Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Legos! Storage! Complete Bliss!

Legos are quite the big deal in our house.    They were a huge part of my and my husband's childhood, and since we were both the youngest we got to keep our childhood Legos.    Might even have contributed to my desire to be a ::gasp:: female engineer too.  Fun fact, Jon and I even went to Legoland California on our honeymoon.  We were the oldest people there without kids, that's for sure.  Didn't mind a bit.

Now they're a pretty big deal to my kids, which is awesome.

 I love the different creations they've come up with and the open ended, cross gender play.  (Note, We have Lego Friends and we love those too.  I think people are nuts for bashing them.  All of our kids like the additional human feel they bring to our other legos.  Plus it's really funny seeing ironman wearing a lego friends wig)

 However, there are two things I didn't like when I was a kid, and three things I don't like about them now.
  1. I hated stepping on them before, and I hate stepping on them now.
  2. I tried really hard to keep them sorted as a kid, in plastic bags that kept ripping or were too hard to see through.  Never was fully satisfied.
  3. And now as a grown-up, I don't like having to pick up 1000's of tiny toys mixed in with 100's of other toys in our playroom.  Especially when young babies are coming over.  Yuck.
So when planning a trip to Ikea last spring, we decided it was time to give up the giant tub holding all of our  Legos and finally organize them.  Eli started off super excited, and starting sorting them on his own.  Like a champ, he decided he wanted them sorted by type and not color.  We also thought it would be best to go in the boys room.   We figured it would be easier to clean play, and protect their creations from guests in their own room.

It was one of the first nice days out after the winter in April, so we all went out and started sorting them outside.  Have I mentioned this project took a while?  Yeah. Well, it did.

We actually were picking up the wood for a new computer stand, and I realized that if I planned right, I could get both the Lego storage and the computer kicked out together and have fewer waste.  And since their room is the most finished room in the house, I felt inspired to try to get it the most settled.  So we moved the Legos to their room...and after stepping on them a bunch of times in the dark, I decided the Legos were more pressing than the computer stand and swapped priorities.

I borrowed my mom's router to make the grooves.  You can see I did the first one wrong.  It was too deep (whoops!) but I was able to fill it in with some scrap, sand it nice and flush spin the direction and continue on.

I made two routered sets - one with grooves back to back, and one with with just one side of grooves. Then cut them to the right width after, so the heights would stay consistent.

I sort of wish I had gotten super thick plywood, so I could cut the grooves deeper and wouldn't have had to make supports... but I was being cheap and we were pressed for time picking out the plywood.  After the boards were cut, I ripped a 1x4 in little strips (with a circular saw, not fun), and glue those down.  Saved a ton of money over buying little strips.

 Then I worked on the top and bottom.  I decided to use the router to notch out the location for the shelves.  It makes the assembly easier, and the positioning 10x more accurate.  On a simple project like this which requires a lot of side to side accuracy, it was a no brainer...

Speaking of no brains, here's a another whoopsie.  (No not Isaac, hahaha...)  I accidentally cut the board too short. Thankfully exactly 1 1/2" too short, and I was able to fix it will some pocket screws and plugs.  Can't even tell now that it's done.

Between Eli and Isaac, I often had a kiddo with me working on it.  I really love when they hang around when I work.  They're typically well behaved and attentive, so that's an added bonus.

I knew I'd never get it painted if I didn't do it just after construction, so I got to it right away.  It seemed to take FOREVER.  I kinda wish I had just used some spray paint, all those peaks and valleys really made it a time consuming paint job.

Once it was finally done, I couldn't resist and brought it up while the boys were sleeping.

Boy, did their room need it. This is how it was for...  let me check the dates...  a month and a half.  Yeah, that was long enough. Here's the real life picture - You can see that the enthusiasm for sorting was short lived.  (You can see Isaac sleeping in the pic below.  Once they're out, they're out. I can flip on the lights and be move Legos all over and they don't notice a thing)

Once I got the bins all stacked together, the room, despite still being a bit messy, was now walkable.  Yay!

Once thing you may have noticed was multitude of supports across the back.  That's because I made it to hang on the wall.  I figued if kitchen cabinent could hand on the wall filled with dishes, these should be fine too.  It took another two months after making it, but we did get it hung up eventually.  It took so long because I was waiting for...

...the new play table! So now the rule is, no Legos on the floor at bed time.  They can make whatever mess they want to on the table, but they need to keep those toys away from the soles of my feet.

