A Nice 2021

As I sit here and reflect on 2021, I am thankful that it was a year to adjust. After an insane 2020 that included the birth of Beau, a move across the country, and the beginning of a new job all while a global pandemic shook our world, things slowed down a little bit in 2021. It was our first full year in Spokane and with the easing of COVID restrictions, we took the last 12 months to become familiar with our new home.

Fr. Jeff Lewis blessed our home in 2021 as we took the year to take it easy after an insane 2020.

We have no complaints. This year wasn’t about us. Instead, we had the opportunity to celebrate others. Like Sid’s sister who gave birth to a handsome little boy, Jack. Or my brother and sister-in-law who wed on July 4. Or my parents who marked their 40th anniversary in August.

I was the best man at Glen and Carrie’s wedding.

With our loved ones thriving in the spotlight, we stayed backstage and really started making Washington our home. We solidified relationships, found a couple trusty coffee shops, played at a few favorite parks, became regulars at our local library, purchased season passes at Chuck E. Cheese, joined local swimming lessons, exercised hard with our gym community, stumbled upon a couple neighborhood watering holes, and so much more.

We spent a lot of time at Spokane parks in 2021.

Like I said, we spent most of the year on Spokane soil. That’s not to say we were stationary. We spent a May weekend in Walla Walla and had a blast. We visited Sid’s family in Myrtle Beach in June and are lucky to finish 2021 right here in South Carolina as well. We went camping in the middle of nowhere with my sister’s family. We ventured to Missoula. Sid and I took our first real vacation together in five years when we flew to Las Vegas for several days in July. We found our way back to Walla Walla in August where my parents rented a VRBO for a relative’s wedding weekend. I made numerous drives back and forth to Pullman for work but also spent a Saturday there with my dad and brother for a Cougar football game.

In August, we spent a family weekend in Walla Walla as my cousin got married.

As you can tell, a lot of our travels centered around family. But most of our everyday living did as well. We had numerous Sunday dinners with my parents, siblings, and their families. Although the setting changed from my dad’s backyard deck to the dining room of our childhood home depending on the season, the good times never ceased. Nor did they stop when we celebrated holidays, marked birthdays, or attended sporting events/shows. Although we didn’t have the quantity of time with Sidney’s family that we had with mine, we definitely matched it with quality. Just a couple weeks ago, we had a Myrtle Beach “staycation.” Sid’s parents rented a condo on the beach for us and the families of her two sisters. It was a really nice five days that preceded the Christmas holiday we also got to spend with them.

We got to celebrate lots of birthdays this year!

The other “F” value that flourished this year was our family’s faith. Our first full year as parishioners at St. Mary Catholic Church was blessed. We got to know our parish priest better and made friends with other church families. The relationships we started developing with our young adult Catholic group at the end of 2020 flourished in 2021. Beyond our regular meetings, we now all hang out together regularly at our homes. Sloan’s love for Jesus continued to grow as a student at St. Mary Catholic School. I committed to Fr. Mike Schmitz’s Bible in a Year Podcast and went through the entire book from Genesis through Revelation.

Photo we took of Sloan prior to her first day of school as a Pre-K 4 student at St. Mary Catholic School in Spokane Valley.

Professionally, 2021 was a solid year. The social media team became its own unit within University Marketing and Communications at Washington State University and I joined the department’s leadership team. My responsibilities increased and I had the privilege of taking on tasks for the first time in my career. I work for a terrific boss and collaborate with a talented and supportive team.

In March 2021, I celebrated my 1-year anniversary at WSU. So thankful to work for the Cougs!

Thanks be to God, it was a fortunate year for us. Despite a couple trips to the emergency room for our accident-prone Beau, everyone stayed healthy. We didn’t experience loss in our extended families. With a pandemic still very much impacting the world, the virus and its variants stayed away from us. Could we ask for much more?

This year was a blessing for our family.

As we close the book on 2021, I am thankful for what this year provided our family and our loved ones. I would be more than happy with another stable year in 2022 but I do know that even-numbered years usually bring our family more change and unpredictability than odd-numbered ones. We shall see. At the very least, let’s hope 2022 finally brings us some light at the end of the tunnel to the coronavirus. Amen to that, right? Don’t Blink.

