Looking Forward, Looking Ahead

When you mourn for someone, there’s no telling how long it will ache. This month has been a rough start to the year; saying goodbye to my grandmother and mourning for my friend who lost her baby, I’ve been in a numbing, limbo state of mind over the last few weeks. I’m fine for a few days, and then waterworks.

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.

Looking Forward

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.

Looking Ahead

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.

– – –

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.

Posted: January 24th, 2015
Categories: Leah
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Saying Goodbye

IMG_8233What 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.

Posted: January 24th, 2015
Categories: Leah
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2015: A real, raw Resolution

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Christmas Eve 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted: December 31st, 2014
Categories: Leah
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Kindness Challenge: Spike & the Kindness Poster

Yesterday afternoon I received a Facebook message from a local TV reporter who is a friend of mine on social media channels. She indicated that she had seen my post about our first Acts of Kindness challenge and was so intrigued with the idea of Promise Monsters that she invited them to the station for a segment!

Isn’t that great? I’m so glad this local company is getting more attention.

The funny thing is – about 5 minutes after I received the Facebook message, our postal worker, Mr. Jason (who’s great, by the way), delivered our next Promise Monster to our doorstep! Talk about timely.

Meet Spike. Spike is a mess – but in the best of ways! He’s very creative and good at expressing himself, and has no fears.


Wes was ecstatic to meet Spike. He loved his quirky shape instantly. He asked me to open the mission card immediately to find out what Spike had challenged us to do. Hurriedly, we learned that we were to create a kindness poster that would surprise and spread happiness to those that saw it.


Me: “What do you want to create on your poster? What makes you happy that you think will make other people smile?”
Wes: “I think rainbows, Mama!”
Me: “What a great idea. Do you want to hang it in a public place like a grocery store or maybe at someone’s house?”
Wes: (jumping up and down) “I want to make it for Grandma and Grandpa! And put it in their house!”

Getting excited, we headed to the basement to find our materials for Spike’s kindness poster. Locating stickers, scrapbook paper, crayons and markers, we gathered around the kitchen table to start our project.


We thought about what would make Grandma and Grandpa happy and decided to make coupon tear-offs to redeem for a free hug from Wesley. He thought that was pretty clever and then decorated the poster with rainbows. Since it’s Thanksgiving time, we found some season-appropriate stickers to add to the poster and talked about what we were thankful for in both grandparents.

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I like Grandpa because:
– “he has food to eat”
– “because I do”
– “he plays trains with me”

I like Grandma because:
– “she likes Grandpa”
– “she plays with me”
– “she likes to close doors with me” (this was followed by many giggles)

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He was excited to surprise his grandparents with Spike’s kindness poster. We had already made plans to drop Wes off at my parents’ house that evening anyway, so we knew we could surprise them in the very near future. Once we arrived, Wes promptly walked into their kitchen and hung it up on their refrigerator.


And boy, were they ever surprised!
“What do you have there, Wesley?”
“It’s Spike’s poster!”

At this point, I had to explain the premise and the purpose of the project, and they instantly loved it. They crouched down to look at it more closely and oohed and ahhed at Wes’ creation.


Wes was so pleased to see his grandparents so happy. And he knew that the kindness would continue for days – every time they see the poster and every time they “redeem” a coupon. It brought a huge smile to all faces in the room. Thanks, Spike, for a great idea!

Obviously, this project was adapted for a 3-year-old’s small social circle and abilities. But even then, his efforts were well received and appreciated. I’d call that a mission: accomplished!

And then today, during Small Business Saturday, we stopped into Little Green Bean Boutique, an eastside children’s resale clothing shop featuring handmade goods. Guess what we found? A huge display of our favorite little monsters. “Look, it’s Blue Smarshmellow!”


Once again, Promise Monsters have entered our lives at a very opportune time. At church, we just finished our sermon series, Love Indy, on spreading kindness to our neighbors and community. And now that Thanksgiving has recently past, we have been more aware of our blessings and gratefulness. Spike’s challenge rekindled that special feeling you get when seeing others smile; it helped to make appreciation, gratitude and “paying it forward” more of an occurrence in our lives.

