a very, very fine house

I was warned that building a Ginger Bread House with a toddler was a sure recipe for tantrums and frustration.

I was told to have zero expectations except that of a mess.

So I put the expectation bar on the floor.

And we proceeded cautiously.

waiting is the hardest part, so says Tom Petty


this is what the finished product should look like? hmmm...not likely.


moments after he yelled, "be ca-ful, mommy!" a thousand times while I frosted the roof for him.


as you can see, he wanted me to get in and out with that frosting and not fix a thing. Whatever you say, little dude. Also? He is probably giving me MORE instructions as I take this picture.


"hurry up mom, I don't have time for pictures. You need to bust out the red and green frosting already."


clearly tasting the "materials"


House Complete. Wait...that doesn't look much like the picture on the box. In fact...I thought there was more candy than that...


"I have no idea what you are talking about, mommy."

What I learned:

1. My toddler is a control freak.

2. He is more careful than most adults when it comes to placing candy on houses.

3. He would probably give his right foot for candy.

4. We can do crafty things without tantrums and freak outs.

What crafty things have you done to keep your kid from driving you crazy entertain your child(ren) this holiday season?

Sluiter Nation is Decked

There has been some getting Christmassy around these parts.


Toddler Art...check


Toddler in antlers the Mall Santa gave him...check

treats made as a family...check


plans to make more treats...check


tacky lights all over the house...check


monsterously tacky star atop our tree...check


itty bitty 6 month old hand print hanging on the tree that brings tears to my eyes...check


98% of our Christmas shopping done, wrapped, and under the tree...check


snowman with s'mores...check


classic christmas movies on TV...check






and a blogger in a santa hat...CHECK!


And this is just the beginning.  Starting at 2:30 today (Friday), I am on break.

Let the overload of Christmassy Goodness begin!

So THIS is Christmas?

I don’t usually like to post about “hot topics,” but Galit convinced me a hot topic is better than no post at all.

Like most of my posts about “controversial” topics, this stems from something I saw on facebook.  It never fails.  This time of year brings out the copy/paste status updates that claim that Christians are under siege and that the government is out to de-christianize Christmas by making everyone use the phrase “Happy Holidays.”

This is one of those cut/past updates that caused me to “hide” quite a few people:

WHAT A CROCK ….. We can’t say Merry Christmas now …we have to say Happy Holidays. We can’t call it a Christmas tree, it’s now called a Holiday tree? Because it might offend someone. If you don’t like our “Customs” and it offends you so much then LEAVE …I will help you pack. They are called customs and we have our traditions …If you agree with this please post this as your status!! I AM …

Yesterday I saw this blog post (you may have to scroll to the exact post.  This site is actually blocked at school, so I can’t get you the exact link) and in turn, I shared it on facebook.

I knew I would catch some grief.  And to be honest, I don’t agree with everything the post says, but I do agree with the sentiment.

I believe that Jesus was more than just a “good guy,” however, I concur about the whole nonsense of people getting their panties in a bunch about semantics surrounding the holiday season.

It bothers me to think that people really believe that there is some sort of coup going on to destroy the Christian part of Christmas.

And to go so far as to call Christmas “ours” (um..whose? ) and that they are our “customs” (why is in this in quotes and again..whose customs?) and to call for people who don’t believe to “get out” (get out of where?  The USA?  But we have more than just Christians here…huh.), is simply not, well, Christian.

I could go on and on here giving you the history of Christmas.  I actually know quite a lot about it since I went through a very long doubting and questioning phase, but I’ll just give you the nitty gritty.

But what it boils down to is this:  December has been a month of holidays (yes, plural) for thousands of years. WAY before Christianity even existed.  In fact, Christians placed the celebration of Christ’s birth in December rather than when he was probably born (September or March) because there were already celebrations going on and this way they could justify all the celebrating.

In fact, Christmas celebrations became rowdy, drunken very immoral events throughout Europe and part of the “religious persecution” that Puritans came to the Americas to avoid was due to their disgust with how un-Christian and corrupt these practices became.  The Puritans did not celebrate birthdays or Christmas.  In fact it was outlawed.

Christmas celebrations went in and out of favor right through the American Revolution because Americans didn’t want to celebrate something that was British (since we were trying to find our own identity).

The actual revival of Christmas, which lead to Christmas as we know it, mostly had to do with Charles Dickens’ novel in the mid-1800’s, A Christmas Carol (which is where the phrase “Merry Christmas” came from).

Christmas didn’t become a “legal” holiday in the USA until close to the end of the 1800’s when the Christmas card was introduced.

Up until the twentieth century, with The Night Before Christmas  (which is where Santa first appeared as we think of him today), Christmas in the USA was small and religious.  It was with the re-introduction of pagan symbols as part of marketing that Christmas is what it is now.

