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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

when you become the diaper.

Parenthood often feels like a secret club. Not the good kind of secret club with complicated handshakes and easier admission into Ivy League schools; the kind of secret club with a membership clause which states "do not tell non-parents about what goes on here, or else the population of planet Earth will shrink and then be no more." I mean, I guess there are complicated handshakes, but only because one hand is probably covered in human excrement and the other hand is trying to keep the stroller in constant motion so the baby doesn't wake up. So yeah, handshakes are difficult.

This is not to say that I don't love being a parent. Just read any of my other sappy posts about my kids. Like this one, this one, or this one.


I decided to potty train Clara. And thus the heavens opened up and declared, "Ye shall be tested, Jessie Horney. And ye shall be found in need of patience and grace. And probably a shower."

I like to get advice before I start just about anything. I don't like rules, but I collect advice in mental binders lined up and catalogued deep in my brain. It is odd to me when people don't want advice - you don't have to use it, but wouldn't you like to hear it? Maybe it will be useful later, you know? It's like women who don't want to take a birth class before they have a baby. Really? You're just gonna wing it? Instead of skimming from the experience of all women since time began as well as the medical advice of practiced and wise doctors? Another HUMAN is coming out of your BODY. To me, this necessitates at least a few tips or tricks.

So before I started potty training, I gathered wisdom from many sources. My mom and Sam's mom (who, between the two of them, have potty trained 12 children. I mean.) I asked my sisters, my friends, cousins, and even the world wide web. And I started to notice a trend.

Everyone hates potty training. And I mean EVERYONE. Everything I read, everyone I talked to, they all basically said the same thing:
It's going to suck. It will not be fun. And she might not be ready.

My cousin Yael sent me a potty-training manual which claimed unfettered success in as little as 3 days. 3 days? Sign me up, man! I decided to leave the haters behind, to put my head and heart full into the process, and prove the world wrong.
Potty training would be fun. And it would be easy. And I would be its master.

Clara is 20 months old, which some say is too young to take out of diapers. In fact, this 3-day method I used says that no child is ready to be fully toilet trained until they are at least 22 months old. And by fully trained I mean no accidents when the 3 days are up. None. But I had a few reasons to start now:
1. I'm tired of buying diapers for two kids.
2. I know kids who were trained way earlier than this.
3. Clara gets a diaper rash every single day. Every. Single. Day. I don't mean some innocuous rash, either. I mean a painful awful rash that makes me grimace every time I see it and makes her cry in pain whenever I have to change her. I have done everything in the world to make it stop. Tried every diaper brand in the world. Used every medical and non-medical cream (and if one more person tries to tell me that mother f-ing coconut oil is going to solve it, I will flip). The only way we've been able to keep it at bay is by using cloth wipes and absolutely pasting her with Desitin every time we change her. She still gets a rash every day, but it doesn't get as bad, and it usually clears up pretty quick. So this is my main motivation to get her out of diapers: I just feel bad for the poor girl.

Keeping these reasons in the forefront of my mind, I prepared to kick ass at potty training. I made meals and healthy snacks ahead of time so I wouldn't have to be busy in the kitchen. I bought cute tiny undies. I put away any textiles or toys that I cared about and laid comforters over my living room rug. I was ready. I was excited.

What? I love my rug, ok?

But how cute, I know, I know!

The first time Clara peed on the floor, her eyes widened in shock as a puddle formed beneath her. She froze and whispered, "Hot, Mama. Hot." I rushed her into the bathroom and explained again about where we go potty. I changed her undies, gave her a big hug, and told her she was doing great.

The 7th time Clara peed on the floor, I knew it was going to be a long first day. She'd been wearing a diaper her entire life, living in a dreamy freedom of release with no consequences, all day and night. Now I was asking her to learn when that release was coming, run into another room, drop her pants and do it on a hard plastic seat. I mean, I get it. That's a lot to learn.

By the third day of my little plan, I was desperate but determined. For every success there is a very large amount of failure. Seriously considering quitting the whole endeavor, I sent two desperate SOS signals via e-mail. I keep a short list of smart and normal moms on hand for when I have no idea what to do with my kids. I'd highly recommend the practice. Both of my wise friends told me to keep going, and poured out some much needed encouragement. I decide to push on.

Starting. To. Lose it. 

A picture of the 78th time we read Go Dog Go, waiting for Clara to Go Go GO. 

