Saturday, October 17, 2015

Twins turn TEN!!

Today was such a great day.  Today is the first time EVER that the boys understood that it was their birthday.  We had the countdown going on the calendar.  We explained to them that we were planning on a party with family and made sure to name all their cousins that were going to come.  We asked them if they wanted balloons, cake and ice cream sandwiches, to which we got a big YES for each.  As we arose this morning the first thing that Isaac showed us on his iPad was that it was "Caleb" "Isaac" "Happy Birthday"!  Caleb started running around the house signing Happy Birthday "C" and "I".  It was party time :)

 The wonderful thing about a close large family is that you really never need to invite friends to parties.  Just family who attended was about 30 people.  And Caleb and Isaac are so lucky to have two sweet girls, Sami & Rebecca, who have worked with them for several years at some summer camps they attend and have been buddies with them for the Challenger League baseball games come to their birthday party this year.

As is the case with many children with Autism, crowds are hard on them.  As is the case with many children with Autism, noise is hard on them.  Each year gets better and I am tickled with the progress these little fellas have made.  30+ people were prepped to sing the Happy Birthday song very softly and quietly.  This is the first year both boys were able to stay at the table the whole song.  Usually Caleb is so overcome with emotions he has to run away crying and ends up very hard to calm down.  Today he hid under the table and covered his ears BUT he stayed at the table!!  Isaac tried to blow out the candles and when he was unable he started swatting his hand at the candle flames so we quickly helped him blow them out.  Caleb was not interested in even trying to blow out candles this year.....again.

Caleb was really into opening presents, Isaac not so much.  Here you see Isaac taking a DVD video out of the bag.  What the camera did not catch was him throwing it across the room and giving me a look of "Leave me Alone"!

Since Isaac was not being a trooper with opening gifts Caleb got to open double!!

After gifts were all opened both boys needed some "alone time" and went their separate ways.
Caleb went to play on his iPad >

Isaac took a nap, ice cream sandwich on his face and all  >

Cleaning up after guests left a big smile crossed my face as it's also apparent that my family is truly getting to know the boys.  There are very few things they like and gift giving has been difficult.  They are not usually ones who like to play with toys.  Caleb carries his Ernie doll everywhere and does play with him daily but we have had years and years of toys gifted to them only to re-gift or give away because of no interest.  Today the gifts included several bags of Doritos (for Caleb) and several bags of pretzels (for Isaac), a couple cases of crackers for both boys and a few sensory toys that they will play with when they are in the mood.  I think we are all coming a long way!! The birthday parties for the twins may not be typical games, noise and celebration but it sure was a good time. 


*snowed for the first time this year

*was a wonderful time to gather as family to celebrate these boys

*was bittersweet to have the twins open a birthday card from their "Granny Ann" from church.  She gave us their card Tuesday evening at our Gospel Meeting at church so they could open it on their birthday.  She passed away last night after an accidental fall yesterday morning.

*was nice to see Ron and Martha Dush who were in visiting inlaws from Erie

*is wonderful to reflect on just how far we have come in 10 years and to begin imagining what the next 10 will bring us!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Common statements about special needs, my answers

For Down Syndrome Awareness month I always feel compelled to take that extra minute to provide education and tips on subjects that may or may not ever come up in daily conversation with my friends and family.  My prayer is that I may write something that helps someone looking for the "right words" when it comes to talking to a parent with a child or children with a disability.  I know that the words people use to describe my family dynamics or my identical twin boys, who both happen to have Down Syndrome and Autism, are heartfelt and well meaning. BUT....   I never seem to find the right words when certain statements like those listed below are said to me spontaneously.

1.  God knew what he was doing when he gave those boys to YOU!

So funny to see them BOTH with the same expression, unprompted
I have no doubt in my mind that God new what he was doing.  He saw me as a broken selfish woman who thought she had the whole parenting thing down.  Before the twins I was actively homeschooling my first daughter. I was a mom to three very typical very busy kids, ages 7, 3 & 1.  These three kiddos consumed my days and nights and I often felt so overwhelmed with the day to day tasks of keeping up the house and following the kids different schedules.  I looked at those with sick or misbehaved children with pity and relief that I was not enduring that in my perfect little family.  I confess that!! I remember thanking God on several occasions for my healthy happy children with the belief in my mind that I don't know how in the world I would handle something like that myself. Which leads me to my next comment.

