Posts in May 2016

Exterior House Painting Reveal

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.

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I used it as an example when we replaced the roof last fall.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

IMG_3771We 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:

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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.

Come by and visit!

Posted: May 29th, 2016
Categories: Leah
Tags: ,
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O Canada

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.

IMG_3525Day 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.

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27027175475_bf1a034c7d_zOf 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.

26291575214_e8e21c455e_zSince 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

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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.

26856931571_261746b2b4_zLots 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

26875610721_597a6e41d5_z (1)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.

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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.

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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.

Screenshot 2016-05-15 at 10.49.48 PMThe 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.

Posted: May 15th, 2016
Categories: Leah
Tags: , , ,
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Birthday Eve

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:

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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.

(These sillies are the best things.)

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Posted: May 9th, 2016
Categories: Leah
Tags: ,
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