It had been raining on and off all day. We spent the weekend cleaning, resting, snacking, and watching a slew of tornado documentaries on Netflix and YouTube. Tornado documentaries are at the core of our marriage. We love them. The first thing we ever did together was watch a tornado documentary while James was house-sitting. I had the flu at the time, but I was too excited to hang out and pretended I was completely healthy. I'll never forget the way James' face lit up when I sheepishly confessed that I have a strange obsession with extreme weather. And just weather in general. I guess you could blame these destructive forces of nature for bringing us together.
A few weeks before our wedding, we were driving back to school after a trip to Raleigh to drop off my MacBook at the Apple Store, since the hardrive crashed during finals and a week before my graduation. We knew there was a tornado warning, and we couldn't decide if we should wait it out and grab some food or drive home. We decided to drive home despite a vividly green sky and churning clouds above us. We got home, turned on the news, and discovered the EF3 tornado had chased us down highway 64.
But it had only been raining all weekend. No thunderstorms, just a steady, warm rain. Gracie was in bed, and we had decided to wait until she was down to eat together. As we sat down with our food, my phone buzzed. I figured it was a text from my friend telling me about her weekend away, but it was a tornado warning. I was sure it had to be a mistake. The sun was peeking through the clouds and everything seemed calm. Instead of turning on Last Man Standing, I flipped to the local news just to confirm my suspicions that my weather app was confused.
The meteorologist was flailing her arms across the map of our city, telling us funnel clouds had been spotted to the west, and a tornado had already touched down a county over and destroyed a house. The forecasted track of the storm with the funnel cloud was going right over us. Suddenly, the tornado sirens went off. In all our years here, they've gone off less than five times. Two of those times there has actually been a tornado that touched down less than a mile away. James and I stared at each other, our mouths wide open. Did all our documentary watching cause this somehow? A weird self-fulfilling prophecy of some kind? All day long I had been thinking how grateful I am to not live in tornado alley. I live for some good weather drama, but when faced with an actual tornado, I'm done playing games. Ohio isn't in tornado alley, but we get our fair share of tornado watches in the spring and summer. It's just enough excitement without too much risk, but rarely has a warning every appeared out of the blue like this.
It was 7:29. According to the news, the storm and possible tornado would hit our neighborhood at 7:46. I looked down at my dinner. "Is this going to be our last meal?" We were eating tacos, and honestly, it's a pretty good way to go. My brain kept racing with scenes of the documentaries we had watched. Comments about people dying because they disregarded tornado warnings and tornados dropping out of the sky at any moment whizzed through my brain on a loop.
"Should I go wake up Gracie? Her crib is near a window!" James told me to wait a little longer. There was a chance it would go just south of us. I kept walking toward the stairs, hesitant to wake her for a false alarm, but terrified a tornado would hit strike at any moment. James was adamant that we keep waiting and watching. The clouds were getting darker by the second, and it was starting to rain with thunder in the distance. Honestly, it was a miracle she was still asleep as the sirens continued to blare.
The worst part of the whole scenario is that we have nowhere safe to hide. We're on the second and third floors with two interior rooms: a bathroom on the third floor, and the laundry room on the second where the water heater could easily fall on us. Neither seems particularly safe. I was pacing the living room trying to think of a better place where the tornado couldn't suck us out of the windows. All I could think of is that scene in Twister when the tornado hits the drive-in movie theater in the dark. It chills me to the bone every time.
At 7:40, the sky was the same shade of green as my face when I'm motion sick. The last time I saw the sky that green, there had been a tornado. The thunder was deafening. The sirens went off again. By some miracle, Gracie was sleeping through everything. "That's it!" I'm grabbing Gracie and we're going to the laundry room!" I screamed over the sirens and the meteorologist on TV telling everyone to get in a basement or interior room. The one night I wish she had laid in her crib talking to Pooh Bear is the one night she falls asleep immediately.
I grew up on the west coast where tornado isn't even a part of the vocabulary. Jumping under my desk during an earthquake drill at school was second nature to me. I never adjusted to piling into the long high school hallway, with doors at each end, and putting a math book on my head as if that would save me from an entire school collapsing. All we were doing was inserting ourselves into a giant straw the tornado would suck us out of. Our townhouse doesn't feel any safer than my old high school. I wished we had a basement, until I remembered a survivor in one of the documentaries said if she had been in her basement, she would've died, since the entire house fell into the basement.
As I ran upstairs, I looked at the radar on my phone, and even to my untrained eye, I could see the telltale hook indicating rotation. It was going south of us. Just as I told James, the weatherman on TV confirmed everything I said, which was good because I was half-wondering if I was making it all up in my state of panic. The sky was still green, and it was storming intensely, but it was easy to see that it looked even worse just to the south. I collapsed on the couch and breathed a sigh of relief. The tornado warning expired ten minutes later. Gracie had managed to sleep through it all.
