Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Great Blackout (Part III)

Sunday promised to be as hot as all the days before it (I realize now that I've neglected to mention that all of this excitement occurred during a bit of a heat wave for our area, so temperatures were up around 100 degrees Fahrenheit by the late afternoon each day and weren't dropping any lower than the seventies overnight).  We had hoped to get to an early mass to take advantage of cooler morning temperatures, but didn't get organized in time to make anything earlier than the 10:45.

The church wasn't exactly sweltering, but it wasn't comfortable either, and I fully expected Michael to wake up in his carseat shortly after we arrived, as he tends to overheat in it under normal circumstances.  However, he slept through until the end, which made me simultaneously relieved and concerned, as I had one less baby to look after, but I felt compelled to keep examining Michael closely to make sure he was doing okay.  Abby was sweating hard before we walked in the door, but I couldn't keep her still, so Mima followed her around as she ran back-and-forth along the length of the church behind the last row of pews.  She sprayed her every few minutes to keep her cool, but I still worried for her since she kept refusing the little sippy of water that I'd been trying to offer her all morning.  I just couldn't see how she could possibly be keeping hydrated when she was sweating so much and drinking so little.  Her little cheeks were flushed pink by the time we put her in the car to go home.

Tom and I made a quick stop at my parents' afterwards to pick up our things, and headed back to our house in the hopes that we would see some resolution to our situation within the day.  After speaking with our neighbor on the phone earlier that morning, we had learned that a power truck and crew were in the neighborhood.

However, as we pulled up to our house, this was what we found waiting for us:

Apparently, the power company's response to the report of live wires in our yard was to rope them off.  Additionally, we discovered that all of our neighbors had their power restored, but because the wire that connects to our house was not repaired, we did not.  To say that I was frustrated would be a tremendous understatement.  I realize that there were probably more urgent situations that needed tending to, but it felt personal in light of the fact that a crew had taken the time to show up and put up tape, but seemingly had elected not to do anything else.

As it turns out, our situation is much more complicated than we initially realized, and because of that, we are still with my parents and without power as I write this post.  But I'll get into that in a little bit.

Our first priority was lunch, so we headed to Wegmans, where Tom and I split a sandwich and I put together a fruit salad for Abby from the salad bar.  She wasn't a fan of the honeydew, cantaloupe, or watermelon, but she did love feeding them to her daddy:

She's getting pretty good at using a fork!

After lunch, Tom and I had to make some hard decisions.  Neither my parents house nor our house had power, and while our house was- well, home- and our city was mostly up-and-running while my parents' city was mostly not, we still had the problem of the live wires in our yard.  Plus, we would have ended up spending our time in the basement, which has very little furniture in it at this point, and would have meant sleeping directly on the floor.  My parents' basement offered us the benefit of sofas and loveseats.  And ultimately, Tom and I felt that it was best to all stick together under the circumstances.  So, we headed back to our house to pick up enough stuff to get us through for a couple more days (we had packed a skeleton bag the night before to save time, and because we were foolishly optimistic that our problems would likely be solved by the next day, anyway).

The thermostat on the main floor of the house read 86 degrees.  It was pretty unpleasant.  The basement was cooler, but the air was so still that the relief I experienced going down there from upstairs didn't last much longer than five minutes.  Still, it was the best place in the house to be, so I tried to keep the kids down there with me while Tom began getting some things together.  I did okay for awhile, and when Tom asked if he should go ahead leave us there while he gassed up the car, it seemed like a good idea.  However, around that time, Abby had had enough of the basement, and broke through the gate to go upstairs.  I had to carry Michael upstairs to follow her, and by the time I got to the top, I didn't have the energy to try to get both children back down.  So I ran around after my crazy toddler in the sweltering heat, all the while trying to pull clothes out of baskets, closets, and drawers for the few minutes at a time that I could put Michael down.  I was ready to lose it by the time Tom returned, but we managed to get everything and everyone back into the car, and were soon on the road with the A/C blasting.

I normally dislike the feel of very cold air directly on my body and face, but I soaked it all in.  I was actually so overheated that it was a good twenty minutes before it even felt uncomfortable.  But I let it hit me for long after it did, as the memory of my earlier misery lingered with me still.  I was determined to have this new, cold, memory to hold on to when I had to face the heat again.

