Christmas Card Update 2020

The mother of all years! A big one for many. It’s difficult to find silver linings amid a pandemic (or “pandamic” as Wes innocently calls it, and I don’t correct him!), but we have a few things to share since I never really had the interest to blog in 2020.

Steven‘s office has been closed since March, and there aren’t immediate plans to open, so he worked from home for several months before going into a still-empty office building. Given the increased number of webinars he’s either presenting or moderating, it’s been easier for him to hold down the fort at Bloomerang while we conduct virtual school at home.

HE WROTE A BOOK. Oh my goodness, yes! It’s probably the biggest news of our year — or maybe lifetime. “Robots Make Bad Fundraisers” is a culmination of (both of our) experiences in not-for-profit fundraising, Steven’s past blog posts and conference sessions. It’s amazing work, and he deserves all the credit he’s received!

Wes helped design the cover artwork.

Wesley, 9, started third grade as a virtual learner, and while not ideal, we’ve made the best of it. As of 2 weeks ago, the rest of the school district joined him for mandatory e-learning until mid-January (at least). Taekwondo is on indefinite hold, but he’s remained active by running around with his fellow masked neighborhood friends. Wes enjoys reading comic books, building creations with blocks and LEGOs, playing anything with Maisie, and solving RPGs with Steven. He still wishes to be an artist when he grows up. Wes looks much older now that he has a new set of braces on his teeth — and Steven got a matching set of his own a few weeks ago!

Maisie, 2, is speaking nearly in sentences these days. She still jabbers and makes up her own words to replace those she can’t say or doesn’t know, but we understand about 80 percent of what comes out of her mouth. This is a big change since just a month ago. Maisie, a nurturer, enjoys taking care of dolls, and our dog, Lucy. Lately we find Baby Jesus from various nativities and puzzles in random places because she loves to carry him around or stuff him in pockets. Her hair is finally growing in, and on days she lets me, I can round up enough hair to make the smallest pony tails.

Jake, our old Italian Greyhound, died in February. His death was hardest on Lucy, who loved that dog more than any of us! She spent a few lonely, depressed weeks sulking around the house, and then the stay-at-home order was mandated. She’s been happy ever since! We have spoiled her terribly with table scraps, mid-day walks, and furniture naps.

In August I left my part-time WFH job to better assist Wesley’s at-home learning. His teacher is phenomenal and deserves a major pay raise for instructing 56 8- and 9-year-olds online every day! Admittedly it was initially difficult for me to adjust to “just mom” status, but I’ve better grown into the role. Some days Maisie and I have lots of craft and play time during Wesley’s Zoom classes. Sometimes I squeeze in a workout. Maybe I’ll even clean something other than laundry or dishes. Most days are free from computer issues or napless afternoons, but we do have those, too.

Honestly, the kids have been SO GOOD and resilient during this chaos. They’ve managed to find joy in each other and play well together. They love being “stuck at home” with their sibling, which I know is a super blessing! Yes, there’s issues with sharing toys and honoring each other’s space, but the tears have been minimum. The age gap between them makes a big difference. (We’ll see how long this lasts through the winter, however.)

Summer plans to visit Cape Cod were obviously canceled; instead we took a road trip west to the Badlands, Devil’s Tower, and Black Hills. To break up long hours in the car, Steven surprised us with stops at famous movie sets along the way. Truly, it was one of our best vacations yet!

Like most others, we’ve spent the majority of our quarantine year outside. Once we felt comfortable enough to do so, we have hiked various trails, biked further from home than ever before, met more neighbors, and hosted porch visits with my parents. The porch is freshly painted, and the paver walkway is no longer crooked. There are multiple new flower beds and shrubs in our yard from my increasing interest in gardening. (I may regret it next year!)

I miss having people over — like, inside our house, without masks. Birthdays, Thanksgiving, and upcoming Christmas holidays are weird and lonely over Zoom. I can’t wait to rejoin our YMCA and regularly attend classes and swim with the kids. Hugging my sister.

Wishing you a better year, whatever that may look like, and especially JOY during these anticipated holiday weeks. Take care of yourself, make smart, healthy decisions, and please stay safe!

XOXO, Leah and Team

Posted: December 8th, 2020
Categories: Leah
Comments: No Comments.

Favorite Things: Coronavirus Edition

My asthma has been flaring up, likely from anxiety about spread of COVID-19. There are moments I have to remind myself that I have no fever or other symptoms, and the people in my direct contact are indeed safe.

The pandemic has caused many of us return to the things we tried to give up for lent: nail biting, screen time or alcohol. (My finger nails are a hot mess!) Our house has had a few tensions like any one else’s, but we haven’t gotten it all wrong.

Wes and I have been practicing gratitude by sharing each night for the last year or so one thing in which we’re grateful. Recently his answers have brought me to tears and laughter, and it occurred to me that I haven’t shared a “favorite things” post in a while.

Here’s a few random things that we enjoy and use, and perhaps one of them may bring a needed smile to your face, too.


<<Newest Discoveries>>

We discovered this funny app a few weeks ago. You post on an imaginary social platform, and thousands of bots “like” and comment with ridiculous replies. It has made us giggle and scratch our heads! (Fair warning, though, I haven’t yet found a language filter.)

UNICEF Kids Power Band
Wes mentioned that he misses going to his specials during the school closure – particularly Dance & Drama, where his classmates complete group exercises to “unlock” opportunities to send high-protein food packets to malnourished children through UNICEF. It sounded cool to me, too, and I researched their family fitness program, snagged a couple activity trackers on eBay, and now we’re competing against each other for highest number of daily steps. In a week, we’ve been active enough to “earn” a dozen therapeutic food packets sent to kids who need it most.

