An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

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.

  • eva

    Leta is a girl after my heart. I have the exact same paranoia over “things blowing away” and I grew up with earthquake drills, not tornado drills (Vancouver). This means I don’t cope well with picnics, patio dining, or beach eating…because napkins could blow away! I’m forever anchoring everything in sight when stuck in these situations – using the ketchup bottle, salt and pepper shakers, jugs of beer/water/whatever.

    I also prefer beige foods. In case you were wondering.

    And I’m 33 not 5. My husband says it’s just part of my neurotic control freak-ish-ness.

  • Katy

    HAHA I totally took for granted the face that we did Tornado Drills (I live in Texas). I wonder what kind of drill you would do for earthquakes? Or the Second Coming?!

  • My kids freak out if they see a receipt start to blow away, but they caught that from me. Since I’m obsessed with accumulating CVS ExtraBucks, and that “money” comes at the end of your register receipt, along with fabulous money-saving coupons, they will guard my receipts with their lives. Once a CVS receipt with an ExtraBuck or two at the end of it blew out the car window, and I had to swallow my own distress and lie that there were no ExtraBucks on it, just to calm the crying kids.

  • I’m thinking… paperweights = perfect birthday present?

  • Bobbi

    Post tornado footage always shows:

    Rubble, rubble, door frame; rubble, rubble, bathtub…

  • I’m from Michigan so tornado warnings were often during the right season. After making sure all of my barbies and stuffed animals were safely tucked away in the basement I would go and stand outside on the deck with my father and watch the world get eerily silent and still and a sickly gray color. Then the wind would start up and everything not nailed down would swirl around and around in the yard. My mother would have a heart attack yelling for me to get into the basement but my father and I would just stand there and smile, straining our eyes for a glimpse of that destructive funnel. Luckily a tornado never hit near our home. But gosh, it was a rush to be in that kind of weather when I was a kid.

  • I grew up in Iowa, and I LOVE storms. As a kid, I would run out to the front porch with pillows and blankets just to watch the clouds roll in. Tornado watches and warnings made me positively giddy. Also, I was a weird child…

  • I live in Calgary, AB, Canada, and thankfully we don’t have to worry about these weather emergencies. If we did, I can tell you that I would be a basketcase all day and night.

    Our worries are more crazy driver related!

  • Anonymous

    Oh my gosh, Heather does look like Emily Haines!

    Loved the story — and husbands do say some really cute things. Now if we can just forget the 101 bad jokes they come up with in a day, too.

  • Jim

    Leta’s fear of things blowing away sounds like my friend’s fear of birds: unpredictable, sudden movements combined with an undefined destination. Scary and overwhelming.

    Jon is adorable.

  • I grew up in IL and never had much fear of tornadoes until my brother and grandmother were picked up while in a trailer and tossed around. (Only a dog was injured, though there was extensive property damage).

    My dh, however, grew up in Chicago, and when they had a tornado warning (not a drill mind you, and not a watch, but an actual we-have-spotted-a-tornado-coming-towards-you WARNING, an evil nun told a whole class of 3rd graders that “If God decides it’s your time to go, there’s nothing you can do about it.”

  • Liz

    Maybe Leta will grow up to be one of those pundits on TV who is always shouting about the next horrifying thing we need to fear.

    “Gangs of LOOSE PAPER RECEIPTS are blowing across the country. Find out what you need to do to protect yourself at 11.”

  • J

    Couple of years ago on the Fourth of July I went down to the SF Bay with some friends to watch fireworks, and their 6-year-old daughter at one point got it into her head that the TIDE WAS COMING IN and would swallow us all up if we didn’t leave that instant. Poor sweetie. The world feels like a dangerous place when you’re little, I guess.

  • Lynn

    Have lived in tornado alley (Tulsa, OK) for over 30 years. When my oldest daughter was about 8 she would watch the weather channel each morning and then re-record the outgoing answering machine message to say “Hi…you have reached….. The weather for today will be….” She was always looking for a tornado but the day one passed too close for comfort she took her Babysitters club book and sat in the bathtub while her little sister and I stood at the kitchen windows and watched the wind pick up our trampoline and roll it down the driveway and into a vacant lot! We’ve never let her forget what a chicken she was!

