Showing posts with label accessibility. Show all posts
Showing posts with label accessibility. Show all posts

Saturday, February 1, 2014

School

It is February and I have a four year-old, which in these parts mean one thing: SCHOOL. I know it's different across the country and everywhere else, but here our kids start Junior Kindergarten (JK) September of the year they turn 4, which means it is now time to register my boy. It's optional, I can wait until Senior Kindergarten (SK) or even grade one, I think. But I don't want to, he's ready for this.

Step One is registration. This happens right now. It involves contacting the school for a registration package and tour of the school, which we didn't need because the girls go to the school and I've been there enough. If your child is like most children, you drop off the paperwork and that's the end of it until the orientation stuff happens later in the year. If you're child is like Kingsley, you have to casually mention that to the school secretary. It's hard to be casual. We get to fill out all of the paperwork and then move on to step two.

Step Two is a meeting with the principal. The school secretary is going to call us back with a time. I'm told this is more of a casual meeting, just to feel things out and understand who Kingsley is.

Step Three is a big meeting with all of Kingsley's people and all of the school's people. We discuss what he will need to be successful in school and then how that will all be put in place, so I'm told.

I am not all that concerned at this point. Kingsley's needs are pretty straightforward:
* he needs a barrier-free environment, which the school is as far as I can tell
* he needs help with his bathroom business and medicine during lunch hour
* he needs someone to transfer him from his wheels to the floor or to a chair and then back whenever he wants
* he needs a chair at table height that is adapted somehow so that he can sit stably to do seat work and eat comfortably
* he needs someone to help him with his outdoor clothes, especially in winter and possibly help him navigate through recess
* as of now, he needs someone to make sure he eats, drinks, and doesn't choke or puke; this could change if he just decides eating is cool

The school should be able to figure all of that out. We are hoping that there will be an EA (educational assistant) in the room to help with the transfers and transitions to/from outside and hopefully with snacks/lunch and recess. I have no idea how the bathroom/medicine stuff works, but it will be figured out. Kingsely's current PT will help get the chair ready by September.

I have homework to do in the meantime. First, I have to figure out how to answer all of this paperwork. There are so many questions that don't have simple answers. Second, I have to make one of those All About Me books for Kingsley - an easy-to-read book discussing Kingsley's strengths, interests, diagnosis, needs, and whatever else I think his school should know about him. I have seen fabulous ones that are super creative. I am not creative. This will take some figuring out.


In the meantime, we are still in the depths of winter and up to our eyeballs in snow. It warmed up enough that I was able to take Kingsley out to play in the snow today, which he loves.


Monday, January 6, 2014

Winter on Wheels

Winter is here and it's been a brutal one. I know, I know, we live in Canada, the snow should not surprise me, but I kind of feel like we've had more than our fair share this year and now to add insult to injury, we are breaking records with the cold and wind. It's dreadful. It's only the start of January.


I think part of why this year seems worse than previous years is that it's the first time I've had to prepare all three kids for the horrid weather. Up until now, Kingsley has gone outside in the winter when I was interested in going outside... which is rare, hovering around 0C and has a nice, friendly snow. This year, he is in preschool and at preschool they go outside, no matter the weather. He plays outside at preschool, so now he thinks outside is all fun and snow is great. My glory days are over. This year, we play outside. Blech.

The weather shifted and snow hit the week Kingsley had his casts off, which was a godsend since you cannot fit snow pants or boots over casts and leg splints. I bought him Stonz boots again with a sherpa liner for warmth. They've been amazing. They fit amazingly over his AFO's and are very warm. I am going to cry when he outgrows these boots. There's nothing special about his snowsuit or any of his other gear, but putting it on is ridiculous. Dressing a typical child is not all that much fun. Dressing a child who needs endless layers to protect skin he cannot feel, who can barely sit up in that many layers, and who cannot push his foot into a boot is a downright gong show.


Remember the scene in A Christmas Story with Randy's snowsuit? This is my life right now. I work up a sweat, I'm exhausted. And many times Kingsley has laid on the floor when we're done, flailing around yelling about how he can't get up. Gong. Show.

Anyway, other thrilling escapades involve wheeling through snow, snow drifts, melting puddles of slush, puddles in general, salt and dirt. If you thought pushing a stroller through snowy sidewalks was bad, imagine not being able to tip that stroller back to get over the obstacles. Imagine lifting that dirty, snow covered stroller into your trunk over and over and over. Imagine pushing that dirt and snow covered stroller right on into your house.


I hate winter.

I'm trying very hard not to entertain the dismal thoughts running through my head about how Kingsley will cope with recess next year when he's in school full time. And when he's older and all the other kids are running through the snow. He'll be alright, right? He's not the first kid in a wheelchair in the winter.


If there's one good thing to come out of this, it's that Kingsley has started pushing his wheels with the hand rims instead of the actual wheel, to keep his hands clean.

Whine, whine, whiney, whine, whine. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Max and Ruby

A few weeks ago I entered a random contest on Facebook through Koba Entertainment and ended up winning four tickets to see Max and Ruby live along with a meet n' greet. I enter random things like that all the time, so I wasn't really expecting to win. When I did win, I had that moment of panic though: can I accept this? I emailed them back right away and asked about accessibility. You just never know. The PR person was great, said she'd notified the venue about our needs.

