Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Here's to two years!

Today is our two year wedding anniversary. Isaac and I often laugh about how you see the same Facebook post again and again, "Two years ago I made the best decision ever," "Two years ago I married my best friend." Truthfully, I don't know that I can say that I married my best friend two years ago. The friendship aspect of our marriage has grown so much that I think it would be more accurate to say that I married my lover or romantic partner two years ago who has now become my very best friend. I could say something sappy like, "it has been the best two years of my life" and it probably has been but I guess I don't view it quite like that. Marriage is a fascinating relationship. It's like no other. In marriage, you actually choose to be in the relationship and you choose to bind it legally. You put all your eggs in the basket. You share property, money, time, your body, and really anything that you have to offer. As a marriage and family therapist I probably reflect more on my marriage than the typical person. So, I'd like to share some thoughts with you about my own experience with marriage.

Marriage is fun
Marriage can be super fun. You have this constant buddy and you find things that you love to do and then you do them together, like everyday! It's awesome. It's not like when you were little and had to bribe your siblings to do something with you. Your spouse is just as excited as you to do all these things together. You always have a friend with whom to eat, play, work, and sleep.

Marriage means fighting
Some couples may pride themselves on not fighting and that is fine. High five to you. Growing up I never really got into many fights with my siblings, parents, or friends but Isaac and I fight. Gasp! I know, I'm a therapist and I fight with my husband! I'm not ashamed of it. Sometimes we could be nicer when we fight. Sometimes the fights lead to tears (usually me cause I am a crier) and sometimes they lead to laughter (Isaac likes to use humor to dissipate an argument). Sometimes I will refer to a fight and Isaac will say something like, "What fight?" I guess we should fight about the definition of "fight" since we clearly disagree on that.

Some people think fighting is bad for a relationship and it can be because sometimes people say things that they can't take back. Sometimes fights can destroy trust but not all fighting is bad. In fact, I personally think that the absence of fighting can be a problem. You are two separate individuals, so there is no way that you will always agree on everything. Sometimes the absence of fighting or disagreeing can indicate that one person fears the other or that one person has lost their voice to what the other partner wants. I think disagreeing can be a sign of trust. For example, if I'm upset about something or if I don't agree and I voice that to my spouse, I am really saying, "I trust that if I tell you I am upset about something, you will want to address the problem with me. And if I don't agree with you, I can tell you because you will still love me and be with me even if I don't think or act like you."

Marriage is saying, "I'm sorry"
We all mess up. We all fall short. Recognizing your part of a problem is key to feeling connected to your spouse. I kind of chuckle sometimes because after a fight or a problem, Isaac and I will often come back to each other and it's like, "who will apologize first?" I'm grateful that I have a husband that values feeling connected to me enough to set aside his pride and look at himself to see how he contributed to a problem. It is easy to admit where you are at fault when you can trust that your spouse is doing this as well. It is much harder to set aside your pride if you can't be sure that your spouse will.

Marriage is toleration
So, one interesting thing about marriage is that often the same issues come up again and again. Usually this is because it may be linked to a personality trait. Like one person may run late and that will continually annoy the other person. One day I had the thought, "I don't want you to be sorry, I don't want it to happen in the first place!" But being married means that we put up with each other's shortcomings even if it takes years for our spouse to improve. I have my shortcomings and if I want Isaac to be patient as I work on my faults, then I need to be patient with his.

Marriage is security
I got married at age 27. I remember feeling lonely when I was single. Sometimes people think that when they find "the one," they will be happy. Let me tell you, I don't think that is true. Initially, you will be full of bliss because you are falling in love. But I don't feel like I interact with others more cheerfully now. I'm pretty much the same person, same personality as before. I don't feel that romantic loneliness but I have felt other kinds of loneliness. I have felt lonely because I don't have as many good friends nearby as I used to have. I have always been a social butterfly but since getting married, graduating from school, and becoming a mom my social life has changed and sometimes that means feeling a little lonely. However, I will say that having a spouse who I know loves me and is committed to me brings a sense of security that I'm not sure I had ever felt before. My parents divorced when I was six-years-old. Abandonment, despite the form it may take, often leads one to question whether anyone will want you or want to stay with you. Some people may still struggle with these feelings even after marrying. In my personal experience, my marriage has helped me overcome these types of thoughts and feelings.