  • Stephanie

    My lovely childhood fear? That my heart would “forget” to keep beating while I was asleep. I’m not sure how my parents managed to get me to sleep for the two years THAT went on….

    My elementary school in Missouri actually had an underground basement built just for tornado purposes. However, we all had to file *outside* to get there. And I’m not sure who thought we’d have a good 20-30 minutes to get 7 grades worth of kids packed in there either…

  • Oh, I remember those childhood phobias! While my fear of nuclear war has gone away, I still run every time I see a tic. In fact, I found one on my arm this weekend while we were in our car and I freaked out. It’s a good thing I wasn’t driving!

  • Kathy

    Would Mary Poppins help? Mary gently drifts up and down on her umbrella, the kids fly kites with their dad, and everyone gets sucked up the chimneys to dance on the roofs.

    Or would that make her scared of fireplaces?

    Good luck.

  • I grew up in suburban Chicago. A twister took the roof off of of one of the schools in our area, so we took our drills seriously, even in grade school. Our teachers would have us march out to the hall, face the lockers, and – I’m not kidding you – crouch down with our hands covering our heads, our heads between our knees. Just imagine rows of children, kissing their asses goodbye.

    As an adult, I scoff at tornado sirens. Pea-green skies don’t scare me. But my raised-in-the-Northeast husband freaks out every time the sirens go off (we live in Minnesota).

  • Ashley

    I can totally commiserate spending tornado warnings in the bathroom. I live in Illinois where tornadoes aren’t common, per say, but not unheard of either, and when I was a kid during tornado warnings ALL SIX OF US would smoosh into the half bath on the ground floor (no basement) with EVERYTHING WE OWNED. I am not even kidding. We would each bring at least two pillows, a blanket, as many stuffed animals as we could carry and probably a good 7 books a piece because you had no idea how long you were going to be in there!

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

    best line you’ve ever typed on this-here blog.

  • so i’m guessing leta has issues with piglet blowing away in the wind on pooh films?

    maybe she watched pooh. ask if this could be the root cause.

  • We only did fire and earthquake drills when I was in school. But, we were educated about tornadoes, even though on the coast where we lived, there had never ever been one.

    I love reading about the unique individual that is your gorgeous older daughter. She’s sure going to give some guy a run for his money one day! You know, when she’s 35 and allowed to date.

  • we’ve had crazy tornado warning season here in the Denver ‘burbs, my kids’ school has been in lock down multiple times. What have they learned from this? The older one learned that your backpack is a trusty protector when you assume the turtle position in the hallway. The younger one learned that a tornado can rip a roof off a house at any time day or night even if you’re sleeping in your 2nd story room under said roof. Awesome.

  • Jennifer W

    Bwhahahahaha @ a doorway and to hiding under a desk with walls lined by windows during a tornado! It’s good to know schools keep the kids safe in times of danger. LOL

    I’m in the Chicago area and we did the hallway crouch/neck covering thing too. All those kids lined up too close to each other and being obnoxious…good times.

    #14-Maria, I have family in Fond du Lac (aka the boonies) and they have tornadoes once a week in the spring. Trying to get to a shelter after hearing the siren is almost pointless.

  • Theresa


    for me… it was the moon… you know, because there’s A MAN on it.

    and then it was aliens… which wasn’t made any better by the fact that my older brother LOVED to watch The X-Files… freakshow…

  • Michelle

    When I was younger, my mom would clean the basement every spring and tell me that it was tornado season, and we needed it to be clean in case we needed to stay down there for a while. That scared the CRAP out of me and instilled a lifelong fear of tornadoes. I mean, I still haven’t seen the Wizard of Oz because the tornado scene freaked me out when I was younger. (Although now the thing that keeps me from watching it is laziness, not that scene.)

    We’re from Philly and there hasn’t been a serious tornado in that area for my entire life, so clearly she just wanted to clean the basement up and didn’t figure on scarring me for life.

