Little Sister

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I can’t set Alice down without this happening. Her brothers swarm.

I expected it from Eddie. From the minute we told him I was pregnant, he has been wishing and praying for a sister. His reasoning? “I already have a brother and I do NOT want another one.” Ok then.

Eddie has been every bit of the best big brother I expected him to be. When Charlie was born, Eddie was two and a half. He doted on Charlie even at that young age. He loves babies. He is gentle and kind and soothing.

He offers to hold Alice and sing to her and feed her.

He tells her she is pretty and asks her what is wrong if she fusses.

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Eddie will always be her rock.

She will come to him with her heartbreaks and her victories. He will be her shoulder, her support system. He will teach her that she is worth more than all the gold in the world. He will stand behind her in all her choices. He will argue for her when she gets in trouble. He will probably do her chores so she can do something else.

She might take advantage of his heart, but I hope not.

I expected Eddie to be attentive and love on her.

I did not know what to expect from Charlie, but since he showed little interest in any other baby in the entire world, I thought maybe he would ignore her at best, show jealous rages at worst.

But you know what happens when you think you know your kid?

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He surprises you in the most wonderful way.

Charlie is completely taken by “Baby Alice” or “Allie Beans” or “Baby Alice Beans”. He loves her fiercely.

He is protective, caring, and borderline violent about her happiness. The first day she was home, I was feeding her and he put his hand to his ear and said, “what’s that noise?  That ::makes a kissing noise:: sound?” And I said, “That’s Baby Alice. She’s sucking on her bottle.”

From that moment his ears have been set to her. One peep and he is by her side. If he can’t get to her side, he will very loudly announce that SOMEONE needs to get there. “BABY ALICE BEANS IS CRYING! MOM MOM! DAD DAD!”

 

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If Eddie is her rock, Charlie will be her guardian.

Woe to the boy that does wrong by Alice. Charlie acts first, thinks later–which means anyone who hurts his sister? Well his ass will be grass.

As Sonny was for Connie, Charlie will be for Alice. Let’s just hope it ends better for Charlie. Luckily there are no toll roads in Michigan. (please tell me you get this reference. PLEASE or we cannot be friends.)

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(I have no idea what is going on in this picture, but I do know it was probably ridiculous. I’m guessing the smell of poop was involved).

Eddie makes her coo.

Charlie makes her laugh.

Eddie calms her.

Charlie delights her.

I could be totally wrong about how their relationships turn out. Maybe Alice’s personality will clash with one or both of her brothers.

I hope not.

I hope this love is something she is already internalizing.

If her smiles and coos and finger-holding are any indication, these three are going to be quite the unstoppable sibling team. I can’t wait to watch them grow up together.

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like you used to do

At age two and a half, my parents gave me something that would change my life.

And no, it wasn’t the pink bike that would be my first ride.

On September 2, 1980 they gave me the gift of a little brother.

I was just a tad younger than what Eddie will be when this new baby arrives, and it’s been on my mind a lot.

I don’t remember those early years, but the pictures of me playing with my new baby brother are among some of my favorites.

He was the first boy I ever tried to impress.  I wanted his approval.  I wanted him to think I was cool.

Sometimes, as we grew up together, he did look up to me.  Many times, he just saw me as bossy and mean.

At times I was able to combine these views for good.

I can distinctly remember playing school with him. We had a blue chalkboard easel and colored chalks on which I would write letters and words that I would demand he repeat and learn.

My teaching pedagogy back then was “learn it, or die.”

I have since learned better ways of motivating and inspiring my students, but back then it worked.

As we continued to grow up together sibling rivalry and battling reared their s ugly heads.   The house became a battleground.  In the summer, if my mom was at work, all out wars ensued.  One sibling pounding on the other. Tears and horrible things yelled at each other.

If I knew then what I know now, I would have never let those words cross my lips.

If I knew what our shared future would be, I would not have let myself be so hurtful.

In elementary school our younger brother came along completing our sibling pack.

At times he united us.  He was the little one.  The scapegoat.  The butt of all our jokes.  The easy target.

At other times he separated us.  They were boys and did boy things that weren’t fun to me.  They had their inside jokes.  They had their brotherly bond.

No matter what our differences were at home, in public no one messed with my brother.

