BFFs and Netflix

My best friend since the 7th grade lives in Chicago which takes almost three hours one-way to get to.  We don’t see each other as much as either of us would like.

But back in the day…in high school…we were inseparable. We almost never had classes together–I’m not sure why–but we always found a way to see each other between classes. I can still remember my senior year schedule after 18 years:

I didn’t see anyone before school because I was always late, but after first hour Spanish 3, we passed in the hallway on my way to government (this is also where she would tell me if her first hour government class got donuts so I could tell our class and get some for us too).

Third hour we had advanced psychology together. This is where we watched a birthing video, a kid fainted, and she yelled out, “OH MY GOD! WHAT IS THAT BABY DOING TO THAT WOMAN?!?”  We both vowed to never have babies until we were in our 30’s. (Eddie was born when I was 31 and she gave birth at 34).

Fourth hour I had band and she went to lunch.

After band I had lunch and we met by my locker to walk to 5th hour together. Every day we passed an English teacher named Mr. Larsen and I said, “Hi to my favorite teacher I never had!” and he said hello to us always calling my BFF his favorite red-headed student.

We sat near the front in our Brit Lit class together. Daily we made our teacher chuckle with our “verbal fluencies” discussing whatever topic he told us to.

Neither of us had a last hour in the building. I was a teacher’s aid for the band director and she did some community learning thing where she assisted an elementary teacher. Some days, when neither of us had to report, we did a 7-11 run.

Come to think of it, we did a LOT of 7-11 runs back then.

We were most definitely a dynamic duo.

I miss that randomness now.

There are MANY days when I think, “what I wouldn’t give to jump in the old Nissan, pick up T, and hit 7-11 for a Big Gulp and a King Size Butterfinger.”

After those 7-11 runs we usually went back to her house and watched movies. So many movies. Reality Bites, Pretty in Pink, Footloose and the Wayne’s World movies.

Wayne's World

Oh the Wayne’s World movies…such great memories. Party on!

Anyway, I miss T. I miss our togetherness and how we didn’t have to talk about deep issues or gossip about other people, we just could hang out and discuss why in the world the 7-11 Big Gulp cup said that Mt Dew was available when our store didn’t have it. False advertising, yo.

Sometimes, like Wayne and Garth, the best friends are those who are just fun and get you without having to have deep conversations.

Although I like to think that if we still lived close, we would have those big discussions about religion, politics, child-raising, etc.But maybe not.

What I know is this: If you have a person in your life who you can be half of a duo with, someone who makes you laugh and is easy to be around, say an extra “thank you” for that person. Because I miss mine.

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Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. All thoughts and opinions are mine. Netflix provided my family with a free year subscription of Netflix and an ipad mini to watch it on.

Skin Color Conversations

This week, unprompted, Eddie and I had three separate conversations about skin color.

Me: Hey, I wonder what Alice will look like.

Eddie: Maybe she will have curly hair!  Maybe she will have pretty brown skin! Maybe she will have blue eyes!

Me: Well, daddy has curly hair and I have blue eyes, so that is possible. If she has brown skin though, I will be jealous.

Eddie: Why? Because you are so peachy?

Me: Yes! Plus she probably won’t have brown skin since neither me or daddy have brown skin.

Eddie: So? Aunt Mackenzie and uncle Dave don’t have brown skin and TWO of their kids do. I like it.

Me: That is true, Eddie. But remember that Kingston and Kyrie were born in Ethiopia and Aunt Kenz and Uncle Dave went on a plane to get them there. They didn’t come out of Aunt Kenz’s tummy.

Eddie: So? They are still a family. I hope Alice has brown skin.

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Eddie (drawing a picture of Santa Claus on our snow day): Mom? What color skin does Santa have?

Me: I don’t know.

Eddie: How do you not KNOW?

Me: I’ve never met him. I mean, I’ve met his helpers at the malls who listen to kids tell their Christmas lists and stuff, but I’ve never seen the REAL Santa. I’m always asleep!

