Well I’m having a bit of a rough day, so I figure a good way to lift my spirits is to do something nice for someone else and send out some virtual hugs. I’m thankful to Teresa from Motherhood: The Journey of a New Mom for nominating me for a Liebster Award. This came at the exact moment I was lamenting to my husband that my blog was not as successful as I would like it to be and maybe wasn’t worth the time commitment. So thanks Teresa for giving me a little bit of encouragement when I was needing it! It’s always nice to hear that someone has read and appreciated my blog.

I would like to go through the official steps of accepting the award (writing 11 facts about myself, answering 11 questions, thinking of 11 questions for other bloggers to answer, nominating 11 blogs with less than 200 followers), but realistically I don’t think I’ll get around to it. But I will take a moment to answer 3 of Teresa’s questions and send out virtual hugs to 3 bloggers whose work I enjoy.

3 Questions:

1. What made you start a blog? I started this blog because I have always loved to write and had some extra time since becoming a stay-at-home mom. I also wanted to document my experiences as a mommy.

2. Coffee or tea? Tea for sure. If you’re ever in Portland, be sure to visit my favorite tea shop, Tea Chai Te.

3. How did you choose your child’s name? I think names are very important! knew that I wanted Joy to be part of her name, because I want her to be a joyful person, and we agreed on that as her middle name. I chose Marie for her first name because Marie is my middle name as well as my mom’s, also for the biblical name Mary.

Virtual Hugs:

So in lieu of passing on the Liebster Award, I’m giving virtual hugs to several bloggers whose work I enjoy! You guys are fabulous!  Be sure to check out these great blogs.

1. Lemon and Mayonaise (lemonandmayonaise.com): This is an excellent blog for discovering eclectic music. Also this blog has a nice aesthetic.

2. Two Oregonians (twooregonians.com): An around-the-world travel blog with amazing photos. I was happy to have the opportunity to live vicariously through Ted and Bethany’s travels. Start with Peru and work your way back around to Oregon.

3. The Ten Thousand Hour Mama (tenthousandhourmama.com): Another great Oregon-based mama blog about the ups and downs of parenting an infant.

What’s a blog that you’ve enjoyed and would recommend to others?

 

 

 

The official start of summer is just around the corner. The fleeting season for eating freshly picked berries, riding bikes along the river trail, and hiking behind waterfalls. Undoubtedly, my richest memories are from summers.

 

At Tunnel Falls in the Columbia River Gorge.

At Tunnel Falls in the Columbia River Gorge.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When I was a kid, summer was the season for our annual family vacations. Thanks to my parents’ adventurous spirit, I had many memorable experiences during those vacations. I won’t easily forget the time an orca swam underneath our zodiac raft on a whale-watching expedition in British Columbia. Or seeing the ancient marble formations inside the Oregon Caves. I’ll always remember the talent competitions at our Evans family reunions in the tiny Ozark town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and the time my mom was serenaded by an Elvis impersonator at the country music show.

I’ll remember the glorious summer my parents and I toured Europe — dodging cars on narrow medieval cobblestone streets, standing in centuries-old Gothic cathedrals as light beams down through stained glass, discovering my love for Impressionist painters at the Musee d’Orsay. And I’d be negligent if I didn’t mention the hot and humid September afternoon my husband proposed to me on a glacial rock in Central Park after a picnic lunch of deli sandwiches and potato chips, and our tiramisu wedding cake the following June.

Our wedding day, eight summers ago. (Photo credit TJ Cameron).

Our wedding day, eight summers ago. (Photo credit TJ Cameron).

Even the summertime flops make for good stories — running down the side of South Sister in the midst of a lightning storm, sleeping in our car in Utah when our campsite was being sprayed with insecticide for its mosquito infestation, flying on a sketchy third-world airline that used hand-me-down Hawaiian airlines jets.

I want my daughter to grow up rich in memories too. A family vacation isn’t in the cards for us this summer due to a lack of money and vacation days as well as my daughter’s young age. But we can still have fun while staying here in Oregon. At two-years-old, my daughter probably won’t remember this summer anyway, so I suppose the memory-making this year is more for the benefit of my husband and I.

