Skin Color Conversations

This week, unprompted, Eddie and I had three separate conversations about skin color.

Me: Hey, I wonder what Alice will look like.

Eddie: Maybe she will have curly hair!  Maybe she will have pretty brown skin! Maybe she will have blue eyes!

Me: Well, daddy has curly hair and I have blue eyes, so that is possible. If she has brown skin though, I will be jealous.

Eddie: Why? Because you are so peachy?

Me: Yes! Plus she probably won’t have brown skin since neither me or daddy have brown skin.

Eddie: So? Aunt Mackenzie and uncle Dave don’t have brown skin and TWO of their kids do. I like it.

Me: That is true, Eddie. But remember that Kingston and Kyrie were born in Ethiopia and Aunt Kenz and Uncle Dave went on a plane to get them there. They didn’t come out of Aunt Kenz’s tummy.

Eddie: So? They are still a family. I hope Alice has brown skin.

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Eddie (drawing a picture of Santa Claus on our snow day): Mom? What color skin does Santa have?

Me: I don’t know.

Eddie: How do you not KNOW?

Me: I’ve never met him. I mean, I’ve met his helpers at the malls who listen to kids tell their Christmas lists and stuff, but I’ve never seen the REAL Santa. I’m always asleep!

Eddie: Huh. I guess that makes sense. What color skin do you THINK he has? I mean, I need to color his skin here, mom.

Me: I guess I never thought about it. I don’t know.

Eddie: I’m just going to color him tan.

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Eddie (while watching The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That): You know why I don’t like this show, mom?

Me: Why?

Eddie: Because they never say whether Nick (black)  and Sally (white) are brother and sister or just friends.

Me: Well don’t they have different moms?

Eddie: Well, there are two moms, but sometimes I’m not sure if they are in the same house or not. So are they friends or brother and sister?

Me: I guess I don’t know either, Ed. Does it matter?

Eddie: No. But I just wish I knew. Every time I watch this I think about it.

Me: Why?

Eddie: I just like to know what is what!

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I like to have these conversations with Eddie. I know he notices skin color–he has an Indian friend and a Latino friend at school and has mentioned that the three of them all have different skin colors–but we have never brought up a separate discussion about what race is.

The only “race” Eddie knows it the kind you run in.

I don’t shy away from any conversation he has ever wanted to have with me, and I think it’s made him much more open to asking lots of questions. But is this good enough? I want my kids to be socially aware and active. I want them to choose kindness and love over everything else.

So far, Eddie seems to do that and I could not be more proud of him.

First Snow Day

Today Eddie and I are home for our very first snow day of the 2014-15 school year.

This is sort of a big deal because it’s only November 18 and there is over a foot of snow out there…and it’s still coming down. It’s also cool because my school district doesn’t close very often (we are an urban district with city roads that are very well plowed), but Eddie’s closes more frequently (his has a ton of rural roads). So the fact that we have today off together is pretty neat.

When I got the call just before 5:30am that my school was closed, I just figured Eddie’s was closed too. He is not a sleeper-in-er, so I figured this would mean when Cortney and Charlie left around 7am, I would need to get up.

Not so. Eddie was content to snuggle on the couch with the tablet and TV until almost 9am! He came into my room, slid into his daddy’s spot in bed, and put his face close to mine, “Mom? Hi. It’s a snow day!  Can you make me some breakfast?”

And thus started our day.

We watched some TV and had some breakfast.

I did some random things around the house that were bugging me (full sink of dishes, towels needing folding, etc) and Eddie decided it was a good day to put a major dent in his weekly homework.

Seriously. He decided this on his own!

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After he was done with homework, he got out his crayons and paper and the stapler and made a book. He also read all the Kindergarten sight words to me while I worked next to him. Then he went on to the first grade ones.

We had some lunch and discussed the awesomeness of carrots with ranch dressing.

We read some books.

Now he is watching Frosty the Snowman because it’s fitting and I am thinking about taking a shower…or lying on the couch with a book.

This day was a lovely little blessing.

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Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a signed copy of the children’s book, Stand Up!

The Naming

I often get asked how we came up with our kids’ names. People love a good name story rather than “we just liked it” (which, by the way, I think is a totally legit reason to name your kid something).

When I was pregnant with Eddie, we had some criteria we made for choosing names:

1. It had to be something they would be proud to put on a CEO nameplate or use if they became a famous rock star. So it had to be versatile, yet respectable.

2. We wanted to incorporate family into each child’s name.

3. It needed to be somewhat traditional without a wonky spelling (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but after 15 years in education, and a husband with a “unique” name + a unique spelling of that name, we wanted to go “easy” on our kids).

