A Decade of Edward

Dear Eddie,

You are TEN!

I was told not to blink. When you were screaming for hours for no purpose, I was told, “this will pass, and you will miss that little baby.”

They were right, it passed. And while not all of the experiences over the past ten years felt like a blink, it went much quicker than I anticipated, even with all the warnings.

Dad and I are incredibly proud of you.

Cub Scout Christmas caroling at Great Gram Sluiter’s.

When Dad and I decided to become parents, we had the goal of helping all of you develop into good people. Being athletic or creative or intelligent was all secondary to just being a good human. You, son, are a good person.

You have a kind heart and a giving nature. You regularly think about how others would feel. You don’t want people to be sad or hurt. You ask lots of questions…you’ve always asked lots of questions.

This summer for one day a week you have been helping me out in my new classroom. I enjoy our time together. Before Alice was born you had your own room and bedtime was our chance to read books, cuddle, and talk about all the questions in your head. Since Charlie moved in to your room, we still read books, but our one-on-one time has pretty much disappeared. We still have great conversations, just the three of us. But it’s different.

This summer we have been able to get those Mom-and-Eddie conversations back. The 30-minute drive to my school gives us time to talk about books and movies and all the things of the world that are on your mind. While you work in my classroom you tell me what you’re thinking about and ask more questions. The drive home is usually pretty quiet while you ponder all the the conversations of the day. I really love it.

This school year you finished your 4th year as a cub scout, played basketball for the first time, and did a class called “theater games” through Zeeland Rec. You are finding what you love and who you are.

This fall you will be going into 5th grade–the last year of elementary school. Being 10 and heading into 5th grade have me feeling very nostalgic for my little toddler Eddie. You’ve always loved school though, and have excelled in all the subjects. The couple times you’ve gotten in trouble have broken your heart because you knew you disappointed your teachers and us. You are always so willing to apologize and make things right. You are very social and love seeing your friends, which is a blessing and a curse.

Ms. Holwerda, your 4th grade teacher and you

You make friends very, very easily. You can walk into a room and find someone to hang out with. I admire that because you make it look so easy. The problem with that is that you love to chat. You often don’t even think about whether or not you should start talking, you just do. This is a bit of a problem in school. It’s the only negative thing your teachers ever have to say at parent teacher conferences. And it’s only negative because you do it when you shouldn’t…and that distracts YOU from what you should be doing, and it distracts others.

You still love Legos. In fact, you are trying to save up $400 to buy the Lego Hogwarts. You’ve already saved $30 this summer!

You like to ride your bike and shoot hoops. You love to swim and wrestle with Charlie. You enjoy doing things like fish and take walks with Grandpa. But your current favorite thing is to play your Nintendo 2DS. Actually, you love all screens. You love to play math games on my computer, apps on the ipad, and games on the Wii. You love to watch movies and TV. We often joke that you’re best at sitting on the couch. But really, you do like to play and do active things…just not as much as you like sitting around.

You LOVE to read and write. When screens aren’t an option (because sometimes you all need a break…because you get rude with each other), you can be found reading through piles of books or creating comics. You have many notebooks filled with drawings and doodles of stories and characters you have created. When we ask you what you want to do when you grow up, you never really know. You like the idea of becoming an author/comic book creator, but you also like the idea of writing and creating for video games. I definitely think you will go into a creative field someday even though you have strong math and reasoning skills too.

Whatever you choose in life, we want you to choose joy. We want you to choose kindness and love and acceptance. We want you to continue to be YOU.

Ten is a big deal. You are no longer a little kid (although, adorably, you still sleep with your Lamby and your “monkey pillow” from when you were a wee one). You’re a big kid. You’re entering the “tween” zone. I admit I am a bit nervous about the adolescent years, but I am also very excited.

Happy birthday, my first born–my Eddie Bear. I love you to the moon and stars.


More Than a Handful

Dear Charlie Bird,

Yesterday you turned six.

Unfortunately I have my grad class on Tuesday nights this semester which meant I was going to not see you all day. That seemed wrong, so we decided to both play hooky from school and spend the day together before I had to go to class. I took a personal day and excused you from Kindergarten. When you woke me up just after 8am, you had already made a list of how we were going to spend out day that included: breakfast, playing megablocks, relaxing and watching TV, meeting daddy at McDonald’s (the one with the play place) for lunch, getting your free cupcake from Barnes and Noble, and baking your birthday cake.

