Accessible Backyard, an Interview with Allison Smith
We are a family of three, plus a dog and a fish. My husband and I will have been married for eight years this October; however, we’ve been friends since the 6th grade. We live in the same town where we grew up. We are close with our family, whom almost all reside within a 30 mile radius and have a great group of friends.
14 years ago, my husband had a bad fall while snow skiing which left him a quadriplegic. After some serious re-evaluating one’s life’s plans and goals, he turned to law school and graduated from Santa Barbara School of Law. After working locally for a few years, he realized a dream and opened his own practice three years ago. I work there part-time as a legal assistant.
Our son, Cooper, is 5 and will begin Kindergarten later this month. He is “all boy” and is so full of energy and life! He is joyful, kind, caring and loving. I mean, what mother doesn’t think their kid is just the best?!?!?! When it all comes down, we just really like being together as a family doing regular stuff – creating a childhood for our son that was as fun and memorable as ours.
Last year, we bought our first home, and we just love the neighborhood. Prior to moving in, however, we had to make the house wheelchair accessible, which meant creating zero clearance thresholds at all the entry points, pouring concrete to ramp the steps in the garage, making the shower “barrier free” or roll in, and making a pathway that encircles the grass in the backyard, so that Aaron can get to all (almost all) parts of our home. We have all settled quite well into our new home and feel so blessed to be where we are.
Why did you decide to enter into the House Logic home renovation contest?
Well, the entire west side of our house is dirt and rocks mixed in with some weeds and overgrown plants. Since we live in an area with great climate, we are outside a lot. Therefore, we are always thinking of what to do with that side of our property. There is one established apple tree and as we talked one night – we were talking about making a pathway to the apple tree so Aaron could get to it. Later that week, I saw the reminder, “Don’t forget… Monday is the last day to enter the Boost Your Roost Contest”. Hmmmmm, I thought – that would be great if we had the work done – I could surprise my husband with an AWESOME gift. It was really just a spur of the moment – why not enter – long shot. I snapped a couple pictures, wrote the required 300 word or less entry, and then e-mailed that and the sketch of the ideas we had talked about.
If your house wins, what would be your dream backyard? What are the most important things to have in your backyard?
A dream backyard for us is really an extension of our home. We truly spend a lot of time outside in our backyard – we enjoy cooking on our BBQ pits, growing vegetables in our garden, playing in the yard with our son and our dog and having family and friends over. So our dream backyard would allow all of those things to happen in a peaceful, beautiful setting. Of most importance is accessibility. We feel strongly that our home should be 100% barrier free. So we have to think ahead and plan access points and placement of things to not block the pathways. All the while, it must be beautiful. I believe that form and function can work harmoniously to create a space that will fit not just our needs – but all who enter.
What are you most looking forward to doing in your backyard after it is renovated?
Inviting our family and friends over to enjoy the new space! What good is a piece of beauty if it can’t be shared with those you love? It will be great to be on that side of our house – utilizing the space as part of our home. And, most importantly, allowing my husband to be able to get all around our property.
You’ve said that your husband is a quadriplegic. What are a few ways that you keep him healthy? How do you keep the rest of your family healthy?
My husband is the healthy one! He always has been an avid exerciser and conscientious eater. However, we make a great team. I mentioned above that we have a garden, and we love eating the veggies that we grow. It is good for our son to taste what is grown – seeing a plant sprout from a seed, then producing a vegetable that is nourishment for our bodies is amazing. Plus, we love cooking – together, all three of us. So we really make eating healthy a fun and delicious part of our daily routine.
Also, having a 5 year old son, and a lab (he’s 10, but will still chase the ball) keeps us moving! We go to a local park and play until we are all out of breath! We live on the Central Coast of California, so our weather is great most of the year. We take advantage of that and stay outside as long as we can.
I think the most important element to a healthy family, however is the family environment. We make family time together a priority. We eat dinner together at the table as a family every night and “talk about our day”. We stay connected and that, I think, is fundamental in creating and maintaining a healthy family.
In keeping our family healthy – we are big believers in limiting “purchased” food. Not in a huge, make a statement way; but rather a health-conscious way. We pack our lunch for work and figure we’ll eat out at a restaurant once a week – for lunch. We have healthy snacks available (apples, grapes, cheese, yogurt, nuts…) so that when hunger strikes good choices can be made. We write out weekly meal plans and shop accordingly to minimize food waste and maximize our dollar.
Meals are a time that brings our family together in many aspects; planning (we let our son have an opinion about what to put on the menu), shopping (looking at the ads to buy things on sale or shopping at local farmers’ markets), and preparing (we all enjoy being creative in the kitchen and helping out one another).
I have found that our son has become a great eater who is willing to try just about anything – he may not like it, but he will try … especially when he has participated in the process. However, life is not perfect and we know that there will always be exceptions … so we simply do our best, and enjoy the moments for what they are!
What are a few things that you and your family have enjoyed the most about this summer?
This summer has been great. At the beginning of summer, we created a “Summer Bucket List” and have been slowly checking things off. We all participated in writing things down to do this summer, and we all have had fun doing the different things. It was a great way to fill those summer days!
Vote for Allison’s Accessible Backyard project here! http://www.houselogic.com/contest/boost-your-roost/entry/15/