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Starter Chores for Little Hands
My new article on starter chores that toddlers can do is up at Calgary's Child online magazine! You can read it on page 33 here.

In the meantime, any of you have any other suggestions for chores little ones can do? I'd love to hear them!

And you all know I'm passionate about kids doing chores. Just click on the category links below for more of my posts on chores! Or check out my book To Love, Honor and Vacuum on how to get kids (and husbands!) more involved around the house.

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The Degradation of Parents
My best friend from university lives far from me, but emails frequently about the almost constant conflict she'd had with her school principal over the last few years. I won't go into the details, but suffice it to say that it can be summed up like this: the principal believes that she knows how to educate children, and parents know very little.

This idea that "we know best" and "parents should just step out of the way" is so prevalent in many areas of our culture. Experts are trying to take over parenting. I don't mean to be alarmist, but I see it all the time. And the end result, I believe, is to breed a passivity and insecurity among parents that we really can raise our kids.

As a child I hated summer camp. I hated being away from my mother, I hated sports, I hated the "rah rah" that camp seemed to constantly be doing. I had to go because my mom was a single parent and she didn't have many options for child care. But it was very difficult.

My children, on the other hand, have really enjoyed camp, probably because they're more secure to begin with and also because they can go together, rather than alone as I did. So for the past two weeks they've been at a very good Christian camp. We're all home now, but the general decision was that it was a good break.

Yet summer camp is one more of those areas where I feel that parents are often pushed out. We are given a list of things we must bring, and rules we must obey. We can't phone. We can send letters, but we can't visit except on visitor's day. If we give suggestions that our children are generally well-behaved, but they don't work well if they get overtired, so perhaps they should be excused from some wide games and just let sleep, we're often ignored because the spirit of the camp is that everyone should do everything together.

I wrote a column about this very issue a few years ago, and was reminded it of it this week. Here's a taste:

That’s not all I heard. Just like me, a nurse also came up to work while her three kids attended camp, including one very shy 8-year-old boy. She was supposed to be working at his camp, but was sent instead to the teenage one on the other side of the lake. Her son didn’t fare very well in her absence. The 19-year-old section head and 18-year-old counsellor were sure they knew why. “In our experience,” they said, “these kids do much better if the parents are completely offsite.”

Now these teenagers were lovely people and experienced campers, having spent 8 weeks at camp for the last three years. But she was an expert, too. She could have said, “I know you’ve spent 168 days at camp, but I have 3,000 days of experience with this particular boy, and he would have been fine had I worked here.” It was not to be. She took their criticism lying down.

This incident stayed with me, I think, because it’s not an anomaly. Everywhere we turn, someone else is telling us how to raise our kids (including me!). Even the spanking debate which I sparked a while ago (why do I do these things?) is symptomatic of this need for others to tell us, despite divided research data, how to parent our children.

One of my friends recently had an unfortunate run-in with a teacher, who was upset that this mom helped her fourth grade daughter to understand math. “She has to learn it the way we teach it, not the way you explain it,” the teacher stressed, failing to see the irony that if the teacher had actually taught the child, she wouldn’t have needed her mother’s help in the first place. The mother said little. I think a simple, “my child, my house, my time,” would have sufficed, followed by, in a Shrek accent, “bye-bye. See you later.” But my friend was more polite.

You can read the rest here.

I like being a parent, but I do know best partly because I've got the most invested in my kids. I wish the rest of society would start acknowledging that parents do have a legitimate interest in what their kids learn, who looks after our kids, and how they are taught. I wish the experts would realize who the real experts are. But perhaps that's just wishful thinking.

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Hello all!

I hope you're all still here! Sorry I deserted you for two weeks, but it was worth it. Trust me.

Here's the story. My children were at camp for two weeks, and my husband decided to take me on a second honeymoon. So he booked us in at some inexpensive mid-week specials at some resorts, and we had an amazing time.

We played tennis. I knit a ton. And we did other stuff that I would prefer not to share with you. :). Suffice it to say that it was much better the second time around :).

