Sunday, August 30, 2009

note to self...

... no matter how hungry, or how good it looks, do not eat salmon sashimi that was left over from the night before.

I was so sick.

nuff said.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

captain hardass

My first fire captain came from a line of old school firefighters. He had been on the job for as long as I had been alive. People wondered why he hadn't retired yet. Many said it was because he enjoyed being mean to rookies. He was an old school guy who would say, with a lopsided smile and sneer 'what were you thinking?' to people at calls where they hurt themselves doing something silly like ride a motorcycle with shorts and flip flops. I was straight out of the 'academy' the first time I walked into his station, my uniform all crisp and pressed and boots polished. He greeted me with a smirk and pointed towards the bathroom and said 'when you go in there make sure you lock the door' and shut himself in his office. There were only 7 female firefighters in the department at the time and I was his first female assignment. I was terrified. This man had the reputation of drilling you without pause until you knew everything by rote. He would point to a cabinet on the truck and you would have to tell him from memory what was in there from how many litres of engine oil to every screwdriver and hacksaw blade in the toolbox. Every shift I had to pull out a map page from the book and draw it on the board and memorize the streets. Then he'd erase it so I could draw it from memory. He would set up a 'rodeo' in an empty back lot full of twists and turns and make me manoeuvre it through the tightest of obstacle courses. He was unforgiving with mistakes. I felt like I was 10 years old. Once I forgot to turn on the headlights of the firetruck and he flipped. I was near tears. He would make me take out the truck in the middle of a winter night and I would have to pump water with the deluge or the different preconnected lines over and over and over till the running joke was that I had better start bringing my longjohns we were out there for what it felt like an eternity. And then, just as soon as I had the pumping down to an art, he would pull some lever on the other side of the truck sending water spewing everywhere telling me to figure out how to stop it. If it was a joke, I wasn't laughing. I was soaked, cold and tired. My hands were frozen. No point in crying because my eyes would have frozen shut.

He was a hard on me. Ok, I'll be honest. He was a hardass. But in hindsight he made sense. At a firecall in the middle of the night you have to know where each and every piece of equipment is on the truck so you can grab it without fumbling or hesitating. You have to know the maps so you know where the heck you're going to the call, and yes, headlights are always a good idea. The reason he kept 'sabotaging' my pumping was that things can go wrong when pumping water at a call and he wanted me to learn how to problem solve now so that I could be cool as a cucumber if something went wrong at an actual working fire when lives were at stake.

When my rotation was up at that station (rookies are at 2 different stations for the first 6 months) he had his wife bake me a cake. I felt like it was a 'good riddance' cake and that he was happy and relieved to see me go. He is now retired but if I look back, he wasn't mean, or hard on me or unfair. He was like that with everyone... for the simple reason that he cared. He loved the fire business and wanted to make sure that each and every firefighter knew their job and was working to the best of their ability. It was just his way of teaching us. I credit this man for giving me the foundation of becoming an engine operator. I have learned to do it with my eyes practically shut. And just like in life, the things that scare me the most I often end up liking the most. And although I will never tell it to him, I owe him a lot. And I think, maybe just a little, he was more terrified of me when I walked into his station for the first time than I was of him. ;)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

family circus

I hate TV commercials and Hallmark calls. They sell you the idea of babies falling asleep happily and on schedule in their crib. They delude you into the romantic notion that your parenthood woes can be wiped away with the newest formula of Oxyclean bleach. Oil of Olay, can you wipe away the wrinkly brow furrows and the bags under my eyes?

Couples who pine for a squishy newborn: want to know the real truth on what it is to raise children? Step into our home. Price of admission is free to see our circus which is great because you will need to save every penny... children are not cheap.

