“Mama, I have a joke for you. What do you call a cow with one leg?”
“Hmm, I don’t know. Tell me!”
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?”
“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.
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.
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
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!
I’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.
David and Sheela with the Fernsler cousins on Memorial Day
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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
…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?!
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.
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…
…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.”
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?
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.
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 We 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
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.
First Tennis Lesson
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 Because 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.
With all these other “firsts,” I’m kinda glad I don’t have to adjust to Kindergarten Mom just yet.
It looks so different. If you ever want to meet your neighbors, paint the exterior of your house. I think I’ve talked to nearly everyone on the street – and so far everyone likes it, albeit with opinions.
Remember when you were pregnant and people asked about your birth plan? Haha, painting your house is kinda in the same category of public opinion and knowledge. Not that I care, really. I have had so much trouble and anxiety on selecting colors, that I’ve actually SOUGHT help.
Months ago I found a photo in a color swatch brochure of a house with a similar roof line as ours.
I used it as an example when we replaced the roof last fall.
I was still on the fence about the colors, so I took our painting company’s advice and met with a painting consultant to confirm swatches several weeks ago, and she reaffirmed my selections, saying that it would “look great.”
Then the dreaded waiting period began. I kept asking friends and family if they thought I was making the right choice – I mean EVERYONE is painting their homes GRAY and NAVY. This is a completely different spectrum! I feel like everyone was being nice about it and assuring me it would be fine. It didn’t keep me from waking up at night, though.
On Monday, the painting crew arrived for a walk through and began prepping for the week. We were assigned a team of foreign exchange students, who were friendly and enjoyed playing with Wes and the dogs. They instantly loved them back.
Steven was out of town for the day, and the Reynolds came over for dinner to celebrate Jovia’s belated birthday, get sweaty in the bounce house and watch the painting crew. It was a perfect day, really.
Tuesday was the first painting day. When we approached the house after work, it was impressively different. The way the sun hit the tan color, though, made the color look yellow, and I started to have major doubts. But the back and side of the house looked great, so I bit my lip and literally prayed that I would learn to love it.
Wes certainly did. “Mama, look! I like our yellow house!”
Facepalm. It’s not yellow! It’s tan! My fingers were crossed that the warm white trim color would help soften the yellow tint. After work on Wednesday, we came home to this:
By now, everyone in the neighborhood was in it. I watched people point and drive by slowly (do they hate it? what are they saying?!); I spoke with people I hadn’t in months: “It looks AWESOME!” and “You really hit the nail on the head.”
There were also several questions – even months before the painting began – on whether we’d paint the brick. Though Steven has little opinion about color choices, this was one decision we made together: not to paint it. There are several houses with similar features as ours in the neighborhood that have successfully pulled off a single color for both the siding and brick, and they do look nice. And though there are some places around the house that show water/paint run off on the brick that could have been covered up by paint, it wasn’t really a debatable decision.
We actually like brick and its variances. We left the family room fireplace unpainted as well because we like it. It’s nearly impossible to restore to its original coloring after its painted, too, and who knows? Maybe red brick will come back in style in the next few decades…and we’ll be trendy!
Back to Wednesday’s progress: So far, so good. And the weather had held off its forecasted thunderstorms.
Until Thursday. There were a few scattered storms, but the guys got the trim done and started on the doors and porch. Wes enjoyed waking up each morning to see his new friends.
Mom and Dad were in the neighborhood to return a borrowed ladder at a friends’ house on our street, so naturally they stopped by to check out the handiwork. I asked if it was weird for them to witness their house of 26 years change colors, but they seemed pleased with the outcome thus far.
We had hoped to complete the project by Thursday, but the crew needed another half day to finish the porch and touch up random places. We semi-grudgingly went to bed knowing that we’d have one more day to dodge and avoid certain windows while getting ready in the morning.
I was a little nervous to come home on Friday because of conversations at work about the porch (floor) color. Apparently people don’t paint porches anymore, but we couldn’t just leave the blue-gray floor, and an all-white porch seemed like too much. And shutters? I kept going back and forth. But my prayers (seriously, I did pray that I’d like it), seemed to work, because approaching the driveway was beginning to be fun.
After the final walk through, I attached a handful of white painted shutters before hopping in the car to see Wesley’s last preschool 500 bike “race.” It was just as adorable as you can imagine.
We spent Friday evening on the freshly painted front porch, then had dinner on the back patio. Wes was clearly enjoying himself, as he looked up at the house, then the porch umbrella, and announced, “It’s really nice to spend your life with people under the umbrella.”
Sure is, buddy.
