There Should Be More Here

This year is getting away from me. I look back on what I’ve written this year and I am sad because it’s not more. There should be more. More Eddie being a 2nd grader and saying amazing things. More Charlie being in preschool and transforming before our eyes. More of Miss Alice,our last baby, doing toddler things.

Eddie continues to show that he has a soft heart for others. He is my little activist. He worries about kids who might not have food, shelter, or warm coats this winter. He wonders out loud about the kindness of our country and world leaders. I find things like this in his massive stack of doodle and “crafts”:

That is a football they are tossing around, by the way.

When I found a pile of winter coats, hats, and mittens that don’t fit Eddie or Charlie anymore, Eddie wanted to find kids who needed them and just give them. He didn’t want them to have to buy them at Goodwill. Because of that idea of his, our family has decided to collect winter gear at church and donate all of it to the our local Community Action House who will get them straight to people who need them most.

Yesterday I was giving Alice a bath and Cortney and Charlie were downstairs. It was very quiet in the living room; all I could hear was the TV on the news. Because I didn’t want to leave Alice alone in the tub, I called out, “Eddie?”

“Yeah?”

“Whatcha doin’?”

“Watching the news.”

“Is it boring?”

“No. It’s interesting.”

This kid. Interested in the news, caring about others, and just this month he was awarded his Duty to God awards, a hiking beltloop, and some prizes for selling so much popcorn for cub scouts. I’m just so proud of him. And he treats his little sister like this:

I was nervous about how Charlie would do with preschool. He has such a temper and a penchant for, um, stripping when he is super mad at us. But this fall at parent/teacher conferences, his teacher told us that he is a “quiet leader” who is always first to sit nicely on the carpet, follows directions to a tee, and listens so well he always has the right answer. I just sat blinking.

His tantrums have slowed considerably–in fact we only see them when he is really tired or hungry or we are rushing him. He likes to do things at his own speed, in his own way. If he is left to himself, he is incredibly mature for a four-year old.

He proudly folds towels and cleans the boys’ bathroom downstairs. He helps with food prep when he can, and picks up without being asked if you leave him to it. He also works hard to make his little sister laugh and smile.

He has become my cuddle bug lately. It almost feels like he knows he’s growing up, so he wants to keep as much little as possible by tucking himself next to me as much as he cane. He is so proud of what he accomplishes, but still wants to stay my littlest guy.

Unlike Eddie who will talk all about what kids did at recess or what kids are singing on the playground, Charlie will rarely tell me about the kids in his class–but he knows all their names. He will tell me what letter he worked on, what he learned, what station he got to do that day. He will be quick to tell me if he was able to be a helper–his favorite.

He also never wears socks if he doesn’t have to. If he comes in your house, shoes come off, but so do the socks. Every time.

My baby girl is shedding the “baby” more each day. She is definitely finding her voice around here. When her brothers are wrestling around or being loud, she puts a little hand out and yells, “TOP! BSS! TOP!” (Stop, boys! Stop!)

She asks for “milky” and “bankie” (blankie). She calls her pacifier a “boppy” just like Charlie did.  She can ask for “buks” (books) and “babees” (babies). She delights at seeing herself on video. She waves “hi” and “bye” and when the phone rings she said, “heh yo.” (hello).

She calls for “MOMMA MOMMY MOMMA MOOOOOMMMAAA!!!” which her brothers never did at this age. She has figured out how to say “Dad dee” quite regularly though too and it’s adorable the way she makes Cortney melt all over the floor with her little voice saying “hi dad dee. hi.”

My favorite thing is how her bedtime routine with me is right now. We rock and she likes me to sing. But she doesn’t know how to say “sing” so she just cuddles in and softly says, “peez, momma. peez,” and that is my cue to start singing. When I finish one song, if I don’t go directly into another (or repeat that same one), she will say, “peez,” again. Even when I think she is completely out, she will whisper, “peez,” from behind that little green pacifier of hers. When I pause and don’t get a “peez” I know I can kiss her and lay her down without a fuss.

She is our hugger, our kisser, and our fancy girl. She loves babies and dresses and pretty bracelets and necklaces and purses. She loves to imitate her brothers and her dad and especially me.

Other than her love of being close and cuddly, it’s sort of like she doesn’t know she’s little. She bosses people and demands things, but she does it with a little “peez” and hands out, you just can’t resist her! I’m doing my best not to spoil her, but my goodness! Look at that face!

These kids are keeping us so busy…maybe that is why I have not written enough. But I do regret it. I have this space and I want to fill it.

Our lives are full: Eddie is busy with scouts, I am busy with scouts as the Religious Emblems Coordinator, Cortney is busy with bowling and consistory (he’s a deacon now). Charlie and Alice are busy being little. Eddie is crazy busy getting older and more dependable. School keeps three of us busy. In fact, I just registered to (re)take the GRE (because it’s been over 5 years since I last took it) so I can apply for a PhD program next year.

