Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top 10 Popular Posts of 2009

I'm actually quite shocked at how much I blogged over the past year. With grad school and all, I'm surprised I found the time. On average, I posted about 1.5 times per week.

It's very entertaining and fascinating to look over the posts from the last year. Looking back on the changes in life is important to remember to do. My absolute favorite post of the year is People Watching: A Social Experiment (#7). That day was so funny! Here are a few of my other personal favorites that failed to make the list: Got Pain?, Kid Quote: What Others Think, Kid Quote: The Cat and the RaccoonThe SORRY Steps, and Crappy Parenting (Jen's first post).

According to the number of pageviews, here are the top ten most popular posts from Riedlblog in 2009:

1) My Tattoo (This is mainly because it is linked with I Have Poland Syndrome, which is quite popular)
2) Dirty Microwave From The Office
3) Glendoveer Fitness Trail
4) Kid Quote: Fortune Teller
5) Kid Quote: Broken Spirit
6) The Portland Plan
7) People Watching: A Social Experiment (A must-see!)
8) Joseph Wood Hill Park (Rocky Butte)
9) I Love Jen.
10) Work Affecting Marriage

Thanks for reading, everyone! I hope you are excited to see more tasty treats in 2010! I sure am. Yum. :-)

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 27, 2009


So...I hate blogging. I feel a little bad, since Aaron loves it so much. But, we have made a compromise. I will post, but I don't have to write anything. :) From now on, I will take pictures of things that I cook or bake (since I like that hobby better than blogging) and then I will post them here. Sounds good to me! Here are some pictures to get started:

Strawberry Shortcake 5/20/09

Strawberry Jam 6/14/09

Apple Pie 10/24/09

Applesauce 10/27/09

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie 11/26/09

Christmas Eve Pumpkin Cheesecake 12/24/09

Christmas Dinner for Two! 12/25/09

I hope this makes you feel better honey! This is how much I love you! XOXO

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Gifts

Last year I remember a kid telling me that he got two Xbox360's for for his Dad's house and one for his Mom's house. Ugh.

This country is dripping with consumerism. Spending too much on gifts that we will forget by next year is all too common. What ever happened to baby Jesus? All this shopping stress at Christmastime makes baby Jesus cry.

This year we decided to spend less on gifts. With the money that we saved on gifts, we are donating to an organization called Living Water International. We take our tap water for granted so often. There are so many people in countries all over the world who do not have clean water. They have to drink muddy, stagnant, parasitic water that they find in the nearest river or lake. Water-related diseases are one of the biggest killers in the world today. Living Water International takes the money donated and builds wells for people in those types of communities. It is so awesome to watch videos about people who are so excited about receiving clean water.

I think Jesus would be pleased with these gifts. After all, it's His birthday, isn't it? Shouldn't we be giving gifts to Him? I think the gifts that He would want is to see the people He loves serving one another.

Related post: DIY Fair!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Coursework Complete

Fall semester wrapped up a couple weeks ago, so I am all done with my coursework at Concordia! From now on, I will be in my practicum and student teaching classrooms full-time.

It is nice to know that I can devote my full attention now to the classroom that I have been placed in. Right now for practicum, I am teaching 8th graders at a NE Portland K-8 school. It is tough, but I am learning a lot from my cooperating teacher, my supervisor, and the students. I am glad to have a tough class for my first teaching experience. It teaches me to be humble and not think I'm the best teacher in the world. I have a lot to work on and it only comes with experience.

I have one more month with the 8th graders, which includes lots of lesson planning and a work sample for the unit I am teaching. Then, in February, I will be off to teach a 5th grade class in a SE Portland K-5 school. Wow, that will be such a huge change.

The biggest thing I am trying to wrap my mind around is adjusting from being a student to becoming the teacher. I have been in school for 18 years of my life as a student, but practically zero time spent as the one in charge. This will be quite a journey.

Image from here.

I recently discovered this site and immediately loved it. We often ignore homelessness and turn our heads when we pass by the people standing with signs at the busy intersections. This site puts faces and stories with those people. Stories that we don't know about because we don't stop to chat with them.

Carol lost her waitressing job due to the economy and is now living with her injured husband under a tent in the woods.

Dale spent 14 years serving our country in the military and is now confined to a wheelchair because of his serious health issues.

It is important to remember that these are real people. They are not trash or junk. Jesus loves everyone the same and we ought to start treating everyone the same. This site helps me with that.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Portland Plan

This morning I got a chance to go to a Portland Plan workshop at Mt. Scott Community Center in SE Portland. It was awesome. Unfortunately, there were mostly white middle- to upper-class citizens there, which didn't accurately represent the diversity of the city, but there were still great comments and opinions shared.

Mayor Sam Adams led the event by taking us through a PowerPoint regarding the city. The Portland Plan is a city-wide plan to think about the city's future and where we want to be 25 years from now. There is actually no draft plan as of now. The workshops are just to build awareness and invite opinions and feedback from the citizens to let the city planners to know what to focus on before writing the plan.

There was a good amount of discussion among table groups at the workshop. In our particular group, we talked a lot about education, transportation (biking specifically), and housing issues. I brought up the fact that in my neighborhood, in East Portland, there is a large population of poor and uneducated communities that lack the basic skills to thrive. Basic education is one of many topics mentioned at the workshop that the Portland Plan needs to spend time reviewing. And not just educating our youth, but adults as well.

Overall, it was a great time to meet people from other parts of the city and talk about something that we all have common ground on: where we live. Nobody disagrees with the fact that we want our city to be the best that it can be, so it is a great way to find unity and cooperation together.

I'm planning on attending our neighborhood association's monthly meetings and possibly contributing my thoughts on the board meetings. Would be a great way to contribute to the city and make a difference!

More information:
Portland Plan website:

Friday, December 4, 2009

Mom's Empty Chair

My mother actually sent me this story :-) and I thought it was a great image of what prayer is. I thought I would share with all of you.

