Project 365 {week 14}

Yeah, so this was supposed to go up yesterday.

I wasn’t feeling it.

Or anything other than sticking close to home and sleeping.

GI bugs are no joke.

Anyway…

March 30: We took Sunday naps because we win.

March 30: We took Sunday naps because we win.

March 31: I get a new pretty!

March 31: I get a new pretty!

April 1: The small one opts to read...in the way of the TV watchers. Typical.

April 1: The small one opts to read…in the way of the TV watchers. Typical.

April 2: I hand out the books for Book Club and my students can't NOT read!  WOO HOO!

April 2: I hand out the books for Book Club and my students can’t NOT read! WOO HOO!

April 3: I am sick. Again. I miss the last day of school before spring break which is the first day of Book Club. I am sad. But look...these dumb flowers think it's warm enough to sprout. They are wrong.

April 3: I am sick. Again. I miss the last day of school before spring break which is the first day of Book Club. I am sad. But look…these dumb flowers think it’s warm enough to sprout. They are wrong.

April 4: First day of spring break and it rains all day. So we wear jammies all day.

April 4: First day of spring break and it rains all day. So we wear jammies all day.

April 5: I need to get stuff from my classroom, so this guy helps me out. Then I got back to feeling awful.

April 5: I need to get stuff from my classroom, so this guy helps me out. Then I got back to feeling awful.

Ok so yeah, clearly there are peeks of lovely even with all the sick.

But today I am grouchy and haven’t had any caffeine.

So I’m just going to be crabby for a bit.

I promise to get over it.

Happy Monday.

Sunday Drive: The Preschooler Questions it All

Mommy? Can boys have ponytails?

It was quiet other than the Kidz Bop version of “What Does the Fox Say” playing in my car and the soft sound of Eddie singing along. In the space between that song and the next, his question floated into the front seat.

It muted the sound on the CD player.

Yes. I mean, if their hair is long enough for one of course. Why do you ask?

Eddie has always been curious about what is for boys and what is for girls. Every time I think we do a good job of getting him to understand that you can like whatever you want regardless of your gender, he comes back with more questions. I know this is because society (and the kids he plays with) tells him a different message than Cortney and I do.

Because kids say only girls can have ponytails.

It seems like at least once a week he is questioning some sort of gender stereotype. While sometimes I feel frustrated that he seems sad that something he loves if for girls, I am glad he keeps asking.

Well that is not true!  Your uncle Chris had really long hair when he was a teenager and he wore it in a ponytail sometimes.  And LOTS of rock stars have long hair they wear in ponytails. 

Eddie likes quite a few things that other kids might deem “girl stuff.” He likes the color pink sometimes (his favorite color changes with the day). He likes princesses; in fact one of his favorite movies is Cinderella. He has a doll. He likes to choose “girl” temporary tattoos. He thinks ponytails are pretty (he gets that from his dad) and told me once that a girl in his class had the prettiest two ponytails “in the wide world”.

But not all rock stars, right? Some have short hair like me. Sometimes kids laugh at things I like and say it’s for babies or for girls.

Eddie has also been worried about kids laughing at him.

This breaks my heart, but I know it’s normal. He wants kids to like him and he is afraid if they are laughing at him (or his choices) they won’t like him.

Well that isn’t very nice of them. When did something like that happen?

At school N– said that my tattoo is because I like baby bears. Pink baby bears.

I don’t see how baby bears is a baby thing OR a girl thing. If you like it, it’s a YOU thing.

He was quiet for a while after that. I know he was just thinking.  For as much as he chatters on and on to me, I know he is thinking even more. Rolling things over in his mind trying to find meaning and peace.

IMG_9548

I changed the subject.

So what character do you want to be for Wednesday at school? Which book character are you going to dress up as?

He was quick to answer.

I said I want to be Leo Lionni.

I smiled. What four-year old has a favorite author rather than character? My four-year old, that’s who.

Right, Eddie, but you are supposed to dress up like someone from one of his books that he wrote. Did you still want to be one of the dots from that Blue and Yellow story you read at school?