It wasn't long after arriving back in Rockville again that I began to feel pretty gross, and the kids were pretty sweaty as well.  But I was prepared.  I put on a swimsuit, and put Abby and Michael in some Little Swimmers, and we all jumped into a cool tub.  I had hoped to keep them occupied in the water for awhile to get their core temperatures down, but they were unfortunately pretty antsy and didn't last long.  It was still refreshing while it lasted, and I'd like to think it made them a little more comfortable for a time.

With the various things that we had packed from home, Tom had brought a cooler filled with all of the meat from our freezer that he was able to pull out and put on ice the night before.  We ended up cooking most of it for dinner that night, to avoid having to throw it out.  Tom threw it all on the grill, and we came outside to keep him company, hoping to catch a breeze as the sun went down.  There wasn't much of a breeze to be felt, but the kids had fun.

And then began the most difficult night of all.  Everyone gathered in the basement as the natural light in the house faded away.  The minutes were ticking by past Abby's bedtime, but Michael was fussy, everyone was hot, and I didn't want to chase anyone out of the coolest place remaining in the house, but I wasn't sure whether Abby would go down until I did.  Finally, Tom decided that it might be best to put Michael in the car and drive around for awhile until he fell asleep.  Although Abby was holding up extremely well considering she'd had only a short nap in the car earlier in the day, and it was nearly two hours past her bedtime, I hated to see her lose more sleep, so I bid everyone goodnight and lay her in her pack n' play.  Once again, she went down with no fuss, which was an incredible blessing, and I lay my exhausted self down on the loveseat to wait for Tom to return.  I was so uncomfortable that I never expected sleep to come, but my exhaustion won out, and I realized as I heard Tom return that I had, indeed, been sleeping.

Michael came through the door screaming, as he had unfortunately woken up a half-block away, after slumbering for the hour that Tom had driven around with him.  I nursed him back to sleep, feeling my core temperature inch up by the minute as I held his fiery body next to mine.  He was sweaty, and so, so warm, and I worried for him as I lay him down once again, in the terrible heat, without the benefit of the AngelCare monitor to comfort and assure me.

He cried for a minute, but I heard his exhaustion overcome him then, and he was silent.  As I lay down this, time, however, sleep did not come easily and the heat pressed over me like a suffocating blanket.  Amazingly, though I tossed and turned for hours, Michael once again slept until 2 am, when I finally began to feel a pleasant breeze coming in through the window above me.  As I rocked him back to sleep after nursing him, I heard a quiet click, and saw the light on the cable box come on.

I woke up Tom, as I urgently questioned, "Did the power come back on?"  He was too sleepy to really take in what was happening, so I ran up the stairs with Michael, where I saw my father coming out of his room, and asked him the same question.  Even as the words left my mouth, however, I could see the soft light pouring out of the room behind him, so I ran up one more level to the top floor, where he followed, and turned the cooling system back on.

The excitement in the house was muted, but palpable, and despite it, I fell easily back to sleep in the swiftly cooling air.  Michael made sure to wake me twice before 6 am, but somehow, I didn't mind it at all.


On Monday, Tom went back to the house to check on things, and spoke with the electrician who had come by to fix some damage to our neighbor's property.  We learned from him that while the power company was responsible for the wires running out to the street, we, as the owners, were responsible for the lines running to the house itself.  He told us that he could fix the damage on our end, and arranged to come out the next morning to do so.

But the plot thickened.  Right before we moved in, we had a 200 amp box put in to replace the 100 amp box that we were told was not really sufficient to support all of our electricity.  The electrician who did the job put in a new box, and put in a work order to have the wire upgraded on the power company's end, but did not inform us that the job was not finished, and in the month since we've moved in, it was never done.  Additionally, when the power company came by to tape up the danger zone, they took our meter back with them.

We had the damage to our house repaired within a few hours on Tuesday morning, but it's all for naught without a meter, that we must wait for the power company to install.  With that installation, they'll need to finally upgrade the wire, which is pretty much at the bottom of their list of things to do right now.  Tom left a message with someone, trying to clarify that we need the upgrade in order to get power at all, but we haven't heard back yet.  I don't anticipate that we will for a few days, yet.

So here we are, still chillin' with family in Rockville.  It's been crowded, and crazy, but it's blessedly air-conditioned.  And with all of the additional hands I've got at my disposal here, I've not only caught up on sleep a little, I've actually had the time to watermark my pictures, and write crazy-long posts like this one.

And, of course, best of all, Abby and Michael are loving the extended time that they are getting with their Mima, Mei Mei, and Granda.

More adventures, and pictures, to come.