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.

back to school

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.

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.

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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.

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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.




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!)

Our Little Halloween

Ah Halloween.

I have never been a giant Halloween fan. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t hate it or anything.  It’s just not my favorite holiday.  But as with everything else, we do have some traditions that we have had that Eddie is now becoming a part of.

First we have our annual pumpkin choosing.  This has usually consisted of me buying pumpkins from Meijer or Family Fare, but this year we took Eddie to an actual roadside farm that was selling them.  He had a ball!

Another tradition we have is to go to Cortney’s mom and stepdad’s house to carve pumpkins.  Granny Kim and Gramps have us over each year for a carve-a-thon and a yummy meal!

Granny picks all of us a pumpkin to carve.  And each year it is a BIG deal to see who can have the coolest design.

I’m telling you…we are serious.  It’s a little intimidating because people like Cort and Dave really put a TON of thought into theirs (a couple years ago Dave did the Obama logo…it was awesome.  Until one of the dogs ate the pumpkin and you could tell what it was).

I think this year, Grampy Ray won the prize!  His was actually quite good compared to what he has created in the past!  Ha ha!

And because Granny would not be home for us to trick-or-treat to over the weekend, she had a little something special for her little guy…

Granny sure knows the way to this guy’s heart!

Of course, we still had a pumpkin at home that needed carving too, so Friday night Eddie and Daddy grabbed that pumpkin and did some damage.

Daddy did most of the work, of course, since sharp things and gooey things are not things Momma lets Eddie partake in yet.

The final result?  Totally awesome!

Besides picking the perfect pumpkin and carving a super cool jack-o-lantern, we also have to get Eddie a sweet costume.  Last year, he was a little monkey…

and we needed to prop him up next to his jack-o-lantern to get a picture.  Yes, that is some good vintage Eddie right there!

This year, I didn’t want to spend money on a costume he would only wear for maybe an hour.  I was all set to go to Mom and Baby Again to see what they had in his size, when my mom reminded me of the bunny costumes she made for my brothers and me when we were little.

That is my little brother, Chris, and me all dressed up in furry suits my mom made for us.  That fur?  Was on my bedroom walls when we first moved into the house my parents still live in.  Yup, it was awful.  That is why my mom pulled it off the walls…and created bunny suits.

Anyway, my mom pulled those costumes out of her cedar closet and wouldn’t you know it?  The small one fit Eddie!

I die of cute!!!  He was so good about wearing the “dead cat” suit and the headpiece!  So of course our first stop was Grandma’s house…since she made the costume.

Thank you, grandma, for letting me wear this costume.

Back in our subdivision, our little bunny lasted a whole two houses before it was time to go back home.  He doesn’t really understand the concept of trick-or-treating anyway.

But he does understand candy!

And with a bucket of the stuff?  He did NOT want to be in that costume any longer!  It was time to go inside!

Happy Halloween to you all!

This post is linked with Cole’s First Blog’s Halloween Parade.

Click below to see more fun Halloween stories!

To any of you who like to link up to Top Ten Tuesdays?  This week is Top Ten children’s books you or your child loves!  Come back Tuesday to see our favorites and link up with yours!

Back to The Flip List…

Oh hey there, friends!

Today is the day to flip-off all the stuff during the week that has been driving you crazy!  It’s a great way to let go of the weekday stress and make a smooth, happy transition into the weekend.

So I am going to get started, mm-kay?

First, I need to flip-off the wind.  It started blowing Tuesday morning and it is FINALLY dying down.  As I posted on Wednesday, those winds were so crazy and swirly that we had tornado watches and warnings all over the place!  We had to do the whole “duck and cover” with a book over our heads routine twice in school.  It was not a big day for learning.  So?  Flip-off, WIND!

Next, I am going to flip-off the little cut on the tip of my finger.  You are healing nicely, but now your little skin flap keeps getting caught on every single piece of fabric in my life.  You are annoying.  Heal over already.  Sheesh.  Flip-off!