Sooo…what does all that historical stuff mean?

Nothing if you are celebrating Christmas because you are celebrating the gift of love and hope to the world.

But what about the other “holidays”?

Well there is Kwanza (a strictly USA holiday started in the 60’s) and Hanukkah and the Winter Solstice.  People who celebrate Kwanza do not necessarily NOT celebrate Christmas.  Kwanza is a celebration of culture and community for African Americans.  Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday–and not necessarily their biggest (their new year, Rosh Hashanah, is actually bigger for most Jews), but has been made big by the media and marketing effects of the overall season of trying to be inclusive.  And the winter solstice is a collection of many holidays both pagan and religious from all over the world and in many cultures that happen around the same time in December.

What do ALL of these holidays have in common?  They celebrate a new hope.  New beginnings.  Something better for their culture/community/religion.

They celebrate a miracle of newness that brings hope and joy and goodness for this world.

Is it important to recognize that there are more holidays than just Christmas in December?  I think so.

Is it an attack on Christmas to recognize everyone?  No.

Nobody is forcing you to say “Happy Holidays!” I know I tend to say “Merry Christmas!” because that is what my family celebrates.

We focus on the birth of a baby that brought hope and joy and love to so many.

Do I get offended when Target tells me “Happy Holidays!” in their commercials?  No.  It IS the holiday season.  Some I celebrate (Christmas and New Years) and some I don’t.

But that isn’t the point.

The point is that we spread cheer and love and kindness.

The point is hope.

And my hope for you is a beautiful season filled with love and joy.  But mostly hope.

and just like that…it’s done.

Our Christmas started with fun and memories…

starting Christmas Eve off with a water fight with Granny

reading the Christmas story

Eddie helped uncle Cody

And daddy helped Eddie

we had so much fun opening gifts, snacking on treats, and playing euchre.

finally we dragged our tired bodies home around 11pm.

Eddie was up all night.

We were up all night.

Finally Eddie slept with us.

and then the phone rang at 7am.

Grandpa Sluiter had passed to heaven.

But it was still Christmas…

Opening gifts in Christmas jammies

camera bag!


so many new things!

our day was filled.

after our gifts we got ready and headed over to my grandparents’ house.

then it was home for a quick nap for ed and then to my parents’ house.

50 mm lens!

Eddie made my mom (and all the grandmas) ornaments

with all that was going on, we were pleasantly distracted by so many blessings.

but once we were home…

and eddie was in bed…

a quiet finality washed over us.

eddie using his new personalized stool

of course our little man was unaware.

He went about his morning today playing with all his new toys.

laughing and pointing at all the new items in the house.

but there was a feeling…

and end to something.

not just Christmas.

a fake tree next year, perhaps?

but to a life.

Grandma called to ask Cortney to be a pall bearer today.

and I packed up Christmas and put it away.

’twas the night before christmas

We were never first, but we were never last either.

As soon as we arrived, my brothers and I would join the cousins in ooo-ing and ah-ing at the Christmas tree and at our stockings that “somehow” ended up at Grandma’s house.

We would dance back into the kitchen where the chairs had been taken from the table so that we could access the feast of delicious from all sides.  There was always crab dip (auntie Barbie made that) and shrimp cocktail (thank to auntie Lois) and lots of yummy treats (auntie Sandy spent loads of time baking) and then there was a giant cheese ball (my mom is famous for it). And so much more.

On the counter one of the uncles (or all of them) would be carving the turkey.  I can still hear the electric knife sawing away at the bird.  Like a good Dutch family we had buns that someone had cut to put our turkey on.  Further on the counter near the door was a selection of boozes and of course, homemade whiskey slush.

It was so loud in that tiny kitchen as we waited for the last of our cousins to arrive.  Whenever someone new came through the door shouts of “heeeyyyy!!!  MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!”  would ring through the house and hugs and presents and winter coats and wet boots would fly around my short head.

It was unavoidable that our stocking feet would step in a puddle of melted snow from the boots of our dads and uncles who were bringing in piles of gifts to be added under the tree.

At this point we were under all the adults feet yelling, “now? now?  NOW?!!!???”

And they would give in and we would tear into our stockings.

Lifesaver books, pens, crayons, jammies, large plastic candy canes filled with green and red m&ms, small dolls, and matchbox cars.  And always, ALWAYS an orange in the toe.

We would fill up our brown paper bags with our names on them comparing with each other as our parents shoo-ed us into the TV room to stash our things until after dinner.

Dinner was a plate of snacks and some turkey and a soda.  The only time it quieted down was when someone would say Grace.  And even then there was usually a fussy toddler in the background.

After dinner it was time for the Christmas tree.  Every single one of us would cram into Grandma’s small formal living room.  There was barely enough room for us let alone the multitude of gifts flowing out from around the tree.

