car battery jumper cables

Stranded at Home: Four kids and a dead battery

There was an ice storm coming. I needed to get to my mom’s house, two hours north of our house. We would be riding in our truck, so I felt pretty safe that if the weather came early, or we were late getting on the road back home, we would be fine since the truck had 4-wheel drive.

I loaded all the things we needed for our overnight stay and we piled into the truck, ten minutes ahead of schedule. Mom win.

I climbed into the cab of the truck and turned the key. Did I mention it was freezing outside? Did I mention we hadn’t been driving the truck much lately?

The lights clicked on, and the radio blared, but the engine wouldn’t turn over. The starter sounded like it was trying, but there clearly wasn’t enough juice to make it happen. I tried a few more times, knowing it wouldn’t work, and then removed the key.

Our four kids, bundled and excited to go see their Nanny, started in with the questions and the panic.

“Are we stuck here?”

“What happened to the truck?”

“Dad’s not here, we’re stuck, I knew today would be awful!” <–teenagers…

“The battery is dead. We’ll just jump start it.” I said as I hopped down out of the big green truck and headed for our barn.

I searched the barn, our old red car, my van, the Falcon, and jumper cables were no where to be found. I started to walk next door to my in-laws house, hoping to borrow theirs, when I remembered they weren’t home. In fact, my Mr. was currently taking his mother two hours east of our house to a doctor’s appointment. His dad was at work an hour away. All I had was my wits, four kids, and a dead battery.

Someone from the truck was starting to freak out a bit, and another sounded like they were crying.

“GUYS! THIS IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD!” (take a deep breath) “I’m not sure where the jumper cables are, but we have a battery charger. It’ll work, it will just take a little longer.”

I grabbed the charger, and leaned into the truck.

“To the two of you who are old enough, or almost old enough to drive, ya think maybe ya’ll should be out here paying attention?”

The 14- year old hopped out and offered to help. She fetched the extension cord while I called the Mr. to make sure I was hooking up everything correctly. The last thing I needed was to ruin his truck.

“I told you going was a bad idea” he said.

“We’re going. Just tell me what to push on this thing”

“You go straight to the parts store and get a new battery! STRAIGHT there! They’ll install it for you” he insisted.

“Sure thing, honey.” I hopped back into the truck and waited for the ‘okay’ from him to try the key.

I took probably a good ten minutes before the engine cranked up and we could remove the charger and get on the road. For the entire thirty minute ride to the auto parts store, the kids pondered what would happen if the truck died en route.

*Insert a lesson on batteries and alternators and who to call and what to do*

Ya’ll, they were making me bonkers and the words escaped my mouth before I could help myself.

“Ya know, when I was a kid…”

I couldn’t help myself.

“we didn’t have cell phones. When my car broke down I had to wait and pray someone stopped to help me or I had to start hoofin’ it back to the nearest phone booth to call for help. I always carried a quarter in my wallet just in case.”

Then I had to explain phone booths.

We did get a new battery and we did make it all the way to my mom’s house without incident. I wish I could say the trip home was uneventful, but I don’t want to lie. I’ll save the lesson on 4WD vs. Lisa vs. Ice Storm for another day.

One of the most used lessons my step-father ever taught me, was how to use jumper cables. For Christmas, my in-loves gave me a Stanley Power-to-Go portable power bank that can jump start my van even if there is no one else around! It can also charge my phone or other USB device.

What is the best vehicle-related advice you ever received?

A new mom’s visit to the ER

It’s been 16 years since that awful Saturday morning. We laugh at it now. It’s one of those stories that my daughter loves to hear me tell. Because that day, her mother lost her cool on a stranger, and her mother rarely ever loses her cool on a stranger.

Doodlebug was close to her first birthday, when I realized that she and I were bored with each other. I had left my job to stay home with her and while I LOVED being home with her, I was struggling with feeling like that was enough of a contribution to our family. I missed the challenge of the workplace. I missed talking to grownups. Doodlebug, even at her tiny age, was starting to act bored with her little life at home with me.