Wes hasn’t yet chosen his reward for completing Spike’s challenge, but from the looks of it, he’s gonna love the choices – Spike’s accessories like socks and stocking cap, to name a few. A small incentive, yes, but well worth the price. Everyone wins!

As we approach the holiday season, I highly recommend a fun gift like Promise Monsters. Watch a little person do something big for someone else. It’s a wonderful experience.


Our family has been chosen to blog about our experiences with Promise Monsters, an Indianapolis company creating toys that encourage spreading kindness to others. To view all related posts, click here

Posted: November 29th, 2014
Categories: Leah
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Need a Little Christmas

I’m really getting into the holiday spirit this year, and it’s only mid November. I feel sorta bad for Thanksgiving because it’s not getting my full attention – I’m going straight to the fun Christmasy things.

Exhibit A:

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Oh yes. We did an Awkward Family Photo shoot in matching holiday pajamas and corny head gear. It was great fun, and we’ll use some taken for our Christmas card this year. The best part was the photographer’s reaction. She giggled the whole time and kept referring to us as “Where’s Waldo,” which, of course, does resemble our outfits, but that’s totally not the point. She nearly insisted that we put “Where’s Waldo?!” under the “Merry Christmas 2014” on our free Christmas card prints, and I nearly let her. And then we shopped normally around Target for the next 45 minutes and only got thumbs ups and “Aweseome!” from the fellow shoppers.

Wes is 3, and while the past Christmases have been fun with him, this year seems different because he’s old enough to experience and comment and participate in a way he wasn’t able to before. And, heck, I’m able to relive some of the holiday excitement and wonder that I remember as a child through the eyes of my son.

I’ve been one of those people who didn’t want all the Fisher-Price primary colors and Winnie the Pooh and cutesy baby stuff around our house. I wanted more clean, grow-into-this stuff that didn’t make our house look like a nursery or daycare center. Frankly, I was a little too proud of how Wes didn’t have too much plasticy things and could maintain the same bedroom decor for years to come. No licensed character stuff. (Well, except for super heroes. Somehow that didn’t count.)

It sorta got out of control, though. I would buy/acquire things outside of his age range because apparently that would make him seem “more mature” and unlike other kids his age. (This is another post for another day…why do we feel the need to MAKE our kids different than every one else? Religion and faith is one thing, but do kids really need to be cool or hipster?) My kid would be sophisticated!

And then, well, it dawned on me that I was aging my only child too quickly. Three years isn’t that long, but Wes is already outgrowing his little boyhood. He wants to be independent and desires less and less of mama-snuggles and affection. Though, thankfully, it hasn’t been lost forever yet. There is plenty of time to grow into non-Duplo, regular LEGOs. There is plenty of time to introduce him into Star Wars, Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles, video games and big kid bikes. There is plenty of time to educate him on green, local goods & services.

As I’ve been Christmas shopping, I’ve kept this in mind. Some of things that I thought we would put under the tree will wait another year because, well, Wes is still 3. He likes Thomas and Friends, Daniel Tiger, Curious George and Clifford. And rockets and dinosaurs. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m letting him enjoy what he likes right now, and I’m embracing his interests. They’re HIS presents, right? Not mine.

Exhibit B:


He’s going to flip out. Who wouldn’t love a Thomas the Train indoor roller coaster?!

I can’t wait to see his face light up when he sees plastic licensed character toys and games – his favorites. All those handmade goods, video games and big kid toys can wait a year or two because we need a little Christmas. (Right this very minute!)

Posted: November 18th, 2014
Categories: Leah
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Acts of Kindness Challenge

I’m so excited to announce that our family was chosen to be Promise Monster Ambassadors for the next several months.