There was a pause.

Will kids laugh at me?

My stomach fell all the way to my seat. Why did he worry about these things? Did kids really laugh at him?  His teacher said all the kids liked him and that he was a leader. Was he just mistaken? Did he not believe he was good enough? Good grief, did my four-year old have low self-esteem??

Honey, why would they laugh at you? It’s a very creative idea!

Kids just laugh sometimes. I don’t want to be laughed at.

Are you sure they aren’t just smiling because they LIKE you and your ideas? Sometimes kids laugh when they think things and people are really cool. 

And then he must have tired of the subject because he started talking about the game he is currently obsessed with on Cortney’s tablet. Something about a farm.

The next day I picked up green posterboard (he decided to be the Green Dot from Little Blue and Little Yellowand Cortney and I constructed a sandwich board green dot for Eddie.

leo lionni green dot

He was a hit! His teacher thought it was very clever and creative, and I loved it because it was the easiest costume ever.

And nobody laughed at my buddy.

This is how our Sunday drives home from church go. We drive separately because we have Sunday School, and somewhere between church and the Starbucks drive through, Eddie’s thoughts pour out.

He asks all the questions and gives his theory on all the things from how great it would be to have coffee/hot chocolate with just me INSIDE Starbucks, to how he wonders what people look like in heaven.

Sometimes his questions break my heart, but each day I pray that he always feels comfortable enough with me to ask.

And I hope he knows that I will never, ever laugh at him.

The Trouble With Sippy Cups

Sippy cups are the bane of my existence.

When Eddie was tiny we found a brand/style that we liked (and that didn’t leak everywhere), but have never found them anywhere ever again. Since then we have tried every single brand that has been recommended to us with mixed results.

In the end, they all leak to some degree.

I know I am not alone when I say that there is nothing more maddening than finding a sippy cup behind a chair that has leaked milk all over the carpet or juice all over the couch.

There are milk spots all over our leather furniture.

So we gave the First Years One Piece Lid Sippy Cups a try.

2014-03-29 09.50.13

I said yes to trying them, but quite honestly I was pretty skeptical. We have had ZERO luck with lids that didn’t have the little stopper thing in them. I gave Eddie and Charlie some juice in them, and Eddie said they were hard to drink out of. That was good news to me because it meant they were just flowing all over my carpet.

Charlie didn’t say anything. He just drank his juice and then tossed the cup in the sink.  So you know, thumbs up from The Bird.

They have been through our dishwasher twice now and are holding up–the suck hole (for lack of a better term) isn’t getting blown out and leaky yet which was a fear of mine.

Another positive is that the entire line of First Years cups has interchangeable one-piece lids. This is key in our house because we have a zillion different sippies all with their own lid and their own style stopper thingy. It’s annoying. So if these sippy cups live up to their name and do not leak all over Sluiter Nation? I have no problem doing a full sweep of the old ones and restocking with these.

TFY One Piece Lid Giveaway Graphic for Bloggers

I mean, what will I do with all the extra time I will have?  I won’t be cleaning up leaks or searching for sippy cup pieces! I can actually write a book!

Maybe?

Maybe read a book.

Ok, I can watch a show.

Anyway, what would YOU do with extra time for yourself?  The First Years wants to know!

Each week The First Years is giving away prizes, and on Mother’s Day three parents who enter this contest will receive a surprise they won’t soon forget: their wishes (valued up to $1,000) will be fulfilled! Visit The First Years Facebook Page to enter. Contest runs April 1 to 30, 2014. See official rules for complete details.

The First Years Gripper Sipper, MSRP $7.99 (2 pack) is for ages 9 months and up and available in-store at Walmart and online at Walmart.com and Amazon.com

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Disclaimer: I was provided with a 2-pack of The First Years sippy cups to try out, but I was not otherwise compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

Charlie Krat

netflix

Charlie has never cared about the TV. He is the complete opposite of his brother in that regard.

