Stand Up {a giveaway}

Children’s books are a HUGE part of our family life in Sluiter Nation.

Eddie has so many that I am running out of shelf room in his bedroom.  Charlie has so many board books they are taking over the nursery. And yet, I would never ever say, “oh, we have enough books.”  There is just no such thing as “enough” when it comes to books.

Recently we added one more book to our growing pile, Stand Up. But this book is extra special. This one is authored by David Stefanich, otherwise known as “Uncle Dave” in our house since he is, in fact, the kids’ uncle.

Stand Up is a book about Xavier, a student at Parker Elementary. Xavier is a victim of bullying. The book follows Xavier from Kindergarten through 3rd grade and shows the importance of bystanders and how they can make all the difference.

David works in education as an elementary school principal and he is acutely aware of the challenges kids face at this age. Not only is the plot of the book wonderful for kids of all ages, but because of his work in education, it’s also the perfect book for making predictions, making inferences, and opening up discussion between parents and children.

Eddie and Charlie have listened to “Uncle Dave’s Book” countless times in the short week we’ve had it, and every time something new comes up when we are finished.

Stand Up would make the perfect gift this holiday season, but one of you has the chance to win a copy signed by the author here!

Just follow the directions in the Rafflecopter widget below. A winner will be chosen at midnight on November 25.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. We received two copies of the book because we paid for two copies. Now I want to give one to one of you because we love it and its author.

The Pros and Cons of a Janky Blog

My blog ain’t quite right.

A couple months ago I found I couldn’t log in. So I hired someone amazing and she fixed it.

Or so we thought.

I mean, I can log in and my blog is back and not hacked anymore.  She did her thing.  But something is still janky.  Something that is not her fault or mine.  We thought it was a hosting issue. I have a media library, can upload to it, but cannot access it from a post. So you know, that does me no good.  There are also weird memory-type errors. Like it can’t find my list of tags when I start typing them. It won’t let me make new categories. Among other weirdo things.

But GoDaddy can’t figure it out.

So maybe it’s a WordPress thing?  We don’t know. Cortney is working on it because I just hear gobble-dee-gook and start rocking and crying in a corner.

But I can type words.

It’s been driving me nuts to not post a picture with my posts though. I have pretty much had to give up Project 365 for this year since I am over two months behind. I mean, I have the pictures on my computer, but there is no way I am going to put them all up once (if? ACK!) this thing ever gets fixed.

It’s weird not to photo-document this pregnancy with Alice. In fact, it makes me angry. I have so SO many posts and pictures of BOTH boys in my tummy. Nothing of Alice.

Not being able to post pictures has made me use my words though. I have to either write or not post and because I am sick of not posting, I have been putting my words here.

I’d love to put a montage of snuggly pictures to show you how the boys have been with me lately, but I don’t have that option. So I’ll just have to tell you that Charlie likes to sit so close to me that it’s hard to tell where I stop and he begins. He has started to do this thing when we ask him to come to us where he turns and shakes his booty at us. It’s simultaneously frustrating and hilarious.

We have always laid next to Eddie as he falls asleep at night, but lately he has been turning into my negative space and putting a hand on my arm as he falls asleep.  A couple nights ago he confessed that he wishes I wasn’t pregnant because I am too tired all the time and he doesn’t want to have to share a room with Charlie. Then he started to cry because he was afraid Alice would think he didn’t love her.

My boys are so sweet.

I wish I could put their picture here.

But I guess I really don’t need to.

(I still want my janky blog fixed though.)

Daily Writing

I’ve now written and posted for 7 days in a row.  After all the lack of posts in the past few months (ahem, pregnancy), this is sort of a big thing. I posted on November 1st and then realized that National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo) is this month, so I thought, “what the heck? I’ll give it a try.”

I’m not sure what I thought would happen. Would the flood gates open and I would just start writing the best stuff ever? I mean, I had let the words pile up in there, surely words are like wine…getting better with age, right?

