You Are From

This poem was the product of a 10-day intense summer seminar with The Olga Lengyel Institute for Holocaust Studies and Human Rights (TOLI). More posts on that experience are forthcoming.

To my children: Eddie, Charlie, and Alice,

You are from the Dutch. 
From west of Groningen, northwest of Drenthe and Overijssel.
(names that are familiar, 
but places that are foreign.)
You are from coastal towns, dune grasses
and peat meadows
with windmills that turn with time.

You are from immigrants and farmworkers
Gerrit and Akke
jailed for holding unauthorized church services
now living on the stolen land of the Odawa.
You’re from the Dutch Reformed Church and John Calvin
from van Raalte and Van De Luyster
from freedom to oppress and
freedom to work a new land.

You are from New Groningen and Zeeland Chix,
pigs in the blanket made by the Ladies’ Aid Society
From farming and steel work
And a veteran of the second World War,
that solidified a distrust of the Other.

You are also from change.
from questioning tradition
to making a new culture.
from learning and connecting–
creating growth and understanding
with people once distrusted.

Your roots are not in revolution,
but the branch from which you bloom
feeds you with resistance
and disruption.
Questions sprout around you
Synthesizing in you
a new way to
persevere.

In our family is dedication
and determination,
people with dreams and goals
but few words
to admit the struggles and 
conflicts of the journey.

You are from transformation.

Two Handfuls

“Charlie! You are ten! Now you are TWO handfuls!”

“Mom,” he says with a smirk, “I have ALWAYS been two handfuls.”

My dearest Charlie Bird,

You have, indeed, always been two handfuls.

Over the past year you have started a new school in a new program and made lots of new friends. Other kids might be shy or afraid, but you jumped right in. The adults on your new team at school say that you are so personable–you warm right up to people–and everyone likes you so much. You are quite the charming fella, despite your challenges.

You care deeply about things that matter to you including fairness (which you sometimes confuse with things being equal), justice, and animals. While you get along great with others, you definitely get upset if you perceive that something is unfair or unjust and it can be difficult for you to hear what others have to say in those situations. But you are working on that. You are working so hard.

You have the biggest imagination of anyone I know. You can see sticks on the ground and suddenly you have a vision of some spectacular weapon design or fort or game–something no one else would see. You dream up games and make believe to play with your sister and your friends. You have a need to always be busy and/or entertained. Sitting and waiting with nothing to occupy you is your idea of a personal hell.

You love the outdoors! You went away to camp for the first time this past summer. It was so hard for me to put my little guy in a van and wave as you went all the way to New York for a week, but you did so well! You were a stinky, tired, happy mess when you came back to us. Since no one else in our family is super outdoorsy, your go-to person is Grandpa. You have helped him up north at his cabin, you’ve helped chop so many logs, you have made fires (and of course, fire food), and gone fishing–both in the summer and in the winter! Last year you and Grandpa made bird boxes that you put on the edge of our property.

You are a gamer. You love traditional “board” type games and you are deeply invested in Minecraft. Anything that works that smart brain of yours–gives you something to puzzle on. Almost every morning at school you start with a game with one of your teachers and often you choose to end the day that way as well. Some of your favorites are Rummikub, Ticket to Ride Jr., Guess Who, and Sorry!

You are a great big brother to Alice–if not sometimes a little too protective and bossy. But you care deeply about her safety. You are good at being a little brother to Eddie as well. You like to play Minecraft with him, but you also bother him greatly, which is sort of the job of a little bro! Sometimes it goes too far though since you two are so very different. You love each other, but there are many times you don’t like each other much. It’s hard for you to remember that Eddie is older and that comes with different privileges and possibilities than you have at age 10. This is where you tend to confuse “fair” and “equal”. And of course, Eddie is at the age where rather than being helpful and gentle with these things, he often huffs and puffs and rolls his eyes at you–making things worse rather than better. But in the end, you are brothers. And no one makes you laugh quite like Eddie can.

