The Explosion.

4 years ago, I blew up my bathroom. Here’s the story in case you missed it back then.
OK so last night I posted a picture of myself on Instagram, with my car full of babies in the background, and laid out the woeful story about how my week (HOW IS IT ONLY TUESDAY) has been, and the overwhelming response was,

“Yeah, but your hair looks great.”

While this affirmation helped my self-esteem, seeing as I spent the better part of an hour on Sunday evening pulling out gray hairs (how long does this method work before hair dye comes into play? When should that bridge be crossed?) and bemoaning my extreme post-natal hair loss (seriously, it does not stop. I’m sure an entire underworld, complete with a mayor and a bustling city square, has taken up residence in the nest in my shower drain). So my hair situation has been depressing at best, what with the balding and the graying.

And especially because I haven’t had any hair products or hair tools since July 25.
July 25, 2014.
The Day I Blew Up My Bathroom.

This is the story of the Explosion of 2014, and The Terrible Pictures That Followed.  Would you like to know how to take the worst family pictures of all time and eternity? Gather in, I’ll tell you. Listen closely so you know what steps to take.

1. Have your baby get really sick the night before your photo shoot. 
I’m talking waking up screaming at 1:00 am covered in vomit so thick that he can’t open his eyelids, crying for hours on end, a downright miserable kind of sick. This way, he will be pale and limp in the pictures the next day, and you will also be pale and shriveled due to only sleeping for two hours the night before. If you’re looking for pallid, squinting into the blessed light of day pictures, this is a perfect beginning.

2. Plan a 15 hour road trip following your photo shoot. 
We planned ours for a family reunion in Colorado. This created plenty of frenzied packing, stressing, and a general sense of urgency around the day that translated really well into the photos.

3. Have out of town family stay at your house the night before the shoot. 
This way not only will your sick baby leave you tired, cranky, and in a hurry to make that early morning golden hour of light, but you will also feel an unnecessary duty to make coffee and breakfast for your brother and sister in law and their sweet baby. They won’t be expecting it, they’re much better people than that, but you might as well kill yourself to make it happen. It will make sense later, I promise.
Just kidding, it will never make sense and your family pictures will be terrible.

4. Hire a photographer site unseen because you’ve been pregnant and/or nursing for almost three years and after one sip of champagne you’re tipsy and ready to BID THE CRAP out of that silent charity auction. 
It will be three months before we actually manage to take these pictures, but sure, $100 for a photo shoot and an 11×14 print? Here’s my bid number, gents. Just let me know where to pick up my prize. Also, is there a private room where I could use the hand-held breast pump in my purse? Thankssomuch.

5.  Wake up before the rest of the family on your photoshoot day and get ready fast.
Don’t worry, you can do a few touch ups before you leave.

6. Try to get yourself, your husband, a 6 month old and 2 year old out the door dressed in their best and beaming with smiling faces. By 8:20 a.m.
Go ahead.

7. Leave your make-up on the bathroom counter and your flat iron plugged in.
You’ll need a few touch ups right before you head out to the photo shoot that you barely remember paying for.

8. Is everyone almost ready? Go drink some coffee. 
You deserve it. You need it. Put your tired feet up for a quick minute and talk to your sister-in-law about how fun the family reunion is going to be.

9. Startle at the sound of a bomb going off. Wonder what that alarming noise just was. 
A shelf that ripped from a wall? A gun shot? A broken water pipe? Everyone needs to slowly lower their coffee mugs and go find the source of the cracking thunder that came from somewhere inside your house. 

10. Search the house. Then open your bathroom door. Blink at the carnage. 
At first the shrapnel on the floor won’t make sense. Neither will the mist hanging in the hair, choking all of you. It’s ok. You’ll start putting the (literal) pieces together.

That’s part of the flat iron.
And there’s the blow-dryer, cracked in half.
And here’s another piece of the flat iron.
And what’s this?
A slick and lethal piece of metal, blown across the bathroom, etched in gold with the words “Root Booster”.

A tall, thin aerosol can, $50 worth of root boosting magic from my overpriced and snobby salon, BLOWN TO BITS BY THE HEAT FROM MY STRAIGHTENER.

My straightener is strewn into every corner, springs, titanium and cord spread all around my bathroom.
My toiletries bag, packed for our trip to Colorado, packed with at least 5 pounds of shampoo, conditioner, make-up and hygiene products-
has blown over the top of my shower.
Over. The. Top. Of a 6 foot shower door.

Such was the force of this explosion. Weeks later, I would find a tampon on the window sill above my shower. Find scraps of metal plastered to the wall in a film of hair product. Find tiny pieces of make-up brushes and hair spray bottles on the shelf above the towel rack.

So not only was the baby sick and his parents exhausted, not only did our photographer spend two hours calling our son “Sawyer” because we didn’t catch it the first few times and eventually were too embarrassed to correct her, not only did she tell us to let Clara “be Clara” which basically just meant disobey our every command because she knew another grown up was letting her get away with murder, not only did this result in Clara skipping away from us and quite deservedly falling into an ankle deep off-shoot of the Boise river and ruining her dress, NOT ONLY was all of this happening on a Saturday morning right before we drove in a rented car for 15 hours to Montrose, Colorado;

but I was also dealing with a minor case of PTSD.
“That could have killed one our kids,” I sobbed to Sam as we attempted to clean up the mess before we left the house that morning.
“It could have blinded me, or killed one of us, or sliced our necks open!” I could not stop crying, could not stop imagining all the ways my idiotic mistake could have ruined my life. Sam tried to console me (after starting to chastise me before realizing I was doing a fine job of it on my own) and told me to wipe my eyes and get in the car, because we had pictures to take.
Pictures I was forcing him to take, he reminded me.