Loog Guitar
Wes received a 3-string acoustic guitar by Loog for Christmas, but he’s been intimidated to try it until now. It helps kids learn fingering and strumming in a simpler way than with a standard 6-string guitar, and the company makes chord flash cards and a cool app to keep players engaged. For at-home “Music Class,” he is slowly learning how to play, though he says it hurts his fingers. (I remember those days!) It’s been fun to have an excuse to dust off my old guitar and play with him, too.

Practicing A minor

There are hundreds of homeschooling resources available and many lists of suggested activities floating around. We’re excited about Wesley’s upcoming virtual classes on Outschool – PokéPlants: An Introduction to Plants (and Fungi) using Pokémon! and Zelda and World Mythology. Depending on how these go, we may sign up for a few more during the next six weeks.


<<Baby Favorites>>

Cloth Diapers
We’re a part-time cloth diapering family, but now that we’re at home for the foreseeable future, the diapers are getting even more use. I used a variety of cloth diapers for Wesley’s first year and wrote a blog post on the experience, and this time around, we opted for cheaper ones. I’ve been really pleased with Best Bottom Diapers (similar to the more expensive GroVia) for their simple button inserts and reusable cover. We also have a handful of Alva Baby pocket diapers (bought on Amazon), and they’re just as good as the more expensive brands.

One more suggestion: invest in some Rockin Green detergent, and add Bac Out for eliminating the ammonia stinkies! I pour in about 1/4 cup in the pre-wash cycle.

Baby Signing Time
Still love this series a second time around, and nearly 10 years later! Maisie appreciates that we know what she’s referring to and can communicate effectively with us. While she does babble and “talk” quite often around us, she only says between 10-20 words. However, she can sign more than 50.

The songs are generally catchy and minimally annoying, and even Wes likes to watch one of the four 20-minute episodes with Maisie. We never did get much further than Rachel and the TreeSchoolers, which is another quality educational program from this company, though I know Signing Time is well-known and popular.

Signing “water” while in the bathtub

When Wes was a toddler, we didn’t worry about him falling down the stairs, because the only steps were to the basement, blocked by a door. He also wasn’t interested in moving from Point A to Point B, unlike Maisie, who has already boinked her head more times than we can count.

In this house, we have a prominent staircase with a bannister on one side and a wall with crown molding at railing height on the other. It has made for a challenge in finding the right baby gate to keep Maisie downstairs. I finally found it, though: a removable, retractable gate that can attach at an angle. It’s pricey at $120 – and accessories may be required to attach like on our stairwell. But with all the perks included, so far it’s worth the cost.

OneKid Road Coat
During Maisie’s first winter, my mom got her a unique snow suit with an inner zipper that accommodates a seat belt harness in a much safer way than a regular snow suit or coat. This winter she used a second-hand coat found at a consignment sale, and once washed, the stuffing from the arms gathered in the shoulders and made her look truly beefy. It’s been such a pain to strap her in the car, and I’m sure it’s not safe.

I recently purchased a “transition coat” for less chilly weather from OneKid, the same company as the cool snow suit with the same inner zipper. Granted, we haven’t been traveling in the car too much lately, but getting her in and out has been a huge improvement over her bulky winter coat. I like it so well that she now has a down-filled version for next winter!

Notice the rad unicorn design!


<<Current Necessities>>

Moodstruck Lip Exfoliator
Cold weather may be heading out, but my skin is still so very dry, including my poor chapped lips. This Younique purchase was a splurge, but it’s one of the best things I’ve tried. You don’t know how much you needed a lip exfoliator, seriously.

AYR Saline Nasal Gel
Ugh, crusty noses are the worst. My mom introduced me to this stuff a few seasons ago, and it’s great for the kids as well as my own allergies. If you have dry skin around the nose, or it’s stuffy or runny, try it and be impressed.

Cetaphil DailyAdvance Lotion
Speaking of dry skin, I’ve been washing my hands so often throughout the day that they’re in bad shape. One of my friends asked for lotion suggestions on a Twitter feed, and I mentioned Cetaphil’s line of products. I figure it’s good enough to mention here, too, because it’s become a necessity around our house.

DIY Lysol Imitators
I’ve made my own floor cleaner since my weird MRSA infection last summer because I had trouble finding products that could kill the bacteria. Given the current demand for cleaning products, I’ve been making additional batches of disinfectants. Here are my recipes for floor cleaner and household spray.

Disinfectant Floor Cleaner:
– 1-2 gallon(s) hot water
– 1 cup white vinegar
– 1 cup rubbing alcohol (optional)
– 1 tsp blue dish soap (optional)
– 10 drops tea tree oil
– 10 drops sweet orange oil

Disinfectant Household Spray:
In a 16 oz glass spray bottle, combine (and shake):
– 12 oz rubbing alcohol (or nearly to the top of the bottle)
– 1/2 tsp hydrogen peroxide
– 30 drops tea tree oil
– 15 drops each of oils: eucalyptus, lavender, lemon


We’ve found that spending at least 15 minutes outside each day, regardless of the weather, has also brightened our moods. Today was nice enough to take a family bike ride around the neighborhood – and we were far from the only ones with the idea.

I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad

Stay safe, healthy and smart out there!

Posted: March 25th, 2020
Categories: Leah
Tags: , , ,
Comments: No Comments.


I knew his heart was working too hard. After several days of rapid breathing, coughing and appetite loss, the veterinarian confirmed what we suspected: Jake wasn’t able to survive congestive heart failure. We made the decision to elect for a peaceful, painless goodbye earlier this week.

Our first drive together, just after we picked him up from Indiana IG Rescue.

The snow was pretty outside. The vet staff was wonderful in every way – they even sent flowers later in the afternoon. Steven and countless others were supportive, present and comforting.

