Saturday, June 30, 2012

Fire claims Colorado, and thirteen years of life.

Today, Colorado is burning. And today, my husband is working for free.

These two circumstances remind me that fire is a destroyer.

My heart goes out to those in Colorado who have lost their homes. I can't imagine how the children who lived in those houses are coping. I can only hope that they have a grandparent nearby to stay with while "normal life" is being reconstructed.

The second circumstance involves a firefighter in my husband's department who passed away last week at the age of 65 — not from fire or as the result of a accident, but in a much more traditional firefighter fashion — from cancer.

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My husband sent me this picture today of the flags at half mast in honor of the fallen firefighter.

Nearly every apparatus in my husband's department will be in the procession. To make sure the residents are still covered, a nearby city graciously offered to staff the stations. My husband is one of the firefighters who has offered to help these new crews out, to ride with them, since they are in unfamiliar neighborhoods — he's "bird dogging," as they call it. At a time like this it's very apparent that there is a strong link between firefighters. There's a reason why the profession is stereotypically called a brotherhood. Today highlights that bond.

This firefighter, as too many in his profession do, lost 13 years of his life (compared to the average life expectancy) as a result of the job.

That is sobering.

I guess the daily small abuses of the job eventually take their toll in the form of heart attack, stroke, and cancer. The agitation from the adrenaline that surges when the tones go off in the middle of a deep sleep must add up. The exposure to acrid smoke and other toxins must make the job quietly and subtlety dangerous. The stress from the scenes witnessed has to take a toll. The manual labor seems to exacerbate any weaknesses in the body. Routine surgeries caused by job-related wear and tear can lead to sepsis, apparently.

These are the hidden causes of line of duty deaths in the fire service.

Hopefully, as technology and techniques improve, the job will become less dangerous. I firmly believe that my firefighter will be pushing up the firefighter life expectancy average. So much has improved as far as safety is concerned. Caution trumps risk. The ability to "eat smoke" before masking up isn't the badge of fortitude it once was. At least, not on my husband's crew. Now, entering a building and holding out before putting a mask on is just a really bad idea. Especially since houses are so full of synthetic material these days. These aren't the wood and natural fiber houses of yore.

The elders on the department have learned through painful experience what not to do. Those who have gone before and have ushered in dramatic changes to the way things are done have given the gift of years of life to the next generation. That is no small gift. I'm personally very grateful. This firefighter's battle with cancer reminds me exactly how grateful I am for the advances that have been made.

It also reminds me that we still have a long way to go to reclaim those thirteen years too often lost to fire.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The helper

"Mom?"

"Yes, honey?" I asked my almost 8 year old daughter.

"Do you think I could try to change the baby's diaper?"

"...You WANT to learn how to change a diaper?"

"Please?" She replied, as she gave me the sweet, pleading eyes. "I think I'm big enough to do it!"

"Uh... sure!" I said as I gave her the disbelief eyes.

I showed her the basics, and told her she was allowed to change his diapers as long as they weren't poopy. She happily played little mom for the rest of the week.

"Ooh, I think this one's not poopy, mom!" She declared as she changed his diaper and then rocked him to sleep in her arms. "I'm a baby expert!" They like each other a lot.

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Well, most of the time.


"Mom?"

"Yes, honey?"

"Do you think I'm old enough to help with baths tonight?"

"...You WANT to help get the baths ready?"

"Please?" She said.

"Uh... okay!" I said as I gave her the disbelief eyes again.

I told her she couldn't help with the baby yet, but that she could help her other brothers. I made sure she knew how hot and how full to run the bath and she took it from there. Then I sat down. I listened to the water running in the bathroom and my daughter instructing the three year old to get ready for his bath. She ran to get him a towel and I wondered how long this pleading to do chores would last. It was a good week!


"Mom?"

"Yes, honey?"

(Oooh, another chore request!!)

"I've got a great idea! You know how I've been helping with diapers and baths?"

"Yeah, you've been so helpful! Thank you!"

"Well," she replied with excitement, "I was thinking..."

I had been thinking too! This eagerness to help out was great!

"Maybe," she continued, "I could write a list of all the chores I did and you could PAY me!"

Sigh.

I had become accustomed to the extra help. This little one knows how to work an angle!

She has a point, though. Time to set up an allowance.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Having four children is easier than having three. (Wait... what?)

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I don't know how this happened, but it's true! For now, anyway. Having four children has been easier than having just three! I've analyzed the situation, and here are the main factors influencing this outcome.

