Posts for the ‘Leah’ Category

Meatballs, Lies and Forgiveness

I’m 95% certain my six-year-old lied to me this evening. Honestly, it hurts. Forgiving has come difficult, even though it was a really small and perhaps insignificant lie.

It feels like our relationship developed a little crack, and this saddens me because it reminds me that he’s human, too. We’re all imperfect, I know, but this is a new experience. He’s one of those kids who gets in trouble at school for fidgeting or giggling too much with his friends. When disciplined at school, he offers to tell us – even when it’s hard for him – because he knows we care and won’t further punish him for something he’s already atoned for. It’s usually emotional for him, and it eats him up inside.

“Go away! I don’t deserve nice things!”
“What do you mean?”
“This happened at school, too! I just don’t like myself. I don’t like that Satan is winning. My life is not right. I wish I had a new life. I’m not crying because of video games; it’s because I just want to be good.”

(After this particular situation, we had a long conversation about why God sent Jesus to help us and how we are forgiven for making bad decisions. Big and deep thoughts are more common these days.)

But this, tonight, was different.

I made spaghetti with homemade meatballs for dinner. He likes meatloaf, but for some reason, meatballs aren’t his thing. We still make him eat a little of everything to keep him introduced to more foods than just his standard favorites. Like any 6-year-old, dinner can be tough. Lots of whining and refusal to eat; lots of choking down cold food.

He wanted dessert, but he could only have it if he ate a meatball. You know the drill. I left him to it, and got to working on other things around the house. Taking his time, he nibbled at it until I announced it was nearly bedtime and would have to hurry up if he wanted to eat dessert at all.

Just 10 seconds later, he happily showed me his clean fork, so I pulled out a popsicle from the freezer. And then I saw it – I opened the trash can lid to throw away a wrapper, and a half-eaten meatball was sitting there, mocking me.

“Wesley, do you see that?”
“Yeah, but it’s not mine.”
“Are you sure? I don’t think it’s kind or fair to lie.”
“I’m not lying. It’s not mine.”

Biting your tongue and trying to give your child the benefit of the doubt is hard work. I didn’t do so well; I drilled him a little more and tried to believe it. I thought I could break him to spill the beans, but it didn’t happen, and I guess that’s what makes it all the worse.

“Mama, why do you look so mad?”
“I’m having a hard time believing you. I’m more upset that you might be lying to me than I am about the meatball. We don’t lie to each other in this family.”

He gave me eye contact (while eating his popsicle), but he didn’t get emotional. When we’ve doubted him before, he has become so upset that it was impossible to stay on the fence. Steven and I have tried harder to use his word as truth, and it has given Wesley confidence in more recent situations. I had hoped that the guilt factor might come into play here, but it didn’t this time.

Our bedtime routine was strained on my account; I read books aloud through gritted teeth and didn’t offer a goodnight hug. I realize my behavior could make that small crack larger, so I’m working toward forgiveness. After all, isn’t that what makes relationships stronger? We appreciate those who love us despite our mistakes and failures.

Yes, it’s only a meatball, and I know there will be bigger fish to fry in the future. If I only had an ounce of the grace given to me through Jesus… I pray that we may be merciful parents to these children (who begin to think of us as a safe haven and refuge!).

It still amazes me how much I learn about faith through everyday parenting decisions. And forgiveness is hard.

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13

Posted: May 14th, 2018
Categories: Leah
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On Loneliness and FOMO

How is it that you can feel so alone when surrounded by people who dearly love you? I don’t know this feeling well, because even when I DO feel disconnected from community, I can still enjoy time alone. I am content enough to entertain myself. Steven loves quiet time, and he socializes best with a small group of people.

 
(Recent photos for good measure. Indiana Pacers did well this season!)

Before Wesley was born, we would happily spend our evenings doing two different things in proximity to each other, hardly saying a word, and it was lovely. It works for us. But this child of ours, he’s right smack in the middle of our personalities.

As I write this, the lyrics to One is the Loneliest Number are popping into my head.

