Next Generation Cottage Life

As I attempted to roll over quietly–a futile move on my part due to the sagging mattress I was on–I crashed into Cortney in a valley in the middle of the full-size bed. We both muttered “ope. sorry,” and wiggled around making all sorts of ruckus in pursuit of the least offensively uncomfortable position to catch at least a few hours of sleep.

Even with Tylenol PM, sleep eluded me. I started doing some math: when did my family first start coming to this cottage, and how many years have I slept in this ridiculously lumpy, flimsy excuse for a bed?

My parents and I had been talking about cottage vacations that afternoon. Cottages Up North (Michigan talk for anything in the state that is north of where you live) were our family summer vacation traditions since before I can remember until I was going into high school (which means I was 14 and my brothers were 11 and 6). We took a few years off from cottages and went on “real” vacations: Sea World, Disney, Cedar Point. But after a few road trips, we realized we are cottage people.

Cottage with friends means UNO!

My family has been going to the same cottage on and off for 25 years. The mental math I did while I couldn’t sleep (and rechecked when I was well-rested) showed that my youngest brother (the little wiener kid in the photo above) was Charlie’s age when we first rented that cottage in Pentwater.

While some things have changed–our friends have also become adults and have lives of their own and no longer “cottage” with us–others have very much stayed the same. For one, the cottage means playing cards: Uno (of course), Go Fish, and Old Maid. There is also a LOT of time for pleasure reading.

I always bring a suspenseful read with me. This was this year’s pick, but in high school I flew through many Mary Higgins Clark novels up north.

Other things are quite different. As kids, we would spend the afternoons lying on the dock with a book and flying around the lake behind my dad’s boat on the tube.

My dad’s current boat is really too big for the small lake where the cottage is located and it’s a bit of a pain to trailer it all the way up there too. So he brings his little fishing boat and takes my boys fishing. This year with the high waters in Lake Michigan, our small lake was ridiculously high too, so there was no where to lounge on the deck without getting constantly wet from boat wake, so the boys fished there too.

Eddie and Charlie fishing with Grandpa while Grandma watches. 20 years ago that dock had a bunch of teenagers lying all over it.

And because we had the boat and tubing and a larger area on the dock when we were kids, we didn’t go to any beach even though there are two very close. Now, our kids will sometimes swim off the end of the dock, but we also pack up and head to the state park beach on Lake Michigan.

Charlie can spend HOURS in the sand.

We spent over three hours each day at the state park beach. Our kids almost can’t get enough of the sand and waves. My parents came too, but we gave them permission to leave before us if they were sick of it (my dad was probably sick of it before he got there).

Seriously. I think Eddie spent both days in that same spot.
Being able to be on the beach this year has been AWESOME. I love being close to Lake Michigan in the sun.

When I was a kid, my parents would encourage long walks/hikes and riding bikes, but as a whole the teenagers did a lot of sitting around, eating snacks, and being lazy.

Badminton with Grandma

My own kids have no lazy in them when we are at the cottage. They want to take walks and ride bikes and go fishing and take a boat ride and play badminton or whatever other outdoor games Grandma packed in the “Bag of Fun.” We had to bring their electronics along just to give the adults and hour of peace!

Tossing bags with Grandpa
Sweet quiet thanks to his “ear muffs” (head phones + cheap MP3 player loaded with Queen, Imagine Dragons, and Kidz Bop) and a stick he can whittle with the tab of his soda can.

We have all become much more inventive and flexible as cottage-goers too. Twenty years ago we slept, ate, played cards, read books, and played in the water. Now we have little people to entertain. No fire pit? No problem! S’more on the charcoal grill!

Want to play baseball, but there is no diamond? No problem! Tree stumps can be used as bases and Grandma makes a great catcher!

And of course, when we were kids, my parents didn’t take us and our friends for ice cream because that would have been insane. But my dad LOVES ice cream…and he loves to spoil his grandkids. So ice cream each day from Grandpa it is!

Peppermint Stick for the eldest
Moose Trax for the middlest
And Strawberry for the littlest.

Cottage life with little kids might even be more fun than it was as a teenager…well…maybe not. But it’s different and that is awesome.

Are the beds uncomfortable? Yes. Yes, they are.

Does the water smell weird? Yes, so we bring bottled water and avoid full showers for a few days.

Do we feel gritty and greasy and gross by the time we leave? Absolutely.

But man, we make the best memories at the cottage.

Grandpa and Grandma with Eddie, Charlie, and Alice

Thank you to my parents for helping us have ridiculous fun and for bringing the awesome of the cottage to another generation.

Chemo Round 5

Holy moly what a difference a new chemo drug makes!

This round was the first of the “second leg” of my cancer treatment tour, if you remember. The first “leg” was an A/C drug (don’t ask me to spell them right now). There were four dense dose treatments (in other words: super potent, crippling doses). The reason for this new drug (and up to 12 rounds of it) is because while the A/C treatment is super powerful, we want to make sure all the cancer cells get blasted.