1. The older children grew up.

I think the situation would be different, much different, if all four children were three-year-olds. I've only got one of those, however.

The older two are, well, older.

They've been to school. They know the way they're supposed to behave. They understand logic. They listen. They may forget that I asked them not to play loudly by the sleeping baby 60 seconds after I asked them not to, but they do understand the reasoning behind the request. All I have to do is say their names with a raised eyebrow and they remember their good behavior. And raising older children, while complicated at times, just isn't as physically demanding as babies and toddlers are.

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Having the baby as an excuse is going well too, because they don't question me at all.

"It's time to go, guys, because the baby needs his diaper changed."

No "but mom, can't we stay for a little bit longer?"

Or "but mom, we just started playing hide and go seek."

Or "but mom, it's not even bed time."

The threat and the eager anticipation of a diaper blow-out is enough to motivate them to move. For now. I'm so jinxing myself by writing this!


2. The youngest sleeps.

Babies sleep a lot. You'd be surprised how exhausting that can be when the periods of being out are broken up into tiny little chunks that don't allow for deep sleep. With my other children, they never slept more than 2 or 3 hours at most. Usually. They were snackers, or had other issues, and would wake up every few hours.

Not this little man! He sleeps in big chunks! I don't want to jinx this either, and I know that babies change just as soon as I tell someone that the baby is behaving in a certain way, (they like to show me whose really in control like that,) BUT, for the last 3 or 4 days my baby has been sleeping SEVEN hours at night. Of course, I completely blow at least two of those hours unwinding at the end of the day and I usually end up getting closer to five hours of blissfully uninterrupted sleep, but that's HUGE. I've never had a sleeper before.

Speaking of sleeping, I am in LOVE with this bassinet. (I know, I know — lots of all caps in this section — but sleep is a MAJOR factor in all of this newborn business.)

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I don't even have a crib for the baby yet. He spends his nights in here, snuggled up next to my bed. We'll get to the crib, and maybe even a room, later.


3. They pair up.

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Someone was always left to pair up with me when I had three children. Now, they pair up with each other. My daughter asks constantly if she can hold the baby, and the other two are Autobots in disguise or dinosaurs for a great portion of the day. I find myself standing alone in the kitchen when it's time to make dinner. ALONE. No one hugging my knees. No requests for food before dinner is ready. It's bizarre. I actually have time to do things around the house!


4. It helps to not be pregnant.

It's not that having three children was all that hard. It wasn't. But it was rather physical. Being pregnant, with the general inability to do anything more strenuous than walking to the mail box, made having three young children more difficult. I had forgotten what it felt like to have energy and the option of bending.

Need to pick up the three year old to put him in time out? Sure! No problem!

The kids want to play out front? Great! I can run after them if needed.

It's 11 at night and the laundry still needs to be done? Done! And I can do it without my whole body screaming at me.

Being pregnant while tending to three other children was much harder than being not pregnant and having four.


5. They're just so darn cute!

You know what's better than having three witty, cute, sweet, loving kids?

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Having FOUR sources of childhood awesomeness! :)

This new little person makes me smile throughout the day.

And now, he smiles back.

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Brought back to life as we know it.

The grandparents stayed with us a week ago to be here for the baby's blessing.

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Last time they were here, their son was fighting a sickness that has a 50% mortality rate. (Those odds still make me shudder.) They were called up at the last minute to relieve my mom, who had been helping out the week before. They drove seven hours to find their son barely mobile and heavily drugged in a hospital bed. He had tubes and electrodes and cuffs and monitors working hard to bring his body back to some form of functionality.

The grandparents were so helpful, from both sides of the family. They kept the children safe and happy while we spent days in the hospital. I just realized something — that stay in his hospital room was the only time that my husband and I have ever been away from the children overnight. We've gone to the hospital for a birth before, but then there was always the newborn there with us. I look forward to a trip together sometime that involves more beach and less fluorescent lighting. At least we had room service!

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It was nice to spend time with the grandparents under happier circumstances.

For the record, bocce ball gets my stamp of approval for lawn games that can successfully engage players of all levels and ages.

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Well done, bocce ball creators. Well done.

This week my husband went back to work for the first time since he had his surgeries. It was his first tour back, and my first time being on my own with all four children. We were both nervous, for different reasons.

He was concerned about the hundred little things involved with being away from work for 10 weeks. I was concerned about how the transition to Dad being gone again would affect the behavior of my children, and how sane I would be on my own.

