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Wifey Wednesday: Is He Your Soul Mate?
The title of this post is actually a misnomer, because I don't believe in soul mates.

Now please don't tell me how unromantic I am. It's just that I don't think marriages succeed because we marry the right person. I think they succeed because we become the right person.

Earlier this month my friend Terry at Breathing Grace wrote a brilliant post on soul mates--or the lack thereof. Here's a taste:

I believe that almost any two people, who are truly committed to living out Biblical principles in their relationship can have a great, fulfilling, romantic and even exciting marriage. And yes, I said almost any two people. ...I should add, for the sake of clarity, that the "any two people" in question should, of necessity, be of the opposite gender. I have to keep reminding myself that what used to go without saying doesn't anymore. But I digress.

I know that my statement flies in the face of every thing we have been lead to believe in western culture about love and marriage, not the least of which is that the main purpose of marriage is our personal happiness and fulfillment. Is it any wonder that the divorce rate among Christians is roughly the same as it is among non-believers? If, however, we would approach our marriages with the mind of Christ, the idea that our chief end is to glorify God, we could enjoy our spouses and children so much more than we do. When "what about me?" is no longer in the forefront of our thinking, deep and abiding love can take root, the kind of love that transcends the poor substitute that we have come to mistake for the real thing.
I really encourage you to read the whole thing. Please.

But I thought today I would base my Wifey Wednesday on this thought that she started.

The truth is that when we marry, we tend to marry with one goal in mind: to be happy. This is the man who will make me happy for the rest of my life! We're ecstatic. We're optimistic. We're in love.

Hopefully we did marry someone who is similar to us, who loves God, who has the same values. But here's the kicker: even if you did marry someone who appears perfect for you, it doesn't mean your marriage will be perfect. And I think we all know people who have divorced, and we look back and say, "Why? They were so perfect together!"

That's because marriages don't stay together simply because the other person is perfect. The truth is that nobody is perfectly compatible with you. We all go into marriage with unrealistic expectations of what the other person will be like: they will be ultra romantic; they will do more than half the housework; they will never want to be out with the boys anymore. And he has his expectations, too! And then once you've been married for a while, you see all the ways in which he isn't making you happy.

At the same time, you probably have children who demand your attention. Or you have a job or school to preoccupy you. And you end up spending more time on these things than on your husband.

You grow apart, you build walls between you, and the marriage can crumble. Even if you married someone who was wonderful for you.

Marriages only stay together when we decide to commit ourselves to the relationship. When we challenge ourselves, each and every day, to love our husbands. When we think about his needs, and his desires, before we think about our own. This doesn't mean that we ignore our own needs; that's not biblical, either. But we do need to think about his. And if we concentrate on what we're grateful for about him, and try to do things that he will enjoy, we create a different attitude in ourselves.

We're thinking about the good things about him, not how he's not meeting my needs. We're giving to him, which makes us into bigger people to start with. We're growing less selfish and more holy, and all of these things help to build an intimate marriage.

We're also building the foundation where it's easier for us to discuss our own legitimate needs. If you accept your husband for who he is, and give to him, he will be far more open to hearing your concerns than if you're always nagging him.

None of this, though, is contingent on him being that super-duper perfect person. It's not dependent on him at all; it's dependent on you. And that's why soulmates don't matter.

Marriages only last when we decide to give. We can do that whether or not the person is the perfect person for us. It's entirely dependent on our own attitude. And even if the person does appear perfect, if we don't give, the marriage won't last.

Is there such a thing as one perfect soulmate? My grandfather married three different women, each as different from the others as could be. They kept getting cancer and dying on him, so he was married to the first for 25 years, and the second and third for 17 years each. And he was happy in each marriage. When he was left, after the third had passed away, he had pictures of all three on his mantle. He loved them all. And he gave to them all. It wasn't about there just being one perfect person; it was about him loving his spouse, and he did it beautifully.

So may that be an encouragement to you. If you look at your husband now and think of all the ways you're not really compatible, and you wonder if that means the relationship is over, think again. It's not about him. It's about you. So let's start 2009 with a new attitude about marriage!

Do you have any marriage advice to share with us? Why not put it in the Mr. Linky? Just go to your own blog, write a post about marriage, and come back here and put the URL of the post in the Mr. Linky. We'd love to hear from you!

If you want more advice on marriage, my books To Love, Honor and Vacuum and Honey, I Don't Have a Headache Tonight can help!

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Works for me Wednesday: Twitter

I'm a Twitterbug!

Some of you may know what that means, but many of you probably don't. I only figured it out a month ago, but I'm hooked.

Are you on Facebook? It was the big thing of 2007, I think, and I signed up then. I do love Facebook, and keeping up with people.

But Twitter is even better at that. It's sort of like a Facebook with only the status updates. You can only post 140 characters at a time, so it's a challenge to stay in that limit. And while on Facebook people may only post once a day, on Twitter it's far more frequent.

The weird thing about Twitter is that you tend to be friends with people you don't know. On Facebook I started out only with people I had some sort of a relationship with. On Twitter you find people with similar interests and follow them. I have searches always open for homeschooling and Christian writers and Christian speakers, for example, and whenever someone puts up a Tweet on those topics, it shows up on my Twitter application. I can then look at these new people and decide if I want to follow.

And I've found some great people that way!

It takes up time, but I don't read all the Tweets that come my way. I only read when I happen to buzz over there. I have about 350 followers right now, and I'm following I think around 315 (I haven't checked yet this morning), which sounds like a lot, but many people are following in the thousands. You just learn to filter out only what you want to read.

I've discovered awesome websites, and great recipes, and neat people.

But the best part is that when you have a problem, you get instantaneous replies. Over Christmas someone sent me a gift certificate in Microsoft Publisher that I needed to print out to give to my mother. Only I don't have Microsoft Publisher. By the time I realized this mixup it was Christmas Eve and I couldn't call the office to have them fix it.

I put up a Tweet about it, and within twenty minutes four different people had pointed me to online solutions that worked! It was great. I would never have known what to do otherwise.

As a writer, I also find Twitter great for publicity, but that's not the main thing it's for. I just find I can ask questions about homeschooling, or speaking, and someone is going to know something and reply really quickly.

