Now We Are Six

My mom gave my sister and I our own copies of A.A. Milne’s Now We Are Six, a collection of poems on growing up by the author of Winnie the Pooh, on our sixth birthdays. She has continued the tradition for each of her grandchildren.

When I was One, 
I had just begun.

Wesley’s sixth birthday started a little early. He had requested a bike with handle brakes to be like one of his neighbor friends, and because he’s nailed his riding since learning to bike without training wheels last summer. We’ve been on countless bike rides, and it’s probably my favorite thing about Wes Age 5.

I found a used Rideline Raid BMX bike in his favorite colors for a steal of a price and picked it up on Saturday. Steven and I were too excited to wait until Tuesday to give it to him. It was worth the early surprise to see his face.

“Oh, Mama. This is the best ever.”

The three of us hopped in the car to Bicycle Garage Indy to give it a tune up, new tire and brakes. We spent the rest of the day testing it out.

When I was Two,
I was nearly new.

We ate a quick lunch after church so that we could go on a family bike ride at Fort Benjamin Harrison State Park. Wes handled the new bike well on flat terrain, but he’s still got some practice ahead for steeper incline. He knows how much I dislike the words, “I can’t,” especially coupled with whiney tears. Our ride ended a little sooner than we expected because it was just easier to take a break and spend some time on the cool, accessible playground.

Lesson learned: You can do a lot of neat things as an almost-six-year-old, but you still have a lot to learn.

At home we made cupcakes in anticipation for the following day. Wes requested chocolate cupcakes with lemon frosting, so… that’s what we made. If you ask him about it, he’ll get embarrassed because he’s gotten so many questions about his flavor choice, but they actually tasted okay – if you like super sweet sugary things.

The frosting kinda resembled the color of sand, and we only had blue sprinkles in the house. We improvised and made “beach cupcakes,” complete with a Swedish fish on top.

When I was Three,
I was hardly Me.

Today was the big day. The morning seemed to drag for our almost birthday boy, but we finally made it to lunchtime with my parents, sister and his cousins. My nephew had extensive surgery in April, and he’s battled infections ever since. Unfortunately another flare up happened this week, so he was unable to swim with the rest of the kids. Sharing lunch together helped the boys enjoy each other’s company for a little while before the rest of the party showed up at the pool.

One of the best things about purchasing my parents’ house when they downsized has been close proximity to their condo – and its pool! We have enjoyed many hours together in the sun, which is how Wesley requested we celebrate his birthday this year. He verbally invited all of his classmates (in May) and every kid he’s befriended, but he whittled it down to a handful of his closest friends. And it was perfect.

Steven took the work afternoon off to join us. My sister and her kids were there. And my retired parents. It’s possible I enjoyed the party just as much as Wesley did.

Wes requested a cheeseburger and fries for his birthday dinner – Bru Burger on Mass Ave! Blushing, he told our waitress about his birthday, and she gave him free dessert of salted caramel pudding.

When I was Four,
I was not much more.

BIRTHDAY DAY! The special candle was lit at breakfast. Pancakes! Chocolate chip pancakes!

 

We met some friends at the movie theatre and Chick-fil-A for lunch. I’m pretty sure Wes was still worn out from 3+ hours of swimming the previous day because he requested to spend the afternoon at home. The day was hot. We FaceTimed with family and friends who wanted to greet the new six-year-old. He quietly played with some of his new presents, we installed accessories on his bike, and we watched Netflix.

Steven left for an overnight business trip, so we were invited to dinner at Mom and Dad’s. We brought extra cupcakes and sang to the birthday boy. I even let him sleep in my room. (It might have been his favorite thing of the day.) I gotta say, it was pretty sweet to see him roll over with a sleepy grin on his face. He loves well.

When I was Five,
I was just alive.

The next day we met a group of families from church at a splash pad, dug for gem crystals and hatched a baby T-Rex – birthday presents from cousins. We went school supply shopping and picked out a new, rad bike helmet.

His Pa and Nana sent him a very special gift, and we spent the better part of the afternoon testing out its moves and features.

As the week draws to a close, I’m reflecting on the last year and how much Wes has changed. He recently received the Humility Award at SpringHill Camp for his kind and empathetic heart. And yet, he increasingly struggles with competition and frustration. He has grown 2 inches (60th percentile). He’s more than 50 pounds (86th percentile). He can read 3- and some 4-letter words, and he always seems surprised at his ability to do so.

He expresses his fears more, including being afraid of the dark. He continues to test boundaries, use the loudest voice possible and asks a million questions every day. He wants to learn how everything works, and hopes to be a firefighter. He loves to be in my and Steven’s company. He makes friends wherever he goes, and has trouble finding his own fun without a playmate. He desires to be obedient, and his heart breaks when we reprimand him at home. He also has “very selective hearing.” Besides his weird skin reactions, the asthma is under control, and he’s in great shape for Kindergarten.

Oh, what a joy it is to be Wesley’s parents. We’re proud of this bright, sweet and silly child who makes every day entertaining and challenging.

But now I am Six, and I’m clever as clever
So I think I’ll be six now forever and ever

“The End.” A.A. Milne. Now We Are Six

Posted: July 22nd, 2017
Categories: Leah
Tags: , ,
Comments: No Comments.

Grace Period

I’m in a good spot. Around my birthday it’s common for me to think back on the year and reflect, and this one? I’m (usually) happy, content. You know how many blog posts I’ve written about desiring this very thing? For a semi-regular blogger, lots.

And it feels pretty great. Here’s what I mean:

Mental and Emotional Health. I’m closer than ever to people around me. I’ve reconnected with old friends (including one I hadn’t seen or talked to for 15 years!), found new ones, and allowed myself to grow deeper in current relationships. Steven and I are celebrating 10 years of marriage this August – say WHAT?! – and Wesley still thinks we’re the coolest people on the planet.

