The Day You Were Born

My Dear Alice,

In just a few short days you will be a whole year old, and I just realized that I never wrote down your birth story.

It’s not that it wasn’t a wonderful, miracle day–in fact it may have been one of the most happiest days of my whole life! I suppose what they say about the last child is true–time to do things like write about birth stories and create baby books gets lost. I know it’s almost a year late, but I still wanted to put your birth day in writing–to make it “blog official”.

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The day before your arrival. SO EXCITED!

It began super early, just like with Charlie, since I had the first surgical appointment of the day and had to be there for pre-op stuff at 6:30am. We dropped your brothers off at Grandpa and Grandma’s house and gave everyone hugs and I tried not to cry out all the dang emotions welling in me, and daddy and I were off to the hospital.

I waddled in the front door with all my stuff and checked in. I was just so happy that I was going to meet you! I wasn’t nervous or afraid since I knew how it would all go. Daddy and I went into the little pre-op room where I got into my gown and they took some blood and did some other testing stuff.  Daddy and I talked and joked and were very laid back and just all around excited about you. Knowing you are our last baby, we tried to soak it all in–even the part about my gown being hooked up to a cooling vent system so that it puffed up like the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

Eventually they were ready for me. They gave me the stuff that is supposed to make the acid in my stomach less acidy. I told them I would probably barf it up; and I did. The operating room was freezing, just like last time. They gave me an extra blanket to keep me warm. This time they didn’t fasten my arms down to the bed if I promised not to go grabbing my guts.

They brought daddy in just in time–like always–he was dressed in scrubs and had a funny hairnet thing on. He came in and sat on the same stool he did with your brothers and held my hand, rubbing his thumb back and forth over my hand and smiling his nervous, worried, excited smile. The one where he sort of bites the inside of his bottom lip. There is pride in his eyes when he smiles like that.

Your birth was the easiest by far. Eddie’s was an emergency C-section and everyone was quite hurried and nervous. I was sick, Eddie was in trouble and already sunny-side up in the birth canal–it was difficult and very traumatic. Charlie’s was supposed to be simple, but he was very high up in my rib cage and had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. Everything turned out fine, but there was a LOT of pushing and pulling that left me a bit nauseated.

You, my dear, were easy. You weren’t too high or too low. You weren’t in any odd position. They took you out and we heard your little cry and it was glorious. Because I had a bit of doubt the entire pregnancy that you were really a girl, I asked, “It’s a girl?” And they said, “Yes! You have a girl!” I laughed. Oh the unexpected joy that phrase “it’s a girl” has brought me since the ultrasound at 20 weeks!

first selfie with mommy

first selfie with mommy

Once you were out and they were sure you were Ok, the doctors went to work putting me back together. My doctor made the comment that my uterus looked good enough to handle one more C-section and both your dad and I said, “NO!” and then laughed. You are our last baby, sweet Alice. As soon as you were ready, Daddy and the docs took you up for all your testing and to wash you off. They finished up my stitches and staples and wheeled me to the recovery room. I was there less than the normal hour because I was wide awake, feeling great, and very eager to see you!

As they brought me up to my room, we passed you and daddy in the nursery. You were still getting all set up! Daddy had the biggest look of surprise on his face! I still let him give you your first bottle since it was sort of tradition with your brothers, but oh how excited I was to get to hold you in my arms! I know I’m using a lot of exclamation points here, but that is exactly how everything felt in those minutes–set you in my arms? EXCLAMATION POINT! Put my nose against your face and smell your hair? EXCLAMATION POINT! Hearing your tiny newborn squeaks and sighs? EXCLAMATION POINT!

birth is exhausting...for you and daddy!

birth is exhausting…for you and daddy!

After a little rest, we called Grandpa and Grandma and they came with your brothers. When Charlie was born, it was important to us that Eddie meet him first. So when you were born, we let Eddie have the day off school and come with Charlie to meet you before everyone else. Both brothers were excited and proud, but when they cautiously entered our hospital room, they also became so tender and loving.

This guy has not stopped smiling about you yet!

This guy has not stopped smiling about you yet!

We were in the hospital for 4 days and 3 nights. Every minute was wonderful. I know, I know…how can that be? I was recovering from major surgery and I was exhausted. But you know what? The stay in the hospital has always been a favorite part of having a baby for me. It’s like we are cocooned from the entire world for those days. And the nursing staff? Forget about it! They are amazing. Took such good care of us, right up to bringing me some hot tea each night in the 30-45 minutes before you went to the nursery and I went to sleep.

