Growing Pains

The two big changes of 2018 have taken place and our family is stretching to find our new routine.

First, Cortney’s company has officially moved to their new building. It’s super exciting because it means they are growing and changing, and I am just super proud of the commitment and work he has put into this.

The drive to new building, though, is a significantly longer commute than to his old building. The old building is located a mile from Alice’s daycare, and two miles from the boys’ school. It’s also only 3 miles from our house. All of my people and my home were all in the same spot. I was the one who was over thirty miles away.

Now, Cortney has almost as long of a commute as I have. This means they need to be out the door more on time in the morning, and he and Alice get home 10-15 minutes later in the evening. It also means that I am now on daycare pick up duty on Thursdays since Cortney needs to bust home to leave again for league night bowling.

The other big change is that, while not officially accepted yet, I have started grad school. I’m taking one class (while waiting on whether or not I’ll be accepted to the program) this semester. Some of you may have seen my posts on social media referring to the class I’m taking on Teaching Climate Change. So far it’s a tremendously informative class (albeit terrifying and causing me some anxiety if I am honest. Some of you may have seen my social media posts about the catastrophe our Earth is facing that our politicians are ignoring), and the extra benefit is that it’s dual focus is pedagogy and methodology of including climate change in an English classroom. I’m excited to develop lesson plans.

My class is on Tuesday nights and my commute is about an hour one-way. This all means that I hug my kids at 6:45am on Tuesday and don’t seen them for twenty-four hours. That part is tough, but so is the pile of reading–somehow after ten years of being away from it, I seem to have forgotten (or maybe blocked out?) how much reading is involved in grad classes.

I actually love the reading, but it takes time.

Eddie was not a fan of doing his math homework. He wanted to get back to his book. I can relate.

This means we are trying out a new normal around here. We are doing our homework together. I am doing more homework after they are in bed. I also do homework after school at my desk in my classroom. So far, it’s working.

That’s not to say we aren’t having a few growing pains.

The boys don’t love that we pick up Alice on Thursdays now. They like to go directly home and picking up their little sister feels like a bother. Similarly they also don’t love that I don’t pick them up at all on Tuesdays anymore since I just go to class from school.

We have had to sacrifice Eddie going to his Cub Scout Pack Nights since they always fall on the same Tuesday that Cortney has an executive consistory meeting at church. It means the kids get to hang out with their grandpa and grandma, but it also means bedtime is late those nights, mom’s not home to tuck them in, and everyone gets a little case of the crabbies.

Having grad class means I’ll be in class on both Charlie’s and my birthdays since they fall on Tuesdays this year.

We knew there would be sacrifices that weren’t super fun, but we also know it’s worth it.

Cortney growing his business is his dream.

Getting my PhD is my dream.

Modeling what it means to have a dream or goal and working hard for it is exactly what we want our kids to grow up around.

In fact, I am positive that it is because I grew up in a home with a hardworking dad and goal-oriented mom that I am as determined and passionate about all this as I am.

My only hope is that our kids don’t look back at this time in their life –the one when dad sat and read contracts and mom was stuck at her computer or pouring over a book–as one of being ignored, but one when they learned what passion and hard work look like, and that they decide to go for what they want most in life too.

What I Read: 2017

It seems to have become my January custom to showcase my reading list from the year prior. And because I am not one to mess with something that works, I went and looked up what I read in 2017. Again, I took the GoodReads challenge. I upped my goal to 40 and just made it by including new-to-me children’s books. I’m not sure what the deal was, but this fall my reading slowed down way more than normal.

Anyway, here is my list in the order I read them. The ones in BOLD are the ones I recommend (although there were only a couple I was “meh” about, so go ahead and check them all out and let me know if you read them and what you think). The ones wit (YA) are young adult lit. (P) are novels that are written in verse/poetry. (N) are nonfiction. (C) are children’s books.

