Monthly Archives: September 2014

26 Keys To a Joyous Marriage

This week, Don and I celebrate our 26th anniversary.

September 24, 1988

September 24, 1988

In honor of our marriage, I offer the following list of marriage-building ideas. These are things that I think have contributed to the health of our marriage. I’m far more deeply in love with Don now than I ever dreamed possible on the day we wed.

This list is not intended to be exhaustive. Or even prescriptive. In it, I am reflecting on our marriage. This does not take into account situations with which I have no experience; such as abuse.

Our wedding invitation included a quote from Ecclesiastes 4:12: “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” As a metaphor for the Christian marriage relationship, it is apt; the third strand is the Lord. There have been a number of times when our cord was severely frayed, but that third strand has held us together!

Big Bear, CA; September 2012

Big Bear, CA; September 2012

An ideal marriage can be symbolized by an equilateral triangle. The top point is God. The husband and wife start on the bottom two points. Ideally, they are moving toward God (i.e., along the sides of the triangle). As they move closer to God, they are also moving closer to each other.

Marriage is hard work. But such rewarding, worthwhile work.

Here, in no particular order, is the list:

  1. Never, never, never go to bed angry.
  2. Pray together every day.
  3. Forgive readily – even if your spouse doesn’t ask for forgiveness.
  4. Apologize quickly – even if your spouse refuses to see where they are to blame.
  5. Practice humility.
  6. Set aside regular time to feed your relationship (date night).
  7. Practice gratefulness.
  8. Find common interests (other than just the kids).
  9. Work to see life from the other person’s perspective.
  10. Hold yourself to the highest possible standard. Hold your spouse to the lowest standard.
  11. Give each other space to learn and grow independently as a person.
  12. Do something unexpected.
  13. Seduce each other; don’t ever let the fire go cold.
  14. Practice random acts of kindness.
  15. Kiss often. Tender, long and slow.
  16. Take the time, frequently, to meet each other’s physical needs.
  17. When tempted to be irritated about an annoying habit, consider how you would feel if your spouse was gone. Is it really worth complaining about?
  18. Regularly remind yourself why you fell in love in the first place.
  19. Don’t be surprised when your spouse screws up. They are a sinner just like you.
  20. Turn off the TV (or other glowing screen) and communicate…. Share hopes and dreams. Not just facts.
  21. Set goals together.
  22. Be willing to compromise.
  23. It’s more important to show love than to be right.
  24. Don’t criticize…. Be an encourager.
  25. Don’t be surprised that marriage takes work. Anything worth having is worth working for.
  26. Decide together that divorce is not an option.

We sometimes hear of couples who split up after years of marriage, saying something like “He isn’t the same person he was when I married him.” Why on earth would you expect him to be the same person? He has grown and changed just like you (we hope!) have done. Embrace the change. Grow together!

Don’t ever think “it can’t/won’t happen to us”. It can. Having a mindset of invincibility just means you are less likely to work for the precious thing that is a good marriage. Don’t try to imitate anyone else. Consider your own spouse. His/her personality, etc. Do what suits your marriage. It’s OK to be different from everyone else.

Christina and Don, 1986

1986

Christina and Don, 2010

2010

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Lemon Cheese Braid

Lemon Cheese Braid

This sweet, yeast bread is a real treat. It’s more labor intensive than some other breads I make, so I don’t make it often. When I do, it is gobbled up that same day. No leftovers. It’s that good. Make. Enjoy. Double the recipe and make two, so you have one to gift to someone who needs some cheering.

[recipe title=”Lemon Cheese Braid” servings=12-14 difficulty=”moderate”]
Bread

  • 1 package (¼ oz or 2½ tsp) active dry yeast
  • 3 T warm water (110° to 115°F)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • ¼ cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3 – 3½ cups all-purpose flour

Filling

  • 2 packages (one 8 oz, one 3 oz) cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp grated lemon peel

Icing

  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2-3 tsp milk
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract

In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water; let stand for 5 minutes. Add sugar, milk, butter, eggs, salt and 2 cups flour; beat on low speed for 3 minutes.

Stir in enough of the remaining flour to form a soft dough. Knead on a floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.

Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, beat filling ingredients in a mixing bowl until fluffy; set aside. Punch dough down.

On a floured surface, roll into a 14″ x 12″ rectangle. Place on a greased baking sheet.

Spread filling down center third of rectangle. On each long side, cut 1″ wide strips, 3″ into center.

Starting at one end, fold alternating strips at an angle across filling. Seal end.

Cover and let rise for 30 minutes.

Bake at 375°F for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool.

