee that if you have a teenager, they are keeping a secret from you. That's completely normal, but it's up to parents to encourage their children to confide in them before it's too late. Building that trust, and listening with a non-judgmental ear, is so important! It's definitely something that needs to start when they are very young!

2 - No child or parent is exempt.

Everybody seems to think "It will never happen to me." But it can and it does. Nobody is exempt. The "exceptional" teens are every bit at risk as the troubled teens.

Anything can happen to anybody. And just to put a personal spin on it that's completely unrelated to the show, but gets the point across, I didn't think I could ever have a child with Down syndrome. My risk was so low. But I could and I did. I became a statistic.

3 - Parents need to listen - REALLY listen - to their children.

Think about all the times you half listen to your child. I'm definitely guilty of it! But in order to earn their trust and make them realize just how important they are, we need to listen to our kids. We need to encourage conversation and focus on them - and only them - when they talk.

In 13 Reasons Why, there was a scene that really hit me hard. Hannah was trying to talk to her parents about going to a party. She didn't really want to go and was hoping they would talk her out of it. But instead of listening to her, they continued with their conversation over top of her words and her mom ended the scene by snapping, "Go or don't go..." Hannah ended up going to the party and it only contributed to the path of destruction.

I've been there. I've done that to my own kids. But watching that scene as an outsider made me realize that now, more than ever, I need to really listen to my kids when they are trying to tell me something. Because even if it doesn't seem important to me, it is to them.

4 - Teenagers have to deal with some incredibly serious issues these days that we never had to deal with.

It's definitely true! The issues that today's teenager's have to face are much more serious than many of the issues we faced as teenagers. Their world revolves around an online presence that we simply didn't have back then and cyber-bullying happens constantly. There is no filter online, and kids can be incredibly mean. Now we have to protect our kids from real world dangers AND online dangers.

Drug use, rape and bullying were always serious issues, but in addition to the online aspect of parenting, we also fear violence at school (school shootings). And if the last few scenes of 13 Reasons Why were any indication, that's exactly what's going to happen in the second season.

5 - Even if you think you are doing enough as a parent, you are NOT doing enough.

Please, parents, don't get comfortable with the thought that you are doing enough. Don't consider yourself a superior parent to others. Because when you hit that level of comfort, it means that you should probably up your game.

Raising kids is the ultimate challenge. You make mistakes and you learn lessons as you go. And you could always do MORE.

6 - So many parents are in denial.

I can't even tell you how many times I've heard, "My kid would NEVER do that."  Guess what? I adore my kids and think they are really great human beings, and my husband and I are very involved in their lives, but I don't doubt that they could do something that falls short of our standards. They are human beings, and they have their own minds.

Although we can hope we're setting a great example for our children, that doesn't always work out with every child. Unfortunately, too many parents fail to accept that fact. We need to continuously model good behavior, hold them responsible for their actions, teach them that some actions have consequences, and punish - and forgive them - when they fail.

7 - Don't always believe what you hear.

Rumors are incredibly destructive. It's important to teach our kids not to believe everything they hear and not to spread lies about another human being.  Trust, unless you are given proof.

We, as parents, need to do the same thing. Sadly, we often fail. It's hard for kids to realize that it's not okay to spread rumors, especially when they hear their parents gossiping about others.

8 - Beware the group mentality and herd thinking.

This is a huge problem for teenagers today. Peer pressure is tough to battle against and kids just want to be accepted, so they follow the herd. In turn, they stop thinking for themselves, and go along with what the group thinks.

In 13 Reasons Why, this was a very serious issue for the kids who were on those tapes. They came together as a group, and the group mentality caused a lot of tension. Not only that, but some of the kids were discouraged from doing what was right, and went along with it.

It's hard to find a balance, but it's important for teenagers to fit in, yet still think for themselves.

9 - Bullying can be seriously detrimental to children.

One of the most serious issues for kids of all ages is bullying. From the playground to the cafeteria to social media, it truly is everywhere. I've thought about it time and time again, but I'm not sure what the solution is.

Parents and other adults really need to step it up to encourage change. Parents need to teach their kids that it's not okay to bully, be aware of their child's actions, and punish if they are, indeed, caught bullying. And yet again, no kid is perfect, and parents who are in denial are a huge part of this problem.

10 - Every single action defines your future.

This is, perhaps, the main idea of the entire show. It shows the actions of each person who pushed Hannah over the edge. Each time, if one thing was done just a bit differently, it would have had a much different result.

