Posts Tagged ‘working mom’

The Tardy Christmas Letter

You guys. I’m sorry. I have ideas for blog topics that come to me on occasion, though I procrastinate from sitting down to type long enough that the idea floats away until weeks later when it doesn’t seem as relevant. Merry Christmas from a rotten blogger!

The 2019 Shattuck Christmas card design was Wesley’s idea because we got in this face swap streak… and the idea stuck. I went with it, for all the horror!

Noting its creep factor, I made sure to add a few real photos on the back so that you could just face it out on your fridge and not know any difference. You’re welcome?

It seems like this season of our lives is pretty slow, and maybe not worthy of a monthly post, like, written pretty faithfully until Maisie’s birth. But I guess there’s enough that has happened to catch you up.

Steven has spent the better part of a year writing a book on nonprofit fundraising(!). It’s nearly finished and due to publish early spring. He has written a couple chapters in fundraising textbooks, but this is his first solo project. I’m excited for him; it’s been fun to see some of our candid conversations about not-for-profit work turn into published advice.

He and Wes continue to bond over their own things and hobbies: chess, RPGs, tennis. Maisie adores the attention from him, squealing at their made-up games and begging for another book to be read. And he shows his pride in me through surprises like flowers and hazelnut lattes, household chores like dishes and laundry, and has even tagged along with me to Broadway shows, Hamilton and The Band’s Visit, which is not his favorite pasttime.

Wesley, 8, has decided that now is a good time to “start acting like a big kid.” He’s been better about trying new foods, taking responsibility and ownership around the house, and though he’s had some ups and downs in second grade, he’s improved his behavior, participation and academic performance. Wes continues to practice Taekwondo, earning his brown belt and senior status in December. We credit so much of his overall maturity to Taekwondo’s focus on respect, honesty and self-control.

He loves graphic novels (besides Dog Man, check out Bone, Action Bible and Usborne Graphic Legends) and independent reading, though recently we’ve restarted reading aloud at bedtime, which is one of our favorite things (currently reading: Max Einstein). Wes fiercely loves his little sister, and his generous heart grows bigger every day.

Maisie, nearly 18 months, provides tons of joy in our family. She is sweet, playful, ornery and goofy. Our shier kid, it takes her a few minutes to warm up to a new person or situation. But once she feels comfortable, she babbles a mile a minute and finds the nearest ball or baby doll. She prefers sign language over words, unless talking about “ooo-eh” (Wes) or “da-eee” (Daddy).

If she’s not fighting yet another sinus infection, she’s sleeping so much better than before – and now in her new room, the former guest bedroom. Because she was waking so often, we decided to go ahead and purchase her twin bedroom set so that I can sleep near her crib when needed. (Did you know that quality, classic white bedroom furniture is amazingly difficult to find these days? I finally stumbled across local Decor 4 Kids.)

I have spread my wings into this WAHM role. It’s been fluid and evolving. When Maisie was tiny, it was easier to take on a few projects at a time. As she grew and needed more of my time, I wrestled with balance. In November I resigned from The Milk Bank, and Wes started riding the school bus home. This has allowed us to have flexible mornings and free afternoons for her naps. She’s such a great partner in this chapter: we read, color, sing and dance, run errands, work out at the YMCA, and fellowship with other moms and kids (our family has connected to both the Midtown and Northeast campuses of Common Ground).

While she naps, I squeeze in an assignment for Andromeda, a tech start-up with an all-remote staff. I’ve been doing a small amount of marketing work for them since late 2018 – applying for awards and seed funds, creating marketing plans – and the “work as much as you want, when/wherever you want” workplace is perfect for me.

Honestly I don’t have to work at all, but it’s hard to let go entirely. And I feel like I’ve been releasing the hold gradually throughout 2019. This is the least I can possibly maintain to have the best of both worlds, and for now, it’s good.

I believe in prayer and patience. Many of my posts over the years have been about community and my longing for fellowship. My hope for peace. I don’t have a personal resolution for 2020, but maybe that’s because I’m so grateful for the journey to today, and for once, I’m not afraid of what’s ahead.

“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

Wishing you peace, health and a successful year.

