better together…or not so much?

After my 20-week ultrasound with Charlie, and after we had texted all the family and friends, I asked Cortney if he was excited to have another boy. Both of us were actually quite giddy about another little boy. Eddie would have a BROTHER! They would be BROTHERS!


I have never had a same-sex sibling, but from what I could tell, it was both a blessing and a curse…but mostly a blessing. I was always a little jealous of my two brothers. Even though Chris and I were closer in age, he and our youngest brother, Mike were closer. I guess there are just things that you can’t talk about with your big sister, but that a brother understands. You know, like sports.

Cortney, though, had a brother. There are almost seven years between them, but the have a special bond. Now that they are adults, they get together regularly. They bond over a beer and discuss everything from sports to their dad to having daughters.

Brothers are special. It’s just a special relationship. That is why when were told Eddie was getting a brother, a Charlie Bird, we rejoiced for our family.


I had to write all that because now that they are three-and-a-half and six? I am not always so sure about the wonder of the brotherly bond.

Friends, the level of bickering goes to eleven with these two.

It usually starts with both of them doing their own thing. Maybe Eddie is playing the tablet while Charlie catches up on his DVR-ed Mickey episodes. Everything is peaceful in Sluiter Nation. And then someone (ahem, Charlie) feels the need to sit too close to Eddie. Or maybe someone (ahem, Eddie) randomly mentions that he had a piece of candy after school. AND THEN ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE.

Eddie freaks out on Charlie or Charlie freaks out on all of us.

And they BOTH need the last word.

I admit that I yell. I know, I KNOW. I’ve read all those stupid articles and posts about yelling at your kids and how you need to be all patient and down on their level.


This goes on and on for days and days.

The picking the bickering the not being able to be in the same dang room without driving Cortney and me to the Loony Bin.

And then Eddie will come home from school with a library book he picked out because Charlie would like it.

Or Charlie asks Eddie if he would like some of his m&ms.

Or Eddie asks Charlie if he would like to learn to play Where’s My Water on his tablet, and they scrunch together in the chair on a Saturday morning.

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Or Charlie asks Eddie if he can play Pokemon with him and Eddie says Yes.

Or Eddie asks Charlie what letters he learned at daycare and tells him “Good job!” when Charlie shares his letter work.

Or Cortney and I wake up at 6am on a Saturday because we hear the two of them giggling and talking with each other in their room because they know they can’t get up until 7:00am.

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I catch myself in those moments pausing and trying to picture them in high school together or in their 20’s and talking smack to each other about fantasy leagues. I try to picture them standing up in each other’s weddings or holding each other’s newborn babies. I like to think they will always stick up for each other, always be there when the other needs a buddy to just have a beer with.

And just as a tear is starting to come to my sentimental mom eye, I’ll hear a smack and then the yell of “CHAAAAAARRRRLLLIIIIEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!” Then a three-and-a-half-year-old scream and another thump.

I will suck in my breath, shake my head, and try to calm down so I don’t yell. Again.

Brothers, man.

The Willful Child

IMG_6655Last week, my eighth graders had the word “willful” on their vocabulary list. When we first go through the list as a class, students create circle maps to help them define each word. In those maps they put synonyms and examples that help them each remember what the vocabulary word means using a personal connection. If I had been making my own map for the word “willful”, I would have written Charlie’s name in it.

Charlie could not be more different than Eddie was at this age. I feel like I say that all the time, but it surprises me every single day.  Eddie has his issues, but by and large he is a rule-follower, a people-pleaser. He is honest to a fault–the boy will even tell me he was thinking of something bad. And he stinks at lying. His disobedience is either being mad about having to do something he doesn’t want to do or getting to wrapped up in what others are doing that he doesn’t realize he is being “naughty”.

My Charlie is different. He knows the rules, but feels that they only apply when he wants them to. For instance, we require pants to be worn at the dinner table. I don’t really feel like this is a major request, yet Charlie and I had a full blown stand off about wearing pants last week.


I was getting the boys’ dinner ready one Thursday night while Cortney was bowling. Charlie was using the bathroom, and came out in nothing but his underwear.

Me: Charlie, where are your clothes?

Charlie: In da baf-room.

Me: Why?

Charlie: I peed.

Me: Ok, Costanza. Go get your pants and put them on. Your dinner is about ready.

Charlie: NO. I not wear my pants!

Me: If you are going to eat dinner, you are going to wear pants.

