The Real Housewives of Benton County: Sara Egbert “Mother Nature”

I am so excited to be back doing this interview series! Although this is a project that I simply did not have time to continue as my schedule got busier, it never left my heart. With so much focus these days on what is wrong with the world, I want to show evidence of all of the good that still exists. I am honored to know so many inspiring women who make me want to be a little better, and I hope that you will leave each week feeling a little more inspired and uplifted as well. Look for a new featured woman each Monday. If you know someone in the area who should be featured in this series, please contact me and let me know what inspires you about your nomination!

This week, I chose to interview my friend Sara. Though Sara currently lives in Berkeley with her family, she was raised in Corvallis and comes back for large portions of each summer to stay with her parents (Mark and Alice Rampton) and to let her children experience the bliss of an Oregon summer. We look forward to her visits and know that there will be fun adventures and conversations had when she is here.

I knew that Sara was a kindred spirit right when I met her. She is fun, caring, and so down to earth. She is one of those people where you feel like you can be your complete crazy/quirky self when you are with her, and she really values who you are and sees the good in whoever she is with. She is such a loving mama and has so much fun with her kids. She is a deep thinker and a great listener.  I immediately was also impressed with her passion for the outdoors and how she makes it a top priority to help her children experience the beauty of this world. This is something that I am trying to do a better job of myself, so I thought that it would be fun to hear more about Sara’s story and some of her tips. Enjoy the interview and the beautiful pictures that Chris took on our recent walk at Finley Wildlife Refuge.

K:It is so obvious that you are so content and in your element when you are outdoors. At what point in your life do you first remember feeling a deep connection with nature?

S:It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment this happened for me. My earliest memories from childhood are of playing in the creek that ran next to our property and through our neighborhood. Creeks are magical habitats brimming with life; frogs, snakes, tadpoles, water striders, ducks, the cold running water, cattails, algae, and rocks. I knew that creek like the back of my hand. I knew every deep and shallow spot, the places where I could catch tadpoles, the part where the current was swift, the best spot for jumping over that wasn’t too wide or swampy. Having that creek at my fingertips every single day was where my connection to nature began. In addition, our family vacations each summer were always camping, hiking, and fishing. I don’t ever remember hearing my parents say “don’t get dirty!”. On the contrary, I explicitly remember my mother telling me to “go play outside!”. My parents also had my siblings and I helping with outdoor chores from a very young age. Nature was a place of fun, but also a place of work- helping in the garden, raking leaves, spreading mulch, digging holes, watering plants, pulling dandelions.

I do have a distinct memory when I was filled with an awe and amazement of the world around me. I was lying in the grass, staring up at the clouds and I was only 4 or 5. It was spring or summer because I remember thinking that I would be going to Kindergarten soon. I was watching the clouds go by and became completely mesmerized by the experience; the gentle breeze on my face, the brilliant contrast of the blue sky and white clouds, the shapes of the cotton ball clouds, the different shades of white and grey, the speed at which they were floating by, and the sound of the wind through the maple tree nearby. I became lost in thought, feeling so small in the hugeness and majesty of the earth. That was a special moment for me and I reflect back on it often.

Unstructured outdoor time was the key in my development of love and respect for nature. No one was telling me to look up at the clouds and notice them, or play in the creek and find tadpoles. There was definitely a good sized gang of neighborhood kids that I played with constantly but I believe that it was those times, as a child, or quiet, inward reflection that helped me connect on a personal level to the world around me.

K:Even though you are a major nature lover, you have always lived with your children in urban areas (D.C, Seattle, and Berkley). How do you get outside and make that connection even living in areas where it might not be as convenient?

S:I made a very deliberate decision when my oldest son was three. I decided that outdoor play was going to be a priority, no matter the obstacles we might face. Living in an apartment in an urban area you have to set aside specific days of the week or times of the day as “outdoor exploration time”. I’ve never been able to just shove me kids out the back door and say, “Come back for dinner!”. There is much more planning and prep involved in an outdoor excursion and it can feel exhausting and daunting. Once I made it a priority, it became a habit, and once it became a habit, it became easy and something we all look forward to.  As a mom, my heart and mind have to be in it too. Kids are not going to relax and connect to nature if you, as the parent, aren’t excited and connecting also. I see so many parents tensing up the minute they see their kid going for the mud puddle. Why fight it? Just let go and let your child touch, feel, taste, smell the world around them. Stop buying expensive clothes for your kid that you don’t want them to “get dirty”! Every child needs to have a pile of filthy clothes at the end of the day. The essence of childhood is unkemptness- grass stains, dirt streaked faces, berry juice dribbles, scrapes and bruises, and dirty toenails.

