Always There

This weekend while digging through my purse for some aspirin for a teenager with a headache, I pulled a pipey (pacifier) out of my purse.

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We both laughed when she said to me, “I guess you can’t put being a mom on hold even for a couple days, huh Mrs Sluiter?”

I realized what she said was incredibly true; I am never really apart from my boys.

When we were in Chicago with just Eddie, each of us commented numerous times about things Charlie would like. Eddie even pointed out the fourth seat in all the restaurants adding, “if Charlie was here, that is where he would sit.”

On this trip, I caught myself smiling at things that Cortney would have commented on with an inside joke or one of his dry, witty comments. I saw places I wanted us to go to together.

I thought often of Eddie and how he would have either loved everything about the Rain Forest Cafe or he would have been terrified by all the loud noises. I imagined him seeing Navy Pier and going to the Children’s Museum and loving the BIG BOATS in the bay.

I smiled when I saw the stuffed lions at the Rain Forest Cafe and how Charlie’s immediate reaction would have been to ROAR at them. I said words the way my boys do, even though nobody really “got it” but me.

Before falling asleep I put a pillow on the side of the bed where Cortney would have been so I could roll over and put my butt on it the way I back up to him (he hates it, calls me a bed hog). I also imagined holding his hand as I fell asleep so I wouldn’t feel lonely in that bed alone.

When I woke the next morning my first thought was my three boys back home, and as if they knew that, a text came through with a picture from Cortney of the two little guys smiling over their breakfast plates with a “Good morning, Momma!” caption.

I had so much fun on the trip. While I wouldn’t call it relaxing because we were so busy, teenagers are less needy than little ones, so other than handing out aspirin from time to time, there wasn’t much “mothering” I had to do.  It was a break.

But I was so glad to get home to my favorite three dudes in the whole world.

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And I know they were happy to see me too…even if it was just for the stuffed animals and sombreros I brought home for them.

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You all have overwhelmed me with your gracious kindness that you are showing to me and my students. All the book donations that have come in so far have bumped my sad little classroom library from only 104 books to almost 320!! If you want to take a look at my wish list, you can find it here.

Also at the tail end of last week I found out that an article I co-authored will be published in the Language Arts Journal of Michigan.

And if those things weren’t awesome enough, I found yesterday (Monday) that I have been chosen as one of BlogHer’s 2014 Voices of the Year.

The good is very good.

the unknown dream

In October of 2009,Cortney got laid off from one of the only jobs he had ever had. At the time he had a three-month old baby and a wife who was falling apart mentally.

Those were some dark times for us.

The history of his job is long and complicated, and I’m not really going to go into all that here. But I will say that not having to go to that place anymore was a sort of relief for him emotionally.

Just prior to being laid off, Cortney went back to school for Network Administration (shout out to my computer nerd, yo!). When the lay off occurred we talked about it and decided that no matter what, he needed to stay in school. As it was, he didn’t have any sort of degree and he had to have one to find another job.

That was the start of eighteen long months of unemployment.

Being unemployed was both a blessing and an epic challenge for our family. Looking back, having Cortney home full-time with Eddie for the first year-and-a-half of Eddie’s life was awesome. Christmas break meant we were all home together. Summer vacation had all three of us home. We could take family walks at 10am on a Tuesday if we wanted. My mom took us to the zoo as a family. Even though things were tight, we were able to be together.

Of course, we constantly struggled with how to make ends meet on my pay and Cortney’s unemployment checks, and lived with some harsh judgement from some people who didn’t understand that any job was NOT in fact better than no job. Now that we had Eddie, if Cortney got a job, it would have to be able to pay for daycare and still pay out for it to be worth it to our family.

That is when he made looking for work and getting his degree his full-time job.

Every day when Eddie would nap Cort would hit the books and apply for more jobs.

A year and a half.

I’d like to say we stayed positive the entire time, but that would be a lie. There were many times he felt discouraged and frustrated. There were times when my anxiety hit an all time high. In fact, it was six months into the unemployment that I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety.

But we marched on together as a team of three.

By the grace of God, Cortney and I were never distressed at the same time. If he was down, I would carry him with words of encouragement. If my anxiety surfaced, Cort would remind me that things would work out; we just needed to have some faith.

And three months before Eddie’s second birthday, Cortney found a job. A job he knew. A job he loved.

For about the first year, he tip-toed around waiting for a non-existent “other shoe” to drop. He waited for this job to not be real. He waited…but it just stayed awesome.

