Saturday, October 31, 2009

In Which We Have Way, Way Too Much Candy

Happy Halloween, everyone!

We stayed home at the apartment to pass out candy. Since we had a grand total of 10 trick-or-treaters come by, this means we bought one bag of candy per trick-or-treater. Since we now have 9 1/2 bags of candy left over, I will be forced over the next few days to test whether or not it is possible to die of massive chocolate consumption.

Woe is me.

Connor was a moose for Halloween. Well, he wore a shirt with a moose on it, anyway. He doesn't go for hats, (that's my excuse, anyway) so you kind of had to imagine the antlers. I didn't make much of an effort in the costume department this year. At any rate he was cute, but that's not really a great accomplishment for him since he's cute all the time. He did have fun snuggling while we waited for kids to knock at the door, so the evening was overall a success.

Major, major work was completed on the house today: all of the carpet is now stripped from the house, (including the horrible glued-down industrial carpet in the kitchen) the master bathroom has been gutted, the ceiling is gone in the kitchen, the framing has been removed in the former closet and pantry area, and all the doors that will be widened have been stripped, among other things! Basically the only room left intact in the house is the guest bathroom, which looks kind of incongruous surrounded as it is by stripped rooms. The hardworking crew stayed at the house all day; they even brought pizza up so they wouldn't have to leave to get lunch. One of Jer's coworkers on leave from Afghanistan came to visit, and he thought they'd been working for a couple of weeks instead of a couple of days!

There haven't been any nasty surprises yet; just a couple of cracked tiles on the roof. We're glad that the house seems to be pretty solidly built. We've also met the neighbors, and I'm happy to say there aren't any nasty surprises there, either. Actually I'm pretty sure we moved into a street transplanted straight out of Mayberry. In the immediate vicinity of our house we have-- and I'm not making any of this up-- a librarian, a state representative, a nurse, a retired air force pilot, a couple with small children Connor's age, and a woman who loves to garden. I swear the neighbors were handpicked for us. We'll be filling the role of "neighborhood eccentrics," since that position doesn't seem to be taken yet.

I'm still half-convinced this whole thing is just a really, really good dream. A beautiful house taking shape by the day, a great neighborhood, and copious amounts of chocolate?
Seems too good to be true!

~Jess

In Which I Am Very Tired

Forgive me if this is a short post. It has been an extremely long day, it's pretty late, and I'm very tired.

Nothing untoward happened today; it was actually a pretty great day, just very busy. I spent about four hours at the house weeding, and I have now unburied the landscaping around the lawn in the front yard. The lawn is enclosed on all four sides by beds containing a variety of low-growing evergreen shrubs, and both the lawn and the beds were pretty choked with weeds. Tomorrow I get to tackle the outside of the beds, I'll mow the front lawn, and if I have time I'll start on the backyard. Once I get that weeded it'll be time to tackle the Ivy Wall O'Doom that runs along the side of the house. That's going to take me a while.

Demolition on the inside of the house started this morning-- a great father-and-sons trio spent eight hours there today, and they completed an amazing amount of work! The kitchen is now entirely stripped, the old pantry and closets have been taken down to the framing, the carpet and baseboards are gone in the living room, and the drywall has been taken off the two smaller bedroom doors and the linen closet. I'm amazed by how clean it is in the house-- everything has either been carried out to the garage or neatly piled for discarding later. In fact, I believe they left it cleaner than the previous owners. How's that for awesome?
I'm happy to say that the old cabinets and the doors in the house are all going to be donated (I think they're headed to Habitat for Humanity). I think it's wonderful that someone else will be able to benefit from the work that's being done on our home-- kind of a ripple effect!

I'm afraid I've worn myself out and it's time for bed now. Sorry about the short post; I'll make it up to you all tomorrow, I promise!

~Jess

Thursday, October 29, 2009

In Which Things Get Moving!

Connor did very well today-- no seizures, for which we are very thankful! His doctor upped his seizure medication pretty substantially, so he may be pretty sleepy in the next few days as he gets used to the new dose. We're hoping the medication change will nip the problem in the bud. No more seizures, please!

One lingering problem, though-- I was so frazzled last night when I got home that I put my cell phone down somewhere and now I can't find it. I know it's in the back half of the apartment because we only have cell reception in the front half closest to the windows, and when I call it the phone goes straight through to voicemail and doesn't ring at all. So if you've called me today, sorry. I'll get your message whenever the heck I find my phone again. In the meantime I'll be using Jer's cell phone, which since he needs it means he'll be going everywhere with me. I'm sure he's thrilled.

After dropping Connor off at school today, Jer and I headed over to the new house, where I spent my time sorting out the last of the junk. Jer hung out in the garage, as we didn't want to try and get him into the house by ourselves again. Today's finds include:

-A box full of motivational tapes, none of which were opened.
-An old warped ax head.
-An ash tray, new packet of cigarettes, and matches hidden behind some cardboard boxes on a top shelf.
-A hand painted sign that says "No Smoking."
-Three identical black galoshes.
-An anchor. Yes, really.

I am extremely happy to say that I'm now finished with my initial sorting of the trash. Woo hoo! I'm left with a few items we'll be keeping (a large wheelbarrow, edger, and three ladders, among other things), a big pile of items to be donated, an enormous pile of trash, and over 100 different hazardous materials, including paint, varnish, oil, gasoline, bleach, stripper, car batteries, poisons, antifreeze, windshield cleaner, lighter fluid, and many, many others. The photo on here is from yesterday, and the pile has grown substantially since then. Luckily Puyallup has a landfill with free disposal of these materials, though they have a limit of 35 items at a time so it'll take me a few trips to get everything over there. They also don't take latex or water-based paint though, so I'll be sorting through the 58 cans of paint in there, and then we'll have to figure out what to do with the rest of it.

Once I'm finished with that, it'll be time to tackle the yard! It's got good bones, but it's been neglected for quite some time so it's going to take me a while to whip it back in shape. I'm excited to get started on it!

After I picked Connor up from school we had a meeting with Becky and Bill from the remodeling company, and some of the subcontractors at the new house to walk through and talk about what the game plan will be. Jer and I were expecting maybe three or four other people, but truck after truck pulled up and folks kept piling in! I'm not sure what the final count was, but there were at least fourteen people there-- all with different areas of expertise-- who looked through the house and are volunteering or discounting time, services or materials. Amazing! They were very organized and efficient; everybody looked at the area that they would be tackling, took measurements, introduced themselves, asked a question or two and then headed out. They aren't going to wait until Saturday to get started; the kitchen demolition begins tomorrow morning! I can't believe how fast this is moving. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that this is happening; that in two months we're going to have a house that isn't just livable for Jer and Connor, but a welcoming, beautiful space for the three of us.

As you probably remember, Jer lost his wedding ring in Afghanistan, and we're choosing to take the opportunity of getting new rings to renew our wedding vows. We've figured out what we want for our new rings, but we were still debating on the best way to renew our vows. Well, now we've decided. When the house is finished and we're moved in, we're going to throw open the doors and have a huge party. You're all invited-- everyone who's been a support, a listening ear, a helping hand, or a good friend over the past few months. We haven't worked out logistics yet, though we do know that we don't want to post the address of the house on the Internet, but we'll get it figured out one way or another. We'll renew our vows in our new house surrounded by all of the people who made it possible for us to be there.

What could be better?

~Jess

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

In Which We Have Some Huge Ups And Downs

What a roller coaster of a day.

This morning I dropped Jer off for his hospital appointment and took Connor to his physical therapy. The little guy has been hovering right on the edge of sitting on his own. He's to the point where he can sit very well as long as you keep your hands on his thighs to stabilize him. Our fantastic PT, Laura, had the great idea of taking a weighted pillow and placing it on his lap to mimic hand pressure, and with it the little guy sat by himself for fifteen minutes! His previous record was two minutes. This is the kid who was never supposed to move his arms and legs with purpose, remember? I was so proud I almost burst at the seams. He finally had to stop sitting not because he lost his balance, but because he tired himself out. He was literally falling asleep and still trying to sit up; nothing wrong with the kid's work ethic, that's for sure!

We're borrowing the pillow from our therapy center until I can make my own-- it's a simple pillow filled about half-full of beans, so it shouldn't be too hard for me to toss together. I can't wait until he can sit by himself at circle time just like a typical kid-- what an accomplishment!