K:When you lived in Seattle, you started a Nature School. Tell me more about this project and what your motivation was behind it.

S:Like I said in my previous answer, the shift happened when my oldest son, Jasper, was three. Before having Jasper, I was an outdoor educator for the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle. School groups would come to the arboretum on field trips. I was one of the field trip instructors- teaching the kids about about how plants grow, wetland ecology, native plants and their history in the Northwest, the food web, and forest ecology to name a few. We incorporated hiking, movement, games, music, hands-on science experiments, listening to the sounds of the natural world, and quiet, personal reflection into our field trips. I became so excited and passionate about outdoor learning. I’d see these kids, most of whom were so plugged in and disconnected from the outdoors, come to the arboretum literally starving for nature. I personally saw the difference that an outdoor classroom had on their spirit. At that point, I realized that one of my great missions in life was to help bridge the gap between children and nature. I saw more and more parents and adults turning children over to technology rather than opening the door to outdoor time.

So, back to Jasper. When he was three, I enrolled him in a regular, 5 days a week preschool.  I thought I was doing what was best for him because the preschool came very well recommended and there was a long waiting list. I took him to preschool the first day and just cried and cried after I dropped him off. I knew in my soul that I wasn’t making the right choice of my child. The preschool was beautiful and inviting with quaint tables and chairs for sitting and doing art projects, a little reading nook, and other cute features. The thing that was absolutely killing me was the outdoor playspace- a large square of blacktop with a tiny strip of vegetation and dirt.

I knew in my heart that what my three year old child needed was dirt, sticks, bugs, fallen over logs, trails that he could explore, friends to explore with him, wetland marshes, the sun on his back, rain puddles, mud puddles, trees to climb, sand between his toes, birds overhead, and the gentle breeze on his cheeks. He would have a lifetime of sitting at tables with chairs. I was absolutely going against what I felt so passionately about- outdoor education.

So, I sent an email to a group of friends. I asked if they would be interested in joining me and my two boys (I had newborn baby boy, Gideon, too) in an outdoor preschool. It would be fairly unstructured with a theme each week and a hike. Parent involvement was an absolutely must and anyone was welcome to join. The response was awesome! I wasn’t alone! I had friends who wanted to venture out with their little ones too. The outdoor preschool evolved and grew over the five years that I taught it in Seattle. Not only was it fun to be outdoors with my kids, I also forged some of my strongest, fondest friendships through it too.

K:Why do you think it is so important for kids to explore and connect with nature at an early age?

S:I’ve read many books and articles about the outdoor connection and the way it shapes a child’s mental, emotional and physical health. An early connection with nature has been shown to decrease childhood depression, anxiety, and obesity. Unstructured outdoor play and exploration is a powerful tool in helping foster creativity and self awareness in young children. When a child studies a small insect they are engaging many of their senses and their brain is focusing in a way that cannot be substituted by technology. When a child stares up at the clouds, their brain is open to creative thought process and meditation.

The childhood connection to nature also instills a sense of love, respect, and ownership over their natural world. I had a strong sense of ownership over my little creek as a child. As I child, I would have done anything to protect and care for it, and if I heard that was going to be destroyed today, I’d do all in my power to keep it alive and protected.


K:You grew up in Corvallis and come back often with your children. What are some of your favorite areas to explore in or around Corvallis?

S:We have many favorite places. We love McDonald forest. There are endless trails to explore with kids. My favorites are Dan’s Trail and the Horse Trails off of Jackson Creek Road. In Peavy Arboretum, we love the Woodland Trail, Calloway Creek Trail, and the Intensive Management trail. We always take our bikes out to Bald Hill and the covered bridges bike paths. Jackson Frazier Wetland is another favorite, especially when it is wet and flooded! A little further out is Beazell Memorial Forest, Wood’s Creek, Mary’s Peak, Alsea Falls, and Finley Wildlife Refuge. The options are endless!

