Monday, November 30, 2009

In Which I Take A Nap

I have a guilty confession to make. Today instead of going out to the house and working while Connor was at school, I went home and took a nap.

It was a nice nap, but I really should have been working at the house. However, I woke up this morning feeling totally burned out, as Connor decided several times during the night that he was Not Happy, and I know from experience that if I feel that way on Monday things do not bode well for the week. Since this week is turning out to be an especially busy one in terms of doctor's appointments and meetings, it's especially important for me to get some relaxation time in.

So I took a nap, and felt much better afterwards.

Thanksgiving break wasn't really a break for me, which is funny. Thanksgiving break was five days of All Connor, All The Time. So it makes quite a bit of sense why I would feel kind of exhausted after the holiday. I need my three hours of time to myself four days a week to preserve my sanity. That's why I was so cheery dropping the little guy off this morning; I was imagining my head hitting the pillow.

Everyone needs a lazy day sometimes!

~Jess

Sunday, November 29, 2009

In Which I Don't Get Out And Shop

So now that Thanksgiving is over, it's time to start thinking about Christmas!

More specifically Christmas shopping. Here's what I've discovered over the past few months in my shopping forays with the guys.

It's hard.

For starters, we're a parade. I mean seriously, we're about ten feet long going down the aisle. Usually Connor and I go first so that Jer isn't leading the way with his feet-- always a hazard while going around corners in stores that might have preteens in charge of shopping carts. You know, the kind that like to whizz down the aisles while hitching a ride on the cart in lieu of actual steering. The Christmas crowds are not likely to make shopping any less hazardous, either-- especially all of the parents with small children in tow who don't necessarily look where they're going.

Then there's the fact that we attract a lot of attention. Invariably somebody wants to stop and ask us questions about Jer or about Connor, and this leads to traffic jams and also means we can't just pop in or out of a store. We have a limited amount of time in the stores because Jeremy can't currently use public restrooms. So this usually means that we don't get as much done as we were expecting.

We also get a lot of special treatment, which is a little uncomfortable. Whenever we get in a line to check out, without fail either another line opens up and we're magically offered a first-in-line position or someone else tries to let us go in front of them, no matter what position we are in line. Store employees follow us around asking what they can do for us. People try to "help" Jeremy in and out of stores. Then at the same time there are a lot of areas that are woefully inaccessible. Carts and displays make the aisles too narrow for Jeremy to get down. Broken sidewalks or poorly placed parking means he can't get into the store. And a lot of the displays put things far out of reach, meaning that either Jeremy and I have to stick close together or he has to accept the help of a store's "personal shopper."

So instead of braving the crowds this year, I'm doing the vast majority of my shopping online. It's much, much easier than trying to work our way through the stores, there's a wider selection and range of prices, I can have the presents shipped directly to the people they're meant for, and I can still pick out presents that are meaningful. I like to shop at Etsy-- that fantastic site for handcrafted goods-- and I've already bought several of my presents for family members there. I like them because not only are the goods handcrafted (and in some cases custom made) but also because the vendors will often times beautifully wrap the presents and send a card free of charge. And let's face it; you can find a present for ANYONE on there.

I'll still make my annual trip down to Pike Place Market to pick up some stocking stuffers at The Great Wind-Up. My family couldn't possibly do without their annual Christmas morning wind-up toy race, so I have to pick out the steeds for this year's event, a delicate and time-consuming operation that requires a lot of thought. I'm thinking maybe I'll go for walking eye-balls this year. Or zombies. I could put little Christmas hats on them.

But I don't think we'll be putting a lot of Christmas decorations out this year, as they're currently all buried somewhere in the storage unit. And I don't think I have nearly enough energy to complete a project like the gingerbread house we did last year-- completely handmade from scratch. I drew out the pattern to match our home at the time. I might swing by and pick up a kit, but I think we'll probably focus more on the whole real reason for Christmas this year and less on the "look at the pretty stuff we've put up" part. You know, that guy Jesus. Pretty sure this was his holiday before the mall Santas took over.

Anyway, that's how I'll be completing my Christmas shopping. What about the rest of you-- got a plan? Are you slogging your way through the stores or curling up at home with a laptop?

~Jess

Saturday, November 28, 2009

In Which We've Got Mail

We had a really neat package arrive in the mail today.

Ms. Tilley's ninth grade psychology class in Presidio, Texas sent Jeremy a packet of letters! They did a unit on managing stress and used some of the blog posts as examples in class, and then each student wrote Jeremy a letter. They also made some huge banners wishing Jer well and took pictures of themselves posing with them. How cool is that?

It was neat to get the chance to read all of the letters and see the fun pictures some of them drew. Here's an awesome monkey for Connor as an example. Jer plans to write a letter back answering their questions.

In other news, we stopped by the house today and got to take a look at the progress. I haven't really been able to work over there this week because Connor has been off of school. He's been having some crazy temperature regulation problems since his last seizure-- periodically his left arm and leg will become really red, flushed, hot, and a little swollen looking, and his right arm and leg will be extremely pale and icy cold with blue nails. It doesn't seem to matter what position he's in or what he's doing, and the strange phenomenon lasts anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours. We're not sure what the heck is going on there, but we don't really like it. At any rate he doesn't really need to be out in the cold as it's impossible to figure out a way to keep one side of him warm and the other side cool, so we've had to severely curtail our time over there. It seems that his autonomic nervous system is on the blink or something. We talked to Connor's neurologist and he was stumped. Anybody ever heard of anything like this? It's really weird and we're not sure what to do about it short of making Connor some stylish asymmetrical clothing.

Anyway, so we hadn't been by the house for a while. We went today and they were putting some of the new windows in! The old windows are aluminum and original to the house (which was built in the early eighties) and if you walk up and stand close to them you can literally feel the cold radiating off of them. I tried it with the new windows and even standing right next them you can't feel a temperature difference! This is really exciting as it's going to be so much more efficient to heat our house now.

We'll have a fairly busy week coming up, but hopefully I'll get a chance to get into the house at least a few days next week while Connor is in school!

~Jess

Friday, November 27, 2009

In Which The Dog Walker Strikes Again

Back in August I posted briefly about a man in our apartment complex I witnessed walking his dog by motorcycle. Now obviously that technique doesn't work in the winter months here, as it's rainy and the roads are very slick. What's a guy to do when a dog needs exercise? Besides, you know, walk.

We discovered the answer to this burning question yesterday when we loaded up the car in a light rain to go to the grocery store for a couple of forgotten items. We rounded a corner in the apartment complex to discover a white sedan crawling down the middle of the street flashing its emergency lights. The leash slung out the car window was attached to a collar on that same poor, poor Pomeranian, who was trotting along frantically next to the car. The little dog had pulled the leash taut in a desperate attempt to walk as far away from the wheels as possible, and its stubby legs were going a mile a minute in an effort to keep up.

There's no excuse for this. As far as I can tell this guy doesn't have any sort of disability whatsoever-- he doesn't have a handicapped license plate or a placard on his car and he sure as heck balances on a motorcycle pretty well, as was demonstrated this past summer. And I'm sorry, but I don't really care if he has some sort of medical issue that makes him unable to walk the dog; if he can afford to have a dog in the first place he can afford to hire a dog walker. It would probably be pretty cheap if he factors in what he'd be saving on gas.

And if he doesn't have a reason that he needs to not be walking, WOW. I really, really wish I'd thought to get this idiot's license plate number so I could report him for animal cruelty. I also wish I'd had my camera with me; I'll have to start carrying it in the car on the off-chance we see him again. How could he possibly think this was a good idea? How lazy does one have to be to walk one's dog like this?

