Our Five Ring Circus: 2017

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The 15 Absolute Best Netflix Originals of 2017

The 15 Absolute Best Netflix Originals of 2017! @netflix #streamteam

This post is sponsored by Netflix. I am a member of the Netflix StreamTeam, and receive service and promotional items in exchange for my review.

I can hardly believe that it's the end of 2017! Is it just me or was it the fastest year EVER?!? I sure hope 2018 goes by a bit more slowly!

Our fastest year ever was also the busiest year for my family. Even though there wasn't much free time, we still managed to make our Netflix Date Nights and Family Movie Nights a regular priority. And throughout 2017, we continued to watch our tried and true favorites, and also discovered a few new shows to add to the rotation!

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Long Christmas Break


Happy Friday, my friends! The past month has been very busy for me, and I was feeling really overwhelmed. I had so much on my plate that Grant urged me to take a brief blogging break for Christmas, and I agreed. I had only planned on taking a break for a week, but one week turned into two. Although it was the longest blogging break I have ever taken, it was exactly what I needed! 

Christmas didn't turn out as expected, but I will save that post for another day! If you follow me on social media, then you already know that Liam got really sick on Christmas, and ended up in the hospital. But in the spirit of easing back into a regular blogging schedule, I'm just going to recap some of the fun things my family did during my long break.

With four kids in school, there are a lot of activities during the holiday season. I'm not sure why that happens, but it tends to make the already busy time of year even busier! I could barely keep up this year!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

10 Simply Relaxing Ways To Enjoy The Holiday Season With Kids ~ Featuring Cozy Holiday Style From OshKosh B'gosh + $50 Gift Card GIVEAWAY

10 Simply Relaxing Ways To Enjoy The Holiday Season With Kids ~ Featuring Cozy Holiday Style From OshKosh B'gosh + $50 Gift Card GIVEAWAY #sponsored #holidaychill #holidaystyle #kidsfashion #OshKoshBGosh #kidsstyle

This post is sponsored by Everywhere Agency on behalf of OshKosh B’gosh; however, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

We are in the midst of the busy holiday season, and I am struggling to stay afloat! My to do list is 5 miles long, we have plans every single day, and I'm wondering how we're going to check off all of our favorite Christmas Traditions from our Christmas Bucket List. We should be enjoying the holiday season with our kids, but instead, we spend more time rushing from event to event, and trying to accomplish tasks from our to do list!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Absolutely Stress-Free Way To Host a Cozy Holiday Brunch

The Absolutely Stress-Free Way To Host a Cozy Holiday Brunch

This post is sponsored by Bruegger’s Bagels, but all content is 100% my own.

There’s no doubt that everybody is extremely busy this time of year! Between all the parties, school events, and holiday traditions, my family doesn’t get a moment of rest. There isn’t even any time left over to host our own Christmas party. We have to get creative if we want to see our loved ones, so we choose to host a simple holiday brunch for a few of our favorite people!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Teach Your Kids To Give Back This Holiday Season & Support Tackle Kids Cancer

Teach your kids to give back this holiday season

Christmas is the season of giving, but for many kids, the focus is on receiving. As parents, my husband and I work hard to teach our own four children that it's so much more special to give than receive, and that it's especially important to give back during the holiday season. We don't want to raise selfish, ungrateful children, so teaching them the importance of giving back while they are young is essential!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Start of the Holiday Season

The Lucky Few

Like most families, the excitement about the upcoming holiday season starts to kick in for us in October, but we don't consider it the true holiday season until Thanksgiving! The anticipation builds for 3 months, and no matter how much we try to slow down to enjoy each moment, it seems to go faster with each passing year. And even though it goes far too quickly for my liking, it's still my favorite time of year!

Monday, December 4, 2017

How To Live In The Now With Your Spouse AND Save For Your Future

Date Night

My husband and I don't get out much for date night! With four children to raise, including one who has special needs, there's never enough time, and we can always think of so many ways that the money could be better spent. Date nights only occur 4-5 times a year for us, and truthfully, that's not ideal. We NEED to be able to briefly escape from our children to reconnect as a married couple more often. Being able to live in the now is every bit as important as saving for our future!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Super Sweet DIY Ice Cream Holiday Gift Bundles

Super sweet #DIY Ice Cream Holiday Gift Bundles featuring Graeter's ice cream! #ad #Graeters #AGraetersGift #Christmas #gifts

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Graeter's for kindly sponsoring this post. All opinions are 100% honest & completely my own.

If you're a busy mom like me, then you probably have lots of extra holiday gifts to buy, and not enough time to do it all! With four kids of our own, we have 13 teachers, 3 therapists, 3 dance instructors, a coach and 2 bus drivers to buy gifts for. Add in gifts for family, friends and party hostesses, and things get complicated AND expensive! Thankfully, there's a simple solution for some of those gifts: Super sweet (and easy) DIY Ice Cream Gift Bundles!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A Healthy Haircare Regimen for Everyone in Your Family

A Healthy Haircare Regimen for Everyone in your family

One of my goals for 2017 was switching to a healthier lifestyle for my entire family! Rather than overwhelm myself by trying to do everything at once, I made gradual changes throughout the year. Introducing healthier, more natural products was one of those changes. I even found a safer haircare regimen that is great for everyone! 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Welcome to the Teenage Years!