K:Do you have any advice for other families who want to prioritize outside time and exploration more but don’t know where to get started?

S:First of all, you don’t need to “know” anything about insects, plants, biology, birds, or ecology to teach your kids to love nature! Kids don’t learn by you spewing facts and information at them. They learn by watching you. When you stop and point up at the “v” of birds overhead, your children do the same. When you take time to get down on all fours to get a closer look at the snail crawling by, your children will also. When you jump into the mud puddle and let yourself go, your children feel the confidence and excitement to do the same. When you take time to observe the world around you, just by seeing, feeling, smelling, touching and being, your children will too.

Second of all, make it fun. Turn your hike into a scavenger hunt. Sing songs like the birds, act like hibernating bears, buzz around like dragonflies, play a game of the food chain by trying to eat one another up.

Thirdly, if you live in the Northwest or another rainy area, get yourself and your child a raincoat and rain boots. With a coat and boots, you have no excuse not to get outside.

Fourthly, ask friends to join you! It really is much more fun with a couple of friends, for you and for your kids. My nature school was always Monday morning and I knew I had people counting on me. Peer motivation is a powerful tool. I had more confidence to try out new hikes and places to explore when I had friends with me, too.

Fifth, TURN OFF YOUR PHONE!! Please! When you get outside with your kids, just unplug for a few hours. It feels so freeing. We are a society of addicts. If we want our children to know limits and set healthy boundaries, we have to set the example. Who else are they going to learn it from if we cannot do it ourselves. If you want to take pictures of your kids while they swing from a tree branch, by all means take that photo, but them put the phone away, out of sight. If this comes off sounding harsh and offensive,, then I apologize but it just has to be said.

 K:What else are you passionate about?

S:I feel passionate about my family and friends. I have the most amazing family. My parents are two of the most inspirational, kind, generous people I know on this earth. They truly make the world a better place by spreading love and friendship everywhere they go. I have incredible siblings who doing such unique, interesting things with their lives. They are always there for me and I’m always learning new things from them. I married into an incredible family with so much love and goodness. My father in law and sisters and brothers in law are all so strong, kind, smart, and accepting people. I owe a debt of gratitude to my mother in law, Rob’s mom, Yvonne, who I never got to meet on this earth. From the bottom of my heart and honor and thank her because she raised the most kind-hearted, open, patient, selfless, intelligent, adventurous, nature-loving man on this earth. We share the same basic human values, spiritual beliefs, and we are best friends. I feel so blessed and grateful for him. I’m passionate about my three children. Oh my goodness… I just feel so lucky to get to be “mom” to these three fantastic humans. I am totally and completely in love with each of them. What an honor to get to spend each day, helping them grow and learn. I love being the one to help them see the good in the world, noticing the details, extending a helping hand and a forgiving heart.

I also feel passionate about the human connection outside of family. I have some of the dearest friends a person could ever hope for. I feel so lucky. People dear to me from childhood and teenage years, college years, and my adult life. I feel passionately about trying to keep the connection with these people, who are dear to me for so many different reasons, alive and healthy.


K:What brings you peace and happiness?

S:That’s a big question and I could write a whole book about the things that bring me peace and happiness. I love being alive! I love the fact that I get to be part of this huge living machine we call life, even though my individual part is miniscule. I am so happy that I’ve been blessed with a healthy body that can climb mountains and ride a bike. I was thinking today that the thing that brings we the highest level of happiness is when I see my three children playing together. Sometimes they will all be laughing hysterically over some silly little thing. Other times they will rush to lend a hand or share a hug when another is sad. There is nothing that fills my heart with more happiness than seeing my children happy.

Peace comes when I take time to stop, be quiet and still, ponder, and meditate. I feel the most peace when I’m on mountain top and I’movercome with the incredible love that my creator has for me and every human being on this earth. Peace comes at unexpected times, being the mother of three young children. I truly believe that my level of peace and happiness is greatly impacted by spending time out in nature with my kids. Being outside helps me be more patient with my children. A brisk walk or hike in the morning provides me with balance and calmness to face the world with positivity and perspective.

