For my girls

I grew up with two, slightly rowdy, brothers. As a result of their example and my own predisposition for introversion, I spent a large portion of my youth attempting adolescent invisibility. I was a freckle-faced, red-haired, braces and glasses wearer in southern California, so it hardly ever worked out as I hoped.

1,284 miles away, Logan was crafting a very different teenage existence. They laugh about it now, but I’m certain that at the time, his parents were less than thrilled by his political column (Nouveau View) in the county newspaper and likely even less impressed with his band’s decision to perform sans clothing. When I asked him to clarify the boxers-only performance I’d heard so much about, he asked, “Well, which time?”

I watch Pearl on the playground now with an intense curiosity. Will she amble toward anonymity or sprint for the spotlight? Yesterday she scaled the rope ladder with astounding speed and grace and then raced full toddler force to the big slide. She skidded to a stop, waved to a neighbor kid, then pointed to the slide and said, “Be careful ok?” This combination of daring tenderness is alright with me.

Eventually, we won’t be pinpointing the inherited characteristics of our small daughters. Experience will mold them into women we hope and expect to be strong, intelligent, and kind.

But for now, for my girls’ sake, I hope they channel their father’s natural instinct to be wild. I hope they ask the uncomfortable questions and then really listen to the answers to discover their own conclusions. In what can feel like the endless catastrophe of youth, deciding to be different, especially in a town like ours, will be a monumental challenge but will serve them well in so many ways.

We’re just a week away from becoming a family of four, plus one deranged Chihuahua. And years from now, when our girls decide to read mom’s boring online journal, all I ask is that they please, please, ask their father when their band decides to play homecoming in just their skivvies. That’s all him.

 

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Pearl is almost two, fearless, a little reckless, and has a secret recipe for energy I’m attempting to decipher and trademark. Logan and I recently reached one of those cute parenting milestones where we believe we know exactly what to do, but in a much more real way, have no idea what we’re doing, ever, at all. Last Friday at midnight, this became incredibly apparent because we were sitting in the ER waiting room, trying to pretend it was not our daughter whose faint cries were drifting down the hallway.

Pearl and I had just discovered that we could use Alexa to enhance our kitchen dance parties. She was so excited she ran for the living room, singing all the way before tripping and slamming her face into the couch. Somewhere between the trip and the slam, she bit down on her tongue so hard and deep I couldn’t look at it without erupting in tears. Why didn’t we go to the ER then? I’ll probably ask myself that question until the day I die. I think all parents have their fair share of totally unnecessary ER visits. We are well acquainted with the patient, if slightly annoyed smiles of the nurses who gently tell you, your kid is fine, it’s time to go home now. Plus the internet, the internet is stupid. Never, ever listen to the internet, I beg of you.

After a couple days we decided it might be kind of nice to see the polite smiles of the nurses and doctors, let them evaporate our fears with a hefty bill and send us happily home. But they didn’t send us home, instead, they gave us a tiny hospital gown decorated with puppies and balloons and six dissolvable stitches in Pearl’s tongue. A few hours later, when all six stitches popped out several weeks ahead of schedule, I felt the tiny screws keeping my sanity in place burst forth and ricochet into space.

And that’s how our demented story returns to an emergency room two hours away, waiting for the doctor to complete Pearl’s second round of tongue stitches in less than 12 hours. At this point, we had spent nearly 72 hours riding a carousel of guilt and regret, spinning in slow, exhausting circles of disbelief. We’d visited the ER plenty of times when we shouldn’t have and then didn’t visit the ER when we definitely should have. No big deal though, two months is enough time to get this parenting thing all squared away before the second kid arrives, right?

 

Dear Kara

Pearl spent more than a year under the watchful care of Emma, Megan, and Katie. Together, these women shaped my daughter’s life. I see their influence everyday. When Pearl offers a hug on instinct to a crying kid, there’s Emma. When she stands on our coffee table, creeps toward the edge, and yells “JUMP!” with pure mischief in her eyes, there’s Megan. Seconds later, when she smiles and climbs down carefully, there’s Katie. Sure, Logan and I played a role and the genetics are undeniable, but Monday-Friday from 8-5 plus countless Saturdays with Emma, that was probably the best thing we ever did for our kid.