Welcome to the Teenage Years!

Last Wednesday, we celebrated a milestone birthday in our family! Although it feels like we've had a teenager living in our home for the past few months, November 22nd was Dylan's 13th birthday, and our official welcome to the teenage years!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Give the Gift of Music this Holiday Season with Fender Play

Give the gift of music this holiday season with Fender Play! #sponsored #FenderPlay #guitar #music

If your kids are anything like mine, they don't need many toys for Christmas! Our living room very closely resembles a toy store. Because we have an abundance of THINGS, we would happily welcome an experience or an activity as a gift this holiday season!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Orange Creamsicle Jello Recipe - Delicious, easy & quick to make! {Tuesday Talk}

Orange Creamsicle Jello Recipe

Thanksgiving is less than a week away, and I'm currently thinking about all the delicious food I'm going to eat! I mean, of course I'm going to whip up some recipes, too, but thinking about eating is much more fun. Our upcoming Thanksgiving meal inspired me to share an Orange Jello family recipe that has been a part of every holiday meal for literally as long as I can remember!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Healthcare App for Busy Moms #AnywhereCare

This is a sponsored post in partnership with The Motherhood on behalf of UPMC.

Whether you are a working mom or a stay-at-home mom, have one kid or 10 kids, life as a mom is busy! As a mom of four, wrangling chaos and juggling kids and schedules is my norm. I don’t have much time to worry about anything else. Worrying about arranging healthcare, especially for sick visits, shouldn’t top my list of worries!

Healthcare App

Thankfully, there’s an app for that! UPMC Anywhere Care allows you to have a face-to-face visit with a doctor right from your mobile device or computer! The app is free to download, and it’s also free to sign up for an account. The visits start at $49, but for those with a UPMC Health Plan, the cost is similar to a copay.

If you live in Pennsylvania, you will be able to visit with a UPMC doctor during your video consultation. For those outside of Pennsylvania, you will be able to visit a doctor from American Well, which is an online care group. All video consultations occur in real-time.

The flu seems to be hitting everybody this year, and it can be very serious. Now you can see a quality health care provider with a UPMC AnywhereCare virtual visit without leaving your home! And if you sign up at http://upmchp.us/MHUPMCAnywhereCare by March 5, you will have a chance to win a digital thermometer!

UPMC AnywhereCare

When one of my kids gets sick, it’s a lot of work just to schedule an appointment with their pediatrician. Not only do I have to work around five different schedules, but I also have to arrange childcare for my other kids, unless I want to bring my entire crew to the sick visit.  If that doesn’t work, we end up at Urgent Care after my husband gets home from the office. Although necessary, it does cause added stress for all of us. And if there’s a sick parent? Those appointments rarely happen!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Lily's 6th Birthday

Lily's 6th Birthday

Time is a bittersweet thing. It goes by way too quickly and just slips through my fingers! One event flows rapidly into the next until it's a steady stream of constant activity, and before I know it, months have gone by.  I'm going to be completely honest with you. I can barely keep up and my days are a complete blur! That's my only explanation as to why I'm posting about Lily's 6th Birthday three months after the fact!

The sad part is, I didn't even realize it until I was clearing out my drafts folder. I *thought* I had posted about it already. Actually, I also found Liam's birthday post and the rest of our vacation posts in there, so I'm going to be interspersing those events with current posts over the next few weeks.  Such is the life of a mom of four: Always playing catch up!

SO...it's hard to believe, but Lily is now 6 years old, and she has been for, oh, 3 1/2 months. But still...6 is so old! When I think about how big she is getting, it makes me both incredibly proud of the amazing person she is growing up to be, yet sad at the same time!

Lily had an awesome birthday this year! We work so hard to make birthdays special for our kids, and it always pays off. She was busy from the moment she woke up until the moment her head hit the pillow that night! 

On the beautiful morning of August 3rd, Lily awoke to a bedroom filled with balloons, a brand new outfit hanging up, and a living room decorated just for her! She was still sleepy, but oh so excited!

6th Birthday

Monday, November 13, 2017

10 Ways to Teach Kids Healthy Tooth Brushing Habits {Featuring WooBamboo!}

10 Ways To Teach Kids Healthy Tooth Brushing Habits #kids #parentingtips #toothbrushing #oralcare

DISCLOSURE: I received the products featured in this post in partnership with WooBamboo!

If you have young kids, then you know it can sometimes be a struggle to get them to brush their teeth. It's just one of the many things that kids like to turn into a battle! Brushing teeth is a big part of every daily routine, so it's important to encourage healthy tooth brushing habits as early as possible!

My three older kids have great dental care habits, and they love to visit the dentist, but it's still a work in progress with Liam. I have to get very creative in order to make tooth brushing fun for him. After 3 years of battling him (he is STUBBORN), we finally (almost) won the war!

Over the past few years, I tried it all with Liam. Some methods failed miserably, while others worked like a charm! In an effort to help other parents dealing with the same struggle, I'm sharing ten of my favorite tried and true ways to teach kids healthy tooth brushing habits.

