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!

 

teaching isn’t just my job, it’s my job.

Thanks to the makers of Pine-Sol® for sponsoring my writing. A study shows a clean smelling home can help children succeed, so Pine-Sol® is supporting Reading is Fundamental (RIF) this year. Click “Like” on Pine-Sol®’s Facebook page here and they will donate books to RIF!
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I don’t remember books not being in my life.

Growing up, the bottom drawer of my dresser was so full of children’s books that the bottom eventually fell out from the weight.

My  mom always had a pile of books on top of the refrigerator from the library, and a few more on the front seat of her car waiting to be swapped out for new ones.

My dad was always reading the newspaper.

We had a set of encyclopedia and a set of childcraft encyclopedia.

Words were my life from early on.  In grade school I lived for scholastic book orders.  In middle school my mom brought me piles of books home from the library.  By high school?  I had decided that I wanted to read–and talk about those books–for the rest of my life.

And so I became an English teacher.

I have worked for over a decade encouraging kids to read…to entice them into becoming life-long readers.

The school I work in is filled with students who didn’t have their own books as kids.  They come to us behind…because they don’t know what it’s like to have books in their life for fun.

Not a couple years ago, after about 90% of one of my classes failed to do a short assigned reading assignment, I polled the class with this question: “How many of you had your own books as kids and were read to all the time.”

One girl raised her hand (she did the assignment, by the way).  I died a little inside.

That same year our school started doing RIF (reading is fundamental), a program that gives students free books.

I was suddenly aware of the gift my parents had given me.

Also that year I found out I was pregnant with my son.

Immediately, I gathered my favorite childhood books and piled them in the room that would be his.

I would sit in the middle of the room and read the books out loud to my dancing fetus.

A year later, I was reading Green Eggs and Ham to a squirmy infant.

Not long after that, we traded the “paper pages” for board books because he wanted to handle them and gnaw on the book clumsily turn the pages himself.

Now, as a 20-month old, he brings me book after book to read.  He points out the letters to me and says some of them.  He points out the kitties and the dogs and the moons and the balloons.

I burst with pride when his little finger points at the pictures as I read the words…as he examines each page before we turn it.

I know this is what my parents did.  And I know it is a large part of why I became a successful student…and teacher….and writer.

It is never ever too early to start reading with your children.  Each time you choose to put down your phone, or step away from your laptop (in my case) to read with your child, you are sending a message about what is important.

Each time your child sees you pick up a book or newspaper instead of watch a reality show?  You are showing your child where your priorities are and what you see as valuable.

Your child…and education are important.  Show this to your child.  Read with him/her.

Don’t forget to click over to Pine-Sol®’s Facebook page to support our children’s success. I was selected for this Pine-Sol® sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

Today my post for The Red Dress Club is over at my other blog. Please click below to go there.


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!

Steppin’ Out Saturday

We don’t get out much…at least not to anything that involves getting extra cute…so when we do?  The camera comes out!

On Eddie:

Onsie: Osh Kosh

Pull-over: Polo

Jeans: GAP kids

Socks: Target

Boots: Carters

On Momma:

Skirt: Anne Taylor Loft

tank and Cari: Old Navy

Tights: Target

Shoes: Mootsie Tootsies from Shoe Carnival

Flower: Tie a Little Ribbon

Ring: Twenty Five Design

On Dad-do

Shirt and Tie: Stafford

Slacks: Dockers

Belt: Younkers

Shoes: Croft and Barrow

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In other news?  My little boy is 20 months old as of this week.

I have not been able to write about it due to too many emotions.

just right

Sometimes…

it’s the little things…

like gifts from friends…

O Canada...how i love your treats...

freshly painted toenails and sipping wine with your husband…

do these feet say "let me entertain you?" like the color's name says?

trips to the bookstore…

i may have a wide variety of interests right now

tiny reminders…

yeah, I know. I just have to open my laptop!

lunch with no flying food or tantrums…

mmmm...best. bread. ever.

my favorite flowers…

and yes, I kissed him on his two-lips when he gave these to me.

little hands wanting to make letters…

E...D...D...I...E...

a reminder that someone is getting a cousin (or two) very soon!

hooray for cousins...

wait...does this mean I have to share Granny?

