Thursday, December 30, 2010

My phone never rang last night

It has become a ritual - I go to bed, watch TV or read and just as I fall asleep - no matter the time - my hubby calls to check in.  Last night that did not happen.  So instead of waking up to my phone last night, I woke up to 2 half naked ballerinas, fighting over the same tutu.  I panic for a moment - look at my phone, certain that I slept through his call, only to find a dark screen.  WHAT?!  I had it plugged and on my dresser - it should have charged.

This phone is BRAND NEW - my old Centro was dying - the screen did not always come up and we stopped at the Sprint Kiosk while we were Christmas shopping and upgraded it - this phone is literally 8 days old.  My husband got the same phone and had to exchange it within a few weeks because he could only talk on speaker phone.  So, perhaps there is an issue with this model?

Now, some background - my husband and I both took a significant paycut for our current positions - essentially another salary.  Private schools don't pay NEAR as much as the public, but let me tell you - the lack of stress in the work day is worth every penny.  Same is true of a first year firefighter, not near as much as he made in the classroom - although he will make his back up, unlike me. :(  So, we had to tighten the belt a bit, and out went the house phone.  Vonage was nice - when it worked, we went through more  modems and most of the time calls were forwarded to my cell phone any way.  So we thought it was a no brainer - lose the house phone and gain some money.  Until today!

I don't like this feeling - how will anyone get a hold of me if something happens?  What if I have a seizure, how will the kids call 911?  What if Liv's sugars spike?  Since she has no dx yet, that means I have no glucagon and would have to wait until 38 got here - mind you they are literally just around the corner - but walking next door, knocking on a door, waiting for someone to answer - all takes time.  I know these are all worst case scenarios, but they are real possibilities.  I don't like this at all.

So, do I pack up all 4 kids and pray they can behave while I exchange the phone?  I know my dad has a half day today because of a dentist appt. - maybe he can take them while I run in.  I am expected to drop some stuff off at the firehouse, but I am not sure I can make all th phone calls to get the stuff I need for him.  I cannot WAIT for this time tomorrow!!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Any Nook users out there??

As I am sitting here, believing myself to be so tech savvy, I am arguing with my PC.  I LOVE my Nook - it keeps my pages, allows me to have to bring my textbook back and forth from work.  In theory - I can read any of my books on my e-library on my phone, PC or Nook.  So no matter where I am, there is something to keep my attention.  Sounds good - I love toys - was so sad when I have to give up my grade program that allowed me to sync it with my PDA, have gone through several generations of i-Pods.  I love gadgets.  The tech department at school loves me - I will pilot anything.  When there was no money for a SmartBoard - I made one, literally - out of duct tape, PVC pipe, magnets, a Wii  Mote and Bluetooth dongle.  So when I cannot get something that seems to be a no brainer, it bugs the Begeezers out of me.  It should  be as simple as downloading the software and logging in, right??  NO!

I put it off until I had time, I have time and cannot get it to play nicely - with my phone or laptop.  There are 3 titles (free classics) that appear - none of my purchases  or "real downloads".  I have searched their help section, posted on the FB Nook discussion tab, called them - only to have them tell me to, "Come on in!"  I laughed at the poor clerk.  They couldn't figure out what was so funny.  I asked if there was anyone who could work with me on the phone - No, I must come for customer service.  So...does babysitting come with this customer service? Now she laughed, of course not, why would it.  Ummm, because I have 4 kids - 2 of whom will demand my complete and undivided attention while I am trying to troubleshoot this lovely program.  Her response - "Just leave them with their father!"  Well - duh, why didn't I think of that!!  Oh yeah - "BECAUSE HE IS WORKING A 48 HOUR SHIFT AT THE FIREHOUSE!!" my mind screamed.  In this day and age, how do you presume there is a father, or that he is available.  If he were in Afghanistan would you feel bad??  Anyway, I smile at the phone and tell her politely that he has to work until Friday.  Her response - "Then I guess we'll see you then."  No think I might have to bug my dad to take the Muppets for me, so I can fix this tonight AND speak with the Customer Service manager.  The selling point for the Nook was the personalized service - this was not service at all, much less personalized.

So, in the mean time.  If anyone is a Nook user and has a suggestion, toss them my way.  I have installed and uninstalled the software, restarted the program, asked it to play nicely - all to no avail.  Let me know what your thoughts are.

Politics, tradition and common sense

I am not very good at politics.  I don't play the game well and find it to be a foolish waste of time.  There are traditions in various institutions that I LOVE, others that drive me crazy.  Just because it has always been does not mean it should always be.  Examples in the fire department- EVERY house in the department makes homemade pizza every Saturday night - I think that is cool.  The hazing period for cubs - I think is silly.  Knowing about those who came before you - imperative.  Water balanced over the doors, in the cabinets - sophomoric.  Shields with Company on it - awesome, you are a team.  Cubs not being allowed to have their name on their shields because they are not a person yet - idiotic.  These are all reasons that I would make a LOUSY firefighter.  (Not that educational politics aren't just as bad, mind you.)  Some things to me are just common sense.  The Cubs not being allowed any social contact makes no sense - don't you want your crew to bond.  How many times can the floors be mopped, the counters wiped, bathrooms cleaned in one day? There are literally 14 TVs in the house and he cannot look at a single one.  Being required to make popcorn or cookies every night  - cool, not being allowed to eat them or take part in the comradery - foolish.