If a TV is on, Eddie’s life pauses and he will sit directly in front of the boob tube and get immersed in anything that is on it.  He will even get into the news and ask questions and talk about what is on.

We have to be careful about what is on when he is around.

Charlie has never, ever cared.

If the TV is not on, he will point out that it’s not on, but he really doesn’t pay any attention to what is on it.

At two, we could turn on PBS and Eddie would be good for hours (if we let him…not that we ever did that. Ahem). Charlie will sit and watch Curious George or Octonauts before bed if he’s REALLY tired. Otherwise he just plays.

There is one show, however, that we noticed that Charlie has fallen in love with: Wild Krats.

Or Krat Krats, as he calls it.

You should know that Charlie is in love with all animals. All of them.

His favorite books are any book that requires pointing out animals and what they say.  Brown Bear, Brown Bear is in HEAVY rotation right now.

We are home between 5:00 and 5:15pm every day after school/work/daycare, and every day at 5:30pm, Charlie shouts “KRAT KRATS!” from wherever he is the second an animal appears on our TV.

He’s pretty uninterested in the actual cartoon part of the show, but the parts with the actual Krat brothers showing animals? He squeals and laughs and points and get so excited!

Always after school: Eddie on the tablet and Charlie watching "Krat Krats" while I make dinner.

Always after school: Eddie on the tablet and Charlie watching “Krat Krats” while I make dinner.

We recently discovered that Netflix has Wild Krats.

It is impossible to scroll through the options without Charlie seeing those animated brothers and yelling “KRAT KRATS!” In fact, if that is not what Eddie is choosing (Ninjago is on his fave list right now), Charlie generally has a fit. Luckily, we can get Netflix on every TV in the house thanks to the Tivo, the Wii, and the Roku, so Charlie can watch in another room.

What are your kids watching lately?

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Disclosure: I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team and will be sharing monthly tips and stories about how my family uses Netflix on a regular basis. As a member of the Stream Team I was provided with a Roku and a voucher to apply towards my Netflix account. I was not otherwise compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

Project 365 {week 13}

My birthday was this week!

There was also vomit this week.

March 23: These two. Peas in a pod.

March 23: These two. Peas in a pod.

March 24: I have the hippest recycle box in the school, yo.

March 24: I have the hippest recycle box in the school, yo.

March 25: After the tummy bug hit 24-hours earlier, this is all I can eat. It got Cortney too.

March 25: After the tummy bug hit 24-hours earlier, this is all I can eat. It got Cortney too.

March 26: Eddie dressed up as the green dot from the Leo Leonni book for dress as a book character day at school. Cutest green dot ever.

March 26: Eddie dressed up as the green dot from the Leo Leonni book for dress as a book character day at school. Cutest green dot ever.

March 27: My birthday. This is what partying on your 36th birthday looks like.

March 27: My birthday. This is what partying on your 36th birthday looks like.

March 28: These actually were sent to school on Wednesday, but I forgot to take a picture today. Cort took me out on a date though, so this picture is related.

March 28: These actually were sent to school on Wednesday, but I forgot to take a picture today. Cort took me out on a date though, so this picture is related.

March 29: This one throws up, but it doesn't seem to faze him. Also, book explosion from a very wonderful internet friend.

March 29: This one throws up, but it doesn’t seem to faze him. Also, book explosion from a very wonderful internet friend. Here’s hoping whatever this Barf Bug is misses Eddie.

I’d rate this week as 97% good with a 3% vomit factor.

Because vomit doesn’t get to count as “good”.

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Another GOOD thing is that Three Minus One is available on Amazon! I’m a contributing author. I’m published! In print!

Through The Lens Thursday {March}

At the beginning of the year I decided to join my friends Greta and Alison and their year-long photography project called Through The Lens Thursday. You don’t need a blog to join in, just join our Flickr group and post each week! It’s great for practicing photography in a low pressure, fun way.

I know I’m posting this on a Friday, but that’s because I didn’t have it together because of being sick and then my birthday to have it post yesterday.

