my own personal cheerleader

When she was my age, my mom was done having kids.

Her oldest was was in third grade.

Her middle child was in kindergarten.

Her youngest was a year old.

When she was my age, my mom was about to lose the only job she ever knew…at a small corner grocery store.

She would be forced to learn a new skill.

I wouldn’t know how she felt about doing new things…finding something else…finding a fit.

I was eight.

My world was myself.

In a couple short years my mom would take a huge leap of faith.  With a child in middle school, one in elementary school, and one still at home, she would enter college.

I hardly remember it.  It was a blip on my radar.

My mom sat at the kitchen table every single night pouring over her studies after her day of working and mothering.  After making dinner, clearing the table, and doing the dishes.  After carting us here and there.  After 101 errands.

Every night.

In my mind that was our normal then.

But I am sure she felt anything but normal.  She was a thirty-something sitting in freshman classes with 18 and 19 year olds.   She was stomping across campus instead of sitting behind a desk in an office.

For now.

She still had time to quiz us on vocabulary words or help us with math or watch us create a class project.

She still made our lunches and our beds.

She still brought home more than part-time work from her job.

She still made snacks for our class parties and got groceries every week and made a full dinner every night by 5:00pm

Dishes didn’t stack up.

Dusting didn’t get ignored.

Vacuuming didn’t get skipped.

And my mom?  Earned a 3.98 GPA when she finally graduated at 43 with her accounting degree.

I could blame her for my idea of what motherhood is, but I don’t.

I thank her for it.

Because even though I can’t possibly live up to that ideal that I have in my head?  She has taught me so many things.

Every single time I’ve felt like quitting?

I didn’t.

Every time I thought a class or a task or a new adventure or motherhood was too hard?

I studied/pushed/tried/loved harder.

Every time I thought I couldn’t possibly do it all?

I did.

And my mom still cheers me on the entire way…usually with homemade cookies.

yes, I had blond hair. and yes, my mom is still this pretty.

 

writing for the win

Cortney has about 534590834 cousins.

But one cousin, Josilyn, happens to be going to my alma mater, Western Michigan University, in the fall. In the honor’s college, nonetheless.

You guys, I am so proud.

The Beautiful Josilyn

This lovely lady has made me proud with her writing skills too.  She just entered an essay contest for a scholarship to help pay for her schooling at WMU.

The deal is though, that it is judged on popular vote.

I know I have asked for a LOT of voting from you all in the past week…but this is not for me.

Please read Josilyn’s short piece, “A Tutor’s A Tutor No Matter How Small“.  If you like it?  Vote for it.

That is all.

Help me win a $3,000 college scholarship. Vote for my essay!

 

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!

Secret Mommy-hood Confessions Saturday

I really like that Kim does Secret Mommy-hood Confessions Saturdays.  I helps me vent out things that have been weighing on me all week.

So here is today’s:

I’m tired.

I know that is not a juicy one.  In fact, now you’re bored and will probably just move on, and that’s ok.

But I’m going to plunge ahead anyway, Ok?

This week totally exhausted me.  So much so that after getting out of bed this morning at 10:00 (thank you, Cort!), I played with Eddie for an hour and then passed out on the couch for THREE HOURS.

This week was hard on me even though it really wasn’t a bad week.  Ever have one of those?

I am tired of picking up after teenagers.

I am tired of students leaving things behind and then freaking out WEEKS later.

I am tired of having to say, “get back to work,” “let’s focus,” “talk while you work…WHILE you work,” among other things.

I am tired of giving a thousand chances to maybe get a D- instead of an F.

I”m tired of having to hound 18 year olds about graduation requirements.

I”m tired of doing more for less.

I also learned some exhausting lessons this week.

students never hear you the first time (this should not be knew, but in light of the week, it was frustrating).

adults can act every bit as immature as a 14 year old can.

adults can back stab you if they think it will get them in good with someone.

not many people can keep a secret.

massive week-long blog events that include a gazillion giveaways are incredibly rewarding…and exhausting.

I need to toot my own horn when I want to be recognized for something I am proud of.  Maybe others will pick up their horns for me too, but maybe not.  So I have to play LOUD–for myself.

It’s exhausting to be proud of yourself.  Many positive things happened to me this week–mostly in the blogging world–and keeping up with them left my head spinning.

But I will end this tired ramble with the things I am proud of, that I hope you will take the time to check out.