P.S. Christmas was “awesome,” as per Wes. It was a good lesson on patience, as many of our extended family members were sick with the flu, but thankfully we had unusual 60-degree weather to keep us occupied until they were out of quarantine!

Posted: February 9th, 2020
Categories: Leah
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WAHM: How to survive

Finding the time to blog is no easy feat. There are dozens of things I either need to or would rather do when I find myself with 15 or more minutes of personal time.

I’ve been working from home for the last several months, averaging about 10 hours a week. Is it worth it? So far, yes. I work with some truly understanding people who want to make this partnership work. It’s wonderful to keep my feet in the water without submerging. The flexibility is appealing, though I’ve had to be okay with unstructured days.

“Home office”

If you’re going to make it as a part-time work-at-home-mom with a toddler* who would prefer to be touching you all the time, here are a few pro tips:

1) Don’t work in your pjs all day.
Even if I’m cranking out productivity from 8-11, I feel gross and unaccomplished if I haven’t showered by lunch time. On days when Maisie takes a morning nap, I’m able to get ready right after she’s down; on the rougher, no-nap days, she explores the bathroom while I get ready (and I don’t get much done).

2) Schedule a few in-person meetings.
I have several dry shampoo and no make-up days, but it’s nice to attend a meeting every now and then with other people. It forces me to put in a little extra effort in being presentable. Maisie usually comes with me, and it’s good to get her out of the house, too.

3) Find atypical places to make an office.
I’ve made phone and web calls at restaurants, enjoyed the front porch while updating websites and crafted social media posts while parked (with a sleeping kiddo in the car seat) in my garage or in a Starbucks lot. Who needs a home office?!

4) Make a hard stop time.
Before the school year restarted* I had to find ways to entertain an 8-year-old* and baby. In the mornings I worked while Wes read, played Prodigy, a cool math RPG, or similar reading software, and until Maisie was up from her nap. Then we headed to museums, parks or the YMCA pool. Now it’s easy: I have to leave the house by a certain time to pick him up from school. I try not to work again until after bedtime because afternoons with the kids are fantastic.

5) Set aside 30 minutes for household chores.
Yes, the house isn’t as clean as I’d like*, but it’s acceptable. If I can find a handful of minutes to switch out the laundry, load the dishwasher and tidy up, it makes a difference. Some people focus on one room a day to clean it well; I don’t yet have that down. I still use Saturdays for bathrooms, dusting and other bigger tasks. And when I want to tackle a house or garden project*, I build it into the weekly schedule.

6) Don’t beat yourself up.
There have been plenty of planned work days led astray, and I just had to be there for the family. Maisie has had big developmental leaps* over the summer — we’re in the middle of one now — and she struggles a lot: fighting sleep, frustrated crying, refusing food. I want to pull my hair out and can’t focus on work, so I push “pause” until it makes sense to try again.

7) Take time off.
Though I spend the bulk of my time at home, I still deserve a vacation. In May we visited the U.S. Space and Rocket Center* in Huntsville, Alabama, and we celebrated Independence Day in St. Louis*.

Footnotes / Summer Updates:
*How is little Maisie one year old? She has given us so much to be thankful for. And my goodness, what emotions and lifestyle changes, too. See her monthly photos from Year 1 here.

*(4)(1) Wesley is now a second grader! The school year started August 1, which seems early, but I appreciate the shift back into routine.

*(4)(2) Similar to the day he was born, Wesley’s birthday party day was too hot to host his field day-themed party in our back yard as planned. We made it work by renting an indoor field! He’s such a fun kid, and so was the celebration.

*(5)(1) Somehow I got MRSA staph infection(s) IN MY ARMPIT in July. Twice. One giant, painful boil was cut open to drain, and I broke out into full-body allergic hives from the antibiotics to kill the infection. I’ve been told the boil(s) likely formed from nicking myself shaving, and that I could have picked up the antibiotic-resistant bacteria anywhere. The surfaces in my house have never been so clean, and I’m never using razors again. (I’m also washing weekly in surgery-prep soap and tea tree oil in between. Possibly overkill?)