June Cleaver I am not. Nor would I want to be... why put that kind of pressure on myself? I sleep in my track pants and tank top so I'm already dressed and ready in the morning. Same goes for my children. After their bath, and before bed, they're in their t-shirt that they'll be wearing the morrow. My soccer mom hair is tucked under the requisite ball-cap.. hey... can't wash it everyday anymore. My teeth do get brushed albeit often not until noon. My high heels have been replaced by Birkenstocks but don't worry.... I still shave my legs.

Our once uber cool loft is now a cluttered landmine of toys and mismatched shoes and socks, facecloths, and diaper wipes. Be careful where you step. It might be into a wayward bowl of smushed sweet potatoes that went overboard from the highchair.

Quiet dinners with my husband are long gone. I am usually seen wolfing down my meals standing over the kitchen counter as I dole out meals to my family like a cafeteria marm. And bedroom life... how do we even keep our eyes open? Children can definitely be a killjoy for couples and it is of no surprise that many couples end up getting divorced but for us, despite the chaos, our children have brought us closer together. We have less 'us' time but it'll come soon... like in fifteen years or so when they get to college. Hopefully by then Jacob won't be running around the house with his underwear on his head just because he thinks it's so hysterical.

I could go on, but all in all, despite the lack of sleep (look how tired my poor husband is) and the clutter and the chaos and the mess that children bring, of course it's all so worth it. And they are pretty darn cute. So I think I'll keep them for now.

g'night.... mornings come quick around here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

where have the girls gone?

I think I'm offended.

I went shopping today for a good ol' fashioned brassiere cuz my boobs ain't what they used to be. Two pregnancies and two ravenous breastfed babies later, my boobs have... uh... transformed so to speak. The 'girls' aren't hanging too far south yet, thank goodness. But they've like, disappeared. Poof. Practically vanished into thin air.

So back at the bra shop I couldn't find anything small enough to fit me. So I ask for anything in a smaller size. And the lady bra fitter sends me over to the tween section where 12 year olds are buying their first bras.

Oh well. At least they're half the price of adult bras and I didn't have to pay any tax on it.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

why fire?

I often get asked the question 'why did you choose to become a firefighter?'. The glib answer would be 'why not?' but the truth is, it took a lot of forethought before I made the decision. I knew without a doubt that I wanted to work in emergency services. At the age of 30 when the thought first entered my brain about starting a new career, I was a bit long in the tooth to go to med school. So that left me to look into police, ambulance and fire. Policing is a great career for women with much room for advancement but I wasn't comfortable with carrying a gun and the shiftwork hours are quite horrendous and dealing with lawbreakers would put me in a horrible mood. The police rate very high in my books because they do a job that is incredibly difficult but I knew I didn't have the personality for it. So that left me with the choice of ambulance or fire. I wanted to become a paramedic because I have always been fascinated with the science of the human body and if I was too old to become a trauma doctor then perhaps being a paramedic would be the next best thing. My husband suggested trying out for the fire department but I scoffed saying I would never make it.... to which he said 'just try'. I was already confirmed with the dean at the paramedic college so with that in my back pocket I figured I could try out for fire since I had nothing to lose. I buried my nose in the books for months to write the entrance exam and trained as hard as I could. I got my DZ license, re certified in first aid, and got my resume in order. I wrote my exam in July of 2001, got accepted to the fire academy in October, and ran my first call Christmas Day. Looking back, it was a whirlwind and I think I did well because the only pressure I put on myself was to do my best. I do have to admit that when I walked in to write my initial entrance exam I was freaked.... there were close to a thousand applicants, and I nearly walked out. I am so glad I didn't.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

parallel world

I was whining to a friend about having to go home to cook and clean. And he commented on how was that any different from the firehall. He had a point. And he made me laugh which is always good. We do cook and clean at work. And why I find it therapeutic at work and not at home I don't really know. Perhaps because at home I get interrupted a million times by the children. But then again we get interrupted at work with calls but hey, it's different. Putting out fires at work is one thing. Putting out fires at home when the kids' are fighting is another. We do however, get to sleep at work... a bonus because there aren't many jobs where you can do that but then again, it's 24 hour shift so a bit of shut-eye help. The sleep is interrupted of course when the squawk box goes off, just like sleep at home gets interrupted when Maiya starts her squawk for a midnight nursing.