Now, I get the idea - Cubs need to know their place.  Earn their stripes.  (Insert any rite of passage cliché - here.)  Last week J came home with a bit of a strange story.  His lieutenant told him there was an opening at a busier house and he needed to apply for consideration.  Engine 2 is downtown - gets calls for college kids at Marquette, the jail, the mission - almost all med calls, not many fires.  The house his LT suggested he transfer to, is significantly busier. Now, there maybe other reasons behind this suggestion - J bumped a guy off the rig and it is believed that not everyone is happy that the crew was disrupted with this cub. So, J is handed the paperwork and walked through the process  - step by step, with supervision.  He submits it to the deputy chief's box for consideration. Guys on the green shift somehow found out.  (I am finding that there are NO secrets in a fire department.  And J thought working with all female elementary teachers was bad!)  And they are PISSED!!  "Who is J to think a cub can request a transfer?", "Oh, he's too good for us, huh?", "Since when do cubs get to transfer?",  "WTF! We're not good enough!!"  And now J has to do damage control.

As soon as J came on shift, one of the cubs on the Green shift pulled him aside and gave him the heads up.  J is a bit confused - he was told to do this.  If he said no - I don't want to go to a significantly busier house - it makes him look lazy and unmotivated.  If he is excited to go to another house, it makes seem as though he has an inflated sense of self-importance.  Damned if you do, damned if you don't.  He starts talking to his captain, the other officers, the guys on his shift, his instructors at the BIT (especially since one of them saw himself in J - so much so, that he put J on the same rig, in the same house, on the same shift - that he started on in the department), the brass -all to let them know he is NOT unhappy or looking to leave, but that he was essentially ordered to do so.  Finally one of the officers on J's regular shift came into the conversation and told the rest of the guys - "No, we told him to do it." and things calmed down - a bit.

J's concerns are this - E2 has all of the Brass of the department, just upstairs - they will hear all of this.  Will this come back to bite him in the arse?  Will everyone start look at him as troublemaker?  For such a quiet, mild mannered guy - my hubby is not enjoying his 15 minutes in the spotlight.

Politics, egos - all my pet peeves, but all things J can deal with.  There is so much more to the fire science that goes into being a firefighter.  Definitely one more reason why not everyone is cut out for this world.

Our next 48 hour shift

We got our fireman home yesterday, he napped for an hour and a half, then off to the in-laws for the day.  We were up late last night putting together tomorrow's presentation - the cubs have to provide "entertainment" for the rest of the company throughout the week.  The green shift involved a live chicken.  The blue shift has this interesting PowerPoint presentation that I put together for my husband.  I feel like I am caught in a time warp -  with some silly college boys.  (Teachers don't do this!  LOL)  I hope the guys have fun with the silliness.

J is working today for one of the guys in his class and then has his shift tomorrow.  After that he has his P.O. (Personal off day - allows the guys to NOT have overtime every month, essentially an equalizer for the 24 hour shifts) and asked if he should sign up for OT that day.  Cubs can only work OT on their PO day until they have been in for 9 months.  The new chief put this policy in when he took over and there is some disagreement with it.  Mainly because the class from Feb of 2010 CAN work OT anytime they want and this recent class cannot, even though both groups are still in their cub year.  I see the logic from the chief - allows the guys to get their feet wet and figure out the system, keeps guys who are too green from being taken advantage of, keeping the new guys from burning out, etc...still not popular with all the guys.  Anyway, will have worked 5 of the last 7 days - UH - NO, you should not work.  January 2nd is the Packers/Bears game - and he is not allowed to watch TV with the other guys - at all, yet.  And January 3rd we all go back to school.  The extra hand will be very much appreciated, as sleepyheads don't want to get moving.  He agreed and I will have my hubby home for 5 days!!  YEAH!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

It's just one of those days...

when nothing seems to go your way.  That would be today.

Days, where nothing you do seems to go your
Way, you just got started, but you can’t
Wait, for that setting sun to come
Be glad your day is done
And hope tomorrow ain’t just another one
Those Days

Last night, got everyone settled in - finally.  Dogs bedded down for the night.  I went down to our bedroom to read and hopefully catch some sleep.  Dozed some time after 10:30 - good time.  My firefighter called at 11:30pm.  I am not going to miss a chance to touch base with him  so we chat for a  bit.  Which all well and good, except I am one of THOSE people.  Once I am up, I am up. My firefighter, instantly falls back to sleep.  I am so jealous. So, about 2am I started to get drowsy, only to be woken up by a great pyrenees with an upset tummy at 2:30.  Mind you - I am glad he woke me up, rather than have the alternate scenario.  That cold air definitely heightens the senses and gets the juices flowin'!  Get back to bed, watch the world news, start to drift off somewhere around 4:30.  Muppets are up at 5AM!!!!

My firefighter comes home at 9.  I asked if he would be willing to do breakfast - nope he's tired, he had to get the ISO up twice last night.

I get to let him sleep for an hour, while I get the Muppets up and dressed, so I can drive ninety minutes to my in-laws and be happy and cheery.

Didn’t know when I woke up today
Waking up was my first mistake
My first mistake

Outside my window the sun is shining
Birds are singing, maybe it’s beginning to get better
You never know how it’s gonna go
It’s just one of those days
You think things might be looking up
But what’s that, a tow truck
Pulling up to your car
Of course it is
Cuz’ it’s just one of those days

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Good Time for New Year's Resolution

I have decided on 3 things for my New Year's resolutions. The girls and the k9 geriatric ward are sleeping, boys are heavily involved in Lego Clone Wars on Wii (tell me again why I bought new games!) and hubby is at work. So is as good a time as any to post them.

I am not a big one for weight loss, although it is always in the back of my mind.  I am a size 8 after our family of 4 is done, so nothing to sneeze at there.  Although, some days I look at pictures from college and think...

So first and foremost is to continue to work on this transition we are still making into being a fire family.  I did not marry a firefighter, this was never in my plans.  But, it is where we are and it is what makes my husband complete.  We made it through our first holiday season without too many hiccups.  Only once did I "swear" at my firefighter for not being home, so I think that is pretty good.  I am also working on being patient with the equity in housework as we make our way through this.  I know it sounds petty to complain about laundry, but we are a family of 6 and my work comes home with me and does not get done until after the kids's homework is done, dinner is made/cleaned up and they are all tucked in for the night.  My first resolution is patience through the chaos.

