Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Coffeys' Visit 2016

We said goodbye to the last of our summer visitors last Friday. My sister Annette and her family visited from New York last week, and it was great to see them. It's always great to see the kids, because they grow and change so much in a year.

All of Annette's kids loved meeting their new cousin, Christian! Chandra came over several days while Annette was here, and her kids were so excited each time knowing they would get to play with Christian again. Even Kimball was excited to play with him, which kind of surprised me, but it made me happy seeing him sweetly play with Christian. Chandra is going to be going to New York in October when Annette has her new baby, because she doesn't have anyone to help her. My mom would love to go and help, but she can't leave me, and NY is just too far away for me to travel to. Annette was desperate for some help, so Chandra, knowing that she is in the best position of all of the sisters to pick up and go, volunteered to go to NY and stay with the kids when Annette has her C-section. The kids are SO excited that Chandra (and especially Christian) will be coming to stay with them.

I wanted to take some pictures with Annette's entire family when they were here, but we never got around to it. The day before Annette's family left, Chandra took some pictures of Annette's kids with Christian. None of them turned out very well, because it's difficult to get all three little ones looking and smiling at the same time. The first picture is probably the best of the five kids, even though it isn't that great.
Here are a few pictures of the little ones. Christian is almost a year younger than Annika and Lincoln, although he outweighs them by several pounds. It was impossible to get a good picture of all three of these guys.
They sure had fun playing together, though, and it was cute to watch them interact. I think the twins liked having a playmate that was more their size.
Kimball and Rebecah went on several adventures with their dadElephant Rocks State Park, Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park, a Cardinals baseball game, and a trip to a water park. It was awfully hot, so Annette stayed home with the twins who weren't feeling so well on those days. 

Here are some pictures of Kimball and Rebecah playing a game. I watched them out my front window. 
These sneaky little ones got into the pantry and helped themselves to a box of animal crackers. Finally, a cute picture of the sisters, Rebecah and Annika.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Christian: 11 Months Old

Christian turned 11 months old last Sunday. He's in the final stretch of his first year! He is such a big boy, and a lot of fun to have around.

He likes to look at books:
He's always on the move, which means you have to follow him around with the camera in order to get a decent picture. It's like you're stalking your prey in the wild!
Chandra takes Christian on walks most days, which tires both of them out. Chan and her friend took their babies swimming one morning. Christian liked that, too.
Christian does this funny thing where he scrunches up his face, and he breathes in and out (rather noisily) through his nose. I have no clue why he does this, but it always makes me laugh.
Just a few more weeks until his first birthday!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

"Carly's Voice"

SYNOPSIS: At the age of two, Carly Fleischmann was diagnosed with severe autism and an oral motor condition that prevented her from speaking. Doctors predicted that she would never intellectually develop beyond the abilities of a small child. Although she made some progress after years of intensive behavioral and communication therapy, Carly remained largely unreachable. Then, at the age of ten, she had a breakthrough. 

While working with her devoted therapists Howie and Barb, Carly reached over to their laptop and typed in “HELP TEETH HURT,” much to everyone’s astonishment.

This was the beginning of Carly’s journey toward self-realization. Although Carly still struggles with all the symptoms of autism, which she describes with uncanny accuracy and detail, she now has regular, witty, and profound conversations on the computer with her family, her therapists, and the many thousands of people who follow her via her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

This book gave me a real, eye-opening picture into the world of autism. What a complicated disorder! I think it's interesting that of the twin girls in the book, Carly and Taryn, one of them had autism and the other did not. That would be tough for the girls, especially for Carly having to see all the things she wasn't able to do or participate in that Taryn could.

I was so glad when Carly, who is nonverbal, was finally able to develop her "voice" through a computer (and later iPad). Technology is amazing! I must say, though, that communicating for Carly isn't as easy as it would be for a normal person without Carly's issues. It's a painstakingly slow process for her and takes a lot of focus and concentration as she tries to refrain from all of the flapping, flailing and hand slapping that she feels compelled to do because of her autism, sensory issues, anxiety, and OCD.