Charlie: NO! NEVER! (actually it sounds more like “nevah!”)

Me: Fine. Then you can stand there until you put pants on.

Charlie: (turns his head away and puts his nose in the air and makes a little hmm! noise)

I put the food on the table and Eddie and I eat while Alice gums a cracker.

Charlie: (in a tiny, sweet, innocent voice) Mom mom? I am so hungry. So very hungry, mom mom.

Me: I bet you are.

Charlie: (nods with big eyes)

Me: Put on your pants and you can eat.

Charlie: NO! NEVAH! EVAH! NEVAH!!!!!!!!

He stands there with his arms crossed while we eat. Out of the corner of my eye I see him slide his pants toward him. Then he slowly pulls them on. After standing there with pants for a minute, he slowly slides into his spot at the table, eats his food, and we seem to forget the stand off while we all eat and chat.

about 15 minutes later…

Charlie: Can I be done, mom mom? I am full!

Me: Yup. Go wash your face and hands.

That stinker came running out with NO PANTS ON.


When it’s not funny, it’s downright maddening.

I have very few bouts of rage due to anxiety anymore, but when I do it’s usually triggered by Charlie. He is the most stubborn, strong-willed, headstrong person I know. He will do nothing on anyone else’s terms but his own.

In my 12 years of being with Cortney and 20+ years knowing him, I have never seen him yell or get super mad…until we had Charlie. Charlie doesn’t just say, “no” (although he DOES do that a LOT), he stares you in the eye and defies you.

He will tell you he is not doing something AS he does it. In front of your SEEING EYES.

And he is NOT afraid to throw down in front of all of the public in the land. Won’t let him ride in the cart because it is full of groceries? Not good enough, mom. Now the entire store shall know my displeasure in the form of screaming fits and thrown objects.



This boy is the biggest love bug you will ever meet. He is just as stubborn about his love and his cuddles as he is about not wearing pants. Eddie can want nothing to do with him, and he will adamantly insist on hugs. I will be in the middle of feeding Alice and he will bulldoze his way into my arms.

When he is mid-fit, the only way to calm him is to sit down next to him and just be close. No words. Just be at his level with him.

He refuses to trust anyone with his little sister when Cortney and I aren’t around without diligent supervision and constant check-ins. His daycare mom–who I was pretty sure he loved more than he loved me for a chunk of his life–is not immune to this. He stops whatever he is doing randomly throughout the day to make sure Alice is “ok”.


His bullheadedness drives me MAD. Literally. I go a bit nuts when he can’t do one simple task without a full on, epic fit. I get angry when, even though we do the exact same damn routine every day, he acts surprised by it and refuses to move forward until HE is ready.

I have always been against using spanking or hitting or other corporal punishment with my children, but he is the one who makes me question my stance.

And yet…he is so sweet, so wiling to give up the spotlight for his brother or sister or really anyone who will take it off of him because he hates it. He shares so easily. He loves so hard.


This horrible willfulness we are going through at age three-and-a-half will serve him so very well when he is an adult. I hope he never loses the will to stick to his guns.  Even if it’s going to drive me to crazy and back parenting him.

Once again, all photos by TMV Photography

Verbal Abuse





These tirades get hurled at me every day–more than once. I joked with someone recently that if anyone else in my life said such hurtful things to me so consistently, my friends and family would be begging me to leave that relationship. And they would be right. Anyone who consistently slams you with insults is verbally abusive.

But I’m not going to leave this relationship because it is with my sons.

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Whoever said, Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me, is a damn idiot. I know this because every time Eddie doesn’t get his way lately, he tells me he doesn’t like me. Even though I know it’s a typical 6-year old reaction, it still hurts.

Eddie and I had a very rough start; the first year of his life was hard on both of us, as I have written about many times. His birth was traumatic for both of us, his colic was traumatic for both of us, and my postpartum depression was traumatic for everyone. There are large chunks of that first year, that I have no memory of his babyhood. In fact, as I watch Alice learn and grow, I can remember Charlie doing the same things, but I can’t remember Eddie’s phases. Cortney has to remind me, and even then, without looking at photos, I don’t remember.

I spent more than a year thinking I was not supposed to be a mother. My body rejected pregnancies, it wasn’t the right shape to give birth, and my brain was chemically imbalanced. Everything about my physical being rejected motherhood. I needed medical intervention to stay pregnant, have my babies, and keep my brain from destroying myself. It was only after years of talk therapy coupled with medication did I begin to heal.