Mom's Empty Chair

A woman's daughter had asked the local minister to come and pray with her mother. When the minister arrived, he found the woman lying in bed with her head propped up on two pillows. An empty chair sat beside her bed. The minister assumed that the woman had been informed of his visit.

"I guess you were expecting me," he said.

"No, who are you?" said the mother.

The minister told her his name and then remarked, "I saw the empty chair and I figured you knew I was going to show up."

"Oh yeah, the chair," said the bedridden woman. "Would you mind closing the door?" Puzzled, the minister shut the door. "I have never told anyone this, not even my daughter," said the woman. "But all of my life I have never known how to pray. At church I used to hear the pastor talk about prayer, but it went right over my head. I abandoned any attempt at prayer," the old woman continued, "Until one day four years ago, my best friend said to me, 'Prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus. Here is what I suggest: Sit down in a chair, place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see Jesus on the chair. It's not spooky because he promised, "I will be with you always." Then, just speak to him in the same way you're doing with me right now.' So, I tried it and I've liked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I'm careful though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she'd either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm."

The minister was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old woman to continue on the journey. Then he prayed with her, anointed her with oil, and returned to the church.

Two nights later the daughter called to tell the minister that her mama had died that afternoon. "Did she die in peace?" he asked.

"Yes, when I left the house about two o'clock, she called me over to her bedside, told me she loved me and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found her. But there was something strange about her death. Apparently, just before Mom died, she leaned over and rested her head on the chair beside the bed. What do you make of that?"

The minister wiped a tear from his eye and said, "I wish we could all go like that."

Image from here.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Pez Dispenser That Came To Life

Here is the final product! For my authentic writing project, we were instructed to create anything that we wanted that had to do with writing. So, I wrote a story about a Pez dispenser that started blinking and exploring. The original story was pretty boring, so I thought that stop motion animation would really spice it up. And about a week of frustration with Windows Movie Maker (it froze up on me about a million times) and many, many hours of editing later, I am very pleased with the result.

Hopefully I can use stop motion animation in my classroom when I get hired as a teacher. It is a lot of fun and I know a handful of kids already that would be interested. Maybe I can use it to teach them the procedures of the class and demonstrate to them what I expect of them. I was also thinking about turning it into a picture book. The possibilities are endless!!!!!

Enjoy the video...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Do We Dance Enough?

This last Sunday in Imago Dei Kids, we had a guest band come in, play, and sing worship with the children. They were really entertaining, playing a wide range of instruments (I'd say around 11 total).

The highlight for me was watching the kids. All of the children just sat watching the band, not sure what exactly to do. All except one boy. This one boy (about 7 years old), who is normally a child that has trouble following directions, was jumping up and dancing. He was jamming along with the band and doing what he felt most comfortable doing.

Most adults would likely frown at this boy because he was "a distraction" or "bothering the other kids." But I think that God was totally joyful at this boy's excitement, joy, and praise for such wonderful music.

Are we letting children miss out on how to express joy? Are we letting them shout and dance for fun, or are we constantly telling them to be quiet?

Adults can be really boring and often too quiet. I'm afraid we might be passing that on to our future generations. Hopefully, I can try to do something about that. :-)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Coming Soon!

My first stop motion film! I made it for my writing the trailer below:

DIY Fair!

Have you ever wanted to give a gift that is more meaningful than a giftcard? Did you ever want to give something more heartfelt than something you just picked up at the store? Well, you're in luck...the Do It Yourself Fair is tomorrow!

A woman from our church is organizing this event in order to promote gifts during the Christmas season that represent giving relationally. The purpose is to equip everyone (men, women, and children) by sharing ideas as well as learning and practicing new skills.

Jen and I will be running our own projects there. I will be showing people how to make their own juggling balls and attempting to teach them how to juggle. Jen will be making candy trains, tealight candle jars, and food gift baskets. There are many other awesome ideas to be learned there, such as making hats, terrariums, silk flowers, comics, magnets, pendants, wooden toys, printmaking, and much more!

The whole idea came from Advent Conspiracy: To spend less, give more, love all, and worship God fully. The main purpose is to save money and send the money saved overseas for people to have clean drinking water. Check out more about it here:

Two great videos about it below...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Work Affecting Marriage

I don't actually have a job, but I certainly do a lot of work. Schoolwork has seemingly consumed my life for the past five months. It has kept me busy day and night. I go to classes during the day and come home to work on projects and reflection papers at night. It seems endless.

How can I fit in a social life? Well, that's easy...I can't. At least, not a very healthy one. My good friend Patrick has been so patient with me as I rarely hang out with him anymore. My family over on the westside probably has forgotten what I look like by now. And my wife...well, let's talk about her.

My marriage is affected by my work. That's a given. But the question is, how will it be affected? I am the person that influences Jen's attitude more than anyone in her life. It is crucial that I be diligent in making time for her and focusing my little free time on her and only her. Doing the dishes for her before she gets home surprises her and lets her know that I am thinking about her. Surprising her with flowers at work by riding TriMet for 3 hours in between classes is totally worth it. And giving her a back rub not only helps her feel loved, but also helps me avoid carpal tunnel!

I can see why marriages fall apart so easily when job hours or demands increase. It's tough being in a relationship that requires so much focus and time when all of that focus and time is expected to go into my work.

But overall, we are trying our best to focus on God in this marriage and constantly trying to be servants to Him and to each other. And thankfully, that is keeping us relatively stable.

P.S. - Patrick inspired me to write this post. :-) Thanks man!

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Another awesome pizza from Papa Murphy's. The last special one they made was for Valentine's Day. This one was just so cool I couldn't pass it up. I call it a "Papa Murphy-O-Lantern." Happy Halloween!

Related Post: Hawaiian Love

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Health Care Debate

I have not picked a side and I do not expect to any time soon. My mind is split between two things: 1) I want to help people who do not have health insurance, but 2) I do not want the government to be the one using my money to help them. I want to be the one to give my money to people who need it.