Eli was pretty happy to take it for a test drive, of course.

The table was a fairy straightforward build.  It's about 32" wide ( I think) and 48" long.  Just one cut with the circular saw.  I edged it with poplar, skipped the stain (as I often do) and used polycrylic.  Compaired to the lego cupboard it was super fast.  I knew it would get scratched and dinged so I didn't go overboard in making it look nice. The one little detail I did add is a little recess on the edge wall, so we can scoop off the Legos into a bucket as needed.

So, after a whopping three months of planning, Ikea shopping and woodworking, that thing right there fulfills my childhood dream of sorting my Legos.  Ahhhhhhhhhhh......  Feels good.

 And you thought this was me being all nice to my kids.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Light 'Em Up Up

So we left off here.  Our Ford Freestar spontaneously caught on fire :(  Go back and read that one if you want more details on how we got here.

Lets see...  I last wrote about when we were dropped off by the police at the diner.

After cleaning off the soot on our hands and faces at the diner, we felt much more grounded.  Once my parents got there we had to devise a plan on who went where.  We decided it was best that Eve go with my parents in their minivan, and we would head back home with the boys in the their SUV (they brought both).  We didn't really like the idea of leaving Eve after such a startling event, but she really wanted to see my Grandpa (who's mother had just died).

In the police cruiser on the way to the diner I'm sure Eve bummed out the police officer a bit.  "Mom, are we still going to go the funeral?" Pause.  "I don't think so, honey" "But... but I really wanted to see Grandpa again."  "I know.  Me too."  Sounded a lot like my Grandpa had died the way Eve worded it, heh.  Still, I was pretty sad I wouldn't be there to comfort him either.  I wasn't an easy choice to go home, but I didn't see any other reasonable thing to do.

Taken from the opposite side we were on during the fire
Zoomed in
Pile of burned van still around, Even a month later

Anyway, we gathered up what we had and nervously parted ways with my parents and Eve around 9:10pm.   We drove right past our van shaped burn spot (it really is the only road across southern Vermont) to head back home.  We get to Brattleburo, VT, about 20 minutes later and traffic has stopped.  We see a ton of people milling around, hanging out at a gas station, parked all over.  We went into the gas station and asked what was up.    Apparently, there was a bomb threat at the Dollar General.

Seriously?  Who places a bomb threat at the Dollar General???  This is dang crappy luck.

We turn back around, and drive past our burn spot one more time, and head to the town we were dropped off at.  We give up and find a motel for the night.  We had nothing to change the boys into, as we didn't know what the extent of the damage was to our clothes.  So we took the boys out of the sooty clothes and had them sleep in undies.  Well, actually we did find an undamaged diaper in one of the burned bags, and put that on Isaac.

We figured we ought to still try sorting and salvaging what we had left that night.  So we made a 'completely damaged' trash bag and a 'wash' trash bag.  We noticed a laundromat right near the motel, so Jon took the wash bag to the laundromat right away. 

I stayed home and started drying out things that just seemed to be wet with no damage and started making made a list of things that I knew were left burned in our car.  I also cleaned up my foot, because unbeknownst to me, had actually gotten cut while I was barefoot.  It was quite dirty, but  thankfully the bad luck streak had ended and I didn't get an infection from it. 

The next morning, Jon and I got all showered, the undamaged clothes were dry, Jon picked up a few things at the local Shaws (clean garbage bags for the clean clothes) and we were able to head back on our journey home, past our burned spot... again.  Thankfully, the dollar general was deemed bomb free, and we able to pass onward.

We stopped in the Dunkin Donuts in Brattleburo, got breakfast, and chatted with some locals.  They were related to the owner of another towing company in the area (not the one that took our car). But they did give us some good info on towing/scrapping in the area.

And then we were headed back on our way home.  Since our GPS was in the van, of course we were going on memory alone.  So about 10 minutes after we left Dunkin Donuts we missed a turn, of course, which shot us up surprisingly north to Putney, VT, which we had found out which was where our car was towed to.  And funny enough, we had to drive right by Rod's Towing to even turn around, so we decided to pull in, exchange info.... and say goodbye to our car.  (All these pictures were taken by my Mom later when they came back through.  We didn't have a camera on us)

So here it is.  Our $7500, SEL Ford Freestar.  It was a great purchase for our growing family.  Power sliding doors.  DVD player.  Folding back seat.  Only had 96,000 miles on it so far.  We just put on new tires last summer.  See them there?  About $1000 in tires.   This thing hauled a whole lot of plywood and 2x4's.. and kids. We once fit three rearfacing seats and one forward facing seat in there for a 8 hour trip.... Memories....

