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Blogging will be Light
I'm off camping for a week with the girls. I'm bringing two of their friends and we're heading up to a family camp, where there are sessions every morning for the kids. I'm hoping to get some serious work done, that I can announce when I get back!

Unless someone at this trailer park has internet access, I won't be blogging this week. Sorry about that! But do return, because I'll have lots to tell you in a week!
What Your Marriage Says
Do you ever have those days when you just seem to bug your husband? And he bugs you? And you don't mean to, but you get into this rut.

Yesterday the family went with the youth group of our church to Canada's Wonderland, a huge theme park with roller coasters, splash park, and rides galore. My brother-in-law and his kids came along, as did my cousin, which gave us a great chance to connect.

But the weather forecast for yesterday was abysmal. 80% chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon, 60% in the evening, lots of wind, etc. etc.

And we had to go. We had a group rate good only for yesterday, and we'd rented a bus.

So as I was going to sleep Friday night, I'm thinking of all the different permutations of things that could happen. Which rides will shut in the rain? Which will remain open? Can you go in the splash park if it's raining, but no lightning? And what should we bring with us to prepare for the rain? What shoes are best in the rain? What about umbrellas?

Needless to say, I dreamt about rain.

When I woke up, I bounded out of bed, and started to pack separate bags for everybody, since I didn't know if the girls would be splitting up to go with their own groups. We have these tiny micro-fibre towels, about as big as a tea towel, that can hold 40 times their weight in water. They're out outback camping towels, so I made sure everyone had one of those, rather than carrying around a cumbersome one. I yelled at Katie three times not to wear her flip flops. I supervised the wrapping of the raincoats into as small a package as possible.

And then Keith decided to get out of bed. And he asked what we were having for breakfast.

I was not amused.

Then, five minutes before we had to leave, he asked if I had cut up fruit and vegetables for the bus so the kids didn't eat junk all day. I gave him that look, but I went downstairs and started cutting some up.

At that point he came into the kitchen and asked what I was doing because we were going to be late. More looks.

Needless to say, by the time we were walking around the sunny park (it never did rain; good thing I had all those raincoats), I was not in a good mood towards my husband.

And then my brother-in-law said an interesting thing. I don't even remember what I said to Keith; it wasn't anything major. But Kurt turned and said, "Okay, Keith, I'm writing this down. What do you say to that? You're the master. You're the marriage king. You guys are the rock we all look up to."

Throughout the day he repeated that. We are what gives Kurt hope that a good marriage is possible.

Kurt's marriage fell apart last year, not of his doing. One other brother-in-law is also divorced. And that's the way he sees us. We are the rock.

So I decided I really shouldn't get so mad about the vegetables. You never know what kind of an impact just living out proper family life can have. It was very humbling. And I took a deep breath and started holding Keith's hand again.

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Sacrificial Love
Every Friday my syndicated parenting column appears in a variety of newspapers around North America. Here's this week's:

In 2005, Maureen Faibish’s 12-year-old son was killed by a pit bull. She was remarkably philosophical about it. “It was Nicky’s time to go.” she told the San Francisco Chronicle . “When you’re born you’re destined to go and this was his time.”

Lest you become too admiring of Faibish’s big-heartedness, let me tell you the rest of the story. The pit bull in question was one of two that Maureen owned. She knew it was dangerous, so dangerous that she locked her son Nicky in the basement when she ran some errands. Nicky managed to get out, the dog got Nicky, and Maureen waxed poetic.

Isn’t one of the most fundamental instincts to protect your child? How did Maureen miss out on this?

A few years ago, a friend of mine was worried by frequent sightings of a rather large and hungry black bear near his home. He quizzed his wife on what she would do if the boys were ever playing outside and a black bear attacked them. She looked at him like he was crazy. “I’d run out there so fast and attack that bear right back, of course,” she replied. Just like Cindy Parolin, who in 1996 fought a cougar which was attacking her six-year-old boy in British Columbia, dying to save him. It’s human instinct to sacrifice ourselves for our kids.

It takes a lot to overcome human instinct, and yet it seems that somehow we are rewiring parental brains so that children’s security is no longer paramount. Take the losers some moms choose to date. Children are far more likely to be abused by mothers’ boyfriends than they are by biological parents. In fact, a girl’s risk of sexual abuse increases twenty-five fold if an unrelated male is living in the house. Some abuse studies don’t bear this out because they count step-fathers and fathers in the same category, but separate them, and you’ll find that step-fathers are more of a threat. And step-boyfriends constitute a downright dangerous category all on their own.

This isn’t to say that single mothers must stay single. Most step-fathers, after all, are great. I have many in my extended family who are not just safe, they’re protective. But it does mean moms have to be vigilant, and think of their children first. And that’s not something that our society is comfortable doing anymore.

The idea of compromising our own happiness for the sake of the children has gone out of vogue. For instance, I find the whole elective C-section thing a little strange. The “too posh to push” debate was raging a year ago, when it was found that more and more mothers were electing to have C-sections so they could be more easily scheduled into their date books. Some legitimate medical reasons do make C-sections attractive—regular deliveries can cause incontinence later on, and for some women who have suffered abuse in the past, a vaginal birth may be very traumatic. But that hardly applies to the majority who choose this route. We simply want motherhood in a way that’s quick and easy for us. Our comfort is our reference point, not our children’s safety and security.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of divorce. Some divorces are necessary, but about two-thirds are caused not because of abuse or infidelity, but simply because one partner doesn’t want to be married anymore. These parents typically tell themselves, “the children will be happiest if I am happy.” Tell yourself that all you want, but it doesn’t make it true. Unless abuse or addiction was
prevalent in the house, it turns out that kids do better in a home with two married parents, even if those parents aren’t happy together, than they do if the parents divorce. Parents’ happiness isn’t what determines a child’s happiness; a child’s security is far more important a measure.

We parents have a tremendous responsibility, because we are the foundation of our children’s world. Are we going to take that responsibility seriously, and sacrifice for them, or are we going to try to make our children fit into our own agendas? The answer to that question says a lot about our own character, and about the well-being of the children we brought into this world.

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When Intimacy Doesn't Seem So Beautiful
I really appreciate the comments on my Wifey Wednesday post below. A few anonymous posters said that, for them, sex was really difficult because they were promiscuous before they were married. Here's the issue:

This is a constant struggle for me in my marriage. I was wild before I became a Christian in my second year of college and my previous lifestyle is totally affecting my marriage now. There are so many mental barriers that I have created that I now have to work through. I let quite a few men into that bond with me, thinking I would be fulfilled emotionally or something.

The whole idea of sexual intimacy has been so perverted in my mind now that I often feel that sex can only be dirty and carnal. Though it is certainly neither of those things (when the stars align and I actually can get past those mental blocks to enjoy being with my husband), it's getting past them and letting my husband in that is so difficult.

I just really feel these women's pain (there was more than one, and I know many more didn't comment!), and I want to get back to some issues they raised and maybe offer more of you some hope.

At the Family Life marriage conferences where Keith and I speak across the country, and in my book, Honey, I Don't Have a Headache Tonight, I talk about this issue a lot.

Here's the gist of it, as I wrote in an earlier Wifey Wednesday post:

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.

It could be that you were so promiscuous before you got married that you tried to eradicate this spiritual dimension of sex because you never actually committed with the men you were sleeping with. And now sex does seem all about the physical, and it is somehow dirty, or not really a way to express love.

I think if you can restore that, then other things will fall into place. But I know it's not easy. It really isn't. It takes a long time to rewire the brain. But I also believe it can be done, and God can help you.

So here's a simple tip: 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 you're looking at each other, you're thinking about each other, and not just about how your body feels. So

Another commenter said that she recited the Song of Solomon. I think that's a great idea! Why not read that together, and then--and I know this is going to sound weird--pray about it? God does know when you're having sex, after all. It is okay to pray to Him about sexual issues!

Finally, why not try something OTHER than sex? If the spiritual aspect of sex is lacking, why not take two weeks when you don't have sex at all, but you do "explore" each other, so to speak. Be naked together, but really try to memorize his body, and have fun just touching. The more you are playful, and intimate that way, the more it may be easier to restore a healthy feeling of intimacy to your marriage.

Anyway, these are just a few thoughts. I hope they help! Feel free to leave anonymous comments if you prefer on this one!

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Holding Out for a Hero
Over at the Gates of Vienna, they're talking about a rape of a Belgian woman by a group of Muslim men because she wasn't wearing a hijab. That's right. Muslims, who make up a huge proportion of Brussels, are now trying to impose their standards on women.

