Santa 2017








Donuts or ice cream may have been a different story, but Santa couldn’t bribe Elijah with candy canes.

Even though Elijah didn’t want to get too close to the man in the red suit, he does love to point to our neighbor’s light-up Santa and say “Ho! Ho! Ho!” Our bedtime routine includes waving to Santa out the window before going to sleep. “Bye!”

Christmas lights are extra special this year because “Pretty” is the word we hear over and over again while in the car. Elijah is juuuuust tall enough to see out the window and spot colorful lights.

In the rush of preparing for finals, grading finals, and everything else that is included on a holiday prep to-do list, Elijah is helping me slow down and experience the magic of Christmas. He is also obsessed with snowmen, so maybe that will help my dread for the coldest months of winter yet to come.


Last week included sitting around the table surrounded by good food and even better people multiple times.

On Wednesday we toasted to my friend and co-worker Erica who is moving at the end of the semester. Erica and I started teaching at Xavier the same year. As an alumna, she helped me find my way. I’ll miss her inside scoop on absolutely everything, but I’m happy to see her support her husband as they move their family to Tennessee. We can’t wait to visit you in Music City, friend!

Friday night took John and me to Waterloo for a triple sibling date. We tried out Single Speed Brewery, and I will be back. The atmosphere is awesome, the food was delicious, and the beer was fantastic. This place is HUGE! It was a great opportunity to hang out with some of my favorite people before the busy holiday schedule kicks into gear next week.

As hectic as life feels in December, I’m thankful for these people who remind me to slow down and enjoy the moments around the table.

Happy Birthday, John!

A Chinese buffet was John’s only birthday request. He makes birthdays easy.

As for his gift, Elijah and I filled the freezer with containers of Halo Top ice cream, John’s favorite treat and the perfect size for Elijah to carry. Each pint of Halo Top has anywhere from 240-360 calories total. In addition, each pint has 20-24 grams of protein. It’s as close to healthy as ice cream gets, and there are many different flavors. They also make a few flavors with coconut milk so they are non-dairy. This should last him…the week.

Making Spirits Bright

John and I will not be opening any gifts from one another on December 25th. We celebrated our gift on Saturday.

We started filling our cart at Walmart with items from the Ronald McDonald House Wishlist Wednesdays. Each Wednesday RMHC publishes a wishlist on Twitter. Deodorant, cleaning supplies, non-perishable foods, paper plates, laundry baskets, crockpot liners, pillows…etc. These are common asks each week.

Once we filled two laundry baskets, we loaded up for Iowa City.

Before stopping at the RMHC, we enjoyed lunch at Panera. This was where we often ate when we needed a break from hospital food. Since we understand a little more about what the families need who are staying at the house, we added Panera gift cards to our donation.

Finally, we delivered the gifts. Stepping foot into the RMHC is emotional, but having Elijah with us makes those emotions all prayers of gratitude.

After donating to the RMHC for Christmas last year, John and I decided this would become our Christmas tradition but we wanted to involve Elijah. Sending a check didn’t include Elijah. We hope year-after-year we can make this December stop one that allows Elijah to understand more and more each year about the importance of giving back.

Thanks for your prayers for the families spending their holiday season at the RMHC. While we know they would do anything to be in their own homes with all of their family members under one roof, we hope our prayers and simple gifts can help lift their spirits enough until God willing, that be the case.

Baking Buddy and Muffins

I declared to a student that muffins are one of my favorite foods. Blueberry, chocolate chip, pumpkin, cranberry orange…etc. I just love a good muffin and can tell you the shops around town with indulgence-worthy pastries. My favorites include the cinnamon coffee cake muffin at Coffeesmiths (now Scooters) and Panera’s pumpkin muffin.

We make muffins at our house at least once a week. Elijah’s favorite- chocolate chip.

He is working on his stirring skills but has already mastered “cleaning the spoon” when we’re done.

Do you have a muffin recipe we need to try? Please share.

Holiday Preparations

Aside from throwing two bulb ornaments because he thought they were balls, Elijah did his best to help with the holiday prep.

Once the tree was finished and I plugged in the lights, he just pointed and said, “Wow”!

Another part of holiday prep that I enjoyed was gathering all of his Christmas books that were on the back of his shelf from last year. Our favorite is Little Blue Truck Christmas because the book actually lights up with Christmas lights at the end. “Wow!”

Even though I jumped from Halloween to Christmas in this blog, being thankful doesn’t begin to describe how I feel every day. Beyond blessed just starts to grasp a fray of my gratitude. Every day should be “Thanksgiving”, and I do my best to live that message out by giving prayers of thanks before I ever ask God for anything I might “need”.