Are you on Twitter yet? You can always give it a try! Just join up at, and then you can always follow me! If you go to (my favourite way to use Twitter), you can search for terms you're interested in, and discover new people.

Make it your preferred time waster for 2009! I love it.

Thanks for stopping by! Do stay and look around a bit. I have a great post on marriage today, plus lots of other fun things on family!

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New Review of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
Do you ever google your name? I do quite a bit. I'm always curious to see where I'll come up.

Anyway, I was googling this morning and I found a new review for To Love, Honor and Vacuum, which I thought I'd post here:

As a wife, grad student, and new mother, it seemed my joy in life was getting lost in exhaustion. I have a great husband, an exceptionally "easy" baby, supportive grandparent-care, and flexible hours...and I was still running out of steam. Reading this book may not have changed what I have to accomplish in a day, but it refreshed my perspective. In this book, Sheila Gregoire gave me encouragement, specific and useful tips on how to simplify and prioritize life, and (perhaps what I needed most) sympathy coupled with hope. Sometimes all I need is someone to tell me that "yes, it IS hard!! But you're doing okay."

As an example, the day after I finished reading the book, I still had to: get everyone ready for the day, express milk, work all day in the lab, go to the gym, come home, do laundry, cook dinner, wash the dishes, pick up the house, entertain my 6-month old while doing all of this, feed and bathe the baby, put her to bed, express more milk, start another load of laundry... But this time, I did all of my morning chores with some fun music on, had lunches ready from the night before, took care of my evening housework with a timer on to finish in a hurry, and had time to go for a walk around the neighborhood with my daughter and my dog while the casserole was in the oven. It was one of the best days I've had in a very long time, although almost nothing besides my attitude (and a few organizational tips) had changed! I even had enough energy left to get romantic with my husband (and I can tell you, he appreciated it!).

Isn't that lovely? I'm glad her life was so changed!

If you want to read more about To Love, Honor and Vacuum, you can do so here. You can also buy it on Amazon here!

I'll be back to Wifey Wednesday tomorrow. I took the week off last week, but I have lots of new marriage thoughts ready to go!

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It Feels Very Weird to be on Vacation...
I'm at home with nothing I have to do! What a strange concept.

I mean, of course there's the laundry. And the mountain of dishes from yesterday. And I still need to organize one corner of my storage room. And I do have two columns due tomorrow.

But on the whole, I have nothing to do compared to normal! It's bliss.

I've knit a lot this week. I finished a qiviut scarf, which is luscious! Qiviut is extremely expensive yarn made from musk ox fur. It's the softest and warmest natural fibre. I didn't buy 100% qiviut because it was just too much. But I bought 45%, and it's still lovely. I finished a sweater for my husband, mended my daughter's gloves, mended my gloves, finished Keith's gloves, and finished a pair of socks for Katie. And now I'm well on my way to finishing a vest for myself.

I forgot how much I love knitting. It's what I do to relax, and too often lately I've been on the computer late into the night getting things done, and I forget to knit.

Do you have a hobby like that? One that makes you feel better, relaxes you, and that you just love? Have you been neglecting it?

It's interesting, because one of the things I've been doing is preparing articles and podcasts and videos from my book To Love, Honor and Vacuum lately, and in that book is a chapter on our priorities. I tell women that we need to schedule in the stuff that we love, that we just need to get done for the health of our own souls, before the housework and all the other drudgeries of life. And yet I haven't been doing that!

In December I created some household planners and charts based on the book, with one chart in particular about scheduling in our priorities. And here I wasn't even using it myself! I didn't realize until I had this vacation and I started knitting again, and noticed how much more relaxed I felt, and how much nicer I was to everyone.

So now I'm going to start using the charts, too! I did, after all, create them. And I was doing so well a year ago. But it's amazing how quickly things can slide when we don't take care to put first things first.

I do have to work. I do have to homeschool. But sometimes it takes a vacation to remind ourselves that we have to knit, too!

If you want the charts, you can get them for free here. So go to it, and start prioritizing your own downtimes again. We do, after all, need them!

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Menu Plan Monday: What to do With Turkey!
Menu Plan Monday is hosted by Org Junkie.

As I have posted before, this Christmas I cooked Birdzilla. Birdzilla was a 30 lb. turkey. She took 9 hours. She was good.

And she is still here. I have many Tupperware containers in my freezer full of Birdzilla. So let's talk turkey this morning! Leftovers, that is.

First of all, never ever throw out a turkey carcass. That's prize stuff, right there! Turkey stock is very easy to make and very tasty, and extremely healthy!

I simply put all the bones in a stock pot and cover with water. Throw in about 3 carrots, an onion, a bunch of peppercorns, 5 garlic cloves, and 3 pieces of celery (I use the leaves and the tops and all those pieces I don't eat). You can also throw in the turkey neck and other parts you didn't cook.

Now just simmer it for a few hours. It'll taste wonderful, and smell wonderful, and then you can freeze it in Tupperware containers in manageable doses so that you can use it whenever you need chicken stock for soups or casseroles or whatever.

Let's move on to other things with Turkey:

Turkey Soup

4 cups turkey stock
3/4 cup diced chopped turkey
1 cup peas
1 cup diced carrots and celery
1/2 cup macaroni, or egg noodles

Simmer for about 20 minutes, and then add salt and pepper or garlic or whatever spices you want. It's really yummy. I usually at least double this, but you get the picture.

Turkey Casserole

6 cups cooked rice
1 tin cream of mushroom/broccoli/celery soup
1 tin gravy (or leftover gravy!)
2 cups vegetables
2 cups cooked turkey
1/2 cup soup cream
Season with salt & pepper, garlic, and whatever spice mixes you like.

Mix everything together and put in a 9x14 pan. Add 1 cup shredded cheese and 1/2 cup breadcrumbs to the top. Cook at 400 for 25 minutes. Enjoy!

Turkey Strogannoff

I use the recipe here. It's great! And it uses up leftover gravy, too!

Turkey Tettrazzini

(Which is a fancy way of saying turkey in a cream sauce with egg noodles and mushrooms. Very, very good.) Again, I use the recipe here.

I'm not making all of these turkey dishes this week, but maybe you can make use of some of these recipes!

