Friday, September 28, 2007

Don't blame DC!

This one is for all of you out-of-towners who gripe about DC roads when you visit . . .

I submit the following idea for your consideration: You don't hate DC. You hate Virginia.

Today I had yet another dazzling encounter with what I've come to call the "Northern Virginia Traffic Vortex." It's always a bit different, but it's always awful. Let me tell you about this morning.

We were headed to a new handicapped-accessible park in McLean, Virginia. I used to live very close to this park. I looked up the driving directions before heading out but there were, like, four turns including getting on I-395, so I really wasn't worried about the trip. Famous last words.

My first fatal error was forgetting that there is no sign to mark the ramp to get on the G-W Parkway headed north. In the abstract, I know there is no sign, but I don't use this road very often, and even more seldom do I get on this road, headed north, from I-395, that I didn't really remember it in the moment. I saw the huge sign for G-W Parkway S and realized that I was already too late. No problem, I thought, I'll just get off a couple exits up where I'll be in familiar territory and take a different route to the Parkway.

Heading up Washington Blvd. I thought to take Rt. 50. At the last minute I remembered that I wanted Rt. 50 headed back into town (the opposite direction of where I normally go). I panicked and jumped off the freeway one exit too early. It was the Ft. Myer exit. Of course there was a big event at Ft. Myer. We waited 20 minutes in the "Show Picture ID" line and another 10 minutes in the "Vehicle Inspection" line before they let me make a u-turn.

We tooled around some generic suburban neighborhood for awhile before I found a route back to Rt. 50. But guess what! There still isn't a way to get on the Parkway headed north. South we went. All the way to the airport. At least the airport had nice signs. Before long we were finally, finally headed north.

We exited in McLean (this is all in Virginia, remember) and I see the sign for my road "Next Right." Whoa! No! The next right is the CIA. That was a close call.

I forgot my camera, but I hope to take pictures another time and post soon about the really fun park. Joseph had such a great time, as did Margaret who is so close to walking.

Getting home, I thought, should be easy. Getting home is always easier. In the past I've gotten tripped up headed home from the Parkway. I always seem to run into a guy with a really big gun. I figured I'd just misread the signs in the past. This time I was really, really careful. I double-checked all the signs and arrows directing me to I-395 North. Guess where I ended up? My friend with the gun at the Pentagon. There is a sort of frontage road that does continue to point in the direction of 395. I dutifully followed it but it definitely doesn't go to 395. I don't know who made all those signs. I got dumped onto Memorial Bridge. Fine! I was thinking of taking Memorial Bridge, anyway.

At no time after crossing the bridge or before getting on the freeway in the morning did I have trouble. Washington, DC, is not all that confusing. Sure, you might end up on an avenue, but just go one block and you're back on the grid. I'm never lost in town. So next time you visit, don't blame DC!

Since this is a blog about the kids, here's a cute picture. I hope to get up lots of birthday-related pictures, soon. I need to find our battery charger and get the camera going, again.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Big boy!

We got this really snazzy high chair for Joseph a couple of years ago because we figured he needed good, longterm support with a footrest and everything. This chair is sort of infinitely adjustable and holds up to 150 pounds. Joseph used it a long time while he was still in the highchair and tray stage. It used to have a sort of infant guard around the torso that the tray attached to. It was a pain to get Joseph's legs in and out of the foot holes and, much to my dismay, the infant guard didn't fit under the edge of the table. I tried taking the infant guard off but he just didn't have the bodily awareness and balance to sit in that chair without some extra support around him. So the only way for Joseph to continue to use the chair would have been with a tray and that seemed inappropriate. He's really ready to be up at the table with us, and so he has been. When Margaret got big enough for a highchair we put her in Joseph's and moved Joseph to the plastic booster seat.

But it's always bugged me that Joseph didn't have a footrest. It's really not good for his legs to just dangling. Also, the booster seat with tray is a better highchair and I was always putting Margaret in it. And now Margaret is wanting to be more at the table than a highchair allows. We've been talking to Joseph's PT about getting him a different seat that meets our needs.

Today I was cleaning and pushed the wooden chair (which had been adjusted for Margaret) up to the table and was surprised to see it slide under the table, even with the infant guard on it. I guess in this new apartment the floors are just enough uneven that there is a little wiggle room. As soon as Joseph woke up from his nap I brought him out to readjust the chair for him. I noticed that he seemed a lot more secure in it and, on a whim, I took off the infant guard. He didn't flinch. I moved the seat around a bit and the movement didn't throw off his balance at all. I'm so proud of him. He's really growing and learning. And now he has the kind of supportive chair he needs, and it pull right up to the table. Margaret has happily moved to the booster seat.