My Top 10 Blog Posts of 2021

The time has arrived for The Big Blog Post. At the end of each year, I always look back at the posts from the past 12 months and recognize some of my favorite writings. Most years it is quite tough to simply identify the 10 blog posts I wish to immortalize for this annual tradition—and that doesn’t even entail ranking them.

An element that makes the task hard is the volume of which to choose from. I don’t know how I did it, but I wrote more in 2021 than I did the previous two years. The 173 posts I wrote this year barely edged out the 172 posts I wrote in 2020 and the 165 I penned in 2019. Of course, nothing will ever compare to the ultra-productive (and pre-wife/pre-kids) year in 2014 when I wrote 253 posts.

As I preface every year before jumping in, this countdown is based almost entirely on my personal preferences. Very little consideration is given to “how well” the posts did in terms of total views. With that said, let’s get the 8th edition of The Big Blog Post underway….

10. Dollar Tree Scavenger Hunt (January 25) – My sister and I put our heads together and designed a Dollar Tree scavenger hunt for our kids to participate in. Writing the blog post about the adventure was almost as fun as watching Sloan, Mikayla, and John complete it. The three children had to find five items that fit certain categories such as “a red drink” or “a green food.” The blog post captured some good, clean Dollar Store fun and recapped Sloan’s discoveries (this TikTok did too).

Sloan scored big with her Trolls bath bomb, an item that satisfied one of the scavenger hunt categories.

9. Rolling Out the Modernized WSU Brand (September 21) – A post that focused on my professional career made the countdown this year and for that I am really happy! In 2021, our Office of Marketing and Communications rolled out a modernized brand at Washington State University. What made this effort so unique was that it was mostly an in-house undertaking. In this blog post I was able to discuss my role on the project while shedding light on some of my co-workers who were the real heavy lifters. I was proud to be part of our brand team and enjoyed spending time this fall giving presentations to the WSU community about how the modernized brand should be reflected on social media.

It was an honor to work on the modernized brand. This is a screenshot of our brand new Washington State University secondary logo.

8. Don’t Blink’s 10th Anniversary (May 17) – This year marked the 10th anniversary of Don’t Blink and I took time during the month of May to celebrate. This blog post kicked off the festivities as I briefly addressed the past, present, and future of Don’t Blink. Although short, the significance of this post couldn’t be overlooked when building this list.

My blog turned 10 on May 14, 2021.

7. A Montana Homecoming (October 11) – October was a month of football homecomings for me. After seven years away from Washington-Grizzly Stadium, I finally got to watch the University of Montana football team play in its friendly confines once again. The football game was a blast but the entire weekend was one that Sid and I will always remember. A week later, I traveled to Pullman with my dad and brother to watch my first Cougar football game in Martin Stadium since 2004. In both posts I wrote about nostalgia I felt but I also detailed the new memories that were made.

It was a sweet homecoming as Sidney and I visited Missoula to watch University of Montana football and to enjoy other experiences too.

6. Marriage Advice After 40 Years (August 17) – In terms of word count, this post is the shortest, but it might contain the most significant advice of the year. My parents marked their 40th anniversary in 2021 and us three kids and our families had the pleasure of celebrating it with them. As the festivities came to a close, we asked my mom on our family text thread for the secret to their success. She selflessly shared it and I re-purposed it for this blog post so that I might share it with my readers.

My mom gave some great advice based on her 40 years of marriage with my dad.

5. The Youngest He Will Ever Be (September 8) – This year I have back-to-back short but sweet posts on the countdown. Just like with my mom’s marriage advice, I got to the point with this one about my son. I articulated a thought that came to my head during a recent morning that Beau would never be younger than he was at that moment. I ran with it and realized that no matter how challenging he might be on a given day, we need to treat the present as special because he will only grow older from that point on. The post seemed to resonate with other parents and my wife even shared it on her social media (something that is only reserved for the posts she feels passionate about).

During 2021, I started to put in perspective that Beau would never be younger than each passing day.