After that fantastic therapy session I drove back to the hospital, picked Jer up, and we went back to the apartment for some lunch and so Connor could have a well-earned nap. Once he woke up I loaded him back into the car and we went over to the new house to continue sorting out the garbage while Jer stayed at the apartment and took a nap of his own.

Today's finds include:

-48 cans of old paint, stain, or varnish.
-16 different types of poisons for various unwanted living things, including weeds, ants, insects, mice, and moles. Eight of those were for the moles, which were evidently particularly unwelcome here previously.
-1 half-full can of outboard motor gasoline from 1994.
-One wet king sized mattress, 9 more cans of paint, a breast self-examination kit and a bag full of broken glass under the tarp in the driveway labeled "Salvation Army Pickup."

I'm mostly finished with the house now. Two-thirds of the garage left to go!

After Connor and I finished up at the new house for the day we stopped by the grocery store near our apartment complex to pick up some more cozy winter pajamas for him and some other odds and ends.

Connor had a massive seizure in the middle of the clothing aisle.

I immediately set him down on the floor, shouted for help, and started mouth-to-mouth. 30 seconds went by. Nobody came. I shouted for help again and went back to doing resuscitation. A minute went by. Nobody came. I shouted for help again.

I could hear a man talking on his cell phone less than fifteen feet away. He said loudly to the person on the end of the line: "Some @$^* is shouting for help in the middle of the store."

By this point Connor had been unresponsive and not breathing for a minute and 45 seconds. I shouted for help again, and added "He's not breathing!" Within five seconds I had fifteen people in a circle around us, including three store employees, all of whom had been within earshot and had chosen to ignore my earlier shouts for help. The man who'd been on his cell phone was down on the floor next to Connor and me yelling "Breathe, baby! Breathe!" Connor's seizure finally ended at just after the two-minute mark-- less than thirty seconds away from when I would have needed to use his emergency medication.

It was the longest seizure he's ever had while on seizure medication, and one of the scariest not just because of how long it lasted, but also because I couldn't seem to get anyone's attention despite being able to hear people talking all around me. In the future I'll remember to shout "Help, he's not breathing!" the first time instead of just "Help, help, I need help!" I also hope that in the future if those fifteen people hear someone repeatedly shouting for help at the top of their lungs they'll try to make an effort to see if the person, might, you know, actually have an emergency and need help rather than just ignoring them.

By the time someone called 911 Connor's seizure was over, and I told them we wouldn't need the ambulance as there's not really anything they can do for him once he's breathing again. I bought the things already in my cart and drove home with an extremely sad, limp little guy in the back seat. He was scared, sobbing hysterically, and totally exhausted. I calmed him down, gave him his evening medication, and put him to bed. Then half an hour later he had another, smaller seizure. This one only lasted about 20 seconds-- I only had to give him a few breaths-- but it was very scary because he doesn't normally have seizures so close to each other and so it caught me totally off guard. The typical period between his seizures is 2-4 months.

He came up from the seizure disoriented and scared again, but calmed down and went back to sleep once I gave him some oxygen; it always seems to make him feel better. I'd imagine he probably wakes up with one heck of a headache because of oxygen deprivation. I'll be calling his doctor tomorrow, and I'll have to watch Connor very closely over the next few days. The last time he had seizures that fell closer and closer together, he ended up in status epilepticus. This could easily be fatal for him, and at the very least he'd end up in intensive care again, so we tend to fall on the paranoid side with these things. It's not something we want to mess around with.

So it was a roller coaster of a day. Some days are like that, I guess.

~Jess

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

In Which Jer Has Now Switched To Wireless

I spent a good portion of the day driving around thinking about the house. I think the news still hasn't quite sunk in-- I'm kind of in a state of shock. There are some pretty amazing people our there, aren't there?

I had a lot of time to think about it because I spent the first half of the day in the car. Jeremy had an appointment at 10:00 up in Seattle. So this morning I got up, wheeled everyone into the car, and drove to Connor's school, where I dropped Connor off. Then I turned around and drove up to the hospital in Seattle to drop Jeremy off. I then turned around and drove back to the school, arriving just a couple of minutes late to pick Connor up. I promptly turned back around and drove back up to the hospital to pick up Jeremy, turned around one final time, and drove home, where we all collapsed in varying states of exhaustion.

I am so thankful that we have that van. We're sure putting it through its paces!

At his appointment, Jer had a lot of new x-rays taken to see how he's healing up. That's his left heel viewed from behind there in the picture; it looks like they put half the hardware store in there, doesn't it? After the x-rays were done, they pulled out all of the remaining wires that were protruding from his feet. Those are the two skinny L-shaped wires on the right in this picture. Everything else stays in there. I am sad to say that this was not anything like the pain-free pulling of the navicular wire that occurred the other day. These were apparently extremely unpleasant coming out.

But at least they are now gone and Jeremy is able to wear his casts a little more comfortably-- they had a tendency to push on the wires. Otherwise not a whole lot has changed. He's still totally confined to the wheelchair, and for the most part is still doing the same exercises that he was doing before. He'll have another doctor's appointment in six weeks, and they'll check how he's progressing then and see if they need to make any changes to his routine. They said everything looked about as expected at this appointment, which is a good thing!

After Connor woke up from his all-too-brief nap, I drove over to the new house to start sorting the trash to go out into the garage. Finds for today included:

-Four old car batteries, one of which was in the office closet.
-A vase in a windowsill with mosquito larva growing in it.
-An entire kitchen drawer full top to bottom with dirty knives.
-One Mikasa china plate buried under a stack of newspapers, two rolls of wallpaper, old dirty rags, and a sack of mouse traps in the bottom of the entryway closet.

I'm putting all of the hazardous things I'm finding-- the old chemicals, bleach, unidentified substances in spray bottles, car batteries, paint thinner, stain, stripper, etc. in one area of the garage (except for the leaking car battery, which gets its own area far, far away from anything flammable), the regular trash in another, the stuff to donate to a charity in a third pile (or fourth if you count the leaking battery as its own pile), and the stuff that will stay in the garage in yet another pile. Hopefully I'll have it finished by this weekend!

After I'd done a couple of hours of good work it was time to call it quits and head home, where I found Jeremy in the middle of a nap in his wheelchair. He moved back into the bedroom to continue his nap and I did a minuscule amount of cleaning (there's only so much cleaning you can do in one day) while waiting for Joanna, our respite care worker/massage therapist, to come over and work on my back, which thanks to yesterday has not been particularly happy today. She always brings the table in and sets it up in our living room-- how's that for awesome?

So it was a very relaxing end to the day, though just after she finished Jer's cheese pizza decided not to agree with him, so there was a mad scramble for a bowl and much unpleasantness followed. I'm hoping that it was just food poisoning and not the start of him getting sick. Not that food poisoning is particularly fun, while it's going on, but at least it tends towards the "short and violent" side of things and not the "long, drawn-out and miserable" end of matters. I guess we'll find out depending on how the night goes.

Tomorrow we're off to a different hospital for more appointments, and then depending on how Jer's feeling it'll be back to the house to work. I can't wait for things to start!

~Jess

Monday, October 26, 2009

In Which We Have An Incredible Announcement To Make

I have incredible news, folks.

This morning after we dropped Connor off at school we drove over to the local home improvement store and picked up a lawn mower, a big set of hedge clippers, a rake, and some seriously heavy-duty garbage bags. When combined with the gloves I already had at home, my ivy-killing arsenal was now complete! The rest of the visit was spent wandering around the store looking at all of the home improvement items and divesting Jeremy of the various tools he'd picked up with the intention of strapping them to his wheelchair. I made him put back the hand ax he found in the gardening section, and had to physically drag him away from the chainsaws. I swear I can't take the man anywhere.

While that was a lot of fun, it's not the incredible news.

After a break at home for Connor to have some lunch and a nap, we headed back over to the house to give a friend the tour, do some more preliminary cleaning, and to wait for Becky, one of the owners of Signature Custom Homes (the company doing our remodeling) to meet up with us and show us the recommendations for the remodeling. However, while we could spend a lot of time waiting around outside the house, getting in was a whole other story.

See, whenever we'd stopped by the house before and were planning on having everyone go inside, we'd always been with someone else-- the real estate agent, a friend, a contractor-- someone who could help me get Jer's wheelchair up the two steps in the front. This time it was just the three of us, and Connor wasn't exactly going to be doing a whole lot of the pushing.

