Every once and awhile it's nice to take stock and reflect on what's going on in your life. This way, if I ever go back and read this blog years down the line, I'll remember a little bit of what my days were like during this season of life. (I think this originated here)

making || plans for Pippa's first birthday next week
cooking || skillet quinoa and chicken
drinking || a protein shake and Want More Energy? in my water
reading || "The Jesus I Never Knew" by Philip Yancey
wanting || to get rid of all the excess "stuff" in my house
looking || out the kitchen window, praising God that the sun is out and temps are in the 80s
playing || my summer playlist! bring on the country and Bob Marley
remembering || one year ago at this time when I was large and in charge, finishing up exam week, and preparing for baby!
trying || to eat more vegetables. It's not working.
watching || 30 Rock with Justin. We rotate that, The Office, and How I Met Your Mother on Netflix
deciding || how to fill our day. Walks? Playgrounds? Ice cream? All of the above?
wishing || Pablo hadn't just barked so loud he woke Pippa up from her nap
planning || trips to Wisconsin, Nashville, London, and Paris this summer!
enjoying || communicating with Pippa: roaring like a lion, baby signs, and attempts at words
waiting || for Justin's school year to be over
liking || long slow walks through Stillwater with the Pip and the Pab
wondering || why deli meat has to be so slimy?
needing || ice cream. Because summer.
wearing || my workout clothes...I guess I need to shower
noticing || how different life seems when I focus on gratitude
smelling || spring and mowed lawns and blossoming flowers
thinking || about how to simplify my life
buying || bike helmets for the whole family
feeling || content


on learning a language

I spend a lot of time thinking about, reading about, and practicing learning a language.

Learning my second language was all verb forms and vocab lists until the summers of 2004 and 2005 when I finally had the chance to put what I had learned into practice. For 10 days in the state of Sonora, Mexico we traveled to 1-3 villages each day spreading the Good News, singing songs, doing crafts, and bringing donations.  I still recall with great clarity the first extemporaneous speech I gave on God's Great Exchange. I'm sure I made a TON of grammatical errors, but what sticks out to me is the feeling of accomplishment that I was able to somewhat intelligibly convey a message more profound than "my name is Emily and I have 16 years."

The only reason I was able to do so was by putting together fragments from a speech my Spanish teacher helped me write, which I had memorized countless times in the old beige truck on the way to each village. I can't remember the reason I couldn't give the straightforward speech I had memorized, but I do remember the feeling at first of anxiety, and then of excitement to meet the challenge presented before me. I would pull phrases and ideas from my speech, and rearrange and combine them with words and phrases I already knew.

Since no one threw rotten produce at me, or gave me the look I got from my Spanish students every day of my teaching career, I'm going to assume they understood at least part of what I was trying to say.

A decade later, and schooled in the research of language acquisition, I now know that that speech was a huge step in my language learning career. Some might say it was a step from novice high into intermediate low (per the ACTFL guidelines, of course). On that trip, I also perfected the art of circumlocution - a roundabout way of describing something because I couldn't remember the correct word or phrase.

My point is that my real-life application of learning a foreign language was an impetus for improvement and desire to learn more. Without the opportunity to use the language with native speakers, learning Spanish would probably remain verb forms and vocab lists for me.

A fellow (creative and intelligent)  Spanish teacher, whose blog I have been following for inspiration since the dawn of my teaching career, recently wrote a post voicing her frustration with the advertisements all over the internet for "fast and easy" ways to learn a second language. All I could say was "Amen!" because as a language learner and teacher, myself, I know from experience that there are no shortcuts to language acquisition. It takes experience, practice, myriad mistakes, and above all else TIME to become conversational.

Unless learning a language is your full time job (if it is, WHAT ARE YOU DOING AND HOW CAN I GET PAID TO DO THAT), there's no way any of us have enough time to learn a language in 3 months as promised by some of these websites. And without the opportunity to use the language with native speakers, your language learning will hit a plateau at some point.

