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

The Blackest Friday

It was important that this day be as normal as possible.  Remember that.  Normalcy was important to me.

Black Friday of 2007 started out normal and I was ever thankful for that.  My mom and I did our shopping and we had a good time.  I didn’t bring it up the entire time we were out.  Not during our first few shops.  Not over coffee.  Not while when we walked past the baby stuff.

When I got home with all my packages, I intended to decorate the house with Christmas and wrap all of my newly bought gifts.  Just like any other year.

But this is when my “normal” was shattered.

While I was out, Cort had made plans for us with our friends (who, by the way, are usually only in state once–maybe twice–a year).  This wouldn’t be a big deal to me if those plans had fallen into the customary time period after my decorating and wrapping frenzy, but the plans called for us to be ready to go in less than 2 hours and I hadn’t even showered yet.

I know.  Big deal, right?

My world fell apart.

I was immediately angry at Cortney for messing up my “tradition”.  Inconsolably so.

“Just decorate tomorrow,” he offered.

“THAT IS NOT THE POINT!” I told him. “TODAY is when I wrap and then decorate all to the sounds of Bing Crosby.  Why can you not respect this?  Why would you make PLANS for us during this?  Do you not know me at ALL?”

He was speechless.  He even offered to cancel the plans.  But I wouldn’t let him do that.

“how would that look?” I questioned him.  “what would they think?”

So I begrudgingly showered and got all ready.

And went out to eat and to have beers.

And acted normal.

But ignored Cortney. I mean, how could he be so thoughtless?

The rage built.

After dinner we all headed over to our friends’ house where we could sit around and visit and share some wine and snacks.

I continued to ignore  my husband.

It got so bad that nearing the end of the night he came to the chair that I was actively ignoring him from and asked if I would like to go home.

I said yes.

We left an awkward wake behind us.

I started crying somewhere between here and there.

Once home my memory blurs.  I think the yelling started as we got ready for bed.  I finally started telling Cortney how this entire day was a big suck for me thanks to him.

He didn’t yell back (he never does).  He just looked sad.

But he questioned me.  He questioned how in the world this small change in my “normal” Black Friday routine could be THIS awful.

I raged at him.

And then?  I collapsed into the ugliest cry I remember having and blurted out,

“We were supposed to have a baby this week.”

And proceed to cry so hard I couldn’t get my breath.

In the dark warmth of our living room, on the leather couch where I had lain recovering from the loss, Cortney sunk and wrapped his arms around me.

“Oh, honey,” he managed.

It all started to make sense.  I was grasping for routine.  For nothing to be out of the ordinary.  For everything to “proceed as normally scheduled.”

When it didn’t?  I lost my shit.

And we sat in the dark on the couch for a very long time.

He instructed me to breathe.  To take deep breaths, and to talk about it.  Neither of us had mourned that loss like this.  And I didn’t expect the due date to hit me so hard.  I thought I was over it.  That it never bothered me that much.

But it did.  I had just suppressed it.

In the winter, when we had found out my due date, it was perfect.  All of our friends would be in town.  Family would be around.  Everyone would be ready to celebrate our baby. Somehow that fact made our unexpected pregnancy ok.  It made things start to look up.

But that night while Cort’s arms held me, my arms were empty.

No baby.

And I started to cry all over again.

It still never escapes me that if the first time around had happened, we would have been throwing a 3-year old’s birthday party this week.

Sometimes I still don’t know how to feel about this.  If we were having a birthday party, Eddie maybe wouldn’t be here.  And he is…well…there are no words for how that little boy makes my heart swell.

But yet…

someone is missing.

(two little someones, actually.  but that is another post.)

The very next Thanksgiving, Eddie was baking away in my tummy and we have never had a “normal” Thanksgiving weekend again.

I am closer to Cortney.

And I have never loved this holiday more.

Our Little Halloween

Ah Halloween.

I have never been a giant Halloween fan. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t hate it or anything.  It’s just not my favorite holiday.  But as with everything else, we do have some traditions that we have had that Eddie is now becoming a part of.

First we have our annual pumpkin choosing.  This has usually consisted of me buying pumpkins from Meijer or Family Fare, but this year we took Eddie to an actual roadside farm that was selling them.  He had a ball!

Another tradition we have is to go to Cortney’s mom and stepdad’s house to carve pumpkins.  Granny Kim and Gramps have us over each year for a carve-a-thon and a yummy meal!