You love things to make sense. This is probably why math and science are your favorite subjects in school. You also love PE, music, and art. This year you became a reader! You have always said you hate reading–that being read to is great, but reading to yourself is so boring. And then you found the right books and had a super supportive teacher (all your teachers have been supportive, but your current teacher “gets” you, as you have told us). You found the I Survived series and a few others and you just like to read!

You are growing into such a kind, loving boy. You face enormous challenges with feeling and managing your big emotions, but you work so hard to overcome those challenges. Dad and I feel so much pride when we read your school work or watch you work hard at learning something new.

Best of all, this year you finally got the dog you have been wishing for! Well, we got a dog, but you love Ruby so much that you are totally willing to lay down by her and let her bite your hair and lick your ears all while you just giggle. She is your little buddy and you are her cuddly boy! And true to your word, you will cuddle up to her when you are feeling big feelings and she will love you without needing you to say a word.

Oh my dear boy, you are so very loved. This year of being 10 holds many more adventures and new things for you! Little League season is starting, you have another week of camp this summer, and soccer in the fall–and those are just the fun things we already know about! Who knows what else is in store!

Dad and I love you so much, Charlie Bird.

Love,

Mom Mom

Nine

Dear Charlie,

It’s been three weeks since you turned nine. You have grown taller and your feet have gotten bigger in the past year, yes. But you have grown in ways that most people can’t perceive as well.

The past year has been full of challenges, yes. It’s best to acknowledge that right away. Between trying to do school in a pandemic both virtually and in-person and navigating your mental health with zero in-person options for therapy, it can feel like everything is just a big Debby Downer. But it’s not!

Sure there have been struggles, but I am not here to roll out a list of those. I want you to remember how joy-filled your life is too.

A definite favorite is to do just about anything with our friends, the Visels. Because they were our “bubble” friends during the worst of the pandemic, we spent a lot of pool party time! We also played at their house and ate lots of yummy food prepared by Ben. This year you told me that Trisha is like your Mom 2.0 and you listed Ben as a “safe person” on a form at school.

If we weren’t at the Visels, you were begging your brother and sister to play outside with you. All summer you were in and out of water-related outdoor play. It meant for lots of wet swimsuits and beach towels along with grass clippings all over the house.

Your brain is always moving a million miles a minute. You are always thinking of the next thing to do or to create. Often, you bring your ideas to Grandpa and somehow he can make those ideas into reality in his workshop. The two of you have created a bow (pictured), wooden hatchets, a shield, a sword, a trident, and probably more that I can’t remember.

Oh and you love selling things: art, lemonade, whatever. You haven’t gotten many buyers, but that doesn’t stop you. Related to this: you are terrible at saving money. So bad. As soon as you get money you want to spend it on stuff for Fortnite or take it to 5 Below or buy an app for the ipad or spend it at a garage sale. This past summer we had to hide your money because you were buying literal garbage from the neighborhood garage sales. That didn’t stop you, though. You started hitting up the sales asking what you could have for free. That is when I found you wheeling home a yellow rolling office chair with your bike in the chair: “They asked if my mom would mind. I said you wouldn’t!”

You were mistaken.

But we still have that dang chair.

You love to do things and you do not want to bother with silly things like being clean or picking up after yourself. It seems Dad and I are always trying to get to you to clean up something: your room, the table, yourself. But you just don’t want to be bothered with that. Tidying up is not fun. It is a distraction from what you would rather be doing–the next thing, whatever that may be.

This fall both you and Alice were able to play soccer. You taught her how to kick the ball correctly. She wasn’t as serious about the game as you, but she could at least do all the moves correctly. Recently Little League started up–your first year. You have had two practices so far and you are in love with the game. You are definitely our most athletic kid. Your love of games and competition coupled with your natural ability make it fun to watch you in whatever you play.

You want to do so many things, but it’s hard for you to stay focused to get really good at anything. You want to play the drums someday, so we had you in piano lessons. You loved the lessons, but you had no sit in you to practice or do your theory homework. You want to be able read well, but you don’t have the patience to sit and practice. You want to be a better writer, but practicing makes you insanely mad. Sports are different. You aren’t immediately good, but you will stick with it at practice. You won’t practice at home or with anyone else though if there are other things you could be doing. Recently you were diagnosed as ADHD. In retrospect, this seems like maybe it should have been obvious to us.

