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.

  • Catie

    My 4 1/2 year old daughter is also afraid of things blowing away. Maybe it’s typical at this age?

  • Ingrida

    Even though I feel for Leta (and you!) I had to smile at your story… I remember tornado drills at school. I grew up in Chicago… I was all about heading to the basement once the skies turned a little green and the winds would pick up during a storm. My grandmother lived with us, and since both of my parents worked, she stayed home/babysat me, and I would make my grandmother and the dog go with me to the basement, and neither appreciated it (my grandmother, in her 80s with severe scoliosis, had lived in German refugee camps and had escaped being sent to Siberian labor camps during WWII, so a possible tornado warning meant NOTHING to her… as for the dog, he HATED the basement and had to be carried downstairs, trembling).

  • Ellen

    Don’t worry, Jon. I would’ve said the exact same thing!

  • Angela

    I grew up and still live in the Midwest so of course tornado stuff doesn’t even make me blink (when they issue warnings/watches whatever, and I am stealing a comment from something I read once, I’m like “Call me when the doublewides are flying and I MIGHT go to the basement”). I have a friend who moved here from California and freaked out one spring when, at 10AM on a Tuesday, the city blew the tornado sirens to test them (this is completely normal in spring/summer). She was driving and pulled off the road and started hyperventilating, not understanding why no one else was panicking, thinking she was hallucinating. A neighbor later told her what it was. But aw, that is SO CUTE that Jon thinks you go stand in a doorway! HA!

  • I remember tornado drills in elementary school in Ohio. We never had sirens back then.
    As an adult, I was in Minnesota with my two babies, and I sat in my hotel room through a tornado siren one evening going, “What’s that siren thingy?” No one was around to tell me what the hell it was, they were all in the basement! Also, I had never thought of Minnesota as tornado country.

  • Just Visiting

    Yeah, so, tell John that I was oblivious to tornado drills and warnings until I moved to tornado alley. I won’t tell you about the first time I heard a siren go off and didn’t take it seriously. Pure craziness. Talk about feeling like a stupid desert dweller. Ha!!

    On a more serious note:
    OCD is hereditary. What may seem eccentric or odd can actually be compulsions. I was always the odd, eccentric child. The anxiety I suffered was awful. Dooce, you know how OCD is and how it exhibits itself. You may want to make sure that she doesn’t have it. I am sending little Miss Leta positive thoughts and energy.

  • Patti

    Kid phobias are truly odd. When I was 5 or 6, I had trouble sleeping because I was positive a volcano was going to erupt right under my bed. Because there’s lots of volcanic action in Baltimore. Sheesh. That lasted for probably a year.

  • Renee

    During the last tornado siren (there have only been two this year here in Iowa), we were all down in the basement, like good soldiers. We thought we’d pop in a movie to take my 7-year-old daughter’s obsessive mind off the noise of the siren, which seemed like it was blaring right into our house. All of a sudden, her stressed out “tummy hurt” turned into projectile vomit…. all over us, the sofa, the carpet, gads of it – gallons! The silver lining – we were so preoccupied and grossed out by vomit that we completely forgot about the imminent tornado. Oh, and it was hey day for our dog, who also was pelted with barf. Do all dogs like to be barfed on? Next Momversation.

  • JennyM

    Dude, with the tornadoes? ME TOO. For me, it all started when we earned some badge in Brownies or whatever. I don’t know what it was — the Tornado Badge? Whatever, we had to demonstrate our ability to stand in a doorway or duck and cover or something and there was even a little pamphlet that we had to complete and everything and it had charming little cartoons of HOUSES being WHISKED INTO THE SKY. Riiiight. So, yeah, with the bathtub and the insane paranoia whenever the sky was… oh, let’s say, “mostly sunny.”

    I’m more or less a functioning adult (whose house has not been whisked into the sky SO FAR), so I guess there’s hope.

  • Being a New Yorker…the tornado thing is totally foreign to me. I wouldn’t know WHAT to do.

    It’s odd how kids get phobias. There doesn’t seem to be any rationality for where they come from. Maybe she got it from a tv cartoon?

  • Lora

    I think the tornado drill is well-covered already, but being one of the fools who lives in Wisconsin where we like our natural disasters to come several times a year with the speed of a freight train, I have to say the drills helped. Even now, as an adult, knowing what I’m going to do helps me feel more prepared. Heck – you guys sleep in the basement. You’re safe as houses.

