Oh Man, Spokane

View all of our trip photos here.

With Steven’s increased business travels, and our August anniversary getaway plans canceled last minute earlier this year, we turned his Washington business trip into an extended mini getaway. I’ll tell you what: I certainly bring the entertainment factor when it comes to planning business trips. Steven usually just wings it and “misses out” on so much by not planning ahead. Armed with my travel guide and Groupons, we headed out.

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Our honeymoon to London was Steven’s first airplane experience, and since then, he’s been on countless trips – far surpassing the number of flights I’ve been on. Even being the semi-frequent traveller that he is, he’s never had any issues with major delays, lost luggage or mechanical plane failures. Me, on the other hand, it seems like there’s always an issue. We decided I was bad luck because our flight from Indianapolis was delayed 45 minutes due to the fact the plane from Chicago had mechanical problems and had to be swapped out quickly.

We landed in Denver 10 minutes before our connecting flight was scheduled to take off. We knew we wouldn’t make it…we’d have to run the full length of the concourse, not counting the time it takes to taxi and unload. We decided to try, however, because the next flight to Spokane, our final destination, wasn’t for another 8 hours. By some gracious miracle, they held the plane for us as we clambered on, drenched in sweat.

Arriving in Spokane (pronounced Spo-can, pretend the E isn’t there) at 12:30 p.m. local time, it had been nearly 6 hours since we had last eaten and were desperate for food. Note: airlines don’t offer anything more than 6 oz of soda with looooots of ice for domestic flights. Remember the days of full meals and even peanuts and pretzels? Sorry boutcha.

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We were so tired and so hungry, but we gorged ourselves with super-yummy food at a local eatery called Scratch. I had carrot and fennel bisque soup. OMGeeeee. Good.

To walk off our bloated bellies, we toured the streets of downtown, including the beautiful and unique Riverfront Park, which was the site for the 1974 world’s fair expo. It looks like a happening summer destination with a mini amusement park, arena, train ride and gondola skyride over the Spokane Falls. I had a Groupon for the skyride, but alas, it was closed for maintenance. Strike 1.

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The weather apparently had been perfect for weeks leading up to this one, but we brought rain and chill with us from Indy. We headed back to Hotel Ruby, a former old run-down motel renovated into a hip, jazzy hotel with an after-hours public lounge. We decided it was a nice enough place, but we’re too old for the thin walls and neighboring train tracks and late night arrivals from young party-goers. Steven put it bluntly, “This place is for drunks.”

We spent the rest of the evening reading and studying for the next day’s conference presentation – the reason for the trip. It was only 6 p.m. local time, but that translated to 9 p.m. in our minds, and we were lights-out before people were heading to dinner.

The next day, Steven asked me what I would do to keep busy while he was working all day. Oh, did I have a plan!
FIRST: I had breakfast in the hotel lounge and caught up on local happenings.
THEN: I headed to a coffee shop we had found the day before, Atticus, and I enjoyed a latte and read more from my honkin trip book, We Are Not Ourselves (the thing nearly weighs 5 lbs).
AND THEN: I used one of my found Groupons for an hour-long massage. The ladies in the spa loved to hear that I was taking the day for myself.
THEN: I went to the downtown mall near the Falls. I had found a flyer online with a bunch of listed coupons for the shops in the mall and used them frequently. I tried on fancy clothes and ended up buying more than I should have. I had to stop while I was ahead because I had forgotten that I wasn’t in Indianapolis and had to bring everything back with me in a suitcase…

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ALSO: I had thought about going to see a movie, but nothing sparked my interest enough, so I instead popped my head into the mall hair salon and got a quick trim and style. While talking with all the local folks, I got a few recommendations for dinner that night, and was a little too excited about getting my hair done for a simple evening.

