Our Five Ring Circus: 2021

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Learn at Home with My Pre-K Box

Down syndrome

We are in the middle of Summer Break, and enjoying a more relaxed routine! We're still making time for learning activities, though. We're just learning at home, whenever we want...no pressure whatsoever!

I'm always trying to find ways for Liam and Coen to learn together. Liam is 8, and has Down syndrome, and Coen is 2, so it can be tough to bridge that gap. I love it when I can adapt the same activity to meet both of their levels of learning!

We love subscription boxes, and My Pre-K Box is one of the best! These monthly themed preschool learning boxes are filled with fun learning activities, games and crafts. It is geared toward preschoolers aged 3-5, but it works so well for our two youngest boys!

Monday, July 19, 2021

Create a Personalized Children's Book - In The Book Review

Personalized Children's Book

*I received this product free for review.

Reading is a BIG part of our lives! We read every single day, and fill our home library with books for adults and children. Our four older kids have personalized books, so it was time for Coen to get one of his own!

Although we have plenty of great books to read, there's just something so exciting about seeing their name throughout a book. Even better if it contains a personalized message, and a picture. In a big family, kids get used to sharing and hand-me-downs, but with a personalized book, it is something just for them!

There are so many options out there for personalized books, so it can be tough to decide which one to choose. In The Book offers personalized books that are great for people of any gender or age. The books are such a unique keepsake gift, and the possibilities are endless! It was so hard to choose the perfect book for Coen, but I think we succeeded! 

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Liam's Rockin' Pandemic 7th Birthday

Down syndrome

Spoiler Alert: We are just over one month until Liam's EIGHTH Birthday, but I didn't realize I didn't post Liam's 7th Birthday recap during my semi-blog-hiatus! Better late than never...it was time to finish what I started. Liam's 7th Birthday fell during the pandemic, so he didn't have a big party in 2020, but his birthday was a lot of fun! 

Despite the "quiet" birthday, Liam had a great day! We went swimming, we ate a favorite meal, his grandparents stopped by, and he loved his presents. I don't think Liam even cared about the fact that he didn't have a big party!

Just like every other year, we managed to tackle all of our favorite birthday traditions. His day started out with a room filled with balloons, we had donuts and sang the Happy Birthday song, he got a new outfit, we had a mini birthday photoshoot, he picked a favorite meal, he got presents from all of his siblings (and mom and dad), we had cake, and he got new pajamas. Honestly, his smile said it ALL!

Monday, July 12, 2021

A Few of My Favorite Things

Big Family Blog

Happy Monday! Can you believe we're already almost two weeks into July? Every year, time goes by more quickly! It has been a while since I shared a few of my favorite things, so I figured it was time to jump back in!

We are over one month into summer break, and thoroughly enjoying a more relaxed routine. Don't get me wrong - my kids still want driven everywhere, Liam had a week of summer school, Lily has tumbling, and Liam is taking swim lessons. BUT...we are staying up late and sleeping in most days, which is awesome after 9 months of really early wakeups, and constantly being on the go. Summer is DEFINITELY one of my favorite things!

Over the past few weeks, I discovered a few items to add to my rapidly growing list of favorite things. From apps to travel blankets to everything in between, I've got it covered! Here's what made my Love List in June...

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Our Fun-Filled 4th of July Celebration

Big Family Blog

The 4th of July has been one of my favorite holidays for years. It never used to be that way, but my husband and his family converted me! Now I love it, and we are passing on all of our favorite 4th of July traditions to our kids!

This year, the 4th of July was almost perfect. We spent the day with family and friends, from start to finish. We kicked it off with the town parade, spent the afternoon and evening at a pool party/picnic with friends, watched fireworks with friends and family, then headed back to a friend's house to continue the fun! 

The only thing missing was Dylan. Having older teenagers is tough, but we eventually learned to compromise. Some holidays and events are non-negotiable, but we do understand that some things are more fun with friends. He just wanted to go to the parade and the fireworks with his best friends. We missed him, but talked to him at the end of the day! But other than that little downer, we had a great day!

