The Gift of a Child

Just over a year ago, I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like having a little one around.  I am a very independent person, and Cort and I just really enjoyed our “us” time together.

But now that we have one of these?

Oh, our life is so different and so wonderful!  Being parents has been the HARDEST adventure we have plunged into yet, but also the most rewarding.

Cortney’s little sis, MacKenzie, and her hubby Dave, are now wanting to get in on the gift of a child.  Yes, this is one fun couple, I tell you.

They got married last June, and have recently started the process to adopt a little one (or ones) from Ethiopia.

They even started a blog, Stepping Stones, devoted to the process.  Cort and I are learning so much from their journey.  It wasn’t that long ago that we had briefly looked into the possibility for ourselves after two miscarriages.  Thankfully we were blessed with Eddie.

But MacKenzie and Dave have it on their hearts that this is what they should be doing regardless of whether they can have biological children or not.  And because they feel it, they are acting on it.

All of their paperwork and background checks and what-have-you’s have gone without a hitch.  And they feel so blessed.  But a difficult task is now upon them.  They have found out that that laws have changed and instead of traveling ONCE to Ethiopia, they will have to travel twice.  The cost each time is up around $5000 or more.  So they are in a position where they are swallowing their pride and asking for some help.

They are currently planning and assembling an online auction that will run from July 29-August 1.  They are currently in need of donations to put up for auction.

It’s not a secret that Cort and I don’t have much extra, but we do feel it on our hearts to help our family.  One way I know I can reach out is through this blog.  I have been so fortunate to meet so many talented, wonderful people through here.  People who are GREAT at brainstorming, creating, writing, and comiserating.

~My Request~
If you have a talent or a craft and are willing to donate to the online auction that will help cover some of the adoption costs of Sluiter Nation’s future niece(s) or nephew(s), please let me know and I will put you into contact with MacKenzie as she plans the auction.

MacKenzie and Dave feel strongly that their family is not just confined to what they can create biologically.  Cortney and I fully support this and are looking to help bring part of the Nation home…so I can spoil them rotten…what? You KNOW I love being an auntie!

Seriously, I can totally understand the sense of urgency they must be feeling when they see how great it is to have this smiling up at them when they visit.

Won’t you please help if you can?

If you are unable to donate to the auction, you are more than welcome to check it out when it goes live on July 29.  I will be posting updates leading up to the fun.  They have more ways to help (buying Ethiopian coffee, etc) you can participate in or if you would rather make a monetary donation, you can do so via the “how can we help” section of their website, Stepping Stones.

On My First Mother’s Day

Remember when I looked like this?  It was around this time last year.  Mother’s Day 2009 I was almost nine months pregnant, and many people said, “happy mother’s day, mama!” to me.  I thanked them then, but I had NO idea what was in store for me as far as becoming a mother.
Having Eddie FINALLY in my arms instead of in my tummy was great.  It was amazing.  I loved every second of being in the hospital with him.  I told myself that I sort of liked this mommy business.

Being at home was more difficult.  Turns out we had LOTS of visitors and a colicky baby.  Plus I was still healing from my C-section.  Cuddling my Eddie Bear when he was sleepy from crying reminded me of how just a year before we weren’t even sure if this was possible.  After two miscarriages, I didn’t know if I would EVER me a momma.  So I was grateful for even the crying.

Eddie and I bonded.  He needed me.  It was a totally different feeling than I have ever before experienced.

We spent a lot of time together in my chair.  When he was tired, I cuddled him.  When he didn’t feel good, I cuddled him.  When he was sad or scared or just plain colicky, we rocked and rocked and rocked.

I’m learning that as a mother…
when he laughs, I laugh.
when he is afraid, I am afraid (but I try not to show it).
when he cries, I cry too.