I haven’t allowed myself to buy any expensive hair product, or replace any of my hair tools since that day, in deep and sincere penance for my stupidity. I used a 4-inch long hotel-sized hair dryer from my guest bathroom. If I needed any heat styling, I stopped by my friends’ or sisters’ houses before I went out, sneaking into their bathrooms to use their straighteners or curlers and hair spray.

I’ve been having a bad hair day since July 25.

Until yesterday. When I finally gave in and bought another flat iron.
Thus, the amazement via internet of what I could actually look like. Thus the approval of the world at large.

And in case you’re wondering, I don’t have any of those family pictures to show you. I can’t blame all of it on the photographer, because most of the blame lies with Sammy being sick and Clara being naughty and Sam being annoyed and me being strung out on fear,
but the pictures were not worth purchasing.
Not even the free one.

So thanks, internet and instagram friends, for the kind words about my hair. Thank you for reminding an irresponsible, graying old lady that with a little bit of heat and product and trapping two kids in a pack n’ play in order to shower and style this head of falling out hair,

I still got it.


Cinco De Sammy

Greetings from my car, parked in my garage, where I type with a stubborn 2 year old asleep in her seat behind me. After listening to Audrey yell from her crib for an hour during nap time, I strapped her in the car, put on my favorite album of the moment (The Burning Edge of Dawn by Andrew Peterson) and drove until she gave it up and fell asleep (approximately 47 seconds into the ride.) We have a big party tonight with all of our friends and I NEED her to survive a late bedtime, so I got myself a coffee, rolled down the windows, and took the two of us on a mini-vacation of a Saturday drive around our neighborhood, and then right back home. She’s snoozing in her carseat while I write behind the steering wheel, and if anyone’s wondering how moms get work done, here’s your answer.
In our cars. In the garage.

Today is Cinco De Mayo which obviously doesn’t matter one bit except for tacos and cold Pacificos (NEITHER OF WHICH I CAN HAVE BECAUSE WHOLE30 HATES FUN, but I’m on day 22, can you believe it?! I’ll write about the whole process soon.) For the Horney family, though, Cinco De Mayo means I get to dress up my son in a (low-key racist) costume and deliver his picture to the internet, which brings me a surprising amount of joy.

Then again, I’m writing this from my garage, so I guess it makes sense that the little things still bring me joy in a way that people with offices and baby-sitters (and paychecks) will never understand.


Samuel Iradell Horney V, our little Cinco, continues to amaze and confound me. He is brave beyond belief when it comes to dangerous tricks on bikes, scooters, and great heights, but he’s too scared to go downstairs by himself in the morning. According to me, he “never listens,” but according to what he spouts back and discusses with me, he listens with frightening accuracy. He is still one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen, and I still stare at his face with a clutch in my heart, just like I did when they first laid him on my chest and he looked up at me with newborn wonder. Even as he settles further into himself and becomes who he was always meant to be, there is a secret part of him that I can’t quite reach, a deep, still pool of thought and perspective that flashes in his brown eyes when he’s taking it all in. I ache for the baby I held in my arms, but I delight in the boy who folds himself into my side for a moment and then runs away, all at once completely mine and never mine at all.

Happy Cinco De Horney, friends. Here’s to the boy I never knew I needed, and the son who lights up our life. May your day be as fun as my Sammy.





We Are the Architects.

Don’t laugh, but sometimes people ask me for advice. Only desperate times, I assume, would lead someone my direction for help, but it happens more and more as I get older and as I’m more vocal about my life and struggles, online and in person. It started happening so frequently, in fact, that I scheduled an appointment with a counselor to ask for advice. About giving advice. As in:
How do you counsel someone? Like, how do you know how and when to give counsel? How do you set your opinions aside and speak truth and be a leader but also a servant and do it all with grace and humility? Especially when you have no idea what you’re doing and you fully realize how ill-equipped you are to be advising anyone?

(If I ever try to schedule an appointment with you for anything at all, don’t take it. I probably have a list of impossible questions and I will definitely cry.)

I also asked my brother Robert all of these questions, because he is a pastor and also one of my best friends and I go to him for all of my own advice needs. He said something interesting, a thought that echoed what my counselor said:

People don’t need your advice.

Even when they ask for advice, they’re not really asking for advice.

They need your imagination.

People do not need a prescription for their problems:  They need a new story to tell. And when the story is stuck, we help each other build a way out. 

From the moment we first breathe our mother’s scent, as we learn what love will mean in our lives, for good or for bad; through childhood; as adults; in memory keeping and future dreaming- more than anything else, we are story-tellers. Whether you know it or not, you are constructing a narrative around every relationship, situation, and dilemma you face. It’s how we rationalize bad behavior (and my, how early we learn to spin the facts), it’s how we justify the secrets we keep, it’s how we choose the face we present to the world, it’s in the information we guard or share too freely- our story is all we have to tell, so we learn to adjust the story according to our own comfort and other people’s reaction. We learn to tell it not like it is, but rather, how we’d like it to be perceived. How it makes the most sense to us.

And then when we’re lost, or blinded by our limitations, or afraid to make the wrong move, we ask for advice. We are standing at a crossroads and although we think we’re asking for help making a decision, what we actually need is help understanding our story. We need a new map. We need an architect with a plan, not a wizard with a magic solution.

