Archives for August 2010

Back To School Bonanza Giveaway #3: Gussy

I am going BACK TO SCHOOL this week, and I thought I would end the summer with a bang…of giveaways!

This giveaway is extra special not just because it’s Gussy (hello!  who DOESN’T love Gussy?!?), but because in the process of working with Maggie, I found out that she graduated from the high school where I work!  In fact, she graduated just months before I was hired.  Makes me feel a wee bit old, but makes this back to school giveaway super special to me!


A wee bit about Gussy:
Gussy is a colorful line of ruffled accessories. Each ruffle is machine sewn free-hand style, making each ruffle unique. Almost 2 years ago Maggie sat down at her kitchen table –she wanted to learn how to sew. And here she is now, offering zipped pouches of all sizes, laptop bags, tote/diaper bags, and wristlet/clutches (all with her signature ruffle) to those that love a little flair 🙂 And, she’s recently quit her day job to pursue Gussy full-time. To read more about Gussy, click here.



The Nester wrote, “Gussy has a juicy shop full of all kinds of wonderfulness, and her blog, Gussy has a lot to say, is quickly becoming a crafter’s headquarters where she features different crafters/artists and writes about her experience.”


Sigh…I love that signature ruffle!  Gets me EVERY time!

You can follow Gussy on twitter here!

I am SO excited to announce that The Sluiter Nation Back To School Bonanza’s third giveaway is $30 shop credit at www.shopgussy.com!!! (sorry, all baby blankets are exempt from this giveaway credit).

All you have to do to enter is leave me a comment here telling me what you love best about Gussy!

For anyone who wants a couple more chances at winning, you can also…

  • Tweet about this giveaway: “Sluiter Nation is going Back To School with @gussysews!  Check out their giveaway at http://bit.ly/chFskQ ” (make sure you come back and leave a separate comment telling me you tweeted!)
  • “Like” Sluiter Nation on facebook (come back and leave a separate comment telling me you do).

 Three ways to win!  Good luck!

**This giveaway closes at 1:00pm est on Thursday, August 26, 2010 (which is also the day of my first Back to School meeting).  The winner will be announced Friday!

**Disclosure:  Gussy is providing the spoils of this giveaway.  I was not provided with any free product, and my opinions couldn’t be bought anyway. I do own the orange polka dot pouch above and I LOVE IT!  So there is that.

Back To School Bonanza Giveaway #2: JSancken Photography

I am going BACK TO SCHOOL this week, and I thought I would end the summer with a bang…of giveaways!

 


My lovely bloggy/twitter friend, Julie of …back to the basics… has turned into a photographer! She takes LOVELY pictures of nature, kiddos, and families.


Recently she started her own photography blog where you can learn more about her and her passion for photography.  You can also purchase prints she has taken of beautiful nature scenes.

This one reminds me of the path that lead from my parents’ backyard out through their woods to the back fields where the blueberry bushes are.  I could see it from my bedroom window.  I am in love with this print.

And this one just makes me all happy.  I LOVE little happy flowers!  They are a reminder of the beauty that is there if we just look.


You can find Julie’s blog, …back to the basics here, and follower her on twitter here.

I am SO excited to announce that The Sluiter Nation Back To School Bonanza’s second giveaway is the two nature photographs above in 5×7 size!

All you have to do to enter is leave me a comment here telling me what you love best about Julie Sancken Photography!

For anyone who wants a couple more chances at winning, you can also…

  • Tweet about this giveaway: “Sluiter Nation is going Back To School with @basicallyjulie!  Check out their giveaway at http://bit.ly/9Lviui ” (make sure you come back and leave a separate comment telling me you tweeted!)
  • “Like” Sluiter Nation on facebook (come back and leave a separate comment telling me you do).

 Three ways to win!  Good luck!

**This giveaway closes at 1:00pm est on Thursday, August 26, 2010 (which is also the day of my first Back to School meeting).  The winner will be announced Friday!

**Disclosure:  Julie Sancken Photography is providing the spoils for this giveaway.  Julie also sent me copies of the two nature prints above in 5×7 size as well.  I love them, but getting free stuff doesn’t sway my opinions.  Those are totally mine!

Back To School Bonanza Giveaway #1: Tie a Little Ribbon

I am going BACK TO SCHOOL this week, and I thought I would end the summer with a bang…of giveaways!


