The End & The Beginning

I hit “post” on all my grades by noon today, thus closing the book on the 2017-18 school year. My 15th year of teaching is in the history books–all in the same district. I taught 11 years of high school and now 4 years of middle school.

And in case you can’t tell by that photo, it was over 90 degrees in my classroom this morning. So sweaty.

Usually I work like crazy so I can get out with the kids and go have lunch/drinks with colleagues. This year I didn’t do that. I did finish up my grades really quickly, but I decided to use my afternoon to organize and straighten my classroom library–something I usually come in and do the week…or a couple months…after school gets out.

This summer is going to be different. I don’t know that I will ever really feel like coming in to do all that lifting and work, so I did it today.

Usually I’m all, “WOO OOO OOO SUMMER!”

Not today. I walked out of my classroom today with a heavy sigh. Yes, I was ready for the school year to be over. I mean, we have been in school since August 20! But closing my classroom door for the last time means it’s time to turn and face the next adventure: chemotherapy.

Honestly? I’m finding today rather tough. I don’t want to move past today, but I don’t want the school year going any longer either.

I feel like I could crawl into bed and sleep for days, but I also don’t want to because when I wake up, I’ll have to face the music.

Some days are tougher than others in this waiting game for it all to start. I worry a lot about the pain, the sickness, and the inability to function. And I think about my hair a lot.

I told a few teachers yesterday that 90% of the time I feel pretty good about everything. Well, not “good,” but at peace. Today is part of the 10%. I’m not in fully meltdown and cry mode, but I feel crabby and lacking in the joy department.

I’m thankful that the school year is over though, because it means I can slow down a bit.

The Good Stuff

It would be easy to fall into a pit of despair with the anxiety of the impending chemo treatments and the pain/challenges they will bring. However, that is not how Sluiters like to live, so we are trying to find the good stuff and dwell on that.

And there is a LOT of good stuff.

From fun at home to chilly minor league baseball games (Go White Caps!), we have been trying to make fun memories during this time…I mean, it’s the time of year for fun memories anyway, right? But Cortney and I absolutely do NOT want our kids to look back and see only darkness surrounding my diagnosis and treatment.

The boys are both playing baseball this spring. Eddie is doing Little League for the first time. He doesn’t love it as much as coach pitch ball (lots more games and more pressure), but I know he does have some fun.

Charlie is doing coach pitch for the first time and doing great! He is loving being part of a team and learning the sport. Plus he’s fast…when he doesn’t have his hands in his pockets!

We have been able to hang out with family and see parades and just play.

We have tried to work treats–like the ever-elusive McDonald’s meal–into our weeks as well. Our kids tend to find the funny in even that!

The kids can actually play nicely together when they really want to. Charlie has taught (I’m using that word loosely) Alice how to play games, and they spent almost two hours this past weekend playing with the sprinkler and the sandbox.

The boys had swimming lessons and Alice helped me make Eddie’s birthday brownies for school (he has a summer birthday, but still likes to take a treat).

We have been blessed to spend a ton of time with friends too. Over the holiday weekend the kids jumped on their friends’ new trampoline for almost four hours! And on Memorial Day we were able to have a family fun date to our local splash pad and share a meal with friends as well.

Eddie has been creating a million comics and Charlie has started making me books–it’s his way of working through what is going on with my impending treatment.

Things aren’t always all roses and rainbows, but they aren’t all gloom and doom either. We are doing our best to keep things as normal as we can around here which means a certain level of ridiculous needs to be maintained.

There are times it feels like a struggle, but I think we are doing okay. Better than okay even.

Treatment

On May  15 I got my pathology report back.

My cancer is in remission because they believe they got it all out. However, one of the three lymph nodes they took out to biopsy had a bit of cancer in it. This means I will need chemotherapy in addition to radiation to make sure the cancer does not come back.

As I said in my last post, we have been processing this news and it’s been causing some anxiety for me. This past week  Cortney and I met with my surgeon and oncologist to discuss what my treatment will look like.  The recommended plan is 16 rounds of chemo followed by radiation. Because my oncologist is extremely thorough, she told me about all the testing I could do to predict if the cancer would come back, but ultimately it is her recommendation (and that of the tumor board they took my case to), that no matter what the testing said, because I was so young, they all thought chemo and radiation were my best bets for it not relapsing.

I trust my doctors.

