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.

 

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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What She Wants

It seems, in my mind, that it was always cold and slushy and snowy.  My brother and I would pile on our winter coats, hats, scarves, mittens, and boots and let our dad buckle us into his car.

I don’t remember when this started nor can I remember when it ended.  I can’t ever remember my littlest brother going with us, so by the time there were 3 of us, dad must have decided that taking us individually was a better idea.

Anyway, there was a time when Chris and I always went with dad to choose our Christmas gifts for our mom.

Like I said, it seems that we were always traveling through driving snow and sloshing our boots through the wet slush as we traipsed through the parking lot and sidewalks.

One year in particular I can vividly remember being downtown in our small town with my dad wandering from shop to shop.   We eventually ended up in a tiny store, which isn’t there anymore, that was filled with knickknacks and paddywacks galore.  If you wanted a frame or a sconce or a glass lion to set on your end table?  This was your store.

I can still remember feeling the warmth as we walked in as the bell on the door jangled.  The smell of cinnamon and potpourri filled my small nose and head.

In my memory my brother has already found his gift for our mom.  It was all up to me.  My lack of decision-making abilities was what was between us and home.  But this is where I would find mom’s gift.  It was so lovely in here.

I remember looking everything over, and asking my dad what he thought.

In typical dad-style, he turned the question back on me, “but what do YOU think?”

I would pick up a trinket and he would unconvincingly shrug and say, “If you think that is what she would want…”

It drove me crazy even at that age.  I just wanted an opinion.  He wasn’t trying to be difficult; he wanted me to pick for myself.

Finally I walked up to a small artificial Christmas tree that had lots of ornaments on it.  I looked each over carefully and came up on this:

In my young mind this was the perfect gift for my mom.  She would be delighted as she pulled it from the box on Christmas morning and held it up for all to see by the thin, gold loop.  She would place it high on the tree.

“What do you think, dad? Isn’t this perfect?”

“I don’t know, Kate.  Is there another one?  This one has a broken wheel and the glue is showing all over the place.”

I searched the tree.  Many of the ornaments had twins and triplets scattered about, but not the little bear.  He was one of a kind.

“This is the only one.”

“Why don’t you pick a different one.  One that is a little nicer.”

“No, dad.  This is what I am getting mom.”

I brought the small trinket up to the counter, and my dad said, “well if you think she’ll like it,” as he pulled out the crisp dollar bills from his soft wallet.

After getting it home and wrapped and pushed under my bed, I worried.  What if mom didn’t like it?  What if dad was right?

Christmas morning came.  Mom opened her gifts.  She ooo-ed and ahh-ed at my little choice.  I was so pleased.

My dad announced that I had chosen it all on my own.  Mom was impressed.

At some point my brother stopped coming along to shop for my mom for Christmas.  But I always went with my dad.  Even when I was in college, he and I would climb into his truck and head out to pick the perfect gifts for my mother.

Each item that I would find he would say, “if you think that is what she will like.”  I would assure him it is on the list, and that yes, she will love it.

Each time we would find our way to the register and he would remove his soft wallet from his back pocket and finger the crisp dollar bills he got from the bank being sure not to give the cashier two that were stuck together.

He would gather up the bags and we would head to our next stop.

Last year my dad didn’t ask me to help him shop for my mom.  Admittedly I would put up a stink about it each year and give him some grief for not being able to shop for his wife on his own, but I would always go.

When I asked him last year when he wanted to go, he responded, “I’m done.  I already went.”

“Why didn’t you ask me to come along?”

“You always say I need to do it myself.  Besides, you have your own family now.”

I was taken aback, and sort of sad that our father-daughter tradition had ended.  Just like that.

This past weekend I asked my dad if he had his shopping done yet.  He laughed and said he hadn’t started.

“Well, I have next week off you know, dad.  If you need any help.”

“Really?  I’ll keep that in mind,” he said.

I hope he does.

did someone say “birthday extravaganza”?

Birthdays are sort of a big deal in Sluiter Nation.  I have always thought that your birthday is your own special day and it needs to be GOOD.  It has nothing to do with age…all about it being YOUR day.

