Monday, July 18, 2011

growing into my expecations

A year-and-a-half ago I purchased a new camera.

I felt like I had sufficiently outgrown the one I had and I was ready to take the leap to the beautiful "full frame" camera I had deliberated endlessly over and saved up for.

With my purchase came some high expectations.

I envisioned the images that new thing would produce: they would be breathtaking, just like the ones I saw on the Internet.

When the new camera finally arrived I pulled it out with baited breath. It was a beauty (even though it didn't come with one of those beautiful gold Nikon boxes I love :) I immediately started shooting with confidence.

You see, in my mind, there was no effort involved on my part in making the camera switch. I was quite confident that the new technology would magically shift me over into the realm of out-of-this-world photography.

To my surprise, the first pictures I downloaded weren't anything fancy. My second batch wasn't so hot either...nor was my thirteenth.

For some reason the crisp clarity wasn't miraculously making it's grand debut.

I gradually realized that I was going to have to really work with this thing.

But of course, since I love photography so much I was willing to put in the hours it took to get on the right path. I'm still climbing that learning curve every time I take it out. I ask other photographers questions, I sometimes watch tutorials, I even venture to pull out the instruction manual from time to time (I have an instruction-manual-phobia because they are so overwhelming to me).

But again, for the love of my hobby I'm up for the challenge. I learn new things all the time and build on the base I have. The learning curve doesn't go away. There is always something new to reach for and it's ok that it's hard and overwhelming at times, because I love it.

I thought about this little scenario a bunch this week as another example of "growing into my expectations" came up.

I needed to leave Bear Lake (where we have been for a couple weeks) to go pick up Max and Elle from some camps they attended at BYU. (MUCH more on that later.)

I decided to bring all three of my younger girls along for the 4-hour drive (each way) despite the offers from family that they would take care of them here because 1) I kinda missed them. I don't get to hang with them as much as I want up here because they are so occupied with their great cousins...which I'm thankful for but I DO miss my kids sometimes, and 2) quite simply put, I pridefully wanted to prove Dave wrong that Lucy can't do road trips. (She and I have been flying to any family trips the last couple years because she has been awful on the road in the past. She has a free companion pass with me on Southwest and it saves Dave's sanity not to have her in the car. As much as I love to fly and get places quick I miss family road trips. Dave and I have been in the midst of an ongoing disagreement as to whether she is ready for them again.)

As we pulled out from the lake I felt empowered...kinda like I did when that new camera box came in the mail. I could do this. It would be a cinch. And it was...for a little while. Lu was an angel.

We stopped to take in the scenery:

I told the girls all my best Bear Lake memories to which they listened in rapture.

We visited my aging Grandmother (who wouldn't let me take a picture of her but here's her house):

We picked up a cousin along the way.

We had some really nice discussions and played our car "question game."

Things were going smoothly.

But gradually it started to emerge: Lucy's skillful whine.

That whine shifted into a wail.

Which shifted gradually into the fingernails-on-a-chalkboard-reminiscent screech.

With each new dynamic that feisty girl added I realized I wasn't proving Dave wrong at all. Instead I was proving him precisely right. Lucy wasn't ready.

I wasn't giving up though. We got Elle and headed to the BYU library:
And then to the art museum.

I LOVE art (more about that here) and I'm always on the lookout for ways to help that love seep into my children. I envisioned us all examining the art quietly and respectfully. My expectations were that the girls would nod in accord as I explained why I liked this or that. They would have smiles stretched across their faces as they soaked in something their mother loved.

Instead, Lucy lagged behind us as we walked across campus. She threw a full-fledged fit in a breezeway where we were all forced to take a long, frustrating break while she wailed it out.

Instead of my vision of respectful reverence for the beauty of art we had this:
(Too bad I only thought to take out my camera when their boredom morphed into slap-stick laughing...I could have had some great shots of them sitting on those benches looking bored to tears.)

I was frustrated. For a little bit I wanted to kick myself for having had such high expectations.