Our last drive together, sitting in the animal clinic parking lot.

Jake was my first dog, my first big decision as a single gal. He has been my snuggling companion through thick and thin. He was with me through dating Steven, marrying him and the birth of our two kids. Fourteen years.

I’ve already given Jake a proper background story and feature on this blog, back when I thought we might have to re-home our dogs pending Wesley’s allergy diagnosis. (I’m incredibly grateful that he was with us until the very end.) And frankly, I don’t have the emotional energy to write a witty pet obituary, like when we briefly had our beta fish, Lord Jabu Jabu.

But he deserves this reflection to show my gratitude for the quirky little 10-pound Italian Greyhound he was. Jake, I loved you. I will miss you.

Posted: February 27th, 2020
Categories: Leah
Tags: , ,
Comments: No Comments.

The Tardy Christmas Letter

You guys. I’m sorry. I have ideas for blog topics that come to me on occasion, though I procrastinate from sitting down to type long enough that the idea floats away until weeks later when it doesn’t seem as relevant. Merry Christmas from a rotten blogger!

The 2019 Shattuck Christmas card design was Wesley’s idea because we got in this face swap streak… and the idea stuck. I went with it, for all the horror!

Noting its creep factor, I made sure to add a few real photos on the back so that you could just face it out on your fridge and not know any difference. You’re welcome?

It seems like this season of our lives is pretty slow, and maybe not worthy of a monthly post, like, written pretty faithfully until Maisie’s birth. But I guess there’s enough that has happened to catch you up.

Steven has spent the better part of a year writing a book on nonprofit fundraising(!). It’s nearly finished and due to publish early spring. He has written a couple chapters in fundraising textbooks, but this is his first solo project. I’m excited for him; it’s been fun to see some of our candid conversations about not-for-profit work turn into published advice.

He and Wes continue to bond over their own things and hobbies: chess, RPGs, tennis. Maisie adores the attention from him, squealing at their made-up games and begging for another book to be read. And he shows his pride in me through surprises like flowers and hazelnut lattes, household chores like dishes and laundry, and has even tagged along with me to Broadway shows, Hamilton and The Band’s Visit, which is not his favorite pasttime.

Wesley, 8, has decided that now is a good time to “start acting like a big kid.” He’s been better about trying new foods, taking responsibility and ownership around the house, and though he’s had some ups and downs in second grade, he’s improved his behavior, participation and academic performance. Wes continues to practice Taekwondo, earning his brown belt and senior status in December. We credit so much of his overall maturity to Taekwondo’s focus on respect, honesty and self-control.

He loves graphic novels (besides Dog Man, check out Bone, Action Bible and Usborne Graphic Legends) and independent reading, though recently we’ve restarted reading aloud at bedtime, which is one of our favorite things (currently reading: Max Einstein). Wes fiercely loves his little sister, and his generous heart grows bigger every day.

Maisie, nearly 18 months, provides tons of joy in our family. She is sweet, playful, ornery and goofy. Our shier kid, it takes her a few minutes to warm up to a new person or situation. But once she feels comfortable, she babbles a mile a minute and finds the nearest ball or baby doll. She prefers sign language over words, unless talking about “ooo-eh” (Wes) or “da-eee” (Daddy).

If she’s not fighting yet another sinus infection, she’s sleeping so much better than before – and now in her new room, the former guest bedroom. Because she was waking so often, we decided to go ahead and purchase her twin bedroom set so that I can sleep near her crib when needed. (Did you know that quality, classic white bedroom furniture is amazingly difficult to find these days? I finally stumbled across local Decor 4 Kids.)

I have spread my wings into this WAHM role. It’s been fluid and evolving. When Maisie was tiny, it was easier to take on a few projects at a time. As she grew and needed more of my time, I wrestled with balance. In November I resigned from The Milk Bank, and Wes started riding the school bus home. This has allowed us to have flexible mornings and free afternoons for her naps. She’s such a great partner in this chapter: we read, color, sing and dance, run errands, work out at the YMCA, and fellowship with other moms and kids (our family has connected to both the Midtown and Northeast campuses of Common Ground).

While she naps, I squeeze in an assignment for Andromeda, a tech start-up with an all-remote staff. I’ve been doing a small amount of marketing work for them since late 2018 – applying for awards and seed funds, creating marketing plans – and the “work as much as you want, when/wherever you want” workplace is perfect for me.

Honestly I don’t have to work at all, but it’s hard to let go entirely. And I feel like I’ve been releasing the hold gradually throughout 2019. This is the least I can possibly maintain to have the best of both worlds, and for now, it’s good.

I believe in prayer and patience. Many of my posts over the years have been about community and my longing for fellowship. My hope for peace. I don’t have a personal resolution for 2020, but maybe that’s because I’m so grateful for the journey to today, and for once, I’m not afraid of what’s ahead.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

Wishing you peace, health and a successful year.

P.S. Christmas was “awesome,” as per Wes. It was a good lesson on patience, as many of our extended family members were sick with the flu, but thankfully we had unusual 60-degree weather to keep us occupied until they were out of quarantine!

Posted: February 9th, 2020
Categories: Leah
Tags: ,
Comments: No Comments.

WAHM: How to survive

Finding the time to blog is no easy feat. There are dozens of things I either need to or would rather do when I find myself with 15 or more minutes of personal time.

I’ve been working from home for the last several months, averaging about 10 hours a week. Is it worth it? So far, yes. I work with some truly understanding people who want to make this partnership work. It’s wonderful to keep my feet in the water without submerging. The flexibility is appealing, though I’ve had to be okay with unstructured days.

