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DVD Review: “What Did You Expect?”

A couple of years ago, my husband and I bought a multi-DVD marriage seminar taught by Paul David Tripp, who has years of experience as a counselor and a seminary professor teaching on the subject. Tripp is the author of a book of the same name. Both the book and DVDs are titled What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage.  We watched the DVDs over the course of several months.  Once a week after the children had gone to sleep, the two of us watched a session.  This was our weekly date night for some time.

Each of the ten sessions is only 25 minutes long which makes the content very digestible, especially for frequently sleep-deprived folks such as us.  The DVDs are video recordings of a marriage seminar he taught in a church setting and are accompanied by PDFs with discussion guides, making it appropriate for both a couple to talk about or in a small group setting. Even though the free leader’s guide and a discussion guide are provided, we did not use it as we already found ourselves discussing the content taught in the DVDs at various times during the week.

The emphasis of this workshop is that often we enter marriage with unrealistic expectations – of ourselves and of our spouses. Tripp explores why that is, and how we can navigate a course of marital blessing through the waters of inevitable selfishness, conflict and sin. We appreciated his insights from both Scriptures applied to marital contexts as well as his ability to synthesize wisdom gleaned from years of counseling couples (and himself!)

Our marriage benefited from these DVDs and I wholeheartedly recommend it to engaged couples, newlyweds and longtime couples alike!

Posted in Reviews.

Helping Children Practice Public Speaking

It is common knowledge that the number one fear in people is public speaking.  I took a speech class once and after seeing each person standing up in front of the class and sweating bullets, I can attest to the fear of public speaking.  Even though such skill is greatly feared, I believe it to be a very important and useful life skill. For this reason, I am eager to help my children ease in to public speaking and overcome any fear they may have.

The practice of public speaking is now enfolded into our nightly routine of story time and prayer.  Part of the children’s school assignment is to copy a portion of the Bible, and the children are to read their daily selection each night in front of everyone.  Mom and dad are also included in the rotation.

To begin, we gave them some tips:

  • stand straight with feet apart
  • enunciate each word clearly
  • read with inflections
  • pause at commas and periods
  • take a breath between commas and periods 
  • don’t lean on the wall or anything else
  • don’t fidget
  • don’t incorporate hmm and uhhh while speaking

Everyone took turns reading and I was so encouraged that all the children spoke with ease and with a great attitude.  As we practice more, I hope to incorporate more critique and feedback from the audience so we can better learn.

We often have guests over at our house and I hope to use this opportunity for the children to practice public speaking in front of our guests.  As the children become more comfortable speaking in front of a small group, I will seek other venues to increase the group size.

Posted in Homeschooling.

God Loves Us in Spite of Us

After reading Sally Lloyd-Jones’ post today on “Teaching Children the Bible,” I was inspired to conduct a little test.  Lloyd-Jones said that whenever she goes to churches to speak to the children, she always ask them two questions:

First, How many people here sometimes think you have to be good for God to love you?

They tentatively raise their hands. I raise my hand along with them.

And second, How many people here sometimes think that if you aren’t good, God will stop loving you?

Almost without fail they raise their hands.

I was interested in how my older four children, ages 11, 9, 8, and 7 would answer.  With a bit of excitement and trepidation, I asked the same two questions and instructed them to write their answers on a paper without looking at each other’s answers.  The answer is either a yes or a no.

Question one:  Do you think you have to be good for God to love you?

Two of my children answered yes and two answered no.

Question two:  Do you think if you’re not good, God will stop loving you?

All four answered no.

My children’s answers are very enlightening to me.  For years we try hard NOT to teach the Bible as a collection of moral stories.  When taught as moral stories, it’s very natural for the children to measure themselves against the people in the Bible.  If they’re not as brave or as good as David, then God must not love them.  The subtle message of “God loves and accepts you based on your goodness” is inevitably passed on.  The Bible isn’t about us, rather, it is about God.  It’s about a good God and what He’s done for us, specifically to save us from our sins and destruction.

I realize only two of my children answered the two questions correctly while the other two only answered one correctly.  I am encouraged to press on and keep emphasizing the importance of the gospel.

Posted in Children, Theology in Life.

Reusable Spill-Resistant Drinking Glasses

We love our children.

We really do.

But we don’t really like some of the things they’re prone to do.

Like knocking over and spilling their cups at the dinner table. Onto freshly laundered tablecloths.

So for years we’ve used “sippy cup” solutions. Like these:

But we’ve found recently that these are too small for older children.

What’s more, on most days, we have smoothies for breakfast. Which requires a cup with a straw; and spillage is no fun with these either.  So we bought these double wall tumblers at Dollar Tree which work nice but are not dishwasher-safe (read: more work), and what’s more one by one they kept cracking or breaking apart:

So what to do?

Inspired by the interweb and pinterest, we decided to come up with our own solution: mason jars + plastic lids.

I already had a dozen mason jars I’d purchased years ago with the intent to try some canning. They were in brand new condition.

I then went to Wal-Mart and bought plastic mason jar lids in the same section that they sell the jars — these are for storage, not for canning — but served our purposes wonderfully. We chose to use plastic because metal lids used for the same purpose would eventually rust.

My husband, with the assistance of my oldest son, then simply used a 1/4″ drill bit — the exact diameter of straws we bought in bulk from Costco — and drilled clean holes in each lid. He used a bit of scrap lumber underneath to help make a cleaner hole (and prevent drilling holes in furniture, ha ha).