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On my end, the two days apart turned out to be much better than expected. The children weren't anxious about dad being gone, they played well together, and I even managed to survive a migraine on the second day without losing my sanity. I got enough sleep, too!

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The shift went smoothly on my husband's end, as well. He had a very busy couple of days and slipped right back into those routines without trouble.

Now that we've gone through a shift apart, I feel much more comfortable being on my own. It helps to have my body back to normal. That helps a lot. I have things like strength, and energy, and the ability to lift my three year old tank. The fact that the baby is sleeping 4 1/2 to 5 hours at night helps, too.

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So far, it's been a great summer. I am loving the days with my little family. (Although, I don't think I can use that term anymore — we're a big family now!) Life has been very good. Shifts spent apart are manageable, the kids are finding creative ways to spend their time (you should see the stack of papers with monsters made of skittles and m&m's drawn on them), they're re-learning how to live with each other and resolve conflicts, and so far, no one has fallen down the stairs. They've come close, though. They have way too much fun chasing and bumping into each other. I might have to get those baby gates sooner rather than later, for my own sanity!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Well, it's no Mount Doom, but it'll do...

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I love it when one of the kids becomes so fascinated with a topic that he wants to learn everything about it. EV-ER-Y-THING. (Remember back in the day when we used to use encyclopedias to research random topics? I miss paper.)

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The latest topic to cause the children to gather around the computer was volcanoes. The kids wanted to know if we live by any active ones, so my husband planned a trip to Mount Lassen to check it out. The last eruption was in 1914, if I remember correctly. Currently there's no sign of volcanic activity, other than steam vents.

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Some very stinky steam vents.

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And some streams that seemed to be pure liquid sulfur.

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It was a bit eerie walking around on a mountain that clearly has a lot of heat underneath it...

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A cold front came through the day before and there was snow on the ground. There were still snow flurries blowing around in the sunshine when we got there. I love odd weather like that!

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My oldest two insisted on wearing their new summer shoes on the excursion, in spite of my warnings. I decided to let them learn the hard way that snow and Crocs don't mix. "You can wear your new shoes, but trust me — you're going to wish you brought your boots."

One melting snow mound later...

"I should have listened to you, mommy. You were right." Mmmhmm, let's see how long you remember that lesson, kiddo.

(They always seem so shocked when I can predict an outcome like that. "How did you KNOW!?!")

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My silly power walker:

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It was a great break from the heat of summer.

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On the way home, the kids asked what volcanic rock looks like. So, my husband stopped along the buttes and grabbed a chunk for each of them.

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It was great to be able to show them a volcano first-hand, even if the reality doesn't compare with Mount Doom.

I realized two things while on the trip:

1. When taking a car trip that takes 3 hours each way, prepare for it as though it's an all day road trip with activities for the kids. We just piled them in and left; they were driving us and each other crazy within a couple of hours. If I did this trip again, I'd stop by the dollar store on the way out and let them each pick a few things to play with. I would have brought the portable DVD player, too.

2. I'm instinctively very protective of my children in nature. Once while we were at the zoo, one of the caretakers told us about how the wild cats track young children in strollers and those that have walked a few feet away from their parents. Ever since then, I can't help but pull my children close to me when we're in a natural environment. It's probably overkill, but I can't help it!

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I don't even think about it. I asked my husband to bring up the rear while we were out walking, which to him, meant allowing my 3 year old to trail by 10 feet. I couldn't fight my instincts; I found myself bringing him in within three feet of me. Even that distance was hard for me!

I'll let him wander farther when he listens to "no" and "stop" and "there's a reason why that sign is there" better.

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Speaking of Google and Mount Doom, if you go to Google Maps and type in walking directions from "the shire" to "mordor," this is what you'll see...

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"One does not simply walk into Mordor." Hah!

Friday, June 1, 2012

To-do list of a five year old:

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First order of business:

Eat cake.

Then, of course, there's present opening. What random non-birthday morning would be complete without opening a present?

After all that exercise, apparently he's going to head to Rockin' Frog for some frozen yogurt. (Or, apparently, Rock And Frog.)

Hey, I like "wash t.v." Way to do some chores, kiddo!

Having a bad day? Schedule a pinata! I think it's rather brilliant.

Then have some games.

And play. (Look, cursive! I'm amused by how thrilling the prospect of learning cursive is to my children.)

Don't forget to schedule going to sleep, because it's important to remember to do that.

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I think someone is excited for his birthday.

Four months away.



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