Granny picks all of us a pumpkin to carve.  And each year it is a BIG deal to see who can have the coolest design.

I’m telling you…we are serious.  It’s a little intimidating because people like Cort and Dave really put a TON of thought into theirs (a couple years ago Dave did the Obama logo…it was awesome.  Until one of the dogs ate the pumpkin and you could tell what it was).

I think this year, Grampy Ray won the prize!  His was actually quite good compared to what he has created in the past!  Ha ha!

And because Granny would not be home for us to trick-or-treat to over the weekend, she had a little something special for her little guy…

Granny sure knows the way to this guy’s heart!

Of course, we still had a pumpkin at home that needed carving too, so Friday night Eddie and Daddy grabbed that pumpkin and did some damage.

Daddy did most of the work, of course, since sharp things and gooey things are not things Momma lets Eddie partake in yet.

The final result?  Totally awesome!

Besides picking the perfect pumpkin and carving a super cool jack-o-lantern, we also have to get Eddie a sweet costume.  Last year, he was a little monkey…

and we needed to prop him up next to his jack-o-lantern to get a picture.  Yes, that is some good vintage Eddie right there!

This year, I didn’t want to spend money on a costume he would only wear for maybe an hour.  I was all set to go to Mom and Baby Again to see what they had in his size, when my mom reminded me of the bunny costumes she made for my brothers and me when we were little.

That is my little brother, Chris, and me all dressed up in furry suits my mom made for us.  That fur?  Was on my bedroom walls when we first moved into the house my parents still live in.  Yup, it was awful.  That is why my mom pulled it off the walls…and created bunny suits.

Anyway, my mom pulled those costumes out of her cedar closet and wouldn’t you know it?  The small one fit Eddie!

I die of cute!!!  He was so good about wearing the “dead cat” suit and the headpiece!  So of course our first stop was Grandma’s house…since she made the costume.

Thank you, grandma, for letting me wear this costume.

Back in our subdivision, our little bunny lasted a whole two houses before it was time to go back home.  He doesn’t really understand the concept of trick-or-treating anyway.

But he does understand candy!

And with a bucket of the stuff?  He did NOT want to be in that costume any longer!  It was time to go inside!

Happy Halloween to you all!

This post is linked with Cole’s First Blog’s Halloween Parade.

Click below to see more fun Halloween stories!

To any of you who like to link up to Top Ten Tuesdays?  This week is Top Ten children’s books you or your child loves!  Come back Tuesday to see our favorites and link up with yours!

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!

A Tale of Two Weddings

I think it’s pretty easy to get sort of jaded by the sheer number of weddings we go to at this point in our lives.

I mean, I have been a bridesmaid seven times now.  I’ve been the personal attendant a handful of times, and the mistress of ceremonies once.  I’ve been a matron of honor and a flower girl.

Most of my friends are now all married.

Lots of my family members are married.

Before my own wedding, going to other people’s weddings was a time to take notes.  I was too busy focusing on flowers and colors and bridemaid dresses and favors to really get into what weddings actually mean.

But in the past three months, two of my cousins got married.  And both weddings caused me to pause and think.

In July, my cousin, Jeff married Cris.  Jeff is older than most grooms.  Cris already has teenagers from a previous marriage.  This wedding touched my heart for a number of reasons.

Jeff used to babysit me.  I can still remember him coming over to our house as a teenager.  He was so cool with his pretty girlfriends and his rock music.

And then he just kept on not getting married.  We all love Jeff very much and wanted to see him happy.  I kept insisting that if not getting married was making him happy, then so be it.

But then there was Cris.  She came into his life, they live together, and they are married now.

Jeff is a husband and a stepdad.  And it is awesome.

So we got excited about it!  The wedding was beautiful, but the reception?  Was a celebration!

My family really knows how to come together and celebrate!  We do NOT hold back!

And this past weekend, we had another cousin get married.

My cousin Kelli is just a youngster.  She and Joe have the same story many of us have.  Meet, fall in love, have a romantic proposal, a year-or so-long engagement, and a gorgeous traditional wedding.

During the ceremony, I glanced down at both of my brothers.  They are both very much in love.  One happily married and the other happily almost married with a little boy.  Between my little cousin who I used to babysit getting married, and both of my brothers all happy in love, my heart was about bursting.

