My favorite motherhood quote reads like this:

“Everything in all the books I once pored over is finished for me now. Penelope Leach. T. Berry Brazelton. Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education, all grown obsolete. Along with ‘Goodnight Moon’ and ‘Where the Wild Things Are,’ they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories.” Then she goes on and talks about some of the mistakes she made while raising her babies. “…the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make…I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of [my children] sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4, and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.”
–Anna Quindlen

I remember the moment it became my favorite. I was pregnant and had two young children only 14 months apart. I was overwhelmed. I couldn’t keep up. Without fail our two “babies” seemed to need opposite things at exactly the same time. I found that as much as I was in love with these kids, I was chock full of “I can’t wait ‘til…”s. I couldn’t wait ‘til Max could just feed himself or until Elle could sit up and entertain herself for a second. It seemed to me it would be pure Heaven when I could sleep through a night uninterrupted until 7:00 in the morning.

I had been skimming through my Newsweek trying desperately to catch a glimpse into the real world…that world that had become foreign to me in many ways ever since I took on the title of “Mother.” Amongst the articles about politics and world affairs I came across Anna’s article so articulately written about mothers and enjoying the “now.”

As soon as I read the above paragraph tears were pouring down my cheeks. Yes, I’m sure some of my pregnancy hormones were involved in my outburst, but most of it was the pure realization that I wasn’t living in the moment enough. Sure, the trenches of motherhood I was slogging through at that particular time in my life were deep. I couldn’t see out. There wasn’t a lot of light at the end of the tunnel (at least not on that day). But when I came to that paragraph I was struck with the thought that I needed to seek out and hold on to the good stuff. I needed to soak up my babies. Because if that poor Anna Quindlen was wishing she’d cherished the moment a little more, I was sure I’d be right there with her if I didn’t get my act together. Her motherhood trenches were gone…nothing but a faded memory. Mine were still deep, and I was going to live it up in there.

So the next day I slowed down. I changed my gears. Instead of trying to fit in a million different errands and social things, I stayed home with my babies for most of the day. We read books, popped popcorn, sang songs, put together puzzles, and just delighted in being with each other. And I noticed so much more. Elle spilled her drink all over her beloved “blankie” and started to cry when I told her I had to wash it (washing those blankies was always a trick). Max leaned over to her and told her in the sweetest voice that it was ok and that he would share his blankie with her while her’s was in the washing machine. I noticed Elle’s sweet dimple when she smiled is about the cutest thing in the world. I complimented Max on so many things he did well that day and watched him beam. (I remember all this because believe me, after a good day like that I was writing that baby down in my books. I wasn’t gonna let it fade any time soon!) I was so in love with being a mom I could hardly contain myself.

Of course the next day was different. I had to catch up on things I had neglected the day before and life still goes on. Max and Elle were teasing each other constantly and Elle drew all over the couch with a ball-point pen. (Yep, had to write the bad stuff down too.) But for some reason it didn’t really bother me as much. Sure I was frustrated, but I realized even the catastrophes are “moments” to be cherished (some of them take a little more time to be able to take lightly and appreciate than others), and that’s ok. I still appreciated my children more than I ever had before. My mind had made a shift. Do I have to keep remembering to keep that shift in focus? Yes. But that’s half the battle.

It’s true that as mothers there is always a never-ending list of things to do. We check off the things on our lists that we “get done,”…Pay the bills. Check. Do the dishes. Check. Make dinner. Check. Do the shopping. Check. But are we successful if we didn’t notice the look on our child’s face as he just learned to “pump” on the swing by himself? Is it success if we get lunch done and the kids asleep for naps in fifteen minutes so we can finish catching up on “important projects” if we forgot to help the kids finish the puzzle we promised we would? Sometimes success is when we don’t get through the “to do” list. Instead, we stop long enough to notice the little things. To savor every moment. Not only to notice the delight in our children’s eyes, but to help create that delight.