These little things make me so happy.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Under my desk

Is a big basket I use for an "inbox". I toss things in there that need attention and every so often I go through the basket and deal with all the stuff. It usually looks something like this:

Right on top you can see superglue and a box of buttons--not great play things for a little girl. I've recently tossed a quilt into the basket. It's in there because I need to attach loops to it and hang it on the wall, but it also covers up all the other stuff so that Margaret can't get at it.

I've been trying all afternoon to get this little girl to take a nap. She's obviously exhausted but just won't settle down. After my third attempt, I brought her back out here and sat down to write some e-mail. A few minutes later I looked under my desk to see what mischief Margaret was up to and found this:

She tucked in her foot the rest of the way and snuggled down very nicely. I'm pretty sure she would have fallen asleep in there, but I was afraid to let her. I took her to the bedroom thinking, "Surely she's tired now!" Nope. She's still up, causing trouble.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A Gift-giving PSA

I know that not everyone who reads this blog buys gifts for our children, but everyone who buys gifts for our children reads this blog, so bear with me as I offer a brief note for the consideration of the latter group.

Birthdays are looming--Margaret's first one, Joseph's third. I don't want to be too presumptuous but, if the past two years are any indication, many gifts will be arriving at our door over the next few months. We love receiving gifts, and so do our kids and we have been truly blessed at the generosity and thoughtfulness of all the gift-givers in our lives. We often think of the giver whenever Joseph plays with a toy or asks for a book. I do not at all want to sound ungrateful.

But . . . you may have picked up on the fact that space is a bit at a premium in our lives right now. Those of you who have visited, back me up here. We love our apartment and, honestly, we will probably always live in houses or apartments that seem "too small" to many people. We like small. Space limitations do require, however, that one be choosy when considering possessions. Please keep this in mind as you are selecting gifts this year. Books are easy to store. A giant ride-on toy--not so much.

You may be thinking, "The Johnston kids have a bazillion books. They can't possibly want more." In answer to this, I say that we have far less than a bazillion books and if you read aloud to our kids as much as we do, the collection would seem tiny indeed. Joseph would pretty much always rather read a book than play with a toy. We read him stacks of books a day. Once we've gotten through "Curious George and the Dump Truck" eighteen times in one week, we are definitely ready for something new. More books is at least as much a gift for the parents in this family as the kids.

Many of you know, also, that we intend to homeschool. We have extensively researched various approaches to curriculum and study and we know that literature will be a large part of our "schooling" as a family. We hope to be blessed with several more children and we'd like them all to grow up with a rich home library.

Each of the kids has an Amazon wishlist for those of you who would like suggestions. We got lots of duplicate books for Christmas last year, so this seemed like a good way for people who want to give books to see what we don't already have! Click here for Margaret and here for Joseph. We'll update these for Christmas as well. (My ever-improving tech skills also allowed me to put buttons for these in the sidebar of the blog.)

Those of you who like to buy the kids clothes, Joseph is wearing 3T and Margaret is wearing 12-18 months. If you want more specific clothing requests, please e-mail us.

If you really, really want to get toys, please bear in mind that we have limited space and that the kids still share everything (so a toy for one is a toy for both). We definitely prefer toys on the creative end of the spectrum rather than something requiring batteries. Do not worry about our kids being deprived of fun. They both get wildly excited for anything stored in the kitchen and, really, Joseph loves, loves, loves books.

Thanks for your understanding and, again, thank you for all your generosity.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Virtual Tour

Okay, everyone. I hope I didn't crash anyone's computer with all these pictures, but Eric insists that many of you are eagerly awaiting a virtual tour of our apartment. I'd been waiting for all the finishing touches (and for it to be clean enough for photos). But, finally, I decided to just go for it. I mopped the main room the other night and snapped some pictures. I really should learn to use our camera if I'm going to have a blog--the pictures are oddly blurry in some places--but I think you'll get the general idea.

So--right off the hallway at the door is the main room: living/dining/kitchen all in one. The living room is one end:

Very cozy, but we like having a small sitting area. It's much nicer for conversation. The windows are really nice, though we have had to adjust to all the noise from the street. Here's another view:

Continuing along that wall to the hall doorway looks like this:

In real life our books aren't that blurry. That's our stroller folded up on the side. It's pretty big when folded out, but it's not too hard to just collapse it each time we bring it in. The kids sometimes lie there and spin the wheel that is up off the ground. That closet there is the pantry closet. We've stacked almost every square inch of it!

