The Uncomfortable Brightness of Motherhood

Motherhood is weird, right?

We long for a light in the darkness, and yet…

sometimes the sun shines so brightly that we have to squint and shade our eyes and smile through it even though it’s almost painful.

We work so hard for these sunny times that even though they are often blinding, we will take them.

My Eddie with his eyes shielded, looking forward for his mom with his hand on my shoulder.

My Charlie squinting and throwing up rock n roll horns even through the sting of the sun for his mom mom with his other hand on my back.

My Alice closing her eyes and smiling because momma said to and she trusts me completely while gripping my arm tightly.

These kids man.

Not what I expected at all.

Uncomfortable at times.

But Better.

Brighter.

Charlie’s Card he made me in Preschool. My boy knows me so well!

 

 

Inked

Much to my mother’s chagrin, I got another tattoo this weekend.

All tattoos have a story, don’t they? Even the ones that are “I just thought it was cute and wanted one because I was in college and being a rebel.” There is always a reason.

Ten years ago a few things happened: I found out I was pregnant, I lost that pregnancy, I started a blog, and I got a tattoo. I would say it was a busy year, but that is pretty much just how our married life has been. Highs and lows with very little in between.

When I started this blog I called it our Family Website. I was going to post photos and write little blurbs about what was going on in our life. I think in the first couple years of this blog’s life I probably only wrote a handful of things that were real and not just superficial “look at this fun day at the beach;” my tattoo post was one of them.

Contrary to what my mom probably thinks, I don’t take permanently “disfiguring” myself lightly (Cortney’s words in jest, not my mom’s). The first time, I tattooed what my students think is a V on my neck. It’s not a V. It’s two things: it’s the Aries sign and it’s also the Egyptian hieroglyphic for “woman.” You can read that post up there for more details, but basically after getting unexpectedly pregnant when I wasn’t sure that I ever wanted babies, then miscarrying that baby (and feeling like it was my fault), Cortney and I realized we wanted to be parents. Women’s bodies are strong, yo. That tattoo was for womanly strength.

Since then I have been writing.

Before I knew I had an anxiety disorder or depression or OCD or needed medication or therapy, I wrote to get it out of my head.

When I was having intrusive thoughts, I wrote them out of my head and then destroyed the evidence.

When I realized that one of my biggest fears in life was being forgotten and lost in time and space, I wrote out my stories.

When I decided to turn all of my passion for reading and writing and education into a PhD program, I wrote articles and journal pieces and conference proposals.

When I wanted my children to know me as I am in this moment, I wrote letters.

When I acted too impulsively or said things without thinking or made an ass of myself, I wrote to apologize.

When I missed or loved or thought of people, I wrote to them.

When I wanted my students to learn to write, I wrote with them.

Writing has kept me alive for the past ten years.

I’m placing my faith in writing to keep me alive forever.

Write.

It’s a command.

Write.

 

 

 

ps. My mom is not really that upset.

pps. Yes she is.

ppps. I love you, mom. Thanks for loving me despite my disfigurement.

Watch and Learn

“Why do you like this show? It’s sort of weird.”

“I just do, Mom.”

“But why? Why do you pick it?”

“I don’t know. I like the action.  But I also like shows where someone doesn’t change themselves to make people like them.”

I was surprised. I honestly didn’t think he would have such an insightful answer, but it makes sense. His favorite shows are Pokemon, Digimon, and Yu-Gi-Oh. While I think they are pretty strange and the characters act odd, he loves it. I’ve watched with him before and he’s right: the main characters in the shows are all people who are loyal, trustworthy, and kind. And even though they are regularly taunted, they choose to stay true to themselves and their friends.

Everyone knows one of the reasons I am such a big advocate for reading is to build empathy and compassion in my kids’ hearts. It never occurred to me until Eddie said this that media like TV, movies, and games could help instill this as well. We blame TV and movies for a lot of ills–and rightly so. There is a lot of garbage out there that can undo the values we try to instill in our kids. But there are good shows out there too that reinforce the kind of people we want our kids to grow up to be. And let’s be honest: sometimes our kids will listen to what a cool show or movie says more than they will listen to their parent, am I right?