In the past, I've tilted the chair backwards and pulled straight towards the door while someone at Jer's feet lifts slightly to get the wheels moving up the stairs. Jer helps by steering and pushing back towards the door. The wheelchair goes up without too much trouble. This time, not only was there no one to give us that initial lift, but the porch was slick from the rain and my feet were sliding all over the place. We tried for a good long while before realizing there was no possible way that Jer's wheelchair was going up the stairs.

So Jer ended up maneuvering himself out of the wheelchair, crawling across the porch, through the door and into the house in an awkward sort of scooting motion on his hands and rear with his feet and legs in the air, and getting back into the wheelchair (which we set down in the sunken living room so he could reach it) inside. Then all I had to do was haul the chair with him in it up one six inch step out of the living room rather than two eight-and-a-half inch steps. So now we've figured out that we can get Jer into the house sans a ramp in a pinch, but it isn't something that we're going to want to do very often. Especially since my back is not thanking me for it right now. Oh well.

Definitely not the incredible news.

Anyway, we gave our friend Anna the tour, and then after she left Becky came over to present us with the remodeling plan. I've been talking about pretty much nothing but this remodeling for the last few weeks, so you all probably have a good idea about what we were talking about doing: basically a ramp, a pretty major bathroom remodel, a much less extensive kitchen remodel, and the floors. Becky unrolled the plan on the kitchen counter and dropped a bombshell on us.

Everyone at the company got together and talked about our circumstances and the remodeling project. They decided they wanted to do more for us than we'd be able to do on our own. And so they're keeping the same budget we originally gave them, but through donated labor and materials they are redoing the entire house.

The. Entire. House.

A totally redone, expanded kitchen with all new accessible appliances and a two-level island that Jer and I can work at together. All of the doors in the house expanded to be wheelchair accessible. The sunken living room floor raised to be level with the rest of the house. Completely remodeled accessible bathroom with a curbless, roll-in shower, and the other bathroom modified so that it's at least partially accessible as well. Accessible porch (no more crawling). No more popcorn ceilings. New lighting. New floors. New paint.

And my library. They're building me my library. I'm in tears just thinking about it.

So that, my friends, is our news. They start the demolition this weekend, so we don't have to worry about getting a maid any more. We're going to stay in the apartment an extra month so we're not living in the middle of the remodeling, which would be much more difficult given the scale of what we'd originally planned versus what they're actually doing. And if all goes well, by Christmas we should be living in a beautiful, updated, fully accessible house.

What incredible people. What an incredible day.

~Jess

Sunday, October 25, 2009

In Which I Don't Have To Clean The House Any More, And I Am Very Happy

Mom and Dad to the rescue!

My parents, as a belated birthday/housewarming present, are hiring a maid to come and clean up the house! This takes a huge load off of our shoulders as now all we have to worry about is hauling away all of the garbage, fixing up the landscaping, and the actual move itself. I am ridiculously happy about this.

Here is the garage for your viewing pleasure.

I did take about three hours today to clean up the bathrooms. I can wait for the maid to do the rest of the house, but I'd like the bathrooms clean now. You know how it is. I feel much better now that they're scrubbed from top to bottom.

We have quite the to-do list for tomorrow: talking to our apartment complex (wish us luck), switching over utilities, calling the plumber, roofer, chimney sweep, furnace inspector, and exterminator, picking up supplies to start on the yard, (it doesn't sound like the biggest priority, I know, but with the rainy season coming on fast getting out there before it's a constant drizzling 40-degree mess will be a really good thing), and finding a maid. In the afternoon, we'll be heading over to see what kind of recommendations the wonderful company that's doing our remodeling has put together-- more on that later.

Speaking of the remodeling: I met one of the owners of the company at the house tonight so he could get a few more measurements, and we got to talking about the ramp. He told me that instead of doing a separate ramp, we could just add cement to the walkway and grade it up to a level entry. Simple and perfect! I got home and told Jeremy about it, and he pointed out that he'd said that in the beginning and I just hadn't listened to him. So I'm giving credit where credit is due. There you go, honey.

One of these days I'm going to get Jeremy to post an entry on the blog so he can give you his perspective on this whole thing. I'm sure he'd tell a whole different story than the one you get from me! If you all bug him about it enough maybe he'll do it once a month or something. What do you think?

~Jess

In Which We Have A House!

We got our key this morning, and now the fun begins! Here's Connor and Jer in our potential library alcove or dining room: whichever works better. Connor likes the light in here, though I'm not overly fond of it. That's the railing for the sunken living room in the foreground.

We've got a lot of work to do. And when I say a lot of work, I'm not talking about painting or remodeling or ramp building or any of that. I'm talking about cleaning.

The place needs a lot of cleaning.

The bathrooms are, to put it mildly, disgusting, and the laundry room (pictured here) is not much better. I firmly believe that when you move out of a house you should take things like your hair with you, but these people were not of the same mindset and left it all in the drains for me. Whoo hoo. There are trash bags full of garbage scattered in the middle of rooms around the house like little presents for us to find. Old earring backs, washrags, candles, hair ties, and other treasures sit on the window sills. Little bits of foam and paper litter the carpet. The walls are splattered with various unidentified substances and there are cobwebs thick in the corners of the rooms.

So I'll be hauling cleaning supplies over once Connor wakes up from his nap (after a stop at the drug store for some disposable gloves), and I'll get started on slowly getting things picked up. The sooner I get things ready for our move, the sooner I can get to the project I really want to tackle: what I have dubbed the Great Wall O'Ivy.

This wall has got to be at least 40 feet long. It runs the entire length of the property on one side and has been entirely buried by English ivy and my personal favorite, blackberries. This is where I'm going to be putting in my edible landscaping (yes, in the front yard) and herb garden. I won't pull all the ivy out this winter because I don't want to lose all my soil down the hill, but I'm at least going to get it trimmed down to where I can see what I'm working with. There's a wall of stone boulders under there that should look really cool once you can see it again.

The rest of the yard isn't in too bad a shape, though the fence is falling down. It's a little overgrown, but I should be able to put it right without too much work, and there are already some beautiful established plantings back there. I can't wait to get started!

I did take some measurements today, and there shouldn't be any problem at all putting a ramp in-- the flower bed is almost twice as long as it needs to be to get the proper slope, and the porch is more than wide enough. So now we've got to get our permit and get crackin'!

~Jess

P.S.: Sorry about the weird formatting. Blogspot currently hates me, and I don't have the energy to go fix the HTML because I am lazy. Oh well.




Saturday, October 24, 2009

In Which We Will Be Picking Up Keys!

Tomorrow we get the keys to the house!

I'll be taking cleaning supplies and gardening tools over in the morning. The landscaping is rather overgrown and I'll have a limited amount of time to get it under control before the rains start, so I want to get on the ball! I can't wait to get into the house and get started preparing it for our move-in-- I'll want to scrub it from top to bottom before the remodelers get in and cover everything in a two-inch layer of dust.

Since we actually own it now, I feel like I can post pictures of it! I'll be taking some more tomorrow, but here's the living room. We haven't decided yet if we're going to put a ramp down into the (sunken) living room or if we'll build it up, but picture it with wood floors, newly painted walls (sans stenciled border), different furniture, and updated window treatments.

I still can't believe just how quickly this all happened; our offer was accepted on September 28th, so the whole process took a little under a month! We'll be trying to do the floors and the ramp before we move in, though it may be a tall order since we have to get a building permit and Puyallup is notoriously slow about such things. We could always rig up something temporary in the meantime if need be.

We're going to have to buy a lot more furniture, which means I'll have to go thrift store shopping. Horrors.

One thing we will not be thrift store shopping for is a new bed for Connor. The little guy is slowly but surely outgrowing his current crib and is going to need to move up to a twin size bed more appropriate for his age. I've been surfing the net looking at the options out there in regards to beds for children with special needs, and with a few exceptions for the most part they are sort of appalling. Think "big wooden cage" and you'll have a pretty good idea of what the majority of them seem to look like.