Fun fact: If you don’t have to have a shirt on, you don’t. In fact, you are most happy just hanging around in underwear, but since Dad and I insist on pants at the dinner table, you’re preferred clothing is undies and gym shorts…and that’s it. For awhile people wondered if you owned shirts since all my photos of us during the pandemic included you being shirtless.

There is no one quite like you, my Charlie Bird. Your emotions are all BIG. That can mean some explosions, but it also means that you love big too. Navigating those emotions can be really hard for you (and us), but your wit and power of observation make up for it. Your loud chortle when Eddie makes you laugh (like no one else can, by the way), brings a smile to everyone’s face.

I hope you know that you are so so important to us. That we fight every day for you to have a fair shot at school and sports and all the things other kids have. I hope someday you will look back and know that Dad and I did the very best we knew how.

And tomorrow is a new opportunity to try again.

I love you more than you will ever know.

Mom Mom

An Odd Ending

The school year is officially over for all four of us who are academically involved in schooling.

It was…odd.

First, Alice finished pre-school with a drive-thru celebration and one final Zoom with her teachers and her Fish Room Friends.

Certificate that proves she did it!

Honestly, I think Cortney, all the grandparents, and I were more bummed about not getting the cute little pre-school “graduation” celebration than she was. She didn’t know what normally happens. She was all-caps THRILLED to drive-thru the back parking lot and see her teachers and get her art projects and certificate.

This kid is ready for Kindergarten!

I was next. My classes unceremoniously ended on May 29. We did a drive-thru exchange where kids could pick up locker stuff and their yearbook and/or drop off any school/teacher stuff. I volunteered to help at one of the two times we did this. It was fun to see some of my students, but it definitely did not make up for our regular last week of school fun.

The boys ended their school year on Friday, June 5, although to be fair we were pretty much done with school work on May 29. They did a little field day and had some final zoom moments, but they had been done.

On the 5th, however, they put a fork in it. Their elementary school had a drive through summer send off first for 5th grade advancement, and then for the whole school. Well, of course we had to drive through twice–once for each kid!

The 5th grade t-shirt. Also…remember when he was just born? Sigh.
and the back of the shirt
Cars driving through with staff cheering and holding signs. 5th graders got their certificate of advancement and a treat from the PTO
He ate the tassel before realizing his name was on it!
Best 5th grade teacher ever!

Of course we had to drive through a second time so Charlie could sit in the front and be celebrated. It’s only fair. But first I got a couple selfies–one with the newly minted 3rd grader, and one with the rising Kindergartner.

Ready for summer! Then 3rd grade! Look out Upper-El!
Along for the ride…and getting a sneak peek at the awesome staff at her future elementary school!

It wasn’t the 5th grade “graduation” that is normally held, but I asked family and friends to send Eddie a note in the mail and they did NOT disappoint! He got dozens of cards throughout the week, and said, “I am still sad that 5th grade didn’t go how it was supposed to, but this probably wouldn’t have happened if it did, so I am pretty happy.”

We also had a tiny celebration at home that evening.

He picked pizza for dinner and asked to make a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and chocolate chips and homemade chocolate ice cream with me. So we did. And then topped it with chocolate syrup.

That is a LOT of chocolate!

We also gave him a watch as a “graduation” gift. I wasn’t sure what his reaction would be. We wanted it to be something that showed he was growing up and becoming more responsible.

He loved it.

And so, the 2019-2020 school year is over. Summer is here.

The Unquiet Year

2019 has been pretty quiet here on the blog since I finished my cancer treatments. But the year has not been uneventful. It seemed like conquering the Big C would mean everything else would feel simple, right?

Not at all. In fact, I would argue that the rest of what we have been going through has maybe been harder on me than chemotherapy or radiation.

The blog went quiet in October. I never shared the Halloween photos. Or Thanksgiving photos. Or any of the ones in between. My blog is being weird and needs updates that I don’t know how to do, and I’ve been entirely too busy to do it. So no photos. Which makes me sad.