Maybe the video below will help explain my dilemma. On President Obama's twitter page, he wrote, "Our Health Reform Video Challenge finalists showcase the creativity and passion you bring to this debate. Watch and vote: [link]." So I guess he's trying to get people involved by creating witty videos to support health care reform, calling it the Health Reform Video Challenge. I found this video in the mix, and after watching it, I shook my head.

"It took our neighborhood to come together to save us," she said on the video. What bothers me about that statement is that instead of praising the support of the neighbors, it uses this beautiful example of community support to criticize the government.

In this story, it seems to me that providing health care for this boy would have been even worse. If the government just paid for the boy's medical expenses, then the neighborhood would never have come together to help them. This joyful miracle of a group of people coming together would not have happened.

Isn't the community in this story the ideal? Aren't these the type of people that should be surrounding those that need help? This reminds me of what Jesus set up the church to be. He wants us to help others in need. There are many good organizations out there, helping people as we speak. I certainly want to be a part of that, and I am trying to do my part right now. However, when the government attempts to solve all of our problems, it is difficult for me to see as many situations that would require communities to unify for a purpose. We are able to solve our problems together, as we serve and share our resources with each other.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

First Time Teaching

I taught my first math lesson to the eighth graders yesterday. It went surprisingly well. These students are not known to treat substitutes or even their regular teachers very well, so I was pleased when they actually listened and did what I asked them to do.

I started out the period by giving them an assignment right when they walked in the door, while greeting each of them by name. Surprisingly, they got to work right away! After that, I went over my classroom expectations and told them a little about myself. I decided to be straightforward with them and explain that I am new at this teaching thing and hope they could be patient with me. They took it well.

The material was not difficult. Mostly finding patterns in numbers and then developing algebraic rules that correspond to them. So my main goal was to present the information in an interesting way. I applied the material to a problem about basketball. I solved the problem in order to estimate how many minutes I should practice my free throws in order to increase my free throw percentage. The boys were especially interested, which is what I was hoping.

I was humbled realizing how much work goes into teaching. I still have a lot to learn. The biggest thing I need to work on is making sure that they are quiet before I start talking. They need to learn how to be respectful to me when I am speaking, and I need to learn how to uphold my expectation of that. It is difficult to lead. It is difficult to organize. It is difficult to be a responsible adult in charge.

I am glad that this is the beginning. It's only going to get better with practice. Practice makes closer-to-perfect.

Related Post: Confidence in Christ

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

2 Year Anniversary

Year number two is filled with a lot of great memories. The cold snap last winter, Jen's first backpacking trip, and our gardening project. Each of these memories included only the two of us, representing for me how we have grown over the past two years.

The most prominent thing that God has been teaching me in my marriage is patience. Not that Jen is more difficult than any other wife out there--she is actually a perfect fit for me. God uses her to teach me how to be respectful and loving, even on our bad days. He is teaching me how to change my selfish attitude in order to shower her with loving words and actions. I am also realizing that I will never perfect this over the course of our marriage. However, by studying her and serving her, I can improve more and more.

Something that has helped me think about the best there is in Jen is by thinking of all of the things that I love about her (rather than focusing on the negative). I love and respect her because of how she is willing to give up herself in order to help others in need. I remind myself that Christ is constantly working through her and in her, and that I am a big part of how she grows and matures. Together, we have recently volunteered our time to help out with planning a community garden in our neighborhood. It is a wonderful way for me to see Jen's gifts being used to benefit others. I am drawn to her when she serves others. It's awesome. It makes me want to be a better husband.

Jen, because of Christ, I love you more today than any other day before.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Confidence in Christ

Thinking more about my involvement with the 8th graders I have worked with at school, I am realizing why it is so easy to be scared of them: I am afraid that I will not be able to control them, I am afraid that they won't like me, and I am afraid to fail as a teacher.

All of us are often weak people. Myself included (obviously). We are not often genuine with others and we do not often do what we know is the right thing because we are afraid of something. God has recently been teaching me the importance of getting up off my lazy butt and acting like a man who is confident in Christ's redeeming power. He has the power to redeem my brokenness and the fears that I don't really need to be afraid of.

I have always labeled myself as an "introvert" because I often prefer to be quiet in large groups. I also label myself as a "people-pleaser" because I don't want to offend people and I want them to like me. I am realizing how easy it is to just use my labels as a crutch, never getting up to do anything worth while. God is constantly reminding me that the only way for me to be an influence in this world is to get involved and get my hands dirty. Christ gives me His confidence and His faith to get out of my comfort zone to do something beneficial with my life, because having confidence or faith in myself gets me nowhere.

My life rests in God's hands and He is the only One I should fear. Because of this, I can confidently live my life knowing that the best way to please Him is by devoting my life to serving others and declaring my thankfulness for Jesus.

Paul, who spent the first part of his life as a Pharisee persecuting Christians, says: "If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:4-11)

Related post: MAT Update

Image from here.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

MAT Update

I know... lame title, right? :-)

Well I am still on my way to becoming a school teacher. I am learning lots of good stuff in my classes right now, like differentiation strategies and classroom management skills and such. But the real meat of what I am learning right now is in my practicum. For Concordia's MAT program, they place us in two different classrooms: A shorter, part-time role in a classroom during fall semester for one day a week (practicum), and a longer, full-time role in a different classroom during spring semester (student teaching).

I am currently taking classes at Concordia four days a week and on my fifth day I help out in an 8th grade math classroom in NE Portland. In the spring I will be done with my coursework and will be placed in a 5th grade class in SE Portland, student teaching full-time.

The students in my NE Portland school don't come from the best neighborhood, so the biggest issue in the classroom is behavior management. I am gleaning as many tips as I can get from my cooperating teacher. The biggest thing that I have learned so far is that I should not be afraid of them. 8th graders are not little elementary kids anymore and deserve to be treated like older, more responsible people. However, they are certainly not adults yet and must still be trained to do the right thing (homework, decent behavior, etc). I must constantly remind myself that I am a responsible adult, I have my life together, and my role is to teach them the skills they need to grow up. How can I expect to teach them properly if I am scared of having the authority over them? I can't.

