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.

2016 : Lessons Learned

Another year gone. Another year spent here on Earth. Another year of growth. As 2016 comes to a close, here are my five take-aways…

1.) Being present is tough.

My “resolution” for 2016 was to be more present….mostly in regards to the time spent with my children. Less time worrying about tomorrow, less time being fascinated about what’s going on in my social network, less time stressing about what I wasn’t getting done.

Being present is NOT easy! I still have work to do in “being in the moment”, but I made progress this year. I was more aware of my actions and attitude. I put my phone away and made conscious decisions not to check it (which is quite painful, really). I stopped to play with my kids, even if it meant prolonging the disastrous mess that was my house in 2016, and I tried my hardest not to worry about that which is out of my control.

Thank goodness for my little ones who demand my attention 24/7….they hold me accountable! They won’t remember if the house was clean or the laundry was put away but they will remember the time we spent playing, dancing and reading books.

It is my responsibility as a mother to honor this.

2.) It’s OK to let relationships go.

I think one of the most joyful, yet painful, things to go through in life is the evolution of a relationship.  Some relationships stand the test of time. Others slip away slowly. Others painfully and abruptly end. Some simply evolve. Life circumstances change. We grow up. We get busy. Our interests or priorities transform.

It seems like this was my year for the “friendship evolution”. While it was painful, I’ve learned its OK. It’s really OK to back off and let people go. Holding on to what “used to be” isn’t healthy for you or them. You’re both simply….different.

And once I got through the pain and truly felt OK with letting go, I was able to see the relationship from a 10,000 ft view. There is a reason they were brought into my life; they’ve help shape who I am. And then there is a reason we moved on. I’m thankful for the memories and I’m thankful for what I learned through them.

And, I realized that I can still care about them. I can love them for who they are and appreciate the journey they are on, even if it’s no longer my journey, too.

In the meantime, I’ve really appreciated the excitement of new friendships – it’s so much fun to find someone who just “gets” you. And there is nothing quite like the strengthening of old ones. I’m blessed with some of the best.

3. Having the confidence to leap before you see the net is super super scary.

“Leap and the net will appear!”

I feel like this has been playing over and over and OVER again in my head for the past 7 years. But it’s so dang scary. Where is that line between following your dreams, and making choices that have the potential to negatively affect others (i.e. my husband and kids)?  Why can’t we have a crystal ball that tells us, “YES! Please proceed!” or “NO you idiot! That’s a dumb choice!!”?! Ugh!fe33da69589b162ad4d8d9baa2197619

Part of me thinks that if I can’t get something out of my head, I need to go for it. I’m VERY thoughtful in the (major) decisions I make…I plan, I research, I read, I seek out information and opinions and then I decide. But I’m not afraid to try something new or go against the grain. I’m not ultra-conservative and risk-averse but I’m not really risky, either. I’m totally and completely moderate.

But I am afraid of failure. I wish I could be like an entrepreneur who isn’t afraid to fail…because they know that eventually, they’ll succeed. And they DO! How do you remain a realist and grounded, while still reaching for the stars and following your dream?

Drop me a line if you’ve got this all figured out, because I feel stuck.

4. The art of being mindful.

Mindfulness: “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis”

I have always believed that our thoughts become our realities; that we are in control of our own destiny. So, I really started to work on my own thoughts in 2016. I started dabbling in meditation. I started reading positive affirmations. I wrote intentions for my “dream life” and started affirming it.

But most of all, I started to pay attention to what that little voice in my head was saying all day long. And it mostly revolved on me not being good enough. Not being a good enough friend, wife, mom, employee, sister, daughter, human. Mostly, these thoughts affirmed that I wasn’t worthy of love. “Not being good enough” and “unworthy of love” was my reality. I’m a perfectionist and my own worst critic.

I consider it a success that in 2016, I simply REALIZED I was doing this. Now that I am more mindful of my negative thoughts, my goal for 2017 is to nip them in the bud and begin replacing them with positive, empowering ones.

5.) Learning to keep my mouth shut.

Oh boy, this one was a doozy. It took me 31 years of life to REALLY realize that if I have an opinion or an idea, I really don’t have to share it. So, I blog instead! LOL. I blame it on my birth order and being the oldest 😉 Don’t get me wrong, I have a filter. I work in development and fundraising 101 is that the donor or prospect does all the talking.

But, I don’t always follow that rule with family, friends and co-workers. I can have an idea, but sometimes, mine isn’t the best. And I can have an opinion, but I don’t really need to share it if it may hurt someone I care about. And most of all, I need to look beyond myself to see someone else’s point of view; it’s not always about me.

