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Dine Without Whine - A Family 

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You Might Be a Redneck If....
you bring Saran Wrap to a buffet.

Just one of those amazing experiences on the Alaskan cruise I just returned home from!

My in-laws are celebrating their 40th anniversary, so Keith and I took them on the trip of a lifetime. I didn't really announce it beforehand because I don't like putting a post up on my blog that says something like this:


You know what I mean? But I'll tell you all about it over the next few days. It really was phenomenal. And it was the first time my husband and I were away just the two of us since our honeymoon.

We had such a good time, except that we never did get any chocolate chip cookies at one of the places we stopped to eat at because three families in front of us in the buffet line picked up all the cookies and wrapped them in Saran Wrap before we got there. I really wish I had more temerity to go up to them and say something. But I didn't. So now I'm just sharing it with you all.

I'm probably just trying to forget about the fact that the kids are at summer camp, and we're home and they're not. We go to pick them up on Saturday and it's killing me.

But, to keep myself busy, I'm speaking at an online homeschooling conference tomorrow. You can find out more on the little widget at the bottom on the left hand column.

Now, off to try to beat jet lag!

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Wifey Wednesday: Till Kids Do Us Part

I'm away on vacation, so this is a scheduled post. So I thought I'd make it easy on myself, and reprint an article I wrote a while ago on what happens to a marriage when things go wrong with your kids.

It first appeared in Christian Home & School back in 2002, and here is part of it:

Twenty-two weeks into my second pregnancy, my husband Keith and I were devastated to learn that the little boy I was carrying had a serious heart defect. In the midst of our turmoil, one specialist grimly remarked, "I should warn you that half of all couples in this situation separate within a year."

Thankfully, we were able to lean on each other during this most difficult time in our marriage, allowing us to grow closer, even as we watched Christopher slip away.

In all likelihood you won’t have to endure the death of one of your children, but you may suffer other heartbreaks that can take their toll on your marriage. Maybe one of your children has been injured. Maybe you have an uncontrollable four-year-old, or a teenager who is constantly threatening to run away. Even so-called "normal" children can cause stress with their constant demands.

It’s hardly surprising that children add tension to a marriage. They encapsulate our identity, our dreams, and our futures. When something goes wrong with our kids, we feel like our whole world is falling apart. A strong marriage can provide a cushion through these challenges, but a marriage that is floundering only compounds grief.

Doreen Tomlin, whose 16-year-old son John was killed in the Columbine massacre, told Christianity Today that as soon as she believed he was dead, she began to pray, "Let it not ruin our marriage." To ensure that your marriage withstands whatever pressure it may face, try to nurture it in the following four ways:

1. Forgive Yourself
Guilt and parenthood seem to go hand in hand. We feel guilty for things over which we have no control, and we repeatedly kick ourselves for things we feel we should have handled better. Yet self-recrimination can cause us to build walls of silence around ourselves, isolating us from the love we so desperately need.

If your child’s problem can be traced back to your sin, remember that no matter how serious your error, Jesus has already paid for it. You do not have to keep punishing yourself for something that Jesus has already erased.

More often that not, though, our feelings of guilt have nothing to do with actual sin. In Always, a book of inspirational stories of marriage, Betsy Holt and Mike Yorkey relate the story of Rick and Laurie, who lost their infant son to SIDS. Laurie felt she was to blame for not ministering CPR correctly, and, overwhelmed by guilt, she cut herself off from Rick and everyone who loved her. Once she realized how hurtful she was being, she opened up. Simply voicing her guilt helped to alleviate it, and with her husband’s support she forgave herself. They were then free to deal with their grief together.

In a similar way, though I knew I could not be labeled "guilty" for my son’s health problems, I was nonetheless tortured as I watched him grow weaker and was unable to help. My husband Keith felt this guilt even more acutely, because as a pediatrician
himself he felt he should have been able to cure him. Voicing these feelings seems to put them in perspective and minimize their ability to throw us into despair.

If you’ve ever experienced anything similar, you probably have also been consumed with questions like "Why me? Why my child? Why am I being punished?" You may wonder what you did to cause God to hurt your children like this. I vividly remember the day I heard my minister say, "When we ask ‘why me’, we are placing ourselves at the center of the universe rather than God."

Suddenly it occurred to me that maybe Christopher’s illness had nothing to do with my own relationship with God. He was not necessarily putting Christopher through this to punish me, test me or teach me. Perhaps He was just choosing to use me to accomplish His plans. The realization was tremendously freeing. God is ultimately in control. It is He who allowed this to happen, not you. And even if you never understand why in this lifetime, God trusts you with this burden and He will always help you to carry it.

You can read the rest here.

What about you? Do you have any marriage advice for us? I can't post a Mr. Linky because I'm scheduling this post, and I haven't figured out how to do that yet! But leave your link in the comments, and we'll check it out!

If you're going through a hard time, my book, How Big Is Your Umbrella: Weathering the Storms of Life, can help. It's a short book detailing what we yell at God when life stinks, and what He whispers back. Find out more here.

Or, if you prefer to listen, why not purchase a download or a CD of my talks, Extreme Makeover, which deal with a similar subject!

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What Traditions Do You Have?
Tracey over at Grace Comes By Hearing is talking about what family traditions she wants to keep going for her kids.

So I started thinking about mine.

Reading is a huge part of it. I love reading to my kids! We started when they were only 5 months old, with board books, and when they were 4 they could listen to Ramona or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Now they both read novels on their own, but we still read out loud. We're doing Austen's Sense and Sensibility with my 10-year-old currently. It's a lovely book, and she understands it better hearing it!

Everytime we go camping we take a long book to read out loud, and read it around the fire. We bring books to the beaches, and we have books all over the house. We're putting hardwood in our main floor this week, and to prepare we had to move all the books out of our bookshelves. They're all over my house!

And I buy a ton of books for the girls, often at used bookstores. I still have all my favourites from when I was a girl, and my daughters have liked them, too. So I'm determined to keep these for my grandchildren!

We have lots of other traditions, too, but I think what the kids will most remember about our house is the books.

What about you? What is your house about? I'd love to know!

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My Big, Fat Baby!
My youngest daughter Katie turns 11 today, so I thought I'd reprint a column that I wrote a few years ago for her birthday. Hope you like it! She did.

My youngest daughter turned six yesterday. I think I should have been the one getting the presents.

Having Katie pretty near killed me. Five days before Katie was born I called my husband at work, called my mother at work, and told them both to get home because the baby was coming. Mom arrived to look after Rebecca, and Keith and I went to the hospital where they pronounced me not in labour.

Two nights later, at 2:00 a.m., I woke up my husband, called my mother, and ventured to the hospital again, certain that this time this was it. They told me it wasn’t.

The next night it happened again. Katie was my third baby. It’s not like I didn’t know what contractions felt like. These felt like contractions. I hadn’t slept for a week. And worst of all, people were starting to get mad at me. When I called my mother at midnight two nights later, she almost wouldn’t come. She was exhausted, and she had a meeting first thing in the morning. My husband told me that I better be sure this time.

Luckily, as soon as we arrived they said the baby was coming, hooked me up to the IV and told me to relax. Within a few minutes, though, I had the nurse back in the room. “The epidural’s not working,” I said. “I feel pain. I’m not supposed to feel

“Oh, the epidural just hasn’t kicked in,” she replied nonchalantly, walking out of the room.

I started reciting. That breathing thing never really worked for me. It didn’t distract me enough. So when Rebecca was born, I tried reciting “The Lord is My Shepherd” instead. It required concentration, but I knew it well enough that I could pull it off. The Lord is my Shepherd helped me through Rebecca, and it helped me through Christopher. But this was different. This was PAIN.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not—get that nurse back in here, NOW!—want, He
makes me lie down—why are you still standing there? NOW!—in green pastures…”

By the time the doctor arrived I was starting to forget the words. “He makes me lie down” (WHACK! WHACK! in Keith’s stomach) “WHERE? Where does He make me LIE DOWN?”

Keith said, “In green pastures, honey, in green pastures.”

“In green pastures. He leadeth me—WHERE?” (WHACK WHACK).

“Oomph. Beside still waters. And honey, you have tension in your jaw. Remember? Don’t clench your teeth, honey. We want loose, not tension.”


The nurse later commented that in all her years in the delivery room, she had heard the Lord’s name used in many creative ways, but never quite like that.