We did all those things and much more. It was a busy day, but we both agreed it was one of our favorite days in a long, long time.

It’s hard to believe that you are six already. Time flies when you are laughing and screaming and loving and pouting. You started this life as such a mellow kid; I should have known you would be my greatest roller coaster.

This past year has brought lots of changes and growing pains for you. Kindergarten has been wonderful and challenging. You have learned a lot very quickly, and sometimes in the exhaustion of all that learning and growth, your toddler needs for screaming and cuddling sneak out. We find out precious little about your day because you keep things very close to yourself. You refer to kids in your class as “the classmate who I don’t sit by anymore,” rather than giving us names. We have to ask very pointed questions if we want specific info, and even then there is a good chance you will flat out not share with us.

You play your cards very close to your chest and prefer not to be a snitch. Not bad qualities, my son. Just not qualities that I am used to since Eddie and I are so different. Where we verbalize literally everything that comes into our brain, you ponder things for a long time before you speak on them. And even then you may not say anything, more like your daddy than your mom mom.

You are still my lightest, pickiest eater. Some days you refuse foods that I know you like. You like control and I think this is a way you can feel like you have control when nothing else seems sure. I worry about this. Thankfully, you seem to go in phases and I have been assured that for your age this is completely normal. And you seem receptive when the doctors tell you that you need to choose healthful foods if you want to be fit enough for sports–which you love.

This fall you played soccer for the first time and loved it! You are already asking when the next season is. This spring you will play baseball, but you wish it was soccer.

I guess you are what people mean when they say “strong, silent type.” You are a tough kid, yes, but your strength is mostly in personality. You may not give much of yourself away–at least not until you warm up–you definitely have your own sense of humor and style. You have a quick wit and a response to everything. Many times it’s unkind since you refuse to be left speechless.

While your personality and stubborn streak are strong, so is your ability to love. You thrive on closeness and touch and still cuddle up very close to me the way you have ever since you were born. While quiet, that does not mean you don’t need the arms of your mom mom. And your lovies. Your bed is a veritable zoo of lovies–each one special for a different reason. Each one fulfilling a purpose for you.

You are clever and enjoy problem-solving. You like to create new games by drawing game boards, making up rules with cards, making our rubiks cube a die to roll for the game, and so on. You are constantly dreaming up things you can create with recycling that is set out for the bin or bits of paper and endless tape. No seriously, you go through tape like you are getting paid per use. We almost gave you some for Christmas so you would stop using ours.

You love to play games with me, daddy, and Eddie (and even Alice in a pinch, but that never ends well), but you are also very content to play alone with your blocks, Legos, and trucks. You can play with play-doh for hours.

You have a hard time with the word, “no,” as I think most six-year olds do. Heck, even adults struggle with a “no” answer. Being told “no” often triggers very BIG FEELINGS that you are still having a hard time finding a positive outlet for.

Even though you still struggle with verbalizing the Big Feelings that overwhelm you, and sometimes the only words you can find are extremely hurtful, there is no doubt in my mind that you feel loved and a part of this family. The other day I caught you singing a little song that both made me smile and laugh:

I am loved.
I am loved.
I am so loved.
I am loved by my mommy.
I am loved by my daddy.
I am loved by Alice.
I am loved sometimes by Eddie.

Even when my mom is stupid.
Even when my dad is stupid.
Even when Alice is stupid.
Even when Eddie is always stupid.
Even when In am mean and bad…

I am still loved.

You didn’t know I heard you, so I kept my giggles to myself. You are trying out words that you know are hurtful. When you yell them, we ignore you. When you direct them at us, we let you know they are hurtful. But clearly, you know that no matter what you do, we love you so very much.

I love you so fiercely, Charlie. My biggest fear is that you will think that you could do something to separate yourself from my love–because you can’t. I know you test this theory often, but I think you have noticed a pattern–one that always ends in a hug and an “I love you, Charlie Bird.”

