Monday, February 9, 2009

Finding Some Sense of Normalcy

When writing my last post, I was naively sitting on my couch, in the comfort of my home with the tv running, kids sleeping peacefully and completely oblivious to what was about to happen. I knew there was an ice storm coming. I had been to the grocery and had six gallons of milk, three loaves of bread plus hot chocolate with marshmallows and all that good, hot, comfort food that you want when it's cold outside. I had that feeling though. That gnawing feeling of unknowing.

Monday, I went back to the store for a couple of items, intending on picking up a couple of boxes of poptarts, grabbed what I went for and then left. Without the poptarts. That snafu would come back to haunt me. I spent the day watching the news and the sky. Belle and Bryce had ball practice and would be staying after school. Nothing had materialized by the time I had picked them up and I brought them home for a hot supper. We went through and worked on the homework for the night, and each of them announced that their teachers had sent home packets of work for them to do if they missed school because of the storm. I put them to bed close to their normal school bedtimes because I knew if I didn't, they'd go to school on Tuesday and if I didn't they would drive me nuts with the anticipation they had. I was talking with Hubby on one of our usual just-before-bedtime calls when I got up to check on the ice. It was raining by this point and it was freezing to anything that didn't move. School for Tuesday had already been canceled in many places, including the kids school. I had my laptop open, sitting on the arm of my couch. As I sat down, the outside of my thigh came down on the keyboard area, causing the other side to rise. And rise it did. Not only did it rise, but it came up and hit me on the side of the head. You know that bone just at the end of your eyebrow? It swelled to a knot the size of a quarter with a nice bright red splotched in the middle of it. Ouch. I decided then that it was time for bed before I could do any more damage to myself. It was sometime Tuesday before I realized how bad it actually was. I went to bed, excited about the fact that school had been canceled, that the alarm clocks were off and I would be able to sleep in. How wrong I'd be.

Tuesday morning, just after 3 am, we lost power. It flickered a couple of times and then the whole house just powered down. And I sat. And I listened. Minutes later I heard the banging of feet and they were headed my direction (at 8, 10 and 11 there is no longer pitter-patters. It's a matter of waiting for the floor to fall through...). I had my electric blanket on when the power died, so I allowed all three kids to climb into bed with me since it was warm. Three kids, two as big as me, and myself in a queen-size bed. We weren't there for long. After the arguing started between the boys, we got up and moved to the living room, setting up the same sleeping arrangement that we had when Ike knocked out our power only a few short months ago. I sat up blankets and the kids slept on the floor while I slept on the couch. Brady was easy. He hadn't much more than settled down when he passed out. Belle and Bryce on the other hand, they talked for over an hour before I finally got them to hush and doze off. Then my cell phone rang. My neighbor called about 5:30 about the power, saying they had slept through when it kicked off. I took another hour quieting Bryce and Belle (Brady slept through the entire conversation) and dozed off myself about 6:30 until she called back. We waited in hope that the power was coming back on when it came back up for three minutes before shutting down again but it never did. So I had two sleepy kids on my hands, plus myself when we got up a short time later. These are the pictures that I took on Tuesday, not long after we got up.These are nothing compared to how things looked on Wednesday, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Tuesday, the kids worked on the homework their teachers had assigned in the event school was canceled. We played Yahtzee. They complained they were bored. I let them watch a movie on the laptop, causing the battery to die just as the movie ended. Ordinarily I would've charged it in my car but Hubby had taken off with the inverter that I use to do it. So I couldn't charge it back up. That afternoon, I noticed that things in my fridge were starting to get a little warmer than I cared for. So I loaded them up in a box and sat them under my carport. Worked like a charm!

All day long Tuesday, I had been turning on my gas logs for a bit and turning them off again because I honestly believe they put off carbon monoxide but we had to have some heat. I had hung blankets over my doorways out of the living room and across my window ledge just to keep the heat in the room. By supper, my head was screaming and I couldn't tell you if it was because of fumes or from the knot on the side of my head but the kids weren't complaining about headaches so I left it alone (and believe me, I asked them often). Finally, the time came for supper on Tuesday evening so we got creative. There's nothing like roasting hot dogs over an open flame of gas logs, according to the kids anyway. But they enjoyed it just the same. I had talked to my parents off and on all day, and I knew that they, too, had lost power. I do not like driving on ice and Dad offered to come pick us up and carry us to their house. He left his house in Mom's explorer but couldn't get off of his street because of limbs across the road. His truck was low on gas and he wasn't sure he could find some nor make it here and back without running out. So we stayed here.