It's funny how attached I am to the actual van, even despite it's glaring flaws.  And it's inspection for the summer was scheduled three days later!  Gah.  The what-ifs bother me, just a little.

Lets take a closer look, shall we? You can see that my door, which was open the whole time, was the only thing left with the paint color on.  I guess it was just barely out of the range of being too hot to burn the paint.

A few things strike me as funny.  The plush thick headrests... are small pieces of bent wire.  That's it.  The steering wheel is actually in the picture above; it's that circular wire leaning against the driver seat.  The fusebox is on the passenger seat because I had moved it there looking for my 'purse'.  It was actually at the feet of the passenger seat on the floor... with a bunch of owners manuals!  Apparently, the fire didn't burn long enough to burn through everything in the glove box, because there was still a ton of it left.

 Back to my purse.  After some chipping away at the melted floor (and all other melted plastic stuck to it) Jon came up with nothing that looked like my purse.  So I glanced around where I though I would have left it, and right away I found it!  Of course, by 'it' I mean the small, round, magnetic clasp that held my keys in.  Still, I grabbed the piece of the car we were using to chip away the melted plastic, and chiseled out a black lump I could tell was my purse... and my keys.  I'm so glad I found it... but I'll get back to that later.

I did find the 'kindle' right between the two seats, where I left it.  There was a piece of metal, that I assume was the back, along with some really super thing glass, all vertical in a line.  I wish I had gotten a picture of that (but we had no camera on us).  I found a tin can in there, which I had stored in a plastic compartment in the car.  No sign of the compartment, but the can was there. 

If I had gloves (and a camera), I would have scoured the car more... curiously got to me.  I knew where everything was in that car, and I wanted to see what was left after it had been in a really high temperature fire.  Probably the engineer in me.

This is the second row of the car.  We rescued the boys seats out of there, but a few carseat accessories were left behind.  I still need to replace those.  The firemen/firewomen threw a bunch of the exploded car and contaminated dirt in the van.  I think doing that is actually part of the hazmat cleanup.

The back seat.  See eve's carseat over there?  It's the one in the seat farthest to us?  No?  Well, I couldn't really find it there either, but I'm positive I installed it over there before I left.... so it's there.  (And actually, looking at this shot closely, I can see a part I painstakingly replaced over in the side there. It's the motor to the power sliding door and the cable that pulls he door...  sighs...) 

As I said before, the fire people through anything on the side of the road that was trash in there.  All of their car blankets didn't make it.  I wasn't planning on telling the kids until later, but they saw it in the van as it was towed by us.  I had a socket set, and a few other car things in the back too.

So, that's pretty much the carnage that we were left with after the fire.  Once we said goodbye to our car for good, we were on way back home...  which was thankfully uneventful.

Now home, it was time for the clean up work.  The first thing we did of course, was to call our insurance agent.  This is where it went from bad... to sad.  I was told that we weren't covered for this kind of loss.  Total shock, even though I shouldn't have been.  I never really look at the statement we pay.  Most everything we have is on auto-deduct and AllState sends out ssooooo much junk mail, I usually don't read any of it.  We didn't have comprehensive or collision. To keep it short after a few days, we figured out how much it really was our fault.  When we bought this van we knew it was worth adding real coverage on it outside of libility, since our previous junkers weren't worth it.  However, when they looked up our phone records it stated "Called Cassie. She will talk to husband and get back to us" and a few weeks later "Called Jon, he will talk to wife and get back to us".

Yep.  We suck.  We're that couple who doesn't really talk about life stuff much and really doesn't like using phones.  We were both happy to pass the chore of calling them back on each other, and unintentionally, neither of us ended up doing it.

After my initial shock of having to recover with just our limited, these-are-my-wood-floors savings, it was onto trying to salvage what we could from our stuff.  And try to plan for what to do about getting a vehicle.  While I was really upset about my stupidity, I know that we've made it through much worse financial situations, and much of what we lost was replaceable.   It's a big step back for us, but we trusted in God, and knew that our life is much more than Kindles or carseats.

