Spring Break Day 1

In an attempt to survive spring break, I’m going to try to write my way through it.

Today was the first official day.

I should preface this with the fact that yesterday was my first time as a middle school teacher the day before spring break. I WAS NOT PREPARED FOR THE INSANITY. We managed to get through everything I planned for the hour, but the kids were excited about break and the student/staff basketball game at the end of the day and it was, let’s just say, a challenge.

I left school four minutes after the last bell rang.

Oh, I could have stayed and put the grades in for the assignments I collected, but I threw them in my bag and bolted. Eddie had after school program, so I went straight home to change my clothes and just sit for a moment. Cortney knew my day had been exhausting, so I was greeted to beautiful flowers on the table and a little tub of Ben & Jerry’s in the freezer.

My guy knows me very, very well.

I felt that I earned ten days off yesterday.

This morning Eddie let me sleep until just after 7:15am. I mean, yes, I suppose that it’s technically sleeping in when the alarm usually goes off at 5:30am, but it sure didn’t feel like it. I tried to get him to let me keep sleeping for a bit, but his idea of letting me sleep means coming in and whispering me updates about his cat game on Cortney’s tablet. And so I was up heating up frozen pancakes by 8:00am.

Charlie and Alice were at daycare, so at least I could drink my coffee while it was hot. I also had to watch Pokemon. Things had a way of evening themselves out like that all day.

Around 11:00am, the Internet decided to poop out on us which meant I couldn’t enter anymore grades and Eddie couldn’t watch anymore Netflix.

He decided to watch regular TV and do some art. I took a shower.

Then I surprised Eddie and took him to see Zootopia.

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It was such a good movie! We giggled all the way through. We also shared a huge popcorn and orange soda. I may have eaten the bulk of the popcorn, but homeboy downed that orange fanta. I was almost positive he would barf. But he didn’t.

And when we got home, the internet was back on! So I finished up some stuff on my To Do List while Eddie found Cailou on Netflix. I almost threw things at him, but shortly after he decided he should blow bubbles on the deck and do some interpretive dance until his brother came home, so I was saved from that whiny bald preschooler.

I also started the book The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle today. I am almost positive I will finish it before bedtime. It’s so good…and it’s all poems that tell the story of the Cuban struggle for independence. It’s one of six my students will get to choose from for the book clubs they will be starting after spring break. j

And now I am capping off the day with a salted caramel porter that Cortney found for me on one of his beer store trips. Maybe it’s the beer’s fault that I think I will write every day of break. Meh, I’m still going to try.

Happy spring break, yo.

Accepted

Two years ago, I auditioned for Listen To Your Mother. My story was not chosen.

It was hard not to take it personally–not to feel as if they didn’t like me. Since that experience I have learned that Listen To Your Mother is less about the writer/reader and more about the story and how it fits with the show that is being assembled by the producers. Each show needs to be cohesive while simultaneously highlighting individual stories about motherhood. It wasn’t that my writing wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t that I read poorly. It was that my story did not fit that show at that time. I found peace with that.

Last year, I pulled out of my audition. I signed up, but the audition was a three-hour drive away a week before my C-section with Alice. I just couldn’t make a six-hour round trip drive at that point, and I couldn’t really guarantee that I would feel ready to stand up in front of a crowd a couple months later if I was accepted.

This year I was ready. I had a new story prepared; one that I felt better highlighted my experience with motherhood. I also found out that there was a LTYM show closer to me: Southwest Michigan! I stalked every update just waiting for auditions to open and when they did, I was the second person signed up for a slot on Day 1 of the auditions.  Before leaving for St. Joseph that sunny Saturday morning, Cortney asked me if I was nervous. I really wasn’t. I knew my writing was good. I knew I could read it well. If I didn’t get cast, it would be because this piece just didn’t fit with the show. I was at peace.

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My audition went well. It felt good to share my story with Kim and Beth.

Then I had to wait. Since I signed up for the first audition day, I had to wait two weeks before finding out…they were having one more audition day to look for a few more humor pieces.

I am the worst at being patient. I am really like a small child. I kept refreshing my email, “now? NOW? How about now?”

