We Were Liars

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I didn’t even realize We Were Liars was a YA novel until I went looking for it in the book store. I was scouring the fiction and literature section for E. Lockhart, and I was annoyed I couldn’t find it. I was going to ask at the desk, but I wanted to check out the YA section first to see what I might nab to read that I could add to my classroom library. And there it was.

(This should tell you how much I need to know about a book before I will read it. Hint: not much.)

It seemed like every time I posted a new “review” people would follow by asking “Have you read We Were Liars yet? So I caved and read it.

The book is told from the point of view of Cadence, a seventeen year old who is part of an East Coast family of “Old Money” Democrats. Her mother is one of three sisters in the family and Cadence is the oldest grandchild, so she stands to inherit much of the Sinclair legacy which includes a private island complete with houses for her grandparents, her family, and each of her mother’s sisters’ families. Cadence is very close with her cousins, Mirren and Johnny and Johnny’s mom’s boyfriend’s nephew, Gat (yes, it’s that complicated and weird). The family has nicknamed them The Liars. Every summer, the entire Sinclair family lives on the island. The family is very rich and very entitled and very snotty.

Anyway, Cadence has some sort of accident on the island when she is fifteen. Because of it, she suffers migraines and complete amnesia about the summer it happened. When she is sixteen, her dad takes her to Europe rather than go to the island, something that bothers her. When she is seventeen, she goes back to the island and is determined to figure out what happened two year previous.

I will say none of the characters were particularly likeable, however the plot was very fast-paced and I read the entire book in about 48 hours. Even though I found the teenagers entitled and full of themselves, I still wanted to know what the heck happened, so I was drawn into the story. I think my students will definitely love it.

The ending is…well…the ending is why you read the book. Everyone who asked me if I read it said, “I won’t say anything, but when you finish? Let me know. I want to know what you thought of the ending.”

I am of the “I liked it” camp with the ending. Rumor has it, Lockhart wrote the book after reading Gone Girl because she loved the plot twists. Since I can’t give my students Gone Girl, I like We Were Liars as an example of a fast-pasted novel full of twists.

I also sort of like that it’s hard to relate to any of the characters. I think a book can still be good and the writing done well even if you don’t like the characters. The Great Gatsby is a wonderful example of that. However, I think Fitzgerald and even Flynn purposefully wrote unlikable characters. I’m not convinced that Lockhart wanted her readers to dislike the teens in her novel, given the ending. But maybe.

Either way, I liked the book. It was a great quick read for the summer and I know my students will love it, so I look forward to adding it to my pile of Book Talks this fall!

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Want to contribute to my classroom library? Check out my students’ Wish List!

Links are affiliate with Amazon. Anything purchased via those links will give me Amazon credit toward books for my classroom.

 

“You Look Great!” and other lies I want to believe

I don’t gain weight when I’m pregnant. It’s one of the only happy side effects of pregnancy I get other than the baby at the end. I spend a lot of time either barfing or feeling like barfing.  When I’m not sick, I just don’t feel like eating. When I do feel like eating, it’s almost always fruit I want.  Or peanut butter. When I crave junk, I let myself eat junk because at least it stays down.

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All that to say, after my baby is born, I am lighter than when I got pregnant with said baby. Every time. It was most drastic this last time with Alice. I think I was even surprised because she was my first baby who gave me junk food cravings (“fried” is a food group that can be craved, yes?), and because I knew she was the last, I really let myself just eat whatever I wanted because I was so SO sick the first trimester.

I knew it would bite me in the butt later, but pregnant women care not for “later” when it comes to food.

After Alice was born, I lost a LOT of weight. A lot.

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In fact, I was almost 40 pounds lighter than when she was conceived. After “she’s beautiful!” the very next thing people said to me was, “you look great!  Really! So great!”

I thanked them and blew off the compliment because I died a little on the inside every time.

Because I know you meant the compliment in all the wonderful ways possible, but I also knew that the weight loss was temporary.

You see, after I have a baby, I am completely uninterested in food. Nothing really tastes good to me except coffee. So for a good 2-4 weeks, I live on almost nothing but coffee and the occasional peanut butter sandwich. The weight falls off because I’m not eating or sleeping well and my hormones are still all out wack. When you tell me how fabulous I look, I know that as soon as food tastes good again and my hormones start evening out, the weight will pile back up, and no one will tell me I look fantastic again.