The thunder and lightning started to die down, and the rain became a little softer. And then, a little voice chirping in the monitor. Of course.
I gave myself an extra scoop of ice cream last night to drown my frayed nerves in. Plus, you never know when a tornado warning will strike, and I'm going to make it my mission to eat every meal like it's my last.
The one o' clock hour is much anticipated in this house; it marks not only the beginning of nap time, but the halfway point in the day. 6 hours up, and 6 hours till bedtime. We're in the homestretch. We've got this. All I have to do is put the baby to sleep and dive into that steaming mug of coffee and library book waiting on the coffee table. After that, just a few short hours until the trifecta of dinner, bath, and bed. I summon the energy despite my yawning.
I fill up the pink raindrop humidifier and turn it on. The blinds are down, the curtains are closed, the pink and purple blocks back in their bag. The toddler crawls up the stairs, and after a quick diaper change, climbs on my lap as we sit in the white, wooden rocking chair. She's holding a knitting bag, a plastic piece of cheese from her play kitchen, an unsharpened pencil, a Mickey Mouse book that days later will be covered in green scribbles and ripped to shreds as protest against a nap, a spoon, an orange Ikea cat rattle, a thick grey string stolen from a hoodie, Pooh Bear, and a hand-sewn doll. All of these have been deemed treasures and essential to the cause. She's leaving no man behind. Try to take one or hide one, and she'll notice. There will be a roll call the second you lay her in the crib, and answers will be demanded, punishments doled out. There is no mercy when it comes to missing toys. She's also wearing her red hat that is slowly starting to smell like wet dog. It scratches my chin as she snuggles her head against my chest.
I start rocking as she wraps her arms around me, consequentially scraping my chest with the edge of her Little Golden Book and wielding an unsharpened pencil dangerously close to my eye. She asks me to sing, and I start into the first verse of Amazing Grace when I'm suddenly interrupted.
"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound--"
"Uh oh! Uh oh hat! Uh oh!"
I look down, and her red hat is sitting by my left foot. I pick it up, and she flounces it atop her head but drops her spoon in the process.
"Uh oh spoon! Fall down! Uh oh spoon!"
We pick up the spoon, and I start singing again.
"that saved a wretch like me, I---"
"Me Mouse? Me Mouse? Uh oh Me Mouse!"
Mickey found himself wedged between my right thigh and the chair rail, poor chap. I set him free, but she drops 5 of her treasures as she reaches to grasp her beloved Mickey book that she will later destroy in a violent battle. We reconfigure and reconvene, and by nothing other than amazing grace, I finish singing Amazing Grace without further interruptions.
"Jesus loves me this I know, for the--"
"Brush? Brush? Brush? Brush? Brush? Brush? Brush? Brush?
She spotted her hairbrush on the bookshelf, and urgently wiggles herself down to go grab it. There will be no nap without the hairbrush. I know it's ridiculous, but at this point I would let her sleep with a gallon of paint in her crib if it meant a few minutes of quiet. She hops back up, and we negotiate the toy situation. She won't give any up, but she does agree to let me hold the knitting bag, book, pencil, and kitty cat rattle. With all four of our hands full, we rock. I sing. I close my eyes as my singing is on autopilot by this point, and I imagine what it would feel like to be rocked to sleep every day. Every so often, she moves her head to look up at me and smile. The dirty, rigid, scratchy felt of her red hat scrapes my chin every time like sandpaper.
"When peace like a river attendenth my way," I quietly, sleepily drone.
She knows this song and loves to sing it with me. She looks up at me, smiling, but all she sees is my head against the back of the chair and my mouth wide open.
At least one of us is asleep.
reading: The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton and Anne of Green Gables. A million thumbs up for both.
watching: we're in-between shows right now. All the shows I had wanted to watch are no longer free on Amazon Prime, and I'm very bitter about it. We did watch about 4 episodes of American Housewife the other night, and it's unnerving how much I resemble Katie Otto, though not quite as outspoken and hopefully a little kinder.
cooking: cheeseburger soup and homemade bread. I'm also looking up baked donut recipes so I can put my new donut pans to good use. I should probably just go ahead and buy some pants 2 sizes up.