Combine icing ingredients; drizzle over bread. Yield 12-14 servings

[/recipe]

Here’s a video that shows the process of rolling out the dough, spreading the filling, cutting the strips, and braiding.

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Hawaiian Grilled Chicken and Coconut Rice

Hawaiian Grilled Chicken

I cook a lot. Food-related tasks probably take more of my time than anything else I do. From planning and shopping, to cooking, it’s a big job. I’m always looking for ways to streamline the process. (More on how I streamline the menu planning, shopping and meal prep in a later post.)

Seeking recipes that are quick and easy to put together is an ongoing process for me. Finding recipes that are budget friendly — without sacrificing taste or resorting to using sub-par ingredients or methods — adds to the challenge. I especially seek prep-ahead crowd-pleasers that facilitate hospitality, rather than stifle it. This is a lesson I learned early on…. It’s no fun for anyone when the hostess spends the entire time in the kitchen, cooking, and barely has time to interact with guests. I want meals that can be mostly ready before guests arrive.

This is one such meal. We can make it year-round here in sunny Southern California. It’s ideal for a hot summer day, because it keeps the heat of cooking out of the house. If I’m serving this to guests, I usually make a big green salad to accompany it, simply because I can make that ahead and it holds up well. I regularly serve it with broccoli or zucchini if it’s just our family.

[recipe title=”Hawaiian Grilled Chicken” servings=12 difficulty=”easy”]

  • 3 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs (This is very important! Do NOT use chicken breasts. They will not yield the same moist, tender result.)
  • 2 cups low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 cups water
  • 1½ cups brown sugar
  • 1 bunch of green onions, chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped white onion
  • ½ tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 (13.5oz) can coconut milk

Remove visible fat from chicken thighs. Mix the rest of the ingredients together and combine with chicken thighs in a large bowl. Marinate chicken for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Grill chicken for 5-7 minutes per side (or until done) at a low heat so that the marinade does not burn.

Garnish with chopped green onion, if desired.

Serve with Coconut Rice.
[/recipe]

[recipe title=”Coconut Rice” difficulty=”easy”]

  • 1 (13.5) oz can coconut milk
  • 1¼ cups water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1½ cups uncooked rice (I use Calrose rice. The original recipe called for Jasmine rice.)

In a saucepan, combine first four ingredients. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Stir in rice. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 18-20 minutes, until rice is tender.
[/recipe]

When I make this for our family, I use 6 pounds of chicken, but use the same amount of marinade. From my experience, I think you could halve the marinade and still use 3 pounds of chicken.

Everyone loves this, so there aren’t usually any leftovers. The few times that there were, I found that the chicken reheated well, whether refrigerated or frozen.

For the rice: I have a wonderful rice cooker. I usually just adjust the amounts to fit the volume of my rice cooker and walk away. I have made it on the stove top a few times, and it works well that way too.

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Hands-full Homeschooling (2014 Edition)

School

Our homeschooling journey has always been hard, and full of obstacles. I don’t think there has been a year yet that hasn’t been interrupted by a major life event. The morning sickness of early pregnancy, the birth of a new baby, many toddlers and preschoolers needing my attention, health challenges and more.

Last year, it was Stephen’s in-home ABA therapy. Three or four days per week, we had therapists in our home, requiring at least my partial attention. And often my full attention. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling like a failure in the education department, but this past year that changed. Not only did I feel as though we had failed to achieve our goals, I also felt as though we had lost our joy. The joy of learning.

The kids were not enjoying their lessons. I was not enjoying teaching, I was not enjoying being the taskmaster, trying to keep them on track, checking off the boxes that proved they were learning something. But it was my job. So I kept going, hating every moment of it.

We finished the school year at the end of May. Not all the planned coursework was completed, but I declared that we were done. (A teacher’s prerogative, right? After all, I NEVER remember completing a textbook when I was a kid in school.) After a few weeks where I deliberately did not think about school related things AT ALL, I began the dreaded task of pondering and planning for the upcoming school year. And I started praying.

The thought of a repeat of last year was repulsive to me. I did not think I could cope. I once again considered other educational options. Private school was immediately ruled out due to the cost. Public and charter schools have their own sets of logistical issues that made me conclude they are still a less-than-great choice for our family.

So, I’m back to square one. Homeschooling and hating it. I needed something new. Different from what I have done before. Something that works with our limitations, not against them. I continued praying for answers.

I stumbled on a book called Ignite the Fire written by a fellow mom of many (http://www.ignitethefire.com). It’s inexpensive, and it looked promising, so I bought it. I read. I looked at the “other people who purchased this also bought” section on Amazon.com. I noticed a book called Teaching From Rest. It had a lot of great reviews. I went to the author’s website to read a bit more, and learned of a giveaway (on another blog) for the book I was considering, along with some companion audio files.