No. That’s not true. After about a year working for them, Cort suggested a Craft Brew Lunch on Fridays to go along with the pizza the bosses bought and it became a hit.  So the job actually got AWESOMER.

Exactly a year after he was hired, Charlie joined the family.

This job has been incredibly understanding and flexible when kids get sick or we run into snags with childcare. Cort’s bosses became more than just the guys who called the shots, but guys who he enjoyed working for and with.

Another year went by and there started to be some talk. Talk of a new job. Talk of new opportunities.

"For I know the plans I have for you, declared the Lord..."

As of December, Cortney (and I, I suppose) became part-owner in start-up company with the guys who were his bosses for the past two and a half years.

The company he was working for did installs of trusses (those are the things that make the roof on a building…in case you didn’t know).  The company Cortney was laid off from four years ago built the trusses.  The company he and these three other guys are starting is another company that builds the trusses.

Have I confused you yet?

Cortney’s official position is Co-Owner and Vice President of Sales and Estimating for his new company.

I am so proud of him.  In the short month that they have been accepting bid requests they have been slammed. This is a good thing. Jobs are coming in to be bid which means there is a lot of interest. Again, yay!

In the almost ten+ years that Cort and I have been together, I have never seen him happier or more content in his job. He is enjoying what he is doing.

Better yet, it’s in his blood. Both of his grandfathers were small business owners, and so are many of his uncles. And so was his dad.

I know his grandpas and dad are slapping each other on the back in Heaven over Cortney’s bravery and accomplishments.

I’ve been asked if this is scary to me, and I can honestly say “no”.  I completely believe in this company, in Cortney’s partners, and mostly in Cortney.

We feel like our dreams might be coming true…in ways we could never imagine.

Thirty-Five

When I was a kid, thirty-five seems SO old.  I mean, my parents were that old.  Now I’m thirty-five (actually I am closer to thirty-six), and today, so is my best guy.

Thirty-five.

That number is so filled with…something….isn’t it?  It’s definitely an adult age.  We made it to adulthood, that is for sure. It’s strange to think of us as adults.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were in elementary school and I was watching “the puffy-haired kid” walk home from school to the yellow house on the corner from my window on bus #2.

It seems like both yesterday and a hundred years ago that we were in high school and I plopped down next to you on a school bus headed for Michigan Adventure.  Or that you and Mat were sneaking off to do a 7-11 run without the rest of us. Or that we were loading all of us into someone’s car to head out for a day/evening of Pearl Jam concert bootleg hunting.

It seems like another lifetime ago that we were both at WMU tailgating with the Busschers before home football games and having late night chats on the steps of my dorm. Or throwing darts at Waldo’s. Or playing euchre and finishing kegs.

Didn’t we just turn twenty-one? No, that was a million years ago yesterday.

Weren’t we just falling in love at twenty-five? Sheesh, has it been ten years ago already?

We have celebrated ten of your birthdays together. I’m pretty sure the first half of those was much more exciting than the second half at least as far as celebrations go.

Tonight you will pick up the boys so I can pick up your gift from us.  You will love it.

Then we will go to Red Robin Yums for dinner because Eddie insists that is the birthday place…and he will probably eat most of your ice cream. Don’t worry, I made your favorite brownies.  We will sing to you and it will probably be the most awesome thing ever.  not because it’s fancy or sophisticated or debonair, but because Eddie will be so excited and because of that Charlie will be so excited.  And there will be lots of hugs and smiling.

Because you are thirty-five today.

Let’s take a walk down birthday memory lane…

2006: We had been married a year.

2006: We had been married a year.

2007: you were growing your afro out.

2007: you were growing your afro out.

2008: I was pregnant with Eddie...you were turning 30.

2008: I was pregnant with Eddie…you were turning 30.

 

2009: Eddie was 6 months old and you and Jack started your tradition of celebrating your birthdays together.

2009: Eddie was 6 months old and you and Jack started your tradition of celebrating your birthdays together.

 

2010: Celebrating with your Eddie Bear

2010: Celebrating with your Eddie Bear

2012: Eddie is two...and Charlie is in my oven.

2011: Eddie is two…and Charlie is in my oven.

 

2012: we have officially gotten lame about birthdays now that we have two children. Sorry.

2012: we have officially gotten lame about birthdays now that we have two children. Sorry.

Lucky for you we have your yearly birthday brownies…complete with fun-fetti because that is what Eddie picked out.  I am not sure we even have candles this year…not even melted ones.  But on Sunday you will get a yellow cake with chocolate frosting from my parents…just like every year.

