He is Now a Role Model

A couple weeks ago, Cortney made his graduation from college official by participating in commencement. I proudly sat in the super hot field house packed tightly on a folding chair between my sister-in-law (bless her heart sitting there all first-trimestery) and a woman who was not tiny who decided to sit sideways in her seat which means her left thigh/butt cheek was all pressed on my thigh all the while a small boy about Eddie’s age sat backward in his folding chair in front of me swinging his legs and bruising up my shins nicely.

I fanned myself with the program.  You know…the program that had this in it:

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We craned our necks and saw him walk in.  One WOO WOO from Cort’s mom and he knew where we were seated, which meant that later, after all the speakers and honorary what-have-you’s when he was up front waiting to walk across the stage, he and I could exchange big stupid grins from across the huge field house.

Normally, the speeches and everything bore me to death, but I sort of paid attention to the commencement address this time (partly because she polled the audience to see how many people actually remember any of the graduation speeches they have ever heard and I could not raise my hand…which is especially sad not just because I sit through high school graduation every single year, but because some of those speeches? I helped write. Oops).

Anyway, the speech.  Her theme was Everything You Need to Know you Learned at GRCC.  It was cute and quirky and she even interviewed specific students to use their anecdotes. It was nice.

Most of that stuff I don’t remember.

What I do remember is that she told the graduates that they learned to be role models.

She, also a community college grad, related to the graduating class about WHY people choose to go to community college:  some for financial reasons…to get those “gen eds” out of the way on the cheap, but many many are there because of a negative reason: nowhere else would take them.

It brought me back to the night Cort got his honors medal.  Each student awarded was able to say a few words upon acceptance.  One beautiful young girl (young to me, she was probably in her 20’s) took the mic and told us that she had all the staff to thank.  She came to GRCC as a high school dropout who had messed up in every possible way, and now she was graduating with the highest honors the college could bestow upon her.

My eyes teared up.

Cort was not a high school dropout, but he didn’t do his best the first time he did college.  He wasn’t focused, he didn’t know what he wanted out of college, and he was just not ready.  He had been an Ok student in high school, but there you didn’t have to have a focus other than finishing the courses the counselors told you to do.  College was different, and after two years in two different universities, he left for the work world.

Five years ago, he and I sat down to talk about how much he hated his job at the time.  We talked about going back to school.

“For what? Sales? I hate my job,” he lamented.

“If you could get paid to do anything, what would it be?” I asked him (as I have asked innumerable students in the past)

“I don’t know. Computer stuff?”

“There are a million ‘computer stuff’ degrees…and those people make nice money, babe.”

And so off he went.  Full of doubt, but focused.

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In the five years that he was in school, he lost a job and gained a job.

He became a dad.

He lost both grandpas.

He became an uncle.

He gained four new in-laws.

He survived a wife with mood disorders.

He supported his family even when he needed to do homework…and he still got A’s.

He became a role model to many, many people, but mostly to our sons.

One thing our family values is education (in case you didn’t notice).  When we did our “priceless conversation” with our will, we talked extensively about the importance of education.  Of knowledge. Of being a life-long learner.

When I was in 6th grade, my mom decided to pursue a dream of hers and went back to school to study accounting.  She graduated from college the same spring I graded from high school.  That has had an enormous impact on me.  It has fueled my belief that you don’t say no to your dreams.  You don’t say no to a thirst for knowledge.

Cortney’s Gram (along with his Gramps) raised eight children, fostered a bazillion, and loved all those kids’ friends like her own.  She played piano and organ for the church.  She owned her own business (with Cort’s Gramps).  To say she was a busy lady is a massive understatement. Yet, she had a passion for learning and, once the kids were grown,  got her Master’s Degree just because she wanted to.  She was most definitely one of Cort’s role models when it came to making the decision to go back.

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Cort almost didn’t walk.  He was done in December and thought it would be silly to walk in May after he had been done for so long.  And for “just” an Associates.

