I am not old. I don’t even look my actual age. However, my body is starting to show its wear and tear, but you know what? I love the changes.
As a child I looked forward to turning two different ages: 25 (because supposedly you have access to everything and all your life in front of you) and 32 (because that was the year I had thought I would get married and start a family). Twenty-five was a good year: I was in my first job and second year of marriage – even though my 15-year-old self would likely scoff at the idea of being married at that point (I was supposed to be CAREER-DRIVEN!). We had bought a house the year before and were making it our own. We met new friends and neighbors and hung out, and life was great.
And now I’ve reached my other proclaimed milestone year, but I already have a ring on my finger AND a child. (Scoff!) What has 32 brought me instead?
My first age spot! I have one on my right cheek bone, and I’m pretty proud of it.
Poor acne problems. Please tell me I don’t need to take Accutane again.
Two new face moles. In fact, one of them was formerly a zit. Did you know that could happen?
A reason to trim nose hairs.
Finicky eyes. No more extended contact lens wearing. And I have to change them every month or it feels something terrible.
Spider veins. Oh joy!
Permanent forehead creases from years of making silly faces and being surprised.
Even though the list isn’t glamorous, I feel great. I spent my birthday a few weeks ago feeling wonderful. I’m proud of where I’ve been to make it to present day, even on those particular days where I feel tempted to splurge on wrinkle cream or night cream or some other cream that doesn’t hold up to its promises. I like my buggy eyes and my thin upper lip and my big teeth and nostrils. And yes, I can even sorta like my pale skin.
I like my aging face because it’s the one that gets my husband’s attention and my son’s touches/smudges. I love the way they look at me; the way they tell me and show me I’m beautiful. It makes it easy to believe them.
In the last 4 weeks, Wes has averaged one accident every day. He’s been potty trained for nearly a year, but with warmer weather, it’s hard to pull him away from activities before his bladder explodes. I’m tired of doing extra laundry and changing sheets, and I can hear my irritation creep into a reprimanding voice at Wes. I’m also tired of getting mad.
Wes is a great self-rewarder. He loves this cute British show on Netflix, Octonauts (he’s already planned his July birthday party with an Octonauts theme), and he’s set his own reward system – allowing two 10-minute episodes to watch after school but only if he “stays on green” throughout the day. If his behavior and lack of following directions lands him on either yellow, or heaven forbid, red, he does not allow himself to watch for that day.
I’m fully in support of this system. I mean, 20 minutes of TV a day isn’t bad. And it’s such a pleasant show that I don’t mind watching with him or hearing it in the background as I’m making dinner. What’s best is that HE instilled his own system for rewarding positive behavior. I can’t argue with it.
Since we’ve regressed in bathroom practice, I’m grasping at straws to find an encouraging reward like his own creation. A potty sticker chart seems almost juvenile for him, but I think it’s necessary since this weather isn’t going to get bad any time soon. His teachers haven’t said anything about accidents during the day – either it isn’t happening until he’s at home or the accidents are so minor that it’s nearly unnoticeable. (But, man, he STINKS!)
Another area of constant thought in my worry-brain is Kindergarten. As a child who spent first grade recess finishing seatwork while the rest of my classmates romped outside – which then led to a mid-year transition back into Kindergarten – I worry about Wesley’s readiness next fall. He’s a July baby, so he would be one of the youngest kids in his class. However, he is extremely social, confident and independent, and he absorbs everything I put in front of him.
My 3.5-year-old is READING. Holy moly. One free day last week, we picked up the first set of Bob Books, a great set for very early readers. A gradual introduction to sounding out words, Wes quickly understood enough to read the first book aloud after 5 minutes of prep. That excitement?! Contagious.
We have another full year to monitor readiness. Then the next decision is WHERE to send him to Kindergarten… In the meantime, I have to get a sticker chart hung up in the bathroom.
Dear friends and family,
As many of you know, my career path also holds a large part of my heart – I value and desire to serve caregivers and individuals living with dementia.
Me with Grandma Fernsler
My grandma Fernsler developed dementia while I was in middle school. I know that I am blessed to say that I only have fond memories of her and how our family loved her — even during those last few years — because I have seen and heard many sad experiences completely opposite of my own. I know that I am even more blessed to say that my grandma Ashbaugh, who met Jesus in January, was spared from this terrible disease entirely, which is nearly uncommon these days (1 in 3 seniors dies with dementia).
