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I Can Feel It Coming in the Air Tonight....
And I'm not talking about the excitement I just felt when I learned that Sarah Palin plans to homeschool her kids and she did her acceptance speech in red peep toes! Oh, yeah, baby.

No, what I can feel is POLLEN. Lots and lots of POLLEN.

And so can my daughter, who is miserable. She is sneezing all the time despite the record amount of antihistamines we are giving her. It's just a rotten time of year.

I hate allergies. Just hate them. I grew up with them, too, and my eyes would swell up and run constantly, and I couldn't stop sneezing. It's times like that that you can barely keep your eyes open.

Rebecca complains that the skin around her mouth gets all itchy and irritated, and she's always scratching and sniffing, which is much more fun, apparently, if done on lottery tickets, not that I would know.

Anyway, it just seems that as summer is fading it has to rub it in. We can't just enjoy the lovely weather that we still have; we have to hibernate in our homes, with the windows tightly shut, so that nothing EVIL can enter.

I have to go now and get some more Kleenex.

To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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More Thoughts on Moms in Politics
Around the blogosphere there's a lot of talk that maybe Palin isn't a good pick because she should be home with her baby.

I'm sympathetic. I really am.

But here's where I see it.

When I look at Palin, I look at almost a Deborah figure.

She didn't set out to go into politics, unlike Hillary Clinton. She didn't have some master plan of her life. She was just a mom who was upset at things at the school, so she joined the PTA and tried to fix them. Then she ran for city council for the same reason, and started to fix things.

Then she was asked to run for mayor, which she did, and she--you've got it--fixed things.

Then it was the Ethics Committee for the Oil & Gas Industry, where she discovered corruption, and reported it. And then it was the governorship.

She never asked to be on the VP list. But she is determined to do a good job, and from what I hear (though I could be wrong) her husband is home lots with the kids.

She's not running on behalf of women's rights, or downplaying stay-at-home moms, the way a lot of female politicians do. She's not saying that women need to take a more public role in life. She's just been in the right place at the right time in Alaska to get rid of some very entrenched corruption on the part of the Old Boys' Network.

Which is why she reminds me of a Deborah. Or a Margaret Thatcher, for that matter.

I'm uncomfortable with the baby being so young, although I think he's been with her in the office a lot. But I guess you can't help the timing of the election. And I do think that she is the best candidate from McCain's point of view, because she is so big on anti-corruption and on energy.

On the whole I think women should stay at home, although, as a physician's wife myself, I know many female physicians whose husbands stay at home instead, and it works quite well. The children still have a consistent parent for a caregiver.

I think this is a really tough one, for several reasons. Many of us women do feel called to things outside of the home as well as to childrearing. And certainly being a mom has to be a top priority. But what happens when God asks you to do something that isn't ideal for your family?

I think of this a lot with Billy Graham. He wasn't there when his kids were growing up. Certainly Ruth was, but would you take a job that would take you so much away from your kids? I also have a lot of friends in the military, and several who are overseas right now. Being overseas for six months isn't great on your kids, either. But is it wrong? Or is God calling them to something extraordinary, where He will also provide the extra grace for their family?

The truth is that some jobs are not good for families. They really aren't. But somebody has to do them, and some of them are absolutely vital for our well-being as a nation and as a society. So unless we want all of those jobs--police officers, military members, politicians, missionaries, evangelists--to be done by people who don't really love their families, who don't have families, or who don't even love God, then we have to admit that God may ask stuff of some families that doesn't seem fair or right.

It's a tough one, and as a busy speaker I have to balance a lot of this, too. I don't have an answer, but these are the thoughts that have been going through my head.

In the case of all these jobs, I don't think any of them should be taken unless one's whole family feels a definite calling. It's not enough for just one person to feel a calling--the whole family has to feel it, and it has be after a lot of prayer. But there will be times when Christian parents will have to take jobs that require being away from home a lot. And then they're not able to put their number one priority as number one. I do think God provides the grace when He also provides the calling. But it's not just Palin who is doing this. It's all over the Christian church in many different homes.

Even in my own family, when the children were young my husband wasn't home much. He worked about 110 hours a week at the hospital, and he was chronically exhausted. It worked because I was able to be home full time and take on the burden of parenting. And because of that, the kids are still very close to him, because when he as home, I didn't need him to spell me off. We did family things. That's why it has to be a family calling. If I were also working it would have been a disaster. But having Christian pediatricians is an important thing, so I think God called our family so that Keith was away a lot, and didn't parent a lot in the early years, but it was for a greater good.

And, in Palin's case, let's not forget that if she had stuck with two children, as I did, none of this would be an issue. Her oldest two are 19 and 17. But because she went on to have five, and obviously wasn't that enamoured with birth control, she now has two younger ones (and one middle one). In my case, at 44, I'll be fine to be VP if anybody wants to call me. But that's because I didn't have as many children as I probably should have had (more on that some other time when I feel like being especially honest).

So those are my Saturday thoughts. And I must now get to work finishing an article I didn't do at all yesterday because I was glued to the news!

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In Celebration...
..of Sarah Palin's nomination, I let my children make homemade whipped cream and eat it with chocolate chips, since we were out of ice cream.

Now, I know one shouldn't let one's children eat such crap very often, but I wanted to make sure they remember this historic day since, whether or not McCain wins, I think there's a very good chance we just saw the future President of the United States enter the national stage. She is an impressive speaker, an impressive woman, and an impressive politician. Even if she doesn't become VP, she can run for President in eight or twelve years and still win.

I'm also celebrating an "I love your blog" award from Terry over at Ornaments of Grace! If you don't know her blog, check it out. She writes such interesting things that always make me think.

She likes my template, and she says I have great content, too. So I'm lifting a bowl of whipped cream to you, Terry! Sorry about reminding you of that on your quest to lose weight. Now I feel a little guilty. But nothing can bring me down on Palin Day!

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Alaska, Palin, an Extra Chromosome, and a Kindred Spirit

This summer, when we were in Alaska, I met some crazy people. People who race dogs for 1000 miles. People who willingly choose to live in the bush with no electricity in minus 50 degree weather. People who fly little float planes instead of drive cars.

And I loved them all.

What an awesome state! Everybody there seemed independent, responsible, motivated, fun, and definitely a character.

Plus they had great yarn shops.

And great scenery.

But on with my story.

When our cruise ship stopped in Juneau, I saw a little handmade soap shop called "The Glacier Smoothie". They make awesome creams and soaps using silt from the glaciers, which acts as an exfoliant. It is really luxurious.

I bought some gifts there, and as I was paying, I happened to look on top of the door. There, in calligraphy, was a Bible verse--I look to the hills, from whence cometh my help. The white-haired man smiled at me when I commented that it was a beautiful verse, and he went on to say that without God you can't really do anything.

I agreed with him, and we talked for a bit.

Then, to show my dazzlingly amazing knowledge of American politics and bond with this kind gentleman, who reminded me of a Matthew Cuthbert, I said, "I've just been praying for Sarah Palin, and I hope that McCain names her VP."

All of a sudden his eyes lit up, and he said that he believed that God had put her in this place for a purpose, and that he's been preparing her for something greater. She has stood for God through thick and thin, even through some big attacks on her for her faith. He told me that he believed that when you stand for God, God gives you more responsibility. And she has proven herself worthy of that.

The main attack, he said, came this year when she chose not to abort her son with Down Syndrome.

Here's what the Wikipedia entry says about Palin's children:

From Wikipedia:

On September 11, 2007, the Palins' son Track joined the Army. Eighteen years old at the time, he is the eldest of Palin's five children.[10] Track now serves in an infantry brigade and will be deployed to Iraq in September. She also has three daughters: Bristol, 17, Willow, 13, and Piper, 7.[11] On April 18, 2008, Palin gave birth to her second son, Trig Paxson Van Palin, who has Down syndrome.[12] She returned to the office three days after giving birth.[13] Palin refused to let the results of prenatal genetic testing change her decision to have the baby. "I'm looking at him right now, and I see perfection," Palin said. "Yeah, he has an extra chromosome. I keep thinking, in our world, what is normal and what is perfect?"[13]
(I don't think it says that today; her post is being changed with the news).

Anyway, she was lambasted for having a fifth child, and then for not aborting, but she held on anyway.

As this man told me about Palin, and her integrity, I shared with him my own story about my child with Down Syndrome. And he looked at me with compassion, and said, "So you understand."

