releasing the gaps.

I was 16 years old before I realized my parents had faults. I mean, maybe I suspected it before then and of course I was rotten to them for years before that but still. It was a shock to me when they became human. I wonder if everyone has that moment, or if comes more gradually for some of us, that moment when our moms and dads shrink a little and the world sort of zeroes in on their inadequacies and suddenly, SUDDENLY nothing can be trusted. If my parents don’t know everything, then what the heck does any of this mean? we might ask ourselves in that moment of revelation. There are times I look at my own kids wondering if they aren’t just looking right back through me, already aware of my deep, abiding failures as a human being.

A while ago we went to Washington to visit our family. Sam left me and the kids there for the week while he went back home to work. It was the first time I’d ever been away by myself with Clara and Sammy, and each night of our trip was a small battle for a full night’s sleep. They couldn’t relax, they couldn’t get comfortable, and, of course, they both came down with a cold. Every night I laid in a twin bed in the downstairs office, the babies burrowed into my sides, occasionally waking themselves in a start and reaching out for me with shaky arms. They would whimper my name and feel around in the dark for my face. Assured I was still there, they would fall back asleep with limbs draped over me and each other, safe in the knowledge that their mother was close by.

And it occurred to me on that trip; in the dark of the small office where the three of us slept side by side, their bodies tucked into mine; in the kitchen where I settled each of them on a hip during those cranky late afternoon hours; when I would come up the stairs and watch both of their faces light up at the wondrous sight of their mother approachingit occurred to me what an enormous privilege it is to be someones everything.

It’s also scary as hell.

These babies, you know, they live and die by me. They would follow me to the ends of the earth and I am the center of their knee-high universe.
But about when my kids stop worshipping me? What about when they wake up and realize that beyond being imperfect, I have actively been screwing them up for decades?

It’s probably going to take my kids a long time to see me and their dad through the open truth of adulthood. They will adore us for years to come, copying our every steps and voicing our opinions like they are their own, reenacting our way of life because, just like every kid, they will believe it is the only way of life. It’s scary, isn’t it, that kids believe and trust their parents so willingly? We are their first mirror. They seem themselves through our vision, they see the world through our lenses, they believe what they believe because we say it so.

And yeah, YES, that is unsettling.
Because I know me.
I know what they will eventually find out about me, I can count to the stars and back all the ways that I fear letting them down, those gaps in my parenting and my person hood, and it is deeply terrifying.

Parents make enormous mistakes. Parents hurt their kids. They try and they fail to be everything their own parents were not and they try and they fail to be the one family who doesn’t screw everything up.

And you know what? You might do a really good job of that for awhile. You might do your best and things will be fine but let me tell you! Let me tell you. The day will come. Problems will arise. It will all hit the proverbial fan and it. will. stink.

However.

The good news.

The news I carry around for safe keeping.

It is in my mistakes that God shines through. It is in the gaps that the God-light of true and perfect love has room to break through and warm my kids’ hearts, melt away those ugly parts of them that I can’t reach or even begin to understand. That is a God job. And He will use my mistakes to do it. Just like that feeling of safety in the dark and that wonder in their eyes when my babies know I am near, that is a whisper to them of the safety and wonder in their true Father’s arms. It’s both things, you guys. We know goodness through our parents and we know failure through our parents, and both are so important to our growth.

This is why God puts us in families.
Why He gives us parents, I think.
To see His goodness in their goodness. 
And His completion in their faults.  

The failures of me as a mother reveal my lacking. My defects. And I hope- I pray- that the lack will send them hunting. Send my kids to search for something better. Something that fulfills them and knows them more than even I could dream.
Someone without defect. Someone with perfect love.

May any goodness in me point you towards heaven, babies.
And may my mistakes do the same.

hey girl, relax.