Here I am, almost five months postpartum, and the weight is all back.

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I’m disappointed in myself.

I had high hopes of keeping it off this time. Of getting into a work out routine. Of eating healthy.

I have all the excuses: hormones are still acting dumb (my hair is all falling out, my complexion is under the impression I am thirteen again, etc.), I am tired all the time (baby + two active boys = not enough sleep), cardio makes me wheeze (yes, I need to talk to my doctor about this because it is a new turn of events that I need to know if I need to work through or what), I’d rather read a book.  You know all the typical stuff.

The thing is, five months ago when everyone was complimenting me, I knew my aspirations to do better this time were empty. I didn’t want to accept those compliments because I didn’t feel that I did anything to deserve them. I didn’t work on myself or take care of myself to earn a healthier physique. I had a baby and lost a bunch of blood and water and a human from my body. And I didn’t eat.

Back then, I felt that if people knew what I knew, they wouldn’t be telling me I look great because they would also know that given a few months, I would not look great anymore.  Or at least not the “great” they were currently complimenting.

Now I struggle with my body image daily, and I feel that I have somehow let people down.

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I always said, once my last baby was born, there would be no more excuses for not getting my body back to feeling great. But here I am again.

I know it’s not “too late”. I know what I have to do.

I also know thinking about starting makes me want to cry.

Not just because it’s a lot of work (well, that too), but because it overwhelms me. I know I need to start by making an appointment with my doctor. I need to get blood work done and check my thyroid and all those good things that haven’t been checked. I need to talk to him about the wheezing (because DUDE. That never happened before) and find out if my knee is good for some brisk walking (and hopefully more).

I know I need to eat more spinach and less bbq potato chips, more water and less lemonade.

I also know that more importantly, I have three kids watching me. I have a daughter now who will be determining what looking “great” means, and I want her to associate that with “healthy”.

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But most of all, I want to believe that I will do these things because I want to believe that I look great, and I am not in that place yet.

Adventures and Netflix

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Being home with three kids ages 6 and under is intense. It’s always been my goal that we get dressed and get out of the house at least for a bit every day in the summer. This summer that has sort of gone out the finger-printed window. With a new baby and a freshly turned three-year old in the house who still needs a nap, we haven’t been able to do all the adventures outside the house that we would really like to do.

We have had to resort to calling swim lesson drop-off an “adventure” for the day. I have also declared Popsicles as a snack an “adventure” because we couldn’t go anywhere due to a baby who was on a weird nap schedule that was different from her three-year-old brother’s nap schedule…so pretty much someone was always napping.

That being said, my boys were off the charts excited when we got a big ol’ box from Netflix a couple weeks ago.

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My boys really like How to Train Your Dragon, and Eddie informed me he had already watched several episodes of the Netflix series, Dragons Race to the Edge. After we opened the box, Eddie blew up the sword and Charlie grabbed the treasure map and they were off to outside.

Later while Cortney was feeding Alice, I came out with the chalk and we filled up the driveway.

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That night, Charlie asked to sleep with his blue dragon.  After he tried on the mask…and let his sister have a turn, of course.

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I have let myself feel quite a bit of guilt this summer for not being able to take my kids out daily to do fun adventures. I stare at the “bucket list” we made and wonder if we will get to even a couple of the items.

But you know what? Netflix reminded me that we don’t have to leave home to have fun adventures. We can use our imaginations and our resources right here to find fun.  And when we get tired from all that fun? We can sit down and enjoy adventures on our TV thanks to Netflix!

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This is not a sponsored post. Netflix provides us with service and a device to stream movies and shows on, but the opinions are all our own.

The Chosen

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I had never read The Chosen by Chaim Potok. Apparently I am in the minority since even Cortney–the self-proclaimed “not-a-reader” has read it.

After I posted about not wanting to be a sheep, my soul sister, The Pastor’s Wife, recommended it to me. After I started reading it, I texted her, “I think I get why you recc-ed this book to me. I really love it. Thank you.” In reply she said, “It’s like a rich dessert.”

Yes. It is like a rich dessert.