Kim’s email came through on a Saturday evening. I was just getting ready to go out with a friend for a nightcap and I checked my email one more time…and there it was.

My piece was accepted.

I am part of the 2016 Listen To Your Mother Southwest Michigan show.

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I am so excited about this, I don’t really even know how to tell you. This show is so important. It’s so powerful. It’s so…it’s just so! I am honored to be among those who will be sharing their stories this year in celebration of Mother’s Day. And I am privileged to become part of the alumni of those who have stood on that stage.

If you are local to Southwest Michigan, you can find ticket information here.

I hope to see you there.

Lego Crazy!

I knew it would come. I wish I could say that prepared me, but it didn’t. Knowing doesn’t always equate to preparedness.

The minute I found out I was pregnant, I knew the day would come when our house would be invaded by Legos.

First it was Duplo. Both of my boys enjoy getting the Duplo sets, but the real fun was seeing if you could use every single block in a tower or stack of some sort. I have had to get increasingly larger bins for the amount of these chunky blocks, and it seems already that Alice loves them too.

Netflix Lego Shows

Then came Eddie’s first “real” Lego set. He was only four and the set was too hard for him to put together himself, so I did it for him. At that age, the fun wasn’t yet in the building, it was in playing with the finished product. That is where Charlie is now. He got a Lego Junior set for his birthday last week–a road construction truck and road blocks. While he wanted to sit with me and watch and put the wheels on, he really just wanted me to hurry up and snap it all together so he could spend time blocking the “road” for his other toy cars so his new Legos could do construction.

Netflix Lego Shows

Eddie, at almost seven, is now into Lego for the joy of putting them together. He looks through the catalog that arrives each month and carefully circles each set he is interested in that he knows he has a chance of getting (he is savvy enough to know no one is spending $300 on a dang Lego set for him). He is at the awesome age where he loves to tear open a new set and carefully follow the directions to put it together, but he doesn’t just put it on a shelf when he is done. He actually plays with it.

It’s not surprising then that some of the first shows he discovered a few years ago were the Lego Shows on Netflix. He absolutely devoured them. In fact, what he knows about Star Wars is all based on what he’s seen on Lego shows (and Angry Birds). He about died of boredom when I tried to show him Episode 4. Apparently he is not ready for actual actors yet…just animation.

Netflix Lego Shows

But hey! That’s Ok because Netflix now has Bionicle: The Journey to One and Lego Friends: The Power of Friendship. He has watched all of the Bionicle episodes…twice. He even checked out the Lego Friends because gender stereotypes do not apply to him. He says it’s pretty good.

Oh, and not to be left out, Charlie has enjoyed the new season of Dinotrucks. That kid sure does like his dinosaur/truck hybrids.

So what are you watching and/or building?

Hooray For FOUR!

Dear Charlie,

You are FOUR! We have been talking about this birthday for about a month now. You have been SO excited to be FOUR! It means all sorts of new things for you: swimming lessons, preschool, and a big kid bike! Unlike Eddie who worried about all of those things, you are SO EXCITED!

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You are the quintessential middle child, my dear boy. It is extremely fitting that your nickname is “Bird” because as the middle child, you certainly do give the entire world “the bird” with your take-no-shit attitude toward life. While it drives us completely batty at times, this personality trait has potential to serve you very, very well as an adult.

As a four-year old it looks like huge rage fits, throwing things in frustration, and telling us constantly that you do not like us. However as soon as you start crying, you reach for your dad dad or your mom mom, needing the comforting arms of those who will love you unconditionally–no matter what you say or do out of anger. We are trying to guide you, sweet boy, to use your words and to choose safe, un-hurtful ways deal with your big feelings.

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Your new fish that you named Charlie Bird Fish.

The wonderful part of those big feelings is that you LOVE big too. You are quick to hug and kiss and cuddle up next to us. You love to hold hands or play with my hair. Touch soothes you, my little buddy, and I do my best to offer my lap, my arms, or the spot next to me on the couch whenever you want it.

the requested "train cake" for the birthday boy

the requested “train cake” for the birthday boy

People love you, Charlie. You are cute, charming and are such a helper. In fact you often refer to yourself as a “helper boy,” and you are not wrong. You want to help clean, cook, and pick up. We gave you a new big boy bike for your birthday and you do NOT want daddy to put it together without you.