Eddie: Huh. I guess that makes sense. What color skin do you THINK he has? I mean, I need to color his skin here, mom.

Me: I guess I never thought about it. I don’t know.

Eddie: I’m just going to color him tan.

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Eddie (while watching The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That): You know why I don’t like this show, mom?

Me: Why?

Eddie: Because they never say whether Nick (black)  and Sally (white) are brother and sister or just friends.

Me: Well don’t they have different moms?

Eddie: Well, there are two moms, but sometimes I’m not sure if they are in the same house or not. So are they friends or brother and sister?

Me: I guess I don’t know either, Ed. Does it matter?

Eddie: No. But I just wish I knew. Every time I watch this I think about it.

Me: Why?

Eddie: I just like to know what is what!

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I like to have these conversations with Eddie. I know he notices skin color–he has an Indian friend and a Latino friend at school and has mentioned that the three of them all have different skin colors–but we have never brought up a separate discussion about what race is.

The only “race” Eddie knows it the kind you run in.

I don’t shy away from any conversation he has ever wanted to have with me, and I think it’s made him much more open to asking lots of questions. But is this good enough? I want my kids to be socially aware and active. I want them to choose kindness and love over everything else.

So far, Eddie seems to do that and I could not be more proud of him.

Blame the Common Core!

 

Since school has started, I have seen all the usual complaints on Facebook about the evils of the Common Core.

I don’t get the math!  Blame the Common Core!

My kid takes test every other minute!  Blame the Common Core!

My kid has too much homework! Blame the Common Core!

I heard that cursive no longer needs to be taught! Blame the Common Core!

Teachers are given scripts to read; they aren’t teaching anymore! Blame the Common Core!

It snowed in November causing a snow day! Blame the Common Core!

Ok, maybe I didn’t hear that last one, but at this point I wouldn’t be surprised if I did. Lately all the ails of education are being firmly blamed on the Common Core State Standards. As a teacher, this gets tiring to hear/read.

First of all, I didn’t create the Common Core, I just follow the standards. Secondly, I am not opposed to the Common Core. In fact, I sort of like them. I have enjoyed creating projects and lessons more in the past couple years than I have in the decade before. I personally feel more freedom to just be a GOOD teacher.  Let me break it down for you:

Math is hard.

I’m not a math teacher, so it’s hard for me to explain this part to you. I wrote about the math standards last year. Now that I have a son in Kindergarten, I have been following the math standards more closely. I am pleased that not only is he meeting each standard, but I see evidence of how he is learning it through the work that comes home in his folder. The math, so far, seems like it is doing a better job teaching students what numbers mean and how math actually works rather than having them do rote memorization. I think this video explains the math better than I can.

So many tests!

I’m not sure if this is a state thing or a district thing, but I am not seeing it in my district in Michigan. When parents (and even teachers) complain that assessments are taking over their instruction time, I’m not entirely sure if they mean mandated testing (by the state, district, etc) or if they mean assessments their department has put into place.

I give assessments, but they have nothing to do with the fact that I am following common core and everything to do with it being an end of a unit (in vocab or grammar). Papers and projects also count as assessments. And technically I am assessing my students’ understanding daily whether I put it in the gradebook as an official summative assessment or not.

The only assessments that my students HAVE to take outside of my class curriculum are the SRI (Scholastic Reading Inventory) Test (4 times a year) and the SMI (scholastic math inventory) Test (4 times a year). They also take the state test once a year (in April).

Too much homework!

I don’t know what to tell you here. Homework is not anywhere in the Common Core Standards. In fact, I assign almost no homework.

Homework is an implementation thing. So if you feel your child has too much, you should be talking with the teacher and/or administration.

No more cursive???

