Sunday, October 25, 2009

In Sickness and in Health (and Alone)

When I signed up for this job, or at least signed my husband up for this job (and I feel like I did sign up, since I'm the one who filled out the applications to all the fire departments), I knew what I was getting myself into. I knew that as a mom, I would have periods of time when my husband would be inaccessible, short of a family emergency. I'd have days where I would just have to make it work on my own.

Yesterday was such a day. My firefighter had the day off, and we were asleep when the phone rang at 6:45 in the morning. I instantly woke up and knew what it meant.

"Honey... HONEY! Wake up!"

"Huh? What?"

"Answer the phone."

"...Huh? What?"

"Work is calling."

"...oh."

Yeah. "Oh." That about sums it up. We had a big day planned yesterday. Some of the activities we had planned that day could be skipped, but my daughter had her heart set on going to her friend's birthday party and attending a Trunk or Treat that evening. She has been talking about them for days; letting her go was an easy decision. Problem is, we only have one car still. In order to get her to her activities, it meant that we all had to get up as quickly as possible and drive my husband to work, an hour away.

My firefighter jumped in the shower and I ran downstairs to get the various bottles and beverages ready for the diaper bag. I shoved the kids' shoes in my over-sized tote, just in case they would need to get out of the car for some reason. My daughter looked confused when I woke her up. Her hair was a ratty mess. There was no time to fix it. She went potty while I woke up the baby, who had been up and down all night anyway, and buckled him into his car seat. He grinned at me the whole time. He's always up for an adventure.

My 3 year old is usually happy to go on a car ride, too. I woke him up, quickly changed his diaper, and carried him down to the car in his jammies. My groggy daughter made it down, my firefighter clipped the carseat into it's base, and I did a quick run through of the needed items.

Two loveys and a blanket. Check.
Bottles. Check.
Shoes. Check.
Peace-keeping snacks. Check.
Paci. Check.

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We got all buckled in and watched the sunrise as we drove through the hills. My 3 year old excitedly pointed out all the wind turbines and big trucks, and hid in his loveys when the sunlight hit his face. My daughter and the baby fell asleep. My firefighter and I talked about how excited we were to finally get an extra day of pay, after an uncommon six week overtime dry spell. We could really use the money and we discussed how to best spend it.

After dropping him off, the kids and I came back home. My daughter decided it was time to get ready for the birthday party, 6 hours early. Getting tired of the incessant "is it time to go yet?" I piled the kids in the stroller and decided that a nice slow walk to the party would be a good way to speed up departure time. She loaded her present into the basket and we took off. The boys are usually just as excited about a stroller ride as they are about a car ride. Still, I couldn't help but wish that my firefighter were home to take care of the boys while I took my daughter to her party.

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After the party, we all got ready for the trunk or treat that evening. Again, I wished that my husband could help. It took a couple of hours to somehow work in a shower and get them all diapered, cleaned up, dressed in their costumes, fed, happy, and ready to go. I went through my mental checklist of things to bring for the second time that day.

Have you ever taken three young children to an exciting outdoor party on your own? It's not as simple as one might think. The logistics are difficult. The 5 year old wants to run off to be with her friends but still needs supervision, the three year old just wants to run off, and the baby wants to be held because of all of the over-stimulation. Yesterday was a perfect example of what problems might arise in this situation.

Problem 1: I somehow forgot the paci at home. That meant that the baby was NOT going to be happy at some point.

Problem 2: As we were pulling in alongside the other vehicles getting ready for the trunk part of the trunk or treat, my daughter declared that she was car sick (something that has been happening a lot lately).

Problem 3: My 3 year old is sensitive to others and was crying over the discomfort of the other two. He kept reminding me to put the paci in. I tried to explain that we don't have it, but there's only so much he understands when he's upset.

Thankfully, once I got everyone out of the car, my daughter said she felt fine. The younger two were content to be pushed in the stroller as I followed my daughter around to keep an eye on her. I took some pictures and was happy that the evening had turned out to be so manageable, aside from the one moment when I dropped my camera and watched pieces of plastic pop off.

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This is where things REALLY started to go downhill as a single mom for a day.

The baby, as I knew would happen, got fussy once we stopped moving so I had him in my arms. We were all sitting on hay bales watching a movie when my daughter declared that she was, after all, still sick from the car. She heaved and put her hand to her mouth. My 3 year old was still happily strapped into the front seat of the stroller, enthralled with the movie, bless his heart. I had to make a split second decision--there were too many obstacles and people to be able to take the stroller inside and make it on time. I could either stay with the stroller and let my daughter vomit in public, or leave the stroller and help her find the bathroom. I chose the second option, since there were other parents nearby. My daughter, the baby and I ran inside and found the bathroom in time. I worried about leaving my 3 year old alone out there the whole time and hurried her up.

She washed up and felt much better after that, and things looked up again--especially after a kind lady offered to hold my baby for me while I took the other two around to collect candy. The second time my daughter needed to go potty, we all went. I hefted the double stroller over curbs and rolled it through the hall inside, while carrying the baby in my other arm. We waited by the door while my daughter finished up. They were decorating pumpkins just outside a nearby door, so we went out that way.

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My daughter, dressed as a princess, bent over to inspect the pumpkin that she had just hefted to the ground. She hesitated and declared that she was going to throw up again. My heart sank. This clearly was not just a case of car sickness; she had a bug. And, she was going to throw up and share it with everyone. The door we had just come out of was locked from the outside going in. It was dark by then. I told her to throw up in a nearby bush. She wasn't listening--she took off running in a flurry of pink and white tulle. I yelled after her, and tried to work my way around the throng of children with the double stroller.