The paint crew gave Wes his very own painting t-shirt, which is now a coveted item. As I’m looking more closely at areas they painted, the quality of painting around specific areas (door frames, mainly) was mediocre, but they were great to our family, and at least I didn’t have to climb up a ladder with a paintbrush.
And yes, I’m still debating the color of the garage doors (should they be tan? red?), and I couldn’t get all of the shutters properly installed. But that’s ok because I’d like to replace them with wooden (maybe functional?) shutters in the somewhat near future. Everyone knows that a project like this is never fully finished.
THAT ALL SAID — the photos are misleading; it really does look warm and inviting in person, which is exactly what we were going for.
The day we moved in: Today:
Instead of grays and dark blues, we’ve opted for browns and reds. I’m sure we’ll still get asked when we plan to paint the lower brick portion, too, haha. Despite my uncertainty, we’re starting to really like the “finished” product. It’s the Shattuck way to be different, I guess.
Things the three of us have commented on regarding the differences between the U.S. and Canada:
Washrooms vs Restrooms or Bathrooms
“It’s a long, long way from our house.”
British spellings of words (centre, colour, realise, etc.)
Metric system (although much American radio and TV is available in Ontario, so you still get Fahrenheit and miles)
Inexpensive food and goods at museums and attractions (whereas it’s hiked up tremendously in the states!)
Poutine craze vs best local burger or pizza
Absence of billboards! Instead, there are many inspirational lines of advice along the road.
Lots of honking drivers
Cleanliness, even in public bathrooms
Labels and signs in both English and French vs Spanish (I was surprised at how much I could translate with my unused, limited knowledge!)
We’re home now, but the road trip to Ontario was entirely fun. I think we all needed a break, and we were in good spirits throughout the week. Nevermind a mild case of extensor tendonitis, there were lots of smiles, giggles and teasing.
Day 1 (Saturday) – We started on the road around 10 a.m. after packing up our pantry into coolers for snacks along the way. Wes did pretty good; he had very little concept of “a long way,” but he got the hang of it after I compared the timeframe to over a dozen episodes of Octonauts. We were nearly in Detroit when Siri/Google Maps took us on a wide goose chase. A bridge had gone out on our route, and we were redirected into a no trespassing zone within a metal factory. Apparently there is a small ferry nearby, but we didn’t stay to check it out. It was so weird. One minute we were on a residential street with houses all lined up in a row, the next we were surrounded by railroad tracks and barbed wire fences.
Once we finagled our way through the detour, we crossed into Canada and drove through Windsor on 401. Our phones lost signal, so we had to rely on our 2008 TomTom GPS, which we haven’t used in ages. (Sidenote, our TomTom was once stolen, and nearly 2 years after the incident, a police officer recovered it and drove it to our house. I still find this amusing.) It was fun to drive through Canadian countryside, watching the many windmills stretch across the landscape. We stopped at an uber-clean visitor center/rest area and got a map to direct us to Niagara Falls, since TomTom was only mildly trustworthy.
We stayed just north (west?) of the Falls at a shady Hampton Inn next to a giant Buddhist temple, but it was comfortable enough. Dinner that night was at a local bar & grill, where we had our first taste of Canadian fish and chips – a favorite Shattuck travel food. Downtown Niagara Falls, ON, though quaint and lined with lighted arches and a clean playground, is not very “happening.” We felt like the only people around, but it looks like it could be more frequented in the summer months.
Day 2 (Mother’s Day) – Wesley was so disappointed that we didn’t get to swim the night before, so I promised him we would swim in the hotel after breakfast and before heading to Niagara Falls. It was such a sweet morning; we had the pool all to ourselves, and it couldn’t have been more enjoyable to start the day. Wes was terribly excited about the water – it was the first time he’s been in a pool since last August! We packed a picnic lunch (that we didn’t end up eating/having), along with my Mother’s Day cards/gifts, then headed to the car for the Falls.
We parked in a free, off-season spot, which was great, but it was also 3 km (2 miles) away from the main strip. We thought it would be fine to walk because we’d been in the car for so long yesterday, and it was – on the hike down river. Wes took some great photos of our trek, and it was fun to see some the sights easily missed: a stranded boat from the early 1900s, an abandoned power plant, blooming cherry blossoms.
Of course the first stop was the boat ride into the mist on the Hornblower Cruise (Canada’s version of Maid of the Mist). We’d been talking about this upcoming experience for days, maybe weeks, and Wes was almost as excited as Steven was to get on board. The giddy boys threw on their ponchos and grabbed a spot at the front of the boat. Wes got a little overwhelmed by it all, but he still says it was the best thing about Niagara Falls.