Ok, it’s true. Cursive is not included in the Common Core State Standards. But neither is Tuesdays with Morrie and I’m teaching that to my 8th graders. The Common Core are standards that every child in that grade should achieve. That doesn’t mean teachers can’t go beyond the standards. Just because cursive isn’t required in the standards, doesn’t mean teachers aren’t teaching it.

Teacher Scripts.

I’ve heard of this happening. Or at least I’ve heard of districts telling teachers what and how to teach. That is not happening in my district. In fact, I think it’s happening in districts that are panicked about the Common Core and how they can “teach to the test” given in their state.

The teachers in our district (and others across Michigan) have worked hours and hours to actually make learning more student-centered; to create project-based, inquiry-based, and authentic learning for their students.  Since adopting the Common Core in our district years ago (when it was first mentioned in the state), we have actually made more room for good teachers to do good teaching.

If you feel the teachers in your district are being told how to teach–and it’s not good teaching–speak up! No where in the Common Core does it say HOW to teach, only what standards to teach.

Snow Day in November??

This happened here because of a foot of snow. Not the fault of the common core.

Are there issues with the Common Core? Yes. They have become very political, money has ruled (the way it does everything else in this country), and it’s being implemented poorly in some areas.

However, as a teacher in the trenches of it all, dealing with matching what I do with these “new” standards, I like it. I block out much of the politics and bickering about testing and I just do what I do: teach the best I can.

I really believe that is what the majority of teachers are doing. I know my son’s Kindergarten teacher is doing a fabulous job…not because of the common core nor in spite of them, but because he is an amazing teacher.

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I am a part of the Michigan Education Association’s (MEA) Common Core Cadre that works to inform and aid districts across Michigan on best practice of implementing the Common Core State Standards. I’ve also been published in the Language Arts Journal of Michigan on the subject.

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The best way to be a great student no matter what the standards is to be a great reader!  Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for the children’s book Stand Up!

First Snow Day

Today Eddie and I are home for our very first snow day of the 2014-15 school year.

This is sort of a big deal because it’s only November 18 and there is over a foot of snow out there…and it’s still coming down. It’s also cool because my school district doesn’t close very often (we are an urban district with city roads that are very well plowed), but Eddie’s closes more frequently (his has a ton of rural roads). So the fact that we have today off together is pretty neat.

When I got the call just before 5:30am that my school was closed, I just figured Eddie’s was closed too. He is not a sleeper-in-er, so I figured this would mean when Cortney and Charlie left around 7am, I would need to get up.

Not so. Eddie was content to snuggle on the couch with the tablet and TV until almost 9am! He came into my room, slid into his daddy’s spot in bed, and put his face close to mine, “Mom? Hi. It’s a snow day!  Can you make me some breakfast?”

And thus started our day.

We watched some TV and had some breakfast.

I did some random things around the house that were bugging me (full sink of dishes, towels needing folding, etc) and Eddie decided it was a good day to put a major dent in his weekly homework.

Seriously. He decided this on his own!

2014-11-18 11.02.33

 

After he was done with homework, he got out his crayons and paper and the stapler and made a book. He also read all the Kindergarten sight words to me while I worked next to him. Then he went on to the first grade ones.

We had some lunch and discussed the awesomeness of carrots with ranch dressing.

We read some books.

Now he is watching Frosty the Snowman because it’s fitting and I am thinking about taking a shower…or lying on the couch with a book.

This day was a lovely little blessing.

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Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a signed copy of the children’s book, Stand Up!

Stand Up {a giveaway}

Children’s books are a HUGE part of our family life in Sluiter Nation.

Eddie has so many that I am running out of shelf room in his bedroom.  Charlie has so many board books they are taking over the nursery. And yet, I would never ever say, “oh, we have enough books.”  There is just no such thing as “enough” when it comes to books.

Recently we added one more book to our growing pile, Stand Up. But this book is extra special. This one is authored by David Stefanich, otherwise known as “Uncle Dave” in our house since he is, in fact, the kids’ uncle.