loving: my friend was in town this weekend, and she gave Gracie a tea set. It's the cutest thing ever, and Gracie LOST HER MIND with excitement. Our weekend was one giant tea party. I can't believe we're finally at the age for tea parties! I believe I can thank this turn of events for the fact that Gracie pulled her Mary Poppins book off her bookshelf for the first time that night and wanted to read it over and over. She walked around in her pajamas saying "spit spot! spit spot!" I found her in bed that night having a tea party with Pooh and Piglet. Then yesterday morning she danced to the Saved by the Bell theme song. Just doing our best to raise a well-rounded child.
frustrated by: I think half of what we own broke last week. My car battery died Tuesday, James' car broke down on the way to work Thursday morning due to an electrical glitch, our vacuum completely died via a small explosion on Saturday, and the garbage disposal broke yesterday. It was an expensive week. My two migraines were probably not a coincidence.
listening to: I've been rediscovering my love for Sondre Lerche lately.
creeped out by: Bloglovin' telling us who's reading our posts. It unnerves me for some reason. I'd rather not know, and I don't like someone being alerted when I read their post. This is exactly how it makes me feel.
collecting: evidence to get the pot smoker evicted. The smell was so bad Friday night that I texted James to whine about it. He called the non-emergency police from work since we were 99.9% sure we knew who it was. Two hours later, once the smell had considerably died down, I heard the cops downstairs. I turned the tv off, tiptoed to the front door, and (very loudly) cracked it open to eavesdrop (I felt like I was in an thriller movie; it was all very dramatic). I heard the cops tell him they can't smell pot outside, but they smell it on him. They didn't do anything but warn him, but now our suspicions have been 100% confirmed. I'm so glad he was dumb enough to open the door.
drinking: a Flat White from Starbucks. I've been very social this week which means I need a lot of rest and caffeine for the foreseeable future. I think Gracie feels the same way. During her playdate on Friday, she got so tired she walked into the baby's room, pointed to his crib, and asked to take a nap.
planning: a scouting mission to my local Aldi's this week. My friends swear by it, but I've, gasp, never been. I got overwhelmed at the thought of paying for the cart and bringing your own bags. It's all I can do to remember to bring snacks and a sippy cup when we leave the house.
sniffing: homemade bread in the oven and my lavender vanilla candle
I'm a big believer in birthday weeks. I believe in early celebrating and then dragging out those celebrations as long as you can. As I wrote on Sunday, my birthday week did not start off on the right foot. Monday was almost an exact replica of Sunday, except James wasn't home to help.
And then Tuesday. James was supposed to have the night off, but he got called in to work. Gracie napped for less than an hour and woke up angry. For both our sanity, I knew we had to get out of the house. We were both in awful moods and there were still too many hours until bedtime. I decided we would go visit James at work, maybe hit the library, and I would use my free Starbucks birthday drink. We would redeem this day! I bundled us up to brave the frigid wind and blowing snow and got us situated in the car.
Which didn't start.
I immediately wailed on the phone to James and then called roadside assistance. Maybe they could get here quickly and we would still have time to get out. The man on the phone chuckled and said "Believe it or not, our van broke down. The roadside assistance van needs roadside assistance!" I mean, seriously. He said it would be a couple hours to get the van fixed, and they had another call before me. I hauled us back inside while Gracie yelled "I wanna go bye bye! Go bye bye!" I felt her pain. We barely survived the rest of the afternoon by watching too many episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Just as I was getting dinner out for Gracie, RA showed up. They jumped my car and I kept it running to let the battery recharge. By the time we finished, it was way past dinner time and almost bedtime. Gracie had a hangry meltdown and yet refused anything that wasn't cheese. It was a very long evening.
Needless to say, there hasn't been much celebrating this week.
After mentally taking note of 300 more books to buy once I win the lottery, we walked up the street to a bakery for a little treat. It was at this point that Gracie ran out of snacks and was asking for lunch, so we went out for Mexican food. It feels wrong to celebrate life events with anything other than tacos. We went to our favorite place since it's always good and the food comes out eerily fast. After 5.5 years, I guess we were due for disappointment. The server forgot to put our order in, Gracie was melting down, and I was feeling overheated and extremely queasy from motion sickness and low blood sugar. She cried while I tried not to throw up on the table. An hour later and after the manager went back to the kitchen three times for us (the restaurant wasn't even that busy!), our food came out. Half of mine was ice cold, but I was so hungry I didn't even care.
Food, books, and lying on the couch. There is literally nothing more I could want for my birthday. And there's still plenty more week to celebrate, in the form of ordering my groceries online instead of dragging a screaming kid through the aisles and finally redeeming that free birthday coffee.
