Gone Girls

Hello from St. Louis!

Having the goal to blog each day is ridiculous when you have a giant conference in the middle of it. Ah well, at least I have a good travel story to tell you.

We decided to drive to St. Louis (and by “we” I mean the Pastor’s Wife, her 13-year old daughter N, and me). It’s less than seven hours and it’s much more cost effective than flying and then having to ship our books home and all that jazz. So we drove.

I brought along our Garmin, named Judy, to get us there in case we started gabbing, The PW downloaded a book by Jason Reynolds to listen to, and N had the whole back seat to herself. It was going to be great!

Since I had to work yesterday, we decided our departure time would be between 6 and 6:30pm. That would get us to St. Louis around midnight. Late, but not terrible.

When PW and N arrived to pick me up, I said my good-byes to the kids (which involved Eddie clinging to me, Alice screaming that she wanted to come too, and Charlie yelling he hated me and he didn’t want me to hug him–he has issues dealing with Big Feelings and saying “goodbye” for five days involves Big Feelings), kissed Cortney a thousand times, and finally jumped in the passenger seat.

“We have a full tank of gas!” PW declared as she backed out of my driveway. I got Judy Garmin up and running and we were off.

If this was a book or movie, that statement would be seen as foreshadowing.

We made it to Illinois and stopped at the Oasis to try to get the fast past working. That didn’t work because they were closed; however, we only ended up paying $1.10 in tolls, so it was a wash. Thinking that was our biggest drama, we set off for the next leg of the trip.

We listened to a book for about 90 minutes, which took us deep down into Illinois. Realizing we had been in the car for around four or five hours, I casually asked PW, “hey, how is our gas looking??

“Oh! The light is on!” she responded.

Huh. Ok, no problem, just pull over and get gas.

Except that we were in the middle of Illinois and it was like 11pm local time. So I whipped out Google Maps and said, “gas stations” and up popped three all within 5 miles. After two more miles, we pulled off the highway and into a Shell station.

That was closed.

But wait! Pumps will still work! They were on! They took the credit card and went through all the prompts and then…

no gas.

Huh. Ok, well, the next gas station is about 5 miles away. The car started, so we figured we could make it happen. Instead of putting us back on the highway to the next exit, Google maps had us take this weird little access road that ran along side the expressway and had fields or something and a train track and gravel roads on the other side.

Creepy, but whatever. We were close to gas.

Until we started slowing down and coasting.

Because we were out of gas.

I saw the panic creeping in on PW’s face and I thought quickly and said, “it’s fine. We will be fine,” as she called AAA. I did not feel 100% fine, but what does freaking out do? It doesn’t put gas in the tank, that is for sure.

So while she got on the horn with AAA, I checked to see how far away we were from a gas station. It looked like only a couple miles on Google Maps, but who knew if that one was open, right?

Once we were assured AAA was coming, I tried to reassure my friend with a little white lie, “I’ve run out of gas before. It’s seriously not a big deal. We will be fine.” It worked! Instead of worrying, we took out our conference schedules and started making lists and planning our time.

I’m not kidding when I say this was a creepy area though. It was pitch black dark and only about four cars passed us the entire time. One stopped to see if we were Ok (don’t worry, mom. We didn’t get out or open our door to strangers. We assured them we were taken care of). A train went by at one point lighting up the area enough to see that all the cross-roads were gravel. So creepy.

But my lie of having been through it before got us through. When the AAA guy showed up, he chuckled at how close we were to a gas station. Sure enough, once he gave us enough fuel to get moving, we crested a hill and man-made lights twinkled welcomingly to us.

Good grief.

Before we got on the highway in our full-tank-of-gas vehicle, I confessed my lie (because I can’t fricking lie and sit with it), and PW turned to me and said, “you’re going to blog this, aren’t you?”

“HELL YES I AM. I have a blog-a-day goal for November.”

We finally got to our hotel just after 1am local time (which means our bodies thought it was 2am). I had been up for around twenty hours.

You can imagine what today has been like which is why I am currently in our hotel room after presenting this morning and attending another session.

