Here is what happened during the first week after "The Incident":
Sunday, March 4th
Sunday morning we came to the conclusion that we couldn't attend church with the clothes I had gathered the night before. The smoke smell was so strong (and very unpleasant - nauseating even) that there was no way we could subject others to it at church, and there was no time to wash our clothes.
I spent some time trying to clean my new Skechers shoes that I had bought only 2 weeks before for our Disney trip. The burnt chicken had created some kind of black slime that splattered all over them as Ken carried the pot out of the house. I was so sad because I really liked them and they were very comfortable (they passed the comfort test of a week of walking around Disney World, and that's no small feat)!
Ken & I went back to our house and it was immediately clear that we would have to clean every single item and square inch of our house if we wanted to get rid of the smell. We decided to contact our insurance company because this was a much bigger problem than we first thought. With protein smoke, the soot is clear so it doesn't look very bad but it definitely smells bad! Two and a half weeks later when I walk into the house, I'm still disgusted by the smell.
We contacted the insurance company, left everything as it was, and returned home to Ken's parents' house. I texted my mom, saying "I'm alternating between feeling fine and overwhelmed. I feel like I could easily fall asleep and wake up tomorrow."
Monday, March 5th
We met with an adjuster from insurance in the morning, went over what had happened, and were told to wait to hear back from them. We had promised Talia a while ago that she could get her ears pierced that day and decided that despite the stressful situation, we should follow through on that promise.
We had a nice night out at the mall with the girls, bought them each a sweater to wear while we were in limbo with barely any of our clothes, and scheduled a couple of meetings for the next day.
Tuesday, March 6th
Throughout the day as we met with another person from insurance and someone from the cleaning company that works with the insurance company, I felt drained emotionally. As they walked through our house, it was hard to wrap my head around how all of this would affect our family. Both of them took a lot of photos of our house (which I was a bit embarrassed about because it was a mess after returning from our trip; we were mid-unpack and there were groceries out that we hadn't had the chance to put away from the day it happened.
This was the first day we received the advice to get rid of all stuffed or plastic toys because of health concerns. We were also advised not to be in the house for long periods of time without fresh air breaks.
We took our computers to Best Buy to be cleaned, and asked advice at Henry's for how best to clean our cameras. Best Buy did a basic cleaning & checked to make sure everything was working. Henry's recommended a couple of products to surface clean the cameras, but said there was no need for an internal cleaning.
Wednesday, March 7th
Wednesday was a waiting game. We were waiting to hear back from our insurance company and they were waiting for a quote from the restoration company on the cost of cleaning our belongings (the restoration company said they would try and finish by the end of Tuesday). Unfortunately we waited all day and didn't get any answers.
I remember being pretty exhausted and overwhelmed throughout the day and that it was so hard to wait on the news from insurance. We wanted to move forward but felt stuck; it was a real bummer not to hear anything at all.
There was some excitement though (...not the good kind...) as we got a call from the school midday because Katrina fell during gym class and re-opened her skinned knee (which happened on one of our last days in Florida) so we brought her home to clean and bandage it up. It was in really bad shape and I will spare you a photo because it was a little disturbing.
Thursday, March 8th
I woke up with a sore throat. *ugh*
We heard from insurance & found out the estimate for cleaning our belongings was well over our insurance limit. This meant that the insurance company would simply "cash us out" for our limit, and we would be left to our own devices to clean and/or replace our possessions.
We went to work that afternoon, with face masks to lessen the nasty smell, and started going through our things. We got rid of everything we knew we didn't want to spend time or money to clean. It was a forced purge and much more effective than the one I did in January, let me tell you! haha
We had visits from more restorers who all agreed that we should get rid of anything plastic that touches food or that kids play with (because of carcinogens) as it was not worth the health risk to keep them, even if we could get the smell out with careful cleaning. I reluctantly packed up my Tupperware collection and put it out to the curb. This was a sad moment for me because I was really happy with the Tupperware I had acquired over our 14 years of marriage and many of these products are no longer available.
Friday, March 9th
We tried using an ozone machine in the house overnight but it didn't make much of a difference, so with face masks back in place, we continued purging and the pile on our front lawn continued to grow. We moved a lot of big furniture onto the lawn including the foam mattresses from the girls' bunk bed and anything made with particle board. We kept our mattress covered, hoping that the sheets would have protected it from the smoke (spoiler alert... it didn't).
By noon we couldn't stand being in the house much longer. Just before leaving the house for a lunch break, Ken brought the girls' doll stroller and cradle upstairs & asked if he should toss it. I started to cry because to me, that little stroller and cradle represent my little girls (who aren't so little anymore). Even though they don't play with it much anymore, I wasn't ready to let it go yet.
By the end of this day, Ken & I were both exhausted physically, emotionally, and mentally. It was interesting how we just couldn't make decisions anymore! One of us would ask the other a simple question and we'd find ourselves just staring, unable to get our brains to compute and make even a simple decision. It was so weird. When we got back to his parents' house that night, we sat on our bed, exhausted, just staring at nothing.
When I think back to that week, I remember feeling like I was in a fog, going through the motions of what needed to be done. I think we were so drained and tired that there weren't many moments where we got emotional about the situation... or perhaps we were in emotion overload and unable to process the emotions. At the same time, however, there was some sense of liberation as we let go of many of the items we had been holding onto "just in case" or out of some sense of obligation.
We made a lot of progress those two days, but we had no idea we'd still be working through all of this as we head into April! Thanks for following along if you stuck with this long post 'til the end!
If you'd like to read the next part of this story, here's Smoke Saga ~ Part 3!