Morning of Day 4: I am exhausted. Clara is exhausted. Sam is sick of doing laundry. Smooch probably has six pounds of chewed up gum piled in the pit of her stomach because that is the only currency she'll accept in this twisted black market of pee and poop. I am willing to make her a peppermint Trident millionaire if she will just GO IN THE TOILET. She has one great moment where she tells me she has to go and actually makes it in time, despite being 3 blocks from home in our stroller. In other news, I can sprint when necessary.

Night of Day 4: Sam and I go on a much-needed date. I haven't left the house since we started training (as dictated by the 3 day method). We take the baby but leave Clara with two capable 7th graders, a couple of girls we love and trust. Also the only people who don't know how bad potty training blows. They promise they'll get her to go potty. AND THEY DO. TWICE. With no accidents. We cautiously rejoice.

Date night. Even baby Sam needs a drink by now. 

Morning of Day 5: Clara makes it all the way through church with dry undies. Amazing. It's been almost 24 hours since she had an accident. I swell with pride, pulling a muscle in my shoulder as I hardily pat myself on the back.

Afternoon of Day 5: Everything goes to hell. Clara is in open rebellion to our efforts. She pees in the kitchen. She pees in her bedroom. She pees in her high chair. We shut ourselves in the bathroom with her and make a silent agreement that she is not leaving until she goes on the potty. She catches on to our plotting and pounds on the door, telling us it's "stuck." We try to distract her with jokes and songs. We  plead. We get serious. She takes an obvious "I have to pee" stance, dancing around with a pained look on her face. I sit her on the potty. She cries and gets off. I put her back on the potty. She yells, kicks, stiffens her entire body, and gets off again. The blue in her eyes turns to ice as she slams shut the plastic lid of her little potty chair, then slowly places one foot on top of it in a Captain Morgan pose. She crosses her arms and pees all over the bathroom floor in absolute silence. We have become hostages in a four foot by three foot laminate jail cell, and our jailer is daring us to do something about it.

Motherhood at its finest.  
Double-fisting. Probably wondering which room to pee in next.

Later that afternoon of Day 5: Clara wets her bed during nap time. She has never peed in her bed during this entire process, and we know she's upping the ante. We change her bedding, give her a kiss, and put her back in her crib.

10 minutes later on the afternoon of Day 5: She wets her bed again. With what bodily fluid I do not know because how can someone this small have so much to release? Is she some kind of witch doctor, conjuring up urine at a moment's notice? We change her bedding again, put her back to bed, and collapse in stunned silence on our couch.

Sam closes his eyes. "I think I'm starting to hate my daughter."

I crack my neck. "I'm imagining slapping her. And it feels good."

Sam laughs. "Well that's funny because I was just imagining giving her a swirly in the toilet."

I sit up with a groan. "I think- and call me crazy- but I THINK the fact that we are sitting here fantasizing about slapping our daughter might mean it's time to call it. Let's put her in a diaper and take a break. Do you think so? Should we?"

Clara has been back in diapers for two days now and peace is once again restored in our home. Along with her rash. And a $40 diaper purchase at Target. I'm not sure how long of a break I'll take. Maybe I'll try again tomorrow. Maybe I'll let her kindergarten teacher give it a shot. Either way, the gum is put away for now and I haven't mopped up a puddle in over 48 hours, so things are definitely looking up. As I write all of this down, I realize that she really was starting to understand what to do. But she was also absolutely terrified of the toilet. She would NOT sit on it without crying and screaming, and I'm just not willing to engage in that kind of a power struggle with an irrational toddler who can barely speak English. So...

We wait.