Tooth Brushing Tips for Kids

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Down syndrome is JUST an extra chromosome

Down syndrome is JUST an Extra Chromosome

Did you know that October was Down syndrome Awareness Month? I honestly didn't even know it existed until Liam was diagnosed with Down syndrome when he was a few weeks old. Now every year, during the month of October, I share a fact about Down syndrome each day in the hopes of breaking the many misconceptions about Down syndrome. This year, however, I did something different. I opted to share all the ways that Liam is more alike than different

Surprisingly, not many people recognize that Liam has Down syndrome. They often notice that there is a delay of some sort, based on his small size and limited speech, but unless they have personal experience with Down syndrome, it can be easy to miss. But when they DO find out that he has Down syndrome, I notice that they start looking for all the ways that he is different rather than focusing on all the ways he is the SAME.

This year, I shared Liam each day exactly how we see him. Down syndrome IS a part of our lives, but it's also easy to forget. To us, Liam is a boy, just like any other. We often forget that he even has Down syndrome as we go through the usual busyness of life!

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Not-So-Perfect Halloween

Welcome to the least Pinteresting, most un-Instagram-worthy Halloween recap ever! Halloween isn't my favorite holiday, and it definitely didn't go as planned this year. Actually, I almost considered skipping the recap entirely, but I like to document the real life moments on my blog, so I can turn it into a book one day!


Before I recap what we DID do, let me focus on what didn't happen. We were so busy in October, that I didn't even decorate the house until 10 days before Halloween. Those decorations are still up, and probably will be until I get a few moments of free time. We didn't make it to the pumpkin patch because travel soccer and life with kids consumed our weekends, then my mom had a health scare and ended up in the hospital. Our pumpkin - yes, singular - wasn't carved until the day before Halloween. We didn't make any crafts or recipes. Poor Liam didn't even have a costume, because I wasn't spending a fortune on a costume he would refuse to wear. I forgot to buy the kids their Halloween morning treats, which has been a tradition since Dylan was 1. The unseasonably warm October weather went away for Trick or Treating, leaving us all cold and miserable. And to top it off, my original Halloween recap completely disappeared before I hit publish on Friday, and now I can't upload my pictures properly today. Yay, Halloween!

Before I move on to MUCH better holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, I'm going to give Halloween a final shout out. I'm not going to lie. I'm happily saying goodbye to the holiday that only my kids seemed to love this year...that is, until it was too cold to actually enjoy it! Here's to the few pictures I took and the most brief Halloween recap in blog history!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

10 Fun Ways to Boost Learning During the School Year

10 FUN Ways to boost learning during the school year! #education #learning #kidsactivities

DISCLOSURE: This post is sponsored by Netflix, but all opinions are 100% my own. I am a member of the Netflix StreamTeam.

Every parent wants their child to excel. Like many others, I encourage educational activities as much as possible to boost their learning. But during the school year, I have to tread lightly. I don't want to force something on my kids when they already have enough to juggle with school, sports and activities.


Learning can be fun, and there are plenty of ways to promote educational activities without overwhelming kids! The trick is to intersperse these activities with play. Play is EVERY bit as important as learning during childhood. Kids have a lot more pressure on them these days, so there must be time for them to let loose and do what they want to do!

Dylan, Lexie, Lily and Liam are plenty busy between school, basketball, soccer, band, chorus, dance, acro and therapies (PT, OT and ST for Liam). We don't have much time these days for extra activities, but we try to fit them in whenever we possibly can. These ten fun activities are a great way to boost learning during the busy school year!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Weekend Happenings


As the weekend comes to a close, I find myself wishing we had one more day off! Can we just make three days weekends a regular thing?!? We had a busy weekend, but it didn't exactly turn out as expected. 

This weekend was supposed to be full of Halloween activities, on top of all the events that were already scheduled. A family emergency on Saturday changed everything. Now we're just exhausted mentally AND physically, and we were unable to check some things off of our Halloween list. But none of that matters. All that matters is the fact that everything is okay now.

Friday, October 27, 2017

4 Steps Mothers & Daughters Can Take To Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

4 Steps Mothers & Daughters Can Take Together To Reduce Breast Cancer Risk {sponsored} #BCERP #MotherDaughter #BreastCancerRisk #BreastCancerAwareness

DISCLOSURE: This post is sponsored by the Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program.

Do you have a person in your life who is so important to you that the mere thought of losing them takes your breath away? For me, that person was my grandma. She lost her battle to breast cancer many years ago, and not a day goes by when I don't think about her and miss her.  

As October draws to a close, it's important to shift my focus away from Down syndrome awareness for a bit to something that affects millions of women. It's also Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is every bit as important. It's estimated that 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer during the course of their lifetime. As a mom to four children, two of whom are daughters, this statistic terrifies me!

4 Steps Mothers & Daughters Can Take Together To Reduce Breast Cancer Risk {sponsored} #BCERP #MotherDaughter #BreastCancerRisk #BreastCancerAwareness

I'm willing to bet that most people personally know a woman who was or currently is affected by breast cancer. That's why it's crucial to continue to bring awareness to this topic. I don't believe in focusing on regrets in life, but I can't help but wonder what if when I think about my grandma.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Down syndrome Blogs that are Inspirational, Real and Downright Beautiful

Down syndrome Blogs that are Inspirational, Real and Downright Beautiful! #downsyndrome

Four years ago, I found myself in a dark hospital room, lonely and grief-stricken. As my youngest son was whisked away for even more testing and my husband dealt with phone calls, I turned to the internet for help. A simple search for Down syndrome yielded both scary information and a list of Down syndrome blogs to read. 

