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The Final Word on Women's Retreats

Wow! Lots of feedback from my women's retreat post. So let me offer a few more thoughts.

First, I was totally blessed this weekend by the women from Bramalea Baptist Church. I spoke four times over the course of the weekend, and maybe I'll elaborate a little more on some of my topic later. But for now let me just say that it was so amazing to see God talking to each woman individually. After each session, the women sat around their tables and talked through some issues and then prayed for one another, and it was so cool.

Great women, too. It was such an honour to be a part of something to incredible that God was doing.

That being said, I still need my sleep! So I loved the fact that I had my own room. I think if you don't, sleep can be enough of a distraction for some women that it does get difficult to take things in. But these really are experiences that everyone should have. So maybe women's retreat organizers should offer the option of single rooms, or double rooms. This retreat did that, but not all do. I think it can be really important, so those who are light sleepers, like me, are still able to take in the worship and what the speaker is saying.

I know that sounds selfish, but maybe I'm just getting old. Anyway, great comments below, and I hope all of us get to experience this type of communion at some point--and that we do it without being bleary-eyed from lack of sleep!


What is Your Budget Weakness?
Smoochiefrog is blogging about budgeting. Ugh, you say.

I don't see budgets like that. I think of them more like a dare. "I dare you to stay within this budget for food this month!". If I'm dared, I'll make it. If I just have good intentions, I won't.

She has some great links to Dave Ramsey's budget pages, and if you've never sat down and figured out how much you're actually spending, and how much you should spend, you really should. It can mean the difference between falling further and further behind every year and actually accumulating some net worth.

Anyway, I was thinking about what I find difficult about budgets. It's not actually the monthly amounts, like groceries. It's the yearly amounts, like clothing. If I have $600 a year for clothes, for instance, and it's only February, it's difficult. I don't find it practical to divide that $600 into 12, and make it $50 a month, because realistically you don't go shopping for clothes 12 times. You go maybe 3 times, and spend a lot more than $50 each time.

What do you find hard about budgets? Can you stick to them? April is beginning tomorrow so it's a great time to start! How much will you spend this month on groceries, eating out, entertainment, health & beauty, etc.?

I'm going to write my numbers here for posterity, and then at the end of April I'll report.

Food: $600
Eating out: $300 (I know that's way too much, but this is our weakness, and I'm trying to be realistic. This includes all those coffees, etc. that my husband buys)
Entertainment: $45
Health & Beauty: $80 (I'm due for a haircut, as is one of my daughters, and we're low on shampoo and other stuff.)

Okay, there you go. Let's see if I make it!

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Menu Planning Monday!
It's Monday again, so it's time to plan out what we're going to eat for the week.

First, a few words about last week. I am so proud of myself because we actually ate through our vegetables! I hate it when you buy veggies having all these good intentions about salads, etc., and then three weeks later they're brown and slimy in your veggie drawer and you're afraid to open it.

We've actually been eating our produce, which is wonderful! I want to get the girls eating a lot more fresh foods, so hopefully we'll be just as successful this week.

Anyway, here goes.

Monday: Weight Watchers Breaded Whitefish. I was supposed to make this last week but it didn't work out, and I substituted a quick scallopini fast fry instead. So we'll try it this week!

Apparently this tastes just as good as a regular batter, but it doesn't have that many calories or fat. You just roll it in cornmeal and some herbs, stick the whole thing in some milk, and then roll it in the cornmeal and herbs again to make a thicker batter. Then broil like usual. Sounds yummy! I'll use whatever fish they have fresh.I'm trying to do fish once a week, and find a recipe that the girls like. I'll tell you how this turns out!

Tuesday: Jamaican Rice & Beans and salad. This is my meatless meal! I just love Jamaican Rice & Beans (techincally called Rice & Peas, but they are red kidney beans), and I thought this would do. So we'll have a big salad and some of this stuff. They really are tasty.

Wednesday: Mexican Chicken Soup. I found this on a blog recently and I forgot to write down the blog address! So sorry for not giving out credit. Anyway, here's the recipe;

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/2″ pieces
2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 cups water
1 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 14 1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes and green chile peppers, undrained ( Rotel)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
sour cream (optional)
crushed tortilla chips (optional)

Brown chicken in skillet coated with cooking spray and transfer to slow cooker. In a bowl combine soup, water, beans, undrained tomatoes, and cumin. Pour over chicken in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for about 6 hours. Ladle into bowls and if desired, top with sour cream and sprinkle with crushed tortilla chips.

I'm always trying to find new ways of doing chicken in the slow cooker because I find it often comes out tough for me. I hope this one doesn't!

Thursday: Shepherd's Pie. My kids' favourite. It's really easy. Brown ground beef. Add 1 tomato soup can and a pinch of Worcestershire sauce. Layer the meat on the bottom of a casserole dish. Top with frozen peas and frozen corn. Put mashed potatoes on the top, and sprinkle salt, pepper and paprika. Bake at 400 degrees for half an hour.

It doesn't sound like much but it tastes really good, and I'm finding I have to use 2 pounds of beef now for my family, which is way too much. But they love it and they just stuff it down!

Friday: Roast Beef and Potatoes and the Whole Works. It's our company night!

Saturday: More fast fry pork scallopini. I bought some on sale, and Saturday's going to be a busy day. I'll need something fast.

Sunday: Asian Chicken Thighs. A really scrumptious recipe, and great for potlucks!

Okay, that's it for me. What about you?

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Choosing Your Children's Church
I'm not at church this morning. At least, not at my home church. And I miss my kids and the youth quizzing team that I coach!

But I'm speaking for a weekend at a retreat, which has actually been great because I've had my own room (read below), and I have been so encouraged by the women here at Bramalea Baptist and the way they pray for each other and support each other.

Anyway, back to church. This year our family made a major change. We left our church that we had been extremely actively involved in for 9 years and went to a smaller one. I won't go into all the reasons; they're really not that important. But it was the right move, although it was agonizing at the time.

I'm not one who believes in hopping churches in the least. I believe in belonging and committing to a body and then blessing each other and holding each other accountable.

But Rebecca, my 13-year-old, wasn't happy in our old church. She didn't feel like she had a lot of female friends (though the boys in her age group were great), and she really didn't like the youth group. To her it felt like it was all about being popular, and wearing make-up (in grade 7), and not really about growing in your faith. She was teased for being smart. She felt like an outcast. She dreaded it.

But now at our new church she is thriving. The kids welcomed her with open arms (and her little sister!), and they have been such a great influence. It's just a different feel. The kids are serious about God, and the senior high and junior high mix more so she has some great mentors who are 16 or 17. She asked to be baptized a few weeks ago, and gave a wonderful testimony which she wrote herself. And as a homeschool mom, I didn't make her edit it. I was very proud of my restraint.

I am just so thankful to God when I look back over the last six months and what a difference they have made in our lives and especially in hers. She wasn't the only reason we left the church, but even if there hadn't been other reasons, the change in her would have been enough.

Now, I just need to stay in contact with the really nice boys at our old church. We might need them one day.

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Are You a Woman's Retreat Person?
Here I am at a weekend retreat at a conference centre, and we're having a blast. But it's funny because I don't know if I would come to this on my own.

I am really a party pooper for two reasons:

1. I need sleep
2. I can't sleep with noise around me.

Which means that if I'm in a room with people who are snoring, I get frustrated. Then mad. Then desperate. By 3 in the morning I've crossed the line from sane to insane.

And sometimes you can end up in a room with women who want to talk until 2 in the morning and who are hyper. And I can't handle that either. I need to sleep.

I think retreats are great for drawing women together and forming community. And the speakers are often wonderful (shameless self-plug there). But you have to know your limits.

Whenever I go to a retreat I always try to see if I can have my own room, but then I look like a debutante or something. So it's quite difficult. As a speaker I always get my own, so I do enjoy retreats then.

I have a similar problem on missions trips, so I've come to insist on my own room or sharing with my family rather than a bunch of women. I just need to sleep.