Kingsley is a huge Max and Ruby fan. Anyone who has seen the show seems to either love it or hate it. Simply put: children love it, parents hate it. I actually don't mind it that much. It makes Kingsley laugh. I kind of admire Ruby's patience with Max. And Grandma reminds me of Jeff's mom.


The kids were incredibly excited to go, all three of them. They were bouncing off the walls as we got ready to leave. Jeff had no desire to come had to work late, so it was just me and the three monkeys. We arrived early and picked up our tickets. As soon as we handed them over at the gate, the nice man there informed me that we didn't have a wheelchair seat and immediately went back to the ticket area to fix that. The Meet n Greet people had also not been prepared for a wheelchair backstage, but they figured out a solution quickly. Very nice people.

I tried very hard to prepare King for what he was about to meet. Little animated characters are one thing, ginormous costumed adults are something entirely different. I couldn't prep him enough. We went through the door and Kingsley just froze. Wide eyed, mute. He wouldn't high five, he wouldn't wave, he wouldn't do so much as a thumbs up in their direction. Cordelia also froze. Rachel acted as though Max and Ruby were her long lost BFF's. I could only stand by and laugh.


The show was very entertaining. The kids loved it, we had great seats. No, their parents weren't there. ;)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Bog

In my search to find places I can take all three kids to hang out, my friend recommended the Sifton Bog. I've been there exactly once in my life and it was with a client way pre-kids. I had completely forgotten about this little gem!

It was a nice, sunny day today and we had nothing to do, so I dragged the kids into the van and off we went. Let me tell you, it was a hard sell. When I explained it, Rachel and Cordelia kept repeating: "But that's it?? Just walking? Nothing else? But what else do we do there? That's it?..." and on and on.

The Bog is basically just a boardwalk. It starts with a stretch of gravel, which was well groved and impossible for King to push himself along. Short trip, then it was wood planks.



It's nice, even planks, very easy for Kingsley to go down. The only trouble was that it dropped off on either side, as in - one wrong wheel and King would've face planted down a foot or so into the dirt and trees. I didn't worry about the girls, but Kingsley loves to watch his wheels light up when he goes very fast (his preferred speed) and that means he doesn't look where he's going. I just held his handle the whole walk and it was all fine.

The boardwalk leads to:


There were a bunch of tween-ish boys when we got there, which ended up being awesome. They had nets and were getting right in where they shouldn't have been (so glad I'm not their mother!) pulling out turtles, tadpoles, and frogs and attracting fish for my kids to watch.


All three were in heaven. We stayed on that dock for nearly an hour, just watching and exploring.


I didn't get any pictures of Kingsley because I either had a death grip on his wheelchair to make sure he didn't wheel himself over the edge or later crawl over the edge when he was lying on the dock, dangling over so he could play with the water.

I will admit, I am not a fan of all of natures creatures. They're all fine from a distance, so it took a lot of effort not to shudder and run away when these boys were running over with turtles and frogs to show Kingsley. At one point, two dragonflies landed on my shirt. I know, dragonflies are all cool and pretty and whatever, but seriously, it took all of my energy to force a smile and not scream as Rachel took this picture. She was thrilled. I was paralyzed with fear.

GET. OFF. ME.

All in all, a gold star trip. Thumbs up for the bog, we'll be back! (with bug repellent)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

#Pinterest #Win

Way back last year sometime when I first fell in love with the insanity that is Pinterest, I stumbled upon an upcycled crib that got me giddy. Let me just explain why this is beyond awesome.

First, drop-side cribs that are pretty standard are now banned in Canada. If you have one, you can't sell it and you aren't supposed to use it unless the manufacturers sent you the kit that makes it no longer a drop-side crib, just a giant jail cell with four nailed-in walls. This recall/ban happened when King was a baby sometime and did not phase me in the slightest. For starters - our crib broke the night I put it together when I was pregnant with Rachel (Picture this:  there is a hockey game on TV. A 7-month-humongously pregnant woman is putting together a crib. She asks her heavily distracted husband to just hold the board while she screws in the four screws. He agrees. She screws in one side. Someone scores. He lets go. The board splits. The woman cries. Then the woman calls her dad. He glues it back together. It holds three children because Dad is awesome) so, there was no expectation that we would be able to sell this crib either way. However, there's also no chance of hanging on to the crib for future generations since it's already obsolete. I was just thrilled to have ANYTHING to do with this crib other than the dump.


Another reason this crib was so awesome was that it was turned into a desk that could be set at basically any level. We have such trouble finding tables and desks that are the right height for King. Adult-sized are too high, child-sized are too low for his wheels. At one point, we had even considered having a table custom made for him, just to have one. Colouring, playdough, trains, cars, puzzles, snacks, tea parties - there are so many reasons a child needs a table that they can access. Kinger has become an expert at siding up next to things, but most of the time he just gets frustrated and gives up instead.

