feeding a hungry soul

Today did not start well.

Without throwing blame around, I’ll just say that Sunday mornings are a variation of hard. We have never  had a smooth Sunday morning in the history of ever.

I sat down in church grumpy and annoyed, and just not even wanting to be there. In fact, I came THIS close to shoving my Sunday school story at Cortney and saying, “I am staying home alone. Tell them I am sorry, but I can’t come do this today.” In fact the only reason I got in the car with my family was because my 2nd and 3rd graders were depending on me being there, and I did not want to put our VERY pregnant Pastor of Young Families in a pickle by not showing up.

While Cortney settled Charlie into nursery and I tried to get Eddie and Alice situated in our pew, my soul sister friend (The Preacher’s Wife) plunked a bag of wonderful soup, bread, and treats next to me, hugged me quickly, and whispered, “this small treat is just for you. Do NOT share.” It was HER birthday today, and she was feeding MY tummy and soul.

Then the message, of course, was something I also needed to hear. I wish I had been able to better concentrate, and truthfully I wish it had been longer. I wish there was more. I needed to be fed today. My heart and soul and spirit were very exhausted and hungry.

Once church was over and I had the kids fed and occupied, I realized I didn’t have time to get done what needed to get done for school today before we had to pack up the family and go to a birthday party.

Charlie didn’t get a nap and Alice only napped for 45 minutes.

I laid on the couch with a slight tummy-ache (stress-related, not actual sickness) for about 30-minutes because if I had tried to do the things on my To Do List, I would have just started crying. So I rested.

The birthday party was for my just turned 2-year old nephew, Ezra. We also got to meet our niece (his sister) for the first time. She was so tiny, and once she was placed in my arms (wearing an outfit Alice wore) everything inside of me calmed.

The sadness I had about giving Alice’s rock n play away left. The stress tummy-ache went away. And the pang of regret about having no more babies even left. She was perfect and lovely and…not mine.

Then I looked at my beautiful sister-in-law. She looks so tired. So beautifully new-momish, but so tired. I wanted to take her in my arms and rock her until she fell asleep. I wanted to whisk all of the people out of her house to my house and give her some hours of uninterrupted sleep.

I’m still tired and a little grumpy that I didn’t get all done that I had planned. I still really REALLY need some hours alone at some point. My heart and soul are still pretty tired.

But being with friends and family today did much more for me than I could imagine.

I am pretty damn lucky.

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!

when the words won’t come

I’m currently very stressed out.

The work week is over, but I still have things that I had to take home with me. I’m not even sure they will get done because we have so much else going on.

This is another non-post.



I just…I have nothing tonight. But I made this stupid commitment to do a blog post every stupid day in stupid November. And then my “supportive” husband was all “I know you are super busy, but you should do it. It’s good for you.”

Stupid supportive husband being supportive. And stupid.

So all I have tonight is filler. Fluff.

I’m tired. This is maybe the hardest week of the school year: parent/teacher conference week. Yesterday and today I was at work for 12 hours. Well, actually, today I left school at 2:45 with the students to make it to Eddie’s parent/teacher conference by 3:20 (did I mention my commute is about 35 minutes?) and then back to school for our conferences that started at 4pm, but I got back late because traffic.

No students tomorrow, but we have professional development in the morning and three more hours of conferences after lunch.

I’m tired.

I like conferences. I wish more parents would come and see me. But I am tired.

I’m also a bit sad. My niece is a week old and we haven’t met her yet because last week we all had colds and this week has been hellaciously busy.

Saturday I have TWO baby showers to go to at the same time.

I’m just tired, dudes.

So this post is sort of nothing. But I posted. And now I am going to go eat pizza rolls and Oreos and not care because TIRED.

better together…or not so much?

After my 20-week ultrasound with Charlie, and after we had texted all the family and friends, I asked Cortney if he was excited to have another boy. Both of us were actually quite giddy about another little boy. Eddie would have a BROTHER! They would be BROTHERS!