    Fear of things blowing away makes me think that maybe she’s afraid of losing something or being swept away herself. (Go go armchair psychologist!) Maybe reassuring her of her own place in the world that will always be there for her even as everything else swirls and changes and, well, blows away around her might help her worry just a little less.

  • We have tornadoes here during the summer months but we do not have warnings. I live in hurricane country, down south in Louisiana. Evacuating for a hurricane is normal to me. I stay packed from June 1 to November 31 every year waiting for another big one. Last big one was Katrina 4 years ago this month. I am waiting nervously because it has been too long inbetween.
    I will never forget my little sister calling from her cell one day cyring and in a panic. She was up north for her job and the tornado sirens went off. She was in a shelter with a bunch of other girls and she was freaking out. Everyone else was calm but she could not keep it together. She had to call and tell everyone that she loved them before the tornado took her away. She lived and there was no tornado!

  • Mir

    Have you ever heard of Dabrowski’s Overexcitabilities? You might want to look it up. Our oldest is highly gifted and has OEs in all 5 categories. It sounds like Leta might have them as well.

    There’s nothing wrong with OEs; it’s not a diagnosis that requires pills or therapy or the likes, but sometimes it’s nice knowing that the eccentricities of your child are because they’re different in a good way. It’s also helpful when looking for ways to help them manage these differences, especially on a school and social level. 🙂

  • I grew up in a town with the world’s largest prison. The prison property backed up to our school playground. We used to have prison breakout drills. The’d say a special code over the PA, and the teacher would lock the door, turn off the lights, we’d move our desks near the door (like maybe to block it?) and then we’d all go huddle in the corner.

    Prisoners used to come to the schools first after they broke out of prison to use the phones and raid the vending machines.

    I never knew it was strange until I met people that weren’t from my hometown.

  • Kate

    When I was in early elementary school, I lived in Salt Lake, and not only did we have earthquake drills (they’re still waiting on THE BIG ONE), but we had code red drills. Which is actually kind of creepy, thinking back. Code red drills were essentially what to do if there was an intruder with a gun on school premises. Basically we locked the doors and windows and stayed very quiet. Never had a tornado drill, though. I wonder if they ever do now, now that Salt Lake has actually had one.

  • Courtney

    I have lived in Oklahoma my entire 26 years. For us, tornado warning means ‘immeadiately run to the nearest window and look’ or ‘grab a beer and sit on the porch’.

    Some people are indeed, deathly afraid of tornadoes, but that doesn’t ring true for myself. I have even been caught in a number of them, but for some reason, springtime just excites me! This past year was a weak season, so it was rather disappointing! There is a show on Discovery called StormChasers, and its about scientists who want to drive right up to the tornadoes to get data. Talk about AWESOME!!!

  • liz

    Even in Pennsyltucky, tornado drills were normal. Once or twice a year, we’d all grab a textbook, take it out into the hallway, kneel facing the wall and duck and cover. Ironically, right in front of the lockers that would be blown open should an actual tornado touch down anywhere in the vicinity.

    And of course, someone would inevitably fart while in that position, causing us all to giggle uncontrollably until we passed out from the stench.

  • Wow, this is hilarious, because here in Texas my sister and I had a Pavlovian tornado reaction just the other week:

    You can take the girls out of tornado town, but you can’t take tornado town out of the girls.

  • Ha! I’ve never had a tornado drill, but in earthquake country they do, in fact, teach you to stand in a doorway.

    Everyone, of course, takes this as gospel. And then, one day, I looked into this and it turns out it has not been true since, oh, they quit making houses out of straw and the wolf no longer comes huffing and puffing.

    So don’t count on these old drills for safety. To make us look foolish, yes (Hey, why isn’t anyone else standing in the doorway, huh?), but not for safety.

    (And it just dawns on me; don’t let your little one read The Three Pigs.)


  • Brooke

    this post brings back tons of memories of my own childhood there in utah. i had a phobia about things blowing away just like Leta, probably starting around th same age…anytime i saw a storm coming and it was getting windy, i would run all around the neighborhood picking up toys and making sure everything was put away so it wouldn’t blow away!