Monday Eddie discovered Happy Feet (which was just released May 1 on Netflix). He was engrossed because he loves music and funny penguins, but I realized that this too was another show where the main character embraces who he is–a penguin that can’t sing, but has mad dance skills.

Another character Eddie identifies with is King Julian. Again, I think it’s maybe the made dance moves and the fact that he, too, likes to “move it, move it.” Eddie is a goofy, positive, happy kid who wants to spread that around to others. He is unapologetic for being who he is. A new series, “All Hail King Julian: Exiled” is coming to Netflix May 12. Ed’s pumped.

We have our share of struggles with Eddie as he approaches age 8, but self-confidence about who he is has never been one of them. In fact, I admire his ability to walk into a room and make friends immediately with anyone. I think it’s no coincidence that he choose shows and movies with protagonists who have the same qualities.

Oh! Before I sign off…The Secret Life of Pets is now on Netflix! I’ll admit, I have NO IDEA if this fits what I’m writing about here, but I can tell you it is on deck for a Sluiter Family Movie Night soon!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. Netflix provides the Netflix and a device to watch it on, and my family and I provide the opinions. It’s good times for everyone!

 

 

Searching for Easter

Easter

Sunday was Easter.

I have lovely memories of Easter as a child. They all include family and candy and going to services that had loads of flowers and a big cross.

When Cortney and I got married we became the people who only went to church once in a while and always on Easter. I loved to sing the hymn “Low in the Grave He Lay” because when I belted out “UP FROM THE GRAVE HE AROSE!!” I felt my late Grandma Jo in my whole being. I didn’t really connect with the words on a religious level, but it was a spiritual experience and connection with my grandmother. It was the same at Christmas; I loved to sing the hymns she did. Both holidays hold a lot of significance for me because of my Grandmother, but not necessarily because of my faith.

Which is a problem for a Christian since Christmas and Easter are the two most significant days for the Christian Church. They are the bookends of what our faith is about: God sent his Son via immaculate conception to save the world by being crucified on a cross only to rise again three days later. Immaculate Conception and Resurrection from the Dead–the cornerstone beliefs of what makes a Christian a Christian, right?

But there I was on Sunday, sitting all squeezed into the front row (because as usual, The Sluiter family does not count punctuality as their strength–my fault completely) next to a family I didn’t recognize (because it was Easter and everyone comes on Easter), watching some of the people I love most lead worship with joy and excitement for the celebration that Easter is, and I was feeling…nothing.

Regular Sundays are my jam. I feel fed and nourished by the teachings of Jesus and the community that surrounds and loves me and my family. The familiarity of the pattern of worship renews my soul: The Approach, The Greeting, A Worship Hymn, Confession, Prayer, Assurance, The Passing of the Peace, The Children’s Message, Prayer, The Lectionary, The Sermon, Prayer, Communion, Prayer, Offering, Prayer, Announcements, The Sending of the Children to Children in Worship, The Closing Hymn, The Benediction. Our three pastors–all friends who I cherish–deliver their sermons in their own unique voice and help me to see and learn and feel closer to the teaching and love of Jesus.

I believe in the teachings of Jesus. I believe in the love and acceptance he taught. I believe in taking care of each other and being kind and helpful. I believe in sharing what I have with others–especially if they have less. I believe in using my privilege for good and for positive change. I believe in forgiveness, although it’s often hard for me to put into practice.

And I believe Jesus died, because every human dies.

What I struggle with is the Resurrection. I know the Bible says it happened. I know that without the Resurrection Christianity is nothing. The whole idea is that Jesus was made human so he could save us. That by dying on the cross, going to hell, coming back to Earth, and then going to heaven, he saved humanity.

Sitting squished between Cortney and Eddie in that sweaty front row, I couldn’t look my dear friend and pastor in the eye as he preached. I just felt heavy. That this world just doesn’t feel saved.