My snippet of advice to that guy: if you really, really don't want to walk the dog, here's an idea-- don't have a dog. Have a goldfish. You'll never have to walk them, and you won't really have to interact with them other than to feed them and clean out the bowl once in a while. On second thought, I wouldn't want to inflict you on a goldfish. Have a pet rock. That sounds like an appropriate level of responsibility for you.

On a side note: what the heck does he do if the dog has to go to the bathroom? I'm not sure I want to know.

Yeesh.

~Jess

Thursday, November 26, 2009

In Which I Think On Our Many Blessings

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I'm thankful for a God who has watched over us in the past year. I'm thankful for the many blessings we've received, for our family and friends old and new, for the new opportunities and beginnings we've been given. I'm thankful for the roof over our heads and the food on our table.

And I'm eternally thankful for this:




My husband and son, home with me for Thanksgiving. What more could I possibly ask for?
~Jess

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In Which I Do Some Cooking!

I spent a good portion of today in the kitchen-- one of my favorite places to be! Jer wasn't really able to pitch in this year due to the fact that he's not really able to get in the kitchen, but he did pick out the recipe for some tasty potato bread Normally the bread baking is his territory, and he used to bake us a loaf a week before his deployment. So far I've made some roasted cinnamon apples and a sweet cherry pie. Tomorrow morning I'll be making some potato bread and some maple yams. Then we'll load everything in the car and head over to our friends' house for a Thanksgiving feast!

Before we leave, I'll be pulling out the food processor and taking it with us. That way I'll be able to whip Connor up a Thanksgiving day feast of his own. I never realized when I bought that thing how great it would end up being; it means that Connor is able to share what everybody else at the table is eating, albeit in a slightly different form. I haven't been using it a whole lot recently, as I've been just buying pureed food for him (one less thing on my to-do list) but once I have a little bit more time I'll be going back to doing it on a regular basis.

We did hear from Connor's neurologist today, and he's once again upped Connor's seizure medication. Hopefully this will work; we're nearing the upper limit of how much of this particular medication he can take.

I hope that everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

In Which I Will Be Making A Whole Lot Of Jam In A Few Years

Connor had a quiet day today, which was nice. We still haven't heard back from the neurologist; if I haven't heard from him by noon tomorrow I'll contact them again-- otherwise I probably won't hear from him until Tuesday since it's a four day holiday on post. I'm happy that we haven't seen any more seizure activity!

After I dropped Connor off at school today I headed for the new house; the drywall went up on the kitchen ceiling, which is really exciting as the room is starting to take shape. The ceiling was raised to the level of the dining room (it was a drop ceiling previously) and so it looks much more spacious; it's amazing what a few inches can do. I tried to take some pictures, but of course my camera died on me. I'll put some new batteries in it and stop by again tomorrow to snap some shots so you all can see the progress!

I now have the entire backyard cleared of ivy and about a nine foot long and seven foot wide section of the area between the fence and retaining wall clear in the front yard. It's just enough to see that I've been doing some work on it. I just filled my last trash bag in the box, which means that forty bags have been filled up with ivy so far. I have at least 300 more square feet of ivy to go. Whoo hoo.

I decided to pull all of the ivy up along the fence line rather than just trimming it back since the slope isn't bad there and it's pretty sheltered by the rain, and have discovered that this is much, much easier than trying to just cut it back, as weird as that sounds. You kind of get a rhythm going and it's much more satisfying because the results are much more dramatic. I also sat down today and ordered some of the plants I'm planning to put in that area, for a spring delivery. I don't want to order any plants with very showy flowers yet, as I don't know what color the multiple flowering shrubs currently established in the yard will bloom, but I did order some of my ground cover and the shrubs I want to put in to replace the ivy.

Along the back fence under the giant pine tree where it is very shady I'll be putting in three evergreen huckleberries. They'll get to 8-10 feet long and as wide across eventually. For sunnier parts of the front yard I've ordered lingonberries, alpine strawberries, musk strawberries, and four different types of blueberry bushes. I also ordered a Black Lace Elderberry, which totally breaks my rule for waiting to order plants with showy flowers until I see what else is in the yard, but I really don't care. Have you seen those things? Gorgeous! The nursery was running a crazy special where they included bonus plants with your order, so we'll also be receiving a highbush cranberry, which will probably go in the backyard, three golden raspberry plants, a white rugosa rose (hooray for rose hip tea!) and 75 strawberry plants for free! We like our fruit, okay? This way they'll be more than enough for us to eat without begrudging any to the birds.

But enough about gardening-- you get me started and I'll never shut up about it. We also picked up our Thanksgiving ham today. Yes, Jer won our annual epic Turkey vs Ham battle. Every year we debate over which we'll have at Thanksgiving. I believe we've had ham three years in a row now; I need to rethink my battle strategy. We're having stuffing anyway, though, so it was a good compromise. In my opinion mostly the turkey serves as a medium for keeping the stuffing from falling off your fork.

Anyway, we'll be having Thanksgiving with some close friends this year, as all of our relatives are in Texas and Jer can't really travel until he can use a public restroom again. I'll spend most of tomorrow cooking, which I don't mind at all as it leads to one of my favorite pastimes: eating.

We have so much to say thank you for this year that I'd better start saying Grace now or we won't eat until Saturday!

~Jess

Monday, November 23, 2009

In Which I Share With You The Amazing People Who Are Helping Make Our Home Beautiful and Accessible

Connor had a great day today-- no seizures. We're waiting to hear back from his neurologist as far as what the plan will be; I'll let you know what he says!

I wanted to share with you a list of the wonderful people that have put so much time and effort into our house. We are completely blown away at how many people have stepped forward so far, and the list just keeps getting bigger and bigger! I'll update this list (and add links to websites) as I get more information-- sorry if I've missed someone. I'll also be posting some more pictures of how the house is progressing as well as some of the crew in action! Here they are, in alphabetical order:

Alex with Western tile: donation of labor to install tile in the master bathroom and guest bathroom as well as the kitchen back splash!

Ed Anson with Anson Masonry: donation of labor and materials to reface the living room fireplace with cultured stone!

Steve Badger with Badger Excavation: donation of dump truck for removal of trash and demo materials!

Rhonda Canales with Design Illusions: Donation of labor and materials to faux paint Connor's ceiling as well as the kitchen hood surround!

Carrie with Gray Lumber: Offer of a new exterior door from Huttig Building Products!

Chris with Sherwin Williams: Donation of all interior and exterior paint!

Cody with All-Ways Air Control: donation of labor and materials to remove old electric furnace and replace with a new Trane 95% efficient gas unit, install an electric air cleaner as well as an air conditioning unit, and to add gas piping for two fireplaces, gas cook top, and gas hot water heater!

Don Dahlin with Seattle Lighting: significant discount on all light fixtures!

Bob Deaton with Jornada Roofing: donation of labor and materials to clean roof (it was covered in moss) as well as replacing or repairing roof tiles that were cracked or missing!

Tom Falk with Gypsum Wallboard Supply: donation of wallboard for the interior of the house!

Doug Firth with Meridian Plumbing: donation of labor and materials to change, remove, and add plumbing, as well as labor to dismantle the old electric water heater and add the new gas water heater! He also spoke with his vendors and distributors and was able to obtain donations of virtually all the plumbing fixtures!

Shane Fraser with BMC Windows: donation from Milgard Window Company of all new windows and a new sliding door!

Tim Haisch with Advanced Electronic: donation of labor and materials to rewire, add lighting, change out all the outlets and switches, add electrical wiring for a generator in case of a loss of electricity, and add circuits and outlets as needed!

Randy Jensen with Foundation Specialists: Donation of labor to install the new concrete in the front porch area for the stepless entry!

Keller Supply (Puyallup branch?): Donation of the new tub/shower unit for the guest bathroom, and donation of both toilets!