4. Hey Southern Belle, What Have You Learned After a Year? (May 12) – Around the one-year anniversary of Sidney moving to Washington, I wrote this blog post chronicling some of the major themes my wife learned from her coast to coast move from the South to the West. From food to drink to accents to climate to politics; it is all included! It was lighthearted and fun, but definitely a testament to the fact that Sid is a rock star and made a major transition look easy.

Sidney made the adjustment from the South to the West with ease.

3. What Made #GlenGotCarriedAway Special (July 6) – A big highlight of the year was watching my brother get married and serving as his best man. So much planning and anticipation led up to the July 4 wedding. The excitement truly reached its peak the week of the wedding when family and friends of both the bride and groom converged in Spokane. Those several days were filled with wedding activities, preparation, and camaraderie. This post examined the collaborative attitude embraced by people from different geographic regions, faiths, and life experiences to give Glen and Carrie a week they would never forget. This post allowed those who played a part in #GlenGotCarriedAway to truly reflect on how special it was.

Glen and Carrie got married on July 4, 2021. This is a photo during the reception with Beau.

2. My Top 10 Blog Posts of All-Time (May 31) – If I annually call this entry The Big Blog Post, the top 10 list I wrote at the end of May should be called The Biggest Blog Post. As part of my Don’t Blink 10th Anniversary Celebration, I counted down my top 10 posts of all-time in the decade-long history of my blog. That required me to look back on approximately 2,000 blog posts and choose the top .2%. It was a lengthy and involved process but I think the countdown succeeded at representing my best work. It also showcased the evolution of my writing as the posts that appeared on the countdown ranged from the blog’s first year in 2011 all the way through 2021. In what was probably the easiest decision in terms of compiling the list, my Beau Meets World blog post from 2020 was tabbed #1 in the history of Don’t Blink.

This year, Don’t Blink celebrated its 10th anniversary and I wrote a blog post ranking my top posts of all-time

1. Gary Baskett: One-Of-A-Kind (September 25) – This was a pleasure to write. At the same time, I also felt the weight on my shoulders. Mr. Baskett was a legend and who was I to write a piece about such a special man? After all, he had molded thousands of athletes who were much more successful on the field than I ever was. After going back and forth, I went for it. Coach B was about instilling confidence in others and how would I be honoring his memory if I didn’t have the confidence to write a piece that might bring some comfort and joy to those reading it?

The post would be shared widely and I had the pleasure of hearing from former Panthers who I both knew and didn’t know. However, it became evident that what I wrote about Coach B just barely touched the surface of the amazing person he was. I attended a “Victory Lap” memorial for Mr. Baskett held at the Mead High School track several hours after his funeral. It was there that former students from every decade throughout his career spoke about the impact Mr. Baskett had on them. These testimonies were incredibly passionate and I was so touched by the multiple people who mentioned that they came from broken families and that Mr. Baskett served as a father figure to them. Coach B deserved all the tributes that came his way, including this blog post that I am recognizing as my #1 entry of 2021.

My blog post I wrote about the impact of Gary Baskett is at the top of my list for 2021.

A big THANK YOU to all my readers for your loyalty and support during this milestone year for Don’t Blink. If the posts listed above failed to pique your interest, I hope a couple of the 170 other posts I wrote in 2021 did. Be on the lookout for tomorrow’s yearly reflection. Don’t Blink.

My Top 10 Blog Posts of 2020
My Top 10 Blog Posts of 2019
My Top 10 Blog Posts of 2018
My Top 10 Blog Posts of 2017
My Top 10 Blog Posts of 2016
My Top 10 Blog Posts of 2015
My Top 10 Blog Posts of 2014

Off to the Airport Thursday Rundown

Well, if you read last night’s post you know that I really don’t have a bunch of time to write. So, in the interest of getting to the airport in time, let’s begin today’s Thursday Rundown…

Advent Wreath – It has been nice taking the time to truly journey through Advent this year. Sloan made an Advent wreath after mass a couple weeks ago and Sidney trimmed around the edges to give it that certain aesthetic touch. Each Sunday we have lit the appropriate candles while praying as “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” plays in the background. Sure, Sloan and Beau might be just as excited about blowing out the candles as they are about meditating during the lighting of them but hopefully this is a step in the right direction of teaching them how to prepare for Christmas.