I don’t read the Old Testament literally. It’s Ok if you do; more power to you. Really. I don’t think that I’m going to hell because I don’t believe Jonah was legit swallowed–and lived in the gut of–a large fish. I read them as allegorical stories. Literature that is meant to teach life lessons and meaning. And I read the New Testament with the idea that the culture it was written in (Greek) and about (Middle East) is very different than our current culture. That not everything is going to align exactly.

Yet as Christians, we are supposed to read the Easter story (and Christmas story) completely literally. THIS STUFF REALLY HAPPENED. Because if it didn’t, what is it all for, right?

So I am wrestling with myself. I want to believe in the Resurrection. I want to believe that because Christ died, we will all live.

Our pastor said Sunday morning that we do not have to fear death. That because of Christ, death loses its power.

I guess that is what my struggle boils down to: I do very much fear death–my own, but also the death of those who I love so deeply. I obsess about it. It’s part of my anxiety disorder. When my intrusive thoughts begin, it always centers on death. I become increasingly agitated and paranoid. I lose sleep. And then I fall into depression.

It always starts with thoughts of death.

Because what if this is it? What if all of this is man-made so we can tell ourselves we are not afraid of death?

I’m ending this post with a picture of Eddie, Charlie, and Alice on Easter morning outside of church. They are still filled with the joy of celebration. It was a special day at church. There were flowers and Alleluias. There was an egg hunt after the services. They wore new clothes (except shoes because I totally forgot they needed shoes). There was excited anticipation for the rest of the day that would be filled with family and candy.

I never want them to be afraid like I am.

Easter

My wonderful friend, The Pastor’s Wife, shared this link with me this week, and I ugly cried when I read it because it was exactly EXACTLY how I felt Sunday morning. If you are also feeling alone with your doubt, I strongly suggest clicking over.

Being a More Faithful Family

I would not say that Cortney and I have been excellent role models of what faithful families should look like. In fact, I recently joked with a few people that it seemed like we had given up church for Lent. We had a string of weekends with sick kids, other plans, or both that kept us from our regular Sunday 10am worship, and in turn kept the kids away from their Sunday morning Children in Worship centers.

We are usually regulars on Sunday, and if I am being truthful, I’ve left most of the “teaching” about our Christian faith to church: our pastors, the Children in Worship leaders, and the children’s message during church. I know that is not enough. That if we truly have this faith we say we have, it isn’t just on Sundays.

While I firmly believe our actions and how we treat the earth and who and what are in it are really the mark of our Christianity, talking about it is important too, especially with our kids so they know why we do what we do. As I do with most things, I turned to a book given to me by a close friend: Faithful Families: Creating Sacred Moments At Home by Traci Smith.

faithful families

The book is divided into three categories: Traditions, Ceremonies, and Spiritual Practices. I went through the entire book in two sittings and put post-it notes on everything I thought would be a good fit for our family. As you can see above, I used a LOT of post-it notes!

I marked the most practices in the Traditions section because I’m looking for ways to make our faith more a part of our every day lives. I like the way each practice is not just explained with a short narrative, but also is laid out in easy to follow steps. Then in the notes part, suggestions are given for making it more or less complex depending on the age of your children.

One thing we have always struggled with is consistently praying as a family. At dinner the boys are pretty good at leading our family prayers, but at night we tend to read books and then just go to sleep. I didn’t want to start the kids reciting memorized rhymes for prayers because I remember just flying through them as a kid and not really thinking about what they meant. I also tried it with Ed when he was little and he got hung up on the “if I die before I wake” and was freaked out for quite some time.

The first thing practice in the book suggests saying a blessing at bedtime. These can be as long as saying, “Eddie, may the peace of God, which is bigger than anything we understand, fill your heart and your mind, and may you know God’s love always. Amen.”  Or it can be as short and simple as “God Bless Alice. Amen.” It can even be part of the bedtime routine for kids to say “God Bless (family member).”

Practices in the book range from simple like a blessing, to more complex and deep ceremonies for things like pet loss, moving, and traumatic events in the news. There are small and large traditions for holidays such as Lent, Pentecost, Christmas, and even birthdays.

