Thursday, July 2, 2015

4th of July Roundup

Happy July!

The month of June flew by, and here we are, just days away from the 4th of July!  Since we LOVE the 4th of July, the kids and I have been busy celebrating and preparing for the big day!

I put together a list of a few of our favorite 4th of July-themed ideas.  Although the food is yummy, the kids love the very last idea the most!  

Enjoy!!!

EAT.

Patriotic Fruit Kabobs

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Dylan and Lily are obsessed with these!  They've been eating them all week!  I cut up the watermelon at the beginning of the week, and stored all the extra stars in a big bowl in the fridge.  To make the stars, just slice the watermelon into thin slices, then use a cookie cutter to cut out the shapes. Put them on a skewer along with blueberries and mini marshmallows.

Patriotic Marshmallow Pops

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My mom made these for my kids before, but I didn't realize just how easy they were! Just put a marshmallow on a straw, dip one end in water, then dip in colored sugar. {Here's a great tip: Make your own sugar. It's cheap and easy! Put 1/2 cup sugar in a bowl, add a few drops of food coloring, and stir until all the clumps of food coloring mix into the sugar!}

Patriotic Pretzel Rods

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These didn't turn out as pretty as they normally do (I blame the generic white chocolate chips!), but they were REALLY good.  We made 24, and between 2 adults, and 5 kids, they didn't even last 24 hours! We make these for every holiday because they're so easy.  Just melt white chocolate chips in the microwave, stir, then divide into 3 bowls.  Add red food coloring to one bowl, blue food coloring to another, and leave the third bowl white.  Dip half of the pretzel rod into one bowl of chocolate, then place on wax paper to dry.  You can add sprinkles or colored sugar, but we opted not to this time!

Patriotic Toddler Meals

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Liam FINALLY stopped tossing his dishes and utensils off his highchair tray!  I was so excited to be able to use our Re-Play plates.  (Check out the link!  We LOVE them!) I started using them yesterday, and fed Liam a few 4th of July themed meals! The older kids were jealous and want their own Re-Play plates now!

DRINK.

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Freeze red juice and blue juice (or Kool-Aid) in ice cube trays.  Fill a cup with Sprite or ginger ale and add the frozen cubes.  Cut the ends off a red Twizzler and use it like a straw!

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OR just keep it easy for the kids and buy red and blue Kool-Aid Bursts.  Cut the tops off and put in a Twizzler straw!

DECORATE.

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I'm going to be honest.  I didn't do much this year! I put wreaths on the doors, and put a few flags in outdoor plants on our porch and in our yard.  I wrote on the chalkboards, put some flowers in mini patriotic pails, and added a few mini flags to the all the pails and vases in my house.   I did borrow my friend's idea of coloring the water in vases with red and blue food coloring (she does this for every holiday).  It's so simple, and I love it!

MAKE.

 4th of July Ribbon Flipflops

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The girls needed new ribbon flipflops for the 4th.  I managed to finish Lexie's, but I burned my hand yesterday, and couldn't finish Lily's.  I'm going to try to finish them by Saturday!

I've been making fancy flipflops since Lexie was 3.  I started with balloon flipflops, then moved on to ribbon flipflops.  They're SO easy to make! I always buy 3 different styles of ribbon.  Cut the ribbon to a 6 inch length, then double-knot each strip of ribbon around the flipflop.  Tie the knot on top and use an alternating pattern.  Trim excess ribbon when you're done.

I know some people use clear nail polish on the ends of the ribbon to keep them from fraying, but the flipflops get so dirty that it's hard to reuse them anyway.  It's best just to buy a pair for less than a dollar the following year and remake them!

Patriotic Headbands

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This is another easy DIY!  I buy the shabby flowers and elastic headbands from The Hairbow Company, then quickly stitch the flowers onto the elastic headband.  I made 2 headbands in less than 10 minutes!

CREATE.

Fireworks Paintings

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Dylan kept it simple, but added a few personal touches!

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Lily got CRAZY!

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And Lexie piled on the glitter!

We used forks and toilet paper tubes (with the end cut into strips) for the brushes.  A quick Google image search will give you many more ideas!

STYLE.
Star-Styled Hair

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This one was actually from a list of hairstyle ideas I bookmarked a long time ago.  I recently saw it on Pinterest while I was searching for birthday party ideas, so I decided to give it a try.  It's really cute and not difficult to do!

EXPERIMENT.

Fireworks in a Jar

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Dylan did this in school a few years ago.  He brought home a paper with the instructions, but I filed it away and never thought about it again. This was another thing that popped up in my Pinterest feed while searching for party ideas, so I decided to find the paper and give it a try!

Just fill a large jar (or cup) almost to the top with water.  In a separate small bowl, add 2-4 tbsp of oil (just enough to cover the bottom).  Use 4 different colors of food coloring.  Add 3 drops of each color to the oil. Use a fork to gently smash the drops of food coloring so that each drop separates into smaller drops.  Now S-L-O-W-L-Y pour the oil mixture into the water.  If you dump it in, it will blend really fast.  The slower you go, the longer it takes to mix, and the better it looks!

