Family Frenzy

Recently, Cortney and I participated in a marriage retreat of sorts through our church. One of the topics we talked about was family. We were asked to reflect on our family traditions growing up and whether or not we were super affectionate or close. Cortney and I had some great conversations and it did shred light on what we both bring to the marriage in terms of sharing and hugging whatnot.

While Cort and I were brought up in similar families–both middle class, Christian, three kids (one girl, two boys), and we are both the oldest–there were enough differences in traditions that we were able to blend them a bit for our own family.

I was trying to decide what family on TV we were most like, but honestly we have bits of many families. Let me see if I can break it down.

arrested-development

I guess it’s not a shock to say I am an over-sharer. But what is interesting is that is not what my family was like growing up at all. In fact, I routinely made my mother blush and my father sputter with what I would say. Cortney is the exact opposite. After more than twenty years of knowing him, I am still finding out new things because he doesn’t bring stories or topics up until he feels like they apply with what is going on or what we are talking about. I am more of the “if I think it, I blurt it out” type.

I guess that would make our family part Bluth.

 

My Eddie also shares whatever he is thinking, but it’s usually more naive. I mean, he is only seven, after all. But he is just so sweet and trusting. He wants people to be happy and he truly believes the world is a good place. This would make our family a little Kimmy Schmidt too.

As I said before, Cortney is the strong silent type. But he knows how to get down and loves good music. He is also very handsome in a suit and totally smooth. So he brings a little Justin Timberlake to the family.

beat-bugs

My two Littles: Charlie and Alice love to shake their groove things. Ok, let’s be real: we all love to do that. We all love the Beatles. We all help each other out, and we all love a cute story line, so that makes us a little Beat Bugs too.

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Other shows you don’t want to miss: Paddington is now available and a totally cute family favorite. And of course, unless you’ve been under a rock, you know that Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is available. According to Facebook, quite a few of you binged over Thanksgiving weekend. Good for you!

So what TV or movie family do you most identify with? Or is it a mix like us?

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Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. Netflix provides my family with streaming service and a device to watch it on in exchange for posts about what we watch. All opinions are our own.

feeding a hungry soul

Today did not start well.

Without throwing blame around, I’ll just say that Sunday mornings are a variation of hard. We have never  had a smooth Sunday morning in the history of ever.

I sat down in church grumpy and annoyed, and just not even wanting to be there. In fact, I came THIS close to shoving my Sunday school story at Cortney and saying, “I am staying home alone. Tell them I am sorry, but I can’t come do this today.” In fact the only reason I got in the car with my family was because my 2nd and 3rd graders were depending on me being there, and I did not want to put our VERY pregnant Pastor of Young Families in a pickle by not showing up.

While Cortney settled Charlie into nursery and I tried to get Eddie and Alice situated in our pew, my soul sister friend (The Preacher’s Wife) plunked a bag of wonderful soup, bread, and treats next to me, hugged me quickly, and whispered, “this small treat is just for you. Do NOT share.” It was HER birthday today, and she was feeding MY tummy and soul.

Then the message, of course, was something I also needed to hear. I wish I had been able to better concentrate, and truthfully I wish it had been longer. I wish there was more. I needed to be fed today. My heart and soul and spirit were very exhausted and hungry.

Once church was over and I had the kids fed and occupied, I realized I didn’t have time to get done what needed to get done for school today before we had to pack up the family and go to a birthday party.

Charlie didn’t get a nap and Alice only napped for 45 minutes.

I laid on the couch with a slight tummy-ache (stress-related, not actual sickness) for about 30-minutes because if I had tried to do the things on my To Do List, I would have just started crying. So I rested.

The birthday party was for my just turned 2-year old nephew, Ezra. We also got to meet our niece (his sister) for the first time. She was so tiny, and once she was placed in my arms (wearing an outfit Alice wore) everything inside of me calmed.

The sadness I had about giving Alice’s rock n play away left. The stress tummy-ache went away. And the pang of regret about having no more babies even left. She was perfect and lovely and…not mine.

