Archive | May, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again

21 May

My FF has been off for a few weeks.  He took care of our daughter after her surgery, so I did not have to take off of work, although I would have loved to be home with her.  He spent a few days by his parents up north helping his parents.  He helped me every morning getting the kids ready for school.  He spent his time off helping people.  It is what he does best.   He also missed 2 big fires, a rolled over semi and several EMS calls – and that was one shift.  He needed to go back.

Yesterday he went back to work – right into a 48, with another shift on Monday.   I secretly started to panic earlier this week.  Somehow I was instantly back to where I was at Christmas time – we were all locked in the house, I was overwhelmed and sad, alone on Christmas.  It was not a pretty picture.  I thought for sure I would be right back there – afterall, I still had to grocery shop, do laundry, write my final and plan my reviews – even though I won’t be in my class due to service week for the seniors.  All of this I have to do with J being a work for 3 out of days.  But it is amazing what 70 degrees and sun can do for the soul.  Grocery shop before the kids are out of bed. Send the kids outside before the sun. Get some work done – and amazingly, it is not so bad.

Or, it could be just that I have truly adjusted to this lifestyle and now it is second nature, even though my over-planning brain tends to worry.

Tomorrow, J comes home.  We have the St. Florian’s Mass for the firefighters in the morning and a celebration of D’s birthday, along with J’s mom’s b-day.  Then we have one last full week of school.  And my FF will home to help me get the muppets moving on that dreaded Monday morning.  Life is good, even when it is crazy.

We Got the Letter, Now We Look to the Next Round of Changes

17 May

It is official.  After the testing, interviews and waiting – my FF will be entering paramedic school in September.  I couldn’t be more proud, but he seems to be dealing with mixed emotions.  He has not had that big fire.  I think he is afraid he will miss out on it or get rusty if he is in the box for a few years.  I am certain he will be just fine.  I am also looking at it from a practical aspect.  We have lost $32,000 combined in salaries.  I left the public schools in order to be able to afford a private education for our kids and he left the public schools in order to follow his dreams.  Any money we can get back will help make life a bit more comfortable.  I am also looking to the future. My FF came into this life a bit late in the game – he is 35, his classmates are in their 20s.  He would like to work as long as I am working, but I am not sure he could fight fires that long.  I am planning on teaching well into my 60s – I enjoy it.  I am not planning on being a 55 and out kind of gal (although I would be teaching for 34 years if I did!).  If he is a paramedic, when firefighting gets to be a bit more physically than he is comfortable with, it allows him to work a bit longer.  I think it is a good move for us. He agrees and is looking forward to being the paramedic that gets put on an engine in a few years – best of both worlds.

Busy MomWhat is interesting, however is the schedule change.  He will be going back to a quasi normal schedule – 8 hours days – and I am not sure I will like it. Ironic, isn’t it?  Mind you, he is on a schedule that includes 3 out of 4 days ON starting this Friday, so I might be singing a different tune in a week. I think I might have actually begun to adjust to this wacky schedule.  I have started scheduling kids’ appointments and having time scheduled when he can take the kids for me, etc.  This ‘9-5′ schedule will be going on until the new year when he finally gets back on a rig.  Never thought I would be actually miss this goofy schedule!  But – on the bright side, he will be home for all of the holidays AND for the 2 kids’ January birthdays.

So, now we are on to this next phase of our journey as a fire family.  I am certain that this will be a much smoother transition.  I have adjusted a year of curriculum to pull from and am starting from scratch for next year.  I have learned how make things work, get the kids going, who needs to do what.  I will also have all four kids in one place, rather than having to drop each of the girls off at a different location before the boys and I begin making our hour journey to school.

Kids Are Really Awesome!

9 May

Five or six weeks ago, I wrote a post about a Fond du Lac police officer and Kenosha native, who lost his life in the line of duty.  I was moved by how the community at large was really impacted by losing one of their own. I was amazed at how the parish and people of the area felt the loss.  I was also amazed at how it struck me – I am not from Kenosha nor did I know Officer Birkholz.

Savannah Raddatz with her father, Fond du Lac Police Officer Dave Raddatz.
Savannah Raddatz, 12, displays one of the bracelets she is selling to benefit the Craig Birkholz Memorial Fund. She is the daughter of Dave and Vicky Raddatz.Now I am reminded of why I love my job.  Not that I am not reminded everyday, but when I got the Kenosha paper from my box at school this morning there was an article about a 12 year-old girl in Fond du lac, daughter of an FdL police officer, who was one of the first on scene that day, nearly struck by the gunfire.  She felt the same pit that my kids felt, that I felt.  What if…?  We all hate that question, but it pops into her mind.  Rather than letting it eat her alive – making her fearful, she put those emotions to good use.  Believe it or not, middle school kids, as well as high school kids are awesome this way.  They see something tragic and they want to find good in it.  That is exactly was this inspiring young lady did.