The family computer/my work area is next to the sitting area:

Thanks for the printer, GI Grandpa! It's working great. Eric and I both use the computer, but he also has his laptop in the back. We wanted this one out in the main room so that we could watch movies if we wanted. The kids occasionally will play and let me blog--but usually I have to wait for them to fall asleep. Continuing around that corner towards the kitchen:

The wooden filing cabinet was a great yard sale find, providing some much needed storage space. The hutch houses our regular dishes and silverware, which is actually really nice. We usually have a wheelchair or walker parked on each side of the room--things aren't always this neat!

The dining table:

We're trying to figure out some way to lend interest to this wall without overwhelming the room--but no ideas, yet. Having the table in the kitchen area really adds to my counter space. Also, now the kids can play at the table while I make dinner. They don't usually want to, but it's a nice idea.

The kitchen is my favorite part of the apartment:

The countertops are granite, which is a really fantastic counter material. I really, really love it. Stainless steel, on the other hand, is just for looks. It has no functional value, and is pretty hard to keep clean. I don't think I'd pay for that look in the future. I love the gas range, though.

Even though the kitchen is really tiny, it is very well designed. I like this little corner a lot:

I can stand there and chop, mix, work on the stove and wash dishes without really moving. And, since the room is totally open, I get natural light from the living room windows. Such an improvement over the old place!

Joseph's bedroom is the first one off the hallway:

In this picture you can see the edge of Joseph's wheelchair, plus the hand-powered trike and the mobile stander. The walker is missing from the pictures (I took photos on different days). Things get crowded with all this equipment! The window looks out to a very narrow space between the two buildings. An old, reclusive woman lives across the way and we never see lights or life from those windows. Odd, but I think we have a good amount of privacy.

Joseph loves his little bed. His room is usually cooler than the main room, so we often play and read stories in here. I'm going to make him a quilt sometime soon. But he hates having blankets on at night (even in winter), so it isn't too pressing.

I took a picture of the closet in Joseph's room because it is representative of the closets in all the rooms:

Our room is the next one down the hallway. Our movers were skeptical, but we just fit the bed in there:

We have just enough room to get the closet open on one side:

And just enough room to open the dresser on the other side:

The bathroom is next off the hallway:

Huge toilet. Tiny tub. Wierd.

There is no linen closet, but the apartment came with a perfect-sized shelf unit:

At the end of the hallway is the study/laundry room/place to put the stuff that doesn't fit anywhere else. It's never very neat, so I didn't even try to improve it:

The closet has a washer and dryer and lots of storage. We keep the freezer back here. Our very dilapidated pink chair has a sheet thrown over it and Eric often sits there in the window to do some work. The desk is also back here:

The back patio is off this room and now has a very little grill and a salvaged park bench (Eric found it on the side of the road and dragged it home).

I think we're finally settled in and really enjoying this place. The neighborhood is growing and changing so fast and it is really exciting to see it.

So, those of you who haven't or won't see this place in person, I hope this satisfies some curiosity. Happy Labor Day!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Walker

Speaking here about both the piece of the equipment and the boy!

Joseph has had a really rough week with therapy. I was even considering changing his schedule to only one day a week because he was having such a hard time--lots of crying, and refusing to do anything Shannon asked him to do.

But, then, he asked to go in his walker today and he's suddenly making real progress around the room. He doesn't walk as fast as a typical two-year-old, but he can go about as fast as Margaret. I think his newfound speed is really encouraging. The walker has become a useful tool, now, not just something we use for therapy.

I'm hoping that the walker can become more typical for him to use around the apartment. Since our space is so small, it might become manageable, and things are more accessible to him, for the most part. School kids, for example, often use a walker around the classroom but a wheelchair to change classes.

The wheelchair is definitely a big hit when we're out and about. We've bring it to church every day, now, and we've also used it at the grocery store, the library, and on the Metro. The independence is so good for Joseph socially--and a lot easier on me!

Shannon has worked with him on a lot of different "gait styles". He's sort of shuffling along here but he sometimes takes more traditional "steps" and sometimes hops with both feet off the ground at the same time. This method is getting him going fast, though, so I think he likes it. He was on a mail truck kick when we took this video, so he starts talking about that at th end--sort of a non sequiter. I couldn't get another good video tonight, and thought you'd all appreciate this up us as soon as we had it.

And, at the rate Margaret is going, maybe I'll have another video to upload before too long!