Setting the Precedent

In a week my firstborn will be done with Kindergarten and ready to start what he calls, “the number grades.” He had a great year in Kindergarten and never once did I wonder if maybe we should have held him back because he still isn’t even six yet.

Nope. Eddie was ready for absolutely everything–even homework.

As a teacher, I am not the biggest fan of assigning homework, but Eddie’s teacher didn’t give the kids more than was appropriate for their age. Eddie brought home five books from their Just Right Library each week which he read to us nightly. In the beginning of the year, they would bring a writing packet home on Mondays and it wasn’t due back until the following Monday. And occasionally he would need to bring in things like seeds or leaves. He also had one large project that they started at school and had to complete at home by the end of spring break (it was assigned two weeks before spring break, thus giving us plenty of time to prepare).

Everything about this school year felt to me like we were setting precedents: what we expected of our children as far as getting homework done, the quality of their in school and out of school work, their behavior, their effort. This school year we discussed kindness to others and when to walk away from an argument. We talked about being respectful to adults and peers. We discussed when you need to get help from an adult.

And we also set a precedent for parent-involvement in homework.

Obviously we prize reading in our house. Most of the time getting the Just Right Library books read was not a big deal and didn’t cause too many struggles. Writing packets started out rough, though, and in the end I told Eddie if he did one page a night he wouldn’t find himself crying on Sunday afternoon. I also told him I was not going to make him do them. That if he really didn’t want to, he could bring it back undone and tell his teacher about why he chose not to do it.

He never left his homework undone. He didn’t want to disappoint his teacher.

By the middle of the school year, Eddie was more and more excited about things they were doing in school. Just before spring break each student chose an animal they would like to make out of clay in class. Then, at home, they needed to create the animal’s habitat using a box (diorama-style). The habitats with animals would be displayed above each student’s locker.

We decided to do ours over spring break since Alice had just been born, and spend the couple weeks before then brainstorming and planning. Cortney did all the morning drop-offs and most pick-ups and reported that habitats were already starting to come in and be displayed–and you could totally tell the level of parental involvement in each one.

I had to tread lightly.

As a perfectionist, I wanted to tell Eddie exactly how to create a rabbit (his chosen animal) habitat, and then maybe take over when he didn’t do it how I wanted. But as a teacher, I knew I needed him to do all of the thinking and as much of the execution as possible. I just had to help him get there.

So first we talked about it. I asked a lot of questions: where do rabbits live? What do they eat? Where do they sleep? When he wasn’t sure about something, we Googled it and read the information together.

He started telling me what he wanted in his habitat: trees, a burrow, berry bushes, and a sky. So we thought about what we could use to make those things and he started a list of what we would need with check boxes. Then we went to the craft store. He brought a pencil and checked things off as we went.

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I was very proud of him that he was taking such ownership of this project and that he seemed to want to get it just right. Not once did I have to prod and say, “come on, you need to do this.” In fact, he sort of pestered me about it. Once we had the supplies every day he asked, “are we going to put it together today, mom???”

Finally spring break arrived and one day during Charlie’s nap, I actually got Alice to sleep at the same time. We hurried to get some of the painting portions done so they could dry before we attached them. All I did was get the paint out for him. He did the rest. The next day, he worked during nap again to get it all together.

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He asked my advice, and I sat by him holding things for him here and cutting things for him there. I never told him how to do any of it other than once saying, “I don’t think you can glue that rock there and have it hold. But if you want to try, you can.”

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Once he had it all done, it was all he could do to be patient until Cortney came home so he could show daddy his finished product. He had trees (because rabbits live in a forest), a log with fluff and feathers (because that is the burrow the rabbit put her nest in), and berries (because rabbits like to eat berries for dessert). It was his idea to gather real leaves and grass. It was his idea to collect TP rolls for tree trunks.

It was also his idea to cover the diaper box in blue paper because he didn’t want his friends to see he used a baby diaper box. Apparently your baby brother and sister’s diapers are embarrassing in Kindergarten. Whatever.

This year we have watched Eddie grow and learn so much.

When he went in he could read a handful of sight words, now he is reading like crazy. He even reads bedtime stories now instead of me doing it.

When he went in he thought toots and buns were funny, but now he thinks farts and butts are funny. And poop. And he says “Oh my gosh!” and “I’m just thinking out loud here…”

He is sassier and bolder with his talking back to us, but he is also a better playmate and role model for Charlie.

And he is like three inches taller or something crazy like that.