But that is not what has made the first semester of this school year so difficult.

I’ve thought often about how or if I should talk about this, but I found that I would be a massive hypocrite if I didn’t. I spent years in this space talking about the importance of telling our stories about mental illness in order to get help and destigmatize.

But that was my story. This one is not wholly mine to tell. The problem is, I don’t want to wait until it is mine to tell–when it’s too late–to share.

Charlie has been struggling.

It seems my little mini-Cortney has inherited his mother’s brain.

The school year started out fantastic. Charlie was doing so much better than last year in first grade and we were really hopeful that the rough times were behind us. He was playing soccer and participating in school. Around mid-October–when I stopped blogging–he began to slip.

Charlie has gone through lots of testing both by an outside psychological resource and by the school. He has been placed on the autism spectrum with a very hefty load of anxiety. This fall I watch that anxiety trigger depression in my little boy.

I watched, with a broken heart, as my little guy walked the same path I did almost 10 years ago: paranoia that he wasn’t good enough, rage, and even thoughts that life was too hard and it would be easier to quit.

I sobbed with him.

We have taken several steps since then. It’s been about three weeks, but things are looking a bit brighter.

Being on break from school–a place that he loves and hates at the same time–I think will be good. It will give him the opportunity to let some of the strategies and steps we have taken to work without the pressure of school, and then start over in the new year.

As you can imagine, this has been so difficult for everyone, mostly for Charlie. I see Cortney in Charlie in every possible way, and then to suddenly see the worst trait he could have inherited from me take form was very triggering to me. While trying to be the one who “gets” him, I’ve also been falling apart.

Cortney and Eddie have been worried. It’s hard to understand if you don’t have the depression voice whispering lies in your ear. It’s hard to get why just doing your work can be impossible. It’s hard to understand how someone can go from fine to wishing life was over in about 10 seconds. It’s just hard to watch someone you love struggle so much.

Alice, who seems to be unaware, is anything but. She craves attention. Her brother needs attention. She has been seeking it in very screamy, demanding ways. While she doesn’t understand what Charlie is going through, she does understand that he is getting a LOT of one-on-one and “extra” love lately. In her 4-year old eyes, it is not fair.

The worry affects every bit of life. My brain has been completely elsewhere since October and my lesson plans and grading and relationships with students and co-workers and friends and family show that. Even my classwork for my grad class dipped in November. Nothing felt like my best.

The first half of this year saw the end of my cancer treatments. I had radiation burn and a bald head, but I was cancer-free.

Going into 2020 we are holding fast to each other and fighting another illness. Mental illness is just as real and life-threatening as cancer. And we need to be able to acknowledge and talk about them both. We need to advocate for treatments and cures and research for both.

We are extremely thankful for all the resources we have and all the people who have shown up for both me and Charlie and the rest of the family this year. It’s been rough, but we know we are not alone.

Thank you for being part of our team.

Lucky Seven

Dear Charlie,

Six was a tough year, let’s just say it. I won’t say it was terrible because it absolutely was not.

However, you were dealt a pretty raw deal this past year. Less than a month after turning 6, you found out I had breast cancer. Of all three kids, you took it the hardest, but we didn’t know that for quite a while because you kept it all inside.

Eddie asked questions and admitted when things were scary. Alice didn’t understand much beyond the doctors had to cut me and take out something bad and that the medicine made me tired and bald.

You quietly took all of it in and let it bubble under the surface.

Life just got hard, bud. Big feelings with no where to put them and no language to get them out lead to some pretty hard times. We thought starting school would help, but it got worse.

We made choices and sought answers and we are still in the middle of all that. And you have been a trooper. You have done the work that many adults won’t do. We are so very proud of you.

We have learned a LOT about you this year. Some things we already knew, but they grew and developed: you are whip smart, a math whiz, quick-witted, very literal, and extremely logical.

You have strong expectations of what is right and wrong along with when and how things should be done. And if someone does not meet these expectations, well, woe to them. Woe. To. Them.

You can problem solve and build things with various materials like no one else your age. In fact, when you are amped up and melting down, math problems or building things can calm you.