The grandkids went first:  oldest to youngest which meant I was always third.  I was third after my cousin, Jenise.  Whatever she got, I hoped I would get something similar.  She was the epitome of cool to me.  And more than likely?  She and I would get the same thing from my Grandma and we would talk about it and tease our younger cousins for the rest of the night.

It was magical.

We always brought our  jammies to Grandma’s house on Christmas Eve because it was loooong past our bedtime when we left.

It was the perfect start to Christmas.

Grandma isn’t around anymore.  She has been gone for almost a decade.

My family has kept the Christmas Eve tradition alive in our own way, but since getting married, I have had to split that time between them and my new family.

This year will be the first year we only go to Cort’s mom’s house.  This is important to me.

I want Eddie to have the wonderful memories of racing into his Granny’s house on Christmas Eve, being surrounded by his aunts and uncles and cousins (someday…hopefully next year!) and bursting with excitement for the joy of Christmas and the magic it brings.

I will surely miss my extended family on Christmas Eve, but we will be building lasting traditions and magic of the season for Eddie.


Merry Christmas to you all.  And to all a good night.

Superfudge and other Christmas Miracles

I polled the audience and it seems that you would all like to see my ridiculousness try to make fudge.

And of course I had to name this post “Superfudge” because Lisa told me to, and she and I share a love of Judy Blume, She-ra, and side ponytails (which I am rocking in this vlog, by the way).

So.  Here is my vlog on my attempt at making my dad’s fudge.

Oh…wait.  first I should set it up for you.

This was what happened last year (in case you forgot):

fudgey turd pile

in years before that?  It hasn’t even set up.  We have used it as chocolate syrup for ice cream.  Last year?  It overly set up.  Sigh…

On to this year! Ok, first I prepped everything:

gathered my supplies

propped up my camera precariously on popcorn tin, Eddie's blocks, and Sandra Boynton books

and then?  the vlog:

Eddie and me sampling the goods

yeah, it actually turned out.  I couldn’t believe it.  I was containing my excitement about this on camera for fear I would look even sillier, but I was way excited.

Also?  This post is titled “and other Christmas Miracles” because guess what…BONUS VIDEO FOR YOU!

If my fudge turning out for the first time in EVER wasn’t the best thing?  We got a package today from one Miranda.  It had a cute Christmas card and a little something she just “whipped” up to give Eddie from her Joshua.

What a great day!!!  Fudge and crayons!!!  Seriously…how does it get better than this?

the one where i ramble about love and jesus

Cortney and I were both raised in households that went to church every single Sunday.  No exceptions. In fact, in my house, we went to church twice on Sunday and once on Wednesdays.

As a kid, aside from getting up early, I didn’t mind going to church.

Ok, I should say I didn’t mind being part of a church.  Everyone knew my family.  We were warmly greeted each Sunday morning.  My mom taught 2nd grade Sunday School and my dad was on the consistory.

(I should mention here that Cort and I were both raised in the same massively conservative Christian community, and that both of our families were members of the Reformed Church of America).

Church was full of wonder and tradition for me.  Our sanctuary was very old-school with beautiful stained-glass windows depicting different scenes in the life of Christ.  We had a choir loft and a choir that wore robes.  We had a traditional pulpit and old sconce lights on the wall.  I loved it.  I loved that our church was the first building in Zeeland; it was a part of local history.

I don’t know when either Cort or I stopped going to church or why.  I do know it was after both of us had moved out of our parents’ houses and no longer had the rule that we “had” to go.  Because of the new-found freedom?  We both choice a life of sleeping in on Sundays–despite constant comments from our mothers.

Once married, we vowed over and over to start going, but we never did.  Not regularly.

(I should mention that Eddie is baptized in the RCA church; and that we are all members of the church where Cort grew up).

But this post isn’t about going to church. It is just a segue into where my thoughts are going.

It’s more about what is in that church…or better, what is outside the church as well.

I’m talking about that guy, Jesus.

Yes, I am going there on the blog.

The season has gotten me thinking a lot about love.

Not only is Christmas supposed to be the celebration of the birth of Christ, but lately in the news there has been a lot of coverage on the Dream Act (not passed) and the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Act (passed) and all sorts of other talk in between.

And all this Christmas and talk of others different than ourselves and church stuff has gotten me thinking about teaching Eddie about love.

Not just love for his mom and dad, but love for humankind.

No, we don’t go to church that often, and really a big part of that is because I don’t see the kind of love that I want Eddie to learn about being practiced there.  I hear it being taught, but not practiced.

I want badly to find a church that is the mix of the deep traditions that I love (old hymns, big echoe-y sanctuary, etc) and my more liberal views on the world (women’s rights to serve in the church, for example).  I want Eddie to feel the love of a church family and learn about the Bible there.  But we haven’t found that yet.