I can't say though which world I love better. I have 2 families really. and I love both of them both albeit differently and am glad I can shape shift between the two.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

dear crackheads...

Dear crackheads and other lazy ass panhandlers in my neighbourhood,

I know we are stuck co-existing in this big city but kindly refrain from breaking into our pick-up. The smashed windows and glass shards in my children's' car seats are royally pissing me off. This is the fourth time you've broken in and how much money are you really going to get pawning off a pair of sunglasses? Your sense of entitlement is pathetic. I am starting to get testy with you and am so inclined to say a few choice words but that wouldn't be a good example to my children. When I walk by you on the street please do not ask me if I have any change to spare... nearly half of my paycheck goes to taxes to pay for social services that if you chose to use might help get you out of the hole. Although perhaps you can't help yourself because our backwards thinking government thinks it's a good idea to put a needle exchange centre smack (pardon the pun) in our neighbourhood to help enable you further. They won't buy you the drugs but hey, they'll use my tax dollars to help get the drugs in you. Yet thousands of children go hungry in this city? Forgive me for sounding so aggressive and judgmental right now. Lack of sleep doesn't help... nor does it help when I've wrestled my two children to the car only to find glass everywhere.

I see enough of you at work. I have tiptoed through the cockroaches in your hovels, resuscitated your heart when you've overdosed, vacuumed vomit out of your mouth to try to get you to breathe. So forgive me if I don't have the patience for you when I'm back at home. I am not Mother Theresa but Lord I wish I could be. So, sorry, no handouts from me.

Hey, maybe next time I see you I'll ask you first for some change to spare... like a thousand dollars because that's how much it cost to fix the windows.

Monday, August 17, 2009

keeping cool

I've had a miserable grumpy day. I can't think straight. It's hot in the city... like 40 degrees with the humidity and smog and I just want to cry it's so sticky and muggy and humid. Maiya is sliding out of my arms from my sweat so she's grumpy too. My friends boo me when I talk with longing about the first frost. I love the fall. No ragweed, no mosquitoes. I can't figure out why the heat at work doesn't bug me... I've been in some housefires where the temp has hovered around 800 degrees and although a bit warm I'm perfectly ok and functional albeit I do have bunker gear on to keep me from vaporizing. But here at home, I am a puddle of useless mess. I had to get my husband to get take-out for dinner tonight because just the thought of turning on the stove was getting me worked up.
I don't actually mind the heat if I'm sitting on a patio at some cool bar sipping a Corona but those days are long gone.

Jacob has the right idea. While I hid out at my parents with their central air conditioning Jacob had a blast in their backyard staying cool..... I should really join him next time

God he's cute. xo That's what I love about him. He knows how to make lemonade out of lemons.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

tears of joy

I was thinking of some more calls with 'happy endings' and this one came to mind:

My midwife has delivered more than three thousand babies and counting, two of which, included my babes. She told me about one homebirth that was particularly memorable. She had called 911 because she was concerned that the baby's heartrate was dropping and wanted an ambulance on standby for the birth in case they needed to transport. The firefighters arrived first just as the baby was being born. Baby was perfectly fine and the mother, who was an opera singer, cradled the baby immediately to her chest and started singing Ave Maria to her new babe.... at which point the firemen broke down in tears. I have never attended a birth apart from my own and when they were born I didn't cry....... I literally laughed out loud because I was just so happy. But I think I would have seriously needed a box of tissues if I had attended that call because newborns, Ave Maria and happy endings are worth a tear or two.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

miss fartsalot

I am used to farts. I live at the firehall with 9 other men for a 24 hour tour and after a five alarm chilli dinner and communal dorms there are no secrets to be had; and at home, I have a husband and a boy to contend with. But nobody... and I mean noboday can drop a rose like my baby girl. Miss Fartsalot will let one go and laugh and continue on while we are left in the wake.