Promise Monsters is a family-run toy company based in Indianapolis, Indiana, (yay for local artisans!) that sells toys and other products that all spread kindness! All of their monsters come with an act of kindness for the receipents to complete. When completed, a reward is mailed to the do-gooder. I have gifted these cute little fuzzy monsters (all designed by childrens’ drawings) to several friends’ kids, as it’s a great way to support a local company and give a present that will pay it forward. It’s fun to see shared stories and photos of completed acts of kindness on their website.

We were chosen to receive a handful of Promise Monsters and blog about our kindness missions. This comes just at the perfect time when our church congregation is embracing the community through our Love Indy sermon series. We are encouraging each other to reach out to those we might not otherwise, pray for opportunities to serve and lend a helping hand with simple acts of kindness.

1 John 3:16-18 — This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Wes is at an age where he understands the importance of helping others and the fulfilling life it leads. If we are to live like Christ did, we should be doing more for others – not out of “duty,” but out of genuine love. Why not start teaching him how to be kind at an early age so that it comes more naturally to him as he gets older?

We received our first Promise Monster yesterday. Meet Blue Smarshmallow! All Promise Monsters are handmade in Indianapolis. Ours was made by artisan Xiomara.


Blue Smarshmallow is a sentimental guy who cares about people and loves to let everyone know how much he loves them. He had a special mission for us.

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Oh, fun! We were challenged to send a letter to someone and tell them how special they are to us. Wes selected Pa Shattuck, Steven’s dad, as the lucky recipient of happy mail, and we pulled out some paper and crayons.


While Wes was busy drawing his picture for Pa, I helped him write the letter. “What do you like best about Pa?” “What would you like to tell him?” The result was perfectly cute and bound to bring some joy.

Dear Pa, Happy Birthday! (It’s not his birthday yet, but it’s somewhat timely.) Um, shark. I like you and your M&M’s. I like the color red. You make me happy. I like you. Do you like the color black? Do you like green? I like green. I like Pa! You give good hugs. I like Pa. Do you like red? I made you a sun and thunder – the sun is going down and thunder is coming! – in this picture. With love, Wes.

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I don’t know where “shark” came from, but he giggled about it. Granted, we completed this project just before nap time, so he probably would have put some more thought and detail to this letter and picture if we had picked another time, but he happily worked on his mission, knowing it would bring a smile to his Pa’s face. He also knew that once completed, Wes and I would type in our secret code given to us from Blue Smarshmallow to select his mission-completed reward. The anticipation made the project all the more fun.


He’s anxious to put the letter in the mail tomorrow and wait for Pa’s surprised reaction. We decided that Blue Smarshmallow would be a welcome addition to nap time (he’s sleeping with him as I write this), as he’s now part of the Shattuck family.

What a fun and simple thing to do. Receiving a special letter from someone really does put a smile on your face, doesn’t it? Especially when sent by a goofy preschooler! Sure, you don’t need a Promise Monster to create “happy mail,” but Blue Smarshmallow brought the idea to our attention when it hadn’t been planted otherwise. And now, perhaps Wes will want to send happy mail to other people, and more often! Knowing how well Wes recalls information, he will likely refer Blue Smarshmallow with the letter written to Pa even months from now, which will be an easy prompt to do it all over again.

I’m looking forward to our next kindness missions and sharing our experiences here. I do hope you’ll consider looking at Promise Monsters for the kids in your life, too. Not only are they adorable fuzzy friends that just happen to be local!, but they also encourage simple acts that we can incorporate into our daily lives to make our community a loving and better place.

Check them out online or at various storefronts like Little Green Bean Boutique, Black Sheep Gifts, Kits and Kaboodle or Imagination Station (more locations are listed here). I’m planning to snag a few for my nieces and nephews for Christmas this year!


Edit – we just realized the reward for the Smarshmallows is included in the shipment. The rewards for the larger monsters, however – you get to pick (and they’re great, too, like superhero cape accessories for your monster)!

Posted: November 2nd, 2014
Categories: Leah
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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.


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.


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…

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.


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


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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Comments: 1 Comment.

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.


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.


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.






Posted: September 6th, 2014
Categories: Leah
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