Here's what happened:

A 21 year old woman was pushed against an ATM machine in the Brussels South
station by two young men and raped last week. According to the victim, at least three travelers passed by, but nobody tried to help her.

Around 9pm Lola arrived at the South station in a train from Waterloo. She walked over to an ATM when suddenly tow you men asked her in a threatening tone why she didn't wear a headscarf as she should.

"You must know: my daughter has blond hair and blue eyes, that is wholly not a North-African appearance. It was the way of those two men simply to intimidate her, so that it would be easier for them to then abuse her," says Marc, Lola's father.

The father later said:

"Nobody had the courage to save my daughter out of the clutches of the duo,"
continued father Marc with rage. "According to Lola nonetheless certainly three men passed by, but nobody even got ready to stop. At 9pm at this time of year it's still far from dark and the South Station is is certainly not yet abandoned. Why did everybody leave my daughter to her fate?"

And in the Muslim mentality, men's sexuality is the woman's fault. She is provoking him, which is why she needs to wear the hijab. It's exactly the opposite of Jesus, who put the blame right at men's feet and told them it was better to pluck out an eye than to lust.

Anyway, the discussion in the comments started off with the observation that Belgian women only had freedom because the Belgian men agreed. Now Muslim men have taken over, and the women don't have freedom anymore. What the women really need is for the Belgian men to stand up for them again and protect them.

The problem is that women have been complaining about men acting like men and doing anything chivalrous for so long that men now don't feel the need to.

So we can't rely on men anymore because we blame them when they act aggressive, or when they try to protect us, because we say they're being patronizing. It's fine to say that when you don't need protection, but now that we do, it's too late. Feminism has written his own demise. Do these women think that they're going to be free once Muslims are the majority demographically in Europe?

Anyway, here's a quotation from a commenter:

If you want heroes, you'd damn well better start rewarding men for acting like them instead of punishing every last bit of functionally aggressive male behavior. Learn how to respect men who will not tolerate the abuse of women. Overly protective? Yeah, just maybe. Paternalistic? Perhaps, to a fault. Chauvinistic? Nope, just chivalrous.

And another:

If you want an instinctual response, you must first create the conditions for instinctual response.

We have taught Western Men not to act for about 40 years, and now complain that we get exactly what we taught them.

Gare du Midi is not unique. Virginia Tech, and many other situations in the US come to mind.

I think that's exactly right. Do you remember Virginia Tech, when nobody fought back except an elderly Holocaust surviving professor, even when the guy was reloading? Throw your keys at him, throw your coffee at him, throw your chair at him! You're not going to end up any more dead than you would have had you just sat there.

It scares me. I grew up as a feminist, though I'm not one now. I grew to hate it when men thought that I needed doors held open for me, or my arm taken when we were walking on a street. Now I'm glad my husband is around to play protector. That's what he was meant to do.

Unfortunately, that breed is rapidly dying, because our society has killed true masculinity. It's scary, and it really saddens me.

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Wifey Wednesday: Why Sex Belongs in Marriage

I read a lot of political blogs, probably more than is good for my emotional health, because they get me so worked up. I love Instapundit, but every now and then he makes a throwaway comment about sex, like, "I'm all for sex. We should all get as much as possible!", and then berates Christian conservatives for calling for sex to be all in marriage.

But I don't think this view has any logical consistency. Basically, he believes that if young people want to have sex, they should. His wife is a psychiatrist, and she's said similar things: that sex is healthy for our psyches, and we shouldn't stop people, as long as they're being safe and responsible.

And that's the line: be safe and responsible. But follow that to its logical extreme. Do we really think 12-year-olds should be having sex as much as possible, as long as they're safe? Let's even assume that condoms can protect 100% against pregnancy and disease (which they can't), and that 12-year-olds use them all the time, would these people be a little uncomfortable with sexually promiscuous 12-year-olds?

I would guess the answer would be yes.

But if so, why? This is where the position breaks down. If sex really is just about having fun, then what is wrong with 12-year-olds doing it frequently? The only reason could be that they aren't mature enough. But then you're implying that you need to be mature about it. And why is that? Because sex affects the heart. You bond with the person you make love with, even if you don't intend to. And so your heart can easily be broken.

Or, conversely, if you have sex indiscriminantly, you can start to rewire your brain so that you don't emotionally bond with the person. And then sex is no longer capable of producing that bond for you. So when you do get married, sex doesn't draw you together. Sure, it's fun, but it's lost that special aspect to it because you have diminished it.

I think what people miss out on is that sex is a spiritual, and not just a physical, experience. That's why you shouldn't just go sleeping around with anybody, because something occurs in the relationship.

God made us to keep sex just for marriage for a reason. And the weird thing is that if you follow His design, you actually tend to end up with better sex, according to the surveys! And you don't have to worry about disease, or pregnancy before you're ready, or anything. It's so much less stress. But people don't want to admit that, because if they do, they might also have to admit that there is a right and a wrong.

I know sex can be difficult for many married couples. Some women just feel like they weren't born with much of a sex drive, and it becomes a hassle. But don't give up! Just have hope that things can change, and work towards that. Sex really is beautiful--in the right context!

My book, Honey, I Don't Have a Headache Tonight: Help for women who want to feel more in the mood, can help if you don't have much of a sex drive.

Or you can download a talk that Keith and I gave on romance here.

Why don't you share your thoughts on marriage? Just copy the graphic at the top, and then post it on your blog and write about marriage. Come on back here, enter the URL of your post in the Mr. Linky, and we'll see what you have to say!

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Works for Me Wednesday: Recycled Yarn
Wow, it's my 200th post! That's wonderful.

Today's Works for Me Wednesday is about recycled yarn.

We had to figure out what to do with yarn, because we had it coming out the wazoo.

Let me explain. Our family, including my mother, travels to Africa frequently to work at the Mulli Children's Home, home to 1000 orphaned children. They do such an incredible job there, and I have never felt God so present anywhere on earth as I do in that place.

One of the things my mother and I have been doing is starting a knitting program for some of the teenage girls so they can earn money later. They have a huge sewing program, but everybody sews already. Nobody knits. So we've been sending over knitting machines and containers full of yarn. We put the word out that we wanted yarn, and it just keeps showing up. Every week my mother still gets garbage bags full at her door. We have so much yarn we don't know what to do with it. Most of it is just a ball of this and a ball of that, so we've had to figure out some patterns for it.

While there, we made some beautiful striped sweaters on the machine, like these ones:

I taught them how to use the machines, and voila! I especially like the one on the left. We made it in less than a day. But that's what you do when you don't have much yarn.

On the home front, though, we've also been trying to turn yarn into cash for the orphanage. A few Queen's University students have volunteered to sell stuff for us next year at Homecoming, so yesterday my mother and I made sample scraf kits. This is where the recycled yarn really gets interesting.

Queen's colours are red, blue and yellow. Sounds awful, I know, but they didn't ask my opinion. So we took those yarns and we started combining three yarns at a time to create more interesting yarns (most of the stuff that's donated looks awful on its own). Add a few "furry" or "fuzzy" yarns in, and it gets quite lovely.

Here's the ball we made:

Looks really nice, doesn't it? And it mostly was made from crap, if you don't mind me saying. So if you have little bits of this and little bits of that, you can twist them together, combine yarn, and come up with something that's lovely.

We started knitting the scarf yesterday. Here it is so far (Katie, my 10-year-old, and I are very fast knitters):

(Note for knitters: I know some of the colour changes were on the "wrong" side when they should have been on the right side. I wouldn't normally do this, but we're trying to create a continuous skein that the students can knit on their own, without constantly adding colours, so the colour changes just fall where they may. And since this is a sample, we had to show it how it actually will look). We're going to leave the ends hanging and then add fringe, and maybe even tie some beads on some of the ends from the colour changes.

That's not all you can make by combining three yarns together, either. Here's a baby poncho I did (I haven't worked the ends in yet):

And here's a blanket I'm working on. I just need to crochet the top band in navy and work the ends in and then I'm done:

The point is that if you mix three yarns together, they make something much more interesting. And so even relatively ugly yarns, or uncomfortable yarns, can be used because they'll be masked by other things. It's quite fun, actually. I've also made adult ponchos and baby blankets, and the baby blankets sell for quite a lot of money. They look like one of a kind.

In the blanket, the navies that are bordering all the squares aren't even all the same. I just kept picking up new navies to use when I ran out. It really doesn't matter.

So use up your scraps! Another friend of mine goes to Goodwill and buys handknit sweaters just to unravel them and use the yarn. It's an inexpensive way of getting yarn! After you've unravelled it, wet it, and microwave for a few minutes on low and the kinks will come out. You can look for instructions on that through Google.