There is no possible way I could say this any better than these two wonderfully insightful ladies, so I am going to quote Meg Davies and Jenn Locke at Demanding Joy:

“Sometimes we have to choose whether it’s more important to be right…or to be happy. Sometimes it’s better to keep our opinions, grievances, and complaints to ourselves in order to show love and respect to others who are important to us.

It doesn’t make you weak to bite your tongue when motivated by love. We can show love and patience instead of having to prove ourselves right if the issue doesn’t really matter more than the person and the relationship does.

It’s possible to authentically live your truth and let others live theirs at the same time. And it’s such a beautiful thing when both parties do this for each other — that’s how long-lasting, lovely relationships are created.

People we love are more important than just about anything. Let’s remember to choose our battles wisely.”

The crazy awesome thing is that ALL of these lessons will continue my growth in 2017. Thankfully, I was perfectly made by my Creator to be an imperfect work-in-progress and I can’t wait to build on the progress I made this year! (see, it’s progress that I can even admit that it’s OK that I’m imperfect!)

I am so excited for what 2017 will bring! I’m looking forward to a sugar detox, deepening my yoga practice, planting my first garden and more restful nights. I can’t wait for TWO Eric Church concerts, weekend family trips to our favorite small town get-a-way: Willow Lake, some much-needed time away with our friends (locations TBD) and some BABIES to be born to some very good friends (read: they aren’t mine! I get to snuggle them and let others enjoy the sleepless nights!).

Most of all, I look forward to celebrating small, every-day victories and making memories with those closest to me. That’s what life is really all about, isn’t it?

Cheers!

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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Baby, Back That Glass Up

This mama is a proud consumer of glass when it comes to food/beverage storage. Glass water bottles (my ello is seriously my bestie), glass cups, glass food storage for left overs (this is a great Pyrex set!), glass baby food containers (LOVE Wean Green!) and glass BOTTLES! Buying glass items is second nature to me and I forget how “odd” it is until someone comes over to my house and sees glass bottles drying on my counter.

Decades ago, bottles made of glass were the only bottles made. Did you know that glass bottles are STILL available to purchase?! In fact, Philips Avent Natural glass bottles were the only bottles I bought when I was expecting Lucy. I had to do a bit of searching, but Babies R Us carries a couple of awesome glass bottle brands.

Plastic has become such a staple in our society, and while MOST (not all) food-grade food storage containers no longer contain BPA, plastic unfortunately still leaks toxic chemicals into your food & drinks, ESPECIALLY if you heat them up! (Um, hello! So scary – that is exactly what we are doing with bottles!)

I couldn’t fathom the thought of spending countless hours, meticulously pumping my “liquid gold”, only to have it tainted the second I put it in a plastic bottle for my baby to consume the next day while I was at work.

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So, why did glass bottles go away? Here’s my thoughts:

  • Plastic is lighter – true; glass can’t compete here
  • Plastic is cheaper – eh, questionable; my glass bottles were more up-front but I’m two babies in and they are still in perfect (dare I say, pristine) condition. I bet I’ll be able to re-sell them at a fair price.
  • Glass will break – well, this is technically true…BUT you guys, I have dropped countless bottles on the floor (a couple of times with my milk actually in them with no lid on – so painful to see that milk spill on the floor) and the bottles DID. NOT. BREAK. I have had not ONE broken glass bottle.

Are you intrigued yet? Here are my top 5 reasons for using glass bottles:

  1. Glass is completely nonporous and even impermeable. The quality and flavor of your milk/formula will in no way be impacted. Maybe you need a wine reference….wine references always bring it home for me. Q. Why do you think wine is stored in glass?! A. As to not disrupt the flavor!
  2. Glass is made from NATURALLY abundant materials (i.e. mosly sand) and won’t breakdown over time
  3. There is NO risk of man-made chemicals leaching into your baby’s milk
  4. Glass is 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without loss in quality or purity AND 80% of the glass that is recovered is made into new glass products
  5. They are easier to clean and keep looking nice

Do you have a favorite glass bottle? How do you use glass in your daily life? I’m always looking for tips!

“Girl ya look good….won’t ya back that glass up?” You know you’re singing it.

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!”

Sweet Baby Kate

Our precious baby Catherine was born on August 17th – happy, healthy and perfect. She is now 4.5 months old and it has certainly been a journey with her! In hindsight, I wish I would have blogged about it all. She is much different than her sister. But it’s not too late to re-start. So, more to come.

Cheers to 2016. I vow to spend more time slowing down and “just being”. My two little creatures are begging this of me. And less worrying. It’s in God’s hands, after all.

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Mama and Kate. Babywearing has been my saving grace with this little monkey.