Our Five Ring Circus: December 2016

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Best of 2016

Happy New Year's Eve!

2016 was the fastest year ever. I swear, it goes by faster each year! 2016 was a good (and busy) year for my family. There were sad moments, like saying a final farewell to our horse, and there were definitely tough moments. But overall, it was a happy, healthy, fun year!

The Best Moments of 2016

Ringing in 2016 with family and friends. It was such a happy night!

The Lucky Few

Watching Dylan play basketball for the first time. We all preferred it over baseball!


Celebrating Valentine's Day with the loves of my life. Grant and I even had a fun date night with friends which is going to be a new tradition!

Valentine's Day

Alexandria turned 9!


The girls and I joined our friends for a night at Disney on Ice: Frozen. They LOVED it!

Disney on Ice Frozen

We spent the month of March performing acts of kindness leading up to World Down Syndrome Day, in honor of sweet Liam!

World Down Syndrome Day

We had an amazing Easter!


I celebrated my birthday with my sweet kiddos. Nothing makes me happier than spending my birthday with them!


We started a new tradition of visiting our horse, Cherokee, on Friday nights. Little did I know that it would be our last year with him. I miss him so much!


I was chosen to be part of the Pittsburgh Moms Blog team!

Pittsburgh Moms Blog

4th of July was very rainy, but we made the most of it, and we laughed our way through it!

4th of July

Liliana turned 5!


Liam turned 3!

Third Birthday Ideas

We had an amazing vacation in Virginia Beach! It's our favorite place!

Virginia Beach

We got TWO new pets! Both were supposed to be girls, but...


Lexie and Lily started dance! Hip Hop for Lexie and ballet, tap, jazz and acro for Lily!


I was invited to join the Netflix StreamTeam again. I was SO excited!

Netflix Stream Team

Our friends joined us for the Dash for Down Syndrome again. It was FREEZING in Pittsburgh, but it's one of our favorite traditions! 

Dash for Down Syndrome

We spent the month of October celebrating Halloween! It didn't rain on Halloween for the first time in years. We were thrilled!


Dylan turned 12! TWELVE! Only 1 year left until he's a teenager. (Send help.)


We celebrated Thanksgiving with our family. It was a good day!


We ended the year with a month full of celebrating Christmas.  I even took an unintentional and MUCH needed break from blogging, and it was so nice to reconnect with my family. There simply wasn't enough time to do everything we wanted to do, but we spent the month having so much fun!


The Best Books of 2016 

One of my goals was to read more in 2016. I used to read 1-4 books each week before I had kids, but now my time is limited. I wanted to make an effort to start doing something I loved again. Out of all the books I read, these three were my favorites!
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  • Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
  • The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

The Best Fashion Trends of 2016

I love fashion! Buying stuff for myself always got pushed aside for the kids, but this year I made sure to add a few things to my wardrobe each month. Here are my favorite fashion trends of the year:
  • Blanket Scarves
  • Boot Socks
  • Booties
  • Peplum Tops

The Best Shows on Netflix in 2016

We LOVE Netflix! We rarely watch cable anymore. Some of our favorite shows are Netflix originals!
  • Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
  • House of Cards
  • Stranger Things
  • Orange is the New Black
  • Lovesick
The Best of 2016 Netflix series

The Best Shows on Netflix for Kids in 2016

Kids shows on Netflix are the best! Two words: NO COMMERCIALS. These are the shows that got my kids' vote in 2016:
  • Beat Bugs
  • Troll Hunters
  • Fuller House
  • Haters Back Off
  • Project mc2
  • DinoTrux
The Best Netflix Shows for Kids in 2016 

2016 was a great year and we're going to be celebrating tonight! Netflix sent us a special New Year's Eve box to help us ring in the new year and a New Year's Day box that will ensure that Grant and I get a few extra hours of sleep after a long night! Thanks, Netflix!

Here's to a wonderful 2016 and an even better 2017!