But two weeks is enough, and I am now home with my girls again and looking forward to getting ready for our homeschool beginning! In the meantime, let me share some random thoughts before I get ready for my real posts coming up this week:

Is anyone else at least mildly offended by this ad campaign by Staples? It insinuates that having kids around is a pain. My girls watched it, and said, "why are they parents then?". For us, September means MORE kids, not less, since we homeschool and I'll be with the kids more than I was this summer, but I'm looking forward to that. I know summer is hectic, and it's nice to get back to a routine, but I just think this commercial is over the top.

I watched a TON of decorating shows while we were away. I was completely turned off of every other TV show, so I just set the dial for the Home and Garden Channel and occasionally TLC (for What Not to Wear). We don't have a television at home, so I forget how negative much of TV is. Everything is real crime or real disasters or cold cases. It's awful. I really would rather think about what art to put over my fireplace. Although I still haven't decided.

The other show I watched was Supernanny. How can people live like that? Isn't it exhausting to live with children who don't behave and don't go to bed? It's actually easier to put the work in and make them behave.

This has been the best summer of my life. I think I'm in the best place in my life. I'm at peace with my calling from God, I feel great in my marriage, I'm really enjoying my children. I know that life will not always be smooth sailing (as it hasn't been in the past), but I pray that the foundation that we're laying now will help see us through when life does get difficult again. But for now, I think I'll rest in God, rest in my family, and take a bubble bath.

It's good to be home.

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I'm Sorry--Posting Will be Light
Hi all! I know I missed Wifey Wednesday yesterday. I'm on holiday ALONE with my HUBBY, and quite frankly, I'm just not thinking about this blog too much right now! I'm having too much fun relaxing.

So I promise I'll be back on this blog when we're back at home! For now, I'm just enjoying the end of my summer.

Oh, and in case anyone is thinking of robbing my house while I've announced we're not home, my brother-in-law is staying there. And he's bigger than me. And he's doing renovations so he's carrying around a crowbar. So there.

Have a good week!

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My Idea of Bliss.... playing tennis with your husband on a court on a plateau in the middle of the woods when a deer gallops by.

We're taking our second honeymoon right now. Our first wasn't the greatest. I'll post about that tomorrow on Wifey Wednesday! And let me tell you, after eighteen years it gets a lot better.

Posting is going to obviously be light :).

But a few things: thanks SOOOO much all my great readers for your encouragement yesterday. I feel a lot better! It's not that I'm super-sensitive (well, okay, I am, but that wasn't the issue yesterday). It's just that I really do take my calling seriously, and I don't want to do write anything that might actually hurt or damage relationships. I want to help, and if I write something too quickly without thinking it through, then I just feel a little badly. But since most of you said you found it funny, as did your husbands, I'll let it go!

Now for a funny story. My husband made the reservations for us this week. Our kids are at a summer camp we've been coming to their whole lives, first for Family Camp, then kids' camp, and now Girls' camp (for teens). We decided that while they were away, we'd tour around the area and stay at some hotels. So Keith booked us in to this one resort, not really knowing where it is.

Well, it is on the SAME ROAD and the SAME LAKE as the kids. We're in Muskoka, Ontario, which is a gorgeous cottage area about 1000 km square. And we're less than a km away from the kids. I am SOOO tempted to get out a canoe and paddle over to watch them do kayaking, or hike through the woods and try to smuggle a message to them. But you're not supposed to have communication until Visitors' Day (I'll post about that maybe next week; camps' rules sometimes bug me). So I'm left knowing they're just a little bit away, and there's nothing I can do. But it is pretty funny, especially when Keith started reading me directions of where we were going to go.

Talk to you tomorrow for Wifey Wednesday!

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Male Bashing is Bad. Joking is Okay. Right?
I've written a lot on this blog about how we women often disparage men, and that's a bad thing. I've talked about how we have to let men be men, accept that their different, and understand that just because we see the world a certain way, it doesn't mean that we're right and they're stupid. It just means that we have different viewpoints. And that's okay.