  1. Yes, Please by Amy Poehler (N)
  2. The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock (YA)
  3. A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman
  4. Out Live Your Life by Max Lucado (N)
  5. How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon (YA)
  6. Breathing Under Water by Richard Rohr (N)
  7. Flying Lessons and Other Stories Edited by Ellen Oh (YA)
  8. Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
  9. Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson (YA)
  10. Faithful Families by Traci Smith (N)
  11. American Street by Ibi Zoboi (YA)
  12. You Are Here by Jenny Lawson (N)
  13. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (YA)
  14. Always Hungry? by David Ludwig (N)
  15. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (YA)
  16. Why Do They Act That Way? by David Walsh (N)
  17. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (N)
  18. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
  19. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
  20. Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon (YA)
  21. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (YA)
  22. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick (YA)
  23. Disrupting Thinking by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst (N)
  24. The Turquoise Table by Kristei Schell
  25. I’ll Take You There by Wally Lamb
  26. The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin (YA)
  27. Lilly & Dunkin by Donna Gephart (YA)
  28. The Haters by Jesse Andrews (YA)
  29. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
  30. The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord (YA)
  31. The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr (N)
  32. Simon Vs The Homo sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  33. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling (YA)
  34. Quiet by Susan Cain (N)
  35. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (YA) (P)
  36. Love by Matt de la Pena (C)
  37. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling (YA)
  38. Refugee by Alan Gratz (YA)
  39. Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty (C)
  40. Dear Martin by Nic Stone (YA)

I did start reading the book Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez, but I haven’t made much progress on it. It’s labeled YA, but I think it might be one of the only books I’ve come across that I just wouldn’t feel comfortable putting in my classroom library. We will see. I hope to still finish it.

The boys and I are reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban together right now. We read the first two (and watched the movies) in 2017 and are carrying on with the third. Eddie and I have fallen in love with this series. Charlie says he “hates Potter,” but he sure can tell you what is going on in the book!

I just started reading Jan Karon’s newest in her Mitford series: To Be Where You Are. I love her books because they are stress-free, lovely reads.

And the boys and I already finished one book in 2018: The third Dog Man graphic novel: A Tale of Two Kitties by Dav Pilkey. The boys adore the Dog Man books. Cortney and I think they are dumb. But you know how I feel about choice reading!

I set my GoodReads goal this year for 50. I couldn’t decide if I would be reading more or less because of classes, so I leaned to more.

Here is what I have on my 2018 Reading List:

My To Read Pile that hides in the cupboard under my bookcase. The left side are all my books. The right side are those I swiped from my classroom library to read.

The books for my class on teaching climate change came today!

What’s on your 2018 list?

Looking Forward to 2018

For 10 years I have been doing a sort of year-in-review here on the blog. This year I flat out just didn’t feel like it. I opened up my computer exactly twice yesterday and did nothing but close it again.

2017 wasn’t a particularly bad year for our family, but it sucked globally and nationally. I just didn’t feel like thinking about it again. But the bigger thing was that I had a terrible attitude yesterday. So much so that I found myself getting overly irritated when Charlie dropped one of his brand new walkie talkies in the toilet to the point of almost crying. Then I made Cortney chuckle with my over-the-top annoyance over professional bowlers who bowl two-handed (he was watching some tournament. I don’t even know.)

There were positive things I could have been doing, but instead I took a nap.

I should have just stayed off social media. I know better. When my attitude goes south, watching other people have fun without me is not really the way to feel better.

It’s like I wanted to wallow.

At dinner, though, I served up snacks–pizza rolls, mozzarella sticks, cheese and meat tray with crackers, chili cheese dip and tortilla chips, grapes, and sprite in fancy glasses with a drop of grenadine for extra fancy–and we talked about what would be coming in 2018. It pulled me out of my funk, so I thought I would share.

In 2013 Cortney and his business partners opened a new business together: Trigon Steel Components. It’s something Cortney has really been preparing for, albeit unknowingly, his whole life. Since middle school, Cortney has been working on and off in the steel truss business, and when he was approached to buy into starting a new business, it all just clicked.

In the first week of 2018, Trigon will move into their new building that was finished just weeks ago. This is a huge deal for Cortney and his partners. In less than five years, they went from not existing, to growing out of their small building due to demand for trusses and their expansion into doing wall panels as well. We are super proud of Cortney and can’t wait to see where this takes the company!

This week I will also submit my application for the PhD program I am hoping to start, but the newest development is that I will actually be starting my first class in January rather than wait until the fall! I have a very unique opportunity to take part in a seminar on teaching climate change that I can defer paying for until I am accepted in the program. The professor is one whom I have taken methods classes with as an undergrad and in my Master’s program. I’m pretty excited to start this new adventure and be a student again!

I actually started my MA program the same way: taking a class in January while I applied to the program and then officially started in the fall of 2003. I graduated from that program 10 years ago this year.

This is the year Cortney and I both turn forty. I’m first this March. I’m actually looking forward to it right now. Probably because we have a fun weekend in Chicago to celebrate planned with some of our favorite people. I’ll actually be in class the evening of my birthday, but that seems fitting?