What about the rest of you? How do you handle it? Am I just hopelessly pathetic?


Getting Too Caught Up in Our Kids' Successes
I feel like a total heel right now.

I'm away speaking for a weekend retreat right now, and my theme is Extreme Makeover: Heart Edition. Tonight I talked about the significance of "he came to himself" in the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. It's going really well, and I'm having a great time with it.

But when I left this morning I was a bear to my kids.

We had a piano lesson first thing this morning, and they have to play in a festival in two weeks. Neither is really prepared. In the past, Rebecca has always won. Every category. I think last year she had three firsts. Katie doesn't do quite as well, but she is a much more natural player. She can play by ear wonderfully, and she'll be great in church one day.

Anyway, I came down really hard on them. They haven't been practising enough, and I'm tired of always being on them. I told them that they had to take some responsibility for it, and they had to get the piano done from now on before I took them skating, or they had friends over, or they read a book. They had to put first things first.

I think I just demoralized them. And then I got to thinking, why do I care so much? Am I that invested in them winning? Why should it matter? I only want them to be able to play in church, and to one day make money teaching piano lessons if they need to. It doesn't matter if they play well in festivals. But it seems so important to me that they do well and be seen to do well.

I think it's pride on my part. It's a very fine balance, pushing them to do their best so that they can accomplish something worthwhile, but not get caught up in it yourself. I don't want to shame them (and I'm afraid I did), but I do want to encourage them.

Anyway, I wrote a long note on Facebook to my oldest daughter apologizing and telling her where I was wrong. I know she'll forgive me. But I need to pray about this a bit, to make sure my attitude towards them is right.


Do You Think Charitable Giving is Important?

I do. We consider the 10% tithe a minimum. And we tithe on gross, not net. I've done that ever since I was about 12. I'm teaching my daughters to do it. When they get their allowance or baby-sitting money, it immediately gets divided up, with 10% to charity.

Anyway, a few interesting tidbits in the news lately. First, the Obamas released their tax returns. Here's some interesting information:

Obama and his wife, Michelle, earned $181,507 to $272,759 each year from 1998-2004.

Their income jumped to $1.6 million in 2005, Obama's first year in the Senate, with the rerelease of his first book, "Dreams from My Father." They made nearly $1 million in 2006, half of it from his second book, "The Audacity of Hope."

The Obamas' charitable giving also increased with their newfound wealth.

From 1998-2004, they gave between $1,050-$3,400 each year. In 2005, they gave $77,315, including donations to literacy and anti-poverty campaigns and their church. In 2006, they gave $60,307 to charity.
So when they were earning about $200,000, they gave around $1000 away. Okey dokey.

Now, a George Will column on the same thing asks who is really compassionate. And it turns out it's religious people, and specifically religious conservatives. Those on the left end of the spectrum believe that government should be giving all the money to charity, not them.

But I think that kills a little bit of your soul. If you aren't able to reach into your wallet when you see someone in need, and try to help, then there's something wrong. Obviously we have to be careful about where our charity money goes, but we should be giving. It helps us.

It was such a privilege for our family to go to Africa for the last two years and see where a lot of our money had gone. It just spurred us on to want to help more! I must admit that I don't really understand the mindset that says, "Oh, there's a need! Let's lobby the government to do something about it!". If it's a need and you can meet it, meet it. That has more than its own rewards.

And let's teach our children that their money isn't really theirs. God has trusted them with it. Now, what are they going to do with it?

When our kids get allowance, or baby-sitting money, or tooth fairy money, or birthday money, or anything, the first thing they do is divide it up into three jars: 10% for charity, 30% for university, and 60% for spending now or saving for a specific goal (Rebecca just puts that money straight into her purse!). That's what they've always done, and they don't question it anymore. Every few months we take the charity money and decide where to give it. We need to train our kids to give money away.

Here's Rebecca's charity jar that needs to be emptied soon. They like counting how much change is in there and figuring out what they can give.

I remember when I was 13 my mother made me give away 10% of my wages from being a mother's helper in the summer. I was really upset, but I did it. But from then on, whenever I made any money I gave it away without anyone telling me to. It just came naturally. I hope we all can raise our kids to be generous, rather than expecting that someone else will always be there to fill the gap.

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Ending Violence Begins at Home
Every week I write a parenting column that appears in 12 newspapers across Canada, and in several in the States on a monthly basis. Here's this week's.

Across Canada March is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which got me thinking about some recent news stories. First, a teacher in Oregon recently petitioned to be permitted to carry her gun to school because she was afraid of her crazy ex-husband. She’s trying to get the gun ban in schools overturned.

What bothers me in this case isn’t actually the issue of the gun. Israeli teachers carry guns to deter terrorism, and it seems to work. To me, here’s the bigger problem: this teacher has an ex-husband whom she thinks may attack her at her workplace, which happens to be an elementary school. I feel for this woman. But if my child were in her class, I’d be demanding a transfer, because realistically the justice system can’t do anything. Until a crime is actually committed, everyone’s hands are tied.

In another episode, last summer Victoria witnessed a multiple murder-suicide. The guy killed his wife, her parents, and their son, and then killed himself. In this case, as in so many others, the courts had issued a restraining order. But what does that really get you when he arrives on your doorstep with a gun and demands to be let in? The police rushed to the scene, but by the time they gained entry there were already five dead bodies.

We need to start taking control of our own defense, because nobody else is going to do it. And the best way to prevent violence is to stay away from violent people. In other words, get smart when it comes to relationships.

If all young women would just band together and refuse to date violent, jealous, or easily provoked males, then perhaps we’d have fewer of them around. Sure, more women might be alone, but it’s better to be alone than to be in fear of your life. We women have to grow up and realize that having a guy is not the most important thing. Being safe and happy with yourself is far more important. And when you treat yourself with that kind of respect, you’re more likely to attract the kind of person who will also treat you with respect.

Many women say, though, that they didn’t know he was violent until it was too late. And it is true that much violence doesn’t manifest itself until a relationship is well under way. The signs, though, are still there. You may not have a black eye, but does he respect you? Does he care about what you think? Does he ask you your opinion, or does he just want to talk about himself?

But ending violence isn’t only about our own romantic choices. It also involves all of us teaching young people to respect themselves, so they won’t become involved with those who don’t. When I hear my daughters’ pre-teen friends going on about how great Paris Hilton is, I speak up. She is not someone you want to emulate. When I hear kids listening to violent music, I tell them that’s ridiculous and to turn it off. And when I hear kids talking about having a girlfriend at age 10, I tell them to smarten up. Your life is not worthless if you are without a partner.

And to you men who aren’t involved in your children’s lives, you need to stand up and be a real man. You are letting your kids down and you are abandoning the rest of us, too. You’re being selfish, and you need to go back and be a dad. That’s the right thing to do. You are integral to their development of healthy self-respect, so they need you.

Let’s all speak up and stop this insanity. Don’t let men you love walk out on their kids and leave those kids insecure and easy prey. Don’t let kids get wrapped up in a culture that says that defines their worth by the number of people they sleep with. Don’t let kids think they’re worthless if they’re by themselves. We may not be able to stop all violence, but we can steer kids in a better direction. Be picky about who say yes to, because violence affects us all.

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My Daughter's Growing Up!
I just returned from the hair salon where my 13-year-old got highlights and had her hair straightened. She looks like a million bucks.

I was going to post a photo but she looks too good. I'm a little nervous about it being out on the web!

I can't believe how much she has grown up in the past six months. She's really not a little girl anymore. Our deal at the beauty salon was that she had to pay half for highlights. I would pay for all her haircuts, but anything extra is hers to bear. She baby-sits now, so it's her issue. But I paid half for the first time.

She looked so good she was dancing all the way to the car.

It's strange getting used to having a teenager in the house. She sleeps a lot. She does get a little moody, though not as much as last year.

But she's a really good kid. I was terrible to my mother when I was 13 and 14, but she really isn't. We get along so well.

