I can't be the only person violently swinging back and forth between standing angrily at the window shaking my fist at the elements, and writing down nauseatingly positive messages to myself in an effort to beat cabin fever. ("So thankful to have a roof over my head, my family, hot coffee, and a warm blanket! #blessed." or "This too shall pass." - classic!) 

In all seriousness, wild optimism is actually not a bad strategy. It kind of gets you thinking of all the positive things in your life and then you get embarrassed about the fact that you were down in the dumps about having to stay indoors with your baby, and internet and Netflix and cereal and books and coffee. And by you, I mean me. Also, it's a fun game to turn every complaint into a ridiculous blessing in disguise. This is called reframing. Here, let's try it:
"The cold sucks! My house is buried in snow. January is the devil!"
BID: I have so many warm clothes to put on to stay warm. At least I don't have to leave the house today. January has taught me patience in the face of true adversity.

The only thing about wild optimism is that it's important not to shove it in other people's faces - especially people who are upset about something. This means you, people who try to solve other people's problems by commenting under their Facebook complaints! For the record, I am not either of those people - I try to save up all my complaints for my journal or my husband, and not on a permanent record for all the world to see. I just think it's funny when someone writes something like "Arg! My cat has been throwing up all night from swallowing a toy plastic alligator head!* The vet cost me $2 million! So frustrated!" And in the comments, someone always writes something like, "This too shall pass! You are so blessed to live in a country where there are vets. Hashtag blessed." And then you feel bad for the original complainer, because really, they just wanted to share their frustration, not get a sermon on contentment. But I digress.

*By the way, this actually did happen to our cat, Reginald Q. White. (Reggie White). But it was before the days of Facebook, so I thought it appropriate to share now.

When my sister Molly and I were in high school together, we would write notes during 2nd period and when we passed each other on the way to 3rd period, we would hand over our notes to each other. Each note contained a POTD (poem of the day) QOTD (quiz of the day) and AEDOTD (Albert Einstein drawing of the day). There was a poster of Albert Einstein in my Precalc classroom, so each day I would do a different themed Al. Ein. drawing - Cowboy Einstein, Disco Einstein, Abstract Einstein, etc.
abstract einstein

Then, we would include a nonsensical QOTD that one might find in a teen magazine:

You're at the mall with your friends, sipping an Orange Julius, when your BFF's mother's hairdresser stops you. She angrily demands retribution for stealing her boyfriend. You...
a.) give her directions to the nearest orangutan farm
b.) offer her a sip of your Orange Julius
c.) slowly pet the cat you've been holding the whole time and do jazz squares all the way to your car
d.) punt a potato as far as your steel-toed boots will allow.

Mostly As: you're sweet - but almost too sweet. Make sure you don't get taken advantage of, especially when vacuum salesmen come to your door. Those guys can be pushy. I mean really pushy.
Mostly Bs: did you leave your curling iron plugged in this morning?
Mostly Cs: Seahorses always get what they want.
Mostly Ds: aggressive elderly people on scooters 

Be sure to share your results on Facebook. And now, some super cute pictures of a baby in reindeer jammies and a dog who doesn't care about it.



post baby fitness

When I planned this post out in my head, words like "journey" and "postpartum" and "breastfeeding" kept jumping out at me, so I didn't really want to write about it that much.

But on the other hand, I kind of want to document how hard getting back into shape was/is, so future me will not take this lightly.

Ahh the summer before I got pregnant. I was the fittest I had ever been. That summer I completed one round of the Insanity DVD workout program, and as we began the 2012-2013 school year I was in the middle of my second round. I had tons of energy and I felt strong.

When I found out I was pregnant, I had every intention of staying fit and active throughout my 40 weeks. I thought I would gain the minimum amount of weight recommended, and the pounds would just fall off post baby. I think I forgot about how hard I had worked over the years to get to the fitness level I had reached in 2012. I forgot that I was not naturally that small. I also did not account for a miserable first trimester of nausea, exhaustion, headaches, and a stomach that only wanted bland carbs like crackers, toast, and cereal.

Unfortunately, I was unprepared and uninformed about fitness during pregnancy. Instead of pushing through the nausea and fatigue, I allowed myself to lay on the couch for hours on end, barely summoning the energy to pour a bowl of cereal. Now I know that working out regularly would have helped to reduce those symptoms, but at the time I probably wouldn't have even cared to do anything about it even if I did know.