Sooo... for the last few weeks my sister has been visiting from BC and her husband came along. The man (thankfully) is incapable of relaxing and vacationing. Instead, he scrubbed windows, cleaned out window wells, mowed the lawn, fixed our gate, and then did the grunt work on this upcycle. The original upcycle had some extra board put over and edging or something... mine is not so fancy. Kevin sanded, primed, and then painted the original board with chalkboard paint. It looks awesome. Today, I put the pieces together and held my breath. There are three levels the board could be at, or there was the option of just breaking out some nails and setting it wherever I want. By some total miracle, the highest level was perfect!

PERFECT height in his stander! 

I don't think this could be a more perfect height for his wheelchair

the girls got super excited when they saw the new desk 

the perfect, accessible tabletop for trains! 

This may be my favourite Pin ever. I am so glad that I held on to it and made this happen. So, parents, hang on to those cribs and give your kids a free desk. Brilliant! 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

A King Lives Here Part 2

Very exciting news: as of this week, our outside is officially finished! Unfortunately, it now suffers the same fate of the inside in that it requires some fancy decorating/landscaping and looks a little bare in the meantime. Not that anyone actually cares except me ;) 

The first and most important part of the outdoor design was making all three entries accessible. As with everything else, we didn't want it to scream WHEELCHAIR USER LIVES HERE. We chose to do everything outside in concrete because it could be a smooth ride for King and could be uniform in all areas. They worked with the grading of our lot so that we wouldn't have to use railings or ramps of any kinds in the front yard. The front door area is covered, the pathway from the driveway to the front door is slightly inclined, but King can easily manage it even now. 

pretend you don't see the garden of weeds begging for attention

The garage is the second entryway that we have made accessible. From the driveway, through the garage and right into the mudroom is a slightly inclined but easily manageable pathway without any stairs. 

On the other side of the garage is a pathway to the backyard. It is 4 feet wide because of a few areas where things jut out and would interfere with the required 3 feet to make it an accessible pathway. There is a door from the garage to this path on the side of the house that has a step down. We couldn't make that accessible, but figure it won't be a big deal. 

 you can see on the fence post there my dad and Jeff tried to make a little string King could use to open the gate since the latch is too high up for him to reach. we'll have to figure that out as he gets older.

At the end of the pathway to the backyard is a junction where you either go down a couple steps to the grass or go to the patio on the left. We mostly just block off this area right now until King is old enough to understand why going down stairs in a wheelchair is a bad idea. 

this is the view looking from the front yard and then looking forward from the backyard. we had to use retaining wall there to keep the pathway level. Eventually, that blank space will be landscaped into something pretty. 

The back patio is my favourite place right now. It has our third accessible entry for Kingsley that leads into our kitchen.  The patio is also concrete and obviously level with the main floor. They had to put a foundation under it to hold the weight of the concrete and use a lot of fancy stones to secure certain parts. I have no idea what the size is, but it's big enough for lots of playing, eating, entertaining, and lounging.


To get off the patio, I had to cave and allow them to put in a ramp. Again, they played with the grading of the lot a bit so that we wouldn't have to put in railings along it, instead, just some decorative rocks and that's it. For those of us who can use them, there are also stairs. The top of the stairs doesn't have a gate and that's something we are debating as Kingsley has made it perfectly clear that it is his greatest ambition to fly off the patio down the stairs. For now, we push the kids picnic table to the top of the stairs as a barrier. The ramp gives Kingsley access to the grass area where one day we will have the sandbox and
my vegetable garden. Both the stairs and ramp finish at the same point - the gate to the pool.


Here is my lousy photo editing to show the whole back entry, patio, ramp, and all that. I probably should've cleaned up, but I didn't. Sorry about that.  


The last part of our accessible yard is the pool. We hemmed and hawed over this for ages. In the end, there were just a few things we did for Kingsley. The first was putting a 3 foot perimetre of concrete, past the edging. The pool cover rolls into the ground, so it's not impeding him in any way. Lastly, we put stairs at both ends as we figured these would one day be something he would be able to get up or down, unlike a ladder. We considered a lift, but had a few adults who use wheelchairs tell us it wouldn't get used. We can add it later if we need to. We also fenced the pool separately, which is something I feel strongly about. The pool gate locks and the kids have had it drilled into them that Rule #1 is that they cannot be within the pool fence without an adult.


 in the picture on the right you can see the white strip on the ground where the pool cover hides. that's the deep end, the other pictures are the stairs in the shallow end. 

And that's it! Just when I thought I couldn't love my house anymore, I totally do. The kids are so in love with the backyard also, they spend every sunny minute outside now. It is AMAZING to be able to just let King outside with the girls on the patio and know that he can just play and be wherever they are, doing whatever they're doing.  I am so happy that we have this house for them to grow up in. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Big Wheels


“Why are they all staring?" demanded Albus as he and Rose craned around to look at the other students.
"Don’t let it worry you," said Ron. "It’s me. I’m extremely famous.” 