The difference between giving advice and being an architect lies in the art of curiosity. As Brene Brown puts it, “Choosing to be curious is choosing to be vulnerable because it requires us to surrender to uncertainty.” What makes me so uncomfortable about giving advice is the absoluteness of it: They ask, you answer, and there’s no room for imagining all the possibilities. There’s no room for growth. When I ask my brother for advice he doesn’t give a five-point answer to success- he almost always just asks me his own questions. The maturity of the architect is to say, “I don’t know if I know the answer. But I’d love to puzzle it out with you.” There is a vulnerability that comes with allowing yourself to not be right or definitive, but rather, sitting with someone in their pain or uncertainty, refusing the inclination to shoo it away with cliches or by spouting off your own experiences. An architect does not serve up platitudes or prideful examples of their wisdom; they listen, they ask questions, and they imagine what could come next for the story at hand.

An architect also understands this fundamental truth: We cannot force anyone to do anything. We can cajole, guilt, manipulate, influence, guide, direct- but we cannot write the script for each other. This is the problem with free will, if you believe in such a thing. As a parent, this shocked me most of all about raising young children- there are so many things I cannot force them to do.

-I can’t make them eat.

-I can’t make them sleep.

-I can’t make them learn.

-I can’t make them into different people.

This might sound crazy to you, and maybe I was crazy to think any of that was possible, but it’s a surprising reality check the first time your baby will. Not. Sleep. Short of drugging them, sleep is their choice. So is eating. So is learning. And in the end, while I get the great pleasure of teaching them about the world and being human, they decide who they will be.

It’s horrible.

Well, not horrible. It’s just terrifying. What little control we pretend to have disappears with each step they take towards independence. Which is the whole point, right? I want them to be independent, brave, beautiful people. I can’t make them do any of these things, but I can be their architect. I build a way for them to eat good food, by making good food and eating it with them. I design a way for them get enough sleep by taking them outside every day to play, and putting them to bed early enough each night. I offer a scaffold up to learning by reading aloud to them, exploring with them, by telling them what I’m learning and praying it informs the story they’re telling themselves about education. I can’t write their script, but I can be intentional about mine.

We cannot make each other different people through parenting, advice-giving, guilt-heaping or manipulating. It’s impossible and it’s not our job. We are the architects. As friends, as parents, as spouses and human beings, we stay curious about each other. We explore together. And when someone asks for advice, we don’t lecture or press; we ask our own questions. We invent and dream. We draw blueprints, maps, stories or models, and then we watch each other build and grow.

When I look in the proverbial mirror, it seems outrageous that anyone would want my opinion or advice. The long trail of failures and lost initiatives behind me are a dramatic indicator of my lack of credentials. But when I consider my story, and the power of a vulnerable interaction with a person who trusts me, I reconsider my strengths. Can I listen? Can I humbly ask questions? Can I invest time and energy in someone without demanding a certain loyalty to my way of thinking?

Can I be an architect instead of a sage? I pray it becomes true of me. Along with wisdom and humility, I pray for imagination and curiosity, a heart bent towards better stories and deeper connections instead of the pride of being right.




Someday You’ll Miss That Robe

When I wrote this letter to myself three years ago, I had two objectives every day.

  1. Keep my 1 year old and 3 year old alive and well.
  2. Keep a small piece of myself alive in the shuffle.

I graduated from college when I was 36 weeks pregnant with my second child, and didn’t go back to work after he was born. After working various jobs for 13 years, and then finishing my degree in the chaos of having my first two kids, the dormancy of staying home bewildered me. I felt like I’d jumped through a series of flaming hoops and finished a complex obstacle course of my own design, only to land on the other side of the wall to absolute silence. No applause. No obvious successes. No promises of greatness. Just motherhood, a new obstacle course; one I didn’t design, fully understand, or value.


But I learned. Mothering takes me to the end of myself every single day. But when I manage to surrender to the joy of the process rather than simply bemoaning the pain of the growth, I edge closer to the art of keeping the kids alive and keeping myself intact, too.

IMG_0137I wrote this letter 3 years ago to remember the exhaustion of nights with babies, but also to protect the memory of our deeply interlocked existence in those days, a connection I know will never exist again. It’s already gone. Of course there are new connecting points now, new conversations and jokes, a new relationship with them as a 4 and 5 year old. That relationship allows the shadow of our old life together to fade into our minds like the sweet lullabies we used to sing but, sadly, can no longer recall. Sometimes I ache for those days, and sometimes I barely think about them. But they existed. And they were important. And I’m so glad I wrote this letter to capture  a moment in time that shaped me, and them, through that simple but exhausting obstacle course of early parenthood.


Dear Jessie,

Someday you will miss that robe at the end of your bed.

Someday you will miss that pink robe draped over your bed covers. The one worn thin by round baby cheeks pressed against you in sleep. The one with the left shoulder constantly caked with spit up or animal cracker or drool, that left shoulder where so many nights and early mornings you invited a sleepy head to rest. You wear that robe like a cape some nights, tossing it on as you rush to save a crying baby. You are not even completely awake, but you know the tone of their cries, you know the sound of their breaths, you know something is wrong even through the walls of your house. You are not a hero, but to them? In those long and dark midnight hours of pushing through new teeth, painful winter coughs, or that restless newborn confusion: you are everything they ever wanted. You are mommy. In her pink robe. Warm and quiet and soft, swaying in the ancient dance of motherhood that has rocked civilizations to sleep since Eve held her boys to her breast. You are home, you and that robe.