To help encourage ourselves to make the most of summer, we’ve created our family summer bucket list. I’ll be checking back at the end of the summer to report on our progress. My husband and I agreed on the late deadline of October 15 to complete the activities, since nice weather tends to last through mid-October in Oregon and we’re not particularly tied to the school schedule. The point is to have fun rather than give myself more things I feel obligated to do. WIthout further ado, here’s my list:

1.  Parent-child swim lessons
2.  Canoeing (without our daughter)
3. Lots of bike riding
4. Visit local farm
5. Get off the beaten hiking path (try some hikes outside of the immediate Eugene area — perhaps Blue Pool, Obsidian Falls…)
6. Portland road trip
7.  join CSA (Okay we’ve already done this. I confess the secret to success for to-do lists is to include an item you’ve already completed)
8. Visit Wildlife Safari
9. Watch fireworks (We never do this, because my husband always has to work at 5:30 am on July 5).
10. Attend a concert in the park
11.  Run in Butte-to-Butte race
12. Host 2 dinners (We love to cook and have friends over for dinner, but haven’t been doing a good job of this since moving to Eugene.)
13. Visit Crater Lake

Do you have a favorite summer memory you’d like to share? Or, do you have items on your personal summer bucket list?

Books: Yesterday I finished reading To Heaven and Back by Mary Neal, about a near death experience she had when she drowned in a kayaking accident. I’ve read several books about near death experiences, and am always fascinated by them. I especially enjoyed this book because she writes about miracles that she’s experienced throughout her life, not just the near death experience. As I wrote about in my last post, I’m also reading Power of a Praying Wife. Also this week finished reading A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. So intelligent, poignant, hilarious and possibly life-changing. I couldn’t stop highlighting and underlining my favorite passages. Here’s one of them:

“If you are looking for Bible verses with which to support slavery, you will find them. If you are looking for verses with which to abolish slavery, you will find them. If you are looking for verses with which to oppress women, you will find them. If you are looking for verses with which to liberate and honor women, you will find them. If you are looking for reasons to wage war, you will find them. If you are looking for reasons to promote peace, you will find them. If you are looking for an outdated and irrelevant ancient text, you will find it. If you are looking for truth, believe me, you will find it.”

Movies: We’ve recently discovered Lilo & Stitch. A Disney cartoon that takes place in Kauai and includes an Elvis-impersonating extraterrestrial? Enough said. And have I mentioned that I’ve only been to the movies twice since my daughter’s birth in April 2012? It’s interesting how a former favorite activity no longer seems worthwhile since becoming a mom.

Television: Marie and I have been enjoying The Magic School Bus. I also started watching the new season of Orange is the New Black, but had to stop, because apparently (despite NPR’s love affair with this show) I can’t handle watching shows that are rated M. I do recommend the book of the same name however. Piper Kerman’s memoir of her time in prison for a minor involvement in an international drug ring was an interesting read and gives important insight into the prison system.

Music: Same old nursery rhyme remixes and classical.

Work: School’s out for summer! I was lucky to have the opportunity to sub for an elementary school speech pathologist several times in the last few weeks of school. I found that I really enjoy working with kids one-on-one and in small groups. But I’m unlikely to make a career switch to speech pathology, as it would involve a year of prerequisite classes before starting a two year master’s program. I’m also currently in between paid writing projects.

Recipe: We’ve been getting lots of kale in our CSA, but Marie won’t eat it, so I tried making kale chips for the first time yesterday. Success! She ate them and they were super easy to make.

Gratitude: We went on our first family bike ride with Marie this morning in a pull-behind trailer. My parents were able to join us as well. Saw three great blue herons. Looking forward to many more bike rides this summer!

On the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe Slide on our first visit to the Enchanted Forest.

On the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe Slide on our first visit to the Enchanted Forest.                                 

 

I’ve been reading the book The Power of a Praying Wife. I was initially a little skeptical about this book because I heard about it from a woman who said we needed to pray for our husbands because “they are our leaders in our homes and in our community.” Hmmm, really? The last I checked our mayor was a woman. I also know of many successful female teachers, principals, medical professionals, lawyers, pastors, etcetera. Yes, men can be good leaders, but so can women. Anyway, I chose not to bring this up at the time as I figured my minority opinion would be consider divisive in the women’s church meeting I was attending. Just because I disagree about something important doesn’t mean I need to get into an argument about it in every situation.

Another thing I initially disliked about this book was the the pink floral-patterned cover. Because, you know, women want to buy books that are pink and have flowers on them. Maybe they could also give away a free Barbie doll with each purchase of this book.

That being said, I picked up a free copy of this book at Bible study a few weeks ago and started reading it and praying through the chapters. I think it’s actually a great book for Christian women, though I may disagree slightly with a few of her comments. Her goal is to help people to improve marriages and prevent divorce, which is pretty important, considering the high divorce rate. Praying for your spouse and children is very important, in my opinion! The book covers prayer topics that I wouldn’t necessarily think of on my own — but now that they’ve come to mind, they seem like great things to pray about. If you can’t think of your own words to pray, you can just read the prayers aloud with your husband in mind. Easy!

