I called 911 at 11:11 last night. The dispatcher told me to evacuate the house. Tanah grabbed her bird and turtle, Chick left his shoes, Zorro followed us unwittingly, Miles put on his rain jacket, I picked up my book, Grace asked for the phone so she could text Kali, and we all paraded out onto the dark lawn. [I had turned out all the lights; not sense adding wasted electricity to the problems we already had.]
The fire engine parked in front of the house. We greeted the two firemen in the driveway and then waited in the driveway as they entered our empty home. Ten or so minutes later they joined us on the outside. “Your home is full of CO [carbon monoxide],” they told us. “Someone from Questar Gas will be here within the hour.”
Children listen. While we waited on the lawn for the firemen’s verdict, the three oldest children begged to use the smart phone; each wanted to text and/or post on Facebook. “But Mom,” they said to me as I protectively clutched the cell phone, “life is the stories you can tell!” Children do listen……at least sometimes. And, yes, life is the stories you can tell.
So, I guess I will tell the complete story.
After watching Roy City’s fabulous 23 minute fireworks display from the hard-to--beat view in our back pasture, we returned home and readied ourselves for bed. Soon thereafter the carbon monoxide monitor went off. And off………and off……..and off. I found the monitor manual (only one of the night’s many tender mercies) and, under the section “What to do when your monitor goes off”, read “1. Call 911.” Seriously?
I really did not want to call 911 but could think of no other safe alternative. I hesitantly described the situation to the dispatcher and she firmly instructed me to get the heck out of dodge (or evacuate the house, whichever was easier).
We evacuated, the firemen came, and the Questar gas guy was contacted. Chris (Lance’s brother) came and took our children to his home for the night, and I sat in the driveway, reading my book and waiting for Lance and the Questar gas representative to show.
Eventually they both arrived (independently, not together) and explored the house (together, not independently). Though the highest concentrations of the poisonous gas were found near the water heater, the source of the problem was the stove. [Carbon monoxide is approximately the same density as air—1.205 kg/m 3 at 20 degrees C, 1 atmosphere vs 1.165 kg/m 3 —so the gas followed the air currents in the cold air return.]
There are two main sources of carbon monoxide in homes: 1) leaking of combustion products (chimney blockage, broken flue , car exhaust accumulation) and 2) the cooling of the combustion process (flame not allowed to burn at full vigor). I had put a 5 gallon bucket of crystalized honey in a huge canner (16 inch) filled with water. The canner completely covered the burner unit, limiting the oxygen supply, and causing the natural gas to burn inefficiently. I ended up with a 5 gallon bucket full of liquid honey and a house full of carbon monoxide. The air around the stove’s other units, when lit, had 2 parts per million (ppm) carbon monoxide. The air under the big canner, when the stove was lit, had 400 ppm carbon monoxide. Evacuation is considered when readings are 70 ppm; evacuation is demanded at 200 ppm.
We turned off the stove, opened windows, got the reading to 41 ppm, and went to bed.
And that is the end of that story……..but not the end of the week’s stories.
Chick went to scout camp this week and had a fabulous time playing chess. Lance and Miles stayed in Roy this week and had a fabulous time watching Olympics and movies (The Smurfs was not Lance’s favorite) and sleeping. Grace, Tanah, and I went to California this week and had a fabulous time exploring Monterey Bay.
Despite a bumpy start (the plane circled Monterey Bay twice, searching for a hole in the fog, gave up, flew to Fresno, re-fueled, and returned to Monterey Bay), the trip was smooth sailing. While I attended ESSEA (Earth Systems Science Educational Alliance) meetings, Grace and Tanah bonded with California. In the early mornings, later afternoons, and entire evenings we all bonded with each other…and with California.
I called Lance and asked him if the girls should go on a whale watching tour while I was in my meetings. He said, “@#!! YES!” so I handed them my credit card and wished them well.
They found company offering a three hour bay tour. Grace negotiated the deal—they were both charged children’s fare, a $20 savings—and Tanah signed the credit card. [When asked if the card were hers, she said told them it was mine but reassured them that she signs for me “all the time”…. I hope this is not a prophecy.]
When I next spoke with them they could hardly speak. Words flowed from their mouths faster than a rip tide; they were so excited. They saw a blue whale (Earth’s largest animal), multiple hump back whales (too many to count), huge sunfish (whose dorsal fins bear slight resemblances to shark’s fins), and two leatherback sea turtles (an sighting that occurs only once or twice a year, the captain assured them). Their boat was a small one, a huge advantage in their eyes because they were able to ride the waves (like a roller coaster) on the way out and, once out, were able to see the animals from the front deck instead of having to fight for rail space like the people in the big boats had to do.
As Grace completed listing and describing the ocean’s wonders, Tanah added, “And there was a really hot guy.”
“There was?” Grace said, puzzled.
“You were standing right next to him!” Tanah exclaimed.
“I was?” Grace said, puzzled.
Ah……the difference between 12 year old and 14 year old girls!!!
While in Monterey, we also:
· Paid 10 cents for every shopping bag we used. It’s a new law designed to prevent waste.
· Visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Sea otters have 1 million hairs per square inch of fur; more than a cat has on its entire body. They also eat 25% of their body weight daily. If the average human did that, it would be the equivalent of 23 pizzas a day.
· Saw seals, sea lions, and sea otters swimming and “sun” bathing. (We did not see much sun.)
· Spent hours on the beach, racing waves, grabbing sea shells, and touching sea anemones. Each jagged sea shell was a treasure, each sticky sea anemone a delight.
· Grace ran 5 miles for the first time. I invited her to join me for a morning jog along the ocean trail, assuring her that, at my pace, she would have no trouble running five miles. I was right.
Now we are all back home. When we got home, the girls could not wait to tell Lance about their whale watch and the boys could not wait to tell me about their adventures; Miles about the “five USA girls who one the gold medal” and “Phelps who thought he won but lost at the very, very end and then won a different race ‘cuz he told his teammates to give him a big lead and they did” and Chick about his camping chess matches.
Friday afternoon we watched “The Sound of Music” at Hale Centre Theatre. Cooper, Allie, and Sallie joined us. At show’s end Cooper asked Miles, “Did you like it?”
Miles responded, “Better than I thought.”
Cooper agreed, “Yea, if only they would have cut out the songs.”
As for me, I loved the songs. In fact, I have loved the songs for a long time. As a young girl (who grew up without a T.V. in the home), I played the Sound of Music record (large, black, plastic disk) over and over again until the songs became a part of my soul. I did not realize what a huge influence those songs have had on my psyche until I listened to them again this weekend. I heard the themes, recognized them as themes that have influenced my life’s philosophy, and feared that I have failed to share those priceless life philosophies with my daughters.
“Climb every mountain!” (Pursue your dreams, even if it means going on a whale watch tour without your mother)
“I have confidence in confidence alone, besides which you see, I have confidence in me!” (Strike a deal with the ship captain. Sign for your mother’s credit card. Jog five miles for the first time.)
“These are a few of my favorite things” (Playing in surf, gathering sea shell bits)
“The hills are alive with the sound of music” (As are the waves, the bark of seals, and the cry of gulls)
Maybe I need not fear so much after all. The Sound of Music’s message is being passed on. Thank heavens they did not cut out the songs!