Sunday, February 22, 2015

Park Hopping In The Sunshine State

When we decide to travel with our large family, we have to carefully consider what is doable and what is not.  We know our limitations when it comes to leaving the comfortable confines of our house with certain kids.  We were offered an amazing condo in Orlando Florida at an incredibly reduced rate in early February and we accepted it even though it meant pulling everyone from school and Matt losing a weeks worth of income because our family does Orlando's theme parks surprisingly well.  The Disability access passes available at the parks are a big part of it and even though we didn't have the previous stellar experience at Disney (my diatribe post about that is here:  Dear Disney), we still had a pretty amazing trip down south.

After a grueling 14 1/2 hour drive in two cars, we arrived in Orlando at our 3 bedroom top floor condo which was beautifully appointed.  We crashed and slept hard to regain any semblance of beauty before embarking on our week of a theme park smorgasbord.  We originally didn't plan to park hop to different parks outside of Disney, but once again when you are out of your element, environment and carefully planned life, you do what keeps the natives happy and from getting restless so to speak.

We laid low the first day due to it being rainy, but the next morning bright and early we pulled into the Animal Kingdom at Disney.



Waiting on the other 6 who were riding Everest

On Safari


Lily taking it all in Lily style (no iPad during the whole ride)

The 4 "boys" hopped over to Hollywood Studios while I was brave and went solo with the youngest 4 to the Magic Kingdom.  Try to envision Izzy and Dasha attempting to push a heavily loaded stroller with Leo up the ramp to the monorail together.  It was hilarious and disastrous all at the same time.  I was also asked "All they all yours?" and "Are you here alone?" several times.  I'm sure people thought I was certifiable. 

A rare shot of my big guys at Hollywood Studios.

Once we finally made it to Main Street in the Magic Kingdom after our harrowing trip from the parking lot to the Magic Kingdom, I parked ourselves on a curb to wait for the parade since it started in less than an hour and I wasn't going to attempt going one foot further with Izzy and Dasha's stroller skills and figured I'd just wait for Matt to arrive.  He arrived about 30 minutes later and I snuck off for a bit of R&R from my whiny tired of waiting for the parade children to purchase a few treats to stave off the brewing meltdowns until some princesses, a few mice, a Goofy looking dog or a Beast came our way on a float.  I picked out some fudge, a cookie and chocolate covered brownies with Mickey ears (see picture below) for everyone to try.  Not surprisingly, the yummy goodies didn't last long.  Even Lily inhaled some fudge to my astonishment.



There's that Princess and Beast you promised me Daddy!!

Stopped for a picture on our way to meet some princesses.




The rest of the day was somewhat stressful and not as magical as we'd hoped (as noted above and from my previous blog post), but we still had a fairly good time despite everything.

Busch Gardens was our next park stop.  The best part about Busch Gardens were the zoo animals being intermixed with all the rides and shows plus the low crowds made lines short.

The girls climbed up into this glass "box" where a tiger was lounging on top.

We wandered into the Sesame Street area and were looking at the gift shop since it's hard to find big kid/adult sized clothing for Lily when Izzy announced that Elmo and Cookie Monster were putting on a show just around the corner so we quickly made our way over to see them.


and Lily proceeded to lose her mind!

Lily periodically shouted out their names and included a few MIA like Big Bird and Count

Grover came over and shook hands with her


Abby Cadabby came over and gave Lily a great big hug (love this picture!)

Meet and greet after the show with Cookie Monster and Grover.

Then about 15 minutes later Big Bird showed up for another meet and greet.  Lily and Dasha were overjoyed to see him...



Since the crowds were low, Dasha and Big Bird danced together for about 5 minutes.

Leo was scared to go towards Big Bird and I loved how he knelt down and gently put his hand out for Leo to touch.  It was soooo sweet.


Took the next day to relax at the pool and hot tub








Then our final hop was to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure where to Lily and Dasha's delight Barney lives.  Here's a few short videos of Lily loving every second of Barney's show.  We ended up going to two Barney shows while the others rode some rides without us. :)

video


video











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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Dear Disney,

I'm a mom of 7 children and recently my husband, children and I traveled down to the sunny (albeit slightly cold) state of Florida.  We were excitedly anticipating another fun-filled magical Walt Disney World day experience like all of our prior years of attendance.  We usually cram it all in with a one day hopping bonanza through the three main parks (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Epcot).  It's what works for us and with a family of nine, what we can afford ($1300).