The Best of 2016

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

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas Cornflake Wreaths: A Quick & Easy Holiday Recipe

Christmas sneaks up on me every single year! Here we are, just two days away from the big day! I still have around 50 gifts to wrap, 10 loads of laundry to put away, holiday photos to take, a casserole to prepare for a party tonight, cookies to bake and gingerbread houses to assemble. Could I have another week please?!?

We did, however, manage to make 18 Cornflake Wreaths on Wednesday night! It's our tradition to make them just before Christmas every single year. It has been one of our traditions for as long as I can remember. They are absolutely delicious and everybody loves them!

I mentioned it before, but my mom is a baker (and an excellent cook), and Lexie is following in her footsteps! Lexie reads cookbooks, watches cooking shows, and loves to bake with my mom. She recently started to join me in the kitchen to prepare dinner. She has a passion for baking and cooking and we are encouraging her to keep up with it!


On Wednesday evening, we went to my parent's house so the girls and I could make Christmas Cornflake Wreaths with my mom. Although my mom and I helped, Lexie did most of the work and we ended up making 18 Christmas Cornflake Wreaths in less than an hour!

After many years of making these, and tweaking the ingredients, we finally perfected our recipe! 

Christmas Cornflake Wreaths

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 30 large marshmallows
  • 4-8 drops of green food coloring
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 cups of cornflakes
  • Cinnamon red hot candies
  • Red licorice ropes or pull-n-peel Twizzlers (optional)

  1. Melt 1 stick of butter over medium heat.
  2. Stir in 30 marshmallows. Stir continuously until marshmallows begin to melt.
  3. Add 4-8 drops of green food coloring.
  4. Stir until the marshmallows melt completely and the mixture starts to bubble.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in 1 tsp of vanilla extract.
  6. Stir in 5 cups of cornflakes and continue to stir until the cornflakes are completely coated.
  7. Immediately spoon the mixture onto greased plates in a large wreath formation.
  8. Decorate with red hot candies (the holly) and tie red licorice ropes into bows to add to the bottom of each wreath. (We usually do this but forgot to buy them this year!)

*One batch yields 3 large Christmas Cornflake Wreaths! 


For best storage, we wrap the plates with Press n Seal wrap. It keeps the wreaths fresh and they are able to be easily transported! We always make a bunch so we can give some  out as gifts and still have enough left over for our family to enjoy!


Here's the recipe to pin for later. Just FYI, this recipe can easily be altered to make Valentine's Day hearts, patriotic flags, or orange pumpkins for Halloween!

Christmas Cornflake Wreaths Recipe

If you're looking for a last minute Christmas recipe, this one is perfect! Happy Holidays from all of us to you and yours! 


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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Magic of Christmas: Visiting Santa Through the Years

There's just something so special about Santa pictures. They capture the magic of childhood so perfectly and taking a photo with Santa each year is a great way to document how quickly kids grow!

Our tradition of visiting Santa started 12 years ago, before digital cameras were common. We took our preterm firstborn, who wasn't even supposed to be in the world yet, to visit Santa in his little house in the town where I grew up. I visited Santa there, so it was the perfect place to take my own child. A tradition was born that year, and every year since then, we have visited Santa in the same place!

Over the past twelve years our one child turned into four children. It astonishes me how quickly they grew up, especially since our oldest two are in on a secret now. I'm not going to sugar coat it. It makes me really sad. I feel that once they were in the know they lost some of their innocence. That being said, Dylan and Lexie are great sports and they are really making an effort to make Christmas extra special for Lily and Liam this year!

Here's a glimpse of our Santa visits over the past 12 years including our visit tonight! Santa doesn't change much! ;)

The Magic of Christmas - Visiting Santa Through the Years


A tiny Dylan, brand new to this world, visited Santa weeks before his official due date!  I remember the excitement I felt as a young new mom, as I waited in line with my precious newborn, my husband, and my best friend.