And that is what it comes down to: I love you. So much. It is hard being your mom at times. I definitely feel like I fall short of being what you need since your needs seem so mysterious. I hope I am what you need. I hope I am your soft place to land and the support that will always been there for you.

No matter what.

You will always be my buddy. My Charlie Bird.

Happy Birthday, Birdie.


Mom Mom

Upon Your Sixth Birthday

Dear Eddie,

You are six now.

I am actually a little speechless.

(but wait for it. you know I will find some words. I always do.)

Your birthday is so amazing and miraculous and all the things woven and tangled together. Your birth broke me down so I could be rebuilt into a mother. You did that, son.


You are our number one, but you were actually number three. You are actually my middle “baby”. Two older, and two younger.

But you are our number one here. In our family.

I often tell each of you that you were chosen for our family by Jesus for a very specific reason. We don’t always know all the reasons, but we can see hints of some of them as our lives unfold.

You were the baby that “stuck.” As I watch you learn and grow I see that is no mistake. I don’t know how souls work. I don’t know if those lumps of cells that came before you had souls yet or not. I don’t know if those two pregnancies were both your soul trying to come to our family and it just took you three tries.  I don’t know if there are two souls in heaven that will just never make it to an earthly family. I like to think that they are in heaven so your Papa can have some grandkids, but the truth is I don’t know. And I’m not sure I’ll ever know or that I am meant to know.

What I do know is that you are a miracle. Your being here is a wonder to behold.

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You love to hear your birth story and I love to tell you. This year you loved that I added all the people who were waiting in our hospital room to meet you when we came out of the operating room. From that minute you have loved being the center of attention. You love an audience.

Eddie, I have been honored to watch you learn and grow over the past six years. You completed Kindergarten this year and now you are a full-fledged kid.

Right now you love Pokemon after finding it on Netflix only a few weeks ago. You talk nonstop about the battles and the evolving or whatever. I must say I am not that interested, but I absolutely love it that you are so passionate about it. You are giving me a glimpse as to how you will handle passions in the future: you learn everything there is to know, and you talk about it to everyone.

You love to do “crafts” which involve you envisioning something with boxes and paper and markers and scissors and glue and then making it happen.

You love to write and read.

You played soccer, T-ball, and took swimming lessons this year, and while you complained about going, once there you loved being involved.

Your teachers have always described you as a leader. I admit to not fully understanding this. I have always been nervous that maybe you would get picked on because you cry easily, but last week I finally saw what your teachers meant.


On Friday I packed up you and your brother and sister and we headed to the park for a while to burn off some energy before lunch. Within five minutes of getting there, you had organized a game of tag with the four or so other kids who were there.

More kids showed up and you included each one.

When the game of tag broke up, you went over to the merry-go-round. You pushed and invited kids on and let them off if they asked. You made sure everyone was careful and that you went a little slower if little kids wanted on. You were respectful and chatty with the mom of the toddler who wanted to get on, and you even walked the merry-go-round very slowly to give that toddler a little ride.

Kids were calling you by name by the time we were ready to pack up.

“Eddie? Do those kids go to your school?”


“Do you know them from T-ball or something?”


“Then how do they know your name?”

“They asked. They said their names too, but I don’t remember. That’s a lot of names.”

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It was no big deal to you that all of these kids were suddenly your friends. It was totally casual. You walked onto that playground with all the confidence in the world that you were going to have fun with some kids. And you did.

In that moment, I looked at you differently.

I saw your confident stride–those legs that just keep getting longer–as you walked with your head held high, looking around for potential friends.

I saw your easy smile and helping hands.

I saw your caring nature.

I saw you, Eddie.

When you weren’t looking, I was.

You make me so proud to be your mom.

Happy 6th birthday, Eddie Bear.

Love, Mom

The Year of the Bird

A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.*

Dear Charlie,

You are one year old today.

Do you remember what we were doing a year ago?  Do you remember what it was like to be a part of me?  Do you miss the safe, warm womb where you couldn’t feel cold or hungry ever?

I often wonder these things when I look at you.

I also wonder how you were ever so tiny.


How you were ever my little Bird.

Now you are my Big Bird, but that is dopey to say, so we just call you Bird.