*(5)(2) Our house project list has slowed way down, though we do an occasional thing. Steven is installing ceiling fans and researching built-in bookshelves. We moved some furniture around. And ignoring the weeds, my dying arborvitae (thankfully Sugar Creek Tree Care is helping to revive them!) and the torn-up mess Lucy made in one of the flower beds, I’ve been dreaming of outdoor updates. We planted a Bloodgood Japanese Maple tree for Maisie’s first birthday as a companion to Wesley’s oak tree. And while at it, I planted hibiscus for our 12th anniversary. I’m now embarking on straightening the pavers that have settled over the years on our brick walkway.

*(6) Maisie’s fussiness pattern is as predictable as a textbook when she’s working on a “Wonder Weeks” leap of skills. She’s as sweet as they come, but she is cranky for several weeks until mastering something new. At 12 months she is:
– Babbling “Hi-ye” / “Uh oh” / “Momomom” / “Dadada” / “Whoa” / “Dis”
– Fascinated with eyelashes, ceiling fans, spalshing water
– Eating all the green beans, whole milk
– Growling at the dogs and waving “night-night”
– Cruising along furniture, almost standing and walking with assistance

*(7)(1) This was our best family trip yet, and it fell over my birthday and Mother’s Day. The kids did great in the car (audio books for the win!) and slept well in hotels. The space museum is fantastic: lots to do, including rides, not crowded, cool models and equipment. We found a local diner for real fried chicken and pecan pie before going home.

*(7)(2) I can’t believe I hadn’t been to St. Louis until now. The city is packed with family activities! We loooooved The City Museum, which was the reason for our trip. A patriotic parade, fireworks and an air show by the Gateway Arch made it a Fourth to remember.

And if you’re still reading this and need more Shattuck updates, here’s a video of our summer moments:

Posted: August 23rd, 2019
Categories: Leah
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We Are Okay

If it seems quiet over here, you can catch a few posts I’ve written on milk banking and breast pumps, but yeah, we’re still around.

May the Fourth Star Wars fundraiser event

I’m a terrible cold season survivor, and life’s everyday decisions seem SO MUCH HARDER when the sun is hiding. But we’ve managed to find joy among them!

If I look back at my January resolutions, I cringe a little. Work/life balance is a struggle, and it’s especially hard to transition to part-time work and then to part-time work-from-home work. Teetering between priorities, that old friend, guilt, hovers and lingers.

I said I’d say “no” more often. So difficult for a “yes” person who only wants to be helpful and avoid conflict. But, after a few tough situations, I am learning to dig in my heels and do what’s best for my family.

Maisie’s baby dedication Sunday

With so many changes and adjustments in 2018, I needed to find community and accountability. We started regularly attending a different church in October, and like any new environment, it’s taken a while to settle in. However, with my flexible schedule, I’ve been able to be a part of a mother’s group within the church, which is refreshing and encouraging. And I can’t say enough about our neighborhood. It’s wonderful to have friends down the street who look after you so well.

Date night shenanigans

How’s Steven? These days he’s grateful to open the windows and turn off the heat. He secretly loves cold, dark weather and is starting to complain about summer approaching, but for now, he likes the cooler evenings and spring air. He and Wes share a love of rain and thunderstorms, and they looooove watching Interstellar. I mean, it’s on nearly every Friday night. (Friday night is our sacred family time with homemade pizza, sometimes breadsticks and a movie past bedtime.) Steven is home from business travel for a while before more fundraising conferences start to pop up again.

How’s Wes? Well, first grade has been challenging. Not academically, no, but his friendly demeanor has gotten him into occasional trouble. He serves in a leadership role in his classroom, and he doesn’t like the responsibility. (We’ve had many discussions about Moses, the reluctant leader.)

He is quickly progressing in Taekwondo, and when he’s not too busy goofing off or tired, he is very good at his form and continues to get stronger. In fact, he just passed his promotion test the other day and now wears a light blue belt (white-> yellow-> orange-> light blue-> green-> purple-> brown-> red-> dark blue-> black).

He speaks top-notch Spanish, reads and spells at an advanced level, wants a career as an artist and loves his sister well.

