A Little Bit of Girl

About four years ago one of my very great friends found out she was not having just one girl, but two! I got so excited that I just started buying baby girl things.

I got the girls pillow case dressed from Etsy, blankets and burp clothes from a friend, and just sort of sighed deeply at all the cute assuming I would probably not get to do this for myself.

Of course, I was wrong as is evidenced by the fact that a little Alice is growing (and moving!) inside of me as I type.

Last night our families got together for our monthly night of delicious food–her husband is the best cook I have ever met–kid fun, adult time for cards, and so many laughs.

As we were standing around chatting while dinner cooked, she came out with some things for Alice.
2014-11-16 13.07.32
Those dresses, blankets, and burp cloths are the ones I bought four years ago for her dear twin girls. She saved them in case I ever had a girl. I didn’t want to get all emotional on her, but I had completely forgotten about these gifts and I hugged them close to me. I’m pretty sure no one noticed that my breath was taken away and my eyes momentarily filled with tears.

I held the shoes in the palm of my hand while I thought of the seemingly hundreds of boy shoes I have in a tub under Eddie’s bed. I looked at this single pair of girl shoes and almost lost it.

It’s real.

I’m having a little girl.

We will bring her home and she will live here beside the two boys who are already bigger than the space we have.

She will carve out her own special place in this family.

She.

 

Grandparents

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Cortney and I have wonderful memories with all of our grandparents. I have gotten to listen to stories about camping trips with Cort’s maternal grandparents and Christmas’s with his paternal grandparents.Since we have been married, we lost both of Cortney’s grandfathers. Both deaths were very hard on our family because the men were such huge influences on Cortney’s life.

I have fond memories of my Grandma Jo. She was my mom’s mom and she taught me so much about being a kind, generous, strong woman. She was also hilariously fun and never shied away from a challenge. Including having me, my two brothers, and our five cousins all over for a weekend while our parents went skiing.

My paternal grandparents live across the street from an elementary school and I can remember them taking us there to play. I also have the best memories of my Grandma R reading me fairy tales from a book she has since given to me. It is big and old and falling apart. The pages are yellowy brown. It has been taped by ancient masking tape hundreds of times. These stories inspired me to want to tell stories too.

I could go on and on about our grandparents, but those are different posts.

Today I have been thinking about my parents and Cortney’s parents and the relationships they have been building with our kids.

We are so lucky to live within miles of both of our parents. Our kids have grown up seeing them often, and they never hesitate to babysit for us.

They build wonderful memories.

I can only hope that our parents live long lives so that our children get to have years and years of memories with them.

I also think about how they will never have memories of their Papa Steve, who died four years before Eddie was born. It’s hard for me to not wonder what memories they would be making with him.

One thing I know for sure is that our parents are the best grandparents in the world for our children. They love them unconditionally and spoil them the way grandparents should spoil their grandchildren–the way they never ever would have spoiled their own children!

Sometimes…

Sometimes…

I feel like I am failing.

I don’t think I have enough patience to be a mother.

I wonder why I thought I could have another baby.

Sometimes…

I don’t think I have enough patience to be a junior high school teacher.

I think I have to choose between being a nice teacher or the crabby teacher because being “fun” means kids can’t refocus.

I think about quitting.

Sometimes…

I feel like a let down as a wife.

I am painfully aware of how much work it is to love me.

I cry when he can’t hear me.

Sometimes…

I wonder why people stay my friend.

I have to admit I wouldn’t be friends with me.

I step outside myself and don’t like what I see.

Sometimes…

I laugh so hard at something my  boys do, I forget all the other challenges of the day.

I see in his eyes that wants no one else but me.

I think I can change the world one student at a time.

Sometimes I forget that my life is blessed because I get blinded by my self-doubts.

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

sometimes i know, sometimes i rise
sometimes i fall, sometimes i don’t
sometimes i cringe, sometimes i live
sometimes i walk, sometimes i kneel
sometimes i speak of nothing at all
sometimes i reach to myself, dear god
~Sometimes by Pearl Jam

The Days are Long…

“The days are long, but the years are short.”

I hate that phrase, but I use it all the time.

Just this morning I woke up to our alarm, rolled over, looked at the clock and thought, “How in the world is it only Thursday?”  I find myself wishing the days to go faster, to start later and end earlier.

The days start when it’s dark. I eat the same eggs and toast. I choose from the same few maternity outfits. I take the same drive to work. I follow the same schedule. I can expect the same challenges each day.

The days are ruts. Familiar and comfortable, yet confining and draining.

