Back to School Supply Crazy

It’s back to school time, yo.

Some of you are doing the Snoopy dance because it means your kids will be leaving the nest for another academic year instead of spending the better part of their day making you a referee to all their shenanigans.

Some of you are twisting your hands in knots and holding back (or not) tears as your little ladies and gents start school for the first time.

If you are like me your sort of doing all of the above. I am THRILLED to go back to work and our regularly scheduled programming of daycare/work days that give my boys the much-needed structure and stimulus they require to get through their day without ripping each other’s faces off.  On the other hand, I am starting the year in a new building teaching a new grade, and my Eddie Bear will be starting Kindergarten all day, every day. Changes are ahead for us, that is for sure.

Because Eddie is a school of choice kid and no longer in daycare, we have to bring him and pick him up from school.  That means Cortney will have to drop him off over an hour before school starts so he can do the before school program, and I’ll have to leave my school in a super timely manner to make the 35-minute commute to pick him up when school lets out.

Gone are my days of staying after school for hours. Instead, I will be picking up a Kindergartener, getting him started on his homework, getting dinner started, and unpacking and repacking a lunch box.

School starts for students around here the day after Labor Day (Sept 2), but I have to report back next week already.  Of course, since I am setting up a whole new classroom and teaching all new curricula, I have been in lots already.

SO. MUCH. TO. DO.

SO. MUCH. TO. DO.

I know I am not the only teacher who has been in school early either. If I throw it out on Facebook that I am “going in”, many of my teacher friends will join the rally call that they too are in the trenches already. Getting ready for those kiddos.

And of course, since Eddie is going into Kindergarten, we got the supply list email. Actually, the kids don’t need to bring in anything individually; his teacher just sent us a list of donation items.  And you better believe I will be checking some things off his list for him even though I have my own classroom to buy for.

I’ve read countless articles in the past week about how much we teachers put into our classrooms out of pocket, and nodded along to each one. Many of you know that I am building a classroom library for my students (my wish list is here), and I have put in a lot of my own money to that scouring the scholastic book sales, church book sales, library sales, etc.

See those shelves? That is where my classroom library will live!

See those shelves? That is where my classroom library will live!

I also buy almost everything that goes to my students in school supplies. I work in an at-risk district and we can’t really require kids to buy anything for school. Many of them can’t afford what they do need. So I supply almost everything for my students. Our district gives us $100 per teacher. That can get used up on poster board and expo markers really quickly. And I need each of my students to have something to journal in. And post-it’s for close reading.  And tissues so we don’t spread germs all over creation. And many other things.

So I signed up for Adopt A Classroom (adoptaclassroom.org). If you search for Katie Sluiter in Michigan, you will find my class. Or you can search for a teacher in your state or district and donate funds that they can use to purchase items for their classroom.

I had a few friends ask me for specific needs. Things that I purchase every single year.  For that I made yet another Amazon wishlist.

My husband likes the list too because it helps to see what we need to budget for over the course of the year. I also look at it for when I have to place my classroom order with school and try to prioritize what I NEED versus what I can get by without.

Every year is a juggling act, ya know?

See? It's coming along!

See? It’s coming along!

But even with that (and a lot because of some huge generosity from friends), I will be making a big donation to Eddie’s teacher too. For one, Mr. F is a teacher and I understand the plight, but more importantly, he has MY CHILD this year.  And if I am willing to shell out hundreds for other people’s kids, I sure as heck am going to do it for my own!

I know I am preaching to the choir when I tell you how important it is to support teachers and those supply lists that come home. And if they don’t come home, bless a teacher with a gift card to Staples or Target or  Amazon or Barnes and Noble for books. If you don’t have kids, consider anonymously giving at a local school or finding someone on Adopt a Classroom.

Project 365 {week 33}

This post is late mostly because this particular week is not our favorite and it’s hard to go back to it after it’s done.

But.

Here it is.

Except for August 10. Because I didn’t snap a picture. Which is dumb because we celebrated what would have been Cort’s dad’s 58th birthday with beach and homemade peach pie. It was glorious. I just didn’t take a picture.

