Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’

Next Steps

My fingernails are the longest they’ve been since perhaps my wedding day. I’ve always had a nervous habit of fidgeting with my nails, and it got worse when I started playing guitar in high school because I bit down the nails on my left hand for easier fret fingering. Though I don’t play guitar much, I kept that nasty habit. But on maternity leave, I haven’t stress-bit hardly at all.

The last seven weeks have been filled with joy and adjustment. Wes continues to be helpful (“Mama, you already fed her on that side.”), and Steven has taken on or completed household projects every time I turn around.

I’ve developed some new skills as well:

  • Multitasking with one arm (while breastfeeding). I’m proud of my abilities to shuck corn, make dinner and set the table, feed the dogs, and yes, even use the bathroom while feeding Maisie. I don’t know why I don’t just use a carrier more often, which would make tasks that much easier!
  • Wearing spit up and sweatshirts. I notice these things while sitting in the parent pick up car line at Wesley’s school. I’ve also gotten good at configuring the best time to arrive at school with the least amount of idle waiting.
  • Reorganizing areas of the house. You should see my linen closet! Steven remarked on the Day of Kitchen Cabinets, “It’s like someone actually thought about where things should go.” I take that as a compliment.
  • Stocking the freezer. I’ve discovered how much I enjoy prepping freezer meals for a rainy day. We’ve eaten so well during the last couple months – starting with meals provided by friends the first weeks, and now with these Shattuck family-approved make-ahead meals (many of which are crockpot simple!).
  • Sorting clothes. Gone are the snug-fitting shirts and pants in Wesley’s closet. Maisie has a solid wardrobe for her first 9 months, all organized by size and season. I’ve also gotten good at dropping off bags of donated clothes to various places!
  • (Not) Looking sleep-deprived. Maisie is pretty good at sleeping once she finally gives in, but she can fight it for hours. Thankfully I can usually get enough rest to have a functional day ahead, but I can also call upon a tip given to me by a makeup artist friend: white eyeliner on the top lid makes you look more alert.

It hasn’t been all peaches and rainbows, however. This pregnancy and birth were relatively easy and uneventful, but the postpartum recovery process has been more difficult than anticipated. After initial breastfeeding issues and several infections, I’m not 100% recovered. I’m still fighting off a lingering staph infection, and it’s really frustrating. Some days I could do little more than watch reruns of The Office.

There were (and sadly, still are!) times where I felt like a senior woman who complains to friends and family about her aches and pains. Thankfully I’ve been well looked after and my body seems to be slowly healing, but it has made my big plans for traveling and visiting throughout leave go abandoned. Not to say I/we haven’t done anything fun!

Earlier this month we joined Steven on a day trip to Chicago. He was scheduled to speak at a conference on a late Saturday afternoon, so we bundled up the rental car, caught our familiar train from Hammond, and toted a stroller around downtown Chicago. We visited Millennium Park and the Bean before Steven had to get ready.

 

The kids and I spent the afternoon at Navy Pier and the Chicago Children’s Museum, which was so much better than expected. We had just enough time to walk back to the conference hotel (ugh, that walk was the worst because it happened during Maisie’s prime feeding time), walk to the station and board the train back to our car. We arrived home just before midnight. Steven: “We could do that again.” Maybe a near-future day trip to visit some museums?

Both Steven and I have volunteered in Wesley’s classroom on separate occasions this month. It’s the best way to see how the Spanish immersion experience plays out, and it’s amusing to observe how your kid does and interacts with others. Wesley was thrilled to show off his baby sister to his classmates, and she was Miss Popular at recess and the lunch room.

Our first date night occurred last week! Steven got us great seats to Andrew Bird’s limited symphony tour, Time is a Crooked Bow, as my birthday present earlier this year. The show did not disappoint. I joked with a friend (who generously watched the kids for us!) that I started leaking breast milk from sheer excitement.

We’ve also had entertainment at home during these past few weeks. Maisie has reached an interactive milestone and has been smiling and cooing at us in recent days. At bath time the other night, she was so happy that we all took turns making faces to get the best smiles out of her. We likely looked ridiculous, all three of us gathered around her, talking and giggling in high-pitched babbles. She loved it!

I’m unsure why the video recorded on its side:

I return to work this week, and I’m starting to fidget with my nails again. For good reason: this is the busiest week of the year as the Indianapolis Walk to End Alzheimer’s is happening on Saturday. I have missed the entire fundraising event season and feel very out of the loop. I’m anxious to jump in and be a part of things, contributing to a mission I love and believe in.

But I also believe in my mission to contribute to my family’s needs. Maisie was a gift to us, and it’s my turn to give her my time and service. After this event season wraps up, I’m stepping away from my job to be at home for the foreseeable future. We are in a more stable position than when Wesley was born, and though it’s not something I ever thought I’d do, it’s time for me to take on a new position at home.

This decision was made with lots of influence and encouragement from Steven and Wes. I pretty much blame them for this newest adjustment. Though I have to admit, I’m looking forward to experiencing Maisie’s milestones and spending the holidays together. In January our family will re-evaluate my options, and I may return to the work force in a part-time position if something fitting becomes available.

Though my nails will be bitten to the shreds in the next few weeks – from health concerns, returning to a busy work environment and then leaving it all behind – I find I’m not nearly as anxious as I might have been. God has provided a blanket of peace in which I’m deeply snuggled. There is joy in my heart. All is well.

If I should say, “My foot has slipped,”
Your lovingkindness, O Lord, will hold me up.
When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,
Your consolations delight my soul.    – Psalm 94:18-19

Posted: September 30th, 2018
Categories: Leah
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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
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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.

Concerns:

  • 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
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