Posts Tagged ‘small family’

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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Good and Complete

We started a family tradition in the last year or so to spend Friday dinners together at a restaurant. Usually we try to visit a new place, but often we have difficulty in deciding (Wes always chooses McDonald’s or Hardee’s or Steak n’ Shake), and settle on one of our favorite locations.

A few weeks ago we went to a local Chinese restaurant for the first time. It was decorated in red lanterns, dragons and vibrant paintings and had a small fish tank in one corner that kept Wesley’s attention. We talked about Chinese culture during our meal, and Wes was amazed that he actually likes chow mein noodles with his “sticky rice.”

It was a fun night out, and we had an excellent Chinese waitress. She enjoyed interacting with Wesley, and she asked him questions about his hobbies and interests. He’s very good at being receptive, and it was fun to watch.

Later, while paying our check, the waitress asked Steven and me if Wes was our only child. This isn’t a new question; we get this often, and frequently in public places. She was kind about it, and I’m sure it was well-intended (because surely if we had another kid, he/she would be as cool as Wes, right?). What she went on to describe has stuck with me for the last several weeks:

The Chinese word for “good, complete, right” (好) is a combination of the words “girl” (女) and “boy” (子).

I wish I would have said something in return other than, “Is that right? How cool!” It sat funny with me. I mean, I’ve personally come a long way on this subject. I’ve turned a page and have focused on our little family of 3. I know in my heart that I’m good mom and wife, and we’re in a really, really good spot – the 3 of us. We’re close. We do a lot together. We have many experiences that neither Steven nor I ever had the chance to do as children.

But I’ve always had this back-in-the-mind feeling that God’s got some bigger plan for us, and I don’t know what it is. (I try so desperately hard not to guess or jump to conclusions because I know his timing is perfect, and mine is not!) It could be as simple as loving on and supporting our nieces and nephews more, or those special kids in our kid’s life. We’ve been testing that out, and it’s so. much. fun. I find my heart’s grown 3 sizes larger since my “page-turn.” I adore the little people all around us – watching them develop intricate personalities, interests and skills.

Alli, 11, is our intelligent and athletic niece. She reads at a much higher level than her age, and she’s amazing at softball. She has a big heart and concern for everyone and goes out of her way to be inclusive. (Remind me to tell you about the time that she intervened a bullying situation between classmates.)

Elli, 8, has so many interests that are like me in music, art and dance. She’s doing well on piano and is starting to take guitar lessons. She is graceful in ballet and is now in hip hop. She can paint, too! I love her spontaneous spirit.

Jeremiah, 6, has recently learned how to solve Rubik cubes. He solved one that stumped all of Steven’s coworkers. He has the most clever sense of humor and astounds us with his ability to absorb information. He loves LEGOs and Star Wars and has a gentle, kind demeanor.

Anna, 6, has the independence and sometimes stubborn nature that defies her tender beginnings as a 3-lb preemie. She has the biggest, most alert eyes that have determination to keep up with her big sister. She is silly, fun, and she earns her nickname, Anna Banana.

Josiah, 4, is a bundle of energy. He always has a smile or a mischievous grin on his face, and he constantly makes me laugh. Mom and I used to joke that he sorta resembled Dopey the dwarf as a baby, and though he’s not “dopey,” he just melts your heart like that little character does.

Our nearly-nieces and nephews are just as special. Beatrice, 5, Jovia, 3, and Oliver, 1, are the best little friends Wesley’s ever had (and likely TO have), and JoJo even calls me “her good friend Leah.” Levon, 3, is an lively little boy who Wesley tries to take under his wing every time we hang out. And dear Lucian, 1, our sweet godson. We get to see him in a few months over Thanksgiving!

OR it could be as simple as sponsoring a child. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do!

jastin-sanga_2016I’m pleased to introduce you to Jastin, a 5-year-old boy who lives in India. Wesley chose him to be his friend and “pseudo-brother” because of his similar age, and likely because of his cool Tom & Jerry shirt. Because this is a very new decision, we haven’t yet made contact with Jastin, but Wesley’s warming up to the idea and getting excited to be a part of his life. Wes has been asking many questions about culture, faith and climates, and it’s an opportunity to open conversations about our faith and heritage.

Sponsoring a child isn’t a new experience for us. Steven and I briefly sponsored a child with a large organization when we were first married, but admittedly, we were not ready to make such a commitment. I regret that we were unable to continue supporting the child, and it’s frustrated me for years. I remember thinking that it would be a good time to revisit the commitment when we had a child of our own to keep us accountable.