I think we will all live.

Anyway, this month I tried to think of cool “takes” on the shots. But mostly it ended up with me going, “aw crap. Through The Lens Thursday is today. I gotta shoot something.”

It’s been busy. But I tried. Here is what I got:

Prompt: Hot  (heh...ok...just kidding, but there is nothing hotter than a good daddy). 50mm fixed 1/60, f/1.8, ISO 100

Prompt: Hot (heh…ok…just kidding, but there is nothing hotter than a good daddy).
50mm fixed
1/60, f/1.8, ISO 100

Prompt: Hot (my real shot) 50mm fixed 1/25,f/4.5, ISO 400

Prompt: Hot (my real shot)
50mm fixed
1/25,f/4.5, ISO 400

prompt: dark 50mm fixed 1/8, f/1.8, ISO 100

prompt: dark
50mm fixed
1/8, f/1.8, ISO 100

prompt: door 50mm fixed 1/30, f/1.8, ISO 100

prompt: door
50mm fixed
1/30, f/1.8, ISO 100

prompt: looking down 50 mm fixed f/4.5, 1/10, ISO 100

prompt: looking down
50 mm fixed
f/4.5, 1/10, ISO 100

So this week was more about keeping up with the habit rather than taking the time for good shots (which is evidenced by that last one…oof). but next month…I can feel it.

Spring is coming and so is better light.

Daylight is lasting longer.

I also have a sweet zoom lens I got for Christmas that I can’t wait to bust out and learn. Tips? Anyone have tips for using a zoom?

Or any other tips? I am pretty much completely dumb about ISO other than I know it makes your photos grainy if it’s too high. Sooo…when would you go high?

Also…come play along! Join our Flickr group!

Birthday Throwback

Today is my 36th birthday.

When I told my students how old I am (because yes, I do that), there were some who were genuinely shocked I was out of my 20′s.

While being 36 does not bother me, it made me smile that my students thought I was so young.

I don’t have much to say about this day, so I will just do a big ol’ #ThrowbackThursday for you.

Enjoy some “Vintage” Katie.

Katie - Bibs & Boots

Just Kickin’ it Katie

Katie - 6 months

6 months of Katie

Katie - ANTM

Model Katie

Preschool Katie

Preschool Katie

Tiger Fan Katie

Tiger Fan Katie

high school Katie

high school Katie

Kate-Senior-Pic-001

Senior Picture Katie

college. nuff said.

College Katie

kates

mid Twenties Katie

34500024

Married Katie

bday5 - Copy

First Time Away from Son Katie

097

Mom Katie

2013-04-27 18.01.44

Mid Thirties Katie

Huh. 36 years and my smile has changed zero.

Nice.

Happy day to me.

Project 365 {week 12}

This week was allegedly the official start of Spring.

Apparently Spring is a bit of a slacker because she’s not really working to show up ’round these parts.

March 16: Who is this KID in my house? I thought I had a baby?

March 16: Who is this KID in my house? I thought I had a baby?

March 17: CHEESE! no, literally. This kid always wants cheese

March 17: CHEESE! no, literally. This kid always wants cheese

March 18: This is our typical after school/daycare routine. Boys on the couch while I make dinner. Every day.

March 18: This is our typical after school/daycare routine. Boys on the couch while I make dinner. Every day.

March 19: After bath I realize...the curls are not totally gone.

March 19: After bath I realize…the curls are not totally gone.

March 20: He likes to cuddle before bed. I do not mind.

March 20: He likes to cuddle before bed. I do not mind.

March 21: Because I haven't taken a #teacherstyle photo in a while. This is what wishing for spring looks like. Shortish sleeves with boots and a scarf.

March 21: Because I haven’t taken a #teacherstyle photo in a while. This is what wishing for spring looks like. Shortish sleeves with boots and a scarf.

March 22: We use Charlie's Barnes & Noble coupon for a free birthday cupcake. We also pick a new book or two. I mean, it's only fair we EACH get one.