The kids turn 3, 6, and 9 this year, something that freaks me out because it means no babies/toddlers at all anymore. But it also means we are on the verge of having a tween. It’s the last year we have them all in single-digits, and that makes me both excited and a bit sad.

Cortney and I will celebrate 13 years of marriage this year. Lucky 13. I don’t know what we will do yet, but I can tell you it will not be an expensive gettaway since we are paying for grad school again. Ha! And that is Ok. Someday we will go somewhere with poolside drink service. Until then, we will dream and save our pennies.

In a week I’ll start the second semester of my 15th year of teaching. We have the coolest stuff planned and I hope to have the time to share some of it with you.

I don’t do resolutions, but I did set my reading goal for 50 books in 2018. I met my goal of 40 books last year, but this year I am counting anything I read for the first time including children’s books I read with the kids that are new-to-me (which means my first finished book of 2018 is the 3rd Dogman book, but whatever). I also hope to write here at least once a week in addition to once a month at The Educator’s room.

Plus my homework. HOMEWORK!

Here we go, 2018.

Counting Down to 2018

Christmas is over (unless you celebrate all twelve days of Christmas and then my hat is off to you, friend). This of course means we are on the countdown to 2018, and I don’t know about you, but I am ready for a new year.

This year was not without merit though. I mean, we watched a lot of Netflix. So there’s that. In fact, we watched enough shows and movies that I can give you a Top 5 As Voted on By the Sluiter Family.

#5: A Series of Unfortunate Events

Technically this is mostly an Eddie pick, but I really loved this too. If you’re a Lemony Snickets fan, you’re sure to love the Netflix Original series based on the books.

#4 Beat Bugs

Alice loves the Beat Bugs mostly because she loves their songs…I mean The Beatles’ songs…that are in every episode. She dances around singing “Love, love, love…” It’s adorable. Until it’s not.

#3 Trollhunters

The boys LOVE this show. Especially Eddie. When the new episodes came out, it was breaking news in our house. It’s cute, but there is a bunch of action in it, which of course my little dudes love.

#2: Boss Baby

This is the one on here I haven’t actually seen, but when I was in St. Louis, this was a hit for Cortney and the kids. They all loved it and it helped Cortney keep his sanity as the solo parent for five days.

#1: Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas

I am confident we have watched this no fewer than a hundred times this month. It is a family favorite. In fact, we have started singing “Christmas Monkey” as part of our own family tradition. We love that darn monkey!

This New Year’s Eve, besides looking forward to waving 2017 goodbye, the kids are also looking forward to another round of NYE Countdowns from their favorite characters. Make sure you check those out too…because you can do them long before midnight!

Happy 2018, my friends!

*************

Disclaimer: This is not a paid post. As a member of the #StreamTeam, Netflix provides us with streaming and a device for my family to watch it on. We watch a ton of Netflix and give our opinions once and a while. It’s a sweet deal.

Santa’s Magic

The other night after Charlie had fallen asleep, Eddie turned to me and said the words I knew had to be coming soon, “Mom. Some kids at school say Santa is not real.”

Eddie is eight and in the third grade. I knew very well that kids talk and it wouldn’t be much longer before my super inquisitive buddy would have questions about the validity of Santa Claus.

“Well, Eddie, what do you think is true?” I asked him, a bit nervous of the answer.

“I think,” he said slowly, “that he is real because you and dad would never lie to us.”

A part of me winced, but I said, “It’s true, daddy and I will never lie to you. And Santa’s magic is very real. Do you know how I know that?”

“How,” he whispered with wonder.

“Because,” I said, “I can see it in you and your brother and sister. I can see the magic twinkle in your eyes when you think about Santa and when you love each other.”

“Why would kids say he’s not real then?”

“I don’t know. There are always going to be people who say this or that is not real. There are people who will say stuff we know to be true–like science–is  not real. And there will be people who have a hard time believing things they can’t see like God or Jesus are not real too. We just have to decide for ourselves.”

“And you think Santa is real?”

“I think Santa’s magic is very real.”

“Me too, Mom. Me too.”

This may be the last year that Eddie believes in the actual man, Santa. And that is Ok. As long as he never loses the Christmas magic that is love and gratitude and joy.

Stockings made by Great Gram Sluiter: Charles, Alice, Edward

The Flix Wherever You May Be

We don’t travel for the holidays because our entire family lives within a 45-minute drive from our house. In fact, we rarely travel very far with our kids. We are, what you might call, homebodies.

