When you love your kids but also they are the worst.

When Clara was three months old, my friend Josh was holding her, trying to make her smile, and asked me,

“So, have you ever hated her yet?”

I was appalled. Hated my precious baby? Hated this incredible newborn I was lucky enough to call my own? What in the world was he talking about? And this coming from the guy who was the most annoying new parent in the world just a few years before, believing his son was the best and only child that had ever taken a breath. Talking about hating a baby? Laughing at my outrage, he assured me that one day, maybe soon, there would come a time when I would want to throw my darling daughter out the front door. It would probably be in the middle of the night, he said, when I hadn’t slept in days and she was crying for no apparent reason and I would be completely over parenting in one fell swoop. I didn’t believe him, of course, he was just jaded with two little kids at his house driving him bananas; I would never feel that way. Never.

You know what? I didn’t. Not with Clara. Not for a long, long time. It wasn’t until after her brother was born, when she was suddenly a toddler and not my delicate newborn anymore, and no one was sleeping, and none of my clothes fit, and I spent day after day with the two cutest, MOST SELFISH PEOPLE I had ever met; that’s when it happened. That’s when I thought to myself,

“These babies totally suck. And I want to throw them out the front door.” 

But you can’t tell people that! You can’t say that! People shouldn’t talk about their blessings like that. Because kids are a blessing and I wanted them so badly, and I am so glad they are mine.

But also, sometimes they totally suck. I was so glad Josh had unwittingly given me permission to feel that way. To be able to love with abandon and also want to run with abandon. To admit that though we would die for these kids, we also at times want to get on a plane and fly far, far away. We feel all of these things. All at once. Altogether. One and the same.

My friend recently asked me: “Do you ever feel judged or looked down on for trying too hard? Like your passion or talents make people dislike you?”

She was referencing an article from a mother asking people to stop assuming you’re judging them based on your own performance, or thinking that you are annoying for doing something you love. I had to laugh when Abra asked me if I ever feel this way, because I definitely tend towards the other extreme. Mostly in an attempt to be transparent and to avoid self-inflation, I spend a lot of time highlighting the harder parts of parenthood and the rougher edges of myself. Also because my siblings and friends read this stuff and they know WAY too much about me for any falsehoods to make it safely across the pages, so. Truth it is. But because I focus so much on these difficult areas of me and my life, people tend to assume the worst about me and my kids. I cannot begin to tell you how many sympathy messages I receive when I write about rotten days, nor could I catalogue the volumes of unsolicited parenting advice, or tell you all the times people have assumed things about my kids or my life that just aren’t true. And this is my fault, I know that, because this blog represents about 8% of my life but reads like 100% fact, and I get that. And for the most part, I’m fine with that. I don’t want to share everything, I don’t want to tell stories that aren’t mine to tell, and I try to be very careful about details and intimacies that do not belong solely to me.


I don’t want anyone to think my kids are awful, or that being a parent is a nightmare, or that I’m day-drinking my life away. The real truth is that just like everything else in the whole wide world, parenting these little people of mine is a complicated clutter of joy and heartache; grief and satisfaction; fun and monotony. And while I have no idea if the internet will be around in this form when they are old enough to read these pages about themselves, someday I want my children to have this virtual record of our life together. Sliver in time though it may be, and a simplified version of all the days and years we have together, I want them to read this and to know that it was hard AND good. Ugly AND beautiful. Fulfilling AND draining. All at once. Altogether. One and the same. So while I try not to brag about my kids and I actually don’t think anyone’s children are as wonderful as their parents might believe (sorry, except yours, I’m sure your offspring are those rare perfect ones) I do have some good guys on my hands over here. And I do happen to think they are fascinating, lovely people, and I want them to know that. Here and in person, now and when they are older.

Sam and I are not the kind of people who are going to worship their kids. And even when one of us is tempted to do so, the other is quick to find some grounding in reality. We have to be able to groan about and laugh at our kids just as much as we adore them, or we’ll go nuts. What I’ve noticed in writing about parenting is how many people don’t have that kind of reality check in their lives. You know how I learned that? The onslaught of texts, e-mails, facebook messages, and even phone calls from people needing to share about a hard time with their kids. And I’m not just talking about my sisters or my best friends; I’m talking about people I’ve never met before. Almost every day of the week, some mom or dad reaches out to me in hopes of getting some solidarity in how difficult parenting can be, how awful our kids can act, and how tired we get of teaching the same lessons. We are all desperate for someone to say, YES. I hear you. My kids are the best thing that ever happened to me and also I can’t wait until I can get away from them for a few hours.