Anyway, hope I gave you some inspiration!

Thanks for stopping by! Why not stay for a while? I've got posts on marriage, mothering, summer, and more!

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Tackle It Tuesday: Trying to Decorate
I've been trying to decorate around here. I've decided to take a different area each week for the summer and just move around stuff and tidy things up, and get a box ready for Goodwill.

So last night I tackled my music room. I had lovely ceramic flower arrangements on my piano, but they didn't match the decor. They're sort of retro now, but my grandmother had them, and they meant a lot to me. So I moved them to my bathroom around my bathtub. I don't know why I didn't think of it earlier.

I know now fewer people will see them, but everytime I do I think back of visiting Poppa & Dorothy (his new wife) as a teenager, and relaxing in their home, and reading, and laughing, and enjoying wonderful meals. All these thoughts come flooding back, and when Poppa finally died, these are the first things I grabbed (that's another horrible story; let's just say that my grandfather's step son who now owned the house had a 1-800 Got Junk truck in the driveway of his house within three hours of arriving in Ottawa to loot the house. I took what I could get quickly).

So they're meaningful to me, but not to anyone else, and they didn't really look that great. Here they are now:

Sorry the picture isn't better, but you can really see them when you stand in the bathroom!

Then, on the piano, I moved some old books that we had stacked in a bookhelf haphazardly. I also moved my grandfather's Hummels, which seemed to blend with the decor better than the flowers did. So here's my piano now:

I'm still not completely satisfied with it, because obviously I need a lampshade for the lamp, and it would be nice to be able to get rid of the metronome and that silly book decoration thing between the hummels, but it houses my mailbox key and glasses, and it's the best place to put it, since it's right near our front door. So sometimes you need compromises!

Here are the books we moved so you can see them better:

They're just old novels. They're not worth anything, but I like them. The main thing I collect is old textbooks. We even use some in our homeschool!

So here is the bookshelf now that we removed some mess:

The middle shelf is a mess, but that's our devotions shelf. Every morning we all sit in the music room and grab our Bibles (there are about 10 on that shelf in different versions) and read. It's a lovely time together, so the Bibles need to be close at hand.

Anyway, that was my tackle. I'll have to do the basement sometime soon, and that's truly scary!

Thanks for dropping by! Why don't you stay a while? I've got posts on mothering, schools, marriage, and tons more!

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Mondays on Mothering: The Family that Cleans Together
It's Mondays on Mothering over at Bow of Bronze, and I thought I'd contribute how I handle summer vacation.

When the final bell rang on that last day of school, children cheered as they were released from their torment. Today, many parents feel as if the torment is now theirs. We are in the midst of summer vacation, and that means seemingly endless weeks of entertaining our kids. Yet why do we have summer vacation? It’s because when public schooling started, children—yes, children—were needed to work on the farm.

The idea of kids working has fallen into disrepute, largely because for so long children, the most vulnerable in our society, were horrendously exploited. Yet being free from labor is not exactly the natural state of childhood, either. Proverbs 10:5 tells us: “a child who gathers in summer is prudent, but a child who sleeps in harvest brings shame” (NRSV). Kids are supposed to help with the family’s work! It teaches them some important lessons.

I love knitting. And not just regular sweaters, but the kind that requires tiny needles, 35 colors and four years to complete. When I do finally finish, I feel such a profound sense of accomplishment.

That feeling is something that is unique to being productive. We can feel something similar, though not nearly so thrilling, when we finally clean out the garage, or weed a large vegetable bed, or fix a leaky toilet. To a large extent, though, we have deprived our children of these experiences. Our fridge doors may be plastered with art “creations”, but often this is as far as their productivity goes. The idea of actually helping with the dishes, for instance, is laughed off as the X-Box is turned on. Most families in the United States today do not require children to do chores. Even when they do, it’s usually only to clean up after themselves by making their own beds, cleaning up their toys, or putting their own dishes in the dishwasher. Helping the family is no longer required.

But we’re not only excusing them from chores; we’re also turning our lives upside down to make theirs as easy and pleasant as possible. We rearrange our schedules to take kids to soccer, baseball, or the beach. We chauffeur them, clean them, feed them, and show them they are the centre of our universe. During the school year, in return, we may expect them to do homework. But summer is like two months of get out of jail free cards.

In the process, we’re inadvertently contributing to children’s propensity to being self-absorbed. If we give them a chance to think the whole world revolves around them, things that really don’t matter in the long run take on way too much importance. Work is the antidote to this sense of self-importance and entitlement. Work was not God’s punishment for the fall; God created work before it. It’s an essential part of our humanity.

In my book, To Love, Honor and Vacuum, I talk about strategies to “encourage” kids to do chores, including tying chores to allowances. But these must be tasks that help the whole family; only then do they get a share in the family’s money. Kids should never be paid for cleaning up after themselves! Then, you need to show kids the benefit of money. If you buy them a chocolate bar everytime you’re out, or pick up that pair of designer jeans they’ve been begging for, you’re not giving them any incentive to earn their own money.

Unless you want to spend the rest of the summer picking up popsicle wrappers and putting away beach toys, maybe it’s time to introduce your kids to a chore sheet and a toilet brush. They may not like it, but you’ll be doing them a favor. They will learn that life is more than having fun; life is also helping and serving others. And that’s a good thing.

You can also download a talk I gave on To Love, Honor and Vacuum! Find out more here.

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Meal Plan Monday: On the Fly!

Meal planning is awfully tricky this week in the Gregoire household because I don't know when we'll be home! We're planning on crashing a few barbecues of some friends who have pools, and we'll likely be out of town a bit, too.

So here are a few thoughts that I have about food this week:

1. We don't eat enough fish in the summer. I try to eat it once a week the rest of the year, but in the summer, when we're camping or barbecuing, fish just doesn't work as well.

I have some whitefish in the freezer I'm going to make some time this week. I'll just marinate it in some lemon juice and oil and cover it in this yummy fish spice blend I have, and then the kids will eat it. We have some broccoli and other vegetables we have to eat up before they go bad, too, so this is probably the dinner for tonight if we don't go out.

But I can't figure out how to make fish work in the summer usually. It just doesn't cook well on the barbecue. I can grill salmon in this special grill thing I have, but what else do you do with it? Anyway, any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

2. If we do stay home for an extended period this week, I want to try to barbecue a beef roast. I have one in the freezer, and we bought one of those rotisserie attachments for the barbecue where you can put the roast and then turn it every now and then.

I want to make it when it's just the four of us rather than when we have company to make sure it turns out all right! But I've been told it's one of the best ways to cook beef. Again, any thoughts would be appreciated!

3. If you've never made a vegetable medley on the barbecue, you must! We take potatoes and slice them thinly, and then take carrots and slice them thinly. Get out some tin foil and rub butter on the bottom. Then place one layer of potatoes and carrots, followed by a few dollops of butter and salt and pepper and garlic. Repeat twice, so you have three layers. Wrap up the bundle in foil and place on the barbecue. It is so yummy! We make it over the fire when we're camping, too, and it's just great.

You can also add other vegetables, but sometimes they get soggy because they don't take as long as potatoes and carrots to cook. But it's another way to make barbecued dinners at least have some veggies, if potatoes count!

4. Speaking of veggies, that's what I always bring with me to barbecues. I find that people will always eat cold veggies and dip, and if I have a lot of that first, I'm unlikely to eat more than one hot dog or hamburger. If it's bring your own meat, I try to stick to low fat chicken burgers for something different. I love hot dogs done over a fire, but that's really the only way they taste good to me. And hamburgers are kind of boring!

Anyway, that is all the food thoughts I have for the week, but I'd love advice on barbecuing any of the above things!

Thanks for stopping by, and do take a look around now that you're here. I've got tons of posts on working from home, mothering, marriage, and more!

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Why Do We Hate Work So Much?
I've been in such a grumpy mood for the last few days because I have an article due tomorrow! It's actually an interesting and challenging article, and I love writing. I was ecstatic to get the assignment. But now that the time has come to write it, I've been stomping around and mumbling under my breath.

What is it about us that hates work? Some forms of work I actually enjoy: I don't mind laundry, and doing dishes while the music is playing softly can be relaxing. But on the whole, give me a book and a bubble bath, and I'd be infinitely happier.

The weird thing is that we often feel great after we've completed something. Work has its rewards, and not just monetary ones. To go to bed, bone tired, after a long day of cooking, or working, or cleaning, is satisfying. You know you have used your time well, and you're proud of yourself.