Sloan admiring the Advent wreath after we lit the three candles this past Sunday.

Christmas Card Display – When it comes to displaying the Christmas cards we receive, Sidney and I use an idea we stole from her sister. We hang twine and then attach the cards to it with clothes pins. I think it looks really nice! We have an entire Christmas card routine. Sloan and Beau walk with me to the mailbox during my lunch hour and fetch the incoming cards (and bills). We wait until we get home before dividing up the cards between the two kids. They then open them up, Sid or I read them, and then we clip them to the twine. It is one of our highlights of the day.

This is the Christmas card display at our house.

Santa Letter – Speaking of Christmas mail, Sloan received a letter from the North Pole this past weekend for the second year in a row. When she ripped it open, she had official correspondence from Santa Claus himself. Santa confirmed that Sloan was on the “nice” list this year and that brought a lot of relief from our daughter as she was initially hesitant to open the letter for fear of bad news. This year we used the City of Spokane Valley to help us “connect” with the North Pole. For just a $2.50 contracting fee, they helped make sure that Sloan’s letter reached Kris Kringle’s desk.

Sloan received this letter from Santa.

Popcorn and a Haircut – I have chronicled the evolution of my hair care journey from years of Great Clips cuts to venturing out of my comfort zone to a salon to finally settling on a barbershop. Since moving to Spokane, I have frequented The Man Shop for my haircut needs. In addition to televisions at each station and lots of other “guy” stuff throughout the shop, there is also a popcorn machine. The popcorn that is popped is complimentary and surprisingly very good. When I went to get my holiday cut earlier this week I definitely helped myself to a bag while I waited to be called back. It’s the little things.

Popcorn while I wait to get my hair cut? Yes please!

Sallie Scavenger Hunt – On Tuesday morning, Sloan went on an elaborate scavenger hunt staged by her Elf on the Shelf, Sallie. The hunt took an excited Sloan through the entire house. In the end, Sloan located Sallie in the refrigerator. The elf pointed Sloan to the pantry where a special Elf on the Shelf brownie mix awaited her. The brownies would be baked later during the day and decorated that night during a special Christmas party that Sid threw for Sloan, Beau, and their cousins. To watch the epic scavenger hunt in all its glory, check out this TikTok I made.

Sloan holding the envelope from Sallie that started the whole scavenger hunt.


Okay, time to get our luggage in the car…we have a plane to catch! Please pray for our safe travels. Myrtle Beach, here we come!

Myrtle Beach Eve

Let me tell you, the excitement is sure brewing in the Reser house! Not only did the four of us just have our Christmas gift exchange but it is Myrtle Beach Eve. Just one sleep separates us from boarding a plane to South Carolina.

Beau and Sloan opened up gifts from Sid and I just moments ago.

As you can imagine, we are elated to head to the east coast to spend the holiday season with Sid’s family. It has been more than six months since we last saw everyone and Sloan can’t wait to give her “Gami” and “Dada” a hug. Little does she know all that is planned so that she can spend a lot of time with her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Of course air travel is a slight concern. Beau is at an age where he can’t stay still for more than a minute. The flight from Spokane to Atlanta will be a big challenge but it will all be worth it when we land in Myrtle Beach around 10 p.m. on Thursday. We have become pros at flying cross country with kids and we will just have to give it our best effort come tomorrow.

This trip will mark the second time we get to see the newest addition to the Mathis family, Baby Jack. Sid’s sister, Court, had her first baby in May and we will soon know how much he has grown since we saw him as a newborn in June. Speaking of getting big, Jack isn’t the only one growing. It will become apparent that Beau has not slowed down one bit since the early summer.

As a child, my family would always travel during the holidays and I can still feel in my heart that youthful exhilaration when we would make the trek to my grandparents’ house. Although Beau might be a little young to feel it, I know the feeling isn’t lost on Sloan. This is a special time and we plan to make the most of it.