Edward Steven Sluiter

Cortney had the name Edward all picked out since the very first time I got a positive pregnancy test in early 2007, two years before Eddie was born. Edward was his great grandpa’s name, but Eddie is also the name of the lead singer of Pearl Jam AND the legendary guitarist, Eddie VanHalen. So it was traditional AND rock n roll.

Edward Bear is also Winnie the Pooh’s “real name” (if you have ever read the novel, you would know this).

Eddie’s middle name is Steven, which was Cortney’s dad’s name. Cortney’s dad shared a birthday with great grandpa Edward and they were VERY close.

Eddie was baptized on their birthday, August 9th.

Charles Thomas Sluiter

We had no idea what to name Charlie. We discussed his name right up until we sent the text from the hospital after the ultrasound that he was a boy. I loved the name Charlie. The year before we had seen my school do the musical performance of Willy Wonka and I decided I needed a Charlie since Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is one of my favorite kids books.

And as many of you know, we call him Charlie Bird…like Charlie “Bird” Parker, the famous jazz saxophone player.  Which is pretty rock n roll, if you ask me.

Eventually Cortney agreed that Charles/Charlie was the best name for our second son. We chose Thomas as his middle name quickly because it’s my dad’s name and we liked having both grandpas represented in our boys’ names.

Charlie was baptized just a day before my dad’s birthday at the end of April.

Alice Katherine Sluiter

Again this was first a Cortney choice. When I was pregnant with Eddie he told me if we had a girl he loved the name Alice. So did I. Over the six years since that name was first brought up, we have discussed several different middle names, but we always loved Alice as a first name.

Also, Alice in Wonderland! And Alice Cooper! ROCK N ROLL, YO!

We chose Katherine because that is my full name and, again, we wanted to keep the middle name in the family.  If all goes well, Alice will be baptized two days after my birthday at the end of March.

So tell me…are there stories behind the names of your children?

My Favorite Time of Day

He’s looking for me when I walk up, straining to see around the other kids and the tall adults. When he spots me, he smiles and heads right for me.

As soon as he gets within earshot, he starts talking:

Mom do you know what?

Mom, I found a book with George AND Katy No Pockets in it!

Mom, can I look at the book when we get to the car?

Guess what? I was sort of bad at school today, but actually it was a great day I mean.

And guess what? Gionna was the baddest at school today because she laughed at me when I dropped my book box. That isn’t even kind.

And guess what? There is a kid named Brennon who sings “Pharaoh, Pharaoh” with different words. Isn’t that weird? I didn’t tell him it’s weird though.

Hey mom, guess what? This is my apple chart. This one goes up to 100. That number is so big. Actually 1000 is bigger, but I don’t know how to write that yet. But I bet I will soon.

Guess what? I got a coupon for a free pizza because I read every day in October.

And mom? Can I just say something? I was really hoping I could pick a piece of my candy for a snack when we get home.

Hey mom? Can you carry my backpack? This book is pretty heavy and I’m not done looking at all the different illustrators in this book yet. I think Daddy is going to be excited to read one of these chapters tonight.

Mom! You forgot to take all those posters out of your car! I bet you couldn’t carry them all because you didn’t have me and Charlie to help you out like on the other day at your school.

And it goes on.

And on.

AND ON.

I love it. All of it.

Some days I forget that he was a late talker. That he had no word for me until he was nearly three, only two short years ago. Especially when he says things like, “perhaps you and daddy can take turns reading the chapters in my new library book.”

“perhaps”

He kills me every day from the minute I pick him up to the second his dad and brother get home.

It’s my favorite time of day.

Wild Sluiters

Kratt-mania has taken over Sluiter Nation.

The Sluiter brothers are enamored with the Kratt brothers.

It started out innocently enough: Wild Kratts came on after Word Girl on PBS after school while I was making dinner. It was the last “kids’ programming” show of our day before the TV went off or we turned it to the news.

Then I started to notice that the show wasn’t just on, the boys–BOTH of them–were actually watching it. You moms know what I mean here. Lots of times the TV will be on and the boys are only half-watching while they drive each other crazy play with other toys. But the second the theme song comes on, the boys stop what they are doing to watch the animals.

The Kratt brothers keep things exciting and fast-paced so even Charlie gets hooked.

Then we got Netflix. Did you know Wild Kratts is on Netflix?  They are. And Eddie has watched all the episodes so many times he can tell you which ones are “old” and which ones are “new” just based on the way they are drawn.

The Sluiter brothers heart the Kratt Brothers.

