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

Project 365 {week 25}

I took pictures of the good stuff this week.

But behind the good, there was some very hard stuff.

June 15; Happy Father's Day to this guy!

June 15; Happy Father’s Day to this guy!

June 16: I like the age when they can go out and play without needing much from me. The week starts out Ok.

June 16: I like the age when they can go out and play without needing much from me. The week starts out Ok.

June 17: I have three for breakfast today since cousin Lilly is here. I also get the phone call telling me about my job transfer to 8th grade ELA. This day is hard.

June 17: I have three for breakfast today since cousin Lilly is here. I also get the phone call telling me about my job transfer to 8th grade ELA. This day is hard.

June 18: Happy anniversary to us! nine years strong!  (I also had a pre-cancerous spot frozen off my face).

June 18: Happy anniversary to us! nine years strong! (I also had a pre-cancerous spot frozen off my face).

June 19: Even though I have a very hard day, this one knows when I need a smile. He put on my glasses and said, "I Momma!!"

June 19: Even though I have a very hard day, this one knows when I need a smile. He put on my glasses and said, “I Momma!!”

June 20: It's birthday party prep day! Eddie is excited for cousins and friends to come play in the pool!

June 20: It’s birthday party prep day! Eddie is excited for cousins and friends to come play in the pool!

June 21: This guy is still 2 days away from turning five, but we celebrate with a FIESTA today.

June 21: This guy is still 2 days away from turning five, but we celebrate with a FIESTA today.

I’d like to say I am facing all of these challenges and emotions with remarkable aplomb.

I’d like to say I am proud of how I am handling it all.

But I am not.

So.

I’m not sure what to do other than just keep breathing.

This Store is Smarter Than I Am

We are a Verizon family. Always have been, always plan to be.

(Oh, this is not a commercial or sponsored post, by the way. Just wanted to clear that up.)

I got my first cell phone in…I think 2001 or 2002. It was a nice little brick. No one was texting yet and my phone was most decidedly NOT smart. In fact it was mostly utilized by my ex boyfriend to call me to tell me he was done bowling, drunk, and needed a ride home every single Friday night.

He was a winner.

Anyway, I loved my phone. I was the only one of my friends who ever had service pretty much anywhere I went. I live in West Michigan just a stone’s throw from Lake Michigan. Back in the early aughts–ok even now–service can be dicey by the lake and phones are likely to switch to central time randomly because of signals across the lake. It’s annoying.

I never had an issue. My friends were jealous.

There was a brief time after getting married that Cortney switched me to his Nextel plan.  Yes, we were those annoying people with our beeping in to each other. Walkie talkie anyone?

We got rid of it because the service BLEW and we like to try not to irritate the world.

Back to Verizon we went and since then we have gone from our tiny cute flip phones to those smart phone wanna-be’s (I had the slide out keyboard for texting, yo) to full fledged smart phones.

I can’t even imagine life without my smart phone now.  I mean, how in the world did I go to BlogHer in 2011 without a smart phone? No wonder I was depressed! (I kid, I kid)

So here we are a social media addicted enthusiast and her tech geek husband.  Then I get an invitation to a private tour of the new Verizon Smart Store that is opening in West Michigan.

I didn’t even have to think about it that RSVP answer.

Ahhh...so roomy!

Ahhh…so roomy!

The Verizon store we have in my city is…um…tiny. Don’t get me wrong, I love Verizon, but the store blows and I do everything I can to NOT go there. I mean when it’s time to upgrade our stuff, we get a sitter because no way in Hades are we taking our children in there.

The Smart Store is HUGE. There is no person accosting greeting you at the door and giving you a number. There is no counter of doom where you will wait forever. There are stations to touch and, yes, PLAY with the technology. There is a TON of stock and there is a learning center.

Plus check out that comfy red chair thingy. It has chargers in it.

verizonsmartstoreIn no particular order, here are the highlights of the new Smart Store:

  • It’s spacious
  • They have more stock than a regular store. Rather than 3 ugly generic phone cases, there is a huge WALL of them. And not just limited to iphone things (although they have a ton of those too).
  • Knowledgeable, friendly staff. Ask for my man, Ken. He knows it all.
  • It’s all GREEN!  Right down to the paint!  Environmentally friendly is the new black. Or something.
  • There is an enormous number of items you can actually hold in your hands. Most stores don’t carry all the FUN stuff the Smart Store does.
  • Four areas to “play”: Audio, Home/Office, Fun, and Fitness. I would TOTALLY take the kids with me to this store. Eddie and Charlie would never walk away from the tablet accessories.
  • A learning center. See the middle picture up there with that horseshoe table thingy? That is a learning center to help beginners know how to turn ON their smart phones or help the tech geek learn more about the gadgets he/she can get to play with his/her phone.
  • Did I mention the stock of cool stuff?  Ok, just making sure.

I definitely had a fun time poking around at all the cool accessories and technology that is available and I know Cortney is hoping I take him there on a date. Heh.