I have never had a same-sex sibling, but from what I could tell, it was both a blessing and a curse…but mostly a blessing. I was always a little jealous of my two brothers. Even though Chris and I were closer in age, he and our youngest brother, Mike were closer. I guess there are just things that you can’t talk about with your big sister, but that a brother understands. You know, like sports.

Cortney, though, had a brother. There are almost seven years between them, but the have a special bond. Now that they are adults, they get together regularly. They bond over a beer and discuss everything from sports to their dad to having daughters.

Brothers are special. It’s just a special relationship. That is why when were told Eddie was getting a brother, a Charlie Bird, we rejoiced for our family.


I had to write all that because now that they are three-and-a-half and six? I am not always so sure about the wonder of the brotherly bond.

Friends, the level of bickering goes to eleven with these two.

It usually starts with both of them doing their own thing. Maybe Eddie is playing the tablet while Charlie catches up on his DVR-ed Mickey episodes. Everything is peaceful in Sluiter Nation. And then someone (ahem, Charlie) feels the need to sit too close to Eddie. Or maybe someone (ahem, Eddie) randomly mentions that he had a piece of candy after school. AND THEN ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE.

Eddie freaks out on Charlie or Charlie freaks out on all of us.

And they BOTH need the last word.

I admit that I yell. I know, I KNOW. I’ve read all those stupid articles and posts about yelling at your kids and how you need to be all patient and down on their level.


This goes on and on for days and days.

The picking the bickering the not being able to be in the same dang room without driving Cortney and me to the Loony Bin.

And then Eddie will come home from school with a library book he picked out because Charlie would like it.

Or Charlie asks Eddie if he would like some of his m&ms.

Or Eddie asks Charlie if he would like to learn to play Where’s My Water on his tablet, and they scrunch together in the chair on a Saturday morning.

2015-11-08 08.26.35

Or Charlie asks Eddie if he can play Pokemon with him and Eddie says Yes.

Or Eddie asks Charlie what letters he learned at daycare and tells him “Good job!” when Charlie shares his letter work.

Or Cortney and I wake up at 6am on a Saturday because we hear the two of them giggling and talking with each other in their room because they know they can’t get up until 7:00am.

2015-10-30 17.38.21

I catch myself in those moments pausing and trying to picture them in high school together or in their 20’s and talking smack to each other about fantasy leagues. I try to picture them standing up in each other’s weddings or holding each other’s newborn babies. I like to think they will always stick up for each other, always be there when the other needs a buddy to just have a beer with.

And just as a tear is starting to come to my sentimental mom eye, I’ll hear a smack and then the yell of “CHAAAAAARRRRLLLIIIIEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!” Then a three-and-a-half-year-old scream and another thump.

I will suck in my breath, shake my head, and try to calm down so I don’t yell. Again.

Brothers, man.

Giving and Thanks

A lot of people use November to list something they are grateful for each day on Facebook. I have never participated, not because I don’t have 30 things to be thankful for, but because November is insane and I never remember about it until, like, the 5th. Then I am already behind.

I also like to think of November as a time to give as well as to be thankful, and that’s just a lot for Facebook where I am pretty sure people already “hide” me.

Besides. I have a blog for these things, yes?

So because it’s November 10, here are 10 things I am thankful for AND 10 ways I try to give (and one request)…

