Sunday, January 31, 2010

In Which We Encounter Evil With A Side Of Ketchup

Tomorrow I'm going to tell you all about the home show we went to, but first I have some shocking news:

We are being stalked.

By an Oscar Mayer wienermobile.

The day before yesterday we spotted it in Seattle, nonchalantly rounding a corner just down the street from us. No doubt it was taking Rowbert's measure and foolishly thought we wouldn't notice it if it didn't make any sudden moves.

Wienermobiles do not make good ninjas.

Anyway, yesterday when we were headed out to the home show, what do you think we spied parked in the parking lot of a local Puyallup grocery store? That's right-- the same wienermobile. Coincidence? I think not. Jer snapped a picture of it with his cell phone, but since we don't have fancy phones he can't get it to the computer, so you'll just have to trust me. It was there.

Obviously Rowbert has picked up an archnemesis. I'm not sure what the hotdogs have against us, but we'll just have to be vigilant in the future.

Today we had a false alarm when we exited a coffee shop and spied a bright yellow object lurking around the corner, but it just turned out to be a Little Caesar's Pizza van. The wienermobile was suspiciously absent. Perhaps the two are in cahoots.

If the Redbull car shows up tomorrow we'll know it's a conspiracy.

~Jess

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Ask Jer: In Which You Never Eat Corn Flakes Again

Jeremy's post: Round 2.

"Have you played Valkyrie Profile yet? How is it?"

Sorry, I haven't played it yet. It is on my to-do list.

"Do you miss your old roomie Wilcox? Why did Stephen never date in college? Was he not good enough for the girls or the girls weren't good enough for him?"

Yes, although I don't think he and I were ever ol' ladies (roommates for non-Aggies).

I could be wrong, but I don't think Steven ever talked to girls at A&M, except for the girls in the band with us.

"for both of you where r the medical mondays?"

Loki ate them. Fear not, I plan to beat them out of him. (***It's me, Jess, interjecting, as this question is for both of us. Medical Mondays will resume as soon as I can reach my file cabinet with all my medical research in it again. Right now it is in the office, which is wall-to-wall boxes.***)

"Do you and Connor have races in your wheelchairs? I bet he kicks your a**."

Yes. On level, beveled, and uphill gradients Connor has a distinct advantage since he actually receives locomotion via mommy power. On a downhill I have recklessness on my side which allows me to achieve speeds at which mommy power cringes in horror and cars must swerve wildly to avoid me.

"If your remote control could be hooked up to only one thing in the whole world, what would you choose?"

Rowbert. If I could control Rowbert via remote I could use him in place of a large predatory animal and begin my crusade against stupid people. In his current form his attacks would be limited to things like, "Run Over", "Door Surprise Attack", or "Ankle Snapping Ramp Attack". With some Road Warriorish modifications (warriorish is now wordified) I'm sure Rowbert would be the bane of stupidites everywhere.

"What happened to your hedgehog?"

At first, I had no clue what you were talking about. Now I seem to remember having a stuffed hedgehog animal in college. I have no idea why I had such an animal or where it came from. I have absolutely no clue as to its current whereabouts. If it absorbed my passive aggressive violent side it is probably running amok.

"Was Afghanistan what you expected? If you were given the 'all clear' health wise, do you feel like you'd WANT to go back?

Given current circumstances, what are you hoping will be your next career steps?"

Yep. I expected a mountainous desert with landmines everywhere and a people whose culture is vastly different from ours and Afghanistan delivered. The Army is reasonably good at preparing units for the area they will deploy to. We received language and culture classes in preparation for our deployment.

If I were given the all clear health wise I would want to go back and I would be obligated to go back. My current unit is still there. However, the point is moot since I won't be given the all clear anytime soon.

Ideally, I will be able to remain in the Army. The military has started keeping more wounded Soldiers, including some amputees. I don't know a lot about options for continued service since this is my first time losing at minesweeper.

"What's your favorite way to spend time with Connor?"

Much of Connor's therapy could be considered play, since play is what children do. I enjoy trying to get Connor to explore new toys or play with his old toys in new ways. For instance, putting him into a sitting position and placing a toy just barely within his reach so he has to work to play with it.

"Will you be acquiring Diablo III, upon its release?"

Of course. Although I am more excited about Starcraft 2. Starcraft's plot was phenomenal in my opinion.

"....Ender's Game series by any chance?" (in reference to my answer in the last q&a I did about what books I read)

Yes. The sequels were decidedly not military sci-fi unfortunately. The parallel series about Bean was decent. At this point, however, they read like young adult novels to me. Jessie has just informed me that they are kinda sorta young adult novels.

"Do you have the Little Rabbit Foo Foo book (the one by Michael Rosen)?"

Nope. If I did I would definitely predatorize the heck out of it. Connor must understand that rabbits are an important food source for wolves, bears, and tyrannosaurus rex.

"Why not T Rex driving tanks?"

Unfortunately a T Rex is unusually large. We would have to design a really big tank for it to drive. We have plenty of people sized tanks that we could immediately man with velociraptors. It might be better to simply label a T Rex as a bipedal tank. Then we could call it TankRex.

"I usually read fantasy, but I'm discovering old Larry Niven and Heinlein and such. What are your favorite books?"

I definitely enjoyed Niven and Heinlein. A couple of books I have enjoyed are Armor by Steakly and The Mote in God's Eye by Niven and Pournelle. Pournelle supposedly has some good stuff. Let me get back to you later on this. I'm currently in a heavy sci-fi phase and am reading a lot of new material.

"what is walking like for him? what hurts the most and what is the most difficult part about it? in the end, is he supposed to have pretty much all functionality back? i remember Jessie mentioning something about not being able to move the foot sideways... will that remain?"

Walking is a fairly painful process at this point. I am able to use it for short bursts with crutches and even shorter bursts completely unassisted. There is a bit of general pain in the heel area and some sharper pains in the mid foot. The heel pain is probably directly related to the trauma and degradation of the fat pad. The mid foot pain is probably occurring because many of the mid foot joints have extremely limited mobility at the moment.

The recovery process has introduced me to the most painful experiences of my life unfortunately.

Currently, breaking up scar tissue is the most significant pain. This involves a licensed medical massage therapist putting deep, manual, pressure on the left calf wound area and the trauma scars on the undersides of my feet. When we started this process it involved me screaming and cursing into a pillow while hitting things and trying to climb the futon to get away. The scars have softened up and I usually only growl a little now.

Prior to that, the removal of the pins in my feet was amazingly painful. Pins are small metal wires that are pushed through connective tissues like ligaments and then driven into the underlying bone. This makes sure that ligaments and tendons heal correctly to the bone. Sometimes they came out with minor pain. Other times they had to get a pair of medical pliers (look just like regular pliers) to get them out. If pliers were needed it meant screaming and a few tears.

Removal of the sutures and staples wasn't too bad. It took a while to get them all. My feet and legs were still very sensitive at that time and this probably amplified the pain a bit.

I remember very briefly waking up as I was put back into my bed post surgery. My heels hurt a lot but I was very drugged up. I remember screaming a bit and begging for more morphine. Considering that my heels had just been cut up, drilled into, and probably hammered on with medical tools I am extremely happy that I was still very drugged up from anesthesia.

If you like corn flakes you need to stop reading right now.

Amazingly, the actual trauma hurt very little. Mostly I just had a very odd sensation in my feet and a feeling of lethargy. Imagine a bowl just slightly larger in diameter than your fist. Fill the bowl with corn flakes. Do not add any milk. Make a fist and rest it on top of the corn flakes. Now, with a quick and firm movement, push your fist down into the corn flakes. You probably feel lots of cracking and individual pieces grating against other pieces. Maybe you feel a few sharp pieces cutting into the soft tissue on your fist. That's what my feet felt like to walk on. Surprisingly little pain was involved. Just lots of crunchy.

If you like corn flakes you can start reading again. If you no longer like corn flakes, sorry.