Because of my experiences, I’ve become very passionate about doing what I can to assist those living with Alzheimer’s. I’m not the best at asking for donations, and I’m very spotty at fundraising, but I do realize the great need to help families touched by this awful disease. During the next few weeks, I’m hosting a couple online fundraisers in memory of my grandma, Jennie Fernsler, and my grandma, Maxine Ashbaugh, leading up to Mother’s Day.
If you have a special mother, daughter or aunt in your life, please consider a gift through one of my online “party” sales to help raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association care and support programs.
I have set a personal goal of raising $1,500 for the fight against Alzheimer’s in 2015. If you are interested in supporting me with a tax-deductible donation, you can give online at my personal Walk to End Alzheimer’s page: http://act.alz.org/goto/leahshattuck.
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.
Over the last few weeks, Wes has enjoyed playing “Put Mama to Bed” before his own bedtime rolls around. This consists of him insisting that I lay down on the couch and close my eyes and assuring me not to be afraid because there are no monsters in the room. I then recite all of his pre-sleep stalling tactics – more stories, a drink of water, being scared, more songs, etc etc, and he gleefully plays along.
Tonight I asked him to sing me a few songs, and he participated by singing “Jesus Loves the Little Children” and a few others. He then prayed for me and told me to go to sleep, got up, and left the couch. I pretended to sob and beg for a story. Trying to hide a pleased smile, he came up with this little bit:
Once upon a time there was a little girl. And she was a princess and played dress up. And she was really pretty. She’s you! The End
And then – biggest, sweetest grin you ever saw! I told him I could sleep all night after that cute little story. He followed up by telling silly stories of Steven, then one of Jake and Lucy.
Our child has the “oh, please, Mom” look DOWN. Every night he and I have a little conversation that goes a little something like what I captured on video this evening.
Sometimes there’s a little more reading aloud than chatting, and sometimes there’s a little more cuddling, but I love that he cooperated enough to show a glimpse of his budding personality – part ham, part sly, part smart (in both aspects of the word). And through it all, you can still see his sweetness.
PS – Wes corrected me later that we forgot 1 & 2 Timothy.
Post-bedtime whimpering coming from Wes’ bedroom. Instead of rolling my eyes, I just went with it tonight.
Me: What is it, sweetie?
Wes: Mama…(unintelligable whining)
Me: I can’t understand you, babe. What’s wrong?
Wes: I…my toe hurts.
Me: Your toe hurts?
Wes: Yeah. (whimpering)
Me: I’m sorry. Is that what’s keeping you awake?
Wes: Uh huh.
Me: Can you show me? If I kiss it, will it feel better?
Wes lifts his sweaty foot out of the covers and holds it to my nose. There’s clearly nothing wrong with it, but I leaned in and kissed his clammy foot anyway.
Me: There now. You can go back to bed.
Wes: Okay, Mama. I love you.
Me: I love you, too. If it still feels hurt in the morning, we’ll put a bandaid on it in the morning.
Wes: Okay, Mama. You’re my best girl.
Me: Goodnight, my boy. I’ll see you at breakfast.
Wes: Night, night.
We’re going through another disobedient phase, and I admit that I’ve been quickly irritated when Wes hasn’t followed directions or stopped to listen.
But, sometimes he just needs a little more time with me before he nods off to sleep. And if I remember this as I enter his room, instead of being annoyed that he isn’t yet asleep, I’ll usually experience a wonderfully loving moment with my son.
We successfully made my work trip into a family excursion! Nervously, I left my boys to fend for themselves for a day and a half while I traveled with my coworkers. Steven sent me text messages while I was in breakout sessions for the Alzheimer’s Association Leadership Summit conference throughout the day, giving me updates about their airport experience.
I was super bummed not to be able to witness his first airplane experience, but Steven caught the whole takeoff on video.
He’s the best.
My coworkers and I were at Epcot during the time they arrived. I don’t remember a thing about this park when I was last there at age 5. The place is amazing, and it’s spectacular to walk around at night. Our group ended up in “Italy” for some of the best Italian food I’ve ever had. Perhaps because that’s Disney magic, or maybe because it was just that good.
I was greeted by the guys in our hotel room, Wes excitedly telling me about his plane, train (shuttle) and bus rides over the last few hours – I mean, seriously, a little boy’s dream! We somehow slept that night and woke up to another beautiful, cloudless day in Orlando.
The pool at the Marriott World Center is breathtaking. I was able to join them outside in between my conference sessions, watching Wes wreck havoc on his knees and feet from playing so hard in the splash area. I loved knowing that my family was just a few yards away, even though my sessions were fun and encouraging. Basically I was on Cloud 9.
