Posts Tagged ‘Mother’s Day’

O Canada

Things the three of us have commented on regarding the differences between the U.S. and Canada:

  • Washrooms vs Restrooms or Bathrooms
  • “It’s a long, long way from our house.”
  • British spellings of words (centre, colour, realise, etc.)
  • Metric system (although much American radio and TV is available in Ontario, so you still get Fahrenheit and miles)
  • Inexpensive food and goods at museums and attractions (whereas it’s hiked up tremendously in the states!)
  • Poutine craze vs best local burger or pizza
  • Absence of billboards! Instead, there are many inspirational lines of advice along the road.
  • Lots of honking drivers
  • Cleanliness, even in public bathrooms
  • Labels and signs in both English and French vs Spanish (I was surprised at how much I could translate with my unused, limited knowledge!)

We’re home now, but the road trip to Ontario was entirely fun. I think we all needed a break, and we were in good spirits throughout the week. Nevermind a mild case of extensor tendonitis, there were lots of smiles, giggles and teasing.

IMG_3525Day 1 (Saturday) – We started on the road around 10 a.m. after packing up our pantry into coolers for snacks along the way. Wes did pretty good; he had very little concept of “a long way,” but he got the hang of it after I compared the timeframe to over a dozen episodes of Octonauts. We were nearly in Detroit when Siri/Google Maps took us on a wide goose chase. A bridge had gone out on our route, and we were redirected into a no trespassing zone within a metal factory. Apparently there is a small ferry nearby, but we didn’t stay to check it out. It was so weird. One minute we were on a residential street with houses all lined up in a row, the next we were surrounded by railroad tracks and barbed wire fences.

Once we finagled our way through the detour, we crossed into Canada and drove through Windsor on 401. Our phones lost signal, so we had to rely on our 2008 TomTom GPS, which we haven’t used in ages. (Sidenote, our TomTom was once stolen, and nearly 2 years after the incident, a police officer recovered it and drove it to our house. I still find this amusing.) It was fun to drive through Canadian countryside, watching the many windmills stretch across the landscape. We stopped at an uber-clean visitor center/rest area and got a map to direct us to Niagara Falls, since TomTom was only mildly trustworthy.

We stayed just north (west?) of the Falls at a shady Hampton Inn next to a giant Buddhist temple, but it was comfortable enough. Dinner that night was at a local bar & grill, where we had our first taste of Canadian fish and chips – a favorite Shattuck travel food. Downtown Niagara Falls, ON, though quaint and lined with lighted arches and a clean playground, is not very “happening.” We felt like the only people around, but it looks like it could be more frequented in the summer months.

Day 2 (Mother’s Day) – Wesley was so disappointed that we didn’t get to swim the night before, so I promised him we would swim in the hotel after breakfast and before heading to Niagara Falls. It was such a sweet morning; we had the pool all to ourselves, and it couldn’t have been more enjoyable to start the day. Wes was terribly excited about the water – it was the first time he’s been in a pool since last August! We packed a picnic lunch (that we didn’t end up eating/having), along with my Mother’s Day cards/gifts, then headed to the car for the Falls.

We parked in a free, off-season spot, which was great, but it was also 3 km (2 miles) away from the main strip. We thought it would be fine to walk because we’d been in the car for so long yesterday, and it was – on the hike down river. Wes took some great photos of our trek, and it was fun to see some the sights easily missed: a stranded boat from the early 1900s, an abandoned power plant, blooming cherry blossoms.

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27027175475_bf1a034c7d_zOf course the first stop was the boat ride into the mist on the Hornblower Cruise (Canada’s version of Maid of the Mist). We’d been talking about this upcoming experience for days, maybe weeks, and Wes was almost as excited as Steven was to get on board. The giddy boys threw on their ponchos and grabbed a spot at the front of the boat. Wes got a little overwhelmed by it all, but he still says it was the best thing about Niagara Falls.

His feet were beginning to ache at this point, and we entered cranky-pants phase. Cranky Wes has trouble listening and following directions, so the rest of the morning was a mix of frustration and elation. The original plan to head back to the car for lunch seemed daunting, so we grabbed a quick bite at Tim Horton’s before completing the Journey Behind the Falls tour – where you get extremely up close (and under and behind!) to the falls and extremely wet.

We did have reservations for dinner at one of the falls-view restaurants, but we opted to head back to the hotel to rest after an exhausting day. But first we had to walk 2 miles back to the car. And then it started to rain. Hahahahahahaha. You can imagine how grateful we were to see our car.