Since Cort’s birthday is in December, I try extra hard to make it all about his birthday since I know that in the past it has gotten lost in the shuffle of Christmas.

Thus started the tradition of the BIRTHDAY EXTRAVAGANZA in Sluiter Nation.

Friday I had the day off work (for various reasons, Cort’s birthday was a bonus), so we did some errands, had birthday lunch out, and saw Santa (totally a different post, since you know…that has to do with Christmas).

So anyway, Friday on his birthday we had to have birthday brownies.  because that is what Cort loves best.

We also had dinner at his mom and step-dad’s house.  Orange chicken and rice and egg rolls…um?  YUM!  And cupcakes for dessert!  Of course there were presents as well, and now Cort has his own wheelbarrow to push Eddie lawn stuff around in this spring.

Saturday was date night, so this is my version of Steppin’ Out Saturday:

Eddie went to Grandpa and Grandma Riemersma’s house so we could have our birthday date.

On Eddie:

Onsie and jeans = Osh Kosh

vest = Baby Gap

socks = target

Cortney and I went to the Grand Rapids Public Museum to see the Bodies Revealed exhibit (VERY AWESOME) and then to Six One Six for a swanky meal and cocktails.

On Cort:

Button Down Shirt = Old Navy

Jeans = Gap

Socks = Hanes

Belt = from Younkers

On Me:

cami = Gap

Sweater = Old Navy

Jeans = Gap

Boots = Shoe Carnival

Necklace = Cap Creations

Earrings = Vintage Pearl

And today to round out all the fun, we gathered at my parents’ house again to celebrate December birthdays:  Cort and our nephew Jack.  There was lasagna dinner, presents galore, and cakes for every birthday boy!

It’s been a jam-packed weekend here in Sluiter Nation, but it’s been super fun!  We do love birthdays!

Stop by for Top Ten Tuesdays this week:  Top Ten Holiday Foods!

and this is why I can’t do mcfatty until after the holidays

Yesterday I posted about the tradition of putting up our Christmas tree filled with ornaments that mean something to us.

Today I have another tradition to share with you.

When my brothers and cousins were little, we used to have Sunday after church dinner at my Grandma Jo’s house every single week.

One special Sunday in December was when she hauled out all of her Christmas ornaments and let us decorate her tree while she and the aunts baked Christmas cookies for us to decorate.

Decorating Grandma’s tree was so special because she kept each ornament (no matter how ridiculous) wrapped up in a piece of paper towel tucked in one of many boxes.  Even though we were all bound to unwrap some syrofoam cup made into a bell, we all handled each paper toweled package as if we were unwrapping an irreplaceable treasure.

And really we were.

My grandma has been gone for almost a decade.  I don’t know what happened to many of those treasures, probably thrown away with everything else that wasn’t deemed worth auctioning off or that none of us had “claimed” when we quickly went through her disheveled rooms looking for something to remember her by.

When she no longer lived at her house or decorated a tree or celebrated Christmas in this world with us, my brothers and I were still unwilling to give up the tradition of tree and cookie decorating.

So for the past few years…at least since I can remember…we have been gathering at my mom and dad’s house to have our kids decorate their tree.  This is the first year that Eddie could sort of help.  Jack will be six this year and has been helping grandma for as long as he can remember.

My mom doesn’t wrap everything in paper towel (despite our pleadings), but she does keep everything.  If we made it in grade school?  She still has it.  So when she takes the old boxes down, it’s fun to remember what sorts of treasures grandma has in there.

She has some really, really old ornaments that I am sure are not really worth much, but are most definitely….old.

Many of the ornaments on my parents’ tree are handmade…not just by us kids, but by my mom.  When she and my dad were first married, she made all sorts of decorations.

Chris found the traditional Christmas turtle (yeah, we don’t know.  but you better bet it went on the tree).

Chris and my mom grandma show Jack and Eddie how it’s done.

oh look!  something I made!  Put it on the tree!

