COVID Comes to Sluiter Nation

Masked up at the Imagination Station in Toledo, Ohio (July 2021)

We follow the rules.

From March of 2020 until school started in September 2020, we did not interact with anyone–our extended family included–without masks and/or six feet of distance. We had ONE family in our quarantine bubble.

Once school started, we masked, washed hands, sanitized constantly. The only person from our house still going anywhere other than school/work was Cortney. We still get our groceries delivered (this isn’t even because of COVID, if I am honest. I just hate grocery shopping).

I signed up to be vaccinated in January of this year the minute the email came through saying I could. I was fully vaccinated by the beginning of February. Cortney was fully vaccinated about a month after that. Eddie happily bared his arm as soon as he turned 12 this summer.

Even going into this school year vaccinated and masked, I STILL wash and sanitize my hands between every class, before and after I eat, and before I leave the building.

And yet, I tested positive for COVID last month.

It started on a Thursday morning. We had slept with the windows open Wednesday night. I woke up on Thursday with sinuses that were under pressure. I knew having the windows open was a bad idea given the field of ragweed we had growing back there, but I did it anyway.

At some point on Thursday I realized I couldn’t smell much. My face was full and I was wearing a mask all day, so I just made a mental note, but mostly pushed it out of my mind.

I complained about it on Friday when my salad at lunch was rather bland. Then I complained some more at dinner. And after the kids went to bed. I was getting very annoying, apparently, because after assuring me for the 100th time that my sinuses were clogged and that I should just forget about it, Cortney finally said, “Then get a damn test tomorrow if you are so worried about it. Ugg!”

Fine. I made an appointment to get a test at Walgreens after Charlie’s last soccer game.

Saturday morning my face was less painfully full, but still full. I felt like maybe I didn’t need the COVID test after all, but I made the appointment, so I did it. That night we had pizza and I could clearly taste the salty olives on our half.

Sunday I had a HUGE sneezing attack, my face was suddenly not clogged, and I could taste and smell everything.

Oh. Well. No COVID, probably.

Went to school on Monday.

Monday night around 7pm I got an email from Walgreens. I assumed it was to tell me I was negative. You can imagine my shock when it said POSITIVE FOR COVID in bold letters.

Well, shit.

What do I do? I called my principal and gave him the craptacular news. He had our HR person call me and we worked out my quarantine would have to be the rest of the week. I could come back on Monday.

Cortney, in the meantime, set up COVID tests for himself and all three kids on Tuesday. I emailed the offices/teachers of all our kids to let them know they would be out on Tuesday for testing due to a close contact.

I also messaged my primary care doctor to find out what, if anything, we should do.

No one else had any symptoms, and I didn’t have any anymore either.

Tuesday morning, I got a message from my doctor saying that if no one else has symptoms, they don’t have to test or quarantine, but that I need to quarantine for 10 days since my symptoms started (which is what I was already doing per our HR requirements in my district).

Cortney went to Walgreens and got them all tested, but when he got back, I read the message from my doctor to him.

Everyone went back to work and school on Wednesday.

Until the elementary schools sent Charlie and Alice home. Because the close contact was in the home and they were not vaccinated or masked around me, they had to quarantine.

Eddie was fine because he was vaccinated. Same with Cortney.

According to our county, Alice and Charlie had to quarantine the rest of the week and all of the following week.

By the way, they still have zero symptoms.

My house, on the other hand, suffered immensely having those two home and us not being able to have much contact.

Thursday the rest of the family’s results came in: Eddie and Cortney both tested negative. Charlie was positive. Alice was inconclusive (she scrunched her nose during the test).

No one had any symptoms.

We treated both the Littles as positive cases and kept them away from everyone.

The second week of COVIDmania meant I could go back to work, but the Littles could not and we couldn’t exactly get a babysitter for them. This mean Cortney and I had to get creative with taking more time off.

We decided I would take Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings off to stay home. Cortney would move all work meetings to those three mornings, and come home in the afternoon so I could go to work. He also took all day Tuesday/Thursday off.

Working from home felt grossly like being virtual since I had to still do lessons and create instructional videos and do eight hours worth of parent/teacher conferences all from home. I felt glued to my computer all over again and it sucked.

I was very happy to walk into work at 11:15am on that Monday morning!

Just as the week began, we got the bad news that Cortney’s uncle, who had been battling the lung damage from COVID pneumonia, passed away. It was a pretty big blow to the family. Rather than taking a half day off on Friday, I took the whole day so that I could attend the funeral with Cortney in the afternoon.

The entire COVIDmania made me so crabby, but I was reminded that because of all the precautions–other than being inconvenienced–our immediate family was fine. Sure we had some positive tests, but no one got sick. At all!