While the rest of my coworkers hung out that evening, Steven needed to get away from the hotel and his babysitting duty. We headed to Downtown Disney (soon-to-be Disney Springs) for the LEGO store and street music and entertainment. I had gone for dinner there a few nights before, so I had scoped out areas that I thought Wes would enjoy.
He was busy building a car to race when I met up with long-time mentor, teacher and friend, Lisa Meharry. She has been living in Orlando for several years, and it’s been just about that long since I had seen her last. Lisa taught me how to read music and eventually how to play the clarinet. She helped me navigate some of the rough patches of adolescence and into college transition. She’s been a prayer warrior for me and many of my peers, and I know it’s because of the example she and two other women demonstrated during my “who am I?” phase of life that I have come out ahead. It was so refreshing to see her again.
The following morning was the day we had been waiting for…Magic Kingdom!
Wes woke up very excited, but not really knowing what to expect. Packing everything we could think of, we set off and took a taxi into the park. Hey, did you know that you can instead be dropped off at the Polynesian Resort and take the monorail, free of charge, directly into Magic Kingdom? It avoids the $17 gate fee as well as parking.
We walked right into a Main Street performance to the Muppet Movie’s “Life’s A Happy Song,” got Wes’ 1st visit button at City Hall and THEN
MARY POPPINS stooped down and talked to him in a British accent for, like, 3 minutes. He was super shy, and I was super starstruck. It was great.
He ooh and ahhed at Cinderella’s castle and was quickly ready to move on. We headed directly to Fantasyland and hopped onto It’s A Small World instantly – no line. His expressions were priceless. He was amazed at the boat and the building and the characters and everything happening all at once.
We had FastPasses for Peter Pan’s Flight and Winnie the Pooh and saw/rode a few other things before the day turned into a chore. Partly because he was tired from the day before, partly because lunch plans weren’t until 2:30, Wes was done with Disney within the next hour. I’d say we had a solid, good 3 hours, but it wasn’t really what I had anticipated.
I did try to enter the day with low expectations, but going to Disney World with two homebodies who prefer the quiet comforts of home over swarming crowds, coupled with bouts of “hangriness” (even my packed crackers, fruit snacks and granola bars weren’t good enough) made the day a little bland.
Not to say we didn’t have any fun. After venturing around Adventureland and Frontierland, we showed up for our reservation at the Crystal Palace for a late buffet lunch with Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet. I’m pretty sure I melted when I saw Wes’ eyes sparkle at the first sight of Tigger, his current favorite-of-all-characters.
I mean, look at that face! Unfortunately, Tigger was busy hugging the other side of the restaurant, but we were able to converse with the other guys until we finally stalked him on our way out the door.
To see all of our photos from Magic Kingdom and beyond, click here.
By this point, we resigned ourselves to leaving the park well before any fun night parades; he just wouldn’t make it. And we probably couldn’t, either, with all the handling of cranky-kid and all. Before we left, however, we made sure to pay Mickey Mouse a visit, and it was perhaps the best part of the day.
DID YOU KNOW THAT MICKEY MOUSE TALKS TO YOU?! Wes, a fan of Nintendo’s Kingdom Hearts, had really wanted to run into Sora and, disappointed, couldn’t find him in the park (duh). Steven suggested he ask Mickey Mouse about it when we saw him. Though he was too shy to ask, we still stumped Mickey on that question, and it led into a slightly awkward “hey, let’s instead pretend we’re trains!”
Mickey said the right word and captured Wes’ heart. It was a terrific way to end our day, though short, at Disney World.
We headed back to the hotel before the sun went down. Wes was just as excited, if not more, to swim in the massive pool as he was to do anything Disney. At first I was irritated, but later realized he was happy to spend time with us in a quieter place. We stuck our legs in the heated pool and warmed up by the outdoor fireplace before ordering Giordano’s pizza and watching a movie. Despite our change in plans, it was a good day, and we were all ready to head home.
Waking up at 7:30 the next morning – this morning, Steven saw that we could bump our flight from 7 p.m. to 10 a.m. and be home before the worst of the predicted weather hit. I agreed and we were in a taxi within 30 minutes. We’ve spent today in our own home and with our own stuff. We weren’t due to land in Indianapolis until late tonight, but instead, I’m lounging on the couch with the dogs. It feels good to be home.