How’s Maisie? The little nugget is petite, fair and charming. She was hitting milestones left and right until recently and seems to be in a comfortable rut. She can get around by spinning and pushing backwards, and sometimes she’ll get on all fours and rock, but no crawling yet.

She signs “milk” and “dog.” She loves solid foods (I still enjoy making baby food!) and is perfecting fine motor skills to pick up puffs and soft, melty baby crackers. She prefers to “comfort-nurse” instead of true breastfeeding, so I’ve been pumping-to-bottle more often and combating terrible milk blisters, blebs and clogged ducts.

Her pediatrician is watching her weight, but isn’t yet alarmed. She may have doubled her birth size, but she’s nearly half of gigantic, 8-month-old Wesley! Maisie’s new babble is “bop,” she discovered clapping, and she likes to drop items from a height. Her bright, sometimes goofy-looking smile features two front, bottom teeth.

What about the sleeping trouble? Regarding Maisie, it’s still challenging to get her to nap throughout the day, but she’s become a rock-solid night sleeper. She definitely parties hard before bedtime — eating a ton, nonstop wiggling and squealing — and then crashes.

Wes moans and groans about being left alone in the dark, but he’s better. Melatonin helps tremendously when needed, and I usually cuddle in with him under his bed tent until he gets sleepy enough that I can leave without protest.

I’m coming out through a wintery, end-of-rainy-season/tunnel, and we’re alright. We are okay. (Bring on the sunshine!)

Easter 2019

Posted: May 4th, 2019
Categories: Leah
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Intentional Living in 2019

This blog post was written for The Milk Bank, but I added it here, too.

It’s the time for resolutions. There is such a demand on mothers to be everything and more for yourself, your significant other, your kids. After the miraculous process of growing and then birthing a baby, moms are expected to achieve superhero status in home organization, child-rearing and physical activity.

There are also many “life or death” decisions on day cares and schools, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, discipline styles, natural foods and products. It’s often in January that we see women nearly burden themselves to get closer in achieving characteristics of Society’s Ideal Mother.

When my seven-year-old son was a baby, I made a few so-called “mom fails.”

My son at a chunky 4 months old.

My son at a chunky 4 months old.

FAIL 1: I only made it six months of breastfeeding and pumping. Though he was an extremely large baby (97th percentile for weight by 3 months old!), my milk dwindled because I hated pumping at work. It was awkward and cumbersome to sit against an unlocked door to the conference room and haul milk around.

FAIL 2: We used cloth diapers at home for the first year of his life. But once he entered daycare at age 1, we switched to disposables because of the center’s policies.

FAIL 3: I picked up my baby when he cried. I nursed him to sleep.

(There is nothing wrong with the above situations! Feeding, diapering and soothing every baby is different, and I am not endorsing any particular method.)

Though I may not have admitted it, these so-called “failures” made me feel guilty and inadequate. While intended for good, I had bought into ideals and made “resolutions” that, for our family’s situations, were bound to be broken. They were too specific and weren’t appropriate for us at the time.

My daughter, the newest office baby, at 4 months old.

My daughter, the newest office baby, at 4 months old.

Our surprise baby girl was born in August, and I’ve had the opportunity to do it all over again.

I’ve borrowed a term from one of my friends: Intentional Living. Rather than resolutions of hard-to-keep actions and to-do lists or goals, I’m intentionally seeking out behaviors that will form into habits and shape my little world – not society’s expectations – for the better.

Being Available
Making choices that free up my schedule for flexibility (i.e. saying “no” more often). Spending more time with my husband, kids and other loved ones.

One of the hardest decisions followed my recent maternity leave. I returned to a full-time career in which I loved with a two-week resignation notice. Until that moment I never anticipated I would become a stay- or work-at-home-mom (SAHM), but, because we intentionally sought out being more available for our family and friends, our daughter’s arrival created an opportunity for a career change.

Within a couple weeks of my SAHM status, I was offered a part-time position at The Milk Bank in which I could work a few hours at home and bring my daughter with me while in the office. It lined up perfectly with our family’s desires.

