The Loss of Our Friend Buddy!

These are our dear friends the Hopkins!  Buddy was tragically killed last Thursday, June 21st by a hit and run driver who hit him from behind while he was jogging.  We can not even begin to put into words our grief over the loss of this amazing husband, father, son, and friend.

I met Heather in 2008 when she walked into my health office at the elementary school where I worked.  Their family had just moved to our town for Buddy’s job and Heather was struggling.  We talked for quite some time and during that conversation I learned that her son, Garrison had autism.  I told her about Skylar and I could tell that she was instantly relieved to know that she had met someone who was walking a similar path as she was.  As I sat there chatting with her, I was overwhelmed with the need to get up and hug her.  I got up from my desk, told her I needed to hug her, and the rest, as they say “was history!”

We spent countless hours with the Hopkins family.  Buddy kept us laughing with his hilarious comments and that one-of-a-kind smirk.  We were sad to see the family move away from New Mexico but kept in contact all these years.  We enjoyed all of their return visits and I was so blessed to be able to go to Texas and spend time with their family a couple of summers ago. Heather is truly one of my very best friends!

Buddy loved his family more than anything on this earth!  His love for Heather and the kids shined through in his daily life.  He coached his girls’ softball teams and he was constantly taking Garrison camping with the Boy Scouts.  He also had a passion for Special Olympics and was at every event to cheer Garrison on!  Buddy was constantly serving others!  What a legacy he left behind!

Two days before Buddy was killed, Heather and I had spoken and we made plans to meet up in Flagstaff next week as their family would be travelling on vacation.  We were so excited to see each other as quite a bit of time had passed since we had last seen them face-to-face.  Instead, we will now be going to Flagstaff to attend Buddy’s funeral and support Heather and the kids in any way possible!  It is truly unreal!

I can not even begin to imagine the tough days that Heather and the kids have ahead of them.  While I know that they will have a difficult journey emotionally, it is my heart’s desire that they will not have to struggle financially as well. No, money will not take away the pain of this tremendous loss, but I’m hoping that the outpouring of love and support shows Heather and her family how much people care! This is where all of you come into play!

I am asking all of you who are willing and able to donate in one of the following ways to help out Heather and her sweet family!

1)  A fund has been set up at the American Airlines Credit Union in Texas.  You can donate at any one of their branches under “The Buddy Hopkins fund”!

2)  You can also donate via paypal. This is an easy way for all of my international readers to donate!  You can send any donation to: Hdhopkins@hotmail.com

3)  You can mail a check made out to Heather Hopkins to me and I will forward them on to her.  The address to mail them to is:

Julie Coryell

2200 Lone Oak Way

Prescott, AZ 86305

I challenge everyone to donate $20 (or more if you can) to this precious family!  And I am asking that all of you share this post with as many people as you can.  Please help me come alongside this sweet family and help ease the financial burden they face.  Those of us who have children with autism, or any special need for that matter, know the financial difficulties that come with that.

I’m so thankful for each and every one of you!  So many of you have supported our family!  Heather has been one of my biggest supporters since entering the blogging world and I want to do anything I can to help her now!

Make each day count!

JuJu

*Please share this post via Facebook, Twitter, email, or any way you can to help spread the word about how we can help Heather during this difficult time!*

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Skylar’s Story-Part 1 (Her Regression in Pictures & a Few Words)

I get asked by a lot of people if we saw a regression in Skylar or if she had always shown delays in many areas.  My answer isn’t cut & dry.  Skylar had some motor delays and I believe those were due to the birth trauma she had.  She sat up right on schedule.  She didn’t crawl in a traditional sense.  The best way to describe her crawling was “scoot swimming”.  She pushed off with her back legs and pulled with her arms.  She looked like she was doing the breast stroke on the floor.  She didn’t walk until she was 15 months.  Even though her motor skills were somewhat delayed, her language developed early on and she said many clear words and 2-3 word combos.  She said: thank you, please, more milk, my ball, mommy, daddy, Becca, baby, grandma, etc.  The best way to describe the changes we saw in Skylar is to show you in pictures.

