A daily...meh, weekly dose of babies, reality, and love.
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Monday, March 31, 2014

having two kids is not very fun.

My friend stopped by the other day to visit. After she'd been here a few minutes she said, sheepishly, "I watched a baby last weekend and I felt bad because I didn't think it was very fun. It was actually not fun at all to have a baby AND my toddler around. It was stressful."

I looked at her, wide-eyed, mouth dropped open in an incredulous ha ha kind of laugh.
"Oh, yeah. Listen. It is NOT fun having two little kids. We are not having fun over here."

And I meant it.

When I was pregnant with Sam and people found out how close our kids would be in age, anyone who had kids the same distance apart would tell me the exact same thing:
      The first year will blow. After that it's all worth the trouble.

Obviously I didn't believe them because I love Clara sooo much and also I am a really good mom and also I used to direct camps and run after school programs for hundreds of kids and also how much harder could two kids be than one?

Oh my gosh. So much harder. It's so much harder, you guys. What did I ever think was difficult about ONE baby?

And now Clara is driving me crazy.

Living with a toddler is like living with a cranky foreign exchange student. Who also poops her pants. She speaks very little English, yet has mastered enough words to convey her extreme displeasure whenever I don't know what she wants/doesn't want/thinks she doesn't want/wanted a few seconds ago but now is outraged that I think she still wants it. Sometimes it feels like every new phrase she learns is simply a new weapon in her arsenal. She's smart. Really smart. I appreciate her social awareness and wicked sense of humor, and I know that she is a sharp girl. But guess what? I don't care how smart she is, I just want her to stop yelling at me about everything. This morning she started asking me WHY. Can you imagine? As I'm wiping poop off of HER butt, she has the audacity to ask me WHY she can't wear two pairs of pajamas at once. Look, kid, in the hierarchy of life, those who do the butt wiping make decisions for those whose butts are being wiped. End of story.

A lot of people tried to comfort me as Sam's birth approached, assuring me that I would always have enough love for both of my babies, that I would love the new baby as much as Clara, that mourning my time with her was normal.

And I was like, What's that now? I should feel sad about a new baby coming? 
I never worried about loving both of my kids. I never worried about losing any precious alone time with Smooch. I felt exactly the opposite: I was sad to miss out on the magic of the first year with my son, because I knew I would be busy with my daughter. I wanted to give him that same experience I gave Clara, to sleep in together and stare into his eyes for hours and spend every minute getting to know each other, but it isn't possible. Instead I spend most of my time protecting him from Clara's loving hands. And fingers. And gigantic loving head. I'm just praying that he is translating every thwarted head-butt and quickly diverted 'let me lay across your tiny rib cage' lingering hug as a Mama loves you, baby. Because safety equals love, right? Maslow said that, RIGHT?

I wanted our kids close together. I wanted to give them the joy of close friendship and a life of being raised in the same pack. So I'm happy we were able to get pregnant when we wanted to, and every time Clara wakes up from a nap and immediately asks where her brother is, I swell with adoration for my babies. We're getting the hang of this. Every day gets better with these guys, and we're slowly finding our new rhythm of being at home together, of being four instead of three, and of finding space for a 19 month old and a 3 month old in our patience, understanding, and willingness to laugh at the bad times. Because surprise! There are bad times. But there are also moments of sweet wonder, when the gray light of morning is creeping over our bed full of sleeping babies, and I can't believe how much love can even fit in one house.

So yeah. It's not always fun having two little kids. But it is wonderful. It is funny. It is good.
Even when one of them is calling you 'Jess' and refusing to eat the apple that she JUST ASKED TO EAT.

Happy Tuesday, guys. Take a deep breath, eat your damn apples, and call your mothers to tell them sorry for every tantrum you ever threw.
Love from the Horney crowd,
Jessie, Sam and the hooligans in the room next door

 ^^ This pretty much says it all. ^^

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

some nights, man.

Last night I was FURIOUS with my infant son. Yeah, that cute one right there. Like, toss him off the bed and run away from home furious. I actually woke up Sam and asked him to help me troubleshoot the crying, which I try never to do on work nights, because he gets up so early and goes to a job with dangerous elements (he's a power lineman). But I was at my absolute end, teetering on the edge of irrational thoughts about my baby like is he doing this on purpose? and why does my baby hate me? and what year is it? how long has he been crying? 

