Our Five Ring Circus: 2019

Sunday, December 15, 2019

The Importance of Family Dinners + Keto Low Carb Turkey Burgers

The Importance of Family Dinners + Keto Low Carb Turkey Burgers

I received this product for free from Moms Meet to use and post my honest opinions. Compensation was provided and this page may contain affiliate links.

I have a big, busy family, but one of our priorities is regular family dinners! Delicious meals just have a way of bringing families and friends together. As you can imagine, going out to eat with 7 people is expensive, so we do a LOT of cooking at home, and often invite friends and family members to eat with us!

I feel like family dinners are quickly becoming a thing of the past due to the busyness of life. I truly believe that letting this tradition slip away can be detrimental for family togetherness. Taking a brief break from the chaos, even if it's for just 30 minutes, can help families reconnect. Teaching our kids the importance of family togetherness can lead to traditions that they will carry on to their own families one day. 

My own family eats dinner together 5 days a week. We might not sit down until 8 PM or later some days, but we always eat together! Almost every Friday, we visit my parents, and have dinner with them. Over the past year, we started trying new recipes on Saturday nights that we're at home. Now that our kids are older, they do have busy social lives, too, so not everyone is here on weekends, but those who are, get to enjoy meals with family and friends, or try a new meal!

Thursday, December 5, 2019

When Life Hands You The Unexpected, Count Your Blessings!

Big Family Blog

November was a BUSY month for our family! Dylan started PA Cyber School, so there was a big adjustment period for him and for me. All of his work is done online, so he's home with me full time. We also celebrated his 15th birthday! (That post is coming!) We're currently on the hunt for a new private speech therapist for Liam, we got a kitten, and, well, we have five kids, including a baby. There is NO extra time for anything!

We absolute love the holiday season! My family was so excited for Thanksgiving this year, but it didn't go exactly as planned. Actually, far from it. Instead of celebrating Thanksgiving with our families, we ended up staying home as the flu swept through our family.

Needless to say, it was a stressful two weeks. I just kept reminding myself to count my blessings, and focus on everything I was thankful for. Despite the illness, we made the most of it, and enjoyed our time together!

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Holiday Gifts 2019 - Tablift

Down syndrome blog

I was gifted product in exchange for my honest review.

The countdown is on! Only 23 days until Christmas. I come from a big family, and I have a big family, so there are a lot of holiday gifts to buy for the wonderful family members and friends on my list!

I discovered some awesome products this year, so I'm going to share a few of them with you each week leading up to Christmas. I buy gifts for people of every age and ability. I hate buying the same type of gifts over and over again, but often fall into that trap. I'm always on the lookout for something new and different!

The tablift is perfect for almost everyone on your list! It's perfect for tech lovers. It's perfect for people who have limited mobility or special needs. And it's perfect for people who travel. If they have a tablet, they will love it!

Sunday, December 1, 2019

25 Must-See Christmas Movies (and shows) To Watch With Your Family

Best Christmas Movies

Happy December! I can't believe Christmas is less than four weeks away. Even more so, I can't believe it's the last month of the year and the last month of the DECADE! Why does time have to go by so quickly?

Speaking of time, I don't have much extra time these days. Five kids, including one who has special needs and one who is a baby, keep me VERY busy. The past few months were even busier than usual, so I really struggled to keep up. I miss blogging so much, so I think it's time to rejuvenate my blog!

My December calendar is very overwhelming, but the most important thing to do this month is spend time together as a family. My big family makes tradition and family togetherness a priority. One of the ways we come together as a family is through regular Family Movie Nights! Christmas is our favorite time of year (well, it's tied with Summer), and we have so many favorite Christmas movies and shows. I listed our favorites to share with all of you!

Monday, November 11, 2019

Fall Favorites

Parenting Blog

It's nearing the middle of November, and while everyone else seems to have decorated for Christmas already, I'm still fully embracing Fall! If there's anything having five children has taught me, it's to quit rushing things, and enjoy the moment. I love everything about the holiday season, from Halloween to New Year's Day, but I'm still enjoying pumpkins, Fall decor, and our Thankful Tree! And on Thanksgiving night, you will find all of us in Christmas pajamas!

If you read my last post from last month, you already know that life has been very chaotic around here. I just haven't had time to blog, and I had to fight through the guilt and realize that I would get back to it when I had a chance. Life has changed even more since I wrote that post three weeks ago. I now have a teenager at home with me every single day, doing cyber school. I'll share more details on the why and how soon. It's still very new to us!

Currently, my nap-protester is actually sleeping, my sick self is stuck on the couch trying to get rest, and my kids are off school for the next two days. It's surprisingly calm in my home for 8 PM on a Sunday night. It's the perfect time to share a few of my favorite things this Fall!

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Back To School & Big Changes

Big Family Blog

Over the past 6 weeks, life has been a whirlwind. The back to school season is always incredibly busy, but it's even more chaotic with four kids in four different schools AND a baby. I attempted to stay current with blogging, but failed miserably, and that's okay. I needed a break, and my one week break turned into three!

Life is finally calming down (a bit), so I figured it was time to get back to writing. I have so many updates to share, so I figured I would put them all in one post before moving on. Life has been very busy for my big family, and I haven't really had a moment to breathe!

Here's life in a nutshell over the past 6 weeks:

  • My kids went back to school, and there were big changes this year!
  • Lily became a cheerleader, and gave up dance for tumbling. She loves it!
  • Coen is growing at an alarming rate. This last first year with my last bonus baby is going entirely too quickly.
  • It's Down syndrome awareness month, and I haven't shared a single post. I do have a big one coming up!
  • I started working out again - REALLY working out, and I'm finally getting my pre-baby body back. I'm also getting back into photography, and have SO many pictures to share.
  • My parents had some health scares. My dad had a mini stroke, and my mom had a seizure. They are doing well now, but it was scary and stressful. 
  • Life with 5 kids is just busy. Really busy.
Keep reading, and I'll fill you in on life lately!

