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The Getaway Plan
I'm just back from Family Camp! I spoke every morning this week to a little over 100 women. We were in our tent trailer, and while the bullfrogs kept me up at night, the week overall was marvellous, and a big encouragement!

I had posts scheduled to come up automatically this week, as you likely noticed, and I'll reply to some of the many comments soon!

For now, though, it's time for my column. Every Friday it appears in several newspapers, and this week's it's about my dash to get out the door and ready for Family Camp. Read on. Perhaps you're as neurotic as I am!

By the time you read this, I’ll be back, but right now my family is preparing to go camping. The girls are collecting the towels, bathing suits, and bug repellent, my husband is filling the coolers, and me? I’m dusting my bedroom.

If that doesn’t make sense to you, it’s because you are missing the crucial nesting gene. I have one, which may surprise most who know me, because it only manifests itself when we are preparing to leave. On a normal day I may be perfectly content living in a home with stacks of unopened mail scattered around the dining room, dust bunnies plotting a takeover of my house under my bed, and unidentifiable contents in Tupperware containers lurking near the back of my fridge.

But when we are leaving these things are absolutely out of bounds, as anyone with any self-respect would agree. Unfortunately, my husband and my children do not share the gene, and so they have the gall to become frustrated with me, and to express this frustration in unpleasant ways, when they think that I am letting them “do all the work” of packing and “holding us up” and “wasting time” instead of actually contributing to the camping cause.

Mysteriously, they fail to see how my actions contribute to a holiday. After all, what’s a holiday if you have to come home to a messy house? So as I’m collecting our clothes, I notice the dust more than I do on normal days. Or when I’m piling suitcases in the hallway I notice the floors could really use a mopping. Don’t even get me started on what happens when I go through the fridge to figure out what we need in the coolers.

By the time we actually exit our premises, then, our house is in tip top shape. And yet instead of lauding me for this spurt of high energy cleaning action, my family feels resentment because they want to “get going”. Honestly.

My husband even had the gall to inform me that one day he is going to announce a magnificent, surprise holiday, just so that I would clean the house. Then, with all the suitcases packed and all the floors sparkly, he would tell me that we’re going to stay home, because it’s so nice to live in now. I was not impressed.

Cleaning, though, is not all I do when we’re preparing to depart. I also have that compulsion to attend to all the errands I’ve been nonchalantly ignoring. I may have decided they’re not urgent for three or four weeks running, but when we’re about to leave the house for five days, they become a priority. And since I’m running to the bank, why not check out the sales at some of my favourite stores, too?

Then, of course, there’s the email I must answer, and the thank you notes I must write leftover from business engagements a few months ago. In short, whenever we go on vacation, my to-do list magically gets to-done.

Naturally this makes vacation preparedness a very stressful activity, and one might wonder if getaways were even worth it. But I know the answer to that one. It’s found in sitting around a fire, eating smores and not caring if you get marshmallow on your sweatshirt. It’s found in playing cards inside the camper when it rains. It’s found in getting up one morning and reading an entire novel just because you can. It’s found in having time to walk, hand in hand, with my husband for hours because there’s nothing else to do. Vacations are bliss. And I’m just glad that, thanks to me, coming home isn’t so bad, either.

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Priests and Marriage Advice
My friend Deborah Gyapong is an Anglican/Catholic living in Ottawa who also writes. She's a spitfire, she's wise, and I really enjoy her company.

She had a post a while ago looking at a controversy regarding whether or not Catholic priests and popes can give advice on sex. She goes into the whole controversy in her post, but what I really loved was how she ended:

But the selfless giving and love of a chaste priest is also something that married couples --especially men---need to look at and take as an example. Because a celibate priest sacrifices his sexual love for the sake of His Bride, the Church, the love that he offers does not use the other as an object--that is if the priest is living this out properly. A wife yearns to be loved by her husband for who she is, to be honored and cherished. She hopes her husband might exercise self-sacrifice and willingness to put his sexual desires under discipline for her sake, and not to have him expect her to dance around in some stupid bustier and garter belt, kama sutra-ing around the house for his use and pleasure. Or on the other hand, for a wife to turn her husband into an object or a performer for her gratification and to be self-sacrificing in understanding that it's not all about her either.

There is something extremely beautiful about an obviously heterosexual man who could easily have experienced the goods of a beautiful wife and many loving children who sacrifices that good for the sake of the Church. And the Church, in her earthly institutional form often seems a critical, nagging, rebellious, unthankful and unattractive spouse for these men at times, I imagine. Yet for those men who are able to cultivate serenity and express the love of Christ because they see the image of God in the disguises of the sinners in their midst, well, that love transforms lives.

That kind of priest I would think might have a great deal to say about human sexuality, but it would never devolve to positions or techniques. Instead it would focus on Jesus and a call to holiness and to loving the way Christ loves us. Most wives would be so grateful to have their husbands love them that way. Christ's love puts everything in its proper place and always puts the dignity of the whole human person at the forefront.

I do not come from a tradition of celibate ministers, so it's not something that I immediately identify with. But at the same time, I do think there is a beauty and a purity in what Deborah is saying.

I think, as Protestants, we too lightly denigrate the Catholic church and forget some of the wonderful richness of theology that is there, especially about the body. In fact, some of what the last Pope wrote on the body was far more insightful than much of what I've seen coming out of our own tradition.

My husband and I started watching the mini-series The Tudors recently, and had to stop because it was just too sexually graphic, though I thought it was extremely well done. But the whole thing left me sad. Catholics and Protestants both had their valid points, and both were also wrong. The Catholic church was corrupt at the time; the Protestants should not have persecuted Catholics the way they did, though (nor should Catholics have persecuted Protestants). It's just a stain on both of our houses, I believe.

But I still think there is something admirable in the idea of a celibate priesthood, for exactly the reasons Deborah stated. To make it mandatory, it seems to me, leads to the kind of corruption we saw in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and partly (but not entirely) to some of the abuse scandals more recently (there are other reasons for that, but I won't go into that here). Yet this idea of being wedded to Jesus is a beautiful one. And maybe, if we understood the beauty of celibacy more, we'd understand the real point of pure sexuality and loving someone, gracefully, body and soul. Instead we see it too often as a selfish thing, as a purely physical thing, as a solely gratifying thing. And that truly is a shame.