So we'll take a look at the couple of companies that have ready-made decent looking beds for children with special needs, and then we'll also look at the possibility of getting something custom made. We'll be looking for something that Connor can use not just as a kid but, God willing, into his teenage years and beyond, so we want something that is classy and low-key. It all ties back into that "not wanting to live in a hospital" thing I talk about all the time. It's not that I'm ashamed of Connor or want to hide or disguise the fact that he has special needs; it's that I don't think having special needs should mean you have to live with an ugly, cage-like bed. Maybe I'm silly-- Connor probably could care less. He is is father's son, after all, and Jer has slept on or in things much more dreary than a big wooden cage with no difficulty. But I care about it, so we'll find or build something good looking.

I'll worry about it later. New house, here we come!

~Jess



Friday, October 23, 2009

In Which We Make Halloween Plans

Connor was feeling under the weather this morning-- he threw up a bunch last night and was really tired and groggy this morning, so we kept him home from school. He perked up later in the afternoon, and by this evening he seemed to be feeling pretty good, so hopefully he's not actually sick. We'll see how he does tomorrow.

He also broke out in hives this morning after I used unscented Aveeno Soothing Relief Creamy Wash on him during his bath. I'm not sure if he broke out in hives because of the wash or because of all the throwing up he was doing (stress makes him break out too). I'm hoping it was the stress.

Until we go to the allergist, though, I guess I'll add it to the list of things that Connor should stay away from.

In other news, Jer and I had a conversation about Halloween today.

We're of two minds on the whole trick-or-treating thing where Connor is involved. Connor hasn't been trick-or-treating yet; we always stay home and pass out candy. And we're sort of leaning towards that idea again this year.

For one thing, we don't know anyone at all in the new neighborhood, and trick-or-treating is one of those things that it's most fun to do with groups of friends. Then there's the fact that Connor can't actually eat any of the candy. You can look at this as a negative thing (Jer and I would have to eat all of his candy) or a positive thing (Jer and I would get to eat all of his candy).

And we have absolutely no doubt that if we took the kid trick-or-treating there would be massive amounts of candy involved. The kid is adorable, in a wheelchair, and would be accompanied by a father also in a wheelchair, and half the time we wouldn't be able to get up the steps so we'd have to linger at the back looking especially pathetic. He's the kind of kid every child wants to have trick-or-treating along with them-- I know I would have. Of course, my brother and I had our own strategies at the time for getting massive amounts of candy, once we were old enough to go trick-or-treating in groups of kids without parents along. I seem to recall us marking the houses that were especially good, changing our costumes around, and then hitting them a second time for another round. Yes. We were those kids.

However, we really don't think that trick-or-treating would be a whole lot of fun for Connor right now; he's stranger-shy and probably wouldn't know what to make of all of the kids in costume. It would feel too much like Jer and I dragging him along so that we could get a bunch of candy. He'll probably be much happier dressing up and then staying at home to pass sweets out to the other neighborhood kids, so that's what we'll do. Maybe next year he'll be old enough to want to go.

Besides, they'll always be candy left over in the basket. This year I hope they leave some Twix bars for me!

~Jess

Thursday, October 22, 2009

In Which I Talk About Something Other Than The House

I got so involved in my ramp planning yesterday (Now I'm thinking about living wall panels-- wouldn't that be cool on the side of a ramp wall? Totally impractical and hard to maintain, so I probably wouldn't actually do it, but very cool.) that I forgot to give you the update on Jer! Sorry about that.

There's Jeremy hanging out with our son, No-Pants boy, yesterday morning. Connor will wear a shirt to bed but he draws the line at pants. He's signing "Daddy" in this picture-- isn't he cute?

So Jer went in for a hearing test yesterday, because he's been having some trouble with loud sounds setting off a "static" sort of noise in his ear; it's rather uncomfortable and certainly distracting. They tested his hearing and he doesn't have any hearing loss, which is good. Basically they said that it's likely the concussion wave from the blast injured his middle ear and there's not really anything they can do to fix the problem, but it should get better over time. In the meantime I'm going to have to figure out how to moderate my voice a little better-- I tend to get really loud when I'm excited about a topic, and with the whole house buying thing I've been excited a lot recently, so now I get "shushed" a whole bunch. Oh well.

Jer also went down to the casting room, where they removed a staple in his graft that had been accidentally left in and also pulled out the wire sticking out of the top of his foot. This was the wire holding the navicular bone in place while it healed, and it's been a little over two months since it was put in. It stuck out about 3/4 in out of the surface of his foot, and was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. He was having a difficult time doing all of his physical therapy exercises because the wire went through either a muscle or tendon involved with the movement of his big toe, so it made his range-of-motion exercises kind of painful. Also whenever he had his air cast on the cast was essentially sitting on the wire and pressing it down into his foot. Ow.

Jeremy was a little bit nervous about them taking the wire out, and I can't say that I blame him. They don't use any anesthesia or anything, and while they tell you it won't hurt at all the fact that they're pulling 3 in long wire out of a bone in your foot makes you tend to think they're lying. Additionally exciting was the fact that it was a resident who obviously hadn't done this before taking it out of Jer's foot, so we got to hear the instructions. "You just twist it around like a corkscrew and yank it out," the orthopedic surgeon told him. Whee.

But as it turns out, it really doesn't hurt-- the guy took a hold of the wire, twisted it around for a second, and then pulled it out, and Jer didn't feel a thing. Weird. He now has a band aid over a rather large hole in his foot, and he's much more comfortable both moving his toe and wearing the cast. He's also a little less anxious about getting all the wires sticking out of the sides of his feet pulled, which they'll be doing on Wednesday. I think he's rather looking forward to it-- those all push against the cast too.

Jer can feel sensation just about everywhere except for a couple spots on the side and top of his left foot and his graft area, where the skin is totally numb. This is great because it means that for the most part the nerves are all working correctly! I was under the impression that he'd get sensation back in the graft area eventually, but Jer's PT said it was likely he never will feel anything there again because he lost so much tissue and the graft is so large.

We'll just have to see; the body is a pretty amazing thing!

~Jess

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

In Which I Go A Little Overboard Planning

I just spent two hours playing with my colored pencils.

We got the quote back yesterday for what it would cost to put a wheelchair lift in the garage. The bottom-of-the-rung lift with installation but without tax, would run a hefty 8,000 dollars. This is because Washington state law classifies the lift (which would go up all of two feet) to be an elevator, and thus is has to have a special door at the top that locks when the lift is at the bottom of the steps. This means that we also would have to put a call button in to bring the lift to the top of the steps if it is at the bottom. While it sounds cool in theory, 8,000 dollars seems like a whole lot of money just so that we have the convenience of unloading out of the rain. I'm also a little worried about the idea that the garage would be the accessible entrance, because if there was a fire and the power was out Jer wouldn't be able to get the garage door open.

So we're back to our first idea, which was to put a ramp on the front of the house. We'd build it out of wood so that if we were to ever sell the house we could potentially take the ramp out easily. I went over to the new house (which is now registered to us and officially ours, by the way, though we won't be getting the keys for another couple of days to give the sellers a chance to move out) and measured the height of the stairs up to the porch. They are fifteen inches high, which would mean that to meet ADA standards for ramp length/height ratio the ramp would need to be fifteen feet long. Now it just so happens that the porch is extra wide, and the extra space between the side of the house and the sidewalk currently has a flowerbed with several large bushes in it. I think we might be able to pull those bushes out and put a ramp in that would go straight out from the house and link up with the sidewalk. While I didn't take an exact measurement of the length from the house to where the sidewalk links up with the driveway, I'm pretty sure it's longer than fifteen feet. I'll take some exact measurements once we have the keys to the house. I would have done that today, but right about the time I started measuring the length the skies opened up and rain came absolutely pouring down. Normally it just drizzles here, but this was some serious rain. At any rate, I had to abandon my measuring and sprint for the car.

I came home and hopped on the Internet, eager to look at the various attractive ways people had incorporated wheelchair ramps into their homes, and I found . . . zilch. Well, scratch that-- I found one picture in which someone had planted a row of geraniums in front of the ramp on a house painted in 70's orange and brown. And that was pretty much it.

I'm rather shocked, actually. No wonder people think of wheelchair ramps as such eyesores! Surely there's something you can do with a wooden ramp to pretty it up other than planting a row of measly little flowers. And for that matter, can't you construct them in a manner other than that whole plywood-and-2-by-4 thing?

