What Mommy Gets.

Evenings are crazy, am I right? Hurry home from work, hurry and make dinner, hurry and play, hurry and baths, hurry and bedtime, and hurry to get the house picked up before exhaustion sets in and you crash. And I’m not even running kids to and from activities yet! Sheesh, I’m tired just writing that!

In our house, I put my 21-month-old (Kate) to bed and my husband puts my 3.5-year-old (Lucy) to bed. It’s at least an hour with each kid by the time books are read, prayers are said, songs are sung, cuddles are had and they finally fall asleep. And yes, we usually stay with the girls until they fall asleep.

Not very often, but sometimes, Lucy asks me to put her to bed. I sigh and usually try to pawn her back off on daddy. I know what you’re thinking and I agree with you: that makes me sound like an absolutely terrible parent. But if  I put my 1-year old and my 3-year-old to bed, we’re talking 2+ hours of bedtime routines in an evening where time is already limited. It’s not that I don’t want to put both of my kids down for bed – because I think that time is so special. But when my husband is putting Lucy down, it’s the only time of day I get to pick up the house, catch up on work, or fold several loads of laundry while I mindlessly watch a rerun of Last Man Standing. Damn that mom guilt!

Monday night, I had just finished putting Kate down when I popped in to say good night to Lucy. As I headed downstairs to clean the catastrophe left over from our busy weekend I heard Lucy say, “Daddy, did you put me to bed last day?” (Last day: her sweet reference for anything that’s happened in the past.) I knew what was coming.

I had barely made it downstairs when I heard the pitter patter of little feet over the sound of running water that I had JUST turned on to begin dishes. I turned around to see Lucy with her hands behind her back and a big smile on her face. “Mommy! YOU get to put me to bed tonight! Daddy put me to bed last day and you get to put me to bed tonight!”Shannon Lu

I sighed and looked around at my kitchen in shambles and back to my smiling 3 year old who was so excited to tell me that I get to put her to sleep tonight. So on to hour number two of bedtime I went: we brushed teeth, went potty, read books and snuggled.

As I laid cuddled up next to her as she drifted off to sleep, I began thinking about what she said: Mommy, you GET to put me to sleep – like she was giving me a gift. Like I was the lucky winner that night. And boy, was she right. I’ve been specially chosen by my Creator to care for and love this sweet little soul and I GET to put her to sleep. Wow.

There are a lot of things I get to do as a parent. I GET to fight with her every morning about brushing her hair. I GET to listen to her whine at dinner every night about how she doesn’t like whatever is on her plate. I GET to break up the fights that are already happening between my children. And while I sometimes (i.e. often) get overwhelmed with all these things I “get” to do, I sure wouldn’t change a thing.

I also “get” lots giggles, kisses, love, and tickles. I “get” to experience the feeling of pure joy that I didn’t even know existed until I had kids. I “get” so much from my girls that if I think about it too much, my chest begins to tighten and my eyes fill with tears because I am overwhelmed with all they give me. There are a lot of people who would give anything to “get” to do some of these things I that I sometimes take for granted, and I’m so thankful my children remind me daily, in their own sweet ways, just how lucky I am.

Does this mean that I’ll never push her bedtime back onto daddy? 🙂 Heck no – I’ve got to keep my sanity! (Judge if you want, can’t blame you.) But I’ll certainly be more conscious of “getting” to put her to bed and enjoying these precious moments. Lord knows it goes too fast.

Oh and by the way, my rockstar husband cleaned the entire main floor of our house while I “got” to put my 3 year old to bed. Yep, I’m pretty lucky and my life is pretty darn good.

You Were First.

To my oldest daughter as my second baby turns ONE:

What a year it’s been, sweet little one. I am in awe of what a big girl you’ve become over the last year and in watching you become a big sister. I am beyond proud of you.

Before little sis came along, my life revolved around you and only you. Your every cry. Your every movement. Your every breath. I was there.

