4.18.2014

semana santa + la pascua


This is my first Holy Week, Good Friday, and Easter with a child.

Sadly, one of my first thoughts about that was: am I supposed to get her an Easter basket? Oh I know! I'll put candy in her basket, and since she's only 10 months old, I'll eat the candy! Perfect.

Easter baskets are a fun tradition - when we are able to make it to my parents' for Easter, we still get them! The Easter bunny knows we adults like our Essie nail polish, fun socks, and yes candy. No eggs in my basket, though, plz. (Gag)

However, Easter baskets are not what we are celebrating this week.

- - -

In a quest to see if I could watch some TV shows in Spanish on Netflix, I stumbled across the mini series The Bible. I immediately added it to my queue and started watching it last night.

In the very first episode, God requires of Abraham a sacrifice - the very son he has waited decades to receive, the very son who was to be the beginning of Abraham's descendants - as numerous as the stars. Abraham, fully trusting in God, but understandable angry and sad, takes his son with him up the side of a mountain to offer a sacrifice to God. His young son, wide eyed and naive, looks quizzically at his father: where's the sacrifice? The Lord will provide, Abraham answers.

As Abraham ties up his own son, his own long-awaited and very loved son, you can see the anguish on his face, along with his stubborn trust in his God. The Lord will provide.

I had to look away as he raised his knife to the sky. I know how the story ends. I know God provides a young ram caught in a bush nearby, so Isaac can live. I know all this. But I had to look away because I have a daughter now. Up until know, my knowledge of the love for a child was hypothetical. The protective instinct and the all-consuming desire to keep them safe and happy was an acknowledged fact but not a feeling. When I pictured God asking me to do the very same thing he asked of Abraham, I knew I would have failed God's test of faith. I found myself getting angry - how could God ask such a thing of faithful Abraham, who had proved himself time and time again? How could he?

He could because God did the same thing. The Lord did provide a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. The Lord not only sacrificed his only beloved Son in one of the most painful executions the world has ever known, but he turned his face away and abandoned Jesus, just when Jesus needed him most. If my flawed love for my own daughter is fierce and strong, the God of heaven and earth's perfect love for his only son is incomprehensible. It is deeper and wider and stronger than any love we could have. And God sacrificed his son. Jesus begged for his fate to be taken from him, begged so hard drops of sweat turned to blood. And God's answer was no. You must die, Jesus, so the ungrateful people I have created can live.

I always tried to put myself in Jesus' place during Holy Week. The torture he went through for me. This time, I tried to imagine what it felt like for the Father during Holy Week.  This is my first Holy Week, Good Friday, and Easter with a child.

- - -

Maybe I'll pick up an Easter basket with some candy for my daughter. She will enjoy that for about ten seconds before a computer charger or remote control captures her attention.

But the real thing I'm excited to share with her this and every Holy Week to come is the incredible immeasurable love her Father in heaven has for her. He would go to any length to make sure she is in heaven with Him someday. Even if that means giving up his only Son for her.

Good thing we know what happens Easter Sunday.

4.14.2014

what's influencing you?


Spring in the midwest always feels like a fresh start. Winter was miserable. We were all trapped indoors. We all got severe cases of SAD. We all changed into our ugliest sweatpants the moment we walked in the door. When one wears sweatpants and the temps are below zero for the 50th day that winter, one simply wants to curl up on the couch with fatty foods and beverages and watch Netflix until one's brain melts. This is a proven scientific correlation.

I find that when I'm in this state of mind, I tend to watch more television and do more internets. (I traversed to the end of the internet and back at least thrice this winter.) When I do the internets and get all my human interaction from characters on television, I become more likely to curse, be negative, snap at my husband, slouch, grind my teeth, and other evils. My desire to be intellectual, kind, thoughtful, and active is 83% lower.

With the coming of spring I find myself walking outside more. Which leads me to peruse our local public library. Which leads me to borrow a stack of 7 books I know I won't be able to get through before the new two week (!?!) due date. (Whose decision was that?) The more books I read, the more books I want to read. When I'm reading books, I'm reminded that I should be (and want to be) reading my Bible, doing personal devotions, and praying more. When I do these things, my desire to be intellectual, kind, thoughtful, and active is 100% higher.