Halfway done with fall semester. Will give another update during winter break.

Adios muchachos!

Riedlblog label: Teaching, Kids

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Money Problems

After just watching the movie Maxed Out, as well as having volunteered at low-income schools and with the local homeless population, I am realizing more and more how many people in the world are in need of help with finances. The main thing that I took away from the movie was that there are many people in this world who are suffering with finances so much that they are actually willing to commit suicide in order to deal with the pain.

The film blamed the credit card companies for family debt. It's true, they are a greedy bunch who get the majority of their profits from feeding off those who are uneducated. However, it is a two-way street. Those uneducated people are actually responsible for their actions. And that is what makes me so sad. I feel sorry for those that get suckered in, making mistakes when they really don't know any better.

God has blessed my life with financial resources. My parents have been great examples showing the importance of saving money, my father has taught me much wisdom regarding financial responsibility, and I happen to live in a country where it is relatively easy to get a well-paying job. Jen and I certainly are having our fair share of money problems recently, but we have always paid our bills on time and have great credit ratings. If we borrow money from someone, we make sure to pay them back. We have a budget and keep track of where every single dollar and penny goes. We often are living paycheck-to-paycheck, but I still believe that we are very rich indeed.

Jesus tells us that we must be good stewards (Luke 12:42-48). He says that of those who have been given much, much will be required of them. Right now, Jen and I don't have much money to give away. I certainly wish we did. That is one thing that I keep telling Jen repeatedly, "When we have more money, years from now, I want to give it away to people who really need it." Thankfully, she shares my passion for helping those who are less fortunate.

But what do we do now? All of our money is going to savings and paying back student loans. When I think of people in our neighborhood who don't know how to be financially responsible, it makes me think of something that I can give others: my time. Right now I am training to be a school teacher. What better resource can I have to share with others than by teaching them? I can teach others about how to budget money, how to save, and how to pay off debt.

This is what the church is for. The church is supposed to be a group of Christians that help out the people in the community who are in need. So many more Christians ought to be giving their time and/or money away to people in need. That is what Jesus told us to do (Mark 10:17-31). I love teaching kids and I am excited to be a school teacher soon. However, this financial crisis is a big weight on the shoulders of parents and I want to help them too.

I don't have anything else to say...I'm just going to post this and then search online for ways to help through my church and through my community. I hope that you'll find ways to help those less fortunate than yourself too. You can do it! There are so many out there who need your help!

Image from

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

New Teacher Blog

I have decided to separate my two lives: Teacher life from Personal life. For professional reasons, I want to have my own blog as a teacher.

On my teacher blog (, I will put the posts about book recommendations for kids (such as A Single Shard and The Mouse and the Motorcycle) as well as other announcements once I become a full-time teacher. On my personal blog (this site), I will continue to write about personal thoughts on life and relatively regular family updates. "Kid Quotes" and "Teaching Tips" will stay here on my personal site since that is included in my personal reflections about life.

So if you enjoy reading about specific recommendations for kids and want to keep up on my work as a teacher, check out and my accompanying teacher blog! Thanks.

Riedlblog labels: Teaching, Books, Kids

Friday, September 11, 2009

Marriage Tip: Eye Contact

The location that Jen and I argue most often is in the car. Why is that, you ask? Well, I believe that it has to do with eye contact. When we are in the car, we are both sitting forward or looking out the window. It is impossible to have much eye contact while at the same time focusing on driving. (Unless, of course, we want to sacrifice our skillful driving abilities in order to communicate better. For the sake of pedestrians and the other vehicles on the road, I should think not.)

And then, as we continue the argument all the way to the end of the journey, which includes parking the car and walking into our home, I have noticed something. With all of my anger and frustration spilling out onto Jen, I continue to look away from her. I still do not make eye contact, even though we are out of the car.

It's easy to argue with someone when you don't look them in the eye (it's easy for me, anyway). So I have been trying a new arguing strategy with my wife. Whenever this happens, I try to sit down with her and resolve the argument while looking into her eyes. I ask her to look into my eyes too. It's hard not to want to resolve the argument when we do that because when I look into her eyes I remember how much I love her and how much I would rather be at peace with her instead of at war.

It seems to help quite a bit. For me, anyway. I don't know about her, though. Some other times I have tried holding her hand while arguing, but she hates that. :-) It's fun and fascinating to learn about your spouse and see what works and what doesn't. I'm glad I have the rest of my life to figure out the best ways to communicate with her.

Yes, I know the image is a little creepy. Try to ignore that fact. After all, I did crop the picture from a happy photo.

Riedlblog label: Marriage

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sewallcrest Park

Sewallcrest Park is located in SE Portland's Richmond Neighborhood. It is a cozy little residential park with a softball field, play structure, and a big field. There are often pick-up ultimate frisbee games here, but unfortunately I have not been able to come out to play recently.

We visited another Movies in the Park event here, watching School of Rock! It was fun laughing with the crowd about "stickin' it to the man" (typical Portland). Before the movie, there was a rockin' band that played, from School of Rock Portland. The band was just a bunch of kids and they were really talented. Perfect introduction to the movie.

More photos here (not the best quality, since they were taken from my cell phone).

Riedlblog label: Parks

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Single Shard

A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park, is a great book I read for class and put together a memory box for. The book is about an orphaned homeless boy in 12th century Korea who begins working for an old potter. The boy, Tree-ear, wants the old man, Min, to teach him how to make a pot, but Min explains that he only would teach his son, who happened to have already died. Eventually Tree-ear proves his worth and the old man considers him his son.

