Our Five Ring Circus

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The Most Boring June Recap Ever! (But the pictures are cute!)

Baby Photography

Happy July! Can you even believe it's July? It feels like June went by in the flash, but it also feels like we're on the millionth day of Summer Break. (Who can relate?

The month of June is typically exciting for us! It's full of end of school year activities, the last day of school, dance recitals, the first day of Summer Break, going to the pool, going to playgrounds and the library, and weekend parties with friends. This year, June was nothing like we expected!

Sure, we had a last day of school...at home. We had a first day of Summer Break that didn't feel any different from the three previous months. A car almost hit our house, so there's that. We celebrated Father's Day. AND...that's about it! June 2020 was most definitely our most boring June ever, but I'm committing to a recap!

Monday, June 29, 2020

Social Distancing Through Summer with a Bajillion Kids

Social Distancing Through Summer with a Bajillion Kids

2020 has been quite a year! It was looking so good for the first 2 1/2 months, then it all went downhill from there. Just when things started looking up, the uncertainty hit again! After 3 full months of social distancing, we're now facing a very monotonous Summer of continued social distancing.

We have been very lucky where we live, because we haven't had many cases. In a sense, I feel like our community is sheltered, and doesn't understand the impact this virus is having around the rest of the country. Our state acted quickly with mandatory social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines, and I believe it helped protect us. A few weeks ago, we moved to the "green phase" with fewer restrictions, and now cases are rising again all over the country. Coincidence? I think not!

My family never really stopped practicing social distancing, but we were starting to cautiously spend time with some family and friends who are living similar social distancing lifestyles. Now, neighboring counties are starting to reinstate some restrictions, and I have a feeling we're next. The little hope I had for a "normal" Summer with our kids is rapidly disappearing!

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Why We Opted Out Of Extended School Year

Why We Opted Out of Extended School Year (ESY)

When Liam was born, we were introduced to a whole new world, and a whole new lingo. IFSP, IEP, LRE, and ESY became everyday words for us. Just like any other child, having a child with extra needs can be difficult at times, and navigating the school years is probably the most stressful thing to deal with!

From birth until age three, children who have special needs are given an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP), which helps the child with development, and helps the family with services they need to support them. We live in Pennsylvania, and Liam qualified for Early Intervention. He received weekly therapy from three different therapists within our home until his third birthday, then transitioned to the preschool years with an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Suddenly, we had to stress over LRE (Least Restrictive Environment), Inclusion, and ESY (Extended School Year). 

When you have a child who has extra needs, so many questions fill your head. Am I doing enough? Am I overwhelming my child? Am I making the right decision? What is the RIGHT answer? I know I tend to stress over every single decision I have to make, and I know I'm not alone. Sometimes you just have to weigh the pros and cons, and go with your gut. YOU know your child best!

Monday, June 22, 2020

Celebrating Father's Day 2020

Big Family Blog

Happy Father's Day to all the amazing dads! Our celebration today was a bit different from previous years due to continued social distancing. The world is in chaos, but we took a break to spend the day celebrating the awesome dads in our lives!

Grant is my co-ringmaster, and I couldn't run this circus without him! Parenting five kids, including a child with extra needs and a clingy baby is not easy. He always said he wanted one, maybe two, kids, but he wrangles the chaos quite well!

My own father has always been, and will always be, my rock! I always thought he was the best, but when I see him interact with my kids, I realize that he's an even better Papa. My kids adore him, and the feeling is mutual. All I could think about today was how blessed we are to have him in our lives! 

Friday, June 19, 2020

Five Favorite Aldi Finds Of The Week

Favorite Aldi Finds

I'm going to be completely honest - I avoided Aldi for so many years! Family members and friends would tell me how great it was, but I refused to try something different. One of my best friends finally dragged me to Aldi for gluten-free snacks after Liam was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, and from that moment on, I was hooked!

I absolutely love Aldi now! Prior to the pandemic, I stopped in once a week, but now I go every other week. I still shop at other stores, but I get at least half of our groceries from Aldi. Shopping there for a big family truly saves us so much money each week, and we have found so many foods and snacks that we love. There are always some fun extras that come home with me, too!

It has been a while since I shared a favorites post, but this one was inspired by my fun finds this week. I ran to Aldi for vanilla almond milk, tea, and popsicles, and came home with so much more! (Isn't that how it always goes?)

Monday, June 15, 2020

The Last Day Of The Strangest School Year Ever

Social Distancing School Year

If this had been a typical school year, we would have had our last day of school on Friday. The kids would have headed off to school that morning full of excitement. They would be anticipating the fun Summer ahead of them, but also a bit bummed to say goodbye to friends and beloved teachers. Once those tears were shed over the last goodbyes, they would have wiped them away, and we would have celebrated after everyone was home. We would have taken the traditional last day of school picture, where you can just SEE the excitement on their faces, and kicked off Summer Break with ice cream and summer gifts. But nothing about this school year was normal!

Instead, the last day of school as the knew it was March 13th. It ended so abruptly. Their belongings were left behind, and they didn't even get a chance to say goodbye. As they left school on that ordinary Friday, they had NO idea that their lives were about to be turned upside down. Students, teachers, and parents were thrown into unknown territory, and everybody's limits were tested over the next three months.