Marie Palmer - August 11, 2014 - 1:49 pm

Thanks for the interview, Kara. I’m glad I met this great mama while she was here this summer. She does exude that comfortable feel toward nature, her kids and other people that you can sense in this interview. I’m excited to read more interviews in the future!

Sara - August 11, 2014 - 3:16 pm

Kara and Chris- Thank you so much for capturing my kiddos and I in word and pictures. You two are such a dynamic duo with your love of people and beauty.

Elisabeth - August 11, 2014 - 4:01 pm

When Sara and I were friends as high schoolers, we got to spend a week traveling in Italy with our choir. During that week Sara taught me to embrace silliness, and just to enjoy life and to take myself much less seriously. As a mother, there is so much more she could teach me about lightening up and embracing the dirt :) Wish you lived in Corvallis full time, Sara! Thank you for making such a positive impact on my life when we were kids…and for continuing to inspire me!

How to Train a Babysitter

I started babysitting when I was just shy of 11 years old. Yes you heard correctly… 11 years old!! Why someone trusted me at such a young age to take care of their children, I am not sure. I was a very responsible kid, but I certainly had no idea of what the characteristics of a good babysitter were (I was after all young enough to be babysat myself still). I’m sure it helped them that they only payed me $1.50-2.50 an hour. Yes people, that is how much I made as a babysitter growing up. My how times have changed. I also was obsessed with “The Babysitter Club” books when I was a kid and dreamed of forming my own. Though I was good with kids, I really wish now I would have known more about what parents like in a babysitter, and obviously this varies between families.

As a parent, we have already gone through lots of babysitters. Between my different part time jobs or going on dates with Chris (which doesn’t happen enough), we have had the chance to experience many different scenarios and personalities. Some babysitters have been dreamy and some less than ideal, with everything in between. I have found myself disappointed at times with babysitters and I know that I have talked to many other parents who have a hard time setting up realistic expectations for babysitters. I really want you all to share your tips and feelings on the topic, but I would love to share some of my thoughts as well. It might be helpful to even share this post with my future babysitters, so they better understand where I am coming from and what my wishes are.  I am a pretty easy going person, so this is meant to be helpful and not scary :). Here are a few of my random thoughts about different scenarios:

The 14-15 year old babysitter:

  • I will pay you $6-7.50 an hour (pay can vary in each scenario)
  • I am most likely to use this age of babysitter for no more than 3-4 hours at a time (and probably not during bed time).
  • Since you can’t drive, I would love if you could get  ride to my house and I am willing to take you home. Sometimes it feels tiring to shuttle a babysitter around (especially if they don’t live close by). The more we can minimize this, the better.
  • My top priority is that my kids are happy and have fun with you. BUT, if you could take even just  10-minutes to clear dirty dishes from the table or pick up a few simple messes, that would be great. Even better if you can include my kids and have them help you clean up a little before moving on to the next activity. Like I said, paying attention to my kids is top priority as it is often a special treat for them, but please realize that parents feel stressed out when we walk into a complete tornado after a date or a long day at work.
  • Please don’t be on your phone the whole time texting while you are with my kids. Sure, take a few quick calls or answer a few texts, but for the most part, please put your phone away.
  • My kids LOVE to be read to. If you can’t think of anything else to do or have tried out all of my suggestions, keep on reading!
  • Please follow my specific suggestions for how much media time the kids can have. I usually make it pretty clear how much or if media is allowed during your time at our house. My kids are so excited to play with you, so be prepared to play!

The 16-18 year old babysitter:

  • I will pay you anywhere from $7-$9.00 an hour.
  • I am so happy that you can drive!! This is a huge bonus.
  • In addition to the list from above, please treat this time with my kids like a job. Again, the top priority is to have fun with my kids, but if you could take time to wash just the dishes you use with the kids, sweep the floor, etc.. that would be grand. Again, the kids can help too!
  • This age range of babysitter can help more with simple meal preparation, bathing kids, and executing (or beginning to execute) bedtime depending on the ages of the children.
  • Bonus if you show up with a babysitter kit with art supplies etc.. We had one babysitter show up with her old art supplies from when she was a kid, and my children were beyond excited.  It was such a simple thing, but I was really impressed.