Krystal over at Tie a Little Ribbon Boutique makes the absolute CUTEST hair accessories for little girls (and big girls too!)  I “met” Krystal via twitter, and because she was sassy and hilarious, I headed on over to her blog and her boutique and my uterus about squeed for my to have a little girl JUST so I could get some cute hair clippys and headbands!


Krystal “specializes in no-slip clips and headbands,” and she loves to do custom orders!  And?  The best part?  You don’t have to be teeny to where what she is making!

 Even though these precious itty bitties would look SOOO cute in little piggy tails or perched atop a head of curls, she also can make flowers for YOUR hair 
Ahem, mine are on their way to my house as I type this.  I’m just saying.  Teachers have to look nice for back to school too you know.

See?  So dang cute!

You can find Krystal’s blog, Tie a Little Ribbon here, and follower her on twitter here.

I am SO excited to announce that The Sluiter Nation Back To School Bonanza’s first giveaway is $15 of store credit to Tie a Little Ribbon!

All you have to do to enter is leave me a comment here telling me what you love best about Tie a Little Ribbon!

For anyone who wants a couple more chances at winning, you can also…

  • Tweet about this giveaway: “Sluiter Nation is going Back To School with @tiealitleribbon!  Check out their giveaway at http://bit.ly/9sfOWG ” (make sure you come back and leave a separate comment telling me you tweeted!)
  • “Like” Sluiter Nation on facebook (come back and leave a separate comment telling me you do).

 Three ways to win!  Good luck!

**This giveaway closes at 1:00pm est on Thursday, August 26, 2010 (which is also the day of my first Back to School meeting).  The winner will be announced Friday!

**Disclosure:  Tie a Little Ribbon is providing the spoils of this giveaway.  I was not provided with any free product, and my opinions couldn’t be bought anyway.

Back To School Bonanza!

I’m going back to school.  There.  I said it.  The time is coming.  My first official meeting is next Thursday evening–a week from today– and then the week after that I am in meetings for my high school teaching job, and Grand Rapids Community College actually starts class, so I will be teaching there.

The summer has gone so dang fast.  I feel that way every year, but this year it’s different somehow.

Usually by this time, although I hate to see the summer go?  I am ready to get back on a schedule and get to the business of being productive.

But this year, I don’t really feel that way.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my job!  But I fell in love with being a mom this summer.  Even though Cort’s being unemployed has been a strain on the family budget, it has been such a blessing being home as a family of three this summer–especially after our tumultuous spring with my PPD .  We have had so much fun together these past couple months!  We have really bonded as a family and I am forever grateful for that.

However, I am DETERMINED to have a super start to the school year!  I have a new teaching assignment this year:  Full time Spanish teacher at WPHS instead of English.  I switched classrooms and am starting completely fresh!  I also am teaching at GRCC again this fall.

So to kick off all this excitement?  Next Monday Sluiter Nation is bringing you FIVE great giveaways!

And because I know homecoming and lesson planning and just the whole back to schoolness of it all will suck up a TON of my time, taking me away from you all?  I have NINE guest bloggers lined up for the month of September!  They are my VERY FAVORITE bloggers of all time and I get to share them with you right here!  They will all be writing on the theme of school…so get ready!

Is your mind blown yet?  Good.

Stay tuned!

Wordless Wednesday

 The most beautiful blue eyes I have ever seen…
the sweetest face on the planet…
 the smile that melts me every time…
sigh…
This post is linked up with
Go and check out more Wordless Wednesday posts!

Sluiter Nation Home Tour: The Hub of the House

I know it’s been a few weeks, but the tour of Sluiter Nation is BACK!  Today with the room that is really the center of the whole house.  Not just physically, but socially and emotionally too.  We are drawn to it because it exudes warmth, nourishment, and conversation.

It’s our kitchen.

Our kitchen is the first thing you see when you climb the stairs from our bi-level’s front door.  It’s much smaller than I would like, but it’s cozy and it has everything we need.

It’s a gallery of people we love.

It’s a yellow pages for take out and an energy center–especially first thing in the morning.

it is rarely completely clean.  And it constantly reminds me why I will NEVER own white appliances again!

It is where I can relieve stress or anxiety or anger or sorrow by baking someone something.

Have a bad day?  I’ll make you cookies.

Grandma die?  I’ll bake your family a pie to comfort you.

Cort lost his job?  I baked him brownies.

Have a birthday?  I’ll make you a three-layer cake.

Need a dessert for a cookout?  I’ll bring a fresh blueberry SOMETHING.

This is where people gather to laugh and drink and chat and discuss and eat.