This is not to say we haven’t made road trips with the kids. Generally speaking, our kids are usually pretty solid car riders–give them some Kidz Bop and they will happily ride without needing anything else to occupy them. However the couple times we took kids to Chicago–a three-ish hour drive–we did, in fact, make sure we had some Netflix downloaded to the tablets and some “ear muffs” so we didn’t have to listen to it.

Our Netflix reality is pretty much non-mobile these days, and everyone has their own To Watch List. Alice is a fangirl for all things Beat Bugs. She also loves PJ Masks and anything with Micky Mouse. I think we have watched every single possible Micky Mouse video available. Octonauts continues to be a hit with all of my kids.

The boys have their sister-free hour of Netflix right after school while I make dinner. Charlie is on a Chuck Chicken binge right now, while Eddie usually chooses TrollHunters or Voltron.

While I was in St. Louis, the family watched Boss Baby and loved it…even Cortney thought it was pretty funny.

Cortney and I get somewhere around zero Netflix time to ourselves. We have about an hour after the kids go to bed before we are falling asleep on the couch ourselves. This means that about 95% of the Netflix watched in our house is done by people age eight and younger. It’s Ok, though. At some point we will get to finish watching the first season of Breaking Bad, right? And maybe someday I will be able to continue watching Orange is the New Black…seeing as the last time I watched it was while I was on maternity leave with Alice two years ago.

Although on our immediate To Watch list is 13th because we enjoy documentaries to binge-watching an entire series. Rogue One is still on my short list too because STAR WARS! Maybe we will actually get time to watch during the holidays?

Who am I kidding? The kids will take over and we be left without any access to Netflix.

The Joy of Sharing

Whew.

I made it!

Thirty solid days of pushing the little green “publish” button over there.

It wasn’t easy. There were many nights I did not want to get out my Chromebook. I wanted to curl up on the couch and stare at the TV until bedtime. I didn’t want to use my brain at all.

But I did it anyway.

Cortney mentioned the other night that even though he knew I wasn’t super enthused every night to write, he enjoyed reading a little something from me each day.

That made me happy.

But I am Ok with giving myself a break after tonight too.

Well, there will be a Netflix post coming your way soon, but I have other things I really need to be writing–PhD application stuff and stuff I promised for people, and stuff for The Educator’s Room.

Plus the holidays are upon us and we have a million things to do and places to be.

But I’ll be back. I have re-found the joy of sharing what is in my head.

Yup, Me Too.

When I try to think back to when it first happened to me, I can still picture exactly where my desk was (front left corner of the room near the windows) and how my skin crawled having him sit behind me. It was rumored among all of us 6th graders that he was repeating the 6th grade for, like, the 4th time and that he was somehow twenty years old and drove to school.

I mean, he did have a mustache already.

While I am positive most of those rumors were false, he didn’t do much to discourage them. He was bigger than all the other boys in the class, he had longish black hair (plus that mustache), and he seemed to know a lot about S-E-X.

Which is probably why he was always touching us girls. I absolutely hated having my desk in front of his because it meant that at any given time, his pervy finger would slide down my back as he “checked” for a bra strap. The girls he found one on would get a snap. Whether he found one or not, he would be sure to make a comment about how “oh. you are so grown up with your bra,” or “going all loose, huh?”

It was disgusting and made me feel skeeved out and unsafe.

I was relieved he did not return to our school for 7th grade.

The first time I told this story was last weekend on my way to St. Louis with my friend, The Pastor’s Wife. I had never said anything before–not even to the girls who were in the class with me even though I knew it was happening to them too.

And I never told an adult for fear that somehow I would be told it was not that big of a deal, I must be mistaken, or–even worse–that it was somehow my own fault.

The adults in my life didn’t do anything to make me feel like I couldn’t come forward, but society had told me that somehow girls got what they attracted. And if the pervy kid was touching me–even if it was just my back–somehow it was my fault.

So I said nothing.

In high school and college it got worse.

I went to a lot of rock concerts (over a hundred, but no one is counting). Almost every one of them involved guys grabbing at me, trying to get in my pants, or saying lewd things to me. I even saw some of my own guy friends cop feels of girls as they walked by in tiny shorts or teeny tops. Guys I was supposed to trust. Guys I came with because I thought they would take care of me.

I learned very quickly I had to take care of myself.