I took a brief online personality test for Wesley, and it claims that he’s an extroverted intuitive perceiver. Steven is skeptical about all the Myers-Briggs stuff, but I eat it up. This makes sense because I love to know about people and hone in on their skills (ENFJ, a “Giver”), and Steven believes it’s all bologna (INTP, a “Thinker”). What can I say? We are truly the ying to each others’ yang!

The test claims he’s too young to have a fully developed personality, so he could be more of a feeler (ENFP, an “Inspirer”), like me, or thinker (ENTP, a “Visionary”), like Steven. It’s so weird because he truly is a blend of the two of us. At any rate, I have to believe it’s a combination of these traits that causes him to bend over in near pain at the thought of being separated by people. This child has a serious case of fear-of-missing-out, or FOMO.

ENFPs and ENTPs are ruled by dominant extroverted intuition – a function that picks up on a seemingly endless slew of possibilities in the user’s external environment. While this is a wonderful skill at the best of times, it’s a stunting one at worst. ENFPs and ENTPs can easily become quickly paralyzed by their own rampant perceptions – wanting to experience everything and consequently following through on nothing.

These types needs to let go of their fear that there is constantly a better idea, situation, opportunity, person or chance out there for them to pursue. When they learn to focus in on what they’ve chosen, ENFPs and ENTPs are capable of incredible feats. But first they have to learn to say goodbye to FOMO.

-Heidi Priebe

I mentioned quiet times spent in the same room. We still do this most evenings, and Wes is so used to it, that he enjoys drawing or playing quietly when we’re both within his eyesight. Pulling him away is near impossible. Forget playing outside by himself (although he will if I’m also outside, a few feet away). Heaven forbid he get a cup of water without one of us assisting him.

Bedtime is the worst time of day for our 6-year-old son. Getting him upstairs is a battle of argument and manipulation, but I realize most kids are in this boat. Once upstairs and resigned, he stops fighting back and (usually) happily gets ready for bed and thoroughly enjoys our nighttime reading tradition. But once we reach the last page, he starts to protest, whine/beg and sometimes cry for me to stay with him until he falls asleep.

“It’s not fair that you and Daddy get to be together all the time.”
“I just want someone to be with me.”
“Why CAN’T you sleep with me?!”
“I hate nighttime. It’s not fair that I have to go to bed now.”
“What are you going to do while I sleep?”

He calls it “loneliness” or “being afraid of the dark.” I don’t discredit those possibilities, but he didn’t start complaining about bedtime or dark until a year or so ago. It’s gotten progressively worse, and based on his complaints, I think instead he’s irritated at being apart from (what he assumes is) the “action.”

It used to frustrate me to no end because it seemed to come out of nowhere. I refused to give in and appease him, but I felt terrible that he felt so scared. Eventually I started to ask him about his fears so we could talk through them, and it helped him relax. I stayed until he was almost asleep. It’s been routine ever since.

Yes, he’s only six, but I do worry about how to help him cope as he enters adolescence, especially with an increasingly online and social existence. We purposely don’t have tablets in our house, and while we do play a lot of video games as a family activity, we limit other screen time as much as possible. However, I don’t think I can blame social media alone for the world’s FOMO problem. Instead, I think it’s up to us to teach and instill gratitude.

“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” -Philippians 4:12-13

There’s actually a lot of science about happiness, and much of it stems on gratefulness. Wes appreciates problem-solving and tackling an issue. He doesn’t always have confidence in the process, but if you can show him or demonstrate evidence, he is less defensive. I like this article about how to become happy:

  • Ask “What am I grateful for?” No answers? Doesn’t matter. Just searching helps.
  • Label negative emotions and feelings. Give it a name and your brain isn’t so bothered by it.
  • Make decisions. Go for “good enough” instead of “best decision ever made on Earth.”
  • Give hugs and personal contact.

It seems a daunting task to teach gratitude. Wesley already has a soft spot for loving others, so I think, with time and practice, some of these tips and guidelines (some of which we already incorporate) and these Biblical reminders can assist in adopting gratitude and happiness to combat loneliness and fear.