I need some rest.

Travel Anxiety

Since having kids, this is the fifth time I am traveling away from my family to a conference, and I still get horrible travel anxiety.

It’s not the actual traveling that freaks me out. In fact, I love the traveling part. I’ve discovered that not only am I great road trip buddy (this I have long known), but I do airports and ubers and taxis well too. Who knew this introvert actually does well with public transportation?

Anyway, it’s not the actual traveling; it’s the days leading up to leaving. I am a fricking hot mess.

I stress out about getting everything done on my To Do Lists for home and school so that my transition to not being here goes smoothly. Most days you can’t tell I have OCD just being seeing me, but these days leading up to leaving it gets painfully obvious that I cannot stop myself from the compulsive obsessing—which I guess is the definition of my OCD diagnosis: not being able to stop myself.

It starts out with lists. I make lists of everything. I even have a Master List of Lists and as I accomplish a list, I check that list off the Master List.

Then each time something “not on the list” pops up, I over-react.

What’s that? The kids all need winter coats, snow pants, and boots? NOW? THIS IS NOT ON THE LIST. I CANNOT DEAL WITH THIS EXTRA COST. WE HAVE A STRICT BUDGET FOR THIS.

Then I burst into tears, have a minor panic attack, and curl up in a ball until Cortney puts on his soothing voice and gets me to unclench.

On top of all this, I begin to have intrusive thoughts about “what if…?” But I can’t shut the intrusive thoughts down, and I’ve figured out via YEARS of therapy, that I shouldn’t try because I make the panic worse. Not only do I panic about what happens in my thoughts, but I panic that I can’t stop the thoughts.

I have tell myself, “This is an intrusive thought,” and let it play out if that doesn’t stop it. But I have to name it.

This is exhausting when I have to do this every time I think of something going wrong, or worse–something happening to me, Cortney, or the kids.

And then this is when my sleep anxiety kicks in. Will I get enough before the trip? Will I get enough during the trip? Will I snore because of this sinus infection that is on it’s way out (thank you, antibiotics)? Will I keep everyone else up? Will I stress out about my sleep sounds, thus keeping myself awake and being a total ball of emotional over-tired awful for the entirety of the trip? Do I have a plan to get the rest I need post-trip?

Will I miss Cortney and the kids too much? This is a definite yes. I cry at least once every time I go away from them.  At some point I will get overwhelmed, feel so very tiny in a huge city so vastly far from my loves, and I will cry. I know it will happen, and I still stress about it.


But here is the reality: I will cry and miss my family and have at least one introvert-induced panic attack, BUT this will also be so fun because I am road-tripping with a couple of my favorite people, sharing a room with people I feel close enough to fart in front of (heh…sorry, not sorry), and I’m going to get so inspired and filled as an educator.

It’s going to be great DESPITE this stupid anxiety leading up to it.

Sluiter Nation Takes Indy

I promised to share our trip to Indianapolis, so I need to make good on that.  So here is our story…

Last week Monday, our little family packed up and headed south.

 Before having Eddie, four hours in the car for a road trip would have been no big deal for Cort and me.  We love road trips together! But with a 13-month old?  By hour three?  Eddie was done.  D.O.N.E. done. I had to start singing to him to get him to applaud and smile and not scream his face off.

Also on that four-hour tour, Eddie also had his first McDonald’s visit.  I didn’t even think to take my camera in, but there he sat…in a highchair, with a chicken nugget and apple slice happy meal, smiling.  And in that McDonalds somewhere in northern Indiana?  My baby learned to drink out of a straw.  Sigh…

Anyway, we arrived in Indianapolis around 5:00 or so.  Eddie LOVED the hotel room!

The chair and the air conditioner and the window overlooking a bazillion school buses were his favorite parts.

That evening Emily invited us over for pizza and relaxing on the back deck while the kids played.  It was a lovely way to start our visit!  Before we left, we agreed to head out to the Indianapolis Zoo with Emily and her crew in the morning.

Emily has a membership pass so we got in for nothing at all!  You can’t beat that deal with a stick!

