Thursday, September 30, 2010

31 For 21 Challenge: Down Syndrome Awareness Month

Grab This Button

We all have a unique journey in life.  Come, spend the next 31 days reading about my experience raising identical twin boys who were blessed with an extra 21st chromosome and who bless our family daily with their love and laughter. 

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month -- help me raise awareness by reading along, linking to my posts and tweeting if you feel moved to do so. 

Saturday, September 25, 2010


First, thank you all for your response regarding our potty-training methodology.  I'll be writing up a detailed synopsis of our imperfect but triumphant experience to share with you all, as requested.  In the meantime, keep up the pressure if you're in the throes of potty training.  This is absolutely a case of dogged and systematic perseverance.

It's been a long Summer and a way too short Summer all at once.  In an effort to analyze and maximize my happiness I find I'm most grateful for the past; I'm enjoying the present; And I'm looking forward to the future.

[1] Happy to have spent my birthday weekend at the beach, camping with my children and my friends.  I'm grateful for the good weather.  For the good company of friends and family.  For the rest and relaxation.  And, though I would really have liked my husband to be there, he was sick AND had to work so he stayed home to take care of the pets and hold down the proverbial fort.  Even that was a bit of a Godsend.  Because otherwise I'd have had to fret about how to get it all done and, ultimately, ask my Mom to help out AGAIN.  But, I didn't have to thanks to the Sarge's untimely illness and unfortunate work schedule.  All in all -- for me -- a very relaxing way to turn 48!  Thanks to Tammy and to Sarge for making it so!

[2] I'm so thankful for my Mom.  For all the times SHE ASKS ME what she can do to help me... before I ever get the chance to ask her.  (OK, maybe it's that obvious -- like it's written in screaming font on my forehead -- that I need help, huh?)  But, Mom is always there to lend a hand when it's needed.

[3] I'm thankful that my Old Soul has the wonderful and intelligent brain she has... I really am unbelievably grateful for this.  She's an amazing child and I love her and her deep-thinking brain... But if anyone knows how to instill a sense of confidence in those brains to match her ability (especially in Math), please comment me the answer and help save my sanity. 

I used to wonder if I hated Math because I wasn't good at it or if I wasn't good at it because I hated it.  Turns out, I was good at it before I hated it and so was my daughter.  In fact, we're both still pretty good at Math.  So where does the hate come in?  For my Old Soul, right before the self-prescribed failure.... Somewhere in between 2 hours of tears, hyperventilation, refusal to even try and the complete shut down that occurs every single night.   That said... I'm also incredibly grateful that my friend, Eileen, gave me the name of a wonderful counselor dedicated to helping children and their families overcome just such problems... and he takes our insurance!

[4] I'm grateful that my boys are doing so well in their new school... our local public kindergarten center! I'm thankful and amazed that their teachers are quickly recognizing their ability and altering their educational program according to their "typical" needs (instead of focusing on their "special" needs).  Their "split" schedule allows them 1:1 time for academic training using Discreet Trial Training -- an ABA methodology that specifically addresses the needs of people who have trouble with rehearsal and the ability to commit information into short- then long-term memory (often the case for people with Down syndrome as well as autism).  In my district, this training is only available in the "special needs" class (though the law states services cannot dictate placement).   The boys get their related services during their time in the "special needs" class and the rest of their day is spent in the "general education" class with a 2:1 aide assisting my 2 little angels only to the extent that they need help (which, I can say proudly, isn't as often as the teachers first thought).  On paper, it's a 3 hour split schedule allowing 3 hours in each class setting.  But, as it turns out, their gen ed teacher and classmates have embraced the boys and the team has recognized that their ABILITIES far outweigh their disabilities.  So they've altered their schedule such that they spend more time with their gen-ed class and less in the "special" class.  They are NOT being pigeon-holed by their "special needs" in the public school system, as I feared might happen and had prepared myself to fight. Honestly, I am cautiously very optimistic! It appears that they are being recognized for their skills and abilities and their educational program is being customized to maximize these abilities and minimize their disabilities.  How cool is that?

