Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Day ~ A Balcony Photo

I really went back and forth a lot on whether I wanted to post this story, but eventually I decided to share.  So, going in reverse chronological order from my last post, here is more of our Thanksgiving holiday.

We left for Pensacola on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  We got there in time to have chili at Gary’s mom and dad’s house, then we headed to our hotel.  We got there pretty late, so we quickly put the kids in bed then started to settle in.  We had brought a bottle of red wine with us, and sat down to have a glass of wine, but the wine was not good.  So, we just put it back in the kitchen and decided to just skip it.  We left most all of our bags on the dining room table and barely unpacked, and eventually decided to just head to bed. 

Thanksgiving morning, I was up bright and early to make sure we got out to the beach early when the light was as good as possible so that I could get some good photos of the kids.   We got the kids up and dressed and quickly left.  We ate at the hotel’s breakfast buffet, then headed out to the beach for some photos.  It didn’t go as well as I had hoped, and I was particularly disappointed that I didn’t really get any photos of Penelope.  We tried – but it just didn’t work out so well for us.  Plus Henry decided that he hated sand, and Rosemary decided that she preferred to throw sand, and so on and so forth.  After the beach, we went back up to the hotel room and were going to clean up before heading to Gary’s parent’s house for our Thanksgiving meal.  Once we got to the hotel room, I told Gary that we should go out on the balcony (which was huge – really long and even had a dining table and chairs on it!) and take a photo of Gary holding Penelope with the beach in the background.  We were on the 11th floor, but I thought that it could still be a decent photo.

Of course we didn’t want to have the kids running around on the balcony, so we left them inside and went out on the balcony to take some photos.  That also didn’t go very well.  So, I said let’s just go on in and we’ll try again later.  I grabbed on to the handle of the sliding glass door and pulled.  It didn’t move.  I pulled again.  It still didn’t move.

Okay, before I get into this story any more, I want to give a bit of a statement.  A lot of you will get a kick out of this and laugh – I’ve talked to many people who have.  Some of you will feel my pain and be horrified – and again I’ve talked to a few people who felt that way as well.  I keep hearing that one day we’ll look back on this and laugh, but honestly, I can’t imagine ever laughing at this.  I can understand why other people can laugh, but having lived through it, I cannot laugh about this now or at any time in the conceivable future.  That being said, I will harbor no ill will if you choose to laugh.  Back to the story. . . .

Gary was still holding Penelope.  I took her from Gary and moved out of the way for him to open the door.  It didn’t open.  I immediately went to the sliding glass door off of our bedroom – it was locked.  Then I checked all the windows, but none of them were the kind that even opened.  Our phones were inside.  When I got back to the door, Gary was on his knees trying to talk Henry, and later Piper, into unlocking the door.  They seemed to try, but didn’t really understand what Gary was asking them to do. 

We are on the 11th floor of our hotel building.  Our 3 two-year-olds were inside a hotel room that we’d done almost nothing in other than sleep – and we had no idea what all was in there that was not childproofed.  All we could see from the balcony door was the living area and kitchen – we couldn’t see either of the bathrooms or either of the bedrooms.  And we couldn’t get to our kids.  And they couldn’t let us in.

As all of this was hitting me, I told Gary that we could either bust out a window or yell down at the folks at the pool and beach for help.  Unfortunately for us, since Hurricane Ivan hit Pensacola, the hotels on the beach were required to use special hurricane glass.  As Gary said, “They could shoot a 2x4 100 mph at this window and it would bounce off.”  No way he could break the window, even if he used the furniture on the balcony.  So, the only option was to yell down for help.

Honestly, I’m still shocked at how little help the beachgoers were.  You’d think that two adults yelling for “help” off a balcony while holding a baby would get some attention, but no.  Some people would ask what we needed and then just ignore us.  FINALLY, someone listened for long enough to get our room number and then went inside for help.  But, he never came back out to let us know the status of things.  At some point, we thought that there may be someone at the door because of how Henry was acting, but they still weren’t getting in.

Then Gary reminded me that I’d deadbolted everything on the door!!  The door just had one of those lever handles, and when you just flip the main deadbolt, it releases when you pull down on the door handle.  Knowing that my kids would probably be trying to open the door at some point, I also used the latch that only allows the door to open a couple of inches. 

After what seemed like way too much time passed, we started yelling down at the pool  and beach again.  And again, we were mostly ignored.  Then I told Gary to start telling people to dial 911.  That finally got the attention of two men – one who dialed 911 from the pool and another that ran in to call. 

During all of this, we’re also watching the kids with complete free reign of an unfamiliar place.  One of the first things they did was pull the dining room chair over to the kitchen counter and start playing with all the things they usually can’t touch.  They played with our phones.  They were putting on my rings and watch, and playing with the nebulizer and breast pump.  Then they saw that bottle of red wine we’d left out, uncorked, and mostly full.  Gary was literally banging on the door screaming “NO!” and begging them not to drink it.  At some point, all three of them had some of the wine.  Thank God they didn’t like it any better than we did.  Then they found one of packets of medicine to use with the nebulizer, which is intended to be inhaled.  They managed to get one open and drank it (according to Poison Control, ingesting one packet is not a problem).  They found my gallon-sized ziploc bag that contained all the medicine we may ever need for them – Motrin, Tylenol, vitamins, Mylicon, Claritin, Singulair, etc., etc.  Thankfully, they never got any of those things opened since they were in childproof containers.