Through it all, Eddie loved me anyway.

He had no idea what was happening to me on the inside. He didn’t know that my brain was struggling to match my heart. He didn’t know that his needing my cuddles at night were healing me, and therefore healing a relationship he didn’t even know what broken–the one between mother and son.

When Charlie came along, I was well into a routine with my meds and my therapy. I knew that PPD was probably going to happen, and I was prepared. From the first night alone in the hospital with him, my relationship with Charlie was different, more whole. I tucked him up under my chin and that is where he stayed for his first year of life–never far from my arms.

Eddie still comes to me when he needs to talk. He opens up to me, even when he sort of doesn’t want to–like when he has gotten in trouble at school. Charlie still comes to me when he just needs to be held–when he needs touch.

But they have both started flinging hurtful words at me (and Cortney) as well.

It started with Eddie. When he didn’t get his way, he would tell us he didn’t like us, or that it was the “worst day” of his life.  Now it’s almost predictable.

Eddie, please put the tablet away; it’s time for bed.
Ugg. I don’t like you, mom. 

It’s become his knee-jerk reaction for anything he does not want to do.

We have talked about how these are hurtful things to say, but he has entered a very egocentric phase and cannot understand that someone else’s hurt feelings matter. Eddie, my always kind, always thoughtful boy, now claims to not care about anyone else–especially me, his dad, and his brother (because he doesn’t always do what Eddie commands).

My rule-follower suddenly sneaks things behind my back and then blames me when he gets caught. He does or says something hurtful and claims it is my fault he lost a privilege. No matter how many times we explain that he “acts his way out of” a privilege like screen time or an extra book before bed, he claims we are the worst.

It’s getting harder and harder to respond in a positive, loving, affirming manner to these outbursts. I have caught myself saying, “great because I don’t like you right now either” and “whatever. I don’t even care.” Not only do I know this sends the wrong message, but Charlie has been picking up on all of it too.

Charlie’s mouth is even more venomous than his brother’s because he has no idea the impact of his words. He knows it’s “naughty” to talk like that, so when he is angry or frustrated, that is how he lashes out: with hurtful words. He repeats what he hears, so we get a lot of “I don’t like you, mom. You are not my mom.” Or “I don’t even care about you, mom.” While I know he has no idea what he is even saying, it stings–especially because his tone is much, MUCH nastier than Eddie’s for some reason.

Last week Thursday I hit a wall. It had been a particularly challenging day in the land of teaching middle school, and I went to pick Eddie up from the after school program. He is normally not too excited to have to leave the fun he is having, but Thursday was awful. He was rude and snotty and just an all around jerk to me both in front of the teachers that run the program, and in the hall when we were alone. His words ripped at me so badly, I almost started to cry.

I don’t know if it’s a phase or if Cortney and I are somehow failing to teach our boys kindness, but I need it to stop. They are not like this with anyone else–in fact we get compliments about how kind and engaging they are with other children and adults.

It’s just Cortney and me that are on the receiving end of all the verbal abuse.

How can we teach the boys that they are slowly killing our hearts with their words?

soccer season

Before we had kids, Cortney and I talked about how we would absolutely not push them into a sport or activity that they did not want to do. Yes, Cortney played soccer and I was a band nerd, but we weren’t going to make our kids do those things. We wanted them to follow their own passions and interests.

Of course, I know that both of us always hoped we would have at least one of our children interested in the things we were. I am holding out for at least one band geek–especially a brass player–so when Eddie tells me maybe he would like to play the tuba some day, I am encouraging, but not overly so. I don’t want him to think I will be horribly disappointed if he chooses a woodwind (shudder) or choir (bigger shudder).


Eddie at 7 months.

It has never been a secret that Cortney hopes for a soccer player.

Cort played since he was very little and all the way through high school. He did some adult leagues before we were married and is hoping to get back into some this year or next.

And Eddie has been wearing little soccer warm-up suits since he was tiny.

He always picked the soccer ball out of the pile.

He always picked the soccer ball out of the pile.

Even though I think he would have hoped for a soccer player with a girl too, I know as soon as we found out Eddie was a boy, Cortney began to think about the day he would help his little guy lace up his first pair of cleats.

He knew this would be a way he could connect and build a relationship with his boy.  Not that he wouldn’t love and support any activity Eddie wanted to do, but this one was special to him.

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Cort even admitted a little jealousy because he never had cleats this awesome.

