Sunday, October 4, 2009

It's all fun n games 'til somebody loses a toe

My first winter away from the southwest desert taught me two things:

1. Snow boots are an essential part of any winter ensemble.

2. When in the midst of a crisis where appendage loss is looming, call the medical professionals. Friends are useless…and mean.

My kids and I are sissies. It’s not our fault. We hail from a place where a sixty degree forecast had us scrambling for the heavy coats and Duraflame® logs. Like I said, sissies. That all changed last year, though, when we packed up our t-shirts and flip-flops and moved to a genuine four seasons climate.

Our experience with snow prior to that move went something like this:

Freak snow “storm” hits the desert on a January morning. Mom piles on the coats and hats and gloves and sends kids excitedly outside to frolic. Five year old daughter makes it approximately six-and-a-half steps out the door before slipping on a slick spot and landing flat on her back.

Frolicking over. Snow sucks.

Fast forward to the first snowfall of the season in our new home. The park across the street was no longer a park. Its vast, grassy play area was transformed into a pure white winter wonderland. My little desert rats were practically salivating at the thought of all the romping and snowball throwing they could do. That blanket of white was calling their names.

I suppose my first mistake (rest assured there are more to follow) was letting everyone be in charge of dressing themselves. I gave them all a once-over before sending them on their merry ways and shutting the door behind them.

Hats: check. Gloves: check. Coats: check. And off they went.

Being the conscientious mom that I am, I would periodically peek out the window to count kids and make sure they were all still relatively unfrozen. At some point I noticed the feet of my second youngest child. He had somehow managed to get past me with no boots, just sneakers. I was concerned, but the snow was shallow and he’d been out there a good fifteen minutes already with no complaints. I was sure that, once his feet started to feel wet and cold and uncomfortable, he’d come running inside and we’d put the boots on. See? I told you there were more mistakes to follow. Another thirty minutes went by. I kept up my periodic checks, sure each time that I’d see my boy dancing around in a frost-bitten frenzy. Nope. It was obvious to me that the cold, wet snow had yet to penetrate those sneakers.

Under my breath to no one in particular: Wow, those seven dollar Walmart shoes are really giving mommy her money’s worth.

Truer words were never spoken.

I’m sure I don’t need to spell out the rest. Forty five minutes of snow play was enough for them. They were all hungry and cold enough by then to call it quits. They left their snow gear—including boots and seven dollar sneakers—at the door and got a few minutes into their snacks. What came next was the kind of horrifying cry of anguish that sends shivers down a mom’s spine. I turned around to see my boy—yeah, the one with the sneakers—writhing in pain on the floor, clutching his bright pink…no, RED feet and screaming uncontrollably.

“Mommy! My feet hurt SOOOOOO bad! Aaaaaaaaaahhhhh! Mommy, help meeeeeeee!”

I snapped into action and did what any insane, freaked-out, loving mother would do: I sat down at the computer.  Through the wonders of instant messaging, I sought the help of a seasoned “friend” (using that term loosely at the moment) who lives in one of those really bitterly cold, mountainless prairie states. Surely, I thought, he’s got experience in this area.

Freaked-out: Are you there? I need your help!

Unsupportive prairie state friend: Yes?

Freaked-out: What do I dooooo? I think my boy’s got frostbite on his toes. He’s screaming in pain! Has this ever happened to you?

Unsupportive prairie state friend: Uh, what makes you think he has frostbite?

Freaked-out: He was out in the snow for a while then he came in and started screaming and holding his feet and he says his feet hurt and DID I MENTION HE'S SCREAMING???!!!

Unsupportive prairie state friend: Did you send him out in his bare feet?

Freaked-out: Of course not! How stupid would I have to be? He had sneakers on.

Unsupportive prairie state friend: Uh.

Freaked-out: What should I do? I’m afraid his toes are going to start breaking off!!!!!

Unsupportive prairie state friend: Uh.

Freaked-out: Should I put him in a warm bath? Rub his feet? WHAT! DO! I! DOOOO????!!!!

Unsupportive prairie state friend: So, you really didn’t know that you shouldn’t send a kid out to play in the snow in his sneakers?

Freaked-out: He says it hurts so bad he can’t walk. This is terrible! What if I’ve damaged him for life?!

Unsupportive prairie state friend: You really think his toes are going to break off? That’s funny.

I’m happy to report that, thanks to the helpful suggestions of my wonderfully sympathetic friend, I was able to save all ten toes and everyone lived to tell the tale.  The lessons learned did not come easily, nor will I soon forget them.   This is mainly because I'm reminded by my loving friend on quite the regular basis that I was an idiot on that fateful day.  I can own that. 

Another winter is just around the corner.  I’m fully prepared this time. I’ve got the snow boots—and the pediatrician’s phone number—at the ready.