Oh yeah, and don’t forget…part 2 of the tradition is decorating Christmas cookies.

my mom bakes somewhere around a million cookies the day before.

We all have our jobs.  Cort and my mom are in charge of frosting all those naked cookies.

Jack is our master decorator.

but we all do pretty well.

And since Eddie is to young to understand decorating?  He just eats.

I watched as we were all able to come out despite busy schedules and sniffling colds and other lazy Sunday plans.  Grandma Jo was definitely there too…smiling on us and telling us not to lick our fingers.

Oh and ps…this cookie extravaganza?  This is just the tip of the iceberg of why I cannot do McFatty during the holidays.  Stay tuned in January when I decide to kick my butt in gear…just like the rest of America.

It’s the hap happiest season of all…

Before you read this post?  Check out our new sponsor over there on the right ——->  It’s Peggy Ann Design!  She is awesome!  Think awesome as in “OMG!  BEST PRESENT EVER” kind of awesome.  If you get my hint.
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Christmas is a time of some pretty major traditions for our family.  While we have been learning to let go or change some Thanksgiving traditions, we have worked very hard to foster and cling to our Christmas traditions.

I love Christmas.  All of it.  I really do. The family traditions are always my favorite part.  I think I just love the feeling of happiness and security that doing the same things and seeing the same things over and over each year create.

Yesterday we got Eddie all bundled up to go pick out our Christmas tree.  Every year of my childhood, my parents took us out to get a tree.  To be honest, I hated it.  I hated having to trudge through the muddy, cold fields arguing over which tree would be best in our house.  Then standing their while dad cut it down.  And of course then?  We had to drag it back to the truck, get it secured in the trailer, and get home.

And none of that meant that dad was going to hurry up and get the tree in the stand.  And even if he did?  It usually had to sit there and “dry” before mom would allow it in the house.

All of this was excruciatingly slow to us, and after awhile, my dad just went out and got one on a Saturday morning by himself.  One that was already cut.

But…we NEVER had a fake tree.  Ever.

And we still don’t.

Saturday morning we bundled Eddie up and took him with us to Bosch’s in Holland to pick a lovely pre-cut, REAL Christmas tree. It took us maybe 5 minutes to pick out this colorfur (I think that is how it’s spelled).  By the way, this place smelled WONDERFUL!  I wish you could scratch and sniff your computer screen because each time they sawed off the end of someone’s stump it smelled like pine heaven.

Anyway, after getting our stump trimmed, and some ooo-ing and ahhh-ing by Eddie at the giant inflatable snowman, we loaded our treasure up.

psst.  by the way?  that super duper cute hat Eddie is wearing?  Is from Baby Butterfly Boutique. Super awesomely cute baby stuff and ridiculously awesome customer service!

Ahem.  Anyway…

We took our tree home.

I am pretty sure this is our best-fitting tree we have ever gotten.  And the needles are so soft i could almost cuddle them.

Eddie did a pretty good job helping with the lights.  Until he found our ‘step’ button for turning them on and off.  Then we had to remove him from the situation.

(also, please ignore my dumpy-looking socks in this picture.  they are too big and out of control).

I don’t go with the themed-tree or the color-coded tree or anything that elegant.  The ornaments on our tree don’t cost much money.  We don’t get the little white lights that twinkling in the pretty dark room.

Nope.  Our tree is what we call a “family tree” or as my actual family calls it a “tacky tree”.

When we were kids, my mom and my grandma put the huge colorful lights on the tree and filled it with ornaments that were handmade and told a story.  That is what I always wanted my tree to be too.  It tells the story of our family.

newlywed ornaments

first ornament made in daycare by our firstborn

first Christmas as a married couple

ornaments that reflect hobbies

ornaments that reflect careers

personalized ornaments (a new one each year!)

good luck ornaments

and those to remind us that some of those we love are celebrating in heaven

all put together to make the perfect Sluiter Family Christmas tree.

Some may say our tree is tacky or gaudy or just weird.  People might laugh at our choices of ornaments or decorations.  But to us, this tree is the story of our family.  And we will put new ornaments on it each year to reflect what new parts of our lives.