This means I am looking at getting a port surgically put into my chest on June 8. The first four rounds of chemotherapy will be a dense dose and be the “worst” as far as making me feel like garbage. They will start on June 13 and be every other week through the end of July.

Starting August 8 I will have weekly chemo sessions of a non-dense dose that are supposed to ravage me much less than the first four.

I’ve had lots of questions about losing my hair. working, continuing my PhD program, and what people can do to help. I’m going to try to answer some of those here.

Hairy Stuff

I’m going to lose my hair.

I’ve had a TON of people suggest something called cold capping that basically freezes your scalp during treatments and can save up to 80% of your hair. After consulting with various docs and nurses who have witnessed it, people who have tried it, and trusted cancer websites, we have decided that it won’t be worth the cost or extra trouble for absolutely no guarantee.

Serendipitously, after Cortney and I decided this, two separate people affirmed my decision in powerful ways. One was a very close friend whose mother had gone through the process when he was a teenager, and the other was the wife of one of Cortney’s business partners who just went through it all.

Both mentioned it being a ton of work that I wouldn’t want to deal with plus extra time at the treatment center, but they also–without knowing each other–said to me that my bald head is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. That this is part of my journey and it is my badge of survival. It is powerful.

That struck a deep chord with me, and basically affirmed our decision.

My hair is something I love. My salon visits have become my steady form of self-care since I began therapy 8 years ago for depression and anxiety. My daughter loves my hair. My sons are afraid of me looking different.

But in the end, it really is just hair. It will grow back.

Teaching and Treatment

I am absolutely going to be back to school for the 2018-19 school year. However because I will need weekly chemo treatments, I will be taking every Wednesday off for the first marking period (at least). This means I will miss the first day of school which happens to fall on Wednesday, August 22. My principal could not have been more supportive. He told me we would try to get the same sub every Wednesday so the students had some consistency. He even came up with the brilliant idea for me to create a video to show my students the first day of school explaining everything and then having them write to me.

I work with the best staff in the world as well. Because my co-teacher and I are the best team in the world, she has been invaluable this year as I was out for surgery. My fellow 8th grade teachers have all been supportive and kind and helpful. The staff sent me an awesome basket after my surgery for Mother’s Day that included snacks for the whole family. I am eternally grateful for the love I am surrounded by at work, and I am so thankful I can stay a part of the team.

PhD Program

After consulting with Cortney, my doctors, a friend who went through cancer treatment while getting her PhD, my grad school director, a trusted professor who is like a mentor to me, and a friend in the program, I have decided to go ahead and still take a class this fall. There is an elective available that is a hybrid class (online and meeting only 4 times) which seems like it was dropped in my lap for just this reason. All of the required courses are on campus (which is an hour commute one-way), so the fact that this one is not only a hybrid, but meets closer to where I live is almost too perfect to pass up.

I was also reminded of how lucky I am to have such a compassionate and understanding grad program. They want me to be successful in my program. And honestly, I can’t not at least try. I don’t want to put it off and look back and think, “I could have done it.”

I have to at least try.

Part of doing my PhD is that I want to have the option to change my career to university-level teaching. But another part is to show my own children that we can do hard things, and it doesn’t matter when we do them in life. We can look at a challenge–even an ENORMOUS one–and tackle it.

Ways to Help

This one is hard for me to answer. For one, I have a hard time accepting help for myself. Secondly, I really don’t know yet. I can go on what people (docs and other survivors) have told me, but my journey will be individual and I honestly don’t know yet what we will need.

Cortney is going to try to be at as many of my chemo treatments as possible. June and July will be rough from what is predicted. We are going to try to get a little more organized with food that people want to bring. For one, my kids are picky and weird. Secondly, I like to prepare meals for my family and will be able to do so sometimes, but not always. When we have a better idea of when the meals would be most needed, we will put something together.

I have more books than I can possibly read, I have Netflix and Amazon Prime, I have someone who cleans for us every other week. Cortney enjoys getting groceries. We have grandparents and daycare and (hopefully) playdates for the kids for when I am feeling unwell and can’t parent so well.

There is just so much “wait and see” about how I feel and what we need. It’s stressful for me because I really want to plan everything out and have things set, but that is not possible with this.

So the most you can do right now is continue praying for us–all of us. It’s affecting all of us in different ways depending on the day. Sometimes Cortney and I feel like we are in a good place with all of it, but the boys are falling apart. Other times the boys almost forget about it, but I am having a meltdown about how this can’t be my life.

