Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas 2013 Letter

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!  It has been awhile since I haven’t sent out Christmas cards in the mail.  This season just seemed to spring upon us faster than I could get ready!  I know it is a poor excuse as the shortened time between Thanksgiving and Christmas still didn’t stop many of you from sending your holiday greetings.  I truly appreciate each one!

This year was special in many ways.  Two of our kids will be graduating in 2014.  Carlos is graduating from middle school and Ana from high school.  It’s been bittersweet attending Ana’s gymnastics meets and orchestra concerts, knowing they will be the last ones.  We are so proud of her.  She has made the most of her high school years.  This past weekend she was in the Buffalo News as a super senior scholar-athlete.  At the high school Section 6 gymnastics meet she placed 3rd All-Around and made the state team for a 5th time in a row.  Ana wants to study engineering and apply her work in the field of autism.  At this writing she has been accepted into 3 schools with University of Michigan at the forefront but still a lot of schools to hear from still.  

Carlos has been growing fast- literally!  He is now taller than Ana and it seems we are buying him new shoes and pants every three months.  He has shown an increased seriousness in his studies, seeing how some of the courses he is taking this year will be on his high school transcript.  His passion for soccer keeps growing.  He played forward on his school team and has been moved up to our town’s A-team.  

The biggest growth we have seen over the past year has been in Philip, now 10.  At this time last year, we were still new to Philip’s now primary mode of communication called RPM.  We began teaching Philip at home (in addition to his regular school), interesting lessons at his grade level.  He would learn American history, geography, animals and their habitats, fairy tales, and adding and subtracting.  In the beginning, it was difficult.  Little by little, Philip improved from pointing to choices of written words to spelling one word responses to lessons to spelling one word open-ended responses (to personal questions such as his favorite color) to writing sentences and even full essays and stories.  Though he takes long to respond as he has to spell out everything on his letterboard, we have conversations with Philip like any other person.  As I look back at this year, it is incredible how much he has progressed in such a short time!  We have learned so much about Philip and have had our understanding about autism turned on its head!  This blog is dedicated to our amazing journey in discovering who Philip is beyond what meets the eye.

Lia is now 8 and in 3rd grade.  She is our most easy –going child.  She started competing in both gymnastics and soccer, but mostly has fun with it.  She is everyone’s best friend.  Lia never fails to bring good cheer wherever she goes.  She loves to dote over Philip.  

I (Lisa) continue to prioritize my time at home with Sam and the kids.  I have become a fourth grade teacher, relearning curriculum so I can teach Philip daily.  It is hugely rewarding and I enjoy learning alongside Philip.  I have organized 2 Soma-RPM Workshops in Buffalo in which Soma Mukhopadhyay worked with area kids ages 8-27 and taught RPM to people in the community.  The workshops have been amazing successes and we now have a growing number of RPM users in Buffalo.  The families have continued to meet and support one another with a monthly support group.  Philip and I have found a new mission to help others understand autism, to teach communication to those not able to communicate yet, and to self-advocate and advocate for others.   I continue to meet with my faithful Bible study and enjoy cheering on my kids at their games, meets, and performances.  

Sam continues working at Buffalo ENT Specialists.  He likes to tinker around the house and the hunting property in Shelby, NY.  In July we took a family trip to Outer Banks, NC, where we rented a beach house with family from Virginia Beach and Chicago.  It was a blast as the kids learned to surf, jet ski, and just hang out with cousins on the beach.  We drove down, making stops in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Chapel Hill to look at colleges on the way.  The only problem is that our van AC was beyond repair and there were record high temperatures.   Instead of getting a new car, Sam thought he would remedy the situation by building his own air conditioner with a fan and Igloo cooler which had to be refilled with ice every few hours.  It worked great…if your face was 2 inches from it. Unfortunately the rest of the people got no benefit whatsoever and we ended up doing the old fashioned roll-down-the-windows cooling system.  It was kind of miserable, but at least we all lived to tell about it!  Sam and Lolo (Lisa’s Dad) enjoy hunting and went high tech this year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean better.  They caught lots of deer on the deer cams but didn’t bring any home for the freezer.

May God bless you this Christmas and throughout 2014!
                                                                                    Lisa, Sam, Ana, Carlos, Philip, & Lia

 In New Mexico Christmas 2012
 Level 9 NY State Meet
 Entertaining Soma at Niagara Falls May 2013
 Arsenal wins Odenbach Tournament
 NYC in April- first college trip
 Surfing lessons at Outer Banks
 Cousin Reunion Outer Banks
 Ana getting ready to go to Haiti for a missions trip with our church
 Lia's spirited soccer team
 Carlos now taller than Ana
 Merry Christmas 2013!

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