We had enough visitors to keep us from getting bored, but not so many that we were overwhelmed. That was good.

At 8 lbs 4 oz, you were our most dainty baby. In fact you were under 8 pounds when we brought you home! Astonishing and tiny as far as Sluiter babies go! You actually wore newborn clothes for about a month! When we got you home, you barfed on your jammy and we didn’t have another one to fit you, so daddy had to go to the store and buy a few newborn sized ones.

Your going home jammies! Such a pretty girl in blue!

Your going home jammies! Such a pretty girl in blue!

From that very first day, I have not been able to take my eyes off you or suppress a smile around you.

Your birth may have been planned, but the serene, perfectness of it all was an added bonus. Your entrance into the world was one of the very best days of my whole life, my sweet girl. You perfectly complete our family.

Thank you for being you.

I look forward to celebrating your first year this weekend with our family and friends.

And of course getting as many snuggles out of you as possible!

I love you, our little Caboose.

Mommy

A Night In With Netflix

Dear Netflix,

Eddie has been learning about the difference between “wants” and “needs” in school lately. He’s a first grader, you know, and it’s an important subject. Kids his age get those two things confused all the time. We have to remind him he doesn’t NEED a cookie or the Wii or more Pokemon cards. It’s a good lesson, all around.

There are many things that I want that I don’t really need too: A bag of Cheetos, a venti cinnamon dolce latte, yet another book on my To Read Pile.

One thing everyone in my family  needs is down time. We are a family of introverts. At first glance you might not guess–especially Eddie and me. We are loud and love to laugh and we are not afraid to talk in front of people. However the way we recharge is by being quietly alone. Or at least just with our family.

To some, it may look like we zone out. The ipad, the tablet, our phones, the Wii, books are all easy ways to go into our own heads to be away from the rest of the world that we just gave so much energy to all day.

Ok we are zoning out.

But we need it.

a night in

The nice thing about you, Netflix, is that you help us to zone together. We choose a show and can all enter into a united zone out.

So I guess I am saying thank you. Thank you for being a part of every single night in we have as a family. I don’t know how thankful I am that one of your choices is Pokemon, but whatever. It keeps Eddie happy on snow days, so I guess I’m ok with it.

Anyway, we all enjoy watching Phineas and Ferb and Chuggington. We like Curious George and Peep and The Big Wide World. We have also watched Home at least eleventy billion times since it became available. We are not so patiently waiting for US Netflix to get Inside Out (Canadian Netflix has it, friends from the North!), but at least we have lots of Madagascar spin-offs to keep us busy.

So Netflix, what I’m trying to say here is “thank you”.  Thank you for being part of my family’s daily routine of winding down and zoning out. Thank you for helping us regroup from a big day and come together as a family for some rest and relaxation.

Sincerely,

The Sluiter Family

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38 before 38

In thirty-nine days I will be turning 38.

Over the weekend, I mentioned how fun it would be to receive 38 books for my classroom library in honor of turning 38. I shared my Amazon Wishlist and yesterday, two books showed up.

38 before 38

You guys know just how to make me smile.

So why not go for it, right? Let’s add 38 books to my classroom library!

All you have to do is go to my Wish List on Amazon. Many, many books my students put on there are less than $10 each. (Did you know most of the books are requests directly from my students? They are! Some are also added by me because I know my students will love them). It’s a LONG list.

If you purchase one off the list, it will get sent directly to me! You may choose to donate anonymously, or you can leave us a message to tell us where it came from. I will be posting pictures here on my 38th birthday on March 27.

I just realized that this kind of party–a book party–has GOT to be the best birthday party EVER. Plus it’s the kind I can share with my students!

Speaking of my students, did you know I post over at The Educator’s Room regularly? Check out my posts about why Reading Logs have to go and how I use Reader’s Notebooks with my middle school students. I also have a post on Writers Who Care about my writing process and how procrastination is a very large, important part of it.

By the way, thanks for being awesome.

Now…let’s read!

Tales from a Converted Valentine’s Day Hater

I am a converted Valentine’s Day Hater.

Most of my post-elementary school life I have despised this made up holiday. In middle school and high school, you could pay to send candy kisses to people. While I get how this is fun for those who get them, we all know that it ends up being a popularity contest. Even now, as a middle school teacher, I wish I could send a dang carnation to every one of my students because I know those who don’t get them probably feel like dirt. Especially if they sent them to people and received none in return. I also know that some know they won’t get any, but secretly hope for a surprise. And are secretly disappointed when that surprise doesn’t happen.