The first is huge.  HUGE.  I have a new button on my blog.  It looks like this:
I was syndicated on BlogHer.com

That’s right!  I am on BlogHer with my post My Mother’s Hands.  Because of tons of encouragement from this lady, this lady, and of course this lady, AND with Cort rooting me on, I shoved all my fear of rejection down and submitted five of my babies posts to BlogHer.

Knowing the talent that they usually pick up, I really wasn’t expecting to hear back (I know, I know…lame of me), but when that email landed in my inbox?  I FREAKED OUT!

Cort was gone to class and I just scooped Eddie up and danced and cried with him.  He thought his momma had finally lost it.

So anyway, please go read my post over there…and leave me some love and sparkles if you like it.

I have also been adding this little guy to a couple of my posts lately:

 MommyofaMonster This post was featured!

That’s right, the sweet and talented Natalie has taken notice of me lately (which makes me blush), and has featured me two weeks in a ROW on her Monster Likes weekend round up of her fave posts.  This week my writing tips made the cut.  Go check out who else she likes this week (always good reads, by the way).

Third, in case you hadn’t heard, I am now on the team at The Red Dress Club

I am all sorts of honored and still blown away that Nichole and Cheryl–two writers I hugely look up to–would even consider me to be part of their team, let alone ask me!  To me, this is exactly the thing that has been missing from my writing life.  It pushes me to read more, contact other writers, and think outside of my own writing box.  I love it.

Speaking of The Red Dress Club, some of you may or may not know that I have this blog:

this is where I do my creative writing.  Right now there is a piece of fiction I just posted–and I almost never write fiction–that I feel pretty good about.  I’d love for you to give it a read and tell me what you think.  It’s called White Agony.

Since I am listing things I am proud of here, I also still have Katie’s Bookcase:

I haven’t posted here in a while since I am in the middle of reading books…as are many of my contributors.  If you have read a book that you would like to submit a review for, contact me, and we will set something up!

Lastly, if you haven’t entered all of mine and Miranda’s giveaways?   You can find a list of all the links here.

More than one person asked me this week asked how I do it all.  Even my therapist wanted to know.

And I just shake my head.

I don’t know.  I really don’t.  I all I can say is, if you really, REALLY love something, you will do it.  If something brings joy to you in spite of the challenges it causes, you will do it.

Or at least I will.

But?  It will still tire me out.


Secret Mommyhood Friendship Confession

This week’s confession is something I have been thinking about A LOT this week, which means poor Cortney has had to listen to it a LOT this week.

I don’t understand, therefore I am not good at, female friendships.

At least not the ones that require me to be involved in them on a daily basis.

That sounds bad.

Here is my deal:  I suck at being a way involved friend in REAL life.

My best friend lives in Chicago.  Since high school, we have never lived close enough to hang out regularly.  We send each other random, funny cards.  We text each other.  We email.  We facebook.  We tweet.  But we don’t see each other a ton.

And our friendship is awesome.  It was awesome in high school too, but it’s still like that.

I really do care and love ALL my friends a TON.  But my level of involvement as far as planning things and hanging out?  Totally sucks.  I’m not good at it.

Also?  I don’t like to “mix” my friend groups.  I like my high school friends separate from my college friends separate from my work friends, etc.  Yes, that is all OCD of me, but when they mix, dynamics change and I get anxiety.

Plus?  I tend to be honest.  I assume when you ask me my thoughts on someone, you want the real answer.  I don’t try to be cruel, but if you ask me about something bothersome, I’ll tell you.

I mean, I assume no one has PERFECT friends, right?  We all have something that bugs us about each of our friends, right?  There are the friends who suck at returning emails.  There are those who seem to be “one-uppers” and always have something worse happening than you do.  There are those who seem to lack any sort of common sense.

But we still love them because they are our friends.

(by the way, I am sure one of the main irks my friends find with me is that I am never available except online, but that is a guess).

Let me give you an example.  Cort and I have a male friend who is pretty cheap.  He likes to hold onto his money.  He knows this; we can say it and he doesn’t get mad.  BUT if I had a female friend who was cheap?  And she found out I thought she was cheap?  She would get mad.  Even though SHE IS CHEAP. But the thing is?  I would love her despite her cheapness.

sigh…

Anyway, what I am trying to say is, I love my friends fiercely…really.  But sometimes, I am afraid they get all mad and drama-ish because of something I say or plans I can’t make.  And I don’t get that.