Someday, I promise, you will miss feeling tiny hands climb over you and into your bed. You will be more rested, I think, when these days pass, but your bed might feel bigger than necessary without those warm, wiggling bodies twisting between their tired parents. You will miss her curls, his chubby feet, their dreaming fingers fluttering in deep slumber.

I know you’re tired. I know you are so, so tired. It’s ok. These are hard nights. It’s hard to be woken up, it’s hard to always be a parent, even in the middle of the night, even when you are exhausted. It’s hard to be kind in the morning after you slept on the couch with a sick baby, or when two-year old molars were coming in all night, or when no one has slept well for a week. It’s hard to wake up and make breakfast and say “Good morning, babies,” and be patient when people are fussing on a really good day, much less on a really tired day. But you’re doing good. Good job for apologizing when you snapped at them for whining. Good job for knowing you needed to take the kids to see their cousins this morning when you couldn’t handle saying “NO” one more time by 9 am. That’s good. You’re not a hero, remember. You wear a pink cape that rests on the edge of your bed and you pray all day long for more of whatever it is that makes God love you and your fussing so much, and that’s great. That’s it, that’s all you need. Because He knows. He sees you. He will bear with you, and teach you to bear with them, and He will show them love through you, at all hours of the day. That’s good.

And remember, ok, remember this when the days seem impossible, or you are almost afraid of how happy you are to be their mom, or you just can’t remember how to be a mom at all: remember that life is meant to be interrupted. Your broken sleep is merely a reflection of this breaking inside you, as your old way of life is interrupted and a new, thick thread weaves it way through your story. You won’t be the same anymore. You aren’t meant to be, after these babies come. This thread is pulling, tugging, changing your tapestry in ways you cannot imagine. It’s gonna hurt sometimes. It’ll feel too tight. It’ll feel wrong, this piercing, tugging thread of motherhood. But it’s just right. These minutes filled with the needs of others, filled with the clatter of disruption and disorder; they are the thread that is hemming in your story and creating the rest of you. 

Because these precious, beloved children of yours? They won’t be here forever. In fact, they’ll leave soon. Someday they will sneak past your bedroom door instead of through it. Someday you will throw on that robe to answer midnight phone calls instead of cries, to whisper advice instead of lullabies. You will still be you, changed by their very heartbeats, and they will still be them, hearts beating outside of your grasp and in a world all their own. Don’t lose yourself in these tired nights. Don’t forget the astonishing joy of being their everything, nor the price you pay to raise someone well, nor the woman beneath the robe who exists beyond the nursery door, in a world all her own. Remember that the thread of motherhood is a part of your story; but not the very end. Remember that these babies and their needs are a gift, and will not last forever. Remember that the love in their eyes is saved for no one else.

Someday you will miss that pink robe on the edge of your bed. You won’t miss being woken up all night, or feeling hung over with exhaustion, or planning your sex life around a nap schedule. You won’t miss being thrown up on or changing wet pants or the onslaught of questions and requests that begins every morning at sunrise. But you will miss this simple kind of tired. The one that means you are doing your job well. The one that goes away with sleep. There will be new kinds of tired, you know? As these babies grow up, and hurt themselves or others, you will not be able to sleep away the pain you share with them. And when those days come; when you feel lost and hurt and wonder how on earth you can ever help them find their way again; remember that a long time ago, you held them tight and loved them well. You kept a robe waiting at the end of your bed so you could hurry to meet their needs, and that kind of love will dig into them. It will grow with them. It will teach them to love others and to love themselves.

These midnight hours matter. These tired days matter.

You and your babies are going to be ok.
Tomorrow morning,
and all the mornings after.


*originally published January 2015


A Whole Horney Month

Hey, friends! I haven’t blogged straight atcha for a long while- it feels weird to write directly to you again. I’ve missed this! I’ve missed writing normal, boring, funny, every day mom stuff on here. This blog is 5 1/2 years old (always the same age as Clara, that precious first child who actually had entire blogs written about her milestones, not just tapped out Instagram posts…sorry Sam and Audrey). As a celebration of all these millions of words we’ve shared together, I want to do something fun for the month of May, and Mother’s Day.

You ready for this?

You’re going to get a blog EVERY SINGLE DAY this month.

Except yesterday. Lay off me.

Some will be oldies, classic HMTA posts, ones you may have loved or even may have tragically missed over the years. And some will be brand spanking new (although zero will be about spanking, because I don’t want you to break up with me). The new ones are a few essays, a few day-to-day observation posts, and a lot of OG Horney Mom style good times, mostly at my own expense.

Excited yet?

Here’s the thing: I’m sure if you’ve ever read my blog, it’s been through a Facebook link. But Facebook has changed significantly since I started, and it’s nearly impossible to get things shared around like we all used to do. The algorithm shifted and truth be told, if you’re not following my blog as an e-mail subscriber, you’re going to miss a lot of what I write.  So sign up to be a follower over there –>> on the sidebar. I can’t wait to see you around all month!

Here’s a peek at tomorrow’s post (an old classic). Any guesses?



Dudes, this is gonna be a fun month.


Holidays might be a scam, actually.


By the time you read this, my kids will either be in an Easter candy coma, or the bitter owners of yet another complaint for their future therapists: “She didn’t even believe in Easter baskets. Easter baskets!” 

I can’t decide if I believe in Easter baskets. 


My wavering faith in popular holiday traditions began in my garage a few months ago. I trotted out to put away the Halloween trick-or-treat buckets (a gift from kind neighbors, believe me), opened the cupboard full of our holiday paraphernalia, and the Easter baskets were right in the middle of the shelf. So I had to push aside three baskets, to store three buckets, all on top of a bin holding three Christmas stockings… and that’s when I realized that holidays are a scam in which we simply change the color of the container that we fill with treats and gifts. 