I have had that quote in my back pocket for two years now, just waiting for either Kingsley or the girls to notice the staring. People stare at Kingsley all the time. Sometimes blatantly, sometimes (not so)covertly. We have been at the girls school a lot in the past month so once again, I'm/he's getting the children gawkers and occasional brave question when they've slipped away from their parents: 'why does he use that?' Adults are different, they either avoid looking entirely, as if the wheelchair was wearing a wig of snakes, or they treat King 'special' because of it with waves, honks, extra candy (Halloween and Parades), and big 'HELLO!'s while ignoring his sisters.

People make assumptions about people in wheelchairs, that is becoming abundantly clear to me. Two major ones, I find. 

The first assumption is that they don't want to use their wheelchair, that it's some sort of burden. Let me clear this up right now: it's not. Kingsley LOVES his wheelchair. It is not as though he has the option of wheeling or walking and this is second place. His options are wheeling and being independent or staying where he is put down, waiting for someone to move him. Independence, at any age, is always preferred. Parents of kids like King often panic about this one: a life of confinement in a wheelchair, the horrors! How can they do that to their child? I can't speak for all kids, but I can never say enough how much Kingsley's life changed for the better when he got wheels. He was so passive before, never exploring, never moving. Now, he tortures me by trying to find ways to launch himself down any ramp at top speed. I am not burdened by his wheelchair. I love it. I love what it does for him. I love the independence he has. I do not love the lack of accessible kids activities, but I don't think this would be much better if he used a walker or any other mobility aid (were that possible, which it's not). 

I believe this assumption comes partly from our language, about which volumes have been written by the disabled community about our ableist biases. Right now, I don feel I need to get up in arms over whether Kingsley is IN a wheelchair or ON a wheelchair - I will one day take his lead on that - but I had a convo with my brother recently that I had to correct him on. He is a paramedic and was telling me a story about a call with a cool guy who was in his twenties, totally independent, nice guy, who uses a wheelchair. It went like this: 

BRO: ... so I was thinking about King the other day on this call, blah blah, and the guy was wheelchair bound so we got to talking about my [awesome] nephew and - 

ME: OMIGOSH!!!!

BRO: what? 

ME: with what? Is that why you were there? 

BRO: with what what? 

ME: what was he bound with? Ropes or chains? Did you have to cut him out of his wheelchair? Who did that to him???

BRO: oh. (Pause) Ah. Ok, ok. How do I say it? 

ME: he uses a wheelchair. Unless he was legit bound to it, but that would be abusive... Unless he's three and it's just a belt 'binding' him for safety... 

People aren't bound or confined to wheelchairs. They aren't torturous things. Like I said, the alternative is the state of confinement for Kinger. 

Wheelchair = freedom and independence
No wheelchair = bump on a log


The other assumption people make is a strange one. People assume he is intellectually disabled. I'm not sure what to make of this one. For starters, I'm not insulted by it as I do not think being intellectually disabled is an insult. I am just always caught off guard by it. Also, with SB there's a chance King may have learning disabilities once he gets to school. As of right now, we have no indication of any problems, he appears to be right on track with everything. 

The strange thing to me is how it's brought up. It's often by people I'm acquainted with. People who I'm closer to have just come out and asked if King's cognitive development has been effected and I'm fine talking about it. The main way others ask is by asking if King will go to the same school as the girls. I was so confused the first fifty or so times I was asked this. Of course he will? Where else would he go? I know in some places there are segregated or special schools. We don't have that at all here. There are a few classrooms in a couple schools for kids with ASD and then some for children with intellectual/developmental disabilities, and not all kids who fit either of these two diagnoses automatically go in those programs either, it's all case-by-case. Kingsley does not fit either criteria by a long shot. In fact, at this point I don't anticipate King needing any accommodations other than space, a private bathroom, and someone to help him take his mid-day meds, which we ensured when we switched schools. So, either people don't know that we no longer segregate kids with disabilities (which would be strange, since I'm pretty sure that hasn't happened in my lifetime) or they think he may belong in a special class. Which is a strange assumption since his wheelchair is the only thing indicating something different about him. 

There have been other comments also, like how I can keep him in high school until he is 21. Same idea, if it's needed, great. But I have no indication right now that he will need to make those victory laps to get through high school. Why would anyone else think that?

I have heard that as he gets older, people will start talking to me about him in front of him as if he can't understand or answer for himself. It happens now, but it's not abnormal to do this with kids his age.

People are strange about wheelchairs. I have tried thinking back to how I would have responded previously to someone using a wheelchair and I honestly can't remember. Maybe I was immune to stereotypes because I have spent most of my life working with people with physical and other disabilities and have had people-first language shoved in my face at every turn. Or maybe I was totally ableist and didn't even know it. Either way, I'm glad Kingsley is around to break down stereotypes for others. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

What's a Kid to Do?

The past year or so has been quite educational as far as what is accessible for children in our city. Kingsley has now had his wheelchair for 16 months and in that time I have been endlessly brainstorming about ways to keep him busy. Some places have been awesome. Some are total flops. There are so many things to do, places to go when you have children. So many places that you take for granted. You might notice how hard it is to maneuver a stroller through Gymboree, how inaccessible shopping is downtown, and even get irritated when the automatic door buttons are broken, but until you have an independently wheeling child, those annoyances suddenly become barriers in the most real sense.