The 18+ babysitter:

  • I will pay you up to $10 an hour. Because of our budget, we wouldn’t be able to afford to pay more than this.
  • You also can drive, and depending on how much I trust you, you might even be able to drive me kids to the park or other discussed nearby location. Please text me and let me know when you are leaving and what your exact plan is.  I want to know exactly where my kids are at all times.
  • If you are watching my kids after bedtime, it would be so amazing if you could spend 30 minutes cleaning up the house (if you have the time). I seriously was overjoyed when I came home and a babysitter had folded my laundry, done the dishes, and picked up. Yes, this babysitter was a mom, so she understood how helpful that was. I think I hugged her and thanked her a million times. I was seriously so overjoyed to have my house cleaner than I left it. She definitely went above and beyond my expectations.

In home childcare providers:

  • The pay with this has varied a ton based off what the person requested, how many of my kids they were watching, how many other kids they were watching etc..
  • Please take my kids outside to play as much as possible.
  • Please do let me know what your discipline practices are. I realize that my children might misbehave with you or not want to share, so please let’s make a plan of how you handle situations like this.
  • Please tell me if any other adults will be at your house. I even like to know if husbands are going to be home. I like to know exactly who is going to be around my children.
  • If you have guns in your home, that will probably be a deal breaker.
  • Let’s agree on what role media will play. I am okay with 30 minutes of a PBS show (or other agreed upon), but I do not want my kid sitting in front of tv all day. There have been times as a working mom, that I have had less than ideal situations in this scenario whenI was desperate for a sitter, and it feels yucky to know that your kid is being stuck in front of a television for too long.
  • Please feed my kids healthy food. Depending on how much I am paying you, I am totally willing to pack snacks for my kids or even lunch.
  • Please communicate with me if there is a problem. If my child is having a hard time interacting with another child, I want to know. If my child isn’t eating anything at your house, I want to know. If you feel like my child is not a good fit for you, let me know. I want  my children to be in an overall good situation, so I really need to hear how you feel about how things are going. It may be hard to hear if you don’t want to babysit for me or if there is a problem, but I want to know how things are really going.

Some tips in general:

  • Please tell me when you enjoy something my child has done. I can honestly say that I have had sitters (that didn’t last) that I could tell really did not enjoy my children at all. On the other hand, I can tell when  sitter genuinely enjoys my child and cares. It always makes a parent feel good when you tell a parent about something funny your child did or how you were impressed by something (like how the older siblings were so kind and helpful to the your younger kids). Even texting a picture of your kids having fund doing something feels comforting. And to add to this.. kids are so smart. They know if you like them or not. I know that my youngest and often times most feisty child will give someone even more of a hard time if she can sense that they don’t enjoy her. Because she can be a firecracker, I can help you give some helpful tips to helpfully make your time with her more pleasant if she happened to wake up on the wrong side of the bed.
  • Ask as many questions as you want, and don’t feel dumb for doing so. I always felt too bashful to ask the parents I babysat for a lot of questions. Feel free to text me if you need to know how to do something or where something is in our home.
  • I realize that I am far from a perfect parents and that my children can have off days (and some have had a really hard time leaving mom or dad), but please know that it is a big deal to trust your child with someone. If I have asked you to watch my kids, you must be someone I feel like I can really trust. I want this to be a good experience for everyone!

I really want to hear your thoughts on what are important qualities of a good babysitter. We do not expect you to be perfect babysitters, but we do expect you to treat this job seriously and to do your best! Also, how much do you pay your sitters? I’m sure this varies by family as well as region that you live in.  Have you ever had any deal breakers that caused you to never ask a babysitter back (I have)? Let me know what is missing from my lists!!



Rachel - August 10, 2014 - 2:25 pm

Great list! Ryan and I leave the kids for up to two hours with a twelve year old neighbor. Her parents are usually home and she almost always brings a friend or her older sister. The kids LOVE her because she plays with them non-stop. Eleanor actually cried when she left. There is something about that sweet-spot for girl and boy babysitters between the ages of 12 and 14. They really play! That’s being said, we only use her for short bursts and not during naps or bedtimes.

One more bullet to add: Please feel free to text me a picture at some point while I’m gone. I start to ache for my kids after being gone for more than a few hours and pictures really help.