Another practice I want to put in place is to somehow mark the changing of the colors of the church calendar. We talk about this a lot in church and I would like to carry that into our lives as well: green for Common Time, purple for Advent and Lent, white for Christmas and Easter, and red for Pentecost. I could just be a small area–a shelf or table–but I think it would help us remember growing/learning, waiting, and celebrating. That there is a time and season for everything.

faithful families

I am really looking forward to putting some of these suggestions into practice to help our kids know why we give and take care of others–that it’s part of our faith to be the hands and feet of Jesus. That our number one reason for being is to love.

*************

This is not a sponsored post. The link is not an affiliate one. The book was a gift and I loved it, so I wrote about it.

To Me, At Thirty-Nine

Dear You,

Here you are again, at the end of decade. Your fourth decade. If you squint and lean in, you can maybe see a glimpse of the fifth decade looming. See it, over there on the horizon? It’s that tiny dot of light.

Yes, I said light.

From here, Forty appears to be full of light.

But for now you are Thirty-Nine.

Three hundred and sixty-five days of Thirty-Nine.

(Less now because it takes you so long to publish a post.)

What are we going to do with this last year as a thirty-something? We are all done with the pregnancy years. It’s been nine years since that first miscarriage, which means all “deliveries” were in your thirties. This year you will be the mom of a 2nd turned 3rd grader, a preschool turned kindergartener, and a two-turned-three year old. By the time you hit forty, there will not only be no more babies for you, but no more toddlers either.  You won’t be a mom of “Littles” anymore, but a mom of “young children”.

Over the past week, you’ve written and looked at and thought about the number 39 often.

Sometimes that number seems so big. Remember when your mom was this age? She was such a…mom.  You were fourteen. Thirty-nine is almost 40, after all. It’s so…adult. So grown-up. So…parental. I mean, can you believe you’ve been around for 39 years when college–heck high school–seems like it was ten minutes ago?

Sometimes that number seems small. Ok, maybe not small, but not so terribly big. Many of your friends are already in their forties and you don’t think of them as old or middle-age or anything weird. In fact, you strive to be like them: confident, happy, healthy.

You are not much of a bucket list person, so you don’t have a 40 before 40 or anything like that. You’re also not one for sitting around wishing you had done something differently. You can’t change the past, so it doesn’t do any good to over-analyze how you could have done things another way. Before you turn forty next year, though, there are a few things you will do.

You’re going to help your family be healthier. Cortney has family history of heart disease and cancer. You have cancer in your history too. It’s time to get serious about the fact that you are not young and invincible.

You’re going to take more photos with your Big Camera. You got that thing after Eddie was born and somehow decided it was too unwieldy to tote around with a baby. Well, there are no more babies in your family. Get it out. Get practicing.

You’re going to apply for a PhD program. This weekend you take the first of two GRE tests for that. You keep worrying that this will cause (more) financial strain on the family and that you will fail and that it’s a bad idea. Do it anyway. Cortney has repeatedly told you that he supports you and thinks this is the time to do it. Listen to him. He loves you and believes in you.

You’re going to incorporate more of your family’s faith into your every day lives. You just read a great book about this. Make a note to write a post about that book.

You’re going to get another tattoo  (sorry mom. sort of.)  Cortney gifted you half the cost for your birthday and you made the appointment and paid the 20% deposit. This will bring you such joy.

You’re going to spend quality one-on-one time with each kid. They tell other people how much they love it, so do it more. It’s important.

I know you worry a lot about time going to fast: it takes your babies and makes them toddlers; it takes your toddlers and makes them kids; it takes your own youth. You worry about not having enough time.

The truth is that you will never have enough time. It’s just not possible.

So you have to take what you’re given and do what you can with it.

It’s gonna be great. And a little terrible because that’s life. But mostly great.

Love,

Yourself

Girls Can Too

Have I ever told you about how Eddie is a feminist?

