This day…today…amazed me.

I am left sitting here typing this an aching, emotionally drained, physically exhausted pile of whine.

So pooped that actual wine doesn’t even sound good to me.


Anyway, let me go back….

You all know that Cort’s sister and brother-in-law are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia, yes?  If by chance you don’t know what I am talking about, you REALLY should go to their blog, Stepping Stones, and read about their journey.  It’s lovely.  Go ahead.  You can go read now.  I’ll wait….

tappity….tappity…tappity…oh, you’re back.  Ok…

So, they are adopting from Ethiopia and we REALLY wanted to help out.  It all started months ago when they asked if I could contribute something crafty to their online auction.  I didn’t have the time or the supplies, but I SOOO wanted to help.

Fastforward to me volunteering to do a garage sale to get rid of our stuff.  And then asking for donations.  It got huge, people.  I am telling you…it took over our basement and part of our garage.

This is only part of it.  We had started moving things to the garage already at this point.  See?

On Thursday MacKenzie (my sis-in-law), our friend Trisha, and I organized everything into categories in the garage and then priced it all.  Friday, more stuff was dropped off, so I went through all that:  sorting and pricing.  Oh, and it was about 1000 degrees with 100% humidity.  It was like organizing in a sauna.

Friday night to celebrate this fundraiser and to get a little taste of what Ethiopia is like, MacKenzie and Dave took us to GoJo in East Town (Grand Rapids). GoJo is family owned and the owner, Sam, waited on us and chatted it up with Kenz and Dave–they are regulars now!

Many families who are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia or who have adopted come to eat here.  It’s amazing the sense of community there is even with only one other table of diners in there besides us.  I just felt that this was a familiar place for people to come.

Pictures of children who have found their families lined the windows and Sam knew right where his customers were in their own processes.  He even mentioned to Dave and Kenz that he heard they had waiting list numbers now!

The experience was super unique to anything I have had before–the only thing I can compare it to is digging in to and appetizer, but it was the table’s meal.

The food is family style and the diners get NO utensils or plates.  You simply grab your Ethiopian flatbread and dig in to the lamb, beef, chicken, collards, salads, and lentils.  The platter we ordered was pretty darn spicy, but it can be milder.  The flavor?  Was SO worth the “after burn” in my mouth.  Even though I knew I would get a fire mouth?  I kept going for more!

Even Eddie liked some of the milder tastes!  I can definitely say we will be back!  Such a great experience!

So armed with Ethiopian food in our bellies, we met Saturday morning with determination to make some cash at the garage sale!

In fact, I was hanging signs at 7:15am (the sale started at 8am), and a couple stalked me down in their minivan to ask me if we would open early.  Garage Salers?  Are serious.

The night before I made all these cute little business cards with the Stepping Stones blog address on them to give to people as they bought or donated so they could follow the adoption journey.  It was definitely a hit!

So we waited for the crowds.  We got a few in the first hour, but by 9:30 I was all panicky that people weren’t going to come.  Shouldn’t we have had a morning rush?

So I called my mom and asked her if she was coming.  My mom?  said she wasn’t “planning on it”.  I begged her to come so that we wouldn’t have NO one here…even if she didn’t buy anything, she could play with Eddie.

Apparently that call was the trick!  After that, we were steady until around noon!  My mom even ended up buying a little bike for Eddie!  Hooray for Grandma!  And Granny showed up too and bought Eddie some books!  Yay!  Grandmas are the BEST!

My favorite thing of the day, though, was when Kenzie’s BFF, Alicia was here with her two kids, Ruthie and Lewis.  Lewis spotted a soccer ball he wanted and Alicia tried to tell him they had one at home already.  Needless to say, Lewis REALLY wanted the soccer ball.

Then Alicia said, that soccer ball?  Was one she has donated to the sale.  Luckily, HER mom was there and bought the ball back for Lewis.

Again, Grandmas for the win!

We worked hard today.  Cortney and I met a LOT of our neighbors (in fact, we met the guy Cort has secretly been calling Mr. Jones and trying to keep up with…get it?  His real name is Steve and his wife bought a ton.).