This feels like a conspiracy. Am I missing something here? Am I the only one just now realizing that corporate America has brainwashed me into thinking that each month has a color scheme? Does the dollar spot at Target determine more about my yearly rhythm than the actual Gregorian calendar? Do my kids think the world revolves around parties and surprises, with me giving and them receiving? Is my life a figment of a marketing exec’s imagination?

Christmas stockings. Valentine’s boxes. Easter baskets. Halloween buckets. Switch the foil on the candy, trade the red velvet dress for pastel sandals, and suddenly it’s a whole new holiday, kids.

I’m not sure what bothers me so much about all of this. It might be the lavish giving that each holiday proposes, and what this tells my children about what they “deserve.” It might be how the giving often eclipses any other meaningful traditions around a celebration, each intentional move towards faith or beauty or generosity blown over by cellophane wrapped bunnies and Amazon deliveries on my doorstep.

Maybe by now you’re wondering what’s wrong with me. In a world where Syria is falling apart, cities are burning, and many, many kids far and near need help or homes or both, questioning Easter baskets seems trivial. Asinine, even. There are bigger problems to solve, harder questions to ask. And really, how can it be wrong to give my kids a gift? I love them, I want to give them good things, I love the joy on their faces when I give them thoughtful presents, I love to eat all of their holiday candy after they go to bed; these things are acceptable and even expected, in some circles (I mean maybe not the candy stealing, but I’m not above it). But these traditions feel clunky to me, old-fashioned in the way that littering seems old fashioned- as soon as you think about what you’re actually doing, it’s too absurd to continue.  

Except, I want to continue. Because I love the stupid traditions. I delight in watching my kids skip in the sunshine towards a wicker basket full of little gifts and chocolate eggs. I can’t sleep on Christmas Eve, my heart aflutter with nervous happiness for my son to unwrap his astronaut helmet. I hang balloons on birthdays and make heart cookies in February and I am a sappy, weepy, holiday fanatic. 


But here’s the problem: I don’t know if these traditions create the kind of people I want raise. I’m asking these asinine questions because I want world-changers in my house, kids who build safety nets for society and friendships that last, and dive into the world with open eyes and hearts. So when I give them too many gifts and then wonder why they act selfish, I may be delusional. Let’s get serious- the real problem isn’t the kids. I like to blame the children for their attitudes of entitlement, obviously. But last I checked, they don’t have any money. So whatever they are getting too much of, or whatever it is that fills their hearts instead of love and truth: I gave it to them. In a bucket.


I don’t think the buckets and baskets are wrong. But they’re not enough. I want my kids to question what they hear and what they see, to take in the world as a beautiful, marvelous, complicated place. I want them to stay curious, eager to learn and aware of what matters. So maybe I’m overthinking it, but I keep these end goals in mind when I consider things like baskets full of marshmallow chickens, or piles of birthday presents. Traditions are not wrong simply for being traditions. But, like everything else in my life, I want to hold these “certainties” up to the light and examine each one, weigh them in my hands, and decide with care whether or not they bring life to my family. 

Perhaps, with balance and sincerity and self-control, our family can create our own culture around celebrating each other and what we believe. We can enjoy holidays with imagination rather than (or alongside) rote traditions. We can hike through the foothills and find a wide view of the city, or serve dinner to others instead of serving ourselves, or meet the sunrise at a mountain lake, or make our own ice cream and laugh with friends; these are all gifts of great value. They speak an inheritance of adventure, kindness, and meaningful connection, a fresh way past the consumerism and passive, somewhat silly reception of a basket or bucket or long sock.  

I’ll probably do Easter baskets this year. Mostly because I saw some miniature gardening gloves and trowels at Target that can’t be avoided. And I will also keep working to create a new paradigm for holidays, a new way for our family to think about loving and giving, on normal days and special days alike. 

And after Easter I’ll buy the half-off candy for myself, because self-control is a journey. Amen. 

(originally published in Idaho Family Magazine, April 2018)

Is there a wrong school?

        Here’s how my parents decided where to send me and my siblings to school: They found out where the school bus that stopped in front of our house was headed, and they put us on it. My parents bought our childhood home because of its proximity to an elementary, jr. high, and high school, all three in walking distance, because who’s got time to shuttle 7 children to and from school activities? Make those kids walk, man. But then in a stroke of terrible luck, it turned out we lived on the school district boundary line. So while our neighbors walked to schools close by, we languished on various thirty minute bus rides for 12 years. That’s a lot of hours of potty talk in the back of the bus, believe me. This also happens to be where I learned where babies come from, because school buses are the suburban kid’s back alleys.  

A few decades later, here’s how I’m deciding where to send my three kids to school: Panic attacks, late night school district webpage browsing, and a level of soul-searching normally reserved for marriage proposals and Peace Corp applicants. 


Why the angst, you ask? Why not just toss a rock and see which elementary school it lands on, since there seems to be one on every block in this town? Well, because these days, it’s not that simple. I mean, it could be, but us “modern” parents think our kids deserve what we didn’t have- a school that meets their every need and caters to their (our) special interests and specific scheduling parameters.  

And miraculously, these preferences can all be met. 

Should I send my 5 year old to the neighborhood school, a beautiful new brick building less than a mile from our house?

That can’t be the answer; too prosaic. She’s more special than that.

