Monday, December 29, 2008

Happy Holidays 2008

Our holiday card.

The coffee table above and living room below.
The tree and Dear Son's glider chair (above) and the foyer (below).
The armoire (this is my pantry) in the dining room of my apartment (above). Picture of our short legged kitty giving Dear Son's picture a kiss (below).

Photo of Dear Son's long legs (below) followed by the three drawer chest in the living room. And lastly, a picture of Wiggles the cat in his Santa hat. I made him and Dear Son wear them at the same time. Wiggles actually allowed me to put it on this year (probably because it made Dear Son laugh) and take some pictures of it.
The last few weeks have been a little more challenging than most. Typically, Christmas break or any school break takes a lot of my time. More often than not, it means twenty four hour a day care. Normally, Dear Son attends school for part of the day. The school days make it easier in terms of care since school does the lunch feeding as well as a few diaper changes. As Dear Son has grown, the amount of physical energy it takes to care for him has increased. Simple tasks, like rolling him over at night are different now that he is quite tall and heavier. I apologize for not posting much but I haven't had much of a break. Dear Son's father has taken him overnight tonight since I work tomorrow so I had a few hours to catch up.
Dear Son's seizures seem to have increased as well. We had some excellent results in early December following an increase in his Vagus Nerve Stimulator. For the first two weeks of the increase, he only had one really bad seizure. Since that time, things have deteriorated a bit. He seems to be much more agitated along with several seizure type episodes. In addition, he is not able to control his saliva very well so there is more night time choking. I suspect this is another indication of possible seizure activity. We are scheduled for an extended EEG monitoring in January to determine exactly what is happening. Dear Son's seizures have changed over time; we have times when he does not show outward signs of a seizure and yet, the EEG shows otherwise. His EEGs are always abnormal, however some of them tend to be worse than others.
Christmas was rather nice. We went to Grandma's house for Christmas dinner. The most challenging part of any invitation is getting Dear Son into and out of the car. Dear Son's father came on his lunch hour and lifted Dear Son into the car for me and then went back to work. I had other family members that helped me get him in/out of the car and assisted me with the hoyer lift throughout the day. Unfortunately, things didn't go as well when we got home. The driveway was a sheet of ice. I was able to place a 5 x 5 foot mat on the ground so I could lift Dear Son out of the car and into his wheelchair. The mat would prevent slipping and falling on the ice. Unfortunately, Dear Son was exhausted from the day and could not sit up any longer. When I attempted to lift him out of the car, he pushed back to lie down. When he did this, he slid off the front seat and onto the floor of the car. I was able to lift him back up on the seat however he leaned back again and when I lifted him he went down on the ground. Luckily, I had the mat beneath him. He wasn't injured at all and I held him as he went down so he didn't get hurt in any way. I did have to call 911 and have the paramedics come help me lift him off the ground. I explained that there weren't any injuries and that he was just exhausted and could not weight bear. One of the paramedics recognized Dear Son from a previous call. In the end, when I asked them for what information was needed (for billing), they declined and said to, "Have a nice evening." All in all, a nice holiday.
I am posting a few Christmas pics from this year as well as our holiday card for 2008. I prefer to take Dear Son's picture in a regular chair, as opposed to his wheelchair however this may be the last year for that. As you can see from the picture, he can't sit up very well at all anymore. I put him in the rocker since it supports him more than the glider chair. He didn't smile this year although it was probably because he was working so hard to sit up.
As always, thank you for your support throughout the year and your interest in Dear Son. We hope you have a wonderful 2009.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Interview with Dream Mom

My thanks to Deborah at 5 Minutes for Special Needs for her lovely interview. She contacted me a few weeks ago for this and it published today. Deborah also writes a blog of her own, detailing her life with her special needs son.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Designed to Sell Meets Designed to "Live"

Living Room South Wall-After Photo
As stated in my profile, I have a organization and staging business that I run while Dear Son is in school. Here is one of my latest projects.