March 22: We use Charlie’s Barnes & Noble coupon for a free birthday cupcake. We also pick a new book or two. I mean, it’s only fair we EACH get one.

I wish I could say that like magic the temperatures soared into the 50′s and 60′s this week,

but that is not the truth.

We are still fighting with winter coats and hats here in the Mitten State.

We still pull on boots and expect to see snow in the forecast.

But when the wind blows just right, we can smell the earth.

That means it won’t be winter forever.

Why Are We Reading This?

I’ll admit that even though I’m pretty good at getting my students interested in whatever it is we are reading, but even I get asked those age-old questions…

Why do we need to read this?

How will reading “fill-in-a-title-here” help me in life?

Can’t we just watch the movie?

I get it. I do. If I was a 17-year-old and my teacher plunked Frankenstein on my desk, I would wonder what the heck this old book has to do with my life and my future too.

My answer to students is always the same, “you won’t.  You will not need THIS novel, play, short story, etc. in your life. At least not directly. What you will need is the critical thinking I will make you do ABOUT this piece of literature.”

What is important is that kids read. Period. It really doesn’t matter what they read, as long as they are reading. Reading makes us a better society.

But try telling that to my students. Most teenagers don’t care about studies that tell us that “reading novels makes us nicer and more empathetic.” They don’t want to be nicer.

So READ…but wait. Why read the classics?

I know it’s a bit Old School for someone like me, but I have good reasons for my belief in teaching and reading the classics.

IMG_9615

First of all, I write this as my students are currently struggling with reading Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Some of them hate it.

They hate it a lot.

Not because it’s a bad story, but because it challenges them to think hard while they read.

I like how Neil Gaiman put it:

it’s a gateway drug to reading. The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if it’s hard, because someone’s in trouble and you have to know how it’s all going to end … that’s a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going. To discover that reading per se is pleasurable.

Frankenstein is a good story. It’s just hard to get through because Shelley–like all writers from her time–enjoy describing something to death.  Gothic literature from the nineteenth century England is not my students’ idea of something they can make connections to.  But they would be wrong, and that is why it’s necessary for kids to read classic works.

I teach The Scarlet Letter, The Great Gatsby, Macbeth, The Catcher in the Rye, and Of Mice and Men because they are great. As Dr. Leland Ryken puts it,  “a classic is ‘a performance in words.’” While I encourage my students to read lots of everything they want, I also want them to see what some of the best writing in the world looks like. I want them to know they can find entertainment and connections in works that have been around for centuries.

All reading encourages kids to think outside themselves about what we English nerds like to call The Human Experience, but the classics do this really well. The purpose of great art and literature is to dig at what makes human tick. Works of art and literature become classics because they are considered the best at what they set out to do.

The classics reveal the inevitability of change for human beings. My favorite book is The Great Gatsby. In what has become an increasingly annoying opinion to my colleagues who are not as much of a Fitzgerald fan as I am, I consider Gatsby to be one of the best novels to reveal the change that we both crave and avoid.

Another, less popular reason for teaching the classics, is that they are challenging. This reason is also at the top of the list when my students whine about reading too.

It’s too HARD, Mrs. Sluiter. It’s just so LONG and DIFFICULT to understand.

We can do hard things, yo. We can READ hard things too. Together.

Very rarely do I assign a million chapters and walk away from the book expecting my students to read it on their own.  That is what they should do with books they choose to read, not the ones I am teaching.  Because the key word in that last sentence is “teaching.”

As an adult, I enjoy reading the classics for sheer entertainment (and book cred, if I am honest), I know most of my students wouldn’t pick up The Grapes of Wrath for funsies.  But it’s still an important book. Reading it will stretch them and challenge them as readers and as thinkers…and hopefully as humans.

In the end, none of my students will need to have read The Great Gatsby to be successful in life. They won’t have to be able to explain the symbolism of the green light or discuss the motif of the color white. They won’t have to deliberate over the “greatness” of Jay Gatsby or whether we are all “bourne back ceaselessly into the past.”