Decorating the tree is one of my most favorite traditions of the season.  what is one of yours?

Stay tuned for Top Ten Tuesdays:  Things I would like to Do/Change about our House.  Join me, won’t you?

the year I didn’t make pie

Before 2007, every Thanksgiving was exactly the same for me: Thanksgiving with Cort’s side for lunch, hang out, my grandma’s house for dinner, end up hanging with our high school/college buddies.

We were always running around.  We were always too full.  We were maybe a wee bit grumpy.

In 2007, we decided that maybe keeping things exactly how they always have been wasn’t working.  In 2008, while I was pregnant with Eddie, we had Thanksgiving with friends who didn’t have any family around to celebrate with.  I made lots of pie.

Once Eddie was born, we decided that instead of running all over and getting overly full, we would visit one side and have our big dinner with the other, and switch each year.

Last year we had Eddie’s first Thanksgiving at Cort’s mom and stepdad’s house. (go ahead and click that link…vintage Eddie is always fun to see).  I made lots of pie.

This year, we stopped in at Granny and Grampy’s house for cocktails, but we did our mega-meal with my side this year.

my sweet Grandma

My Grandma and Grandpa Riemersma have hosted Thanksgiving dinner ever since I can remember, but in recent years, it’s become too much for them to have it at their house, so my aunt has found places for our family to gather the past couple years.  This year we were in the basement of a church.

what can I do to help, grandma?

when we got there, Grandma was in the kitchen getting the coffee ready.  something about her bustling around in a church kitchen reminded me of all the years that she did Lady’s Aid in our church.

Everyone brought something–of course.  My mom, slick lady that she is, signed me up for green bean casserole.

the greenbean casserole was my doing...the squash? never.

The spread was ALMOST as good as if we were all sitting around Grandpa and Grandma’s dining room table.

the spread. and it was good.

There were three tables set up for all of us…which was a little sad because it was just like having dinner at my parents’ house since Cort and Eddie and I ate with my parents.  I didn’t get to talk to everyone all that much during dinner.

Everything was quite scrumptious though no matter where you were sitting.  And Eddie? He was a fan of his grandma’s squash.

yes, I took his sweater off. it was a cute sweater, but it wouldn't have been post squash.

And after all that food?  There was of course coffee and dessert.  And what kind of dessert do you have on Thanksgiving?

PIE!!!

I made no pies this year.  It was weird.  I muddled around the house all day on Wednesday questioning what I should be doing with my day.  I mean, why else would schools have Wednesday off if it wasn’t for pie-making?  I felt all lost.

But I thought for SURE after I had some yummy pumpkin pie, my holiday would feel complete and I wouldn’t be sad about not making pie.

and then?  wait for it…THERE WAS NO PUMPKIN PIE!

Cort and I just looked at each other.  No pumpkin pie?  Were we dreaming?  Was this not really Thanksgiving?  We had JUST had the conversation the night before with our friends (who had all decided to NOT have pumpkin pie since it’s not the biggest hit at their family party) that it was just plain weird to not have pumpkin pie.

And now here we stood…pumpkin pie-less.

sadness washed over the Sluiters.

But then?  Grandma brought out the traditional Thanksgiving Bingo.  Grandma knows how to distract sad Sluiters.

yes, that is WD-40. travel size.

There are “prizes” involved in our family game.  It’s not dirty bingo, so you get what you get or you get nothing if that is how the card rolls.  These prizes involve anything from candy, to Christmas decor, to duct tape.  This is real competitive stuff, people.

Michael Riemersma: Caller II

Traditionally, at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, my brother, Chris calls bingo.  He has been the Caller for years.  I actually can’t remember Thanksgiving before bingo and since bingo started?  Chris called.

But last year he wasn’t there, so our youngest brother, who has been in training for this office for years.  He has faithfully sat next to Chris and learned the technique of Caller.