The second trimester was at least a relief from my symptoms, but it was difficult to get "back into shape" once I had already taken 2 months off and was steadily growing a basketball on my abdomen. I attempted to walk 3 miles a day at least 4 days per week, but I must admit the brutal winter and busyness of lesson planning and correcting papers sidetracked me more than once. At least I was still in the cute stages of pregnancy!

24 weeks pregnant
The third trimester was great until it wasn't. I'm not sure when the switch occurred from cute pregnant to whale status, but suddenly everyone was asking me "how many weeks left? Oh you're never going to make it that long." and "are you having twins?" It didn't help that I have an incredibly short torso and was carrying Pippa very high. Needless to say, my discomfort and size kept me from staying as fit as I had hoped. At the very least, I took Pablo for a walk each day. And on really good days I would attempt to do some light circuit training or yoga. But let's face it. I was the weakest I had been in a long time, and I certainly had not maintained the level of fitness I had hoped.

Pippa's head poking out! Writing thank you notes just days before giving birth.

On our way out the door to have the C-Section! 
I remember in those last weeks thinking about how I couldn't wait to do my first heart-pounding, sweat-drenched Insanity workout. I missed the feeling of jello legs and that sore-but-in-a-good-way feeling. But C-Section recovery is no joke. I felt great, so I wanted to return to normal as quickly as possible. But a small infection that just wouldn't quit prevented me from immediate action. Once that little bugger was gone, I would try the occasional modified workout. My incision would throb, and I had no idea if that was normal or not, so I would just give up working out for another week. Then the process would start all over again. (Not to mention the feeding schedule Pippa and I were on made it near impossible to  find enough time to work out).

Now that we're done nursing, and Pippa is on a pretty good napping schedule, I have recommitted myself to working out at least 4 days per week. I have started the Insanity program again, and am reminded how good it feels to start my day with a good sweat session. I feel more energetic, cheerful,  crave healthier foods, and it doesn't hurt that I'm starting to see muscle tone again!

Honestly, it was a blow to my motivation when I saw women all over the internet claiming the weight just melted off, or bragging about how they were down 10 pounds from their pre-pregnancy weight 3 months after having the baby. I know women like that exist, but I was definitely not one of them, and that kind of talk just made me feel inadequate that I actually had to do some work to get rid of the weight. On the other hand, I got so annoyed when I saw posts or articles about women who were proud to give up their figures for the sake of their children. What? I mean, I know it takes a lot of work and time, but come on! I wanna look good (oh yeah, and be strong and fit), not to mention set a good example for my child.

I have come to accept the reality that I need stop comparing myself to other women, and realize that losing weight is hard work - for me at least. So if you need me, I'll be up in the gym just workin' on my fitness (or in my living room sweating it out with Shaun T and the rest of the crew).


the gift of bilingualism

Speaking Spanish to a baby is hard. There are often moments when I have to pause and look up a word or phrase on my phone. For example - what do you say in Spanish when you tickle someone? Is there a different word for peek-a-boo? How do you tell her to bend her knees? I am constantly second guessing my word choices and self-correcting my grammar. All this doubt causes me to reflect on the reasons I have for raising my baby bilingual.

It can definitely be beneficial to make sure we are doing things for the right reasons in order to refresh and renew motivation. When we start going through the motions, we have lost sight of our purpose, and are probably not doing a good job of it. Living intentionally and all...

So anyway, after 7 months of struggling through speaking to Pippa in Spanish, here are my reasons and unreasons for raising baby bilingual.

I am NOT raising my baby bilingual...

...to give her an "edge" in the job market. Who knows what the dominant languages will be in 20 years? Plus, also, I don't want Pippa to feel like money is the motivation to learn the language.

...to help her get ahead in school. Although this will be a wonderful benefit of being bilingual, school is not a competition.

...to expand her pool of potential dates. Even though I encourage my high school students to learn Spanish in order to woo a girl or guy, Pippa will not be allowed to date until she is 25, so it won't mater.

I AM raising my baby bilingual...

...to pass on my love for words. I got in trouble for reading as a child. I took 2 foreign languages in college for fun. I got excited when I found out that the word for "to survive" in Spanish is sobrevivir and in German is uberleben - both sobre and uber are prepositions meaning over; above, and vivir and leben are both infinitives that mean "to live." What? Awesome. I want to share that nerdy excitement with my daughter.

...to open her eyes to other cultures. Along with teaching her to carry on a conversation in Spanish, I'm hoping to teach Pippa to cook foods from Spanish-speaking countries, celebrate holidays of Spanish-speaking countries, listen to Spanish-language music together, and most importantly travel to Spanish-speaking countries. I'm already imagining our hijinks hiking Machu Picchu together, studying at a Spanish language school on a beach somewhere, and learning to tango in Argentina.

