looking up

 I spend a good chunk of my days looking down. I look down at little faces asking for another snack, or a kiss on a boo boo, or for help separating legos, or to listen to them describe a dream, or wondering what's my favorite type of bear. I look down at a nursing babe snuggled in my arms for not too much longer. I look down at to do lists, at piles of laundry, at magnatiles and the previously mentioned legos scattered across the floor. More often than I'm proud of I'm looking down at my phone adding groceries to my instacart or more likely just mindlessly scrolling instagram. 

The demands on my time and my attention are generally right smack dab in front of me. The days can blur together in a haze of chocolate chip pancakes, refereeing wrestle-mania, learning to regulate emotions (especially my own) reading lots of books (not my own), rotating through different playgrounds and dinner recipes, shenanigans, one more snack, stories and kisses goodnight. There's not a lot of down time or me time, and even our designated "quiet time" every afternoon isn't always very quiet. Yes I'm tired, and sometimes overstimulated and frazzled, and there's a whole lot of getting up as soon as I sit down. And yet I don't often feel like I want or need a break. It's a sweet season of togetherness  and I wouldn't want to miss a minute of it. I'm so incredibly grateful for how hard T.J. works so that I can stay home with our babies.  But it's possible that, with all this plugging along, just doing the next right thing, maybe I don't always see myself or my needs clearly. So this past weekend a break, one I didn't know I needed, is exactly what I got.

The grandparents and their dog, formerly our dog, came to take the reins while I tagged along on a work trip with T.J. Four nights and five days in Hilton Head, the longest we've ever left any of the kids before. I was anxious, fretting over the confusion my sudden departure would cause our Daisy girl, the wobbly voices of my boys asking how many sleeps. I don't really need to go do I? My mom reminded me I have three children and an international move coming up! Absolutely, yes I did need to go, she reassured me with all her understanding and wisdom gained from her years of tagging along on my dad's work trips.  

They would leave behind a little prize for my sister and I to open each day they were away so I did the same for my crew. And honestly the actual leaving is the hardest part. Once you're out the door turns out, even a 6am flight can be a treat when I can just let my husband take the lead and I have no other responsibilities than getting myself a little snack and reading my book. 

Of course before I could fully submit to my non-plans we had to spend our connecting flight scrambling to get wifi on the plane so we could log on to the website for the Korean embassy at just the right time when it opened up special appointment slots for the single day they will be holding a mobile consulate in Ohio. This required emailing back and forth with my sister in law on the ground to see if she can call the embassy for us and figure out which drop down link I click on the supposed English site which still had a shocking amount of Hangul. Dusting off google translate and copy-pasting until I saw the words "Columbus," I was finally able to book us two appointments for background checks. Just another box to tick off in our quest to obtain UK visas.

Anywho... once that was taken care of and my cortisol levels dropped, I finally was able to look clearly at 4 whole days of nothing. T.J.'s conference had quite a lot of actual conferencing involved so I would be on my own for a good chunk of the day. Just me, a small purse and my two free hands. What do I do with my hands!?  Don't worry, I remembered pretty quick. Each day while T.J got up early and had to put on a suit, I did my best to sleep in, then would leisurely make my way to the beach having only myself to put sunscreen on. I usually went for a long walk then would pick up my beach chair and find an empty stretch away from the crowds to set up in the surf. I parked myself there and for several glorious, uninterrupted hours, HOURS, each day and read my book. Actually I read three book in about as many days and totally caught up on my goodreads streak which was previously behind.

It's cliche to call it my happy place but the beach is some kind of magic. My phone stayed tucked inside my bag almost all day.  Instead I looked up. The white noise of the waves drawing my gaze to the horizon, my praises and thanks to the Creator. Only looking down to squidge my toes into the sand or to study a cannonball jellyfish washed up on the shore that I knew would fascinate the boys. 

Around 1:00 each day T.J. would get a break from his conference and I would meander up to the pool to meet him for lunch, usually followed by a pina colada and another stroll on the beach, this time with my guy. He had to begrudgingly return to the conference a couple hours later most days which was fine because I had to return to my book or maybe take a dip in the pool or chat with the other tagalong spouses.  Eventually I would make my way back up to our room to shower or maybe lay down and doze for a minute before getting dressed for dinner. Taking my time, curling my hair, trying on outfits in the full length mirror, re-packing my tiny impractical wicker purse. Absolutely no rushing whatsoever.

In between a few planned dinners with the other conference attendees and staff, T.J. and I managed to sneak away for some time just the two of us, sitting by the water, or walking on the beach holding hands, listening to James Taylor talking about the kids mainly but also reminiscing about dating days and dreaming about the future. Looking up at my husband, having time to complete a sentence, a whole thought, entire conversations without interruption, marveling at our marriage and where it's taken us. Appreciating the sweet time to reconnect, to feel like T.J. and Shannon, and not just mommy and daddy. 

Without three elaborate bedtime routines to contend with, four nights away passed peacefully but surprisingly quickly. And as much I enjoyed feeding only myself and sleeping through the night and of course soaking in as much sunshine by the sea, I also smiled at every sandy diaper bottom I passed, said "would you like me to take one of all of you" to numerous families attempting selfies and knew I was ready to get back to my own babies. What a gift my parents gave us, keeping them busy and distracted and spoiled with love so I could enjoy this break, miss them but not worry about them (much). Our travel day home was probably nothing like the marathon we have coming up but I couldn't help thinking "the kids are going to love this" (this being the Atlanta airport monorail, all the moving sidewalks, the escalators, and the free cookies in the amex lounge). Traveling always gives you the chance to see something new, gain a new perspective. And while traveling without kids may be easier, cheaper, quieter, more restful, less sweaty,  I can't wait to set out again next time with our three in tow!


  1. Breaks are important and I'm glad yours was in your favorite spot-the beach! After a week with your babies we might need a beach trip : ) We loved every minute xo

  2. How nice to get away with just you two! I enjoyed your mom's posts about their time with the kids and know they loved every minute. I cherish memories of summer visits with my grandparents AND when the grands came to Florida for time with us here. It is important to make those memories!! Thanks for sharing with us, Shannon!! xo

  3. I can't remember the last time I got to do any of that by myself and my kids are old enough to stay alone! I guess I probably got used to it never happening. Fair to say, my husband and I get out of town together fairly often so that's nice. But I would love to spend a day on the beach alone. Glad you go to do that; it does always put things into perspective.

  4. It seems as if you had just the right time away! I remember when our kids were little, it was so good for us and our marriage to be Mark and Lisa for a few days, rather than mommy and daddy. I heard you are having a birthday -- Happy birthday!

  5. Beautifully written! I am so happy you got to take this break. Your parents are amazing!

    Oh, and happy birthday, too!

  6. Looking up ... looking down. What terrific points of view, expressed so beautifully!
    I'm coming over here from your mom's Hodgepodge to 'meet' you; and delighted to have taken her suggestion. I love your candor and can't wait to follow along the next chapter in your lives.

  7. I am so glad your mom suggested we treat ourselves to your blog today and to wish you a very Happy Birthday while here. By the way, I am Mary Beth's grandmother and am so glad I had a hand in getting you two together. She absolutely loves your family. May this be a great day for you.

  8. Beautiful post, well-written and encouraging us all to take the care of ourselves that makes us better for those who love us.

  9. Glad your parents were available for your tag along trip. I loved tag along trips when my husband was working. A little Southern lake gal told us it's your birthday this week! Happy birthday to you!!

  10. This sounds like such a wonderful break! Just stopping over from your mom's blog to say Happy Birthday! :)


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