Here are the lessons I learned: there’s not much magic in Disney World with a cranky, testy preschooler. Sometimes the hotel pool provides the magic. For all you prepare in advance, the attitudes of your party are not in your control. (Save your money and wait until your child is at least 4, unless he or she shares your love of Disney or is a big fan of Disney princesses.)
AND probably the best lesson learned: Who cares where you are? To quote Mary Poppins, “You FIND the fun…and SNAP!” It can be anywhere. The trip itself – the plane ride, the hotel stay, having the guys nearby during my conference – was indescribably wonderful. We had an amazing opportunity to be together in an otherwise unlikely situation, and we even had a little Disney fun on the side. It wasn’t exactly what I had envisioned, but it was a good trip and it is good to be home.
When you mourn with someone, you usually feel helpless. There’s nothing you can do except pray and offer encouraging words. And just listen. Giving advice can come later when that person is seeking it.
When you mourn for some time, you need someone or something to pull you out of the rut. That person has been my dedicated husband. Steven has shown the most patience and comfort that I’ve ever known and has offered an equal amount of push toward healing.
Once I finally managed to assemble myself together, I started a project. Research projects give me something to look forward to and feel accomplished. This project is rather exciting…
In a few days I’m heading with my coworkers to Orlando for the annual Alzheimer’s Association Leadership Summit for breakout sessions and keynote speakers to address updates on Alzheimer’s disease, our organization’s strategic goals and how chapters can implement tactics. The conference will be held at the Marriott World Center, which just happens to be a stone’s throw from Lake Buena Vista, the home of Walt Disney World.
The boys are flying down to meet me there for a couple days. They’ll be on their own for a few hours at a time, but the hotel is a kid’s paradise. They won’t be bored with all the swimming pools and arcades. And heck, they could venture to Gaterland for an afternoon if they so choose. And then! Saturday is Magic Kingdom.
I’ve been able to spend the last week or so plotting where to reserve our FastPass selections at Magic Kingdom, managing to snag a lunch reservation at Crystal Palace, since Wes loves Tigger and Winnie the Pooh. Of course, we’ll have to meet Mickey (that’s one of the only things I remember about my trip to WDW as a 6-year-old), and I’ve already planned ahead for light-up toys to bring with us as night descends on the park.
Wes seems most excited about our lunch plans at T-Rex Cafe in Downtown Disney the day after. To him, this seems more thrilling than anything Magic Kingdom could offer, but he’s in for a big surprise.
There’s something wonderful about nostalgia and being able to share it with your own children. I’m looking forward a great, though short, trip, filled with magic and wonder and giggles.
Having a tentative plan in place for the remainder of the year helps me “deal” with spontaneity pretty well. Too much sporadic and hasty planning drives me nuts. Therefore, it’s usually up to me to get any summer or large plans in place.
Months ago, I had booked a stay at Pokagon State Park for the long Presidents’ Day weekend in February. The park has an amazing toboggan run for the winter months and beautiful grounds to explore. I’m looking forward to another mini vacation in the weeks ahead.
We like going away for a long summer vacation every year, and though expensive, WDW likely won’t stop us from taking one. (I would probably have cabin fever if we didn’t.) It might be a little less than what we had originally planned, but I’m still looking into options. Right now the winning bid is Gulf Shores, AL.
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And. Though it gives me anxiety to think about, Wes is reaching an age where we need to think about schools before he reaches Kindergarten. My other non-vacation project has been to research our school choices and options for the next 3 years.
In fact, it goes a little deeper than that. We love our home on the near east side, but we have decided not to enroll Wes in the Indianapolis Public School district – even the charter school options. This means that we will either send him to a private school and/or move.
Moving…seems like a distant reality. We tried selling our house before and then thought about listing it again a few years later. It was never the right time. The time is now on the horizon. We’re looking at spring 2016 as our “moving target.” There’s a lot of planning to be done within the next 1.5 years, but with a date set, it’s becoming more real.
Call it distraction, sure, but having some things to look forward to help keep my day-to-day thoughts better organized. I’m able to move past the sorrow and mourning and see that life goes on. And that it can be filled with goodness and anticipation.
What do you think heaven is like? I like my mom’s answer the best, “I can picture thousands of choirs singing in every language.” Wouldn’t it be great to be a member of that choir, being able to sing praises in every tongue and language since the beginning of time? My grandma is the newest recruit, and how she loved to sing on earth! I bet she’s the loudest one up front.