...to communicate with as many people as possible. She's going to double the amount of people with whom she can converse, befriend, and learn from.

...because of the cognitive benefits. It's good exercise for the brain!

...to travel. Which is kind of like the other cultures thing. But I think if you know another language, your desire to travel to a place where that language is spoken increases. This is not based on anything but my own experience.

Like anything worth doing, raising Pippa to be bilingual is hard work. Doubts will creep in, and frustrations will arise, but in the end, bilingualism is a gift. 


favorite travel memories | n° 3

Paris, France - Summer of 2012.

Sometimes in life, you experience incredible moments of serendipity. Our trip to Paris came about as a matter of such serendipity. You see, in addition to my Spanish teaching duties, I also taught one section of German 1. Every other year, our school would take a trip to Siegen, German to visit our sister school. As luck would have it, the other two (probably more qualified) German teachers couldn't make the trip that year. The chaperon duties fell to me - guide 20 high school students through international travel, make sure they return home in one piece, and be their touchstone throughout their time abroad. The students stayed with host families, practiced German, experienced what life was like at a typical German Gymnasium (high school), and visited some castles. We arrived on a holiday weekend, so the students' host families had activities planned for them. Some went out of town, others got tours around the city, etc.

Good chaperons that we were, my husband and I dropped the students off with their host families, left  the phone number of a cell phone we had borrowed from one of our hosts, and hopped on a train to Paris.

We had 2 full days to hit all the classic Paris destinations - the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Eiffle Tower, sunset boat ride on the Seine, the Arc de Triomphe, and Champs Elysees (that I still can't pronounce).  I all but wore a hole through the sole of my Toms walking to our various destinations. Not only were we short on time, but also on cash.

Each one of those destinations was awe inspiring in its own respect. Justin marveled at the Arc de Triomphe. I raved about the crepes we purchased and subsequently consumed in a park along the Champs Elysees. We got the obligatory Eiffle Tower at sunset photos.

For me, however, the best memories of our weekend jaunt in Paris came on our last night in the city, followed by the morning of our train ride back to Germany.

On our sunset boat ride, while trying to tune out - or eavesdrop on - the group of American high school students in front of us, we saw group after group of youths along the shores of the Seine drinking and laughing. Justin and I looked at each other with wide eyes. We knew what we had to do later that night.

After dinner, we hustled back to our rented apartment for the complimentary bottle of wine that we had somehow not yet opened. There was no time for glasses! We threw on an extra layer for warmth, and made our way back to the river. No historical building could compare to the memory that followed. We passed the bottle of wine back and forth, taking swigs as we discussed the future, joked around, and enjoyed the spectacular vista.

The next morning, we hauled our bags through the empty Paris streets on our way to the train station. We found ourselves with some extra time on our hands, so we stopped at a corner café across from a bakery. We sipped our café au lait and watched as the Parisians went about their daily life - grocery shopping, bike rides, and walks with their children. When the little bakery across the street opened up, I wasted no time in walking across the street to get my last chocolate macaron.

Ahhh...wine, café au lait, and a chocolate macaron - that is how I remember Paris.


weird grammar brought to you by the internet

I think it's really interesting how humans have created new language and grammar on the internet. I'm not sure how most of these new words or trends got started, but somehow we all decided as a virtual society what the new words, punctuation, and rules were without actually spelling it out. Everyone who internets regularly knows and acknowledges the rules, and actively uses them.

At first the language nerd in me was put off by the abbreviations and breakage of grammar rules. But then the language nerd in me became fascinated by the new rules and words. In fact, it shows creativity and intelligence to know the rules, break the rules, and manipulate existing language to create new language. The same goes for vernacular, slang, and teen speak. Didn't Shakespeare singlehandedly do the same thing the whole internet has done? And we regard him as a genius - we don't lament how the language of his day has morphed or died off. 