As it approaches, we just want to feel strong and ready. We want to feel like we are making the right choices for our kids and each other.

Chemo starts on June 13 and will be done in October.

Four months.

Processing

Cortney and I have gotten TONS of messages of love and support over the past 48 hours and we are so grateful. I had therapy yesterday as well, and when asked how we are doing with all this, I just nod slowly and say, “Ok. We are processing it all yet.”

The culmination of a day of ALL THE PROCESSING resulted in a major ugly cry meltdown on my part at bedtime. Cortney held my hand the whole time. He let me fall apart, so (as he says) we can start building it back up again.

I’ve been having problems sleeping, which if you know me means this is something that is really giving me anxiety. I love my sleep and can usually fall asleep any time, any place. Charlie’s answer to what his mom loves on his Mother’s Day sheet from school was, “books and naps.” The boy is not wrong. So when I lose sleep due to a racing mind, well, it’s serious.

I had cancer. It’s gone now, but I need treatment to make sure it doesn’t come back.

Cortney and I have an appointment next week with my surgeon and oncologist to map out what that treatment will be and what the schedule will look like, but simply it’s going to be chemo and radiation.

Chemotherapy is exactly what I was hoping to avoid.

When they went into surgery we thought the only tumor was in my breast, but because there was a speck of a tumor in my first lymph node (they took three, two were clean), it changes the treatment from just radiation, to chemo and then radiation.

In the spirit of being open and honest: I am having a hard time with this news. Like seriously struggling.

People are saying all the right things (and a few of the wrong things, but that is Ok too. They’re trying), but I am grieving a lot of things right now.

I know the list of “At least you’s…” Trust me, those are what keep me getting out of bed.

I have the best possible partner in this life. The best.

My kids are great. I worry about them, but they are magical beautiful little weirdos that I am in love with.

I work with the best staff in the world who are so supportive and loving.

I have an ENORMOUS community of support and love.

I have women who have walked this arduous journey before me who are holding me in their hearts and literally holding my  hand.

My family–gosh my family. I have siblings and sibling-in-laws and parents and parent-in-laws who give and give selflessly out of love and support and concern.

I am one of the luckiest women in the world and that does NOT escape me.

But I am still struggling. I’m still processing.

One minute I feel like a warrior who is ready to pump those chemicals in and give myself that NO MORE CANCER “insurance”.

The next I am a weeping ball of snot because I feel like it’s all not real, and this can’t happen to me, and that I can’t do it.

I love my hair and all the time and product that goes into it. It’s not the most fabulous hairstyle, but it’s mine and I love it. I love my salon visits–they have become my self-care that is scheduled and part of my mental health management. It’s the thing we splurge on to make me feel good.

I’m going to lose my hair.

But I know I can do it.

But I’m struggling too.

It’s all part of the process.

I hate this process.

Correction

I have cancer.

Correction: I had cancer.

On March 22, I had my first mammogram. They called me back because there was some dense, weird-looking tissue in my left breast they wanted a second look at.

“Don’t freak out,” I was told. “About 1 in 5 women get called back after their first mammogram because we don’t have anything to compare it to.”

I showed up completely not freaked out on the morning of Friday, April 6. They redid the mammogram.  Then they took another couple pictures.

Then they wanted an ultrasound.

Then they were ultasounding my armpit and that is when I knew–they found something they didn’t like. Why else would they now be looking in my armpit–where my lymph nodes are? I started to mildly freak out.

Eventually the radiologist (to this date the only person who had any part in my care that I have not liked), came in and told me that they found concerning tissue and that it needed to be biopsied. I started to sweat.

When the radiologist left the room, a nurse stepped forward and hugged me and I began to cry. She held my hand and said, “do NOT worry. We will take good care of you. We will get this all taken care of. YOU. WILL. BE. FINE.”

I am so grateful for her.

For those of you who don’t know, we live in a part of Michigan that has some of the top medical professionals in the country concentrated in something called the Medical Mile about a thirty-minute drive from my house. The cancer center was able to get me in that same day for a biopsy.

The doctor who did my biopsy did a good job of preparing me for the fact that it looked a whole lot like cancer. However, she also told me that it was so very small–that it was incredibly lucky that I had my mammogram and found it this tiny. I could have hugged her, but she had needles in my bewb, so that seemed inappropriate and a little dangerous.