My previous boss had emailed me that there was an opening in the accounting department and offered it to me. My Mr. and I talked it over, we found an amazing babysitter, and I took the job. Doodlebug would be cared for by her dad’s best friend’s mother. A sweet lady that cared for several children in her home. A sweet lady that had been caring for children in her home for YEARS. No worries.

The first Monday through Friday went wonderfully. Everyone was enjoying themselves. I was around grown ups doing grown up things. Doodlebug had other little people to play with and she loved Ms. Kathy.

Saturday morning, I woke up and stumbled out of bed to make coffee. While it brewed, I scooped up my Doodlebug and laid her on the living room floor to change her diaper.

It was blood red. Not poop, at least not all poop. It was runny, almost watery, and BLOOD RED.

I tried not to panic, I woke up her dad. I called my mom. I called his mom. I cleaned and wiped her bottom and looked for an injury but couldn’t find one.

What could have caused this?

We waited for another diaper change, and it was still red!

Y’all, I freaked out. All I could think was that someone had done something terrible to my kid and she was bleeding profusely and it had to be in internal thing because I couldn’t find any injury and OH MY GOODNESS DID SOMEONE DO SOMETHING INAPPROPRIATE WITH MY BABY!!!

We took her to the ER, an hour west of our house. His parents followed us. My best friend and her husband followed us. My mother and my step-dad drove from four hours away and met us at the ER. There we were, all of us, sitting in the emergency room, freaked out over Doodlebug’s bloody diaper.

Doodlebug was happily running around the room, right as rain, making all the other patients laugh.

Hours passed.

A lady came in, IN LABOR, and I growled at a nurse about my baby still not being seen by anyone.

A gunshot victim came in and I growled at a nurse about my baby still not being seen.

Some teenager that had done something stupid on a skateboard and sprained their wrist came in and was walked immediately back to the rooms and I LOST MY EVER LOVIN’ MIND!

I went to the counter, and lost it on a nurse.

“My baby is bleeding out of her nidgy bits and you are gonna see that kid with a boo boo on his arm over HER???  What is wrong with you people!!”

Meanwhile, my kid is wobbling around walking from one person to the next and stealing goldfish from her dad.

The very patient, very compassionate, nurse (and I don’t know how she held it together with me screaming at her) waved another nurse over and whispered something in her ear. She handed her my daughters paperwork and we were invited to the back rooms.

FINALLY!

She asked me what my daughter had been eating and drinking.

“I don’t know for sure. I just returned to work and she’s been with a sitter this week, so I don’t know what she’s had.”

She asked me to undress her. So I did.

She looked down at the water red goo in the diaper.

She grabbed a little piece of paper and laid it on the red goo.

“Mrs. Baldwin, I’m happy to tell you that this isn’t blood in your daughter’s diaper. It’s red dye. She’s fine, but I’d find out what she’s been eating or drinking. She’s fine, I promise.”

I balled. Relieved. Embarrassed. I definitely didn’t want to walk out into the waiting room to tell all our family that they wasted a Saturday over food dye.

“It’s a common thing for parents to bring their kids in in a panic. That’s why we didn’t rush her in. She was playing and didn’t seem to be in any pain. I am sorry that it took so long though.”

I asked her to send in my husband while I redressed our daughter.

I sent him out to tell our family first. I just couldn’t bear it.

 

I fell apart

As adults, most of us feel an obligation to our family and friends to hold it together. Raw emotions are seen as a sign of weakness. We are all supposed to be strong, have faith, don’t worry be happy. We spout cliches about bootstraps and big girl panties.

I feel this pressure even stronger now that I’m a mother, because now I need to be an example to my children, specifically, my girls. I am supposed to be showing them how to be brave, strong, and independent. Leading by example, I am to teach them how to stand on their own and how to be part of healthy relationships, with friends, family and lovers.