More customers came into the store then, so I took my things and left. I didn't want to. You knw how sometimes you encounter someone and your heart just yearns to sit with them and talk for a lifetime or two? I don't get that very often, but I did with this gentleman. But my father-in-law and mother-in-law were waiting for me, and my husband was hoping I didn't spend all our money, so it was time to go.
Talking with him just made my day, and even my cruise. It's such a little thing, but when I think of all the people I met in Alaska, this quiet man with deep conviction about "I look to the hills, from whence comes my help" is who I recall. I look forward to meeting him on the other side.

I suppose McCain sat up this morning, and perhaps said the same thing about Palin--"I look to the mountains, from whence comes my help." And hopefully he saw behind those mountains to the One who made them, too.

I have no idea who will win the election. I do think Palin is a good choice. It's time a woman was VP pick again, and she brings the energy issue front and center, where it should be. Certainly I would prefer McCain, it's true, but I know God's in charge, and I'm Canadian and can't vote anyway.

But to have Palin there, on this day, is so meaningful to me. After being told again and again to abort my son, and choosing to give him life, and still having people second guess me, to have her there is like God smiling on me.

I can't explain it, but thirteen years ago today we were sitting in the Intensive Care Unit watching my son post-surgery. And he was not doing particularly well. We would only have him for another five days.

Usually this week is one of the hardest in the year for me.

But today, I think that a woman who deliberately stood against both the abortion lobby and the group that would belittle Down Syndrome people is potentially in a position of great moral authority. And I'm so glad she's there. May God be with you, Sarah.

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It's The Little Things
Every week I write a syndicated parenting column that appears in several newspapers. Here's my column for this week. It's actually based on a Wifey Wednesday post I did a while ago! See, blogging even helps for professional writing!

One of my favourite movies is Gwyneth Paltrow’s Sliding Doors. It’s at least a decade old now, but every time I see it I end up pondering its message. The movie follows a woman's life in two possible scenarios, based on whether or not she missed a subway or whether she caught it at just the right time.

We often think that the pivotal moments in our lives are the big ones: when we propose; when we recite our vows; when we accept a job; have a child; purchase a house. But I'm starting to think the really pivotal moments are far smaller—so small we may not recognize they are pivotal.

Like Sliding Doors, one little decision that we make can launch a chain reaction in our own lives. Take a marriage, for instance. People don't just divorce because one Sunday afternoon it occurs to them that this person they married is a stranger. It happens gradually, by the little decisions that we make together.

He decides to start working harder to get that promotion, and it becomes easier to just grab dinner on the run rather than making an effort to come home. She becomes wrapped up in the kids’ lives, and when he does make it home, she’s busy reading to them. He forges some great friendships at work, where he spends most of his time, and shares with them about his career goals. She makes some friends in chat rooms, and starts sharing with them about her insecurities. He’s asked to work through a weekend, and he says yes without checking with her first. When he comes home late, she gives him the cold shoulder. And soon the only thing they talk about are the kids. The relationship has faded. And yet it wasn’t due to any one thing; it was a series of small decisions.

As depressing as that scenario may be, though, the opposite is also true. When she decides to kiss him when he comes in the door (or when she comes in the door), even if she’s grumpy from the day, she builds goodwill. When he wants to watch a game, but he puts that aside because she obviously needs to talk, he builds goodwill. When she makes a point of ensuring the kids make Father’s Day cards, or when he helps the kids make breakfast in bed for her, they build goodwill.

When she thanks him for the work he does around the house, even when she wishes he would do more, she builds goodwill. When he talks to the kids about what a great mom they have, while she’s in earshot, even if the family has eaten take out for the last two nights because life’s been too chaotic to cook, he builds goodwill.

It works in other important relationships, too. When parents don’t erupt in anger when a teen’s hair resembles a sheepdog, but take him out for ice cream even if he won’t talk, we build goodwill. When we don’t insult a child’s friends, but instead invite them over to hang out and start talking to them, we build goodwill. When we don’t react sarcastically to a teen’s monosyllabic conversation, but give her a hug regardless, we show her love.

Doing this alone, though, seems almost impossible. Quite often, when two people grow apart, the blame does lie more heavily with one than the other. But sometimes all it takes for reconciliation is for one person to decide to get the relationship back on track.

Naturally it doesn’t seem fair to be kind if they’re not. And yet it’s often when we do that which is especially hard that we make the most headway. That doesn’t mean anyone should endure abuse or disrespect; yet if we wait for the other person to make the first move, we could be waiting all the way to the end of the relationship.

Two people do not became strangers overnight. Likewise, true oneness isn't built overnight. Through the little choices that we make, we can gradually choose to be on the wrong road, and the gulf can get wider and wider, or we can choose to be on the road that builds relationship. So in the little things, what road will you choose?

If you like Sheila's columns, now is your last chance to get Sheila's book of 84 of her favourite columns, Reality Check, on super special! It all ends on Labor Day. More here.

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More Thoughts on Forgiving Your Father
I've been thinking about my post below a bit more, and I've got another thought.

I think getting a realistic portrayal of our parents is necessary to forgive them. If we keep trying to make excuses for them, and say that they really weren't as bad as they actually are, how can we come to a place of forgiveness?

When we're still holding on, and hoping that our fathers will miraculously decide to love us and have a relationship with us, then we're letting our fathers--who don't deserve it--pull the strings in our lives. They still have too much power.

But when you can say, "My father failed me. He was an imperfect human being. But that does not reflect on me because God is my real father", then we can start to make progress. And that's when we can decide to forgive and cut those strings.

It's not mean to say that your father failed you. It's the first step in becoming your own adult. It doesn't mean that you're angry about it, or that you're bitter, or even that you're somehow broken. God can heal anything, after all. All you're saying by admitting that your father failed you and admitting that he is not perfect is that you're letting go of this fantasy that he will somehow change.

That's what I feel that Obama still had in his book, and that's what I feel many of my friends have: this fantasy that ties them to their past and prevents growth. I know that's just me psychoanalyzing, but I do think there's some truth in there. We need to see others around us with open eyes. Let's not yearn to have others heal us; let's go to God for that. What your father did or didn't do doesn't have to reflect on you. It only does if you let it.

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On Growing Up Without a Dad
I've been thinking about growing up without a dad a lot lately because in my extended family divorces are breaking out like acne on a 14-year-old. It's not pretty.

I was 2 when my father left, and I really don't know him well. He lived on the other side of the country from me, and I only saw him two weeks a year, if I was lucky. The years that he was doing research for his university job I often didn't see him at all.

While that sounds bad, in retrospect I think I was lucky. I had one home: my mother's. I never had to worry that the two of them would bicker because they never saw each other or talked to each other. Dad just wasn't a part of our lives except for that brief once a year visit.

So I knew who I was, as much as I could without a father. I had God. I had my church. I had my aunt and uncle. And I had my mother, whom I respect even more because she raised me on her own.

Perhaps because of my situation I don't really feel affinity with people just because they share blood with me. After all, the person to whom I owe half my DNA just wasn't around. But my uncle, with whom I share no DNA, was. And I felt a great deal of affinity with him.

Likewise, I feel a great deal of concern and care and love for my nieces and nephews, though they're on my husband's side and aren't blood relations to me at all. But they're family.

Some of my friends have met their fathers only as adults, and go on to have close relationships with them. More power to them, but it seems strange to me. I guess I've just never really thought of him as a big part of my life, but even more importantly, I don't feel like a lot is missing. Sure it would have been nice to have a father who is as good as my husband is to our kids, but my dad would never have been that father, even if they had stayed together. So I'm just so blessed to have what I do now.

Having said all that, I'm interested in how two public figures have dealt with their father absence.

Clarence Thomas, a Supreme Court judge, wrote an amazing book called My Grandfather's Son. It's so inspiring, though I know that word is overused. His grandfather was not lovey-dovey. He was extremely harsh. He told Clarence and his brother that they had to work, and he made them work. He taught them to study, to do well, to respect their elders, and to make something of themselves. He taught them never to make excuses.

Thomas, of course, is African American. And he doesn't devote his book to the father he didn't know; he calls himself, instead, his "grandfather's son", even though that grandfather hadn't loved him the way that we would want to express love. But he gave Thomas the right footing, and Thomas succeeded. And in retrospect, he is so proud and loves his grandfather so much.