“Home office”

If you’re going to make it as a part-time work-at-home-mom with a toddler* who would prefer to be touching you all the time, here are a few pro tips:

1) Don’t work in your pjs all day.
Even if I’m cranking out productivity from 8-11, I feel gross and unaccomplished if I haven’t showered by lunch time. On days when Maisie takes a morning nap, I’m able to get ready right after she’s down; on the rougher, no-nap days, she explores the bathroom while I get ready (and I don’t get much done).

2) Schedule a few in-person meetings.
I have several dry shampoo and no make-up days, but it’s nice to attend a meeting every now and then with other people. It forces me to put in a little extra effort in being presentable. Maisie usually comes with me, and it’s good to get her out of the house, too.

3) Find atypical places to make an office.
I’ve made phone and web calls at restaurants, enjoyed the front porch while updating websites and crafted social media posts while parked (with a sleeping kiddo in the car seat) in my garage or in a Starbucks lot. Who needs a home office?!

4) Make a hard stop time.
Before the school year restarted* I had to find ways to entertain an 8-year-old* and baby. In the mornings I worked while Wes read, played Prodigy, a cool math RPG, or similar reading software, and until Maisie was up from her nap. Then we headed to museums, parks or the YMCA pool. Now it’s easy: I have to leave the house by a certain time to pick him up from school. I try not to work again until after bedtime because afternoons with the kids are fantastic.

5) Set aside 30 minutes for household chores.
Yes, the house isn’t as clean as I’d like*, but it’s acceptable. If I can find a handful of minutes to switch out the laundry, load the dishwasher and tidy up, it makes a difference. Some people focus on one room a day to clean it well; I don’t yet have that down. I still use Saturdays for bathrooms, dusting and other bigger tasks. And when I want to tackle a house or garden project*, I build it into the weekly schedule.

6) Don’t beat yourself up.
There have been plenty of planned work days led astray, and I just had to be there for the family. Maisie has had big developmental leaps* over the summer — we’re in the middle of one now — and she struggles a lot: fighting sleep, frustrated crying, refusing food. I want to pull my hair out and can’t focus on work, so I push “pause” until it makes sense to try again.

7) Take time off.
Though I spend the bulk of my time at home, I still deserve a vacation. In May we visited the U.S. Space and Rocket Center* in Huntsville, Alabama, and we celebrated Independence Day in St. Louis*.

Footnotes / Summer Updates:
*How is little Maisie one year old? She has given us so much to be thankful for. And my goodness, what emotions and lifestyle changes, too. See her monthly photos from Year 1 here.

*(4)(1) Wesley is now a second grader! The school year started August 1, which seems early, but I appreciate the shift back into routine.

*(4)(2) Similar to the day he was born, Wesley’s birthday party day was too hot to host his field day-themed party in our back yard as planned. We made it work by renting an indoor field! He’s such a fun kid, and so was the celebration.

*(5)(1) Somehow I got MRSA staph infection(s) IN MY ARMPIT in July. Twice. One giant, painful boil was cut open to drain, and I broke out into full-body allergic hives from the antibiotics to kill the infection. I’ve been told the boil(s) likely formed from nicking myself shaving, and that I could have picked up the antibiotic-resistant bacteria anywhere. The surfaces in my house have never been so clean, and I’m never using razors again. (I’m also washing weekly in surgery-prep soap and tea tree oil in between. Possibly overkill?)

*(5)(2) Our house project list has slowed way down, though we do an occasional thing. Steven is installing ceiling fans and researching built-in bookshelves. We moved some furniture around. And ignoring the weeds, my dying arborvitae (thankfully Sugar Creek Tree Care is helping to revive them!) and the torn-up mess Lucy made in one of the flower beds, I’ve been dreaming of outdoor updates. We planted a Bloodgood Japanese Maple tree for Maisie’s first birthday as a companion to Wesley’s oak tree. And while at it, I planted hibiscus for our 12th anniversary. I’m now embarking on straightening the pavers that have settled over the years on our brick walkway.

*(6) Maisie’s fussiness pattern is as predictable as a textbook when she’s working on a “Wonder Weeks” leap of skills. She’s as sweet as they come, but she is cranky for several weeks until mastering something new. At 12 months she is:
– Babbling “Hi-ye” / “Uh oh” / “Momomom” / “Dadada” / “Whoa” / “Dis”
– Fascinated with eyelashes, ceiling fans, spalshing water
– Eating all the green beans, whole milk
– Growling at the dogs and waving “night-night”
– Cruising along furniture, almost standing and walking with assistance

*(7)(1) This was our best family trip yet, and it fell over my birthday and Mother’s Day. The kids did great in the car (audio books for the win!) and slept well in hotels. The space museum is fantastic: lots to do, including rides, not crowded, cool models and equipment. We found a local diner for real fried chicken and pecan pie before going home.

*(7)(2) I can’t believe I hadn’t been to St. Louis until now. The city is packed with family activities! We loooooved The City Museum, which was the reason for our trip. A patriotic parade, fireworks and an air show by the Gateway Arch made it a Fourth to remember.

And if you’re still reading this and need more Shattuck updates, here’s a video of our summer moments:

Posted: August 23rd, 2019
Categories: Leah
Tags: , , , , , , ,
Comments: No Comments.

We Are Okay

If it seems quiet over here, you can catch a few posts I’ve written on milk banking and breast pumps, but yeah, we’re still around.

May the Fourth Star Wars fundraiser event

I’m a terrible cold season survivor, and life’s everyday decisions seem SO MUCH HARDER when the sun is hiding. But we’ve managed to find joy among them!

If I look back at my January resolutions, I cringe a little. Work/life balance is a struggle, and it’s especially hard to transition to part-time work and then to part-time work-from-home work. Teetering between priorities, that old friend, guilt, hovers and lingers.