With nicer weather, we’re outside more – evening walks with the dogs “force” us to meet people in the neighborhood. And you know what? It’s fantastic! There are plenty of playmates within a three block radius for Wesley, and it’s been pretty awesome to have so many kids over for popsicles, homemade ice cream and the bounce house. And it’s not even summer yet!

I’ve connected with several of the kids’ moms, who are becoming close friends. Seriously, it’s just the best. My desired community has fallen in my lap.

Gardening is a new hobby, though there’s still so much to learn. I’m haphazardly putting together garden plans, researching best plants for certain areas, soil types, sun exposure. Several plants arrived in the mail yesterday, and after they were in the ground, I felt amazing. It’s this weird feeling of accomplishment after many hours of internet searches. It might be slightly more productive than my other go-to mental break activities like painting!

Physical Health. It’s no secret that I don’t exercise or enjoy running. I used to practice Pilates in college (well, from a DVD), I’ve taken dance classes and nearly 6 weeks of Karate. But that’s about it.

Gardening has been a bit of a workout for me, so there’s that. But remember my neighbor friends? About a month ago, one of them asked me to take a trial class of CrossFit with her. I’m not really sure why, but I shrugged and said, why not?

Since then, my body has contorted in all sorts of ways I didn’t think possible. I climbed a rope to the top of the ceiling! I can sorta do a handstand! I can run a half mile without stopping! It’s baffling how much stronger this body is than given credit.

Do you want to hear about my dental hygiene again? I’ll spare you the details, but this year has been a BIG WIN for my gums. Hats to my Sonicare toothbrush and WaterPik for granting me a gold star at the last dentist appointment.

Spiritual Health. I’m a little embarrassed, but also proud, to announce that for the very first time in my life, I read the Bible cover-to-cover in 2016. Many times tried, I never could accomplish this task. It’s taken nearly 34 years to get here.

Besides reading books I hadn’t read in their entirety, the best part of this accomplishment is understanding context. I used a One Year Bible, which broke up daily readings with passages from Old and New Testaments, Psalms and Proverbs. It helped during the dull temple plans and censuses that historically killed my desire to plow through the rest of the Old Testament.

Honestly, there’s a bunch of things in the Bible that really bother me. I don’t like war. I don’t like violence. Unnatural things like giants and two- or four-faced angels creep me out, and it’s uncomfortable to think about visions, speaking in tongues and demons. I get bored with the prophets’ repetition about destruction and the end of the world.

But after reading its entirety, I realized a few things: sometimes bloodshed and fire are necessary for healing and growth; it’s good to get uncomfortable and rediscover God’s authority over the realness of dark power; repetition is best for understanding and action.

We’ve been attending a church that convicts and equips us to be salt and light in the world. It’s what we’ve been looking for and needed. Our family loves people from various backgrounds, and we’ve felt anger, fear and confusion just like everyone else during these last 100 days.

We choose to be authentic in our faith regardless of environment or context. This doesn’t mean I will shake my finger; it’s not my job to be judgmental in that way. Nor does it make much of an impact. Instead, I choose to live authentically like Jesus – who at times DID approach and command – but for the most part, influenced lives just by being him. And loving people, regardless of background. But, you know what? I’m still learning how to do this.

SO,

Here’s what I’m working on for this next year:
Get out and be active in the community. Serve. Be kind. Get to know someone unlike me and be educated. Build relationships and bridges. And don’t be afraid to speak up when the Holy Spirit gives an opportunity among a friend or neighbor to talk about faith or beliefs.

This good spot I’m in right now won’t last forever, but I believe it’s a grace period given so that I can prepare for any rough times ahead.

For now, I readily welcome the mid-thirties, and I feel great!

Posted: May 9th, 2017
Categories: Leah
Tags: ,
Comments: No Comments.

An Ode to the Moth Colony

Months ago I started a poem describing our moth infestation. It’s been nearly a year since that dreadful situation, and I never got the verses exactly right enough to publish. Here’s a sample of what you were missing:

moth
Where did you come from, Indian Meal Moth?
From our trunk, you say?
So how many weeks were you lost?
We noticed you first on our daily commute
One, two, three?!
Wes and I thought it was merely a fluke.
Perhaps you flew from outside of our car?
Well wait, no –
Oh my gosh! That’s number four!

It went on to describe how I found hundreds in our trunk, how coworkers found dead ones on my clothes, and how several survived and then escaped into Toronto when we drove through Ontario. I know, super fun.

I ought to start another sub-par series of verses to describe our latest infestation: lice.

Oh, yes. We’ve hit a new parenting low.

We were FaceTiming with Steven two weeks ago, when I looked down at Wes’ head. Four or five pieces of white rice were sitting in his hair. Wait, noooooooooooo. “Uh, Steven, we have to hang up right now and go to the store for lice remover.”

“Mama, will they bite me? I’m scared. What’s going to happen to my hair?!” <-All the way to Target. We found the most expensive kit available, and to get home as soon as possible, we tried to use the self-checkout. I’m pretty sure we broke the machine, and everyone around us knew that we were BUYING A LICE KIT. You could see people back away from us. Oh, the stares!

Thank goodness Steven wasn’t home because he would have made so much fun of us (me) as we followed the box directions. “You mean I have to take TWO showers?!” Wesley’s only other complaint (because he cheerfully sat watching Octonauts) was being cold from his bared belly in the drafty kitchen.

Dinner was gourmet peanut butter & honey sandwiches and pretzels – it was nearly 8 p.m. by the time laundry and showers were complete. I stayed up until midnight bagging up stuffed animals, washing coats and furniture and spraying everything else in my path.