We often undervalue prayer and think of it as something you do as a last resort. But truly I think it’s best if prayer is our first resort. Praying about problems before they occur can prevent them from happening in the first place. The further I go on my journey as a person of prayer, the more I believe in its power. It works, not in a God-vending-machine type of way, but prayer can change your heart and the heart of those you pray for and influence the outcome of events. This God-stuff is very mysterious.

I think more appropriate cover art for Power of a Praying Wife would be a picture of a woman running a marathon, or engaged in an intense wrestling match. Or perhaps a picture of a mother bear protecting her cubs. Yeah, that sounds about right. She’s ferocious, and willing to fight to protect what’s important.

______________________________________________________________________________________

This is my first assignment for Writing 101: 20 minutes of free writing. So it’s not as polished as I would like, but here are my thoughts for today. And what about you? Do you believe that prayer works? Would you like to share an example of a time in your life when prayer has worked for you?

Once a teacher, always a teacher. I used to teach fourth grade, and although it’s unknown whether or not I will go back to having my own classroom, I will always love teaching and learning. Young children love to learn too. They’re naturally curious about the fascinating world around them. My daughter is two and will be starting two-year-old preschool in the fall –  I can’t believe we’re about to embark on the preschool phase already! Here are some simple ways you can help encourage your 2 to 4-year-old’s  innate love of learning.

Puzzles

Puzzles offer little ones an opportunity to work on their spatial awareness and motor skills. I’m loving the Pre-School Numbers Puzzle Pairs I just bought for my daughter. It teaches number sense — the understanding that numbers represent an amount of real objects. So you match the numeral 1 to the picture of one sun, the numeral 3 to three frogs, etc. It’s also color-coded and includes the spelling of each number, so you can work on literacy skills as well. I would recommend this puzzle for children ages 2 up through 7 (or older if the child is still struggling with number sense). As a fourth grade teacher I still had students who didn’t understand what numbers were, so your child’s elementary teachers will love you if you’re already working on this with them by the time they enter kindergarten or first grade. My daughter is two and it is a bit advanced for her, but she can match the colors and we work on counting the objects together.

photo1-1photo2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gardening: Learn where food comes from

Planting a small garden can be a fun science activity for you and your preschooler to do together. You could plant them from seeds and watch them grow into plants, or just plant seedlings. If you and your child are really into this activity you could even create a little scientific journal documenting your observations (Far too advanced for my two-year-old, but I can dream). You can do this even if you don’t have a yard. We live in an apartment, so all we have is a tiny concrete deck, but my parents recently gave us this little planter box herb garden. We’re growing two kinds of basil, oregano, thyme and lavender. I’m hoping to experiment with some lavender-infused desserts later this summer. Even if you have an apartment with no deck, you can grow small plants in your windowsill. Having easy access to fresh herbs can also improve the quality of your cooking!

Our first garden! Yay for fresh basil.

Our first garden! Hurray for fresh basil.

Reading

I can’t say enough about how much fun it is to read to my daughter. Not only is it a time for us to bond, it also teaches her vocabulary words and encourages her to develop a life-long love of reading. Reading is also a way to learn about the outside world. A couple of books we’ve been enjoying lately are Good Night Oregon by Dan McCarthy and Eric Carle’s Have You Seen My Cat? Good Night Oregon talks about some of our favorite Oregon locations like the Oregon Zoo, the beach and the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Reading Have You Seen My Cat? with my daughter has given us the chance to talk about different types of cats — lions, tigers, panthers and more.

photo5

What are some educational activities that you and your child enjoy together?

medium_12012086896-1

It’s easy to let fear take on more than its share of control in your life — especially when you’re a parent. Starting in pregnancy, the potential fears can be overwhelming. What if I miscarry? What if my baby has a disability? What if my baby is healthy but has a rare vaccine reaction and develops autism? What if….

The list of things to fear is endless. It can paralyze me if I let it.

When my daughter was about five months old she decided she was a tummy sleeper. She had the ability to roll from her back to her tummy, and every time I placed her on her back to sleep, she would roll over. Being the rational person I am, my response was complete panic. Despite the fact that she was five months old and could easily move her head, I assumed she would suffocate if she slept on her stomach. I flipped her over to her back each time, waking up as often as I could to check on her.

