Rare Bird {book review}

I must be in a memoir and memoir-style mood.

After reading the fictionalized memoir of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, I read a very real memoir by a good friend who lost her 12-year old son Jack in a freak accident.

Anna is the writer behind An Inch of Gray who wrote about life and refurbishing old furniture until the day her son was swept down a raging river and her world changed.

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Carrie

When I was a senior in high school, I went to a youth group conference called Genesis. It was a big weekend conference where we all got to stay in a hotel and attend fun session and do singing and stuff.

My roommates were two of my best friends, and since there were three of us, they gave us a room with one king-sized bed. To be honest, I don’t think any of us had ever seen a king-sized bed before because we kept giggling that this hotel was so weird; it had rooms with a three-person bed in them!  SO WEIRD!

Anyway, I remember one of the nights–probably the first night–my friends fell asleep first while we were watching TV. I suck at falling asleep in a new place with people around me, so I was wide awake watching whatever was on TV. I was not in the middle of the bed (nowhere to turn away from a person…eek!), so I kept the remote on the floor and just kept flipping channels. That is when I found Carrie. I watched it from beginning to end wishing I wasn’t watching it at all.

I hate horror films, but this wasn’t a horror film like I was used to. It didn’t have some freak like Freddy Kruger or Jason ripping up all the people and having no plot line to speak of.  This movie screwed with my mind. It was troubling and awful and just so good.

But I was horrified and I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t even kick a foot out of the sheets like I normally do. I was too afraid of that hand coming to grab me.

I was seventeen then. I’m thirty-six now.  I just read the book this winter.

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The Paris Wife

This summer I am all about reading. I say that every summer, but I let other things get in my way. This summer I have almost no other projects on tap which means if there is down time, I am reading!

The first book I read this summer is The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. I happened upon it when I was browsing the tables at Barnes and Noble. I’m sort of a nut for the 1920’s and the ex pat writers, so a fictional novel told from the point of view of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley, about their time in Paris as ex pats when Hemingway was just getting his footing as a writer hooked me immediately.

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The HerStories Project: celebrating female friendships

This spring I read a collection of stories about women and friendship called The HerStories Project. I’ve admitted my lack of awesomeness at female relationships here before.

Even when they are at their best, I feel like the weakest link in all of my female friendships. I feel unsure, inadequate, and anxious.  And that is when things are going WELL.

I thought maybe this anthology of essays could give me a clue to the elusive female friendship. What I found out was that I am not alone in my pain and questioning in friendships.

female friendships

I read this book  of female friendships while sitting in my bag chair in the shade of our tree during spring break while my kids played in the yard and rode bikes and trikes. Like any collection, there were stories I skimmed over because they didn’t reach me, but for each of those there were stories that deeply connected with something in my heart.

Vicky Willenberg had me nodding along to her piece, “Big Girl Friendships” as I related to how my friendships have changed now that I am an adult.

Pam Moore’s piece “Pen Pals” reminded me of my best friend who lives almost three hours away. We send notes and texts to each other randomly, yet we rarely speak on the phone. However when we see each other it’s like no time has passed.

Alexa Bigwarfe’s piece “Birds of a Feather Flock Together” encouraged me to get to know the women in my real life better–the moms in my subdivision, the ladies in my church, the teachers who I work with.

I cried through Allison Slater Tate’s piece “To My Best Friend on the Occasion of Her First Pregnancy.” My best friend married five years before I did, but had her first baby four years after I had my first. I had two kids by the time she had her first and my excitement for this new journey was summed up by Allison.

And it was like Alexandra Rosas was writing my life in her piece “On Feeling Lonely.”  We both suffered severe loneliness and depression after the birth of our first sons. Her words are exactly perfect.

Story after story I was reminded that I am not alone in my messy feelings about female friendships.  I thought this stuff was supposed to get easier as we get older, but no. Not so much.

This is why I am so excited to announce that HerStories is coming out with a second anthology in September called My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends and I am a contributor! That’s right, I’m going to be published in print…again! I am sharing my story about how I am in the season of losing friends right now.

Can’t wait until September to read stories of friendship? The first anthology is still available and I highly recommend it.

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In other fun news, I am taking over the Bonbon Break Instagram Feed today! Come follow along!