Although you really didn’t understand the change that was about to happen in our lives, you could certainly sense it. Mom&Lu2014You instinctively knew that I wasn’t going to be able to be there for you in the same way I had been the 23 months prior.  And it pained me to know I wouldn’t be able to be there for you in the same way, too. Thankfully, you have an unbelievable bond with daddy, and it’s been awesome to watch how close you two have become.

On the eve of your sister’s first birthday, I was reflecting on where I was at that moment one year ago. I thought a little bit about being in labor and my excitement to meet Baby #2. But most of all, I thought about you. For 23 months, bedtime was always ours. Yours and mine. Our time to reconnect from our busy day. On that night one year ago, I rocked you to sleep with bittersweet tears in my eyes. I knew I was in labor and that everything would change for all of us.
But mostly for me and you. I held you extra-close, for extra-long, while you drifted to sleep. Daddy took over as your default “bedtime keeper” after that.

My sweet girl, you are so smart and so thoughtful. I can see the wheels turning in your head as you think through situations and experiences. Your ability to reflect and reason blows me away. You are constantly observing. And as a result, I don’t believe for a second that you are unphased by any of this.  I am thankful that you allowed me to “test” my parenting skills on you (bless you!). I am not perfect, and this last year has shown me that over and over again. But you never give up on me and you always give me another chance to make it better.

Life’s not easy for a two-year-old, especially when you add in a new sister.  But you’ve weathered the storm and have come out on top. Your tears may be fierce, but so are your kisses. I promise you that it will all be worth it. I promise you will be a better person for having siblings – they will push you and shape you in ways no other will. It has been amazing to watch this shift and formation in you already begin. I look forward to watching you grow into a leader; not only of this family, but in all you do. Little sis is so lucky to have you. And, she will always be there for you – you will have a best friend for life.

I look forward to our ever-evolving relationship – I know it will ebb and flow in the years to come. But my heart holds dear that special time spent when it was just me and you. My love for you is not less because your sister came along. Thankfully, as I learned, a mama’s heart grows in love, making room for new additions. You are my soul and my greatest teacher. A part of my heart will always be with you, a part that no one else in this whole world will get to claim as theirs. You were my first. You made me a mom. And you are mine.

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Terribly Terrific Twos

The “terrible twos” have hit our house.

For probably the whole first year of Lucy’s life, I was never more confident in the decisions I had made in my life than I was that first year she was alive. This is opposite for most first-time parents. I researched and read EVERYTHING I could on different aspects of parenting so that by the time I made a decision, I was 100% confident in the choices we were making as parents.

Boy, Kate is a different story. She has thrown me for a loop since the beginning. But I digress…

The Terrible Twos are challenging! Their ability to think for themselves, communicate their wants and needs, and their desire for independence is sure amazingly awesome to witness but makes me seriously question my parenting. The tantrums, the attitude, the defiance. I’ve yelled at her in response to an exorcist-like tantrum in protest of nap time. I REALLY don’t want to be a mom that results to yelling. It makes me feel out of control of myself and of my household.

Thank goodness for mama groups on Facebook. They have become my sounding board for advice and reassurance when needed. Another mom going through the toddler phase asked for recommendations on books to read to help effectively parent in these formative, important and difficult years.

Janet Lansbury’s “No Bad Kids” was recommended, which I ordered on Amazon that day. Understanding that no two moms will parent the same, this book rings true to what we believe is the most effective way to raise and discipline children: through love and respect. This book has given me two things: 1) reassurance and confidence that we are doing many things right; I’m on the right track 2) Tools and ideas for improvement on areas where Mike and I are missing the boat. I’m about 50 pages in (150 pages total) and I’ve already been able to implement many of the strategies she suggests and have noticed a difference in a few short days!

“Gain perspective. Our attitude toward limit-pushing behavior is everything, and our perspective is what defines our attitude. Testing, limit-pushing, defiance and resistance are healthy signs that our toddlers are developing independence and autonomy” – Janet Lansbury

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I feel like I am again the CEO of my household, confident in the decisions I’m making. A few tools in my tool belt, a cup of coffee in my hand and Eric Church blaring on the radio and I’m back. Peace in the house is getting restored and I’m taking the time to think through how best to discipline – which is most certainly not the easiest way, but the most respectful and honoring ways to help Lucy learn to express her independence and emotions. (yelling, bribery and distraction would sure be easiest but are not forms discipline, as I have learned. Makes sense, right?)