2.  I don't know how you do it all
Honestly, neither do I!!  As we are about to celebrate the twins 10th birthday at the end of this week I truly do not know how we have gotten through all of our days during the past ten years?! Therapiesmonthly doctors visits more than two hours away (often occurring more than just once a month), after school programs, and many, many team meetings with behavioral specialist, autism clinics, down syndrome clinics, etc.  I look back and realize we have come so very very far with them yet I am still to this day an impatient person.  There are many days where I have to count to ten, or walk away, regroup and come back with a smile on my face or a calmer voice when trying to get the boys to corporate with one of my demands.  It's more often than not something that has to be done on "their time and not mine".  

VitalStim, a feeding therapy we did weekly for several months to improve swallowing and feeding issues.
I reckon I can relate our journey to a moms journey who has a son excelling in a sport.  She takes him to all of his practices, she provides him with all the extra support needed to improve his skills, she attends all the team meetings and volunteers for all the fundraising activities, she travels to all the games and cheers him on, she beams with pride when her son accomplishes a great play and in the end she has high hopes that something good will come from all effort and attention she has put into her sons athletics.  I am no different.  I do what I have to for my boys to achieve life skills to the best of their abilities.  That's my answer, I do what I have to, what I need to do for my boys to be the best they can be because of an unconditional love that I have for my children.  My story may be different than yours but our hopeful outcome should be the same, we must try our best for our children so that they may become their best.

3.  He doesn't look like he has Down Syndrome to bad.  Is he mild?

When the twins were just tiny babies and toddlers I heard this all the time.  I could tell there were people who were "afraid" to ask if there was something different about my guys.  Then there were a few who said statment #3.  The answer is no you can't have a different level of Down Syndrome, meaning mild or moderate Down syndrome.  If you have it you have it, there is no cure, there is no fix and there doesn't need to be in my own humble opinion.  Down syndrome is a genetic disorder where there is an extra 21st chromosome.  People with Down syndrome have three 21st chromosomes therefore Trisomy 21.  You can certainly do your research and find all the information you need to understand the differences between Trisomy 21 vs. Mosaic Down syndrome vs. Translocation Down syndrome.  There are however, different levels of cognitive abilities just like there are for people without Down syndrome.

4.  Please tell me you take medication to get you through.  How do you cope?

First of all, I have an amazing husband, named Tom, who works very hard and long hours to provide for our family so that I can stay home to tend to our homelife.  He also makes every effort to attend every out of town doctors appointment with me and all IEP's for school.  I genuinely thank God for the man he placed in my life to raise these children with.  I also have grown so much as a Christian since having the twins.  I attended church faithfully prior to having them but not as committed as I have become since having them.  Leaning upon the love and compassion of Christ allows me to try my best to be like him.  Knowing that I cannot ever be perfect nor know what to do in all situations allows me to rely on giving it all to God, and I so often do.  As Christ endured trials and tribulations we must all realize we too are subject to the same.  Knowing that if we follow the gospel of Christ, and truly live with him in our hearts and through our actions to others, we will all be made perfect someday in heaven.  The eternal promise is the reward, and THAT is how I cope.

**I must add that I do not condone those that seek help through medications.  
I am happy that such an aid is available to those in need!**

So do I feel like these boys have made us special parents?  Absolutely!!!  I know in the past 10 years they have showed me how to be more compassionate, more understanding, more loving, more tolerant and less selfish and judgmental.  I am excited to think that there is always room for improvement and growth and I pray to continue to become a better person for them and because of them!  To God be the glory for making us who we are!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Identical Twins with Down syndrome AND Autism Statistics?

Thanks to Facebook I have met a few other families who are doubly blessed like our family is with identical twins both having Down syndrome.

Not only have I met families with identical twins but also families with fraternal twins both having Down syndrome.  To this day there are no updated published statistics of how rare these blessing are.  There is a lot of speculation and a few really good mathematical guesses but no actual numbers.  Of course in a group of parents there are some really great guesses and I loved what one parent said.  She said "We were told the odds were 1 in 80 million 20 years ago, rare yes, the number doesn't matter.  We are the lucky ones!!!"

This is the best documentation I've found thus far from a website from the UK > Click here to view page.  To summarize page read the following:

"We estimate that identical twins with Down syndrome occur at the rate of 1 or 2 in a million pregnancies and non-identical twins at the rate of 14/15 in a million."