Monday, June 28, 2021

A Dino-mite Jurassic Quest Drive Thru

Jurassic Quest Drive Thru

When we found out the Jurassic Quest Drive Thru was in Pittsburgh, we knew we had to go! Our 2 year old, Coen, LOVES dinosaurs, and we had a feeling our older kids would enjoy it, too. So last Thursday, we piled into our SUV, and made the 45 minute drive to the Jurassic Quest location.

Jurassic Quest has over 100 animatronic, life size dinosaurs to experience. They do have an indoor event, where you can get up close and personal with the dinosaurs, which I know my kids would have loved. This time, however, it was a drive thru. 

Although I think the indoor event would have been a bit more interactive, the drive thru was still a fun experience. We drove through the Cretaceous, Jurassic, and Triassic periods, learning about each dinosaur or prehistoric creature along the way via the digital audio tour. Coen was mesmerized by all the 'saurs that he loves so much, and Liam was grinning the entire time. It was definitely a fun adventure my family will always remember!

Friday, June 11, 2021

The End of the 2020-2021 Pandemic School Year

Big family blog

We are one week into Summer Break, and the last day of the 2020-2021 school year is behind us! It was a year unlike any other, but we are thankful that our kids stayed in school in person for the majority of the school year. It was, however, a year full of wearing masks to school, social distancing, and very few school events.

This year, Dylan was in 10th grade, Lexie was in 8th grade, Lily was in 4th grade, and Liam was in 2nd grade. It was Lexie's last year in middle school, and Lily's last year in the elementary school. Next year will be so different for all of them! Dylan and Lexie will be in high school together, Lily is moving up to the 5th/6th grade building, and Liam will be all by himself at the elementary school. Although we're glad the year is over, the end of the year is always bittersweet, because our kids are growing up so fast!

Despite the circumstances, it was a fairly good year for our kids. They had great teachers, and they thrived. We are very hopeful that the upcoming school year will be much different - normal perhaps. It's not time to thank about that just yet...we have almost 3 months of Summer fun ahead of us!

Sunday, June 6, 2021

8 Tips to Help Your Child Sleep Better with Pact Dream Big Pajamas

Pact Dream Big Pajamas

I received Pact Dream Big Pajamas for free from Moms Meet to review. Compensation for this post was provided, and this post may contain affiliate links.

Whether you have 1 child or 10 children, I'm sure you probably have times when you are absolutely exhausted. Raising kids can be tiring, and it seems like sleep struggles are the cause of most of that exhaustion! So many factors have to work together in order to help kids sleep well, including plenty of fresh air, a consistent bedtime routine, and comfortable pajamas.

4 of my 5 kids have always been great sleepers, but my 5th child is not. I'm just so tired, that I cave into things like letting him sleep in our bed so *I* can get some sleep. I know it's time to sleep train him, so he can establish healthy sleep habits on his own.

Several things have worked wonders with our 4 older kids, so I know it's time to utilize these methods! He has a comfortable crib and a cozy room, he naps early, he doesn't get caffeine, he gets plenty of exercise, he has the comfiest pajamas, so NOW it's time to start a bedtime routine. It's best for all of us in the long run!

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Rainy Day Activities: Play Dough Sensory Kits

Rainy Day Activities

*Play dough kit was gifted from Darling Little Details

It's officially our rainy season in Pennsylvania, and my outdoor-loving kids are not too happy about it! Liam and Coen are very energetic explorers, so being trapped indoors isn't much fun for any of us. I have to line up a lot of fun rainy day activities to keep their minds off the fact that they can't go outside and run. Our themed play dough sensory kit is currently one of their favorite activities in the rainy day rotation!

We are big fans of sensory play, but I admit, we haven't played with play dough in a while. We went straight from Coen trying to eat it, to a puppy trying to eat the pieces off the floor, so I tended to avoid it. I always wanted to make themed play dough kits, but right now, I don't have the time or the energy. I was super excited when a fun play dough sensory kit from Darling Little Details arrived in the mail!

