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.

The NCTE/ALAN Blur

The past five days whooshed by in a blur of sessions and hotel and authors and books…so many books!

The Gateway Arch from the Mississippi River

Thursday was the travel day with the gas incident.

Friday morning my colleagues who write with me at The Educator’s Room and I led a session about blogging and social media. Then I went to a panel of YA Lit authors about how they use humor in writing about difficult subjects to make them accessible to teens. Then I planned to hit the exhibit hall, but I took one step in and realized I was so tired from getting almost no sleep the night before that I simply could not talk to one more person.

So I got myself a coffee, walked back to my room, and texted with Cortney for awhile. And then I passed out cold on my bed until The Pastor’s Daughter, N, came bounding into the room all excited to talk about the sessions she attended.

She and I got ready and waited for her mom, The Pastor’s Wife. Around 5:30pm, we headed out to a book signing event and met some pretty awesome authors and had some yummy appetizers.

Saturday morning I attended a panel of YA authors discussing voice in writing. Then I was able to grab lunch with a friend before heading to a round table session where I was a respondent about a discussion about the culture of skinny and how YA novels address it.

The afternoon was filled with some exhibit hall wandering and then dinner with some post secondary professors and PhD students who gave me great advice about my future studies, and who I enjoyed listening to about research and future discussions that they hoped NCTE would engage in.

Sunday morning N and I headed to get some books signed at the exhibit hall.  Around noon, I had my round table session with Penny Kittle about incorporating choice into a curriculum that seems choiceless.

That afternoon the Pastor’s Wife, N, and I enjoyed a late lunch/early dinner of St. Louis BBQ before heading to the ALAN reception where we met yet more YA authors.

Monday was the ALAN conference all day. After we got back to the hotel that evening, I counted 60 new books for my classroom library, and about 8 for my own children!

Today we made the 6.5 hour drive home.

I type this from my comfy spot on the couch, my eyes feeling heavy, and my teacher heart full and inspired. I am ready for this this much-anticipated holiday weekend, but I am inspired and ready to bring back new strategies and ideas to my department and classroom.

Home

If I nuzzle my nose deep enough into Alice’s hair, I can smell her baby self.

And it smells like home.

If I bury my face far enough into Cortney’s chest, I can block out everything that has ever happened, or is happening, or will happen.

And it feels like home.

If I look close enough at Eddie’s smiling face, I can see his sprinkle of freckles and the sparkle in his deep blue eyes.

And it looks like home.

If I listen close enough to Charlie while he plays, I can hear the stories he creates with his army guys and his dinosaurs and his hot wheels.

And it sounds like home.

If I close my eyes, I will sleep and dream of my family.

And it tastes like home.

Tomorrow I will go home.

Book Love, Author Love

I met some authors. It was cool. I’m exhausted.

Brendan Kiely

 

Shaka Senghor

 

Julie Murphy

 

Chris Crutcher

 

Matt de la Pena

Lynn Weingarten & Amy Reed (2nd and 3rd from left)

And so many more.

I’m tired.

One more big day.

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