Here is my collection (so far) of new words and rules brought on my social media and internet usage:

  • lol - no longer just stands for laugh out loud, but is mainly used as a filler word or verbal emoticon when we want to make sure we come off as lighthearted, or in agreement with someone. Example:  I don't know why you watch the Bachelor; it's such a ridiculous show lol. or- A: So over this polar vortex. B: lol I know. 
  • lolz - same as lol but the z is added to show that we are aware of our ridiculous use of this AIM chat term, but want to use it anyway
  • because + noun - why use more words than you have to? Example: I guess I'll never lose those last 5 pounds because DONUTS. 
  • ubiquitous question marks - used in place of a verbal pause or linking verb. It's not even at the end of a coherent question or complete sentence. Example: The shirt I'm wearing in the picture? So comfortable. -or- The best part? I'm playing Peter Pan in my community theater. 
  • all the things - a phrase used to express great quantities or in place of the word everything. Example: I ate all the things. 
  • THIS. - used to express extreme agreement when posting a link to an article. As in "couldn't have said it  better myself.
There are definitely a lot more that I can't think of right now, and I haven't even gotten started on abbreviations and acronyms. I think I can get on board with this playful use of the English language as long as it's self-aware - even though I frequently have to google things or ask my 15-year-old sister what certain lingo means. 

Read more on the topic:


things that are supposed to be fun

I absolutely love the HIMYM episode "Okay Awesome" when Ted and the coat-check girl are chatting about things that are supposed to be fun, but actually suck. Their examples: clubs, cruises, New Year's Eve, and parades.

Normally I like to keep a positive tone on here, but I can totally relate to this conversation. I just cannot get on board with certain things that most people seem to find entertaining. Here's my list:

  • parades - gotta agree with Ted on this one. What is fun about watching people in uniforms, balloons, and old cars travel from one point to another? I don't get it.
  • bowling - I'm probably just bitter because I'm not good at it, but ugh! Packing socks in your purse, just so you can wear those disgusting shoes that people with fungi have worn, in order to roll a ball on a wood floor and pay for the pleasure of doing so? Not my idea of a good time. 
  • the zoo - it smells. the animals sleep. the peanut butter and jelly sandwich you packed in the cooler is flattened by the apple and juice box sitting on top of it. the crowds of slow moving people. the forced conversation at each new exhibit: "wow, that __________ (mountain goat, lion, flamingo, etc.) sure is majestic today. Look at how regally it sleeps." 
  • sledding - to be fair, it's mostly just being outside in the cold I dislike. Once I actually start sledding I usually have fun. But the snow that gets inside your boots and burns your ankle, but in a cold way, because you wore ankle socks is just such a bummer. I do appreciate the workout involved with climbing back up the hill, though! 
  • planning my wedding - ask my mom about this one! I could not have cared less about the details involved with putting on my wedding - what type of cake topper, table runners, altar flowers - it bored me to tears. I would have been happy getting married barefoot in a meadow. 
To avoid sounding like the most anti-fun person in the universe, I'm going to stop my list there. I can't stress this enough: I don't hate fun. I just don't find the above activities to be a good time. To balance it out, here is a list of things I do enjoy:

  • the beach
  • hiking
  • playing cards (I'm a convert! Used to hate this, now I love it. Euchre changed my life).
  • reading
  • trivia games (This would be on Molly's list of supposed to be fun but hate it). 
  • baseball games in the summer 
  • happy hour
  • backyard barbecues
  • airports (this is not sarcastic - I LOVE AIRPORTS)
  • dancing at weddings

What are some things that are supposed to be fun that you find dull?


life with Pippa | winter style

So the two of us have been rocking winter kind of. We've taken a lot of naps, walked basically everywhere in a 5 block radius of our apartment, and read all the books, ever.

 This is the terrace at the Stillwater Public Library. It is absolutely stunning, but unfortunately closed for the winter. I can only gaze longingly at the snow-covered view, looking forward to warmer days when I anticipate reading many-a book in the sunshine. For now, we walk down the frigid ice-covered sidewalks bundled up and baby-wearing. Once we enter the library, we find ourselves working up a sweat and wanting to take off our boots and walk around in socks. (Actually that's just me. Probably.)

When the weather keeps us inside, we bust out the blocks. Pippa tries to cram all of them in her mouth while I try to spell as many funny words as I can. I don't think either of us understands the concept of blocks right now.

Lately Pippa has been the most delightful baby to hang out with. I always almost think she is much older than 7 months because of the way she interacts. She tries to make us laugh, and gets this mischievous glint in her eyes. Some things she is doing right now that I don't want to forget:

  • her face lights up whenever Pablo walks into the room
  • laying her head down on her Baby Einstein Jumper when she's ready for a nap
  • aggressively bouncing in her jumper when she wants to get our attention
  • blowing raspberries for 30 seconds straight
  • vocalizing in a continuous monotone "ahhhhhhhh"
  • starting to bounce up and down (dancing!) when a song she likes comes on
  • checking to make sure we're watching when she's about to do something sassy
  • smacking her lips
  • hurling her body backwards or to the side when she's bored
This girl is truly her father's daughter. I just can't wait to see what else she has in store for us! 


favorite travel memories | n°2

Sámara, Costa Rica - summer of 2011. 

