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.



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 ( 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.


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.




preparing my heart

Hooray for Popsicles!

Today is my last day before putting the boys in daycare full-time to get ready for the first day of school (which is Sept 4 ’round these parts).

We are off frolicking at the zoo with a bloggy friend to celebrate an awesome summer.

I’m trying not to beat a dead horse here, but hey, it’s my blog and I can beat whatever dead animals I want, right?

Wait. That didn’t sound right.

Anyway. School starting.

It’s a big transition for me every year.  It’s always brought on my anxiety in a big way.  If I were to create for you a nice graph of the past 10 years, you would see a giant, angry anxiety spike every single August.

That’s right.  10 years.

This fall starts my tenth year as a contracted teacher in my district.  I also did a semester of student teaching there and a total of 3/4 of a year long-term subbing in the high schools (over 2 school years).

This year, though, brings lots of changes.  Our district is down to one high school, and since we have combined the two we had, we are actually a brand NEW school.

We have a new mascot: The Wolves

We have new colors: Purple & Black (with Silver as an accent)

We have a new fight song, uniforms, paint in the building, gym floors, outside signs.

Tomorrow I go into my new room in the new building to begin creating my new space.

We are not allowed to put up any artifacts from either of the old high schools.  Not even any pictures of former students.

We are starting new.

No old traditions will be continued.  Everything will be created fresh.  We are starting the traditions that we hope will live on for generations.

You see, the two high schools that are coming together were rivals.

We need to now make them one.  One community.  One family of students.

It’s hard on me to not bring the past 12 years of students with me into this new room of mine.  But it’s time to start over.

And at the same time, I am preparing my heart to leave my boys.  Eddie for the 3rd back to school, Charlie for the first time ever.

It’s harder this year than it’s ever been.  Probably because of the sheer amount of change looming before me.  I don’t deal well with change…even when it’s super exciting and positive.  It’s hard for me to process.

Hence the anxiety spikes ever August, which have only gotten worse since having kids.

I have to prepare my heart to endure the pain of letting my boys go, and to expand it a bit to hold the students I will gain this year.

Each morning I have been spending time quiet and with the #SheReadsTruth assignment for the day.  I want to start the year with a good attitude toward my new school and the leaders.  I want a positive start to the year with my students and their parents.

And I want to come home and still be a happy, loving mother to my boys and wife to my husband.

I am letting myself grieve the loss of summer and time with Eddie and Charlie.  I am allowing myself to feel the sadness of having to switch Charlie from what he has known his whole life to a completely new routine with  new people.

I’m taking my new meds regularly to help control the depression that wants to creep in and the anxiety at bay.

But I am also letting myself be excited and happy to get back to the job I love.

And to look up and see the vacations from school that I am blessed with throughout the year to love on my boys…until next summer.

When we are together again.

So today, we are at the zoo.  I am not thinking about my classroom or lesson plans or what new school shirt I will order for casual Fridays.

Today I will be present for my boys so we can enjoy this last adventure of the summer.

You know, until next weekend when it’s Labor Day.

back to school give back

Friends, I am in some serious denial about school starting.

Normally by this time, I have been in my classroom making lists and updating the walls/pictures, outlining the first semester, and organizing my supplies.  I have usually been out to shop for Back To School clothes at least twice and supplies at least once.

It is the week before I have to go back and two weeks before kids show up and I have done nothing.


That is not true.

Saturday I took my gift card that Cort randomly gave me (I wasn’t planning on any back to school clothes this year since we are tight for money with the new {to us} car and another little man who will be in daycare full time) and I bought a few tops to comply with the new school dress code of no sleeveless shirts.

And Sunday I took the family too my classroom for the first time to move some of the big stuff around and hook up my computer and other electronic stuff.  And to get all the stuff I was storing out of our basement.

I’m in a new building this year, and my new room was a computer lab before, so this has been my first opportunity to get in all summer.

At first I was anxious and crabby about it.  Then I settled in and let it be because, well, it helped me build the wall of denial that I would have to leave my boys every single day for 9+ hours at a time.

But people?  It’s coming.

I’d like to say I am excited.

And I guess I am.  I mean, it will be a new adventure for our district and I am happy to be part of that.  I am also eager to get back to doing things other than house work and changing poopy diapers and filling toddler plates and hoping it will be eaten.  It will be good to be back with teenagers who get my jokes and adults who well, have adult conversation.

But I will miss my boys.

Usually the back to school shopping both for clothes and supplies is what really gets me in the mood. I mean wearing something other than yoga pants and a pony tail every day is something to look forward to!

I tend to use up my allotted money for each year on clothes and then ask for shoes for Christmas.  This is silly because when I get my clothes, I always imagine the shoes or boots I would want to go with them.

Well this year, I have some shoes to start they year.

ignore the lack of pedicure. I told you, the dinero is in short supply for “fun” things.

These happen to be the San Diego in champagne from California Footwear Company. They are SO comfy.  Which is what I need since I am on my feet from 7am until 3pm.

