Sometimes my life feels small.

I left the kids at home with Sam last month, for the first time ever. I flew on a plane by myself for the first time in three years, and spent three days without my family. I cried a little the day before I left, preparing things and writing lists and making arrangements for me to be gone. I cried, not because I didn’t want to leave, but because I didn’t want Clara and Sammy to feel sad after I left. But I only cried a little because, quite frankly, I was too tired to really care about how they would feel. This pregnancy has been tiring, and I don’t feel like myself, and I can sense the introverted parts of me creeping to the surface as they tend to do when I’m carrying a baby. I’m relieved to see the seasons changing and to finally wave goodbye to summer, with its never-ending social engagements and that underlying expectation of having fun fun fun all the time all day long! It’s exhausting. And hot. So now as the rains come, and the leaves flame out, and the cold eases over us, I am pulling us back inside our house, so that I can pull back inside myself.

When I was this far along with Sammy, I was in my last semester of college. Clara was 14 months old, I was 30 weeks pregnant, Sam was still working out of town, I had a full-time schedule at BSU and I was directing a musical that I wrote for an elementary school. I was busy and stressed, barely pulling myself across campus, steeling myself through Clara drop off and pick ups, and then hustling to evening rehearsals with a cast of 30 kids. I was accomplishing a lot every single day, small tasks and enormous projects, working towards a degree and a creative endeavor and parenting too. I look back on that time with pride, but also with a nod of love to that girl, who was so spent, and so overwhelmed.

Life doesn’t look like that now. It’s two years past that season. Winds have shifted, the earth has rotated. I am older, rotating too, walking along curious new paths.

Sometimes I miss school. And having a job. Sometimes I miss the hustle of my old world. Even though I love being with my babies, and it would kill me to leave them with someone else to work outside my home. And if I’m honest, most jobs feel like jail to me. I’m not great at doing the same tasks every day, which is why I got a writing degree and plan on a life of poverty-stricken (free-wheeling) creativity.

But the thing is, sometimes my new world feels little. The reality of my life is that I wake up early with two tiny kids and tend to them all day long. My life isn’t centered around them, but it does move around them and their needs. I mean, it has to. There’s not much they can do without me. And in the endless apple slicing, face-wiping, story reading, sleep coercing, listening and disciplining and training, I sometimes wonder if I’ve forgotten how to do anything else. And in those moments of insecurity, of hoping I still matter and hoping motherhood hasn’t rendered me irrelevant, I worry that I am losing myself in the slender margins of caring for my children.

I guess there’s a part of me that wonders if everyone feels this way. Do we all compare ourselves to ourselves? For better or worse, do we gaze upon our past selves or future selves and wonder when we will arrive, or when we lost our fire? It’s like I’m afraid that I’m not as good as I once was, but also that I’ll never be the future self I dream of becoming. What an odd vice to squeeze through, those two pressure points of my past and my future; as though either one of those ghosts could clear a path for me.

Will I feel this way when I’m 40? When I’m 60? When I’m 90?

Sometimes my life feels little. Does yours? When this happens, when I sit at my desk and write into the wind, or when I’m chopping vegetables, or walking, or talking with one of my sisters, I consider this quiet, seemingly small time, and what it’s worth. In my life, and in all of ours lives.

Because sometimes, we work at jobs we don’t love. We get degrees we don’t remember caring about, or we drop out because we don’t know what comes next. We trudge along in stagnant relationships, praying for a new fire. We can’t seem to finish our novel or start our business. We feel stuck. We are waiting for success and fame and love to come bounding our way, all while we wake up each morning and pour ourselves a little bit further into our daily work. 
Sometimes we feel little. And in a world that wants microphones and platforms and influence, this quiet toil is dismissed as the time before we arrive, before we become. 

I refute this. I refute it in my own life, and I refute it for yours.

My friend Jimmy died when he was 24 years old. And his life was rich, grand with friendship and accomplishment. Thousands and thousands of people mourned his death, and still ache for him today. That’s not normal. 24 year olds don’t carry that kind of a legacy with them; but Jimmy did. After his death we all told story after story about him, written in letters to his wife, spoken over drinks at the wakes held all over the world for him, whispered to his parents in reverent tones: stories of how Jimmy changed us. They weren’t stories of grand acts of valor. It wasn’t because he was brilliant (he was) or that he was brave (he was) or that he never failed (he did.) Jimmy’s life mattered in the quiet moments. In Bible studies with aetheist friends who trusted him. In med school classes where his peaceful spirit shone like a spotlight. In loud laughter, in worship on Sunday mornings, in expensive scotch and cheap beer on Saturday nights, on the crags of the mountain tops he scaled on weekends. In how he treated his little sister. In how he loved his wife.

