Chemo Round 6

This week was round 6 of chemo, round 2 of the new drug. As you can see, my attitude has improved. Also my regular nurse, Aimee, was back after a couple weeks away for various reasons and I was super happy to harass chat with her again.

The entire thing went a little quicker this time since I tolerated it so well last time. I only had half the Bendaryl (It still made me sleepy enough that I napped through most of my infusion), and the chemo could drip a little quicker–one hour. So I was in and out in under 3 hours this time.

And just like last time, I napped in the afternoon at home, and was ready to rock today!

The boys had their last day of swim lessons for this year this morning, and then I took Eddie to school with me to get some things done in my classroom (the little two went to daycare).

It was pretty fun to spend time with him. He’s at an age where he is so helpful and fun to hang out with. Although he talked NON-STOP while he worked, so I had to busy myself with things that weren’t thinking-intensive so I could listen and chat back with him. The teachers who were around all commented, “well, he’s basically you, isn’t he?” Yes, yes he is. And I love it.

I am back to work on Monday, so it was important I get some stuff done today, and he helped with that. I have teacher time to work some more Monday and then meetings all day Tuesday. Wednesday I will be out for chemo, but kids will be walking through that door!

It’s hard to believe summer is pretty much over for me. I feel like I really only got two weeks, but I am grateful to have gone through the really hard, comatose days during the summer and not during the school year.

I’m grateful to my co-workers who have helped me move desks and work around some scheduling things for my students while I’m out to give them some routine. I appreciate how supportive the administration has been to find someone who can be a regular presence for my students and for me.

I’m excited to start the school year, but get some anxiety looking at the calendar since I know I have to work in time to do my PhD class and help bring kids to sports practice and scouts. Plus we want family time and fun time too.

I know some of you like specific things to pray for, so here you go: my anxiety, my body continuing to do well with this drug, and the kids as they transition to back to school in the coming weeks (we find out teachers tomorrow! Woot!)–especially Charlie who has some anxiety with change.

6/16 Done

Looking Forward

As my mom and Charlie would say, “Mom’s pep is back.”

Round 3 was hell. Monday I totally hit rock bottom. It was the perfect storm of fatigue, not leaving the house for 4 days, not eating properly, and a big dose of depression. I sobbed in the shower.

Then Cortney sat by me, affirmed my feelings were valid and just, and then told me to get ready because we were going to a minor league ball game with friends.

The laughter and adult conversation and fresh air did it. My smile came back.

Along with my smile, my ability to look forward to things came back with a rush. I realized that I only have a month before students will be walking through my classroom door ready (or not) for their 8th grade year of school.

Between now and then I will have my last dense dose chemo treatment, and two of the Taxol chemo treatments. In fact, because school starts on a Wednesday, I will be having a chemo treatment rather than meeting my students. I will be leaving a video of myself for the sub to play. I hate it, but I’m hoping to teach my students flexibility from Day 1.

This is the first summer I have not done an full inventory on my classroom library. I just haven’t been able to get into my classroom due to my health. I did go through my Book Check Outs and mark what was not returned and added those back to my classroom library wish list on Amazon. I also added some new titles that are either soon-to-be published or popped up on my radar as excellent.

When I don’t have chemo brain, I’ve also been reading a lot to try to make my own teaching better. Some of my main goals this school year are: better student engagement, more student-teacher conferencing, and more student-to-student talk. A classroom library goal is to make book check out smoother/student led, make my library even more inviting, and offer more options (audio books, magazines, etc.). I created a separate teacher wish list on Amazon for those things along with some other school supplies that we tend to go through super quickly.

I’ve saved up and ordered my favorite lesson plan book (it should be here on Monday!), and have already started planning the first few days in a notebook. I getting super excited about a new crew of 8th graders, trying new routines and strategies, and just being back to work.

So many people have asked how they can help me through my journey and I honestly don’t know other than prayers and positive thoughts. So rather than me, you could bless my students if you want to check out my wish lists. I will be out every Wednesday for treatment through October, so they will be affected by all this too. I’m looking at it as a lesson in empathy and flexibility for them this year. It can be a super positive experience for them if I can manage to put that spin on it.