It looks out over the yard Cort so lovingly takes care of and the clubhouse Eddie so joyously frolics on.

Somehow the island is NEVER completely cleared off.  Keys, wallet, pipey, monitor, newspaper, whatever gets thrown here.

But it is where we gather as a family.  It is where we nourish ourselves physically and emotionally.  We grow together here.

Sluiter Nation Takes Indy

I promised to share our trip to Indianapolis, so I need to make good on that.  So here is our story…

Last week Monday, our little family packed up and headed south.

 Before having Eddie, four hours in the car for a road trip would have been no big deal for Cort and me.  We love road trips together! But with a 13-month old?  By hour three?  Eddie was done.  D.O.N.E. done. I had to start singing to him to get him to applaud and smile and not scream his face off.

Also on that four-hour tour, Eddie also had his first McDonald’s visit.  I didn’t even think to take my camera in, but there he sat…in a highchair, with a chicken nugget and apple slice happy meal, smiling.  And in that McDonalds somewhere in northern Indiana?  My baby learned to drink out of a straw.  Sigh…

Anyway, we arrived in Indianapolis around 5:00 or so.  Eddie LOVED the hotel room!

The chair and the air conditioner and the window overlooking a bazillion school buses were his favorite parts.

That evening Emily invited us over for pizza and relaxing on the back deck while the kids played.  It was a lovely way to start our visit!  Before we left, we agreed to head out to the Indianapolis Zoo with Emily and her crew in the morning.

Emily has a membership pass so we got in for nothing at all!  You can’t beat that deal with a stick!

Emily’s oldest, PK, was our tour guide for the day.  Now you must know, PK and I bonded over that fact that we both love princesses, and I knew each one of her Polly Pockets princess’s names.  Yup, we are now BFF’s.  Anyway, I believe it was because of this bond that we got such a thorough tour from her.

One of the first places she took us was to see the sharks.  Very cool.  However, did you know you can PET these sharks?  Um…I am a little skeptical of this.

But clearly it is safe because I don’t think Emily would let her sweet little girls touch a man eater.  I don’t THINK.

So of course Cort had his brave pants on that day and cozied up to a shark.  This is the same guy who picked up a horseshoe crab and pet a sting ray in Myrtle Beach.  Show off.

So I leaned in and pet one too.  It was icky, but at least I did it.  Notice my two-finger technique.  That is me all following directions.

We stopped to see the penguins.  Birdie liked the penguins.  I liked Birdie’s pigtails.  It’s a fair trade.

Eddie enjoyed the dolphin dome.  It WAS pretty neat to feel like you are underwater.  And it’s very echo-y in there.  Also a favorite of Eddie’s.

Meerkats, anyone?
Polar Bear butt dwarfing Emily’s girls.
The crew: Emily, Gage, Birdie, PK, Cort, and Eddie
elephant family
Cort’s new BFF, Gage the Rage
It may have been over a hundred degrees.  And some of us may have been crabby about that.
Lucky for us there is a splash pad at the zoo.  Eddie and I put our piggies in to cool off!
Ah!  that’s better!
Right before we left, we met these gibbons.  They were loud.  They were a fan favorite.  Coincidence?
Oh, and in case you are wondering, Eddie got a penguin to add to his collection from this zoo!
We may have had McDonalds again.  This time I had my camera ready.  See?  He’s like an adult with that thing.  Sigh…
Tuesday night was the super fun Blogger BBQ at Emily’s.  It was fun.  It was needed.  I wish I could do it ALL THE TIME!
Wednesday morning we decided we needed some indoor, air-conditioned fun, so on the recommendation of all the Indy natives, Sluiter Nation went to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.
It was four floors of exploring, investigating, learning, and playing.  Eddie really liked it.  I may have loved it.
Eddie learned about watersheds (just for you Erin. Maybe he can explain them to me).
He played in a log.
He built things with blocks.
He rode a carousel with dad-do.
We saw dinosaurs. (Eddie applauded this guy).
Eddie explored sand.
and learned about magnets.
he picked flowers.
and played in the Baby Scapes.
I posed on the Barbie runway. 
And stopped for a photo op with my childhood friend.  Girlfriend needs to eat a cheeseburger, though.  She’s making me look bad!
Before lunch (where Eddie drank from yes, ANOTHER juice box), we found his favorite exhibit!
There were rock star cars like this one from Van Halen.
And this trailer o stereo from KISS
we even saw Cheap Trick’s custom John Deere!
We even let Eddie try out a “hog”.  He liked it.  Sort of a lot.  Don’t tell Grandma.
After lunch, it was time to get back in the truck and head north for home.  Eddie and I both slept for part of the trip. We were exhausted from all the fun we had.  It was the perfect minivacation for our first family vacation.  Eddie slept pretty well in the hotel (even if he didn’t nap on Tuesday because the room was just too interesting), and we had a TON of fun with old and new friends!
We look forward to visiting Indy again and maybe hitting the State Fair next time!