I'm not saying the person I am depends upon the weather. I am saying that the way I act is influenced by what I choose to spend my time doing. Taking the time to start my day with scripture and a prayer that the decisions I make that day be God-pleasing results in a more mindful and service-oriented day. Reading before bed instead of falling asleep to HIMYM results in me reading during the pockets of the next day instead of mindlessly scrolling through dumb websites. These worthy pursuits reach into the other facets of my life, helping me to stay disciplined in my fitness, nutrition, positive thinking, and money decisions.

What we allow into our minds shapes who we are.
What we choose to think about influences what we say and do.
How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.

Each morning anew, spend a few minutes praying that how you spend your day is in service to the one who created you, lived for your, died for you, and rose for you. Let the thing that occupies your attention be a worthy pursuit or lovely thought, not an angry internet comment or discontentment due to something you saw on tv or online. What will influence you today?


4.02.2014

baby linguistics


As a language nerd slash Spanish teacher, I absolutely devour any study I can find about language acquisition. I always looked forward to the day I would have a fresh canvas of my own on whom I could perform language experiments - by that I mean my child.

Pippa is 9 months - almost 10. By this time in her young life, she is losing the innate ability to recognize phonemes (basic units of language) from every language on earth. Her brain is now specializing in phonemes from her native language, English. I don't stress about much as a parent, but I sometimes have mini panic attacks that I'm not speaking enough Spanish to Pippa for her to recognize Spanish phonemes as well.

Turns out I needn't have worried. 

I recently borrowed two books from the library - Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, and How Babies Talk by Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Ph.D. and Kathy Hirsch-Pasek, Ph.D. Both contain studies and information about language development in infants and toddlers. One specific study from Nurture Shock blew my mind. Paticia Kuhl did a study where American babies were exposed to native Mandarin speakers for 20 minutes three times a week - and were just as good at recognizing Mandarin phonemes as native-born Chinese infants! (p.202) This is fascinating and game changing information, especially for a non-native speaker like myself who is trying to raise a bilingual baby. Of course, as she gets older, it will be important that she hears a lot of Spanish input from me, but it's a relief to know I didn't ruin my chances because I accidentally or lazily used English half the time.

Now, before I get into this next section, I want to offer a disclaimer. I know that all babies develop at their own rate. I am in no rush for Pippa to hit milestones early. She'll get there when she's ready. And I know it is so important for babies to have time to play and babble independently. I won't be hovering over her and narrating her entire life. However, the following research-based applications from both of these books will make for a fun experiment in language learning with my baby!

1. Try motionese - teaching a new word to baby by moving the object and repeating the word in a sing-song voice.

2. Allow baby to hear new words from multiple sources.

3. Respond with a word or loving touch when baby produces canonical syllables (the combination of a consonant and vowel). This will encourage her that her sounds have meaning to her parents, and will be motivated to produce more.

4. Follow baby's gaze or point and label the object for her. But don't intrude or try to guess what her babbles mean - you could be labeling the wrong object for her! Simply follow baby's lead.

5. If you're hoping for a bilingual child, don't turn to baby DVDs. Babies need to see lips moving to figure out when one word ends and another begins.

And don't worry if your baby seems a little behind in language development - “‘The only thing typical about typical language development was variability.’ ...According  to Tamis-LeMonda, this is especially true for toddlers who spoke late, but still understood a lot of words early,” (Nurture Shock). Sometimes this is because children are shy or don’t quite have the motor control yet.

So relax, enjoy your baby, and have fun teaching some new words!

3.28.2014

{my top three} dream trips

Most people have a dream destination or adventure lingering in the back of their mind. Most people also read one book at a time. I like to read 2 or 3 books at once, just as I like to juggle several dream trips in my fantasy world. Ever since the conception of my bucket list in Bogotá circa 2009, I have harbored grandiose plans for worldwide travel. 

The following are my top 3...for now.




Machu Picchu

I have a special place in my heart for South America. This continent’s tumultuous and fascinating past often goes untold in the classrooms of North America. What a shame! The mystery, betrayal, violence, adventure, and untold riches litter the pages of Sudamérica’s history books, rivaling the most spectacular blockbuster film or dramatic telenovela. The more I learn about the land of Simón Bolívar, the more I want to explore it. 