We are pretty sure that I did not bring COVID into the house, I was just the first to test for it and happened to test positive. It’s more likely that it came in with Alice since they had some outbreaks at her school. She probably passed it to me and Charlie. My doctor thinks I tested positive because I was in the early group for my original vaccines.

But now Cortney and I have both had the booster, and the Littles each have dose one in their arms too!

Our house stayed healthy even with positive results because of the precautions we took and because of the vaccine.

My hope going into the holidays is that more people will get vaccinated. That is the only way we will get to be back to some semblance of normal.

The Back to School Post I Forgot About

We went back to school like…two months ago. I took pictures and had every intention of making a nice little post here for posterity.

Then my life laughed and laughed and laughed at me.

So anyway, Back to School!

There are four of us that went back to school–in four different buildings, naturally.

Alice is in 1st grade this year at Quincy. She is in the shark room and loves every minute of it. She is happy to go to school, happy to do homework, just happy happy about all things learning. She loves learning to read and going to her music special the most, although Spanish is a close second.

Charlie is in 4th grade at Lincoln. He is in their iCares program (Emotionally Impaired program). He is doing so well this school year! We have been so proud of him as he continues to learn and use strategies for managing his anxiety. He has been doing his school work regularly and earning lots of new privileges. In fact, he will get to go into the regular ed classroom routinely now since he has been so responsible and showing so much growth! We have been celebrating him a ton this fall!

Alice rides the bus in the morning from daycare and then home to our neighborhood after school. Charlie walks to school with the Walking Group in his school’s neighborhood. This has been so great for his mental health. Movement centers him, and walking each day with a group of kids and adults he can trust has been a game changer! He also rides the bus in the afternoon with Alice. They like walking from the bus stop to home so much, that this past week when I got home early and decided to wait at the bus stop for them, they said, “no thank you” to the ride!

Eddie is in 7th grade this year. The middle of middle school. He gets to use a locker this year, and I laughed so hard when I saw they assigned my 5’7″ tween a bottom locker. He thought I was ridiculous for laughing. Middle school! Ed loves school because he loves to see his friends. He also does better being able to interact with his teachers. His favorite classes this year are Band (he plays the trombone) and ELA (that’s my boy!), but he says he really likes all his classes. In 6th grade, he struggled in math class, but he is absolutely killing it this year! We are darn proud of this kid for how responsible and respectful he is too. The kids’ district has a mask mandate for K-6 graders, but Eddie wears his all the time even though he’s vaccinated because he wants to protect his younger siblings.

And of course, I also went back to school–as a teacher and as a doctoral student.

This year is my 19th year teaching in the Wyoming Public School district. Because of a major staff shake up over the summer, I am still teaching 8th grade English, but I have the honors classes now. So I have three sections of honors and two sections of team-taught 8th grade ELA (with my teaching partner who I have been with since I started at the Junior High in 2014). This has been my hardest school year yet for a number of reasons that I am not going to get into in this post. But I have been blessed with great students, supportive colleagues and administration, and awesome parents/guardians of my students.

This semester I am also taking my very last class toward my PhD–Introduction to Research in Education. I hate it, but it’s necessary and will probably help me with all the researchy technical stuff I’ll need to do for my dissertation work.

Starting in January, I will have two semesters where I do “reading hours” that help me prepare to take my Qualifying Exams next November (2022). I will have to sit for three exams: English Education General Exam, English Education Specialized Exam (still working on my specialization area, but it will probably be something with teaching Middle Grade/Young Adult Literature), and Children’s Literature (my specialized question for this exam will focus on Holocaust Literature for Children/Young Adults). I have like a million books to read before next November to prepare. Ok, maybe not a million, but it is over a hundred.

We are all doing well as far as academics, but the effects of this pandemic are really starting to show in other ways–especially in the negative impacts on my teaching job.

The little kids and I are also in the middle of a quarantine, but that is another post all together!

The Summer of “Yes”

Last summer seemed to be the summer of “nope” and the summer of “that’s cancelled” as everyone in our family committed to not leaving the house as much as was humanly possible. Cortney was the lone contact to the outside world as he went to work and ran our errands for us that we couldn’t take care of online. We had one other family in our quarantine bubble.

This summer, with 3/5 of us being vaccinated, we were [cautiously] able to say yes to many more things–especially outdoor things. Normally, I balk at keeping busy, but this summer has been so fun!

We still have had tons of fun with our “bubble” family, but we were able to also include cousins this summer. Oh how Cortney and I have missed our siblings and their kids! And how our kids missed their cousins! So much loud, giggly chaos happens when they get together.

The library is open again! We hit up the library about every other week this summer, and followed it, naturally, with donuts for lunch from the Zeeland Bakery. Alice also got her own library card this summer! Now everyone has their own card and library tote.