Eddie and I have a special bond.  I have gone through a lot to be able to say, “I am doing the best I can, and that is enough.” Even though many times it does not feel like enough.
Lucky for me, I don’t have to do it alone.  I have Cortney who is a wonderful father and husband. 
Together he and Eddie show me daily that they love and appreciate me.  
But today was special.  Today was my FIRST mother’s day.  Cortney and Eddie bought me a lovely hanging flower basket, brought me coffee this morning, and gave me this beautiful charm bracelet…with an “E” charm complete with a pearl–Eddie’s birthstone–on it.
I will never forget this first mother’s day!  I will cherish this time with my little family, much the way we cherish the mothers in our lives.
Besides celebrating me being a mother today, we also celebrated our mothers.
First we stopped to see Lynne, Cort’s stepmom.She has been a wonderful cheerleader for us and a super grandma to Eddie.
Then we had lunch with Kim–or Granny as Eddie calls her–Cort’s mom and Ray, Cort’s stepdad.  Kim is so giving and has raised two gentlemanly sons.  I strive to raise Eddie to be as polite, kind, and resourceful as Cortney and Cody are.  Cortney can cook, iron, make a bed, AND do all the mowing and repairing around the house.  He is also a gentleman in every sense of the word.  I can only attribute that to a strong mother!  I hope to be as great of a teacher as she was (and is) to her boys.
Lastly we stopped by my mom.  There are no words to say how much I admire and honor this woman.  She is kind, giving, generous, and loving.  She wants her kids to be strong and independent but always lets them know she will be there for them when they need her.  She is smart and strong.  I can only hope to show as much compassion and understanding to my children as she has to me and my two brothers.
I am still learning.  I am learning by watching and listening to ALL the wonderful mothers in my life.  There are so many of you–in the real world and the blog world–who have taught me so much, who have helped me know I am not the only one to go through the valleys of motherhood, and who have celebrated with me the mountain highs of this little job title of “momma”.
So many have tried to tell me what motherhood was all about.
But you don’t really know until it’s happening.
And it’s good.  It’s really good.
A BIG Thank you to my husband for making my FIRST mother’s day so wonderful.  None of this would be without you my dear.  I love you oh so much!

It’s Sort of a Family Thing

Saturday evening, Cortney’s cousin, Aaron married his beautiful fiance, Jen on WMU’s campus. It was fun to drive through campus again and see all the places we frequented way back in the day. And it was a lovely wedding ceremony–filled with smiles and laughter.
After the ceremony we went to the reception at CityScape downtown Kalamazoo. It was simple and elegant to say the least.
The food was so yummy and the drinks were quite good too! We had so much fun with all our family members, be we loved hanging out with the Sluiter siblings the most!
Liz and I were all OVER that reception: she was a dancing fool and I was trying out my new camera (and the free cosmopolitans)!
Cortney and I had a great time having a little date night to the wedding/reception thanks to my brother Mike and sis-in-law Ashley for watching Eddie!

Dave was a groomsman for Aaron, and he and Kenz looked so cute as usual.
And when DON’T these two look cute? Seriously…most photogenic couple ever.

We tried…11 times…to get a decent picture of the six of us, and well, this is by far the best shot. It just shows you how much fun we have when we get to hang out with our family!

Easter Egg-stravaganza!

This Easter was very different than past Easters for us Sluiters. First of all, this is the first Easter in the history of my and Cort’s relationship that we didn’t go to church. We just felt that Eddie could not possibly sit quiet for a whole hour, so we opted not to risk it.

That was weird because it just hardly seems like Easter without a rousing chorus of “UP FROM THE GRAVE HE AROSE!” (my favorite Easter song). However, we celebrated at home and with our families with a whole lotta Easter Bunny madness.
First, the Easter bunny stopped at our house in the night. Before Eddie could get to it though, Grandma Lynne stopped over with a great big Easter lamb for Eddie. He was excited about getting a new friend.
Then we let him dig into his Easter basket from us. He loved all the new toys to play with (read chew on).
Then we headed over to Granny Kim and Grampy Ray’s house for ham dinner (of course…it IS Easter), a mini-egg hunt for Eddie, and a basket of goodness.
Eddie loved the eggs his granny hid…they each had a couple quarters in them and he just shook, shook, shook them!
He also loved his dragon basket she picked out for him! It was full of yummy goodies…AND a bathing suit and bucket hat for this summer when he swims in her pool!
After Granny and Grampy’s house we stopped over at Grandma and Grandpa Riemersma’s house where Grandma had an Easter bucket for Ed with a sippy cut and a bunny!
Eddie sure had a fun first Easter, and we enjoyed spending it together as a family. While it’s fun to hide eggs and give baskets, we surely give thanks for all the blessings in our lives! Happy Easter from the Sluiters!

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!

The Excitement Continues!

Christmas Eve is a busy, but super fun night for the Sluiters. Every year we get together with my mom’s side of the family (the Hulst side) and we also go to Cort’s mom and step-dad’s house for family fun. This year we started by going to my aunt Lois and uncle Larry’s house. There was quite a spread! After all of us crazy people went through the first time, it almost looked like no one touched a thing! mmmmm!!!! After our feeding frenzy, we all moved to the basement for some gifts. My aunt Sandy took charge of handing out gifts to the wee ones (the great grands) first. So far, there are three great grands, with one on the way!

Everyone enjoys gift time! Especially Alex!

