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.

The Last Time

I have been asked a LOT if, because we are having a girl, this will be our last pregnancy.

It will most likely be our last pregnancy, but not because we are having a girl.

When I was pregnant with Charlie, Cortney made no secret about the fact that he would be perfectly happy with just two kids. Two boys. The Sluiter Boys. The Sluiter Brothers. A family of four.

I said I wouldn’t know until he was here, and less than two hours after he was born I finally looked up from staring at his wrinkly newborn face with tears in my eyes and said, “this can’t be my last baby.”

Within a month of finding out I was pregnant with Alice, after barfing for the thousandth time in a day plus running after two boys and breaking up bickering all day, I announced, “THIS IS IT. I can’t do this again. The first trimester is too dang exhausting. This is the last baby!”

And Cortney rejoiced. In fact, I had to tell him to maybe hold off on making any “appointments” until after the baby was here.

So the decision to be done after three was made long before we knew #3 would be a girl.

I thought I would be a lot sadder about going through my LAST pregnancy. I didn’t mind being pregnant with the boys once I got through the evil first trimester, but this time EVERYTHING has been different. For one, the first trimester ended and while I do barf less, I still get gaggy at random times–especially if I am congested and can’t breathe out of my nose.

I’m also just as exhausted as I was through the first tri. My doctor tested my iron, but it turns out I’m just exhausted. Working and having two kids at home knocks me on my butt. The eight hours of sleep I make myself get per night is not cutting it. In fact, I find myself struggling to stay awake while I drive to work at 6:45am, and when I get home I’m useless. I can’t bring myself to empty the dishwasher or reload it. Making dinner is a huge exertion, and getting Eddie to get his homework done, both boys to have baths, and both boys in jammies by bedtime takes all the strength I can muster. Then I almost fall asleep on the couch until I just go to bed.

And I can’t keep track of anything! I have missed appointments (even with the reminders); I have missed turn in deadlines for Eddie, and I have missed deadlines for myself.  I have had a blog that is half-broken for two months now and I just don’t have the energy to get anyone on the phone and crab about it because I will probably cry from being so tired and over it.

I am also starting to feel BIG. At 22 weeks, I caught myself waddling in the hall today. WHAT? Going up and down steps is starting to wind me and lifting Charlie (or too many books) gives me a cramp.

I know! This is a rant of whining!  Which is exactly why every time something hurts or I want to lie down and cry (or sleep), I tell myself: “this is it. The last time.”

What I will miss is the excitement of that ultrasound around 20 weeks. The feeling of the baby moving and grooving inside me. Of being one with another person. I’ll miss the help my students give me because watching me try to bend is too ridiculous.

I’ll miss the back rubs that Cortney gives me (without me even having to ask) and the way Eddie says, “bye mom and Alice!”

Even though I feel like my body is mad at me for being pregnant, I know it will be a little bittersweet once Alice is here and I know that I will never be a home for a growing human again.

Cortney and I always said we would know when we were done, and we just know.

Alice is the last piece of the Sluiter Family Puzzle.

We just know.

Living the Reader’s Workshop

Friday I missed school to attend–and present–at the MCTE (Michigan Council of Teachers of English) annual conference in Lansing.

I haven’t been to the conference in years, but this year I was invited to create a presentation proposal with two professors from a local private college about using Reader’s Workshop. Our proposal was accepted and before I knew it, I was on the schedule and registered as a presenter.

The presentation went really well.

My part was first and concentrated on using the Reader’s Workshop with 8th and 9th graders. I also gave my perspective as someone who is very new (only 9 weeks of experience) and what successes and challenges I am seeing so far.

This is where I wish my dumb blog would allow me to add pictures.  In just nine weeks I had an enormous reaction to Reader’s Workshop.

On the day that I was out presenting, I had my students fill out a personal reflection sheet about how it’s been going. Almost unanimously, students agreed that the time we read in class is important and they wish we could do it more often. With the exception of only 5 or less students, everyone said the wish we could read LONGER than 20 minutes and more OFTEN than 3 times a week.

I wholeheartedly agree!

Kids also asked for more books. More from series that I already have, more biographies and memoirs of athletes, more titles like (fill in the blank), more, more, MORE!