The name has stuck.  I don’t know why or how, but everyone calls you Bird, not just me.  Daddy and Eddie…even Renae calls you Bird.

It’s completely ridiculous and we love it.


In case you didn’t notice, we do ridiculousness and nonsense around here quite a bit.  We truly believe that it’s important not to take ourselves so seriously, and we are trying to help you learn this.

So we laugh. A lot.

we exhaust you with our shenanigans.

we exhaust you with our shenanigans.

“There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination.”

Charlie, you amaze me.

You are SO DARN CLOSE to walking.  I think you can do it. You BOOK it when you are holding on to something or someone’s fingers.  But so far, you have only taken two tiny steps on your own.  You can stand on your own, no big deal, but instead of walking from there, you slide down to your buns and crawl to where you can hang out, and THEN walk.



This past weekend you found your tongue.  It’s constantly out of your mouth.  You have also found our faces.  You poke our eyes and pick at our nose and stick your fingers in our ears and mouth.  I have been trying to teach you the body parts, but once I start doing that you become uninterested.

I hope this is not a trend.


You play so well all by yourself, finding toys and pulling on things and exploring.  As long as you have something to occupy you, you’re content.  Eddie was totally into the TV by this age, but you don’t care much for it.  You would rather be exploring.

I think this ability is going to mean you are good at focusing on problem solving or creating new ideas.  You think it’s GREAT when Eddie plays with you. He has a HUGE imagination and you are more than willing to laugh at his antics.


I hope you guys always share this love of pretend. Of using your imaginations.  Of letting your life have whimsy and fun.

“We are the music makers… and we are the dreamers of dreams.”

You are full of nonsense. You love to laugh at Eddie and you are finally finding your voice.  You are normally pretty quiet, but when you start in on babbling, boy, you get going. And it gets loud.

Your current babble montage usually consists of “dee dee dee” (which we think means Eddie) and “da da da” (which we think means daddy).  You will occasionally say “mummmm” (Daddy tries to say you are saying Mommy, but it’s really pretty random and almost never directed at anything).

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And you are starting to get into music!

The theme to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is one that will get your attention every time, but you also will start dancing when your activity table places certain songs that Eddie dances to.  When Eddie was small, daddy would take him into our room to wake me up on weekends with “dance party” on the ipod.  This past weekend he tried it with you, and you LOVED it.

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Just like your brother, a tune with a good beat with get you doing the Baby Dance.  You know, the one where you stand up and bend at the knees repeatedly to the beat.  And the big smiles and the clapping.  I love it.

“The suspense is terrible… I hope it’ll last.”

I don’t know what your next year will hold, but I am excited for it.

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I am trying hard not to dwell too much on your first year.  I am celebrating it because it was amazing.  You are amazing.  You have brought so much laughter and joy to our family this year.  You healed me, Charlie, but you also healed your dad and your brother.

Depression ripped at us in ways we didn’t know, but you settled into this family and began filling those tears with smiles and smirks.  With snuggles and coos.

As much as it was awesome and I wish we could freeze time, I know that is not possible. So I look to tomorrow…to the future.

To what you will look like toddling down the hall after your brother.

To how you will react to grass in your toes in a few short months.

To what your voice will sound like when words start tumbling out.

To what your hugs will feel like when you start throwing your arms around us.

I know from experience that this next year will transform you from a baby to a person with an attitude, an opinion, and a personality.

The waiting is hard, but it’s so fun at the same time.

You were born into a special family, Bird. One you loves you very much and values your individuality and what you add to us as a team.

I hope you always know you are not just a faceless part of our family, but an important part of our team.

We love you, we support you, and that can never change. Ever.


Happy birthday, my sweet Bird.

You will get a lot of love today and this weekend.

And you deserve every single bit of it.


Cheer up, Charlie! It's your birthday!

Cheer up, Charlie! It’s your birthday!

*All quotes from Willy Wonka

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The Last Month

Dear Charlie,

This is it. The last monthly letter I will write you.  Today you are eleven months old.  Just one short month away from being a one-year old.

Yup, I'm in shock too.

Yup, I’m in shock too.

Oh, Bird.

I got so emotional thinking about this…I almost couldn’t write this letter.