These themed play dough sensory kits are truly rainy day activities/boredom busters wrapped up in one perfectly portable package! Everything stays organized and fresh in one little box, and all the included treasures provide the kids with endless ways to play. It was an instant hit with my little kids, and I'm a big fan of the easy clean up and storage. Themed playdough kits are a perfect sensory addition to every playroom!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

A Blessed Birthday and Easter Weekend

big family blog

Easter Weekend was a busy one! It started off with my birthday on Good Friday, was filled with our favorite Easter traditions, and ended with a beautiful Easter Sunday. I know I'm in the minority, but Easter is one of my favorite holidays!

We packed a LOT into 3 days! I had a mini birthday celebration, we dyed Easter Eggs, we had two backyard egg hunts, we had a mini Saturday evening Easter dinner with two friends, and we celebrated Easter with my parents and my sister's family. Other than not being able to go to church in person, the weekend was perfect!

I planned on posting the day after Easter, but apparently when I turned another year older, my body decided to break! I pulled a muscle in my lower back for the first time ever, and I literally could not move without feeling excruciating pain for two days, and I ended up in bed for hours. Thankfully, it went away quickly, and to celebrate, I got my first vaccine, and felt yucky for about 24 hours. But, hey, let's get back to my birthday and Easter!

Thursday, April 1, 2021

March Came In Like a Lion and Ended Like a More Ferocious Lion

Broken Elbow in Kids

You know that saying, "March Comes In Like a Lion and Goes Out Like a Lamb?" It wasn't quite accurate here. March was a whirlwind, and on the last day of the month, we were in the emergency room with Lily and her broken arm. To top it off, the month ended with the coldest night we have had in weeks, complete with freezing temps and sleet. Yeah...I'm not falling for that saying!

I have so many posts to publish...SO MANY...but I'll just start with the most recent news. Lily fell victim to the dangers of jumping on a trampoline, and ended up with a fractured elbow. Needless to say, my husband is ready to burn that trampoline! My thought? Kids will be kids and stuff happens!

It definitely wasn't the best way to kick off Spring Break, but thanks to our l o n g night at the hospital, all of our kids started their Spring Break one day early. We didn't get home until early morning, and none of the kids slept long enough.  So here we are, shivering from the sudden return of Winter, physically and mentally exhausted, and REALLY hoping that April is going to be kind! Here's the scoop on the second broken bone in our crew...

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Making Life Easier One Shoe at a Time with Xpand

Down syndrome

*We received the following product free in exchange of our honest review.

When you have a big family, there is a LOT to juggle! There is no extra time, so any second saved is precious. I'm always looking for ways to save time (and energy), so I was thrilled to discover a time-saving product - Xpand!  

With Xpand, you never have to tie your shoes again! I love the concept behind this product, especially for Liam. We love them so much that we're replacing ALL of our laces with Xpand laces!

Putting on shoes is so much easier these days. It truly does save me time, and is much less stressful! And if you have little kids or a child who has extra needs, Xpand is a must have!

Friday, March 5, 2021

Happy 14th Birthday, Alexandria Elizabeth!

14th Birthday

On February 22nd, our sweet Lexie celebrated her 14th Birthday! I can't believe how fast she is growing up. (All of our kids are growing up too fast!) We shut down just a few weeks after her 13th birthday, and never got to have a party, and she had another pandemic birthday this year. We tried to make her day as "normal" and as fun as possible!

Her day was filled with our usual birthday traditions, a trip to Starbucks, lots of presents, dinner at a restaurant, and a mini party with my parents. She also got to skip school, too, which is a favorite tradition! It *almost* felt like an ordinary birthday!

We try to make birthdays extra special for our kids. Social distancing definitely got in the way of some of our traditions, but we made the most of it. Lexie was smiling all day, and said she had a great birthday! Here's how we celebrated her special day...

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

March 2021 Goals

Big Family Blog

Happy March! I can't believe we're already into the third month of 2021. The year is going smoothly so far, and I'm trying to live in the moment, and focus on my word of the year - Togetherness!