I am thankful for…

  1. A husband who doesn’t consider being a good dad something “extra”, but something that is just his job as a dad. Not only does it make my life easier, but it is priceless for Eddie, Charlie, and Alice to have such an involved, loving dad.
  2. Three healthy kids who are the perfect fit for our family. Each fills a roll in this family that make us complete.
  3. A job I love.
  4. My students and their middle schoolish-ness. They want so badly to be adultish, but they still are very much kidish as well.
  5. This little house that drives me crazy. Eleven years ago, Cortney and I started the process to buy this house. It seemed so big and so full of possibilities. With three kids and a zillion more tubs of stuff, this house is starting to feel like the shrinking house. But it’s cozy and keeps us safe. It’s seen us through lots of loss and even more happiness. It is our home.
  6. My mom and dad. They have been married over 40 years and they are wonderful models to us of what a good marriage looks like.
  7. my internet friends–you are proof that the internet is not all mean comment sections and uproars over coffee cups.
  8. my “in real life” friends–I love you and cherish you and do not do nearly enough to show you that.
  9. my siblings. The older I get, the more I realize how rare it is to not only have siblings you get along with, but siblings-in-law you love and get along with as well. Wait. I don’t just get along with all 8 of my siblings/in-laws, I consider them my friends. That is a gift.
  10. health care that lets me take care of my family’s medical needs, vision needs, dental needs, and mental health. It’s costly, and it means I make way less than I could be making, but I have never had to worry about the cost of taking my child to urgent care for a fever.

Ways I am (we are) giving…

  1. We support my school’s theater program. Theater and the arts save lives.
  2. We are donating all of our baby items that we are done with to family’s who need them.
  3. We are buying books for my classroom library. Books save lives, yo.
  4. I donated children’s books to a local charity.
  5. We donate to the food drives at Eddie’s school and my school.
  6. We do the Angel Tree.
  7. We give collection in Sunday School (Children in Worship) to help buy goats for a needy community.
  8. We donate gently used clothes, toys, and household items to GoodWill
  9. I give my time as a Sunday School (Children in Worship) story-teller/leader.
  10. I cook meals for family and friends when they have a BIG LIFE EVENT like a baby or a loss.

Not all of the above ways to give are monumental, but when you don’t have a lot, you give where you can. We are not in a time of life where we have an overabundance in the finances department, but we always have an overflowing of love to give.

And now that request…

if you have stuck with me for any amount of time, you know that one of the places that the most of our money and the most of my time goes is the literacy of my students in the form of my classroom library.

You have all always been so generous.

My students have come together and made a list of 25 books they really want in our library. I posted it on DonorsChoose.org where people can put as much as they want toward our “project”. If you type in SPARK when you donate, your dollar amount will be matched.

View our project here.

We are already about a third of the way to our goal; we need under $200 more. A $5 donation could be $10 when you enter SPARK and put us that much closer to getting these books.

If you’re looking for ways to give this season, I would love to be on your short list. Otherwise please consider passing our need to someone else who might be looking for a place to donate.

Thank you. THANK YOU for your continued support.

Because of your kindness, we are now halfway to getting the books for my classroom library! Only $150 to go!

I Believe…

in doing the right thing.

talking things out is always better than the alternative.

ear buds are a rude invention.

in telling your kids the most age-appropriate truth you can when they ask questions.

that books can change lives.

Day 2 hair can be infinitely better looking than Day 1 hair.

a text from a good friend can make the whole day better.

social media can be just as uplifting and comforting as it can be damaging and dividing.

words have power.

I am my daughter’s most important role model.

there are not boy color and girl colors, there are just colors.

authentic Mexican food can make everything all better.

kindness and love win.

in snail mail.

sleep is the best medicine…after laughter.

actions speak even louder than words.

in family traditions–the sillier, the better.

math is hard.

a cute pair of shoes can make a whole outfit feel awesome.

in cooking for someone when they have experienced a big life event.

in myself.

I believe.

Get Down, Get Down

2015-11-07 12.36.39

Well, we did it again. We got another Kidz Bop CD. I can hardly believe there are already THIRTY Kidz Bop albums! I can remember when it first started. I was just out of college and I remember seeing the commercials with songs from Brittney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Enrique Iglesias. I especially remember those kids crooning “Bailamos!” Oh my word. I thought it was so goofy!