26291575214_e8e21c455e_zSince we were didn’t make it to our planned picnic, I opened up my sweet presents from Wesley in the hotel room before we all took a nap. He beamed with pride at the handmade card and bracelet he worked so hard on for me. So perfect.

Dinner was at a local BBQ place we spotted while in downtown Niagara Falls the night before. I had amazing poutine (a Canadian staple dish of french fries, gravy and cheese curds. It sounds gross, but it’s really good. I first became a fan when we visited family in upstate New York several years ago.), which I gobbled up after our fun, long day. Wes got a second wind of energy, so I suggested we drive by the falls at night to get a different perspective. It really was a Mother’s Day for the books. I love these guys.

Day 3 – Toronto day! It’s only a couple hours’ drive from Niagara Falls, and because the route hugs Lake Ontario, it was really fun to site watch: American businesses intermixed with names we’d never heard of, fruit trees of all sorts, street signs in both English and French. I could hear Wes taking a bunch of photos from the back seat of the car.

We had rented an Airbnb in the heart of downtown Toronto, but the instructions for checking in were vague. We ended up waiting an hour at a metered parking space before meeting with the condo owner/host, who then hopped into our car to direct us into the maze of her parking garage beneath the building. The process was strange and so was she, but the place was perfect for us. Giant windows overlooking Lake Ontario and the Toronto Islands allowed us to watch every kind of transportation go by: airplanes landing at the small island airport, sailboats racing each other, streetcars on cables, trains transporting thousands of commuters. Wes was stoked and asked to take our photos in front of the city with his camera.


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Later, we walked to the ferry dock. Wes complained about pain on the top of his feet from yesterday’s walking, but we thought we’d have a shorter amount of walking to do today – ferry (sitting) and bicycle (rented from island). It was a longer walk to the dock than expected, and we took turns carrying our 40 lb guy…whew.

26856931571_261746b2b4_zLots of locals bring their bikes on the ferry to explore the islands. We enjoyed the short ride and the view of the city from the water. During the summer, a children’s amusement park and petting zoo is open on Centre Island. We headed there first, knowing it would be closed, but we were able to find some roaming peacocks on the property. The island is basically a giant state park. It’s very clean and welcoming, with signs everywhere requesting people to “Please Walk on the Grass.”

On our hunt to find a bicycle (I was starting to give up at this point; poor Wes and his feet!), we discovered a pirate ship, multiple playgrounds and a long pier. The wind made it a chilly 50-ish degrees, but the sun was out, and the views were incredible.

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Back at the condo, I helped a wobbling little kid rest on the couch while I rubbed his sore foot muscles and Googled for tendonitis remedies. He thought it all very entertaining. We watched hockey before retiring for the night.


The boys went on to bed, but I enjoyed a few minutes watching the downtown lights and reflecting on the past year before celebrating my birthday the next day.

Day 4 (Leah’s birthday) – I woke up to all kinds of nice words and hugs. “Mama, I’m so, so glad that you’re my mom. It’s your birthday!” After a thorough inspection of the sore feet, we determined that they had healed enough to endure a walking tour around the world through Toronto’s various neighborhoods. We started off in Chinatown and worked our way through Kensington Market, where we had yummy local food (and picked up a discounted Mother’s Day cake for my birthday dessert later), and on toward Little Italy for Wesley’s first cannoli. I think he liked it.


I rubbed his tired little feet back at the condo before we crashed hard for the rest of the afternoon. We had a big night ahead to prepare for.

26875610721_597a6e41d5_z (1)Thankfully our walk to the CN Tower was only a few blocks away, and because it was a Tuesday evening, it wasn’t crowded at all. We rode a glass elevator to the “top” (the viewing area is actually toward the middle of its height, but the view is still impressive) of the country’s tallest building and sat down for a 3-course dinner in the tower’s revolving restaurant.

We had a great time pointing out sites seen and recognized – especially along the lake. After our dinner, we walked down a few flights to watch the sunset and experience Wesley’s favorite thing ever: the glass floor.

We came back well past bedtime to eat cake, because why not add more fun to an already fun day? And it ended the best way: with extra hugs and kisses from my loving family. “Mama, I’m so happy it’s your birthday.”

Day 5 – The reason why we picked Ontario for our vacation destination and at this time of year is because Steven’s business sponsored a 1-day donor retention conference held in Toronto. While he attended the conference, Wes and I ventured to the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada.