My concert uniform was jeans, steel-toed boots, and an over-sized concert T-shirt (not of the band I was seeing though. I was not that crazy fan. And I never wore my new merch the next day to school. I didn’t want to seem like a fangirl. I was legit, yo. I washed that shirt a bunch and made it look old and like I didn’t care about it before I put a flannel over it, so if you asked when I got it, I could act all nonchalant. I did the 90’s attitude very well, my friends). But let me be clear: I could have showed up to every show in a g-string bikini and those guys had no right to touch me. But I was learning about taking precautions out of fear.

I developed a stance as I wiggled through the crowds of sweaty dudes to get to the front. I learned to raise my knee to crotches when I felt a hand, or to kick shins with my big boots. I learned to stick my finger in someone’s eye if I needed to crowd surf (which I only did if I felt unsafe and that I was going to get crushed or seriously molested because crowd surfing opened you up to so many pervy hands. And I always always stayed on my back. I never rolled to my front).

The dudes at these concerts had the idea that because the concert-goers were mostly male, if a female came along, they were somehow allowed–expected–to grope her.

And this is average guys. Not famous ones.

Do you know what the culture of celebrity is? Especially male celebrity?

Take what you want. It’s yours.

Including women’s bodies.

It’s all owed to you because you are so famous and everyone loves you and you have all this power.

Yes, it’s disappointing to see politicians and journalists and other celebrities get fired because they were pervs at one time (if not currently) in their career, but they made that choice. And they  made it because society basically told them, “it’s cool. It’s expected. You’ll never get caught or held responsible.”

 

I hope that norm is ending now.

I hope that all these allegations are going to make a real change in Hollywood and in all areas where men have power.

Guys who abuse their power and prey on women should be afraid that they might be next.

It’s not that difficult; don’t touch women. Have some impulse control.

This is why we teach our kids that you don’t get to touch anybody’s body without permission, and if they say “no,” you STOP.

It’s why when the boys are wresting and one wants to stop, we make a big deal about complying with that request.

It’s why when our kids don’t want to hug or kiss someone (even us), we don’t make them. They do not owe anyone their bodies.

And no one owes them theirs.

I never want to find out that Alice has these stories. I never want to find out Eddie or Charlie have these stories…or were the reason someone has these stories.

In the meantime, I pray that we change this culture of misogyny and sexual assault.

Snippets of Time

My favorite part of life is catching a little one-on-one time with each of my kids.

Eddie wants me to be happy. He wants to make me laugh. He loves identifying as a book and writing nerd just like I do. Tonight we cuddled up on the couch to finish a chapter in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets before he had to go to scouts. He likes to sit close–it’s the only time he wants to snuggle.

At nearly eight-and-a-half he is getting to be so much fun to have discussions with. He is the perfect mix of innocent naivety and old soul. He asks really, really good questions, and he has amazingly wise theories on things.

Tonight, after Alice was in bed, but before Cortney got home from scouts with Eddie, Charlie and I curled up on the couch and watch cat videos together for a half hour.  He wants to be warm, cozy, and safe. At five-and-a-half he still likes to be carried and held. He is fiercely independent, but desperate to remain my baby boy.

Charlie choose me to read his nightly Just Right Library book to each night. Learning to read delights him in ways that fill my heart. Words are beginning to come alive for him, and even though I went through the same thing with Eddie, it’s like Charlie and I now share a secret of some sort.

He watches and sees all. And knows more than you think he does.

Alice is so girly, I almost do not know how to mother her. She loves pink and flowers and twirling and baby dolls. She is my most affectionate child by far with her hugs and “I love you’s”.  She is also incredibly possessive and bossy.

The other morning, though, she was playing “bad guys Legos” with Charlie’s batman action figure and small Lego vehicles making up stories as she went. She is girly, but not afraid to demand everything her brothers have and do.

She hears every word you say. And will repeat it in context and correctly.

Most of the time they are together in some capacity. Most of the time I am refereeing arguments and breaking up fisticuffs.

But the thing is, these three are amazing little people who really love each other more than anything. And I am thankful for each one of them and their individual personalities.

Too Tired

I went back to school today after ten days away.

Then I made dinner, fed the family, and we all whisked off to the Christmas Parade in town.

We got back at 7:40pm.

We threw the kids in jammies, got them ready for bed, then did bedtime.

I am exhausted.

Too exhausted to post.

But I promised I would hit “publish” every day.

So here is today’s lame offering.

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