I was worried, you know, about Clara’s birthday.
I felt guilty for not throwing her a fun party with her fun little friends,
even though I knew
she would have been stressed with that kind of attention from a crowd.
I just wanted her birthday to be wonderful,
and exciting,
and I wanted her to know, somehow, some way,
how immensely she is loved.
If only I could plan the most perfect day,
then she would know how much she means to us.
Then the day came and still,
I had no good plans.
We couldn’t go far because Sam was on call,
so our options were limited on activities.
What, what, what could we do to celebrate our daughter
in the biggest brightest way?
I was worried.
But then,
of course,
because Grandmas know best (like we’ve discussed)
Clara’s Nona reminded me that
all it takes to make Clara happy is,
of course,
me.
And her dad.
And her little brother.
You throw in a few new story books, princess high heels from her useless aunts,
and a birthday card that sings and shakes?
She thinks the world could not be a better place.
This two year old of mine, she knows what she likes.
I gotta relax.
For a few weeks,
every time we asked Clara what she wanted for her birthday, she said,
“I want a purple happy cake, mama.”
Confession: We had no idea what that meant.
We also did not know that she knew her colors (thanks, Bubble Guppies).
But I did my best.
I made that thing with a lot of love.
(And butter and sugar).
And she loved her purple happy cake.
And we love her.
This picture is a reminder to me that when I want
TO GO BIG
and I want
IT ALL TO BE JUST RIGHT
and I think that somehow, some way,
I can make everything alright in this world if I just try hard enough,
I gotta relax.
‘Cause usually,
it’s simple.
All I need to give is
 the love and effort and time it takes
to build a purple birthday cake.
Have a good week, friends. Be kind to each other, and to yourselves.
Even if it’s hard,
at least it’s simple.
two.
high heels. perfect.

Clara is two! So I made a video, obviously.

Two years ago I knelt face down across the bed in labor and delivery room number 3 and groaned to my nurse,

“I cannot do this. I will never have this baby! I don’t know how to do this!”

She said,
Yes you can. Look at you. See? You are doing it right now! You already knew how, you just didn’t know it yet.

Motherhood, right?
We are moaning and groaning because we do not know how to do this, but look!

We are doing it right now. Moment by moment, breath by breath,
we are doing it.

Clara Horney, you have brightened every single day of my last two years. You made me look at myself in ways I never imagined, you dragged me through the darkest of nights, you surprised me again and again with the parts of you that are so separate from me and so very much YOU.

And you made me a mother. What a joy you are to all of us! What a presence! What a gift!

Happy Birthday, Smoochie my love. Happy Happy Happy Birthday!

Horney family holidays (it’s as good as it sounds)

This year, in a striking moment of ambition, I decided to host Thanksgiving at our house. And I do mean “I” decided. This is a perfect example of perhaps the most common disagreement in the Horney house, when I broadcast big decisions without “actually” discussing said decision with my darling husband. 5 years later and this is still happening, you ask? Don’t worry, God is working on me. Keep reading.

I thought it would be such a great idea to invite Sam’s family to our house for Thanksgiving, and then dedicate our girl at church that Sunday. 2 birds, one stone, so to speak (ha! get it? birds? turkey? Come on now.) They agreed to come, and suddenly it was November. Six Horney relatives were about to descend upon our humble home, plus the bits and pieces of my family who were still in town and planning on joining us for dinner, and a few dear friends just to round things out.

*cue Sam’s panic face, followed by Jessie’s lackluster reassurances, and Clara’s sudden “I used to sleep through the night?” amnesia attack.

Confession: I was worried. Our house isn’t very big, our baby isn’t very old, and I have never made Thanksgiving dinner in my life. So why the heck did I invite everyone over? This is where I blame my mother (hi mom!). It is her unwavering belief in me that created this monster before you, the monster who thinks everything is possible and that she can do anything with a little help. My mom always encouraged us to follow our hearts and make things happen, no matter the obstacle. We were superstars in her eyes, and I carry around some of that ‘my mom says I’m special’ ill-bred confidence to this day. So…Thanksgiving over here, everybody! At my little house, with my in-laws, my introverted husband, my three month old baby, my lack of culinary expertise, and a whole lotta positive self-talk.

The week wasn’t perfect. My kid cried through several of the nights, her wails reverberating off the hardwood floors and into the ears of her grandparents, aunts and uncles deep into the midnight hour. My little brother spilled red wine, I googled a gravy recipe AS we served the turkey, and Sam and I even threw in a small disagreement for good measure. But take heart, Horney readers! The holiday spirit reigned, floating through our house in the form of strong coffee, baby giggles, the fantastic homemade rolls my little sister whipped up, beautiful decorations, and lots and lots and lots of love.

So here you go: 3 things I’m thankful for, 1 thing I know, and 1 thing I was oh-so-wrong about.