Reuben Knoblauch with Drywall Inc: Donation of labor and material to install drywall and texture where needed! He was also able to obtain a donation of wallboard from Gypsum Wallboard Supply!

Jerry and Rusty Lurz with White Sands Finishing Company: Donation of labor to install window casing, baseboards, wainscoting, bookshelves, and built-ins!

Brett Massie with Moen Faucets: Donation of all new faucets in both bathrooms, the kitchen and the laundry room, a new kitchen sink, new towel bars, paper hooks, and robe holders for both baths, grab bars for the shower and both toilets, and a new shower chair!

Dave McKinlay with Full House Construction (and his wonderful sons): Donation of labor to demo house and to frame new walls, etc!

Miles Sand and Gravel: Donation of materials to install new concrete in the front porch area for the stepless entry!

NW Builder Service: donation of material and labor to add three inches of insulation to the ceiling of the home!

Paul Passigilia with ProBuild Lumber: Donation of framing materials and some of the drywall for new construction inside!

Larry and Debbie Ruvo with Keller Williams Realty: Donation of labor by Larry to help demo the house, and donation by Keller Williams to defray the cost of a new dishwasher drawer for the kitchen!

Mark Schimelpfenig with SuperFloors: Donation of materials for all new tile on the master bathroom floor, shower floor, and shower walls as well as 5 feet up the walls of the bathroom, new tile for the guest bathroom floor, the kitchen back splash, and the dining room fireplace surround, as well as donation of installation of Wedi (a waterproof material) underlayment in master and guest bath, including the shower pan! He also is giving a significant discount on laminate flooring, an underlayment pad for said flooring, base shoe molding and transitions for the kitchen, dining room, living room, library, hallway, entry, and Connor's room, as well as laminate counter top and installation for the laundry room. In addition he is supplying and installing at a significant discount granite counter tops on all the kitchen counter tops and both bathrooms as well as supplying and installing carpet for the third bedroom!

Jeff Shockley with Cascade Millwork: Donation of materials or significant discount for all new kitchen cabinets (including a 9 foot long island), all new interior doors, new casing and base trim throughout the house, materials for built-in cabinetry in the living room, library, master bedroom and Connor's room, and wainscoting in the living room and library! He was also able to obtain the donation of a new exterior door from Codel Door Company!

Matt Sturgill: Donation of labor to demo house and remove wood stove and brick wainscoting as well as numerous other jobs!

Pamela Sturgill with American Design Inc: Donation of labor and materials for Interior Design services, window coverings, and shades and soft treatments! Pamela is also working with vendors and suppliers to obtain furniture, lighting, accessories, remote control features, as well as Project Delivery and Setup!

Deborah Tubbs with Basco Appliances: Providing at or below cost a Maytag french door refrigerator, Bosch single oven, Bosch five burner gas cook top, Fisher Paykel dishdrawer (the cost of the latter is being covered by Keller Williams Realty, and a one or two other parties will also be making monetary donations to defray the cost of other appliances), GE microwave and trim kit, Zephyr range hood, and Maytag front loading washer and dryer!

John Wynn with Evergreen Materials: Donation of cultured stone to reface the living room fireplace!

And of course, Bill, Becky, Linda (and the other Bill!), Mike, Brad and Tony over at Signature Custom Homes, who got the ball rolling and without whom none of this would be happening! Currently the house is on track to be done by Christmas, and I can say without a doubt that thanks to the overwhelming outpouring of generosity we've experienced in the last few months, for us this will be the best Christmas ever. When you consider the difficult economic times we are living in it just makes the gifts we are receiving even more incredible. And this list doesn't even mention the hundreds of other people who have prayed for us, sent us cards, letters, e-mails and packages, and who how shown us unwavering support that has kept us going when things have gotten really tough. We have been amazingly blessed!

Nothing we could ever do or say could repay you. Thank you all so much.

~Jess

Sunday, November 22, 2009

In Which Connor Has Another Seizure

I was intending to post more about the house today, but Connor decided we needed a change of topic. So he had a seizure today.

A new kind of seizure.

I put him down for a nap after lunch, and remarked to Jer that he seemed to fall asleep very quickly-- he'd been down for less than five minutes and had abruptly stopped talking. Even though his alarm hadn't gone off, for some unknown reason I decided to check up on him.

When I walked into the room he was halfway on his back, his eyes partially open and fixed straight ahead. His mouth was open and I could hear a faint rattling noise, as if he was having difficulty breathing. I moved into his line of sight and called his name, which met with no response.

I picked him up and carried him into the living room where Jer was. I told him that I thought he was having a new kind of seizure. Connor's eyes were still fixed, and while he was totally limp he was still breathing. His jaw began to tremble uncontrollably. Every once in a while he'd weakly move an arm or a leg. I put Connor down in Jer's arms and ran to get his oxygen tank. About the time I got back, Connor stopped breathing.

His eyes were still open and his jaw was still trembling, but now he was turning blue-gray. I lay him down on the floor to attempt mouth-to-mouth, but while every other muscle in his body was totally limp his jaw was locked shut. Then all of the sudden his eyes closed and his mouth relaxed. I started rescue breathing, and after about a minute he began breathing on his own. He woke up shortly thereafter and was his usual post seizure self: tired, scared, and angry. The whole thing lasted about a minute and a half, and after he slept for about three hours he woke up and was back to his old self.

This seizure was very disturbing because up until he closed his eyes and went limp it looked very different from what we've seen him do in the past. I'm e-mailing his neurologist about it and we'll see what he says, but it's concerning on a number of levels. For one thing, Connor's apnea monitor works by sensing movement-- any movement-- and the alarm goes off if it doesn't sense any for more than fifteen seconds. So the trembling Connor was doing meant that the alarm didn't go off, and wouldn't have gone off until he had gone totally limp-- a good thirty seconds or so after he stopped breathing. I have no way of knowing how long he was seizing before I got in there, though it couldn't have been for very long since he'd been talking up to shortly before I got up to check on him.

It's also disturbing because it's a change in Connor's seizure activity. This combined with the possible mini seizure he had on Tuesday and the long seizure he had at the end of October suggest that his current seizure medication is not quite as effective as it has been. This is upsetting because the Keppra, which Connor is currently on, has had little-to-no side effects and has worked well for a year and a half.

As a result of the seizure today, we have put Connor back on a pulse oximeter in addition to his apnea monitor. As the pulse ox machine tends to have frequent false alarms, we'll also be investing in a color video monitor so that we can see how Connor is doing. Otherwise I will be getting very little sleep at night, since I will need to check him every time the machine beeps (five times while writing this blog, thus far). Right now Connor is sleeping in our bedroom so it's not as big of an issue, but once we are in the new house he will be back in his own room again so we'll need to have a way to check and make sure he's okay. Once we add in the video monitor this means that he will be sleeping with four pieces of equipment. That's a lot of stuff.

He's made such fantastic strides in the past few weeks that it makes a setback like this seem to hit even harder. Two steps forward, one step back. That's the way it goes around here sometimes.

I'm just glad he's okay.

~Jess

Saturday, November 21, 2009

In Which I Meet A Neighbor In A Novel Way

Short blog tonight, as I'm rather tired. Also the second half of this post contains photos of Jer's healing injuries, just to let you know. I'm warning you because people who are not fond of looking at feet should probably skip it. You know who you are. Moving on.

Today we finally got around to calling the locksmith to get the lock changed out on our new mailbox, which we had yet to do. Our mailbox is a community style box, so we'd called the mail carrier first to find out which one was ours. "It's #4," we were told.

