Looking Forward to 2018

For 10 years I have been doing a sort of year-in-review here on the blog. This year I flat out just didn’t feel like it. I opened up my computer exactly twice yesterday and did nothing but close it again.

2017 wasn’t a particularly bad year for our family, but it sucked globally and nationally. I just didn’t feel like thinking about it again. But the bigger thing was that I had a terrible attitude yesterday. So much so that I found myself getting overly irritated when Charlie dropped one of his brand new walkie talkies in the toilet to the point of almost crying. Then I made Cortney chuckle with my over-the-top annoyance over professional bowlers who bowl two-handed (he was watching some tournament. I don’t even know.)

There were positive things I could have been doing, but instead I took a nap.

I should have just stayed off social media. I know better. When my attitude goes south, watching other people have fun without me is not really the way to feel better.

It’s like I wanted to wallow.

At dinner, though, I served up snacks–pizza rolls, mozzarella sticks, cheese and meat tray with crackers, chili cheese dip and tortilla chips, grapes, and sprite in fancy glasses with a drop of grenadine for extra fancy–and we talked about what would be coming in 2018. It pulled me out of my funk, so I thought I would share.

In 2013 Cortney and his business partners opened a new business together: Trigon Steel Components. It’s something Cortney has really been preparing for, albeit unknowingly, his whole life. Since middle school, Cortney has been working on and off in the steel truss business, and when he was approached to buy into starting a new business, it all just clicked.

In the first week of 2018, Trigon will move into their new building that was finished just weeks ago. This is a huge deal for Cortney and his partners. In less than five years, they went from not existing, to growing out of their small building due to demand for trusses and their expansion into doing wall panels as well. We are super proud of Cortney and can’t wait to see where this takes the company!

This week I will also submit my application for the PhD program I am hoping to start, but the newest development is that I will actually be starting my first class in January rather than wait until the fall! I have a very unique opportunity to take part in a seminar on teaching climate change that I can defer paying for until I am accepted in the program. The professor is one whom I have taken methods classes with as an undergrad and in my Master’s program. I’m pretty excited to start this new adventure and be a student again!

I actually started my MA program the same way: taking a class in January while I applied to the program and then officially started in the fall of 2003. I graduated from that program 10 years ago this year.

This is the year Cortney and I both turn forty. I’m first this March. I’m actually looking forward to it right now. Probably because we have a fun weekend in Chicago to celebrate planned with some of our favorite people. I’ll actually be in class the evening of my birthday, but that seems fitting?

The kids turn 3, 6, and 9 this year, something that freaks me out because it means no babies/toddlers at all anymore. But it also means we are on the verge of having a tween. It’s the last year we have them all in single-digits, and that makes me both excited and a bit sad.

Cortney and I will celebrate 13 years of marriage this year. Lucky 13. I don’t know what we will do yet, but I can tell you it will not be an expensive gettaway since we are paying for grad school again. Ha! And that is Ok. Someday we will go somewhere with poolside drink service. Until then, we will dream and save our pennies.

In a week I’ll start the second semester of my 15th year of teaching. We have the coolest stuff planned and I hope to have the time to share some of it with you.

I don’t do resolutions, but I did set my reading goal for 50 books in 2018. I met my goal of 40 books last year, but this year I am counting anything I read for the first time including children’s books I read with the kids that are new-to-me (which means my first finished book of 2018 is the 3rd Dogman book, but whatever). I also hope to write here at least once a week in addition to once a month at The Educator’s room.

Plus my homework. HOMEWORK!

Here we go, 2018.

Counting Down to 2018

Christmas is over (unless you celebrate all twelve days of Christmas and then my hat is off to you, friend). This of course means we are on the countdown to 2018, and I don’t know about you, but I am ready for a new year.

This year was not without merit though. I mean, we watched a lot of Netflix. So there’s that. In fact, we watched enough shows and movies that I can give you a Top 5 As Voted on By the Sluiter Family.

#5: A Series of Unfortunate Events

Technically this is mostly an Eddie pick, but I really loved this too. If you’re a Lemony Snickets fan, you’re sure to love the Netflix Original series based on the books.

#4 Beat Bugs

Alice loves the Beat Bugs mostly because she loves their songs…I mean The Beatles’ songs…that are in every episode. She dances around singing “Love, love, love…” It’s adorable. Until it’s not.

#3 Trollhunters

The boys LOVE this show. Especially Eddie. When the new episodes came out, it was breaking news in our house. It’s cute, but there is a bunch of action in it, which of course my little dudes love.

#2: Boss Baby

This is the one on here I haven’t actually seen, but when I was in St. Louis, this was a hit for Cortney and the kids. They all loved it and it helped Cortney keep his sanity as the solo parent for five days.

#1: Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas

I am confident we have watched this no fewer than a hundred times this month. It is a family favorite. In fact, we have started singing “Christmas Monkey” as part of our own family tradition. We love that darn monkey!

This New Year’s Eve, besides looking forward to waving 2017 goodbye, the kids are also looking forward to another round of NYE Countdowns from their favorite characters. Make sure you check those out too…because you can do them long before midnight!

Happy 2018, my friends!

*************

Disclaimer: This is not a paid post. As a member of the #StreamTeam, Netflix provides us with streaming and a device for my family to watch it on. We watch a ton of Netflix and give our opinions once and a while. It’s a sweet deal.

Santa’s Magic

The other night after Charlie had fallen asleep, Eddie turned to me and said the words I knew had to be coming soon, “Mom. Some kids at school say Santa is not real.”

Eddie is eight and in the third grade. I knew very well that kids talk and it wouldn’t be much longer before my super inquisitive buddy would have questions about the validity of Santa Claus.

“Well, Eddie, what do you think is true?” I asked him, a bit nervous of the answer.

“I think,” he said slowly, “that he is real because you and dad would never lie to us.”

A part of me winced, but I said, “It’s true, daddy and I will never lie to you. And Santa’s magic is very real. Do you know how I know that?”

“How,” he whispered with wonder.

“Because,” I said, “I can see it in you and your brother and sister. I can see the magic twinkle in your eyes when you think about Santa and when you love each other.”

“Why would kids say he’s not real then?”

“I don’t know. There are always going to be people who say this or that is not real. There are people who will say stuff we know to be true–like science–is  not real. And there will be people who have a hard time believing things they can’t see like God or Jesus are not real too. We just have to decide for ourselves.”

“And you think Santa is real?”

“I think Santa’s magic is very real.”

“Me too, Mom. Me too.”

This may be the last year that Eddie believes in the actual man, Santa. And that is Ok. As long as he never loses the Christmas magic that is love and gratitude and joy.

Stockings made by Great Gram Sluiter: Charles, Alice, Edward

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.

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