It small and easily devour-able in a short amount of time, yet it’s much more enjoyable taken in small bites and savored.

The novel takes place over the course of six years starting in 1944 with the death of president Roosevelt, World War II, D Day, the revelation of the Holocaust, and the struggle for the creation of the state of Israel in the forefront of the story. The story is told from the point of view of Reuven Malter, a Jewish boy living with his father in Brooklyn, New York. Reuven and Danny Saunders, an Hasidic Jew, meet when they are fifteen years old during a softball game between their two school teams. Both boys go to Jewish schools, but Reuven’s is very strictly Hasidic and the softball games quickly becomes a religious war-zone.

During the game, Danny hits one of Reuven’s pitches right into Reuven’s eye shattering his glasses and sending him to the hospital. Against those odds, the boys become friends. Best friends.

You know what a friend is, Reuven? A Greek philosopher said that two people who are friends are like two bodies with one soul” (74).

Reuven quickly realizes that Danny is extraordinary. He has a photographic mind, remembering word-for-word everything that he has ever read. His father, Reb Saunders an Hasidic rabbi, doesn’t speak to Danny except when they are discussing the Talmud. He is raising Danny in silence. This is something neither Danny nor Reuven understand, and Reuven grows to hate Reb Saunders for how he treats Danny. Danny, however, respects and trusts his father.

Reuven’s father, a Jewish scholar and writer, gives Danny book recommendations even though he knows Reb Saunders would not approve of his boy reading secular works.

I will admit I had to look up some of the Jewish references. I didn’t know what the Talmud was or what some of the Hasidic garments were.

I loved that the story was told from Reuven’s point of view even though it was as much about Danny as it was him. It allowed the reader to be amazed by Danny as Reuven was. To watch Danny’s story unfold and be explained by Reuven’s father to us as well.

As I read, I kept thinking about the title, The Chosen. The Jews are known as “The Chosen People” by God in the Old Testament. They are the ones who will inherit the kingdom of God. No one in the book seems to have “chose” Judaism; it is part of who they are. Danny and his father strictly practice the Hasidic tradition, and that means Danny will take his place as a rabbi., even though he doesn’t want to. There is no choice in Danny’s future, unless he gives up being a Hasidic Jew.  Reuven, on the other hand, is free to choose what he wants to be, and while he excels at mathematics, he is choosing to become a Jewish Rabbi.

I don’t know that my question about needing to be a sheep was answered, but I was able to see the idea of choice and following a faith in a new way.

you will discover that the most important things that will happen to you will often come as the result of silly things, as you call them–‘ordinary things’ is a better expression. That is the way the world is” (110).

The Chosen is as much a thought piece as it is a beautiful read. It’s a rich dessert for the mind.

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Some links are affiliate. That means if you click through and then buy? I get a little kickback from Amazon to put towards books for my classroom library. Find me on GoodReads to check out what else I’ve been reading!

Three is Hard, Yo.

Dear Charlie Bird,

Part of me doesn’t want to record this time in your life. I want to let it go by the way side so maybe we can both forget it. But that wouldn’t be fair because it’s part of who you are and who we are right now. So let me tell you a story.

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Tuesday night we were watching Curious George before bed as usual. Daddy was in the chair with Alice, I was reading my book at one end of the couch, Eddie was in the middle with the tablet, and you were on the other end. Everything was totally fine.

Then you decided to sit on the arm rest.

It is a well-known rule that we don’t sit on the arm rests of furniture. For one, you fell off from it just an hour before and landed in your sister’s rock n play with her in it. There was much crying.

Anyway, I said, “Charlie. Please sit on your buns the correct way on the couch cushion.” You looked over Eddie at me and stuck your tongue out.

Daddy said, “Charlie. Sit. Now.”

You spit.

Daddy started to count. You did not comply.

We were all tired. We just wanted you to listen just this once. But no. You did not want to. I had been going through this with you all day, although throughout the day, your clip drops on the behavior chart when you make a poor choice. I don’t know why we were giving you eleventy billion chances in that moment.

Yes I do. We were all tired.

I had been doing it for ten hours. Daddy was soothing Alice and had been at work all day. We were so done. We didn’t handle it well. I didn’t handle it well.

