Love is Patient

I didn’t get a clever Christmas card put together in time this year, and surprisingly, I’ve heard from several people about it. Patience. I had ideas for what it might entail: a 10-year collage of past Christmas card fronts (or randomly mailing one of 10 “retro” versions of past cards), a Shattuck version of The Night Before Christmas poem. But I just didn’t have the energy or motivation to design and assemble it. Then I thought we might just send a Happy New Year card, and that came and went, too.

We didn’t forget about you or lose your address. And we do have news to share, so Valentine’s Day seems pretty appropriate to announce our annual family update.

Steven, Chief Engagement Officer at Bloomerang, had another year of speaking engagements across the U.S. He nearly earned his Southwest A-List status again (one trip short). He speaks at conferences to audiences about donor retention, fundraising success and constituent engagement for not-for-profits. Steven co-wrote two chapters in a new textbook, Fundraising Principles and Practice, which was published in March 2017. He and Wesley have their weekly activities they participate in together, including tennis lessons and Cub Scouts. They also are partners in crime in solving video game puzzles – finishing both Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. In warmer months, Steven cycles to work via the Fall Creek Trail and Fort Harrison State Park, and he is increasingly interested in clean eating and brewing kombucha.

I, Communications Director at Alzheimer’s Association Greater Indiana Chapter, started regularly attending a Crossfit gym in April for low-weight/high-rep training, mixed with cardio and gymnastics workouts. Though I don’t plan to graduate to “real” Crossfit with power lifting, I have enjoyed being a part of an encouraging community. I feel good and am stronger than I’ve ever been. I also regularly sing on the worship team at Trinity Church, which is such a blessing and immensely fun. I hope to read and paint more than last year, and found that I enjoy dabbling in yard work (when it’s not so overwhelming).

In August, we celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary in Chicago. We saw Aladdin on Broadway and visited the Field Museum for the first time. We also had our first-ever family photos taken in October, and I wore my 10-year-old rehearsal dinner dress.

Wesley, Kindergartner, is a bright, clever and sweet 6-year-old. He is well-liked by kids in his class and his teachers. Because he is inclusive, he has many friends and a few close ones. He is a leader and role model, but he sometimes has trouble with dictating and tattling. And when it comes to peer pressure, he follows – even if he knows better. But he’s excelling in school, learning to read and write in Spanish AND English. He’s lost two teeth, loves Star Wars, Power Rangers and even (still!) Octonauts. Going on bike rides with the family is one of his favorite things to do, and he loves to hang out with us and friends. He’s such a gem.

Jake, 12-year-old Italian Greyhound, and Lucy, 8-year-old lab-pit mutt, are lazier than ever. Jake continues to have terrible breath and rotten teeth, so I finally introduced him to soft food and chewy treats. Lucy wishes she could have them, too. She found yet another spot in the fence that’s loose, so she frequently explores beyond our fence line. Lucy can’t stand to be left alone too long, so we never worry that she won’t return to the back door. They’re both going gray.

The House hasn’t undergone too many updates or exciting improvement projects this year. We spruced up the guest room with a new headboard, mattress and lighting. The rickety mailbox finally got replaced with a sturdy new one. We planted a few arborvitae in the side yard and started a pollinator garden. The living room gained a new club chair, plant stand and greenery. I think the biggest project was installing new interior doors for the upstairs bedrooms. Still on the list: bathroom remodels, kitchen back splash and paint, basement flooring.

Baby Shattuck was quite the surprise at the end of 2017, and probably the reason I didn’t have motivation to create Christmas cards in time! She (yes, girl! Stay tuned for further info.) will be joining the family in mid August – right around our niece’s birthday and our wedding anniversary. After an initial period of shock and panic, we spent the long winter break warming to the idea of another family member in this house. We’ve enjoyed our small trio family, but if you know much about me, I used to grieve for another child. Patience. After much prayer and reconciliation, I have found peace and happiness with my two boys. Even so, Steven and I were planning to explore fostering and possibly adoption soon, and those plans are now on hold. What a change in plans!

We attended the first ultrasound together, and Wes was able to meet my OB doctor; the doc who delivered him has since retired. I feel so much different than the first pregnancy, but as I enter the second trimester, I feel less nauseous and more “normal.” Except food is just a nuisance. Aversions, spontaneous hunger followed by uncomfortable fullness, ugh. And so many pimples! But I can continue to work out, of which I’m grateful.

Wesley is thrilled to pieces, and he has been very sweet and interested in learning how the baby grows each week. In yet another lesson in patience, he’s learning to wait. And how the period of waiting can make you frustrated and yet grow in love and joy. He thinks it’s been fun to have a family secret, and now that we’re gradually telling people, he sometimes gets protective. “Only FAMILY MEMBERS can know, Mama!”