The key, apparently, is to hold the letter/number token close to your mouth–like a microphone–and use your most booming voice possible to announce: B-10!!

not even close to a stinking bingo

And since as Caller you can’t win bingo?  Grandma always rewards the Caller for a job well-done with a king size butterfinger (this year was Reece’s PB cups since she couldn’t find a king sized butterfinger).

no bingo for those under 5

Since Eddie couldn’t play bingo, he monstered around the room until he ended up on Grandma’s lap.

By the time we left, it was past Eddie’s bedtime and everyone had such full tummy’s they had to waddle out to their cars with their bingo spoils.

All in all, a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Next year?  We are back to Granny and Grampy’s house.

And hopefully I will get to make pie again.  And you better BET I will be making a pumpkin pie.

This post is linked with Not Super…Just Mom’s Super Sunday Link up of our best day of the week.  While I had many great days this week, this is the one I chose to link up!  Now hop over to her place and read about some more super days!

Not Super...Just Mom

Top Ten Tuesday: Vacation Memories

Since I am in the midst of the longest stretch of work with no break (from Sept 7 until Thanksgiving), I thought an appropriate Top Ten list this week would be vacation memories.

Lately I have been finding myself dreaming of going far, far away with my little family so that we can get some much needed rest and relaxation together.  These dreams have taken me back to some memories I have of traveling with my family, with my husband, with my friends, and with my little family of three.

So here we go….

10. My mom walking off the dock in Pentwater, MI. I was in high school when my family rented a cottage up north in Pentwater, MI, and my parents let me take my best friend, Tonya, along with us.  This particular cottage didn’t have any private beach, but it did have a private dock that had a lovely wide end to it for sunning and swimming and just having fun in the water.  The first day we were there, my brothers, parents, Tonya, and I were headed out to the dock to hang out.  Everyone was preoccupied with what they were doing.

Apparently my mom was so preoccupied, that she didn’t  notice that the dock ended and she walked right off of it.  She tried to play it off like she jumped in, saying things like, “whew!  it’s hot out!  this water feels SO good!”  But Tonya had watched her do it and was laughing so hard she couldn’t breathe.  My mom being totally busted…and soaking wet…was pretty hilarious.

9. Buffalo with my fiance. The year before Cort and I were married we took a trip to New York state to visit friends (oh hey, Phil and Liz!!) who lived in Rochester at the time.  Before we got there, though, we wanted to stop for a couple nights in Buffalo.  I wanted to go to the zoo–which was talked up on their website as being the third oldest zoo in the nation, having elephant washing, giraffe feeding, and camel riding–and Cort wanted to see Niagara Falls (even though I

Monkeys at the Buffalo Zoo

told him it’s just a lot of water).

This story could be a whole post, but I will boil it down to this:  Buffalo Zoo?  Lame.  We did not get to feed any giraffes, wash any elephants, or ride any camels.  We set aside a whole day for a zoo we walked int 20 minutes.  And Niagara Falls?  Cort agreed it was just a lot of water.

But we had fun laughing at our misfortune, AND we had a super time once we got to Rochester!

8. Spring Break in college. The one and only time I ever went on a spring break trip was my sophomore year in college.  A group of friends (Go Broncos!!) and I took a plane (my first jet ride ever) to St Petersburg, FL for a week-long stay.  Every day we sat by the pool and tanned.  Most of us were under 21, so we didn’t do a lot of night life, but it didn’t matter.  We had so much fun just hanging out!  And since there were five of us and only two queen-sized beds?  We rotated the person who slept on the floor. It was just plain fun and crazy.

7. Florida with my family. About four years before the spring break trip to Florida, my family took us all to Orlando, FL.  It was one of the first “big” trips my family ever took together (we usually just rented cottages for a week).  We drove the 24 hours there as a family in a van.  I have lots of hilarious memories from this trip, but one that has to do with me was when we were in the Magic Kingdom and I (an almost-sophomore in high school) was SO crabby, my mom actually made me take a time out!  While my dad and my brothers enjoyed Thunder Mountain?  I was stuck on a bench sipping a diet coke until I could “improve my mood.”

6. Tigers baseball game with my family. We have been to MANY Tiger Ball games together as a family, but one in particular sticks out to me because I. DID. NOT. WANT. TO. BE. THERE.

