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Jane Austen's Happy Endings
Over at Shalee is serving up Jane Austen over at her diner. She just read The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, and she loved it, and she thinks you will, too.

She says:

[It] is written from Jane Austen's perspective in the form of one of her undiscovered journals. It brings Austen to life through the use of past letters, known details and possible experiences that may have inspired her books.

James does an incredible job of making the book sound as if it were straight from the mind of Austen, while in no way making herself out to be Jane Austen the writer. James captures all that is best and true about Jane Austen. She satisfies on every score...except that perhaps of a happily ever after, for everyone knows that Austen never married. Even the hardest of readers will be caught and enchanted and praying for an ending that will not come.

Last week my husband and I watched the movie The Jane Austen Book Club, and I was pleasantly surprised. Basically five women and one guy get together to read each of Austen's novels. Meanwhile, their lives are all messed up, and they have to make some decisions of the heart themselves.

It's not a Christian movie, and there is a homosexual story line which is, in my opinion, completely unnecessary. It does nothing to advance the plot and was obviously put in there just to be politically correct. It's the other characters that are more interesting.

But here's what I liked. All of them were tempted to do things which would have messed up their lives even more--have affairs, never fall in love, divorce. And in the end, they all made the right decisions because that's what "Jane would have done". Stability, honour, dignity, love, were all things which were intrinsic to her writings. Giving in to temporary passions was an anathema to Austen, and in turn each of the women realizes it.

Now, here's what I really wanted to comment on. At the end of the movie one of the women whose marriage ends up saved is obviously pregnant. They don't comment on it, but it's clear she is.

Austen doesn't talk about babies. All her books end in weddings. She didn't know much about what happened after that, since she never married herself, and weddings were what she dreamed of. But in her brief epilogues it is clear that her characters did reproduce. Indeed, how could they not? That's part of the stability that Austen was aiming for: not marriage to live out one's passions, but marriage to be fulfilling, right, and stable. Stable for everyone--for the married couple; the extended family; the society as a whole.

And that's why to Austen I believe children are inseparable from marriage. They go hand in hand. This leads stability to our society.

That's what we're losing in the gay marriage debate. In my own country, in Canada, we've had gay marriage for a number of years now and I don't think it's going away. In the States, you have gay marriage in pockets, most recently in California. But here's the problem with it, as Frank Turek writes in his Townhall column,

This leads Blankenhorn to assert, “One can believe in same-sex marriage. One can believe that every child deserves a mother and a father. One cannot believe both.”

Blankenhorn is amazed how indifferent homosexual activists are about the negative effects of same-sex marriage on children. Many of them, he documents, say that marriage isn’t about children. Well, if marriage isn’t about children, what institution is about children?

And if we’re going to redefine marriage into mere coupling, then why should the state endorse same-sex marriage at all?

Contrary to what homosexual activists assume, the state doesn’t endorse marriage because people have feelings for one another. The state endorses marriage primarily because of what marriage does for children and in turn society. Society gets no benefit by redefining marriage to include homosexual relationships, only harm as
the connection to illegitimacy shows. But the very future of children and a civilized society depends on stable marriages between men and women. That’s why, regardless of what you think about homosexuality, the two types of relationships should never be legally equated.

I think this is spot on. The problem with Austen is that too often we believe she wrote only about love, but if you read between the lines what she's really writing about is one's responsibility to live up to a moral standard that lends stability. In each book there is a protagonist who epitomizes this--Elinor Dashwood, Elizabeth Bennett, Anne Elliott--and a character who shows the opposite--John Willoughby, Lydia Bennett, Louisa Musgrave. We are to be proper, and in Austen's books love comes to those endeavour to act appropriately.

It sounds boring that way, but it's true. And the happiest people, and the happiest society, are found among those who do play by the rules. That's the underlying theme of what she writes. And those rules are for everyone's betterment.

But right now we are throwing out those rules in the quest to "let love be the main thing".

Austen would have been horrified.

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What Do You Hide in Your Heart?
While homeschooling my oldest daughter recently, I came across a Grammar Lesson that caught me by surprise. We use an old 1920 Ontario textbook for grammar, largely because they sure understood how to teach basic skills back then. This particular assignment asked children to plan a five paragraph story, and then to write it, on one of the four following subjects: David and Goliath; Daniel and the Lions; Ruth and Naomi; or the Prodigal Son.

What was surprising to me was not just that a public school textbook, even one that is 84 years old, would ask children to write Bible stories. It was that the textbook assumed the children could. You see, the Bible was not just part of Canada’s faith story back then; it was part of their whole culture. Whether or not people believed it, everybody knew it.

Philosopher and physician John Patrick likes to tell a story that illustrates this to an even greater extreme. The scene is the disastrous Canadian landing at Dieppe, in France in 1942. The Canadians had no air or sea support, they were outnumbered, and it was a lost cause perhaps before it even began. In the midst of the battle, the English headquarters sent a message across the Channel, asking how the soldiers were faring. They received a three word answer in response. “But if not.”

Do you get it yet? Few of us would. Yet those three words were not only understood by those who sent them; they were understood by those who received them. And the sender knew this would be the case. But if not.

For those of you who are still scratching your heads, “But if not” is from the story of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, better known as Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego, or to my children as Rack, Shack and Benny. When facing being thrown into the fiery furnace for refusing to bow down to an image of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, these three men told the king, “If our God is able to deliver us, let him. But if not, we will not bend the knee.” But if not, we will not bend the knee. That is the message the Canadians sent back to London. It was read, and it was understood.

There's another story from that same period that speaks to me. An Allied POW camp (I awesome it was air force or some such, because they were held for a number of years, so it must have been before D-Day), managed to recreate pretty much the entire book of Matthew (there were only a few holes) just from people's memories. I can't find a reference for that now, but I think that's pretty inspiring. They wanted Scripture to keep them going, so they called everyone together, and everyone brainstormed, wrote out the verses they knew, and then tried to put them in the proper order. The chaplain kept what they wrote, and he compared it to the actual Bible when they were released. They got remarkably close. I can't picture that happening today.

Not all of those people were Christian, in either story. And yet they knew the Word. Probably better than we do. Have any of you ever read Tom Sawyer? Mark Twain writes brilliantly and hysterically about the Bible verse drills all these kids went through, but that was late in the nineteenth century.

Do we memorize anymore? Do we really know our Bibles? Do our kids? I think we need to get back to knowing the Word.

I know we can't turn back the clock, and likely the rest of society won't follow us as they did when we were still a Bible-based culture, but we need to at least be well versed in Scripture. In fact, we need to be more well-versed because we no longer hear Scripture or allusions to Scripture in normal life.

I'm thinking about starting "Memory Verse Monday", when we all learn a verse every week together. We could even have contests for it. You could make it into a family activity at dinner time!

What do you think?

After all, but if not...

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Do We Stink?
Every Friday my family life column appears in several newspapers in Canada and the United States. Here is this week's feature.

When I studied the “evils” of advertising in university, we investigated the unique marketing ploy for deodorants. In the early twentieth century companies figured out how to make this product, and now they had a problem on their hands. Up until that time, everybody just sort of smelled the same. Now they had to convince people to buy a product no one had ever thought of before.

Advertisers decided to tackle this problem by educating people on the fact that they stank. People, in droves, took the message to heart, and now we don’t stink nearly as much, though vans of moms with boys in hockey still aren’t that pleasant.

Today, though, advertisers are trying to tell us not that we stink, per se, but that our homes do. Whenever I watch TV, I’m struck by how many ads there are for those plug-in air fresheners. Perhaps it’s because I tend towards decorating shows rather than NHL games, but air fresheners are the product du jour. Given how much companies are devoting to advertising, people must be buying them by the cartful.