With that statistic above now think of the 90% termination rate of those found prenatally to have Down Syndrome detected.  AND then to add Autism & ADHD to the mix makes the Hanzely twins so rare and so special.  Please Lord let me hold my boys tighter and love them harder each day knowing that you have given us a gift that so many will never know or understand.  Some may look at us and feel sorry, some may look at us and be thankful for their healthy kids but I know that my days are filled with an amazing loan from God himself. These two try my nerves more than I wish to confess, these two know all their mom's buttons, these two are so hard to figure out most days but to look back at how far they have come makes me literally have to type through tears streaming down my face.  They can't talk, they can't dress themselves or feed themselves with utensils without help, they still wear diapers and make messes I will not share information about on this post, but we are truly and absolutely blessed.  Without them we would take the world and the ease of living life for granted.  I pray that whoever is reading this would take time to get to know someone with special needs, to get to know their parents and to know that different is not a bad thing.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Sisterly Love

Let me start by saying this girl has ALWAYS been mother hen to her twin brothers.  When I brought home Caleb at 6 weeks old and he was just over four pounds, my Camille (who was four years old), just scooped him up like a baby doll and never looked back.  She was comfortable and GOOD with handling a tiny baby and she is still just as wonderful with them both today.  She changes diapers, she gets them their sippy cups and food items they request.  She signs and dances with them.  She tickles and teases them.  She is a great big sister.

This year Camille chose to stay home and cyber school her 8th grade year.  She really is having a great year so far and seems to be enjoying all her subjects...ok all except History but what 8th grader likes History?  For her English composition class she is working on a Memoir.  It has been being discussed for a couple of weeks now but just this week its time to put the pencil to paper and begin writing.  I was not at all amazed that Camille chose the title "Growing up with Special Needs".  I am certain that her teacher thinks she may have some kind of special needs from the title.  But I know I can't wait to read what she writes.  I do know that however she writes it there will be wonderful advocacy for her brothers and all others with special needs.  Camille has compassion and understanding well beyond her years and she blesses us all with her love.

The first photo above was when Camille was five years old with Isaac.  The second photo is just this morning before I woke Isaac for school.  Still in his sister arms fast asleep and loved.  How can this not put a smile on your face?  

Having a sibling with Down Syndrome is hard at times.  I cannot speak this from experience as a sibling but as a parent I see my "typical children" finding it difficult to have mom and dads attention less often than they wish to.  I know my three older children feel as though they are missing out on things their friends do because we just can't go there or do that with the twins.  I know my three older kiddos feel like we don't do enough as a family but that is something we just can't fix right now.  Unfortunately, as the twins are getting old things are starting to get easier to do BUT the older kids are getting older and their time with us is becoming limited.  Our oldest daughter, Tristin, is 18 years old now, a senior in high school and looking forward to life after school.  I feel like I waited and waited for the right time to be able to do things with her and now I may never get the right time.  I pray that the time we have had will be seen as precious as she grows older.

Even in difficult times, even with all the many challenges we face having these beautiful twin boys in our lives there is no bitterness or hurt feelings, there is just LOVE.  What an amazing big sister Camille is and I thank the good Lord above for giving us her.  Even in these teenage years and dealing with teenager girl stuff, Camille still allows her heart to been seen by all.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Down Syndrome ~ Different does not mean less than ~

On our way to Pittsburgh this morning for Isaac's post op appointment, from his double ear drum repair surgery back in August, I realized that my twins are so very conditioned for our 2 + hour drive to Children's.  Over the past year we have averaged 2 to 3 appointments a month like this.  We drive 2+ hours most of the time to attend a 15 to 20 minute appointment and then turn around and drive back home.  These days are tiring for mom and dad, especially dad as he is the driver (mom can sneak naps with twins in car).  Yet I am thankful that we have a good Children's Hospital nearby that can take care of all of our boys needs right now.  I read blogs and stories of other families who must travel out of state or even out of the country for treatment.

Tom and I try to humble ourselves with our situation and remember that there are families out there dealing with way more than we are.  Having twins with disabilities does come with its challenges, but we are blessed with the resources, supports and ability to care for their needs. 

Last week we were in Pittsburgh for another appointment OR I should say appointments.  We were finally able to coordinate several appointments in one day.  We actually had six appointments (one each) with three different doctors in one day.  Our appointments started at 11:30 am and ran clear until 4:30 pm without a lunch break.  It was a long day but it was nice to know that we only had to remove twins from school one day instead of three separate days if we were to schedule as we usually do.