1. I’m thankful for Sam’s parents. For my mother-in-law and the intentional way she communicates and cares about her sons’ wives, for my father-in-law and the way he serves without any expectations at all. Thank you, Debbie, for unloading my dishwasher a million times, keeping two pots of coffee brewed, listening when I need to talk, and loving my daughter with a grandmother’s abandon. Thank you, Sandy, for trusting me as a new mom, for supporting me as your son’s wife, and for being a silent beam of strength in our family. You are both dear to me as second parents!

2. I’m thankful for Sam’s little brothers and their wives. They are some of our best friends, and the fact that we would even want them in our house for a week says a lot about how special they are to us. I mean, for goodness sakes, they grew mustaches just to be the ‘weird uncles’ at Clara’s dedication. I know that’s ridiculous, but to me it was just another reason to love them. Alene and Andrea are the sisters of my heart, and GOSH I love you both! Like, Hallmark Christmas movie tender moment kind of love.

3. I’m thankful for my little sister. There was this moment, during dinner, when I looked around our table at the faces of so many people I love, and there were two baby cousins sleeping in my bedroom, and I thought, “Yeah. We’re the moms now. We’re the aunts. We pull out turkey gizzards and we make pies and we pray for dinner and we go home with our husbands. We are making these families.” I’ve never been so grateful for my three sisters as I am in motherhood, and watching Jamilyn walk the path before her with such grace and kindness fills me with admiration and pride.

4. I know that I have to be a mom first. This was hard. It was hard to walk away from a messy kitchen to nurse, it was hard to wake up all night and put her back to sleep, and it was hard to realize that any and all Clara questions needed to be answered by ME. Her MOM. It was a bizarre leap into public parenting, complete with lonely, screaming car rides once her aunts and uncles realized just how deep her hatred for that carseat goes and conveniently always rode in the other car (fair weather fans, those guys.) It’s a different gig to try and host while parenting at the same time. But every time I walked into the living room and saw Clara holding court, the family gathered around and laughing at her every facial expression, I melted a little. She spread love around our house like butter on a dinner roll, and it was pure magic.

5. I was wrong about Sam. I knew this week would be hard on him, and I knew he was nervous. So I prepared myself to protect him from the stress, to keep him as far away from the holiday messes as long as I could, mostly in the name of self-preservation. I was wrong about how he would react. This pressure cooker of a week brought us closer than ever, and provided a moment of recognition for each other’s strengths that couldn’t have happened anywhere else. Look-  even when things are hard around here, even when happiness is more of a mountain than a hill, and even when we seem to be speaking two different languages, SAM ALWAYS TRIES. And this week, my lovely husband, you earned a gosh darn gold medal. Thank you for listening. Thank you for hearing. And thank you for letting your heart be vulnerable. I love you, I love you, I love you. And I trust you.

Thank you Lord for a week of blessings, big and small, difficult and easy. 
You are King. Bless your name! 

Sunday morning kind of sucks (but you’re gonna be ok.)

You would think that I would rejoice and slumber peacefully the first time that my daughter slept 8 hours in a row. Yes, you would think. But after almost six weeks of waking up every 4 hours at night to feed her,, I was in an absolute panic around three in the morning when I snapped awake and realized she hadn’t eaten in 5 hours.

I peered through the dark to the beloved bunny seat-come-bed and willed myself to check her pulse.
Clara, warm with sleep, grunted in her baby dreamland as I held two fingers to her chubby neck rolls. Heartbeat established, I laid back in bed and worried myself to sleep.
Then 6:00 a.m. arrived and SHE STILL HADN’T EATEN AND MY BABY IS PROBABLY DYING AND SAM ARE YOU LISTENING??
“Just wake her up then, babe.” His eyes weren’t even open.
“Yeah, but we don’t do that.”
The Horney house has a strict neverevereverwakeasleepingbabyfortheloveofallthatisgoodandholy rule. We feed on demand and let the kid do her thing, but now my crazy mom noggin was whispering scary ‘she’ll never eat again’ messages into my head and I was in turn relaying these certainties to my husband via weepy early morning whispers.
“Ok. I’m doing it.”
I rolled over, pulled her out of the bunny’s soft ergonomic arms, and fed her.
She ate for about 90 disinterested seconds and passed back out. As did Sam. (Passed out, not ate. You weirdos). I tucked our baby into bed with us and stared at the rise and fall of her chest with each breath, simultaneously watching a short film in my mind entitled, “You’re a bad mom and your baby isn’t ok.”
So as I found myself getting ready for church a short (SHORT) time later, and this was the scene behind me,
I went ahead and took a few tired minutes to be jealous of Sam.
1) For being a normal person and 2) For getting unadulterated-by-irrational-fear snuggle time.
Ok, so?
Worry. Wastes. Time.         (Matthew 6:27, right. I knew that.)
 
