Thursday, November 15, 2012

SAHM in Brooklyn

(Or Living as a Refugee part II)

(sorry its been such a long while, ive been without Internet, doing this at work).

So Sunday 11/4 was here. A full week after we left our home, rolling our eyes, expecting to be back any day. Ad went into the area to do work for people. People needed offices moved to locations with power and some residents did have power. It was good he was getting back to work. When you work for yourself and miss a week for weather related crap, its a good quarter of a paycheck down. The plan at that point was for him to come back and sleep with us and the whole family to go back to our area the next day. At that point, both of the kids schools were hoping to open via generators and a good friend of mine who lives not too far said we could come sleep there if needed. So I figured one more day, not bad. I hung out at home with kids taking it easy. Made macaroni and cheese for lunch and cleaned the pot very well so it didnt look like I was messing up their kitchen. I also checked my email and Shains school was not ready for tomorrow. Boo. Oh well. We'll figure out tomorrow later, lets focus on today. What to do with kids.

I checked online and just as I thought, the library that was a couple of avenues away was not only opened on Sunday (most arent) but they had some sort of Kindergarten program going for kids 3-5, perfect for my little ones. I borrowed my cousins double stroller and walked there. When was the last time I walked anywhere? It was tiring but good to get out and walk. The library was stroller friendly, with an elevator and the program was fantastic. Apparently it was the last of a 6 week session so not only was there the usual reading and songs but there was this cute sink-float experiment, a static electricity thing with balloons and a growing thing with beans. PLUS each kid got a book and pencil when leaving and a balloon. Score one for the displaced Lej family! We hung out a little longer at the library. It was not so pleasant as it was super hot and the kids spent most of the time playing with or watching these dumb computers. Why do they need to have it in libraries right near all the boolks?! My cousin ended up joining us with her kids and we went home soon after. There was leftovers for dinner, kids got bathed and put to bed (oh right it was daylight savings so they were exhausted!). Ad came home and we decided to get sushi. We found a new place right down the block that had sushi and had a 50% off deal. Ad went a little nuts and ordered 3 rolls, two of which were expensive! So it ended up being a lot. But these little things made the whole situation more manageable. I also found out that Yak's school wasnt starting the next day either. OK at least neither will be going in....and I guess im sticking around just ONE more day.

Monday 11/5. A friend of mine from Bayswater (R) is staying at her in-laws 11 blocks away. Her big boys didnt have school and thats really rough. They put together a makeshift school in a center somewhere from 10-11:30 and she was going to come visit between then. It was soooo good to see her. Her basement was completely flooded. Ad went to see it and saw a mattress and computer floating around. So sad. It will take a lot longer for life to get back to normal for her. Anyway it was soo nice to see her and commiserate with another refugee, one worse off than we were. Our kids played together for an hour and a half and we decided to meet at library again later.

I decided to treat myself and kids for lunch. I found a place not too far that I thought took credit card. Went in, ordered a nice salad and veggie slice for myself and pizza and fries for kids. Total was $20. I was about to pull out cc when I saw a sign that they only take cash. ATM next door. I dont have cash. My heart started to sink. There was my delicious salad. The guy was asking how did I want the pizza cut. I was STARVING. And I didnt have enough money to pay for it. I started stammering 'can i pay by check?' they said no. What am I going to do. My kids were climbing on the table. I started pulling ones out of my pocketbook The owner asked 'how much do you owe?' I said '10' and he just kinda looked at me like not sure what to tell me. I started tearing up as i said 'I'm not from here. I'm displaced and I thought you took credit card'. And of course once that came out, I just started crying. I'm so bad like that once the tears started. The guy said I should just come pay it later and be brought the food. I saw there just wiping the tears away. My kids seemed oblivious. All the craziness of the last week+ were just catching up and once I start crying forget it. The owner was like 'eat while its hot' which only made me cry more. Eventually I got my act together and enjoyed the food. That was my one sorta breakdown the entire time i was away. The rest of the day was fine, library was more staring at computer and a drop of reading. My aunt made ziti for dinner. Ad brought home some 'relief sandwiches' later. Found out Yak had school next day, Shain still didnt. Fine Ad will bring him in morning and R said shed take him home.