I've always heard that the teenage years are horrible and you just have to "get through them". But so far that hasn't been my experience. Someone told me six years ago that he loved his kids when they were teens. They were raised well, they were wise, and they didn't rebel. They became good confidantes, though you still had the authority.

I hope and pray that's what I'll continue to experience with Rebecca. But that's what I believe: the teen years don't have to be awful. We're a close family. We homeschool. We do a lot together. Why shouldn't we get along as she grows up?

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Being Responsible with your Money

As women, one of our primary responsibilities in the home is to be responsible with what we have been entrusted with.

That includes our kids, obviously. We should raise them, discipline them, teach them to be independent, and teach them about God.

It includes our homes. We should care for them appropriately (make them comfortable, not perfect), invite people over, and ensure our family members have a good place to relax. And by the way, that means you, too. Make sure you have candles by the bath after a long day!

And we should be responsible for our money. A big theme on many of the mom blogs I read is learning to live within your means. It's practical, biblical, and necessary. And I love the comments on my previous post! You moms obviously get that. And feeding a family of 6 on $325, as one woman wrote! That's awesome. (And yes, someday soon I will share more about the cloth pads, since you asked :) ).

But in the past few months we've witnessed the federal government and the Democrats running for President talking about the need to bail out those homeowners and banks who took on risky mortgages. I don't understand why we want to penalize responsibility and reward irresponsibility.

With that in mind, I loved McCain's speech early this week on the crisis. Here's a part of it:

I have always been committed to the principle that it is not the duty of government to bail out and reward those who act irresponsibly, whether they are big banks or small borrowers. Government assistance to the banking system should be based solely on preventing systemic risk that would endanger the entire financial system and the economy.

But read the whole thing. I think there's an important principle there for us who want to make sure our kids have a solid financial footing as they grow!

And for all those who were responsible and didn't take on a risky mortgage, I'm sure you would like to see housing prices fall back down to a reasonable level, right? Well, they won't if the government bails out these mortgages.

I find the whole thing tremendously sad, because I do feel badly for those who made a poor decision and now may lose everything. But at the same time, that's the way the world works. And the sooner people realize that, and learn to live on a budget, the better it will be for everyone.

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Do All You SAHMs feel elitist?
Terry at Ornaments of Grace has her druthers up because she just read an article saying that only elite women are able to stay at home. Their husbands are rich, and these women are basically living off their men, who will one day leave them for more interesting women they have found at the workplace.

Give. Me. A. Break.

Terry goes on to document how UN-elitist she is. She certainly doesn't live a glamorous life!

Now, it's hard for me to talk right now because my husband is a doctor. We do have more than most people, for which I am eternally grateful, and with which I feel we must share, which is why we take our kids to an orphanage in Africa quite frequently.

But I digress.

When the kids were little and Keith was in school we had very little, too. We bought second hand clothes at Goodwill. We bought second hand baby furniture and toys. I bought second hand clothes for myself (you could never tell, anyway).

We didn't have cable. Well, we still don't.

What we did have was the knowledge that the kids needed me, and we wanted to create a close-knit family.

Terry deals with all these aspects well, but something else I was thinking about was how much money it actually costs to work. You need a second vehicle, you need to pay for childcare, you need different clothes. Chances are you eat out and grab coffees more often. You probably buy take out for dinner more often, too, because you're too tired to cook.

But when you're home you CAN make money by saving money. When you clip coupons, sew some clothes (I've even been making cloth menstrual pads, but that's another story), get to the library, cook in bulk, make your own meals, do your own housework, and more, you can make a significant contribution financially to the family, even if you don't have an income.

I think if people truly totalled up how much it costs to work, they would find that they maybe only make $3.00 an hour. It may be worth it to work for $15, but is it worth it to work for $3? Because after you subtract everything, that may be what you're getting.

I wrote about this in one chapter in To Love, Honor and Vacuum, and I also have a CD with a talk titled "Making Decisions Between Work and Family" (scroll down the page to the CDs). Check them out if you want to figure out the calculations in detail!

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Works for Me Wednesday: Remembering Appointments

Last week my husband stood somebody up for lunch. He didn't mean to; he just forgot the appointment.

The week earlier I forgot my ophthalmalogist appointment.

But the worst came when we forgot Rebecca's orthodontist appointment. We should have remembered. The little appointment card was right there on the fridge for all of us to see everytime we grabbed a snack:

There it is. March 19. 1:50 p.m. We got lunch on March 19. We grabbed milk out of the fridge. We grabbed cold cuts. But we missed the appointment.

And they charged me $55!

So we decided something had to change, and we finally broke down and bought one of those huge family calendars.

Now we write everybody's appointments on it and theoretically we're supposed to look at it every morning. Not everything is on there yet (we only just got it), but Rebecca's entered a lot.

Hopefully we won't forget anything again!

Read more of Sheila's posts here.

Wifey Wednesday: How Does One Find One's True Love?

It's Wifey Wednesday! Thanks for joining me as we talk about how to make our marriages great.

So here goes. I totally love Jane Austen. So do my daughters. They have Emma, Sense & Sensibility, and the five hour version of P & P memorized! And they're reading the books.

Yet I find it so sad that in real life Austen never found love. I heard that Persuasion was her most autobiographical work, except that she never did reconnect with her own Captain. I think that's my favourite of her books, maybe because it does seem the most honest.

I heard someone say once that in the Bible, God just dropped one's spouse into one's lap. Adam and Eve, Isaac and Rebecca, Moses and Zipporah. They didn't have to look for each other. Maybe that's what it's supposed to be like here, too. We spend so long looking, and then suddenly the right person pops up. If only we could have trusted God right away.

That was my struggle. I was so afraid of being alone. I had to constantly surrender that fear to Him, but in His grace He made sure that I wasn't.

I think that can be a major stumbling block for women. In Genesis it God says to Eve, "your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you". I think part of what this is warning of is that women will love men inappropriately, too much, and sometimes to their own detriment.

Sometimes we love because we don't want to be alone. And then we end up in relationships where we're not treated well, and we wonder if we made a mistake.

My heart breaks for you if you're in that situation. When you feel like you'll never really understand true love.

I once read, though, that "happy marriages begin when we marry the one we love. They endure when we love the one we marry." Your happiness now is far more contingent on how you treat your husband than on whether or not you made the right choice a decade ago.

If you choose to love him, and choose to be thankful for him, your feelings will often follow.

Don't believe me? Then try this: every night for a week, write down five things that you're thankful for about your husband. It can be stuff like, "he took the garbage out." Or "he makes a good income", or "my son loves to wrestle with him." Even if you're angry, find five things you're grateful for.

And WRITE THEM DOWN! It's far more effective than just thinking them.

Then, try to tell him one a day. Just one. Try that for a week. And let me know how it goes!

God bless, and come back next Wednesday for more Wifey Wednesday advice! Leave your own advice in the Mr. Linky link! Just go back to your blog, type your post, and then link to the address of that post in the box below. Then we can all share each other's wisdom!

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How to Forgive Your Spouse
Because I write marriage books, including Honey, I Don't Have a Headache Tonight, I get asked a lot of questions. Here was one I answered online recently:

There have been things that have happened in the marriage that have caused me to
not trust my husband. He has apologized and admitted he was wrong but i
cant let go and forgive. I want to. And I know that once i can
release this anger and fully forgive we can be happy. How do i do this?

Do you ever feel that way? In marriage we have a lot to forgive on a daily basis. Yesterday I cut my finger quite badly. I paged Keith, who was on his way home, and he said he'd look at it (he's a doctor). But when he got home he checked on our sump pump connection at the side of the house before coming indoors to check on me! I was livid.

I did need stitches, and I am in pain. But the hard part was letting him off the hook for that. It's such a little thing, but still.

But what if it's bigger? What if it's an affair, or gambling, or pornography? Then how do you forgive?

Here's what I told this woman:

First, you have to be sure in your mind that the offense is truly in the past. For instance, if he had an affair, are you sure that this is not going on now? Has he demonstrated that he is committed to not doing it again? If not, then this is the issue that needs to be dealt with first if his infraction was something that could damage the marriage (like affairs, pornography use, or other addictions).

