Navigating Without Doo

Today after school, Charlotte carried across the gym floor a box that is half her size. She was so proud of it. Struggling to hold it up higher for me to see it across the full-length basketball court, the box slipped a little, and I could see the sadness in her face.

It’s the same sadness that I have carried with me since Buckeye died a month ago. It’s the sadness of letting go of something that you love.

Catching the box, with a triumphant: “Oh! Mama! We made a doghouse today! All the kids…well…some of the kids helped me make this! I’m going to use it for my brown dog at home. You know, the soft one. I can’t use it for Buckeye….because Buckeye died. He’s dead”. It’s a phrase that I’ve heard a lot from the younger two in the past month. I usually reply with a simple: “I know, honey.”

This afternoon driving home, I knew there’s more that I need to do for Charlotte. It’s been a month tomorrow that we lost Buckeye, and Charlotte is making daily photos of him, completing writing prompts about him at school, and she and Theo pretend play all the time including Buckeye in their play.

I decided not to research “what to do when a pet dies”, which if you know me at all, is not me. I research the heck out of everything. Instead, these were the “guidelines” that we utilized as we’ve gone through this process of our first loss.

  • I called a friend who has children the same age as mine, and asked her what she did when their dog died. I also asked her when she knew that they were ready for a new puppy.
  • We chose to have Buckeye cremated. His remains are in a velvet bag that we placed inside a vase. They’re sitting on a high table now in our living room, and we wrapped his collar around the top. Being that it’s winter in Ohio, burying him at this time isn’t an option. This has also given us the grace to touch the soft velvet bag, and to pick up and hear his collar jingle. Sound is a powerful memory.
  • We’ve continued to allow our children to explore their own feelings how they best need to. Charlotte chooses to draw pictures of Buckeye, and even make cardboard doghouses. Theo makes dogs of of LEGO bricks, and Greyson’s asked questions about what Buckeye was like as a puppy, and for Bill and I to retell some of the most epic Buckeye stories. (If you have your own epic story of Buckeye, please share in the comments below!)
  • We’ve reminded the kids that it’s absolutely okay to cry, or if they need to take a break. The kids went to school the same day that we found him sleeping forever in the living room, and I’m so proud of these tough as nails kids that they went to school after losing one of their best friends.
  • We’ve kept their routines. The kids choosing to go to school was part of their routine. We still close the gate to not allow a dog out of the yard.
  • Bill and I have broken down in front of the kids. A few days after he passed, I went outside and threw snowballs for him in the yard. Bill came out and asked me what I was doing, and I told him to throw a few snowballs for Buckeye. The kids stood in the playroom, and watched us as we threw snowballs for a dog that could only be seen by the five of us and our memories.
  • We’ve looked at photos of him over the years. Many photos that we didn’t even realize he was in. He was part of the foundation of the very ground that the kids have played on.
  • We made the decision that we would all have to be ready before getting a new puppy. We’ve discussed that a new puppy isn’t a replacement for Buckeye. A new puppy is wanted as part of this family. This loud family is too quiet.

Before dinner tonight, I got the notification that some books I had on hold were available. It was still early enough, and the kids were finished with their homework, so we made a trip to the library to pick up the books. While there, Charlotte wanted to go over to the “Parenting” section near the children’s books. I swear it was as if she was leading me over there-that it was one way for her to silently tell me what she needed to help her grieve. While she scanned the shelves for books with pink spines, I focused on the section on Death/Grieving. Flipping through a few, I settled on these two books:

I wasn’t sure when I would read them to Charlotte, or if she would let me read them to her. We got home, ate dinner, and then the boys went upstairs. There was a bit of tension in the air. I could tell something was bothering her. She sat on one couch, and then the other, and looked at me with her big brown eyes-a constant reflection to myself.

“Baby? Do you want to read those special books I picked out from the library?”


We snuggled in together on the couch, and Charlotte held my hand as I held the book. I hadn’t even started reading and I felt her tense body loosen up; that tension she’d been holding for the past month released. Hot tears began to fall, and together we sat there and cried.