I was never athletic. I didn’t play any sports. While I was looking forward to Eddie playing soccer because he was excited about it, the Saturday morning games weren’t exactly what I would choose to do. But then I went to his first game.  And not only did I get to watch him be part of a team and love it, I got to hear Cortney cheer for his boy.

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I will admit that Eddie is entertaining to watch because not only does he do a good job (most of the time), but when he does super well–like the goal he scored this past week–he will dance and give the crowd some laughs. I have NO IDEA where he gets that part of his personality.


Right now he plays for the fun of it. He has some natural talent which we encourage, but if next fall comes around and he doesn’t want to play again, we are not going to make him.

He’s already talking about doing Tball in the spring, which we will sign him up for soon.

But for another two weeks it’s soccer season.

It’s hard to believe my tiny guy who liked to roll the plush soccer ball back and forth is finally a big kid who wears shin guards and cleats.  Gone are his chubby dimple hands and feet. They have been replaced by long, lanky arms and legs with kid feet (that stink like kid feet after a game…PU!).

Sports are just another reminder that my boys are growing up. But it’s good. It’s something we have been dreaming about for five years and now we get to see it happening in action.

At least we have a few more years before this one chooses a fall sport.

At least we have a few more years before this one chooses a fall sport.

Whether this is our first soccer season of many or just a one and done sport, it doesn’t matter.  We are helping the boys find what they love to do. And that is most important of all.


The Trouble with Kindergarten

Being away from each other all day is not new. Since he was three months old, Eddie has been in someone else’s care other than mine.

Yet I miss him more this year than I ever have.

Kindergarten is way tougher on me and him than I thought it would be. Way.

I think about him all day. I pray for him all night. I wring my hands.

This isn’t how I thought it was going to be.  I figured he would have an adjustment period. In fact, I knew that even though he was used to be gone all day and used to being busy, it would still be a big change. He would have to make new friends and learn a new routine and get used to a new set of rules and expectations.

But I had all the confidence in the world that he would be just fine. He would thrive. He would struggle with being tired, but he would make friends quickly. He’s a natural leader and so kind to everyone.

I wasn’t wrong about his kindness and ability to make friends.

I wasn’t wrong about being confident.

I didn’t expect the tummy-aches and the worrying from him.

Every day at pick up he tells me he had a great day, and he proceeds to talk my ear off the entire ride home. Every night at bedtime he confesses he doesn’t want to go to school in the morning, and he proceeds to cry out his fears and anxieties.

He is going through the adjustment period that I knew he would. This is all normal stuff. I thought I was prepared.

But I didn’t realize how much it would all hurt my heart.

Off He Goes

Dear Eddie,

When you were  a tiny baby some of the best advice I was given was by your pediatrician. She said, “You can’t make a baby eat or sleep, and you can’t make a toddler potty train until he’s ready. Let him take the lead.”

I’ll admit it’s hard for me to let someone else take the lead. I like to be in charge. When we had you, we were no longer in charge…the little charge we thought we had. You ruled our days and nights. You chose when you would hit your milestones.

You cried and wouldn’t sleep.

You cried and cried and cried.

But when you were ready to sleep, you did.

You decided.


You still require one of us to lay by you each night after we read with you. You say you an’t sleep without us there so you can feel safe. I’ll take that because I know that one day, you will tell me I can go upstairs. That you’re “good”.

But sleeping in a big boy bed took zero transition.  We brought home a mattress before Grandpa even had your bed made and you requested to take your nap there.  You never went back to your crib again.

You decided.


It was the same way with your pacifier.

You held onto that thing even when it had holes in it and we refused to buy you new ones.  Then, your friend Evan told you about the paci fairy and you started to think that getting a big boy present in return for turning in your “pipey” was a good thing.

You decided.

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Then came potty training.

We thought for sure we could get you potty trained before Charlie arrived.  You showed interest right after you turned two, and you were doing your number 2’s on the toilet almost exclusively.  Then Charlie came and you stopped caring about underpants or sticker charts or anything.

Until Althea showed up to daycare in big girl panties.  And she is a full year younger than you are. You looked right at Renae and declared yourself done with diapers.

And that was that.

You decided.

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Now you are five. You’ve been riding a bike since you were two. Your grandma bought you a tiny one from a garage sale (ok, the garage sale we were hosting), and you hopped on and took to it like a fish in water.


For your fourth birthday, we had to upgrade because  your legs grew about a mile from age three to age four.