I quickly immersed myself into reading blog post after blog post. Some were inspiring and brought me much needed relief, so I felt compelled to reach out to those bloggers and thank them for showing me light in a time of darkness, and ask them if they had any tips or information on where I should turn. Imagine my disappointment when I was met with crickets. 

Upon returning home with our baby who might have Down syndrome, I continued to research, and read these popular blog posts. I reached out yet again, and never received a reply from any of the bloggers. It was very disheartening! I later found out that it was the norm when it came to these Down syndrome bloggers, which made me think they weren't the best source of information about Down syndrome. How can you possibly relate to somebody who can't find time to support the Down syndrome community, when that is their main focus?

Friday, October 20, 2017

Spooky Black Glitter Putty {A Year of Color}

Spooky Black Glitter Putty - Easy to make, hours of fun! #sensoryplay #putty #halloween

If your kids are anything like mine, they probably love to make slime, putty and play dough! My crew is always adding glue, borax, cornstarch and flour to my grocery list, and sometimes I think it would be best to just buy it in bulk. I try not to complain too much, because at least they love science and experiments! We had yet to do a Halloween craft or activity this year, so the timing was perfect for this month's theme for A Year of Color!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Mom Life Must Haves: Things I'm Currently Loving

Mom Life Must Haves: Things I'm Currently Loving! #momlife #motherhood #momblogger

DISCLOSURE: A few of the featured items were sent to me free for review. I only share the things I truly love!

Happy Thursday, my friends! I can't believe we are over halfway through October, and that Halloween is less than 2 weeks away. This year flew by faster than ever before! It has been a few weeks since I last shared the things that I'm currently loving, so I figured I would put together a Mom Life Must Have list!

Life with four kids is non-stop, and I feel like we completely missed out on Fall fun due to our busyness and, well, the lack of Fall weather. Other than a few chilly mornings, it still doesn't feel much like Fall here. We've even had a few 90 degree days this month, which is unheard of for Pittsburgh this time of year. It feels more like late Spring than Fall. Most of the leaves fell off the trees weeks ago, due to lack of rain, so one of my favorite things about Fall never really happened. If you can't tell, I'm kind of bummed about this!

As every mom knows, motherhood isn't always cupcakes and rainbows. Sometimes it's just plain tough! Sometimes you just need to escape or spoil yourself with something that helps you feel like a normal human being again. (I've been there...often.) And sometimes, you just need something to keep your little ones busy so you can breathe! I put together a fun list of the things that help make mom life just a bit easier! And if you're NOT a mom, there are still a few things on here that you might like. Clothes and books, anyone?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

6 Adorably Spooky Halloween Hairstyles for Girls

6 Adorably Spooky Hairstyles for Girls - How To Guide #hairstyles #girls #halloween

It's almost Halloween, and my kids are so excited! We consider Halloween the start of the holiday season, so my kids are completely in the spirit. Their costumes are chosen, their clothing consists of a lot of orange and black right now, and the decorations are still coming out. Halloween is so close that the girls started requesting their favorite spooky hairstyles today!

Rather than wait until after the holiday to share their adorable Halloween hairstyles as they wear them, the girls and I worked together to create this quick guide for six of their favorite looks. We have attempted much more difficult styles, but easy is so much better! These six hairstyles only take a few minutes to do, and your daughters are sure to love them!

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Story in which Lily Cuts Off Her Fingertip

The Story In Which Lily Cuts Off Her Fingertip

There's not enough time these days. Not enough time to write, not enough time to read, not enough time to exercise, not enough time to clean, not enough time for ANYTHING... An entire season passes by in a blur, and I'm left whirling from constant busyness. Before I know it, months have gone by, and I haven't had the chance to blog about an event or story, so I just give up. But I don't want all those stories to just go by unwritten. That's why I started this blog in the first place - to chronicle life with my family! 

I decided I'm going to play a little bit of catch-up. One story each week until I'm caught up. Today, I'm taking it back to July 12th, when Lily had an unfortunate accident. Thankfully, we can laugh about it now!

Most kids are naturally accident-prone. And when you have four of them, those accidents just seem to happen ALL the time! This doesn't bode well for a mom who gets queasy and light-headed at the mere sight of blood!

This story begins on a hot, sunny Summer day. As you know from reading this blog, the kids and I work on a lot of crafts and activities together. On this particular day, we decided to go outside to work on a project. All four kids gathered up the supplies, sat together on a big picnic blanket, and got to work. I sat with them to supervise. Everybody was getting along and working together.

As every parent knows, everything can change in literally an instant. That instant happened when Liam stood up suddenly, lost his balance, and fell directly onto Lily, despite my efforts to steady him...and Lily just happened to be cutting with scissors at the time.  I'm sure you can imagine what happened next.

All I remember is the unified, blood-curdling screams from three kids, blood spurting everywhere, and cars slowing down to see what was wrong. I immediately went into emergency mom mode, and was able to solely focus on fixing the situation.

I raced inside with Liam so he stayed safe, and grabbed a few towels. I raced back outside and wrapped a towel around Lily's hand, trying my hardest to avoid looking at the large amount of blood that surrounded her. Everybody was still screaming, and the only time I almost lost it was when I spotted the unusually large chunk of skin on the blanket.

