Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Snowpocalypse 2014: Part I


It was just another day. Or so I thought.

Nick was out of town, so naturally Linebacker woke up with a swollen eye. I got the other two kids ready for school, called the doctor for an appointment, and off we went.

Of course the weather had mentioned some flurries, but really folks, this is Alabama. They always predict flurries--and they never come. I am usually very weather aware, and I honestly didn't give this a second thought.

And I was apparently in good company.

I dropped Sister and Little Man at school, and had previously scored an early doctors appointment, so I headed straight to the doctor with Linebacker. We saw the doctor, who prescribed an antibiotic.  We were waiting for her to bring the prescription, when I saw a few snow flurries out of the office window.

I showed them to Linebacker, and even took a video of him sharing in my excitement to actually see snow flurries!

Still no worries.

The doctor had agreed with me that Linebacker's eye was probably just the result of a sinus infection, but she said that it could possibly be cellulitis, so she gave us a stronger antibiotic just to be safe.

When we left the office, it was snowing somewhat consistently, but there was still no panic--no closed schools--no weather alerts. I drove to my pharmacy to drop off the script, and decided to head to the school to get the kids. Better safe than sorry, right?


As I was driving to the school, the snow began falling more consistently and the center of the road started to appear white. I got to the kids' school and picked up Sister and Little Man. I realized as I was shuffling them out the door that school had just been cancelled, as everyone was putting on coats and backpacks. I hurried out with the three musketeers, and buckled all 3 of the 5 point harnesses.

And off we went...all of about 0.5 miles...

As I pulled out of the parking lot, I realized that the nearby junior high had just let out. So I was stuck in school traffic. As I was waiting on slow teens to creep  across the street, I let off of the brake and realized that this was about to get ugly fast. I slid a little bit just by letting my foot off of the brake. My adrenaline started to kick in.

When I finally got through the school traffic, I slowly followed the car ahead of me. I got to a red light and waited to turn onto the road that would take me quickly home. I slowly followed the car ahead, and told myself that it would not be much further to my destination. But as I got near the red light which would bring into view the highway to home, I became nervous. Traffic was at a dead stop. And cars were sliding off of the road. While waiting in this line, I let off of the brake and my back tire slid off of the road as well...

To many people, this would not be a big deal. But we are in Alabama, folks. We do not know how to drive on ice. Most of us don't own 4 wheel drives, and if we do, it is for "muddin'". Which happens to be quite different from "icin'".

Quite different...

I broke out in a cold sweat trying to maneuver my XL expedition back onto the road...with, by the way, 3 toddlers shooting questions at me from the backseat. I finally got to the red light, after a few more slides, and decided to make a pit stop at the bank. I had to potty so badly that I had scanned my car for empty bottles...and I would not have hesitated one single moment had I had one. I had to turn left in front of traffic, but I really had to go--and the traffic was going nowhere. I slowly inched across the road and pulled into the bank across the street.

By this point, we had a good 3 inches of snow. I was thanking Jesus for the banks open doors. I attended to my business and ran back outside. Let me remind you that we had no appropriate snow shoes/jackets/etc. After all, we were just going to school that morning and coming right back home. And there was just a small chance of flurries...

Once inside the car again, I tried to call Nick. I had tried him a few times and had not been able to get the call to go through. I realized after the fact that this was a common story, as the phone lines were completely jammed from people calling loved ones to check on them. It was about now that I realized that we had been in the car for about 2 1/2 hours. I finally got through to Nick and semi-lost my cool. The conversation went something like this:

"Nick, I cannot get home. Is there anyone at your office with a 4 wheel drive that can come get us?"

Now, let me throw out this disclaimer first. (1). Nick was in Kentucky-- where it was not snowing.(2). When we usually get snow, it is not a big deal--I had never seen anything like this--ever. (3). I sometimes possibly have a tendency to maybe over react a bit of a smidgen.

"Amy, just get on the road, drive slowly in the path of the cars ahead of you, and get home."