The history of recovery from this type of injury is varied. Due to the pain involved with rehabilitation, many people stop therapy early or don't try at all. I am willing to tolerate pretty substantial amounts of pain though so the outlook is good. I am walking early for wounds this severe. More importantly, none of the foot joints are slipping which is great. Instability from joints slipping would have meant more surgeries to include possible amputation. Overall I would say the prognosis is quite good.

The left foot cannot make a full recovery due to the fusion of the calcaneus (heel bone) and the talus (ankle bone). My physical therapists report that with this fusion I will lose the ability to move my heel left and right. I do have the ability to move my fore foot and mid foot. At this point I suspect that this will only impact my ability to make rapid direction changes and possibly my ability to run. I might have a little bit of difficulty balancing on a beveled surface as well.

That's all I'm tracking for questions, so unless you ask more questions I will never blog again.

Out.

Friday, January 29, 2010

In Which I Don't Have Enough To Do Already

Connor finally finally has both hearing aids repaired now and back on his ears. The kid kept breaking one or the other of them and he won't usually wear just one; it's all or nothing. It'll probably take him a little while to get used to wearing them again as they've been out for several weeks, but hopefully he'll get the hang of it soon and he'll quit pulling the darn things out at school. He did pretty well at home today, so hopefully it'll be a quick adjustment.

I'm a little stiff and sore today-- did another spin (cycling) class this morning and so my leg muscles, particularly my quads, do not like me anymore. I like the classes because there's motivating music and lots of other people there to encourage you, but unlike the Zumba classes there's little chance of me flailing about and accidentally punching someone in the eye. Pretty sure that in spin class punching someone would have to be deliberate. Despite having the occasional sympathetic thought directed towards hamsters on those little wheels (you work so hard and you go nowhere!) I'm enjoying spinning and certainly getting a good workout!

Tomorrow we're headed to the Tacoma Home and Garden Show to brave the crowds, attend a workshop or two (I'm especially excited about the edible landscaping one) and check out all the neat innovations and trends for 2010. I'll be keeping a close eye out for attractive universal design products; recently I've been considering starting up an "accessible home" blog because I'm interested in that sort of thing, there doesn't seem to be a regularly updated blog on the web that covers that particular territory, and because I am totally nuts and apparently have too much free time on my hands. I'll share what I find with you on Sunday since tomorrow Jeremy will be answering more questions!

~Jess

Thursday, January 28, 2010

In Which The House Is Coming Along!

I haven't posted about the house in a little while, so I thought I'd show you what exciting things have been happening over there!

With the exception of the cabinet doors and the painting, the millwork is finished now and wow, is it gorgeous! Check out the wainscoting in the living room, entryway and library; it makes a huge difference in the appearance of the rooms. They seem much more elegant and put-together to me. I've posted a "before" shot and a "current" shot of the two rooms so you can see the difference-- sorry for the horrible layout this time. Blogger is not cooperating with me tonight and I don't feel like staying up to fix it. I'll work on it tomorrow.
Other beautiful details recently completed that aren't pictured here include crown molding on the upper kitchen cabinets, new flooring in the laundry room, and a laundry sink cabinet in the same glowing unstained maple as the kitchen cabinets. The new zero-threshold front and back doors have also been added, though as you can see the front door has yet to be unwrapped since it isn't painted or sealed yet. Doesn't the casing above the door look amazing? I wish I had more talent for photography as it looks so much more stunning in person.












Can you believe this is the same house? Currently everything is masked in preparation for painting, you can see the putty (the pink spots) that they used to cover up the miniscule nail holes in the wood and there aren't any doors on the windowseats, but you can get the idea of what the rooms will look like when they are complete. They're moving extremely fast now and hopefully it will only be a few more weeks before we're able to move in! I plan to resume packing next week in preparation for the move-- I stopped because I keep packing things and then unpacking them a day later because I discover I need them. This is not terribly efficient.



Jer got to take a look around the house upright for the first time this week as we brought his crutches with us when we swung by to check the mail. He's spent a lot more time up on his feet in the past few days, and he's stepping up his work out program. We took a spin class together this morning and he was actually able to stand up on the pedals of the bike! I'll have to post a video of him walking on his crutches now so that you can see the amazing difference just a few weeks has made.
Jeremy will be answering more of your questions this Saturday, by the way. As long as there are questions he'll keep answering, so if you'd like him to elaborate on the Predator Breeding Program For The Elimination of Stupid People (PBP for short-- and thanks, leah, for the perfect name) or have any other questions, feel free to leave them either in the comments on this post or on the original post over here. I'm serious, people. Go ask more questions. I intend to have as many lazy Saturdays as possible.
~Jess

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

In Which Connor Grabs A Bite To Eat

Jeremy had several appointments on post today and Connor had no school, so while the big guy was at the doctor's office the little guy and I spent most of the afternoon in the Tacoma area. I dropped off one of Connor's hearing aids to be repaired (the second one he's broken in the past month-- sometimes I think we'll never have both of them back at the same time!) and then we drove over to Marlene's, the local health-food store, for a late lunch.

It's so funny to watch Connor explore flavors! I ordered the mushroom and barley soup, a ciabatta roll, and a cherry smoothie-- all things that Connor and I could try together. I already had a pretty good idea of what his favorite thing on the table was going to be.

Connor goes for flavor. Strong flavor. And when I say strong, I mean the kid likes wasabi straight up and will suck on limes. You have to put spice in just about anything you give him, and the principle works both ways. In other words plain applesauce isn't going to cut it, folks-- better pile on the cinnamon. This is one of the reasons I think he likes freshly pureed fruits and veggies from the farmer's market. The flavors are so much more intense than the stuff you can get out of a can. It's one of the reasons why I like them so much too; I'm not much of one for bland myself.

So I was completely unsurprised when he reacted to my feeding him a tiny piece of ciabatta like I was attempting to poison him. He immediately spit it out, and no amount of coaxing would make him open his mouth again for it.

The mushroom and barley soup got mixed reviews. He seemed to enjoy the taste of the soup, but refused to swallow the bits of barley I snuck in on the spoon, instead reserving them in his cheeks like a little chipmunk until he saw something that made him laugh and expelled bits of mushy barley all over the table in the middle of the store, causing the two old ladies at the table next to us to cringe and start whispering behind their hands. It was not one of our better public moments.

The cherry smoothie was another story, though. They make them with very simple ingredients: sour cherries, apple juice, ice, and in our case local bee pollen, because I'm trying to head off Connor's allergies. At any rate, there's no added sugar so the smoothie is lip-puckering sour.

I wish I'd had a camera when I put the first bite in his mouth; the contortions his face went through were pretty amazing. First he sucked his bottom and top lip into his mouth and squinted. Then he made a kissy face. Then he sort of screwed his mouth up and flailed his arms around wildly for a couple of seconds. I swear I could see smoke coming out of his ears. And finally he swallowed and sat perfectly still for a second, contemplating what had just happened. We looked at each other for a minute. Very deliberately and slowly I picked up the spoon, dipped it into the smoothie again, and brought it up to his mouth level.

"MORE!" Connor signed, and lunged for the spoon.

He's a thrill seeker, all right. God help us all if he ever discovers roller coasters.

~Jess

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

In Which I Display A Little More Of My Unhinged Creative Side

Because I have a wildly out of control bad habit for making up terrible song lyrics that has raged for years (No really-- my brother and I rewrote the entire Little Mermaid song "Under the Sea" when we were seven and nine respectively and made it about cats. It was entitled, as I recall, "Under the Chair." It was horrible.) guess what I just spent entirely too much time working on?

Rowbert's theme song is set to the theme music of Transformers: The Movie, which came out in 1986. I was horribly disappointed the song (the Transformers one, not Rowbert's) didn't make its way into any of the new movies, even if it did have lousy lyrics. You can find the original lyrics in all their glory here, and the music over here. I suggest you listen to it while you read these to get the proper effect.

In case you miss the reference in the song, by the way, Parking Duck appeared in an earlier post and will guard the space that we need next to our van in order to deploy the ramp. He's in Phase I of our Rowbert Defense Modifications. Phase II involves growing some velociraptors from extracted DNA and raising them with surrogate duck parents to avoid potential tragic infighting within our combat team.

