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Expect the unexpected

We've been juggling a lot over here at our house this past week. One of our twin toddlers, C, has decided that now is the time he wants to potty train (read "Potty training twins: part 1 {No plan}"). We started this past Thursday. By Saturday, our other toddler, O, had a major asthma flare up. We were worried for awhile that we would need to take him to the children's hospital, but we managed to make it through the weekend. He had come down with a cold a couple weeks ago that he just wasn't shaking. I had actually taken him to the pediatrician on Thursday because, while the cold wasn't affecting his breathing, it was alarming because it made his chest sound... wet? I don't know, that's what it sounded like to me. Anyways, we left the pediatrician appointment feeling good about heading into the weekend, a follow-up appointment scheduled for the next week if the cold still hadn't left. As it happens with toddlers, things changed for us quickly. He started Saturday morning sounding fine. By Saturday evening he was wheezing and coughing; he stopped eating. We kicked off Albuterol nebulizer treatments and had to continue them every 3.5 hours. Monday we talked to our pediatrician all day. We started him on Orapred immediately. We had tried weaning him off his Pulmicort, which he had handled fine for almost 3 months now. However, this flare up let us know that he was in no way ready to be weaned off Pulmicort; we started him back on twice a day nebulizer treatments of Pulmicort. Until Tuesday afternoon, he needed Albuterol every 3.5 to 4 hours. We were able to space his last Albuterol treatment on Tuesday 6 hours and then we went through Tuesday night without an Albuterol treatment as well. O even slept in until 7 am Wednesday morning.

But what about our other toddler's potty training through all this? Well, C was insistent on potty training. During the weekend, my husband was home to help, so it wasn't too difficult. We stayed home and took care of our boys, helping C master potty training and monitoring O's asthma. By Monday it was apparent that we weren't going to be leaving the house anytime soon so I continued with C's potty training. O is good about holding his nebulizer mask in place. I spent a lot of time standing in the hallway outside the boys' bathroom watching C use the restroom and O do his nebulizer treatment on the couch. It all just kind of fell into place.

Homeschooling activities at the kitchen table

Wednesday morning, day 3 of Orapred, I woke up with the vague idea of writing a blog post about our last couple days at home. I wanted to touch on O's asthma, C's potty training, our oldest son D's homeschooling-- basically about balancing life as a family. Before I actually write a blog post, I let the idea roll around in my mind for awhile. I figure out the direction I'm going to write, the underlying message, and attempt to capture that moment in our lives. That afternoon, when I went to sit down and write the post, opening the laptop, situating myself on the floor next to our 5-year old, he looked over at me and said, "Hey, Momma, do you want to play Sorry?" I thought for a moment and realized that I really did, so we played Sorry a couple times before our power went out. Here is an idea of what I wanted to write before our day was flipped upside down:
We've spent a lot of time at home the past couple days. This morning when I heard my bedroom door open at 6 am, I sat up in bed and blinked at the time. Had I really slept that long? Did our asthmatic toddler actually sleep through the night? But it was our potty training toddler, tip-toeing across the floor, "Momma! Have to go potty! Want treats!" I helped him struggle out of his zip-up footie jams and use the restroom, rewarded him with his treats, and tucked him back into bed. While I was in the boys' room, I checked on our asthmatic toddler, who was tossing and coughing in his bed, but asleep. I debated waking him for a nebulizer treatment, but decided against it. He has been sleeping so horribly and I wanted to let him get some much needed rest. So I went back to bed and stole another hour of sleep before I heard the boys up, O making his way to our room coughing. Our day had officially begun. As we fell into our morning routine, I despaired of what we were going to do today. While potty training has been going well, another day spent in the boys' bathroom didn't sound appealing. Our 5-year old has been feeling cooped up in the house with his brothers and was starting to bounce off the walls. I have spent the last couple days tackling that overlooked cleaning list and I was running out of projects. We've played board games, card games, made up games, and have been making our way through the boys' library of books. Another day? What would we do? 
As often happens with our 3 boys, they figured it out. After our morning routine (changing O's diaper, taking C to the bathroom and putting on his big boy underwear, Pulmicort nebulizer treatment, breakfast, Bible story, Albuterol nebulizer treatment, clean up breakfast, get the boys' dressed), the boys ran out of the room and threw on pirate costumes. They spent seriously 3 hours having elaborate pirate battles. What I love about homeschooling preschool is how easily our "lessons" can fall into place of real, organic play. We worked on phonics while they played pirates. "Pirates say ar. What letters do you think are in arrrrrrrr?" Obviously he guessed "r," but I showed him the two letters together and we started coming up with words that had ar in them. Star, far, car, bar... He sounded the words out as we chatted. He wrote some down on pirate maps... It just all works together and, honestly, it is fun. I love doing this stuff with them. Of course, beyond homeschooling, they spent a lot of time sword fighting. However, even that had an educational slant as they built their pirate swords out of K'Nex. They searched for the right pieces to engineer certain designs of pirate swords. They counted how many pieces their swords had, the colors of the K'Nex they used. Once the pirate game took hold, my doubts of another day at home dissipated and we just had fun. 
The hard part about being home for days upon days is that in between activities, before the boys' energy is channeled into an activity, it can be wild. Not manageable wild, just straight up Lord of the Flies wild. They roll on the couch. They hide behind couch cushions and throw all the pillows off the couch. The Legos are scattered in every room of the house-- how, I know not. Outside of expected places, I find them in the washer and dryer, my bed, under all the furniture, in the guest bathroom-- just everywhere. It can be hard to figure out what our next activity should be when the boys are fighting over toys and going, going, going. I really don't know how I expect them to behave when we are home all day. I don't mind them running in circles around the kitchen loop. I suppose this vague notion of picking up your toys before moving on to the next toy comes into mind, but that's not always how it works, is it? They need Legos to build walls for their K'Nex sword fights and Matchbox cars drive through their war zone with supplies as their Buzz Lightyears and stuffed animals stand guard at their forts and, of course, they are all wearing costumes... just a mess of toys for one game. Really, it is those moments of wild time that make being home all day hard. When they are wild on normal days, we head outside to the park, play in our driveway, or take a walk.

