Heater, Mother of Lance

Disaster Preparedness

So I guess Leta has developed a phobia of things blowing away, I’m not sure where it came from, but here it is and wow, does it ever pop up out of nowhere and hijack a good hour of our lives. Let me first just say that she comes by this naturally, I had all sorts of weird tics as a kid, tons of obsessive-compulsive behaviors, like praying to God a certain way, with very specific words, over and over again, EVERY TIME I SAT ON THE TOILET, that he protect our house from a giant, falling meteor.

What can I say. It worked!

We first noticed it when she started freaking out about the umbrella on the deck just outside our kitchen. Whenever it was left open and moved lightly in the breeze she’d start pacing the floor of the kitchen, demanding that someone get out there right now and save it from being whisked up into the sky. Which is understandable, I guess. Maybe? I mean, the thing only weighs a hundred pounds, and there WAS that freak tornado that touched down in Salt Lake City ten years ago, and Jon is all HEATHER YOU ARE NOT HELPING.

Oh, can I even tell you how relieved I am that we are not raising Leta in a state where tornado warnings are normal? I think I’ve written about it here once, but when I was seven years old a tornado touched down just a few miles from our house in Memphis, and for the next two years of my life I slept in the bathtub with all of my stuffed animals. In fact, I’d come home from school and go straight to that bathtub, the safest place in the house, just in case a tornado suddenly dropped out of the sky. Because that totally could have happened at any moment. And when it did, WOULDN’T MY SKEPTICAL PARENTS BE EMBARRASSED, because there they are stuck underneath a shard of the roof while I’m all safe and cozy in the bathtub with my Care Bears.

I mean, I don’t even want to think about the terror Leta would feel at the sound of the siren that signals a tornado warning. Last week I backed the car into the garage after a trip to the grocery store, and as I was unloading all the bags she sat in the car and started screaming, I mean, scrah-HEEEMING, and I run over to see if she’s got an arm caught in a meat grinder, and she’s all THAT PAPER! THAT PAPER! And I turn to see the receipt from the grocery trip floating out of a bag and onto the floor of the garage.

She was worried that a receipt was going to blow away.

And I was all, dude, let’s go grab all your books and spend the night in the bathtub!

Somewhat related: so we’re driving out to my mom’s cabin on Sunday afternoon, me, Jon, Marlo in the car seat, and my friend Cami sitting next to her (Leta rode out with my mother). And we’re talking about the Receipt Incident, trying to dissect why Leta has this phobia about things blowing away. And since Cami grew up in Texas she and I start to reminisce over tornado warnings and drills. And Jon’s all, what’s a tornado drill? And both Cami and I start to laugh not realizing that since he grew up in a desert, “tornados” are those things that happen in The Wizard of Oz.

So I tell him that in tornado-prone areas they teach all the students a certain drill to perform in the event that one happens during school hours, and I’m not even kidding he goes, what? So they teach you to go stand underneath a doorway?

Is that not the cutest thing you’ve ever heard? I mean, that was three days ago and I’m still smiling about that comment.

  • robyn

    2009/08/12 at 3:02 pm

    Poor Leta! A fear is a fear whether it makes sense or not.

    But I had to laugh about the receipt…..

  • Milla

    2009/08/12 at 3:04 pm

    wait, you mean tornadoes ARE real? where else would go besides a doorway? so confused.

  • Jennifer

    2009/08/12 at 3:04 pm

    HAHA, tornados, earthquakes, it’s all the same!
    so, my daughter is gripped with the same “blowing away” fear right now.
    maybe there is something to it!

  • Anne

    2009/08/12 at 3:04 pm

    haha, this story had me smiling so bad. I can blame all my adult neurosis on my brothers since they, like all older siblings, liked to play all sorts of amazing tricks on me to make me react to, like Leta, receipts falling out of bags and OMG IT IS THE END OF THE WORLD.

    And I have to agree with Jon about the tornado warnings. Sure, I’m used to earthquakes living up in the northwest, but tornados? Let alone the hurricanes and tornados I had to deal with when I lived in Florida last hurricane season? The sheer thought of the hurricane blowing in and what if a tornado lands? THE WORLD WILL END AS WE KNOW IT. So, while I don’t take it calm, I can see how Jon is like “they teach you to stand in doorways?” At my elementary in Seattle we learned to play dead under desks.