Skylar was an extremely happy baby!  She had great eye contact.

She also loved to snuggle and be held.

Doesn’t Chris look like a teenager in the picture below?

She was so bubbly and laughed all the time!  We used to joke that her personality was as crazy as her hair!

She would play in this playhouse for hours.  I loved listening to her talk and pretend to pour our dog Rex his favorite tea.

Then things started to change.  She was extremely unhappy and stopped using words.  She stopped smiling.

She lost all eye contact.

It is hard to explain the shift that took place in her.  The best way I can describe it is that she lost that “gleam” in her eyes!

While all the other kids were upstairs playing together with their new toys from Christmas, Skylar played by herself.  She played with this train for hours on end in my parent’s basement.  She would start & stop the train over & over & over.

No amount of hollering her name or waving things could get her to look at a camera.

She did not like to play with other children.  But she would play with my niece, Becca.

She seemed to be trapped in her own little world.  I so longed to know what she was thinking.  I just wished she could answer me:  “Are you sad?  Are you lonely?  Are you happy?  Are you confused?  Are you hurt?  What’s wrong?  Please talk to me!”

As years went by we saw improvement.  More hugs.

More smiles.

And improved eye contact.

It is tough for me to look at the pictures of Skylar’s regression.  However, as I look at these pictures, I see the tremendous progress she has made over the past 10 years & I am SO encouraged.  She has come such a long way!  She’s doing things that her diagnosing doctor said she would never do.  Here she is competing in her school spelling bee just a few weeks ago.

And singing the solo in her Christmas concert this year.

There are so many people who we know are part of the tremendous progress she has made, including this woman, whom I wrote about here.

And these people , who have never given up on her & have been with us EVERY step of the way.  We could not have gotten through this without our family!

And last, but certainly not least…YOU!  We are so thankful for all the support, love, encouragement and prayers that we have gotten from so many of you.

It’s been a long and tough 10 years, but I can’t wait to see all the things that this sweet girl is going to accomplish in the next 10!

Thanks for walking this road with us!

And for those of you who are just starting to walk this journey or are even a few years into it, my advice for you is this:  “Never, ever give up!  Don’t let anyone tell you what your child can or can’t do!  Also, pull out your camera and document your journey.  I am so glad that even during a lot of sad & stressful times, that I took pictures.  When I feel discouraged all I have to do is pull up these pictures and see how far we have come!

This is one big reason that I do Project Life.  I love documenting our every day and seeing her accomplishments and her progress.  You can read about what Project Life is here.

Make each day great!

JuJu

Stop The Ride, I Want To Get Off!

Hello All!  This truly describes how I have been feeling the past couple of days.  So, this past weekend I had some ear pressure/pain and just didn’t feel all that well.  I took it kind of easy and on Sunday I didn’t even get out of my PJs.  Monday & Tuesday I kind of just trudged through my day.  I was having difficulty focusing and just wanted to sleep.  Wednesday morning I got out of bed & caught myself on the dresser.  After a few minutes I thought I was steady & walked to the laundry room to grab some clothes out of the dryer. By the time I reached the laundry room I was clinging to the washing machine trying not to fall.  It literally felt like the entire house was spinning and I was overcome with nausea.  Chris was at the gym and I was just praying that he would get home soon as I knew something wasn’t right.

I basically crawled back to my room and directed the kids to get ready as I sat on the floor trying to make the spinning stop.  When Chris got home, I told him that he needed to take me to the ER and then drop the kids off at school.  I was able to get right back into a room and the doctor was really quick in coming into see me.  They of course asked me a ton of questions & did a very thorough neurological check. This is a time when having nursing knowledge isn’t fun because I knew that he was doing a neuro check to rule out a possible neuro issue (i.e. brain tumor, etc.).  After he was done with the testing he said that he was pretty sure that I had vertigo. That was actually my gut feeling going into the ER.  He told me that he would be sending me directly over to an adjacent building to see a physical therapist. Apparently there is a treatment for some types of vertigo.  I was intrigued as I had never heard of that before.