The result? Perfectly reusable, perfect-straw-fitting, dishwasher-safe and big-enough-for-everyone drinking glasses! Even we adults love to use them!

Our children approve too!

Posted in General.

Summer Gardening: Tomatoes and Zucchini

Wow. Has it been that long since we posted? Yup.

I blame Instagram (for making it easy to share photos with friends), children (for being so high maintenance!), and summer slowdown.

That said, a friend asked (over Instagram, ironically) if I’d posted any photos of our garden on the blog. That seemed a great opportunity to share some of the results we’ve had so far growing tomatoes and zucchini — though none of really yet hit full maturity.

We planted tomato seedlings and zucchini seeds in mid-to-late April. The seedlings were heirloom varieties that came from Love Apple Farms in Santa Cruz, and the zucchini from who-knows-where. In any case, we’ve had great results so far, even though we’ve only so far harvested a couple zucchini and two small cherry tomatoes.  I followed their directions for growing better tomatoes, and the 6+ ft. tall tomato plants seem to suggest there’s something to it.

Here are a few broad shots of our seven tomato (six shown) & five zucchini plants:

And some up-close shots as they stand today. We’re eagerly anticipating lots of ripe tomatoes and zucchini over the next couple of months!

“Black Krim” tomatoes (clearly not yet ripe!):

“Black Cherry” tomatoes (also obviously not ripe):

“Yellow Pear” tomatoes:

One beautiful ripe early bloomer from that one so far:

And to top it off, a Thai Basil plant that we grew from cuttings last year and finally decided to plant outdoors to see if it would thrive better outside a small container. It seems to be agreeable so far!

But not all is well. Our white nectarine tree — which has been “repaired” and “reinforced” several times over the years — finally gave up when it snapped in half a couple of days ago from the weight of too many fruit on one side. This is what it looked like when I picked it up from on top of our beloved zucchini plants:

Well, that’s all for now. Lord and time willing, I’ll post photos of some yummy fruits in the coming weeks and months!


Posted in General, Photos.

Teaching/Parenting Concept: Coming Alongside Our Children

What do we do when our children aren’t progressing as they/we might like? What happens when they struggle in an area — whether an area of academics, obedience, or growth in character? One easy thing to do is to insist simply that they “try harder.” And in the process to wield our parental authority — sometimes harshly, sometimes gently — to insist on better performance!

Yet, in our own lives, how often does that work? How often, for example, do we actually perform better when others simply amp up the pressure? I think most of us know that most of the time, the answer is: rarely, if ever.

In fact, what we all need is not just admonition and pressure. What we need, very often, is simply encouragement and support! But for us as parents, pausing in the midst of our own busy days to actually provide that kind of extended support to our kids — who we’d love to be self-sufficient go-getting uber-achievers — so often feels like a rude interruption. Yet this morning, I was reminded again of the power of coming alongside my children and not just hovering over them.

This morning, one of my sons was practicing a relatively new piece on the piano. For this child, many things come easily; yet there were certain parts of the piece that were evading his quick grasp. I was in another room working with another child, but could overhear the mistake he kept repeating (I’m also his piano teacher). He kept playing it over and over the wrong way. Eventually, I headed over to check on him and found him sitting there crying and frustrated. He hadn’t asked for help at all — instead he felt defeated.

So we had a long chat about expectations. I told him that for him, most things come easy, and that I’m glad that he had found something that stumped him. I then spent some time explaining the concept of muscle memory. I told him that if he were to point to a note on the staff and ask me for the name of it, I’d actually have to think to tell what it is — but that if you asked me to play, I’d just do it without thinking! My brain already did the muscle association with the notation — much like we don’t have to actually sound out words & letters once we’re proficient readers.

I even compared my piano skills to a character in a book we’d enjoyed together who’d gotten his memory erased by the villain; but yet somehow retained the instinctive training he’d had as a secret agent in order to defend himself. My son liked and appreciated the analogy.

I then helped him to locate & circle all the notes he tends to get wrong, so that he could go back and practice those again and again.

So he worked on it a bit, and finally got over the hump; but was emotionally drained by it all. So I told him to go have fun & relax for a bit. Only a few minutes later, he came back and was completely giddy, and showed me some silly drawings he’d done since.

And he now feels not only that he can master that piece again on the piano, but that he’s not alone in the effort, which makes all the difference in the world sometimes! I’m so glad for this little illustration in my life of such an important principle.

And so grateful for a God who has done the same for us: coming alongside us, experiencing our deepest sufferings, trials and simply the difficulties of living in a fallen world. He’s our perfect heavenly Father, and gives us such an example for how we can better parent & teach our own little ones!

Posted in Homeschooling, Parenting.

Bedroom Rain Gutter Shelf

A couple of years ago, we were inspired by other crafty bloggers on the net to use a rain gutter to build a bookshelf in our school/family room.

That bookshelf, as it turned out, was mounted just under a large white board, and so became a perfect storage location for erasers, dry erase pens, and miscellaneous school supplies.

And it was just low enough that infants/toddlers kept pulling books off… so it hasn’t seen the use that we originally intended for it.

Fast forward two years, and I finally got around to installing another one of these gutters — purchased over two years ago — in the boys’ bedroom. This is for books… and whatever else they want to deposit inside. =-) For now it’s the temporary residence of a number of plush animals that were on the floor.


And, yes, Andrea, I’d be happy to install these in your up & coming new home.

Posted in Crafts.