forced labor

I am pretty sure it was always somewhere around a hundred degrees outside, and we had at LEAST thirty bushes to pick between the two of us.

My mom would tell you that I am exaggerating.  If fact, she will chuckle and say all of this is exaggerated.  And maybe it is.

source: Jsanckenphotography

But it is what I remember.

It was the middle of the summer and it was hot.  My long hair was damp and clung to the back of my neck, my forehead, and my cheeks as I would stoop to get the berries from the lowest branches.

The ugly camouflaged hat of my dad’s did nothing to keep the deer flies from swarming around my head, but it did help them stay out of my hair.  Because no one wants to pick tangled, angry flies from their long hair.  Nobody.

It maybe wouldn’t have been so bad, but the bushes were so far from the house.  My brothers and I, buckets in hand, would trek down the path through the woods in our backyard out to the clearing where my dad had planted apple trees and blueberry bushes–the two fruits that completely Michigany.

The apples were to feed the deer.  The blueberries to feed the humans.

My brother also insisted on lugging along our little boom box so he could listen to Ernie Harwell call the Detroit Tigers’ games through the loud buzz of AM radio.

We would spend more time trying to find just the right spot to get the least amount of interference than actually picking berries.  Many times we would make our baby brother hold the radio and move around until it was how we wanted it.

Stand closer to that tree.  No!  Farther away.  Ok put one foot on that stump and hold the apple tree branch with the other hand.  Maybe if you put the antenna in your mouth.  STOP!  That is exactly perfect.  Oh quit crabbing.  You don’t have to pick.

Starting on different ends, we would go for the brilliantly blue ones first–the ones our dad warned us that the birds would pick off if we weren’t out here every day. The ones our baby brother would munch on if we didn’t put him on radio duty.

The ones we would pop into our own mouths so we could taste summer while we worked.

We didn’t say  much as we picked.  If anyone said anything, it usually resulted in arguing and someone storming off in tears to “tell”.  So we quietly listened to what there was to hear.

thud thud thud

Until the bottom was covered and the second layer of berries began.

Plop plop plop

The shuffle of bare legs in the tall grass as they moved around the bushes.

The occasional slap at a mosquito or deer fly on our legs and arms.

The rustle of blueberry bush leaves as our hands moved around them.

The relentless plopping of berries on berries.

And the strike of a baseball bat hitting a foul ball with Ernie letting us know that “the kid from Freemont caught that one.”

My parents still have those bushes, although when I venture back to the clearing there are only about eight bushes. My nephew loves to help my mom pick, and I wonder if Eddie will stain his hands and lips blue just like I did when I was younger.

This piece is did not come out the way it was behind my eyes…if that makes sense.  Concrit is welcome.Please vote for Sluiter Nation every 24 hours to help me with a grant that will get me to BlogHer and help Sluiter Nation do BIG things!

snow much fun

I have not been feeling well today.  Not at all.

So I am not feeling very scribe-ish or posty this evening.

Instead, I will just give you some pictures of my boys.

We live in Michigan..West Michigan.  So we get lots of lake effect snow, however compared with the rest of the country, this has been a fairly mild winter for us.

This weekend we finally got “play-able” snow.  After nap on Sunday, I got Eddie all geared up, Cort got himself geared up, and my matching men went out to play.

do these pants make my boo-tay look big?

the snow is THIS way!

come ON, dad!

Let's go explore, my little mini-me!

I need a shovel for the clubhouse!

exploring the winter wonderland.

We tried to get him outside with out the pipey in his mouth, but it is his saftey lovey when he is nervous…and the snow made him nervous (which I can TOTALLY relate to, little bud!)

They probably were only outside for 20 minutes, but it wore the little guy out…slept like a log that night.

Now I can’t wait for Cort to take him on the sled so I can sit inside alone and sip hot cocoa!  Yay!  Such fun Michigan winters bring!

psssst!  Today?  Wednesday?  Is your LAST CHANCE to enter to win a copy of Show Me How! It’s a great book with zillions of activities to keep the little ones busy when you DON’T want to gear up and play outside!  Enter now! Giveaway ends Wednesday, 8pm Eastern time.

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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