Lately I’ve Been…

Praying: For people suffering the aftermath of natural disasters. I can’t even imagine.

Feeling: Proud of John who decided he wanted to add yet another degree to his resume. He is currently taking classes for his MBA. This is an online program, so a majority of the work happens after Elijah is in bed at night.

Reading: The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich. I’ve also been reading a lot of articles about President Trump’s administration and how it is similar to President Nixon because I’m teaching about Watergate. “Modern Day Watergate” allows for an easy real-world connection for this journalism unit.

Loving: The time period after Elijah has a bath and before he goes to bed every night. Combine the cuteness of this clean boy in his animal print pajamas and his snuggling with a blanket and books, and my heart overflows.

Listening: To the podcast Up and Vanished. Thanks to my friend Tracie for this investigative true crime recommendation. If you listen, please admit the creepy voiced friend gives you chills.

Drinking: Starbucks Pike Place plus pumpkin. Hello, falling leaves.

Buying: Warmer clothing for Elijah. Although it’s going to 90 degrees today, I know he’ll need pants and long sleeve shirts very soon. I’m also shopping for new running shoes, but I don’t like any of the current Brooks designs. I’m against spending $100+ for ugly shoes.

Enjoying: Time on the trail. Whether I’m running or leisurely walking with Elijah, the falling leaves over the gravel of the trail make me appreciate living in state with four seasons (even if I only like three of them).

Planning: Presentations for a few upcoming conferences. I’m presenting at one conferences in October and one in November. These will take me to Des Moines and Dallas. I’m thrilled for the opportunity, but it definitely comes with a lot of work. More to come on these professional development goals.

What are you praying for, feeling, reading, loving, listening to, drinking, buying, enjoying, and/or planning?

Reluctant Readers

I spent a few days last week taking a class to “Reach the Reluctant Reader”. One of my academic goals each year is to be a better teacher to my freshmen reading students. This class is the best example that one size does not fit all. One year I had five students and the next I had 14. It’s unpredictable. When every student comes in at different reading levels, choosing text to practice the strategies I’m teaching is extremely tough. It’s also hard to plan when I don’t know the reading level of my students until we’re a good week or more into the school year.

One of the things I learned when I was getting my master’s degree is that so many books with low reading levels are also low interest. While a struggling reader may be able to read and comprehend them, the content is for an elementary student. No high schooler should have to carry around a chapter book meant for a third grader just because authors haven’t written books that are age appropriate for that student’s reading level. My job is to find text appropriate for them at every level while teaching them strategies they can take and apply to all areas of literacy. We often read social studies text for this purpose. There is a lot of reading in a social studies class.

The class I took included many hours of book talks from the instructor. She brought along books of every genre and every age group and explained when and why certain books would be best for specific audiences. There were roughly 30 teachers in the class ranging from kindergarden-high school.

One of the books she had on display grabbed my attention. I’ll Always Write You Back is a non-fiction duel memoir of an American student and a student from Zimbabwe who become pen pals. This relationship drastically changes their lives. Although some of the book includes the letters they shared, it’s more about documenting their cultural differences while still trying keep one thing the same- being teenagers.

After skimming the teacher’s copy of this book, I got my hands on a copy from the library the next day. I read it quickly, and I’ve decided to use it in my classroom this fall. The Common Core is pressing for more non-fiction, and this book hits so many targets that help transform a reluctant reader including: low reading level, high interest, one male and one female character, and age appropriate plots.

Another big component of the class was stressing the importance of reading aloud to students of all ages. It convinced me that I’ll read I’ll Always Write You Back aloud to my freshmen this year.

Do you remember teachers reading aloud to you? Do you remember the books they read? I specifically remember my 2nd grade teacher always reading aloud Super Fudge (Judy Blume) books. My 3rd grade teacher read Bunnicula aloud, and my 7th grade teacher read The Outsiders. It was during The Outsiders unit in 7th grade when I decided I wanted to teach high school English. I’m a believer that reading aloud to students of all ages has a huge positive impact.

Elijah: God’s Miracle Man

Remember this post about naming Elijah?

These photos are so special to me. For awhile we had this book propped up on Elijah’s nightstand where it could be displayed but he wouldn’t rip the pages. Since it was set away from his other books, he often asked for it. I always let him look at it, and finally just let him carry it around the house and add it to his other books. After all, it’s meant to be read, studied, shared.

Without prompting from us, Elijah looks through this book. It always catches me off guard because it’s not flashy like his other favorite books about animals or trucks. It also has a lot of words for a kid’s book.

I finally snapped some photos of Elijah reading this special book. It’s so sweet to see tiny hands flip pages of a book.

Someday he’ll understand when I explain how his dad and I prayed while reading this book on Easter Sunday 2016. Many tears have touched the pages of that book.

God takes care of us, Elijah. He took care of you then and he takes care of you now.

“Elijah loved and served God. Everywhere he went, God used him to perform amazing miracles…”


While reading the book Tribes by Seth Godin, I dog-eared a lot of page with statements that spoke to me. Since I’ve since passed the book to John, I wanted to record those important points here. This read fired me up to challenge the status quo. The world doesn’t need more managers, it needs more leaders.