Yeah, no. Those words have gotten dusty and fat. They tumbled out all out of shape and clumsy. They are grubby and unpracticed. They are awkward and lame.

But they are coming out.

I was afraid I wouldn’t have something to say every day.

I was wrong.  In fact, I find myself looking at the world as a writer again. Everything is a potential story to tell. My writer lens is sort of scratched from being tossed aside for a few months, but it still fits. In fact, to my surprise, it’s quite comfy.

I find myself composing in my head on my commute to and from school. I’m jotting down ideas again.  And because I have committed to posting something every single day, I don’t even worry that I am not writing the next amazing masterpiece. I feel like there is so much dang pressure out there lately to write only polished, wonderful pieces…and then also submit them elsewhere, that it feels kind of good to know that I can just come here and write some stuff and post it and not feel the pressure on myself to be more amazing than the last link you clicked on.

I’m just being me here in this space.

What I am right now is a writer finding her way back, dusting off the words, and putting them down. One post at a time.

Get The Behavior You Want…{Review}

51WlU9RnZLL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I totally never read parenting books.

Ok that is a lie. I read What to Expect When You’re Expecting cover to cover when I was pregnant with Eddie. It was like my Bible.  And then his birth and everything was absolutely nothing like what I was told to “expect” and I chucked that book. I also bought a book about sleep training when Eddie was a baby who wouldn’t sleep (because colic and crazy baby!) and I wanted to stab the author, so I chucked that book too.

And then I stopped reading parenting books.

I may have parenting book PTSD. Whatever.

I do, however, love my friends with medical/nursing degrees. I try not to abuse our relationship by constantly texting or messaging them about ailments I or my family members may have. I’d like to publicly thank them and apologize to them for the pictures I’ve sent of rashes and/or the gross descriptions I have typed out.

Anyway, one of these friends happens to be the internet-famous Dr G. I call her Debi, but she Dr. Deborah Gilboa, MD. to you, and she wrote a book called Get the Behavior You Want…Without Being the Parent You HateAnd I read it…and LIKED it.

Even though I have little kids, I read the parts about tweens and teens too because, well, my boys WILL be that age someday. But really, more immediately, my students are that age. Since I have never taught 13-year olds before, I want to try to understand them a little better. No, I am not their parent, but man a LOT of my day revolves around behavior.

The book is set up to be extremely user-friendly. There are four major parts: one on respect, one on responsibility, one on resilience, and one on implementing the changes. In each of those sections there are numerous short, easy to read, chapters.  It is the complete opposite of daunting. In fact, when reading a book by an MD, the reader usually expects some jargon or medical terms to be thrown at them. Dr. G keeps it very simple and easy to understand. It’s much more like chatting with a friend than talking with a doctor. Yet at the same time, she keeps it very professional and because of her credentials, you know she can be trusted and relied on to give good advice.

One of my favorite sections was the one on resilience. We have had a lot of death in our lives and we have always been as honest as we can with Eddie (and now Charlie) about it. Some people have questioned why I would tell a 5-year old that his Papa died of cancer, but ever since he was small we talked about how Papa lived in heaven, then that he had died, and now that he died because of cancer. As he gets older and asks questions, we answer them as honestly and simply as we can.  This chapter reinforced how important it is for our kids to experience failure, grief, and loss.  It TOTALLY sucks, but it’s a part of life and if they can learn to be resilient from early on, they will probably be better at coping, and hopefully more empathetic to other people, as they get older.

There are a million tips and wise words I could share that I have underlined or marked, but really, you should read the book. If you are a parent, it’s a must-read, but I think even if you don’t have your own kids, but are a childcare provider, teacher, aunt, uncle, grandparent, etc. it’s a good book to have on hand.

The main message is right there in the title: you don’t have to be a giant jerk of a parent to have kind, well-adjusted kids. You don’t have to yell and lose your mind to have your kids behave.

Published…Again

Today is super exciting…even for a Monday!

