celebrations, Food, Sweet girls

Halloween food

We moved the summer of 2015 into our new home. We took our outdoor cat, our indoor dog, and our two-and-a-half-year-old daughter to a new house in a new neighborhood with new traditions.

One of these was the annual neighborhood Halloween party and trick-or-treating. I was so excited. For the first time, The Artist was old enough to actually trick-or-treat and understand the concept.

I bought her a “My Little Pony” Pinkie Pie costume. She wore her old Anna from “Frozen” costume instead. All the kids in the neighborhood loaded up for a hayride and community trick-or-treating.

The Artist had a blast. A BLAST. She was the youngest trick-or-treater, but she worked so hard to keep up on her short little legs. The moment she was sitting back with me in the trailer she would immediately dive her hands into her candy bag and start sugaring up.

With the other kids being older, sometimes, if the houses were close together, they would go to two houses at one stop, and the trailer would just move up to the next house. The Artist, however, was the youngest and slowest, so I tried to help her by carrying her. She saw the trailer moving away and thought it was leaving us behind. She ran as fast as those short, toddler legs would go, yelling, “No! Wait! Please!” She was channeling her inner Anna (from the scene where Elsa runs away), and I absolutely died out laughing.

We trick-or-treated for hours that evening, and close to our house, The Artist was feeling the effects of being up late and eating too much candy. Kyle took her to a house very close to ours. She apparently had a wet pull-up that was uncomfortable, so she decided to strip it off, throw it in our neighbor’s yard, and continue on trick-or-treating.

Kyle carried her and the wet pull-up two houses down to our house and to her bed.

The next year, I had a newborn, so she and Kyle went solo trick-or-treating, and last year we just walked up and down the hills on our street in the very appropriate misty fog. The Engineer was old enough to trick-or-treat this time, and she loved it. She couldn’t believe she could just walk up to people, hold out her little pumpkin, and people would give her candy. Frankly, I’m generally surprised with this concept, too.

We all love the Halloween season. Every time The Engineer sees a pumpkin, she yells out, “Pumpkin! Happy Halloween!” It is precious. The Artist has drawn about a hundred Halloween pictures – she very much wants to go trick-or-treating dressed as a witch. And because we love celebrating the end of the week during the fall season, this last Friday we had a Halloween dinner consisting of ghosts bananas, pumpkin oranges, kitty cat cheese, and spider donuts. You know, super healthy stuff.

For the ghosts, I used mini chocolate chips for the eyes and mouth. I peeled cutie oranges and used celery for the stem of the “pumpkins.” And the cheese was the easiest – in fact, for The Artist’s birthday this year, a friend gave us 101 cookie cutters, so we can do pumpkins, cats, bats, and ghosts like this (Because The Engineer has a love for cats and pumpkins, I am sending her to school this week with cheese quesadillas shaped like pumpkins and cats.).

The spiders were easy, too, but instead of trying to push the M&Ms into the chocolate, I would suggest adding a little chocolate icing for the eyes.

And, even though the dinner wasn’t full of all the food groups, it sure was colorful and fun.





Celebrating the matriarch

A couple of weeks ago, we celebrated my grandmother’s 90th birthday.

NINETY. Ninety years old.

Ninety Christmases. Ninety New Year’s Eves. Ninety Thanksgivings. Ninety summers and winters, falls and springs. Ninety birthdays.

She was born in 1928, the same year Mickey Mouse was born, the same year the first trans-Pacific Flight was completed, the same year Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. She lived through the Great Depression, through World War II, through Vietnam, through 14 presidents. She remembers when Kennedy was shot, when man landed on the moon.

She gave birth to seven children, four of whom were alive to attend her celebration earlier this month. She has buried three of them and a husband.

She’s fought and beaten cancer three times. THREE times. There’s a reason my daughter is named after her – she’s a fighter. This world is a hard, ugly place sometimes, and you’ve got to be a fighter. But she is so kind as well, most of the time with a smile. She is so social and loves to see new places and meet new people. I don’t think she’s ever met a stranger.

She’s fashionable. I remember being at her apartment in Little Rock one time and seeing all of her shoes. She had a pair of shoes to go with each outfit, I am sure. Even in her everyday wear, she is fancy.