I honestly can’t pinpoint when it happened; he has always just had intense feelings about how boys and girls can like and do the same things and anyone who tries to challenge that gets quite the ear-full from him. Actually, he is pretty passionate about social justice in general and is always looking out for the people who might be mistreated, left out, or hurting. In fact, his teacher this year described him as “quite the little activist.”

That makes me more happy than I can express.

He has a bunch or rowdy, good guy friends he hangs with who like to use their imaginations, run around, and trade Pokemon cards with him. But when he was Person of the Week and he brought home his book that everyone wrote to him in, over and over the girls (and some of the boys) described him as “kind” and “helpful” and a “good friend.” He tells me a lot that boys don’t really play with the girls at recess, but he does sometimes because they are his friends too.

I even overheard him and another kid talking about the president and Eddie said, “If Clinton had won, she would have been the first girl president ever. And that is a big deal. I wish she would have won because we need girls to do those jobs too!”

It’s probably not a surprise then that he is always thinking of his sister in this way, Whenever we watch shows that have strong female characters, Eddie says, “this would be a good show for Alice!” It’s interesting to me, because he never really says that about things just because they are girly, but it’s like he noticed the girls in the shows who do things that the boys can do too.

One of his favorite shows has been A Series of Unfortunate Events, and he has told me, “Mom, I think Alice will like this show someday because the baby, Sunny, is cute and the older sister, Violet is really smart. Just like Alice.”

He also really likes the show Trollhunters. He thinks I should get a purple stripe in my hair like Claire, but I told him maybe not.

When Eddie was very small, we always taught him that there were no such things as girl colors or boy colors; there are just colors. And if you like a color it’s a YOU color. When I would go away to conferences, he would ask that I paint his nails the same color as mine so we could think about each other when we looked at them.

And when I was pregnant with Charlie and brought home a baby doll, he loved it and immediately named it Baby and we used it to talk about what life would be like when Charlie arrived.

(Once Charlie was here, by the way, one baby was apparently enough for Eddie, and Baby was cast into the toy room never to be found again…until Alice revived her.)

Eddie has never shied away from doing or liking something simply because people think it’s “for girls”–which is probably why he has also watched every episode of Monster High on Netflix as well. He just likes what he likes!

But it makes my heart soar when he noticed strong girls and thinks of his sister, or when he hears the Disney channel commercial with the Dream Big, Princess song and sings along to it TO his sister.

It makes me feel like we’re doing something right around here, and that Eddie will do wonderful things for women and social just someday.

This is not a paid post. I am a member of Netflix’s Stream Team. They provide the Netflix and a device for our family to watch it on. We provide the opinions and experiences.

It Started With an Email

I was working as a long-term substitute with my own computer log in when the email came through: “Hey. Is everything Ok?”

I stared at the computer screen and then minimized my email, turned to the incoming students, and went about teaching for the morning because no, everything was no Ok. Nothing felt Ok.

When I had a minute to collect myself, I re-read the email. It was from my friend, Cortney, who shared an apartment with my boyfriend-now-ex-boyfriend. He was concerned because I had come over on Sunday and rather than using my key, I had knocked. I then disappeared into my boyfriend-now-ex-boyfriend’s room and he could hear serious discussion going on.  And my boyfriend-now-ex-boyfriend had seemed tense and weird and when Cortney asked him if everything was Ok, his answer was, “no,” and that was it.

So he emailed me because he couldn’t stop worrying about us.

I ended up spilling the entire sad sack story of the weekend and how it ended in the demise of my boyfriend-now-ex-boyfriend’s and my five-year relationship.

His response? “Don’t take this the wrong way, but that is actually a relief. I thought you were pregnant.”

Thanks, yo.

From there, we emailed back and forth sporadically for the rest of the school year. He had a tendency to worry about me–we had been friends for years, after all–and he wanted to check in to make sure I wasn’t making destructive choices (I was) and that I was eating (I wasn’t) and that I wasn’t holing up in my house feeling sorry for myself by crying to the cat (I was).