It was a great story, simple and straightforward. I loved the setting (small coastal 12th century Korean town), which is different from many books I have read. It gives an interesting perspective on what life may have been like for a homeless orphan in that time period. I especially enjoyed the relationship between Min and Tree-ear and how it developed/matured throughout the story. Great storytelling as it held my interest and made me think. However, at the same time, the story is lighthearted and fun.

Random thoughts after reading:
  • Can connect the book with activities in the classroom, like pottery/clay molding art, talking about different types of family structure (orphans), discussing other cultures, etc.
  • I enjoyed the relationship development the best: between Tree-ear, Min, and his wife. I love family stories.
The memory box I put together is pictured here. It is simply a collection of various items I found around my house and each item has some significance to the story. Great for easy presentations.

Riedlblog labels: Books, Teaching

Friday, September 4, 2009

Kid Quote: Shadeburn

One day when it was rather hot outside, a 1st grader was complaining about the heat. We had only been outside for about 10 minutes. I could tell that he was the kind of boy who didn't like to get dirty or breathe fresh air.

"Let's go in," he whined. "I'm gonna get a sunburn!"

I looked over to him and saw that the sun was not even hitting him. "But you're in the shade!" I chuckled.

"Oh," he said smiling, "Well then I might get a shadeburn! Let's go in."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sellwood (Riverfront) Park

Earlier this month we visited Sellwood Park to see Indiana Jones 4 for one of Portland's Movies in the Park events. It was such a great party! I love Movies in the Park. There is food, entertainment (Elvis performed for us too), community, and warm summer evenings. What more could anyone want?

Before we watched the movie, we went down to Sellwood Riverfront Park to see the Willamette River. It's a cute little park on the river in the shadow of the Sellwood Bridge. Great park for dogs, lots of running space. Also an overgrown wetlands nature area with a little walking bridge.

Sellwood Park is up the hill a couple blocks. It has softball fields, lots of play structures, and an outdoor pool. Huge trees fill the area, so it is very old-growth beautiful. One of my professors was there with his family too and he saw me. You'll never know who you'll find when you go out and experience fun activities like these!

More photos here.

Riedlblog label: Parks

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Mouse and the Motorcycle

The Mouse and the Motorcycle, by Beverly Cleary, is the first of Cleary's books that I have read. It is about Keith, a boy with a toy motorcycle, and a mouse. Keith spends the weekend in a motel room and befriends Ralph (the mouse living in the wall), who wants to ride the toy motorcycle. Ralph gets into predicaments as he ventures away from his home on the motorcycle.

The book was very well written and easy to read. It only took me two hours to read through the entire book. I absolutely love this book because of how adventurous Ralph is, as well as how creative Beverly Cleary was by inventing "mouse language" and allowing the motorcycle to be powered by Ralph making "vrroomm vrroomm" sounds with his voice. So cute.

Random thoughts after reading:
  • Great life lessons in this book regarding friendship, forgiveness, responsibility, and the importance of family.
  • For an art project/activity in the classroom, I would have my future students make a map of where Ralph traveled throughout the story.
  • I loved how Ralph had his own family and he was the adventurous one of all of them. Made me think of it like a real human family and how there are many kids like that.
Riedlblog labels: Books, Teaching

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kid Quote: You're Welcome

We recently got back from a trip visiting family in Arizona. It was a lot of fun, especially since we stayed at a sweet hotel! (thanks Mom!)

One morning, we went down to the pool and there was a family playing together in the water. As I was working on my tan while reading C.S. Lewis, there was suddenly a beach ball that lightly touched my feet. A cute little guy (I'd say about four years old), with a life preserver dripping wet around his chest, stood there waiting for me to do something. I grabbed the beach ball, tossed it to him, and he naturally scooped it up and ran back over to his family in the water.

"Say thank you, say thank you," the little boy's family kept reminding him. "Remember to say thank you."

Hearing his family reminding him to "say thank you" over and over again, he repeatedly turned his head back and forth looking at them and then at me. I could see by the look on his face that all he wanted was to get out of the spotlight and back into the pool. So, he hurriedly turned to me, said "You're welcome!" and jumped into the water.

Riedlblog label: Kids

Monday, August 24, 2009

Ventura Park

Ventura Park is located in East Portland just a quick bike ride away from where we live. I have come to this cozy Hazelwood neighborhood park often to study and read for school. There is a good mixture of open grass with sun and trees for shade. Since it is located right next to an elementary school, there are plenty of fun things for kids to do like swings and play structures.

Hazelwood does not seem to be the most active neighborhood compared to others in the Portland area. Whenever I go to the neighborhood websites and such, it seems as though there is not much community involvement. The sites are not updated regularly and it is difficult to find events happening in the area. I think I'll be planning a visit to the East Portland Neighborhood Office to find out more. Maybe I'll be able to help out volunteering in some way.

There are very few parks in East Portland that are larger than Ventura Park and as easily accessible. I think the city is trying to get more community involvement centering around the park, because I have seen a lot of kids playing sports here and some type of martial arts/yoga/dance group (I'm not really sure, it looked funny though!) practicing together too. Additionally, the Second Annual Ventura Park Concert will be held here on Wednesday, August 26th, from 6-8pm. I think maybe we'll mosey on over to check it out!

More photos here.

Riedlblog label: Parks

Friday, August 21, 2009

C.S. Lewis' Letters to Children

C.S. Lewis' Letters to Children, edited by Lyle W. Dorsett and Marjorie Lamp Mead, includes a brief introduction describing Lewis' childhood history. The rest of the book is a chronological list of selected letters to children that he wrote over the years. Lewis spent time every morning writing responses to all of the letters he received. The time span of these letters to his younger readers dates from 1944 to his death in 1963.

I absolutely love this book. I had already felt a connection with C.S. Lewis after reading Mere Christianity, but after reading this and realizing his love for kids as well as his own childishness, I think he's even more awesome. His humor is subtle and easy to miss, and it is especially funny to imagine the kids reading the letters. But most of all, I enjoyed his heartfelt responses to those who loved his books. He is honest, respectful, and doesn't talk down to the kids.