Swimming lessons were offered again this year, so Charlie and Alice completed those in June. Charlie is quite the little fish being in the deep end now and working on his strokes. Alice is still in the shallow and refuses to put her whole head under water or jump in. We’ll get there!

Cortney and I were able to go out on dates again! We could celebrate our anniversary over a yummy dinner and drinks in one of our favorite places, Cooper’s Hawk. AND we could leave our kids with a trusted (and vaccinated) teenage babysitter.

I was able to meet friends for coffee, shopping, lunch, cocktails…whatever! We got caught in the rain! It was so great to be with friends again. Even though this friend was in our bubble last summer, it was still so great to be able to not be at home. We could go into stores and try on clothes.

Like I said, donuts for lunch. Anyone who says kids can’t stand masks never told them, “if you wear your mask, we can go into the bakery and get donuts.” They had those masks on before I could say, “let’s go.” Plus it gave us the opportunity to walk around downtown Zeeland and get out of the house. And eat donuts.

We got ICE CREAM! Again, going out of the house and doing stuff and running errands and stopping for treats just wasn’t possible at all last summer. And the school year was so wonky and we all have such exhaustion after surviving it that the clear answer to “can we get ice cream?” was YES!

We had my parents over and we didn’t have to socially distance outside. We were able to have Grandma over for her birthday and give hugs. Yay vaccines!

More playing with cousins! Seriously, I think one of the biggest gifts to my kids this summer was that they could connect with their cousins again. Until all the adults were vaccinated, no one felt comfortable to do this mask-free, but this summer we have all been able to enjoy each other’s company again.

We met friends at the beach and…you guessed…at more ice cream! All of the kids are happy to be able to go do things again even if it means masking up in buildings and when there are a lot of people around. They don’t care because FUN is an option again.

Charlie went to camp. He traveled with our church over 12 hours away to upstate New York to go to Camp Fowler for a week. We missed him like crazy, but he had so much fun. So much that the first thing he said to me after giving me a giant hug was that he can’t wait to go back next summer. Last summer Fowler had to cancel all summer camps due to COVID. This year, with a safety precautions in place, they were able to safely offer camp again.

Eddie hosted his first sleepover while Charlie was at camp having his two BFFs overnight two nights in a row for some Marvel Movies and gaming. And, clearly, more ice cream. But also minigolf!

Eddie did a week-long day camp this summer (which was great for him) and my mom and I took these two to our local zoo. Camel rides were definitely not part of last summer, but were a big YES this summer.

I saw my college girlfriends for the first time in more than three years. We were able to meet in East Lansing (half of us live on the west side of Michigan, the other half on the east side) for a few hours to have lunch and catch up with everything that has been going on in our lives.

We took a road trip out of state! This one made me a bit nervous, but we were able to be very safe about it. We all masked in all buildings (including the hotel in areas that weren’t our room) and did lots of hand washing and sanitizing. We drove 3 hours to Toledo, Ohio for a quick weekend.

After some lunch, our first adventure was to go to the Imagination Station in downtown Toledo. It was all hands-on math and science learning for kids of all ages. We spent over two hours there. The kids LOVED it, and it was by far the one place we went with the most masking and social distancing. Go figure, people who frequent math/science centers believe…SCIENCE.

The next day we hit up the Toledo Zoo. Cortney and I had visited before we had kids and there had been a bunch of construction. Now it is absolutely beautiful. Not that the kids particularly appreciated it. Alice was mad at her shoes and walking. Charlie was hot and cranky. Eddie was sad he didn’t get a big pretzel. Maybe going to a major zoo on a busy Saturday was partly our fault. Cortney and I enjoyed the animals though.

Our last stop in Toledo was some YUMMY pizza out as a family. I cannot emphasize how great my kids were about wearing their masks when necessary. We were able to have a really fun weekend away and feel safe doing so.

I drove to Chicago and saw my best friend for the first time in two years! You know what we did besides getting manis/pedis? Nothing. We ate and drank and sat on her balcony and talked the day away and it was my favorite day of the whole summer.

We went with my parents to Silver Lake for three days. We splashed in the pool, rode bikes, went on a dune ride, ate at a drive in, saw live music, and of course…ate ice cream.

Our summer is not over yet. Yes, I go back to school on Monday and the kids go back a week after that, but summer lasts until the warm weather fizzles out and we still have fun on the calendar! We said YES this summer to safety and fun and it was SO NEEDED after the school year we finished and the uncertainty of the school year we are about to start.

A Dozen Years Old

**This post was originally published on Medium when I wasn’t sure if I would keep this space**

Dear Eddie,

You turned 12 years old this week.

This is your last year of being a tween, but you are already as tall as I am. Your feet are bigger than mine. You are showing all the physical signs of the teen years being right around the corner.