So do we really stink that badly? I can see a use for air fresheners in the aforesaid hockey van, but what about you living room? After all, if your house stinks, there’s an underlying problem that an air freshener can’t fix. At our home, it’s usually because someone has left a half-drunk cup of hot chocolate behind some sofa, and it has now congealed into a wobbly brown mess. Or it’s because I bought too many vegetables in a health frenzy a few weeks ago, and I haven’t yet gone through my fridge to throw out the green slime that remains.

Maybe you have a dog with a bladder problem, or at least an obedience problem. Maybe your fridge hasn’t been cleaned out since the Chretien years. Or maybe you know there’s a dirty diaper stashed somewhere, but you don’t know where and you’re afraid to look. Whatever the case, you know something just doesn’t smell right.

The smell problem in our homes, then, is really more related to our inability to keep a house clean than it is to our refusal to buy plug in air fresheners. After all, if you really do clean every week (or better still, get your kids to do it), the house is going to smell like Mr. Clean anyway.

These air fresheners, though, aren’t aimed at older people, who have trouble cleaning, or at single guys, who rarely do. They’re aimed at middle-class women who know their houses should at least be free of communicable diseases, even if they’re not spotless, and who actually do care, but don’t have the time or energy to get it done.

I have a sneaking suspicion, then, that perhaps this air freshener craze is a reflection of our society’s lack of ability to keep up with the basic household stuff. It’s just another symptom that we’re running ourselves too ragged and basic things aren’t getting done. Of course, it could also be a symptom of the fact that we’re buying homes that are too large, and then working so many hours to pay for them that we don’t have time to care for them, but perhaps that’s part and parcel of the same thing. We just don’t have time for things that our grandparents, even if they didn’t use deodorant, would have considered quite basic.

I don’t particularly like housework, but there can be something very peaceful and satisfying once you’ve finished. And it does get easier as the kids get older. I have a few friends who are pathetic housekeepers, and I’ve often considered an intervention—just do a massive clean once, and then teach them to maintain it.

If that’s what you need, maybe you should hire a cleaning service to come in and do it for you, just this once, to get you back on track. We all need a place to kick back and be ourselves without worry that the stench may kill us. So don’t just sweep the stench under the rug. Clean something. You just might find that life isn’t so stinky after all.

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Who's Your Mother?

I just opened a really creepy piece of mail.

My utility company sent it to me, and the front cover says, "When's the last time you showed your mother you love her?". Then you open it up and all these weird pictures of women holding the earth are in there.

And it's all about how we need to tell Mother Nature thank you, and treat her well.

Now, I'm all for protecting the environment (though I can't get overly excited about global warming; you can read here for that).

But earth being our mother?

My husband is reading G.K. Chesterton's book Orthodoxy right now, which is just an amazingly written book. He reads me excerpts every now and then, and they're brilliant.

One from a few days ago was about how too often we view nature as a mother. Pantheistic religions do this when they say we are all gods. Environmentalists do this. Secular evolutionists do this. We are all here by accident, so nature created us.

The problem with this is that nature then takes on a very serious tone. If nature is our mother, she must be obeyed. We must submit to her. We must do her will.

Christians, on the other hand, see nature more like a sister, according to Chesterton. We both have the same Parent, so we can enjoy nature, we can play with nature, we can appreciate nature. In fact, nature is more like a kid sister that we love watching explore something new.

Nature is something we can laugh over, and even protect. But it isn't something that requires such severity of thought.

It's interesting because C.S. Lewis said something similar when it comes to sex. In The Four Loves, he wrote that those who make sex their god tend to give it a seriousness that robs it of its true beauty. Sex, the way God intended it, is darn funny. It's almost ridiculous. And it does operate by the law that anything that can go wrong, likely will eventually. If we treat it so seriously, as the object of our life, then these little failings and foibles will seem disastrous. If, on the other hand, we realize that it was created for us, then it's okay to laugh over it.

C.S. Lewis said, "Banish play and laughter from the marriage bed, and you let in a false god," or something to that effect. Sex without laughter is all too severe.

I think nature is the same thing. Take away the laughter and make nature into a stern mother, a warning mother, the way society so often does today, and you remove one of the greatest joys of life. You make it so you can't even see the humour anymore.

And that is sad.

Yes, I have told my mother I love her recently. And I will tell her again on Tuesday, on her birthday. But nature is not my mother. Perhaps I should return that letter to the utility company and tell them that?

It's hard to believe bureaucrats get paid for this stuff.

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When You Waste An Hour of Your Life
I am not having a good morning. I've been editing some talks that I gave recently so I can sell them as downloads on my website, so I'm trying to make them as concise as possible and take out the erroneous information that was related just to that conference.

I've finished a bunch of them, and for $6 each you can listen to 45 minute-1 hour talks I've given on parenting, To Love, Honor and Vacuum, romance, and a whole bunch more! Go here to read the descriptions.

But I have just spent an hour editing one talk and then my program closed and I hadn't saved. I hate that. I really hate it. I just wasted an hour of my life.

So I decided to take a break and read some of my recent comments.

On the post I wrote below on hormones, one person said that because they themselves were an only child the kids' fighting bothers her more. I got thinking about that, and I think that's part of my issue.

It was only my mother and I in the house. I didn't have anyone to fight with, and now when the kids show signs of totally normal behaviour I freak out. My husband was the oldest of four boys. They used to punch walls and slam doors to get their aggression out. He likes to say his mother was just happy they weren't slamming each other.

So we do have very different perspectives on this.

And I, too, know that my kids do love each other at heart. They have both lost a brother, and that probably makes the sibling relationship even more precious to both of them. But I guess I never had experience with regular family life, so it's different for me watching it firsthand.

I still don't think I should let them get away with it, but I like the advice to tell them that their emotions shouldn't take control of them; they should take control of their emotions. Yet I'll also remember that siblings bickering a bit isn't the end of the world. I'm just glad that now I have a bigger family and can start to experience all these wonders of family life, even if they do drive me crazy at times!

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Too Many Hormones!
I really do live in hormone central. I have a 13-year-old daughter and an almost 11-year-old daughter who is physically maturing far too fast. There is so much estrogen around here it's crazy, especially when you add me to the mix.

What it results in, though, is that both girls take offense far too easily. As sisters, they've always taken offense at each other to a certain extent. You know the routine--Katie's being mean to me! She's looking at me funny! She said something mean to me! etc. etc.

But what's happening now is that they're taking offense at the smallest little things. And then they get miserable, and Katie tears up, and Rebecca sneers and tears up, too. And I'm stuck in the middle.

We homeschool, so I really can't have them distracted by bugging each other. And I don't want to spend my whole day with two kids who are teary. It's not exactly fun.

So the other day I tried to have them talk it out. I thought this wouldn't end until they each got their feelings out, and until they each understood where they were wrong. Because part of the problem, naturally, is that I don't understand how hurt they are. So my aim is to help them see how they are hurt out of proportion. If they can understand, I figure, they can get over it.

I tried that on Tuesday and wasn't getting very far. My husband happened to be home, so I went upstairs to get him, thinking if he imparted his wisdom on the girls, they would see the error of their ways.

Instead of coming down and explaining the issues at hand, though, he came down and just ordered one girl to apologize. And that was it. And he was very firm about it. Now I was offended, too! I didn't want them to paper over it; I wanted them to solve it.

So I went back upstairs to have it out with him this time. His response? They don't pull this kind of stunt when they're with him. My problem is I let them have their feelings. He doesn't, and they get along fine. End of story.

And it's true. When they're with him, they don't pick at each other and get all teary. But my girls say that the reason they do it with me is that it all builds up. But he says I just need to be firmer.

I can actually see both sides of the story. But to me this is a heart issue, and needs to be addressed. I know it's hormonal, and I know that it's silly to expect them to be rational, but I think taking offense is a bad thing, and needs to be nipped in the bud.

It's not like Keith and I are actually fighting about this. I don't want to give that impression. I'm just really unsure how to handle this. Maybe he's right, and in a few years they'll be over this hormone madness and then we can have rational discussions with them. But until then, we need to show them who is boss.