Blessings

This day…today…amazed me.

I am left sitting here typing this an aching, emotionally drained, physically exhausted pile of whine.

So pooped that actual wine doesn’t even sound good to me.

I KNOW!

Anyway, let me go back….

You all know that Cort’s sister and brother-in-law are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia, yes?  If by chance you don’t know what I am talking about, you REALLY should go to their blog, Stepping Stones, and read about their journey.  It’s lovely.  Go ahead.  You can go read now.  I’ll wait….

tappity….tappity…tappity…oh, you’re back.  Ok…

So, they are adopting from Ethiopia and we REALLY wanted to help out.  It all started months ago when they asked if I could contribute something crafty to their online auction.  I didn’t have the time or the supplies, but I SOOO wanted to help.

Fastforward to me volunteering to do a garage sale to get rid of our stuff.  And then asking for donations.  It got huge, people.  I am telling you…it took over our basement and part of our garage.

This is only part of it.  We had started moving things to the garage already at this point.  See?

On Thursday MacKenzie (my sis-in-law), our friend Trisha, and I organized everything into categories in the garage and then priced it all.  Friday, more stuff was dropped off, so I went through all that:  sorting and pricing.  Oh, and it was about 1000 degrees with 100% humidity.  It was like organizing in a sauna.

Friday night to celebrate this fundraiser and to get a little taste of what Ethiopia is like, MacKenzie and Dave took us to GoJo in East Town (Grand Rapids). GoJo is family owned and the owner, Sam, waited on us and chatted it up with Kenz and Dave–they are regulars now!

Many families who are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia or who have adopted come to eat here.  It’s amazing the sense of community there is even with only one other table of diners in there besides us.  I just felt that this was a familiar place for people to come.

Pictures of children who have found their families lined the windows and Sam knew right where his customers were in their own processes.  He even mentioned to Dave and Kenz that he heard they had waiting list numbers now!

The experience was super unique to anything I have had before–the only thing I can compare it to is digging in to and appetizer, but it was the table’s meal.

The food is family style and the diners get NO utensils or plates.  You simply grab your Ethiopian flatbread and dig in to the lamb, beef, chicken, collards, salads, and lentils.  The platter we ordered was pretty darn spicy, but it can be milder.  The flavor?  Was SO worth the “after burn” in my mouth.  Even though I knew I would get a fire mouth?  I kept going for more!

Even Eddie liked some of the milder tastes!  I can definitely say we will be back!  Such a great experience!

So armed with Ethiopian food in our bellies, we met Saturday morning with determination to make some cash at the garage sale!

In fact, I was hanging signs at 7:15am (the sale started at 8am), and a couple stalked me down in their minivan to ask me if we would open early.  Garage Salers?  Are serious.

The night before I made all these cute little business cards with the Stepping Stones blog address on them to give to people as they bought or donated so they could follow the adoption journey.  It was definitely a hit!

So we waited for the crowds.  We got a few in the first hour, but by 9:30 I was all panicky that people weren’t going to come.  Shouldn’t we have had a morning rush?

So I called my mom and asked her if she was coming.  My mom?  said she wasn’t “planning on it”.  I begged her to come so that we wouldn’t have NO one here…even if she didn’t buy anything, she could play with Eddie.

Apparently that call was the trick!  After that, we were steady until around noon!  My mom even ended up buying a little bike for Eddie!  Hooray for Grandma!  And Granny showed up too and bought Eddie some books!  Yay!  Grandmas are the BEST!

My favorite thing of the day, though, was when Kenzie’s BFF, Alicia was here with her two kids, Ruthie and Lewis.  Lewis spotted a soccer ball he wanted and Alicia tried to tell him they had one at home already.  Needless to say, Lewis REALLY wanted the soccer ball.

Then Alicia said, that soccer ball?  Was one she has donated to the sale.  Luckily, HER mom was there and bought the ball back for Lewis.

Again, Grandmas for the win!