We also learned that many of our neighbors have also adopted.

In fact, one?  Is in the process of adopting from Ethiopia too!  We heard many lovely stories of adoption and God’s love for all children.  It made the day pretty emotional.

Cort’s dad once told me how glad he was to have me in the family.  I have NEVER forgotten that.  He was glad to have me.

And today, even though so many people told me it was great that Cort and I were helping, I really didn’t feel like we were doing anything special.

I felt like the people who donated and who were shopping were doing the special things.

Kenz and Dave are doing something special for children they don’t even know yet, but already love more than life.

Not us.  Not me.  But I remembered what my father-in-law said. He welcomed me in even though I wasn’t technically his own.  He felt I was good for something.

Today, I felt I was living up to what he meant.  I don’t need thanks.  I really don’t want it.  I just want him to be proud.  And I want Kenz and Dave to look at their children and be glad. 

And it made Cort and I VERY glad to give them the $500 that was earned at the garage sale!  Never once did it cross our minds that that money could be ours.  Never.  In fact, someone said we should get a receipt at Good Will for the rest of the stuff, but you know what?  Most of that stuff was donated.  It wasn’t ours.  We don’t feel right getting a receipt for it.  So it will just be another donation.  It’s the least we can do for all the blessings that continue to come our way.

I cannot WAIT to meet my niece, nephew, or both!  I can’t.  I love being an aunt.  Love it.  Almost…ALMOST as much as I love being a mom!

Long Road

“I have wished for you so long…”

Somewhere inside of me, I have always longed to be a mom.

As a kid, I bossed my brothers around getting them to do what I wanted.  We played “house” and dress-up.  I “cooked” and took care of the “baby”.  I had great positive mom role models all around me, so I modeled what they did in my childhood play.

My brothers and I grew up.  In high school and college, my brothers would come to me with their problems–some serious, some not so much.  Either way, I mothered them.  I made sure they had gifts for our parents for all major holidays.  I made sure they met deadlines.  I listened to their broken hearts and their fears.  I doled out advice.  But most of all, I assured them that everything would be Ok.  That I would stay by their sides.

Then I became a high school teacher.  Suddenly I wasn’t just offering reading and writing assignments to students or teaching them the difference between “their”, “there”, and “they’re”, I was listening to them after school.  I was hearing heartbreak and poverty issues.  I was helping students figure out how to get to school each day.  I was mentoring seniors to graduation and checking their homework and making sure they were meeting deadlines.  And apparently, according to some, I was giving the “mom look” when I was disappointed or when I disapproved.

All signs pointed to me someday being a successful mom.

“Will I walk the long road?”

Getting pregnant–or I should say staying pregnant–was not easy for me.  We suffered two devastating miscarriages.  Even though my heart and mind thought I should be a mom, my body was not cooperating.

And then came Eddie.  My sweet Eddie Bear.

“All the precious moments…”

I totally thought giving birth would instantly make me a mommy.  How wrong I was.  And taken by surprise.  Wasn’t I totally cut out for this?

I was NOT an instant mom.  Not by a long run.  My independent self was just not ready to give up itself.  PPD settled in hardcore and I became someone else.  I went to a very dark place during the time I thought would be the happiest, most joyful part of my life.

But there were moments.

Rocking a tiny baby in the wee hours of the morning.

Sleeping on the couch with my bundle so he would feel safe, and not lonely in a big empty crib.

Watching him belly laugh for the first time.

Seeing him learn to “interact” with the squid that hung down from his play mat.

Listening to him coo to the elephant on the wall by his changing table.

“All the memories going round, round, round, round…”

Looking back over this year of being a Momma, I have learned this about myself:

“Mothering” and being “A Mother” are two very different things.  You can mother someone and then leave the situation.  When you are A Mother, you are it. period.

I can do things I didn’t think I could.

I am not “just” Eddie’s Mom, but that is a new, important PART of who I am.