I think about what this quiet time means for me, this season of small movements, and I look at Jimmy. I remember that this moment, this is it; this is what matters. What I do with my hands. What I say. Who I love, and how I love them. That’s what the quiet time reminds me of: that the essentials are simple. And that my work is essential, no matter what it looks like to anyone else. When done with great love, and great humility, all of my work matters.

Sometimes my life feels small.

Good. May the smallness remind me of God’s greatness, and press me towards the grandiosity of living in the light.

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someday you will miss that robe.

Dear Jessie,

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

Someday you will miss that pink robe, the one 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 your 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, waking up with painful 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 with that 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 inches away from you 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 Clara for whining. Good job for knowing you needed to take the kids to see their cousins this morning when you couldn’t handle telling Sammy’s book-tearing hands “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 and more and 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.

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so you wanna go back to school.

Amanda, best friend since the day she came into the world 3 months after I did, is going back to college after almost a decade away. She always wanted to be a teacher, and dreams of having her own classroom of elementary school kids. Amanda is the kind of person who makes you believe in pure hearts. In our 28 years together, never have I ever seen her be mean or hurtful. Like, EVER. She should be canonized as the matron saint of kindness and patience, especially because she is surrounded by demanding people.
Like me.
And her husband (Hi Clint :).
And her 4 kids.
Ages five and under.
Yeah, you read that right. Amanda is going back to college with a one year old, a two year old, a four year old and a five year old. I hope you are swelling with admiration like I am, because isn’t she incredible? She truly has every reason to wait, to put off school a little longer or maybe even forever, but she’s doing it. She and Clint are making this happen, she’s going back and she’s finishing her degree and she’s going to be the kind of teacher who kids thank in their high school graduation speeches with grateful tears in their eyes.
So! In honor of Amanda! 

To all of the moms and dads who are taking that brave risk to follow their dreams and march back into the classroom after many years away, whether to finish or to start, for undergrad or post grad, I wanted to make a list of hard-earned tips. I was only a mother the last year of my college education, but I was taking full time classes, lugging a breast pump around campus, and working at the same time, so I understand the madness that is living a million lives at once.
 
 
 
Here are the 10 things I think you should know about going back to school as a parent. 
1. Don’t procrastinate.
DON’T PROCRASTINATE. DON’T PROCRASTINATE. Because as soon as you decide to finish your paper the night before it’s due, YOUR KIDS WILL GET SICK. Or your baby sitter will cancel, or your basement will flood, or your son’s soccer game will move times or your daughter will “remember” that her play auditions are actually tonight or your baby will decide to get 4 teeth in one night from hell. The world will inevitably rise up against you and your best intentions.
Cut your stress by half; do your work the very first moment you have time to do it. Trust me. 
2. Always be ready the night before. 
Pack lunches (including yours!), pack bags, set your coffee timer, lay out clothes, and print your paper. Don’t go to bed until every single thing is ready for the morning dash. Every single thing.
3. Keep back up babysitters.
Ask 2-3 people who can’t necessarily help every week, if they would be willing to stay on your emergency call list. Believe me, you’ll use them.
4. Use your crock pot.
And your spouse. And Costco pizzas. While you might need to dissect a Dostoevsky novel or memorize the stages of mitosis, your kids will just need to eat. And so do you. Plan ahead. Use your crock pot so dinner is ready as soon as you walk in the door. Make your spouse cook if they get home first. Do you have older kids? They can feed themselves. Or help feed everyone. A parent in school means everyone is in school, and it’s an absolute team effort to get to that cap and gown.
5. You have Parent Powers.
You might feel old, or out of place, or overwhelmed, but I have a secret for you. You’re probably the wisest person sitting in that lecture hall. Sure, it’s nice to be a selfish 20 year old without a spouse or children, doing whatever the hell you want all the time. But as a parent, you have more life and wisdom on your side than any of those idiot kids checking their Facebook during class. Carry that with confidence, and know that what you bring to the discussion or the classroom is invaluable.
6. Get drinks after class. 
Yes, YES of course you have little people waiting at home for you. But don’t waste an opportunity to make new friends or make connections with other students or professors. Go get a drink if you have a minute. I’m not saying you need to ask your baby sitter to come pick you up after a bender at the freshman dorms (please don’t do that) but yeah, man. Go get a drink with your post modern Lit study group. This is college, not a convent.
7. LEARN TO SAY NO. 
No one knows your schedule but you. I remember feeling so torn when Sam wanted to go to dinner or stay up late hanging out, but I had an assignment due the next morning. The thing is, you have to advocate for your own time. You have to be willing to say no, because no one else knows what you have written in your planner or hanging over your head. Be your own time keeper; get it done, you hustler you.
8. TV is not your friend.
Neither is Facebook or Pinterest or the novel you want to read. You have two big jobs right now: raising your kids and going to school. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for anything else. But it’s just a season! You will have free time again, and barely remember being so consumed with this academic work. But for now? Take it from me, time-waster heavy weight champion of the world: your time is a precious commodity. Use it wisely.
9. That being said, remember that it’s just school.
Part of the gift of parenthood as a student is the perspective it allows you. Getting an 85 on a paper after you’ve been up every night this week with puking kids? That’s AMAZING. It’s just school. Do your best. And give yourself grace. And give yourself a break when you can get one. Go for a run, take a hot shower, buy a new sweater, or just lay face down on your bed moaning until you feel better. Release the stress and then keep on going!
10. Enjoy your time at school! And also? Don’t be a martyr.
I had a hard time with this one. Clara was my first baby and it killed me every single time I had to leave her with other people. I felt guilty, I felt stressed, and I felt like no one in the whole world had as much on their plate as I did. This was not/will never be true. Clara survived, and so did I. Look, it’s hard going to school with kids- especially young kids. This juncture in your life will be complicated, with no free time and lots going on. But listen,
you are sitting in one of the most privileged spots in the world. 
 