Then I looked at my beautiful sister-in-law. She looks so tired. So beautifully new-momish, but so tired. I wanted to take her in my arms and rock her until she fell asleep. I wanted to whisk all of the people out of her house to my house and give her some hours of uninterrupted sleep.

I’m still tired and a little grumpy that I didn’t get all done that I had planned. I still really REALLY need some hours alone at some point. My heart and soul are still pretty tired.

But being with friends and family today did much more for me than I could imagine.

I am pretty damn lucky.

lost for words

I don’t want to be another silent, white voice.

But I don’t know what to say.

My heart aches.

My mind is confused.

I’ve been trying since August to find the words, but I don’t have them.

But I am an ally.

I am listening.

I am standing, ready with you.

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Their names are Charlie, Kingston, and Kyrie.

They are equals.

His name was Michael Brown. #BlackLivesMatter

“Love your neighbor as yourself” ~Mark 12:31

First Snow Day

Today Eddie and I are home for our very first snow day of the 2014-15 school year.

This is sort of a big deal because it’s only November 18 and there is over a foot of snow out there…and it’s still coming down. It’s also cool because my school district doesn’t close very often (we are an urban district with city roads that are very well plowed), but Eddie’s closes more frequently (his has a ton of rural roads). So the fact that we have today off together is pretty neat.

When I got the call just before 5:30am that my school was closed, I just figured Eddie’s was closed too. He is not a sleeper-in-er, so I figured this would mean when Cortney and Charlie left around 7am, I would need to get up.

Not so. Eddie was content to snuggle on the couch with the tablet and TV until almost 9am! He came into my room, slid into his daddy’s spot in bed, and put his face close to mine, “Mom? Hi. It’s a snow day!  Can you make me some breakfast?”

And thus started our day.

We watched some TV and had some breakfast.

I did some random things around the house that were bugging me (full sink of dishes, towels needing folding, etc) and Eddie decided it was a good day to put a major dent in his weekly homework.

Seriously. He decided this on his own!

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After he was done with homework, he got out his crayons and paper and the stapler and made a book. He also read all the Kindergarten sight words to me while I worked next to him. Then he went on to the first grade ones.

We had some lunch and discussed the awesomeness of carrots with ranch dressing.

We read some books.

Now he is watching Frosty the Snowman because it’s fitting and I am thinking about taking a shower…or lying on the couch with a book.

This day was a lovely little blessing.

*************

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a signed copy of the children’s book, Stand Up!

Stand Up {a giveaway}

Children’s books are a HUGE part of our family life in Sluiter Nation.

Eddie has so many that I am running out of shelf room in his bedroom.  Charlie has so many board books they are taking over the nursery. And yet, I would never ever say, “oh, we have enough books.”  There is just no such thing as “enough” when it comes to books.

Recently we added one more book to our growing pile, Stand Up. But this book is extra special. This one is authored by David Stefanich, otherwise known as “Uncle Dave” in our house since he is, in fact, the kids’ uncle.

Stand Up is a book about Xavier, a student at Parker Elementary. Xavier is a victim of bullying. The book follows Xavier from Kindergarten through 3rd grade and shows the importance of bystanders and how they can make all the difference.

David works in education as an elementary school principal and he is acutely aware of the challenges kids face at this age. Not only is the plot of the book wonderful for kids of all ages, but because of his work in education, it’s also the perfect book for making predictions, making inferences, and opening up discussion between parents and children.

Eddie and Charlie have listened to “Uncle Dave’s Book” countless times in the short week we’ve had it, and every time something new comes up when we are finished.

Stand Up would make the perfect gift this holiday season, but one of you has the chance to win a copy signed by the author here!

Just follow the directions in the Rafflecopter widget below. A winner will be chosen at midnight on November 25.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. We received two copies of the book because we paid for two copies. Now I want to give one to one of you because we love it and its author.

Grandparents

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Cortney and I have wonderful memories with all of our grandparents. I have gotten to listen to stories about camping trips with Cort’s maternal grandparents and Christmas’s with his paternal grandparents.Since we have been married, we lost both of Cortney’s grandfathers. Both deaths were very hard on our family because the men were such huge influences on Cortney’s life.

