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.
I just recently got a second hearing aid, after having one left hearing aid since 2006 and wearing it haphazardly. My hearing loss is less severe – mostly in my left ear, but some in my right. Ryan’s is second least severe, with his having more loss in each ear than I. He has refused to wear his hearing aids since first grade, and his school through audiological evaluation at our local deafness school said that his trying to wear hearing aids at that point was more detrimental, as he was tantrumming and not able to focus on his work because he was so uncomfortably stimulated, than just going to school without them. He has also actually been passing his school hearing screenings which is surprising.
Christopher is most severely affected, with his being almost totally deaf, and he will wear his hearing aids. He has had one broken now for over a year and we have been struggling with finding a competent hearing aid provider; we found one that we thought was good and then found out that they had twice made his hearing aid mold wrong, making it too uncomfortable for him to wear. We are now taking him to another provider next week and hope we have better luck. Of all three of us, Chris will most benefit from his hearing aids. He also seems to really enjoy wearing them! I think because his hearing loss is so severe, he is so delighted about hearing anything that he doesn’t really get bothered by the sensory annoyances of them. Although he has thrown them out of his ears after 5-6 hours before and we have to then find them in whatever room he was in! So he has to be closely watched while wearing them…
When wearing my left hearing aid off and on for six years, I did experience some better hearing. However there are drawbacks. Every background sound is also louder. I thought perhaps when I got the right ear hearing aid (which I did a few weeks ago) that I would start to hear things better like music playing in a crowded courthouse, for example. However, as I sat with Rog at Jefferson Co. PA courthouse the other day, every sound in the courthouse was louder even as the music was louder so I could still not hear it any better. Roger could still distinguish the songs before I could. Positively, though, I could hear Roger talking better! And that is important! And hearing high-pitched birds in the morning, and crickets at night, is also a plus!
About wearing the hearing aids themselves, and thinking of how Ryan is so sensorily over-stimulated with them, after I put them in I feel, for quite a while, like I am all plugged up. I eventually forgot about that feeling but occasionally it comes back, especially when I’m trying to eat with them in. I have the full sensation more in the left ear, which has the inside the ear only type of hearing aid, than the right, which has the type of hearing aid that is around the ear with just a tiny tube leading to inside the ear. I have actually found this right ear hearing aid to be more comfortable and less obvious to see in my ear when I look in the mirror. The left inside the ear aid also seems to often feel more blocked than the right, but that could be because of the wax buildup my audiologist told me I am experiencing. Once I visit the ENT and get that cleaned I’ll have to see if I then feel any difference between the ears. I also quite frequently have a sense of itching after wearing them for several hours. This has not happened in my right ear yet but I have only had that hearing aid a few weeks.
If we could find a way to write a social story for Ryan to be able to overcome these feelings I’m sure he has as he wears his hearing aids, maybe we can help him to learn to wear them again. The benefits of his wearing hearing aids would greatly help him! In school he mostly has one-on-one help, but that may not continue for his whole life If he can experience group learning in a more complete way by being able to hear better that would be wonderful.
Chris of course will greatly benefit after he gets his correctly fitted hearing aids! from what I remember the hearing aids help him to hear some, but not great. I believe they said they get him to almost a 20 dB level, which they explained should be someone speaking to him in a rather louder voice. I am hopeful as Chris wears his heading aids longer at school that he will pick up more words again (he talked when he was a toddler and young child) and remember how to pronounce them. He could also enjoy music again that he used to listen to. He also used to play the organ beautifully – it would be great if he could create music again!
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.
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!)
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.
Sometimes it’s challenging to get through the summer easily trying to keep two rambunctious boys happy and safe in the heat. But all in all I think we all accomplished this this summer. We have worked as a team – Chris stays at his paternal grandparents’ still (while we await, seek, and research the appropriate placement) and Roger stays over there a lot to watch him. Chris is very astute and is trying his best to learn the ways of unlocking doors so he can get some freedom outside. However, their safety (Ryan will escape and run off as well) is our highest concern so we do have some fancy key locks on the doors at both houses. So it is up to us to get them out as much as we can for their activities and exercise.
So all and all we were pleased with their summer programs – next year I would like to get Ryan to Chris’s camp even more days – we got a grant this year for him to go 6 days but if we can get three grants then next summer he can go 18. Chris went all summer from June 22 or so until this coming Friday the 20th. This is where they met for camp – we started taking Ryan there a bit a few days this summer:
It was very nice and also had a wood path. The boys would walk with their class in the morning on the wood path. Then by afternoon they’d usually visited another place and ended up swimming in a big pool across the county. Really nice program.
Colleen stayed busy with different friends, often attending anime events and swimming.
Rog and I worked, and went out of town for business in June. We’re going again the first week after school starts. I also made it through computer class and Algebra 850 – intro to algebra. I just finished that about 2 week ago and was happy to have passed (it was hard!). On a break now, working on some transcription but not tons and going to be trying to get the house in shape before work and school again (school starts week of August 30 for me – biology and intermediate Algebra). Speech therapy and certification in autism and deafness is still the goal, Kent State.
Working with Congress at this point with several liaisons to try to find away to get Chris into the program at NDA. We sure hope and pray it works.
(2020, as I said before, program was closed in 2014 for abuse. Sad.) Watch the video about NDA’s autism/deafness program. (2020 no site) I just feel so excited that this could be the right program for Chris. (nope)
16th birthday party is all done and in the books. I think Colleen and her friends had a good time. I worked on and off the whole time, and we had a busy weekend with also taking Chris to the park with Ryan and Rog too. Rog is feeling a lot better.
I actually still need to send the one blog post still on to the Congresspeople about how there really needs to be way more help in Ohio for individuals with disabilities needing medication adjusting. More posts, prayers, calls, and arrangements are still needed. But thankfully Chris is doing better at this point and we really enjoyed our time at the park with him this weekend!
I have been excited to find Windows Live Photo Gallery and with it Live Space, and plan to gradually get all my photos on there. So going to work on that on and off. Also, long story about how financial aid was messed up for me this summer deleted but short story is that I should be back in my class by tomorrow and have lots of homework to do! busy!
As Ryan (here eating fries when we briefly stopped at the park a few weeks ago) was climbing on my lap today, I started thinking about how soon that may be getting harder for him to do. He is a tall boy, still skinny, and can still fit upon my lap even though it’s a little poky in places :D. I have to remember to appreciate that and cherish a little boy on my lap, as the years go so fast.
I remember when Chris (above, left) crawled into our laps and in our bed every night to sleep. He loved to be held and would just laugh and laugh. He loved to lay down with his dad and play tickle games and play with his toys.
Colleen wasn’t so much a lap person but she loved to sit with us, especially her dad, and play her animal games. She did that a lot at age eight, and had a game called the cows that she played with her dad about imaginary animals and their conversations.
Now Ryan is over eight years old, and where is the time going? It just seems the childhood ages are going past me – Chris going to be 20, Colleen’s 16th birthday is in 11 days, and they’re growing up before my eyes.