Renewing Your Marriage

Our children accuse me and my husband of being inappropriate. They roll their eyes, make gagging noises and, if we’re really successful in grossing them out, they leave the room. (Usually that’s our goal! Whether we want to talk, watch a movie, trade back rubs, do a devotional or be intimate, sometimes we just want to be alone.)

Several years ago, our kids regularly left the room for different reasons. Evenings, weekends and holidays were stressful. Chris and I couldn’t be in the same room together without one of us committing a slight against the other or simply getting on the other one’s nerves. My husband’s bed was the couch and if he happened to wander into the bedroom, I’d sleep on the couch. Things weren’t always that way, but we didn’t know how to fix the problems that had led to our dissatisfaction with one another.

These days, Chris and I have an intense desire for each other. If you’ve been looking at your spouse lately and wondering how you simply became roommates who sometimes have sex, don’t despair. Rekindling the romance might not be as difficult as you think, but it will take some effort, particularly when it comes to replacing bad habits with positive habits that encourage growth in the relationship. Try the following suggestions and let me know how they work out for you! (We don’t need details, but you’re welcome to share your joy with a renewed relationship.)

Take your spouse to bed.

After several years of sleeping separately and allowing our relationship to disintegrate emotionally, spiritually and physically, when we finally decided to see if we could repair the damage, one of the first changes we made was to establish a bedtime for our children. Although they had bedtimes when they were very young, this was something we hadn’t enforced in many years. It became our habit to allow them to stay up until 11:00 p.m. or later, usually in the same room with us watching television or hanging out. (As with many homeschoolers, our bedtimes weren’t firmly established. Unfortunately, I see this trend happening in many homeschool households and it is harming marriages.) Anyway, at some point my husband began sleeping on the couch and I sometimes wonder if part of the reason was just to get everyone to go to bed – since he had to get up early to go to work. Of course it didn’t help that the bed wasn’t an inviting place.

In our personal situation, sex was difficult for me for many years following the birth of our last child. I developed serious health issues and one of the side effects was severe pain in my legs and pelvic area (made much worse with intercourse). I desperately wanted to be with my husband, but the pain made it impossible. While that is a valid excuse, the fact is that I chose not only to avoid sexual contact, but also physical contact. If you get nothing else out of this article, I hope you’ll come away with this. Your husband wants to feel loved as much as you do and for men, physical contact is a large part of that. Without going into too much detail, physical contact can result in sexual satisfaction so that true intimacy offered only through the marital relationship can be fully realized. Even if all you do is spend time cuddling, this time alone together is what separates your marriage relationship from every other relationship.

Address any unresolved issues.

When Chris and I first began trying to establish new, healthy habits that would help us renew our relationship, I tried unsuccessfully to “forgive and forget” something that had become one of the biggest wedges in our relationship. Several years earlier, Chris had made a major decision, without my approval, that altered our lives. I realize why he made the decision, but it hurt me beyond comprehension that he would make such a huge decision that affected us both based on discussions with others rather than me. For a long time, I tried to “get over it,” but it was a festering wound that never healed. Finally, I shared my frustration and disappointment with him. While this didn’t resolve the issue, Chris was willing to listen to my point of view and recognize the pain he had caused. A year later – at great cost to us financially – we reversed the decision he had made without my approval and it was another turning point in our marriage. We began to see how God was healing our hearts and our marriage.

If there are unresolved issues in your marriage, you need to address these. Don’t accuse your spouse, but present your grievances with a plan on how to make the situation better. If you bring up an issue, make sure you have an idea on how it could be made better. Be willing to hear his or her side of events as well as your spouse’s ideas for resolution. If things become heated, set a future time to come back together to discuss the situation calmly. Once you’ve addressed the issues and made arrangements (when possible) for resolution, then move on. Don’t keep bringing up the past. If you still feel the need to do so, then you have not truly addressed the issue and certainly it hasn’t been resolved.

Keep your eyes on each other.