We have done this multiple times over the past 16 years.  The initial few trips were with our 3 boys when they were toddling around with the twins still in diapers.  We arrived at the Magic Kingdom that first time with much expectation of the fun we'd have, but within 15 minutes of getting off the monarail, we found out how hard it was to take twins on the autism spectrum to a theme park.  The lines were long and winding everywhere we walked.  We chose the Tomorrowland Speedway ride first because (duh) you get to drive race cars around a track and we had three boys obsessed with race cars (the real ones and the Hot Wheel ones). We entered the line a bit trepidatiously when we saw how backed up it was.  Once in line, we slowly shuffled back and forth.  Back and forth.  It's like a maze at a slow paced crawl next to bodies that were pressing in on us in all directions with a bunch of screaming, crying, climbing, laughing and talking humans.  In other words, non-stop chaotic noise and motion. Add in the exhaust smells and the loud rumbling engines of the cars and it became a symphony of pandemonium for two little boys on the autism spectrum with extreme sensory processing issues.  So they began to have a complete meltdown after about 15 minutes of sensory overload and the inability to understand what was taking so long to reach the cars that were mere feet away. Try to imagine full on hysteria with both boys collapsing and flailing to the ground with frustration, anger and being completely overwhelmed.  When you are on the spectrum of autism, there is no reasoning once an individual (or two in this case) spirals downward.  No special words or tricks to get them to stop.  No threat of punishment or promise of reward can be verbalized once they reach this point. Dispirited, we began to try to escape the barred in maze we were trapped in.  

My first thought was: We have to leave the park because this isn't going to work!  Followed by: What a complete nightmare!!  And finally: OMG, what the hell were we thinking?!?!

We dragged the twins and our devastated 4 year old son, who just wanted to "drive" a race car, out of the seemingly eternal line, while everyone around us gaped looking appalled as if we were the first family ever to have badly behaved children in a line before.  Sweating profusely from the ordeal, we started heading for the park's entrance.  

As we strode past the hordes of smiling happy people arriving to the Magic Kingdom, who were of course posing for that perfect picture in front of Cinderella's castle, I felt defeated.  Life was hard enough at home and all I could think of at the time is why can't just one thing come easy. As we reached the end of the Main Street, I saw City Hall with a sign saying "Guest Relations" to my right and I veered in that direction to see if anyone could possibly help us.  We hurried in with our twin stroller filled with two inconsolable little boys and I shared our story giving the CliffsNotes version, but giving them no doubt of what we were dealing with.  I then asked (more like begged) if they had any extra accommodations for children with special needs and the woman behind the counter smiled and said "Why of course".  She then bestowed upon us a magical card that allowed us to bypass the mile long rides and breeze through all barriers, ropes and mazes as if we were royalty.  It was flat out awesome, a Godsend and we were utterly grateful.

Over the next several years, we used this disability "perk" whenever we visited any theme park. Walt Disney World, Busch Gardens, Sea World, Universal Studios and even Kings Island all had a version of this pass.  Disney's experience always seemed best, but the other parks came in a close second.

As we accumulated more kids to our family with most of them having a disability or two, we planned our trips on what would work best in our circumstances.  Disney was always a forerunner because of their special disability pass.  I'd also recommend Disney to anyone who had a child with a disability because of this pass because I know how hard it is to take kids like ours out and about away from home where everything is set up for life to run as smoothly as possible.  Traveling takes us out of our comfort zone and it takes a lot of preparation and planning to make a trip when you have kids with multiple issues. 

We'd heard of the inconsiderate and unconscionable people who hired individuals with disabilities to actually go into Walt Disney World and Disneyland so they could access these disabilities passes.  (Here's the story if you missed it for my blog readers: Rich Manhattan moms hire handicapped tour guides so kids can cut lines at Disney World).  We'd also heard Disney had changed their policies and disability passes.  We were unprepared with how much they'd changed though.  

This is a copy of the 2nd pass we were given later in the day

When we arrived last Tuesday at the gates of Animal Kingdom (our first stop on our hop at Walt Disney World), we were told that we would get 2 passes due to the size of our family with 4 people being allowed on one and 6 people on the other (see above picture).  Basically the rules were your party should walk up to a ride and the employee would write a return time on the pass based on the current wait time.  We were also told we could only have 1 ride with an open return time on the pass at one time.  You can also use the Disney's FastPass option concurrently, but again after the first 3 initial rides picked out for FastPass, you then can only pick one FastPass return time at a time from there on out.  So basically you have a FastPass time and a "open time" on your disability pass to work with at a time and then you start the process all over again.  It was awful.  