It’s a horrible holiday when you are all adolescencey with all the feelings and greasy hair and bad fashion choices and just want to fit in.

High school didn’t get much better. I had a boyfriend then, but we were dumb high school kids. Maybe he bought me flowers or something. I do remember my junior year Valentine’s Day quite vividly. My boyfriend was a freshman in college in another state and I was back home. Since it was a Thursday or something, I decided to pick up a waitress shift at my job–it’s not like I had a date. On my way to work, I hit a patch of ice. As I was correcting the fish-tail, I hit a dry spot of pavement while my tires were turned sideways. I rolled one and a half times and ended up hanging from my seat belt in my upside-down Nissan in a {thankfully} snow-filled ditch.

When I got home, I was shaken up, feeling like garbage, and afraid of whether or not my dad would go through the roof when he found out I smashed up my car. As my parents were assuring me they were just glad I was unhurt, the delivery van from the local flower shop drove up. My mom gave a little squee, looking at my dad who shook his head. So I answered the door. They were from my boyfriend. He called later and I burst into tears. He thought they were happy tears because of the flowers. Not so much.

That was the start of some pretty rotten Valentine’s Days that included, but were not limited to, a first date ON Valentine’s Day who didn’t make reservations and then fell asleep on my dorm floor, a party that got busted up by the cops that left me standing a little intoxicated in the street without my driver because she was sober and had met a guy, and a boyfriend who bought me a balloon flower because he was going to break up with me a few weeks later.

When Cortney and I started dating, I made him promise me that Valentine’s Day would not be anything. I didn’t need a romantic holiday. I just needed it to not suck. To just be a day.

He has always complied with this. Valentine’s Day is not romantic in our house. We can do that every day.

Then we had kids.

If you know anything about me at all, you know that I do not go over the top with Halloween or Easter or Christmas or Fourth of July or any of those things. I do not do crafty things. I do not decorate for anything except Christmas and that is only because I sort of feel like I have to.

But having kids changed Valentine’s Day.

converted valentine's day hater

I am still not a crafty-crafterson by any stretch, but I inexplicably love to set up a little Valentine’s Day surprise for the kids. I love to talk about what we love about each other and ways to show our love. I do not get this jazzed for any other holiday. And I have always really, really hated Valentine’s Day, but it’s so different when it becomes Love Day.

converted valentine's day hater

I mean. How can you not fall in love with a day that gives your kids one more reason to tell you all the things they love about you and each other? You can’t NOT fall in love with it, that’s what.

Cortney and I still do not do anything special on Valentine’s Day, but there is more hugging and smooching because love is contagious.

I used to rage against Valentine’s Day.

It’s a made up holiday to make MONEY!

It leaves out all the single people!

It’s goofy and ridiculous!

Getting a reservation is impossible and there is too much pressure for romantic perfection!

But now my heart has softened a bit as I have gained three new Valentines.

converted valentine's day hater

And they do things like make me Valentine cards while Cortney lets me sleep in. And they make Valentine cupcakes with me. And they tell me what they love best about all of us.

For us, Valentine’s Day is about being romantic, it’s about celebrating love.

converted valentine's day hater

And we don’t need no stinking romantic dinner or jewelry to help us do that. Cortney and I don’t need to be alone to celebrate the love we all  have for each other.

Cupcakes with pink frosting will do just fine, thank you.

converted valentine's day hater

Or the first taste of apple juice diluted in a pile of water in a pink cup if you can’t have a cupcake. That works too.

Happy LOVE day, friends!

One Month Shy

My Dearest Alice,

Eleven months.

As I type this you are lying on the floor next to me eating your bottle. Ok, you are playing with it and waving at me and kicking your feet and making all sorts of chatting noises. It’s adorable. You are adorable.

baby alice

the tippy toes. always the tippy toes.

And you’re almost one. Just one month shy of being a whole year old.

I told Eddie that in only one month you would be one year old, and that I couldn’t decide if I was sad or excited. He said, “MOM! It’s EXCITING! Getting older and bigger is so fun! She will get to do new things and learn and grow…oh and eat CHEESE!”

I replied, “But we will be all done with little babies. No more babies in our family. That is a little sad, right?”

“Yeah,” he said thoughtfully, “it is a little sad. I love little babies. But Alice is so fun. And it’s just super exciting to grow up.”