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Yes, I know of his love of sea creatures and the Octonauts, but I’ve never seen him so mesmerized. He loved watching the fish and sea animals, and he equally loved playing in the indoor playspace built to knock out extra kid energy. We toured the museum twice and spend 3 solid hours there.

We found Nemo and Dory! We saw his favorites: several different types of jellyfish and sharks. Many of them.

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It’s another great venue for people watching. Toronto is the most ethnically diverse city I’ve ever visited, and it was most evident in the school groups on field trips that day. Kids of all different skin and hair colors, faiths and dress – playing together. I loved it.

Wes had expressed his interest in riding a streetcar for the last few days, so when Steven asked us to meet him later at the convention’s after party, we embarked on an adventure with the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). First we walked to the streetcar station across the street from the condo, but there was no way to purchase a ticket or token there. Google told me that we had to purchase fares at Union Station, which was a 20-minute walk away, and Wes’ feet couldn’t possibly handle that. I finally found a convenience store within a large professional building that sold tokens. After trying to explain what we wanted to do to the clerk, who looked at us like total foreigners, we headed back the way we came. The tokens are smaller than dimes, and it ALMOST got lost within my wallet of change because Canadians like to give $1 and $2 CA coin change instead of dollars, but we managed to hop on.

The TTC stop by our condo is one of the first before heading north, and we quickly realized that our timing was terrible – it was the evening rush hour. People crammed into the car like sardines, and of course we got stuck in an area where someone had spewed their lunch of chicken noodle soup. After an unpleasant 15-minute ride, we made it to the restaurant. Wes still thinks the streetcar trip was worth it, even if it wasn’t quite the magical experience he dreamed about.

The three of us walked through University of Toronto campus and spotting a local pizza joint for a quick dinner.

Day 6 – The morning was a little crazy because, since we were living like locals with Airbnb, the condo management company didn’t exclude our car from mandatory evacuation for a garage floor powerwash. We had to move the car by 8 a.m. What luck, huh? It was even better when we got stuck in Toronto rush hour traffic for an hour. Lucky for us, there’s a Tim Horton’s donut and coffee shop in any direction you look, similar to Starbucks here, which does help to soften the blow a little.

We drove another few hours west and stopped in Sarnia and Port Edward, which is the southernmost point of Lake Huron on the I-69 Michigan/Ontario border. We stretched our legs and snapped some pics before cleverly using up the remaining Canadian cash on gas (to the exact cent!). We crossed back into the US and drove through rainy weather until home.

Screenshot 2016-05-15 at 10.49.48 PMThe guys did well this trip, but they both have bouts of homesickness, and they were so grateful to roll into our garage. Before bedtime, we played a round of Candy Land at the kitchen table while eating popcorn and listening to music.

“Mama, I really liked our vacation, but I love, love, love our house.”

Check out the full album of photos here, and Wesley’s unique camera shots here.

Posted: May 15th, 2016
Categories: Leah
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Special Mother’s Day gifts to fund Alzheimer’s care

Dear friends and family,
As many of you know, my career path also holds a large part of my heart – I value and desire to serve caregivers and individuals living with dementia.

Me with Grandma Fernsler

Me with Grandma Fernsler

My grandma Fernsler developed dementia while I was in middle school. I know that I am blessed to say that I only have fond memories of her and how our family loved her — even during those last few years — because I have seen and heard many sad experiences completely opposite of my own. I know that I am even more blessed to say that my grandma Ashbaugh, who met Jesus in January, was spared from this terrible disease entirely, which is nearly uncommon these days (1 in 3 seniors dies with dementia).

Because of my experiences, I’ve become very passionate about doing what I can to assist those living with Alzheimer’s. I’m not the best at asking for donations, and I’m very spotty at fundraising, but I do realize the great need to help families touched by this awful disease. During the next few weeks, I’m hosting a couple online fundraisers in memory of my grandma, Jennie Fernsler, and my grandma, Maxine Ashbaugh, leading up to Mother’s Day.

If you have a special mother, daughter or aunt in your life, please consider a gift through one of my online “party” sales to help raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association care and support programs.

I have set a personal goal of raising $1,500 for the fight against Alzheimer’s in 2015. If you are interested in supporting me with a tax-deductible donation, you can give online at my personal Walk to End Alzheimer’s page:

Thank you for your consideration and support!