Wes got a clean bill of health from the school nurse the next morning and was cleared to join his classmates for their Valentine’s party. Steven was scheduled to fly in that evening, and he made “secret” arrangements for my parents to babysit while we had Valentine’s dinner together.

It was actually pretty amazing. He took so many photos of me throughout our date night. At the time I felt awkward and in the spotlight, but when I look at those photos now, I see love – captured in the way he portrayed me through his shattered iPhone lens, and captured on my own face. He makes me feel like a million bucks.

So, Wesley wasn’t with us or at our house AT ALL from 7:30 a.m. until about 9 p.m. when my parents brought him home. I thought I saw something in his hair then, but I figured I was being paranoid, and brushed it off. But in the morning, the “something” WAS STILL THERE. Teeny, tiny little white things moved when touched.

I called the school and said he’d be late since we had to do another treatment and re-wash his coat, backpack and EVERYTHING ELSE. Once he got to school, however, the nurse said he looked great. We were both baffled. SURELY he had to be getting lice from school, right?! It’s the only place except my parents’ that he’d been that day, and my parents couldn’t have been the original lice source because he hadn’t seen them in weeks. It didn’t make sense.

No other family – that I knew of – reported lice from his classroom. Uuggghhh. I deep cleaned the entire house AGAIN, and then I checked the dogs, just to make sure…of what? I didn’t know.

Lucy had suspicious flaky skin, and I could have sworn some of the skin flakes hopped. Google doesn’t help when you’re freaking out, and I convinced myself that she had “walking lice.” I called the vet and tried to convince them (“Ma’am, lice aren’t able to cross species.”), and scheduled an emergency appointment for that afternoon.

At the last moment, I decided to bring Jake along, too, because what if he was contaminated? I don’t know where my mind was. Bringing two dogs to a busy veterinarian by yourself is difficult, but it seemed necessary. The appointment was anticlimactic – yep, just dry irritation – and confirmed my paranoia. The doctor was kind through my apologetic, embarrassed commentary.

Now I have a massive jar of gigantic Omega-3 pills to treat Lucy’s itchy skin. Sorry, girl.

And doubts about the whole messy ordeal. Did I see lice at all? Am I making this up?

No, I know what I saw, and it was gross. Thankfully we’re now able to unbag everything and return to normal. We missed our couch pillows.

I guess the perfect closure to this disgusting blog post is the last stanza of my unfinished ode to our (former) moth colony:

It’s been weeks, even months since you first arrived.
Please go away.
It’s our house, and we don’t like your kind.

Posted: February 27th, 2017
Categories: Leah
Tags: , ,
Comments: No Comments.

The Punchline

From the backseat today:

“Mama, I have a joke for you. What do you call a cow with one leg?”
“Hmm, I don’t know. Tell me!”
Silence.

I kept waiting for the reply, but it didn’t come. Wes has been into knock knock jokes for a while, and my parents got him a book of them for Christmas. It has a section on one-liner jokes toward the back of the book, and he’s been fascinated to “expand” his comical repertoire. Except – he doesn’t quite get it.

“Buddy! You’re supposed to give the punch line – the funny answer to your joke. Like, maybe it’s string cheese?!”
“Oh! Ok. What do you call a string cheese with one leg?”

Face palm.

“Ok, I have one, Mama. If I had the slimiest creatures in the ocean, they’d be snot sea cucumbers!”

His obsession with Octonauts, a kids’ cartoon featuring land animals who live on Octopod in the ocean to study and rescue sea animals, has extended into his ideal grown-up life. He frequently wishes aloud that he could be an Octonaut – or marine biologist.

Eventually, he got to this:
“What are the slimiest creatures in the ocean?”
“Snot sea cucumbers!”

Sure, it’s just a fun fact phrased as a joke, but I laughed because he is hands down the best car entertainment. So beware – he now thinks the sea cucumber line is the funniest joke in the world, and you’ll probably laugh, too, if you’re lucky enough to hear it.

Posted: January 8th, 2017
Categories: Leah
Tags: ,
Comments: No Comments.

The 2016 Shattuck Game of LIFE

By now, most of the readers of this family blog have seen our annual Christmas card. And if you haven’t, you likely know the stories behind the “game pieces.” The idea for the design was inspired by Wesley’s increased interest and play-ability of board games. His favorites are Candy Land and Shoots & Ladders. He has yet to actually play LIFE, but I found it fitting for this year’s card to share a few updates within the last year.

So here’s what happened this year:

Steven becomes Chief Engagement Officer at Bloomerang. He also speaks at 28 conferences and events.
In January, Steven took over management of sales and leads in addition to his marketing team. He’s a natural leader and has done a fantastic job in this guidance role. He’s requested at many NPO and donor/development conferences, and he’s quite the presenter on donor retention and engagement. If it’s possible, he’ll pick one or two locations and buy a plane ticket for me to join along, and we’ll make a long weekend out of it. He’s pretty great!

The Shattucks become friends with several neighbor families.
The best thing about living in this “new” neighborhood is the amount of young families. We purposefully played in the front yard during the warm months to meet and scout out families with kids about Wes’ age. It worked! I can’t tell you how much I love and appreciate having friends and built-in entertainment just a few doors away.

Leah paints the family room trim white. SKIP A TURN while she recovers.
Whew, that project took forever. It does look so good, though. I still need to touch up the ceiling where I got a little paint happy… Since THAT project, we’ve painted the guest room (December), installed glass block windows in the basement (October), and plan to install new interior doors upstairs (January?).

Wesley fractures his collar bone. GO BACK 2 SPACES.
If nothing else, breaking his right clavicle the week before starting at a new school was a great way to meet more families! (Are you sensing a theme? I’m craving fellowship and community like whoa.)