  • Jen

    In Wisconsin, the tornado drills consist of going to the lowest level of the building, crouching in a hallways with your hands folded over your head to protect your head. When I was a kid I always wondered about the flying glass cutting my hands so I’d hide under someone’s coat (usually the coats and backpacks were hung outside the classrooms.) Now I just hope for the best because I work on the 3rd story of a hospital and I know none of my ICU patients are going to make the transfer to the basement.

    Word verification – velveeta. Thanks for the dinner suggestion.

  • Living in LA, I live with the constant worry of earthquakes and really long waits at the doctor’s office.

    The other day as I was sitting there half naked my mind started wandering and I thought “what if there is an earthquake and I am sitting here with nothing but a large piece of paper to cover my fat butt up!” and then I became really concerned about how fast I could get dressed.

  • Nicole

    fear of things blowing away = totally ridiculous.

    lifelong fear of cars parked on inclines overcoming their brakes and rolling away = totally founded in science and always possible, can you check the emergency brake for the tenth time please and thank you very much.

    The WORST: sleeping in a camper or motor home that’s not level. Is the e-brake on? is it? did you check? all the way? sure?

  • Tara

    Whoa, I can relate to some extent.

    The first time I rode a carousel at the age of five, I had this innate fear that the horse, on the upswing, would continue up up up into the air until we’re both floating off into space to die.

    No clue where I got the fear of reverse gravity, but it’s there. Still. At the age of 31.

    Wide open fields and open-air rides like hot air balloons still freak me out, but not enough to inhibit my life, thankfully.

    Whatever you do, don’t let her read (let alone hear) Ray Bradbury’s short story “Kaleidoscope.”

  • I wouldn’t know what to do in case of a tornado either.
    When I was a kid I would spin a hula-hoop and jump in and out of it three times before it stopped moving. If I didn’t succeed, bad things might happen. I would also lift my feet when passing over railway tracks. this was very serious, I would say “lift your feet!!!” so that everyone could join.

  • Anonymous

    I wasn’t afraid of the wind but I vividly remember when I was falling asleep in my childhood bedroom with the walls covered in knotty pine. The knotholes would turn into peoples faces and scare the s..t outta me! But I never told anyone….if I did my two sisters would’ve made up sound effects to go with it!

  • A little breeze on my yard umbrella caused my glass patio table top to suddenly shatter into millions of tiny shards on my lawn only recently.

    I was reading at the table when it happened. God smited me for making fun of the Twilight novels earlier that day.

    In junior high, back in 1990, in a fine Utah County school a teacher liked to give nuclear bomb drills. He would suddenly flap his hands and the students were supposed to crawl under their desks and cover their eyes. This teacher was 100% serious about this. In one of those drills he was inspecting our crouches and declared that I would lose my legs because I didn’t fit under my desk very well. The class laughed because we all knew that none of us would have any legs, eyeballs or desks if the atom bomb blew.

  • Kayte

    Yay! If you were to ask my mother what the most annoying things about me was throughout my entire childhood she would tell you two things. One: My tendency to hyperventilate when upset. And two: The fact that what caused this upsetness was usually something BLOWING AWAY.

  • Not having any kids or any irrational fears as one, all this post brought to mind was the earthquake we had my senior year in high school (after 12 years of earthquake drills).

    While everything was shaking violently around us and we all stared at each other seated at our desks, our Pre-Cal teacher shouted, “GET.UNDER.YOUR.DESKS! How many times have we practiced this?!?!?!”

  • Ingrid

    I grew up in Alabama—I don’t recall any drills per se. In Montgomery, the monthly practice siren went off after school was over, so we were only crouched in the hallways when there was an actual storm. That siren though! It still sounds like hell opening up or something to me. It was such a relief to move to Central California and not have to get a stomachache over a dark cloud in the sky…

  • gretchen

    When I was a little kid in Puerto Rico, they would always feature images of palm trees bent over in the wind during hurricane season commercials. For quite some time after, I would actually become nauseous and throw up if I saw real palm trees do that.

    Then my house was erased by Andrew in Miami in 1992. Now the wind howling a certain way sends me over the edge.

  • PLEASE do not let that girl ever, ever watch Twister! I doubt there is enough medication to squelch that kind of fear!