Thankfully, it was mostly contained to the hat and Stuffy survives on hatless!
(It's just stuffed with other burned stuff)
3 Lands Ends Jackets - Almost New, sized for the 2015 Winter :(

I don't have a whole lot of pictures for our stuff.  Some of it was in the car and there's no trace that it was in there are all. Only my memories of packing it (which are really strong, I made the list that night), and it not being here is what I have to go on.  We didn't find the pillows.  We found one burned pillow case... and that's it.  Which is odd, because it had a pillow in it, and it was in a plastic bag with 2 other pillows.  So finding it alone and empty... a little weird.

Triple bagged purse.

I decided to hang up my purse as usual when I got home.  Welcome to the weird kind of humor Jon has to deal with daily.

Actually used one of these keys to get into my Mom's house.
The plastic keycard I use to get into work... with its wire guts sticking out.
My 'purse' un-wadded

A few days later, I went outside to salvage my purse, and took these pictures.  Even outside, the fumes were BAD, so after I took note of all the information I needed, I double bagged everything and saved it for the chance of needing it later.

I am so glad I recovered my purse. Pulling apart my cards, at least 2 bank accounts and 3 credit cards could have been used, not included any identity theft that could have occurred.  I even used one of those cards online to try to order replacement sandals... the right ones never were shipped though.  Odds of someone finding it are low... but not a risk I'd be happy to task.

And finally, our laptop :(  Jon's still very sad about this one.
Most damaged corner

The exposed hard drive... next to a bunch of burned leaves.
 Lappy came out in pretty bad shape.  Worst though, was that the corner with the most damage was the one that held the hard drive.  Seemed like our luck was going from bad to worse.

Snapped mid-attempt

But our didn't get worse.  It got better!  The hard drive was completely intact, with just some color damage indicating heat.  Even the connection pins were still in tact.

After some research and quotes from hard drive restoration companies, we decided that the first thing that trained professionals would try... was hooking the harddrive up and trying it.  Evaluating the risk, cost and given that I spent some time working in IT, we decided to go for it ourselves.  We opened up our old PC and plugged it in.

Last we knew (2013ish) this desktop randomly shut off within minutes of being booted. We didn't really take the time to determine what was crashing it.... and just switched to using the 'new' laptop.  Remembering what little digging I had done, I was left suspecting a peripheral (extra HD/CD/Floppy disk/Graphics card).  I unplugged everything I could (couldn't take out he video card), just to give the desktop a fighting chance.

We turned it on and crossed our fingers.... Feeling doubly worried that not only the computer could turn of at any second (maybe even damaging the drive! ) and that the hard drive could start to damage itself while starting to spin up.

It started off with some smooth spinning sounds, passed the boot tests, and we made it onto windows.  Looking great so far... Yet, one thing we hadn't anticipated...  windows checks the entire drive for integrity before you can start viewing files.  So we had to endure 15 minutes of worrying (Don't shut down!) before we even knew if files were found.

It was worth the wait!  Every stinking file was there!  We quickly started the transfer of important documents and pictures.  Once that made it fine, we copied everything else to the external hard drive.

And as an extra bonus, we kept using this desktop for the next few days.  Never once shut off.  Must have been one of those disconnected peripherals.  So we have a computer again!  Yay!

[Edit: Not only did we get the hard drive out, when we started up home school again, wondered where the first Rosseta Sone disk had gone.  I realized I had tested it in the laptop when we bought it used.  After some chiseling and prying I was able to get the CD Drive open, and low and behold, there was the disk... and it still worked!  

Plus, the desktop is still working great... and and SD card we had left in there came out unscathed as well!  

"Thank God!" was certainly said a few times through this whole thing] 

So to wrap this thing up, here's the abridged list of what was damaged or lost completely.

Recaro Prosport Carseat & Britax Carseat Accessories
Acer Laptop
Kindle FireHD & Fire Case
Craftsman Socket/Ratchet/Screwdriver Set, Jumper Cables, Tire Inflator/Flashlight
Auto Emergency Hammer, Winding Flashlight, Ratcheting Tie Down
Toy Story 3 DVD, Chicken Run DVD, Cars DVD, Ice Age DVD, Frozen DVD Case, Little Joe/Sherluck Holmes Veggie Tales DVD
V7 GPS & 1 GB SD Card
Lecrae - Rehab CD & a lot of mixes
3 Standard Pillows & a body Pillow, 3 Pillow Cases, 2 Pillow Allergy Covers
2 Nap Mats, 3 Fleece Carseat Blankets
Eddie Bauer Diaper Bag, Changing Pad, Bumpkins Bib, XL Travel Wetbag
Mei Tai
Protocol Grey Duffel Bag
Clothes(PJ's, Shorts, undies, socks)
3 Lands End Kids Hoodies (ouch - these were for the next winter!)
DC Shoes Sandals, Men and Women's Dress Shoes
Crocodile Creek Backpack, Usborne "What Shall I Draw" Book, Clipboard, Girls Sunglasses
Purse & Gift Cards
I summed up the total loss of material items which was $2541.  Adding in fire expenses ($290) and the cost of the vehicle, and the total loss was $7818.  It absolutely stinks that we had a loss, but we are all safe and home, and that is really what matters.  We've made it through worse financially and have a good job to support us.