Ok seriously…this next one is driving me absolutely farking bonkers.  I have a ZIT COLONY on the right side of my chin.  Seriously?  What is going on here?  It started as one damn pimple.  Then it spread.  I have like five and a couple stragglers on my neck.  What am I?  thirteen all over again?  Do I REALLY need to go out and buy ZIT CREAM?!?  GAH!  FLIP-OFF with BOTH fingers!!!

I am also flipping off our lack of food in the house this week.  My lunches have sort of sucked this week and it’s sort of my fault.  I was lazy with the grocery list and therefore food did not magically appear in the house.  Very sad.  Flip off to you, grocery fail!

Ok, this one might lose me friends, but I am flipping off Halloween.  I can’t really pinpoint any good reason other than it seems like a hoopla of effort for not a whole lot of fun.  I just don’t like it.  I like fall decor and everything else that comes with October, but Halloween?  No.  You get the flip off.

And lastly, I always have a special flip-off for postpartum depression.  The writing prompt for The Red Dress Club this week was to create a character sketch of a villain.  This was all I could think of:  my own mind.  So flip-off, PPD for doing this to me!

Have some stuff to flip-off?  You know you do!  Head on over to Momma Kiss’ place and link on up…or just read more vent-tastic posts flipping crap off.

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

Guess where we went…

It was Eddie’s first time (since he got all rained out last year)…

it was hard to get a shot of him standing still.  it was like there was so much to touch and not nearly enough time!

I think we picked some great ones this year!

This is part of Wordless Wednesday hosted by…

Just a Small Town Girl…

Well I was born in a small town
And I live in a small town
Prob’ly die in a small town
Oh those small communities…

Tonight my wee little family packed up the stroller and drove out to downtown Zeeland around 6:00pm.

This was supposed to be a BIG weekend!  I was going to call friends.  We were going to go out!  I was going to advertise and raise some money for the American Stroke Association!  This was going to be BIG!
This was my weekend to have Pursey Gallore, the purse from Project: Purse and Boots, the blogger movement created by Lori to raise money and awareness for Stroke Prevention.
And then life happened.  I didn’t have time to call anyone or set anything up.  In fact, unless it’s all planned out ahead of time, where I live?  Isn’t really the kind of place you can just quick dress up fancy and go raise some money.
As we wandered down the quiet streets of downtown, through the crispy orange leaves, I recognized the smell of fall.  But not just any smell of fall…the way fall smelled when I was much, much younger.
And I suddenly felt like I was visiting my childhood.  We were giving Pursey Galore a tour of what our lives have been like being from and living in a small town.
First we wandered down Church Street.  This was one of the very first streets ever in Zeeland.  We passed three churches in the one city block that we walked.
One was the church that our high school held our senior baccalaureate services in.
The next was Second Reformed Church.  The place where Cortney went to church as a kid and where we were married and where Cort’s dad’s funeral service was and were Eddie was baptized.
This is the church we are currently members of.  I like this church.  I like it’s small feel.  I like the personalized feeling.  Right now though?  I am just not sure it is “our” church.  But we do love it.
Then we wandered diagonally across the street to First Reformed Church where I was baptized and went to church as a kid.
First Reformed was also the very first building in Zeeland.  The church?  It is old.  And it’s really quite beautiful.  I really should do a whole post dedicated to certain memories I have of growing up in this church.  Most of them are quite lovely.  And I have been searching for that for my family for the past 5+ years.  
Being on the corner of Church and Central reminded me of walking to piano lessons after school, parking on the road for church in the morning, and marching to the cemetery with the band on Memorial Day morning.
We wandered back up Central and took a turn down Main Street.
We wanted Pursey to “Feel the Zeel”, so we took her window shopping in our small town. After realizing that clearly every. single. store was closed by 6pm on a Saturday, I started wishing we had done this in the morning–when people would have been around for me to share Pursey with.  But instead, I just shared our town with Pursey.
We brought Pursey to Frank’s (which was closed).  Frank’s has the best burgers in town.  Two of my aunt’s worked there when they were in high school.  My dad and his friend (my uncle) hung out there.  It was the place to be.  Now the major figure-heads (business owners, old names, etc) of our community gather there each day.  There is a LARGE round table in the middle toward the back.  Everyone in town knows only those guys sit at the round table.  Cort’s grandpa Stan Sluiter sits at the round table.
The only way to follow up Frank’s is to then stop in front of Zeeland Bakery.  They have the best donuts in town.  In high school, we used to con teachers into letting us make “donut runs”.  Somehow I usually found myself one of the students that was involved in said “conning” and we would run to one of our cars (which was dumb because we were usually parked as far away as it would have taken to just walk to the bakery), and we would drive faster than the 15 mph speed limit and get a bunch of fresh donuts for our class.  ah…Zeeland Bakery.  Yum.
Across the street we passed Bunte’s, the local pharmacy.  When I was little we used to stop here with my mom after getting groceries to pick up prescriptions or to buy cards for people at church or who were having a birthday or anniversary.  My mom loves to send cards.  This was also where we got our film developed.  He he…film.
Together we discovered new stores that I didn’t know existed.  Eddie and I made a deal that we would come back to this cute toy store when it was open.  Cortney and I reminisced about all the stores that used to be here when we were kids.  We talked about how there used to be awnings lining either side of the street.  and how the street itself?  Used to have a zig and a zag in it.
Then we discussed how our parents used to do this same thing.  Talk about which stores used to be there.  Talk about when there weren’t awnings.  And when the street?  didn’t have a zig or a zag, but kids would drag race down it.
The Howard Miller clock feels the Zeel.