But I'm not like that. So I'm confuzzled. What do the rest of you think? Should you just forbid kids from acting all hormonal?

And now something else occurs to me--if kids really are this irrational and crazy, why does the school system treat them like they're old enough to have sex?

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Another Book Giveaway!
I just loved giving the compilation book Hot Apple Cider away, so I think I'm going to give something else away.

Only this giveaway is REALLY special, because the winner doesn't even know she entered!

A bunch of different blogs have blogrolled me, and I've decided to pick the one that's sent me the most traffic so far. And that is...

Gemma at The Wolfenbarger Bunch! Thanks so much, Gemma.

And here's what you win:

My book Honey, I Don't Have a Headache Tonight: Help for Women Who Want to Feel More In the Mood!

Now Gemma, I have no idea if this is something you actually NEED--I'm not trying to pass judgment or anything--but with Father's Day coming up, it's the book I'm featuring right now. And it was an "Our Pick" from Today's Christian Woman!

So here's the gist: It's 10:00 at night. He wants to start snuggling. You want to start snoring. He feels unloved because you aren't "in the mood", and you feel unloved because he only cares about one thing.

If you want to break this impasse, Honey, I Don't Have a Headache can help!

So how can you win a copy of one of my books? At the end of the month I'll give away a book out of the blue to whichever blog has blogrolled me and sent me the most traffic! So why don't you add me to your blogroll?

And in the month of June, I'm planning a "blog tour" of Honey, I Don't Have a Headache Tonight! You can ask me questions about "intimacy", so to speak, and I'll answer, and you can post it on your blog. I'll link to you, and then we all benefit! You can see some of the stops on last year's blog tour for To Love, Honor and Vacuum here.

If you'd like to get in on it, leave me a comment or email me with the name of your blog! I still have a few spots left!

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Works For Me Wednesday: Cloth Sanitary Pads Follow-Up

I had a lot of feedback last week from my WFMW post about making your own cloth sanitary pads! I want to follow up on a couple of things, but if you haven't read that post, you should probably do it now!

A few commenters and emailers asked if this was really any cheaper, because you're using all that hot water to wash them.

Think about it this way. You know when you're doing a load of wash and you're about to turn it on when your 6-year-old comes running with another pair of underwear? Do you turn to him and say, I'm sorry, that won't fit in the machine today? Of course not, because underwear don't take up any space. You just throw them in and that's fine.

That's what it's like with the cloth pads, too. You never do a load of wash for just them. You throw them in with whatever you're already washing, so they really take up no extra water or detergent at all. They're not big enough to make a difference.

Where you do use water is when you soak the pads, but that's not a lot of water, and so it doesn't really add up. The other thing--and I know this will have major EWWWW factor, too--is that you can dilute that soaking water and use it as an awesome fertilizer for your outdoor plants, especially this time of year. So it doesn't even go to waste! And it saves you money!

So it's not really a lot of work, and it uses no extra energy.

Now, a commenter made a very interesting plug for the Diva cup. Any of you know what it is? I am intimately connected with it.

Basically it is a plastic cup like thing that you use internally, sort of like a tampon, but it collects the *AHEM* fluid and then you remove it and empty it. I has no leaks, because you sort of form a suction around it, and you can leave it in for about 24 hours without changing it. Many women absolutely swear by them. They cost around $30 and they'll do you for the rest of your life. You'll never need anything else.

When I was investigating solutions for the African orphanage we go to I looked at Diva cups. Very intriguing. And I thought I should try them out.

But that's when I learned something. I am not exactly totally comfortable messing around inside, if you get my drift. I could get the thing in, but to get it out, you have reach in, grasp the bottom, and push the sides together to remove the suction before you pull it out.

But mine migrated. It's supposed to sit low, not high like a tampon, and there's no string. And I couldn't find it. I panicked.

My husband is a doctor and it was then that I had to have him do what no husband should have to do. He had to come home and take it out for me. It was terrible, to say the least.

So I decided they wouldn't work on a large scale for Africa. Some girl would get it stuck up there and would be too embarrassed to tell anybody. So we went for the cloth pads instead. And so have I.

But if you don't share my squeamishness, and if you're interested in giving it a try, go for it!

May your suction be easy to break, and may your migration be limited.

Otherwise, I'll be posting the patterns for the cloth sanitary pads soon. Take care!

Did you arrive here for WFMW? Stay a bit and look around! It's Wifey Wednesday, too, so it's time for some great marriage advice!


Wifey Wednesday: It's the Little Things

It seems the one of the most popular Google searches that lands people on this blog is "how to forgive a spouse". I guess that's referring to this post.

So I got thinking about this whole idea of forgiveness again, and a thought has occurred to me.

We often think that the pivotal moments in a marriage are things like when we look into each others' eyes when we say our vows, the first time we make love, when we hold our first child, when we make the decision of whether or not to buy a house.

I'm starting to think the really pivotal moments are far smaller. So small we may not realize they are pivotal.

Have any of you ever seen the movie Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow? It's got to be at least a decade old now, but it's a really neat movie. It follows a woman's life in two possible scenarios, based on whether or not she missed a subway or whether she caught it at just the right time. A simple change like that can change the course of one's whole life.

And it's like that for us, too. People don't just have affairs because one day they up and decide they want something else. They don't cut off all communication all at once. They don't stop enjoying being together at 1:03 p.m. one Sunday afternoon. It all happens gradually, by the little decisions that we make together.

When we decide to kiss our husband when he comes in the door (or when we come in the door), even if we're a little bit tired of all the mess he left for us tonight, we build goodwill. When we're tired and grumpy but we try to put that aside just to listen to him talk, or to do something else, we build goodwill. When we make a point of making sure he remembers his mother's birthday, or making sure the kids get him a Father's Day card, we build goodwill.

When we thank him for the work he does around the house, even when we wish he would do more, we build goodwill. When we talk about how much we appreciate him to the kids, while he's within earshot, we build goodwill.

But, on the other hand, when we turn away when he wants to talk because the kids need us, and pick them over him again, we push him away. When we decide to spend more time at our jobs, or our crafts, rather than go for a walk with him or watch him play baseball, we push him away. When we wish he'd just stop complaining about his job and do something about it, and tell him so, we push him away.

None of these things is big. None is stupendous. But all can be life-changing, because we make a choice as to whether we are on the road that is building intimacy or whether we are on the road that is squelching it.

I know you cannot build intimacy all by yourself. I know that you need his help, and sometimes he doesn't cooperate. He doesn't realize how much you need affection, or affirmation, or love. He's insensitive. And it's so easy to turn away.

But we are not called to do the easy thing. We are called to do the right thing. And the more we throw ourselves into building the relationship, the more we look for ways to be helpful, rather than looking at all the things that he is doing wrong.

There are, of course, some caveats. Sometimes he really does hurt you or want inappropriate things from you. Please click on the label below for "Wifey Wednesdays" to look at other posts which may provide a fuller perspective.

But for today, I just want to leave you with this thought: two people do not grow apart overnight. It is gradual. Likewise, true oneness isn't built overnight. It is gradual. But we can gradually choose to be on the wrong road, and the gulf can get wider and wider. So in the little things, what will you choose?

In To Love, Honor and Vacuum this is exactly what I talk about--how YOU can take responsibility for making your marriage better. And when you start changing, your marriage dynamic will change, for the better! Go here to read more or purchase!

Do you have advice or thoughts on marriage that you want to share? Maybe you just have a question that you want an answer to, or some feedback. Why don't you participate? Just copy the picture above onto your blog, write a post, and then come back here and put your URL in the box below. I'd love to hear from you!

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We Have a Winner!
We have a winner for my book giveaway, for Hot Apple Cider: Words to Stir the Heart and Warm the Soul. (Read more here).

