What We’re Reading

It’s been awhile since I wrote about books. I didn’t realize how many of you actually like to know what I’m reading, what my kids are reading, and what my students are reading!

I’ll start with my reading pile.

I’m currently reading Both of Me by Jonathan Friesen. He will be the visiting author at our school in January, so I am teaching this book in the next few weeks. I’m pretty excited about it because it’s so different than any book I’ve ever taught.2015-10-28 22.00.13

Clara and Elias are randomly next to each other on a flight to the United States. On the flight, Clara tries to strike up a conversation with Elias and realizes that he knows something about her past–something she is trying to keep hidden in the past. After they part ways, she realizes their backpacks were switched, and when she brings his back to his residence, she realizes that the Elias she met on the plane is not the same Elias that greets her at the door.

We just had Eddie’s parent/teacher conference this week and found out he is meeting benchmarks that surpass first grade in both reading and math. The kid loves learning. We had two Captain Underpants books at home and these have now become Eddie’s favorite.

We have read three of the series so far (numbers 1, 3, and 4). Eddie has put the rest on his Christmas list. I’ll be honest and say I think they are pretty dumb, but they are silly and they keep Eddie interested in reading.


Charlie tries to listen to the chapter books at bedtime, but is usually uninterested if there are not pictures on the page. He usually picks from our enormous pile of picture books. Eddie also chooses books from his school library that he thinks Charlie will enjoy. This usually means we read a Curious George book at bedtime too.

It’s interesting to watch my students are reading. There are certain books and series from last year that were wildly popular that just haven’t been checked out much, but there are others that collected dust last year that have been constantly checked out this year.

A few of the favorites so far this year (that I haven’t mentioned before) include:


Paper Towns by John Green – Ok, I mentioned this one before. But it’s hugely popular right now because of the movie and because Looking For Alaska is pretty similar, that one is always checked out too.

The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon – This book was new to my library this year and my students discovered it in the nonfiction section before I could read it. It’s a memoir about how Runyon attempted suicide as a teenager by setting himself on fire.

Gone (the series) by Michael Grant — Once kids have read through The Hunger Games and Divergent series they want something new. In this series, all the adults have been wiped out leaving only kids, toddlers, and babies to fend for themselves.

Bone (the series) by Jeff Smith — I really know nothing about this series because the minute I put it in my library it was all checked out. All of it. Reluctant readers (mostly boys) flock to this.

The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B Cooney — This actually a series too. I got it because this year I have quite a few reluctant readers who asked for mysteries. Since they were not big readers to begin with, my Agatha Christie was not appealing to them. I needed something YA to get their attention. Because of the popularity of this one, I just added the next in the “Janie Johnson Series”.

We Were Liars by e. lockhart — Ok fine. I mentioned this one before too. BUT in my defense that was before school started. This is one that the both boys and girls love to read. I’ve got quite the wait list for this one.

Ok, I showed you mine, now you show me yours. What are YOU reading? Or have I tempted you with any of these?


If you want to help give my students more books to choose from, check out my Project for getting 25 new books here. I only need $120!

BabyFat by Pauline Campos {a review}

BabyFatCover1+copy-2I’ve written before about the fact that I struggle with my self-image– most specifically my weight. In college I was 5’7″, 125 pounds, and a size 6. I was exactly average. I often wished for a couple curves, but overall I was pretty happy.

Now I am a good 75 pounds over that, although I am not taller, and definitely not a size 6. Before having kids, it wasn’t hard for me to lose weight if I worked hard at it an cleaned up the food I was eating. Now, five pregnancies later, my body can’t seem to let go. Or maybe I am eating trash and never moving my body. It’s something.

One of the very first chapters of Pauline Campos’s book Baby Fat: Adventures in Motherhood, Muffin Tops, and Trying to Stay Sane addresses this phrase: “you look good considering…”

hate this phrase. Because I know what “considering” means. I know why I look like I do. Why can’t people just stop with “you look good!”

Obviously, from the start of the memoir I was nodding right along.  In Baby Fat, Campos chronicles her weight loss (and gain) journey post-baby. And she does NOT hold back. She bares it all: every success and failure, every positive and negative thought. She is funny, but real.

