Friday, September 23, 2011

Painted stairs

When we did a little remodeling on our house last summer we were able to FINALLY put new carpet in the house.  Good bye BYU-blue. 
BYU-blue carpet
 The carpet was in pretty decent shape when we moved into the house so we left it alone even though BYU-blue would not have been my first choice in carpet color.  A dozen years later, the carpet was no longer in good shape.  Actually it was not in good shape long before the 12 year mark but it took us that long to get the new carpet. 

 Anyway, when we got the new carpet we decided that we would permanently remove carpet from the stairs.  I was impressed with a blog entry I'd seen at and thought my stairs couldn't possibly be any worse than hers were to begin with so why not give it a shot.  Her transformation is pretty amazing. 
 We ripped out the carpet, pulled up the nail tack strip thingys (technical term) and began to fill in irregularities in the wood, screw down the spots that creaked when we walked on them (which was pretty much everywhere.  I went through a lot of screws) and sanded like crazy. 

 On a side note, that wall space you see on the landing there became a back door.  Can you believe that someone actually built a house with no back door?  Yeah, we thought that was weird. 

 We caulked in around the edges of the stairs so there were no gaps.  Our house has many flaws including not being anywhere near plumb or level so some gaps were wider than others. 

Once all the prep work was done, we primed everything and then painted the risers white and the tread a very dark green.  I actually had the paint store custom mix the paint.  I wanted it to be so dark green it was almost black but still green.  We used Sherwin Williams Porch & Floor Enamel. 

Painting stairs is tricky.  Our bedrooms and shower are all upstairs so we couldn't go a week without using the stairs very easily.  I ended up painting the right half one coat and then a couple days later painting the left side and back and forth until we got what we wanted.  I taped off the areas and put up signs to remind the family on which side they could walk.  I suppose it would have been easier to do the painting and send everyone on vacation but that wasn't a possibility.  The hardest part was keeping the cats out of the house since they wouldn't pay any attention to signs or taped off areas.  They weren't very happy with me that week. 

 And since I mentioned it before, here is a picture of the back door that went in on the stair landing.  LOVING having that door.  It adds soooo much light to our otherwise dark house.  You can see the retaining wall my husband put in.  Landscaping is a work in progress out there....

I'll note also that we put tile in on the landing.  That was not the original plan but when the carpet came out we discovered that the landing was made from particle board.  Not a great idea for an entry since it soaks up water and warps so easily.  So we tiled instead.
 And since I'm showing off the back door, I might as well show the new front door too.  We added the side light window and choose a door with some window, again to add light to our house.  LOVE IT!  Some time perhaps I'll do a post on the storm doors we chose.  We get so many compliments on both the storm door and the door.   Very happy with the choice. 

 And here is a shot of the front entry which we tiled (it was all carpet before) and that new carpet.  The throw rug is a vintage Swedish woven rug my mother brought over from Sweden. 

 And just for amusement, this is what our bedroom looked like when we were moving things to get the carpet in the other bedrooms. The other direction was filled to capacity.  And I'll give a shout out to my brother who was a good sport about helping to move everything.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

More about my mom and Alzheimer's Disease

I wrote this essay on Mother's Day last year to share with my siblings.  None of them get to see Mom as often as I do as they all live far away.  The closest one is 3 1/2 hours away. Most of them are much farther. 

May 9, 2010
My Real Mom
Today I saw my “real” mother.  Not the one that sits in a wheelchair and can’t remember how old she is, but the one that really is deep down inside the body and brain of Alzheimer ’s disease.  She pops out every once in a while but not too frequently. 
I surprised myself when I cried as I shared the moment with my 16 year old.  You see, when the kids were little we always lived too far away from my parents for the kids to be able to spend much time getting to know their grandparents.  Hannah was only five when I recognized the first signs of Alzheimer’s in my Mom so she really has no recollection of her “real” grandmother.  The one she visited didn’t like noise or disorder and did not have a childproof house so she had to be on her toes all the time.  Maybe it was my fault because I never wanted to make my mother unhappy so I couldn’t allow the children to be relaxed kids when we visited.  In any case, Hannah doesn’t really know her Grandmother.  Now she sees her weekly but the person she sees doesn’t always know who she is.  She lives in a place full of other people who can’t remember their grandchildren either and it is uncomfortable for Hannah to be there.  Her siblings feel that discomfort as well. 
That is why I wanted to share the moment with Hannah.  I wanted her to see a glimpse of her real grandmother.  Because it is Mother’s Day, I went to The Homestead for church with my mother.  When I arrived, Mom was still eating her breakfast.  She uses her fingers now to get the food on her utensil.  Sometimes she doesn’t bother with the utensil at all and just uses her fingers.  That is NOT my real mother.  Church services started before mother had finished eating.  Mom has to concentrate to eat. It is the time when she is least likely to know who I am.  I assumed she would be oblivious to church but since she can’t remember she has been to church 5 minutes after it happens I didn’t figure it mattered much anyway.  As a matter of principle I said to Mom, “We are going to pray now”, but I didn’t really expect a response.  She immediately set down her spoon and obviously participated in the prayer.  We sang the Sacrament song.  I’m not sure if she sang that one or not.  I know she sang at least one of the hymns but I don’t recall which one.  My real mother knows the words to hymns even if she can’t remember how to find one in a hymnal.  As the Sacrament was passed to all the residents, employees and visitors I came to the realization that my real mom was there.  She was reverencing the Sacrament.  The reverence shone through all the inability and forgetfulness.    My real mom. 
I don’t allow myself much emotion when dealing with my mother.  It would be too hard to constantly be emotional about her condition.  I allow myself to laugh at the funny stuff but rarely do I cry.  It would be too painful.  But I wanted Hannah to see this moment when my real mom emerged.  I wanted her to know that even though she has this horrible disease, Grandma still is reverent.  She still has a testimony of the atonement of Christ.  Her religious memory is still there.  So I told Hannah what happened.  At least I tried.  I barely got started when emotion overcame me, just as it is now as I write about it.  I think Hannah understood the moment well enough without my being able to say all the words that needed saying.  I hope she did.  It was the moment her real grandmother came. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Mom and Alzheimer's Disease