    Ahh childhood. 🙂

  • Taylee

    2009/08/12 at 3:06 pm

    I don’t get it? Jon should sorta know about this. Didn’t he do earthquake drills growing up? I distinctly remember being in elementary school and having the ‘earthquake’ alarm going off and we all had to stop what we were doing and quickly find a desk or open door frame to get under. I do remember several kids forgetting that it was in fact a ‘drill’ and screaming as if at any moment the earth was going to open and swallow them whole.

    Pray that Leta never has to do an earthquake drill, I’m sure you can imagine.

  • Leslie

    2009/08/12 at 3:06 pm

    I must admit that last paragraph did get me chuckling. Just thinking about 30 kiddies arranged in a doorway. Made me think of those ladies in fancy bikinis all piled on top of one guy jet-skis behind a boat.

  • Jenna Jean

    2009/08/12 at 3:06 pm

    Growing up in Colorado, tornado warnings come every single year and the teachers would all make you crouch beneath your desks for twenty minutes. It was awesome.

  • Beth

    2009/08/12 at 3:07 pm

    I STILL freak out over tornado warnings, even though I’ve lived in GA for 3 years now. Before that, I lived in FL where hurricanes can blow half your state down, and I’m STILL convinced that tornadoes are WAY MORE SCARY. At least with hurricanes you KNOW there’s impending doom coming, and you can board up the windows and pretend nothing’s happening; tornadoes just pop up out of nowhere.

    My son was scared of being sucked down the toilet when he was potty training…so there’s that. 🙂

  • John

    2009/08/12 at 3:07 pm

    I grew up in the northeast, so I don’t know what is entailed in a tornado drill, either. What are you supposed to do?

  • Nancy

    2009/08/12 at 3:08 pm

    Lucky you – our youngest adopted son is sure that he will be swallowed by the toilet E-VER-Y TIME he goes. Now there’s some PTSD therapy to work on…

  • Wichita

    2009/08/12 at 3:09 pm

    Fact: in Wichita, Kansas, several years ago, the county government decided that monthly siren tests were not enough, and now we test our tornado sirens EVERY MONDAY AT NOON. I teach high school, and I swear EVERY MONDAY AT NOON I have some teenage girl in my class who freaks for a millisecond until half a dozen people mutter, “it’s noon, Monday.” It would be annoying if we couldn’t remember the suburb that blew away a few years ago that one time the siren didn’t work. P.S. I go outside to look if there’s a real one. Every time. I can’t help myself.

  • Milla

    2009/08/12 at 3:09 pm

    in cali, our biggest worry is being naked during an earthquake that hits in the middle of the night. happened to me once. not fun.

  • Jon Pugh

    2009/08/12 at 3:09 pm

    Cute story. I love the sunset pic you posted. I think it will be my new desktop until we go to Yosemite this weekend.

  • Maria

    2009/08/12 at 3:10 pm

    When my husband and I met, I was Jon. Growing up in Philadelphia, there was no such thing as a tornado or warning drills. However, he grew up in Fond du Lac (I know, where in the eff is that? Wisconsin…enough said) and apparently that was a regular thing. The first time we went to visit family in WI and the Saturday test siren went off, I was scared shitless. And of course they all laughed at the city girl because it was a test. Jerks.

  • Anonymous

    2009/08/12 at 3:10 pm

    TORNADO DRILLS! HA, I totally forgot about those!

  • dooce

    2009/08/12 at 3:11 pm

    #9 John – everyone files out into the hallway, crouches down face first into the wall in a tight ball, and covers their head with their arms. The lower the better.

  • Kelsi

    2009/08/12 at 3:11 pm

    I feel for Leta! I remember being little and being scared of things that now seem strange, like a plane dropping a screw that would hit my head and kill me.

  • katie

    2009/08/12 at 3:11 pm

    Yeah, I’m from Texas. Tornado drills. You duck and cover under your desk. Hands behind your neck. Also works for nuclear attacks.

  • Tasha

    2009/08/12 at 3:12 pm

    I used to be scared of the wind blowing the curtains at my Grandpa’s house so someone thought it would be a great idea to show me why they moved. My aunt or someone went behind the curtains to blow on them but then I thought the curtain wind monster was going to get HER TOO! I think I had to just grow out of it.

  • Edwin Allen

    2009/08/12 at 3:12 pm

    I was living in Memphis a few years back when they had that straight line storm, which is 100 mph wind that doesn’t swirl but goes, well, straight, and my roommate and I stood on the front stoop of our house and watched a 100 year old Oak tree get uprooted and topple over and across the road while drinking quarts of Miller Lite.
    Maybe not the wisest move, but cool nonetheless. And then didn’t have power for two weeks. Chickasaw gardens was so messed up with trees all through the middle of people’s million dollar homes that we renamed it Chainsaw Gardens. You could see stars at night in the city. Crazy days.