My daughters love her – and it’s a good thing they’re small, because every time they see her, they are so excited, they barrel into her like wrestlers. The Artist will kindly sit and cuddle with her; even at five years old, she wants to be in someone’s lap. The Engineer comes when there’s food.

Her family gathered together to celebrate her and her amazing life she’s had and what more there is to come. There were her four children, of course, but so many grandchildren and great-grandchildren were there, too. We were all there to celebrate this one woman who has such a legacy emphasizing the importance of family.

My kids and I are so lucky to have her living so close to us. She didn’t grow up close to me, but now she lives next door to my mom. She and my aunt, who always lived either in the same house or in the same town, would come over every Christmas and spend Christmas with us. I remember one Christmas in particular when they couldn’t come because the weather was too bad. It just didn’t seem like Christmas without them there.

Happiest of birthdays to you, Granny! Celebrate your birth month all month! I am so thankful for you and the life that you have lived so far and cannot wait to celebrate more birthdays and Christmases with you! Imagine where we will be in 10 years at your 100th!

Dementia, media literacy, Social media, Writing

Telling your stories

I’ve got to brag on my students a bit.

300x300I am an assistant professor at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston. In my time here, I have taught all sorts of classes in communication and journalism: media law, feature writing, social media, public relations, introduction to mass media, intro to journalism, civic journalism – and that is not a comprehensive list. Every class, even those I’ve taught dozens of times, is always a new challenge because communication – and journalism in particular – is continually changing. It’s fascinating and fast-paced, and no two days are the same. I love my job. I really do. It’s not perfect, but I love teaching and researching my favorite subject: how people communicate.

This fall, one of the classes I’m teaching is copy editing. In a nutshell, the goal for copy editing is to teach students to think like editors for newspapers, magazines, broadcasting, public relations, advertising, online media, etc. They work with words, transitions, quotes, interviewing skills, and learning how to treat the AP Stylebook with the reverence it deserves. We talk about meaning and content in articles, how to work with writers, how to write headlines and cutlines, and how to handle ethical and legal issues. It’s a big, tough class – but it is so much fun.

This quarter, my students have partnered up with residents at Ruston Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. They are to write feature stories about their resident – the story topic really is up to them. Maybe their resident fought in WWII and they can focus on that. Maybe their assigned resident loved volunteering, maybe the resident raised a large family. The story isn’t meant to be biographical; it would be quite a feat to write someone’s biography in a single article. But the goal of this project was to capture a snapshot of that person, something that they found as relevant to other readers.

Everyone has a story. Every day, you have a story. My story today is that I got my teeth cleaned and I had no cavities. It sounds like no big deal, but there is a story behind it. Not that I want to go down a rabbit hole here, but the point I’m trying to make is that everyone has a story to tell – every day. Every day.

My students are to find that story.

I’m so excited about this project. SO excited. And part of it comes from my own story, with my dad dealing with Parkinson’s. I want these students to see these residents and talk to them. My dad loved talking to people, and even when he was unable to talk, he loved people to visit. I hope this project, small as it is, will instill in my students a love to hear people’s stories and to want to visit everyone, even people who grew up in a completely different generation. Sometimes age gaps and illnesses can be intimidating. I don’t want that to be the case.

Many of the students went yesterday to visit their resident for the first time. I can’t wait to hear later today about those experiences. What a fantastic journey they’re about to take, to talk to a stranger and find out about a life.

This is why I love my job.

Parenting, Sweet girls


There are times in our lives when we see someone else doing something and we think, “Why didn’t we think of that??” These are life hacks – like using an empty toilet paper roll as an iPhone speaker or using nail polish to identify different keys (this works unless you use cheap polish, btw). But this short list is specifically for Mom hacks. Some are original (such as the dog one), but some are from other amazing moms who are working to hack this life as best as they can. Cheers to you, Mom hackers – I toast to you!

  1. Spinach popsicles

I have blogged about how I get my kids to eat their veggies, and this is 100 percent still the case. I have found out, though, that fresh spinach works better than canned (which smells like dog puke — just being honest) and my new handy Ninja blender is amazing. I’m sure the Vitamix is swell, too, but it would have broke the bank.