In a matter of just a few minutes, Lily was strapped into her car seat with Lexie at her side, and we quickly made the drive to our local hospital. Thankfully, I had rush hour traffic to keep my mind off the blood and the current state of Lily's finger. Grant, unfortunately, was still at his office, which was 45 minutes away, but my parents were on their way to my house to stay with the boys.

By the time we arrived at the emergency room, Lexie had managed to calm Lily down. The staff got us back to a room quickly, and the nurses assessed the damage. Thankfully, Lily had just "amputated her fingertip and part of her fingernail" without causing much damage. And to our astonishment, we learned that fingertips grow back!

Fingertip amputation

The worst part of the ordeal was when they had to clean the wound. Lily started crying again, and I finally got a glimpse of her injured finger. I did NOT take a picture of that, but let me just say that it looked like a finger with a big chunk missing out of it. Instead of a rounded fingertip, it was flat and noticeably shorter than the rest, and the towel was soaked with Lily's blood. The adrenaline that had kept me going came to a crashing halt, and I had to fight against the nausea and dizziness that threatened to make me faint.

To add to the gross factor, Dylan texted me a picture of Lily's fingertip in a sandwich bag, and asked if the hospital needed to sew it back on. (They did not.) Some things can never be unseen. Trust me. I told him to toss it into the garbage, but I did save the photo for some odd reason. I mean, who actually cuts off their fingertip with a pair of scissors?!?

With the worst part finally over, the doctor came in to take a look. He did confirm that no stitching would be needed, and the fingertip would grow back. The only concern was possible infection and probable nerve damage which would just cause certain areas of her fingertips to feel numb. He wrapped up her finger and put a splint on it to keep it protected, and sent us on our way home with instructions on how to care for a fingertip amputation. (Yes, that is exactly what the medical term for her injury was!)


Lily's finger healed really well and surprisingly quick. The pain went away after a few days, and within a few weeks the fingertip really had grown back! Three months later, only a tiny scar remains. Although she doesn't have much feeling in that fingertip, it doesn't even look like anything ever happened to it!

Lily declared she would never use another pair of scissors as long as she lives, but of course, was back to crafting with scissors the following day. And when she returned to school and was asked what she did over the Summer, she told everyone that she cut off her fingertip! I guess it really is a memorable story! (A story I hope I never have to relive again.)

Fingertip amputation

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

10 Things I've Already Learned About a Gluten-free Diet

10 Things I've Already Learned About A Gluten-free Diet #glutenfree #celiacdisease #downsyndrome

On Friday night, we received news that completely changed our lifestyle. I think I already knew before we received the phone call, but hearing it still felt like a punch in the stomach. After some testing, we found out that Liam has Celiac Disease. 

10 Things I've Already Learned About a Gluten-free Diet

We have been incredibly blessed, because prior to this,  Liam didn't have any health issues associated with Down syndrome. Up until now, his most serious medical issue was a nose injury from a fall that landed him in the hospital with cellulitis. I know we are incredibly lucky, but hearing that his diet would have to change forever was very overwhelming.

Liam does have a close relative who can't eat gluten, and Celiac Disease is hereditary. Digestive issues seem to be more common in people who have Down syndrome, although this is the first time anything has been wrong. It definitely seems like more people have diet restrictions than not, so it isn't like this is something unusual, but it still doesn't make it any easier to process.

What IS Celiac Disease?

Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects approximately 1 out of every 100 people. Eating gluten causes damage to the small intestine. The symptoms vary in each person, but continuing to eat gluten will put that person at risk for long-term, and often serious health problems. The only way to treat it is with a gluten-free diet. It's estimated that 2.5 MILLION Americans are undiagnosed!

What were Liam's symptoms?

In August, we had to stop potty training, even though Liam was almost completely day trained, because he was having severe diarrhea. We thought he had a virus, but that virus never went away. At his 4 year well check, the pediatrician prescribed a probiotic for one month to see if it would get his digestive system back on track. 

When Liam woke up last week, covered head to toe in a blow out, I knew it was something more. That same day, he underwent a lot of testing, and I just had a feeling that gluten would be the problem.

Prior to the start of diarrhea, Liam never had a single symptom. There wasn't any indication that anything was wrong!

What happens next?

Based on Liam's test results, we were told to stop feeding him anything with gluten immediately, and that he would have to eat a gluten-free diet for the rest of his life. This isn't something that will go away, or that he will grow out of.  

Because we just received the results, his appointments with gastroenterology and the dietitian are still a few weeks away. It will take a few months of avoiding gluten before his body begins to heal and his digestive system gets back on track.  In about 3 months, he will have blood drawn again, and they will check to see if his levels have improved.  He will have annual appointments with gastroenterology, and a celiac panel will be added to his already annual lab work. 

I just feel bad, because he won't understand why he can't eat cake at a friend's birthday party or have what everybody else is eating or snacking on at dinners, playdates and parties. We are going to have to take his own snacks everywhere we go, and bring a gluten-free treat to every party. And going out to dinner just got a lot more complicated!

We know a surprising amount of people who are on gluten-free diets, so they have been a great resource for us. We spent the weekend talking to friends, asking questions, researching online, and shopping for new food. And although it's still overwhelming, and WILL be a complete lifestyle change for Liam, I have a better grip on the situation! 