But as the uncontrollable giggling came out I realized something:

My expectations were far from too grand...they were wonderful. High expectations are the only way to arrive at that place we yearn to be some day in life.

But I realized that in my mind, just like when I got my new camera, I had thought there would be no effort in our little road trip.

I thought it would be easy to prove that Lucy was a road-trip-angel just like I thought it would be easy as pie to take masterful pictures.

But in reality the best things in life come after working hard on them. Not that we haven't worked our little hearts out with Lucy for the last few years, but just like I'm always figuring out new photography tidbits along the way, even more so as a mother I have to continually strive to re-evaluate how we are doing things. I have to have my mind open to new tactics along the way. Poor Lucy is so off schedule. We've been in and out of town all summer. She's four. And she's naturally as stubborn as an ox (which I'm convinced that although it proves to be incredibly frustrating at times, it is going to help her so much in life). In all reality she had every right to be grumpy.

Sometimes I have to remind myself of my favorite saying my wise mother says: "Life is Long."

Some day we will take road trips again as a family.

Some day down the road, if I work at it and take baby steps I will probably be standing in some art museum with all my children ooooo'ing and ahhhhhhh'ing about the majesty of how artists portray what they do.

Some day I'm sure a lot of my grand expectations will come to fruition.

Some of them I will most probably realize weren't really the right expectations in the first place.

It may take years or decades to reach the worthy-to-reach-for ones. And the majority of them most certainly won't come without work.

But if I continually, prayerfully re-make and realign how I deal with things as a mother, they will come.

And the reward will be that much sweeter.

On the way home the girls and I came up with some new ways to deal with Lucy. We implemented some creative rewards. We slowed down. Although our efforts didn't miraculously work wonders, we took some steps.

I realigned.

I changed, not her.

It's all about sticking with it and enjoying the journey along the way.
Even if "the way" happens to have a whole bunch of work involved.
I'm sure grateful to have these kids along for the ride.

Along with my husband who really is {almost} always right.

I should know better than to try to prove him wrong :)


  1. Thank you for this! Such a good reminder. I agree it takes work to make "fun" things fun!! I learned this when we tried to take our 3 young children ice fishing! I thought it would be such an was, but more with complaining and whining. :) I think there are even higher expectaions for the parents than the kids in order to make outings a good time!! They don't just happen. They "happen" when the parents have patience and work, like you said, to make it a great time!! Thanks again.

  2. Wow, thanks for these thoughts, Shawni. I must have needed this today because for some reason your words brought tears to my eyes. I definitely have those high expectations for my kids, my life, everything. It seems like reality grinds me to a halt again and again, and sometimes it's hard to pick back up and set those goals all over again. But I love that affirmation, we NEED to set our sights high. Life is long, what a great quote. Love to hear your thoughts, keep 'em coming!

  3. Very wisely spoken words.
    For some reason I thought Lucy was older, don't know why. At 4 years old, I don't know many children who would cooperate for a 1 or 2 hour road trip much less 4, so...sorry, I'm going to have to agree with your husband on that one. My children NEVER cooperated on road trips at that age. Come to think of it, we can't drive even 10 minutes to church without having some kind of situation. That's why we don't go anywhere:)
    There's absolutely nothing wrong with high expectations as long as we don't impose them on others....I read that in a book or heard it in a movie somewhere, but it seems to fit in nicely in this case.

  4. This was SUCH a wonderful post! My son just received Connect 4 for his birthday and yesterday I envisioned a fun family activity of us all playing and having SUCH a fabulous time! Instead, my daughter was climbing on the table because she "couldn't reach" (tablecloth sliding everywhere!) son was having a hard time learning to follow the son and daughter would bicker over who could "dump" the checkers at the end of each game...and my husband was increasingly aggravated with the whole ordeal...