Making the most out it for me means that I will be taking a holiday break from this blog. I will publish a Thursday Rundown tomorrow and I will offer my top 10 blogs posts of 2021 and my year in review post at the end of the month. But between tomorrow and my annual posts on Dec. 30 and Dec. 31, I don’t plan to write much (if at all).

Please pray for safe travels for our family. I will touch base with you tomorrow before we head to the airport. Don’t Blink.

Christmas Tree Elegance

Downtown Spokane is a special place to be during Christmas time. The trees on all the streets are strung in lights, Riverfront Park boasts a “trail of lights” through its premises, and a festive “ice ribbon” is open for those who want to do some open air skating.

Sidney and I eating at the Twigs in River Park Square.

On Friday night, Sidney and I ventured downtown to soak up some of this holiday spirit. We ate dinner at Twigs in River Park Square. The restaurant is located on an upper level that allowed us to admire the 60-foot Christmas tree that towers inside River Park Square. What a setting it was!

Our table overlooked the famous River Park Square Christmas tree.

But for all the glory of River Park Square, Riverfront Park, and the Spokane streets themselves, there is not a more prominent Christmas experience in the city than at the Davenport Hotel. If you remember, Sid and I stayed at the historic hotel in October of 2020. Although beautiful in its own right during the autumn, we didn’t experience the Davenport during December. We made sure to change that.

After dinner, we strolled over to the Davenport Hotel to experience its Christmas Tree Elegance event. Before entering the lobby, we paused to admire the display at the entrance.

I snapped this photo of the entrance of the Davenport Hotel.

Christmas Tree Elegance is hosted by the Spokane Symphony Associates. It takes place in the lobby and the second floor Mezzanine of the Davenport.

A couple moments after we entered the lobby of the Davenport Hotel for Christmas Tree Elegance.

The event is built around beautifully decorated trees meant to “wow.” Each decoration is placed with care and, trust me, there is no shortage of elegance.

Many of the Christmas trees are gorgeous.

Who owns these 15 trees? That’s a good question. Spokane businesses donate the trees and decorate them. In addition to all the decorations, they have additional display space around the tree that they can load up with products and prizes.

I wish I had enough space in this post to show you all the trees.

But why the products and prizes? Christmas Tree Elegance is actually a fundraiser. The general public can purchase raffle tickets for $1 and deposit those tickets into the basket of whatever tree (and all the prizes associated with it) they would like to win.

If you look at the left of this photo, you can see the bin with raffle tickets.

Regardless of whether you want to purchase raffle tickets or not, the opportunity to stroll through the Davenport to look at the trees is available to everyone. Take it from me, it is an opportunity you don’t want to pass up. There is just something special about walking inside an historic hotel during the holiday season. You can feel the Christmas spirit (click here for a TikTok I did of many more trees).

Sid and I felt some type of way after walking through the Davenport.

Unfortunately, Christmas Tree Elegance concluded its annual run last night. Although that means you can no longer purchase raffle tickets they might still keep the trees up through Christmas (sorry, I don’t know for sure). At the very least, you can still walk through the Davenport and view the lobby Christmas tree. Something to think about as we reach mid-December. Don’t Blink.

My Opinion on the Die Hard Christmas Movie Debate

Before Mike & Mike ended in 2017, I listened to (and watched in-person) the popular ESPN Radio program for many years. Although the duo did talk a lot of sports, they also had recurring pop cultural debates. Like clockwork, once December rolled around, the Mikes would always go back and forth about a certain hot button issue.

Is “Die Hard” a Christmas movie?

Every damn year I listened as Greeny and Golic hashed out the same old arguments about Die Hard’s Yuletide merits. The redundancy was borderline embarrassing but I kind of admired the passion with which they debated. However, the back and forth never stimulated me intellectually because of one main reason: I had never watched Die Hard before.

After about a decade of being aware of the Die Hard controversy, I finally watched the film this week. Over the course of a couple nights, I watched it on Peacock. I have a brief, but strong, opinion.

“Die Hard” was playing in our living room over the course of the past couple nights.