EmmaJ - August 10, 2014 - 3:22 pm

We generally only use babysitters for date nights, and maybe once a year for something during the day. We are lucky to have good neighbors who will watch our children (and vice versa us theirs) if there is something during the day. The girls we hire are always from our church and normally 15-17 years old. We pay $10 an hour for 3 kids and round up if it isn’t a whole hour. This usually requires them to make dinner and do bed time. We let the kids watch one movie and then the babysitter usually plays games or do a puzzles. We also ask that they read scriptures and do prayers. We favor the girls who can drive themselves to and from our house and currently we have two girls on regulate rotation. They are great girls and are usally doing homework when we get home. The house is always cleaned up from whatever they played with the kids.

Karli - August 10, 2014 - 3:30 pm

Kara, I’ve always known we were kindred spirits. I actually DID try to set up my own babysitters club at age 11. Didn’t last super long, but it was a great attempt. I am perfectly comfortable with certain 11 and 12 year olds watching my kids, as they are much more attentive and excited about it. But I play it on a case by case basis. I almost never pay more than $6 an hour, but I will give bonuses for doing dishes and going above and beyond. I do think kids either haven’t been trained like we were to go above and beyond or they’re lazier. I’m not sure which.

And while I like to hire sitters to provide teens with jobs, my life has been changed by the formation of a babysitting co-op in my neighborhood. It has saved me lots of money, provided my kids with social time, and made me freer to go things without all the kids in two and without feeling guilty about pawning them off on a friend. Also, it’s much more helpful during the day when teen sitters are in school. I can email you details if you’re interested. I know you’d have the resources down there to set one up in no time.

Finally, I’m curious as to your feelings on male babysitters. I know a lot of people who won’t have one as a rule, which is sad to me, because my oldest son will someday make a great babysitter.

kara - August 11, 2014 - 12:04 am

I think that you are right about 12-14 year olds being most willing to really get down and play with kids. I would definitely consider a younger kid if they lived close and had parents nearby.
Sounds like you have a good setup with babysitters. I feel like the process is getting easier now that I don’t have a baby or young toddler. My kids are at easier stages to be left, which makes it nice!
I do want to hear more about the babysitting co-op. I’ve heard of them happening hear, but they always sounded kind of complicated and hard to keep drama from happening. Tell me know more. We have had a teenage boy babysit a couple of times. I am not opposed to having a boy, I just am not sure how to seek them out. I imagine that Gabe would also someday be a great babysitter. He LOVES playing with any toddlers of our friends
Another point that I forgot… I think that it is important for the moms to take the sitters home afterwards instead of dads. I remember many many awkward car rides home with dads. Not that they were creepy or weird or anything… but awkward is the right word. I think that some dads may not be as prone to chit chat as moms, so sometimes those 10 minutes felt like an hour :)

My thoughts on God

I’ve been in a very contemplative state lately. I feel like I am in a stage of really trying to prioritize what is important to me and of trying to understand God better.  Do I remember to pray every morning and night? No. Do I read my scriptures often enough? No. Am I at a stage where I am ready to be more gentle with myself and where I am in my spiritual progression? Yes. Does it help a person who is trying to get healthier to beat themselves up when they slip and have seconds on dessert? No way. I am really starting to learn that focusing on my weaknesses in my spiritual progression is the same way. I think human beings thrive and are much more successful when we focus and build on our strengths and the positive and good. As imperfect as I am, I also know that I have been blessed with some spiritual strengths (and have been reminded of some of them lately). I am trying to focus on and build upon those strengths right now.

One of the words that keeps repeating in my head over and over lately is “light.” I have been trying harder to lately to bring “light” into my life. Light can come in the form of where I am physically, who I am with, what I am doing, what I am thinking, what I am reading etc.. If a conversation with a friend starts feeling too dark, I am reminded that I need light in my life. If I am impatient with my kids and talk to them in a mean tone, I can feel the light within me start to fade. But the good news is is that I can quickly do things to start bringing it back.

Another thing I have really been contemplating lately is God and my relationship with Him. And when I say him, I am also very certain that there is a loving Heavenly Mother, so I have also been thinking about Her and what my relationship ought to be with Her. I can’t help but think that she wouldn’t have some extremely insightful advice to me as a woman and mother.  I wonder why we don’t talk about a Heavenly Mother more. This is something I have also been pondering.

This last week I have been given several reminders that God is so very real. I had this book recommended to my this last week, and as I am a sucker for children’s books, I went and bought it the next day.