I tried not to get too emotional in front of you this week. I know it makes you a little eye-rolly and uncomfortable. But I did appreciate that you let me give you multiple hugs all day on your birthday. I honestly thought that my biggest emotion as you get older would be sadness that your babyness, toddlerhood, and little kid self fade into tweeny big kid. But the dominant emotion I feel is pride.

I am so dang proud of you, Eddie.

This school year was a real change for you. Several times you moaned, “I miss elementary school! Ugg!” But you did it! You worked SO hard and figured out how to get extra help and rework assignments and assessments that didn’t go well, and you made the honor roll all year! You learned about communicating with your teachers, checking your grades, keeping track of assignments and due dates. Things weren’t perfect, but you definitely grew this year! You are going into 7th grade with far more tools in your box for being successful than I did at that age!

You continue to have a love/hate relationship with being the oldest. The fact that you have extra responsibilities (like emptying the dishwasher, doing your own laundry, and taking out the trash) causes such extreme eyerolls, that I am concerned that your eyeballs are going to be permanently damaged. I don’t think our insurance covers eyeroll repair. But you do the things.

Your awkward sense of humor is getting weirder and more awesome by the minute. You say and do the most random things and dad looks at me like it’s my fault. It probably is somehow, least of which is that I laugh every time which only serves to encourage you. It’s so wholesomely weird though. I love it!

Your favorite activities at age twelve include: computer games, videogames (specifically Fortnite. ALL THE FORTNITE), talking about all the games, reading books with animals or kids who have challenges, thinking about videogames, watching movies (you still love movies like Luca and Soul — never too old for a good animated film!), drawing, writing, reading comics/graphic novels, hanging out with your “brethren,” Jake and Joe, making people laugh.

The adults that get to interact with you (teachers, youth group, etc.) all tell me that you are so thoughtful and inclusive. Dad and I raz you all the time about your lack of observation skills within our family/home, but I know you are really good at accepting others and not judging someone right off the bat. You aren’t afraid to tell people your beliefs and stances, but you don’t name-call or demean those who don’t agree with you.

You are always open to learning new things and listening to new ideas. It makes me so proud to know you are out there being you, being a model for what peace and love is.

And being hella weird and funny at the same time.

I love you, Eddie. So much.

You are my BEST Eddie.

Love,
Your best Mom

Sweet 16

**This post was originally published on Medium when I wasn’t sure if I would keep this blog**

We started out as two friends who knew each other as elementary kids, became best buddies in high school, and fell in love in their mid-twenties.

It was a quick courtship. We already knew the weird little things about each other. Already knew about each other’s exes and families. Already farted in front of each other. We had already said “I love you” because we had already loved each other deeply as friends for years.

When you brought up dating — or at least being interested in being more than just friends — it seemed crazy at first, but then the most natural thing in the world.

Our beginning was so sweet, so fun. I remember feeling like a cartoon with heart eyes bugging out of my skull every time we were together.

My prayer was that after years and years of marriage, it would still feel so sweet and so fun.

Now we are sixteen years into this marriage thing.

Together we have lost a parent, six grandparents, a niece, family friends, two pregnancies, a pet, an appendix, a gall bladder, a tumor, three lymph nodes, a hernia, a job, a headful (and most body) hair, relationships, our cool, our sanity, control.

Together we have gained three children, brothers and sisters-in-law, seven nephews, five nieces, a godson, life-long friends, a job, three college degrees, a company (part of one), a Nintendo Switch, a deep appreciation for how short this life is, and sore stomachs from laughing so hard — especially late into the night when we should be asleep.

Our love has grown and changed over the past sixteen years, but we still hold hands often, still say “I love you” every time one of us leaves the other, still email all day long (and text all day long when one of us travels). We still watch shows that no one else watches (lately it’s been A&E’s biographies on pro wrestlers. WHY? I have no idea) and play Animal Crossing together almost every evening. And neither of us can sleep well if the other isn’t in the bed.

Not all of the past sixteen years has been sweet, but how we love each other has only gotten better.

43 and 14

Where does the time go? I started this blog when I was 29 years old, had already suffered a miscarriage, and was looking for a way to connect with people–my family and friends in particular–but really anyone who wanted to read.

Now, fourteen years later, this space goes largely forgotten in my daily life. As many bloggers who have bowed out of the blogasphere before me have said, the kids get older and their stories seem more theirs…more private. Less open to sharing on a platform like this.

It’s definitely happened with the Sluiter kids. Eddie is a middle school kid now. There is SO much I wish I could write about–mostly wonderful with a side of typical middle school kid annoyances–but it would be so embarrassing for him to have his friends’ parents or people from church know those things about him. Charlie has gone through a ton. I could start an entire blog devoted to just one part of who he is, but I won’t. That part of him is his. And anything I do share, I share with permission. And Alice–who is very much her own person–is still #3. I have written all the things that are shareable about having a kid her age.