Monday, October 14, 2019

How To Set Up A Shared Bedroom For A New Baby And Their Older Sibling

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #StayConnectedwithVTech #CollectiveBias

Parenting Blog

When we found out our fifth baby was on the way, it was a huge surprise! With 6 people living in a 3 bedroom home, room sharing was a given, and we knew we had to rearrange our room configuration to include a 7th family member. We ended up adding a bedroom to our basement, letting our teenager move into that room, and turning his former bedroom into a shared bedroom for our new baby and our 5 year old!

Although our newborn would be sleeping in a bassinet in our bedroom for the first 6 months, just like our other children did, we still needed to set up a safe space for diaper changes, clothing changes, playtime, and daytime naps. We put a lot of thought into our two youngest boys' shared bedroom, and it worked out well! Our baby has slept in his crib a few times at night, but we're getting ready to transition him to the room full time very soon.

While we were setting up a shared bedroom for our boys, we focused on three key factors: safety, comfort, and function. There were 5 1/2 years between our baby and his older brother, so we had to make sure our 5 year old still felt special, and our newborn was completely safe. With the help of fun multi-age toys, comfortable play areas, safe beds, and a video baby monitor, we're able to ensure that the transition to full-time room sharing is as easy as possible!

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Homemade Peanut Banana Oatmeal Baby Food + The New Guidelines For Introducing Allergens

Introducing peanuts to babies

I received this product for free from Moms Meet for review. Compensation for this post was provided and this page may contain affiliate links.

When Coen was born, I told myself to savor every moment, because babies don't keep. An entire year of infancy stretched out ahead of us, but I blinked and half a year was already gone. Coen is now 6 months old, and he's nothing like the helpless newborn he was just a short while ago. He's rolling, sitting, standing with support, trying to crawl, getting teeth, eating baby food, and sipping from a straw cup!

Gone are the hours upon hours I spent breastfeeding him. Now some of those nursing sessions are supplemented by solid feedings. Instead of pulling out my breast pump, I'm pulling out the blender to make homemade baby purees. So many changes happen within that first year of life. It's exciting and bittersweet at the same time!

Speaking of changes, a lot of changes have occurred since my four older kids were babies. Start solids at 4 months, start solids at 6 months, start solids between 4-6 months, skip purees and do baby led weaning, don't give eggs or peanut butter until 12 months...it's hard to keep up! Coen's wonderful pediatrician recommended starting solids at 4 months (we did) and slowly introducing foods, then adding eggs and peanut butter to his diet at 6 months old. Research shows that feeding peanuts between 4-6 months could prevent babies from developing a peanut allergy. We followed the recommendation, and it was so easy to do!

Pittsburgh Blog

Friday, September 20, 2019

Family Fun & STEAM in Pittsburgh at MuseumLab


This post is brought to you by The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own.

When I was a child, my dad used to take me to The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. I LOVED visiting a museum that felt like it was built just for me! Years after I grew up, I visited my favorite museum with my first baby. I vividly remember the excitement I felt when I took him there for the first time. It was as if I was sharing a piece of my history with him. There have been four more first visits since then, but it never gets old!

My first baby is nearly 15 years old, my last baby is 6 months old, and we have a tween, an 8 year old, and a 6 year old, who has a developmental delay, in between. We have kids in every stage of development, and it's difficult to find a place to visit that they all enjoy. Thanks to a great new addition to The Children's Museum, it's now a perfect spot for my entire family!

In April of this year, The Children's Museum added MuseumLab, which is located next door. It was created to grow along with families, and is specifically geared toward kids over the age of 10 and adults, but is great for multi-age families like mine. It is a STEAM-lover's dream spot, and inspires kids to use their minds and be creative while having a LOT of fun! 

Sunday, September 15, 2019

7 Easy Ways To Stay Energized Through The Day

Parenting Blog

I received this product for free from Moms Meet for review. Compensation for this post was provided and this page may contain affiliate links.

Mornings. You either love them or you hate them! I wouldn't really consider myself a morning person just yet, but I'm slowly becoming one. I have to wake up really early, so I rely on a regular morning routine to stay energized through the day!

My days are busy from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed. I need lots of energy to keep up with my five energetic kids! I'm not going to lie - I rely on a cup of coffee to start my day, and occasionally have one in the afternoon if I need a little boost. 

Although I definitely have off days when I'm sick or staying in all day, I try to follow the same routine every morning. I actually notice a drop in energy if I don't follow my regular routine! Here's what I do each morning to keep my energy level up:

Monday, September 9, 2019

How To Create A Portable Homework Caddy + Homework Tips

Back To School Organization Ideas

Today, my crew headed back to school! Life is already busy enough, but soon, we'll be adding school activities and homework to our to do list. I'm reluctant to leave Summer behind, but I already prepared for the upcoming year! 

One my favorite organization tips for the school year is to create a homework caddy. I put one together back in 2015, and it became a permanent staple on our kitchen counter. All of my kids use it year-round. I loved our original homework caddy, but over the years, I tested different setups, and found one that works really well for us!

Last week, I cleaned out our portable homework caddy, and restocked it with new supplies for the upcoming school year. It's currently sitting on our counter, ready to go. Honestly? It's the ONLY thing ready for back to school! (Long live Summer!!!)

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Amazon Finds July & August

Amazon Finds July & August

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through, and make a purchase, I will earn a commission. Everything I recommend has been tested by me or my family!

It took me a while to fully embrace Amazon Prime, but now I buy as much as possible from them! If it saves me a trip to the store with five kids, it's worth it. Plus, I can pretty much find everything I'm looking for, order straight from the app on my phone, and get it within 1-3 days. That's a definite win!