Monday: Turkey Tettrazzini

It's just so good I've got to!

Tuesday: Beef Roast

The kids are getting a little sick of Birdzilla. It's time to make Bessie the cow again. We bought half a cow earlier this year, and I just love having beef to make when I need to!

Wednesday: Beef Soup & Buns

I like an easy meal on New Year's Eve! We're going to be snacking all night with friends, anyway! For the beef soup, I use the leftovers from the roast, add it to beef stock, and add barley and vegetables. Very good. We're big on soups here, and they're so affordable!

Thursday: Homemade Pizza

I have a ton of youth coming over the afternoon of New Year's Day, and we're going to do homemade pizzas, where they can put on their own toppings. Otherwise everybody always complains!

Friday: Salmon & Rice

This is Mommy's favourite. The kids and the hubby are slowly getting more used to fish, but I do try to cook it once a week.

Saturday: Turkey Casserole

It's time for Birdzilla again!

What are you eating this week?

Thanks for stopping by! I'm the author of To Love, Honor and Vacuum, and I blog here about marriage, motherhood, and more! And don't forget I offer FREE household organization charts at my author site!

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The Season for Waiting
Every Friday my syndicated newspaper column appears in a variety of newspapers. Here was this week's:

I once read that most people spend on average two years of their lives waiting—waiting in lines, waiting for the waitress to bring the food, waiting for the furnace repairman. We may live in a fast-paced world, but there are some things we just can’t hurry. And waiting is aggravating, especially if you, like me, always pick the slowest line at the grocery store.

The Christmas season is all about waiting. We wait for that one special day when those much anticipated presents will finally be unwrapped, the extended family will arrive, and delicious aromas will fill the air. And waiting is torture, especially for younger ones. I’ve always felt it’s awfully unfair for children that we put our Christmas trees up in November. These poor tots with very little concept of time now have to wait over a month for Christmas, after being reminded of it daily.

When my husband was about nine, he was so tired of waiting that he took his two younger brothers and enticed them to open all the Christmas presents hidden in their parents’ closet. After examining their loot, they then rewrapped the lot, assuming their mother wouldn’t notice their haphazard job. They were wrong.

Waiting has always been an integral part of Christmas. From Mary waiting for her baby to be born to children waiting for dawn on that glorious morning, we wait. We dream of tomorrow and live for tomorrow, but in the process I wonder if we miss much of today.

When it’s presents we’re waiting for, waiting is full of excitement. But often the waiting periods in our lives are more characterized by dread than joy. I have several friends currently far back on a waiting list for specialist appointments, just so they can figure out what’s wrong. In the meantime, all these horrible diagnoses are dancing through their heads, where I’m sure they’d prefer sugar plums to be. And living in the agony of not knowing is the worst part of waiting.

If we could all do what my husband did and rip open the wrapping paper early perhaps we could take it. But when you’re waiting and there’s absolutely nothing you can do, life is painful. I have other dear friends whose daughter was just diagnosed with a serious disease. They’re spending their Christmas in and out of the hospital, and they won’t know a final prognosis for years. Even though things will likely turn out fine, that’s a lot of waiting.

I spent months waiting when I was pregnant with my second child, and the doctors told us that he had a heart defect which was likely to prove fatal. They just couldn’t tell me how long he would have. The rest of my pregnancy was spent preparing myself to meet the son I would one day bury.

What I learned through that difficult process, though, is that there’s no point in trying to prepare for every possible contingency, because only one thing is going to happen anyway. How much better it is just to savour the moment, and love the time that has been given to you.

None of us actually knows what tomorrow will bring, and when we try to live for all the things that might happen, we miss out on what is happening right now. If we spend our lives worrying, how can we enjoy what we actually have?

There’s really no point in spending our lives waiting. We can’t do anything about the future anyway. But we can love today. We can forgive today. We can hug today, and laugh today, and even cry today. We can choose not to sweat the little things. We can choose to let little grudges go. Treasure up those you love; cherish their smiles, and their voices, and their hugs. Don’t wait to mend fences; do it now, when Christmas is upon us, and people are misty-eyed over family and peace and love and joy.

There is no better time. So why wait?

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Random Thoughts on Christmas
First, everyone should know that this is the proper attire when making stuffing.

I bought a 30 lb. turkey this year. And we're not feeding very many people. But I want a ton of leftovers. So this bird had to go into the oven at the crack of dawn. Hence the pyjamas.

But I also react to onions. Hence the goggles. So here I am, making the stuffing (don't worry, I washed my hands!), properly equipped. May you all be amazed at my ingenuity.

Yesterday was actually Christmas, and we had it at my mother-in-law's house. It was lovely, but Keith was feeling a little under the weather so we left early.

During the day, after the presents were opened, I went on a cleaning frenzy and totally cleaned my storage rooms and several bathrooms. Do any of you ever do that on Christmas Day?

Today I'm heading for the furnace room, now that the bird is in the oven. I don't have relatives coming until about 2:00, so I have around 4 hours to clean. Yay!

Other thoughts:

Making electronic games out of games that once did not require batteries is stupid. The old battleship game was the best. Who needs an electronic one with sound effects? The whole point was that you made your own.

And why electronic Monopoly? It's a fun game, but before the kids had to do the math in their heads. Now they just swipe their VISA cards. And now you need batteries!

Trying to get cousins to play when they have very different interests and are approaching the teen years is very difficult.

The Wii really is quite fun. And you do work up a sweat! What an awesome game. We haven't had cable or satellite or an Xbox, but we bought the girls a Wii. Now we're almost a normal family!

Sometimes the benefit of being with extended family is that it makes you remember how much you love your own little brood.

Have a great day!

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Merry Christmas!
Merry Christmas, everybody!

I'm quite busy playing games and wrapping presents, so I won't write a long post. But let me repost one of my Christmas columns from a while ago that shows how weird our family really is:

Can email bring families closer together? I’ll let you be the judge. Here is a synopsis of messages my extended family sent over an 18-hour period.

Aunt 1: Would you all like to come to Christmas dinner here?

Mother, Cousin 1, Cousin 2: Sure!

Aunt 2: I want to be anywhere but here, because all my cutlery and kitchen stuff is in boxes.