I have fond memories of my Grandma Jo. She was my mom’s mom and she taught me so much about being a kind, generous, strong woman. She was also hilariously fun and never shied away from a challenge. Including having me, my two brothers, and our five cousins all over for a weekend while our parents went skiing.

My paternal grandparents live across the street from an elementary school and I can remember them taking us there to play. I also have the best memories of my Grandma R reading me fairy tales from a book she has since given to me. It is big and old and falling apart. The pages are yellowy brown. It has been taped by ancient masking tape hundreds of times. These stories inspired me to want to tell stories too.

I could go on and on about our grandparents, but those are different posts.

Today I have been thinking about my parents and Cortney’s parents and the relationships they have been building with our kids.

We are so lucky to live within miles of both of our parents. Our kids have grown up seeing them often, and they never hesitate to babysit for us.

They build wonderful memories.

I can only hope that our parents live long lives so that our children get to have years and years of memories with them.

I also think about how they will never have memories of their Papa Steve, who died four years before Eddie was born. It’s hard for me to not wonder what memories they would be making with him.

One thing I know for sure is that our parents are the best grandparents in the world for our children. They love them unconditionally and spoil them the way grandparents should spoil their grandchildren–the way they never ever would have spoiled their own children!

The Days are Long…

“The days are long, but the years are short.”

I hate that phrase, but I use it all the time.

Just this morning I woke up to our alarm, rolled over, looked at the clock and thought, “How in the world is it only Thursday?”  I find myself wishing the days to go faster, to start later and end earlier.

The days start when it’s dark. I eat the same eggs and toast. I choose from the same few maternity outfits. I take the same drive to work. I follow the same schedule. I can expect the same challenges each day.

The days are ruts. Familiar and comfortable, yet confining and draining.

As I crawl into bed, I curse the early morning alarm that will be sounding in just a few short hours.

Dark morning to dark night.

Every day a list a mile long.

Every day a thousand needs to fill for a thousand different people.

Every day little to no energy.

Every day a thousand things left undone.

Last night I told Cortney that I find myself wishing for the end of the pregnancy because it means the end of this stressful “first” school year in my building, the end of this increasingly uncomfortable pregnancy, and the end of pregnancy for me forever.  But then I feel immediate guilt for such thoughts. I feel those little kicks in there that only I can feel yet. I think about how as soon as Alice is here, she starts that quick stage of infancy…the minute she snuggles in my arms, time starts to take that baby away.

Sunday we were at my nephew’s first birthday party. Charlie came monstering up to me and I actually flinched at how BIG he looked to me. I flashed back to how I cried and cried at how big Eddie looked when I brought Charlie home from the hospital almost 3 years ago, and realized that if Charlie looks big to me now? In four months he is going to seem like a dang adult.

I’ve only been a mom for five and a half years!

But holy cow…I’ve been a mom for a whole five and a half years!  That is longer than I was in college!

How did those years slip by so quickly when I feel like each minute of each day is plodding along at the speed of grass growing?

Somehow I have a 5-year old who tells me that he was “upset” or that something is “inappropriate” as he writes full sentences and reads me books.

Somehow I have a 2.5-year old who “reads” his favorite books because he knows them by heart, tells me he loves me, dances like a fool, and talks in full sentences.

Yet here I sit looking at the clock, wishing it was Friday afternoon rather than Thursday, and willing the next week to fly by so Thanksgiving Break can get here.

How can time fly and drag at the same time?

Get The Behavior You Want…{Review}

51WlU9RnZLL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I totally never read parenting books.

Ok that is a lie. I read What to Expect When You’re Expecting cover to cover when I was pregnant with Eddie. It was like my Bible.  And then his birth and everything was absolutely nothing like what I was told to “expect” and I chucked that book. I also bought a book about sleep training when Eddie was a baby who wouldn’t sleep (because colic and crazy baby!) and I wanted to stab the author, so I chucked that book too.

And then I stopped reading parenting books.

I may have parenting book PTSD. Whatever.