Thank you all for having hope and strength and faith when I hit the pit. Thank you for always supporting my family, and the extension of that, my students. Because to me, they become little families each school year.

Feeling Like a Phony

Our new Sunday routine for the fall has me driving separately to church and leaving after the service while the kids go to Children in Worship (our church’s version of Sunday School) and Cortney stays back to count (he’s a deacon) or go visit his grandma and then picking the kids up.

I don’t leave to go take a nap–although today I was very tempted to do just that–I run any errands and then take my Chromebook and any school work or writing deadlines I have and head to our Barnes & Noble cafe section and work for a couple hours.

I’ve been delighted to notice that there is a whole crew of regulars here including the most adorable elderly couple who seems to be arriving after church for some coffee and chit chat. Even the barista must have this as her regular schedule. Today she said, “Oh welcome back. are you going to be one of our new regulars?” I smiled and said, “Probably. I’m more productive here than in a house full of kids.”

As she was ringing up my order I complimented her on the tattoo of a beautiful ship on her arm. She asked why I had “Write.” on my arm. “Are you a writer?” I fumbled. This isn’t the first time I have been asked this since getting that ink on my arm.

“Um, well, I write a lot, and um…I’m actually an 8th grade English teacher. But I’ve been blogging for ten years…and, well…I have been published a couple places and I guess that makes me a writer.”

I winced in my head. I have the word permanently on my arm and I seem so unsure of it when asked.

“What are you writing right now?” She asked me with clear curiosity.

“Um, well, I’ve been working on my statement for my PhD application and I have a chapter in a book I am writing…a book about teaching. I’m writing about teaching a certain book with a grief focus. I’m not sure it will be included, but I want to use it because I need a ten-page writing sample for my application too. So nothing, like, for publication, but yeah.”

OH MY GOSH. I internally rolled my eyes at myself. What is wrong with me?

“That is really awesome! A PhD! Then everyone can call you Doctor! So cool! Good luck!”

I shrunk into myself and hid myself in a corner table. I immediately decided to grade essays because I had NO idea to revise my statement, and I don’t actually know where to start with the book chapter, and WHO DO I THINK I AM?

A total phony, that’s who.

I am in one of those funks where I have this paranoid feeling that I have people snowed; that they think I can write these wonderful things, but in fact I am a terrible writer. I sent a draft to a friend recently and I am surprised–no, SHOCKED–she still thinks I have it in me not just to do this writing thing, but to get a higher degree in English education and teach other people to do this stuff.

I have doubts, is what I’m saying.

Today I do not feel like I can do it.

Today I feel like an impostor.

Today I feel like I have nothing together.

So I’m going to pack it up for today, but I will try again next week. Because I made this commitment and even if I totally blow it, I have to try.

The Village that Loves Us

The toughness of parenting comes in waves, doesn’t it?

When they are tiny, the difficulty lies in anticipating and knowing their needs. They can’t tell us; they can only cry. As parents we try to distinguish the hungry cry from the tired cry from the pain cry.  We fumble and misunderstand. We cry with them when they are colicky and can’t be soothed. We worry even when the doctor assures us they’ll grow out of it and be fine. We lose sleep over the smallest decisions, wondering “did we choose right? Or will this create trauma or damage?”

In this age of technology we ask Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. We ask Google and read blogs and articles–most conflicting each other. We put it out there and read, “ME TOO!” and feel better.

We are not alone with our worries.

And the children grow, and we get comfortable for awhile. For a split second we have a routine.

Then another wave hits.

We are worrying about whether they are eating enough, eating the right things, getting enough sleep, getting too much sleep. Are the tantrums they throw normal or symptomatic of something else? Is their refusal to eat normal or something else? Is their new biting habit normal or something else? How long do we “wait and see” before we should be getting professional help? Seeking tests or evaluations?

We turn online again. We ask those who have been through it.

Sometimes, though, there are things we don’t turn online to investigate because we don’t want to put our worry–our child’s potential struggle–out there for everyone to know about.