I hope you have friends to talk honestly with, about your job and your family, your good days and bad. I hope you have someone in your life who loves your kids enough to absorb your annoyance about them without assuming the worst about them. If you don’t: If all of your people think admitting the bad days makes you a bad parent – I’ve got your back. I know what it means to love your kids and also grind your teeth in exasperation. I get it.

Our family recently suffered through a long round of stomach flu. Early one morning, Clara came to my bed to tell me that her tummy hurt and promptly threw up on my pillow and my face. Puking is not a great part of motherhood. It’s just not. But after we cleaned up (and after Sammy crawled crying through a trail of Clara’s throw up because I wouldn’t pick him up, since I was busy cleaning up throw up), after everyone was bathed, I settled Clara on the couch and laid Sammy down for a nap. As I stood in the middle of the living room, worn out by nine in the morning, my sweet, thoughtful daughter said, “Mama, do you want to do your yoga while Sammy sleeps? I’ll get out your yoga mat if you want.” Which she did. She dragged my mat across the floor, unrolled it carefully and then snuggled back into her blankets, watching while I stumbled through my balance positions, encouraging me with lots of “You’re doing a good job, mommy. You’re trying hard with your yoga!”

And that’s it. That’s all of it. It’s vomit on your face and it’s yoga mats twice their size, it’s tired tears and it’s earnest cheering from the two year old on the couch. Altogether. One and the same. I hope I share enough of both elements for you to know that my kids are incredible and incredibly frustrating, one and the same. It’s ok to feel both.

All I want my kids to know is this:

Sammy and Clara,

On the teeter totter of my life with you, on that long rough plank of ups and downs, in the balancing act of motherhood-

My love for you can not be outweighed. Not by anything. Not ever.

Those kick-you-out-the-front-door days are like blades of grass in rolling fields of wildflowers. Recognizing them is important to the landscape, to the integrity of the vista; but they are simply a part of our story. I share them to be a welcome heart for other parents, to give permission for honesty and relief to the exhausted, but please know how little I care about those bad moments. How often I just sit and watch you play on the floor, watch with delight as you pretend to cook me pancakes, how I kiss your hair and trace your shoulder blades while I hold you, how I count each breath as you fall asleep on me. How I write down the funny things you say and clap with pride when you learn to walk. How I can’t wait to put you to bed and then miss you after you’ve fallen asleep. How my days are wound up with you and your needs, but with a wary eye to the future, when your needs will extend beyond my reach and I will long for these hours on the floor together. Please know how much we treasure you, how much you are adored, how much you drive us crazy, and how much that doesn’t matter.

You are loved. 


And if nothing else? You’re real, real cute when you’re asleep. That’ll save you most days, trust me, kids.

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They have their own beds, I promise. She asks to sleep in the crib with him almost every night, and I can’t say no to this level of cuddliness. 

sammy’s birth day video

You know, it’s strange. I can write about a lot of things, from the ridiculous to the deeply personal.  But when it comes to the birth of my children, I find myself stumped. I have so many different starts with so many different angles in the telling of Clara and Sammy’s births, but the words never flow. They never seem to stick without getting sticky, you know what I mean? I don’t know, maybe one day I will sit down and stop self-editing long enough to just tell the stories without worrying about telling them right; until then I’ll choose an alternative mode for organizing their birth stories, which is to keep making poorly edited movies and slide shows. (Cause if you can’t do something right, just keep doing it worse. I think that’s a saying, isn’t it?)

I know it’s almost March and that means my son turned one almost two months ago, but I finally finished the video I wanted to make for his birthday. This movie is much more intimate than anything I’ve ever shared about my kids’ births or their first few days. I’ve gone back and forth with myself wondering if I should post it at all, if maybe it’s a little too much to give the world. But, Sammy’s life has been shared by many friends and family and strangers even, a whirlwind of prayers bookmarked by two frightening January events, cold days bitter with wind and fear. The video opens with my baby hooked up to IV’s and ends with him hooked up to IV’s, stark images that bring back a lot of feelings.