On my list were several things that came and went.  First, it had to be attainable.  I thought about giving up soda - but it is my one vice and it is currently in moderation.  Then I thought about school work - having all papers graded before I go to bed each night - that only adds more stress to my world, not really worth it. Then came laundry, I work so hard to get it all done and somewhere, I always fall back behind.  So, next resolution was laundry - I will do one load of laundry from start to finish each day. Sounds silly, but somewhere along the way I always drop the ball.  I will get 1 load done- washed, dried, folded and put away -each day.  Not including Jeff's uniforms, we have about half a load per day - this will allow me to get caught up (in time :) ) without totally derailing my routine - load will go in before I get everyone up in the morning, be in the drier before we head out the door.  Then, as I am watching TV (gives me a guaranteed 30 minutes of mommy time) I will fold the load and put it away as I get everyone to bed.

I am looking for one more, had it in my mind, and now it is gone.  That is what happens when the girls wake up before I get my list done.  Ah well.  I am certain it will come to me when I can't sleep tonight, I can always update it then.

Happy Monday!!  Thank a firefighter for helping keep your community safe.

Smarter than the average bear...

Our firefighter slept most of the day away yesterday and is in the kitchen as we speak getting ready to go today. Being low man on the totem pole he was mandated to work on Christmas Day - the joys of being a cub.  Nice thing about that is now they have to literally go through the ENTIRE department before they can come back and make him work a day he is not scheduled, which could be several years.  He is number 486 of firefighters, so they have to go through everyone AFTER him and then back through everyone on the list before him.

My school Christmas party was scheduled for the 12th of December, I talked Jeff into switching with a cub on a different shift at is house so he could meet everyone (this is my first year at St. Joe's).  Wouldn't you know it - cancelled due to weather.  Shocking, considering it is in winter in Wisconsin.  Now, the trade has come to be paid back and he will have to work the 29th.  Which means he will have worked the 24th, 25th, home on the 26th, working on the 27th, home on the 28th, working on the 29th and 30th and finally home on the 31st.  Then he is off until the 5th of January.

Now, I was thinking, perhaps there was a conspiracy at work here.  My hubby gets out of any possible family drama at the holidays, does not have to deal with any over-tired toddler meltdowns and gets to avoid the cabin fever of four kids home for break.  He is off for 5 days JUST as we all go back to school leaving him with just Olivia for most of next week.  Hmmm, maybe he is smarter than I gave him credit for!!  :)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Teaching knows no boundaries...

I have been teaching for 13 years.  Being a high school teacher, my kids from work seem to grow up really fast. I have a few kids that have begun to look at fire fighting in recent years.  One is a senior and a member of MFD's Explorer post - funny to see him at the BIT this summer.  Another graduated a few years ago.  The second student graduated in 2008, I think.  He has been part of the Butler Fire department (a tiny Milwaukee suburb) since then, as a volunteer FF.  He found me on Facebook chat this morning.  I asked how classes were going, he was to be starting Firefighting II soon, and I got a shocking response - he doesn't want to go into firefighting anymore because it is not conducive to starting a family.

I thought that was very interesting.

I told him, that I saw his point.  I am not sure I would have dated/married a firefighter.  I married an elementary school teacher.  I told him it is hard on this side of the story and we chatted a bit. My student's discussion focused on the fact that I  found it hard, and our relationship had already developed that friendship base that would be necessary to get us through.  If that was true, how could he ever hope to find the right one and start a family.   Our discussion lightened up a bit after that, but it got me thinking.

How can I help him realize that it does not have to be either/or?  How do I help him to find that you can have a family and be a tremendous community asset as a firefighter?  Especially since I am struggling to find my place in this firefighting world. Perhaps it is not my place.  Perhaps he just needed someone to see that not everyone is cut out for this world and let him know that it is okay.  I don't know.  Did I drop the ball?  Should I have questioned him more to make sure that this was not the fears of a girl in his life derailing his goals?  I don't know.  I do know that firefighting may have just lost a wonderful member of the up and comers, and that is okay.  It is not a world for everyone.

That duffel bag on the way out

Far Away by Nickelback

I am NOT making that phone call...

I just got a phone call from a family member of my husband's - asking me to have my firefighter come straight over to his house when he gets home  - to hook up his new Blue-Ray and HDMI cables.  Umm, I am not going to call my husband and tell him that before he sees his kids (which I suppose he did get to spend the holidays with us- we trekked dowtown to E2 on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning we opened presents together via Skype) and sits down he has to hook up your presents.  I am not going to tell my husband that before he eats any of the french toast casserole he missed out on at E2 because he brought a child molester back to the land of the living after a suicide attempt at the jail, that he has to do your work for you.  YOU call him.

So, my firefighter's phone rings just as he hits the door and is mobbed by the Muppets and K9 crew, and he is off to save the day, again.

A hero

As I find myself sulking because my husband is not home yet, I remind myself that he is a hero.  He worked Christmas Eve so that when the city went nuts and the 911 dispatchers had no access to phones, people could still get help.  He worked Christmas Day and brought a man back to life, as well as taking care of an apartment fire started by college kids and their candles, so they could go home and see their families. We delivered Christmas cookies on Christmas Eve to Engine 2, as well as 3 french toast casseroles (which my husband did not even get to eat because he got transfered to E26) to some hungry firefighters, also away from their families. Yes, I had to play Santa by myself and get everything ready for the big morning.  I had to get 4 kids fed, dressed and pulled away from their toys to see family.  I had to get 4 tired kids put to bed after a long day. But my husband is a hero, making sure families are safe and healthy.  I had to remind myself of that again, when he texted me to tell me he was being sent to E13 (busiest house in the city) for relief and would be late, he is a hero.   I can't wait for my firefighter to get home after 51 hours away (and counting), just to do it again tomorrow.