Do you know how fantastic it is to hear kids who ten weeks ago claimed, “I don’t really like to read. It’s not my thing,” ask for MORE BOOKS??? It’s amazing!

Kids are also recommending books to each other and telling their parents about their books. At parent teacher conferences tonight I lost track  of how many parents said, “S/he said the other night s/he was going to go read. I couldn’t believe it!” This made me smile SO DANG BIG! And it backed up my claim that if you don’t think you like to read, you haven’t found the right book yet.

The presentation on Friday also gave me ideas of what else to slowly add. One presenter had a good chart for having the kids fill out each day what book they are reading and what page they are on. It’s more organized than my pieces of notebook paper I have been passing around and losing. Oops. I’m hoping that this will be better for data collection.

The other presenter had a cool quote analysis sheet I am going to do with students once a week where they choose a quote from their book to talk about what it means and what connections they can make to it.  This is also a good jumping point for some discussion and takes us beyond mere summarizing–our focus in the first quarter.

I do still have some challenges. Finding something that will get EVERY kid reading is still a struggle. There are a couple kids in each class that are either “book hoppers”–they “read” from a different book every time we have silent reading which really means they are not reading anything at all. Or they are “Media Center Denizens”–every time we are going to read they need to go look for a book in the media center because I just don’t have what they want in my classroom.

I also have a hard time with time. I have full novels I have to read each quarter with my classes as well as grammar, vocabulary, and writing that is mandatory. Being able to fully commit to the Reader’s Workshop model has been almost impossible, but I think I’m working it the best I can.

Next week I am going to share with you some of the books my students love best in case you are looking for gift ideas for the 13-15 year olds in your life!

If you are feeling like giving to students this season, you can find my Amazon Wish List for my Classroom Library here. We are ALWAYS taking donations (and the titles there are all student-generated).

Good Things

We do something at my school called “good things”.  It’s where we share good things that are going on in our lives. Almost every teacher does it, so when great stuff is going on, a student will come in and ask, “Hey Mrs. S, are we doing Good Things today??”  Our assistant principal also shares Good Things during announcements at the end of the day in the form of a Wolf Pride Roll Call where students and teachers can give and get shout outs for doing great things.

I love this because it really creates an atmosphere of positivity in our school.

Today I was a little cranky (yes, again. What?) and I realized that I needed to stop and do my own version of Good Things.

I can feel Alice kicking up a storm! Eddie was a regular mover, but Charlie was a regular gymnast. So far, Alice has Charlie’s booty-shaking tendencies.

Charlie is a complete ham. I find myself looking forward to seeing him first thing each morning, because even as he stumbles out of his room rubbing his eyes, he will still exclaim, “Oh. Hi Mommy!”

Eddie is writing sentences. SENTENCES!  10 weeks ago he wasn’t writing anything but the letters, today he wrote, “I like my mom” next to a picture of me. I melted. And his innocence is almost as sweet. His homework lately has been a sheet of 6 pictures that he needed to write the names of underneath. They are all three-letter words like “dog”, “bat”, “nut”, etc. Then they have to write four sentences using a variety of “popcorn words” (sight words) along with the words they just sounded out.  This has led to the following sentences: “I go to my bat cave” and “I see my nut” and my favorite, “I like my moms (sic) pot”.  Yes, there as a picture of a pot…the kind you cook spaghetti in. But we laughed and laughed.

My classroom library is being used, and people still love to give! For nine weeks students checked out my books and read them. This week I started hanging the Book Ads they made around the library to help them have ideas of what to read next. I also asked my students in a reflection piece, what they wish was in the library.  They listed books, authors, and subjects they wish I had.  I added them all to my Amazon Wishlist–over 100 new titles! Yesterday I shared the link on Facebook and I’ve had four more titles purchased. I can barely contain myself. Every time we have a need, people help. Those people are YOU. Six hundred titles seemed like so many at the beginning of the year. Then those kids started consuming them!  I have girls who read every one of the Princess Diary series in the first nine weeks and wanted something else. Suddenly with 150 students, 600 seems like a small number for the whole year!  Thank you for supporting them!

Cortney is the best husband I could ever ask for. He should be number one on this list. Seriously. He goes out of his way–even when it’s totally uncomfortable for him–to make sure I get enough sleep, have enough time to do my grading, and get off my feet enough. He does far more than his share with the boys, with dinners, with household chores. Not that we keep score. But if we did, he would be winning. Against everyone.