But y’all…

Life sucks sometimes.

Adulting is hard and it doesn’t help my kids at all if I make them thing that big, real, hard emotions are bad, to be suppressed or hidden and ignored.

Most days, I do okay showing them that feelings happen. Most days, even in the heat of the moment, I manage to show them how feelings can be felt, processed and reacted to in a healthy manner. Even if my reactions start out wrong, I can typically rein it in and talk to them about good ways and bad ways to handle things.

Most days.

Not this past Saturday morning.

This past Saturday morning, I was up at 6 am. With coffee in hand, I fixed ballet buns and double-checked dance bags for shoes and protein rich snacks and water bottles. I kissed the Mr. and the Lil’ Man goodbye, being careful not to wake them. The girls and I piled into the van and headed off to our first dance classes. As we reached the end of our street, I could feel my chest getting tight.

Three excited girls were laughing and singing to “The Greatest Showman” soundtrack. The sun was bright through the trees and the sky above a shade of blue we hadn’t seen in weeks. The atmosphere in and around the van was light and vibrating with excitement.

There I was, behind the wheel of my near-death bright red minivan, chauffeuring my three daughters to their (and my own) first dance class at our local theater and every last ounce of me was struggling to stay on the road, breath held, eyes squeezed half shut in an effort to hold back the snotty cry welling up inside.

I made it past the small bridge in our town, and past the bank. As we passed the house we used to own, the one on the corner with the burgundy shutters and the azaleas that I hated, the walls around the well begin the crumble and the tears ran so fast my shirt was getting wet.

It took a full song and a half before my sweet 14 year old noticed that Mom was doing some heavy breathing exercises. I had sufficiently dammed up the water but regaining a normal breathing pattern was still a struggle. I shook my head to say “Yes, I’m fine” which suddenly created a new tsunami of tears at the realization that I was NOT fine and I was lying to my kids.

So, I fessed up. My nearly-adult daughter found a Wendy’s napkin the door and offered it to me. I patted my eyes, caught my breath, and said “Actually, I’m not fine, but it’s okay.”

I told them how sometimes so many things happen at one time,

and how sometimes those things seem to pile up at once,

and how sometimes those times make sleeping hard,

and how no sleep makes processing and dealing and handling harder,

and how sometimes, no matter how strong you are, how brave you are, or how much faith you have,

you just need to let yourself feel

Snotty cry,

scream in a field,

head bang to a heavy metal song,

shred a napkin,

throw paint,

lose you’re breath exhaling all the feelings.

Take time to be hurt, or angry, or sad, or frustrated, or lonely.

Grieve.

Be disappointed.

Be flabbergasted.

Be weakened.

Let it out, and let it be.

Then…

Then you can inhale, take a fresh breath, get a new perspective, put on the big girl panties or find your bootstraps, unholster your faith and keep swimming.

I fell apart.

They saw it.

They also saw me be okay.

A shirtless boy

beginningWe gathered our hammocks, books, collection jars, paints, cameras, and snacks. This beautiful Sunday afternoon was going to be spent relaxing down by the creek, deep in the woods. The men folk had already begun cleaning up the path. Papa and Grandma were now able to ride the golf cart down to meet us with bottles of water, a rescue of sorts when we all realized we had packed everything but drinks.
The creek area was still very raw. Fallen limbs and saplings cluttering up our space. Clean up for around the creek was in the plans, just not today.We cleared what we needed to in order to hang out in the trees. David and I stretched out in our respective cocoons, listening to the children play.
 
The eldest sat upstream, where the dog had yet to stir up the water, and painted. The next oldest went downstream, where the water was a bit deeper and chased frogs and salamanders.


 
The youngest daughter stood in the shallow, muddy bits, digger her bare toes into the muck, thrilled that the 72 degrees meant she could leave her shoes on the bank. Little man kept watch for wild creatures. He walked logs and chased frogs. He made regular trips back to Momma’s hammock to make sure I was okay.