Jake and Lucy become fans of Pokemon Go because of longer evening walks.
The mobile app game fad sorta faded, but we saw a lot more of the neighborhood and surrounding parks while it lasted. Wesley still thinks it’s great that he’s in on the “joke” and can’t say walk aloud for fear of too-excited dogs. He now calls it a W-A-L-K in normal conversation.

O Canada! The Shattucks visit Ontario.
What a great trip. Easily one of the best yet.

Steven initiates Launch Cause, a co-working space for not-for-profits. LAUNCH AHEAD 1 SPACE.
If you know nothing about Launch Cause, stop what you’re doing and check it out. I’m super proud of what he started back in February.

Steven teaches Wes how to play tennis and ride a bike without training wheels.
Summer 2016 was all kinds of fun. I feel like Wes is at an exciting age. Not that baby and toddler years weren’t exciting in some capacity, but we’re doing so much together. It’s fun to pretend together, explore together and learn together. Wes enjoys tennis enough that he’s requested to play outside in 30-degree temps with Steven. This prompted a search for indoor tennis lessons, which start next weekend!

Leah leads her communications team at Alzheimer’s Association to reach record media goals.
We kicked some major rear end. Over the years I’ve become better at acknowledging and taking credit for achievements, and while yes, it was a team effort to reach, I recognize that it was by my guidance and direction that we reached 120% of our media impression goal. I’m proud of what we’ve done and the bond between my coworkers.

The house gets a new coat of exterior paint. GO BACK 2 SPACES for Leah’s indecisive color selection.
Overall, I like what we ended up with. I’m still not settled on the color of the shutters, and eventually we’ll replace them entirely. Since the exterior paint job, we’ve replaced the garage doors, and they help clean up the look even more.

Wesley starts Prep-Kindergarten. SKIP A TURN while he grows 3 inches taller.
While he’s not the tallest kid in his class, he’s certainly not far behind. THREE INCHES in one year! I’ve had several trips down memory lane because Wes is attending the school that my sister and I did. My third grade teacher is the principal, and my fourth grade teacher is the assistant principal. The school nurse is still there, as well as a handful of elementary, middle and even high school teachers! Several fellow alumni have sent their children to the school, and it’s been fun to reconnect with former classmates from various graduating years.

Steven and Leah spend their 9th anniversary in New Orleans.
The trip surrounded a speaking engagement in Baton Rouge. We were nervous to go because it was just weeks after the shooting of Alton Sterling and days after massive flooding. But it was safe to travel, and we had the best time. I love that we’re able to be together and see unique places – just the two of us.

Finding a new church home is taxing. GO BACK TO START
You should see the excel document we started – a pros and cons list of sorts. I guess we were a little picky in what we wanted for our family, but after visiting multiple churches in 9 months, we determined that it might be us tasked to start the changes we desire in a church home. We were ready to settle where we could serve, and we’ve been attending a church regularly for a handful of months now. I decided to join their Christmas choir, which was another way to meet and connect with people, and it was a terrific idea. It felt so good and fulfilling to serve by song with others.

The Shattucks sponsor a 5-year-old child from India. GO FORWARD 1 SPACE
Last month we received our first letter and sent a lengthy response with photos of our family. Wesley frequently asks questions about Jastin and life in India, and it’s opened up honest conversations about faith, materialism and community service. It’s fascinating to watch him understand his role in our family and in society. We hope to be able to support additional families in other ways in 2017.

Steven, Leah and Wes wish you a merry Christmas and a happy 2017! GO CELEBRATE
Thanks for being a part of our lives. We’re the better for it.

Posted: December 31st, 2016
Categories: Leah
Tags: , ,
Comments: No Comments.

Anticipation, Advent, Hope

What is it with fall? It’s been the roughest season for our family each year, and this one has been no different. An increase of fundraising events, conferences, school projects are the old bystanders, but even when I look around us, nearly everyone is strained.

Grief. We said goodbye to Pa Shattuck in late October. He lived by himself in the Syracuse, New York, area, and though the distance limited our socialization, he was dedicated to his grandkids and great-grandchildren. He attended every wedding and graduation and remembered every anniversary and birthday. He was a decorated veteran who served in Normandy at age 19. He was active in his parish and in the community. His death came unexpectedly, and it affected us more than we anticipated.

The anniversary of a friend’s death passed in September. And social media has opened up my heart to several families facing unfathomable loss of family members to tragic sickness and accidents. Some days it’s hard to breathe for how much I ache and mourn with people.

Fear. We have Muslim friends, gay friends, black friends, friends from other countries living in the United States – all of whom have expressed fear in so many words. So much hate, or worse, indifference, surrounds us, and it pains me. As a Christian and an empathetic person, I feel frozen, unsure how to bring comfort, peace or truth because I’m embarrassed at how members of the church as a whole are ignoring or misunderstanding our neighbors, environment and role in society. (But on a positive note, there’s hope. We’ve visited many churches in the Indianapolis area this year, and there is a movement for racial reconciliation and community outreach.)

At times, I’m afraid of referencing myself publicly as a Christian for fear of mockery. Sometimes I’m afraid to stand up for my faith, and I’m afraid to disagree with other Christians. I’m afraid I’ll say the wrong thing at the wrong time, and I’m fearful that I’m making a mistake for feeling this way. We don’t want to be hypocrites. We don’t want to be lazy or naive. Our family wants to DO SOMETHING to love our neighbors and take care of the earth God created in addition to prayer.

I fear the Lord, and I pray that he shines through the dirt and grime and mess.

Anger. Usually this follows fear. I’ve found myself lashing out at coworkers, Wesley and Steven. I try to keep a calm demeanor, but when I’ve been racked with grief and fear, it has been difficult. I’ve hung Psalm 19:14 near my computer so that I can be reminded to keep my words and thoughts positive and pure.