Such is the beginning of my life as a firefighter wife...

Happy Holidays!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday, November 28, 2010 is going to be a looooooong winter

Here in the midwest, cold weather this time of year is definitely NOT unheard of.  This year is a bit different,  it was a mild fall.  We had 70s through September and 60s through the beginning of this month  To now be at or below freezing is a shock to the system.  Mind you, I have yet to put away my light leather jacket for my winter variant, so it can't be that bad, yet.  Until I remind you that I have 4 kids.

Four kids and a husband who worked last night - combine that with cold weather and you have one crazy house!!  The girls are playing tag in their princess dresses.  The boys are imitating A-Rodg in the family room - here's to hoping none of the Jordan memorabilia falls casualty to the level of energy.  All while Jeff and the geriatric K9s are trying to sleep.  I think I will send my jr NFL boys out in the elements to burn off some of this energy.  As for the princesses, I guess I will just have to deal with their world of pink dresses and clickity-clack shoes.

I know I will miss these days once they are in high school, but some days...

My moments of thankfulness:
1)  Thanksgiving - this year was with my family.  I am thankful for the time with them (and the lack of drama).  I am also grateful that my first attempt with the bird was a success.  The turkey is usually Jeff's job - but his shift was Wednesday and there was no way he would have been home in time.  So, I emptied the cavities (ewwwww) and seasoned the bird and got her in the oven.  See, being a fire wife causes you to tackle the things you would not have otherwise done. (Minor though it may be.)
2) My Nook - My newest toy has gotten me through the quiet nights without Jeff home.
3) My Dad - after a crazy day yesterday, not wanting to cook, my dad called and took us out for burgers and custard at Robert's
4) My Health - I am no longer feverish, puking or hacking up both lungs - first Sunday in quiet some time.
5) Christmas is coming - need I say more!!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tonic Sol-fa

For graduation, among his more practical gifts, I bought Jeff tickets to see Tonic Sol-fa at the Grand Opera House in Oshkosh.  Realize I bought this tickets in July, shortly after his "I don't think I can do this" melt down after the awakening as to how physical of an endeavor this was going to be.  I also had no idea as to what is shifts would look like.  It was a gamble, but it would be so worth it.
It was definitely  Something Beautiful .

Tonic Sol-fa came to Lakeland when we were college, probably '95 or '96 and we fell in love with them then and there.  Jeff took the guys around campus, while they tried to drum up an audience and into the Bradley.  The show was GREAT!  Even as I posted in July that I got the tickets, our friends were jealous.  I don't remember too many of the concerts from LC, there were a ton, but that one stayed with me.  We saw them at State Fair a few years later.  Then, I seemed to forget about them.  (I have short term memory loss, its really not my fault!! =D ) Until there was a special on them last year.  I DVR'd it and my kids fell in love with them.  Their Star Spangled, is all I can say.  There are definitely 4 distinct personalities to be seen and their voices mesh amazingly well.  I am glad they have stuck to their guns and stayed true to their a capella beginnings; I am certain if you put instruments behind them, they would be with a major label, but that would so suck!!

Anyway, we went to the 4pm show - one of the drawbacks of parenthood, having to consider the needs of the muppets before your own - and OMG - I think you needed an AARP card to get in!!  We were definitely among the younger demo of the crowd.  I am certain that they all enjoyed it, but no one sang, no one clapped unless prompted by the guys, no one danced.  They all just SAT.  How do you sit during this music??  The guy next to me was less than thrilled because just can't sit still and he did not want to hear me sing, but eh, whatever.  I wish we could have stayed for the 8pm show.  Fingers crossed that they come close soon.  Most of their shows seem to be in MN - probably to stay close to home.  There were some songs I wished they had done, the jokes are still the same, the beards are bit grayer, the laugh lines more defined - but it was a great show.  At date night that was sorely needed.  It was a nice break when everyday seems to be One of Those Days.

One of the most profound moments of the night was We All Need Saving.  I can't find a Tonic Sol-fa version, but once I do - wow.  I will have it when I buy the CD that has it.  New songs I am going to have to find - Long Black Train (the country version I found when looking is just NOT the same!!  LOL)   We just have to remember Grace has brought us to where we are and we need to trust, even when it seems like all is falling apart, that it is the path we are meant to be on.

Things to be thankful for:
1) A DATE NIGHT WITH MY HUBBY - It was long over due and a great time.  It is nice to remember that we are a couple and not just Mommy and Daddy.
2) GREAT MUSIC - Too often, I believe, we don't take the time to truly enjoy live music.  We have our i-pods, the radio is everywhere...but live music.  That can't be duplicated.
3) FAMILY - having wonderful family has made life so much easier, especially as we have journeyed into the world of firefighting, and specifically last night.  My dad took the boys to the Bucks game last night so they did not need to miss out on that due to our date night and my brother took the girls for the evening and hung out with them for us.
4) MY KIDS - being away from them always makes me miss them, which reminds my how significant they are in my life and how truly blessed I am to have them in my life!
5) TERM 2 - I am almost ready for the term to start, which is more than I could say when I got up this AM!  =D    

Friday, November 19, 2010

No News is Good News...Right??