I really can survive on less than eight hours of sleep.  Regularly.

My mom was right, I don’t sleep past 9:00 am anymore (although she figured this would end when I got my first “real” job.  Yeah, right.)

I am not the most important person in my life anymore…

…BUT my health is very important to those who ARE most important in my life now.

I thought I was funny.  I was wrong.  Eddie is funny.  Hilarious even.  I do not compare.

Speaking of comparing?  I can’t. I can’t compare myself or Eddie too closely with other mommas.

I can’t do it on my own.  Cortney has been a VITAL part in any of this momma business being successful.  He makes me a better mom by being a great husband and dad-do.

I am NOT alone.  I have friends, family, bloggy friends, twitter friends, and other Theta Moms who are helping me figure all this out and are celebrating my victories with me.

I am not perfect.  And that is Ok.  Eddie (and Cort) will love me anyway.  And I will become better and stronger because of my imperfections.  And maybe these imperfections and what I learn will help others.

“I have wished for you so long…
how I wish for you today
Will I walk the long road?
We all walk the long road.”

 *lyrics from Long Road by Pearl Jam
This post was written in response to the blog celebration Theta Mom is having this week where she asks her readers to share why they are theta moms.

Head over and read other testimonials about being a Theta Mom!

You’ve Waited…

After patiently waiting, the results are in. We are having a BOY!!!! Below is the shot we got proving this. That is a “lap” shot. You can see his little legs and then his, uh…boy part…in the middle! Our wonderful lab tech, Jamie, brought this image up and said, well, can you tell? And Cort said, “That is a BOY!” And he was VERY right!

Here’s the profile shot…he’s lying on his side, hopefully waving–not giving us the bird! 🙂

The appointment was so great! Cortney and I met at Zeeland Hospital at 3:45–I was the pregnant woman doing the potty dance in the lobby. We got all checked in and luckily, Jamie came out to get us quickly. She got right to business. She showed me my full bladder and said, “oh my, let’s get these pictures fast!” She took the ones she needed and then let me go potty.

That is when the FUN part started! She took about 30 minutes of “picture taking” where she took the measurements and photos that the radiologist and OB need to check on. Then, after what seemed like FOREVER, she asked us, “so you want to know, huh?” And that was when Cort realized he was having a son!

It was such a great experience! I could have honestly sat and watching our little guy all day! He was moving and shaking in there! He was actually sitting in the breech position, so I could feel his little feet kicking as I watched him roll around. It was so cool!

Over all we loved meeting our son. And since I promised, his name is: Edward Steven Sluiter! Edward was Cortney’s Great Grandpa Koops’ name and Steven was Cort’s dad’s name. Of course both of my brothers think it’s great that their nephew also shares a first name with Eddie Vedder, lead singer of Pearl Jam, but we assure you that is NOT who we named him after!

Anyway…family, friends, and fans….meet Edward Steven!

A New Day…

Today, for Project 365, I took two pictures. I just couldn’t help myself.

First, I need a picture of our media center. Today I took my students to RIF (Reading is Fundamental)–a program that is sponsored by local businesses to put free books in the hands of public school students to promote reading. This program is very near and dear to me as an English teacher. I become increasingly aware each year that I teach, that the way I was brought up–with a drawer busting at the seems full of books, read to whenever I wanted, watching my parents as life-long readers–is just not the reality of so many students.

A couple weeks before Christmas, frustrated with the complaining and lack of reading at home for homework, I asked my class how many of them had a pile of books as a kid. Three kids in the class (A students, by the way) raised their hands. I asked how many grew up watching their parents/guardians read for fun–either the newspaper, magazines, books. No one raised their hands, but one kid joked, “do the classifieds count?”

So for my students, these books are like gold. Some have been turned off to books forever and don’t really appreciate the donation, but many eat the books up like manna from heaven.

