The Flix Wherever You May Be

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Joy of Sharing

Whew.

I made it!

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

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

But I did it anyway.

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

That made me happy.

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

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

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

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

Yup, Me Too.

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

I mean, he did have a mustache already.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I said nothing.

In high school and college it got worse.

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

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

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

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

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

And this is average guys. Not famous ones.

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

Take what you want. It’s yours.

Including women’s bodies.

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

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

 

I hope that norm is ending now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And no one owes them theirs.

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

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

Snippets of Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too Tired

I went back to school today after ten days away.

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

We got back at 7:40pm.

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

I am exhausted.

Too exhausted to post.

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

So here is today’s lame offering.

Outtakes

Outtakes are usually the part that you don’t show the world, right? Outtakes are all the times you tried, but didn’t get it right.

Photo Credit: Erin Barkel Photography

I’ve been thinking about what I don’t show the world. The other day I got a message from someone asking for some advice about mental illness/wellness because I seem to be so put together and wise.

I never write anything in the moment.

Remember that.

Anything that is posted here has been lived through and then thought about. Or I am living through it, but have had enough time in and space in it that I feel comfortable sharing it.

Remember that.

When you read about my struggles with my faith or my anxiety or my depression or my impostor syndrome it’s almost never written while in the darkest hole.

When I am deep in it, I can’t write. I can’t talk. I can’t do much of anything. Even feeling my feelings doesn’t usually happen until there is some sort of break.

When I am deep in it, I sleep or lie in a ball on the couch with my hoodie up over my head. I am unkind and unlikable. I have to imagine it’s hard to give me grace, because when I am deep in it, I am a total bitch.

There are things written in journals that make no sense–that are just scrawled words that I am trying to get out of my brain. I have treated my family horribly. I am neither wise nor put together in those moments. I am ugly and vulnerable and rabid.

When I come to this space to write, it’s because I have broken through a little bit. Enough to think about my situation coherently.

If that appears wise, I hope it is helping someone else.

If that appears put together, I hope it gives hope to someone else..

I’m not always neat and tidy. But I’m not always a mess either.

Just remember, you see what I decide to put here.

You don’t see the outtakes.

The Magic

Last year Alice was about 18 months old this time of year–still a baby in my eyes.

This year she is two-and-a-half. There are no more babies in Sluiter Nation, and unless something goes wrong, we are all done having babies in Sluiter Nation. And at two-and-a-half, Alice is totally starting to “get” the holidays.

I love this age.

For all of my kids, really. The Holiday Magic is very real to all of them at 8, 5, and 2.

I remember just before we had Eddie, the holidays had started to lose something for me and I couldn’t figure out what. Now with three kids who could barely contain all the excitement in their small bodies as we put up the Christmas tree and they had to wait for their turn to put on ornaments, I know what was missing.

The Magic.

They actually hugged each other and squealed with delight as I put up on the lights–something that makes me have to bite my tongue because it’s so frustrating.

When I handed each kid their ornament box, they practically vibrated with magic as they took the lid off and shifted through their personal ornaments.

The boys ooo-ed and ahhh-ed as they tried to remember each one.

Alice told me all of them were pretty, and danced while she brought them to the tree.

Each of them is already almost over-filled with the holiday magic.

And it’s both intoxicating and contagious in the best possible ways.

May the magic infect you as well, my friends.

More Traditions

Every year, the day after Thanksgiving, for as long as I can remember my mom and I have gone Black Friday shopping.

Not crazy, wait in line, up at the booty crack of dawn Black Friday shopping, but make our way out of the house by 10am and get some deals on stuff we need.

It’s one of my favorite days of the year.

Also every year since Eddie was just born, we have gotten Christmas jammies.

It’s one of my favorite parts of the holidays.

One month until Christmas Eve.

One month filled with traditions new and old.

My favorite.

New Traditions From Old Traditions

For as far back as I can remember, my family Thanksgiving always involved my paternal grandparents, the usual turkey dinner and sides, and playing Bingo.

It’s been almost a decade since my grandparents have been able to manage having everyone over at their own house, so we had been gathering in a church rec room, each family bringing something to pass. But we still had the turkey dinner and Bingo.

Since getting married, Cortney and I have instituted and every-other-year tradition with his family and mine, but we always stopped in to see my grandparents while they served pie and played Bingo.

This fall my grandparents turned 93. My grandma lives in an assisted living community because she has taken a few falls and cannot manage to live in their home anymore, but my grandpa visits her every day.

Today it was my family’s year for us to join Thanksgiving, but since my grandparents don’t really get out anymore, my mom had my youngest brother and his family and our family over for dinner without aunts and uncles and cousins. Without my grandparents.

She made a delicious turkey dinner. I brought pie.

I pretty proud of my pies: apple and pumpkin (my mom made a pecan)

And my mom went out and bought a Bingo game and prizes.

I missed my grandparents, and I am going to make time to go visit them SOON, but today was nice. I enjoyed having wine with my dinner (which was never an option when my grandparents hosted–or when we were in a church). But mostly I enjoyed feeling cozy in a home again after so many years of sitting in a church basement or rec room.

Today felt like a new beginning.

Thankful for my people.

A Car Mouse

Today the boys and I had a few errands to run: my chiropractor appointment, taking my loads of new books to my classroom, and picking Alice up from daycare.

Easy, right? Just a couple hours round trip.

Just me, Eddie, and Charlie.

And a mouse.

Yes, you read that right. We took a mouse on our errands with us.

I mean, I didn’t mean to take a mouse with us. He totally hitched a ride.

I was driving down the road and all of a sudden, a small, white and brown face with a little pink nose peeked at me from behind my windshield wiper.

You would think I would have freaked out right then and there, but here’s the thing: this is not the first time this has happened.

Last fall, I also had a small rodent–probably his uncle–hitch a ride with me to school.

I wouldn’t say I was exactly calm, though. I really do not love mice. And I’ll admit that I first prayed that he would fly off the car. But I didn’t lose my mind and drive off the road or anything.

Instead, I texted Cortney from a stop light (I don’t text and drive because danger) and told him it was time to get out the traps for the garage again.

And then I watched that mouse like a hawk because my biggest fear was that it would find a way into the car, and then I really would freak out and drive off the road.

Little Dude was pretty nervous–my car hadn’t moved since Thursday, so he probably had no idea that what he thought was his new home was now moving. He kept pretty close to my windshield wipers, but tucked under the hood and out of the breeze.

When I got to the chiropractor, I parked near some grass and bushes hoping he would make a break for it. He did not. He peeked at me again once we were pulling out of the parking lot.

When I got to school, I parked near the dumpster hoping he would smell “food” and leave. He did not. He wiggled his body just enough that I could still see him hunched under the hood as I came to a four-way stop.

When we got to daycare to pick up Alice, I parked near some shrubbery and wood chips hoping he would move out. He did not. I could see his tiny face as he huddled just out of the reach of the cold air.

When I got home, I rushed the kids in the house and hoped he would leave. I am sure he has not.

But now I am handing this issue over to Cortney because I am sure he has friends. I just hope he does not have a bunch of babies under my car’s hood.

Because then we will just have to abandon my car somewhere and walk away.

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