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Aug 3 2011

Trial By Fire

By at 10:56 am

Our cruise ship, post-fire. Yes. It was really really bad.

Sometimes being a parent feels incredibly overwhelming. The other day my daughter tripped and fell and landed on her chin, cutting her lip with her tooth. It wasn’t so bad as to need stitches, but man, that thing swelled up so fast! Trying to stay calm, get her calm, and get some ice on a 2-year-old’s lip was quite a challenge.

But when I face the tough moments of parenthood, I think back to life before I was a parent, back in the hazy days of when my husband and I first got engaged. A couple of weeks after the engagement, we took a cruise to the Caribbean. We were about three days into the cruise when, in the middle of the night, the ship alarm went off. Before we knew it, we were being told to get our lifejackets, hats, and long-sleeved shirts and report to our muster stations—this was an emergency of the highest level. Smoke was coming into the room and it was clear that the boat was on fire. My husband, being the wonderful romantic man he is, turned to me and said, “No matter what happens, I love you.” I responded, “Turn around and get the f*@% out of here!” (Yes, the boat was on fire. Luckily, we were fine and all of our belongings were fine. Others weren’t so lucky.)

What you’ll notice from this story is that I’m good in a crisis. (When we got home and I told my friends what happened, they universally said that if they had to pick anyone to be with on a burning cruise ship, they’d pick me. Who knew?) I keep calm, I analyze the situation, and I work toward a solution.

I’ve learned this even more now that I’m a parent. Because when you’re a parent, there’s a crisis happening almost all of the time.

Whether it’s a scraped knee, a missing stuffed animal, or the fact that suddenly your toddler hates strawberries with a passion so strong that she throws them across the room, life with a small child can quickly shift from everything being fine to tantrum mode. So how do you deal with the crisis? Deep breaths, assess the situation, and deal with it. And if you need to swear a little bit to get it done, I approve.

Oh, and another lesson I learned from the cruise? After you’ve been in a crisis situation, offer free wine or beer at dinner. You’ll make everyone a lot happier. Including yourself.

Mar 15 2011

The House and I Are Both on Fire. And Not in a Good Way.

By at 11:34 am

I don’t get fevers. No really, I don’t. Bouts of Norovirus and H1N1 barely budged the mercury, and two different cases of mastitis went undiagnosed (and untreated) for days because I didn’t have a fever.  When I actually do spike a temperature, it means something.  And this past weekend, it meant the flu.  (And yes, I did get my flu shots, along with the entire family.)

So, I took my feverish self to bed, and my amazing husband leapt into action.  He got up with both girls on Saturday morning and took care of them all morning.  As the older one is just getting over strep, and the baby is congested, they opted to stay home from services.  Instead, they had breakfast, played games, listened to music, and even made Mommy some lovely get-well soon cards.  A few hours later, the baby was playing happily on the living room floor, the toddler was napping, and I was just drifting off to sleep when I heard Josh calling me.  I could tell by his tone that he needed me. Now.

The oven had caught on fire, and Josh was in the process of putting it out with our fire extinguisher.  The house was filled with smoke and extinguisher dust. I ran upstairs and grabbed a sleeping toddler out of her crib while Josh got the baby.  We strapped them into their carseats in the car, and as Josh ran into the house to get the cat, I called 911.  I was pretty sure Josh had put out the fire, but I wanted to be sure.

And that is how I found myself standing in our driveway (which is basically right on the street) in my pajamas, sweating with fever, manically singing the Itsy-Bitsy spider to a very confused and fussy 8 month old while simultaneously trying to explain to the toddler why Mommy is wearing her slippers and jim-jams outside (a no-no in our house) while trying to keep an agitated cat from leaping from the trunk of the Subaru into the backseat and clawing my daughters.  That was super fun.

Then the neighbors arrived.  We have these lovely neighbors who are, well, very well-intentioned.  They were concerned, and wanted to make sure we were ok.  I told them about the fire, that the fire department was on their way, and that we were fine.  They immediately saw I wasn’t well, and suggested that a better way to deal with the flu is to stay in bed with a cup of tea.

No kidding.  What a fabulous idea.  I thought the best thing to do when you’re sick is to set your house on fire so you can stand in the street in your pajamas, without any underwear on, belting out children’s songs at the top of your lungs.  Bonus points if the hunky firemen arrive in time to see the entire scene.

And arrive they did, with all the lights and sirens and everything else a toddler could ever want.  Thank God for the big red firetruck—it was the only thing that could distract her from Mommy’s major indiscretion (we’re still on the pajamas and slippers outside here, people).  The firemen in their firemen hats and firemen jackets checked the house, and informed us it was safe and that there was no damage other than our oven. Unfortunately, the entire downstairs of our tiny house—every surface, dish, book, and toy in our kitchen, pantry, dining room, and living room–was covered in extinguisher dust.  Needless to say, there was a lot of cleaning to be done. Thanks to the help of my in-laws, and our kind house-cleaner who agreed to help out on a Sunday, the downstairs is now cleaner than it was before the fire.

As frustrating as the whole weekend was, I’m trying to keep some perspective.  Our house didn’t burn down, and my family is safe.  My husband is psyched to get a new range, but to be honest, I couldn’t care less.  However, I have decided that my major Passover cleanout of the kitchen just happened to take place a month early this year.  Yes, I’ll still pull out the hametz, but I’m not wiping down every cabinet all over again in a few more weeks.  I think God makes special dispensations for fires, flus, and fussy babies all in one day.

Oh, and by the way—if you don’t already have a fire extinguisher in your house, please get one.

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