It's the quintessential beach at sunset photo. It's a classic, but for good reason. I'm a beach girl - and I remember the very moment I realized it. I was on a bus in Ecuador with 30 other college Spanish students. For some reason, my closest friends on the trip had all paired off during the trip to the beach, and I was left alone with a window seat and my iPod. Kenny Chesney's Be As You Are album was humming in my ears. I looked down at my feet, and realized two of the things I was most looking forward to were flip-flop tan lines and my freckles coming out. Daydreams of wearing my hair in its natural wavy state with flowing sundresses and bare feet filled my imagination. I couldn't wait to frolic in the ocean waves, lay in the warm sand, and read a book with the surf as background music. I had a strong sense that the beach was where I needed to be. Emilia de la Playa was born.

Fast forward to 2011. I was teaching Spanish part time at a small private school in Minnesota, and decided I needed to take my students on an immersion program. I ended up rounding up 5 families for the opportunity to learn Spanish on the beach and live with a host family at Intercultura Language School in Costa Rica. I'm fairly certain that I was more excited about the trip than those kids were, mostly because I'm a super nerd about Spanish, and because I was ready to be Emilia de la Playa again. 

I grew a lot during those 2 weeks in Costa Rica. I was the only "adult" (I was 23 years old) chaperone of 5 students, so the group would have to depend on my Spanish if something went wrong. It was up to me to make sure everyone was awake on time, met up for transportation, and made it to and from school safely. 

The way I grew the most, though, was in killing an enormous arachnid in the room where I stayed while my host family slept. No way was I going to fall asleep with this Beast biding its time to crawl on my face as I slept. With my pounding heart and sweating palms, I slipped on the most solid shoes I had packed - Keens. The Beast sensed something was amiss, and scurried to safety under the bed. The minutes dragged on as I waited for him to get careless. And around midnight, it happened. I had to act fast, or I would surely be awake until dawn waiting for him to appear again. I summoned all my courage, closed my eyes, and sent my left foot crashing down to crush his hairy exoskeleton. I emerged the next morning a new woman.

As a confident victor, I faced the rest of our time on the beach with tranquility and joy, relaxing in hammocks, writing essays in Spanish, kayaking, dancing, hiking. When I look at this photo, it brings back memories of the responsibility of being an example and guide for this kids, but also a newfound freedom and tenacity - not just because of the spider, but also because I had dreamed up, planned, and executed this entire trip. My ultimate goal as a Spanish teacher was never to have my students graduate high school with the irregular preterite verbs memorized (although that would be nice). It was always to inspire them to travel and push outside their comfort zone using Spanish as their tool. 

This photo was taken the second or third evening of our trip. We had spent our one afternoon without an organized activity on the beach. As the air cooled and the sun began to set, we all pulled out our cameras to capture the beautiful colors. Later that night we met at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant central to all three of our host families to play cards, tell stories, and laugh. That evening alone made up for the stressful hours of booking flights, parent meetings, frantic email exchanges, and trying to get teenagers psyched to practice Spanish immersion style. When I look at this photo, I remember that we were young. We were free. It was Pura Vida. 


5 things I have learned from motherhood

Both of us girls have spent the past week in a haze of stuffy noses, congestion, and fatigue. I feel like a phoenix rising from the ashes, ready to wash, clean, and cleanse anything and everything we have touched or breathed upon in the past week.

May I just observe that trying to wipe a 7-month-old's nose to clean the "boogies" requires the same dexterity and agility as lunging to kill an odious albeit swift common house fly? And the blood-curdling scream that surely follows such a barbarous act (the nose-cleaning, not the fly murder) is nothing short of magical.

who, me?
Anyway, I wanted to share a few quick things I have learned in my seven month stint into motherhood. It hasn't always been pretty. It hasn't always  been graceful. But it has always been an adventure - and that's what my alter-ego, Emilia de la Playa is all about.

1. Greet each morning with joy. When we go to get Miss Pippa from her crib each morning, the grin that lights up her face is contagious. She can't talk yet, but I like to think that if she could, she would be saying, "You guys! You didn't forget about me! You're still here- and it's a new day- and we get to play together some more- and I love you so much!"

2. I will do just about anything to elicit a smile or belly laugh. For awhile, we were getting her first grins, and it felt so good to finally have our baby acknowledge our presence. There's nothing like snuggling a newborn, but each new milestone, each new way of interacting, is so exciting and gratifying. Now that we have heard one or two belly laughs, we have been bending over backwards to hear it again. Tactics include, but are not limited to, yelling at poor Pablo (the dog), falling over dramatically, pretending to eat her feet, tummy, fingers, etc, and singing songs in weird voices.