So I sat down with my colored pencils and started doodling. I like the idea of softening up a ramp with vegetation, but there seems little point in putting together a big ugly ramp and then smacking some bushes at the bottom of it and calling it done-- it would drive me nuts every time I saw it. Then I thought about those walls and fences you see sometimes with planters built in on top of them, and voila! A wheelchair ramp was born.
I'm not an architect or an artist, so sorry about the ridiculous pictures, but hopefully you can get the basic idea. Our house already has a whole bunch of tall bushes that essentially hide the entrance from the street, so it would only be when you started walking up the sidewalk that you would see the ramp. Instead of just building a railing for the ramp, I'd build a wall with planting space on top of it. There'd be a wide planter at the top (and because it's wider, we could run the handrail for the ramp down one side and a handrail for the stairs down the other) and then a series of narrower planters as the wall stair-stepped down, with additional planting space at ground level.

I realized after I did the drawings that it would be best to have the top of the wall stair-step and have a series of planters rather than having the wall stay at one level, because if we did that it would be 40 inches high at the top (about hip high on me) and by the time you got down to the bottom it would be 55 inches high (or about armpit level). This would look silly. So imagine that the height of the wall steps down every couple of feet or so, and there's a planting space on each level area. The wall closest to the house would be narrow so that we have enough room for the ramp, which was the whole point of this exercise in the first place. The handrail would follow the angle of the ramp and would be mounted 36 inches high.

I could either have the planters separate from the wall itself so I could lift them out, or I could have them built in. I'm picturing something sort of like this, but stair-stepping like this. I'd put something low-growing and evergreen in the narrow planters that would be soft and wouldn't trail over the side too much-- I'm thinking maybe various varieties of creeping thyme. The large planter would have some shade-loving flowers of some sort in it. The bottom flower bed would have another low-growing plant that could stand some shade: maybe lithodora.

The walls of the ramp would be painted the same color as the siding on the house (currently white, though that will probably change), which would tie the ramp into everything a bit better. The sidewalk is pebbled concrete, but we don't want a concrete base to our ramp so it can be relatively easily removed, and I'm a little leery of painting the floor of the ramp, so we'd probably stain it some attractive color.

I'm not sure whether or not I'd want the wall to be solid or more like a railing with planter boxes on top-- it would kind of depend on what it would do to the appearance of the house.

I have no idea if this idea is at all feasible or practical (it's probably not, or someone would have done it by now), but it at least gives me a place to start thinking about some attractive options. Of course, I also have no idea how much building a ramp like that would cost, but hopefully it wouldn't be 8,000 dollars. That would have to be one super fancy ramp.

If anyone else has any ideas, for that matter-- or attractive front-door ramp remodels to look at, let me know!

~Jess

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

In Which I Recieve A Nice Surprise, And Ponder A Conundrum

There was a knock on the door today, and it was a delivery from the florist. Jer sent me roses, just because! Do I have the best husband ever, or what?

In other news, yesterday morning when I picked Connor up from school I noticed a couple of little hives. Well, this morning when I picked him up he was sporting a pretty good case of them. Since his teacher and her aids have already purged every trace of lavender from the classroom and their bath products (because they are awesome, as I have mentioned several times before) I am left with one of two possibilities.

The first possibility, and the one I'm really hoping for, is that one of Connor's classmates has a parent who uses a lavender product on either their skin or their clothes. While this would not be particularly wonderful, as it would mean that Connor would be periodically breaking out in hives at school, it would be better than the second possibility: that Connor is allergic to another mysterious substance. Joy of joys.

The little guy is going to have a referral for an allergist, and we'll probably end up going in for allergy testing (which I've been told is just oodles of fun with a toddler) to see what other crazy things he may be allergic to as well. What I'm wondering is whether or not they'll be testing the right sort of things. We know the kid isn't allergic to peanuts, or cats, or shellfish, or any of the other stuff you generally have to watch out for. No, he seems to go for things that are a little more exotic, a little more dramatic, if you will, than your everyday run-of-the-mill allergens. So I'm going to suggest that they test for some wilder possibilities. Like, oh, bears. The kid's probably allergic to bears. Or Spam. I'm of the opinion that everyone should be allergic to Spam, but that's beside the point. Given our past track record with the kid having crazy, rare medical conditions that no one can figure out, I'm not expecting any easy answers on this one.

So to my mind the best possibility of the two would be that another child is bringing lavender oil residue into the classroom in the form of soap or lotion or laundry detergent or air freshener or scented candles or-- well, you get the point. It's not enough to cause Connor to have a full blown reaction, but it is enough to cause him to break out in hives. The problem is that I'm not sure how to go about solving this sort of thing, other than dosing him with Benadryl whenever he breaks out. I suppose I could just write a letter to all of the other parents. Something like this:

Dear Parents Of All Those Other Children,

My darling, perfect, sweet child is extremely allergic to lavender but flawless in all other ways. Because of this, you must throw away all lavender and lavender products in your home, because if your kid touches my little sweetie pookums with his grubby little lavender-contaminated hands, it will cause my own perfect child to break out in unsightly red bumps all over his poor widdle face. This is completely unacceptable, so for my personal convenience and to save his handsome complexion, your evil lavender must go. Really, the nerve of some people.

See you at the next PTA meeting-- my turn to bring cookies!

Signed,

The Mother Of The Most Important Child In The Universe

On second thought, maybe not.

~Jess

Monday, October 19, 2009

In Which I Talk About Poop

Readers beware: this is another one of those horrifying posts about everyone's favorite topic . . . poop. I hadn't visited the topic lately, what with the whole husband-getting-half-blown-up thing, and the Connor-allergic-to-the-lavender-of-doom thing, and the buying-a-house thing, and at any rate Connor evidently thought it had been far too long since I talked about his bodily functions, so he gave me some new blogging material. It would probably be best for you all to just blow off this post and go look at pictures of fluffy baby bunnies or something.

So don't blame me, gentle reader, if you continue on: you've been warned.

Anyway Connor, like a lot of children who have g-tubes, has the occasional round of GI troubles. You will recall the terrifying Poop Explosion incident of last January as a prime example of one end of the scale, and the even more shocking Poop Hairdo tragedy of April as an example of the extreme other end. Connor tends to swing back and forth from one end of pendulum to the other, and I am constantly tweaking his diet (leaving out fiber or adding our good friend Miralax) to try and keep him in balance. With all the chaos around here the last few weeks I'd been neglecting to monitor the state of things, if you will, and so it was only after we got back from the wedding in Texas and I was the only person changing diapers again that I realized I should probably start feeding the kid a whole lot of prunes, as things were rather stopped up in there. Um, right.

Anyway, the difficulty with managing this sort of thing is it's a delicate science. I know what the max dose of Miralax is for the kid, but most of the time that's far, far too much for him. So I have to figure out by trial and error what exactly is going to work. This time Connor was pretty uncomfortable, and upping his liquid intake and fiber didn't seem to have much of an effect, so I started him on the Miralax yesterday and, figuring he'd need a bit more to really get things moving, gave him a moderate dose.

I was wrong. Oh, was I wrong.

As I walked down the hallway towards Connor's room to get him after he finished his nap, a rather distinctive smell came wafting up from underneath the door. "Uh oh," I thought. I pushed open the door and beheld a scene so catastrophically horrific I can hardly describe it.

It was Poop Armageddon.

There was poop on the floor. There was poop on the crib. There was poop on every blanket and sheet inside the crib, and right smack dab in the middle of all this smelly destruction was my child, giggling away and waving his poop-covered hands wildly in the air, splatter-painting the wall above the crib in the process. He seemed to be very proud of himself.

I was not quite as thrilled.

So after gingerly stripping Connor down and getting him and the Poopageddon, if you will, cleaned up, I've learned a number of valuable lessons. The first is, for goodness sake, start with the minimum dose on the Miralax and work up from there. The second is that I have a child who is capable, when left to his own ends, of generating an entire load of laundry within five minutes all by himself. The third lesson is that it is best not to look directly up while you are attempting to remove poop from the ceiling.

Eww.

~Jess

Sunday, October 18, 2009

In Which Autumn Is Upon Us

All of the flooring stores were closed today, so we're going to try to go tomorrow afternoon. We won't be going in the morning because we are meeting with the escrow company to sign our paperwork. Then pretty much all we'll have to do is go to the closing and pick up the keys!

Amazing.