Eddie knows what he’s talking about, Alice. (Remember that. Eddie is a good guy for talking to when you need to talk something out.) I miss your fuzzy baby head, it’s true. But my goodness! There has been nothing more wonderful than watching you learn and grow each day.

Baby Alice

Trying to squeeze past so you can touch the TV.

Let’s see…so you are standing next to ALL THE THINGS and you like to push that little activity table in the photo above. You get SO! EXCITED! about pushing it that you sit and just laugh and laugh once you get it across the room. You have started pulling to standing next to me and daddy and then letting go to balance on your own. The problem is, you fall when you start laughing at how AWESOME! YOU! ARE! I keep asking you if you think you are going to walk at your birthday party. Of course you just giggle. Stinker.

Your crawling has gotten so ridiculously fast that you are starting to scuff the knees of your leggings, jammies, and pants, and your little knees turn red if you’re just in a diaper or onsie.

You wave and scrunch your nose when you smile and clap hands and attempt to give high-fives. You love everyone and rarely fuss. You cuddle when you’re tired. You crawl around saying, “mum mum mum mum” or “da da da da” until you find one of us. And you laugh out loud when you see Eddie or Charlie.

Baby Alice

you play so differently than your brothers

I am one of the last people to ever support gender stereotypes–you probably know this–I mean, you play with cars and trucks more than anything else because that is what we have and who cares? But you play with toys so much differently than your brothers do.  You play…like a girl. I mean that in the most positive, factual way. Where the boys would sit and just smash toys together or throw all the things, it’s like you instinctively know the purpose of the fire truck is to roll on it’s wheels, so you push it back and forth in front of you. And that rattles are meant to be shook, so you shake it. The shape “cookies” go in the musical cookie jar, so you put them in, dump them out, put them in. No one showed you how; you just did it.

Baby Alice

This is trouble, right here.

Recently it’s become clear that you understand the word “no”. Most things we tell you “no” about you listen! It’s amazing. You used to want to pull all my books down. We have told you “no” and now you don’t. At first I was relieved. This was how Eddie was too. But then you discovered the TV. You are not allowed to touch the TV. When you try, we tell you “no”. You shake your head at us and continue to touch the TV until we redirect you. Seconds later, you’re back by the TV shaking your head “no” and smiling and touching that dang screen. The lower right corner is filled with tiny finger prints. As you can see, your need to get to the TV has even taught you to CLIMB. This is something Charlie did at your age too. So now I am worried.

Eddie was (and still is) a rule follower. If we said “no” that was it. Charlie was (and still is…sigh) a rule ignorer. If we say “no” he either does it anyway or throws a fit.  For awhile you were following Eddie’s path, but that TV has too much draw for you and just for that you are like Charlie. “No” is not an option when it comes to you and the TV.

Baby Alice

Such a dainty eater

You are still a very dainty eater. Not exactly picky, but definitely more choosy than your brothers ever where. You also don’t throw food everywhere like they did, although you have a tendency to blow raspberries when we feed you baby food when you determine that you have had enough. That’s gross, Alice. Your favorite foods are fruits (just like your brothers), but you will also eat sweet potatoes/yams, chicken, turkey, summer sausage, but not ham or beef. You also like a french fry here and there, but not tater tots or other potatoes. And you dig bread, but not corn muffins.

Baby Alice

Taking a ride

My favorite thing about you is how you make people smile. You have a smile that lights up your whole face and brings joy to everyone who sees you. Seeing that smile every morning sends me off into my day with light in my heart. Coming home to your face every day brings peace to my soul.

People want to be around you. They want to hold you and talk to you because you always smile. You always emit joy and laughter that is so pure, so innocent. You are a constant reminder of what true love and light looks like. While I know that you will not always be this happy, I hope that the delight you are able to bring to this world always radiates from you.

Baby Alice

Smiley Lady

I hope that you always smile at everyone because your smile is a true gift from God. Just this morning in church, I watched as people reach out to touch your little hand, your place their hand on your back or head. You smile and give their soul what it needed.

The past eleven months have been something very new to me. It has been a long time since I could find a bit of joy in every single day, but I believe that it’s been possible over the past year because of you.

While each of my children has brought a different gift to my life, you have been a joy-filled balm that I didn’t even know I needed. It is truly an honor to be your Mum Mum, a privilege to be the arms you turn to when you need solace and love.

Baby Alice

11 months old!

I love you, my beautiful daughter. Thank you for completing our family. Next month you will be one, but for now we will celebrate eleven months of wonder.

Love,
Mum Mum

I’m Depressed, Not Moody

I’m having a hard time.