In addition to being grateful for my family and friends, I was most thankful for the weather this Thanksgiving. My running buddy and I got out multiple times to log some miles in the sunshine.

Educational Christmas Gift Idea Ages 0-16

I  learned about Kiwi Co today, and I ordered a kit for Elijah since the company is offering a half off promotion for Black Friday. ($7.95) It’s a subscription-based company, but you can cancel at any time.
The company offers STEAM style “crates” for all ages 0-16.
(STEAM= Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math)
Ages 0-2 Months- Cricket Crates: Explore and Learn
Ages 3-4 Koala- Play and Learn
Ages 5-8 Kiwi- Science, Art, and More
Ages 9-16 Doodle or Tinker- Art and Design or Science and Engineering
I’ll be sure to blog about it when we receive our first kit, but I wanted to pass the Black Friday special along if anyone is having a hard time thinking of fun, educational gifts for Christmas.

Magnolia Market

No, I didn’t find Chip or Joanna.

I did find Lindsay and Andy. 🙂

If you’re not familiar with the content in this post, I suggest you watch Fixer Upper on HGTV. Chip and Joanna take rundown houses in Waco, Texas and remodel them into absolutely stunning yet functional homes for families.

In one of their episodes, they build Magnolia Market at the Silos. This touristy spot includes the Market, food trucks, a garden center, and a bakery. It’s designed to be a place to shop but also bring families and friends together. The yard includes tables, lounge chairs, yard games, and room to spread out and relax.

If you can’t make it to Magnolia Market, read their book. I blogged about, The Magnolia Story, earlier this year, and I stand by my recommendation.

Thanks to my Loras housemate, Lindsay, and her husband, Andy, for welcoming us to Woodway and Waco. Lindsay is a professor at Baylor, and we had the opportunity to take in the campus following our Magnolia visit. Who knew there were real bears on campus?

Catching up with these two was even more magical than Magnolia.

Sports Writing: Players and Coaches, Not Scores and Stats

I crossed a professional goal off of my bucket list this weekend. Presenting at a national journalism conference tested me, and I worked really hard to perfect my session. We’re talking hours and hours of work on nights and weekends on one 50-minute presentation.

It paid off.

I had roughly 100 students and a few advisers attend my presentation. They tweeted to me, answered my questions, asked questions, and even wanted selfies with me when the presentation was over. I’m going to say I succeeded in my job of engaging them in the material and giving them a handful of advice to take home and apply to their own publications.

I made it very clear to the group that I am not an expert, but I do have a lot of advice from experts. The advice I have taken from experts has made a difference in my school publications and my teaching ability. That’s the information I shared.

“Just write good stories.” and “People remember stories about PEOPLE.” I then explained to them how to do this and where to find these stories within their own schools.

I was worried about filling all 50 minutes since I tend to talk fast, but I wasn’t nervous at all. The time went by quickly, and I even cut one of the examples out to make sure we finished within the time provided.

#nhsjc in Dallas was a success on many levels, and I’m thankful for the opportunity.


Everything is bigger in Texas, right?

Nearly 5,000 student journalists from 44 states are present for this year’s fall National High School Journalism Conference.

Thursday’s travel was quick and painless. John and I arrived in Texas in time for a late breakfast. Since the opening ceremonies didn’t start until 7:30 p.m., we spent the day exploring. Feeling the sun and warmth on my face left me feeling calm despite my nerves for the rest of the weekend.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I registered to take the CJE (Certified Journalism Exam), which is simply a recognized accreditation among journalism educators. It doesn’t earn me any licensure credit. It’s simply a way to test myself as an educator to make sure I am knowledgeable in my content area and teaching what I should to my students. The areas on the test included: Scholastic Media Law, The First Amendment, Censorship, Functions and Limitations, Writing Styles and Angles, Multimedia Design, Photography and Photojournalism, Hard News and Soft News, Staff Management, Web Managment, and Basic Elements of Design, just to name a few.

Thirty educators took the exam in one packed room, and we had three hours to complete the test. I finished in 2.5 hours, and my brain was going to explode. I will receive my score in 4-6 weeks.

The rest of my Friday night was spent judging yearbook captions and copy with other advisers. We had over 50 submissions to judge and rate in categories of Superior, Excellent, Honorable Mention, and No Award. Students will be honored on Sunday if they received an award. Although I was a judge, I learned a lot about improvements I need to bring back to my own classroom.

This weekend is flying by and I’m looking forward to some downtime soon. For now, I’m off to present!