Our Five Ring Circus: When Life Hands You The Unexpected, Count Your Blessings!

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!

I am so thankful for this big, noisy, chaotic family of mine, even when 4 out of 5 of my kids are really sick. We weren't able to enjoy a big family Thanksgiving, but we were able to find the positive things about our unexpected holiday!

Let me go back to the moment it all began in the middle of our already extra busy month. A few days before Dylan's birthday, Liam got pink eye. Within hours, his eye was almost swollen shut, he developed a high fever, and had flu-like symptoms. I was able to get him to the pediatrician for a checkup, and it was determined that he had pink eye and a virus. He prescribed eye drops and told us to take the next two days off of school.

Liam got much worse over the weekend. The pink eye infection spread to both eyes, and both eyes were almost completely swollen shut. His fever was really high, he had cold symptoms, and he had diarrhea. The poor kid was miserable! On Sunday, Lexie woke up with pink eye, and by that evening, she had the high fever and a bad headache. Off to the doctor we went for a double visit on Monday!

During the exam, Lexie ended up fainting. The doctor said it was a combination of her being so sick, and not eating. She ruled out strep throat, despite Lexie's swollen tonsils and lymph nodes, and agreed that it was just a virus for both of them that had to run its course. That night, Lily woke up with the same symptoms (except pink eye), and the following day, Coen got it (also without pink eye). We had four really sick kids at once, just a few days before Thanksgiving. The doctor didn't test for flu, but they had every single symptom of the flu. I'm fully convinced that's what they had/have!

On Wednesday morning, as I juggled four sick kids, Grant and I realized they probably wouldn't be better by Thanksgiving, and we couldn't risk infecting the rest of our family. I raced to the store to buy ingredients for our Thanksgiving dinner, and we prepared for our first ever Thanksgiving at home. The older kids were very bummed, so I was determined to make it special. 

Thanksgiving Day arrived, and sure enough, all four sick kids were still sick. We definitely made the right decision. Grant and the girls woke up early to watch the Thanksgiving Day parade on TV, but Lily eventually ended up going back to bed with a high fever.

Because we didn't have anywhere to go and we weren't hosting anyone at our house, we were able to do things at our own pace. We enjoyed a slow morning/early afternoon before we started cooking. It was so nice to relax in our pajamas and not have to go anywhere! Plus, it was the last Baby's First Thanksgiving we would get to experience!

Baby's First Thanksgiving

Baby's First Thanksgiving

Baby's First Thanksgiving

We cooked a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but because it was planned last minute, I bought two turkey breasts instead of a full turkey. We also had homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, corn casserole, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and french bread. I ended up doing the majority of the prep work and cooking since we had so many sick kids. Dylan did step up to peel the potatoes after I sliced off part of my fingernail with the vegetable peeler! I mean it wouldn't really be a proper day in our home if someone didn't hurt themselves. (Just keeping it real!)

I didn't really set up a fancy table since it was just our family. I just put out the fancy china we got for our wedding that we never use, lit a few candles, used our Thankful Tree as a centerpiece, and tossed a few gourds on the kitchen table. The girls thought it looked really fancy, so it made their day! Lexie was so inspired, that she even quickly made place cards out of post-its!

While dinner was finishing up, my parents stopped by after their family dinner, and brought us pumpkin pie. They didn't stay long, but it was very sweet of them to brave the germs for a short visit. At the time, Coen was feeling miserable and had a high fever, so my mom rocked him while we set out our dinner, then they headed home. Thanksgiving just didn't feel the same, so it was nice to see them for a few minutes! (I'm super bummed about our Thanksgiving evening pictures. I had my camera set manually for our dark indoor lighting, and the settings dial was accidentally bumped to a different setting. I didn't think to double check it at all that night!)

big family

After they left, it was time for the main event: Thanksgiving Dinner! I left a little leaf sticker on each plate. Before we started eating, everyone had to write what they were thankful for on the sticker, and place it on the Thankful Tree. A quick moment to reflect was exactly what we needed!

Thanksgiving Traditions

Thankful Tree

Parenting Blog

Unfortunately, the baby Tylenol hadn't kicked in yet, so Coen cried his way through the entire meal. I was trying to soothe him while eating my own meal, and it was disappointing because he loves real food so much. He only paused long enough to eat two bites of sweet potato casserole and mashed potatoes.

Big Family Life

Mom Blog

Pittsburgh Blog

The food was delicious, and the people sitting around our table were my favorite! Our sick kids weren't overly hungry, so we had a ton of leftovers. We decided to store everything for a few days, and have a second Thanksgiving dinner over the weekend, when everyone was feeling better. (That's exactly what we did!)

Down syndrome blogs

Pittsburgh Family Blog

Down syndrome

Baby's First Thanksgiving

After we cleaned everything up, we changed into Christmas pajamas, and put our two littles to bed. (Lily puts herself to bed, and was already sleeping.) I quickly took down all the Thanksgiving/Fall decorations, then we introduced Lexie to Sleepless in Seattle. It was the perfect end to our quiet Thanksgiving! It wasn't an ideal first Thanksgiving for Coen, but he was all smiles when his fever went down!

Baby's First Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving letter board ideas

We did learn a few things from our unexpected Thanksgiving at home:

  • It was so nice to do things at our own pace, and eat dinner when we wanted to eat.
  • It's easier to stay home when you have a bunch of kids.
  • There's quite a bit of down time while you're waiting for the food to cook. I was able to transfer our favorite recipes to recipe cards so my kids have them when they are older. (Lexie and I perfected our sweet potato casserole recipe - it's amazing!)
  • It's a lot of work to prepare an entire Thanksgiving meal alone - and really boring!
  • We missed seeing our families.
  • I make far too much food for our family. We had a second Thanksgiving dinner, I saved a meal for Grant's brother, I packed up leftovers for one of Grant's lunches, and still threw out food!
  • We really like big family dinners, and we're going to make them a priority!  Sometimes 5 kids can be very overwhelming, but in those stressful moments, I like to picture what our holidays will be like when our kids are grown and have their own families. Our home is going to be very full!
  • We just might want to host a big Thanksgiving dinner for our families one day!
  • It's nice not worrying about Black Friday sales. I bought a few things from the comfort of my living room after we finished our movie. 
  • It doesn't matter where you go for Thanksgiving - as long as you are surrounded by those you love most, and we were!

Thanksgiving is now behind us, and we're fully in the Christmas spirit! Lexie, Lily, Liam, and Coen are feeling much better, and Grant, Dylan, and I are still healthy. Hopefully our Christmas will be 100% germ-free!!!

The Lucky Few

How did you celebrate Thanksgiving? 

Big Family Thanksgiving


  1. So sad that everyone got sick! Glad you made the most of it. I'm curious about Dylan starting cyber school!

  2. Oh gosh, I'm sorry so many of you were sick but I hope everyone is feeling better - or feel better soon. It sounds like you still had a fairly nice Thanksgiving, though I'm sorry Coen couldn't really enjoy it that day. I'm glad second thanksgiving was better.


  3. It's so wonderful to see pictures of your sweet family. I can't believe how big everyone is getting!! It's terrible to get sick around the holidays, but I am not surprised that you found a way to keep everyone happy and grateful. It looks like you made your own Thanksgiving traditions this holiday and even through sickness, I saw a lot of smiles. Wishing you a happy and healthy 2020!!


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