Jeff and I have an agreement to make contact once a day.  His nightly ritual involves making popcorn for the rest of his crew, working out, studying and waiting for the house to quiet down.  Ah, the life of a lowly Cub!  Usually he calls, right after I doze off, which is okay.  It takes me a bit to get back to sleep, but when I get to sleep, it is a restful sleep.  For the first time last night, my phone did not ring.  So, when I wake up at 1am and realize it - I am jolted awake.  Was there a fire that got out of hand - my firefighter is downtown, with the world of high rises, it could be.  Was is just a night of med call after med call after med call?  That is a very real possibility.  Did his battery on his cell phone die?  More than likely - this is the scenario.  But my mind has yet to shut off, and as much as I try, choice number 1 is running through my head.

So, I walk through the house.  There is a peace, that in a house of four kids, only comes in the wee hours of the night.  I talked Bear into staying in the bedroom, while I went up and checked, so as not to disrupt that peace for the sake of a secure escort.  The peaceful looks, the quiet, the light pushing through the blinds, and a peace comes over me.  Had there been some issue, I would have had a phone call or, worst case scenario there would be a knock at my door.  So, my mind is put to rest.  I realize that this is the life of a firefighter's wife.  Accepting the unknown just comes with the job description.  Mind you, it comes to me, this was not the job description at the time of that gorgeous  August afternoon 12 years ago.  And now I realize that this WAS part of the vows.  Supporting my firefighter's quest for happiness and fulfillment WAS part of the vows, and this is where that support comes in.  He was not finding that in the classroom.  Aptitude and skill do not guarantee happiness.  If a few sleepless nights, can offer that for him, so be it.  Luckily, I do not have school tomorrow, so when he comes home in the morning, I will be able to hear about his night and welcome him home, with open arms - literally.

A year of gratitude:
1)  FIRST TERM IS OVER!!!  I made peace with myself leaving the public schools, I ROCKED the first term where I knew NO ONE, had to create my curriculum out of thin air and am ready to take on the same challenges for second term.
2) PEACE - There is a peace tonight that I have not felt since 07/26/2010, perhaps it is true acceptance, perhaps it is the answer to my requests for help to get through this transition, but it is there.  It is a relief.
3) FAMILY - Dinner tomorrow, well tonight considering it is 0248, with my dad, brother and sister-in-law.  Saturday my dad is taking the boys to a Bucks game and my brother is taking the girls, so Jeff and I can go see Tonic Sol-Fa in Oshkosh.  It is nice.
4) MY DVR - Sounds silly, but it saves my sanity on sleepless nights such as tonight, by providing a distraction - an escape from reality.
5) THE HOLIDAYS - For the first time in years, I am excited for the holidays.  Ten years ago, I started mentally planning for my trees, village, gifts, etc - in July.  Then kids came and families started claiming their stakes, regardless of the needs of the babies.  I let it happen and I let it get to me.  Jeff is working Christmas Eve, the date is not important, the family gathering is.  I have accepted that and it has revitalized my holiday spirit.  It is a nice feeling.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Firehouse Bug

You would think that after 12 years in a classroom, an elementary classroom no less, Jeff would have an iron-clad immune system.  But obviously firefighter immunity is different from teacher immunity.  I totally get it - 16 guys sharing that space, all bringing their various germs from home.  Then throw in their calls, especially their med calls.  Lord knows what they are exposed to out there.  Jeff comes home to 4 kids under 10 - it is a ripe formula for illness.  He has been to the doc twice this month.  Right after the academy because of a nasty cold that had turned into bronchitis (and he did not want to go while still in the academy) and yesterday - a viral infection.  Being viral, there is nothing that can be done.  So he has spent the better part of the last 5 days sleeping or working.  It is definitely kicking his butt.

However, here is where the kicker comes - I now have strep throat.  Finals are upon us, so at least I do not have to teach, but it makes for a long drive down to Kenosha at 5:45 in the morning when all you want to do is crawl back into bed and sleep the day away.  Lots of hand sanitizer and throat lozenges. Ah well.  I can be hopeful that Jeff feels better tonight so he can have muppet duty while I finish grading papers and entering grades.  Please send health filled ju-ju  our way!

My list of gratitude:
1)  Exams are almost over - I only have 1 to give tomorrow and this term is DONE!!
2)  Livy is almost potty trained - we are making it all day in one pull-up.  This will mean we will go w/o a diaper bag for the first time early January 2000!!!!!  YEAH!!
3) My family will be together for Thanksgiving - well not everyone, but a good portion.  Jeff will be coming off shift, my dad and his parents and Jeff's uncle will join us for lunch at my house.  Dinner will be at my grandmother's (other side).
4)  I love my job - think that says it all
5) Curly  - my 17 year-old golden will be with us for another holiday season.  We thought we were going to lose him 2 Christmases ago and here he is still kicking, romping with a much larger puppy.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Month for Giving Thanks

We spend one day a year, grateful for what we have and who we love, and yet seem to forget about that as the year rolls by.  So, here is my challenge, perhaps and early New Year's resolution, for myself.  I will make a list of 5 things each day that I have to be thankful for.  When I post here, I will (try to remember) to add the list as the conclusion of my post.  So, here's my start...

1) My family - through 4 very rough pregnancies, we have been blessed with 4 healthy and wonderful children.  I have a wonderful husband, whom I hold so near and dear.  And for my dad, who has been there through everything.
2)  For a job I love - who would have thought I would find comfort and peace in a private Catholic high school, when I was such a proponent of saving the inner-city schools.
3) My health - as ironic as that is to say.  As damaged as my brain is, I should not be a functioning adult.  Luckily I was not aware of the damage until 26, my brain rewired itself and here I am.  In many cases - against all odds, but I am here.
4) MFD - After 2 years of lists, CPATs, oral interviews, written interviews, checking the city's website over and over and over, EMT classes, MFD 7/26/2010, Jeff is a FIRE3FIGHTER.  He is happy, I am thankful.
5) My K9s - no matter how bad the day, they are there.  You can snap at them and literally a moment later apologize and they forgive you.  They are comfort and companionship - even when the rest of my crew is on a mission elsewhere.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I hear the disappointment in his voice...

