Happy 13th Birthday Haley

My oldest daughter. My sweet little Pixie. The one who made me a mama. Oh my. You have turned 13. A teenager.

I'm still not quite sure how you went from this

To this. A beautiful, smart, punny, young woman. Yes, punny. YOU LOVE PUNS!!

As you turn 13 there a few things you ABSOLUTELY love.

The flute. You decided you really wanted to learn to play an instrument and together we decided on the flute. Haley, you are a natural born flute player. I know you work hard, but you are really really good! I am so excited to see where your musical talent takes you. You've asked to go to band camp this summer, and your daddy and I are going to make that happen. We are so proud of you. 

Reading. YOU LOVE TO READ! You've always loved to read, but this year you've really embraced what it means to be a true lover of the written word. And that makes me so proud. You even dressed up as a book nerd for Halloween. You rock, kid.

This year you've also become obsessed (just like your mama) with the Broadway musical, Hamilton. You know all the words to all the songs. Not just on the original cast recording either, but all the words on the mixtape too. Your birthday party invitations even reflected that you are a true #HamilKid

You have made a great group of friends and even little sister Ella is included in that very elite group. That doesn't surprise me too much. You and Ella have always been two peas in a pod. 

Your squad is funny, smart, and loyal.

And you are smart! So smart! You qualified this year for the Duke University Talent Search. You were invited to take the ACT as a 7th grader, and you took it and did very well!! Based on your scores you qualified for the Duke Summer Camp programs. But you decided you'd rather go to band camp. You are already learning how to make the hard decisions, and looking at the bigger picture. You are pretty amazing. 

Happy 13th Birthday, Haley! I'm so excited to see you continue to grow into a dynamic, passionate, determined, young woman.

I love you,




Jonathan Auxier at the ALA Annual Conference 2016 #ALAAC16

I had a fantastic time at the ALA Annual Conference held in Orlando June 22-28.

I attended on Friday June 24th and Saturday June 25th. My agenda was packed full of roundtable discussions, informative presentations, and of course, the exhibit hall.

This year I broke from my tradition of going to conferences alone and brought along my two oldest children. Both avid readers, and lovers of the library, I wanted them to be able to experience some of the joy and wonder that I experienced when I was their age and my parents would take my sister and me to the International Pizza Expo. I loved wandering through the large exhibit hall as a young girl, sampling all sorts of wonderful pizza. I imagined the same experience for my daughter’s but with books and tech instead of pizza. I was right. They were both in utter and total awe.

My girls loved ALA. The highlight for both of them was the chance to meet one of their favorite authors, Jonathan Auxier. Jonathan is the author of the 2015-2016 SSYRA book The Night Gardner, but my daughters love him for his debut novel, Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes. Haley admittedly is his biggest fan, and when I noticed she wrote him a note on an exhibit hall table I quickly snapped a photo, tweeted it to him, and received a reply with an invitation to stop by for his meet and greet. #Number1Fan


We may have been the first in line J

Not only did Haley and Ella each receive a brand new hardback copy of his newest release (the sequel to Peter Nimble) Sophie Quire and the Last StoryGuard (and not an ARC, either!) but Jonathan drew a personalized photo for each of them in the front of the book and posed for a photo with them individually, too.

Jonathan told us two things:

1)   He only poses for photos with people who will act like monsters.

2)   His personalized drawings will be gory.

He asked Haley what her favorite animal is, real or mythological. She told him a unicorn. He drew a photo inside her book of her being impaled on a unicorn’s horn. He drew blood drops and everything.


He asked Ella what her favorite animal was in the Peter Nimble book and she told him the sea serpent. He drew Ella hanging out of the mouth of the sea serpent. 


Jonathan spent close to 10 minutes with us and it was an experience that I am sure Haley and Ella will never forget, and I will always remember hearing the girls say “this was the best day EVER.”



Haley won an art contest

For lack of a better title, I decided to just cut right to the chase.

My 10yo daughter won a pretty big art contest in her little world.

About a month ago she came home with a note from her school that they were holding the Lake Myrtle Elementary School yearbook cover contest.

The kids were encouraged to draw a photo with the theme "Life Around the Lake." Haley's school mascot is a turtle. The winner of the contest would have their artwork printed on the COVER of EVERY 2014-2015 LMES yearbook.

Haley LOVES to draw and doodle, and really wanted to enter this contest.

A few weeks went by and I noticed Haley wasn't working on anything. On a Wednesday night in early November I suddenly said to her, "Haley what about that yearbook drawing? I think you might have missed the deadline." Surprised

She looked at me in a panic and said, "oh no, mama I hope not!!"

She found the paper and the artwork was due on FRIDAY! That left her with about 36 hours to come up with an idea, design it, and color it all in.

We brainstormed, looked at past years winners, and came up with an idea.

This is what she came up with:

There was certain criteria that had to be met. The design needed to vertical, it needed to take up most of the page, follow the theme "Life Around the Lake," have the words Lake Myrtle Elementary School on it, as well as her name, and that was IT!

She took the school mascot "TURTLE" made it into an acronym and then drew the cutest little turtle with a speech bubble saying the words "Lake Myrtle Elementary School 2014-2015" and then added all the other animals that make up the school. Each grade level is given an animal that represents them: owl, alligator, butterfly, frog, dragonfly, fox.

She drew this all freehand on a special paper that the art teacher provided. A very thick, very smooth paper.

She turned it in on Friday and we waited for the news.

I asked her nearly every single day if she had heard anything. The answer was always NO.

But yesterday, yesterday was different.

I have lunch with the #TampaTrio every Friday, so this week I showed up just as Haley was walking to recess. She saw me, and this HUGE smile just spread over her face and she started saying "mama mama mama, I WON." I knew immediately what she was talking about and she ran over to hug me. We walked over to where her classmates were waiting and her teacher looked at me and smiled and said "Haley won, and we are all so proud of her. Her design is just perfect, and we all love it."

We walked into the cafeteria and people started clapping and saying "that's Haley Hodges, that's the girl that won the yearbook contest."

And one of the school secretaries came up to me and said "I have a photo I want to text you. I was there when it was announced that Haley won and I got a photo of her the second it was announced."

She's crying tears of joy.

She had been chosen to read the school announcements this quarter so she was already in the office when the principal, Mr. Petry came in to read the list of runner ups and the winner. The 9 runner-ups get their artwork featured in a thumbnail on the back cover while the winners work graces the entire front page.

Haley listened as the runner-ups were announced. She didn't hear her name and she thought for sure that meant that she was out of the running. She honestly didn't think that she would win.

And then Mr. Petry said "and the winner of the 2014-2015 LMES Yearbook Cover Contest is Haley Hodges." As soon as Haley heard the word Haley, she SCREAMED! The mic was on so everyone in the school heard her excitement Smile and then the tears started flowing.

I am SO proud of her.

Here she is with her assistant principal, Ms. Sarah Border.









That's my Haley.