Dream Shard Blog: The Scintillating Adventures of Our Household

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May '10


Here are a couple videos of Wes. In this one he is trying to tell me he wants something, but I have no idea what it is. He uses signs and sounds to communicate–some are really clear and understandable (“No!”), but others I have to guess at. In this video he says the words “more” and “no” pretty clearly. He also makes signs for “more,” “open,” and “on.” (The plastic on the floor is due to our basement remodeling.)

Here we’re singing a song. I mean, I’m singing and Wes is listening but doing the finger actions along with me. He loves loves loves music and singing. In this video he makes the sign for “song” (or “music”) and does the finger actions of “turtle,” “swim,” “eat,” and “bubble.”


On Pregnancy

A ship under sail and a big-bellied woman,
Are the handsomest two things that can be seen common.

~ Benjamin Franklin

So it’s probably about time I made mention of The Pregnancy.

I don’t have any pictures of me pregnant with Wes between weeks 26 and 36 (when he was born). So this is me today, at 29 1/2 weeks pregnant. This means I’m about three-quarters done.

I still teach aerobics three times per week. During the first four months of pregnancy I taught six to seven hours a week, and my body loved it (except I was tired a lot). Now that it’s only three times per week my stamina is actually worse, so I’m trying to attend additional classes to pick up the slack. Wouldn’t you think the body would appreciate a break from the exercise? But no, the body loves the stimulation, needs the endorphins.

One reason I cut back on classes was so I could sleep more (I was getting up early for 6 a.m. classes). But sleep still eludes me most nights. I remember this about being pregnant with Wesley; often I’d end up on the couch downstairs watching the super early morning news shows at 2, 3, and 4 a.m. Now I just try to lie in bed and go back to sleep, but sometimes it takes 2+ hours. It’s frustrating, now that it’s summer, to see the darkness brightening outside and to hear birds singing good morning when it’s scarcely 5 a.m. and I’ve been awake for two hours and desperately want to go back to sleep.

I’m pretty sure I’m picking up more weight with this pregnancy. That’s due either to A) the fact that I eat whatever I want even when it’s not really a good idea, or B) this baby is bigger than Wesley was. It’s probably a combination of the two. Wes was only 3 lbs 15 oz at birth (born at 36 weeks 5 days), and according to What to Expect When You’re Expecting, my current baby (29 weeks) is supposed to be almost 3 lbs already.

I think by this point in my pregnancy with Wes I was seriously into nesting. About a month before he was born I recall visiting Babies R Us three or four days in a row during my lunch break. I was so particular about making sure we had everything we needed to take care of him once he came. And that it all matched, or at least color-coordinated.

This time around, the only thing I’ve done so far that even vaguely resembles nesting is eying up the baby girl clothes at Wal-Mart on my way to the dairy section. I think I’ll like having frilly dresses in the baby’s wardrobe, and I admit that the other day I lusted after some sage green Mary Jane baby booties. The actual nesting will have to wait until we’re done with the basement. Then I can set up the baby’s room, move Wes to his Big Boy room with a Big Boy toddler bed, and pull out Wesley’s old baby clothes and get all nostalgic as I hang them in the new baby’s closet.

This time we’ll see if the baby comes early like Wes did, or decides to go full term. Wes came when he was ready to come, and I guess this one will too. Hopefully we’ll be ready.

May '10

Just Being Grateful

Wes is usually fairly easy to take care of, but this last week has been tough. He hasn’t been feeling well. Part of it, I’m sure, has to do with the two molars coming in on top, and the two or three teeth cutting through in the front. Last week he had a fever one night, and seemed to develop a head cold, which also may have been related to teething. On top of all this, we’re finishing our basement and sometimes it’s just plain loud and distracting to be home during construction. He hasn’t liked the commotion, and we end up sequestered in a single room upstairs, as far from the noise as we can get.

He has turned from a generally happy kid to the kid who whines/cries/says “no” all the time. And I mean All. The. Time. Every day I’m exhausted early in the day, just trying to find ways to keep him happy. I used to have time to do non-Wesley related things, like the dishes, or folding laundry, or getting material ready to teach in my aerobics classes, but not anymore. All day, every day has been focused on keeping him reasonably happy, and therefore keeping my own sanity palpable.

But he still has these moments where you remember that you love him. Like last night when I was changing him for bedtime. I was at the end of my rope and, frankly, ready to dump him into bed and say goodbye for a good eleven hours. As I was struggling to get him to hold still long enough to put on a clean diaper I said, “Do you want to sing a song?” Instantly he stopped squirming and looked up at me and made the sign for “music.” So I said, “Get out your turtle,” and I made the sign for turtle, and he made his own version of the sign, and we sang about Tiny Tim the turtle who swam in the bathtub, ate all the soap, and ended up with a bubble in his throat. The whole time Wesley was rapt, engaged, and doing the song’s finger plays with me. And I managed to get his diaper changed.

I’m happy to report that in the last couple of days he’s been less whiny. I don’t hear “no” every other second. He’s been happier. His teeth still bother him but he’s been more bearable to be around. He still gets into trouble, though, like yesterday when I left him alone while he was drinking a bottle so I could change my clothes. When I came back I found him sitting on the couch, unloading the credit and ID cards from my wallet with a pile of coins beside him and a dime and a nickel in his mouth.