He let go of his need for a dad, and acknowledged the fathe figure his grandfather became in his life.

Now, I'm not trying to be political here (see this post for more on that), but I have to admit to being really confused by Obama's Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. He writes this whole tome about trying to figure out who he is, and locates his identity primarily in a father who didn't give him the time of day and left him. Meanwhile, his mother and grandparents were always there for him. His grandmother raised him. But he gives them the short shrift; to him, what matters, is this absent father. But he seems to idolize him despite the fact that the man abandoned him.

I have never idolized my father. Half the time he just doesn't occur to me. He isn't a big part of my life. And what is there to idolize about a man who deserts you, as his father did and my father did? My father was faithful with support, for which I am extremely grateful. And my father did love me. He just didn't have a relationship with me.

To pine for a father figure is one thing, but to idolize a man who never was much of a father is just strange.

I have another friend who does that. Her mother raised her alone, and did a great job. Her father was a bum. He walked in and out of their lives, wreaking havoc wherever he went. But my friend can't see that clear picture of him. She still thinks life would have been great if only her father had been there.

At some point we need to give up these "dreams of our fathers" and move on if we're going to have healthy lives. As it says in Philippians, "forgetting what lies behind, I press hold of that for which Christ has set me free." We forget what lies behind. We don't let it define us anymore. We let Christ do that.

I'm not saying that it's easy, but it's a sign of maturity, especially spiritual maturity. Our earthly fathers will fail us, and many have. We need to accept that. But part of accepting that is also being grateful for those God blessed us with in place of our fathers. For me, it was my mother and my uncle. For Clarence Thomas, it was his grandparents. We see that.

Obama and my other friend can't seem to see how much they owe their mothers and their grandparents. God did not leave us alone. Instead of dreaming for what we didn't have, and what our fathers never could have been; instead of living in this fantasy; why not live for tomorrow, and change the way our own families will be? Why not celebrate the good that we do have in our family of origin, and then multiply that good in our own children and grandchildren?

Stop dreaming of your father. Dream of your God and your children. It's much healthier.

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Your House Will Never Be Clean Enough...

Kelly over at Love Well is panicking because her baby is eating dirt.

I can beat that.

When Rebecca was almost a year old, and teething, I found her in the bathroom. She had managed to lift up the lid, and was enthusiastically gumming the toilet rim.

I, of course, freaked out. And cleaned everything in sight.

But honestly, is your toilet ever clean enough for a child to lick? Of course not.

And that's the point. Nothing is ever truly clean enough when your kids are little. You just finish vacuuming and find out that a toddler has been following you while eating crackers. And is laundry ever all done? Nope.

We need to have a system, and we need to keep things as sanitary as possible. But let's face it. It's never going to be perfect. So don't stress out about it! Make it presentable so that you can feel comfortable in your home, but not so perfect that you're constantly worried about it.

I once read this quotation that said:

"A clean house is the sign of a boring person."

And I think that's true. If you see my house, you'll see all my knitting projects. And all my books. And all my pictures. That's just who I am. It's not perfect. And I still wouldn't lick the toilet seat. But it's good enough. And that's all that matters.

To Love, Honor and Vacuum
Wifey Wednesday: Why Do We Trash Men?

Have you ever noticed that women's favourite conversation topic is how pathetic men are at household tasks? We're constantly berating them for not knowing how to dress the children so that they are color coordianted, not knowing how to pack kids' lunches, not knowing to take sunscreen when you go to the beach.

I'm not sure if men talk about women's lack of knowledge about cars or plumbing in the same way, but I do believe that we women are very hard on men, giving the impression that most of us believe that the world would be a much better place if we were all women and there were no men.

And so, with that in mind, I bring you this pathetic article from a "happily married" woman who claims she still dreams of divorce, as do all women (yeah, right). I'll let her speak for herself:

Still, beneath the thumpingly ordinary nature of our marriage --Everymarriage --runs the silent chyron of divorce. It's the scarlet concept, the closely held contemplation of nearly every woman I know who has children who have been out of diapers for at least two years and a husband who won't be in them for another 30. It's the secret reverie of a demographic that freely discusses postpartum depression, eating disorders, and Ambien dependence (often all in the same sentence) with the plain candor of golden brown toast. In a let-it-all-hang-out culture, this is the given that stays tucked in.

This is the Mid-Wife Crisis.

Mind you, when I say Mid-Wife Crisis, I mean the middle-of-married-life kind, not the kind where you go to Yale to learn how to legally brandish a birthing stool. As one girlfriend remarked, it's the age of rage -- a period of high irritation that lasts roughly one to two decades. As a colleague e-mailed me, it's the simmering underbelly of resentment, the 600-pound mosquito in the room. At a juncture where we thought we should have unearthed some modicum of certainty, we are turning into the Clash. If I go will there be trouble? If I stay will it be double? Should I stay or should I go?

That "mid-wife" crisis she points to around the late thirties early forties, exactly the demographic I'm in. Perhaps it's perimenopausal, but she says most women are just irritated by their men.

And then she goes on to say this:

I recently stood by as a clothing designer, a mother in her 40s, announced to a group of women that she was divorcing her husband. The women's faces flickered with curiosity, support, recognition, and -- could it be? -- yearning. Not a one of us suggested that she try harder to make it work. No voice murmured, "What a shame."

Because it isn't a shame. Divorce is no longer the shame that spits stain upon womanly merit. Conventional wisdom decrees that marriage takes work, but it doesn't take work, it is work. It's a job -- intermittently fulfilling and annoying, with not enough vacation days. Divorce is a job too (with even fewer vacation days). It's a matter of weighing your options.

We women are lying to ourselves. If you're in the position where you are irritated by your husband, and you think getting out sounds so freeing, you are missing the boat.

I don't mean to minimize the heartache that you may be feeling, but being alone is not easy. It is expensive. It is a lot of work. And it is lonely.

In Linda Waite & Maggie Gallagher's book A Case for Marriage, they devote each chapter to another benefit that marriage has. And those benefits are enormous. Married women are wealthier, healthier, and happier. They are less likely to be abused. They are less likely to be victims of crime. They live longer. They are more likely to achieve orgasm and much more likely to have a satisfying sex life. Their children are more likely to be well-adjusted, to go on to post-secondary education, and to marry well themselves.

Yes, divorce has lost a lot of its shame. But that, in itself, is a shame. Marriage, when we work at it, is one of the best things on earth. It teaches us to be holy, happy, and generous. It stretches us. And it gives us an identity.

That last one shouldn't sound like such a bad thing. Part of my identity is in being Keith's wife, and I'm happy about that. It doesn't make me less of a person. It makes us together more of an entity.

And that's what we are. You can't pull us apart, even though we had a rip-roaring fight last night when we were both tired and I know feel very silly over. More on that later. And we're all fine again.

So don't dream of divorce. The grass is not greener. People are trying to sell you something, to tell you that independence is the greatest god in this world. It's not. Independence means you are alone. There is something beautiful about interdependence, and it's too bad we're trashing that so much today.

Do you have any marriage advice you'd like to share? Why not join Wifey Wednesdays? Just go back to your blog and write your marriage post, insert the picture from the top of this post (right click it to save it), and then come back here and enter your URL.

I look forward to hearing what you have to say!

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Please Stop Leaning on Me...Just for a While!
I am the caregiver in my extended family.

I don't really mind; I feel privileged that God has given me so many people to care for. Wouldn't the worst thing be if nobody needed you or loved you?

But I have to admit, as school looms on the horizon for next week, that I am tired.

I'm my mother's only child, so I obviously do a lot with her. Now, she's not sick; she's extremely active and capable and doesn't ask much of me at all. She also helps quite a bit whenever I ask. But if anyone's going to do anything nice for, or for anyone else on her side of the family, it's me. I'm the oldest in my generation, and the most settled. So last night I hosted a birthday party for my aunt. It was great fun, and I'm happy to do it. But I did it.

On my husband's side, I'm the longest serving daughter-in-law. My in-laws have four boys; my husband is the oldest. The next two are both divorced. The youngest only married two years ago and is the only one who doesn't live in town. So I'm the default caregiver on that side, too.

Now, my in-laws are also healthy and they don't require very much from me at all. They also help out quite a bit! And my favourite part of the summer was the cruise we took with them. But, once again, if someone is going to host a family thing, it's me (unless my mother-in-law does it).