10 Things I've Already Learned About Switching To A Gluten-Free Diet

Eating a Gluten-free diet is expensive!

After a trip to the grocery story, I suffered from serious sticker shock. As everybody knows, it's more expensive to eat healthy whole foods, which are the main components of Liam's diet. But all of the gluten-free alternatives are incredibly expensive, too. 

I went grocery shopping for just Liam on Saturday night. I spent $84 for one week's worth of food for him. That's a whole lot of money for groceries for a tiny, 30 pound, 4 year old!

Liam loves cereal bars and chicken noodle soup, and he can no longer eat those foods. It was $6.99 for a box of 5 tiny gluten-free cereal bars and $3 for a small can of soup.  I know I'm going to have to search to find a cheaper brand of cereal bars that he will like, and learn how to make my own chicken noodle soup for Liam.

Aldi will apparently be my new best friend.

I have a confession. I have NEVER shopped at Aldi before. And apparently, that was my first mistake. According to all the gluten-free gurus on Facebook, Aldi is the best place to shop for gluten-free food. I will be heading there next weekend, in the hopes of finding cheaper gluten-free alternatives!

You have to read EVERY single label. 

Although most major brands do a great job of putting gluten-free clearly on the label, there are just as many who hide it in small print below the ingredients, or don't include it at all. I had to research exactly what to avoid, then read every single label at the grocery store. My grocery shopping over the weekend took a lot longer than usual! I'm sure this will become second nature to me, but for now, google is my shopping sidekick!

Gluten is hidden in foods you wouldn't even think about.

Breads, cereal, crackers and pasta are the obvious culprits, but gluten is used as a filler in so many foods! I was very surprised to see it in some of our favorite brands, and had to make the switch to other brands. I can't wait to receive the brand-specific list that I was promised by the dietitian! 

Gluten can also be found in vitamins, dental products, and medications. 

There are plenty of gluten-free alternatives.

Even though it seems daunting, eating gluten-free isn't terribly difficult. Liam's diet already consisted mostly of whole foods, and he didn't like many processed foods like bread, crackers, cookies and cereal. He did have a few favorite foods that were full of gluten, so we had to look for alternatives. 

As of right now, we are sticking mostly to his whole foods diet and gradually introducing gluten-free alternatives. Gluten-free pasta is a bit more expensive than regular pasta, but Liam didn't even notice the change, and gobbled up his favorite meal. We all tried his pasta and thought it tasted a lot like our regular brand!

There are also plenty of whole grains that are naturally gluten free. We will be adding a lot of quinoa and rice to our meals! Plus corn, beans, and potatoes are all great alternatives!

Baked goods are a bit more difficult. There are gluten-free cake and cookie mixes available, as well as gluten-free flour, but they don't tend to taste as good, and have to be loaded up with sugar to make them resemble regular baked goods. That isn't exactly healthy, so we were told to avoid baked goods unless it's for a special occasion.

We will not be making the switch to a gluten-free family.

Many people I spoke with told me their entire family went gluten-free, and feel much better because of it. I, however, do not feel like it's fair to expect Dylan, Lexie, Lily, Grant (or myself) to unnecessarily change our diets. It would also be way too expensive for a family of 6!

We will be adding more foods that Liam can eat to our meals, such as rice, beans and potatoes, and be eating more of a whole foods diet, specifically when it comes to snacks. If we keep a lot of processed snacks out of our home, Liam will never realize he is missing anything! But for the most part, I will continue to cook our meals as I usually do, but make Liam his own gluten-free side, if the recipe doesn't include naturally gluten-free foods. 

Meal prep is necessary.

Liam loves pasta, soup, and macaroni and cheese. Rather than cooking his own separate lunch each day, I decided to do some meal prep over the weekend. I cooked a box of gluten-free pasta, and put it in individual serving containers, and prepared gluten-free spaghetti sauce, cheese sauce, and chicken broth to freeze until needed. That way, I can whip up a lunch or a side for dinner quickly each day.

I also set up a drawer just for Liam, filled with gluten-free snacks. Anything that came in a large bag was separated into small resealable bags for easy portability. He can choose whatever he wants out of that drawer at snack time, and I can easily grab a few gluten-free snacks on my way out the door. 

We have to worry about cross contamination. 

This is something I didn't even think about! If we are eating any food that contains gluten, Liam's food will have to be prepared separately, using separate cooking utensils. I can't use wooden cutting boards or spoons to prepare his food, and if the time comes when he actually likes bread, he will need his own toaster. I'm certain that list is more expansive, but those are the basics that I have learned so far!

There's an app for that.

There really is! I was told (by several people) about an app called Find Me Gluten Free, and while I was searching for it, I found a lot more! There are also apps for gluten-free recipes, gluten-free food finders, gluten-free diet guides, and gluten-free scanners. 

A gluten-free diet is very healthy.

A gluten-free diet consists mainly of whole foods and naturally gluten-free grains. Because many processed foods and baked goods contain gluten, they have to be avoided. Liam's new diet is mostly fruits, vegetables, dairy, protein, and nuts and seeds.

Liam is very high energy and has always eaten mostly whole, healthy foods, so he doesn't gain weight very easily. He just reached 30 pounds shortly after turning 4 year old, and I am a bit concerned that gaining weight is going to be more difficult. This is a necessary change, so we will make it work. Hopefully the dietitian will have some good ideas for us!