For awhile I only responded to his emails and didn’t initiate any threads because thinking about him made me think about my ex-boyfriend and it was just too much. But once school got out and I didn’t have a regular job to go to anymore, Cortney and I started emailing more often. He would stop over after work with a pizza to hang out–his way of making sure I got a decent meal since he knew I was broke and living on vodka and Doritos if left alone to make my own choices.

It wasn’t my proudest moment in life, Ok?

After my summer of wallowing, I ended up getting the full-time teaching job I am in now, and shockingly (to us anyway) Cortney and I started dating. The emailing did not stop; in fact it increased now that we weren’t seeing each other all the time due to my actually having to go to work. If I could look back on those emails, they were probably so sweet and carefree. It makes me smile to think about how young and starry-eyed we were back then.

We still email back and forth every day and I have been in this job now for almost fourteen years. One of us will start the daily thread with a “Good morning!” or “Hope you got in Ok!” Some days–like when my students are working on a test independently and Cortney is at his desk all day, we will go back and forth rapidly exchanging silly jokes or thoughts about anything from what next week’s dinners should be, when we should have our own date night, or even what is going on with our kids. Some days we only have the morning check in and then not much for the rest of the day because I am on my feet with students all day or he is out of the office or busy with calls.

Some days the topics get pretty serious. I tend to write out my feelings better than verbalize them, so there have been times I have spent my lunch period on my email typing out long messages about my mental health or other serious topics that I need to make sure I get my words just right. He will do the same. It has always been a way to give each other our thoughts and then let them sit before we respond either with another email, or in person later that evening.

We don’t do everything right as a married couple, but one thing I am proud of is our communication. Long before that first email, Cortney and I were friends who shared with each other and empathized with each other. We celebrated the great things, but we also cried about the bad things. His reaching out to me that day was just an extension of that.

We still reach out to each other every day. When Cortney was traveling for work recently, the loneliest I felt was during my work day when there were no emails coming through. After fourteen years of check-in’s and random banter, going a few days with complete silence was hard.

People who know us sometimes like to give me a little grief about how “chatty” Cortney and I can be–how we tell each other everything and send each other photos. When I was in Atlanta, Cort and I texted constantly, and my friend The Pastor’s Wife teased me a bit of being like a teenager. I know she was kidding and that it was actually out of love for us that she said what she did, because really, it’s that goofiness that has carried us for this long. It’s the easy way we communicate with each other that has made our relationship not just survive the past fourteen years, but actually build it up.

Five Alive

Dear Charlie Bird,

Today you are five. We had this conversation recently:

Me: Charlie! Next week you will be FIVE!
You (holding up all five fingers on one hand): I’ll be a whole handful!
Me: Oh buddy, you’ve been a whole handful for quite some time now.
You: Well then I will be a whole MIT-FULL!

Buddy, you have been my least easy child. And I say this with all the love in the world, my Birdie. You started this life in a sleepy, easy way. You spent your first year as a cuddly little guy who loved his sleep and who was super easy going. By the time you were two, you were very stubborn, did things your way, and communicated in screams and outbursts. Your feelings have grown so big that sometimes your small body just cannot contain them.

Now that you are five, you are starting to be able to vocalize those feelings. Your fits are fewer and your words, hugs, and helpfulness is plenty.

You tend to be reserved when you are in a new place, preferring to hang back and observe. Once you’ve warmed up, you are pretty independent, choosing to play on your own because you can have full control that way. You get along with other kids, you are just quieter and prefer to do your own thing.

You and Eddie can play super nice together, especially as you get older and you are not just a pesky little brother, but an actual playmate to him. However he is bossy and you like to do things your way which can lead to some fierce disagreements. The one person who you seem to have the most patience for is Alice. Yes, she can bug you from time to time when she wants to play with the cars you just set up in perfect rows, but if she seems interested in what you’re doing, you gladly make room for her. And when she asks you to play babies or tea party with her, you get everything set up and help her have fun.

She learns so much from you. Miss Carolyn even tells us that she watches you at daycare and will only eat her lunch if you are eating yours first. She looks up to both you and Eddie, but Eddie is more of her helper where you are the one she wants to play with and learn from. You two have a special bond I never would have guessed would happen, but that I hope will last forever.

