How to Dress a Tornado in 17 Easy Steps

For the past three weeks, I stood by and watched while family and friends held Pearl, cuddled her, hugged her, tickled her, and loved her in all the ways I couldn’t. This was easily the most difficult part of my cancer experience which means, actually, I’m pretty damn lucky.

Since being reunited with my daughter, we’ve had an extended moment of incredibly sweet, excessive devotion to each other. Every night in that small space between fighting the inevitable and dreams of nutella sandwiches (that’s what they dream about too right?) Pearl likes to make sure I’m still around. She jerks wide awake, takes one long concentrated look at my face,  gives me an enormous dimple-cheeked smile, and passes out on my shoulder.

Stop and smell the dandelions

In turn, I give in to her tiny demands regularly. I know there’s an entire industry devoted to avoiding this grave parental misstep but screw it. In her entire life these days, the ones where she’ll grab my hand and pull me around the house to squeal with delight at the existence of windows, will seem like a flash.

I feel good, really good, and it’s unlikely that I’ll need any more treatment. It turns out doctors don’t like to throw around words like “cured” with cancer patients no matter the clever verbal traps you set for them. So I’ll wait impatiently but in the meantime I have a long list of blessings to count.

And because it’s rude to advertise your parental brilliance on Instagram and then not deliver…

How to Dress a Tornado in 17 Easy Steps:

  1. Stop buying anything even remotely white, just stop it
  2. Sign my petition to end the total nightmare that is baby clothes with buttons, together we can stop the madness
  3. Remember this counts as a workout, good for you!
  4. Offer to let the tornado choose her own clothes
  5. Spend the next 30 minutes putting all the clothes back in the drawers
  6. Allow an additional five minutes to apologize to the tornado for not letting her eat the rhinestones off her tank top
  7. Time for a distraction, sing a totally made up song about monkey butts
  8. Chase the tornado as she runs across the living room with her eyes closed and only half her pants on
  9. Wonder if this will be the day you have to explain to the ER nurse how your tornado gave herself a concussion
  10. Oops, the tornado just crapped her pants, start over
  11. It becomes clear at this point that tornados prefer to be naked
  12. Distract the naked tornado, almost anything will do but I highly recommend a cell phone insurance plan
  13. Take a 5 minute break, let the tornado loose on the tupperware drawer, you deserve coffee
  14. Offer to let the tornado try to dress herself
  15. Remember this always results in a screaming match when you eventually try to help
  16. Bribery exists for a reason people, have you heard of these things called yogurt melts? What a world!
  17. Realize that a diaper is perfectly acceptable attire for a tornado on any occasion

365 Days of Pearl

On the first day she had no name.

On the third day, somewhere between exhaustion and adrenaline, she was Pearl.

On the 12th day I made final notes in the most absurd and meticulous journal I’ve ever kept. I deemed Pearl’s bowel movements normal and vowed, once again, to never read internet mom advice.

On the 21st day she rolled over and Grandma and Grandpa Haifley were our FaceTime witnesses. Coincidentally, this was the same day I tested the shriek factor on Grandma and Grandpa’s speakers.

On the 52nd day I took 287 photographs and in the haze of naivety known as new motherhood, was certain I would print all of them, the next day. I can’t even tell you where those photos are saved today.

It's a good day when you've got cake on your feet

It’s a good day when you’ve got cake on your feet

On the 97th day we found that of the many benefits to having a daughter, the impromptu dance parties are our favorite. No matter the time of day, the food in front of her face, or the mental torment of a choking hazard being removed from her grasp, turn on some tunes and this girl can shimmy shake like nobody’s business.

On the 129th day Pearl discovered that Lefty, in addition to being a chihuahua with obvious mental issues, was also a pretty good playmate. Our dog has never been fond of tiny humans charging him but on this day they bonded over a game of tug-of-war. We decided he could stay when he knocked her down and she giggled for two minutes straight.

_DSC0040-4

On the 183rd day Pearl mastered the bear crawl and the running tally of all the “I would nevers” came to an official end as I squealed and hooted watching Pearl scamper across the house and took more photos that I also cannot find to this day.

On the 268th day we discovered that if we laughed every time Pearl shuddered at a pureed, so-called food, she would laugh. Consequently, the second and third bites would go over much better. Laughter is responsible for her love of green beans and squash.

Little cupcake

On the 301st day Pearl took her first shaky steps and turned our world upside down, legitimately, this is why our house is always a mess.

On the 324th day she started playing favorites with her books making her mama’s english major heart nearly burst with pride. After the 700th reading of BINGO was his nameo, the aforementioned english major heart developed a slight twitch.

On the 365th day Pearl had her very first taste of the wonder and beauty that occurs when you combine cake, chocolate, frosting, and sprinkles. It is only now that I realize, none of us thought to give this poor kid any milk.

These 365 days of Pearl have been filled with smiles and tears, chaos and giggles, a healthy mix of parental terror with a dash of toddler fearlessness, and a whole lot of sparkle.

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.

The Day She Didn’t Choose Me

Today my daughter chose the babysitter. Normally I come home for lunch and Pearl’s eyes light up, her arms reach out to me and the love she shows is undeniable in that display of pure need. Today, none of that happened. Instead she held tight to Emma, snuggling into her neck and refusing to let go. I would never hold this against Emma, she is an incredible blessing to our entire family. But I nursed the pangs of heartache and guilt throughout the day, blaming an eight month old child for my destruction. She did not intend to shatter my heart. Pearl is just a baby, I repeated this to myself several hundred times.