Kids need to realize that EVERY SINGLE ACTION needs to be thought out. Every single thing they do can have a positive or a negative effect on every person around them. Our actions can have a huge impact on another human being's life, so as responsible human beings, we MUST think before we act.

11 - Parents need to be 100% involved in their child's life and be aware.

This one is so important. It's hard to find that balance between giving our children independence and being involved in their lives. Too much independence is a bad thing, as is being in their face at all times. But parents must be involved from infancy to childhood to the the teenage years and beyond.

As parents, we can't afford to be selfish. When you make the decision to become a parent, you have to sacrifice yourself a bit from the time your child is born until the time they become an adult. Raising good human beings means you have to know who your child really is. You have to be involved in their lives, listen to them, and show how much you love them each and every day.

12 - Sometimes scenes need to be painfully graphic to get the point across.

Two scenes in the movie got a lot of attention. I heard so many people complain about how the scenes didn't have to be so graphic, but I disagree. And this is coming from a person who can't handle watching any bloody or violent scene.

I won't ruin the show by talking about one of the scenes, but since everybody knows the show is about a girl who takes her own life, I will mention that scene in particular.

I have NEVER watched an onscreen suicide that was more real and painful as the one in 13 Reasons Why. It was so painful to watch and so graphic, that the tears spilled down my cheeks and it took my breath away. That was the entire point of that scene. The graphic nature FORCED viewers to feel the same sense of loneliness and desperation that Hannah felt as they watched her take her own life. And for those few incredibly painful, emotional minutes, you felt as if you were right there with her and knew you couldn't do anything to change the outcome.

Suicide is a very real thing and it can happen to anyone...even the people we least expect. 13 Reasons Why brought attention to an issue that so many people are afraid to talk about. Even if it is controversial for being too graphic, it got the point across, it made people think and it encouraged discussion. That's a powerful thing.

13 - Just be KIND to everyone.

That's all. It's such a simple concept. Just be nice to everyone you meet. Imagine what the world would be like if everyone followed through with this simple action. Be nice, accept others for who they are, stop judging and love fiercely. Kindness truly is contagious and teaching kids to be kind begins in the home. As a parent, it's your responsibility to teach kindness.

13 Lessons Every Parent Should Learn From Watching 13 Reasons Why - Netflix #StreamTeam



Read It: Thirteen Reasons Why

Watch It: 13 Reasons Why on Netflix

Weigh In:  Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Did you read the book? Did you watch 13 Reasons Why? Did you watch the show with your teenagers? I value everybody's opinion, even if it doesn't match my own, and I want to hear your thoughts.



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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Weekend Life is the Best Life {Even If It's Busy}

Happy Monday, friends! Why is it that the countdown to the weekend takes forever, then the weekend flies by ridiculously fast? I wish weekends would last longer. Who's with me?!?


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We are officially in our extra busy season, thanks to the end of the school year. Add in dance recital madness (all of you dance moms know exactly what I'm talking about), wedding festivities for a close family member and end of the year events for 4 kids, and I feel like I'm barely staying afloat. I thought an end was in sight, but a few weeks ago, I sat down with my planner and realized we don't have a single free weekend until sometime in September. Say WHAT?!?

BUT...it's the last Monday of the school year. Liam's last day of preschool is on Thursday. (Although, if you aren't familiar for preschools for kids with IEPs, they still go over the Summer. It's just 3 days each month in June, July and August.) The rest of my crew is done on June 2nd. It's SO close and we are really excited about Summer Break!


So even if they are busy, I live for the weekend. I get a little (and much needed) break from the madness and I usually get some sleep! This weekend was a really busy one, but it was all good things!


On Friday, the kids and I visited my parents and had our usual Friday night dinner with them. It was a beautiful day, so we spent a lot of time on the deck. When I arrived home, a few friends were there, so I ended up playing cards with them for while before I collapsed into bed and slept for 7 glorious, uninterrupted hours! (Surprisingly, I didn't take a single picture!)

Saturday was my overly busy day. As soon as I woke up, I started running. I drove Dylan to his friend's house then I volunteered for several hours at Bloom, which was a Pittsburgh Moms Blog event. It was a fun afternoon with some good PMB friends!

I drove home, completely forgetting the fact that I had to pick up Dylan, so I relieved my husband of his toddler tornado duties, and took Liam with me to pick up his brother.  Finally, we made it home around 6:30. Instead of rushing into making dinner, we all went outside to enjoy the beautiful weather and unwind!

