Thursday, July 22, 2010

Rain Rain Rain and Basement Cards (Babble)

In the Midwest of the United States we are spared things like hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, tidal waves, dramatic earthquakes, and even dangerous insects.  But hoooo boy do we know about thunderstorms.  As I’m typing there is a huge storm raging outside with lots of thunder and lightning. We just spent the last hour in the basement because we heard the tornado sirens go off.  It’s nice to be upstairs again.

My children are easily spooked by crisis.  Their lives are pretty easy going, so when something dramatic happens they take it very seriously.  There was an Amber alert all over the television a couple of weeks ago and Aden kept finding me wherever I was in the house and breathlessly telling me about the two children who were missing.  I told her it didn’t really concern us since we were just at home and not likely to spot them here, but the concept of kidnapping injected into her afternoon cartoon deeply affected her.  After the third time the Amber alert popped up, Aden came and found me again, clutching her pink bunny, tears in her eyes.  I asked what was wrong and she said, “I’m scared of kidnappers.”

I sat her down and told her that there are indeed scary strangers out there who take children, and that’s why I need to know where she is and why we review not going off with people she doesn’t know without telling me, even if they seem nice.  But then I told her those cases are extremely rare, and I asked, “Do you know who most often kidnaps children?”  She shook her head.  “One of their parents.” 

Aden’s eyes got wide and then she laughed because that sounded so odd.  I explained that sometimes things get messy between moms and dads who don’t live together, and sometimes those moms or dads take their children at a time they are not supposed to and people get frightened.  I went over the rules one more time about dealing with strangers, and told her the secret word we have in case we do send someone she doesn’t know to pick her up somewhere so she’ll know that person really is safe to go with, and reminded her that she may run and kick and scream if a kidnapper ever did try to grab her. 

I added, “But statistically the most likely person to kidnap you is daddy, and he’d just bring you here.”  We both agreed that would be awesome, so she really didn’t need to spend time being scared.  That night on the news they reported that the children from the Amber alert were fine.  They’d been taken by their dad and returned to their mom.  Aden felt better.

Anyway, today my kids were getting really freaked out by the weather alerts on the television.  Neighborhood Recess got cut short because of lightning, and my kids were worried all through dinner about tornadoes.  When the sirens went off at about 7:00 they all looked panicked.  That’s where the real test of being the grown-up comes in–being the one to guide them calmly through the fear if possible.  I grabbed a book, my laptop, a phone, a stack of games and some marshmallows.  It’s hard to think of any situation as a crisis when there are marshmallows available.

Our basement gets pretty wet when it rains.  Not knee-deep flood water kind of wet, but water trickles in from all edges of the house toward the drain in the center of the floor.  The kids took turns jumping over the dozens of little rivers running all over while I set up a card table and chairs in the driest area.  We watched a bit of a Buster Keaton movie on YouTube.  We called to check in on a neighbor.  But the kids were still concerned about the tornado warning and all the thunder we could hear from overhead, so I pulled out the big guns.  I invented Basement Cards.

I’d grabbed Operation, Boggle and a bag of what I thought were Uno cards before heading into the basement.  Aden didn’t want to hear the buzzing of the Operation game right then, so I opened the bag of cards only to discover it was a weird mish-mash of things.  In addition to the Uno cards there were parts of several different regular decks, bits from two Old Maid decks, instruction cards from various games, Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh trading cards, an aquatic themed Crazy Eights deck, and one card from the game Cadoo. 

I dealt them all out, told everyone to make a neat stack, and then just made things up.  Quinn laughed so hard he kept slipping off his chair.  Aden looked annoyed at the randomness of it all until I announced she was winning, and then she was all into it.  Mona’s squeals drowned out any thunder.  I ordered people to trade cards, pick cards, put cards on their heads….  By the end it was kind of like Slap Jack or War where I was having everyone put cards in the middle at the same time and then I would tell them who’d won that round by deciding Quinn got all the cards because his pig card beat the ace of clubs, the rules to cribbage and Autoworker Alan.  They were all sad to leave the basement by the time the tornado warning was over.  (Quinn ran up to me a couple of minutes ago while I was typing to say, “I love Basement Cards!”)

I asked Mona to run up the stairs first and tell me if the house was still there.  She ran up excitedly and started yelling, “Yes!  It’s all still here!  Hooray!” and then went off to play with legos.  Aden was still scared of the lightning.  I asked her why, and she said, “Because we have so many big trees.”  I said, “Do you know why they are so big?”  She shook her head.  “Because they’ve never been struck by lightning.”  That made her feel better.  I also pointed out that the abandoned smoke stack on the next block by the old tannery was the tallest thing around and no lightning would be attracted to our house while that was available to strike.

I didn’t tell her about the NPR program I once listened to about lightening that made it sound as if it would practically come hunt you down in your bed while you slept.  Those nightmares are for another day.  I have a terrible time sleeping with Ian gone, so at least if my kids sleep I feel good about that.  I remember during the first deployment lying in bed, pregnant, listening to a terrible storm, and wondering how I would know if it was bad enough to wake up the girls and drag them into the basement.  I kept thinking about how everyone who has ever heard a tornado says it sounds just like a train, and then it hit me that I live down the street from railroad tracks.  How would I possibly be able to tell the difference between a tornado and a real train?  Then I really couldn’t sleep.

Anyway, I hope the rain lets up soon so I can go move the car to the right side of the street for overnight parking without getting completely drenched.  Not that I think the overnight parking checkers will be out in force tonight with so many people stranded in all the flooding all over town, but with my luck lately I’d be the one person they’d find to ticket.
I left the card table set up in the basement just in case I hear sirens in the night and need to move the kids to safety and another round of Basement Cards.  If I get too bored lying awake in the dark I may go down there and invent Solitaire Basement Cards, but that doesn’t sound like as much fun without the kids laughing their heads off. 

On days like today it’s hard to imagine the rain will ever end.  Just like July seems to be stretching on forever.  Thunderstorms are more fun with Ian home, even with Basement Cards to distract us.  I wonder if he’s awake right now, wherever in Iraq he is.  I wish I knew.

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