As I crawl into bed, I curse the early morning alarm that will be sounding in just a few short hours.

Dark morning to dark night.

Every day a list a mile long.

Every day a thousand needs to fill for a thousand different people.

Every day little to no energy.

Every day a thousand things left undone.

Last night I told Cortney that I find myself wishing for the end of the pregnancy because it means the end of this stressful “first” school year in my building, the end of this increasingly uncomfortable pregnancy, and the end of pregnancy for me forever.  But then I feel immediate guilt for such thoughts. I feel those little kicks in there that only I can feel yet. I think about how as soon as Alice is here, she starts that quick stage of infancy…the minute she snuggles in my arms, time starts to take that baby away.

Sunday we were at my nephew’s first birthday party. Charlie came monstering up to me and I actually flinched at how BIG he looked to me. I flashed back to how I cried and cried at how big Eddie looked when I brought Charlie home from the hospital almost 3 years ago, and realized that if Charlie looks big to me now? In four months he is going to seem like a dang adult.

I’ve only been a mom for five and a half years!

But holy cow…I’ve been a mom for a whole five and a half years!  That is longer than I was in college!

How did those years slip by so quickly when I feel like each minute of each day is plodding along at the speed of grass growing?

Somehow I have a 5-year old who tells me that he was “upset” or that something is “inappropriate” as he writes full sentences and reads me books.

Somehow I have a 2.5-year old who “reads” his favorite books because he knows them by heart, tells me he loves me, dances like a fool, and talks in full sentences.

Yet here I sit looking at the clock, wishing it was Friday afternoon rather than Thursday, and willing the next week to fly by so Thanksgiving Break can get here.

How can time fly and drag at the same time?

Five Books You (& your teen) Need to Read NOW!

I’ve been doing Reader’s Workshop with my 8th and 9th graders for almost 11 weeks now, and I have noticed that there are certain books I simply can’t keep on my shelves. There is constantly a wait list for these books.

Sometimes I start the craze by doing a book talk that gets the kids interested.

Sometimes they start their own craze–someone reads the book and tells a friend, and he tells a friend, and so on and so forth.  That is my favorite. In fact I was standing outside my classroom door in between classes today when I heard one of my students yell down the hall to another one of my students, “DUDE!  You checked out MY book!  I was going to get it today and you BEAT ME TO IT!  You better read fast!”

I don’t think I noticed anything else that happened today. That one interaction made me so happy.

Anyway, I thought I would share with you the Top 5 books (or series)* that I probably won’t see on my shelves again until I take inventory this summer.

Winger by Andrew Smith

I read this book on the recommendation of my friend, The Preacher’s Wife. She almost had no words for how it affected her.  The book is about a kid named Ryan Dean who everyone calls Winger due to his position on the school rugby team. He is a 14-year old junior at a very prestigious private school, that his parents put him in after he couldn’t stay out of trouble back home. On top of being young and ridiculously smart, Ryan Dean is also in love with his best friend, Annie, a fellow junior (but who is 17). His dorm-mate is the biggest bully on the rugby team and he is constantly fighting the label “kid”. This book is laugh-out-loud hilarious, but will tear you apart and leave you changed. One caveat: it has some pretty raunchy language, but it flows so well with the book, to me it’s forgivable.

The Selection (series) by Kiera Cass

I have not read this series, but I haven’t been able to keep it in my classroom since I got it. I have the first two books in the trilogy plus a special stories book that just came out in paperback. The girls in my classes check in daily to see if I have gotten the third book!  I have a lot of girls who love The Princess Diaries series, and once they finish that they want something similar. This series has some of the same aspects, but is more of a challenging read.

The reviews I read say the trilogy is like The Hunger Games meets The Bachelorette. Thirty-five girls are “selected” to vie for the crown. The main character, America Singer, is bummed to be selected because that means she is now a caste above the boy she loves, but in the process of competition she meets a prince. So there’s romance and royalty and back-stabbing.

The teenage girls love it.

The Maze Runner (series) by James Dashner

Again, I haven’t read this one, but holy cow kids love it. Boys AND girls fight to get their hands on this series. I have all four books now: The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure, and most recently added, the prequel to the series, The Kill Order. 

Apparently it’s everything I am not a fan of in books and the masses LOVE it. Most of the kids who pick it up have already worked through The Hunger Games series AND The Divergent Series and are looking for something new.  According to the student I asked today, it’s about a guy who can only remember his name. He has no other memories and all the people around him are guys and the only way out is through this maze that no one has yet made it out of. A girl shows up and says they have to run or die.  The student wouldn’t tell me more other than, “just read the book, Mrs. S. That is what you tell us!”