Due to some complications with my pregnancy and some impossible decision-making, which you can read about here, Sammy was born 2 1/2 weeks early weighing 4 1/2 pounds. That’s a small kid. When I watch his birth video I feel sad for the mother I see on that hospital bed, sick with worry about the baby that she knows is too small and the panic of not knowing why. Nothing was wrong- we just make tiny babies. But I didn’t know that. I just knew that the boy I pulled up onto my chest was the tiniest human being I had ever seen in person, a bundle of bones and tight skin, dark hair and the most impossibly skinny legs. We spent the week in the NICU letting him gain weight and learn to stabilize his own blood sugars, and then took home a four pound three ounce human, ours to feed and nurture and keep safe from a world full of germs and idiots.

It was terrifying. I wasn’t very happy: in fact, I was depressed. I didn’t see it at the time, I just knew how tense I felt about his health and how pressed in I felt for the two months we weren’t allowed to leave the house. But now when I watch these videos, these 3 minute snippets of our new life as a family of four, I can see that tension in my shoulders and the aging on my face. Over the course of the year I watch my baby get fatter and the sun start to shine again and it is a peculiar phenomenon to actually watch yourself climb out of a hole and back into your own skin.
It’s reassuring.
It’s emotional insurance for when dark days most assuredly come again.

It makes me ache for that woman I see on the screen, and it makes me love her very much. For straining towards the light, for opening her white knuckles one by one to let the fear drop like stones into a pond; I want to hug her long and tight. God was so faithful to me this whole year, as I was squeezed and shrank and then grew again, as I learned a new way to be myself and found joy in the morning. Joy in each morning, joy in the letting go, joy in the new life that filled each corner of our house. New life in our children and a whole new life for me as well.

I graduated from college a few weeks before Sammy was born and didn’t look for a job afterwards. We decided to keep our kids home and that meant that I would stay home, after 12 years working and 3 years pursuing my writing degree, after a decade of paychecks and staff meetings and projects and leaving my house every morning with a cup of coffee and my hair looking good; I chose to stay home. This was the first year since I was 15 years old that I didn’t receive any W2 forms in the mail for tax season, and quite honestly, that wasn’t easy for me. Money is such a straightforward measure of success, a spendable way to know you are appreciated. No one pays me for anything I do. No one really knows anything I do, nor do they care. That’s also hard to swallow. It’s not for lack of opportunity- I’ve had job offers almost every month this year, but it’s never been work that was worth time away from our family. So I keep saying no, and I keep wondering what the future holds, and I keep holding tight to these precious, quiet years that I have with my babies. Sam’s job affords me this luxury, and it is a privilege I don’t take lightly, but it’s been an ego and identity adjustment all the same. And I see that too, as I watch this video- I get to see where my time went, get a visual of the dividends I am paying into my family and see fruit from my labor as my children grow and change and live good lives with me, their mother. Not just their mother; a million other things as well, but for now: mother most of all.

The video closes with pictures of Sammy back on hospital beds and monitors, his face swollen with fluids and anesthesia. His infection and emergency surgery (talked about those here and here) were an arresting reminder that his life is completely out of our hands. He started his life scaring us and brought his first year to a close scaring us again. What a potent message from that happy little son of ours:

That no matter what we feed them, no matter how many times we check both ways on the street, no matter the brand of carseat or which direction it faces for how long; no matter what meager measures we put in place to protect the heartbeats of our beloveds, we cannot control their breaths. Each day with them is a gift, truly, even the shitty days, and if I’m thankful for a million things from this last year, the simplest is that their blood kept flowing and their lungs kept expanding.

God brought me back to life after a dark season, and gave me 365 more days with my kids than I could have given myself. So I sing my thanks, and I cry silent tears for the grace of it all, and I hope in the light that reflects on this crashing river of love. Darkness will not win. Tragedy will not triumph. No matter what comes, no matter the loss we carry or the fear we fight, hope will come again. Because hope never left.


This video was so fun to make. Our son was, perhaps, the happiest, easiest baby we have ever met. I forgot how early and often he smiled- it was almost impossible to find pictures of him NOT smiling. Every time I watch this I fall in love with him and that twinkle in his eyes all over again. He’s a lover, that Sam guy of ours!

Sammy’s surgery (part 2)

Here’s Part One if you need to catch up. 

When we landed in Boise, my sister Becca and her husband Mitch picked us up from the airport and took us directly to the emergency room. They were spending a “night out” in a hotel while my mom watched their kids, and chose to spend it carting me around and staying with me at the hospital until after midnight. It probably wasn’t as romantic as their abandoned night together would have been, but it meant the entire world to me.