However the thinking they will have to do to discuss socioeconomic status and the culture surround it, the treatment of others, the idea of dreams, and the mutability of humankind will force them to look inward. They will have to infer meaning, and explain those inferences. They will have to take stances and support them. They will have to make connections and choose to change or remain the same based on the connections they make.

Literature at its best changes us.

And my job here is to change lives.

A Wounded Academic Walks Into A Church…

Holy-Bible_20110524052238There are not many Bible stories that I am not familiar with.

I grew up going to Sunday school ever Sunday, memorizing verses, memorizing catechism, singing making a joyful noise in the choir, participating in dramatizations and skits, and listening to my parents read the BIG Storybook Bible every night after dinner.

I can recall the well-known stories of Creation all the way to the lesser-known stories like the one about Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. There was a time when I could recite by memory John 3:16-21 “For God so loved the world…”

I listened, memorized, and believed without question because it’s what I was supposed to do. Adults were telling me stories and telling me they were complete, literal truth.

As way leads on to way, I grew up. I moved out of my small, sheltered town, and I met people who were not one of the two religions that I knew: Reformed or Christian Reformed. I was even roommates with a couple Catholics.  I know. Crazy.

Even though I pulled away from going to church, I never lost interest in religion. It fascinates me. Not just Christianity, but all religion. Where it comes from and how it is tied up in tradition, oral and written history, and politics.

When it seemed like God had left us–when Cortney’s dad died, we lost babies, and all the other loss and sickness–I leaned heavily on anything that seemed to “disprove” the stories of the Bible.

In college, I took a History of Christianity class. It was incredibly interesting. I tried to talk to my parents about it. I thought they would find it super interesting since they were so devout. But when I started bringing up the idea that perhaps the authors of the Bible weren’t telling literal stories about global floods and people-swallowing whales, my dad flipped out on me.

My dad wouldn’t discuss; he would only tell me I was wrong and that I wasn’t allowed to talk that way in his house.

I was stunned into silence, and I became less willing to talk about Jesus or church with my family. I became convinced that they would judge anything that didn’t fall into the realm of their literal understanding of the Bible.

(Years later, my dad’s reaction to my brother’s news that his girlfriend was pregnant would reveal just how ingrained it was in my dad’s character to being like Jesus, and my heart would change. But that’s another story).

The more I wrestled with what I knew to be true because of research and study and science, the more it seemed that I didn’t fit into any church. I just couldn’t believe something that was disproved over and over. I could not simply say, “I know actual science says something different, but I believe the earth and everything on it was created in seven 24-hour days as we know it.”

I believe God created science to make this world the beautiful marvel it is, but I don’t think it was exactly the way it was written in the Bible.

Even typing that makes me feel a little sacrilegious. I mean, you’re not supposed to say “I don’t believe what the Bible says,” right?

I don’t think a guy named Jonas got swallowed by a whale.

I don’t think there was a Garden of Eden.

I don’t think there was a flood and a guy named Noah put two of every single animal in the wold on a boat.

I do think these are important stories, and I believe the stories…without believing the stories. Does that make sense?

I believe it’s important to do as we are called to do or else things won’t go right.

I believe the world isn’t perfect because there are shitty things like cancer and hunger and poverty.

I believe that God is saddened by the shitty things we do to each other that cause things like cancer, and hunger and poverty, and that he won’t punish the whole for the bad of a few.

We are currently in the season of Lent where we wait and prepare ourselves for the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. I both believe and wonder. I have so many questions.

I know what I am supposed to believe blindly, but like Thomas, I need to see the nail marks on his hands and the sword wound in his side. I believe, but my academic, logical side shouts for something to hold on to–something that tells me this is all true.

And I think that like Thomas, that is Ok.  That questioning for the purpose of wanting to understand and believe is Ok.

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As of April 19, I will be an official published author!  You can pre-order the book, Three Minus One: Stories of Parents’ Love and Loss, to which I am honored to be a contributing author.

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