A COLLEGE CLASSROOM. 
 
You are getting an education that many people can only dream about. This education is a gift. To you. To your family.And most of all, to those kids who are watching you slug it out over homework that’s making you cry. So, ok,

You might not make every game or recital for a while.
You might not be able to give them all your attention.
But someday, when they want to quit something because it’s just too hard; when they wonder why they should keep trying when the sky seems to be falling;they will remember the hard stuff you did. And they’ll keep going. Because that perseverance you’re showing right now?

It’s in their blood and it’s in their memories and it is becoming a proud line in your family’s story.
You can do this.
I believe in you. So much!
You got this, moms and dads.
You got this. 

Priorities, or "have bunny chair will travel"

Sam travels a lot for his job. This has been a fact of our entire relationship, and we work with it. He has times away and times at home, but for the most part he is gone about half the year altogether. We’ve built our life around that routine, riding the highs and lows of exits and entrances for the last six years.

But now we have a baby. (this one, in the cowgirl boots.) And things feel different.

It’s no longer easy to live separate lives every other week when he’s gone. Because his life exists at home with us. And our life exists wherever he is. It’s pretty killer, actually. So when he called and asked us to come stay with him for a few nights, it was hard to say no.

But I definitely wanted to say no.
It’s not like the guy works in Tahiti, you know what I’m saying? He works for Idaho Power, in the worst parts of Idaho.
Like eastern Idaho.
And this week’s particular destination? Burley, Idaho. I mean, there’s really no reason to go to Burley, Idaho.

(Unless, for instance, you’re in high school, on a roadtrip with your friend Cassidy to see some friends from summer camp, friends who happen to be an attractive pair of brothers who live in Burley, brothers who you and Cassidy plan on divvying up and getting to know on a more ahem personable basis in their backyard all weekend…maybe getting your first kiss…otherwise there is truly NO reason to go to Burley.)

It’s a 2 1/2 hour drive through the desert into nowhere. And have I mentioned that my kid hates her carseat? She screams so hard her round face turns pink and I swear I’ve seen CPS workers tailing me during errands while she wails in the backseat.
It’s a nightmare.
I had a million reasons to tell Sam no. The car trip alone with the baby. Our house that needs cleaned. Groceries that need bought. Nieces who need a babysitter on Friday night. But there’s been a shift somewhere in the universe, and all of those other reasons for “no” are now trumped by one tiny reason for “yes.” (See tiny boots above).
It’s silly to drive to Burley for one night with Sam. And I wanted to say no. But suddenly, lately, we became a family. It’s not just us anymore, making things ‘work.’ It’s us and her, making things wonderful.

Which means I packed up the car. I loaded the bunny bouncy seat. I drove for 2 hours, stopped to nurse in a Subway parking lot, drove for 30 more minutes, and got to see the look on my husband’s face as we all walked towards each other on the hotel lawn.
It might be silly, but it’s worth it. Because in the end, all we’re really guaranteed is today, right? The “no” starts to shrink when you see the “yes” for what it’s worth.

So put on your cowgirl boots. Get on the freeway. And drive to Burley.

Hey God- thank you for my little family. Help me to be intentional about our time and energy. 
I love you- Amen.

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.