I decided to wait on purchasing the book, and instead entered the drawing. I prayed that if this was something that would be beneficial, God would direct me through the outcome. Three days later I learned I had won! I read some more. And I began to sense God directing me. Answering my desperate prayer for wisdom and guidance.

About two weeks later, through a series of seemingly random circumstances, I was put in touch with another mom who teaches her kids through a method she calls “delight-directed learning”. She offered to send me her notes for classes she has taught on the Delight-Directed method of learning, and articles she has written. I gratefully accepted, and continued reading. (She gave me permission to share her materials with others — just ask, and I will email them to you.)

I felt that all of these things would not likely come together by coincidence — that it was God’s way of directing my steps.

Don and I had been talking off and on about plans for the coming school year. I had all these random thoughts and ideas for change, but I lacked a concrete plan. I was starting to feel the pressure, with the start of school just a few weeks away. Every thing we considered seemed to have some major drawback. After almost 20 years of homeschooling, I know my own and my children’s weaknesses, strengths, shortcomings and passions pretty well. I wanted to work with the strengths and passions while safeguarding against our shortcomings. Most of all, I wanted to rekindle a LOVE for learning. A JOY in learning. DELIGHT in learning. We continued to pray together for wisdom and direction.

Gradually a plan began to form. For the first time in years, I’m actually excited about starting school. I think we will have fun. It won’t be total drudgery. Last week, when we presented the new plan to the kids, they were excited too!

What is the plan, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you, and then ask for your help.

After our desire to teach our children to love Jesus, and to build godly character in their lives, one of our highest priorities is to teach our kids how to teach themselves. How to figure out how they best learn. How to WANT to learn. How to search out and find information that they need and how to think logically and form conclusions based on what they learn. With this in mind we have developed a sort of checklist/guideline that our kids will use this year.

Every week or two they will choose an area to study. Some examples of areas they might choose:

  • historical figure (biography/autobiography)
  • war
  • period of history
  • invention
  • animal
  • fish
  • bird
  • reptile
  • plant
  • mineral
  • anything in our physical world
  • an item (tractor, book, food, tool)
  • a process (canning, printing, crochet, embalming, sharing one’s faith, flying a plane)

Sometimes the student will select their own subject, and sometimes we will select, or will allow them to select within a predetermined category.

  • Read books pertaining to subject (from our own bookshelves, search library catalog online and request book, or find a Kindle book)
  • Read Wikipedia article (if applicable); follow relevant links
  • Select 5-20 vocabulary words (depending on grade level and subject matter)
  • Define the words
  • Spell the words
  • Plan and do a project (build something, investigate something, take something apart, bake or cook something, create something).
  • Watch video or listen to audio (Amazon Prime video, YouTube)
  • Blog about what they’ve learned.

Incorporate as many of the following subjects as they can:

  • Language Arts
  • History/Geography
  • Math
  • Science
  • Foreign Language
  • Art
  • Music

We bought tablet computers for each kid. We have set up a semi-public blog on our family’s website. Each kid will be able to share their learning in their own section of the blog. Using speech to text, this should be doable (not too tedious and time-consuming) even for the younger ones.

We will invite friends and family to comment/critique blog posts. Correcting spelling, grammar, factual errors, etc.

Once a month we will host a giveaway drawing for those who comment with helpful feedback. “Helpful” is kind of vague, but we’re looking for something deeper than “Nice post.” Ask a question about something that wasn’t entirely clear, or point out something that you think they should have included. Gently correct grammatical and spelling errors, or suggest better wording. If you learned something, say so! Get the idea?

Our kids are welcomed and encouraged to post constructive comments on siblings’ work, which will make them also eligible for a prize.

By making this semi-public we hope to motivate them to see the point of good writing and research. We hope that they will enjoy the interaction with family and friends. We hope that by allowing them to study things that are interesting to them and guiding them through the process that their interests will broaden.

We hope that by inviting others to help critique, it will help them to not just brush it off (“mom is ALWAYS after me about something”), and will also help them to learn to take criticism. Learning to discern whether the criticism is legitimate, and to accept — and be changed by — the criticism that is valid.

So, if you are interested in following along with our kids’ blogs as they learn this year, and if you would be willing to provide feedback to them, please either comment on this post or send me email privately and I’ll get you the info you need. We would be SO grateful for the help.

Coming up soon for one kid is a science experiment to observe the difference between the bacterial growth rate of raw milk left at room temperature, vs. milk that is refrigerated.

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