[ EDIT -  Instead of making a new post, I'm just going to keep editing this one.  No need to litter my blog with car fire news]

My family had asked me if it was okay if they started a gofundme account.  I was a bit hesitant.  I knew that we would make it out okay just 'roughing it' for a few months and saving money.  There are a lot of people in the world that have more desperate needs.  But my Mom had said a few people contacted them wanting to give, and not to "rob people of their blessing".  So I agreed, and my Mom set off hoping to raise $500 to help us with our immediate needs - mostly a new vehicle. I was blessed with rides to work from a coworker, but it was out of the way for him, and not a really  long term option. 

At this point, we didn't have the money for a replacement van and our other car (A Ford - Eek!) needed some hefty repairs... and had not been on the road for a while.  We stuck on deciding whether to get a different small car to tide us over or fix the Ford we had.  It was a really tough call.

I checked my facebook before I left work the day after my mom had set up the gofundme page.  I wasn't intending on looking at the gofundme page much, as it felt a little weird to be stalking donations.... but curiosity got me.  There was a bunch of shares from friends, and friends of friends.  People were commenting on there that I didn't even know.

Checking the page, it was over $1000.  Mind blown.

To keep this short- When all was said and done, we were given $5,025 and even more outside the fund through checks sent/delivered by friends, family and coworkers.  My company gave a some too, and a coworker I didn't know well just handed me a JCPenney giftcard and said they had seen it on a a mutual friend's facebook.

There was a very large donation in the bunch, and the donator requested that they are kept anonymous. So, despite Jon having to log in to redeem the money, we have not looked at who donated anonymously.  We haven't sent out the thank you I got yet  ::hangs head:::  but if you were the one of many who donated anonymously - THANK YOU!

I cried. And cried.  I cannot believe how generous people were to us.  To me.  To be honest, I kinda view myself as a jerk.  I have a lot of social anxiety and I'm a project focused (as opposed to people focused) kind of person.  I do actually like people, and while I'm not [often] intentionally mean, I have definitely found that I come off as rude and surly more then I knew.  And more regrettably, I've let my selfish anxieties keep people at a distance from myself, even allowing others to get hurt because of them.  Jon is a little better at maintaining relationships... but has some work to do too.

People gave to us even though we don't deserve it at all.   We're jerks.  We screwed up not getting insurance.  We screwed up not getting our inspection done earlier (Jon says it wouldn't have caught it, but I'm not convinced).  We weren't living paycheck to paycheck and have a good job.  I mean, this really challenged my thoughts on people, money and the world.  And then it came to on me.

This is grace.

Grace is getting what you don't deserve, and not getting what you do deserve.  I think this is an outpouring of grace, shown through love.  Consider me schooled.  I think God had a lesson here for me, and I heard it loud and clear.

People need grace. You need grace.  We are all jerks.  We have sinned and keep sinning... and the punishment for sin is death.  Jesus Christ came to give us grace.  He took the consequence for our actions, even though he had no obligation to do it.  That's my lesson.  God's grace is real, and grace is for everyone.  It's for you too.


Back to the story, I guess, though its importance wanes.

After lots of searching, we decided our best option was another minivan.  We had borrowed an SUV to try, and looked up many crossovers, but none were for us.  There aren't many minivan options either, and were able to narrow our ideal down to an older used Toyota Sienna.

Our Ford Freestar was a great car with a good reliability, but we aren't getting another one of those.  And after the company took us through a obvious horse and pony (even costing us more money) show to see if we could get some compensation .... I won't be buying another Ford again, that's for sure.

After some searching we decided on a the 2006 Toyota Sienna below.

Not at all what we were looking for for trim wise... as it's completely loaded.  Leather seats, side air bags, power everything, DVD, sunroof.... pretty much everything that year could offer.  We found that it had the best value compared to every other vehicle we looked at and was in better condition.  About 5k below book too.  We needed something that weekend (another trip to NY the next weekend), so even though it was the tippy top of our budget, and after walking away and sleeping on it.... the next day we got up and bought it.

