Posts Tagged ‘milestones’

Life with Two Kids

There are lots of giggles. Juggling schedules. Adoration. Defiance. And adjustment.

Remember when I was going to be a stay-at-home mom? It lasted all of two weeks before I received my first contract requests, and for the last six weeks I’ve been working on a part-time basis for organizations and businesses. It’s wonderful. I get to use my skills, collaborate with others, bring in a small income and be available for Wes and Maisie.

Figuring out work time vs. feeding schedules, Maisie’s nap and school pick up has been the most challenging part, but we’re all starting to get used to the rhythm. Instead of evening workouts, I bring Maisie with me to morning classes. Whatever is on the agenda for a particular day has a hard stop time at 2 in order to make it to school, help with homework and get started on dinner, and then it’s nearly bedtime. I’ve had to become SUPER PRODUCTIVE during my precious morning and early afternoon hours. But look at this face! It’s worth it.

Wesley still thinks Maisie is the bee’s knees. Now that she’s nearly 4 months old and more responsive, he’s all the more eager to play with her.

“You’re such a sweetheart! I could love you forever and ever and ever!” (We took so many videos this day.)

Maisie practices using her giant hands, grabbing anything she can. She recently discovered she has feet, and it amuses her to kick her little legs. She’s a drool machine, though not teething yet. Her bibs and shirts are nearly always wet, her face and hands get chapped, and she has a stubborn drool rash under her chin that I can’t seem to get rid of. (What else should I try before heading to the pediatrician? Vaseline, Aquafor, Lotramin, coconut oil and neem oil haven’t yet done the trick.)

She fights sleep with everything she’s got. Sometimes it takes 1.5 hours of rocking, nursing and pacifier use to get her finally settled for the night. I still swaddle her, even though she tries to get her arms out. A flailing, loose arm and hand is dangerous – she whacks herself, and we start all over again. She can’t fight the magical swing for long when she’s sleepy, though. And once she’s asleep, she gives us 4-6 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night.

Everything she can grab goes into her mouth. Or she just look at it with her mouth open wide, drooling. She thinks sneezing is funny, her feet are ticklish, and she studies everything. She’s terrible at making eye contact when there’s so much to look at. However, Maisie reserves her biggest smiles when she has one-on-one time with someone: while changing a diaper or buckling her car seat belt.

When it’s just us or it’s relatively quiet, we hear her talk to us. “Ah ooooo!” “Uh uh uh.” “Hooooo!” And a series of grunts.

Maisie wants to “stand” whenever possible, so I wear her when I can (she prefers outfacing now), and she likes her Johnny Jump Up for about 10 minutes. While I’m working or preoccupied with my hands, she will tolerate the Bumbo seat while I finish up a recipe or wrap Christmas presents.

She isn’t rolling over yet, but she’s starting to move her hips and arch her back. Maisie gets lots of praises for small victories from her little cheering section.

As much as he loves her, Wes has struggled to find his place and position. It could be the change from Kindergarten to First Grade, or perhaps turning 7 flipped a switch. Steven and I have had to discipline Wes in a much stricter way than ever before, and it happened around the time of Maisie’s birth.

Defiance, back-talk, a “know-it-all” correcting attitude…our sweet kid is still sweet, but he has a sharper edge to him these days. Though when disciplined, he crumples with guilt. To find the balance, Steven recently re-enrolled him in Taekwondo (we took a hiatus once Maisie was born). Wes loves it, and he’s been able to channel his energy into a sport that teaches self control, obedience and respect. They also have their own father-son hobbies, which gives Wes a sense of exclusiveness and pride.

Additionally, we created a reward chart that compliments his usually good behavior but makes him more aware of the choices he makes. For example, he has to earn his right to watch a TV show after school, which is harder when docked points for bad behavior. It’s a love-hate relationship with the chart, but he has already come up with more reward options, “Monkey Joe’s! Pokemon cards!”

Steven and I take turns volunteering in his classroom. It’s been enlightening to see how he interacts with peers and teachers. Bias aside, he’s a smart kid who just needs a little direction to be a successful leader (and protective big brother). We’re so proud of him.

During advent, we’re reading stories about refugees and displacement, as Jesus and his family found refuge in Egypt. He seems particularly worried about families who have to be separated for any reason. He’s made a similar comment several times about his love for our immediate family.

“I just love my girls. If something ever happened to you or Maisie, I would be so, so sad and cry my eyes out.”