So I had to take this picture. In the background you can see the band playing because the theme of this month’s RIF is music. You can also see the huge screen in the background. This leads me to my next picture…

Today we welcomed a new president. My students were ALL excited about this huge event. To accommodate as many students as possible, all teachers showed the inauguration speech/swearing in, but since it happened at noon (lunch), the media center was also open to those who wished to watch. Many students sat quietly–all on their own accord–to watch our first minority president get sworn in. I saw tears in the eyes of many students today…something that put a lump in my throat.

The reason I thought these pictures went together today was because I believe in our future as a nation. I firmly believe that the students I teach today can make our tomorrow better. I also believe that today will forever be seen as historic for the new start and the new hope that was brought to a struggling nation.

I don’t think it matters if you are a Democrat or a Republican, today was a great day for our nation. Let us all join in prayer for our new administration that our nation may be lead out of the hard times, and into a brighter future with the help of the next generation.

A Big Welcome To 2009!

After a tumultuous 2008, Sluiter Nation is pleased to welcome in 2009!

2008 seemed to the the year of craziness not just for us, but for the rest of the world as well. As we say goodbye to the past year, we like to look back at what has happened in ’08, and look forward to what we hope for ’09. Here are our lists:

Looking Back….

  • In February we experienced the joy of finding out we were pregnant, only to have to go through the devestation of miscarriage (again) in April.
  • In March, I turned 30! Cortney helped me celebrate by taking me to the JW Marriot for a night away from home.
  • Cody and Liz got engaged in the spring!
  • I graduated from my Masters program in June (and enjoyed a raise because of it in the fall)
  • MacKenzie and Dave got engaged just before the end of the school year!
  • We took a Chicago trip in June and saw many friends AND caught REM in concert
  • Sluiter Sib Canoe Trip of ’08!
  • Cortney and I traveled to NY one last time to visit Phil and Liz before their move south. Wine tours and fun!
  • Cortney began his college career
  • We were blessed with a pregnancy that has decided to stick around!
  • Stress at work…boo to the economy and boo to state pressures on education!
  • We became Godparents to Joe!
  • Cortney turned 30 in December! We celebrated with a wii!
  • Cortney ended his first semester of class with a 4.0!!!
  • I won the Fantasy Football Championship!
  • We spent lots of time with great friends and fun family members focusing on the joy and trying to put the sad behind us!

Looking Ahead…

  • Fun with friends we don’t get to see very often
  • bridal showers, baby showers, and more bridal showers!
  • a new president!
  • Cortney finishing his first YEAR of college!
  • paying off another vehicle
  • a healthy baby Sluiter!
  • becoming parents and losing sleep and probably lots of other challenges we can’t imagine yet!
  • gaining a brother-in-law
  • finding time to enjoy Lake Michigan and the beach
  • gaining a sister-in-law
  • meeting our friends’ new babies
  • taking maternity (and paternity) leave
  • creating new family traditions

We have lots to be thankful for and lots to look forward to! We hope your New Year’s is as joyful and hopeful as ours!

Happy 2009 from Sluiter Nation!

Happy Two Thousand and GREAT!!!

Welcome to the new year! With all the fun that has happened in 2007, we can’t say we were too sad to see the year go. We had a difficult spring of ’07 and it sort of carried through the summer and into the new school year and holidays with us. We are looking forward to this fresh start. Both of us made a couple personal resolutions and we also made one or two as a couple. In fact, we have already started working on them!

As for seeing out the old and welcoming in the new, Cortney and I did it in our typical way: staying home in our jammies playing games, eating pizza, and sipping beers.
We started with some scrabble; Cortney won. Then we moved to three rounds of Yatzee; Cortney won all of them. I thought I would have an advantage at Skip-Bo, which I have years of practice playing, but alas, no. Cortney won that too.

After a brief break, we decided to rock out and play some Guitar Hero. We both rocked pretty hard at that, but Cortney prevailed again on most of the songs. Although, when it came to the Tom Morello battle, neither of us could beat him.

We paused the game just long enough to watch Dick Clark and the Times Square ball drop. Then we were right back into the game. We finally decided to shut the book on 2007 around 1:00am.
We definetly look forward to what 2008 will bring to us!