I probably don’t have to even explain their reaction when the Kratt brothers sent them plush figures and action toys to play with.

I’ll just say there was jumping up and down and then fighting over who got Chris and who got Martin and who got to play with which creature power.

The boys are already asking for more of the figures and the createrra set. I didn’t show them, but there is also there is also a power suit assortment set. We might have to get that for them for Christmas this year (available at Toys R Us).

We also have the first ever Wild Kratts book, Wild Sea Creatures: Sharks, Whales, and Dolphins! Eddie and I have read it together more than half a dozen times. We are hoping they come out with more in the series, because he wants to get one about bears and lions.

Ok, so I have to know…do your kids watch Wild Kratts? What do they love about it?

Note: This post should have pictures, but my blog is not fully recovered from its case of death. I will add pictures when I can because they are cute.

Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored. I was not compensated for my time or writing. My boys were sent the plush Chris and Martin Kratt dolls, the action figure sets, and book to enjoy. All opinions are our own.

soccer season

Before we had kids, Cortney and I talked about how we would absolutely not push them into a sport or activity that they did not want to do. Yes, Cortney played soccer and I was a band nerd, but we weren’t going to make our kids do those things. We wanted them to follow their own passions and interests.

Of course, I know that both of us always hoped we would have at least one of our children interested in the things we were. I am holding out for at least one band geek–especially a brass player–so when Eddie tells me maybe he would like to play the tuba some day, I am encouraging, but not overly so. I don’t want him to think I will be horribly disappointed if he chooses a woodwind (shudder) or choir (bigger shudder).

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Eddie at 7 months.

It has never been a secret that Cortney hopes for a soccer player.

Cort played since he was very little and all the way through high school. He did some adult leagues before we were married and is hoping to get back into some this year or next.

And Eddie has been wearing little soccer warm-up suits since he was tiny.

He always picked the soccer ball out of the pile.

He always picked the soccer ball out of the pile.

Even though I think he would have hoped for a soccer player with a girl too, I know as soon as we found out Eddie was a boy, Cortney began to think about the day he would help his little guy lace up his first pair of cleats.

He knew this would be a way he could connect and build a relationship with his boy.  Not that he wouldn’t love and support any activity Eddie wanted to do, but this one was special to him.

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Cort even admitted a little jealousy because he never had cleats this awesome.

I was never athletic. I didn’t play any sports. While I was looking forward to Eddie playing soccer because he was excited about it, the Saturday morning games weren’t exactly what I would choose to do. But then I went to his first game.  And not only did I get to watch him be part of a team and love it, I got to hear Cortney cheer for his boy.

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I will admit that Eddie is entertaining to watch because not only does he do a good job (most of the time), but when he does super well–like the goal he scored this past week–he will dance and give the crowd some laughs. I have NO IDEA where he gets that part of his personality.

soccerkick

Right now he plays for the fun of it. He has some natural talent which we encourage, but if next fall comes around and he doesn’t want to play again, we are not going to make him.

He’s already talking about doing Tball in the spring, which we will sign him up for soon.

But for another two weeks it’s soccer season.

It’s hard to believe my tiny guy who liked to roll the plush soccer ball back and forth is finally a big kid who wears shin guards and cleats.  Gone are his chubby dimple hands and feet. They have been replaced by long, lanky arms and legs with kid feet (that stink like kid feet after a game…PU!).

Sports are just another reminder that my boys are growing up. But it’s good. It’s something we have been dreaming about for five years and now we get to see it happening in action.

At least we have a few more years before this one chooses a fall sport.

At least we have a few more years before this one chooses a fall sport.

Whether this is our first soccer season of many or just a one and done sport, it doesn’t matter.  We are helping the boys find what they love to do. And that is most important of all.

 

The Trouble with Kindergarten

Being away from each other all day is not new. Since he was three months old, Eddie has been in someone else’s care other than mine.

Yet I miss him more this year than I ever have.

Kindergarten is way tougher on me and him than I thought it would be. Way.

I think about him all day. I pray for him all night. I wring my hands.

This isn’t how I thought it was going to be.  I figured he would have an adjustment period. In fact, I knew that even though he was used to be gone all day and used to being busy, it would still be a big change. He would have to make new friends and learn a new routine and get used to a new set of rules and expectations.

But I had all the confidence in the world that he would be just fine. He would thrive. He would struggle with being tired, but he would make friends quickly. He’s a natural leader and so kind to everyone.

I wasn’t wrong about his kindness and ability to make friends.

I wasn’t wrong about being confident.

I didn’t expect the tummy-aches and the worrying from him.