Savannah Raddatz with the T-shirt she is selling.

Savannah Raddatz, put her fear into something therapeutic and beneficial to the community.  She designed bracelets  and T-shirts to benefit the Craig Birkholz Memorial fund.  Is there a better therapy?  I think not!  Kudos, Savannah!  You have made us all proud.  Hug your Dad, he is a hero.  We can all take a page from your book!

Photos by Justin Connaher – The Reporter

I am far too sentimental

9 May

About a week ago, my husband looked at me and told me that the toy room had to go.  The kids simply made a mess of it one too many times.  He was tired of arguing with the kids to clean their room AND the toy room and it was time to move on.  So, the mission was issued – empty out that toy room and turn it into a kid-free zone.  HA!  This is what happens when vacation time comes for a firefighter and his wife still has to teach.  However, I was the own doing the moving and shaking when all was said and done.

Now, I usually take pictures of before and after, but the room was in such a state of disarray, that I could not bring myself to do so.  Not only did I have to clean out this room, but I also had to figure out WHERE all this stuff was going to go.  Please understand, I am a mommy that ADORES creative play.  So, we have a train table, kitchen, nursery – with bed, high chair and swing, a tool bench, dress up clothes, dinos – you get the idea.  Where am I supposed to put a ROOM FULL of toys?

So the sorting process began – if it did not have all its pieces – tossed.  If it has not been played with in a while – donated.  The tool bench went to my cousin – he was  the original owner after all – for his 18 month twins.  The BIG dinos who make sounds and stomp as well as the toddler sized cars went to the same new home. The rest – a trailer FULL of toys and baby clothes  – donated to Goodwill.  And of course, the kids start playing with those toys – who have not seen action in at least a year – the moment I decide to get rid of them.

Now, here is where it is silly.  I have some weird emotional attachment to the kids’ toys.  I love buying toys, I love seeing the surprise in their eyes.  Some I want to keep as grandparent toys – so I am allowing myself some toys at every stage.  I am not sure where I will store them, but for now J is placating me by allowing me to do so, with only a shake of the head and raise of the eyebrow.

So, as it stands, I need to move a dresser out of the girls’ room and the train table in its spot.  Then I can start painting – which is another story, it does after all, still have the bumblebees and flowers from the nursery.  <sigh>  Time marches on.  The loveseat for mommy and daddy will be here Wednesday, the TV and stand will be here tomorrow,  my huge desk will be brought up and make room for the dressing table my husband is lovingly working on refinishing for me.  I am saddened and excited all at the same time.  I am SO excited to have space we  can call our own.  At the same time, it was B’s room when we moved in and brought him home from the NICU.  Then the girls’ made it their own.  The toy room – it was a noble experiment, doomed to failure from the start – no love there. <smirk>  And now, it is our room.  Full circle I guess.

Time to choose paint – I am thinking a nice sand color, in lieu of the yellow and bee infested flowers.

Never a dull moment

5 May

After dinner, my FF and I were dealing with some pre-teen angst over loading the dishwasher.  Our oldest didn’t feel he should have to do and sat on the kitchen floor.  While we were rationalizing with the insanity of the tween psyche, there came a scream from the backyard and in came our toddler – hand on her head, in tears.  I was prepared to kiss her boo-boos since my magic kisses still work.  Until she took her hand off her head and started gushing.  Turns out she tried to use our oldest’s skateboard – no good.

We got her cleaned up, took a look at the hole in her head and decided she needed to be either glued or stitched and so Daddy was going to take her in.  However, there was a few issues with that scenario – A)  We do still have 3 other kids and it is still a school night, B) This was going to be 2 man job – someone had to keep pressure on her head while we were in transit, C) O wasn’t leaving my lap.  So, we called Grandpa and acted as chauffeur, while Daddy tended to the other muppets.

We were in and out in less than an hour, 90 minutes round trip.  Pretty good, I was impressed.  Cleaned her up, glued her shut and sent us on our way.  O is a trooper.  She handles pain and tragedy amazingly well.  So, we are home, she is in bed, with a lovely story to tell.

Now the Next Step

3 May

My FF was definitely on the more experienced side of his class as he started his new career last Halloween.  And trust me, that has nothing to do with his firefighting background.  He was one of the OLD MEN of the class.  Not the oldest, but definitely up there.  Because he is starting out 10-15 years AFTER his classmates, I think he feels a certain sense to push himself to advance.  So, today is his interview for the Paramedic program.

J has been torn as to what to do.  He still enjoys fighting the fires.  He has not seen enough of them for it to become old hat.  Although, I am certain that he will always still get the rush they bring him.  However, when you have deputy chiefs, the battalion chief and your captain all actively persuading you, it is hard to ignore.