Leah Shattuck

Grandma Ashbaugh with Wesley

Grandma Ashbaugh with Wesley

Posted: April 14th, 2015
Categories: Leah
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Hi Grandpa, I understand now

This time of year I’m always emotional. I’ve previously complained about my birthday overlap with Mother’s Day and how the weekend is usually not something I’ve ever enjoyed much. But I think that’s done and past. The emotions don’t quite go completely away, but I’ve grown out of my bitterness.

photo (12)The emotions begin on May 7, which is my late Grandpa’s birthday. May was special to him because he received a grandchild on his wedding anniversary (me!), which was just 3 days after his birthday. Grandma and Grandpa never hid their love for me. They were very verbal about it – especially Grandma. Most of my memories of them are warm and gentle.

But there’s a few memories of Grandpa in there that catch my breath and sting a little.

My memory of all the details is fuzzy because I was a kid, and honestly, the adults around me talked very little about health concerns (now, for which, I’m glad to have been spared some details). Grandma had beat breast cancer in the 70s, and then again later at some point when I was alive (again, fuzzy). When I was older – early teens – the lymph nodes in her arm began to swell and give her trouble with lymphedema, which was around the same time that I started to recognize behavior changes. Mainly confusion. She lost her nouns first. Then some verbs. I didn’t know much about dementia then, and I still don’t know if she had a proper diagnosis.

Before her symptoms were getting worse, Grandma and Grandpa moved across the Indiana border to live in Ohio, closer to my aunt so she could keep an eye on them. As Grandma progressed, they eventually moved from their condo into the house directly across the street from my aunt and uncle. It was sad to see Grandma lose pieces of her vocabulary, but I never felt awkward about it. She was still herself – warm, gentle, loving. Perhaps thankfully, she died of complications other than dementia, so I didn’t see her progress to the late-stages.

I’m not sure if Grandpa was starting to demonstrate behavior changes during this time or if it was after Grandma’s death, but life started to get confusing. Dad was always worried about them, and I’m sure he felt like he was further away in distance than actuality. My aunt became caregiver and helped make their lives comfortable.

I feel like Grandpa gave up after Grandma was gone. Perhaps it was the stress involved with caring for a spouse, or maybe it was some kind of dementia. He was never diagnosed, either, that I know – and certainly, he didn’t have the progression that Grandma did. But things changed, and I saw pieces of a different person emerge – and then isolate and withdraw. It was frightening, and I distanced myself away from him, not understanding what a disease can do to a wonderful, great and compassionate mind.

It’s only been in the last few years that I have “forgiven” Grandpa for doing things I didn’t approve of and becoming someone not-Grandpa. It came up in conversation today, and my mind was again flooded with angry thoughts from adolescence, but they are only memories of anger. I wish I would have known what I do now about neurological and degenerative diseases. It would have helped me properly say goodbye to my grandparents.

I miss them. I miss hearing, “Grandma loves you.” And the older I get, the more I see them in my looks and personality traits. Though neither one had Alzheimer’s disease as an official diagnosis, I am still honoring them each year I participate in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. When I lead volunteer orientations, I tell others that the Walk is a day of hope. So much distress surrounds Alzheimer’s and dementia, but this is one day that the nation can rally together in hope for a cure.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have the disease eliminated from this world? Wes would never have to see anyone – let alone his grandparents – go through such a life-changing journey. This year, on Grandpa’s birthday, I understand, and I have hope.

Posted: May 6th, 2014
Categories: Leah
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Birth-Mother’s Day

Usually I hate this time of year. While I’m sure my mother was ecstatic to birth me within 3 days of Mother’s Day, I’ve always been slightly more irritable right around my birthday because I knew that one day I would lose a holiday. Today is Mother’s Day, and I’ve been surprised at how many people have wished me a Happy One myself. And you know what? It’s been a wonderful day.

Waffle lunch with Mom & Dad led into a very productive day of yard work and house cleaning. While I was nesting, I felt the baby move and switch positions countless times. I wish I could accurately describe what he feels like to Steven. There’s just no words to describe the movements and flutterings that happen within me.

I think I’m finally getting over those irritations. Yes, I’m sure I will have a morphed celebratory birthday/Mother’s Day once Wes and (hopefully other) kids are older, but I’m getting over it. Tomorrow I’m extending Mother’s Day with my sister, mom, niece and nephew as we travel to visit my grandparents on my day off work. Following tomorrow is my actual birthday. Reflecting back, I love the fact that I can easily spend time with my relatives and family. There are many who are unable to get together as often as we do – or that don’t want to get together – and these back-to-back celebrations are ones that I cherish.

Next year will be quite different. I’m enjoying my last holidays without a baby on my hip, but I know I won’t trade it for the world once Wesley is in our lives. Only 10 weeks remain.

Posted: May 8th, 2011
Categories: Leah
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