A STAR WARS BIKE

A STAR WARS BIKE

So who else is Charlie at age four? You love to play alone. With just a few random toys, you will sit by yourself and make up little stories and scenarios forever. But you also like to play with Eddie. You two have huge imaginations and when you are getting along–which, let’s face is not all the time these days–you guys create forts and obstacle courses and booby traps and whole worlds. Eddie is bossy, but he’s creative and if what he has imagined sounds like fun? You are in!

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You are also quietly smart. At four, you know all your letters and most of their sounds. You can count to 20, and you’re getting pretty good at telling time. You like to build things with blocks, Legos, and Mega blocks. Trucks and tractors are your jam, and a couple of your prized possessions are your new pair of binoculars (which you call ‘noculars) and your net (which you tell us is for catching butterflies).  You love dirt and being outside. You also love animals.

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You want things to be perfect. You enjoy crafts and coloring and building–but if it doesn’t look just right then you get very VERY angry and throw one of your famous fits. You also do not enjoy being watched while you do something. You get agitated and you quit. Being the center of attention is not your thing. I do not relate, but I can understand. And don’t worry…daddy can relate. Some day you won’t cope with it be throwing a fit and finding a corner to cry in. You will grow out of that. I hope.

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Another fun fact about you: you are not a fan of clothing. You sleep without a shirt most nights and when you are super mad? Off come your pants.

If given the choice, the only food you would eat is cheese sandwiches and candy and chocolate milk. And since we can’t make you eat, you generally survive solely on dairy products. It’s not ideal, but at least you’re not starving.

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Last month you had your first experience with the stomach flu. You barfed on your {top} bunk twice. It was gross. So then I moved you to the couch and I slept (ok, I laid there) with you and every time you woke up, I was there to hold you and your bowl and rub your back.  You never cried or complained. You only told me you were so very thirsty…and that you wanted your firefighter hat.

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My dear little Bird…four is going to be a series of wonderful adventures for you! And while I know change is something that is hard to navigate feelings for, we will work together to make it great! I promise I will always be here for you–whether you need to snuggle up or just giggle about toots–I can make that happen.

You are such an important part of our family. I hope you always know that. No one can fill in the spot of Charlie Bird Thomas Sluiter…not even a fish with the same name.

I love you, Bird Bird. Always and forever.

Love,
Mom Mom

One Year Down, A Lifetime To Go

Dear Alice,

I started writing this the night before your first birthday, but I kept deleting everything. Nothing I seemed to type here seemed like the right thing–the right way that I wanted to tell you about this first year of yours.

It was perfect.

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Eddie’s first year was difficult, and looking back at what I wrote to him, I can see it between the lines. I didn’t come right out and say it, but that first year was hard and in lots of ways just sucked. It was the postpartum depression, not Eddie, of course, but man. That first First Year was tough.

Charlie’s first year was emotional. He taught me I could be a good mom, even with postpartum depression. He healed me in a lot of ways, which is what I told him in his first year letter. I remember being very sad when he turned one. The second First Year was better.

Your first year has been free of postpartum depression, and WOW, what a huge difference that makes. I not only enjoyed you, but I enjoyed being your mom.

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Alice, I was a whole mother for your first year. I was here. I was present.

I often wonder how long babies remember their baby-ness. Do you still remember being born? Do you remember being a part of me? Do you remember how our hospital stay was downright relaxing? While I missed your daddy being there in the evenings, there was something nice about us being alone after 7pm. We had our dinner and watched some TV together. We chatted–girl talk.

Each night around 9pm, the nurse would bring me my evening snack and some hot water so I could have some tea. I had you out of your little baby aquarium cart thing more than I ever did with the boys. I had you out and unwrapped on the bed, counting your little piggy toes and smootching your little hands.