Why do we disdain that so much? Why do we try to get out of work as much as we can? I know my daughters do whenever there are chores to be done.

And yet work came before the fall. Work was always part of God's intention for us. We're not supposed to just sit around and do nothing. Certainly there are times when we all need rest, but that should be the minority, not the majority.

I know several women who are horrible housekeepers. That's not in and of itself a bad thing. I wasn't a great housekeeper when my kids were little, either. But as some point you have to make an effort or you get depressed. It's terrible living in the midst of chaos.

And it's the same thing with other areas of our work lives. We need things to keep us busy in a productive way.

Of course, right now I am procrastinating doing my final edit on my article by writing this blog post, but I know the article will come, and now that I've spent several hours on it today, I can't figure out why I thought it was worth worrying about all week. It's come along fine, I'm quite happy with it, and I will very much enjoy seeing it in print and receiving the cheque.

So let's be happy when we have work to do! It means we have a task in this world, and that's something to be grateful for, not something to grumble about. Right?

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Christians in the Public School System
I've been commissioned by Faith Today magazine, Canada's largest Christian magazine, to write an article on how Christian principals in the public school system can live out their faith on the job.

I've interviewed almost 10 principals, and they are optimistic, faithful, and enthusiastic. They pray. They have plans to introduce godly virtues into the culture of their schools, and they largely succeed. They were really a joy to talk to.

But now I'm really torn. I am going to present a faithful version of what they said, but I still feel very pessimistic about the public system in general. You can read more about that here, here and here.

Now I hear about an autistic child in Barrie, north of Toronto, who was reported to the Children's Aid Society because her Educational Assistant consulted a psychic, who told her that one of her students was being sexually abused. She reported this to the principal, who called CAS. On the advice of a psychic. And I am not making this up.

On May 30, Leduc picked Victoria up from school, where she's enrolled in an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) class with several boys around the same age. When Leduc returned home, there was an urgent call asking her to return to the Livingstone Street East school.

Frightened, Leduc rushed back to the school.

She and Victoria entered a room where they were met by the principal, the vice-principal and the teacher.

Leduc said they advised her that Victoria's educational assistant (EA) had visited a psychic, who said a youngster whose name started with "V" was being sexually abused by a man between 23 and 26 years old. Leduc was also handed a list of recent behaviours exhibited by her daughter.

School principal Brian Tremain -- who referred phone calls seeking comment to the board -- advised Leduc that the CAS had been contacted.

"That's when I got sick to my stomach," she said. "I was shocked the whole meeting."

It's not just stuff like this that makes me wary, though. It's the whole idea that we can teach about values without actually having a foundation. It's great to teach about honesty, and virtue, and kindness, but if there's no foundation that comes from the freedom and liberty that we have earned in Western society due to our Judeo-Christian heritage, does it even matter? And when we give up on academics to teach things that should properly be taught at home, then kids suffer.

I homeschool, so I am admittedly biased. And I am extremely glad that these principals are in the public system, so that incidences like that in Barrie are still relatively rare. But I can't help thinking that we have veered so far off track that it's hard to get back. Anyway, I'm just saddened by the whole thing.

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Column: Inquiring Mothers Want to Know
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a variety of local newspapers in Canada and the United States. Here's this week's:

I love children. At least, I love my own. But as much as I love kids, I really don’t understand them.

For example, why is it so important to know who farted? As soon as the odor becomes obvious, kids immediately start asking the “who did it” question. I’ve witnessed four-year-olds crawling around on their hands and knees smelling each others’ bottoms just to uncover the offending creature. I still fail to comprehend why this is worthy of such detective work. Wouldn’t people’s energies be better spent by opening a window?

I also don’t understand kids’ coordination issues. Why is it that children who can
balance on a gymnastics beam or skate on one leg can’t remain in a chair for an entire meal without falling out? I don’t fall out of chairs. Do you? And my kids have better balance than I do. Yet children are forever toppling off of furniture, especially when they are overcome by fits of laughter after somebody farted. Perhaps the two are interrelated, and the balance part of the brain is linked to the olfactory senses. Whatever the case, it would be lovely to enjoy a meal where everyone sat still occasionally.

Relating to the balancing issues, I’m also at a loss as to why preteens fall up stairs. I can understand falling down the stairs, but my daughter is forever landing on her behind as she moves along an upward trajectory in our home. Maybe this is common to this age group; my nephew, who is also thirteen, falls up the stairs quite frequently, too.

Perhaps it’s because children’s nerve endings don’t develop until the age of eighteen. If children did have nerves, wouldn’t they feel cold occasionally? Yet as soon as the snow melts little ones demand to turn on the sprinkler. I'll be shivering and my 10-year-old will want to wear shorts. On any given winter day, look outside a high school and you’ll see kids who are woefully unprepared for whatever the weather has to dish out. The oddest, to me, are the Catholic schoolgirls wearing their skirts hiked up way higher than regulation in the middle of January. Who wants bare legs when it’s -15 out? Yet fashion takes precedence.

And now that swimming pool weather is upon us, children also reveal their lack of nerve endings by assuring us that 68 degrees is plenty warm enough to frolic underwater. To add further indignity to this aberration of nature, they then insist that we should join them, as if the fun cannot be complete unless Mother’s lips are turning blue as well. I suppose I should be flattered by the attention, but I’d really rather read a book.

Not only do children not mind the cold; they also make the heat worse. Any time I’m feeling miserably hot and sweaty, it’s almost guaranteed there’s a child nearby who has decided that the best way to deal with the heat is to lean up against me. Don’t they realize this just makes them more hot and sweaty?

Perhaps this is also a male failing. When I’m hot and sweaty, I don’t want my husband touching me, either. But heat doesn’t deter him. Come to think of it, very little deters the male gender. My husband is also the one who will gladly jump in a pool when it’s 68 degrees. Actually, he also laughs at the kids when they fall out of chairs, and participates in the conversations about who farted.

Now that I think about it, that explains a lot. It is not that I don’t understand children. It’s that I don’t understand men, either. At some point a switch must go off in little girls’ brains to turn them into women who aren’t amused by farts, tumbles, or extreme fluctuations in temperature. Yet nobody else seems in possession of such a switch. So we mothers will forever be the party poopers in our families, while our husbands egg the children on. Maybe that’s just the way it was meant to be.

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Wifey Wednesday: When He's Not Emotional

Okay, I know it's Thursday, and not Wednesday, but I'm camping and I couldn't get to the library to use their wireless access yesterday! So here I am, a day late, and I'm just posting now. Better late than never!

I answer a number of marriage questions by email, and received one this week from a woman who was really hurting. I've edited what she said for privacy sake, but here's the gist of it:

I have a husband who doesn't show me love. I'll be emotional, and I'll want to talk, and he'll turn away from me with his arms crossed. I keep telling him that I need him to care about me, that I need him to love me, and he just doesn't. He doesn't care if I'm crying. He just goes back and watches TV. I feel so lonely. Is it right that a wife goes to sleep crying every night? What should I do?

I can really feel this woman's pain. I know she must feel just horribly alone. So this is what I wrote in reply. Tell me what you think!

This is a very complex problem, so let me offer a few general guidelines that may help.

First, it sounds like you are committed to the relationship and committed to your husband, even though you feel alone. That's good, and it helps us get off onto the right footing.

Next, you have to understand that men and women speak two different languages and need two different things out of marriage. Women tend to need affection and emotional connection. These are our lifeblood. Men just don't to the same extent, and often don't understand why they're so important to us. Men, on the other hand, need physical intimacy a lot more than most women do. We women tend not to understand that! I often say that men make love to feel loved, whereas women need to feel loved to make love. It can definitely get complicated.

So women's main need is for love. Men, on the other hand, really need respect.

In your letter, you focused on what you need. It's good to be able to articulate your needs and to know where and why you are hurting. However, to find a solution, you need to keep two things in mind:

1. You may get further if you start focusing on what HE needs. You may be more than willing to give him affection and emotional attention, but that may not be what he genuinely needs. We tend to want to speak to our spouses in our own language, but what they need is often something very different. If you can focus on what he needs, then he may be more willing to focus on what you need.

2. You have to come to the realization that no one person will ever meet all your needs for emotional intimacy. That isn't to say that your husband shouldn't be more attached to you; of course he should! But ultimately he isn't going to be able to meet all your needs. And the more you focus on his failings, the more he senses that and pulls away. If you are always communicating to him that he is failing to meet your needs, it's easy for him to want to tune in to television instead, or to turn away in general. Why would he want to do something he's not good at?