We cried for the absence of tail sounds thumping the floor, and the giggles that naturally happen with a furry friend. We cried because he no longer greets us at the door, and the security blanket of knowing his bark would help us to feel safer at night. We cried for less fur we’ve had to vacuum, and wet noses sniffing half completed coloring projects on the floor.

We cried.

Because we’ve lost.

Untitled design-7It’s the first loss that the kids have experienced, and this has allowed us to remind them that this also won’t be the last. With the Lenten season approaching, I’m preparing for some big feelings and some big conversations to emerge from around the dinner table. We’ll continue to lean in together as a family, and into Jesus while we explore what those feelings are.

Tougher than the feat of getting a baby to sleep through the night, I managed to read both books while I choked back the tears. Next to me, Charlotte quietly wiped her eyes and when the last book was finished she let out a tiny sigh. Pulling away from me, she wiped her eyes again and said:

“He was the best dog.”

She’s right. He was the best dog.

All we can continue to do for our family, is to keep his memory alive. That’s the best that any of us can really do, for anyone that we’ve lost. Talk about them. Share their stories, and continue to keep their memory alive. It’s the moments with others: people and pets that make the moments into the memories.

Untitled design-8

Buckeye Sluzewski


June 3, 2005-January 23, 2019



Two for Theo

It began with with this unassuming envelope that Charlotte brought home in her folder from school. It wasn’t a surprise. We knew that the re-enrollment paperwork would be coming home for us to complete and return so we could let their school know our intention for next year, and if they would be returning….or not.


That night, after the kids were in bed, I looked briefly at the packet. Everything appeared to be the same as in previous years, except this year it included two additional pieces of paper.

Two for Theo. Two pieces of paper for my four year old. My last Preschooler. My last baby. A couple of days later, and with the kids playing a made up game that only siblings can, I sat down and proceeded to fill out their paperwork, looked at our budget to factor in the re-registration fees, and then put the completed paperwork back in the envelope, where it’s now been sitting on the counter for over a week; mocking me.

It’s just an envelope, right? Well, no. Inside are the contents of what is happening, and what is to come. Listen, I’m the first to tell anyone who asks how excited I am that next year, I’ll have from 7-3 every day to myself. I have daydreams of all the things I’ll be able to get done for work, and reading (gasp!) during the day for leisure, and maybe drag my butt back to Barre classes again. I can meet with friends during the day for lunch without having to rush out and pick Theo up from his half day of Pre-K, or meet my husband for lunch without having to think if we’re going someplace that’s kid friendly. It seems really promising that I’ll finally have a chance to maybe consider slowing down, and re-focusing on how I want my day to day to flow, and not just getting through one more hour, or one more day with being pulled in different directions all day long by the demands of the kids.

But that stupid envelope still sits along the wall on the counter. It’s a reminder that for so many years, I’ve been waiting for this moment to know that I survived, that we survived. We made it through the first five or six years of their lives.-The part that was supposed to be the hardest. And, I’ve got to be honest-the hardest work is yet to come. The knee-jerk reaction of not knowing if I’ve done everything right in his almost five years. Have I taught him to be kind? Have I shown him how to forgive? Have I helped him to feel confident in who he is? Will he make friends? Will he understand that not everyone loves Pee-Wee Herman as much as he does? These are all questions that I know deep down I do in fact have the answers for, but I feel as if sealing that envelope and turning it in to school is some weird finality of his early childhood years. These past four years that I’ve been wishing would speed up, just so I could slow down for a moment. Because, the thing is-this is the slowest our lives will ever be, ever again. I’ve been so looking forward to time for myself that I think I’ve forgotten that my time has been here all along.

It’s been snuggled by a kid at my side an a stack of books in our hands. It’s been in wiping God knows what from walls, and folding endless loads of tiny clothes. It’s been in repeating myself over and again, and gently reminding that the dog is not to sit on, that no the cats don’t actually like when you pull their tails, and for the love can you….?

Because here’s the thing: whatever “phase” you’re in right now-it’s the most challenging one you’ve faced. And, we’re always looking forward to what’s on the horizon, not what’s happening right in front of us. I’m going to do what my kids have been trying to teach me for the past nine years.