I needed it to be his decision, but oh how I wanted him to walk.

And then his Gram told him, “You will never regret walking, but you most definitely may regret NOT walking.”

So he did.  And he wanted his Gram to be there, but she came down with shingles two days before commencement and couldn’t come.  But Cort’s mom and sister and wife were there.

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And we cheered so loud when his name was called, he admitted that from the stage, it sounded like more than three people.  SCORE!

I don’t really have the words to tell you how proud I am of Cortney.

He is now one of the role models our sons have for strong people who empowered themselves with education.  Who had a thirst that could only be quenched by books and papers and projects and class discussion.  Who wanted something and figured out how to get it.

why yes, I DID make him put this back on for a picture with the boys.

why yes, I DID make him put this back on for a picture with the boys.

We believe education is important.

And we have the degrees on the wall that prove that belief.

We are role models.

the right wrong

It’s a mistake to think things can’t get worse because they always can.

The day can be normal, and with a quick, routine glance at the computer, life changes.

I had gotten a brief email earlier stating the minimum:  He had been laid off.  Unexpectedly.

Yes, the company was having some financial troubles, but who wasn’t?

Yes, we were expecting there to be layoffs, but not BOTH salesmen–certainly not someone who went from sweeping the floors in the shop to being the go-to guy for inside sales.

We were in shock.

My mind was reeling with questions and worst case scenarios as I drove home in the autumn sunshine.  The day seemed so happy and light, but I was slowly sinking into my catastrophic thinking.

The next day he was supposed to collect his stuff.

And then apply for unemployment.

Unemployment.

The word felt like sour rusty metal in our mouths.

It was for the rest of the country.  Not us.

Family business meant security.

If anyone was going to lose her job, it was me.  Our district had been making cuts left and right, and I had already held one of those pink slips.

Pink paper is heavier than other colors, and the weight of that slip nearly broke him.

My husband is strong.

I watched him hold himself upright with dry eyes at his dad’s funeral just days after having abdominal surgery.

He had held the pieces of me after I broke from two miscarriages.

In that moment, my steadfast partner lost his sparkle.  He was starting to fade.

From that exact moment that he had to look at me, and not just type out the situation to me, he began to lose something.

I suddenly stepped into a role that was unfamiliar to me.

We will be ok, I heard myself saying.

Even though on the inside I had completely lost my shit.

Even though there was a buzzing behind my eyes of worry and anxiety.

Everything will be fine, babe.  Really.

Sometimes you just say things and hope they are true.

For seventeen months we were blinded by budgets and money scrapping and never saying no to extra opportunities.

And the whole time Eddie was given the gift of a stay at home parent.

He was given his daddy.

It’s a mistake to think that everything is wrong.

Because sometimes the most important things are very, very right.

3010

It was always hot.

I was the only one who thought so.  Everyone who walked in was delighted by the coolness compared to the triple digit temperatures outside.

But I was always sweating.

They even gave me a fan, but that just made me shiver from the sweat that dried on my exhausted body.

The room was more spacious than anyone expected.  We quite easily fit five members of my side of the family along with three of Cort’s in addition to the three of us.

And it still felt big.

But maybe that is because I suddenly felt small.

Even with the throngs of people coming in and out?  I felt that we were shielded somehow.

This was a room for miracles.

(Even if my miracle happened downstairs in a different room.)

I had everything I needed contained in this one room:

A Styrofoam cup full of ice water.

Sleeping pills.

My meals delivered.

My laptop and my phone.

A private bathroom with a much used grab bar.

A doting husband.

A happy baby (yes, I said happy).

In this room…

I slept better and harder than I ever have in my life.

I sniffed my baby’s head for the first time.

I sweated, and pushed, and cried, and shed all inhibitions in exchange for feeling better and having a healthy child.

I trusted completely.

I healed.

This room took care of our needs and made it ok for us to be partitioned and sheltered from the rest of the world.

Life was out there…moving and growing…but in here?  In this room?  Time stood still.