August 11: I went to make banana bread and found this one taste-testing the brown bananas. Spoiler: he did not love it.

August 11: I went to make banana bread and found this one taste-testing the brown bananas. Spoiler: he did not love it.

August 12 apparently didn’t get a picture either. If I remember correctly it was not a good day.

August 13: after date night with this guy, he plays with his new phone. We went with Galaxy S5's and LOVE them already!

August 13: after date night with this guy, he plays with his new phone. We went with Galaxy S5′s and LOVE them already!

August 14: This day. Sigh. So hard. Took the boys to the pier to "see" Papa Steve.

August 14: This day. Sigh. So hard. Took the boys to the pier to “see” Papa Steve.

August 15: This kid is non-stop terror. It's time for school schedule.

August 15: This kid is non-stop terror. It’s time for school schedule.

August 16: The week of bad national news and rough grieving ended the way it needed to with lots of laughter and the best ribs EVER with awesome friends.

August 16: The week of bad national news and rough grieving ended the way it needed to with lots of laughter and the best ribs EVER with awesome friends.

This week put a lot on my heart with the death of Robin Williams and the horrible nightmare in Ferguson.

Add that to missing Cortney’s dad for nine years,

well…

it would have been easy to blow off the whole week as sucky.

But we still found moments of joy.

We still laughed.

And that’s what you have to do, right?

9 years later

You’ve been gone 9 years today.

9 whole years.

That boggles my mind.

When I think about your diagnosis, the treatments, and the end…it hurts almost worse now than it did at the time.  At the time I was so in the situation, and such a newbie in the family. I didn’t know all the people who were throwing their arms around me and praying over me. Shedding tears that fell on my skin.

I didn’t really know you.

I have pictures and stories, but because you were diagnosed in that one year I had with you before marrying your son, you were always surrounded by friends and family. I can count on one hand the times we spent as a normal “family” in the time after Cortney and I were engaged.

But it’s more than others got.

I have never ever forgotten how lucky we were to have you at our wedding.

Every single happy moment in our lives since then have had a small ache because you were missing it.

What would your reaction have been to each pregnancy announced by your children? What about the adoption of your grandsons? How would you have comforted your children through child loss? How would you have danced with your daughter at her wedding?  Or rejoiced to see your son marry his high school sweetheart?  How proud would you have been of the graduations and degrees we are all racking up?  Your your son-in-law’s first children’s book? How would you have gotten along with your kids in-laws?  What things would you teach your grandchildren?

I can’t help but see you in my own boys.  It makes me smile and breaks my heart.

I have forgotten your voice, your laugh, even what you looked like outside of photos. But I have never forgotten the twinkle in your eye. I see it in Cortney, Cody, MacKenzie, and all of your grandkids…especially Charlie.

This morning I was lying awake thinking about how proud of Cortney you must be. He is such a wonderful dad and husband. He is handy and smart. And he is a business owner. Just like you.

Sunday we all sat on MacKenzie and Dave’s new lawn and beach and had peach pie for your birthday. I looked at each member of the family and tried to see what you would see. I got choked up. Gosh. If there is bragging in heaven, you must do it heavily.

Today I took Eddie and Charlie to the flower shop. We ordered a lovely arrangement of happy flowers to go in front of the church on Sunday in your memory. We will be on nursery duty, but I hope people enjoy them. I hope they make people smile, the way you always did.

After the flower shop, we went to the bakery (or the donut shop, as Eddie calls it). Eddie and I have been coming here on August 14 for the past three years. Today Charlie was with us. I showed them some pictures of you. Eddie asked me why you looked so different at our wedding and I explained cancer to him for the first time. I also showed him your marina photo. He said, “now THAT looks like daddy!”  That made me smile.

We sure do miss you.

Each of us differently, of course, but the pain is still there.

9 years or 900 years…I think it will still hurt.

For now we see the joy in that hurt. The pain means there was a lot of love there.

Love and laughter.

Pops - Formal - Anchorage

Internet Friends are Real and Other Lessons

I’ve been home from BlogHer for over a week and a half now and I’m still trying to figure out how to write a recap.

Ok, let’s be honest, I’m struggling to write anything.