The staff has welcomed my daughter as a temporary coworker, knowing how important it is for breastfeeding mothers and infants to remain bonded and available to each other. They have supported us while trying to figure out naps during office hours, ignored her wailing and crying and haven’t flinched when needing to breastfeed in the middle of a meeting.

My adaptable environment and schedule allows me to, as another friend said, “flex my work muscle,” while being available for my family. I am able to use my skills and talents to assist a mission I support and in a time frame where I can be most productive. I can make time for dropping off lunch when my husband has forgotten it, picking up my son from school and watching my daughter hit developmental milestones.

Being Active and Generous
Making choices that engage my brain, body and heart to serve others. Speaking less, listening and doing more. Being kind and empathetic.

Now that my schedule is more open and available than it’s ever been, I have more time to be active and participatory. The baby and I volunteer in my son’s classroom a couple times each month, and I take home projects to help out his teachers. We’re looking into family service projects around our city.

My husband has set up recurring gifts to several organizations. It’s an easy way to financially support causes we believe in without the need to remember to pull out the checkbook. We find we’re more interested in the growth and activity of these organizations after we make an investment in their missions. We can serve more people in our communities by supporting organizations who already have their boots on the ground.

Because my time is precious, I’m not setting a specific book or exercise goal, but I realize the incredible value of continuing education and physical activity. I can learn about people unlike me and grow in understanding and empathy. I can build up strength to use my body for laborious work. For these reasons, I will intentionally stay active in 2019.

skids.jpg

Being Authentic
Making choices that reflect my desires. Allowing myself to be vulnerable and teachable.

While trying to maintain a Perfect Mom image during my son’s infancy, I wasn’t being authentic. I’ve learned better the second time around, but there are still times where I catch myself in comparison to another mom. We’re so critical of ourselves and others.

Being authentic is the hardest of the three intentional behaviors for me to firmly establish. I am still learning to sift through unsolicited advice, standing firm and avoiding guilt or insecurity about our choices. We have a clear vision, so you’d think it wouldn’t be that hard to follow the path, right?

Turns out being transparent and vulnerable with others establishes respect and trust you wouldn’t believe. While sticking with my gut is important, I also want to avoid being stingy enough to shut out opportunities for maturity and understanding. There is much to learn and do.

While I’ve only had a few months’ practice in intentionally adapting these behaviors, I feel like I have more purpose in life. It’s fulfilling and redeeming enough to carry them with me into 2019. Not claiming to be perfect, it’s a daily choice and adjustment, and we don’t get it right every time. But I’ve learned not to dwell on shortcomings and to dust off my pants and try again. For me, it’s much easier to maintain behaviors than a dedicated, cut-and-dry resolution.

I encourage you to adopt an intentional behavior – or, if you’re already doing so, call it out and stick with it – if you haven’t yet made a New Year Resolution.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t lose 10 pounds or finish a project right away. You know yourself and your family better than anyone else. Sure, not every day will be peaches and rainbows, but your intentional behaviors can shape 2019 into a positive and healthy year. You’ve got this!

sfamily.jpg
Posted: January 5th, 2019
Categories: Leah
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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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First Head Injury

IMG_0878aWhile I was organizing and setting up my webinar for 5 p.m. today, I noticed my phone ringing from Wes’ preschool. You know you better answer the phone when school calls. People started arriving into the digital waiting room, but I answered the call anyway.

“Hi, Leah. Wesley had a big fall today.”

Uh oh. “What happened? Is he alright?”

“Well, we stopped the bleeding from his head, and he’s been a good trooper.”

I’m not sure I heard most of what she said next because I was immediately thinking concussion. And then my mind raced to stupid scenarios which likely were too creative to be true. All I gathered was that there was a basketball hoop, some major dunking and mulch. Something at some point hit Wes in the back of the head and left a small puncture wound.

I talked to him over the phone and told him he would be alright. Daddy would pick him up soon.

whimpering “Okay, Mama.”

I hung up the phone and tried to plow through leading a webinar. Afterwards it took me nearly an hour to get home, but I did, eventually, and he was happily sitting on the couch.

“Hi, Mama. My head got hurt today. I was playing basketball.” I saw the ridiculous amount of blood that had stained the back of his shirt. It took all my strength not to pick him up like a baby and rock him. (What is wrong with me? It’s just a small cut!)