And my two very best guys…

handsome and cutie

…to make me feel like everything in this world is just the way it’s supposed to be.

that everything is just right.

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interested in the journey and adventure of Eddie’s cousin(s) coming home?  Check out Cort’s sister’s blog for more details.

Potter Picnic 2010

This past weekend was the annual Potter Picnic–Cort’s mom’s side of the family.  There are five siblings in my mom-in-law’s family and each of the five sibling families wore a different color T-shirt.  Ours?  Yellow!

The Potter Picnic is fun, but it is SERIOUS fun! It is NOT your mediocre, run-of the mill family reunion.  OH NO…

It all starts out with games…tournament style…where you get to compete for prizes.  There is something for EVERYONE.

Badminton
Ladder Ball (or as we Sluiters call it, Hilly Billy Golf)
Cornhole (yes, that is the real name of this game.  what can I say?  we are classy)
more corn hole…just because we all needed one more giggle at the name.
Volleyball
Horse shoes
Yes, there were even written quizzes.  The Potter family?  They take competition seriously.
and you can’t leave until you guess how many m&ms or what the three objects in the coffee can are.
And you KNEW there was a score board, right?
And Grandpa and Grandma Potter?  They supervised and enjoyed watching us run amok.
And the littlest Potter also did some supervising.  Oh hey, Miles!
The trophies:  which totally went to the Red Shirts (Keith Potter family) AGAIN this year.  I think they have everyone by sheer numbers in their family!
Debate over the scoreboard.
Did I mention it’s serious business?  Because it SO is.
Even Eddie found it fun to run around the playing fields (yes, there are even regulation lines chalked in.  SERIOUS, people.)
The yellow team?  We did not do so well.
But Cody totally represented by qualifying to climb the rope!  And he did it with speed AND agility!  We were so proud!
We all watched the climbers.  They were pretty amazing.  And?  I am glad I didn’t have to try because I am fairly sure I would have hurt myself in more than one way.
The yellow team in their glory…with G&G Potter
The entire Potter Picnic.  We are so dang lucky to have this much love in just ONE of side of the family!
Such a fun day…even if we had to leave before dinner because Eddie was LOSING it from lack of nap.
And I think?  Grandpa and Grandma had a pretty happy day too!

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Blessings

This day…today…amazed me.

I am left sitting here typing this an aching, emotionally drained, physically exhausted pile of whine.

So pooped that actual wine doesn’t even sound good to me.

I KNOW!

Anyway, let me go back….

You all know that Cort’s sister and brother-in-law are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia, yes?  If by chance you don’t know what I am talking about, you REALLY should go to their blog, Stepping Stones, and read about their journey.  It’s lovely.  Go ahead.  You can go read now.  I’ll wait….

tappity….tappity…tappity…oh, you’re back.  Ok…

So, they are adopting from Ethiopia and we REALLY wanted to help out.  It all started months ago when they asked if I could contribute something crafty to their online auction.  I didn’t have the time or the supplies, but I SOOO wanted to help.

Fastforward to me volunteering to do a garage sale to get rid of our stuff.  And then asking for donations.  It got huge, people.  I am telling you…it took over our basement and part of our garage.

This is only part of it.  We had started moving things to the garage already at this point.  See?

On Thursday MacKenzie (my sis-in-law), our friend Trisha, and I organized everything into categories in the garage and then priced it all.  Friday, more stuff was dropped off, so I went through all that:  sorting and pricing.  Oh, and it was about 1000 degrees with 100% humidity.  It was like organizing in a sauna.

Friday night to celebrate this fundraiser and to get a little taste of what Ethiopia is like, MacKenzie and Dave took us to GoJo in East Town (Grand Rapids). GoJo is family owned and the owner, Sam, waited on us and chatted it up with Kenz and Dave–they are regulars now!

Many families who are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia or who have adopted come to eat here.  It’s amazing the sense of community there is even with only one other table of diners in there besides us.  I just felt that this was a familiar place for people to come.

Pictures of children who have found their families lined the windows and Sam knew right where his customers were in their own processes.  He even mentioned to Dave and Kenz that he heard they had waiting list numbers now!

The experience was super unique to anything I have had before–the only thing I can compare it to is digging in to and appetizer, but it was the table’s meal.