The results came back the following Tuesday during my planning hour as cancer. I was expecting it. I think Cortney and my mom took the news a bit harder. My first question to the nurse who called with my results was, “now what? What do we do to get it out of me?” She gave me a few options and I told her I would talk to my husband and call her right back.

I called her back 8 minutes later. I don’t think she understood that I mean I wanted to get the ball rolling NOW.

By the time I had taught my two afternoon classes, a call came back from the surgeon I requested to be referred to: they had assembled an entire team for me and could I meet everyone in one big appointment in a week and a half?

Hell yes, I could.

So we met the team on April 18. I met my surgeon, my oncologist, my physical therapist, a nutritionist, and some nurses. All badass women ready to get this cancer out of me.

Because my grandma and my aunt on my dad’s side both had the same thing (only they were about 25 years older than I am when they were diagnosed), I qualified for genetic testing. On April 30, I did that. I chose the largest panel of genes to be tested because A) it used the same amount of blood as the smaller panels and B) it all cost the same. Why not get as much information as possible, right?

While we waited for the results, my surgery was set for May 10.

Genetic results show absolutely no genetic mutations that would increase my risk of breast cancer or breast cancer-related cancers. This means there is no increase risk of reappearance or spreading. This meant lumpectomy was still the best choice and there was no need to remove my breasts at this time.

And so May 10 arrived, and I had my own correction: a tumor and three lymph nodes removed. Cancer Corrected. Hopefully.

Next week Wednesday we have an appointment to discuss treatment options to make sure this cancer does not come back. Those treatments are scarier to me than the surgery was. But it is what it is, right?

I’m fine.

I will continue to be fine.

I’m just an emotional patient right now who wants to get back to her life as quickly as possible and put all this behind me and my family.

Because through all of this, it is Cortney and my kids who I worry most about.

We Move Along

When everything is wrong, we move along

Since turning 40, a lot of wonderful things have happened. But one big ugly not wonderful thing happened too. I am not yet comfortable bringing all to the public, but our close friends and family know.

What I am comfortable saying is that we are moving along. Our family is getting through it. We are strong.

And that is all because of the kindness and love that has been flowing over us this past month as we bring more and more friends and family into the know about this dumb thing that is happening.

It has felt, at times, that absolutely everything was wrong.

But we didn’t let that feeling last because it wasn’t true. One ugly thing was wrong, but everything else was wonderful. We have a wonderful life and wonderful people in it.

And we will keep moving along with the help and prayers of those people.

We move along one step and one answer at a time. And hopefully, soon, we will move beyond this.

We will stay strong.

When all you got to keep is strong
Move along, move along like I know you do
And even when your hope is gone
Move along, move along
Just to make it through

Thank you to everyone who has offered thoughts, prayers, and other acts of kindness to our family over the past month. We love you and feel you walking with us.

We Move Along lyrics by All American Rejects

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.”

Forty

I have tried to write this at least a dozen different ways, but nothing sounds right.

What I have to say is this: Today I am 40.

As my dad says, “it’s better than the alternative,” and I guess he is pretty right. I would rather be 40 than dead.

I don’t feel 40…or at least, I don’t feel like what I thought 40 would feel like. Which is dumb, because how did I know what 40 would feel like?

My mom is who I compare myself to the most (she would tell you I shouldn’t do that, but it is what it is)

She had a 15, 12, and 7 year old when she was 40.

I have an 8, 6, and 3 year old.

She was going back to college to get her BA while working full time, momming full time, and wife-ing full time.

I am going back to college to get my PhD while working full time, momming full time, and wife-ing full time.

She kept the house so clean you could eat off every surface, but she would yell at you if you ate anywhere but the kitchen. And she would find your crumbs.

My house is barely picked up. We have a cleaning lady every other week, and I am sure she thinks we are part bovine. I think my mom probably cringes coming over, but she will never admit it because she loves me too much (but I have found my stove top scrubbed after she has been there watching the kids).

I don’t ever remember my mom caring about her age. She always shrugged if off if we tried to tease her about getting older.

I’m trying to be like that too.

I don’t really care.

Not really.

But a little I do.

A little bit of me gets panicky at getting older…being that much closer to not being.

But I have an anxiety disorder and my mom does not.

My mom has always made me feel less anxious.

Even now that I am forty.

I am going to have a very good decade.

Forty is going to be great.

I will just keep telling myself that.

Forty.

 

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

Threenager

Dear Alice,

Today you are three!