Every day at pick up he tells me he had a great day, and he proceeds to talk my ear off the entire ride home. Every night at bedtime he confesses he doesn’t want to go to school in the morning, and he proceeds to cry out his fears and anxieties.

He is going through the adjustment period that I knew he would. This is all normal stuff. I thought I was prepared.

But I didn’t realize how much it would all hurt my heart.

Kindergarten

Dear Eddie,

Today you start Kindergarten.

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We have been talking about it for months. You have vacillated between super excitement to absolute tears of nervousness. Choosing a lunch box/bag was all excitement. As was picking new batman, light up, tennis shoes.

But each night for the past week and a half you have held onto me (or daddy) and cried out your anxiety and fears. Your biggest stress is that you are so afraid you will miss me and daddy. You have been going to daycare your whole life from 7:00am to almost 5pm. You are used to being away from us. BUT you have also had Brooke and Evan with you as your buddies since you were two. They even were in your preschool class last year. Now you have to move on to something new without your besties.

I can see where that is scary.

But Eddie, I know you don’t believe me, but you will be amazing in Kindergarten.  While your fears break my heart because I can so very much remember feeling anxious like that, you are such a wonderful, smart little boy.

You will easily make friends and get to know your teacher, Mr. F, quickly.  You will learn so much this year. You love reading and math and noticing things…you will get to do all those things this year!  And more!  You will sing songs and do crafts and play outside. You will learn to tie your shoes and say your phone number. You will be reading to ME by the end of the school year!

I want you to know it’s Ok to be scared and nervous. Change can be super scary. I’m changing schools this year too, remember. And I’m a little nervous too!  I have taught high school kids, mostly 11th and 12th graders for 12 years!  Now I am going to teach 8th grade. That is a little scary.  So right now? You and I are both starting new schools and we are both nervous.

And it is OK. Because at 3:45, I will be there at the door to pick you up. And we will have an hour together before daddy and Charlie get home where we can rest or have a snack or just cuddle. Whatever you need.

I could say I can’t believe you’re old enough for school and that time has flown and all that stuff, and it’s true, but the truth is, you are ready. You are not a baby or a toddler anymore.  You are a very busy five-year old boy who is in love with learning and playing.

While I’ve been a little wistful (I only teared up once…when they showed that dang video at Kindergarten orientation that said this was your first step toward graduation. Sheesh), I have been mostly just proud.

I love how you hold your head a little higher when you tell people you are going to go to Kindergarten. I love how you look up with me with your proud little smile because you are proud of yourself and you KNOW I am beaming for you too.

You got this, my Eddie Bear. You do.

And I got you. I am here when you need to cry out your fears and anxieties, yes. But I am also here to listen to all the things you have learned and all the fun you have had.

Kindergarten is the start of a whole new part of your life…one you will excel at. One you will CRUSH.

I love you so much, my Eddie.

See you after school.

Love,

Mommy

Off He Goes

Dear Eddie,

When you were  a tiny baby some of the best advice I was given was by your pediatrician. She said, “You can’t make a baby eat or sleep, and you can’t make a toddler potty train until he’s ready. Let him take the lead.”

I’ll admit it’s hard for me to let someone else take the lead. I like to be in charge. When we had you, we were no longer in charge…the little charge we thought we had. You ruled our days and nights. You chose when you would hit your milestones.

You cried and wouldn’t sleep.

You cried and cried and cried.

But when you were ready to sleep, you did.

You decided.

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You still require one of us to lay by you each night after we read with you. You say you an’t sleep without us there so you can feel safe. I’ll take that because I know that one day, you will tell me I can go upstairs. That you’re “good”.

But sleeping in a big boy bed took zero transition.  We brought home a mattress before Grandpa even had your bed made and you requested to take your nap there.  You never went back to your crib again.

You decided.

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It was the same way with your pacifier.

You held onto that thing even when it had holes in it and we refused to buy you new ones.  Then, your friend Evan told you about the paci fairy and you started to think that getting a big boy present in return for turning in your “pipey” was a good thing.

You decided.

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Then came potty training.

We thought for sure we could get you potty trained before Charlie arrived.  You showed interest right after you turned two, and you were doing your number 2’s on the toilet almost exclusively.  Then Charlie came and you stopped caring about underpants or sticker charts or anything.

Until Althea showed up to daycare in big girl panties.  And she is a full year younger than you are. You looked right at Renae and declared yourself done with diapers.

And that was that.

You decided.

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Now you are five. You’ve been riding a bike since you were two. Your grandma bought you a tiny one from a garage sale (ok, the garage sale we were hosting), and you hopped on and took to it like a fish in water.