We get notes home, phone calls, and complaints about behavior, bad choices, and disrespectful behavior. We cry and wonder where we failed our child. Because it has to be something we did or didn’t do, right? Kids aren’t born making bad choices. We didn’t give quick enough consequences. We didn’t talk about respect enough. Something.

Maybe we even vaguebook about how difficult parenting is.

There are a bazillion parenting books out there. Shoot, I’m sitting in Barnes and Noble right now and before I settled in, I browsed. There is an entire section devoted to parenting. There are definitely universal truths in parenting, but none of those books was written specifically with my child in mind. None are uniquely for how to raise Eddie or Charlie or Alice.

Parenting sites and books and even psychologists can give general advice about how to parents certain behaviors and attitudes, but they can’t tell you what to do when you child acts uniquely like themselves.

So when my Charlie is struggling to find his way as a full-time school kid, I struggle with how to be his best mom. I cry a lot. I feel like I am failing him. And I worry about the labels that can stick to a kid because they adhere quickly and are damn near impossible to peel off.

I know this because of my own job.

My Charlie is a puzzle. He is so unlike me. I love him so furiously, but I don’t understand him more than I do, and I know it hurts both of us.

We had a hard start to this week. I did a load of crying.

But then this text came over my phone: “It’s not your job to solve the puzzle, mama. Just be there and love that darling little puzzle. Give yourself some grace.”

I crumbled. It was the first of many supportive notes of love that our village began to surround us with without even knowing the circumstances.

Family, friends, church family, the teachers at Charlie and Eddie’s school…the love and support began to pour in. And that is when I realized, we are going to be Ok. Charlie is going to be Ok.

Because it is impossible to fail when you have a village that savage loving you and supporting you.

I know my kids don’t have much of an idea yet of how lucky they are to be loved by so many. I hope that we can help them to grow and understand the fortune and wealth of love and support they were born into is a great privilege.

I know I was brought to my knees, humbled by the time people took to let me know my family–my little boy–is loved and to remind me that no one is labeling him as anything but “Charlie Bird”.

There are struggles we can expect as parents: battles over meal time, bed time, and bath time. The inevitable push-and-pull of the teenage years. The sex and drugs and rock n roll talks.

But there are other, more personalized struggles we can’t foresee. Thank God for the people he has placed in our lives to hold us through those times.

Thank God for our village.

Fall Frenzy

Do you see that? Those red leaves? Last week those were not there. The calendar turned over to September and BOOM the tree-line started to turn.

Tomorrow the kids go back to school. I’ve been back to school for two weeks. Things are going to be the same, but very different this fall. Alice will be going full time to daycare all by herself. For the first time in five years, we only have one kid in daycare!

Charlie has graduated from daycare! He is starting Kindergarten tomorrow, and he is so dang excited! Eddie has always loved school, but starts the year cautiously with some worries. Charlie has no worries at all and cannot wait to start. We have had to count “how many days now?” since early August.

Eddie is starting 3rd grade tomorrow! This means he’s officially an “upper el” kid at their school. He moves to the Upper El” playground and gets to be a reading buddy for a lower el kid. He knows almost everyone in his class, but he is nervous about not knowing his new teacher’s rules or the consequences. He has trouble controlling his socializing, so he worries about whether his new teacher will like him. Spoiler alert: everyone loves Eddie because he is helpful and kind, but sometimes he thinks getting redirected means someone doesn’t like him. We are working on that anxiety.

Eddie is continuing scouts this year as a Bear Scout. Charlie could start as a Lion Scout, but we are not sure if we will start him this year or wait until next year. We are just so busy already as it is because both boys are doing soccer this fall too!

Eddie took last fall off, but he wanted to play again this year. He is a little slow, but he’s got pretty good footwork and I think he could be a good defense player if he practices and tries hard.  He says it’s fun, so we are supporting his efforts and cheering him on.

Eddie is the jogging green shirt in the center of the pic

Charlie is doing soccer for the first time this fall. He is ridiculously excited about it. He is a pretty natural athlete and loves to learn and get better at things. He’s pretty quick and will great on offense. He is willing to go all in and sacrifice his body for the game…which I’m sure will make me nervous more often than not.

Charlie is in the yellow shirt to the left of the pic.