Every weekend when I think back to the week, I remember almost nothing. The days are so long, but after a few of them, they blur into a fuzzy picture of exhaustion and skipped naps. The only thing that stands out to me from the past week is Tuesday evening. Gracie had once again skipped her nap and was writhing on the floor in tears, so I decided we were going out for donuts, torrential rains or not. I had earned it. I tried to run to the car while carrying Gracie, but something went wrong and I twisted my ankle while running through a puddle. I very clearly felt a tendon do something it's not supposed to do. I hobbled to the car in the rain, and I was so distracted by my ankle that I drove the opposite direction I was supposed to go. Once I finally got there and ordered, I opened my wallet to find my debit card missing.
At least I had donuts to console me. And at least I had my emergency credit card on me. I later found my debit card lurking in a dark corner of my wallet. I have no idea how or why it was there, but at least it wasn't lost.
On most weekends when James is home, I crash hard. I'm so drained from a week of solo parenting that I can barely pull myself out of bed or function on Saturday and Sunday. I had a strange burst of energy this past Saturday, so I cleaned and scrubbed the house and did a little toy organization. Do you know how much scrubbing goes into getting crayon marks off the furniture? Nothing is safe anymore! Any scrap of paper is immediately scribbled on, and I keep finding renegade green and blue drawings on the table and the coffee table. No matter how closely I watch her, she manages to leave her mark on everything. By lunch time, everything was clean, I was on my third load of laundry, I had been to the gym, and a pot roast was cooking in the crockpot. I felt like a superhero. It's amazing the things that can get done when James is around to wrangle her. He also brought me coffee and a bagel in bed in the morning. I have never known such luxury!
As expected, I hit a wall today. I think we all have. Gracie took only two solid naps this week, and she slept horribly last night and would not nap today. She has been screaming at the top of her lungs all day. With the constant pot wafting in from the neighbors, the screaming, and the snowstorm on the way, I've had a raging headache all weekend. She fell asleep in my arms for exactly 5 minutes this afternoon after the most fearsome tantrum she's ever thrown, and she woke up when I tried to lay her in the crib. Cue all the tears and screaming for two full hours. I know we lost an hour today in the time change, but I swear we gained one, because this day just won't end. I escaped to the bedroom and I can hear Daniel Tiger on downstairs, so I know James had to call in the big guns to calm her down. This is not how I wanted to start off my birthday week!
The good news is that James went full Burt Macklin, FBI, and discovered who the pot smoker is. The guy downstairs! I had narrowed it down to him and someone else, but he stepped outside this morning as James was outside, and a wall of marijuana smoke/air freshener hit him in the face so intensely that his eyes were burning for hours. We told the landlords, but they still need tangible proof to evict him. We're trying to hold each other back from attacking him. I want to let him have it for affecting my health for months. I can hardly sit in my living room without having an atrocious allergic reaction, and it's been so cold we can't crack the windows. I've even gotten hives! I will not rest until this guy is gone and I never have to see him again.
We've slowly been coming out of hibernation and socializing again, and it is so good to have adults to talk to again. I realized that I have three things on my calendar coming up this week and immediately felt anxious. Over three plans. I mean, really. Ridiculous. I am in this constant tension of wanting to hang out with people and then feeling anxious once I have plans, because that means I have to be somewhere at a certain time and not fall asleep sitting up. I think I have to re-train myself to be around other humans.
I finished reading the book Spaceman on Friday night, and I can't stop thinking about it. It was very well-written, and the prologue itself gave me an adrenaline rush. He talked about all the sensations of sitting in the space shuttle as it launched and entered space. HOW COOL IS THAT. I have no desire to go to space (hello motion sickness), but the whole concept is so mind-boggling and fascinating to me. I spent the rest of the evening watching videos of space shuttles launching and space walks, and then I wound up watching a documentary I found on youtube about what it's like to live in the International Space Station for an extended period of time. Can you imagine just floating around in the air with no gravity for 6 months?! I'm still thinking about it. I've even dreamed about it every night since. I took an abrupt literary turn and finally started reading Anne of Green Gables. That L.M. Montgomery can write. It is even more charming and delightful than I could have ever imagined, and I'm only two chapters in. And because I'm crazy, there are 5 books waiting for me at the library. I requested one, just to think of another one I want to read, which reminded me of another, and before I knew it I was drowning in library requests. Story of my life.
In non-book news, James and I blazed through the second season of Mercy Street this week. It was SO GOOD, and then I googled to find out when season 3 will air, only to find out it's been cancelled. Like a punch to the gut. Only the good die young. Now I'll never know if the Union Officers find the dead body in the warehouse or if Nurse Finney recovers from Typhoid. I demand answers! Just as soon as I take care of the hooligan who lives downstairs, I'll turn my attention to the BBC Masterpiece Theater and demand a script for season 3. I need closure.
I also need donuts, but no way am I leaving my house for them again.