Before BlogHer, my whole family got sick. It started with Eddie and a trip to the ER. He was burning up and was sick and scared. Turned out he had a nasty case of strep throat. Then Charlie got it. Then I got it. Then Cortney got it.

We also have this THING going on (that’s not bad, but I can’t talk about it yet).

Just before leaving, my wonderful friend, The Preacher’s Wife, dropped off homemade soup, salad, applesauce, cookies, and a nice crusty loaf of bread. I cried. I just felt so…taken care of. It sounds silly to say out loud, but other than my mom, I don’t have many women near me who just do that sort of thing.

So then the next day I left for San Jose.

My first full day there I found out Eddie was sick all over again. Or rather he was still sick. The antibiotics hadn’t taken care of it all. Cortney was worried that if Eddie didn’t get rid of his fever, his plans to go to a concert Saturday night would be thwarted. I worried because I felt guilty that Cortney was losing so many days at work (and possibly a fun night out) and I was on the other side of the country.

But something happened at the conference.

While I did spend a lot (a LOT) of time texting with Cortney about everyone’s health, I was also surrounded by women who were legitimately concerned too.

I’ve been blogging for seven years, and over that time I have heard over and over “find your tribe”. I will admit right here that I always thought that was hokey.  Wasn’t that just another way of telling women to find their blogger “clique”?  What was this? High school?  I wasn’t in any “tribe” in high school and I wasn’t going to start now. I just get along with everyone…or almost everyone.

Just over a year ago I found myself in a blogger tribe. A group of women who where, at first, my go-to for all things internet and writing. But as we all communicated, it became so much more. Since we are all personal bloggers, personal stuff gets intertwined in the discussion about blogging. We have been there for intense high moments (births, graduations, etc) and horrible lows (pregnancy loss, deaths in the family, divorce, etc).

Many of these women were at BlogHer. Whenever they saw me, the first thing out of their mouths was always, “how are  you? Is everything Ok with the boys? How is the THING?” I felt loved and cared for even though I was worried and exhausted from stupid jet lag.

And that extended to the rest of the conference too. It was smaller this year than in the past years I went and I liked that.

Every presentation I went to from Jenny Lawson to Kerry Washington, from Tig Notaro to all the 10×10′s, and especially the VOTY (which is my #1 reason for wanting to be there in the first place, I felt this mad supportive vibe. The conference was intimate and more intense than ever. Over and over I felt the message was TELL YOUR STORY. TELL IT.

And the stories we heard: hilarious, heart-wrenching, horrible.

I tried to say hi to everyone that I know online if I saw them, but I know I missed a few.

I didn’t feel stressed out by the conference this year because there weren’t a zillion things going on at once. I liked that they eliminated all the outside parties and events and kept everything close.

I was a little bummed by the food choices. I mean, I get that we were in California, but a side salad is not a meal, yo. As Homer Simpson says, “You don’t make friends with salad.” And of course, as usual, the water/beverage situation was lacking. I will say breakfast was yum though. #baconrules

But in the grand scheme of it all, those are minor complaints.

Overall BlogHer was what I needed. I needed to hear those stories and be encouraged to tell mine. I needed to be reminded of the greatness of being a blogger…of being a personal blogger.

Voice matters.

And the voices of my friends were loud and clear: you matter to us, Katie.

In the span of two weeks I experienced something that I never really did before: women taking care of women just because it’s the kind thing to do. Because it’s how we hope our fellow sisters will treat us.

My blogging “tribe”, The Preacher’s Wife, and so many others just praying and helping where they can.

It’s a gift to realize you are loved.

I spend a lot of time an energy thinking about how I am not good at female friendships, but the past few weeks have proven to me that I don’t suck at them either.

just a few of the women who I call my friends. Photo credit: Elaine of The Miss Elaine-ous Life

just a few of the women who I call my friends. Photo credit: Elaine of The Miss Elaine-ous Life

Project 365 {Week 32}

Oh hi.  Here I am with just pictures again.

But I have THREE posts in draft!

We will see what happens with that.

I mean, I totally didn’t take any pictures Sunday or Monday this week, so do with that what you might.