We're hoping it will last us another 10 years.
(Thankfully we had a booster seat as a back up to Eve's seat)
The kids totally approve too.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Come on Baby, Light my Fire...

Well, our summer plans are not going as expected.  This isn't going to be a very exciting story, and has nothing to do with DIY,  but it's my blog.  Suck it up, buttercup.

My Great Grandma, who lived a long life, passed away peacefully the end of June.  While this post, regrettably, is not about her life, I do feel I owe her homage to start with her story.  She was 102, had been the valedictorian of her class, and I don't think she wore a pair of pants once in her life (of course, because real ladies wear dresses).  She was still quite the thinker to the end and always very polite. I'm glad I was able to visit her this past fall.  She had nine great-great grandchildren, three of them my kids :)

This is were the story takes a turn.  Friday, June 27th, we were heading from New Hampshire to New York for her funeral.  We prefer traveling on rural road through southern Vermont to driving on highways in Massachusetts.   We don't have A/C in our car, so cool shady Vermont is much preferred to hot traffic jams.  Because it still gets quite hot, I've actually learned to keep a cooler with a few bags of ice open in the car to cool off the car a bit.  We keep soda cans in there to pass around the car to cool us off (and sometimes drink).  I'm getting way over detailed here....  back to the point.

We had a car inspection the next Monday, but we still looked over the engine and checked the oil level before we left.  I packed the typical stuff for a weekend trip.  Some of our nicer day clothes, funeral clothes, nap mats, pillows, diaper bag, kindle, laptop, etc.  I actually packed my bin of receipts from 2014 that I had been meaning to sort.  Plus I decided to grab the kids teddy bears, even though none of them requested I packed them. I grabbed a few DVD's for the car, particularly Frozen, which is both a hit with the kids, and would help to keep their mind on ice and not the heat :D

So, we're driving along, the kids are disappointed because the Frozen disk was left at home.  Whateve.  We'll survive with the others. Eve pull stuff out of bag, reads a little, feels a little queezy, and puts her stuff away (thank goodness).  I say no movies for a bit, until I'm sure that Eve's queezness subsides. The boys fall asleep, and I think Eve started nodding off.

Just as we're pulling into the last NH town, Brattleboro, Eve alerts us to her tummy woes.  I sprinted back to her with an empty chip bag we had devoured in no time (don't judge - Late July Dude Ranch... so yummy!) I made it in time, and thankfully the carsickness mess was contained.  Jon had pulled off while I was back there, which landed us in 99 Restaurant.

So, we have some lunch, use the potties and are back on the road.  I actually moved a lot of stuff in the cabin to the back, just in case there's more car sickness.  About 15 minutes out we pass Marlboro, and start heading up hogback mountain, which is known for it's view overlooking 4 states.  At the time though, we had no idea where were yet, because we hadn't gotten to the mountain yet.

Anyway, as we're climbing, Jon says "The transaxle light is on".  I wasn't super alarmed, it's come on before going through Vermont, we've pulled over, let the car rest and the light stayed off for the rest of the trip.  We had our mechanics check it out after, and they hadn't seen anything wrong.  I suggest we pull over.

As we're pulling over though Jon makes me very alarmed, and says, "We're stuck in 1st gear."

And as we hit the shoulder, thick white smoke starts pouring out of our vents.

I yell to the kids to "Get out now!" and I open the door and notice the ground is still moving beneath my bare feet,   I guess Jon hadn't come to a stop yet.  Isaac, our youngest at 3 1/2,  sits behind me and can't undo his buckle by himself, so my first thought is to get him out (um, duh) and I pull on the handle, and it doesn't open.  That fraction of a second induced Mom-panic.  Either because the car is locked, or even just not in park, cause either way it won't let the doors open.  I flip back to my open door and hit unlock at the same time Jon had hit it.  Thank God (no really) our electrical was still working, and the doors unlocked.  That would be the last time I saw the front seat, where I had my purse, sandals, and kindle.  Not that I give it the tiniest thought.  I hadn't even noticed I was barefoot yet. 

At this point, I get Isaac out.  The big kids did as they were told and quickly got out of the car on Jon's side.  They started towards the back to meet up with me.  Jon says at this point he went glanced back up front and saw flames licking out under the hood next to the front window, on the passenger side.  He runs to meet up with us.  I recall seeing two cars stop across the road, people yelling to us (I don't know what?) and a motorcycle behind us stopping.  A small parked motorcycle wouldn't do anything to stop, or even alert traffic to slow down around the bend, so I was really worried about leaving the kids.  However, the women on the motorcycle hopped down and helped take care of our kids, so I ran back to the car.