My senior year of high school saw a shift in my relationship with my younger brother.  He was now a freshman.  We were in the same building for the first time since elementary school.  We had a class together, band, which meant we were also together during extracurricular time.

My friends started to become his friends.

His friends started to become my friends.

When he had trouble in a class I had already taken, I played the role of teacher.

When he couldn’t talk to our parents, I played the role of his mom.

When he had a bad day, I played the role of friend.

We still had our disagreements, but no one was throwing elbows or harsh words anymore.

And even though we went to rival state universities, we still visited each other and hung out together when we were both home.

College graduation usually means that you have entered adulthood and left the bad choices of your youth behind.

That wasn’t necessarily the case with my brother.

I fielded late night calls.

I opened my door to a tearful lost soul needing guidance and advice.

I listened and I listened and I listened and I listened.

One day he brought a girl to meet me and my fiance.

She had lovely red hair and gorgeous freckles and a great laugh.

And she smiled at my brother in a way I had never seen before.

I knew she was it.

Until she wasn’t.

She was almost four months pregnant with my nephew when their relationship fell apart.  However it was so important to Chris to be part of his son’s life, that they agreed to at least be civil.

My brother became a daddy in 2004.

I wasn’t there.

But I would be.

I babysat, I gave rides, I helped, I loved.

And I listened and listened and listened.

For five and a half years I listened to his side of their disagreements.  About what wasn’t fair.  About how he missed his boy.  About how he didn’t want to involve the courts.  About how unhappy he was with his life.

There were more late night phone calls and IM chats.

Just a month before his 30th birthday, he and his son’s mom started trying to be friends.  To hang out.  To get back what they liked about each other.

This Saturday I will stand up in their wedding.

I don’t see much of my brother anymore now that he is getting married and he lives with his fiance and son.

They have moved to a neighboring city that isn’t a far drive, but it’s not a short one either.

I don’t get random texts or IMs or calls anymore asking advice or if I can do something for him.

This past year has been the quietest year we have ever had.

I miss my brother.

But I know he knows where I am.

It’s where I have always been since he came into this world.

And it’s where I will always be when he looks for me.

Me with my brothers: Chris, Me, Mike

The title comes from the song Brother by Alice in Chains.  It always reminds me of Chris.

wasting an afternoon

rivulets wind through the sand.

we dig deeper, create more channels.

the water melts the sand and creates a smooth lining for each meandering brook.

our small hands plunge into the dirty sand and wildly attempt to keep up with the cold water.

we build structures with that which was once an obstruction to a now-flowing branch.

the sand piles get higher and more intricate as we drizzle the wet mud to make spires and columns.

We begin smoothing the sand around the structures to create driveways and roads.

Leaves are picked and placed just so to represent landscaping.

As we work, the walls of our channels weaken from the constant flow of water and we need to pause in our city expansion to rebuild.

Basins and bays are created at the sides of the sandbox as the constant flow of water washes over the sand and floods against the wooden edge.

Twigs and leaves are sloshed along the rapids.

Slowly our massive structures give way to the lap of the water eating at their bases.

Our trucks and boats begin to wash over the sides of our play area.

We can’t contain the mess, so we begin to shove our masterpieces into gullies and smack the mud into the water.

The slapping of the mud spatters us with the carnage of our civilization and we laugh.

Our motives are finally questioned when a shout comes from the house to quit wasting water and clean-up.

We toss the hose from the sandbox and, leaving our swamp behind, rush to turn off that which birthed and destroyed an entire village in one afternoon.

This post was written in response to the picture below.

forced labor

I am pretty sure it was always somewhere around a hundred degrees outside, and we had at LEAST thirty bushes to pick between the two of us.

My mom would tell you that I am exaggerating.  If fact, she will chuckle and say all of this is exaggerated.  And maybe it is.

source: Jsanckenphotography

But it is what I remember.

It was the middle of the summer and it was hot.  My long hair was damp and clung to the back of my neck, my forehead, and my cheeks as I would stoop to get the berries from the lowest branches.

The ugly camouflaged hat of my dad’s did nothing to keep the deer flies from swarming around my head, but it did help them stay out of my hair.  Because no one wants to pick tangled, angry flies from their long hair.  Nobody.