You have been looking forward do this day since Christmas. It’s the first year that I think you really understand what a birthday is and that you are getting one.  When asked what you want for your birthday, you enthusiastically declare, “PINK!” So pink it shall be!

Alicita, you are my favorite girl in the whole world. I had no idea I needed you until you arrived. I can’t believe I was so nervous about having a little girl in the house; although I know we have the hormonal teenage years ahead of us, these first three years are nothing like I thought they would be. They have been full of wonder and joy that only a very new soul can bring. Our entire family needed that. Your dad and I had some rough patches, and your brothers are very old souls. You came in as the caboose of our family with all the fascination of a brand new soul.

it is getting VERY hard to get a non-blurry picture of you since you are ALWAYS moving!

I told you your birth story the other night. You laughed and laughed at the idea that you used to live in my belly. Then you asked why I was crying. I didn’t realize until I told you the story how much you have healed me, my sweet daughter. Eddie’s birth traumatic in so many ways; I suffered a long time after. Charlie’s birth showed me how it could be, and when he and I were left alone in our hospital room I whispered to him, “you are not the last.”

When you were born, Alice, everything was how it should be. I knew the minute you snuggled into my arms that you were the caboose–our last baby. But I wasn’t sad. I was filled with joy. Everything about you has been easier–getting up for those middle of the night feedings, putting you to bed at night, even playing has been easier with you. I have felt more natural in my role as your mommy, than I have ever felt before.

Age three is a tough year; I’m not going to lie. I know this because I have been through it with your brothers. This is the year you will grow to be a big girl; you will shed all the baby parts: the boppy (pacifier) will go to the Boppy Fairy and you will (hopefully) potty train. By the time this rotation around the sun is over, you will be be a big girl all ready to go to school. I would be 100% lying to you if I said that I was all excitement about this. You will hear this a lot, but you are the last one. You are my last baby. My last toddler. And now my last Little Kid. It’s hard to let go of a time that was so cute and so much fun, and admit that our entire family is done with those stages.

But LOOK AT YOU! You are such a happy little squish! You are so full of joy, that it’s impossible to stay sad! Since that first day, everything grey in my life has been made sunny by your face, your smile, your deep chuckle. You are the definition of delight, and to experience each new phase with you is nothing short of wonderful. You have a BIG personality and the facial expressions to match. You make us all laugh each day.

At age three, here are some things about you:

  • You love the color pink. LOVE IT. When asked what you wanted for Christmas? Pink! For your birthday? Pink! All pink, all the time.
  • Your favorite toys are your baby dolls, but specifically your Bitty Baby who you have named “Baby-cita”

  • You call me “Mommy-cita” and have made up a song that goes, “Mommy-cita went to town, EIEIO!” that you sing often and loudly.
  • You call Daddy either “DA DEE” or “DAD DOOOOO!”
  • You think you want to do everything your brothers do–like play in the snow–until you realize you don’t like to be uncomfortable (for instance you were instant that Santa would bring you snow pants and boots, but when you got them, you realized that snow is cold, and refused to go out in it).

  • You LOVE books.
  • You love to sing and dance.
  • You LOVE shoes and accessories and anything fancy.
  • You love to play dress up and pretend, and you are a wee bit bossy about it.

  • You love to do whatever I am doing which includes dressing the same, putting on pretend make-up, cooking, reading…you are my little shadow.
  • You hate when we tell you “no,” and will cry and pout and try to wait us out. Your stubbornness runs deep.
  • You will sit in your room to cry, and then come out to tell us that you are “done crying” or “ready to be nice.”
  • You are my pickiest eater…by FAR.
  • You love candy and sweets and carbs.

  • You favor me over your dad lately, which is weird for me because at this age both of your brothers favored your dad.
  • You are our most affectionate child–you love hugs and snuggles and holding hands and giving kisses
  • You love to count and can get up to twelve before starting to repeat numbers or make stuff up.
  • You tell me often that you are a “strong girl” and then you show me your muscles.
  • You never, ever call Charlie “Charlie;” it is ALWAYS “Birdie.”
  • Your favorite food other than candy is breakfast carbs like pancakes or french toast or muffins or cinnamon rolls or donuts.

Alice, you not only make our family complete, you make us better. We are a better version of The Sluiters with you as a part of us. I hope we can make your third birthday as beautiful and magical as you are, my sweet girl.

I love you so so much,

Mommy-cita

 

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