My mother has Alzheimer's Disease.  There are seven stages in this disease but the stages are fluid, meaning that one might float back and forth between two stages at any given time.  My mother clearly has some symptoms of the seventh (and last) stage.  The first time I saw something in her that made me suspect the disease was 13 years ago.  No one else could see it for some time after that.  During these 13 years I have watched my mother become someone else.  At first I watched from a distance as we lived in different states.  Now we are to the 4 year anniversary of her living nearby me in an assisted living center.  My father was her caretaker at home for a number of years before that.  It was so hard on him physically and emotionally.  Mom would go three days straight without sleep and since she is a wanderer, he couldn't just go to bed.  He survived with catnaps.  He learned to do all the household tasks that my mother would never allow him to do in her good health years.  But one by one, she was no longer able to do them.  He learned to do laundry, and cook.  He washed the dishes and did any cleaning that got done. 

Mom got to the point that she no longer knew who Dad was.  She was afraid of him.  Yet if he talked to her on the phone, she knew his voice.  She might look straight at him and ask if he knew when Keith would be home.  Heartbreaking for my father.  She knew that it was Keith she could turn to comfort and safety but her brain just wouldn't allow her to find him even when she looked at him.

When her care got to be too much for dad and we worried for his health, my brother built an addition onto his house for them to live there.  It was in some ways helpful but didn't solve all the problems.  With hindsight, I can see that the biggest hindrance is that the family still tried to treat her like mom.  She still had opinions and we tried to honor them. The problem was that she had lost her ability to be rational.  So she only wanted my sister-in-law to care for her instead of the help that they hired.  

I looked into assisted living situations where they lived and around my sister's home and around my home.  The obvious choice was clear and we moved her here to live at The Homestead.  At first my Dad would just come to visit for a couple of weeks and then go home for a while.  The trip was hard on him and he missed her when they were apart.  

Two and a half years ago she fell.  She had fallen a number of times but this time she broke her hip.  I was told by her doctor that this was the beginning of the end.  Most elderly people die within 6 months after a hip break.  My two older children became missionaries soon thereafter. My daughter would be gone for 18 months and my son for 2 years.  I told them when they left that Grandma would likely not be there when they got home.  Didn't happen.  She was actually healing quite well but then got a blood clot which took its toll on her abilities so she can no longer walk.  She can't stand without assistance and now she can't even work her way out of her chair.  That sounds like a bad thing but in some ways it is a blessing.  She could never remember that she had broken her hip so she would still try to get up and walk and falls were pretty frequent.  One time she broke her arm but most of the time it meant a trip to the hospital just to know that nothing was wrong.  Since she has gotten too weak to work herself out of the chair we don't have so many accidents. 

At one point I was approached by management of The Homestead as well as her physical therapist.  They both suggested that Mom be placed on Hospice.  To qualify for hospice they have to expect you to die within 6 months.  It was at that point that I asked my Dad to come and stay permanently.  If something happened to Mom I didn't want him to feel terrible because he wasn't here.  He has been here living with us since.  Mom was on hospice for a couple of months and then they took her off because she obviously wasn't dying fast enough.  Dad spends all day with my mom and all night if he feels it is needed.  She has trouble feeding herself now so he feeds her, freeing up the staff to do other things.  When she is awake he entertains her with stories, or reading to her, or playing music.  When she is sleeping he works on family history.  He recently published a book about his life and is now working on a book about Mom's life. 

So now Mom sits in a chair all day. She is losing her ability to talk.  On rare occasions she does pretty well but not often.  Sometimes she will sit and stare not seeming to register anything.  No words come then.  Other days she tries to talk but she mixes Swedish with English or gibberish.  Often she can't come up with the words to finish a sentence and it is frustrating for her.  And sometimes she can say the words but they just don't make sense.  Then she gets frustrated that we can't understand what she is trying to tell us.  