It maybe wouldn’t have been so bad, but the bushes were so far from the house.  My brothers and I, buckets in hand, would trek down the path through the woods in our backyard out to the clearing where my dad had planted apple trees and blueberry bushes–the two fruits that completely Michigany.

The apples were to feed the deer.  The blueberries to feed the humans.

My brother also insisted on lugging along our little boom box so he could listen to Ernie Harwell call the Detroit Tigers’ games through the loud buzz of AM radio.

We would spend more time trying to find just the right spot to get the least amount of interference than actually picking berries.  Many times we would make our baby brother hold the radio and move around until it was how we wanted it.

Stand closer to that tree.  No!  Farther away.  Ok put one foot on that stump and hold the apple tree branch with the other hand.  Maybe if you put the antenna in your mouth.  STOP!  That is exactly perfect.  Oh quit crabbing.  You don’t have to pick.

Starting on different ends, we would go for the brilliantly blue ones first–the ones our dad warned us that the birds would pick off if we weren’t out here every day. The ones our baby brother would munch on if we didn’t put him on radio duty.

The ones we would pop into our own mouths so we could taste summer while we worked.

We didn’t say  much as we picked.  If anyone said anything, it usually resulted in arguing and someone storming off in tears to “tell”.  So we quietly listened to what there was to hear.

thud thud thud

Until the bottom was covered and the second layer of berries began.

Plop plop plop

The shuffle of bare legs in the tall grass as they moved around the bushes.

The occasional slap at a mosquito or deer fly on our legs and arms.

The rustle of blueberry bush leaves as our hands moved around them.

The relentless plopping of berries on berries.

And the strike of a baseball bat hitting a foul ball with Ernie letting us know that “the kid from Freemont caught that one.”

My parents still have those bushes, although when I venture back to the clearing there are only about eight bushes. My nephew loves to help my mom pick, and I wonder if Eddie will stain his hands and lips blue just like I did when I was younger.

This piece is did not come out the way it was behind my eyes…if that makes sense.  Concrit is welcome.Please vote for Sluiter Nation every 24 hours to help me with a grant that will get me to BlogHer and help Sluiter Nation do BIG things!

The Yelling Contest

Five people around one table.

A meat, a veggie, a starch, and a fruit.

No utensils in the dishes…no passing…fend for yourself.

brothers on one side, me and mom on the other, dad at the head.

The kitchen is warm–so warm that the large front windows behind my brothers are foggy with steam.

There is the usual grumbling of what we each see that we are not a fan of.

There is the usual reassurance by my mom that we do, indeed, like those things.

“How was school?  What did you do? How was your math test?”

grumble grumble grumble grumble.

Discussion becomes just between Mom and Dad.  Work.  Boring.

Bored siblings start in on each other.

“Did you wear that shirt again?”

“Yeah, what’s it to you?”

“It’s stretched out.”

“So is your face.”

giggles.  “So is your MOM’S face.”

milk out of someone’s nose.

“you’re so stupid.”

“you are.  loser.”

“kids…that is not nice.  That is NOT how we talk to each other.”

“But mom, he wears that shirt every. single. day.  And he wipes his nose on it.”

“I’ll wipe my nose on YOU!” He flares his nostrils of doom at me.

“THAT’S IT!  YOU KIDS WILL EAT YOUR DINNERS AND QUIT BEING SO MEAN TO EACH OTHER!”

“Gross dad, food came out of your mouth.”

“I MEAN IT.”

Everything is quiet except for the scraping of silverware on plates.

“I need the butter.”

“your MOM needs the butter.”

giggles.

“oh guess what!  We did chair tryouts today and I moved up to 6th trumpet…from 10th, but I’ll probably still sit at 9th because Holly is still 10th”

“that is dumb”

“you’re dumb”

“that is great, honey”

And suddenly everyone is talking.  One louder than the other.  Competing for their space and recognition.

At the time?  I hated being forced to sit down five nights a week at five o’clock in the evening with no TV for dinner with my annoying family.

Now as adults?  My brothers and I beg my mom to have family dinners.  We miss the times together.

Are we any different than we were 20 years ago?  Not at all.  The same tired insults and come-backs fly from our mouths.

We still laugh at the ridiculousness of each other.

We still pick on each other.

My brother still makes jabs about how my mom makes a salad (but he eats it anyway…and I suspect she keeps making it that way because otherwise what would he bitch about?)