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Once we came home, Daddy noticed immediately that I was different than I was with your brothers. I asked for help easier, but I was also eager to feed your and hold you and do “mom things”. In fact, I didn’t whine or complain about middle of the night feedings. I may even dare to admit that I liked them. You were a good little eater and sleeper–really you still are.

And what a cuddler! From Day One you were right at home in pretty much anyone’s arms! You have your favorites, of course. Daddy would say you are a Momma’s Girl through and through, but you perk right up when Daddy is around. You love Renae and Carolyn and of course your Church Oma, Nancy.

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Today was your one-year well child appointment. You remain our tiniest child being only in the 85th percentile (Charlie was always closer to 90th percentile and Eddie was almost always near the 100th) at twenty-two and a half pounds.

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Like Charlie, you are very content to play on your own. However unlike both of your brothers, you play with toys the way they are designed to be played with rather than just throw or pound them. Putting things in things is your current favorite, so the purses you got for your birthday were great gifts for you!

You’re not walking yet, but you are a cruising machine! You can zoom around the furniture and around me and Daddy–boy do you like to crawl all over us like we are playground equipment!

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Speaking of climbing on us, you love to touch us. You reach for us, you hug, you give kisses, and you clutch our shirts and pants in your little hands. Your brothers never did this. You sit on our laps in church and prefer to be touching us somehow at home.

You don’t have any “real” words yet, but you repeat “Da da da da” over and over when Daddy is around and “Ma ma ma ma” for me–again, the boys didn’t call me anything this early. You clearly know your “Da da” and “Ma ma”. When you see your brothers you repeat “Dee dee dee” which I think is because Eddie and Charlie both end in the “eee” sound.  Your laugh and squeals are breathy and adorable.

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Having a daughter is like nothing I ever thought it would be. If I am laying it all out here, I have to admit that I was hoping you would be another boy. I felt confident and comfortable with boy children. A daughter scared me. People told me I would love it. They said it was just “different”.

They were totally right; it’s different. And I have tried and tried to find the words to describe that difference, but I can’t. I will say it’s wonderful.

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Your giggle, your scrunchy nose, the way your suck on your tongue and lips when you see someone eating cake because you want some too…it’s all just so wonderful.

It’s hard to say how lovely having a little girl is without it sounding like it’s not equally awesome to have your brothers. As the cliche goes, it’s apples and oranges; they are both outstanding fruits. I was living with a bunch of apples. Wonderfully juicy, sweet glorious apples.

And then I was given my first orange, and I was hooked.

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Oh Alice, you have changed me. If Eddie made me a mom–and a fighter, and Charlie healed my broken parts, you changed me.

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You help me see that every single day has something happy about it. I smile every day because of you. I smile because of a million other reasons too, but you, baby girl. YOU. Your hugs and happiness it just…it’s YOU.

YOU, Alice.

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I admit I cried on your birthday. Not until after you were in bed. I really, really enjoyed your day. And more so, I enjoyed your first year. The tears were bittersweet. They were happiness mixed with just a touch of sadness that the baby days are over. But truly, they were mostly happy.

I am so happy you are ours.

I am so happy that you are on the verge of walking.

I am so happy to see you every morning and that you come home from daycare to me every day.

I am so happy that your brothers love you so.

I am so happy that you have eyes for your Daddy.

I am so happy you and I are “mother/daughter”.

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Alice, your first year has been one of the best years of my whole life. You have completed this family in more ways than just being the last baby. We are whole because of you.

Thank you, my dear daughter.

Thank you for being ours.

Thank you for being you.

I love you so, SO very much.

I can’t wait for the rest of your life.

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Love,
Ma Ma

Her First Party…and His Fourth

I’m still processing my feelings about Miss Alice turning one today, so I will show off her (and Charlie’s) wonderful birthday party instead.

Saturday was the big day! We have been planning it for quite some time. In fact, I knew before she was born that her first birthday party would be Alice in Wonderland-themed. Charlie’s was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-themed and Eddie’s was Rock Star-themed (although in retrospect, if I was sticking to their literary namesake, I should have done a Winnie the Pooh party, but rock stars are way cooler).