For the past month I have been having some pretty rough bouts of depression, mostly brought on by long periods of time shut up in the house alone with my kids.

Don’t get me wrong, I love those crazy wiener kids of mine, but refereeing quarrels and having a whiny baby follow me around while I get nothing done wears on me, as I suspect it would anyone. Christmas break was especially bad for me. And I would open up this little blog of mine and stare and stare at the draft box, eventually heave a huge sigh, and close my lap top. I just didn’t know how to put words to anything. It was all just too hard. Life was too hard.

Then a local mom took her young kids out for Starbucks and never came home. She shot herself in a field while her children were right there. She suffered from postpartum depression.

On December 30, I had a chiropractor appointment and was feeling so hopeless that I just didn’t want to go back home to what I perceived was my jail cell. I knew the boys would be bickering and Alice would need something and Cortney would be frustrated. The kids all needed bathes and dinner. Bedtime would be a battle yet again. I would get maybe an hour and then I would need to go to bed to start it all over again the next morning.

I was just so tired.

Rather than go home, I drove around our town for over an hour. I drove up and down streets I hadn’t been to since I was in high school. I halfheartedly told myself I was looking for houses for sale, but I knew I was just avoiding my life.

I kept thinking about her. She had done everything right. She was seeing a therapist, she was on medication, she had a strong support system. Yet this stupid disease still won. It still talked her into believing the lies that her life was just not worth living.

If there were no guarantees…what about me?

I saw the news link shared on social media. I saw people ask, “but how could she do that?” and “why would she bring the kids along and then do that?”

I know how and why.

It’s because she didn’t plan it when she left the house. Her plan was to spend a new Starbucks gift card on her kids and get out of the house for a few minutes. She didn’t plan to kill herself.

But something snapped. When she pulled over, got out of her car and put a gun against her head, it was because her depression finally whispered something that pushed her over to believing it.

I wasn’t there, and I don’t know all this for sure, but I can imagine it because I have been so so close to this. I have been incredibly hopeless. I was that night I drove around town, although I didn’t have any intrusive thoughts. I haven’t had those since Charlie was a baby.

I just felt…worthless. Trapped. Done.

This past week New York Bestselling Author Marianne Wiliamson posted this on her FB page:

CODE ALERT: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says women should be “screened for depression” during and after pregnancy. Their answer, of course, is to “find the right medication.” Follow the money on this one. Hormonal changes during and after pregnancy are NORMAL. Mood changes are NORMAL. Meditation helps. Prayer helps. Nutritional support helps. Love helps.

Let me tell you something: I was not screened for depression with Eddie or Charlie. It took me nine months after Eddie’s birth to admit something wasn’t right and get help. Yes, mine included medication and therapy. It was (is) a long, painful journey to wellness. It is NOT a normal hormonal change or mood change. Depression isn’t just feeling bummed out. It’s chemical imbalance in my brain. It’s an illness.*

I am mentally ill, not a little moody.

I can’t pray my way out of this, friends.

Although I know I am preaching to the choir here, I just want to make sure I say here that had I been screened before leaving the hospital with Eddie, some red flags may have shot up. If I had been screened at my 6-week postpartum appointment red flags would have punched my OBGYN in the face.

Thankfully, they do screen now. In fact, I failed the screening with flying colors when they asked me the questions after Alice was born.  I knew I would fail, the nurse knew that I knew that I would fail, but they followed up with me anyway so I could assure them my support team (Cortney, my family, my therapist and my GP) were on board and that yes, I was still taking my meds.

Now that I think about it, I have not had any postpartum depression with Alice. She will be 11 months old this week and while I have had some depression, none of it was the same variety as I had with the boys.  The screening didn’t prevent my PPD this time around, but it definitely put everyone on alert right away rather than nine months later when I practically crawled into my doctor’s office shaking from defeat.

All this to say…actually…I don’t know what my point in all this is.

I guess it’s this: I’m having a hard time. There is a lot going on in the media that is not helping. That makes me angry because I have fought and spoke up about my depression for six years because it’s stupid that there is still a stigma. Postpartum Mood Disorders are the #1 complication after birth and society is still trying to tell us to “get over it.”

I’m having a hard time.

It will get better. I will continue to go to therapy, to drink lots of water, to sit in front of my SAD lamp when there isn’t enough natural light in my day, to take my medication, and to let my support system know how I feel. I will continue to try to take the advice of those who love me and tell me to be gentle to myself and to find alone time to recharge.