In the spring, I was excited to announce that I was published in an anthology of essays, art, and poetry about child loss called Three Minus One: Stories of Parents’ Love and Loss.

Today another anthology is being released that I am blessed to be published in: My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends.

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don’t mind the post-Sunday-afternoon-nap face I have going on here.

I got my own copy just this past week and I as flip through all of the stories, I can’t help but feel honored to be included besides such fabulous writers.

But as I read over my words, I can’t help feeling a sadness. Because I am still struggling to find the balance in my life that nurturing and maintaining friendships require. I read a viral article online recently about how it doesn’t matter how you feel about your friends if you never show it.  It hit home for me because I realize that is my biggest struggle.

I think about my friends and pray for them daily. But they can’t know that if I don’t tell them or show them.

That is what my essay is about.  It’s about this crazy season of life I am in that has me armpit deep in my own children and in my job and it {unfortunately} pushes my friendships to the outside of my life.  And I can’t blame some of those friends for packing up and leaving.

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The stories in this book are so diverse, and you would be hard-pressed not to find one that resonates with you. I encourage you to get the book–and not just because my words are in there, but that IS a bonus–but because I think it’s a great read for all women.  Because we have all lost friendships.

Rare Bird {book review}

I must be in a memoir and memoir-style mood.

After reading the fictionalized memoir of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, I read a very real memoir by a good friend who lost her 12-year old son Jack in a freak accident.

Anna is the writer behind An Inch of Gray who wrote about life and refurbishing old furniture until the day her son was swept down a raging river and her world changed.

Continue Reading…

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Internet Friends are Real and Other Lessons

I’ve been home from BlogHer for over a week and a half now and I’m still trying to figure out how to write a recap.

Ok, let’s be honest, I’m struggling to write anything.

Before BlogHer, my whole family got sick. It started with Eddie and a trip to the ER. He was burning up and was sick and scared. Turned out he had a nasty case of strep throat. Then Charlie got it. Then I got it. Then Cortney got it.

We also have this THING going on (that’s not bad, but I can’t talk about it yet).

Just before leaving, my wonderful friend, The Preacher’s Wife, dropped off homemade soup, salad, applesauce, cookies, and a nice crusty loaf of bread. I cried. I just felt so…taken care of. It sounds silly to say out loud, but other than my mom, I don’t have many women near me who just do that sort of thing.

So then the next day I left for San Jose.

My first full day there I found out Eddie was sick all over again. Or rather he was still sick. The antibiotics hadn’t taken care of it all. Cortney was worried that if Eddie didn’t get rid of his fever, his plans to go to a concert Saturday night would be thwarted. I worried because I felt guilty that Cortney was losing so many days at work (and possibly a fun night out) and I was on the other side of the country.

But something happened at the conference.

While I did spend a lot (a LOT) of time texting with Cortney about everyone’s health, I was also surrounded by women who were legitimately concerned too.

I’ve been blogging for seven years, and over that time I have heard over and over “find your tribe”. I will admit right here that I always thought that was hokey.  Wasn’t that just another way of telling women to find their blogger “clique”?  What was this? High school?  I wasn’t in any “tribe” in high school and I wasn’t going to start now. I just get along with everyone…or almost everyone.

Just over a year ago I found myself in a blogger tribe. A group of women who where, at first, my go-to for all things internet and writing. But as we all communicated, it became so much more. Since we are all personal bloggers, personal stuff gets intertwined in the discussion about blogging. We have been there for intense high moments (births, graduations, etc) and horrible lows (pregnancy loss, deaths in the family, divorce, etc).

Many of these women were at BlogHer. Whenever they saw me, the first thing out of their mouths was always, “how are  you? Is everything Ok with the boys? How is the THING?” I felt loved and cared for even though I was worried and exhausted from stupid jet lag.

And that extended to the rest of the conference too. It was smaller this year than in the past years I went and I liked that.