You can think of cancer treatment as a sort of war on cancer. Each treatment type is a different branch of my cancer-fighting military. Surgery was the first surge. It wiped out what we hope to be all of the enemy. We wanted to be sure, so we sent in the second branch: A/C treatment. While chances are, those drugs got anything remaining, research shows that coupled with my new drug, Taxol, the eradication of cancer cells is even more successful. So Taxol is the newest branch of the cancer-fighting military we are sending in. The last will be radiation.

I got my back to school hair cut the day before treatment (it’s not actually growing, but it was looking patchy. It’s even shorter now)

The difference in side effects is almost inexplicable. A/C treatment made me feel like I was dying about 24 hours after treatment. It felt like I would never feel better again.

Before infusing the Taxol, they loaded me up with antihistamine and Benadryl (because pretty much everyone is allergic to Taxol–it’s an irritant. I got quite loopy from that, naturally. Then they pumped in the drugs. I had zero reactions, so I may be able to go lighter on the Benadryl next time.

The side effects are still hair loss (see that picture above), and sometimes nausea (I didn’t have any), low blood counts (because it’s attacking fast-growing blood cells), and mouth sores (none of those yet either). It can also affect my nails and give me joint and muscle pain. The only irreversible side effect is peripheral neuropathy, which means loss of feeling in my fingers and toes. That one they monitor super closely because they can adjust the med or skip one altogether to reduce that happening if I start to notice tingling. That is really my biggest fear.

Anyway, I got home Wednesday and took a nap while the rest of my crew headed up north to spend a long weekend with my parents at a cottage they rent with us each year. When I woke up, I felt great! So different then A/C treatment! I was refreshed and actually worked on school stuff Wednesday evening!

Thursday I woke up and packed myself up and headed to the cottage!

Grandpa and Grandma play some cards with the boys.

Saturday I even went to the beach! This is the first (and probably only) time I have been able to sit on the beach all summer due to my treatment. Chemo makes my skin SUPER sensitive to the sun. Cortney bought two SPF 50 beach umbrellas, I had my SPF 50 hat, plus I slathered in SPF 50 (twice because I reapplied) for the two hours we were at the beach, and I still walked away with a little coloring.

But it was worth it!

The kids could have stayed here all day! (Also isn’t my mom the cutest?)

She would not go near the water without her daddy.

She has mastered the art of relaxing on the beach…just like her mom!

See? Proof I made it to the beach this year!

Even though we couldn’t hit the beach for the entire time we were there, the cottage happens to be on a small, inland lake and the boys had almost as much fun swimming at the end of the dock.

Charlie and his popsicle “floaty” tricks

Eddie and his clowning!

I would say I spent most of the time in the shade near the cottage with my book or watching everyone play, but it made me feel like a real person doing real summer things to be able to even go. With the A/C treatment this weekend would have been impossible right after a round of chemo. I would have been comatose all weekend.

Yes, I still got tired quickly and sat down a lot, but I was there to watch my goofy kids have all the fun and live their best lives.

I don’t even know. These two were nut jobs the entire weekend.

And of course, to round out the weekend, my dad took us all out for huge ice cream cones for lunch on Saturday. Because is it really vacation if you don’t have ice cream for at least one meal?

I am so so so SO thankful for this new drug. I hate that I have to go through any of it, but since I do, feeling more like myself is the way to go.

I will be getting Taxol infusions weekly on Wednesdays until October 24 (we are hoping to get in 12 rounds total).  Please pray that my body keeps handling the meds well (my doctor told me that after all the A/C treatments, my blood counts were so good, you couldn’t even tell I had been on chemo! Keep doing that, body!)

This is my final week of summer before I go back to school (Eddie and Charlie still have three more weeks until their district goes back), so please pray for my anxiety and for my students as they get ready to have an English teacher who is out ever Wednesday and dealing with, well, cancer treatments.

5/16 done

Reflections on a Summer Almost Gone

I’ve been back to school for a week. Our kids still have one more week, but soccer practices have already started. The calendar says it’s still summer, but as far as our schedules go, it’s fall.

I wasn’t the fun mom or the productive writer or the great house organizer I wanted to be this summer. I didn’t do the things I wanted with my kids, I didn’t meet my self-imposed deadlines, and exactly zero of the organization projects I wanted to do this summer got done.

I keep blaming the fact that my summer break was shorter by two weeks and that I had less kid-free time, but to be honest, I just didn’t manage my time well.

But the kids loved the summer. We made trips to the library, walked to the donut shop, splashed at the splash pad, played at parks. It wasn’t such a scorcher this year, so we were able to go outside almost every day. Cortney expanded the sandbox so all three kids could play in it, and they took advantage.

It wasn’t a super busy summer, and that was Ok.

We did go again with my parents up to Pentwater for a long weekend. It was pretty windy and a bit chilly, so my dad didn’t take his boat along this year, but we had fun anyway.