Specifically, Peru calls to me. Lima, Cusco, and Arequipa are on my list, but they would all be merely leading to the apex of the trip - Machu Picchu. Hiking and camping among one of history’s greatest mysteries is appealing to both my intellectual and outdoorsy sides. 

Spain to Morocco

As most students of the Spanish language, I would love to see the origin of the Castellano language. Specifically, my bucket list calls for sipping a glass of red wine, or vino tinto, in a plaza in Spain. Maybe on the patio of a restaurant, or a balcony overlooking the plaza - I’m not picky! I want the word vale to become a part of my everyday speech in Spanish, and I want to catch futbol fever. 

After exploring the motherland, it would only be a short ferry ride from Tarifa or Gibraltar to Tangiers. And my bucket list instructs me to repeat a line from Casablanca in Casablanca. So, here’s looking at you, outdoor markets, head scarfs, and desert sands! I’m coming for you, kid!

Buenos Aires

I can’t help it! I just can’t escape the draw of South America! First I would learn to dance the tango, followed by a dinner of steak and wine, followed by a night on the town putting my new tango skillz to work. I would explore the land of Evita and the desaparacidos from the Guerra Sucia - the dirty war. The European vibe of the city would make me feel sophisticated as I lounged in yet another plaza. 


After having my way with Buenos Aires, I would make my way to wine country, sipping my way from vineyard to vineyard. I would probably camp under the stars like a true gaucho or whatever. 


Apparently my bucket list is just a geographically organized ledger of plazas and patios from which to sip beverages, and also some places to hike. Cheers to that!

3.25.2014

currently reading: daily rituals {part 2}


My ulterior motive for reading Daily Rituals; How Artists Work was to stumble upon that one magical habit that would transform my own daily routine. I don't think I'm the only person searching for increased productivity in my creative work, and I also don't think I'm alone in seeking meaning and joy in the habits that make up my day.

Thusly, I took notes on the practices of the greats. I wanted to know how they ate, when they worked, and whence they drew inspiration. I compiled a list of aspects to consider when setting up your day to maximize creativity.

1. early to rise - most of us don't have family money or a patron who pays us to sit and write all day. This is unfortunate. However, many of history's greatest artists were in the same boat. A good number of them found success by putting in a few solid hours of work before their day job, or before their family arose.

2. eating + drinking - some relied on continuous cups of black coffee or green tea. Some made a hearty breakfast, or snacked on sugary sweets throughout the day. Whatever it is that gives you energy, whether it's a healthy green smoothie or a few extra lumps of sugar in your coffee like Immanuel Kant, build it into your day. Just know that several of these creative geniuses met with an untimely demise due to poor diet and excessive use of substances.

3. know thyself - what struck me about almost all of the people highlighted in the book was that they were self-aware, especially when it came down to work habits. They knew if they were more productive pre-dawn or post-dusk. They knew if they needed complete silence or a bustling café. Figure out how you work best, then go and make it happen.

4. location, location, location - some worked standing up in the kitchen. Some shut themselves in an office. A few even worked from bed in a supine position. If you don't already have that sweet spot in your abode, you may need to head to the local library or coffee shop to get those creative juices going. This may also mean investing in a writing desk, or arranging your kitchen table into an inspiring work station.

5. activity - a long walk was a common habit of the greats, but others included swimming, daily calisthenics, or a light jog. It seems many of the most genius ideas were conceived during a leisurely stroll.

6. interests - from entertaining friends to cooking gourmet meals, maintaining an interest outside of your creative work can help to refresh your mind. Enjoy a nightcap with your significant other, hit the cafés and bars to soak up the social scene like Hemingway and Fitzgerald, or hold lively dinner parties to exchange ideas.

All of these habits are worthwhile to cultivate. However, the most important piece of advice I gleaned from this book was the act of creating every day. Some of the greats would put in a full 8 hour day of writing only to end up keeping 2 sentences. But almost all of them said the same thing - it adds up. Produce every day and after awhile you will see the results.

3.24.2014

currently reading: daily rituals {part 1}


I never wanted to be president. Even at 6 I knew that to be president meant a dreadful amount of pressure and responsibility. While the other kindergarteners aspired to be president, an astronaut, or a professional athlete, I fancied myself a writer. 

Throughout my teenage years, the desire to write never left me, but the reality that I would indeed have to earn a steady paycheck set in. How, I wondered, does one manage to dedicate herself to a novel while making a living? 

