Following the storm, the river rose. Eventually we learned the river had crested at over 16 feet. Our mobile home had taken on quite a bit of water. As you can imagine mostly wood furniture, no electricity, standing water for several days, the damage was severe. River water had come so high that you couldn’t even get in our neighborhood without a boat. When we were finally able to access our home, we found nearly everything left behind destroyed. Mold crept in, taking over the floor, the walls, and the ceiling.
So here we are: destroyed home, closed schools, and my husband had to return to work. Like most families we simply wanted to return to our “normal”. Many local families were working to get back to their “normal”. Yard clean up, laundry and dishes that had piled up during their time without power, keeping children entertained while schools continued to act as shelters for east coast evacuees. Fortunately, the overall destruction was not nearly the scale of once predicted in the Tampa Bay area.
We were awestruck by the outpouring of support from people all over Tampa Bay supporting not only our neighborhood but many others that had been flooded, offering clean clothes, places to stay, hot meals, it was truly amazing to see the way families in Tampa Bay came together for one another.
We had to do massive cleanup of the items we lost, but we pressed on. I lost some of my SISTER Mom training materials too. My signed copy of "I'm Listening". I did find it fitting that my copy of "Life Will Never Be the Same" was near the top of these destroyed materials.
I also have to take time to mention how amazing all of this volunteers and supporters of the Seventh Mom Project are. Volunteers helped with the cleanup, the meal train, and keeping my spirits up. As you know we do not a have a brick and mortar location, and we also lost materials to the storm. During this time I was without a computer, however continued to operate as best as possible from my phone and of course my copilot really stepped up and took on even more of the work she had already been shouldering since the birth of Haddie.
My family moved in to our temporary home. This happened to be a hotel in Tampa. Some amazing moms put together a meal train for us. That was such a life saver! Can you imagine cooking for a family of seven in a hotel room with a crock pot, microwave, and a tiny mini-fridge for weeks? It's not pleasant, but between the meal train and culinary creativity, we made it work.
After several long weeks living in the hotel, we closed on our new home. The love continued to pour as friends helped with the move, replaced lost furniture, and filled our new home with laughter.
Thank you to all the supporters who help us weather storms daily!
Hey there Tampa Bay,
It is the first week of June, and if you've been in Florida for more than a year, you know that means it is the official start of Hurricane Season. Let's be real, if you've been here the last few weeks and pay attention to the weather channel, you know that this year the season got a jump start thanks to Alberto.
This time last year we put out a blog with some tips and tricks for dealing with hurricane season with children.
Then Murphy and her law decided we needed to have a little more experience weathering storms. Yup you guessed it, Hurricane Irma happened and if you have been following The Seventh Mom Project, Inc. for a while, you may recall that my personal home was flooded by the rising Alafia River following Irma.
I finally went back and reread that original post and reflected on what worked and what I'll be doing differently this year to survive motherhood through Hurricane Season. Recently, I added some tips here.
Here is my story about weathering the storm.
A little back story, our family of seven (and two dogs) had been living in a mobile home, saving to purchase or build a house. On September 1st we went under contract for a new house. Since our schedules are crazy, I knew I needed to get a move on with all the packing and sorting of our belongings. About the time I was collecting moving boxes, we began to receive warnings about a potential category 3 or 4 hurricane.
Due to my husband's employment, when hurricanes occur there is always the possibility of him having to go to work and me having to hold things down by myself. For this reason, and the fact that we live in a mobile home, evacuation has always been the likely hurricane plan. Trouble is, how do you evacuate with five children and two large dogs. I began to research and found listings of my local shelters. There are special needs and pet friendly shelters in Tampa Bay, however they fill quickly. You also will find that your pets are often housed separate from the people, especially when using our schools as shelters.
My other concern is I have a cerebral spinal condition that is affected by changes to the barometric pressure. This makes keeping us safe more complicated during a storm. So the decision came that I would need to take the children and dogs and go stay with family on the other side of the state. However, those spaghetti models were crazy and we didn't know what the storm's track was going to do. Was it going towards the West Coast of Florida or was coming to hit the East Coast? I have plenty of family on the other side of the state that would have sheltered us, but if the storm was heading straight to them, it didn’t make sense to head that way. To really throw a wrench in the works, our youngest was only four months old at the time. She had just recently graduated out of feeding therapy and required very attentive care. We decided to head North.
Now if you are evacuating please, please, please do not immediately think of the farthest possible place to go. I know it seems very instinctual to get as far away from danger as possible and for that reason many families left the state of Florida traveling many States away. However, this massive evacuation caused quite a mess on the roads going in-and-out of Florida, as well as Alabama, Georgia, North and South Carolina. There were times where it took travelers hours to go a few miles. There were gas shortages, not just in Florida, finding gas became difficult even in Georgia and South Carolina. Not only were there shortages of gasoline, there were no hotel rooms.
Of course, our family, like many others, decided the best decision for us would be to evacuate out of state. However, we lived in a mobile home along water. Had we lived in the home we were under contract at the time, we would have likely sheltered in place. Long distant travel when not warranted is not typically advised.