It wasn't a great scene. 

Anyways, we all made it to morning. Here's a tip for new parents: crying always, always feels worse at night. There is something suffocating about the dark and the quiet that makes a crying baby seem all-powerful and unending. Like the despair of acne on picture day. Or an angry flock of seagulls. But I promise you: the crying will end. The baby will sleep. You will sleep. The sun will rise again. One thing I've learned about myself, and maybe this is true of everyone, but the only way to get through those nights is to really WAKE up. If I try to half-ass it and I'm not paying close attention to the baby, I tend to miss cues, which prolongs the fussing. I have to open my eyes, listen, touch, and focus fully on the issue. Parenting requires all five senses, and the middle of the night is no exception. Wake up, man. Figure out what's going on with that little life you are so crazy about, and if all else fails, take my friend Erica's advice: 
If it's going to be funny later, it might as well be funny now. 

So the next time both of our kids are laying on our bed wailing and we are brushing our teeth staring at them because we do not in fact have any idea what to do, we will try to laugh at the madness. Because you know what will come next?
And moments like this:

Have a happy Tuesday, guys. Lots of love from the tired Horney house :) 
~Jessie and crew

Sunday, March 23, 2014

step on the stage

I have an ugly, odd habit of throwing away thank-you cards. Not ones that I receive, though. No, thank you cards that I wrote. I take the time to choose a card, hand-write a thoughtful, personal note, possibly even look up an address, and then I throw it away. I mean, I don't throw it away right then. Not that second. Instead it will languish in a drawer or on a desk or perhaps even in a much larger stack of thank you cards until the window of appropriate mailing time has passed and I throw it out. Such was the stack of 20 or so birth announcements for Clara, each of which also had a personal thank-you tucked inside, which I didn't find until right before Samuel was born. I was too embarrassed to send them 15 months late, so... I threw them away. My apologies to the family and friends who I never thanked for the gifts they gave my daughter. I really was grateful, I promise. Just too sheepish to take the last and MOST IMPORTANT STEP of actually handing you the card I wrote. This drives Sam insane, by the way. He catalogues this terrible habit in the same file as "not turning in work hours" and "getting lost on my way home." I get it. I am irresponsible. My head is not always in a good place. 

But shouldn't it count that my heart is?

After Sam was born and after we finally took him home from the NICU, I wanted to make thank you cards for the medical staff who took care of us. All through the hard times of my pregnancy and labor and then the days following his birth, I had a team of people who showed compassion and love at a time when I needed it most. From my doctor to the ultrasound tech to our nurses at the hospital, God used the kindness of veritable strangers to minister healing to my worried and tired soul. So I wanted to tell them thank you for all they had done, for both me and my baby boy. 

But I was embarrassed. 
I'm almost always embarrassed to say thank-you, or to tell someone how much they mean to me. 
Isn't that strange? I'm not shy. I'm not quiet. I deal with words on a regular basis and I know how to say what I'm feeling. So why am I embarrassed to tell people thank you? Why do I throw away stacks of thank you cards? Earlier this fall, I spent an entire afternoon baking, and creating gift bags for my neighbors, complete with autumn themed notes that told them how thankful we were to have good people living by us. Those gifts sat on my counter for a week until the cookies were stale. Then I threw them away.


I know I sound like a sociopath right now. There is something bigger going on here, some hidden agenda written in my deep, fearful places. I think the reason I am nervous to be generous with my thanks, or to compliment someone or to sincerely admire someone out loud is because it all reeks of such vulnerability. There is a baring of oneself that must occur in order for a thank you to be genuine. It means standing in front of a friend or a stranger and admitting that you needed them. Admitting that they mean something to you. And they may or may not feel the same way about you. You could possibly be standing alone at the end of the exchange, your admiration hanging in the stilted air, uncomfortable in its intimacy and suggestive tone of endearment. 

It might feel weird. 