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Nothing Down About It

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Unwind isn't really a fair term. Getting some exercise while running after Liam is a more accurate description of our time outside!

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Dylan's friend came over, and they convinced me to take them to a local basketball court. At first I said no, because I still had to cook dinner and go grocery shopping, and it was already 8 pm, but I felt bad for saying no to a kid who just wants to practice and stay active. So I loaded all the kids into the family mobile, and we headed to the court!

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We stayed until it was nearly dark, and when it was time to leave, Liam decided he wanted to strap himself into his sister's car seat. This little, still under 30 pounds, dude still rear faces and he finds the concept of facing forward pretty exciting!

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We went home and finally ate dinner! What can I say? Everybody in our house is completely ready for Summer!

Now here's where things get real! A few months ago, I discovered the joy of shopping at our local grocery store late at night on a Saturday. It doesn't work out often, due to other plans, but when I'm home by that time, I jump at the chance! 


I usually take Dylan or Lexie with me to help, since they are older and can handle staying up later on the weekend. This time, I had a few helpers. The kids took really long naps while Grant was home with them all day while I volunteered, so my crew was WIDE awake! When they heard I was leaving (again) Lily and Liam got upset, so off we went to the grocery store at 10:15 PM!

It is completely worth it! We were in and out of there well before 11 pm. Any other time, it takes me over an hour. But at that time on a Saturday night, nobody is grocery shopping, the shelves are fully stocked, and there is no wait in the checkout line. Plus, the overnight employees are really friendly and talkative!

As I expected, Lily didn't last 5 minutes in the store, but Lexie and Liam were ready to party! (And yes, we have two full carts. That's what it's like to shop for a family of 6 each week! I should mention the 20 boxes of fruit and applesauce pouches that I bought because the store was discontinuing them, and they were really cheap!)

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So there you have it. My best kept mom life secret! And the fact that I'm a real mom who goes with the flow and takes her children grocery shopping at 10:15 PM. (Just for the record, my kids still sleep. No matter what time they go to bed, they always sleep for 8-12 hours!) When you have a chaotic schedule, you have to do what you have to do!

My husband's work friends were at our house that evening, so after the kids were tucked into bed and the groceries were put away, I joined them for a few games of darts before heading to bed to watch some Netflix and fall into a deep sleep!

Which leads me to Sunday...my kids DID sleep, which meant that I got to sleep in! I had big plans to write all my blog posts for the week (HA!) and take senior pictures, but instead I finished reading THIS book (definitely a must read), and had to reschedule senior pictures for next weekend, due to the rain.

Although I didn't accomplish my blogging goal, I did manage to get a bunch of Summer clothes put away in my kids' closets, then spend quality time with my husband and kids! It was a more relaxing end to a busy, but fun weekend!


What did you do this weekend?

*Linking up for Hello Monday and  Weekending.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Rubber Ducks Sensory Bins & Sensory Play {A Year Of Color - Yellow}

My kids love sensory play! I introduced each of them to the concept when they were babies and it quickly became something they did every day. I'm a firm believer in letting kids explore and get messy!


Sensory Play

It's amazing how even the simplest items can seem so much more exciting when they are thrown into a sensory bin! I rotate our bins weekly and most of them never even make it onto the blog, but I'm going to try to share them more often. They are a lot of fun, and they inspire kids to think, create and explore while building their fine motor skills!


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!


When I saw this month's theme for the A Year Of Color link party, I immediately knew what I was going to share: Our Rubber Ducks Sensory Bins and Rubber Ducks Play Dough Kit! It was the perfect choice for:


Rubber Ducks Sensory Bins & Sensory Play


Rubber Ducks Sensory Bins


This classic bath toy is the focus of these sensory bins, but I add lots of different fillers to keep things interesting! Here are Liam, Lexie and Lily's three favorites:

RUBBER DUCKS POND SENSORY BIN:

Creating a Rubber Duck Pond using inexpensive items is so much fun!

Rubber Duck Pond Sensory Bin

For this sensory bin, you will need:

  • 6-12 rubber ducks
  • Fake flowers (bunches of 6 are $1 at Walmart)
  • Small aquarium plants
  • Blue gems
  • Natural rocks
  • Pieces of wood (we used mulch)
  • Foam lilypads cut out of sheets of green craft foam (we pay 33 cents/sheet)
Duck Pond Sensory Bin

Note: I highly recommend swimsuits for this activity, especially if the sensory bin that is being used is a baby pool!