Emily’s oldest, PK, was our tour guide for the day.  Now you must know, PK and I bonded over that fact that we both love princesses, and I knew each one of her Polly Pockets princess’s names.  Yup, we are now BFF’s.  Anyway, I believe it was because of this bond that we got such a thorough tour from her.

One of the first places she took us was to see the sharks.  Very cool.  However, did you know you can PET these sharks?  Um…I am a little skeptical of this.

But clearly it is safe because I don’t think Emily would let her sweet little girls touch a man eater.  I don’t THINK.

So of course Cort had his brave pants on that day and cozied up to a shark.  This is the same guy who picked up a horseshoe crab and pet a sting ray in Myrtle Beach.  Show off.

So I leaned in and pet one too.  It was icky, but at least I did it.  Notice my two-finger technique.  That is me all following directions.

We stopped to see the penguins.  Birdie liked the penguins.  I liked Birdie’s pigtails.  It’s a fair trade.

Eddie enjoyed the dolphin dome.  It WAS pretty neat to feel like you are underwater.  And it’s very echo-y in there.  Also a favorite of Eddie’s.

Meerkats, anyone?
Polar Bear butt dwarfing Emily’s girls.
The crew: Emily, Gage, Birdie, PK, Cort, and Eddie
elephant family
Cort’s new BFF, Gage the Rage
It may have been over a hundred degrees.  And some of us may have been crabby about that.
Lucky for us there is a splash pad at the zoo.  Eddie and I put our piggies in to cool off!
Ah!  that’s better!
Right before we left, we met these gibbons.  They were loud.  They were a fan favorite.  Coincidence?
Oh, and in case you are wondering, Eddie got a penguin to add to his collection from this zoo!
We may have had McDonalds again.  This time I had my camera ready.  See?  He’s like an adult with that thing.  Sigh…
Tuesday night was the super fun Blogger BBQ at Emily’s.  It was fun.  It was needed.  I wish I could do it ALL THE TIME!
Wednesday morning we decided we needed some indoor, air-conditioned fun, so on the recommendation of all the Indy natives, Sluiter Nation went to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.
It was four floors of exploring, investigating, learning, and playing.  Eddie really liked it.  I may have loved it.
Eddie learned about watersheds (just for you Erin. Maybe he can explain them to me).
He played in a log.
He built things with blocks.
He rode a carousel with dad-do.
We saw dinosaurs. (Eddie applauded this guy).
Eddie explored sand.
and learned about magnets.
he picked flowers.
and played in the Baby Scapes.
I posed on the Barbie runway. 
And stopped for a photo op with my childhood friend.  Girlfriend needs to eat a cheeseburger, though.  She’s making me look bad!
Before lunch (where Eddie drank from yes, ANOTHER juice box), we found his favorite exhibit!
There were rock star cars like this one from Van Halen.
And this trailer o stereo from KISS
we even saw Cheap Trick’s custom John Deere!
We even let Eddie try out a “hog”.  He liked it.  Sort of a lot.  Don’t tell Grandma.
After lunch, it was time to get back in the truck and head north for home.  Eddie and I both slept for part of the trip. We were exhausted from all the fun we had.  It was the perfect minivacation for our first family vacation.  Eddie slept pretty well in the hotel (even if he didn’t nap on Tuesday because the room was just too interesting), and we had a TON of fun with old and new friends!
We look forward to visiting Indy again and maybe hitting the State Fair next time!

Who Needs BlogHer?

Monday we packed up and headed south.  South to Indianapolis.  There is much fun to share.  We went to the zoo (of course!) and to the Children’s Museum.  I will post about all that family fun when I get a chance to sort through the pictures.

Why Indy?  You may be asking.  We picked Indy as our first family vacation because I was bullied persuaded by some very wonderful ladies that Indy would be the perfect distance for our little family with lots of fun stuff to do.  And?  I would get to hang out with these VERY special chicas.