But I don’t want to be so busy that I forget to post here.

Because we also have snow days like today, when Eddie made his very first snow man all by himself:

Stuff like that deserves to be recorded because look at that face! And Eddie is cute too!

Her First is My Last

Just this week Alice got a tooth.

Ok, it’s not all the way through yet, but the little ridged top is. When she laughs, I can see it. Her first tooth.

She rolls like a mad-woman these days too. If I lay her down on her back, she rolls onto her tummy and kicks. Last night, she planted her feet and pushed. Cortney called it “snow plowing.” She was clearly trying to move from one end of her play mat to the other to reach a toy. She pushed her face to the floor and shoved herself with her feet and knees! I was shocked!

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Lately we find her not at all in the same place we laid her in her crib. At night we place her on her back in the middle. In the morning, she wakes up on her tummy all the way to one end. This morning she was reaching her arms through the slats.

As with the boys, all these firsts are bittersweet. It’s so exciting to watch kids grow and change and learn, and yet our momma hearts mourn the loss of the baby things too.

I knew Alice’s firsts would be harder on me because, even though I am 100% cool with our decision to be done, each of her firsts marks the end of something.

I know, that sounds morbid. And I promise I am not walking around depressed all the time because she can roll over. I really love watching her figure things out and become her own person.

And yet…

Once that little tooth pushed through, our days of gummy baby grins was swept into the past.

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It seems like every day there is a new change, she’s just a little bigger, she can do one more thing.

I notice that when I set her in her car seat or bounce seat, she tries to lean forward…to bend at the waist…as if she wants to sit up. While she still technically fits in her rock n play, swing, and bounce seat, I can tell the days are numbered. She humors me though, and actually plays with the toys on her swing (the boys couldn’t have cared less about the swing, let along those toys), bounces herself in her bounce seat, and snoozes in her rock n play during the day.

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Why can’t they be babies just a little longer?

Why does it have to go so fast?

Sometimes when I think about her getting bigger, I have to literally catch my breath.

With each child, I have loved the baby phase more. I am not sure if it’s because she’s third, a girl, or just Alice that this time around has been the sweetest.

Last night I made her giggle so hard she did that silent laugh thing and ended up with the hiccups. I laid down next to her and she turned her face to mine. I put my nose against hers so I could smell her baby-ness and I whispered, “let’s always love each other like this, ok?”

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We have two weeks left to snuggle on each other as much as possible. For me to try not to miss any minutes of her growing and changing and smiling.

Because these are also my last two weeks of a summer with a baby in tow.

twenty-eight weeks, eleven to go

Dear Alice,

If everything goes ok and you and I both stay nice and healthy, we have eleven more weeks of you on the inside. At this time (9:04am) in eleven weeks, you will probably be here. Your brothers may already have met you.

Baby girl clothes have been showing up from friends who have older girls. Really cute hand-me-downs, and even a few new things have arrived in the mail. As I hold them I have all these mixed feelings. I’ll be honest with you, Alice. I am scared to be a “Girl Mom”.  It might be silly, but I feel like I don’t know how. All these dresses and cutesy things…they are so foreign to me. Tiny mary jane-style shoes and flowery shirts are a far cry from little man khakis and cardigan sweaters. I’m used to converse and bow ties. I’m used to dressing up tiny little men. I’m used to boys.

You are a little scary to me.

Daddy keeps reminding me that you are not going to be born an 8-year old with an opinion. That you will be a small cuddly baby who will need me to feed you, and change you, and cuddle you. That I know how to do all of those things very, very well. He is right, and I am very VERY much looking forward to those first couple months when it’s just you and me and time to be together.

But as I rock Charlie before bed, I look around the nursery. I imagine your name on the wall instead of his, your clothes hanging in the closet instead of his sweaters, your shoes lined up instead of his, the trucks put downstairs to make way for whatever you love. And it’s weird.

When I was pregnant with Charlie, the only things I put away from the nursery were things that said “Eddie” on them. Now I am also gathering up “boy stuff” to put in the “boy room” downstairs. I want a clean slate for you. It’s very possible you will also be in love with trains and trucks, and that is great! We have lots! But maybe you will love baby dolls and My Little Ponies, and I want the room to be ready for that too.

So it’s strange.

I’ve had two babies before you, but it’s feels like I am starting over from scratch. I feel that sense of not knowing what to expect all over again. In fact, I have been so nervous about it, I have refused to let go of the boy clothes I have in storage that Charlie has grown out of simply because…well…what if you’re NOT a girl?