In two weeks all three kids will start Children in Worship (our church’s Sunday School Program) after church. Since Cortney is a deacon and has counting duty this fall, Sunday mornings will be my writing time. This is the first time in a long time that all the kids will be occupied for an hour after church and I’ll get some alone time to work on my PhD application writing. This is giant relief since the weekly schedule of scouts, soccer, and Cortney’s bowling league night had me panicky about when I would actually have time to sit in front a keyboard.

I’m not a huge fan of having something on the calendar every day. It feeds my anxiety and worry that I won’t have enough time for myself which means I will overload on anxiety and then fall into depression.  However, we do have a Game Plan and Plan B’s for when I feel like it’s all too much.

Oh and we took the kids to the zoo as a Fun Family Adventure before all the schoolscoutssoccerbowling madness hits the fan.

And yes, we actually let them choose something from the gift shop. Their minds were blown too. We had a moment of weakness.

Oh and yes, Eddie chose a Snowy Owl because Harry Potter has one. We are reading Harry Potter together. It’s my first time too.

Happy fall.

And Then There Were Two School Kids

I thought I was ready. I though this year would be much easier, and I suppose in a way it was. At least with Eddie.  I have to say I was super prepared as far as supplies go. I had everybody’s supply lists filled before August even hit since I knew I had surgery and then a bunch of other busy things going on in August.

New lunch box and a backpack full of supplies for Eddie and a new backpack for Charlie Bird.

I started back the week before Labor Day for staff things and getting my classroom ready. Eddie had open house for 2nd grade–the Turtle Room.

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I asked him if he was nervous or excited. He shrugged and said, “well, I know everyone in my grade, so I guess I am just okay. A little excited to see everyone, but not too much. I like summer.”

On Tuesday the 6th, I kissed my not-so-little guy goodbye and told him to have a wonderful first day, and we both headed off to our first days of school.

This is where I get to say how much I hate missing every single first day of school for my own kids. Yet at the same time I am so grateful Cortney can be there to at least bring Eddie to school…even if it is to the before school program and not right to the classroom. With Eddie, this is his third year in the same school and the same before/after program. He knows how it all works.

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He even has that first day of school pose down. Cortney didn’t even tell him to do this, he just did it because he knows…he totally knows what makes a cute first day of school picture. He barely said goodbye to his dad as he found his friends in the multipurpose room and went to catch up after a summer apart. He was good.

When I showed up to pick him up, he was actually bummed. He wanted to go to the after school program and play with his friends even more. But we went home and he let me take the traditional first day picture by the tree:

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Who is this big kid? The only way I could get him to stand there and smile was to promise that he could also take a picture of me after my first day of Year 14.

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Don’t judge. I looked cute when I left the house in the morning. Then it was somewhere around the surface of the sun hot and humidity was around a million percent.  And our building does not have AC. So no, by 3:45pm, I was not looking so fresh.

Before I could wrap my head around Eddie and I being back to school, we found ourselves at open house for preschool…for Charlie Bird. The Fish Room!

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I feel like this is where my back to school adventure hit a curve in the road. I knew it was coming; I mean I bought the backpack with dinosaurs all over it! But holding his little nervous hand as we looked around what will be his classroom this year, my own tummy did flip flops for him.

You see, he is my brave, courageous, tough Bird. But he is very VERY cautious about change and new things. He is careful. And he gets overwhelmed and too much at once shuts him down.  We were very close to complete shut down at openhouse. It was…a lot.

But the last thing we did was check out the playground, and just like that, his smile came back. He knew how to “do” playgrounds. He was comfortable again. And his confidence came back. And he assured me preschool would be great.

This week was his first day. I was a wreck all morning knowing I couldn’t be there to hug him before he went. Yes, he had hugged me, put my face in his hands, and said, “Mom mom it will be a great day!” But I was still so nervous for him. Again, Cortney was able to meet our daycare provider at school for drop-off to give Charlie some last-minute hugs and encouragement.

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Of course he also got a quick shot of our Bird before he went off as an official preschooler. (That is his friend from daycare. They are not in the same class, but they do get to ride to and from school together. So that is fun).

