Friday, July 31, 2015

10 Things I Learned In July

Goodbye summer, hello new school and work rhythms for our kids! I can't believe July is finished.

At the end of each month, I share things I learned. This habit helps me pay attention to life, myself, and God's presence. It's my way of reflecting and celebrating. In no particular order, here are 10 things I learned this month.

1. A day at the beach is so good for our family. 

It's a lot of work to get all the kids and beach stuff out to the beach, but when we do, it is worth it. We've been enjoying paddle boarding and boogie boarding together. 

2. I want to let go of worrying about what I'm not doing.

Do you struggle with guilt or anxiety over things you could be doing better or goals you're not reaching? I do this all the time. I'm trying to embrace the antidotes to these worries - contentment, gratefulness, and being present. 

3. Two-headed snakes exist in real life.

Our housemate, Ryland, mentioned this bit of information one night at dinner. Apparently it's a rare mutation in the snake world. Welcome to my new fear, people.

4. Always thaw frozen meat in a dish.

I know this kitchen rule, but sometimes I listen to the inner fool that says, "Just toss the packaged meat into the won't leak this time." Alas, it always leaks, and I always have gross meat juices to clean up.

5. Tequila reconciliation can solve a lot of conflicts.

My friend Victoria introduced me to this idea of hers - if you have a problem or conflict with someone, reconcile with him or her over a few shots of tequila. Forgiveness and grace flow nicely with the warmth of Tequila Reposado.

6. One of our neighbors spreads love through avocados. 

Someone mysteriously placed several large avocados in our mailbox the other day. What a fun surprise amidst all the junk mail!

7. Sometimes you blink, and your child is now a capable 1st grader who can swim, read, and do many things without your help.

Seeing Aaron grow older is a reminder to me to savor the present moment with my kids while it lasts.

8. There are two types of problems: solvable problems and unsolvable problems. 

The first type can be resolved; work toward a solution. The second type can't be resolved; own it and manage it. I have found this principle to be particularly helpful as I consider how to navigate people and relationships.

9. The one household chore that I cannot skip is vacuuming. 

Our family is constantly generating crumbs, dirt, and hairballs on the carpet. A good vacuum is a wise investment for a family with young kids. 

10. I'm still learning how to love people with my unique gifts, personality, and presence.

I believe we each have qualities that affect other people around us, for better or for worse. It is the maturing person who is aware of how their presence influences their surroundings, and is able to develop ways of being a life-giving blessing to people. For years, people have told me that I bring stability and consistency. My initial reaction to hearing this was, "How boring!" It has taken me a long time to discover how and why that quality in me can be a gift to people. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

My Life In Verbs

Trying: to relearn the ukulele. Now that we're back in Hawaii, I've been inspired to pick it up again. It's so much easier now after years of playing guitar.

Reading: more chapter books to my kids. Right now we're loving the zany characters and wild adventures in James and the Giant Peach. I've been surprised that they can sit through 4-5 chapters at a time. The book-lover in me is thrilled.

Realizing: it has been one full year since we moved from Los Angeles to Honolulu. We were packing up our lives into a 20-foot container, saying goodbye to friends, and searching for a house on Oahu. And now we're here, settled into a completely different life.

Watching: Scandal. We just finished "The Lawn Chair" episode, a powerful treatment of the real life issue of shooting deaths of unarmed black men. It was painful, good, and emotionally riveting.

Loving: the last few weeks of summer before the kids start school. We have lots of open days with lounging around the house, getting shave ice, and playing outside.

Feeling: so excited to see some old friends who are visiting from LA. Our three families knew each other before any of us had kids, when we were in the "young married" people stage. Our friendships have been through pregnancies, birthdays, job changes, and lots of playdates at the park. I'm grateful that these friends continue to be a part of our lives.

Thursday, July 16, 2015


Chili is a frequent dinner in our home. It's easy to make, great for leftovers, and a perfect way to serve more vegetables and protein. My kids are generally not fans of quinoa and beans, but when snuck into a bowl of chili, they gobble it up.

This particular chili has everything - beef, quinoa, spinach, even a jar of salsa. Most chili uses regular canned beans, but I had only refried beans available. The surprising outcome is chili that is less heavy-handed with the beans, with a slightly creamy texture. I'll definitely use refried beans in chili again. Make sure you season your chili well. Underseasoned chili is a travesty.

print this recipe

2 pounds ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped
2 1/2 cups tomato sauce
1 8-ounce jar of salsa
2 15-ounce cans refried beans
1/4 cup quinoa
1 tomato, chopped
2 handfuls of spinach, chopped or hand-torn into small pieces
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
salt & pepper to taste

In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine ground beef and onion, and sauté for 10 minutes, or until beef is browned and onion is tender.

Add the remaining ingredients, and mix well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 1-2 hours. Makes 6-8 servings.