When we got to the hospital, it took seven minutes from the time I checked in until Sammy was seen by a doctor. His fever still hovered above 103, he was lethargic and fussy, and the mass seemed to be growing hourly. After a blood draw and an examination, they quickly and efficiently started him on IV antibiotics, alarmed at his incredibly high white blood cell count. He was clearly fighting something very bad in his body, and needed the strongest help with whatever it was. The pediatric ER nurses and doctors seemed more worried than I was, which was frightening, but their calm and fast care made me feel more secure about Sammy’s well-being than I had at any other point in the last few days.

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The doctor ordered an ultrasound of Sammy’s neck, to find out what was happening inside the spreading mass. If it was just a swollen gland, he said, then we would continue the IV for a day or two to kill the bacteria in his body. If it was full of fluid, however, that meant it was infected, he would need surgery, and it would need to be done as soon as possible so the infection wouldn’t get anywhere else in his body or cause the mass  (sorry, so graphic) to burst open on his neck. Sammy was feeling a little better at this point, with antibiotics and Motrin in him, but I felt nauseous with all of the scenarios racing through my brain, and the fact that Sam was still a 5 hour drive away in Washington with Clara.

We took the elevator down to the ultrasound lab, I pinned the crying baby down in my arms for what I had no idea would be the first of many, many times in the next few days, and got some images of the lump. The results were in our ER room before we even got back, and the doctor walked in with a surgeon on the phone. The mass was, indeed, pockets of infection multiplying in his lymph node, and the only way to get him better was to cut open the infected area on his neck, clean it out, insert a drain, and pump antibiotics through his body to try to kill whatever other bacteria was lurking and making him sick in the first place. They scheduled the surgery for first thing in the morning and sent us upstairs to the pediatric floor.

So, ok, to explain better: Whatever was making Sammy sick in the first place, whatever bacteria in his body was causing the upper respiratory illness, his congestion and cough and fever, that bacteria had somehow slipped into his blood stream. Maybe through his gums because he’s been cutting teeth, which leaves an open wound in his mouth? We don’t know HOW it got in there, only that it DID get in there, like some sort of freak mistake in his body. Once the bacteria hit his blood stream, it settled into a lymph node and began building an evil bacteria city in his neck. And once this happens, once bacteria begins to wall itself off from the rest of the body, there is NO way to cure it except to cut it open and dig it out. Normally this isn’t a huge deal. If it happened to you or me, if we had an abscess of infection on our back or arm or something, they would just cut it open right there in the emergency room and send us home with some medicine. But because he is a baby, and especially because it was on his neck, next to his airway and his throat and his tongue and a million other dangerous areas of his body, it was a big deal and required careful and delicate surgery as soon as possible.

I called Sam and we decided to leave Clara in Washington with his parents, who would drive her home to us that weekend. Sam left immediately and drove through mountain snow storms to arrive at the hospital at 5:30 the next morning, just in time for the surgery. The night had not gone well. After the IV from the ER got kinked on our way up to our room, it took five different nurses five different tries to insert another IV. This episode from hell was an hour and a half of Sammy screaming and crying while I cried and held him down, sensing the frustration from the nurses as they worked intensely to find a vein and thread their needle into it. He still has little bruises all over his hands and feet from that night, charcoal shaded traumas from what felt like a nightmare. I know that sounds dramatic! I know it. But it was sad, so sad, and I don’t know how moms and dads with really sick kids handle all this business so constantly. It takes something from you, it really does.

By six that morning we were down in the operating preparation room, meeting lots of different doctors and nurses and holding our baby close before they took him away to surgery. Our wonderful pastor stopped by to give us a hug and pray over the baby. Becca and Mitch brought us coffee. The ENT surgeon was an older man with a kind face and gentle voice, who smiled a lot while he talked to us about the procedure and lightly touched Sammy’s arm before leaving to scrub in. The pediatric anesthesiologist took a long time to talk with us as well, explaining some of the risks involved with putting Sammy under. I had asked a few times if I could please stay with him in the operating room until he fell asleep, so I would be the last person he saw before it all kicked in. But she strongly urged against it. Normally they would never do surgery on someone as sick as he was, she told us. They would send him home for a few weeks and try again when he was well. But this was an emergency and they didn’t have a choice. She told us that his respiratory illness, whatever it was, meant he would for sure have trouble breathing once they started to put him under. It would be an “act now and act fast”  situation that they were very prepared to address, but she emphasized that it would not be something any mom should have to see. This was terrifying to hear and later to imagine in the waiting room, but I trusted her advice and kissed him goodbye before they carried him out.