July and August were full of birthdays in our immediate family, so lots of gifts were purchased. Grant turned 40, Lily turned 8, and Liam turned 6! We also started to shop for Fall clothing and back to school items. I got sucked into the Amazon Fashion hole for the first time ever, and never looked back!

My Amazon finds for the past two months include baby clothing, first day of school outfits, jewelry, fashion accessories, bags, toys, books, storage boxes, and electronics accessories. I'm sharing my honest thoughts on everything I bought! (Spoiler Alert - Most were hits!)

Thursday, August 29, 2019

I Am Loved - Our Love Story

I Am Loved

This post is sponsored by Helzberg Diamonds but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.


We met in the Garden of Eden. He was Adam, and I was Eve. We were just teenagers, but that was the beginning of our love story, which has already spanned 20 years!

Grant and I were still kids when we were cast as the leads in The Apple Tree. We started dating while we were rehearsing the musical, and we fell in love. We married young, and many people thought it was just a fling. I'm absolutely certain that some of the people who loved us had their doubts, and thought we would fail.

A year of marriage turned into two...then three...then four. Shortly after our 4th wedding anniversary, we bought our first house and had our first child. While all of our friends were going to college and starting their careers, we were new parents, who were creating a home for our little family.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Every Baby Is Different - Coen's Story

Breastfeeding Stories

This post is sponsored by Evivo but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

Our fifth baby was a BIG surprise! My husband and I adjusted quickly to the news, and figured what’s one more when we already had four?!?  Our kids ranged in age from 5 through 14, and had been through it all, including a very surprising post-birth diagnosis of Down syndrome. We were experienced parents, and nothing could throw us off our parenting game. Of course we had this under control! 

Or so we thought. Everybody assured us that baby #5 would be the easiest one, but they were wrong. Baby #5 turned out to be a very fussy baby who had feeding issues. It was our first unhappy baby, and we were feeling very stressed. He cried for hours each day, and nothing we did helped. For the first time ever, I was an exhausted new mom, and I felt a tinge of postpartum depression sneaking in. 

Sometimes as a parent, you just have to follow your gut. I KNEW there was something wrong with my sweet baby. I successfully breastfed three other babies, including one that I was told couldn’t breastfeed because of his diagnosis. I was an experienced breastfeeder, and I wasn’t doing anything different. It was up to me to figure out what was going on.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Happy 6th Birthday, Liam!

Down syndrome

On Sunday, our sweet boy celebrated his 6th Birthday! It's easy to forget just how old Liam is, because he's so tiny, and has a speech delay. But my boy, who was the baby of the family for 5 1/2 years, is now 6 years old and headed to first grade! It's so hard to believe!

We have to alter our usual birthday traditions a bit for Liam. He has celiac disease, which means we can't do the usual Happy Birthday Donut Breakfast, and we don't go out to eat since there isn't a good restaurant that he likes that meets his diet restrictions. Our plan for his big day was to hang out at home, invite some of his favorite people over, eat his favorite dinner, and play outside.

Last year, we spent Liam's birthday driving 12 hours to the beach. We'll definitely always remember that one, but sometimes celebrating simply can be just as good. Liam had a GREAT birthday, and was so excited about it!

Saturday, August 17, 2019

What We're Loving Lately

What We're Loving Lately

I received some of the items below free for review. I only share my genuine favorites on my blog. 

With 7 people living in our home, we try a lot of new products! Some things are just okay, and some things end up on our favorites list. Every so often, I share a roundup of the things my family is loving lately!

On our list is a functional item, a must have baby item, a new shampoo that I'm currently using, a new TV show for young kids, and wellness and self-care products. I try to include something for everyone! Here's what we're loving lately...

Thursday, August 15, 2019



This post is sponsored by 3M but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

Summer Break flew by, and it’s almost time to send the kids back to school! We’re enjoying the last few weeks of Summer Break, but we’re also starting to shop for the upcoming school year. With four kids heading back to school, we have a lot to buy - clothing, shoes, gym clothes, backpacks, lunchboxes, school supplies, and more!

The beginning of the school year can be so exciting, but then reality hits. We’re incredibly busy from September through June, so I’m definitely a much bigger fan of our more peaceful Summers, and the time spent with my kids. But as much as I’m in denial, the countdown to the first day of school is on!

Shopping for back to school can be an undertaking with 5 kids, but it helps to make a list and get it done early. Staying organized, and having a stash of school supplies for home use is the key to my sanity during the school year!

Find out which item tops my list of school supplies for home use, the five unique ways to use them, and how you can get a night out at the movies just from purchasing school supplies!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Coen's Birth Story - The Delivery

Coen's Birth Story - The Delivery

Time goes by so quickly when you have kids! It goes by even faster with each child that you add to your family. It seems like we were just anxiously waiting for our fifth baby to be born, and now he's 5 months old. I wish time would slow down! I already shared the first part of Coen's birth story - the labor. Now it's time for the delivery!

I haven't shared the details of the delivery with many people, other than to say that it was brutal! It took months to recover, and I'm still dealing with nerve pain. Let me just say that if Coen was my first child, he would be an ONLY child!

Here's where we left off:  Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time to get that epidural running again, so for the first time ever, I would get to experience a natural delivery. It wasn't what I wanted, and I was already in enough pain, but there was no turning back. Our baby was coming - NOW - whether we were ready or not! And soon, everyone in the room was going to be very surprised by what came next...

Monday, August 12, 2019

Sparkling Black Raspberry Float

Sparkling Black Raspberry Float

This post is sponsored by Sparkling ICE but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

In a few short weeks, my crew is going to be heading back to school! My kids are starving when they get home, and don't always make the healthiest choices, so I try to plan a few snacks each week. A Sparking Black Raspberry Float is a tasty, low calorie treat that they will love!