Katie came along pretty soon after that. She was 9 ½ pounds (and I’m pretty tiny). I have never quite forgiven her. She was also really ugly. She was all purple and wrinkled and looked odd. I can say that, of course, because she is absolutely gorgeous now. If she were still ugly, I’d never admit I thought so then.

Unfortunately, my mother failed to load the film in our camera correctly (something which all but cancels out the lack of sleep I gave her that week), so we don’t have any pictures of her first few days. By the time the pictures turned out she was no longer as ugly. So you’ll just have to take my word for it.

I can look back on the whole thing and laugh now. You really do forget the pain. During my pregnancy with Katie, I threw up prolifically, I had constant searing pain in my legs, and I had contractions for the last two months. She also gave me with varicose veins I had to eventually have removed (now there’s a gross surgery). And when I look at her today, I know I’d do it again in a minute. So maybe I don’t need a present. Maybe all I need to do is watch her as she plays and sings, and kiss her tonight as she sleeps. She’ll always be my big, fat, ugly baby that I love more than I can imagine. Happy birthday, honey.

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A Risky Ride
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a variety of papers across the country. Here's this week's:

I hate jerks. That’s probably why I can’t stand roller coasters. The up and down is bad enough, but the sudden jerks when you go around in a corkscrew just about do me in.

I was eleven when Canada’s Wonderland opened. Several of my friends’ parents had sold their farmland to make room for the park, and in exchange, they received free passes. I must have headed to Wonderland ten times in its opening year. I couldn’t get enough of the roller coasters. I used to be so embarrassed by my mother, waiting at the exit for me.

Now I’m the one lingering at the exit, usually sitting on a bench knitting socks. I figure if I’m going to be an embarrassment, I may as well go all the way.

Something happened to me after I had children so that death defying experiences no longer thrill me. I’m not sure if it’s the maturity gene kicking in, or if my stomach just no longer accepts rough treatment. Whichever it is, my body resists roller coasters.

Teens, though, flock to them, and the faster, the better. Perhaps it’s because time goes so slowly when you’re waiting for that magical age of sixteen, when you can drive, or eighteen, when you can move out (hopefully). But when your next birthday is forty, or fifty, or sixty, fast isn’t as high on the agenda.

What makes these rides so fun, though, isn’t just the speed; it’s the perceived danger. When you let yourself be strapped in, you’re risking it all. It must be the same thing with extreme skiing, or snowboarding, or even skateboarding. You’ve never felt so alive.

Risk, along with money, love, and even altruism, seems to be one of our main motivators in life. Bill Gates took a risk when he founded Microsoft. Ford took a risk when he started making automobiles few could afford to buy. Right now, I hope many are taking major risks to try to come up with something other than gasoline which will fuel our cars. It was risk that brought people to North America from Europe; it is acceptance of risk that spurs on our economy and even our culture.

But just as there can be healthy risk, there can also be unhealthy risk. Too many find exhilaration from risk: from gambling; illicit affairs; even day trading on the stock market. If there’s nothing at stake, where’s the thrill? To me, these individuals seem like teenage boys who have never quite grown up, for males, and particularly those in their teens, seem to be drawn specifically to risk.

Take, for instance, that big campaign in the eighties with the eggs in a frying pan, saying “this is your brain. This is your brain on drugs.” Quite unforgettable, wasn’t it? Leonard Sax, the author of the ground breaking book Boys Adrift, argues that it was also largely a failure, at least where adolescent boys were concerned. Because boys crave risk, when the government showed them how risky drug taking was, they thought, “Cool!” Drug use increased, at least among males.

Girls, who tend to shy away from risk more, did listen. Sax argues that we need to push girls to try difficult and new things, and urge them out of their comfort zone. Boys, though, don’t need a shove out. They need to be reined in using stiff consequences, rather than threats, which, paradoxically, can make the risky behaviour more attractive. But they also desperately need healthy outlets that are a bit risky. When we try to control boys by eliminating all competition from schools, or removing playgrounds because they might be dangerous, or canceling school camping trips because of the liability, we remove too much healthy risk from boys’ lives. Chances are they’ll find an outlet that is far less palatable to us in the end.

A healthy society will channel risk and manage it. It won’t eliminate it. We need the entrepreneurs, the innovators, the out-of-the box-thinkers, even the dare devils. What we don’t need are immature risk-takers who endanger themselves and others. It’s a fine line, and I’ve yet to figure out how to promote one and minimize the other. Next time I’m sitting at the exit, waiting for teenagers to disembark from a ride, I’ll give it some more thought.

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Wifey Wednesday: Keeping Your Bedroom For YOU!

Last week I posted on the phenomenon of "night nannies", where wealthy parents hired nannies to get up with their babies in the middle of the night so they could sleep.

We got talking about this at the dinner table, and I mentioned that Katie was one baby who would have slept better if we had had her in bed with us. I think she just needed the human contact. The problem is that I can't sleep like that, so it just wasn't possible. I've always been a light sleeper, and if she were there, I wouldn't have slept at all.

Keith did his whole pediatrician thing and informed me that babies who sleep with their parents are fifty times more likely to die than those who don't. I'm not sure if that's entirely true, but the death rate is certainly dramatically increased.

Now, I don't want to start a debate on whether babies should sleep with their parents. I really don't. But it got me thinking about what a parent's bedroom is for.

It seems to me that the bedroom should be a sanctuary for you and your husband. That's how we've always seen it. That doesn't mean the kids can't all jump in in the mornings, or you can't curl up and read in the big bed sometimes. But on the whole, it should be your room.

What does that mean?

It means no laundry to be folded all over the bed and the floor. It means kids go to sleep in their own rooms. It means toys are kept out. It means that you actually make an effort to clean the bedroom, instead of leaving it because after all, guests don't see it anyway.

Does that sound mean? I hope not. But if you want to feel relaxed in your bedroom (which is what we women need to feel romantic), laundry isn't going to cut it. And kids' Polly Pockets underfoot aren't going to cut it, either.

I would also think about ditching the television. Do you really need to watch TV together at night? It just intrudes on couple time. Why not let the bedroom be where you snuggle, pray, talk, and cuddle? Why not let the bedroom be just for your relationship, and keep other stuff out?

I think if we show that we prioritize the time with our husbands by keeping the bedroom free, we'll reap rewards.

Of course, that also means that you need a lock on your door. Once, when Katie was 6, Keith and I were having a good time when we heard the pitter patter of little feet. Freeze. She rattled the doorknob. "It's locked!" Keith yelled. "Oh, that's okay," she replied. Pitter patter pitter patter. We resumed. And all of a sudden the door flew open. Grab the sheets.

It seems that 6 is old enough to know how to pick a lock, but not old enough to know that you don't want to pick it.

So do what you can to keep kids out. Keep the springs on your bed oiled so the bed doesn't squeak. Tighten the screws periodically, if you have them, on the headboard so that it's secure and doesn't rattle. Invest in comfortable sheets and a nice duvet. Get some candles. It doesn't have to be expensive, but doing little things to help you feel comfortable and stressfree in your bedroom will help you to relax in it, and then maybe more will happen!

Here's what I said in Honey, I Don't Have a Headache Tonight:

In a study done by Paul Pearsall, one woman stressed the importance of privacy this way: "If you're not careful, [kids] will take custody of your marriage." She explained tha ttheir marriage had gone through plenty of Vaseline--rubbed on the doorknob so little hands couldn't turn it...

Privacy also means minimizing the chance your children will need you. Giving children set bedtimes is one of the best things you can do for your sex life, to ensure that you have time alone together at night. When kdis are older, consider setting a time they have to be in their rooms, even if they're not sleeping.

So what do you think? Is your bedroom a haven?

I'd love to know! I can't set up a Mr. Linky this week because I'm automatically scheduling this post since we're on vacation. So leave your links in the comments, and leave us your thoughts!

My book, Honey, I Don't Have a Headache Tonight: Help for women who want to feel more in the mood, has lots of advice for women on how to make this aspect of their marriage fun! You can also purchase a download of a talk that Keith and I gave on how to increase romance in your marriage. If your marriage needs some heating up, don't wait. Do something about it!

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Freedom of Religion for Me, but not for Her?

This is the kind of story that makes me confused.

