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December 20, 2009

Late, I’m always late.  I’ll just say my card and letter are better late than never sent.

2009 started very stressful.  In January Colin had a second brain surgery to remove the AVM that had ruptured in October in 2008.  The surgery was supposed to be text book:  coil the arteries that feed the AVM to stop the blood flow, then go in and remove the AVM without a hitch.  Of course nothing ever goes as planned.  During the first procedure a vein ruptured and Colin ended up in nine hours of emergency surgery – longer than the first episode in October, leaving him with setbacks in speech and language worse than the initial prognosis.

After a stay in the hospital, Colin was sent home with us and I drove him daily to the Children’s Rehabilitation Hospital on the east side.  This continued through March when he had a third surgery to replace the bone flap that had been left out to allow for swelling and in case reentry was needed.  After a successful surgery and a two day stay in the hospital, Colin was sent home and allowed to return to school part time until June.

Colin received tutoring and therapy services through the school system all summer long.  He continues with occupational, physical and speech therapy in school and privately, but progress has been slow.  Speech has improved from one or two words to phrases, but I wouldn’t say that he has full sentence structure yet.  He still has trouble finding some words and he makes incorrect word substitutions.  At least he recognizes his errors and he does his best to correct himself.  His reading level is primary, but he can comprehend things that are read to him.  Reading for the Blind and Dyslexic has provided a free membership for Colin and he can get his school books and chapter books read for him.  I simply download them to an mp3 player and he takes it to school.  Right now he has his Social Studies textbook, The Outsiders and Harry Potter downloaded for listening to.  He also uses a program called Wynn Reader on his laptop to space words and lines to help his reading and writing. 

Currently we are seeking approval with the insurance company to get a WalkAid device for Colin’s right leg.  It has two electrodes to stimulate the muscles to lift his foot when he walks.  This would eliminate the need for the brace he wears and hopefully send the signals to his brain so it will take over.  I also have Colin on a list for a summer camp at the Rehabilitation Hospital.  This camp would be for three weeks, and it would be three hours of intense therapy for his right arm and hand per day.  They would cast and tie back his left arm.  He would be forced to use his right arm for everything!

Megan is scheduled to have surgery on January 20, at Shriner’s Hospital in Erie.  Her doctor believes she is an excellent candidate to have a muscle transfer in her left arm, even though it is not typically done in both arms.  Megan has been able to maintain a full stretch with her right arm for three years now.  And, even after breaking her right arm this spring, she has had no trouble keeping her full reach.  Dr. Hood would like to do the transfer and release her elbow, with hopes she will have more than the 90 degree bend that she has with her right arm.  Megan wants me to ask the doctor if he can do anything about her contracted right wrist.  I promised I would ask, but I have no idea what he’ll say.

Megan chose to quit playing soccer this fall.  I knew it would happen sooner or later – she just ran around the field behind the pack.  I never want to discourage her from anything she is willing to try.  She is still in scouting.  It is her first year as a Brownie.  Anyone want to buy cookies?

Brendan is doing excellent in school.  We are quite proud of him.  He made high honors with all A’s, but he would hate for me to brag.  He has an image to uphold you know.  He loves hockey and was chosen as one of the captains of his team this year.  This will be his last year playing for Winterhurst.  He will be in high school next

year.  Unfortunately Westlake High School doesn’t have a hockey team.  Brendan has been checking out Holy Name High School because of that.  He took the admissions test and shadowed for a day with a buddy of his.  I think he really would rather stay in Westlake.  I believe that’s where his heart is.  He just wants to play hockey.  There has been some recent talk of a Westlake Club Team and some Westlake parents were going to the school board, but I don’t know what came of it.  I’ll have to fill you in next year.  Until then Paul and I will keep cheering from the stands as he plays his last year as a Bantam.