While I can’t relate to the food sensitivities or allergies her family has, I totally know what it’s like to have the best intentions only to stumble into a pile of Twix. As Campos told herself, “Tomorrow will be different…” How many times have I repeated this mantra to myself (including last night when I riffled through the boys’ Halloween candy in search of chocolate paired with caramel)?

The book reads like Campos is giving you a peek into her diary, complete with date headings. And as you read, you feel like it too. Campos is not afraid to drop a swear word and let us know how she really feels about all the point-counting, calorie-watching she tries to do. One of my favorite lines straight from one of her chapter titles: “Diet is a bad, bad word”.

From my experience, the thing that really worked for me was cleaning up my eating habits, not going on a diet. Toward the end of her book, it seems that Campos is finding out the exact same thing. Of course knowing and doing are two entirely different things; something Campos and I also have in common.  It became obvious the more I read, the more we had in common in this battle of the bulge.

Even more clear is the message of accepting yourself for who you are NOW. Pauline struggles throughout her memoir to lose weight, but she makes it very clear that she loves her curves and she loves herself. This is something I need to work on more.

I have been trying to look at myself every day and list things that I love about me, and I really try to find one physical thing each day. Today it was my eyes, in case you wanted to know. I have pretty great blue eyes.

Anyway, you should check out Baby Fat. Not just because I liked it, but because it’s a quick, funny read that I think lots of women will relate to. Also because one of my tweets made chapter 26. But mostly because you will like the book.

Two lucky people are going to WIN the book! One will get a paper copy and one an e-copy! Enter in the Rafflecopter Widget below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I was not paid to review this book, but Pauline is a friend of mine and sent me a free e-copy. My post is full of my honest opinions. The link is an affiliate, so if you buy her book I get like 10 cents or something. I’ll probably use it to buy more books for my classroom library.

What’s Past is Prologue

With it being National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo), I’ve been thinking a lot about this space. I realize it’s only Day 2 of the month, so Ok, I’ve been thinking about it for awhile, but this is as good of a time as any to actually write about it.

I keep seeing all these links to posts and articles about blogging being “dead”.

This makes me laugh. For one, many of my readers had no idea blogging was “alive” in the first place. Those of you who have stuck around are not really “blog readers” as much as you read MY blog. So ya know, that is cool.

Another reason it gives me a chuckle is because when I started this space over eight years ago, I didn’t even know blogging was a “thing” at all. I just wrote silly, boring updates about our life. Then one day (probably for Wordless Wednesday or something), I posted a picture of a tiny Eddie in a onsie standing with his little hands our on our large front window. I had two comments on it: one from a friend who always commented and one from someone I didn’t know!

That started the whole “blogging is a thing” for me. I realized that there were thousands and thousands of blogs out there on the internet. There were communities for blogging in all areas of social media (who remembers Blog Frog? Anyone? Is it still a thing?). I joined networks and did blog hops and even co-hosted some of these sites for linking up writing. My stats were at an all-time high about four years ago.

If I look at my stats now, I guess I would have to agree that “blogging is dead,” but to be honest, I didn’t really ever do this for the stats.

The reason I started this blog–and continue to post here–is because I want a written record of my stories. Of our life as a family. It started as a way to keep friends and family updated, but it morphed into something even more meaningful once we had kids.

One time my mom and I were looking through my baby book and some things she had saved. In the pile we found some paper with some “memories” jotted down from when I was tiny. She had written some funny things I said (how I said “k-pop pop” for “ketchup”) and did (one time my dad was home alone with me and I threw up on the bathroom floor). She said something about wishing she had written down more because it’s just too hard to remember it all–even when you think you will never forget some of the stuff.

I realized the memories–both small and large–that I put here will help me and my kids know what our life was like right now.

I also have never gone back and deleted a post. There are some that could go because they don’t further my “mission” of writing for my kids–like giveaways. But it is what it is, right? Shakespeare used the phrase “what’s past is prologue” in his play The Tempest meaning that everything in the past is a preface for the present and the future.