You started Preschool this year! I admit I was nervous about how school would go for you. You go four afternoons a week. Because of your tantrums and lack of patience with yourself, Daddy and I braced ourselves for phone calls telling us you were under a table or in a closet and wouldn’t come out. But it never happened.

School has been probably the best thing that has happened to you. You love it and you are thriving! I know the fact that you have amazing teachers who love you help, but you, my Charlie, have been a natural. Your teachers tell us you are a “quiet leader” who always does the right thing. You struggle a little with writing (you are a leftie like daddy), but you know all your letters and their sounds and are ready to start sound-spelling! You catch on very quickly to anything with numbers; you can count to over a hundred!

You are most obsessed right now with Batman! You love dressing like him and having Batman everything! We even did a Batman birthday theme for you and Alice’s party (well, she had Mini Mouse). I probably shouldn’t read too much into it, but I feel like Batman fits you well. He also likes to be in control and have cool gadgets to tinker with. I can see why you are drawn to him. Plus he wears a cool mask, and I know wearing a mask helps you feel less “seen”, which is more comfortable for you.

You and Daddy are a lot of like in many ways, but you and I have a pretty close bond. I’ve finally figured out that I can’t make you talk about something you don’t want to talk about–very much like your Dad Dad. When you are feeling BIG FEELINGS, the best thing I can do is just sit next to you. Sometimes you want me to hold you and hug you, but most of the time you just want me there. At your birthday party this weekend, you didn’t get your way about something and you flipped out. You went into Alice’s room to have a fit, and I came in and just sat on the floor while you whined and tantrumed. Eventually you got quiet and I asked you, “Do you want me to make you a plate of food?” And you wiped your eyes and said, “will you sit by me?” And that was that. I did sit by you, but only for a few minutes. Then you were comfortable with all the people in our house and you were great!

You are intensely loyal and loving. For such a small, quiet guy, you are fierce with your love. When you are happy, you are very happy. When you are tired, hungry, or hurt, you are very cranky. I’ve learned that you can become overwhelmed by too much of anything. You need quiet, alone time. You need someone to just be there. You need to know you can count on your family.

I try to make sure you know always that you are safe and loved.

You can break my heart and heal my heart like no one else, my Charlie. Your words are hilarious and wise beyond your five years. I never want to forget how you say that you’re “halmost” done or you’re “halready” done or that you love everything “becept” something. Or how you make your army guys “HATTACK!”

I love how you like random things like egg cartons and pretty stones. I love that you can line up army guys on your fire truck for over an hour and make up dialogues and scenarios with them. I love the way people think you’re not paying attention, but you are paying attention to every word said.

I love the way you jam out to Kidz Bop in the car and announce that every song is your 56th favorite song or your 4th favorite song or your 15th favorite song. I wouldn’t put it past you to actually have a mental list of all the songs you love.

I love your big feelings. All of them. I love that you say to me, “You are the best Mom Mom” and I know you mean it. Even on days when you are having lots of negative feelings, I know that at the end of the day, you want to cuddle up to me before bed because I play with your hair and do the voices in your favorite books.

I love that you know Eddie better than Eddie knows himself and that you pronounce his name, “Uddie”.  I love your love for your little sister and that you call her “Beans” like Daddy does.

I love your love of cuddly comfy clothes and cozy blankets and warm spots. I love that you love chocolate more than anything in the world.

But most of all, I just really love you. All of you: the easy parts and the difficult parts, the sunny parts and the cloudy parts. You are my best Bird.

I hope your 5th birthday is wonderful!

Love,
Mom Mom

Oh Twoodles!

Dear Alice,

Ten years ago I found myself unexpectedly pregnant. Daddy and I were very upset because we weren’t trying to get pregnant. I had another year of grad school before we even wanted to think about having kids. But there we were.

As you know already, we lost that pregnancy. But before the loss and after the acceptance that I was going to be a mom, I imagined a baby girl. This is significant because up until then I saw myself as having zero kids or only having boys, but I felt a very strong feeling that there was a girl growing in my belly. Not long after my 30th birthday we found out that the pregnancy had shut down. No baby.