One of our visits was the boys bi-annual visit to the Down Syndrome Clinic.  These appointments always help make sure I'm not missing something and keeping up on all the required visits, follow ups and then add some suggestions to things we may be missing.  On this particular visit it was nice to speak to the Down Syndrome coordinator, Shelia, and confess that I feel like we just don't belong to the Down Syndrome group OR to the Autism group.  I see kids much younger than the twins with Down Syndrome flourishing and talking and doing great.  While I truly feel happy for these kids and their families I feel like it's hard not to compare the differences we see.  Then I have the boys in their awesome Autistic support classroom and an equally awesome after school program for children with Autism, and there, Caleb & Isaac are the only kids with Down Syndrome.  Again I find it difficult not to compare the differences in my boys with their peers in these classrooms.  Shelia at the Down Syndrome clinic said they do have parent who don't quite feel they fit in with the "traditional Down syndrome" category and for this they are trying to put together a quarterly parent meeting to help facilitate better understanding and to share ideas and outcomes.  I think this is wonderful and I plan on adding this to our frequent Pittsburgh trips.

I know that some may read this and understand where I'm coming from.  Some are going to read this and argue that all children are different and just figure it out.  And then there will be those who don't understand yet can sympathize with the unknown.  I love wearing these shirts on my twins because it reminds ME that "Different DOES NOT mean Less Than"

To end on a good note.  Today's appointment was a GOOD OUTCOME!! Isaac had just undergone his third surgery to repair two completely perforated ear drums from having several sets of tubes.  The second surgery was pretty invasive and a difficult surgery yet within three weeks he developed an infection that made them tear again.  In August he had a new surgeon and a new approach and today the doctor said they his ear drums are still in the healing process and covered with scab like wounds but both ears are closed and his no water in the ears restriction was lifted for the first time in like four years!!  We are so happy with this news and pray that he doesn't get any immediate ear infections while ears are still healing.  We will go for a hearing test in a few weeks and we should be able to remove the long distance ENT visits off the list for now.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Back At It - Quirky

Today is the second day of Down Syndrome Awareness month.  I shared an old blog post from 2006 listing 21 facts about Down Syndrome on my Facebook page yesterday and realized "I MISS blogging!!"  I was fascinated to read something I wrote six years ago that still rings so very true today yet felt there is so much more that I could add to it.  Blogging has taken a back seat to Facebook with the ease of just sharing a few words and a photo without much thought going into it.  Those posts get lost and are often not even seen by very many. For this reason I am going to start recording our family journey on this blog again.

Today is our school districts annual Homecoming football game.  Today the kids show their team spirit by wearing school colors of Red, White & Black.  I had the perfect shirt for the twins to wear, their Challenger baseball jersey:

Cute and comfy right? One quirk of the boys that drives this mama crazy is refusing to wear certain clothing.  I don't think its necessarily a texture issue, its more of a strong willed boy thing.  I shall look at it as good trait because they can and will communicate very strongly to make their wishes known.  I have donated several cute pieces of clothing because they flat out refused to wear it.  No sweaters, no sweatshirts, no sports clothing.  From experience now I know that I might as well bag it up and give it away at first refusal because it will not change the next time I pull it out of their dresser.  Deep Breath in.... it will be OK!

So I went back to their dresser and pulled out shirts I knew they loved and had to get some cute twin photos for today's blog.

Our daily view of twins!

Black shirt = Isaac,   Red shirt = Caleb

Tell me this photo does not make you smile
Of course the third photo just has to be blurry.  I never, ever, get Isaac smiling and there it is!!

So what's my Down Syndrome Awareness teaching for the day?  My boys are Quirky.  They are very strong willed and sometimes as their mama I need to focus on the positive of every behavior no matter how difficult that may be.  I have learned a long time ago with these boys that its not my wants but theirs that often win over.  Looking back on the issue at hand, its really no big deal that they would not wear a shirt I picked out for them, I'm just happy they go to school everyday with a choice of clothing to wear and for that we are blessed!

So tell me, are you typical kids Quirky?  Do you feel kids with Down Syndrome tend to be more Quirky than others?  Is this an Autism behavior? Did you smile at photo #3?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Homemade Soap Product List

One of my favorite hobbies is making homemade soap.  I have bought homemade soap for years and prefer it very much so to the commercial bar soaps full of preservative chemicals.

I have been making my own laundry soap and cleaners for about four years now.  I added the homemade soap to my list a little more than a year ago, so far its my favorite ME time that I have.

I updated my soap blog with a product list after many requests so I thought I may as well share it on the family blog as well.

Take a peek:

Stacy's Soap Suds

So what are your favorite scents?  Are there any scents you would like me to try?  Still have some holiday scent ideas I will be trying soon.  Like Peppermint Swirl, Minty Vanilla, Mocha Mint, open to try anything.  I LOVE me some fresh wonderful smells!!!