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Wifey Wednesday: The Benefits of Walking Together

Unfortunately, when a marriage starts going sour, people often focus on the most visible symptoms, rather than the underlying cause.

So, for instance, they'll look at a blah, or non-existent, sex life and think that's the cause, when really it's a symptom of something deeper. Or they'll look at the way the couple hardly spends any time together, which can be a cause, but more often is a symptom of a lack of care for the marriage.

What a marriage really needs, I think, is spiritual intimacy and a deep sense of friendship. Everything else grows out of that. You have to feel like you're in this together. And you have to feel connected to God. Those two go hand in hand. And when you have those two things, you'll communicate better. You'll have better sex. You'll parent better. You'll be able to resolve conflict better because there's a sense of goodwill there already.

So what can you do to build up both friendship and spiritual intimacy? I want that to be our topic today, and if you all have any ideas, please write your own posts or comment below! But here's one very simply suggestion I have which really, really works.

This may sound strange, but I find the best way to keep spiritual intimacy alive is just to go for walks. It's when we're walking, away from the television, that we really share our hearts. And because God is so central to our hearts, that's when we have the most spiritual conversations. We may not pray or read the Bible, but even talking about struggles or hashing out what we think a biblical story means is great!

Men tend to communicate with others side by side, when they're doing something. They don't sit opposite someone and share their hearts normally. We women like to talk face to face, but that's not as much in men's make up. But when we walk, it's a little bit less pressure. And that's often when we open up.

So after dinner, while the weather is still nice, why not just head outside everyday and go for a walk? Talk about how your day went. Fill the time. And as you communicate, you'll find that both your companionship and your spiritual intimacy is growing. I find this so much easier when we're out of the house. When we're at home, the computer or the telephone always intrudes. And to say, when you're in the house, "let's talk", has a seriousness to it that you don't need. But when you're out, it naturally happens.

So that's my take. What's yours? Let's share on Wifey Wednesday! Just go to your own blog and write a post on marriage, and then come back here and enter it in the Mr. Linky!

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Planning for Poverty

Okay, maybe that headline is a bit of an exaggeration.

But I face a dilemma when it comes to parenting. Most of us hope that our children will surpass us. That they will be more successful, more leisured, more content.

While the more content part is always possible, the fact is that in my family it is very likely that we have reached the pinnacle of wealth. As a physician, my husband makes a very good income. We do our best to save a chunk, give a lot away, and live in a nice but still upper-middle class home. We don't have a cottage. We don't have a boat. We don't have first class furniture.

But it's very unlikely that my children will have this kind of income. It's far more likely that they'll struggle to get by, like everyone else, and like we did when we were starting out.

So one thing I've always been conscious about in my parenting is to teach my kids how to be frugal, and how not to expect that money will always be easy, or that they can always buy whatever they want. Here are some of the ways I've done this:

1. Start Allowances Young

When the girls were three, they started with allowances. They earned $1/week per year of age, which they had to divide up as follows: 10% tithing, 30% spend now (usually chocolate), 30% save for something they want, and 30% university. They do that with every bit of money they make, even today when my oldest makes a lot from baby-sitting and selling homemade jewellery.

And with that came the responsibility for buying their own treats. They've had to buy their chocolate bars and their ice cream cones. Sure we've bought our share, but on the whole, they know not to ask me for candy. If they do, I always reply, "did you bring your money?". That way they learn the value of money, and that they need to think about what they spend their money on.

I have a whole chapter on teaching kids good responsibility with money in my book, To Love, Honor and Vacuum! Do you have it yet? If not, you can get an autographed copy here, or get it from Amazon:

2. Start Clothing Allowances Young

When my oldest turned 13, she received her clothing allowance. Now she has to keep track of her money, and all the things she'll need to buy this year. I sat down with her in January of that year (her birthday happens to be at the beginning of the calendar year, so it's handy), and we went over all the items of clothing she'd need. I paid for the basics: a certain number of pairs of pants, certain number of shirts, dresses, etc. And I didn't pay a lot of money, since often we buy at thrift or second hand stores. So I gave her an allowance of about $9-$10 a shirt, for instance, not the $20 that it can cost new in a store.

And then I handed her the money. And she made it last! She's not doing as well this year, but then, she's also making her own money, and soon she'll have to dip into her own to buy her clothes. And that's fine, if that's where she chooses to spend her own money. At least she's learning how to budget!

3. Charity is Non-Negotiable

I suppose it's strange to say that we "force" charity, but we always have. We've demanded that they tithe, and every Christmas one of our rituals is poring over the Christmas catalogues we get from charities and dividing up the remaining charity money for that year, both theirs and ours. We pray over the needs and send it out.

And what I've found is that the girls are becoming generous on their own. Rebecca has frequently given away all the money in her wallet to a friend on a missions trip, or an appeal. And she's done it cheerfully. When you raise them from the beginning to understand that it's not our money, it's God's, they have a better attitude. We've also been to Kenya with them twice to help them to see what an African orphanage is like, so they know how much we have. And I think they get it.

4. Buy Second Hand

We buy everything second hand. We buy clothes second hand (not always, but we do check the second hand stores first). We buy cars second hand. We're bargain lovers! We don't need to be, but even if you have the money, why wouldn't you try to save? It gives you more to give away!

And then the girls learn how to find a bargain when they're older.

5. Cook Cheaply

One of my favourite things is teaching the girls how to cook (I began when they were 10) and helping them to figure out how much different meals cost. At every dinner we often have that discussion: how much was this meal per person? It helps them to see which is an expensive meal and which is not. It also helps them to see how expensive restaurant eating is (and that's the big failing I have as a parent. We eat out way too much). But I love cooking with leftovers, making casseroles and homemade soup. And then they see how cheaply you can get by! I have visions of them in university feeding a whole pile of friends because they'll be two of the few who can cook, and they'll know how to do it inexpensively!

What tips do you have about teaching kids about money? I'd love to know! Leave them in the comments!

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Happy Birthday!
My youngest daughter turns 12 today. It seems hard to believe.

It's been a good year for her. She was baptized. She finally developed a love of reading (now she fits in with our family, at last!). She's really turned from a little girl to a young woman.