Brendan chose not to play travel baseball this past spring.  He played with the rec team locally instead.  He enjoys the game, but realized he didn’t have the desire to make the necessary commitment.  He had a blast.  He played a number of positions: catcher (his favorite), first base, and outfield.  He was chosen to play in the all-star game as a seventh grader.  Keep in mind that the Pony league is grades seven through nine.  We were amazed.  As parents we always find room for improvement in our children and sometimes forget to see the talent that they do have. 

Recently Brendan has ‘joined a band’.  He has been practicing over his friend’s house as they are preparing to perform in the school talent show.  Whatever the motivation is, I am happy to hear him playing the drums a lot more.  He has been taking lessons for almost four years and I have to admit that he doesn’t practice like he should.  This recent spark has proven that he does know what he is doing.  I am impressed.  Paul and I both hate to tell him to stop when he’s on a roll, but sometimes we have to.

Boy Scouts keeps Brendan busy when he’s not on the ice.  He and Colin attend the Tuesday meetings as much as they can.  I wasn’t ready to let Colin go on the week long camping trip this summer, but I did let him go on a weekend trip this fall when Brendan was there to help him out.  Brendan is good about helping Colin – not necessarily at home where they fight like normal brothers – but everywhere else, when Colin needs a hand, Brendan gives it. 

Kevin is possessed with the devil – oh, did I say that out loud?  He actually asked Santa for a lump of coal for Christmas!  I think he was repeating what he heard me tell him a hundred times, “Behave or Santa will give you a lump of coal.” But, it was darn funny – even Santa laughed.  All I can tell you is that he keeps us on our toes.  Just this evening we went to the church to see Megan and her Good Shepherd group sing in the “He Is Born” production.  Not five minutes into the show, Kevin took off running.  He made it up the center aisle and across the front of the performers before he could be stopped.  Megan’s teacher grabbed him for me until I could sneak up and get him.  I wanted to kill him!  I had to spend the next hour and a half in the cry room with Kevin.  I got to listen to the program muffled through glass and over a set of not-so-good speakers.

The potty training has begun.  Kevin has started giving us a hard time about changing his diaper.  But, of course he screams when we go near the toilet.  Well, something’s got to give.  I figure he’s two and a half so it’s time to get rid of the diapers.  We’re on day two.  There has been some screaming, some accidents and a meltdown for chocolate even when he didn’t make it to the toilet - so much for the reward system.

Paul has really gotten into hunting.  He has started taking the boys, too.  Brendan has gone hunting with Paul overnight twice now and even had an “almost”.  He shot a deer in the back end, but couldn’t keep up with it when trying to track it.  Paul has hooked up with our neighbor, Harry, for some hunting spots.  Harry took Paul and Brendan to southern Ohio, and he took Paul and Colin out to Sheffield Village.  This weekend Harry took Colin bow-hunting and I think Colin could have had one, but Harry convinced him to wait so his first deer would be with his father.  The sentiment just chokes me up – too bad it’s over killing Bambi!

I finished my classes at CSU in the spring.  I now have my certificate for middle school science.  I don’t plan on going back to school for a while – it was tough.  I have to thank a ton of people who helped me pull it off – sitting with Colin in the hospital so he wouldn’t be alone, watching Megan so I could do homework, driving Brendan to all his affairs so I could go to class and Paul could watch the other kids – and the list goes on.  Thank you.

If you happen to drive by you will notice that our house has taken on a new look.  In May, a crew of family and friends took off the roof, added a second floor, and shingled it so it was water tight in four short days.  It took the rest of the summer and into the fall to add the front porch, put in the windows, vinyl side it, frame in the rooms, run the wiring, cable, and phone, add the drain pipes, and put in the stairs.  From the outside it looks complete, but there is a ton to do on the inside.  It is a work in progress with no deadline.  We have many people to thank – without them it wouldn’t have been possible.

Life has its ups and downs, and I think we have ridden that roller coaster again this year.  Through it all we are still smiling - still laughing.  I wish the same to all of you.  God’s blessings for a happy, healthy 2010!

Paul, Dawn, Brendan, Colin, Megan & Kevin Teets