What I would suggest is that sometime when you aren't stressed and he isn't stressed, sit down and ask him what YOU can do to help meet his needs. Tell him that you haven't felt really emotionally connected lately, and you want to make sure that you connect. So what can you do to make him feel loved? And then genuinely listen. One activity that I often recommend to couples is that you make two lists of "20 ways my spouse can show me love". You fill out your list, and he fills out his, and you list twenty things you'd like him to do, and he lists 20 things he'd like you to do. The trick is that they can't have to do with sex and they can't cost money. So it could be things like: giving me a back massage, complimenting me in front of the kids, thanking me for working so hard for the family, etc. etc. Then exchange lists, and make a commitment to do two or three of these a day.

If he isn't willing to do that, try to pick up some books on what men need in marriage, like Love & Respect, or Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. Those are great at explaining the problems we often have communicating.

Then I would suggest that you try to find ways to meet some of your own emotional needs. Find a female mentor who is a little older than you that you can talk to. Often churches are great places to find someone like that, who can guide you through these hard times in marriages. Try talking to God sometimes, and see if you can feel His love that way. Maybe if you can talk to God about some of your issues, you won't be so desperate when you come to your husband.

And then, when you do talk to your husband, do it out of love and not anger. He will sense if you are bitter, and it will push him away. Let him know what you need, but go out of your way to show him that you love and respect him. When he senses this, rather than condemnation, he's more likely to relate to you.

I know that doesn't seem fair, and that he should just show you love already, but the truth is that you can't change another person. You can only change yourself. So work on how you relate to your husband, and work on your own issues, and you may just find that he comes along for the ride!

I hope that helps. I'll say a prayer for you.

Now, I know it's not Wednesday anymore, but if any of you want to participate in Wifey Wednesday and share some great marriage advice with us, or even your marriage questions, here's how you do it. Copy the picture at the top of this post by right clicking it and then saving it to your hide drive. Go back to your blog and write your own marriage post, and then come back here and type in your URL for that blog post. And we'll all come and visit!

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Lucy's Identity Revealed & Housekeeping
How can you commenters not know LUCY? She was my favourite!

Lucy, of course, is from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, along with Prince Caspian and Voyage of the Dawn Treader, though she also makes an appearance in The Last Battle.

And yes, I loved Laura, too, as another commenter asked!

Now for some housekeeping: I'm taking off for camping for a few days, but I'll be in and out because we're not going too far from home so I'm hoping to post for Wifey Wednesday tomorrow. But it might not be first thing in the morning!

Wish me luck, because they're forecasting four days of rain. I really don't know why I do this to myself!

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How I Gave Up Earrings and Found Them Again
DeeDee over at It Coulda Been Worse was talking jewellery a while ago. And how she never wears any until her kids tried to make her look like Tammy Faye.

I know what she means. When I was younger I used to buy my mother hideous jewellery, too. For some reason I got it in my head that my mother loved earrings shaped like roses. I don't know why I thought that, but I did. So for about four years straight, for every birthday and Mother's Day, I bought her awful rose earrings. And to her credit, she wore them.

Like DeeDee, though, I stopped wearing jewellery when the kids were really little. The children used to pull on my earrings (which HURT!) so I gave up. I didn't want to look like one of those African tribes with huge holes in her lobes, so I thought I'd give my ears a rest.

Then, when the girls grew older, I found that miracle of miracles my holes had not closed up.

And for the last five years I’ve been collecting little pieces of jewellery. Nothing expensive, just cute. And now I actually have choice! Because jewellery doesn’t seem to go out of style. And if you buy three pieces a year for thirty years, suddenly you have ninety pieces! Think of how great you’ll look in that old age home!

Even if you do take a few years off of wearing jewellery now.


It Only Takes a Second...
My husband is a pediatrician, and it seems that over this weekend we've seen a number of accidents involving children and ATVs. No deaths (though there was one a few weeks ago near where I live), and Keith himself hasn't treated them. He's just heard through the grapevine.

It only takes a second for something really bad to happen. Maybe it comes from already having had a child die, but I often look at my girls when we're all laughing together, and I say to myself, "I am going to bottle this up." The truth is you just never know what's around the corner.

Even if we eliminate as much risk as possible, though, you never can be sure. And that's what's so hard as a parent. Are you going to live your life petrified that something could happen, and so become overprotective, or are we going to release our kids, confident that no matter what happens we're all in God's hands?

That's a really hard point to get to. I've had several experiences in my life where I had to come face to face with God and realize that He is my foundation, and not my husband, not my kids, not anything else. It's an awfully uncomfortable feeling, because for some reason we often think that as soon as we do surrender everything to God, and say to Him, "You are enough," that He's going to swoop down and steal everything that matters to us.

Nothing could be sillier. Do we think our kids are safe as long as we don't surrender them to God? And yet that process of handing our kids to Him is such an emotional one, because we are so wrapped up in them. How could we possibly separate from them?

It's not that I think anything actually will happen to my kids. And sometimes I get this cold chill run up my spine when I wonder what I would do if... But the truth is that if that day did come, I know God would carry me through it, because He carried me through before. But since that day is not here yet, I would rather live in the here and now and enjoy my kids, instead of worrying about all the things that I might one day have to deal with! If we can get to that point of trusting God, it is much easier to cope with today.

I've written a couple of articles about this. You can read one here. Here's how another one begins:

A little girl disappears without a trace. A three-year-old drowns when he wanders off from a family reunion. Hardly a day passes without hearing horrors like these, making you shiver as the unthinkable flashes through your mind.

Becoming a parent is not as simple as entering other stages in your life. It's more like being engulfed by a violent tornado and flung into the land of Oz. Everything is foreign and frightening. Once you're a parent, the world, instead of being full of possibilities, offers unlimited dangers.

For the most part this is instinctual. God wired us to be fiercely protective of our children to ensure we would care for them. Why else would we endure people who cry incessantly and throw up repeatedly? Last year as my daughters and I were emptying one of our compost bins, I inadvertently hit a mouse's nest with my shovel. As five pink babies fell to the ground, their screeching mother bravely darted in and out of the bin to rescue each one. She needn't have bothered; I was far too queasy to kill either her or her squirming offspring. But it was a vivid example of how mothers will sacrifice themselves for their children. As soon as we become parents, we instinctively wrap our arms around our kids and hold on tightly so nothing bad will happen.

The problem, of course, is that no matter how hard we try, we can't protect our kids from everything. And when we do try, we may have the opposite effect: we may raise immature children who make poor decisions. Obviously this is not our intention. Yet it's easy to fall into this trap if we let our fears for our children take our eyes off of God.

Read the rest here.

But let me say this first: I used to pray constantly for my kids' safety. All my prayers went like this: "Dear God, don't let anything happen to them. Put angels around them. Protect them. Etc. Etc."

Then Columbine happened, and I heard the story of Cassie Bernall saying "yes" when the gunmen asked her if she believed in God. And I realized that's what I would want my children to do, too. There was something I wanted even more than safety.

I started weeping as soon as I thought of that, because it felt like they were already dying. And yet that realization started to free me. I had to focus not only on their physical safety, but even more importantly, their spiritual growth.

What about you? Is this something you struggle with? Are you scared to trust God with your kids? Tell me about it in the comments!

My talk, "Do You Believe God Loves You?", focuses on why it's so hard to surrender things to God. You can puchase the CD or the download here.

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Menu Plan Monday: Camping Edition!
Tomorrow we're off camping for the week! I'm so excited. Six days without the phone ringing or housework to do!

Of course, I am bringing my computer. I have a magazine article due next Monday on how Christian principals can make a difference in the public school system, and then I have a ton of columns I'd like to write now, rather than during the summer, so I can get some other tasks done.

But the main point is that we'll get to relax!

I still, however, have to figure out what to pack in my cooler. so here goes!

Monday: Chicken Soup and Buns. I have leftover chicken in my fridge and I want to make some stock today before I go, anyway. I just throw the bones in with carrots and onions and celery and peppercorns, and simmer it for hours. The whole house smells yummy! So I'll do a small meal tonight, because all of us have had a bit of a stomach issue over the weekend and I don't want to make it worse!

Tuesday: Ham and Potatoes. Now we're camping! The trick is to find meals you can make either on the grill or in one pan, preferably. We camp in a trailer with a little stove with three burners, and we have a grill, but it's a pain getting three pans going at one time, and who wants to, anyway?

We also always have to be boiling water for doing dishes, and it takes a while to boil a big pan of water, so we always start that while we're eating dinner. So we don't want to use too many of the burners!