I can tell you that Sunday we were lazy and Monday we got to see a best friend from Denver, so they were good days.

Here is the rest of the week:

August 5: the five-year well child appointment. Not excited for the shots.

August 5: the five-year well child appointment. Not excited for the shots.

August 6: Trying to get moved into my classroom. Failing because SO OVERWHELMED.

August 6: Trying to get moved into my classroom. Failing because SO OVERWHELMED.

August 7: This guy has been putting in more than his share around here lately. Team work, yo. It's so important.

August 7: This guy has been putting in more than his share around here lately. Team work, yo. It’s so important.

August 8: This is what my house looks like. Real talk, people. I am ready for summer to be over.

August 8: This is what my house looks like. Real talk, people. I am ready for summer to be over.

August 9: Big Beach day on the Big Lake. So much fun gabbing with old friends who we don't see nearly as often as we like.

August 9: Big Beach day on the Big Lake. So much fun gabbing with old friends who we don’t see nearly as often as we like.

This week begins the hardest one of our year.

That time between Cortney’s dad’s birthday (the 9th) and the anniversary of his death (the 14th it will be 9 years).

We WILL find joy and peace in this week though.

Because Pops would want us to.

Project 365 {week 31)

I mean.

I have no excuse for why this is late…and again my only post.

Well, I do.

But I can’t talk about it yet.

It’s not bad; it just takes a LOT of my energy and time right now.

I’m doing my best.

July 27: my last day in San Jose. This is the sandwich I got and ate in my bed in my jammies because I could.

July 27: my last day in San Jose. This is the sandwich I got and ate in my bed in my jammies because I could.

July 28: Finally home...of course he met me at the airport with flowers. Of course he did.

July 28: Finally home…of course he met me at the airport with flowers. Of course he did.

July 29: This boy doesn't feel good, but is so happy to have mommy's arms home.

July 29: This boy doesn’t feel good, but is so happy to have mommy’s arms home.

July 30: We haven't gotten dressed in two days. Re-entry is a beast.

July 30: We haven’t gotten dressed in two days. Re-entry is a beast.

July 31: He has not left my side in three days.

July 31: He has not left my side in three days.

August 1: make that four days.

August 1: make that four days.

August 2: I am told that this is Busy Town. I see mess. Po-tay-toe, Po-tah-toe, am I right?

August 2: I am told that this is Busy Town. I see mess. Po-tay-toe, Po-tah-toe, am I right?

I have words in my head.

Lots of them, actually.

But there is a THING that is blocking them.

Again, not a BAD thing, but a THING.

Also school starts in less than a month, so you know, I’ve started THE DREAMS.

I’m trying, yo.

Project 365 {week 30}

So.

I am incredibly behind.

We have been sick. And then I went to BlogHer. And the boys were all still sick.

And then I had jet lag.

And now, finally, I cracked open my computer only to almost run away out of overwhelm.

This is what I failed to post on Sunday…

So I don’t have anything for July 20 because we were still all feeling like garbage.

July 21: I start to get weepy about leaving my little dudes.

July 21: I start to get weepy about leaving my little dudes.

I don’t have anything for July 22 because I was probably too busy freaking out that  I was leaving my boys the next day.

I have anxiety.

July 23: feet in an airport. I hate the travel part because it's a lot of crowds and waiting.

July 23: feet in an airport. I hate the travel part because it’s a lot of crowds and waiting.

July 24: I met Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black.

July 24: I met Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black.

July 25: I was honored at the Voices of the Year presentation. Those are my words on that big board!

July 25: I was honored at the Voices of the Year presentation. Those are my words on that big board!

July 26: Just at a party that Rev Run is MC-ing. No biggie.

July 26: Just at a party that Rev Run is MC-ing. No biggie.

I’ll probably write a BlogHer recap like everyone else. I just don’t have the energy yet.

But as you can see, it pretty much rocked.

I mean, I’m still recuperating.

Netflix for Learning

netflix

When Eddie was 3 months old and I was going back to work after maternity leave, Cortney was laid off from work. Cort spent his days being a stay at home dad, looking for work, and watching documentaries on Netflix. So many documentaries. And the topic really didn’t matter to him. He would watch films on subjects such as beer as well as fonts.