Me: Ummm, okay, but Keith’s on call and he may be a little worried about being 15 minutes from the hospital.

Aunt 2: Perhaps Keith should become a helicopter pilot so he can get there quicker?

Uncle: If he were to fly the Canadian copters, he may crash and end up in Emerg in an ambulance. But hey, that’s where he was heading in the first place!

Uncle again: With the first snowfall today, a great idea came to me. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a Christmas BBQ down by the shore! We could build a big fire to thaw out our food as well as anyone who happened to wander off into a snowdrift. With all the doctors on site, I'm sure we could keep fatalities to an absolute minimum.
Aunt 1: Ha ha ha ha. My husband is very funny. But we will be eating indoors.

Mother: You know, if Aunt 2 brought all her boxes of kitchen stuff, eating by the lake would be easier.

Aunt 2: Perfect! Down by the lake it is. I have some new hypothermia techniques I’ve been wanting to try out anyway. Perhaps we can invest in an ice boat for Keith.

Mother: I have visions of Keith flying down the Bay, fork in one hand and slightly frozen turkey in the other. Not sure from this distance whether the fork is one of Aunt 2’s or Aunt 1’s. Wouldn't want him going off with the wrong cutlery. Especially after Sheila's efforts to teach the girls some table manners. If it is turkey, he should be using the dinner fork.

Me: Given my children’s table manners and flatulent ability, I, too, am inclined to go with turkey-on-a-spit. I can assure you, though, that they will likely forget to use their forks. In fact, I’m likely to forget to come altogether. This week alone, I forgot their piano lessons, forgot Becca’s dance lessons, and was so mortified I determined not to forget Katie’s ballet lessons. I bundled her up, arrived at my meeting, and told everyone I had to leave at 10:52 to make it to ballet for 11. And I did make it to ballet at 11. Except that ballet started at 10. So yes, we can come. But please be grateful that even if my girls use the wrong fork, that they are at least using one; everyone should bring nose plugs; and someone will have to phone to remind me it is Christmas.

Uncle: Wonderful! Turkey-on-a-spit it is. Nobody bring metal forks, though. They have a habit of sticking to the tongue.

Cousin 2: We seem to have forgotten a compromise. If we all build an igloo around a fire, we can be both inside and outside at the same time!

Cousin 1: This is what I understand. When: Christmas Day, time yet to be determined but hopefully the weather will cooperate and it will coincide with an ice storm or arctic gale. Who: anyone who can make it whether they are playing hooky from the hospital or not; children may or not be present but do not be surprised if they show up in ballet tutus expecting a piano lesson. What to Bring: Many layers of clothing. I recommend a windproof layer on the outside to keep the outside wind out and one's inside wind in (very good for heating purposes). Will pack a can of beans for snacking on the drive out. In terms of cutlery contributions, I understand forks are not deemed necessary by the younger crowd and thus I will not worry so much that I can only transport plastic forks on the airline.

Uncle: I know! We could make it into a Reality TV show! The Survivors Christmas… “Who will be the last left on the icy floes of…”

Shortly after this, Aunt 1 disconnected Uncle’s internet and we all returned to normal. But now, at least, you know where I get it from.

Have a great few days with family! Love you all!

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Podcast: Making Your Christmas House a Home
It's my last podcast of 2008! And it's a good one!

Do you spend your Christmas season yelling, "This house is a mess!". How much better to say, "This mess is a house!"

In this hilarious podcast, learn how to get perspective this Christmas, so that you remember that it's about relationships, not Martha Stewart perfection.Along the way we'll learn some tips for keeping your home under control.

But remember: comfortable is different from perfect. Don't aim for perfect this year, or everyone will think you're Scrooge!

This one is a lot like my book, To Love, Honor and Vacuum, and it's based on a talk I gave this year called "My Perfect Christmas Tree". Sometimes we worry so much about looking like we have it all together that we forget the point of life.

So go over and take a listen. It's only eight minutes long, and you can listen while you surf the web!

Have a great day!

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Menu Plan Monday: Christmas Menu
You can find more Christmas menus at

Today it's time to talk Christmas menu!

I'm very fortunate because my family all lives in my hometown. We're doing Christmas Eve at my brother-in-law's, Christmas at my mother-in-law's, and Boxing Day here with my side of the family.

Christmas Eve we always get together with my husband's side and play games all day. Usually the adults have played cards and the kids play on their own, but this year I'm going to get the kids in on our games. They're getting older, and sometimes they don't pay as well alone anymore. And charades is a fun game to do altogether!

My brother-in-law is a single dad, and he's not exactly handy in the kitchen. So even though the Christmas Eve festivities are not at my house, I'll likely be supplying much of the food. My main goal is to bring things that are healthy. I'll bring two huge plates of vegetables with some dip. The dip is fattening, sure. But it makes kids eat vegetables. And I would rather they eat vegetables than chips! Too often at these family get togethers we just eat crap. I make my dip with low-fat sour cream and low-fat mayonnaise, so it's not so bad.

I'm also bringing meatballs, which I'll make in my slow-cooker. I don't buy the frozen meatballs; I make them from scratch.

1 1/2 pounds ground meat (I often mix turkey & beef; no one can tell)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp ketchup
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
dash nutmeg
1 tbsp dijon
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg

Mix all together. Add more breadcrumbs if you think they need it. Then I cook them on a rack over some tin foil in the oven at 425. That way grease can drip off, and it makes them lower in fat.

I mix them in with a homemade barbecue sauce, which is created by combining all my barbecue sauces, ketchups, and mustards that happen to be in the fridge together! It's amazing how good it usually turns out! I also bought a rice cooker recently, that makes up to 12 cups. I'm going to make a ton, because I'd rather they eat rice than french fries!

On Boxing Day I make Christmas dinner. Here's my tip for an awesome turkey: BUY IT FRESH. Seriously. You don't need to do anything to it. I put garlic cloves under the skin and in the cavity, but that's it. Then I just baste it. It has enough flavour of its own, and if you rub it in salt, it can rob it of moisture.

That's what I'm planning for this week! For my baking, I'm making more chocolate frosted sugar bombs. You can find the recipe by scrolling below.

Do you have any tips on how to munch more healthily this Christmas? I'd love to hear them!