If, however, he has shown that he is sorry and has tried to show you that he won't do it again, the ball is now in your court. So let me say a few things about forgiveness.

First, remember that no matter what he did in the past, he can't make up for it now. There is no way for him to erase what happened. If you continue to hold it against him, it is like you are asking him to make up for it. You're asking for the impossible. At some point you have to realize that what is past is past, and you can't change
it. You can't ask him to change it. It just is.

Second , if you keep your anger towards him, you end up punishing both of you. It is impossible to function as a unit and to have an intimate relationship if you are harbouring resentment for him.

So what do you want from your marriage? Do you want someone you can love and cherish who cherishes you back? Do you long to feel loved and unconditionally accepted? Then you need to work on achieving that in your marriage, and that means letting this go. You will never get what you want and yearn for if you stay angry.

Of course, it may not be fair that you forgive. Forgiveness never is fair. That's not the point. It is not that forgiveness is fair; it is that it is freeing. It frees both of you. He
doesn't have to make up for the past, and you don't have to stay angry. You can both concentrate on the here and now and learn to love one another again.

Finally, if you're finding it hard to forgive, remember that someone has already paid the price. I don't know if your religious or not, but I believe that God already paid the price for all the rotten stuff that people do when Jesus died on the cross. If he's already paid for it, then someone has been punished. It wasn't your husband, but someone has paid. So your husband doesn't have to. He also paid for all the stuff you've done. He did it so that you could have a relationship with God without being hindered by all the sin and ugly stuff in our lives.

So if you ask God to help you understand how He has forgiven you, maybe you will also be able to extend that forgiveness to your husband.

What would you have said? And don't forget, tomorrow's Wifey Wednesday! I'll be doing a post especially for marriage.

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Tackle it Tuesday--Taxes

So today I am not doing a big manual tackle because I am feeling sorry for myself. I got stitches and my finger is out of commission.

But there is something I need to do.

Notice something wrong there? It is not March 23 anymore. Which means I am late.

I also have another one:

The green one was due March 15. So it seems to me I'm late on our payroll deductions and my sales tax for the books and CDs I sell at the talks I give.

And that's not all! I have six cheques waiting to be deposited (which is infinitely better than paying taxes), and new Visa cards waiting at the bank for us to pick up.

I don't know why getting to the bank is such a hassle, but it is. Stuff piles up. And I try to ignore it as long as I can. I put it in my file of things "To Do", that also has stuff in there about choosing cloth diapers (Katie has been out of diapers for 8 years now). Anyway, I really better take care of this before the government notices.

So I shall head off to the bank and try not to think about my poor finger. Have a good Tuesday!


I Got Stitches!
You know in movies where you're watching some sword or knife fight and some guy gets cut across the stomach but fights on? I have much more sympathy now.

Last night while preparing dinner I sliced my finger open.

I stuck it in my mouth and yelled for the girls to get rags and ice, which I then put on said finger without looking.

I can handle anything the girls do to themselves, but not what I do to myself.

After I had calmed down a bit, I told Rebecca she was going to have to look at it and tell me if I needed stitches.

Luckily, my doctor husband arrived home just then and said I was fine. So I told Rebecca what to do to finish dinner, and she did a lovely job (considering we had guests).

But by 8:30 it was still bleeding, so Keith took me down to the ER and they stitched me up.

And it still HURTS! A LOT!

I never thought cuts like this would hurt. I've never done anything to myself before other than sprain an ankle. But this stings. And typing is hard. And I feel very sorry for myself.

But I'm grateful I have a daughter who will step in without complaining and make dinner the way I tell her to. Now I just want the pain to go away.
Housekeeping with Toddlers--It Will Get Better!
Brownie at Running the Race is feeling defeated and lazy because her housekeeping skills aren't up to par.

I wish she could have seen inside my house when the kids were little!

It was hard to keep everything together. I was tired all the time. It seems like a blur.

Now the kids are 10 & 13 and the house is completely different. They clean a lot! And I’ve discovered I like cleaning. But that’s because it’s possible to keep it clean when the kids are older!

The inner housekeeper in me did not emerge until the kids were much older. But it did emerge. It just had to wait until the days were over when:

1. The kids would roll around on the bed as soon as I started to make it.

2. They would pile the clean laundry in the living room up like a pile of leaves and jump in it.

3. They would write on the walls.

4. When I told them to clean off the walls they would also use the soapy water on all the books in the bookshelves.

5. When I took the markers away they would paint on each other with sunscreen.

6. They dropped popsicles on the couches.

I mean, what's the point of cleaning when that's going on around you?

Eventually, though, things change. The kids themselves even clean! On Saturday, during chore time, our kids cleaned for the third week in a row without fighting! The kids and I all take about two hours, and by the time we're done it's spotless. The kids know how to clean everything now.

Of course, Katie likes to clean while wearing a gymnastics leotard, a skating skirt, and a formal hand-woven shawl, as in this picture, but as long as it gets done, what do I care?

So hang in there, all of you who have toddlers! Just try to create a home where people can feel comfortable, and where you have time to love and appreciate each other. The other stuff will come with time!

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Menu Planning Monday--And Self-Recriminations!

I developed a great menu plan last Monday. It was wonderful. It made use of food I already had in the freezer. It required a minimum of grocery shopping. It was healthy. The girls loved it.

And do you think we actually ate any of it?

Everything seemed to go wrong last week when it came to dinners. One night Keith was called out unexpectedly, and I hate cooking just for the three of us. So we had breakfast foods for dinner. It was easy and quick.

Another night we went out to a restaurant with a friend who was in town suddenly.

Another night we had an unexpected meeting where they had pizza.

But here's the thing. We still had a nice week, but I felt like we missed something.

And that something was the stuff we always do after dinner. We usually read the Bible together, and some poems, and just talk. And last week we had the "Holy Week" Scriptures we were going to walk through, with different readings everyday leading up to Easter. We only got one done.

It made me realize once again how important it is to eat dinner together as a family. That's when the real STUFF of a family happens--the important conversations, the knitting together of your family with its unique indiosyncracies, the times when you figure out who you are together. And it's the special time when you can breathe into each others' lives.

You know those studies that say that when you eat dinner together, your kids are more likely to get A's, less likely to get involved in drugs or alcohol, and less likely to get involved in crime? I believe it.

Going out to dinner with friends is fun, but then we miss our traditions. How much better it is to sit around the table and really bond.

So I'm going to repeat my menu plan from last week, with a few changes. But this week, I hope to actually do it!

Monday: Whitefish in a Weight Watchers cornmeal batter. Apparently this tastes just as good as a regular batter, but it doesn't have that many calories or fat. You just roll it in cornmeal and some herbs, stick the whole thing in some milk, and then roll it in the cornmeal and herbs again to make a thicker batter. Then broil like usual. Sounds yummy! I'll use whatever fish they have fresh.

I'm trying to do fish once a week, and find a recipe that the girls like. I'll tell you how this turns out!

Tuesday: Pork Tenderloin in maple syrup & dijon mustard. Now this is yummy. Just roast the tenderloin in the oven with a marinade of syrup & mustard. Doesn't take very long, and it's really tasty. And tenderloin is good for you!

Wednesday: Ham and Scalloped Potatoes. My family's favourite. I make the scalloped potatoes a low-fat way. It's our compromise.

Thursday: Chicken-Rice Casserole. I just add cream of chicken soup, some leftover chicken gravy that's in my freezer, veggies, a bunch of rice, and leftover chicken. Mix it all together, cover with breadcrumbs and shredded cheese, and cook at 350 for half an hour. The girls love this, and always ask me to make it when we have company.

Friday-Sunday: I'm away speaking at a women's retreat this weekend! I'm looking forward to a blessed weekend, and I'm very excited about the talks I've prepared. I'll write more about them later. But in the meantime, my plan with all the dinners is to make double while I'm cooking, so the rest of the family can just heat stuff up while I'm gone. That's the thought, anyway.