I can't believe I am posting about my daughter's gas.

I need to get out of the house more.

At least until the air clears. ;)

Monday, August 10, 2009

uh... hungry?

My children have always been fantastic eaters. But my daughter in particular is something else. She will squawk like a teradactyl if she sees me headed to the fridge. It's her way of saying 'I'm hungry mama'. If I do not share what I happen to be eating I am deluged with a sea of tears. I do not know where she gets her appetite from. When I was single I could eat a pan of Rice Krispy squares for dinner. But now with a family I have to make wiser food choices, cooking from scratch. I have to tie Maiya to my back most of the time when I cook because otherwise she disappears and gets into everything and will start chewing on an old shoe or something.

This is what she ate in total yesterday in no particular order all cut up into bite sized pieces or smooshed up so she could feed herself... give or take the stuff that ended up in her hair or up her nose....

I cup of blueberries
handful of garbanzo beans
a few avocado wedges
1/2 sweet potato
2 zucchini rounds
3 pieces boiled broccoli flowers
3 cherries
1 boiled egg yolk
1 small roasted chicken drumstick
some plain full fat yogurt she mooched off of me
plus unlimited breastmilk from moi

Not bad for an 8 1/2 month old. I guess she is going through a growth spurt and burning lots of energy trying to take her first unassisted steps.

I am happy she is a good eater. She would make the boys at the firehouse proud.

There is a downside though. What goes in one end, must come out the other. And so lovely in cloth diapers. I cannot wait until this baby is potty trained.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


I attended a housefire that started somewhere on the main floor. Upon arrival the house was fully involved so we doused the living snot out of it with multiple preconnected handlines with the water output being around 250 gallons a minute per handline... throw in a deluge with an output of 1000 gallons a minute and you have enough water that even Moses would have a tough time wading through.

Once the fire is out we do something called salvage overhaul which is where you try to save as many of the contents you can, if you can. With a fully involved fire it's sometimes tough. And we'll overhaul by opening up roofs and walls to make sure the fire isn't still smouldering or extending elsewhere. You do not want to be that person who says the fire is out only to get called back later to a housefire at the exact same address. You would have some serious explaining to do. Which is why we douse until we are sure every spark, cinder, and smouldering ash is turned into a dark soupy mess.

After said housefire, I was assigned with a partner to go through the basement to do some overhauling and also see if there was a drain in which we could direct some of the water. Needless to say, we were wading past our ankles in post fire soup. As we were overhauling, I heard a whimper and my heart stopped cold. Could we possibly have missed someone during our search phase? How would we explain that to the Chief? And moreover, how would we forgive ourselves? Then I looked around the corner and to my amazement there was a little dog locked in its crate swimming around with its nose poking through the top. He was whimpering and shivering but he was alive and well! I think being stuck in the basement is what saved his life. Had he been on the upper floors I am sure he would have succumbed to smoke inhalation.

So it goes to show you not all our calls are bad. The house was destroyed but the call still had a happy ending.

Who says only cats have nine lives? :)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

circle of friends.

I was busy in the kitchen making breakfast and told Jacob to play nioely with Maiya. I figured I would have about 5 mintues worth of peace before I would have to split them up. Maiya likes knocking down J's forts and eating his Lego men. So usually there is quite a bit of hollering going on when they play. Jacob understands the meaning of 'share' but it gets frustrating for him at times when his little sis is eating everything of his. Thankfully, they let me get a meal ready and this is how they played for 20 minutes without a peep:

Gotta love how big bro penned his sister in with his circle of trucks. Too bad Maiya still doesn't get that cars are not for eating. That girl's got an appetite.... she'd chew your leg off if she could... lol