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We also knew that we wanted to combine Alice and Charlie’s parties since their birthdays are only a week a part. No one really loves to give up a few weekend hours for a child’s birthday party, let alone do it two weeks in a row for the same family. And if we are really honest here, I don’t love throwing parties. I love creating memories for my kids, and I like coming up with ideas, but the actual execution of it is exhausting. I get all stressed out that no one is having fun and that my decorations are dumb–I know, I know. Ridiculous. But there it is.

Alice in Wonderland Party

So back to Wonderland–I made a Pinterest board a full six months ago, but nothing about the party was Pinterest-worthy, so if you came here looking for some amazing stuff to pin, look elsewhere, friend.

This was simply a fun day for my kids–a celebration that we made it through our last First Year.

Alice in Wonderland Party

Which way to the party?

We had the party in the Fellowship hall of our church because there is no way we could fit a bunch of party people in our little house. It seemed sort of fitting to celebrate the youngest two in the place we came back to after Charlie was born. Not to get too mushy or to dwell on the subject in this post, but this church has brought us some of the best friends we could ever ask for.

Alice in Wonderland Party

I outfitted the tables with blue table clothes the color of Alice’s dress (tutu) and flowers I made myself. They even have googley eyes–just like the wildflowers in the story.

Alice in Wonderland Party

I also decorated with playing cards and some Alice in Wonderland confetti I found on etsy.

Alice in Wonderland Party

Alice in Wonderland Party

People made their own sandwiches. I got the little signs as a free printable from a website on my Pinterest Board. The cutie straws were another etsy find.

Alice in Wonderland Party

The cake came from The Holland Cakery. I showed them a picture I found on, you guessed it, Pinterest. And they made it happen!

Alice in Wonderland Party

It tasted as good as it looked! One layer of chocolate and one of vanilla. SO YUMMY! But more about the cake in a minute…

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I had some craft tables to keep all the kiddos busy. One table had stuff to make flowers on it, one had Alice in Wonderland coloring pages, and one was to make crowns (for the Queen of Hearts) or hats (from The Mad Hatter). Lots of kids were walking around in stylish crowns…and some parents were too!

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After a good lunch, it was time to open presents. I had BIG plans of going every-other between Charlie and Alice and keeping track of who gave which kid what.

HA HA HA HA HA!!!

Present-opening became a survival test. I was just thankful for my sister-in-law, Liz, who started grabbing wrapping paper and shoving it in the trash bags I thought to bring along. And to Cortney for taking a million pictures.

It started out nice…

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But soon the small people started to overtake our space…2016-03-05 12.14.06 2016-03-05 12.14.09

And the mess…oh my the mess!2016-03-05 12.18.17

And then Charlie caught me in a net.2016-03-05 12.37.52

It was so fun, though!

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After gifts it was time for cake. Cortney got video somewhere of all the singing. We didn’t get a good picture of the birthday kids with their cake, but we did get some action shots of them enjoying it!

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Interestingly Charlie got messier than the newly-minted one-year old.2016-03-05 12.55.26

It was a good party. I didn’t get to talk to everyone or hang out. I didn’t get to sit and relax. I really didn’t get to soak it all in. But I know it was a good party because this is what the craft tables all looked like…

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It was our last First Birthday party.

We survived one last Baby’s First Year. Whew. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about that, but I will let them be for now and say this: I am glad that party is over. I will not miss throwing first birthday parties. But I will miss that first year. It was a very, VERY good one.

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Doing the dishes is the universal sign for: The Party Is Over.

On to the second year (and Charlie’s fifth)! Learning to walk and talk and run! Charlie starting school and learning to read and cut in a straight line.

Big things in this next year. Big BIG things.

Thank you to all our friends and family who were there for us. I’m not talking about the party–although THANK YOU for coming and celebrating our kids–but through all of it all. It really does take a village. 

The Day You Were Born

My Dear Alice,

In just a few short days you will be a whole year old, and I just realized that I never wrote down your birth story.

It’s not that it wasn’t a wonderful, miracle day–in fact it may have been one of the most happiest days of my whole life! I suppose what they say about the last child is true–time to do things like write about birth stories and create baby books gets lost. I know it’s almost a year late, but I still wanted to put your birth day in writing–to make it “blog official”.