And who do you think looks after the nieces and nephews from the various divorced families? Me. Not full time, of course. In one case, the father, my brother-in-law, is very involved and is a great dad. But if he needs help in an emergency, I'm the one he calls.

As for my other nephew from the other divorce, I homeschool him along with my daughters. So we care for him, too.

I love all these people. I like them being around. But this summer I don't feel like I have had any time to relax, except that cruise (which I am still very grateful for). I have been looking after kids and getting our house in order after some renovations, and I just didn't get done what I needed to.

I had big plans for the summer. Summer is usually my most prolific writing time. But I didn't have the time off this year. My husband was working hard, I had the kids, and they always wanted to do something. I felt like I couldn't keep them inside all the time while I worked, and half the time someone else was over anyway, so I didn't accomplish much.

And now I'm about to start school more tired than I've been in a long time.

I know I need to learn to say no, but it's hard when it's your family. I guess I just need someone to say thank you. That they realize what I do, and they appreciate it. It would be nice if my children said that every once in a while, but I think my husband's going to take care of that with a heart to heart with them tonight. But right now I feel like I have given and given and given all summer, and very few people have given back. I'm tired. I could use a hug.


Never say "okay" to your kids!
Mamablogga is wondering about saying please to kids--as in, "put your toys away, please." Is it a good idea? A bad idea? Are you leaving room for them to refuse?

I know what she's getting at, but please doesn't bother me. It's just being polite. It's "okay" that bothers me. And that reminds me of a column I wrote on just this topic a few years ago:

When my oldest was a toddler, we were given a cute little video of cute children singing very cute songs, which made me want to pull my hair out. Naturally, she loved it. In fact, she loved best a song that made me cringe. The chorus went “O-B-E-Y, obey your Mom and Dad!” Feet were tapping; kids were dancing; it was very catchy. My brain, fresh from its sociology degree, rebelled. Tell my child to obey? Wasn’t that squashing her will?

Shortly after these episodes, my darling angel hit two and discovered temper tantrums, biting, and stealing other children’s toys. Once it was no longer purely academic, I quickly learned to embrace the word “obey”.

Our society, however, still largely cringes. We treat our families as if they are democracies where everyone should have a vote.

What should we eat for dinner? Nobody wants veggies? Then chicken fingers it is! We allow our children a voice, because we forget that they are, indeed, children. They do not have the life experience or the emotional maturity to know what is best for them. We do.

It’s not just the concept of obedience that we’ve lost, though. We’ve lost the language. I remember listening in on a conversation once that a mom was having with her 6-year-old son. “Honey, it’s getting to be time to brush your teeth.” The boy kept playing with Lego. “Honey, you’ll need to brush your teeth before you go to bed.” More Lego. “Don’t you think you really should be brushing your teeth?”, this time through clenched teeth. Finally she lost it. “Why haven’t you brushed your teeth!?!”. He looked up, confused, and stared at her as if she were an alien, which, given the colour of her face, seemed to be a distinct possibility.

As you analyze their “conversation”, you can see his point. She never actually told him to do anything. She expressed her opinion about the relative time of day and the necessity of teeth brushing, but she never told him to march his little self down that hall and do something about it. He listened to her, evaluated her comments, and decided to ignore them.

Think about the difference between these two statements: “Billy, go brush your teeth”, and “Billy, go brush your teeth, okay?”. The first is telling him to do something. The second is asking him if he agrees. As soon as we’ve added “okay”, we’ve changed it from a command to a question. I think we do this so frequently because, at heart, we’re just not sure we deserve to be obeyed.

We’re scared of issuing real commands to our kids because it sounds like we’re saying we’re better than they are. That’s making a judgment, and we’re just not comfortable with that. But we are wiser than our kids are. I don’t pick my nose anymore, bite people I disagree with, or lie down in a grocery store and scream. (I do, however, sneak chocolate before breakfast, but that’s another story.)

Our job is to train our kids to become responsible, independent adults. To do that, we have to teach them to curb destructive behaviour. That means we need to be the boss, because kids rarely learn proper behaviour without an incentive. We are the ones teaching them how the world works. If we allow them to always do what they want, they won’t be able to handle adult relationships, hold down a job, or act appropriately in social settings.

Being the boss, of course, will look different as the child ages. As kids grow older, they need to be given more leeway. Telling a child what to do is appropriate at 4; at 14, it’s probably better to set a limit and then talk about why you have that limit. Tell a teenager what to do and they’ll rebel; raise a teenager to respect you, and they’ll be more willing to listen to your limits. But let’s not forget that without any kind of parental authority, society will fall apart. Kids certainly need our approval and our love, but they need our direction and discipline, too. Okay?

What do you think? Have we forgotten how to be parents? I'd love to know your thoughts!

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To Love, Honor and Vacuum: The Study

Heart of the Matter is using my book To Love, Honor and Vacuum as their book study choice this fall! I'm so excited.

The first installment from chapter 1 is up now. You can peruse it and then join them.

A little tidbit:

The changes that we are seeking are not going to come from those around US, they have to come FROM us, as we begin to use JESUS as our guide.

There are ways to see if CHANGE is something that needs to be looked at further in our lives. Admittedly, they are tough questions, but change has NEVER been easy,
ever heard of PAUL?

Sheila gives us a few questions to think on before we move into Chapter 2, as a way of really examining ourselves.

Are we chronically tired? (spend some time in Matthew 11:28 - 30) before you are too tired to keep your eyes open...

Do we snap at the people we love?(just hang around Matthew 11:28 - 30 a little longer to hear the promises that Jesus has for us!)

We'll have to do some real soul searching and open ourselves up to the fact that we indeed may need to do some renovations of the heart.

Are you happy with the role you play in life? (Sheila recommends some time spent in Ephesians 2:10) Pray and ask God to show you in the midst of the daily chaos, that IS your life what HIS plan is for you.

What IS your attitude about change?? Ultimately, it's our life..noone can MAKE us change our actions, our habits or our attitudes, but if we are willing to look inward,
we just may find that a little change could do us good!!

In this passage that she's referring to in her study, I'm talking about how our attitude towards change tends to be outward focused:

I'll change as soon as you do!

But that's totally stupid, no offense ladies. If we wait for someone else to change, we're giving them power over our emotions, attitude, and whole life. Changing yourself, on the other hand, is something that only you have the ability to do.

So what do you need to change? If your life is too hectic, if you don't feel fulfilled in your marriage, if you're wondering if you can stick it out any longer, or if you really are making a difference, I guarantee you that To Love, Honor and Vacuum can help. But whether or not you get the book, remember that your life is ultimately up to you. Are you going to let God give you vision and purpose and a new heart, or are you going to sit there and WAIT FOR SOMETHING TO HAPPEN? The waiting doesn't help. May as well get up and do something!

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Thirteen Years Ago....
Katrina over at Callapidder Days has a beautiful tribute up to her father, who died thirteen years ago. The post is a reprint from two years ago, hence it's called Eleven Years, but don't let that confuse you!

A little bit:

But the one thing that breaks my heart, the one thing that I think of in the late days of August every that my kids won't have the joy of knowing him in this life. And oh, how he would have loved them. He would have bounced them on his knee, told them corny jokes, tossed them giggling onto the bed long after I asked him to stop. He would have coaxed a giggle from Logan. And he would have absolutely loved Camden's analytical, inquisitive mind, and the hilarious things that come out of his mouth. And I just know that my boys would have adored their Grandpa.

It's interesting because my son was transferred to the Hospital for Sick Children thirteen years ago today, too, and he never left. He never recovered from his surgery. So I guess Katrina and I have something in common! Anyway, go read her story, and then read this post I just wrote about grief.

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Menu Plan Monday: Venison Review & More

So two weeks ago I posted about Bambi, the deer that a friend of mine had shot last year while hunting, and that he had in his freezer. He decided he didn't actually like eating them; he just liked killing them, so we inherited a bunch of venison.

We ate it twice last week. Once I mixed half ground venison and half ground beef and made a taco soup, and once we roasted a beef roast and a venison roast over the rotisserie on our barbecue.

And, as much as I hate to admit it, I agree with my friend. The taco soup was amazing--at first. I ate two helpings, and didn't really notice much. But then for the whole next day I could still smell something weird. Not in my kitchen; it was like it was inside my nose or something.