So do you guys have these stores where you are? I had never heard of one before, but I love it!

Read more about the Verizon Smart Store on the Verizon website (and see my face!).

 

some kind of wonderful

Last night he held me while I shook with sobs.

He didn’t say it would be fine or that everything would be good in the end.

No.

He knows better.

After nine years of marriage, we both know better.

But he held me and told me I was wonderful.

This is why we are together…why nine years has flown by despite all the loss and struggle.

We hold each other.

And remind each other of our wonderfulness.

us

Happy anniversary, Cortney. I love you.

Thank you for being wonderful.

The Paris Wife

This summer I am all about reading. I say that every summer, but I let other things get in my way. This summer I have almost no other projects on tap which means if there is down time, I am reading!

The first book I read this summer is The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. I happened upon it when I was browsing the tables at Barnes and Noble. I’m sort of a nut for the 1920′s and the ex pat writers, so a fictional novel told from the point of view of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley, about their time in Paris as ex pats when Hemingway was just getting his footing as a writer hooked me immediately.

Continue Reading…

Project 365 {week 24}

This week was the height of our transition.

There was a lot of push and pull.

And crying.

I was looking through my Instagram feed and I realized it looks like this week was SO MUCH FUN.

But that was just what I took pictures of.

In between there was a lot of frustration.

And questions (from the boys AND me) about when they can go back to daycare.

June 8: Charlie "helps" with yard work.

June 8: Charlie “helps” with yard work.

June 9: He calls this his "animal house". I think he needs a sweat shirt that says "college".

June 9: He calls this his “animal house”. I think he needs a sweat shirt that says “college”.

June 10: Reading over some note my aunt took so I can write my grandfather's military years in narrative form.

June 10: Reading over some note my aunt took so I can write my grandfather’s military years in narrative form.

June 11; Private tour of the new Verizon Smart Store in Grand Rapids, Mi.

June 11; Private tour of the new Verizon Smart Store in Grand Rapids, Mi.

June 12: All three boys quiet in one spot. I think this is the first time all week.

June 12: All three boys quiet in one spot. I think this is the first time all week.

June 13: Although the weather was chilly (mid 50's), we braved the park for an hour.

June 13: Although the weather was chilly (mid 50′s), we braved the park for an hour.

June 14: one of our favorite things to do all month: cards with great friends because it means family fun for all of us!

June 14: one of our favorite things to do all month: cards with great friends because it means family fun for all of us!

The truth of the photos is that we found fun.

The untruth of the pictures is that there was a lot of tension and stress and time outs around the fun.

That is parenthood, though, right?

We’ll get there.

How I Survive The Summer

For nine months of the year, my daily routine is pretty set. Since I teach high school, I would say it’s even more structured than most people since a bell drives my deadlines and tells me when I can npee each hour. But in the summer, I am suddenly thrown into the unstructured world of the Stay (and Work) at Home Mom.

While I don’t have grading and lesson plans during the summer, I still have writing deadlines, social media work, and various school-related items that need to be done. Lots of people like to say, “You must have so much more time now that school is out!”

Actually, I have less.  I don’t have in between classes, an hour-long planning period, a 30-minute duty-free lunch, or after school work time anymore. There are small kids with me all of the time–there is one hanging on my arm right at this second, actually–but I have a few things that makes working from home a little less anxiety-ridden.

Continue Reading this at Today’s Work at Home Mom…

front row support

Saturday I did something that I never thought I would: I stood up in front of a crowd in a bookstore and read a piece of my own published work.

When the other contributors were arranging the readings across the country, I volunteered to join the one in Goshen, Indiana. I figured I would drive the two hours alone, do the reading, grab some food, and come home just in time to help with bedtime.  As the date got closer, Cortney suggested we make it a family event. He knew I was sort of nervous and he wanted to be there for me.

So a couple days before the event, we decided to all go.

While Charlie acted like a typical two-year old who had been in the car for two hours and was now strapped in a stroller, Eddie was amazing for someone who is not yet five.

Apparently, Cortney took him aside that morning and talked to him about what we were going to be doing. He asked Eddie if he knew what it meant to “support” someone. He explained that mommy would be nervous and would do a better job if they were there to tell her she was going to be great, give her thumbs up, and listen to her. This entire conversation happened without my knowledge.

What I saw was a cranky two-year old, a husband who wanted to keep him quiet, but still see his wife, and an almost-five-year old sitting by himself, front and center waiting to hear his momma read her story. Charlie was being a bit beastly, so Cortney took him for a walk, but Eddie stayed with me. He told me that it was Ok if I messed up because I would still be his best mommy.

While Cortney pushed the stroller around outside and in the back of the book store, Eddie sat quietly through the first two readers. Every now and then he would make eye contact with me and flash me a huge smile, give me a thumbs up, or mouth “I love you” to me.

When it was my turn to read, he smiled and intently watched me. I introduced myself, my piece, and explained that after all the heartache of losing pregnancies, my biggest fan was born, and that he was in the front row. He beamed.