Yes, another church.  Pursey lost count after four.

 Pursey tried to stop for some salon and spa treatments at Milt’s. I tried to explain to her that not only was Milt’s not open, but it was just a Barber Shop.  Just dudes getting haircuts.  Pursey was incredulous.  She is apparently too glamorous for a barber shop.

 But when she learned there had been a REAL queen right here in Zeeland?  She warmed back up to our small town…and needed her picture taken with the royal landmark.

 Before getting back into the truck, we stopped to look at the bikes in the Zeeland Schwinn Shop.  The owner is my parents’ neighbor.

Our last stop was for dinner at J’s Again.  It’s the kind of restaurant that has the gumball machine and a tackboard full of announcements in it’s entry-way.  There is a counter where you pay a handwritten check and you can buy a york peppermint patty after dinner as a treat.  It’s the kind of place where you seat yourself.  It’s the kind of place the old folks (which are 98% of the clientele) comment on how cute and well-behaved your curly-haired little boy is.  There is no alcohol on the menu.  There is a picture of the last supper on the wall.
Eddie and I had the grilled cheese.  Cort had a burger.  Pursey?  She was too cool to eat. 
As we climbed in the truck I thought of how sad I was that I didn’t get to share the story of Pursey with anyone.  I didn’t earn even one donation for such an important cause.
But what I did get to do?
Pursey came to school with us to fix my computer

Pursey watched the U of M/MSU game with us

Pursey helped me create a fall wreath instead of spending too much on a pre-made one
Pursey helped me to spend time with my family today–something I have been earning to do for WEEKS.  We all spent the WHOLE day together as a family just being together as a family.
Today I went back in my mind to my childhood, but I also spent a whole day in the now, with my little family.
Cort and I talked about how great it was to go to family-owned businesses.  The guy who fixes our cars?  Went to HS with my dad.  And his son?  Went to HS with Cortney.  That is where we live.  Where the guy whose name is out front is also the guy who is behind the counter helping you pick out your tulip bulbs or your grass seed.
We strolled and chatting and pointed out differences and memories.  We laughed and smiled.  We showed Eddie our kidhood.
And it was all thanks to Pursey.
No I cannot forget from where it is that I come from
I cannot forget the people who love me
Yeah, I can be myself here in this small town
And people let me be just what I want to be
Please consider going to Project: Purse and Boots and making a donation–however small or large–to the American Stroke Association (the donation button is on the right side of the page in the sidebar).  And then forgive me for not throwing a bigger bash.

*Lyrics from Small Town by John Mellencamp

Halloween Fun

Since Halloween fell on a Friday this year and Jake needed a neighborhood to trick-or-treat in, the Visels came on over for a night of fun. Trisha brought me a costume she thought I just HAD to have for handing out candy to eager trick-or-treaters: a Democratic Donkey. You know as goofy as it looked I still totally wore it!