And now here we are, 15 years later, and I have my own kids and six of the Kidz Bop albums including a Christmas favorites album. I still think it’s goofy, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit to listening to three songs the other day with NO KIDS IN THE CAR.

As usual, the boys have their favorites on this one. Eddie loves “Worth It” (Fifth Harmony) and Charlie likes “Cheerleader” (OMI). I thought for SURE we would be stuck listening to “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” (Silento), but they really aren’t impressed with that one.

And I should mention that even though neither boy knows who Taylor Swift is, thanks to Kidz Bop they love all her songs. “Bad Blood” is on this album and while I’m not generally a Swifty fan, it’s pretty fun to belt out “HEY NOW WE GOT PROBLEMS! AND I DON’T THINK WE CAN SOLVE THEM!” with two little boys while cruising down the street in my mom-mobile.

Yeah, I never saw this coming either. Looking back, I’m not sure how this happened, but it makes me smile.

I will say, though, that we have gotten to the point where I almost need all the songs on one big MP3 Disc because Charlie will yell “PLAY THE I DON’T CARE SONG!” and then Eddie is all, “PLAY HOT PANTS!” and then Charlie is like “PLAY GRANDMA’S COAT!” but Eddie is like, “I WANT WORTH IT!” Yeah, none of those are on the same album.

(sidebar: the I Don’t Care song is really “I Love It” by Icona Pop, Hot Pants is actually “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson/Bruno Mars, Grandma’s Coat is “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, and Worth It is still “Worth It by Fifth Harmony.)

So yes, we rock on to kid-friendly versions of pop songs of already questionable value.

What of it?


Disclaimer: this is not a sponsored post. Kidz Bop did send us the album, but not our opinions. Those, regrettably, are our own.

Eight is Great!

Dear Alice Beans,

Or Beansy, or Beanzer, or Beezy….you have lots of little nicknames–mostly because of your daddy. He likes to call you Beezy best lately.

2015-11-07 12.15.17

At bedtime one night this past week, I read a book to your brothers called “How a Daddy Says I Love You” and one of the ways was by making up silly names for you. The boys started listing all the silly names your daddy calls all three of you. There were so many! They decided that daddy  must love you all a LOT to make up so many, and they are right! He loves you all to the MOON.

Speaking of daddy, I will tell you a secret, sweet Alice, you have your daddy wrapped around your finger. One smile from you and he can’t help but hug and kiss you and promise you the world. I’ve even heard him say, “what’s that? you want a pony? Ok!”

2015-11-07 12.15.31

This past month you’ve made some pretty big growing up jumps, little lady! Not only are you a sitter, you are starting to MOVE. You haven’t figured out crawling yet, but you recently found that rolling can get you places. As can scooting backward. In fact, Thursday night I set you next to the couch, and when I turned around you had traveled all the way to the kitchen table!

2015-11-07 12.16.04

You have also gotten two more teeth! One on the bottom (for a total of 4 down there), and one is just starting to poke through the top too! While you still prefer the bottle to get your nourishment, we have been feeding you baby food too. Although last month, you would eat it pretty well, this month you have gotten ridiculously picky. You purse your little lips and look at us like “nope”. Well, except for squash. You devour that.

I’ve been cutting up your fruits to let you feed yourself. You like that with the bananas, but you get mad at the peaches and pears since they are slippery. Crackers are your best friends, which is not surprising since your mother is also a carb-lover.

2015-11-07 12.15.38

You’ve also been sleeping a LOT lately, which makes us believe you are getting ready to learn to do new things like crawling.  Eek! The best part of this, though, is that you have made it a nightly ritual to fall asleep while playing on the floor. It’s usually while one of us is putting your brothers to bed. Then you wake up and want a bottle around 10pm. Then you zonk out in our arms, which means we can put you in your crib and not hear from you again until morning.

I’ve started posting these every night on Instagram. It’s so dang cute!