Exhaustion. My negative stress level has caused an increased number of migraines and near-fainting spells in the last few months. Do you remember my weird, complicated migraine when I was pregnant with Wesley? Those symptoms have returned on occasion – once while driving. I’m thankful that each time they’ve returned, I’ve been surrounded by understanding, caring people.

We’ve been attending a church regularly for several months – one that seems to desire Kingdom Work like we do. The congregation has slowly worked through Matthew. We just finished a series on the End Days – where Jesus gives a glimpse of what’s to come. After reflecting on the current season, I can’t help but think that these life events might just be part of the “labor pains” that he references in Matthew 24:6:

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”

My friends who have lost loved ones to death, divorce or sickness; my coworkers who are fearful and upset by internal conflicts and national conflicts; those who are frustrated with the church, which can have some things backwards, hypocritical or off-focus; my son and his generation who are concerned about “bad people” leading this country; and their parents, who are trying to process and have open and honest conversations about respect — the only thing in which we have control is our response. In words, actions and thoughts, may it be a respectful, mindful and truthful response.

My response is learning to wait for Truth. Advent season seems like the best transition from fall’s cluster to get good at waiting. While the earth around me is groaning in labor pains, I am choosing to wait on the Lord, which is difficult to do. #trust

Wes and I are reading through the Jesus Storybook Bible for advent, and it might be speaking more to my heart than his. We’re starting at the beginning and seeing how Jesus’ arrival was anticipated throughout Old Testament people’s bad decisions and poor choices. The labor pains started at the fall of Adam and Eve and perhaps it’s just getting more pronounced today.

Maybe we’ll be the lucky generation to see his return, but just waiting for Christmas Day as a symbol of God’s promise of redemption is leaving us anxious enough. #hope

jesusstorybook

Posted: December 7th, 2016
Categories: Leah
Tags: , , , ,
Comments: No Comments.

Good and Complete

We started a family tradition in the last year or so to spend Friday dinners together at a restaurant. Usually we try to visit a new place, but often we have difficulty in deciding (Wes always chooses McDonald’s or Hardee’s or Steak n’ Shake), and settle on one of our favorite locations.

A few weeks ago we went to a local Chinese restaurant for the first time. It was decorated in red lanterns, dragons and vibrant paintings and had a small fish tank in one corner that kept Wesley’s attention. We talked about Chinese culture during our meal, and Wes was amazed that he actually likes chow mein noodles with his “sticky rice.”

It was a fun night out, and we had an excellent Chinese waitress. She enjoyed interacting with Wesley, and she asked him questions about his hobbies and interests. He’s very good at being receptive, and it was fun to watch.

Later, while paying our check, the waitress asked Steven and me if Wes was our only child. This isn’t a new question; we get this often, and frequently in public places. She was kind about it, and I’m sure it was well-intended (because surely if we had another kid, he/she would be as cool as Wes, right?). What she went on to describe has stuck with me for the last several weeks:

The Chinese word for “good, complete, right” (好) is a combination of the words “girl” (女) and “boy” (子).

I wish I would have said something in return other than, “Is that right? How cool!” It sat funny with me. I mean, I’ve personally come a long way on this subject. I’ve turned a page and have focused on our little family of 3. I know in my heart that I’m good mom and wife, and we’re in a really, really good spot – the 3 of us. We’re close. We do a lot together. We have many experiences that neither Steven nor I ever had the chance to do as children.

But I’ve always had this back-in-the-mind feeling that God’s got some bigger plan for us, and I don’t know what it is. (I try so desperately hard not to guess or jump to conclusions because I know his timing is perfect, and mine is not!) It could be as simple as loving on and supporting our nieces and nephews more, or those special kids in our kid’s life. We’ve been testing that out, and it’s so. much. fun. I find my heart’s grown 3 sizes larger since my “page-turn.” I adore the little people all around us – watching them develop intricate personalities, interests and skills.

Alli, 11, is our intelligent and athletic niece. She reads at a much higher level than her age, and she’s amazing at softball. She has a big heart and concern for everyone and goes out of her way to be inclusive. (Remind me to tell you about the time that she intervened a bullying situation between classmates.)

Elli, 8, has so many interests that are like me in music, art and dance. She’s doing well on piano and is starting to take guitar lessons. She is graceful in ballet and is now in hip hop. She can paint, too! I love her spontaneous spirit.

Jeremiah, 6, has recently learned how to solve Rubik cubes. He solved one that stumped all of Steven’s coworkers. He has the most clever sense of humor and astounds us with his ability to absorb information. He loves LEGOs and Star Wars and has a gentle, kind demeanor.

Anna, 6, has the independence and sometimes stubborn nature that defies her tender beginnings as a 3-lb preemie. She has the biggest, most alert eyes that have determination to keep up with her big sister. She is silly, fun, and she earns her nickname, Anna Banana.

Josiah, 4, is a bundle of energy. He always has a smile or a mischievous grin on his face, and he constantly makes me laugh. Mom and I used to joke that he sorta resembled Dopey the dwarf as a baby, and though he’s not “dopey,” he just melts your heart like that little character does.

Our nearly-nieces and nephews are just as special. Beatrice, 5, Jovia, 3, and Oliver, 1, are the best little friends Wesley’s ever had (and likely TO have), and JoJo even calls me “her good friend Leah.” Levon, 3, is an lively little boy who Wesley tries to take under his wing every time we hang out. And dear Lucian, 1, our sweet godson. We get to see him in a few months over Thanksgiving!

