Let’s Talk Books

I’ve read some great books already this year!

The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines is all about their love story and building their HGTV series, Fixer Upper. It’s a positive read with extremely cute (yet realistic) stories about how they met, struggles in their marriages, and why they are still together.

Salt to the Sea is a YA book that takes place in the winter of 1945. The book follows characters who are refugees trying to board a ship headed towards freedom.

Girls on Fire is dark and disturbing. It’s a story of high school girls and their obsessive, chaotic friendship.

Speaking of books, I recently watched the movie Dark Places on Amazon. Author Gillian Flynn wrote the screenplay. It didn’t make it to the big screen like Gone Girl, but it was a good reminder why I loved the book. Remember when Gillian Flynn even signed my copy? If anyone knows when this author will release a new book, please share! I can’t wait!

Also, Big Little Lies is now a limited TV series on HBO. If you haven’t read this gossipy mystery, add it to your list. It was one of my favorite reads in 2015.

Mood Boost


Seventy degrees and sunny is an instant mood boost.

Friday night included brick oven pizza, chips + guacamole, and Amana beers outside at the Newbo Market. Elijah loves to people watch, so this location practically allows John and me a date while our patient son just takes everything in around him. He spoils us more than 70 degree February weather!

Saturday and Sunday included more time outside and Elijah’s first trip to the swings at the park.

I absolutely love having the windows open. Everyone I know is sick, and it feels like spring cleaning for the body and soul to have multiple days of nice weather. No matter how long these temps stick around, we’re that much closer to spring!

An Extra Valentine

img_5895Sometimes I’m too busy to check my mailbox at school. I guess I should have made time yesterday because an extra special valentine was waiting.

John and I have made an extra effort to give back to The Ronald McDonald House Charities since Elijah was born. We used this service in Iowa City during Elijah’s surgeries so that we were never more than one mile away from him. We also used RMHC charities through St. Luke’s when Elijah was placed back in the hospital at one-month-old. Both locations offered support in the form of a shower and food when we were away from home.

My eyes were opened more than ever during our stays because of the people we came into contact with who were fighting battles much scarier than our own. Some of the people had been at the RMH for a year or more as they underwent cancer treatments themselves or watched their children fight cancer.

John and I chose to skip Christmas presents to one another this year and donate to the RMHC instead. The organization lists their “needs” online for anyone to purchase specific items or give a monetary donation. They need a lot because they serve a lot of people- more than 1,000 families from around the world each year.

My Valentine’s Day gift goes with this theme and the golden chocolate bar is just a bonus. The donation was given to the St. Luke’s Family Room and will benefit families in need.

As much as I love sharing gifts with my husband, we know that when we needed help, people were there. We want to return that favor in any way we can in the years to come.

We have no intentions to stop donating to RMHC, and we are even signing up for their Red Shoe Run/Walk in May. I considered running the half marathon for this event, but I think pushing Elijah across the finish line in the stroller will mean that much more to me than 13.1 miles alone. If you’re interested in joining us, you can even see John come out of running retirement to support the cause.

Valentine’s Day

img_5893This year, I have two equally cute valentines!

Elijah and I started our day extra early so we could pick up fresh heart shaped donuts for his teachers. Next year Elijah can participate in the treats, but this year I gave him two new books: Llama Llama I love you, and The Crayon Book of Colors.

John and I celebrated Valentine’s Day a day early with a dinner date downtown. Fifteen years later and my forever Valentine. I had to laugh that img_5870John opted for a Starbucks gift card for me instead of roses. A gift that will keep on giving. Thank you for knowing me! As for my gift to a husband who doesn’t care for chocolate? Beef jerky! I ordered him a Pork Barrel BBQ Sampler Pack (a Shark Tank product).

No matter what people think of this “Hallmark Holiday”, I started each class period with the same prayer today. “I want to pray everyone knows they are loved, today and always.”