And lastly, tonight I made homemade chicken & rice soup and banana bread for dinner. And it was delightful. Perfect for this rainy, blustery, chilly fall day.

What are some Good Things going on with you right now?

My Favorite Time of Day

He’s looking for me when I walk up, straining to see around the other kids and the tall adults. When he spots me, he smiles and heads right for me.

As soon as he gets within earshot, he starts talking:

Mom do you know what?

Mom, I found a book with George AND Katy No Pockets in it!

Mom, can I look at the book when we get to the car?

Guess what? I was sort of bad at school today, but actually it was a great day I mean.

And guess what? Gionna was the baddest at school today because she laughed at me when I dropped my book box. That isn’t even kind.

And guess what? There is a kid named Brennon who sings “Pharaoh, Pharaoh” with different words. Isn’t that weird? I didn’t tell him it’s weird though.

Hey mom, guess what? This is my apple chart. This one goes up to 100. That number is so big. Actually 1000 is bigger, but I don’t know how to write that yet. But I bet I will soon.

Guess what? I got a coupon for a free pizza because I read every day in October.

And mom? Can I just say something? I was really hoping I could pick a piece of my candy for a snack when we get home.

Hey mom? Can you carry my backpack? This book is pretty heavy and I’m not done looking at all the different illustrators in this book yet. I think Daddy is going to be excited to read one of these chapters tonight.

Mom! You forgot to take all those posters out of your car! I bet you couldn’t carry them all because you didn’t have me and Charlie to help you out like on the other day at your school.

And it goes on.

And on.

AND ON.

I love it. All of it.

Some days I forget that he was a late talker. That he had no word for me until he was nearly three, only two short years ago. Especially when he says things like, “perhaps you and daddy can take turns reading the chapters in my new library book.”

“perhaps”

He kills me every day from the minute I pick him up to the second his dad and brother get home.

It’s my favorite time of day.

All Saints

For all the saints who’ve shown your love
In how they live and where they move,
For mindful women, caring men,
Accept our gratitude again.

For all the saints who love your name,
Whose faith increased the Savior’s fame,
Who sang your songs and shared your word,
Accept our gratitude, good Lord.

For all the saints who named your will,
And showed the kingdom coming still
Through selfless protest, prayer, and praise,
Accept the gratitude we raise.

Bless all whose will or name or love
Reflects the grace of heav’n above.
Though unacclaimed by earhly pow’rs,
Your life through theirs has hallowed ours.

Today two saints stand out to me as being normal, every day people, who God used for the extraordinary, though I doubt either of them ever knew the impact of their lives on the lives of others.

My Grandma Jo and my Father-in-Law Steve.

Their strong faith and selfless nature created something in me that was unable to NOT believe. Because of their unwavering faith until the end, my faith never quite died out…even when I tried to extinguish the flame out of anger and grief.

“The Lord will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.”  ~Psalm 34:22

“‘and God will wipe away every tear from their eye’.” ~Revelation 7:17b

ramblings of a pregnant mother

I haven’t written much about this pregnancy.

Sorry, Alice.

In the beginning, when I had time, we weren’t public with it and I was sick as a dog. Once I was free to write all I wanted, I was so busy I wasn’t sure if I was wearing pants most days (I assume I was, or someone would have said something. I hope). Then when I was aching to write, my dang blog broke for almost a month.  It’s back. Sort of. I still can’t post pictures.

This pregnancy has been…different.

I am not sure how to put into words how it’s been different though. I was super sick in the beginning, just like with the boys, but it was different. Less puking, more inability to do anything.

With the boys, I worried about the typical things–probably more so with Eddie since he was my first pregnancy to make it past 10 weeks. With Alice, I have been a ball of anxiety. I was terrified they would find something wrong at the ultrasound.  I was sure something was wrong because I didn’t feel her move much (now she is out of control, just like Charlie was). Before that 20-week ultrasound, I couldn’t shake a feeling of dread.

Thankfully the ultrasound and the confirmation that everything looks “just right” from the OB has almost entirely wiped out that feeling that something is just not right.