Even Cort and I got to open a little gift for baby Sluiter!

Aw! Jammies! Or as I like to call it: a baby bag! How cute!
Chris opened a BUNCH of gifts for Jack since Jack wasn’t with us. Jack got lots of great toys and clothes…which is fun because Chris just got his own place, and Jack will need some stuff at daddy’s house!
Shayla and Brody both dug into their gifts too! Watching little kids ooo and ahhh at the wrapped packages is really the best part of Christmas.
Brody got a trumpet! He has been asking Santa for one, and he was SOOOO excited to get a shiny new horn!
Shayla got some books and some puzzles, but her favorite gift was a bouncy seat for her baby doll.
After gifts, we had to leave the Hulst party and join up with Cortney’s family for some more Christmas extravaganza! When we got there everyone was just so excited to dig into the tree! Cort’s mom played a great Santa!
Mom and Ray and Cody and Liz both gave me some great maternity shirts. I was very glad because I wasn’t looking forward to wearing sweats to work.
Cody got some much-needed bowling gear. Cort told me we had to get Cody a bowling bag because he carried his ball into bowling each week just in his hand…and he still rented his shoes every week! So we go him a snazzy pair for Christmas too!
Kenzie got some Christmas jammies! Looking good!
Cort got all decked out in a bunch of shirts too! We will both be quite stylin’ in our new duds!
The shirt fairy wasn’t done yet…Ray got a couple new ones too!
And Dave got a nice warm vest! Perfect for all this cold weather we’ve been having!

Mother got some great gifts too…there’s her new Christmas bowl!

After all that present excitement, the pugs got plum tucked out! Elenor and Penny decided to take a little siesta–in the form of a pug pile–while the rest of us play some Partini late into the night!

Christmas Eve was so much fun…we could hardly believe there was a whole other day of gifting ahead! Cortney and I stumbled home after 11:00pm and promptly went to bed so that Santa would visit our house!

The Festivities Begin…

In an effort to keep up with all the fun that happens this time of year, I plan to be a blogging FOOL for the next couple weeks. I don’t want everything to end up in one big blog, so here we go…the first installation of Christmas 2008:

The first family fun actually happened last weekend when we got together with the Potter side of the family (Cortney’s mom’s side) for fun. I forgot my camera (what the heck was I thinking?!?!), so I don’t have any quality pics. It was an excellent time, though! Lots of great food and fun with all the (what seems like thousands of) Potter cousins. After great food and visiting, we had the annual gift exchange. That is always fun because they make it a game. We definitely had a great time!

Tonight, we had our party with Lynne, Cortney’s step-mom. All the Sluiter sibs braved the cold and snow and headed to Lynne’s newly remodeled house. The new remodel is AWESOME! Very impressive! And of course, the spread of food was outstanding too! We all dove right into all the great food we brought and that Lynne made! Mmmm!!!

After food it was on to gifts. Lynnes has always had the greatest tradition of stuffing monster bags full of gifts. This year was no exception, except that there was an extra little bag that I wasn’t expecting!

Lynne had scrounged up a homemade blanket by her ex-mother-in-law that was made in 1976. Since Lynne never had any babies of her own, she wanted us to have the blanket! Awww!!! It is so snuggly! I am sure Baby Sluiter will love it!

Then we got down to the rest of the gifts! Cortney, Dave, and Cody all got Rachel Ray bacon presses! Oh man! Lynne is clearly working on the idea that Sluiter men ROCK at breakfast food! I can’t wait until Sunday morning!

Dave opened a BUNCH of camping gear! I think Kenzie was just as excited! Lots of stuff to try out this summer!

Cody and Liz also got camping gear…a new tent! Liz was so excited she wanted to set up the tent in the backyard. Too bad there is about 100 feet of snow!
I got my new blender! Yeah! And the best part…it has an ice-crusher button! I guess that may have to wait until the baby is born…but that will be perfect timing for some much-needed margaritas!
Lynne got a bunch of nice gifts too…including a super fun picture of your truly with her cutie pie! Who WOULDN’T want that for a gift! 🙂
Oh man…Cort hit the jack pot with a bunch of DVDs, CDs, and other stuff! We had a really great Christmas party! It’s so great to be able to spend some quality time with Lynne as a family and we are so grateful to her for opening her home to us!
Our first few Christmas parties have put us in a very festive mood and we look forward to all the family fun we will have in the next couple days, and all the friend fun we will have in the next couple weeks!

Happy Christmas from Sluiter Nation!!!

Who Wants to Get Crazy?

This weekend we spent time with friends and family doing fun fall things.