Will I never “lose” it again and yell? Of course I will! But at least I don’t feel unsure of my self.

Now, to figure out miss Kate…. who is increasingly the sweetest and happiest baby.

Gosh I love my girls. Wouldn’t trade them for the whole world.

Next on my agenda, mastering Yoga. In true Shannon form, I am reading about it as much as I can…

Enough for today.

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So pretty! Lucille putting on my lip gloss.

It’s ok, Mommy.

My little Lucy. She’s a pistol (Or perhaps just a typical two year old). But gosh she’s so dang sweet. Returning to work after Kate has not been smooth and I’ve found myself crying a lot more than usual; worried about Kate, worried about Lucy, just wanting to be home with my girls, worried that I’m not a good enough mom, employee, wife, friend.

These little humans we create and mold are just quite amazing. Lucy has seen me crying several times over the last few months. And it never fails – she comes right over with a hug and a kiss and a “It’s ok, Mommy. It’s ok.” I’ve found myself feeling guilty for allowing my girls see me upset. But, it’s OK. In fact, it might even be a good thing. We are trying to raise our girls to know it’s OK to feel their emotions; it’s OK to be angry, sad, frustrated or upset. And then, we try to teach them the best way to work through these emotions. It’s OK to cry.

And it seems little, but her gestures like these remind me that I’m doing something right. Amidst the tantrums and the sass, she also shows compassion. And then she tells me how much she loves me and daddy and Kate (followed by a big wet toddler kiss) and my heart melts.

They are teaching me just as much, if not more, than what I’m teaching them. I’m learning from them all the time and I thank God every day they chose me to be their mommy.

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“I’m tickling Kate, mommy!”

Lucille’s Gifts

Toddlers do the most amazing things. It’s so easy to overlook how amazing little kids are in the hustle and bustle of every day life. My little Lucille, nearly 21 months, is down right maddening sometimes. But she is SO amazing.

I was having a really rough day yesterday and arrived to pick her up from daycare with her shouting “HI MOMMY!!!!”, excited to have me watch her go down the slide. (And, what I actually watched was another little girl kick her down the slide sending my happy, excited child into tears. Sigh. Toddlers.)

We drove home in silence, which is not normal for us. Usually there is laughing, singing, tears, complaining about the awful carseat, etc. I was deep in thought, reflecting on my day, and I thought perhaps she had fallen asleep. We arrived home and I went to the back seat to find her awake. Maybe she had been deep in thought as well. I hopped in to release her from her dreaded carseat and she smiled and immediately began pointing out my facial and clothing features. “Mommy’s eyes. Mommy’s hair. Mommy’s pretty necklace. Mommy’s ears. Mommy’s pretty earrings. Mommy’s shirt.” And then her own features, “Lucy’s eyes. Lucy’s nose. Lucy’s piggies. Lucy’s hair.”IMG_6682I don’t know why, but it brought tears to my eyes. This experience is nothing new; we go though it daily – on me, on her, on daddy, on Barley, on stuffed animals. But yesterday, I needed it. I truly NEEDED it. I needed her little hands on my face. I needed to look directly into her bright eyes. I needed to see her smile (albeit, underneath her filthy, snotty face. Ha!). I needed to hear her voice.

Lucy gives me gifts almost daily. She gives me happiness, worry, frustration, giggles, hugs, kisses, tears, tantrums, laughter. She gave me a big, huge blown-out bellybutton during pregnancy that I don’t think will every return to normal. She gives me the opportunity to make mistakes and learn, forcing me to grow into a better person. Yesterday, she simply gave me a small reminder that it will all be ok. I’m going to be ok.  I need to slow down and appreciate these moments more often.