As we grow older and fatter, as gray hairs appear and love handles grow larger, it can be tempting to focus on what is “wrong” with our bodies. Even for those who seem to have avoided the physical ravages of age, in our society we tend to seek affirmation regarding our bodies from the time we’re little tots until we’re enjoying our last days. You want people to say you look nice, notice that you had a haircut or ask if you’ve lost weight. Most of us would like to hear those same comments from our spouse and when he (or she) doesn’t meet our expectations, we are tempted to seek praise from other sources (throwing ourselves into our career, devoting all time and energy to our children, accepting the advances of another person, etc.).

One way to keep your eyes on each other is to create a habit of noticing one another. Tell your husband he smells nice, he’s handsome, he works hard, he’s a great dad, etc…. Tell your wife how you admire her, how she’s a great mom, how you like the feel of her hands, her hips, her lips, her… You get the idea!

Above all else, don’t get into situations where you’re tempted to turn your focus elsewhere. Live above reproach so that your spouse trusts you. Let your spouse know that he (or she) is the most important person in your life.

Avoid airing problems on social media.

This is self explanatory, but it will help your marriage if you follow one simple rule regarding your spouse and social media:  Only mention your husband (or wife) on social media if you’re giving him (or her) a compliment or shouting to the world how in love you are. Go back to kindergarten rules in this area. If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all!!

Make a commitment to renew your marriage.

Finally, do whatever it takes to renew your relationship with your spouse. Regardless of our society’s current disregard for the sanctity of marriage (and of life in general), the institution of marriage is of God. The blessings of marriage are eternal. God created man and woman to be together as one in the marital relationship and this fellowship is unlike any other that exists.

Date your spouse. Look at old photographs. Listen to love songs you enjoyed as a young couple. Watch movies together. Take a walk. Hold hands, for goodness sakes! Sneak a kiss in public. Above all, pray and be patient. Some wounds can take longer than others to heal, but God is the great healer.

Finally, expect great things. Watch for the romance to blossom anew. Prepare to be surprised. You might just discover new ways to clear a room and look forward to those precious moments when you and your spouse can be alone.

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Hovenweep National Monument – July 15, 2016

We enjoyed the trail at Hovenweep. We did the entire trail, which I think was 2.5 miles with the extra loop. You can do a shorter version of the trail and see most all the ruins just as well, but we wanted to climb down into the canyon. For the entire trail, you go down into the canyon and back out on the other side. It’s a beautiful hike, but there is quite a bit of climbing.

The ruins here were neat, but I think I enjoyed the wildlife on this trail most. We saw a long-nosed spotted leopard lizard, a collared lizard, several birds and a rabbit. It is a nice wildlife walk.

For anyone reading this who might be trying to decide where to visit, I will add that the road leading to Hovenweep isn’t the best. It is paved, but it’s old paving and it has a lot of potholes. With that said, you can always go around the holes or even drive in the middle of the road (which I did and the car behind me followed) because there is barely anyone out there. I think it’s around 24 miles from the turnoff to the monument, but that 24 miles took us about an hour. It seems to go on just forever. We cranked up the music and just enjoyed the drive. It’s pretty; it’s just long.

The rangers at the museum were very nice and there is a great short film to watch about the area. We always watch the films when they’re available. It gives you a much better perspective on the history of the monument or park.

 

I believe this is a long-nosed leopard lizard. I've never seen one. It was beautiful!

I believe this is a long-nosed leopard lizard. I’ve never seen one. It was beautiful!

This is a nice shot of the little long-nosed spotted leopard lizard. He (or she) was so cute!

This is a nice shot of the little long-nosed spotted leopard lizard. He (or she) was so cute!

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This is the other side of the canyon. If you do the whole trail, you have to hike down and then back up, then around. It's a nice hike with some fun climbing. Definitely strenuous.

This is the other side of the canyon. If you do the whole trail, you have to hike down and then back up, then around. It’s a nice hike with some fun climbing. Definitely strenuous.