When he got home, he came in the house and the first thing he said was, “Mom mom! School is AWESOME!”  I wanted to cry I was so excited for him.

He even let me take his picture by the tree.

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Tuesday morning I told him to have a great day at school and he smiled and said, “I will have a great SECOND day of school!”

Then his teacher sent me this:

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I mistakenly thought Back to School would be easier this year because I had been through it with Eddie three times already. I thought Charlie starting Preschool would somehow be easier because we had been through it with Eddie and knew what to expect. I learned that it doesn’t really matter. Each first day is a new first day. A new milestone. For Eddie it wasn’t as emotionally difficult, but it was still an adjustment to see him so easy and relaxed about going off without us into the world.

For Charlie it was much more emotional than I prepared myself for it to be. Preschool is a big milestone. It’s the first day of all first days of school. It’s the very start. And for my Baby Bird, it means he’s now not a baby. He’s Charlie now (although at open house he did tell his teacher he likes to be called Charlie Bird).  He goes into the world and learns things without me there.

Yeah, it doesn’t get easier.

But here we go…two kids in school. And one mom.

We Survived…Barely

Whew! The first week of school for the 2015-16 school year is in the books and the Sluiters are EXHAUSTED!

Eddie’s first week as a 1st grader went really well. He never fully admitted to being nervous, but he did tell me the night before school started, “Mom, if you are nervous or scared, just do what I do and push the scared down and do it anyway.”

He’s a wise one, that Eddie.

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When I picked him up the second day, he said very seriously to me, “Mom. I got to know Mrs. D a little better today, and now I have figured out I don’t like first grade.” I must have had a terrified look on my face, trying to muster up the lecture about giving it some time, when he started laughing and said, “I LOVE IT! GOT YOU, MOM!” Oh boy.

Eddie also had his first soccer game this weekend. His team lost 0-3, but he thinks they scored a goal for some reason. He told me he had a “great” time, so that is more positive than last year. I had a meeting for our Children in Worship team at church, so I didn’t get to see him play. Cortney says he ran the whole time and didn’t lay down, so we are already doing better than last year!

He has also shown an interest in joining cub scouts, so we will be looking into doing that too. While I get a twinge of sadness that my kids grow up so fast, I can’t help but be excited for them to learn and grow and try new things and experience that excited right along with them.

Charlie and Alice went back to full time daycare this week. It was a change for Charlie this year because one of his little friends is now in preschool and doesn’t go to his daycare anymore. After two days without her, he told me he missed her. He still has one friend his age who is there most of the time (though I think he also goes to preschool part time). Charlie adapted quite easily to the new schedule, although by the end of the week we had a very tired 3.5 year old on our hands.

Alice started out rough, but after the first day, she got better and better. It’s so hard to come home to a baby whose eyes are all red from crying, and then have to send her off again the next day, but she was a trooper! By the end of the week she was even taking good naps at daycare.

Cortney’s bowling league started up this past week too. I guess that makes sense since it was the first week after Labor Day, but goodness! We had hardly gotten into our new routine and he was gone for an evening. A Thursday evening. There were many meltdowns while he was gone (me included), but we made it.

My first week back was exhausting, but the good kind of exhausting. The kind where your body aches and your eyes droop and it’s because you used your mind and body to work hard.

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I spent a good part of this first week of school getting kids accustomed to what Reader’s Workshop, to how to find what they are looking for in the school library and in my classroom library, and how to keep a Reader’s Notebook. I did a LOT of talking and thinking about reading. I stood a lot. I walked a lot. I talked a lot.

It was a good, good week.

(ps. I was able to add about 50 new books so far this school year thanks to donations! Kids have already started giving me suggestions for what they would like to see added. They are hungry for books! If you have a spare $10, and you want to help put books in the hands of 8th graders, check out our Wish List!)

My To Do List is still a mile long and I feel like I am only just scratching the surface. BUT, I love this feeling of purpose. This feeling of having a specific set of things to do each day. This routine we will eventually fall into as a family.

It’s always tough when we first have this big change–kids get over-tired by the end of the week, Cortney and I flail to get all the things done (laundry, groceries, cleaning, homework, etc) done over the weekend to make the upcoming week run smoothly–but we will get there.