How about the arts charter school? What I wouldn’t have given for an elementary drama program that didn’t involve my music teacher plodding through Christmas carols on the piano while we all swayed on the bleachers in matching elf hats. My kids deserve more. They could learn to dance! To sing! To paint! To wear weird hats and take a staunch political stance in the fourth grade! I better get their name in the art school lottery, like, yesterday. 

Or there’s the math and science charter school, committed to STEM, and to progress; how can I not offer that to my little girl and her future? Shouldn’t I give her all the math and science I can find, so that she can get a real job someday? God forbid she becomes a writer or something. Tech is the future; shouldn’t I prepare my kids? 


I actually homeschooled my daughter this year. Her birthday isn’t until the last week of August and I couldn’t stand the idea of sending my 4 year old to kindergarten, but she wanted to learn, so I compromised and taught her at home. Don’t roll your eyes too hard, homeschooling isn’t what it used to be. We didn’t even have to join a cult or grow our own wheat. Although we do memorize a lot of poems and spend most hours “just playing outside,” so maybe it’s exactly what you’re imagining. While homeschooling is another viable option for us, because I work from home and love to learn with my kids, even homeschooling offers option after option after hotly debated option, from Charlotte Mason to Classical Conversations to Co-Ops to online public schools attended at home…it’s endless. 

It’s exhausting. 

And these are just the free options! If I wanted to pay a college tuition rate for my kids to learn the alphabet, I could scoot them off to a private education. Maybe the Catholic school? They’d attend chapel each day, get a great education, and above all else, wear an adorable uniform. Navy blue jumpers! Crisp white shirts! The adorable uniform is a heavy factor here, I’m embarrassed to admit. Or, what about just a private school with cool rules, like no grading system, and calling teachers by their first name? Would I end up with a bunch of ski bums and (heaven help us) poets?

It’s March, school registration time, so I need to answer these questions soon. Will school next year be at our own kitchen table again? Or will my daughter be dancing with the art kids? Can I finally buy the tiny uniform and send her off to say prayers before class? Will she head to the STEM school’s engineering labs? Or will she walk out our front door and join the scores of kids skipping down the sidewalk to our neighborhood elementary school, just like my parents dreamed for me all those years ago? 

These questions, of course, float in a pool of privilege. The fact that we have so many choices, that she has a parent who could drive her across town to a specialized school, that the specialized school even exists, that my little daughter has access to a free education in a society that (mostly) believes all girls deserve the chance at success; this is a life of privilege. I won’t take that for granted. I clutch the treasure of my children’s minds and future close to my heart, while resting in the knowledge that it is not the school that makes the kid, but the kid who makes something out of what the school gives them. 

My parents gave me the only option available for school, whereas I have the freedom of preference. But here’s what hasn’t changed in the years since I stepped on that school bus in front of my house, and what never changes for parents: We are dreamers. We want good things for our kids, beautiful lives and better chances than we had. Sometimes we feel like world-makers, designing a reality out of school registrations and summer camps and sports teams and all the checks we write for all the opportunities…when really, we’re supposed to be guides. Our kids don’t need us to make a way, they need us to stay close along the way. So what if they end up in the weird hat, espousing misguided political views? So what if they wander away from the path we so carefully laid before them? Did we dream for them? Did we show them the way?

Then we did our job. They have to do the rest. 


I’m sure whatever I choose for my daughter this fall, I’ll second guess myself. But she’ll thrive no matter what, because she loves to learn and because all of these choices are good choices. What a privilege to put on that backpack each day, I’ll tell her. What a life we have. 

 (Originally published in “Idaho Family Magazine, March 2018 edition)

Idaho Family Magazine: February

*Got some cool news! Each month I’ll be writing a “parenting” (ha!) article for a local publication, Idaho Family Magazine, and a few weeks after it’s released I’ll post the article here as well. February 2018 was my first column, and is an adapted version of a previous blog on Horney Mom Tells All. Thanks for reading!


The Horney Village

My oldest child is five years old, so in terms of parenting advice, I’m your basic punch-line. My friends and I talk about raising our children every time we’re together, but most of us are early on in the journey, babes in the woods with nothing but our flashlights and instincts to guide us. And by instincts I mean parenting books, research articles, and stories we heard from other people. I laugh when someone asks me for advice because I know I’m about 40 years away from having any real perspective on all of this, but I also love to engage in the fray with other parents.

There’s just no way to prepare someone for parenthood. It’s like explaining what it will feel like to survive a plane crash (grateful, but mangled). At baby showers they make you go around the circle and share advice for the new mom; find out you’re pregnant and suddenly aunts have opinions, grandparents have opinions, siblings have opinions; you turn on podcasts, read parenting blogs, and think you’re gathering up everything you need to raise a child. Even during those first few years with your first child, you might think you’re nailing it. You ask yourself, “Why did everyone warn me about this? Parenting is easy.” And then maybe you even have a second baby, and for the first few months you ask yourself, “Why do people complain about their kids? Glad I know what I’m doing!” 

But I have a theory about all that parental hutzpah, that unrelenting smugness of new parents. It’s all gonna end. Whether it’s our first child that breaks us, or our second (nobody makes it to the third fully intact), our ideals will crack just like the precious organic toys we bought for our precious organic offspring who are now throwing those precious toys across the room. And there is a deep, wicked part of me that loves when parents finally have to parent, when they finally have to drag a crying child out of a store or admit publicly that their kid will only eat chicken nuggets, not all those green smoothies and avocado rolls they pinned and planned and Instagrammed. It’s not that I’m rejoicing in their pain or laughing from afar. It’s that I’m thankful for the chance to actually connect. Because it is impossible to raise children with people who won’t be honest about raising children. And honestly, we all did it. We all said we wouldn’t have a house full of toys, and that our kids would never talk to us like that, and that our babies would sleep because we would create the perfect sleeping environment, and our kids would work around our schedules, and oh my gosh, remember how dumb we were? Now that we know, let’s be fair to each other.