Thanks for dropping by! Why not stay a while? I've got posts on family, marriage, life, and podcasts and videos, too!

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Our Favourite Baking: Chocolate Oatmeal Drop Cookies
Technically these are called chocolate-oatmeal drop cookies. But we call them chocolate frosted sugar bombs.

They are so super good.

My daughters can make them alone, which makes them taste even better! Here's the recipe:

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
3 3/4 - 4 cups quick oatmeal
1 tsp vanilla
6 tbsp cocoa

Heat sugar, milk and butter to boil in a saucepan.
Once boiling, let boil for 2 minutes.
Remove pan from heat.
Add cocoa and vanilla and mix well.
Then add oatmeal (this gets hard to stir)!
Place on wax paper using a teaspoon.
Allow at least 6 hours to harden (this is the hard part).

Have fun!

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It's My Anniversary! It's My Husband's, too!
Good morning all!

We are snowed in here in Ontario on a lovely blustery day, where I am drinking hot chocolate and still in my pyjamas instead of in church, where I normally am this time of day on a Sunday.

We are celebrating 17 years of marriage today, and I am very glad we didn't have this kind of weather back in 1991. Although I think we still would have gone through with the whole wedding thing!

I married my best friend. We were best friends for a year before I started to realize that maybe the feelings were deeper than that. So I told him, and after a while he agreed. Then I told him that we were perfect for each other and should really be married, so he proposed.

It was a lovely courtship.

Of course, I haven't been able to call the shots since then quite as much, which is a good thing. But having that foundation of friendship was a wonderful thing. We didn't even kiss for quite a while because we couldn't quite picture it. It took a few months of dating to do that.

I always tell my girls they should marry their best friends, because you want someone you actually want to hang out with. You don't just want someone you want to make out with. Because quite frankly, you can't do that that much. And the novelty wears off. I've written books about that!

But when you're friends, you have a foundation. But you have to stay friends. Do stuff together. Talk together. Play together. And that is what we still do, and what we're going to do today.

Have a great snowy day, wherever you are!

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Thoughts on Being Salt in the World
Do you remember Jesus' admonition that we are salt in the world? And if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?

I've been thinking about that lately in terms of the changes that are coming to the government in the U.S.

What does salt do? It preserves, and it flavours. But it doesn't change the essential property. What it does is to stop it from rotting so quickly.

It doesn't make it fresher; it just slows down the rotting process. The direction is still the same: it's still rotting. But it's going much more slowly.

Now I don't mean to be a pessimist. And please forgive me for being political, as I'm about to do in a moment.

But I've been upset at both the Bush administration and the Harper administration in Canada because they haven't gone far enough. There's so much more they could have done to revamp welfare, to save the public school system by getting back to basics, to clean up our culture, to cut down on corruption. But very little was done.

In other words, little progress was made.

But salt doesn't make progress. What it does is prevent stuff from rotting. So maybe the sign of a productive and good government is that things don't get worse! It's not so much that they get better; it's that the rotting stops or slows. So if things stay the same, we're doing okay.

Of course, we'd like it to get better, and there are other biblical passages that point to the difference that we can make when we speak up for God. But when you're running a government, with an entrenched bureaucracy you can't do much. You can just simply slow the descent.

Maybe we expect too much out of our leaders. Transformational leaders are few and far between; Reagan was one, and I don't know if we'll see another in our lifetime. But we should all appreciate the fact that under Bush and Harper, certain things didn't disintegrate faster than they already were.

What will happen under Obama? I'm worried, especially given his picks for Education Cabinet Minister. Chicago, for pity's sake? What is he thinking?

I expect will see an accelerated decline in some areas in the next little while because no one is trying to stop that decline.

So it's up to us. We can't rely on the government to make it better. We have to reach out ourselves, and love our neighbours, teach our kids well, instill values and morals. No one else will do it.

It's up to us. We are the salt. We are what prevents decay. If the salt has been removed from the government, it's up to us. We may not have felt the urgency before; we will feel it now. So let's do something about it.

Instead of complaining, let's talk to the neighbourhood kids. Let's volunteer in youth groups. Let's make our communities better places. That's what you can do. It's within our grasp. And you are salt!

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Some People Should Not Be Allowed in Spas....
This weekend is my 18th anniversary. It's my husband's, too! Neat how that works.

Anyway, I've been agonizing over what to get him, and on Wednesday, when I was feeling particularly like a worm of a wife, I received a phone call confirming my appointment at the spa for today. I didn't know I had an appointment. It seems my husband booked one, and was going to surprise me.

Surprise over!

But I was still happy he took such care of me, and that he wanted to pamper me. Really, I was.

But I'm not the pampering type. I try to be, but I find it very hard to relax. Nevertheless, this was a gift, so dutifully I went.

After preparing myself, of course. You can't go for a manicure and a pedicure and a facial and a massage without making sure your legs and underarms are totally shaved, and that your nails aren't gross, and that you smell nice. I basically gave myself a manicure before I left home so the manicurist wouldn't see how gross I am.

It's like tidying before the cleaning lady comes.

Anyway, I arrive, and the masseuse asks me to take off all my clothes from the waist up and lie on this nice table with lots of pillows. I guess she's used to naked women. So she leaves the room, undress, and lie there, with my head in the funny face pillow, thinking I'm going to suffocate.

She came back and gave me a wonderful massage, although I turned my head like you're not supposed to because I just couldn't breathe in that pillow.

All the while strange Indian music was playing. Do people not like Beethoven anymore?

Next it was the facial, manicure, and pedicure all at the same time! I felt like Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality. Remember that scene? "Eyebrows: There should be two!". The three workers all look like nurses, and I'm in what looks like a hospital bed, except that there's this little opening in it for a foot bath. They really should put that in the Emergency Rooms. It would help people calm down.

So I feel like I'm getting some MAJOR PROCEDURE done, like a hyseterectomy or something, it all looks so official.

And then, as they start, I remember something very important. I don't like people touching my feet. Especially people filing my toenails. So I had to concentrate really hard to avoid kicking the pedicure woman. She really didn't deserve that.