Being parents to TWO kids takes a lot more creativity and energy than anticipated, but wow, it’s good. Really good. Steven and I tag-team well. And being available for them in their unique needs has been such a fulfilling role for me.

Christmas is an exciting time, and I love spending these weeks of anticipation with my three favorite people.

Posted: December 7th, 2018
Categories: Leah
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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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Resident Baby

As much as she resembles her big brother, little Maisie definitely has her own preferences and personality.

During the last month, we have adjusted to a new normal. We have watched this new person “wake up” from her days-long newborn slumber and start to recognize voices, focus on objects and faces and give us a handful of teaser smiles. (We can’t wait for the real reactionary ones!)

  

Maisie has met and spent time with a lot of people in the last 5 weeks. She appears to enjoy hearing chatter and conversation and has demonstrated her own version of FOMO – she won’t sleep if she hears fun dialogue around her! Once she IS asleep, however, she is extremely difficult to wake.

I can’t successfully wake her to eat every 3 hours, and at first we were a little concerned about her weight. We went to the pediatrician three times before she started to gain a few ounces, and now she’s up a pound from her birth weight. But she doesn’t have nearly the appetite Wesley did. I felt like he nursed every 45 minutes for the first 3 months, and that’s probably not an exaggeration by much.

It’s been fun to reminisce and compare notes to our previous experience.

Wes Maisie
Birth Stats: 8 lbs; 21″ 8 lbs, 1 oz, ; 21″
One Month Stats: 11 lbs; 22.5″ (75th percentile) 9 lbs, 2 oz, ; 21.5″ (38th percentile)
Swaddling: Mandatory Indifferent
Pacifier: Indifferent Indifferent
Feeding: ~1 hour; cluster feeds ~3 hours; cluster feeds at night
Sleeping: Sleeps most of the day & 4-5 hours at night Difficult to fall asleep but sleeps for 4 consecutive hours
Tummy Time: Screams bloody murder Tolerates
Baths: Dislikes Dislikes
GI: Limited gas and spit up Poops so much; lots of burps

Wesley has discovered a few things about his sister, too.

“She likes when I talk to her.”

“You say you’re feeding her, but it’s really drinking milk.”

He thinks he taught her some of her baby reflexes, and it’s too cute to correct him. “Mama! Look! I taught my baby sister how to grab my finger!”

Our family walks are even better now with a little one in tow, and she stops fussing when we’re on the move – either on foot or in the car. Except for a very long 45-minute walk around downtown Chicago last weekend during her prime cluster feed time. Whew, that was rough.

Also rough? Her inability to stay asleep until just about midnight. She cluster feeds from 7-10, usually dosing off several times. But once I lay her on her back, she promptly wakes up and fusses to nurse until she falls asleep again. The cycle continues for several hours, and I’ve caught up on my reading. Thankfully once asleep, she and I get a good 5 hours in before she wakes to eat again.

She tried a bottle for the first time last week. It took a few minutes to get the hang of it, haha.

All that food comes out en force, and she stained so many onesies before I realized it was time to move up a diaper size. She’s still wearing newborn onesies, though sleepers and some outfits are becoming snug. I sorted through the 0-3 month clothes this week and pulled out a few new items to add to the rotation. And based on a friend’s suggestion, I put the extra newborn size diapers and the outgrown sleepers aside for doll clothes. Brilliant.

I took a few photos when she turned one month old. Admittedly I haven’t taken nearly as many as I did of Wesley. Poor second child (or “second born” as Wes likes to say).

We love our little pimple-faced, skin-peelly Nugget, Stink Pot, Fuss Bucket, Little Miss, Maisie Girl.

Posted: September 20th, 2018
Categories: Leah
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One Week Old

We’ve achieved a handful of small accomplishments this week, but mostly we’ve just loved on little Maisie.

(Isn’t this mermaid tail, made by my dear friend Jordan, the sweetest?! She has been gifted additional tails to grow into as well – perfect for our monthly photos!)

HIGHLIGHTS / EVENTFUL THINGS OF THE WEEK:

  • We had our first family outings: pediatrician appointment, Saturday farmers market, church and a Target run today, and a family walk with the dogs (although I think I overexerted myself and am now couch-bound for the immediate future).
  • We have been showered with gifts, meals, cards and messages from colleagues, family members, neighbors, church families and countless friends. We feel the love, folks! Thank you.