Cortney and his friend Mat have often referred to me as Elaine from Seinfeld.  There is an episode where she is crabbing about not having many female friends–that she just doesn’t “get” them.  They respond that she is a “man’s woman”–that she just does better being friends with men because there aren’t any hidden codes or drama.

Yes.  This is me.

But I do treasure the female friends I have.  They are so much more supportive–verbally–than guys are.  They can sense my hurt and they know what to say.  They feel my joys and say more than, “cool”.

But I just suck at understanding those women and what they want from me.

I like to laugh.  I like to talk about serious stuff.  I like to know I can trust someone.

I don’t like to try to figure out what “someone means by that”.  I am not good with passive aggressive statements and code.

So many women talk about others behind their backs like they don’t want the subject to know…why?  When I say something about someone, it’s something I would tell them to their face if they asked.

But who asks, “what do I do that is annoying to you?”  because we don’t want to know!

I don’t want to hear that I suck as someone who will show up to planned events.  I know this.  I would hope my friends know this about me and love me anyway.

I guess what this whole ramble is about is that I just don’t get it. I grew up with brothers.  If they thought I was being a turd?  They told me.  And I told them if they were being lame. I am this way with everyone in my life.

If you are ever mad at me?  You should probably just tell me…because I have no clue. If I sense crabby or passive-aggressive anger from you?  I will just let it be because I don’t have the time or energy to “figure out” what I did to you.  JUST TELL ME.

And I hope you love me anyway…even for my faults.  Because I love you despite your faults.

Steppin’ Out With Mah Girls

Me: all Gap Outlet.  really.  head to toe.

Eddie: shirt-carters; pants- osh kosh

Today was needed.

Today I was restored as a girl.  As a friend.  As an individual.

And the ironic thing?  I so didn’t want to go.

This ridiculous depression that has taken over my brain had convinced me that I would not have fun, that it was going to suck away family time, that I would be miserable.

I am so SOO glad I did not give in to that.

This morning I got up on time (after a lovely Ambien-induced GOOD night’s sleep), showered, got dressed in something other than yoga pants and a hoodie, and headed out to meet my friend, Whitney.

Together, she and I traveled to Lansing to meet our other four girl friends with whom we went to college.

The six of us shared lettuce wraps and kid stories at PF Changs.

We laughed and reminisced about tattoos and living arrangements over manicures and pedicures.

We shared stories from the front lines of pregnancy and parenting while sipping coffees and munching cookies.

We realized that this summer will be the wrap up of two “rounds” of us each hosting an annual get together for us and our spouses/families. That means this is the TWELFTH year we have had a “reunion”.

We absorbed the fact that counting the two buns in the oven Erin and Tara are baking?  We will have 12 kids total between us making the kid to adult ratio equal this summer.

Today was lovely.

I laughed genuinely.

I shared freely.

I put away my misgivings (which proved to be futile and false).

I did become incredibly tired, but I was able to push through it instead of cripple under it.

Today I listened to my friends…instead of being too inside my own head.

And even though I am totally spent tonight?

I am happy.  I feel like a good friend.

And I have cute nails.

This post is part of Harper’s Happenings’ Steppin’ Out Saturday.

Thank you to Whitney, Tara, Erin, Kimmy, and Kristin for a wonderful, needed day.  This day came exactly when I needed it.  Your friendship is appreciated more than you can possibly know.

Me? Stylish?

I am a lot of things:

I am loud.

I am wordy.

I am patient at times and inpatient at others.

I am crafty.

I am funny.

I am hard on myself.

I am energetic.

I am giving.

I am a story-teller.

I am thoughtful.

I am sassy.

I am…well, a lot of things.

But one thing I would NOT describe myself as?  Stylish.  See?

That is the word Jackie of With Just a Bit of Magic used though.

Ok, she wasn’t exactly talking about ME so much as my bloggy-ness. Look at the pur-dee award she gave me!

In the past I have been horrible about remembering to accept and pass on awards.  However, not that long ago I read something The Empress wrote about being grateful and not forgetting about awards.  I completely agreed with her post.  When I got my first award?  I could NOT stop talking about it.  I was so excited that someone really LIKED me enough to say so on their blog.

So…I am totally accepting this award! There are four requirements for award acceptance:

  1. Thank and link back to the blogger who bestowed the lovely award on you in the first place.
  2. Share 7 things about yourself
  3. Pass the award on to 15 (yee-ow, that’s a lot!) deserving bloggers.
  4. contact the bloggers so they can accept the award.