And maybe I will remember to take a picture this year.

Seriously, though…being an adult is so weird. I’m beyond thankful I get to do this with you.

Happy birthday, my love.

 

a {tardy} father’s day letter

Dear Cortney,

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Almost four years ago you became a dad.  You were sort of nervous, if I remember correctly.  Although I was sort of preoccupied at the time, so I hope you’ll forgive my lapse in memory.

Listen, I know.  Father’s Day sucks for you.  I has for almost eight years now.

Father’s Day 2005 was the last time you celebrated your dad while he was with us.  We had been married less than 24 hours and it was pretty emotional since we all knew it was his last one.

After we opened our wedding gifts, we celebrated Father’s Day.  I know it was awkward.  Your mom and stepdad were there as were all my siblings and my parents.  Not exactly a nice, intimate way to have your last Father’s Day with your dad.  I’ve always felt bad about that.

The next three Father’s Days were meh.  We celebrated my dad and your stepdad, but there was always something hanging in the air.  Something big and ugly, while at the same time there was something missing.  A big hole.  It was all just…wrong.  Icky.

Then you became a dad.

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And you were amazing.

You didn’t always know what to do, but you always did what was best.

But Father’s Day still had a lump of ugly.  I tried, babe.  I really did.  I didn’t want you to forget your dad, but I wanted you to feel celebrated.  I know I failed in lots of ways.  Some of that was because I tried to force conversation about your dad.  Other times I was sick and depressed and your day sucked because my brain sucked.  And sometimes I just wanted too much out of the day.  I wanted more than you wanted.

Of course, you became a daddy all over again last year.

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You were much more ready this time.  Much calmer.  You even joked and laughed with the docs and nurses during my surgery.

You still didn’t always know what you were doing, but you did know that it was Ok to not have all the answers.  That everything…and everyone…would be Ok.

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Again you were amazing.

I think Father’s Day got better last year.  I am not really sure why–whether it’s because I am in a better place or because time helps us know each other’s needs better or because I just listened better.  I don’t know.

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What I do know is this…I wish Father’s Day didn’t have to have that piece of suck stuck to it.  I know that won’t ever go away.  It’s hard to watch you smile through the pain.  I know you LOVE being a dad. I also know the biggest hurt in your heart is that your dad isn’t here to see and experience your being a dad.

I know that today, while you loved having Charlie wake you up, having Eddie and I pull in with Starbucks for you, getting gifts that your sons thought of on their own, and having Eddie yell HAPPY…what day mom? FATHER’S DAY, DADDY!

I know you love that Eddie announced he wanted to get you a Flash T-shirt and even though I told him I didn’t think that they would have that at Target, they did.  And Eddie has said, “I told you, mom” about a thousand times since we bought it on Thursday.

But I also know that every time the boys make you smile, something hurts in your heart at the same damn time.

You have no idea how I wish I could make that go away.

I don’t want you to forget your dad…I want him to be here with you.

I know that is impossible, but I am sick of it being impossible.  I am sick of the one thing that I want to gift you to be out of reach.

I am sick of saying “He sees you. He knows.” And I am sick of you having to nod and be Ok with that even though you will never be Ok with that.

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Mostly I am sick of seeing the sadness in the smile.

There should never be sadness in a smile.

I know the sadness will always be there and even though I rage against it because I can’t change it for you…even though I give God stink-eye from time to time, I know too that even though there is sadness, there will also always be the smile.

I strive to make sure there is always a smile in front of the sadness.

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Even if that smile is totally forced because our life is crazy…and our kids crazier.

I love you, Cortney.

I hope the boys and I did a good job of making you smile yesterday.

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He is Now a Role Model

A couple weeks ago, Cortney made his graduation from college official by participating in commencement. I proudly sat in the super hot field house packed tightly on a folding chair between my sister-in-law (bless her heart sitting there all first-trimestery) and a woman who was not tiny who decided to sit sideways in her seat which means her left thigh/butt cheek was all pressed on my thigh all the while a small boy about Eddie’s age sat backward in his folding chair in front of me swinging his legs and bruising up my shins nicely.

I fanned myself with the program.  You know…the program that had this in it:

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We craned our necks and saw him walk in.  One WOO WOO from Cort’s mom and he knew where we were seated, which meant that later, after all the speakers and honorary what-have-you’s when he was up front waiting to walk across the stage, he and I could exchange big stupid grins from across the huge field house.