I had something completely different planned for today's post, but sometimes life gets in the way! Instead, I opted to share about our new journey. I'm sure I'm going to learn a lot about Celiac Disease and a gluten-free diet along the way, and eventually be able to help others who are just starting out on this journey, too! All I know is that I love my sweet boy with all of my might, and I will do anything I possibly can to keep him healthy and happy!

10 Things I've Already Learned About a Gluten-free Diet

10 Things I've Already Learned About A Gluten-free Diet #glutenfree #celiacdisease #downsyndrome


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Tuesday Talk

Tuesday Talk

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Dreaded Childhood Stage: Finding Successful Ways to Discipline a Teenager

Finding Successful Ways to Discipline a Teenager #ParentingWin {Boys Town Partner}

I have a confession: Motherhood has always been easy for me. That is, until now. We are just weeks away from the teenage years, and I am struggling! There have been more tears and stressful moments over the past few weeks than there have been in the past 13 years. As a mom, I'm feeling lost and overwhelmed

Finding Successful Ways to Discipline a Teenager

Just as it is with any stage in childhood, I have to learn to adjust to the new normal. It's just that unlike the other stages, this phase is taking a long time to get used to. My previous parenting methods are no longer working, and I feel like I'm constantly battling a young adult who thinks that he's the only one who is right.

Raising teens is HARD. I can easily count off a hundred other things I would rather be doing, but unfortunately, I can't avoid this responsibility. Suddenly, my adorable, tiny human who once thought the world of me now thinks I'm the enemy. And if I'm going to be 100% honest, there are some days when I just don't like him.

If your jaw dropped at that statement, stick with me for a moment. Perhaps you can't imagine EVER feeling that way about your child. I once felt the same way, even though dozens of seasoned moms informed me otherwise. But you can't truly understand something until you experience it. And although I love Dylan with all of my might, and would do anything to give him a happy, healthy life, there are times when I just don't like the person he becomes when the hormones take over.

I miss the days of playground drama. The arrival of the teenage years brings a bunch of new issues along with it. These days, mood swings aren't the only thing to worry about. There are much scarier problems that cause me to lose sleep at night because I spend too much time worrying about the what ifs: drugs, smoking, drinking, bullying, relationships (if you catch my drift), depression and suicide. Nothing is easy anymore! I just keep asking my husband two questions: How are we going to keep him safe and on the right path in life and HOW are we going to survive the teenage years?

Finding Successful Ways to Discipline a Teenager

Suddenly, Grant and I are dealing with a kid who just wants to spend time with his new girlfriend, focuses mainly on his social life, and is not turning in homework. The mood swings cause him to be his super sweet self one moment, then turn into a little monster the next.  He loses his temper over the littlest things, yells at us, and always has to be the one to have the last word. He wants his independence, but isn't quite ready to have it all the time. He doesn't understand why he can't do adult things all the time, and sometimes he just isn't a nice person.

As you can imagine (or can understand if you have a teenager), it truly is infuriating. I just want my loving, sweet boy back 24/7. That isn't going to happen anytime soon, so I have to find other ways to deal. Repeatedly taking away electronics, and bribing him with his first cell phone sitting within sight isn't working anymore. That's why I turned to Boys Town.

Boys Town offers a Parenting Email Series, giving advice on parenting challenges you might be experiencing.  This free email series consists of 4-6 weekly emails that help you face these challenges, and often offer a teaching activity. Now that's an easy #ParentingWin!  

Boys Town's popular email series includes:

  • Parenting Principles
  • Success in School
  • Potty Training
  • Teen Discipline 
  • Toddler Tantrums
  • Sleep Issues
  • Kids and Technology
  • Today's Teen
  • Tween Discipline
  • Anti-Bullying
Visit HERE to sign up for the weekly Parenting Email Series of your choice (or all of them)!

So why choose Boys Town? Boys Town is backed by 100 years of research and experience. The content is developed by psychologists, psychiatrists and parenting experts, so you know you will be getting good parenting advice!

As for us, I obviously opted to sign up for the Parenting Email Series on teen discipline. I needed all the help I could get! (As I write this post, my son is stomping through the house because I told him not to eat a bowl of cereal just before dinner. Oh, the nerve!)

Finding Successful Ways to Discipline a Teenager

The first issue discusses dealing with frustration, which is one of Dylan's biggest problems. He just needed to find a way to deal with his emotions when he gets frustrated. We taught him to identify these feelings as they arise, determine where those feelings are coming from, breathe deeply to relax, discuss frustrations with a neutral party, and find other activities that make him feel good. While this is still a work in progress since we just started, the reminder to breathe really seems to help! 

I'm hopeful that by the end of this email series, I will have a better grasp on our new reality of parenting a teen. And hopefully, we will all survive the teenage years, and come out on the other side unscathed. Of course, only to repeat it in 2 years...and 7 years...and 9 years. WHAT were we thinking?!?