A 32 year old Moroccan, married to a French citizen and mother to three children in France, was refused French nationality for adopting a radical practice of her religion, which is socially incompatible with the basic values of France, notably the principle of gender equality.
It goes on to say...

The government commissioner says that her statement show that she leads leads a
secluded life, cut off from French society. She does not know about laïcité or
the right to vote and she lives in total submission to the men in her family.
Faiza M. appears to think that this normal and doesn't think of contesting this
submission. Prada-Bordenave says this is indicative of the lack of adherence to
the basic values of French society.

I don't think countries have to make anybody who wants in into a citizen. Countries have the right to try to retain their distintive culture. I don't expect Israel to let in absolutely anybody, or even Saudi Arabia. So France shouldn't have to, either.

And this woman, who doesn't believe in gender equality (which is very important in France), and who advocates total submission (as opposed to biblical submission) is out of context from French values, and does represent an existential threat to the state.

So I'm glad France is stepping up.

But on the other hand...what's to stop France from saying that Christians who believe the Bible are also not compatible with France? Isn't that where this is also going? It is a slippery slope.

I totally believe in freedom of religion, but I also believe Islam is misogynist. We shouldn't allow genital mutilation or polygamy or automatic male custody in divorce cases just because Muslims believe in these things. But once you've said that, how can we then ask governments to respect Christian norms?

This just gets very confusing. I wish people could just use common sense, but that doesn't work anymore.

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What To Do When Your Toddler Sounds Like She's Swearing
FiddleDee is talking about what happens when your child sounds like they're swearing, even though you know they're not, because of pronunciation errors. What do you do? Become a hermit? Or acquaint complete strangers with your child's colourful language?

I can sense her dilemma. When my oldest was 3, all her consonant sounds came out as "f"'s if they were at the beginning of a word.

So if we were in a park, she'd say, "Duck, mommy, a duck!". But that's not what it sounded like.
And heaven forbid we should ever see a dumptruck. (For compound words, she always managed the first consonant. It was the second that was the "f".)

You get the picture. What about you? Have you ever had these experiences? Do tell.
Fish Don't Have Fingernails
Hi everybody! Here's my column for today. Each week I write a syndicated parenting column that appears in several newspapers in Canada and the United States, and this is this week's. It's controversial. For those of you who don't know, Henry Morgentaler is the face of abortion in Canada. He fought to make it legal, and he opened up clinics all across the country. Anyway, see what you think:

In a very duplicitous and infantile way, our Governor General and her advisory committee have seen fit to appoint Henry Morgantaler with the Order of Canada. Michaelle Jean promised he wouldn’t be on the list; she denied it until the end; and when people phoned her office to protest, her staff gave them the phone number of the Campaign Life Headquarters. Laughing at pro-lifers is not what the Governor General is meant to do. Nevertheless, it seems that we’re stuck with this sort of judgment until Stephen Harper finally gets to appoint his own Governor General.

As a teenager, I attended the church located next door to Morgentaler’s first clinic in Toronto. We knew the police who were assigned to guard his clinic by name. Researching Morgentaler at the time, I came across an article where he stated that to him, a fetus was nothing more than a fish.

In the recent blockbuster movie Juno, though, the 16-year-old girl who is about to
procure an abortion changes her mind because a classmate informs her that her fetus already has fingernails. And that makes all the difference, because Juno, unlike Morgantaler, knows that fish do not have fingernails.

Personally, I believe that life begins at conception. But I do understand those who say that despite the fingernails, despite the heartbeat, despite the obvious baby features, a mother should not be forced to carry the baby to term. It is still her body.

While I don’t agree with that position, I respect it. What I don’t understand is this compulsion to celebrate abortion. Even liberal Bill Clinton felt the need to qualify that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare”. Though he supported abortion, he knew that there was something fundamentally distasteful about the procedure. In a day when we're used to squinting over "Baby's First Picture" to try to figure out where the head is on that ultrasound printout, the face of abortion has quite literally changed.

Most of us, I think, agree, which is why we react in horror to Planned Parenthood’s gross marketing ploys, like the “Choice on Earth” Christmas cards, or the “I Had an Abortion” t-shirts. Abortion proponents hope that by normalizing abortion they’ll take the shame and stigma out of it. It doesn’t work. Even those who want it kept legal would rather not think about it or talk about it, because it just isn’t nice.

That’s because each of the roughly three million abortions which have been performed in Canada represents a failure on a multitude of levels. First it is a failure of responsibility. Two people were sexually irresponsible, and now they need a way out. It’s also a failure on the part of the father. Either he rejoices because he gets off free and clear, or he’s in mourning for a child he has no way to protect. It’s a failure for women, too, no matter what Michaelle Jean may say about it. Women tend to want commitment, love, and romance far more than men do. Whose sexual desires, then, does abortion best serve? It’s not women’s. Abortion opens the door to men’s dreams of sex without consequences. Everything is now entirely her responsibility. And if things go wrong, she is the one making the appointment, sitting in the stirrups, and in many cases dealing with the guilt afterwards. Tell me again why this is good for her?

Finally, it’s fundamentally a moral failing, even if you don’t believe abortion is murder. Rather than sacrificing her body and choosing to let her baby live, even if it is with another family (for every child today is wanted, even if not by its biological parents), the woman is putting her own comfort and dreams first. It is ultimately a selfish act, and normally we don’t praise selfishness.

You can celebrate abortion all you want, but that doesn’t change its underlying nature. There’s an old proverb that says “what sorrow is there for those who say that evil is good, and good evil.” We can say abortion is great, but that doesn’t make it so, in the same way that you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. Maybe instead of praising abortion and honouring its biggest proponent, all of us, pro-life and pro-choice, should work together to end this act which represents our society at its worst.

Here's one of the hard parts about writing a column: I only have 700 words. And I can see so much that I left out of this one. I left out any reference to the guilt that she may be feeling afterwards, and that it wasn't my intention to exacerbate that. I could have been nicer in that regard.

I don't think my either-or when it comes to men is fair. I said that men either are relieved or grieving; there's probably more commonly a middle ground, and ambivalence that I didn't leave room for.

And I left out any reference that society had failed, too. But I'm not sure if that's true. We say that all the time: society failed this girl, so that she felt she had no choice. But is that true? If a girl wants to keep a baby, she can get welfare, she can go to a crisis centre and get help. Or she can put the baby up for adoption, and there's tons of medical care available in that scenario. So perhaps society hasn't failed, it's just that these options aren't easy and they take a long time.

Anyway, I hope the column goes over well. I always get nervous about these ones!

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Night Nannies: Wrong on So Many Levels
Just when you thought you heard it all, news comes of more insane child rearing practices by some of the most wealthy (financially, not relationally) in our society.

It turns out that some New Yorkers are hiring night nannies to do the evening shift and get up with crying babies, when both parents have high pressure jobs.

Their nanny works from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. six nights a week. “She swaddles the baby and sings to him and that’s the whole point for us — she has a lot more energy and patience at that point in the day than my husband or I do,” Ms. Roche said. “We are wiped out.”

Night nannies are often treated like heroes, said Barbara Kline, president of White House Nannies in Bethesda, Md. “Suddenly you have a six-pound bundle of chaos, an incredible amount of upheaval in the household, and in swoops this person who can calm the baby and get them to eat and sleep,” she said.

As might be expected, help doesn’t come cheap. A week’s worth of night-nanny services can cost well over a thousand dollars, with nannies earning about $15 to $40 an hour, depending on their experience, the number of babies and the babies’ health. Ms. Seveney says overnight nannies usually spend 6 to 10 weeks with a family with one newborn, and anywhere from two to four months for twins.

I can understand a night nanny if you had triplets or quadruplets. You would need it just to sleep. But my youngest child barely slept for her first six months, and we managed, albeit it was tough.

I think she needed me in the middle of the night to feel secure.

But there's more to it than that. She had to be taught to sleep through the night. She had to be taught to soothe herself. All babies do. And when you're the one who is missing the sleep, you have the incentive to do that.

If I got up with Katie to nurse her, I wouldn't talk to her very much. I'd keep the lights off. I wouldn't make it fun. In the daytime I'd throw on the lights and the music, start a running conversation, tickle her, and do everything I can to let her know THIS IS DAYTIME. YOU SHOULD BE AWAKE NOW.