This has been the absolute best eleven months ever.

Yes, there have been a few set-backs and developments in my mental wellness, but Bird, you have made me laugh away the fear and the sadness every single time.

Your personality is growing and shining through in new ways daily.

Part of it makes me sad that I don’t get to devour this newness all day, every day.  But most of me knows I am at my best for you because I don’t.  I also know that I notice each small change because we are apart during the day.

You are starting to have different smiles.  You smile one way when you see me and another way when you hear your daddy come into the room.  You have developed a mischievous grin when you know what you’re doing is naughty, and a proud one when you accomplish something you have been working on getting right.  You have a wide one that shows all your teeth (12 already! the front eight and four molars!) when you see Eddie doing something silly.

And then there is the smile the spreads when you are giggling really hard from being tickled or teased by one of us.


You are SO close to walking.

Not only do you pull up on everything, but you cruise along anything (including the walls).  Sometimes we will hold our breath as we notice you are standing alone next to the couch or ottoman, so engrossed in whatever is in your hands you don’t realize neither of them are holding onto anything for support.  But as soon as you catch us watching, you realize what you’re doing and start flapping your arms in proud excitement.  And then you fall on your booty with your super smile plastered across your face.

You love for us to hold your hands so you can “walk” to someone else…usually daddy or Eddie.  The entire way you smile and make a happy grunting noise.


Your happiness is contagious and you can’t be pushed to the next milestone before you are ready.

Just like we were sure you could roll and crawl, we are sure you can walk.  But until you are ready?  You won’t do it.  But the day you do, I have my suspicion it won’t just be one or two wobbly steps, but a full on run.

That is your MO, Charlie Bird.  You save it up until you can do it perfectly.

Speaking of perfectly, you have quite perfectly decided that baby food is for, well, babies. And not you.  One day you looked up at me with a mouth full of squash and let it fall out of your mouth.

And that was that.  Full on “real” food from here on out.  And you’ll eat pretty much everything.  You have given us stink eye over some of the choices, but you’ve eaten them without much prodding on our part.


I’m not looking forward to calling you my toddler instead of my baby.  I’m not even looking forward to when you give up bottles completely for sippy cups (which you are getting darn good at using for water).  I will not be sad to stop buying formula though.

I’m looking forward to your first distinguishable words, though.  Just like with Eddie, I long to hear “momma” come from you.  You babble tons, and even seem to have certain sounds that are quite purposeful when you use them like “da da da” when you are looking at daddy or Eddie.  You also mimic some sounds we make like when I make the “brrrrrr” sound when we play with trucks and cars or when daddy blows raspberries on your tummy.

One of the not-so-great things you have started is biting.  I’m not sure if it’s because you have so many dang teeth for your age or what, but you want to bite furniture (which, Ok, Eddie did too), but you also bite people.  Hard.  This is not Ok and daddy and I are working hard to nip that behavior in the behind.

You also love to bother people.  I mean, it’s cute and I laugh, but daddy and Eddie are not laughing.  It’s totally something I do too, Bird.  If I see someone just sitting and doing something serious, I want to poke at them or burrow on them or do something to get their attention.  When you see Eddie lying on the couch, you can’t leave him alone.  You pull on his blankets, his pillow, his Lamby.  If he is playing Mario Kart, you want to sit practically in his lap.  The other night daddy was lying on the floor and you crawled into him at full speed and burrowed yourself into his side until he acknowledged you.  It cracks me right up.  Especially how you sit and grin after you get the reaction.

Oh Bird, you make me laugh.


When people meet you, you come off as so serious.  You stare people down without much of a smile.  Even when you are concentrating on something, your bottom jaw goes out (just like daddy) and you push out those little bird lips of yours.

But once you know someone…really get comfy with them…your goofy side that I know and love tumbles out and wins hearts.


I can’t even put into words how proud I am to be your momma.

How happy it makes me to swoop you into my arms each day.

How blessed you make our lives.

Oh how we will cherish this last month of your first year.  And then all the days after that.

Love you, Charlie Bird.



All photos by mL photography

8 months gone by

Dear Charlie Bird,

8months ago I walked into the OR to have you removed from my tummy parts.  Since your arrival was planned, you never had the chance to “drop” like your brother did, so you were lodged high in my rib cage.  In fact, there was much use of…leverage…to de-wedge you.