Tuesday 11/6
Hard night of sleep cuz boiler overheated and had to wake up aunt and uncle at 2 AM to fix it. They said it was good cuz prob saved them a broken boiler or maybe even a fire. Sent Yak to school, gave Shain my iPad to watch shows and went back to sleep til 10. Just me and Shain today so figured we could take a train or bus somewhere. Was going to try another library program which started at 1. Took some rice cakes and cheese to go and went to the Q train. One stop to the next station and a bus to the library. It ended up taking way way longer than I thought. Bus took forever to come, didnt get on till almost 1. But I realized as we were riding that Shain didnt need to really go anywhere. As a 'burb girl, we barely ever took trains or busses and unlike the subway from my moms house, this one goes outside! She was in heaven saying 'whee, this is sooo fun!' So I figured just riding it may be enough. I also realized if we rode the bus a bit further, we could take another train to my moms work. That would be fun! The D train station actually had an elevator which added to the fun and my mom was thriilled to see us. We enjoyed her lunch break together while shain colored with highlighter markers. Here are some pics from our day. It was really a lot of fun.

Shain on the train with her baby, Waiting for the bus

Bubby and Shain at her office

On the way back we had to wait a long time for the bus. It was getting cold and Shain was getting impatient. I was massively stressed trying to connect Ad with my friend R who was supposed to bring Yak home but didnt have her cell phone on her. At sons school, they told Ad that she had already left. Ad's phone was low battery and service was spotty so we were texting. In the middle of everything I got insuffecient funds for texting. I have 1000 a month and was due to refill automatically the next day. Usually its more than enough texts but not this month. So Shain is kvetching, its getting cold and I dont know how my son is getting home and I cant reach Ad (he wanted to sleep in the area that night). I'm freaking out. Finally the bus comes and its PACKED. Mommy warned me its usually packed and you cant always make it on. I tried squishing in the back and this mean guy wouldn't let me on. I was like 'I have a little girl with me...'. This other nice lady says 'she's pregnant, let her come on' and somehow I managed to get on. It was very crowded but Shain was a sport. eventually someone even gave me a seat so we both got to sit and stand together. R called to tell me she was waiting for Yak at her moms place. Couldnt reach Ad, had mom text him. called him again and he answered yay! He had already started to drive Yak to Brooklyn but turned around when he heard R was still around. I was masively relieved that they all connected and that we were on our way home.

Got back, went online, refilled my texting and chilled. I had to walk to get Yak from R's in-laws. It was starting to get really cold and i didnt have my winter coat. It was a 12 block walk with stroller and we had done a bunch of walking and stairs earlier. I was getting tired. But i couldnt ask anyone for a ride cuz of the whole gas situaiton. Got to R's in-laws. It was warm and yummy food was cooking. Gave Yak a big hug and we ended up staying for dinner. God bless R's MIL who cooked delicious food and insisted on driving me home. At this point, we once again heard that Yaks school was opened on Wed but not Shains - her school had been flooded so each time they thought they would be ready with generators or whatnot, another issue popped up. We also knew that a Noreaster' was coming our way the next day with winds and snow :(. Just what we needed. I decided I was going to keep Yak home the next day after all the drama of gettging him back, just wasnt worth it. Ad was going to sleep at home but realized it made more sense to come back to a warm, powered up Brooklyn and do work from there the next day. Was really great to see him at night. Oh btw it was also Election Day. I barely even cared.

Wed 11/7
Cold and rainy. So glad Ad and car was around. Couldnt imagine doing trains and buses in this weather. We went to another library but it was a babyish program. i didnt care. It was something to do. We went out for lunch and had a great time eating homemade warm rolls and soup, perfect for a rainy gross day. Came back about 2 and it was starting to snow. So glad to be inside. Gave the kids the tablet and conked out. At this point Shain's school was supposedly DEFINITELY going to be open tomorrow. They were ready and generators working so we were all going to go in THrusday morning. Except. It was now snowing. This was the email we got late Wed night: 'Due to this ridiculous weather and the unsafe road conditions we have made the very difficult decision to close all divisions tomorrow. We are truly sorry.'
Could you just cry for how frustrated these poor principals and school officials must have been? All other local schools were also closing. Remember it still wasnt safe to drive with downed wires and non worknig traffic lights. My sons school was wavering: This was their email.