So around 5:30 PM I went to my beacon of hope (aka Guest Relations) and shared our story once again with the issues listed (after waiting in line for 45 minutes just to talk to someone). The woman was apologetic, but the only "extra" accommodations she could give us was 2 new disability passes with the total number of our party on it (9!) so we could get return times for the entire group instead of only 4 or 6 that were on the original passes.  She also added 3 additional FastPasses to our tickets that could be used immediately to sign up for available times.  That was all she said she could do.  Personally, I still think we should have qualified for more passes considering 3 of our kids have significant issues.  Why not give each child with a disability a pass?  Do you want proof Disney?  I'm more than happy to provide that proof with a doctor's note, testing results or even a Karyotype of my two daughter's extra chromosomes....whatever it takes.

I also want to address what the original Disney employee told me as she took our information for the two passes.  Her words were "to make it fair to everyone these are the way the passes work now."  I'm sorry, but was it fair that my daughter had to have open heart surgery at 4 1/2 months to live?  Was it fair that my three boys on the autism spectrum were nonverbal for several years and couldn't express themselves through speech?  Was it fair that my daughter, Dasha lived in an orphanage for 5 1/2 years just because she was born with Down syndrome?  Is it fair that some people have no compassion for kids like mine who struggle daily with learning life skills, meeting developmental milestones, coping with sensory processing issues, being included and just making friends?  Is it fair that some people are jealous or resentful that my kids WHO HAVE TRUE DISABILITIES don't have to wait in long lines for a day at a theme park?  

Last I heard life isn't fair.  All we desired was to have a rare day or a vacation where things came just a bit easier.  Maybe a day without a meltdown or a day seeing my child light up, make eye contact and actually stand up and go hug a beloved Disney character willingly because she recognized them from a cartoon she watches every day obsessively on her iPad.  

Walt Disney World is supposed to be all about the magic.  Well, there was little magic last week on our visit and I'm so disappointed that a few indefensible people ruined it for a population that struggles every damn day to just live their lives to the best of their abilities while trying to coexist in society. So Disney you need to reevaluate your disability pass to be more accommodating for kids, teens and adults like mine.  For those who abuse or have previously abused the passes then shame on them, but don't punish the ones who desperately need this pass to enjoy their special magical experience at Disney.  One of Disney's basic principles state: "Never a Customer, Always a Guest".  To this day, a visitor to a Disney theme park is always referred to as a guest.  Walt Disney was insistent on being able to understand the wishes and needs of his guests.  He believed that guests deserve respect and honesty.  The authors indicate that to best examine how an organization values it's clients, one only needs to evaluate how the organization deals with complaints.  Walt Disney felt that solving guests problems sparks innovation.  (http://maaw.info/ArticleSummaries/ArtSumCapodagliJackson99.htm)

Well, it's time for Disney to remember Walt Disney's principal of "understanding the wishes and the NEEDS of the guests."  And how "Guests deserve respect..."  There has to be a better solution to the corruption that occurred with the disability pass so that the pass can go back to it's original version that accommodated those with true disabilities so well.  


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Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Spectrum Of Down Syndrome

Every single day I hear references of someone being on the spectrum.  Obviously being on the spectrum refers to being on the autism spectrum, but for awhile now I've come to believe it would behoove the Down syndrome world to have a reclassification of Down syndrome into a Down syndrome spectrum.  There are so many variants of how Down syndrome manifests itself in a person.  Levels of functioning, achieving life skills and significant health concerns are compounded by additional diagnoses such as autism, sensory processing disorders and apraxia.  These extras usually bring on additional challenges and in turn affect the way the child or adult speaks, behaves, socializes and even learns.  

I'm often reading on Facebook how other parents, who have a child diagnosed with a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism, feel like they don't fit in anymore at Down syndrome events, meetings or get togethers.  They believe there is too big of a difference with their child to other children who just have Down syndrome.  Things like bigger delays, complicated behaviors, lowered potential and intermittent or nonexistent stereotypical Down syndrome personality traits with their children who are obsessing on their iPads, stimming with a musical light up toy or flipping a washcloth in front of their face on top of the antisocial or detached personality that can be apparent with autism.  