After my girlie rendezvous, I headed back to the hotel until Steven was finished. We met up and then walked to a very early dinner among white-haired people at a restaurant called Anthony’s. There’s a plus to eating before the crowds (I mean, keep in mind it was still 8 p.m. in our Eastern Time heads) – we snagged a table with a gorgeous view of Spokane Falls and were able to buy off the earlybird menu. A four-course seafood meal including dessert!

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On Friday, we rented a car to go exploring through Washington countryside and up Mt. Spokane. The landscape is full of valleys in between mountain ranges – lots of browns, dark greens and a few fall yellows mixed in. Everywhere you look, you’ve got a great view of Mt. Spokane and its sister hills.

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Up that high, it’s fun to enter a patch of fog, clear it, and then come across a pair of deer. The mountain was pretty quiet, since it’s just before winter ski season, but we marveled at the beauty of the state park.

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We decided to have lunch in nearby Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, which is a quaint and touristy lake resort town. Again, since we’re in between seasons, it was nice to explore without too many people around.

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We hiked around Tubbs Hill and got some wonderful views of lakes and mountains.

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Back in Spokane, we had a little time to kill before checking into our bed & breakfast for the night, so we headed into Manito Park, which is a giant park full of individual flower gardens. It would be easy to get lost in that park, but I honestly don’t think you’d mind. We’ll have to go back someday to see the lilac and rose gardens in full bloom.

Next, I whipped out my last Groupon (this one specifically for Steven), to check out a local craft brewery, River City Brewing Company. It started to fill up quickly, since it was just after the close of the business week. Young and old faces – and many of which brought cards and games to make an evening out of it. It was fun just to witness the community and camaraderie within the small, local hangout.

The Roberts Mansion was just a few blocks down the road, and we got there just before the sun disappeared for a few outdoor photos of the grounds. The innkeeper was chatty and answered all of our questions about Spokane, that particular neighborhood and the history of the families who had lived in the mansion.

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One particular room in the house was full of books and old, garish hats. Naturally, we tried some on.

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Washington is a lovely state and the people of Spokane were very hospitable to us. Indiana isn’t thought of much in the area, so it was entertaining to hear questions about the midwest life. “What’s the weather like in Indiana?” “Ball State? I’ve never heard of it.” “How do you spell Indianapolis?” (Really.)

Talking about home made me ready to come home – and were we ever so glad to see our sleeping son when we finally arrived late last night. Time away is fun, yes, but it also makes you excited and grateful for what you have waiting for you back at home.

Posted: October 26th, 2014
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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What Shigellosis Has Taught Me

photo 4 (6)Nine days ago, Wes woke up with a badly soiled pull-up. I thought it was just a fluke – he never has accidents anymore – and told him to let me know when he had to next go to the bathroom. He said, “ok,” and acted mostly normal while we had breakfast and got ready for school. In the car on the way to school, he complained of stomach pains and kept saying, “I have to go poop” over and over again. I turned the car around and headed back home.

Without being too gross about it all, we spent the majority of that day in the bathroom. Thankfully, he’s potty trained and could go by himself, but I had no idea what this thing was and might have been overly cautious about washing his and my hands and everything else in the bathroom. Thank goodness I was careful.

The next day we went to the pediatrician who ordered a stool culture before any antibiotics or medication would be given. I was sent home with 3 vials, gloves and a toilet seat “hat” collection bucket with a chuckle from the lab nurses. You can imagine the scene there. After FOUR DAYS, we finally got a positive test result confirming Shigella bacteria, or Shigellosis – which is modern-day dysentery.

Since Sunday’s lab result, I’ve talked with the Board of Health, his pediatrician and daycare umpteen times. Antibiotics were finally prescribed after the positive result, and we have to wait until the antibiotics run out (5 days total) until he can go back to school. The difficulty is that it’s now been a week and a half, and his body is fighting this bacteria very well. He’s acting normal and doesn’t even have diarrhea anymore – he hasn’t, actually, since last Friday – four days ago.