Normally, the speeches and everything bore me to death, but I sort of paid attention to the commencement address this time (partly because she polled the audience to see how many people actually remember any of the graduation speeches they have ever heard and I could not raise my hand…which is especially sad not just because I sit through high school graduation every single year, but because some of those speeches? I helped write. Oops).

Anyway, the speech.  Her theme was Everything You Need to Know you Learned at GRCC.  It was cute and quirky and she even interviewed specific students to use their anecdotes. It was nice.

Most of that stuff I don’t remember.

What I do remember is that she told the graduates that they learned to be role models.

She, also a community college grad, related to the graduating class about WHY people choose to go to community college:  some for financial reasons…to get those “gen eds” out of the way on the cheap, but many many are there because of a negative reason: nowhere else would take them.

It brought me back to the night Cort got his honors medal.  Each student awarded was able to say a few words upon acceptance.  One beautiful young girl (young to me, she was probably in her 20’s) took the mic and told us that she had all the staff to thank.  She came to GRCC as a high school dropout who had messed up in every possible way, and now she was graduating with the highest honors the college could bestow upon her.

My eyes teared up.

Cort was not a high school dropout, but he didn’t do his best the first time he did college.  He wasn’t focused, he didn’t know what he wanted out of college, and he was just not ready.  He had been an Ok student in high school, but there you didn’t have to have a focus other than finishing the courses the counselors told you to do.  College was different, and after two years in two different universities, he left for the work world.

Five years ago, he and I sat down to talk about how much he hated his job at the time.  We talked about going back to school.

“For what? Sales? I hate my job,” he lamented.

“If you could get paid to do anything, what would it be?” I asked him (as I have asked innumerable students in the past)

“I don’t know. Computer stuff?”

“There are a million ‘computer stuff’ degrees…and those people make nice money, babe.”

And so off he went.  Full of doubt, but focused.

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In the five years that he was in school, he lost a job and gained a job.

He became a dad.

He lost both grandpas.

He became an uncle.

He gained four new in-laws.

He survived a wife with mood disorders.

He supported his family even when he needed to do homework…and he still got A’s.

He became a role model to many, many people, but mostly to our sons.

One thing our family values is education (in case you didn’t notice).  When we did our “priceless conversation” with our will, we talked extensively about the importance of education.  Of knowledge. Of being a life-long learner.

When I was in 6th grade, my mom decided to pursue a dream of hers and went back to school to study accounting.  She graduated from college the same spring I graded from high school.  That has had an enormous impact on me.  It has fueled my belief that you don’t say no to your dreams.  You don’t say no to a thirst for knowledge.

Cortney’s Gram (along with his Gramps) raised eight children, fostered a bazillion, and loved all those kids’ friends like her own.  She played piano and organ for the church.  She owned her own business (with Cort’s Gramps).  To say she was a busy lady is a massive understatement. Yet, she had a passion for learning and, once the kids were grown,  got her Master’s Degree just because she wanted to.  She was most definitely one of Cort’s role models when it came to making the decision to go back.

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Cort almost didn’t walk.  He was done in December and thought it would be silly to walk in May after he had been done for so long.  And for “just” an Associates.

I needed it to be his decision, but oh how I wanted him to walk.

And then his Gram told him, “You will never regret walking, but you most definitely may regret NOT walking.”

So he did.  And he wanted his Gram to be there, but she came down with shingles two days before commencement and couldn’t come.  But Cort’s mom and sister and wife were there.

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And we cheered so loud when his name was called, he admitted that from the stage, it sounded like more than three people.  SCORE!

I don’t really have the words to tell you how proud I am of Cortney.

He is now one of the role models our sons have for strong people who empowered themselves with education.  Who had a thirst that could only be quenched by books and papers and projects and class discussion.  Who wanted something and figured out how to get it.

why yes, I DID make him put this back on for a picture with the boys.

why yes, I DID make him put this back on for a picture with the boys.

We believe education is important.

And we have the degrees on the wall that prove that belief.

We are role models.

complex simplicity

We are always living through something historic, aren’t we?  Every decade, every generation is marked by something that will make the history books be it economical, political, cultural, technological, whatever.

I wish I had first-hand accounts of what my grandparents were thinking as the Civil Rights movement blasted through the nation.  Or my what my parents were thinking during the race riots of the 90’s sparked by the Rodney King verdict.

What went through my grandmothers’ thoughts as my grandfathers were off in other countries fight wars.  What did they think of those wars? What did my parents think of the Vietnam conflict and how my dad ended up not getting drafted?

What about the Regan administration and the War on Drugs and Women’s Suffrage movement and…and…and…

What if my family, my ancestors were story-tellers?