It’s good. We are off to a good start.

Now excuse me while I collapse into bed.

After I make our lunches for Monday.

Summer Out, Fall In

Oh Summer of 2015, what a mixed bag of emotions you have been.

My time “off” started March 5–the day before Alice was born. Summer break officially started June 5 after I picked Eddie up from his last day or Kindergarten and Charlie up from daycare.

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We made a Bucket List of things we wanted to do this past summer. We made a daily schedule for when screen time was and when nap was and when meals were. We made a weekly “adventure” schedule with planned days for the park, the library, the farmer’s market, and more. We started a behavior chart to help two boys who were used to structure and lots of kids around cope with a little less structure and only each other. We had systems in place. This summer was going to be full of fun and adventures!

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And we had fun. We did.

But it wasn’t what I expected.

For one, our daily schedule did not go by what we posted, but by what Alice decided she needed. Her feeding and sleeping drove our days which meant that our weekly schedule also went out the window. If we didn’t leave the house to do fun stuff in the morning? We didn’t go because we needed to have lunch or the kids would turn into monsters (seriously. I learned that if you don’t feed one of my children by a certain time, you will enter into the “point of no return”. Food will help curb the beast, yes, but you have killed the day). And Charlie naps in the afternoon.

Many days because of Alice’s eating/sleeping schedule, we did not leave the house. Or if we did, I fed her while we were out and the boys did awful things out in public.

So I tried to keep the awful out of the public’s eye.

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That is not to say we stayed home ALL the time. We did make it to the Farmer’s Market quite regularly in the beginning of the summer. The problem is, it’s open on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. Saturdays are a large NO because I hate the massive crowds. So Wednesdays were perfect. But if it was rainy or we didn’t have spare cash, we didn’t go. By mid-July we stopped all together.

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We did the library and the bakery a few times, but it wasn’t regular. In fact, this is the first summer I had to go return the books on my own once so we wouldn’t get late fees. In years past, we could easily go once a week. Nothing was “easily scheduled” this summer.

But we did double the number of books we would normally read because Eddie turned six this summer, and could get his own library card! So instead of ten books each visit, we could do twenty books! I bet we read well over a hundred books this summer, and that is pretty awesome!

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Speaking of books, we also did a neighborhood Kids Book Club this summer. We read three books along with the other kids in the neighborhood and met every other week to talk about it, do a craft, and have a snack! Because of weather, schedules, and other stuff, we ended up not meeting in August, but the boys and I read From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, and The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary. And Eddie ordered a couple books by Geronimo Stilton so we have been reading Paws Off, Cheddarface (which I just realized is number 6 in the series. Maybe we should have started with number 1. Huh).

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Something we did almost weekly was the park. Originally, the boys and I wanted to go to every park in our town. We called it “Pick a Park Friday!” Only Charlie thought we were saying “Pickle Park” and when our first choice was a favorite that was close to our house, he thought that park was THE “Pickle Park.” Also we tried to go to a different park once and the boys whined, so we went to the same park every week after that. The Pickle Park. Heh.

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Alice loved the park too, so that was a bonus. Other than the one time we ventured to a different park, every park visit was great. The boys always played so nice and Alice and I sat in the shade while I sipped my coffee.

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I tried my best to get the kids outside every day, but if I am going to be honest here (and I always am), it did not always work. It usually went something like this:

Me: Turn off the screens. You boys need to go play outside for awhile.
Boys: WHAT? NO! THERE IS NOTHING TO DOOOOO OUTSIDE! I DON’T WANT TO PLAY WITH HIM! WELL I’M NOT GOING OUTSIDE IF HE’S NOT…EVEN THOUGH I DON’T WANT TO PLAY WITH HIM.
Me: GO!
Boys: Grumble grumble QUIT PUSHING ME! GIVE ME MY SHOES! ::door slam::
(2 minutes later)
Eddie: MOM! CHARLIE HIT ME WITH A BUBBLE WAND!
Me: Go.
(2 minutes later)
Charlie: (scream crying, so it’s sort of indecipherable, but this is what I think he probably said): MOM MOM EDDIE SAID THERE IS A BUFFALO IN THE WOODS AND IT’S GOING TO EAT ME AND THEN HE PUNCHED ME IN THE FACE!
Me: There are no buffalo in our woods. Tell Eddie to be nice. Go.
(2 minutes later)
Eddie: MOM! CHARLIE IS HITTING THE TREE WITH A GOLF CLUB!
Me: Go.