I am so thankful I had the opportunities to communicate with native speakers when I did. Each experienced helped boost my proficiency to the next level. I am hoping my experiences, and communication with native speakers as often as possible, will help my daughter reach a proficient level at a much younger age - before she even knows what a verb form or a vocab list is! And then we can go on mother-daughter immersion trips to exotic locales. #dreambig

Now if I can just find a job where I get paid to study languages...


weighed down

For those of you who live anywhere but the midwest, it may feel a bit late in the year for spring cleaning. But here in Minnesota, spring just arrived last week! The urge has finally arrived to scrub, vacuum, clean out, and purge everything we own. 

The desire to release my possessions this year is especially strong. Maybe it's my life-long desire to live on a tiny little boat coming to the surface, but I'm feeling weighed down by the amount of superfluous things my family owns. I want to push it all overboard from the metaphorical boat into the metaphorical ocean.

I keep getting stuck on Matthew 6:19-33. Especially verse 33.

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.Do Not Worry25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 
Nothing wrong with having possessions. It's when those possessions are your focus that they become a problem. For me personally, when things are taking up space in my drawers and cabinets, they are also occupying space in my mind. When I clear away the distractions, the unimportant, the superfluous, I can focus more clearly on what is important. Seek first his kingdom.

I want to feel like I can travel this earth lightly. I want to be free from my possessions. I don't want the be the rich man who went away from Jesus sad because he could not bear to part with his possessions to follow Jesus.

The other impetus for The Great Release of Stuff and Things is the book The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J Stanley and William D Denko. I borrowed this book from the library a few weeks ago and finally got around to reading it this weekend. As I expected, the millionaires are the ones leading the frugal, disciplined, low key lives, while those with the lower net worths are the ones trying to look rich by the name brand luxuries they buy.

Now, while I'm working on not storing up treasures on earth, I'm certainly not opposed to paying off my debt and saving for retirement.

So it's time to simplify, and repeat to myself these two mantras every time I get the urge to spend money on something I don't need:

Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.


I have everything I require and more. 

Anyone else looking to live the simple life?


{my top three} dream jobs

I'm pretty sure every kid had to do that project in kindergarten or first grade where you talk about what you want to be when you grow up. Hopefully, your parents kept it to compare to what you actually ended up doing, so you could share a good chuckle about what your innocent mind dreamed up vs. reality.

For example:
Little Johnny in Kindergarten - When I grow up, I'm going to be president. And when I'm president, I will make sure everyone has enough food and hears God's Word!

John 20 years later - I'm a successful accountant who hates everything about government! I have a wife, a house in the suburbs with a jacuzzi, and we're going on a cruise next winter!

Most children choose noble or high powered careers for their dream job - President of the United States, astronaut, professional athlete, and firefighter are some of the usual suspects. I'll admit, I fell into the professional football player category. That's right, folks. As a youth, I aspired to play for the Green Bay Packers. That didn't pan out, and I'm not sure where I went wrong...

As we get older, we tend to lean toward professions where our passions and talents can be used. With a natural gift for language, I ended up in choosing to be a Spanish teacher. While I absolutely love my decision, there are a few dream jobs that never left the back of my mind along the way. The one thing they all have in common? Freedom. Open spaces, time that is my own, fresh air, and making my own decisions all day every day. Let's take a look:

Cowboy (cowgirl?)

I mean...you get to ride horses, sleep under the stars, sit by the campfire each night. Sure, it requires some physical labor, but you get to be one with nature, you don't have to talk to a lot of people, and you get to travel! Toby Keith's I Should Have Been a Cowboy is my theme song. Is this still a career? Why didn't this show up on that standardized aptitude test that told you what your career was supposed to be?

Fisherman (fisherwoman?)

Basically the same as cowboy, but you get beaches, water, and boats. You could also moonlight as a pirate. Also, delicious fresh-caught fish? With some fresh squeezed lime, fresh fruit...it's all I need in the world.


Typical author living on the coast of somewhere beautiful, penning my masterpiece as I gaze out upon the ocean waves? I would probably own a lot of light-weight baggy sweaters, flip-flops, and linen pants in this scenario. Hairstyle courtesy of the salty air. I would have a local beach bar where I have a tab and some good friends. I would read 1 novel per week, you know, as part of my "work."

Do you have any dream careers that slipped through your fingers?


baby mandatos

Ever since high school I have been a HUGE fan of using TPR (Total Physical Response) to teach a foreign language (shout out to Señor Pluger for introducing it!). Loved it so much that I wrote a research paper on it in college, asked for the book by James J. Asher for my birthday one year (language nerd time infinity), and implemented it in my own classroom.