Friday, August 7, 2009

I'll pass on the eggs thank you

I don't know why 99% of the time when you get a bunch of emergency service workers together we all start recounting calls that we've attended in an attempt to outgross each other. Sometimes the paramedics will drop by the station or the police officers will swing by to follow up on a call and we'll sit down and put a pot of java on and just go. The bigger and grosser the tale the better. Anything is game.. maggots, limbs, veins, rigor, transection, dissection, priapism.... you name it, there is a story out there for it. And the weird thing is that it doesn't seem to phase us one bit. We could be mid-bite during a meal talking about a trauma call that we had and still dive in for second helpings of prime rib. I am pretty sure it's the gallows humour that keeps us from going cuckoo and able to do what we do for all the gruesome things that we see. Like I've said before, it's not what I see that bugs me so much as is the smells. I think I am that 1% where some calls do stay with me permanently.... ie: after a literal crap call where the smell was so intense I could not sit down for lunch back at the station to eat the egg salad that a crewmate had prepared. I am still leery of egg salad to this very day.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

all in a day's work

A lot of people think that firefighters are in the fire business.. or rather, the putting out fire business. But actually, we are, at the simplest level, customer service representatives. Philadelphia Fire Chief Alan Brunacini literally wrote the book on it and I came across this blog that explains it rather well. We often meet people on the very worst day of their lives and our job is to try to help find that tiny ray of hope and light to make a bad situation come out better. Every fire station in our department has a copy of Brunacini's customer service book. It's a great read and I highly recommend it to everyone since it's applicable in every walk of life.

still my baby

I just made an interesting discovery this morning...... my son, after all, DOES have a healthy sense of fear. Thank goodness. I was beginning think that I would have to start walking around with splint kits and ice packs.

Jacob this morning told us he wanted to walk to school (daycare) today. He's never asked that before because normally he wants to ride his bike. When I clued in to what was going on I asked him if he wanted to take his old bike... meaning his tricycle. With a big nod and a grin, on the trike he hopped and rode joyfully to daycare with my husband walking briskly beside him. It seems that Jacob was too proud to ask to ride his little bike after having received his 'big' two wheeler for his 3rd birthday a few weeks ago. Even with the training wheels I think he felt a bit unsteady since there are a few hills to and from daycare and his centre of gravity is much higher. So into the closet the 'big' bike will go until he asks for it again.

It's nice to know that Jacob isn't growing up too quickly after all. xoxoxoxox ;)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

all's well

One thing that I learned on the job is that panic is contagious. It sets off a chain reaction in such a way that once you start spinning downwards, it's hard to get out of the hole. It's scary to watch. I have seen victims in shock deal with their stress in various ways. Some freeze in their tracks, some come at you swinging. One woman after witnessing a fatal crash started laughing hysterically. The spookiest ones are the ones that just sit there vacant with the thousand yard stare. So I've learned that when at a scene no matter how crazy it gets to make sure I take a deep breathe and squash down whatever insecurities I have at that moment and just deal. I have had the privilege of working with many Captains over the years and the very best ones are those that stand strong and steady in the midst of chaos. During a fire there is often zero visibility and the only communication is via radio... so you can imagine the importance of a leader being as cool as a cucumber. This is one aspect of work that I try to emulate at home. Children are quick to pick up on vibes so my husband and I try to stay pretty steady when we can. Of course, we aren't perfect but we do the best we can.

I hope I never panic at work... ever. But I came close once to pushing the panic button at home..... It was when Maiya was born... a daunting shade of blue/grey. I looked at the midwives who smiled and said "congratulations" and proceeded to do nothing but let me hold my baby. She wasn't crying but she was breathing calmly and steadily.... she just hadn't 'pinked up' yet because she was born so quickly and her lungs hadn't yet transitioned to breathing room air. She was still getting lots of oxygen because she was still attached to the umbilical cord that was transferring blood rich oxygen with every beat of my heart.