MAISIE’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS THIS WEEK:

  • Won the hearts of her family members.
  • Slept – she sleeps SO MUCH with the exception between 9 p.m-1 a.m. when she’s alert and wants to cluster feed.
  • Met her quota of feedings and diaper changes according to hospital recommendations.

Jake has to be close at all times.

WESLEY’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS THIS WEEK:

  • Received an A+ rating from Steven on his eager and helpful performance as a big brother.
  • Jumped into and swam in the deep end of the pool.
  • Made several notable wise decisions and is adjusting to a baby sibling better than expected.

STEVEN’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS THIS WEEK:

  • Waited on me 24/7, but didn’t make me feel like an invalid.
  • Surprised me with our wedding cake for our 11th anniversary.
  • Successfully made Maisie sleep or poop while holding her, every time.

LEAH’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS THIS WEEK:

  • Dropped 15 of the 30 lbs gained!
  • Identified two of Maisie’s cries based on the Dunstan Baby Language (“neh” = hunger; “eh” = gassy).
  • Survived the beginning pains of breastfeeding – though she and I still have a lot to accomplish before it’s second nature and doesn’t hurt like whoa.

The morning after the first night at home: still alive!

Wesley is still on Cloud 9 about his new sister. He has enjoyed having visitors come to see Maisie because he gets to show her off and then play with friends. The last couple days have been more difficult for him as he realizes that we can’t give him all of our attention anymore. He’s not jealous, but he’s having trouble being independent and finding his own fun without getting himself into trouble.

However, he loves to snuggle in close when I’m nursing, and he talks about his future with Maisie. He is incredibly tender toward her, and he is empathetic about my body’s healing – offering to reach something and asking how I’m feeling.

Wes: Maisie! Maisie! Oh, look, I made her smile!
Me: She is looking for you; she knows your voice.
Wes: Do you think she likes me more than you?
Me: I think she likes us both.
Wes: Yeah, you’re the one feeding her. I just can’t believe she’s actually here!
Me: Me neither, Buddy. She’s pretty great, isn’t she?
Wes: I just love her so much that I could cry!
Me: Oh, me, too, Bud.
Wes: Look, we’re both crying now!

We are so thankful for this little surprise person. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James 1:17

Posted: August 19th, 2018
Categories: Leah
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A Summer of Firsts, or It’s Good to be 5

Much has happened in the last 8+ weeks, including several first-time experiences for our growing kid. As my mom has said in response to Wesley’s reports, “it’s pretty good to be five.”

First (Minor) Celebrity Encounter
27797142723_96e0d03001_kWe participated in the summer reading program at our local library, and one of the prizes Wesley earned was a voucher for tickets to an Indianapolis Indians game. Library Night happened to be held on his actual birthday, and we scored some front-row free seats right behind the bullpen for the opposing team.

The pitcher sitting directly in front of Wes was Elvis Araujo (Lehigh Valley IronPigs / Phillies). He kept glancing back and winking at our fidgety son. It might have been the “I’m 5 Today” sticker badge that looked very worn from the day’s activities, or it might have just been because he’s a nice guy: Mr. Araujo turned around, smiled, and gave Wes the baseball he was practicing with. Wes lit up.

Wes ended up getting too unruly and fidgety for our cool seats, so we packed up our Monday Night Dollar Menu hotdogs, popcorn and cracker jack and headed to the lawn seats to stretch out.

Instead of watching the game, Wes ran around and threw his new baseball, and eventually Steven joined in. Their game of catch was so wild that they lost the baseball to the fenced in area around the scoreboard – which eventually featured Wes in lights for his birthday!

It took some coaxing via social media to get a staff member to help us retrieve the baseball and turn Wesley’s frown into an exhausted birthday smile.

First Chewing Gum
My sister started a tradition with my niece and nephews: once they turned five, they had access to big-kid perks – bubble gum and soda. Why not ride on the band wagon? We aren’t big soda/coke/pop drinkers in this house, and Wes wasn’t impressed with sparkling water. But THIS:


First Booster Seat
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His Diono car seat is built to last up to 100 lbs, and it’s solid. Supposedly you can remove the 5-point harness straps by following the manual diagram, but I ended up having to CUT it off because it was so sturdy. Whoops. Guess it’s a good thing we’re not backtracking!

It’s a small change, but he does feel big. I mean, look at the size of him!

First Time Off Training Wheels
He and Steven practiced off and on for a week. It started with, “I think I want to take off the training wheels,” and accelerated from there. We can now take our evening walks with the bike (although it does require a little more time because of the occasional fall).