I mean, I SAW the ultrasound. I know there are no boy bits. I know that. But something in my head just can’t wrap itself around a GIRL.

I want you to be here. I want you to be real. I want a daughter.

But I am afraid.

I hope it’s Ok to admit that to you.

Eleven more weeks and you will be on the outside, but still in my arms.

I’m very excited, Alice. Despite the nerves.

I promise.

Confession: I’m Not Convinced

Yesterday my mom and I went shopping for Black Friday. We don’t get up super early or go on Thanksgiving or anything. No, we get up when we feel like it and are usually at the mall around 10am, give or take a few minutes depending on how slowly I am moving.

Anyway, we were in the infant/toddler section at Younkers’ yesterday looking at tiny clothes for tiny people. My mom wanted to buy Alice a little something for Christmas. I have wanted to try to pick out a jammy for her too–something that can be her coming home from the hospital jammy.

Something has held me back, though.

My mom had no problem digging through all the pink and purple searching for a cute little something for her second granddaughter. I looked, but I also looked through the boy things thinking about how I will miss the tiny man clothes. My mom told me to get over it.

But really? I think I am just not convinced I’m having a girl. Or I am skeptical. Or I just can’t wrap my mind around it. Or I have a mom “feeling”. Or I am paranoid.

I am something all right.

Both boys had unmistakable ultrasounds. There were most definitely boy bits on the black and white screen.

Alice was different. She didn’t cooperate at first and when she did, there wasn’t anything there, but I kept thinking maybe we just missed them? Is that possible?

I love looking at little girl stuff. It’s a whole new world to me to be fascinated by.

Yet I’m not convinced it’s my new world. I can’t imagine being handed a girl baby. I can’t imagine having another female in the house. I can’t imagine girl diaper changes and hair “pretties” (OMG the hair pretties).

Maybe I am just scared.

Last night I told Cortney I wasn’t 100% on board the girl train like I was with the boys. He said, “well we better talk about a boy name then, just in case.”

I love that guy.

He didn’t tell me to quit worrying or to accept that it’s a girl.

Nope. He said, “well, let’s be ready either way.”

And that is what we will be: ready either way. Because like we said before, it truly does not matter whether this is a boy or a girl, we are so SO excited to meet this new baby and complete our family.

Nesting and Resting

This pregnancy is so dang weird. I mean, it’s weird in the sense that it is really nothing like my pregnancies with the boys.

One way is that I am tired ALL THE TIME. When the second tri hit with the boys, I was all about the energy kick and taking advantage of it.  I felt great and I loved my baby bump that stuck out.  Other than the constant peeing and the partial placenta previa with Charlie that kept me on my butt a lot, I felt really great.

This time? I got nothing. I’m still completely wiped out all the time. It’s almost as debilitating as the first tri, just without the barfing and near-barfing. I start the days so tired I feel a little like I could fall asleep driving…even while blasting some righteous old school rap. I feel like I stop and sit a LOT during class time rather than roam the room like I prefer to do. By my prep hour (the last hour of the day), it takes everything I have to not just sit and stare blankly out of exhaustion.

Even with all the ways that Cortney picks up my immense slack, I still find myself falling asleep before 8pm while putting Eddie to bed. My OB checked my iron. It turns out I am just really, really tired.

Oddly, the other difference is that with the boys, I had no desire to nest. Ever.

In fact, Cortney asked me while I was in my last month of pregnancy with Eddie when the nesting thing was supposed to kick in because each day I got lazier and lazier. I wanted to do nothing but watch Sex and the City reruns, eat Cheetos, and sleep.

This time, although I am so very tired all the time, I feel itchy to clean and purge everything unessential from this house. I can stand to think about how much STUFF we have accumulated in closets and shoved in drawers. I want to take an entire box of trash bags and fill them up  and get rid of them.

Today I did just that with the toy room.

That room gave me all the hives, so even though I wanted to nap (Charlie went down for a nap, Cortney has a cold so he took a nap, and Eddie was quietly watching Netflix), I grabbed some boxes and bags and headed downstairs.

And let me tell you, I purged so much that when Cortney went downstairs to grab the boxes and bags and put them in my car before little eyes saw what I was getting rid of, he was shocked at how much better it looked. I wanted to continue into Eddie’s room and relocate his toys to the toy room (and maybe purge some stuff on the way) and go through the boy shoes and clothes that no longer fit Charlie.

But I ran out of steam. You know, being pregnant and lifting and bending and starting out all tired didn’t really help.  But I made a dent.

And tonight I will be falling asleep moments after I hit publish on this because holy cow…everything on my body is angry.

Did you get the nesting bug with your pregnancies? Or were you like me with naps and Cheetos? Maybe this nesting thing is because it’s a girl. Or because it’s my last.

