June 15, 2016

Party Twister

Some party games are more entertaining than others and each person has a favorite. I'm partial to word games and of course the boys enjoy games that require popping balloons or smearing each other with shaving cream. Mary loves treasure hunts, and Joey likes anything that involves running around and making lots of noise.

The head of our rowdy crew, Matt, prefers to avoid games altogether and being his birthday I decided to forgo Pin the Tail on the Donkey, and focus instead on food and atmosphere. Any games that popped up would be of the unplanned variety.

Did some one say party games?

In honor of my Hawaiian shirt loving hubby the party had a luau theme.

Mary helped me decorate. Palm trees and pink flamingos...
Are there flamingos in Hawaii?

One of the nice things about having a husband who loves to cook, is... having a husband who loves to cook. It's awesome! I plan the menu and he makes it happen, even on his birthday.

Norma, Matt's mom traveled all the way from California
to be here in time for her son's birthday.

Just look at those clouds behind them. It had been sunny only moments before.

The party was a success. Everyone was having a lovely time and all was going well. Other than the fact that the weather radio kept going off with severe weather warnings, it was a perfect day.

The storm would be arriving in fifteen minutes,
and the chicken only needed another ten minutes on the grill, so... perfect timing, right?
The wind began to pick up and the radio gave a new alert every minute or so. It was looking like we were in for a direct hit.
"...large hail... wind gusts to 70mph... expect significant damage to cars, trees, and roofs..."

Matt sent the boys out to close up the chicken coop and duck house while he moved the van into the garage. Annie was closing windows. I watched images of the oncoming storm from the little TV in our bedroom. Tornadoes will occasionally form in storms like this and I always keep a eye for the beginnings of that signature "hook" that will show up on radar. Nothing so far.

A moment later I heard Matt. I had never heard him bellow like that! He was out back yelling at the boys, "In the house, NOW!"

He had spotted a rotation in the clouds over the woods about a quarter mile behind our house. A large tree crashed to the ground. I ran to the dining room just as they charged through the door. "It's a tornado!" one of the boys cried. "Really?" I asked Matt. "Not sure," he replied, "but we're not waiting to find out! Everyone in the basement!"

Fumbling for a moment with the basement door, I got it open and the children and my mother-in-law rushed down the stairs. I glanced at Matt. The color had gone from his face. Joseph was in my arms as I started down the steps into the dark. Matt descended last, closing the door behind us. We were now in the basement, but where in the basement should we be? Normally storms come in from the West, but this one was rushing at us from the North. "Come away from the North wall," I instructed. 

We huddled close together in the South section and Brendan started the Divine Mercy prayer. In moments the storm overtook us. There were windows in this part of the basement. The sky turned a dark purplish-gray. I could see the young trees in our yard lashed about and bent until their tops brushed the ground. I rocked Joey back and forth as if he was so much younger. I'm not sure which of us I was trying to comfort. The sound of the wind grew louder. I had never heard anything like it. The wind absolutely howled down the chimney with a ferocity that made my heart pound. And then it was gone.

As quickly as it had come up the storm moved on. With prayers of thanksgiving we ascended the stairs and found nothing damaged beyond some broken limbs on the edge of our property. A stack of pallets and several sheets of plywood had been strewn about, but that was it. 
"Great tornado drill, everyone!" I cheered. I received a handful of weak smiles. I truly was pleased. Not only had no one been harmed, but each person had responded quickly and correctly. Good to know!

(We later heard that the storm rotation had produced an EF0 tornado a few miles away, but the straight line winds had caused wide-spread damage - trees downed and power outages.) 

Poor Matt looked like he'd been put through the wringer. Concern for his family's safety had left him frazzled.

We sat together at the table. I dished up the food. At first no one wanted to eat. We still needed to recover from the adrenaline that coursed through our systems. The storm was over. We were fine, but that mad dash for cover had left us shaken. 

"Well, that was an exciting party game," someone joked. Now we were laughing, a mixture of humor and relief.
The aroma of teriyaki chicken and grilled corn beckoned.
Conversation became more animated.
Birthday candles were extinguished, and gifts given.
Our celebration slowly returned to normal.

Who doesn't appreciate a card that features sharks with lasers on their heads?

Well, as close to normal as this family gets.

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