And so it goes.

There were days–ok–almost all of the days–when I just said, you know what? Fine. Watch hour 3 of Netflix. Whatever. Leave me alone.

So they did. Usually without pants.

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Sometimes I bribed them outside by going out with them. That usually just meant they sat next to me to do their whining rather than fighting to the death and tattling via opening and shutting the door so often that flies thought our house WAS the outdoors.

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To be fair, we did some fun stuff too. We had a few beach days, went to the zoo, played with friends, and hit up the splash pad.  Adventures were had.

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We ran the sprinklers, flew down the slip n slide, and hauled out the inflatable pool. We kicked soccer balls and played catch. The boys went fishing with Grandpa. We sweated in the heat and ate camp fire food.

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We had fun.

And it was hard.

All at the same time.

Today I go back to work for three days before the holiday break. Then it’s all official. Summer will be done.

We are ready.

I have a bunch of other feelings about my time home with Alice being done, but that is separate from the summer being done. I am ready for the summer “schedule” to be done. I am ready for us to start our fall schedule.  And I know the boys are too.

Because they are almost as sick of sitting in time out as I am of sending them there.

Back to School Supply Crazy

It’s back to school time, yo.

Some of you are doing the Snoopy dance because it means your kids will be leaving the nest for another academic year instead of spending the better part of their day making you a referee to all their shenanigans.

Some of you are twisting your hands in knots and holding back (or not) tears as your little ladies and gents start school for the first time.

If you are like me your sort of doing all of the above. I am THRILLED to go back to work and our regularly scheduled programming of daycare/work days that give my boys the much-needed structure and stimulus they require to get through their day without ripping each other’s faces off.  On the other hand, I am starting the year in a new building teaching a new grade, and my Eddie Bear will be starting Kindergarten all day, every day. Changes are ahead for us, that is for sure.

Because Eddie is a school of choice kid and no longer in daycare, we have to bring him and pick him up from school.  That means Cortney will have to drop him off over an hour before school starts so he can do the before school program, and I’ll have to leave my school in a super timely manner to make the 35-minute commute to pick him up when school lets out.

Gone are my days of staying after school for hours. Instead, I will be picking up a Kindergartener, getting him started on his homework, getting dinner started, and unpacking and repacking a lunch box.

School starts for students around here the day after Labor Day (Sept 2), but I have to report back next week already.  Of course, since I am setting up a whole new classroom and teaching all new curricula, I have been in lots already.

SO. MUCH. TO. DO.

SO. MUCH. TO. DO.

I know I am not the only teacher who has been in school early either. If I throw it out on Facebook that I am “going in”, many of my teacher friends will join the rally call that they too are in the trenches already. Getting ready for those kiddos.

And of course, since Eddie is going into Kindergarten, we got the supply list email. Actually, the kids don’t need to bring in anything individually; his teacher just sent us a list of donation items.  And you better believe I will be checking some things off his list for him even though I have my own classroom to buy for.

I’ve read countless articles in the past week about how much we teachers put into our classrooms out of pocket, and nodded along to each one. Many of you know that I am building a classroom library for my students (my wish list is here), and I have put in a lot of my own money to that scouring the scholastic book sales, church book sales, library sales, etc.

See those shelves? That is where my classroom library will live!

See those shelves? That is where my classroom library will live!

I also buy almost everything that goes to my students in school supplies. I work in an at-risk district and we can’t really require kids to buy anything for school. Many of them can’t afford what they do need. So I supply almost everything for my students. Our district gives us $100 per teacher. That can get used up on poster board and expo markers really quickly. And I need each of my students to have something to journal in. And post-it’s for close reading.  And tissues so we don’t spread germs all over creation. And many other things.