The surgery itself took less than an hour. Becca and Mitch waited with me and Sam and bought us breakfast from the cafeteria, but we had both been up for over 24 hours at that point and were mostly buzzing on fear and adrenaline. I watched every minute tick by on the oversized clocks in the waiting room, wondering what was happening to my son. Finally, though in reality it had only been an hour, the surgeon came out and knelt beside our chairs, smiling again as he told us that everything had gone well. He found at least two different pockets of infection within the larger mass, cleaned them out, and the drain he’d inserted should help finish the job over the next few days.

“We’ll take his blood again tomorrow morning and make sure his white count has dropped significantly, and then we’ll know for sure if we got everything out.” He shook our hands and said that someone would come get us as soon we could go to Sammy.

When Sam and I got back to the recovery room, the baby was crying and straining to get out of the nurse’s arms. He was so swollen from the trauma of the surgery and all the fluids pumped into him, and his face was sort of scary. Even his eyelids were plump with fluid, the flesh all over his body tight and a faint shade of green. I started crying. The weird thing was that he only wanted his dad. That has never happened since he was born- he’s a mama’s boy through and through. But it was like I was a stranger, he wouldn’t even let me touch him unless he was nursing.



It took us over three hours to get out of recovery with him, rather than the 30 minutes they had guessed. He was still upset, and having a lot of trouble breathing, which required constant observation from several nurses. Then, right when they released him to his room on the Pediatric floor, his DAMN IV CAME OUT AGAIN. The recovery nurses didn’t want to try and get another one in him, because none of them work on babies often enough. So they found a doctor to come in with an ultrasound machine and find a vein, and then it took four adults to hold him down while the doctor slowly inserted the tubing into a vein on his ankle and started the IV again.

It was truly, truly awful. I hope he doesn’t remember one tiny moment of this entire ordeal.

We spent the day in his room, getting his vital signs checked every 30 minutes, trying to keep him still so the IV would stay put, and just generally feeling miserable and exhausted. Sam and I had been awake for over 36 hours at that point and traded the baby back and forth, fighting his thrashing and crying until we were too tired to hold him anymore and passed him off to each other’s weary arms.

But, thanks to the crazy power of social media, several friends stopped by with food and love for us, and we were shocked over and over again at how many people cared about and were worried over our son. It was such a shot of energy whenever someone would text or message and ask how we were and tell us that they were praying for Sammy. From Becca and Mitch freely abandoning their night in a nice hotel room to take me to the hospital and take care of us all weekend, to our neighbors driving all the way from Nampa just to bring Sam lunch, to our friend Marti packing up a homemade dinner for us, to the worried Pelton brothers delivering froyo and hugs, to my friend Heather bringing her entire family all the way to the hospital just to “See if you guys are ok. We heard the word surgery and got in the car,”:

We were humbled and so thankful for our community. It was a reminder of what we belong to, and what a gift we have. Makes me tear up just remembering all of you and your reassurances. Thank you, all our dear friends. We love you so.

Late that night, I tried to lay Sammy down in his crib/cage to go to sleep. He crawled away from me and whaddya know: his *&#*$ (insert a bunch of curse words I don’t want my mother in law to read) IV popped out of his ankle. His incredible nurses did everything they could to save the line, but it was too far out to slide back in. They did not want to put another one in him, his fourth in 24 hours, mostly because every easily accessible vein was already bruised, blown, or had already proved useless, and their next options were not nice ones (his head, the crooks of his elbows, etc. All bad ideas for babies who can move.) They called our surgeon and decided to start him on oral antibiotics and see how he did overnight, and try at all costs to avoid another terrible needle episode.


After a short night of deep, heavy sleep (I’m not being sarcastic, all three of us slept like a coma. We were beyond words tired) they drew his blood and we waited the rest of the morning to see the doctors and hear if we could go home. His white count wasn’t great- still over 24, 000- and the nurses told us not to get our hopes up, because that was really high to send a kid home. But! His surgeon came in that afternoon and checked the wound, changed the dressing, and said that because they really didn’t want to subject him to another IV, we could take him home on the oral antibiotics. We were shocked, elated, and a little worried. His neck wound looked awful and we knew he was still very sick- could we take good enough care of him at home? We were told to keep a close eye on his facial swelling and his fever, and if it went above 100.5 to bring him right back in.