And eventually it worked. But with a night nanny, where's the incentive to train the child? How can a child have any relationship that's real with his or her parents if it's not even the parents getting up in the middle of the night?

Obviously these moms aren't nursing, either. I loved the solitude with my children, just nursing and humming to them and praying over them, in the dark. Sometimes I did get overtired, but I still loved them. How could you miss out on that?

If you didn't want to care for your kids, then don't have kids. It's as simple as that.

H/T Joanne Jacobs.

In my book Reality Check, a collection of 85 of my favourite columns, I recount my experiences with teaching Katie how to sleep. Read more about that book here! And it's on for super special this summer only!

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Thankful that My Girls Are Safe

This is going to sound like a sad thankful Thursday, but I am just overwhelmed with gratitude for living in Canada instead of some of the hellholes in the world today. Especially as a Christian. Here we have the freedom to pray, worship, evangelize, speak, raise our kids the way we want to, and meet with who we want to. We can have dreams for our kids which will, in all likelihood, be fulfilled. And all of that is because of the rich Christian heritage that our continent has had.

I read this story recently out of Pakistan, and last night I couldn't sleep praying for these two girls. Listen to this:

Saba Younas, aged 13, and her sister Anila were kidnapped last June 26 in the village of Chowk Munda, in the province of Punjab, where they had gone to visit their uncle, Khalid Raheel. This is the same uncle who in recent days reported their kidnapping, asking for help from news organisations and human rights groups.

According to Raheel's account, a Muslim fruit vendor named Muhammad Arif Bajwa kidnapped the girls, and then handed them over to a friend, Falak Sher Gill, who then organised the marriage between his own son and the older of the Christian sisters, Saba. In court, moreover, father and son both stressed the "complete willingness of the girl to contract marriage". The girls' uncle does not conceal his preoccupation, and denounces to AsiaNews that the Muslims involved in the kidnapping are acting as a "gang", recruiting the girls in order to "make them work in a bordello". This alarm has also been heard by the Catholic commission for justice and peace (NCJP) in the country, which confirms the words of Khalid Raheel: the kidnappers are believed to be human traffickers linked to prostitution, known to the police and under the protection of some local politicians. "For these unscrupulous people", charges Naeem Asghar, local coordinator of the NCJP, marriage is a pretence in order to control the girls, run their lives and exploit them for their own business purposes".

Basically, the father and the uncle took the Muslims to court, where the Muslim "husband" of the 13-year-old argued that the two had converted to Islam and had no wish to return to their parents. The judge, a prominent Muslim, took their word for it.

Imagine being in their parents' shoes: you know your daughters are going to be repeatedly raped and told to renounce their religion, and there's nothing you can do.

My daughters are 13 and 10. They are innocent. They are fun-loving. They are wonderful. I cannot imagine such horrors being perpetrated on them.

And yet, for so many girls around the world, that is life. Increasingly the Coptic Christians are being persecuted in the same way. Kidnapping pre-teen Christian girls, forcing them to convert, and then marrying them off is quite common.

All I can think of is the Bible verse: "and if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into th sea with a large millstone tied around his neck." (Luke 9:42). I guess that's not entirely true, because I don't believe these two little girls have sinned if they were coerced into anything. But they have been horribly hurt, and so I pray that God will fulfill His promise here.

And I feel so blessed that my daughters are free from that. Why did God choose us to live here, and not there? That must give us a profound sense of calling to use the resources we do have to make this world a better place, rather than spend our resources on ourselves. We are blessed, but we aren't to hoard the blessing, not when we have so much more than so many do. If I could think of any way to help poor Saba and Anila, I would do it. Any suggestions?

Thanks for stopping by! Don't forget about my book giveaway!

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Works for Me Wednesday: Buying Bessie

Today I would like to tell you about Bessie. I don't know if that's actually her name, but that's what we call her. And I bought half of her.

Bessie is a cow. Or at least she was one. Now she is beef. I have friends who farm, and they do so without antibiotics and hormones. Unless the antibiotics are absolutely necessary. Many farmers just inject them periodically whether they need them or not!

Anyway, we routinely purchase 1/4 or 1/2 a cow whenever they are slaughtering. I know that sounds gross, but the meat tastes great. When you make up the ground beef, there's hardly any grease or liquid, because they don't add water or filling, like they often do at stores.

And it comes out to about $2.30 a pound for everything, including the Porterhouse steaks and the Prime Rib Roast!

I just tell her how I want the cow cut (divided between roasts, steaks, stew beef, ground beef, etc.). I tell her how many steaks I want vs. roasts, or ground, or whatever, and I get exactly what I want.

The only problem for me this time was that I needed to buy it now because she was killing the cow now, and I already had a lot in my freezer. So I had to madly rearrange everything. But here's what it looked like after I emptied my freezer:

Here's the rest of the meat ready to go in the freezer (there are two other bins not in this picture):

At half full, this is what it looked like. And I just noticed I really have to defrost, don't I?

And here we are, piled to the top. I couldn't even get in a package of tortillas after this. I tried.

Our family can't eat all this in a year, so we'll have to have company over a lot! And I'm giving some of the ground beef away. But it's a wonderful feeling having a full freezer. I've written down everything we have on a piece of paper to keep inventory, too.

My friend also sells chickens, which she'll have ready in November. I can't believe how much better they taste than the store bought ones. We'll have to eat through a bunch of roasts to make room!

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book giveaway, or my Wifey Wednesday post!

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Wifey Wednesdsay: Making Him Drool

It's Wednesday, which means it's time to think about marriage!

Last week Terry over at Ornaments of Grace was talking about wardrobe in a wonderfully honest and humorous post. Here's part of what she said:

The other morning as I was getting dressed the husband said to me: “You need to go buy some clothes.” I responded that I really didn’t want to spend money on clothes. To which he responded, “Buy some clothes.” That’s all he said. He’s a man of few words. I got a little concerned because while I knew that I was well overdue for a shopping trip (aren’t MOST moms?), I didn’t think I was so horribly dressed as to be commanded to buy clothes and buy them now! Being the open minded gal that I am I decided to take a second look in the mirror. I was in my standard weekday uniform: jeans, t-shirt, and flip flops. It was at this moment I noted my problem.

For the record, the problem wasn’t the blue jeans per se. My husband rather likes the way I look in a pair of jeans. The problem was the lack of effort apparent in the t-shirt, flip flops, ponytail, and no make-up that accompanied the blue jeans. I had become a carbon copy of the jeans, t-shirt, and birkenstock wearing soccer moms typical in my suburban neighborhood. What's worse, I'd promised myself years ago that I would never do that. Of course, I felt that way for all the wrong reasons, being fashion conscious back then, but I felt it nonetheless. You may remember me telling you before, I hate uniforms!

Go read the whole thing.

Terry brings up something we all need to think about. Men are visually stimulated. We may think that's stupid, or silly, or shallow, but they are. We can't change that. And I think every man wants to feel that other guys are jealous of him. He wants his wife to be good-looking, and supportive, and a good mom, and fun, and all kinds of things. All of those are important. But I want to talk about our appearances first.

Do you take trouble about what you look like, or are you totally overwhelmed? This week we finally took the trouble to put all our family portraits on the wall, and it is amazing how awful I looked when the kids were young compared to what I look like today. Today I have time to put on makeup, and do my hair, and dress well. I didn't then.

Or did I? Maybe I just didn't make it as much a priority. I have other friends who managed to do it. I wish, looking back, that I had taken more care about my appearance then, because I probably would have had more confidence, too.

Terry also mentions that we often get dressed up on the weekends, when we're heading out, then on the weekdays, when we're just home with the kids. But who should we be dressing up for? Shouldn't it be our husbands? And isn't it fun to make yourself look good?

When I speak to women, I use a "Nightgown" prop. It's hideous. It's oversized, it's flannel, and it leaves everything to the imagination. They say a little mystery is a good thing; this is way too much. When I hold it up, everyone laughs, and everyone gets the picture. Of course, some people wear flannel like this because their husbands insist on keeping the house at 50 degrees at night, and to those men, I like to say, "if you want to turn the heat up in the bedroom, you might want to actually turn the heat up." But for the rest of us, what do you wear to bed? Do you take care to wear something attractive? Or do you just look dumpy? Because if you look dumpy, you'll feel dumpy, too.

