Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ice-mageddon 2012

Right now, the snow/ice/windstorm of January seems like an eternity ago. It wasn't. It was just one short month ago. But perhaps I've blocked it out of my mind so as to keep my sanity now.  The new electrical panels have been ordered for our home and Zeus, our generator, so hopefully, this will be the last time I ever blog about a power outage for more than a week!

The biggest challenges were these, in no particular order:
  • Thomas's fears of the dark
  • No running water for the toilet
  • Candles weren't much of an option with both boys, because of the fire danger 
  • The unknown of when things would improve
And to a lesser extent, these were frustrations:
  • It was incredibly easy to feel isolated without any contact to the outside world without internet, our smartphones...just the red, corded "Ski bat phone" where you actually had to know phone numbers.  
  • I REALLY LIKE FLUSHING THE TOILET AFTER I USE IT.  It's a luxury I will never again take for granted.
  • I had a major Relay For Life training coming up in 10 days, and all of my projects were trapped inside my hard drive on my desktop.  No way to get them out.  
  • It just felt dirty, all the time, without running water or a vacuum or a steamer.

    A few small blessings...
    • We vacuumed most of the main floor of the house the morning of the day the power went out.  Had we not done that, it would have ended up being a nightmare with a crawler in the dark, and no way for us to tell what he was putting in his mouth.  
    • Everyone had their jobs.  Jonathan's main job was keeping the fireplace roaring.  It heated the whole house relatively well and I can't deny that I loved the crackle of the fire.  I kept us fed, using a stash of already-cooked freezer meals that we pulled in our two times we accessed the freezer and fridge. Before the storm, I had been doing the 'pantry challenge' for January, using up food that had been overlooked to clean things out. This took that to a new level. Thomas was Jonathan's fire helper, and was in charge of holding the flashlight every time Jonathan brought wood into the house.  Both of our secondary jobs were keeping the firewood stocked on the front porch and making water on the stove from snow.  Maggie's medication included prednisone, which made her constantly thirsty.  We kept a 5 gallon bucket of snow next to the wood stove, which melted for her to drink. It always went quickly since snow, by volume, takes up way more space than water as a liquid.  We all worked together and made sure that our jobs were always done.
    • We used our stash of old glowsticks and necklaces from Relays past.  Since our home predominantly faces east, we have beautiful sunrises and never a sunset. It also means that we lose light in the living room and dining room earlier than normal when the sun sets. Each night, Jonathan would give Thomas a new glow necklace and glowstick for his bed.  The necklace often times became a fishing pole to use off the sofa, the bed, whatever he could find to fish from. He looked forward to his presents so much that he never knew the house was getting darker. My husband is brilliant.
    The major blessing:
    • Our family of four bonded together in some pretty exceptional ways.  Jonathan and I emerged from this week much closer, much stronger, and with a deep appreciation for what the other person does for us and our family.  He and I played endless games of Phase Ten after the sun went down and JP was in bed.  Thomas would bounce around, eat snacks and lay down. We all learned about putting aside our own focuses and keeping the focus on the other members of our family.  My dad's FAMILY: Forget About Me, I Love You was in action on the farm. It's so easy, in the normal hustle and bustle of life, to take things for granted.  We learned so much about each other in those short 8 days, and I wouldn't trade that for anything in the world.  
    Anyway, back to the week. Thomas had some quotables.
    • When I finished Thomas's apple jacks after he left the table, "Papa!  Mommy ate all my peanut butter toast! Now she's eating all my apple snacks!  STOP HER!"
    • Jonathan had given me an old Clark Griswold line "look, there's a deer!"...and then Thomas wouldn't go in his room.  "Mommy, there's a deer in my roomer!  I'm not going in there!"  We both started laughing.  "Mommy, that's NOT FUNNY!"
    • And one of my favorites, about Fleeht the Elf on the Shelf, "I don't want Fleeht to be scared of the dark. He can stay with me."

    By Saturday, we hadn't had power or water in 3 days and we were all going a bit stir crazy.  We hadn't been able to get off the farm because of the incredible snow and ice that was still about 15 inches deep.  Our awesome neighbors, the Robinsons, invited us over for hot showers and baths for the boys.

    It was a little bit of heaven, I tell you.

    Kirk arrived back after his first day out on the roads.  He gave us ideas on what was open and had power, and how we could get there in the 4runner.  We packed up the boys in the Ski Family Truckster (with a nod to Clark Griswold) and headed out in the frosty wilderness. 