This book was a really good reminder to me of God’s role in well… everything. God connects us to this wonderful earth that we live on. We can see God through the beauty of the earth. We should see God in each other. I truly have felt like the more that I look for God, the more I see God in everything. This is why I LOVE working with children. It is so very easy to see God in children. They are so pure and precious. It can honestly be a little harder to see God in adults at times, but I really do think that there is something good to see in everyone. It really is amazing to think of how much better the world would be if we all tried harder to see the goods in others. There is so much pride in this world of ours.

The next thing that really got me thinking about God this week was this song by Regina Spektor:

I’ve heard this song many times before, but for some reason, I really took the time to listen to it this time. I was so struck by the lyrics:

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God
When they’re starving or freezing or so very poor


No one laughs at God
When the doctor calls after some routine tests
No one’s laughing at God
When it’s gotten real late
And their kid’s not back from the party yetNo one laughs at God
When their airplane start to uncontrollably shake
No one’s laughing at God
When they see the one they love, hand in hand with someone else
And they hope that they’re mistaken

No one laughs at God
When the cops knock on their door
And they say we got some bad news, sir
No one’s laughing at God
When there’s a famine or fire or flood

But God can be funny
At a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke, or
Or when the crazies say He hates us
And they get so red in the head you think they’re ‘bout to choke
God can be funny,
When told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus
God can be so hilarious
Ha ha
Ha ha

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God
When they’ve lost all they’ve got
And they don’t know what for

No one laughs at God on the day they realize
That the last sight they’ll ever see is a pair of hateful eyes
No one’s laughing at God when they’re saying their goodbyes
But God can be funny
At a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke, or
Or when the crazies say He hates us
And they get so red in the head you think they’re ‘bout to choke
God can be funny,
When told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus
God can be so hilarious

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one laughing at God in hospital
No one’s laughing at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God when they’re starving or freezing or so very poor

No one’s laughing at God
No one’s laughing at God
No one’s laughing at God
We’re all laughing with God

How often do people forget or even mock God? I know that it really is so much easier to rely on God when times are hard but then we forget to give Him (and Her??) credit for all of the beauty and good that is in our lives. Many people even doubt the existence of God or think there is no need for a higher being. There are many things I don’t understand in this life, but the fact that God is and loves each of infinitely is something I do not doubt. At all. Sometimes I forget. Sometimes I feel lonely. Sometimes I disappoint myself and feel so small.  Sometimes I feel hopeless in moments but then I receive a tender mercy to remind me. So many people I know have been answers to prayers lately and remind me that I am not forgotten and that God cares so much about me, but not anymore than he does any of His children. He really does see the great potential and worth in all of us. And I really think that nothing makes Him/Her happier than when we see the good in the people that aren’t easy to see the good in and when we take care of our brothers and sisters. There really are so many things I don’t understand in this life or even within the Mormon culture/doctrine, but I do know that God loves us! And it is one of my greatest missions to help my children feel and share this love! Should you ever struggle or doubt God, give me a call. I can remind you of many things that are special unique to you. And why God loves you too!



Becky hillstrom - July 11, 2014 - 7:27 am

Thanks Kara! That thought was a really good way to start my morning. I’ve had some experiences lately where God has let me know that He is aware of me. And right back at you…if you ever doubt or feel disappointed, give me a call. I’ll tell you all sorts of wonderful and unique things about you.

Niki Wieland - July 11, 2014 - 7:41 am

Kara you are able to write and share in such an eloquent way! I agree with you on everything you have said, and it is so sad to me that there are so many who feel there is no God, and how lonely that must feel. I know that when I really try to find the hand of God in my life I find it in the smallest of acts to of course the big ones, my favorite is the small things that I never realized were Him!

Thanks for sharing so beautifully your thoughts on God and I hope you know that you are a light to me!

kara - July 14, 2014 - 10:16 pm

Becky and Niki,
You are both people I really admire. Easy to see God in you two :)!!