"Nick, you don't understand! the roads are ice...people are sliding everywhere! And the traffic is not moving! I can't get home without going up a hill and I can't climb a hill!"
This was absolute truth. We were in a valley, and there was no possible way to get home without climbing a pretty steep hill. Let it be known that this observation had never been made by me before this moment.

"Amy, you can do this. Just take your time and get home. I am going to text you every 15 minutes to see where you are."

After the pep talk, I pulled myself back together (I mean really, what choice did I have?) and started back out on the road. As I pulled into 'traffic', Sister said that she was hungry. They had missed lunch at school. By this point, Little Man was asleep, so I pulled out his lunch and Sisters lunch, and gave them to Sister and Linebacker...hoping that we would be home when Little Man woke up with hunger pains.

Sister broke my concentration with, "Mom! We have to say the blessing!"

At this point, I was really stressed and did not have much clarity in my thinking, but I mindlessly started the blessing as I was trying to stay on the same path as the car ahead of me...
"God Our Father,
God Our Father,
We Thank You,
We Thank You,
For Our Many Blessings,
For Our Many Blessings,

Now I can assure you that this was NOT the first prayer that I had said that day. I had been in prayer for a few hours for mine and my childrens' safety. But I didn't fully appreciate this prayer at this precise time. I was focused on getting home. I. Got that? I...(Aren't we humans funny in thinking that we are the ones in control?)

I got a text from Nick..."Where are you now?"
My response..."In front of the bank."
15 minutes of  toddlers asking, 'Are we there yet?' went by and I received another text.
"Where are you now?"
My response..."Still in front of the bank."
15 minutes later..."Are you on the highway now?"
Me..."Still in front of the bank."

See a pattern? This went on for an hour or so. Then Nick finally got through to me on the phone again. I tried to explain that I was barely moving, and that it didn't look like the traffic on the highway was moving. At this point, he said that he thought that some of the people from his office were staying at the Marriott next door and he would see if he could get us a room.

"Do you think that you could get there?" he asked.

"Yes. Please, please, please get us a room!" I pleaded.

At this point I felt a little bit of the weight lifting off of my shoulders. I knew that if I went slowly, that I could absolutely make it to the Marriott, because it was just a straight shot down the road.

I cannot even describe how the roads had iced over almost immediately. They were frozen...and slippery. On top of that, the hills were scattered with cars that had unsuccessfully tried to make the upward voyage. It was a complete mess.

I forged on, and finally made it to the highway. I passed the turn lane to get on and had the Marriott in my sights. I was a woman on.a.mission. At this point I heard back from Nick and the Marriott was booked.

My heart sunk. I had been in the car for 5 hours with three toddlers, driving on iced over roads at .00002 miles an hour. I decided right then that we would be spending the night in the hotel lobby, because I knew that there was no way that I could get home. I had passed the highway and had seen the mess, and the other highway to home was a deserted white roller coaster. No one was even attempting to rise to the top anymore.

At this point, I was getting texts and phone calls from my family and Nick's family to make sure that I was safe and sound at home. When they realized that I wasn't, they searched for solutions and started sending prayers. Nick's dad and sister were calling every hotel in Birmingham to try to get me a reservation, my sister was sending prayers via text, my dad was calling to check in but had his hands tied because he could not get to me, and Tamara had found some shelters in the area where we could stay. I was weather beaten with no pun intended. So I did what any worn down mama does in a situation like this-- I drove to Target. 

Target was across the street from the fully booked Marriott. But I figured that if I could get out of the car and just breathe for a minute, that I would be better. Plus, there is not much that a Starbucks White Mocha cannot fix.

When I was almost there, I passed a Shell station and had a fleeting thought that I should probably fill up my gas tank. But the lines were wrapped around the station twice, so I quickly reconsidered. I still had a quarter of a tank--and the Marriott was

When I finally got to Target, I had been in the car for 6 hours. With 3 toddlers. And no entertainment. The Ipad had died hours before.