Especially since I'm away this weekend I want to spend some time with my family during the week. So I better make these dinners happen!

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No Bunny Ever Rose from the Dead, But Somebody Did!
Every dead bunny has always stayed dead.

But Jesus is risen. He is risen indeed! Alleluia.

So we don't think these

have anything to do with this.

Which is why the kids didn't get any chocolate eggs or bunnies from us today.

Instead, we are heading out to Wal-Mart when they're all on half-price starting tomorrow! The girls are excited.

But today was all about Him, as it should be.

I know chocolate eggs are fun, and I'm not saying they're bad or wrong or anything. We've just gone out of our way to separate them from the religious aspect of the holiday. And the kids still get them, and they're still excited. But they're cheaper, so everybody wins!

I hope you all had a great day!

Happy Easter!


Rich and Full
Last week in my syndicated column I was writing about the curse of being busy, and how everybody is beginning to answer the question "how are you?" with "I'm just so budy!", rather than with the traditional (and corny), "I'm fine." It's like busyness has become our status symbol.

But there's nothing wrong with having lots to do, as long as we balance it. Working hard is a good thing!

One reader wrote back and said that instead of saying she's busy, she replies, "Life is rich and full." I thought that was beautiful. And that's what our homes should be like: rich and full.

And so this Easter, that's how I'm seeing my life. I have a lot to get done today: shopping and chores and some billing for my husband. But it's all stuff that's good. I love having a home to clean. I love feeding family tomorrow. I love the fact that my husband has a good job that makes money.

And so my life today is rich and full! I hope yours is, too.

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The TV Woes
We've lived without cable for 10 years now. It is so wonderful.

I don't mean to sound preachy, because I'm honestly not in real life. I have many many many vices.

But we quit cable because I was watching too much TV. When the kids were younger I was leaving it on just to have noise in the house. And it's so great to have kids who never ever watch TV or ask to. Not even when they're at their friends' houses.

I found that I was going to bed every Thursday night totally depressed, and my husband would try to draw me out and talk to me, and I would yell at hiim for being an insensitive clod.

And then I realized that the reason I was depressed had to do with television. I had been watching ER every Thursday, and that just wrecked my mood (and our sex life)!

My kids don't know anything about American Idol, or Lost, or Survivor. But they read a ton, and they have hobbies, and they play games together. They're also on the internet too much, too (it's a family vice), but on the whole I think they do more things than they would if they were glued to the box everyday.

Anyway, we do save money having no cable, and I really find I don't miss it. You can watch so much online now, and you can rent movies from the library.

I know many women who would love to get rid of the TV but their husbands won't go for it. I wrote an article on this for Marriage Partnership a while back, which you can read here. And if you want to know the stats on why you may want your kids to quit TV, you can read this.

But then, maybe I should quit the internet...

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The Old Is New Again
Every week I write a parenting column that appears in 12 newspapers across Canada, and in several in the States on a monthly basis. Here's the Easter edition: The Old is New Again.

Of course the Easter bunny is cute. No one disputes that. I only have a problem with the fact that he’s both a male and a mammal. Maybe the Easter bunny is supposed to be a girl, but I always hear him referred to as “he”. And he brings eggs. Mammals don’t lay eggs.

I’m not sure why we’re supposed to reinforce this biological impossibility to our children, but it’s the culturally appropriate thing to do. The boy bunny brings the eggs, which is probably why he hides them, because the only way for him to get them in the first place is to steal them. So I guess the whole bunny-bringing-eggs thing is really symbolism of hiding one’s sins.

But I digress. The point is that if we really cared about kids’ education we wouldn’t have an Easter bunny at all. We would have an Easter Chicken or an Easter Penguin. They both have cute babies. Of course, reptiles and fish lay eggs, too, but no one could quite buy the Easter Gecko or the Easter Guppy. But the Easter bunny is rather ridiculous.

Because of this our little family has never really embraced the Holiday Figure fever that is best evidenced by the displays near the cash at Wal-Mart every few months or so.

We’re not into Santa, either, because quite frankly a jolly elf delivering presents down chimneys makes no sense. So we’re spoilsports, I suppose, much to the consternation of Grandma and Grandpa. Even the tooth fairy is rather odd. What is she supposed to do with all those teeth she buys, anyway? The girls have always known it is the Tooth Daddy, and that half the time Daddy forgets to put the money under the pillow, so now they just raid our wallets. The romance is gone, but the end result is the same.

Perhaps another reason I’ve never embraced the Holiday Figure theme is that the holidays themselves have deep significance, and I have always felt like the figures cheapened that a little bit. I know not everyone agrees with me, but when I think of Easter I don’t think of bunnies, though I’ll gladly accept any chocolate anyone wants to send my way. I think of new life. That’s the original, sacred message. We don’t have to carry our burdens anymore. God’s paid the price, and He wants to offer us a
new beginning.

Maybe you’re not into the religious aspect of the season, but I hope the meaning itself, of new beginnings, still resonates with you. That, of course, is why we have the eggs. There is new hope and new life, which is the resurrection theme. And so my thoughts turn, as they do every year around this time, to what in my life needs a new breath of life.

What needs a new beginning in your life? Maybe you need to be freed of pain from your childhood, which has haunted you and is hurting your relationships today. Perhaps this could be the season when you go to that church on Easter Sunday, when you find a good counselor, when you join a support group, or even when you reach out and tell a loved one your real story. Maybe you need to forgive someone something big. It doesn’t seem fair to forgive (it really never is), but to hold on to the
bitterness and anger is only hurting you, and is making any hope of restored relationships impossible.

Maybe, as I wrote a few weeks ago, you need to reach out to a daughter-in-law, a mother-in-law, a son-in-law. Maybe you need to reach out to the spouse who sleeps next to you every night, but whom you rarely speak to on any deep level. Maybe it’s time to really share what is in your heart.

One of my favourite lines in fiction is found in Anne of Green Gables, when Anne turns to Marilla and says, “Isn’t it wonderful that tomorrow is a day with no mistakes in it yet?” That’s the spirit of Easter—forgiveness, second chances, a breath of fresh air, a communion with the spiritual. We all need that. So when you’re eating your chocolate eggs, pause and remember their real significance. Everything old can be new again. Even you.

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Holding My Son After Death

I'm partway through Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis in the Spring Reading Thing challenge, and it's like entering another world. He just writes so beautifully. I wish I could express things like that. It's almost like standing and staring at a Monet painting from a distance.

Anyway, Surprised by Joy is his sorta-autobiography. He deals at length on his childhood, because, as he says, one's childhood is always the most interesting part of one's life, and it's integral to understanding his conversion story. He's only about 14 at the point where I stopped for the night, so I can't comment on anything more.

But a few thoughts for the journey.

He differentiates Joy from Happiness. The only thing joy has in common, he believes, is that once you experience it you want it again. But unhappiness or grief could even be part of joy. It is almost an other-worldly, intense experience that is quite glorious. I know what he means.

And that brings me to what really struck me tonight. But for that I have to back up.

Eleven years ago I had a beautiful baby boy, perfect to my sight except for a defect in his heart that, much as the doctors tried, could not be repaired. You can read a little bit about his life here, in one of the first articles I published, or look at a longer book I wrote about the journey of grief here. Suffice it to say that I know how grief and joy can be intermingled.

A year after my Christopher died Katie arrived, and she has always been my huggy-bear and a great comfort. But I still miss my little peanut.

On the night that he died we actually weren't expecting it. It was five days post-surgery, and we left the hospital at 9:30 at night to go home and get some rest. The last thing I said to him was "Mommy loves you, sweetheart."

When the phone rang at 1:30 that morning I knew the worst had come. We hurried down to the hospital, and a doctor told us that they had done all they could.

And then they brought his body out to us.

I wish they hadn't. There is something absolutely horrid about dead bodies, because you know they're dead before you even touch them. You can tell. It wasn't him. And I didn't want to remember that way.