Emily, a fellow blogger and friend from ALL the way back in high school, was ridiculously crazy generous enough to invite a bunch of the most wonderful bloggers in Indy to her house for a cookout and some hang time.  Our babies/kids played.  Our husbands chatted.  And we?  We talked it up and giggled like we do this once a month.

After the initial introductions (which some of us didn’t really need because of the whole blog reading), we were hanging out and trying out make up and talking about schools as if we did this every Tuesday night.

Sigh…if only we did this every Tuesday night.

But…these girls (and more who are not pictured because they couldn’t come) are only four hours away by car.  and seconds away by computer.

The whole experience was surreal to me.  I know them, but I don’t.  But I do now.  Sort of.

I may not have been able to go to BlogHer10.  I may not have the cash to go to BlogHer11, but I did go to Indy10.  And it was wonderful.

Special thanks to Sarah, Emily, and Casey for making our trip so fun.  Next year?  The fair!  And fried butter!  Ok, maybe not fried butter.

While We Were Out…

Our family is busy in Indianapolis yesterday, today, and tomorrow…but while we are out, I have a post over at Bzzzing Mom.  It’s her lovely little girl’s first birthday this month and she asked me to do a birthday memory post.  So head on over and read it and leave her little one a birthday wish!

We’ve done quite a few things that I haven’t posted about yet, so get ready for your face to melt with all the pictures I will have to post.

But to give you a heads up?  Eddie ate at McDonalds for the first time AND learned to drink from a straw.  How is it that being on vacation makes him grow up even faster?  Sigh…

Anyway, head over to Bzzing Mom and we will see you on the flip side!

Sluiter Weekend Gettaway!!!

This past weekend was the fourth annual Sluiter Family Christmas Retreat. If I overheard correctly (and I am sure someone will correct me if I did not), there were 74 of us there this year! We were missing the Moore family (with 3 kids 3 and under and living out of state, that is a big trip, but we missed them!), Katelyn, and Matt. The funny thing is, as of right now, 2 of us are pregnant and expecting to add to the family! Goodness! We have almost outgrown the enormous resort!

Anyway, Cortney and I planned to leave between 2:00 and 3:00 on Friday afternoon. Of course, if you know us…ahem…ME…at all, you know that totally didn’t happen. We were on the road by 4:10, though. Cortney got a Garmin this year, so he was excited to put it to use. I was warry of this electronical voice taking over my job as the navagator, but it actually proved to be a great thing!

The trip went fine, with only 3 bathroom breaks for this pregnant lady. We were up there and in our room by 8:00, which was perfect! This year our roomies for the weekend were Cort’s cousin, Alyson and her husband Chris. They were great roomies, and we hope we were just as quiet and courteous and they were!

Friday evening was spent welcoming each family member as they arrived and catching up with everyone. Friday night is also the time to check out Grandma’s list for your weekend “duty.” Each year she divides the meals up between all the family members. Everyone either helps prep one meal or clean it up.

Friday night is also usually the latest of the two nights since people are so excited to see each other! Some of us only see each other this one weekend a year!

Saturday morning seemed to come quickly, but the breakfast prep peeps were at their stations/stoves on time to prepare us a YUMMY breakfast of sausage, bacon, eggs, and french toast!

Look at that spread. Sluiters sure know how to do breakfast!
After breakfast, Cody found himself in a little, um, “tussle” with Aunt Lisa. From my vantage point, I believe she was tickling him and wrestling him at the same time. Whatever was happening, Cody was the clear loser in this battle. Better luck next year, brother!
We had some leftover bacon after breakfast that Gram figured we could use for our baked potatoes at dinner. There were, however, a few bacon munchers who tried to sneak some of it…
yes, that’s Grandpa caught red handed with his mits in the bacon tub!
After breakfast, we have the whole day to hang out, rest, and catch up before dinner. I spent most of the afternoon reading for fun (something I just don’t seem to get enough time or energy to do otherwise during the school year), and napping. Cortney spent his afternoon catching up with his cousins and checking in on his little wife who may have done more napping than reading…hmmmm.