When social distancing first began, I think we all believed that life would be back to normal within a few weeks. But as the weeks ticked by, we began to lose hope, and sure enough, traditional schooling was done for the school year. Although there are so many worse things in life, I told my kids that it was okay to feel sad about the abrupt end of the school year. I have three kids who love school, and they were in the midst of wonderful school years with wonderful educators. They spent three long months missing their teachers and friends. Liam didn't have an open house or an art show. Lexie didn't have her Spring chorus concert or Medieval Fair. Field Trips and Field Days were canceled. The last few exciting weeks of the school year never happened. Yearbooks and class shirts never got signed. There was absolutely NO closure, and that's a tough thing to process!

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Love and Kindness Begins At Home

Teaching Children Love and Kindness

I love. I love fiercely and I love unconditionally. My family taught me to love others, no matter their race, gender, religion, political affiliation, or sexual orientation. They taught me to always be kind and respectful. They also taught me to speak up when something is wrong. Love and kindness filled my childhood, and I carried that with me as I grew. Now I put my all into raising kind, loving children, because it is my duty as their mother. Love and Kindness begin at home.

There is so much hatred surrounding us right now. It is weighing heavily on me, and I simply can't understand how or why people feel this way. Sometimes I just want to run away from it all, but I know I have to do my part to help change the world: to speak up, to speak out, to do better, to be better, and to teach my kids to always be GOOD human beings. 

I traded writing for personal reflection over the past few weeks, and also immersed myself in research. I was always a "neutral" person who did everything I could to ease tensions, and help people get along. I avoided serious topics like the plague. But now, more than ever, I need to lift up my voice with so many others. I'm still kind. But I will speak up about injustice. I will speak up about how change needs to occur. And I will speak up about how important it is to start that change within your home, with yourself and with your own family.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Capture The Everyday Moments

The Lucky Few

"We Take Photographs As A Return Ticket To A Moment Otherwise Gone." -Katie Thurmes

I love taking pictures! Although portraits are my specialty, I love to capture the ordinary everyday moments, too. I take pictures daily on both my DSLR and iPhone, but only share a small fraction of the pictures I take. Life has been so boring for the past few months due to the quarantine, so instead of sharing the continuous loop of each day at home in a weekly recap, I'm going to share my favorite DSLR photos, month by month, over the next few weeks!

We are in the midst of a massive project right now. Between our project, homeschooling, and everyday life, I planned to skip blogging completely this week, but here I am with a few extra minutes. Sure, my little kids might be refusing to sleep, but I'm going to take advantage of this time while they are mesmerized by Moana for the billionth time! (Just keeping it real!)

After months of social distancing, and days of extremely hard work, I am exhausted mentally and physically. I have so many things I want to share, but I only have the energy to share a few of my favorite pictures right now. I'm going to start with February, make my way through March, April, and May, and hopefully by the end of it, life will be somewhat normal so I can get back to weekly recaps!

Friday, May 15, 2020

Life At Home 24/7

Big Family Life at Home During the Pandemic

As we head into the gazillionth week at home, life still seems so surreal! Nine weeks ago today was our last "normal" day, but as the day came to an end, we began to realize that life as we knew it was changing fast. I still can't seem to grasp the concept that THIS is our life now. 

Our area wasn't hit hard at all, so the quarantine seemed very strange, but we are slowly starting to open up. A lot of restrictions, like wearing masks in public, are still in place, and many people will continue to work from home for months to come. School is nearing an end, and at this point,  I am honestly praying that kids are able to return in the Fall! Truthfully, Welcome to the Sh*&show is pretty much our home motto these days!

I can't seem to bring myself to refer to this as our new normal anymore, because NOTHING about this is normal. We are getting by, and I am so thankful that my family and I are healthy and safe in our little bubble, but I still feel sadness over how everyday life came to an abrupt end. At this point, I just want this all to be over, and I want to return to life as we knew it. 

Monday, May 11, 2020

A Socially Distanced Mother's Day

Big Family

When social distancing began, I didn't think we would still be in "quarantine" for Mother's Day, yet here we are! Truth be told, it didn't matter where we were today, as long as we were able to celebrate motherhood. I spent the day with the five beautiful kids who call me mom, and had a short visit with my own mother. The day wasn't perfect, but it was exactly how it was supposed to be during this stage in life!

I sometimes have a difficult time letting go of the concept of perfection, but as I get older, I'm learning. Mother's Day is not supposed to be filled with one picture perfect moment after another. Motherhood is incredibly beautiful, incredibly emotional, incredibly challenging, and incredibly rewarding. Motherhood is both perfect and messy at the same time, and it makes sense that Mother's Day will be the same way. The trick is to focus on the moments that are so good that they will take your breath away, and be captured in your memory forever!

I never thought I would be raising five children. I always hoped for four kids, but I didn't think it would be my reality. My wish came true, along with something a little extra AND a bonus baby! Even on the days when raising children brings me to my knees, I still thank God for the gift of motherhood. There is so much pressure to be more than just a mom, but I consider it my most important task, and I am SO proud of my little humans!