    We slowly made our way to the IGA in Tenino, where they had power.  I had a running list (on paper!!) and asked him if there was anything else he wanted.  "Ice cream"...totally tongue in cheek.

    And alas...with the power out and IGA being powered by generators, they were GIVING ICE CREAM AWAY.  It was free.  The only lucky bunnies were the ones with running generators, unless you wanted to eat a whole pint by yourself.  :)

    Needless to say, we feasted on ice cream that night.

    On Sunday, we decided to get out for Mass and to clean up in St. Peter's bathroom.  The Catholic Church is always there for you...except when the doors are closed!  We decided that God honored our efforts to get to Mass, and then headed further south to Centralia.  We had lunch at Burgerville and hung out at the Outlets.  It was hook line and sinker for me when I walked into the Bath & Body Works outlet...all the sweet, smelling stuff.  Oh, heavenly.

    We headed back to the house so the boys could take a nap. 

    Coming back down Finian on Sunday, these trees just smashed through the new fences. 

    The ice was thick.  Everywhere.  That's what caused the massive damage...the snow melted a bit and then re-froze and everything became so heavy.  So incredibly heavy.  Between our house and the beginning of our road, the power lines had broken in four separate places. 

    And that was when Jonathan said the words, "You know, Shel, it could be a few days before the power comes back.  Maybe even next Saturday.  But in better news, my beard is coming in nicely!"

    I cried a little.

    We used the clean snow off my Camry to make drinking water.  We knew that no one had walked in it, no dogs had made yellow snow and it was powdery under the icy crust on top. 

    Our poor, sad trees.

    Icicles are a rarity in western Washington state.

    The beautiful cherry blossom tree in the front yard. The damage was pretty extensive, and we're hoping she recovers in the spring with a little TLC.

    We packed up the boys and decided to head to my parents' house for the night, where their power had been restored.  We brought a few loads of laundry and headed north.  It was a great retreat for us.  We all took showers, baths, had a hot dinner that wasn't cooked on a wood stove, and slept in warm cozy beds with wireless internet in the house.

    Jonathan started going into the office when it reopened and I began taking over the house with him gone.  I became a master fire-starter and re-igniter and the boys and I settled into a new rhythm.  After daily Mass, we would head to as many errands as we could think of and then to Charlie's Safari where Thomas could work off his energy.  I wasn't about to let him outside with the mud and have no way to clean him off.  That was where I drew the line. We'd stop at Starbucks for the free wi-fi, to use the bathroom, and get hot cocoa and then head home for naps. 

    Which brings me back to the farm.

    This ugly tree literally split in half.  I was not sad.  It was ugly.  You can hardly see the downed Christmas trees beyond there, they are COVERED in snow.  We had cut the last of the trees in that field a week earlier.  Jonathan has now taken it out with the chainsaw and all is good in the world. 

    As the days went on, Thomas loved 'helping' with his snow shovel.  Boots, who needs boots?

    On Tuesday night, PSE was on our road for an hour.  We made the mistake of getting our hopes up, because when Jonathan went on a reconnaissance mission later, they were gone.  We were crushed.  

    Wednesday, there were rumors of power crews in our area. I went to McDonalds and picked up 2 dozen cheeseburgers and brought them to the crew off 138th.  They had driven up from California and been working nonstop since the storms hit.  I handed them the cheeseburgers, started crying, and thanked them for their dedication in getting our homes back on the grid. 

    The power came back on later that day for 8 short hours.  I cleaned like a madwoman, bleached both fridges and freezers, tossed the bad stuff and washed clothes and diapers and dishes.  And when Jonathan and I collapsed into bed that night, he said, "You've really handled this well.  I expected a major meltdown somewhere in there." 

    And in my smugness, I agreed I'd done well.

    And no less than 15 minutes later, the power went out again. 

    Oh, Smuggy McSmugster.  I was an idiot. 

    I facebooked it from my blackberry in the morning.  One of Jonathan's friends who I'd gotten to know on Facebook, surprised us with hot, homemade spaghetti sauce and noodles and toys for the boys and it brought me to tears.  She had been 'off the grid' like us with little boys, and it was one of the most thoughtful things in the world seeing her coming down the road with a meal for us.  I was nearly at my breaking point on Thursday and she saved that for me. We were so blessed. 

    It was a long, emotional week. 

    And we are eagerly anticipating when Zeus will be up and wired into the house. I may throw a giant party.

    I may even let people flush the toilets!  Cheers!

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