Stand Up is a book about Xavier, a student at Parker Elementary. Xavier is a victim of bullying. The book follows Xavier from Kindergarten through 3rd grade and shows the importance of bystanders and how they can make all the difference.

David works in education as an elementary school principal and he is acutely aware of the challenges kids face at this age. Not only is the plot of the book wonderful for kids of all ages, but because of his work in education, it’s also the perfect book for making predictions, making inferences, and opening up discussion between parents and children.

Eddie and Charlie have listened to “Uncle Dave’s Book” countless times in the short week we’ve had it, and every time something new comes up when we are finished.

Stand Up would make the perfect gift this holiday season, but one of you has the chance to win a copy signed by the author here!

Just follow the directions in the Rafflecopter widget below. A winner will be chosen at midnight on November 25.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. We received two copies of the book because we paid for two copies. Now I want to give one to one of you because we love it and its author.

A Little Bit of Girl

About four years ago one of my very great friends found out she was not having just one girl, but two! I got so excited that I just started buying baby girl things.

I got the girls pillow case dressed from Etsy, blankets and burp clothes from a friend, and just sort of sighed deeply at all the cute assuming I would probably not get to do this for myself.

Of course, I was wrong as is evidenced by the fact that a little Alice is growing (and moving!) inside of me as I type.

Last night our families got together for our monthly night of delicious food–her husband is the best cook I have ever met–kid fun, adult time for cards, and so many laughs.

As we were standing around chatting while dinner cooked, she came out with some things for Alice.
2014-11-16 13.07.32
Those dresses, blankets, and burp cloths are the ones I bought four years ago for her dear twin girls. She saved them in case I ever had a girl. I didn’t want to get all emotional on her, but I had completely forgotten about these gifts and I hugged them close to me. I’m pretty sure no one noticed that my breath was taken away and my eyes momentarily filled with tears.

I held the shoes in the palm of my hand while I thought of the seemingly hundreds of boy shoes I have in a tub under Eddie’s bed. I looked at this single pair of girl shoes and almost lost it.

It’s real.

I’m having a little girl.

We will bring her home and she will live here beside the two boys who are already bigger than the space we have.

She will carve out her own special place in this family.

She.

 

Grandparents

B
Cortney and I have wonderful memories with all of our grandparents. I have gotten to listen to stories about camping trips with Cort’s maternal grandparents and Christmas’s with his paternal grandparents.Since we have been married, we lost both of Cortney’s grandfathers. Both deaths were very hard on our family because the men were such huge influences on Cortney’s life.

I have fond memories of my Grandma Jo. She was my mom’s mom and she taught me so much about being a kind, generous, strong woman. She was also hilariously fun and never shied away from a challenge. Including having me, my two brothers, and our five cousins all over for a weekend while our parents went skiing.

My paternal grandparents live across the street from an elementary school and I can remember them taking us there to play. I also have the best memories of my Grandma R reading me fairy tales from a book she has since given to me. It is big and old and falling apart. The pages are yellowy brown. It has been taped by ancient masking tape hundreds of times. These stories inspired me to want to tell stories too.

I could go on and on about our grandparents, but those are different posts.

Today I have been thinking about my parents and Cortney’s parents and the relationships they have been building with our kids.

We are so lucky to live within miles of both of our parents. Our kids have grown up seeing them often, and they never hesitate to babysit for us.

They build wonderful memories.

I can only hope that our parents live long lives so that our children get to have years and years of memories with them.

I also think about how they will never have memories of their Papa Steve, who died four years before Eddie was born. It’s hard for me to not wonder what memories they would be making with him.

One thing I know for sure is that our parents are the best grandparents in the world for our children. They love them unconditionally and spoil them the way grandparents should spoil their grandchildren–the way they never ever would have spoiled their own children!

Sometimes…

Sometimes…

I feel like I am failing.

I don’t think I have enough patience to be a mother.

I wonder why I thought I could have another baby.