And I am 43. I turned 43 almost three months ago and wrote nothing about it, which gives the false impression that there is nothing to say about it.

There is PLENTY to say about being 43–middle-aged.

I feel my middle-agedness these days. I feel the age gap between me and my students, grad school peers, and the new teachers in my building.

I have come to realize that I relate better to my professors than the other grad students in my classes.

I am finding that my oldest child who used to think I was the beginning, middle, and end to all that is cool, finds my claim of ultimate awesomeness a bit “sus” these days. (Thank goodness Alice still looks to me for tips in coolness.)

When I read Young Adult Literature, I relate to the parents and other adults.

I do not bounce back from a night of too much fun like I used to.

Random aches and pains make me ask, “did I sleep weird? or is that just be being over 40?”

It’s not all negative things, though. Oddly, I feel like younger adults listen to me as a veteran mom, teacher, scholar. Which is…a different feeling. It feels good, but it also feels like a huge responsibility to get things right.

The biggest thing that I have noticed, however, is how I spend my time. As I said, I used to pour lots of time into this blog. I wrote about all the baby things and toddler things and having two little ones things. I did sponsored posts and wrote about my postpartum depression and anxiety and OCD. I supported small businesses and wrote poetry. This space has held so much of our life from my point of view.

And now there are cobwebs because honestly, it is a chore to log in. There are so many plug-ins that always need updating. There is just so. much. content. that it lags when uploading photos or opening a draft or even just logging in. In fact, I have had to log out and log back in a couple times because the “autosave” keeps giving me an error. I just don’t have the time anymore to fight with it.

I don’t have this blog to be a money maker. It used to bring in a few bucks or free product here and there, but it’s never been supplemental income.

More than anything this space is where I keep my memories.

And now, as approach…ok, as I am now IN…my middle age adulthoodness…I just don’t have the time.

Yes, I want to write and share photos. Like look! I had my lazy eye fixed and don’t need glasses or prescription sunglasses anymore and it’s so fun! Plus my hair has grown back enough to actually get shaped into a real style, so I have a CUTE bob going right now that I LOVE!

But I don’t want to fight having this huge blog anymore.

So I think I am closing up my WordPress blog. I’m going to download it so I can make a book…or books…out of it. I’m going to go back to writing on a free platform, I think. Unless someone can tell me how to keep this space, but downsize? I’ll keep the url because why not? But I don’t want to pay for hosting anymore when I blog like 5 times (if I am lucky) per year.

I’ll probably delete my Sluiter Nation FB page because I don’t maintain it.

I just want a space to write and I don’t feel like this (waves hand at blog) is that anymore.

I am 43. Sluiter Nation is almost 14. And it feels like the time for a bit of a change.

Nine

Dear Charlie,

It’s been three weeks since you turned nine. You have grown taller and your feet have gotten bigger in the past year, yes. But you have grown in ways that most people can’t perceive as well.

The past year has been full of challenges, yes. It’s best to acknowledge that right away. Between trying to do school in a pandemic both virtually and in-person and navigating your mental health with zero in-person options for therapy, it can feel like everything is just a big Debby Downer. But it’s not!

Sure there have been struggles, but I am not here to roll out a list of those. I want you to remember how joy-filled your life is too.

A definite favorite is to do just about anything with our friends, the Visels. Because they were our “bubble” friends during the worst of the pandemic, we spent a lot of pool party time! We also played at their house and ate lots of yummy food prepared by Ben. This year you told me that Trisha is like your Mom 2.0 and you listed Ben as a “safe person” on a form at school.

If we weren’t at the Visels, you were begging your brother and sister to play outside with you. All summer you were in and out of water-related outdoor play. It meant for lots of wet swimsuits and beach towels along with grass clippings all over the house.

Your brain is always moving a million miles a minute. You are always thinking of the next thing to do or to create. Often, you bring your ideas to Grandpa and somehow he can make those ideas into reality in his workshop. The two of you have created a bow (pictured), wooden hatchets, a shield, a sword, a trident, and probably more that I can’t remember.

Oh and you love selling things: art, lemonade, whatever. You haven’t gotten many buyers, but that doesn’t stop you. Related to this: you are terrible at saving money. So bad. As soon as you get money you want to spend it on stuff for Fortnite or take it to 5 Below or buy an app for the ipad or spend it at a garage sale. This past summer we had to hide your money because you were buying literal garbage from the neighborhood garage sales. That didn’t stop you, though. You started hitting up the sales asking what you could have for free. That is when I found you wheeling home a yellow rolling office chair with your bike in the chair: “They asked if my mom would mind. I said you wouldn’t!”