This relationship with Jastin is uniquely special to us because he is sponsored through Mid India Child, a ministry of our dear friends in India. I grew up knowing missionaries David and Sheela Lall as my Indian aunt and uncle, and their three kids, similar ages to me and my sister, soon became our Indian “siblings.” My parents were their forwarding agents on the United States side of things for nearly 30 years – they are very close friends, and we’re lucky enough to see them several times a year as they travel across the globe.

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David and Sheela with the Fernsler cousins on Memorial Day

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A very pregnant me with my Indian siblings

Shiny, my Indian sister, and her husband, Tommy, have taken the reigns and have formed Mid India Child as a way to link all of their central Indian ministries together under one roof through child sponsorship. They run a girls’ boarding school and a special-needs school for abandoned children, provide school and community supplies to villages and slums and college scholarships. Other ministries within the extended Lall family include film production, an orphanage, Bible college, eye hospital, church planting, boys’ vocational school, and many other things I often forget to mention!

So, while we don’t have a girl to “complete” the Shattuck family, we already feel complete. And now that Jastin’s a small part of our small family, I feel just a little bit more proud and full. Good and complete!

So, get ready, Jastin. You’re now part of a small American family who wants to do big(ger) things and make an impact. We love the people who will directly help you through Mid India Child, and we love you, too.

Posted: September 22nd, 2016
Categories: Leah
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2015: A real, raw Resolution

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Christmas Eve 2014

Another year has gone by, and I’m reflecting on the year of 2014 while my son naps on this New Year’s Eve afternoon. It was a good year – many rejoices with friends and family over accomplishments, new life celebrations and new jobs. And it was a good year for our family, too – Wes’ continual learning has been evident, we have less debt and more savings, etc.

I’m not very good at typical New Year resolutions. I’m terrible at keeping a planned commitment together, so weight loss and reading schedules are out the window by week 2. It’s discouraging to set a resolution like that because I get irritated with my “lazy” self and inability to follow through.

Last year, I resolved to be a more attentive mother. I can proudly say that 2014 has been a year of many romps around the house, read-aloud book time, kitchen experiments, day-trips and excursions. We have had a truly fun and fulfilling year with our preschooler. Making that resolution wasn’t just for Wes, it was for all of us. Paying more attention to our family has brought us closer than ever, and there is a sense of joy felt when we’re all 3 together.

So, for 2015, I want to piggyback off that joyful feeling and apply it to the rest of my life, our lives. I know I blog about this topic often, but I so, so desire to be content, and it is a daily struggle that seems to only have gotten more difficult.

A few days ago, a local mother posted in our neighborhood’s “baby mamas” Facebook page. She was desperately looking for other women who were mothers of only children. I commented on this post, offering to talk, and we ended up sharing via Facebook message for the next two days.

Her experiences are very different than mine – after her third miscarriage on Christmas Eve, she was ready to stop trying for a second child completely and wanted to know (and confirm her decision) about the benefits of a 1-child family.

Over the summer I blogged about our trio family, and I still receive comments and questions about that post, even today. What might have been hidden between the lines was my despair. I have worked very hard over the last year to be at peace with our decision, and it has been most difficult. Granted, I haven’t been very consistent with praying about my contentment; many times my prayers have been only to take the pain away or distract me somehow.

I reached out to this mother because I have felt alone. It’s been a very difficult journey because it’s tough to know how and who to open up to. As much as I love Steven, he cannot understand my mourning for a child that doesn’t exist. And I hate to bring it up (as much as it’s on my mind) because it stirs up emotions that could eventually turn into fights disagreements. I don’t want him to feel like he’s “wrong” and I’m “right,” because that’s simply not true. It’s what we have decided, though it was a much more painful pill for me to swallow than for him. My yearning doesn’t do an ounce of good for our relationship.

My mom is sad for me and shares tears, and sometimes that’s helpful, but it’s draining and I can’t see that it will help for healing if it continues forever. My sister is a great listening ear and also shares my sorrow, but again, I feel the need to limit my open vomiting of sadness. My friends are great, but many are expecting or have had new babies, and it just makes for sometimes awkward conversation with a very large elephant residing in the room. And those that ask about our family planning open up a very raw conversation that is very strange – no, I will not sacrifice my marriage for another child. (I will not have an “accidental” pregnancy.)