Thanks for all of you who entered! I like this book giveaway thing, and as an author, I'm always being sent books to review. So I think I'll make this a regular feature!

I might start giving away more of my own books, too. Hot Apple Cider contains writings from 30 Christian authors, including me (I have three pieces in it). But I've written a number of others myself, including my two marriage books: Honey, I Don't Have a Headache Tonight, and To Love, Honor and Vacuum.

But all of you probably want to know who won, don't you?

I know I would if I had entered.

And so, without further adieu, our winner is:

Jennifer at Quiverfull Family! Thanks Jennifer!

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7 Fun Things About Me
I've been tagged by Storm at All Things Cherished!

Here are the rules...
1. List these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

So here are 7 fun things about me. At least I think they're fun:

1. I knit all the time. Even in line at the grocery store. I always have a pair of socks with me so I don't waste any precious time. I love to knit. I really do. And I'm making all the teenagers in our youth group scarves for next fall. They all want them, so I guess knitting is popular again!

2. I can't stand styrofoam. The sound when you're rubbing it against something is worse than finger nails on a blackboard to me. So if we're ever unwrapping something with styrofoam, I have to leave the house! I think this falls under the same category as dog whistles. I can hear most of them. I can just hear weird frequencies, and it's a horrible thing, especially in the dentist's office!

3. I'm a purple person. I love purple. But lately I've been wearing more green, and I don't know why. I hope it's not a sign of something bad.

4. I like my in-laws. Quite a bit! We're even taking them on a cruise to Alaska for their 40th anniversary this summer. We live in the same town with my entire extended family on both sides, and it's really nice to be able to drop in on everybody for a few hours and then leave. No staying with people for the weekend, which gets old really fast.

5. We like to camp. In fact, we'll be camping most of the summer. I just like being away from all the technology and all the cleaning I have to do!

6. I was boy crazy in high school. I guess everybody is, but it's embarrassing to think about, so I try not to dwell on my teenage years very much. But the three guys I dated most seriously all went on to become doctors. I don't know if there's any meaning in that, but women used to ask me to date their sons so they would be doctors, too.

7. I let my kids eat chocolate for breakfast sometimes. Does that make me a bad mom?

Okay, I think that's it! Now I have to tag seven people.

Linda at Spilt Milk
Smoochiefrog at In The Mind of a Thirtysomething Mom
Kristen at We are THAT Family
Kelly at Love Well
Katrina at Callapidder Days
Homemaker Barbi

Now I'll go let the seven people know!


Don't Forget My Book Giveaway!

My book giveaway for Hot Apple Cider ends tomorrow! Go here to leave a comment on the post and then WIN!

And check out Katrina's website at Callapider Days. She's always giving away books. I love that!


"I Have My Bodyguard With Me"
I feel like the main storyline in our house this year is dealing with the fact that my 13-year-old is growing up. She looks mature. She acts mature. And boys are noticing.

She's been asked out several times, but she's read I Kissed Dating Good-Bye and she's determined not to date until she's old enough to court. We've also made a no dating until 18 rule, and she's content to stick to it. She's a great kid. Have I mentioned how grateful I am for her lately?

But boys are definitely pestering her! Yesterday at church one boy was following her around and acting silly as Keith and Rebecca were walking to the car. And he said, "you think I can't bug you now?" (I think he was talking about tickling, but I don't know). Anyway, apparently she said, "Well, I have my bodyguard with me," at which point he started laughing and saying how he could "take" Keith. Which he totally couldn't. I think he was just trying to look cool by dissing the parent.

Which is not the way to impress my daughter.

She just thought he was stupid. But I like that line: "I have my bodyguard with me". That's how she sees Keith. He's her protector, the one who is going to make sure that she doesn't get into trouble.

It's good to give kids rules, because then they do feel protected. And it gives her cover. If a boy asks her out, she doesn't have to say, "I don't like you," or "I think you're gross." She can simply say, "My parents don't let me date. Sorry!" And leave it at that. It's really much easier on her.

She does like boys. And I think she's quite flattered by all the attention. But she'd like to go back to when they were all just friends and hung out, and it's too bad everyone is so eager to move on.

But at least she knows that we will always be there for her.

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Menu Plan Monday: When You Just Want to Barbecue

Actually, that title is wrong. It's not when you just want to barbecue. It's when you just want your husband to barbecue!

Anyway, I would much rather spend the majority of the week barbecuing, but the truth is that's not always the most economical way to eat. I like to make my meat go far by making stews or casseroles or pastas, and with barbecuing you tend to use a whole chunk of meat of some kind. Sure you can barbecue potatoes and veggies, too, etc. etc., but you know what I mean.

So here's what I've come up with:

Monday: Spaghetti. It's old fashioned, but it's easy, and it's Rebecca's turn to cook! We usually mix a can of spaghetti sauce with a can of pureed tomatoes, throw in some seasoning, add some carrots and garlic and mushrooms and ground beef, and then you're good to go. It's easy for kids to make, starting at around age 9 or 10. So why not get your kids cooking it?

Tuesday: Barbecued Pork with quick veggies and rice. I'm going to marinate the pork in a fruity-garlicky marinade all day, and then Keith can stick it on the barbecue. This dinner won't take long to make, which is good because we're going to see Prince Caspian again that night!

Wednesday: Roast Beef and potatoes and veggies. This is our company meal! We're going to roast the beef on the barbecue spit, because I've never done that but apparently it's delicious. We have some people coming over to talk about homeschooling, so this seems like a good night to make something fancy. I'll probably barbecue the potatoes, too, and then serve with sour cream, butter, or homemade salsa. The salsa is my favourite, and it doesn't add as much fat!

Thursday: Leftovers. We should have quite a few leftovers from this week, but if not, I have leftover Jamaican rice and beans in the freezer, too. Not enough for a full meal, but certainly enough to round one out. I often keep leftovers in the freezer so that we can make a meal out of them later. Sometimes it's hard to eat up all your leftovers at once because you get kind of sick of the same thing. So freeze them, and spread it out. It works much better!

Friday: Marinated whitefish. I think I have tilapia in the freezer, but maybe it's cod. But anyway, I'm going to marinade it in this fish seasoning that I bought, with some lemon juice and oil, and then just broil it. Serve with rice and veggies, and we're fine. The kids are starting to eat fish now without complaining as much, so that's good.

If you're wondering how to make your own marinade, it's not hard. You can buy all kinds of seasoning mixes at the store, although we buy ours from a specialty catalogue that are so good, but frequently you just mix with oil, or with oil and vinegar for beef and chicken, and then put in a ziploc bag for a couple of hours. It really is yummy!

Saturday: Barbecued Hamburgers. I think we'll have a pile of people over on Saturday, so we'll probably just do burgers. I try to keep it healthier by having a ton of veggies and dips. I can totally fill up on veggies, and then you don't need much of a burger. I also never put the chips out until dinner; I just have veggies out first. It's amazing how many veggies people will eat, even when they say they don't like them. And it is healthier!

Okay, so that's my barbecue week. Hope on over to Org Junkie to see all the other menus for this week!

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My Summer Quest: Get In Shape!
Today is my birthday so I got to decide what to do. And I picked a long bike ride.

It was tremendously fun, but we learned that we are very out of shape from last year. So instead of riding for as long as we had planned, we stopped at Dairy Queen for an ice cream. This what I had as my birthday cake:

Anyway, it's not that I want to lose weight. I simply want to be in good shape. Same with the girls. And if I let us, we'd all sit inside glued to the computers in the house all day. Up here in Canada it's not like we get that much good weather, so I want to make the most of it.

Near us are a whole bunch of cycle routes, on back roads and waterfront trails, that are beautiful. They range from about 20 km to 100 km, which is about 12 miles to 60 miles or something like that.