Every presentation I went to from Jenny Lawson to Kerry Washington, from Tig Notaro to all the 10×10’s, and especially the VOTY (which is my #1 reason for wanting to be there in the first place, I felt this mad supportive vibe. The conference was intimate and more intense than ever. Over and over I felt the message was TELL YOUR STORY. TELL IT.

And the stories we heard: hilarious, heart-wrenching, horrible.

I tried to say hi to everyone that I know online if I saw them, but I know I missed a few.

I didn’t feel stressed out by the conference this year because there weren’t a zillion things going on at once. I liked that they eliminated all the outside parties and events and kept everything close.

I was a little bummed by the food choices. I mean, I get that we were in California, but a side salad is not a meal, yo. As Homer Simpson says, “You don’t make friends with salad.” And of course, as usual, the water/beverage situation was lacking. I will say breakfast was yum though. #baconrules

But in the grand scheme of it all, those are minor complaints.

Overall BlogHer was what I needed. I needed to hear those stories and be encouraged to tell mine. I needed to be reminded of the greatness of being a blogger…of being a personal blogger.

Voice matters.

And the voices of my friends were loud and clear: you matter to us, Katie.

In the span of two weeks I experienced something that I never really did before: women taking care of women just because it’s the kind thing to do. Because it’s how we hope our fellow sisters will treat us.

My blogging “tribe”, The Preacher’s Wife, and so many others just praying and helping where they can.

It’s a gift to realize you are loved.

I spend a lot of time an energy thinking about how I am not good at female friendships, but the past few weeks have proven to me that I don’t suck at them either.

just a few of the women who I call my friends. Photo credit: Elaine of The Miss Elaine-ous Life

just a few of the women who I call my friends. Photo credit: Elaine of The Miss Elaine-ous Life

Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Over spring break Cortney and I took Eddie to Chicago. We went to some of the typical fun tourist things like Shedd Aquarium and the Lincoln Park Zoo. While Eddie was swimming in the hotel pool (on the top floor), Cortney noticed a little new/used bookstore a couple blocks downs from our hotel. The next night, after dinner–and a few beers–Cortney suggested we walk to the bookstore. And then he bought us each one book.

ONE BOOK!

How do you decide on just one book when you are standing in an old, creaky building filled with words?

So I scoured the shelves.

I picked things up. At some point I had 10 books in my arms.

In the end, I chose Where’d You Go, Bernadette? I really didn’t know anything about the book other than I saw on Facebook that a group of friends had read it and discussed it and they liked it.

And the cover looked interesting.  Sometimes it’s just that simple.

Continue Reading…

We Are Water

I love Wally Lamb.  I fell in love with his writing in She’s Come Undone. In fact, I absolutely couldn’t believe it was a man writing that well for a female character.  Then I read I Know This Much Is True. More fabulous writing.  This is also when I realized that Lamb could weave a pretty messed up tale and talk about some truly difficult subjects, but do it so well that you want to keep reading. A about four years ago ago I picked up The Hour I First Believed.

And now I’ve picked up his latest, We Are Water.

The reviews on this one were mixed, but I knew I had to read it. While I really loved The Hour I First Believed, I felt like it was super long and maybe could have ended before it did, so I guess I expected to enjoy the book, but maybe not LOVE it.

continue reading…

We’re On Each Other’s Team

Cortney and I have a really great relationship and strong marriage. It’s one of the things I am most proud of in this world and feel so grateful that such a wonderful friend ended up as my life partner.

We get asked a lot what they secret to our marriage is and if it’s really as awesome as we make it look online.

As someone who as dated her fair share of turds (and nice guys, but mostly turds), I wasn’t sure if there really was a guy out there who could make me feel like we were a true team.  Then Cortney and I found ourselves together.

I guess our secret is our teamwork.

There are other factors like that we are true friends, we have our own interests as well as shared interests, etc, but the big thing is teamwork.

And most of the time it’s as awesome as we make it look on social media.

Anyway, I am writing about that teamwork over at Mommy Miracles today. I’d be honored if you would give it a read.

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