I absolutely love raspberries, so I'm a big fan of anything raspberry-flavored, and my kids agree! This refreshing, 4-ingredient float is made with delicious frozen yogurt and Sparkling Ice Black Raspberry. Although parents would love it, too, they just might want to opt for an extra boost of energy instead. The beginning of the school year is draining for kids, teachers, and mom and dad!

I'm not quite ready to trade our (somewhat) calm Summer days for the chaos of the school year, but it's time to start planning those afterschool snacks. I will definitely be adding this treat to the afterschool snack rotation. The Sparkling Black Raspberry Float has so much going for it - it's quick and easy to make, it's inexpensive, it's refreshing, and it's absolutely delicious!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

HundrED Spotlight on Pittsburgh - MAKESHOP

HundrED Spotlight on Pittsburgh - MAKESHOP

This post was written in partnership with The Motherhood and sponsored by The Grable Foundation. Photos courtesy of Remake Learning and Ben Filio. 

Do you love where you live? I definitely do! Pittsburgh is a wonderful place to raise a family! Did you know Pittsburgh is a world leader in learning and education innovation?

We might not have the best weather in the world, but there are so many amazing things that makes Pittsburgh an ideal place to raise children. Pittsburgh has some of the best museums, hospitals, universities, libraries, and schools. In fact, Pittsburgh had the honor of being selected for HundreED's first spotlight in North America! 

HundrED is a global orgnization, which is based in Finland, that aims to research and share education innovations around the world. This year, HundrED has been collaborating with The Grable Foundation and Remake Learning to highlight the unique educational innovations coming out of the Pittsburgh region. Pittsburgh was selected because of the education innovation happening here. HundrED selected 12 Pittsburgh area programs to spotlight, and will be sharing the most inspiring models and ideas in K-12 education with their international audience.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Ocean Sensory Bin

Ocean Sensory Bin

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through, and make a purchase, I will earn a commission. Everything I recommend has been tested by me or my family!

Everybody seems to love Shark Week! Liam definitely loves sharks, so I put together this easy Ocean Sensory Bin for my littles to enjoy last week. It was a very busy week, so I didn't put as much detail into it as I usually do, but sometimes simple is plenty enough!

Liam happily scooped an poured for hours, and Lily even joined in! Baby Coen is starting to put everything in his mouth, so he had to skip this one. We put him in his UpSeat, sat him beside the bin, and gave him a baby-safe shark to teethe on!

The Ocean Sensory Bin was a big hit, and was so easy to prepare! (Spoiler Alert: I bought a kit on Amazon Prime for this one!) Although I will eventually have to throw away the water beads, we can keep the ocean animals for later use!

Monday, August 5, 2019

Happy 8th Birthday, Lily!

8th Birthday

On Saturday, August 3rd, Lily celebrated her 8th Birthday! It's so hard to believe my baby girl is 8 years old. I swear, I just had her, but she grew up far too quickly. I just want her to stay little, sweet, and innocent for as long as possible!

Lily's Birthday was a busy one, and she had to share her special day with a family event. My family reunion is always the first Saturday in August, so every few years, Lily's birthday is the same day as the reunion. She didn't seem to mind one bit. She celebrated her birthday with some of the people she loves most, and had the loudest happy birthday song! She said her birthday was so much fun!

One of our birthday traditions is to have a mini photoshoot, and answer questions in a yearly birthday interview. I love seeing how their answers change from year to year, and I love watching them grow! Motherhood truly is bittersweet - you want to watch your children grow, but you also want them to stay little. I honestly love my kids' birthdays so much more than my own, so we make birthdays a BIG deal around here!

Here's how we celebrated Lily's 8th Birthday...

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Coen's Birth Story - The Labor

Coen's Birth Story - The Labor

It has been 4 1/2 months since Coen was born, and I'm finally sitting down to write his birth story! All five of my labors and deliveries have been eventful - some more than others, and each one so different. This is the first part of the story of how I delivered my HUGE 5th baby naturally.

They say that the pain of childbirth fades over time. I'm not completely convinced. Every time I started to write this birth story, the memories of that day come flooding back, and I cringe. Coen is ABSOLUTELY worth it, but I think if this had been my first delivery, Coen would have been an only child!

The last few weeks of my pregnancy were very difficult. Just like with all of my other pregnancies, I was sick until the day I delivered. This time, I also had horrible heartburn and indigestion that wouldn't ease, and I was so uncomfortable. Braxton Hicks contractions started before 20 weeks again, and kept increasing until I had quite a few labor "scares." My baby bump was bigger than it had ever been before, and although the growth ultrasound predicted an 8 - 8 1/2 lb baby at birth, I felt like I was carrying a giant.

You'll never guess what I was doing when I went into real labor...

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Our Five Ring Circus Takes On The Water Steps

The Water Steps in Pittsburgh

On Friday, we headed back into Pittsburgh for another afternoon of fun! We originally planned to visit the Carnegie Museum or Carnegie Science Center, but it was such a beautiful day, that we wanted to spend it outdoors. Grant has never been able to join us at The Water Steps at the North Shore Riverfront Park, so we decided that would be a great family outing for the day!

The Water Steps look like a beautiful piece of natural art, but it's actually a popular spot in the Summer. It's like a huge, interactive fountain! This multi-tier wading spot is a combination of waterfalls cascading over the rocks, and shallow wading pools on each level. Kids can cool down by wading through the water, and even adults and dogs, who are walking or biking along the Riverfront trail, take advantage of this fun, free spot!

I always tell people that the Water Steps are a hidden gem in Pittsburgh. My kids can easily spend hours playing on them, and they are always so excited when I tell them we will be spending the day there. This time, we were so excited to have Grant with us on our mini Pittsburgh staycation!

Monday, July 29, 2019

Our Five Ring Circus Explores The National Aviary

The National Aviary in Pittsburgh

Last week, during Grant's birthday week, our family enjoyed a mini staycation. Grant took three days off, and we decided to take advantage of all the fun things Pittsburgh has to offer! One of the things on our agenda was to visit The National Aviary!