I will be the first to admit that I absolutely do not understand how your mind works. You are different than I am in almost every way possible. But that doesn’t mean I’m not fascinated and amused by you and your creativity!

School is hard this year, but not because you can’t do it. There are just things you do not want to do. Because you don’t really like to talk about it, we are not completely sure what triggers your dislikes so strongly, but we are all working on it.

The tooth fairy has visited often this year. You have been missing a front tooth for like ever now. And it only adds to your sweet charm. A sweet charm you seem to know you possess. One that wiggles you into the hearts of everyone that meets you.

You LOVE to laugh. Despite the roughness of the day, in the end, you just want to laugh at silly things. And no one can make you laugh that deep, chuckle laugh of yours harder than Eddie. You and Eddie have a deep connection. He absolutely do not understand you, but he loves you deeply. He sticks up for you and wants to help you as best as he can. Sometimes you let him. When he tickles you, you pee your pants every time. But neither of you care because you’re laughing so much!

Your sister on the other hand, drives you nuts. I try not to laugh, but she is also so very different than you are. For one, she talks nonstop. For another she wants to play with you and you absolutely do not want her to touch anything that is yours or that you are playing with because she will do it wrong. You have zero patience for her being littler than you. But the minute someone is being mean to her? Look out! Bird rage!

You love things that are soft. I mean, who doesn’t?! But you particularly love stuffed animals and soft blankets and your soft weighted blanket. You love to feel warm and secure. Again, who doesn’t, right? But you love these things more than a typical kid does. You like to be close. You like to cuddle. This has been true since you were a tiny infant you preferred the swaddle or the moby wrap.

You are my sunshine, Charlie Bird. This year, when I told you the story of your birth, you especially like the part when the anesthesiologist played Pearl Jam’s “Given to Fly” while they started cutting to get you out. You thought that was so funny that they played a song about flying and then we called you Charlie Bird.

We are still working to figure you out–to find out how you tick and how we can be the best parents for you. Just because you are different than your siblings, doesn’t mean you are even a little bit less. Not one bit.

You are something special, and I have a feeling that SEVEN is going to be a very good year for you–and us!

Let’s do this together, sweet boy.

I love you more than all the wishes in the universe,

Mom Mom

The Names We Give Them

Edward Steven
Eddie
Ed
Edward Bear
Eddie Bear
Eduardo
Eduarlito
Edster
Bud
Buddy
Budsey
Edinator
Number One
Brother Bear

Charles Thomas
Charlie
Charlie Bird
Bird
Birdie
Bird Dog
Charlie Tom
Buddy boo
Budster
Chuck
Number Two
Birdie Boo
Brother Bird
Middle Child

Alice Katherine
Alice
Alicita
Alice Beans
Beans
Bean Dip
B
Beezus
Beansy Girl
Beanie Boo
Biz
Business
B Girl
Allie Buckets
Pickles
Pickle Pants
Little Sister
Sister Bear

Sluiter Sibs
Sluiter kids
Team Sluiter
Sluiter Crew
Cortney Sluiter Family

Whatever we call them, they are our favorite three people on this Earth.

Photographs by Erin Barkel Photography

Sentimental Teeth

I knew that parenthood would be a series of sentimental throat punches. I knew I would cry at certain milestones. I wasn’t one of those people who said, “who gets upset by a haircut?” I knew those things would get to me.

But there are things that I was not prepared to feel all mushy and sappy about. I wasn’t prepared to look at outgrown clothes and want to hold on to them even though no one would ever wear them again if I did. I wasn’t ready for seeing a small person in a large backpack. And I surely never expected to become attached to teeth.

TEETH. A human body part.

A couple years ago, we found a little box with teeth in it at my parents’ house. My mom said it was one of our (me or my brothers) baby teeth. We were all entirely grossed out. Why in the WORLD would anyone keep those things? Ew. It’s like having a box of human hair or clipped finger nails lying around. WHY?

But then my own children started losing their baby teeth.

When the dentist told us that Eddie had wiggly teeth three years ago, I felt oddly sad. “First ones in, first ones out,” she said to me about the bottom two. I remembered those two teeth coming in. How it felt like we could feel them in his gums forever until one day…pop!…they both poked through at the same time.