We finally invested in knee and elbow pads to address some of those battle wounds.

First Bad Haircut
Two failed attempts to get an appointment at our typical kids’ haircut place resulted in a last-minute rush to a cheap salon near our house that doesn’t specialize in kids’ cuts. I figured they’d know what I meant by “all-around trim” when glancing at Wesley’s moppy hair. While he was hamming it up with the stylist (I was pretty entertained by overhearing his offbeat humor and engaging conversation), I waited in the designated area. Truthfully, when combed and wet, it looked fine. We paid and left for home.

At dinner, his hair started to dry and looked…moppy. Steven said, “Did ya get a haircut? Because it looks the same.” At first I thought he was joking that we should go back to fix it. Being the apologist, I tried to find an excuse for the stylist but was unsuccessful. Steven went outside to finish yard work, and Wes and I went back to the salon 30 minutes before it closed.

They were surprised to see us. I asked them to trim it shorter, and they did. A LOT shorter. Wes continued to be snarky with the stylist, but there was a slight panicky tone in his voice: “What are you doing?” “What does my hair look like?!”

In what seemed like ages, he hopped down from the chair. He had the 5-year-old decency to wait until we were in the parking lot to announce “that was the worst haircut ever.” I thought he was still on his joke-kick, but nope. He really hated it.

I started to chuckle about the last few hours. “It’s only hair; it will grow back, Bud.” I couldn’t stop giggling. Once home, Steven got in on the fun-tease, and while still slightly annoyed, Wes started to laugh back. He had so many hair snippings all over him that a shower before bedtime was necessary. Bubbles everywhere; family laughter; short, short hair.

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First Tennis Lesson
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When t-ball lessons ended, we asked Wes if he wanted to try a new sport this fall. “Maybe tennis!”

His answer thrilled Steven, so I found an opening with the area National Junior Tennis League. I mentioned the affordable cost to our Reynolds friends, and they signed up Beatrice! They had their first lesson last weekend, and it was pretty adorable.

Wes now wants to play tennis with Steven nearly every evening on the street in front of our house.

First Goodbye, Hello, New School
IMG_4342Because his Prep-K class at a different school doesn’t start until the end of August, we are in a weird limbo period. At his current preschool/daycare, the kids transitioned classrooms, so he had to say goodbye to his favorite teacher, Miss Kelly, and join a temporary class (Sunflowers!) for a couple weeks.

Earlier this year, Steven and I made the decision to wait for Kindergarten. He’s probably very ready for Kindergarten based on his daily experience in the classroom, but we felt like it was a unanimous hesitation, and why push it? He’s our only kid!

The same private school I attended as a kid offers a Prep-K class for those in his age bracket – in fact, the age cut off for Kindergarten is 5 by June 30 (his bday is in July). This means he won’t be the only 5-year-old in his class! We’re excited to experience a “real” school environment this year – complete with breaks, after school care and lunchboxes.

He attended a practice Round Up Day earlier this week to visit classrooms, the library and meet teachers. Another few orientations are down the pipe line (is it normal to receive emails nearly every other day from schools as a new family?!), and then class officially starts in 2 weeks. He can’t wait.

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With all these other “firsts,” I’m kinda glad I don’t have to adjust to Kindergarten Mom just yet.

Posted: August 10th, 2016
Categories: Leah
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Hi, I’m the mother of a 2-year-old

553411_10101310920726358_640745322_nI have been a blogging slacker. I blame it all on the fact that Wes is now two. Not that he’s super busy or a maniac or keeps us up all night, but – I am enjoying him as a little person. Watching him learn new words and begin to understand his world is fascinating.

“Ready? Go!”

“Hi Mama, Daddy.”

“Lucy, potty!”

“ABCDEFG. H. Poo, ick, J.”

We had his two-year-old check up last week. At nearly 30 lbs and 60th percentile for height, he has/had just about 30 words and 60 unidentified phrases/indecipherable mumbling in his vocabulary. Actually, this current week he has been mimicking almost everything we say to him. I think he’s mastered 30-60 words overnight. His ridiculous hair is probably also 30-60″ long, on that note.

So, during my blogging absence, I was featured in the Indianapolis Star regarding my milestone celebration. It was also on usatoday.com, if you can believe it. (Click here for article.)

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Steven became VP of Marketing at Bloomerang, and has been a killer asset to the team there.

Mom and Dad’s new-to-them pontoon boat was finally launched into the water. After the dam broke during the Flood of 2008, their lake has been waterless every summer until now. We have enjoyed being on the water in the “but” (Wes’ word for boat).