For my husband, holding him was catharctic. I wish I never had. Few people understand that when I explain it. After all, we live in an age when open coffins are the norm. But C.S. Lewis agreed with me, so I feel in very good company.

This is what he says after the death of his mother:

I was taken into the bedroom where my mother lay dead; as they said, "to see her," in reality, as I at once knew, "to see it". there was nothing that a grown-up would call disfigurement, except for that total disfigurement which is death itself. Grief was overwhelmed in terror. To this day I do not know what they mean when they call dead bodies beautiful.

I know exactly what he meant.

And perhaps it's appropriate for me to be thinking about this on Holy Thursday, the time when Jesus was agonizing in the garden. In just a few short hours his mother would be anointing his body for burial, all the life taken out of it. It would no longer be Him.

And yet, in that moment He truly did defeat death, so that this empty shell of a human being is not all that remains anymore. And not just that, but the desecration of what was supposed to be life that the dead body shows has been redeemed, and we will one day see it in all its fullness.

I know tonight, somewhere in heaven, as the saints praise our Lamb once again, my grandmother is standing next to my son, and laughing over him. And I will join them one day, and then the image I have of Christopher will not be some desecration, but instead his glorious body that was made possible only because Jesus gave up His own body. And for that I am eternally grateful.

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How Fast Can You Type?

Speed test

So I took the test that's been going around the mom blogs! 101 words! Not so bad.

When I was 18 I tried to get a job as a secretary through a temp agency for the summer during university. Most of the temp agencies loved me because I clocked in at about 115 words per minute (I guess age is slowing me down). But one wouldn't hire me because my error rate was too high. They demanded a speed of 60 words per minute with no more than 2% errors. Well, my speed was 115, and my errors took me down to 102 words per minute. But the error rate killed me.

I looked at them like they had horns. "You know," I said, "There is such a thing as a backspace key on these newfangled computer thingies that I'll be using. And your test didn't let me use the backspace key."

No go.

Another temp agency got me a job for $15 an hour that lasted all summer. I called Kelly's, the one who didn't hire me, and told them with a little bit of triumph in my voice.

There, that's my only typing story. Anyone else got one?


Should We All Have Kids?

Over at Mommy Life, Barbara is asking what you would say to a couple who believe in God, but don't want kids so that they can pursue their ministry.

I was thinking about this one a bit, and here's what I came up with:

I think God's deepest desire for us is to grow more and more like Him--to be holy. So how do we get there?

One thing parenthood does is it gives us an opportunity that is not found anywhere else in life to develop our character--to learn to give, to learn to put others' needs first, to learn to love unconditionally and with one's whole heart. We get a window into God's heart. And it does bring us closer to Him.

By choosing not to have children so that you as a couple can serve Him elsewhere, I believe, is giving up this chance for refining that God wants all of us to have.

When we have children, we stand for the first time on the edge of eternity. We understand the idea of forever, because our lives are no longer just about us. They are about our kids, and their kids. They are about having to trust God in a way we never have before because our hearts are now walking around outside our bodies. We need Him to watch over these little ones. We will learn to pray. We will learn what it means to trust in the eternal, rather than the temporal, as we have to put so much of their lives into His hands.

And, best of all, we bless the world with what we leave behind. Think of the blessing that Laban gave Rebecca in Genesis 24: Oh, my sister, may your offspring number thousands upon thousands, and may they possess the gates of your enemies.

That sounds really strange to our ears now. But if the world really is a rough place, the best way to redeem it is to bring more people into it who will be raised to take a stand for God in their small sphere of the world. Certainly this couple wants to concentrate on their ministry, but what's to say their own children, or grandchildren, won't have ministries, too?

Now I know some people don't want children because their lives are too busy with careers, and hobbies, or other things. And they don't want to ignore their kids. And perhaps they're making the right choice. But I don't think they realize what they're missing, because until you hold that baby in your arms, you don't truly understand what love is. It's not something you can explain until you have kids.

Not everyone is cut out to be a parent, and I can't tell anybody what to do. But I do think ultimately parenthood is a blessing. But that's up to everybody to decide for themselves.


The Best Interests of the Child
There's an interesting thread going on in The Corner right now about the liberal political tradition and childhood.

Now before your eyes glaze over and you snooze off, hear me out for a second.

This, essentially, is the problem with modern liberalism. Liberalism says that there are no moral absolutes; that everybody should have a chance to decide for themselves what they want to do and determine their own destiny. If that decision offends you, so be it, because we must be tolerant of one another.

Because of this, modern liberalism also asserts that there is no absolute right and wrong (that's one of the problems I had with Obama's speech, but that's another story). It's not a far stretch from that to assuming that people are basically good, and when we make poor choices it's because somehow we have been on the short end of the stick. We had bad parents; we were poor; we were raised in a fundamentalist household, etc.

That's why, to liberalism, the solution for most problems is a bigger state. We wouldn't have crime if we didn't have poverty and better schools. So to make crime disappear, we need to pump billions of dollars into schools. Etc. Etc. (This is a complex matter which I may address at another time, but I hope you see where I'm going).

Anyway, this is where the guys in The Corner come in. That's just the background.

If modern liberalism is about the state having a more active role while individuals choose to do whatever they want, then what happens to the kids? How do you reconcile that with the fact that children do best when they grow up in a stable, two parent home with parents who sacrifice for them and love them?

Here's Stanley Kurtz explaining a recent book by Tubbs, called Freedom’s Orphans: Contemporary Liberalism and the Fate of American Children: recent decades liberal political theorists and jurists have gone
about their work as though the personal freedom of adults is a political value
that outweighs all competing interests, including some closely associated with
the welfare of children. This viewpoint has been taken as an article of faith,
or as if the current course of action is self-evident. The result is a number of
large gaps in liberal thought....

Tubbs probes those gaps and challenges liberal thinkers to explain, as they
often have not, "why the personal freedom of adults should routinely outweigh
the competing interests of children." That strikes me as opening up a
fascinating debate.

That is interesting. And it's also why I think modern liberalism fails. It never talks about responsibilities. We have them. There are no escaping them. And there you go.

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Spring Reading 2008!

Callapidder Days is challenging us to get reading!

That's not really a stretch for me. I read all the time. So I thought to myself, what have I always wanted to read but never have? And the answer came to me.

C.S. Lewis.

Oh, I've read the Narnia series, of course. Out loud. Four times. And by myself about eight. But I've never read his other books.

So I will read them all by June (they're not that long), and post reviews here.

But that's not my REAL spring reading challenge. Here's my real challenge:

While I am reading novels (which I will also do, since I do all the time), I will not insist that I finish it in one day. I will put it down occasionally, and look around me, and talk to my children.
I will not get mad if they bug me while I am reading. I will actually cook a meal every now and then. I will not get angry if the phone rings (unless it's a telemarketer). I will not refuse to tuck them in and send Keith to do it because I'm in the middle of a "good part". I will try to stick to four or five chapters a day, and then PUT IT DOWN.

Ugh. I'm hating just writing that. But that is my real Spring Challenge: C. S. Lewis and sanity. Think I will do it?
Read more of Sheila's posts by clicking here.


Heather Mills and her $42 Million
All over the British papers, people are debating whether Heather Mills deserves her $42 million which she has just been awarded after her divorce from Paul McCartney. She wanted more.

The judge argued she hadn't contributed that much, etc. etc.

This whole thing makes me so mad. It's wrecking the whole notion of marriage. So here's what I think.

It doesn't matter how much money each had when they came into the marriage.

It doesn't matter how much Heather contributed.

It doesn't matter whether she was a good wife, a bad wife, or an insane wife.

The point is, she was a WIFE. And that's what marriage means. When we get married, there isn't "his" and "hers". There is only "ours". And if you get divorced, you have to deal with that. You don't go back to square one and figure things out from there because square one no longer exists.

It is marriage itself that changes these financial obligations, not whatever they may have agreed to. Why are we letting the nature of marriage be negotiated and argued and debated away?