The food is family style and the diners get NO utensils or plates.  You simply grab your Ethiopian flatbread and dig in to the lamb, beef, chicken, collards, salads, and lentils.  The platter we ordered was pretty darn spicy, but it can be milder.  The flavor?  Was SO worth the “after burn” in my mouth.  Even though I knew I would get a fire mouth?  I kept going for more!

Even Eddie liked some of the milder tastes!  I can definitely say we will be back!  Such a great experience!

So armed with Ethiopian food in our bellies, we met Saturday morning with determination to make some cash at the garage sale!

In fact, I was hanging signs at 7:15am (the sale started at 8am), and a couple stalked me down in their minivan to ask me if we would open early.  Garage Salers?  Are serious.

The night before I made all these cute little business cards with the Stepping Stones blog address on them to give to people as they bought or donated so they could follow the adoption journey.  It was definitely a hit!

So we waited for the crowds.  We got a few in the first hour, but by 9:30 I was all panicky that people weren’t going to come.  Shouldn’t we have had a morning rush?

So I called my mom and asked her if she was coming.  My mom?  said she wasn’t “planning on it”.  I begged her to come so that we wouldn’t have NO one here…even if she didn’t buy anything, she could play with Eddie.

Apparently that call was the trick!  After that, we were steady until around noon!  My mom even ended up buying a little bike for Eddie!  Hooray for Grandma!  And Granny showed up too and bought Eddie some books!  Yay!  Grandmas are the BEST!

My favorite thing of the day, though, was when Kenzie’s BFF, Alicia was here with her two kids, Ruthie and Lewis.  Lewis spotted a soccer ball he wanted and Alicia tried to tell him they had one at home already.  Needless to say, Lewis REALLY wanted the soccer ball.

Then Alicia said, that soccer ball?  Was one she has donated to the sale.  Luckily, HER mom was there and bought the ball back for Lewis.

Again, Grandmas for the win!

We worked hard today.  Cortney and I met a LOT of our neighbors (in fact, we met the guy Cort has secretly been calling Mr. Jones and trying to keep up with…get it?  His real name is Steve and his wife bought a ton.).

We also learned that many of our neighbors have also adopted.

In fact, one?  Is in the process of adopting from Ethiopia too!  We heard many lovely stories of adoption and God’s love for all children.  It made the day pretty emotional.

Cort’s dad once told me how glad he was to have me in the family.  I have NEVER forgotten that.  He was glad to have me.

And today, even though so many people told me it was great that Cort and I were helping, I really didn’t feel like we were doing anything special.

I felt like the people who donated and who were shopping were doing the special things.

Kenz and Dave are doing something special for children they don’t even know yet, but already love more than life.

Not us.  Not me.  But I remembered what my father-in-law said. He welcomed me in even though I wasn’t technically his own.  He felt I was good for something.

Today, I felt I was living up to what he meant.  I don’t need thanks.  I really don’t want it.  I just want him to be proud.  And I want Kenz and Dave to look at their children and be glad. 

And it made Cort and I VERY glad to give them the $500 that was earned at the garage sale!  Never once did it cross our minds that that money could be ours.  Never.  In fact, someone said we should get a receipt at Good Will for the rest of the stuff, but you know what?  Most of that stuff was donated.  It wasn’t ours.  We don’t feel right getting a receipt for it.  So it will just be another donation.  It’s the least we can do for all the blessings that continue to come our way.

I cannot WAIT to meet my niece, nephew, or both!  I can’t.  I love being an aunt.  Love it.  Almost…ALMOST as much as I love being a mom!

Reaching Outside the Nation

Today, I am sending you all to MacKenzie and Dave’s blog (Cort’s little sis and bro-in-law) to check out the online auction they have there to raise some money to bring their child(ren) home from Ethiopia. 

They have some REALLY great stuff on there for everyone:  hooded toddler towels, burp clothes, jewelry, handmade cups and a cutting board, Cubs tickets, Tigers tickets, and so SO much more!

So please go check it out at Stepping Stones, and maybe bid on something!  Help Eddie’s cousin(s) come home!