'We are having a very hard time making a decision about closing school for tomorrow.
The roads now are not great but the weather prediction is for snow to turn to rain by midnight , ending at 2 A.M. Additionally now much of the power that was restored has gone out again, perhaps it would be better for children to be in yeshiva then in a cold dark house.
We will decide tomorrow morning between 6-6:30 A.M.'

I was so touched at how much they were trying to help the kids. So we figured they'd probably both be home another day. And I did another load of laundry but, for yet another day, I didnt pack up and wondered how we were going to spend Thursday.

Thurs 11/8
I check my email around 7ish JUST in case....and Yak has school! It was decent out and I so wanted to just be back in my area already. One of the hardest things of living in Brooklyn was that everyone there was living normally and I was stuck in this crazy funk wondering about the people and places back at home. So when I heard at least one of the kids had school it was the push I needed. I through things into suitcases and hampers and started getting the kids ready. We had a LOT to pack up. Ad had brought computer equipment and I had brought all of our laundry a full week before, adn already washed our stuff twice. Somehow we made it out around 9ish and began driving home. What a good feeling.

Got over the bridge. Beach Channel Drive looked like a war zone. HUGE garbage area in one area. lots of lights and emergency vehicles. still barely any lights but now there were crossing guards helping with traffic which helped. It was so nice to be back in 'Ground Zero' with others going through the same thing as we were. WE dropped Yak at school and went home. My eyes were tearing up as we got inside. The house looked so innocent and like nothing was going on. I wish we could just stay there. Shain was happy to play. I unloaded and arranged laundry. Dug out my winter coat and the kids hats, scarves and gloves and boots (it was in the 60s the rest of the weekend of course). We went to get my car from mechanic. Gulp, over $500. I spent the rest of the afternoon at the Chabad center where they had delicious food, wifi, warmth, kids activities, etc. Chanie W who runs it was so nice and inviting, telling everyone to eat and make themselves at home. The food kept switching for each meal. She made sure the table was nice and clean, telling one of the volunteers 'this is someone's home, would you want to eat on a table like this?'.  We left to go to the OB.and thats all anyoen talked about. My OBs home and other office got flooded. Its amazing how far this affected people; folks from so many of the different areas of Long Island were affected just as much as the Rockaways. As I mentioned above, just good to be with others who arent going about their daily lives normally. In between talking about generators and flood insurance, the doctor assured me that 'babys heartbeat sounds good' and 'strep culture was done'. When I was told to make another appoinment in a week, it hit me that I was officially in my ninth month. When did that happen?! I was so busy running around I almost forgot I was pregnant at all! After I picked up Yak, I decided to go back to Chabad and that I didnt want to go back to Brooiklyn or to my mom in Manhattan. I wanted to stay put with my people and let the kids both go to school tomorrow, even though it was a short day. Chabad ended up having a ridiculous amount of good food for dinner and I then crashed at a friends house. Ad didnt want to come and roughed it at home. I ended up sleeping in the family room of this friend, kids shared a big mattress and I slept on the couch. There was a bed in an extra room down the hall but I didnt want Shain to freak out when she didnt see me there the next morning. So I didnt get the best night of sleep but it was worth knowing the kids were happy.

Friday, Saturday, 11/9-10
Good to be going back to Mommy and I looked forward to catching up on some R & R. Interstingly even though I had no work for two weeks, I still found myself exhausted and barely able to do anything. I just kinda got through each day without doing much more. On the way to Mommy, I commented to Ad that we were coming full circle -- almost 2 weeks ago we were driving this very route laughing at the fact that we had to evacuate...felt like so much longer than just weeks but also felt like a big funk and not two full weeks.