We recently attended the grand opening of a GiGi's Playhouse near us and lasted all of about 15 minutes because the noise level and the crowd were so overwhelming to my daughter who has both Down syndrome and autism.  Call me paranoid, but I also sometimes sense a hint of fear from parents holding their cute chromosomally enhanced babies when their gaze lands on Lily.  Lily who on this particular day is barely able to walk because she's so busy trying to cover her ears, dodge bodies, avert her eyes and muttering nonsense while deeply cringing from the chaos the grand opening party had in full force.  I'm not naive...autism can terrify people. 


Giving their daddy some love

I'm on both sides of the coin.  My daughter, Dasha, just has Down syndrome (along with a few health issues that are common with Down syndrome) and then there's Lily with her numerous conditions stacked up to complicate all aspects of her life.  Down syndrome and autism being the main components though.  I push hard for inclusion with Dasha, but often scale back with Lily.  Inclusion for Dasha means multiple opportunities to learn from her typical peers like appropriate behaviors and social interaction.  Inclusion for Lily means carefully picking and choosing opportunities that work with Lily's more unique reaction to stressors.  Changes in her regularly scheduled program or even something completely new can send her over the edge. I'm also constantly questioning what's an appropriate time on her iPad or how long should I let her stim?  It's not so cut and dried with these kids dealing with a dual diagnosis.  I've even read how some families feel more connected with families who do have a child(ren) with autism than families with a child with Down syndrome. 

I find myself clashing with fitting into the Down syndrome world as the girls get older.  Dasha seamlessly fits the mold and I'm often saying she could be the poster child of someone with Down syndrome, but Lily doesn't.  More therapy isn't going to miraculously make her more "Downsy" and less "autistic".  

Also the differences between the two girls doesn't mean lower intelligence for Lily even though first impressions may lead someone to believe that to be true when in reality they both have varying strengths and deficits with academics.

My suggestion would be for the medical gurus to adopt the word spectrum when writing or speaking about Down syndrome or perhaps even a less fancy word like umbrella where contrasting individuals could fall somewhere underneath.  We are a multi-facceted community with some facing scary medical procedures from serious health issues like open heart surgery, others facing excruciating cancer treatments, and still more being told their child has an additional diagnosis (or multiple) to add on to the original one of Down syndrome.  Lily has five:  Down syndrome, congenital heart defect (repaired AV-canal), autism, sensory processing disorder and Ehlers Danlos syndrome.  I'm considering adding a sixth one to the mix with apraxia of speech the more I learn about it with her younger brother, Leo, being recently diagnosed because she definitely has a few of those traits too.

I feel I have an advantage though than most of the families dealing with the blow of being told their child has autism usually a few years (or even a decade) after receiving the initial Down syndrome diagnosis.  I'd already been immersed in all things autism for years with my three boys who are also on the spectrum and so it was almost a relief to finally admit and accept Lily had autism. Funny thing was it took our daughter, Dasha coming home for me to see the differences between them. Adopting a child with Down syndrome who lived in an orphanage for the first 5 1/2 years of her life, one of our biggest concerns and fears was possible institutional effects.  Institutional effects (abuse, neglect, little to no affection) or orphanage life for a child often can mirror autism traits. Institutional autism is what most people call it.  I remember reading books, blogs and emails about institutional autism symptoms before and after Dasha came home and slowly came to the realization that Lily had many of them, yet Dasha (who was adopted) did not.  So after Dasha had been home a couple of years, I started embracing the idea of Down syndrome coexisting with autism in Lily.  They'd become intertwined and I believe make her the unique person she is and was meant to be.  

So you will now hear me say when discussing my daughters' diagnoses, I have two girls with Down syndrome and they are on completely opposites ends of the spectrum of Down syndrome.  It's okay that they are nothing alike and it's time to recognize the diversity in the Down syndrome population because we can't just embrace and promote the ones who are more verbal, more successful or more like you than different. They're all beautiful inside and out. :)


 Lily
Dasha

If I seem to be getting up on my soapbox a lot lately, it's because these kids of mine inspire me and in turn, I want to change the way the world views each and every one of them.