They weren’t.  But I am.  And I am constantly living through history too, and while I have no way of knowing what my boys will wish they knew, I can do my best to give my thoughts and feelings about certain things that are important to me.

I’ve got thoughts on loads of things, which is why I write over at Borderless News and Views. But there are some things that feel personal.  And this is my personal space for personal things.

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So…gay marriage.  That’s a thing right now.  (I suck at transitions sometimes, #SorryNotSorry.)

I’ve been turning it over quite a bit in my head and read some really eloquent posts and wondered if I should even bother with the topic because others have said it so much better.  Some had statistics and a political feel, some had a beautiful, human feel.  Why should I even try?

Because it’s important.

I feel in my heart it’s not “if” but “when”.  I just know that when my boys are teenagers they will hear about this time and ask, “what was the big deal?  How is it not obvious?”

And to that I can only say I don’t know either.

To me, it’s not a question.  We are talking about human beings and giving them civil rights.

We aren’t talking about taking rights from straight people or “traditionally” married people.  We aren’t talking about what is a sin and what isn’t.  We aren’t telling anyone how to live their life.

It’s a simple matter of letting people who have been discriminated against NOT be discriminated against.

Or at least it should be that simple.

But it is not that simple, is it?  People muck it up with complications.  Complications that are, in their hearts, legitimate.  Complications that come from fear.

This entire thing is about fear.

Some people say it will threaten “traditional marriage”.  If “traditional marriage” is the marriage between one man and one woman, I think “traditional marriage” is threatening itself enough, Gay marriage doesn’t need to help with that.  “The Gays” are not making straight people cheat on each other or get divorced after less than 48 hours of marriage or put their kids through crap while they bad-mouth each other in the process of shitty divorces or…well..yeah.  You get it. “Traditional Marriage” and “Gay Marriage” really have nothing to do with each other.

Some people say being gay is a “sin”.  I really don’t know about this.  I don’t believe God originally intended for their to be “homosexual,” but maybe he did.  I mean, I do believe people are born how they are and that we are all born without sin.  So there you go.  But that is just my belief.  It doesn’t matter what my belief is. I could think being gay was a worse sin than murdering all the puppies in Idaho and I would still think they should be allowed to get married.  I mean, I believe jealousy and lying are sins and I fall under both of those categories, yet I was allowed to marry another jealous liar.  So this point seems to be moot to me.

(and don’t get me started on how The Gays shouldn’t be allowed to be parents.  That is both of the above arguments folded into each other with a side of this look: O_o )

Some people are afraid that letting The Gays marry will mean people will want to marry a horse next.  I don’t even know where to go with that.  How do you take two consenting adult males pledging to spend the rest of their lives together and turn it into the lady next door marrying her cat?  I mean really.

Some people are afraid this means we are making churches be Okay with The Gay.  But churches don’t have to perform these marriages.  There is nothing that says, for instance, that the Reformed Church of America has to suddenly make all their ministers perform gay marriages.  Nope.  It means if churches want to do them, they can, but that my friends Mark and Fred can go to the courthouse and get a legit marriage.  No church necessary.

Really I just needed to stop at”some people are afraid.”

That is really what this is about.

I have both gay and lesbian friends.  Spending time with them did not rub “gay” onto me.  I’m still as hetero as they come (which Cort is thankful for, I am sure).

I feel like this is leading to a very cheesy “They’re Just Like You and Me” type message.  Sorry.

My point is I have gay friends. I have gay family.  I have gay students.  I have kids who might be gay (or not) or have gay friends or  inherit more gay family or…or…the point is: gay is here to stay.

Treating them like they are somehow not the same as us is, well, it’s ridiculous. It’s out of style. Seriously.  It went out decades ago when the United States had to tell people that black people (or other races) were not less than anyone else.

These should not even be laws we need to pass (like “allowing” interracial marriage. I mean really? That had to be “allowed”?)   These are not things we should have to say.

People are people.

If you give civil human rights to some, you have to give those same civil human rights to all.

It’s really quite simple.

Wearing read for #MarriageEquality.

Wearing read for #MarriageEquality.

What a Difference

Dear Sluiter Boys,

A year ago we were soaking in our last weekend as a family of three.  I was swept up and covered in emotion the whole weekend.  I remembering wishing I could memorize each saying and giggle of Eddie’s.  I wanted to watch him sleep and bury my nose in his hair.  I wanted to somehow record the feeling of Charlie moving his foot or turning to his side so I could re-feel it long after he left my body.  I wanted to grasp tightly to the small moments of Cort being a daddy to Eddie, an almost-daddy to Charlie, and a husband to me.  Those moments were so precious and he busied himself making preparations so we would all feel safe and loved during the impending upheaval of everything we knew to be our normal.