I’m going to slow down.

I’m going to be mindful of what is happening right in front of me.

I’m going to learn by their example, because kids are the ones that already have it figured out.

It’s the adults that make it confusing.


It’s time to turn the envelope in. He’s ready.


or not,

Here he comes.


From This Moment Forward

kindergarten-webiteIt’s happening.

My daughter starts Kindergarten in twenty-eight more days, and yes, I’m counting.

The thing is, since before she was born, I’ve been counting with her. In the beginning, it was just how many more days until I reached the next trimester of pregnancy, how many more days until Greyson was no longer an only child, and how many days could I possibly go past my due date before my Midwife gave her an eviction notice. Shortly after her birth, it was how many minutes she had nursed, how many hours we succeed in a certain brand of cloth diaper before a major leak, and how many hours I had left caring for two tiny humans before my husband got home from the day.

I can’t forget sleep-or the lack of. Charlotte did.not.sleep. Ever. A ten minute car nap between leaving the grocery store and home, was the equivalency of twelve hours of sleep on cold medicine. At her sixth month photo shoot, girlfriend was doing downward-dog poses, and by 8.5 months she was walking, closely followed by her running after her big brother, and her new obsession: our cat Marigold. How did one tiny person (as in only the 20th% for height and weight) have this much energy, curiosity, and pack more in a day as a tiny tyrant toddler of sleep smuggling? I counted the minutes it took to finally get her to sleep for the night, and enjoyed seeing when I got a full three hours and seven minutes of sleep before spending the next two hours and twelve minutes fighting with her to go to sleep again, as she sat on my lap touching my face as if she needed to memorize every fine line and worry wrinkle she was causing me.

And then, the unimaginable happened: we got pregnant again. My pregnancy with Theo is an entirely different story; one that I don’t like to talk about often, because it was miserable, intense, and full of fear. Instead of enjoying his pregnancy, I spent more time counting down the days when I would finally feel better again. We brought Theo home from the hospital, when Charlotte was 21 months old. And, guess what she did?

She slept through the night. From that moment forward, I knew that it would never be the same. Charlotte, unknowingly overnight accepted her title of not only being the middle child, but being the only sister; the small sister that we can all count on. The next morning is when I stopped counting with her.

Parents are told too many times that the years are short, and to enjoy every moment, and that it’s not okay to want to run away from your children. But, guess what? The years are too short. The years are full of enjoyable moments. It’s also okay to have too many demands to meet in the day in raising tiny humans that the thought of a true break seems fleeting, and guilty, and that it’s not okay to want to be away from the army of children that you’ve created. And, so to deal with the daily flow, we start counting again.

We count how many months until they are ready to potty train, and the months before they start Preschool, and the distance between older and younger siblings in school to consider the cost of their education and if, when, maybe, and how.

So, here we are. The days of counting on, planning for, and memorizing, have led to: your child is starting Kindergarten.

For those with children who are moving off to college, maybe you wish you could be sending your child off to Kindergarten all over again…I’m not sure. I’ve got years between now and then, and I’m not counting how long that time is. For now, I’m going to sit here with my baby girl next to me, as she erases and draws again the horn on the Unicorn she’s been working on all afternoon. We’ve got nothing but time.




Tackling the Bully of the World

I’m sitting with my trio at the kitchen table, while they use their imaginations like typical UBAM kids, and share with buzzing excitement these out-of-print cards that I scored at the More Store at National Convention this past week. If you’re not familiar with National Convention, you’re either A. Not an Usborne Books & More Consultant (and are missing out!) or B. Are an Usborne Books & More Consultant and did not make it to Convention (you’ll want to plan for Convention 2019 NOW!) I sat down with the intention to review some notes from this past week, and opened up my portfolio where this beauty of a book tumbled out into my hands.

I flipped through it.

I started reading.

I read it some more…and more. And then I glanced up and my children had traced and drawn about ten animals a piece, and before I knew it, I was finished with this book and sat here with my breath held. I looked at my three beautiful and unassuming children and my heart was filled with a combination of both joy and sadness.