Shabbos was nice. My brother and I got into a whole arguement of whether I was allowed to feel sorry for myself because, in essence, I didnt lose anything. Just misplaced and uncomfortable but its a temporary inconvenience. Whatever, everyone besides him empathized and agreed that it was a tough sitch to be in. And I wasnt moaning and groaning, just feeling a little sorry for myself. I was grateful for many things, and I tried to keep reminding myself but it was OK to be real about the challenges of constantly being on the move. At this point, noone really knew when power was coming on and we were even hearing rumors of 2-4 weeks....well into when baby is due!!! I hoped it wasnt true. Sat nite Ad and I went out to Tiberias. We both love that place, modern but cozy and warm. We truly enjoyed it.

Sunday 11/11 - I told Ad he could go home. My nieces were making my sister and BIL an anniversary party for dinner in Queens, so I figured we'd sleep there. ITs crowded (3 BR for their family of 8) but one night was doable. Then, I heard some great news. My work had power on and parts of my area were getting power back!! maybe even by today!! Also heard on the radio that by Tuesday at midnight, 99% of our area should have power. So exciting!  Spent the day with mom and SIL. Went to a chinese auction but the kids were bored besides for making cookies which we left at my sister by mistake. The party was adorable, my nieces are so good at this stuff. As the day was progressing without good news from my block, I staretd getting disappointed. I really was hoping to sleep at home :(. Oh well, i dug out PJs and clothing for next day and we slept at my sister. I swear there were 7 kids in one bedroom. My kids loved it but they did not get a lot of sleep that night.

Mon 11/12 - Dropped kids off at school, despite 'observed' Veterans Day. I had a meeting at 10. Went home still no power :(. WEnt to work, might as well. Internet is down there. So good to see my coworkers. Hugs and stories were exchanged and we called parents to tell them that there was school the next day. Before I picked up kids, went home again. still no power :(. It seemed like the rest of the neighborhood had. Yaks morah said he wasnt himself and was fallng asleep. Not surprised. It was a very nice day out so I decided that we could just hang out at home until the last possible minute. Which we did. It was so nice to hang out at home. I put on shower to get steam in and the oven to get extra warmth in kitchen. I rested on couch in playroom and dreamed of lights working. I, once again, packed up clothing for the night and next day and decided to head to a kind friend who offered her place. 4:30 started getting dark so I knew we had to leave already. I saw some LIPA trucks on my block and figured I'd ask them if anything was new on my way back. Headed to the local YI where they were serving supper for the last time.  Would rather not bother the kind friend for dinner besides for lodging. Supper wasnt there yet. So i decided to just go to my friend. ON way there, passed my block, figured I'd ask the LIPA guys. I saw a light on my block and figured it was my neighbors with generators. Then I looked again.

It was coming from my house. The playroom lights were shining through the window and the outdoor lights of my very own house were on. Cue Christmas music. THe street lights were starting to come on, one at a time. I pulled into the driveway and started to cry. 'Guys do you see that?!' They were confused why I was crying. I just could not believe my eyes. This nightmare was finally starting to come to an end. I went back to YI were dinner had come, and ate it heartily surrounded my neighbors and friends, so grateful to be going home later. THe kids were NOT happy that they werent going to a friends house and they complained but i didnt care. I brought them inside and went around switching lights on and off, jumping up and down each time. Gave them a bath and through them right into bed. The heat wasnt on yet but it was OK. They both fell FAST asleep and slept 13 hours straight, for all their partying, they also needed their beds.

At this point the phones, internet and heat was not working. But the power was on. And we, for the moment, were not displaced and were back in our very own home. And nothing could be better.

TBC - rest of the week, thoughts on the whole experience and how I recuperated.


  1. Wow Esther! I just cannot believe what an ordeal this has been for u and your family!!!! So much harder to be bouncing around with 2 kids, a 9-month're perfectly right in feeling bad for ur situation. I hope things are back to normal by now...

  2. You're home, you're home! Best ending ever. You got me with the whole pizza/salad story...*tear*. Hopefully the phones/net and heat will be back in quick order.
    What an ordeal...funny how the major networks more on (except for Anderson Cooper) once the rain and wind finish. *sigh*