There’s a lot of talk lately about missing the “village,” about the loneliness of modern parents. Parenthood today isn’t a support group, it’s a beauty pageant, complete with swimsuit and talent competitions. But in all that striving to outdistance one another, we overlook the final result: Distance. We are far apart, and we are lonely. There are many reasons for this phenomenon, like our digital lives replacing personal relationships, or playing in our fenced backyards instead of out front with our neighbors, or the image we work so hard to keep up; most of our loneliness is self-induced. We know that if we let people too close, they’ll know the truth, which is, I don’t know what I’m doing. 

Yes, the village is helpful, but the village is also observant. 

I started writing my blog after my daughter was born to create an honest online space. My blog title, “Horney Mom Tells All,” wasn’t just a joke- it was true. I write about everything (while trying maintain some privacy for my children) and I am continually surprised at the response to that kind of transparency. When I write about being seen in my underwear at Albertsons or the fact that the baby’s first sentence was “That’s mean, Mama,” people aren’t just laughing: They’re relieved. When I write heartfelt posts about the dichotomy of mourning my kids’ swiftly passing childhood but also anxiously awaiting the day they stop spilling water at every meal, the halls of the internet echo with a loud “Me too!”


I believe in the village, in person and in print. But I also know what it requires. I write not just for the sake of catharsis, but for the sake of community. I won’t lie to you. I’ll let you know that nighttime at our house looks like a version of the shell game, where I wake up and have no idea who is in what bed in any room by morning. I’ll also tell you that I’ve never been more myself than I am now, joyfully struggling through this season of young motherhood with those three beautiful kids on the front cover of this magazine. If I could make a line of greeting cards for new parents, I would make one that said on the outside,”Congratulations on a lifetime of heartache!” And then on the inside, “This will be the bravest love you’ve ever known.”

I’m new to this magazine, and I’m excited for this small space each month to share about life in a way that makes you laugh, cry, and look around whatever waiting room you’re in (where you are assuredly only reading this because your phone battery is low,) and want to shout out to the strangers around you, “Me too!” (And then have to explain that you don’t mean the other “Me too.” Good luck with that.) 

See you around!

I’m writing a book!

Hello, dear friends. How are your resolutions coming along? I’m doing a 30-day yoga challenge and I’m 1 for 1 on my daily practice, so… definitely crushing it. Next up: Curbing my sugar addiction.

Riiiiight after Valentine’s Day.

It’s a fresh year, you guys. What does 2018 look like for you? How do you imagine it unfolding? I’m a bundle of nerves, buzzing with ideas, and buzzing with anxiety over the ideas, but I am also firm with resolve. A lot of this is because of what I’m about to tell you. I’m nervous because saying it to you makes it real. In a swirl of contradiction, it IS actually the internet that makes things true.

I have some big news for you. And a big request.

You have supported me and encouraged me all these years as I’ve honed my writing, found my voice, and moved towards a career doing what I love. And I’ll still be writing here at Horney Mom Tells All, as well as some other places I can’t wait to tell you about, but I have something cool going on lately.

I’m writing a book. I’m writing a book! I hate exclamation points, but that’s how excited I am about this book and the topic! It’s a book about gender; specifically, a new way of talking about gender that has changed my entire life. And I think it will change yours. Since the book is sort of a whole new thing, I decided to create a new space for it, and for myself as an author. So I need you to do things:

  1. Click over to

This is the headquarters for the book. Go to the new website! SUBSCRIBE! You can watch a video about the book, you can read an excerpt from a chapter, you can click on some of your other favorite writing from my blog, and most importantly:

  1. Pre-order the book for $20

Ask yourself this: Has this space, has my writing, ever made you feel something? Has it touched you in some way? Have you ever felt compelled to share it with others? Has it made you think? Made you laugh? Made you cry? THEN THIS BOOK IS FOR YOU. Cause guess what? I’m crying and laughing and thinking of you the whole time I write it. Your support will help get this book into your hands!

I want to get 200 books pre-ordered before I shop the manuscript around to publishers, to make myself more appealing to their agencies. 200 is only a small fraction of you guys, my normal blog readers, but it still feels like a big number to me. Can we do it? I KNOW we can. So pre-order today! Oh and one last thing…


Anyone on the pre-order list gets invited to the book launch party! Which is gonna be killer. You get a signed copy of the book, and a chance to get crazy with me when it’s all finally finished! I throw a hell of a party, so this is reason enough to buy the book, trust me. You have until January 31 to pre-order!

Thank you so much, faithful readers and friends. You have given me confidence and motivation through good times and bad, and your faces are the ones on my mind as I tap out this book with my hands and my heart. I love you guys. This book is my love letter to us all. (see you over there)




At Christmas We Pray.

I’ve been married for 10 years and here is the number of times my husband has put Christmas lights up on our house:


He doesn’t care about Christmas lights on the house, he barely even cares about Christmas, and no matter how much I love the season of lights, I’m not going to put them up on the house myself… I’ll just stay inside with my coffee, thanks though. So we’ve never had them out.