I will continue to see the good and silly and beautiful that is right in front of my face, and it will pull me through.

Because I am not alone and this will not last.

2016-01-21 19.11.11

*and to be clear: I believe screening for depression in pregnant and postpartum women is important and does not necessarily lead to being medicated. For me it did because that is what I needed. Screening does not automatically equate to being put on pills.

Family Adventures!

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Winter in Michigan means being indoors a LOT.

Typically January in Michigan means feet of snow keeping us in; this year that is not so much the case, but it has been pretty yucky. In fact, yesterday it rained on the snow that is already on the ground. It’s like cold oatmeal out there on the roads.

So yeah, we stay in.  And when we stay in, we do crafts and puzzles. We build with Mega Blocks and play Animal Crossing on the Wii, but we also spend a good amount of time in front of the television.

Last week, Eddie and I had a snow day. I spent a lot of the day working, but Eddie busied himself finding new stuff on Netflix. That’s when he found Dawn of the Croods. The Croods is a family favorite movie around these parts. It is frequently chosen when we have a snow day in the winter or a movie night or a rainy afternoon preventing us from playing outdoors. The new show is sort of a prequel to the movie and it’s all about the Croods’ adventures as a family.

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That got me thinking about the adventures we hope to have this year with our family. Last year we had a really big adventure: Alice!  This year is our first full year as a family of five and here is what we are looking forward to, complete with an overabundance of exclamation points!

The Big Alice in Wonderland Unbirthday Tea Party! Alice and Charlie have birthdays that are only a week apart, so we have decided that they will share their party, and this year, we are doing an Alice in Wonderland theme. Alice will, clearly, have a cute little white onsie and blue tutu and Charlie will have a Mad Hatter hat and it’s going to be SO MUCH FUN!

Spring Break to Chicago! A couple years ago, we took just Eddie for a weekend to Chicago and left his baby brother with my parents. It was a major hit. Now that Charlie will be four (the age Eddie was when we took him), we are going to do the trip again, but this year with just the boys. We will stay downtown somewhere with a pool because, according to Eddie, that was the best part of the trip. Weather-permitting we will also go to the Lincoln Park Zoo and probably the Lego Store.

Summer Vacation! I’m not sure what this summer holds as far as getting away, but it sounds like there are at least two possible weekends our family will get to stay in a cottage or something. I hope so because it’s always super fun to take the kids to the beach. And this will be Alice’s first summer actually being able to play in the sand rather than just be held under an umbrella.

Pearl Jam! Pearl Jam is ending their North American Tour in Chicago this summer and Cortney and I are hoping to go because PEARL JAM!

Two Kids in School! This fall Charlie will be starting preschool while Eddie moves on to second grade.

New Daycare! Our beloved Renae “Nae” has made the tough decision not to renew her daycare license this spring, which means after almost six years, we will have to find a new place for The Littles. In the fall, Charlie will be going to Preschool, so we can do the childcare option there, but Alice will need a new place. We are very sad, but hopeful that we can find a wonderful place for our kids.

The Unknown! Ok I admit, “The Unknown” gives me anxiety, but it is fun to have the sense of “what could happen next?” that comes with not having everything planned out. I know that, like The Croods, we will have lots of unforeseen adventures in 2016. Some will be sucky (changing daycare), but some will be super fun.

So, here we go 2016! Let’s get adventurous!

If We Had Eleventy Billion Dollars

We didn’t buy any lotto tickets in the crazy frenzy of the giant jackpot last week. The buzz did spark some fun conversations at work and home though. Someone asked me what I would do first if I won, and I immediately thought of books and my classroom wish list. Most people chuckled and said, “wait, wouldn’t you quit your job? Then you could spend that money on something else.”

Huh. I guess if we won a boat ton of money, I could quit my job.

I brought it up with Cortney one evening asking him what he would do if we won the lottery. His answer was so adult and responsible: pay off any debt we had, replace his truck with something that doesn’t need a new transmission, and look for a bigger house. His answer surprised me not at all.  He’s a practical guy who wants to take care of his family and our immediate needs first. But it started me thinking about what I would really do with all that money…you know, once I did the adult thing and paid off those student loans.

If I won the lottery

If I won the lottery I would…

Get my PhD in English Education. According to my “retirement planning guy” (yes I have one because I am an adult, dang it), I have about eleven more years until I can retire from public education. If I didn’t have to work, I would still teach. In fact I don’t think I would want to leave my current job at all. However I would probably go part-time or retire earlier so I could pursue my PhD without having to work while doing it (which is currently the plan when we do have the money to pay for the credits). My dream is to teach future teachers.