This was the view, by the way, from our room. That is Grand Traverse Bay. For those of you who don’t know where Northport is, it’s on the west side of the Bay on the Leelanau Penninsula about 24 miles north of Traverse City.
Eventually, Cortney came into the room and tempted me out with some rounds of euchre. Our opponents, Aunt Diane and Uncle Doug Sluiter, pretty much handed us our butts in a basket, but it was still a bunch of fun.

The fun was cut short though because Cortney and Dianne were on dinner prep duty!
So while they made dinner, I went roaming for other people. You really don’t have to go far. There was pandamoniom in the Great Room while the search for Liz’s cell phone was in full swing. Apparently she dropped it in a couch the night before. Huh…how many Sluiters does it take to get a cell phone out of a couch?
Oh and then there was the baby! Cousin Lauren had her little girl, Anya (sorry if I messed up that spelling!), up north and I am fairly certain that baby was not want for arms to cuddle in! Even Cody got in on some baby holding. Huh….looks like he will make a pretty good uncle!
Liz had that baby an awful lot that weekend. In fact, I put her in a group I called the Baby Stalkers. Aunt Lisa and Dave were in that group too…they were always out on the look for that kid and were more than ready to take her away from anyone else who may have been holding her. I hope they know I will be looking for this baby excitement when ours is pooping and crying in a few months!
Man! Look at that dinner! YUM!
Everyone was eagerly awaiting the prayer so we could hop in line and get some grub!
Oh guess who was on dinner clean up…yup, there I am condensing sour cream, butter, and bacon.
After dinner it was time for the Sluiter family Christmas program and church service followed by family games. Grandpa and Grandma said a few words before the program and prayed over us after. This is always a special time for everyone!
Joy and Nate worked it out for the great grands to do a recitation of the Christmas story from the Bible. It was so cute!
Nate delivered our message this year, and as usual he got some family involved in skits to help illustrate his points. He’s such a great speaker and Cort and I love to listen to him preach the Word!
After the Christmas program, we played some fun games that Lisa thought up…I don’t have any pics of those, though because I was busy helping my team! Hopefully someone else can get me some pics of those events!

Later that evening, after more Euchre (where Cortney and I regained our butts from Diane and Cousin Doug this time), I had to retire to the bedroom once again. Apparently lots of sitting and standing was making this little lady sore all over!
Sunday, after breakfast (that only Cort took part in. I, admittedly, slept right through it), we packed up our gear and braved the icey roads for home. Again, I slept through most of this. You would think that with all this talk of sleep, I was quite well-rested when we returned home. Not so much. I took a two-hour nap on the couch and could really head for bed as soon as this blog entry is typed up.

We want to thank Grandpa and Grandma for a fun-filled weekend with the family! We enjoy seeing everyone and hope that even when we grown out of the Northport Retreat, we will continue to find ways to get everyone together for a reunion once a year.

Tomorrow is back to work…the holidays are officially over, I guess! We hope everyone had plenty of time to enjoy friends and family like we did! Now it’s time to get down to the business of getting 2009 off to a great start!

Vacation Part 1: The Busschers in NY

For our 2008 summer vacation, Cortney and I decided it was high time that we travel out to the great state of New York to visit our friends, Phil and Liz Busscher. The last time we were there was four years ago–the summer before we were married–when Phil and Liz still lived in an apartment in Fairport, near Rochester. Since then, they moved to a house (not really that far from their apartment), got married, and got a dog. And just before we our visit, Phil called to tell us that Liz just got a new job in South Carolina, so they were moving before the end of the summer. Good thing we decided to visit!

We made the trip from Zeeland to Fairport in nine and a half hours on Friday. We were pretty pooped by the time we got there! We remembered that Phil and Liz were excellent hosts the last time we were there, and they actually outdid themselves this time! They made us dinner Friday night…homemade pizza. I know, I know…you’re thinking…gross! Pizza out of a box! Yeah, that is what I thought too…but nope. Their grocery store (which is a Wegmans) is the best grocery store I have ever been to! They sell dough and sauce that is pretty much just as good as what you would get if you ordered out. I’m just saying it was a damn good pizza is all. Liz stretched the dough and took care of the toppings. Phil was in charge of cutting them up when they were done.
I kept busy by mixing myself a drink. Hey, it was a long drive!
Saturday morning Phil and Liz made us french toast and bacon before packing a lunch and heading to the Finger Lakes for a wine tour. Cortney kept out of Liz’s way by playing with Farley. No, he is not so amused with Cort’s antics.