School Gardens

This last spring, Sofia was able to participate in garden club at her school. The Lincoln Garden is run through my work (The Healthy Youth Program), and Amoreena did such an amazing job with the kids. Amoreena was set to give a presentation at the school board meeting in June, and she asked Sofia if she would share her feelings about school gardens in front of the school board. At first Sofia said she didn’t know if she wanted to do it, so I didn’t push it. A couple of days later, Sofia walked into my room and handed me a piece of paper with the following written:

“Hi, my name is Sofia Becerra, and I am going to be in the 3rd grade at Lincoln Elementary.

I think gardens are important because they give fresh air and help kids and adults get outside.

And I think learning to plant and take care of plants is fun and can help you when you are older. I also think that it is exciting to see the things you planted and to eat them.

Gardens help save the earth because they don’t pollute it by being sent in trucks to stores. I think it is important that kids know where food comes from.

I am lucky that I have a big garden in my backyard. I think that school and community gardens are important for people that live in apartment buildings and small places so they can learn how to take care of plants. I’m glad that on some Fridays  in the second grade, we got to visit the garden for science with my class, and I also participated in garden club after school. My favorite thing in garden club was when we had a weed challenge. We were supposed to pick 20 weeds out, and  I picked 102.

Thank you for listening and goodbye!”

Sofia decided that she did want to share her feelings after all, and she did such a great job. When she walked up to testify, the board members were all surprised to see that she was a little girl after announcing a teacher from Lincoln Elementary :). After Sofia finished and said goodbye, she literally said goodbye and ran out of the room. The superintendent noted that she had never seen someone so anxious to get out of their after testifying!!

We are so proud of Sofia and the thoughtful little gal that she is. Sofia at this point does not seem to like the idea of a large group of people’s attention on her, so this was very brave.

Last week in the mail, Sofia received the following note in a card from Dr. Prince (the current superintendent):

Dear Sofia-

I did not have a chance to thank you personally Monday night, as you “escaped” quickly out of the board room :)! Your testimony to the school board was perfect! You were so well spoken and articulate. I could tell how much school gardens mean to you. I really appreciate you taking the time to come talk to the board. Although it seems scary, we are here to serve kids like you to make sure school is the best experience as possible. You help us be better! Thank you Sofia! Happy Summer,

Dr. Prince, Superintendent

We love you Sofia and are proud of you. We hope you always stick up for things that you think are important or right!


I realized that I never wrote a birthday post for Miriam in January. So I will write a half birthday post since I am that far behind :). This blog has been asleep for quite awhile, and although I may have few readers, I still really want to take the time to document our life right now.
Here is a little bit about Miriam over the last few months:

  • Miriam loves to be muddy. Miriam loves to be naked. Miriam REALLY loves to be muddy AND naked. Where we live, there are almost daily opportunities to find mud, so Miriam loves to take full advantage. A free spirit she is.
  • She started preschool in April. And.. she loved it for the most part. She did have a hard time with the transition of me leaving her, but her teachers assured me that within a minute after me leaving, she was usually just fine.
  • Miriam is extremely verbal. She talks and talks and talks. The other day she let me know “I’m so proud of you mommy.” And.. “You’re the cutest mommy in the world!” I think that 3 really is one of the very best ages. They can listen a little more than a toddler (though not as well as I wish she would), and every thing that comes out of their mouth is funny.
  • She is sassy. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you haven’t been around Miriam very much. You know when she puts her hands on her hips and points her fingers, that she is going to let you have it. You think that we would have things down by child #3, but it is hard to know what to do when this little girl is a stinker at times.
  • She is also for the most part a joyous and happy girl. It is pretty easy to experience joy through this girl. She loves to sing , dance around with a very serious expression on her face, and make jokes.
  • Miriam loves to sing “Let it Go” (along with most other little kids) and she loves Ingrid Michaelson’s new song “Warpath.” Listen to that song if you want to get a feel for the sassiness level of this little girl. She loves her friends and cousins. She is a really good eater for the most part.
  • She has started going on short bike rides on the tag-a-long. It is her favorite thing to do in the world right now.
  • It is just amusing to try to imagine what she will be like when she is older. She has told us that she wants to be everything from a princess to an evil scientist when she grows up.

This little girl brings us all joy, and she is teaching me a whole lot about patience!!! Joy and patience are good things to learn in this life, so thanks for being my teacher Miriam!


Anita - July 5, 2014 - 6:19 pm

Love that 3 year old sas! wish we could see you guys this summer!!!! miss you