February was a really good month. We got a puppy, we celebrated Valentine's Day, and we celebrated Lexie's 14th Birthday. The month started off cold and snowy, then we eventually got a taste of Spring. I actually enjoyed Winter this year, but I'm officially ready for the longer days and warmer weather! 

Although I'm not obsessing over them, I am still going strong with my goals for the year. I set goals to find small ways to improve my life. Sometimes I realize my goals work, and sometimes changes need to be made. Overall,  I have learned to give myself grace when I inevitably fail at one of those goals, and just try again! Baby steps, my friends! 

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Our Family Grew By Four Feet

Pet Blogger

Spoiler Alert: This is not a pregnancy announcement, because four more human feet would just be a LOT! Two weeks ago, however, we did welcome a new baby into the family. It just so happens to be a 2.5 pound Shorkie puppy named Beyonce Moira Rose Bader Ginsburg!

Up until recently, we didn't intend on getting another puppy. We already had 5 kids, an English Mastiff, a cat, an indoor rabbit, 2 hermit crabs, and 2 snails. I always had 2 dogs until my chihuahua passed away almost a decade ago, and I was starting to think about getting a second dog. 

A few months ago, my sister thought her English Mastiff was pregnant, so I began suggesting we get one of the puppies so that Ella, our English Mastiff, would have a companion. We love giant breeds, but Grant wasn't too thrilled about the idea of another giant dog in our already crowded house. It turned out my sister's dog had a pseudo-pregnancy, and I was bummed, but a new opportunity was quickly handed to us!

Saturday, February 13, 2021

An Easy-To-Make Valentine's Day Snack Board Everyone will LOVE

Valentine's Day Snack Board

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

It's Valentine's Day Weekend, and we are here for it! Just like every pandemic holiday over the past year, we don't have big plans, but we do everything we can to make the holiday special at home. Tonight, we're having a Valentine's Day themed dinner with our very small quarantine crew, and this AMAZING Valentine's Day Snack Board will be making an appearance!

I have been a fan of charcuterie boards for a while, and I finally upgraded our tiny board to a large tray. It holds so much more, which is essential for a big family, and it doesn't spill when I'm carrying it to the table. Heart-shaped pizza and heart-shaped pasta is on the menu this weekend, but who doesn't love a snack board full of sweets?!? I did throw a few good-for-you snacks into the mix, because balance is everything! 

This is my first attempt at a snack board full of sweets, and I think everyone is going to love it. Typically I fill the snack board full of healthy foods and snacks, but special occasions call for special treats. Too much sweetness isn't always a good thing, so I had to add in some delicious salty snacks for variety. I can't wait to dig in, and I know my kids are going to flip over it, so I think it's going to be a huge hit!

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Aldi Aisle of Shame Finds of the Week

Aldi Aisle of Shame Finds

Once upon a time, I was afraid of Aldi. People would tell me how good it was, but change scared me, and it just didn't appear to be worth it. A best friend finally dragged me in one day, and I was hooked!

At first, I just stopped in to buy gluten-free food for Liam, but soon I was purchasing snacks. I realized I was saving SO MUCH MONEY, so I tried buying all of my groceries at Aldi one day, and we discovered that we loved everything. Once I grew comfortable with shopping at Aldi, I discovered the Aldi Aisle of Shame!

The Aldi Aisle of Shame is so popular that there are Facebook groups devoted to it. If you don't know what I mean, just venture into an Aldi one day, and look for their Special Buys section. They go so quickly, so act fast if you see something you like! I shop at Aldi every week, and most weeks, I just leave with 1 or 2 items from the Aldi AOS, but this week, I brought home an Aldi Haul!

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The January Wrap Up

The Lucky Few / Big Family Blog

January was filled with worry and waiting, so I'm glad it's behind us! There were good moments, but life last month was very overwhelming. Thankfully, it ended well, which is the only thing that matters!