Here's a column I wrote a few years ago on the occasion of her birthday, and I thought I'd reprint it for her today. She liked it. I hope you do, too!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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Ballroom Dancing Lessons
A couple of years ago my husband and I took ballroom dancing lessons. It was so much fun. I just love dancing, but jumping around to current hits never struck me as something fun. Actually looking like you know what you're doing, and moving together, is very, very fun. Ever seen the movie Strictly Ballroom? Hilarious. One of the best movies out there (and almost family friendly; if your child is 11 or over, it's okay).

Anyway, we're contemplating taking lessons again this year. The hard point is always finding a night of the week that works, especially since my husband's a physician and he's on call a lot at night. And then there's youth group, and all the other church activities. But for this year, I think we're going to suspend some of our church activities just so we can have fun as a couple again.

Here's Keith talking about our ballroom dancing lessons at a marriage conference we gave a while ago. It's pretty funny.

Have a great Sunday!

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Discipline, Punishment, Honour Killings, and More
Recently on this blog we've been debating discipline techniques.

It's been argued by some commenters (and I think I largely agree) that discipline should be concerned about the child's character, not about his or her impact on us. Thus, discipline should be done to shape character, not as retribution or punishment.

I see the point, but I still struggle with it. There are times, for instance, that a person has to pay simply for what they have done, whether or not it reforms their character. Let's say, for example, that your child broke a window with a baseball. Let's also assume that your child is very, very sorry, and that they have learned their lesson. Let's assume that the child would never in a million years break a window again. They should still have to pay for that window, even though this isn't concerned with their character, since they've already learned the lesson. Sometimes you pay simply because actions have consequences.

I also read in the Old Testament many times when God was angry at Israel when He punished them, as Terry commented below. So I'm not sure anger is necessarily wrong; there may be times when we are angry.

I think the difference is not anger, but shame, as Mrs. W. alluded to in her comments. If we're disciplining because we're afraid of how our child's behaviour reflects on us, we're doing it out of shame, and that's wrong. Where I may part ways with some commenters is that I think it's only human that there will be times we discipline because we're angry. As long as we're careful in this, and we do it simply to correct their character, I don't think we should be hard on ourselves. Of course we must still show grace, but even God was angry. So I think that's a tough line to demand that we are never angry. I'm not sure it's practical. But I do think we must be sure that we're disciplining--or punishing, or whatever you want to call it--for their good, not ours.

I live in Belleville, Ontario, which is a little town east of Toronto, quite near a university city called Kingston. Last week there were two mass drownings in Kingston, both of families of Muslim girls. In one case, three girls and their "aunt" (really their father's first wife) were found drowned in a car that had been driven into the canal. In another case, two girls and their mother were found drowned in the pool at the Best Western hotel. I don't know why Kingston was singled out for this dubious honour, but it was. In the pool incident, the girls were 11 and 14. My daughters are 11 and 14. A little too close to real life for me.

Interestingly, when Keith and I were at Queen's University in Kingston twenty years ago we led a discussion group on religion with the Muslim Students' Association, telling them about the gospel. So I feel a bit of affinity to these cases, and a lot of heartbreak.

We don't know that these were honour killings, but in the first case, the parents and a brother were arrested as they were trying to leave the country. And they fit with the honour killing motif: a bunch of females are killed when they bring dishonour on a family. In many Islamic societies, the only way to expunge the shame and get your honour back is to kill the girls.

It's disgusting, it's outrageous, and it's infuriating. I don't think there are enough words for it. Despicable? Deplorable? Inhuman? Monstrous? Evil incarnate? Whatever we call it, it needs to be condemned loudly and vociferously, and not partially excused in the name of sensitivity to religion.

Yet the whole thing got me thinking. The Old Testament does call for stoning of children who disobey. I have never been comfortable with that passage. And yet Jesus, the only time He commented on the stoning custom, said, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone..." insinuating, to me, that grace will rule rather than punishment.

Of course, it was still in New Testament time when Ananias and Sapphira were struck down dead for lying to God and to the disciples, so it is not as if God does not punish in New Testament times. But grace still rules.

So how do we reconcile all of this with how we should treat our children? I'm still struggling with a lot of the concepts, that I didn't really think too deeply about until we've gotten into this debate this week. Is punishment legitimate? Is anger in punishment legitimate? What is the Christian response?

And I'm left with this: Discipline should be conducted primarily to shape a child's character. Sometimes, though, there will be consequences for actions even after the child has repented. You can call this punishment if you like, but it is a fact of life. It is only human to at times be angry at your children. To say that we will never discipline in anger may be a little self-righteous, since I'm not sure how any of us could live up to that, and since God Himself does it. But anger should not rule. Grace should, as should love for our children, which means that we desire them to develop godly attributes. We should never discipline or punish them because we feel shame; only because we're trying to help them. If we're concerned about our own shame, we are not acting in a godly manner at all.

It's a little long, but that's what I think. What would you add? Take away? Let me know, and then I hope this will be the final word on this for a while!

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I Let is Slip Through....
Just wanted to apologize to everyone that I inadvertently let the "f word" slip through in a quotation from an article below. I took it out now. I had edited others out, and thought I'd copied a safe bit, but I should have proofread more. So excuse me, and I am sorry!

I don't swear myself, but often I don't even notice it anymore. It's sad, I know, but so many of our extended family and friends swear like anything that I sort of develop a tin ear to it. But I didn't mean to put it in there, and I'm sorry! Won't happen again.

I find this sort of thing frustrating. Often I'll watch a great movie, that I'd love to share with the girls, but there's just one scene or one word that was totally uncalled for. Why did they put it in there? It ruined the whole thing.

Or I'll watch a movie with the girls forgetting about one scene, and then we do some quick fast forwarding. We don't even watch that many, but occasionally we like sitting down and enjoying something as a family. It's becoming harder, though, because there just aren't that many clean movies (I bet we've already seen them all).

One swear word or one scene of nudity of sexuality can wreck everything--whether it's on television, or on the movie screen, or even in an otherwise great internet article. I wish people would keep things more family friendly, but since most of my friends/family swear in front of their family, maybe we've lost that concept of family friendly.

Anyway, I want to keep this blog family friendly, so I won't do that again! And if you're frantically searching for the word to see what all the fuss was about, it's already been scrubbed!