We played outside for a little while, tried to clean up the wound with hydrogen peroxide and rinsed the blood out of his hair in the fun form of a bubble bath. He seemed to act fairly normal all evening; we read a couple books and said a prayer thanking God for keeping him safe.

“My teacher picked me up and I was crying a lot. She was nice to me. And Daddy was nice to me and picked me up from school, too.” Sometimes he talks causally to God about his day. I’m sure God thinks it’s as sweet as I do.

He quickly drifted off to sleep.

Sweet boy, keep that noggin of yours safe. And don’t ever need stitches, please. This mama can’t handle it.

Posted: June 3rd, 2015
Categories: Leah
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Conversations with Wes: Careers

This morning, we somehow got around to talking about the careers of our relatives. Wes was fascinated to know what his aunts and uncles did “at work.”

Me: Did you know that Aunt Hannah, Uncle Jason and Aunt Kelly are all teachers?
Wes: You mean like my teacher at school?
Me: Yep, just like that.
Wes: I have a teacher. Her name is Miss ____.
Me: And when Grandma went to work, she helped sick people.
Wes: Yeah! Because she’s my grandma.
Me: Aunt Katie and Uncle Lee also help sick people get better.
Wes: What does Grandpa do?
Me: He’s called an engineer – he fixes things and uses wires and gadgets. (I really didn’t know how to best explain.)
Wes: And Pa and Nana, too.
Me: Sorta. They both work at an office like Grandpa does. And so do I and Daddy.
Wes: Why do you work with markers?
Me: Oh, you mean “marketing.” Yep! That’s what Daddy and I went to school to learn to do. And now we do it at work.
Me: Annnnnnd! Did you know that Uncle Chris works on houses? And he builds them too?
Wes: (hitting a sweet spot) HE WORKS ON HOUSES?! Like the song… (launching right into it)

Uncle Chris built his house upon the rock
Uncle Chris built his house upon the rock
Uncle Chris built his house upon the rock and the rain came tumblin down
The rains came down and the floods came up
The rains came down and the floods came up
The rains came down and the floods came up
And the house on the rock stood FIRRRRRRMMMM

And then later,
Wes: When Uncle Chris is sick, that means Aunt Katie makes him feel better. And then he builds houses.

Posted: March 7th, 2015
Categories: Leah
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But Man, Age 3…

PollyPandaSept14_1Let me make a disclaimer and say that Wes is a good kid and is generally well-liked. But man, age 3…

…Is Tough
Do I really need to explain? I mean, I knew it was coming; Wes was such a slow, easy-going and lazy infant and toddler. He now needs a ton more attention and activity. I feel like Steven and I are counting down and disciplining left and right for stalling, ignoring tactics, repeat behavior, refusals and – my favorite – potty talk. Three-year-old boys absolutely know what’s edgy enough to say and get away with it, and Wes is nearly always walking that fine line.

…Is Repetitive
Oh was that funny? Let’s do it again for a chuckle. And again. Alright. Ok, it’s a stale joke now. Seriously, it’s not funny anymore. Wesley, stop. STOP! Oh did that gross you out? Let’s do it again! Again! Again!

…Is Wonderful
Right now, I’m his best friend. He tells me nearly every day. Forget the fellow sweaty preschoolers, I win the best hug award! This guy has some major sweetness embedded deep within his heart, and I hope it never fades. The way he cares for people is evident, and he believes babies are life’s best miracle – and heck, he’s so right. I love watching Wes discover the world. His utter amazement – mind blown –  when he connects the dots about a concept. We’re also at an age where we are making memories that he recalls months later, and it’s wonderful to “reminisce” about the past.

…Brings Out the Best and Worst of Me
I’ve had to be creative more than ever. Thinking of ways to keep him occupied so he doesn’t get himself into trouble or break something has been a super challenge. We’re more crafty around here, and we do more hands-on activities. But sometimes I’m just plain tired from a long work day and can’t get myself off the couch. I grow irritable of his loud boy noises, repeated phrases/sounds and nonstop movements. His repetitive disobedience and testing. And then Mama Bear gets mad. I roar and stomp and do terrible irritable-mom things and instantly regret it.