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Beginning of the Hovenweep Trail.

Beginning of the Hovenweep Trail.

Reading about Castle House at Hovenweep.

Reading about Castle House at Hovenweep.

Boulder House. You almost have to look twice to realize there was actually a house inside this giant boulder.

Boulder House. You almost have to look twice to realize there was actually a house inside this giant boulder.

One of the ruins.

One of the ruins.

Mesa Verde National Park – Thursday, July 14

This is the first real chance I’ve had to relax. We decided to do our Mesa Verde tours today and then come back to the campsite to relax this evening. That gives us a chance to do laundry, eat a nice meal, catch up on news, etc.

We saw an ermine today. That’s a short-tailed weasel in case you didn’t know! (Don’t fret. I didn’t either.) It was incredibly cute and ran right by our campground. Speaking of that, this morning Hannah and I went to shower around 6:00 a.m. and there was a mule deer right outside our tent.

Today we did a 9:00 tour of Balcony House. This involved climbing a 30-foot ladder, going through a tiny tunnel, standing on the edge of a precipitous cliff, etc. It’s considered the most harrowing of the cliff dwelling tours. I overcame my fear of heights to enjoy this experience with Daniel and Hannah. It was great.

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This is one of the tunnels you have to go to for access to Balcony House. There is another where you have to crawl on your hands and knees, but I didn't get a photo of that one.

This is one of the tunnels you have to go to for access to Balcony House. There is another where you have to crawl on your hands and knees, but I didn’t get a photo of that one.

 

This is a nice, wide balcony on another house, thus "Balcony House." :)

This is a nice, wide balcony on another house, thus “Balcony House.” 🙂

I was trying to show what you can see from the canyon here if you sat on the balcony. You'd have a very wide view.

I was trying to show what you can see from the canyon here if you sat on the balcony. You’d have a very wide view.

You can see the balcony at the top of this little dwelling. If you were to sit on it, you'd be able to see up and down the entire canyon.

You can see the balcony at the top of this little dwelling. If you were to sit on it, you’d be able to see up and down the entire canyon.

If you look toward the middle, left of this photo, you can see the impression of soot on the roof where there used to be another rectangular dwelling here.

If you look toward the middle, left of this photo, you can see the impression of soot on the roof where there used to be another rectangular dwelling here.

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A view from beginning of Balcony House tour.

A view from beginning of Balcony House tour.

This was our tour guide for the Balcony House tour. She did a great job.

This was our tour guide for the Balcony House tour. She did a great job.

After Balcony House, we toured the museum on Chapin Mesa, found some bee sting relief for Hannah from a ranger and ate a wonderful lunch out of our van. (Hannah was wearing a bright yellow shirt and a bumble bee got tangled in her hair. It stung her arm and is pretty swollen still.)

Following lunch, we drove around Mesa Top for a bit and then took our last tour – Cliff House. This is actually the one Chris and I did with the kids in 2007 when we visited here. I really began to feel my leg hurt on this one. It’s still bright red from sunburn and it’s swollen, but it’s not excruciating so it must be ok. I’ll see how it feels tomorrow. I’m taking blood thinners so there’s really nothing else we can do. I just have to be careful about the high elevation hikes because it keeps swelling when I go up in elevation. I just want to see everything and do these hikes, though. I can live with a little pain to see these amazing places.

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A view of one of the houses from Mesa Top Loop. You can’t see it well, but you can see that there was building within the alcove, which I think is neat.

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Our first view of Cliff Palace. It’s amazing that these ruins have survived 800 years.

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There are even buildings and granaries in the tiny slots at the top of the alcoves.

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Itinerary

tripline map

 

For this trip out west, I discovered a website called tripline.net. It’s a terrific way to plan, set dates, make notes and even share details with your travel companions that you don’t necessarily want everyone in the general public knowing.

If you’d like to see where we’ll be visiting, I’ve listed most of the actual sites on my tripline account. For safety reasons, I haven’t shared specifics of what we’ll be doing or where we’ll be camping. Once we travel through a particular location, I’ll post updates and photographs of all our adventures from each national park, monument, historic site, etc.!