Up until the ultrasound I was just not letting myself engage in this pregnancy. It felt an awful lot like my first two pregnancies that didn’t make it.

It was not until I saw her–found out that she was a SHE–and saw that all her organs and limbs were normal. That my placenta was normal. That my cervix and ovaries all looked normal.  It was not until then that I settled in to the idea that Alice is our third baby. She is the last piece of the puzzle that is Sluiter Nation.

I began to think of pink and purple and ruffle buns and lace. I began to dream of a three generation photo with my mom, me, and Alice.

I still start to laugh when I remember that the baby growing inside me, wiggling and kicking and hiccuping, is not a boy.

The ultrasound tech had asked if we wanted to know the gender and we had said, “yes!”

She was busy measuring bones and checking organs. She was measuring the femurs and I knew that we would be able to see what was there (or not there) soon because we were in the lap region. At first baby’s legs were right together. Then suddenly they parted. The tech froze the image and said, “what do you think?”

“There are no boy parts there!” I almost yelled.

“nope,” she said with a sly smile.

“So…it’s a girl?” I asked all confused. I mean, I KNOW what it means to not have boy parts, but don’t we have boys? Isn’t that what we do? I was so confused. I had been thinking of my third boy for a long time.

“It’s a girl,” she confirmed.

I started laughing. Hard. I started laughing so hard, in fact, that my belly was jiggling and she has to wait to continue her measurements. Tears were in my eyes from laughter. I looked over at Cortney and noticed he was also wiping away a few tears, but his weren’t because he was cracking up. That made me laugh harder. Not at him, but because…a GIRL. A DAUGHTER. How could this be real?

It’s been almost two weeks and I still can’t quite believe that a little girl will be joining this family.

I have a lot of thoughts, both funny and serious, about this thing that I will be: A Girl Mom. Hopefully I will write them out.

In the meantime, I am going to go ahead and give in to my cravings for Skinny Pop popcorn, Oreos, and coffee.

The Peace that Passes Understanding

I don’t believe in coincidences.

Therefore the timing of us going back to church as regular members one year ago coinciding with the installation of our new minister who just happened to be the husband of a teacher friend I had lost touch with felt incredibly planned…by someone.

Sometime last summer Cortney and I decided to put more effort into getting to church on Sunday mornings. We went on and off for a month or so while there as an interim pastor, then we went on vacation and weren’t in church much for a couple weeks. We knew that our church had called a new pastor because we got the letter, and when I saw the last name I remember thinking “Huh. I wonder if he is somehow related to G?”  G was someone I had taught with back in my early days in my district and with whom I had taken some grad classes–she for her Doctorate and me for my Masters.

After school started, we got back into the habit of going to church again. This is when I realized not only was our new minister related to G, he was married to her.

Since that moment of realization, my life has been very different.

Going to church regularly has changed me.

No, I didn’t suddenly turn in to a praise-singing, hand-clapping, arm-in-the-air-swaying Jesus Freak (not that there’s anything wrong with that; it’s just not me). In fact, my faith and beliefs haven’t changed much at all.

I still wrestle with a lot of the same questions about God and why things happen the way they do and why there is so much pain. I still prefer traditional hymns, pastors in robes, and following the liturgy over drums and smoke machines, jeans on church leaders, and unpredictable  passage selection. I still believe women have a place in leadership roles.

What is different is more internal.

It’s something that almost surpasses words, it’s more of a feeling.

Church is more than sitting in a pew week after week. It is the warm smiles and the “good morning, Sluiter Family!” we are greeted with. It is the question about my job or pregnancy or writing coming from a place of genuine interest. It’s the Peace. It’s the hymns that my grandma and mom used to sing. It’s having Eddie sit in the pew next to me coloring pictures of Jesus and humming to all the hymns. It’s the hugs I get from good friends who are genuinely glad to see me and my family.

Church is knowing all week that someone out there is thinking and praying for you–not because they are your family, but because they are your church family.

It’s a sense of peaces that passes all understanding.

It’s a community.

It’s a family.

It’s love.

It’s reconnecting with a friend I had no idea I needed so badly.

I’m still not a hugger or a personal-space invader. I’m still not comfortable publicly praying. I am not handing out Bibles on street corners.

But I am learning more. I am believing harder. And my heart is much, much bigger and filled with more love and people and joy and peace.