When the first one fell out and Cortney Tooth Fairy-ed it, he handed it to me, “Here. I don’t know what you want to do with this.”

I had fully planned to throw it away because it’s a tooth. But I looked at that tiny chicklet tooth…that baby tooth…and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t throw it out, so I put it in a baggie to deal with later. But later turned into more teeth joining it in that baggie. And an index card with the date each fell out.

Charlie lost his first tooth last week.

AND HE WAS ALL CAPS EXCITED ABOUT LOSING HIS FIRST TOOTH. And so was I! It’s a big deal!

But there was that little twinge of sadness again.

Teething was so so so SO hard on Charlie. He suffered forever before those little things popped through. Teething definitely hit Charlie more than my other two. He got all four front teeth almost simultaneously, but not after long-suffering high fevers, projectile vomit and poops that left him with diaper rash so bad it caused his tiny booty to bleed. We had to get a special prescription butt cream for him that cost somewhere around a million dollars (it was like magic though, and definitely worth the cost).

I spend hours rocking him and soothing him through that horrible teething. He’s a tough little dude and bounced back right after those teeth popped through.

So I did it again. After Cortney tooth fairy-ed, he handed me the tiny chicklet tooth and I put a card in the bag with “right, front bottom–3/26/18” written on it. Then I stuffed that gross tooth bag next to Eddie’s gross tooth bag in my jewelry box.

Someday my kids will find them and be all “ewww. mom! Why?!?”

And I’ll probably just shrug and smile and say, “it seemed like the thing to do.”

More Than a Handful

Dear Charlie Bird,

Yesterday you turned six.

Unfortunately I have my grad class on Tuesday nights this semester which meant I was going to not see you all day. That seemed wrong, so we decided to both play hooky from school and spend the day together before I had to go to class. I took a personal day and excused you from Kindergarten. When you woke me up just after 8am, you had already made a list of how we were going to spend out day that included: breakfast, playing megablocks, relaxing and watching TV, meeting daddy at McDonald’s (the one with the play place) for lunch, getting your free cupcake from Barnes and Noble, and baking your birthday cake.

We did all those things and much more. It was a busy day, but we both agreed it was one of our favorite days in a long, long time.

It’s hard to believe that you are six already. Time flies when you are laughing and screaming and loving and pouting. You started this life as such a mellow kid; I should have known you would be my greatest roller coaster.

This past year has brought lots of changes and growing pains for you. Kindergarten has been wonderful and challenging. You have learned a lot very quickly, and sometimes in the exhaustion of all that learning and growth, your toddler needs for screaming and cuddling sneak out. We find out precious little about your day because you keep things very close to yourself. You refer to kids in your class as “the classmate who I don’t sit by anymore,” rather than giving us names. We have to ask very pointed questions if we want specific info, and even then there is a good chance you will flat out not share with us.

You play your cards very close to your chest and prefer not to be a snitch. Not bad qualities, my son. Just not qualities that I am used to since Eddie and I are so different. Where we verbalize literally everything that comes into our brain, you ponder things for a long time before you speak on them. And even then you may not say anything, more like your daddy than your mom mom.

You are still my lightest, pickiest eater. Some days you refuse foods that I know you like. You like control and I think this is a way you can feel like you have control when nothing else seems sure. I worry about this. Thankfully, you seem to go in phases and I have been assured that for your age this is completely normal. And you seem receptive when the doctors tell you that you need to choose healthful foods if you want to be fit enough for sports–which you love.

This fall you played soccer for the first time and loved it! You are already asking when the next season is. This spring you will play baseball, but you wish it was soccer.

I guess you are what people mean when they say “strong, silent type.” You are a tough kid, yes, but your strength is mostly in personality. You may not give much of yourself away–at least not until you warm up–you definitely have your own sense of humor and style. You have a quick wit and a response to everything. Many times it’s unkind since you refuse to be left speechless.