Here is my run-down on the places in our 'hood that people hang out with kids:

1. Parks: there are designated parks in London that are meant to be more accessible and disability-friendly. It's a bunch of hooey. These parks usually include a play structure with a single ramp that Kingsley can roll up and hang out on a platform that then has steps up or down to get to the action. Sometimes there might be a bubble thing for him to look through. Wow. They also have dips in the concrete pathways that lead down to wood chips, I assume so that he can roll down into the wood chips? Brilliant. Unfortunately, the wood chips aren't usually topped up, so no matter where you're rolling into this section, you're dropping off a curb to get there. Into wood chips.

 yay! woodchips!!

wow! a ramp to stairs and a drop in the curb to roll on into those fun woodchips

There is usually a swing there that is for people with physical disabilities, in that it's a huge chair with a bars that come over your shoulders and connect between your legs, kind of like on a rollercoaster. They're adult sized. I read the fine print on the swing once, just trying to find out it's purpose as it is so big it fits two of my children at once. It says there are additional straps to support smaller people. The straps are not there.


There is ONE park we have found and - gloriously - it's the one closest to our new house! It has three whole ramps for King and each ramp leads to an actual activity, a piano, a finger maze, and I forget the other thing. Kingsley loves it. There are still wood chips, but (at least last summer) they were topped up to curb level and he loved to sit and play in them. It's a big playground with a lot of paths. It's not perfect, but it is somewhere that we can all go and have fun.


the school playground is also partially accessible

2. StoryBook Gardens: this is a big thing in our city and kids love it. I LOVED it when I was a kid, though it's changed a lot since then. When Kingsley was a baby, this was a great place to take the kids. Kingsley would nap, nurse, people watch, play in the huge sand pit, and have a great ol' time while the girls played. Now, not so much. The park itself is accessible and has lovely paths, but none of the structures, rides, or activities are wheelchair friendly. Kingsley is no longer content to sit and watch, so this place is out. Sadly.

3. Children's Museum: another huge thing for kids in our city and was when I was a kid as well. This place is accessible, has an elevator and ramps, activities at his level and that he can access, lots of fun. However, the museum has HUGE safety hazards in the form of big wide open stairwells on the upper levels. They are central stairs, right in the middle of the action and there is nothing to stop Kingsley from flying right down them or have another kid bump him in that direction. I am shuddering even typing that. There is also a big wide open stairwell down to a mermaid sand pit, where of course King loves to play. It gives me nightmares. It's on my to-do list to email them and tell them to put in some flippin posts at the top of the stairs, for Pete's sake. Until that happens (and I'm not holding my breath), we can't hang out there unless I'm one on one with King.

4. Indoor Playlands: there are basically three in this category - Adventures on Wonderland, Kidscape, and McDonald's. McDonald's is pretty much the same everywhere and they aren't accessible, not even remotely. And it's McDonald's. Kidscape and AOW have the same problem, being that they aren't accessible. They are big places with different spaces within them, lots of kids running here, there, and everywhere, back and forth. He can get in. He can sit and watch. As a baby, there were big mat areas where he could play, but that got old when the only thing I could do with him was PT exercises. Boring mommy ;)

5. Skating Arenas: they are accessible! We haven't been able to go this year, since my PT laughed at me when I asked if I could skate with a torn ACL, but last year we went and King had his borrowed sledge and did great. I have heard that you can even borrow sledges if you call ahead, but I don't know if that's true. The change rooms are just benches, like any skating place, I suppose. I'm not sure I've ever seen a change table, nevermind an accessible change table. We don't hang out long though, so have never needed one.

6. City Swimming Pools: they're kinda iffy. I mean, they are accessible, but not overly. A couple of them have lifts or ramps, but the city-run pools don't really have accessible change tables or spaces to change King other than a bench. It's fine now, at this age and with his abilities, but I know others have had issues with this. It's part of why we've put in a pool at our new house.

7. YMCA: oh, boy, I had high hopes for this place. ;) Fortunately, they have not let me down again! It's great. The change room is great, the pool has a ramp and a lift (though not to the shallow end, but this doesn't bother us right now). The gym, the playrooms, the activities for kids, and the whole place is very inclusive. Kingsley can go anywhere and do (almost) anything. They have a Treehouse room with a structure similar to the indoor playlands, but different in that there are things on ground level that King can wheel into/under. I've only gone to the one in the north end, but I hear the other Y's are also good.

8. Libraries: I can't say enough about how much I love our public libraries. We've been to a handful now, and not one has disappointed us. They all have train tables, books (obviously!), computers, tables at Kingsley's height, toys, floor space to sit and hang out... they're just awesome. We go weekly, sometimes more, all year round. All three kids love them. I love them. We love them. Except the family bathroom in the Westmount one has a hugely heavy door that does not have a button to open it. It's ridiculous. But other than that, love. ;)


9. Movies: Jeff and I have always been drive-in people. We used to drive his half-dead car with the dead stereo to the outskirts of the city and listen to the movies on a beat up old ghettoblaster that ate batteries for breakfast. It was cheap and we could bring our own snacks. Anyway, it's also a great place to bring babies because you can roll up the window or strap them in a wrap and go for a walk if they started to cry. Now, the kids understand what 'adult movie - go to bed' means so we wait until the first movie is a family movie and pack up the kids. The location itself is not accessible, not the bathrooms (unless there's separate one I've never noticed?),  not the gravel paths, nor the playground. But, we can all go and hang out by the van and play, get comfy in chairs and make it work for now.