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Stealing our Kids Back
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in various newspapers. Here's today's, based on a bit of a discussion we've been having around here lately:

What would you do if a pervert came to your door and asked to speak with your 13-year-old daughter in private? Something brutal involving a corkscrew immediately comes to my mind.

But is this really so different than what happens millions of times everyday with our kids and technology? Our children huddle in their rooms with their computers, their iPods, and their televisions, and they imbibe a pop culture which is inherently antithetical to everything healthy families stand for. Culture tells our kids that image matters, not character; that the easy life is to be admired, rather than an honest life of hard work; and that morality is so yesterday.

And then we wonder why teens grunt at us rather than holding normal conversations.

I recently received an email from a friend whose teenage daughter is stuck in summer school because of poor marks. What should the mom do?

Academics are important, but if teens start doing poorly in school, more often than not those marks are the symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. The problem is that the child has forsaken our value system, which includes our belief that you should work hard at school so you can support yourself, instead of living in your parents’ basement for the rest of your life.

To combat this, I recommend instituting “work hours”, perhaps for an hour and a half at night, when everyone in the family works. Kids complete homework, and parents balance the chequebook or go through the mail. Do it together, at the kitchen table, so you can see whether or not your teen complies! If teens aren’t present at the study session, all technology gets turned off for that day and the next day. It’s not rocket science. Just do it.

Parents, after all, are not as helpless as we think we are, even if our teens are bigger than us. Sure teens are intimidating, because we can’t force them to talk, smile, or even look us in the eye. But we do control the purse strings, which means that our children watch television, play video games, and surf the web only at our pleasure. All these things are privileges, and they can be taken away!

And perhaps they should be taken away, or at least minimized. Many of our children are addicted to technology, and it’s giving them the wrong value system. Besides, there is no reason for kids to have a television or a computer in their room where you can’t monitor them. Get it out of their bedrooms, now. It’s your house.

Our kids are relating to technology, but they’re not relating to us. So eat dinner together as a family. Tell jokes. Have debates! Once a week, host a family night when you play games. Sure kids may complain “this is so lame”, but stick to it.
Within a few months you will see a change, because games are actually fun. While camping recently, I taught my girls and one of their friends to play the card game “Hearts”. Of course, it was more fun before they figured out how to stop me from getting control, but even now that they’ve improved, it’s still guaranteed to bring smiles! Play Monopoly. Try some newer games that are a riot: Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Blokus.

Life does not need a screen; it does need relationships. So this summer, why not do a massive overhaul of your home, get rid of the technology from the kids’ rooms and invest in a game cupboard instead? You have power. You control the money. Let’s steal our kids back. Whether or not they realize it, they need us. Now go shuffle those cards!

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The Importance of Consistency
Here's a great story:

Mom: "Are you still awake? Good...why aren't you dressed? Get dressed NOW or you're going in your underwear."
Me: "Ok."

Mom: "Alright, let's go. Grab your backpack."
Me: "But Mom, I'm not ready..."
Mom: "Tough."

She grabbed me by the arm and escorted me out the front door. No shoes, no shirt, not a stitch of clothing besides my tighty whities. She held me by the wrist and led me to the car. I can't remember this very clearly because I was somewhat upset. I do remember that I was crying uncontrollably. Likely pleading and begging in some fashion. She put me in the back seat, got in, and drove away casually as if nothing in the world was out of place. And as I began to calm somewhat, I sat, mostly naked and full of fear, in the back seat pondering my next move. I didn't have any more outs. I had no clothing and no plan. .... I was going to school in my underwear.

Never once did it cross my mind that this could be a bluff. My mother didn't bluff. She wasn't turning the car around. Heck, we were halfway to school already! Here I was, in my undies and headed toward certain ridicule and major embarrassment of the worst kind, the ridicule of grade-school peers. And all because I'd chosen to sleep when I should have been getting dressed. When I should have been enjoying a nutritious breakfast. I slept this upon myself. I had learned my lesson. It wouldn't happen again. I'd always get up from now on at first call. Various other reasoning and begging followed. I gazed into the rearview mirror, looking her in the eyes. I grovelled. And she stared back and me, cold and firm in her resolution.

We pulled into the driveway of my school, and up the lane to the front doors; the main car-rider drop off point. My mother didn't even put the car in park. She just looked at me expectantly in the rearview. Not a speck of emotion. "Well?...," said her eyes. I began to cry again. She put the car in park, killed the engine, unfastened her seatbelt, and got out. I was completely prepared. I had mentally readied myself to be dragged from the car, in a cliched kicking and screaming fashion. My mother went around back of the car and opened the trunk, from which she removed a brown paper grocery bag. She came back around to the side and opened my door. She stood there looking at me, like I was the worst child ever. And she handed me the brown bag with my clothes inside. "Get dressed."

Twas indeed the last time I ever failed to hearken to my mother's wakeup call.

Read the whole thing.

We've been talking a lot lately about discipline and the importance of consistency, and I think this story illustrates a great point:

Don't threaten something unless there will be consequences, and if you do threaten, follow through!

My aunt and uncle did a similar thing with my cousin when she was 4. She would never get up and get dressed, and she put up a real fuss in the morning. So one day they just took her to kindergarten in her pyjamas. Her teacher and the other children made her so embarrassed (she changed quickly) that she never did it again.

The best discipline for most infractions is usually the natural consequence of the action. Sometimes, of course, that isn't possible, as this post when I talked about the 16-year-old boy who had been caught speeding. But the consequence the mom did find certainly fit the crime!

All we need to do is once or twice follow through on these things, and then kids know we're serious. They'll listen to us from now on. My children rarely talk back to me (though they do grumble when they do chores, etc.) because they know I'm serious. They know there will be consequences. And they learned that because a long time ago, when they were young, my husband and I followed through in big ways with a few things. Message learned.

Consistency is hard, but it has such a payback because it means the rest of your years of parenting will be much easier. You only have to do drastic things a few times to get your message across. But when kids see that you are prepared to do drastic things, they listen! And they react.

Have you ever come up with some creative consequences for your kids? Leave a comment!

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Wifey Wednesday: Wedding Do-Overs

Recently I was browsing the internet and I found a website about how to do weddings cheaply. And one of their blog posts was about what you would do differently with your wedding, if you now had the chance to do it over.