3. Do what you gotta do. We've been pretty lucky so far - friends and family have been supportive and have refrained from offering unsolicited advice about how to raise our child. I am incredibly thankful for that. I like to ask others what they have done, read books, and read articles about how to ____ (insert current baby issue). Then I like to take a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, and mix it all up to see what works. I can't say I follow one guru or one piece of advice except to do whatever is currently working to get the maximum amount of sleep. And I will kindly allow others to do the same without judgment. I like to think that we're all in this together, this parenthood thing, so wouldn't it be much easier to just acknowledge that we're all cutting corners somewhere to survive, and realize that different things work for each kid and each family?

4. This too shall pass. Naturally, you want to slap whoever said that to you right in their face when you are in the throes of a big change in your life. But it's true, and nowhere do you see that more clearly than with a baby, as changes happen in rapid succession. Teething, nursing issues, poor sleep patterns, colds, and even unfortunately cute mannerisms come and go within a matter of days (or sometimes weeks).

5. You will not survive this without a sense of humor. For example, when Pippa spits up on herself or my cute outfit, I like to think of it as an opportunity for a costume change rather than an annoyance. When Pablo finds said spit-up to be tasty, I like to think of it as help with cleaning up rather than disgusting. The same can be said for diaper blow-outs, sleep-deprivation-induced nervous breakdowns about weird things, and those moments when chaos seems to reign supreme.


favorite travel memories | n° 1

2 days before I gave birth to Pippa, I was grading my last exams, saving all my power points to Google Drive, and cleaning out my classroom. It was the end of an era. I was moving on from my 3 years of teaching Spanish to be a full time mom. At the time, I was large, exhausted, and starting to have Braxton-Hicks contractions, so I threw everything haphazardly into a cardboard box, heaved it into the trunk of my car, and forgot about it.

This past weekend, I finally dug up the box after our lives were completely overhauled twice in 6 months - having a baby and moving are not completely un-stressful events. As I sorted the tools of my trade into piles - keep, throw away, and give away - I came across 20 some odd photographs I had printed, enlarged, and laminated as classroom decor.

I had chosen those photographs from my travels to 9 different countries over the years with the purpose of creating classroom discussion, illustrating a point, or demonstrating culture. Now that they no longer hang in a classroom, they serve as my own personal memories to display in my home. I would like to share some of those photographs here.

These are not the most technically correct of photos. They will never be published in a magazine. Most of them were taken with a point and shoot or iPhone, with almost zero knowledge of composition or lighting. What makes them special is the story, the memory, behind them. So without further ado, photo número uno.

- - -

Quito, Ecuador - autumn of 2009. It was my first week back in Quito for my semester abroad. I had been there for 5 weeks the summer before, but my cheap camera had lost my pictures from weeks 1-4. I was on a mission to revisit all the landmarks and touristy spots to recapture the memories I lost.

This photo was taken from the Basílica del Voto Nacional. An imposing neo-gothic cathedral, this building is a must-see in the city of Quito. The views from the towers are spectacular, but the climb to the top is harrowing, with exposed spiral staircases. Once false move could mean a fall to your death, and my palms are sweating just thinking about it. I am not afraid of heights, but I must confess that I chose to forgo the highest and most-exposed spires. The view in this photo shows El Panecillo, the hill where the Virgen de Quito statue overlooks the city.

The day I took this photo holds some wonderful memories. We had just finished our first or second day of classes at the Academia de Español Quito. Our brains were tired from thinking, hearing, and speaking Spanish, but we had places to go, sights to see. We got out our maps and traced our fingers along the public transportation route we would take to get to the Plaza de Independencia. A pair of broke college students studying abroad, we chose a piece of fruit and a package of Oreos as our fuel for the afternoon. This photo invokes feelings of adventure, freedom, and exploration. We were 21 years old, exploring a city that we grew to love, and pursuing our dreams of becoming proficient Spanish-speakers. We had our entire semester of adventure, travel, and countless pages of Spanish essays ahead of us.

I can still smell the pollution wafting from the buses and trucks. I can see the eyes of the ciudadanos fixed on our light hair and gringa skin standing out in a crowd of morenos. I can feel the warm sun and the mountain breeze on my cheeks. And I can hear the Spanish chatter wash over me. I felt so alive in that moment. I never want to forget that feeling.

