May 2, 2008

Let us be an example

We had a parenting first last night and I think it's safe to say we've learned a thing or two from the experience.

We woke up at 1 a.m. today to the beginnings of a terrible storm. The house was creaking, lightning was flashing and our electricity was flashing as well. With each flash of the power the carbon monoxide detector would beep and our cordless phone was paging itself. It was kind of a sensory overload after a few hours of deep sleep. (The ironic thing is that the page function on that phone wouldn't work last week when I was actually looking for it.)

After three flashes of the power, Thomas was up and terrified. As I started upstairs to check on him the electricity went out for good so I was now traversing the stairs in the pitch dark. Wow. Our house is really dark without any lights. By the time I got upstairs my Kansas-girl-instincts were saying, "get ye and your offspring to a basement and go now."

Mark apparently has Kansas-girl weather instincts as well because I met him halfway down the stairs as he headed up to get Andrew. This marks the first time we have dragged our kids out of bed in the middle of the night to head to safety during a storm. We've debated it a time or two but have avoided it all costs.

Picture the scene...

We're headed to the basement with two scared children, the house sounds like it's coming down, the thunder and lightning are constant and it's very, very dark. Quick! Someone grab the flashlight. Where's the flashlight? OMG! We must have a flashlight somewhere. A functioning flashlight is eventually located by using the butane flame thrower for the grill to light the way to the basement. (Note to self: Keep a flashlight on each level of the house and make sure it's in working order.)

We get me and the boys settled on a couch and then remember that without electricity it's pretty difficult to watch television for an update on what's happening outside. It's getting louder and seems as if we might have reason to be concerned, but we don't know for sure because it's at this point we realize WE HAVE NO BATTERY POWERED RADIOS in the house. (Note to self: Buy a battery powered radio.)

Mark runs up and gets a pair of shoes for each of us and my cell phone, on which we can at least pull up the Weather Channel website enough to see that yes, indeed, Douglas County, KS is under a tornado warning for the next 40 minutes. That's all we know, but it's enough. Looks like we're staying put.

We're now using my cell phone and one weakly-powered flashlight to entertain the kids and to take our collective mind off the fact that we're under a tornado warning but we don't know where the storm is and we don't have anyway to find out, short of one of us going to sit in the car to listen to the radio, which doesn't seem like a safe idea.

Eventually the worst of the storm passes and we're left with regular old May thunderstorms, but still no electricity. Now what to do? The boys weren't very keen on the idea of going back to bed without their myriad lights and acoutrements up and running so we began the process of everyone going to sleep in the basement on the couches. We finally get Andrew to STOP TALKING and Thomas begins to snore. In addition to being very dark in the house without power, it's also very quiet. No hum from anything. Weird. All you can hear is the occassional thunder and rain hitting the windows. It's deathly quiet and then Mark remembers. No power means no sump pump. That's why it's so quiet.

Mark gets up to check on the status of the sump pump pit (is there a more technical term for this?) in the storage room, which of course wakes Thomas and starts Andrew talking. He comes back and reports that we need a bucket because if it keeps raining there's going to be water bailing in our immediate future. Fabulous. (Note to self: investigate the cost of a battery backup for our sump pump.) We sat quietly for a few minutes during which time I think it's safe to assume that Mark and I were both offering up small prayers and making deals that we'll try to live up to in the coming weeks.

And then, ta da! Power! The lovely noise of the sump pump kicking on and the computer firing up! It was sweeter music to my ears than the performance we had seen at the Lied Center earlier in our evening.

We double-checked that the worst was over then took the boys back up to bed. At 3:45 a.m. we were back in our bed and having a little conversation about how since we're both college-educated, longtime Kansas residents, there's very little excuse for the fact that we put ourselves in a RIDICULOUS situation of not knowing where to find a flashlight and having no plan for no electricity. We be so smart. If we can't set a good example, let us at least be a warning to you, our readers!

Today we're the proud owners of a new flashlight, weather radio and battery-powered cell phone charger. Battery backups for sump pumps are expensive so we haven't purchased but are in discussions. We only spent $40 total but we probably would have paid three times that just to feel like we had redeemed ourselves!

As I write, Mark and Andrew are out repairing our fence. The wind took it down along the entire north side of the yard, breaking the posts off even with the ground. Mark is going to have more help than he needs digging out the old posts, which are set in concrete approximately 11-gillion feet down into the ground, and setting new posts today. Andrew is prattling on about the "80 mile for an hour" winds and we've all learned some important lessons.


Anonymous said...

When we returned today, we found a message from Dick with news that Whelan's Lumber had been "removed" during the storm. So, you all must have had some of that strong wind blow through your yard to take down your fence like it did. Thank goodness you all have that great basement. And, now that you're well-equipped, you'll probably have a delightful remainder of spring and an uneventful summer. But, I'm so glad you're all okay and that you're "armed." Love, RoRo

Maria said...

Ok, Eric can't read this. It will only reinforce his fear of living anywhere near toronado country. Scary! Thanks for sharing. You have reminded me that we are not prepared for California's version of a natural disaster...the earthquake. Guess I'll be at Lowe's later today.

Maria said...

Eric says: Too late, I read it. Susan, you are a gifted current vital signs: HR 114 bpm, BP 190/116, Respiration 22. This story reminds me of two stories I always tell my students about my trips to Kansas.
1. The time I was so fascinated with the thunder storm raging outside, that I had to go out to witness its true glory first-hand. At which time you quickly yelled at me to get my stupid a$& inside the house. You pretty much saved me from have a one-on-one experience with Natural Selection.
2. The time when I was at your home with the boys alone (they were 9 months at the time), while you and Maria ran a quick errand (Mark was working/Butch and Rose weren't there this time). The boys and I were watching something "educational" like Elmo, when all of a sudden I heard a sound much like the siren from a 1940 Mack Fire truck...but louder, and longer in nature. I have honestly never been more scared in my life...I was frozen. Turns out you Kansans like to test your air-raid warning system every month or so...lucky me!
I still maintain that Lawrence is one of the most beautiful places I have ever for the 4 hour flight I have to take to get there. But that's another story...
Glad you guys are safe. Cheers!!

Susan said...

Eric - YOU are a gifted writer. I'm am seriously laughing out loud right now! I do vividly remember your fascination with that thunderstorm. If we could mix that interest and my phobia, we could be a normal person during a storm. :-)

Here's the thing to remember about thunderstorms. You get an average of about 30 minutes warning that they're coming (if you've got a brain in your head which we apparently didn't the other night) and you get up-to-the-second updates about exactly what's happening and what to expect. If you're not prepared it's your own fault. (Which we demonstrated beautifully!)

The last time I checked most earthquakes come with significantly less notice, but I am still willing to brave it when we're visiting! Now, with that said, remember how much fun Kansas can be? Come visit us!!!!