Tuesday evening was one of those evenings that I was kind of glad we didn't have power. The kids were sleepy and bored which made it much easier to put them to bed. Belle complained she didn't like sleeping on the floor, that it was hard, so we compromised. There wasn't enough room for three mattresses but I told the boys they could bring their mattresses into the living room and line them up on the floor for the three of them to sleep across. The mattresses made it into the living room in record time. Then I had another problem to deal with. I had to find a way to allow the dogs to sleep in the living room where there was heat but block them from the main area so they didn't get up on the bedding. So a little bit of furniture rearranging later, I had everyone settled down. The kids were dozing off, the dogs were in their quarters and I talked to Hubby for a few minutes before winding down. After spending the day telling the kids "No, you don't need a candle, take the flashlight." "No, you don't need to light the candles." "Put the lighters down!," I turned off the logs, lowered the flame on the oil lamp and went to sleep.

A good night's sleep would've been nice that night, but wasn't going to happen. I awoke at midnight to find the living room freezing. Finally, after about forty-five minutes, I talked myself into quickly getting up and lighting the logs because I knew that I didn't want to sleep while they were running. As I lit them, they woke Bryce. He got up and sat in front of them for a bit before I ushered him back to bed. I stretched out on the couch and before I knew it, I was dozing. I woke up at 3:30 to a much warmer room and got up to turn the logs off. I stretched out on the couch again, the lamp just barely burning by this point because it was low on fuel, and listened. You could hear the rain falling steady outside the windows and doors, and as it fell, it would freeze on impact. Then there was the cracking as limbs, heavy with ice, would start to break apart from the trees. That was followed almost immediately by a whooooosh, as the limb then fell to the ground. I was stunned as I heard something crash, a crash that didn't sound much more than a limb but was strong enough to rattle the dishes in my dishwasher. I got up and looked out windows and doors but to no avail. All that could be seen was a blackness so strong that it swallowed up anything that remotely resembled light. So I went back to bed and slept restlessly waiting for daylight so that I could check on my house.

Wednesday morning brought a whole new world, one I have never seen in my life. Unfortunately, the batteries were down on my camera and I didn't get any pictures of it, but Ladybird had posted pictures of her parents house here and Cosmo's Crazy posted pictures of his home here. When I woke just after six, I turned on the fireplace again and settled down until the kids got up. My landline phone was down as was my cell phone. About 8, I walked outside and was relieved to find my electric box still attached to my house with a leaning but still standing pole, but was stumped as to what rattled my dishes. I walked out again around nine and as I was shedding my boots (read: Bryce's boots) Dad pulled into the driveway. And I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Dad had gotten a lead on a gas station that was running on generator power and went there first, ensuring he would have plenty of gas. We packed quickly, set the dogs up with massive amounts of food, fixed the cats food, left plenty of water and the five us piled into his pickup bound for his house. We filled bottles Dad brought with water because they didn't have running water and I did. My groceries went, as well as the clothes that I could pull together for us, medicine for the kids because they already had a cough, blankets, pillows and the kids violin and viola (they will crack in cold weather.)

The trip to their house is one I will never forget. Almost every tree we saw was missing the top as the limbs had cracked and fell. There were power, cable and telephone lines down everywhere and there were plenty of broken poles. To cross the county, we literally had to weave from one lane to another just to get around trees. The roads themselves were slick, and I was glad not to be the one driving on them. We had an uneventful trip, thankfully and got there safely to unload everything. The kids walked inside and noticed one thing. Memaw had tv! Dad was afraid something like this would happen after Ike and last month bought a generator. They had their tv, satellite box, refrigerator and a little heater plugged up to it and was also running their gas logs. Heaven compared to what I had just went through over the past 24 hours! And help with the kids! I couldn't ask for more. Then things turned. Again.

As if being cut off from power, phones and water wasn't enough, all three kids decided they needed to get sick Wednesday night. By supper time, they were all running fevers of 102. I gave them what tylenol I had taken to Mom's. Then Dad and I loaded up and headed to town to see if we could find anything open in order to get medicine. And found that same black void that I saw the night before. There is something eerie about coming around the outside of town devoid of all light except for the occasional house that has a candle burning near a window. We found everything closed in town, not one store had a generator to run. We went to my house to pick up what motrin I had in my cabinet...enough for two doses for each kid. I would have just enough to get me through the night and a dose for breakfast.