Personally, I wish they had worked it out. And in cases where one partner has an affair, I think they should pay restitution. But in general, I'm sorry, it doesn't matter who made the money. Marriage is marriage. Your stuff is yours together. That's what marriage is.

And maybe that's why more marriages don't work. They don't see themselves truly as a unit. They still see themselves as two separate individuals that are just out for their own personal happiness. No wonder marriages so often collapse.

Am I sorry for Heather Mills? Not really. I don't know her, and from everything I hear I'm not inclined to like either one of them. But I am sorry for what this whole debate is doing to the whole idea of marriage. We're making it into something that can be negotiated, and it can't. Marriage means the two are one. Full stop. End of debate.

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Remembering Holy Week
This is holy week, but it's also a busy one. The kids have swimming lessons; I have two columns due; we're rushing around for a ton of things.

So how do you slow down and make sure that you remember what the week is about?

This year we've done two things. First of all, we've all given something up for Lent. For me it's alcohol. Now, don't get any ideas. It's not that I drink a lot to begin with. But when I am cooking something nice, I love a glass of white wine in the kitchen. I don't know why, but it just feels classy.

Now that I can't have it, I've been craving it. And boy am I looking forward to Easter!

The girls gave up various internet activities they like, and they're looking forward to it, too!

We also read the Easter story out loud after dinner for the week leading up to Easter. So every night is a new reading. We usually read the Bible anyway at dinnertime, but this time it's directed. So it's very meaningful.

I think the kids enjoy it. We don't go in for the Easter eggs much, but I do tell the kids that the Monday after Easter is an amazing time to buy great chocolate at half price! So they've been saving up their allowances for that, rather than waiting for the Easter bunny on Sunday!

You can read more of Sheila's posts here.

What do you do to remember Easter at your home?


Wifey Wednesdays: Sex is all in our heads! Really!

Here it is! The launch of Wifey Wednesdays.

Every Wednesday I'm going to give a tip on how to make our marriages great. But I'd love to hear your tips, too! So if you want to participate in Wifey Wednesdays, copy the picture above to your computer, post it in a post of your own, and then, after you've created your post, copy its URL and type it in the Mr. Linky below. Maybe we'll launch a new generation of great marriages!

For the first Wifey Wednesdsay, I'm going to start with something really basic. Men want to be wanted. They don't want to be placated.

So when it comes to intimacy, I think we women need to step up to the plate a little bit more. You may think you're meeting his needs because you're making love a few times a week, but he won't feel it as love unless you put some energy and enthusiasm into it! And that can be hard for us women.

I wrote Honey, I Don't Have a Headache Tonight to talk about this, but in a nutshell, here's what I think: for women, sex is in our head. We don't need it physically the way men do. So if we wait for the urge to hit us, we may be waiting a long time! But, because it is in our head, if we decide to throw ourselves into it, our bodies will likely follow!

But so often we lie there in bed, with this running conversation through our heads: "Do I want to? Does he want to? Will he be upset if we don't? Am I too tired? If we start now, what time will I actually get to sleep? How much sleep do I need tonight, anyway? But maybe I do want to and I'm just wasting time? Or do I need the sleep?"... And it goes on and on and on.

If we put a stop to that conversation and decided to jump in enthusiastically, chances are our bodies would follow, as would our husbands! I don't mean every night. But enough that you both feel connected and close.

So rest up, get the chores done, and destress your life so you have energy for him. In the end, it's amazing how much nicer your marriage will feel!

Here's a snippet of my talking about this at a recent marriage conference. Hope you enjoy! (Hint: turn the volume on your computer up before hitting play).

I know this can be a challenge if sex is physically or emotionally difficult, or if your husband is addicted to pornography and it feels degrading. I deal with all of this in my book. Let me just say that God doesn't want you to degrade yourself. And if your problems are more healing from past issues, God is big enough for that, too. Just commit yourself to not losing hope, and let your husband know you want to enjoy intimacy, too! That's the best gift you can give to both of you in your marriage.

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Works For Me Wednesday--Washing Machine!

UPDATE: This is my vintage Works for Me Wednesday! You can read it now, and then read the rest of my normal mom posts here!
I don't mean to get so excited over an appliance. I truly don't. I know that's silly, and I'm not the type to go gaga over something that you actually have to buy.

But I love my washing machine.

About a year ago we switched from a second hand washer that we bought ten years ago, and a regular dryer that we bought after our twenty year old second-hand dryer broke down, to the front loader type washing machine.

I entered a whole new chapter in my life. They're so much FUN! You get to stuff and stuff clothes in there.

It can take about 17 towels at a time. Or two comforters. Or three sleeping bags. And it doesn't complain or anything!

Plus, it's very amusing to watch it go round and round.

This is an added benefit if you happen to be washing someone's teddy bear or blankie. They can sit there for 25 minutes and watch the whole process.

On the practical side, it takes a lot less water, and hardly any soap. We use the Melaleuca concentrated soap, and I bought it last February, and ran out in January. So the soap lasted almost a whole year! And we do about a load a day (we used to do three loads a day, but I really reduced the number of loads once I got this machine).

The only downside is that it doesn't wash well if it's not stuffed, and it takes us quite a while (like two weeks) to get that large a load of whites.

But we've saved money with it. I know they're expensive, but they're worth it. They're small. And they're FUN!

And that works for me.

You can read more of Sheila's posts here.

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Tackle It Tuesday--The Little Things!
Tackle It Tuesday Meme

It's Tackle it Tuesday, and today I don't have the energy to do anything more than something small.

I quit Diet Pepsi for the 42nd time yesterday, and I haven't had one all day. You really can't expect much out of me right now.

But I thought I could do a drawer.

This mess is a drawer in our dining room where we keep our napkins and placemats and other stuff for the table.

I thought it wouldn't be a big deal to clean it.

I was wrong.

I emptied it, and there were three knives I've been looking for for ages. And a card game. And lots and lots of dried food particles. I had to go down to the basement and get out our central vac! Then I had to put a ton of napkins in the wash. Ugh. I can't believe I was using those.

Anyway, I did clean it. Here's the after:

As you can see, the placemats and napkins are now neat and actually fit. The purple books are little "grace" books with thirty-one graces you can sing. They're to tunes of familiar hymns, but the words are rewritten to have to do with food. They're awesome. One for each day of the month.

There's also the Bible and poetry book that we read from every night. Now everything is easy to get to, and we won't be embarrassed when company comes. I wonder how long that will last?

The point, my friends, is this: even if you only have 5 minutes, you an always tackle something! Just keep the vacuum nearby!

To read more of Sheila's posts, click here.

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Fake Food Society
Over at Cheap Healthy Good, Kris is talking about how to make sure you get the most grocery bang for your buck--including making sure what you buy is healthy.

It's a great post with lots of links and some great ideas.

One thing I always heard was "don't eat food that your great-grandmother wouldn't have recognized as food". In other words, no lunchables, no cheesies, and no fruit roll-ups.

My mother-in-law’s family did not eat what we would consider “low-fat” by any stretch of the imagination, but they weren’t big, either. Part of it was because they actually did physical labour, but I think the other part was that the food was real because it was home-cooked. Sure they drank whole milk and put tons of butter on everything, but at least these were real dairy products. And they went along with all the vegetables they consumed. What they ate, in general, had not been processed. Kids weren’t addicted to pop; they drank milk. They didn’t get carried away with Fruit Roll-Ups (which don’t really contain any nutrients); they ate apples. No chicken nuggets, either, whose chicken content is really very suspect.

For that matter, what is actually in margarine? Or Kraft dinner powder? Or even ice cream? It’s not cream. It’s not even milk. It’s “milk solids”, whatever those are. If our grandparents were alive today, I doubt they’d consider much of what we consume as real food in the first place.