Today was one of those rare late fall days where the sun comes out, and the leaves were absolutely stunning. It was around late October three years ago when we moved to Washington from Texas, and I remember Connor, six months old at the time, being completely fascinated by the colors of the leaves above his head as we walked around the block. He still loves to stare up at the patterns they make when the wind moves through them, and if we find a particularly stunning tree he'll laugh and clap his hands. He especially loves the glorious fire-colored maple trees-- I may have to plant one for him in our new yard!

This is my favorite time of the year too; I love going to the cider mills and getting big jugs of fresh pressed cider, eating huge sticky caramel apples and making a tremendous mess, taking Connor through the corn maze, and picking out the perfect pumpkin from the fields. This is also the time of year when you start being able to buy buttered rum mix in the freezer section of all the grocery stores. I've made it myself before but prefer to buy it so I can be in denial about just how much butter goes into that delicious stuff. We'll probably be skipping that particular tradition this year; I don't really think morphine and alcohol do very well together, but I can at least buy the ice cream flavor. It usually comes out right about now at the local creameries and is here until just after Christmas. Yum-- I would stockpile that stuff if I could.

The cats like fall because all of the birds and squirrels, anxious to stock up for the winter, start hitting our bird feeder like crazy. Loki and Cricket are now spending a good portion of the day staring longingly out the window at the bounty spread out before them. I get the impression that they would like to be stocking up for the winter too.

I have to take advantage of these crisp, clear sunny days and get as much done as I can, because I know from prior experience that was the rain really sets in, for the first three weeks or so I don't want to do anything. If it was up to me I would spend the first month of dreary weather curled up with a book and a cup of tea. I tend to become rather lethargic and bad tempered. Too bad-- there'll be no time to laze about this fall and winter!

Though I will pack my tea collection last, just in case.

~Jess

Saturday, October 17, 2009

In Which We Test Drive Appliances

Jer and I took a trip down to Best Buy to check out some different types of appliances today. After trying out a variety of refrigerators, stove tops, ovens, microwaves, and dishwashers, we came to a number of conclusions.

First of all, a bottom-drawer freezer is definitely the best option for us. Jer is able to access both the freezer and refrigerator pretty well; all of the freezer and the bottom half of the fridge as opposed to the bottom half of both the fridge and freezer on the side-by-side model. Also, as Renate pointed out, the fridge and freezer shelves are fairly narrow on the side-by-side model, so the layout on the bottom-drawer freezer/french door refrigerator is better.

Secondly, we're either going to have to get a built-in oven with a separate cook top, or we're going to have to find one with all of the controls on the front of the oven. Otherwise there's no way that Jer can reach them. If we don't have a separate cook top, Jer will only be able to reach two burners.

Of course, the bottom-drawer fridge and the front-oven/separate cook top options are all on the way-expensive side of the appliance price spectrum. I'm not sure exactly why ADA accessible is synonymous with luxury, but there you have it. Hopefully we'll be able to find some good bargains.

As for microwaves and dishwashers; he can get into just about any model of either, though the dishwashers with the loop handles are a little bit easier (and more expensive). Of course, he can't reach the microwave the way the cabinets are set up right now, but oh well-- at least he'd be able to get to the oven, which is what he uses most anyway. That and his espresso machine-- right now I get to make his fresh-ground lattes every morning, and since I'm not a coffee drinker it will be nice to quit playing barista and let him go back to fixing them just how he likes them.

Next on the list is finding either a floor store or a commercial installation of the different types of floors we're considering (laminate, hardwood and strand woven bamboo) to see what the best surface for wheeling around on is. I'll be calling flooring stores tomorrow to come up with somewhere Jer can test them out. Whichever one we choose is going to end up going down in almost the entire house, so we'd better make a good decision!

I'm trying to figure out right now where the heck we're going to put the library-- we have just under a thousand adult books (and about three hundred children's and young adult books) and so putting them all in the office is becoming increasingly impractical-- we've run out of room on the seven bookcases in our current office and the new one isn't going to be much bigger. It would be so awesome if we could find a place in the new house to have a real library instead of the mismatched bookshelves we've got now, but I'm not sure where we could do it. Maybe we could convert the dining room or something-- line it with shelving from floor to ceiling, put up a ladder, and throw a couple of wing back chairs in there. Or maybe not-- those library ladders are about a thousand bucks a piece. A thousand dollars. For a ladder.

Oh well. A girl can dream, right?

~Jess

Friday, October 16, 2009

In Which We Make A Shopping List

Connor did use the potty today, so I guess that's proof that we didn't screw up too badly yesterday. Hopefully we'll be back on track soon!

We're less than a week away from owning a house now, and I have packed a grand total of half a box. Granted we're taking a month to move in, and we'll probably be saving the physical move for the last twelve days or so since we're going to try and get as much done on the house as we can before we move in, but I'd still better get crackin', as we're going to have our hands full during that period!

This weekend we plan to do some bargain shopping for a lawn mower and a refrigerator. These are not things we've needed while living in rental homes or apartments! We're going to try and buy things that are wheelchair friendly (Well, not the lawn mower of course-- though does anybody have any clue how that would work? I'm all curious now.) so we'll be looking for a fridge with an ice and water dispenser on the outside and either a french door model with a bottom freezer or a side-by-side model. These are apparently much easier for someone in a wheelchair to access, and even though Jer won't always be in one the hope would be that somewhere years down the line Connor might be able to use it. There's also the chance since we plan to adopt more children with special needs that there'd be another one with limited mobility. Or I could get hit by a bus or something, I don't know. Anyway, we figure it's best to plan as if we'll always have someone in the house who will need a wheelchair accessible space, as it's better to go ahead and do it that way now than having to go back in later and replace things. Plus it will be nice to have a house that anyone can visit without having to worry about things like not being able to use a bathroom or the kitchen. It's more likely as Connor gets older and we're more involved with his school that we'll have friends who have children with a variety of special needs. I like the idea of being able to throw open the doors and welcome anyone and everyone inside!

We also spent some time looking at wedding rings today; Jer's was lost in Afghanistan so we'll both be getting new rings and renewing our wedding vows. We have a general idea of what we want, and now we're doing some shopping around to see what's most economical for us. I think Jer will be happy to have one back on his finger-- he said it feels pretty weird not wearing a ring. And I'll be happy for him to be wearing it too; that way I don't have to worry as much about beating the women off of him, as my claim will be clearly staked.

Right. Anyway, we still have fairly vague ideas about how we'll renew our vows; we talked about doing it while Jer was still in the hospital but ended up not being able to look at rings due to no Internet access, and then life kind of grabbed us up and yanked us along for the ride, so we haven't had a chance to sit down and really talk about it. I think once the whole moving thing is over and done with and we're settling in we'll probably be ready to start planning. We may decide to go off just the three of us to a B&B for a couple of days or something right in the middle of all of the renovations. We'll probably be pretty close to killing each other right about then, so a break from living in the house during the remodeling might be an order.

I'm already researching wheelchair accessible accommodations around the Pacific Northwest; we'll see what we can come up with!

~Jess

Thursday, October 15, 2009

In Which Jer And I Do Not Have One Of Our Best Parenting Moments

Yes, I have just posted a picture on the Internet of my child sitting on the toilet. I have sunk to a new low and ensured that my child will never ever forgive me once he's a teenager. I can think of no excuse other than the fact that I couldn't resist; he's even cute while sitting on the toilet, which is more than I can say!

Also apparently toilet time is extremely serious business.

Um, anyway, we're trying to ease Connor back into toilet training; at one point he was nearly there but he regressed after we moved, and again after Jer deployed, and since Jer's come home I hate to say it but I've totally dropped the ball. So now that things have slowed down a bit (ha ha) we're taking it up again.

Tonight before bed we sat Connor down on his modified toilet seat and waited for the action. Connor, unfortunately, had gone in the diaper about thirty seconds before I put him on the toilet, and so he was in no hurry. Jer wheeled into the bathroom too and the three of us hung out in there for about twenty minutes before Jer and I heard the noise of what we thought was Connor using the potty.

"Good boy!" we both cooed with huge grins on our faces. "Connor used the potty! Yay!" Then we sang a little nonsense song about what a big boy he was for going pee pee on the potty. It was when we stopped singing and still heard the splashing sound that we realized Connor had not, in fact, gone "pee pee," but that our upstairs neighbor was taking a shower. Whoops.