Anyway, next week we're going to try an easy one at 21 km for the Saturday. We'll pack a picnic lunch and head out, stopping every little while to look out at the lake.
By the end of the summer I'm hoping to be able to do the 37 km trail straight through. It's in the middle of beaver country, and I saw one yesterday when I was driving through. It's really quite pretty in a rustic kind of way.
So that's the plan! We'll see if we can do it.


It's My Birthday!
I'm not 40 yet. Yet. But it's getting closer. Now it's just two years away, and I'm starting to feel it.

I don't mind really. I'm actually quite happy with my life. I feel like I've accomplished a lot of my goals, and I love my family. I'm always aware that I only have eight years before both girls have left home, so by the time they leave I'll still be young enough to do a lot with my speaking and writing ministry. I don't have to do it all at once.

But I am glad I had my children relatively young. Not as young as some of you, I'm sure, but I was 24 when Rebecca was born, 26 with Christopher and 27 with Katie. It's not bad looking after kids in your twenties, when you're used to living in rotten apartments and not really having nice stuff.

In some ways, I think it would be harder once you've already bought a nice house, and you're used to eating out a lot and spending money on nice things, and then go down to only one income. We never had much of anything, so it wasn't a big transition to make.

Now we've got the house, and the cars, and the furniture, but it's taken a while in coming, and that's fine.

Many of my friends from university became established in their careers before they had kids, so their children are about 8-10 years younger than mine. It's a whole different world. I feel like I'm still young enough that my older daughter's friends like me. And when they were little, I still had a lot of energy.

Speaking of energy, I've decided what I want to do for my birthday. I was out speaking this weekend at a women's retreat up near Ottawa, and I drove the back way. I saw hawks and beavers and deer, and it was lovely. So I've decided I want to take a long bike ride with the family on some of those back roads. Get some exercise and enjoy the outdoors. It's a beautiful day up here, as long as you don't mind the mosquitoes!


Stories That Must Be Told
Every Friday I write a "slice of life" column that appears in several papers in Canada and the United States. Here is this week's column:

The week that Princess Diana died Mother Theresa died, too. I sometimes think that was God’s gift to that diminutive, saintly woman. Perhaps she noticed all the commotion surrounding Diana’s death, and so said to God, “Now would be a really good time for me to go, because no one would notice.” She didn’t want the world’s attention, though the residents of Calcutta certainly mourned her dearly.

Diana was an amazing woman, who was certainly given a raw deal in her marriage. If the question we’re asking, though, is who merited the most attention, I think Mother Theresa runs away with that prize. Yet we spent our tears on a dead Princess, rather than on a small, frail lady who had no beauty except the love that shone out of her. Diana touched lives; Theresa changed them.

But at least we know the name of Mother Theresa. Many just like her remain nameless, because too often those we make famous are not truly important, while those who are important are anything but famous! Last week, a 98-year-old Polish heroine died. You likely have never heard of Irena Sendler; I hadn’t until I read her remarkable obituary online. Yet Irena, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize the year that Al Gore won, was someone everyone should know.

She was in her late twenties when Hitler invaded her country. She witnessed the Jews being rounded up and imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto. But she didn’t just bemoan the fates of her countrymen; she wrangled her way onto a sanitation committee, along with nine of her friends, and everyday snuck in food and medicines.

When it became clear that the Nazis were about to start liquidating Jewish families, though, Sendler felt it was time to start sneaking things out. And so she began, one child at a time, until she had rescued over 2,500 Jewish children and placed them with families around Poland. She wrote their names on tissue paper, followed by their clandestine Christian names and clues to their locations, and buried them in two different jars, so that the children could potentially be reunited with family after the war. I can’t imagine the agony the parents must have felt to have handed over their children to a stranger. But they gave them to Irena, and those children lived.

In 1943 Irena was caught and tortured, but she refused to divulge any information. She was sentenced to be executed, but the Polish underground paid a huge bribe to have her freed. And so they found her, with both arms and legs broken, lying in the woods. She recovered and continued her work.

If you see a picture of her on the internet, she looks like she is about to laugh. She had a tremendous sense of humour, which I’m sure she needed given the gravity of her work. Her greatest grief in life was that after the war, when she dug up those jars, she found that so many of these children had no living relatives to whom to return them.

Five years ago, when her story was uncovered by some American schoolchildren, she became very uncomfortable with all the adulation. What she did, she said, “was just a normal thing.” Why are people making such a big deal about it?

Something else occurred last week which perhaps Miss Sendler would have enjoyed. Prince Caspian, the second of the Narnia films, was released. In our world where self-esteem is the key virtue, and material success the mountain that we all try to climb, Caspian stands in stark contrast. Intrinsic to the movie are the virtues of duty, honour, and valour. Sometimes one must fight for something that is bigger than oneself; and in so doing one learns that self-sacrifice is both ennobling and rewarding.

Sendler knew about duty and honour and self-sacrifice. She put those things ahead of her own needs, and in so doing thousands of people are alive today. I am glad we have her story, and I am glad stories like Narnia are still being told, to take us to a world where doing the right thing was simply “a normal thing to do.” If only such a world could come again.

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When Sleeping Together Drives You Apart...

I love my husband. I really do. He's my best friend.

We even sleep in a double bed because I like to curl up right beside him. No queen or king size for us! Last time we went to buy bedroom furniture they guy at the store commented, "wow, you must really like each other." And we do.

But I don't like it when he snores. Now I snore too, sometimes, but he can sleep through snoring. I can't.

It used to be a lot worse before he lost some weight, but now, when he's overtired, he can snore a lot, and then I can't sleep.

So last night I bailed and slept in the guest room until 3:00, and then snuck back into our room and spent the rest of the night there. I really don't like the guest room very much.

I wish I could sleep with snoring, but I can't. I am just never going to get used to it. I can't sleep in dormitory settings with a whole bunch of women, either, because someone inevitably will be snoring. When I've been in those places I just haven't slept, even if it's been for a week. It is terrible.

So I suppose I should be grateful we have a guest room. But I'm still tired this morning!

Here's the intro to an article for Marriage Partnership I wrote on this subject a couple of years ago:

Heather threw off the covers in frustration and propelled herself out of bed. For the last 45 minutes she had repeatedly shoved her husband, Rick, to roll him over and stop his snoring. Her efforts had met with temporary success, but as soon as she would fall asleep again, his snoring would wake her. In defeat, she grabbed her pillow, yanked the blanket off of Rick with a smug smile, and trudged bleary-eyed downstairs to begin another night on the couch.

When we marry, we dream of contentedly drifting off in each others’ arms. Yet
numerous culprits conspire to rob us of this bliss. Snoring is by far the most
common, affecting close to 30% of all marriages. Other people flail their legs in their sleep, leaving their beloveds black and blue. Still others work staggered hours, or are repeatedly paged throughout the night. And then there are the little ones, flailers extraordinaire, whom one parent, much to the chagrin of the other, may insist share the bed. Few things disturb sleep more than the presence of a two-year-old.

Every night, for countless couples like Heather and Rick, the sleep wars begin anew. Yet unlike traditional marriage conflicts, one side of this war often doesn’t even realize the battle is waging. Oblivious to the havoc they’re causing, they doze peacefully as their spouses fume.

You can read the rest here. And I hope you got more sleep than I did!

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Revamping My Columns & Articles Site!
I love this blog. I love my readers, and I'm having a great time with it.

But before there was this blog, there was My Main Website. And today I spent a few hours revamping it!

I've written around 1,000 columns and articles over the last ten years, mostly on marriage, parenting, and social commentary, and I'd love to share them with you! I don't have them all up, but I have most of my favourites!

So go here, and then look around at the topics and start reading. If you want to really probe inside my brain (EEEWWWW), then this is where to go!
Wifey Wednesday: When He Wants You to Do Something You Don't Like...
We're going to get really personal today.

When I talk about sex to different groups, and I get asked to quite a bit because of my book Honey, I Don't Have a Headache Tonight, the most common question I get asked afterwards is, "what do I do when he wants me to do X and I think X is gross?" You can fill in your own X there, but you get the picture.