Finding Successful Ways to Discipline a Teenager

If you, too, are experience a parenting challenge, find out more information about the helpful Boys Town Parenting Email Series

Finding Successful Ways to Discipline a Teenager #ParentingWin {Boys Town Partner} #teens #teenagers #parenting #discipline

Friday, October 6, 2017

Why I'm Not A Down Syndrome Blogger

Why I'm Not A Down syndrome Blogger #Downsyndrome

Four years ago, we were eagerly awaiting the arrival of our fourth and final child. Visions of a perfect, happy life with our four beautiful children filled my head. And when our fourth child finally entered the world, our lives were turned upside down as we struggled to digest the news that he might have Down syndrome.

Down syndrome test results usually come in within 48 hours, but for us, we were in limbo for several weeks. Each day I called the lab, and each day I was told that they were having difficulty getting accurate results. We finally made the decision to share what was going on, and that post was the most difficult thing I have ever had to write.

As you all know, Liam did, indeed, have Down syndrome. We probably would have waited even longer if it hadn't been for his pediatrician who called the lab and demanded a yes or no answer within the hour. Liam's test results were a bit unusual, and we will probably never know for sure exactly what percentage of his cells are affected. But it truly doesn't matter. Down syndrome is Down syndrome no matter what form it comes in.

Liam changed us, but not in the ways we expected. We quickly adjusted to our new normal, and started to learn what life with Down syndrome is really like. And that life is truly a beautiful thing. With that, a new topic became a focus on my blog!

Down syndrome

Many of you have been around since the very beginning of this blog or shortly thereafter. You were there when we announced our 3rd and 4th pregnancies, and you were there when our babies were born. You cried with us, prayed with us and supported us as we adjusted to the initially devastating news that our baby wasn't the perfect baby we were expecting. That love and support has never been forgotten, and this community is what I love most about blogging!

I'm often asked why this isn't more of a Down syndrome blog since we have a child who has Down syndrome, or why I don't start another blog just about Down syndrome. The answer is simple. There was no reason for my blog to change. Liam's story just became a piece of our puzzle!

I began blogging way back in August 2008. At the time, we only had Dylan and Lexie, who were 3 1/2 and 1 1/2. For those of you who have been blogging (or reading blogs) as long as I have, you know that blogging was a LOT different back then. It was more of a sense of community and a way to just share your life with others. It wasn't about sharing ideas or DIY projects, and sponsored content wasn't even a thing just yet.

Over the past 9 years, I built this blog from a hobby that only had 3 followers on the first day to something I enjoy that earns a small income. And although my time to connect with the blogging community is much more limited these days, it's still my favorite thing about blogging! I've had the pleasure of making close friends whom I never would have met if it wasn't for blogging, and watching some of my favorite online families grow. Plus, I learn from all of you!

Focusing just on Liam wouldn't be fair to my other children. They are all equally important and they need to know that. I wasn't going to give up on something I worked so hard to build, and I definitely didn't have the time to maintain two blogs, so my decision was to show how all of our stories seamlessly intertwine into one.

The Lucky Few

I AM a Down syndrome mom. But I'm also a soccer mom, a dance mom, a basketball mom, a band mom, a wife, a friend, a mom taxi driver, a reader, a volunteer, an animal lover, a runner, a DIY-er, a mom-tog, AND a blogger. Showing how Down syndrome fits into all of that can be every bit as inspiring and educational as a blog that solely focuses on Down syndrome. I receive emails each week from readers who are new on this journey to thank me for showing them just how normal life with Down syndrome can be, and that's such a rewarding feeling. That's exactly what I hope to accomplish, because once upon a time, I didn't think it was possible!

During the first two years after our post-birth diagnosis, there was so much to talk about. But there are only so many posts I can write about how awesome my child who has Down syndrome is before they all starting sounding the same. (Just for the record, he IS awesome!) At first it was a new journey and I had a point to prove. I had to be Liam's advocate. But as the years passed, life with Down syndrome became very normal and ordinary for us, and I no longer had a point to prove. Liam took over showing the world what he COULD do.

As his mom and a blogger, I prefer to showcase how normal life with Down syndrome can really be through my parenting and lifestyle posts. That's the best way to show how he really is more alike than different, because my posts feature all the ways he is living life just like any other human being! It's my belief that it's the best way to educate others about what Down syndrome REALLY is!

I suppose I am, in a sense, a Down syndrome blogger. But I'm also a mom blogger, a food blogger, a lifestyle blogger and a fashion blogger. Since this blog isn't Down syndrome-specific, I identify more with the parenting/lifestyle niche than the Down syndrome niche. As for now, I like the way I share this journey!

The misconceptions are still going strong about Down syndrome, and there are some ugly people in the world. Although I don't discuss Down syndrome in depth as often on my blog anymore, it is Down syndrome Awareness Month, and with that, I'm spending the month educating others on social media.

I will always share our story and advocate for Liam, in the hopes that this world will become a better, more accepting place for him.  No parent should ever have to defend their child's right to exist, but that's a battle that many parents must fight. Sharing Liam, and showing what our life with Down syndrome is really like, is my way to fight that battle and educate others on the real facts.

Down syndrome

Down syndrome is a big part of our lives, but it's only a small piece of our story. Liam is more than Down syndrome, so his story should expand beyond that topic. He fits into this little space every bit as much as the rest of us, and I will continue to share our lives and our  story for as long as I possibly can! Thank you for joining us on this journey!

Down syndrome 

Follow along with our daily Down syndrome posts on Instagram and Facebook!

Why I'm Not A Down syndrome Blogger #downsyndrome