I don’t believe Die Hard is a Christmas movie. In order to be a Christmas movie, the film must be about Christmas. Die Hard happens to take place on Christmas (Eve) but it is definitely not about Christmas. Jack in the Box serves tacos but that doesn’t make it a Mexican restaurant, right? Okay, that might be a bad example.

But bottom line, Die Hard contains no Christmas themes. The holiday is mentioned, you see a couple decorations, and a carol is played at the end…that’s it. There is no Christmas vibe whatsoever.

Let me put it this way. If a person was brought into your midst who had never heard of Christmas before and you had to explain the American commercialization version of the holiday by showing them a movie, would you ever in a million years choose Die Hard? Not in a million years.

As for the movie itself, I got more invested as it went on. My first reaction was that it was corny and really outdated. But it started to pick up once Sgt. Al Powell/Carl Winslow/Reginald VelJohnson was introduced and the tactical game of chess started to transpire between the bad guys, law enforcement, and Bruce Willis’ character. The climax with the attempted helicopter assault, the detonation of the roof, and the death of Alan Rickman’s villain character was really entertaining and the effects pretty good for the late 1980s.

However, no matter how good the action scenes were I wasn’t feeling holly and jolly at the end of Die Hard. Come on everyone, it simply isn’t a Christmas movie. Don’t Blink.

Snowy Thursday Rundown

Are you starting to feel that holiday spirit yet? It is the best time of the year and I am thrilled that you are taking a moment for my latest Thursday Rundown. Here are tonight’s five topics…

First Snow – It took until December for it to happen, but Spokane finally got its first real accumulation of snow this week. Our kids are still completely enamored with snow, even to the point of being overly enthusiastic about shoveling—or raking—it. I walked outside after a meeting during the work day to see Sloan and Beau using rakes to help Sid shovel the driveway.

Sloan and Beau helped Sid shovel the driveway on Monday.

Inflatables – Tis the season for lawn decorations! Several years ago, I wrote about inflatable holiday decorations and debated whether they are festive or tacky. There is no such debate with Beau. He absolutely loves them. We walk a few blocks to get our mail and I always take the kids with me. Whenever we pass a house with a large Santa, Grinch, or Snoopy in the yard we must stop so he can ooh and aah. This photo is of one such instance from last Saturday.

Beau (and Sloan) both like holiday lawn inflatables. This was on our mail walk last weekend.

New Football Coach – A week ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Jake Dickert press conference that introduced him as the new head coach of the Washington State University football team. It was pretty cool to see him ace his audition as he served as interim head coach for the final five games of the regular season and then receive his rightful reward. The Cougs will play Miami in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 31. GO COUGS!

I snapped this photo at last Thursday’s Jake Dickert introductory presser.

Pass Me a Pastry – If there is high fat food I have a particular weakness for, it is the pastry. There is nothing I enjoy more than stuffing my face on a weekend morning with something sweet from a bakery. Donuts, scones, and croissants all call my name from behind the glass. I even like factory produced, low maintenance pastries like Pop-Tarts. It was my intention to celebrate National Pastry Day, which is today, with one of my all-time favorite breakfast foods, a Costco muffin, but apparently a muffin is not a pastry. That really put a damper on this “national day” for me.

Without a doubt, Confetti Cake Pop-Tarts are my favorite!

Best Santa Investment – On this date six years ago, I wrote about one of the best Christmas investments ever…the Santa suit! By throwing on a Santa suit not only do you bring instant joy to others but the inner happiness you create within yourself is really special. I bought a cheap Santa suit roughly a decade ago from Walmart. I have worn it probably 50 times over the years making countless memories and generating a sentimental value that far exceeds the $30 I spent for it. Remember, everybody always loves a Santa.

Busting out the Santa suit is fun.


That’s all I have for tonight. The last item I wrote about tonight had to do with Santa. Don’t get me wrong, Kris Kringle is great, but let us continue to focus on the true reason for the Christmas season. Don’t Blink.

Different Wrapping Paper Philosophies

When it comes to a certain item that is heavily used during the Christmas season, Sidney and I have very differing philosophies about how it should be used. From where it should be purchased to how it should look to how it should be applied, we find ourselves at odds. I am talking about the great wrapping paper debate.