Juggling time at home for nearly 2 weeks has been a little workout. Here’s a few things I’ve learned about this experience.

1) If you have a parent in town, thank your lucky stars. And thank THEM. My mom has been a lifesaver, watching Wes many of the days so that Steven and I can work fairly normal schedules. It’s a blessing that she is retired, too. And bonus points for cleaning the inside of the fridge and microwave.

2) Productivity of the work kind is best when the household is asleep. But a great secondary option is to bank on excellent weather and a wireless connection. We’ve spent so many hours outside so that Wes can run off some cooped-up energy while I catch up with email and needed correspondence.

3) A small church family is incredibly supportive. Both Steven and I had obligations early Sunday morning, so we naturally brought Wes with us. We didn’t have a positive test result yet, and I really thought it was just a virus (like his pediatrician also thought) since he was feeling more himself. But, after talking with a few of the leaders, we decided he shouldn’t be around other kids. All of the adults worked around this hiccup and combined classrooms so that he could be in the “quarantine room” and not accidentally infect anyone else. What other church can (and cares enough) to do that for your family? Ok, maybe yours can, too, but I’m grateful for mine!

4) Understanding coworkers makes life easier. I am grateful for the listening ears, flexibility and caring coworkers around me. People genuinely ask about Wes’ health and offer to help – even my coworker who is on maternity leave has offered to stand in as needed! Crazy.

5) You can still have fun when sick. I guess the biggest lesson for me has been to keep each day light and without expectations. Poor Wes truly misses his friends at school and can’t wait to go back. He has been grumpy, bored and irritable on the days where I try to do too much at once. The best remedy? Get on the floor and be goofy with your child. Have a dance party. Bring out toys long forgotten. Snuggle and watch a movie.

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Wes has the best little boy humor. He can easily make fun of himself in embarrassing situations, like last week’s crazy bathroom fest. During bedtime stories the other night, he tooted something rancid and giggled at himself for a good 10 minutes.

 

He’s played with trains for days, and he hasn’t gotten sick of them yet. And occasionally, he’ll grab his camera to take some great, blurry photos of trains.

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One day, we found a grasshopper outside and invited him in for dinner. (We released him before the storm came.)

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The great outdoors heals everything. Especially when it’s sunny and 70 without a cloud in the sky.

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Here’s to 2 more days at home with the best sick kid this side of Indianapolis.

Posted: September 23rd, 2014
Categories: Leah
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Rubber Robots

Last winter I found two preschool cameras at Kohl’s on major clearance and snatched them up. I gave one to my nephew for his birthday and saved the other for Wes’ own birthday in July.

He was thrilled to receive his very own camera and snapped photos left and right. We brought it along when walking along the canal with friends and quickly filled up the memory card. We took it with us on vacation, knowing that we’d get some good shots, but I also took the USB cord and cables so that we could clean off the camera once we got to our “vacation house,” as Wes called it.

While driving to our vacation destination (Holland, Michigan), Steven and I thought it would be fun to start an Instagram account to display Wes’ photos. Since, you know, 3G makes car traveling so much less lame, I set it up right then and there. “Westagram” and other variations were all taken, so it launched a conversation about possible clever names.

Eventually we settled on @rubberrobots, in honor of Wes’ newest made-up song, which consists of only those two words sung over and over again while shifting weight back and forth on each leg. It’s quite annoying, actually, and it gets stuck in your head pretty easily. It seemed perfect.

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You might be thinking to yourself, “what parent allows her child to be on social media?” Well, I see what you’re saying there. But truly, Wes isn’t the only kid in his generation that has an uncontrollable presence online. We’ve probably ruined this Gen Z crop for good by constantly posting photos from birth. I know eventually we’ll have to figure out how to educate him on privacy and the like, and it might be a weird conversation since there will already be an online presence of nearly every kid in his class at that point. But at any rate, this Instagram account is just for fun, and if for any reason it becomes a concern, it will be re-evaluted.