But while the first foot bothered me, by the second foot I was fine with it. I think, however, it was because the woman working on my face was at that time doing what she called an "extraction", which is the same thing that we called "popping blackheads" when we were 13. Remember when you used to pop them just to see how much stuff you could get out? Well, it doesn't hurt when you do it to yourself. It does hurt when someone else does it to you. So it made me forget all about my little pinky toe!

At the end one of the girls was massaging my hands, one my feet, and one my neck. It was so relaxing. And all I kept thinking was, "you know ladies, I have my knitting in my purse. Maybe it you let me sit up I could knit for a bit." But I guess that would have wrecked my nails.

And then I figured something out. I don't like people giving to me. I feel guilty relaxing. I really do. It's not just that I would rather be knitting; it's that I can't sit still.

That's not a good thing. There's nothing wrong with relaxing every now and then. There's nothing wrong with being pampered. And it was so sweet of my husband to order this, so I really should just relax.

And I did, for the last five minutes. And it was nice.

When they let me get dressed again, I looked around the room, and I saw this:

Apparently electrolysis for transgendered people is big business. I suppose it is, but then I got this creepy feeling in that little room. And since I had my cell phone, I took a picture. So I started to snoop around, and I saw this little gem, too. They do electrolysis on adolescents who may be embarrassed about unwanted hair. Isn't that a little bit much?

Relaxing is great. Going overboard and getting all creepy is not. So let's keep it all in perspective, and maybe do each other's nails every now and then. Mine do look great, and I've only wrecked one so far!

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Creating Family Fun at Christmas
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in newspapers around North America. Here's this week's, on how to make sure Christmas stays fun for family!

When I was younger I loved Christmas because it brought family. I could hardly contain myself waiting for my cousins to drive up our laneway. Having other children to play with, and to sleep over, was the best part of my year. Unfortunately, my grandparents were both a little senile, so we children couldn’t be raucous all day. We had to be calm and subdued over the dinner table, during which my grandfather would recite all the recent plotlines from Matlock, which he thought was actually a documentary. So we children ate silently while we learned how Matlock pulled yet another trick out of his hat.

Later, though, we would play board games, and take hikes, and bake sticky, sweet things. We would choreograph dances and write plays and perform them, forcing our parents to sit through yet another performance with no actual plot and no discernible ending. But they watched, because that’s what family did.

I’m not sure what family does today. Often family times tend to revolve around some sort of screen, or some sort of bottle. Either everyone drinks together, or they watch television together, or they play on the Xbox together. Rarely do we actually do anything together.

We recently watched the movie Dan in Real Life, which is quite cute, and given the slim pickings at video stores these days, may be worth your while. The part of the movie I found so heartwarming, though, wasn’t actually the love story; it was all the activity in the background. It was real life family.

The bulk of the action centres on a family reunion at a rambling old farmhouse. The grandparents, the four adult children with their significant others, and countless grandkids are stuffed in this house, forming a bustling, crowded mass of humanity.

But what's so charming movie is what they do. No televisions or computers are anywhere to be seen. Instead, the family actually does stuff together. Weird stuff, mind you, but they’re laughing together all the while. There’s a contest between the males and the females to see which gender can finish the newspaper crossword. They play charades, touch football, and hide and seek—even the adults. They jump around aerobically first thing in the morning, and produce a talent show. The grandma teaches the younger girls to knit.

I was thinking of the movie this week because for many of us Christmas is that family reunion. It’s the only time of year the extended family is together. And if we spend that time watching television or playing the latest video game, we’re squandering the opportunity to create fun memories where we all just plain silly together.

I once attended a Christmas party at a friend’s house that was enough to snatch all the festive spirit from one forever. The only activities planned seemed to be drinking beer. Everyone was bored silly, even those who were partaking. The fifty or sixty people inside the home didn’t know each other, so natural conversation didn’t flow well. And then, in desperation, I started suggesting games. We played euchre; we played charades; the room came alive. My husband wanted to bury his head in the snow in mortification because I was taking over the party, but that is what I do when I am desperate. And once I took the lead, many others followed, so we could sneak out early.

I think we have forgotten how to have fun. The screen has replaced so much of our lives that we never actually just spend time together laughing and playing. And that’s a shame, because it’s only when we’re doing things together—rather than watching things together—that we can really share our personalities, our hearts, and form closer bonds. The message of Christmas is all about God bridging the gap so that he could have a relationship with us. And whether or not you celebrate that message, surely the idea of Christmas being a relationship-building time resonates with everyone.

So I’m warning my family: this year we are going to play charades, even if it kills us. It’s worth it just to see my brother-in-law try to act out “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”. Want to join us?

Have a very Merry Christmas!

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Finding Time to Work from Home
I've joined Twitter recently, and I'm really loving it! Neat people out there to follow.

Many of the women on my list are women who work at home so they can be with their families. And they have self-generated jobs--internet marketers, writers, editors, etc. The big question becomes: how do you find time to work when you're with your kids?

This is a huge issue, and I thought I'd share some of the things that worked for me when my children were smaller, in the hopes that they work for you, too. And then maybe you can share your tips.

1. Plan your Goals

I know everyone is always telling you to plan, plan, plan, but there is a point to this. Know what you want to accomplish and when you want to accomplish it by. And be realistic.

One of the problems I ran in to was that, as an author, there were countless things I could be doing, and indeed should have been doing, to market my books. I'd think about them, dream about them, read books about them, but I didn't have time to actually do them. I had time to do one or two, but not nine or ten. And I needed to realize that and stop beating myself up over it.

When you are at home with your kids, you are at home with your kids. You will not be able to work eight hours a day productively. But you may be able to do 2 or 3 hours. So given that, what is reasonable to expect of yourself? How long will each thing take? And what can you put off until a different season in your life?

I found small, manageable projects worked best, like article writing and column writing. I have only added blogging and other social networking lately, because they take a lot of time. I don't think I could do all of these and still write books if my children were still smaller. They're 11 and 13, so I have a lot more time now.

And my marketing is working better. A lot of you who read this blog have clicked on my Amazon links to my books (thank you!), and I've noticed a big uptick in people visiting my website. And that's great. But I don't feel guilty about not doing it earlier, even though it may have been more helpful when the books first came out, because I didn't have time.

