Wanna know something? I’m not perfect.
Nope. Not even a little bit.
I like to think that my blog is a reflection on my life. The good. The really good. The funny. The absurd. Yummy things and pretty things and goofy things. And sometimes even the really really ugly. It’s reality.
When I was little, I had this idea that if I followed all the rules – got good grades – made good choices – always keeping in mind what I *should* do – then no harm would come to me. I had no idea how important that little nonnegotiable element of Human Error could be…..or the even more fickle player of Luck.
So, in the interest of being real and sharing the highs and lows of parenthood, as well as the highs and lows of being a human being…..I’ll share my most recent bit of drama.
Seattle gets some pretty stellar wind storms. Power outages are fairly frequent, from what I hear. We had one last weekend, though it seems it wasn’t actually due to the wind storm but rather some sort of equipment failure. Anyway, power outages don’t scare me and we took that in stride. Our heat is electric, so we bundled the kids up and put them to bed like we were camping. No big thing. We spent our Sunday doing typical Sunday things – church, a meeting, and Evelyn and I went to her first play (Knuffle Bunny – a Cautionary Musical), which she loved, while Andrew and Claire napped in the car. We grabbed some dinner and went home, excited to see that our home had gone from red to all-clear on the Seattle City Light map. I patted myself on the back for handling the Power Outage of 2013 without missing a beat.
When we pulled up, we heard the alarms right away. I rolled my eyes and said, “Are those alarms? They’re probably coming from our house, right?” We’ve had a rash of faulty alarms going off lately, much to the neighbors’ amusement/annoyance. We’ve a very sensitive smoke detector upstairs that went off every time I used the oven for awhile, and just last month two helpful neighbors came over to help find what turned out to be a faulty carbon monoxide detector that could be heard seven houses away. Ugh. Embarrassing, frustrating, but understandable.
Well, it was our house. They were not false alarms. I had been cooking when the power went out – I went to check the light switches, thinking it was a fuse, or a blip from the wind storm. When we realized it was really out, there was a flurry of activity in making a new plan with our expected house guests and packing up the kiddos for dinner……and I never turned off the burner. That simple. That stupid. That easy of a mistake.
The whole house was filled with smoke, but Thank God there wasn’t a fire. I’m told that with the pot in question, the food in question, and the level of heat in question, I was still a long way from starting an actual fire. The smoke was suffocating, though. We got it cleared out and the alarms turned off pretty quickly, but anyone who’s been to a campfire can appreciate how smoke lingers.
I tried scrubbing. I got gallons of vinegar and a CostCo sized bag of baking soda. I cut lemons and put out coffee grounds and all manner of “natural” ways to “effectively” cut the odor. I even left out a poopy diaper (OK, that wasn’t intentional). No dice. Nothing cut the smell. The GOOD news is that our house’s odd layout (living area on the main level, bedrooms in the finished basement level – it’s much nicer than it sounds, I promise) meant that our bedrooms were actually in good shape. A couple loads of laundry and we were able to sleep in our home that same night. E continues to bunk on her mattress by our bed, but that’s more a “she’s 4 and this makes our drama into a fun adventure for her, so let’s just go with it” situation. Claire is in her room and doing just fine. Even Frankie is OK. Whew.
After scrubbing fruitlessly for 1/2 a day, I realized it would take me endless childcare and two weeks of scrubbing to get anywhere. Still, the decision to make an insurance claim was so tough. There wasn’t a fire. There isn’t any soot. There isn’t any damage to goods except for whatever smell won’t go away. In the end, though, looking at the extent of the cleaning – all the things that could have chemical residue that could end up in Claire’s mouth – not to mention the upholstery, rugs, and dry cleaning. My camera might need to be cleaned. The computer may need to go in. It just goes on and on. I didn’t know where to start on the mountain ahead of me, no matter how much my Catholic self wanted to get started on my penance.