[5] I'm thankful for the ability to forgive.  It lightens my emotional load and immediately frees me from the burden of holding a grudge.  I'm just not the grudge type!  And I think/hope it makes me a better and happier person.  I'm far from perfect at it as the thoughts of injustice creep back in here and there... but I'm practicing every day and it gets easier the more I do it.  Forgiving has been an amazing gift to myself.  (Try it, you'll like it.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Potty TrainED (as in past tense)

We are SOOOOO there! 
Potty Trained (except for #2 which they ONLY do 1x/day at home)!
The timed interval method using a gymboss worked wonders for The Boys!  Want to know more?  Let me know if you're interested via a comment on how I got my identical twin boys who happened to have been blessed with Down syndrome to move from diaps to undies in less than 4 months (with a hospital hiatus in between)!

See more Special Exposures at 5 Minutes For Special Needs

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Peace -- September 11th and Turning the Other Cheek

I wanted to write something poignant today, on this, the 9 year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York City's Twin Towers, Washington DC's Pentagon and, lest we forget, those who perished in the Pennsylvania plane crash on September 11, 2001. Last year, I wrote about my experience that day, working just blocks away from ground zero, watching the towers fall from my office window. This year, everywhere I look -- in blog land, online, TV-land and at the local deli -- there's much focus on moving forward as opposed to looking back. Advice from individuals pressing us as a country to move on, to forgive, to use 9/11 as a catalyst for peace. I couldn't agree more... AND less, in an unsettling sort of way.  But I could not put my finger on the source of my discomfort.  So I pressed myself to try and understand (because it's my nature to do so)...

Mind you, I live within 30 miles of Ground Zero. I was working on the northern fringe of downtown New York City that memorable day... a day that I will NEVER forget as the first plane buzzed over my head, way too close to the ground, headed south on Broadway just minutes before it hit the first Tower.  A historic day, a day of great human suffering and world sadness for which I had been given a front row seat.  A day I watched unfurl right before my eyes... where 2000+ innocent people perished because those responsible for this heinous act of terror WRONGLY perceived that the innocent people in those buildings represented a nation that believed something different than they believe about "God".  These EVIL people who KILLED because they believed that their religious beliefs were more right than mine; more right than yours; more right than everyone else's.  They believed that their God called for such an extraordinary act of violence.  And calls for such acts ongoing.

Again this year, I read and listened to accounts of that day from folks who were halfway across the world and from folks who were so close they breathed the tainted New York City air with me as they walked off the island of Manhattan... No other way out.  I listened to people I know and respect from various walks of life, various political views and various religious beliefs as they expressed their point of view... I listened to what's changed for them.  How they thought we should proceed as a nation.  Should  a mosque be "allowed" to be built overlooking the grave site of so many innocent people, and replacing the last building standing on what's now locally considered hallowed ground? Should all the members of the religious group shared by those responsible for this crime against humanity be held accountable?  Should those directly responsible be positively represented (as part of their religious group) by permitting this mosque to be built... as a gesture for world peace?

Perhaps you're getting a feel for my underlying sense of unease.  I'm not interested in denying religious freedom to anyone (there are over 100 mosques in New York City already).  I'm not interested in blaming all for the actions of a few.  BUT... I don't know.... The whole thing STILL feels like a fresh wound to me though it was 9 years ago.  Still, the world is asking me, and it feels personal, asking us all as Americans to turn the other cheek.  To forgive and move on with a more positive attitude.  A practice I am typically and easily drawn to by my very nature.  But I'm honestly torn on this one.  I'm torn between honoring the principles this country was built on -- religious freedom for all  -- and honoring those who lost their lives by such senseless violence.  Building a mosque in that location is, at it's core, merely a real estate deal. The land goes to the highest bidder, right?  But that doesn't feel quite right to me and, apparently, to so many others.  Yes, it is legal to build a mosque at ground zero.  But is it right to do so? Ahhh.... I don't know exactly why but it just feels wrong to me. It feels insensitive to the victims and inconsiderate to their loved ones.  That would be like allowing a serial rapist to rent a room in the same boarding house with his victims or permitting a mass murderer to build his home on the grave of those he killed.  It just feels wrong to me!  LEGAL, but morally wrong!