I said I’d say “no” more often. So difficult for a “yes” person who only wants to be helpful and avoid conflict. But, after a few tough situations, I am learning to dig in my heels and do what’s best for my family.

Maisie’s baby dedication Sunday

With so many changes and adjustments in 2018, I needed to find community and accountability. We started regularly attending a different church in October, and like any new environment, it’s taken a while to settle in. However, with my flexible schedule, I’ve been able to be a part of a mother’s group within the church, which is refreshing and encouraging. And I can’t say enough about our neighborhood. It’s wonderful to have friends down the street who look after you so well.

Date night shenanigans

How’s Steven? These days he’s grateful to open the windows and turn off the heat. He secretly loves cold, dark weather and is starting to complain about summer approaching, but for now, he likes the cooler evenings and spring air. He and Wes share a love of rain and thunderstorms, and they looooove watching Interstellar. I mean, it’s on nearly every Friday night. (Friday night is our sacred family time with homemade pizza, sometimes breadsticks and a movie past bedtime.) Steven is home from business travel for a while before more fundraising conferences start to pop up again.

How’s Wes? Well, first grade has been challenging. Not academically, no, but his friendly demeanor has gotten him into occasional trouble. He serves in a leadership role in his classroom, and he doesn’t like the responsibility. (We’ve had many discussions about Moses, the reluctant leader.)

He is quickly progressing in Taekwondo, and when he’s not too busy goofing off or tired, he is very good at his form and continues to get stronger. In fact, he just passed his promotion test the other day and now wears a light blue belt (white-> yellow-> orange-> light blue-> green-> purple-> brown-> red-> dark blue-> black).

He speaks top-notch Spanish, reads and spells at an advanced level, wants a career as an artist and loves his sister well.

How’s Maisie? The little nugget is petite, fair and charming. She was hitting milestones left and right until recently and seems to be in a comfortable rut. She can get around by spinning and pushing backwards, and sometimes she’ll get on all fours and rock, but no crawling yet.

She signs “milk” and “dog.” She loves solid foods (I still enjoy making baby food!) and is perfecting fine motor skills to pick up puffs and soft, melty baby crackers. She prefers to “comfort-nurse” instead of true breastfeeding, so I’ve been pumping-to-bottle more often and combating terrible milk blisters, blebs and clogged ducts.

Her pediatrician is watching her weight, but isn’t yet alarmed. She may have doubled her birth size, but she’s nearly half of gigantic, 8-month-old Wesley! Maisie’s new babble is “bop,” she discovered clapping, and she likes to drop items from a height. Her bright, sometimes goofy-looking smile features two front, bottom teeth.

What about the sleeping trouble? Regarding Maisie, it’s still challenging to get her to nap throughout the day, but she’s become a rock-solid night sleeper. She definitely parties hard before bedtime — eating a ton, nonstop wiggling and squealing — and then crashes.

Wes moans and groans about being left alone in the dark, but he’s better. Melatonin helps tremendously when needed, and I usually cuddle in with him under his bed tent until he gets sleepy enough that I can leave without protest.

I’m coming out through a wintery, end-of-rainy-season/tunnel, and we’re alright. We are okay. (Bring on the sunshine!)

Easter 2019

Posted: May 4th, 2019
Categories: Leah
Tags: , , , , ,
Comments: No Comments.

Enter Sandman

Exit light | Enter night
Take my hand |We’re off to never-never land

Dreaded Sleep. Everyone I live with is terrible at it. She may be cute as a peach, but Maisie is the worst at night, and daytime naps are a gamble. Wesley has “a scary imagination,” in his own words, which keeps him from resting peacefully. Some nights he’s up for two hours trying to settle himself into slumber. Steven is the lightest sleeper you’ve ever known, startling at any noise (ahem, my snores) and tossing around.

Every night I pray for stamina and endurance and to not get annoyed. I’ve adapted enough that either I 1) drift off quickly (and have one ear open) or 2) function enough on adrenaline to get by. But lately I feel like my life is spent trying to get these three people to sleep, and I’ve tried SO MANY PRODUCTS to survive aid us.

The Natural Baby Sleep Solution (fascinating and pretty accurate)
The Wonder Weeks (just as helpful as with Wesley!)

Angel Dear lovies (Wes named his “Didi” and so naturally that’s what Maisie will call hers)
Cloud B Twilight Turtle (Wes still sleeps with it at night)
Weighted blanket (A perfect Christmas present! Seems to work well!)
Nested Bean Zen Classic weighted swaddle
Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit (it’s helping, a little)

DreamTents bed tent (makes him feel cozy and safe)
Baby Einstein Sea Dreams Soother (seems to be more distracting than soothing)
Marpac Dohm sound machine (hands down the best)

RMO Counting Sheep essential oil roller (if nothing else, he smells good)
Lavender essential oil in a difuser
Nuby Soothing teething tablets
Melatonin (so far, this has helped Wes tremendously, but I am cautious about its regular use)

This list looks crazy long. While some things work for a time, the one thing that works every time is, well, time. And proximity. That is, every family member sleeps if they’re physically touching me.

We’re trying a secondary self-soothing technique for Maisie, since I can’t handle another night of crying-it-out. (Steven wins all the awards for his stubbornness. It’s because of ME that we’re even in this mess!) It involves fading – staying right by her side as she falls asleep and slowly moving further away each night. I haven’t yet made it past the crib because she loves holding my hand and trying to grab the hair that falls as I lean into her crib.

My aching back and nearly-numb limbs get a good stretch as I make my way back to our bedroom throughout the night – sometimes as many as four times.

And then there’s sweet Wesley, who hates to be alone, fears the dark and works himself up over strange outside noises. Steven helps get him ready for bed, and I’ll pop in to say goodnight after Maisie’s stable. Some nights it’s thirty minutes before I can calm her down, and I’ll later find Wes with a book and a flashlight.