If you can look past the baby gate we have up to keep Beau from ripping off all the ornaments on our tree, you can see presents wrapped entirely by Sid.

Difference #1

Wife: Wrapping paper needs to be purchased at Target with a thickness and glossiness that will put any bougie brochure to shame.

Me: Have you seen the selection of wrapping paper at Dollar Tree?!

Difference #2

Wife: Less is more when it comes to wrapping paper designs.

Me: Give me the roll with the entire depiction of the 12 Days of Christmas on it.

Difference #3

Wife: Speaking of less, you don’t need more paper than necessary to wrap a gift.

Husband: Annoying my family members by wrapping gifts in multiple layers of paper from different rolls since 2002.

Difference #4

Wife: Each child should have his or her own presents wrapped in a unique wrapping paper that is just for them.

Me: Sloan has five presents? Okay, do we have five different wrapping papers?

Difference #5

Wife: We are out of wrapping paper. Brent, can you make a run to Target?

Me: I can make a run to the recycling bin to get the comics section.

Difference #6

Wife: On Christmas morning, let’s make sure to pass a garbage bag around so we can place discarded wrapping paper in it.

Me: Can’t wait to test my throwing accuracy again as I pelt my brother and dad with crumpled up wrapping paper from across the room.


These differences are not exaggerations…for the most part. With all that said, Sidney is the most talented wrapper I know and I am so lucky she puts up with a slob like me. Don’t Blink.

A Major Reading Milestone for Sloan

This past Thursday, December 2, 2021, Sloan hit an impressive milestone. We read a book called “Oh No, Mr. Snowman.” It was a slightly bizarre Frosty-esque story about a snowman who would come to life and bust into the house of the kids who made him. When he would do this, objects within the house would freeze. The children eventually would tell the snowman not to come back anymore. A couple days later, just as the Christmas Eve celebration was about to take place, all the holiday food inside the house started to melt. Despite his prior ejection, the snowman knocks on the front door to save the day and the children enthusiastically allow him inside to salvage the food with his freezing cold presence.

What made “Oh No Mr. Snowman” so special? It was the 400th book Sloan read in 2021.

What’s the big deal, right? Just another silly children’s book. Well, there was something else at play when we finished that weird snowman’s tale. It marked the 400th book that Sloan read in 2021.

We have always read to our kids. My parents read to me every night when I was a child and I wanted to make sure to do the same with Sloan and Beau. However, our personal reading program accelerated earlier this year when something finally happened.

At the beginning of March, our libraries in Spokane opened again. No longer did we have to submit a limited online book order to pick up curbside from a librarian. Rather, we could finally roam the physical library and pull all the books off the shelves that we wanted.

The Spokane Valley Library is kind of like a second home for us.

You know how you don’t realize how much you miss something until it is gone? Not being able to visit the library during the pandemic hit us hard. So, when the doors finally opened we didn’t take it for granted. Whether we were visiting the Spokane Valley County Library near our house or the North Spokane County Library near my parents’ home, we were throwing books into our oversized tote bag like our lives depended on it. Each visit we would check out at least 20 titles and would be so motivated to get back to the library again that we would read through them all in less than two weeks.

Beau grabbing books from the shelves at the Spokane Valley Library.

That’s not to say we were breezing through the books at warp speed without comprehension. It just meant that we were reading multiple books every night. After we finished a story we would log the title in the notes app on my iPhone and Sloan would add a few emojis after it to further describe what the book was about. The structure did wonders for our nighttime routine.

A look at a portion of Sloan’s very long list of books she read this year.

With that said, Sloan is a 4-year-old and would have 4-year old moments during our “books and prayers” evening period. If her attention span seemed to be running low, we would remind her that if she couldn’t concentrate on the books it wouldn’t be possible for her to concentrate on the iPad during the coveted screen time we allow her. That would usually bring her focus back (it’s all about balance).