I thought I was just crazy, so I tried the roast. It was tender, and tasted fine. But same thing. There was just this strange smell. And I don't think I like it.
So I'm going to find someone else to pass the venison on to. I'm very sorry. I tried to like it; I really did. But I don't. I hate that, when you don't like free meat. Oh, well.

On another subject, I am very proud because I wrote my menu plan on Saturday and went grocery shopping with it already. So I'm all stocked up! Mostly with farm fresh vegetables, which are so yummy this time of year. So here's my menu for what's coming up:

Monday: Steaks on the barbecue, along with fresh corn, and potatoes and carrots in tin foil grilled on the BBQ. The potatoes and carrots are my favourite. I slice them really thinly, put some butter on, sprinkle some fresh garlic and salt and pepper, and then do another layer. Top with a bit more butter, and then grill in tin foil packets. It's so good! And the corn this year is amazing.

Tuesday: Potato crusted fish. I got this recipe from one of Leanne Ely's Saving Dinner cookbooks. Basically you grate, or shred, some potatoes (after you peel them). Then push the potatoes into the fish fillets, which you have already salted and dipped in a bit of lemon juice and herbs. Then fry slowly. It sounds so good. My older daughter isn't a big fan of fish, but she does like hash browns, so I'm hoping this satisfies her!

Wednesday: Chicken Lo Mein. Another of Leanne Ely's recipes. My goal is to go through one recipe book a week and find recipes I like in there. This one uses angel hair pasta and some stir fry sauce and chicken breasts. We haven't actually had a lot of chicken lately since we've been eating so much beef on the barbecue, so I thought this was a good time!

Thursday: Pork tenderloin in maple/mustard sauce
. One of my favourite recipes. You slice up the tenderloin, sprinkle with flour, thyme, and salt and pepper, and brown it. Then remove and add some maple syrup and dijon mustard to the pan and boil that, along with some garlic. Put the pork back in and cook until it's not pink. It's really yummy, and tastes great over rice!

Friday: Pasta with tomatoes
. Every week I try to eat at least one fish and one meatless meal, and this is my meatless standby in the late summer. All I do is sautee some garlic and onions, add three tomatoes very finely chopped, throw in some herbs, and simmer for half an hour so the juices reduce a bit. You can add tomato paste if you want, but you don't have to if you don't have any. Then just serve over rotini or penne. It's so good, and filling, and it gives you something to do with your tomato crop, or with the tomatoes your neighbour gives you!

Saturday: Leftover beef over rice. I'm making up the sauce here, but it's a recipe I found on the internet a while ago that I just loved, but that I can't find again. I know it had onions & shallots, beef stock, flour, salt & pepper, mustard, red wine vinegar, and some tomatoes in it. I didn't think it was that great at first, but my kids loved it and we finished it off. So I'm going to try to recreate it. I have a ton of leftover beef lately, so I thought it would be a good idea.

Sunday: Beef Barley soup
. On the same vein, I'll do soup for our main course on Sunday. Sundays we don't tend to eat much, and we're having a big barbecue at lunch to launch a Bible quizzing program we do at church, so we're not going to be that hungry.

Okay, I think that's it. If you have any thoughts on venison, or how I can fix my strange olfactory sensation, I'd love to hear them!

Thanks for stopping by! Why not stay a while and explore? I've got posts on education, internet addictions, marriage, and more! And don't forget Wifey Wednesdays!

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Yay! I've Lasted 7 1/2 Hours!
It is now 7 1/2 hours since I vowed not to visit any political blogs, and I've lasted! I am so proud.

By the way, my vow below doesn't mean I'm going to stop blogging or writing about family issues! I love doing that, and it's part of my job anyway. I'm just going to stay away from politics, especially the election, since I'm Canadian and can't vote anyway!

We just got back from the farmer's market where I bought fresh garlic and tomatoes and corn and cucumbers and tons of stuff. I do so love late summer.


Hello, My Name is Sheila and I'm a Political Junkie
About a decade ago I went to bed quite depressed quite frequently. On those days my husband would come into the bedroom and try to get me to open up. That would just annoy me. Why couldn't he let me have my mood?

Then I started to realize that there was a pattern to these moods. They happened on Thursday nights. And on Thursday nights I watched ER. And that is a depressing show.

Around that time I read the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and realized that I needed to get rid of the "Quadrant 4" activities (for those of you who have read it. For those of you who haven't, maybe I'll post on that sometime. But basically it means time wasters that steal your soul). And television was way up there.

So we got rid of it. Cold turkey. And it was lovely. I started to write, without sacrificing anything else. All this time just opened up to me. Since then I've published four books, written dozens of articles, and become a syndicated columnist. And I speak a lot.

I've always been so proud of the fact that our family doesn't do television. It seemed like a badge of honour.

BUT, and here's a big BUT, over the last few years something has crept in to replace it. And that something is the internet.

I am completely addicted (and I think I use that term correctly in this case) to political news and political blogs. It's completely irrational. Even if I sit down at the computer "just to see what's going on", it's an hour and a half before I get back up. It gets in the way of everything!

Now maybe you think political blogs are pathetic. I know they are. But what is it for you? Is it television? Is it other kinds of web surfing? I think we all have our vices, even if they are different.

After my cruise this summer I came back to a lot of work that needed doing. Much of it was around the house, and I had two such productive days in which I felt like flying. So much was accomplished! It was great.

Then I sat down at the computer during a break the next day, and that was the end of that. No more major accomplishments. I still got done the bare minimum, but that was it.

And that's how I've felt the last few years. I get done the bare minimum. I do homeschool. I write. I keep the house in order. But I don't get done the things we keep putting off. And I could have written my first novel, which is already all planned out, just in the time that I've been reading political blogs in the last year.

So I need to quit. I can't just give myself "an hour" and that's it today, because the hour turns into three. It's really hard to do, but I'm going to try to go cold turkey. And I'm going to pray it through a lot! It is hard breaking a time wasting habit. You're probably laughing at me thinking this is really silly, but it is hard once you've started a routine. And because all my work is done at the computer, it's even harder to get away from. To sit at the computer and only work, and not browse the blogs, is a challenge. Whenever I feel writer's block, I just start browsing. A big mistake.

The problem, of course, is that I can't get rid of my internet connection the way I got rid of my television. I need the internet for my writing. So what I need to do is develop discipline. AAAAAHHHH! But I shall try. We'll see how I do for the next week! Baby steps, right?

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A Prayer Through Tears
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in over a dozen newspapers. This week I focused on Canada and the Olympics. Since that has limited interest to some of my American readers, who are basking in Phelps' glory, I thought I'd reprint one of my favourite columns from a few years ago.

This particular column garnered me more email than any other. It inspired me to start writing more about Christopher (up until then I had always found it too painful) because it obviously touched people. And best of all, this appeared in secular newspapers.

In a few days I’ll take my girls to the cemetery, for one of our regular visits on the anniversary of their brother’s death. It’s been eight years now, but the pain still hits when you least expect it.

Last week, in my hometown, another set of parents endured the unimaginable, this time because their seven-year-old drowned in a tragic accident. I’m sure, though, that they are not the only ones with fresh wounds. There are others who are grieving today: parents who have miscarried, or lost a baby like I did, or had accidents, whether or not it hit the news. Even if it happened long ago, such grief does not just evaporate. After my son died, I realized that one cannot comfort a grieving parent as one would like to, because there are no words. But one can listen, one can hug, and one can pray. And so I would like to share some of my thoughts and prayers for those of us who have entered this horrible fraternity of grieving parents, in the hopes that it may help some of you, too.

When a child dies it feels as if the physical laws of the universe have been violated. You needed that child far more than you need the very oxygen you breathe, and yet that child is gone, and your lungs keep working. Your very breath is a betrayal, and squeezes your chest worse than any violence ever could. So I pray that you will be able to take each breath, and that eventually simply living won’t hurt like this anymore.

And I pray that in your grief you and your spouse will be able to turn to each other. The death of a child strains a marriage in a way little else does. It’s not fair, but you face a crossroads. I pray you will walk this valley together, and that the journey will strengthen you, rather than separate you.

I pray that people will surround you with practical help, that they will hug and that they will listen. I pray that your friends won’t scatter because they feel awkward, but that they will be patient, even when the grief seems to be lasting longer than others think it should. I pray that if your grief is from a miscarriage or a stillbirth, people will still understand the depth of your pain.