 

Teaching Various Grade Levels at Home

Before the introduction of institutionalized public schools in the mid-1800s, parents taught their children at home.  These families commonly had ten or more families and they not only taught their children academics, but they also taught agricultural, parenting, and homemaking skills.

 

Today, many families are going back to teaching their children at home.  The big difference today is that there are so many curricula choices on the market that it can be difficult for parents to choose what’s best for their large family.

 

There are ways to teach children of several different age levels at once without losing your sanity.  Here are some suggestions.

 

Unit Studies

 

Unit studies are one of the best ways to teach children in different grade levels at the same time.  Fun, educational studies are designed around a particular topic like the American Revolution, airplanes, weather, baseball, oceans, or just about anything you can think of.  Unit studies incorporate various subjects into the schoolwork.  For example, a unit study about kites might include a biographical study of the Wright Brothers, a history of kite-flying, a look at China on the map (where kite-flying probably originated), the aerodynamics of kite flying, the science of why you shouldn’t fly kites during a lightning storm, a field trip to practice flying kites, etc.  Unit studies revolve around the “topic” being studied and lessons can include math, science, history, geography, and many other subjects.

 

The great thing about unit studies with students of varying ages is that you can present the unit study and allow each student to ask and answer questions based on his own academic ability or grade level.  This makes unit studies ideal for teaching multi-grade levels.

 

Literature Based Curriculum

 

With a literature based curriculum, your child’s studies include reading great literature or “living books.”  Living books are the opposite of textbooks.  Instead of snippets of information scattered throughout a textbook, living books contain interesting, well-told stories that stand the test of time.  Great literature from the 1800s is still great literature today.

 

Many families prefer a literature based curriculum because children read great stories, learn life-lessons through the characters, and study vocabulary, social concepts, and historical information that is not as commonly taught today.  As with unit studies, a literature based homeschool is perfect for large families because you can read aloud great literature to the younger children, allow older children to read the books on their own, and then hold family discussions about the story, characters, authors, values, etc.

 

Chronological Lessons that cover several grade levels

 

Many curricula with chronological lessons, such as The Mystery of History or The Story of the World, are designed to cover material during a particular time period like “Creation to the Resurrection” or “The Middle Ages.”  The great thing about lessons in these types of books is that many of them are created not for one grade level, but for grade spans – such as fourth through eighth.  It works quite well to teach with a chronologically based book where all your children can participate in lessons at their own age/grade level.  Also, even though the book may be geared toward grades four to eight, for example, you can still include even younger children in the lessons as long as you believe the content is appropriate for them.

 

Educational Movies and Software

 

While I do not advocate children sitting in front of a television or computer for long periods of time, if you use movies and computer software appropriately, these can be a great way to supplement the subjects you teach your child.  Used appropriately, educational software is like having a tutor work with one or two of your children while you are working with another.

 

Finally, when trying to figure out how to teach more than one child at a time, remember that one of the blessings of home education is that it involves freedom.  Teach your five- and seven-year-old to read at the same time.  If your second grader wants to do a chemistry project with your high school student, let him.  Learn Spanish as a family.  Relax and use the resources you have at your fingertips.

 

Homeschooling is fun!  If what you are doing is too stressful, try switching to one of the educational methods listed above.  The important thing to remember is to find something that works for your family!

Introverts

J.K. Rowling

Bill Gates

Abraham Lincoln

Roy Rogers

Albert Einstein

Eleanor Roosevelt

Mother Teresa

Emma Watson

Barbara Bush

Rosa Parks

Mahatma Ghandi

These people have something in common with most of my children. They are all INTROVERTS.

I get incredibly tired of people praising extroverts when God has given each of us a unique personality. I know many extroverts who honestly need to learn to be quiet. They need to learn how to appreciate others, how to encourage individual talents (and personalities) and how to act a little more introverted at times.