  • My sister threw a worm at my head one time. I then beat one to death in the entry hall of our house with a tennis racket. I’ve never been quite right about them. Wow, that comment makes me sound psycho. Nice.

  • MelloKnees

    I live in Michigan and we once saw a tornado in Ohio while driving home from vacation. Ever since then, whenever there was a tornado watch on a bath night, my mom would make me take the bath in the cast iron laundry tub in the basement. Good times.

  • So sweet! And hilarious!

  • I’m not sure which is worse: to be scared shitless of tornadoes, or to think they are really cool.

    I still have memories of myself as a child and my father standing on our front porch in Oklahoma/Texas/whereever we were living at the time, looking at the sky while the sirens wailed. I swear you can smell tornadoes, and it is totally thrilling (that is, unless it blows over your house, then, not so much).

  • Poor Girl. I totally get where she is coming from. As I child I would pray to God every night that i wouldn’t have any tornado dreams, as there was a BIG ONE in Edmonton AB when I was 5 or so which forced some family friends to move home (Vancouver, BC.) I also feared the Gulf War, and did earthqauke drills in elementary school where we would get under our desks and count to 60 then file outside…

  • Bailey

    I’m from Oklahoma (tornado central), but I don’t remember tornado drills at school, specifically, just fire drills. They do test the sirens weekly in my hometown though, which is really annoying, but I suppose it’s necessary.

    Kids have lots of weird fears. When my son was about three he was deathly afraid of some “big eye,” and we could never figure out exactly what he was seeing that scared him so much. It happened at random times, sometimes in the middle of the day he’d just coming running out of his room or wherever he was playing screaming about the BIG EYE. Maybe it was a reflection in a window or something, who knows. He’s 21 now; when I asked him about it recently, he said “it was a big eye, mom.” So he’s no help.

  • Under a doorway…*snort*…that IS funny.

  • Dooce, if you figure out how to manage the wind phobia, PLEASE blog about it. My four year old has, for almost a year now, been terrified of slight breezes, not to mention full-on wind. Now we live in an area where the tall pines sway vertigo-style right outside our back windows. I’m always afraid she’s going to “freak into tears” (her words) every time I hear the peaceful sound of rustling pines, so I try to make a lot of noise so maybe she won’t notice the FORTY FOOT TREES that look like they might LAND ON THE HOUSE. So Leta is in good company.

  • When I was a kid, we used to go to the Syracuse Orange Dome for sporting events. The force of the wind was so hard that until I was about 10 I would get BLOWN OUT THE DOOR (I was a small child.) Scary stuff.
    My big fear was Ivy. I thought it would start growing wildly and choke me to death.

  • JennC

    In defense of Jon, it’s a well known scientific fact that the *best* place to ride out any natural disaster is a doorway. Tornados and floods included. And fires. ESPECIALLY fires.

  • Oh my lord! I live in Arkansas, where the tornado sirens are regularly tested. And even if they go off in the middle of a perfectly calm and clear day, it takes everything I have not to throw up and then run away and hide in the bathtub.

  • Oh Texas. Your unpredictable weather patterns are just one of the many reasons I love you.

    And the line about you in the tub with your care bears: priceless. It’s so true though – kids are so easily scarred for life. My mom told me when I was probably 5 that corn flakes were made out of fried lizard skins (WHY?! DON’T ASK ME) and to this day, I still cringe when presented with a bowl of corn flakes. Not that I am presented with bowls of corn flakes all the time, but, you know.

    Have fun on your trip!!

  • I grew up in Michigan, my husband grew up in Missouri. We grew up doing the “duck and cover” drills in the hallways in school. And what did we do last week during a TREMENDOUS thunderstorm? We sat out on our covered wraparound porch to watch…as the lightning hit trees in our neighborhood – about three. With one of the dogs on my husband’s lap, almost crapping all over him. It took the dog three hours to recover after that (we’d have left the dog in the house but he needed to be up our asses during the storm and wouldn’t let us out the door without him) Duck and cover? No way – it’s more fun to experience it out in the open 🙂

  • Oh, my gosh, I completely understand Leta’s phobia! But for me, it’s not really about them being blown away, it’s more of a fear of something blowing around, not being anchored down, or SOMETHING! I don’t know, I’ve actually tried Googling phobias to see if I could figure it out – but haven’t found anything. When I was a little girl, my grandma had these pictures on her walls that would bang against the wall in the fan, and it FREAKED. ME. OUT. Even now, if we go to Home Depot, the big signs hanging from the ceiling that sway around give me heart palpitations. Seriously.