His feet were beginning to ache at this point, and we entered cranky-pants phase. Cranky Wes has trouble listening and following directions, so the rest of the morning was a mix of frustration and elation. The original plan to head back to the car for lunch seemed daunting, so we grabbed a quick bite at Tim Horton’s before completing the Journey Behind the Falls tour – where you get extremely up close (and under and behind!) to the falls and extremely wet.
We did have reservations for dinner at one of the falls-view restaurants, but we opted to head back to the hotel to rest after an exhausting day. But first we had to walk 2 miles back to the car. And then it started to rain. Hahahahahahaha. You can imagine how grateful we were to see our car.
Since we were didn’t make it to our planned picnic, I opened up my sweet presents from Wesley in the hotel room before we all took a nap. He beamed with pride at the handmade card and bracelet he worked so hard on for me. So perfect.
Dinner was at a local BBQ place we spotted while in downtown Niagara Falls the night before. I had amazing poutine (a Canadian staple dish of french fries, gravy and cheese curds. It sounds gross, but it’s really good. I first became a fan when we visited family in upstate New York several years ago.), which I gobbled up after our fun, long day. Wes got a second wind of energy, so I suggested we drive by the falls at night to get a different perspective. It really was a Mother’s Day for the books. I love these guys.
Day 3 – Toronto day! It’s only a couple hours’ drive from Niagara Falls, and because the route hugs Lake Ontario, it was really fun to site watch: American businesses intermixed with names we’d never heard of, fruit trees of all sorts, street signs in both English and French. I could hear Wes taking a bunch of photos from the back seat of the car.
We had rented an Airbnb in the heart of downtown Toronto, but the instructions for checking in were vague. We ended up waiting an hour at a metered parking space before meeting with the condo owner/host, who then hopped into our car to direct us into the maze of her parking garage beneath the building. The process was strange and so was she, but the place was perfect for us. Giant windows overlooking Lake Ontario and the Toronto Islands allowed us to watch every kind of transportation go by: airplanes landing at the small island airport, sailboats racing each other, streetcars on cables, trains transporting thousands of commuters. Wes was stoked and asked to take our photos in front of the city with his camera.
BACKLIT ON A CHEAP CAMERAAA
Later, we walked to the ferry dock. Wes complained about pain on the top of his feet from yesterday’s walking, but we thought we’d have a shorter amount of walking to do today – ferry (sitting) and bicycle (rented from island). It was a longer walk to the dock than expected, and we took turns carrying our 40 lb guy…whew.
Lots of locals bring their bikes on the ferry to explore the islands. We enjoyed the short ride and the view of the city from the water. During the summer, a children’s amusement park and petting zoo is open on Centre Island. We headed there first, knowing it would be closed, but we were able to find some roaming peacocks on the property. The island is basically a giant state park. It’s very clean and welcoming, with signs everywhere requesting people to “Please Walk on the Grass.”
On our hunt to find a bicycle (I was starting to give up at this point; poor Wes and his feet!), we discovered a pirate ship, multiple playgrounds and a long pier. The wind made it a chilly 50-ish degrees, but the sun was out, and the views were incredible.
Back at the condo, I helped a wobbling little kid rest on the couch while I rubbed his sore foot muscles and Googled for tendonitis remedies. He thought it all very entertaining. We watched hockey before retiring for the night.
The boys went on to bed, but I enjoyed a few minutes watching the downtown lights and reflecting on the past year before celebrating my birthday the next day.
Day 4 (Leah’s birthday) – I woke up to all kinds of nice words and hugs. “Mama, I’m so, so glad that you’re my mom. It’s your birthday!” After a thorough inspection of the sore feet, we determined that they had healed enough to endure a walking tour around the world through Toronto’s various neighborhoods. We started off in Chinatown and worked our way through Kensington Market, where we had yummy local food (and picked up a discounted Mother’s Day cake for my birthday dessert later), and on toward Little Italy for Wesley’s first cannoli. I think he liked it.
I rubbed his tired little feet back at the condo before we crashed hard for the rest of the afternoon. We had a big night ahead to prepare for.
Thankfully our walk to the CN Tower was only a few blocks away, and because it was a Tuesday evening, it wasn’t crowded at all. We rode a glass elevator to the “top” (the viewing area is actually toward the middle of its height, but the view is still impressive) of the country’s tallest building and sat down for a 3-course dinner in the tower’s revolving restaurant.
We had a great time pointing out sites seen and recognized – especially along the lake. After our dinner, we walked down a few flights to watch the sunset and experience Wesley’s favorite thing ever: the glass floor.