Anyway, enjoy!

Rowbert Van

Rowbert Van!

Stupid people walking right past you
Comin' from the mall
There's something you can do

Prepare to strike
There'll be no place to run
When they’re caught within the beam
Of our giant ion gun

Rowbert Van
More than you can see
Rowbert Van
Wheelchairs and weaponry

Run from these human infestations
Who are staring and pointing
And asking rude questions

Cornered now with them our captors
Until off of the roof
Come our velociraptors

Rowbert Van
More than you can see
Rowbert Van
Wheelchairs and weaponry
Rowbert Van

Parking Ducks wage their battle to destroy the evil forces of
The Idiotocons

Rowbert Van

It's judgment day and now we've made our stand
And for now the powers of darkness
Have been conquered with our van

The Battle's over but the war will begin soon
So watch out when we deploy our awesome ramp of doom!

Rowbert Van
Rowbert Van
Rowbert Van
Rowbert Van

More than you can see!

Rowbert Van!


Okay. I've gotten it out of my system and I'm done, I swear-- you can quit backing away slowly now.

~Jess

Monday, January 25, 2010

In Which Our Van Receives A Name

This morning I drove Connor to school and parked in the disabled parking spot like I do every morning. I hit the button to lower the ramp and walked around the van to unlatch Connor's wheelchair when a father and his five or six year old son passed us on their way into the school. They were staring at the van as it sank down and the ramp deployed from beneath the floor with identical looks of excitement.

"Wow!" said the dad to the blond-haired little boy next to him. "Did you see that? That was awesome! I didn't know cars like that existed!"

The little boy was jumping up and down and yanking wildly on his father's arm in excitement. "Dad, dad! It's a rowbert! Just like in Transformers! It's a rowbert car!"

So, our van has a name now. We have dubbed it Rowbert, and no doubt we will have many exciting adventures together saving the world from other evil alien robots-- I mean rowberts-- who want to destroy it.

This is totally feeding right into Jeremy's plans to mount a 122mm tank gun on the hood. The only real argument I have against this is that the good Transformers used mostly disabling weapons and not guns. He'll probably come back with some plan to strap velociraptors to the roof. I haven't done a whole lot of research into the Transformers, but there probably aren't any velociraptor restrictions. Oh well.

Any ideas for a theme song?
~Jess

Sunday, January 24, 2010

In Which We Play At Being Models

So we drove up to the Olympic Sculpture Park this morning for our photo shoot with Kat and Justin!

The Olympic Sculpture Park, for those of you not familiar with the area, is a free public park affiliated with the Seattle Art Museum. They have several really cool permanent installations outside, and a large pavilion that contains a rotating exhibit. We met the very talented Kat and her awesome husband (and second shooter) Justin in the pavilion and went right to work! After taking some shots in their awesome orange chairs we headed outside some shots near the waterfront and with some of the large sculptures. Jer and I had a blast, but Connor seemed rather unsure about the whole situation. He finally warmed up and even gave us a few cute smiles and giggles, but then unfortunately the weather went south and it began raining. We ended up moving back indoors for a few more shots, and then we all drove over to Espresso Vivace for some very tasty coffee (or in my case, a very tasty steamer) and cookies.

We had a ton of fun! I can't wait to see some of the shots that Kat and Justin took-- patience is not on of my strong points. Hopefully Jer's somewhat cheesy I'm-Smiling-For-The-Camera smile and my ridiculous Throw-My-Head-Back-So-You-Can-See-Up-My-Nose laugh didn't mess up too many of the photos. I'm not worried about Connor; I have no doubt that he looks adorable in every single picture, even if he does have his hands in front of his mouth in half of them. He was switching between signing, "Don't like" and "All done."

Silly little guy.

~Jess

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ask Jer: In Which Jer Answers A Whole Bunch Of Questions

Ok, here we go!

"Which are best? Bears, Velociraptors, or Tanks?"

Why does there have to be a best? It seems to me we could simply combine some or all of these wonderful things. After all, there is a CatTank. Surely we could have a BearTank... manned by Velociraptors. BearTank could definitely simply walk into Mordor.

"Are you horde or alliance? What server are you on?"

I play Horde on Suramar. I used to raid quite a bit, but eventually stopped due to the time it took. I don't really have a main anymore as I tend to split my time across multiple toons. None of them are anywhere close to being geared. I don't play as much since I don't have a group of people I like playing with.

"Are you still on active duty? Will you be able to remain in , or do you even want to? What kind of support do you get from them?"

Yep, I am still active duty and I intend to remain so. My ability to remain in the military depends on my capabilities when my healing plateaus.

The process whereby the Army determines if an individual can remain in the military is a two part system called the MEB/MMRB. The MEB and the MMRB are two boards which include a variety of medical doctors, an individual's medical care manager, and a military representative (usually within the individual's chain of command).

In order to be in the Army there is a task list you must be able to perform. These tasks include things like digging and constructing a fighting position, carrying a weapon and using it effectively, and carrying a certain amount of weight over a certain distance. If someone is unable to perform these tasks then they will be separated from the military and receive some sort of disability payments. The ability to perform all these tasks doesn't mean you can remain in the military however. There are also implied tasks that are not listed. For instance, if you are on massive quantities of morphine for the rest of your life or you have had significant behavioral changes, the doctors on your board can find you unfit for military duty, even if you can complete all the necessary tasks. This is the first board you go through as if you are unfit for military duty there is no reason to go to the next board. The second board is composed of a very similar group of professionals. It will attempt to place the individual within an appropriate job in the Army.

The various jobs in the military have task lists as well. The more violent jobs like infantry, armor, and artillery have very physically oriented tasks, whereas less violent jobs like finance and quartermaster have less physically intensive tasks. During this board a significant factor is the needs of the Army. An individual might be able to physically do a particular job in the Army, but if the Army doesn't need anyone else in that job the individual will be separated with disability payments.

The military has undergone a massive change in regards to how they care for wounded Soldiers. This is not to say that previously wounded Soldiers received inadequate support, but rather the methods used to support the Soldiers have changed.

When a Soldier is seriously wounded they are placed into a type of unit called a WTB (Warrior Transition Battalion). A WTB is composed of a military chain of command, medical care managers, and general care doctors. The purpose of the WTB is to provide a unit where the Soldier can focus on his/her recovery and to provide management and oversight for the many appointments that may be necessary. The Soldier's job in this unit is to heal. How the individual spends their time in the WTB depends entirely on the requirements of their treatment.

An individual with numerous weekly medical/therapy appointments or who is low functioning will report in every day and then attend their appointments. Individuals who are higher functioning will perform low stress work within the WTB or, if they intend to leave the Army, will be begin working for a local civilian agency. Soldiers working for a civilian agency receive their military paycheck and are not paid by the civilian job up until the day they separate from the Army. Many of these civilian jobs are actually used to retrain wounded individuals and provide skill training.

All Soldiers have medical insurance provided by the Army. The insurance covers both the military medical system as well as any civilian medical care that is necessary. The amount of support provided by the WTB and the military medical insurance is quite substantial.

"What is your favorite book? What is your favorite book to read to Connor?"

I rarely think in terms of favorites. I tend to read science fiction and a bit of fantasy. Within science fiction I tend to read military sci-fi more than most. The concept of fighting a war in space has always fascinated me as many of the physical characteristics of it would be very un-earthlike. I have just wordified un-earthlike.

I read to Connor whichever book he prefers. I add my own interpretations of course. If the book involves some sort of happy, loving, non-violent predatory animal I correct the book so that Connor doesn't become confused. I consider this one of my fatherly duties.

"Do dads have a need to connect with other dads?"

I don't.

"How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?"

If by chuck you mean throw the answer would surely be very little. A complete lack of opposable thumbs would certainly limit the creature's chucking capability.

"How do you really *feel* about life?"