They are cork (with latex and cushioning and a leather “cover”) and they are shaped to fit my…er a person’s…foot.  It is ridiculous how wonderful this feels.

Here is a better look at The San Diego:

If I had some extra money to spend, I would also get a pair of The Ventura in either turquoise or yellow since I attempt to go sock-less until the snow flies here in Michigan.

(I totally wish I had these when I was pregnant.  I needed something that was this comfy and supportive, yet cute.)

Do these shoes make me more excited to go back to school?

Well no.

I am still struggling with those emotions.

But at least I will have cute, comfy feet, right?

I know you want a pair (or 5) of these sandals, yes?

Well, from now until Sept 30, you can get 15% off your total order AND 15% of your purchase at California Footwear Company will go to Brittany’s Hope Foundation.

Remember Brittany’s Hope Foundation from this post about Mommy at Heart (which, by the way, you can still get 25% off your order with the code KATIES00READERS093 through August 31 and $5 of your purchase will go to Brittany’s Hope Foundation) ?

So the lovely ladies at California Footwear Co saw how much I adore Brittany’s Hope and told me they would love to help fundraise for them too.

When you make your purchase, use the code SLUITERNATION at check out and BOOM 15% off your total order AND 15% of your total will get donated to Brittany’s Hope.  No restrictions.  Anything on the site counts (including the kids Clawgs and the boots).  The more you spend, the more they send to BHF.

You buy shoes for the back to school season; you help orphaned children around the world.


That is how it works.


I was not compensated for this post in anyway.  I was provided with the pair of San Diego sandals pictured above for review purposes, but was not send anything else by way of compensation.  All opinions are my own, including my passion for helping Brittany’s Hope Foundation. California Footwear Co is also featured in an ad on the sidebar of this blog.


Don’t forget to check out my friend, Jac’s blog where she is talking about the new journals she has available for pre-order in her etsy shop.

starting fresh

I take my position by my door and face the new school year.

“Good morning!”

“Happy Back to School!”

“How ya doin’ today?”

“Lookin’ tired!  Wake up and smile! We’re BACK!”

Faces wander past me.  Some familiar, some new.

The familiar ones give me head nods, high fives, shout out’s, even hugs.

“How was your summer, Mrs. Sluiter?”

“I heard you’re pregnant!  YAY!”

“Aw, I wish I had your class this year, Sluiter!”

“I read your blog.  I’m glad you are feeling better.”

I watch new faces walk through my door.

They don’t know me.  Some know of me, some do not.

There are shy smiles.

Some nervous, searching eyes.

The hallway where I stand is full of chatter, but as my classroom fills up, it is almost silent.

Most do not know what to expect.

The past students crane their necks past me to peek at the new kids filling up the desks that they used to occupy.

“Look out for that one, Sluiter!”

“Oh hey, you have my sister!”

“You guys are lucky!  Sluiter is the best!”

I laugh and shove the previous students down the hall to their new classes.

But inside, my heart smiles.

My soul feels a spark it hasn’t felt in months.

As the clock ticks down the last minute until the first class, new sneakers squeak against the newly waxed floor.

“Hurry up!  You don’t want a tardy on the first day!”

“Do you know what classroom you are going to?  208?  That is upstairs.”

“Are you looking for my class?  Mrs. Sluiter?  You found it!”

The bell rings.  Ding dong, ding dong, ding dong, ding dong.

I take one last glance down the empty hall.


Take a deep breath.

And as I close my door I announce with complete confidence,

“Welcome back to school and into Sluiter Nation!  We are going to have a GREAT year!”
Just Write

some endings

Today is the last day I will be home with Eddie.

Ok, technically we get Friday too.  But after today my school year has officially started.

Part of me is ready for this.

Eddie has been sort of whiny and in a “daddy” phase.  This means when I get him up in the morning or after nap, he is DEEPLY disappointed I am not his daddy.

And then he proceeds to ask where daddy is 459723489523 times before noon.

Plus the meltdowns have increased in number and loudness.

We need some time apart.

But you know what?  I am sad about it too.

Even though when he woke up this morning he was calling for his daddy…

and he had flung his jammy bottoms to the floor and was almost nude…

and he has a giant, pussing welt of a bug bite on his leg that he keeps complaining about…

and my favorite jammy pants ripped when I sat down by him on the floor to apply cortizon cream that he yelled about…

I still will miss his little face.

He is funny.

He is such a goof ball and it makes me chuckle daily.


But you know what?  This home with the boy thing is not the only thing ending.

Today is also my last day that I have to take my progesterone supplements for this pregnancy.

That means this first trimester is about a week and a half from being over.

And this means that I am hoping beyond hope that all this exhaustion and puking GO AWAY.

Just in time for me to be surrounded with teenagers and their drama five days a week.

And just in time for this to be my new normal:

It’s funny because it’s true.


I really think all this change and ending and new starts are a good thing.  Really.

It’s what we need to get our stagnant booties in gear around here.

I hope.


Oh, and speaking of back to school, I wrote more about it over here. (psst.  there is a GIVEAWAY involved with that post!  Go!)