We made an agreement a few weeks ago that we would talk at least once a shift when he was working.  Jeff called around 10:30 last night and of course I asked how it was going.  They had ONE call.  And it was an med call - nothing too interesting.  You could just hear the disappointment in his voice.  All of the guys from the academy have been off to fires, some of them several in a shift.  And to date...he has had a total of...NONE!!  No fires.  Most of his EMS calls have been nothing too exciting or they have been called off.  Which leaves more time to clean.  Let me tell you, that is NOT one of his favorite activities.

On my way into work this morning he calls to check on my hand.  And again, how was last night.  They had one run - smoke at a nearby hospital.  I actually felt excited for him.  BUT, when they got to Sinai - it was just a steam vent.  Someone called because they noticed steam from a steam vent.  AYE!

But, here is my dirty little secret, I am relieved.  I am nervous when he is at work.  Mind you, being a high school history teacher with 4 little ones at home, does not leave much time to worry about it.  But, when it is finally quiet at the dinner table, it pops into my head.  The first moment when the "MOOOMMMMAAAAA" calls from the dark bedrooms cease and there is a peace in the air, it creeps into my to-do list.  When I realize that I am waking up alone, I can't help but hope and pray that he had a quiet night.  I know that is not what he is looking for, but I am okay with this lull.  The thought of the high rise pack having to be pulled out, does not thrill me.  The possibility of my doorbell ringing at 3am is not something I want to even think about.  When I get that 6am, "Hi Honey, another quiet night" call on my way down to Kenosha - I feel his disappointment, but also breathe a bit easier.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A bit of an eye opening...

We have 3 big dogs as members of our family.  Willow, a 12-year-old golden is the leader of a pack.  She has been the big boss since we got her.  Will was our first and last pup.  Everyone else has been from a rescue.  Curly is our resident old-timer, he is a 17 year-old golden.  We got Curly Q at the age of 9, thinking he had a paralyzed larynx, finding out he had mega-esophagus instead.  After 8 years, we are still making Curly Shakes for him for breakfast and dinner.  2 years ago, we found out he had cancer, the doctors told us to just hope we could make it through the next few weeks, so we did not lose him on Christmas.  And then there is Bear.  Bear is a 2 year-old great pyrenees.  He is definitely a polar bear.  His original owner began to train him as an assistance dog, not realizing how monstrous in size he would become.  So, if Bear wants ice - he gets it from the door dispenser.  If Bear wants some fresh air, he opens up the casement window, after pushing up the lever and turning the crank.  When Bear wants Bread, he does not have to get it from the bread box - I had to put that away, he could too easily access it - he opens the microwave and gets it from there.  Don't let his dexterity and size fool you, he is the biggest of my babies.
My Polar Bear in summer's best.
The Geriatric Ward - Curly and Willow

Bear is used to getting what he wants.  Last night/this morning Bear was chewing on a bone, moved on and went back to sleep somewhere else.  Willow came to snuggle with me and picked up where Bear left off and gnawed on the bone for a while.  Bear decided he wanted to claim it back.  We had an argument on our hands, I reached down to move Bear away and CHOMP - I literally stuck my hand in his mouth.  At first it seemed not so bad, but as I walked out to the kitchen to clean it up, my ears started ringing, tunnel vision started and I had to sit down. As is was sitting at the island, I realized that would probably end up on the floor as my head starting spinning.  Better to do it voluntarily.  Jeff took me to the ER, got me settled and came back to tend to the kids.

This is the bite they are concerned about.

Holy Swelling, Batman.

Now...had this been tomorrow, what would I have done?  4:30 in the morning.  My first response is to say I would just pack them up and take them with.  But I don't know if I could have driven.  Especially not with 4 kids in the car.  Now, I was done by 7am.  Perhaps I could've left Noah in-charge,  armed with cereal and Nick Junior, but I am not so sure I like that.  My dad would be up at that time, so I guess I could have called him to get the kids ready and see if his parents would be willing to watch the girls once they got up so my dad could get to work.  So, homework for this firefighter's wife - figure out your emergency Jeff's not home back up plan.

So, off I will go, with my very sore mummy hand - to make my contingency plans.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath...

My firefighter is still adjusting to his schedule.  He has offered to take the "Watchman" position through the night. Simply put, he monitors the radio traffic and answers the phone and door calls through the night, while the other guys sleep upstairs.  This leaves him trying to get back on a sleep schedule on his off days.  Especially after his last shift - it was radio only, no tones.  That makes for a very long night for him.  I am trying to be patient and let him sleep as long as he needs, to nap as much as he needs to.  But that leaves me as a single mommy on his shift days, as well as a good portion of his off days.

Today, I kept the kids quiet while he slept.  Our favorite firefighter joined polite civilization around 9:30am and instantly announced he was going to run down to Engine 30 to grab a light he ordered from one of the guys.  I kid you not, the moment he left, our lovely muppets - who had been so nice and quiet while Daddy slept - erupted in a sea of screams.  Livy was ticked off that Brennan was cleaning the toy room, Brennan was furious that Liv made a mess (even though I tried to tell him that is just what 2 year-olds do), Desiree was mad that Daddy left without taking her, making sure everyone knew that she was dissatisfied and our oldest, Noah, was making his indignation at my request to clean up his desk, VERY well known.  I left.  In my bare feet and fire academy sweats, I went out and stood on the deck (in 28 degree weather).  I counted to 10, counted again and again and again and again...