  • Sherri

    I remember when I was about 8, I had a fear of getting scurvy.
    I was also afraid of lightning because I was tall and my mom didn’t want me walking through any fields during a storm. One time my friend felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up while we were in a field – I nearly shit myself. Told her to drop to the ground….and fell flat myself. You know, just in case. Her family wouldn’t let her outside if it was windy because she was a small girl and they were afraid she would blow away.

  • Anonymous

    Not to worry you or anything, but irrational phobias in children are sometimes signs of psychological problems. It can be OCD, but also things like mal-adjustedness and other easily treatable issues.

    And since Leta’s related to grandma what’s-her-name (the crazy one in the photo you posted last week), you might want to have the kid checked out.

  • Susan

    I went to high school in Kuwait in the mid to late 1990s so we used to have air raid drills. You know, just in case Saddam ever decided to come back. That’s always a fun one to drop on people. (no pun intended.)

    By the way, in case of air raid, get as far away from the windows as possible and find a desk to hide under. You’re welcome.

  • My son Dakota went through a phase where he was terrified of bald men. One time a guy took off his baseball hat and Dakota saw his bald head and burst into tears.

  • Rachel

    I grew up in the Midwest with plenty of tornado drills, but never experienced an earthquake before I moved to Central America. The first time I felt one, I thought it was a semi-truck driving past the building that was making it shake slightly. While they’re a common occurrence here now, my friends who were raised on the West Coast will still call me post-earthquakes to make sure I was aware of what was happening / moved to the doorway.

  • I grew up in IL and as i remember those tornado drills were about as effective as hiding under your desk in the case of nuclear bomb

  • Admittedly, I thought the same thing as Jon about tornado warnings. Growing up in California you learn to duck in a doorway or under your desk; all this running to the basement I do as a Tennessean is too much for me!

    I’m looking forward to moving back to So Cal next summer, if for nothing more than to watch my kids faces the first time a 4 pointer hits our vicinity.


  • I totally remember tornado drills in school. We got under our desks and just sat there… what a silly memory.

  • Heeheeheeheeheehee! Jon is SO CUTE!!!

    Having grown up in Germantown (GHS grad — woo! But not “valedictorian”!), I, too, remember the tornado drills at school. When I was in fourth grade, our assigned place to go was the boys bathroom, where we would line up around the perimeter of the place and assume the “position.” For those of you who didn’t grow up in tornado-prone areas, that does not refer to anything sexual. We had to sit on the ground, put our heads down between our knees, and cover our necks with our hands (fingers interlaced).

    I still have nightmares about the sound of the tornado sirens going off all over Shelby County. I always obsessed about there being a tornado at noon on Saturday (when they tested the system)…because NO ONE WOULD KNOW that it wasn’t a test and they wouldn’t be running for the bathtub!!!

    Thanks, Heather, for bringing back all my tornado anxiety!

  • Raised in ND, definitely know the drills. As far as fear as a kid, the only fear I had was that I never wanted my mom to left alone. I have no idea why, no reasoning goes with this. Skipped preschool because of this. I finally went to kindergarten and I cried and cried until my mom got a day job, then I stopped crying. Ha!

  • I grew up in New Jersey – no earthquakes or tornados. It was in the 60’s and the fear instilled in all of us in elementary school was that we were going to be bombed by Cuba. We had to practice air raid drills. There were two drills. One practice drill was for bombs that might drop in the general area – we would have to sit in the hallways lined up against the walls for about half an hour. We did get to bring books to read to pass the time waiting for those bombs. The other drill was for bombs that were about to drop on your school at any minute. We had to curl up in a ball under our desk with our head down and entwine the fingers of both hands to cover the back of our neck. Some kids had a hard time with this one – they missed the part about it being a practice drill.

  • Well, I mean, I can see where Jon’s coming from if he only ever got earthquake drills. (I still can’t remember if you are supposed to open all the windows or close all the windows in a tornado. It used to be one way, but they changed the advise semi-recently because surprise, surprise it wasn’t as safe as they thought.)

    I’ve had earthquake and fire drills but never a tornado drill. I HAVE been evacuated for hurricane, but usually you just board up the house and stay downstairs so falling trees won’t kill you.

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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