Go on a Honeymoon. Ok, so Cortney and I did go on a honeymoon, but it was not the stuff all-inclusive, swim-up-bar dreams are made of. Remind me to tell you about the Mystic Sea “Resort” some day. Ugg.  After 10.5 years of marriage, I think we deserve a romantic getaway. We have been through some heavy shit in these years, but we are still laughing and loving and I wish we could celebrate that in a big way.

Take the Kids Somewhere. This one I might not do immediately. I mean, Alice is a little young to care whether she is in our living room or at Disney and to be honest? She would probably prefer our living room floor at this age. But eventually I would love to take our kids someplace awesome. Maybe not even Disney, but somewhere that they would remember and love.

Start Classroom Libraries. Since I would keep my job teaching middle school, I would use some of that eleventy billion to help start/expand all the English teacher’s classroom libraries in my district including my own.

Make Big Donations. I would also make sure to give some of it away. One place I would contribute to is the Book Love Foundation. Penny Kittle has worked to help teachers build their classroom libraries across the country–including mine. I would also give to the American Cancer society in memory of all of the loved ones we have lost or who have suffered from cancer. Postpartum Progress would also get some dinero because Katherine Stone and her tireless efforts to inform and break down the stigma of postpartum depression and other perinatal mood disorders quite literally saved my life.

Start a Scholarship. If I had the funds to back it, I would start a scholarship for students in my district. It would require an essay about reading and a book that changed their life.

Beef Up the College Funds. It really goes without saying that we would put away money for all three of our kids’ post-secondary educations. Am I right? School is important, yo.

All of this would be after paying off our current loans, getting newer (more reliable) vehicles that actually fit all of us at once, and moving to a house where I can open a cupboard and not have a serving dish almost take me out (true story. It hit the stove top instead and took some of the paint off).

And of course we would sock some away in savings. Because we are responsible and don’t want to end up on one of those reality shows about people winning the lotto who are now living out of their car.

So what would you do with a boatload of money? What dreams would you bring to fruition? What worries would you appease?

 

perfect 10

My dearest Alice Katherine,

You turned ten months old this past week.  Double digits. Two hands. Ten.

If you're not moving, it's because you are sleeping.

If you’re not moving, it’s because you are sleeping.

Over Christmas break you decided to start checking milestones off your to do list. You were just starting to crawl and pull up to your knees last month. Now you are pulling to standing next to pretty much anything. You cruise along the furniture and the other night you crawled on top of your brothers’ humidifier to peek into Eddie’s bed at him!

To most people, you are just doing your baby thing not too differently from your brothers. Daddy and I see the little differences though. For one, you crawl with your feet up in the air. It’s so funny! Your brothers wore holes in socks and slippers because their feet dragged behind them when they crawled. You put your little feet up and crawl this way and that with your little booty wiggling behind you.

It is getting near to impossible to get a non-blurry photo of you...unless you are sleeping.

It is getting near to impossible to get a non-blurry photo of you…unless you are sleeping.

You play differently than your brothers too. Most times, you can sit in the same spot for quite a while playing with what is around you. You don’t need anyone to sit next to you constantly (like Eddie did) and you don’t pick things apart (like Charlie did). In fact, you seem to know what toys are for and play with them accordingly. For instance, you will spend thirty minutes putting the shapes in and out of the shape cookie jar thing we have. Your brothers just threw them.

using cups to put things in. over and over and over.

using cups to put things in. over and over and over.

You are finally starting to warm up to eating some food rather than just bottles. Baby food is still just sometimes, but you will eat graham crackers and townhouse crackers, the occasional pretzel stick, bananas, and apple pieces. You even had a french fry last night and was a fan. You also like chicken, but scrunch your nose at ham and broccoli. Tonight I’m going to see how you feel about meatloaf.

all the sass

all the sass

You are the happiest, smiley-est baby in the entire world. You wake up happy. You go to bed happy. You chuckle at your brothers and your daddy. The only time I hear whining is if you are tired and want to be cuddled or you are hungry. I say this every month, I know, but it amazes me how joyful you are. Always.

I have gone through some yucky days in the past month, my love. And one of the only things that keeps me going is your scrunchy smile. You’ve also started waving, clapping, and giving kisses. You love to cuddle, but you are a mover too. You are all the most wonderful things a baby can be all wrapped up into one sweet Alice.