I know everyone is having to adjust to this new lifestyle, but I feel like I am the only one making the adjustments with the kids.  I feel (knowing full well that perception is not necessarily reality) as though Jeff is making the adjustment to HIS new lifestyle, but not ours.  Please tell me that we will hit our stride and find our routine, please.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

2nd shift is done....well in 21 minutes

Jeff is almost done with his 2nd shift at Engine 2.  He had a captain on his engine for yesterday's shift and they seemed to gel quite well.  The radio system has been down since yesterday, so he noticed guys  flying down the poles and was wondering why - turns out the tones did not go off. So, Jeff had radio duty, he had to monitor the radio traffic last night.  He will be a bit tired when he gets home.

I am still working on finding my way.  My dad stopped by after his haircut, when the muppets were in bed.  It was nice to have a grown up conversation.  The kids went to bed without a problem, got up without a problem - I just have to figure out how to sleep while Jeff's at work.  I got 4 kids up, fed, dressed, cleaned up and out the door by 5:45am.  Pretty good if I do say so myself!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The 2nd shift is underway

The Halsey Fire Crew
Jeff's first shift was Sunday - Halloween.  It was a quiet shift - 2 calls, one he could not find the bp for (oops, out of practice on the EMT side of things - so he and the other cub practiced back at the station) and a GSW transport from Sinai Samaritan to Froedert.  Other than that, he had a day of cleaning (did you know he could wash dishes???), popcorn making (for the rest of the crew while they watch TV! <snicker>).  I met his captain when I took the kids down to trick or treat by Daddy.  I really liked him.  The bay is HUGE!  I think I counted 6 firemen poles - which I think is the coolest part of it all!!  I am looking forward to the time when I can get a grand tour.
Hanging with Daddy at Engine 2

This morning was our first day of a school day/combined with Jeff going to work when we have school.  It was pretty painless.  Although, truthfully, it does go smoother on the mornings when he is not home.  I am not sure if it is because I don't have to stop to find what he needs or because I can pop out of bed at 4:30, rather than taking that last snooze or two, or just some combination there in.  He took the girls to the sitter and life was good.  Tonight is when it will be hard.  Having to do all the parent duties at night is a handful.  Ah well.  Tonight I think we might  treat Grandpa to dinner since he has been helping out so much.
So cool, Daddy!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

That just about summarizes the last 3 days.  BUT, for today, let us focus our attention on the GOOD!

Two very proud boys!
The ceremony was Thursday at the B.I.T. (Bureau of Instruction and Training).  The Captain of the BIT was the MC.  The
speakers did a very nice job.  Deputy Chief Payne was by far my favorite speaker of the evening, although the Fire and Police Commissioner gave a very moving speech, and glimpse into his days as a beat cop.  Having been a volunteer firefighter in New Holstein, Jeff's dad was able to give Jeff his badge, which was very moving.  The slides shows were great, with perfect music to accompany them. The images giving us, the families, a spectators view of their days for the last 14 weeks - from their swearing in, to their PT, to their final burn.  However, what was most striking by far, was the sense of pride in the room.   Pride just radiated  from the instructors, the brass and the families.  But most importantly, from the guys.  Their sense of pride was almost inspiring.  It was not an easy road, and not all who started was there to celebrate.  They had made it and earned the privilege of calling themselves Milwaukee Firefighters.
Jeff and his mini-me bobblehead!


Today, Halloween, is Jeff's first shift at engine 2.  I have 2 junior firefighters and 2 princess firefighters that are SO excited to go trick or treating at Engine 2 today!!  Good luck today honey!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Married to a Firefighter... Tips To Keep Your Relationship with a Real Life Hero Healthy

I found this article as I looking for answers, and it brought a calming feeling - I am not the only one, I am not a bad wife, I am just human.

By Michelle Powers

Being married to someone who serves the community can be very challenging. There will be times that in the middle of dinner he/she will have to up and leave, holidays were you spent most of the time alone, and taking care of things around the house can be a daunting task when you do it alone. How do you keep a marriage or partnership like this together and healthy?

1. The partner who serves the community needs to pick a day and turn the pager off. That means not going on any calls, focusing on the family only.

2. Make sure that if you feel lonely that you state those feelings instead of having your needs met elsewhere.

3. Set up a support group, a group of people you can call when you are frustrated or sad.

4. Make sure you do not take on all the responsibilities because you will only end up resenting your partner. Not everything we always get done and that is okay.

5. If children are involved make sure the person serving the community has really good boundaries. They will have to learn to put the family first sometimes even though that might not be easy. Birthdays and other specials days are not to be interrupted. 

6. Remind your partner he/she cannot save the world and if they want a marriage they are going to have to accept that.

7. Make sure you have hobbies, crafts, or projects that you like to do.

8. Keep the rest of your family close; they can be a huge support.

9. Take care of yourself and make yourself happy, never depend on anyone but yourself to do that.

10. If possible get some extra help so the times when your partner are home they can be spent doing fun things.

11. If you are upset and/or frustrated, state that. Never keep your feelings inside because they will only fester.

12. Some firehouses/EMT houses have auxiliaries that partners can join to feel more connected. 

13. The firehouse is not your house, make sure you have a home of your own, a place that is a safe place just for you.

14. Have a schedule and stick with it. Just because your partner is home doesn't mean you have to be. 

15. Having a journal can be helpful tool to help manage stress.

16. Going to a couple's therapist on a regular basis can be a helpful tool in keeping the partnership healthy. 

17. Schedule a date night and stick too. If you are too tired to go out, go anyways because you don't know when the next opportunity will be. 

18. Check in with each other at least once a day while at work on the phone. This is a great way to make sure you both know what is going on. 

19. Sometimes friends have to come second when there is free time. Family at all times will and should always come first. 