While I was waiting to be discharged I saw the doc walk back up to the nurse’s station in front of my room.  This is a good time to explain my super keen sense of hearing.  When I say that I have good hearing, that is a major understatement.  I can seriously hear people chewing gum in another room.  Anyhow, even from a good distance where most people would not have heard anything, I heard the doc say to the nurse.

“I just called and ordered a catscan for Room 2 (me).  She has pretty clear signs of vertigo, but I really want to be sure that she doesn’t have anything else going on.” The nurse said “Like a tumor?”  to which the doc replied “Exactly.”

Ok…at this point I was concerned.  Chris was sitting in the room with me and I did not want him to be alarmed.  You see, Chris hadn’t heard any of that conversation because he hears like most normal people do.  I’m serious when I say I have “freakish hearing ability”.  The doc walked back into my room and told me that he was going to go ahead and have me get a CT done and he would come back in and give me the results before I left. (All I could think was “UMMM…you’d better!)

I got into the room, got onto the table, and closed my eyes.  I then prayed this very specific prayer:

“Lord, I know you hold everything in your hands!  You are the great physician and healer.  Lord you know my heart and know that I do NOT want to have a tumor, but Lord if this is YOUR will I will accept that.  Lord I pray that if you want me to walk this road that you will hold me up, use this situation for your glory, & that you will give Chris absolute peace & comfort.  Lord, I do not fear death for you overcame death.  I do long to see my girls grow up & I want to make sure that they will be ok. Lord I pray that whatever the outcome, you will use me and that I will be open to whatever direction you have for my life.  That my answer will be Yes Lord, no matter what the question is.”

And about the time I was done praying, the test was over.  It was that fast.  When I got back to my room I was not anxious at all.  I truly believe that the Lord calmed my spirit.  About 15 minutes later the doctor stopped by and said that everything looked good.  I of course was so relieved.

Some of you might think that my mind jumped ahead to the worst case scenario, but honestly our family has been through so much that my mind just tends to do that.  My sister was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 30 and a little over 2 years ago my father-in-law passed away from brain cancer.  I walked that rocky road with my sister and that dark road I walked with my husband and his family is not one that I would wish on anyone.  You see my thoughts were not on myself, as I know without a shadow of a doubt that whenever the Lord chooses to call me home, that I will spend eternity in heaven with Him because I chose Him as my Lord and Savior. My thoughts were on those that would be left here on earth to endure the pain of losing a wife, mother, daughter, granddaughter, sister, aunt, cousin & friend.  The thought of THAT is almost unbearable.

I know that I could die tomorrow and I don’t want to ever leave anything unspoken. I want to live each day to the fullest.  I want to spread joy and love.  I want my family to know that I love and appreciate them.  I don’t ever want them to question that!

Be thankful for each day & live every day with intention!

Make it a great one!

JuJu

Right Now (1/7/2012)

Some of you might remember me writing a post with the prompt Right Now a few months ago while in Washington, D.C.  I loved the prompt so much that I wanted to use it again. I will occasionally write with this prompt and specify the date in the title.  I think this is a great way to record the moment and be thankful for the little things in our every day life.

Right now…I’m loving having my nieces & nephew for the weekend.

Right now…I’m cleaning up from the big breakfast that we made for the kids.  Scrambled eggs, sausage, & fried potatoes.

Right now…I’m loving that my teenage niece said “JuJu, I love coming to spend the weekend with you!”

Right now…I’m listening to Emily & Hailey ride their Ezy Rollers through the tiled parts of the house.

Right now…I’m planning on taking Skylar & Becca on a date to see Mission Impossible 3.

Right now…I’m looking out my window and enjoying the beautiful pine trees that we are so blessed to live among.

Right now…I’m listening to my 2 year old niece talk to our dog, Jack.  She really loves him!

Right now…I’m loving just lounging around all morning.

Right now…I’m loving watching Becca walk around the house in my fluffy white robe and a towel on her head.  Didn’t take a picture as I know that she’d be horrified!