Still I prefer this to how she was 4 years ago.  It seemed to me that she spent 95% of her time either very angry, very confused or very scared.  Such extremes and none of them pleasant.  She is calmer now.  She sleeps a lot.  She is mostly cooperative with the staff and most days she knows my father.  

One of the most asked questions I get is "Does she still know you?"  It is hard to say.  I think that most often she has known I'm her daughter but if she calls me by name, it is frequently my sister's name she uses.  My sister is the oldest so the name has been in her head the longest.  It makes sense that she would remember that one more frequently.  What I'm not sure about is does she call me that because she thinks that I actually am my sister or just because that is the name her brain comes up with?  In the past she has corrected herself and called me Maria but that hasn't happened in a long time.  and she doesn't call me by any name very often now.  I was never offended by this.  For one thing, I grew up with her calling me by my siblings names before she found the right one.  But I also figure if she calls me by my sister's name it means she knows I'm her daughter.  It is all in the family right?  Back when she used to get so angry she always called me by my sister's name so I  could always feel like it was her getting in trouble and not me.  My sister said she was glad to take the blame. :)

The mom I grew up with is long gone.  Her brain has deteriorated so much. Her body is crippled.  Still she has a sense of humor.  In some ways it is better now than it was before she became ill.  It warms my heart to see her smile because I get to glimpse her real personality for a second.  In that second, my real mom shines through.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Board and Batten Bedroom

Today I want to do a post about the changes I made in my son's bedroom last summer. When we moved into this house years ago, his room had wall paneling on the bottom part of the wall with a chair rail above it. I liked the paneling because it was off white but had some green tinting on it that made it more interesting than your typical brown paneling.

I had already changed the wall color to a bluish green but the paneling was quite beat up and really needed to go. Instead of pulling it out completely I decided to make it into a board and batten wall.

I removed the chair rail and then filled in all the lines of the paneling using joint compound. I don't know if that was really the best product to use but it worked and I had it on hand so I went with it. I spread it in any irregularities on the paneling, sanded it after it dried and then did another application. Some areas needed more applications.

All that sanding made a big mess so if you decide to do something like this be prepared for that. This is the top of the dresser I had sitting in the middle of the room. :)

I went to Home Depot and bought the cheapest slats I could find. I don't remember what they were called but the wood is really rough and unfinished. If you use them, make sure to buy plenty because some of them will be split or warped and therefore, unusable. I cut them to length, sanded and then painted all the slats. I painted the paneling and added a floor board that had previously not existed and then we were ready to put the slats on.

After the slats were in place I put a new chair rail on top. I wanted squared off edges like the slats for both the floor board and the chair rail. In placing the slats I wasn't terribly particular. I worked around the outlets and then worked toward the corners. If it looked better to have the slats moved off an inch or two I did it. That room has some odd wall spaces so sticking to an exact measurement could have looked odd. As you can see in a picture above, the old paneling had corner pieces to hide what the paneling looked like in the corners. It wasn't pretty without it so I made sure that each corner had a batten to hide the unpretty. As I added the floor board (which would have been soooo much easier if I'd done it before the new carpet went in) I discovered that the room was not remotely level plus there were oddities in the height of the paneling which had been hidden by the chair rail. If I'd put it in level the floor board would have gone up the wall quite literally so I had to do some adapting to make it look level.

And just for fun I added a colored border to the closet doors.

I said at the top of the post that this is my son's room and so it is but my daughter lived in it for a few months before going back to college and before my son came home again. So this picture is an "after" for when my daughter moved in and is thus more girly than it is at present. I don't have a picture of how it looks now and can't take one for two reasons. One, because my camera battery charger is missing in action and no where to be found and two, because my son lives in there now. Yeah, it isn't looking quite so neat and tidy for a picture even if my camera were usable. :) (Sorry to tell on you son but I do speak truth.) In any case, I was very happy with how the walls turned out. 

I'm linking up to Frugal Friday

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Birthday celebration continues...

So to continue the birthday celebration, John took me to West Yellowstone's Playmill to see Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Didn't really know much about that musical but it sounded fun. And it was. Clever lyrics, good acting, and all around fun for all. Plus they have the yummiest Pineapple Dole Whip sorbet. I wish I could find that locally but maybe it is just as well cuz if I could, I'd be eating it all the time. :)

Driving up usually affords a great view of the Tetons but today they were quite obscured by smoke or dust or something.

A cute young man took me up on stage to sing happy birthday to me along with the other birthday or anniversary type people. He announced that I am celebrating the 20th anniversary of my 29th birthday. (Okay, I give up. I can't quite figure out the whole formatting thing in this blogging with photos. I've started out in one format and then it changes for reasons not understood by me and I can't figure out how to change them back, so you get what you get.)
That is JPL (John Peter Lewis) of American Idol fame leading the singing. I don't know what it is, but every time we've gone to Playmill for John's birthday he ends up with one or sometimes two young girls giving him a birthday kiss. I just get birthday hugs although I do have a funny story about one year we were there with the religion department of BYU-Idaho. Perhaps someday I'll post that story.