My daughters and I love watching What Not to Wear, and I think what we love most about it is the personality transformations by the end of the show. These women, who were docile and passive, have become assertive because they know they look good. There's something to that. When we put in the effort, our whole demeanor changes.

So what do you do if your closet is full of clothes but you don't look good in any of them? Get rid of them. It's better to have five outfits that make you feel wonderful than thirty that make you feel awful. It doesn't matter if you bought it on sale. It doesn't matter if you've had it forever. Chuck it.

Spend some real money on fewer clothes, rather than a little money on tons of things on sale. Or go shopping at consignment stores, where they sell second hand designer clothes. I've picked up a ton of things there, and the owners of such places are often very helpful about putting things together.

Now, what about make up? Maybe you're not a make-up person, but I think a little lipstick never hurt anyone. And remember, everyone should be wearing some sunscreen foundation or moisturizer everyday anyway, so you may as well put something on your face!

As for hair, go get a really good cut that suits you. If you can't afford it, try one of the beauty salon schools in your area. They're often cheaper, though they take longer. And you can have a friend highlight your hair. It can be like you're teenagers again!

What about weight? Let's get honest here for a minute. Women gain weight. We just do, especially after pregnancy. We're not meant to be size 6 forever, and I think slightly pear shaped is our natural shape after 40. But that doesn't mean that we should just accept it and eat whatever we want. I think we owe it to ourselves to watch what we eat and get a little active, even if it just means taking a brisk walk every night after dinner to talk with our hubby. You don't need to be super-thin; and what makes a woman attractive is often her attitude. Dress in nice clothes and feel confident, and twenty or thirty pounds won't matter as much. One hundred will, though.

Perhaps this post seems like I'm nagging all of you, and I don't mean that. I just think that if women put as much effort in looking good for our husbands as we do for strangers, our marriages would be infinitely better. And we'd have awfully happy husbands!

What about you? Do you have any marriage advice you want to share? Simply copy the picture at the top by right clicking it and saving it, and then write your own post. Come on back over here and enter the URL below. I'd love to hear what you have to say!

And don't forget my book giveaway!

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Is Your Child Using the Summer to Catch Up with School?

I know last year my best friend used the summer to teach her child to read--since the school system had failed to do it in her grade one year. Tutor businesses thrive during the summer, trying to make up for what the schools don't do.

I think one of the problems is that schools have given up forcing kids to memorize basic things, like multiplication tables. Here's an excellent post over at Joanne Jacobs' education blog:

One reason for the teacher frustration is that the state’s math gurus have de-emphasized memorization in favor of “conceptual thinking.” The same philosophy has crept into English classes, where “creativity” has been elevated over knowledge of grammar, and into history classes, where knowing historical trends — “the big picture” — has replaced knowing dates of important events. The result is seniors who are not just incapable of multiplication, but also unable to identify the verb in a sentence or come within 100 years of placing the Civil War.

I’ve never believed that people are better able to understand concepts if they know no facts. Perhaps the ignorant are more creative — but not in a good way.

I totally agree. We've made our kids memorize all the Presidents (and we're Canadian!), all the English Kings and Queens, starting with Ethelbert, and the dates of all the major wars from the War of the Roses to the present. And they've had to memorize all the multiplication tables!

I don't believe this stuff about how memorization isn't fun. Memorization is actually quite easy for children--far easier than it is for adults. If we can make use of that window from 6-12 when kids are geared for memorizing and learning, we can put all kinds of interesting things in their brains!

My children also memorize poetry. Rebecca can do a really dramatic version of The Cremation of Sam McGee, which is an awfully long poem, but it's quite rhythmic.

If your children don't know their math facts, why not use this summer to teach them? It doesn't sound fun, but it will reap huge rewards. Here's the easiest way I've found to tackle them:

Start with the 2's.

Then do the squares (2 x2, 6x6, etc.)

Next the 5's, which you can learn by counting by 5.

Next the 9's. There are several tricks for the 9's. For instance, if you're doing 9x4, you take away one from the four, which gives you 3. Now, what do you add to 3 to get 9? 6. So the answer is 36. Try it. It always works!

Next the 4's.

Now, you only have a few facts left over (8x7, 8x6, etc.) I think there are about 8 of them, and you just have to memorize them.
Here's another trick for 8x7: Think 5-6-7-8. Because 7x8 = 56!

Anyone else have any favourite tricks for helping kids memorize math?

For more posts on this subject, see:
The Curse of Fuzzy Math
One Size Doesn't Fit All (about learning disabilities in boys)
Don't Mess with History

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Book Giveaway: To Love, Honor and Vacuum!
Hello faithful readers! As many of you know, I'm the author of several books, including To Love, Honor and Vacuum. (You can read more about it here.)

In order to keep up with my readers, I send out a quarterly newsletter by email telling what's going on in my life, where I'm speaking, what I'm thinking about, and lots more! I'd love to include you on the distribution list.

So for this month, whoever signs up to receive the newsletter will be entered in a draw to win To Love, Honor and Vacuum! I'm going to do the draw as soon as I get back from my cruise, on July 31. So for the rest of the month, go here and sign up, and you could win!

Do you feel harried? Taken for granted? Like you never have enough time in the day to get everything done that needs to get done, let alone anything that you actually want to do?

Then you need to enter this draw! To Love, Honor and Vacuum: When you feel more like a maid than a wife and a mother helps women find peace in the midst of their hectic lives. I give it to you straight: do you do everything around your house, but never have time for the important things? Are you inadvertently teaching your family members to treat you with disrespect? Or are you simply overwhelmed by keeping a house while you've also got toddlers underfoot?

I'll teach you how to put first things first, and foster relationships where you'll feel more appreciated, less harried, and more fulfilled.

I hope you win! I'll keep this post at the top of the page until then. Good luck!

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Tackle it Tuesday: My Storage Room
We've only lived in our house for a year, but it's amazing how messy things can get. I have a wonderfully big storage room in our new house, which is the repository for anything we can't find a place for. Some of it is logical: craft supplies, Christmas stuff, camping gear, and all my inventory for when I speak (I have to have multiple copies of my 5 books and all my CDs and DVDs on hand, and it takes up a lot of room).

Last Christmas this room was gorgeous. But it just went downhill from there. So I spent all day tackling it. I'm going to show the before and after pictures together so you can get a sense of what I did.

Here's what greets you when you walk in. Before then after.

Here's what greets you when you turn to your left.

I can't believe how much better it feels!

I have a friend who is moving after over a decade in the same house, and she's cleaning out her storage area for the first time. She's having a horrible time at it. I've just decided that you have to do each room at least once a year, or it gets out of hand.

This week we also have to move all our stuff out of my main floor because we're having hardwood put in. So I get to weed through all my books and knick knacks, too!

It's amazing how there actually is a place for stuff, if you organize it. You don't have to just throw it on the ground! And when you tidy up, a lot more fits.

Off to do the books...

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And don't miss my book giveaway!

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Abortion as Birth Control
Britain seems to be a lot more honest about abortion than us here in North America. They report every year not just on the number of abortions, but also on the number of repeat abortions, and break it down by category. They can tell you how many have had 7 or 8 abortions, and how many teenagers have repeat abortions. I haven't seen stuff like that in the mainstream media here.

The Royal College of Obstetricians apparently also has said that abortion can cause mental stress, something that doctors in North America are yet to admit.

My column for the week coming up is on abortion. Canada's Governor General has named Henry Morgentaler to the Order of Canada. For those of you who don't know who Morgentaler is, he's the face of abortion in Canada. He was arrested multiple times for performing abortions illegally, fought in court, and eventually won, opening clinics across the country and lobbying for abortion to be publicly funded (which he won). Without him, we wouldn't have abortion the way we do. And our Governor General just gave him our most prestigious award.

My column is already written and sent in, but in retrospect I wish I had written more on women's guilt. I think I may have been unduly harsh, but I'll leave that for you to decide on Friday when I print it.

For now, let me give you a glimpse of abortion coverage in Britain, where the Daily Mail is profiling, quite unfavourably, a woman who had seven abortions.It says:

After her third termination, aged 26, she tried to kill herself by overdosing on alcohol and painkillers and spent eight weeks in a psychiatric unit. And yet the ease with which she was able to secure a fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh abortion with no proper assessment is astounding.