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The day before your arrival. SO EXCITED!

It began super early, just like with Charlie, since I had the first surgical appointment of the day and had to be there for pre-op stuff at 6:30am. We dropped your brothers off at Grandpa and Grandma’s house and gave everyone hugs and I tried not to cry out all the dang emotions welling in me, and daddy and I were off to the hospital.

I waddled in the front door with all my stuff and checked in. I was just so happy that I was going to meet you! I wasn’t nervous or afraid since I knew how it would all go. Daddy and I went into the little pre-op room where I got into my gown and they took some blood and did some other testing stuff.  Daddy and I talked and joked and were very laid back and just all around excited about you. Knowing you are our last baby, we tried to soak it all in–even the part about my gown being hooked up to a cooling vent system so that it puffed up like the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

Eventually they were ready for me. They gave me the stuff that is supposed to make the acid in my stomach less acidy. I told them I would probably barf it up; and I did. The operating room was freezing, just like last time. They gave me an extra blanket to keep me warm. This time they didn’t fasten my arms down to the bed if I promised not to go grabbing my guts.

They brought daddy in just in time–like always–he was dressed in scrubs and had a funny hairnet thing on. He came in and sat on the same stool he did with your brothers and held my hand, rubbing his thumb back and forth over my hand and smiling his nervous, worried, excited smile. The one where he sort of bites the inside of his bottom lip. There is pride in his eyes when he smiles like that.

Your birth was the easiest by far. Eddie’s was an emergency C-section and everyone was quite hurried and nervous. I was sick, Eddie was in trouble and already sunny-side up in the birth canal–it was difficult and very traumatic. Charlie’s was supposed to be simple, but he was very high up in my rib cage and had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. Everything turned out fine, but there was a LOT of pushing and pulling that left me a bit nauseated.

You, my dear, were easy. You weren’t too high or too low. You weren’t in any odd position. They took you out and we heard your little cry and it was glorious. Because I had a bit of doubt the entire pregnancy that you were really a girl, I asked, “It’s a girl?” And they said, “Yes! You have a girl!” I laughed. Oh the unexpected joy that phrase “it’s a girl” has brought me since the ultrasound at 20 weeks!

first selfie with mommy

first selfie with mommy

Once you were out and they were sure you were Ok, the doctors went to work putting me back together. My doctor made the comment that my uterus looked good enough to handle one more C-section and both your dad and I said, “NO!” and then laughed. You are our last baby, sweet Alice. As soon as you were ready, Daddy and the docs took you up for all your testing and to wash you off. They finished up my stitches and staples and wheeled me to the recovery room. I was there less than the normal hour because I was wide awake, feeling great, and very eager to see you!

As they brought me up to my room, we passed you and daddy in the nursery. You were still getting all set up! Daddy had the biggest look of surprise on his face! I still let him give you your first bottle since it was sort of tradition with your brothers, but oh how excited I was to get to hold you in my arms! I know I’m using a lot of exclamation points here, but that is exactly how everything felt in those minutes–set you in my arms? EXCLAMATION POINT! Put my nose against your face and smell your hair? EXCLAMATION POINT! Hearing your tiny newborn squeaks and sighs? EXCLAMATION POINT!

birth is exhausting...for you and daddy!

birth is exhausting…for you and daddy!

After a little rest, we called Grandpa and Grandma and they came with your brothers. When Charlie was born, it was important to us that Eddie meet him first. So when you were born, we let Eddie have the day off school and come with Charlie to meet you before everyone else. Both brothers were excited and proud, but when they cautiously entered our hospital room, they also became so tender and loving.

This guy has not stopped smiling about you yet!

This guy has not stopped smiling about you yet!

We were in the hospital for 4 days and 3 nights. Every minute was wonderful. I know, I know…how can that be? I was recovering from major surgery and I was exhausted. But you know what? The stay in the hospital has always been a favorite part of having a baby for me. It’s like we are cocooned from the entire world for those days. And the nursing staff? Forget about it! They are amazing. Took such good care of us, right up to bringing me some hot tea each night in the 30-45 minutes before you went to the nursery and I went to sleep.