“It turns out that the people who like their jobs the most are also the ones who are doing the best work, making the greatest impact, and changing the most.”

“Skill and attitude are essential. Authority is not, In fact, authority can get in the way.”

“How can I create something that critics will criticize?”

“The difference between backing off and doing nothing may appear subtle, but it’s not. A leader who backs off is making a commitment to the power of the tribe, and is alert to the right moment to step back in. Someone who is doing nothing is merely hiding. Leadership is a choice. It’s a choice to not do nothing.”

“The secret of being wrong isn’t to avoid being wrong! The secret is being willing to be wrong. The secret is realizing that wrong isn’t fatal.”

“If your organization requires success before commitment, it will never have either.”

“Movements need: 1. A narrative that tells a story about who we are and the future we’re trying to build. 2. A connection between and among the leader and the tribe. 3. Something to do- the fewer limits the better.”

“People don’t believe what you tell them. They rarely believe what you show them. They often believe what their friends tell them. They always believe what they tell themselves. What leaders do: they give people stories they can tell themselves. Stories about the future and about change.”

Have you read anything by Seth Godin? He’s a new author for me, but I’m definitely excited to read more of his books.

Summer Reading Suggestions

My bags for vacation aren’t packed, but two books are set aside ready to travel. #priorities My beach reads include A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I’m looking forward to good books, good coffee, and a gorgeous view. John and I are headed to Huntington Beach to celebrate summer and our anniversary.

If you find yourself with the need for a good book this summer, here are a few suggestions:

  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
  • Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman
  • We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • The Magnolia Story by Chip Gaines
  • Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Suggestions from 2016

Suggestions from 2015

Also, I have to tell you about a recent book I read as part of an educator book club. The club moderator, Aaron Maurer, picked the book. He was spot on despite the title. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson is not geared toward educators but rather people who simply want their lives to matter. Once I moved beyond the title and the first chapter, where the f-word was used way too frequently, I found some great advice in this book. Here are a few quotes that stood out to me while reading:



  • “Happiness is not a solvable equation.”
  • “The question is not whether we evaluate ourselves against others; rather the questions is by what standards do we measure ourselves?”
  • “That’s simply reality: if it feels like it’s you versus the world, chances are it’s really just you versus yourself.”

I suggest reading this book but removing the book jacket first…but then again, maybe you don’t give a f*ck if other people judge your book choices.

Happy Reading!

The Magnolia Story

I don’t buy very many books because I have a hard time justifying the cost when the library is full of books I haven’t read. The library didn’t have The Magnolia Story, and I’m glad I splurged.

If you’re not familiar with Chip and Joanna, they star in HGTV’s show Fixer Upper. The show follows these two as they help someone else find a home and remodel it to be their dream house. Their renovations are incredible! They are located in Waco, Texas with their four young children.

Even if home remodeling isn’t your thing, this book has an element for every reader. It is mostly told from Joanna’s perspective, but some chapters are all Chip. These two share their love story among all the challenges it took running a business and flipping homes. The financial struggles these two overcame is almost as inspiring as the advice Joanna offers to couples and mothers. The irony of this TV couple is that they have never owned a TV in their home. They were given marriage advice to live the first six months of marriage without one, and they’ve never turned back. The stories of Joanna talking about raising their children and watching Chip be a dad had me laughing out loud. Joanna even inspired me to clean out one of my kitchen cabinets and devote it to whatever Elijah wants to throw in there, even if that means him crawling in and out of it.

The other element I love about this book is their faith and trust in God. Through the struggles and among the blessings and fame, these two praise God.

The show highlights how much energy these two provide to one another while working side-by-side. The book is honest and inspires even more passion for life from the reader.

If you’re looking for a glimpse into their story, here is a blog post from 2012 on Design Mom that features Joanna and their beautiful home.

My college housemate lives in Waco, Texas, and a visit is overdue. I’m adding a trip to the Silos and Magnolia Market to my travel plans if we can ever coordinate our schedules.

Favorite Children’s Books

Books were a part of Elijah’s life before he was even here to enjoy them.

I shared the exciting news to John that I was pregnant with Elijah by giving him children’s books about kids and their dads. These are now a part of Elijah’s bookshelf collection, and they make me smile knowing the meaning behind the gifts.

In addition, John’s coworkers surprised him with a book shower last winter. They loved explaining which book they picked and why. We love books, and I’m giddy Elijah will actually sit still and look at the pictures. My hope is that by including books in his life every single day, he’ll find joy in reading in the years to come.

At eleven months old, there are two books that keep Elijah’s attention: Goodnight Gorilla and Dear Zoo. Any other book and he’s squirming away, but these two hold his attention. This amazes me!

I try to buy books as gifts for nieces and nephews but always worry about giving duplicates. What are your favorite children’s books or what books are favorites in your house?

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.

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.”

Favorite Reads in 2016

goodreads-2016I met my goal of reading 50 books in 2016. Here are a few of my favorites.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

Kids of Appetite by David Arnold.

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli.

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult.

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom.

Reading goal for next year is TBD.