They ate two tubes of Gary’s chapstick.  Then they got Gary’s wallet and brought it over to the window to show us.  We watched them pull every card, picture, and dollar bill out of his wallet.  And we watched them start tearing everything (to be clear, at this point we were thrilled that they may tear up some money).  At one point, we couldn’t see Piper, so we asked Henry where she was.  He walked up to a closet next to the kitchen and opened it up, and Piper walked out screaming.  Apparently she had gotten in there somehow and couldn’t get out.   

All in all, we were stuck on the balcony for about an hour.  The things that were going through my mind during all this is just insane.  First and foremost, I was terrified for the safety of my kids and thought of a lot of dark things that I don’t want to ever think about again.  We are the super-safety parents who childproof everything and follow all the rules to the extreme, and yet somehow we found ourselves in this position.   

Gary stayed at the door almost the entire time (unless he was yelling down for help).  I couldn’t watch.  I’d hear someone cry or yell and I’d run over and then not be able to do anything and just walk off, leaving Gary there to watch alone.  I couldn’t bear it.  Penelope was hungry, so finally I just sat down on the outdoor dining set to nurse her.  She was oblivious that anything was going on other than her meal.  I remember sitting there thinking about how absolutely surreal it was to be doing something so normal while I was in the middle of possibly the biggest family emergency I’ve ever been in.  Then, at some point, Gary screamed, “They’re here!” and I heard the door open.  I ran in, still nursing Penelope (I didn’t think about how odd that must have been until later).  I made sure the kids were okay, then we immediately began assessing damage (exactly how many packets of the nebulizer medicine did they eat, what did they find that we didn’t see, etc.). 

I can only imagine what the folks who got in the door thought when they saw us.  Apparently, it took the building engineer to get us out because I’d deadbolted everything.  The hotel manager was also there, as well as the concierge.  They walked in and there were 3 wild two-year-olds with wine on their faces and clothes, medicine everywhere, cash everywhere, then Gary and I run in like crazy people and I was in the middle of nursing a baby.  I never even thought about crying until that point, and I started bawling.  I’m sure everyone thought we were insane, but then after all that we’d been through I imagine they’d understand. 

They left us alone pretty quickly, and Gary called Poison Control about the nebulizer medicine.  Then Gary checked the wine to see how much was missing, and it couldn’t have been much more than was on their clothes.  We all took baths, then I unpacked and cleaned everything up.  Partly because I needed some order, and partly because I wanted things to look nice when the police or social workers showed up (but for the record, no one ever showed up to interview us, which surprises me).  Finally, we were all ready and left to have our Thanksgiving meal, and it was like nothing out of the ordinary had happened at all that day, other than the fact that I kept shaking and feeling my heart race all day.

Before we left on Friday, Gary finally went over to the door to check it out.  We had assumed that the kids had somehow locked us out, but it turns out that the door latch would lock on its own when the door shook the slightest bit.  We very well could have managed to lock ourselves out when we slammed the door shut when we walked out onto the balcony.  Of course we’ll probably never know what really happened.

Thankfully, we are all okay, except that Gary and I lost a few years off of our lives.

And here’s the photo of Penelope from the balcony, which I couldn’t even bring myself to edit, right before we found out we were locked out:


Despite the beautiful baby, not worth it at all.

The next (and probably last) Thanksgiving post will be of the photos from the beach that morning, before everything went crazy.


Jamie said...

Ok... For the record, I didn't laugh until you said that they ate chapstick. Ya. That was funny...

Samantha said...

That sounds horrific. So sorry that that happened to you! Thank goodness all was okay.

Lindsey Wolfe said...

OH MY GOSH!!! I would have lost it. You are good to know that some would laugh and some will feel your pain.

If I'm honest I did a little of both... I feel your pain as I locked Logan in the car once. Thank GOD I was at home and was able to run in and get the spare set and he was only in the car (in early spring so not too hot) for about 4 mintues, but I felt like the worst mother ever.

I laughed when you said they brought over Gary's wallet over to the window and pulled everything out. I can just imagine Logan doing something similar... like ha ha ha - this is for all the times you told me to put it down!

So glad you are all safe and okay, but wow! what a story!!!

JoLynn said...

So glad that all the kids turned out okay. I am sure that was an extremely stressful experience for you to watch and be so helpless!

Lora G said...

I'm thankful you all made it through that! It sounds like a nightmare to me. Thank God you had Penelope out there with you. Hope ya'll managed to have a good Thanksgiving.

Anonymous said...

I didn't laugh because I can't believe that you would not wait to take the picture when the older children were sleeping. You definitely have your priorities mixed up if you think taking a picture is more important than tending to all your children. Next time take her to the beach to get a picture.

Alesha Hardin Osburn said...