We were a small family:  a mom in her adjustable bed, a dad resting on a small couch, and a son swaddled and asleep on his father’s chest.  In the dark room we watched the Detroit Tigers sweep the Cubs.

We witnessed the departure of the King of Pop.

We absorbed the fall of an Angel.

We marked the exit of a treasured Announcer…all while being disconnected from the world…as a family.

We felt safe and untouchable here.

That is why, as I stood at the window in the first real clothes that I could squeeze into in days with my baby in his first real clothes of his life, I cried.

As my husband took our bags to the truck and prepared to usher his family…not just his wife…to their home, I wept.

This room was were our family had begun.

This was all my son knew of the world.  He was safe. I was safe.

Nothing touched us here.

And so much would once we left room 3010.

psst.  I am over at my friend, Natalie’s blog, Mommy of a Monster and Twins, today too sharing about a Monster Mommy Moment of mine.  Please tell me you can relate to this…it will make me feel so much better!

pssst again…I am trying to win a grant to fund my trip to BlogHer.  If you are on facebook, please click here to vote every day!

Steppin’ Out Saturday

We don’t get out much…at least not to anything that involves getting extra cute…so when we do?  The camera comes out!

On Eddie:

Onsie: Osh Kosh

Pull-over: Polo

Jeans: GAP kids

Socks: Target

Boots: Carters

On Momma:

Skirt: Anne Taylor Loft

tank and Cari: Old Navy

Tights: Target

Shoes: Mootsie Tootsies from Shoe Carnival

Flower: Tie a Little Ribbon

Ring: Twenty Five Design

On Dad-do

Shirt and Tie: Stafford

Slacks: Dockers

Belt: Younkers

Shoes: Croft and Barrow

——————————————-

In other news?  My little boy is 20 months old as of this week.

I have not been able to write about it due to too many emotions.

How Sluiter Nation Has a Snow Day

Much of the country was hit with a “weather event” the past couple days, and for once this winter, Michigan was not left out.

Our weather guys and gals were able to jump around and flail their arms in front of weather maps covered in blue and green and pink blobs of snow and blizzard warnings.

One meteorologist even admitted to bringing his sleeping bag to the studio last night.

There was excitement.

My students talked ALL DAMN DAY about how we were going to have a snow day today:

“Mrs. Sluiter?  Do you think we’re going to have a snow day?”

“Oh we are for sure going to have a snow day, don’t you think, Mrs. Sluiter?”

“What are you going to do with your snow day, Mrs. Sluiter?  Grade my test?”

To be honest, until I got home and turned on the news?  I wasn’t sold on this whole snow day business.  I mean, our weather people REALLY enjoy getting worked up and they may tend to exaggerate what actually happens.  a lot.

But once the wind picked up and it started to snow, I started begging Cort not to drive to bowling.  And that is when I realized:  we were going to have a snow day!

Yes, today my school is canceled and Cort’s evening class is canceled.  Sluiter Nation officially has a snow day.

So how do we DO a family snow day?  Well, there are a few things that are necessary (no, I did not go out and buy “storm meat” like @thenextmartha did).  Here is how WE do a snow day:

First we open the front door to see that yes, we are snowed in.  There is no walkway to the house anymore.

oh, and no driveway either.  Well then.  Yes.  Snowed in.

Our deck. More proof that this "Blizzard of 2011" happened.

the drift in front of our downstairs front window. again, it snowed like "whoa" last night.

Now that we have it established that I am not making the snow up, this is how we readied ourselves…

First?  make sure the internet connection is working.  Because otherwise?  I may as well be at work.

I kid, I kid.

Or do I?  ahem,

Stock up on provisions.

Cort went to Target yesterday for a few things and since a storm was coming he stocked up on the necessities junk food to keep his wifey and boy happy while they are trapped together for a whole day.

Like I said…provisions.

Momma and Dad-do need their caffiene.

Jammies.