the worst potty trainer ever (off to pour myself a well-deserved drink),


Saturday, April 19, 2014


I vacuumed Clara's room recently, setting her laundry hamper in the hall and propping furniture up so I could get to every surface. We don't spend a whole lot of time in there, in the 'nursery,' and her carpet still looks pretty new. But today as I pushed and pulled the vacuum in uneven lines across the rug, I noticed a matted down spot. The spiraled fibers lay flat in an odd shaped pattern, not quite a circle, not quite a square. It was the carpet space directly in front of her crib, tamped down to a practically smooth surface, in a spot precisely the size of two grown up feet. It made me pause, that little mushed spot, because it is such tangible evidence of the two grown ups who have stood there so many times. There we are, tucking in the corners of the sheets before we brought home our teensy five pound daughter. There we are, staring at our sleeping newborn, touching her ribcage to make sure of its rise and fall. And there we are pacing on those painful nights of teething. Trading spots on the worst nights, handing over the baby and trying to sleep in between turns. Rocking and stepping in that forever slow dance of caretakers, a sway somehow built into our bones before we even knew we were parents. Tying the ribbons of the much-researched and debated crib liners, an argument between broken limbs or suffocation. Neither was likely, let's get real, but first time parents are what they are, those darling people. There we are humming, there we are laughing, there we are, delighted to see you once again, cheeks pink from sleep and arms stretched eagerly towards us. That carpet is flattened because we could not leave your side, sweet Clara. It is a worn away spot in our home that never saw any attention before you came along. I never even knew such an important square of space could exist, such a physical representation of the subtle pressing down you have done in our lives, until the carpet is still carpet, but it can never look the same. I felt wistful as I vacuumed over it, so very aware that you will soon move to a bigger bed, out of your crib and far away from those days and nights when we raced to your room because we simply could not stand to miss a second of your life.
I love you, Smoochie girl. On your most rotten days and in your most tender moments, I love you with a heart that is mushed beyond recognition. It is a privilege to be your mom. It is a privilege to call you daughter.

Monday, April 14, 2014

i don't know where she gets it.

Oh my gosh, we've dragged our kids coast to coast the last few weeks (literally) and we are glad to be back in our own house. Last night we had to drive home from Washington, so we decided to leave late enough that Clara could watch yet another mind-melting episode of Bubble Guppies on the iPad and then fall asleep in her seat. We fed her dinner, nursed the baby, gave them both a bath and clean jammies, loaded up the car and took off.

Now, listen. When faced with a 6+ hour car ride with a toddler and a 3 month old, you find yourself in a state of constant prayer. There's really nothing that brings me closer to the Lord than my silent pleas for the children to sleep, Lord Jesus. May they be smothered in sleep until we pull into our driveway.  They are too young for a roadtrip to be anything but torture by carseat buckles, so the only way to survive sans weeping and gnashing of tiny teeth is to travel by moonlight. SO. Last night. We prepare as much as possible. We say sad goodbyes to Nona and Poppi. We get on the road. Around 10:00 p.m. we've been driving for two hours and Clara has. not. stopped. talking.

 Only the fool makes plans for a baby to follow. I'm gonna stitch that on pillows as baby shower gifts from now on.

I recorded 3 minutes of her chatter. You will not regret listening to this. I often wish she had a twin so they could speak this language together, because I really do feel bad that no one understands her. She has a lot of words, and even decent English sentences, but no where near the vocabulary required for the kind of stories she has to tell. This one involves snacks, Jesus Bible songs, going bye-bye, her brother, and a lot about the moon.
Good luck.

This girl, you guys. She's such a ball buster. I'm so glad she's ours :)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

fear not for the caterpillar. (my messy beautiful)

One time when I was in college and doing just about everything I could to ruin my life, I ignored 17 calls in a row from my older brother. I stood alone in the dingy apartment of the awful man I was sleeping with, adjusting my short skirt and choosing which heels to wear for the next party. In the sticky smell of hairspray and Tommy Girl perfume, swigging down the cold burn of Sparks (an energy drink/alcholic beverage that is now outlawed, God help my poor liver and heart), I flipped my cell phone over on the counter so I didn't have to see my brother's name pop up on the caller ID. I watched my phone light up with his calls again and again and deliberately hardened my heart against his concern. I knew he was calling to check on me, to hear the voice of his errant little sister who was running about with pain as her compass, true north swung in the wind like a quivering forest of birch trees. I pressed ignore on my phone and shut my eyes tight, stumbling a bit further down the rabbit hole and into the darkness, away from my brothers and sisters and my parents and the goodness of my whole community, really. 

It's ten years past those dark days for me, each sunrise bringing with it a new mercy, and I am now surprised to find myself in a different set of shadows. I love being a mom. The circuitous rhythm of my days in which I am feeder, bather, comforter, a place holder for all that is good in my children's lives brings me inward, a constant refocusing from self to others. And this is good. This is natural. But there are times; Lord almighty, there are TIMES when the needs of these little people make me feel like the snack shack director at fat camp. The shadow of their demands and their absolute dependence just about knocks me over sometimes. Their cute faces can only make up for so much of their selfish baby hearts, you know what I mean? 

