Posts in February 2013

Chicago with Love (and some signs)

The three of us took a post-Valentine’s Day mini vacation to Chicago for the weekend. It almost didn’t happen, but I’m glad it did. Some time away with our little family always seems to allow Wes to hit some major milestones.

The plan was to leave midday on Friday, but we had a rough Thursday night and ended up at the pediatrician the following morning with another double ear infection. (That’s four in 6 months, for those of you counting.) Saturday morning’s departure wasn’t so bad – it was one less day of figuring out nap schedules away from home – and we enjoyed a happy-go-lucky kid, especially since we gained an hour driving north.

If you drive along 65 around the Lafayette area, you’ll pass miles of wind turbines. Wes was awestruck with the alien-looking things, and, in reference, he kept signing “star,” which I believe is a pretty close description. We picked up the train to head into Chicago, and again, Wes was amazed to see, hear and ride a real-life train. You better believe he signed “train” and yelled “WHOA” pretty much the entire 45 minute trip. I’m not ashamed to say that my beaming pride was evident as people oohed and aaahed over my adorable son.

After checking into the hotel, we took a quick walk around Magnificent Mile before settling in for naptime. Thankfully the excitement from the morning worked its magic, and Wes knocked out cold within minutes. Steven followed suit. So I got to read in an overly comfortable bed above Chicago while the boys rested. And you know what? One of the absolute best things about 4-star hotels are the hot showers and the complimentary toiletries. Their sleeping allowed me to test out the mini spa treatments in fancy packaging and actually wash my hair.

From the 9th floor of our hotel, Wes loved to watch the cars and busses (and sign accordingly) pass by. He was ecstatic when we hopped on a bus to the LEGO store and later the John Hancock Observatory. (PS – The Observatory is cheaper than Willis/Sears Tower, the lines are totally manageable, there’s a cafe at the top and the views are just as good, if not better.) Stroller riding is fun to an extent, but a wiggly toddler needs to wiggle, and that he did – 100 floors up. We got some meager photos, but the trip was super fun. I didn’t understand until later today, but the incoherent sign that Wes performed all that evening was “night.” Duh. We were up there and looking over all the lights of the city as the sun set.

Today we took a quick trip to Shedd Aquarium. We did have a couple meltdowns prior to seeing any fish, but once we did, Wes was in heaven. He couldn’t get enough. And no matter if it was a snake, eel or stingray. They were all signed as “fish.” He was beside himself with excitement, and I couldn’t help but laugh at him.

A few pieces of advice about Shedd – GO EARLY. We arrived just an hour after it open and the lines were already long. Also, BRING A STROLLER. Even if your child ends up walking the whole trip, having a stroller or wheelchair automatically puts you in the “accessible line,” which is at least 1/3 shorter. For real. And if you bring a 19-month-old? Skip all the extra exhibits and just pay the $8 general admission. You’re saving yourself at least $30 each, and in our case, Wes was done after an hour.

So I know this post is heavy with sign language talk. Maybe you are on the fence about whether to introduce it to your kids. Or maybe you think it’s a damper on language development. Or maybe you just don’t even know that it’s a trend! I was hesitant to keep at it because I’m pretty terrible with follow-through, but it’s worked really well for us. I didn’t know just how well until we came home tonight. Wesley was getting ready for bed and carried on an entire conversation with me with his grunts, few words and limited signs. Without any prompting from me, he signed “fish,” “train,” “bus,” “star” and “car” over and over again. Heavy emphasis on the train. He remembered the whole weekend’s events and wanted to tell me about it!

Some kids are talking more fluently than Wes at his age, but this is the way he is able to communicate right now, and his little face just lights up that he CAN, and that I understand. It’s now a two-way conversation. And golly, if it takes a trip to Chicago to figure this out, well, where to next week?!

Screen Shot 2013-02-17 at 7.34.52 PM

Posted: February 17th, 2013
Categories: Leah
Tags: , , , , , ,
Comments: No Comments.

Have Toddler, Will Travel

Health permitting, we head to the Windy City for the weekend. Not gonna lie, I’m a little nervous about taking Wesley with us, who is just about 19 months old. Our late summer vacation to Hilton Head Island was perfect, but it was 85 degrees, we had access to both the beach and a pool, we had a condo for a full week, and he was just over a year old.

This mini vacation consists of a) big city traffic/lights/sound/wind, b) FRIGID COLD TEMPS, c) no car (we’re taking the train) and d) a picky eater. That’s right, it’s going to be 24 degrees in Chicago while we’re there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m stoked, but also fairly certain that this could be a bad idea.

Why are we going? We both need a break. We have gone to Chicago a few times, and it usually seems to be around this year. Wait. I should clarify. We went to Chicago in Feb. 2010 and had plans to go again in Feb. 2011, but Steven got terribly sick the day before so we had to cancel the trip. Boo. The hotel rates in February are fantastic, and I happened to score $75 nights at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, right off Magnificent Mile.

(Here’s :60 of our last trip to Chicago.)