So the locksmith came out and, after attempting to pick the lock on the box, drilled a hole in the old lock and popped the door open, whereupon we discovered that this was not, in fact our mailbox, but the neighbor's across the street. This was about the time said neighbor came out and wanted to know what the heck we were doing breaking into his mailbox.
Whoops.

So the locksmith popped the new lock on, I paid for it, gave the neighbor the new key (he was very gracious about the whole thing), and felt like a total idiot. Upon my asking Jer checked his notebook and confirmed that the mailman had indeed said "mailbox #4," so we figure that he probably meant the mailbox around the corner rather than the one on our street. We'll call on Monday to find out for sure, as we don't really want to take a chance and end up replacing another neighbor's lock. Fun times.

We spent the whole first half of the day at the new house; I worked outside while Jer and Connor hung out inside in Connor's future room (no that is NOT the updated paint job) with all of the fantastic volunteers who came out today. I've got some pictures I'll post tomorrow of them hard at work!


________________________________________________________________








Here, as promised, are the pictures of Jer's leg and feet. As you can see he looks pretty good!























And I'm off to bed!

~Jess

Friday, November 20, 2009

In Which I Update You All On Jer's Medical Status And Show You A Gratuitous Photo Of Our Cats

Our cats spend a whole lot of time pretending like they absolutely can't stand each other. Then every once in a while we find them like this.

They like to keep us guessing, I think. Crazy cats.

On a completely different topic: Jeremy's physical therapist came to the house again today. He pronounced Jer's right ankle rotation to be much improved, which is great! The man's been working hard at his rotation exercises.

Here's an update on how he's doing:

He's starting to get a little bit of feeling back in the graft site along the bottom edge. He describes it as sort of a "springy" sensation. His feet and ankles have complete feeling except for a couple of "dead" spots on his left foot. He can make pretty decent ovals (he's getting slowly closer to circles) with the right ankle, and while the left ankle will never make full circles again he can move it up and down. His toes have regained full flexibility on the right side, and on the left they continue to slowly improve, though the big toe remains relatively stiff.

The holes left from the wires are all scabbed over and are healing well, and all of his incision sites have fully closed and look great! He lost a good bit of the fat pad off his left foot, so he may have some difficulty standing on hard surfaces with that side, but the right one is a little more intact. He has mostly new skin now on his feet and the graft site has filled in-- it's baby-soft, which is kind of funny-- and it's lost that lizardy look it had due to the perforations they'd made to stretch out the skin before they stapled it on.

He's had no trouble with his spine-- the fracture should be fully healed by now, so hopefully it won't ever cause him to have issues in the future. The oversensitive nerves in his feet are much improved, though that and the changes in circulation still cause him issues if he has his feet in a totally lowered position for more than a couple minutes. He's slowly building up a tolerance, though-- leaving his feet in a lowered position for longer and longer each day, so hopefully by the time he's cleared to weight bear again his feet will be able to handle the circulation changes.

Despite losing the outer calf muscle on the left leg, he's able to move that leg well. Hopefully there won't be too much of a difference as far as muscle strength goes as the inner calf muscle can compensate, but we won't know until he's weight bearing again if that's the case.
He's slowly working down off the heavy pain medication, and overall his pain is very well-managed. He's having to take very little break-through medication, though we've been told to expect that to change once he begins more intensive therapy.

Several of you have asked for pictures of Jer's injuries, and while he has his boots on right now I'll take some pictures tomorrow when he's got them off for therapy. They really look much better than you'd think-- his feet aren't that swollen any more, and while the scarring is impressive, his donor graft site is still an angry red, and his calf muscle has an interesting contour to it now, otherwise things look surprisingly good.

He has an appointment in the first week of December with the orthopedic surgeon, and we're hoping at that time they'll clear him to begin some weight bearing activities. He'll probably start with weight bearing exercises in a swimming pool and they'll work up from there. By then he'll have been totally non-weight bearing for nearly four months. It's still possible that they'll tell him he needs to continue to stay off one (probably the left) or both of his feet for up to two more months, but he seems to be healing up really well so with any luck they'll clear him to start learning to walk again.

I'll keep you all posted!


~Jess


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!

~Jess

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

In Which Connor is a Kitty

Today Connor made us very proud!

He had feeding therapy and physical therapy today, and he did a fantastic job at both of them! He ate more for Julie in one session than she's ever seen him eat before-- and it was a food with a thicker texture, which is pretty exciting! Connor doesn't chew so he only eats purees, and he has trouble coordinating tongue movements and swallowing, which combined with his sensory issues makes him very guarded about what goes into his mouth. We've been trying to get him used to thicker textures of food for a long time, and so it's really gratifying to see that after two years of trying the work is finally paying off! The fact that he's learning how to sit and is much more stable through his core muscles is probably helping-- everything ties in together like that.

Speaking of sitting-- check out what he was doing at physical therapy! The little guy sat totally on his own for thirty minutes without falling down once! He was even reaching for and touching his toy to get it to play music again; this one is one of his favorites so it's always a pretty sure bet to hold his attention. Evidently sitting is still very serious business-- I don't think he cracked a smile during the entire half an hour. When he did fall over, it was very obvious that it was deliberate. We tried to switch toys and he was having none of it. Silly little guy.

The most exciting thing that happened today though was that Connor showed the first signs ever of imaginative play! The little guy was a total chatterbox in feeding therapy. He's been obsessed with cats for the past couple of weeks and he likes to try and distract me during meal time so I won't put more food in his mouth, so I wasn't very surprised when he started signing "Kitty." He was very persistent, though-- looking intently at me and signing it over and over again. Finally I asked him about it and we had the following conversation:

Connor: Kitty! Kitty!
Me: Are you talking about your kitties at home?
Connor: No. Kitty! Daddy!
Me: Is Daddy at home with the kitties?
Connor: No. Kitty! Daddy!
Me: Hmm. Is Daddy a kitty?
Connor: Yes! Kitty Daddy!
Me: (shocked and delighted) I see! So daddy is a kitty. Is Connor a kitty?
Connor: Yes! Kitty!
Me: Daddy is a kitty and Connor is a kitty. Is Mommy a kitty too?
Connor: No no no! Mommy no!
Me: Oh. But Daddy and Connor are kitties?
Connor: Yes! Kitty kitty!

So apparently not only is he starting to show signs of imaginative play, but Mommy is not cool enough to be a kitty. Can you guess who the favorite parent in our household is?

Connor and Daddy were kitties all through the rest of the afternoon. We established that Mommy was not a kitty, bear, dinosaur, or any number of other animals. Mommies are just plain old boring Mommies. Oh well.

I'm so excited about this, for a number of reasons. Not only did I have a lengthy and successful on-topic conversation with Connor, which doesn't happen very often as he is easily distracted and often chooses to ignore questions, but he demonstrated a very sophisticated cognitive skill. Because he doesn't always respond appropriately or even make any indication that he's heard you, it's easy sometimes to forget just how sharp he really is. Every once in a while he'll remind me out of the blue just how much he understands!

So I guess I'd better start putting together a dress-up bin. First on the list: a set of kitty ears!

~Jess

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

In Which We Make A Winter Wonderland

Christmas has come early in the McGuffey household.

This is not because we have bought a tree, or put up decorations, or started our shopping. This is because it snowed.

In our dryer.

See, Jeremy can't transfer from his wheelchair directly onto his commode without great difficulty, so usually he transfers from the wheelchair to the hospital bed and then to the commode, leaving his feet propped up on the bed. Apparently when I bundled up the sheets to wash them I forgot this relevant fact.

So when I pulled them out of the dryer and discovered that they were covered in about 8,000 tiny white flecks which were clinging to his microfiber comforter like it was velcro and sloughing off onto the carpet in great white sheets, I at first thought that the stitching had come out of the side of the blanket. That is until I found a big piece of cardboard caught inside one of the pillow cases. Upon making this discovery I stomped over to Jer.