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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Bearing A Grudge Against My Child's Disability

Sometimes when I'm scrolling down my Facebook feed, I spy a cute picture of someone's child.  Usually it's a captured moment in time of something fun and typical for that age.  The picture that caught my eye today was of a 5 year old playing in a basketball game.  At first, it reminded me of my oldest son who'd started playing basketball in kindergarten at that very same age.  Fond memories of little sweaty boys scrambling to get the ball with looks of intense concentration being expressed on their faces mingled with a joyfulness of all the fun they're having flashed through my head.  Then my brain stutters....wait a second...that boy in the picture is the same age as Leo...like less than 24 hours older.  Immediately my heart clenches and tears sting my eyes as I'm suddenly thinking how that could've been Leo...should've been Leo in the picture if autism hadn't snatched him.

Every time I think I've come to terms with having children with a diagnosis or two (or four), I get reminded subtly like a whisper or more often with a virtual slap that I haven't fully embraced and accepted every single aspect of my children's disabilities.  I honestly think I'm bearing a grudge against all the disabilities entrenched in my life.

Since I can't live in a bubble or a cocoon my whole life hiding from these realities, I need to exorcise this grudge.  Pretending it doesn't hurt to see the normalcy and successes of my children's peers was a quickly learned coping mechanism, but I'm going to be real for a moment here.

For me, it sucks to see the "normalcy" sometimes.  The pain can catch you unaware slicing through your body with bold precision and sometimes you can't even catch your breath from the heartache coursing through you.  Thoughts or chants swirling in my head as the ache encompasses my soul:  Damn you autism.  Damn you Down syndrome.  Damn you sensory processing disorder.  Damn you apraxia of speech.  Damn you all for making it harder for my children to succeed.  Damn you for making them scream.  Damn you for making them cry. Damn you for making them struggle to stay healthy, to speak, to walk, to make friends, to sit in a classroom calmly, to be included, to be happy and content.  And damn you for making me feel weak and inadequate because all I want to do is fix it for them and I can't.

So I've thought about it...how do you rid yourself of a grudge?  I'm sure there's been oodles of books written on this very subject, but my particular grudge is more visceral and not easily forgiven, forgotten or let go.  The reality of a disability is always present..always in the forefront of our lives.  We don't forget my daughter, Lily, has Down syndrome and autism.  We don't brush aside the seriousness of keeping her healthy.  It's hard to ignore the fact that my son, Leo, still can't talk well since his cries, screams and shouts remind us daily of his frustration and of course there's his autism blanketing his every move, his every social interaction and his every thought.  Even with the twins' eminent high school graduation looming, I see the autism quirks still there, sometimes simmering beneath the surface and other times erupting for all to see, which in turn makes us question their ability to go on to college and then bigger responsibilities like jobs, marriage and parenthood.




I've done well in the past celebrating the little victories.  What would seem like small successes to most can be huge for us.  It's progress and we love progress.  Progress means we are closer to obtaining a goal.  Baby steps.  Huge leaps and gains are few and far between so we focus on the little triumphs.  Again baby steps like cheering when Dasha (who has Down syndrome) did well in dance class instead of misbehaving.  Enjoying Leo saying "I want corn chips please" appropriately while ignoring the backwards "please chips corn want I" whispered immediately afterwards. Watching Lily getting on the bus without fighting us every step of the way and that sweet smiling face greeting us every. single. morning.  Being awed when Reagan gets a 32 on his ACT and not focusing on the immature "incident" with his twin brother during class where he overreacts to the teasing his twin doled out.  And praising Kaelan for remembering to feed his reptiles without being reminded and doing well during his latest drive with his driving instructor instead of focusing on the negative verbiage coming out of his mouth.  (I should note that the lines between comparing a teen and a teen with autism get blurrier every day). 

I think back to the days before Facebook and other social media, I was buffered from noticing the differences between my kids and other kids their ages.  Maybe it was easier because there were only two at the time with autism and they were twins similarly delayed? But it's been harder this time around seeing the Facebook world tout their "Facebook" lives with all their fun-loving typical family activities with pictures or descriptions.  I myself always err on the side of optimism on Facebook for the most part.  Because really who wouldn't rather see one of Leo's spellings or a picture of Dasha in dance class than hear about one of Lily's latest shitastrophes?     