By the time we arrived in Holland, enough of our own Instagram followers and friends had caught on to what we began and couldn’t wait to see the thread. But then! The stupid camera broke. FYI – don’t ever ever buy Discovery Kids Digital Camera. It will steal your photos and eat them and then quit working altogether. (To my nephew, I’m sorry. I owe you a new one!)

It hasn’t been until NOW that we got a replacement camera for Wes. So, without further ado, I present Wesley’s photography. You can obviously follow him on Instagram or periodically view photos on his Flickr album page.

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Posted: September 6th, 2014
Categories: Leah
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Conversations with Wes: Construction Lingo

Wes, like every other little boy it seems, is in love with construction sites and vehicles and tractors. He knows most of them by name and what they do, and he’ll often correct you if you mix up the proper names of the vehicles. Until now, I haven’t given those yellow and orange machines any thought, nor known their official names.

His speech is very clear overall, but we get a kick out of how he manipulates syllables around. I gotta post these pronunciations before I forget them forever.

impacthammer

Impact hammer – “himpack hammer”

cementmixer

Cement mixer – “nixa-nixer”

frontendloader

Front-end loader – “fra-en woah-der”

 

excavator

Excavator – “ex-ator”

 

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Low-loading trailer – “woad trailwer”

And the mostly normal sounding vehicles: Dump truck, backhoe, bulldozer, construction tractor…there’s so many!

Tonight we mixed it up a little and thought up construction vehicle names for relatives: “Cement Mama,” “Wesdozer,” “Impact Daddy,” “Back-Jake” and my favorite, “Low Loading Lucy.”

Posted: August 26th, 2014
Categories: Leah
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Mobbies

photo (21)Yesterday our fall intern started her semester with us at the Alzheimer’s Association. My coworker and I took her out to lunch, and because of the lengthy orientation dullness from that morning, we just talked “stuff” to get to know each other better. She asked me, “so, what are your hobbies? What do you like to do for fun?”

It’s a typical icebreaker question, right? I mean, I ask it all the time when conducting volunteer interviews and orientations. Usually I hear back things like gardening, running, some sport, etc etc. When I was asked the same question, it took me a minute to be able to answer.

I used to paint a lot. It was (and still is, when I find the time) a wonderful stress-reliever. I love to read, but it’s getting harder to do in one sitting these days. I’ve dabbled in a variety of things over the years – some weird: pilates, Dance Dance Revolution (I was GOOD), model rocketry, knitting, mountain biking, guitar. But it seems like I don’t really have a consistent personal hobby anymore. Almost everything I do is with Wes or Steven, or both. Something more like a mom-hobby, a “mobby.”

This summer has been so splendid that I haven’t stopped to capture it at all on this blog. We’ve been outside an awful lot doing silly things. In fact, a different coworker who hadn’t seen me in a while remarked how tan I was the other day! Wanna know some of my new mobbies?

Gardening
I’m not much of a green thumb, but I’ve enjoyed spending countless evenings in the front yard pruning, deadheading, weeding and trying to battle pests (grasshoppers, slugs, and my favorite – ‘shrooms) while Wes drives his Little Tykes car all over the driveway and sidewalk. Steven mows the yard while I water our petunias. Wes mows alongside him while I try to figure out how to revive my fungusified dead plants. I’m sure we look like a picture perfect family to neighbors walking by – until they see my hot mess of a garden.

photo (22)Fortmaking
There is an art to making a fort. We haven’t found it yet, but my cool-mom skills are improving. It really doesn’t matter what the fort looks like. In fact, it can just be a blanket over your head. BOOM. Insta-fort. But seriously, for a fun time – watch a Netflix movie under a blanket with a giggling 3-year-old and a couple of nosy dogs. Oh, and add some vanilla wafers slathered with strawberry icing.