Fricking kids actually listening to what I say.

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

The girls in my classes pretty much keep my “death & dying section” completely empty. As I type this there are zero books on that shelf.  This is another book I haven’t read yet. Not because I don’t want to, but because my students really want it, so I am just waiting until either summer, or when I can check it out of the library over a break (or maternity leave).

The book is about a kid named Clay who gets a package from a classmate (and crush), Hannah, who committed suicide. Inside the package are cassette tapes where Hannah narratives 13 reasons why she killed herself, one of them being Clay.  He has to listen to find out why.

From that alone I can see why my students want to read it. I mean shoot, want to read it.

Why Soccer Matters by Pele

I use this one as an example, but really any soccer books fly off my shelves. I have so many soccer fans. I also have a book by Dr. J that my basketball players keep rotating among themselves. Students who claim to not be readers, tend to get interested in non-fiction about people and sports and activities they love. This is one section of my classroom library I am really trying to beef up. Even though these are not my first choice of book, many of my students gravitate toward these.

When I have a reluctant reader, the first thing I ask is “what do you like to do?” If they are into a sport or a hobby, I direct them to my nonfiction section. It seems that if I can get them hooked there, they are likely to ask for more books.  What is interesting is that nonfiction tends to be more challenging to read than a lot of the fiction I have, yet my reluctant and non-readers would rather read (and be seen with) a book about a soccer champ, than something else.

Have you read any of these books? Do you have any suggestions based on these? What are your teens reading?

*I could include in here The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie in this, but I already posted about those and how you need to read them.

My students are HUNGRY for new books! If you are feeling generous, we are always taking donations. Here is a list of student-requested titles.

The Toys

Our basement scares me. I hate going down there and I am sort of happy that Cortney has pretty much taken over laundry duties while I’m pregnant.

It’s not that it’s spooky–at least not in the traditional sense. There aren’t weird shadows or strange nooks and crannies. It’s a finished basement: Eddie’s bedroom, a full bathroom, and a large family room.  The laundry room isn’t finished, but that is probably the least scary room down there.

No, it’s not because I feel like there is someone hiding under my stairs or ghosts lurking in shadows.

It’s the toys.

Oh my word, the toys.

We have almost six years of birthdays and Christmases and random “just because” gifts of toys in our basement. One time I organized it all. I bought a 9-bin tote shelf thing with 3 different color totes. I put plastic drawers in. I sorted the kitchen stuff from the trains from the Little People from the matchbox cars from the pirate stuff from ALL THE TINY THINGS people give out at birthday parties. I parked trucks under the train table. I set up the easel with all the fun magnets and paper and dry erase markers. I put all the puzzles together. I lined up all the DVDs and Wii Games. Shoot, I even dusted.

And now?  It’s like I was never there.

Cortney can’t even get to the ironing board to iron his long-sleeved shirts.

The room gives me hives.

And yet I love when my kids get new toys. They really do play with most things (which is why the room is a disaster zone), and getting something new is so special to them because it really only happens for Christmas and birthdays with the occasional blog-related-try-it-out toy sent our way.

One of my favorite online stores to shop for toys for my kids and for my nieces and nephews is Imagine Toys. They are local to me (Michigan, baby!), they are focused on thoughtful/educational toys, and toys can be searched by age/skill of the child you are shopping for.

Tomorrow night (Wednesday, November 12), I will be hosting a twitter chat on the hashtag #ImagineToys discussing their toy line, their partnership with KaBoom! (which I blogged about this summer), and what to get the kids for the holidays.  There will be four prizes and one BIG GRAND prize handed out to some lucky participants, so you don’t want to miss it!

What could you win just in time for the holidays?  Feast your eyes…

1. The Electronic Cash Register (this is totally on Eddie’s Christmas list!)

Electronic Cash Register

2. The Wobble Deck Extreme (I wish I could fit on this thing)

Wobble Deck Extreme

3. Nancy B’s Moonscope (another thing Eddie put on his Christmas List)

Nancy B Moonscope with tripod and multiple lenses

4. Step-to-Play Giant Piano Mat (Charlie would DIE for this!)

Step-to-Play Piano Mat

And the GRAND Prize: One GLX yGlider!

I told you. SERIOUSLY cool prizes…just for showing up to talk to me about toys and shopping and kids, five of you could end your Wednesday with something sweet to gift a child this holiday season!