You were mistaken.

But we still have that dang chair.

You love to do things and you do not want to bother with silly things like being clean or picking up after yourself. It seems Dad and I are always trying to get to you to clean up something: your room, the table, yourself. But you just don’t want to be bothered with that. Tidying up is not fun. It is a distraction from what you would rather be doing–the next thing, whatever that may be.

This fall both you and Alice were able to play soccer. You taught her how to kick the ball correctly. She wasn’t as serious about the game as you, but she could at least do all the moves correctly. Recently Little League started up–your first year. You have had two practices so far and you are in love with the game. You are definitely our most athletic kid. Your love of games and competition coupled with your natural ability make it fun to watch you in whatever you play.

You want to do so many things, but it’s hard for you to stay focused to get really good at anything. You want to play the drums someday, so we had you in piano lessons. You loved the lessons, but you had no sit in you to practice or do your theory homework. You want to be able read well, but you don’t have the patience to sit and practice. You want to be a better writer, but practicing makes you insanely mad. Sports are different. You aren’t immediately good, but you will stick with it at practice. You won’t practice at home or with anyone else though if there are other things you could be doing. Recently you were diagnosed as ADHD. In retrospect, this seems like maybe it should have been obvious to us.

Fun fact: If you don’t have to have a shirt on, you don’t. In fact, you are most happy just hanging around in underwear, but since Dad and I insist on pants at the dinner table, you’re preferred clothing is undies and gym shorts…and that’s it. For awhile people wondered if you owned shirts since all my photos of us during the pandemic included you being shirtless.

There is no one quite like you, my Charlie Bird. Your emotions are all BIG. That can mean some explosions, but it also means that you love big too. Navigating those emotions can be really hard for you (and us), but your wit and power of observation make up for it. Your loud chortle when Eddie makes you laugh (like no one else can, by the way), brings a smile to everyone’s face.

I hope you know that you are so so important to us. That we fight every day for you to have a fair shot at school and sports and all the things other kids have. I hope someday you will look back and know that Dad and I did the very best we knew how.

And tomorrow is a new opportunity to try again.

I love you more than you will ever know.

Mom Mom

Upon Turning Six

Dear Miss Alice,

Two weeks ago you turned six! I keep waiting for the newness of having a daughter to wear off, but even after 6 years, I am still amazed that you are ours–that I made you. You bring our family such joy, my little caboose.

Where do I even begin to describe you at age six?

Despite the pandemic and starting elementary school with masks and distancing, you love kindergarten. You come home with stars in your eyes for your teacher, Mr. F. You learn quickly, and sing us the songs you learn for remembering to spell your sight words and for the seasons and the days of the week. You love to count. And, like your mother, you love books and reading, achieving 1st grader-level reading by mid-year.

Your daily specials are a favorite part of your day: art, Spanish, PE, and technology. And lately you have been writing about animals, coming home to tell us about king cobras and hedgehogs.

You like to play school and restaurant and really anything that lets you write things down in one of your little notebooks.

You love Barbie dolls, LOL dolls, animal stuffies, your “Big Nora” squishmellow, and your American Girl (really it’s an Our Generation) doll, Millie. You still love rainbows, unicorns, mermaids, and anything with glitter. You love to do crafts and play dough (and recently kinetic sand). You love to paint and draw.

Another one of your favorite things is to play beauty shop/salon/spa day. Not only do you love when I pamper you and do your nails, but you have amassed quite the collection of play beauty supplies and you love to do my hair and make up and nails too. Maybe someday you will become a stylist!

You also love to play, play, PLAY outside. You will ride your bike around the block over and over and then walk around it. You will play with the neighbor boy and run and jump. This past weekend you made hop scotch on the driveway and begged for a partner until daddy came out. Then you giggled and giggled as he hopped on your teeny tiny squares.

You are still a little bit of a wimp when it comes to getting owies. Last weekend you fell running with Charlie and put a hole in your pants and skinned up your knee. We put a bandaid on it, but you refused to put it in the water in your bath and you hobbled around with a limp for two days. Later, you asked daddy if you should take the bandaid off since it was getting a little ratty looking. Then we heard you in the bathroom giving yourself a pep talk before pulling the bandaid off: “Who’s a strong girl? I’m a strong girl! Who’s a strong girl? I’m a strong girl! Who’s a strong…OUCH! girl? I AM A STRONG GIRL LOOK DADDY I PULLED IT OFF!!!!”

You are silly and cute, but oof…you are also strong-willed. You know what you want and what you don’t want and you are not an easy one to compromise. You have a very “my way or the highway” attitude. You will put yourself to bed in your clothes if you don’t want to brush your teeth and wash up like we ask you to (no brushing/washing = no bedtime books). It is tiresome now, but I hope your strong will stays with you, and you use it to stand up for what is right and just someday.

