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