Yes, I am writing this around noon and all three of us are still in our jammies.  And I am pretty sure there are no plans to change that.

slippers.  because my tootsies need to stay warm when it’s so brrrrr outside!

A good book.

You know, in case I pull myself away from the interwebs today.

Someone to cuddle with.

(please disregard lack of make up…it’s a snow day.  remember?)

Now if you will excuse me, I have everything I need to have a successful snow day.  I must now proceed to enjoy the doing of nothing.

While I do that?  You can check out how I actually DID go to Blissdom…sort of.  Go here and here.  Then report back.

And happy weather event day to you.

little reminders

I used to consume myself by worrying about big things–things that are really beyond my control.

I worry about what we will do if one of our cars dies, or how we will find money to put in Eddie’s college fund, or what we would do if we accidentally got pregnant.  How would we pay for another baby?

I have concerns with the state of education in the state of Michigan…actually in the United States.

I worry about cancer and strokes and Alzheimers and diabetes and chronic pain and depression and anxiety.

Big stuff.

I have deadlines.

We have a crazy schedule that doesn’t allow for much family time.

Both of us have To Do lists and agendas on our computers, on our calendar, in our planners, in our minds.

This week my therapist asked me where in my day do I find my joy?

I told her it’s in the little things.

Specifically? the little person who lives in my house.

there is evidence everywhere of this little man.

there is miniature versions of big stuff throughout the house….small reminders of something big.

tiny reminders that we make things work. even the big stuff.

Cort and I were talking about how we seem to live in a perpetual state of “if we can just make it through “x”, hopefully we will finally be able to “y”.

We seem to always be “getting through” something.

But daily we are reminded of the tiny big thing that we have in our lives right now.

a small little someone who makes all the big worries melt away.

a little someone who wants to do big things…like his mom and dad.

who watches what we do and how we handle our worries.

Cort and I have always found joy and peace with each other.  We have clung to each other in times of doubt and pain.

But since this little fellow came into our life?  Those worries don’t invade as many of our thoughts…they don’t steal as much of our time.

We find joy and peace in each other and in loving our little man.

In a big way.

she taught him to dance

He swooped in with one arm around my waist and grabbed my other hand in his.

As we glided around the kitchen floor, I asked him,

“Who taught you to dance?”

“My mom, of course,” he replied and nuzzled his face into my neck.

His mom.  Of course.

She taught him to dance.

to open doors for ladies.

to do laundry.

to do dishes.

to help anyone who has his/her hands full.  figuratively and literally.

to iron.

to pick up the tab.

to listen to girls.

to hug often.

to help around the house.

to say, “I love you” freely.

to be the nice guy…even if it means finishing last.

He was her blond, curly haired little buddy.

His dimply smile was his first “I love you.”

He was her first.

He made her a Momma.

She taught him to dance.

And so he glides through life as the kindest, most generous man I have ever met.

He waltzes through my days as my best friend.

His smile makes me better.

As I swoop Eddie up and bounce around the house with him in my arms to dance to whatever tune is in my head, his blond curls bob.

His dimples become deep caverns echoing his sweet laughter.

He throws his head back and squeals.

And he buries his face in my neck.

And I wonder…

Will he be kind?

Will he be generous?

Will he be respectful?

Will he tell his wife that his mom taught him to dance?

 MommyofaMonster This post was featured!

I was syndicated on BlogHer.com

snow much fun

I have not been feeling well today.  Not at all.

So I am not feeling very scribe-ish or posty this evening.

Instead, I will just give you some pictures of my boys.

We live in Michigan..West Michigan.  So we get lots of lake effect snow, however compared with the rest of the country, this has been a fairly mild winter for us.

This weekend we finally got “play-able” snow.  After nap on Sunday, I got Eddie all geared up, Cort got himself geared up, and my matching men went out to play.

do these pants make my boo-tay look big?

the snow is THIS way!

come ON, dad!

Let's go explore, my little mini-me!

I need a shovel for the clubhouse!

exploring the winter wonderland.