Just 3 days before she died, Wes and I joined my parents in visiting both of my mom’s parents. I’ve always bragged about their independence; they’ve lived in a condo in an assisted living complex for over 10 years. But just before Christmas, Grandma developed a blood infection and cellosis and was in the hospital for a little over a week before beating that and spending the next couple weeks in a rehab facility.
While she was in rehab, Grandpa had a strange episode of weakness and slight confusion (we now think it could have been the flu or an infection. His MRI was normal.) and ended up in his own main-building room for a few days. We had visited while Grandma was in the hospital, but we knew we should see them again now that they were both unstable.
Saturday’s visit was great fun. The rain wouldn’t let up, but we brought games, movies and, of course, Wes’ camera. We exchanged belated Christmas gifts, laughed and were positive about Grandma’s recovery. She was anticipating her discharge date.
Wes’ photo of Grandma while in rehab
And then it all changed. In the next 48 hours, she developed the flu, pneumonia in both lungs and her kidneys began to fail. She went to be with Jesus at 10:31 a.m. on January 6, 2015.
I lost my paternal grandparents while in high school and college, and still grieve for them today. But I only vaguely remember my pain and mourning at the time of their passings. I must have blocked it out of my memory, perhaps like parents “forget” the pain of childbirth and pregnancy after it’s all done.
Losing Grandma has been much more painful than I expected. The funeral was lovely; my sister and cousins spoke at her service, we led a congregational singing of How Great Thou Art – which was the most beautiful rendition I have ever heard – and we finally realized why it was so difficult to absorb her death. Grandma & Grandpa were all of our (there’s 10 of us first cousins) only living grandparents. And we have been very blessed to know them all of our 30+ years, and well. They loved our kids, too, and were very active in our lives. Grandpa is our last living grandparent; it’s hard to imagine a life without grandparents.
It’s been two weeks since Grandma’s funeral. Life is beginning to normalize again, but she is missed. My mom and her siblings still have a few loose ends to tie with Grandpa’s move into a facility apartment, and we will eventually need to sort through furniture and items. Grandpa seems to be alright, but it’s a major adjustment.
I’ve been overwhelmed with the amount of support and sympathy from family and friends through cards, flowers and emails. My mom and cousins have said similar things – it’s wonderful to know how loved Grandma was and is and how generous and kind our network of support has been.
Grandma, sing loud in heaven! I’ll see you again one day.
RICHMOND, Ind. – Maxine V. Ashbaugh, age 86, of Richmond, died Tuesday, January 6, 2015, at Reid Hospital. Born May 17, 1928, in Darke County, Ohio, to Melvin and Hannah Deaton Rust, Maxine was a 1946 graduate of Gratis High School in Gratis, Ohio. She attended Manchester College. Maxine lived in Richmond since 1949. She was a receptionist for Delynn W. Stults, D.D.S. for ten years, a teacher for two years in Lewisburg, Ohio, and a teacher’s aide at Holy Family Catholic School for four years. Maxine was a charter member of the Northside Church of Christ, where she taught Sunday School, held several offices at the church, sang in the choir, and sang solos. She was a member of Gingham Gals Home Economics. Maxine enjoyed spending time with her family. Survivors include her husband of 65 years, Donald Floyd Ashbaugh, to whom she was married on August 27, 1949; children, Jenny (Ron) Fernsler of Indianapolis, Indiana, Keith E. (Dee) Ashbaugh of Franklin, Ohio, David (Patty) Ashbaugh of New Whiteland, Indiana, and Julie (Michael) Chitwood of Franklin, Indiana; ten grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; sisters, Louise Blickenstaff of Greenville, Ohio, and Margaret Ann Justice of Lebanon, Ohio; nieces; nephews; cousins; and many friends. She was preceded in death by her parents; sisters, Geneve Rust and Fern Brestel Carter; and brothers, Rev. Glenn C. Rust and Dr. Cecil F. Rust. Visitation for Maxine V. Ashbaugh will be from 4 to 7:00 p.m. Friday, January 9, 2015, at Doan & Mills Funeral Home, 790 National Road West, Richmond. Funeral service will be at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, January 10, 2015, at Doan & Mills Funeral Home with Pastor Christian Penrod officiating. Burial will be in Crown Hill Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to: Northside Church of Christ, 1962 Chester Boulevard, Richmond, IN 47374 or Riley Children’s Foundation, Attn: Gift Processing, 30 South Meridian Street, Suite 200, Indianapolis, IN 46204-3509. Condolences may be sent to the family via the guest book at www.doanmillsfuneralhome.com.