The first steps are done, we put together his new resume, he took the initial basic skills test. In a few hours he will have his interview.  I have no doubt that he will do well.  He ROCKED his orals to become a FF – took him from 325 to 113 on the eligible list.  My FF just wants to help people.  His calm nature and attention to details will make him an awesome medic.  I am excited to get home and hear what he has to say about it.

Aside from his natural do-gooder personality, I think there is also a career advancement thought behind this.  As I said earlier, he is 10-15 years older than most of the other guys in his class.  J feels, I believe, he has to quickly make up for lost time.  If he is accepted as a Paramedic, he will be able to apply to become a lieutenant a year earlier.  Once he is an officer, I see him being much more comfortable with where he is.  J LOVES being a FF, but I think he has such high standards for himself and feels this is a definite first step in the rest of his firefighting journey.

Good Luck, Honey!  We Love You!!

After Talking About it All Day…

3 May

I find myself speechless.  I spent my whole day talking to teenagers about 9/11.  They remember it – as much as a first or second grader can.  They gave me an interesting insight – they have no memories of life before the fear.  No memories before the teeny bottle limits.  No memories of being able to greet loved ones the moment they get off the plane.  They have no idea of what life was like before the towers fell.

They remember where they were, what they were doing.  Not quite in the same detail that I do.  I was standing in the back of my classroom, when I had prep first thing in the AM – on top of two bookcases in the back corner.  I was putting my middle schoolers’ “cave paintings” from our Early Man unit up on the bulletin board.  I was wearing bibs, a blue and white striped shirt with my red, white and blue Chuck Taylors.  My hair had not been straightened yet, I only had 1 kid.  It was down and pulled back in a headband.  Two kids popped in with the news (I remember their names and what they were wearing.).  “Mrs. H!   Mrs. H!  A plane just ran into the World Trade Center!”  I didn’t believe them.  They had just come from the office where the 27″ (BIG TV by school standards) had the news on.  I remember saying, “Wow!  I wonder what went wrong with their navigation systems.”   As we entered the office, the 2nd plane hit.  I sunk into one of the seats with my jaw wide open.  It took my breath away.  But I still felt there must have been some interference with the radars.  Terrorists never entered my mind.  I was not naive, but in hind-sight, it is the one point in my adult life I truly considered myself sheltered.

I will remember where I was when I heard about the death of this despot.  I will remember my reaction when I saw the Tweet regarding the President wanting to talk to me at 2130.  I will remember that bin-Laden never crossed my mind – I thought it would have been an update regarding the other in Libya.  Once again I was left with my jaw hanging open.

(/11 – It was a long day of talking.  Kids trickled out as terrified parents picked up their kids, not wanting their kids in a downtown school when we had no idea WHAT was going on.  I talked – to calm, to discuss, to inform, to break the tension – I talked ALL DAY!  Then I got home.  I tried to keep my 18 month-old away from the TV at all costs.  All of these memories came flooding back.  Spending my birthday, in silence at the end of the driveway for a nationwide candle light vigil at 7pm.  I also remember that I was married to a teacher.  We talked to kids, that was how we handled things.

Now, I am married to a firefighter. Talking would not be enough this time around.  He would be gone.  He would be with whatever crew was heading out to the site of the tragedy.  I KNOW him.  He is not okay just talking, he needs to DO something.  I think of the 343 and my heart sinks.  Had it been 9/11/11 instead – he would have been out there.  Had we lived anywhere near Ground Zero – he would have been there.  His sole thought would have been getting the victims home to their families.  I am so grateful to be married to such a man.  It is also frightening.  IF this happens here, he will be there.  Losing him…I can’t even begin to think of it.  Just typing this with my FF sleeping next to me, is causing my throat to tighten and my eyes to burn.

I am done talking.  I don’t want to talk about the hows, whys, whats anymore.  I don’t want to discuss the culture and theology of both sides anymore.  I am done talking.  But, my head doesn’t shut down so easy. I think of the parents who lost their children.  I weep for the babies who will never meet their daddies.  For the marriage torn apart – through death or pain and stress, I grieve.  For the 343, I say a prayer.  A prayer of thanksgiving, a prayer for their families, a prayer for their souls, a prayer of healing for those left behind  and selfishly, a prayer that it is never my husband.  But in my heart of hearts, I know it could be.  We all do – military spouses, fire spouses and law enforcement spouses – we all know it could be us that others are saying the prayers for.  We at some level accept it, while at the same time totally and completely ignore it.

So, while my 16 year-olds were celebrating during our discussions, I was praying.  The loss of life yesterday, was still a tragedy.  I can’t celebrate.  I understand, but I am not jubilant.  A chapter has ended and another begun.  I can’t talk about it anymore…it was a long day.

So, instead, I will say a prayer.  A prayer for those we lost and those who left behind to mourn.  We will never forget.