So Connor has now learned that if you sit on the potty and do absolutely nothing, your parents will at random moments go totally bonkers praising you. I'm sure we've helped remind him exactly what this whole toilet training thing is all about, huh?

Oh well.


~Jess

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

In Which The Power Goes Out

Today our friend Anna was over at the house with the ever-adorable baby J when the power went out. What does a power outage mean over at our house? Well, since it was Connor's quiet time and his apnea monitor (which we use to monitor his breathing while he's napping to make sure he's not having a seizure) doesn't work without power, it meant communal nap time! So Jer and baby J snoozed in the wheelchair, Connor sacked out on the floor, and Anna and I hung out in the bedroom, where we spent our time looking at kitchen and bath magazines and talking about the remodeling instead of napping. Anna is just as enthusiastic about this house stuff as I am, which means she'll be my partner in crime concerning things like, oh choosing paint colors.

See, I know from experience that Jer really has very little interest in decorating in general. If I drag him to a store and we look at a couple hundred paint samples, he's going to lose interest pretty quickly. Also he's partially color blind, which sort of limits his ability to help, as most earth tone shades look pretty much the same to him. So far he's suggested we paint the entire interior of the house royal purple. He's also suggested we paint the whole thing a monotone shade of gray, and then we can just "imagine whatever wall color we want." I have a sneaking suspicion he's not giving this question the serious thought that it deserves.

And there's no use asking Connor about paint colors. Connor's favorite color is bright, dayglo yellow, and so if it were up to him the whole interior of the house would look like I colored it in with a highlighter. I like not having to squint to see my walls, thank you very much.

Anyway, what I've discovered the best thing to do for stuff like this is to go and look at the couple hundred paint samples with someone who's actually interested in interior decorating, and narrow it down to four or five choices that I would be happy with. Then I bring those choices home to Jeremy, who can pick out the one he thinks is the best. This way we're both happy-- he gets to not look at a couple of hundred paint choices but gets to have input and isn't stuck with something he really doesn't care for, and I get to spend a few blissful hours out researching and shopping and end up with something I like too! Everybody wins.

Except maybe the cats. No one asks their opinion about anything.

Despite not having input into the wall color, which as they can only see color in very limited shades they probably don't care about anyway, I'd be willing to bet they're going to have a good time at the new place. There are a whole lot of windows for them to look out of and observe the healthy squirrel and bird population, and lots more space for them to tear around in at two in the morning. Though they're going to have to learn about the fireplace and fire in general, which is sort of a new concept for them. Hopefully they'll learn quickly, as panicked flaming cats would probably wreck total havoc on our furniture. I'm not worried about Cricket, but Loki doesn't really walk around; he throws himself enthusiastically in random directions. We'll see how things work out.

Connor should also be happy; since we'll actually own this house we'll be able to hang up his therapy swing, which has been languishing in storage awaiting the day that we're able to drill large holes in the ceiling of our happy abode. Jeremy and I can't wait to test it out. I mean Connor, of course. Connor can't wait to test it out.

Um, anyway the little guy's room should be quite a bit bigger, which means that we'll have room for a proper therapy area instead of the tiny little corner we have now. This is pretty exciting; since most of the house will have hard floors it becomes especially important for us to have an area in which he can practice sitting on his own and moving around safely without worrying about the consequences if he falls. I bet he'll be excited about having a new place to play!

Even if it's not dayglo yellow.


~Jess




Tuesday, October 13, 2009

In Which Connor Has A Close Call

Yesterday morning I sat Connor up on the futon while I got his backpack ready for school. He sits very well on the couch with one pillow on either side of him, and in the past he hasn't been wiggly enough for there to be any issue. Well, there was a pillow propped up on the edge of the futon, and I ducked back into his room for a second to grab his socks. When I got back less than a minute later he was on the floor, propped up on that pillow and giggling away!

Since I don't think he's discovered teleporting yet, evidently the pillow was placed perfectly so that when he slid down off the futon it formed a gentle ramp all the way to the ground. Needless to say my child will no longer be sitting on the futon-- he'll spend his time in his feeding chair or floor positioner! It's crazy to realize that he's moving around enough that we have to think about this sort of thing. Thank goodness the pillow was there and positioned just so, or we might have had a very sad morning!

I hope Connor's guardian angel gets a pay raise for that one.

Though maybe it was teleportation after all; perhaps Connor was honing his secret ninja skills. We figure the child is going to grow up to be the perfect assassin or spy, because he has no fingerprints. None. There are no loops or whorls; the large lines we all have that crisscross our palms just continue on up to the tips of his fingers. We figure this whole severe gross and fine motor skill delay thing is just an elaborate cover up so that can move about undetected. If I come out in a couple of weeks and find him balanced on the ceiling fan or something our suspicions will be confirmed.

At any rate, no harm was done, but we'll have to start seriously thinking about childproofing the new house. Connor's rolling over pretty well now and he's very, very close to sitting, and so while he's not mobile right now he might very well be that way in a few months! Since we'll be replacing most of the carpet in the house with a more wheelchair-friendly floor, it will be much less forgiving if he falls down on it. Everything's a trade off, I guess. It's so exciting to think about him being able to reach things himself, and even more exciting to think about the possibility of him being mobile, even if it is a more unusual way of getting around like rolling! Six months ago both those possibilities seemed miles away, and now they're just on the horizon. I can't wait to see what he'll be doing in a few more months.

Speaking of moving around: Jer and I now have the dance of getting both he and Connor in and out of our new van down to a science. First I pull Jer (his shoddy wheelchair tires get no traction) up the ramp straight back into the van, where we stop and he puts his feet down. Then I rotate him to the left and he pulls forward into the front passenger area. Next I pull Connor up the ramp past Jeremy and rotate him so he's sitting in his wheelchair just behind the driver's seat. Finally Jer rolls back next to Connor in the rear passenger area and puts his feet back up. After I attach all the tie-downs to the chairs and Jer puts his seat belt on, we're good to go! When we first started doing this it would take us almost twenty-five minutes to get into the car. Now we've cut it down to around five. It's all about practice, I guess!

Things aren't quite so different or scary any more; we're starting to find our way.

~Jess

Monday, October 12, 2009

In Which We Consider Our Options

We spent a good portion of today taking it easy and settling back into our usual routines. I know from prior experience that Connor requires a couple of days of down time before I start changing everything up on him, so I'll give him the opportunity to relax a little bit before I start throwing everything in boxes and rearranging his world again. We always pack his room (or at least the visible things in his room) last and set his room up first so he has at least one comfortable space in the house.

Connor went back to school today, and he got to play with one of his favorite group therapy toys ever: the parachute! I remember very vividly playing with a parachute in my preschool class, so it's neat to think that Connor's doing some of the same things I did growing up. He's played with parachutes before in his birth-to-three program, and I think they have the same appeal that the laundry does; for whatever reason, both are hilarious. I'm really glad that he's enjoying school, and I'm so, so glad that we moved. If we hadn't we'd probably be in the middle of suing the school district on top of everything else that's going on, and that would be another huge source of stress. We're so lucky to have such a great school district and teachers!

Connor also spent a lot of time playing with his daddy today; he was very concerned about Jeremy while we were in Texas and asked about him several times each day. He was pretty excited when he saw Jeremy waiting for us at the airport, and I think he's really enjoying having his father home all day instead of at work. It's funny, but Connor hasn't shown any anxiety about Jer being in a wheelchair at all; wheelchairs are so normal for him that it doesn't seem to bother him at all that Daddy is in one. He's also thoroughly enjoying riding next to Jer in the car-- the time he doesn't spend craning his neck to look out the front windshield is spent staring at Daddy with a look of adoration on his face. It's very sweet to see them together.

We've been looking at the logistics of the wheelchair ramp; it's a little more complicated than just slapping some boards down over the stairs. We have to have a permit for any work that will be done, which means that the ramp has to follow ADA standards. Minimum standards say that the ramp can only drop one inch in height for every foot in length, which means that, as an example, if the house has two steps that go down total of 24 inches, the ramp has to be 24 feet long! Also if it has any turns, you have to have a five foot square landing for each turn. We aren't sure what the measurements are on either the front porch or the garage, but we do know for a fact that this isn't going to be a do-it-yourself sort of job. It's a challenge to figure out a way to put in a ramp that won't detract from the value of the house either, sad as that is. If we can't figure out a way to put in a ramp that won't eat up our entire garage or front yard, we may end up needing to put in a wheelchair lift in the garage instead. They're generally more expensive (some of them are really, really expensive but hopefully ours would fall on the cheaper end as it wouldn't have to go up very high) but they wouldn't have the large footprint that a ramp would have. We plan to consult with some remodeling companies and figure out what will work best for us. Of course, we can't really get to work until we actually own the house, so we're kind of limited in the planning we can do beforehand, but we'll do what we can.