Marriage is family
One of the best things about marriage is that you grow your family! I feel very lucky because I absolutely adore my in-laws. They are so caring and personable. It is nice to see their example of dedication to their marriage and family. Also, marriage often leads to children. I remember when Wyatt joined us. That moment was so special, and I can't describe how bonded I felt to Isaac. My love for Isaac only grew because together we had created this beautiful baby boy. It is so fun for us to play together as a family and just enjoy each other's personalities. Honestly, nothing beats that, nothing.

Marriage is creation
One exciting part of marriage and family is creating your own traditions or continuing traditions from your own families. It is also fun to decorate a home and create an environment where your family can grow. It is nice to be able to take the good things from your childhood and provide them for your family. And if there were negative things in your childhood, you also get to try to create a home and environment where there those things have no place.

Now, if you aren't married some of you might think this sounds good, and some may think it sounds not so good. Marriage isn't easy. Awhile back there was a lot of backlash for a comment that Ben Affleck made when receiving an award because he said that his marriage is a lot of work. He was being honest. Anyone who deeply cares about the success and longevity of their marriage will come to know at some point that marriage is work. It reminds me of serving a mission. When I went on a mission to Russia, I had the best time. I had tons of fun, learned a lot, but I also faced a lot of challenges. If you had looked at all the challenges I faced, you might think, "Why would anyone ever do that?" That's what lazy people say. That is what people say who are looking for someone else to make them happy. Truly happy people know that joy comes from the fruits of hard work and diligence. It is difficult to convey in words what it feels like to be truly loved so that another person could understand why all the sacrifice is worth it. But if you were to feel that love, you would be willing to do the work.

I feel very fortunate that things have worked out so well. In some ways Isaac and I are pretty different and I did have some worries that those differences might be problematic. But today I can assuredly say that I chose well when I married. When you marry, you are trusting someone with your future. That is huge! While two years isn't a long time, it has given me the time to see if Isaac really was as great as he presented himself to be when we were dating. It has been comforting to see that he is the very man that I married. I'm so grateful for Isaac's love, loyalty, and companionship. I hope we will be blessed to have many more years together.

Below are a few pictures to reminiscence.

If you want to see more pictures from the wedding, click on the following link:

If you want to hear the story of how we met, click on the following link:

Monday, October 14, 2013

Cooking from the garden

Well, many of you might remember that this was our first year planting our own vegetable garden. There were a couple of bad hail storms in June and we had thought that we lost our garden. I decided to keep watering to see what would happen. Weeks and months later, we had a significant harvest of squash, jalapenos, cucumbers, poblano peppers, green peppers, cilantro, cantaloupes, tomatoes, and a little bit of corn. The red peppers and watermelon didn't make it but we were pretty proud that anything made it! 

Here are some of the plants while they were growing:



Our tomato plans grew all summer but we didn't see any fruit until the middle of August when things finally started to cool down. I decided to make some spaghetti sauce from scratch. So delicious!

I cut the tomatoes in half and placed them flat down in a baking dish that I had previously drizzled some olive oil over. I then sliced some garlic and added a pasta spice mix from Penzey's. (If you don't know about Penzey's, you need to! See http://www.penzeys.com/ . My mom introduced me to their spices and they definitely taste much better than the stuff you buy at the store and it doesn't cost much more than the name brand spices.) I cooked the tomatoes at 300 degrees for about two hours. I let the tomatoes cool a bit and then I squeezed the meat of the tomato out of the skin into a blender. Here is the result from one pan. (I used two pans of tomatoes for a full recipe of sauce)


In a large pan, I sauteed an onion and added some ground hamburger and browned the meat. I then added the blended tomatoes.


And since I had some green peppers from the garden, I cut up a green pepper and added that to the sauce. I like to add peppers later to soups and sauces so they still have a little crunch.

 And dinner!

This is a great snack or lunch item that my mom taught me to make. Peel a cucumber and place it in a solution of 1/3 c. vinegar, 1/3 c. water, and 1/3 c. sugar. You should try to refrigerate the cucumbers in vinegar for an hour or two so they soak up the flavor. Then butter a piece of bread and place the cucumbers on top. You can eat it as an open face or closed face sandwich. So yummy!