I headed into 2021, hoping to recap each week on the blog, like I used to do before life became too busy. I started the year strong, but a a week later, I gave up! So here I am, wrapping up 3 weeks in one post. Maybe I'll get back on track one day...

So here's to January. Lots of worry, lots of waiting, a surgery, a recovery, weekday runs, cold days, cute puppies, back to school, and a whole bunch of snow! It really does help to look back on the month, and see all the good that could be found in each day!

Sunday, February 7, 2021

SWOOC Games - Supporting Small Shops

SWOOC Games Giant Tower Game

*I received product in exchange for my honest opinion.

Welcome to my new Supporting Small Shops blog series! I love supporting small shops and companies, and it's more important now than ever before. I already have a few great shops lined up for the series, as well as some fun upcoming giveaways, so stay tuned!

This idea has been going through my mind for a few years, but I just haven't taken the time to implement it until now. Most of the products I review never make it to the blog. I only share things I genuinely love and would recommend here, but most of the time they get added to a roundup post. I'm so excited to share more of the small shops I love!

Today, I'm kicking off the series with SWOOC games. I worked with SWOOC Games years ago, and I was so impressed by the quality of their product. We had so much fun playing Yardzee over the years, so I was excited when they reached out to me to ask if we wanted to review another game. Of course, I immediately said yes, because it is a company I proudly stand behind and recommend to others!

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Our New Favorite Birthday Tradition

Big Family Blog

Last year, Lexie and Coen's birthdays fell days before the pandemic made our world shut down. We were able to celebrate their birthdays, but had to put their birthday parties on hold. Lily had been hoping for a big birthday party with her friends, because she had never had a party with classmates due to having a Summer birthday, but as August 3rd approached, we knew it wasn't going to happen. She was so diappointed, so we decided to come up with a fun alternative!

On Lily's 9th birthday, our new favorite family birthday tradition began! We tackled our usual birthday traditions, then after Grant finished work for the day, we loaded into the car, dropped off our dog at my parent's house, and took the party to a hotel with a swimming pool. Thanks to lack of travel during the pandemic, we had the entire hotel to ourselves!

We had such a great time that we decided that it needs to be a permanent tradition! Once a year around Dylan's birthday, once between Lexie and Coen's birthdays (14 days apart), and once between Lily and Liam's birthdays (15 days apart). I thought it would be fitting to share our new favorite tradition on Lily's half birthday!

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

February 2021 Goals

Parenting Blog

At the start of each new year, I set a few goals, and a word of the year. This year, my word was togetherness, and that continues to be my focus. I also set some goals that matter to me, and tweak them with each passing month.

I'm not a resolution person. They just seem so harsh and final, and let's face it - the majority of people end up breaking their resolutions and giving up! With goals, I can reassess at the end of each month to see what works and what doesn't, then adjust the goals for the month ahead. 

January is the official month to start resolutions and goals, but it's such a tough month. We're coming down from the holiday season high, we're trying to find places for all those new gifts, and we're trying to reorganize our homes for the upcoming year. There isn't much time to focus on "new year, new me" or anything of the sort. I tried in January, and did well for about a week, then life took over, and most of my goals got pushed aside! That's exactly why I look at each month as a new start! So why am I sharing all of this? Accountability, and so I can look back on my progress!

Thursday, January 28, 2021

The Wait Is Over

Down syndrome

After 8 long days of waiting, we finally received the results of Liam's biopsy. We have been living in fear since the end of September. The what ifs were continuously running through our minds, and worry took over our lives.  

We were anxiously awaiting and dreading the phone call from Liam's doctor, and it never came in. After 24 hours of waiting to hear from the ENT, I decided to send an email, and we heard back shortly. They were just waiting for their Advanced Specialists Team to review the results as well, to make sure nothing was missed. We were thrilled to hear that Liam does NOT have lymphoma, and that the mass that was removed from his neck is benign! It felt like a huge weight was lifted from our shoulders!

I'm keeping this short and sweet, by simply sharing the best news! Our many prayers were answered, and Liam is just fine. He is 9 days post-op, healing well, and was able to return to school in person today. We can finally put this behind us, and move forward. This year is looking GOOD!