Indeed, she reveals that she went to the same abortion clinic for each of her terminations and claims she was offered only the most cursory of counselling before every one.

'I do wish that someone in those clinics had really sat down with me and talked it through properly,' says Angela, who is now undergoing counselling to help her cope with her past actions.

'The reason why I had so many abortions is that I didn't want to bring a child into the world unless my situation was perfect - but it never was. 'With each termination I felt it was my responsibility to get on with my own life and forget about it. After each one I just blanked out the emotions and never thought about it. I felt no remorse at

She says she felt no remorse, but the article details her suicide attempts and depression. It's really quite sad, although she did keep one baby and he is now the joy of her life.

I think that's interesting--she thought her situation had to be perfect first. How did we ever make people think that? For millenia people have been having children before they had much money. After all, we tend to have kids when we're young, and that's before we're established. This thought that you need to have stuff first is ridiculous. Certainly we need an apartment, and money for food, but to get rid of a child because you don't have enough is silly.

Perhaps she meant that her relationship needed to be perfect. She may have a point there. But if the guy she's dating isn't fatherhood material, why is she having sex with him in the first place?

I've written another column about this phenomenon:

In the recently released movie Knocked Up, professional journalist Alison discovers she is pregnant from a drunken one-night stand with loser Ben. She doesn’t want to raise the child alone, so she chases Ben down and tries to turn him into fatherhood material. I think Alison’s onto something. Single parenthood is a rough road, and Alison knows that her baby will need a dad.

Unfortunately, Alison did everything backwards. She got into a relationship without realizing that this guy may end up being the father of her children. It’s better to make sure a guy will make a good dad before you wind up pregnant. For many young women, though, fatherhood material is the last thing on their minds. They’re looking for cool, popular, even a little dangerous, or simply someone to like them. None of those things ultimately holds up.

You can read my conclusions to that one here!

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Menu Planning Monday: The Eating Frenzy

It is really dumb to do a big grocery shop one week before you leave for a 10-day Alaskan cruise. Really dumb.

Nevertheless, that is what I did. So this week, we need to eat, eat, eat! No one is allowed to open a tin of anything, because those will keep. We must eat fresh! I have so much luncheon meat and bread and vegetables I don't know how we'll get through it all.

To top it all off, I had family over for dinner on Saturday, and I wasn't sure how many people were coming, so I took more out of the freezer than I needed. Some people showed up with meat, too, so I have a bunch of meat in my fridge that must be eaten.

And my husband is on call a lot this week, and I don't barbecue. So everything must go my way in order to get this mountain of food eaten! Maybe we'll have to have company...

So here goes:

Monday: Quick fry pork chops. They're easy, and they're already defrosted. The clock is ticking. I'll also try to use up the broccoli with this one. I like marinating the pork in a mango curry sauce I bought, and then serving it with Indian rice. It tastes yummy, and I find these quick fry pork things have a tendency to become tough unless you cook them slowly in liquid.

Tuesday: Steak. I still have four defrosted, and there are four of us. Works perfectly! My favourite method of doing potatoes in summer is to barbecue them in foil. I slice them really thinly, and then slice carrots really thinly. Then I mince some garlic. Now you get the foil packet ready. Lightly butter the foil, then place one layer of potatoes. Cover with a few dabs of butter and salt and pepper and a little garlic. Do a layer of carrots and potatoes and repeat. I rarely do more than 4 layers in a packet because otherwise it doesn't cook properly. These are heavenly!

Wednesday: Pork souvlaki. Again, left over from the barbecue, and we're pushing it leaving it until Wednesday. But these are vacuum sealed, so I think they'll stay fresh longer. I'll do these with rice and whatever vegetables still exist in my fridge.

Thursday: Soup leftovers. I know I'm going to have leftovers, so I'm going to have to do a soup!

Friday: Hamburgers on the barbecue.

And that's it! Then we're off to Alaska. We're taking my in-laws for their 40th anniversary while the girls are going to camp. I've never been away from the girls for two weeks before. They're excited about camp, and they've been there before, but usually I've volunteered. So this will be a new one for me!

Thanks for stopping by! Why not look around a while? I've got posts on what do with old pictures, marriage, teens, and more!

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My Year in Pictures
I have a new post up over at the Homeschool Blog Awards with my year in pictures! You can see all the stuff we did in our homeschool this year over there.

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What Do You Do with Old Photos?
Last year we moved into our new house. We bought some new furniture. We put new floors down upstairs; next week we're finally putting hardwood on the main floor. Everything is put away.

Except the pictures. I never did get around to putting them on the wall. So most of them were in a corner of our living room until yesterday, when a cleaning frenzy hit me 1 1/2 hours before company were due for dinner. It was rather stupid, but I ended up sifting through them all.

I have 8 x10 family photos of us for just ages. Some of them are downright embarrassing. And most of the little photos in the frames on our tables are old, too. Those ones are downright cute, and I still love them. But I don't have a lot of pictures of my girls from the last 4 years out around my house. I would like to.

So here's my question: what do you do with the old photos? Do you keep them, and just keep adding more? Or do you eventually weed them out? And if you stop displaying some 8 x 10s, what in the world do you do with them? Throw them out? Keep them? I do have wallets of everything.

Along the same vein, here are some great pictures I took with my new camera on Friday. I already have these up and framed and on my wall. Here's a sampling, from a day at my brother-in-law's pool:

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Letter to Me
Every week I write a syndicated family column that appears in several newspapers in Canada and the United States. Here is this week's, which is a longer version of an earlier blog entry (in case you think you recognize parts of it!):

I am a complete sap for tear jerker country music songs. One of my current favourites is Brad Paisley’s “Letter to Me”, where he writes a letter to himself at seventeen, with all the things he wishes he could have known back then.

Thinking back on my 17-year-old days, I’ve come up with several things that could have helped me along the way, too. Here they are:

I know your biggest fear right now is being alone. You've been without a boyfriend for two years now and I know you feel desperate. You’re not going to believe what I’m about to say, but it’s actually better to be alone at this stage of your life, because
you can concentrate on who you want to be without a guy getting in the middle of it. So take this time to read, to work, to make friendships, talk to interesting people, and figure out what you like. You don’t need a guy to do that. Looking back, that hiatus was one of the best times of growth for you. So don’t cry. Your day will come.

But I don’t mean to be so callous. I know you feel lonely right now, and worry that your friends don't understand you. Most of them don't! But one day you'll be in a position to find friends that are more like you. You'll be able to choose your university, choose your workplace, choose your church. You'll find great people there, I promise. Right now you're stuck in a school you can't get out of. That's okay. It won't last forever. Just try to be a blessing to those with you now and make the best of it.

And when you do get to university and you do make great friends, keep in touch. Don’t let distance and busyness come between you. You’re going to miss them later on, and wish you’d written more letters.

You’ve got seasons tickets to the ballet right now, and you love all the restaurants in Toronto. Careful that you don’t become a snob. In about a decade you’re going to realize how awful the city really is, and you’re going to run as fast as you can to a small town. So get ready now! Learn to play cards. Learn to like barbecue. And learn to drive! Not every place has a subway, you know.

You’ve already been overseas once on a mission trip, but more are coming. Make the most of them. Take tons of pictures of kids’ faces. And don’t turn away because the poverty makes you uncomfortable. Look at it. Breathe it. Remember that most of the world lives like that, and you’re getting the chance to see it. Sear it into your memory, so that you never let your life become about money.

Sometimes family relationships get awkward and we don’t know what to say, so we don’t say anything. Open your mouth, especially to your uncle. You’ll find out why later. And your mother understands you more than you think she does. Give her a break. She’s done a great job raising you, so try to look at things from her point of view. One day you’re going to be great friends!

You know those kids with Down Syndrome at the camp you counsel at? Don't ignore them. I know they make you feel awkward, but you're looking in the face of your future son. Love them and have fun with them, and it will be easier for you when you hear the news in a few years.

You're going to cry more tears over the next ten years then you will imagine. But one day, you will see how those tears were used to build you into a strong person. So at your lowest points, believe that God isn’t going to leave you.

You're going to fall in love in a few years with a man you will think is perfect. Take a step back. Does he let you be yourself? Does he ask you about you? Relationships can't be based on hero worship. Run away fast. You'll save yourself a lot of heartache.

And by the way, while you're running away from your boyfriend, take another look at your best friend. Sometimes best friends really do make the best husbands!