I’m excited for him to start First Grade in the fall. I’m  pleased with the high expectations we have set both for him and his siblings.

As fellow oldest children, Cortney and I know what it’s like to have to “go first” with everything in life. To have to be the ones that are the precedent setters for the younger siblings. To be the “Guinea pigs” for strategies to deal with behavior.

We don’t want to go “easy” on Eddie because we empathize, rather we want him to know we are all a team getting through this whole thing called parenting and school and life together.

Eddie, Eddie, How Does Your Garden Grow?

This winter Eddie started dropping hints begging for a garden.  We live in Michigan and gardens are not a thing in December, which I explained to him while we watched the snow swirl around our windows.

As spring started to rear its pretty little head, Cortney and I finally told Eddie, that yes, we would try a small garden this year.  He got so excited about it and asked every five seconds when…when…WHEN???

Then, just over a month ago, my friend Alex started an ENTIRE SERIES on building a raised garden.  I heard angels sing. I had never heard of a raised garden before.  Growing up, my mom had a HUGE garden in our front yard (we lived in the woods, so “front yard” is a relative term), and that is the daunting image I had in my mind of what a garden would look like.

Alex set me straight REALLY quickly on that.

This garden seemed doable!  So when we saw Ace Hardware had the kits on sale for $30, Cort busted a move and got us one.

We chose a spot in the corner of our backyard.  First Cort used the string trimmer to lower the grass down to almost nothing, then he put together our 4×4 kit.

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Once that was down, he cut some of that fabricky stuff to keep the grass from growing up and to keep weeds out.  The boys “helped” with this.

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Then came the dirt.  Three bags full, to be precise. The boys were not happy that I wouldn’t just let them roll around in it. Go figure.

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That was enough for one day.  But later that week, when we had a break in the rain, Eddie and I decided to plant the seeds and plants we picked out.  Eddie informed me that he would stick his finger in the dirt to make a hole, put the seeds in, and then pat it over with dirt.  I was impressed that he knew what to do. His strategy of putting five zillion seeds into each hole is yet to be evaluated. I have my doubts, but he insisted, so I let him. It’s his learning experience, after all.

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Seeds went in first.  A row of squash, a row of beans, a row of peas, and a row of carrots.  All picked out by Eddie.  He also picked out tomato plants (for daddy, since none of the rest of us love tomatoes too much).  These required soaking them before planting them.  Eddie enjoyed the soaking part.  I did not.

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He dug the holes for the tomato plants too, and then “tucked them in”.  Please ignore everything about me in these pictures. Because obviously.

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Lastly, Cort put up a fence to keep all the fricking bunnies we have around here out of our garden.  Hear that, Peter Rabbit?  Don’t be leaving your coat in our garden!

Over the past week we have had MAJOR rains.  Thursday after I picked Eddie up from daycare, we decided to check out the garden.

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We were both excited to see that the tomato plants had gotten taller and we had SPROUTS!  Eddie talks about this garden NON-STOP.

He also helped me plant my first herb garden this year.  We put it in a big pot and placed it on our deck.  He pulled all the little name sticks out before I had a chance to know what the heck I was planting, so MYSTERY HERBS!  Although I know I have chives, basil, curly-leafed parsley, and cilantro in there.  And maybe oregano?  Not sure about the 6th one.

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Eddie talks about how he is so excited to be growing food.  It’s an amazing concept to him that he can grow stuff in our yard instead of having to get it at the grocery store or farmer’s market.  I’m excited for him and with him.

Gardens never ever appealed to me until Eddie’s enthusiasm for one showed up.  Now I get excited to check on those little sprouts too!

Do you garden?  What do you plant?

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Other stuff…

Don’t forget about my Shabby Apple Giveaway. It’s open until Friday night, so get on that!

I read the novel, Lolita and I sort of liked it, so I wrote about it.

I also wrote about how Education Reform is not really reform so much as it’s BS.

Mommy Pants, Vis a Vis Markers, and a Basement Project

Getting my Mommy Pants was a nightmare.

People have been telling me since I got married that I would look GREAT in a pair of Mommy Pants, but I was reluctant to get myself a pair.

Yes, I had watched other people wear them—my own mother had a pair that was so perfect for her, I could have sworn she was born in them.  Many of my friends also had the latest, greatest Mommy Pants style, and sometimes I found myself envious of them.  They looked so comfortable, so much fun.  They seemed so “in”.

And then one day in February of 2007, I got a shipping notice that my Mommy Pants would be arriving around Thanksgiving of that year.

Wait.  What?  I hadn’t ordered any Mommy Pants. Or I didn’t think I did.