  • Lauren

    2009/08/12 at 3:12 pm

    I’m from Alabama.

    Every time the sirens went off during my childhood, my mother would load all four of the children into the back of the station wagon and order we each pick a window and start scanning the skies. I can imagine how we looked with our little faces pressed against the window in HOLY MOTHER TERROR SURELY WE WILL DIE…. while she was driving 100 mph down a back road to my grandmother’s house.

    I guess that explains my need as an adult to grab the vodka and run for the cellar as soon as the watch gets issued.

  • shriek house

    2009/08/12 at 3:12 pm

    Try living in earthquake country with a paranoid 6 year old. EVERY time a truck goes by & rattles the windows, we’re like, Wha? Where’s the kid? and then find her quivering under the table with all adrenal glands firing. I guess it will serve her well when the Big One finally hits, so I don’t give her *too* hard a time about it.

    I love that Leta’s fear is so… metaphoric. You are going to have seriously Good Times with your wee existentialist.

  • Anonymous

    2009/08/12 at 3:14 pm

    Duck and cover. Just had a tornado drill today at the middle school where I work.

  • Cathy Carey

    2009/08/12 at 3:15 pm

    Clearly a California raised boy. Of course you go stand in the doorway it’s the strongest part of the building.

  • Emily

    2009/08/12 at 3:15 pm

    I grew up in Iowa, and tornado drills were a regular occurence in school. We still have them at work, requiring everyone to go down to the basement and stare at each other for ten minutes.

    In all honestly, the schools really should have taught us to go stand outside and watch the sky and/or take pictures. “Let’s go out and watch it!” is normally everyone’s standard response for a tornado warning being issued. And if the tornado path is expected to be ten miles from me? Psssht, I’m not even going to look up from my book.

  • Rebecca

    2009/08/12 at 3:16 pm

    This is hilarious and totally familiar. I also grew up in KS and am now in MO and they test tornado sirens once a week here, too.

    True story (because phobias must run rampant in little girls): I used to keep just enough stuffed animals in my toy cabinet to cover me, so that if anyone broke into our house at night I could climb in and hide behind said stuffed animals (which definitely included a Care Bear or two) and be totally safe and undetected. I think I was about 6, and I guess I figured my parents and 3-1/2 year old brother would figure out how to fend for themselves. (No room for you guys in here! Sorry!)

    Also a handy excuse for not cleaning my room. It could be fatal to put all those toys in there at once, you know. (No room for me.)

  • Renee

    2009/08/12 at 3:18 pm

    Maybe Leta is trying to save the planet from pollution?

    My two year old went through a phase recently when she was literally afraid of her own shadow. Her own shadow! She is also afraid of snakes in her bed. How??? Does a two year old know what fear is and what to associate it with? I didn’t think nightmares about snakes came until you were older.

  • Krista

    2009/08/12 at 3:18 pm

    My soon to be four year old has the same irrational fear. It started about two years ago – I’m not sure what sparked it.

    He’s terrified of my hair blowing when the car air conditioner is on. He would rather bake away like a roast chicken in his uber-padded car seat than have my hair lift an inch off my head. The bone-chilling guttural screaming is enough to send me into the throws of adrenaline madness.

    I also have the added bonus of another fear of things disappearing down drains. If I start running the water in the bath tub to warm it up before I plug up the drain, he starts shrieking like I was taking his most prized possessions for ransom. This fear encompasses tooth brushing and toilet flushing as well. Joy.

    So rest assured that you are not alone. Hopefully Leta will let this one go soon – and that my little one will follow.

  • Swedish Pankakes

    2009/08/12 at 3:18 pm

    A tornado touched down when I was really young. For the longest time, I had visions of a giant TOMATO roaming the streets, throwing angry tomato seeds at houses and causing it to rain.

  • Ariel

    2009/08/12 at 3:20 pm

    In Michigan we went into the halls of the school for the tornado drill. Then we had to get on the floor & tuck our heads onto our knees & cover head with our arms….. not a fun way to sit for ten minutes! The worst was when there was a warning (tornado sighted) we had to stay that way for two hours, until it lifted… not that it would have mattered…. I was on the third floor of the school, duck & cover doesn’t do much good up there! 🙂

    as far as weird kid fears, I was sure our house would burn down… I spent YEARS with all my favorite toys wrapped in a blanket at the foot of my bed & had an escape out the window plan all worked out! 🙂 so silly!