I also pray that you will be able to take each day as it comes. When a child dies, and especially a baby who did not have the chance to become part of your daily routine, on the outside it is almost as if he or she never existed. And yet, for you that child was your very heart. If you let go of the grief, it is as if you are letting go of the last thing that ties you to your baby. Remember, though, that grief is not something that disappears. Sometimes grief is overt, but other times you feel fine. I pray that you will embrace those moments when you feel peace, because there will be moments—even if it’s days, weeks, or years later—when the grief will return, unbidden, in full
force. Be grateful for good days and do not feel guilty for them. Smiling is not betraying your child.

At the same time, I pray that when those good days become the norm, even if it’s years down the road, that you will not feel like you are going crazy if the grief suddenly hits you hard again. You’re not regressing, or starting at square one. This is the way of grief, and know that it never completely disappears. If we are honest, we probably wouldn’t want it any other way. So I pray that in those moments when you can’t breathe again that you will still experience peace, and know that this intensity will again subside.

I pray that you will remember that everyday that passes is not one more day further away from your child, but instead one more day that you are closer to meeting him or her again.

And finally, I pray that one day you will be able to remember with laughter, and not just with tears.


If you have a friend who is grieving, or if you yourself are enduring a big loss, my book How Big Is Your Umbrella can help. It's a short, encouraging read about the things we yell at God, and what He whispers back.

If you're more the listening type, you can download talks that I gave on the subject, including Do You Believe God Loves You? and the conference, Extreme Makeover, both of which contain Christopher's story. You can also choose CDs of them both.

And finally, if you just want a copy of this column in book form, it's available in Reality Check, my collection of columns, which is on super special just until Labor Day!

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What Do You Think of Junie B. Jones?
There's a debate going on over at Crunchy Conservative about the Junie B. Jones books.

For those of you who have never heard of Junie, she began as a kindergartner with bad grammar, a tendency to mischief, and hilariously funny. She is not in any way a child that you would want your own children to emulate. She's bossy, quick to bully, and rude. But she does it such a charming way that you find yourselves laughing.

The books are chapter books, and for kids who are finally able to read on their own, they're often used as first readers. Junie has graduated from kindergarten all the way to grade 2 by now, I think, though we only read the kindergarten ones and a few of the grade 1 ones before my own girls grew out of them.

Over at Crunchy Cons, they're wondering whether these books are good for kids or not. I think this comment sums up my feelings:

The first time I read a Junia B. Jones book to my daughter, I didn't really like it. The grammar was bad, so I was always correcting it. She seemed to be setting a bad example, etc... In fact, I don't think we even finished it and I swore we would NEVER read those books. Similar to the quoted author's experience.

However, I absolutely LOVE the books now. My daughter's teacher read them to her in kindergarten and she had 1st grader friends who liked to read them, so I tried again. I read them out loud to my daughter, who is entering the first grade, and just enjoy acting out the stories. You can do a lot with voice inflection. They are so entertaining. My daughter knows what is appropriate behavior, so we have had some discussions about how Junia could act better. I find myself laughing out loud at her antics. It's not so different from Beverly Cleary's Ramona character (those beloved books I read as a child). My daughter loves reading them on her own as well, which I'm only too happy to encourage since I want her to to have a love for reading.
So, I encourage parents of young children to read 2-3 of the Junia books before giving up on them completely. I now find them simply delightful.

Now please remember, I am really picky about what my kids read. I don't let them read junk. But I didn't really have a problem with these ones, though many of my friends did.

I never found that my girls copied the grammar or the behaviour. They read the books to find what Junie did wrong. And I certainly didn't notice any uptick in rudeness after they read the books. They just loved reading.

I don't normally let my kids read fluff, but they were just starting out. And they moved from Junie to Ramona. The Ramona books are much longer, and the character is much better. She's not exactly rude, she's just misunderstood, and it makes her act out. But they're lovely books. I read them as a child and loved them, and now my kids love them, too.

But it is tough to figure out what to let your kids read. Do the books have to reflect every one of your values? Do they have to have proper behaviour? I figure as long as they have a world view that I approve of, it's generally okay. For instance, in the Junie B. Jones books, when she does something wrong she is punished and she's told she's wrong. There's not an effort to let her get away with things.

I don't let my kids read Harry Potter because I think the drive for magic that can be used to give you power over people is not a healthy thing, and can lead to some unhealthy imaginations and dabblings. But now that my oldest daughter is almost 14, I would let her. I just think a certain maturity is necessary.

The main thing we have stayed away from is The Baby-Sitters Club, or all the pre-teen romance books which have no redeeming literary value. There are enough good books out there that we haven't had to resort to that. My 11-year-old is now working her way through both Noel Streatfield's Ballet Shoes and Pride and Prejudice. My 14-year-old is addicted to Beverly Lewis.

So what do you think? Is Junie okay or not? Or does it depend on your child?

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Wifey Wednesday: Making Love Last

Just listen to this story:

This week, in the Boston Globe, I read the story of an elderly couple named Sol and Rita Rogers. They’ve been married 61 years. They’ve raised a family and lived a long and happy life together. A few years ago, that began to change. Rita developed Alzheimer’s. And she is slipping deeper and deeper into dementia.

Several weeks ago, she was taken to a health care center, where she now has to live. The first few days, she screamed and talked incoherently. She could barely form words with her mouth. Most tragically, she could no longer recognize her husband. She had no idea who he was. This was agony for him. He would go home from visiting her, trembling with grief, overwhelmed by sadness.

One morning, he went into her room, and saw her lying there and had an idea – an idea, he said, that could only have come from God. Sol climbed into his wife’s tiny twin bed, and put his arms around her. And he just held her. He hugged her. He whispered to her. That’s all. But something happened. As he put it, “I got into bed with her and loved her and it lifted my depression.” And Rita was transformed, too.
She responded to his touch. And she began to talk. He now does it every day.

Rita’s doctor says that her “old memory” recalls being in his arms, remembers how he used to hold her, and part of her is able to come back. Now Sol spends a couple of hours of every day, just holding Rita, telling her he loves her, and she tells him she loves him. Just as they have for 61 years.

Isn't that just like The Notebook? I loved that movie, and the book, even though I know the sexual morals weren't right. It was still a beautiful love story. I really pray that I have decades ahead with my husband. I just love him to pieces, and I'd be lost without him.

But as much as we glorify this kind of romantic love, let's remember that it's not a fluke. I often use a great saying when I speak at marriage conferences:

A good marriage begins when we marry the one we love. It endures when we love the one we marry.

Isn't that profound? How many couples expect to coast in their lives on those amazing feelings they have when they walk down the aisle, only to find that they disappear? I think that if we could just make an effort to love, with action, even when the feelings aren't there, we might find that the feelings follow. And pretty soon the person becomes indispensible. Such an intricate part of our lives we can't imagine it without them.

Here's another quotation to leave you with, this time from Anne Tyler, from her book A Patchwork Planet:

I knew couples who’d been married almost forever -- forty, fifty, sixty years. Seventy-two, in one case. They’d be tending each other’s illnesses, filling in each other’s faulty memories, dealing with the money troubles or the daughter’s suicide, or the grandson’s drug addiction. And I was beginning to suspect that it made no difference whether they’d married the right person. Finally, you’re just with who you’re with. You’ve signed on with her, put in a half century with her, grown to know her as well as you know yourself or even better, and she’s become the right person. Or the only person, might be more to the point. I wish someone had told me that earlier. I’d have hung on then; I swear I would.

I don't know where you are in your marriage today, but I hope that gives you hope. Stick it out for the long run; you'll be amazed what will happen.

Do you have marriage advice you'd like to give? Thoughts on how to live that daily life with your hubby? Why not share it? Just copy the picture above by right-clicking it and saving it to your computer, and then go to your blog and write a post. Then come back here and enter the URL below. We'd love to read what you have to say!


My "Aren't These Cute?!?!" Knitting Post
While I was in Alaska earlier this summer I knit socks for my daughter's birthday. I love knitting. I even take socks to the grocery store to knit while I'm in line. Hey, they're portable!

But what do you do with the leftover sock yarn? I never use up a whole ball.

So I knit baby socks.