My feelings on life are that far too many stupid people have it. I feel that more predatory animals such as BearTanks, velociraptors, and very hungry caterpillars are needed to thin out the population of stupid people. Much of what I do in life centers around avoiding stupid people and promoting breeding programs for various predatory animals.

"What does the color blue make you think of?"

Unfortunately, that stupid techno song that makes liberal use of the word blue. I don't remember the name (it surely involves the word blue) or the band. I only remember one line that went, "I'm blue (long string of jibberish)." If you really want to you could probably look it up on youtube.

"How many unicorns can fit on the head of a pin?"

Congratulations! You have divided by zero! The universe explode!

"What were your thoughts when you first realized the extent of your injuries?"

It went a little like this: "HMM, things look a little messed up down there. Guess I better go back to sleep." Massive quantities of morphine make you very sleepy.

When my brain wasn't quite as hazy, which took a while, I did have a bit of fascination with the nature and extent of the damage. I'm a kinesiology major so that kind of stuff interests me.

"What can you tell us about Jess as a mother that she wouldn't tell us herself?"

Jessie hates unsolicited advice givers.

I'll save the rest of the questions for another day.

Friday, January 22, 2010

In Which Jeremy Takes A Stroll

Great questions, people! I'm not sure how many Jeremy will answer tomorrow, but he'll get to them all eventually!

I spent a good portion of today at the mall, where I found a store with a 90% sale going on, believe it or not. I picked up a really pretty silk dress for three dollars. Now that's what I call a sale! Perhaps I should go to mall more often.

In other news, Jeremy had a meeting with a lymphologist this week. A lymphologist, for those not familiar with the term, is a person in the medical field who specializes in the lymphatic system. At any rate, Jeremy was there to possibly be fitted for some special compression socks to help minimize scar tissue and to keep the swelling in his feet and legs down. Basically they're like knee-high super control pantyhose made out of spandex or lycra.

Unfortunately according to the lymphologist Jer's feet and legs are still too swollen to be able to use the compression socks. So she's going to make up both a lymphatic massage to help increase drainage and also a series of bandages for him to use until the swelling goes down enough that he can fit into the compression socks. Basically he'll look like a mummy from the knees down.

A mummy wearing velcro sandels. No really-- you can't wear closed-toe shoes with the bandages. It'll be like some sort of B horror flick: Ramses Goes To The Beach or something.

He also had a meeting with his physical therapist, and she was highly impressed by how well he's standing and moving around! She told him to be up on the crutches as much as possible, so he took her at her word and when I dropped him off at the gym today, he left the wheelchair in the van and spent his entire workout time without it! It's amazing to see how much he's improved just in the last couple of weeks. He tried to get around using a couple of canes at PT, but it didn't work out very well; he's not stable enough for that. So he's using crutches for now, and preparing for the future by trying to find a martial arts school that teaches the art of cane and walking stick fighting.

That's my husband.

~Jess

Thursday, January 21, 2010

In Which Connor Has An Eeyore Day

Those questions for Jeremy are awesome. I'm pretty sure I can get at least two Saturdays out of this, if not more. He's been spending a whole lot of time thinking up good answers. Keep 'em coming!

Connor's still been acting a little more lethargic and grumpy than usual; today he actually told me that he didn't want to go to school, which is a big shocker as normally he's extremely enthusiastic about the place. I'm wondering if maybe it's his new medication that's making him feel out of sorts. He doesn't seem to be sick and once he got to school he apparently had a good time, so who knows? Everybody's allowed to have an Eeyore day once in a while I suppose.

While Connor had a kind of down day, mine was actually pretty great! I am so excited to say that I won't have to yank out any more of that horrible, horrible ivy at the new house-- not because it's all gone (it isn't) but because the fantastic Olympic Landscape and Irrigation Company has offered to help us clean up the front yard! I'm sure they have some more efficient way to get rid of the stuff. Like flamethrowers.

Hear that ivy? Your days are numbered.

And as if that wasn't good news enough, remember the photo shoot giveaway we won a few weeks ago? We've been talking with the lovely Kat about scheduling, and provided the weather cooperates we'll be headed out to the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle on Sunday for the big shoot! Hopefully Connor will be out of his current funk and we'll see some big smiles-- not that he isn't cute when he's Very Serious, but I do love it when he shows us that adorable infectious grin.

Now I just have to figure out what the heck we are going to wear!

~Jess

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

In Which I Am Passing The Buck To Jeremy

So I've been nagging Jeremy for weeks now about the possibility of writing a blog post here, ostensibly because I know a lot of people would like to hear from him but probably secretly because it would be awesome to have a free day for me. I mean, don't get me wrong--I love writing blog posts and usually plenty of drama happens around here to keep me in subject matter-- but there are days in which I'm worried I may be reduced to writing about nose hair or something, as absolutely nothing exciting happens. Also sometimes I'm lazy.

Anyway, he's been telling me that he wouldn't know what to write about, but I finally wore him down to the point that he agreed to do a Q&A session as that would give him some subject matter to start from. So here's your chance: do you have a question for Jeremy? You can leave the questions in the comment section or e-mail them to me and next Saturday he'll answer them. If there are a lot of questions maybe I can get him to commit to doing this a couple of Saturdays in a row. With a few notable exceptions (Robert Rummel-Hudson comes to mind) there aren't a whole lot of blogging dads of children with special needs out there. There are even fewer who are (hopefully temporarily) disabled themselves. And as an added bonus, he's even more sarcastic than I am!

He says to warn you though that if you ask any touchy-feely metaphysical questions, he will "start making crap up." This is because he is a guy. Otherwise I think pretty much anything is fair game.

So come out of the shadows, all you lurkers, and ask away!

~Jess

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In Which My Mind Works In Weird Ways

This morning I stopped to grab some coffee for Jeremy and myself before joining him over at the new house to meet the pest control man. I glanced down at a newspaper stand while waiting in line and a headline caught my eye. I'm a voracious reader, and one of the unconscious strategies my mind has developed over the years to read quickly is to jump ahead by seeing the first and last letter in a word and filling in the blanks using context. Ninty-nine percent of the time it works perfectly and I don't even realize I'm doing it, but every once in a while my brain pulls out a real doozy.

The headline read:

RAMPAGING MILITANTS TERRORIZE CITIZENS IN AFGHANISTAN

My brain read:

RAMPAGING MUTANTS TERRORIZE CITIZENS IN AFGHANISTAN

I sort of like my version better. I mean, I know I would have bought the paper just for that article. Who wouldn't? Oh well.

My crazy brain aside, the good news of the day is that the pest control guy came out and said that the termites we had were Pacific Dampwood termites and not their much more destructive drywood or subterranean cousins. They only infest wet wood, like the small area of siding they were discovered in that was moist from a slow roof leak (now repaired), and they won't nest in dry wood. So now that the damaged wood has been replaced and won't become waterlogged again, they shouldn't be a problem and require no treatment. Other than a couple of holes in a crawlspace vent or two he didn't find any other issues! We are very, very happy to know that our house is not going to be turned into sawdust any time in the near future, and also that we don't have any other unwelcome guests hanging out.

Except, possibly, for a nasty bug of another kind. I think Connor may be coming down with something. The kid was acting really lethargic and unhappy all day-- he actually had a meltdown at school, which is really weird because he usually loves school-- and despite getting eleven hours of sleep the night before he took a three hour nap today. If you asked him, though, he said he felt fine, and other than a little nausea he seemed to be okay: no fevers or anything. We'll keep a close eye on him and hopefully he'll be feeling better in the morning after a good night's rest.

~Jess

Monday, January 18, 2010

In Which We Have A Few Thousand Uninvited Guests

Tomorrow we've got the pest control man coming out to do an inspection and probably a treatment.

This is because last Friday the crew discovered termites eating our house.