"You left a notebook under your covers, and now all of your linens are covered in paper!" I accused, thrusting out the offending cardboard under his nose for him to view. He glanced at it.

"That's a toilet paper roll," he said.

Yes, the almost completely full toilet paper roll that was sitting in plain sight on the middle of his bed from an earlier trip to the commode. That toilet paper roll. Whoops.

Teach me to try and read and do laundry at the same time.

I didn't get a whole lot done today other than creating my own personal unseasonal blizzard. I'd intended to get out and work in the garden this afternoon, but a phone call from the school nurse while I was in the car on the way to pick up Connor nixed that. Seems he got all limp and turned gray on them for about five seconds in the middle of his snack time.

While he didn't follow his usual modus operandi-- he didn't stop breathing, didn't get really irritated afterwards, and didn't fall asleep-- he was very pale and lethargic about ten minutes later when I got there so it's probably safe to conclude he had some sort of mini-seizure. Of course we took it really easy the rest of the day just in case this was a lead-in to something more spectacular. Thankfully nothing else untoward happened. We always figure it's better safe than sorry with this sort of thing. This is the first time he's had any sort of incident at school, and I hope that's as much as they ever have to see. Connor in full-blown seizure mode is a scary, scary thing.

It ended up being a good thing that I wasn't out in the garden anyway, as I opened up the door about the time I would have been out there to go and check the mail and it was sleeting. This is the first real winter weather we've had thus far, and I'm hoping it'll be some of the last. I don't mind working in the rain (here in the Pacific Northwest during the fall and winter if you don't work in the garden in the rain you don't work in it at all) but I draw the line at sleet. Sleet is somehow wetter than rain, if that makes any sense. At least, I think so. And dragging your fingers through it to find buried ivy vines would not be my idea of fun.

So I spent the day curled up at home with a cup of hot cider, playing with Connor, cooking yummy things, and (of course) reading.

You will be happy to know I didn't attempt them all at the same time.

~Jess

Monday, November 16, 2009

In Which I Spend Some Time Behind The Wheel

There are days when I feel less like a wife and mother and more like a chauffeur.

Today was one of those days. I woke up in the morning, got the guys ready to go, and dropped Connor off at school. From there I drove down to post, where I dropped Jer off for an appointment. I promptly turned back around and drove back to Puyallup, where it was just about time to pick Connor up from school.

Connor and I went straight back to post, where Jer was finished with his appointment. Then I drove us to a friend's house, where we decided on a place to eat. After that I drove us to the restaurant, where we attempted to eat between helping to juggle a sad baby and keeping an overstimulated Connor from emitting ear-piercing shrieks.

From there it was a trip back to post, where I dropped Jer off for another appointment. Finally I picked him up from his appointment and drove us all home, a mere ten hours after we'd left. Whew!

I'm not sure how many hours I've spent sitting behind the wheel of the van now, but we usually have at least two days out of the week like this, so it's got to be a significant number at this point. Jer won't be able to drive using the hand controls until he's off the heavy narcotics, which since you have to wean down off them slowly will probably take a while. Thank goodness we have the van; I don't even want to think how much more fun it would be to either be attempting to vault Jer into our SUV or to have to call a cabulance every time he wanted to go somewhere.

So it's probably past time that I got into the spirit of things. I think that in order to play the role of chauffeur properly, I need a pair of black leather gloves and some large sunglasses. Also possibly one of those hats. I'll also work a little more on the being dignified part. I doubt a proper chauffeur is supposed to make the kind of noises I do when I'm lugging the wheelchairs up the ramp.

Once Jer is able to drive again, our roles will be totally reversed, as in order for him to pull his wheelchair up close enough to reach the hand controls we'll be removing the driver's seat. We'll replace the passenger seat and then I'll be the one along for the ride!

I haven't decided whether or not he can wear my hat.

~Jess

Sunday, November 15, 2009

In Which We Enjoy Ourselves

The Best of The Northwest arts and crafts show was a lot of fun!

Actually, Jer and I enjoyed it a lot more than we thought we would. We were a little worried about the crowds and the fact that previous arts and crafts shows we've been to have had fairly narrow aisles not conducive to wheelchair users, but the show was great! I'm glad we went on the last day, because while there were a lot of people there it wasn't nearly as crowded as we thought it might be, and the aisles were very wide-- wide enough that if there weren't people coming we could be side-by-side, which was nice.

No one bumped or jostled Jer, and everyone was very nice about moving so that he could get past. The artists were extremely accommodating-- even taking pieces off their displays to show Jer if there was something he wanted to see that was out of view or reach. The show was a benefit for Children's Hospital, which was also very cool. Lord knows we've spent enough time there to be very familiar with how great their programs are, so it was nice to be able to give a little back. Other than the thousands of dollars our insurance company has contributed, I mean.

We did a full circuit of the show first to see what, if anything, we might be interested in. There were a ton of jewelers there-- perhaps one out of every three booths was a jewelry booth. There was also a lot of really neat art that was surprisingly affordable.

Jeremy and I picked up a new painting by a local artist, which I hung in the hallway where one of the paintings I did as "space fillers" was holding a place. Jer also picked up a little satchel to hang off the side of his wheelchair which he can put his cellphone and wallet in. There he is relaxing at home with his casts off and displaying his new purchase. It's made out of llama wool, and came with a little card informing us that the llama who donated the wool for Jer's new purchase was named "Flower Power." Feel free to make fun of him for this.

After we were finished at the art show we walked (or rolled, or whatever) down the street to a sushi bar for a late lunch. The bar had one of those conveyor belts that you can pick sushi off of, which was very cool but wildly impractical for us, so we sat at a table and ordered off a menu. We agreed we should come back without Connor once Jer is out of a wheelchair to try out the bar-- maybe some time next summer. Though we won't be trying the "coffee gelatin" dessert. It sounds kind of gross.

The best part of the restaurant other than the food (sans the coffee gelatin) was the music. Not for us, as I could have done totally without it, but for the little guy. They were playing thumping techno music with a lot of bass, and Connor thought it was hilarious. We thought about getting up to leave several times because whenever a song particularly heavy on the bass came on, Connor would get so excited he'd start screaming and I'd have to put my hand over his mouth. Luckily the music was turned up loud enough that the shrieking wasn't as irritating to other diners as you might think.

So has VeggieTales made a techno CD yet? We would totally buy it.

~Jess





Saturday, November 14, 2009

In Which Jer And I Are Very Weird

Today I listened to Jeremy, with Connor on his lap, play out another episode of the multi-day epic musical battle between Gorilla and Seizure Kitty to the tune of the National Geographic theme song.

That's right. Seizure Kitty.

See, Connor has this stuffed leopard toy that purrs if you shake it. If you shake it really hard, it doesn't purr, but instead makes this weird rattling noise. Jeremy decided it sounded that way because it was having a seizure and so invented the name Seizure Kitty, which stuck.

Yes, I am already aware that Jer and I share a dark and morbid sense of humor. This is probably why we've managed not to go nuts so far. Or any more nuts, anyway.

Connor really likes Seizure Kitty, especially when he is engaged in some endeavor set to music provided by Jer (I sometimes join in on the chorus). He likes anything to do with cats right now. The little guy is no longer obsessed with ponies. Now it's all about either cats or bears. He watches the cats whenever they walk by, which he never used to do, and if I capture Loki and bring him close enough for Connor to reach, Connor now pets him enthusiastically by attempting to grab and pull out large clumps of his fur. Because Loki is an idiot, he not only tolerates this treatment but actually comes back for more. In this cat's mind, any attention is good attention, even if it involves an overexcited toddler interested in experiments in cat epilatory methods.