And here we go…

THANK YOU, JACKIE, for thinking this disheveled working momma is somewhat stylish!

I listed MORE than seven things that I AM above, but here are some “fun facts” that you may not know:

  1. I have never left the United States except to cross to Canada a few times.
  2. I know Spanish (I teach it, duh), but my parents are the ones to go to Mexico every year.  And they don’t take me.
  3. In fact, I have traveled very little in my 30+ years of life.  I’ve been to Florida and Ohio with my family as a teen and to Indiana, South Carolina, New York, Washington, and Montana with my husband.  We would like to go a LOT more places.
  4. I’ve only been on a plane twice and never alone.
  5. I have a blog just for my “creative” writing.  Some of you know this.  Lots of you don’t. If you want to see it, just let me know.
  6. I taught for 3 summers at the Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center where they run week-long camp classes for little kids. I was the only English major on staff.
  7. I have always wanted to be a famous rock star.  Always.  I have no singing talent whatsoever, though.  So I push my rock love on my son (hence his rock star-themed, um, well, life).

Ok…fifteen bloggers I deem stylish enough for this award.  They are awesome, so you must check them out and tell them how awesome they are.

Tie A Little Ribbon because not only is she fun-sized and cute, but she has long hair (the length I strive for mine to be), but she knows how to DO her hair…and she vlogs about it.  She is my Teacher for Style.

Waking Up Williams because she has the hair that I have always wanted.  She has a cute little face and a super cute, sassy short haircut to go with it.  I can’t do that.  I have a monster melon atop my shoulders.  Short?  Does not look good on me.  But it does on her.

Harper’s Happenings because she is the hostess of Steppin’ Out Saturday…and whole meme for showing off yer style!  And she?  ALWAYS LOOKS CUTE!  She clearly shops at a better, more stylish Target than I do.  Or she is all fibbish about where her clothes come from.

Life with Rylie for a bazillion reasons! First, she is the queen of style with her awesome little shop, Twenty Five Designs.  You may remember me talking about her?  She has a lovely button over there on the right.  Also?  She has beautiful long hair.  Hers looks so great straight.  I am envious.  And lastly?  She is a devout participant in Steppin’ Out Saturdays and again, I have to ask, “WHY IS YOUR TARGET BETTER THAN MINE?!?”

Funky Mama Bird because well, she is funky!  She has the coolest sense of style and?  She makes the most gorgeous jewelry!  I happen to have one of her bracelets, but I hope to add to that collection.  So she is stylish AND she makes me stylish.  WIN!

Tatter Scoops because she is beautiful.  Seriously.  She is a beautiful writer AND a beautiful person.  Every time I see a new picture of her, I wish I could be so versatile and cool with my look.

Gussy Sews because again, she makes others look GOOD!  And she is all cute and blond and sweet and friendly while she does it.

Linz Loves You because she is young and full of sass.  She is my newest addition to my bloggy reading.  She finds things at Good Will that I swear they don’t even have at my Target.  Seriously, why do I not find these fashionable clothes?  She is always there for advice on, well, anything, but for the purpose of this post?  Just know she will tell me if I look frumpy.

All Work and No Play Make Mommy Go Something Something because she has THE PANTS.  ‘nuf said.

In Pursuit of Martha Points because she looks good in antlers AND she happens to have great hair.  She is amazing for a million other reasons, but this?  Is about her style.  Which she has flowing from her like wine.  mmmm….wine.

Modern Bird because she is also one of the funky, cool ladies who I wish I could emulate in the style department.  And she may be part of a super stylish little business.  Maybe.

Not Mommy of the Year, O My Family, AND Raising Madison because they make pregnant look good.  I did NOT look this cute and glowing and stylish while pregs with the Edster.

And last but NOT least, She Ain’t Heavy, She’s My Sister because she drips with style-sauce.  She is quite a bit like me, but she can do cute up-do’s in her hair and I like her tats.  So you know…stylish.

There award accepted.  And totally appreciated!

pssst…also?  Since we are talking about style?  Have you checked out my sponsors over there on the right?  There is a new one!  Sarah Bee Creations just jumped into the Nation!  She has the most yummy handmade soaps and soy candles and so much more!  A big post featuring her to come…but go take a peek.  You will love her!

and just like that…it’s done.

