Prayers to you all at the closure of this crazy strange year! Do not believe I’ve sent paper Christmas newsletter since 2014. I did do electronic newsletter in 2019 (published 12-31), and RIGHT after that my criscollrj.com site failed. So whether many of you had an opportunity to read it I’m not sure! I mentioned some dark scary times. Faith in God is so important, and prayer of family and friends is paramount. This post says a lot. Please read if you can. https://www.criscollrj.com/2011/04/11/the-powers-and-exponents-of-faith/, emphasizing Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” I read through entire blog this year and reviewed it and edited it in preparation of moving back into my soon to be revamped original blog site. I’m glad I wrote so many of these entries years ago – I’d forgotten many of them.
Well, all we continue to say after last year is that we are so glad Roger is with us this year!! As I wrote last year, he was in the rehab center all last Christmas and it continued into February. He was finally able to come out then and recuperated at his parents’ until sometime in March. We were so happy to finally see some strength return by about April and May, and I continued to do a lot of work with him on data entry. We truly are a team!
We still go to our Youngstown courthouse every few weeks and enjoy getting a lunch together at a local Chinese restaurant. We also were blessed to enjoy a family vacation (https://criscollrj.com/2015/10/22/october-2015-maryland-vacation/) for the first time in 9 years. Even though it was a bit colder than expected (with a little snow even!), we all really really enjoyed it and hope to return again soon.
We did completely have our basement renovated last year–as I wrote in the last newsletter that said renovation had begun–and then had our bathroom repaired in May. With school again from July until just a few days ago, I am yet again ready to start cleaning out corners and cobwebs and ready to finally get Ryan in his own room as we had planned last summer, that didn’t happen. I am on another term break now until March 1, when I will start yet another semester. Three more semesters until student teaching! A bit scary, actually…
We returned to Kraynak’s again a few weeks ago with our friends the Jevnikars, and reunited with my high school friends Annette and her family, and also our mutual friend Becky. It was very enjoyable, and we especially found delicious the food at a new place, Hickory Grill. We had unseasonable warmth through much of December except for a few brief snows. It has been in the 60s this Christmas week. Strange to see daffodils coming up in places — will they come back in the spring?
We were thrilled for Chris to be enrolled in a new workshop in October where the focus is on autism intervention/training for workshop. He is doing so much better and also has seen a new medical expert that has tried some new medicines for him. He is sleeping better and is usually in a great temperament!
Colleen found a fantastic job this year and has been working since April at a pet store. She is a lizard/fish expert and that of course is right up her alley. She works a lot of hours and is very content with that.
Ryan moved on to the high school this year, in the 8th grade. He continues to excel in his academics and made honor roll this semester! He is now taller than all of us except Roger.
With all of the things that have occurred in this past year and before, we continue to trust that God has us all in His Hand and is watching over us. We have had many challenges and trials, but am so grateful that many things are resolved now, with just a bit more to get through yet. Some time ago this popped into my head, particularly the part that begins at 2:14
I didn’t realize I posted this on Facebook on December 10, 2014. Guess I should have posted it on last year’s newsletter, but here it comes now for some reason…
From Facebook 12/10/14: “This is a song I used to sing all the time in high school, and I’d forgotten about it. Starting about 1:03, listen to this song (though the first song is good too!). The part that says “I want to thank you for the gift of your son,” just randomly came in my head when I got home from the hospital today, at 2:13 on the track. Word for word it came out of my mouth, and I hadn’t heard the song in about 33 years. I felt like thanking God for seeing Roger today and that things hopefully are going to look up soon, and I thanked God, and then just started singing this song. Didn’t even know who it was by until I found on YouTube! Just knew I was in high school probably when it came out. I needed to hear the words today… been such a struggle.”
“I want to thank You for the gift of Your Son,
And for the mystery of prayer,
And for the faith to doubt and yet believe
That You’re really there.
The mysteries of Your Word are the questions of my days.