My family had just gotten down with a trip that included Cedar Point and a drive-thru safari (a WHOLE different memory), we were making our way back through Michigan via Detroit because my parents had gotten us tickets to see a game.  People?  As a 16 year old teenager?  I was done.  I did NOT want to be on this trip anymore.

To show my displeasure, I ridiculed (loudly) everything about the game, I insisted on showing off my new Spanish skills (thank you, high school Spanish II) by ordering my refreshments only en espanol, and I targeted the poor kid who was sitting in front of us.

That was probably the most obnoxious thing that I did.  This kid was a total Ken Griffey, Jr fan and every time Griffey did something great, he would say, “ROOOOUTINE hit for Griffey!”

It was that annoying.

So I started quietly heckling.  Finally, Griffey struck out and I leaned forward and yelled, “ROOOOOOOUTINE HIT FOR GRIFFEY!”

Dining at the Experience Music Project

The kid did not say another word the entire game.

5. Seattle with my hubby. One year after being married, Cortney and I decided to fly (my second time on a jet) to Seattle–the home of his favorite band, Pearl Jam–for a week-long vacation.  He didn’t want to be around for the “anniversary” of his dad’s passing away, and Seattle was some place we both really wanted to visit.  So we went.

We went to a zoo (duh), and aquarium (duh), the Experience Music Project, the Space Needle, the Pacific Ocean, Pike Place Market, and lots of downtown wanderings.

4. Montana for one of my best friends. Because I will do anything for my friends, Cort and I decided our vacation in 2007 would be the trip we were making to Montana for a wedding that I was in.  I blogged about it here.

Looking good at the Montana wedding

We found out a few things on that trip:  North Dakota is boring.  Montana is beautiful (and boring), Wyoming is beautiful (and boring), South Dakota has some good place to stop, but the Mitchel Corn Palace is not one of them.

3. Camping/Canoeing with the in-laws. Ok, I hate camping.  It is NOT my idea of a vacation.  But we have gone twice.  TWICE!  I blogged about both trips here, here, and here.  Despite my hate of all things camping, we have a pretty damn good time!

Canoe Trip 2010

2. Indianapolis with my family of three. This past summer’s trip to Indy will always be a favorite of mine because it was our very first vacation as a family of three.  Granted, it was only three days, but in that three days, we spent two (successful) nights in a hotel with a toddler, did some sight-seeing, visited with great friends, met some new great friends, and spent a total of eight hours in the car with

My bloggy friends in Indy

a screaming toddler.

1. My honeymoon. You knew this had to be #1, right?  Most people at this point would talk all about their magical getaway to some all inclusive resort, or perhaps a romantic trip to Europe?  Maybe a cruise?

Not us.  We were on a budget, people.

We went to Myrtle Beach.  Actually, we DROVE to Myrtle Beach. Yes, I know there are some kick ass places to stay and be pampered in Myrtle Beach.  No, we did not stay at one of them.  We stayed at the Mystic Sea Resort–which, upon arriving?  Cort deemed neither Mystical nor Resortish.  In fact, he may have used a swear word and then commented how it looked nothing like what it did on the internet (you would think we would have learned from the Buffalo Zoo debacle, wouldn’t you?).

Two newlywed beach bums

There are so many stories I can tell you about Myrtle Beach, but the main thing is that we started our marriage off with something we could afford and made it fun.  We laughed until we cried.  We enjoyed being together.  And it was perfect.

Don’t get me wrong, some day I would LOVE to go on a “real” vacation.  Something all-inclusive.  Somewhere that creates little swans and monkeys out of my towels.  But until then, we will have fun with our budget vacations.  It’s what I am used to growing up, and it is what you make it!

Now how about you?  Do you have a Top Ten list of your vacation memories?  Link it up!  And tune in this weekend when I announce next week’s Top Ten Tuesday Topic!

He’s HOW Old?

My little brother turned 30 on Thursday. 

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

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

We are 2 and a half years apart.

He was the daddy when we played house.

He was my student when we played school.