Walking
I suppose our family has walked about 20 miles or so in the last couple weeks. It’s best done with another mom friend and her child so that you can vent about mobbies. Or, for a great workout, take two cabin feverish dogs with you. You’ll get yanked along pretty well. And you might discover a new Hawaiian ice food truck that brilliantly stuffs ice cream at the bottom of the bowl, dumps the flavored ice over it, and THEN puts condensed milk all over the top. Whew. It’s like a heavenly creamsicle.

Boating
This is the second summer of my parents’ pontoon, or best known as “Grandpa’s Boat.” Wes is fascinated with all things that go vroom and zoom, so the boat’s motor is the highlight of every trip to the lake. When we’re not taking a cruise around the small 100 acre lake, we’re sitting in the docked boat. Steven has been known to take naps on the back bench. Wes is usually in the drivers’ seat, turning the wheel to “take us to the library.” And I’m usually just sitting, soaking it all in. There’s also an art to docking the boat itself, which I’m still figuring out. Please don’t trust me to throw or secure the rope to bring the boat in. You’ll likely float away.

Swimming
Wes and I took mommy & me swim classes again this summer. He was the oldest kid in the class, which should have alerted me, but I had successfully dragged a few mom friends and their babies into the class, so I didn’t want to back out. I learned which swimsuits to avoid due to rather large splashes and clingy arms and legs. I think I dunked my head under water once the whole season. By the end of the summer, Wes was a little daredevil.

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It’s a real mobbie! We’ve had so much fun visiting museums, experiencing parks & ballgames, testing out new toys and games, vacationing and relaxing as a family. I’m pretty sure that’s when we’re at our best. I feel whole and complete with I’m actively participating with both of my boys. We’ve also done well at getting together with family, neighbors and friends. Relationships matter to me more than ever, and I’m grateful for wonderful people in my life.

Reading
Okay, so it’s not the same thing as getting lost in a big, thick beach book, but I do enjoy my book time with Wes. Bedtime is usually my favorite part of each day because Wes looks forward to it. He gets special one-on-one time with Steven and I at different times. With me, we get ready for bed, read a handful of books, sing a few songs and pray together. He typically gets stuck in a similar book rotation, but over the summer months, he’s been excited for library books with new-to-him characters and storylines. (His favorites right now are Pete the Cat and His Brand New White Shoes, The Daddy Book, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and, as always, Mike Mulligan and His Steamshovel.) With Steven, I’m not exactly sure what happens, but I hear an awful lot of giggles before lights out.

Summer evenings may be ending sooner, but they’ve been good to us. I feel refreshed and ready for busy fall season to begin.

Posted: August 21st, 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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What happened in June

photo (14)June turned into as crazy a month as May and October. Here’s a little recap of what’s been going on.

- Birthdays: mine came and went and so did Steven’s. Pretty uneventful celebrations, but since we both have birthdays around Mother’s Day (me) and Father’s Day (Steven), we found some clever ways to celebrate for several days, low-key style. Next up, Wes’ 3rd birthday later this month, which will also be low-key. In fact, we aren’t having a party for him, but he doesn’t know any different. I mean, we’ll still celebrate, but it will be conveniently conjoined with other existing family get-togethers. :)

- Potty training: Ugh. I took a long hiatus after feeling discouraged. We had great success back in the spring, and then it fizzled as we readjusted back into normal school day routine. We started it back up again over our long July 4th weekend, and even though we’ve been home here and there, we’ve had some positive success. I think I found the key to his determination: after 100 stickers (he gets one every time he uses the potty chair, 2 for #2 success), he gets his very own big boy bed. At each 10s level reached, he gets/helps pick out one item toward his bed – decorative pillows, sheets, etc. We’re at 6 stickers, so we’ve got a way to go, which I’m not too upset about…more on this later.