While your personality and stubborn streak are strong, so is your ability to love. You thrive on closeness and touch and still cuddle up very close to me the way you have ever since you were born. While quiet, that does not mean you don’t need the arms of your mom mom. And your lovies. Your bed is a veritable zoo of lovies–each one special for a different reason. Each one fulfilling a purpose for you.

You are clever and enjoy problem-solving. You like to create new games by drawing game boards, making up rules with cards, making our rubiks cube a die to roll for the game, and so on. You are constantly dreaming up things you can create with recycling that is set out for the bin or bits of paper and endless tape. No seriously, you go through tape like you are getting paid per use. We almost gave you some for Christmas so you would stop using ours.

You love to play games with me, daddy, and Eddie (and even Alice in a pinch, but that never ends well), but you are also very content to play alone with your blocks, Legos, and trucks. You can play with play-doh for hours.

You have a hard time with the word, “no,” as I think most six-year olds do. Heck, even adults struggle with a “no” answer. Being told “no” often triggers very BIG FEELINGS that you are still having a hard time finding a positive outlet for.

Even though you still struggle with verbalizing the Big Feelings that overwhelm you, and sometimes the only words you can find are extremely hurtful, there is no doubt in my mind that you feel loved and a part of this family. The other day I caught you singing a little song that both made me smile and laugh:

I am loved.
I am loved.
I am so loved.
I am loved by my mommy.
I am loved by my daddy.
I am loved by Alice.
I am loved sometimes by Eddie.

Even when my mom is stupid.
Even when my dad is stupid.
Even when Alice is stupid.
Even when Eddie is always stupid.
Even when In am mean and bad…

I am still loved.

You didn’t know I heard you, so I kept my giggles to myself. You are trying out words that you know are hurtful. When you yell them, we ignore you. When you direct them at us, we let you know they are hurtful. But clearly, you know that no matter what you do, we love you so very much.

I love you so fiercely, Charlie. My biggest fear is that you will think that you could do something to separate yourself from my love–because you can’t. I know you test this theory often, but I think you have noticed a pattern–one that always ends in a hug and an “I love you, Charlie Bird.”

And that is what it comes down to: I love you. So much. It is hard being your mom at times. I definitely feel like I fall short of being what you need since your needs seem so mysterious. I hope I am what you need. I hope I am your soft place to land and the support that will always been there for you.

No matter what.

You will always be my buddy. My Charlie Bird.

Happy Birthday, Birdie.

Love,

Mom Mom

Snippets of Time

My favorite part of life is catching a little one-on-one time with each of my kids.

Eddie wants me to be happy. He wants to make me laugh. He loves identifying as a book and writing nerd just like I do. Tonight we cuddled up on the couch to finish a chapter in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets before he had to go to scouts. He likes to sit close–it’s the only time he wants to snuggle.

At nearly eight-and-a-half he is getting to be so much fun to have discussions with. He is the perfect mix of innocent naivety and old soul. He asks really, really good questions, and he has amazingly wise theories on things.

Tonight, after Alice was in bed, but before Cortney got home from scouts with Eddie, Charlie and I curled up on the couch and watch cat videos together for a half hour.  He wants to be warm, cozy, and safe. At five-and-a-half he still likes to be carried and held. He is fiercely independent, but desperate to remain my baby boy.

Charlie choose me to read his nightly Just Right Library book to each night. Learning to read delights him in ways that fill my heart. Words are beginning to come alive for him, and even though I went through the same thing with Eddie, it’s like Charlie and I now share a secret of some sort.

He watches and sees all. And knows more than you think he does.

Alice is so girly, I almost do not know how to mother her. She loves pink and flowers and twirling and baby dolls. She is my most affectionate child by far with her hugs and “I love you’s”.  She is also incredibly possessive and bossy.

The other morning, though, she was playing “bad guys Legos” with Charlie’s batman action figure and small Lego vehicles making up stories as she went. She is girly, but not afraid to demand everything her brothers have and do.

She hears every word you say. And will repeat it in context and correctly.

Most of the time they are together in some capacity. Most of the time I am refereeing arguments and breaking up fisticuffs.

But the thing is, these three are amazing little people who really love each other more than anything. And I am thankful for each one of them and their individual personalities.