Bully on the Bus by Kathryn Apel is the one book that we need right now. It’s the one book that every parent and educator should read. It’s the one book that every child should read and have read to them. It’s the one book that should be in every child’s back-to-school bag given to them by school administrators or PTO groups. Now, this is saying a lot from me, because I believe in the power of books and feel that one book is never enough.

The title of the book is predictable. Yes, there is a bully on the bus. Leroy is picked on by a much older student named DJ. He’s tormented by her daily on the school bus. Leroy’s big sister Ruby tries to step in when she can, but it’s ineffective. The bus driver has tunnel-vision to get all of the children home safely, and his focus is: driving, stopping, and moving on until his bus is empty for the day.

She’s big.

She’s smart.

She’s mean.

She’s the bully on the bus.

She picks on me and I don’t like it.


I don’t know

how to make her


Leroy faces what many other children who are victims of bullying face. He feels like he can’t tell anyone what is happening, he loses interest in school, he creates excuses to avoid his his regular activities and schedule, and he feels lost and even hopeless. He fears telling his parents, and is misunderstood until Ruby speaks up to help explain what it is that her younger brother has been dealing with.

Together with his parents, teacher, and school bus driver, Leroy spends his bus ride immersed in a book of Fairy Tales given to him by his teacher. She tells him that he has a Secret Weapon,  but Leroy doesn’t know what the secret is. Daily, on the bus he gets lost in his book. One single book, where he builds confidence, learns to read better, and learns that he has a voice with the power and knowledge from reading. He learns to speak up to DJ, channeling the inner wisdom gained from reading his Fairy Tales. He finds his voice.



Leroy stands up to DJ using his words. He doesn’t use his fists, his body, or a physical weapon. He uses his mind, and his voice. He uses his strength that was gained from within the pages of a book.

We’ve had too many tragedies and senseless acts in the past year, dare I even say in the past week? I find myself becoming desensitized to the school shootings, reports of suicide, and while mass shootings and high-profile suicides are yes, tragic, and yes something that is hard to grasp; what is happening closer to home?

What is happening


your home?

It starts at home. You and I? We are our child’s first teacher. Our memories are first created on the laps of our parents. We dive into feedings, and diaper changes, and snuggles and rocking. And, hopefully sooner than later, you introduce a book to your child for the first time. Will it be a classic children’s book? Is it a book gifted to you at your baby shower? Was it a similar title on your bedroom shelf next to a dusty trophy or baseball?

I’m going to let you in on a secret. Are you ready?

Continue to love your child more today than the first day that they were placed in your arms. Your child needs you more today than they did as a brand new baby. That may seem absolutely ridiculous, comparing your completely helpless newborn baby to a walking-talking-have-their-own-opinions child. Just because they no longer need you for all of their care, they do need you more now to be able to learn how to handle the tough parts of life, that whether we want to face them or not, we need to face.

I firmly believe that if we can start tackling life like Leroy, his family, his bus driver, and his teacher, we can start building the lives again of our children-all of our children who are so lost and confused in the world that we live in. Parenting is tough. There are days that I feel that I’m not sure how much longer I can keep wiping up the same spills, mending the same holes in the knees of uniform pants, or tying the same shoes, wishing my children would grow and learn; mature to be able to do more of these things on their own without my assistance. And you know what? It will happen. Someday. Sooner in fact, than I realize. But, somewhere along the way-we’re losing children. We’re losing families. We’re losing the grace and beauty of the day that is mundane with a carelessness that just makes me shake my head in disbelief and embarrassment that so many of us are raising the next generation of children who are not being shown and given to them the tools to find their voice and speak up. To not be afraid. To not share their good days with their bad days. To try to find ways to make our children happy and temporarily satisfied with more technology, less time outdoors, and less time getting lost

In the pages


a book.

Yes. This is the one book that your family needs. It is also the one small change that you can make, right now to create for your child and your family a home filled with hope, and love. Commit to helping your child find their voice.



This book is now available for purchase! At the original time of this publication, the book was not yet listed on my website. To order, please visit:

If you are a teacher, educator, counselor, or therapist in the Greater Cleveland area and would like several copies for your school or organization, please let me know and I can assist you with adding this book to the homes of the amazing children in your care. 