screen-shot-2016-11-26-at-1-02-17-pm

Pearl was a flower girl in Emma’s wedding and on the big day, mentally, she was kind of a wreck. She’d scream to be put down then immediately scream to be picked up. Toddler emotions are complex exhausting. Maybe she was dealing with her own brand of grief as she watched Emma get married and start a new life on her own. Unless she was in the arms of an Engbrecht, she was truly inconsolable. They’d spent a lot of time together, their bond was so second-nature your teeth about ached with the sweetness. Still, I was fairly convinced some type of magic was involved here.

emmajeffrey-film-91

So strong, reliable, and nurturing, I often forgot Emma was more than a decade my junior. Whether dealing with the 12th schedule change of the day, or Pearl’s first six months of endless spit up, or gently pointing out that my shirt still had a tag on it, she never let on that I was the raving lunatic I felt myself to be each day. She shared Pearl’s triumphs and sorrowed in her minor slip ups, so much so that I never felt like I was missing out on the months that were slipping by so quickly. Because Pearl was in safe hands, so were our hearts.

Moments before the ceremony began, the tattered remains of my patience were fading fast.  Shoulders slumped and toes pinched in ill-advised heels I asked Emma’s mother Kara what type of magic she used to subdue my daughter and could I get it on Amazon Prime? Without missing a beat she said, “Hey, if your kid is sweet to everyone except you, you’ve got to be doing something right.” Immediately I felt an odd lightness in my shoulders and realized, just like that, she’d worked her spell on me too.

So, thank you, Kara. Thank you for raising daughters that were not only sweet to me but were also 100% with their love and adoration for Pearl. Thank you for teaching them grace. Thank you for teaching them honesty and selfless love. Thank you for all the important lessons you taught me through your amazing daughters.

 

Pearl & The Case of the Chaos Tornado

“I swear I turned around for one second,” Logan said, panic saturating his pores. I don’t doubt this. Pearl is fast. To give you a reference point, she’s somewhere between a snake and a mongoose, and a panther. She had closed the door to our bathroom and opened the nearest drawer effectively barring anyone from getting at her.  We stood staring at the door, mentally calculating the life-threatening dangers locked inside the bathroom with our daughter, united in dread.

Sass for days

Baby blues

Logan used logic to determine breaking the window was our best option. I utilized a mother’s expertise for nonsense and casually suggested to my 10 month old, “Pearl, babe, close the drawer.” Voila. She closed the drawer. Multiply impossibility and subtract reason, these are the mathematics of motherhood. Today I will admit she was probably just excited to hear my voice. Years from now, as my maternal induced psychosis worsens, the story will evolve. I will proclaim my daughter followed precise instructions given to her in fourth century Latin and upon opening the door, gave us the square root of pi. Enjoy this time of partial sanity my friends, it is merely fleeting.

Borderline heart failure induced panic followed by baffled laughter, a shoulder shrug, and onto the next chaos tornado, parenting defined. Ultimately it seems, with a little luck, resolutions to life’s most earth-shattering moments can sometimes be swift. Similar to my recent thyroid cancer diagnosis which had us equally flabbergasted, the solution will be simple and relatively easy. A few weeks from now I will trade my thyroid for a scar but, like our bathroom window, I will remain intact. More importantly, I will be happily exaggerating Pearl’s intellect for many, many years.

Best. Hugs. Ever.

Rollin’

Journal Entry: March 1st, 2014

The familiar squeak of the hinges and then the warm rush of a forced-air furnace, I’m instantly relaxed. A few faces turn to smile at our arrival and the lively chatter resumes. We place our coats on ancient, battered hangers and line up our shoes with the others, snow melting wet puddles into the abused carpet. The routine of this moment is so comforting. For one night each week, this run-down bowling alley is my happy place. I forget about my incessant need to tackle something more meaningful, I let go of my nagging subconscious telling me to think bigger.

Thursday nights are for cracking corny jokes, for smiling wide and genuine, for contemplating new theories on alcohol to turkey ratios: this week I bowl better with my glasses and drinking only Coors Light, last week’s three cocktail minimum was a total bust.

Small-town Thursday night

Small-town Thursday night

This is where my fears of impressing a small community fade, where I feel less like an outsider and more a part of the scenery in which I want so badly to blend. The radio plays state basketball playoffs and the whole place keeps one ear on the game. But it’s not all easy talk of weather and sports. Somewhere between clashing pins and stiff cocktails, the hard stuff filters through, quiet conversations with down-turned eyes; the recent loss of a beloved sister, struggling to find your place in a community you’ve called home for 30 years, worries over a son’s divorce.

It’s easy to gaze on this scene and call it simple but there is nothing easy about this life.