I was stunned.

Suddenly, I did not want anything to do with Mommy Pants. I wasn’t in the market for them and I certainly didn’t think they fit my style at that time.  They looked great on some people, but not on me.

to read the rest of this post, head over to Mommy Pants, where Cheryl (one of my partner’s in crime at The Red Dress Club) has invited me to share about my Mommy Pants moment.

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I am also mocking reviewing Vis a Vis overhead markers over at This Blogger Makes Fun of Stuff.  If you have ever used an overhead, or been witness to one being used?  You really need to weigh in on how I feel about these markers.

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Back here in Sluiter Nation?  We are working on our basement.

I don’t have much to say about it except that it sucks and it’s awesome at the same time.

Pictures?  Ok…

 

first they found mold. black mold. no good, I tell you.

but they put the tub in anyway! Score!

then they ran electrical and plumbing and fixed the mold. win.

then dry wall was hung and a layer of dust fell over the Nation

primer was applied by the fabulous Mr. Sluiter

we bought paint

we painted. that shirt, by the way, has been worn to paint every room in our house.

this will be Eddie's room hopefully within the next year!

that's right...I painted the bathroom orange. BOOM!

This has been the past two weeks here in Sluiter Nation:  a constant state of construction.

Don’t get me wrong, I am super excited that this is finally happening.  We have been saving and saving and planning for six years.  It was time.

But I don’t do well living in a state of limbo.

So I may be hard to live with lately.

Maybe.

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I have a new book review and a GIVEAWAY going on at Katie’s Bookcase!  Just in case you weren’t sick of me sending you all over the internets today.

rebirth

Michigan can bring back a bit of cold…and even snow…but we know…it’s spring.

and we need it.

Sluiters are being reborn this spring.

Lots of joy going on here that I can’t wait to share as it unfolds.

I’m a Bloggy Mom!

Today Eddie is at daycare.  Yes, two of us are home this summer and in order to get the house cleaned and get any REAL stuff done around here, we still send Eddie to Miss Amy.  He loves it because he loves Miss Amy and he loves his friends.  They are more fun than we are, apparently.

Anyway, Cort and I will be cleaning and organizing and finding stuff for our BIG garage sale that we are having on August 14 to help bring Eddie’s cousin(s) home from Ethiopia.

I will also be making a lemon cake for a get together tonight.  I am being all kinds of domestic today.

Anyway, while I am all busy, you can go read a post I wrote for a Back to School series on Tiffany’s blog, A Bloggy Mom.  Lots of my twitter friends helped me decide what to write about…and I think they will like the results.  At least I hope so.

So, you go read.  Let me know what you think.  I am going to go get elbow-deep in lemon curd.

Also, please don’t forget that tomorrow night at 6pm EST, the online auction to support my sister-in-law and brother-in-law’s adoption goes live here.  There are LOTS of great items to bid on!  You’ll want to check it out!

Momma’s Time Out

Sometimes I just need a time out.  I need to get away from the house and do things with my friends.  Totally normal, right?  Cort does the same thing.  He likes to go golfing or out to lunch with a buddy.  Just a little time where we don’t have to be “Momma” or “Dad-do”.

Friday night I got a “Time Out”. It was great!  I was able to go scrapbooking with some of my favorite people!  We all meet at a little place called Scrap, Scribble, and Stick and then go out for some dinner.  Most of our scrapbooking involves chatting rather than actually getting any scrapbooking done.

I love this time for so many reasons.  I mean, yes, I get some work done on my scrapbook (although I am stuck back in 2008.  According to my book?  Eddie has not even been conceived yet.)  But the real fun is hanging out with the gals.

Some of us are moms.  Some aren’t.

Some are teachers.  Some work from home.  Some go to a different job.  Some go to school.

Some are friends from a million years ago.  Some are new friends.

Some are married.  Some are not.

Some are seasoned croppers who bring loads of supplies.  Some are newbies who only have a few items.

But we share it all.  All the supplies…all the knowledge…all the fun.

We all laugh and share over the crop table.

Trips out to the store take three times as long because of the conversations we get into while finding the perfect paper for our page.

We are usually together for about seven hours, but it feels like seven minutes, and I never have a whole lot to show for all my time spent except a happy smile and a recharged attitude.

These ladies help me separate “Kate” from “Mommma” for one brief evening a month.  And I love them for it.