It is perhaps an understatement to say that we were not thrilled by this development. While I am all about organic and sustainable pest management and am certainly ready to live and let live most of the time, my knee jerk response to this announcement was something along the lines of "KILL THEM! KILL THEM WITH FIRE!!!" The thought of a huge colony of insects munching away at our newly renovated property while I try to come up with some natural means of disposing of them makes me hyperventilate. Termites don't even have cuteness going for them as a redeeming quality, so I feel no remorse at the utter hatred I feel for this particular colony and any of its house dining brethren that may be as yet undiscovered. Luckily the crew only found them in a really small section of the siding where the chimney meets the roof and not in, say, our foundation. Hopefully this will continue to be the case after the inspection.

Anyway as a result we've got the pest control guy coming out, and he'll probably spray all sorts of nasty chemicals all over our house, and so it's a good thing that we aren't living there yet as I'm sure that would be fantastic for Connor's chemical sensitivity issues. Bummer. But on the up side, our beautiful new home will no longer be the main course for a couple thousand freeloaders.

Ugh.

~Jess

Sunday, January 17, 2010

In Which Connor's New Medicine Doesn't Work

This afternoon Connor was sitting and playing so nicely with his toys that I had to take a video to show you! Ignore my piles of clean laundry in the background.

Anyway, the really cool thing about this video is that not only is Connor sitting well totally unsupported, but he's actually reaching across midline for a toy without losing his balance. Jeremy has to help him lean forward a little as he's not sure where in space the toy is, but otherwise he does remarkably well, even rocking back and forward a little. He sat up and played with various toys for about twenty minutes straight-- this is towards the end of that time period. It's amazing to see how far he's come in such a short time, and I'm excited to see where he'll be in a few more months!
video

So that was the good part of the day. About fifteen minutes after I shot this video Connor had a seizure. It actually took us a minute or so to figure out that he was having one because he was sitting next to me on the futon with his Annie Ooo toy in front of him and he continued trying to play with it while he was seizing. Or at least he did until he quit breathing, which is when we realized he wasn't just leaning against me because he was tired. I lay him down and gave him nine or ten breaths-- he was only not breathing for about a minute. He came out of it, had a good cry, and went to bed, which is where he is now.

I'm really disappointed because we'd hoped that his new medication would stop his seizures, and evidently that's not going to be the case. At least this one wasn't very bad. I also feel guilty because we didn't realize he was having one despite having seen so many of these, and also because I sort of feel like maybe he had it because we pushed him too hard today on the physical therapy front. It's hard to know what triggers these seizures, or if there's really any external trigger at all.

Oh well. Sometimes I feel like we're always taking two steps forward, one step back around here. It's slow going, but we'll get somewhere eventually; I just know it.

~Jess

Saturday, January 16, 2010

In Which We Go On A Date

Today was Date Day for Jeremy and me.

We have one of these about once a week right now; four or five hours in which we leave Connor with our wonderful respite care worker, Joanna, and venture out into the city to find something to do. Though we occasionally see a movie, go to a festival or museum or some such activity, mostly Jeremy and I end up wandering around a bookstore for a while and then sitting in a coffee shop somewhere side-by-side, reading, holding hands, and drinking some tasty hot beverage. (And yes, we really can spend four or five hours doing this just those two things. We like our books and our coffee shops.)

So this morning the first place we set off for on our date was the new house. We wanted to snap some quick pictures of the craftsmen working on the vent in the kitchen, the millwork around the living room windows, the window seats on either side of the fireplace, and a surprise: gorgeous crown molding in our bedroom! There's Jeremy posing with Jerry Lurz of White Sands Finishing Company, and some of the other guys working in the background. It was pretty inspiring to see such talented artists at work, and we loved getting a chance to meet the people that are gifting us with such an awesome place to live!

After that, we stopped for a little brunch, and then continuing with our break in our usual date traditions we decided not to go to our usual bookstore.

We went to another bookstore across town. Variety is the spice of life, people.

~Jess

Friday, January 15, 2010

In Which Connor Is Not Special And I'm Fine With It

I was filling out a questionnaire today; Connor has been selected for an award given out by the military hospital every year, and so we were to write a bit about him and send in some pictures to be used in the ceremony. Everything was going along swimmingly until I got to this question:

"Knowing that you are Mom and Dad, we would like to know from your perspective what makes your child special to you and your family."

And it was there that things screeched to a halt. I couldn't figure out how to answer this question, and I was surprised by my strong negative reaction to it. It's certainly a totally innocent query-- we were probably just supposed to list some of Connor's positive traits and move on. But it was that word "special" that was sticking in my craw.

While I say that Connor has special needs, as that seems to be the most PC term, and I love him deeply and fiercely, do I think of him as special? I might get a little flack for this one, but oh well.

No. No I don't.

He's not a saint or an angel or some sort of pillar of society. He's an ordinary little boy who happens to have a lot of challenges to deal with on a daily basis. While I know he's not ever going to be "ordinary" in the conventional sense-- he'll always be set apart by his physical and cognitive disabilities-- I really, really wish that wasn't the case. I wish that he could be viewed by the world outside our little family as simply a person, no better or worse than any other, and not as a case study or someone to be pitied or babied or scorned or idolized, depending on who's looking at him.

This is probably such a sticking point for me because we run into a whole lot of folks who tell Jeremy and me that we are special people for having Connor. And we're not. We're totally ordinary, normal parents who are muddling through raising a child and figuring it out as we go along, just like everyone else. I don't like being thought of as some sort of extraordinary person because it implies that only extraordinary people can raise children with disabilities. And that's not true; I firmly believe that anyone who would be a good parent to any child can be a good parent to a child with disabilities. To my mind, being special means being set apart. It implies an us and a them. And we don't want that, not for ourselves or for Connor.

It took me a long time to compose an answer-- I didn't want to turn Connor's award into my own oversensitive personal rant, and so it took me a while to figure out what I wanted to say. Tell me what you think about it. Here's what I ended up with:

"What a difficult question to answer! Certainly Connor is special from a medical perspective; he’s the only known case in the world with his specific genetic condition. But here’s the deal—despite the fact that his medical conditions permeate almost every aspect of our lives, we think of them as relatively unimportant. Connor has a variety of conditions that are part of him, just as he has blond hair and green eyes. They don’t define who he is.

"We could tell you about his bubbly, sweet personality, his great passion for music, and his easy acceptance of the hand that life has dealt him. We could mention his unmitigated joy in making new discoveries, his silly sense of humor, and the stubborn streak a mile wide he inherited from both sides of the family. We could talk to you about his bravery in the face of numerous emergency room visits, hospital stays, and painful medical procedures, his gentle touch with animals, and the astonishing beauty of his smile.

"But ultimately I think what makes him special to us is what makes any child special to a parent. He is our son, an ordinary person placed in extraordinary circumstances, who, like all of us, is doing his best to make the most out of what he’s been blessed with. He is made special by how very ordinary he is despite all of the challenges he is facing. We couldn’t possibly ask for more."



~Jess

Thursday, January 14, 2010

In Which We Brush Connor

We have a new routine to add to our at-home therapy now.

We are brushing our son.

Sounds weird, doesn't it? I'm not referring to the kid's hair. Brushing is this technique advocated by many occupational therapists to decrease sensory integration issues. The technical name for the method is the Wilbarger Deep Pressure and Proprioceptive Technique, but everyone just calls it brushing for obvious reasons. Who want to say that mouthful every time they mention it? Basically one takes a special kind of brush with soft bristles and then runs it slowly over the back, arms, legs, hands, and feet of the child using firm pressure. Then joint compressions are administered to the fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, ankles, knees, hips, head, and sternum. We're to do this every two hours while Connor is awake. It's supposed to help with his extreme tactile sensitivity, hopefully allowing him to tolerate more stimulation. If you'd like to see someone using this technique, here's a video.

So we started on our brushing regime this afternoon. They've been doing it at school for a while so Connor was pretty comfortable with it. The cats, however, didn't care for it. Cricket seemed to be of the opinion that I shouldn't be brushing Connor; I should be brushing her. She kept coming over and flopping down on my feet to make sure that I didn't leave her out or anything. Connor thought this was hilarious. I ended up taking turns with them: I'd brush Connor's right leg, then brush Cricket for a second. Left leg, Cricket. No doubt Cricket needed some sensory work done too.