For more titles from Usborne Books & More, please visit: 


Frustrations and Fun: Fine Motor Edition

So, real talk time. I wanted to share with you something different this week, as I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only parent that also is dealing with the same frustration as me: I get easily frustrated with my children and their fine motor skills development. There. I said it.

I can even remember when I first started to feel frustrated about this, and it was when my oldest son was an infant just learning how to pick up small bits of foods and Cheerios. For anyone following along or needing a refresher on Child Development, the Benchmarks and Developmental Continuum of Skills is a research-based tool that allows parents and educators to identify where their child is with their learning and meeting developmental milestones.

The thing about Physical Development, in specifics to Fine Motor Skills, is that there are so many factors that are involved in this major part of everyday living skills. Self-feeding, dressing and undressing, using writing materials properly, cutting with scissors, and printing legible letters are just a few of the essential skills that we want our children to master before they start their Primary Education. This is something that can be frustrating for both children and parents, whether or not a child does not have limited abilities in refining and mastery of these skills.

So, what is a parent to do when they’re trying to teach their child a new skill (like cutting with scissors) and not only is the parent feeling frustrated…but their child is too? The short answer is to continue to provide opportunities for your child and students to practice. I know this may seem easier said than done, as I’ve clearly been there before, and am still very much there today with my oldest who gives up tying his own shoes, and for my youngest who wants to cut with scissors so badly but doesn’t quite have the strength or dexterity to cut independently. It’s a frustrating process, but the lessons from Mother Goose Time overlap with so many developmental domains (Yay to research-based methods!) that a child thinks they’re just “designing” a t-shirt via their Creative Arts Lesson, when you as the parent-educator are able to gain a better understanding of how to manipulate materials to best help your child. This in turn becomes fun!

Let’s take a look at an example from this past week with my youngest.

Until just a few months ago, Theo was very hesitant to even hold a crayon or marker, let alone try to make a mark on a piece of paper. He wanted nothing to do with it, even though he frequently observed his older siblings coloring, drawing, and doodling. I even tried a few attempts with hand-over-hand instruction to see if he would open up more and try, after seeing the correlation that putting his crayon on the paper allows the color to appear on the paper. Nope. Not Theo. My stubborn child needed to be ready to do it when he felt like it, regardless of the number of attempts made by me or my husband. And, I’ve got to say that he’s doing pretty well with his grip of writing materials, considering this is an emerging skill for him. I’m excited to see his progress daily and his careful attention when he’s really concentrating on something too.


After snack (see the evidence on his face?) we came back to the table to add the buttons to his shirt. I assisted him with coloring his buttons, as it’s hard to color an entire image or area when you’re still building up your strength to complete that task. Here too I also started the first threading of the button to the shirt, and after he was able to see that the thread went through the back to the front and back down again, he got the hang of it and pulled the thread through several times before he decided that he’d had enough.

When first looking at the lessons for this week, my defenses went up almost automatically. I knew that I was going to have to be cautious in my suggestions of how he could or should thread the button on the shirt, and I typically want my children to try something independently before automatically doing something for them.

This entire lesson became fun instead of frustrating! While he colored we talked about the types of shirts that he likes to wear, he identified his favorite pajamas “Which mama are and are not shirts…they’re like pajama shirts”, and we talked about buttons on the shirt he wore for family photos, and he remembered that his dada wears shirts with buttons to work every day. IMG_7489

I also wanted to share one more picture from this past week, because I love how versatile the Table Top Math resources are! Theo did better with this during this lesson by separating them out on his own without using the dice. He was able to announce what color each button was before matching it up, and correctly identified the colors on 11 of 13 attempts, which is progress from another observation I’d made earlier in the month. I know that he’s had an opportunity to explore and manipulate the buttons during this lesson, and we can come back again and use the strings that came with the buttons and practice lacing and stringing when he’s getting closer to the mastery of that skill.