We could also NOT get over the fact that their cat, Elvis was SO much like our cat, Louis. Cortney thought it was funny that he was sleeping, but he appeared to be standing. It’s like a lazy version of spider cat!
After playing with the animals and getting ready, we were off to the Finger Lakes. Phil drove us and he warned us that the way there was sort of windy and turny, and some people get a bit of motion sickness. He was SO not kidding! I was sure they were trying to make me puke before even getting a drop of wine in me! But I made it! Our first stop was Dr. Frank’s. We thought we better snap a picture while everyone still had their wits about them.
Outside I thought I better get some pictures of the view. It was out of control. We only went to one of the lakes–which is about forty miles long according to Phil. This is Lake Keuka. It has about eleven wineries around it. One of the other lakes had about 50 wineries. Good for our livers that we chose one of the lakes with fewer stops!
Here is another shot of the view. We stopped at six of the wineries around the lake. Liz did a good job of choosing a really nice variety of stops. They varied from sort of fancy-pants to super laid back.
A quick shot of us having fun on vacation! Cortney and I were both looking forward to seeing Phil and Liz and getting away for awhile, but I think we were surprised at how much fun the wine touring was!

Our second stop was Bully Hill. This was the most laid back of all the stops. At each winery we tried about 5 wines. The first 2 here were dry and not my favorite, and I told Liz I thought this guy doing our tasting was a big tool. Then he busted out the sweet wines and guess what…he became my new best friend! Plus he pushed the gift shop by showcasing thong underwear. That is just funny.
YUM!!! One of their wines was so sweet, all the people at the tasting bar made a face. Cortney commented that it tasted like we were drinking purple skittles. Of course I thought it was delicious! I bought a bottle, don’t worry!
Oops! I got a little spot of red wine on my shirt. My new best friend went in the back and created a concoction of something and scrubbed it off for me. He was a little too excited to get that close to my shirt.
And he created a “special” wine mix for my sweet tooth. Yeah, he LOVED me…what can I say…my fans are all over the place!

After Bully Hill, we stopped at Heron Hill. This was quite a bit classier. Not a good place to take me after a winery that mixed me “special” wines. I was a bit giggly. We had lunch here though, so that brought me back to my senses. Liz packed a cooler of crackers, cheese, and summer sausage. mmmmm! We ate it on a picnic table in the sun over-looking the lake and the vineyard. On our way out, we thought we better get a picture with the wine grapes.

Phil found some on the ground…I SWEAR we didn’t pick them! I thought they would make a good souvenier, but Liz made us throw them out of the car.
Stop number four was McGregor Vineyard. This was a bit farther away on the other side of the lake. I had to go potty REALLY bad by that point, but they did not have indoor bathroooms…only port-o-johns. Oh well…it’s better than going by a grapevine! Liz had to go too, but she couldn’t wait for me to get out of the “women’s”, so she used the “men’s”. Who knew there was a diffrence when it came to mobile johns!
Hey! I’m done! Let’s go taste some more wine!
Our fifth stop was Rooster Hill. I liked all five of the wines I tasted here! Plus we still looked good enough for another group shot! I especially liked this place because, like McGregor’s, we could keep our wine glasses!
The last stop was Keuka Sping. It was a good way to end the day…plus they had MONSTER wine casks!