Here's what they asked:

If you had a wedding do-over, what would you do differently? Here are some points from the blog "2000 Dollar Wedding" about how to make it meaningful on a budget, and here are some rules we would avoid:

8. You have to put fondant on your wedding cake.
Admit it. It's disgusting. It has the texture (and taste) of plastic. And what the cake tastes like is more important than what it looks like. At tonight's wedding they had several real cakes. Real ones. They were absolutely delicious. I was forced to eat two pieces.

7. Someone else's voice has to dominate your ceremony.
It's your wedding. It's about you and your future partner and the coming together of your lives. Why should someone else talk all about it? At tonight's wedding, the bride and groom walked out together. The bride's sister did a brief introduction and then left the bride and groom alone up there. They talked about each other and then to each other. It lasted only about seven minutes, but it was the most sincere and touching ceremony I have ever witnessed. Tears streamed down my cheeks (and that never happens to me at weddings!).

Do read the rest of their list!

Now I have to admit that at our wedding I did put my foot down and had a non-traditional cake. We bought some luscious chocolate cheesecakes. It was expensive, but it was worth it. And I loved every bite!

But I would do some things differently. I'd hire a better photographer (not a good place to save money). I'd make the ceremony shorter (I think I tried to make it into an evangelistic tool. Not a good idea). I'd have more fun.

One thing we did right: we couldn't afford a big reception. We had no money. So we had a sitdown dinner for 35 people. But before that we had an open reception for anyone who wanted to to come to. Keith and I were in charge of the church youth group at the time, so all the youth came out. And we did our speeches there. It was a lot of fun. The food was simply appetizers, and most people stood around the gym, but the kids all got to make funny speeches, and it was really quite enjoyable. Much more so than the fancy sit down dinner.

One thing I wish we had had, though, was some sort of a dance. For my husband's 40th we threw a square dance, and it was so much fun. The kids loved it, the adults loved it, and it was memorable. I'd love to a combination "square dance" with "let's teach everybody how to do a waltz" or something. Not a dance where people just get drunk and jump around, but a dance where people have fun. I wish we had doen something like that, and for my daughters I'll make sure that we do (as long as they agree, of course).

So what about you? For this Wifey Wednesday, what would you do differently if you could do your wedding over? Just go to your blog, write your own Wifey Wednesday post, and then come back here and enter the URL in the Mr. Linky! Or just leave a comment!

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The Kid Dictionary
I came across the recently when I was browsing the internet and I thought it was kind of cute!

"The KidDictionary: A Book of Words Parents Need But Don't Have"
- a glossary of words I made up and compiled and designed with photos when I found myself unable to describe a great many of the phenomena predominant in my life owing to the fact that I have children.
WISHJACK: To maliciously blow out the candles on another child's birthday cake.
KODICK: The child who refuses to cooperate in the taking of a family photograph
INVISIBOOBOO (in-VIZ-uh-boo-boo) n: – The site on a child’s body where you unnecessarily applied a Band-Aid to appease them when they got hurt, though did not bleed.
THREEMAGEDDON (three-muh-GED-in)–n.: The supposed hellfire and brimstone that would erupt should an annoyed mother reach the third digit while counting aloud to 3 to get a non-compliant child to get his act together..
“ONE !….TWOOOOOOO !!!!….. ”

And one of my favourites: SNOOT: to suck in rather than blow out when you blow your nose. My kids always did that, too!
Let's see if I can come up with some:
LISS: When your 18 month old comes to kiss you, but instead of making that smack sound she just licks and drools all over your face instead.
Or how about:
FAMILYSCARETRAIT: The annual family portrait taken every Christmas, where you may be smiling, but in the background you're squeezing your son's shoulder to keep him from moving and you've got your knee into your toddler's back to prevent her from jumping up and down, all after you lectured them up and down that they must look good for this or else.
Can you come up with any?

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A Sign of Good Parenting
This is truly awesome. If every parent in North America acted like this, we would have no juveline delinquency.

Here's jist of it:

A 16 year old Florida boy got stopped by police for doing 107mph in a 55mph zone. He hasn’t been to court yet, but he’s begun serving the sentence ordered by mom. In addition to having his car taken away, Adam Clark stands along the road near his high school wearing a sign that says “I was stupid. I drove over 100mph and got caught. Thank God! I could have killed me and my friends.”

So Adam was "sentenced" by his mom to stand on a busy street corner everyday for a month, before and after school, holding this sign.

And he did it, too.

That's a creative mom. And it goes well with what I was posting Saturday about how we need to take steps with our teens to make sure they still identify with our values.

But here's a more important question: this must have been a good mom to be able to enforce this. How do you get a 16-year-old boy to actually do this? What do you think the mom did? Threaten to take the car away for a year? Take away his computer? She must have threatened something or he wouldn't have followed through with the punishment.

I think often that parents feel helpless, as if they can't impose a punishment, because the kids won't do it. I know one mom whose 11-year-old son was slapping her in the face all the time. She felt like there was nothing she could do because he was already bigger than she was.

We've given up. We act as if we have no authority and no ability to punish. But we do control a lot. So let me make a list of the power that parents do have, even after our kids are bigger than we are:

We control the purse strings, which means we control:

1. Computer access and internet access
2. Television access
3. Access to a vehicle
4. Dessert
5. Telephone privileges
6. Video game privileges
7. Any clothes beyond two pairs of pants, three pairs of shirts, something dressy, and one pair of shoes
8. Spending money/allowance
9. Chauffeuring them anywhere, whether it's to a sports activity, friend's house, or even job
10.Money for a sports team or any extracurricular activities

So you do have some control! If you ground your child, for instance, and they leave the house anyway, you can pull some of the privileges that you directly control.

If your child talks back to you, or consistently mistreats a younger sibling, you are not helpless because you can take some of these things away from them.

Let's remember that all of these things are privileges, not rights. If a child is disrespecting you, posing a threat to him or herself or others, or going down the wrong road, you do have weapons in your disposal.

That doesn't mean that life as the parent of a preteen or teen is all about punishment; it needs to also be about building fun family memories and a fun family routine. But too often we parents get in constant fights with our kids, and we butt heads with our kids, rather than simply and quietly taking some definitive action, like removing a privilege. That works much better than yelling!

So, as parents, let's stand up and be proud! Let's not let kids walk all over us. In the end, our kids will be better for it.

