it’s only fair

I helped Eddie down the steps to the basement at my parents’ house.  He wanted to find the toys.

While he chose dinosaurs and swords from the toy area, I wandered into my brothers’ old room–the cave as it’s called now because of the dark paneling, dark carpet, and just darkness of being in the basement.

This room has a closet.  It’s one of those under-the-steps-so-the-ceiling-is-awkward kind of closets.  To utilize the most space, in front of you are two hanger bars (tall and short) and to the left is a bunch of shelves.

There used to be toys–old school Little People– on those shelves, so I opened the door to peek and suddenly the smell of my childhood filled my memory.

It smelled like wood and carpet and toys.

Like children and games.

It smelled like being seven.

My brother and I would open that closet and take everything out one-by-one: the airport and plane, the farm, the school, the town, the bag of people and vehicles, and the box of blocks my dad made.

One would get charge of the school, the other the farm.  One would take ownership of the airport, the other the town.

That was fair.

Each person and vehicle and animal would get set in a long row on my brother’s thick, brown carpet.  Somehow we would determine who picked first.

Each person, vehicle, and animal would get chosen individually.

Like picking teams in gym class.

That was fair.

We would then lay out each block my dad had cut and sanded for us and choose one by one.

That was fair.

After the toys were divided up we would take our stash to the family room where the carpet was laid out in a square pattern that we used as roads.

We would argue over the prime locations for house building.

There would be disagreement over whether it was logical for the downtown to be on a mountain (the fireplace) or not.

Someone would call someone else’s house construction dumb.

Maybe a car would fly through the air.

Eventually it would all get set up.

And then we would be sick of it.

It would all have to get put away, but not before showing mom.  And then later, dad.

And some begging to keep this masterpiece of a town up for ever and ever.

Eventually each piece would be picked back up–each of us in charge of our “picks”.

Because that is fair.

There aren’t any Little People in that closet anymore; my mom has them out where my son can find them.

As I gently closed the closet door and walked back out to the family room, I wondered if my son could smell what I could smell.

I wondered if the scent of Grandma and Grandpa’s basement will fill his memory as a happy time of dividing toys and setting up cities and letting his imagination create mountains and roads.

I hope so.

It’s only fair.

short and sweet

I don’t remember my first one.

There are pictures, but they are yellowed as photographs from the 1970’s tend to be.

In one shot I am sitting in a high chair at my grandma’s house, confused.  In the very next I am covered in yellowed cake.

I vaguely remember Cookie Monster.

My aunt made it for me when I was six.  Or thereabouts.

In this photograph, I am standing on a chair leaning forward onto the table–hovering over the perfect cake.

I am missing teeth, which is incredibly apparent by the giant smile on my face.

At some point I decided marble cake was my favorite, and my mom started making me a round double-layer each year.

Always with homemade chocolate frosting.

Always with the sugar candy attached to a piece of paper that needed to be wet before the candy would release.

Always with pink letters spelling out: H A P P Y   B I R T H D A Y  K A T I E !

On Sunday my mom will again make me a cake.

An ice cream cake.

I will do my best to eat the vanilla ice cream, fudge, and cool whip first, saving the Oreo cookie crust for last.

But first I will blow out my 33 candles.

And pick off the pink letters one by one.
This week’s prompt was to be inspired by this photo:

what? it's a CAKE donut!

repeated forgiveness

In the almost six years that Cort and I have been married, the following dialogue has happened so many times, it doesn’t matter who is saying what anymore.

We have both been wronged.

We have both begged forgiveness.

And, unfortunately, because of who we are?  I am sure that this will happen many, many more times.

It is always bed time.

It is always way too late…past when we should be sleeping.

Maybe this is why it happens.

Just as we say goodnight…

“Babe.  I am really sorry about this…”

And then it happens.

Sometimes it thunders through the room shaking the windows and the bed frame.

Other times it silently warms us under the blanket and seeps into the room.

Either way it is everywhere.

And we are gagging.

“OH. MY. GOD!  Babe!  What did you eat?  For the love….”

This is when the giggling begins.

“I’m SORRY.  I can’t help it.  My tummy hurts.”

And now both of us are laughing because it is still hanging in the room.  It’s like someone smeared it right under our noses.

“I can’t get away from it!”

“Me either!  I am SORRY!”

At this point the laughing has taken over. Every time we think we are done, we lift our faces from our pillows, breathe in the funk, and dissolve into tears and giggles all over again.

“Oh no.”

“‘oh no,” what?”

There is a silent pause.

And then the air is filled with a new batch of stench.

“BABE!”

“I’m SORRY!  I can’t help it!”

“YES YOU CAN!”

“No, I can’t!”

gagging mixed with laughing combined with coughing ensues.

“Seriously, babe.  Next time, you need to take that to the bathroom.”

“Why?  You never do!”

“Well this is BAD.”

“Yours are bad too.”

“Ok, I think I can breathe again.  Wait…don’t point that thing at me.”

“Now you’re just being mean.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Me too.”

And then it happens again.

Luckily, by morning the air has cleared and the gruesome events of the night before have been forgiven.

We are a happy couple again.

Until the next time late night flatulence hits.

This week’s prompt asked us to write about a time of forgiveness.

deluge

The windshield looked like it was melting.

The rain wasn’t coming down in individual drops; it was a steady stream washing out everything in its path.

Including roads.

I shifted the weight of my distended middle so that I was leaning on the center counsel armrest.

I fruitlessly attempted to pull the black maternity dress back down over my lap where it belonged, and my red wedges had been cast off long before we had gotten into the truck so that I could wade through the rushing water to get into our vehicle.

Because we couldn’t stay at the restaurant.  There was no power.