Here they are:

Right after I arrived home our neighbours that back onto our back yard had a baby girl. So I had the perfect little gift! And aren't they cute? One for my baby (who is 11) and one for hers.


The Family That Cleans Together
I've posted at a bunch of places around the web lately, and I wanted to fill you in on a couple of them.

First, if you homeschool, my "Tuesday Tour" of links is up over at the Homeschool Blog Awards. Great homeschool planners linked to in there!

Best of all, my article "The Family That Cleans Together" is up at Heart of The Matter. Here's a sample:

I love knitting. And not just regular sweaters, but the kind that requires tiny needles, 35 colours 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 (as long as it’s not my husband doing it). Being productive gives you a sense that your labour matters, and that you can spend it to help make life more liveable not just for you, but also for your family.

To a large extent 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 Nintendo is turned on.

You can read the rest here.

Heart of The Matter is hosting an online study of my book To Love, Honor and Vacuum this fall, and you can follow that link above to get involved!

And I think that's it! I'm off to finish an article on how to set up a great church library (if you have any good pointers, email me here), and I have to take my mother-in-law to the dentist. So a ho-hum day. But hopefully by the end I'll at least feel productive!


Why Does Obama Tilt His Head Like That?
We don't have a television, so almost all the news I get I read on the internet. So I never know what somebody's voice sounds like, or how to pronounce certain names, though I know how to spell them.

So when I watched the YouTube highlights of the Saddleback Forum with McCain & Obama this weekend, it was one of the first times I'd actually seen Obama for a prolonged period of time.

And I have a question.

Why does he always tilt his head at a 45 degree angle? I have more substantive policy questions too--I'll get to them in a minute--but my daughter and I were both struck by that as we were watching him. "What's he doing that for?" she said. And we both tilted our heads and thought it was odd.

You can take a look for yourself in that video above.

That's part one. Part two can be found here.

The part I find so objectionable is what Obama says about religious persecution. It comes at about 9 minutes in.

Here's the relevant transcript of that part:

WARREN: Religious persecution, what do you think the U.S. should do to end religious persecution, for instance, in China, in Iraq, and in many of our supposed allies? I'm not just talking about persecution of Christianity, but there's religious persecution around the world that persecutes millions of people.

OBAMA: Well, I think the first thing we have to do is to bear witness and speak out, and not pretend that it's not taking place. You know, our relationship with China, for example, is a very complicated one. You know, we're trading partners. Unfortunately, they are now lenders to us because we haven't been taking care of our economy the way we need to be. I don't think any of us want to see military conflict with China.

So we want to manage this relationship and move them into the world community as a full partner, but we can't purchase that by ignoring the very real prosecutions, persecutions that are taking place, and so having an administration that is speaking out, joining in international forums, where we can point out human rights abuses, and the absence of religious freedom, that, I think, is absolutely critical. Over time, what we are doing is setting up new norms and creating a universal principle that people's faith and people's beliefs have to be protected.

And as you said, it's not just Christians, and we've got to make sure, you know, one thing I think is very important for us to do on all of these issues is to lead by example. That's why I think it's so important for us to have religious tolerance here in the United States. That's why it's so important for us, when we are criticizing other countries about rule of law to make sure that we're abiding by rule of law, and habeas corpus, and we're not engaging in torture, because that gives us a moral standing to talk about these other issues.

I completely do not understand Obama here. Is he that clueless? He is asked about religious persecution abroad. Let's talk about that persecution. In Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, people are put to death to converting to Christianity. Ditto other countries.

In Pakistan earlier this summer two sisters, ages 11 and 13, were stolen from their Christian parents, forcibly converted to Christianity, and married off to Muslims, most likely so they could work in brothels. The judges and police upheld the kidnapping, saying the girls willingly converted and willingly married.

In China, Falun Gung practitioners are murdered so their organs can be harvested.

In Pakistan, a rape victim is put in prison.

In Egypt, Christian girls are kidnapped and used in the sex trade.

That, my friends, is religious persecution. That is true evil. He gives lip service to that at the beginning, but the main thing he hammers home is that America has to clean up its own act.

Who is going to stand up for these martyrs? Who is going to stand up for these little girls who are stolen from their parents? Does he not care? Is all he can see the supposed evil that America does? Wherever you stand on other issues, surely we can all say that this was a clueless answer.

Here's McCain's, by the way:

MCCAIN: The President of the United States' greatest asset is the bully pulpit. The president of the United States -- and I go back again to Ronald Reagan -- he went to the Berlin Wall and said, "Take down this wall," called them an "evil empire." Many said don't antagonize the Russians, don't cause a confrontation with the Soviet Union. He stood for what he believed, and he said what he believed, and he said to those people who were then captive nations, the day will come when you will know freedom and democracy and the fundamental rights of man. Our Judeo-Christian principles dictate that we do what we can to help people who are oppressed throughout the world, and I'd like to tell you that I still think that even in the worst places in the world today, in the darkest corners, little countries like Belarus -- they still harbor this hope and dream someday to be like us and have freedom and democracy.

And we have our flaws, and we have our failings, and we talk about them all the time, and we should, but we remain, my friends, the most unusual experiment in history, and I'm privileged to spend every day of my life in it. I know what it's like to be without it.

Not a great answer either--I'd like to hear more about how he'd say to the Muslim world "Tear down this wall"--but perhaps that's dreaming on my part. But at least he acknowledges the real evil.

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Menu Plan Monday

It's Monday again, and I have no idea what I want to make for dinners this week. I'm just thinking this up as I go along.

I do know that I have a really busy week ahead of me. I'm hoping that the girls and I can take tennis lessons together for an hour every afternoon, because I have to get away from the computer and I have to get some sun.

Mostly because I have a series of talks I'm planning for a women's retreat that I'm speaking at in September, and I have to finish an article on how to start a church library. And I have a few columns to write!

So I'm a little focused on work. So let's try to make some easy dinners.

Monday: Venison & Beef Meatloaf. I have some ground venison I want to try, so I think I'll
make meatloaf and mix it half and half. And see how it tastes!

Tuesday: Tilapia with lemon dill sauce. That white fish has been in my freezer for over a month now. I know you're supposed to eat fish once a week, but we never seem to get to it, mostly because my family doesn't necessarily like it that much. But I think it's important! So let's give it another try.

Wednesday: Spaghetti with fresh tomatoes and fresh garlic and fresh everything. And garlic bread with more freshness. Lots of freshness. Why not raid the farmer's market for the best tomatoes and then have my meatless meal? Sounds like a good idea to me! I just dice several tomatoes really small, and add to some sauteeing garlic and onions. Then I just simmer for about half an hour so that it reduces a bit. You can add tomato paste, too, but I don't always because I just like the total fresh flavour. Add salt and pepper and toss with pasta, and it's really good. I think the whole meal costs about 60 cents a person, so it's super cheap, too.

Thursday: Emu fajitas. I have some emu in my freezer that apparently makes quite good fajitas. Never tried it, but why not? You just have to cook it in lots of liquid because it's such a low fat meat. I have fajita seasoning here, so I'll throw that on, mix with some black beans that are seasoned and some homemade salsa from those fresh tomatoes, and then add fresh peppers, and it will be yummy! Of course, my kids will eat it with just emu and lettuce and cheese. Lots of cheese. But at least I'll have some fresh vegetables!

Friday: Steaks on the Bar B Q. Oh, yeah. My favourite. Done with potatoes and carrots wrapped in tin foil and sprinkled with garlic and butter. Very yummy.

Saturday: Leftovers. There's always some leftovers sometime in the week. So we'll eat it here.

Now I'm hungry because I haven't had breakfast yet, and I want a steak. Guess I'll have to settle for yogurt and cereal!

Thanks for dropping by! Why not stay a while? I have posts on kids' temperaments, the problem with public schooling, and more!

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Don't Forget The Quiet One...
Some interesting DNA research just coming out about parenting behavior and its impacts. Among the findings:

One of the strongest and most counterintuitive findings in this nascent field is that children with a sweet temperament, which is under strong genetic control, are the least likely to emulate their parents and absorb the lessons they teach, while fussy kids are the most likely to do so. Fussy children have a hypersensitive nervous system that is keenly attuned to its surroundings—including what Mom and Dad do and say.

I have another theory--

When you have a strong willed child, you spend a lot of time parenting that kid. You pray over that kid. You don't let little things go. You come down hard a lot, but also praise a lot. In short, you parent a lot.