You think I’m kidding. He totally watched a documentary called Helvetica. Yes, it was almost 3 hour devoted to the history of a FONT.

He’s not the only one who loves to mix some learnin’ in with his TV watchin’. I’ve been known to camp out in front of Modern Marvel marathons myself. Remember when channels like History actually had shows about history of stuff on it?  Ah the good old days…thank goodness for Netflix!

I was going to try to list for you the documentaries Netflix has available, but then I spent almost 30 minutes falling down the rabbit hole of what is available and wanting to see about 50 of them.

So instead I’ll tell you the learning stuff the boys love.

JulyLittleKids

We went through a pretty heavy Busytown Mysteries phase here in Sluiter Nation. It was the go-to bedtime show. Recently Eddie and Charlie discovered The Magic School Bus which brings back fond memories for me.  I never watched the show, but my brothers had a lot of the books and when I babysat them, I read those books over and over. I think my mom still has them at her house.  I should try to find them.

As I type this, it is nap time for Charlie, and Eddie is watching Turtle: The Incredible Journey.  He claimed to know everything about turtles, but he is pretty entranced in watching all those baby turtles book it off the beach to the sea.

So you’ll have to excuse me. I’m going to shut down my computer now and watch about the lives of turtles with Eddie.

Share some documentaries or learning shows you and your family love!

Project 365 {week 29}

This week was pretty dumb.

I got nothing for Sunday, July 13. I read in church and then I think we slept the rest of the day.

July 14: After a rough day with the boys, my church book club meets at a yummy restaurant for the $5 burger/beer special.

July 14: After a rough day with the boys, my church book club meets at a yummy restaurant for the $5 burger/beer special.

July 15: Strep throat hits this guy.

July 15: Strep throat hits this guy.

July 16: After an AWFUL day that included the doctor's office and the ER, this guy get some meds that make him feel much better.

July 16: After an AWFUL day that included the doctor’s office and the ER, this guy get some meds that make him feel much better.

July 17: but now this guy is sick.

July 17: but now this guy is sick.

And I have nothing for July 18 because I fell victim and only got out of bed to go to the doctor’s office. Cort stayed home from work because I cried at the thought of moving.  It. Was. Rough.

July 19: The boys are all feeling fine, so they join family up north at a cottage. I stay home and feel miserable.

July 19: The boys are all feeling fine, so they join family up north at a cottage. I stay home and feel miserable.

As I go to hit publish on this, I have been back to the ER. No strep for me, but horrible bad virus giving me a sore throat. Cort is falling to it as I type.

I leave for BlogHer on Wednesday.

I’m not sure how much I will be around as I try to get 100% (ok even 90%) better so travel doesn’t suck.

I also need my family to be healthy because I will cry the entire 5 days if I abandon sick boys.

Also my house is a mess and I can’t leave it this way or it will be worse when I get back.

And I have laundry to do.

And I have to pack.

And I have to cuddle with those boys because I am getting anxiety about leaving.

So.

If you’re going to BlogHer…find me! I will be getting in Wednesday night, but ready for civilization on Thursday. I’ll have info about blogging opportunities with Imagine Toys.

If you’re NOT going to BlogHer, it might be quiet around here this week.

Isn’t summer sickness the worst thing in the world? Yes. yes it is.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Over spring break Cortney and I took Eddie to Chicago. We went to some of the typical fun tourist things like Shedd Aquarium and the Lincoln Park Zoo. While Eddie was swimming in the hotel pool (on the top floor), Cortney noticed a little new/used bookstore a couple blocks downs from our hotel. The next night, after dinner–and a few beers–Cortney suggested we walk to the bookstore. And then he bought us each one book.

ONE BOOK!

How do you decide on just one book when you are standing in an old, creaky building filled with words?

So I scoured the shelves.

I picked things up. At some point I had 10 books in my arms.

In the end, I chose Where’d You Go, Bernadette? I really didn’t know anything about the book other than I saw on Facebook that a group of friends had read it and discussed it and they liked it.

And the cover looked interesting.  Sometimes it’s just that simple.

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