Just as strong-willed as you can be with us, you are kind and helpful with others. You make friends easily, and are kind regardless if someone wants to be your friend or not. You follow rules and encourage others to do so as well.

And you LOVE to talk. If you’re not talking to one of us, you are chatting with your stuffies and/or dolls. Or singing to yourself. If you’re quiet, you’re either concentrating on an ipad, a show, or you’re sleeping. Bedtime is when you get the most chatty with me. Once we have read books and sung songs and the lights are out, you start telling me all the things on your mind–who got new shoes, who said something about someone else, what teachers said hi to you in the hallway, and how Charlie was mean to you today. It reminds me a lot of what Eddie was like at age six. He doesn’t chat with me as much now that he is a big middle school kid, but he is still comfortable asking me questions and getting my view on things. I hope you will be too as you get older.

You are a hugger and a relationship girl. Each night you are personally offended if one of your brothers does not want both a hug and a kiss from you before bed. You love to snuggle your daddy, me, but mostly soft stuffies. Your favorites are Big Nora (Squishmellow) and pink blankie. Other stuffies you have that you also love include Mr. Sprinkles (a bunny who is a girl, but prefers the title Mister), White Tigey, Tigey, Brown Horsey, and Everest (from Paw Patrol). You still play with your Bitty Baby who you named Babycita as well. Your favorite movies are still the Frozen movies, but Grandma gave you Mulan for your birthday and we have watched that a few times now as well.

You drive us crazy and make us laugh. You bring magic and joy to our family as well as authentic hugs and snuggles. Just tonight, as a protest to brushing your teeth before bed, you announced to me, “fine. I don’t NEED you to put me to bed!” And you went to bed in your clothes and fell promptly asleep without your shade down or your humidifier turned on.

We love you fiercely, my Alice Beans. You will always been the exclamation point on the sentence of our family.

Love,
Momma

One of my biggest struggles during the past year has been keeping a healthy perspective. All the political and social unrest coupled with a global pandemic had (ok, still has) me teetering on the brink of feeling like it’s literally the end of the world. I feel small and helpless and very afraid.

Watching Alice play and make comments about needing masks for her Barbie dolls and baby dolls makes me wonder if bringing children into this world was a good idea. The logical part of my brain says, “stop it. you had no way to know that this was going to happen.” But the very illogical (and loud, I might add) part of my brain constantly beats myself up for having children in a world with no future.

Recently, I watched a video about World War II and a Holocaust survivor mentioned feeling like it was the true end of the world. This was just days after the insurrection at the US capitol–the coverage of which I could not pull myself away from.

I have found that once or twice a day I have to sit quietly and remind myself what humanity has been through without the world ending. The waring and the disease and the famine and the floods. Events that both the survivors and the victims must have truly felt was the end of time.

Truth has been on my mind a lot lately as well. What is truth? Cortney and I watched The Social Dilema on Netflix last night, and while none of the information was that revelatory to me, it did make me see how someone’s social media timeline algorithms coupled with isolation in a pandemic would push them to come to believe certain things as fact and even to get emotionally invested as to leave their homes and act on these beliefs.

I’ve cut a lot out of my social media in the past few months. Some have accused me of creating an echo chamber of liberal views. And perhaps there is truth to that, but I don’t use social media solely for politics or debating issues. And social media is a terrible place to debate those things anyway. So I’ve made two types of cuts: people who post things that are blatantly false and refuse to admit to any fact checked corrections (because I don’t need that toxicity), and people who may not post much, but leave comments that promote misinformation.

I have also cut folks who refuse to see that there are injustices and inequities in all–ALL–systems and institutions in the United States. To be blind to the history and present-day struggle that is going on tells me that you will not be able to love my family (or me) if we are in a group of people who face oppression because you don’t believe that the oppression exists, which means you do not fully see us or value us and our lived truths not to mention those of everyone else in the world. And while I struggle mightily over my faith and what I believe, I know this: Jesus never preached hate or intolerance.

All of this rambling to say that my mental health has not been at it’s best since March 2020. I spend most of my time just trying to stay level. I haven’t felt “normal” or even “good” in months. I’ve felt like I’m either surviving, on the verge of going under, or drowning. The hardest thing for our family (and we are clearly privileged with this being the hardest thing, I know that) is the lack of in-person mental health care. Both Charlie and I struggle, but he needs to be able to sit in a room and be forced to face some things. He needs to be re-evaluated in person.

We have been doing what we can to get by, but just “getting by” wears on you after awhile.

Last week, I was able to bring a glimmer of hope that maybe there will be an end to the isolation, the lack of physical contact, and the uncertainty about when “going virtual” won’t always be looming. Last Wednesday I was given the first dose of the COVID19 vaccine.