On Sunday, after another GREAT breakfast, we decided to go grocery shopping and to make a stop at the local liquor store. New York is funny because they don’t have party stores where you can get all your booze. Beer is sold at grocery stores and gas stations, but wine and liquor has to have their own store. Phil and Liz took us to this liquor store because we could get some of the wines a little bit cheaper here than at the winery. Phil pushed the cart–which was totally funny to me on so many levels. I think the main source of humor here is how small that cart is compared to Phil. This is a shot from the SHORT view of this store. I’m telling you…we NEED one of these in Holland! It has labeled aisles just like Meijer! Cort and Liz are deciding where to go next.
I found the Finger Lakes Wine aisle. mmmm! This is where I bought my wine from Casa Larga. We didn’t go wine tasting there because I already know I love their Lilac Hill wine. I bought 3 bottles.
When we got back from the grocery store, it was time to start dinner. Since they had a 13-pound frozen turkey that would have to be thrown out due to the move to SC, they decided instead to cook it up for us. Phil was on turkey and stuffing duty.
I was put in charge of the gravy. I don’t even LIKE gravy, but I was the only one who had ever made it before.

Liz worked on the apple crisp. Yeah, that’s right…she even made us dessert. I wasn’t kidding around when I said that they are the best hosts ever!
Cortney just wanted to eat! We put down three bottles of wine between the four of us in the process of making this meal, so we were ready to put some food in our bellies! Liz even busted out the fancy china and table cloth. Yeah, they don’t get guests often 🙂
Doesn’t that meal look yummy? I mean, dang! That picture could be in a magazine!
Sunday night we said our goodbyes since Liz and Phil and to get up to start their last week of work on Monday, and we were going to be leaving Monday morning. It was definitely sad to leave their cute house in NY!

Even though we will miss having a great place to stay in NY, we are looking forward to visiting their new place in SC when they find it! Thanks for a GREAT vacation, Phil and Liz!!!

Vacation Part 2: The Toledo Zoo

For the second part of our vacation, we decided to take an extra day and spend the night in Toledo on the way home so that we could go to the zoo. I had looked it up online before we went and found out they had polar bears and hippos…that was what pretty much sealed the deal. It seems like it doesn’t matter where we go on vacation, Cort and I will find a zoo or an aquarium to visit. For not liking nature, I sure do like to look at it in a controled environment…you know, where it can’t reach out and bite me. So anyway, here is a tour of our zoo visit! Cortney is a wee bit shorter than a polar bear, apparently. Check out these sleeping bears…they sleep in the same position as our cat….

who, by the way, looks a lot like this tiger, only smaller and not orange.
Cort found the penguins…his favorite animal.
The hippaquarium! That was the exhibit I had been looking forward to, and of course, the darn things were eating lunch instead of swimming, but at least I got him to smile for the camera!
Check out the elephant on my shoulder….ahhhh!!!
Cortney keeps an eye on the meercat who is keeping an eye on…well…who knows what!

OUCH! This T-rex has my arm!!!!

Coal-y Toledo! That’s a BIG piece of coal…now, how can we get that home to our grill?
We found out Cortney is not as big as an ape either.
Check out Cortney’s hooters. And my new friends, the fake bears.
Here are all of our “souveniers” from our trip: 15 bottles of wine (from 7 different NY wineries) and my hip hop hippo, Huyie.

We had SO much fun on our trip! We can’t WAIT to visit Phil and Liz once they are settled in South Carolina, but we will miss the wine tours!

Chicago Trip

This weekend Cort and I made the trip to Chicago. We had the BEST time!
We took off from our house Friday after lunch and headed to Mat’s house in the North Center neighborhood (near Irving Park) in Chicago. We had tickets to see REM (see picture above) that night at the United Center. My friend, Catye Palomino has friends in Naperville who also LOVE REM (apparently Amy and I are a LOT alike…I wish we could have hung out more this weekend…it just means I’ll have to travel over there again!), and they had tickets too. So after dinner in the Wicker Park neighborhood, Mat, Cort, and I headed over to the United Center to meet Catye, Amy, and Mike for the show.