We came back well past bedtime to eat cake, because why not add more fun to an already fun day? And it ended the best way: with extra hugs and kisses from my loving family. “Mama, I’m so happy it’s your birthday.”
Day 5 – The reason why we picked Ontario for our vacation destination and at this time of year is because Steven’s business sponsored a 1-day donor retention conference held in Toronto. While he attended the conference, Wes and I ventured to the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada.
Yes, I know of his love of sea creatures and the Octonauts, but I’ve never seen him so mesmerized. He loved watching the fish and sea animals, and he equally loved playing in the indoor playspace built to knock out extra kid energy. We toured the museum twice and spend 3 solid hours there.
We found Nemo and Dory! We saw his favorites: several different types of jellyfish and sharks. Many of them.
It’s another great venue for people watching. Toronto is the most ethnically diverse city I’ve ever visited, and it was most evident in the school groups on field trips that day. Kids of all different skin and hair colors, faiths and dress – playing together. I loved it.
Wes had expressed his interest in riding a streetcar for the last few days, so when Steven asked us to meet him later at the convention’s after party, we embarked on an adventure with the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). First we walked to the streetcar station across the street from the condo, but there was no way to purchase a ticket or token there. Google told me that we had to purchase fares at Union Station, which was a 20-minute walk away, and Wes’ feet couldn’t possibly handle that. I finally found a convenience store within a large professional building that sold tokens. After trying to explain what we wanted to do to the clerk, who looked at us like total foreigners, we headed back the way we came. The tokens are smaller than dimes, and it ALMOST got lost within my wallet of change because Canadians like to give $1 and $2 CA coin change instead of dollars, but we managed to hop on.
The TTC stop by our condo is one of the first before heading north, and we quickly realized that our timing was terrible – it was the evening rush hour. People crammed into the car like sardines, and of course we got stuck in an area where someone had spewed their lunch of chicken noodle soup. After an unpleasant 15-minute ride, we made it to the restaurant. Wes still thinks the streetcar trip was worth it, even if it wasn’t quite the magical experience he dreamed about.
The three of us walked through University of Toronto campus and spotting a local pizza joint for a quick dinner.
Day 6 – The morning was a little crazy because, since we were living like locals with Airbnb, the condo management company didn’t exclude our car from mandatory evacuation for a garage floor powerwash. We had to move the car by 8 a.m. What luck, huh? It was even better when we got stuck in Toronto rush hour traffic for an hour. Lucky for us, there’s a Tim Horton’s donut and coffee shop in any direction you look, similar to Starbucks here, which does help to soften the blow a little.
We drove another few hours west and stopped in Sarnia and Port Edward, which is the southernmost point of Lake Huron on the I-69 Michigan/Ontario border. We stretched our legs and snapped some pics before cleverly using up the remaining Canadian cash on gas (to the exact cent!). We crossed back into the US and drove through rainy weather until home.
The guys did well this trip, but they both have bouts of homesickness, and they were so grateful to roll into our garage. Before bedtime, we played a round of Candy Land at the kitchen table while eating popcorn and listening to music.
“Mama, I really liked our vacation, but I love, love, love our house.”
Check out the full album of photos here, and Wesley’s unique camera shots here.
I know I should be heading to bed right now, but perhaps I’m still awake because I’m sitting in a quiet living room in downtown Toronto, listening to my littlest snore peacefully and my handsomest ruffle the bedcovers, while I have this view:
Or maybe it’s just because it’s the eve of my birthday, and I tend to reflect about the past year and the one ahead during the last few pre-birthday hours. Probably both.
It’s Year 33, the same age that Jesus died after 3 years of ministry. I remember vividly thinking/worrying about this during my 30th birthday: How can I live well for others in his honor and glory? And now: Did I accomplish much in 3 years?
I know I can’t change the world, but I can give time, kindness and love to others. Last year was difficult, and I soaked up wonderful time with my immediate family. Steven and Wes give me encouragement and strength to conquer anything. Their support gave me the desire to “pay-it-forward.” In January, I made a commitment to be more present for the people in my life. I’ve enjoyed going to recitals and birthday parties and regularly meeting up with friends. I’ve made an effort to carve out time to address even the smallest needs at work and at home, and it’s made me feel needed and valued.
And while I still struggle with occasional feelings of insecurity and self-doubt, they have developed into more consistent feelings of assurance, trust and faith.
I feel confident in my profession and career.
I am comfortable in my skin and appearance.
I dearly love my husband and son, and we’re close.
I trust God for the direction of our lives.
Yes, I can always be a better wife, parent, family member, friend or coworker. I know I still have much growth and life ahead of me, but today – in Toronto with my loved ones – I feel like I can take on the next year.