That is how I feel about my writing here.

I may do side things or try new writing stuff, but as far as I plan, Sluiter Nation will always be here as my place to write about me, my life, and my kids. On my “About” page, I call this blog a legacy blog because writing my words and my stories–our stories–is a way to leave something for my children.

This is my place to tell stories to remember their little selves, to give my thoughts on everything from potty training to gay marriage to my own {at times shaky} faith.  My hope is that this blog will be here, in some form, long after I am gone.

The hype and trendiness of blogging may have come and gone, but it really doesn’t matter to me. My words will still be here.


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Oh. Hi. It’s November.

That means it’s National Blog Post Month (you know, for those of us who don’t have the stones to do National Novel Writing Month). This is where I attempt to post every single day in November.

What could go wrong with that plan, right? I mean, this week is only the end of the first marking period at school. Next week is only  parent/teacher conferences for both my school AND Eddie’s. We only have Thanksgiving coming up plus my starting a new marking period with my students. We only have three birthday parties and two babies due in November in our family. NO BIG DEAL. It’s the PERFECT time to try to write something post-able every. single. day.

[I’m crazy]

Anyway, this first post is an easy one. It’s about last night. Halloween.

I sort of hate Halloween. It stresses me out and makes me cranky.

I know, I know…I’m such a scrooge. Such a Debbie Downer.

That doesn’t mean we don’t do the Halloween “stuff”. Everyone was in a costume (everyone = all three kids) and we had pumpkins that we actually carved. We didn’t do the pumpkin patch because it was on the list of things ain’t nobody got time for, but Cortney grabbed three great ones on his lunch break Thursday, and we carved them up Friday night.

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Saturday the kids dressed up in the costumes. Alice was not all that excited to have whiskers drawn on, but she got over it. Charlie was almost too excited to have a mustache drawn on.

We went to first to Cortney’s mom and step-dad’s house. That is always fun because Granny knows how to rock Halloween. Not only does she have goodie bags for the kids, she also always has cookies and other snacks out…as well as a beer/wine for the parents.

Plus the cousins are there too, so cute goes into overload.

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I know. Alice appears to be questioning all her life choices up to this point. She was so unsure of all that was going on. But she and her cousin, Alia, were adorable as Raggedy Ann and Minnie Mouse.

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If we could have just stopped here, I would have been totally cool with Halloween. Seriously.. Maybe next year we should just go here and have the kids trick or treat their neighborhood because there were snacks and wine for adults.

But we went over to my parents house next because Halloween is totally a grandparents dream…seeing their cutie grandkids in costume, spoiling them rotten with too much candy, and then sending them on their way.

By the time we got home, it was rainy and wet and way past dinner time. But the boys wanted to go door-to-door. So Cortney took Alice in to feed her and get our dinner ready, and I took the boys to a few houses.

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Since it was raining and I was cranky, I dropped the boys at the first house, rolled the windows down in my car, and yelled “run to the next house!” while I slowly drove along. We did this for about 8 houses. Then I pulled their damp little bodies into the car, drove around the block to our street, and dropped them to go to the house next door to us. Then they sprinted home to ring our doorbell.

As much as I was over it, I couldn’t help smile at the fact that Charlie looked just like Mario running and jumping through yards.

Until we got home and I pulled shoes off and found dog poop on Eddie’s skeleton foot. Ew.

But then we ate chili and cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate and all went to bed.

Oh, and rolled the clocks back. That was good times too.

Happy November. Happy NaBloPoMo. Let’s see if I can keep up.

Where My Writing Is

In case you missed them, here are my most recent posts around the web:

I was honored to be featured on The Nerdy Book Club just before school started giving my Top Ten list of the books that are always on hold in my classroom library. If you’re looking for a good read, I suggest you check out this list.

I’ve also been posting about once a week at The Educator’s Room. This month my posts have been mostly about Close and Critical Reading: This one addresses summarizing, this one talks about recognizing author’s craft, this one is about identifying purpose and theme, and this one is about making connections to text.

This week, I contributed a post about why I read aloud to my 8th grade students (and why I read to my high school students).

Thank you for being so supportive of my writing!