A man from the other side of the road had ran over to the drivers side of the car and was yelling "I would get this carseats out if I could just figure out how to do it!"  I got to the passenger side sliding door and respond, very uncharacteristically "The seats don't matter, get back!"  I'm a carseat nut, so I'm glad I have one moment to show safety is still my top priority.  But, again in less than a second I thought, I'm standing next to it, I should take the seats out.  Even with shaky hands, my experience uninstalling our Britax seats a million times came in handy, and in less than 2 seconds I had Isaac's seat out.  Have I mentioned, I LOVE the our Britax Boulevards?  I do. I really do.  They're so easy to install, but also easy to uninstall.  As I was getting it out, I'm sure I was taking in a bit of smoke, but I hadn't really noticed much.

I bring it to the back of the car, and that would be the first time I noticed I didn't have shoes on.  My guess is at this point probably 30 seconds has elapsed since I jumped out?  At most a minute.  I get it a distance away, turn around and see Jon carrying Eli's seat.  He saw that I had grabbed Isaac's seat and followed suit.  I took it from him and carried to the other seat, grabbed both and brought them not too much further back and turned around to look at the car. 

This was the point I realized the whole car was going to burn before anything could be done.  I hadn't really had a chance to think about it before then.  Honestly, my normal "directive thoughts" were just random pulses at this point.  Never before has my mind worked like that.  Most of the time was mind was divided between thoughts of... no more like constant feelings of "Got to get back to the kids" and "What if the car explodes?" Any cognitive decisions were few and acted upon quickly whether good or bad.

Anyway, with the realization that it was all going to go, I set down the seats ran back to the car again. Jon had already opened the trunk and together we started pitching EVERYTHING into the ditch.  I stood up, leaned over the backseat and grabbed Eve's bag and a book that was laying on the seat.  I am SO glad Eve had picked up all her toys and put them back in her bag.  I saw her RECARO carseat and knew I didn't have time to pull it out.  I went back to the trunk and started indiscriminately throwing stuff into the ditch as far back as a I could.

I made two errors in thinking.

The first was hard to recall for a few minutes.  The laptop bag was taken out by me.  I recall thinking, "Oh, thank goodness we got this" but lost the thought pretty much instantly and threw it into the ditch just as I did everything else.   I had a nagging feeling I was forgetting something.  This could have been compounded actually, but I'll get back to that.

The second erroneous thought was that I saw the green bin of 'car stuff' in the car when I did my final look over that I got everything.  I didn't throw that in the ditch.   My guess is that I'm so used to knowing that it's not luggage and it typically stays in the whenever we unload the car.  I recall the thought "That stays in the car."  It's crazy how autopilot I was.

I closed the trunk, mostly out of habit, because I can just barely remember it, and that was it.  The last time I touched the car.  I ran back to the seats and brought them to Jon, the kids and the motorcycle couple.  I had a nagging feeling that I needed to move the stuff we saved.  I wanted to go back so bad, but the car was getting worse every minute.  I couldn't remember what it was I wanted to get so bad.

The ditch was kinda odd, that in some places it was quite low, like where our luggage was and in further back there was no ditch and it went straight up the mountain.  At this point, I sat down into the side of the mountain and started to... pout?  It wasn't crying, I didn't have tears, but I was in disbelief.  Some of the cars on the other side that had stopped right across from us moved on (which is a good idea), and Jon had borrowed someone's phone to call 911. 

He was very frustrated with the 911 person.  They wouldn't alert the fire department until they knew exactly where we were, and we had to find a local to tell us that we were just in front of hogshead mountain.  I recall hearing him say "It's the CAR ON FIRE."  He said it took a full minute before they even connected him to the fire department for him to repeat everything again.  Meanwhile, I got a hold of myself and decided to borrow the woman on the motorcycle, Pat's, cellphone to call my Mom.  She didn't pick up, but I wanted to be super clear on the recording, so I said twice that we were all safe before I said it was a fire.  No reason to make my Mom panic.

It was a good van :(

I got off the phone, and we decided to move back again.  This is about the time I realized the purse and kindle were in there.  I asked her to take a picture, which is the one above.  It's one of two pictures we have.  You can see that my open door is still open from when I jumped out. 