The details:

Twitter party at 9pm est on Wednesday, Novemeber 12. Follow the hashtag #ImagineToys as well as @ImagineToys and @ksluiter to make sure you don’t miss a thing! See you there!

Now excuse me, I have a basement to organize!

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

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. I just really want to make sure people know about the twitter party because PRIZES!  I am being compensated for the twitter chat, however, with a gift card to Imagine so I can get some fun toys for all the kiddos I have to buy for this holiday season!

The Naming

I often get asked how we came up with our kids’ names. People love a good name story rather than “we just liked it” (which, by the way, I think is a totally legit reason to name your kid something).

When I was pregnant with Eddie, we had some criteria we made for choosing names:

1. It had to be something they would be proud to put on a CEO nameplate or use if they became a famous rock star. So it had to be versatile, yet respectable.

2. We wanted to incorporate family into each child’s name.

3. It needed to be somewhat traditional without a wonky spelling (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but after 15 years in education, and a husband with a “unique” name + a unique spelling of that name, we wanted to go “easy” on our kids).

Edward Steven Sluiter

Cortney had the name Edward all picked out since the very first time I got a positive pregnancy test in early 2007, two years before Eddie was born. Edward was his great grandpa’s name, but Eddie is also the name of the lead singer of Pearl Jam AND the legendary guitarist, Eddie VanHalen. So it was traditional AND rock n roll.

Edward Bear is also Winnie the Pooh’s “real name” (if you have ever read the novel, you would know this).

Eddie’s middle name is Steven, which was Cortney’s dad’s name. Cortney’s dad shared a birthday with great grandpa Edward and they were VERY close.

Eddie was baptized on their birthday, August 9th.

Charles Thomas Sluiter

We had no idea what to name Charlie. We discussed his name right up until we sent the text from the hospital after the ultrasound that he was a boy. I loved the name Charlie. The year before we had seen my school do the musical performance of Willy Wonka and I decided I needed a Charlie since Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is one of my favorite kids books.

And as many of you know, we call him Charlie Bird…like Charlie “Bird” Parker, the famous jazz saxophone player.  Which is pretty rock n roll, if you ask me.

Eventually Cortney agreed that Charles/Charlie was the best name for our second son. We chose Thomas as his middle name quickly because it’s my dad’s name and we liked having both grandpas represented in our boys’ names.

Charlie was baptized just a day before my dad’s birthday at the end of April.

Alice Katherine Sluiter

Again this was first a Cortney choice. When I was pregnant with Eddie he told me if we had a girl he loved the name Alice. So did I. Over the six years since that name was first brought up, we have discussed several different middle names, but we always loved Alice as a first name.

Also, Alice in Wonderland! And Alice Cooper! ROCK N ROLL, YO!

We chose Katherine because that is my full name and, again, we wanted to keep the middle name in the family.  If all goes well, Alice will be baptized two days after my birthday at the end of March.

So tell me…are there stories behind the names of your children?

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.)

All the Nieces & Nephews

Yesterday I was in the checkout line at Target. On the belt I had two little play aprons with oven mits and stir spoons, a basket of play food, a bin of play pots and pans, a train set with track, three birthday cards, and three tubes of wrapping paper.

The checkout lady said, “oh, looks like you are shopping for a triplet birthday!”

“What? No!” I blurt out. Then laughing, “I mean, yes it’s three kids with November birthdays, but they are all from different families. Although they are all nieces and nephews.

Today we were at my nephew Ezra’s first birthday party. I thought about how just six years ago I was pregnant with Eddie and we had just one 5-year old nephew. My brother’s oldest son.

Now my brother has three kids, Cortney’s brother has one with another on the way, and his sister has three kids.  We have two with one on the way. It’s been an explosion!

It’s fun though, ya know?

Holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving and even birthdays are so much more fun now. When we get together with all the family on one side or the other, it’s like flashing back to when I was a kid. The grownups being grownups and the kids being kids. Playing for what felt like all day or evening, but was probably just a couple hours. Eating tons of food–almost none good for us–and laughing a lot.

I love watching Eddie and Charlie interact with their aunts and uncles and play with their cousins. Eddie can’t even keep track of everyone anymore. I was telling him that tomorrow we have his cousin Maria’s birthday party and he said, “Wait. Is that the baby in Liz’s tummy?” Um no. Wrong aunt. Also, wrong side of the family. ALSO? Maria is two, not still in anyone’s tummy.

As the Target checkout lady said, “wow, pretty expensive right before Christmas then, huh?”

Yeah, but it’s worth it.

So worth it.

Nieces and Nephews are the coolest.

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.

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