I think the last time we visited The National Aviary was when Dylan was the same age as Coen! Our family has a lot going on with a teenager, tween, (almost) 8 year old, a child who has Down syndrome, and a new baby, but it doesn't stop us from going places and having fun. We just learned to avoid jam-packed itineraries, and stick with short trips. It keeps everyone happy, and we're able to (mostly) avoide meltdowns! The Aviary is one of Pittsburgh's gems, and it's perfect for a short family visit!

The National Aviary houses 500+ birds of many different species from around the world. The live exhibits are beautiful, and there is an abundance of information to explore. They also have fun shows to see, and a variety of bird feedings. Grant and I decided we could easily spend an entire day visiting the Aviary on our own, but there was still plenty for our kids to see and do! We had a fun afternoon getting up close and personal with over 150 unique species of birds!

The National Aviary

Friday, July 26, 2019

40 Things About Grant on His 40th Birthday

40th Birthday

On Wednesday, Grant celebrated his 40th Birthday! We have been together since we were kids ourselves; not much older than our oldest child is now. Grant doesn't like to be a focus on my blog, but since it's such a big birthday, I thought it would be fun to share 40 things about him!

I keep teasing him about turning 40, but I know that someday it will be my turn. I had my fun, so now it's time to be nice! I wrote most of the list myself, then consulted with him on a few. We shared a lot of laughs as we read through the final list!

Here are 40 things about the man behind the blog:

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Cheesy Potato Casserole Recipe

Cheesy Potato Casserole Recipe - An easy, budget-friendly, gluten-free dinner

With five kids, we don't go out to dinner much! I'm sure you can imagine just how expensive our bill is when we do, so we stick to birthdays and big occasions. Eating dinner at home together is just a way of life for our big family. I don't LOVE to cook, but I do enjoy trying new recipes, and making delicious meals!

When it comes to finding recipes my family will love, it's all a matter of trial and error. Each of us have unique preferences and tastes, so I have to keep recipe ingredients simple. I try to make the recipe gluten-free for Liam, so I don't have to cook two meals each night. I also try to make the recipe budget-friendly, because our grocery shopping bill each week is hefty!

I don't consider myself a food blogger, but I decided to start sharing a favorite family recipe each month! Cheesy ham and potatoes has been a longtime favorite meal of ours, but eventually our favorite recipes get boring, so I decided to spruce it up a bit. This hearty Cheesy Potato Casserole recipe is gluten-free, full of some of our most favorite ingredients, and absolutely delicious! When my family goes back for seconds - or thirds - it's a keeper!

Monday, July 22, 2019

Summer Survival Necessities for Moms

Summer Survival with kids

Summer is in full swing, and moms are officially in survival mode! I love having my kids home for the Summer, but there are definitely days that are very long. We are having fun and making memories, but my plate is very full right now. Some days are a win, some days I'm treading water, and some days I can barely stay afloat!

Surviving each day with minimal stress is always my goal! Every single outing takes a lot of preparation, and my house has to be stocked with snacks for those rainy days when we're trapped inside. With five busy kids, there are a lot of bumps and bruises along the way, and some headaches (for me) at the end of the day!

CVS sent me a box full of their favorite products for Summer. Even though I was instructed to treat myself, I did end up sharing with my husband and kids! We found a few new favorites along the way!

Friday, July 19, 2019

Myrtle Beach Family Vacation - Reminiscing About The Last Day

Myrtle Beach Family Vacation

It has been almost one full year since our last family vacation. If you have been following along for a while, you already know it was a big one. While we were in Myrtle Beach, we found out we were expecting baby #5! And the rest is history...

My final Myrtle Beach family vacation recap got lost in my drafts folder during those 9 very long months of morning sickness, and those exhausting early days with a newborn. Because I tend to be very particular about some things, I can't just leave it hanging around in there. I have to finish my recap, or else it will bug me until I do!

Right now seemed like a good time to recap, and I found myself reminiscing as I finished writing this post. Sadly, we're not going to the beach this year, and it's my happy place. I'm very bummed (my husband and kids are, too), but traveling that far this year was going to be very tough. It's a combination of adulting, and having a new baby who DESPISES the car.

Every so often I want to say let's just do it, then I imagine being tethered by a breastfed baby who likes to eat all the time, while my 5 year old runs in the opposite direction toward danger, and I change my mind. Plus, 8-12 hours each way of Coen screaming would be rough. But I want to - I really want to - and if we didn't have to get a new SUV or pay for some home repairs, I would go anyway. So I'm just going to look through all of these pictures when I feel a longing for the beach, and count down the time until we can go back. (But not too fast, because my kids need to slow their grow!)

Here's what we did on the last day of our Myrtle Beach vacation, and on our trip home...

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

What I Bought on Amazon + An Awesome Amazon Tip

What I Bought on Amazon + An Awesome Amazon Tip

Oh, Amazon Prime! It's no wonder so many people are fans. Their selection, pricing, and super fast shipping speed can't be beat! Amazon took over my household, and they're pretty much taking over the world!

We're big Amazon Prime fans! We buy so much from them on a monthly basis - gifts and necessities. I even use Amazon as my "store" of choice when I'm running low on a household item and don't want to drag 5 kids to an actual store!

We bought 21 things from Amazon in June, but I'm not going to list them all. Some of them were wedding gifts off of an Amazon registry, some of them were gifts for friends and family, and I have no business or interest in discussing the blade attachment my husband bought for our weed wacker! (Just keeping it real.)

Check out the Amazon Prime purchases I made in June, and keep reading to find out an awesome way to save if you are a special needs family...

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Life Lately

Big Family Life

Life with five littles is busy - so busy! I'm barely sleeping, we're always on the go, my to do list is ridiculously long, and there's NEVER enough time. This isn't a complaint. It's just a fact. I absolutely love having a big family, but it is a lot of work!