Here is an excerpt from Learning Another Language Through Actions by James J. Asher to summarize the basic characteristics of TPR:

[TPR] is based on the premise that people are biologically wired to acquire a language in a particular sequence. The sequence is visible from observations of how children acquire their first language. Before the child can utter anything more intelligible than "mommy" or "daddy," that individual has internalized a sophisticated understudying as shown when the infant accurately responds to commands as, "Dave, pick up your red truck and put it in your bedroom!" Further, we know that 1/3 to 1/2 of al utterances (Friedlander, 1972) directed at the young child are commands such as, "Don't make a fist when I'm trying to put on your coat!"

The book goes on to discuss how commands in a classroom can be a great way to introduce novel vocabulary and grammar in a fun way, in which the students don't feel like they are learning or memorizing language.

I can certainly speak to how true that excerpt is. I feel like all I ever do is give Pippa commands - usually of what not to do.

"Don't close that door!" "Don't throw your food on the floor!" "Please stop licking that." "Don't pull Mommy's earring." "We don't eat computer chargers."

In doing so, I have actually learned some new Spanish vocabulary, myself! Pippa loves opening and closing doors and drawers, so naturally I have had to acquire the words for drawer, cabinet, and pinched fingers. During the crawling/walking/toddler stages, it's really important for a non-native speaker speaking a second language to their child to be familiar with the command forms, as well as common mandates given to your child. That's half of what you'll say to the baby throughout the day!

Here are some of my recent mandatos for Pippa:

Now I'm just looking forward to the day my commands are less about keeping baby out of danger, and more about playing, helping with chores, and having fun!


sunny days

Spring has been a long time coming in Minnesota. Today was only the fourth time in 2014 that we have hit 70° in the Twin Cities. I'm often tempted to be negative about the slow warm up, bemoaning the time cooped up indoors and feeling sorry for myself.

And then a day like today happens - a Sunday with nowhere to be and a forecast of 70° and sunny. When compared with the coldest winter I have ever experienced, and this dreary excuse of a spring, this day felt incomparably good. Just intensely nice.

I honestly don't know if I would have been so grateful for it if I received the gift of good weather every day. The kind of good weather where you don't even feel anything. You're not hot or cold, you're just existing. I like to think this whole winter was leading up to this very day. 70° is always nice, but man does it feel good after months of 0°.

To enjoy a perfectly sunny day by the river after church and a nap - this is the Sabbath as the good Lord intended it. A day of rest and renewal. (Hopefully it's not a big deal that I cleaned out our fridge - it wasn't that hard of work, though.)

These are the days I want to collect and remember. The days spent with my people in the sunshine. Yeah. It doesn't get much better than that.


baby signing - #regrets

At the risk of sounding like an over-eager first time parent, not only am I speaking Spanish with Pippa at home, but I have also taught her a few baby signs. I take the Spanish speaking pretty seriously. I don't take the baby signs seriously at all. They were more of an after thought. I guess I thought that giving her a way to communicate with us before she could form words was a good idea. I guess I thought it would make my life easier. I guess I was wrong.

So far, Pippa knows how to sign dog, more, and eat. We're working on thank you, but I don't think an 11 month old understands the concept of thanking someone. So never mind, we'll save that for later. We're also working on play, all done, read, mama, dada, and water, but there's actually a really big problem, and I'm considering banishing baby signs from now on.

What problem could be so desperate that I would ban a form of learning from my household, you may ask? The problem, gentle reader, would be a child with an insatiable appetite. According to Pippa, she is hungry when she wakes up, when I change her, when she gets dressed, when I read to her, when we go for a walk, when she finishes her bottle, when someone else eats or drinks, when we play, and when she has just finished eating. You guys, she can't stop signing that she wants to eat. I don't want to put my hand anywhere near my mouth for fear that she'll think I'm signing comer (to eat). I don't even want to do any other sign, because she just signs back comer.

Now, you may be thinking, 'Emily, you're the parent. Just don't give her any food! Distract her! Redirect her! It's not that big of a deal.' Let me answer you this: have you ever experienced a child going boneless? It's that phenomenon where upon not receiving exactly what she wants, a little one will magically have all the bones in their body melt and sink to the floor in devastation, accompanied by screams of agony. Inconsolable.