“Mama, can you stay with me?”

He prefers that I crawl into his bed tent with his comforting lights and weighted blanket and stuffed animal friends and pray and talk until he gets drowsy. Some of the best conversations happen under that tent! I used to get so upset over his dependence; I now (usually) cherish this time.

After I’ve comforted the two kids, there’s hardly an evening left for me to enjoy. Many nights I don’t have the right attitude and grumble over the sacrifice. I sigh and complain and throw the bedcovers to the side. I pray with desperation and plead, “PLEEEEEEASE let us sleep tonight!”

Instead my focus should be praying for discernment. I recently heard a speaker share a few best practices for mothers. Turn my worries into prayers. “What do I do now?” becomes “Show me how to _____ “

This season will pass. Someday. My kids will likely never know how their concerned mother worried over their sleeping habits. I hope they only know how well we loved them.

[With wisdom and understanding] 24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. -Proverbs 3:24

Posted: February 27th, 2019
Categories: Leah
Tags: , , , ,
Comments: 2 Comments.

Intentional Living in 2019

This blog post was written for The Milk Bank, but I added it here, too.

It’s the time for resolutions. There is such a demand on mothers to be everything and more for yourself, your significant other, your kids. After the miraculous process of growing and then birthing a baby, moms are expected to achieve superhero status in home organization, child-rearing and physical activity.

There are also many “life or death” decisions on day cares and schools, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, discipline styles, natural foods and products. It’s often in January that we see women nearly burden themselves to get closer in achieving characteristics of Society’s Ideal Mother.

When my seven-year-old son was a baby, I made a few so-called “mom fails.”

My son at a chunky 4 months old.

My son at a chunky 4 months old.

FAIL 1: I only made it six months of breastfeeding and pumping. Though he was an extremely large baby (97th percentile for weight by 3 months old!), my milk dwindled because I hated pumping at work. It was awkward and cumbersome to sit against an unlocked door to the conference room and haul milk around.

FAIL 2: We used cloth diapers at home for the first year of his life. But once he entered daycare at age 1, we switched to disposables because of the center’s policies.

FAIL 3: I picked up my baby when he cried. I nursed him to sleep.

(There is nothing wrong with the above situations! Feeding, diapering and soothing every baby is different, and I am not endorsing any particular method.)

Though I may not have admitted it, these so-called “failures” made me feel guilty and inadequate. While intended for good, I had bought into ideals and made “resolutions” that, for our family’s situations, were bound to be broken. They were too specific and weren’t appropriate for us at the time.

My daughter, the newest office baby, at 4 months old.

My daughter, the newest office baby, at 4 months old.

Our surprise baby girl was born in August, and I’ve had the opportunity to do it all over again.

I’ve borrowed a term from one of my friends: Intentional Living. Rather than resolutions of hard-to-keep actions and to-do lists or goals, I’m intentionally seeking out behaviors that will form into habits and shape my little world – not society’s expectations – for the better.

Being Available
Making choices that free up my schedule for flexibility (i.e. saying “no” more often). Spending more time with my husband, kids and other loved ones.

One of the hardest decisions followed my recent maternity leave. I returned to a full-time career in which I loved with a two-week resignation notice. Until that moment I never anticipated I would become a stay- or work-at-home-mom (SAHM), but, because we intentionally sought out being more available for our family and friends, our daughter’s arrival created an opportunity for a career change.

Within a couple weeks of my SAHM status, I was offered a part-time position at The Milk Bank in which I could work a few hours at home and bring my daughter with me while in the office. It lined up perfectly with our family’s desires.

The staff has welcomed my daughter as a temporary coworker, knowing how important it is for breastfeeding mothers and infants to remain bonded and available to each other. They have supported us while trying to figure out naps during office hours, ignored her wailing and crying and haven’t flinched when needing to breastfeed in the middle of a meeting.

My adaptable environment and schedule allows me to, as another friend said, “flex my work muscle,” while being available for my family. I am able to use my skills and talents to assist a mission I support and in a time frame where I can be most productive. I can make time for dropping off lunch when my husband has forgotten it, picking up my son from school and watching my daughter hit developmental milestones.

Being Active and Generous
Making choices that engage my brain, body and heart to serve others. Speaking less, listening and doing more. Being kind and empathetic.

Now that my schedule is more open and available than it’s ever been, I have more time to be active and participatory. The baby and I volunteer in my son’s classroom a couple times each month, and I take home projects to help out his teachers. We’re looking into family service projects around our city.

My husband has set up recurring gifts to several organizations. It’s an easy way to financially support causes we believe in without the need to remember to pull out the checkbook. We find we’re more interested in the growth and activity of these organizations after we make an investment in their missions. We can serve more people in our communities by supporting organizations who already have their boots on the ground.

Because my time is precious, I’m not setting a specific book or exercise goal, but I realize the incredible value of continuing education and physical activity. I can learn about people unlike me and grow in understanding and empathy. I can build up strength to use my body for laborious work. For these reasons, I will intentionally stay active in 2019.


Being Authentic
Making choices that reflect my desires. Allowing myself to be vulnerable and teachable.

While trying to maintain a Perfect Mom image during my son’s infancy, I wasn’t being authentic. I’ve learned better the second time around, but there are still times where I catch myself in comparison to another mom. We’re so critical of ourselves and others.

Being authentic is the hardest of the three intentional behaviors for me to firmly establish. I am still learning to sift through unsolicited advice, standing firm and avoiding guilt or insecurity about our choices. We have a clear vision, so you’d think it wouldn’t be that hard to follow the path, right?

Turns out being transparent and vulnerable with others establishes respect and trust you wouldn’t believe. While sticking with my gut is important, I also want to avoid being stingy enough to shut out opportunities for maturity and understanding. There is much to learn and do.