My daughter is racing into her toddler years with an attitude surprisingly large for someone who barely tips the scales at twenty pounds. She still looks like my baby girl but then she stomps her foot and crosses her arms and I'm like, oh yeah, you grew up last night. My apologies for trying to buckle your sandals for you. I find this stage with her trying, and I'm disappointed in how much I am not enjoying it. I relished the first year of her life. The newborn stage, those tentative turns towards personhood, the way my babies look at me after I nurse them...I can barely stare in their bright eyes without crying. So I didn't expect to feel so roughed up by the second year of life. 

Clara is 19 months old and her language just doesn't match her will or her wants and as with most toddlers, this results in fits. I've never been a big fit thrower, even in adulthood; my talents fall more in line with manipulation and lying. The expressive tantrums of my girl act like a forcefield between us, and I often find myself drawing away, afraid of her emotions and reactions and the hidden needs that I cannot seem to satisfy. There is a certain darkness in this age that I cower from. I fear her dark places because they seem so out of reach, so exlusive and guarded in a way that I am unwilling to breach. And the other day was a bad one. After tugging with her over everything, constant tiny battles and war wounds I could barely count, in the midst of breast feeding my infant son and trying to remember to breathe or feed myself, I was done for. Exhausted to the core of me, I slumped to the floor. And I began to cry.

I told God that I could not bear the weight of my children's souls. I could not bear the burden of their well-being and future and their tender vulnerable hearts for even one more minute. I knelt there, surrounded by dollies and blankies and the mess of making cookies because what else does one do on a day like that one? I cried a silent few tears of desperation. I heard Clara rattling around her play kitchen, and the soft whir of the swing where baby Sam watched me intently. I heard the rolling drips of rain water down the roof and through the gutters. I heard my own tired beating heart.
And then I heard a whisper. 

"Of course you can't."

I knew it was God. Reaching through the haze of my fears and failures it was the God of this and every Universe, crouching there beside me on my kitchen floor. 

"Of course you can't bear it. And I never asked you to, my love. So give it back to me. Their souls and their futures and all of your failures - those are mine to hold." 


My friend Heather recently shared these sage words with me: 
"As God gave caterpillars a time of darkness before the metamorphosis, so our children will constantly burrow into times of darkness. This is absolutely necessary for growth."
Isn't that beautiful?
This time of toddlerhood is hard. I think, like Heather said, it may be a time of darkness. Clara will come out on the other side of this more independent, more herself than she's ever been. And just like when I burrowed into my own darkness all those years ago, we are not alone here. There is a tendency to fear the dark. We install nightlights, we avoid the streets, and we dread the times in our lives when everything is just absolute crap. We want the light. But listen: 

We need not fear the darkness. 

Do you see? We need not fear the darkness. 
For ourselves. 
Or for others. 

God ordained the dark for the caterpillar. A dark and lonely chamber, the cocoon incubates what the catepillar was meant to be. The dark will produce the butterfly. Although, I think that we as humans will never get this completely transformative butterfly moment because we are constantly in some stage of metamorphosis, moving in and out of the darkness by season and by choice. But what I'm learning; what I'm working through, is that we must allow for the lights to go dim. There will be 17 ignored phone calls. There will be tantrums. There will be painful toddler years followed by difficult teenage years and maybe terrible loss and failed ideas and moments in your marriage that will make you want to sharpen an axe or call a lawyer, but we need not fear. God ordained darkness for the catepillar. God does not fear the dark. God joins us on our kitchen floors and catches every tear, because the darkness is nothing He has not already conquered. 
Later on that difficult day, Clara got her foot stuck in the crib slats and woke up sobbing from her nap. The baby needed to sleep too, so I gathered them both onto my lap, a pile of sleepy babies and their blankets and a few stuffed animals tucked in there too, and rocked them together. It was still raining and the late afternoon cloud cover softened the yellow walls of the nursery into a warm gold. The house fell silent except for the slight creak of the rocking chair as we glided back and forth, back and forth. And as my children melted into me, their arms and legs weighted in slumber and their breaths coming slow and even, I sang a lullaby over their heads and into the still of the afternoon. Burrowed in with them. Letting God into my dark. 

Today's blog is a part of Glennon Melton at www.momastery.com’s  Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE or visit http://momastery.com/carry-on-warrior to read the many other wonderful posts.   And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!