    2009/08/12 at 3:20 pm

    Yep, that just makes Bossy want to marry Jon all over again! Oh wait, Bossy isn’t married to Jon.

  • Sherri

    2009/08/12 at 3:21 pm

    RE: #4 & #5 because that’s as far as I got….

    I live in Canada. My brother moved to Seattle maybe 10 years ago. He said when he experienced his first earthquake, he was doing what he was told and ran to stand in an open doorway. Also said he was almost trampled to death as the rest of the building ran outside. I say: do what you do. If you’re meant to fall into the earth or blow away, so be it.

    Glad I’m not a receipt…but if I was, I’d be grateful to have Leta around to save me. Seriously – she’s so funny 🙂

  • Faithstwin

    2009/08/12 at 3:22 pm

    I have said the same prayer before I go to bed every night that I ‘created’ when I was about 8 or 9- because I hated throwing up.

    Every now and then, even though I am 35, I still have one of those fleeting thoughts while in a bathroom in public: what happens if some disaster strikes while I am sitting here doing my thing? Freaks me out.

  • Cautionary Girl

    2009/08/12 at 3:22 pm

    Maybe she’s excessively afraid of litter that cannot be easily retrieved?

    I grew up in Oklahoma. When the sirens would go off, my little brother would run through the house screaming. It was awesome.

  • Marie

    2009/08/12 at 3:22 pm

    I had so many little fears growing up. Shoot, I still do..hence the weekly therapy. It is great though that she has you two as her parents. You accept her for who she is..fears and all. Luckily I grew out of all of my fears except one major one…get ready…..it is crazy…..throwing up. HA! It is called emetephobia I suppose. Growing up I was constantly afraid I would throw up or someone around me would. I am 32 and I still get thrown into a panic when my hubby says his stomach hurts. haha. We are strange creatures. 🙂

  • Megan

    2009/08/12 at 3:28 pm

    Tornado drills!!!! I completely forgot about those! And what is with all of these people that were taught to hide under their desks??? In all of the classrooms I had there were WINDOWS (you know, things that pieces of paper can blow out of…or trees can blow into…) so we were taught to go in the hallway, head against lockers. Gotta love the South. Thanks for bringing back the memory! PS Leta’s neuroses are adorable…I’m sure they will only multiply with time =)

  • Suzanne

    2009/08/12 at 3:29 pm

    I also have a 10 year old daughter who is terrified of the wind. We don’t know what to do with her. I know that if we lived in a tornado state, she would be a raving lunatic!
    A few days ago, she saw the Salt Lake City tornado on the news and cried, thinking it would happen again. Let’s hope it doesn’t. I’m not sure she would survive!

  • Kate

    2009/08/12 at 3:30 pm

    For our elementary school tornado drills we’d all file into the bathroom and go into “child’s pose” on the floor. Seriously. They taught us to stick our foreheads on the bathroom floor. I hadn’t thought of it until this moment, but living through a tornado probably would have been safer than coming nose-to-nose with whatever germs were on that tile.

    Also: Toilet prayer and Bathtub bedtime? AMAZING.

  • Jessica

    2009/08/12 at 3:31 pm

    Ahhh isn’t that cute.. A door way.. Nope huddled masses.. Grew up in Alabama and we did these.. There was always kids that hadn’t showered or some boy who thought it was funny to fart. I remember riding out a storm in the hall way.. Geez that was awful. After that we got sent home for incoming storms.

  • Cindy

    2009/08/12 at 3:32 pm

    We live on the west side of the main path of the May 3rd tornado in Oklahoma City. Every thing to the east of us was demolished. My husband and I still tend to go outside when the sirens go off (very much like like Cletus, the slack-jawed-yokel). We’ve lived in various crap-shacks over the last few years and none of them had any real safe place to go to during a tornado. Chris has all of these pictures of me and the dog wearing helmets and sitting…in a closet…in a bathtub. I’m sure if we had children we would take the sirens very, very seriously.