So figure out what is most impotant to build your career. Is it writing? Is it starting a blog? Is it starting articles, or researching money-making techniques on the internet? Make a list of everything you want to do, and prioritize it. Then only do your #1 or #2 priorities for a time. And forgive yourself if you don't get everything on your list done!

2. Find Regular Hours

I know that sounds impossible with small kids, but it can be done. I used to use nap time for writing. Every day for two hours, even when I myself was tired, I would write. That was my work time. When the kids stopped napping, they still had downtime after lunch in their bedrooms. We instituted this early, and they stuck to it. That was their time to do puzzles, play in their beds, or look at books (and later, read). I was lucky if I got an hour eventually, but they stuck to the routine, and so did I.

Another time that works well is first thing in the morning, unless you have children who wake at 6:00. Try to stagger their bedtimes so that they do sleep until 7:30, and then you can start at 6:30 a.m. Or, if you're more of a nighthawk, do the opposite, and work after they go to bed for an hour. I'm not as big a fan of this technique, because I think we need times with our husbands. But once children reach the age of 4 or 5 they can also get their own cereal in the morning, and then this can be their video time. So they can entertain themselves while you grab an hour.

3. When You Do Work, Be Productive!

Don't check emails (unless they're business related). Don't check Twitter, or blogs, or news (unless that's part of your "job"). Only do what's on your list! Many people in offices who work 8 hours a day only do 2-3 hours of real work. If you can get 2 hours of real work in, you're ahead of the game!

Treat yourself seriously. If you are working at home to make money, then show up for work at your appointed time and WORK. Even if you're tired, or grumpy, or have PMS. If an employer were paying you, you'd show up. So show up, even if you yourself are paying you!

4. Find Things the Children Can do on their Own

A baby can stay in a playpen and entertain him or herself for half an hour, especially if that playpen is beside you or near siblings so they know they're not alone. Toddlers can play alone to a certain extent, too.

Keep certain toys, or the playpen, simply for Mommy's work time. Don't feel guilty if you're not playing with them constantly. They can be on their own for 30 minutes, as long as you're still supervising and know what they're doing! You don't have to interact with them constantly; kids do need some time to be on their own. This may only grab you 20 minutes to half an hour, but even that can be important.

5. Make Use of Free ChildCare

Libraries often have story hours, that last for half an hour. Do you have friends that go? Perhaps they can watch your kids while you work on the computer. Most libraries have wireless access!

Some gyms have childcare, too, and you can work out for half an hour and then do half an hour of work. Get creative. Kids like outings, anyway!

6. When You're With your Kids, Be With Your Kids

Finally, when you're not working, be with your kids. Learn how to switch on and off. Don't run to the computer every moment they're busy to see if you can "grab 5 minutes". You'll wear yourself out and you'll feel like nothing is ever done correctly. The kids will get into trouble or call for you and then you'll be annoyed.

So try to do something fun and active with them every day where they have your attention. Go to a playgroup. Take them to the library. Go for a walk, do a puzzle, or read some books. Have time where you really are with them, and not just supervising them in the same house, and you'll likely find they don't resent the time you take away from them quite as much.

If you're a stay at home mom, you are never going to get as much done as someone who is not with her kids. You're just not. But that doesn't mean you can't work. It just means you'll do it differently. But you're still being a great mom to your kids, and that's irreplaceable.

Sheila has a webpage for Writing Tips, about how to get started with a writing career. Sheila also has a blog for women wanting to start a speaking career.

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Let's Talk About Kids' Chores!

I've been talking a lot about kids doing chores lately, and I thought I'd add another discussion to the mix.

What about attitude?

It's fine to say they have to do chores, but do they have to enjoy it?

Smaller children do tend to enjoy it. Give a 3-year-old a spray bottle with water and a cloth, and he will be in heaven.

Give a spray bottle and a cloth to an 8-year-old, and he will not. Kids don't like cleaning, as a rule. Come to think of it, most adults don't, either. If we did, our homes would never be messy!

But when it is chore time, what sort of attitude do you demand from them? Do you demand that they do it without complaining? That they whistle while they work? That they try their hardest and get it done quickly?

The truth is that we cannot control someone else's emotions. Demanding that they enjoy chores is taking it a bit far. We can, however, ask them to do them quickly, ask them not to complain, and ask them to try hard. Asking them to smile is a little bit much.

We were running into problems at our house over chores because my children were always bickering. Rebecca would say Katie wasn't working hard enough; Katie would counter that Becca was telling her what to do. It seemed that the only time they really fought was when they were doing chores, which made me very angry!

Thankfully, a combination of talking to them and them maturing has gotten rid of most of that, but we do need to figure out what attitude we are going to demand. Because while you can't (and shouldn't) try to control emotions, you can ask for politeness and respect.

I would simply not pay kids who didn't do things with an appropriate attitude that would pass at a workplace. One of the purposes of chores, to me, is to train children for the workplace. That means they have to work hard, well, and quietly. If they can't do that, they don't get paid (but they still have to finish!).

Another method I would use, though, to make it easier on the children is to make chores fun. Set the timer and ask them to "beat the timer" while they tidy. Have them lace up their running shoes and see how fast they can vacuum (while still getting it done). Let them clean while their own choice of music is blaring. If our attitude is one of "let's see how much fun we can make this", they're more likely to follow along. If our attitude is, "let's buckle down and work hard if it kills us," they're going to feel that it is, indeed, killing them.

Right now you likely have a lot of tidying to do to get ready for Christmas, or for company coming. Have the kids help tidy, even if they're only three. But try these methods, and see if they're more inclined to do it willingly.

We shouldn't put up with bad attitudes, but we shouldn't be tyrants, either. It's a hard balance to find, but once you do, kids are much happier!

Finally, here's a video of an interview I did on kids and chores. The interviewers were great, and it was a lot of fun:

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Teaching Kids to Cook, Part II!
Okay, some moms took my advice and are teaching their kids to cook!

Here's my friend Lylah with her son making shepherd's pie. She doesn't use the same recipe I do, but the point is: her-son-is-making-it-and-he-is-using-stuff-he-likes-so-he-will-eat-it-and-not-complain!