Saturday, we were going to go with Chris and Jack and the Visels to Cranes Orchard, but the weather really didn’t cooperate. Instead, we had a quick lunch at Culver’s and headed over to Crazy Bounce in Holland. Chris and Jack had been there before, but for the rest of us, this was a whole new experience. I had no idea what to expect, but I know I DIDN’T expect to have as much fun as I did!

Everything in Crazy Bounce is inflatable. Jake and Jack grabbed their respective dads and went straight for the HUGE slides! Here is Jake and Ben sliding down the Alligator slide!

Joe even found a place he could have crazy fun!
I don’t think Cort expected to have this much fun either. Here he is laughing after watching Chris and Jack go through the obstacle course.
Jack is telling us what he wants to do next. MAN did that kid have a TON of energy! I had no idea how he could crawl up those huge things so fast, zip down the slide, and then RUN to the next thing! I just wanted to rest!
yeah, I was NOT so awesome at the obstacle course. Chris is behind me pushing me on the butt telling me, “Kate, you are too much for me! You have CLIMB!” How do these kids DO this?
Jack just flies over it like it’s no big deal. DANG!
Cortney gave the course a try himself. Not so easy, is it?
Trisha decided to try to the velcro wall. That suit is really quite attractive. Too bad it was too old and didn’t stick to the wall so well!
Jake and Jack found the ball pit and had TONS of fun in there too!
Last ride down the slide for Chris before it’s time to go!
But before we get back in the car, Jack had to try out the submarine ride.
and so did Jake!
Everyone came back to our house to hang out and watch the MSU/U of M game (Go State, by the way! Whoot, whoot!), and Jake just had to take a little nap…so much fun was had!
Today, we had lunch, birthday, and pumpkin fun at Mother Kim’s house. We had a GREAT dinner of lasagna followed by apple crisp. We also took a minute to celebrate Kim and Cody’s birthdays (which are this Thursday and Friday respectively). After dinner it was time for our traditional sibling pumpkin carving!

We all grabbed our pumpkins that Kim bought for us and headed down stairs!
Who gave me a sharp knife? Not a good idea!
Check out my jack-o-lantern. He is a little crooked and slow looking, but he’s loveable!
Cortney blew everyone away with his carving talents as usual!

Dave had a whole plan this year…he even brought a stencil! He was NOT messing around! He ended up creating the Obama symbol. It was pretty sweet!
Mom steps back to check out her own handiwork.
While Kenz carefully carves her pumpkin.

After the carving, we all posed for our annual picture! Check out all those fun jack-o-lanterns!
We had so much fun with our family and friends this weekend! We can’t wait until Friday when we get to see costumes and give out candy! Happy Halloween!

MacKenzie and Dave’s Marina Shower

Regardless of all the forecasts of rain today, the sun busted out and made for a great day for a marina shower! Lots of people came out for MacKenzie and Dave’s first shower…the one thrown by Fran and Leone at the marina. There were just too many fun times and pics to choose from, so I put them into a little slide show below. Enjoy!
Make a Smilebox slideshow

Click to play Marina Shower

Canoe Pics!

Yesterday I posted our camping trip, but I didn’t have the canoe pictures back from Walgreens yet (I had to take a water-proof camera along…VERY weird not using digital), so here are the pics from on the river!

The day started off questionable with a HUGE thunderstorm from about 6:30 am until about 9:30. We weren’t sure if our 11:00 canoe extravaganza would be canceled. It wasn’t, but the clouds still threatened to rain on the river. Not so encouraging. The clouds cleared though, and we ended up with a PERFECT day for canoeing! MacKenzie and Dave and Cody and Liz started out strong and in the lead! Cort’s mom and Ray were close behind…
There’s our canoe! Smiles for Miles, as Cortney put it.
Here is one of our MANY breaks. It was supposed to be a 3-hour tour. We managed to stretch it to a 6.5 hour tour. Yeah, we are just that good.
The water was warm enough to, uh, take break in.
After a little bit of fun, Liz decided that she needed to take a dip. We were all certain she was going to tip their whole canoe over…but she perched herself on the side and just flipped right off! Later we found out she banged up her knee pretty good on the rocks. She also flipped INTO the canoe without tipping it over. What talent!

Yet another break…
Uh Oh! Mom and Ray flipped their canoe! They were the ONLY ones to flip AND they claimed they were NOT going to flip this year…better not make such bold claims next year!
Hmmm…I think we were starting to get tired around hour six.
Cort and I might not be hard-core campers, but we do make a pretty darn good canoe-team! Although next year we will have to remember to put sunblock on a little better!