When you have a really easy kid, you may not. So you don't try as hard to pass on important life skills, behaviours, and values.

Or at least, you don't have as much opportunity to. Kids tend to assimilate what you model and teach to them when you're being deliberate. They don't always do it when you're not making a concerted effort.

I think if you combine this with the trend in wider society to be your children's friends, rather than their parents, and you see where it's going. I just finished Liberation's Children by Kay Hymowitz, and she has some interesting essays in there about trends in wider parenting.

And one thing she found is that while families love their kids, and provide for their kids, they don't necessarily pass on important values because they don't have important values. If parents don't have absolutes, don't believe that sex before marriage is wrong, for instance, then what do they have to say to their child about sex that makes any sense, beyond "use a condom"? Nothing is a value lesson anymore. It's all relative.

Yet the Frontline producers unwittingly lead us to the conclusion that adults are not talking to their children for the same reason experts themselves can only deliver these platitudes. They don't believe there are any firm values to impart. These parents undoubtedly do not approve of group sex or sexually transmitted diseases or, for that matter, shooting one's classmates. But they have absorbed from the surrounding culture an ethos of nonjudgmentalism, which has drained their beliefs on these matters of all feeling and force. This suspension of all conviction helps explain the bland, sad air of many of these interviews. "They have to make decisions, whether to take drugs, to have sex," the mother of Kevin, the boy who lives in the pool house, intones expressionlessly. "I can give them my opinion, tell them how I feel. But they have to decide for themselves." It's hard to see how imparting her values will do anything to help her child. After all, these values have no gravity or truth. They are only her opinion.

So in a world where many parents do not have any values, and then you combine that with the possibility that easy children do not pick up values as easy as fussy ones do, and you have a recipe for children drifting away. But it's a double trouble thing: it's not just that the kids can't pick up the values; it's that, as a society, we have stopped imparting values at all. We become our kids' friends, at best their mentors, hoping to guide them through decision-making.

I, on the other hand, have firmly told my children that under no circumstances are the doing certain things. I have told them it is not really their decision; that God says no, I say no, and they'd better listen. I don't say it that harshly, but that is the whole attitude of our home. There are certain things one just doesn't do. And my kids know that.


I Have an Idea--Let's Do What Works!
I am always amazed at how much people are willing to experiment on large segments of the population based on what they believe SHOULD work, rather than what has been shown to work.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in education. I've written at length on the ridiculous methods used in public schools to teach reading and math. People think that a certain method sounds good, so they implement it across the board, instead of looking at what actually works.

In this month's City Journal, Sol Stern reports on New York City turning away from phonics--again--to the detriment of those students most at risk of not reading.

He wants a massive influx of funds to follow scientifically proven methods. Imagine that. Instead of going with fads, you see what works.

Too often it takes outside influence to get schools to budge. Here's one example he cited:

As evidence that the Marshall Plan isn’t pie in the sky, we have seen a test run at P.S. 65, a Queens K–5 elementary school. Impressed with the evidence that Success for All could significantly improve reading among poor, at-risk students, a wealthy hedge-fund entrepreneur and education philanthropist named Joel Greenblatt paid for the program at P.S. 65, with its population of low-income immigrants from Latin America and South Asia. Greenblatt also paid for additional aides and tutors in each classroom, an approach similar to lowering class sizes. When the project started in 2002, only 36 percent of P.S. 65’s fourth-graders were reading at grade level. Within three years, the percentage of fourth-graders passing the state reading test (acknowledging its seeming limitations) shot up to 71 percent. In 2005, the school was one of 14 to win a state award for dramatically improved performance. The officials from the DOE who briefed me weren’t even aware of the P.S. 65 story, though the magazine New York chronicled it in 2006.

If your child isn't being taught phonics in school, teach it at home. Don't trust the schools. Chances are they're going by fads anyway.

But education shouldn't be something we experiment with. Our kids don't deserve that.

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Why We Buy DVDs
I remember way back when VCRs first became popular. I think I was in high school.

Most people didn't buy the videos--they were quite expensive. But we did rent movies. Lots of them. It was tons of fun.

When DVD players became the new standard, suddenly people's movie collections ballooned.

Part of this, I think, was the idea that DVDs wouldn't deteriorate the way videos do. So it was just simply an improvement in technology.

But the other thing was that our whole way of watching movies changed.

I remember movies I saw as a child, and many of them I can still quote. I remember whole episodes of WKRP in Cincinnatti that I only saw once, but they're still with me ("As God is my witness, Andy, I thought turkeys could fly.")

We rarely saw things twice. And so when DVDs came out, I thought it was strange that everybody was buying movies. Why do that if you're not going to watch the movie over and over? And who would want to do that, anyway?

I've since changed my opinion. A large part of the blame is Hollywood's. I am so sure that I will absolutely hate 98% of new movies that I'd rather watch an older one I haven't seen in quite a few years, because I'll likely enjoy it more. So if it's a movie we really like it, we buy it.

The other is simply the price factor. We usually pick up movies in the $10 and under bargain bins. At that price, it's the same as renting it twice. So why not own it? Chances are the kids may want to see it when they're older, too.

It's no wonder that we don't go out to movies anymore. They rarely live up to the hype. But I also rarely find new rentals that I enjoy. Anyone seen anything good lately that's just come out? I haven't. But I'm open to suggestions.

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A Hard Day's Work
Every Friday I write a syndicated parenting column that appears in several papers in Canada and the U.S. Here's this week's. It seems I'm on an education theme lately!

Over a century ago, Mark Twain summed up the teenage mindset when he quipped:
“At 18 I thought my father was an idiot. By age 28, I was amazed at how much he had learned in just ten years.” One of the characteristics of being a teenager is believing that you know everything there is to know, and that adults know nothing of any real value.

While this may be a quality that is specific to the hormonal changes that our species undergoes during those turbulent years, I think there is something unique to our own culture that contributes to our teens’ overexuberant narcissism. Society has elevated self-esteem to such an extent that teens feel that they are smart and capable even when they have never demonstrated anything of the sort.

Take the results of one self-esteem survey done in the United States. They asked seniors writing a math exam if they thought they were good at math. Turns out an overwhelming majority did. Then they asked Korean seniors the same thing, and most rated their math performance far below average. Which group do you think scored higher on the math exam?

Is this high self-esteem going to help our teens in the long run? Think of what their future employers will be looking for: someone who will show up for work on time; who will work well in a team; who will do what they’re told quickly and efficiently; who will take the initiative to notice other things that need doing and get them done; and who will problem solve, instead of pestering an employer with constant questions.

Yet where do today’s teens learn these qualities? Too often schools seem to instill the opposite. A friend of mine was recently livid at her son’s teacher. She found her son working one night on an English project. “Wasn’t that due yesterday?” she asked. “Well, officially,” her son admitted. “But we all know that means sometime this week.” No one believed the teacher’s deadline. I wonder how that attitude would work on a jobsite?

This is closely related to the modern notion that all learning must be fun. Certainly making learning interesting and engaging is a worthwhile goal. But some things just aren’t interesting. Memorizing one’s times tables isn’t interesting, but it is necessary if you want to master math. Many schools are now reticent to force this particular skill, though, because it’s difficult and many kids don’t like it. In an environment where getting control of thirty unruly children necessitates entertaining them, hard things are often thrown out the window. Combine this with a high school system which wants to increase the graduation rate, and it’s easy to see why rules are often so lax. Education soon becomes simply pushing kids through the system, rather than holding up high standards. In the process, students are modeled the notion that life must be fun, that hard work is to be minimized, and that authority figures will always give second and third and fourth chances.

While this idea that learning must be fun may work to keep students in school, it does little to prepare them for real life. Most of us will not have jobs that are a never-ending party. We won’t have bosses hovering over the photocopier telling us what a great job we are doing. And the threats aren’t confined to the work world, either.

elationships aren’t always fun. Successful marriages are a lot of work. Teaching kids to eat their vegetables is a lot of work. If kids decide that life is only worthwhile if it’s fun, what reference point will they use to realize that hard work is worth the effort?

It’s too bad our culture has bought into this idea that entertainment is the pinnacle of success. At one point, falling into bed exhausted at the end of a productive day was the sign of a successful life, not something to be pitied. And hard work is far more rewarding than wasting a day in front of a screen. I think it’s time to get my kids to clean something.

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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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