Right now…I’m working on a guest post for my sister’s blog that will be posted tomorrow.  Trying hard not to embarrass her too much!

Right now…I’m wishing that this weekend could last just a little bit longer!

Make it a great one!

JuJu

*Don’t forget about my giveaway that is going on through Sunday for a set of Goosie Cards.  Click here to read about it!

The Power of Words!

Our words are SO powerful!  They have the power to build someone up or to tear someone down.  I have been on the receiving end of hurtful words more times than I can remember.  Sadly enough, I have been on the giving end of hurtful words more than I would care to admit.  I recently wrote about Words & Their Consequences.  You can read about that here if you missed it.  Today I want to focus on the power of using our words to encourage others.

Over the years I have learned that my girls do NOT respond well to raised voices.  In fact, Hailey will completely shut down if she gets yelled at by anyone. When I was a school nurse, one of the perks of my job was that I got to choose Hailey’s teacher.  I didn’t have a choice with Skylar as she was in the inclusion class. I was always blessed that, overall, she had great teachers. Many of those teachers are some of my best friends today!  Picking a teacher for Hailey wasn’t as easy a task as you might think.  She works at her own pace.  She doesn’t get in a hurry for anyone!  When Hailey was in Kindergarten, her teacher lovingly said that “Hailey runs on Hailey Central Time”.  I remember thinking that was a perfect description!  I’m pretty sure that all of her past teachers would agree with that!

When I chose her teacher for the following year I had many criteria, but the most important thing was that the teacher was firm, but loving.  Following that criteria has NEVER failed me.  When I think back on all of her teachers from preschool until now (5th grade) they have all been women who were firm, but very loving and motherly towards her. They were also women who were great encouragers! For that, I am eternally grateful!

Years ago I read a book by Gary Chapman called the Five Love Languages.  He also wrote a book Five Love Languages of Children.  There are also a bunch of other versions (teens, men, etc.). Basically there are 5 love languages (gifts, quality time, acts of service, physical touch, and words of affirmation).  Hailey’s love languages are definitely: words of affirmation & quality time.  I honestly believe that Hailey would rather hear us tell her we love her or that she is doing a great job than get a new toy or game.  She also loves to have one on one time with me or Chris.  Skylar on the other hand would take a new video game any day of the week!

We tell the girls that we love them probably 30-40 times a day, but I’m always looking for new and creative ways to love on them.  Earlier in the school year I put a rice crispy treat in Hailey’s lunch.  This wasn’t anything new, but it was one of those treats that is pre-packaged with a space to write something on it.  I decided to jot a quick note:  “Hailey…I think you are AWESOME!” on it.  The next morning as I was packing her lunch, she said “Hey mom, did you write a note on my rice crispy treat yesterday?”  I of course told her that I did.  She then said “I really loved that!”  Well that got me thinking on what other things I could do to tell her or show her that I love her. Last year, I saw a really neat idea on Becky Higgins’ website and decided to implement it in our own home.

I purchased these really awesome “I love you because” prints made from kikicomin. She sells them in various sizes, but I purchased 8×10 prints.  I put them in frames I bought from Hobby Lobby and hung them in our entry way.  I use a dry-erase marker and write directly on the glass. I love that I can just quickly wipe off the glass and write something new.  She also sells them as part of a set you can download, print off, and slip in your kids’ lunch boxes.  I LOVE that idea!!

Just a little side note:  Kiki sells these for a discounted rate if you buy multiples, so I bought 8 of these and gave 4 to my sister so that she could use them for her 4 kids.  I hung the 2 in my entry way, but I am planning on using the other 2 so that Chris and I can write notes to each other as well.  I just sent her a quick e-mail telling her what I needed and she was super quick in getting back to me.

I had NO idea that this would become such a hit with the girls.  Hailey especially loves them!  Every morning when she comes upstairs, the first thing she does is look to see what I’ve written on the frame.  And let me tell you, if I haven’t changed the saying, she lets me know!  She has even brought the marker to me and said “You need to change my frame mom!”