Bonbon Break

Hannah, Delivered {book review}

I am the last person you would think to find reading a book about natural home births and becoming a midwife.

In fact, part of the excitement about getting pregnant again is that I will get to go to the hospital and stay for three days and be waited on. I was in love with the epidural from my first birth. I have had two C-sections. Basically I am the poster child for hospital births.

Yet Hannah, Delivered  by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew completely fascinated me.

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Hannah, Delivered is the story of Hannah, a receptionist in a St. Paul hospital who happens to help the hospital midwife one night. After assisting that birth, she develops a fierce desire to help babies with the work of being born.  She travels to New Mexico where she does her midwife apprenticeship and meets many unconventional people and questions what she is doing to her life. Eventually she moves back to Minnesota to practice midwifery in her own illicit practice.

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love for the book love

I had this dream and I told the internet about it.

It exploded.

I don’t even know how to put my feelings into words this time.

The books piled up before our eyes. I would carry in bags every day for about a week and half, and my students would say, “MORE?”

Yes. More.

“But they don’t even know us,” they said to me.

I know.

“Do they even know you?”

Many do. Some don’t.

“Why?”

Because reading is important.  Because YOU reading is important.

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My classroom library went from 104 books to over 400 books in less than a month. All I did was make a wish list. All I did was say, “hey, I want to put books in my students’ hands.”

And they started coming in.

I also applied to the Book Love Foundation for their yearly Classroom Library Grant. Each year they gift class libraries to ten chosen applicants. Part of the application was to have letters of recommendation. Two of my students stepped up to write for me.  The words they said about me made me cry.

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Everything Ms. Sluiter does she does to help better her students’ education.

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Mrs. Sluiter puts everything she has into her job, and I would love to see her get something that she would be absolutely grateful to receive.

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Cortney said to me this past week, “did you ever imagine your little blog would bring such opportunities and good?”

No. Not in my wildest dreams. I signed up for a Blogger blog on July 7 of 2007 with the intent to post pictures and some updates for my family and friends. Never did I dream that someday Sluiter Nation would truly reach nations. Would provide for my students. Would connect me with some of the best friends I have ever had.

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I have a stack of all the notes that came with all the books. They are in a box in my classroom so I can share them with the students. I will be posting them around the library once I have shelves in place.

I wish I could send thank you notes to everyone who contributed so far, but Amazon doesn’t give me your return address. So I hope this humble blog post will do.

Thank you…

Brian and Adrienne J
Alexandra B
Rachelle F
John H
Lori B
Jennifer W
Julia L-R
Gigi R
Amber W
Joanne M
Kelsey P
Emily E
Brittany V
Wendy M
Dawn
Kathleen B
Christine
Jill D
Leslie K
Gretchen V
Rachel M
Sarah T
Tonya W
Arneyba H
Amanda B
Mary B
Erin M
Jennie G
Elaine A
Debi G
Greta F
Roxane B
Tracy M
Anonymous People
And to anyone I missed because my mind has been all over the place this past month.

I promise to keep you all updated on the building of the library shelves and introducing the library to my new students next year.

I promise to keep this library sparkly and clean and organized.

I promise to put these books in the hands of teenagers.

I promise to always remember where they came from.

Thank you.

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If you would still like to donate via my Wish List, I am currently most in need of “boy” books. You can also send gently used books too! Email me at sluiternation@gmail.com for the address to ship them.

Six Must-Read Teen Novels

It’s been awhile since I reviewed a book, so I thought I would go all over-achiever on you all and talk about SIX books!

Why six, you ask? Well contrary to how little I have been posting about books, I have been a reading machine. I’ve read something like eleven books so far in 2014 and six of them were books that my seniors are currently reading for their Book Clubs.

All six books knocked me right out with how awesome they are, so I thought I would share in case you need an awesome read, that will be quick, yet keep you hooked throughout the whole book.

teen novels

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The Memory Keeper’s Daughter {a review}

There is nothing more frustrating to me as a reader than when characters fail to communicate with each other and get angry and make life-changing choices based on that miscommunication.

It’s also what propels me through a book the fastest because I have to know how messed up they are going to make their life by doing instead of talking things over.

This was my love/hate relationship with The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards.

Keep reading…

How to Read With Your Child

Eddie is only 3 and a half and he has already been dubbed “Teacher’s Kid.”