And honestly?  I struggle with the idea of “blind faith”.  I don’t know if I have it.

I know my parents have it.

I know Cort’s dad had it.

I know Cort’s grandparents have it.

I watched them blindly believe and trust.

I don’t know about me.  I try very hard to trust, but I don’t know if I can believe as literally, for instance, as my dad can in the stories of the Bible. Did a man survive being thrown in a furnace?  For real?   Or is this a legend told?  Is it more literature than fact?  Meant to teach, but not be historical?

But what I do believe hands down from my religious upbringing is this: I do believe in the kind of love that Jesus taught.

So no matter what happens, I fully intend to teach Eddie to love as Jesus did.

What we know of Jesus is that he was a radical who took anyone…anyone…who would have him, and loved.  He loved those no one else would.  He taught that the greatest gift of all was love and that we should “love our neighbors as ourselves.”

Yes, he taught about sin being bad, but over that?  He taught to love.

I want Eddie to learn that sin is bad, but you need to love the snot out of the sinner.

Jesus traveled around with thieves and prostitutes.  Do people really think he would turn away illegal aliens or gay people?

Jesus went and dined with the scum of the town. Do people really think he would snub an adulterer?

Jesus taught love by loving.

I have struggled my whole life with the “reality” of the Christmas story.  With the idea of a crazy guy walking around claiming to be Christ and dying for my sins.  I have wondered if floods and talking burning bushes and parted seas were miracles or otherwise explained.

But this year?  As I watch Eddie interact with Christmas for the first time?  I realize that none of that matters to me.

Because I believe in love.

And that is the gift Jesus gave us.

And that is the gift I want to give my son. I want him to see me loving everyone…especially those society sees fit to not love.

Merry Christmas or Chanukkah or Santa-loving or whatever you choose to do or not do this week.

I wish you all much love.

You asked, I deliver

What’s that?  You would like the recipes from this post?  Well OK!

I already gave you the caramel corn recipe in that post.

But here are the rest:

Peanut Butter Balls:

I don’t use the paraffin wax.  And this NEVER makes 70-80 balls.

Buffalo Chicken Dip:

Once I have everything ready, I usually “bake” it in the crock pot, not in the oven.

Also, serve with tortilla chips

Hot Crab Dip:

I serve with Townhouse Crackers.

Cream Puffs:

I don’t have a picture of this recipe so here it goes…

To make the puffs you need: 1/2 cup of butter, 1 cup of flour, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 4 eggs.

Melt the butter in 1 cup of boiling water.

Add flour and salt all at once and stir vigorously.

Cook and stir until mixture forms a ball that doesn’t seperate.

Remove from heat and let cool just slightly.

Add eggs one at a time, beating the mixture after each one until smooth.

Drop heaping tablespoons about 3 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet.

Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes.  NO PEEKING!  They will be flat if you open the oven!

Cool on a rack.

For the filling you need:  1 package (3.4 oz) of french vanilla pudding (use the directions on the back) and cool whip

after making the pudding, mix with the cool whip.

To serve:  slice open a puff (don’t cut all the way through) and fill with the pudding/cool whip mixture.  We like to add chocolate to the top.  You can use chocolate syrup, or, if you’re like me and your fudge never turns out?  You can drizzle that on top.

That’s it!  I hope you all have fun with these recipes!  The are a HUGE part of our holiday tradition around here.

Oh, and remember how I say I make banket every year?

Well, my mom bought some from the ladies at church.  This is what banket is SUPPOSED to look like:

And this is what mine looked like when it was done yesterday:

I’m pretty sure I either have too much almost paste or not enough corn starch because the middle is WAY too runny.

Either way, Cort still says it’s delicious and since I am not the one eating it, that is what matters!

Happy baking!

Tune in for Top Ten Tuesdays this week where I will be listing my Top Ten Wishes (for my family and friends).  Join in if you want, of course!  The linky will be up Monday night!

What She Wants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“This is the only one.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope he does.

Santa or Satan?

Weird/fun facts about this encounter:

1. Santa’s name was Marvin.  We know this because “Mrs. Claus” yelled it at him.

2. This is put on by the Holland Civic Theater.  They are a theater company and this is the best actor they could get for Santa?  Really?

3. I don’t think Santa…I mean MARVIN…likes kids.

4. Mrs. Claus, bless her soul, was very sweet and did everything she could.

5. My son is wearing a polar bear sweater.  Shut up.  I like Christmas sweaters on the little guy.  See?

6. Thank all the 8 reindeer and Rudolf we were the only ones there.  Otherwise I am afraid Eddie would have convinced the other children that Santa’s lap was made of rusty nails.

7. Clearly I am the only one having fun here…and that isn’t even real.  I was having NO fun.  I am just a better actor than Santa aka Marvin.


Please tell my your kid does/did this too.  please.