Obviously this was not a peak time for my mental health.

At some point I called the pediatrician, who assured me that if she was able to roll over on her own, her muscle control was good enough that stomach-sleeping wasn’t a concern. Whew! I could check a fear off my list.

Still, then and now, there are more things to fear, rational or not. Anxiety has been an on-and-off problem throughout my life. I once fainted after feeling a lump on my spine in the shower. Cancer. In fact, it was a small patch of infected skin.

I used to let fear hold me back from doing things. In high school, I wanted to try out for the cross-country team but I was afraid I wouldn’t be good enough, and besides I didn’t really know the other kids on the team. I loved to sing and would’ve enjoyed being in the choir but in middle school the choir director hadn’t allowed me to participate, so I figured I wasn’t choir material.

What if I had continued to let fear prevent me from doing things I should be doing? What if I’d been too scared to volunteer to ride in that cute guy’s truck on the college trip to Sunriver? Ten years later, we’re married with a beautiful daughter. What if I’d been too scared to become a teacher? I would have missed out on two years of impacting the lives of fourth graders, and perhaps more yet to come. What if I’d been too scared to try to become a writer? Or more importantly, a mother?

I want to keep choosing to face my fears, and live life to the fullest each day. I want to, as Teddy Roosevelt said, choose to dare greatly in my life.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming…who at best knows the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly….” — Teddy Roosevelt

________________________________________________________________

How have you struggled with fear in parenting or life in general? And, have you ever risked failure in order to achieve a goal?

photo credit: Celestine Chua via photopin cc

 

 

Jesus asks his followers to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That sounds really nice. Everyone likes to love and be loved. But what does it look like in practice?

When my husband and I first got married, we moved into a large apartment complex in southeast Portland. We soon met our next-door neighbors, an 18-year-old girl and her 26-year-old boyfriend. My first encounter with the girl was when she asked me if she could borrow my bicycle to ride one block to 7-11. Caught off guard by her request, I offered to drive her the one block instead.

Of course, this set up a precedent wherein she would often knock on our door asking for a ride or to borrow money or use our phone. Usually I, being a love-your-neighbor Christian, would grant her requests. Except for the times that I would pull the blinds shut and pretend not to be home.

This girl had a baby from a different daddy than her current boyfriend. Her baby was in foster care and his father was in jail. She was still in high school. She wanted her baby back. She would get him back soon, she often told me.

Her world was new to me. None of my high school friends had had babies or 26-year-old boyfriends or exes who were in jail.

Her circumstances were new to me, but the dynamics of our relationship were not. She was a Needy Person. I’d had other friends who were needy too, friends who made bad choices about drugs and promiscuous sex again and again. Friends who complained about their lives and asked for my advice and then would not listen to it. Friends who took and took and did not give back. Friends whose lives were black holes into which I tried to shine the light of Jesus.

Throughout the year, our neighbors’ problems seemed to get worse. They got jobs and lost jobs. Their car was towed due to lack of insurance. They borrowed our vacuum cleaner and gave us fleas. When they asked us for money to buy a flea bomb, we said we didn’t have cash. They asked if we could go to the bank and withdraw money. We said no.

We moved out as soon as our lease was up, quickly and quietly, without saying goodbye to them. Sadly and predictably, in the following years, I’ve been hesitant to get to know my neighbors.

What did I learn from this? I learned that loving your neighbor can be inconvenient. Sometimes you may get fleas, even though you don’t have pets. I also learned that it’s important for me to set boundaries with people. For example, I do not need to give someone a ride to a place that is within easy walking distance. I do not need to give money to someone who recently quit his or her job.

I do need to seek God’s will in my day-to-day encounters. God’s quiet voice may ask me to buy a sandwich for this panhandler or go to coffee with that friend. Or it may ask me to spend a quiet morning recharging my spirit through prayer.

In the words of theologian Frederick Buechner, “The place where God calls you is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” In order to love those around us, we first need God to fill us up with His deep gladness. The world may have an endless need for love, but thankfully God’s love is endless.

 

How do you find a balance between showing kindness to others and having boundaries?

When you look at a Pollock painting, do you see a mess that your toddler could have created? Or do you see a priceless work of art?

When you look at a Pollock painting, do you see a mess that your toddler could have created? Or do you see a priceless work of art?

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I originally wrote this as a guest post for the blog of my friend A.J. Swoboda (ajswoboda.com), pastor, theology professor and author of Messy: God Likes it That Way.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 168 other followers