- Family time: We’ve been to Indianapolis Indians games, visited museums, grabbed ice cream on sporadic impulse, taken long walks (and worn out the dogs), played in the store-bought kiddie wading pool until we had to throw it away from its cheapness, visited my parents’ lakehouse, attended a niece’s play, walked along the downtown canal and enjoyed our little trio family very well during our summer beginnings. Wes is in swim lessons again this summer with a great group of friends and neighbors. We all look forward to Saturday mornings for donuts before the walk to the park, where we pick up friends along the way to the 45-minute class. Stroller brigade!

- Jobs: Because June is the end of the fiscal year, we have been busy with work-related events and meetings. I have a personal fundraising goal of $1,250 toward the Walk to End Alzheimer’s this October, and I’ve been trying to find creative ways to reach it. We had our first-ever garage sale a few weekends ago, which was surprisingly stressful, difficult and yet, highly rewarding and successful. Wes was a champ and very generous to “give away” his toys to other families. I’m still very proud. We also hosted YouTube Party 5 (the first since 2011!) last weekend, which was great fun, and it benefited the Alzheimer’s Association. Steven is scheduled to speak at several conventions in the coming months and will be traveling to fun destinations.

- VBS: Vacation Bible School came and went. I typically despise VBS for all the preparations and irritability it causes within our household leading up to the week. However, I’m always pleasantly surprised and blessed during its course, and I was given yet another eye-opener this year. This was Wes’ first year to attend VBS, and he really understood the lessons and learned songs. I still hear snippets of Bible verses and choruses sung around the house or whispered in bed during naptime. We had a record number of children attend, and many new adult volunteers. Of course it was worth it.

- Vacation: It’s fast approaching! We’re leaving for Holland, Michigan, following Wes’ birthday and large family reunion for a 5-day trip along Lake Michigan in Dutch country. In between all the above activities, I’ve been researching and planning out our possible activities; though, I really wouldn’t be surprised if we just lounged and rested most of the time. I’m terribly excited about where we will be staying – I scored a fab historic house on airbnb.com earlier this year, and it looks inviting and close to most things. I’ve also been gathering my book list, knowing that I will actually have TIME to read, given Wes’ summer nap habit. Yesss.

- Wes: Yikes, he’ll be 3! He’s busy, destructive, bossy and just wonderful. I love that guy. He talks a mile a minute, and it’s surprisingly clear, however, he does have some funky terms and phrases. We’ve had several allergy attacks, and I think it’s mostly from Lucy’s abundant shedding. I can’t keep the house free of her presence. Thankfully the asthma hasn’t been too much of a problem lately, but the hives, swelling and itchiness has been moderately bad. Benadryl is still our close friend, but we may need to address some more serious conversations and tests before something big happens.

We have a few things planned for August and September, but mostly, we’re just homebodies enjoying local “stuff” and being together and/or reading. Seems great to me!

Posted: July 6th, 2014
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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First Asthma Attack

Another check box marked off the list – first major asthma attack. Thankfully, it happened while already in the car on the way to the doctor, but it made it all the more frightening. How the heck do you comfort a terrified child while driving?!

It started this morning around 4 a.m. Wes woke up with typical asthma-like symptoms that we usually see when he’s fighting allergies or a cold. We did a neb treatment and both went back to bed. When he woke up again around 7:30, he was worse. I gave him some Zyrtek and tried another treatment, thinking that would hold him over until we arrived at my parents’ lakehouse, where we had planned to spend Good Friday with family for Easter fun.

He didn’t respond well to the treatment and complained, “breathing, breathing, Mama” while I was trying to get things packed and out the door. I told him to wait until I was finished showering and then we could figure out what to do to make him more comfortable. (My original thoughts were to just do another treatment, but I really don’t like to squeeze in more than one within a 2-hour period of time.) Honestly, I didn’t think he was nearly as bad as he was at that time. I figured he’d eventually clear up.