We love grilling ham after dunking it in maple syrup. It's so yummy! For potatoes, we slice them thinly, and layer them with carrots, and put generous amounts of salt and pepper and butter over each layer. Then wrap in tin foil and cook on the grill, too! They are so good. Not exactly low fat, though, with all that butter.

Wednesday: Tacos. So yummy while you're camping, too! We buy half a cow every year and get it cut the way we want it, and stick it in our freezer, and we're almost out of ground beef. I'm going to have to find another 1/4 cow walking around and get it sliced up for me pretty soon! We add cheese, red peppers, and lettuce to our tacos, so they end up being a pretty well rounded meal.

Thursday: Hamburger Helper. Not exactly glamorous, but it tastes great in the trailer! We always add tinned vegetables (it's the only time of the year I used tinned vegetables), so I feel a little more righteous about the meal.

Friday: Grilled pork chops with potatoes. We're doing that potato thing again! I have some great pork chops in the freezer just waiting to come camping!

Saturday: Hot dogs on sticks over the fire. Hey, it works. And we're having company. Hot dogs taste absolutely amazing when cooked over a fire. I don't like them generally, but I love them in the great outdoors.

Of course, our weather has been beautiful for a week, but it's supposed to start getting cool tomorrow, just when we're set to go. But I refuse to think negative thoughts! We'll have a great time, play a lot of games, get some knitting done, and read some books. What could be better?

Thanks for dropping by for Menu Plan Monday! Won't you stay and look around a bit? I've got posts up on earning money from home, cuddling with kids, and tons more!

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When My 10-Year-Old Wants to Cuddle
Last night my girls attended a birthday party at a family's house that I just love. They are wonderful, with a whole pile of daughters, and very family and faith oriented. I totally trust them with my girls, so nothing that I'm about to say should reflect on them!

They were asked over to watch a movie with the girls to celebrate the 12-year-old's birthday. And they watched National Treasure II.

Now Katie, my 10-year-old, doesn't always handle movies well. She loves Pride & Prejudice, Ever After, anything romantic really. She can handle Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean. But this movie freaked her out. So did Scooby Doo and ET.

When they bounded through the door and changed into their pyjamas, the first thing Katie said to me was, "can you lie with me for a while?".

When she was 8, the answer almost always was "no". She needed to figure out how to go to sleep on her own. Oh, sure, I might lie there for 15 minutes, but nothing more than that. I needed my rest, too! So I'd pray with her, and sing with her, and help her focus her thoughts on something else.

But these days I'd be happy to lie with her all night, because I know the days when she wants to cuddle are quickly coming to an end.

As we lay there, all tumbled up in each other, I was stroking her hair, and kissing her head, and praying over her, and it was just lovely. I don't know how many more opportunities we'll have like that. She's growing up so fast.

But last night whatever I did didn't seem to be working. I prayed, we talked about how to combat evil thoughts, but her breathing just kept getting shallower and shallower.

And then suddenly I realized why.

I think the revelation came around the same time as she jumped up, ran to the bathroom, and threw up. The first time was rather orderly. She had time to get her hair back, and hit the toilet, and everything was hunky dorey.

She must be better now, she thought. But then, as she was crawling back to bed, she suddenly whipped around, ran back to the bathroom, and basically missed the toilet and hit her hair.

So we plopped her in the shower, and I cleaned up the bathroom, and she went to sleep pretty quickly after that.

This morning I am sitting here, tired from cuddling with her so long and yet happy for the chance to do it, but now my stomach is feeling a little iffy. And I can't figure out if I'm about to ralph or if it's just memories of last night.

Isn't being a mother grand?

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A Lawn Chair, A Good Book, and a Cold Drink...
...are really all I need to have a great summer!

I love reading. I always have. When I was a little girl my best friends were named Anne, Lucy, Ramona, and Jo. (Do you know who they all are? Just leave it in the comments!)

Anyway, my problem as an adult has been that when I read I can't put a book down, which means my children don't get fed, the housework doesn't get done, and everything falls apart until that last page is turned. So I tend to read in spurts. I don't read during the school year when I homeschool my kids, or we'd never get any lessons done.

But it's summer now! Of course, I have a ton of writing to get done, including finishing another book proposal, but I deserve a break. So I'm going to read.

I used to read mostly fast-paced, thriller type novels, but I've decided it's time to branch out a little and look more at literature. I've always loved the classics, like Austen. But I haven't read a lot of literature to date.

So I took a look at Honey for a Woman's Heart, by Gladys Hunt. She also wrote Honey for a Child's Heart, which is a great book with tons of suggestions of books to read to kids of all ages (and books they can read themselves! It's an absolute must). But the Woman's edition lists all sorts of authors I've never heard of.

So I started reading. And I was enthralled. I started with Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym. It's an old book that doesn't cover much of anything, just four people growing older. But it's just such beautiful use of language, and it transports you into another world of elegance--not because it's rich in material things, but rich in depth and character.

I used to abhor "literature" because it seemed like nothing actually happened. In thrillers you're turning the pages to find out how it turned out. Literature, though, is so character driven that the action is almost beside the point. And as I've grown older, I've started to realize that the really important things that happen to us in life are often not the big things, but the inner things as we process and grow and change.

I'm having a grand old time. And my kids are at a birthday party now, so I'm going to go start on a new mystery by Martha Grimes. I've always loved P.D. James, and Grims is supposed to be just as good. I'll tell you when I'm through!


Home Parties Revisited
My post on Weekenders going bankrupt has brought a huge number of comments, mostly because several search engines and a post-Mary Kay consultant site picked it up (that's why there are so many anti-Mary Kay comments, I think!).

Anyway, I thought I'd sum up after reading through all the comments (and thanks so much for commenting!). People seem to agree that Weekenders went bankrupt for three reasons:

1. Home Parties are obsolete
2. It was too expensive to be a consultant
3. In home party businesses, you make money by selling to other consultants, not to customers.

So let's go through those, and you can tell me if I got it right.

Weekenders' bankruptcy is hardly unexpected given that people are just too busy to go to home parties today. It worked twenty-five years ago when kids weren't in soccer, women weren't working, and shift work wasn't as common. Today, it's not as if people are simply free on Tuesday night and want to go over to a friend's house to hear a sales pitch.

And people really don't like those sales pitches, or making them to their friends! That's why I quit. It almost got embarrassing. With the internet, we can buy so much online (and if you like Mary Kay or Arbonne or Weekenders, check out ebay. It's all there but much cheaper!). Why would we go to a party?

That being said, there are two products I really like: Epicure, which makes spice blends and amazing salt and peppers, and Norwex, which makes these incredible cleaning cloths and mops that use no chemicals. I buy that stuff constantly, and especially for gifts. But I've never had a party. I just catalogue shop, and I'm happy to not get any hostess benefits. I just want the products!

So you know the stuff is good. With everything else, I'm not sure the products are that outstanding. Probably a competitor could do just as well, and it would be cheaper.

Now let's look at #2.

With Weekenders, you had to spend a lot every season for new sample clothes. I hear from Mary Kay that you had to put tons of money into samples, too. So being a consultant costs a lot.

And #3?

There is so much pressure to make it to the next level, where you start getting more commissions on your downline. I think that's why people often buy the stuff themselves, just to make it to the next level. If you only have $400 more to go, why not put it in yourself? So you're left with all this product you don't really want and can't sell.

That's why I think most home party businesses do most of their sales to representatives, not customers. And that's not a good business model.

And with most people dropping out within a year, it means you have to replace people constantly. So people are being recruited who don't really have the money to risk, but who believe it's an easy way to get rich. It's not. It changes your relationships, takes you out of the house too much, and makes you buy stuff you don't want.

It's not worth it, in my opinion. If you can represent something like Epicure where there really aren't parties; people just keep ordering from you, then great. Otherwise, people will start avoiding you like the plague.

So that seems to be the summary of the comments. Only one obnoxious commenter came by, and he was dealt with pretty quickly, so thanks for all the discussion! And I hope all the former Weekenders reps and the very mad Mary Kay reps move on to something better for themselves and better for their families!


On Fathers
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a variety of papers across Canada and the United States. Here's this week's column, On Fathers:

When I think of Dad, I think of belly laughs, and smiles, and choked back tears. I think of a proud grandfather, a fiercely loyal parent, a family man.

I think of a man who loves hockey but who loves his grand-daughters, too. I picture a man who is proud that his children have outpaced him in learning, if not always in common sense. I see a man who might worry about the practical side of life—health, money, or jobs—but not about family or friends, because he knows they are rock solid. And they are rock solid because he is. And though he may make fun of Mom and me talking clothes, or cooking, or gardening, or my daughters laughing about toys or dresses or flowers, he is secretly pleased that so much estrogen surrounds him.