I could easily write a blog post about each day of parenthood. There's never a dull moment, and there are plenty of stories (and pictures) to share! Considering I barely have time to breathe, that just isn't going to happen, so I'm going to sum up life lately in one post.

Here's a glimpse at life with my crew over the past few weeks...

Monday, July 15, 2019

Diapering Essentials For At Home and On The Go

Diapering Essentials For At Home and On The Go

I received some of the items below as a complimentary gift. As always, I only share the items I truly love!

During the first year of your baby's life, you're going to be changing a LOT of diapers! Stocking up on diapering essentials can be overwhelming at first because there are so many brands and so many types of products. There are many products you won't need, but also quite a few products that will make this messy job quick and easy to do!

I have five children, and my diapering essentials list changed with each baby. Some products were simply a waste of money, and I never bought them again. I also discovered new products over the course of 14 1/2 years of parenthood. If you have the basics - diapers and wipes - you're set, but some extras just make the job easier!

Stock your changing area with these must have diapering essentials:

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

How My Family Scared Off A Police Officer

Big Family Blogs

Every family has a funny story to tell. It's the kind of story that gets told over and over again. It's the kind of story that will never be forgotten. It is so good that it quickly becomes THE family story. Our family story involves a pregnant mama, a car full of kids, and one completely overwhelmed police officer. 

As I was going through the list of blog posts that I still have to publish (the list is SO long), I realized that I hadn't shared this story yet! Actually, in the midst of a tough pregnancy and the exhausting days with a newborn, we didn't even share it with many people. But those who heard it laughed right along with us!  It's certainly a moment Grant, Dylan, Lexie, Lily, Liam, and I will never forget!

Let me set the scene: picture an overwhelmed husband, a sick wife, a newly discovered surprise pregnancy, a car jam-packed full of kids and luggage, and 611 miles to drive home...

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Life Before Baby #5

Baby #5

As a mom, it seems like I measure time in life before baby arrived, and life after. I have been a mom for 14 1/2 years, and I truly can't remember what life was like BEFORE I had kids! Now here I am, trying to play catch up for the last year that flew by while I was pregnant or adjusting to life with five kids!

I was so sick during my pregnancy with Coen, just like I was with every other pregnancy. Every single day I battled morning sickness until the day I delivered him. When you are that sick, it's truly a struggle to make it through the day, let alone blog. BUT...I want to catch up on some of the life posts that slipped by while I was sick since this is partially a journal of our lives.

I did so well documenting weekly life for the first 6 weeks of 2019, and I'm determined to finish it. I'm definitely a visual storyteller (or so Facebook tells me), so I might not remember the exact details of the last two weeks before Coen was born, but with the help of all the pictures I took and my beloved Cozi calendar, I just might be able to do a somewhat decent job. All I know is that I was miserably pregnant for those last two weeks of my pregnancy. I was still sick, I was contracting all the time, and I knew my baby was huge. (Spoiler alert: I was right.) The next document life post I will be sharing is Coen's CRAZY birth story, so stay tuned!

Monday, June 24, 2019

Water Beads & Soap Foam Sensory Bin - A Sensory Play Experience for Kids of All Ages

Water Beads & Soap Foam Sensory Bin

It's the first weekend of Summer, the weather is beautiful, and we're so excited to be outside! The only problem is our hose is temporarily out of commision, so water activities are a no go right now. Cooling down with a Water Beads & Soap Foam Sensory Bin was a fun alternative!

My kids are obsessed with water beads! I don't really blame them. They really are fun to play with. There's a reason they put them in gel masks now! ;) Plus they are super inexpensive, and a little goes a long way!

We are big fans of sensory play, and I'm a proponent of letting kids get messy and learn through play. Play really does matter, and introducing sensory experiences at a young age is really important. Sensory play helps kids learn with all of their senses, AND helps them work on their motor skills! Water Beads are a super cool sensory bin filler, and even babies can play (with supervision). Supercharging it with foam soap makes this bin extra fun!

Friday, June 21, 2019

The Dance Recital

Dance Recital

Well, we did it! We survived - and recovered from - dance recital week. Any parent who has a tiny dancer knows EXACTLY what I'm talking about!

Lily just finished up her third year of dance. This past year, she took jazz, ballet, and acro for the second year in a row, with her BFSB. (Best Friend Since Birth - she came up with that term!) She dances at a local top-ranked dance studio (they just announced they placed in the top 20 dance studios in the nation), and they have an amazing award-winning competitive team, so the recital is always a huge production!

The week leading up to the recital was intense! Lily had her last dance class, then a rehearsal to learn the recital finale, then a full dress rehearsal, then another finale rehearsal...and finally, the recital...PHEW. Plus, I had to cut, tie, and bedazzle two recital shirts for the finale. It took F-O-R-E-V-E-R. Lily was nervous (her former thespian parents told her that was perfectly normal), but had an amazing time!

Friday, June 14, 2019

Friday Favorites

Friday Favorites - Mom Blog / Pittsburgh Blog / Baby Blog / Down syndrome Blog / Big Family Blog

Happy Friday! It has been a long time since I shared a few of my favorite things. Life got in the way of blogging - having a baby and adjusting to having five kids will do that. BUT...I figured it was time to get back into posting my favorites regularly!

Life lately has been very busy. Our Summer Break just started, but it doesn't feel much like a break at all. We're in the midst of dance recital week, and it's all we can think about right now! Next week should be a bit more calm!

I discovered so many new favorites over the past few weeks. Some are for me, some are for my kids. I'm taking advantage of the quiet time in my house (AKA the middle of the night), to list my favorites for all of you!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

School's Out for the Summer - The Last Week of the School Year

School's Out for the Summer!