While I’ve only had a few months’ practice in intentionally adapting these behaviors, I feel like I have more purpose in life. It’s fulfilling and redeeming enough to carry them with me into 2019. Not claiming to be perfect, it’s a daily choice and adjustment, and we don’t get it right every time. But I’ve learned not to dwell on shortcomings and to dust off my pants and try again. For me, it’s much easier to maintain behaviors than a dedicated, cut-and-dry resolution.

I encourage you to adopt an intentional behavior – or, if you’re already doing so, call it out and stick with it – if you haven’t yet made a New Year Resolution.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t lose 10 pounds or finish a project right away. You know yourself and your family better than anyone else. Sure, not every day will be peaches and rainbows, but your intentional behaviors can shape 2019 into a positive and healthy year. You’ve got this!

Posted: January 5th, 2019
Categories: Leah
Tags: ,
Comments: 1 Comment.

Life with Two Kids

There are lots of giggles. Juggling schedules. Adoration. Defiance. And adjustment.

Remember when I was going to be a stay-at-home mom? It lasted all of two weeks before I received my first contract requests, and for the last six weeks I’ve been working on a part-time basis for organizations and businesses. It’s wonderful. I get to use my skills, collaborate with others, bring in a small income and be available for Wes and Maisie.

Figuring out work time vs. feeding schedules, Maisie’s nap and school pick up has been the most challenging part, but we’re all starting to get used to the rhythm. Instead of evening workouts, I bring Maisie with me to morning classes. Whatever is on the agenda for a particular day has a hard stop time at 2 in order to make it to school, help with homework and get started on dinner, and then it’s nearly bedtime. I’ve had to become SUPER PRODUCTIVE during my precious morning and early afternoon hours. But look at this face! It’s worth it.

Wesley still thinks Maisie is the bee’s knees. Now that she’s nearly 4 months old and more responsive, he’s all the more eager to play with her.

“You’re such a sweetheart! I could love you forever and ever and ever!” (We took so many videos this day.)

Maisie practices using her giant hands, grabbing anything she can. She recently discovered she has feet, and it amuses her to kick her little legs. She’s a drool machine, though not teething yet. Her bibs and shirts are nearly always wet, her face and hands get chapped, and she has a stubborn drool rash under her chin that I can’t seem to get rid of. (What else should I try before heading to the pediatrician? Vaseline, Aquafor, Lotramin, coconut oil and neem oil haven’t yet done the trick.)

She fights sleep with everything she’s got. Sometimes it takes 1.5 hours of rocking, nursing and pacifier use to get her finally settled for the night. I still swaddle her, even though she tries to get her arms out. A flailing, loose arm and hand is dangerous – she whacks herself, and we start all over again. She can’t fight the magical swing for long when she’s sleepy, though. And once she’s asleep, she gives us 4-6 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night.

Everything she can grab goes into her mouth. Or she just look at it with her mouth open wide, drooling. She thinks sneezing is funny, her feet are ticklish, and she studies everything. She’s terrible at making eye contact when there’s so much to look at. However, Maisie reserves her biggest smiles when she has one-on-one time with someone: while changing a diaper or buckling her car seat belt.

When it’s just us or it’s relatively quiet, we hear her talk to us. “Ah ooooo!” “Uh uh uh.” “Hooooo!” And a series of grunts.

Maisie wants to “stand” whenever possible, so I wear her when I can (she prefers outfacing now), and she likes her Johnny Jump Up for about 10 minutes. While I’m working or preoccupied with my hands, she will tolerate the Bumbo seat while I finish up a recipe or wrap Christmas presents.

She isn’t rolling over yet, but she’s starting to move her hips and arch her back. Maisie gets lots of praises for small victories from her little cheering section.

As much as he loves her, Wes has struggled to find his place and position. It could be the change from Kindergarten to First Grade, or perhaps turning 7 flipped a switch. Steven and I have had to discipline Wes in a much stricter way than ever before, and it happened around the time of Maisie’s birth.

Defiance, back-talk, a “know-it-all” correcting attitude…our sweet kid is still sweet, but he has a sharper edge to him these days. Though when disciplined, he crumples with guilt. To find the balance, Steven recently re-enrolled him in Taekwondo (we took a hiatus once Maisie was born). Wes loves it, and he’s been able to channel his energy into a sport that teaches self control, obedience and respect. They also have their own father-son hobbies, which gives Wes a sense of exclusiveness and pride.

Additionally, we created a reward chart that compliments his usually good behavior but makes him more aware of the choices he makes. For example, he has to earn his right to watch a TV show after school, which is harder when docked points for bad behavior. It’s a love-hate relationship with the chart, but he has already come up with more reward options, “Monkey Joe’s! Pokemon cards!”

Steven and I take turns volunteering in his classroom. It’s been enlightening to see how he interacts with peers and teachers. Bias aside, he’s a smart kid who just needs a little direction to be a successful leader (and protective big brother). We’re so proud of him.

During advent, we’re reading stories about refugees and displacement, as Jesus and his family found refuge in Egypt. He seems particularly worried about families who have to be separated for any reason. He’s made a similar comment several times about his love for our immediate family.

“I just love my girls. If something ever happened to you or Maisie, I would be so, so sad and cry my eyes out.”

Being parents to TWO kids takes a lot more creativity and energy than anticipated, but wow, it’s good. Really good. Steven and I tag-team well. And being available for them in their unique needs has been such a fulfilling role for me.

Christmas is an exciting time, and I love spending these weeks of anticipation with my three favorite people.

Posted: December 7th, 2018
Categories: Leah
Tags: , , ,
Comments: No Comments.