OR it could be as simple as sponsoring a child. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do!

jastin-sanga_2016I’m pleased to introduce you to Jastin, a 5-year-old boy who lives in India. Wesley chose him to be his friend and “pseudo-brother” because of his similar age, and likely because of his cool Tom & Jerry shirt. Because this is a very new decision, we haven’t yet made contact with Jastin, but Wesley’s warming up to the idea and getting excited to be a part of his life. Wes has been asking many questions about culture, faith and climates, and it’s an opportunity to open conversations about our faith and heritage.

Sponsoring a child isn’t a new experience for us. Steven and I briefly sponsored a child with a large organization when we were first married, but admittedly, we were not ready to make such a commitment. I regret that we were unable to continue supporting the child, and it’s frustrated me for years. I remember thinking that it would be a good time to revisit the commitment when we had a child of our own to keep us accountable.

This relationship with Jastin is uniquely special to us because he is sponsored through Mid India Child, a ministry of our dear friends in India. I grew up knowing missionaries David and Sheela Lall as my Indian aunt and uncle, and their three kids, similar ages to me and my sister, soon became our Indian “siblings.” My parents were their forwarding agents on the United States side of things for nearly 30 years – they are very close friends, and we’re lucky enough to see them several times a year as they travel across the globe.

27454810786_3a84918bca_z

David and Sheela with the Fernsler cousins on Memorial Day

10253927_10152300284685758_2822216221261333289_n

A very pregnant me with my Indian siblings

Shiny, my Indian sister, and her husband, Tommy, have taken the reigns and have formed Mid India Child as a way to link all of their central Indian ministries together under one roof through child sponsorship. They run a girls’ boarding school and a special-needs school for abandoned children, provide school and community supplies to villages and slums and college scholarships. Other ministries within the extended Lall family include film production, an orphanage, Bible college, eye hospital, church planting, boys’ vocational school, and many other things I often forget to mention!

So, while we don’t have a girl to “complete” the Shattuck family, we already feel complete. And now that Jastin’s a small part of our small family, I feel just a little bit more proud and full. Good and complete!

So, get ready, Jastin. You’re now part of a small American family who wants to do big(ger) things and make an impact. We love the people who will directly help you through Mid India Child, and we love you, too.

Posted: September 22nd, 2016
Categories: Leah
Tags: ,
Comments: No Comments.

Anniversary Lagniappe

Steven was scheduled to speak at the Louisiana non-profit association’s annual conference in Baton Rouge on the day after our 9th wedding anniversary, which was a great reason to have a fun weekend away. However, it was a destination with recent police shootings and a devastating 1,000-year flood. (Steven: “We sure know how to pick ’em.”)

We flew into New Orleans and drove one mile west to Baton Rouge. Along the way, we passed several closed exits off highway I-10, and there was standing water nearly all along the road, but we made it safely to the hotel and conference site. Most of the damage affected the eastern part of the city and surrounding parishes/counties. We had the unique opportunity to watch local news of families in the worst areas (Ascension Parish, namely) plow through the clean up process with adrenaline and hope. The area has Catholic roots, and it was encouraging to see trust in God in action. I spoke with several conference attendees about the community’s endurance after Katrina – but the need for and lack of mental health services.

Our anniversary dinner was at a cute, downtown oyster bar – Jolie Pearl. We had a stack of various charbroiled oysters and fried shrimp before another storm came through to flood the already-soaked ground.

IMG_4428

The next day’s weather was pleasant, but HOT. Louisiana humid and sticky hot. Steven had to work all day at the conference, so I spent my time doing independent things. It’s now become a tradition to get a massage, haircut or shop while Steven speaks. I scheduled a haircut at a local Aveda salon, found free wi-fi in the mall food court to catch up on some work, and then went to a see a movie.

By the way, you HAVE to see Florence Foster Jenkins. It made me laugh-snort and cry, which means it was superb.

Afterwards, I met up with Steven at the conference for a closing social reception. On our way to New Orleans, we stopped for local favorite beignets and coffee with chicory at Coffee Call. Fun Fact: chicory is a woody plant that is ground into coffee from a French tradition to stretch coffee beans supply. Beignets (ben-YAYs) are fluffy funnel cake-tasting fried dough with powdered sugar dumped on top. Everywhere I’ve seen, they are ordered in 3s, but the ones at Coffee Call are huge – like the size of donuts. By mistake we ordered “to go” and fought powdered sugar in the rental car.

We didn’t check into our French Quarter hotel until after 8 p.m., though in New Orleans, that’s considered early. French Quarter isn’t quite as busy on a Thursday night as the weekend, but Deanie’s Seafood at 9 p.m. is still packed with families and couples eating a fried seafood dinner. Another pile!

IMG_4444

Later we wandered some New Orleans streets and enjoyed a quiet(er) evening in the hotel courtyard. It was just as pretty in the morning for breakfast:

IMG_4451

…which fueled us up for a day of walking around the city. I was in NOLA in early 2014 for the Alzheimer’s Association national conference, but hardly saw the city. Steven had never been, so we had a few things on our bucket list: Cafe du Monde (famous coffee and beignet restaurant along the Mississippi River), French Market, Jackson Square, hurricanes and poboys and live jazz at Preservation Hall. Later we explored the World War 2 Museum, rode a streetcar and watched entertainers along Bourbon Street. It was a fun, packed day, and we were incredibly sweaty.

Before leaving for the airport, we visited a New Orleans historical museum and walked around a few streets the next morning, and GUESS WHAT WE FOUND?!

IMG_4505

Leah’s Pralines! Of course we bought some.

It was a quick but good trip – a lagniappe (pronounced LAN-yap, a New Orleans term for a bonus gift or “a little something extra”). It’s hard to believe we’ve been married nearly 10 years. Our relationship has changed over the years: we don’t have long conversations or look longingly into each others’ eyes. We don’t often hold hands or touch in public. But we do enjoy being in close proximity. I’ve found that when we’re together in a new place without Wes, we like to wander around and observe locations together – many times we’re deep in thought and subconsciously link arms or hands. We’re also more apt to jokingly tease in a way that doesn’t happen as often at home.