I do, however, love my friends with medical/nursing degrees. I try not to abuse our relationship by constantly texting or messaging them about ailments I or my family members may have. I’d like to publicly thank them and apologize to them for the pictures I’ve sent of rashes and/or the gross descriptions I have typed out.

Anyway, one of these friends happens to be the internet-famous Dr G. I call her Debi, but she Dr. Deborah Gilboa, MD. to you, and she wrote a book called Get the Behavior You Want…Without Being the Parent You HateAnd I read it…and LIKED it.

Even though I have little kids, I read the parts about tweens and teens too because, well, my boys WILL be that age someday. But really, more immediately, my students are that age. Since I have never taught 13-year olds before, I want to try to understand them a little better. No, I am not their parent, but man a LOT of my day revolves around behavior.

The book is set up to be extremely user-friendly. There are four major parts: one on respect, one on responsibility, one on resilience, and one on implementing the changes. In each of those sections there are numerous short, easy to read, chapters.  It is the complete opposite of daunting. In fact, when reading a book by an MD, the reader usually expects some jargon or medical terms to be thrown at them. Dr. G keeps it very simple and easy to understand. It’s much more like chatting with a friend than talking with a doctor. Yet at the same time, she keeps it very professional and because of her credentials, you know she can be trusted and relied on to give good advice.

One of my favorite sections was the one on resilience. We have had a lot of death in our lives and we have always been as honest as we can with Eddie (and now Charlie) about it. Some people have questioned why I would tell a 5-year old that his Papa died of cancer, but ever since he was small we talked about how Papa lived in heaven, then that he had died, and now that he died because of cancer. As he gets older and asks questions, we answer them as honestly and simply as we can.  This chapter reinforced how important it is for our kids to experience failure, grief, and loss.  It TOTALLY sucks, but it’s a part of life and if they can learn to be resilient from early on, they will probably be better at coping, and hopefully more empathetic to other people, as they get older.

There are a million tips and wise words I could share that I have underlined or marked, but really, you should read the book. If you are a parent, it’s a must-read, but I think even if you don’t have your own kids, but are a childcare provider, teacher, aunt, uncle, grandparent, etc. it’s a good book to have on hand.

The main message is right there in the title: you don’t have to be a giant jerk of a parent to have kind, well-adjusted kids. You don’t have to yell and lose your mind to have your kids behave.

Beautiful Promise of God

Saturday Eddie and I went to the library alone, just the two of us.  This was special because all summer his baby brother was along and we couldn’t walk leisurely through the stacks. Whether I had Charlie confined to a stroller/Ergo or if I let him walk, Eddie and I knew we had a matter of time to find ten books and get out before Charlie blew our cool and all three of us went into “TOO LOUD FOR THE LIBRARY” mode.

Now that school has started up, we only get to the library on Saturdays and we are able to go just the two of us.

Because of that we were much more thoughtful about the books we pulled from the shelves. Eddie pulled them out, flipped through them, and either slid them back or handed them to me.  We took our time, choosing carefully.

Ed’s favorite spot to start is the big display of “New Books”. This week he chose “The Dark” by Lemony Snicket first and then spotted a book with a grandpa on it. “What’s this one called, mom?”

I took the picture book from his hand and read, “Papa’s New Home.”

“Hey! I have a Papa in Heaven! Let’s get this one!”

Before I had a chance to flip through to see if this book was going to handle the subject well, he was calling me over to help him find the stash of Curious George books.

He had no idea how appropriate it was that he chose that book.

*************

Thursday morning I got a text from my sister-in-law, Liz: “Today is the day we find out if Lilly will be getting a sister or brother. Stay tuned!”

Later Thursday morning I got a text from Cortney. Something was wrong with the baby. There was fluid everywhere in the organs and a cyst on the brain stem.

Our world stopped.

Over the course of the next four days, the information and test results slowly trickled in. The baby, another girl, has Turner Syndrome. This means she has only one X chromosome instead of two. About 1 in 2,500 females born have Turner, but Liz and Cody’s baby girl has more complications.  Because of the amount of fluid in her heart, it is probably impossible that she will make it to term. And if by miracle she does, she probably won’t be able to live outside Liz’s body.