I search them now to understand the wisdom of Your ways.
Jesus walks before me and clearly walks the path
To guide me to the Father and to peace at last”
Chris visiting Daddy in the hospital, Jan ’14
Rog programming his new IPhone 5c
The place where Rog should be sitting in Youngstown court next to me…
4. I am at Youngstown Courthouse
5. February 2015 – and the snow just keeps coming.
6. And the cold!
A particular memory is how the heat quit working in my car when I was driving to Youngstown, and the real temperature outside was -17. Talk about cold toes!! Later found out it was my radiator, which I had replaced in May of 15. You’ll see below what happened in June…
7. February – the amazing photobombing bird!
8. A start to one of Colleen’s amazing paintings.
9. Ryan writes so much like I did..
10. The cold just keeps up.
11. March – painting almost done!
12. Rog is back at his mom’s, and we finally had Ryan’s and my birthday parties!!
13. Boys at mama’s and papa’s house.
14. Ryan’s SpecialSports Basketball 🙂
15. March also finally got Rog back in that special chair at Youngstown Courthouse!
16. That was an amazing temp after all that cold!
17. April brought new glasses, after years, that turned to sunglasses!
18. Colleen’s beautiful sculpture.
19. Another one of her gorgeous art show entries.
20. Rog and I got to Meadville to work May 1 and ate at 5 guys!
21. Ryan at the football camp in May for Specialsports!
21. It was Flag football…
22. Got our bathroom redone in May!
23. Colleen turned 21!
24. June – Ryan’s really enjoying summer!
25. End of June said goodbye to Old Bess after she caught on fire. 13 years — 195,000 mi. Yep, a month after replacing radiator. I was pouring radiator fluid and power steering fluid in it for months…
26. A few weeks later this 2014 T & C joined our family. 30,000 miles, and now it’s already up to almost 44,000.
27. Sophie and I enjoying our basement, much nicer after the Christmas ’14 repair!
28. July, a little trip we took Chris on where Colleen was doing some fishing.
29. Mom and her friend Allen Helm helped us plant a lot of beautiful plants and shrubs my uncle Don gave.
30. I saw Rainbows on Chris’s wall on 3-4 separate occasions this year, amidst worry and struggle.
31. Sometime the summer/fall Peach went to live with my mom. She is flourishing! She lost her “sister” Pumpkin a few months before that.
32. July – my mom and Chris and I enjoyed attending the Montville bicentennial.
33. Ryan always enjoys getting his Dairyman’s Chocolate milk, a daily trip he calls “getting Biggerline Dairymen’s chocolate milk here.”…. and boy what a fit if one of the stores has run out of stock on it…
34. September – we did get 15-20 tomatoes!
35. Mantua potato festival 🙂
36. Getting rid of old couch and fridge. Lots of newer furniture and a fridge, and lots of boxes and other things, came in when Mama/Papa moved! I’ll be sorting and arranging all these on the current break I just started.
37. Took Chris to the shore one night, Lake Erie.
38. Our trip in October to Maryland. More pics on my blog! Runaway ramps in WVa.
39. One of the parks in WVa or Maryland.
40 Fire in our cabin 🙂
41. First views of the hills.
42. I want this mailbox!
43. Our cabin.
44. November after Gayle/Chuck moved, Chris visited before they gave away the keys — Emotional!!
45. Breathtaking view of the lake in Auburn on the way to Youngstown.
46. Happy birthday Chris, mom, Papa, Nancy!
47. 48. 49. 50. Kraynak’s trip with Jevnikars, Kromer’s, and Becky Freeman 🙂 Boys are at the chocolate store, and Colleen took this lovely selfie in the car (didn’t take a selfie in the Santa chair that I asked her to 😉 )
51. Our one snow event a few weeks ago. Before and after, unseasonably warm!
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6.