Yesterday our kids walked into a courtroom where they had been told they were not welcome and weren’t even allowed. There was a high likelihood that we would have been escorted out, yet they boldly walked in anyway and sat down in front of spectators, prisoners, attorneys and the judge. Yes, they are introverts, but YES, they will stand up for themselves.

There have been millions of introverts throughout history (including those listed above and many of our greatest Biblical heroes) who probably would not have achieved what they did if they had been extroverts. You see, the thing about introverts is that they might be quiet and you might think they are sitting there doing “nothing” or “wishing they were an extrovert,” but in fact they are quietly plotting their course of action. That might be to write a book, develop a kazillion dollar software company, figure out how to help the poor or making a HUGE difference in any one of a million ways that you or I can’t fathom because we’re too busy being, well… too busy being busy little extroverts who think we know what’s best for everyone.

That’s my shout out for the day to all the introverts in the world. The world is a rough enough place without us bashing one another’s God-given traits. We all have room for improvement, but stress over the things you can change (like behavior) rather than those things you can’t change (like personality).

You are loved and you are amazing – just the way you are!

Parental Authority even in the Courtroom

Over the past week, I’ve heard from people who may understand my point about having access to the courtroom for my teenagers, but many of them add a disclaimer such as “unless the content gets too violent for them” or “except when the testimony is talking about things like murder” or perhaps “they could go to something like property court, but not something about a drug bust…”

On the one hand, I agree with the sentiment. We don’t want children exposed to unnecessary violence. On the other hand, many parents chose to avoid an argument, ignore their child’s questionable activities or perhaps even think it’s ok for them to do things some of us might disagree with. What if I personally didn’t agree with another parent’s decision to:

–  allow rated R (or PG-13) movies (which usually contain tons of violence, sex, cursing, etc.)

–  give a child a cell phone at age 12 or 13 (which can be used for sexting, contact with predators, unauthorized internet access)

–  allow a minor child internet access (do I need to even explain)

–  let a child watch shows like Special Victims Unit or Dexter (which includes violence like rape and murder)

–  leave an 11-year-old at home alone

–  give 16-year-olds keys to a vehicle (many have no business driving)

–  spank a child

–  get vaccinations / deny vaccinations

–  go to a mall alone

 

Across our country, there have been judges who disagree with the very idea of homeschooling who have ordered that children be put in public school for “socialization” – not because the child was having issues, but simply because the judge disagreed with homeschooling. What if I were a judge and decided mothers needed to be home caring for their children instead of sending them to daycare or public school? (I bet that wouldn’t go over so well, but judges are entitled to enforce their opinions in court, right?)

My children are mature. My oldest two children are almost 20 and 18. My oldest daughter is a junior in college and my son is leaving to serve in the Army in January. I am incredibly proud of them both. My husband and I made the decision to homeschool when it was time to enter my oldest in kindergarten and I was told by the school system that she would have to sit and review her letters for the next year even though she already knew how to read fluently. We plunged in and we’ve never looked back. I continue to teach our 12, 14 and 16-year-old children at home and in the community.

Learning is a privilege and homeschooling has been a delightful journey, but we’ve always placed our children’s safety and well-being above all else. We introduce concepts that are age-appropriate, limit their exposure to violence (especially early on) and encourage them to pursue their own interests and God-given talents. I do not take our decision to visit the courtroom lightly, but since we are responsible parents who care about our children, we are the best ones to make decisions about when to introduce certain concepts and how to do that. You wouldn’t appreciate me telling you that you’re literally not allowed to let your child watch a particular movie any more than I appreciate being told we cannot enter a public courtroom.

As a side note, for the most part, we’ve had overwhelming support and encouragement. Most people completely agree with our point of view and understand the issue at hand. Our local officials are trying to take parental authority into their own hands and in this case, the law has already stated that courtrooms are open to the public – all public (including minors). We’re not arguing about something that we want to “change.” We’re simply insisting that the law be followed.