We worked hard today.  Cortney and I met a LOT of our neighbors (in fact, we met the guy Cort has secretly been calling Mr. Jones and trying to keep up with…get it?  His real name is Steve and his wife bought a ton.).

We also learned that many of our neighbors have also adopted.

In fact, one?  Is in the process of adopting from Ethiopia too!  We heard many lovely stories of adoption and God’s love for all children.  It made the day pretty emotional.

Cort’s dad once told me how glad he was to have me in the family.  I have NEVER forgotten that.  He was glad to have me.

And today, even though so many people told me it was great that Cort and I were helping, I really didn’t feel like we were doing anything special.

I felt like the people who donated and who were shopping were doing the special things.

Kenz and Dave are doing something special for children they don’t even know yet, but already love more than life.

Not us.  Not me.  But I remembered what my father-in-law said. He welcomed me in even though I wasn’t technically his own.  He felt I was good for something.

Today, I felt I was living up to what he meant.  I don’t need thanks.  I really don’t want it.  I just want him to be proud.  And I want Kenz and Dave to look at their children and be glad. 

And it made Cort and I VERY glad to give them the $500 that was earned at the garage sale!  Never once did it cross our minds that that money could be ours.  Never.  In fact, someone said we should get a receipt at Good Will for the rest of the stuff, but you know what?  Most of that stuff was donated.  It wasn’t ours.  We don’t feel right getting a receipt for it.  So it will just be another donation.  It’s the least we can do for all the blessings that continue to come our way.

I cannot WAIT to meet my niece, nephew, or both!  I can’t.  I love being an aunt.  Love it.  Almost…ALMOST as much as I love being a mom!

white walls

I wanted to look at my hands.  I wanted to study my feet. I wanted to stare at the ceiling.

But instead?

I looked at their faces.

I had somehow (on purpose) squeezed my way into the corner behind Cortney.

Squeezed is an understatement.

I don’t think exam rooms are meant to hold 12+ people.  And this one?  Was freezing.

I’m starting to forget him.  I haven’t ever said that before. But it’s true.  I can remember everyone else from those visits, but I am losing his face.

I know he was sitting on the exam table.

But what I remember are the looks on his sisters’ and brothers’ and parents’ and children’s faces.

The walls were white and it was cold.  Until the news came that he wasn’t going to get better.  Then?  I couldn’t stop sweating.  I was the thousand degree corner of the room.  Behind my fiance.  I was there because I was told I was part of the family.  But I felt like such an interloper.

I only knew him for just over a year.  Not my whole life. Not like everyone else in that room.

The doctor gave numbers.  A time span.

I saw the math happening in people’s eyes.  He would not be there to walk his daughter down the aisle.  He would not be there to see his son marry a girl who was already part of the family.  He would not meet any grandchildren.  He would not outlive his parents.

And I?  I was sweating.

Why was I here?  This was not real.  This doesn’t happen in REAL life.  Shouldn’t I be sitting on my couch watching this unfold to some characters on a TV show and not to real people that I know…who are going to be my family?

Tissues started to be handed out.  None came to me.  I was wiping my nose and eyes on my sleeve.  No one noticed.  My runny nose was not the issue today.

I felt eyes.  Cort’s aunt was looking at me.  Into me.  Or through me.

And then she wasn’t.  Her eyes had moved on.

The walls were so white.  There was an ironic picture of a boat on Lake Michigan on the wall.

I was still sweating.  But shivering.

The only face I can visualize is that from the pictures we have…either formal or sick.  No real life images.

He is slipping from me.  Even though I feel like I never really had him.

And yet…

He is here.  I know it.  And Eddie knows it.  I think Eddie knows him.  I think they have met.

Has it really been five years?

Yes.  It has been five years.  And I am losing him in one form, and gaining him in another.

**Read Cort’s post about this at Tasty Buttered Toast.  But grab a tissue first**

**And Read Cort’s Sis, MacKenzie’s post about him (and their adoption process) at Stepping Stones.**

This post was written in loving memory of Steven Kent “Slippery” Sluiter who lost his battle with the beast that is cancer on August 14, 2005.  He is Cort’s Pops, my Father-in-Law, and Eddie’s beloved Papa.  He is missed on this earth every single day by everyone who knew him.
Today, in honor of him, Sluiter Nation is hosting a garage sale fundraiser to help bring his grandchildren home from Ethiopia.  We are confident this is how he would want us to spend this day.  Happy and hopeful instead of sad and full of remorse.
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