It’s been really fun to come up with different reasons for why I love them.  I try to do a mix of funny and heartwarming.  Sometimes it is a simple as “I love you because….you took the laundry to the laundry room”  or “I love you because….you changed out the toilet paper roll”.  The key is to show your loved ones that you love and appreciate them.  It has definitely been a wonderful addition to our home!

So today I am challenging you to find a new way to show your family that you love and appreciate them!  It can be something big or something small.  But remember, even if YOU think it is small, it could be HUGE to them.  Just like the rice crispy treat!

Make it a great day!

JuJu

*Don’t forget about my giveaway that is going on through Sunday for a set of Goosie Cards.  Click here to read about it!

Slug Bugs & PT Cruisers

Did you ever play the slug bug game as a kid?  You know, where you look for the Volkswagen Beetle and yell “Slug Bug” or “Punch Buggy” and hit whomever happens to be unlucky enough to be sitting next to you when you spot said slug bug?  Chris and I both played this growing up.  One day after school Hailey said “Hey, look at that!  It’s a slug bug!”  So the game was re-born in our family (minus the punching).  A couple of weeks later my sister and her family were up here in Prescott and her kids told us that they played that game too, but they also look for PT Cruisers.  I thought that was a fun little addition to the game.  As we were out and about town that day, my nephew Ben saw a slug bug called it out and leaned over and slugged Hailey in the arm.  Oh my!  You can imagine the screaming that ensued.  “BEN!  WHAT THE HECK! MOM….BEN HIT ME!”  Uh-oh!  My bad!  I quickly said “Hailey, don’t be mad at Ben!  Usually people give a little slug when they spot the car.  That’s why it is called a slug bug or punch buggy.”  Hailey was horrified and said very dramatically “I can’t believe you play this game and that you hit each other.  That is TERRIBLE!”  Oh, my little drama queen.  There was some frowning between the two of them the rest of the day, but they got over it.

Skylar is so funny when we play this game.  Often times I will call a PT Cruiser and a few minutes later she sees the same one and will scream with all the joy she can muster “PT CRUISER!”  followed by a belly laugh and a squeal.  She is so proud of herself when she spots one.  I never have the heart to tell her that I already called it.  But like most families, sibling rivalry runs deep in the Coryell family and if Hailey is with us she is quick to tell Skylar that mom or dad already called it.  Hailey is super fast at spotting and calling out the cars and Skylar isn’t, so when Skylar gets one before all of us I just really try to celebrate that.  It makes her smile so big and THAT makes my heart smile.

Here are a few of my favorite memories of playing this game:

-That Hailey is very specific in her description of cars when she calls them.  She specifies if it is a new or old-fashioned slug bug. If it is convertible. And the color.  It is quite humorous to hear her yell out “Old-fashioned, slug bug convertible in red!”

-That we actually have had to make rules regarding parked Bugs/PT Cruisers.  If we’ve already passed the car and it’s been called, it can NOT be called again until the following day.

-Playing this with the cousins and after one of the older kids yells slug bug to hear this sweet little one yell out “Ugg Bug!”  Totally gets me every time!!

-That we can turn off the dvd player and the radio and get good, old fashion amusement for quite awhile!

-That EVERY time I call out a car Skylar responds with “Wow mom!  You are SO good at this!”  She is totally my encourager.

-That Chris and I still play this game, even if the kids aren’t with us!  (Competitive much? Yep!)

-That when our friends came to visit this summer we got them playing the game too!

-That our neighbors across the street have a maroon PT Cruiser and when we back out of our garage Hailey is looking to see if their garage door is up or if it is parked in the driveway.

-That Hailey wants us to own a PT Cruiser.  She said “Can you imagine if we were driving a PT all around town, everyone would be screaming PT Cruiser at us.  That would be AWESOME!”

-That Skylar responded to Hailey’s desire to have a PT Cruiser with “I’d much rather be a slug bug!”

Some people might think our game and the love we have for it is silly.  But we have learned that it is truly the little things that bring us joy!

Love to all of you!

JuJu