We did decide to file, I called the agent, and after getting off that phone call it all got easier. It’s amazing what happens when you admit you cannot do it on your own. When you ask for help – when you accept help – when you actually utilize the services and safeguards you’ve put in place for just such an event, the professionals spring into action. There was a team of people upstairs wiping down everything in my living space – down to the smallest toy. They got behind the oven – into the window wells – even the little grates on the heat registers. At one point there were NINE professionals scrubbing away. This is the cleanest my house has probably ever been. It’s worth the claim to have peace of mind that when Claire sticks something in her mouth or licks a baseboard I know it’s been cleaned. It may have new crap on it, but it’s not the carcinogenic leftovers of my accident. I no longer have to hem and haw about whether to get the luggage dry cleaned or if the smell on Evelyn’s rug really warrants a steamer rental. It just gets done. It’s covered. <Sigh>
The hardest part of it all was realizing how such a small error can have such a dramatic effect on our lives. It was a stupid mistake – something many people have done – and as the cleaning crew has told me repeatedly, something that results in this same situation for LOTS of people. We are super lucky that it wasn’t worse – I can’t even go there right now. I’m dealing with the guilt of putting my family through this bit as is, I haven’t begun to process what could have happened. Perhaps I’ll just skip that part altogether – I’ve learned my lesson already and have needed the last few days just to regain confidence in my ability to function as a parent and an adult. There is a commercial for Liberty Mutual Insurance right now with the song, “Humans” by The Human League. It makes me laugh out loud – and cringe – because we are all born to make mistakes. <Shaking fist at sky>
The really amazing thing in all this is how well my kids have handled it. Both of my girls just roll with things, which makes it so much easier for me to do the same. They set the example for me sometimes, instead of vice versa. Evelyn came up with the idea of “camping” in my room. We ran with it. We had a picnic on my bed for dinner. We played cards. We watched some Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving. We made a game of feeding Claire in the Johnny Jump Up, strung up between my room and the master bathroom. It’s not that we didn’t have options of going out to dinner or staying with friends / family – we know that we could have reached out to a lot of people. It was honestly still easier to hang out downstairs than to pack up and move out. I’ve done the move-out thing before (like with the sewer pipe stuff last year) and I’ve done the living out of just a few rooms thing before (like when Evelyn’s ceiling started to collapse under the weight of the snow two years back – yeah – ask me again how much I miss winter….). It’s easier to be here. I can keep the laundry going. We can eat the non-contaminated snacks in the cupboards and the safe foods in the fridge. We can play games and stick glow-in-the-dark star stickers on the ceiling and play with flashlights.
My girls have been so lucky to be cared for by great friends while I work through the business end of all this. With less than 12 hours notice, one friend took both girls off my hands so I could spend my day on the phone sorting out a game plan. On the first day of deep cleaning while I met with the adjuster and textile guy and helped direct traffic, my kiddos were each at their own play dates with more kind and thoughtful friends. My sister & brother-in-law are having us for dinner while Andrew is out of town, whether we’re back to normal yet or not, and they’re taking us in while during the final step in cleaning when we’re not to be in the house. So many people I’ve spoken with have shared their own stories of epic oversight that left them in lurches. All my dad had to say was, “having a rough day, huh?” after getting the scoop from my mom – and it instantly got my head straight. If anyone has ever had to live with his goofy mistakes spiraling out of control, it’s my dad, and he’s one of my favorite people.
So, I’m putting this one out there. It’s a bit of drama and it’s certainly easy to beat myself up over (though I’m trying not to), but sometimes s*it just happens. In the grand scheme of things, this is pretty minor s*it, too. It’s fixable, and we should be back to normal again by tomorrow. So, if you’re anything like me and those moments of epic bad judgment or oversight come washing over you, even years later, just know you’re not alone. I’m right there with you, as well as pretty much everyone I’ve spoken with this past week, including the guy at Starbucks who smelled my jacket and mistakenly thought I was a smoker. Perhaps my kids will look back on this one and have good memories about it. Currently, Evelyn explains it as “Mama tried to make enchiladas but she burned them because they were sisgusting so then the house smelled sisgusting too and now I get to sleep in her room. It’s like camping, but I get to watch movies and chase Claire and eat Chinese food. Except my favorite Chinese food is spaghetti, and mom won’t let me have that in her room.” <I love the “voice memo” app that lets me capture these beautiful little rationalizations.> It’s even funny sometimes, like when my friend Jenn was trying to figure out if it was the cheese or the crackers that had a hint of smokiness…..pretty sure it was this girl who brought the smokey to the party 🙂
Month of thankfulness, indeed. I’m very thankful.
Chin up. Keep rolling. This, too, shall pass. Party on, Garth.