On Wednesday South Carolina was bracing for an ice storm. All Wednesday morning we had freezing rain and ice outside. While I was playing a round of Sorry with our 5-year old, our power went out. I wasn't too concerned at first, just started closing up the house and hanging blankets over some of our windows, when it hit me: our nebulizer! How would we run O's nebulizer without power? He was coming due for his next Albuterol treatment and the power was out for about an hour when I decided we needed to leave the house and find power. I debated allowing our potty training toddler leave in underwear when I realized that he should probably wear a diaper in case we were forced to intrude somewhere very inconvenient. I didn't know where we would find power, but I was sure it would be an intrusion with 3 kids; I didn't want to keep adding requests. "Could we borrow a power outlet for a bit? And a bathroom? And could you watch these two while I take this one to the restroom?" I convinced our potty training toddler to wear a diaper, granted he insisted on wearing his underwear underneath his diaper, but at least we had protection in case of an accident. When I started putting together our bags and blankets for leaving the house, I remembered our van was parked in the garage, not in the driveway. I know there is a release for the power garage door, but I could not get the dang thing to release. I pulled and pulled on the red cord before the panic started setting in. If I couldn't get the van out, was there somewhere I could walk to get power? I poked my head out the front door and it was bitterly cold outside and raining freezing rain. I decided against that; the cold weather would be too much on our asthmatic toddler's lungs. What else could I do but call my dad? He talked me through opening the garage door and in no time at all we were backing out of our driveway, discussing where we might find power. When I pulled up to the stop sign leaving our neighborhood, a security car drove by and a light bulb went off: the fire station! I drove to the fire station and was excited to see their lights on and hear their generator humming away. The fire man was beyond nice. We sat in the office overlooking the fire trucks as I gave our toddler his nebulizer treatment. I was so relieved that all our boys were behaving. When we left, he gave me their office number and told me that I more than welcome to come back if we need to do more treatments.

The rest of the afternoon was spent peacefully enough. We played lots of board games. I started getting concerned as we were heading into the evening still without power. Our toddler's breathing was acting up, I think largely due to our outing in the cold weather. He was going to need another treatment soon. My husband came home shortly after that and we decided a hotel would be our best option. I started calling around to the Residence Inns nearby and they were all booked. We tried Hyatt Place, but they didn't have any pet rooms still available (we have a small dog). I called my mom who lives several states away and was asking her if she could book us somewhere on her computer-- it was impossible searching Residence Inn like hotels from my phone since we aren't overly familiar with the area-- when the power came on. Immediately we gave O an Albuterol treatment and his evening Pulmicort treatment. My husband and I decided that we needed to solve the problem of running the nebulizer when the power goes out as soon as possible; for that night, we came up with a plan that if the power went out again, I would take the asthmatic toddler and stay in a hotel with him. We are able to keep our home warm even with the power out, so he would be comfortable at with our other two boys and the dog. Thankfully the power did not go out again on Wednesday.