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And July has been a month of celebrating. We hosted a birthday party for family and neighbor friends in the park (by the way, great idea. You don’t have to clean your own house!) and went swimming.

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A week later, we spent the morning at the Indianapolis Zoo. The Indianapolis Symphonic Orchestra played a concert in the park one evening. Wes loved listening to the live music and picked up on when each movement ended (he cheered and clapped loudly).

And on his actual birthday, we met his bestie Beatrice and mom Julia at Saxony Lake in Fishers. It was great fun.

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Birthday dinner was breakfast with lots of fruit and sausage, his favorites. Uncle Tyson joined us.

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I just love the above photos. He really seemed to understand that the day was to celebrate him, and he had this amazing look of sincere delight. Precious.

And the next night we ventured over to the Indianapolis Speedrome for the first time. Cars. Loud noises. Vrrrrroooom. It was pretty much a little boy’s heaven.

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He looks so serious in these photos. Soon after, he was cheering and waving his arms like the flag holders.

There’s actually way too many good photos to post from the last few months. Wes is always mumbling something funny or getting off balance or attempting something new. He’s like a walking photo opportunity.

I just love our little guy. He has provided so much happiness in our household, and it’s made me love Steven in a completely new way. He’s a fantastic dad. He makes a great trampoline and rough-and-tumble partner for little limbs. He’ll read a million books to Wes in one sitting and produce a thousand toddler giggles with his silly antics. I’m smitten with our family.

Forgive me while I enjoy a few more summer weeks of possible blogging hiatus with this crazy toddler kid.

Posted: July 28th, 2013
Categories: Leah
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30 for 30

220px-30_for_30_Volume_I_logoOver the last few months, Steven’s been watching multiple ESPN documentaries from the 30 for 30 series on Netflix. I figured it was as good of title as any for chronicling 30 stories – or in my case, observations and thoughts going forward – after my 30th birthday last week.

People have asked me if I feel any different, and besides the fact that I have been sick with a flu-like virus all week long, I really don’t. However, it got me to thinking about this milestone birthday year, where I am, where I’ve been and what the future looks like. I guess I better backtrack and say, yes, I might feel a little different, but it’s a feeling of anticipation and not of “age.”

I’ve never really thought of 30 as old, but I have been mindful of the history of Jesus. He was 30 when he started his three-year ministry, and I’ve looked up to this age as a landmark year to start a new decade off on the right foot. Good timing, too, because we just finished a sermon series on modeling Jesus and making every effort to live like him. To further prove a point, I received my annual birthday letter from Mr. Dan Stroup last week, and wouldn’t you know that’s exactly what he wrote about? Mr. Stroup was my middle school teacher. He is an amazing man for many reasons, but thankfully CBS Evening News picked up on one reason and aired this little segment a few weeks ago. I’m pleased to be among his 2,800 former students that receive a birthday letter every year.

So, where’s the list? The full list is written in my personal journal, but I’ll share three (which is a dividend of 30!). I don’t want people to get the impression that my life is all bells and whistles and everything is perfect. If you’ve read my blog much at all, you’ve seen my struggles with certain issues, and they affect many of my decisions and thoughts. Turning 30 is a pretty good reason to adjust some of those thoughts toward a straighter path.

Contentedness – I’ve touched a little on this before, but it’s something I’m daily striving for. This falls in basically every area of my life right now: family planning, our house, cars, vacation, jobs… I do love my life, but there’s always something more that would just “make it better,” you know? A house with a second floor would be great for those rough nights with Wes, but we’ve learned to avoid the squeaky wood planks in the floor. A nicer car would be great and would last us for years (I’d really like a Subaru Outback), but we’ve appreciated that we currently don’t have a car payment. And while I’m ready to talk Kid #2, Steven isn’t interested to venture into a family of four. I’m learning that our family unit is pretty great as it is. One of my aunts said once, “when you’re aching for a new baby, hold the ones you have tighter.” I think about these words often, and I’ll tell you, it helps.

Generosity – Sure, we tithe and give to those who ask, but I can do more. One example: I’ve kept all of Wes’ baby things with the thought that we might use them again. I guess it’s still possible, but my attitude of clingyness has been pretty horrible. I failed to lend out my maternity clothes to a coworker, and I felt terrible about it her whole pregnancy. I mean, I borrowed tons of maternity clothes and have accepted hand-me-down toys and clothes for Wes from others, so why not do the same? I’m slowly giving away Wesley’s outgrown things, and I’m doing a much better job of not attaching memories to everything. What’s the point in giving if you don’t do it lovingly?