Well, this is just cantaloupe, which is always a delicious snack. Our cantaloupes were fabulous! Because we could wait to pick them until they were ripe, they were always the perfect texture and flavor!

So, here I totally forgot to take a picture of the finished product! Nevertheless, it is pretty easy to make even without the picture. If you like pinto beans, and you would like to spice them up, cut up a tomato, a jalapeno or two, 1/4-1/3 onion and saute them in a little bit of oil. Once the veggies soften, add canned or home cooked pinto beans with juices. Once the beans have heated up, add cilantro.

Here is the corn. It was so good but most of the crop didn't turn out. We are hoping that next year it will fertilize better.

This was the very first harvest, some cucumbers, zucchini, and squash. If you want to grow something, plant squash. It seriously grows like a weed. We ate a ton of squash! I made zucchini bread, sauteed squash, grilled squash, soup. You name it, we ate it. Next year I probably won't plant so much. It was a hassle just trying to find people to help eat it!

Here is one last recipe that I made with garden vegetables. I got this recipe from my mother-in-law's friend. You remove the seeds and cut up poblano peppers and saute them in 1/2 stick of butter until tender. In a blender, combine the peppers with 1 clove garlic, 1/2 medium onion, 4 slices cheddar cheese, 2 cans nestle crema (or 2 cups half-n-half), and 2 chicken bouillon cubes. Once blended, add salsa to 1/2 stick melted butter in sauce pan. Place cooked (al dente) spaghetti in a baking dish and poor sauce over spaghetti. Top with Panela cheese. Place in oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. This is a spicy, creamy pasta dish. Yum!


Well, having a garden was a lot of work but we definitely ate well! Looking back, sometimes I wonder if it was worth all the work. I will tell you that the cantaloupe, tomatoes, and corn are definitely a better quality. The peppers and squash taste about the same but I guess they don't have pesticides so that is a plus. I hope that we will get better at gardening and I think that will make the pay off a little better.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The oppression of women

Who made this? The first time I saw this shoe I wanted to vomit. I thought the point of tennis shoes was comfort. Now you want to take my comfortable shoes away and make them into heels?! Please tell me that a man invented these because if it was another woman, I think we all need to take her down.

Another fashion trend  that oppresses women is the romper or the one piece jumpsuit.


Who brought this back? There is a reason some things go out of style. How am I supposed to go to bathroom in this? Oh wait, that's right! Women don't go to the bathroom. We also never fart. What man would ever consent to wearing a one piece article of clothing. Men don't even have take off their pants, or even underwear, to go to the bathroom. Now women need to take off shirt, pants, and underwear? Nope, I'm not buying one of these things. And you know who wears one piece outfits like this all the time? My 1-year-old son. At least his outfits have snaps at the bottom for easy access.

Another fashion trend that may not seem oppressive, but bothers me nonetheless, is shorts that are so short that you can see the girl's butt cheeks. Now, if you have a nice butt this is a great way for you to showcase it and men will be excited. But you know who isn't excited? Anyone that has to sit on a seat wear you sat. We all sweat and unless you are lathering up your buttocks with deodorant, chances are your butt sweats. On a seat. A public seat. GROSS. This is actually worse for other girls who wear shorts as short as yours because basically your butts kiss on a restaurant booth seat. What did they call that on Modern Family, a lunar landing? I'm glad that my butt is safe because it is covered but I still don't want your sweaty bum germs on my jeans, skirt, or anything else I wear. Plus, doesn't your butt ever stick to the seat? Ew, gross. Does it really take that much effort for you to turn a guy's head? Maybe you need a new haircut or something, because I just don't feel like shorts that short could be comfortable or sanitary.

Well, I'm glad I got that off my chest. Hopefully, women everywhere will realize that we need to fight against this fashion oppression, not just for our comfort but also for our health. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Parenting tips based on things I've seen

Over the past two years, I have worked with many families of children and teens. As I gave therapy to these families, I learned a few things that I think could be useful for all parents. Parenting can be challenging and I hope the following information can be helpful to someone.