It was so simple, but SO captivating.  The kids did it over and over and over again!

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We are ready for the 4th! 

We'll be celebrating all weekend! Our annual picnic is on the 4th along with a parade and fireworks, and we have a birthday party and another picnic on Sunday.  We're looking forward to a fun weekend with our family and friends!   

What are your plans?

I hope you all have a fun, safe weekend!

Happy 4th of July!

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

I Didn't Know I Wanted a Child With Down Syndrome...Until I Had One

I am often asked what it's like to have a child who has Down syndrome.

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That's SUCH a loaded question.

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I often wonder if the person asking wants me to reply "Oh, it's so difficult!" so they can nod their head with sympathy.  What I actually say is, "Not that much different than having a typical child."  This is usually met with a look of disbelief.

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But here's the thing: Down syndrome is not as big of a deal as it's made out to be! It's not a monster who wants to ruin your life and steal your happiness. THAT'S the truth that needs to be told! It needs to be told to everyone.  It needs to be SHOUTED OUT so the message is heard around the world.

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My former self would have stared in disbelief.  My former self would have felt pity.  My former self? Didn't understand what Down syndrome really was.

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Right after Liam was born, and we were told the suspicions, I begged God to take it away. I prayed that the lab results would be negative. Parenting a person who had Down syndrome felt like a prison sentence.  I never thought I would laugh, smile, sing, dance, or have fun again. 

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As the days passed, I fell head over heels in love with my sweet boy and I realized just how special he was. When the doctor called 2 weeks after his birth with the test results, I didn't even flinch. I already knew Liam was perfect just the way he was, and life returned to normal.  Yes, I said it.  Normal.

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Almost 2 years have passed since Liam was born. We are smiling. We are laughing.  We are singing. We are dancing. We are having fun. Most days I completely forget Liam has Down syndrome! 

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Sure, there are therapy sessions to help him reach milestones, but he's reaching them. There are more yearly appointments, but that's just to catch any issues before they become a problem. Inclusion, early intervention, and close medical attention is making a world of difference. Now, more than ever, there is SO much hope and these kids are exceeding expectations! I have NO doubt that Liam will do the same!

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Our life isn't much different than it was before Liam was born. We attend storytime, have picnics, and visit the park. We go out to eat, run errands, and go shopping.  We have playdates, visit family, and go to church.  We go to the zoo, go to museums, and attend functions. We go to movies in the park, go swimming, and go to baseball games.  We eat meals together, have Family Movie Nights, and play outside. Liam is just like any other toddler his age.  He can walk, talk (and sign!), and feed himself.  He can bounce, dance, and wave.  He loves books, cars, and playing outside.  He smiles, laughs, and loves to socialize. Liam is so much more than a diagnosis.

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Everybody wants and expects to have a typical child. The typical lifestyle is appealing.  As a parent, we want our kids to be a success, get married, have children, and have an easy life.  But let's be honest.  Life isn't easy. Having a typical child does NOT guarantee a typical lifestyle. Many children will grow up to lead not-so-typical lifestyles. The majority of parents will face some sort of difficulty with their child at some point. All of our challenges are different. My parenting challenge is nothing compared to parents who are dealing with kids who have cancer, mental illness, or drug addiction. In the grand scheme of things, having a child who has Down syndrome is not that big of a deal.  Even if he is dependent for the rest of his life, we still win, because we will get to see that incredible smile every single day.  Finding the beauty in life-ALL life-is the key to happiness.

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I can't even imagine life without Liam and I can't even imagine life without Down syndrome. The saying is true: We are BLESSED with Down syndrome.  For most people that's hard to fathom.  But you can't truly understand something until you live it.  I'm living it, and I wouldn't change a thing!

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Even if I had the capability to make it go away, I wouldn't. I fear that if it went away, it would take away his incredible joy, his huge personality, and that smile that is so contagious. Thinking of all that being gone immediately brings tears to my eyes. I LIVE to see that smile every single day and watch him laugh his way through life. His presence makes our lives infinitely better!

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Liam's extra chromosome makes the light in his eyes just a bit brighter. It makes his hugs just a bit tighter. It makes his contagious smile just a bit happier.  It makes his joy radiate through his entire body.  It gives him a personality too big to fit inside that tiny body. It fills him with so much sweetness, goodness, innocence, and purity that it takes my breath away. May the light that makes him shine so brightly never fade.

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I didn't even know I wanted a child who had Down syndrome until I had one. Liam is no mistake.  God knew EXACTLY what he was doing and exactly what I needed.

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Living life comes so easily to Liam.  Live, Laugh, Love, and trust in God.  

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I was given the gift of a life blessed with something a "little extra."  For that, I'm forever changed and eternally grateful. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

Our summer vacation is off to a...rainy start.

Seriously.  I feel like it rained most of May and June! ENOUGH already!

We're trying to make the most of it...

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...but we're hoping July brings some REAL summer weather!

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