Sometimes…

I don’t think I have enough patience to be a junior high school teacher.

I think I have to choose between being a nice teacher or the crabby teacher because being “fun” means kids can’t refocus.

I think about quitting.

Sometimes…

I feel like a let down as a wife.

I am painfully aware of how much work it is to love me.

I cry when he can’t hear me.

Sometimes…

I wonder why people stay my friend.

I have to admit I wouldn’t be friends with me.

I step outside myself and don’t like what I see.

Sometimes…

I laugh so hard at something my  boys do, I forget all the other challenges of the day.

I see in his eyes that wants no one else but me.

I think I can change the world one student at a time.

Sometimes I forget that my life is blessed because I get blinded by my self-doubts.

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sometimes i know, sometimes i rise
sometimes i fall, sometimes i don’t
sometimes i cringe, sometimes i live
sometimes i walk, sometimes i kneel
sometimes i speak of nothing at all
sometimes i reach to myself, dear god
~Sometimes by Pearl Jam

The Days are Long…

“The days are long, but the years are short.”

I hate that phrase, but I use it all the time.

Just this morning I woke up to our alarm, rolled over, looked at the clock and thought, “How in the world is it only Thursday?”  I find myself wishing the days to go faster, to start later and end earlier.

The days start when it’s dark. I eat the same eggs and toast. I choose from the same few maternity outfits. I take the same drive to work. I follow the same schedule. I can expect the same challenges each day.

The days are ruts. Familiar and comfortable, yet confining and draining.

As I crawl into bed, I curse the early morning alarm that will be sounding in just a few short hours.

Dark morning to dark night.

Every day a list a mile long.

Every day a thousand needs to fill for a thousand different people.

Every day little to no energy.

Every day a thousand things left undone.

Last night I told Cortney that I find myself wishing for the end of the pregnancy because it means the end of this stressful “first” school year in my building, the end of this increasingly uncomfortable pregnancy, and the end of pregnancy for me forever.  But then I feel immediate guilt for such thoughts. I feel those little kicks in there that only I can feel yet. I think about how as soon as Alice is here, she starts that quick stage of infancy…the minute she snuggles in my arms, time starts to take that baby away.

Sunday we were at my nephew’s first birthday party. Charlie came monstering up to me and I actually flinched at how BIG he looked to me. I flashed back to how I cried and cried at how big Eddie looked when I brought Charlie home from the hospital almost 3 years ago, and realized that if Charlie looks big to me now? In four months he is going to seem like a dang adult.

I’ve only been a mom for five and a half years!

But holy cow…I’ve been a mom for a whole five and a half years!  That is longer than I was in college!

How did those years slip by so quickly when I feel like each minute of each day is plodding along at the speed of grass growing?

Somehow I have a 5-year old who tells me that he was “upset” or that something is “inappropriate” as he writes full sentences and reads me books.

Somehow I have a 2.5-year old who “reads” his favorite books because he knows them by heart, tells me he loves me, dances like a fool, and talks in full sentences.

Yet here I sit looking at the clock, wishing it was Friday afternoon rather than Thursday, and willing the next week to fly by so Thanksgiving Break can get here.

How can time fly and drag at the same time?

Five Books You (& your teen) Need to Read NOW!

I’ve been doing Reader’s Workshop with my 8th and 9th graders for almost 11 weeks now, and I have noticed that there are certain books I simply can’t keep on my shelves. There is constantly a wait list for these books.

Sometimes I start the craze by doing a book talk that gets the kids interested.

Sometimes they start their own craze–someone reads the book and tells a friend, and he tells a friend, and so on and so forth.  That is my favorite. In fact I was standing outside my classroom door in between classes today when I heard one of my students yell down the hall to another one of my students, “DUDE!  You checked out MY book!  I was going to get it today and you BEAT ME TO IT!  You better read fast!”

I don’t think I noticed anything else that happened today. That one interaction made me so happy.