School's out for the Summer! Dylan, Lexie, Lily, and Liam had their last day of school on Friday. They are now joining me and baby Coen at home until September 9th. The last week of the school year was a busy one, and although the last day of school was bittersweet, my crew is excited about the Summer ahead!

This past week included a fun event in our little town, a school kindness celebration, middle school graduation and a dance, an 8th Grade class trip to Cedar Point, Liam's annual eye exam, an oil change and car shopping, Lily's last dance class, the last day of school, a baseball game, sleepovers, and fireworks. I wish we had a lazy week ahead of us, but Lexie was asked to represent the school's STEAM program during the school board meeting tonight, Lily has a practice for the dance recital finale tomorrow, the dance recital rehearsal is on Thursday, Liam has an early baseball game on Saturday, and Father's Day and the dance recital is on Sunday. Gone are those lazy Summer days!

We are only four days into Summer Break and I can tell it's going to be a busy one! Kids are entering and leaving our house in a continuous loop for sleepovers/playdates. Did I also mention that Coen is rolling over EVERY time I put him down to sleep, then gets angry and starts screaming? Sleep just isn't happening for either of us! So many moms say that Summer is actually busier than the school year, and that seems to be the case this year.

Here's a glimpse at the last week of 8th Grade, 6th Grade, 2nd Grade, and Kindergarten..

Monday, June 10, 2019

How To Have The Best Summer in Pittsburgh with Kids

How To Have The Best Summer in Pittsburgh with Kids

This post is brought to you by Kidsburgh and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own.

School’s out for the Summer! Like many parents, I’m wondering what we’re going to do for the next 3 months. Thankfully, we live in the Pittsburgh area, and there is an abundance of family-friendly activities in and around our beautiful city!

Every so often, my husband and I daydream about moving our family to the beach, but the truth is, we won’t be doing that anytime soon. Pittsburgh is actually an incredible place to raise a family! It has everything - the best doctors and hospitals, an abundance of great museums, awesome professional sports teams, a booming arts district, four distinct seasons, fun public transportation, family-friendly events, and even the great outdoors.

You can easily find something to do every single day in Pittsburgh. From touring the beautiful gardens at Phipp’s Conservatory to cooling off at the infamous water steps to cheering on a favorite team to ice skating at the ice rink at PPG place, there is something for everyone. There’s so much to do that you just might miss something if you don’t put it on your schedule. That’s why I love Kidsburgh! Following along keeps me informed on all the exciting happenings for families in Pittsburgh!

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Glow In The Dark Space Sensory Bin

Glow in the Dark SPACE Sensory Bin #sensoryplay #sensorybin #space #kidsactivities

We currently have a tough decision to make. Initially, we signed Liam up for Extended School Year so he doesn't regress between the end of this school year and the start of the next one. Now we're reconsidering, because we have a busy Summer ahead of us, and we think Liam deserves the chance to just be a kid and enjoy Summer Break. I think his once a week speech therapy session, baseball, lots of outdoor play, and sensory bins might be the path we take this Summer!

Our sensory bins, kids activities, and posts about Down syndrome bring this blog the most traffic, but I stopped sharing all of our ideas due to the busyness of life (more coming on life with five kids soon)! I'm getting back into creating weekly themed sensory bins, and pairing them with books, learning activities, crafts, and an occasional outing. This weekend, our town had a huge Mars New Year celebration and NASA attended, so I focused on a space themed sensory bin for the week!

Like the majority of our sensory bins, this space sensory bin is easy to put together. I reuse a lot of our fillers and just mix and match according to the theme, and everything I use is inexpensive! And this sensory bin is extra fun because it glows in the dark!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The One Item That Will Completely Change Your Tooth Care Routine + Giveaway

The One Item That Will Completely Change Your Tooth Care Routine + Giveaway

This post is sponsored by Smile Brilliant. I received product in exchange for my honest review.

After nine very long months of morning sickness, my teeth needed some maintenance. I'm breastfeeding, so it isn't safe for me to whiten my teeth just yet, and it's going to be a while before I'm able to use my whitening kit. I needed to do something to brighten my smile, so I turned to Smile Brilliant for some help!

The cariPRO Ultrasonic Electric Toothbrush by Smile Brilliant quickly became one of my new favorite things! It's SO good, that I immediately tossed out my manual toothbrush, and never looked back. I had never used a real electric toothbrush before, and wasn't sure they were worth the price. I had only used disposable, battery-operated toothbrushes in the past, and I really didn't see a difference. I soon discovered that I had been missing out on an amazing product. The cariPRO Ultrasonic completely changed my tooth care routine!

After a few weeks of use, I find myself asking one question: Where has this been all my life?!? Here are the reasons why I love my electric toothbrush, and how you could win one of your own...

Thursday, May 9, 2019

8 Easy Ways To Deal With Pet Messes

8 Easy Ways To Deal With Pet Messes

This post is sponsored by The Libman Company but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

Like many pet owners, we believe our pets are valuable family members. Our already large family of 7 also includes a gentle giant - an English Mastiff named Ella - and 3 indoor rabbits. Our home is loud, chaotic, and crowded, but full of so much love! And even though our beloved pets bring so much joy to our lives, they also make messes!

With five young children, a 150+ pound dog, and three 12 pound rabbits, there is pretty much ALWAYS a mess to clean up! (Remember that time our rabbits had babies? See the picture above!) If I don't stay on top of it, cleaning can quickly become very overwhelming. I'm not one of those people who can spot a mess and ignore it - instead, it will bother me until it's cleaned up.

Now that it's Spring AND shedding season, the mess has doubled! If I'm not sweeping up chihuahua-sized hairballs from my giant dog, I'm sweeping up freshly mowed grass and mopping muddy footprints/pawprints that are tracked through my house. What does a (fur) mama gotta do to keep things clean around here?!?