So I signed up for Adopt A Classroom (adoptaclassroom.org). If you search for Katie Sluiter in Michigan, you will find my class. Or you can search for a teacher in your state or district and donate funds that they can use to purchase items for their classroom.

I had a few friends ask me for specific needs. Things that I purchase every single year.  For that I made yet another Amazon wishlist.

My husband likes the list too because it helps to see what we need to budget for over the course of the year. I also look at it for when I have to place my classroom order with school and try to prioritize what I NEED versus what I can get by without.

Every year is a juggling act, ya know?

See? It's coming along!

See? It’s coming along!

But even with that (and a lot because of some huge generosity from friends), I will be making a big donation to Eddie’s teacher too. For one, Mr. F is a teacher and I understand the plight, but more importantly, he has MY CHILD this year.  And if I am willing to shell out hundreds for other people’s kids, I sure as heck am going to do it for my own!

I know I am preaching to the choir when I tell you how important it is to support teachers and those supply lists that come home. And if they don’t come home, bless a teacher with a gift card to Staples or Target or  Amazon or Barnes and Noble for books. If you don’t have kids, consider anonymously giving at a local school or finding someone on Adopt a Classroom.

the first signs of fall

This summer I walked hand-in-hand with Eddie into the building that used to be my high school.  The cafeteria housed his gymnastics class, and it was the first time I had walked into the building since graduation in the spring of 1996.

After I graduated, the school turned into a second middle school for the district, housing all ninth graders in the second level.  A new high school was built on the north side of town. Cortney had his senior year in that new high school.

Since then, the building I knew as high school but is now a middle school evacuated the ninth grade into the two high schools that now make up our district.  Things have definitely changed in 17 years.

However, as I held my four-year old’s hand into this building I had entered thousands of times, I was knocked back to the mid-nineties by the smell of chlorine from the pools and whatever universal thing they clean schools with to make them all smell like teenage years.

I had to fight the old habit to turn left and head to the band room. That is the power of smells, isn’t it?

I am starting my eleventh year of teaching high school in just a few weeks, but I have started the pilgrimage back to my classroom a few weeks ago.

As I walked into the halls, each and every time, the smells of teaching and learning come back to me. When I open the door to my classroom I smell the cleanser and my muted vanilla scent along with that smell of school.

When I’ve been away from the smell, coming back to it gives me a sense of purpose, of renewal.

2013-08-12 15.17.08

It seems like every fall is a new adventure. Ever since my first year I could never predict what I would be teaching, where I would be, or what my student load would look like. Shoot, some years I didn’t even know if I would have a job because of all the budget cuts.

In all the years of teaching, I have never been able to answer the question of “so what will you be teaching this year?” with a confident answer. Nor could I just say, “same as usual”. There really hasn’t ever been a “usual”.

This year is no exception.

Over the weekend Eddie spotted the first red leaves on the trees by our house.

2013-08-09 11.24.00There it is.

The first signs of the changes that are coming.

Fall.

This year I am teaching 12th grade English for the first time along with 11th grade English. I am also teaching a semester elective called Mass Media for the first time.

On top of that, I am continuing to take two online classes toward the 30 credits beyond my Masters degree.

AND I just took on teaching an evening writing class at the local community college two nights a week.

In order to do all these things, something had to give. Unfortunately I had to take a step back from my weekly posts at Borderless News and Views. This was hard for me since I love to write about my views–especially on the subject of education. But I also couldn’t let opportunities for me to make a difference in education pass me by either. Eventually I will be back, and in the meantime they are letting me sporadically post there. So watch for me!

Oh. And there’s one more thing.

2013-08-09 11.38.27

This guy is starting preschool in September.

All the other craziness aside, this is what is the hardest for me to wrap my brain around.

He and I are both SUPER excited and just a little bit nervous. But we have been talking about it. He likes the idea of going to school because to him, school is awesome. The big kids get to go to school. His mom works at a school. His mom and dad both have gone to school in his lifetime.  And now he gets to do that too.

This year we will start some new Back To School traditions, and as much as it hurts my heart to watch summer slip away, I am excited for the change that is peeking at us through the trees and blowing around in the wind.

 

 

 

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