Crazy cat.

At any rate, we'll see if this helps Connor become less defensive about his hands and feet. Hopefully he'll be able to tolerate more textures as time goes by. While there aren't a whole lot of studies out there about the effectiveness of brushing, many parents and therapists swear by it. It's certainly not going to hurt anything, so we'll give it a try and see whether or not he gets something out of it! Anybody else tried this with their kids?

Still. Brushing my son. Weird.

~Jess

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

In Which We Have A Very Busy Day

What a busy day today!

Jeremy had physical therapy at 8:15 this morning, so we didn't really sleep in like we normally do on Wednesdays. Since this will be his usual time from now on for PT, I guess I'd better get used to it! After I picked him up from PT and his subsequent gym workout, I drove him down to the post, dropped him off for an appointment, and then Connor and I went to the little guy's physical therapy. Connor didn't really feel like doing a whole lot of work today; he tried every trick in the book to get out of rolling a ball back and forth, which is what we were trying. First he tried to get out of it by snuggling. When that didn't work, he moved on to signing various excuses or distractions to us. "No! Away! Tired. Sad. Don't like ball. Want Daddy. Want eat. Want kitty." He was certainly getting his point across and communicating, which was nice. It's been a while since I've seen such clear and obvious signing from him-- probably not since before he started having real trouble with his seizures again. It's good that he's signing more because it tells me he's feeling better.

While we acknowledged his signs, we made him roll the ball anyway, because we are evil like that.

After Connor's PT we swung by and picked Jeremy up, and then we headed to the house for some lunch and to let Connor have a nap before we met with Kat Speyer, the photographer whose family photo shoot giveaway we won. I was totally completely psyched to be meeting her, and she turns out to be just as awesome in person as she seems online. We spent a while talking about locations, looking at photo album options (there are so many to drool over, which is what I'm doing right now in addition to typing this and petting the cat), and then moved on to swapping stories about our crazy cats and various other topics we had in common. Because I never shut up once I get started talking (seriously, if you think my blog posts are long try having a conversation with me sometime) we ended up taking up over three hours of her time. This probably qualifies her for sainthood, especially since Connor informed her several times that he "didn't like her" and she should "go away." Manners are not his strong point, and he was kind of bored.

Anyway we came away from the meeting even more excited about the photo shoot, which will probably be happening sooner rather than later provided the weather cooperates. We can't wait!

~Jess

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

In Which Connor Does Not Like Bells

Connor was a real music maker today.

Since he generally only chooses to play with his toys that have plenty of lights and sound, the kind of toys that will drive a parent absolutely nuts if they have to listen to them for more than seven or eight minutes straight, I've been trying to introduce him to some other fun things to do. I'm especially trying to get him away from his current favorite toy: the Leapfrog Fridge DJ, which is known in our household as the "Annie Ooo." This is the title of the most annoying song on the thing. Can you guess which song is Connor's favorite?

So today I decided that he could try a few other toys, toys that are normally of no interest to him because they don't contain batteries. First up was a maraca.

Now, Connor thinks maracas are funny, provided someone else is shaking them. As long as I was the one doing the holding, he was fine with the thing, but the second I tried to put it in his hand was the second that the maraca was no longer fun. Now it was the Evil Maraca of Doom, and shaking it would bring on the Apocalypse. He would do his very best to jerk his hand away from the maraca as quickly as possible, and on the few short occasions I got him to hold the thing he only wrapped his fingers around it long enough to get a good wind-up so that he could throw it as far away as possible, perhaps in the hopes that I wouldn't be able to find it again.

So much for the maraca. I moved on to the bells.

Connor's jingle bells have a distinct advantage over the maracas, not because they sound any better or anything, but because they can be strapped on. While Connor could get them off his right wrist fairly quickly, he's not coordinated enough to shake them off his weaker left arm. So here's the sequence of events that followed.

Connor would attempt to shake the bells off his wrist. The noise would make him laugh, but it would quickly become overwhelming. He would then attempt to do one of his "self-stim" movements to calm himself down. The one he invariably tried to do was the one where he flaps his arms around wildly. The arm flapping would cause the bells to jingle even louder, which would excite Connor even more and cause him to flap harder, escalating the volume of the bells again.

This created a vicious cycle so that after about five minutes Connor was flapping his arms up and down so hard it looked like he was fixing to take off, and was on the verge of tears. At that point I took pity on him, took the bells off, cuddled him for a little bit, and then gave him the Annie Ooo back. He pounced on it, and for the rest of the time before our respite care worker arrived to let Jeremy and I leave for sign class the melodious strains of "Annie Annie Ooo, ooo ooo ooo ooo" could be heard wafting through the house.

Oh well.

~Jess

Monday, January 11, 2010

In Which I Succumb To The Latest Craze

Tonight at the YMCA, I tried Zumba.

This was not a good idea.

Now, first of all you have to understand something about me. I was not a cheerleader or on pep squad in high school. I don't go clubbing. The entire extent of my dancing resume consists of those awkward junior high and high school dances, formal dances where one wears a very long dress and allows the guy to do all the leading, and the obligatory dances one learns when one lives a large portion of one's life in Texas, such as two-stepping, the Cotton Eyed Joe, and the Chicken Dance. In addition to my minimal amount of experience and my shocking dearth of natural talent, I have really big feet which I am forever tripping over. As result I dance with all the grace and beauty of a water buffalo suffering from gout.

Well, that's not entirely true, I suppose. I have taken one dance class before, just a couple of months after Connor was born. I was still trying to get used to the fact that my formally svelte and athletic body, due to the extreme amounts of extra amniotic fluid that Connor's kidney issues in utero created, was now covered in stretch marks and was considerably, and probably permanently, saggier in places that one does not expect a 23 year old to sag in. So I was looking for a way to get a little more comfortable with what I had to work with, so to speak, and signed up for the class on a whim. It was entitled, I kid you not, The Art Of Exotic Dance. And when it said Exotic Dance, it was not referring to dancing from foreign climes.

Despite leading to one of the most awkward conversations I've ever had with my father ("Exotic dance? Is that like salsa or something? No? Oh. Oh.") the class turned out to be a ton of fun and just what I needed to get my self esteem back on track. I walked into the class, which was for women only, and discovered to my delight that I was the youngest and thinnest person in the room, even counting the instructor. This is something that will cheer a recently pregnant woman up considerably. Also, due to the fact that a good number of the women in the class were there for a fortieth birthday celebration and had steeled themselves for the rigours to come by consuming a large number of jello shots, I was also one of the most coordinated, which is saying something. The class ended up being pretty fun, too, though the instructor did become a little exasperated with the drunk forty-somethings, who kept attempting to stick their feather boas up each other's noses and sneaking off to the restroom to imbibe more liquid courage.

So I guess I don't really dance like a water buffalo with gout. I dance like a water buffalo with gout who has taking a class on the art of the striptease. I'm not sure that this is an improvement.

But back to Zumba. Zumba, for those of you who don't know, is the latest aerobic dance craze. According to the official Zumba website, it "fuses hypnotic Latin rhythms and easy-to-follow moves to create a one-of-a-kind fitness program that will blow you away." I was not there to be blown away. I was there because it was the only cardio class going on at the gym this evening and I didn't really feel like riding the stationary bike or running around the track. I figured I could just stand in the back and sort of fudge it.

I knew I was in trouble the moment I walked in. For starters, I apparently wasn't dressed properly. While there were a few non-conformers like me, the correct uniform seemed to be spandex tank tops, tiny bike shorts, and heavy waterproof mascara. I was also supposed to be about nineteen years old and a size two. The second problem was that the room was a fairly modest size, and there were around sixty women crammed into it. This meant that not only was there was no way I could hide in the back, but since we were standing almost shoulder-to-shoulder there was a distinct possibility I might seriously injure one of my fellow Zumba dancers (Zumbers?) with an out-of-control flailing limb if I kicked right when I was supposed to be kicking left. I arrived ten minutes before it started and the place was packed. By the time the class began they were actually having to turn people away at the door.