We Don’t Camp, but We Did Anyway

 
As I have mentioned before, camping is not our ideal vacation here in Sluiter Nation.  We enjoy air conditioning, a real bed, a private bathroom.  I know…it’s asking a lot.  I just like to feel rested and clean when I go away…not like a bug-bitten, squirrely-haired, greasey-faced hot mess.
However…each year Cort’s mom and stepdad take all of us “kids” up north to tent camp and canoe.  They all really enjoy camping and we don’t want to be the lame-o party poopers who don’t go.  Plus?  Cort’s side of the family?  Oh they bring the fun.  So I complain for a few days, but I pack it up and head in to the wilderness.  We DID get a new tent this year (thanks, Lynne!!!) so we weren’t in a little pup tent.  That was a BIG plus.
Especially because Friday night?  It rained sheets down upon us.  Buckets and sheets and cats and dogs. Saturday morning it was still pouring.  That of course meant that our trip to the bathroom equaled muddy flip flops and gross toes. And it meant no hobo pies for breakfast.

But we did improvise!  We all crammed in to the screened in tent and Ray made us our breakfast sandwiches on the little gas stove top. He made bacon and then egg, ham, and cheese grilled sandwiches.  YUM!

Since it was so rainy and gross, we were sort of thinking we wouldn’t be able to canoe until at least noon.  So we were all just lazing around.  Around 10:15am we got word that we would be canoeing at 10:30!  The mad scramble to get all canoe-ready began.

All ten of us got on the river around 11:00am.  We were told it was a three hour paddle.  But wait…who paddles?

As if I wasn’t already a big steaming hot mess after a rainy night in a tent, nasty feet from muddy flip flops, and no make-up, it was about to get much worse.

Everyone took turns “launching” their canoes.  I sad in the front of ours patiently waiting for Tom and Kristin to get their canoe off and floating.  I was sitting there minding my own business when…SPLASH!  I was gasping for breath as I came up from the bottom of the river!

Apparently, my superman of a husband thought he could shove us off and leap into our canoe all while not telling me what he was doing.  Um, no.  Now I was completely soaked, my leg was scraped up, and I had a bruised hand.  Even hotter mess than before.  But after I rung out my tank top and bandanna, I was in good spirits again!

After all, it was an accident, and look at that smile?  How can I be angry at that?  Plus, let’s be honest, he does all the canoe work.  I don’t have to do anything but ride along.  And sip my, uh, beverage.  I like that about canoeing.

See?  Sorry…this picture is sort of a hot mess.  This is what happens when I camp, fall in a river, and then smile really big while squinting into the sun.  Oh and that guy behind me?  Yup, I married him.  He is mine.

The river was higher than normal due to all the rain so there weren’t as many place to have pit stops as usual.  We did a lot of this:  Party Barging.  There I am with my girls!  Sisters-in-law MacKenzie and Liz and our friend, Kristin!  These girls are why camping?  Isn’t as bad as it could be.  And canoeing?  Is awesome.

We did find some places to stop.  I mean, we had to have bathroom breaks, right?  I am not sure what Tom and Cody are discussing here, but it reminds me of when my Mom-in-law said to Tom, “Hey Tom.  It’s pretty hot out here.  Why don’t you take your sleeve off?”  I mean seriously?  That was the funniest dang thing I heard all day.  My mom-in-law making a tattoo joke?  awesome.

There was lots more fun on the river.  Mom and Ray tipped in their canoe.  Cody and Liz tipped in their canoe (and then MacKenzie and Dave dragged Liz down the river until Cody could get the water out of the canoe and pick her up).  There were millions of turtle-sightings and even more laughs and jokes.

By the time we got off the river, we were all tired…and looking a little worse for wear.  We dragged ourselves back to camp, played some hillbilly golf, made some hot dogs, rested, and enjoyed being eaten alive by mosquitoes.

Yes, Sluiter Nation was sun burned, tired, achy, and did I mention tired?  We probably could have used a nap!

And aside from a brief panic attack on my part Saturday night (we had no phone service and I couldn’t call to check on Eddie.  Plus I mixed anti-depressants and some booze.  not good.  lesson learned), the weekend was very fun!  I was proud of myself from changing my attitude from angerball to happy pants. 

Even if by Sunday morning when we were packing up, I was sure I could smell myself.  I think that might just be the definition of a hot mess.

And as it turned out?  Eddie had a GREAT time at my parents’ house!  He was back to his old funny, silly, happy self when we picked him up Sunday morning.  Go figure.  I freaked out for nothing.  What else is new?

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