Random thoughts after reading:
  • I love how much he integrated his faith into his letters, like asking the kids to keep him in their prayers.
  • After hearing Lewis write to the kids about the Narnia series, it has driven me to read the series on my own during my break between semesters.
  • I can use this book to motivate my future students to write to their favorite authors. Could make it a class activity.
  • C.S. Lewis is a great example of a man that thinks little about himself and lots about others: specifically the little kids anticipating a letter back from their favorite author.
Riedlblog labels: Books, Teaching

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dirty Microwave from The Office

In Season 5 of The Office, the episode "Frame Toby" exemplifies something God has been teaching me recently. In this episode, Pam finds the microwave ridiculously messy after the previous user didn't clean it up. She decided to write an anonymous note to express her disappointment at the lack of respect for others by leaving it dirty. The ironic thing is that the majority of the co-workers agreed that the note about the mess was actually more offensive than the original mess itself.

I totally did this once with my roommates a few years ago when I was a bachelor. I was so pissed off that they didn't clean the dishes in the kitchen up to my standards, so I left a note for them instructing them the "correct" way to clean up. Oh man. They weren't happy.

After that experience and watching the same thing backfire for Pam, I have come to realize that I cannot expect others to do things the way I want them to. I cannot control the actions of others. Now, if I want something done a certain way, I had better be willing to do it myself.

However, that isn't the end of it. So often I have ended up cleaning someone else's mess out of anger and annoyance. I just wished in that moment that whoever made the mess was right there with me so I could give them a piece of my mind. But that's okay, since I'm cleaning up after someone else, I must still be doing a good thing, right? (Wrong.)

This past Sunday, Heather Thomas discussed 1 Corinthians 13 and how actions are meaningless without love. Jesus came to be a servant to us messy rebels, but He wasn't spiteful. He was loving. Even though so many people left him a ridiculously dirty microwave, Jesus was still patient and kind. He didn't envy or brag that He was cleaner than others. Jesus wasn't ever rude to them. He didn't get angry easily, but instead looked after the needs of others before Himself by cleaning up the mess without complaining. And He didn't ever keep track of how many times someone made the mess.

Too bad I can't say those things about myself. How often I do "good" things without a loving heart. Sadly, when I do that, my actions are worthless. Thankfully, Jesus is working in my life to change my heart to be more like His.

Riedlblog label: TV

Image from

Monday, August 17, 2009

Forest Park

Forest Park is the perfect name for this enormous Portland city park. One of the country's largest urban forest reserves, it covers more than 5,100 acres of land in the west hills overlooking the Willamette and Columbia River valleys. It would take many visits to explore the entire trail system, which is about 80 miles in length.

My buddy and I initially tried to enter off NW Alexandra Ave by the bridge, but we got nowhere fast and ended up turning around once we found a suspicious-looking tent. We eventually found the trail head down and around off NW Thurman St. It was a nice trail head with a fair amount of parking on the street and there was even a water fountain. We took Leif Erikson Drive to Wild Cherry Trail to Wildwood Trail to Dogwood Trail and looped back down Wild Cherry. Very nice loop.

It was much steeper than I thought it would be. Worked up a nice sweat. The whole area we were in was absolutely covered with trees (as forests should be), so unfortunately there was not much of a view of the city. But, hey, that's what Rocky Butte is for...the view. Forest Park is for the hiking and exploring. And the huge slugs. I found this tasty specimen on the Wildwood Trail.

We certainly enjoyed the hike and it's amazing that such a large wilderness is inside the city. It was easy to forget we were just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Portland's bustling downtown.

More photos here.

Riedlblog label: Parks

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Teaching Tip: Debriefing

Summer semester ended last week. I want to share the most memorable thing that I learned over the past eight weeks. Of course, I learned a ton of stuff...but this stuck out to me because it's such an important, simple opportunity that adults often miss when teaching young kids about life. This opportunity is the practice of debriefing events that occur throughout life.

Brief, execute, debrief. The military uses this strategy to assess individuals and allow them to talk about whatever just happened. It ought to be used with kids as well. So often teachers (by teacher I mean anyone who has some role in the life of a child) tell students what to do and how to do it, but how often do we talk about how the experience felt afterward? How did it go? It allows the children to process an event or experience while under the guidance of an adult. This opens the door to conversation, sharing, and growth.

This is the process that was given to me in my class for what debriefing with children (after a classroom activity) includes:
  1. How did you feel after the activity?
  2. Recall important events.
  3. What did you learn?
  4. What could've happened differently if people acted differently?
  5. Any modification suggestions for next time?

Think about how often adults just ignore certain experiences because it happens to us so frequently (i.e., thunderstorms, homeless man on the off-ramp, where stuff in the grocery store comes from, the death of a pet, etc). These things have often never happened to kids before and need to process these common events with some guidance from adults.

The same thing happens in the classroom. During an activity, the kids often think about other people around them. Each child also learns something different than the other students, providing an opportunity to talk about seeing events from different perspectives. I know that I'll try to use this strategy every day when I am a teacher. It creates openness and comfort with the kids, knowing that they can come to me with their feelings and opinions.

Riedlblog labels: Kids, Teaching, Life updates

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I Love Jen.

I am so in love with my wife.

Tomorrow is the last day she'll be volunteering with the City of Portland. She has been helping 8th graders to get excited about high school in order to promote graduation. Portland's high school dropout rate is over 43%. Can you believe that? That means, on average, almost half of all high school students don't end up graduating. Clearly, the city is trying to do something about this unbelievable trend.

Our church, Imago Dei Community, provided an opportunity for those who desired to help out by advertising what the City of Portland is doing. Jen jumped on this chance to be a volunteer and do her part. She went to a few meetings downtown, with other believers as well as non-Christians, and has been volunteering her time with the 8th graders. They visit cool places like TriMet and AMR with the kids, trying to spark some interest.