Cricket does not feel the same way. Cricket views any attempt to bring her close to Connor's eager little mitts as an attempt to kill her, and reacts accordingly. So we stick with Loki, as I prefer to have my skin intact and not full of little Cricket claw-shaped puncture wounds.

I'm not entirely sure how Connor picked up on the bears, though it might have been through Jeremy, who talks about them all the time. We also have a lot of children's books in the house that involve bears. At any rate, the last three books he's picked out at the bookstore have involved bears in one way or another, and while he doesn't have a sign for "bear" yet I'm sure we'll be seeing one soon. It's nice to know he has his passions and enthusiasms just like any other kid!

We'll have a chance to see if we can find a bear or two to hang on his wall tomorrow, when we'll head up to Seattle to attend the Best of The Northwest arts and crafts show. Hundreds of artists from around the Pacific Northwest will be in attendance to sell their wares. It'll be one of the first times we've attempted to navigate a crowd with both wheelchairs, so wish us luck! It's the last day of the show, so hopefully it won't be as crowded-- we'll just have to see.

Seizure Kitty will not be in attendance with us, as Connor likes to throw him out of his wheelchair on a fairly regular basis, but I'm sure we'll tell him all about it when we get home. Probably to the tune of the 1812 overture or something.

~Jess

Friday, November 13, 2009

In Which We Have A Good Day

We had a good day today! Once Connor was off to school, I drove by the house to work on the ivy. It was raining, and freezing, but I got a lot of good work done! I uncovered two tree stumps in the front yard that I had no idea were there. One of them was covered in shelf mushrooms that had grown and hardened around ivy strands, so you could pull out the ivy and they had hollow tunnels through the mushrooms. That was pretty cool. I've also discovered that underneath the ivy I'm working on is a 40 square foot or so patch of salal interspersed with blackberries. This is not quite so cool. I mean, I like salal, but not 40 square feet of it. And while I like to eat blackberries, the ones I have growing in my yard are not the nice well-behaved native blackberries, they are the horrible invasive noxious weed variety. These have been in a while; the main canes on the plants range from being as thick as my thumb to nearly as thick as my wrist. Joy of joys.

Becky stopped by the house to see how things were coming along, and we got the chance to talk about a few of the exciting renovations that are going on. She's going to give me a list of everyone who's helping out on the project and volunteering or discounting labor or materials because we want to acknowledge everyone who is being so generous and help make our home functional and beautiful!

The house is constantly evolving and will have many little or not-so-little luxuries that will contribute to making it a home that we're never going to want to leave. I mean that literally-- we could probably get grocery deliveries and just never set foot outside the door again, because pretty much everything we'll need will be right there. Connor will have his therapy and play area, I'll have my library and my wonderful kitchen, and Jer will have his corner fireplace and his shower, which will be the curbless roll-in type with an installed spa system that will have a grand total of six shower heads-- all donated. After four months worth of sponge baths, he may simply forgo the rest of the house and spend every waking moment in the bathroom. Can't say I'd blame him even if we ended up spending all of our disposable income on the water bill.

It will also, thank God, have a toilet that he can transfer to and use on his own. I believe there are plans being made to take the bedside commode out behind a barn after we move in and put an end to its miserable existence. While I am unclear on the details, the words "baseball bat," "flamethrower," and "explosives" have all been mentioned. Currently the commode resides in our bedroom, about three feet from where my head is at night when I have my sleeping mat out on the floor. I will not be sorry to see it go.

It doesn't exactly add any romance to our bedroom decor, if you know what I mean.

Right. Anyway, after working a couple good hours I picked Connor up and we spent the afternoon quietly at home before heading off to a birthday party in the early evening. It was interesting to see how Connor interacted with the other kids. He wanted to be where he could see them, but he didn't really want to interact with them; he just wanted to watch them. Also he got agitated when he couldn't see his Daddy-- he actually ended up spending most of the evening on Jeremy's lap. There he is at the party in the picture looking slightly anxious.
Or maybe I just caught him in the middle of signing something. That's a really weird face.
Anyway, I think it was a little overwhelming for him-- lots of six and seven year old boys means lots of noise-- but overall he had a pretty good time. I hope as he gets older he'll feel more comfortable interacting with people in a group; currently he does much better with one-on-one time. It may be that he has a hard time hearing people in a crowd, or it may be his sensory issues, or a combination of the two. Given his amazing improvement over the last few months, we'll just have to see what he's doing in a year or two!

~Jess




Thursday, November 12, 2009

In Which (Curses!) My Plans Are Foiled Again

I was going to go by and work on the ivy today; I haven't really gotten much of a chance to work over at the house this week. While normally I work in the mornings over there while Connor is in school, the last few days I've had to run errands. This morning was no exception; we were out of eggs and a couple of other essentials, so instead of going to the house I ended up going to the grocery store. Then it was time to load Jeremy in the car, go get Connor, and drive down to the hospital so Jer could pick up his meds and attend a meeting. By the time we got back the day was half over.

As it was still relatively nice outside, I decided that when Connor got up from his quiet time he and I would head over there so I could get some work done. Well, Connor had other plans. The stinker sang happily to himself until the last five minutes of his quiet time, and then he fell asleep and napped through the rest of my daylight.

Oh well.

I did pack him into the car and make a trek over there with my camera once he woke up and everybody had eaten dinner. Things are moving right along, though the changes aren't as dramatic so I had to go back to my earlier pictures to pick out the differences. Among other things, all of the drywall is gone in the kitchen now, all the hanging pipes have been taken out of the master bathroom, and the bathtub is out of the guest bathroom. It's actually cut in half and in the middle of the master bedroom floor now, which is pretty awesome. Think of all the things you could do with half a bathtub! Well, actually I can't think of anything you could do with it besides take half a bath, but I'm sure that there are awesome things out there I just haven't come across yet. Any suggestions?

Hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to get over there and get some more done. Working in the garden while Connor is at school has been nice, as since I've already gotten Jer his breakfast and coffee he's good for a couple of hours, and I don't have to worry about the cold getting to Connor. It does have the unfortunate side effect that I come to pick Connor up looking like I've been sleeping under a park bench all morning, but that will only last until we have indoor plumbing again at the new house.

I'm much more ready to tackle the garden again (as well as all of the things I have to get done around here) after our play day yesterday. It was just what I needed! Hopefully we'll have a chance to do it again soon-- maybe next week.

I'll be out of books by then.

~Jess

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

In Which We Have A Good Veterans Day

Happy Veterans Day, everyone!

Jeremy says "Thank you for your well wishes and support." I tried to get him to do the writing for today, but he told me that was all he had to say and it would make a very short blog post. So you're stuck with me, instead. Sorry.

We had a nice, quiet day-- after some errand running and a visit from the home health nurse in the morning, we took off for Bradley Park. It's the local wheelchair accessible park in town, and in addition to having a fully accessible playground it has a number of wide, paved wheelchair friendly trails. Jer and Connor and I all went for a stroll.

It's amazing to see how far Jer has progressed since he first arrived home. The last time we went down the trail was about a month ago, and Jer had to stop six or seven times to rest. About a third of the way in we had to turn around and go back. This time he did the whole trail without stopping, and on the downslopes I had to practically jog to keep up with him!

I had to keep Connor lined up next to Jeremy or he would start yelling. This is because he has discovered the little front wheels on Jer's wheelchair. Apparently they are hilarious. He spent the entire time staring at Jer's left front wheel and giggling, and so if I fell back too far and he couldn't see them he made his displeasure known until I moved him back into the proper position. Connor's laughter is very contagious, so it made for an amusing walk. Glad to see that he's not too upset about the whole "Daddy in a wheelchair" thing.