This age-old struggle, along with the issues of waiting for inspiration to strike and overcoming procrastination and indolence are covered in the book Daily Rituals; How Artists Work by Mason Currey. It is a collection of the everyday routines of some of the world’s greatest artists, writers, and musicians. 

I was disappointed upon completing the book that there was no magic formula, no secret ritual for success in a creative field. The magic is in returning to work every day, in discipline and dedication. 

Each writer, composer, painter dealt with his own set of obstacles in creating their work. Some struggled to support their family, while others struggled with too much free time and laziness. Some relied on sugar, alcohol, or other forms of self-medication. Some would lock themselves away and demand no interruptions, while others worked surrounded by activity or stole away at odd times to complete their work in secret.

Jane Austen, for example, worked right in the family sitting room with her mother and sisters knitting nearby. Her only duty in helping run the household was preparing breakfast, as any more responsibility would weigh too heavily on her mind and stifle her writing. She was open about her work with her family, but when others came to visit the house, she would hide her work underneath blotting paper. 

Beethoven was rumored to be more productive during the warmer months, as he sought his inspiration on long walks. I heard that, Ludwig. 

Mozart’s daily routine was inspiring to me, as he side hustled his way to success. In order to earn a living he gave piano lessons, performed concerts in the evening, and courted the wealthy patrons in Vienna. He found time to compose music in the early morning hours.

A pattern I noticed with many of the writers was keeping routine working hours during which they produced work whether or not they felt inspiration. I feel like there's a life lesson in there. Don't wait until the conditions are perfect. Create now.

There is so much to learn from these artistic, musical, and literary giants. We cannot hope to replicate their circumstances, but we can emulate their work ethic and dedication to their craft in a hopes to produce our own masterpiece.

3.20.2014

currently rereading: the blue zones

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Have you heard of blue zones? There are certain areas of the world with large pockets of people live measurable longer lives. Dan Buettner, the author of The Blue Zones traveled to 5 of these regions of the world with the hopes of discovering the secret to living a long life.

I, personally, was expecting this book to be a lecture on what and what not to eat. And The Blue Zones does contain some of that information. As you would expect, eating lots of produce, less meat, more food straight from the source is typical of most of these zones. This was no revelation to me, as we the American people are currently bombarded with instructions to eat clean, whole foods. Nothing earth-shattering in this category.

As far as exercise, very few of the centenarians interviewed in this book spent their free time sweating it out at the gym. Their activity came in the form of work, walking, and an active lifestyle. 

The true lesson in this book, however, was not only living long, but living well.  

The more surprising results of Buettner’s study strayed from the physical into the social and emotional. First, he discovered that one thing the centenarians had in common was a purpose for living and a reason to wake up every morning. For some it was family, others had gardens, helping others, housework, a job, or even a social life to keep them going.  

The second was a consistent and supportive family and social circle throughout their lives; a "tribe" if you will. In many cultures outside the United States it is common for several generations of family to live under the same roof. As inconvenient as this may seem, think of the benefits: free babysitting, not having to put your parents in a home when they get senile, not to mention the financial savings of sharing a residence. In addition, many had a group of friends on whom they could rely in times of
hardship, and to whom they could vent and gossip. They could share the various stages of life, such as married life, life with children, and old age, and always know they had someone who understood, who was going through the same thing.

Honestly, I see that support component lacking in our country where technology has made it easier to move out and away from our family nucleus. We make close friends in college and then move to every corner or the country or globe. (And we all know how difficult it is to make new friends as an adult). So what happens when a child gets sick, we need someone to watch the kids, or let the dog out while we’re on vacation? What happens when we need someone to vent to when our jobs get to be too much or when being a stay at home parent gets too lonely? Stress builds up when we try to do everything ourselves, and we have no community on whom we can rely. 

This was an interesting read for me which resulted in some lifestyle evaluations. I began thinking about how the foods and activities I choose are affecting my body long term. I started thinking about how I could both use the social support in my life, and be that social support for others. 

Obviously no one can guarantee living to 100. Accidents, disease, and unexpected events occur every day, no matter how healthy a person is. At the end of the day, our times are in God’s hands. But it is also important to be good stewards of the gifts He has given us. 


Do you think of your long term mental and physical health, or are you living for today?