The Things They Carried

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This book reminded me of how necessary it is to go out of your comfort zone sometimes. This book reminded me that, no, I don’t normal read “war books,” but sometimes you need to take a risk and read something that is not your normal genre. This book reminded me that while it may not seem like I could relate to a Vietnam war vet, I would be wrong.

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien has been in my classroom library all year. I’ve wanted to recommend it–especially to boys who are finding a hard time choosing something–but I hadn’t read it and wasn’t sure how to present it. I don’t really read “war stories”. But I realized that by not reading it just for that reason, I was doing what my students were doing when they turned their noses up at books because the topic sounded boring.

So when I raided my classroom library in May to bring home a stack to read, I included The Things They Carried. Naturally, it was the very last book I picked up out of all the books. And I’m sorry for that because I quite possibly connected most to this one. In fact, I used O’Brien’s book as the first in my Reader’s Notebook that I am creating as an example for my students.

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The Things They Carried is actually a collection of stories, many of which has been published elsewhere before being brought together as a collection. The book is labeled as fiction, although the narrator is O’Brien and he was in Vietnam and all the places and characters and circumstances are based on real life. I would say The Things They Carried is “True Fiction”.

Everything he writes about is true, but it did not happen. Well, some of it may have happened, but not as he wrote it. Or to whom he wrote about. The truthiness of it plays with your mind a bit because it is so believable–graphic at times even–and yet, you know you are reading fiction. But while some of the details may be made up, it’s a True Vietnam War Story.

Sort of.

Admittedly, I don’t know a lot about the Vietnam conflict, and this book didn’t answer many of those questions. And I’m glad. When people say that it’s important to read books to see what it was like for the people who lived it, they were talking about O’Brien’s writing. I’m sure of it. This book proves why it’s important to read beyond textbooks. A history book is not going to show the reader the effects of PTSD or how soldiers coped with all the death around them. It’s not going to show the horrors of silence.

I think I connected to O’Brien’s words the most because he kept coming back to the idea of the story. How it’s important to tell your story. That even if you have to add details that did not happen, it’s Ok as long as they add to the truthfulness of the story. So your audience can feel and so you can release that bit of yourself from inside yourself.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

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Confession: I started this book and thought two things: 1) I like books that make me feel good about my Spanish and 2) this book is going to take a lot of brain power.

I started this book for no other reason that I want to read more non-white authors and many readers I respect (who read the “literature” on top of just other stuff) rated this one highly. I also started it one day on the deck in the sun in my favorite reading spot. It is a stark contrast to all the YA lit I have been reading lately.

Let’s see…how do I describe Oscar Wao? Well, the book is fiction, but it also has some magical realism. The narrator is third person, seemingly omniscient, whose actual identity isn’t revealed until about halfway into the book. The story is about Oscar and the curse that is on him and his family called the fuku. The book starts with Oscar’s childhood, but talks about his mother’s childhood and formative years in the Dominican Republic, his maternal Grandfather (where the fuku started), and his sister, Lola.

The narrator is incredibly conversational using Spanglish and Dominican slang to tell the story of the de Leon family.There are quite a few footnotes (which are just as conversational) to give the reader history and background of The Dominican Republic that will help understand character motivation or the environment the characters found themselves in.

The book is beautiful. The writing is glorious and true and moving. I kept thinking of my students as I read it…how many have such journeys in their family history–maybe not with a curse attached–but who have parents who have come from another country and they are first generation in the US. About the struggles and the reasons for coming.

It’s just an extraordinary book. I can’t compare it to anything because I have never read anything like it. And I read a lot.

Where My Writing Is…

In case you missed it, I have a few articles floating around the internet…

This month at the Educator’s Room, I’ve posted about what all teachers should be reading this summer, and it’s not just “teacher books”!

I also put on my serious, political pants and talked about the very real feeling that there is a conspiracy against public education among politicians.

With school starting, I wrote about the important task of creating safe spaces for kids in our classrooms.

Just this week, I posted an introduction to a series that I will be working on this month about Close and Critical Reading and strategies I/we use in my district that have really helped students improve their literacy.