After several early morning visits to the surgeon’s office and getting his drain and stitches removed, Sammy is starting to look like his old self. His neck and cheek are still swollen and the surgery site is red and irritated, but it seems like all of the infection is gone. Thank you JESUS! We seem to be past this nightmare, and I still can’t believe it even happened. This morning he threw a huge fit when I took my phone away from him, and I couldn’t have been happier to hear his angry yelling. Our boy is going to be ok. This was a bizarre emergency, a freak accident, and will probably never happen again. The bacteria cultured from his neck showed up as either staph or strep, and we are 99.9% sure that he had some residual, undiagnosed strep floating around his body and that is what infected him.

Did you know he turned one year old this Wednesday? January 7. The day was quiet. He can’t be around any people or germs until his face is completely healed, and he can’t have any cake or frosting on his wound, so we’ll do a party in a few weeks. But the day also felt  reverent. Like, here we are. At home. With our precious little boy, with his precious heart beating away beneath his pajama top, with two puncture holes in his neck turning slowly to scars which will always remind us to say thank you  for his life, thank you for the healthy blood beating through his body, thank you for the gift of his birth into our family. Happy birthday and thank you, I prayed all day long.

Happy birthday and thank you. 

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what the hell happened last night?

When Sam is on-call for work, it’s sort of a known factor that I’ll be doing everything by myself for a week. This is fine, it’s better by about a million and a half miles than him being gone every other week like his old job required; I can do a week “alone” every other month. No problem.

Except last night, when it was a problem.

Sam’s phone rang at 6:22 p.m. with a power emergency he left to tend. (Did you know that happens? Like, when you call the power company because your lights are off, or you just ran into a power pole with your car- someone is leaving their house to come help you. Fact.)

So, his phone rings, he leaves, and it’s 6:22 p.m. Do you have small kids? Do you have any kids at all? Do you know what is happening at 6:22 p.m. in a home with children?
Everything. That is what’s happening. Every feeling, every emotion, every complaint, every need, every chore, everything is happening. My mom calls it the witching hour, aptly named, because your children will indeed turn to witchcraft and evil spells for the next 2 hours until they are sound asleep.
Or actually, maybe it’s because the mom turns into a witch for the next two hours until they are sound asleep?

I’m not actually sure. Either way, aptly named.

At 6:22 at our house last night, dinner was almost over and the kids were ready for a bath. Which, spelled out a bit further, meant that my kitchen was torn apart by dinner preparations, my table and floor were torn apart by dinner consumption (and food throwing by my youngest, WHY SAMMY WHY) and the kids were dancing around naked in the bathroom while straining to get into the bathtub filled with warm water. This is normal, because we usually split ways after dinner, me to the bathing arena and Sam to the kitchen, me cleaning our slippery children while he cleans all the dishes and dinner mess. It’s a good system, except when he leaves in the middle of our loud little circus. This was also, interestingly enough, the night I had prepared myself to throw down the hatchet and make the baby “cry it out” for bedtime.

The last week or so (or even more? I don’t know. Life has been a blur of travel, holidays, and illness) Sammy has been terrible at night. He falls asleep fine, but then he is up constantly, from about 10:30 on, wanting to nurse or play or cry or whatever his dumb baby brain is thinking about at that particular hour. Like most bad habits that my children start to exhibit, it snuck up on me, one instance at a time. We slept in 4 different houses in 4 consecutive weeks when we were traveling last month, so I had a lot of grace for my kids and their sleeping needs. Especially because we were staying in other people’s homes and I didn’t want any unnecessary crying or bedtime shenanigans, more often than not I was rocking, singing, and nursing when it was time to go sleep, and way more often than not, both kids ended up in my bed sometime during the night. But. Now we are home. Now it is time to settle back in to routine. Both kids in their beds at 7:30 p.m. and falling asleep on their own and staying asleep until morning. Right?
Wrong, says Sam the Fifth. Very wrong, Mama. Now let’s play “bite the mommy and daddy until they wake up and play with me” one more time tonight, whaddya say?
Egads. That is what I say.

So last night! Was the night! When I was going to put my tired foot down on my drool covered wood floors and say Go The #$%& To Sleep, Baby Sam!