A very blessed Christmas season to you all! I am so sorry I did not get cards out this year – I will try and get them out next year along with a printed newsletter. We enjoyed our Christmas very much and had a lot of family time. Colleen and I are enjoying our tradition of baking together. We also sat and watched movies and went to see Pettiti’s garden center’s Christmas display as well. Unfortunately a bad virus kept us from attending Kraynak’s in Sharon with the Jevnikars but hopefully we will get there next year.
Chris is flourishing at his adult workshop after some adjustment hiccups last year, and he has a wonderful Autism Interventionist specialist now working with him this year. This has made a huge difference for him, and we are so grateful! He also after a few years’ wait finally has working hearing aids and is starting to wear them all day there at school. He is also being provided the Autismate program for the IPad soon which is an excellent program for autistic individuals to communicate better. Chris continues to say occasional words, the most recent being Juice! 3 times as I took a container of orange juice out of our basement refrigerator!
While continuing college Colleen continues to take care of a lot of animals, the new one of which is Buddy, a Bearded Dragon! All of us including her boyfriend Scott have said NO more, but, boy, she sure enjoys what we have! She continues to draw and won great praise from her art teacher, with her art being shown at the school, also. Colleen baked delicious cookies this Christmas again, making her decorated sugar cookies and buckeyes, among other things, and I also made my monster cookies. We wanted to make a gingerbread house that I bought from World Market, but unfortunately, in the strange way things tend to go, the entire kit went missing, and we have yet to find it. So I suppose it will be a later winter gingerbread house when it is found…. sigh.
I think lately what is striking me is how tall Ryan is, suddenly! He is growing into a young man before our eyes. His academic progress is fun to watch, and the fact that he enjoys it all so much is thrilling. Currently Ryan’s favorite game is Minecraft either on Dad’s IPhone or my Kindle. He also sometimes plays it on Chris’s IPad (while we hold it!!!) – unfortunately he broke his own IPad last March. He played Minecraft on his PC for a while but then didn’t want to anymore, for some unknown reason. Ryan’s high point is outings with daddy every weekend and he loves “the little grocery store” and “Marc’s Store.” Keeping Ryan by us in a store still can be a challenge as he wants to dash off and get his favorite chocolate milk and chips. He is getting so independent! He misses latchkey as he was cut out of it this school year with his school not offering it any longer (he is now in middle school in a different building).
Graduation from fifth grade was a highlight of Ryan’s year! It was very emotional to say goodbye to Leroy Elementary School!
Getting back to Port Clinton/Marblehead this summer with the Jevnikars was a wonderful outing! We hadn’t been there with them since 2005. Ironically Roger then also was assigned Ottawa and Sandusky counties with his work, so he gets to go back there every few months – I went with him back this fall one time. It was super having an all-day camping day with our friends in July and we enjoyed swimming, walking, eating barbecue, and traveling to the Marblehead Beach!
Things continue to the same in our data entry work – God has enabled us to keep up the 3 two-day trips every quarter! Prayers appreciated for some medical issues for Rog that continue. I also continue to perform home health care with two companies. Rog has chosen Columbia College online in Missouri to obtain his bachelor’s degree in social work – just awaiting the right session to enroll in. I have transferred from Kent State over to the online college Western Govern University, where I continue to major in special education. I really like it a lot – and of course, though, I loved Kent as well, but the scarcity of any classes locally or at a time that was convenient to go was becoming a bigger problem every semester. WGU’S degree also adds an elementary school license which may be very handy for flexibility in job-hunting! They go on a six-month semester, and one can start any month. I started September 1 and go through the middle of February, and then start again in March. I can take a month or two off in between any semesters as long as I give them notice. I also still hope to go back for autism certification and ABA after I receive the bachelor’s. Can’t believe I will be student teaching in just a few years or less!