Sensory Bins

Rubber Ducks Pond Sensory Bin

RUBBER DUCKS & SHAVING CREAM SENSORY BIN:


What is it about shaving cream that makes any activity seem so much more fun?!? All you need for this simple sensory bin is rubber ducks and 2-3 cans of inexpensive shaving cream (a must have sensory bin filler)!

Shaving Cream Sensory Bin

Let the kids squirt the shaving cream into the sensory bin, then toss in the ducks and back away before they dig in! (Trust me!!!)

Sensory Bins

Sensory Play

Shaving Cream and Rubber Ducks Sensory Bin

Shaving Cream Sensory Bin

Sensory Bins

FYI: Bathtime after this activity is almost always a necessity! Or, if it's warm enough, just have them run through the sprinkler!

Sensory Play

RUBBER DUCKS & COTTON BALL BUBBLES SENSORY BIN:


Adding this simple, everyday item to a sensory bin can turn into hours of fun!

Rubber Ducks

All you need is 2-4 bags of cotton balls for your sensory bin, depending on its size, and 6-12 rubber ducks. Grab some tongs, bowls, cups and spoons to transfer, scoop and pour!

Sensory Bins

Rubber Ducks and Cotton Ball Bubbles Sensory Bin

Sensory Play

We have also used these fun fillers for our rubber ducks sensory bins:


  • blue aqua beads
  • mini marshmallows
  • rice dyed blue
  • blue Easter grass
  • bubble bath mixed into warm water


Try switching up the sensory play area, too! Here are a few things my kids loved:


  • "Rubber Duck Pond" in a baby pool
  • Rubber Duck races in rain gutter "rivers" (very inexpensive at hardware stores)
  • Rubber Duck Sensory Play in the water table (same as in the bin)
  • Rubber Duck Sensory Bath using bubble bath and foam flower and grass wall decals (in addition to the Duck Pond Sensory Bin items)

Rubber Ducks Play Dough Kit


This play dough kit is a huge hit with my girls! They love play dough, so when I give them a Play Dough Kit, they will play for hours. Just like the sensory bins, I usually keep each play dough kit out for a week, then switch it for something else.

Play Dough Activities

For this Play Dough Kit you will need:


  • Sectioned plate or tray
  • Blue play dough
  • Fake flowers (bunches of 6 are $1 at Walmart)
  • Small aquarium plants
  • Blue gems
  • Natural rocks
  • Pieces of wood (we used mulch)
  • Small rubber ducks


Encourage your kids to use their imagination to create play dough duck ponds or decorate the ducks with play dough!

Rubber Ducks Play Dough Kit

Rubber Ducks Play Dough Kit - Perfect for Sensory Play and Building Fine Motor Skills!


Sensory Play is a hit with kids of all ages! When the kids are done playing, store each filler and sensory bin item in separate ziploc bags and place them inside the sensory bin for easy storage until next time. Let them be little, let them play and let them get messy!


Link up your "YELLOW" post with us for A Year of Color!


Plan ahead for next month!

June 16th

A Year of Color








Wednesday, May 17, 2017

100 Fun Things To Do With Your Kids This Summer

Summer Activities

With only two weeks left in the school year, Dylan, Lexie and Lily are eagerly counting down to their last day! They already have big plans for all the fun things we're going to do over the Summer!

The Lucky Few

Although I love to have them home with me for the Summer, I wish I could freeze time. They are growing up way too fast, and this year flew by more quickly than I thought possible. Each year seems to go faster than the previous one, so I'm dreading the rapid passing of time next year! So for me, the next two weeks can pass by S L O W L Y. (Unlikely!)

I recently sat down with my kids to compile a list of all the fun activities we want to do this Summer. We based our list on our Camp Mom activities from last Summer and added in all the extra things we did. When we were done, we had a list of well over 100 items! Accomplishing over 100 activities in less than 3 months was impressive!

I condensed our list to include our absolute favorite must-do Summer activities and shared it over on Pittsburgh Moms Blog, where I am a regular contributor.  So if you're looking for some fun Summer Activities to do with your kids, check out The Ultimate List of Fun Summer Activities To Do With Your Kids

So tell me...what are your big plans with your kids this Summer?

Click on the picture below to see my list! 

100 Fun Things To Do With Your Kids This Summer

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

What Mother's Day Means To Me

For the past 13 years, Mother's Day has been one of my favorite days of the year. It's not because I get a break from the chaos of life with four kids. It's because I get to celebrate motherhood, which is my most favorite thing, with the four beautiful blessings who made me a mom!