The question is: will you eat it? After he's touched it all like that? A mother would, you know. As long as it was your own kid! Check it out:

Now, as gross as it is to have kids touch all that food, at least this kid looks comfortable in the kitchen!

Does your child? Next time he or she wants to help, let them! Don't send them away. They learn by watching you.

My half-brother has been with us for a few days, hanging out while I cooked, and he's learned a lot (he's living on his own now and has to cook for himself). Kids learn that way, too. But they don't learn if we never teach them, or we shoo them out.

So teach kids to cook! Even if it is gross. It won't always be...

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Works for Me Wednesday: Great Christmas Wrapping Paper

Do you hate spending money on wrapping paper? I hate it that these tiny rolls that barely cover a game of Battleship cost $2. I just can't do it.

So we've tried to come up with some creative ways to save money on wrapping paper.

1. The Pathetically Frugal Method.

I collect wrapping paper. And tissue paper. And gift bags. If it has tape on it, I just cut the tape off. And then I reuse it. I did that for our wedding gifts, and I didn't have to buy more wrapping paper for ten years! So instead of throwing it all out on Christmas morning or recycling it, save it.

But that doesn't help you now. So here are some other ideas:

2. The RePurpose Method

If you subscribe to a newspaper, you've got wrapping paper right there! Comics make great wrapping paper. Challenge your kids to make their favourite comic end up at the top, and they love it! It’s a test of spatial ability to figure out how to fold it so it comes out right!

But they're pretty, and they're available! So use those.

3. The Cute Mommy Method.

When my children were 2-6, I took all those large pictures they painted at school and at home and used them as wrapping paper. We never know what to do with them, and they can’t hang on the fridge forever, but they work wonderfully and are very colourful! Use matching ribbon and it almost looks planned! Sort of like an impressionist art work. I still have some saved that we're still using, and it's years later. They painted an awful lot!

4. The Scrapbook Mommy Method

Finally, you can create wrapping paper yourself. Save all those brown paper bags or paper store bags, or even plain white ones. You can cut them up and remove the handle, and then use Christmas stamps all over them. Kids love going crazy with stamps!

Any white paper works that way, so you can even use regular white paper for smaller gifts. And it's a lot cheaper than buying wrapping paper!

The key to making the parcel pretty is the final touches: the ribbons and the bows. If you collect them all year, you'll likely have some color coordinated stuff that will work. Otherwise, I buy huge rolls of ribbon at our local dollar store, and it's not that expensive.

Those are my brilliant solutions for cheap wrapping paper! Any other frugal ideas for Christmas you want to share?

Thanks for dropping by! Be sure to stay and look around a bit! I've got great posts on marriage, family, and creating Christmas memories!

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Wifey Wednesday: Dealing with the In-Laws

Hello ladies! This morning I've got a doozy of a topic for you: handling the in-laws at Christmas.

For some of you it's easy. Your in-laws are great and you love them. For some of you it's even easier: they live on the other side of the country! But for many of you, in-law relationships are stressful.

They come to visit (or you go to visit), and the tension fills the air. You don't do anything right. It's clear they don't like you. They spoil the kids and ignore what you say. They feed them chocolate, or tell you you shouldn't discipline them. Or they do the opposite and say that children should never make noise and why are your kids so out of control?

And your husband sits there and takes it. And you feel so alone, even though it's your family.

Maybe for you it's not that bad, but you do find that your husband is a different person with his parents than he is with everybody else. And you don't understand it.

So here are some thoughts for Christmas sanity when in-laws are involved.

1. Respect should be part of all relationships, Christian or not. You should treat your in-laws with respect, and they should treat you with respect. If they do not treat you that way, you need to speak up. Talk to your husband about it. Even talk to your mother-in-law about it. But you shouldn't be in a situation where your children see another adult talking down to you.

Someone very close to me allowed her marriage to be ruined because her parents were constantly griping about her husband's inadequacies. She did nothing to stop it, and not surprisingly, within five years they were split up. It was needless. No one should criticize you or talk down to you.

2. Draw boundaries around your time. Christmas is such a special time of the year. I think we wreck it by spending it in the car, going back and forth to all the extended family. And what is worse, each portion of the extended family wants their "own" time with us.

Consider throwing a party of your own, and saying, "anyone who wants to see us, has to come to us at this time." It will be hectic, but it's better than spending your life on the road. My mother always joins my in-laws for Christmas, so we're all one big, happy family. It works out well, and that way I don't have to make two Christmas dinners. After a while, you need to create the kind of Christmas your family wants.

And it's okay to say: this year we're not visiting anyone. Or this year, we want to have Christmas just us at our home. We'll visit you in the New Year, or you can come to us. There's nothing wrong with that.

3. You and your husband need to be on the same page. This is really the kicker, isn't it? What if he doesn't see how his mother irks you? What if he doesn't notice how his father subtly insults you? What if he thinks you're blowing things out of proportion?

Can I be a devil's advocate for a moment? Is he right? When I got married, I didn't have much in common with my in-laws. But I threw myself into the relationship, and decided to love them. And I genuinely do! Others of my sisters-in-law spent much longer getting to love them (and some still don't), and it's not entirely their fault. My mother-in-law is the type to bear a grudge.

But I just always saw past that and loved her anyway. She's my mother-in-law. Now, she's actually quite a good mother-in-law. She loves me and she's never interfered. But I have another young friend who has been married for just over a year who doesn't like her mother-in-law very much because the house is so much more formal than her own family of origin. But that doesn't matter! You have to get beyond that when you're married and just love her.

That being said, if your mother-in-law is very difficult, you have to talk to your husband about it. And ask him to draw boundaries. He is the key to your relationship, and he should be on your side. You are his wife. If he isn't, talk to him, pray about it, and just try to love your mother-in-law. But make plans so that the time you spend with them is minimized this Christmas.

Finally, I would just encourage you to decide what Christmas you want to have. Don't let in-laws and parents dictate it. If you have children, they come first. What kind of Christmas do you want for them? You don't have to live for everybody else's expectations. You can make your own.

But when you talk to your husband about it, don't attack him or his parents. Just share your feelings. And see what happens!

Please share your stories of in-laws in the comments, either to encourage others or to ask for help! I have great readers, and I'm sure many could offer another perspective that may prove very helpful!

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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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