Until now. Because this year, we have the relentless persistence of a three year old and a five year old, in awe of the neighborhood light shows, wondering aloud when Daddy will put our lights up, because these relentless children cannot fathom a reason not to. So, up the lights will go, our house a cheery string of twinkling reminders that children are meant to get us off our seats and into a life we never could have imagined. Children are a decisive interruption of self; startling mirrors and joyful invitations all at once.


Christmas with my children is startling, too. Tradition doesn’t matter to a young child- it is all brand new, all open to questioning, all free to close examination. Christmas is one of the only shared celebrations the world over, a holiday so steeped in cultural customs that most people blink in surprise when they find out other family’s rituals, like the bizarre people who open gifts on Christmas Eve or the crazy ones who use a pretend elf to spur on good behavior. We know it’s all invented, though, right? We invent traditions and then act like they invented us. These are where my children’s questions come from, the rituals they see acted out as though there is no other way to act. But to a new human, even after just a few years on Earth, all of these things are so clearly made up. Who is this Santa? Why do we give presents? Did Jesus have a Christmas tree too?

While it’s exhausting to be questioned about every decision all day long, I’m glad for the opportunity to consider my life and my habits. Childhood scrutiny is a powerful magnifier, and lately it’s given me clarity on this particular holiday season. I know this – I could leave every tradition behind, leave my house un-decked and the tree in the forest and the presents on the store shelves, and still have a reason to love the holiday season, which is this: At Christmas, we pray.

Every year, as Christmas approaches and we try to make it special with outlandish traditions and shallow rituals that often bring stress and debt, there is something more happening. There is a stirring in the world. There is something that happens on these winter nights, something that speaks mystery and love to us, even when we aren’t sure what that means. We know there is more. We might call it love or hope or peace on earth, but in our heart of hearts we know there is something better to be had, and at Christmas we are allowed to wonder what it is. So we “send love” or “hope for peace” or “wish you a happy new year,” but what we’re really doing?

At Christmas, whether we know it or not,
we pray.

I know it’s weird to talk about praying. Especially if you don’t usually pray. Or you think it’s wasted breath. Or you’re downright opposed to the idea. And we don’t really know what it is, right? We use the word ‘prayer’ like we use the word ‘wish,’ which is like swimming in a puddle and calling it the ocean. The unknown element, the secrecy with which we must approach prayer because it is so intensely personal and within, makes it all the more complex to write about, to speak about.


My daughter said something last night in her bedtime prayers that made me laugh, and then made me think. Sometimes my kids just rattle off their prayers as a quick list of “thank-you’s,” thank you for mama, thank you for daddy, thank you for food, thank you for our beds. Sometimes they pray for people they love. Sometimes they don’t want to pray at all. And sometimes they pray in a way that brings heaven crashing into their bedroom, a stream of glory lighting their tiny bunkbed full of stuffed animals and blankets in a way that renders me silent, sets me still in the face of a God who listens intently to my children, and in the face of their astounding faith in the divine listener.

Then last night my 5 year old prayed, “God, Jesus, Holy Spirit- I just want to SEE you guys. Can you please make me see you? And Mary and Joseph, can you bring them back to life so I can see them too? I know they were here on earth a LONG time ago, but you’re still the Holy Spirit today, and I know you can do it! I love you. Amen.”

Ridiculous though it seems,  I felt such a presence in the exactness of her prayers. She said what she wanted. She said it with confidence because she thinks God loves her enough to listen to anything she has to say. I mean, she doesn’t even feel that way about us like she used to. She’ll preface a question or request with disclaimers like “This won’t take long to help me,” or “I know you might say no.” She doesn’t trust us to listen with an open mind, which is partly because we’ve been listening for 5 years and have developed a non-sense meter that tends towards suspicious, to be honest. But in her prayers? She speaks openly. She speaks with abandon. She speaks like a child, loved and free.

I read this a while ago and it struck a cord in me that keeps playing and playing:

“Prayer is God’s gift to those who pray.”

I could read that sentence one million more times and still wrestle with everything it means. Prayer is God’s gift to those who pray. Prayer is God’s gift to those who pray. The prayer itself, the very movement of the thing, is a gift. The unknown of the process, the slow blossom of a seed in the awaited response: the mystery is in the alchemy of the act.

Certain events in our lives make it impossible not to pray, even when we don’t know to whom or why we speak. Survive a terrible accident: thank you, we breathe. Hold a terribly ill child; please, we weep. Nothing is going right and we falter on the edge of despair; help, we plead. There is tug inside of us towards grandeur, towards a felt presence, towards a tender goodness, towards the sunset and the baby’s healthy heartbeat and the saved marriage and the miracle rent payment and the rescued children; the doubters, the hurt, the angry, the deserted, the lonely, we break under the pressure and open ourselves to prayer like the earth split open on a fault line. Disaster and beauty and desperation and joy bend our knees and soften our hearts until prayers escape our lips, messages to the sky that make us feel at once vulnerable and fortified.

Christmas does this. It reminds us of something. The traditions, silly they may be, can actually be a road inward, a path towards a feeling we can never quite shake:
We are homesick. And Christmas reminds us of that, so at Christmas, we reach for home. We light our candles and our windows. We give good gifts. We gather. We eat. We laugh. And though we don’t know it, through it all, we pray.

I can’t explain prayer. I can talk about it, I can tell you about it and how it changes me every day, I can write about it, but I can’t ever really give it to you. “Prayer is God’s gift to those who pray.” That’s the mystery. And that’s what I’m inviting you into this Christmas- let the mystery settle around you. When you feel yourself looking around, wondering who to thank or who to ask for help or who is speaking to your heart in ways you can’t seem to explain; close your eyes, whisper your prayer, and look towards home.