I started using My Fitness Pal in January 2013 and have kept up with it fairly well to date. I am not logging each day now though, as I should, but hope to get back to that today!!! I have lost another 10 pounds or so – it wavers between 20 and 25 pounds total loss since early 2012. I need to lose more but do feel so much better being down about one size! In the new year we hope to attend a water fitness class at the Y every Wednesday. A very bad cold/virus got me away from walking in late November, and I hope to have my strength completely back when Ryan goes back to school January 6 so that I can start walking every morning again. The entire family was down with this virus between mid November and mid December – it was awful!! We also have a really nice exercise bike in the basement that we want to start riding now that everyone is starting to feel better.
After a very busy, enjoyable summer, we are headed into a fall of changes yet excitement!
First, Chris had a very nice summer camp, along with Ryan, part of the time, where the boys got to swim, go to the mall, the movies, play at the park, and just generally get a lot of activity and movement in the sun, and rain! Both boys enjoy it a lot and we hope they get to attend next year! Then Chris went back to his workshop and is really accelerating his progress now after their acquiring an autism interventionist (which is what I’m striving to be, eventually!) that is working wonders with him. I am also putting more programs on the IPad including Autismate Lite and a Social Story program that we hope will be helpful to him. He also has been playing on a spelling matching game with me that he enjoys a lot!
Ryan also greatly enjoyed that summer camp, and went to another as well, which was from his school and was an autism camp at a local school. That was more academic, and we were so pleased that he was actually promoted to a higher level class when he was there. He then decided to test that teacher with some behaviors but then calmed down and did his work the rest of the time he was there. He then had another week at the activities camp, and is now half done with his first week of NO camp. This has been hard on him and we are just trying to keep him busy and happy. Today is scheduled with going out to the store and later going for his before school physical. Then tomorrow I work and Grandma watches him, then the weekend is full of time with his brother and then only one more week! AND the 20th he has 2 hours at his school for orientation. Before I know it, Ryan will be in 6th grade – August 26! New school, new teacher, but most likely mostly the same classmates.
Colleen is preparing for her 2nd year of college and most likely will be working at the same time. This will be a busy new year for her, and she and Scott continue to plan their future and have fun together. He is working a lot and they try their best to schedule time together around their schedules. She continues her love for all pets, and our telling her NO MORE PETS continues.
As always Rog and I are scheduling our quarterly business trips together and have some much needed alone time as we drive miles around the area to these SE Ohio and Western PA counties. We most likely are next going on October, with the blazing fall leaves. It is cool to see the seasons change as we do these trips.
Other than that, I’m still working for my senior ladies – two years now! And we have Chris every weekend and have fun with him and the family. Rog and I are battling our own health issues and trying to get healthier. I lost 13 pounds this year doing MFP and walking – think he has lost some weight too, but not sure how much. I’m looking forward now to fall walking and plan to sign up for hopefully two Y classes and start lifting weights a little. I think that will start my weight loss back up. I actually have lost a total of 25 since 2010 and think I do look better. Double chin is gone!
My driver’s license pic in 2010:
Me now. About 25 pounds down…
50 to go!
After waiting since March when I signed up for Western Governor’s to see any progress on my entrance (such as my schedule or what classes I personally need to take) I finally got my orientation page and my schedule page, along with all the courses I need to take, on my main portal today! They had told me before the magic date would be the 15th of August. So I get to start my orientation activities, which probably will take me a week or so, along with all my classes to investigate. This is my cup of tea so I will be overly excited about it for a while… ha ha.
I was getting a hearing exam Thursday (yesterday) and was in the chair with the thick ear pieces in my ear, hearing the series of beeps to say yes or no to. When I was all done (hearing hasn’t changed – my old hearing aid was cleaned and still good) I checked my phone.
It was unusual to have about seven missed calls and two texts when I’d only been unavailable for about an hour. The one that came up first was:
“You need to call Colleen. She got into an accident and is on her way to the emergency hospital. We have been calling you over and over again.” From her fiance.
