Monday, September 30, 2013

Faith's Lodge

Faith's Lodge

For the last year and a half I have been attending a support group once a month (or at least as often as I remember to go) that has been wonderful.  The group is run by a woman named Dawn who runs Nickolas' Gift, a foundation in honor of her son who would be 17 years old today.  She also lost her son to Potter's Syndrome.

The group is filled with wonderful, loving, caring, and heartbroken individuals who have each lost a baby or infant for various reasons.  Each has their own story, yet we are all traveling very much the same journey.

This weekend Nickolas' Gift took us all to a place I've had my eye on for a long time: Faith's Lodge.  This is a beautiful property who's sole purpose is to provide a safe haven for families who have lost a child or are raising a child with special needs and various disorders.  It's a place for families to come relax and reflect on the journey they are on, no matter what part of the journey they are currently experiencing.

Faith's Lodge is nestled near Webster Wisconsin. There is a small quiet pond with canoes and paddle boats. It is surrounded by the beauty that Earth has provided.  As you walk around outside you notice markers signaling that someone had donated that tree, bench, brick or plant in honor of the loved one they miss so dearly.

As you walk around the lodge and the property surrounding it, there are many inspirational quotes and motivating phrases nestled among the trees and adorning the walls.

Inside the lodge, in one of the many community areas there is a crafting room.  This room is designed for creating items in memory of your child and your journey.  They provide bird houses and other art supplies to let your heart and mind soar.  One of the Faith's Lodge traditions is a Heart Rock Ritual.  They find stones shaped like a heart on the shore's of Lake Superior.  There is a connection between the smooth edges, the rough patches and the journey that rock has taken in correlation with the journey you are on.  

We had Evelyn paint Gabriel's Rock a pretty turquoise blue.  I painted a solid blue heart outlining the stone's shape.  Derrick did the lettering and floral design.

Gabriel Ray 12-8-11     Forever in our hearts
Derrick kept finding himself going back to the rock to add more to it. After he added leaves on the flowers, he returned to add highlights to the leaves, he finally felt it was complete enough to put at the bridge.

After it stopped raining, we walked down the path to Sophia's Bridge. As you approach you see all the beautiful colors and rocks that other's have placed there before you. It's bittersweet to see how many broken hearted parents are traveling the same journey as you, yet oddly comforting to know you really are not alone.

Derrick pointed out a spot near the bridge that he felt suited the stone we painted as a family for Gabriel. Naturally the location was somewhere a little difficult to get to especially when the ground was wet. But I took the duty of climbing down to the rotting tree stump to place the stone inside the little "cave" that would maybe protect it from the elements. There it will remain next to the few stones nearby that were placed there before ours.

Later I had attempted to create a Garden Stone with Gabriel's name. I made 3 whole hearted attempts before sliding the pan over to Derrick to do. I couldn't make it work or get it to look the way I wanted it to.  He ended up finishing it for me instead.

Inside the rooms there are journals where others have documented their stories.  There were 4 journals in our room dating as far back as 2008.  The stories were heartbreaking and ranging from stillborn infants to 17 year old airplane crash victims.  We could only browse through and read a few of them before it was too emotional to handle any longer. 

I did manage to take a few moments to write in Gabriel's story though. Hopefully someone somewhere will be as deeply touched by him as we were while reading the stories already written.

We were able to hang out, bond with the group, cry and laugh.  We were able to relax, eat, and reflect. It was inspiring to see the leaps some people took on their journey over the weekend and amazing that such a place exists that these families were able to do that. 

Here's more random photos from our retreat: 

Proactive Genetics: Part 3 - The Results

The Results are in!

In the poll on my blog, the results were different than I expected! 61% thought they would be identical, 26% thought 1/2 identical and nobody thought they're fraternal.   Depending on the day would depend on what I thought.  Somedays I can't tell them apart, other days there are obvious differences to me.  For that reason I mostly think fraternal or inconclusive.

Proactive Genetics said to allow up to 10 days to receive the results of the cheek swab we did on the boys. The results are already in:

---- COPY OF TEST RESULTS #17932-130912 ----

We are pleased to report to you the results of the twin zygosity test that you requested. Analysis of the DNA indicates that Sawyer Joseph Chavez and Logan Martin Chavez are monozygotic, or more commonly referred to as identical twins.

We first isolated DNA from cheek cells from the swab kits that were returned to our lab. We amplified the DNA using a technique called PCR. Next, we analyzed 15 standard DNA markers used in human identity (D3S1358, TH01, D21S11, D18S51, Penta-E, D5S818, D13S317, D7S820, D16S539, CSF1PO, Penta-D, vWA, D8S1179, TPOX and FGA) and determined that the highly variable DNA markers were the same for both twins. Thus, there is greater than a 99.9% probability that the twins are monozygotic.