1. Meet your child's needs before you expect compliance.
Many parents complain about the poor behavior of their children. Often, after some digging, I discover that the children are not getting certain needs met. I worked with one particular family that told me about their child's disobedience. The child was playing sports late into the evening. The child would always begin to act out an hour or two into the practice, around 8:00 or 9:00 pm. Surely enough, I come to find out that the child did not eat dinner till after the practice. Empower your children to be their best selves by making sure that they have been fed and received adequate rest. Even most adults become moody when hungry and tired. I know this may seem obvious but if your kid is acting up, this is a simple place to start.

2. If you are a single parent, think twice about dating.
I know that being single can get lonely, very lonely. Being a single parent is a hard job. But, dating or getting remarried will not always make the job easier. When you are cultivating a new relationship, you must give a lot of time and energy to that relationship. No matter how hard parents try, often they unknowingly pay less attention to their kids. When a single parent dates, they still only have 24 hours in a day and now that parent shares some of those hours with a new person. When children are very young, this may be less of an issue but based on what I have seen, a parent's dating life can take a toll on teens. Especially, if your teens are already struggling. Teens aren't going to open up and tell you everything. You often have to read between the lines. You need to be there. And if your focus is on a new lover, you could miss important opportunities to influence your teen. Also, not every relationship works out and lovers coming in and out of your life can create an unstable living environment for your children. I'm not saying it is impossible, but parents who want to date should take extra precautions and move slowly in relationships so that their children have the most stable environment possible. Some of these principles apply to two parent homes as well. A stable, loving environment allows children to flourish.

3. Children's use of technology should be supervised.
Be very careful about what devices you give to your children. Nintendo DS, phones, iPods, computers, and TVs can all be misused by a child. As much as your children want technological devices to play games and to fit in with the other children, don't feel pressure to give them to your child. You are the parent and if you do not want to give it to your child, follow that gut instinct. Kids as young as 12-years-old, and probably even younger, send explicit text messages. Do not allow TVs or computers to be in your children's bedrooms. Your TV and computer should be located in a central location in the home where activity can be monitored. It's not that all children will watch sexually explicit television, but even scary movies or news programs can present information that your child is not ready for. Talk with your children about what programs and types of websites are okay to view in your home.

4. Do not ask your child if they can "handle" a certain program
I have heard many children tell me about nightmares and fears of the dark that have been sparked by movies or television programs. Sometimes the parents will ask these children if they think they can "handle" the scariness of the program. First, look at the ratings. If some group of people in Hollywood say that children under thirteen or seventeen shouldn't see the movie unsupervised, you probably don't want to show that movie to your child. This is why. Images sometimes stay in our minds. Even though you may be watching the movie with your child, those images can replay in your child's mind when they are alone. Also, your job as a parent is to be the gatekeeper. A 10-year-old child is not capable of knowing how a horror movie will affect him or her. But if you as a parent get scared, a child that is barely beginning to distinguish reality from fantasy will surely be scared. Don't ask your child to make parenting decisions.

5. Talk to your children about sex.
When your child asks you a question about sex, always be willing to have that conversation. Obviously, you should share information that is age appropriate. The best type of sex education for a child is one that happens gradually over time. If a child learns that he/she can come to you with questions about sex and he/she will receive honest and informative answers, that child will continue to seek you as the primary source on information about sex. If you ignore your child's questions or give patronizing answers, your child will find other places to get the answers. If you have never talked to your child about sex and your child is in junior high, you have waited too long. Kids are talking about and having sex in junior high. Not all the kids, but enough that your child will have learned something about sex at school. Please be brave and have these conversations with your children.

6. Set boundaries, even if you didn't keep them yourself.
One of my biggest pet peeves is parents that are afraid to set boundaries with their children concerning sex, drugs, and alcohol. I understand that parents my feel hypocritical telling their child to wait to have sex till marriage if they lost their virginity at 16-years-old, but guess what? Your child doesn't know your past and doesn't need to. Your job as a parent is to help guide your child. That means learning from your own mistakes. Often parents will say things like, "I don't want her to have sex till she is married." I ask, "Well, what standard have you set?" And they haven't set a standard. Your child will make mistakes and they won't always meet your expectations but you should set expectations in your home. "Drugs are not tolerated." "No drinking till you are of legal age." "No sex till marriage." "No sex till you are out of the house." Whatever standard you think is appropriate, set it. If you don't set a standard, you are inadvertently telling your child that you don't really care. You may have turned out fine after experimenting but there is a reason that every parent has a pit in their stomach when they think about their kid experimenting. The reason is that some people become addicts, car accidents happen, teen pregnancy happens, STDs happen. Protect your child by setting boundaries.