That's a tough one. So here are some thoughts, maybe a bit disconnected, that I have on the subject that hopefully can help people work it out.

1. First, the biblical conjunction in 1 Corinthians 7 that the body belongs to the spouse doesn't mean that your husband can do whatever he wants with you. That violates Ephesians 5 and many other passages. So don't even try to go there.

2. I think this whole problem started because our society has divorced sex from relationship, and so now all that's left is to make sex better by pushing the physical envelope. Think about it: how often do you see articles on "how to make sex better by improving your relationship", vs. "10 great new tricks in bed"? It's always the new tricks. And trust me, humans have been doing this for thousands of years. There's nothing new.

But because sex is now so common outside of marriage, where it's not used as an expression of love and commitment, it becomes all about the physical. Thus we live in a pornographic culture that promotes the physical above all else, and this has invaded the church, too. Because it's everywhere. And it's how even Christian men and women think of sex.

Now I don't think there's anything wrong with feeling great physically. But here's the issue: sex at heart is a spiritual, emotional and physical union. The reason it feels so good is because all three of those are connected. And when you get that spiritual connection while you're making love--when you're able to express true love and commitment at the same time--it's a really profound thing.

The world doesn't have that. The only way they can improve sex is to do something weirder physically, because they're missing the other two aspects.

When I meet a couple who are having disagreements over WHAT to do in bed, I tell them that what they should be focusing on is WHO is in bed with them. Make it about the WHO, not the WHAT.

And here's a simple way to do that: look into each other's eyes, especially at the end, if you know what I mean. That's a really powerful thing. Make it about each other.

If your spouse is really wanting you do something else, why not talk about the spiritual aspect of sex? The spiritual connection? Wait for a time when you're both not stressed and happy with each other, and then seduce him, but tell him you want to do it your way. And make it all about how much you love him. Then talk about this part of it.

So if you don't want to do everything he wants to do, I really do think that's okay. But do the things you like doing with enthusiasm, and he'll appreciate that! And then make that emotional connection with him. That's what it's all about, anyway, and we shouldn't let the world cheapen it.

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Works for Me Wednesday: Make Your Own Cloth Sanitary Pads!

I'm cheating on this post. It's from Sunday, but I'm changing it to a Works for me Wednesday. So some of you may have read it already, but I thought it should have been Works for Me Wednesday!
Cloth menstrual pads. Okay. I know that sounds "Ick. You've got to be kidding me!". But hear me out.

Two years ago our family went to the Mulli Children's Home in Kenya, home to almost 1,000 abandoned and orphaned kids. One of the big problems they have there is periods. It seems that post-pubertal girls get them. And pads are horrendously expensive over there. They cost the same as they do here, but the income is so much less.

So what do you do when you have 500 girls menstruating? I thought about this for a while, and did some research, and found some patterns for cloth ones. I brought over a ton of fabric, and showed them how to make them.

And, being the good sport I was, I decided to test them first. Guess what? They are so much more comfortable than regular ones. So I stopped buying all the disposable things and went to pads, except for when I'm out of town. And they're cute to boot!

To wash them, you just rinse them under cold water, and stick them in a bucket beside your toilet filled with cold water, and maybe some baking soda or vinegar if you want to. You don't have to. Change the water everyday if you're not going to do laundry everyday. Then, when you do go to wash, just dump the water in the sink and the pads in the washer, and you're good to go. You don't actually have to touch them all that much, and as long as you get them in water pretty quickly, they don't stain. They're really cute!

So this weekend I finished making all the pads Katie will need when she starts her period. And then I experimented with some more. It was bliss! I love taking days and just sewing. So here's what I made (this doesn't include Katie's stash):

What you do is you put a layer of flannel on top, followed by several layers inside, or else some layers of old towels, and then fleece on the bottom. Aren't these cats cute?

These ones have wings on them so you can wrap them around your underwear. But as long as you have fleece on the bottom, you don't really need it, because fleece won't move. It rubs against fabric the wrong way and stays in place. So these long ones are actually my favourites, but people seem to like pads best. I made two of these, and you can see the "wrong" side with the fleece:

For materials, I've been experimenting to try to see what works best in Africa. For the inner core I've been sewing scraps of flannel together, and it works fine. I asked some sewers for their flannel scraps, and here's a pad made out of material my mother-in-law made pyjamas for Katie with years ago. Every sewer has scraps they can't get rid of:

If you don't have new scraps, you can also cut up old pyjamas. Here are some Winnie The Pooh ones I bought at Value Village made into a mini-pad:

I also read that if you don't have fleece, you can cut up old raincoats and use them for the waterproof layer (fleece is also water repellent). So I made this one out of flannel on top, flannel in the middle, a layer of an old raincoat with holes in it, and then cotton print on the bottom. How cute is that?

That's the flannel side. Here's the bottom:

And then this is my favourite. This is huge (you can't really see it from this picture), but it works great for those heavy nights. I have never leaked since I started using this. It's also great for post-partum. You can see it on the end with all the pads together:

I also made a few with a more angled shape that I'm going to try out soon. I want to go back to Africa with a few different patterns that I like best and that I find work best so we're more efficient.

They really don't leak. The only times they do is sometimes around the wings, which is why I like the wingless better. But that's just a preference. Most people like wings.

Anyway, I'm making a whole stash for a team that's going to Burkina Faso soon. They want to show the orphanage there how to do it, even if you only have scraps and not a lot to choose from. I'm not a very good seamstress, but I'm learning! And it is sort of fun.

My daughters, of course, think I'm the weirdest mother on the planet, but if you get Rebecca alone she will admit that the cloth are more comfortable.

If you want more detailed instructions on how to sew them, leave a comment, and maybe I'll post a picture tutorial soon. But it won't be for a while, because I don't know when I'll next get some time to myself!

And if you want to try one, or you like a pattern, let me know in the comments and I'll email you back. I can sell them for $5 for a regular pad or $2 for a mini-pad plus $2 shipping in total, and you can try them, too! If I make them for you, though, I'll put on snaps rather than velcro. They're prettier.

Got time to look around? I've got a book giveaway going on and lots more! Click here for my whole blog and keep scrolling!

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Inquiring Mothers Want to Know...
Here are some random things I just don't understand about children:

1. Why is it so important to know WHO FARTED? As soon as you smell it, the kids all want to know who did it. Young ones will even smell each other's butts, just like dogs, to prove who was the offending creature. What does it really matter?

2. Why do kids fall out of chairs so often? Doesn't that hurt? Why can't they just sit still?

3. Why do preteens fall UP stairs? My daughter is always falling going up the stairs. So is my nephew. I don't get it. I know they're growing and all that, but still...

4. Why don't kids ever get cold? They will swim when it's freezing. As soon as the snow goes away they want to turn on the sprinkler. I'll be shivering and my 10-year-old will want to wear shorts. Do they just not have nerve endings until they're 18?

5. Why do kids who are really hot and sweaty insist on leaning against you? Doesn't that make them MORE hot and sweaty? And don't they realize this? Do they just want to share the misery, or what?

These are just a few things I've been trying to puzzle out. Add your own in the comments, and answer mine if you have any great insights!

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Book Giveaway: Hot Apple Cider!
I have a new book out! Yay!!

This one is a little bit different, because I didn't write the whole thing. It's a compilation book of 30 of Canada's best Christian writers, with a foreword by Janette Oke. I have three small pieces in there, and I'm really happy with it.

Some of the stories are funny, some are heartwarming, and many are really touching. One of my friends, Angelina Fast Vlaar, has battled cancer, and her pieces are excellent. It has a Chicken Soup for the Soul feel.

Last week I launched it at Hearts to God, a local Christian bookstore, and we had a great time. It is such a lovely store (I spent a ton, as I always do whenever I go into cute Christian bookstores!).

We sold quite a few, and the store took some for later, so I would count it as a success. And I met some more great women from our community.