DSC_7834 bw copy

Everyday I worry. Everyday I question my decisions and choices. Am I really doing the absolute best for my family? Some days yes. Some days I am super-mom, I am invincible, untouchable, unstoppable. If the apocalypse crashed down upon us at dawn, we’d be just fine, we’d kick apocalypse ass. Other days no, just no. And that two letter word contains more than enough defeat, additional explanation unnecessary to any parent.

DSC_8367 bw copy

At 7:35PM I forgave my daughter her unknowing indiscretion. I forgave her as we swayed together, nearly inaudible coos escaping her tiny perfect body as she drifted off. I forgave her as my feet sank into the carpet, my toes imprinting our love on the world below. We swayed much longer than necessary. Feeling her warm, even breath on my shoulder, her fingers gently squeezing my arm and releasing, squeezing and releasing, her entire body eventually falling into a peaceful, heavy, relaxation. She is safe, and warm, and loved. She is innocent and I do my best and so we are granted equal amnesty.

Tonight we conquered emotional cataclysm, tomorrow is another day.

A youth well spent

I hear this question a lot these days, “Do you ever wonder what you used to do with all your free time?” The first few times I fell right into the deep hole of despair this question, perhaps unknowingly, implies: the agony of a wasted life.

Yes, I miss sleeping in. I miss the days when my body wouldn’t automatically come to life five minutes before Pearl wakes up. I miss staying up late for no apparent reason, safe in the knowledge that I would feel wonderful the next day regardless. I miss the freedom to just read all day, the freedom to spend days agonizing over a single blog post. But it’s not these little moments seemingly filled with nothing that I mourn.

To answer the question, no I do not wonder how I filled my time. I remember fondly, I spent it doing things like this:

Machu Picchu

 

Baja

 

Rhino

Pardon my humble brag, but I’m happy to say my youth was not wasted.  Life did not begin or end with Pearl. She found us mid-way through the story; well developed characters with an expansive history rich in self-discovery. And even though our time is now spent doing this like this:

Pearl

 

Pearl

Happily, it was our past that got us to this present, and what a gift it is.

Lovey Dovey

One of my greatest fears while carrying Pearl was my ability to express my love for her in the tender way you see so many mothers and daughters interact. Touchy-feely is just not my thing, PDA makes my brows furrow, and even if we’ve been friends for years my hugs are stiff and as brief as humanly possible. These facts tormented me for nine months, I feared we just wouldn’t connect.

At three and a half months old Pearl is rolling, gabbing, grabbing, and smiling. She shows an immense enthusiasm during storytime (that’s my girl!) and is one heck of a charmer in a crowd. She zeros in on me if she’s not in my arms, following my every move with her bright eyes which light up if she hears my voice or spots me across the room. She is thoroughly irresistible which is why I take a particular pride in yesterday’s milestone: giggling.

Bookworm babe

Bookworm babe

Sitting on the living room floor, she swung her arms in my direction and flashed a gummy grin, the one that often makes me think I’m on the verge of a very serious heart condition. I scooped her up and planted no less than one hundred smooches on both cheeks and she erupted, her tiny body wobbling and swaying with the effort of her very first giggle. I lost count of the kisses that followed in an attempt to replicate the most incredible sound known to man.

Smooches

Smooches

When it comes to Pearl it turns out I’m 100% soft. Like an untapped mine of blazing devotion; I’m a snuggler, kisser, hugger, I’m downright lovey dovey. And nothing in my life has ever felt so natural and right. I know she won’t always giggle at these expressions of pure affection so I intend get my fill while the gettin’s good.

 

Analog Memories

Sometimes I find myself racing ahead, even by decades, in life. When Pearl takes an enormous breath, the lung-filling kind an infant only uses to wail, I think of how she’ll be as a teenager. In her tiny, adorable face I can see the pain of hormonal rage 13 years down the road. One day she will say terrible things to me, things I recall saying to my own mother much to my adult shame. She may develop a routine as I did; sobbing, gulping for air, pounding deafening steps into the stairs and thundering my door shut so hard I’m sure I tested the physical structure of our house on several occasions. She will tell me I just don’t understand and she will believe it too.

Pearl Aideen

Pearl Aideen

Treasure

Treasure

It’s in these future moments that I know I will lovingly recall today and think it’s such a shame she’ll have lost the memory of our present by then. At four weeks old, Pearl has stolen my reality, nothing matters but her. I exist in a time warp, I lose hours and entire days. People ask what I’ve been up to, here’s a list: we have staring contests that last hours, I study her eyelashes trying to determine the science of their length, I agonize over her fingernails, I wash her hair far too often, sometimes she screams but then snuggles into my neck and promptly falls asleep to the thudding of my heart, we go on walks and she sleeps, we run errands and she sleeps, we read Game of Thrones and she sleeps, we go to bed and she is ready to party Andrew W.K. style.

He needed a little sugar & spice in his life

He needed a little sugar & spice in his life

When I suggested to Logan that Pearl would never remember these days of total, earth-shattering love between us as she grew he scoffed and replied:

Hold onto your hat sweetheart, Pearl just got started loving you.

The beginning of a new love story

The beginning of a new love story

The sweetest

The sweetest