2015-11-06 20.25.15

You also nap like a dream. Just today I was cuddling you and noticed that you were putting things by your nose. That is one of your sleepy cues, so I just laid you in your crib. You smiled and kicked, but I was able to walk away. That was over an hour ago and you have not made a peep!

Alice you are SO MUCH FUN at this age!

Your giggles boarder on ridiculous–they are very deep and man-like. You also get stars in your eyes when your brothers play with you. As far as you are concerned, they hung the moon and set the world to spinning.

Your tiny life is just so happy right now, and that makes me happy. Your little face makes my day wonderful, even when it’s really been sort of terrible. You are my sunshine, my dear daughter.

I love you so much,



Oh Yeah, I Teach Too.

The first thing people ask me when they see me is, “So. How is the school year going?”

I realized today that I am constantly answering that question in real life, but have been weirdly quiet about it here.   Today was the last day of the first marking period. One quarter of the school year is already over.  That is sort of crazy to me. I mean, it feels like we just started.

So how is it going?

In a word: Great.

Last year was Ok. It was better than I thought it would be, but I told myself I wouldn’t make a judgement based on my first year–one where I was overly tired and emotional due to being pregnant. And one I didn’t finish because of said pregnancy.

This year is already a million times better if only because I have much more energy. I mean, I don’t have to waddle my way to the copy room only to need a nap when I get back. So you know, bonus!

My Reader’s Workshop is off to a really good start. There are still parts I need to tweak, but the kids are responding well to it. They are enjoying reading what they want to read, and I’ve gotten positive feedback from them on the amount of time I give them to silent read.

2015-09-15 13.06.36

This year I also added the Reader’s Notebook portion where I give them 4-5 minutes to respond to their reading.  This part may need some adjusting. I showed the students the notebook that I am keeping, and I share it with them every week so they can get some ideas for their own. Some kids are doing a ridiculously awesome job; others are trying to just get by with a one-or-two-sentence summary each time. My goal is to get kids to think deeper about what they read, but I don’t want it to turn into busy work. It needs to feel like an authentic way to put their own voice into what they are experiencing via the written word.


2015-08-23 17.35.28

We’ve also been writing. I find that with some of the curricular requirements I have (reading a full-class novel each quarter and doing vocab lists), I don’t have the time to set up workshops the way I would like. I think if it were up to me, our entire class would be set up as a workshop. We would always be in either Reader’s Workshop or Writer’s Workshop mode. I haven’t found a way to do that with us reading a whole class novel and doing sixty vocabulary words a marking period, but I do feel like I am making progress.

This quarter we wrote personal narratives using the This I Believe essay format (from NPR). We did each of the steps together: I modeled it, then they did it. I wish we had had about one more week for them to do some peer-work with them. They didn’t turn out exactly as I had hoped. Some kids did fantastic, of course, but overall I felt I could do a better job.

2015-10-21 13.36.16

The last thing I have incorporated this year is the anchor chart. I have full-on-embraced those things and the kids love them! I have been making them for everything! We have character charts, plot maps, grammar charts, critical reading charts, writing charts…they are EVERYWHERE! All the research I have done supports the use of visual cues as a way to help students absorb what they learn, so I do it.

2015-10-01 11.57.37

I’ve been working hard to write about what I’m doing and what is best practice over at The Educator’s Room as well as sites like Nerdy Book Club, Writers Who Care, and others. I also presented again at the Michigan Council of Teachers of English (MCTE) conference.

While I feel good about what I am doing and where I am going and my level of involvement in my own professional development, I guess I haven’t written about it because I don’t want to toot my own horn too much. I mean, as I typed up each of the above things, my head was swimming with the kids I’m still not reaching, what we still need to work on, and how I could do it better and more efficiently than I am now.

I’m reluctant to yell, LOOK AT ALL MY AWESOME, when I feel like it’s not the level of awesome it could be. I mean, the ideas are awesome. The practice COULD be awesome, but it still needs work.

So yes, the school year is going great…but I am also still working on it.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...