After many splashes of bath water, a wrestling match into pajamas (Sammy, that is. Clara is an angel at bedtime, seriously), a toy cleanup whirlwind, and reading a book, it was time for bed. I  tucked Clara in her bed, rocked Sammy while singing a few Christmas carols, then laid the baby in his crib and tiptoed out of their shared nursery. Sammy immediately started crying. I cursed.

Cut to 45 minutes later:
After several failed attempts to lightly pat Sammy’s back and lay him back down, after a few hugs, after a few desperate “It’s night-night time, buddy. It really is!” in my most convincing voice, he was still crying. Standing up, shaking the bars of his crib, furiously crying. And of course his poor tortured sister was also crying, because unlike the maniac across the room, she actually wanted to fall asleep.

I gave up on the “put them to bed in their own beds” mantra and carried a very upset Smoochie to our room, along with an armload of her pillows, stuffed animals (“my guys, mama. Don’t forget my guys!”) and settled her into my bed. Where she continued to cry, asking me to fall asleep with her, too tired to be rational at this point. But not, as it turns out, too tired to watch an episode of Bubble Guppies. Thank God for those weird mermaid kids.

23 minutes later:
Sammy still wailing intermittently. Bubble Guppies end credits rolling. Me speed reading tips on crying it out at 11 months old. Clara still awake. In perhaps the best parenting move of my day, I press play and let Clara watch the exact same Bubble Guppies, again. In case you’re counting, it’s close to 10 p.m. at this point and she is about to get 46 minutes deep into a cartoon haze. I’ll pick up my mothering award at the door, thanks a bunch.

23 more minutes later:
Bubble Guppies is almost over. The baby is still upset. I am slumped against the three feet of wall between our room and the nursery, my phone the only light in the hall, defeatedly reading bedtime tips for babies. Suddenly I find a list about “crying it out,” a sort of “are these things true of your baby?” list to help you determine why they’re waking up during the night.

-Will he only fall asleep with a binky? No. He hates binkies.
-Will he only fall asleep while nursing or drinking a bottle? No. He nurses in 5 minutes flat.
Will he only fall asleep to music or rocking? No, he can skip either one.
-Does he nap well during the day? At least 4 hours combined.
-And most importantly, Does he fall asleep on his own? YES. Always has. 

“Your baby does not need to cry it out. He needs to be night-weaned. Slowly and gently.”
OH GOOD LORD IN HEAVEN. Why have I been torturing my son all night? WHY AM I THE WORST MOM EVER? And why didn’t I read this stuff before we started?

I rush in and pick up my sad son. I cradle him to me and tell him I’m sorry. I climb in my bed next to Clara, turn off the tv, pull both of my tired babies close to me. I nurse Sammy while Clara snuggles up against his back, both of us kissing his head resting between us. He drifts off to sleep but his sister is still awake, breathing slow and even in the dark. I feel her delicate hand reaching across the pillow, searching for me. She touches my cheek and then presses her hand to my chest, right where my heart lays beneath my sternum. She’s done this since she was a baby; impatiently pulling open my robe or tugging aside my shirt to rest her cheek or her hand on my heartbeat. It’s been such a long night, alone, making decisions and unmaking them and feeling so tired before we had even begun; I am so tired. Clara drapes herself around her sleeping brother and falls asleep with her fingers brushing against the warmth of my beating heart.

I laid there for a few minutes, praying over my kids and feeling so thankful for their lives. I took a picture of them sleeping and sent it to their dad. I crept out of my room and cleaned the kitchen. I cleaned, took out trash, measured coffee grounds for the next morning, turned off lights and blew out candles, brushed my teeth and crawled back in my bed full of babies. I tucked myself around them and fell asleep with a sigh.

Parenting is so hard. Parenting is so amazing. Parenting makes me cry happy tears and sad tears and frustrated tears, all in the same hour. Parenting is the gift of real, messy love. The gift of perspective.

Parenting is a small hand holding your heartbeat, counting on the steady rhythm of your blood and breath to make sense of the great big world beyond their sleepy eyes.

And all of that,
every bit of it:
is so, so good.


my people becoming people.

Sam and I wanted our kids to be close in age. So late last April, when Clara was 8 months old, we decided to try and get pregnant again. A few weeks later I snuck a “I’m a Big Sister” book into Clara’s bedtime reading pile and Sam joined me in celebrating that another miracle, another sweet baby, would join our family. And close in age to Clara just like we had dreamed. Turns out 16 months apart wasn’t a totally genius idea (16 month olds are actually just large babies, that was more surprising than I’d like to admit) but we are forever thankful for the two lives that have made our world a colorful, tearful, sometimes terrible, always joyful chaos.