We had enough visitors to keep us from getting bored, but not so many that we were overwhelmed. That was good.

At 8 lbs 4 oz, you were our most dainty baby. In fact you were under 8 pounds when we brought you home! Astonishing and tiny as far as Sluiter babies go! You actually wore newborn clothes for about a month! When we got you home, you barfed on your jammy and we didn’t have another one to fit you, so daddy had to go to the store and buy a few newborn sized ones.

Your going home jammies! Such a pretty girl in blue!

Your going home jammies! Such a pretty girl in blue!

From that very first day, I have not been able to take my eyes off you or suppress a smile around you.

Your birth may have been planned, but the serene, perfectness of it all was an added bonus. Your entrance into the world was one of the very best days of my whole life, my sweet girl. You perfectly complete our family.

Thank you for being you.

I look forward to celebrating your first year this weekend with our family and friends.

And of course getting as many snuggles out of you as possible!

I love you, our little Caboose.

Mommy

A Night In With Netflix

Dear Netflix,

Eddie has been learning about the difference between “wants” and “needs” in school lately. He’s a first grader, you know, and it’s an important subject. Kids his age get those two things confused all the time. We have to remind him he doesn’t NEED a cookie or the Wii or more Pokemon cards. It’s a good lesson, all around.

There are many things that I want that I don’t really need too: A bag of Cheetos, a venti cinnamon dolce latte, yet another book on my To Read Pile.

One thing everyone in my family  needs is down time. We are a family of introverts. At first glance you might not guess–especially Eddie and me. We are loud and love to laugh and we are not afraid to talk in front of people. However the way we recharge is by being quietly alone. Or at least just with our family.

To some, it may look like we zone out. The ipad, the tablet, our phones, the Wii, books are all easy ways to go into our own heads to be away from the rest of the world that we just gave so much energy to all day.

Ok we are zoning out.

But we need it.

a night in

The nice thing about you, Netflix, is that you help us to zone together. We choose a show and can all enter into a united zone out.

So I guess I am saying thank you. Thank you for being a part of every single night in we have as a family. I don’t know how thankful I am that one of your choices is Pokemon, but whatever. It keeps Eddie happy on snow days, so I guess I’m ok with it.

Anyway, we all enjoy watching Phineas and Ferb and Chuggington. We like Curious George and Peep and The Big Wide World. We have also watched Home at least eleventy billion times since it became available. We are not so patiently waiting for US Netflix to get Inside Out (Canadian Netflix has it, friends from the North!), but at least we have lots of Madagascar spin-offs to keep us busy.

So Netflix, what I’m trying to say here is “thank you”.  Thank you for being part of my family’s daily routine of winding down and zoning out. Thank you for helping us regroup from a big day and come together as a family for some rest and relaxation.

Sincerely,

The Sluiter Family

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38 before 38

In thirty-nine days I will be turning 38.

Over the weekend, I mentioned how fun it would be to receive 38 books for my classroom library in honor of turning 38. I shared my Amazon Wishlist and yesterday, two books showed up.

38 before 38

You guys know just how to make me smile.

So why not go for it, right? Let’s add 38 books to my classroom library!

All you have to do is go to my Wish List on Amazon. Many, many books my students put on there are less than $10 each. (Did you know most of the books are requests directly from my students? They are! Some are also added by me because I know my students will love them). It’s a LONG list.

If you purchase one off the list, it will get sent directly to me! You may choose to donate anonymously, or you can leave us a message to tell us where it came from. I will be posting pictures here on my 38th birthday on March 27.

I just realized that this kind of party–a book party–has GOT to be the best birthday party EVER. Plus it’s the kind I can share with my students!

Speaking of my students, did you know I post over at The Educator’s Room regularly? Check out my posts about why Reading Logs have to go and how I use Reader’s Notebooks with my middle school students. I also have a post on Writers Who Care about my writing process and how procrastination is a very large, important part of it.

By the way, thanks for being awesome.