The visions that pass through your mind suddenly in that situation are horrific. It is probably not very different from when you have a near accident yourself and your life passes before your eyes. I immediately called my daughter and heard her voice, a little weak but not faint, and she said that she had broken her nose in a car accident, and that her friend driving had some bumps and bruises but was okay. The overwhelming joy was such a relief over the prior fear. How lucky they were. How strong the relief and how scary the thought of what could have been, what God protected us from.
Thankful for seatbelts and defensive driving maneuvers today! Thank you, Lord, for your mercy to us all!
By the way, her noise wasn’t broken – at first they thought it was but after CT scan nothing was broken. A concussion is suspected, so her injuries were treated as head injuries, and she underwent her 24 hours of not being allowed to sleep for more than two hours at a time (which, of course, we did not either). That is happily over and she is okay, though still sore.
I can’t believe how long ago it was! I quit working around May 19 to prepare for your arrival.
Colleen was our second child and we did not find out if we were finding a boy or girl – we didn’t find out with Chris, either. (We did, with Ryan, for some reason). I was so happy that we were able to have both boys and girls, though of course all boys or all girls would have been a wonderful blessing as well. But our older two, you did so much together, and grew up together so much.
Now going on 19, I don’t know where the years have gone. Tomorrow came and went and Colleen didn’t arrive, but come the next night I was in labor by late evening! Colleen was born at 4:30 a.m. on May 29, on a Sunday.
With Colleen’s birthday coming up on Tuesday I felt like posting some publishable parts of my old diary, from 5-12-94. Hard to believe it’s been 18 years.
Work told me I’m definitely getting my three-week vacation pay, three-week sick leave, and they want me to do tapes at home. I also may be able to go in and work some mornings and my mom may be able to watch kids on Fridays if I need to work.
First things first, I’m 2 cm. dilated (as of last Friday) and am working only one more week. I’m ready to enjoy this summer off with my children. It will be beautiful. I know I will be tired and frustrated sometimes, with a new baby, more work, less sleep, Chris’s reaction, Chris’s speech delay, worry over finances. Financially we are pretty secure right now but I only have eight more weeks of pay coming.Continue reading “18 years ago —”→
RJ is in the 4th grade now and starts Wed. in his autism class, with a new teacher for the 4th and 5th grades. Hard to believe I have an older elementary school student now! Will get pictures of all three kids and post soon.
Colleen is a senior! All the festivities that go along with it we will be discovering – I know we need to get senior pics, and order her senior yearbook, and she’s talking about getting her class ring. Then of course graduation, and the resultant party, and filling out a FAFSA for her this year, and visiting colleges. Some sort of graphic arts is her plan as we all expected.
Chris is also a senior in a sense – he is going to be 21 this November and is in his last full year of school. We want to also get senior pics for him, and whatever yearbook they may have. He is changing schools and is going to be in a workshop program that should lead to an excellent adult workshop for the years after this where he does not have regular school anymore. This school also has, I believe, a Homecoming and a Prom! He has never done these things before so we are so excited. He will also have gym and swimming. He has not attended this school since 2nd grade so it is a sort of homegoing for him – he has had several different schools through his lifetime, all with different focuses, pros, and cons.
Then me, I am classified as a senior at this point, strangely enough. it is also listed that I am in “pre” speech therapy, so oddly enough as a senior they still have me pegged into a “pre” associates degree area, where I actually already have an associate degree. This will change, however, after I maintain a 2.5 or above GPA for a while, and then I will be solidly listed as a speech therapy major. I did get a 3.4 from the summer classes so I am at a good start – need to get up to 3.7 or 3.8 by 2 years from now so I can get into the Master’s program. Classes – clinical phonetics, English grammar (online) and hearing science (don’t have the book yet). I start back next Monday. To drive to Kent two days a week. Good thing I love a good country drive – should be fun in the winter (ha!)
Yes, another birthday today! Amazing how fast it all goes.