It was almost hot outside. Way too hot to be February. The sun was so delightfully warm that I had shed one of my layers of shirts, allowing my bare arms to soak in the suns rays. The brightness of my book pages almost making it difficult to read.
I was snuggled so deep into my hammock, deep into my book that I didn’t notice the small but thick cloud that was creeping ever so slowing between us and the sun. The small breeze, that had been a pleasant sensation in contrast to the sunshine’s warmth, quickly turned into a biting chill that left me longing for a sweater. I pulled my recently removed shirt up over my chest and arms, and made jokes with David about how quickly the weather had turned. As David was assuring me that it was a small cloud and my warmth would return quickly, a small t-shirt appeared over the edge of my hammock.
“Here Momma, to keep you warm.”
I peeked over the edge to see my sweet boy standing there, shirtless.

I am trying to read.

Tablet in hand, snug in my blanket, I click open my Kindle app and start reading a new chapter. From somewhere to my left, I hear random chatter.
“So I was watching this video….”
“Then I remembered….”
“Hey Mom, what was my first….?”
Hey, kiddo. I am   trying to read.
My brain scrambles to figure out what the last question was so I can respond accordingly, hoping that if I answer she will let me go back to reading. 
Fail.
The random chatter and even more random questions keep coming in rapid fire succession. 
This moment. This one right here. This is when I have an internal argument with myself over parenting. It’s a real thing, and anyone with kids knows it’s true. It goes like this:
Why for the love of all that is good and holy can she not see that I am reading and just shut up??! Dude, you shouldn’t say that about your kid. These days are short, soon she won’t want to talk to you. Your book will be there later.  You should stop reading and listen to her. Ya know, quality time. Well, I can’t take care of her if I don’t take care of me and me wants to read this book! Don’t good parents teach their kids about personal time, and make sure they know they aren’t the center of everything? Yes, but you took a shower today AND peed all by yourself so you already had your “me time” lady. No, no no no, peeing alone is not “me time”, I’m going to politely tell her, since she isn’t picking up on the clues of book in hand and ignoring her, that I am reading and we can talk later.
So that’s what I did. She apologized, with the saddest, most disappointed tone in her voice. I went back to reading.
The chatter started again. It’s like a compulsion. Then I heard her say, “I wish I had a friend that liked to talk.”
You’re breaking my heart kid.
I put down the tablet. I turned to her, and said okay let’s talk.
Crickets…
More crickets…
For ten minutes she was completely silent.
Until I picked up my book.
-Just Lisa

Backtracking Boy Talk #1

Setting: lunchtime, lunch has been cooked, mom is busy putting food on plates. Three girls are at the table. Boy child slides in and takes a seat.
Mom: “Hey buddy, are you ready for lunch? Or do you want to wait a bit?”
Boy Child: “Nah, I wanna wait. I’m not hungry yet.”
Mom: “Are you sure? Because once I fix my plate, I’m sitting down.”
Boy Child: “Yep, I’m not hungry yet.”
Mom: “Ok”
Mom proceeds to finish fixing plates for the girls, and then begins to prepare her own. Less than 3 minutes has passed.
Boy Child: “Hey! Feed me! I’m da man!!”
Three girls immediately turn their backs on the boy child. One of them is laughing. The other two are refusing to be witnesses to what they fear my happen next.
Mom stops dead in her tracks, turns slowly to the boy child, and leans down getting close to his face.
Mom: “Uh…what did you just say….to me?”
Boy Child:  “Ummm…..ummm….” *chuckles uncomfortably* “Momma, can I please have lunch now, I think I am hungry.”
Girls yell in unison: “MAY I”
Mom: “Sure honey, for a second there I thought you were on a suicide mission. Glad to see you reconsidered. I’d sure hate to have to explain to Daddy why I need more duct tape.”