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For your fourth birthday, we had to upgrade because  your legs grew about a mile from age three to age four.

In fact, we felt bad that you had to wait until almost the end of June because you were really just way too big for your old pal.

033This bike is a much better fit.

In fact, this bike quite easily takes you from our house up the hill to Kaydance and Carter’s house and back again.  It has taken you around the block with us as well.

You love your yellow bike.

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Early this summer, daddy asked you if you wanted to take your training wheels off.  You were a bit scared, but he helped you balance and learn to ride just through the grass.

But riding on the street seemed a little too scary. So daddy raised the wheels as far as they would go, and you kept riding. You weren’t even five yet, so we figured you would do it when you were ready, just like everything else.

Then one day, you came screaming down the hill at top speed on Carter’s bike.

Carter who is a whole year younger than you had his training wheels taken off a month ago.

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Carter came behind on your bike.

Out of breath, you ran up to daddy, “DID YOU SEE ME? NO TRAINING WHEELS!  Can you take mine off too?”

And then off you went.

You decided.

Daddy took them off, gave you a few quick reminders about safety, and off you went. I felt like I blinked and you went from a mushy baby to a kid riding a two-wheeler with the neighbor kids.

I stood there for a second watching you peddle off wondering how it all happened. Didn’t I get some sort of say about when you were ready for things? Isn’t that what part of parenting is?

You are teaching me so much about this parenting gig, Eddie.

You will do things on your own time, when you are ready, and I will always be there to cheer for you.

Love,

Mom

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Recently I was interviewed by Working Motherhood and my podcast is now live!  Go give me a listen!

On Turning Five

Dear Eddie,

Today you are five.

Daddy jokes that you are now a handful as he holds up all the fingers on one hand. You roll your eyes at him and say, “Daaad,” and then give me the look as if to say, “is he serious?” And I laugh because we ALL know you were a handful long before turning five.

You are such a kid now.

Tonight you went to bed in your new spiderman jammies looking less and less like a chubby baby boy and more and more like a lanky kid. Your last bedtime as a four-year-old.

It was bittersweet to hug you and muss up your hair on your way to bed.

I can’t help but think about five years ago–the night before your birth–I was in labor, but I thought it was cramps.  Your dad made me eat a turkey sandwich sometime around 8pm (when you were heading for bed tonight).  That was the last thing I would eat until your were born the next day at 4:51pm.

do you see my face? I just fell in love with you.

do you see my face? I just fell in love with you.

I have been looking through photos of you all weekend. You have changed and grown so much in five years, and yet…in every picture, you are still the same boy. I can see your heart and soul.

your first birthday. Eddie eyes.

your first birthday. Eddie eyes.

your second birthday...I can't believe you are the same age as Charlie in this picture!  You still lean on the table like this.

your second birthday…I can’t believe you are the same age as Charlie in this picture! You still lean on the table like this.

your third birthday. This is you all the way, just smaller.

your third birthday.your signature smile. I love how happy you are.

Your fourth birthday. My little boy.

Your fourth birthday. My little boy.

And now you are five. We had your birthday party this weekend and for the first time invited all your neighbor friends because you have neighbor friends now!  Not just friends that happen because Daddy and I are friends with their parents, but friends you found and love to play with.

my big kid! same eyes. same smile. same sweet, kind boy.

my big kid! same eyes. same smile. same sweet, kind boy.

Sometimes our journey is difficult. There is frustration and yelling and crying.  I hope that is not what you focus on when you reflect on your childhood someday.

I hope you remember the family and friends who love you and surround you on your birthday.

I hope you remember our tradition of going to Red Robin Yum for your birthday.

I hope you remember the birthday cakes that I made from scratch at your request–last year lemon, this year white with strawberry frosting.

I hope you remember how excited I am for each of your birthdays, not because of gifts and cake and balloons (although those are fun), but because it’s a celebration of YOU. Of Edward Steven Sluiter.

Of the day I became a mom, your dad became a dad, and of the day you made us a family.  Your birthday is huge.

It is a celebration of you and of us.

And now you are FIVE.

You can read some words, you like chapter books read to you at bedtime, you think super heroes and curious George are equally cool, and you can ride your bike without training wheels.

You are going to start Kindergarten this year and learn to read and spell and do math.

You are going to start soccer and make new friends.

Five is a big deal, Eddie Bear.

You are a big deal.

I love you so so much.

and never lose your awesome sense of humor. It is my favorite.

and never lose your awesome sense of humor. It is my favorite.

Love forever,

Mommy

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