Also a post I wrote originally for The Educator’s Room was re-run on The Washington Post! I know! So exciting! It’s the one about Job Insecurity in education.

My writing is also on BonBon Break again this month with a post I did about my feelings concerning School Dress Codes from a teacher’s point of view.

And lastly, I was interviewed by UpWorthy about what the deal is with Back to School Supply lists. (In Michigan we can’t require students to buy supplies; we have to supply them. Which is why I have a Wish List on Amazon, in case you are interested in helping out)

There you go!

School starts for me on September 1, and for the kids (Eddie included) on September 8. I’ve been busy busy BUSY with To Do Lists and creating stuff and I’ve even been into my classroom already setting things up for a new year.

There is a lot of excitement about it over here, I won’t lie!  Eddie is going into first grade, Charlie is starting his last year of “full-time” daycare (next year he will go to preschool part of the time), Alice is starting full-time daycare, and I will be teaching a new year of eager 8th graders.

But I’ll keep writing too! So stay tuned!

Me Before You

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This was a book I didn’t think I really wanted to read, but I caved to the pressure. I was certain I would quit this book because it would be too “Chick Lit-ish”.

Louisa is a twenty-six year old who gets laid off from her job at a cafe. She lives with her family (mother, father, younger sister, nephew, and grandfather). They don’t have much money. She gets a job caring for Will, a quadriplegic man. A wealthy quadriplegic man. An attractive quadriplegic man. The thing is, Will doesn’t want to live like this. He was very active before the motorcycle accident, and now lives in constant discomfort and pain. Lou makes it her mission to show him just how beautiful a life he can still have.

See? Sounds incredibly sappy, right?

It’s not though. I don’t know how JoJo Moyes did it, but Me Before You is fast-pace, witty, and even suspenseful. I found myself worrying about the characters when I wasn’t reading. Yes, there are a bunch of cliches and the premise itself is pretty sappy, but somehow Moyes made me care about the characters. She made me root for Louisa and Will…and not that they would get romantically involved, but that she would be successful in showing him a wonderful life. On the other hand, the book also made me seriously think about my own views on assisted suicide.

It was a deep topic that read like a light beach read.

That is writing talent, right there.

Even before I was finished with the book, I recommended it to someone and promised to bring her my copy the next time I see her.  I don’t do that with many books.

Have you ever been pleasantly surprised by a book that you thought you wouldn’t like, but ended up loving?


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.


Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Last fall I read Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. I adored it. I couldn’t talk it up enough in my classroom, and for the rest of the school year there was a wait list for it. I meant to read Fangirl next, but due to the popularity of Eleanor & Park, it was also checked out all year, so I moved on to other books and other authors.

This summer I was perusing the “new in paperback” section at the book store and saw Landline. I picked it up even though I had a pile at home of other books to read.

I will admit the premise of a telephone that calls the past was weird, but I trusted Rowell. I knew if anyone could make it work in a quirky, witty way, it was her.  And I was not disappointed.

Georgie McCool is a writer for a TV comedy series with her best friend since college, Seth. She spends a ridiculous amount of time at work, leaving her husband, Neal, home with their two small daughters. Georgie and Neal love each other, but there is always a tension. It comes to a head when Georgie chooses to spend their Christmas vacation home working with Seth rather than travel Omaha with her family. Over the time her family is gone, Georgie discovers that the phone in her childhood bedroom at her mom’s house can call Neal–not present-day Neal–but Neal from when they were in college. Her phone is like a time machine.  Now she has to figure out how to make things right with him by talking to the past.

I don’t tend to pick up a book if I think it might be a sappy love story. This is not a sappy love story. It is funny and ridiculous and a little sad in places, but not sappy.

Rowell tells the story from Georgie’s point of view. It bounces back and forth from present-day to her memories of meeting and dating Neal when they were in college, when they were first engaged and married, and to when their daughters were born. Rowell’s characters and dialogue quick and spot-on. She even manages to make me a bit nostalgic for the 90’s.

I think I even liked this book more than I liked Eleanor & Park. And that is saying a LOT because I gushed about that book.


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.

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