In fact, we felt bad that you had to wait until almost the end of June because you were really just way too big for your old pal.

033This bike is a much better fit.

In fact, this bike quite easily takes you from our house up the hill to Kaydance and Carter’s house and back again.  It has taken you around the block with us as well.

You love your yellow bike.

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Early this summer, daddy asked you if you wanted to take your training wheels off.  You were a bit scared, but he helped you balance and learn to ride just through the grass.

But riding on the street seemed a little too scary. So daddy raised the wheels as far as they would go, and you kept riding. You weren’t even five yet, so we figured you would do it when you were ready, just like everything else.

Then one day, you came screaming down the hill at top speed on Carter’s bike.

Carter who is a whole year younger than you had his training wheels taken off a month ago.

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Carter came behind on your bike.

Out of breath, you ran up to daddy, “DID YOU SEE ME? NO TRAINING WHEELS!  Can you take mine off too?”

And then off you went.

You decided.

Daddy took them off, gave you a few quick reminders about safety, and off you went. I felt like I blinked and you went from a mushy baby to a kid riding a two-wheeler with the neighbor kids.

I stood there for a second watching you peddle off wondering how it all happened. Didn’t I get some sort of say about when you were ready for things? Isn’t that what part of parenting is?

You are teaching me so much about this parenting gig, Eddie.

You will do things on your own time, when you are ready, and I will always be there to cheer for you.




Recently I was interviewed by Working Motherhood and my podcast is now live!  Go give me a listen!

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,


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Feels Like the First Time

When we found out that Charlie was a boy, my very first thought was, Oh thank you, God! 

My very next thought was, Aw jeah. A boy. Not my first rodeo. I can DO this I can be a boy mom!

Side note: I’ve heard wonderful things about raising daughters. I am not knocking daughters. Shoot, I AM a daughter. But, as someone who thrives on predictability and knowing what to expect, hearing the word “boy” was like God saying, “See? No more surprises.”

No more surprises.

I had my fair share of surprises before Charlie, didn’t I? My first pregnancy was a surprise. Two miscarriages were a surprise. Everything about my labor and delivery with Eddie was a surprise. Shoot, that was such a surprise it left me with a lovely case of PTSD.

Eddie is a dang surprise every day–both in all the good ways and some of the side-eye ways.

So another boy. I can do this. No surprises.

And then God fell off his chair laughing at me.  For the millionth time in my life, probably.

Yes, Charlie is a boy. Other than that, almost nothing has been the same as his older brother. From his birth, I kept waiting for Charlie to become colicky, have digestive issues, not sleep, but that never happened. He was–dare I say it–easy as a baby. He ate and slept and pooped. If he cried it was because he was hungry, tired, or poopy.  Ok, he didn’t even cry when he was poopy. He was even content to sit in his own dump.

Charlie was a laid back baby and trouble-maker toddler.

I haz it dat bowl peez?

I haz it dat bowl peez?

He is a charmer and knows that his big blue eyes and tiny polite voice can twist many a person around his little finger.

“peez I have it dat juice?”

“peez I have it dat cookie?

“peez I have it dessert?”

The last one he said through big crocodile tears just the other night after we told him no, because he didn’t even try his pork. Cortney was sitting next time him and set the ONE bite he needed to take in front of him and said, “If you want dessert, you need to take this one bite.” Charlie proceeded to yell, “NO!” in his tantrumy two-year old voice, cry and then look at me with two tears strategically placed under each eye, just about to drop. He turned his little mouth into a sad pouty frown, made his eyes huge, put his little hand out to me and whimpered, “I haz it peez, dessert?”

I so badly wanted to give him the damn dessert.

But Cortney held firm.

Eddie is my rule follower. You bet he ate the required dinner for the elusive, not-every-day dessert treat (not without massive whining, but he’s almost five, so you know). Charlie threw that tantrum just as far as it would go until he realized his daddy was NOT going to budge.

In fact, Charlie can be so stubborn, the very next night he ate zero dinner other than a couple raspberries and when asked if he wanted dessert he said, “NO!”

While his fits are loud and tearful, they are quick. If you just avoid saying, “no” to him, you can avoid the major meltdowns.

Yeah, about that.

“No” tends to be a dare for Charlie.

“Charlie, no no. Don’t stand on the couch.”

He will look at me as if I am making the world’s silliest request and say, “yes, mommy.”  As in, “duh, you stupid lady.”