Wes is probably the happiest sibling-to-be on the face of the planet. Gone are the crying fits, convinced that his lack of sibling must be a punishment from God for his actions. (Sometimes I think it’s these tears that defied our contraception methods!) He carcasses and whispers “I love you, Maisie,” to my growing belly, and he believes/hopes she will be the savior to overcome his loneliness.

Disappointment is inevitable, we all know, but he doesn’t – yet. I pray we can help him learn skills to address deep fears and teach him how to be grateful in all circumstances. We’ve got our work cut out for us!

Bright eyes gladden the heart; Good news puts fat on the bones. Proverbs 15:30

Posted: April 15th, 2018
Categories: Leah
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6 Things Pregnancy Books Don’t Tell You

Photo cred itsliketheyknowus.com

Because it’s been a hot minute since the last go around, I’ve been checking out a ton of pregnancy books from the library. Most all of the books are written for a first-time mother’s perspective, but I read them anyway. One of my favorites when pregnant with Wes is Pregnancy Day By Day, and it’s since been revised and updated 3 times. How can THAT much change in 7 years?! At any rate, I checked it out again.

There’s plenty of great advice and information out there, but I noticed there’s still a lot these books don’t talk about. Maybe because it’s too personal or maybe because it just happens to me, but this is straight-talk for pregnant moms to be. Here’s a few of what the books don’t tell you:

Nose Whistling
What they say: You may experience congestion or excess saliva while pregnant.

What they don’t say: You may wake yourself or your partner multiple times per night from a weird whistling sound. It may take you a few seconds in your sleepy stupor to realize it matches your breathing pattern and therefore is coming FROM YOUR NOSE. Dried up boogers cling to the inner walls of your nostrils, and since you’re breathing heavier during pregnancy anyway, the strong wind howls across those ridges and makes an annoying woo. You have to get up, get a tissue and clean your nostrils well or it will happen again and you can’t concentrate on anything else.

Road Map Veins
What they say: Your body is producing up to twice as much blood volume, which may give your skin a healthy “glow.”

What they don’t say: Your blood vessels may expand so much, that if you have pale skin, it will be very noticeable across your neck and chest. It may look like an unattractive GPS route, which is sure to be a lovely sight in the warmer months.

Wardrobe Malfunctions
What they say: You may not need maternity clothes for a while and can adjust your normal clothes with waist extenders or belly bands.

What they don’t say: Using clothing modification methods work for an hour or so, but if you’re moving around or sitting still for too long, the stretchy band that covers and holds up your unbuttoned pants may shift and render the thing useless. Your friends and coworkers may be too nice to mention to your face if your zipper fly is visibly down for half the morning, so do yourself a favor a look down to conduct a self-evaluation every time you stand up.

Interpersonal Space
What they say: Your older child and/or your dogs may enjoy spending more time with you as they bond with their sibling in the womb. (Ok, this may not really be in a book!)

What they don’t say: Your kids and furry kids will follow you around the house and want to be touching you at all times. Get used to increased lack of privacy, as well as hands and dog paws resting on your growing belly. They may even want to sit on top of your stomach to be THAT close.

Nesting Spurts
What they say: You may have the urge to clean and organize.

What they don’t say: You may have just enough energy to WANT to do some nesting projects, but really, you just want to sit on the couch. Your husband may pick up where you left off, organizing the entire nursery and getting around to moving the couches from the family room to the basement like you have wanted to do for so long. But you may not have the motivation to refinish or design the now-empty family room, and you probably won’t really care too much.

Incontinence
What they say: Your pelvic floor may be weakened during pregnancy.

What they don’t say: You may need to frequent the gym bathroom if the workout-of-the-day (WOD) includes any jumps. Especially double unders. It may be wise to invest in leakage protection.

 

All joking aside, I am enjoying this pregnancy so much more than my first. I worry less, I’m (sorta) eating better, and I’m sleeping well.

Tonight, after several hugs and belly-attention, Wesley said, “Mama, I just want to make sure my sister is going to be strong like me.” He and Steven are looking out for us ladies well. Almost half way there!