Occasionally getting away is great for us. View our photos from the trip here.

IMG_4500

Posted: August 21st, 2016
Categories: Leah
Tags: , , ,
Comments: No Comments.

Clavicle Fracture

In keeping with our theme of first-time experiences, today was one for the books.

Around 12:15 a.m., Steven and I woke to a loud bang followed by a long wail from Wesley’s room. I was pretty amazed with Steven’s cat-like reflexes: he immediately sprung from the bed and ran to Wes’ side. I mean – within SECONDS. He found Wes with his right shoulder on the floor and head in the air.

He hasn’t fallen off the bed in a least a year, so this was very unexpected. When he had fallen before, Wes was able to calm down from the initial scare and fall back asleep. Steven did manage to calm him enough to tuck him into the covers and slip back into our bed this morning, but after a few minutes, we heard consistent whimpering.

It was my turn to check on our guy. I crouched down to his eye level, and he grabbed my finger. “Mama, it hurts.” Big tears from exhausted eyes. Quivering chin. I tried to turn him over from his stomach to his back, but he loudly protested.

“Where do you hurt?”
“My ARMMMMMM!” More cries. “Neck!”

I poked a few places until I found the spot – between his right shoulder and neck. “Buddy, I think you hurt your collar bone. I’m so sorry.” He started to cry hysterically – partly from pain, mostly from exhaustion.

He and I moved to the guest bed and I tried to prop him up as best as I could. He finished off the last of the Tylenol. We slept fitfully for the remainder of the night. I knew I would have to make an appointment in the morning.

I had doubted that anything was broken, so my original thought was to swing by the pharmacy clinic to have him checked for anything serious before heading to school. I had a meeting scheduled for 9:30 that I didn’t want to miss. Steven thought my plan needed rethinking: “They won’t be able to do anything at the clinic; better call his pediatrician.” (I’m so thankful for his clear brain when mine is so muddy with Mom-panic.)

They couldn’t see him until 10:30, so I packed up Wesley’s bag with ice packs, pillows and the DVD player and planned to keep him in my office until the doctor’s appointment (so I could make the 9:30 meeting). We arrived at work early and made camp…

IMG_4406

…until his pediatrician’s office called and asked us to “forget the 10:30 appointment and come right away.”  The rain made the commute seem like forever, and of course we had to stop for gas because that would have been another mess of a situation, but we made it in one piece (haha).

Wesley was obviously in pain, but he was still in good spirits and hammed it up with our nurse. We love her, and Wes feels very comfortable around her. To make things even better, she just went ahead and conducted his 5-year-old check up right then and there – which was supposed to happen later this month. (He grew a whopping 3 inches this year! 70th percentile for height/67th for weight.)

His pediatrician is equally as awesome. While she didn’t initially think it was a fracture, she noticed an uneven clavicle and ordered an x-ray just to be safe. She assured me that even if it WAS broken, it’s a self-healing area and easily treatable with over-the-counter pain medications.

Conveniently, the x-ray technicians were just below her office. Wincing more frequently, Wes still handled the x-ray like a champ:

“So, did your doctor tell you to go back to her office?”
“No, she told us to go home and that we’d receive a phone call after the results were given.”
“I’ll call her right now. I think you better go on back up and talk now.”

Uh oh. I gathered at that point that it was a true break. Bummer! And then: WHAT NOW?! Somehow I had forgotten her reassurance from earlier.

We went back upstairs and they immediately took us to a waiting room. The doctor came in, and she looked about as surprised as we did. “It’s a fracture!”

I asked a ton of questions because amazingly, neither Steven or I or anyone in my house growing up had ever broken a bone. Did you know that your body gathers all its calcium to cover a bone fracture? A deposit calcifies and you can actually feel it under the skin as a “bump,” and it shows up on a follow-up x-ray (which we scheduled in 3 weeks). Eventually the bump flattens out and takes the shape of the bone it healed. Amazing!

She said a sling might help in addition to pain medications. By the time we were ready to leave, I felt relieved – like this wasn’t a big deal. Our nurse gave us a free sample of Advil and told us where to buy a child’s sling.

The pain medicine was starting to wear off during the sling fitting session at the pharmacy, but again, he handled it well. He talked more about getting soaked from the heavy rain than his “break in his neck.”

IMG_4413[1]

We met a group of coworkers for lunch before heading back to the office to get some work finished. He happily laid on the floor and curled up to watch a couple movies. He was so quiet that I nearly forgot he was with me until a giggle or, “Mama, this movie is so silly!” escaped his mouth.

My coworkers were great with him today. He was quiet enough that they were productive, and he was sweet and sassy enough that they wanted to engage him in conversation toward the end of the work day. He loved the attention and special “office time” – offerings of candy, kitchenette treats and even tattoos! Health fair swag are usually kids’ treasures.

He “wasn’t quite ready” to leave for home when I was. In fact, after finding a cake pop, he licked his fingers and said, “This is the best place I ever been to.”  #TakeYourSontoWorkDay?

IMG_4414

Changing clothes is difficult. We decided it was okay to go without a pajama shirt, which he giggled about. “My belly is showing!” He was a little cautious about his bed, too, but we installed a guard rail and loaded him up with pain killers. So far, he’s sleeping soundly.

What a weird day. I’m pretty proud of him, though. I don’t think I’d be nearly as pleasant after “busting up my collar bone,” as he puts it.

Wish us luck over the next 3-4 weeks!

Posted: August 15th, 2016
Categories: Leah
Tags: ,
Comments: No Comments.