He will fling himself off furniture. He will tumble down cement steps. He will fall backward off toys. He will jump…on and off anything. And then he will laugh his deep chuckly belly laugh.

He will see Eddie sitting nicely watching TV and tackle him. He will spy Eddie watching something on the tablet and stick his face in front of him. He will see Eddie playing with something and snatch it.

He is the button pusher, and Eddie is the button.

But he is a ball of love. He likes to sit on laps and hold hands and rub my arm and snuggle into my neck. He likes me to sing to him and rock him at bedtime. He likes to hold my face and push his to mine: nose to nose. He likes to whisper, “I yuv you, momma.”

His fine motor skills are ridiculous for a kid of his age.

I watch a lot of kids play with toys however they want, but Charlie likes to figure out how to play with them the way they are made to be played with, if that makes sense. He can manipulate twisting small parts and fitting puzzles together.

And he wants to be helpful. If I need him to come in the house, just saying “it’s time to come in,” will result in a meltdown. If I say, “Charlie, I need your help!” He will come RUNNING.

always fixing things for mommy.

always fixing things for mommy.


He says all the words and just 2 years and 3 month.

“I yuv you, mommy, daddy, Eddie,” unprompted, is probably my favorite. He listens and repeats absolutely everything and Cortney and I find ourselves cracking up and not at all keeping up with all his new words and phrases each day.

I want to find a way to bottle his tiny voice and keep it forever. I want to hear “bye bye mommy. I yuv you. have gate day!” every day for as long as I live.

I love the way he sees Cortney’s car in the garage as we pull in after daycare and announces, “YAY! Daddy home! Yay!”

I even love the way he laughs at me when I ask him if he is my boy, “nooo! Nae’s boy!” (Renae, his daycare mom. He might have her wrapped tightly around his finger. He truly is her boy.)

Every day he pulls another stunt, defies us in a new way, and laughs with abandon at something I didn’t know he was paying attention to, I think, “Man. This is NOTHING like the first time around. In many ways, THIS feels like the first time too!”

Because of course it does.

This is the first time I am Charlie’s mom.

always mommy's boy.

always mommy’s boy.

Always There

This weekend while digging through my purse for some aspirin for a teenager with a headache, I pulled a pipey (pacifier) out of my purse.

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We both laughed when she said to me, “I guess you can’t put being a mom on hold even for a couple days, huh Mrs Sluiter?”

I realized what she said was incredibly true; I am never really apart from my boys.

When we were in Chicago with just Eddie, each of us commented numerous times about things Charlie would like. Eddie even pointed out the fourth seat in all the restaurants adding, “if Charlie was here, that is where he would sit.”

On this trip, I caught myself smiling at things that Cortney would have commented on with an inside joke or one of his dry, witty comments. I saw places I wanted us to go to together.

I thought often of Eddie and how he would have either loved everything about the Rain Forest Cafe or he would have been terrified by all the loud noises. I imagined him seeing Navy Pier and going to the Children’s Museum and loving the BIG BOATS in the bay.

I smiled when I saw the stuffed lions at the Rain Forest Cafe and how Charlie’s immediate reaction would have been to ROAR at them. I said words the way my boys do, even though nobody really “got it” but me.

Before falling asleep I put a pillow on the side of the bed where Cortney would have been so I could roll over and put my butt on it the way I back up to him (he hates it, calls me a bed hog). I also imagined holding his hand as I fell asleep so I wouldn’t feel lonely in that bed alone.

When I woke the next morning my first thought was my three boys back home, and as if they knew that, a text came through with a picture from Cortney of the two little guys smiling over their breakfast plates with a “Good morning, Momma!” caption.

I had so much fun on the trip. While I wouldn’t call it relaxing because we were so busy, teenagers are less needy than little ones, so other than handing out aspirin from time to time, there wasn’t much “mothering” I had to do.  It was a break.

But I was so glad to get home to my favorite three dudes in the whole world.

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And I know they were happy to see me too…even if it was just for the stuffed animals and sombreros I brought home for them.


You all have overwhelmed me with your gracious kindness that you are showing to me and my students. All the book donations that have come in so far have bumped my sad little classroom library from only 104 books to almost 320!! If you want to take a look at my wish list, you can find it here.

Also at the tail end of last week I found out that an article I co-authored will be published in the Language Arts Journal of Michigan.

And if those things weren’t awesome enough, I found yesterday (Monday) that I have been chosen as one of BlogHer’s 2014 Voices of the Year.

The good is very good.

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