I threw my book on the floor. Marched over to the Behavior Chart and put you in the red. Then I stormed over to you, picked you up off the arm of the chair, and threw you onto the couch so you would land on your butt. I yelled.

I know this is not the way to parent. I especially know this is not how to parent you. You will not cower and crumble and obey out of fear (not that I want to parent that way anyway. It’s awful just typing it). You will lose your mind.  And you did.

You screamed. You threw things. You spit.

Dad got mad. He set Alice down, grabbed you, and put you in your bed.

When I got downstairs to put you boys to bed, you had thrown everything out of your bed. The rule is, if you throw it out, you don’t get it back. So you screamed while I read books to Eddie. You cried when I turned out the light.

Eddie got concerned that you would cry so hard, you would barf. You didn’t.

You spit and tore things off the walls because you had run out of things to throw.

I ignored you.

You continued to freak out.

I gave you your pacifier and your pillow.

You threw them back at me.

I left.

Daddy came down and talked you down. He gave you your pacifier and your small pillow. You were fine. So I came back down to lay by Eddie for a bit.

You freaked out again. You were so mad at me.

So I gave up.

Daddy came down instead.

I went up and cried.

This is not an isolated event, my dear Charlie.

You have one of the worst tempers I have ever seen. Most times, I don’t freak out on you.  Most of the time I can muster the patience to talk calmly to you and administer your consequence with a soft voice. Most of the time. Tuesday I was weary of mothering. I just wanted you to listen and obey the first time. For once. I didn’t want to have to count to ten and put on a calm face.

Three is just hard. It is. I have to remind myself of this over and over.

And it’s not just hard on me and daddy. It’s hard on you.

Three is a big age. You aren’t a baby anymore, but you are clinging fiercely to baby things (like diapers and your pacifier). But you want to be BIG and STRONG too.

You have BIG feelings, but no words to describe them.

You are trying new things and wanting to do things on your own, but getting so so frustrated when you can’t do it easily like your older brother.

And on top of all that, you lost your place as the baby of the family four months ago. You are trying to figure out your place and your voice in all this, and, well, it’s just down-right frustrating and stupid sometimes.

We went through a lot of this with Eddie when he was three. He also had a new baby (you!) to deal with. His temper wasn’t as short and he acted out in different ways, but still it’s all about three just being dumb and hard.

I’m sorry, buddy. I’m sorry I lose patience with you. I’m sorry three is so hard sometimes.

But it has it’s good stuff too. I hope you remember the good more than the difficult.

Like how I was there during the thunderstorm on Monday morning and you said, “Mom mom? I am going to sit right here so you can keep me safe.”

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I love you so much, Charlie.

So much.

Love, Mom mom

 

Because of You…

I’ve been blogging for eight years right here on Sluiter Nation. At this point, I can’t imagine my life without this blog. My life would definitely not be the same without my space here on the internet, because really, blogging hasn’t just been me writing here. It’s gone way beyond that.

From my chair, I can look around me and see ways blogging has touched our lives.

I have books on the shelf next to me by bloggers and friends. I have books on the shelf that I am included in. My writing. Writing that would have never ever found it’s way to a book if it wasn’t for this space, social media, and all the people who put up with love me around the interwebs.

There are photos and gifts from people I wouldn’t know without this blog.

All three of my children’s lives have been documented here. Alice is currently sucking on a doll that was sent to her from a blogger friend. My coffee that I am sipping is from a mug from another blogger friend.

If I am being totally honest, I am a mom of three, in part, because of you. You who have supported me and given me encouraging words and prayers. You who helped me through those very very dark days when Eddie was a baby. You who continue to send your love when I falter.

Probably the most visible way the interwebs have supported me though, is through my classroom library.

I wish more than anything that I could take you all into my classroom and show you the library. Show you the transformation from 104 books to over 600 titles. Show you how my students came to rely on those books and love them. And yes, even lose some of them because they were so loved.

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I created a Classroom Wish List on Amazon. Originally there was about a hundred titles and I needed to keep adding more because you all responded like crazy!

Now, there are over 500 titles on that wish list. Those titles came mostly from my students asking for more books! Others came from my anticipating the needs of students, reading new book lists, and getting recommendations from other readers of YA lit. I’ve also purchased about ten books this summer (and hope to take advantage of Amazon Prime Day for some more!).