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And Reality Check, the book, is filled with 85 of my favourite columns. Need a great bathroom read? Check it out!

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How Kids See the World
I am being so productive this week, you would be very proud of me!

One of the things I am tackling is my office. I have decided I am allergic to paper and it is best to get rid of it. So I've been going through all the piles and getting rid of stuff and dealing with stuff. It's awesome.

And I came across this gem, that my youngest daughter Katie wrote when she was 6. See if you can make it out:

For those of you who need a translation, here's what it says: "Once there was a eagle. She had a mother. Her mother had to work all day but sometimes she can be home and have hot chocolate. Their father can be home every day so eagle can be safe."

Do you think this child had an issue with her mother working so hard and leaving her?

Obviously she did. But the funny thing is that when Katie was 6 I was homeschooling her. Just like I do today. She saw me 24/7 all the time, except when I was out on a speaking engagement (I do a lot of women's retreats, women's rallies, and other events). I think this particular one was when I had flown down to Dallas for three days to do a TV show to promote To Love, Honor and Vacuum.

Anyway, Keith, my husband, is a doctor. He's on call a lot, and quite often we don't see him for 24 hours at a time. Last night he was called in at 2 a.m., poor man, and I haven't seen him since. So he was hardly ever home.

But that's not what Katie wrote about, because to her, I had abandoned her by going to Dallas for three days.

I'm going to keep this in a very safe place. I'm not allergic to this; I think it's hilarious. And Katie likes it, too. It's fun looking back over your kids when they were younger. I only wish I could go back, even just for 15 minutes, and hug them when they were that size again.

Oh, well. I'll have to wait for grandchildren, I guess!

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What's in a Name?
Apparently Nicole Kidman has named her daughter Sunday.

Now that, in and of itself, doesn't sound so bad for a celebrity. Sunday is a family day. It's a spiritual day. Naming a child after something like that, while strange, is not bad.

But that's not why she picked the name.

She was named after a woman named Sunday Reed, a prominent Australian from early in the last century. Here's a little bit of that first Sunday's biography:

Sunday Reed lived for nine years during the 1930s in a three-way love triangle relationship involving her arts patron husband and one of Australia's best-known artists, Sidney Nolan. She eventually became Nolan's muse.

Nolan is best known in his homeland for a series of stylised paintings of famous
outlaw Ned Kelly, who battled police in an armoured suit and whose final days were turned into several films variously starring Mick Jagger and late Australian actor Heath Ledger, who died of a drug overdose in January.

Sunday Reed was also niece of one of Australia's richest men and Nolan painted his Ned Kelly series, several of which hang in the Australian National Gallery, in her living room.

Reed committed suicide 10 days after the death of her husband in 1981.

So the woman was promiscuous. She was an adulterer. She was involved in the artist scene, where they glorified violence. And she committed suicide. Of course you'd want to name your daughter after her!

But wait, it gets better.

Nicole and her husband Keith Urban had spent a long time looking at a quote by Nolan about birth, hanging in a Sydney art gallery, shortly before announcing
Kidman's pregnancy in January 2008.

'When you are young you are given a good view of life, because of your closeness to birth,' Nolan wrote.

Honestly, is that a good quotation? That doesn't mean anything. It's not well written. It's not poetic. Only people who truly have no class and no education could think that that is profound. What about these quotations:

Whoever saves one life saves the world entire. (Jewish proverb)

A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.
Maya Angelou

We cannot do great things on this Earth, only small things with great love.
Mother Theresa

No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars or sailed an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.
Helen Keller

And those are just off the top of my head!

Why do celebrities always think they are profound by celebrating that which is base, degraded, and not really that original? I think it's because they can't recognize true, simple beauty when it is before their eyes.

And so they have named their daughter after someone no one should want to emulate. And names do matter.

Increasingly people are rejecting the good, solid Biblical names that had meaning--names like Rebecca, Rachel, Hannah, Lydia, Elizabeth, Mary, Susanna--and replacing them with names that sound nice and novel, but are just fluff.

I want my child to have a name rooted in history and tradition. A name that is not new, floating away on the wind, but something that is grounded in meaning. Interestingly, people are far more likely to experiment with girls' names than with boys' names. Boys need the stable; girls can afford to be cute. But can you picture anyone taking a 40-year-old woman seriously with a name like Apple, Sunday, or Bryahnnna? (and I'm not kidding about the spelling of that last one. You should see some of the names that appear at the hospital where my husband works).

I guess it's because we think of our babies as playthings, rather than as creatures who will one day grow up and be independent. We should be preparing kids, from the moment of their birth, to be the mature, independent, responsible adults that we one day want them to be. So let's name them accordingly. Is that so much to ask?

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Wifey Wednesday: A More Holistic Approach to Life

It's Wednesday, so it's time for some marriage thoughts!

I'm in the middle of writing a "How Women See It" column for the Canadian Promise Keepers magazine about the family/work balance, so that's what I've been thinking about a lot lately.

And here's what I've come up with: there really is something to that "Men are like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti" thing. Men are compartmentalized. When they're at work, they work. When they're at home, they rest. Women, when they're at work, are thinking about work, and laundry, and when the next doctor's appointment is for Jenny, and how Junior is going to get to the soccer game. We aren't compartmentalized.

My friend Paul Henderson, who scored the famous 1972 goal in the Canada/U.S.S.R. hockey series, uses this analogy when he speaks at marriage conferences. He can be in the living room having a rip roaring fight with his wife, but then she'll walk into the bedroom, and his hands will start to wander. All over her. And she gets mad. "What are you doing?!" She'll yell. "We're fighting!". And he'll say, "We were in the fighting room. Now we're in the sex room. So I thought you had moved on!".

I think oftentimes men don't put in the effort at home that they do at work because they are compartmentalized. I'm not just talking about cleaning the toilets or replacing the toilet paper rolls. While these are annoyances, they're not the big issues. I mean this: at work they make plans. They think about when the next promotion is coming, what new products we need to push next year, what my salary will be in a year after the bonus. They think ahead.

But home is to relax, and so they don't want to work. They come home and they want to play. So they often leave the hard stuff, like discipline, or decisions over which activities the kids are going to be involved in, or worrying about what friends the kids have, to their wives.

One thing I talk at length about in my book To Love, Honor and Vacuum is that home life has changed significantly lately, so much so that it's much harder to make the traditional family work in our current culture. You have to really make an effort. Two hundred years ago there was no divide between work and family. The family toiled together and either prospered or starved together. The kids worked alongside the parents. Now it's so separate that it's made it harder, I think, for men to find their bearings in their homes.

So what do you do as a woman when you're husband doesn't seem to take as seriously as you do some of the issues your children are having in school, with peers, or even with obedience? What do you do when your husband won't spend the necessary time with your kids that you know they need?

Here's an idea: make the kids work. We often expect our husbands to play with the kids, but they may not be into that. But they are into accomplishing tasks. A friend of mine was over 40 when his children were born, and he isn't comfortable getting down on his hands and knees with trucks. He's a contractor. But this summer he's been laying hardwood floor in their home, and his 6-year-old son is having the time of his life helping. They don't get a lot of one-on-one time together, but in work, they somehow seem to gel.

I know some men may turn their kids away because it makes the job take longer, but try to encourage your husband to take the kids when he needs to run to Home Depot, or do something else. Men work, they don't play with kids. So get kids involved. That's the way men used to relate to kids, anyway: they mentored them as they learned to work, too. It's only in our culture that that's been taken away.

And here's another tip: if your husband doesn't seem overly involved in the home, try to use strategic planning to your advantage. Many men spend hours strategically planning at work. Why not at home? Take some time when it's just the two of you. Maybe go out for dinner, or go on a hike, and bring a notebook along. And ask what he wants his family to look like in 5 years. In 10 years. In 15 years. Now ask how you're going to get there.

What tools do you need to accomplish that? Are you on the right road now? What needs to change? What should we be doing differently? If you want a son who will come to you for advice at 16, what should your relationship look like when he's 6? Start asking these questions, but don't answer them. Let him answer them. And maybe, if he starts thinking about these issues, you just might find that he is more purposeful at home, too, because he'll see that home is not just a place to relax. It's a place to be meaningful.