He was counting up to 20 by age two and now sounds out the first letter of words.  He can count up to 40 without help and backwards from 12.  He is VERY interested in words and has also taken an interest in learning to subtract.

People say to me, “well of course. He’s a teacher’s kid.”

Sometimes this is flattering, but mostly I brush away the compliment and put it back on Eddie.  He has a natural curiosity and flair for learning.  It has nothing to do with my being a teacher.  I mean, I was naturally bright and my parents weren’t teachers.

I will admit, however, that because I am a teacher, there are strategies I use with him when we read that I know will help him be a more critical thinker and better reader as he gets older.

I thought I would share those with you today.

How To Read With Your Child

1. Read Read READ! 

I know we have all heard it before, but it is NEVER too early to introduce your children to books.  I used to read to both Eddie and Charlie before they were even born.  Plus because they both had the extra bonus of having an English teacher as their womb, they both heard some fascinating American Literature while they baked away in there.

The nursery is also filled with books.  Our living room has my bookshelves, but it also has lower shelves filled with kids books.  Eddie’s room has shelves of books.  Literally every room that you can relax in in our house has books in it that are accessible to the kids.

2. Ask Questions

I have a wall in my classroom that says “Good Readers…” and at the top of the list is ASKS QUESTIONS.  Even before my boys could talk, I would ask them questions about the books they bring me.  With Charlie, he will have a board book and I will ask “What is this book about?  Do you see the duck?  What does a duck say?  Quack Quack?”  He can’t answer my questions yet, but hearing them asked helps him associate books with inquiry.  It’s also a good opportunity to model language.  I don’t usually read a whole book with him, but I let him flip the pages and I will ask questions and point to things as we “read”.

With Eddie the questions are more complex because he can answer, and because we have always asked questions with books, he now asks most of the questions. His questions are usually “what is that?” or “why is that like that?”  And I usually ask him questions about the pictures or about what happens at the end.  For example we have been reading the board book version of Peter Rabbit lately, and I will ask him “What happened when Peter didn’t use his listening ears and do what his mommy said?” and “Why did Peter have to go to bed earlier than his sisters?” or “Why is Peter running in this picture? Do you think he is afraid or excited?”

3. Make Predictions

This is easiest with new books, but we do open ended predictions with old books too.  With new books we do a lot of “Oh my!  What do you think is going to happen next?” and then we talk about if we were right or not.  With books we’ve read a zillion times, I’ll ask that question at the end of the book, when we don’t get an answer given to us. “Do you think the boy will plant a new Truffula tree with that seed?  Why?  Were would you plant it? Why?”

4. Make Connections

Eddie and I do a lot of “hey, you have a bike like that!” and “that is just like in this book/show/movie/etc!”  and “what happens when you are not kind?”  Making connections between pieces of literature, other media, and their own life is a critical thinking skill that will help with problem solving later on.  When kids can naturally connect new things they learn with previous knowledge, they will be able to understand new concepts quicker.

5. Have Fun!

This may seem obvious too, but reading should be seen as a fun thing.  We never force books on either of the boys.  They are available, and have become part of our daily routine.  Every night Eddie gets to choose either a “real” book, or a book on either my Nook or Cort’s tablet.  If he didn’t want to read, we wouldn’t make him, but he has never said he didn’t want to read.  In that same strain, we don’t make him finish a book if he doesn’t want to.  Some nights we start a book and he says, “I don’t really want to read this one.”  So we quit.  Finishing a book shouldn’t be a chore. At Charlie’s age, if he brings me a book we look at it until he doesn’t want to.  I don’t force him to sit and listen to me read the whole book.  He’s too young for that kind of focus.  I’ll read the words until he flips the page or flings the book down and moves on to something else.

My hope is that my children will love to read as much as I do, but I know that might not be the case.  But even if they are not devouring novels by the pile, I want them to be good readers.  I want them to have critical thinking skills.  I want them to be able to problem solve.

What kinds of things do you do when you read with your kids?  What are their favorite books?

Cast Aside

There was a time not so long ago when my motto was, “a book started is a book finished.”

Even though as an English teacher, I always tell my students, “if you start a book and don’t like it, don’t waste your time.  Return the book to the library and try something new.”

This year, for the first time, I took my own advice.  These are the five books that I started, but just couldn’t finish.

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