I always have a need for more books.

In fact, I just created a project on DonorsChoose.org to hopefully fund a project that will put 50 new titles in my classroom library. Check out my project here.

I am not asking you to donate (although I would certainly love that, but so many of you have already to this library in various ways already). I would love it, though if you would share my project. Maybe with a business that is looking for a cause to give to.

I only need $300 more to get the project funded. This week each dollar donated with the code SPARK will get matched. Which means I REALLY only need about $150 in donation dollars to get my project funded*.

It’s a charitable donation, so it’s tax deductible as well.

Thank you. Thank you for reading me and hearing me and loving me.

But mostly? Thank you for loving my students whom you have never met.

Because of you, they read.

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*If the giving goes over what I need, it will be saved in gift codes for me to apply to future projects I create for my classroom.

 

 

4 More Books for You and Your Teen

A while back I did a post about books I recommend to teens (and their parents). I also told you about these five books that you and your teen really need to read.

Well guess what? I keep reading, so I have more recommendations! Yay!

Here are four more to add to your To Read Pile and which I have added to my classroom library.

Books for You and Your TeenThe first on my list is Butter by Erin Jade Lange.

Butter is a high school junior and he weighs well over 400 pounds. Miserable and on a quest to take control of the gossip about himself, Butter sets up a website where he announces he will eat himself to death live on the Internet on New Year’s Eve.

He expects pity and gossip, but he really never expects this announcement to gain him acceptance with the most popular kids in school.

As the deadline approaches, Butter has some decisions to make: go through with it or live with what people will say if he “chickens out”.

This book is cleverly written and humorous, while at the same time emotional and dark. Lange captures teen angst coupled with the sorrow of being an outcast perfectly, while giving Butter a strong, witty voice. I laughed out loud at the way Butter tells his story, but I also found myself wishing I could dive into his world and either hug him or shake him.

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Books For You and Your Teen

Next up is All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven.

Oh this book. This is a book about Theodore Finch and Violet Markey. They are high school seniors who run with totally different crowds.

Finch is a “freak” who is fascinated by death–and how he might die. He is constantly striving to stay awake and alive. He looks for a reason each day to stay in this world.  Violet is completely focused on graduation and getting out of their tiny Indiana town. She feels defined by her sister’s death and is finding a hard time going back to her old friends and hobbies.

Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of a bell tower at their school and ultimately save each other. They end up partners in a Geography project that has them “wandering” all over the great state of Indiana and then report back to their class. Clearly they are thrown together in love…but their story is so heart-wrenching and beautiful.

If you liked Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, you will LOVE this book. If you didn’t care for Eleanor & Park, you will still love this book. It puts suicide and mental illness in a new light.

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My next pick is Paper Towns by John Greene.

Like a metaphor rendered incomprehensible by its ubiquity, there was room enough in what she had left me for endless imaginings, for an infinite set of Margos” (173).

Quentin and Margo have lived next door to each other in Orlando, Florida their entire lives, but run in different crowds (notice a theme here? Come on, it’s YA lit). Quentin hangs out with mostly kids in band and likes his self-proclaimed boring routine. Margo is exciting and popular and pulls all sorts of crazy stunts like running away and spending the night in Disney World.

One night, Margo shows up at Quentin’s window and takes him on a ridiculous night-long adventure, but then disappears. It seems she has left clues, but they are for Quentin to figure out. What happened to her?

I read this book over a weekend, but if I had not had children needing me, I could have easily read it in one sitting. It’s fast-paced and hard to put down. I wanted to know what in the heck was going to happen! I also love the way John Green portrays teenagers. Some criticize him for making characters that are not believable, but as someone who has taught teenagers for twelve years, I can say that teens like these do exist. And they are my most favorite.

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My last pick is Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews.

I grabbed this book from Barnes & Noble because I had a 20% off coupon on top of my membership discount. And the back of the book said it was the “funniest book about death” ever. Sold.

Greg is a high school senior who gets along with everybody, but has no actual friends. Well, other than Earl. And Earl is not so much a friend as a “co-worker”. They make films together. Terrible films that they show no one because they are terrible.

Greg’s mom makes him hang out with Rachel, who is dying from Leukemia. And that’s when things get weird.