This is my third REM show and it was AWESOME! Cort, Mat, and I had seats in the seventh row, so we were able to see everything up close! As usual, Mike Stipe (the lead singer) was a dancing machine, and totally made my year! Since I know not all of you are huge REM fans like me, I will spare all the details. But for those of you who are jealous of our weekend, you can read a review of the concert (with opening bands, The National and Modest Mouse) in the Chicago Tribune at http://leisureblogs.chicagotribune.com/turn_it_up/2008/06/rem-does-more-t.html. I agree for the most part with the review. I did not love The National, though I had heard good things. Modest Mouse didn’t impress me too much either, but I like the band, so I would like to see them again in a smaller venue as a headliner to make a real opinion.

On Saturday, I had a girlfriend date! Tonya and I haven’t seen each other since March, so we left the boys behind and went for lunch at Potbelly’s Sandwichs and then to see Sex and the City in the movie theater! Clearly, we had tons of fun! We LOVED the movie! We love the TV series, and own all the DVDs between the two of us, so this movie was a MUST! We even sprung for the mega tub of popcorn! mmmm!!!! I am not sure if cameras in the movie theater is legal, but I needed a picture of us with that giant tub of corn…we also both had large diet cokes, and Tonya even had a box of milk duds. Yeah, that’s right…it was girl’s day…what do you want from us? 🙂
After the movie, we went to O’Donnovans, the bar where Mat used to work, to meet the boys for drinks and dinner. While we were gone, the boys had vague plans of going to a clock shop to pick up a clock Mat had that was being repaired and then to go to Rib Fest (Irvinig Park’s Festival). Well, they never made it to the clock shop, and really only hit Rib Fest for about 5 minutes. They basically sat and watched the Cubs game all day at the bar. It was a really humid day, so I can’t say I blame them.
So after an embarrasingly long parking spot search (we found five open spots right in the O’Donnovan parking lot), and seeing a small girl in a tu-tu and yellow crocs riding a razor scooter, Tonya and I joined the boys. We were sitting in the outside area, so we even got to watch the storm go through. And when it was time to walk back to Mat’s we figured it was done raining. not so much…we totally got caught in a down pour!

After hanging out for the day, it was time to leave our BFFs behind in the windy city. Cort and I left Chicago around 9:00 pm Michigan time thinking that the storms were past. We made it all the way to Van Buren county before we realized that we were about to drive into something ugly. A voicemail from my cousin, Kelli, told us that things were not good at home: there was a car stalled up to its headlights in water in the entrance of our subdivision. Hmmm….maybe we should have stayed one more night. However after I white-knuckled it through the torrents of rain, and as we approached our subdivision, we noticed all the standing water was gone, so we were able to get home just in time for more rain to start pouring down.
It was such a fun weekend and we are so happy to have had the time with our good friends and then to arrive home safely…just in time to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Grandma Sluiter 🙂

Sluiter Christmas Retreat

This past weekend was the annual Christmas retreat for the Sluiter side of the family. Grandpa and Grandma Sluiter reserve a “cottage” in Northport, Michigan for the entire family to use for the weekend and celebrate Christmas and just being together as a family.
I guess “cottage” is sort of misleading. You see, the Sluiter side of the family has swelled to about 68 members; Cortney’s dad has 4 sisters and 3 brothers – the cousins range from being in their mid to upper 30’s all the way down to elementary school. So what we really stayed in was more of a really HUGE condo. It sleeps 64 people (with so many babies, this still works for our size family). There are also numerous pullouts and couches. There is a huge double kitchen in the middle of the place, a great room with a fire place, a game room, bar, mini-gym, and laundry room downstairs, and a bunch of bedrooms and “dens” on the main and upper floors.
This annual event is looked forward to by all of us – and every member of the family attends! Gramps and Grams started doing this after we lost Cort’s dad in 2005 as a way to all see each other at least once a year – obviously with that much family we are a bit scattered throughout the country.
As a way to get us to mingle and get to know each other better, Grandma always has little activites for us to do. She assigns us rooms with people we might not talk to so much, gives us assigned seating at meals to break us up even more, and creates a “duty” list for each meal so that we are on a team for either preparing or cleaning up one of the meals. Along with all these things, we also play tons of games (table shuffle board, ping pong, pool, video games, card games, board games, etc.), watch TV, or just chat.
We are very blessed with such an enormous and fun family!