I forgive when an infraction is acknowledged. I turn the other cheek when I'm certain I'm not stupidly exposing myself to more harm by doing so. I lock my doors to prevent theft. I avoid dangerous alleys. I will take up arms to protect my loved ones. And I will defend myself and my loved ones against those that mean us harm... I feel the need to take these precautions now... STILL...I feel the need to protect my children, my loved ones, myself.  I do not feel safe. Rather I feel victimized, raped, murdered by the actions taken by the perpetrators of the 9/11 terror attacks on the Twin Towers.  Perhaps my reaction is natural because it hit too close to home, too close to my loved ones.  These attacks directly endangered the lives of me and my family members.  Perhaps those of you who watched on television versus actually living that day up close and personal don't have that same personal sense of fear.  Maybe you do.  Perhaps turning the other cheek doesn't put your loved ones in direct jeopardy of getting smacked again... It does for me!  And perhaps you don't have that sinking feeling that maybe you won't be so "lucky" the next time. Perhaps those of you who are calling for me to lay down my arms never felt the pressing need to bear arms to protect your loved ones so directly.  You don't live with the uneasy notion that you and your loved ones are in some one's cross hairs, that you are an innocent target for those who mean to do you and your loved ones harm simply because you do not worship the same God.

So much happened that day that even the media dare not talk about. Those who were there -- not like me, who watched from 1/2 a mile away -- but those who were really THERE at Ground Zero... those who walked down the stairs and out of the buildings to survive, like 2 of my cousins; those NYPD, FDNY and independent heroes who risked their lives going into the buildings to help others get out.... THEY talk of the whirring sound of bodies falling through the air followed by the thud as they hit the ground like 200-lb raindrops falling all around them.  They talk about quickly coming to understand the sound and to take shelter so as not to get crushed by someone jumping to their death because that was better than burning to death. THEY speak of the roadway immediately in front of the Towers being slick with the blood and strewn with the body parts of the thousands of innocent people killed that day... such that it was hard to walk without slipping.  THEY talk of months of scouring conveyor belts filled with the rubbish taken from Ground Zero looking for personal items and human remains -- a wallet, a wedding ring, a piece of skin, a bone, a tooth -- to try and identify victims so their loved ones could gain some closure. Bury their fallen family member.  Those who perished cannot look forward.  Those who lived the nightmare can't help but look back. 

They say, "History repeats itself."  That's a scary notion... but not so far fetched to me anymore!  We need to look back in order to change the future.  I am inwardly conflicted. Yes, I want  personal peace. But I will not turn the other cheek at the risk of endangering the lives of my loved ones... or yours.  Yes, I want world peace.  But not at the cost of freedom for us all!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

First Day of Kindergarten

You know when you get those glimpses of who your young children might be when they're teenagers?  Well, I had just that experience on The Boys first day of Kindergarten.  My attempts at getting a decent shot of my backpack-laden little boys was met with numerous tell-it-to-the-hand poses accompanied by my choir of angels singing, "NO Mom!" 

So THIS was the best I could do!  A memorable day just the same... even without award winning photographs.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Special Exposure Wednesday ON SATURDAY

All aboard at The Mystic Seaport.  A great place to spend a few days learning about Early American seaport life. My kids -- who especially loved the tremendous Charles W. Morgan whaling ship... the only wooden whaling ship left in the world -- are inherent water and boat lovers!  Must be they got that gene from their Daddy, former boat captain and life-long seaman.