No, this picture isn't perfect. I probably wouldn't edit it in that sepia tone nowadays. (I would probably find another way to butcher that view with an Instagram filter). The composition and the lighting probably have a long way to go. But the memory of who I was in that moment is preserved in that photograph, and to me, that's worth more than technical perfection any day.


adult birthdays

Birthdays. Am I right?

Whenever the subject of birthdays comes up, Justin and I quote Jim Gaffigan's sketch in Beyond the Pale about the pressure in our society to have a good time on your birthday. "Can't believe I have to work on my birthday. Can't believe I'm doing laundry on my birthday."

It's those outrageous expectations that have made birthdays in the past disappointing for me. I'm about to turn 26 on Saturday - closer to 30 than 20! - and the part of me that has outrageous expectations and is clinging to the youth and freedom of my college years is giving 26 the stink eye. I'm all like "awww no. Getting old is not my jam." (is that still a phrase?)

But then another part of me is like, "but you're mature now, so it's time to have realistic expectations for what an adult birthday is like, and to celebrate the fact that you have had 26 years of grace on this earth. Lots of people don't even get that." And then I thought, "Wow, Emily, you have gotten wise in your old age."

So, yeah, I might actually end up doing laundry on my birthday. But I also get to hang out with this cutie! Happy weekend, everyone!


schedule your week - not your day!

As I read through Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, I find myself wanting to stop and reread every single page. Generally speaking, I enjoy racing through a book. Seven Habits, however, prompts me to physically highlight, dog-ear, and note-take like a college student cramming for exams.

The book is broken down into 3 sections - private victories (habits 1-3), public victories (habits 4-6), and renewal (habit 7). The chapter which is currently capturing my attention is Habit 3 - Put First Things First. This sums up the first section on private victories - victories of moving from dependence to independence. Anyway, before I read about the third habit, I always assumed I was the type of person to put first things first. I have my priorities! I go to church and occasionally work out. I mostly make food from scratch, do daily devotions when I get around to it, and budget when I can. I sometimes write - but only when everything else is done.

Then I realized there was a common theme running through all of these daily habits or tasks - if performed daily, they would make my life excellent. Not just good. But I don't actually do these things daily, because I don't prioritize them. I mean, I sometimes add them to my to do list, but there are many days when I don't get around to them because I have a cold, or the baby is fussy, or I have to finish Christmas shopping, or it's super cold outside so I'm obligated to sit on the couch and eat popcorn all day.

Mr. Covey's book was a serious wake-up call for me. I am living a reactive life. Contrary to what I think about myself, the facts don't lie. I am not prioritizing what is important. I'm only getting around to them. So what is the practical solution? What's the take-away? How do I stop being this flimsy Mrs. Wishy Washy type person?

Covey suggests planning our weeks instead of planning our days. It's so simple! The strategy is to first write down everything that is a priority after spending time reflecting on what you deeply value. This reflection is key. If you haven't taken the time to identify and write down or verbalize what's important to you, how can you prioritize it in your life?

This chapter began by asking "What one thing could you do, that if you did on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your personal life?" Naturally, I thought of a dozen things. Eventually I narrowed it down to one spiritual and one physical goal to add to my routine. I then went straight to my planner and scheduled those things into the next week with specific times and dates. I put first things first. My week, my time, was reflective of my deepest values, not things that just so happened to come up.

Every other aspect of my day can be scheduled around these important things. Throughout 2013 a major frustration of mine was always feeling like I was forgetting something important. I am hoping this positive change in habit will rid me of that nagging feeling.

Here are some of my personal priorities that should be scheduled before all else:

  • personal Bible study
  • daily devotions
  • writing blog posts or book chapters
  • one phone call each week to a friend
  • working out several times per week
  • cooking nutritious meals
  • weekly family budget meetings
  • quality time with my husband
  • reading with my daughter
  • connecting with parents I teach or coach

Naturally, these priorities will vary from person to person depending on your living situation, your job, and your personal preferences.

If you actually get the chance to read through this powerful book, the chapter on Habit 3 has many more practical tips and thought-provoking questions to help you plan your weeks and days to meet your needs. Dave Ramsey always says to be the master of your money, not a slave to your money. I think the same thing goes for our habits and priorities. If we don't schedule our priorities, we will be subject to things that come up or happen to us.

I think Covey's main point of this chapter was to say that when we are in tune with our own values and priorities, and our habits and actions reflect them, we begin to live a more effective and meaningful life.


spanish during a snow day

So here we are going on day 4 of Polar Vortex 2014. For those of us with little ones, that means day 4 of being our baby's sole source of entertainment. Usually we can go for walks with the dog, visit friends, run errands, or volunteer, but with none of those things to break up our day, we are tasked with using our imaginations.