We made this decision based on our family’s needs and packed accordingly for a road trip. We truly anticipated our house being gone when we returned, so instead of boarding my house up, I went to a nearby storage facility and secured a climate controlled storage unit. While many people were out going store to store desperately seeking water, canned foods, and plywood, I was packing up our irreplaceable objects: photos, mementos, books, and really anything I possibly could get into a box and get to that storage unit. For approximately 40 hours before we left, our children were watching TV, while I shoved everything I could into available boxes, and my husband made multiple trips to and from the storage unit. Unfortunately, even with this forethought, we simply could not get everything out.
I followed my favorite, local meteorologist and when the warnings came out of what time you needed to be sheltered or gone, we knew our time was growing short. We finally reached the point of "hey, we don't have any more time for any more trips to the storage unit. We have to leave". We loaded up both of our minivan's, all the kids, both dogs, and the road trip packs we decided we would take with us on this epic journey and said, "good bye, house thanks for the memories".
Aside from packing as many of our belongings as we could into storage, I also packed a large cooler of all the food we could eat on the go from our fridge. I boiled all the eggs, and packed all the cold cuts, canned tuna, and bread. Anything we could eat on the road or at a rest area was packed up. This proved to be quite helpful because our destination was North Carolina but it took us 2 days to travel what is normally a 13 to 14-hour drive. Having just put a deposit on a house and renting out the storage units in addition to our normal expenses, we were on limited funds. Stopping for fast food, if there was even anything open, wasn’t feasible for us, add in the fact that wait times for many drive-through were well over an hour, having packed food was well worth the time and ice.
Something else I'm glad we had the forethought to do was fill up both vehicles with gas because you had to get off the interstates and travel quite a way to find fuel and then there were waits in gas lines.
Just outside of Kings Bay, Georgia we pulled off at a rest stop. I had reached the point of physical and mental exhaustion and simply could not safely continue to drive. While parked at the rest area my husband and I desperately tried to book a hotel. We called multiple services, multiple hotel chains; no one had rooms. There was quite a bit of wind and rain where we were but at that point we had to decide. Our safest option was to stay put in that rest area, lock the doors, hunker down, get comfy as possible and nap in our vans. I know your probably wondering, “How in the world do you get comfortable?” The reality is when the adrenaline finally crashed and we'd been awake so long, it wasn’t that difficult to fall asleep in the parked minivan with kids, blankets, pillows strewn all over and a big dog curled up on top of my feet. We managed to get about 6 hours of rest (minus the 2 or 3 times I had to wake to feed and change the baby).
We crossed into South Carolina about the time the Sun came up. I must tell you, the welcome center across that state line was like and oasis in the desert. Knowing they were about to have this huge onslaught of evacuees coming into the state, they were prepared. The restrooms and were spotless, pallets of bottled water were handed out to travelers, there were phone charging stations, and outlets to use televisions with weather updates. I must hand it to South Carolina's Department of Transportation, because they were on point.
Now focusing back to some of those tips and tricks I shared last year. We utilized the Ziploc bag and tote method for packing our belongings. This proved to be handy even once we got to our destination being able to pull out a gallon Ziploc with a complete change of clothes for a child was so much better than digging through a suitcase or duffel bag. I've taken to routinely keeping a bag in the back of my van with a Ziploc for each person, including myself because you never know when someone's going to get dirty, after all kids are kids, right?
Using the large tote with the lid also proved handy when we needed a diaper changing station for the littlest, a table to lay out the Atlas and check our directions (because when the weather is rough, you cannot count on GPS to navigate you), and a height appropriate place to put the dogs’ food and water bowls in the car.
We followed the weather alerts while we were gone and received messages from friends, family, and neighbors. We were relieved to see the Facebook live videos from neighbors showing that our neighborhood had survived the storm rather well. We were surprised we were returning to a house that was still standing. Of course, the drive home took even longer than the drive out. Traffic, extremely slow-moving traffic, was even worse, because now the National Guard, reserve power companies, and other rescue organizations were traveling to Florida. We saw rows and rows of line trucks and semis carrying generators, chain saws, and all sorts of supplies that people would need for the recovery and clean up.
Once again, I was grateful for my cooler and at this point the non-perishable foods that I had brought. There weren't many places to stop and if you did by chance find and open fast food joint or a drive-thru, the wait times were upwards of an hour or two.
Once we got back to Florida we discovered the river near our home had begun to rise and rise and rise and going straight home was not going to be an option for us so we went to stay with family roughly on the other side of the state. We believed we were close to returning to our normal and relieved to get some real rest.
This was not what happened, but you can read more about the aftermath soon.
This mom wears rainboots,
In case you are new to Florida or perhaps you are oblivious to weather news, June 1st kicked off hurricane season 2017. That means from June 1st through November we will be in what is called storm season or hurricane season or as my family calls it the near daily rain season. The State of Florida is pretty good about hurricane education and information.