Girls, you see, were once a rarity in his life. I was his first daughter, but he only inherited me at his oldest son’s wedding. And though he is not genetically my father, when I hear the word Dad, his is the face that comes to my mind.

Father’s Day, which must have been created by Hallmark and the people who make fishing poles, was my least favourite holiday as a child. I didn’t live anywhere near my father, so how could I celebrate him?

My relationship with my biological father has always revolved around heredity. Like many who should have a relationship but don’t, he is often trying to establish a connection, and the only one that exists is genetic. When I demonstrate some of his traits, he’s tickled pink. He can claim pride because he can claim me as his daughter. Now I do know that he wishes things could have been different, and that he does genuinely love me. But it is love at a distance.

This genetic type of love is valuable in its own way and I am grateful for it, but it is very different from parental affection, which is what I feel with Dad. As a child, it is what you desperately need, and when I looked around for it, I found it in my uncle. He wasn’t genetically related to me, either, but he did care for me, and fuss over me like a dad should whenever I gave my heart away to an undeserving boy. He picked up the phone to dispense advice or provide a listening ear when I needed it.

He walked through adolescence with me, delivered the “father of the bride” toast at my wedding, and made baby faces at my daughters. When Katie was two, though, I wrote him a good-bye letter, because the cancer had come back. In that letter I had the chance to tell him how much he had meant to me. And I told him that when I arrive in heaven one day, God will call him over and say, “Art, here is your daughter.” He was the father figure of my youth.

I will celebrate one more father this Father’s Day: the only father I actually chose. He’s the man I’m thrilled is the father of my children: a dad who is loving, and kind, and generous, and a true partner to me. Because of him, Father’s Day is finally a big production in my life.

It is difficult as a little girl not to have a Daddy that she is close to. And yet, as I’ve matured I’ve realized that many men have played that fatherly role, showing me what it means to be loved, affirmed, protected, and cared for. I have the genetic father, to whom I owe many of my gifts, as well as my lack of propensity to gain weight, for which I am eternally grateful. I have the father of my childhood, who is not here to celebrate except in memory. I have grandfathers who were wonderful to me. I have Dad, who delights over me today, and not only because he trusts me to pick the right nursing home one day. And I have my husband. And so I no longer dread Father’s Day. It takes me on a walk through memory lane, and I’m really quite grateful for those I have.

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The Benefits of a Boring Testimony
We had a baptismal service at church last week, and afterwards Katie, my 10-year-old, mentioned something interesting.

The pastor had asked anybody who wanted to be baptized (we're in a believer-baptism tradition church) to talk to him after the service. Katie said this:

"I really felt like I should go talk to Pastor Ernie, but then I remembered that when you're baptized you have to tell your story. I don't have much of a story yet, so I think I'll wait until I'm twelve."

To which I replied,

"And just what are you planning on doing in the next year and a half?"

I wonder if I should be worried.

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On Tupperware, Avon, Mary Kay, etc....
Ten years ago I started to sell Weekenders clothes. It's a form of home-selling, sort of like Tupperware or Avon. We had a line of clothes that all coordinated, and you sell at home parties, and then make 40% commission.

It looked like a good deal, and everybody was showing me all the charts on how well you could do.

I quit within six months. I just found that I was changing all my friendships because I needed to book more parties. And then people start to avoid you!

I have other friends who have really needed money who have sold other things: Usborne books, Mary Kay, Arbonne, etc. etc. In all cases the story was the same. You buy a whole bunch of stuff at the outset, and then if you sell over a certain threshold in the first few months, the commission increases or you get a cut off of other people's in your downline. So you work so hard to get to that threshold. And when you're $350 short, you just buy that $350 yourself. It's worth it, right?

And it seems to me that that's what inevitably happens. When you sell the stuff, you keep buying it. You don't want to miss your quotas. And I'm convinced that most of the money made off of these home parties is not from sales to individuals, but sales to the actual representatives, who often burn out within a year.

One of my friends is doing quite well with a company called Epicure, which sells home spice blends and mixes. I really really like their products, and I buy them all the time. But that's the only company I've ever been involved in that has a lot of repeat customers.

Many stay at home moms sign up for these things because they want to make extra money, and there's no doubt that some people can do well at them. Many have earned their pink Cadillacs, after all! But you have to sell hard. And if you're not prepared to do that, and if you're not prepared to turn many of your friendships into selling opportunities, you won't advance.

This week Weekenders went bankrupt. I'm honestly not surprised. It was too expensive to be a consultant, and I don't know how people kept up. But I wonder if the era of home parties is over. They were important before the internet, because people who didn't like shopping in malls could just shop by catalogue or at a party. But today we can shop on the internet, so we don't need to go to malls anyway.

What do you think? Have you had experience selling from home? Would you recommend it? I honestly want to know what people think of this trend!

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Works for Me Wednesday: Writing from Home

Many of us write. We blog; we post comments; we share our thoughts.

The only difference is that I get paid for doing it!

The first thing I ever had published as an adult was a filler for Reader's Digest. I made $160. Not too bad, I thought! I wondered if there were other magazines that bought fillers, and I went for a search on the internet for fillers + markets + writing. What came up was this gem of a book:

Sally Stuart's Christian Writer's Market Guide. It lists every periodical in North America that takes Christian articles & fillers & puzzles and anything else you can think of, as well as every greeting card market, screenplay market, and, of course, book publishers.

And so I started from there. I began with magazine articles, getting them published in Today's Christian Woman, Christian Parenting Today, and loads more.

Then, once I had several under my belt, I moved on to books. I've had four published so far with more on the way, and I'm in two new anthologies. It's always fun to see your name in print!

I have a whole page on my main website with tips on how to get published. You can find more information there!

But what I love about writing is that I can combine it with being at home. I've always been able to be with my kids, and I even homeschool them! It took a lot of discipline in the beginning, because I could only write during naptimes. Now I have to get them settled on some work before taking an hour or two to write, and it is difficult to juggle. But I love doing it.

I'm not getting rich at it, but I'm building a foundation so that when the kids leave home I'll be able to really write full time. I'm hoping to start on some novels then! It's also allowed me to develop a big speaking career.

Many women are wondering what they can do from home, and I think writing is wonderful because it gives us a creative outlet. It isn't always easy to get paid jobs, especially now with the internet offering so much for free. But the upside is that there are more and more places to get published.

So if you want to get started, order Sally Stuart's book and take it in the bath with you. Read it straight through and just look at all those magazines and websites that will pay you for your words! And then get started. You never know where it might lead.

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Wifey Wednesday: Having Energy at the End of the Day

I made a big mistake last night. My husband had been away almost four days straight at work and various meetings. On Monday he had some horribly sick kids at the hospital and was stretched incredibly thin all day. Yesterday he barely had time to catch up with all the meetings he had and checking up on these kids.

So when he arrived home last night at 9:45, after not seeing him for several days, do you know what we did?

We watched a movie. Ugh. It wasn't a bad movie. It was a thriller which had been recommended, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. You see, neither of us had had any down time in a few days, since I had the kids nonstop and he was at the hospital, and we wanted to relax. But we did it the wrong way.

When the movie was over I wanted to talk. He'd been through some pretty stressful things, and I wanted to know how he was doing. So we talked. Until midnight. And by then I was really exhausted. And so was he. So that was it.

It was really quite pathetic.

What we should have done was poured ourselves some nice cold glasses of water, cuddled on the couch, and talked at 9:45. Why watch a movie, anyway? I'm so proud of us because we don't have cable, and we don't get any television channels, but we do watch too many movies. And while movies can be entertaining, they can't create a relationship. You do need to spend time together, talking, and doing OTHER STUFF.

So at the end of a long, hard day, don't turn on the TV. Take a bubble bath together. Look at the stars together. If he's on the television, find a creative way to distract him (I know you can do it!). But share thoughts and feelings together, not just movies. That's how you connect! And women, like it or not, need to connect on that emotional level before we connect on the physical and sexual level. So make sure you connect emotionally when you're still energetic!

In Honey, I Don't Have a Headache Tonight, I said it this way:

Often we get so busy that it feels like there's no way to fit sex into our schedules. But if we're honest, time really isn't the issue. Virtually all of us have the time to have sex. For most of us, it doesn't necessarily even take that long. There may be nights when we do want it to last longer, but on the whole we tend to be content with sexual encounters that are long enough to feel good, but not so long that we start to worry that the kids should be waking up for school sometime soon. Our problem, instead, is that we don't have the energy.