We took Kingsley to his first movie theatre a week ago! It was great and he did surprisingly well, quite surprisingly considering how big and loud the theatre is. The only issue is that the wheelchair spaces are all down in front and the good theatres are the really big ones which means you'd have to be looking up to watch the movie. Not my favourite place to sit. We parked his wheels and he sat on my lap, which is where he wanted to be anyway.

10. Other People's Houses: this is one that is starting to become a problem and I don't see that changing. He's outgrowing his Bumbobile. His little bum and skinny legs fit in the seat just fine, but it's low to the ground and at his age, kids start to stand up more. To be at the level of his peers/sisters, he prefers his wheelchair or stander. Unfortunately, people's homes are not generally designed to be accessible so his big wheels don't fit and kids don't stay put. They run upstairs to show you their room, run downstairs to grab more toys, want to play outside... And Kingsley is left there with me and the other mom. I am getting better at inviting people to our house to play, since it's pretty kid friendly and King can obviously get anywhere. Even going downstairs, other kids are very eager to wait for Kingsley since it means they get to ride the elevator. This is one hurdle that won't get any easier as he grows up, but I'm not dwelling on it yet. We will tackle it as it comes.

11. Bowling: this is one rare gem that we've stumbled upon. There's a cool place here called the Palasad where you can play arcade games, bowl, eat, and a bunch of other stuff. There was one right by our old house that underwent big renovations and one of the things they did was make it completely accessible! I took the kids to a birthday party there recently, full of anxiety, and as soon as I walked in the door a staff member appeared out of thin air asking if King was going to bowl and they had a ramp there before we even got to the alley. I haven't been to the other big bowling-fun place here, Fleetway, but I'm told they are connected with an organization for adults with disabilities and have made sure it's accessible for everyone.



That's about all that I've found. The malls are also all accessible, but Kingsley's not a huge fan of shopping without an ice cream bribe. Fortunately right now we are surrounded by construction, which is still endlessly entertaining for Kingsley. When we get really bored, we walk up the street to the end of the subdivision where they are preparing the next field for an apartment building. There are a lot of diggers and dump trucks, cement trucks, and cranes around here. The construction crews are so friendly to Kingsley, waving and honking their horns. He loves it.

If there are more places to go that I don't know about, let me know! It's going to be a long summer. :)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Change of Seasons

There's a joke about Canadian seasons: Almost Winter, Winter, Tired of Winter, and Patio. That puts us smack in the middle of Tired of Winter right now, which I find incredibly accurate. April has had us swing from spring-ish weather, to snow, to sunshine, to snow, to t-shirts, to snow again. Tuesday was warm and sunshiney, yesterday, it hailed and today there was frost on the ground. Tomorrow, it's supposed to be nearly 20C. There is just no rhyme or reason to this. 

 some of the deceptively sunnier days here

colouring his favourite superhero on the garage floor

In the meantime, we are getting ready for Patio season! The workmen have come to work on our yard all week and it's been fascinating. Kingsley and I have spent most of our days in the garage or at the back windows watching trucks and workmen do their magic. The cement truck arrived today to pour the driveway and I could barely drag the girls out to school, they just wanted to watch. 



The sunnier days this month have made me so eager to get the yard done. It's been frustrating for both Kingsley and I to limit ourselves to the garage and front porch when we want some fresh air (uneven gravel is no friend to wheelchairs or crutches). Today, they are paving the driveway and the front walk. The other days this week they've done the prep work for that and done the stone/rock work in the backyard, added some of the features to the pool, and prepared the patio for concrete. In the next two weeks they will continue to do the back yard, add fencing, and then eventually we will get grass and landscaping done. So exciting!!

 the future path to the front door which will complete the smooth ride into the house for King

this is the back patio taken from two different windows. the patio has a ramp (where those rocks are) that will end beside the stairs. the gate to the pool will be there. watching the Bobcat place the rocks was probably the highlight of King's month. and yes, it was snowing when I took these pictures yesterday.

As of a couple of days ago, I have ditched the crutches and can walk on my own (finally). I have a long way to go before my knee is back to normal, if it ever gets there, but at least now I can drive and by the time we really do reach Patio season, we will be ready to enjoy it! 


Friday, March 29, 2013

A King Lives Here

Five and a half years ago, Jeff and I bought our first house. We had a one year-old and a baby on the way. I thought we had found our forever home. It was a bit of a fixer-upper, but we figured we had our lifetime to do that, after the kids were older and had stopped destroying things. It had everything and I couldn't ever imagine having to move. Jeff always saw it as our 'first house'. He wanted something bigger, something newer.

When we found out about Kingsley, moving was one of the first things we worried about. We were told we wouldn't have to worry about it, accommodations could be made, he would be a walker, wait and see ;) We waited. We realized after his fourth surgery that he was not going to be a walker and so the ball starting rolling on a new home for us.