As I waited in the line, my mind wondered if this was the beginning of the end of the pandemic, or if we were at the beginning of a long, changed reality that will always involve masks and vaccines and virtual meetings.

The logical part of my brain tells me to be postive.

The other, much LOUDER, anxiety-soaked part of my brain, struggles to stay in it’s place.

So I continue to be careful how much news I watch, who I allow in my social media, and how much quiet time I give my whole brain.

http://sluiternation.com/2021/01/13161/

What I Read: 2020

It’s been a long-standing habit of mine to post all the titles I read each year. And just because I have been a slacker with writing, does not mean I have been a slacker with reading!

My reading goal on Goodreads.com was 50 books. I read 64! Here is my list.

The ones in BOLD are the ones I recommend the most. The ones wit (F) are fiction written for adults (not kids), (YA) are young adult lit, (MG) are middle grade books, (P) are novels that are written in verse/poetry, (N) are nonfiction, (CB) are children’s books (aimed at an audience younger than middle school), and (C) are comics.

  1. The Behavior Code: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Teaching the Most Challenging Students by Jessica Minahan (N)
  2. The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson (CB)
  3. Dogman: Fetch-22 by Dav Pilkey (C, CB)
  4. The Arrival by Shaun Tan (C)
  5. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (re-read) (YA, P)
  6. A Treasury of Mother Goose by Linda Yeatman (CB)
  7. Journalism by Joe Sacco (C)
  8. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling (re-read) (MG)
  9. They Called Us Enemy by George Takei (C, N, YA)
  10. Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi (YA)
  11. The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown (C, YA)
  12. Illegal by Eoin Colfer (C MG)
  13. The Scar by Andrea Ferraris (C)
  14. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany (YA)
  15. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling (re-read) (MG)
  16. Inspector Flytrap by Tom Angelberger (CB)
  17. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (re-read) (YA)
  18. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (YA C)
  19. Speak the Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson (YA C)
  20. The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (YA C)
  21. Alpha by Bessora (C)
  22. LaGuardia by Nnedi Okorafor (C)
  23. Stamped by Jason Reynolds (read twice) (YA N)
  24. The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui (C)
  25. White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo (N)
  26. Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay (YA)
  27. The Year We Fell From Space by AS King (MG)
  28. The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan (MG)
  29. New Kid by Jerry Craft (MG C)
  30. How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X Kendi (N)
  31. The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio G. Iturbe (YA)
  32. Halsey Street by Naima Coster (F)
  33. Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan (MG)
  34. Becoming by Michelle Obama (N)
  35. This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell (MG YA N)
  36. Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan (MG)
  37. Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson (YA)
  38. So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijemona Oluo (N)
  39. I Crawl Through It by AS King (YA)
  40. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (YA)
  41. Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram (YA)
  42. Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan (MG)
  43. Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith (YA)
  44. We Set The Dark On Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia (YA)
  45. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling (re-read) (MG)
  46. The Writing Thief by Ruth Culham (N)
  47. We Want to do More Than Survive by Bettina L. Love (N)
  48. Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson (YA)
  49. I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina (YA C)
  50. Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian by Rick Riordan (MG)
  51. Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows (CB)
  52. Engaging Students in Disciplinary Literacy:K-6 by Cynthia H. Brock (N)
  53. Internment by Samira Ahmed (YA)
  54. Ivy and Bean Take Care of the Babysitter by Annie Barrows (CB)
  55. Pet by Akwaeke Emezi (YA)
  56. Best Practices in Writing Instruction by Steve Graham (N)
  57. Ivy and Bean Break the Fossil Record by Annie Barrows (CB)
  58. Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor (YA)
  59. Ivy and Bean Doomed to Dance by Annie Barrows (CB)
  60. Ivy and Bean Bound to Be Bad by Annie Barrows (CB)
  61. Linguistic Justice: Black Language, Literacy, Identity and Pedagogy by April Baker-Bell (N)
  62. Ivy and Bean and the Ghost that Had to Go! by Annie Barrows (CB)
  63. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart (MG)
  64. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson (re-read) (CB)

You can probably tell a few things by this list:

First, I took a grad class a year ago that focused on refugee and immigrant stories as told in comics/graphic novels.

Second, I took a Multicultural YA Lit grad course in the fall.

Third, my own children got hooked on different book series for our bedtime reading.

Looking back, I personally chose only 19 of these–fewer than half–to read on my own. The rest were either chosen for me, I had to teach, or my kids requested them as read alouds.

I set my 2021 reading goal for 65 books and I am already on my second book (if you don’t count the Ivy & Bean title that Alice and I finished), so I would say that’s a pretty good start for it being just the first week of the new year!

Happy reading!

First read of 2021–SO GOOD.
Current read by a fave author