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Having four kids was always one of my dreams. When people used to ask me how many kids I wanted, even at a young age, I answered with a firm four. My husband, however, was firmly on Team One - Maybe Two Kids.  I resigned myself to the fact that we would have two children and be done. We had Dylan and Lexie, and we did move on.

However, nearly four years later, we decided that maybe we should try for just one more, and just one more turned into two more. Just like that, we had exactly what I had always hoped for.  I can't even accurately express just how much my sweet little family means to me. They truly are my world!

Motherhood is toughest, yet most rewarding job I've ever had, and I try to celebrate it each and every day. Even on the days that leave me mentally and physically exhausted, or trudging to bed in tears, I still find a reason to be thankful. I always kiss my kids good night and count all the good things that happened before I close my eyes for the night.  And there sure is a LOT of good!

The key to surviving the chaos is to expect that there will be bad days and that you will make mistakes. The most important thing is to focus on the good and remember that even if you did make a mistake, tomorrow is a new day. And, thankfully, kids are resilient and forgiving, and incredibly loving. Kids learn and grow each day, just as we do as mothers.

I love being a mom, so Mother's Day is a day that I always look forward to. I love celebrating motherhood with my children and acknowledging all the moms who are so special to me! 


Mother's Day is just like any other day for me, but it's nice to get recognition for an often thankless job. Although my kids spoil me, I don't really get a complete break from motherhood on Mother's Day. In a family this big, there are still needs that have to be met, dishes to do, lunches to pack and messes to clean.

I don't mind it though! The one thing I don't ever, nor would I ever do, is leave my children on Mother's Day. I suppose I just don't understand the point of celebrating the day away from my children. I want to celebrate with the four people who made me a mom! That's what makes the day so special!

This Mother's Day was certainly special!


It all began on Friday, when I went into Lily's Kindergarten class for her Spring Fling.

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When I arrived, she greeted me at the door with a yellow rose and showed me the bird house she lovingly decorated for me. We got our picture taken together and she decorated the frame so I could remember the day forever. We decorated flower crafts together and played games, including one where I got to turn her into a "flower" with post it notes!

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It had such a special morning with my sweet girl. It's so hard to believe that her year in Kindergarten is nearly over. Time goes by too quickly!

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She was so excited to see me and so proud to have me there. I just adore my sweet girl! My morning with Lily really made Mother's Day weekend get off to a great start!

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On Saturday, we visited Grant's mom and grandma for a few hours. That evening, we headed into Pittsburgh to join Chick-fil-A at The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh for Hero Night-AKA a fun night to celebrate moms while giving back! (Check back for the full recap later this week!)

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On Mother's Day, Grant and the kids let me sleep in until noon! I never sleep during the week, so it was amazing. My three older kids always make me brunch on Mother's Day, and bring it to my room so I can eat it in bed. I love that tradition!

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I finally made my way to the living room and the kids practically pounced on me with their gifts. Out of everything, I treasure the gifts they make for me on their own or at school the most!

Mother's Day

Dylan wrote me the sweetest note (it was truly heart melting), and he made me a bracelet with beads and yarn. Lexie made me a really sweet card. Lily made me a bunch of cards and pictures, wrote me notes, filled Easter eggs with treats, and made me a small bowl and a clay heart ornament at school. Even Liam created the cutest keepsakes at school!

Mother's Day Gifts

In addition to the handmade gifts, each child usually picks out something for me at the store. This year, however, Grant and the kids gave me a gorgeous, personalized necklace with their names and birthstones on it. I was so surprised and I absolutely love it!

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And can I just say that I hope he ALWAYS looks at me this way?!? My goodness, how I love him! The statement is true about Down syndrome: There's nothing down about it!

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I absolutely adore being their mama!

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We had a lazy afternoon before heading to my parent's house for dinner with my mom and dad. It was so nice to get a break from cooking, and as always, dinner and dessert was delicious! It was a great end to a wonderful day!

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Back at home, reality kicked back in. I enjoyed the break while it lasted, but there were lunches to pack, kids to bathe, clothes to lay out and kids to tuck in.  Raising children doesn't pause on Mother's Day!

No matter how many tedious moments there are in motherhood, I feel incredibly blessed. One day, far too soon, I will be wishing back all these moments and wishing my kids were young again! This Mother's Day was simple, but perfect, thanks to the four beautiful souls that I am lucky enough to call my own!


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                                        Whitney at Polka-Dotty Place | Pinterest | Facebook | Instagram