Next Steps

My fingernails are the longest they’ve been since perhaps my wedding day. I’ve always had a nervous habit of fidgeting with my nails, and it got worse when I started playing guitar in high school because I bit down the nails on my left hand for easier fret fingering. Though I don’t play guitar much, I kept that nasty habit. But on maternity leave, I haven’t stress-bit hardly at all.

The last seven weeks have been filled with joy and adjustment. Wes continues to be helpful (“Mama, you already fed her on that side.”), and Steven has taken on or completed household projects every time I turn around.

I’ve developed some new skills as well:

  • Multitasking with one arm (while breastfeeding). I’m proud of my abilities to shuck corn, make dinner and set the table, feed the dogs, and yes, even use the bathroom while feeding Maisie. I don’t know why I don’t just use a carrier more often, which would make tasks that much easier!
  • Wearing spit up and sweatshirts. I notice these things while sitting in the parent pick up car line at Wesley’s school. I’ve also gotten good at configuring the best time to arrive at school with the least amount of idle waiting.
  • Reorganizing areas of the house. You should see my linen closet! Steven remarked on the Day of Kitchen Cabinets, “It’s like someone actually thought about where things should go.” I take that as a compliment.
  • Stocking the freezer. I’ve discovered how much I enjoy prepping freezer meals for a rainy day. We’ve eaten so well during the last couple months – starting with meals provided by friends the first weeks, and now with these Shattuck family-approved make-ahead meals (many of which are crockpot simple!).
  • Sorting clothes. Gone are the snug-fitting shirts and pants in Wesley’s closet. Maisie has a solid wardrobe for her first 9 months, all organized by size and season. I’ve also gotten good at dropping off bags of donated clothes to various places!
  • (Not) Looking sleep-deprived. Maisie is pretty good at sleeping once she finally gives in, but she can fight it for hours. Thankfully I can usually get enough rest to have a functional day ahead, but I can also call upon a tip given to me by a makeup artist friend: white eyeliner on the top lid makes you look more alert.

It hasn’t been all peaches and rainbows, however. This pregnancy and birth were relatively easy and uneventful, but the postpartum recovery process has been more difficult than anticipated. After initial breastfeeding issues and several infections, I’m not 100% recovered. I’m still fighting off a lingering staph infection, and it’s really frustrating. Some days I could do little more than watch reruns of The Office.

There were (and sadly, still are!) times where I felt like a senior woman who complains to friends and family about her aches and pains. Thankfully I’ve been well looked after and my body seems to be slowly healing, but it has made my big plans for traveling and visiting throughout leave go abandoned. Not to say I/we haven’t done anything fun!

Earlier this month we joined Steven on a day trip to Chicago. He was scheduled to speak at a conference on a late Saturday afternoon, so we bundled up the rental car, caught our familiar train from Hammond, and toted a stroller around downtown Chicago. We visited Millennium Park and the Bean before Steven had to get ready.


The kids and I spent the afternoon at Navy Pier and the Chicago Children’s Museum, which was so much better than expected. We had just enough time to walk back to the conference hotel (ugh, that walk was the worst because it happened during Maisie’s prime feeding time), walk to the station and board the train back to our car. We arrived home just before midnight. Steven: “We could do that again.” Maybe a near-future day trip to visit some museums?

Both Steven and I have volunteered in Wesley’s classroom on separate occasions this month. It’s the best way to see how the Spanish immersion experience plays out, and it’s amusing to observe how your kid does and interacts with others. Wesley was thrilled to show off his baby sister to his classmates, and she was Miss Popular at recess and the lunch room.

Our first date night occurred last week! Steven got us great seats to Andrew Bird’s limited symphony tour, Time is a Crooked Bow, as my birthday present earlier this year. The show did not disappoint. I joked with a friend (who generously watched the kids for us!) that I started leaking breast milk from sheer excitement.

We’ve also had entertainment at home during these past few weeks. Maisie has reached an interactive milestone and has been smiling and cooing at us in recent days. At bath time the other night, she was so happy that we all took turns making faces to get the best smiles out of her. We likely looked ridiculous, all three of us gathered around her, talking and giggling in high-pitched babbles. She loved it!

I’m unsure why the video recorded on its side:

I return to work this week, and I’m starting to fidget with my nails again. For good reason: this is the busiest week of the year as the Indianapolis Walk to End Alzheimer’s is happening on Saturday. I have missed the entire fundraising event season and feel very out of the loop. I’m anxious to jump in and be a part of things, contributing to a mission I love and believe in.

But I also believe in my mission to contribute to my family’s needs. Maisie was a gift to us, and it’s my turn to give her my time and service. After this event season wraps up, I’m stepping away from my job to be at home for the foreseeable future. We are in a more stable position than when Wesley was born, and though it’s not something I ever thought I’d do, it’s time for me to take on a new position at home.

This decision was made with lots of influence and encouragement from Steven and Wes. I pretty much blame them for this newest adjustment. Though I have to admit, I’m looking forward to experiencing Maisie’s milestones and spending the holidays together. In January our family will re-evaluate my options, and I may return to the work force in a part-time position if something fitting becomes available.

Though my nails will be bitten to the shreds in the next few weeks – from health concerns, returning to a busy work environment and then leaving it all behind – I find I’m not nearly as anxious as I might have been. God has provided a blanket of peace in which I’m deeply snuggled. There is joy in my heart. All is well.

If I should say, “My foot has slipped,”
Your lovingkindness, O Lord, will hold me up.
When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,
Your consolations delight my soul.    – Psalm 94:18-19

Posted: September 30th, 2018
Categories: Leah
Tags: , , , , ,
Comments: No Comments.

© 2021 | The Shattucks | Leah Shattuck | Steven Shattuck | Indianapolis, IN