    And, yes, Leta would totally crap her pants if she heard and understood a tornado siren. I live in Texas, and have all my life – and to this day when they are just testing them on cloudless days, I freak out for a couple of seconds.

  • When we had our second child, our first born, age 4 at the time, suddenly became terrified of things going down drains and floor vents. I mean TERRIFIED. Apparently his reaction to losing the life he thought he had was to envision everything he cared for going down the tubes. There are days I can completely empathize.
    We live in Little Rock, lots of tornado. In fact they test the sirens every Wednesday at noon.

  • Jackie

    #52’s suggestion of a Second Coming Drill reminded me of one time when I was in middle school and had a friend over to spend the night. In the morning, my dad went to work and my mom went to run some errands, I guess, and I woke up before my friend, changed into my outfit for the day, and left my PJs at the foot of my (unmade) bed. After a few minutes she comes running downstairs, FREAKING OUT, until she sees me eating my cereal. She thought the rapture had occurred and she’d been left behind. Seriously.

    Also, Heather, I had a toilet prayer, too! It was something along the lines of, “Dear Jesus, please forgive me for everything I’ve done, including the stuff I can’t think of right now, and please don’t let me go to Hell.” Good times! Yeah, not.

  • Josie

    I grew up in ND, and now live in TX. Right about now, with all of this “End of the World Weather,” the last few years, I think I would probably take a tornado drill and a blizzard with impending overland spring flooding over another hurricane.

  • Stephanie

    My niece used to be terrified of anything going down any type of drain. You could not have anything IN the tub or AROUND the tub for her bath. When we would go to the lake, she would freak out – and I mean scream like she was being murdered – if you didn’t take off jewelry and PONYTAIL HOLDERS before you got into the water or on the boat. The ponytail holders completely freaked her out. She goes bonkers during storms…we live in Missouri, where tornado warnings/sightings/etc are a very regular thing in the spring. One morning after spending the night at my house, she came running into my room screaming her head off at the sound of my alarm clock – she thought it was a tornado siren.
    All of this to say, I think Leta is totally normal! :)And we are a very mean and sarcastic people in my family…just because you haven’t turned 6 years old yet doesn’t mean you can’t take some serious teasing for these hangups.

  • Oh yeah, I remember tornado drills. The best was the year that us 1st graders (because we were in those portable trailer classrooms, yay Louisiana) were herded into this weird alley-like closet in the main building. So you had probably 50 or so 6-year-olds crammed into this windowless narrow space lit by a single bare bulb. There were several of my classmates who would have much rather taken their chances with a tornado than that closet.

    Leta would definitely not making in my town. The city finally sprang for a siren system last year and, by Gods, they are going to get our money’s worth. Nevermind that half the time they don’t sound the “all clear” so we are just waiting for the day some poor redneck family starves to death in their bathtub.

  • I think I am really glad that I live in Toronto-no Tornadoes, Hurricanes, or earthquakes…Although now that I wrote that, we will for sure experience one of them. Watch the news, I just jinxed Torontonians. Now I’m scared and can’t remember any of the drills I just read-time to review!

  • Janet

    I also grew up in Memphis and lived through both tornados and tornado drills. Remember the shame of trying to keep my butt covered when I wore a short skirt on drill day.

    Wonder if they still have the Saturday beer whistle? That’s what we called it when the tested the siren every Saturday at noon – which also signalled when you could start buying beer!

  • Elizabeth

    I don’t understand why everyone thinks Jon’s so cute for asking that. Not that he’s not cute, he seems lovely, but in fact I don’t get the comment at all. Am I just thick? Were you saying he was cute for not knowing about tornado drills? or for thinking the kids should take shelter under a doorframe? or … ?

    Anyway, I don’t really know what to do in a tornado either, can you tell? And I think I’m pretty cute too.

  • Like all the kids would fit under one doorway anyway..