It was pretty cold when we were finished with our walk, but we can't leave the playground without going on the swing. Connor got increasingly excited as we approached; he knows that he always gets swing time before we leave. Jer took some pictures while I pushed him on the swing. Isn't he a cutie?

A couple of women walking past stopped to watch us play. Connor was giggling up a storm, and Jer and I were both signing to him and laughing. "See?" one of them said loudly to the other. "They have special places for those people to go around here. But they're terribly expensive to build." The other woman nodded in agreement. "It's nice, though." Then they continued on their way. I'm not sure exactly how someone could look at our happy little family and refer to us as those people, but we were having a good time and weren't about to let them spoil our day. We just ignored them.

After our playground adventure we drove over to Applebee's, which was having a Veterans Eat Free special, but it was packed and we didn't feel like braving the crowd, so instead we went to a little hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant, where Connor tried to eat half of my curry. The kid really likes Massaman curry. I like it with a bit of a kick to it, so he always makes a scrunched-up face when the spice hits him, and then he immediately asks for more. This is the kid that will suck on raw limes, so I can't say I'm surprised. He likes his flavors strong.

Then it was off to our usual haunt: the bookstore. Yes, I know I went yesterday. But I'm already down to one book, so I needed another. Yes, I know I read way, way too fast. Oh well. Jer didn't get anything, but he indulged me by feeding my book addiction. We went home and spent the rest of the evening curled up reading and drinking copious amounts of hot cocoa and tea.

So overall it was a great day. I'm glad Jer was here to spend it with me.

I'm so lucky.

~Jess

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

In Which I Do Not Have The Best of Mornings


I'm sure you've all been waiting with bated breath for the results of Connor's allergy testing today.

Well, too bad.

I got him up this morning (He was so cute I had to take a picture-- I'd turned on the light and he started squinting and signing "No light no light." Evidently he wasn't ready to get up), and took him to school. Then I drove back to the house, quickly fixed Jer coffee, did a couple of chores, and put food out where Jer could reach it (the pantry and refrigerator being out of reach for him). Then I turned around and rushed back to school to sign Connor out of class so that we could get to the appointment on time.

We arrived at the hospital's parking lot thirty-five minutes early for Connor's appointment, and that's as close as we got to the allergy clinic. For the first fifteen minutes we drove around in circles looking for a handicapped parking space. For the next fifteen minutes we drove around looking for any parking space. Then I attempted to drive around the back of the hospital to park in the rear parking lot, and accidentally went into the drive-through pharmacy lane instead. You know, the one that's one-way, with no turn around or exit except through the drive-through, where there were eight cars ahead of me and two cars now blocking me behind.

And there we sat for the next forty minutes.

After it became very, very obvious that there was no possible way we were going to make it to the appointment despite it being less than 200 yards away, I called the clinic desk and rescheduled. The earliest appointment they had was on December third, so that's when we booked for. I was a little frustrated by the end of all this, and by being a little frustrated I mean that I had a complete meltdown in the car, and then Connor and I listened to classical music for the remaining thirty minutes we were stuck in line and had a long discussion about emotions and how everybody gets sad or angry: even mommies and daddies. (Or at least, I signed a long monologue to Connor about feelings, and Connor contributed "Mommy sad. Connor sad." which didn't make me feel guilty at all, let me tell you.) Finally the last car pulled away and I drove back home, arriving two hours after I'd left with nothing to show for it and feeling like a bit of an idiot. Oh well-- we all have those days, I guess.

Moving on to brighter topics-- Jer received the new wheels for his wheelchair today! Unfortunately they are only slightly better than his old wheels, as while they have texture to them it's not really very heavy-duty so he still loses traction quite a bit on wet or soft surfaces, but they're better than they were. My compost bin also arrived in the mail today, which I was pretty excited about. And I managed to sneak in a trip to the bookstore and a couple of cups of tea today. Getting the chance to sit down for an hour to read and drink tea goes a long way towards restoring one's equilibrium. And we got the chance to go to a potluck dinner tonight where we saw a lot of friends, so that was a nice end to the day.



I think tomorrow afternoon we're going to declare a holiday-- as much of a holiday as it ever is around here, that is. I'm feeling the need for one after today. I'll get all of my errands and housework out of the way in the morning, pick up something for lunch on the way home, spend the afternoon lazing away, order some pizza for dinner, and in general do as little as possible. Maybe while Connor's napping I'll even take a long bath. And drink tea. And eat chocolate. And read. Maybe I'll even do it all at the same time, because I am marvelously talented like that.

I can't wait!

~Jess

Monday, November 9, 2009

In Which I Have Totally Irrational Feelings

We spent the morning over at the new house this morning, meeting with Becky (who had some extremely exciting news about donations and some of the renovations on the house-- more on that later), waiting for the chimney sweep, and in my case, pulling out yet more glorious ivy. I now have the whole backyard clear of it and have started on clearing off the fence in the front yard. Here's a running tally on the ivy war:

Approximate Square Feet of Ivy In The Beginning: 500
Sprinkler heads uncovered: 5
Unusual Animals found: 2 (a tiny salamander and a slug the size of my hand)
Trash Bags Filled With Ivy: 32
Approximate Square Feet of Ivy Yet To Remove: 375

I now officially hate ivy.

They had a last minute cancellation at the allergy clinic, so Connor will be going in for his testing tomorrow morning instead of in December. We'll see how things go-- hopefully we won't walk out of there adding too many bizarre allergies to the list!

I'm still thinking he's totally allergic to bears.

To tell you the truth I'm a little nervous about his allergy testing-- I'm afraid it's going to go badly and it will turn out he's allergic to, oh, everything and I just didn't realize it, thus earning the title of Bad Mother. Or something. I'm not sure why I'm nervous about it, actually, but my body does not recognize having no rational reason for experiencing an emotion as a reason for shutting said emotion off, so I guess I'm just stuck with being nervous until after his allergy test is over.

Oh well. At least I won't have long to wait.

~Jess

Sunday, November 8, 2009

In Which We Are Not Annoyed At All

Yesterday we began discussing Jeremy's Wheelchair Defense System.

See, here's the deal. Jeremy, due to a mix-up with the home health equipment provider, is still in one of those standard indoor-only wheelchairs with the huge crappy wheels and the big handles on the back. Eventually (hopefully) he'll be getting one that is a little more outdoor friendly and doesn't have the huge handles. I'm sure Jer will be really happy when that day comes, and not just because he's tired of getting zero traction.

See, to some people those big handles say "Push me! You must grab and push me even if the occupant of the wheelchair said they didn't need your help! Because they are lying to you, and really they don't know how they ever would have gotten down that hallway without you!" I figure that these are the same people who must have control of the shopping cart at the grocery store and refuse to let anybody else drive. At any rate, it doesn't happen very often, thankfully, but every once in a while some do-gooder decides that Jer can't possibly make it through a doorway/around a corner/up a hill/down the street by himself and take it upon themselves to "help."

This is where the Wheelchair Defense System comes into play. In addition to having the usual defense mechanisms standard to all wheelchairs (spiked hubcaps, caltrops, chainsaw, flamethrower, etc), we'd like to add a couple of sensor pads to the handles of his wheelchair. If an unauthorized person grasps the handles, the pads would administer a moderate electrical shock. This would hopefully discourage the person from attempting to steer Jer after he's asked them not to. Repeated attempts might require more severe measures, but this would at least deter all but the most fervent of "helpers."

Next on the Wheelchair Defense System upgrade list is a loudspeaker. This is because for some unknown reason when we go into a store to get some coffee the occasional clerk seems to have extreme difficulty hearing Jeremy and must ask me what he wants to drink. Use of the loudspeaker, possibly with the siren first to get their attention, will assure that they are able to locate Jeremy and ask him what he wants himself instead of having to relay all messages through me. The Telephone game stopped being cool in the third grade.

