I don't have to do anything more than say her name to have it evoke SO MANY EMOTIONS.
I love this girl more than life itself. She is the source of so much joy in our home. She is celestial. She is treasured. Her singing honestly makes my heart just swell inside. I love her more than words.
I don't think there is any possible way to express just how difficult Elli can be. I really feel like the only people that can possibly comprehend it are people who have lived with autism themselves. Combined with her blindness and just diagnosed bi-polar disorder, autism has wreaked havoc on our home. Let me give you an example:
The other day, I was upstairs while Elli was downstairs playing the piano. Usually if I can hear her playing the piano I know that she is safe, or maybe more accurately, the downstairs is safe. (; I thought about getting in the shower but for whatever reason put it off. What a tender mercy! If I had been in the shower, I wouldn't have heard the breaking glass. I wouldn't have dashed down the stairs to find Elli, standing atop the piano having unscrewed a large lightbulb from the ceiling and crushed it. I wouldn't have been able to clean up tiny shards of glass all about her before some major wounds could have happened. But I did hear the glass and I did clean it up and I did end up in the shower. Phew! Afterwards, when I went down to check on her, I found our piano music shelf knocked over and sheet music strewn about the room, the huge plastic tub of legos tipped over, and Elli squatting atop the folded up (and now broken from her bouncing) ping pong table, her diaper shredded and scattered amongst all of the music/legos/toys. This happened in the course of approximately 10 minutes. I moved her to Xander's/Lexi's/Sophi's room while I cleaned up. I put her on the bed where she will usually just happily lay and play in the blankets. When I went to check on her, she had broken Sophi's treasured music box, ripped the pictures off of Xander's poster, and torn a basket into pieces.
I know-- something has to change. Next week I am seriously gutting the house and getting rid of a lot of stuff just to help with the messes. We do have a lock on her bedroom and there are times that I put her in there while I need some time alone. There is not much she can do to her room that hasn't already been done-- blinds, light fixtures and closet doors have already been broken. Walls have already been dented. It's a place where I am not too worried about sending her and it has several toys that she likes so she usually enjoys being in there. But it is in the back corner of the house, away from family and noises and fun-- and I just can't lock her in there all of the time.
This is just one reason why I can't even contain the emotions I feel when I think of what Puzzle Them Home means to our family. Among other things, the house plans include an area for Elli right off of the living room that is designed especially for HER, where she can hear us and be part of our family and have lots of sensory based play WITHOUT us fearing for her safety or the safety of our home. This room will open to a gated area outside with a play place that is safe for her. I can't even express what that means-- to be able to let her go outside (she LOVES being outside) without having to constantly supervise. Plans also include a really big bedroom of her own where we can install a swing, mats for her to tumble on, and other sensory based activities so that when I do need to put her in there, I won't feel guilty because it will be a WONDERFUL place for her to be. I'm teary just typing it!!!
And then there's Cali-- sweet Cali who has developed huge callouses on her knuckles from scooting around the house and having her hands bear the weight of her whole body (she has to drag her feet.) Sweet Cali who so wants to be independent-- to go outside without having to wait until one of us can help get her wheelchair down the stairs, to be able to reach a microwave so she can warm up her own food, to be able to go up or down stairs without getting carpet burns, to play games like hide-and-go-seek with the rest of the family without having to stop because she is so exhausted from dragging her body around the house.
I could go on to list what this new home would mean to each child, but even then, I feel like it would do no justice to how we feel about this home and the love and gratitude we feel toward everyone that has been involved in this project. We are so blessed and happy and ok in the home we are in now-- but it would be life-changing to move to an accessible, custom home. As it becomes more and more real that this home could happen, I feel more and more humbled by it all and just so, so grateful. I can't tell you what it feels like...
I promised an update on Puzzle Them Home quite awhile ago. I've had a hard time updating because there are so many things in the works and so many unknowns. I will try to briefly explain what I DO know:
Monetary donations are at approximately $17,000.00.
In-kind donations (pledges of free labor) are at approximately $120,000.00.
Grants have been applied for, but we haven't received answers.
Bret Wright of Huish Construction is our builder. He is the GREATEST guy ever. He didn't know our family, but saw a post on facebook and contacted us to ask what he could do. He has spent hours and hours of time already and will oversee the project. He is doing this all without pay. Jamie Walker from Walker Design has donated the plans for the home. He and his collegues have also spent hours and hours in our behalf, all for free. The home plans are AMAZING. We are dying! (:
We (Jeremy and I) are currently applying for a construction loan. The donations (both monetary and in-kind) are making it possible that we can qualify when we wouldn't have been able to otherwise. This loan will cover the majority of the cost of the home.
In order for the home to be finished by the Parade of Homes (a must as we have promised this to those who have donated labor) we need to start digging now. Our builder would have liked to have started weeks ago. In otherwise, it is most definitely CRUNCH TIME. It's PAST crunch time!
The committee is working so hard to secure donations. There are basically three ways businesses or individuals can help:
free or discounted labor
free or discounted materials
Financial contributions do not have to be big. In fact, when we see donations of $5 or $10 come through we are just as humbled as by the bigger donations, as we know that it was likely a real sacrifice.
Free or discounted labor can mean something as big as saying "We can do all of the cabinets," or "We can provide all of the labor for the roof" or it can mean something like "We can help with a bathroom" or even "I can spend a day sheetrocking" or "My boy scouts can help lay sod."
Likewise, free or discounted materials can have a wide meaning. Let's take floor coverings, for instance. It can be anything from donating all of the flooring to discounting the flooring to donating or discounting flooring for one room. People can "sponsor" a room-- helping to pay for materials or labor for that one room.
People can give a free light switch.
We also need talented people to help stage the home! We are looking for an interior designer to oversee the project with many interior designers involved. The committee has a great idea of letting different designers each choose one room and design it, leaving his/her business cards in that room during the parade. It would be a great way to showcase a design company.
There's also landscaping. We have a volunteer who has said he will oversee the work, but we could use many people to help with design, labor and materials.
In other words, there are so many ways to be involved. Or in other other words, we would love your help! (: Or in other other other words, for just this minute I am letting go of pride and fear and worry about what you will think and I am flat-out humbly asking if you'd like to be part of this project. And you can know that when I say that asking for help is not my favorite thing in the world, it is an incredible understatement.
I should mention that we were just made aware that there was a glitch on the Puzzle Them Home site. When people tried to use the "contact us" form, it didn't work. We haven't received any messages since the end of September. So if you have tried to contact us already, PLEASE forgive us and do it again. It is now working. (:
So many people have said, "Let me know what I can do." Well, I guess it is time for us to answer you! If you have any connections to businesses or laborers who would be interested in this project, this would be a great time to ask! Everyone who donates will be recognized in the Parade of Homes. There will be opportunities to showcase your company by handing out business cards, setting up displays, etc. If you want to come and spend a morning or an afternoon helping with the build of the home, let us know! If you would like to approach businesses and let them know about this project, we would love it! If you know of any other ways to help-- don't be shy! You will carve a place in our hearts that will always be yours.