Fashionable Fetus

Eddie is not even born yet and so many of you are already concerned with his style. In fact, so many of you have been so kind as to contribute cute new outfits and warm blankets that you either made or purchased, that I finally had to do a couple loads of laundry today of JUST BABY CLOTHES!
Eddie has four more months before his grand debut, and he already has a dresser that has lots of stylish outfits just waiting for him now all clean and sorted by size. Whew…a few things for each month of his life from new born sizes up through 6 months. Mostly cute onsie outfits, not so many jammies.

I’m telling you…he has some generous people out there who love him! Thank you to everyone! 🙂

Ready for Eddie…well, almost!

As I posted yesterday, Eddie’s furniture arrived via UPS. Last night Cortney decided to haul in the crib parts and assemble them. Fully aware that this could be a mammoth of a project–many people we had talked to gave us horror stories about crib assembly–he decided to brave it anyway. It was actually a simple job, and was together in no time flat!

Look at that! Cort described it as looking like “mint chocolate chip ice cream” in the baby’s room. Mmmmm! We were so pleased with how it looked we were just very excited to get the dresser/changing table in.
So today, Cody came over and helped Cort lift the dresser/changing table into the room. It was so dang fun to come home and find it in place! And it matches pretty well with my old rocker (that my parents spent countless hours rocking ME in).

I let Louis in to see the new set up of the “green” room. I am not sure he was so amused. He just behind the only piece of furniture he was familiar with and pouted. Eh…he’ll get used to it!

Now I can’t wait to be able to make the bed and start adding decorative touches! I’ve already started a few picture projects for the walls and thinking about other wall decoration options. You know me…there is ALWAYS a project brewing!

Registry: Complete!

For Valentine’s Day, I didn’t get roses. Cortney didn’t get chocolates. We didn’t have a romantic dinner alone. We didn’t go to a movie and hold hands in the popcorn. Nope…we went to Target and finished registering for Eddie’s arrival! It didn’t take NEARLY as long as our Babies R Us trip last weekend since Target doesn’t have as big of a selection, but it was just as productive!

It only took us about 45 minutes, but we perused everything Target had to offer. Cortney had a good time with the scanner gun, as usual. And, as an extra Valentine’s Day bonus, Cort bought me a Pooh Bear diaper bag. Awww!!!

You can view our registries online at Target.com and Babiesrus.com. Just click on the baby registry link and search using my name: Katie Sluiter. It’s just that easy. If you have any suggestions for stuff you think we should have on there, by all means let us know! This is our first time with all of this, you know.

While we didn’t do any of the traditional Valentine’s Day lovey-dovey stuff, we still had a great time spending the afternoon together!

Baby Registry Extravaganza Take One!

Yesterday, Cortney and I ventured out to 28th Street to Babies R Us to get our baby registry started. I have to admit, I have been overwhelmed by this for the past week! However, after getting tons of advice and tips from friends and other mom’s (and dad’s!), and doing my research online first, Cort and I went in equipped with a pretty good list of stuff we wanted.

The drive out there was not bad at all, but the parking lot was PACKED when we arrived! I was already worried about getting crabby and frustrated (I know…that does not sound like me at ALL!), but we had water and a snack in the car in case I needed a break.

The people were SO helpful. We walked right up to the Baby Registry kiosk and a lovely lady got us started with our scanner gun and a copy of a checklist for us to use. She also printed off a bunch of cards for us to give people to let them know where we are registered.

At this point, Cort and I were let loose in the store. I looked at Cort and said, “so where do we start?” I was starting to sense my panic setting in. He calmly said, “let’s do like we do at the grocery store: start at one end with our list, and just move to the other, checking things off as we go.” He is so smart! I am so glad he was there!

We started with bottles and other baby care, moved to “baby gear” like strollers and bouncy seats, and were looking at baby gates when we needed a quick bathroom break. Then we moved back to the baby gates, into bedding, then to furniture, and ended in more bedding–at which point we were both getting pretty sick of it and wanted to quit.

By the end, we didn’t have EVERYTHING we wanted on the list, but we had a good start. No one (meaning me) had a meltdown or needed to take a break in the truck, and no one (again, meaning me) yelled at anyone…so really, it was a good day. And actually, as we turned in our scanner and headed out into the sunshine to the truck, we both agreed that it was actually a pretty fun experience!

After pizza and games at the Visels, we headed home and I went straight to the computer to view out registry online to make sure it was all there!

It was! Cortney and I are already planning a Valentine’s Day Date to Target this coming Saturday to try to finish the registry. Everything is going pretty smoothly and we are really excited about picking things out for Eddie. All in all…a great experience!

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