I wanted her to know that when she feels lonely, there are other women like her and they can mourn with her. I was also truthful: that days can be tough – especially after wonderful, quiet moments with your existing child. While you’re loving that present moment, it’s bittersweet in that it’s the only child with whom you’ll be able to experience it. Every laugh with Wes, every sporadic ice cream trip – nearly all great things about this year have been shadowed with a dreadful black thought – this is it.

All that aside, yes, I’m grateful. I adore my little family and am truly blessed with my boys and dogs. Our life is full of silliness and experiences, and it’s better than anything I ever imagined. This Facebook mother was also grateful to hear these things, even though she very well understood black days…possibly even more than I will ever know. To know a life within you, and then lose it – I don’t know that I could fully recover on this earth.

I’m thankful that she publicly sought help. I guess that’s kinda what I’m doing now, by being real on this silly little family blog. Keeping it bottled inside isn’t allowing for contentment. Life is full of disappointments and sadness. But it’s also what makes JOY so amazing and wonderful. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think joy = happiness. But joy is a different sort of peace. It exists in my heart, but it needs to be more present.

I don’t ever want Steven or Wesley to think that they aren’t enough – they make my heart beat and burst to fulfilling levels. Heck, all we TRULY NEED is Jesus, and I already have him in my life and heart, so honestly, I am complete. Yet, we are fallible humans and my lack of trust in the Lord is a constant struggle.

So, 2015. Here we come. I realize I will fail some days, but overall, I am doing my best to be content with everything I have and need. These verses from Paul will be my yearly reminder:

I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. — Philippians 4:12-13 (NLT)

Posted: December 31st, 2014
Categories: Leah
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Only You

photo (18)Most people think of families as 2 kids + parents. I do. But we’re a trio family, and that’s how we’ll likely stay.

Social media are beautiful ways for me to keep tabs on my friends’ growing families, see photos of new babies and glowing parents and reignite that unique, hard-to-describe feeling of joy when a new life is brought into the world. It is a feeling I used to be afraid of, but motherhood has changed me for the better. I feel like I can see the world through the Creator’s eyes better – He views us as children discovering new, exciting things around us every day. And imagine how great it feels to him to have little hands grasp him for strength, for comfort and out of love.

Who wouldn’t want to invite MORE of that into the world through new life?

A friend recently sent me this article about how it’s become “trendy” to have large families. Family size is becoming a status symbol. I guess I do see some of that, too – that others see large families as wealth. Even the Bible states that those with many children are blessed. But I don’t think that’s what the Bible means about “blessed.” It’s a different sort of blessing – one kinda like what I just heart-vomited above.

The article goes on to take the other standpoint – that those with families of 3, a one and only child, are making those decisions on purpose. Sometimes because of finances. Sometimes because of inability to conceive or age. And sometimes, because they just want a comfortable life.

I’ve thought about this piece for several days now. I agree with it one day, and another day, I don’t. I don’t want to be a mom who doesn’t invite additional children into the world “because we got it right the first time,” and I don’t want to be a mom who quietly condemns large families, either. But it IS nice to have a little piece of validation; that “onlies” are not uncommon these days. That Wes won’t be the only kid in school without a sibling.

Here’s the thing: people talk about infertility, people talk about the case for no children, and people certainly talk about (or ask about) additional children. But no one really talks about the desire to have more children, but deciding not to – for any reason. I’m tired of keeping it to myself. It breaks me up inside. I’m tired of mourning for a child and I’m tired of grieving for Wesley’s “lonely household.”

It’s been a long year for me to reconcile my thoughts about expanding our family. My heart has room for one more child, but I think we’re complete. At least, in terms of  blood relation. Who knows what the future holds – I don’t think I’m done being a parent, whatever that means. Will we be foster parents some day? Maybe?

I’m learning to turn my mourning into joy. (I’m no good as a mopey mother!) I’ll think of all the blessings I do have: We’ve had a blast these summer weeks as a small family. We’ve grown close. We’re able to be flexible and splurge and be together. I’m determined to be the best mom to Wes that I can be. Sure, it’s going to be tough some days, but I’ve got a great little family to back me up. And as long as my friends keep reproducing, I’ll be able to hold and snuggle little children, and perhaps even be a part of that village it takes to raise them, for many years yet.

Posted: July 10th, 2014
Categories: Leah
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