Hopefully this summer I'll have some time to write an entire book of my own again (I'm working on sequel for Honey, I Don't Have a Headache Tonight, only from the other perspective, ie. when HE's not interested), and I'll probably publish another book of my columns soon.

For now, Hot Apple Cider is a great read, with around 50 entries, and perfect for putting in your bathroom :)! I'll be drawing a winner for it next Tuesday, the 27th, so if you'd like to win a copy, leave a comment!

And if you don't have a blogger account or a website, but you want to win, just leave your email address in the comments like this: valerie_luvs_dogs at sympatico dot ca.

Get it? Just don't write it out like a normal email address or spam seekers can find it. Thanks, and good luck!

Here just for the giveaway? Why not stay and read some more!

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Prince Caspian: You Gotta See It!
This was an awesome movie.

Did I mention it was great?

It really was.

I didn't like The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I guess because it was my favorite movie as a child it just couldn't live up to the hype. I loved the little girl who played Lucy, though. She was exactly how I pictured her.

Caspian, though, is better than the book. I agree with Frederica Matthewes-Green on this one: The movie trumps the book.

Here's her take:

Every once in awhile, a movie improves on the book on which it is based. In my bold opinion, Prince Caspian, the second Disney film drawn from C. S. Lewis’s beloved Chronicles of Narnia, is such a movie. Criticism of C. S. Lewis is rightly taboo, but facts are facts: Prince Caspian, the book, is a dud.

It was the second to be written in the series, and it’s rushed and thin. You’ll remember from the first book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, that the four Pevensie siblings find their way into the land of Narnia through a mysterious wardrobe. In Prince Caspian they are called back to Narnia again, where they must help young Prince Caspian claim his rightful throne. Unfortunately, they land nowhere near Caspian, so most of the book is occupied with the Pevensies’ struggle to cross mountains and rivers to get to him. (The action also pauses for four chapters so that a dwarf can fill us in on Prince Caspian’s life so far.) When they finally meet Caspian there is a brief battle and a happy ending, and before you know it you’re
running into the opening pages of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (a much better book).

Purists may not like it, because they did add some things. Peter and Caspian have a rivalry going on that isn't in the book, but it works in the movie. And to be honest, I find it hard to believe that there wouldn't have been a rivalry.

You start to understand, from what happens in the movie, why Susan went off the rails later in life, too.

And the scene with the White Witch is appropriate and ties up some loose ends.

So I liked it. A lot of action, good morals, and great characters.

Rebecca, my 13-year-old, was disappointed that they didn't depict the walk Lucy took with Aslan. That was the most spiritual part of the book and they left it out. They did put in tidbits in other places, though, so I suppose that is sort of redeeming.

All in all, at least a 4 1/2 stars.

Interestingly, I've read some reviews that hated it. They were disgusted that the point of the movie was honor, valor, or participating in something bigger than yourself. And at one point, a commenter said that "the hero had to learn to be humble before he could succeed." And he said that as if it were a bad thing.

The movie does seem anachronistic in today's world. It's not every man for himself. It's not success at all costs. It's not back-stabbing. It's acting nobly and honorably, and that is a rare thing indeed.

I wish we could go back to those days where self-sacrifice in a good cause was more the norm, rather than just looking out for oneself. C.S. Lewis always leaves me feeling peaceful, and I did after seeing that movie because of the uplifting theme. If some people don't like it, I think that reflects more on them than it does on the movie.

As for what age to see it, that's difficult to say. I think 8 and up would have no problem. Battle scenes abound, but no blood. So it's not gory. Below 8 you'd have to use your judgment. But this is a keeper.

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How to Banish Nightmares
I did not sleep well last night. I had nightmare after nightmare.

I don't have nights like that very often, but when I do I wake up exhausted. Last night I kept dreaming that I was crying--really crying--though I can't remember over what. And then you wake up and you feel like you have been crying, and it's awful.

Sometimes I have recurring nightmares about my son who died, but not too often anymore.

Anyway, as I was trying to wash it all off in the shower this morning, something occurred to me.

Hear me out and see if you can relate.

Last night, as I was going to bed, I chatted with my husband for a bit. We talked. It was nice.

But that was it, if you get my drift.

And I had nightmares.

So I started thinking, have I ever had nightmares on the evenings when that wasn't it, if you know what I mean? And I don't think I have.

I do know that "being intimate" makes you sleep better. Maybe it makes you dream better, too.

Today Keith is at work, so I paged him to tell him my theory. He's enthusiastic about testing it out, to see if doing so averts nightmares. Of course, I only get nightmares maybe every few months, so it will be difficult to tell. But he's eager to start trying it out.

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Menu Planning Monday: Too Many Hamburgers!
I have four problems. I am trying to lose five pounds by my birthday, which is now only 6 days away. Hamburgers are high in fat. I hate throwing out food. And I have two boxes of hamburger patties which must get eaten up.

Somehow all these things do not go together.

Yesterday our Bible quizzing group from church had a barbecue for all the youth involved, and I brought tons of hamburgers which didn't get eaten. But they were out of the freezer for long enough that they defrosted. So now they must be eaten. I shall have to throw a huge barbecue myself so that other people will eat them!

But that leads me to another problem. We bought a new barbecue yesterday, but it is currently sitting in a box, and must be put together. My husband has ten years of post-graduate education, but I doubt he can put a barbecue together in less than four hours. So chances of it being ready to go soon are slim.

Assuming he does get it ready, though, here are my plans for the week:

Monday: Leftovers. I love leftovers. I have chicken leftovers and some soup leftovers, and we shall eat those and be merry.

Tuesday: BARBECUED HAMBURGERS! I'm having another family over, and they're bringing a Caesar salad. I'll cut up lots of veggies, and we'll munch on that.

Wednesday: Pork roast. Sounds yummy. I love putting maple syrup and dijon mustard on the pork roast by cutting slashes in the top and letting it dribble in. Cook at 325 and it tastes really moist. Then serve with rice and veggies, and you're good to go.

Thursday: Spaghetti! It's Rebecca's turn to cook, so I'll let her make it. I'm big on teaching kids 11 and up to make dinner at least once a week.

For the rest of the weekend I'm speaking in Ottawa, and I think the family is coming with me. This is the second last big speaking engagement I have until the fall, so I almost have time to relax!

Did you come for the menu? Read more of my blog here.

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The Disappearance of Childhood, Part 2
A while back I blogged on how childhood seems to be disappearing as a category, and those musings made their way yesterday into my syndicated column, which appears weekly in 13 Canadian papers and monthly in a few American ones. Here it is:

In the Middle Ages, if you stopped overnight at an inn, chances are you’d be welcomed with ale and stew, and presented with a comfortable bed, which you’d only have to share with bedbugs and a few strangers. Whole families may even have been your bunkmates. Yet you would have proceeded to plop down where you were told anyway. Privacy just didn’t exist in the way it does today.

And because of that, childhood didn’t exist. Centuries ago, children were apprenticed out at seven, did the same work as adults, and often married young, especially the girls. The distinction between children and adults really only emerged later. Children slept in the same bed with their parents (and the chickens), saw what their parents did in that bed, and understood all of Shakespeare’s bawdy jokes.

Then came the industrial revolution when people started to make more money. Children slept away from their parents. Education began to prepare children for more skilled labour. And childhood, as its own entity, was born. Children weren’t just miniature adults; they were a different breed altogether. And what distinguished them was their knowledge. Children didn’t know everything adults knew, and adults tried to keep it that way. The ideal of an innocent was born.

It was great while it lasted.

Neil Postman wrote childhood’s obituary twenty-five years ago in his tome The Disappearance of Childhood. Postman blamed the television, which opened a window into adult lives so that nothing was separate and secret anymore. Video games, the internet, and music have only accelerated this trend.