I somehow ended up in a position almost guaranteed to produce maximum amounts of humiliation. In front and on either side of me were tiny, spandex clad, mascara-wearing girls who had obviously been spending some considerable time on the dance floor and already knew all of the moves. Directly behind me was one of the two men in the class-- both in their late sixties or early seventies-- who would have a full and unobstructed view of my athletic pant-encased rear in all its glory. About ten feet away was a large window, where a number of teenage boys had lined up and stopped to observe the proceedings and flex their biceps in a kind of frenzied mating dance of their own. I briefly thought about elbowing my way to a better position, but it was too late.

Despite my growing apprehensions as the doors clicked ominously shut, I decided to stick it out. And so the lights went down, they pumped the volume on the stereo up, and class began. And you know what? It was pretty fun. Perhaps it was the peppy music and the cheesy multicolored lights. Maybe it was the incredibly enthusiastic instructor, who was kind of an interesting combination between a drill sergeant and a cheerleader. Maybe I just got dehydrated and kind of delirious. At any rate, it grew on me.

Okay, so there was a whole lot of flailing and lurching around and being out of step on my part, and I had a narrow miss where I nearly brained the girl to the left of me after I tripped over my own shoelace during an attempt at a pivoting turn, but it ended up being a really good workout and once I stopped feeling so self-conscious I even managed to sort of catch on to the routines just before they ended and the instructor went on to something entirely new and different. Also the old guy behind me left half-way through the class, which was nice. He was really good, which didn't help me feel any better about my total and complete lack of coordination.

There's another Zumba class tomorrow morning. I just might go, provided I get there early, stake out a corner, bring a lot of water (60 women dancing in a small room makes it hot in there) and stand somewhere on the other side away from the gawking teenage boys. Who knows? If I went often enough I might even pick up some modest dance skills.

But I'm still not wearing spandex.

~Jess

Sunday, January 10, 2010

In Which I Go Shopping

This morning I got up a little early, cleaned house for a bit, and then drove down to one of the local antique malls for a bit of shopping with a friend.

It's a good thing I have to drive a little ways to get to the antique mall, because if I lived next to one I would be one of those people that the police have to dig their way into the house to rescue because so much stuff has accumulated. I swear I am a sucker for those places. If I found a discarded glass Coke bottle on the street I probably wouldn't look at it twice. But if you cleaned it up, stuck a price tag on it, and put it in a cute display window in an antique shop, suddenly I would think of twenty or thirty fantastic things I could do if only I had a glass Coke bottle just like that one. I swear that somehow putting it in an antique store gives it a special shine.

Of course, not everything can be made to look good even if it is displayed on a doily next to a Chippendale. I went in with the intention of finding a lamp or two for the new house, as currently we have a grand total of one table lamp for the entire place, which isn't enough by any stretch of the imagination, and I was blown away by the sheer horrid ugliness that is the antique shop lamp in general. The vast majority of the pottery lamps looked like someone's fourth grade art project. There were also the standard "Naked Lady Holding An Urn" lamps as well as the "Covered In Random Forms of Fruit" lamps. I even found several renditions of the original lamps in our new home's bathroom, fixtures I referred to at the time as "Nipple Lamps." You know, the oblong ones with little nubs sticking out all over them that hang from really long brass colored chains. They wanted fifty bucks apiece for them. I found this really funny. Maybe I should see if they'll buy my lamps.

At any rate I finally found a lamp that I liked, a vintage brass Victorian style bridge table lamp with a purple glass shade for a mere twenty bucks (it was on sale!) and was able to leave happy with my find for the day. I really like it, and Jer expressed his usual relative indifference to anything regarding housewares, so I'm assuming that it's fine with him. I swear the man would be perfectly happy living in a white box, so long as said white box got wireless Internet for World of Warcraft and had an espresso machine.

Connor also seemed to like it, and since he is our in-resident lighting expert (he takes his lighting Very Seriously) then I think it's approved! Now I just have to make a few trips to other thrift and antique stores, as I'm relatively sure that two lamps in a 2300 square foot house isn't going to cut it.

Oh darn it. More shopping. What a tragedy.

~Jess

Saturday, January 9, 2010

In Which We Contemplate A Companion For Connor

Our apnea monitor is picking up messages from space.

No, not literally, like this family's monitor, but we do seem to be getting some interesting interference. I think one of the families in our apartment complex has a monitor that runs on similar channels. Ours still picks up Connor very well, but in the background every once in a while we'll hear something that sounds remarkably like the grown-ups in Charlie Brown-- you know, "Mwa mwa mwa mwa mwa" in conversational tones. Sometimes there will be a higher pitched "mwwaaaaaa mwaaaaaaaaa" which is probably the baby crying.

What's really weird is that if you turn off Connor's apnea monitor at his bedside but leave the remote monitor on, the voices suddenly become much, much clearer. Sometimes you can even pick out phrases. It's very strange, though I guess if I were a voyeur I'd be pretty excited about it. It sort of makes me wonder if someone picks up what happens on our monitor. They probably think we're beating Connor or something. The kid likes to scream and yell a lot when he goes down for nap time. Not because he's sad or anything; just because he likes to scream. Since CPS hasn't shown up at our door yet I'm guessing no one's listening very hard.

We'll be doing a little bit of surveillance of our own pretty soon. Once we get to the new house and Connor is back in his own room instead of sleeping in ours, we'll be getting a video monitor so that we can make sure he's not having a seizure while he's back in his bedroom. We'll have a huge TV in new living room mounted on the fireplace, and we can probably hook up the video monitor receiver to it and have a GIANT picture of Connor. We could probably see his nose hairs and everything; I think those TVs get pretty good definition these days. It'll work for now, but we may have to figure out something else once we adopt if the kids share a room or as Connor gets older. It seems kind of like Big Brother parenting, if you know what I mean. I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

One of the solutions we might end up with as an alternative to video monitoring when Connor is older is to get a seizure response skilled companion dog. The difference between a skilled companion dog and a service dog, for those of you who don't know, is that a service dog is bonded and mainly cared for by the person who requires the dog's services, and a skilled companion dog provides those services with the help of a facilitator (ie me) who takes care of the dog. It would be very, very helpful to have a dog that was trained to stay with Connor at night and alert us if he was having a seizure. I always have the fear in the back of my mind right now that I might be in the shower or in a far part of the house and not hear the monitor alarm going off. Having a dog that could come find me or Jer and alert us to the fact that Connor is having a seizure would really alleviate a lot of the stress there. Of course, on the other hand, then we'd have a dog. Which means more responsibility, more expenses, and more poop. And we all know how fond I am of poop around here.

Still, Jer and I really think a skilled companion dog for Connor would be really, really beneficial for him, and with the new house we would finally be in a position to own a dog. I may have to start doing some homework!

~Jess

Friday, January 8, 2010

In Which I Am Tired

I am a little worn out today, I must admit. I didn't do anything particularly unusual: drove Connor to school, worked out at the YMCA with Jeremy, worked over at the house for a little while, drove Jer to PT, and crashed back at the house. I think it's just a cumulative thing; the past couple of weeks have been so crazy that having an ordinary day short-circuited my systems or something. It's funny how that works, isn't it? I have plenty of energy as long as I'm juggling a lot of balls, but once things slow down it's like it all catches up with me.

At any rate, I'm pretty wiped, and I think that I'll try and make this weekend a fairly relaxing one, though I do need to do some cleaning around here and take a trip to Gig Harbor. We do have a day of respite care this weekend, though, so hopefully Jer and I will have a chance to kick back for a while.

So I'm going to make some tea and lounge with a book in the bathtub before bed. I think it's the perfect solution, don't you?

~Jess

Thursday, January 7, 2010

In Which We Have Another Fantastic Day

We had such a great day today!