But that isn't the only reason I'm so in love with her. This volunteer work happens to take place on Fridays. Obviously, she has to take time off work in order to do it. So she is using up her personal time at work in order to go serve the city. Isn't that awesome?! I just thought it was so selfless of her. God gave me a good one! :-)

P.S. - I took this picture of her last year. It's my favorite photo of her. Another reason I love her: she is so cute because she's getting super excited about Fall coming up. That's her favorite time of year to bake and she keeps telling me how eager she is. It's so cute when she tells me about her passions. I love her so much.

Riedlblog labels: Kids, Life updates

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The SORRY Steps

In one of the courses that I just recently finished, we were asked to make up a lesson plan regarding any subject we wanted to teach about. It was a great opportunity to share lesson plans with our fellow future teacher classmates, as well as to view various teaching styles. We enjoyed learning from one another.

After my experience working with kids in a before- and after-school program, I knew that one of the biggest hurdles with kids is when it comes to resolving arguments. So, naturally, I decided to teach a lesson on How to Apologize. It would fall under the Life Skills category in the state standards, so thankfully I was able to tie it in with the benchmarks.

There are so few children (and, unfortunately, adults too) who know how to properly apologize. There are important steps that one must take in order to genuinely ask for forgiveness. Hopefully I can use this with my students one day.

I was so excited about this lesson, because I created an acrostic poem as an easy-to-remember way to properly apologize. Here it is:

Sincerity ... Are you really sorry? Be sincere.

Offense ... Why are you sorry? Say what you did wrong (the offense).

Responsibility ... Why did you do it? Explain the problem and take responsibility for it.

Rectify ... Tell them what you will do differently next time (rectify means to change).

Yield ... Ask them if they will forgive you (yield means give them the power).

It is very important to remember that we cannot make other people do things. We can only control our own behaviors. The other person can choose to forgive or not to forgive. That is up to them.

I have used this in my marriage and it works WONDERS. It is a basic guideline that covers all the bases when resolving problems. By humbling myself, I am able to give Jen the power to forgive me or not. Thankfully, whenever I screw up and hurt her, she never fails to forgive me after I apologize whole-heartedly. She's a wonderful wife, knowing that Jesus first forgave her.

Riedlblog label: Marriage, Teaching

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Marley & Me

We finished watching Marley & Me this past weekend. I enjoyed the movie, but I didn't connect with it as much as Jen did. She had dogs growing up and I did not. However, I still realized how important Marley was to the family. He was a family member just like anyone else in the house and they didn't want to just get rid of him because he was a pain.

At the end of the movie John Grogan said this:

"A dog has no use for fancy cars or big homes or designer clothes. A waterlogged stick will do just fine. A dog doesn't care if you are rich or poor, clever or dull, smart or dumb. Give him your heart and he'll give you his. How many people can you say that about? How many people can make you feel rare and pure and special? How many people can make you feel extraordinary?"

It is so true. How often I forget how God can use me to bless other people. How often I forget that God can use me to make others feel special and extraordinary. That is something I need to remember and I need to make sure my selfishness doesn't get in the way of God's desire to use me to help others who are in need.

Riedlblog label: Movies

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


I really enjoy baking! Last weekend I made pinwheel cookies (picture). I think it's kind of like art to me--I don't enjoy making art in ways you would normally think of, like painting or drawing, but I LOVE to cook and bake. There is nothing better to me than being in the kitchen on a rainy day (even in July). My baking is also like art because it tends to come out as an expression of myself. For example, I felt like making something fun and unique this past weekend because I was in a fun, happy mood. On a day that feels cozy to me (like a crisp, sunny fall day) then I would make something cozy with cinnamon and nutmeg in it. Or at Christmastime I feel festive and I go overboard with baking and decorating! I guess in a way, I am an artist!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Four Weeks Down

I have already finished two courses! After just four weeks! They flew by and it is nice to know that I worked my hardest. Here is an essay I wrote (don't worry, it's entertaining!) for one of my final exams. If you're wondering why on earth I would post one of my essay assignments...well I'm not really sure myself. I guess I just had fun writing it and wanted to share it with the world. :-)

The directions were to imagine that my classroom is the epitome for everything that is right in educating children, and because of that, a group of international educators are coming for a tour of my special community. So, using what I've learned in this class, imagine what these visitors might see as they observe my classroom in action. Enjoy!

My name is Sarah Collins, an international "education scout," and I am currently in the most highly recommended elementary school in the United States. Concordia Elementary School, known for its passionate staff, hard-working students, and incredibly high test scores, is a premier example of everything that is right in educating children. I have come here to observe a classroom in action. The warm-hearted administrators have set me up with a 5th grade classroom, taught by Mr. Aaron Riedl. From what I have heard, his top-notch teaching techniques have made him a favorite among students. Join me as I explore his unique teaching styles and bring back observations from his class.

The classroom’s first sign of life appears before I even enter the room. The joy of learning spills into the hallway and fills the nearby walls—from floor to ceiling. Artwork and projects are spread around the entrance as evidence of the hard work going on inside. After entering the doorway, it is no surprise to see the layout fashioned similar to the neatly organized art in the hall. Colorful maps, charts, and words fill the walls with discovery. Books line the walls and art supplies fill the shelves. The students’ desks are personalized and unique to each individual. The homey quality of the room calms anyone who enters.

Moving the attention away from the furniture, my attention focuses on what is happening with the group in the far corner of the room. As Mr. Riedl talks to his students, he does so in a manner worth listening to. His enthusiasm and positive attitude for the topic that he is teaching encourages the students to have fun learning. While talking with eyes open wide and arms moving from left to right, it is impossible to look away because everyone in the room is fascinated with his passion for the life that is in the curriculum. Pointing to the white board, Mr. Riedl discusses the schedule for the day and the learning goals that will coincide with each bulleted item. The students understand that the classroom is an open, inviting environment, so they freely ask their teacher any questions that come to their minds. "Mr. Riedl, my older brother is in 7th grade and he says that long division is the most boring thing on the planet," comments a female student. As the students laugh and some agree with her comment, Mr. Riedl pauses for a moment to think of how to respond. He eventually begins a story about how one time he himself actually used long division in a real-life situation. After the story, he clearly instructs the students to go back to their desks and get out their math journals. Satisfied with the teacher’s story, the students comply and begin chatting as they get up to transition into the long division lesson.

