~ Flashlights...check! Bananas...check! Helmets...check! ~

I've lived in the midwest long enough to see some pretty wicked weather.  I've seen homes flattened to a pile of wood, I've seen hail the size of tennis balls and I've seen the sky turn green...yes completely green.  

So tornado warnings are nothing new for us, we know the drill and we have a finished basement.  So when the sirens sound, we go down stairs and play for half an hour, keeping one eye on the TV until we get the "all clear" to head back up.  No big deal.

But something about Friday night was different. Even the tone of the voices coming from the weathermen were different- they meant business.  
Photo courtesy of my iphone in the pitch black

I am so humbly grateful for my life and the things I have- because I really do have it all.  I have a fantastic husband that I actually like...yes we all love our husbands, but I actually like mine as well.  I have younger, fairly healthy parents who devote every ounce of their time and energy to their grandbabies.  I have 3 dynamite kids who keep my world spinning.  I have a job that makes me want to do cartwheels, friends who let me cry and laugh with them, and a warm cozy house that always feels like home.

Sure, sometimes I wish I could lose 30 pounds, or had a bigger house.  I've always wished I could sing really well, and I would give anything to be just a few inches taller.  Sometimes I'm jealous of the earthy girl with smart glasses, drinking her frappe, wearing a cardigan, and engulfed in a novel at Starbucks...  because I will never be her.  I'm the girl in her husband's boxer shorts watching Jersey Shore and eating Cookie Dough straight from the package.  There are all sorts of things in life I will never be or never have, but let's face it...all of those things are trivial-  the major things in my life are in place.  Perfectly.  So perfectly that I find myself tip-toeing around just waiting for the rug to be pulled out from underneath me...for something horrible to blindside me on some random Tuesday and change my life forever.

Friday night, I thought for just a moment... this might be it...the moment the rug is pulled.

The tornado sirens blared, and we ushered the little ones into the basement where they started to play.  There were instant reports of a tornado on ground and headed our way.  I just assumed it would turn and go somewhere else, but as they continued to track this tornado we seemed smack dab in it's path.

The weatherman would mention our city name and countdown, "It's 10 minutes away, it's 7 minutes away, take shelter immediately." I wasn't panicking at all, but I felt the need to do "something," so I ran upstairs, grabbing whatever seemed logical at the time.  For me, that was: 3 helmets, 3 bananas, 2 bottles of water, a fire extinguisher, and all of our phones.  Oh, and then I sent my husband back up for my camera gear.   :)

We were still hanging out in the basement watching the news when they said "A large tornado has just ripped through Bridgeton, causing massive damage, and it's headed Northeast at 50 miles an hour.  My husband and I didn't have to say a word, we knew exactly what the other one was thinking.  We are 3 miles from Bridgeton and were right in the path of this SOB. 

At that exact moment, our power went out, the basement was jet black, and you could not see your hand in front of your face...which meant we no longer had information from the TV telling us where the tornado was.

There was nothing to do but wait in the darkness.  Wait for this monster to come destroy our sweet little house we've spent years making a home.

Trying to find 3 freaked out kids in the pitch black isn't easy...but we did.  I rushed them into the bathroom and started strapping on helmets like a mad woman.  So here we were, in the basement, in the bathroom, with helmets on our heads.  Overkill?  Probably.  But I don't do anything on a small scale, I have a flair for the dramatic.

I was trying to keep things light-hearted for the kids, they were scared...well, except for Libby Lu, who had no clue what was going on.  She just learned how to walk, so she still hobbles around high stepping like a 2 foot tall drunk.  Her helmet was too big and kept covering her eyes- she would walk straight into the wall and then fall on her back with her little feet straight in the air, while the other kids would laugh hysterically.  Once she knew she had an audience, she did it over and over.

No TV, no lights, no power, and last I heard there was a monster tornado 3 miles from my house and headed our way.  As I sit there looking at my kids, who look ridiculous in their helmets, and Luci, who was already eating our "Emergency Bananas," I couldn't help but think:  What if this is it?  The day the rug is pulled?  What if our house is completely destroyed, or worse, one of us are injured or killed?  What if this is the day my life is turned upside-down forever?

I was counting every minute that went by.  I knew if 8-10 minutes went by and we didn't get hit, it likely passed us. I kept thinking...any second...it's going to hit us...any second...any second...it's pitch black...how will anyone find us....they say it sounds like a train...was that a train....or was it thunder.....any second....any second...

But a good 10-15 minutes passed, and we were fine. We emerged upstairs to check out the damage to our house, and there was none.  Our entire neighborhood was unscathed, like nothing ever happened. But we didn't have to drive far to see the devastation, it barely missed us.

The St. Louis community has been rattled.  That sucker left a 22 mile path of destruction.  There is disaster and broken hearts everywhere you look, but by the Grace of God, not one single person was killed.

Being a mother can be painfully hard when it comes to worry.  We protect these babies with every fiber we have as if we are in control.  We strap on helmets in tornados, chop up grapes and hot-dogs, stay at the birthday swimming party even though moms are free to leave.

And these same babies that we protect with all our might may grow up one day and jump out of airplanes, or race their snowboard down a black diamond mountain.

I try to remind myself that I am not alone,  that other Mommies worry, right?  I may have been the only mother strapping helmets to her childrens heads during a tornado, but we're all crazy in our own way right?

We are all in this together.  The only thing we can do is enjoy every good day we have, don't worry so much about the rug beneath your feet, use it to catch your fall.  Stand firm on it and show it who's boss.

Oh...and Happy Easter, from the Manno kids....minus the helmets.

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