Below is a picture of Carly and her father, Arthur. He wrote the majority of the book, and Carly wrote the last chapter and answered some FAQs.
Carly and her long-time therapist, Howard:

Friday, July 22, 2016

Let There Be Light!

We had a power outage last week. I was watching Dr. Phil on Wednesday afternoon when the local meteorologist interrupted the show to report on stormy weather moving through the area. The storm was predicted to hit the town where I live 20 minutes later at 3:30 PM, and sure enough, it did. My mom was in the middle of getting me back to bed to start my afternoon routine when all of this was going on. It got very dark and stormy, and the wind was really blowing and whipping the trees around. All of a sudden the power flickered and then went out. My special air bed promptly went flat. (I must say that it doesn't take long for this to get mighty uncomfortable, since it basically means lying on the bed frame and the tubes that are inside of the mattress.)

My mom and I did my afternoon care routine the best we could, considering the circumstances, as we waited to see if the power would come back on. After about two hours the power was still off, and by this time I was really starting to hurt from lying on the flat bed. Mom called our friend/helper, Linda, who lives up the street to see if she could come over and help Mom get me out of bed and into my recliner. Linda was out running errands, but said that she would shortly be on her way home. I'm so glad she was able to stop by and help get me up! My mom always plugs my overhead lift in to charge it after I get back in bed each day. I'm also glad that she is in the habit of doing this, because the liftwhich only takes about 10 minutes to chargehad enough time to fully charge before the power went out.

We do have a generator, which my mom bought about five or six years ago, but we've never used it in a power outage. Our power used to go out on a fairly regular basis (a handful of times a year), but in the last many years, we've been very blessed not to experience any power outages that lasted more than a few minutes. Mom did go out to the garage to try and start up the generator before I got out of bed, but she couldn't get it to come on. Mom called a couple of our friends, Steve and Daniel, to see if they could help her get our generator running. They both came over that evening and worked for hours on it, working until the last traces of light were gone, and then into the night, using headlamps and flashlights to illuminate the generator. They took it apart, inspected and cleaned all the parts, and then put everything back together again. In the end, although they could get the generator to turn on, they couldn't keep it running for more than a minute. Steve and Daniel were determined to see the job through on a matter of principle, and they worked on the generator until close to 11:30 PM, but they were ultimately defeated. I was glad when they left for the night, because I was worried that our neighbors, who likely had their windows open to get some sort of ventilation without the use of AC, were going to hate us for making so much racket, because the generator (which is extremely noisy) kept going on and then off.

Mom and I went to bed about midnight. Mom slept downstairs on the futon, so that she could hear me, since our monitor obviously needs electricity to work. We had the windows open, and it got nice and cool, and there was a breeze blowing, which made for very pleasant sleeping conditions. The other great thing was that everything was very still and quiet, since nothing electrical was running in the house or anywhere in the neighborhood. I fell asleep to the sounds of insects buzzing and frogs croaking, and woke up to the sounds of birds chirping. It was nice to hear nature's soundtrack, since I don't usually have any windows open when I sleep. I was hoping that the power would come back on sometime in the middle of the night, but  it didn't. I slept well, despite the fact that I couldn't sleep in my bed. I'm very grateful my recliner is so comfortable! I definitely wouldn't have wanted to sleep in my wheelchair.

My mom didn't open the refrigerator/freezer at all when the power went off, except on Wednesday evening, when our friend Jenni (wife to Steve, who helped with the generator) came down with a big bag of ice. Mom got one of our coolers, filled it with the ice, and quickly got into the fridge and removed a few things for us to use the next day.

I did get pretty bored during the power outage with nothing to do. While my mom and our friends were working on the generator on Wednesday night, I did get on my computer for a few hours and I just worked off of the battery. I didn't have Internet since the gateway didn't have power, but there were still some other things I was able to work on. On Thursday morning my mom and I started reading a new book together. That kept us occupied for a while. We also took a nap. My sister Chandra called on Thursday morning to see if our power was back on. Hers had come back on about 1 AM, after being off for 10 hours. Mom and I weren't that lucky. She came over and took some of our meat and other frozen foods and took them home with her to put in her freezer, so that all of our frozen food didn't go to waste. Chandra also took my portable suction machine home with her, so she could charge it.