Another favorite quote I have is one written by Iris Krasnow. It’s in an article called, “Surrendering to Motherhood.” She says: “If I had any advice for mothers it would be to ‘Be There.’ I know I am fortunate to be in a profession and marriage that allows me to spend most of each day near my children. But Being There isn’t about money or even about staying home full-time. It’s about an emotional and spiritual shift, of succumbing to Being Where You Are When You Are, and Being There as much as possible. Its about crouching on the floor and getting delirious over the praying mantis your son just caught instead of perusing a fax or filling the dishwasher while he is yelling for your attention and you distractedly say over your shoulder: “Oh , honey, isn’t that a pretty bug.” It’s about being attuned enough to notice when your kid’s eyes shine so you can make your eyes shine back.”

I want my kids to see my eyes shine when I play with them. I want to enjoy their play as much as they do. I want to “crouch down on the floor and get delirious” over the seemingly simple things that delight them. I want to look at the world through their eyes. I want to be their’s while I can.

No matter how much I write about the funny things I want to remember, no matter how many pictures I take and stash in photo albums, no matter how much I will time to slow down and beg my kids to quit growing so darn fast, this time with young children will still slip away. But the joy that I let myself feel while I’m in the moment with my kids will not fade with the years like the pictures and the memories, it will become part of me. And it will become part of my kids.

Yep, there’ll always be days of frustration where I’m too tired to pull out the paints AGAIN and let the kids mess up my freshly cleaned kitchen AGAIN. It will still be frustrating to find Tide laundry detergent spread all over the laundry room floor and filling up the bottom of the dryer. It will always take time to get everyone out the door with hair brushed and shoes on. But I’ve tried to change my attitude—and somehow savoring the day to day moments makes all the frustrating stuff ok.

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  1. Shawni-
    You are so right on. Just what I needed to here today after feeling like I wish my kids “would stop bothering me” so I could get my stuff done. I appreciate your realness.

  2. I’ve been reading your blog for a few weeks since google reader recommended it to me. I’ve related to many of your posts, but especially this one. With a 3 1/2 year old and an 18 month old, I am in the not much light mode right now, and trying to figure out how to really be there as a mom. Thank you for this post. I really needed it!

  3. I have also been reading your blog for a bit, my little sister and your niece Brimley are good friends. I appreciated this post…with a 4 year old, 2 year old and one on the way! It is a good reminder.

    I have been interested in photography for a while and love looking at your pictures. Do you have a price list? I am looking for someone to take my family pictures after the baby is born…and I don’t want to mess with my tripod and remote :). You can e-mail me Thanks!

  4. I know we don’t know each other but I read your blog daily.. I just wanted to thank you for this Beatiful post. It is just the reminder I needed today.

  5. that brought on so many emotions in me. a friend of mine just exprienced an imaginable loss. her youngest (1 year) just died by drowning.

    as a result of that, i’ve really been focusing on “cherishing the moment.” i’d been doing pretty good until the last couple of days when parker has been exhibiting every difficult behavior a 2 year old should. it’s been wearing me out, especially as i’ve been trying to catch up on the things i’ve been letting go in the last few weeks.

    i too remember when i read that anna quindlen quote for the first time. natalie was a newborn and parker wasn’t 2 yet. as you did, i had my hands full, and i also found myself thinking “i can’t wait until…” all too often. i was so grateful that i’d read her quote when i did. it forced me to slow down and enjoy the ride rather than rush through it.

    i too LOVE being a mom. it’s hard and i’m always tired, but i wouldn’t trade these fun summer days with my babies for the world.

    thanks for the reminder that i need all too often.

  6. I am so glad I just read your post, I needed this tonight! Sophie had that look in her eyes tonight when she figured out how to properly say the word “hospital”! She has always pronounced it “hostipal” (so cute) Any how, I think she came into me 15 different times, so thrilled with herself repeating it correctly! I loved your sweet post, it brought tears to my eyes, hoping that I was living in the moment this evening. I was really sad that she actually figured it out, it just shows how quickly she is growing up!