My 6 week after-baby check up came around Valentine's Day, so I decided to bake cookies, wrap them up in pretty heart boxes, and deliver them to the doctor and nurses with special thank you cards I printed from Walgreens with pictures of my kids. Even as I write this, I feel embarrassed at how elaborate the whole idea comes across. And that is really the crux of my fear; the reason I throw out gifts and squash down my feelings about other people. It's because I am afraid that I am too much. It's a line in my story I've fought my whole life, told again and again by so many different sources. This message of being too much has corroded something in me and I find myself acting out of fear that I will embarrass someone or look like a fool because my feelings are bigger than they should be. Like the kid professing his love to the coolest girl in school or the person crying during a political debate (yeah more than once), I stand naked on the stage of life and I am sincerely ashamed. 

But this time, this time with the Valentine boxes and cookies and special cards, I followed through. I was embarrassed, mind you, imagine walking into a silent waiting room with my arms full of baked goods and a newborn fussing in his carseat, but I did it. I handed out my cards, head down low, and went home, glad to get it done. 

A few days later, I got a voicemail from the nurse who had taken care of Sam in the NICU. She had been by our side through most of the process of his stay and become like family. We secretly called her Grandma Cherie, but it was very much a professional relationship and we didn't discuss much outside of Sam's care. She left a nice message asking me to call her back, and when I finally did, it was an astounding conversation. She was very emotional, telling me how much my card and cookies had meant to her, and then she hesistated. 
"This is a personal question, but are you and your husband religious at all?"
I told her yes, we are Christians. 
"I wondered if you guys were, because honestly, there was such a light wherever you were, and having a family like that was such a blessing to be around. (cue my weeping) And since you're a believer, I have to tell you- I'm not sure why you brought that gift on that particular day, or if you were moved by any sort of prompting from the Lord, but I have to tell you why it meant more than you could ever know."

Cherie had woken up that very morning of my thank-you delivery in despair. The day before she'd had a patient's mother verbally abusing her all day long, a mother who turned out to have psychotic tendencies and need a guard at all times. But Cherie had gone to bed that night praying and asking God if it was just time for her to retire, and feeling like He had abandoned her. She said that the note from our family was the confirmation and encouragement she had prayed for, a message from the Lord that He saw her and cared about her and wanted her ministering in the NICU. She and I were both crying as she told this story, and I shared what an angel she had been to us, that God had used her as encouragement in our lives. It was a real tear fest, people. 

God used my embarrassingly elaborate 'thank you' to bless Cherie. He used my too much and made it just enough, just exactly what she needed. And I needed to hear that. I needed to know that when I am afraid to say thank you, or afraid to appreciate someone aloud, I am being a thief. I am robbing someone the confirmation that they are good. And I am robbing myself the chance to be vulnerable. Because it doesn't actually matter what I am thinking. Or what I keep quiet in my heart. No one wants to see the movie about a kid shrinking in the audience, thinking about how much he loves the girl. We want to see that kid stand on a stage and say how he feels, say how he loves, because the risk is what makes us look. The risk is what makes it worthwhile. 

Take the risk. When you love someone, tell them. When you are grateful, say so. And when you see something good, name it. 

Stop throwing away your thank you's. 
Get up on that stage and take the mic.
I promise I'll be there too. 

Probably ugly crying over a plateful of cookies. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

a love letter to my new toddler.

For Clara at 18 months:

I trip over you all the time because lately you don't leave my side. All day every day, you carry toys from room to room as you follow me, setting play dishes and dollies (or tiny bottles of lotion, a favorite toy right now) at my feet while I fold laundry or cook dinner or nurse your brother. You don't even need me to play with you, really, you just want me near you. And you have this heart-bursting habit of drive-by kissing our legs. You stand about thigh-height at the moment and every time you pass me or your daddy, you pause and wrap your arms around our legs and smooch away. My knees are covered in your kisses by the end of the day. And so is my left arm, because that's the one you grab and cover in kisses whenever I change your diaper, tiny little kissy face touches all the way up and down my arm which makes me feel like a queen. And you say "Mama!" while you do it, like you haven't seen me in years.

And I have to say, you are sort of a princess around here. Every morning you have firmly chosen a set of accessories to wear before I even enter your bedroom to get you out of bed, and you shout out some combination of "hat!" or "bow!" or a sweater or a necklace or purse or maybe all of the above, and sometimes you even need a certain pair of shoes. This seems like a lot of opinion for an 18 month old but I cater to your requests because I like that kind of certainty in my girl.