Lots to think about!

~Jess

Sunday, October 11, 2009

In Which We Have Returned To Washington

We're back!

The wedding was absolutely beautiful and I think that everyone had a fantastic time! The newlyweds were absolutely glowing with happiness and my sister looked gorgeous. Connor hung out with my mother-in-law, who was nice enough to pull babysitting duties yet again even after spending so much time helping us out up in Washington. What a sweetie! I lucked out on the in-laws, huh?

And yes, as predicted Connor was ridiculously adorable in his wedding suit and hat. I can't wait to see pictures!

We were only gone for six days, and I'm amazed to see how much progress Jer has made just in the last week-- he's moving around better and has a lot more energy. It's nice to see the improvement; it's harder to see when I'm there every day, so it gives me some perspective. I can't wait to see what he's doing in another month!

Anyway the plane flight went well today, and we're now back up in Puyallup, where I am surprised to say it is still sunny and nice outside. I'm really hoping that it stays that way long enough for us to get the roof cleaned on the new house before the rain sets in! We'll just have to see how it goes.

The inspection and appraisal are both in, our underwriting approval is finished, and it looks like our closing date will be bumped up to some time between the 22nd and the 25th! That means we potentially only have eleven days before we own a house! I will now be catapulted into frantic planning mode-- we'll need a permit to put a ramp on the house, which we can't apply for until we actually own the house. This means we have to find a contractor ASAP so that we can start work pretty quickly. We plan to do the same thing we did with the last house and take 30 days to move in, so it's not like we'll be out on our ears or anything if we don't get the permit taken care of immediately after we buy the house or something, but it would probably be a good idea to already have someone lined up. And since you have to pay a fee for each building permit, it might be a good idea to write the permit for everything we intend to do to the house so we're only paying one fee. I'll add it to the list of things to do.

You know what I'm looking forward to? Besides not sleeping on the floor and having half my furniture in a storage unit, I mean. I'm looking forward to being able to sing my bawdy Irish drinking songs at the top of my lungs while I'm cleaning the house and not worrying about disturbing the upstairs neighbors. I'm not worried about any of them seeing me through the windows, as they probably already think I'm crazy, but they work the night shift and so they're trying to sleep during the day and the walls are pretty paper-thin. Hearing me belting out an off-key rendition of "Rattlin', Roarin' Willie" is not likely to help them get some shuteye. While this has been a great apartment complex and we haven't been here very long, it's hard to feel totally comfortable in a space that's not entirely your own. So it'll be nice to have a big space to dance around and be silly in without worrying about disturbing anyone.

I believe Jer is still mostly looking forward to that wood stove. We'd better get that thing cleaned quickly so he can cozy up to the fire. He's looking forward to that kitchen too-- there's a pull-out cutting board that might be just about his height, so he may be able to do some cooking right away!

But we only have eleven days! Guess I'd better get packing.

~Jess

Thursday, October 8, 2009

In Which I Am Forced To Cook Delicious Things

I spent a good portion of today making a whole mess of chocolate truffles for my sister's wedding favors. This was an onerous process, as I was forced to conduct multiple taste tests to make sure that the chocolate was still appropriately chocolately at each stage of the game. I managed to suffer through somehow, and there are now a hundred or so truffles that survived my rigorous selection process (all deformed or broken ones I was forced to eat) awaiting final packaging before Saturday.

The things we do for family.

Well, other than the massive sugar high I was on most of today, things were very nice. Family has started to arrive, we had the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner, and Connor behaved himself admirably, other than the fact that the kid is on a whole new host of drugs and still seems to be breaking out in a case of hives. No doubt this is due to the fact that picture taking will occur this weekend. We will be seating him and my mother-in-law as far away from the aisle as possible during the wedding, as she is also allergic to lavender (though not as severely as Connor) and we don't really need her having an asthma attack while Connor balloons up as the bride and groom leave and are showered with the lethal stuff.

I'm already starting to get sentimental and I wish Jer was here-- going to weddings always reminds me of my own, and it's hard not to be a little sad that I'm not reliving that special moment with him by my side. Plus this is my little sister getting married, and as a result I am forced to concede she is not that little any more and hasn't been for some time. She's marrying a great guy, though so that's a plus. Also I can still take comfort in the fact that while she isn't little any more, she is still shorter than me and as she is done growing will always remain (rightfully) so. Guess all those years of tying bricks to her head paid off.

I win, Mary. I win.

Um, anyway, I still have to write my speech for the wedding reception, go shopping for last minute items I need, help with bouquet-making and various sundry other wedding planning details, and work out some logistical details, but there should still be enough time to catch up with some friends and family members I haven't seen in ages. Some have never even met Connor! Crazy.

I'm off to bed now; there's a lot to do tomorrow!

~Jess

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

In Which We Finally, Finally Figure Out What The Heck Has Been Going On

We kept Connor on the Benadryl this morning and while he was rather zonked out and drowsy, he seemed to be doing okay. When the Benadryl wore off in the afternoon, he started coughing and rubbing his eyes again so we gave him another dose and called his pediatrician in Seattle.

As a result Connor is now the proud owner of a shiny new epipen. Joy of joys.

His doctor also asked us to take him into an acute care clinic. We were a little concerned about all of the germs that float around in the waiting rooms of those places, which due to the long wait time would give Connor ample chances to pick something up. Luckily his doctor's office from three years ago (when we lived in Texas) was fantastic and allowed us to bring him in right away. We only spent about five minutes in the waiting room, and the only other kids in there were there to get flu shots and weren't actually sick. Whew! So we've got a prescription for a steroid now and we're going to pick up some Zyrtec as well, which will hopefully not make him quite so drowsy.

Armed with an epipen and Benadryl, we decided with the doctor's permission to perform an evil, evil experiment on the little guy to try and rule out some triggers. First we took him out to a restaurant and allowed the Benadryl to wear off. No problems there-- he was just fine. Then we took him over to my sister's house to see if their cat and two giant dogs would trigger an attack. No reaction. So we took him back to the house, from which my parents had removed all really strong-smelling items and aired out by opening all the doors and windows. And the little guy was fine! No problems. Finally we went out to the garage, grabbed a bag of lavender, which Mom had been putting into little bags at a table in the living room earlier in the day to throw at the bride after the wedding, and opened it up in the room.

Five minutes later he began coughing and rubbing his eyes, and his nose stopped up. Bingo!

So all of the lavender is back out in the garage, and we will be getting an epipen for school because my child decided to have an allergy so strong that being in the room with lavender will cause his eyes to swell shut. Lord knows what he'd look like if someone used it in soap or laundry or God forbid, put the essential oil on something and then touched him. My child would pick something to be severely allergic to that's totally weird. I mean, I know some people are allergic to flowers, but this is ridiculous. Of course, he couldn't possibly be midly allergic to anything, because that wouldn't be nearly dramatic enough. What's more, it's not like he hasn't been exposed to lavender before-- I've used it in his sensory therapy sessions in the past. He's always hated it, but it's never caused his face to start swelling before. This makes me wonder what exciting new allergies he'll potentially come up with as he gets older. I can't wait.

It also explains why the heck there didn't seem to be any pattern in when he'd break out in hives/eczema. I have very old lavender in two of my bathrooms, and when Loki gets a hold of it he rips pieces of it up and I've picked them up with my fingers and later touched him. The grocery store has bunches of fresh lavender in the flower section. It's a common ingredient in laundry detergent and cleaning solutions-- probably someone at school uses a bath or hygiene product that contains the stuff. It's everywhere. And he gets this reaction just from inhaling the scent of the stuff. Fantastic.

Well, at least we have some answers now! And darn it, I like the plant a lot-- I've got a big pot of it outside on our patio. Oh well. I'm just glad it wasn't the cats, because despite how neurotic they are, they're family so that would have been really hard.

Would anyone in Seattle like a potted lavender plant? I think it needs a new home.

~Jess
 
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