I'm teaching my children to clean up their own messes (or at least help), but that doesn't quite work with our pets! Here's how I tackle those pet messes...

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Bloom - An Event for New or Expectant Moms in Pittsburgh

Bloom 2019 - An Event for New & Expectant Mothers in the Greater Pittsburgh area

As many of you know, my family lives in the Greater Pittsburgh area. Yes, I would love to live near the beach, because it's my happy place, but we stay in Pittsburgh because of how family-friendly it is! It truly is a wonderful place to raise a family. This weekend, Bloom is returning to Pittsburgh. If you are trying to conceive (or planning on trying soon), expecting, adopting, or have a new baby, this wonderful event is for you!

My fellow Pittsburgh Moms Blog contributors have been working tirelessly to bring Bloom to life for the third year in a row. I was involved during the first year, but missed it last year due to family weddings. I missed my PMB family during my looooong pregnancy, and I'm happy to be back!

Now that I have a new baby, I'm excited to both volunteer at the event and check out what's going on!

Sunday, May 5, 2019

I'm BACK!!! / Easter 2019 / Baby's First Easter

Easter Photography

Hello, friends! I'm (hopefully) back for good! I had no idea adjusting to life with five kids was going to be so difficult and time-consuming. Adjusting to life with 1, 2, 3, and 4 kids (even with a surprise Down syndrome diagnosis) was a breeze, but 5 is the number that did us in! Liam is approximately 10 kids in 1, and Coen has acid reflux and is such a mama's boy that my husband lovingly refers to him as my little parasite. My hands are never free, but I think I'm getting the hang of things, and I'm kicking off my return to blogging with a quick recap of Easter 2019!

This year, we kept Easter simple. We had no idea that Coen had acid reflux yet, so he was really fussy. We decided to spend most of Easter at home, focusing on family activities. Although it didn't feel quite the same, we had a nice holiday!

This year, we took the focus off of the Easter Bunny. We haven't visited the Easter Bunny in years, and this year we didn't do any egg hunts, either. We briefly mentioned the Easter Bunny bringing baskets, but that was it. Instead, we dyed Easter Eggs together. We had a small family dinner. We talked about the reason we were celebrating. We baked and decorated cookies. We sat down to watch The Ten Commandments together. Perhaps next year we'll actually make it to church, but this year, I decided to let go of the guilt, realize that we can't possibly do it all, and focus on WHY we were celebrating in the first place! And you know what? Once the pressure was off, it was GOOD!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Travel Trays for Kids + 10 Mess-Free On The Go Items

Travel Trays for Kids + 10 Mess-Free On The Go Items

*I received the Nuby cups for an honest review.

With five kids, we log in a lot of travel time in the car! Although we only go on a few road trips each year, we spend hours in the car each week driving our kids to school and activities. Like most older kids, Dylan and Lexie are glued to their phone and iPod, but our little ones get bored. Keeping a well stocked travel tray in our SUV helps us avoid hearing the dreaded "I'm bored!!!" while we're driving or waiting during sports and activities!

I've always kept my car stocked with road trip activities and snacks, but I had to pack a separate bag that we could take out of the car when we arrived at our destination. We ended up with so much stuff in our car. Then I won a travel tray from Kenley Kids in a giveaway, and it was truly a game changer! I honestly wish I had taken the plunge, and bought one sooner!

Not only does a travel tray hold all of our on the go essentials, but it also stores easily in the car, opens up into a convenient lap desk for on the go play, and can be carried like a bag to and from the car! It also has elastic pockets and zipper pouches to store cups, snacks, and toys, a convenient protective holder for a tablet, and a removable storage wall. It is the best car seat accessory for kids of all ages, and my young crew loves it!

Travel Trays for Kids

Hopefully I convinced you to make your life as a parent a bit easier, and buy one (or two or three) for your kids. But what should you put IN the travel tray? Here are 10 Mess-Free On The Go Items for kids...

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Our Five Ring Circus

Our Five Ring Circus

Welcome to Our Five Ring Circus! After 10+ years of some form of Lexie Loo & Dylan Too, it was time to bring some changes to my blog. It took a lot of thought (literally months), and it's a work in progress, but I feel like this new name fits this season of our lives so perfectly!

Back in 2008, I started this blog simply because I wanted to keep family members and friends updated on what we were up to, and to journal life with our two kids, Dylan and Lexie. Lexie Loo & Dylan Too was the perfect name at the time. When Lily was born, I changed the name to Lexie Loo, Lily Boo & Dylan Too. By the time Liam came around, my blog was already well established, and I didn't want to "re-brand" so it became Lexie Loo, Lily, Liam & Dylan Too.

When we found out that baby #5 was on the way, I did start to contemplate what I was going to do with my blog. Pregnancy is very tough on me, and I knew my time was going to be limited with a newborn and juggling five kids, but I didn't want to give up blogging completely. It was tough to realize that I was only able to post a few times a month, but I decided to give myself grace, and do what I could, when I could.

During the time that I wasn't able to blog, I started thinking about how I needed to re-brand, and began to brainstorm ideas for a new blog name...

Monday, April 8, 2019

Liam and the Very Special Arts Exhibit

Liam and The Very Special Arts Exhibit

Liam is 4th in the lineup of five kids. With three older siblings, he is always coming along to support them during their many activities, sports, and school events. Now that Liam is in Kindergarten, he has his OWN activities and school events, and it's our turn to support him!

This year, Liam's art teacher submitted his Kindergarten artwork to the Very Special Arts Exhibit. It  is currently on exhibit at Grove City College's Pew Fine Arts Center until April 17th, with artwork from other K-12 students in three counties. Very Special Arts is an international organization on arts and disability, and provides arts and educational opportunities for people with disabilities, while helping increase the access to art for everyone.

On Saturday, they hosted a reception for all the young artists who had artwork on display. It was a fun event, and such a special day for our sweet Liam!