The trip that is normally 2.7 miles(I actually mapped it), and takes me approximately 5 minutes, honest to goodness took me 6 hours. I have never been so happy to get out of the car. My plan was to immediately go to the potty and purchase Starbucks to calm my nerves. Then I was going to buy some snacks for us to have in the Marriott lobby, our soon to be sleeping quarters.

I went straight to the bathroom as soon as we got into Target, and I am telling you--that place was a madhouse. There were probably 10 empty boot boxes in the restroom trash can. No one had been prepared for this storm. We finished our business and I got my White Mocha...which I could barely drink, by the way. I had been so tense and stressed, that I felt slightly queasy.

I placed my coffee in the buggy's cup holder and went straight to the pharmacy to see if I could transfer Linebacker's antibiotic from my CVS to there. I hated to go much longer without it, as his eye was red and still swelling. He could barely see out of it. As I stood in line, a man walked up with a stack of prescriptions paper clipped together. He stated that they were prescriptions for each person in his office that was going to have to stay the night there. The girl said that she would do her best and I headed straight back to the toy section.

But as I approached the toys, I spotted Gloria.

A familiar face was so needed at this point. It was all that I could do to hold myself together. You know that feeling that you get when you are emotionally raw and a friend asks you how you are doing...and you lose it...yeah. That was me. But I held it in.

Gloria works with Nick at his office. She asked what I was doing there and I explained that I was somewhat stranded. She said that she was getting air mattresses and necessities for everyone at the office that was stranded.

"You and the kids are more than welcome to come and stay too."

Cue the Hallelujah, really.

I could actually breathe. I had somewhere safe to go with my kids. I cannot adequately describe that feeling.

I thanked her, got her cell number, and told her that I would probably take her up on that.

I took the kids out of the stroller and let them roam the toy aisles, while I fielded phone calls from all of my family and explained that I had somewhere safe and comfortable to go with the kids. I let the kids all choose a toy and went through Target like a woman on a mission. I bought an air mattress, sheets, a body pillow, pj's for the kids, snacks, an Ipad charger, diapers, wipes, bagel bites for dinner, and any other necessities for the night--or however long we might be stuck. All the while, the kids were happily announcing to anyone and everyone, that we were getting to spend the night at Daddy's office!


I went back to the pharmacy and checked on Linebacker's antibiotic. Apparently CVS had closed, so she could not get the prescription transferred.


As a side note, I have never felt so bad for a pharmacist. Apparently every other pharmacy in the city had closed, and this poor girl was receiving every emergent prescription in Birmingham. She was working alone...a mess.

I headed to the checkout with my 3 kids screaming and shelled out a few hundred unexpected dollars. Then I headed to the car with my loot. I texted Gloria to tell her that we were coming and called my pediatrician's after hours line to see if they could re-prescribe Linebacker's antibiotic to the Target pharmacy. She said that she would try, but didn't know if it would happen--due to the circumstances. I was really thankful that all that I needed was an antibiotic, but his little eye looked so bad. I really wanted to do all that I could to get the medicine started.

I slowly maneuvered to Nick's office. As I passed the Shell station, I noticed that all of the gas pumps had been flagged off.


 I have never been so happy to see Nick's workplace

I pulled underneath the building and put my car in park. I breathed a sigh of relief, and stepped out into the cold frozen world. There was hustle and bustle everywhere as people were unloading supplies, surveying the snow, and making decisions. I opened the double BOB stroller(which I highly recommend), and started loading it down. I honestly looked like I was moving in for days. But when you have little ones, there are so many things that you need--even for an overnight.

Some of Nick's coworkers helped me get the 3 kids in the elevator as I eased the 'luggage cart' in behind them. We went up to the first floor and exited the elevator. The kids and I filed out into the lobby where there were a few people congregating. Some of the men with 4WD cars were going to attempt to get some people home. I was given the offer, but quickly declined. My nerves could not have endured another car ride.

I asked Gloria where the best place was for my crew to settle in, and she said that the training room was probably a good spot. So we headed into the training room and unloaded our luggage. If we were going to be there for a while, I was going to make it homey...

(To be continued...)