2016-01-08 22.05.25

While you’ve always been “chatty”–making lots of sounds all the time–lately when you are sad or looking for cuddles you will repeat “mum mum mum mum” and when you are happy and looking for someone to see you doing a new “trick” like clapping or an old one like “so big”, you repeat “da da da da”. It’s beginning to seem like you are starting to differentiate between “mum mum” and “da da” as people too.

You are very into grabbing noses and looking at me until I say, “nose”. You got a few babies for Christmas and there is one in particular you like to hug and give kisses to.

2016-01-07 18.06.36

This first year is going so quickly. In just two short months we will be celebrating your very first birthday. I wish I knew why babies had to grow so fast–I already miss your fuzzy little newborn head. But you know what? Watching your scrunchy nosed smile and your discovering new things every day is such a joy.

2015-12-29 13.05.46

We love you so much, Miss Alice Beans–or “Beansy Girl” as your brothers call you. You bring smiles and love and happiness to our family every day.

Rock on, sweetie pie. Rock on.

Love,
Mum mum mum

What I Read: 2015

Somebody (I don’t remember who anymore, sorry!) asked me for a post of all the books I read in 2015. Since I’m on Goodreads, I like to do the yearly challenge. Last year I set my goal at 25 books. I figured a couple a month was a fair goal with a new baby and all. As you can see, I surpassed that goal; I read 35 books!

I credit my students and our Reading Workshop. Since I have told my students that reading matters, and that when something matters, you find time to do it, I have made a commitment to reading every day. Usually I do it after the kids are in bed, but sometimes, if I’m not conferencing with my students, I will read my book when they have their reading time.  In fact, because of this I am already on my second book of 2016!

what i read

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

This is a look back at the books I read in 2015, in order that I read them. I am too lazy to link to all of them, by the way, but I know you all know how to use the search function on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I put the MUST READs  in bold if you need some to add to your to read list (although to be fair, there is not a book on here I would say “meh” to. They are all recommendations, really. Just get them all, but read the ones in bold first). The books with a * are Young Adult Lit.

  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg (nonfiction)
  • The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr (nonfiction)
  • The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
  • Gone Girl by Jillian Flynn
  • Apron Strings by Mary Morony
  • Open Boxes by Christine Organ (nonfiction)
  • Jeneration X by Jen Lancaster (nonfiction)
  • The Shakespeare Conspiracy by Jeffery Hunter McQuain
  • The Potty Mouth at The Table by Laurie Notaro (nonfiction)
  • From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler*
  • Butter by Erin Jade Lange*
  • All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven*
  • Paper Towns by John Green*
  • Me, Earl, and The Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews*
  • The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller (nonfiction)
  • The Chosen by Chiam Potok*
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart*
  • We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen*
  • Landline by Rainbow Rowell
  • Me Before You by Jo Jo Moyes
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  • The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien (nonfictionish)
  • Write Like This by Kelly Gallagher (nonfiction)
  • Mechanically Inclined by Jeff Anderson (nonfiction)
  • Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher*
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio*
  • George by Alex Gino*
  • Jerk, California by Jonathan Friesen*
  • Both of Me by Jonathan Friesen*
  • Stand Off by Andrew Smith*
  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan*
  • Fightball: Dying of Suck by Kris Wehrmeister (nonfiction)

This year I set my goal at 40. I think I can do it if I keep up the momentum that I set for myself in 2015.

Another thing I started doing this year is writing in a Reader’s Journal. I want my students to do this, so I model it by doing it myself. I have my notebook available in the classroom for students to flip through to see examples. They also like to flip through it for book recommendations. I admit I love reading their notebooks for this same reason. My To Read List grows as I talk to my students and read their thoughts about their books!

Knowing my students are looking to me as a model reader helps keep me reading. I try to read a mixture of Young Adult Literature and “regular” fiction/literature, just as I try to read a variety of fiction and nonfiction. That is part of my modeling for students too. Sometimes they get stuck on a genre and I want to show them there is awesome stuff across genres.

My other book goal for 2016 is to increase my classroom library by 100 more books. I added just under that (82 books) in 2015, so I think I can hit that goal this year. Right now my records show that I have 928 titles, and if I can surpass 1000 by the end of the year? Well, I will be ecstatic! To think that in the spring of 2014 I only had 104 books is crazy!

If you want to help, I keep a Wish List on Amazon of books that my students request as well as books I read about that I know my students will enjoy (I read a lot of new release and award lists).

Now tell me…what are you reading? What do you want to read? What should I read?

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