The doctor’s gave them the option to terminate pregnancy or let it continue its course.

Cody and Liz chose not to terminate.

The doctors feel that the baby will not make it more than a month longer, and will be monitoring the fetal heart rate. When the heart stops, Liz will be induced.

**************

When Cody and Liz had their first baby girl almost a year ago, Eddie sheepishly smiled at the thought of his uncle Cody being a daddy.

When Eddie met Lilly for the first he melted. He couldn’t give her enough kisses or hugs. He wanted to hold her and love her.  He loves to make her laugh, and he’s so gentle with her.

He loves babies.

And he was quite aware that Cody and Liz would be having another baby, which he guessed (correctly) would be another little girl.

After the weight of tragedy settled in my heart, I wondered: what would we tell Eddie?

*************

Leaving the library on Saturday, I told Eddie we needed to quick stop at the store for a few things if we were going to bake for Aunt Liz and Uncle Cody.

“Why are we making food for Cody and Liz?” he asked.

{sidenote: why is it we always have our heaviest conversations in the car?}

As I drove, I turned the music down and told him, “Remember how Aunt Liz has that baby in her tummy? Well that baby is very sick and Cody and Liz are very worried and sad. When you are worried and sad, don’t you like a treat?”

“Yeah, I like a snack when I feel awful.”

“Yes, well, I thought it would be nice if we made them dinner and some snacks. What do you think?”

“That is nice, mom. I like that. I hope that baby feels better.”

“Me too, Bud. Me too.”

Sunday Cortney went to a Sluiter Family prayer gathering for Liz and Cody and their family. I stayed home with the boys since it was going to be pretty heavy and emotional. I had told Eddie about the prayer gathering, and when Cortney left Eddie asked if we could pray right there.

So I stopped what I was doing and sat down at the table with the boys, and over their grilled cheese sandwiches Eddie and I asked God to please take care of Cody and Liz and give them peace and strength. We also asked him for a miracle.  Eddie specifically asked Jesus to please make his baby cousin better.

At one point during the prayer, I peeked an eye open, and there was Eddie: eyes scrunched shut and hands clasped tightly over his dinner. My voice caught, but I continued.

After he said Amen, he asked if he could make a picture for his cousin.

“MOM! I can make the pictures and you can write the words I tell you because I know my letters, but I can’t write them in order of words, so you can do that part. Ok? And Bird can color on it too but not until I am done and I will tell him where to color. Ok, mom? Ok? Can we do that???”

I thought my heart would burst from pride for my son.

Once dinner was cleared up, Eddie went to work.

Dealing with Infant Loss

We texted a picture of the final product to Cortney who shared it with Aunt Liz.  It’s still waiting to be officially delivered. Since now we can add her name to the piece before giving it to her.

Dealing with Infant Loss

Her name is Arabella Elizabeth Sluiter.

“Arabella” is Dutch for “beautiful”.

“Elizabeth” is my sister-in-law’s name and means “gift or promise from God”.

Bella.

Beautiful gift of God.

Liz told me she feels like she is naming one of God’s angels, and I believe she is right. Whether Bella goes home in the next month or outlives her parents, she is one of God’s angels.

*************

Sunday night Eddie asked me to read “Papa’s New Home” to him at bedtime.

The story was lovely and wonderful and got Eddie talking about his own Papa who died over 8 years ago from cancer and who lives in Heaven.

It also does a good job of not beating around the bush that everyone dies at some point. I really, really recommend this book (it’s by Jessica Lynn Curtis) if you have had a death in the family to explain to a child.

It makes Eddie happy to imagine his Papa in Heaven doing what he loved (boating) with our old cat on his lap.

We still haven’t told him yet that there is a good chance that Bella will be joining their Papa in Heaven, but we are building a cushion for that fall. For that reality that it’s not just old people who die.

Oh how I wish I could protect his innocent and good heart. I wish I could do something to cover and protect Cody and Liz’s hearts.