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

And now he’s 30.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Put Us In the Zoo!

One very fun thing that Cortney and I have in common is our love of zoos and aquariums.  It seems that every summer we somehow find our way to one (well, not last summer.  Last summer we had a zoo in our home with our newborn and everyone coming to look at US).  This week, thanks to my mom, we were able to take Eddie to his first zoo.  But before I get to that, a little retrospective of past zoo/aquarium visits.

The summer of 2004 (the summer when we got engaged) we took a trip to NY to visit friends who were living in Rochester at the time.  We stopped at the Buffalo Zoo for an afternoon.  Of course they had buffalo.

And they also had a rhino.  This zoo was WAY smaller than we expected, but had some good animals.  However, the giraffe feeding, elephant washing, and camel rides their website advertised?  So were not happening.  I was crabby about this.

On a rainy day on our honeymoon in Myrtle Beach in June of 2005, we went to the Ripley’s aquarium.  Cort was braver than I was with all the touching and the holding of sea creatures.

In 2006 we took a trip to Seattle.  We visited the Tacoma Zoo and saw whales and…

reindeer!  It was fun, but sort of hot.  That was one of the nicer zoos we’ve been to, although it was sort of a long drive from where we were staying.

We also visited the aquarium on the Puget sound.  I went into the kid section for some pictures.  What did I think I was doing with that polo and hair do?  Ugg.

In 2007 we went out to Montana.  No zoos, but in South Dakota we saw some REAL buffalo (Cort made me get back in the car because there were signs all over the place about how they will KILL you)…

and in North Dakota we saw this big cow.  But it wasn’t real, so I guess it doesn’t count as part of our animal experiences.

In 2008 we went out to NY again for a wine tour with our friends near Rochester, and on the way home we stopped in the Toledo Zoo.  This has been my favorite zoo so far.  Look at those big polar bears!

They are big…see?

They had camels at this zoo.  I think Cort was trying to impress the camels with his super suave ways.

Did I mention we visit the gift shop at each zoo and buy a new animal?  It’s true.  we were collecting animals for Eddie’s nursery before Eddie was even conceived!  I knew I wanted an animal themed nursery.  Leave it to Cort to find the hooters in Toledo.

On Tuesday my mom brought our little family to the John Ball zoo about 30 minutes from where we live.  Even though we love zoos, Cort and I hadn’t been to the one near home in YEARS!

We saw this Kamodo Dragon.  It was creepy, but pretty neat.  My mom thought it was icky and after he opened his mouth like this she kept talking to it trying to get it to do it again.

We saw lots of monkey butts.  Here is Eddie watching a chimp moon him.  He didn’t seem too traumatized though.  He actually enjoyed watching all the different monkeys.

He even got to play an African drum on his way out of the African exhibits.  Anything that makes noise is cool with him.

 Grandma really wanted Eddie to pet the pygmy goats.  He preferred to point, not pet.

One thing grandma REALLY wanted us to do was ride the camel.  She brought extra money just so we could do it.  I believe her words were, “C’mon, Cort.  I’ve got five dollars burning a hole in my pocket just waiting for you to ride that camel.”  So he did.  We didn’t want to disappoint Grandma!

Even I got on Angel the Camel.  In a skirt, no less.  The ride was much less glamorous than Sarah Jessica Parker made it look in Sex in the City 2, let me tell you!

We saw bears.  A grizzly and a brown bear.  My mom thought those claws were pretty big.  See?

Then we hit the petting zoo where again Grandma tried to get Eddie to pet a goat.  He had more fun running around the area away from the animals.

Eddie and daddy thought the penguins were pretty cool…even after we sneaked the stroller in…shhhhh…

And wouldn’t you know it?  We bought Eddie his own camel to take home!  And he has been sleeping with it every nap and every night.  He loves that darn thing.  I don’t blame him, it is SOFT!

And when we got home?  Louis was in a box.  I guess he felt left out.  He wanted to be looked at in a “habitat” too.

Our family sure does love zoos!  We can’t wait to visit the Indianapolis Zoo (hopefully!) in just a few weeks!

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