Lately I’ve Been…

Lately I’ve been…

Reading The Magnolia Story: Chip and Joanna Gaines If you like HGTV, you know Chip and Joanna. I’m only two chapters into their story, and I love it! Thanks to Kaitlyn B. for recommending.

Loving the mild winter weather. It was 54 degrees and sunny yesterday, so Elijah and I bundled up and took a long walk outside. The fresh air was a gift!

Anticipating date night. One of my students is scheduled to babysit on Thursday evening so John and I can step away and try out a new(ish) restaurant downtown.

Watching The Bachelor on Mondays and The Is Us on Tuesdays. Also, if you didn’t get around to watching The People vs. OJ Simpson, it’s now on Netflix. You’re out of excuses. Watch it!

Struggling with running. I would love to say I’m motivated to sign up for a spring half marathon, but I don’t have the competitive drive right now. I’m hoping some warmer weather will arrive and encourage me to register for a road race.

Writing lots of letters of recommendation for students. Although college application letters are done, scholarship letters begin. “Are you busy, Mrs. Wagner?” My answer, “Is this a trick question?”

Planning Elijah’s 1st birthday party! It’s hard to believe he’ll be ONE next month! A birthday brunch is in the works.

Buying A few outfits for Elijah’s one-year photo session (size: 18-month because he is so tall!). We have the photo shoot scheduled over spring break. Talk about perfect timing!

What are you reading, loving, anticipating, watching, struggling, writing, planning, and/or buying?

Elijah: Ten Months

Elijah made some major progress with food this month. Apparently puffs were the enemy. He eats graham crackers and pretty much anything I feed to him off of my plate. We also had success with a sippy cup. It was a month of growth in the kitchen!

The army crawl is gone, and Elijah picked up speed crawling on his knees. He loves taking off with his sit and stand walker, and it’s fun to have him follow us from room to room.

Elijah has no fear in the bathtub, and it’s making me excited to see him in a pool.

The month also included Elijah’s first plane ride and our first family vacation.




img_5758I was anxious that traveling with a baby wouldn’t feel like a vacation for obvious reasons. Combining the fact that Elijah is so easy going and that John and I were able to sneak some time away for ourselves (and for a double date night with Matt and Meredith), it was absolutely a successful first family vacation.

We had not seen my parents since Christmas, and Elijah’s excited squeals to greet them had us all laughing.

Highlights of the trip include being outside without a coat, stroller rides, a morning run in the sunshine, hiking, too many good meals to count, and lots of laughter with family.

I’m so thankful we were able to use the trip to make memories with our son that I will cherish forever.

Arizona, you’re always good to us. We’ll be back!


For my readers back in Iowa, I am here to report the sun still exists. 

Elijah was a rockstar on his first flights. He definitely earned the privledge to fly with us again! 

We are enjoying warmer temps and clear blue skies, in addition to my favorite trees- palm trees!

We’re excited for Matt and Meredith to arrive tomorrow for a weekend of exploring in the desert. 

SEA the Possibilities

I’m headed to Seattle!

One of my professional goals has always been to attend the National Journalism Conference in either the fall or the spring. After some research and the encouragement of my principal, I’ve registered for the April conference. This year’s spring location is Seattle.

After I get a taste of the conference this year (and determine if it’s worth it), the goal will be to take a group of students along next year.

I’m looking forward to connecting with a lot of other journalism advisers, learning more about how other schools balance both a school newspaper and a news website, and what I can I do to better encourage my students to embrace the changing world of journalism.

The conference will pack a lot into four days, but there is some free time to take in the city. I’ve never been to Seattle, so let me know what I should do/see while I’m there.

On The Move

img_5617Elijah learned a new trick over the weekend. I spent my “ice day” off from school on Monday happily rerouting his many crashes. (Our next goal is steering.) It brings me so much joy to see Elijah squeal in happiness behind his sit and stand walker. He practically runs down the long hallways, and the sound of his feet and giggle fill our house with a happiness I didn’t know we were missing.