Our Christmas started with fun and memories…

starting Christmas Eve off with a water fight with Granny

reading the Christmas story

Eddie helped uncle Cody

And daddy helped Eddie

we had so much fun opening gifts, snacking on treats, and playing euchre.

finally we dragged our tired bodies home around 11pm.

Eddie was up all night.

We were up all night.

Finally Eddie slept with us.

and then the phone rang at 7am.

Grandpa Sluiter had passed to heaven.

But it was still Christmas…

Opening gifts in Christmas jammies

camera bag!

Gussy!

so many new things!

our day was filled.

after our gifts we got ready and headed over to my grandparents’ house.

then it was home for a quick nap for ed and then to my parents’ house.

50 mm lens!

Eddie made my mom (and all the grandmas) ornaments

with all that was going on, we were pleasantly distracted by so many blessings.

but once we were home…

and eddie was in bed…

a quiet finality washed over us.

eddie using his new personalized stool

of course our little man was unaware.

He went about his morning today playing with all his new toys.

laughing and pointing at all the new items in the house.

but there was a feeling…

and end to something.

not just Christmas.

a fake tree next year, perhaps?

but to a life.

Grandma called to ask Cortney to be a pall bearer today.

and I packed up Christmas and put it away.

’twas the night before christmas

We were never first, but we were never last either.

As soon as we arrived, my brothers and I would join the cousins in ooo-ing and ah-ing at the Christmas tree and at our stockings that “somehow” ended up at Grandma’s house.

We would dance back into the kitchen where the chairs had been taken from the table so that we could access the feast of delicious from all sides.  There was always crab dip (auntie Barbie made that) and shrimp cocktail (thank to auntie Lois) and lots of yummy treats (auntie Sandy spent loads of time baking) and then there was a giant cheese ball (my mom is famous for it). And so much more.

On the counter one of the uncles (or all of them) would be carving the turkey.  I can still hear the electric knife sawing away at the bird.  Like a good Dutch family we had buns that someone had cut to put our turkey on.  Further on the counter near the door was a selection of boozes and of course, homemade whiskey slush.

It was so loud in that tiny kitchen as we waited for the last of our cousins to arrive.  Whenever someone new came through the door shouts of “heeeyyyy!!!  MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!”  would ring through the house and hugs and presents and winter coats and wet boots would fly around my short head.

It was unavoidable that our stocking feet would step in a puddle of melted snow from the boots of our dads and uncles who were bringing in piles of gifts to be added under the tree.

At this point we were under all the adults feet yelling, “now? now?  NOW?!!!???”

And they would give in and we would tear into our stockings.

Lifesaver books, pens, crayons, jammies, large plastic candy canes filled with green and red m&ms, small dolls, and matchbox cars.  And always, ALWAYS an orange in the toe.

We would fill up our brown paper bags with our names on them comparing with each other as our parents shoo-ed us into the TV room to stash our things until after dinner.

Dinner was a plate of snacks and some turkey and a soda.  The only time it quieted down was when someone would say Grace.  And even then there was usually a fussy toddler in the background.

After dinner it was time for the Christmas tree.  Every single one of us would cram into Grandma’s small formal living room.  There was barely enough room for us let alone the multitude of gifts flowing out from around the tree.

The grandkids went first:  oldest to youngest which meant I was always third.  I was third after my cousin, Jenise.  Whatever she got, I hoped I would get something similar.  She was the epitome of cool to me.  And more than likely?  She and I would get the same thing from my Grandma and we would talk about it and tease our younger cousins for the rest of the night.

It was magical.

We always brought our  jammies to Grandma’s house on Christmas Eve because it was loooong past our bedtime when we left.

It was the perfect start to Christmas.

Grandma isn’t around anymore.  She has been gone for almost a decade.

My family has kept the Christmas Eve tradition alive in our own way, but since getting married, I have had to split that time between them and my new family.

This year will be the first year we only go to Cort’s mom’s house.  This is important to me.

I want Eddie to have the wonderful memories of racing into his Granny’s house on Christmas Eve, being surrounded by his aunts and uncles and cousins (someday…hopefully next year!) and bursting with excitement for the joy of Christmas and the magic it brings.

I will surely miss my extended family on Christmas Eve, but we will be building lasting traditions and magic of the season for Eddie.

Sigh…

Merry Christmas to you all.  And to all a good night.

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