    Where I go wrong is wondering when to play again after such frustration! I need to just remind myself that everything in life takes practice and this was "Family Connect 4-Take ONE" and instead of "cancelling the show"...we've got to keep on practicing and learning together. It can only get BETTER with practice! :)

  5. Your issues with Lucy in the car remind me of a trip I took by myself with my four children driving from Oregon to Utah. My youngest at the time was 2 or 3 and she screemed all the way to and from Utah. What a frustrating trip! I thought the other kids were going to hang her by her toes before we were done. Come to find out she was very, very farsighted and was car sick. She did fine around town but if we were in the car very long we gave her a motion sickness pill. The medicine and glasses did the trick. Just a thought. Thank you for sharing such great posts!

  6. Oh how I love this post! Thank you for the reminder that the most worthwhile things require high expectations and lots of work, and that they are totally worth it! Your family is truly an inspiration.

  7. I like when you mentioned that you had to change not her. My oldest girl who is 3 has always been very sensitive (to sound, crowds, change). I always have these high expectations to have so much fun where ever we go and it usually turns into total meltdowns. I've finally come to realize I need to love her no matter her personality and change my own attitude, but it is always a work in progress. :)

  8. I loved reading this stuff! We may never have gotten around to really talking about this even though we are presently "living together". Such good wisdom! Someday Lucy will be ready...

  9. I don't know how I stumbled across your blog, but I have been reading it for a while now.

    I love your blog because I feel like it is a very real and accurate portrayal of family life. Often I hear moms only talk about the hard times. As real as those might be, sometimes hearing those "real" moments can be discouraging. I am single, and a member of the church (LDS), and I absolutely love my life. I try to have righteous desires for a future family while enjoying my current situation, but sometimes it is hard when I only hear the venting, it can be overwhelming to think about that in the future. Peter Pan syndrome!? Yes.

    SO... basically, thanks for being real. And positive. I do want a family someday, and I know it will be hard, but worth it!

  10. Love this post. Very good to remember. And really, your photography may not look grand to you but I try not to beat myself up that my pictures NEVER look like yours! They are so good - you capture life, nature, and your family so beautifully. I'm glad you took the road trip. It makes for great memories. It's good to stretch ourselves, make our children uncomfortable sometimes, and to remember that nothing worth anything is too easy. Thanks for a great post.

  11. I have read only 3 of your posts, and have fallen completely head over heels for your sweet angel Lucy. Your whole family looks absolutely lovely. And I wish you the best.

  12. Thanks for the perspective - as always. In terms of photography, it was so great to hear that it does take practice and hard work. I had asked you about your lens awhile back (thanks for the Q&A) and I've since purchased it. Although I love it, it has been so frustrating to get great shots. A great reminder that I have to keep learning and practicing.

    On a separate note, I took my daugthers to NYC this past weekend and we saw you in the commercials playing on the taxi tv's (my daughters recognized you from me reading your blog). Did you know you are featured in the back of NYC taxi cabs?! Fun!

  13. AH! I can really relate to this post. Firstly because I also got a new camera back in February and have been frustrated "learning" about it when I don't have the time to dedicate to it & am turning out crummy pictures in the mean time and secondly, because we just got back from a trip to upstate NY to visit some church history sites which I was sure would be a wonderful spiritual experience for my kids but mostly consisted of them throwing rocks in the Susquehanna river (during a baptism no less) and tromping through the sacred grove begging to go back to the hotel pool. I guess we keep trying and one day they'll get it :)

  14. I enjoy your blog so much. It is very uplifting, but real at the same time. I so appreciate your "realness".

  15. Shawni, you are a word artist. Thank you for sharing this insight so beautifully.

  16. wonderful post Shawni- thanks for sharing.

    And I have a question- where did you get your white bookshelf in your front room (the piano room)? I love it.

  17. I have been reading your blog since I found out you were young mother of the year. I love your words. You inspire me on my own journey of motherhood. I have a 3 1/2 year old son that tests my patience in many ways that it sounds like Lucy tests yours. Reading about how you handle certain situations has helped me in so many ways. He goes to preschool like Lucy (I think I live in the same school district as you), and we are both looking forward to the routine it brings to his life. So thank you for writing. I have a question for you too...How do you save, store, and back-up all of your pictures on your computer? Do you print any up, make photobooks, etc.?


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