I agree, having had a similar situation happen (without four kids of course), it isn't funny at all. I just became completely mortified for you; I will remain in that state for quite some time. You guys are so incredible for making it through that ordeal with safe kids. And though the picture will never speak the thousand seconds of horror experienced to take it, the baby is beautiful.

A Lovell said...

Oh Heather! What a way to start your Thanksgiving. I confessed I did laugh a little at this, but only because I knew everything must have turned out ok since you were posting about it. I'm sure you will laugh about it one day too...maybe no day soon...but give it a few years and I'm sure it will have a little humor to it. :)

Jamie said...

Heather- I just saw the comment from the anonymous spineless person and I just have to build you up and confirm that your priorities are RIGHT where they should be and whoever that gutless person is doesn't know what it's like to be a MoM-and an awesome one at that. Thank you for sharing your woes which were obviously traumatic but we've all had the unexpected go wrong and should all be understanding when it happens to someone else!!!

Amanda said...

Looks like Anonymous Super Parent is back!! Woo Hoo!!! I wish we knew his/her blog address so we could all be perfect parents!! Maybe one day we will know. Until then, we can just continue intentionally and recklessly putting our children in danger, maliciously making siblings share bedrooms, etc. Good grief.

TDM Wendy said...

Oh my goodness . . . I just don't know where to start.
(Jamie sent me over here after she read my "bare booty in the snow" post).
1. I am so sorry for how horrific that was for you to experience. If only you could have known during the ordeal what the final outcome would be.
2. I am so sorry that I laughed a lot during the post. The wine (especially since they didn't drink much), the chapstick, the wallet.
3. I had to go back to the beginning and re-read where you were because from the response from people (or lack of it) I thought you might have been in a third-world country. Different languages or something. Granted you had the 11 story barrier going on, but still.
4. Your story is so awesome (in a sick and twisted, totally desperate mom kind of way) that I want to send you a copy of my book "Totally Desperate Mom: Keepin' it Real in the Motherhood." So please email me your address here:
5. So glad everything turned out okay and that your wine was bad.

Mona Baker said...

i didn't realize you had ties in PNS, i live here and have read your blod for ages, sorry for your anxious time

Cathy said...

The same thing could have happened if you walked out onto the balcony to lay out a towel or grab the sand toys. The fact that you were taking a picture is irrelevant. As any parent knows, crazy stuff just happens sometimes, even when we do everything right. If only we had the kind of hyper-control over every second of every day that Anonymous seems to think we do; I would have a lot fewer gray hairs right now. Until I can achieve Anonymousesque control over the universe, I just do the best I can; realize that my diligence only takes me so far; and thank God and good old fashioned luck for carrying me the rest of the way.

Anonymous said...

Heather, when you said that Gary remembered you had dead bolted the main door, I literally said "oh. my. gosh." out-loud. Mostly because that is horrifying by itself, and secondly because I know you and Gary and I can only imagine how you both must of felt. I am so so sorry but so thankful that everyone is ok. I laughed when you said Henry let Piper out of the closet but then felt sad for poor, trapped Piper.

Obviously Anonymous has NEVER met you or Gary because you are the most responsible, safety conscious, worrysome (in a good way), loving parents I know. You both put so much forethought into even the smallest decisions when it comes to your children. My motto will probably always be, if Heather and Gary would do it, then it's ok. The fact that you post that person's comment when all the comments go to you first shows what a great, humble person you are but also the confidence you have knowing that you and Gary would never do anything to put your children and harm and no one that knows either of you could possibly agree with them. It is so childish and cowardly to post random negative thoughts anonymously on someone's blog.

Arlene @At Home with the Grimms said...

My friend, Susan Graben, shared your blog with me and I must say I laughed til I cried reading your post. I am so glad all turned out well but I think every parent can identify with your terror on the balcony! I taught two yr olds at a local preschool for ten years so I can totally appreciate the mischief they can make!!! Hope you have a blessed and uneventful Christmas!

Nik said...

Oh, Heather, I'm so sorry that happend to you. I would have been sick to my stomch! Yes, someday you will laugh at it all...but probably a few years from now! I locked myself out of the house (basement) with the kids gated upstairs when they were 18 mos old. I went to let the dog out and chain him up, only to find I had locked the door before shutting it behind me! I made it back in within a half hour (thanks to the neighbor's pest control man), but I was SO worried (and in my pjs, of course in very cold temps!). It can happen to anyone. So glad everyone is OK!

Anonymous said...

I know it sounds a little mean, but it sounds exactly like you looked through the patio door and watched three monkeys vandalizing your hotel room. Too funny, except for the terror about the medicine and all the "what ifs." Oh, boy, am I grateful to have never had multiples!

The Grasshoppa:Triplets Plus Two Momma said...

Oh my gosh, Heather....I just can NOT imagine. What a traumatic experience. I was nearly in tears reading it and feel a little sick to my stomach. (I have a few anxiety issues and really fear freak things like this happening.)

So very glad everyone is fine. Hugs.

Krystyn said...

Holy cow...I would have been terrified, too.

Hopefully, in a couple years, you'll be able to laugh it off. Especially since they were all safe!