When you read 400 children’s books, you learn a lot. Sloan has been introduced to themes such as love, death, family, honesty, self care, friendship, hard work, preparation, sharing, diversity, and much more. She has been exposed to different cultures, holidays, family structures, and ways of thinking. She has picked up on different techniques of writing and admired different styles of art through some of the magnificently illustrated books we have read.

Frequent trips to the library means frequent photos with the tree growth chart in the Spokane Valley Library. Sloan has grown a lot over the past year.

Sidney and I have learned a lot too. Although the books are written at a children’s level, many of them have underlying themes that speak to adults. We will be reading to Sloan and trade glances when a line is read that went over our daughter’s head but made all too much sense to us.

Besides Sloan just snuggling up to me when I read to her, the best part about our 400-book odyssey has simply been talking to her when reading the books. I will ask her questions, challenge her to give predictions, and encourage her to describe the feelings of characters. Watching her mind work is so interesting and rewarding.

Feeling comfortable surrounded by books at the Spokane Valley Library.

Once 2022 hits, we will continue to read like maniacs. I have no doubt in my mind that we will continue to be #1 customers of the library and that we will surpass our 2021 book total. Perhaps it won’t be long until Sloan is reading to Beau. Don’t Blink.

My Top 5 Christmas Sweets

We spent many holiday seasons of my childhood at my grandparents’ home in Walla Walla, Washington. One fond memory I have is arriving at their home and admiring the containers and tin foil plates of Christmas goodies covering up the dining room table. My grandpa owned a popular restaurant in town and had no shortage of staff, customers, and friends who would pass all kinds of holiday treats his way.

It was during these years through dedicated testing that I developed sophisticated personal preferences for my favorite holiday sweets. This hardcore snacking on Yuletide goods has culminated tonight with my top 5 list of Christmas sweets.

I love Christmas sweets!

5. Cathedral Window Cookies – You either love these or hate them. I still kind of hate them but thought I would give it the sympathetic fifth spot on this countdown. A cathedral window is a loaf-like, no-bake dessert that you cut into individual pieces. Its base is comprised of melted chocolate chips that hug multi-colored marshmallows. They look pretty and taste decent but we were “nice” and instead of hogging them for ourselves we gave them to Santa.

4. Hershey Kiss Peanut Butter Cookies – A true classic in our household as both my mom and wife make these. My wife’s version is so good that they were always requested by the vice president I worked for at Coastal Carolina University for our staff holiday potluck. You can either make a traditional peanut butter cookie or bake it in a cupcake mold and then place a Hershey Kiss (or miniature peanut butter cup) in the middle. Such a dynamite combo.

3. Buckeye Balls – My life changed when I tried my aunt’s buckeye balls for the first time. What do you get when you combine chocolate, peanut butter, and sugar? An absolute masterpiece. These are rich and from a texture standpoint very satisfying! Personally, I enjoy eating them chilled. If you have not tried them before, you might want to make a batch this year…you won’t regret it.

2. Peanut Brittle – There isn’t a better labor of love act than making someone fresh peanut brittle. Sure, this recipe is a little bit of an art but when perfected it is sooooo good. Peanut brittle is an old school candy that requires strong teeth and some chewing but it is worth it. Another aunt already baked peanut brittle this year and when I tried it, the taste was packed with nostalgia as it tasted exactly like the brittle a certain employee of my grandpa’s would make 25 years ago. Yesterday, my sister presented us with some delicious peanut brittle as well. A fun note: We would always leave a couple pieces out for Santa so he could feed them to his reindeer.

1. Christmas Sugar Cookies – No other holiday sweet can hold a candle to classic Christmas sugar cookies. Who doesn’t love a generously-frosted and sprinkled cookie in the shape of a reindeer, Christmas tree, or star? Or, for that matter, who doesn’t like decorating them and eating the ingredients along the way? These hit the spot and pair perfectly with a tall glass of milk. There really isn’t anything else I need to say…these are the best.

Me holding a bunch of Christmas sweets my sister gave us last night.


According to one of my favorite all-time Life’s Little Instructions, calories don’t count during the month of December. So, take full liberty when it comes to enjoying (and baking me) Christmas treats. Don’t Blink.