We again were celebrating.  This young couple at the very start of their life together.  It was beautiful and fun.

I absolutely love my family more than I even know how to say.  I love that we all support and love each other this much.  My cousins are like my siblings.  My siblings are like…well…even closer siblings.  We all grew up together, have countless stories and memories together, and are now becoming adults together.

When more love comes into the family through marriage and children?  We are always there for each other.

And this hit me like a ton of bricks right out on the dance floor Saturday night.

I love LOVE.

I. Me.  The super jaded girl has turned all mooshy.  I used to be sure love was just “settling down with someone for the rest of your life.”

But looking at both of these couples?  I realize how great it is to have someone by your side.  Not just through the fun celebrations (like the wedding), but through the hard stuff.

I watched Kelli and Joe goof around and enjoy their night.  Cort and I remembered fondly about our night.

And in my head I thought, “what I didn’t know then…”

But I didn’t finish the thought.

Because it wouldn’t have mattered.  I needed Cort.  And I still do.

And I am so happy that Jeff and Cris, and Kelli and Joe have each other to lean on to keep from falling…

both from laughter and from weakness and from tears and from exhaustion.

It’s good to need someone.

And it’s good to be needed.

And loved.

Changes Amongst Traditions

Lately all of my posts have been about school.  I realize that.  Part of that is because it’s been my Back to School Bonanza (which has only one week left).  The other reason for that is because it is something that is consuming my time lately.

One of the major event that takes up a boatload of my time right off the bat with each new school year is homecoming.

Lucky for me, I am not in charge of ALL of homecoming, but I am in charge of the seniors (choosing the 10 on the court and the master and mistress of ceremony as well as getting convertibles and organizing them for the homecoming parade/game, AND doing the final vote for king and queen), getting all court members lined up and ready to go for the parade, and running homecoming halftime.

It means a lot of little details, phone calls, planning.

And this year?  This year I signed on to do a surprise staff drumline performance during the homecoming pep assembly.

See?  There I am with the base drum!  I am all smiley instead of actually concentrating on the cadence we learned.

I did sort of know what I was doing.  And it was for sure fun because the kids were surprised and totally amazed that we were out there!

As you can see?  The teachers had a wee bit of fun.  Good thing we had a few actual drummers from the band to help us out…we may have been playing more than we were actually playing.

Once school was over, it was time to think about the homecoming parade.  Instead of going home, I loaded my car with homecoming crowns and scepters and capes and scripts and tape and many other random things we may need and headed over to the park where the parade was lining up.

Even though it had been a million degrees sort of hot all week, by parade time the weather had cooled and I actually put on my hoodie.  Even though I complain, I really do love seeing all the school spirit.  There is just something about fall weather and excitement for high school sports that makes me smile.

There go my seniors!  Bringing up the end of the parade (in the corvettes I landed thanks to the Grand Valley Corvette Club!  WOOT to them being AWESOME!).  One last thing to do…head to the stadium and get ready for halftime!

Getting into the stadium and to my spot on the track can be tricky.  Good thing I have a reserved parking spot right near the entrance.

And of course, just like last year, Cortney and Eddie came out for the first half of the game.  This year thought?  Instead of just being a small, squishy baby who just laid in his carrier?  Eddie wanted to get out and RUN!

This year, like last year, Cort and Eddie left just before halftime since the wee one needed to get to bed.  I left as soon as half time was over since I had been at school since 7am and I was whipped.

On my drive home, I thought about how much had changed even though at the same time?  It hadn’t at all.

I have been senior class adviser for going on 5 years now.  This is my first year doing it solo (my co-adviser was moved to a different building).  I was proud of myself for pulling it off (although I am equally happy that Marcia showed up and helped me hand out the flowers to the court).

Even though all of the five homecomings followed the exact same traditions? It seems like there is always something slightly different.

Three years ago there was a new principal.

Also three years ago, I got home from the game and found out I was pregnant.

Last year I had a baby.

This year I was alone in the prep work and execution.

During all the hullabaloo of the planning, part of me wanted this to be my last year.  It was a lot of hard work.

But at the same time, the relieved feeling when it’s over, the excitement on the kids’ faces, the fun of seeing how my life changes even though the traditions remain the same…

all those things sort of make it worth it.

If graduation goes this well, I will probably be back for homecoming ’11 next year.  If not, we’ll just be in the stands.

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