Today I took him to a few lighting stores to get some ideas for sconces in our basement. By the time we hit the third store Wes was winding down for a nap. He gets a little harder to manage the more tired he gets. The store was empty except for us and the lady helping us. She was really nice and didn’t mind Wesley flipping through the sample books or touching the lights on the display. She actually had a hard time keeping her eyes off him, and I worried Wes was making her nervous. But then she said that her first baby, born over thirty years ago, was a boy with Down syndrome. She was only about twenty at the time. She told me how much she loved her son Cole and how precious he was to the family. He was strong and healthy like Wes is, and she had been assured her son would be able to attend school and live a fairly mainstreamed life (which, thirty years ago, was not the typical reality for kids with Down syndrome). When Cole was 2 1/2 (Wes’s age) he was diagnosed with leukemia, and he died a year later. (Kids with DS are at a higher risk for leukemia, and I admit it’s one of my worst fears for Wes.)

She said that some people had told her (I guess trying to ease her loss) that it was better for him to have died than to have lived with Down syndrome, but we both agreed that those people were idiots. She told me a little more about him and how positively he affected her family, and when it was time for us to go she said, “Oh, he’s just so precious, I just want to hug him.” I told her she could, so she scooped Wes into her arms and gave him a big, long squeeze.

And then I got to take my son back into my own arms and buckle him into the car seat and drive him home and think about how lucky I am every day–even whiny days–to have Wesley and be his mom.

May '10

Social Laughing

Wes is 2 1/2 and just started social laughing. He’ll laugh if he hears laughing, even if he doesn’t know why we’re laughing. Sometimes he’ll laugh spontaneously, just because he thinks he’s funny.

Here we’re watching The Dick Van Dyke Show together.

May '10

Adventures in Finishing a Basement

One thing we found attractive about our house when we bought it in 2005 was the unfinished basement, which meant we had room to grow our house as our family grew. The basement was framed for a large living area, two bedrooms, a full bathroom, and a furnace room. Fast forward to 2010: Enter Baby #2, enough savings to work with, and a contractor, and now we are on our way to a finished basement.

We’re two weeks into it. Let me tell you some things I’ve learned already about remodeling your home:

1. Things always take longer than you first think.

2. They cost more, too.

3. Suddenly you have to make a zillion decisions that would seem simple (chrome finish, or brushed nickel? dark countertops, or light? crown molding, or not?) but the more you think about them they more life-consuming they become.

4. Your house is not your own anymore.

5. Jackhammers are loud.

6. Strange men use your bathroom, and you have to clean up after them.

7. At the end of each workday you get to go downstairs and see what’s been done. It’s like unwrapping a new present every day.

The first thing we found out was that the existing framing had to be torn out and redone. So then we had the chance to rethink the layout and change it a little. We’re still finishing a large living area with two bedrooms, a full bathroom, and a furnace room, but the hallway is now shorter and more narrow, allowing more space for the two bedrooms. The second bedroom includes a small bonus area that could be a sitting room or hobby area. The hallway had some empty, unused space at the head that we turned into a storage closet. The bathroom is maybe a little smaller than when originally framed, but there’s still enough room for a six-foot tub, toilet, and vanity.

We’re still in phase 1, which is getting the basement ready for the city’s four-way inspection. This includes framing, electrical, plumbing, and heating and air conditioning. Pretty much the least fun parts of the whole deal. And, as it happens, one of the more expensive. In addition to needing to reframe, we learned we needed to upgrade our furnace for the added space. And if you’ve ever had to buy one of these yourself, you know they’re not cheap.

We also bought a gas fireplace. We knew we wanted one for the basement, and it has to be installed before the four-way inspection and before the sheetrock or drywall goes up. Turns out these guys aren’t cheap either.

The last thing we had to get prior to the four-way was a bathtub. But at least this I can say we got a great deal on from a local dealer who had it in stock and with free delivery.

Here are some photos depicting our progression so far in phase 1.

The Fireplace
This is in the living area.



The Ductwork
We’re grateful to our contractor for his idea about this. Before, our furnace ducts were hanging low on an already low ceiling. Finishing the ceiling with them there would have meant low head clearance and a less open feel.

He called in a structural engineer who gave detailed instructions for running the ducts through the rafters. Usually this isn’t a good idea because the rafters act as supports for the floor above and cutting holes larger than a dollar bill (or so) isn’t allowed. The engineer directed the building of reinforcements for the rafters around the ducting, so now everything is kosher and we won’t hit our heads on the heating ducts.




Here’s a better look at the reinforcements.

Hallway Entrance
This is the site of future french doors to close off the living area from the rooms in the back.


This is the original framing of the first bedroom that was later torn down.


This is the start of the new framing, which includes a new closet on the right side next to the first bedroom.


The Hallway



We shortened the hallway and brought it in to add space to the bedrooms. The furnace room and bathroom are to the left, the first and second bedrooms to the right and at the end.


Standing in bedroom 2 and looking towards bedroom 1


This is the start of the new framing.


The Bathroom and Sitting Area


You can see the framed outline for the new furnace room (left), bathroom (center), and sitting area that’s part of the second bedroom (right).


The bathroom is on the left (with new bathtub!), and the pile of dirt is in the sitting area, leftover from digging to set up the plumbing.

May '10

Family Happies