Thursday, Dad and I took off again in search of a store that had medicine. We stopped by the house to check on the animals and feed them, started the logs enough to heat the house a bit before we left. I picked up a few more things that I realized that I needed as well as filled our water bottles. We stopped at a pay phone that we found was working only it couldn't connect to Hubby so I could let him know that we were ok. I hadn't talked to him since Tuesday evening and it was already noon on Thursday. Wal-Mart was closed, only a few employees going in for various reasons. The local Food Giant was open, but they were only letting in a few people at a time and already had a line outside of at least 20 people. So we went by Sav-A-Lot. They were closed but were waiting on a generator to open the doors that would be there in around two hours. So we went back a couple of hours later. We walked in and got to the back of the store and found the end of the checkout line. So Dad stood in line while I shopped for the few items we needed. Mainly ibuprofen for the kids. It took us an hour and a half to get out of that store but it was better than waiting in line for an hour and a half outside of Food Giant. Thursday night, Hubby showed up about midnight. He had to deliver in Nashville and told his dispatcher that he was going home to find us since he couldn't get in touch with anyone. On the way, he stopped for sweats for us, brought us bread and lunch meats as well as plenty of junk food.

Friday brought it's own set of challenges. We were excited as our cell phones started receiving signals since the companies had set up the towers with generators but as with most natural disasters, the race to find much needed items becomes much more difficult. Ours was gasoline. We were burning an average of 10 gallons of gas a day with the generator running just during the day. When we retired for the evening, the generator was shut down for the night. Hubby and I returned to our home to check up on the animals, fill the water bottles and check on the house. We got in line at a local gas station. The line started two blocks away from the station. Dad was on the other side of the block in line awaiting gas since he had already drained his tank for the generator. After a short period of time, the sheriff came around limiting gasoline purchases to $10. That's just over 5 gallons of gas here. Hubby and I put that in our tank after debating what we were going to do, found Wal-Mart open (with a tag-a-long employee as you shopped) and stopped for a few groceries. Then we took off for Mom and Dad's. Hubby dropped me off and drove to the next town for the gasoline we needed. I was amazed at the number of places announcing on the radio and television that they had generators for sale, even though finding gas was a pain in our little town. If you can only get 5 gallons at a time, how do you run a generator or decide to fill your tank or run your home? The neighboring town had gotten back on their feet faster than ours, with stores opening faster and receiving gas deliveries that were scarce in ours so finding gas there wasn't a problem.

Saturday, Hubby and I took the kids in search of a new set of gas logs. Our fear was that Mom and Dad would run out of propane and we would need to make the move back to my house where we had natural gas, but would need new logs first. Everywhere we checked were sold out of what we were looking for. We took the kids to Books-A-Million to give them some time outside of the house, bought them each a new book and stopped for supper for the family so that we didn't have to cook. Up until this point, we had been eating good with grilled chicken, pork chops and burgers but it was nice to not have to worry about what to cook or how we were going to cook it. Sunday, we came home again to check on the animals. At the end of the day, Hubby and I came back home so that he could shower and be ready to leave for work. On our way, my neighbor called and asked if we were going home anytime soon (she was staying at the National Guard Armory with her husband). Family had informed her that it looked like some of her neighbors had power again. We couldn't get home fast enough for me. We were looking for hints that we had power and were finding security lights working. I breathed another huge sigh of relief when I opened my door, flipped a switch and it worked. We had power. We started calling everyone and headed back to my parents to reload our stuff to sleep in our own beds again. Mom and Dad decided they were doing fine at their house and stayed behind. We lost power again on Sunday for a few hours, but it was turned back on that evening. It's been running ever since.

This post has gone on longer than I had planned. If I can get it worked out, next will be a much shorter rendition of what has gone on the past week. Regardless, I'm glad to be back. It's been a long two weeks.


Ladybird said...

Yay! I am glad that you are back! I was so worried about you guys! I went to KY this weekend and it looks like a war zone. CRAZY! Glad that you stayed warm! Next time, load up the kiddos and come stay with me!

janjanmom said...

Who would have thought we could love normal so much??

I am loving getting back to normal.

Jennifer said...

Wow, what an exhausting adventure! I believe hell is filled with preteen children and no cable. Refresh my memory....what was it we did before cable???