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What Do You Do with a Teen Who Won't Cooperate?
I received an email the other day from an old friend who's at a loss about what to do with her daughter. I won't reproduce the email here for privacy's sake, but let me summarize: Her 14-year-old is hanging out with the wrong crowd, being extremely stubborn, and getting poor marks. She went to summer school and still got poor marks. And the mom wants to know what to do. She hates getting into loggerheads, but she's at a loss. And she's paranoid that the daughter, let's call her Jane Doe, will do something stupid, like drop out, get pregnant, or hurt herself.

I prayed about this one a lot, and sought some advice from others, and here's my answer.

1. Set Routines for Academics

I think marks are a symptom of a problem, not the problem itself. Often parents focus on marks because they're the most measurable thing, but the issue, I don't believe, is marks. The problem is that if kids are getting poor marks, and they're otherwise intelligent, it's because they've dropped out of responsible life. They identify more with peer groups than they do with you. They're not thinking of the future; they're thinking of the present. And they don't buy into your value system, your morals, and your goals.

That's not a healthy thing. Certainly it's not healthy because of the marks, but there's a bigger issue. It's not healthy because they've decided that they don't believe your view of the world is the right one. They don't think they should have to work hard; they don't see any value in succeeding in school; they would rather do something else. And that something else is rarely any good.

That being said, you do have to do something with the academics. You can't let it rest. But I would say this is the most minor issue. The more important things to do I'm going to write about later. But here's how I'd handle academics.

Give EXTREMELY short-term assignments and consequences that your child has to do. Telling them "you need to get at least a B on your next report card or you're grounded for a month" does nothing. The next report card may be four months in the future.

Saying, on the other hand, "you need to spend an hour and a half in homework as soon as you get home from school before you're allowed on the computer, or you lose computer and television privileges that night" is much more effective. I wouldn't do this with every kid; we're talking a kid who is in crisis.

And then here's the major thing you must do for this to work: DON'T NAG. Let them know the rules. Put it up on the fridge. Put it up in their room. Post it around the house. Television and computer time is a privilege; it comes only after homework is done at the kitchen table where we can see you.

Then don't tell them they have to do homework. Just keep an eye on the time. When the time is up when they should have been doing homework, if they haven't been doing it, go and unplug their computer or take their mouse. Unplug the television.

Whatever you do, don't get into a battle of wills. A teenager is stubborn. What they want is to fight with you. Don't play that game. Let them know the consequences, let them know the rules, and then make it their choice. If they choose not to do the homework, they choose not to do the homework. Then they lose technology.

And you could make an additional rule: if they fail to do homework more than once this week, they not only lose television and computer, they also lose the privilege of going out on Saturday night or having friends over.

These things are privileges. They are not rights.

I wouldn't suggest this for a child who is just getting by, or who is trying but isn't succeeding. This is only for children in crisis. But what you need to do is set up a study time that is consistent, everyday, so that homework gets done and they get in the routine of studying.

Now, here are some other important thoughts:

2. Put Limits on Technology

One of the reasons that teenagers relate so much to their peers is that they spend way too much time on the computer, talking on Facebook, MySpace, Skype, Messenger, you've got it. They've got blogs, they're sharing music and videos, and they're creating a world that you're not part of and that you can only monitor with a lot of work. They can hang around kids and meet kids that you wouldn't approve of. And the morals and values of this online community tend to be very bad.

I strongly disapprove of letting kids have any sort of technological device in their bedrooms. No computer, no television, no video games, no phone. Don't let them create a private world. They need you. They really do. I don't know if my friend's daughter has a computer in her room, but if she does, I would say move it out to the living room, so that when little Jane is on the computer, someone can see the screen--if they want to. This doesn't mean that you look over her shoulder. But it does mean that you're aware of how long she's on the computer, and you're aware of what she's doing. It puts a different spin on it.

This is likely to be a fight, but I think it's easier to do at 14 than at 16. And you need to reassert your authority!

But I also think this option can only be taken in conjunction with the next one:

3. Create Family Time

What you want is for little Jane to identify more with you than with her friends. And for that, you need low-stress times together.

That means two things: eating dinner together as a family, at least three times a week, so that you have a chance to talk. You can even get great conversation starters to use at the dinner table! It is so important to keep kids talking to you, and to each other. Reclaim the dinner hour!

Then, make one night a week that is a family night. No friends are allowed, at least initially. This is just for you guys to bond. Pop some popcorn and play some board games: Monopoly, Settlers of Catan, Jenga, anything that is fun. Don't watch movies, because they don't allow for conversation. But play something together so that you'll all laugh!

If you're an active family, do sports together. Take a walk every night, for fifteen minutes, around your block. Make it a routine. Some nights you talk to your daughter while your husband talks to your son, some nights you can switch, and some nights make the kids talk to each other. If it becomes routine: every night after dinner we take a walk, it becomes easier.

We've been playing tennis together as a family this summer. You wouldn't believe how terrifyingly awful we are at it, but it's a ton of fun! This week we actually got the ball going six times back and forth before someone messed up. That's a record for us.

So let me try to sum up. When teens start to pull away, rebel, and do badly at school, there usually are two reasons: they're trying to separate, which is healthy, but they're doing it in an unhealthy manner by identifying with peer groups, values, and morals which are not yours. You must nip this in the bud by reasserting the value and identity of you as a family.

This, however, takes work on your part: not because you're going to yell and nag, but because you're going to set up consistent routines in your house that people may resist. Once they get going, though, you'll usually find people buying in. The key is not to turn your house into a jail; it's to make a place that's actually fun, that cares about people and that spends time together.

That means we work together (kids do homework for an hour and a half after school while you clean, do the finances, or whatever), we play together (a Family night a week, walks after dinner, sports), and we eat together (where we share our days).

Set firm consequences, set identifiable goals they have to live up to, and then start arranging your family life so that these goals--like doing homework--become natural.

It is a lot of work. Parenting always is. And dealing with a stubborn teen is a really difficult thing. But with a lot of prayer, and some discipline, you can do it!

Now, those are my ideas. Does anybody have any others? I'm going to show her this blog post, and if anyone has any advice they want to share with Jane's mother, leave it in the comments!