We got into the car, and I saw just how much his chest was heaving. He didn’t act much different, but I could tell he didn’t feel that great. I kept telling myself that we’d just do another treatment as soon as we got to the lake (about an hour’s drive), and he’d be ok. But after I backed out of the neighborhood and onto the road, I saw just how uncomfortable he was. He squirmed and grunted, and I knew it was getting bad, fast. I called Steven and my parents, told them I’d be calling the doctor based on his asthmatic symptoms and would give an update later. Next, I pull over, called the doctor, and told them he 1) hadn’t responded well to his treatment earlier and was now 2) starting to complain about it. They said they’d see me around 10, but I told them I was already in the car and could just go now. They agreed and said they’d fit us in.

I felt better already. At this point, it was just a precautionary “mom-thing.” I redirected to the pediatrician. Wes was starting to get really agitated in the backseat, and I turned around to say, “It’s alright, honey; we’re going to see the doctor to help you breathe.” In the next 30 seconds, my heart raced to unprecedented speeds. He wrinkled his face, started turning blue, choked and then vomited mucus all over himself and carseat. Wailing, shrieking and terror spread all over his face. He couldn’t catch his breath. “MAMA!” (Help.)

This all happened while I was driving. I said silent prayers to let us make it another 5 miles to the pediatrician’s office. I held on to the steering wheel with one hand and grabbed his sweaty palm in my other. I tried with all my might not to show the fear that was overtaking me. The thing that gave me hope was the fact that he was ABLE to wail – so therefore, he could at least breathe somewhat.

The wait in the ped’s office seemed like forever. Wes was terrified and couldn’t calm down; screaming, crying, flailing uncontrollably. The poor people around us probably thought he was demented or I was a horrible mother. Somehow managed to prepay our copay, wait for 10 minutes AND then take his weight before sitting in the patient room for another few minutes of inconsolable crying. The nurse (we love her), hurried through the oxygen level-taking process and quickly got the neb treatment going.

photo (11)Almost instantly, Wes calmed down. It’s like he finally believed me that I was trying to help him. For the previous 45 minutes, he used up all his strength to not only breathe, but also to demonstrate his very real fright. He closed his eyes and took deep breaths from the nebulizer mask. Still short, choppy breaths, but as deep as he could manage. Fell asleep.

It’s at this moment that I thought of Mary, mother of Jesus, on Good Friday. Surely she felt the same hopelessness when she watched her son suffer on the cross at Calvary. She couldn’t open up his lungs, patch his wounds or dry his tears. Surely her heart broke into a million pieces as she heard him cry out and sigh. But unlike Mary, I was able to hold and comfort my son. I was able to see improvement. I nearly lost it in that patient’s room, but I knew he would be okay. We were surrounded by people who would help my son.

What a horrible, tragic day Good Friday is. Our world lost a Savior, a Promised One. Thankfully, we know it’s not the end of the story, but the folks in that present time did not know or expect the glorious rising to come a few days later. This morning, my heart ached not only for Wesley, but for Mary, too, as she mourned the worldly death of her son Jesus.

During one of the neb treatments, Wes opened his eyes, looked right into mine, and said, “That was scary, Mama.” “Oh, I know, honey. I was scared, too, but you’re okay now. You’re getting better.” “Yeah. Thank you, Mama.” Eyes closed again. He relaxed.

Four rounds of neb treatments later, Wes’ pediatrician finally released us. It took over an hour to get him stabilized, and we now have an actual diagnosis of asthma to deal with. More steroids, too. We’ve already gotten lots of use out of our home nebulizer, but it’s now going to be a daily staple and part of our morning routine.

We did go to the lakehouse afterwards, which is another blog post for another time, and ended up completing a similar set of back-to-back neb treatments there before coming home, and did it yet again before bedtime. He’s still wheezing and not fully inhaling, but we’re getting somewhere. The poor kid. He’s handling it like a Champ, and I know his body is working hard to do something we all take for granted. I’m a proud mother, and I’m a thankful mother. He’s going to be alright.

Posted: April 18th, 2014
Categories: Leah
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