There is a good chance Eddie will remember this all…at least in parts, and we want to do our part in helping his memory of Bella to be positive and loving. We also want him to know how compassionate and caring he was during this time. How his unconditional love and selflessness helped his dad and I with the pain we felt in our hearts.

This pain is so much. It’s too much.

Please keep Cody, Liz, Lilly, and Bella in your prayers.

And please keep Cortney and I in your prayers and we try to guide our little guys through this hard time in a loving and peaceful way.

Love Bird

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I was mistaken when I thought Eddie was a cuddly child.

He doesn’t really like to cuddle.  He likes closeness.  He doesn’t like to be alone.

As a baby he liked be rocked (every night), but what he wanted was someone there with him, even just sitting in the rocker while he fell asleep in his bed.  At almost four-years-old he is still this way.  After we read books, he just wants one of us to lay by him.  It’s how he feels safe.

I only realized the difference between needing closeness and being a cuddler because of Charlie.

Charlie has never been needy like Eddie.  I don’t mean needy in a bad way, but Eddie does need us–to lay by him, to sit by him, to go downstairs with him, to color with him–more than Charlie does.  Eddie will play by himself…as long as someone is in the room with him.

Charlie does his own thing.  He will play by himself, sit in a totally different room by himself, and when it’s bedtime all I have to say is “nigh nigh?” and he grabs his glow worm under his arm and trucks down to his nursery.  No fuss.  Hugs and kisses and down he goes.

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I missed out on a lot of the first year of Eddie’s life.  I was emotionally distant and, after I went back to work when he was 3 months old, physically distant.  I was sick and don’t remember much of his first year.  Charlie’s first year made that even more painfully obvious to me because I just couldn’t remember what Eddie was like at that age.

One thing I know is that while I rocked Eddie to sleep almost every single night, he didn’t really spend all that much time in my arms.  He and I cried together often and fell asleep in a pile in the chair out of sheer exhaustion, but not because we just couldn’t stop cuddling.

Charlie and I were inseparable during his first 6 months. I had 3 months of maternity leave followed by 3 months of summer break.  He slept easily and I wasn’t fiending to put him down. I let myself heal and relax.  And because my anxiety was under control, I was Ok to take him out in public with me.

I wore Charlie wherever we went.  If we weren’t at home with him sleeping next to me or on me, we were out and about with him sleeping in the Moby.

And now?  Eddie needs us to be there and Charlie does not.

Except…

Charlie is our Love Bird.

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He gives kisses.  Seriously, they are so sweet I die a little bit.  He leans in and says “mmmmmmmuah!” and lays an open-mouth wet one on your mouth, nose, chin, eye…wherever that sloppy mouth lands.

Eddie never did that.  He is just starting to give us kisses now. I think it’s because Charlie does it.  I’m not kidding.

Charlie gives random hugs.  He will barrel over and just fling his arms around us and then truck off like it ain’t no thang.

Charlie wants to sit on a lap. All the time.  If you are on the floor, your lap is his seat.  He just sort of comes over, turns around, and backs up until his behind is on you.  If you don’t make room for him, he will wiggle around on you until you do.

He will crawl up on the couch or chair and mountain goat his way all over me until he can get himself nuzzled in and then lean back like I’m his recliner.

He will find the one little cranny in Cort’s arms and wiggle his way in and just chill.

He will hold my hand just to hold it.

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And he will press his face to my face or his head to my nose…like he knows I love to take in the sweet smell of lavender in his hair.

He will softly repeat “ma ma ma ma” while he lays his face on my shoulder.

Both of my boys are love bugs, but Charlie is our cuddle monster.

It never ceases to amaze me how they can be so similar and so different at the same time both in big and small ways.

Most people would say that both of my boys are cuddlers, but Cort and I know there is a difference ever so slight. While Eddie drifts to sleep to the slow breathing of a parent next to him, Charlie thrives on morning hugs and kisses.  While Eddie feels safe with a parent in the room, Charlie recharges on lap-sitting and Eskimo kisses.

It’s even hard to describe here.

Both of my boys have their hearts on their sleeves: they both love to give and get love from us and from each other.  Their love languages are just a bit different.

Each perfectly theirs.

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