Anyway, I thought I would share with you the Top 5 books (or series)* that I probably won’t see on my shelves again until I take inventory this summer.

Winger by Andrew Smith

I read this book on the recommendation of my friend, The Preacher’s Wife. She almost had no words for how it affected her.  The book is about a kid named Ryan Dean who everyone calls Winger due to his position on the school rugby team. He is a 14-year old junior at a very prestigious private school, that his parents put him in after he couldn’t stay out of trouble back home. On top of being young and ridiculously smart, Ryan Dean is also in love with his best friend, Annie, a fellow junior (but who is 17). His dorm-mate is the biggest bully on the rugby team and he is constantly fighting the label “kid”. This book is laugh-out-loud hilarious, but will tear you apart and leave you changed. One caveat: it has some pretty raunchy language, but it flows so well with the book, to me it’s forgivable.

The Selection (series) by Kiera Cass

I have not read this series, but I haven’t been able to keep it in my classroom since I got it. I have the first two books in the trilogy plus a special stories book that just came out in paperback. The girls in my classes check in daily to see if I have gotten the third book!  I have a lot of girls who love The Princess Diaries series, and once they finish that they want something similar. This series has some of the same aspects, but is more of a challenging read.

The reviews I read say the trilogy is like The Hunger Games meets The Bachelorette. Thirty-five girls are “selected” to vie for the crown. The main character, America Singer, is bummed to be selected because that means she is now a caste above the boy she loves, but in the process of competition she meets a prince. So there’s romance and royalty and back-stabbing.

The teenage girls love it.

The Maze Runner (series) by James Dashner

Again, I haven’t read this one, but holy cow kids love it. Boys AND girls fight to get their hands on this series. I have all four books now: The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure, and most recently added, the prequel to the series, The Kill Order. 

Apparently it’s everything I am not a fan of in books and the masses LOVE it. Most of the kids who pick it up have already worked through The Hunger Games series AND The Divergent Series and are looking for something new.  According to the student I asked today, it’s about a guy who can only remember his name. He has no other memories and all the people around him are guys and the only way out is through this maze that no one has yet made it out of. A girl shows up and says they have to run or die.  The student wouldn’t tell me more other than, “just read the book, Mrs. S. That is what you tell us!”

Fricking kids actually listening to what I say.

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

The girls in my classes pretty much keep my “death & dying section” completely empty. As I type this there are zero books on that shelf.  This is another book I haven’t read yet. Not because I don’t want to, but because my students really want it, so I am just waiting until either summer, or when I can check it out of the library over a break (or maternity leave).

The book is about a kid named Clay who gets a package from a classmate (and crush), Hannah, who committed suicide. Inside the package are cassette tapes where Hannah narratives 13 reasons why she killed herself, one of them being Clay.  He has to listen to find out why.

From that alone I can see why my students want to read it. I mean shoot, want to read it.

Why Soccer Matters by Pele

I use this one as an example, but really any soccer books fly off my shelves. I have so many soccer fans. I also have a book by Dr. J that my basketball players keep rotating among themselves. Students who claim to not be readers, tend to get interested in non-fiction about people and sports and activities they love. This is one section of my classroom library I am really trying to beef up. Even though these are not my first choice of book, many of my students gravitate toward these.

When I have a reluctant reader, the first thing I ask is “what do you like to do?” If they are into a sport or a hobby, I direct them to my nonfiction section. It seems that if I can get them hooked there, they are likely to ask for more books.  What is interesting is that nonfiction tends to be more challenging to read than a lot of the fiction I have, yet my reluctant and non-readers would rather read (and be seen with) a book about a soccer champ, than something else.

Have you read any of these books? Do you have any suggestions based on these? What are your teens reading?

*I could include in here The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie in this, but I already posted about those and how you need to read them.

My students are HUNGRY for new books! If you are feeling generous, we are always taking donations. Here is a list of student-requested titles.

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