We had been in the truck for over an hour and had only gone about 3 miles.

The normally easy 20-minute route home around the lake had turned into rivers of detours.

Each time we tried to turn we were faced with more streets acting as reservoirs for the deluge we were experiencing.

We were on the Southside trying to weave our way to our Northside home, but the land in between was low, and the safe paths were few.

Each time we were forced to take a water-logged road, I held the door handle tightly, peering out my passenger-side window as the waves lapped the door and almost covered the tires.

I had to use the bathroom, but I wasn’t about to say anything.  There was nothing he could do about it and whining would just make the situation worse.

I tried to quietly massage Eddie into a different position–one that didn’t involve his foot in my bladder.

I started breathing calmly through my mouth to avoid thinking about the liquid jostling under my son.

Cort gave me a worried sideways glance.

“No, I am not in labor.  Just have to pee.”

“Do you want me to pull over?”

“Where?  No, just keep driving.  It can’t be too much longer.  The rain is letting up.  I am sure we will be home soon.”

I had no idea it would be another hour before we got to our subdivision, only to find the entrance completely flooded forcing us on yet another detour to find dry land.

We had no idea what was ahead, but we were trying to have a good outlook, stay calm, and not have an accident before it was all over.

This post was nonfiction.

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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!

once…

…I stood up to a bully to protect my little brother.

…I chose band over sports because it’s what I really loved.

…I chose my friends because of who they are and not because of what they wear or what gossip has been spread about them.

…I graduated with honors despite the fact that many of my friends didn’t.

…I refused to give in to peer pressure, but still had fun.

…I chose to go to college away from home despite knowing I would be terribly homesick.

…I was there for a friend when his parents divorced.

…I was there for that same friend when his girlfriend of four years broke up with him.

…I was there for my brother when he had to make a difficult phone call to me.

…I decided not to drink myself to death.

…I fell in love with my best friend.

…I was in the room for a cancer diagnosis…and bleak prognosis.

…I married my best friend.

…I watched my best friend and husband say goodbye to his dad.

…I was the first in my family to earn a Masters Degree.

…I suffered two miscarriages but refused to give up on the idea of being a mom.

…I was weak…but my husband was strong.

…I fought PPD.

…I helped pay for a boy’s graduation costs so he could be part of the ceremony.

…I cared even when I didn’t want to anymore.

…I admitted I was wrong.

…I took on more jobs than I should have.

…I chose my family over myself.

…I rocked a wee little boy as he smiled up at me sleepily.

…I snuggled in next to my husband, held his hand, and fell asleep.

…I hoped.

…I believed.

…I held on.

Don’t forget to vote every 24 hours for Sluiter Nation to win the Mom Central grant!

And don’t forget to shop my Thirty-One party!  Ends this week! (go to “my events” and shop my party–Katie Sluiter).

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!

a packaged deal

I have had enough.

I am ready to purge.  To get rid of that which I do not need.

I am at my wit’s end with this and I am going to dump it.

I’m going to put it out there away from me, and hopefully someone stops by and picks it up.  Not for themselves, but to take away from me.

I mean, I guess if you are a masochist you could keep these things.  I suppose. And there will be a few of you I suppose.

But I am done with this stuff.

DONE.

In fact, I don’t remember ever wanting these things.  They just showed up.  And now I can’t GIVE them away.

But I am still trying.

So, that being said, the first item I am listing here is the a like-new Case of Guilt (made just for me by PPD, but is easily transferable to your particular needs).

The adhesive on this Case of Guilt is like new.  Seriously.  I realize it has been stuck to me for about twenty months now, but it hasn’t lost any of its cling. I am fairly sure–although I have long since lost the original paperwork–that it was was made with molasses combined with a super spray adhesive for extra powerful binding ability.

Or perhaps there is cement in there.  Like I said, I don’t have the original paperwork…only that which I could find on Google.

Either way?  It still sticks.

Also this particular brand of Case of Guilt is extremely emphatic.  It comes with a special built-in amplifying system to avoid ignored missed messages from the guilt.  So even if you are sitting in a loud movie without your kids?  You will definitely hear the Guilt booming right over the loudest theatrical gun battles telling you that you should be home being a more involved parent to your children.

PPD brand Case of Guilt also comes with a self-charging battery so it will never die on you when you want it to need it. In fact, in the almost two years that I have owned it?  It has never ever needed its batteries replaced.  It came with a lifetime guarantee to ALWAYS be there (the guarantee is transferable, by the way, so we can take care of that upon exchange).

It has unfortunately never failed me.  Even when I have been at work making money to feed my family?  It is there reminding me that I am not with my son.  It is never-ending and persistent. You can count on that.

I am throwing in two other items with this Case of Guilt:

Unreasonable Self-Doubt and Uncontrollable Paranoia

Both are also PPD brand and 100% compatible with the Case of Guilt.  In fact, the Self-Doubt and Paranoia were originally marketed as accessories to the Mom Guilt, but I am offering them all as a package deal.

Both are being offered as-is, although they have very little wear that is noticeable.

The Unreasonable Self-Doubt is scheduled to coincide when the Case of Guilt clicks on letting you know you are not living up to what people want.  Immediately the Self-Doubt will begin breaking down your confidence leaving you with virtually nothing to grasp onto that seems worthwhile.

The Uncontrollable Paranoia is meant to trigger the Case of Guilt.  It’s like a fail-safe for the Guilt.  The Guilt has never failed, but in the case that it shows signs of not igniting?  The Paranoia will guarantee it.

The entire package is being offered for FREE.

I do not want anything PPD Brand in my life anymore.

If interested, it will be on the curb.  Because that is where it has been kicked to.

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.

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