  • sue

    Yeah. Tornadoes scare me even to this day. I have never seen one, however I have semi regular dreams about tornadoes. I remember in 5th grade being herded into the hallways, doing the drill – sit cross-legged with your arms protecting your neck. Only this time it wasn’t a drill. The sky was the most ugly pea green you would have seen. Nothing happened but I learned later that there was a funnel cloud sighted in the next town west of us that did not touch down.

    scary stuff

    ps: can u use a captcha that is not so difficult to decipher?

  • Haha! I would probably sound just like Jon in that case. I’m not really sure how much you’re making fun of him, but I sympathize with his side.

    What an odd fear for Leta to have. Good luck with that one!

  • Ninabi

    I remember the tornado drills in 6th grade when my family moved to the midwest.
    The crouching in the hallway. Arms covering the back of your neck. Chills going up my spine as the teachers yelled for everyone to get into position and the principal manning the alarms.

    Scary stuff.

    In spring, it was school carnival time. Mothers came to help set it all up. The booths were kept in the basement. Excuse me? The school had A BASEMENT?

    Lousy painted boards for games were more important than the kids?

    On top of being afraid of disaster I was also rather offended.

    I feel for Leta with stuff blowing away- sometimes I still feel that way when opening the mailbox on a brisk day- the bills! Our personal data! Don’t let it fly away to strangers!

  • There must be something that happens when they turn five years old and tics become the norm.

    While my son isn’t afraid of things flying away (well, not yet anyway), he’s developed this rather odd breathing pattern that makes you think he has asthma but he doesn’t (he’s been checked out).

    One of his other five year old friends clears his throat constantly and yet another one of his friends smells things all.the.time. He’s constantly sniffing his fingers. I caught him one day as he was crossing the road. Suddenly, he bends down to smell the pavement. Hello? You’re on THE ROAD. You know, where CARS drive? Thankfully none were coming.

    Anyway, all I could think of was the SNL skit where the character, Mary Katherine Gallagher, gets nervous and smells her armpits.

    Kids sure do keep us entertained. Never a dull moment!

  • Haha. I grew up in Ohio, and we get our fair share of tornadoes, and I went to school in Bowling Green Ohio, which is in the flattest, most tornado prone part of the state. We had tornadoes during finals week one year, and the professor of one of my classes that I was in when the sirens went off was like, “what do we do?” Because she was from New England, where they apparently do not have tornadoes. I laughed at her and said that we should go to the basement or the tornado safety area if there wasn’t a basement. At this time I was also living on the 10th floor of a dorm that didn’t have a basement, so you can see how seriously we took tornado safety. I’m very amused by people who never had tornado drills in school. We had to sit down against an inner wall and put our knees up and our heads down and cover our necks with our hands to keep debris from hitting our spinal cord. Oh the memories…

  • this is nothing whatsoever to laugh about … the other day, yeah, so sunday … my sig other and i were talking about how everything “worked out perfectly” and we were speaking about my daughter’s wedding, to which i was still in the locale where the wedding took place, and he was back at our home (which we just bought … so yeah, the FINANCING FINALLY WENT THROUGH … WOOT!) and we started all this bullshit about how “good things CAN happen to good people, and then all of a sudden he goes, “Shit!!! Something just hit the house, I’ll call you back!”

    Turns out a trampoline from five properties up, lifted off during a storm, rampaged through all the yards to our house, hit the side of our house, dug out a chunk of our kitchen window frame (from the outside), and then finally landed in the vacant, yet to be bought lot, next to our house, but only after it took out my ENTIRE, CAREFULLY POSITIONED AND LOVELY FLOWER GARDEN OF VINTAGE POTS AND SUCH!

    Seriously, I was all like, we do not, under any circumstances ever talk on the phone and say, either “i love you” and/or “amazing how things turn out” because he travels a lot and we are very often separated, and my gods and goddesses if a receipt ever flew out of my purse in our garage, I’D FREAK RIGHT THE F’ OUT!

    I’m just saying.

    Otherwise, what Leta is going through is just a stage, and is so cute, I could piss myself!

    If I wasn’t so busy watching storm warnings on cable.

    Dooce, you rock as always.

  • sarah’s dog wont bite

    so, i didn’t have time to read all the comments, but being from california, what IS a tornado drill? don’t you just get under a desk and cover your head with your hands? or the doorway thing would have been my second guess.

    i demand a post to explain this tornado drill.

    thank you carry on.

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.

read more