A Summer of Firsts, or It’s Good to be 5

Much has happened in the last 8+ weeks, including several first-time experiences for our growing kid. As my mom has said in response to Wesley’s reports, “it’s pretty good to be five.”

First (Minor) Celebrity Encounter
27797142723_96e0d03001_kWe participated in the summer reading program at our local library, and one of the prizes Wesley earned was a voucher for tickets to an Indianapolis Indians game. Library Night happened to be held on his actual birthday, and we scored some front-row free seats right behind the bullpen for the opposing team.

The pitcher sitting directly in front of Wes was Elvis Araujo (Lehigh Valley IronPigs / Phillies). He kept glancing back and winking at our fidgety son. It might have been the “I’m 5 Today” sticker badge that looked very worn from the day’s activities, or it might have just been because he’s a nice guy: Mr. Araujo turned around, smiled, and gave Wes the baseball he was practicing with. Wes lit up.

Wes ended up getting too unruly and fidgety for our cool seats, so we packed up our Monday Night Dollar Menu hotdogs, popcorn and cracker jack and headed to the lawn seats to stretch out.

Instead of watching the game, Wes ran around and threw his new baseball, and eventually Steven joined in. Their game of catch was so wild that they lost the baseball to the fenced in area around the scoreboard – which eventually featured Wes in lights for his birthday!

It took some coaxing via social media to get a staff member to help us retrieve the baseball and turn Wesley’s frown into an exhausted birthday smile.

First Chewing Gum
My sister started a tradition with my niece and nephews: once they turned five, they had access to big-kid perks – bubble gum and soda. Why not ride on the band wagon? We aren’t big soda/coke/pop drinkers in this house, and Wes wasn’t impressed with sparkling water. But THIS:


First Booster Seat
27797145283_d2ca850330_k

His Diono car seat is built to last up to 100 lbs, and it’s solid. Supposedly you can remove the 5-point harness straps by following the manual diagram, but I ended up having to CUT it off because it was so sturdy. Whoops. Guess it’s a good thing we’re not backtracking!

It’s a small change, but he does feel big. I mean, look at the size of him!

First Time Off Training Wheels
He and Steven practiced off and on for a week. It started with, “I think I want to take off the training wheels,” and accelerated from there. We can now take our evening walks with the bike (although it does require a little more time because of the occasional fall).

We finally invested in knee and elbow pads to address some of those battle wounds.

First Bad Haircut
Two failed attempts to get an appointment at our typical kids’ haircut place resulted in a last-minute rush to a cheap salon near our house that doesn’t specialize in kids’ cuts. I figured they’d know what I meant by “all-around trim” when glancing at Wesley’s moppy hair. While he was hamming it up with the stylist (I was pretty entertained by overhearing his offbeat humor and engaging conversation), I waited in the designated area. Truthfully, when combed and wet, it looked fine. We paid and left for home.

At dinner, his hair started to dry and looked…moppy. Steven said, “Did ya get a haircut? Because it looks the same.” At first I thought he was joking that we should go back to fix it. Being the apologist, I tried to find an excuse for the stylist but was unsuccessful. Steven went outside to finish yard work, and Wes and I went back to the salon 30 minutes before it closed.

They were surprised to see us. I asked them to trim it shorter, and they did. A LOT shorter. Wes continued to be snarky with the stylist, but there was a slight panicky tone in his voice: “What are you doing?” “What does my hair look like?!”

In what seemed like ages, he hopped down from the chair. He had the 5-year-old decency to wait until we were in the parking lot to announce “that was the worst haircut ever.” I thought he was still on his joke-kick, but nope. He really hated it.

I started to chuckle about the last few hours. “It’s only hair; it will grow back, Bud.” I couldn’t stop giggling. Once home, Steven got in on the fun-tease, and while still slightly annoyed, Wes started to laugh back. He had so many hair snippings all over him that a shower before bedtime was necessary. Bubbles everywhere; family laughter; short, short hair.

IMG_4350 IMG_4349

First Tennis Lesson
IMG_4332

When t-ball lessons ended, we asked Wes if he wanted to try a new sport this fall. “Maybe tennis!”

His answer thrilled Steven, so I found an opening with the area National Junior Tennis League. I mentioned the affordable cost to our Reynolds friends, and they signed up Beatrice! They had their first lesson last weekend, and it was pretty adorable.

Wes now wants to play tennis with Steven nearly every evening on the street in front of our house.

First Goodbye, Hello, New School
IMG_4342Because his Prep-K class at a different school doesn’t start until the end of August, we are in a weird limbo period. At his current preschool/daycare, the kids transitioned classrooms, so he had to say goodbye to his favorite teacher, Miss Kelly, and join a temporary class (Sunflowers!) for a couple weeks.

Earlier this year, Steven and I made the decision to wait for Kindergarten. He’s probably very ready for Kindergarten based on his daily experience in the classroom, but we felt like it was a unanimous hesitation, and why push it? He’s our only kid!

The same private school I attended as a kid offers a Prep-K class for those in his age bracket – in fact, the age cut off for Kindergarten is 5 by June 30 (his bday is in July). This means he won’t be the only 5-year-old in his class! We’re excited to experience a “real” school environment this year – complete with breaks, after school care and lunchboxes.

He attended a practice Round Up Day earlier this week to visit classrooms, the library and meet teachers. Another few orientations are down the pipe line (is it normal to receive emails nearly every other day from schools as a new family?!), and then class officially starts in 2 weeks. He can’t wait.

IMG_4353

With all these other “firsts,” I’m kinda glad I don’t have to adjust to Kindergarten Mom just yet.

Posted: August 10th, 2016
Categories: Leah
Tags: , , , ,
Comments: No Comments.


© 2017 | The Shattucks | Leah Shattuck | Steven Shattuck | Indianapolis, IN