It would be eight years–and four more pregnancies–before a baby girl would show up in our lives.

I was convinced after Eddie and Charlie were born, that I was a boy mom through and through. I was convinced when we found out we were pregnant with you, that you were a boy. I was sure.

I was wrong.

 

I’m so glad I was wrong.

I didn’t know, Alice. I just didn’t know how very VERY much we–I–needed you. You bring such joy and sunshine and happiness to our life–to our family!

So what are you like as a two-year old?

Over this past year you learned to walk, run, and dance. You love to twirl–especially in a skirt, dress, or tutu. And you love SHOES and accessories! You call all jewelry and hair things “pretties” and you love to load them on. This weekend I painted your toenails pink and you refused the footie jammies because you couldn’t admire your toes in those. If I brush my hair, you want to brush your hair. When I put on makeup, you want to pretend to put on lipstick or blush. When I put on bracelets or a necklace, you dash to your room for one of yours. I don’t consider myself the most girly girl, but the way you shadow my actions, I see myself differently in you.

You love to sing! Every night daddy or I sing while we rock you. You have three songs you rotate through with me: Row Row (Row, Row, Row Your Boat), Sunshine (You Are My Sunshine), and Rock A Baby (Rock’a’bye The Baby). You have started singing along with us–and I even noticed you singing Row Row the other day while you were twirling in the kitchen.

You love your blankie more than any other lovie, although you love to sleep with an army of “friends.” Usually you will pair Blankie with another friend–this week it’s a Popple, last week it was Puppy–when you leave your bed. And you love books…which you know makes my heart happy. I hope you always have a love for the written word.

Babies and tea sets are still your favorite toys and your Grandma and Granny love to spoil you with lots of babies and baby accessories. Charlie and Eddie also give in and play with you because you’re so cute that it’s quite persuasive. No one can pass up a purple tea cup being handed to them by an eager two year old! Your brothers love you to the moon. Charlie is always there to play with you, and Eddie helps you with your shoes and coat. I hope they are always your go-to for when you need someone to lean on.

You may be my shadow, but you are a Daddy’s Girl through and through. When daddy picks you up from day care you are quite possessive claiming him as “mine daddy” to all who will listen. Your face lights up when you hear him come home, and if he is gone (or just in the bathroom) you will wander around with your hands out asking, “where my daddy go?” And can I tell you a secret, Alice? He adores you too. He melts when you run to him for a hug. He lives for your voice saying, “mine daddy!” I am quite sure he had no idea how much he needed a little girl either until you showed up and took our hearts captive.

Alice, your smile and giggle make everyone happy. Even though you start shy and are slow to warm up to people, your sheer joy brings light to all those around you. Your brothers were good cuddlers, but you are my hugger. You will declare “HUG! KEESES! (kisses)” before bed or before I leave for work and you will throw your whole self into squeezing my neck. You get that from your Daddy’s side of the family, you know. Sluiters and Potters are mega-huggers.

I was afraid that making it official that you were the last would somehow leave me with a feeling of sadness…a feeling of wishing for something more…a not “fullness.” But I never once felt incomplete.

In fact, now that you are here, I have never felt more intact. You complete this family in a way I just couldn’t imagine. I see your brothers differently now through the lens of a complete family–your existence makes me appreciate Eddie’s helpful nature and Charlie’s protective personality more than ever before because now I can see our whole family. There are no pieces missing.

You are our caboose–our Little Sister.

Time has never flown by so fast as it has since we have brought you three kids into this world. As you ripped open your gifts and blew out your candles all on your own tonight, I was reminded that you are not a baby anymore. You are a toddler who is absorbing everything and learning to be you.

Being a mother has been the greatest responsibility that I have ever taken on. The past two years have felt even more powerful because to raise a daughter is such an undertaking. There are a million ways to fail, but I think we can get it right, Alice.

So far, so good, my sweet love.

Love,
Mommy

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