I read my piece (and Cortney was able to hear 3/4 of it regardless of Charlie’s antics), and Eddie clapped the loudest.

When all was said and done and we were driving home, I thought about my Eddie. He took the idea of supporting those we love to his heart and really applied it. He acted years older than his almost five years.

I wonder often what my children will remember when they are this young.

Will he remember sitting and listening to his mommy tell the story about losing her pregnancy? Did he understand any of the stories he heard that day? I saw him paying attention. I wonder what was going through his mind.

Is this just the first time he will listen to his mother tell her stories, or was it a one shot?

For all the questions and thoughts I have about Eddie being there on Saturday, I know that he learned an important lesson about being there for those you love. He learned that lifting them up helps them accomplish what they want to do.

When I think about Saturday, the thing I am most proud of is not my published writing, not that I stood up and read something that was hard to write, but that my boy stuck by me and loved me through it all.

2014-06-07 17.18.10

We are always talking about our marriage and family as being a team effort. I think Eddie is really starting to learn that he is a very important member of that team.

Go Out & Play!

If you follow me on Instagram, you know my kids love to play outside. Even if it means wearing winter coats during spring break.

2014-04-07 10.04.33

As soon as the snow was gone, they were chomping at the bit to get outdoors and run free, and I was not about to hold them back! We had a long winter with frigid temperatures and tons of snow. That meant lots of screen time and cabin fever, so when the wind shifted and our noses smelled the first hint of spring thaw? WE GOT OUT!

Because outdoor play is a staple in our summer schedule, I was beyond excited when I learned about Kaboom!, a national non-profit that is dedicated to ensuring that all children get the active play they need to grow up healthy.

Kaboom! currently has a Go Out and Play Collection available that is an assortment of active play products. Our favorite is the Backpack which is actually the center of the collection. It includes a Frisbee, two jump ropes, 2 boxes of sidewalk chalk, a rubber playground ball, and a book–by the same name–with tons of great outdoor games.

2014-06-06 12.38.46

We have both the purple AND the orange back pack because each boy needed one, of course. They are nice a big and super durable. In fact, Eddie has given his a few test runs to school.

2014-06-06 10.23.26

The playground gear gets a decent work out around here too. Both boys are crazy about the balls. In fact, Eddie claimed he had “amazing bouncing skills” last week.

2014-06-06 10.23.59

He totally does.

I love Kaboom! and their vision for getting kids up from their sedentary lifestyle to a more physically active and FUN life.  Active play can help kids develop motor skills, coordination, and increase cognitive capacity. Active kids tend to do better in school and are better problem-solvers.

As a mom and an educator, that is important to me.

2014-06-06 10.37.25

Now that the days are longer, we are outside for HOURS if the weather allows.

The best part for them is the fun and healthy aspects, but the best part for me is how fast they fall asleep at night.

Summer is rad, yo.

2014-06-06 10.39.08-2

Another amazing thing about Kaboom!? Along with Imagine Toys, they are sending me to BlogHer ’14 in San Jose next month as an Ambassador for their products and message about active, healthy play.  In the coming weeks I’ll tell you more about ways you can get involved with Kaboom! and spreading their message of getting outside and PLAYING!

In the meantime, go out & play!!

Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own. Kaboom! sent us backpacks full of goodies so we could try them out, but I was under no contract to talk about them here. I just believe in the toys and the positive message for kids.

Project 365 {week 23}

It is JUNE and it is SUMMER.

OFFICIALLY.

June 1: Open house for a very special graduate.

June 1: Open house for a very special graduate.

June 2: The boys are still in daycare, so I whip up some marscapone. No big deal.

June 2: The boys are still in daycare, so I whip up some marscapone. No big deal.

June 3: The homemade cheesecake ice cream with raspberry sauce I made with yesterday's marscapone.

June 3: The homemade cheesecake ice cream with raspberry sauce I made with yesterday’s marscapone.

June 4: Date Day! This guy was my date for pedicures, lunch, and some shopping.

June 4: Date Day! This guy was my date for pedicures, lunch, and some shopping.

June 5: I get to go as a guest to the Make A Wish Michigan The Fault in Our Stars Premier event. It was amazing.

June 5: I get to go as a guest to the Make A Wish Michigan The Fault in Our Stars Premier event. It was amazing.

June 6: Home with these two goobers trying to figure out our new summer groove.

June 6: Home with these two goobers trying to figure out our new summer groove.

June 7: The boys come to Indiana with me for a reading Three Minus One.  I was super nervous to read my piece, but Eddie told me he would like me even if I messed up, so I was good.

June 7: The boys come to Indiana with me for a reading Three Minus One. I was super nervous to read my piece, but Eddie told me he would like me even if I messed up, so I was good.

I will admit that there were parts of the week that felt stressful and I definitely battled with some anxiety.

The boys and I have NOT found our groove yet, but we will.

Cortney reminded me that this is just the transition. It will be Ok.

And it will.

I mean, we have perfect weather this week, and this is just transition?

I’ll take it.

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