Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Does Santa Visit Elise?

Even though Elise won’t write out a Christmas list for Santa, search the house each morning for our “Elf on the Shelf”, or scour through magazines for what toy she can’t live without this year, Santa won’t forget her. With a kid like Elise, your options for birthday and Christmas gifts are exceptionally limited. It is always interesting for me each year to see what caring family members and friends have picked out for her. For years, she received books, toys, and some pretty typical gifts given to little girls. Some of these presents were used in creative ways by us. Could we hang the toy from a toy bar for her to swat at? Did the book have any textures that we could run her fingers along?

As she has grown older, and everyone has become more familiar with her abilities and disabilities, I have started seeing gifts that have more meaning. Toys with definite texture, sure to keep her attention. Things that vibrate. Or even better, things that have a button to push in order to make them vibrate (she loves cause and effect). Devices that light up and will keep her gaze in her “light room”. Practical presents such as wipes, pacifiers, and socks are always welcome as well.

Each Christmas, I try to put myself in her place (as much as that is possible!). What does she enjoy? What does she need more of? I usually end up asking for batteries for the many toys that she “plays” with. Most of her toys light up and vibrate. Without the vibration, a toy becomes pretty boring to Miss Elise. I always dread the moment that I go to find more AA batteries to quickly replace the old ones in a favorite toy, and realize we are totally out. Later, Chris becomes frustrated with me when none of the TV remotes in the house work because I have stolen their precious batteries!

This year, I have told my family that the best gift for Elise would be money. There are several things that I have had my eye on for the past year that I would love to get her. Of course, anything deemed “special needs” has to cost an obnoxious amount of money. Her favorite toy, a wooden butterfly in a plastic base about the size of my hand that lights up and vibrates cost $90 when we bought it many years ago. Our Sunday school took up money and bought that toy for Elise when she was about 2-years-old. At the time, we were spending all of the money we had on traveling and trying out various expensive therapies. We just didn’t have $90 to blow on 1 little toy. That particular Christmas, our friends from church collected money from the couples in our class without our knowledge. They presented it to us as a gift to spend on anything that would benefit Elise. We still have the handful of toys that we used that money on, and I am always reminded of their generosity toward us when I watch Elise enjoy them.

Her big brother, Lane, always makes sure that Santa brings Elise gifts, too. This has probably helped make his belief in Santa even stronger throughout the years. After all, if St. Nick remembers his sister, when it looks like she is forgotten in so many other ways, he has to be real. This is also true with the Tooth Fairy. After every lost tooth, Lane was eager to see if Elise was visited in the same way that he was. As silly as it felt, Chris and I always remembered to put a little something under her pillow or on her nightstand to solidify the Tooth Fairies’ existence for Lane. Tricky stuff!

So, this year, I hope to purchase several needed items -- some that she has already had in the past. Nothing too much fun, but I know for sure that whatever Santa brings her, she won’t complain.

This is a vibrating tube that I can wrap around Elise in her wheelchair to give her some input. Or even to the bottom of her standing frame to encourage better blood flow to her feet, which often turn blue. They use one at school with her stander and think that it really helps. We used to have one of these several years ago, but we just used it until it wore out! I like this one because you can attach a switch to it and let her control turning it on and off.

This is a Snoogle. We have already gone through 2 of these with Elise. It is a wonderful pillow that keeps her in a very comfortable position. At night, she wears leg braces on both legs and sleeps on her back. At other times of rest, she likes to lay in her Snoogle on her side and curl up.

This is a Mathmos Space Projector. Since Elise’s blindness is cortical, (her brain injury causes her blindness, not her eyes themselves), it is always good to stimulate her visually. Since we know that she sees light in some capacity, we wanted to try this out and see if it would catch her attention. If not, Ty would like it in his room, I’m sure!

These are called “Hatchbacks”. They are special shoes made for kids who wear AFOs (braces on the feet and lower leg to keep the foot in a correct position). I LOVE them and she has pretty much outgrown hers. They work so much better for her than regular shoes.

Elise in her Christmas dress (3-years-old)

She was a happy girl!

All of the kids before going to bed to wait for Santa to drop by… (4-years-old)

Elise sleeping in PawPaw’s lap several years ago.

Elise with Mama and GiGi on Christmas Eve. (5-years-old)

Elise opening her first Christmas gift of the year from one of her favorite people., Jackie. She has cared for Elise for 6½ years in our home. I stayed home with Lane and now with Ty, but have always needed Jackie here to help provide the special care needed for Elise. Elise definitely knows who Jackie is and loves her very much!

It was a huge box of little candy canes. Elise can chew on pieces of the candy canes under close supervision and a little help.

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