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Why Moms Don't Always Want to Know Best
Each Friday my syndicated column appears in several newspapers. Here's this week's!

I’ve been giving advice to men about relationships lately, and I thought I’d continue the trend today, since I like telling men what to do.

Let’s start with a misconception men often have. Many men think that if they have mastered the sentence, “Whatever you want is fine with me, Honey,” they have hit the relationship bullseye.

Unfortunately, if that’s you, you’re likely in for a rude awakening. Imagine this: your wife asks you whether little Johnny should take soccer this year. You smile and utter those magic words, and then incomprehensibly she storms off! Something got lost in translation.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret which many women may not admit to, and would rather I not share. But for the sake of healthy families, I’m going to do it anyway. Generally, women don’t want to always have their way. What they do want is for men to actually care. If men say, “whatever is fine”, they’re saying that the things women care about don’t matter enough to even render an opinion about.

We women, though, care so much about family decisions because our brains are perpetually stuck on the guilt setting. At any given time, we are feeling guilty about something. There’s ironing I haven’t done in six months. I let the children play too many video games yesterday. I didn’t serve any vegetables today.

So men, let me give you some advice. When your wife asks, “Do you think we should put Johnny in soccer this year?”, realize that she’s asking from a position of guilt. You see, if Johnny signs up for soccer, someone is going to have to drive him. Someone is going to have to cart around those infernal canvas chairs with the pop holder cups.

Someone will have to pack the cooler and then deal with all the dripping popsicle mess. This is decision must not be taken lightly. And if you agree that Johnny should play soccer, are you going to be the one to wipe up the popsicle stains? And if she doesn’t want to, is she going to feel guilty the rest of her life because she’s deprived Johnny of the Soccer Experience?

Women carry this guilt around constantly. And guilt can be magnified when women feel as if all parenting decisions are in our hands, because then we’re the ones who will bear the blame if Johnny turns into an axe murderer. That’s why we overcompensate. We take on more and more of the parenting duties, because we desperately want our children to thrive. And in the process we may crowd you out.

We don’t really want all that responsibility, though. It’s too big a load to bear. We’d much rather share it. Of course, we’re not looking for an authoritarian dad. We want a dad who recognizes our expertise, who relies on our opinion, but who also has one of his own. And if, after discussing it, we decide to go with her idea, that’s okay. As long as we’ve decided together, we women won’t bear all the blame if things turn sour.

Don’t let us get away with being the main parent. Believe it or not, deep inside most women don’t actually want that entire responsibility. But we’re unlikely to give up control unless you show you’re serious. So stick with it. When you rock the boat, it’s going to take us a while to adjust. Please keep trying, because we would rather be in a boat heading in the same direction together, than to be the only one navigating while everyone else sleeps below deck. Let’s build a family together. That’s what we really want.

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When Waffles and Spaghetti Sound Good Together
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a variety of papers. For some strange reason, I forgot to post last week's, so here it is! Tomorrow I'll post this week's. Hope you like it! It ties in well with yesterday's Wifey Wednesday post.

It is a commonly known fact in our family that Grandpa cries at everything. He cries at piano recitals. He cries at baptisms. He cries whenever the kids get an award, give a speech, or get super dressed up. Other times he’s gruff and he barks and he complains, but we know he’s a softie, and tears can flow, especially when the Detroit Red Wings lose the Stanley Cup. His boys inherited his tear ducts, too. And we women just love it when our men cry.

We’re just really crabby when they stop. The men have now proven they have a sensitive side, so we figure they’ll go read to the kids or run us a bubble bath. But instead they’re back riding the lawn mower, or figuring out the bills, and the moment has passed.

Now my husband has actually taken sensitivity to such an extent that his brothers worry about his testosterone level, but he knows that it bears great dividends in our marriage that they don’t see. Many men, though, struggle with taking that sensitivity into all areas of their lives.

It’s like Bill and Pam Farrell’s book, Men and Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti. Men, like waffles, are compartmentalized. They live their lives in separate boxes. They see something touching, they cry, and then they switch to something new. To women, everything is intertwined, just like a big plate of pasta.

My husband and I speak at marriage conferences, and sometimes we’re teamed up with hockey legend Paul Henderson and his wife Eleanor. Paul often relates the story of a rip-roaring fight he and Eleanor once had. They were arguing in the living room, when Eleanor made the mistake of retreating into the bedroom. He followed her, and his hands began to wander. She swatted them away. "What are you doing?! We're fighting!" And he retorted, "We were in the fighting room. Now we're in the bedroom. I thought we had moved on!"

This compartmentalization makes women really nervous, especially when it comes to navigating the work/family balance. We’re afraid you’ll start to believe that when you’re at work, you work, and when you’re at home, you don’t. After all, we work wherever we are. We write grocery lists on sticky notes while we’re on the phone with clients, and we play chauffeur while we plan our next meeting. We want you to work in the family, too, and not just at cutting grass, but at relationships.

It’s easy to believe that the workplace, which involves measurable goals and specific tasks, is more akin to these male waffle people than home is, since home involves things like communicating and feeling and is all messy and tangled up. It’s a spaghetti heaven.

Perhaps, though, home does not have to be only for spaghetti types. Think about it this way. At work you likely plan. You need to know where the firm is going, and when your next salary increase will be. You compile charts and lists.

Why not do the same thing on the home front? What do you want your family to look like in five years? What values do you want your children or grandchildren to exhibit? What about your marriage? Are you on the right road to meet those goals?

If not, what are you going to change?

If you want to make your mate smile this summer, here’s my advice. Take her out to dinner, notebook in hand, and do some strategic planning with her about the upcoming year. Show her that you have goals for the family, too. Then go home and watch your wedding video. And bring a hanky.

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Turning on the Taps
I just got dinner ready. Rinsed off the potatoes, peeled them, rinsed them off again. I washed the broccoli and carrots and filled the steamer to cook them. Added water to the potatoes and put them on the stove.

Before dinner we played tennis. Came home, and four of us had showers. While we were there we were drinking bottled water.

Just like any other day. We don't even think about water, do we? But what would we do if we couldn't turn on the taps?

I live in Ontario, Canada. We're surrounded by huge rivers, amazing lakes for cottages, and water everywhere. We often bike down to the waterfront to eat our lunch. In the spring, we run the risk of flooding. I can't imagine a place in the world with more clean, fresh drinking water.