This client had a new home and wanted some ideas on decorating. She was frustrated because they had a beautiful home but somehow, it just wasn't coming together. She had purchased and returned many items when finally she called me to help her stage her home. She wanted to surprise her husband when he came back from a business trip. Staging is not only for selling your home, but even better when you want to live in your home. In the same way you might go to a new hair salon for a new hairstyle, staging allows you to show off your home to it's best ability and to show off your own personal style. Sometimes, we have all of the right things, we just need help in pulling it all together. This is how I did it.

In the before photos, the room isn't very inviting. The curved sofa is against the wall with a baby rocker. On the east wall, the cat condo sits in front of the window and the chair sits in the corner of the room making conversation with someone on the sofa difficult. The bookshelf leans against the wall but doesn't relate to the living room and there isn't any flow or continuity from the living room to the dining room.

On the plus side, the furniture is nice. The client stated she didn't care for the sofa and she would be fine if we replaced it. The house had recently been painted so every room is ready to go. All of the paint coordinates with the furniture and the client has nice accessories. Most of the errors, so to speak in this room, have to do with furniture placement.

Living Room South Wall with Sofa Before

Living Room East Wall

Living Room West Wall
I had her send me some photos of her home and asked her a few questions to determine her decorating preferences and style and to learn how she wanted the rooms to feel. I asked her what items she wanted to keep and what items she wasn't attached to. From there, I created a staging plan. I did all of the following in four hours. In every case, I used things she had in other parts of her home or in her basement. In addition, I made some suggestions on other things she could add to each of the rooms. Working with the client, I made all of these changes in one four hour session and we didn't spend one dime. In the end, I made some suggestions on things she could add in each room and showed her some photos of what to look for when she went shopping for those items.
After Photo of West/North Wall.

By far the most dramatic change to her home came in the living room. By simply moving the furniture and using accessories found in other parts of her home, I was able to create a beautiful living room filled with colors she liked and accessories she chose herself. I simply put her things together in a different way. The curved sofa or "floating" sofa as it is called, was moved away from the wall (hence the name, "floating" sofa). The round coffee table complements the curved sofa. The matching chair pulls out the color of the woodwork and wrought iron railings of the staircase. The red pillows and red vases complement the room but more importantly tie the living room and dining room together. The circular or round shape is repeated throughout the room. In addition, I have attached a few before photos to show you where she was using these items before staging.

After Photo of East Wall.

Before home staging:
-Console and mirror were used in the foyer. (After staging, moved to living room east wall.)
-Coffee table was being used in the family room. (After staging, moved to living room.)
-Pillows were on a bench in the master bedroom. (After staging, moved to sofa and dining room chairs.)
-Ottoman was used in the master bedroom bath. (After staging, used as an end table.)
-Glass table top was on an end table in the basement. (After staging, used as a top to create an end table with the ottoman.)
-Living room centerpiece was on a sofa table in the upstairs hallway.
-Red vases and accent pieces were stored in the basement.
-Candleholders were from the master bedroom dresser top. (After staging, they are on the console table in the east wall photo.)

After the living room was completed, the homeowner only needed to purchase two items. I recommended a tall wrought iron lamp for the southwest corner of the room and a circular glass top for the end table. (We had used a rectangular top from another end table in the house until she could purchase a circular one.)

Dining Room: In the before photo-there is a picture on the south wall, to the right of the window. The tulips flowers on the dining room table are too "light" for the room meaning it's a spring time flower in a bold room. The deep red color dictates a more appropriate flower. The red placements on the table are too formal with the rustic wood table and leather chairs.