Thursday morning our power went out again, this time not for long. When it went out, my husband had just finished O's nebulizer treatment and was turning Monsters Inc. on for our boys. I knew we needed a back up plan for O's nebulizer today. While my husband got ready for power school, I called my dad and asked him to look at Best Buy's site to store for some sort of power option. (My husband loves doing these types of things as well, but had to leave for work and we didn't have any power for him to do it before he left.) Best Buy's site to store option is wonderfully convenient. I gave my dad my credit card number and he did all the ordering. After my husband went to work, I bundled up the boys and we set off for the store. This time I did let our potty training toddler wear underwear. On the way to Best Buy he chirped from his car seat, "Momma! Have to go potty!" Being in South Carolina, there isn't a surplus of stores to stop at on any given road. I pulled off onto the shoulder and tried to convince him to relieve himself in the woods. This was far too silly for him (and possibly too cold outside); he assured me he could wait until we got to the store. Not a moment too late we pulled into the Best Buy parking lot and he announced again, "Momma! Have to go potty now, please!" We unloaded as quickly as possible and high tailed it into Best Buy's restroom. We spent probably 10 minutes in there between letting our toddler use the restroom and washing all 3 of the boys' hands (how many times do I have to tell them not to touch anything in a public restroom?). Unlike all the wasted time in the restroom, the customer pick up line was a breeze. I went to the customer service desk where it was marked customer pick up and showed them the email Best Buy sent me with the product information. They looked at my credit card and ID and then gave me a receipt to sign and my battery thing-a-ma-bobber that my dad had selected. Super easy, even with 3 kids in tow, one of them a newly potty trained toddler and the other an asthmatic.

Now we are home and I'm charging this battery back up thing, the APC Battery Backup. Here is a picture of it:

The instruction manual is very technical, but my dad says that we will be able to run our nebulizer while the power is out and charge our cell phones and such. Apparently it is also a surge protector. I know my husband will like checking it out when he gets home from school today. I feel a huge sense of relief knowing that we have a back up plan. The instruction manual says it takes 24 hours for the battery to fully charge; knock on wood our power doesn't go out before then!

March 2014 cover
Image courtesy of

Real Simple knew that I would be needing some helpful tips this week. This month's Real Simple, March 2014, included "5 Ways to Keep One Bad Thing from Ruining Your Day." In their "Life Lessons: Expertise" section they have 5 tips from experts dealing on a topic. This topic just happened to be highly applicable to life at home with kids. Making firm plans when you have kids requires a crystal ball (read "Of children and plans"). Our days never go as planned. Now we are balancing potty training and an asthma flare up; our days have been far outside of what we normally would expect for a week. My favorite tip in the Real Simple article was "Expect the worst." Under "Expect the worst," written by Ari Fleisher, a former White House Press Secretary, it says, "Expect that on any given day, something unexpected will happen. Then it won't rattle you, and you can stay calm as you deal with it" (pg. 56 of the March 2014 magazine).

I'm not sure what else today holds for us. So far our potty training toddler hasn't had any accidents. Our oldest son is a little tired of being cooped up in the house for the past couple days (it is still rainy and cold outside). Our asthmatic toddler, on day 4 of Orapred, still isn't sounding as great as I hoped he would and is on Albuterol every 4-5 hours right now. I'm not really sure what a "normal" day is when you have kids. Just like the Real Simple article recommends, I can always expect the unexpected.

And while our days never go as planned, they are far from boring.


Clare said…
Yikes - sounds like you've had a pretty hectic time of it. Best of luck with the potty training - as much as I hate changing diapers on my 14 month old twins right now I'm not sure I'm looking forward to that particular exercise :)
Kimber said…
Potty training is definitely an adventure! We are actually moving forward pretty good though now... Just took awhile to get it down! lol! :) Here is my latest blog post on potty training:
Thankfully our asthmatic toddler is doing MUCH better recently. Back on twice a day meds and I have a battery backup so if the power goes out again, I can run the nebulizer at home. :)

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