Life with Down syndrome

You can read the full story here: The Reason Behind My Absence

Sunday, January 24, 2021

The Reason Behind My Absence

Down syndrome

I've been MIA. For a while, actually. First it was extreme morning sickness that took over my life, followed by a needy new baby and juggling five kids, then Covid, and now we're facing a scary medical issue with Liam. I keep hoping life will calm down enough to let me focus on my blog again, but family comes first. Always.

I thought waiting for the test results after Liam was born was the most difficult thing we've gone through as parents. That really isn't true though. See, in my heart, I already knew he had Down syndrome, so the results of that test weren't really a big surprise. The waiting now is agonizing.

We have been so lucky with Liam's good health. Other than Celiac Disease, which runs in Grant's family, Liam doesn't have any of the common conditions associated with Down syndrome. He rarely gets sick, he has only had a few ear infections, he doesn't need glasses, he never needed tubes in his ears, he doesn't have low tone, he doesn't have sleep apnea, and he doesn't have a heart condition, thyroid disorder, or stomach issues. Liam has only had a few respiratory illnesses that required breathing treatments, only two medical procedures (scopes under anesthesia), and only two hospital stays to see why he wasn't gaining weight (everything was normal) and when he had cellulitis following a minor nose injury. Liam is healthy, and incredibly energetic and strong. In the grand scheme of things, we really have been lucky...until now.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

A Week In Mom Life - The First Week of 2021

A Week In Mom Life - The First Week of 2021

The first week of January has passed, the Christmas season is officially over, and we have returned to reality! In one short week, we went from holiday break to back to work/school/remote learning. We ended this first week of January by finding out that the rest of our kids can join Liam in going to school in person again!

Life lately has been a bit tough, but we're taking it one day at a time. Lexie is dealing with a terrible loss right now, and we can't do anything but help her through it. Liam is going through a scary health issue, and will be having surgery next week. We're hoping it's just a glitch in his otherwise excellent health history, but we are nervous about him going under general anesthesia, the doctors cutting into his neck, and receiving the biopsy results. 

Luckily, the busyness of big family life keeps us from overthinking things - it's those quiet moments that get us down. We do have some exciting things coming up, though! We're REALLY looking forward to some good!

Monday, January 4, 2021

Deliciously Easy Cheesy Baked Spaghetti

National Spaghetti Day

Did you know it's National Spaghetti Day? I didn't even know it was a thing until it showed up on my calendar! My family LOVES spaghetti...heck, Liam eats gluten free spaghetti almost every morning for breakfast!

In honor of National Spaghetti Day, I wanted to share one of my favorite spaghetti recipes. It's easy to make, it can be customized in so many ways, and it only takes about 30 minutes from start to finish. Although the recipe I'm sharing is vegetarian, you can add ground beef, turkey, or sausage, and you can make it gluten free by swapping out the regular spaghetti for a gluten free version.

My kids can be picky at times, but one thing I know they will always eat is spaghetti. They all love this cheesy baked spaghetti, and they don't even complain that there isn't any meat in it. When I can find something that everyone in my family will eat, I'm thankful!

Togetherness: The Word of The Year for 2021

Big Family Blog

Happy 2021! I'm not one to wish away time, but I do hope 2021 is an improvement over 2020. I'm realistic enough to know that change won't happen immediately, but I do hope we return to some sort of normal this year!

2020 wasn't an awful year. It was just different, and it had its good moments and bad moments. One of the best parts of 2020 was all the time we were able to spend together as a family. That is exactly what made me start thinking about togetherness for my word of the year. 

The holiday season was great, but 2020 did not end well. Lexie was with her best friend's family when they experienced a tragic loss. We spent the past week praying and crying, and we're absolutely heartbroken for their family. We are reminded that time spent with family and friends is a precious gift that should be treasured and made a priority. If this year taught me anything, it’s that loved ones are EVERYTHING, which is why togetherness became my word for 2021.