So this is the second thing I think was nagging at me.  There's something burning on the ground at the back.  I think it's our garbage bag of pillows.  I can't remember, but my guess is that I didn't want to throw our nice clean pillows in the ditch, and I meant to carry it with me.  They're the only thing that was in the trunk that we found almost no trace of later.  Oh well, I guess.

My Mom called Pat's phone as this picture was being taken, and I talked to my Mom briefly.  The first two tires popped, and I got off the phone to move back again.  A off duty utility worked had gotten out of his car, thrown on his neon vest, and was directing traffic (and us) to move back because of the increasing chance of explosion.  We decided to round the bend completely and have the mountain between us and the car.

All the while, we were keeping our humor.  Once my initial shock wore off, I realized there was nothing we do, so we resorted to jokes like, "at least we don't have to worry about passing inspection".  Eli even got on board and said "Anyone have any marshmallows?" The kids were concerned about our money and our stuff, but I reassured them that we had insurance just for this reason, and explained how insurance works ::sad face::.

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It was a little odd.  People had got out of their cars to film it or take pictures.  There were several cars now much closer to it then us, and now we could see the line of cars past the bend who were frustrated because of the unknown blockage, and getting out to look around the bend.  Frustration and curiosity were sort of replaced by sympathy.  Sort of.  It's odd to see your misery being something of interest.  My sister found the above picture on twitter.  We were probably a bit behind this car on the side.

Anyway, I should move the story along.  The utility worker gave us water, which was great because my throat was burning (smoke inhalation anyone?).  A women in an RV gave a pair of flipflops, which I was so grateful for.  The tires all blew, and that was pretty loud.  When the last tire blew, we were like. "Wait. Five? Oh the spare!"

The town police came, and didn't say much expect that the state police handles all this.  The state police came and talked to us only briefly.  Finally the fire trucks came.  There was an ambulance, I guess, but it never came to us, because they were stuck on the other side of the road.  Nothing crossed for a long time. 

I'll skip the boring part.  We were there over 3 hours.  The fire chief was concerned because of the amount of fuel in the tank.  The bugs bit us. Eli, who WILL NOT pee in the woods, was forced to pee on the side of the road in front of the line of traffic.  He screamed and screamed.  He was  also upset he didn't have hand sanitizer, but a firewomen came through with some, but not early soon enough to spare us some screaming.

Pat and her fellow dude (I'm not even sure they were a couple, but probably were), stayed with us for a long long time, and helped us manage the kids.  Having an interim 'grandma' was wonderful.  The kids could go on talking to her about everything, and she took interest in them, which is an awesome form of entertainment for them.  But eventually, they had to leave because it was getting dark and they, like everyone else on the NH side, was blocked from their destination because of us.

Speaking of that.  We found out later, my uncle, who was heading to the funeral, was in the line of cars, and turned around.  I wish we would have known.

Anyway, after the couple left, the fire winding down.  We were allowed to load our car seats in a police cruiser and warm up in there, away from mosquito's.  He said it's not normally allowed, but since we were two hours from any taxi, they made an exception.  Once the fire was out and clean-up was underway, we asked the firepeople to recover our stuff, particularly the laptop and the bag with teddy bears.  That's when we found out how much of our 'saved stuff' was damaged.

The entire laptop bag had caught fire.  This picture was taken later, but that metal thing poking out of the laptop there is our hard drive :(

The bag with the kids teddy bears had melted on one side, so we had warned them that there could be damage.  Isaac's teddy bear was in the middle, unharmed and dry so I gave it to him right away. Eve's bear was on the melted side and his hat was stuck to the bag, but the body seemed salvageable.  Eli's bear was on top, and had some soot and burn spots, but also seemed reparable.  I was able to show the big kids, who were in and out of tears at the news of damage, the surviving parts of their lovies by holding up the whole bag, and they felt much better.

I snapped a picture about a month later - again to NY, this time a wedding!
So once we had gathered up our stuff, we loaded ourselves into a police car and our singed stuff into a firewomen's truck. We were dropped off at "Dot's Diner", who were more than accommodating for us.  The kids were hungry and full of energy, and they were given toys to play with and food (their meals were on the house).  Then we just waited until my Mom came, which was only a few minutes after we got there.  My step dad was just a few minutes behind her.  We ate our meals and it was time to figure out what to do from there.

If anyone actually made it this far down the post, I'd say I think it's gotten long enough, and it's time for bed... so I guess there will be a part II!