We tried to get him outside with out the pipey in his mouth, but it is his saftey lovey when he is nervous…and the snow made him nervous (which I can TOTALLY relate to, little bud!)

They probably were only outside for 20 minutes, but it wore the little guy out…slept like a log that night.

Now I can’t wait for Cort to take him on the sled so I can sit inside alone and sip hot cocoa!  Yay!  Such fun Michigan winters bring!

psssst!  Today?  Wednesday?  Is your LAST CHANCE to enter to win a copy of Show Me How! It’s a great book with zillions of activities to keep the little ones busy when you DON’T want to gear up and play outside!  Enter now! Giveaway ends Wednesday, 8pm Eastern time.

Secret Mommy-hood Confession Saturday

I could never ever be a stay at home mom…

Friends?  Traditional roles have been completely thrown out the window in our home.

Let me back up.

As a kid, my mom stayed home with us until I was in the 6th grade.  Even then she was still home mostly.  She not only raised three kids, but I can’t ever remember our house being a disaster area or having toys strewn about or having crumbs all over the floor.

Unless dad was in charge.

Fast forward to today, Saturday, December 18, 2010.

It is my first day of winter break.  The first day of a lovely 2-week long stretch.

In my mind?  We are all happy and family-ish together since I am always gone.  We cuddle and play and eat and just enjoy each other without too much commitment elsewhere.

you guys?  today?  did not happen like that.

First of all, our kitchen faucet died yesterday, so this morning, Cort has everything out from under the sink spread all over the island, the table, and the counters.  He also has pulled out the old faucet, and he is off to Lowe’s for the new parts.  In case you didn’t know?  Cort can do anything.  He is all Handy Manny up in here.

Has he ever done any plumbing before?  No.  But he is all awesome at it anyway.  Because that is how he rolls.

So I am in charge of our Short Stack while daddy is gone.

No big deal, right?

In the course of the hour that daddy is gone….

  • Eddie rolls 3 different toy vehicles across the coffee table and into our Christmas tree exploding needles from here to Florida.
  • Eddie takes a giant dump.
  • Eddie takes his Golden Graham snack and spreads it all over the floor announcing that his bowl is ‘aww unnn” (all gone).  riiiiiggght.
  • I decide to give Eddie left over penne noodles and sauce for lunch.
  • Eddie decides to throw penne noodles and sauce at the floor, the cat, the wall, the blinds, the table, and finally in his mouth.
  • Eddie decides to wear red sauce and noodles (thank goodness for my decision not to put clothes on him after his dumpy diaper change)
  • I have to clean Eddie off by standing him on the counter…where all the “treasures” from under the sink still are…which he REALLY wants to explore while I scrub red sauce out from under his pits.
  • I change his diaper again because the outside is covered in red sauce that while tasty?  Does not match my house.

Just as I have Eddie cleaned up and dressed, Cort comes back in.  The scene?  It looks like a pine tree that was snacking on golden grahams was murdered by noodle-pelting.

Eddie is all happy and playing and watching Sesame Street on Tivo.

I?  I am standing there with dirty wipes in my hands…waving them as white flags.

Seriously?  What the hell just happened?

So I ask Cort…

“Why doesn’t this happen to you?  Why, in an HOUR of being left alone, do I get it ALL?”

“It does happen.  Every day.  Constantly.”

WHAT?  How does he deal with it?

He patiently puts down his Lowe’s purchases, takes the wipes, and directs me to sit down.

He then proceeds to clean up the crime scene high chair/kitchen area while I sit and ponder where I lost my “mom patience”.

And then I realize…

I never had it.

I go to work, I bring home the paycheck, I make some dinners once in a while, and I cuddle the boy when he is sick, scared, or hurt.

Everything else?  Cort.

I have often wondered why, if he is home all day, is the house not smelling of bleach and lysol when I get home.

Now I know.

One small little man can reek havoc on a small house in the time it takes  to go blow my nose.