Why are we taking Wes? Well, for one, he’s our kid. I think he’ll love all the sights and sounds, museums and pizza. He enjoys excursions and seeing new things. He even is pretty good at spending the night in a hotel. Annnd, I think if he didn’t come with us, we’d miss him like crazy cakes.


  • Our hotel doesn’t offer complimentary breakfast (FAIL). Wes demands milk FIRST THING each morning. I assume there is a fridge in our room, but can we be certain?
  • The in-room snacks in a 4-star hotel are priced to the max. We gotta create a distraction.
  • The weather will be coooold.
  • I have no idea if there are rules about kids in taxis or city buses. Do we have to walk everywhere?
  • We’re taking the train into the city. Gotta keep our stuff minimal as we’ll have to walk to the hotel.

d24a9375-2168-4c57-8a2d-5626b8dfb6dfSo. To alleviate my concerns about snacks and milk, of course, I made a mad Target run today. I’m pretty proud of my finds. Hey, did you know that milk boxes don’t have to be refrigerated?! Score. I stocked up on these for the morning cravings, specifically. I figured I should probably get snacks that were both healthy and provided portability, so I also grabbed some applesauce packets (Wes’ fave), fruit/veggie chews and some Annie’s yumminess. I really doubt Wes will eat or like the freeze dried peas and corn, but it’s worth a shot.

We’re planning to visit a couple museums and perhaps the Willis Tower to stay indoors as much as possible. But, I really want to check out Polar Adventure Day at Northerly Island, so I’m planning to bring lots of layers for the 3 of us. I fully expect to battle colds when we return; let’s hope they are worth it.

Contrary to my plans to bring layers, I’m challenged to pack light. We aren’t bringing the pack n play; instead, we’re borrowing a crib from the hotel. Of course, I’ll have to find room for Wes’ lovie, “Dee Dee,” and his two preferred blankets. Also, diapers, wipes, pjs, clothes… It can be done, right? The hope is to fit everything in two backpacks plus a small diaper bag, my purse and the umbrella stroller. That way we can cram everything into lockers at a museum on the way out of the city to avoid having to go back to the hotel.

I really have no idea about big city public transportation etiquette. I mean, people use taxis to get around everywhere, right? But I assume they have to follow car seat laws, so maybe we’re best going the bus route. “Children in open strollers are welcome on CTA…” Whew. (I guess I knew this, but I didn’t have a kid before!) 

It will be a fun weekend. I’m sure of it. Now, if we could just get over this new stomach bug that Wes caught, we’re in good shape. I would hate to have written this ridiculous post in vain if we have to cancel the whole trip.

Oh, and I just found that taxis and commercial vehicles don’t have to follow car seat laws. So put that in your back pocket.

What are your toddler travel secrets?

Posted: February 12th, 2013
Categories: Leah
Tags: , , ,
Comments: No Comments.


Photo 3One thing I’ve noticed since Wes has been around is that I don’t play enough. I enjoy quiet, lazy activities, like reading, painting, journaling and catching up on Gilmore Girls (somehow I missed that bandwagon in college). Wes is also a pretty quiet person, but he’s much more active than I am. And what an imagination! Who knew a child less than 2 years old could make believe so well? His interest in discovering the world has taught me several “lessons,” which I’ll outline below.

Sure, I enjoy the outdoors, but it’s WINTER. I dislike winter. Except when it’s snowing and beautiful and the sky is purple, I stay indoors with a cozy blanket and some hot chocolate. Sometimes it’s hard to put down a book or turn off the news in order to romp around on the floor and build a LEGO house that gets destroyed in .08 seconds. But I do it. And I have fun!

One recent day when it snowed, Wes really wanted to be outside. I grudgingly bundled us up and surprised myself at how much fun we had, just walking around and making footprints everywhere.

He reminded me how falling snow is just plain magical. And come on, how cute is he with his sign language?

Photo 6A few weeks ago I made a big, and somewhat risky purchase. I bought a kitchen tower to keep Wes “contained,” entertained and safe while I work on dinner. It was a tough decision because it’s a little pricey, and this particular model is the runner-up to the even more expensive Learning Tower. I debated for several weeks which one to get for various reasons, but I’m glad I chose the one I did. (For one thing, it collapses and folds up for somewhat portability – this is a necessity for our itty bitty kitchen.) It allows me to have my hip and hands back, and it gives him a feeling of participation as he can see what I’m doing. It’s also great in the bathroom while brushing teeth – he can rinse his own toothbrush! We’ve also discovered just how fun it is to set in the living room and pretend it’s all sorts of things. An airplane! A tree house! Or best yet, a podium for public speaking.

Another lesson learned from my son: You can pretty much do anything or be anyone with the right props.

Wesley has had trouble getting along well with other kids his age. I really think his social skills have improved tremendously since enrollment at school. He has a chance to play alongside other kids, also known as parallel playing. This doesn’t mean that he’s actually participating in the same activity as another child, but he is close by, playing by himself. This still is important because it’s part of a gradual step toward community and sharing. However, I’ve noticed recently that he has been playing extremely well with, and not just beside, his cousins and his bestie Beatrice.