  • Lorna

    2009/08/12 at 3:32 pm

    I lived in Texas from 6th-11th grade, and our schools were just 1 giant building with many hallways. The middle hallways had no windows, so for our tornado drills, we all had to go to the bottom level, middle hallway, and crouch in ‘crash’ position – on our knees, forehead touching your knees, hands clasped behind your necks to protect it from being crushed by falling building. But the best part is that we were 4-5 students deep so that if you weren’t lucky enough to already be downstairs, your nose was ass-deep in someone’s, well, ass! And being kids, how often do you think the boys took the opportunity to fart on whomever was behind them? Very. F-ing. Often. For the love of God, Texas.

  • Carmen

    2009/08/12 at 3:33 pm

    Leta has such a big heart 😀
    Totally unrelated now: How many people have told you that you look like Metric’s Emily Haines (or she looks like you)? Could it be that my favorite blog and one of my favorite bands are run by the same awesome person?

    Huh, Emily, I mean Heather?


  • Kim

    2009/08/12 at 3:36 pm

    I teach at a school in Seattle, where we have monthly earthquake drills. During every drill, without fail, one of my first graders says in a quivering voice, “is it a real earthquake?”

  • Alayna

    2009/08/12 at 3:37 pm

    That is too funny! It is definitely a good thing that y’all don’t livein West Texas where not only wind, but also tornadoes are a regular part of life. It reminded me of my cousin’s neurosis that her earrings were going to blow out of her ears, which is not unreasonable in west Texas. Also, we left Texas and I was teaching school in Kentucky, and I said something to my students about a dust storm, and they didn’t know what I was talking about! Shock! It just never ocurred to me that this wasn’t normal for everyone. They wondered if dust fell from the sky like rain. Cute. Like Jon. Here in the south, we just say, bless their hearts.

  • Sarah

    2009/08/12 at 3:38 pm

    My two year old acknowledges only three kinds of bugs: ants, caterpillars and spiders. However many insects we run across in our average day, he labels one of the three.

    Any bug that scares him automatically earns the title: Spider. We have at least 100 false spider alerts a day during the summer when we’re outside most of the day.

    One evening last week, he started screaming and flailing around: “Spider in ear! Spider in ear!” I told him there weren’t any spiders in his ears, but he kept screaming and flailing so I finally checked him out.

    Inside of his ear lobe, a large mosquito was having a snack. I hurried the bug away and explained that it was a mosquito, not a spider. But this was little comfort to a child who knows a spider when he sees / hears one.

    Since then, every day he comes sqauwking about spiders in ear! And a few nights ago, I myself had a terrible nightmare about spiders in my ears.

    I finally could share in his terror.

    As a side note, my bizarre childhood phobia was Santa Claus. My mother used to hate the Christmas season when I was small because my older brother once told me: “He’s watching you while you poop!” Oh, I hated that creepy Santa Claus.

  • Jocelyn Stott

    2009/08/12 at 3:38 pm

    hahahaha – so cute. I grew up in Oregon and we have about 5,000 earthquake drills by the time are 5. And – their special life-saving tip? Get under our desks. That’s right – the same desks they told us not to sit on because they will break are the same desks that are meant to save our lives as the world around us comes crashing down. Gotta love it.

  • Cordova

    2009/08/12 at 3:39 pm

    whoa, my daughter has the same exact phobia. i think it all started when she saw our tent in the backyard sort of floating around in the wind. she completely lost her sh*t. ever since then, she becomes unhinged when things rustle in the slightest breeze. it took me forever to figure out why she refused to draw pictures outside. (the paper might fly away, you see). she even refused to have anything to do with helium-filled balloons for a while, because the idea that they would float away if you let go of them was too terrifying to even comprehend.

  • Becky

    2009/08/12 at 3:39 pm

    Grew up in the South and knew all about tornados, but what I was REALLY afraid of was the outer space people arriving. This kept me awake for years.

  • Leann

    2009/08/12 at 3:39 pm

    Isn’t Jon old enough to remember the duck and cover drills in case of a nuclear attack? Same concept. 😉

  • Amanda

    2009/08/12 at 3:41 pm

    They taught us to go into the hallway of the school, kneel on the floor and hunch over, press the tops of our heads to the wall where it met the floor, and cower with our arms over our heads.

    Started in preschool and went all the way through, because this is not a skill you can be shown once and retain. No, it requires HUNDREDS of repeated viewings. Practice makes perfect, yaknow.

    I always worried that when the torndo ripped the roof off of the hallway, we’d get sucked out of the building by our butts, which were hiked up in the air. A very specific phobia, that.

    Also- Leta’s adorable, even when she’s freaking out. (Did she see that movie where the guy rides the balloons? Up, or whatever? That would give ME a phobia.)

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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