A few weeks later, he had a mini photoshoot with Santa. This was a time when there wasn't an abundance of professional photographers (or momtogs) and going to the studio for photoshoots was a popular concept!

 santa hands dylan


Dylan, at age 1, was not a fan of Santa! It was the only year he cried. (The resemblance between Dylan and Liam is uncanny!)


We repeated the Santa photoshoot a few weeks later, and he did much better!



Two year old Dylan was just a few months away from becoming a big brother! He didn't cry that year, but he didn't have much to say.



This was the year that one kid turned into two! And 9 months old Lexie wanted NOTHING to do with Santa. This picture still makes me laugh. Lexie was losing her mind, Santa was so over it, and 3 year old Dylan kept rolling his eyes!



In 2008, Dylan was 4 and Lexie was 1. I could not find more than one picture from our Santa visit in that year. I know I have more, but I'm not sure where they are hiding. Probably on one of our many external hard drives! Dylan was a big fan of Santa that year, and talked his ear off!


I did, however, find pictures from when my dad was Santa at a German Christmas Market that Christmas! 


It wasn't Lexie's first Christmas, but it was the first decent picture we have of Lexie with Santa!



Dylan and Lexie were 5 and 2 in 2009! Lexie finally warmed up to Santa that year.


A picture of them ended up in the Christmas Eve edition of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that year!



In 2010, Dylan was 6 and Lexie was 3. They didn't know it yet, but would soon find out that another sibling was on the way! (We announced it on our Christmas card!)



And then there were three! Dylan was 7, Lexie was 4, and Lily was 4 months old.


Happy Lily's first Christmas!



In 2012, Dylan was 8, Lexie was 5 and Lily was 1.  Little did we know there was more to come...



Oops, we did it again! And then there were FOUR! Dylan was 9, Lexie was 6, Lily was 2 and Liam was 3 months old.


At 3 months old and 8 lbs, Liam was tiny for his first Christmas. And Santa immediately knew he was extra special!



This was the year that Dylan was in the know and it broke my heart! A little bit of the magic was lost that year and we had to figure out how to bring it back! (Dylan age 10, Lexie age 7, Lily age 3 and Liam age 1.)



My sweet crew grew up WAY too quickly for my liking!  At ages 11, 8, 4 and 2, they were all excited about seeing Santa that year!



Tonight, we headed out for our yearly tradition of seeing Santa followed by visiting a light display. It's the same tradition we have followed every single year for twelve years. The kids were SO excited! Even though Dylan and Lexie know ALL about Christmas, they were still excited!

Unfortunately, the 18 degree weather made the wait in the line outdoors unbearable. Poor Liam, who hates the cold, was miserable by the time we made it to Santa's front door. (Proof that he does occasionally cry!)


Our visit was VERY short because there was a long line of people waiting to be seen. Dylan and Lexie played along and took turns telling Santa what they wanted for Christmas. It did make me sad that they are now too big to sit on Santa's lap. Where did my babies go?


Lily stepped up to talk to Santa, but was cut off by her baby brother. When Liam finally noticed Santa, he literally jumped out of Grant's arms, raced over to Santa and reached up to him. Santa wasted no time scooping him up!


There was a spot for Lily, too! She happily told Santa what she really wanted for Christmas while Liam studied him and played with his beard.


We couldn't even get him to tear his eyes away from Santa and look in our direction for a picture! Better luck next year!


Everybody started to head out the door of Santa's house, but Liam refused to leave. I'm certain he would have happily sat on Santa's lap all night!


We bundled back up and headed over to the local park to see the light display. 


It was so cold that the male half of our family decided to sit in the car. The girls, however, loved looking at all the displays we have been visiting for 12 years!


Although it was freezing, it was worth it just to see their smiles! As a mother, I truly can't believe how quickly 12 years flew by and how quickly our family grew. I hope Dylan, Lexie, Lily and Liam always fondly remember our tradition of visiting Santa!

As we told Dylan and Lexie, the magic of Christmas is very real and it lives in each one of us. Our entire family believes. We believe in the magic AND the beauty of the season!

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