In closing, I’d like to say that it’s fine to admit that teaching fine motor skills to children is frustrating. Continue to make the lessons fun, unique, scaffold the material, and don’t give up. Break lessons down into smaller portions if needed, and assist after your child has let you know that they now need some assistance.

With practice, I know my oldest son will tie his shoes on the first attempt. I also know that soon enough, the scissors will all need to be hidden so my youngest son does not cut his hair, clothes, or the bin of My Little Ponies…of the Ponies that Charlotte missed, of course when she went through that faze.

Keep Reading!


19510309_1588341684509993_3025539560496814781_nAs a Mother Goose Time Blog Ambassador, I receive Mother Goose Time curriculum in exchange for my honest and authentic stories resulting from personal experiences in implementing this curriculum with my children. All opinions and thoughts are my own and are in no way influenced by others.

Why I Chose the Book Lady Life

As a parent of a children still very much in the “why” stage, I thought it might be fun to share with you my personal “why” I joined with Usborne Books & More. It’s hard to believe that I’m approaching my three year anniversary as a Book Lady!

I still identify as a SAHM, but I also run two businesses: my book business, and my childbirth education and doula business. I’m a mom first, and a business owner second. But, just three short years ago, my youngest child was born. Life was totally upside down just three years ago.


It’s hard to believe, but this kid is now three! 

You see, I have rough pregnancies. Each pregnancy the Hyperemesis gravidarum had gotten worse, and my pregnancy with Theo was brutal: ER trips, ten days in the hospital, a feeding tube and a Zofran pump. I’m not going to go into full details now, as its still emotional to dig around and talk about it, let alone put it into writing. I’ll save that for another blog post. 🙂

Raising kids is hard. If anyone says differently they’re either A. Lying or B. Have never raised children. The challenges of raising children is a major part of my “why” I joined with Usborne Books & More. When Theo was born, we had a 5 year old and a 21 month old. We had three kids five and under, my husband started a brand new job the same day that Theo was born, and I was struggling managing it all.

  • I needed support.
  • I needed to have something other than being a wife and mother.
  • I needed something that I could put my creative energy into.
  • I needed something that I could carve out of nothing and make into whatever I wanted it to be.

And, I found that with books.

I attended a Facebook party, and was already familiar with the books. The party was so much fun! When the consultant posted about the opportunity selling these books just like her, I felt a little flutter of something inside. The logical part of me tried talking the spontaneous part of me out of even considering starting a new business with a 6 week old baby, but spontaneity and logic starting working together, and I started researching more about Usborne Books & More. Everything that I found excited and energized me, and I knew that I needed to give it a try.

I loved that there were (and still are!)

  • No monthly quotas
  • Low-cost start up (under $100)
  • Training was done at my own pace via Facebook team pages and in resources provided by UBAM
  • Multiple avenues for income streams
  • Option to work with the school and library market
  • Book Fairs! (I flipping LOVED Book Fairs as a child, and I still do as an adult!)
  • Being around like-minded individuals who are passionate about literacy and books
  • Discount on everything Usborne Books & More sells
  • Amazing incentive trips I could earn for FREE
  • First to know about new titles being released
  • Networking with my community

…..and most importantly building an awesome home library for my children

I had nothing to lose. And, if I decided (or decide at any time) that this is not the right fit for me, I’ve met amazing people along the way, and it all started with buying a box of books. I’m pretty confident when I say that I’ll continue to live the “Book Lady Life”, and each day there is a new opportunity to share these books. Books change lives, and these books are so important.


If you’re curious to hear more about the opportunity with Usborne Books & More, or if any of my “whys” are resonating with some personal “whys” of your own, let’s start a conversation. Together, we’re making a difference, one book at a time.

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Heights Happiness

Welcome to the official launch of this blog! I’ve written many ideas down since the beginning of 2017, and it’s time to get this started.

I have so many ideas to share about motherhood, raising three children, how I incorporate my Usborne Books & More business into my daily life, activity and curriculum ideas for your home or classroom, and exploring the vibrant city of Cleveland while showing how I found my happiness in the Heights.

I’ll be gradually adding more to this blog, so stay tuned!

Keep Reading!-Beth