Was just reviewing some entries from my journal from back then – actually 5-12-94:
“First things first, I’m 2 cm dilated (as of last Friday) and am working only one more week. I’m ready to enjoy this summer off with my children. It will be beautiful. I know I will be tired and frustrated sometimes, with a new baby, more work, less sleep, Chris’s reaction, Chris’s speech delay, worry over finances. Financially we are feeling pretty secure right now, but I have only eight more weeks of pay coming. We must be very careful. We’ve not charged anything since February/March except for my car repair.
“We are praying earnestly for Chris’s speech. He still adds another word (some of past, some new) every one to two weeks. But it’s trying how slow it goes. He said “baby” at school yesterday, but didn’t say anything today. I will list in a little while all his words as of now. Praise God for them! In January he had none. Here are his words:
“January – present, 35 words: Bye-bye, hi, waffle, see ya later, all done, night night, no, juice, come here, Ma Ma, Pa Pa, Mommy, Daddy, Baby, Bear, Big Bird, lay down, sit down, ears, nose, shoes, socks, binky, hot, cold, yogurt, ice cream, truck, up, binky night-night, car seat, thank you, cracker, horn, beep beep,
“Plus, one time he said to mama, “Now, where did they go?” Now we ache to hear him speak several words daily, and to answer questions, and ask for things by name. The words now are random and to himself, not as a real conversation with us. We are grateful for the words, but pray for their increased purposeful use, and frequency. Sometimes, especially when Chris has been quiet a lot and/or throwing things (today). I cry for a while, a fear comes over me that he will never speak and communicate normally. It is a scary feeling. . . . I have to face these fears, cry over them, then put them at Jesus’ feet and leave them there. If this is what is willed by God (permanent disability) we must face it day by day through prayer anyway, so we will do that through this period of not knowing.
“Chris will be attending preschool for two more weeks, then we’ll be off for two weeks (with me and baby!) then will attend a Friday preschool for six weeks, then a gross motor movement class two days a week for four weeks mid-July –> August. This will be good for him – still a “summer break” from going four days a week, but something to keep him learning and occupied one to two days a week for a few hours (and give me a nap period!)
“The Lord really had worked some miracles – he is great and holy and is taking care of us, and we have a beautiful family: a beautiful loving son Chris and a coming treasure of a baby (boy? girl?) and a wonderful husband (who I wish I could see more).
“I need to get this house organized and check over budget tonight and it’s 7:30! I also need to make dinner! I just spent the evening playing with my Chris and writing in here. Chris and I played color matching, play dough (creepy bugs game!) and snuggled. After dinner I will get him in bed 8:30 – 9:00 and start straightening.
“I dream of getting this house beautiful and organized! Will take years. Yard too! Gotta make dinner. The next time I write there will be probably ‘a waah! a waah!’”
The Snowmen — they are ready to go to the attic, all condensed and ready for their box as soon as I get it packed (Monday?) Still have two lone snowmen decs on the mantle where half of them were before —
conversation – (“NOT CHRISTMAS, MOM!” lol – she put the Christmas bow with them – “that’s not right,” as Ryan would say). Have to keep emphasizing that Christmas is the red, green, etc., and WINTER is white and blue and can stay up into March!
Bought these awesome bunny baskets – 3 of them for 3 kids – at Gabriel Bros. ($2 each!) Also bought the bunny hanger – loved it!! The hyacinth (I think that’s right) was from Ryan’s spring concert – think I can finally put it outside if it’s not going to freeze again? Also want to buy some daffodils and tulips in pots, to plant later in the fall.
Roger had his surgery on Monday, and after a brief struggle with temp and not feeling well from some infection he is finally feeling better today and is eating!! So hopefully he’ll be home in a few days. A new beginning to a new part of our lives in many ways – Roger with his body hopefully fully healed now from all the troubles he had from his gall bladder (this was related to that, from last year), and Ryan and Chris both adding new skills to their getting independent and ready to fly to what they will become, and Colleen getting ready to be a senior next year, with college decisions to make – wow. And then me, on to Kent State in August – to take my first two speech therapy classes, phonetics and hearing science. Another time of change.