The nesting period has already begun; Steven has helped me make an inventory of what baby items we still have, cleared out space for the nursery, and Wes helped me put together the crib I scored on Craiglist for $35. (We will likely be asking to borrow your gear!) And while I was on a business trip, they found cute prints to hang on the walls, had them framed and hung before I returned home.

Frankly, we Shattucks are glad 2017 has past, which wasn’t the best of years. We have so much to anticipate, do(!) and look forward to in 2018, and we wish you a lovely year. Please stay in touch, and come visit us soon!

(Remember this? The Sequel releases Summer 2018.)

Posted: February 7th, 2018
Categories: Leah
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The Year of Giving

Last night, New Year’s Eve, I was reflecting on 2017. My initial reaction to the year was frustration and disappointment. It’s easy to say it was a blah year. But I also have to admit that there were quite a few rays of sunshine among the muck, and I certainly won’t discredit them.

If you recall in my birthday post, I mentioned that I was actively working on community service and being the hands and feet of Jesus. I’d like to say that my family accomplished a lot here. While we DID participate in a few things* – mostly financially – honestly, most of 2017 was spent coming up with ideas for service (or complaining about how few people cared to support x, y or z) instead of action. That’s going to change.

*Wesley has been very concerned about the Puerto Rico storm aftermath. He has several teachers and fellow students at his school with family ties to the island. He kept asking what he could do to help, and we decided to invite our neighbors to host a lemonade stand. They raised nearly $100 on the hottest day of the summer.

Before I get into the Shattuck Family 2018 Resolution, I need to highlight a few December happenings that made me smile. (And because I’m such an infrequent blogger these days.)

Instead of a traditional Christmas program at Wesley’s Spanish immersion elementary school, they hold an annual Hispanic festival of dances. Each class performs a traditional dance from one of the many Spanish-speaking countries across the world. Wesley’s Kindergarten class performed a Peruvian dance, and they did so well that they were one of 4 classes to perform again in front of the district superintendent. Wes had a “speaking part” and led his group very well. So cute.

We were sick a lot with hives, sinuses and an ear infection in December, but we did manage to see The Nutcracker and tour the beautifully lit up Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We brought along a neighbor friend, and the two boys’ commentary was simply the best.

I sang in seven total services for Christmas, which was only tiring because I was fighting laryngitis – otherwise, totally fun. I really enjoy the humility and talent of the members of this congregation. On Christmas Eve, Wes lost his first tooth and was ecstatic that the tooth fairy AND Santa would be visiting on the same night.

The weather between Christmas and New Year’s has been snowy and extremely cold. We’ve hibernated basically all week with an occasional grocery trip, which leads me back to our Family Resolution of Giving.

After brunch out, Steven announced he had a service activity for us to do. We went to Target and bought less than $80 worth of baggies, first aid and hygiene supplies to make 16 packages for passing out to people in need. We’ll keep them in our cars and make new sets every month. I love his idea!

The year is off to a right start. It will take some practice to keep active and engaged, but it’s an effort we’re all taking part in. Here’s to 2018!

Posted: January 1st, 2018
Categories: Leah
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The Dress

Ten years ago I saw a cute, navy polka-dot dress in one of my favorite stores. I instantly knew it would be what I’d wear to our wedding rehearsal dinner.

I liked it so well that I took it with us on our honeymoon to London. On one of our evenings out, I wore it to dinner before we saw The Mousetrap.

The store is no longer around (remember B. Moss? I miss it terribly!), but that dress has been hanging in my closet ever since. Occasionally I’ll break it out for special occasions, and it’s a good all-around dress for work, church or weddings. Just slightly fancy, but I don’t seem to wear it too much.

Last fall we won a family portrait session with Nathaniel Edmunds Photography at a silent auction. We never get professional photos taken – I didn’t get any pregnancy or newborn photos of Wesley, and other than large photo sessions with extended family members, we only have the silly Target candy-stripe photos from a few Christmases ago.

We knew we’d use the photo session to mark our 10th wedding anniversary, and we originally talked about breaking out my wedding dress for the occasion. We scheduled the session for the beginning of August to be as close to our anniversary as possible.

Just days before the shoot, Steven cracked his elbow and wrist from a bike accident. (That was our very first trip to the ER! Great fun.) We rescheduled for September, and THAT day was dreadfully, uncomfortably hot. The wedding dress idea got scratched, and we rescheduled again for October. Rainy, cold and blustery, we postponed yet again for the next available sunny day.

By this point all our ideas for a creative photo session were stale, and we didn’t have the energy to make them happen. But I remembered the polka dot dress and its anniversary history. It may be slightly dated and not have the typical “fall look,” but it seemed perfect for the sunny day that finally arrived.

We Shattucks are not very trendy, but we do know how to look coordinated!

 

Many things have happened since I first wore this dress ten years ago. I love these photos that captured it all.

  

Posted: October 30th, 2017
Categories: Leah
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.

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David and Sheela with the Fernsler cousins on Memorial Day

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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
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