So here's one of these posts where I have no idea where I am going so I'll just stop here. xo

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

picture perfect day

On Saturdays I try to do something with just Jacob. No Maiya. No Daddy. Just us doing our own thing. Since J has been usurped from his position as an only child I am trying to give him some time where he gets to explore and do new things with me. Often he will ask for something as simple as riding the streetcar from point A to point B because he adores public transit. Or he will ask to bake a cake. Paleo of course. Or we'll go to the mall to kick around.

This past weekend we trekked down to the lakefront to join in on a CrossFit beach workout. I discovered CrossFit earlier this year and it has been the perfect way for me to get back in shape after having had 2 children. And as I've posted before, it is getting me ready to get back on the trucks in fighting form.

Someone took this picture at said beach workout:

What I love most about this picture is Jacob squatting and watching so attentively. He is not a child that likes to sit still and the fact that he stayed put for almost an hour impressed me. Check out my chalk white legs (talk about pale-eo.... eeek) and my workout clothes from the previous decade... lol.... working out for me isn't a fashion show and I'm not a gal, like my son, who likes to sit still long enough to catch a suntan. But after seeing that pic... maybe I need to slow down a bit and catch some rays...

After that workout, I spent the rest of the day with Jacob, eating a paleo picnic on the beach and building sandcastles and roads for his toy bulldozers and covering our legs with sand. It was a picture perfect day. I can still hear him giggle. I don't know exactly who took that photo but thank you, it will be a nice reminder of the fantastic day we had in years to come. xo

Monday, August 3, 2009

firefighter of the year

As soon as I found out I was pregnant I pulled myself off the trucks. It would be tough to waddle my way up a ladder or even try to wedge myself behind the steering wheel of the rig. One of the fellas I worked with is literally my favourite captain around. He got on the job the same year that I was born (1970!) and is one of the most charming, well-mannered and salt-of-the-earth kind of guys. Due to an illness a few years ago he came off the trucks and now works in equipment and stores division of the fire department which is where I was assigned for both of my pregnancies. His nickname, for whatever reason is Captain Underpants and we became fast friends. I adored him for bringing in ice cream, which for a pregnant woman, is as necessary as breathing air. Ben and Jerry's Cherries Jubilee was the flavour of choice.

Two weeks before my due date I was still working. I knew I was cutting it close but Jacob was over his due date so I figured I had some time. Plus I loved going in to work. And we were working on a big order for new uniforms for everyone and I wanted to get it done before I went off on mat leave. Captain Underpants and I were assigned to do all the deliveries and so we did.... we sorted, stacked and delivered close to 700 uniforms to all the stations and divisions. Captain U/P would drive slowly over bumps an potholes because he was always nervous about causing my water to break and I would laugh and scoff at his overcautiousness.

On my last day of work, we headed to the fire prevention dept. located at City Hall. It was our final delivery drop. To get to the offices you need to take the freight elevator via underground loading docks. And those freight elevators, I am sad to say, are creaky and not always the most reliable. And I kid you not, they were under repair that day. As we loaded and stepped in and the freight elevator doors shut behind us, I jokingly said to Captain U/P... "so.... how would you like to win firefighter of the year award... you might have to deliver this baby"..... He paled. I apologized. And a day later I had Maiya. At home... two weeks before her due date. My husband literally had to pull down the shower curtain to use as a drop sheet because she was born so quickly and thankfully easily into my husbands hands. So I guess in the end the joke was on me. I am happy Captain Underpants didn't need to see mine. I don't know who would have been more mortified... me or him.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

my little man

As you know Jacob turned three! We surprised him with a new bicycle to replace his tricycle.

the trike: with his birthday Bob the Builder balloon

the bike:

He was thrilled of course (he was literally speechless) and oddly enough I was a bit sad. He looks so grown up now. But not that grown up yet thankfully.... because the bike still has training wheels. ;)

I love you to bits little guy.