I was inside my own head a lot that weekend.

Charlie, I often wondered if you could feel my nerves and anxieties since you were rolling around in there with them.  Each time you kicked and tried to move around in your ever-shrinking womb nest, I was reminded that you would soon be here taking up so much of all of our attention.

Eddie, I worried about you, my sweet #1 son.  Would you be Ok now that you weren’t the Only?  Would you love your brother as much as it seemed like you already did?

Cortney, you had worked so hard for all of us, and I knew you were going to have to keep working so hard.  Would you resent me or Charlie?  Would you grow frustrated and discouraged?

March 12, 2012...the night before

March 12, 2012…the night before

I was just so excited to have my Charlie out of my ribs tummy, and into my arms, but at the same time I will never forget the fear that everything would go wrong.

I should have taken the unseasonably warm weather as a good sign.  A sign of growth and renewal.

the weekend before...tulips start to shoot up in the unseasonably warm weather

the weekend before…tulips start to shoot up in the unseasonably warm weather

It was hard for me to watch you, Eddie, in those days before.  You knew you were getting a baby brother out of my tummy, but you went on with your days as if nothing was changing.  You were too small to have the fears to worry about what was to come.  It doubled my worries.  That because you didn’t see this HUGE change ahead, you would suffer more.

Three days before your baby brother arrives.

Three days before your baby brother arrives.

Everyone told me it was normal to be worried…and even afraid.  Afraid my heart wasn’t big enough for TWO boys to love.  I already loved you so much, Eddie.  To the moon.  How could I possibly love another little boy like that?  Would I be enough for both of you?

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Little did I know that my heart was about to grow about a thousand times bigger.  That not only would I love you, Charlie, just as fiercely as your brother, but that I would love Eddie more and you more because of how you love each other.

playing cars with Charlie about a month before his arrival.

playing cars with Charlie about a month before his arrival.

I don’t remember when your uncle Chris was born, but he and I are the same age spread as you boys.  Watching the two of you now, I like to think that I loved Chris as fiercely as you love Charlie, Eddie.  At least I hope I did.

I can’t believe I was ever worried.

Everyone told me the gift of a sibling is the greatest gift you can give a child.  I didn’t know if I believed them.  Everything seemed perfect the way it was.  I felt daddy and I were selfish for wanting another little human.

Except, once you were here, Charlie?  It was quite apparent that the greatest gift we have given Eddie was you.  If Eddie made us a family, you made Eddie a brother.  That is a huge thing, Charlie Bird.

Playing cars with your brother within a week of his arrival.

Playing cars with your brother within a week of his arrival.

I don’t really know where I am going with this letter, guys.  I’ve just been thinking a lot lately about Charlie’s first birthday coming up.

Charlie, I can’t believe it’s been a year.  Seriously.  This year has flown by in ways I didn’t know were possible.

And Eddie, I can’t believe I ever underestimated your ability to love your brother so much.  You are his protector.  You are his comfort.  You are his laugh-maker.  You are his Eddie…his “dee dee dee”.

I look back at a year ago and can’t hardly believe that the life we had before the Bird was real.  That it happened.  That Daddy and I lived our lives and you both were just…not.  That seems impossible to me.

Tonight I watched the two of you.  I rattled off “Be careful of your brother” and “Don’t hit him with your jammy pants, Eddie!” and “You can’t play Wii until you put on underwear” and “Bird!  No licking the couch!” all without thinking about it.  Like I have been commanding these things of my sons my whole life.

My sons.

I have sons.

Daddy is a Daddy and I am a Mommy and we have sons.

Goodness what a difference a little ole year makes.

What the Kids Eat

Usually on Saturdays I try to share a recipe we loved during the week.  Well, this week Cort was pretty much in charge and so we had BLTs and Grilled Cheese and a new recipe he tried (it was good!), so I don’t have pictures or a recipe to share.

But I thought it would be fun to share what my kids eat lately.

For the most part, they eat what we do for dinner.

But there are things that Charlie can’t have yet and things Eddie will try, but won’t eat to being “full”, so we add extras with their dinners to ensure that they get a complete, healthy meal.