Photo 1 Photo 4

I had to include the above photo of his adorable cousin, Jeremiah. The poor kid rarely has his pants in the right place because he army crawls all over the floor, causing his drawers to fall right off. It’s hilarious. To make it even better, Jer managed to climb and plop himself inside the box of Lincoln Logs to be closer to his cousin, “Baby Weswee.” Also note that this peaceful photo of Wes and Bea was shortly lived. They are pretty much a married couple in 19-month-old bodies.

Lesson learned? You can do your own thing, and by yourself, even, but it’s just so much nicer to do it with someone else.

And lastly, Wes has shown me that life is FUN. Seriously. There’s so much stuff to do, things to see and people to meet. I feel like we get stuck in our own routine and become blinded to the amazing world and creation we live in. Wes has paved a way to open our eyes and rediscover our surroundings.

Photo 2

Be a goof! Go, have fun.

Posted: February 11th, 2013
Categories: Leah
Tags: , , ,
Comments: 1 Comment.

Surprise Visit

Picture 001Some people never leave you, regardless of where they are on the planet (or not on this world). They leave a lasting legacy for you. Their experiences, advice and modeling behavior shape you to be who you become.

Today was one of those mornings that was impossible to get out of bed. I skipped over washing my hair for the 4th day in a row (gross), and picked out a decent looking “fat” shirt to match my mood, but still look somewhat presentable. Pony tail day. You know those.

Not that it was a bad morning, but it was blah, and I developed a headache that wouldn’t go away. My projects at work were taking forever to complete. I started thinking about rounding up a lunch of some sort from the random, dwindling food of mine in the kitchenette when I got a call from our receptionist, “Leah, there’s a Kara Pabon sitting across from me that says she has a hug for you if you’ll accept it.”

Rewind 10 years. An insecure senior in high school. I spent most of my free time in either the “senior lounge” or in Miss Pabon’s office. She taught me to play guitar. She listened to my teenage angst and troubles of life and concerns about my future. My broken heart from a past boyfriend. My wavering faith and my recent trip to Southeast Asia that left me feeling empty and black inside. She gave me a voice through music as my band teacher and impromptu guitar instructor.

My heart grew a million times with her encouragement, and I knew I could face college with her advice and my newly achieved life skills. I owe a lot to Kara Pabon, who was younger than my age now during my high school days. Could I have been a mentor for a young girl at 25? I don’t know. But I should strive to be one now.

Fast forward back to this afternoon. I quickly glanced in the mirror to make sure I look not-dead before heading downstairs to greet my old confidante, Miss Kara Pabon. She looks the same since I last saw her at least six years ago. Same warm smile with eyes that see the best qualities in every single person. Kara is just in town today as she is heading back to China tomorrow where she has lived for the last several years. She just happened to see Joy’s House on her way to lunch with a friend and recognized it from my posts on Facebook. On a whim, she stopped in to see me.

So touched. Suddenly my dirty hair and headache don’t seem to matter. I just got transported back to my happy, go-get-em memories as a 19-year-old.

Kara is a living example of what I hope to become. What a fantastic surprise to my day, and a gentle reminder to reach out to those you care about. Keep in touch.

Posted: February 6th, 2013
Categories: Leah
Tags: , , , ,
Comments: 2 Comments.

:60 with the Shattucks

Posted: February 5th, 2013
Categories: Leah
Tags: , , ,
Comments: 2 Comments.

Rookie Mom on Professional Sickness

At first it was scary and troubling, then it became so frequent that it was comical. Now I’m dealing with anguish and frustration and just plain old annoyance. Wes woke up with snotty nose #27894589234 of his life yesterday morning, and it’s turned into a full, blown-out cold today.

Okay, sure, it’s not the flu or RSV or pneumonia, or even a fever. But I’m about to throw in the towel. Not even kidding – we have maybe a week of health before something else sets in. Every. Single. Time. We just finished antibiotics for an ear infection. Before that, conjunctivitis. And since August, we’ve dealt with impetigo, croup, asthma and respiratory complications, other ear infections and a whole slew of snot noses.

This kid never had such a bad immune system until he started being around more kids (and germs) at daycare. I love the social interactions and learning experiences he has, don’t get me wrong. But for real? Please tell me it gets better.

What can I do? This child is a toy chewer and touches his face constantly. I do try to keep his hands clean, but I feel like I’m failing here. There’s nothing worse than witnessing a miserable toddler unable to sleep because he can’t breathe. He hates neb treatments, and don’t expect to wipe his nose or suck out any snot without a fight.

I find myself apologizing to Wes on a regular basis. Dark circles are making a permanent home under his eyes. He doesn’t understand why I have to force nasty liquid down his throat or hold a mask over his face, and he just cries and sobs, making my heart break a little more. I just want to snap my fingers and be a magical mom.

I’m sorry, Wes. I’m pretty sure you will eventually grow out of this stage, but it’s hard right now, and I’m hurting, too.

During conjunctivitis week

During conjunctivitis week

Posted: February 2nd, 2013
Categories: Leah
Tags: , ,
Comments: 2 Comments.

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