Naturally, the teacher in me wants to incorporate at least a few educational activities, in between watching 30 Rock while Pip bounces in her Baby Einstein Bouncer and plays with the ever fascinating burp cloth. (Seriously, why do we need toys again? So far the 'toys' Pip has gotten the most use out of are as follows: burp cloths, spoons, and a package of wipes - because it makes a crinkly sound when she touches it.) 

The easy way out is to set Pip up with another Baby Einstein toy - the Roll & Explore Symphony Ball she got for Christmas. (seriously…this is not a Baby Einstein commercial - we just happen to have a few of their products as gifts. But they're awesome at keeping baby occupied!) It can play in 3 languages - English, French, and Spanish- so naturally I set it to Spanish and let Pip press the buttons. Her current favorite is tambor (drum) because it plays a fun beat.

IMG 2871 from Emily Krause on Vimeo.

An activity that requires a little bit more participation on my part is learning colors and numbers. I basically take any toy that catches her attention for the moment and just tell her (in Spanish of course) what color it is. I think I'm going to start studying for when our Spanish interactions become more interactive. (Seriously…what's the word for doorknob? I'll have to think through weird commands like "please don't blow raspberries at me.") This is what Pippa thinks of my "lesson" on los colores.

anaranjado? sweet, I'll lick it.

The last (and best, in my opinion) activity to do for practicing Spanish on a cold polar vortex day is reading. We just got a bunch of new children's books in Spanish. Our current favorite is Un Día de Nieve by Ezra Jack Keats.

día de nieve

día de nieve

There is absolutely nothing like snuggling under a blanket on a cold day to read together. Mostly, Pip just likes to scratch and lick the books, though.

In conclusion, do all the educational activities you want with your child. Mostly, though, there will just be a lot of drool.


polar vortex

Update from Polar Vortex MN 2014. We are hunkered down here in our little apartment baking bread and not getting anything done and curling up on the couch. I feel like just as there are phases of grief there are also phases of being cooped up with a 7 month old during the coldest weather in decades.

First there was joy. Pure, unadulterated, childlike joy. What luck! Not only did we get an amazingly long Christmas break, but it was extended! With a cold day! Visions of cozy cold day activities filled my mind - mid afternoon naps and movies with popcorn and hot chocolate, endless cups of coffee and kitchen baking scenes with powdered sugar and flour flying about.

Then there was laziness. I had such grand plans of deep cleaning the house and writing an entire book in 2 days. Then the reality of a teething 7 month old set in. She didn't know it was a day off. In fact, 'both Mom and Dad are home, so why don't I skip naps!' she thought. Why is it so hard to be productive when your schedule disappears?

Suddenly the cabin fever arrived. I always think of that song from the Muppets movie, you know "been stuck at sea so long that we have simply gone bananas - we got cabin fever!" I think at some point I did sprints around our tiny apartment. I vaguely recall shimmying at some point? The cabin fever spread through the household, affecting both the baby and the dog. We gotta get out of this house! What is fresh air? What is this thing you call "the sun?"

In all honesty, I feel ready to rejoin the real world and put on makeup and do my hair and get dressed. I think I even want to have some sort of schedule, which is unheard of if you're me. I have cherished the extra time with my whole family at home, but we are ready to get out and live!

It's kind of cool, in a pop culture sort of way, though, knowing that almost the entire country is experiencing #polarvortex together. It will be that thing we look back on in a few months or years when we're scrolling through our old Instagram photos and go "oh yeah, hashtag polar vortex 2014. wasn't that something." The weather people on the news are making all kinds of corny jokes but you can tell they're really in their element. These are the moments they live for.

Through it all I can't help but think how grateful I am to have a warm place to be when it's colder here than at the North Pole. It sucks to be a prisoner in your own home for a few days, but it's far better than being a prisoner of the elements.

Here are some pictures of our time cooped up indoors.

reading and writing and coffee

sleepy puppy - I kind of think he's going through some sort of canine depression. He just sleeps all day. No walks, you know, when it feels like 40 below.

mad cuz her teeth hurt. refusing to nap. experiencing cabin fever.

also, drooling

my husband braved the cold long enough to do some work and get some Starbucks

where I've parked myself for the night

soup - cuz that's what you eat in a polar vortex
May we survive the Polar Vortex of 2014 and fight the cabin fever that threatens to overwhelm our brains.