This is a typical dinner for four on any given week night…

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I made loaded potato soup and bread.  Eddie is not a soup fan, and he has issues with the texture of potatoes (he’s that one kid who hates mashed potatoes.), so he had nuggets that night along with strawberries, carrots, and a mixed fruit cup.  Pretty sure he ate it all.  That’s his favorite meal.  Charlie had cereal mixed with some sort of pureed food.

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I have been blessed with “good eaters”.  When Eddie was Charlie’s age, he ate everything we gave him.  And lots of it.  Our friends and family who were not blessed with “good eaters” would sit in amazement.

Eddie is still a pretty good eater.  He says he doesn’t like things, but generally it’s not true.

Above is a typical weekend lunch: mac n cheese, organic yogurt, a muffin with organic butter, and peaches.  He probably ate it all.

Charlie has recently decided that at 10 months he is clearly too old and cool for baby food and pureed mush, so he eats what we eat now too.

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Here he has turkey, apple, peas, and carrots.  I distinctly remember he ate it all and then was mad that there wasn’t more.

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Lately we’ve been giving him some of what we have as long as it doesn’t include things (like dairy or nuts) that he is not supposed to have.  This particular night I made a chicken casserole with stuffing and green beans in it.  You can see Eddie had the casserole supplemented with watermelon, peaches, and a cheese stick.  Charlie had the chicken, green beans, and stuffing too, but I put it on his plate before mixing it with the heavy cream stuff.  And I gave him some peas and carrots and peaches too.

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Most of Charlie’s intake is still bottles, though.  He drinks four bottles a day that are anywhere between 6 and 8 ozs.  Although he is so independent that he doesn’t want to be held and fed anymore…other than his last bottle before bed.

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Oh…and we do dessert in this house!  Charlie’s dessert is usually a graham cracker, but if he is lucky, Mommy or Daddy will give him a bite of our treat.  He is particularly partial to apple pie.  Eddie is having a Lemon Cheese cake bar with some ice cream.  That must mean he ate all of the required “bites” for dinner that night.

We strive to have healthy meals together.  Now that Cort is done with school, we sit down as a family almost every single night.  It used to be about 3 out of 7 nights, now it’s closer to 7 out of 7.

My favorite part of all of this is when Eddie, with a mouthful of food, looks at Cort or me and asks, “So. Did you have a great day?”

That is what family dinners are all about.

And Now One for the Ladies…

According to my blog stats from last week, you all love the posts about this guy:

It's the dimple and the close shave, isn't it?

It’s the dimple and the close shave, isn’t it?

Ok, so the shave isn’t quite so close anymore since he shaved in the morning and this picture was taken in the evening, but that just makes you like this guy more, right? Burly.

I wish you could smell him after a shave. It’s…yummy.

Too much information? (Sorry, mom!)

Anyway, he is a die-hard Gillette user.

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He says he likes it because “it’s the best a man can get.”

I kid.

Really he picked it because he was sent one in the mail back when he turned like 16 or something and he has been using it ever since.  In his words, “I never had a reason to change.”

 I asked him why he picked the shave cream too…I mean, he appears to be a living ad for Gillette.

“I have used the creamy kinds before, but the gel kind protects better. It’s smoother with less nicks.”

I asked him if he picked the smell for any reason and he said, “that’s the smell it comes in. I picked the sensitive skin gel and that is the smell I get.”

Hear that ladies…sensitive skin.  Sensitive skin on a sensitive guy.

Just step back with your drooling.  He is taken remember? By ME!

I must also interject here that in a pinch, I have used his shave gel on my legs.  And while I ended up smelling quite manly, I also had super smooth legs with…you guessed it…no nicks.

Win.

I realize this probably sounds like an advertisement for Gillette. And to be honest? It is.

But let me tell you why.

Because P&G eStores have some super fantastic deals going on right now like…

  • 15% off on a first-time order from a new customer, using promo code: A9Z-MN5-KY3-ISA
  • Free Shipping on orders over $25.
  • Free Samples with every order.

They also have this thing where you can buy bundles and save BIG TIME.

For instance they have one called For Daddy’s Kissable Face Cruisers Bundle where you get a big huge box of diapers and Gillette products for under $60.

They also have a bundle with Pampers and various sizes of Duracell batteries called Power Xmas Day Fun Swaddlers Bundle for under $40. Um. This is PERFECT for our house!

You can tell I am a fan of any bundle that has “Pampers” with it…ahem, Charlie.

Want something for yourself?  Get the Simply Beautiful bundle…mmmm. Olay products. LOVE.