I wouldn’t say I have gotten many answers, but I have gotten a feeling of Ok about having the questions and the doubt.

And I think that is what I was searching for–a deeper sense of peace that I can draw from even in my most anxiety-ridden moments. I don’t really understand this sense I have now, but I will take it. Because one thing I know for sure: you don’t have to understand something for it to be Truth.

Netflix and Milestones

We are sort of in the middle of the Milestone Age of Parenting here in Sluiter Nation. With a kindergartener and a 2-year old, it seems like we have a new milestone around here all the time.

Eddie has started to read and write.

Charlie is saying all new things and having first experiences.

Even being pregnant means lots of milestones. Today, for instance, I am 20 weeks…halfway!  That is a BIG milestone!

You can blame the pregnancy, but I seem to get all teary-eyed over each of the milestones and firsts my kids reach. When Eddie wrote, “I go to the bat cave” perfectly yesterday I giggled, but I also got weepy. My little man can write!  When Charlie first put his pants on himself I cheered. And then I wondered where my baby went. And when I started feeling Alice’s little flutter kicks in my tummy, I smiled. Then I cried because it was the last time I would first feel a baby kick me from the inside.

A cool thing about Netflix is that they are stocked with shows and movies that address milestones. Charlie enjoys Super Why which has episodes devoted to things like losing your first tooth. Both boys love Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, which just recently showed episodes where Daniel gained a baby sister.

This week Eddie and I stayed home from school because we were sick. We watched The Croods, which is about a family moving from their cave for the first time despite being very very afraid. We have been talking about maybe moving in the next year or so, and Eddie brought that up while we watched the movie.  He claims he’s not scared though because in a new house, he might not have to share a room with Charlie.

Right.

Speaking of the milestone of moving, you can watch House Hunters on Netflix too. Of course, those aren’t exactly in our price range. Sigh.

Anyway, I’m a big pile of mush when it comes to remembering and celebrating these “firsts”. Each of my kids has their own box that I put milestone-type stuff in.  For example, I kept the first golden blonde curl that was cut off each boy’s head. Sentimental or weirdo, you decide.

What do you do to celebrate or remember milestones? Do you keep memory boxes? Do you scrapbook?

Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own. Netflix set us up with a year’s subscription and an ipad mini to enjoy streaming shows and movies, but what we choose to watch and what we think about what we view is all ours.

Wild Sluiters

Kratt-mania has taken over Sluiter Nation.

The Sluiter brothers are enamored with the Kratt brothers.

It started out innocently enough: Wild Kratts came on after Word Girl on PBS after school while I was making dinner. It was the last “kids’ programming” show of our day before the TV went off or we turned it to the news.

Then I started to notice that the show wasn’t just on, the boys–BOTH of them–were actually watching it. You moms know what I mean here. Lots of times the TV will be on and the boys are only half-watching while they drive each other crazy play with other toys. But the second the theme song comes on, the boys stop what they are doing to watch the animals.

The Kratt brothers keep things exciting and fast-paced so even Charlie gets hooked.

Then we got Netflix. Did you know Wild Kratts is on Netflix?  They are. And Eddie has watched all the episodes so many times he can tell you which ones are “old” and which ones are “new” just based on the way they are drawn.

The Sluiter brothers heart the Kratt Brothers.

I probably don’t have to even explain their reaction when the Kratt brothers sent them plush figures and action toys to play with.

I’ll just say there was jumping up and down and then fighting over who got Chris and who got Martin and who got to play with which creature power.

The boys are already asking for more of the figures and the createrra set. I didn’t show them, but there is also there is also a power suit assortment set. We might have to get that for them for Christmas this year (available at Toys R Us).

We also have the first ever Wild Kratts book, Wild Sea Creatures: Sharks, Whales, and Dolphins! Eddie and I have read it together more than half a dozen times. We are hoping they come out with more in the series, because he wants to get one about bears and lions.

Ok, so I have to know…do your kids watch Wild Kratts? What do they love about it?

Note: This post should have pictures, but my blog is not fully recovered from its case of death. I will add pictures when I can because they are cute.

Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored. I was not compensated for my time or writing. My boys were sent the plush Chris and Martin Kratt dolls, the action figure sets, and book to enjoy. All opinions are our own.

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