Dining Room Before
Dining Room After

In the After photo, the placemats have been removed. We used a centerpiece that is more appropriate in scale to the room. I recommended some flowers and a vase from Pottery Barn to replace the centerpiece. The new centerpiece is a white birch vase with deep red mums in a tall vase. You can see the pillows have been added to the dining room chairs in the corner. These pillows are similar to the ones in the living room. What you can't see is that the picture has been removed. A mirror has been added to the west wall (still needs to be hung). I added red glass accessories to the table beneath the mirror however you can't see that because the mirror was waiting to be hung. I also recommended that a wrought iron fixture with red and brown colored crystals be added to add some sparkle. The client later added a linear wrought iron fixture which complements the room.
FOYER-These are pictures of the foyer. In the before photo, the rug was too small and the foyer was cluttered. To remedy this, the clutter was removed and a larger rug, that was more appropriate in scale was used. The homeowner already had this rug, but didn't know where to put it.
Foyer Before


Powder Room Before (without the rug).

Powder Room After (With the rug from the foyer.)

Master Bedroom-The Master Bedroom was fairly simple. I added the homeowner's previous red bedding, which she had stored in the basement, to add some color to the room. It makes the room look a little more polished.
Master Bedroom Before-

Master Bedroom After-See below.

The homeowner loved the changes. More importantly, I used nearly everything she already had and things that she picked out previously. I did all of these changes in one "four hour" session. More importantly, she called the next morning and said her husband returned from his business trip and was "blown away" with their new living room. He liked it so much, they hired me to do the rest of their home. I have since made furniture and design recommendations for the rest of their home and they have purchased many of the items I recommended. The husband commented that they had tried using two different designers to help them pull together their home and yet they liked this the best.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Stocking Stuffers

I remember when Dear Son was a little boy. It was always hard around Christmas trying to find the right toys for him. It seemed like my life was forever entrenched in the Toys R Us aisle for kids 0-12 months. Year after year, that was my aisle. When Dear Son was a baby, he never hit any of his milestones. Even after that, the milestones were few and far between. Shopping for Christmas toys was a reminder of that. As his chronological age grew, his developmental age remained the same.

When Dear Son missed his milestones, I began to write him a letter from Santa that I would put in his stocking. The letter would highlight the one or two things that Dear Son accomplished that year, with glowing words of praise from the one and only Santa. It was a reminder of sorts, that we were moving forward and that while his accomplishments may be small, they were accomplishments, nonetheless. Each year, the letter would be written on a colored sheet of construction paper and placed in his stocking. And every year, the letter would end the same way, “All my love, Santa.” Some years, I’d write the letter at three a.m., after I came home from singing in the church choir for midnight mass. Other years, it was done sooner. I am not sure who the letter was really for, if it was for him or if it was for me, but it worked.

On Christmas day, or sometimes even a day later, I would sit Dear Son on my lap, and we’d look in his stocking for the letter. I’d read the letter to him and he just loved it. More often than not, we’d read the letter over and over. He seemed to enjoy it as much the fifth time, as he did the first. Although the letter was short on accomplishments, it was big on love.

Somewhere along the way, I stopped writing the letters from Santa. I am reminded of them when I hang the stocking or when I look through his memory box. But this Christmas, the memory of that letter, keeps coming back.

At the beginning of the year, Dear Son would sit up in his rocker, his head pressed against the window, and look out the patio door. He’d watch the ducks, birdies and ground squirrel that would come up to eat the bird seed. Over time, he began to fall over to his right side. After repeatedly sitting him back up in his rocker, I began to move the rocker over to the dining room table. It was there he would listen to his music, with his head lying on the table. Soon, the image of his head against the window looking out, was just a distant memory.

Over the last few weeks, he began to cry out when he was at the table. He could no longer sit up for more than an hour and a half and needed to lie down. The first time it happened, I thought he might be tired or getting sick, but now, I know we are heading down the path, losing skills along the way. Saturdays are the worst. Just this Saturday, he was up from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and then had to lie down and slept until I got him up from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. It’s almost like clockwork now. He hits the ninety minute mark and he cries out to let me know he needs to lie down. Once he’s in his bed, he smiles at me, as if to thank me, then quickly falls asleep. The house is quiet, too quiet for a weekend. It feels lonely too.

As Christmas approaches, I am reminded of those letters to Santa, each with the little milestones. The milestones, that took years in the making, are going away, and going away quickly. I am missing my Dear Son already. It’s too early for a silent night.

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