I didn't know which way she had run in the darkness, but figured she had tried to get to the other door to make it to the bathroom. She knew the way by then. For the third time, I hefted the double stroller over all the obstacles and made my way to the bathroom. Thankfully, that's where she was. Only this time she hadn't made it to the toilet in time. She cried as she showed me that her costume was covered in vomit.

After cleaning her up and promising her that I would be able to clean her costume in time for the real Halloween, we headed straight for the car. As I stretched the seat belt over my daughter's yucky costume, I felt her forehead--no fever. Phew. The baby cried the whole way home, wanting his paci. My middle child cried in sympathy and pleaded for me to help the baby, whom I could not reach, let alone help. My daughter sat quiet and sallow and was sad that she didn't get to decorate her pumpkin.

It was a loud, pitiful trip. I got home and unloaded them one by one. After stripping all costumes off, I showed my daughter her pumpkin and the decorations I had grabbed. That cheered her up and she set about decorating it. She threw up another two or three times. Meanwhile, I put the boys in bed.

When I came out after settling the other two down, I saw that my daughter had crawled into bed and had already fallen to sleep. That was a first.

Yesterday was definitely one of those days when I wish that my firefighter had been here to help out. Yet, as much as I missed him, and even though I am certain there will be more days like yesterday, I wouldn't want him to be in any other career. His job satisfaction affects the whole house. He absolutely loves what he does. Not only that, but it allows me to do what I absolutely love--be home with the children--even on vomit days. The perks are too great to pass up, for either of us.

My daughter ended up sleeping through most of the night, and when she did have to throw up again, she did it quietly in her own bathroom and went back to bed on her own. This morning she said that she put herself to sleep and didn't tell me when she was sick again because she didn't want to get me sick. What a little sweetheart!!

(As I write this, she is happily playing. She hasn't thrown up all day and only had a low grade fever early this morning. I'm thinking it must have been food poisoning.)

12 comments:

wife.mom.nurse said...

oh no, poor little princess.

Poor Mommy!

Those are hard days...glad you made it through.

Liked the picture of the sun rising and then the sun setting.

melaniek said...

Thanks for sharing, you're such a brave Mommy! I hope the real halloween goes much better for your daughter.

And I know exactly what you mean about about the paci, we went to a trunk or treat last night and I lost the newborns pacifier.

Hayley said...

Lots and lots of days ~ and nights like this one! Fortunately, people are usually very kind and helpful at birthday parties and other events where I am alone with the kids~ I always come away from those parties with even more respect for the real single moms.

Katie said...

Yes, Haley, me too! I can't imagine how difficult it is for those who do this all the time.

Kristen said...

OMGosh, my husband normally works Sundays so we went to our first Birthday party by ourselves Sunday and I could only handle him for an hour! I don't know how you do it with 3, you're a wonder-woman!

mnlop said...

Ugh, so sorry you had such a struggle. Try getting a side by side umbrella stroller. Much easier to maneuver in those inevitable emergencies (been there). I made sure I got one before heading off for two weeks alone with the three kiddos. It was a lifesaver.

Alyssa said...

I have a fire fighter too. I can totally relate! He's now working about 80hrs a week in 24-48 hour shifts. Lonely & Boring!

Christine said...

Oh no.... My husband is gone very often too, works very long hours (not in the heroic capacity that yours does, but he's our hero =) and I remember how difficult it was when my children were little. I definitely feel for you and hope this year goes more smoothly, or better yet, that he can be there to enjoy it with (and help) you!

The Person Family said...

I can absolutely relate to this story. My husband used to be a firefighter/paramedic. Then he was in the Army Reserves for awhile and switched to the National Guard. He's gone for days/weeks or months at a time and it's so hard to adjust back and forth from single parent mode to dual. My three kids are 5, 2 and 9 months, so I definitely understand about trying to go somewhere (especially the park) with all three. Taking them all to church is very tiring, too. And my 2 year old is a daddy's boy, so he has a hard time when daddy's gone. Anyway- thank you for sharing your good times and tough times with us. It's nice to hear someone else's perspective. P.S. I went to school with Amanda Kjar Wilkinson and was just curious about how you know her. :)

Fire Wife Katie said...

Nice to meet you guys, thanks for stopping by! Ha - we hardly ever go to the park anymore, at least, not when I'm by myself. It's a major chore around here, especially since the play structures have age requirements on them and the youngest gets sad when his siblings run off to play on the big kid structure without him. Trips to the park almost always end in tears! My favorite way to get the kids out of the house is to go to Ikea and put the oldest two in the play land there. I take the youngest with me while I wander the store and maybe grab a bite at the restaurant. :)

As for Amanda, I went to high school with her. :)

Anonymous said...

My fiance is a firefighter paramedic and I am contemplating if I even want to have children. I struggle to take care of the dogs alone(they are very energetic). I should add that I have only lived in our state for two years and have no family and a handful of friends. So I am thinking I won't have much help.I don't know how or why anyone would take on that life.

Lauren said...

Oh have I sooooo been there... We have a saying at our house. It only happens when Dad's at work.
and darn it if it isn't true.
The bathroom floods (toddler) and the ceiling falls....
The dog kills a possum....
The dog kills a bunny....
The youngests asthma flares up...
The oldest smashes his fingers...
My asthma flares up, which is worse than the youngests....
The furnace decides to smell funny and stop working...
God Help us FireWives

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