Now…let’s read!

Tales from a Converted Valentine’s Day Hater

I am a converted Valentine’s Day Hater.

Most of my post-elementary school life I have despised this made up holiday. In middle school and high school, you could pay to send candy kisses to people. While I get how this is fun for those who get them, we all know that it ends up being a popularity contest. Even now, as a middle school teacher, I wish I could send a dang carnation to every one of my students because I know those who don’t get them probably feel like dirt. Especially if they sent them to people and received none in return. I also know that some know they won’t get any, but secretly hope for a surprise. And are secretly disappointed when that surprise doesn’t happen.

It’s a horrible holiday when you are all adolescencey with all the feelings and greasy hair and bad fashion choices and just want to fit in.

High school didn’t get much better. I had a boyfriend then, but we were dumb high school kids. Maybe he bought me flowers or something. I do remember my junior year Valentine’s Day quite vividly. My boyfriend was a freshman in college in another state and I was back home. Since it was a Thursday or something, I decided to pick up a waitress shift at my job–it’s not like I had a date. On my way to work, I hit a patch of ice. As I was correcting the fish-tail, I hit a dry spot of pavement while my tires were turned sideways. I rolled one and a half times and ended up hanging from my seat belt in my upside-down Nissan in a {thankfully} snow-filled ditch.

When I got home, I was shaken up, feeling like garbage, and afraid of whether or not my dad would go through the roof when he found out I smashed up my car. As my parents were assuring me they were just glad I was unhurt, the delivery van from the local flower shop drove up. My mom gave a little squee, looking at my dad who shook his head. So I answered the door. They were from my boyfriend. He called later and I burst into tears. He thought they were happy tears because of the flowers. Not so much.

That was the start of some pretty rotten Valentine’s Days that included, but were not limited to, a first date ON Valentine’s Day who didn’t make reservations and then fell asleep on my dorm floor, a party that got busted up by the cops that left me standing a little intoxicated in the street without my driver because she was sober and had met a guy, and a boyfriend who bought me a balloon flower because he was going to break up with me a few weeks later.

When Cortney and I started dating, I made him promise me that Valentine’s Day would not be anything. I didn’t need a romantic holiday. I just needed it to not suck. To just be a day.

He has always complied with this. Valentine’s Day is not romantic in our house. We can do that every day.

Then we had kids.

If you know anything about me at all, you know that I do not go over the top with Halloween or Easter or Christmas or Fourth of July or any of those things. I do not do crafty things. I do not decorate for anything except Christmas and that is only because I sort of feel like I have to.

But having kids changed Valentine’s Day.

converted valentine's day hater

I am still not a crafty-crafterson by any stretch, but I inexplicably love to set up a little Valentine’s Day surprise for the kids. I love to talk about what we love about each other and ways to show our love. I do not get this jazzed for any other holiday. And I have always really, really hated Valentine’s Day, but it’s so different when it becomes Love Day.

converted valentine's day hater

I mean. How can you not fall in love with a day that gives your kids one more reason to tell you all the things they love about you and each other? You can’t NOT fall in love with it, that’s what.

Cortney and I still do not do anything special on Valentine’s Day, but there is more hugging and smooching because love is contagious.

I used to rage against Valentine’s Day.

It’s a made up holiday to make MONEY!

It leaves out all the single people!

It’s goofy and ridiculous!

Getting a reservation is impossible and there is too much pressure for romantic perfection!

But now my heart has softened a bit as I have gained three new Valentines.

converted valentine's day hater

And they do things like make me Valentine cards while Cortney lets me sleep in. And they make Valentine cupcakes with me. And they tell me what they love best about all of us.

For us, Valentine’s Day is about being romantic, it’s about celebrating love.

converted valentine's day hater

And we don’t need no stinking romantic dinner or jewelry to help us do that. Cortney and I don’t need to be alone to celebrate the love we all  have for each other.

Cupcakes with pink frosting will do just fine, thank you.

converted valentine's day hater

Or the first taste of apple juice diluted in a pile of water in a pink cup if you can’t have a cupcake. That works too.

Happy LOVE day, friends!

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