Whatever it is, I’ll take it because I love to clean out and get rid of stuff.

Just don’t tell the dudes that live in my house…they get nervous every time they know I am going to tackle a new room. Ha!

A Little Bit of Girl

About four years ago one of my very great friends found out she was not having just one girl, but two! I got so excited that I just started buying baby girl things.

I got the girls pillow case dressed from Etsy, blankets and burp clothes from a friend, and just sort of sighed deeply at all the cute assuming I would probably not get to do this for myself.

Of course, I was wrong as is evidenced by the fact that a little Alice is growing (and moving!) inside of me as I type.

Last night our families got together for our monthly night of delicious food–her husband is the best cook I have ever met–kid fun, adult time for cards, and so many laughs.

As we were standing around chatting while dinner cooked, she came out with some things for Alice.
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Those dresses, blankets, and burp cloths are the ones I bought four years ago for her dear twin girls. She saved them in case I ever had a girl. I didn’t want to get all emotional on her, but I had completely forgotten about these gifts and I hugged them close to me. I’m pretty sure no one noticed that my breath was taken away and my eyes momentarily filled with tears.

I held the shoes in the palm of my hand while I thought of the seemingly hundreds of boy shoes I have in a tub under Eddie’s bed. I looked at this single pair of girl shoes and almost lost it.

It’s real.

I’m having a little girl.

We will bring her home and she will live here beside the two boys who are already bigger than the space we have.

She will carve out her own special place in this family.

She.

 

The Naming

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

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

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

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

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

Edward Steven Sluiter

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

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

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

Eddie was baptized on their birthday, August 9th.

Charles Thomas Sluiter

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

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

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

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

Alice Katherine Sluiter

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

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

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

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

The Last Time

I have been asked a LOT if, because we are having a girl, this will be our last pregnancy.

It will most likely be our last pregnancy, but not because we are having a girl.

When I was pregnant with Charlie, Cortney made no secret about the fact that he would be perfectly happy with just two kids. Two boys. The Sluiter Boys. The Sluiter Brothers. A family of four.

I said I wouldn’t know until he was here, and less than two hours after he was born I finally looked up from staring at his wrinkly newborn face with tears in my eyes and said, “this can’t be my last baby.”

Within a month of finding out I was pregnant with Alice, after barfing for the thousandth time in a day plus running after two boys and breaking up bickering all day, I announced, “THIS IS IT. I can’t do this again. The first trimester is too dang exhausting. This is the last baby!”

And Cortney rejoiced. In fact, I had to tell him to maybe hold off on making any “appointments” until after the baby was here.

So the decision to be done after three was made long before we knew #3 would be a girl.

I thought I would be a lot sadder about going through my LAST pregnancy. I didn’t mind being pregnant with the boys once I got through the evil first trimester, but this time EVERYTHING has been different. For one, the first trimester ended and while I do barf less, I still get gaggy at random times–especially if I am congested and can’t breathe out of my nose.

I’m also just as exhausted as I was through the first tri. My doctor tested my iron, but it turns out I’m just exhausted. Working and having two kids at home knocks me on my butt. The eight hours of sleep I make myself get per night is not cutting it. In fact, I find myself struggling to stay awake while I drive to work at 6:45am, and when I get home I’m useless. I can’t bring myself to empty the dishwasher or reload it. Making dinner is a huge exertion, and getting Eddie to get his homework done, both boys to have baths, and both boys in jammies by bedtime takes all the strength I can muster. Then I almost fall asleep on the couch until I just go to bed.

And I can’t keep track of anything! I have missed appointments (even with the reminders); I have missed turn in deadlines for Eddie, and I have missed deadlines for myself.  I have had a blog that is half-broken for two months now and I just don’t have the energy to get anyone on the phone and crab about it because I will probably cry from being so tired and over it.

I am also starting to feel BIG. At 22 weeks, I caught myself waddling in the hall today. WHAT? Going up and down steps is starting to wind me and lifting Charlie (or too many books) gives me a cramp.

I know! This is a rant of whining!  Which is exactly why every time something hurts or I want to lie down and cry (or sleep), I tell myself: “this is it. The last time.”

What I will miss is the excitement of that ultrasound around 20 weeks. The feeling of the baby moving and grooving inside me. Of being one with another person. I’ll miss the help my students give me because watching me try to bend is too ridiculous.

I’ll miss the back rubs that Cortney gives me (without me even having to ask) and the way Eddie says, “bye mom and Alice!”

Even though I feel like my body is mad at me for being pregnant, I know it will be a little bittersweet once Alice is here and I know that I will never be a home for a growing human again.

Cortney and I always said we would know when we were done, and we just know.

Alice is the last piece of the Sluiter Family Puzzle.

We just know.

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