"Huh, we're under a severe thunderstorm warning. All I see out the window is blue sky. That's weird."
I walk out onto the front lawn and look back up over our house at what looks like Eyjafjallajokull erupting somewhere up the street from us. A huge, dense anvil is spreading out to the east, puffy white cumulus towers are shooting skyward to the southwest. An ominous shadow blankets the neighborhood.
"OMG GUYS COME TAKE A LOOK AT THIS!"
First step in thunderstorm safety: When presented with a severe thunderstorm warning, the prudent thing to do is to run outside to take a look as a family (most of the family--Wes went to bed at six o'clock last night).
"Woowwww" says Charlie "Why is that cloud moving?"
"That's called scud, Charlie, it's a low cloud that forms near the base of the thunderstorm, or updraft. It's interesting to watch scud because sometimes it gets sucked up into the updraft like a vacuum cleaner."
Sure enough, the ragged piece of scud slides closer to the storm and disappears. We all watch in awe as the storm builds in front of our eyes. Then it occurs to me that we should cover the plants in case of hail.
"Charlie, will you help Papa and me cover up the plants so they won't be damaged by hail?"
"YES! LET'S GO PROTECT THE PLANTS!!"
He runs through the living room and kitchen and out the back door. When I catch up he is standing on top of the swing set yelling at our neighbors over the fence.
"IT'S TIME TO GO INSIDE! A STORM IS COMING! WE HAVE TO PROTECT OUR PLANTS!"
I finally coax him down the slide when Ryan appears with a collection of tarps. I carefully position the soccer goal in the pumpkin patch and lay a tarp over it. Ryan covers the Bird Blocker with another tarp and slides the plastic baby pool upside down over the seedlings.
Charlie is back on top of the swing set, bouncing with excitement. He points at the base of the huge storm.
"Hey Mama! Why does rain get heavy and fall out of the cloud?"
We've been talking about why it rains recently. He likes detail.
A clap of thunder.
"We can talk about it inside! Let's go!"
Once inside I check the radar again and note that the storm is sort of falling apart and looks to miss us to the north by a few miles. Crisis averted, but the plants are roasting under tarps in the eighty-five degree sun.
Charlie watches a few more minutes of the weather coverage on TV then I declare it time to go to bed. He takes one last look at his back yard handiwork out the window just as the wind picks up and lifts one of the tarps off the plants.
"WHAT'S HAPPENING!" he howls like the misunderstood-but-brilliant scientist character on a natural disaster movie.
"Oh," I say casually, refreshing the radar image for the hundredth time, "the wind is blowing and the tarp fell off the plants. It's OK, the storm isn't coming here anymore."
Ryan picks him up to take him to bed and he manages to make his whole body go limp while kicking Ryan's legs at the same time. I am on the phone with my dad, who has called to report quarter size hail from our storm as it passed over their house a few minutes prior. Halfway up the stairs:
"MY PLANTS ARE GOING TO BE DAMAGED BY HAIL! WAAAAAAAAA!" He is nearly hyperventilating.
I'm trying not to laugh too hard, at least on the outside.
"Why don't you and Papa go fix the tarp before bed." I don't give in to tantrums, but he has worked so hard on his plants and I truly don't see another way out of this one. They run outside and fix the tarp then head upstairs.
We got storms later, but never had any hail. I found Charlie asleep sideways on his bed, his head contorted around so that he could look out the window and watch the lightning as he fell asleep.