What about you? Do you have any marriage advice you'd like to share? Here's how to participate: just copy the picture at the top of this post, go write a blog entry with the picture on it, and then come back here and enter the URL of your post. I'd love to hear from you!

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Proof That Bureaucrats Don't Have Children
Did you hear about this story?

Toddlers who dislike spicy food 'racist'
The National Children's Bureau, which receives £12 million a year, mainly from Government funded organisations, has issued guidance to play leaders and nursery teachers advising them to be
alert for racist incidents among youngsters in their care.

This could include a child of as young as three who says "yuk" in response to being served unfamiliar foreign food.

The guidance by the NCB is designed to draw attention to potentially-racist attitudes in youngsters from a young age.

Are they nuts? When my children were two they said "yuck" at anything that remotely resembled a sauce. No spaghetti sauce, no stew, no marinated chicken, and certainly nothing where everything was mixed together. Did that make them racist?

Luckily, they ate vegetables galore, so I didn't get the "yuck" at broccoli that many parents do. But "yuck" is a child's first response to things they don't know well. That isn't a racist sentiment; that's human nature. As adults, we try to coax our kids to eat more and more foods and try more and more things because it's healthy, and it's also fun! I love Indian food, but it took my children until they were 10 to try it. But it's a fun part of life.

Obviously the bureaucrats in this story have far too much time on their hands and no sense of perspective. But this leads me to two major conclusions:

1. They likely do not have children themselves. Increasingly you can divide our culture into two groups: those with kids, and those without. Now this is a generalization, because I know people without kids who are perfectly sane and in fact wise. Increasingly, though, people have chosen career over family, and so career has taken such an importance that it can lead to things like this bureaucratic directive.

Think about it: if you do not have children, you likely live for your job, unless you're well grounded in other areas. I'm not talking about infertile people here; that's a whole other class, because culturally they're quite similar. I'm talking about those who choose not to have children.

I know the birth rate is plummeting in most countries except the United States, but what people don't realize is that it's not that most people are only having 1 or 2 children now, but that more and more women aren't having any. The average family size OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE CHILDREN is actually increasing. They say that 3 is the new 2. It used to be the norm to have two children; now people don't tend to stop until 3. But if more and more people aren't having children at all, that puts the birth rate way down. But it also brings a major cultural divide between the childless by choice and those whose lives revolve around multiple soccer games and doctor appointments and figuring out how to save money on back to school clothes.

Some people, of course, want kids, but don't figure this out until they're 38 because they've been investing in their career. That's part of the problem. Without kids, career becomes too important, and you can develop a sense of self-importance because you don't have anything to give you a sense of perspective. And so you start viewing your job, rather than your personal life, as the way that you can change the world. And so you get ridiculous directives like this, likely written by someone who has never had to feed a toddler.

2. But there's something else going on here that I find strange. It is assumed that if people express a preference for the familiar, this is somehow a bad thing. Of course, note that in this case only white children can be racist for disparaging "foreign food". If an Indian British child stuck his nose up at Yorkshire pudding, would he be considered racist? It's implicit in this that only the native English can be racist.

However, aren't we all programmed to like the familiar? Isn't that how we learn about the world? A child expresses a preference for his or her parents above everyone else, and cries if he or she is separated from them. They can only sleep with their blankie or their teddy. They need a certain song to soothe them. They don't react well to vacations, because they're away from home.

Children need the familiar. We all do. Even adults need the familiar. Why else would we go to a McDonald's when we're in Cairo, even though we rarely frequent it at home? It's because it reminds us of home when we're homesick. And is that really so bad?

Preferring the familiar does not mean that we disparage the unfamiliar, or that we are evil. It means that we are human. These bureaucrats are trying to remake humans in their own image, but it can't be done. That job is already taken by Someone far better at it. I hope they figure that out before they mess things up even more.

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Managing Vs. Mentoring
Thanks for all your comments on the post below about age appropriate chores!

I want to clarify a couple of things, so go here and read this post first if you're just joining the conversation.

Okay, are you back now? Great!

A couple of people have posted that they actually think my list is too young--which is great! That means I'm not a child abuser.

But I need to clarify what I mean by those ages. I mean that at that age, you can tell them to do it, and they will do it without supervision. So clean your room at 8 means that at 8, they can put everything away. They know where it goes. Perhaps twice a year you may have to go in there and reorganize all their drawers, but on the whole, they are responsible for their room.

If they're responsible at 8, though, that means they're doing it long before 8. It takes a child a while to master the task.

I was talking to a good friend of mine recently and she put it like this. When she was a little girl, every night she stood on a stool beside her mother and dried dishes. Then, when she was 10, her mother handed her the dischloth, and she started to wash dishes. But she had observed her mother doing dishes for so many years that she could jump right in.

That is mentoring. It's walking alongside your child to train your child.

Unfortunately, too many of us just manage. We assign chores, but we don't take long enough to truly help the child master what it is they're supposed to do. So what I would do with the list I wrote below is take everything on it, and two years before, start mentoring your child in that task, so by the time they reach that age, they can accept the job on their own.

I hope that makes some sense! I'd love to hear more comments!

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How Old is Old Enough?
I've been having a debate with several mothers lately on the age that it's appropriate to expect children to do different chores. Some think I'm too hard on my kids, but I don't think so.

Read Little House on the Prairie and see what Laura was expected to do when she was really young! Our kids have it easy. All over the world little children have tremendous responsibility at a very young age. I'm not saying that I advocate child labour; only this idea that kids aren't able to do tasks young is an entirely North American phenomenon.

They're not able because we've never taught them and we haven't raised them in an environment where they would expect to have to work. They think life is about being entertained.

I just can't understand 13 and 14-year-olds who go off to summer camp for a few weeks, for instance, who don't pack their own suitcases. Why is mom packing for them at that age? And what about a 10-year-old who doesn't know where to start when it comes to cleaning their room?

So I'm going to suggest a few ages for things, and I'd love comments on what you think. This is a rough guide; I may revise it later. But here is what I think is reasonable to expect from children (which means that you have to teach it to them at that age, of course):

Age 4: Put toys away. Dust a coffee table. Clean the outside of the stove and the bottom of the fridge. Get dressed by yourself.

Age 5: Brush teeth by yourself (especially with an egg timer there). Start putting dishes in the dishwasher. Choose your own clothes (not for boys, though. I don't think they ever get that color-coordinated thing).

Age 6: Make your own bed.

Age 7: Dry dishes. Put your own laundry away after Mom folds it.

Age 8: Clean room by yourself. Tidy anywhere in the house. Clean a bathroom. Wash dishes while standing on a stool (no pots). Pack for yourself if you're going away.

Age 9: Wash dishes. Fold laundry. Make cookies by yourself, and cake from a mix.

Age 10: Put a load of clothes in the washing machine. Mop a floor.

Age 11: Vacuum. Make three different meals (spaghetti, chicken pie, ham, for instance). Supervise younger siblings by yourself.

Age 12: Baby-sit. Sort out the organization of your own room, or a linen closet, or a front hall.

Age 13: Be pretty much self-reliant. Need Mom more for advice about any household task, but already know how to do them all. Start to become independent by using a clothing allowance.

Age 14: Start to buy your own toiletries, with allowance if parents prefer. You're responsible for your shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, etc. Allowances can be given on monthly basis for this.

I think that's it. What do you think? That's what I'm aiming for, because I believe that what we want to do is raise children who will be capable of being independent at 18. That doesn't mean we don't help or give advice when needed, but we need to raise kids who are capable of looking after themselves. And they can't learn everything starting at 16!

If we do all of these things for them, then they also grow up thinking that it is the mother's job to look after them, and they can't be expected to do any work. If that's what they think, they're likely to become lazy adults, or selfish adults, who don't realize when they are putting other people out. We all know people like that; people who take advantage of your hospitality, or who expect you to bail them out of a jam, because they don't realize how much work is involved. Or maybe they just think they deserve it, because someone has always done everything for them.

Being a Christian mom does not mean that we do everything for the family. It means we work hard to work ourselves out of a job. I know not every family would be able to work towards that timeline. Learning disabilities, or maturity levels, would also play a part. Some children will be ready for things before others. I just encourage you to think about what you want your children to be able to do, so that they do become teenagers who are motivated and helpful.

So please comment: is this list fair? Have I left anything out? Am I too easy on the kids? Too hard? I'd love to know!

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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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