This morning Jeremy not only got back up onto his crutches, but he did an entire lap around the indoor track at the YMCA! The track is a sixth of a mile long, so it's quite an accomplishment, especially after getting up on the crutches for the first time only yesterday! The track was pretty crowded and we were really, really slow (it took about 35 minutes to make that lap). At first people simply ran around us without a word, but as we got closer to the finish line more and more people started slowing down and offering encouragement as they ran by. When we went by the balcony that overlooks the basketball court a guy down there started cheering for Jer and pumping his fist in the air. It was pretty cool.

I have to admit, I teared up a bit when Jeremy reached the finish line. It's been five long, long months, but he's back on his feet at last.

Of course we still have a long way to go-- right now Jer can get from the chair to the crutches, but not from the floor to the crutches as he has to build that muscle strength back up, so he needs a spotter right now as he wouldn't be able to get back up if he fell down. Also it hurts quite a bit to walk, as all of the scar tissue is stretching and his feet aren't used to taking the weight any more. And of course, perfectly level ground is needed right now as he has to get used a new way of balancing-- his left ankle doesn't swivel back and forth and more, so that means that he has to balance from his hips. But I have no doubt that he'll be switching to a cane in no time and who knows where he'll go from there?

And while that was already enough to make the day a fantastic one, it just got better from there! We met with Pam, Becky and Rhonda over at the new house to talk about things to come in the next few weeks. While we were there, the tilers were just finishing up the bathroom floors (they did both bathrooms in one day-- talk about hard workers!) and they look absolutely beautiful; I'll have to take some pictures to share with you when I get the chance. We talked about window treatments, furniture, the kitchen and master bathroom counter tops, lighting, and the faux painting that will be done on the oven hood and the ceiling of Connor's room! I swear every time I go over there it's like walking into a secret garden. I'm not watching a house being remodeled; I'm watching it bloom. Every week some new gorgeous detail unfolds, and I never know what I'm going to see when I walk through the door.

I can't wait to share it with you!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

In Which Jer WALKS!

I don't have anything to add to this video.


video

I think it speaks for itself!

~Jess

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

In Which We Are Surprised!

Something pretty cool happened today.

We got an e-mail out of the blue from Kat Speyer, who is a fantastic photographer in Seattle. Apparently my sneaky sister, Mary, entered us into a Family Photo Giveaway without our knowledge . . . and we won! Check it out, see? (And check out Kat's pictures while you're over there-- she's amazing.) We'll get the chance to do a two-hour photo shoot with Kat and then we'll be able to pick out a ton of great prints, albums, canvasses, etc!

We are incredibly stoked about this opportunity. Other than the photos we took right before Jer left we have very few pictures of the three of us together; usually I'm the one behind the camera. Since I have no idea what I'm doing most of the pictures I have of Connor and Jer are blurry, marginally acceptable photos anyway. It'll be fantastic to have some really great ones.

While I'm sure that the grandparents will be thrilled about getting pictures of the grandbaby (and us too, I suppose) and I'm excited about some updated photos for the walls, that's not the main reason why I'm so happy about the shoot. I take so many pictures of Connor for the same reason I started this blog-- not only to keep people updated on how Connor is doing, but to provide Jer and me with a record of as many moments as we can capture out of his life.

While we do our best not to dwell on it and I don't blog about it often on here, the fact of the matter is that Connor is considered by the medical experts to have a severely life-limiting condition. He's already out-lived the original projections for his life expectancy three times, and so while we're taking their current projection (another one-and-a-half to eleven-and-a-half years) with a grain of salt we are well aware of the fact that it will be extremely unlikely that he will reach adulthood, let alone outlive us. Every moment that we can possibly capture of Connor's life, whether it be in words or on film, is extremely precious to us. I'd like to think that they'll be a comforting thing to look back on should that awful day come.

So while it came as a big surprise to us, we are absolutely thrilled to be able to have these pictures taken with the extremely talented Kat, who should be able to capture Connor's toddler attitude in all its glory. And though Connor is, in our minds, the total center of attention it'll be pretty nice to have some pictures of me and Jeremy that do not look (for good reason) like they have been taken from a camera held at arm's length and that have in the background an extremely messy living room. Also maybe she could make me a couple of dress sizes smaller. With bigger boobs. I've heard Photoshop can work wonders these days.

Right.

Um, anyway we may wait for a little while to take these unless we can find a pretty awesome indoor or sheltered place in the Seattle/Tacoma area to take pictures in (suggestions, anyone?) as Connor doesn't really need to be out in the rain, but I'll be sure to write all about our fun time once it happens!

I have to go shoe shopping. Photo shoots require an awesome pair of shoes.

~Jess

Monday, January 4, 2010

In Which I Apparently Am A Horrible, Horrible Person

Connor went back to school today, which was really nice. He loves having a steady routine, and school had become a really important part of that, so I think he'll feel a lot more comfortable settling back into his usual habits now that the holidays are over.

After we dropped him off at school and had a meeting with his nurse, Jer and I drove to the YMCA, where we tried a pilates class. The instructor was very nice and it was fun, but I think we'll maybe try a class that's a little more high intensity; this one was geared towards beginners and the elderly. We had a very nice, relaxing gentle stretch but the class was too long for me to get in a good cardio workout too before I had to go pick Connor up at school. I think I'll try a circuit course next time; it's sure to get the blood moving!

I left Jer at the Y to do his aquatic training while I picked Connor up and stopped by the grocery store. I'm finally in the mood to do some cooking again, so I bought enough for the next three days worth of dinner menus (tonight we had strip steak with roasted carrots, balsamic glazed pearl onions and sourdough rolls) as well as restocked us on a few essentials.

I parked, of course, in the handicapped spot. This is because I had Connor with me. He rides everywhere now in his wheelchair, which is rated for vehicle use, and that way I just have to roll him down the ramp instead of trying to lug thirty pounds worth of wiggly kid into the store. I put our disabled parking permit up, of course. Connor qualifies for one too and we have the application, although we haven't actually driven down to the DMV and picked up the placard yet. I keep forgetting about it. The only difference between his and Jeremy's is that Jer's is red and Connor's will be blue, so I haven't worried too much about using Jer's for Connor too. At any rate, when I got out of the store I loaded Connor and the groceries into the van, went around the side to hop into the driver's seat, and someone started laying on the horn. I looked around, a little confused, and there was an elderly woman in a sedan scowling and furiously shaking her fist at me. There were empty handicapped parking spaces on either side of her and at first I wasn't sure why she was so angry. Then after watching her furious pantomime for a couple of seconds I realized why she was so upset. It was because I was parked in a handicapped parking space and I'm not disabled.

Evidently she either couldn't see Connor in the car or didn't care, as she pulled into the spot on the passenger side of the van and continued to shoot daggers from her eyes at my head as I climbed into the van. She was still shaking her fist at me as I pulled away.

I chose to ignore her at the time, but I'm still a little confused as to what exactly my reaction should have been. She was obviously extremely worked up over what she considered to be my horrible law-breaking breach of etiquette. What would you all have done in this situation?

~Jess

Sunday, January 3, 2010

In Which We Have A Lazy Day

Today was officially a Pajama Day here.

You know, where you never change out of your pajamas or fix your hair or put on makeup? You sit around eating things directly out of the can and watching bad television (or in my case, reading books that require absolutely no cerebral involvement whatsoever) while ignoring whatever chores you had to do that day. Chocolate is also usually involved.

Of course, I did end up changing into some actual clothes and making a quick run to the grocery and book stores. But that was only because we were out of milk and books-- both essential to the full Pajama Day experience. You cannot eat cookies without milk.

Anyway, Connor slept in until noon, which was nice because it meant that once I'd gotten up and given him his medicine (through the g-tube so he didn't have to wake up) I got to go back to sleep. I think a lazy day was just what we needed around here after this past weekend's excitement, and I hope we get the chance to experience a few more of them around here in the next week or two. Even the cats got into the act; there they are curled up on Jeremy's feet. Loki is snoring faintly.

Connor starts school up again tomorrow, and we'll be getting back into our usual routine. Let's hope this next week goes a little more smoothly!

~Jess
 
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