Finally we'd be adding a cattle prod for those people who either won't get out of the way when Jeremy is coming or insist on standing really, really close, looming over him, and talking to him very loudly and slowly. Because obviously these people hold the viewpoint that one's ears are connected directly to one's feet and losing the use of one adversely affects the other. This cattle prod could also be used on those who ask Jer questions about himself in order to get a proper lead-in to express their own viewpoints on themselves/the war/the army/politics/their cousin Fred who happened to sort of have the same thing happen and his views on the war/the army/politics. Asking a cursory question so that you can lecture your captive audience for thirty minutes on your personal views is a rather unusual take on what a conversation consists of. If the monologue runs over eight minutes then deploying the cattle prod will prompt a proper pause, allowing Jer to express his viewpoint or make his escape, whichever seems more appropriate.

So there you have it; Jeremy's amazing Wheelchair Defense System. We should get a patent for it. I'm sure it would sell like hotcakes!

~Jess

Saturday, November 7, 2009

In Which I Discover Ancient Relics Beneath Cacodaemoniac Foliage

So much work has been finished on the house this week!

The sunken living room is totally gone now; the space is level with the rest of the house. Now that there's no demarcation between the living room and the rest of the space, it looks huge. We won't have any rugs in there either because they get caught up in the boys' wheels, so other than the furniture there won't be much to break up the expanse. I'm sure we'll fill it up in no time, but after living in this apartment it's going to be kind of weird to have so much breathing room. It'll probably be pretty nice, though. And once the hard floors are down we can periodically push the furniture against the walls and have a perfect bowling alley.

The crew has also framed in the new entryway from the laundry room to the kitchen, the new pantry, the new doorways to the smaller bedrooms, and the bathroom and master closet area. It's much easier to visualize the space now that the studs are up.

I was over at the house yesterday digging out the ivy that has taken over one whole end of the backyard (It's climbed through the fence and up the trees. Joy.) and guess what I found half-buried in the ground under a two-foot thick layer of vines? Roof tiles! I'm not sure how many I have yet, since because of the rain I didn't do any work today. While I'm perfectly happy to garden out in the rain and cold, (probably since I'm one of those nutso gardening fanatics and when I get really into working you could run a truck over me and I wouldn't notice) Connor does not share either my love of gardening or my functional temperature regulatory system. Therefore freezing rain is not so good for him, as he has a tendency to try and get hypothermia on me. So I can't garden while it's raining unless he's at school.

Anyway, while I'm not sure exactly how many there are under that mess, I know there are at least thirty, and so far none are broken! It's a great find because there are several tiles up on the roof that are cracked and need to be replaced. I wonder what else I'm going to find under there. Maybe a skeleton or something: I swear this stuff is like the kudzu of the Pacific Northwest, and I don't want to wade too far out into it because if I tripped and fell and hit my head, I would disappear into it and no one would ever find me.

Yet another reason not to take Connor out into it. The stuff would probably try and eat him or something. I swear I can see it breathing out of the corner of my eye-- waving its leafy tentacles around and just waiting to wrap them around my ankles when my back is turned to jerk me off my feet and drag me into its gaping green maw. I've come to the conclusion that I'm not actually pulling up English Ivy in my yard. I'm battling Ivy Cthulhu. He's teemed up with his buddy Blackberry Shoggoth and the two of them have already devoured large portions of my fence and yard and are now creeping towards my house and world domination, though not necessarily in that order.

So wish me luck. If you drive by the house and see any mice running around squeaking "Tekeli-li!" in unison then it's probably already too late.

~Jess

Friday, November 6, 2009

In Which Connor Needs A Moment of Zen

Connor didn't particularly want to wake up this morning-- he didn't sleep well the night before. As a result, he didn't get what we call his "zen time," where he sits and giggles and stares at the ceiling for fifteen minutes or so before he starts yelling for me to get him up. If he doesn't get his zen time his whole day is thrown off. The kid is funny like that. We think it has something to do with his sensory integration disorder; he has to have the chance to get his bearings in space and "rev up," so to speak. Otherwise he's shaky, uncoordinated, and has a tendency to have a short temper because he doesn't feel good.

So the morning was rushed and he didn't have a chance to really get his bearings, and as a result he threw up his breakfast. Then he had an off day at school-- he was crabby and tired and didn't want to do anything. Finally I took him home, brought him straight back to his bed, and lay him down. He gave me a big smile, heaved a huge sigh, spent the next fifteen minutes giggling and staring at the ceiling, and then started yelling to be picked up. He was totally fine the rest of the day.

So, lesson learned: no skipping Connor's zen time. We're raising a funny little bird, aren't we?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

In Which Connor is A Snuggle Monster

This morning Jer and I dropped Connor off at school and then drove to the new house to meet our awesome interior designer (I never thought I'd get to say that!), Pamela. She talked with us about our personal style, what we're wanting to use each room for, what we have and what we need in the way of furniture and decor, and then took some measurements of the rooms. By the time this is finished we are going to have a gorgeous house, and maybe after a while I'll stop feeling like we've somehow snuck into someone else's house and stolen their identity. Someone with a style very similar to ours but who hasn't purchased all of their furniture from Ikea.

While we were there a couple of the guys were working on laying the floor joists for building up the sunken living room floor. I'm starting to get a sense of just how big the space is going to be when they're done, and I must say I'm really glad we're going to have help figuring out what to put in it, as so far we have a grand total of two chairs to put in our enormous living room (Can you guess where we bought them?). I'm also having to physically restrain myself from buying a whole bunch of art to put on the walls. We'll have a lot more room for it, and you know how crazy I am about original artwork. I'll have to start hitting up all my artist friends for commissions again. Makes me happy just thinking about it!
After we met with Pamela we drove down to the hardware store to attempt to buy a compost bin. I say "attempt" because all of the local chains have a pitiful selection of compost bins. We found a grand total of one, and it was one of the worm bin ones with all of the fiddly little trays. Yes, I know I could build one myself, but I want a compost tumbler, because I hate doing more work than I have to. It's so much easier to just turn the bin rather than turning the whole pile. Also those bins work pretty quickly and I'm not the most patient person in the world.

I'd like to get one sooner rather than later because under all of that ivy (Dave ended up with twenty-three bags of the stuff, and the hill is maybe a third of the way clear now. The dump is going to love us. He had to leave today-- we miss him already!) was this wonderful half-rotted compost consisting mostly of old leaves from past years. I want to put it in a bin with the leaves I'm raking off the driveway and have some really, really nice compost in a few weeks. So I ended up ordering a bin off the Internet. Hopefully it will arrive in a few days and I can get to composting!

Connor has been especially snuggly of late-- he's started giving little hugs, which is absolutely adorable. I think he's feeling a little insecure; he's been having to play more on his own than he usually does because I'm not able to focus as much attention on him as I did before Jer came back home. So he's a little clingy when I do pick him up, and it makes me feel pretty guilty. Poor little guy- his neat, simple world has been pretty much turned on its ear in the past few weeks. I'm going to make more of an effort to get back into a routine that he's used to-- I think it would help him feel better. I'm actually kind of surprised we haven't seen more negative behavior from him, but he remains my own personal miniature saint, which in some ways makes me feel even more guilty. I know there are even bigger changes around the corner with the move, so I want to have at least a few routines established that will stay the same for him. He's definitely a creature of habit.

I'm thinking maybe reestablishing our Library Day might be an order. That way not only will Connor have at least one unchanging routine firmly established, but maybe I'll quit buying so many books and we'll have a bit less to move, too!

It could happen, right? Right?


~Jess


 
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