So I think the first step I need to do is to forgive autism, Down syndrome, apraxia and sensory processing disorder (plus all the other unmentioned diagnoses) for existing in my children and making life so much harder for them.  I guess the real question is how do you forgive (to cease to feel resentment for something) when it hurts so much?  I could remind myself how some of the many things I adore about my kids wouldn't be a part of them if they were free of their disabilities.  Or some of their more advanced talents may not have flourished if not for their disability (For example, Reagan and Leo reading by the time they were 2).  OCD can have it's benefits when learning about a certain favorite subject.  ;)  So in a way I'm holding a grudge against a part of my child that they have no control over.   Another idea is to not let the disability overtake my perception of my child.  Lily, Leo, Reagan and Kaelan have autism, but I need to remember autism doesn't have them.  They are so much more than their autism with so much potential.  This could be said about Down syndrome as well.  Lately I've been focusing on the disability more than my children as a whole.  I need to alter that way of thinking.   

Secondly, I need to accept that the diagnosis or diagnoses will always be a part of my child...always.  This is a tough one because many of the diagnoses we are dealing with change or evolve as the child ages.  The hardships brought on by their disabilities can be seen like mountains and valleys.  Some are huge and seem almost unbearable while others are just blips on the screen barely making a dent in the scheme of our lives.  It's recognizing the differences and not letting every difficulty or the comparisons of other's lives (via Facebook or at the school winter party) escalate into a mountain were it should just be a molehill.

Finally, I need to forgive myself for feeling this way.  Too often guilt comes into play when we feel anger, resentment or listen to the Why Me's?? ringing through our heads as we are cleaning up another mess of bodily fluid, going deaf while the child flips out over the phone ringing because of his sensory processing issues or once again arguing with a teenager on the spectrum who blatantly and without remorse ignores your rules because he thinks they are illogical especially now that he is officially 18 and an adult. 

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. -Lewis B Smedes 



Sidenote:  Please let me be clear that I don't resent anyone's pictures or status updates of happy or exciting events in their lives on Facebook.  I truly enjoy witnessing your joy, but this was just something I needed to write about to help me deal with my harboring grudges and perhaps bring awareness to others who may be in the same spot I am with their child's disability.


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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Tying Up Loose Ends

With this being the last day of the year, I thought it prudent of me to catch everyone up (or at least try to) with all the happenings of the last few months (Halloween to Christmas) since I've been quite pathetic or maybe even a bit apathetic with updating my blog with our often crazy over scheduled life. (Warning:  LOTS of pictures coming your way!)

Buddy Walk 2014- This is the first one the entire family attended in years.

Daddy helped out at the Fall Party in Izzy's classroom

Dasha "dancing" during her father's concert at Holliday Park in Indy

Cleaning out the pumpkins



Pocahontas and Sophia The First braved the sleet and snow to get their much desired candy.  Lily and Leo stayed dry and warm at home (aka refused to go trick or treating on the bitter windy Halloween night).

Reagan at a tailgate for prospective students at IU.

He preferred touring IU's campus over watching football. ;)

Leo's been in a dress up phase lately.  #eclectic



Sweetness overload with these two.


Sisters doing gymnastics together :)

Following in his daddy's footsteps?

Out with my mom and sibs. 

Riley turned 20 November 21st!  Each year we let the birthday child pick their "birthday cake" and Riley choose a cinnamon roll cake.  I slathered on some buttercream icing after it cooled and it lasted all of about 10 seconds.  P.S. How do I have a 20 year old?!?!

Thanksgiving in Florida!!!

Lily walked pretty well on the beach, but was terrified of the seagulls.






Celebrated Reagan and Kaelan's 18th birthdays in Florida.  Cheesecake Factory desserts for their birthday cakes of choice.



Gobble










Boca Grande, Florida was beautiful and peaceful...perfect.

We went to the mall on a cloudy cold day in Florida, told Santa want we wanted for Christmas and doled out some hugs.  Lily & Leo still prefer Santa from afar.  



We went shopping for a Christmas tree at the family nursery as soon as we got home from Florida.

And we celebrated Izzy's 8th birthday December 4th.  Baskin Robbins ice cream cake was her pick for cake.



Another chance to tell Santa in case he forgot the first time.


Kaelan's new little buddy for his birthday/Christmas gift...Dale Jr.


Dasha was invited to perform during the pre-game show with the Colts Cheerleaders during the Colts vs. Houston game December 14th from Down Syndrome Indiana.  She had 3 practice sessions before that date the 2 previous weeks.  Megan was the Colts Cheerleader she was matched with and another little girl with Down syndrome.  There were many children and adults with Down syndrome performing and it was awesome!!






Day of the game...so excited!!




 Dasha holding her cousin Kiley.

Rare family shot. #love

Here's to a healthy & happy new year!!!

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