Our first decision was a location. If King was going to be on wheels, I wanted to switch schools. We chose the highschool, then looked at the feeder elementary schools and started looking at the areas. Our second decision was whether we would build or renovate. We came very close to buying a gorgeous house and renovating it, but when we had a contractor who specializes in accessible reno's come in to assess it, we realized it would cost nearly the same to just build from the start and make it all perfect ourselves, minus the part where we live in reno-land. Jeff knew a builder who did only custom homes, so they started to talk.

In December 2011, we put the deposit down on our lot. I googled and googled and asked and read, trying to find out what we should incorporate into this house, how to make it perfect for all five of us, both and in the future.

It's really weird to stand across the street now and see how different things look less than a year later! 

Our builders, Crown Homes, were absolutely amazing. I cannot say enough how fantastic they were to work with and how amazing they are. Every single detail was attended. They listened to every request I had, worked in every element and came up with so many ideas of their own. The end result makes me want to pinch myself every morning when I open my eyes. This home is not only accessible, but it's gorgeous. It doesn't look like a barrier free home, which was something that was important to me. It's subtle, which makes it feel like it was made for all of us, not just Kingsley.

But of course, none of this would have happened without Kingsley, so a great deal of thought went into his needs and future needs.

**I have to make a disclaimer here. I found I was putting off doing this post because our house isn't 'done', by which I mean that I have all of these Pinterest-y ideas for it that haven't yet happened. It's not all decorated and pretty, like it should be. And, every time I turn around, the kids have made a mess somewhere. Then I realized, oh well, this is my house. One day, when the kids are all grown up and moved out, it'll look like a magazine cover. Until then, overlook the stuff that isn't that pretty and pretend it is. ;) I'm also not a great photographer, so sorry about that. 

OUTSIDE:
Thanks to our fabulous, snowy Canadian winters, the yard is not yet done and will have to wait until the ground thaws and dries out before it gets finished. Eventually, it will have a concrete driveway and walkway up to the front door that will be level with the front porch which is level with the front entrance. I was anti-ramp as they are usually a bit unattractive and draw attention to the fact that someone has mobility challenges, which entices burglars so I've read. The concrete driveway will also have a path extending around the side of the house to the back patio, etc., but I'll have to save all of that for a spring/summer post once it's done. There's also a pool, but it's currently full of ice and surrounded by dirt and snow, so that'll be later also.

GARAGE:
We have a double garage that is long and wide. There is enough room for two vans if you wanted, with space to wheel around on both sides and in the front. We did this in case we ever got a van with a ramp, there is room for that. The entrance from the garage to the house is level. There's a bit of a lip that Kingsley currently has trouble with, but once he is a bit more adept at getting over bumps, he'll be fine.


BASICS:
All of the doors and hallways are a bit wider, all of the outlets are a little bit higher, and the light switches a little bit lower, none of which is not noticeable unless I point it out. The door handles are all levers. The house has an open concept which I appreciate so much now that we are here. The rooms are all big, which seemed excessive until Kingsley started to explore and had space to get around any furniture and go anywhere. He doesn't get stuck, he doesn't get trapped, he's not blocked off. It's amazing.



LEVELS:
The house is one floor with a mostly-finished basement. Upstairs are a play room/future office, kids bedrooms, our bedroom, great room and kitchen. Downstairs is a rec room, laundry, storage, and more bedrooms. It was a given that we would need some way for Kingsley to get downstairs independently. We started this journey when Kingsley was barely two years-old and finished just before he turned three. In that time, he developed in so many ways that we had to keep altering our plans. At first, we planned on wider stairs (for a future lift of some kind) and a rough-in for an elevator. We kept the wider stairs, but ended up just putting in the elevator, then we made the elevator all automatic so that Kingsley can just use it on his own. The elevator has lost it's novelty for me, but the kids and guests all think it's cool ;) It's about as loud as a garage door opener, which is something I'm asked all the time. You can hear it, but it's not that loud. It's small, but not claustrophobic... unless you're actually claustrophobic, then it would probably be awful. All five of us can squeeze in at once with King on wheels.


Another thing that we did was a built-in baby gate, or built-in wheeler gate! Open stairways give me nightmares, so our builder had a gate built that matches the stair railings and added it right before we moved in with a latch to keep King out. It blends perfectly.


BATHROOMS:
There are three bathrooms and a rough in for a powder room in one of the basement storage areas. The main bathroom upstairs and downstairs are nearly identical and fully accessible. They both have huge barrier free showers that King can roll right in (when he's older and we get a shower chair). There are two shower heads, one that is hand-held or put on an adjustable bar and then the usual one for the girls. There is no vanity, only a sink on a counter. The cabinet man said that we could add to it later on when or if we find a need. For now, we have no clue what King will want in there, if anything. There's also a wheelchair parking space beside the toilet and space to spin around if he wants to do that. I imagine we will do shelving in there at some point, hooks, something Pinterest-y. ;)


two faucets in the shower - one for standers and one for sitters

Our ensuite bathroom is not barrier free. He can get in and move around just fine, but we have a regular vanity, a regular bathtub and a shower with a lip. It's the only non-accessible place in the house, although he loves playing with the bathtub faucets and opening and closing my drawers.