Hospitality – Before we became parents, we had people over all the time. YouTube parties were a hit, and we’d have nearly 50 people in our little house. I was much better at keeping house at that time, and I’ve gotten busy and lazy. I am embarrassed to have people over, as I have little confidence in the cleanliness of all surfaces and of my cooking and baking skills. I think Pinterest has derailed me. There’s no way I can keep up, but you know what? People probably don’t care all that much. I feel like we’ve lost connections with some of our friends over the years, and I want to repair what I can, develop deeper relationships and form new ones. My parents have a solid group of friends that have been close for over 30 years. I want that. And I want that for Wes, too.

Lots to think about in the next ten years, but I’m ready.

Posted: May 18th, 2013
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?!

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Posted: February 17th, 2013
Categories: Leah
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Christmas Break

This past week has been nearly perfect. Wesley is such a great kid when we’re all home, all day, every day, and I’m sure his mood is helped now that he’s (finally) finished teething. I’m spending my afternoon similar to the last several ones – lounging, snacking and a whole lot of cuddling – with some Gilmore Girls and Wii U thrown in there somewhere.

Our Ashbaugh family Christmas was a large one. It was the first time in several years that all the aunts, uncles, cousins and great grandkids were able to make it. Minus one spouse, we were a party of 33. It was truly special to have the nearly entire family together, and I know my grandparents loved it all.

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Steven brought the Wii U to the extravaganza, and I’m pretty sure my favorite part of the day was my 2.5-year-old nephew’s attempts to contribute to the 5-person game, only to get stuck in a corner and announce periodically, “I just scored!” What a fun day.

Christmas Eve is always spent with my parents and my sister’s family. The kids are getting old enough to really get excited about the presents under the tree, and that makes Christmas all the more fun and special. We lost Elli to impatience halfway through our Christmas brunch, so the rest of the day was spent sipping coffee, eating biscotti and enjoying each other’s company. Perfect.

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Christmas Eve service was beautiful. However, I spent more than half of the service in the hallway due to Wes’ discouragement that the ceiling fan was, in fact, not spinning. He was adorable in his red tie.

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We were lucky to have a laid back, quiet Christmas morning. Wes opened a few presents after we got coffee and actually woke up. By 1o am, we were in the car and heading to Ohio for Christmas Day with the Shattucks. I always enjoy the ride over on Christmas day because it was then that we made phone calls to family and friends with news of our engagement in 2006. It’s fun to reminisce.

Shattuck Christmas is always crazy with loooooots of presents and wrapping paper and chaos and then everyone veges out for the remainder of the day. We snack on clam dip, sausage dip and cookies all day long. It’s just wonderful. Wes followed Pa around the house all afternoon, pointing out the various clocks in their house. While Wes was entertained, I got to play with my silly little niece, who was fascinated with taking goofy photos of ourselves.

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We headed home that night because BLIZZARD 2012 was headed to Indy. The next morning we woke up to only about an inch of snow, but it accumulated as we began hibernating for the next two days. We left the house only to shovel/play in the snow (of which Wes is not a big fan)…

…and to check out Christmas at the Zoo, which was amazing. The newly fallen snow made a beautiful backdrop to all the lights and animals at night. It is definitely worth doing again next year.

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Since we’ve been spending so much time with Wes, we’ve noticed a few things. 1) He’s walking EVERYWHERE. He is getting fearless, and it’s totally unlike him. Now he’s even trying to climb stairs! 2) He eats far better if he’s sans tray in his high chair – sitting at the table. He’s pretty big stuff. 3) Transitioning from a 2-hour nap to a one-hour nap is happening whether we like it or not. 4) Grapes are like candy.

Steven and I do not go back to work until after New Year’s Day, so the rest of the week’s plans remain unplanned. Just soaking up family time and spending an afternoon here and there with friends is pretty much the best vacation ever.

Posted: December 30th, 2012
Categories: Leah
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Wes Walks the Line

Big news in the Shattuck house! Our cautious little guy has been taking a few steps here and there for several weeks, but just in the last few days has he been walking/toddling as much as crawling. So proud. And many, many thanks to Nicole, Wes’ First Steps PT! This is gonna be fun.

I caught him in action tonight. Complete with a face plant.

Posted: December 10th, 2012
Categories: Leah
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