As the students sit down and get their materials out, Mr. Riedl makes his way over to me, introduces himself, and thanks me for coming in for a visit. I very much appreciated his hospitality, welcoming me into such a warm, comfortable community. He turned around, faced the kids, and while raising his hand asked, "Who wants cake!?" Nearly every child raised their hand as the volume of the room gradually elevated with excitement. "Well, so do I," states the teacher as he slaps a picture of cake onto the overhead projector. "Too bad this is made out of plastic!" he finishes jokingly. Mixes of laughs and groans can be heard throughout the classroom as Mr. Riedl begins his lesson of long division, using the cake as an example of something in real-life that can be divided up. After he shows the students examples of how to do long division, he shifts responsibility to them. Breaking them into small groups, he clearly and quickly instructs them to practice long division by writing a real-life situation beside each math problem they complete. He mentions to them that this is why long division can be so fun—because it can help us with predicaments that happen in our lives. Understanding the purpose of the exercise, the students begin to work creatively and diligently.

One of the 5th grade hands immediately goes up into the air, "Mr. Riedl, I’m stuck!" I could tell by the responses of the other students in the group that this child was regularly difficult to deal with. The teacher walked over with a smile on his face and began probing the student to understand the problem. Realizing that the issue was a difficulty with visualizing the concept, he offered her small cube manipulatives to work as an aid to learning. He also encouraged the other group members to work together and help each other, telling them that he is most impressed by teamwork. Another student spoke up, trying to stump the teacher, "Mr. Riedl, how could I use long division on my baseball team?" He looked down at the child and smiled, knowing the student’s intention. However, instead of just walking away chuckling, the instructor decided to take the student up on the inquiry. Rather than just giving the student a quick answer, he sparked the student’s interest by asking how many players are on the baseball team. "Twelve," the student responded. After a few minutes and several intriguing questions later, their discussion formed into a whole-class example, and the student ended up writing the baseball long division problem onto the overhead projector in front of the entire class. The 60-minute block of time set for math had gone by so fast that even the majority of the children were shocked at how fast the time flew by. The fun, intuitive learning experience seemed enjoyable for everyone in the room.

Realizing that my observation time was up and I needed to leave, I caught Mr. Riedl and asked him a final question about why his classroom works so well. He responded, "I just try to have fun with the kids and figure out ways to get them to understand the material instead of memorizing it. The best way to learn something is to want to learn it, and that’s what I try to facilitate. Add that to my role as a responsible, respectful role-model and you have the recipe for success in your classroom." I thanked him and said good-bye to the kids, who in turn respectfully waved good-bye to me as well. What can I say about my experience at Concordia Elementary School? All I can say is that Mr. Riedl’s room flowed magically. There was no special formula, just genuine people working together as a community for a purpose—to learn. I hope to tell others about how powerful a healthy environment and a love for learning can be with a group of kids. I learned a lot from such a quick visit.

--Sarah Collins

Riedlblog Label: Teaching

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Mill Ends Park

I wanted to give Mill Ends Park its own post, even though we visited it the same day as the other Willamette waterfront parks. The reason is because it is the smallest park in the world!

It is a cute little island in the middle of SW Naito Parkway at the intersection of SW Taylor Street. Just 2 feet in diameter, it was easily hidden behind the Rose Festival Entry sign.

On the information marker sign, located on the sidewalk 38 feet west of the park, it reads:
From his office on the second floor of the old Oregon Journal building, journalist Dick Fagen (1911-1969) periodically gazed down on the busy Front Avenue thoroughfare. It was his keen imagination that turned a utility pole hole, in the avenue's median strip at Taylor Street, into "Mill Ends Park". The Guiness Book of World Records lists it as the world's smallest Park. It is twenty-four inches in diameter, and contains 452.16 square inches of land. In his "Mill Ends" column in the Oregon Journal, Fagan described a variety of events occurring in the Park, which were presided over by Patrick O'Toole, head Leprechaun residing in the Park. Weddings and other celebrations have taken place at Mill Ends, and on St. Patrick's Day, 1976, the site was dedicated as an official Park of the City of Portland.
More photos here.

Related posts:
Westmoreland Park, Rocky Butte, Kelley Point Park, Hoyt Arboretum, Glendoveer Fitness Trail, Waterfront Park & Eastbank Esplanade

Friday, July 3, 2009

Waterfront Park & Eastbank Esplanade

We visited Tom McCall Waterfront Park right after the Grand Floral Parade. Boy, was it packed! The Rose Festival was still in full swing and there were rides, fun, and foot traffic everywhere. It seems to me that it is usually a very bi-polar park: Depending on the time of year, it is either very crowded or very empty.

It's a great park that is very long. Along the west bank of the Willamette River, there are lots of wide open spaces, lots of grass, and lots of trees. It is so beautiful to walk along and there is always something to look at. Boats, river water, bridges, people, buildings, water fountains, and so much more.

We crossed the river on the Hawthorne Bridge and walked the other direction along the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade. This was the first time I walked along the east bank of the river and I very much enjoyed it. It is a nice view of the city, as you can see in the pictures. A great bike path stretches along the east side of the river, so we'll have to try that out sometime.

We finished our journey that day under the Burnside Bridge. We wanted to check out the Burnside Skatepark and see some mad skills. We sure did, and I was completely amazed at the talent that some of those guys and girls had that day. I can barely stand on a skateboard and they are making the sport look absolutely beautiful.

More photos here.

Related posts:
Westmoreland Park, Rocky Butte, Kelley Point Park, Hoyt Arboretum, Glendoveer Fitness Trail