BEDROOMS:
There are three bedrooms upstairs and three downstairs. Currently the girls are sharing a room, but they have the option of moving downstairs whenever they want. They're both terrified of being away from us, so I don't see this happening for a few years. Their bedroom is technically accessible, but the amount of clothing and toys on the floor makes it notsomuch.

if I had any skills at all, I would've been able to make this photo overlap better. but I don't. 

Kingsley's bedroom is big enough that he has plenty of space on either side of the bed and a play/therapy area on the floor. We had the ceilings reinforced with extra... blocks of wood? I forget what they were called. Anyway, this was just in case we ever needed a lift or support of some kind for him. Another SB mom recommended we do this. We added a lower bar in his closet and a few shelves to make it functional for him.

I cannot get decent pictures of his room. it's messy and very sunny.

There is another bedroom in the basement that Kingsley can make his own if he also wants to move down there. The basement has big, low windows, so as long as we figure out a way that he would be able to get out in an emergency, he'd be fine. The elevator only goes down in a power outage or fire, not up.


KITCHEN:
The kitchen was so hard to do. In the end, they suggested that we plan for accessibility on the cabinets against the walls and do an island. If we find that Kingsley wants more use of the kitchen when he's older, we can renovate the island without having to gut the whole kitchen. With that in mind, we chose a side-by-side fridge/freezer with water and ice on the door, which is easier for King to get at than a freezer on the bottom or at the top. Beside that is a bar sink with counter space that is open underneath. Along the other wall is all drawers instead of cupboards that he won't be able to reach into. The microwave is down low, also. The stove is a regular stove, but we can replace it with one with knobs on the front when King and Cor are a little less adventurous. On the island is the regular double sink, a bar-height counter and the dishwasher. The dishwasher we bumped up a few inches so that he can reach in better. I kind of like this for me! There's also a pantry with adjustable shelves so that we can put things he will need within his reach. The rest of the cabinets are tall and barely within my reach, so we will put things he won't need up there.




When we redo the island, I think we will drop it from bar-height to table height where he will be able to wheel right up to it, expand it out and add a few more shelves. That is years away, though!

MUDROOM:
We have a large mudroom since the laundry is in the basement. I couldn't commit to shelving/cubbies yet, so we will wait a while before we do that. I get a little obsessed with Houzz and Pinterest, trying to plan the perfect mudroom and I think I have it, then I'll see another. Those sites are like crack! I do plan on having hooks, benches, and somewhere for King to wheel right up and store his stuff along with the rest of us.

FLOORS:
A big thing that took me so long to decide on were the floors. There's a lot of flooring here. I ended up insisting on laminate over hardwood. It looks gorgeous and so far everyone has told us we've made the right choice (or they've just been nice and lied to us). Kinger is now indoor/outdoor with his wheels and the thought of how scratched up and dirty hardwood would get made me ill. There is also big tiles in the front foyer, bathrooms, laundry room, and mudroom. I have no idea what kind of tile, these details are totally wasted on me. It's pretty ;) The lower level has carpet, which took us a lot of time and searching to pick out. I wanted something durable like in offices, but not industrial looking. I think we ended up with a berber kind of carpet. It's nice. He can roll over it pretty well.

PLAYROOM:
There's an office in the front of the house that we are currently using as a playroom. I like having the kids all on the main floor for now. When they're a bit older and have less toys they can move downstairs and make the rec room their own. It's technically accessible, but man oh man, those kids sure know how to make a mess.


EXTRA'S:
For some reason, I felt really guilty asking for things for ME when we were building this house, but I did manage to toss in some totally guilty pleasures in with all this practical stuff. I got a laundry chute (how else will King get his dirty laundry down there??), those sweeper vac's that suck up your dirt without having to use a dustpan, and a laundry room that made me squeal like a 1950's housewife getting her first vacuum. Oh, the things that thrill me now...

welcome to laundry heaven. there's a folding table with baskets for sorting to the left there. and an iron/board that I'll never use. 

I also got to pick the whole colour scheme (grey), which basically involved me showing pictures from Pinterest on my phone and saying, "Can we do something like this? How about this? I love this! And this!" The designer for Crown Homes is so brilliant, she put together scraps of ideas that I had and turned them into gorgeousness. I may have also pimped out the master closet with those built in shelves and stuff. I want to live in there.

We moved in two weeks ago and the difference it has made in our lives is nothing I could have imagined. I recently visited our old house and only then could I appreciate how closed in and narrow it all felt compared to what we have now. Kingsley can and does go ANYWHERE in this house, he has total freedom in his bumbobile, wheelchair, and dynamic stander. In our old house, if Kingsley disappeared it was because he had accidentally trapped himself in the bathroom and was sitting in the dark waiting for us to find him. In this house, I can hardly keep track of him. He loves 'New House' and still gets excited every time we pull in the driveway. I am just so disgustingly happy and grateful that we were able to do this and that we met all the right people who made it happen. This is definitely our forever home.
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