And I go on to talk about how we can recharge our batteries so the energy is there when we need it: in the early evening.

Even though I know this stuff, I stil have to be reminded. We all get into lazy patterns every now and then. From now on, we're not going to watch movies at night, except maybe once a month. That's my new pledge.

What about you? Do you have tips on marriage you can share with us? Here's how you can participate in Wifey Wednesday! Right click the image above and save it to your computer. Then go to your blog and write a blog post, using that image. Come back on over here, and enter the URL for that blog post in the Mr. Linky below. Thanks so much, and I look forward to seeing what you all have to share!

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And We Pay People for This?
A new report by epidemiologists at the WHO concludes that AIDS was never a really big threat to the heterosexual community outside of Africa, and it was really overblown.

Gee, no kidding. It would have been nice if they'd figured that out back in 1989, when conservatives were called bigots for arguing that the homosexual community needed to change its practices.

Instead, posters and ad campaigns saying, "This is the face of AIDS", showing everybody BUT gay men, started running, scaring everybody. And we should be scared of STD's, it's just that AIDS was and always will be in North America primarily in the high risk groups: homosexuals, IV drug users, and prostitutes.

But because they focused so much on heterosexuals for political reasons (mostly to drum up research dollars), they minimized the risk to homosexuals, so much so that now behaviour in many homosexual enclaves has become as risky as it was back in the early 80s. It's just ridiculous. If they had focused mostly on gay men to begin with, they potentially could have saved a lot of lives. The simple fact is that the type of activity that gay men are engaged in is a more efficient spreader of the virus than heterosexual activity. But you're not allowed to say that because it would be discriminatory to state the truth!

But the report is worse than that. After making sweeping statements like this:

Dr De Cock, an epidemiologist who has spent much of his career leading the battle against the disease, said understanding of the threat posed by the virus had changed. Whereas once it was seen as a risk to populations everywhere, it was now recognised that, outside sub-Saharan Africa, it was confined to high-risk groups including men who have sex with men, injecting drug users, and sex workers and their clients.
They then say this:

Aids organisations, including the WHO, UN Aids and the Global Fund, have come under attack for inflating estimates of the number of people infected, diverting funds from other health needs such as malaria, spending it on the wrong measures such as abstinence programmes rather than condoms, and failing to build up health systems.
How does abstinence programs hurt AIDS prevention? For pity's sake, Uganda, the only nation that has embraced abstinence totally, has seen its AIDS rates plummet. But it's not politically correct to advance abstinence, so they're not.

So this article now admits that they were wrong to focus on heterosexuals, a choice made primarily out of political correctness back in the 1990s. But they continue to make a politically correct choice today, even though the data contradicts it. This drives me batty!

In Kenya, health workers try to teach abstinence and monogamy (still a big problem because many men are polygamous). That's the key to minimizing the disease, in the same way that it has been minimized here. I wish people would see that!

A great book on the subject of how AIDS education was politicized to the detriment of female college students and homosexuals is Unprotected. You really need to check it out!

Read more of my columns that focus on the insanity of current public health sex education. Start here and then go here.


Why Government Isn't the Be All and End All
I tried to read Lori Smith's A Walk with Jane Austen last night. I really did. I wanted to like it, because I love Austen.

And parts of her book were beautiful. Basically, Lori is a 33-year-old single woman who took off to England for a month to follow in Jane Austen's footsteps and see what she could discover. And her conclusions are quite lovely. She talks about taking delight in the little things; how one doesn't have to live a big life to be significant; and deploring the high life.

But the first chapter I found difficult, because Lori complained about Christian conservatives. Now, I'm a Christian conservative, though I wouldn't fit everybody's mold of one. I'm not even American. I'm Canadian. I'm not your regular Pat Robertson Christian, and the whole "looking like we're perfect" thing has always been an anathema to me. In fact, I wrote To Love, Honor and Vacuum sort of as an antidote to this feeling in the church that we need to look like we have it all together as wives and moms.

However, what I find so difficult is that a lot of Christians like her, including those in my family, equate Christian conservativism with not caring about the poor.

(UPDATE: I'm afraid that I'm maligning Lori here as badly as I'm accusing her of maligning me. The truth is she didn't say anything specific about the poor; what she said was that she disliked conservative Christianity, and especially political Christianity; and she was passionate about social justice issues. I read between the lines there. If I was unfair, I'm sorry. So consider the rest of this post about others I know who do equate Christian conservativism with mean-spiritedness or stinginess).

I find that this betrays a complete lack of knowledge of economics and history.

My whole life is dedicated to the poor. The majority of my time is spent in raising money to send to an African orphanage. I've taught classes for pregnant teens here at home, and have always been involved in volunteering. But that is an entirely different thing from believing the government should get involved.

Caring about the poor does not mean that the government should do it. It means we should do it! We should sacrifice and we should share.

When the government gets involved, it introduces a poisonous dynamic. It leads to entitlement, and often creates dependency rather than encouraging dignity. But what bothers me is that people can't see historically how that happened.

Just look at the welfare reforms of the 1990s that the Republican Congress forced Clinton to pass. Social activists were screaming from rooftops that this would throw women and children out on the street. Over the next decade, though, poverty decreased and more families found jobs. In other words, cutting welfare reduced poverty, just like conservatives always said it would.

A similar thing happens on the world wide scale when it comes to Africa. I would never give aid to an African government, or even to a large NGO like UNICEF. I give it to small on the ground operations which are trying to promote entrepreneurism. Because ultimately, the thing that will break poverty is small business. Give them a helping hand, and you'll end poverty. Continue to dole out aid, and you'll create it. You also set up a situation where the government controls the aid and can use it to pit one ethnic group against another, which is never good in that part of the world.

It just seems to me like too many people don't know basic economics. But they sound like they're so superior to "conservatives" who just think everybody should be like them. What I always hear from my family is that "you can't expect everyone to have it together like you do. And we have to be there for those who don't." That's not what I think. But I do want programs that actually work, not just governments handing out money so we can feel good about helping, but that don't actually accomplish anything.

A perfect example would be Hurricane Katrina. The government came down and poured money at the problem like crazy. But in Houston and all across Texas, churches (and specifically conservative churches) mobilized to take people into their homes. The Astro Dome, which was supposed to sleep 20,000, was empty because the churches had taken the people in. And many of those people chose not to return to New Orleans, but to take the help offered them to find jobs in Texas and other neighboring states.

In other stories, the government is still doling out money for other Katrina victims to live in hotels. I read a story yesterday about two women who are still living in the Quality Inn, with a swimming pool and maid service, years after the disaster, and haven't really looked for work yet. Why should they? This is the type of thing conservative Christians say isn't good for anyone's soul. We are not meant to get handouts for free. But that doesn't mean we don't care about the poor. It means we do.

A similar dynamic is at work with single motherhood. People just didn't have babies out of wedlock until welfare was extended to single moms. That's when men started to feel like they could desert their girlfriends who got pregnant. And marriage went down the toilet. I know not everyone is going to marry, and you can't legislate morality. I don't think we should. But to economically encourage a family situation which is dangerous to all involved is ludicrous. I'm not saying we should cut off single mothers from welfare, but I do think welfare should be a temporary training ground to get a job. People shouldn't live on it forever, and then maybe fewer people would be cavalier about their family situations. My mother was single, not by choice, and she never took a handout. She worked hard, even while I was young and she was depressed, so that we could have a roof over our heads. It is possible. And she advanced up the ladder until she ended up an executive.

Welfare would not have let her do that.

I think the basic difference between a conservative Christian and a liberal one is that conservatives believe in results, not in policies that express our devotion to a particular group. We don't need policies to show that we love poor people; we just need to love them ourselves. And if a government policy which sounds good has been shown not to work, then we need to get rid of it.

My liberal relatives, on the other hand, believe that we must lobby the government to end poverty, even if it doesn't work well. It's part of showing our values and living our values, to ensure that the government expresses our values. The problem is that this is usually ineffective. But it's the heart that counts to my relatives, not necessarily the results. I know that's an oversimplification, but whenever I bring up the results of whatever they're advocating, they accuse me of not caring. The opposite is true! I do care. But that doesn't mean I think we should throw money at the problem. It means I think we should fix the problem. And those two are not necessarily synonymous.

So I wish that other Christians would stop tarring me with the idea that I don't care about the poor. I do. And I know they care about the poor, too. We just disagree on how to help. That's allowed. But please stop impugning my motives, because I don't think that's very Christian behaviour.

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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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