  7. Shawni-
    I got on your blog today trying to forget how sad I am about my kids growing up. I always wanted at least 4 kids and we ended up with just two girls. Yesterday I sent our oldest off to her 3rd year of girls camp and also celebrated my other daughters 11th bday. It seems that in a blink of an eye we are close to the end of raising our family. IM NOT READY TO BE DONE! Everyday it’s more and more of letting them go a little at a time. Thanks for your post.

  8. Hi! I’m a lurker from Utah with three kids. I happened to link to your blog from another one and it is one of my favorites. Keep up the beautiful pictures and great inspiration that all of us moms-in-the-trenches need so much!

  9. Thanks for the great reminder! It is so difficult to find a balance with all the million directions we are getting pulled in. I look at my kids now all in school this year and I wish I could rewind time and savor those moments. I was thinking of the book I’ll love you forever that my kids still have me read and it reminds me that it is never to late. The day we signed on to be a mother meant mother forever.

  10. Beautiful Shawni. I think about this all the time. I have really tried to reclaim this thought this year as I too feel that they are all growing up to fast. I have been keeping a journal in my car so I can write down the crazy moments when at the time I didn’t think they were too funny. Just writing them makes me see the beautiful side of the crazy times. Your posts always do that for me. Keep them up.

  11. One doesn’t have to be a mother to appreciate this sentiment. I will always appreciate the time my mother spent with me and my siblings.

    Parents don’t forget it.
    Kids don’t forget it.

  12. My sister recommended your blog to me just to get good ideas on how you take beautiful pictures, but your words are just as beautiful as your pictures. I just had my 5th child 3 months ago and feel as you do. Wishing time would go slower and that they wouldn’t grow up so fast and then the next minute feeling completely overwhelmed at how busy my day is and I just can’t get enough done. Thank you for that post…I needed to hear that just to remind myself of how amazing and wonderful my little family is. You are a wonderful mom and you take beautiful pictures. I wish I lived in AZ to take one of your classes on capturing the moment.

  13. Great blog Shawni. You are so talented to bring out all the things we think about and put them into words so eloquently. Miss you guys so much and am so happy to keep caught up through your blog.


  14. Thank you Shawni.

    That is my favorite motherhood quote as well. I heard it for the first time not long after I captured a picture of my own kids (the exact same ages 6,4,1) swinging together in the backyard. It hit me, like it does so often lately, that I would give anything to be able to freeze time.

    Blogging is a miraculous discovery that has allowed me to capture so many more of these “moments” so I can remember them long after they pass.

    Your words and thoughts are so beautiful. Thank you for sharing them.

  15. I don’t know you, but a friend emailed me a link to this post. I was having a horrible day and expressed to her the difficulty of raising three kids five and under and how I just wanted to run away from the role of motherhood for a day. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  16. I found your blog through someone else’s about a month ago. I love to come here and see your beautiful pictures. I also, love the way you put your feelings into words. I have been feeling lately that I don’t want my boys to grow up. I feel they are getting too big, too fast. Reading your post reminds me that I NEED to take the time to enjoy them. I am always worried about the housework, errands, shopping, and not so much the time I spend with them. Thanks for sharing the quote. I really needed a reminder today. I also hope you don’t ming if I keep coming back.
    Thanks, Malissa

  17. Shawni–I’m a friend of Saren’s, and I run The Power of Moms ( Do you think I could use this entry as a feature article for July? I know July’s almost over…I’m hoping to send out the monthly email tonight. Would you mind emailing me ( if that’s okay?


    -April Perry

  18. Hi Shawni. I hope you remember me. Carrie Gardner Reed. I was an intern at the Points of Light Foundation before I was married. MaryClaire Brown (your cousin I believe) my neighbor in Highland, included a link to your blog and I realized I knew you. My family of 6 is living in Mexico this year and amazingly you had some influence on my decision to live out of the country. Take a look at my blog sometime. Love yours by the way.

  19. One link to another I was lead to this post and with tear filled eyes i couldnt have needed it more. I am now that Mother with the babies 18 months apart trying to see past the messes and tantrums to the absolute precious moments that come with a one and two year old. Shawni, thank you for being such an insipring mother. Im so happy you took the time to record these feelings not just so you could look back and learn from them but so that we can too. LOVE it. Cari

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