Snuggle time in particular.
Gotcha.

since you can’t spank a newborn

I remember when a late night used to consist of friends, and laughter, and probably a few (ha!) drinks. Today, I woke up exhausted, with this tiny face right next to mine in bed.

Oh, except it looked more like this-
And the only drinks involved in our up-all-night-extravaganza came straight from me (or the ‘teat’, as Sam so eloquently refers to me when asking Clara if she’s hungry). So when we woke up in a tired stupor this morning, cranky and over it, I decided it was a bath morning.
Well, a bath for baby, coffee for mommy. And guess what? It worked.
Yes, yes, this is what Sam Horney gets to wake up to every morning. Disgusting bangs and all.
Lucky man, you say? Couldn’t agree more. 
Hope your day looks more like a bath morning, and less like a dark and tired night.
Happy Wednesday 🙂

this trick

Sometimes when you are with someone who is very needy and emotionally unstable (perhaps they cry a lot, or want to be held all the time) it’s best to just throw them in a sling and vacuum your house.*

Because apparently the sound of the vacuum is more comforting than your best lullaby, and then at least your floors look better.

*not recommended with actual people. just babies.

5 things

5 things I learned this month:

1. Sam is a great dad.
And it’s sexy. Real sexy. We were recently discussing the ‘dad bond’ with some friends. Each dad shared how long it had taken to feel bonded to their kids. Some said a few weeks. Some up to six months. Then we asked Sam if he felt  bonded to Clara yet, or how soon he thought it would be until he did. He didn’t even look away from the football game on the tv as he said,
“Immediately.”
We all laughed, but he looked at us and said, “No, seriously. The moment she was born. As soon as I laid eyes on her, I was crazy about her.”

Excuse me while I DIE OF LOVE. (and are those six weeks up yet, Dr. Rice?) 

2. It’s ok to ask for help. 
Really. Truly. Go for it, Jessie. ASK. Because being a new mom is hard. Exhausting, emotional, strange, and sometimes baby crying in the daunting dark of night for unknown reasons hard. But I’m not the first person to do this mom thing, and there are a lot of people who love me and my husband and our baby so much that it’s actually a little weird. So, instead of being stubborn…instead of being proud…instead of being so damn independent…ask for help. You’ll probably get some delicious dinners and maybe even a hug, just exactly when you need it.

3. Be where you are. 
This used to be my mantra when I directed an after school program. During staff training, my most serious charge to my team was to Be Where You Are. Don’t text when someone is talking to you. Don’t ignore a kid who needs your attention. Don’t talk to the other staff instead of the kids- just be where you are. And now I have to work on that every single day. I want to soak up every wonderful, heartbreakingly fast moment of my daughter’s life. And sometimes those wonderful moments are actually pretty awful- but they’re my moments. I’m her only mom and I want to BE HERE, as much as I can for as long as I can.
4. Being pregnant was worth it.
I hated being pregnant. Hated. I often refused to leave my house; uncomfortable with how I looked and anxious in social situations, I didn’t recognize myself anymore. But Clara…oh, Clara. How very worth it  every single uncomfortable moment has become in the light of her silly little face. And as irritated as I’m sure everyone around me is to hear it- because Lord knows they all suffered too-  I can’t wait to be pregnant again. Because it means I’ll get another baby. Yum.

5. It is absolutely impossible to love someone this much. 
Imagine a person who whines enough to wake you up several times a night. Who yells at you without saying what’s wrong. Who pukes on your clothes every day. Who makes big messes and doesn’t clean anything. Who steals your husband’s heart.
Now imagine actually adoring that person, for no other reason than they. are. yours. That’s being a parent. And that’s really all I know about it so far.

Happy One Month Birthday, Clara Noelle. 
You light up our lives.