That's right. Girl goes boneless every time she doesn't get something to eat, which is the majority of the day.

It's my fault, really. I should have known that teaching her how to get access to food was a mistake. I should have known. #regrets



 I love finding small things to treasure in quotidian life, but there's something to be said for an all out celebration! Lucky for me, this weekend was full of them. After a 10 days of sickness in our house, a weekend with family, good food, and parties was exactly what we needed.

To kick off the weekend, we threw a bridal shower at my parents' house for my sister Molly - she's getting married this summer! With a subtle 1950s & polka dot theme, the details arranged by Molly's maids of honor, Maggie (our sister) and Taylor (our honorary sister), were absolutely stunning.


We sent Molly off with date ideas at every price point, travel suggestions, and a few gifts to help her and her fiancé kick off married life this summer.

Sunday was my first "official" Mothers Day. There always seems to be so much pressure on moms to have the perfect day, and husbands and kids to produce the perfect offering of thanks. That pressure only serves to ruin the spirit of honoring mothers' service and sacrifice to their families by creating expectations that can never be met, and thus disappointment. True love to one another demands that we don't feel entitled to adulation or gifts - whether it's for Mothers Day, Fathers Day, birthdays, anniversaries, or holidays. The solution is to spend the day enjoying the company of those we love by humbly serving those around us and graciously accepting the acts of service others perform for us.

Our day was lovely and low key. We heard the voice of our Good Shepherd at church. We basked in the 80° sunshine while we devoured books and fresh fruit. We strolled through a park, then sipped coffee and ate pastries on a sidewalk patio. It was an idyllic Sunday and Mothers Day that had me counting and naming the blessings lavished in my life by a gracious God.


overcoming target language obstacles

This week we are experiencing Pippa's first ear infection. It's tough to see your baby in pain, knowing there is not a lot you can do about it. Naturally, speaking Spanish to Pippa today was the furthest thing from my mind. That is, until we were in the waiting room at the doctor's office.

As we passed the time waiting for the doctor to see us, I fed her Cheerios and watched Aladdin, which I am sure was on for the children, but it had been a long time since I had seen it. (patience, Iago). Pippa was resting but also trying to grab handfuls of Cheerios out of the container when I wasn't looking. After a few minutes, the most beautiful woman and her 14-month-old sat across from us and smiled. She inquired, with a slight accent, about Pippa's age, and complimented her, as is custom when you see any baby, ever. I returned the social norm, and we went on our way in polite silence. When the woman's toddler tried to grab her iPhone, I overheard her speak to her child in another language I didn't recognize.

That's when the lightbulb went off for me. When your child is in distress, it is natural to want to speak to her in your heart language - your native tongue. But I had clearly used this situation as an excuse to take the day off. I actually probably wouldn't have worried about it if this were a rare situation. But the problem is that I find myself backing off from using Spanish whenever there is an obstacle of any kind big or small. I did try to slip some Spanish in today, during the higher points of the day, and told myself tomorrow would be another day, another day to do a better job.

Here are some of the excuses I end up succumbing to more often than not:

1. I am in public - I don't want people to think I'm being pretentious. I don't want people to think I'm going "overboard" because it's my first child. The problem - I'm worried about what others think.

2. I am with family or friends - I am afraid of coming off as rude if I am speaking a language those around me can't understand.

3. I am in a bad/sad/weird mood - How I feel shouldn't affect doing what I know is good for my child, and yet it so often does. (See also: working out, eating healthy, being kind, cleaning the house).

4. I am lazy - I can't think of the word right now, so I'll just revert entirely back to English.

5. I am waiting until...  - I have had more time to read in Spanish...
                                        - I have memorized that prayer in Spanish
                                        - the timing is right, all her teeth have come in, the stars have aligned, the  moon is full.

Anything can be an excuse if you let it. The key for me is to prepare ahead of time for these situations or feelings that arise, so I know how to respond to them in order to stay on track. Just like healthy eating - if you prepare your meals ahead of time and only buy healthy foods, you're more likely to succeed. It takes discipline. It's just a matter of willingness to put in the time and work.