The hilarity of this book is how honest and self-deprecating Greg is. He lets the reader know right off the bat that this is not a heart-warming “cancer book”. He does not fall in love and he claims not to learn anything. In fact, he thinks he may be worse for the entire experience. I don’t know if I agree with him, but I think the story is more of what might happen in real life than say, The Fault in Our Stars. There is some bad language and sexual humor, so reader beware if that is something that offends you.

4 YA books that you will enjoy as much {if not more than} your teen!

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What is your favorite YA book? What are you (and/or your teen) reading this summer? I want to know what to put on my reading list/classroom library list next!

If you’d like to donate to my classroom library, I just updated it with a bunch of junior high titles. Almost 500 books to choose from to donate, many under $8 each. I also created a DonorsChoose profile that collects donations toward my project–50 books for my classroom library.

Book links are affiliates. That means if you click and buy, I get a couple cents. Just trying to earn some Amazon dollars to buy books for my classroom library!

Four Months Young

Dear Miss Alice,

You are four months old!

Four Month Letter

Today (Monday) you had your four-month well child. You weighed in at 15.08 pounds and measured 25 inches long exactly–75th percentile for height and weight. Your head? Massive. Just like your brothers before you. 99th percentile for that.

You also rolled to your tummy right there on the exam table. Well, you sort of did. You can’t figure out how to get that arm out of the way, so you just laid there on it getting angry.  Then you did it again at home on your activity mat. Twice. And both times you seemed angry at me because you got yourself stuck where you didn’t want to be.

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You are just trucking along being awesome, my dear. You average around 30 ounces a day, give or take a bottle. You are sleeping like a bear through the night, sometimes going more than ten hours at a stretch. You reach and reach for lots of things, but mostly like to hold my hand.

Today Eddie fed you a whole bottle for his first time. He was very proud that you only got mad at his newb status once. He didn’t dare burp you though. I think he is a little afraid of your tendency for spitting up.

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You’re growing to be such a beautiful little lady right before our eyes. You have a cheerful, social demeanor, bu far the most social of all three of our babies. You really do not love your car seat because you can’t see what is going on. You much prefer to be sitting on our lap or being held so you can see out. Although you do love both the Moby wrap and the Ergo carrier.

We still swaddle you at night in your miracle wrap. You are always completely out of it by morning, but you seem to take comfort in being tightly wrapped at night, so we go with it. In fact, you startle yourself awake if we try to lay you down without wrapping you up. Yet in the morning you have both arms out and over your head. This morning you even somehow had a leg out.  You’re crafty.

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Your brothers are still swoony over you. Eddie is a little daddy to you and Charlie tries to make you laugh. They fight over who you’re looking at and who gets to sit next to you when you’re on the floor or on the couch. You give your brothers the big eyes too. You somehow already know they would do just about anything for you.

You are also the most chatty baby we have had. It’s like you stored up all the stories and as soon as you found that you had a voice, you started cooing and squawking and gurgling to anyone who will listen. And the smile you give is the absolute best. The drool is starting to get serious, so I checked for “full gums”, but nope. Looks like you will retain your gummy grin for a while longer. That is totally Ok with me.

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Something is different with you, Alice. Or maybe it’s with me. I’m not really sure. I just know that this third time around? Is different.

I’m not as lost or broken as I was with Eddie.

I’m not as “on alert” as I was with Charlie.

But other than that, I can’t put my finger on it.

People like to chalk it up to “well, all babies are different” and “she’s a girl! Of course it’s different!” And while those may be true, there is something else. Something I don’t have words for.

Maybe it’s because I feel complete now.

Maybe it’s because you’re the last.

Maybe this is what thankful, blessed, nostalgic, sad, and joyful all mixed together feel like. Maybe I am not having any postpartum depression or anxiety this time. Maybe that’s it.

I really don’t know.

I just know that I love being with you. I love being your mom. And I am never sad that you’re around.

It’s crazy here some days with three kids, but you somehow ground me in all that nuts-o-crazy.

I love you more than I can find words for,

Momma

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Sluiter siblings at four months

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Before having kids, Cortney and I “shopped” for a church home. Most places we went treated us kindly enough–people shook our hands and said, “welcome”, but that was about it. Even our current church was kind, but not overly so. It had been a long time since we had gone regularly and in those days before kids, we were greeted as if we were new.  This sort of bugged Cortney since he had been a member of our church since childhood.