It seemed like a really good topic to write about mom-to-mom, because I have noticed myself that how I prepare for hurricanes or potential rough weather has totally changed as a mom versus pre-motherhood. Pre-motherhood I stocked up on coffee and adult vices, now I need to have everything necessary for a family of seven in one place. Children really do change things! For those of you who are currently expecting here are some special tips for hurricane preparedness during pregnancy.
Now if you just want a lot more information on what to expect or how to be prepared for hurricane season check out the survival mom .
I want to specifically touch on today are the 5 must haves in your hurricane weather kit as a mom.
Depending on your living situation factors like your relation to a flood zone, type of house, special needs are things you must consider when deciding if you're going to stay to ride out the storm or evacuate your home. Either way it helps to be prepared ahead of time Which brings me to the 1st item on our list;
1. Large plastic storage totes with lids.
Now I know it's customary to see people recommend backpacks for evacuations however you're a mom whether you've got one, two, or five kids, you're likely going to need to pack a bunch of stuff. Plastic can get wet, should something such as bottled water or formula inside get a leak it will be a contained leak, and a sturdy tote with a lid on top can become an instant game, picnic, or changing table when necessary. And you can even find large ones with wheels and handles for maximum portability. You can easily fit emergency supplies clothing and diapers for a family of 5 in one of the laundry basket sized storage tote.
2. Plastic zipper bags of various sizes
You've got this big ole plastic tote you're going to store all the supplies in, how are you going to keep it organized so that you're not going crazy digging through this tote when junior has a diaper blow-out? You are going to have a stash of plastic zipper bags in many sizes. Next time they're on sale go ahead and grab snack, sandwich, quart, gallon, and might as well get a box of the big 3-gallon bags while you're at it. In a pinch, a 3-gallon zipper baggie can become an excellent emergency diaper pail, dirty clothes bag, or ice bag, should you have to get ice from a public ice machine. No matter how green conscious or frugal you normally are, when it comes to survival and preparedness this is at time it is worth you and your family's safety, sanity, and survival. Plan ahead and spring for the zipper bags. As a bonus if you really want to be that super organized mom take the gallon zip-lock bags in a bag throw in a complete change of clothes including diaper or underwear and socks for each member of the family (including yourself). Easy to grab changes of clothes when needed can be one of those small steps to saving big stress later.
3. Fans and Blankets
Speaking of stress, for me personally when I am not comfortable temperature wise I tend to feel stressed out a lot faster which is why I feel a portable battery-operated fan is a must have for me. Whether you're at home and the power has gone out thus the air conditioning with-it, or you're in a crowded storm shelter and the air is a bit stale, a small fan will feel like a great luxury. I recommend checking out the baby stores for those clip-on stroller or car seat fans. They're small they only take a couple of batteries and you can clip it onto the side of that plastic tote you've turned into a table.
If you tend to go in the opposite direction and know that you are often cold, inexpensive travel blankets are a game changer. A large comforter will take up too much space, but if you can find a blanket you swiped from your last flight, the hospital blanket you brought home from a trip to the ER, or even an old flannel sheet, it will roll up small and not take a lot of space in your tote. When needed, it will keep you cozy.
While we're on the topic of staying cozy, you know how much we love Babywearing here at The Seventh Mom Project, we obviously think it is a good idea to have a baby carrier ready for emergencies. Especially if you need to evacuate, a carrier can make it easier while standing in lines at public shelters. Whether sheltering in or at evacuating, keeping little ones close to you will help keep them calm and feeling safe in a precarious situation. Knowing exactly where they are at all times will give you a sense of safety and comfort.
5. Family and MOM activities
If you have ever had to spend an afternoon with your kids sans electronics, you know you need to include small toys, coloring books, stickers, storybooks, and anything that can break up the monotony of hunkering down in a storm. However, the most important part of number 5 is that you must include something for you in the tote. Self-care important it is in a high stress situation. Whether you are cooped up in a storm shelter or stuck in your house with boarded-up windows and no power for a week, you're going to need that self-care for survival. Throw in a paperback and a clip-on light or maybe a small manicure set and a fun color nail polish, a puzzle/brain teaser/coloring book you enjoy, a favorite no melt candy or treat. Whatever it is it should be just for you to enjoy. It is not necessary but makes you feel good and will help you stay focused.
These are just 5 things that came to mind quickly related to surviving a tropical storm as a mother. There are more items you will need that will easily pack in your storage tote.
Click here for a more complete list of storm preparedness supplies.
If you or anybody in your home are currently taking medication it is important to make sure that you have a copy of your prescription in the tote. Should a storm warning come about please ensure prescriptions are filled as early as possible prior to the storms landfall and that you have a week's worth of medications in case of emergency. Additionally, include a list of emergency numbers and addresses. This includes your contact information as well as any of your children's care providers.
Florida residents this weekend June 2nd, 3rd & 4th happens to be our sales tax holiday on hurricane supplies. Click here for the detailed list of what is and is not tax exempt this weekend .
What other things do we prepare for differently now as moms? Let us know in the comments.
Lost my poncho, but I can #holdtheumbrella,
Each walk is different, but we walk together, and that makes all the