It’s been 18 months since we found out our second baby was on the way, 18 months of waiting and waiting for our kids to be friends. That’s all I wanted. Little friends, the start of a lifetime together just like Sam has with his 4 siblings and I have with my 6 siblings, the gift of a friendship that (when cultivated and appreciated) rivals no other. A shared history, shared eye-rolls about parents, shared holiday traditions, shared memories, both terrible and great. Shared lives. Shared hearts, really.

Last night at my parents’ house, I watched Clara and Sammy play a game together, some stupid game involving a plastic truck being rolled off the edge of a coffee table, and I watched them becoming friends. It was so good. I cried. (Moms are so lame.) I cried as they laughed and I sighed with relief that the last 18 months have been worth every single second.
Everyone with kids who are close in age tells me,
“The first year will be terrible. Then it will all be worth it.”

Sam guy is almost 10 months old. Our first hard/crazy/tiring/incredible year with these two people of ours is rounding to an end. And yeah.

It’s definitely, definitely worth it.

don’t read this if you don’t want a baby.

This kid is just your basic dose of anti-birth control.
He is happy.
He is cute.
He is friendly.
He is sweet.

He doesn’t have those stupid looking top teeth yet, the ones that turn babies into hillbillies. I found pictures of Clara at this age and was horrified at her hillbilly teeth.

I dread the day this happens to Sammy.

Although that bottom one is looking suspicious.

He crawls, he stands, and he falls all day long and I would recognize the sound of that head hitting a hardwood floor anywhere, anytime. He rarely cries when it happens, but he always crawls to find me for a tight hug of reassurance.

He puts up with a lot of different business from a lot of little hands and he is eternally patient and long-suffering.

I tell him “no” and he grins. I tell him “no” again, more stern, and he laughs. He’s gonna be difficult to discipline, that’s pretty clear.

He loves being held. He loves giving hugs. He loves everyone.

His sister lights up his world. Here’s the scene at my house every morning at 7:30, when we hear him stirring and chatting in his bed:
Clara bounces towards the nursery shouting “He’s awake! Brudder’s awake, mama! No problems, I get him!” His grin beams across the room as she reaches through the crib slats to stroke his cheek and say “Good morning, Sammy. Hi! I miss you! Good morning, bubbies!” He smiles and chatters to her. I smile and try to memorize the way they look at each other.

And even when he’s sad, it’s pretty damn adorable.
Samuel Iradell Horney V.
You’re nine months old and still hanging on to that favorite child slot, buddy. I’m sure you’ll be bumped once you start sassing me or fighting with your sister or flushing jewelry down our toilets, but for now? Enjoy the prestige.
And your dad should bow down to the maker of the almighty IUD, because you make me want to get pregnant by like, YESTERDAY.
Love you Sam guy! Love you so so so much!

The Explosion.

OK so last night I posted this picture on Instagram of me, 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.”

And while this affirmation couldn’t have come at a better time, seeing as I spent the better part of an hour on Sunday evening plucking out gray hairs (how long does plucking precede hair dye? 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.

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. 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 and downright miserable 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 9 a.m. golden hour of light, but you will also feel an unnecessary pull 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 pictures will blow.

4. Hire a photographer site unseen because you’ve been pregnant and/or nursing for almost three years and after one glass of champagne you’re cross-eyed drunk and ready to BID THE CRAP out of that silent charity auction. 
It’s three months before I will actually make a date 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. 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.

6. Get up first and get ready fast.
Don’t worry, you can do a few touch ups before you leave.

7. Leave your make-up on the counter and your flat iron plugged in.
Again, ready for 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 and 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 in 29 different corners, springs and 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 and conditioner and 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 Yukon 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 and quickly 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 have been using a 4″ hotel-sized hair dryer I used to keep in my guest bathroom. I have stopped by my friends or sisters’ houses before I went somewhere if I really needed any heat styling, sneaking into their bathrooms to use their straighteners or curlers and hair spray.

I have 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 at what I had the possibility of looking like. Thus, the approval of the world at large.

And in case you’re wondering, I don’t have any of those 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.

with my niece at the pumpkin patch.
before I bought another straightener.
aaaannnddd 3 weeks later.
Oh bangs. I just can’t quit you.