I cuddled you and swooned all over you all day…and for the next six months.

In the past couple months, we have spent most of our time apart.

I’d be lying if I said it’s been easy.

You are developing a sense of independence…and a strong attachment to your daddy.

I’m proud, but my heart gets sad that I miss so much of your day and then you would rather laugh and play with daddy than cuddle with me.

In fact, your days of cuddling seem to be gone.

You and I were inseparable in your infant stage, but now–when you are ready to sleep–you want to be put in bed rather than roll into me and slow your breathing until your asleep.

It’s easy…but it’s sad too.

It’s getting harder and harder to get a clear picture of you since you are constantly moving.  Although you are not crawling yet.

You have discovered that rolling will get you anywhere you need to be, and that you can move your body around in circles with your arms when you are on your tummy.  You have no used for being on your knees.  In fact, if we put you there, you just launch yourself forward and back onto your belly.

Looking back, I see that Eddie wasn’t full on crawling until just a couple days before 8 months, and daddy thinks you will just get up and do it at any minute.  I really hope it’s at home with us and not at daycare.  But if it is, it is.

You have mad upper body strength though.  Your grabbing skills are second to none.  Really, I don’t remember Eddie grabbing stuff like this.  You are crazy about snatching things and PULLING.  I think if you grabbed the couch and pulled?  You could move it across the room.  That is how strong you are.  Many times you have grabbed my pant leg and pulled so hard I thought I would tumble!

You are hilarious.  There are no two ways around it.

When daddy is around you flap your arms and start doing this little growling thing since daddy always buries his face in your neck and growls at you.

Your laugh is…it’s just so you.  Sometimes you have a breathy sort of giggle like when Eddie is dancing around or when you see me first thing in the morning over daddy’s shoulder.

Other times your laugh comes from deep in your belly.  Like when you are being tickled or bounced around.  You LOVED to be bounced and flown through the air…you just love rough-housing!

You have been clapping for awhile now…especially when we say “YAY!” to you.  And just this week you re-discovered looking at your hands.  You get very intent and you start to practice opening and closing them.  You even wave your arm sometimes.  Soon you will be waving hi and bye, I think.

Some days…ok most days…I can’t believe you ever got the nickname Bird because you were tiny.

You are so not tiny.

You have put on weight like a trooper, big guy.  You are mowing down puffs and sucking on banana and melon in your nubby.  You suck down a couple tubs of baby food a day along with a bit of cereal.  And just for good measure you are still packing away about 28 or so ounces of formula a day.  You are comfortably fitting in 9 month clothes.  In fact, we just switched out all the remaining 6 month clothes.

It’s a weird thing to put away items that I am not sure will ever see another Sluiter Boy.  In fact, I try very hard not to think about that.

Currently you have five teeth (one on top, three on the bottom) through, but two more (one more top and one more bottom) are definitely working their way out.

You are pretty good about all this teething.  We keep your amber necklace on and other than a little fussing at night, we don’t get much crabbing out of you on the subject…although you do get a little fever,  less of an appetite, and a touch of the butt rash when a new one is about to break through.

My favorite thing about this phase is that you lunge for us.  When you want to be held, you will put your arms out and rock back and forth as if you just can’t stand to sit alone anymore.

And while you don’t need me to cuddle you in my arms in order for you to fall asleep, you definitely know that being in mommy or daddy’s arms when you are tired, hungry, or just sad is WAY better than being on the floor or in your saucer by yourself.

When you are tired, you put our hands up and bury your face in our chests.  You don’t want a cuddle, but to be fed and put down.  But you convey that with a quick cuddle and an eye rub or ear tug.

As much time as we spend apart now, I can still read your signs like a book.

You seem to be hanging on to your “baby” longer than Eddie did.  And I am totally Ok with that.

But I hope you know I will be your front-row biggest fan for every single milestone you achieve too.

I love you, my sweet Birdie Bird.


Ps. I didn’t forget the compare shot of you at 8 months with your brother at 8 months.  So much the same…yet so much different.  Which really means you are both exactly perfect.