20. Having a pet can be very helpful in feeling less alone.

21. If possible plan a vacation away and enjoy each other without any interruptions.

22. Never go to bed angry because you never know if that is the last time you will see someone.

There are two simple things to keep in mind. Make sure that if you are lonely that you let your partner know and that you need more time. If he/she is unwilling to give up more time then gently remind them that you are being honest instead of getting your needs met elsewhere. This is not a threat, open and real honest communication is really important. 

Never go to bed angry or have your partner go on a call angry. This is really important because they last thing you would ever want is something to happen and that argument be your last interaction.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My First Dinner Alone...

J had a meeting with his LT this evening, right after his class at 1600.  The boys and I got home from school, picked up O from the sitter, ran to the house grabbed B's glasses to get them fixed and pick up new uniform pants for school.  Once we were done at Wal-Mart, we ran to get D from school came home - got the muppets and k9s fed, and I waited for J to come home for dinner for us.  And waited...and waited...and waited... he's having dinner with E2 tonight.  Would have been nice to know, especially seeing as I got an hour and a half of sleep last night and I am about to come down off my Red Bull rush, made dinner for us and still have 2 sets of chapter questions, a quiz and an essay (times 60 for each to correct tonight) AFTER I get 4 kids bathed and into bed and uniforms washed.  He HAS to tell me what is going on, my brain is too exhausted for its mind-reading abilities to work properly.

I am reminding myself that he is excited and nervous and scared and, and, and...  I know, I am trying to "get it", but I am here, too.  At some point there has to be that acknowledgement, right?  Especially since I have gone through 14 weeks of single mom-ness, for his career change.  I will have to take 4 kids trick or treating alone, put together a full Thanksgiving dinner alone, put the toys together and play Santa, alone. Some give to go with the take, right??  Or am I on my own from here on out?

Graduation is Thursday, the party is Friday.  I am hoping to become part of this world he has joined, instead of merely standing on the outside looking in (trying not to pitifully fog up the window with my hot breath), while juggling groceries, potty training, papers, lesson plans, cooking, laundry, "Mom, I need poster board for a project that is due TOMORROW!", "MOM, BEAR JUST PEED IN THE GIRLS' ROOM" - I don't think I like this super-mom cape.  Can I trade it in??

I just feeling like I am drowning and no one is noticing.  My emergency flares are not being seen.  It has to get better, doesn't it?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

T Minus Seven Days

Calendars have been set,assignment given, obligations have been rescheduled or new dates (my dad) found, uniforms ordered, boots ordered and ready for pick-up, kids prepped, graduation party rescheduled, holidays discussed, house cleaned...and I am still not sure I am ready for this.

Sleeping alone, running to everyone's appointments on my own, homework, temper tantrums, dinner, dogs fed, papers graded, sirens blaring, news reports, questions from the kids, concerns about some of the runs he'll go on, finishing my masters, juggling Christmas Eve alone...

Random thoughts when I should be enjoying A-Rodg's first win over his shadow - #4.

Deep breaths, one day at a time, don't be too proud to ask/accept help, taking time to pray for Jeff's safety and congratulate his accomplishments, hugging my kids and learning to make this adjustment to our new leg of this journey.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

And So it Begins..

My husband and I were college sweethearts. We both came from musical backgrounds, we were both education majors - life was good. Unfortunately, we are night and day. He is the Ying to my Yang. I am an out going, boisterous, city-loving kind of gal. Jeff is a quiet, small town boy, who prefers to observe the party rather than be the life of it. We fell in love, despite my friends warnings that I was a wild mustang who could not be broken, and got married.

I graduated first, and being a female history teacher, we had to go where I could find a job. I looked all over the state, and got the same speech time in and time out, "If only you had more experience..." Yeah, how do you get experience if no one will hire you to allow you to get experience. So, I found a job at a middle school - right in the heart of the inner-city of Milwaukee. Poor Jeff, now finds himself teaching in Milwaukee Public Schools - the ONE place in the state he did not want to be.

Fast forward ten years, MPS has burned Jeff's candle at both ends. Being the nice guy in a school where you are one of only three male teachers, being left to handle all the hard kids no one else wanted to deal with, truly wore him down to the point of no return. He felt the need to find some other path that would help him feel fulfilled. What else, but FIREFIGHTING!! Yeah...

Had I gotten a job in a small town Jeff could have done both - teach and fight fires. What better combination for a super hero!! But in Milwaukee - it has to be either or, not both. In the summer of 2008, he went to the firehouse and got the information on recruitment. A few weeks later takes the initial exam, after we studied and studied and studied some more. Jeff arrived at Serb Hall to take the exam only to find that he was one of 5,000 applicants. He almost walked away right then and there. MFD was only moving the top 350 on to the next round.

After a few weeks, the letter arrives - Jeff is 325. Out of 5,000 - not too shabby. He slowly works his way up to #83 after interviews, extensive background checks, EMT-B training and a few CPAT trials. The first firefighting class was scheduled and rescheduled and yet again rescheduled and took flight in November of 2009. We went to the orientation meeting, got the speeches and tours - only to find Jeff was to be 6th on the waiting list.

He finally get his chance and becomes part of the class of 07-26-2010. After Day 3 - he was ready to say, "SCREW IT!" NO! We jumped through hoop after hoop after hoop and he wanted to quit already! I talked him into staying with it for a few more weeks, he could quit if he still thought it was not for him. Week after week it got easier - for him. He actually started to enjoy himself. Me? Not so much. We have 4 kids - 10, 8, 4 and 2. I was starting a new job at a new school with a new subject - and an hour drive each way. And to top it off - I now had FIVE kids. Jeff went to class in the morning, came home - ate dinner, put the kids to bed, studied and went to bed. He was my 5th child.

Now - 14 weeks later, we are FINALLY 5 days away from graduation and 7 away from his first shift at MFD Engine #2. We have waited and waited and waited for this day...I think I could wait a bit longer.

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