Look, Joe dressed up as a poor college student! Ha ha! Just kidding!
After dinner and a couple trick-or-treaters at the door, Jake…I mean SUPERMAN…figured it was time to GO! So Ben and Cortney took all over the neighborhood. According to Cort, what at first was a cry of “TRICK-OR-TREAT” soon started to sound like “CHICKEN MACHINE!” Hilarious!
We had a really great time spending out Halloween with the Visel family!

Who Wants to Get Crazy?

This weekend we spent time with friends and family doing fun fall things.

Saturday, we were going to go with Chris and Jack and the Visels to Cranes Orchard, but the weather really didn’t cooperate. Instead, we had a quick lunch at Culver’s and headed over to Crazy Bounce in Holland. Chris and Jack had been there before, but for the rest of us, this was a whole new experience. I had no idea what to expect, but I know I DIDN’T expect to have as much fun as I did!

Everything in Crazy Bounce is inflatable. Jake and Jack grabbed their respective dads and went straight for the HUGE slides! Here is Jake and Ben sliding down the Alligator slide!

Joe even found a place he could have crazy fun!
I don’t think Cort expected to have this much fun either. Here he is laughing after watching Chris and Jack go through the obstacle course.
Jack is telling us what he wants to do next. MAN did that kid have a TON of energy! I had no idea how he could crawl up those huge things so fast, zip down the slide, and then RUN to the next thing! I just wanted to rest!
yeah, I was NOT so awesome at the obstacle course. Chris is behind me pushing me on the butt telling me, “Kate, you are too much for me! You have CLIMB!” How do these kids DO this?
Jack just flies over it like it’s no big deal. DANG!
Cortney gave the course a try himself. Not so easy, is it?
Trisha decided to try to the velcro wall. That suit is really quite attractive. Too bad it was too old and didn’t stick to the wall so well!
Jake and Jack found the ball pit and had TONS of fun in there too!
Last ride down the slide for Chris before it’s time to go!
But before we get back in the car, Jack had to try out the submarine ride.
and so did Jake!
Everyone came back to our house to hang out and watch the MSU/U of M game (Go State, by the way! Whoot, whoot!), and Jake just had to take a little nap…so much fun was had!
Today, we had lunch, birthday, and pumpkin fun at Mother Kim’s house. We had a GREAT dinner of lasagna followed by apple crisp. We also took a minute to celebrate Kim and Cody’s birthdays (which are this Thursday and Friday respectively). After dinner it was time for our traditional sibling pumpkin carving!

We all grabbed our pumpkins that Kim bought for us and headed down stairs!
Who gave me a sharp knife? Not a good idea!
Check out my jack-o-lantern. He is a little crooked and slow looking, but he’s loveable!
Cortney blew everyone away with his carving talents as usual!

Dave had a whole plan this year…he even brought a stencil! He was NOT messing around! He ended up creating the Obama symbol. It was pretty sweet!
Mom steps back to check out her own handiwork.
While Kenz carefully carves her pumpkin.

After the carving, we all posed for our annual picture! Check out all those fun jack-o-lanterns!
We had so much fun with our family and friends this weekend! We can’t wait until Friday when we get to see costumes and give out candy! Happy Halloween!

Where Does Time Go?

Well, I blinked and all of a sudden it’s October! Cortney is almost done with one of his classes (it’s a half semester long), and he has a solid 100% in the class! As long as he aces the exam next week, he will be kicking his college career off with a 4.0! Dang!

This weekend is also homecoming at Wyoming Park, and because I am one of the senior class advisers, I’ve had more work to do than usual. I am in charge of the senior homecoming court which means I have to organize the voting for who is on court and then the voting for who gets the honor of being crowned king and queen. I am also in charge of finding six convertibles for our court members to ride in during the homecoming parade and at half-time for the ceremony. Lastly, I have to organize and script the halftime ceremony and rehearse it with the entire court. It’s all a lot of work, but luckily it is really all done in about a week and a half’s time and then it’s over til the next year. So in two days…I’ll be done with it for another year! And you can bet I will post pictures!

October means pumpkin carving and trick-or-treaters, so stay tuned for all our Halloween excitement here in Sluiter Nation!