We went from a Thursday to Sunday, and we packed in a whole lot of sitting around, not sitting around, and yummy snacks.

Grandpa made breakfast every morning and since the Sluiter children could basically eat ONLY breakfast foods for the rest of their lives, they were thrilled with homemade french toast, pancakes, and breakfast meats each morning.

And even though it was cloudy, windy, and sort of chilly, we still went to the beach on Friday because guess what? Kids do not care. They just want to play. So we adults sucked it up, and let the kids play for a few hours.

While Alice and Charlie stuck mostly to the sand, Eddie (who may be part fish) was in that chilly water almost the entire time we were at the beach.

Last year Alice wouldn’t even let her big toe touch the sand. This year she literally rolled in it as if it was the best thing ever to touch her skin. Kids are weird. And awesome.

My mom and I planned the meals/groceries a few weeks in advance, and we kept it pretty simple: grill foods and snacks. Of course my mom brought the fixing’s for s’mores even though the cottage doesn’t have a fire pit. But we had a charcoal grill!

Mmm…s’mores over charcoal!

Of course beach + s’mores = messy toddler, so a sink bath was in order. What cottage experience is complete without a toddler in the sink?

And just because it was cooler than usual, didn’t mean that the grandpa couldn’t take the boys fishing each day. Or that we couldn’t do a little ring toss, badminton, or card games.

Grandpa even helped Eddie with some of his cub scout adventures. They spent a lot of time on the fishing adventure learning types of fish in Michigan, Michigan fishing regulations, and of course catching fish!

They even learned about canoeing since the wind died down on Saturday.

Charlie got a ride in the canoe too!

Sunday was warmer and sunnier, so we hit the beach one last time before heading home. And of course Grandpa and Grandma had to treat us to ice cream!

I love that we have this summer tradition with my parents. It’s so fun to spend time together playing for four days.

Plus it’s a nice way to wrap up summer before I go back to work and the craziness of fall kicks back in. Even though the summer didn’t end up being exactly what I had in my head that it would be, we still had a great time.

And now I have to get back to lesson planning and making seating charts.



holiday on a holiday

I have so many pictures from our cottage “holiday”.

So I am taking today, a holiday, to pass them on to you, oh internet.


This is what dinner looked like every evening. A picnic table, food, and family.

This is what dinner looked like every evening. A picnic table, food, and family.

This was Charlie's pooping stump.

This was Charlie’s “business” stump. Yes, he is “processing” in this picture.


Cort and I had a date afternoon where we walked the pier in Pentwater, checked out the state park beach, and did some touristing downtown in all the shops.

Cort and I had a date afternoon where we walked the pier in Pentwater, checked out the state park beach, and did some touristing downtown in all the shops.

out to Lake Michigan

out to Lake Michigan


In to the channel

In to the channel

Downtown Pentwater has a winery, the Oceana Winery. My brother and his wife were there when we walked in, so we had some wine-tasting company.

Downtown Pentwater has a winery, the Oceana Winery. My brother and his wife were there when we walked in, so we had some wine-tasting company.


We ate food on a fire.

We ate food on a fire.

My brother read with is little daughter.

My brother read with is little daughter.


Cort channeled his dad's talent of making DELICIOUS breakfast for the masses.

Cort channeled his dad’s talent of making DELICIOUS breakfast for the masses.

My niece played in her "playpen"

My niece played in her “playpen” so she could stay clean


yeah, she's pretty cute.

yeah, she’s pretty cute.

Charlie played in the dirt.

Charlie played in the dirt to stay dirty.


Yeah, he's pretty cute too.  And apparently he's also packing heat.

Yeah, he’s pretty cute too. And apparently he’s also packing heat.

The kids spent time with grandma...

The kids spent time with grandma…

...and grandpa

…and grandpa

We played games.

We played games.

Learning to hold all those cards was tricky.

Learning to hold all those cards was tricky.


sometimes we won. Ok, Eddie and I won ALL THE TIME.

sometimes we won. Ok, Eddie and I won ALL THE TIME.

It was like roughing it...but not really.

It was like roughing it…but not really.


I mean, this doesn't look too rough.

I mean, this doesn’t look too rough.


family beach days were daily occurrences

family beach days were daily occurrences

Swimming was fun

Swimming was fun…


Until you got yelled at.

Until you got yelled at.


They never played nicer than when the collaborated on digging massive holes.

They never played nicer than when the collaborated on digging massive holes.


We cleaned ourselves sometimes.

We cleaned ourselves sometimes.


These two were inseparable--from each other as well as Jack from his Oriental Trading Company Catelogue. It was his weekend reading.

These two were inseparable–from each other as well as Jack from his Oriental Trading Company Catelogue. It was his weekend reading.

Quality time was spent together.

Quality time was spent together…even if we were a little grungy feeling for 5 days.

It’s definitely busier with two kids running around.

Gone are the days when my vacation schedule is my own.

But for now, that is Ok.

Happy Labor Day Weekend.