You run everywhere. You are small, so short, and the literal pitter patter of your tiny feet on the hardwood makes me swoon, it honestly does. You are the embodiment of my dreams, a real life daughter who is all mine and who runs through my house with a spark in her eye and a used tube of lip loss in her hand. The looks you give keep us in stitches, so naughty and funny and smart. It's difficult to discipline you because you are just so funny.

You talk all the live-long day, endless streams of babble along with hand gestures followed by a questioning look, waiting for us to respond to your stories. I play along even though I don't speak your language, Smoochie, because our lack of understanding does not inhibit your hilarity. Then you'll toss in the occasional full English sentence like "I see it," or "help please mama" and it shocks me every single time. Even your baby brother loves to watch you, his eyes following your every move as you flit about the house. Your love for your brother is insatiable, and you always need to know his location. "Brudder?" you ask me, your head tilted in distrust, because you never believe that I know where he is. You kiss him in sets of 5 or 6 and then always go back for a few more right on his mouth, just for good measure. You like to look through his clothes and make big messes tossing them out of his dresser drawers, which drives me crazy. But you also love to help do chores, so putting them back is no big deal to you. The vacuum and the broom bring you great joy, as does unloading the dishwasher with me. I stand you on the counter and hand you plates and bowls, which you set in their cupboards with smug satisfaction. You are not afraid to be smug.

You are afraid to leave me and dad, however. After we brought home baby Sam and I started staying home with you guys, you do not like to be away from us. We do leave you sometimes, with your aunts or your grandparents, but we always regret it later. Because you're fine while you're there, playing with cousins and eating snacks, but you never want to sleep at home later that night. Those are sad nights, when you cry out my name and weep as you hold your stuffed puppies close, fear rising in your cries. Ever since we spent a week in the hospital with the baby and you were home without us, there is a real fear in your bedtime tears. It makes me cry whenever it happens, and I start wondering all these crazy wonders about your heart being hurt or your trust being broken. Some of it is crazy mom stuff and some of it is real. We can't be together forever. I know you are growing up so fast, baby girl, and our relationship will change with each new age. You are less baby every second and more toddler than ever. That's good, of course, and healthy, but I have to admit:

You are everything. You made us a mom and dad. A 'mama' and a 'dada.' We repeat phrases you made up, we miss you when you're gone, we watch your baby videos when you are napping...we are big puddles of Clara love and we just can't help ourselves. You are our trail-blazer, as your Nona likes to say, our oldest child, tromping through our life and our hearts and teaching us how to be parents. We make mistakes every day and we question ourselves and our decisions, but we never ever question our love for you. I want to give you more siblings because I know what a gift you will be in their lives, but I also know how insane I would be with only two kids to love. We've gotta spread some of this around, doll baby, or you're gonna get weird, you know what I mean?

You are sunshine and rain and the wind in the leaves, Clara Noelle, and it is a pleasure to be your mama.

Monday, March 3, 2014

i don't know what to call my son.

Look at him. 

More than a few people tried to talk me out of naming my son after Sam. As my friend Marti put it, "New human, new name." But I wanted to keep the tradition rolling, especially because I would be raising a FIFTH. How many people do you know walking around as the fifth generation of a namesake? I think that's awesome. I also love my husband, his father, and the two generations of Samuels before them, because they are all good men who worked for the good of others and love the Lord. What an inheritance in a name, is what I say. I don't care what other people think.
We named our little boy Samuel Iradell Horney V. BUT NOW I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO CALL HIM. The possibilities seem sort of endless:
Cinco (for the fifth)
Sam-guy (my favorite)
"brudder" (brother- Clara's favorite)
Sam the man
baby Sam
baby Uncle Sam (as my nieces call him)
etc. etc. 

I keep waiting for something to stick, or to make the most sense. Everyone who meets him calls him something different, which is fine for now. I'm just praying he doesn't end up with some lame nickname like "bubba" but for now everything is sort of in the air. I still stand whole heartedly behind my decision, and absolutely love the deep history embedded not only in my son's DNA, but also in the 19 letters of his name. Sure, I could've picked something else to call him, perused a few baby name books and websites and found something I kind of liked. But instead I gave him the gift of belonging to a wonderful family, in a line of respectable and generous men named Samuel. I love that.

Now we just have to figure out what to call him. Currently accepting non-lame suggestions. :)

Sam III, Sam IV, Sam V