We found a church we thought could be our church home, but by then I was largely pregnant with Eddie, it was winter, and sleeping in on Sunday rather than driving to a church where we didn’t know anyone seemed exhausting.

We had Eddie and Charlie baptized in our current church, and when Charlie was about 18 months old, we started going back regularly.

This time was different than the first time though. This time we were friends with more people and they welcomed us with open arms.

I figured we would just start going to Sunday services and send Eddie to Sunday School. You know, sort of ease in.

Nope. This was not what God planned for us, apparently. He was maybe sick of us “easing in” for the past eight years, so we were thrown right in.

My friend, The Preacher’s Wife, approached me about “helping” with our Sunday School program: Children in Worship. I figured I would be a helper in one of the rooms occasionally, but I found myself teaching right away.

And that is how I met Mary.

lordshepherd

Mary has been involved with the Children in Worship program for as long as it’s been a part of our church. She knows all the stories, knows what story objects go with every story box, what reflection activities each grade did with most of the stories, and she remembers all the children and loves them all individually. She remembers Cortney being in Children in Worship when he was a wee lad.

She was not just kind and welcoming, she was the epitome of love when she heard I would be joining the team. She held my hand and told me she was so glad. She already loved Eddie from his few times, and looked forward to Charlie joining in as well.

When I told her I was pregnant last summer, her eyes filled with tears and her hands went to her face in excited joy. Then she hugged me.

Before Alice was born, she loved her.

When Alice was set to be baptized, The Preacher’s Wife gave her a vintage baptismal gown, but Mary found the idea of making a hankie into a bonnet with this small poem:

I’m just a dainty hanky,
As square as square can be.
With stitches hands have fashioned
A bonnet out of me.

She’ll wear me home, a newborn,
Or for a special day.
Then I’ll be washed and pressed and
so neatly tucked away.

When Her Wedding Day arrives,
She’ll search about I’m told,
To find an item quite small
Of long ago and old.

And when she spots baby’s cap
No better will she see.
Snip out my stitches, and a
Wedding hanky I’ll be.

by Howard Ray White

She came to visit Alice and me in the hospital and gave me a tiny knit hat meant for a great granddaughter she would never have (she has all great grandsons).

She delivered our family a meal when Alice and I were released from the hospital.

She pats the boys on the heads and always asks them how they are. The boys love “Grandma Mary”. She is one of many “Church Grandmas” my children are blessed to have, but she will always be the very first.

Mary is always there with encouragement and unconditional love. She never expects anything in return, but hold my hand each Sunday and asks how I am–and really wants to know. Love and grace ooze out of her very being.

Without Mary’s genuine love and welcoming for my whole family, we may not have stayed regular church-goers and I know I would not be as involved as I am with our church family.

Mary has been described by many as a saint, but I am sure she would brush that off because all she does is love. But that is so much. In fact, it’s the greatest command, Jesus says.

And Mary does it as best as any human can.

At the end of last week, I received some devastating news about our beloved Mary. Once again I would have to sit my boys down and tell them someone we love is going to make a trip to Heaven soon.

Our hearts are hurting for our Mary. For her family. For our own hearts.

It’s hard to see why God would allow something to happen to the best of the best. We don’t understand. We feel that familiar feeling of being lost in a sea of sorrow and questions.

The image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd has always been a favorite of Mary’s. I can see that she takes it to heart–loving those around her and guiding them to safe places. She certainly guided my heart and family to the safe place that is now our church family.

We hope Mary feels God’s love. We hope Mary feels all of our love and our prayers.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

Psalm 23

Where My Writing Is

As I mentioned last month, I have been lucky to have my writing spread around the internet lately. In case you missed it, this is where I was in June…

First, a post of mine about being done having kids was republished at The Mid. If you missed it here, you can read it there.

I wrote an original post for BonBon Break about the kind of Christian I am…and the kind I am most certainly not.

I am also a regular contributor at The Educator’s Room where I wrote about how to keep your kids writing this summer and about the issues with public school funding, specifically my own job insecurity over the years.

Thanks for reading along!

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