As Cort was finishing up the tidying process and moving onto installing a faucet?  I said, “I sort of wish I was at work.”

Even though I don’t.

What She Wants

It seems, in my mind, that it was always cold and slushy and snowy.  My brother and I would pile on our winter coats, hats, scarves, mittens, and boots and let our dad buckle us into his car.

I don’t remember when this started nor can I remember when it ended.  I can’t ever remember my littlest brother going with us, so by the time there were 3 of us, dad must have decided that taking us individually was a better idea.

Anyway, there was a time when Chris and I always went with dad to choose our Christmas gifts for our mom.

Like I said, it seems that we were always traveling through driving snow and sloshing our boots through the wet slush as we traipsed through the parking lot and sidewalks.

One year in particular I can vividly remember being downtown in our small town with my dad wandering from shop to shop.   We eventually ended up in a tiny store, which isn’t there anymore, that was filled with knickknacks and paddywacks galore.  If you wanted a frame or a sconce or a glass lion to set on your end table?  This was your store.

I can still remember feeling the warmth as we walked in as the bell on the door jangled.  The smell of cinnamon and potpourri filled my small nose and head.

In my memory my brother has already found his gift for our mom.  It was all up to me.  My lack of decision-making abilities was what was between us and home.  But this is where I would find mom’s gift.  It was so lovely in here.

I remember looking everything over, and asking my dad what he thought.

In typical dad-style, he turned the question back on me, “but what do YOU think?”

I would pick up a trinket and he would unconvincingly shrug and say, “If you think that is what she would want…”

It drove me crazy even at that age.  I just wanted an opinion.  He wasn’t trying to be difficult; he wanted me to pick for myself.

Finally I walked up to a small artificial Christmas tree that had lots of ornaments on it.  I looked each over carefully and came up on this:

In my young mind this was the perfect gift for my mom.  She would be delighted as she pulled it from the box on Christmas morning and held it up for all to see by the thin, gold loop.  She would place it high on the tree.

“What do you think, dad? Isn’t this perfect?”

“I don’t know, Kate.  Is there another one?  This one has a broken wheel and the glue is showing all over the place.”

I searched the tree.  Many of the ornaments had twins and triplets scattered about, but not the little bear.  He was one of a kind.

“This is the only one.”

“Why don’t you pick a different one.  One that is a little nicer.”

“No, dad.  This is what I am getting mom.”

I brought the small trinket up to the counter, and my dad said, “well if you think she’ll like it,” as he pulled out the crisp dollar bills from his soft wallet.

After getting it home and wrapped and pushed under my bed, I worried.  What if mom didn’t like it?  What if dad was right?

Christmas morning came.  Mom opened her gifts.  She ooo-ed and ahh-ed at my little choice.  I was so pleased.

My dad announced that I had chosen it all on my own.  Mom was impressed.

At some point my brother stopped coming along to shop for my mom for Christmas.  But I always went with my dad.  Even when I was in college, he and I would climb into his truck and head out to pick the perfect gifts for my mother.

Each item that I would find he would say, “if you think that is what she will like.”  I would assure him it is on the list, and that yes, she will love it.

Each time we would find our way to the register and he would remove his soft wallet from his back pocket and finger the crisp dollar bills he got from the bank being sure not to give the cashier two that were stuck together.

He would gather up the bags and we would head to our next stop.

Last year my dad didn’t ask me to help him shop for my mom.  Admittedly I would put up a stink about it each year and give him some grief for not being able to shop for his wife on his own, but I would always go.

When I asked him last year when he wanted to go, he responded, “I’m done.  I already went.”

“Why didn’t you ask me to come along?”

“You always say I need to do it myself.  Besides, you have your own family now.”

I was taken aback, and sort of sad that our father-daughter tradition had ended.  Just like that.

This past weekend I asked my dad if he had his shopping done yet.  He laughed and said he hadn’t started.

“Well, I have next week off you know, dad.  If you need any help.”

“Really?  I’ll keep that in mind,” he said.

I hope he does.

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