IDENTICAL!  Wow, I guess all the strangers we run into are right!  I remember reading somewhere that identical twin boys is the least common form of twinning - how cool! 

The reason we didn't know if they are identical or not is because they both had their own sac and their own placenta.  Some doctors and ultrasound technicians assume this means they are fraternal - which is exactly what we were told. But that's not true - obviously.  

Identical twins can have their own, or share, both the outer sac (chorion) and the inner sac (amnion):
    Number of ChorionsNumber of AmnionsNumber of PlacentasWhen Split OccursCommonality
    2 chorions2 amnions2 separate placenta1-4 days after conception25-30% of identicals
    2 chorions2 amnions2 fused placentas1-4 days after conception
    1 chorion2 amnions1 placenta4-9 days65-70%, most common
    1 chorion1 amnion1 placenta9-12 days1-5%, rare

I will have some reading to do about identical twins now, even though I've done a lot already I feel like I need to search out other parents of identicals as a resource for raising them.  I want to make sure they have their own identity, they are their own people. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

8 months old!

Yesterday, the boys turned 8 months old!  This is flying by quick! 

It's amazing how far the boys have come.  Sitting, standing assisted, eating solid foods, rolling all over the place.  We still aren't crawling or getting up on all 4's, but Evelyn didn't crawl till she was 10 months so I'm not worried yet.  The "Gooo's" and "daaaaa's" along side the amazing amount of giggles is more than my heart can handle most days.  Logan can drink out of a straw already and both are able to drink out of a regular sippy cup - when they want to.  

They have been a bit of a struggle lately, our sleeping problems are getting better as we've moved the boys into their cribs at night. Seems my theory about our snoring keeping them awake may have been accurate.   But the last few weeks they've been incredibly fussy and clingy. If I even consider the possibility of thinking about setting Logan down, he panics and throws a fit.  The last few days have been better during the day, but their night sleep is worse.  

Faith's Lodge

Faith's Lodge is a big property in northern Wisconsin that has been designated to families who have lost a child.  This weekend my amazing support group "Nikolas' Gift" has rented out the lodge and invited us all to go.  I'm SO looking forward to this weekend with the kids and families who are walking our same journey. 

Lately I've been having a bit of a rough time.  My heart longs for Gabriel, my arms crave his hugs.  I will never understand why my mind and body can't just realize that he isn't here. I can't hold him and I can't hug him and I won't be able to until death removes me from this earth.  It seems like everywhere I turn lately I see him or something that reminds me of him. I rearranged a few rooms in our house, and when I moved the desk I exposed all his things we still have stashed.  His shadow boxes and foot prints and our Build - A - Bear are all just staring at me, I notice them now more than before.  

Our Faith's Lodge weekend couldn't come at a more perfect time for me.  I'm so grateful for this opportunity,  I need this.

Proactive Genetics (part 2)


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Proactive Genetics (part 1)

6 days ago (Thursday) I ordered a kit to have the boys twin zygosity tested - are they identical or not?

Today we received our package from Proactive Genetics in Augusta Georgia. It came in a medium sized bubble envelope. 

Inside was the crucial items we'd been waiting for.  There was a thank you letter that described a basic outline of the process. There was also a postcard for you to acknowledge that - even though the test is 99% accurate - it's not qualified for any medical or legal use. (Ok, I just want it for informational purposes anyways.) Then there was the long version of the collection instructions. These confused me at first, but I'll get into that later. There were 2 test tubes with cotton swabs and a bubble mailer to send everything back. 

You have to do two sessions of swabbing 2 swabs in each cheek for both babies at night, and 2 swabs in each cheek for both babies the following morning. Put the swabs in the labeled tubes and send back. 

They don't tell you what the solution is that is in the tubes,
just that it's supposed to help preserve the samples.  

I was actually impressed they didn't seem to mind it at all. They were completely unsure what we were sticking in their mouths but it went fast so I don't think they minded at all.

We'll repeat the process in the morning as directed by the instructions and then I'll stop at the post office and send it back. Can't wait to get the results!

Oh, and don't forget to vote on the poll for which way you think the results will come back! (It's on the right hand side!)


"Am I doing ok mom?"
"Ok, I eat it"
High five for a job well done.


"Ehhh... What are you putting in my mouth??"

"Like a lollipop mom?"

The Boys' New Ride

Stroller talk!