7. Talk to your children about safety.
Children need to learn early on how to say no. It is important that as parents you show respect for your child's physical boundaries. That means, when you are tickling a child and he asks you stop, stop tickling. If you as a the parent don't respect physical boundaries, it will make it that much easier for your child to be victimized because your child has learned that as a child, he can't demand respect for his boundaries. Also, recognize that children who are victimized are often threatened, and the perpetrator also threatens to hurt their family. Make sure your child knows that they can always tell you something, even if someone else has threatened to hurt them or you.

8. Use accurate names when talking about sex and do not make sex a dirty thing.
Having worked with many sexually abused children, I have heard all sorts of names for private parts and sexual acts. When you talk with your child about private parts, use the anatomical names like "penis" and "vagina." I once met with some children that called sex, "the nasty." Sex is not nasty. Sex should never be treated as something dirty or shameful. Private parts should not be demonized either. When you use anatomical names, you allow sex to become neutral. Help prepare your child to be ready for their sexual development. Explain to them about the changes that will happen in their bodies. Sex is a natural part of life and your child will make better decisions concerning sex if they are prepared and accurately informed. Let your children know how miraculous the human body is. A child who learns to love his or her body will more likely respect his or her body.

9. Be the person you want your child to become.
Parents are often devastated when they discover that their child has been sexually abused, especially when the parent has been sexually abused his or herself. Most of the time these parents have never shared with anyone that they were abused and they have never sought out help for dealing with the emotional ramifications of the abuse they suffered. One mother counseled her child to learn good coping strategies so that she wouldn't emotionally eat like her. While mom's advice was good, I wondered how well the child would do. If mom still uses food to cope, why or how would the child be more successful? Now, no parent is perfect and as parents we are all a work-in-progress ourselves. But, the best way to teach your child is to be the person you want your child to become. Don't expect your child to play outside, if you won't go outside. Don't expect your child to not be glued to his video game, if you are glued to your technology. Don't expect your child to have healthy romantic relationships, if you don't. If you don't like what you have seen in your kids, take a look in the mirror and try to see what example you may inadvertently be setting.

10. Don't over-schedule your children.
Children are over-scheduled these days. Your kids go to school all day where they are on a schedule. Kids now often have lessons and sports that go late into the night. It may be a Texas thing, but I am appalled to find out that 10-year-old's spend more time practicing sports than I did as a teen on my high school field hockey team. Kids need time to be creative and if you sign them up for every sport and lesson, they may not be able to develop other talents. Your children will have time to play sports, learn math, and play instruments. But your child will only have so long to play dolls and trucks. Don't let the fear of your child falling behind cause you to feel that you are putting your child at a disadvantage. You as a parent will be less anxious if you don't have to run your kids all over town. Your child doesn't need the stress of a busy schedule. Simplify where you can.

11. Help your child discover his or her own dream, not your dream.
Ah, the parent's dream. This also ties into sports. I see so many parents pushing their kids to excel at sports. While I am sure that it helps to teach a child early, just because a child plays football his whole life, it does not guarantee that he will make the NFL. As a parent try to expose your child to many different sports and activities. Watch to find out where your child has natural abilities. I know you might love baseball but that doesn't mean your child needs to. If your child knows you want him to be a baseball star, he will try to be that for you because your child loves you and wants you to be proud of him. Later in life, he might come to resent the pressure. But worse, maybe your child will never know what he really wants because what you want is ingrained in his or her mind. I know all parents want good things for their child but I think that as parents we should try as hard as we can to help our kids know that we want them to discover what makes them truly happy and that does not need to be the same thing that makes us happy.

I hope that these tips have been helpful to some. This is by no means a comprehensive list of parenting tips. These are just a few thoughts that I have gathered over the past couple years. I hope these have provided some insight and guidance for those seeking answers.