In Kenya, at the orphanage where we often travel (and where we're leading a medical team next March) they're currently in water crisis. The orphanage is home to almost 1000 kids, and the river has run dry. The kids bathe in the river, but they have a well for drinking water. The well is almost out.

You can't ship water. It's really expensive, and it evaporates, and all kinds of problems. At the orphanage they have all kinds of methods of collecting and saving water. If the rain ever came, even a few milimeters, they'd be okay. But there's been no rain.

They'll probably do a big fundraising drive soon for $100,000 to drill four more bore holes for deeper wells that can supply them and the village, and I'll kick in a bunch, and I'm sure they'll raise the money.

But I just can't imagine living worrying about water. We are so, so blessed. We're blessed with so many things, but water is the basis for everything, isn't it? Can you imagine relying on a river for your drinking water and your washing water, and then watching that river run dry? I guess our ancestors dealt with that frequently, at least in the midwestern states, but it's so beyond my consciousness, and yet that's what so much of the world deals with.

Tonight I'll probably take a bubble bath. I love bubble baths. We might install a hot tub later in the summer. But before that, I think I'll give a bunch of money to drill them some bore holes. I wish I could ship them our Moira River, but I can't. Life sometimes just isn't fair, and it makes me sad.

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Really Cute Joke
Just got sent this in an email, and I had to share it. I hope I'm not infringing on someone's copyright!

Two young boys walked into a pharmacy one day, picked out a box of tampons and proceeded to the checkout counter.

The man at the counter asked the older boy, "Son, how old are you?"

"Eight," the boy replied.

The man continued, "do you know what these are used for?"

The boy replied, "not exactly, but they aren't for me. They're for him. He's my brother. He's four. We saw on TV that if you use these you would be able to swim and ride a bike. Right now, he can't do either."
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Wifey Wednesday: How He Brings Peace

Remember the book Men are Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti? I wrote about that in my syndicated column last week, which I forgot to post (just realized that now, I'll put it up for tomorrow); but basically here's the issue: we women are multi-taskers. When we're doing the laundry, we're thinking about what we're making for dinner, we're talking on the phone, and we're trying to plan the route we'll take to drop kids off at various houses, pick them up for soccer, and get grocery shopping done, all without running out of gas.

And that's just when we're trying to hold the household things in our head. We're also worried about our work, our church, and all kinds of other things that weigh on us. And through it all, our relationships remain at the forefront. If we're worried about a child, we're thinking about that when we're teaching Sunday School, when we're taking a bath, and even when we go to bed at night.

Men, on the other hand, tend to be quite compartmentalized, which can be very annoying to us multitaskers. If you ask them what they're thinking about, chances are they're not thinking about anything at all. They're not trying to keep four balls in the air at any one time. When they're thinking about work, they're thinking about work. When they're thinking about family, they're thinking about family. So when we get upset when they're in a different sphere and we're not foremost on their minds, they don't get it. But they don't have ten things they're thinking about at any one time like we do.

This obviously has the potential to be hurtful in a marriage, if we interpret it to mean that they don't love as much as we do. That's not true; it's just that they express things differently.

But it can also be helpful to us as women, and that's the question I was posing yesterday on this blog: can he bring you peace?

I don't mean perfect peace; that's a role that only Jesus can play. But I do think that when we stay plugged in to our husbands, they can take some of the weight off of our shoulders, or at least tell us what we can stop worrying about.

So often when I feel myself overbooked or overworked, I just sit down with Keith and he tells me what to get rid of in my schedule. He's not ordering me around; he's just providing that second set of eyes that often isn't as emotionally invested in my life. And quite often I'll resist it. I remember him telling me at one point that I had to give up teaching Sunday School for a while. Boy was I mad. Didn't he understand what a ministry this was? I had to serve God, after all. But eventually I realized he was right.

He told me something even bigger this year, which I can't go into in a public blog, but I resisted that one for months before realizing, again, that Keith was right. Too often I take on responsibilities that are too big for me to handle, and eventually I just have to say no.

Often, though, it's not that Keith tells me I need to stop something. It's that he's learned how to listen without always solving problems, which is a wonderful gift for a man to have. I think because we women think so hard about all the people in our lives, we have a tendency to overanalyze. We did it when we were dating, analyzing everything he said or did. We did it when we were pregnant, analyzing every feeling. And now we do it with the kids, and with friends, and relatives, and teachers. We analyze and take offense and worry.

Sometimes, when you just speak these things out loud to someone who is not as prone to analyzing, you realize that you're overreacting. Talking to a girlfriend doesn't always do it, because she can make it worse if she's an analyzer, too. But talking to a man helps you see that perhaps it isn't the big deal that you were making it out to be. It's not even anything Keith says, either; it's just in speaking it out loud to him, I start to see it through his point of view. And then it loses the ability to consume me.

These are some ways that Keith brings me peace, and why I'm glad I'm married. But I know in the comments below, when I first raised the question, some women were talking about how their husbands are too preoccupied to do this. Good point. That is the case in many marriages, and in mine, when Keith was going through his medical training and was really busy, I did carry much more myself.

But can I suggest something? No matter how busy your husband is, and how busy you are, you need to make time to connect and talk about life at least once a week. He may resist, but it is vital for the marriage. It comes before kids. It comes before work. It comes before church, school, or other family. If your marriage falls apart, you lose everything. And your marriage is the best tool you have for encouragement in the human realm.

So once a week, eat dinner, just the two of you, even if you have to do it after the kids go to bed. Go for a walk after dinner. Retreat to your room and tell the kids not to bug you because you're talking. Hire a baby-sitter and go out for coffee (much cheaper than dinner) and talk. But do it, once a week, no ifs, ands or buts. Some of you may not have to schedule it because you have lots of time together. But if you don't, you need to make it a priority. Start talking again, and build that companionship, so that he can start bringing you peace.

Now, would you like to participate in Wifey Wednesday? We'd love to hear from you! Does your husband help you feel more peaceful? Does it bother you when he seems not to care the same way you do? Do you have creative ways to connect during the week? Tell us!

Simply copy the picture at the top of this post and put it up on your own blog. Link to me, and then write your marriage post, and come back here and leave it in the Mr. Linky. We'd love to hear from you!

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To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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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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