But it is not just that children are growing up faster today; it is also that adults have become more infantile, as anyone who has ever noticed all the fart jokes in recent movies and TV shows can attest. It once was that only 8-year-old boys liked flatulent or fecal jokes. Now their fathers and mothers find such jokes hilarious enough that a seagull emptying his rectum can be used in advertisements to sell cars. The line between what children enjoy and what adults enjoy is blurring once again.

One major development, though, that Postman now admits he failed to foresee when he first wrote back in 1982 was the sexualization of children. In the 1990s he was horrified by the pictures of little murder victim Jonbenet Ramsay, made up to look sultry at only six years of age. Last month we witnessed Miley Cyrus, better known as Hannah Montana, the “good girl” of entertainment, making headlines by appearing “tastefully” nude in a Vanity Fair photo shoot. The girl who was supposed to be the antithesis of Britney and Jamie Lynn showed herself to be not so very different after all. The idea of sex being something entirely inappropriate with childhood and adolescence has been lost.

We live in an age when sex education is moved younger and younger to try to stop teenage pregnancies before it’s too late, so that now many 9-year-olds know more than their grandparents did on their wedding night. And with children watching television and movies filled with sexual references and innuendo, little is kept hidden.

It’s not just sex, either. I believe most parents yearn to keep their children from learning about the brutality of life at too young an age. We don’t want our kids to witness violence, or crudeness, or malevolence, but too often they do in routine television talk shows, sitcoms, or even the news. Even if we try to shield our kids from such things, chances are their friends see it, so they’ll hear about it anyway. And when children’s eyes are opened to adulthood at too young an age; when they learn of sex, or betrayal, or violence, before they have the capacity to process it, something precious is lost.

Many argue that introducing kids to the facts of life early is progress, because it empowers children. I beg to differ. I think it just steals childhood.

Perhaps you still think that’s a good idea. Maybe innocence is over-rated, archaic, dangerous and even oppressive. But I still think innocence is a gift, something our society only won after much hardship. And I wish we could get that innocence back.

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Saturday Stirrings: Amazing Tasty Healthy Chicken Drumsticks!

I am on a quest in my extended family. I am determined to help everyone lose weight.

We've actually decided as a family to do the 5 km run next spring, so we're starting to train. And quite a few of the younger people in our family could stand to lose a few pounds.

So when we had a birthday party last night, I was trying to figure out what to cook that is healthy but that kids will still eat. I settled on this great recipe for Chicken Drumsticks I found. This is the yucky part: you have to take the skin off first, or else it's not quite so healthy.

How do you take the skin off chicken? The easiest way is to cut a little bit with scissors into the skin, and then hold onto a paper towel and pull like anything using the paper towel. That works really well for me. Somehow the texture of the paper towel makes it a lot easier to pull. You certainly can't do it with your bare hands (nor would you want to).

Then you do this:

1 cup chopped scallion
1/3 cup prepared barbecue sauce
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon chili paste or hot pepper sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/4 lbs chicken drumstick, skin removed
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
It looks like a lot, but it's just measuring stuff into a bowl.

Take the chicken legs and coat them in the sauce, and then lay them in a 9 x 13 pan that is lined with foil. Pour any remaining sauce on top. Cover with foil.

Bake at 400 for twenty minutes. Then remove the foil and bake for another twenty minutes.

You can serve it with rice, and spoon the sauce on top. Again, really good!

We also had a chocolate fountain last night, complete with fruit. No cake. No ice cream. They ate a lot of chocolate, but I figure they got some vitamins in them, too, and so it was at least partway healthy!


What is a Godly Marriage, Anyway?

That's a question I've been dealing with for years as I write my books and speak at marriage conferences.

Does the wife have to stay at home? What does submission mean? Who should clean the toilets? What does it mean that my body is my husband's? They're all important questions.

In To Love, Honor and Vacuum I looked a lot at submission. I think there's a difference between submission and subservience, and too often we Christian women misunderstand the two. I also think we make submission into a decision-making game. If I ask a group of women what submission means, they usually hem and haw and then come up with this answer: "It means that if we can't agree, we go with his decision." Right. So God put all that in the Bible just to say that in the case of a tie, the husband wins. I don't think so.

I think submission is far more than that. It's not about decision-making; it's about an attitude. And that attitude is that I am going to consider his needs and wants first. I am going to participate in what God is doing in his life and truly make his success, spiritually, relationally, whatever, my goal. It's far broader than just being about decisions. But it also doesn't mean that we become slaves in any sense of the word. You can read more about this in To Love, Honor, and Vacuum: When You Feel More Like a Maid Than a Wife and Mother.

Right now, though, one of my blogging buddies Terry, over at Ornaments of Grace, has had some really great posts and debates in the comments about being a Christian wife. They're just awesome. She gave birth this week to her sixth baby girl, so she may be offline for a while, but you have to write what she wrote beforehand.

I'd link to them all, but there's so many you should just go to her site and scroll down, until you get to "Soul Mates and Bad Marriages". Then just follow the links.

And do bookmark her! She always writes really thought provoking stuff.

While you're at it, bookmark me, too! Just hit the subscribe button off to the right.

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Imagine Handing Over Your Child to a Stranger to Save His Life...

That's what Jewish parents had to do across Europe in World War II. I truly can't imagine it. It's too heartbreaking to contemplate. You know you're likely not going to make it out alive, so you hand your child over to someone working on the underground, praying that your child will at least have a future. And then, even if you survive, will you ever find that child again?

We are so blessed that we don't have to contemplate these things.

I've been thinking about them lately, though, for two reasons. We're studying the founding of the state of Israel in our homeschool, and I'm debating whether or not to have Rebecca read the Zion Chronicles series (or is it Covenant?). Anyway, it's the one where Israel becomes a state and Old Jerusalem is invaded. Brock and Bodie Thoene wrote the books, and they are excellent. But they are sad. And I don't know if they'd be too much for a 13-year-old. I read a lot of this stuff as a young teenager and I still get nightmares about it. I'm just not sure. What do you think?

The second reason I've been thinking about it is an obituary I read of a 98-year-old Polish heroine by the name of Irena Sendler. She died last week, and her story should be much better known. She rescued 2,500 children out of the Warsaw ghetto, and was actually tortured herself after she was captured, though she survived. It's a great story. You really need to read it. Here's a bit:

She soon learned that one sanitation company was still allowed into the ghetto. Sendler got the Polish director of the service to employ her and 10 friends so they could continue helping Jews.

For the next two years, dressed as nurses, Sendler and her friends carried food, money, and medicine hidden in their dresses to ghetto residents. As conditions deteriorated, and the liquidation of ghetto began, Sendler came to the realization that the only chance for the children to survive was to escape.

In 1942, she joined the Polish underground movement, "Zegota," and, with the help of a dozen friends, initiated a large-scale clandestine campaign to save Jewish children. "You know the people, we have the money," the president of the organization told her, she recalled.

Acting on information provided by two Jewish policemen in the ghetto, Sendler and her friends went to Jewish homes in areas that were to be liquidated first and offered to save the children.

"We would go into the houses slated for deportation, and would tell the family members we can't help everybody, but we will help the children," she said.

When asked by the families what guarantee she could give that the children would survive, Sendler could only tell them that she was not even sure that she and the children would get out of the ghetto alive.

Sendler and her friends managed to save 2,500 children.

The children, who ranged in age from six months to 12 years, were taken from the ghetto in one of four ways: with bags of garbage; through the city court whose usually locked back doors were located on the ghetto's edge; hidden under the benches of the city tram, whose parking lot was just inside the ghetto walls; or through the cellars of houses that were adjacent to the ghetto.

To muffle the cries of the children from the Nazi guards as they were taken out with the garbage, the driver of Sendler's cart was always accompanied by a dog. When they approached the Nazis, the driver stepped on the dog to make it bark, drowning out the cries of the children.
Read the rest here. And say a prayer for those around the world who are still facing genocide even today.

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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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