I know Age 3 is full of learning and teachable experiences, but, you know, some days are just bad. Some days you completely skip right over those teachable moments and either brew worry or anger.

However, as cliche as it sounds, I’ve found that a new day presents new chances to learn from each other, and thank goodness for those second and third chances to make things right. I can’t be a perfect wife or mom, but we 3 have morning snuggles down to a science – and it heals any wounds from the day before.

…until we’re running late for school and Mama Bear makes an appearance again. 🙂

Posted: October 16th, 2014
Categories: Leah
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The Daycare Dilemma

Photo 1I’m pretty sure I’ve hit on this point before, so call me paranoid, I guess. I’m in this weird limbo of sorts because Wes is one of the only kids I know who attends daycare. There are a few, though usually the kids in my life are watched by a relative, dropped off at a caregiver’s house, or they have parents who work from or stay at home. I don’t think one is a better option than another, but it does cross my mind a lot.

It makes it tough because I can’t really talk through my troubles with many people and sort out my thoughts.

We’re about to transition Wesley into full-time daycare. Currently he attends 3 days a week, coupled with my mom watching him one day, and I the other. When he was still a tiny little guy, my friend Jillian watched him until he turned one year. He’s been enrolled in part-time daycare since then. My paranoia arises even when I type this.

Will we be able to afford it? His school is highly rated, which means it’s worth the money. But. Three days to five days is a big financial jump. I often find my job, of which I love, and of the not-for-profit salary margin, and the words, “importance” “worth it” and “selfish” in the same thought-sentences. It’s an ongoing battle in my brain.

Will we miss out on his childhood and developments? In other words, will I regret this decision later on? He’s only this age once. I don’t know how to answer this question.

Will he get enough rest? On days at home or at his grandma’s house, Wes will nap an average of two hours. However, with all the distractions at school, group naptime is usually about one hour, tops. He is a tired mess of a crank-ball by the time I pick him up. We struggle to get dinner on the table, eating is a challenge, and BOOM, it’s time for bed. I think we spend less than two hours with Wesley every weekday. It’s pretty crummy.

Will he ever stay healthy? I and his pediatrician are looking forward to the end of cold and flu season so we can kick these frequent winter illnesses in the rear end. With a kid who likes to touch his face, we’re pretty much doomed until Kindergarten.

And, of course, what will people think of us? I have to admit that I do think about how others view us. I know it doesn’t matter, but it affects me. His daycare, for instance, doesn’t cloth diaper. So, we’ve had to change our ways, and I feel a little guilty for not upholding my original plans. I feel like I’m now in this outsider realm of “failed cloth diapering parents.” Why, why does it matter? (Besides saving the environment?)

But then again, I weigh all the positive outcomes of his experiences. His school is a sigh of relief. It’s just down the street from my job, and I can be there in a heartbeat in case of fever or emergency or whatever. He mingles and socializes, which I know is a struggle for him. He learns to trust and obey authority. He learns to share and be part of a community. He learns! I mean, some days I have no idea what to do other than explore the outdoors or draw on a coloring page or destroy a block tower. These are teachers with real-life lesson plans geared toward specific developments of his brain’s age.

It amazes me how much he knows at nearly 21 months old. I’m super proud of him. I wish I could have taught him some of the things he shows me, but I don’t know how to teach him. I know how to love him and encourage him and support him, and I will.

The thing is, I want what’s best for our family. I know I am more fulfilled and happy and successful when I am employed in a wonderful position such as my own. Yes, even on the difficult days, I know this. My time, though it may be limited, with Wesley is more enjoyable when I’m applying and challenging myself during the day. I better appreciate and cherish the laughs and tears and snuggles with my son. I also know that my husband is proud of my accomplishments. He is proud of me! Ain’t that something?

So, I guess our situation may change down the road because I’m obviously still struggling with inconsistent thoughts. But for now, we enter full-time daycare. It’s a family effort. We’ll all feel the change.

Posted: April 12th, 2013
Categories: Leah
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Comments: 2 Comments.


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