My mom jokes that it is hard for her to believe that we are all adults because dinner time?  Has not changed at all.

Dinner with my parents and my brothers make me happy in a way no one can really understand.

To an outsider–we are yelling and hating on each other.  Just ask Cort about the first time he sat down for dinner with my family.

But now when my brothers bug him about cutting up all his meat into little, bite-sized pieces before eating?  He slings the mud right back at them.

And we all laugh.

I hope to give this to my children.

I hope family dinner time is something we can keep up.

Because sitting face to face with your family and knowing what is going on in each other’s lives builds something.  It builds family.  It builds trust.  It builds togetherness.

Even when you’re busy picking on your brother’s weird nostril flare.

 MommyofaMonster This post was featured!

Wacky Wednesday

Ok, so I usually try to do Wordless Wednesday, but my week has been all wacky so far.  Good things, weird things…just wacky.

Here is a brief rundown…

My brother got engaged!  Yay!  This is HUGE, people.  He and his fiance have a 5 and a half year old together.  This story is long, complicated and beautiful.  I will have to share this story with you, if they give me permission.

We had some VERY bizarre weather yesterday.  We woke up to tornado watches, storm and wind warnings, all out madness.  Many schools closed due to the watches; not ours.  We braved those wild winds and pursued education in spite of the crazy weather.  And in turn, we were rewarded with tornado sirens going off at the beginning of fourth hour driving us into the hallway to take cover.  For most of the hour.  Then, just as we were released back to class?  Four minutes later they re-issued the warning, forcing us back into the hallway into lunch.  To say yesterday was messed up is an understatement.

My son is addicted to Sesame Street.  More specifically he is addicted to sitting on my lap and watching song videos from Sesame Street on my computer.  If he sees me get anywhere NEAR my laptop, he whines and pulls at me until I put him on my lap and youtube his favorites.

In fact, this is the one he likes best.  I like it too because it helps me remember that I can make it through the hard stuff.  That’s right.  I get inspired by Sesame Street on the daily.  What of it?

Oh and also?  I am over at Not Super…Just Mom helping my girl Miranda wrap up and super long, tough month that she has dubbed Hellmonth.  I depart from my usual PG rating, so beware, but go read.  I don’t want to be lonely over there!

Here is hoping for a calmer second half to the week!

He’s HOW Old?

My little brother turned 30 on Thursday. 

It’s still weird to me to think of my brothers as adults.  It’s even weirder than thinking of myself as an adult.

My little brother, Chris–the middle child–was my first playmate.

We are 2 and a half years apart.

He was the daddy when we played house.

He was my student when we played school.

He was the customer when we played bank/post office/grocery store/etc.

And now he’s 30.

His girlfriend, Sarah (who is also the mother of his little boy and who he has just recently gotten back together with after a six year hiatus…but that is another post), wanted to throw him a surprise party.  So she emailed me.

I didn’t even hesitate!  YES!  My little brother should have a great party!  He has been through a lot in his 30 years and he is finally happy…and yes, there should be a party for that.

We got my mom and sister-in-law, Ashley involved and turned my parents’ garage into party central.  My brother, Mike, Ashley, and I put up the decorations in the garage.  My dad blew up a bunch of balloons with the air compressor.

Then a bunch of Chris and Sarah’s friends and family came over.  And we waited….

He was expecting a small dinner get together with Sarah’s parents and our parents and my little family.  But what he walked into was everyone!  He was pretty shocked.

Chris is not a fan of being the center of attention.  He doesn’t really like surprises.  But I think he was happy with this one–once the shock wore off, of course.

My mom ordered him a Dairy Queen ice cream cake…his favorite.  He was a little annoyed that we all were going to sing to him–putting him at the center of attention yet again, but we did it anyway.

And yes, we put 30 candles on that cake!  Jack helped his daddy blow them out as Sarah watched.  It was so great.

Everyone enjoyed each other’s company, the yummy food and cake, and most of all, Chris and Sarah and Jack being together as a family again.

This day made me emotional and happy for so many reasons.  My little brother who I have always fiercely protected is a thirty-year old man, but also?  He has his family.  I know our family and Sarah’s family have been praying for this for six years.  And now it’s coming to fruition.

So I say happy birthday, little brother.  And happy family.  We love you guys very, very much!

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