Earlier in the week my mom had discovered that the battery in my portable suction machine (which we only use when we go out somewhere and leave the house) wasn't holding much of a charge. Mom hadn't had a chance to call about it yet, so this was one thing that made our power outage a bit stressful. As fate would have it, I needed my airway suctioned a bunch of times on Thursday throughout the day. The motor in the machine usually purrs away when it's turned on, but it slooowly chugged along each time we needed to use it. Not long after Chandra took the machine to her house to charge, I could tell that more secretions were collecting in my airway (which makes me cough and makes it difficult to breathe). I tried to suppress my need for suction as long as possible, but a few hours later I knew I couldn't wait much longer, so Mom called Chandra and she brought the suction machine back to us. I felt badly because she had only gotten a few hours of sleep the previous night (she got to bed late and had to get up at 5 AM to drive her boyfriend to the airport). She had just gotten her baby to sleep and had just lain down to get some sleep when Mom called her saying that I would need suction soon. Chandra said she had a feeling we would call her as soon as she lay down, and she was right! She got back up, got her baby up, got the suction machine and drove the 15 minutes back to my house. Chan is SO good to me! By some miracle, the suction machine was able to get the job done each time it was called into service, even though the suction was quite weak.

On Thursday afternoon, the power finally came back on after nearly 24 hours. Things could have been so much worse for us, so even though the power outage was inconvenient, I really can't complain. There were other people in our area who were without power for 48 hours, so I'm just glad ours came back on when it did. We didn't have any damage to our house or property in the storm, and we didn't lose any trees, either, like other people we know. (We later found out that fallen tree limbs on power lines were what caused the power outage.) I'm grateful for good friends and neighbors who were very kind and willing to help us. I'm especially thankful for my sister Chandra, and for her continued help to my mom and me. I heard on the news that there were around 200,000 homes and businesses without power, so I'm very appreciative to the Ameren employees who worked through the night to restore power.

The take away from this experience is that we have a bit of work to do to make sure that we are prepared for emergency-type events in the future. We need to take our generator in to find out why it's not working, get the battery in my portable suction machine replaced (which is already in the works) and things like that. I'm grateful that my mom has always tried to be prepared for things like this, by having plenty of food storage and water, flashlights and batteries, candles, etc. I'd rather be prepared with things and not need them, than to be in a true emergency and not have what we need to survive. I'm so grateful that we have electricity and don't have to live in the "dark ages." :)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Lambs' Visit 2016

My sister Miriam and her family visited from Texas earlier this month. We had a nice time together. I'm always amazed at how much her girls have grown in the past year (since I only see them once a year). It's hard to believe that my oldest niece, Kim, is going to be a junior in high school this year! Today is actually her 16th birthday. I remember when she was born, because I had just turned 16 exactly one month before. It's crazy how quickly time goes!

We took some pictures after church:
We had a little birthday celebration on Sunday evening, to celebrate the summer birthdays. Michaela turned 14 last month, and Kim turned 16 today, as I said earlier. It's always fun to celebrate with the birthday girls when they visit!
Miriam also had a birthday earlier this month, and she turned the big 4-0! That is hard to believe, too! I remember when she turned 30. Miriam's family was living here at the time, and that's when she had her 30th birthday. It's so difficult to believe an entire decade has passed since then!
Miriam's girls enjoyed finally meeting their newest cousin, Christian. We made sure to get some pictures of the cousins together. It's really hard to capture a decent picture where everyone is looking, has their eyes open, is smiling, and where everyone is in focus!
Chan joined the picture!
Here's a picture of Chandra and Miriam. Chandra said that they are the engine and the caboose of the family (since Miriam is the oldest sibling and Chandra is the youngest). What I wouldn't give to have a photo of all six of my sisters and me! Below that is a picture of Miriam, Chandra and me (sisters 1, 5 and 7).
Kim liked helping with Christian.
Victoria liked playing with Christian, too:
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