Mom's of multiples, or with 2 young children, understand how difficult it can be to decide on a double stroller. I spent 9 pregnant months trying to decide on one. Then I have spent the last 7 more months trying to decide on a permanent one.

Do I go with my dream stroller - Baby Jogger's City Select that comes highly recommended by all moms but is high in price? Or do I go with the Snap n Go for ease? Maybe I should go for a side-by-side double jogger style stroller?  Then you see a mom out in public with the cheaper Graco Tour Duo stroller and think maybe you should save your excess "stroller funds" for other important items.

Our first double stroller purchase (Snap n Go)

I started out with the Double Snap n Go.  This was a cheap solution that seemed easiest for twins. It is light weight and easily portable. Its just a frame stroller so you pull it out, snap it open,  simply pull the infant seat out of the van (because you know all twin mom's have to have a van), place the seat on the frame and away you go.  I used and abused this stroller. I took it everywhere with me: Grocery store, wal-mart, walks, parks, the state fair, the north shore, grandma's house, and anyplace else I would take the kids too. The stroller was more than worth the 2 weeks I spent trying to find it and the $85 I spent on it.  And wouldn't you know, I went in Buy Buy Baby the other day and NOW they have it on the shelf, just sitting there waiting to be bought like every other stroller. I spent WEEKS trying to get one, Craigslist, eBay, Facebook, etc and finally ordered one from Wal-Mart (which I spent a week trying to sort out because my order was messed up).

Anyways back on topic here...

The problem is that the stroller doesn't have seats. It's only useful as long as the babies are still in their infant seats. My boys will still be in their infant seats awhile longer, but I'm finding them getting more and more annoyed with constantly being in there. I mean, in the car, in the store, at people's houses, when we go for walks, in the stroller at the mall, at the state fair. They're growing tired of it and fast. So it was time to hunt down a new stroller, something with seats so they can be out of their car seats a little bit more.

So I remind myself of all the information and research I did when I was still pregnant and dove head first into Craigslist. There I found it, the stroller I had settled on.  The Kolcraft Contours Options Double Tandem Stroller. My dream was to have a Baby Jogger City Select, but that's not in our price range, especially with twins now.

This stroller is awesome. It came in great condition with one infant seat attachment. I went to Buy Buy Baby and bought a second one for $20. Now it functions as a Snap-N-Go but bigger and more sturdy.


When we are walking I can have the boys both facing forward

Or both facing me 

If the boys are getting along well they can face each other and enjoy their own personal giggle-fest.

And the best part - if they are fighting or kicking each other's seats,
I can simply seperate them - problem solved.

And an added perk: when Evelyn gets tired of riding her scooter, 
she (barely) fits in it (33lbs and 33in) and can take a break 
while I carry or wear one of the boys (fun times).  

I was concerned at first looking at the stroller that the seats wouldn't recline. But wouldn't you know it, they do!
The front seat is laying back so Sawyer can sleep

My Review:
I love how sturdy this stroller is. It folds up easily but does take two hands, and you have to remove the seats/infant adaptors before folding to get the most compact fold.  Believe me, with this stroller you definitely want the most compact fold because its big enough as it is. But, the seats are SUPER easy to attach, detach, and turn around. When at the store, I'd say it takes me 15 more seconds to get the stroller ready than it did with any other stroller, even the Snap-N-Go.  The basket underneath isn't super easily accessible but its definitely functional and big.  The stroller weighs somewhere around 33lbs, it feels just a little heavy. I don't mind weight on my stroller, I find that it makes it feel more sturdy that way. After taking the stroller out on the town I love how it drives/rides. It steers and turns easily, even with one hand (as I'm carrying one of the boys in the other), it's not hard to maneuver or push at all. I think the big rubber wheels have a big part in that functionality. I do wish that it folded a little smaller though, the thing barely fits in the back of my van, but somehow I managed to squeeze in the frame, seats, and infant adaptors with a little room to spare. It's almost like a jigsaw puzzle though!

I knew I wanted a tandem stroller because it seems like a side-by-side would be a little hard to maneuver around a store or crowd and I use my stroller for EVERY outing, but I do think I might like to invest in a side-by-side at some point so I can have that option too.

Much of the time, especially as the boys get bigger and as long as the weather is appropriate I plan to use the wagon for many trips. It also fits well in the back of the van and is perfectly functional for outings.

I'm very pleased with my new stroller. New it would have run me around $279-$299, but I found it on Craigslist in really good condition for $125 plus the cost of the second car seat adaptor ($20). Not to bad of a find if I do say so myself.