More deals for you on products I know are great (because I have bought and used them myself)…

  • Oral B products (we have the power toothbrushes and love them. I tend to brush too hard and brush the enamel right off my teeth if I don’t use my power brush)
  • Olay products (I am partial to the body wash, but really I have not ever bought anything I did love with the Olay name on it)
  • Cover Girl products (I use Cover Girl lash blast mascara…even though I have tried all the pricey make up counter brands, I always come back to this.  I have long lashes and have a hard time finding some that won’t clump…and this doesn’t.)
  • Downy Unstopables (I got this free from P&G at Blogher11 and LOVED the way it made our laundry smell.  When it’s on sale or I find a deal like this one, I splurge and get it)
  • Gillette (duh)
  • Duracell (this has always been our battery of choice.)

Happy shopping!

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Legal stuff: This post was sponsored by P&G and BlogHer. I was compensated for this post, but all my opinions are my own. I chose to ONLY share the brands they carry/have deals on that I have really tried and love. I wouldn’t lead you guys astray…promise.

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I have a post up today at the US BabyHuddle site about how we are attempting to avoid the Holiday Gimmees with Eddie this year.

he did it

I guess it’s been around four or five years now since the time I got sick of listening to the same complaints over and over about his job.

He was so unhappy and it was falling over into our home life.

It had started to go downhill after his dad died in 2005, and by 2008 it was getting tougher and tougher for him to leave work and all the crap of it at work.

As I was finishing up my Master’s Degree in the spring of 2008, I said to him, “Why don’t you go back to school?”

“For what? Business? Sales?”

He was thinking narrowly about getting better at a job he hated.

“What if you could do anything?  Anything at all.  Seriously. If you could get paid to do anything what would it be?”

He didn’t have an immediate answer, but after some thinking he said, “something with computers.”

I had a feeling he would say that since he had always been the resident “geek” in our family and group of friends.  He was self-taught so far–tinkering with old hardware and figuring out how to fix all of our gadgets by himself.

“Babe? That is totally a thing, you know.  Like a well-paying thing. You could totally do that.  Go to school for a degree in nerd…I mean computers.”

He smiled. “I’ll think about it.”

(He’s not a spontaneous decision-maker.  Which is good, because I am.)

That fall I was knocked up and Cort was taking his first college classes.

He was also laid off from the job he hated and never had to go back (Thank you, Bernie and Justin, for the job he now has that he enjoys!).

It’s been four years since the end of that first semester.

Four long years of Cort gone a number of nights a week.

Of weekends spent on homework.

Of worrying about grades and due dates.

Of arranging pick up from daycare.

Of needing evening babysitters when his class schedule and my work schedule overlap.

Of saying “no” to things we would like to do because Cort has class or homework to do.

Of solo-parenting Eddie…and then also Charlie…while daddy is gone.

Of doing everything we can to help Cort not just succeed, but do so brilliantly (can you say Dean’s list EVERY semester?)

He has been working toward this for more of our life together than not.

My only regret about the past four years is not looking into when the college held commencement.  They do not have a winter ceremony, therefore Cort has chosen not to walk (he feels like it will be weird to come back and walk in May, and I have to say I sort of agree with him).

I wish he could put on that cap and gown and walk across that stage.  He deserves it so much.

I wish I could tell you how proud I am.

At 18, he entered the university where I was.  He had no direction and no idea what he wanted to do.  Not surprisingly, he was distracted by other things and failed.

The following year he entered the university where his girlfriend was.  And again failed because of lack of direction and motivation.

He decided he wasn’t college material.

He was only partially correct.  He wasn’t college material then.

He had no motivation or direction.

But this time he did.

He surprised himself over and over with his grades, his study habits, his writing skills.

And I beamed.  Because I knew he could do it.  To watch him prove that to himself is a joy I can’t really put words to.

He has a tendency to be humble.  To push attention off himself…even when I know he feels good about what he has accomplished.

(From what his mom tells me, he has always been a spotlight avoider.  I do not understand this behavior! Ha!)

I asked him what he wanted to do to celebrate.  He wanted nothing.

NOTHING.

Nothing???

I don’t do “nothing” when it comes to an achievement like this.

So because he doesn’t have a stage to walk across or a cap and gown to put on (I did offer one of mine to him to just wear around the house or maybe to the office.  He declined.  Such a weirdo.), I decided to have a little get-together.

Just our family.

Just some appetizers.

No gifts or banners or fanfare.

But he deserves to be recognized for all his hard work and accomplishments.

For the TWO associate degrees he earned in the past four years.

Cort? I am so proud of you. So SO proud.

cort

Yeah you, good-looking.

Way to go.

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