Posted: March 16th, 2018
Categories: Leah
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Baby Name Reveal 2

So here we are. Since announcing our news, I’ve felt like it’s become more real. I’m just barely considered “advanced maternal age” for this pregnancy, but also given family conditions, I was asked to consider genetic screening. At 11ish weeks, I had a chromosomal blood test which came back low-risk. They were also able to tell us the gender of this baby: GIRL!

I’m to follow up semi-regularly at the high-risk OB so they can keep close tabs on little girl in this so-called geriatric body. I’ve already had two ultrasounds, and we have our upcoming 20-week ultrasound later this month – which will take approximately one hour. At that appointment, they’ll check each organ to make sure everything looks ship-shape. It’s comical to me to be considered old high-risk when my doctor isn’t even slightly concerned about our health (post test results). I don’t mind the extra attention, however, and it’s fun to see the baby more often.

13 weeks 4 days

Steven and I went to a childbirth refresher class a few weeks ago. It was designed for people like us who need some reminders because it’s been several years since the last go-around. I was surprised at how much has changed in hospital procedure and found the class really helpful. Steven was such a tease the entire evening and made me chuckle with nervous laughter. He is so good at calming my ridiculous fears and making me smile.

Testing out the peanut ball in childbirth class!

The majority of the time, we’re excited and anticipating the sweetness of the change. The boys especially. Other times, panic sets in and I start to doubt myself: can I do this? How could I possibly love this child as much as I love my first? How does this affect my professional life? Can I get back into shape after she’s born?

I’ve been so much more tired than I remember with Wesley, and baby brain has already set in. I’ve made so many ridiculous decisions that are now embarrassing to admit. I am sappy and cry easily, and the boys hide their giggles while trying to console me. “The baby is making you cry again, huh, Mama?”

Thankfully I am surrounded by people, including Steven and Wes, who are thrilled and encouraging. My favorite reactions have been from our immediate family: shock followed by total delight. All three of our nieces are excited to have another girl around.

Besides fatigue and hormone-craziness, I feel great. I’m kicking rear-end in my fitness classes and still achieving personal records. I hope to maintain this stamina as long as I can – my goal is up through 36 weeks. So far, things have been easy for us. And one of the easiest things was selecting baby girl’s name.

We had a running list of girl names when planning one for Wesley, so we went back to the start. Steven actually picked the names this time; he knew as soon as we confirmed my pregnancy. To go along with the nautical-themed nursery, this child needed a similar themed name.

Maisie Gale.

Maisie was a top favorite of mine if Wesley was a girl, and Steven gravitated to it. I love its cuteness that can grow into maturity. It means “pearl.” I particularly like Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series – the main character is generous, humble and persistent. I started reading this series while on our honeymoon and have followed Maisie throughout her journey from poverty to WW1 to self-employment. Our Maisie is our pearl in which we hope will become a loving member of her future community.

Gale is the spelling we chose to reflect ocean winds, hence the nautical theme. It means “joy of the father” and “pleasant, merry.” A gale is a forceful wind, too, so a little bit of independence in her personality may be expected.

Steven’s initial reaction when I showed him a positive pregnancy test was a large, goofy smile. When we learned the gender, he chanted “Maisie Gale” around the house and made us all laugh. This baby is dearly loved and known by her father.

Though we didn’t expect her arrival, she is most welcome and anticipated. You’re loved, Maisie Gale!

Our niece, Elli, created this painting after hearing her gender and name

 

Posted: March 4th, 2018
Categories: Leah
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Love is Patient

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Remember this? The Sequel releases Summer 2018.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

  

Posted: October 30th, 2017
Categories: Leah
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Now We Are Six

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

When I was One, 
I had just begun.

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

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

“Oh, Mama. This is the best ever.”

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

When I was Two,
I was nearly new.

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

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

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

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

When I was Three,
I was hardly Me.

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

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

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

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

When I was Four,
I was not much more.

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

 

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

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

When I was Five,
I was just alive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The End.” A.A. Milne. Now We Are Six

Posted: July 22nd, 2017
Categories: Leah
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Grace Period

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SO,

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

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

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

Posted: May 9th, 2017
Categories: Leah
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An Ode to the Moth Colony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted: February 27th, 2017
Categories: Leah
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