Let’s get back to their idea of meal planning. Find seven meals that use fresh ingredients and that are easy to prepare, and then learn to make them really well. That way you never have to wonder what’s for dinner. Your shopping list is always up to date. Give your kids, if they’re old enough, one night of the week to get them cooking, too. Most ten-year-olds can make spaghetti, even from real tomatoes. If you’re frequently rushed, make large batches so you can reheat them. At least you’ll know what you’re eating, and there’s a better chance there will actually be some nutritional value in it!


Wifey Wednesday Is Coming!

Wifey Wednesdays are coming!

Starting tomorrow, I'm going to put up a post in the early morning to encourage us to think of things we can do to make our marriages better.

On these mom blogs that I love are tons of weekly memes that have to do with organization and housework (I've answered a lot of them below), but I want to focus on marriage. Because if one's marriage is strong, everything else will fall into place.

Will you join me? Start thinking about it now, and then tomorrow morning we'll start our first post!

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Responsibility 'R Us
One of the things that saddens me the most about schools is how much they usurp from parents. They teach sex ed. They teach character. They teach morals and values and hygiene and health, things that were once the purview of the home. And they teach the basics in ways that we parents never learned them, making it very hard to help with homework.

It's easy for a parent to feel that he or she is not qualified to teach anything at all. We should leave it to the schools. We provide the nurturing and the physical care, and the schools provide everything else.

We homeschool, but I think this is the way society is trending.

And we as parents need to realize that much of what the school teaches is counterproductive. What do kids learn in the playground? Being popular matters. Brand names matter. Being cool matters. None of that is true as an adult in the way it is as a child, but it is taught nonetheless.

But Joanne Jacobs argues that schools also teach kids to be unemployed.

In a recent survey urban middle school students were asked the questions, “How many times can you be late (or absent) in a month and hold a regular job?” Over half the students responded you could be late as often as you had a good excuse. Almost half responded you could be absent any time you had a good excuse.

They believe they deserve a second, third, fourth and fifth chance after making mistakes. They’re never accountable for their actions.

Many urban youth not only believe that a good teacher can make you learn but that s/he can always make it fun as well. Naturally, every effort should be made to make as many things as pleasant as possible, interesting, and certainly engaging for students. But fun cannot be the ultimate standard for judging the work of teachers. Students frequently must learn hard and complex things. Many of these “things” require memorization, intense concentration, and repetitions which are fatiguing.

If schools accede to and support an ideology that “good learning is always fun,” what do they actually teach students about work? Should good feelings come from having fun activities, or should one be taught to feel good by accomplishing things?

Then kids leave school and no employer will put up with the attitudes these kids have.

So it all comes back to us. Do we realize that our purpose as parents is to raise independent, godly adults, or do we think our purpose is to make sure our kids have fun and enjoy the early years? I'm not saying responsibility can't be fun; I'm only saying our priorities have to be correct.

Kids need to do things they don't like (like practising piano; my daughter is very grumpy right now about that). They need to learn to clean. And they need the TV off during dinner hours. Life does not revolve around them, and if we moms try to make sure that our kids' lives are endlessly happy, we're actually doing them a disservice.

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Playing with Fire
Over at Ornaments of Grace, Terry is on a roll because she is upset over the latest survey that came out saying 25% of American female teens--and 50% of African American female teens--have an STD.

What are we going to do about it?

There was a Redbook study a few years ago that found that early sexual activity wasn't good for women, but not just because of STD's. It found that women who had been sexually active at 15 were far less likely to have happy marriages and satisfying sex lives later in life than those who had waited. In the wrong context, then, sex can shatter our spirits, and give us baggage that will affect future relationships.

Yet people have a difficult time articulating this to our children in part, I think, because we’ve been told that sexual experimentation cannot and should not be interfered with. And while I may believe that God made sex only for marriage, most don't want to admit that. They don't want to admit there are rules, and they don't want to have to curb their own behaviour. And there really is no reason to tell kids not to have sex unless there is also a reason that adults shouldn't have sex outside of marriage. So the only thing left to adults to do is to tell kids to "just be safe". As if that's all that is important.

This reminds me of a story a male teacher friend once relayed to me. A 14-year-old girl asked him privately if she should have sex with her boyfriend. The teacher asked, "what did your parents say?". She replied, "that I should do what I think is best." He quickly extricated himself from this compromising situation, but here’s what he was thinking. If she had wanted to have sex, she would have done so. She would not have asked her parents, and she would not have asked him. She was looking for a responsible adult to tell her it was okay to say no. Instead, everyone was telling her they expected her to say yes, even though deep inside she didn’t want to.

When we give kids the "safe sex" message, we’re essentially saying, "we know you’re going to do it anyway, so use a condom". We give kids the impression that the pull for sex can’t be resisted, so everybody must be doing it. Even adults I respect expect me to say yes! I’d have to be a freak to say no.

Yet it’s a myth that teenagers aren’t able to wait. Our grandparents’ generation largely waited until the wedding night. We may believe that older people never fought these hormonal urges, but I bet the senior citizens out there could tell us a different story.

Counselling teens to wait isn’t teaching them to be ashamed of sex; it’s teaching them to give it the honour and importance that it deserves. It’s elevating making love, not maligning it. After all, little in life will have more long-term physical, emotional and spiritual consequences than what you do with your body. It may be uncomfortable to talk about such things with teens, but we need to try. We can’t control our children, but we can make it more likely that they’ll choose a certain path. Remember, that path is better. It is more fulfilling. And our kids deserve to have us point the way.
Menu Planning Monday - Recovery from Chocolate Week!

Today we ate chocolate. Lots of chocolate. We had a Pride & Prejudice party (the 5 hour version) with a bunch of girls from church. With a chocolate fountain.

Needless to say I am feeling rather sick. And in need of some low-fat meals this week.

But we did have fun.

Now that that is over, though, and the two eldest Miss Bennetts are happily married once again (for we partake of this several times a year), it is time to become more responsible and plan for the week ahead.

So, without further ado, here is my menu for this week:

Monday: Ground Lamb-Lentil Casserole. I just won't tell the girls it's ground lamb! I meant to make this last week, but one night we didn't end up eating at home after all, but I already defrosted the lamb! So tomorrow night it is.

Tuesday: Whitefish in a Weight Watchers cornmeal batter. Apparently this tastes just as good as a regular batter, but it doesn't have that many calories or fat. You just roll it in cornmeal and some herbs, stick the whole thing in some milk, and then roll it in the cornmeal and herbs again to make a thicker batter. Then broil like usual. Sounds yummy! I'll use whatever fish they have fresh.

I'm trying to do fish once a week, and find a recipe that the girls like. I'll tell you how this turns out!

Wednesday: Sausage & Spinach Spaghetti. I love this pasta. I take some low-fat turkey sausage and brown it and break it up. Add a little bit of diced tomatoes, some pesto sauce, and a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar. Toss it in with the sausage and the spinach. Then just mix it all together with the spaghetti once cooked. It's not a thick sauce like regular spaghetti sauce, but it's low fat and really really tasty. I usually add a little bit of hot sauce to mine, too, but only after the girls have taken their bits out! This is a great way to use up any leftover tomatoes you have, or pesto sauce. I often just throw in little bits of whatever sauces or stocks I have in the freezer.

Thursday: Pork Tenderloin in maple syrup & dijon mustard. Now this is yummy. Just roast the tenderloin in the oven with a marinade of syrup & mustard. Doesn't take very long, and it's really tasty. And tenderloin is good for you!

Friday: Ham and Scalloped Potatoes. It's Good Friday, so this is my one non low-fat meal. But it seems appropriate for Easter weekend.

Saturday: Chicken-Rice Casserole. I just add cream of chicken soup, some leftover chicken gravy that's in my freezer, veggies, a bunch of rice, and leftover chicken. Mix it all together, cover with breadcrumbs and shredded cheese, and cook at 350 for half an hour. The girls love this, and always ask me to make it when we have company.

Sunday: At my in-laws for Easter dinner! And my mother-in-law can really cook!

That's it for now. Still feeling sick from the chocolate. Have a great week! I'll post more today about other family thoughts I've been having.
To read other posts on my blog, click here.

About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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