  1. Paying my children

The Artist recently started getting paid for various good deeds, such as staying in her room after bedtime, getting on the good colors at school, and cleaning her room. I also have determined this works well on weekends. I pay her a quarter every Saturday and Sunday to entertain her sister until 8 a.m. Mommy and Daddy get up, drink their coffee, and get dressed before the kids are even out of the bedroom. I also pay her to clean her sister’s room. No shame here.

  1. Laundry baskets in the tub

I think my friend Sommer did this with one of her boys, and when I saw the picture, my mouth dropped. WHAT A BRILLIANT IDEA. When you have a baby who isn’t quite ready to be on his/her own in the tub, put the child in a laundry basket in the tub. The Engineer LOVED this. She thought it was the coolest thing ever, and so did I.

  1. Bathing the dogIMG_2191

Speaking of baths, the other night I put the girls in the tub with Vicki, our Chihuahua, and told them to bathe Vicki. They LOVED it. Vicki did not, but that’s okay. She smelled a lot better with some Johnson & Johnson’s.

  1. Cleaning with thieves

My kids think it’s super fun to clean. They do a really poor job wiping things down, but I don’t care. They’re learning, and at least that one stone square on the floor is quite sparkly. But The Engineer also likes to put everything – let me repeat, everything – in her mouth. I can’t give her a Clorox wipe! But I can give her a towel dipped in Thieves cleaner. So if she puts it in her mouth, it’s not so bad. Not great, but better than if she ate the Clorox. My friend Kelsey is a YL consultant, so if you’re interested, let her hook you up!

So those are five of my @momhacks. Feel free to share yours! We all need a little help surviving and thriving in this parenting life.

Social media

Kind of a big deal: My thoughts on the Kavanaugh hearings

I, like most of the country, spent last week – and really, this week – wrapped up in the Kavanaugh hearings. It was a topic of my communication classes, and I could not stop watching.

My heart hurts for the people who are suffering – those who are on the national scene and those who are watching this and reliving their own painful experiences.

I should have stayed off of social media – really. I absolutely should have never gone to Facebook, never gone to Twitter – but I did anyway. And I saw it – the one post that I can’t get out of my head, can’t stop thinking about. It was from a female and said something on the basis of, “I don’t see what the big deal is. I’ve been sexually assaulted multiple times, and I never made a big deal out of it.”


Did you just feel the breath rush out of your body like you’d been hit? Because I did, even typing it nearly a week later. And that wasn’t the only one I saw similar to that, either. I told my husband it reminded me so much of a scene from “Sharp Objects” (semi-spoiler alert coming) where the Amy Adams’ character sees a man from her past who sexually assaulted her. He is apologetic, and she shrugs him off like it was no big deal.

But it was. It is.

Sexual assault, at any age, at any point in your life, is a really big deal. Whether it went all the way to rape or not and whether it happened when you were in high school, college, or whenever — it is a really big deal.

Let me say it louder for the people in the back: IT IS A REALLY BIG DEAL.

Never let anyone tell you differently.

I am thankful to live in the time of the #metoo movement. I am thankful to live in a time when people are beginning to realize that consent – at any time, date, or place – is mandatory. I am thankful that I am raising my daughters in a time when the boys around them will see what happens when “boys will be boys” and cross a line. I am thankful I have a husband who understands that my body did not become his property when we said “I do,” and that he daily seeks to earn the privilege of intimacy (an approach of daily consent), believing I have the right to say “yes” or “no” joyfully.

I hear the arguments against this all the time, people saying that girls need to dress in a certain way or not go to frat parties or, “Well, I guess boys will have to get a form sign and notarized for just saying hello to a girl.” For the last part – what’s wrong with that? What’s wrong about people thinking just a little before speaking? I know I need to think before I speak on a daily basis. Why shouldn’t we all take a page out of that politeness book?

People are discussing this, and that is a good thing. People are asking questions, and that is a good thing. And while it is sadly such a prevalent problem in society, one thing needs to be stated very clearly:

Sexual assault – yeah. It is a big deal.