Thursday, November 19, 2009

In Which Our House Is A Very Very Very Fine House

Today Jer and I met Becky over at the new house to get our first real look at the proposed cabinetry, flooring, and other finishing materials. Jeremy and I were waiting on the front walk for her to arrive and admiring the newly cleaned roof when Jer noticed a cardboard cylinder sticking out of the bushes.

"What's that?" he asked, pointing it out. I picked it up and tilted it forward to look at it.

It ended up being an empty canister for roof sealant, which had probably fallen off the roof while the cleaning and repairs were happening. Unfortunately the can had been sitting with the closed side down, and so when I tilted it up to look at it rain water poured out of it directly into my pocket.

The pocket with my cell phone in it.

So now my cell phone is fried. It will still work, but the screen is totally black, making for an interesting guessing game as to whom exactly one is calling. The worst part is that this is not the first cell phone I have fried by dousing it with water. The last cellphone I had met its end over the side of a canoe.

It's of course extremely important for me to have a working cell phone, as I have to be able to be reached by Connor's school and doctors at all times, and also because if I'm working at the new house while Connor is at school and I leave Jeremy alone, he has to be able to reach me. So instead of working on the house tomorrow, I get to go cell phone shopping. Again.

Maybe I should carry this cell phone around in a plastic bag.

So we spent several hours at the house with Becky, going over the whole thing room by room and getting progressively more excited about the design elements that will be incorporated into each area. They've obviously put many, many hours of thought into this and have taken all of our requests into account. Some of the design elements that we are particularly excited about include:

-- The nine-foot long, two level island in the kitchen. A third of the counter will be lowered and roll-under for Jeremy; the remaining six feet of counter top will have storage underneath for dishes and the appliances Jer uses most often as well as the microwave. When he's not in a wheelchair we can pull bar stools up to it and use it for seating.
-- Counter space. I'm not sure exactly how much we'll have by the end of this, but suffice it to say that we will have more counter space with our island alone than we currently do in our entire kitchen. And outlets, too! No more unplugging the microwave to plug in my mixer, thank you very much!
-- The kitchen sink. The sink will be roll-under with a side mounted pull-out faucet. The dishwasher will be a drawer dishwasher so that it's easy-access for Jer and easier on my back as well.
-- Built-in cabinetry. Our bedroom will have a built-in cabinet and shelving unit on either side of the bed, which on Jer's side will include a "medicine garage"-- a shelf with a tambour door at wheelchair height for all of his medication that will be easily accessible from both the wheelchair and the bed. Lockable doors underneath will allow us to move the meds to an inaccessible area when we need to. Connor's room will also have a large built-in cabinet, which will house some of his medical equipment on the bottom and have cubbies for toys and books above.
--The bed. Connor will have a custom-made bed, which will incorporate safety elements for him, easy-access elements for me, and more storage for medical supplies while not looking like a crib or a cage, as so many beds for older children with special needs do.
-- Our new heating, cooling, and filtration system. We have a new very high efficiency gas furnace and a new air conditioning unit to keep our house at the appropriate temperature for Connor. Combined with the new windows, doors, and insulation, the house should be much more energy efficient and easier to heat and cool. We also have a new air filtration system to keep the air much cleaner, which will help keep everyone in the house healthier.

And, of course, my library (Best part of the house, as far as I'm concerned!). And Jer's fireplace. And our spa bathroom. And the window seats. And the million little finishing touches that will take the house well past the attractive category and seat it firmly into gorgeous: such as crown molding, wainscoting, and new lighting, just to name a few. So actually, we're pretty excited about the whole house!

So now that the inside is really coming together, it's time to start thinking about the outside. I've been searching for examples online of wheelchair accessible landscaping-- especially backyards-- for days now and I've come up with zilch. What's the deal? Do people in wheelchairs just not use their backyards, or do they just not like taking pictures of them, or what? At any rate, I've been making a list of elements I know I want to include to make the yard accessible for both the guys, and here's what I've come up with so far:

-- Hardscape. Lawn isn't going to do us a whole lot of good as neither wheelchair does very well on it, so I'm thinking a series of decks at different levels, with short ramps in between, would work pretty well. This would eliminate needing a giant ramp down from the deck, and would create natural "rooms" in the backyard, which would be nice for entertaining. I'd want a pathway through the front yard to the sidewalk, and also one to the driveway, so that Jer and Connor would have another exit from the house if there was an emergency.
-- Cover. Connor can't be out in the sun or the rain, so he needs a place to play or to hang out while I am working in the garden that is sheltered. I'm thinking maybe a small gazebo or covered porch area. We might put a swivel hook in it so that we could use his therapy swings both indoors and outdoors.
-- Raised beds. I'd like to have several raised beds with the herbs Jer commonly uses in his bread baking (rosemary, thyme, etc) as well as a sensory garden for Connor. I'd also like an accessible sand/water table area for Connor that could be converted into a garden bed when he and any other kids we have outgrow it.

So what do you all think? It's a good start on accessibility, but I'd love to hear any suggestions or ideas that you can come up with. It'll be a process that will probably take us a number of years, but eventually we'd like to have a backyard that's just as functional and beautiful as the inside of the house will be!



beauty obscure said...

The city I live in has an enabling garden.
Maybe it will give you some ideas.

Anonymous said...

Ty Pennington is happy for you but wishes he could be the one calling "move that bus!"

Have you looked at playground surfaces for part of the yard? What I have seen looks like dense carpet padding. Might be good under the swing.

A Disney-level accessible playground is being built here - search Morgan's Wonderland.

One of the best technologies I've seen in my life are the tarp-like sun-shields going up all over here (your home state). Not just over play grounds, but car lots and outdoor venues. If they are not common there, perhaps you can get some ideas from down south.


Julia O'C said...

For some reason, I keep picturing brick walkways, wide enough for a wheelchair.

The house sounds *wonderful*. The people who are doing this for you are just so amazing. It's so heartwarming to know that there are people like them in the world.

leah said...

Do you have a Dry and Store? The one with the UV light and circulating fan? We have the Global model and it is amazing at resurrecting iPods, cell phones, and remote controls along with the hearing aids it was intended for. If you don't have one, though, a new cell phone is certainly cheaper than a new Dry and Store :-)

The accessible garden would be wonderful, along with a sensory garden. I picture Lamb's Ear, silver sage, smooth pebbles to play with, a water fountain, etc.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like the house is coming together just like you need.

Some of the ideas from extreme home makeover sound like what you need. Mats that wheelchairs can roll over, sun blocking covers, and child/adult useable outdoor equipment.

Hope you will show pictures. Thank you s

Talleen said...

If water is most often the untimely end to your cell phones, there are several waterproof models available. My boyfriend has one that he can talk on in the shower! Crazy what they can come up with. Can't wait to see pictures of how the house comes along. Evenually you'll be able to create a Before and After photo album. God bless!

gloria said...

Love Crosby Stills & Nash & Young. I can't believe how big Connor is getting. Oh my my. Missing you all!

Elizabeth said...

If you've ever heard of or seen Angie's List (an online catalog/membership thing) -- the last issue was all about accessible bathrooms. I imagine you might get some ideas there!

Connor's Mom said...

Thanks for all the suggestions!


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