In fact, I'm quite passionate about this. I've written many columns in my seven years as a columnist explaining why I think male bashing is so dangerous. It makes men feel inferior, pushes them out of the family, and contributes to the marginalization of true masculinity in our society.

So I feel a little chagrined today, because I received an email after my last column accusing me of doing just that. In that column, I wrote that men are capable of thinking about nothing, and women aren't. This is often a point of contention in a marriage.

But I went on to say that women are jealous of this brain feature and so continually try to find ways to think about nothing, to no avail. So we may berate them for it, but we also wish we could do it, every now and then.

Here's my question: was I male bashing? I don't think I was. First, I was talking about something which is a fact. Women have more connections in their brains than men do, which is why we recover from strokes more easily. We can't turn off our thoughts as much. Men can.

I was also using an analogy from a best-selling book whose purpose is to explain gender differences so that we can see that neither side is right; we're only different. I thought I was taking the same approach.

Finally, my impression was that I was, if anything, making fun of women, not men. I told how women thought about the stupidest things, and I outlined our quest to be like men. So I don't think it was male bashing.

I do think I used humour (or at least tried to; you can be the judge of whether it was really funny). But I don't believe I was putting men down. I was just describing an honest difference between the genders.

So here's my question for you: was it male bashing? I'm open to being told it was. Maybe I need to be less flippant in my joking. And where is the line between joking and bashing? I do think we need to laugh at ourselves, and especially our relationships. And I think people learn better with humour. Most people honestly aren't aware of these gender differences, and when we explain them, it often improves a relationship.

Also, I don't think describing a difference means that you're bashing one side or the other. Women are more emotional; is it female bashing to say so? I don't think it is. There are differences. We need to see them.

Bashing, I think, is making fun of one gender and coming to the conclusion that this means that they're somehow inferior, or don't function as well. Pointing out differences, then, I don't think is bashing.

So help me out: how do I draw the line better? I'm very against male bashing, and I don't want to participate. But I also do want to be funny and help the general public understand some of these things (I think Christians are more in tune to gender differences than the public is, which is why I've been writing about it in my column, which is aimed at a general audience).

Leave a comment and help me out! Thanks so much! And enjoy your week!

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Alpacas Are Adorable
Last week I took a five day road trip with my mom.

We drove nine hours to the state of Maine, where we participated in the Maine Fiber Arts Tour. About a hundred odd farms, studios, yarn shops, and more were on the tour, and we chose the ones we were interested in most. In general, this happened to be farms. We saw prize winning sheep, angora goats, angora rabbits, and my favourite--alpacas.

Here's an alpaca:

Their wool is four times warmer than sheep, and it is SO soft!

But angoras are my mother's favourite. She's planning on getting some soon. Check this one out:

The owner is holding up the ears so that you "can tell it's a bunny". Otherwise it just looks like a blob of fur. We bought some skeins of wool mixed with angora, and it's heavenly. Don't know what I'll knit it into yet, but it is so lovely. Almost as nice as the alpaca!

In fact, let me give you a few more alpaca photos. Here's a baby:

And here's two babies with a mom:

Are they not the cutest thing?

And here's something else I learned. Cashmere comes from goats. Did you know that?

Bought some lovely cashmere at this one farm to make some fingerless gloves.

All in all, it was a great time away with my mother. Every now and then I do need to take some time and connect with her without the kids.

We also learned that there is a remarkable lack of foundational garments worn by the women in Maine who raise animals for fiber. It seems they all love to knit, but they don't mind if certain things droop. To each her own, but personally, I love my "foundational garments". I need the help to have a bit of shape!

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How Nothing Can Ruin Relationship Health
Every Friday my syndicated column is printed in a number of newspapers. Here's today's!

In leading marriage seminars across the country for the last few years, it has come to my attention that one of the scariest questions for a man to hear from the one he loves is this: “What are you thinking about?”

As I wrote in this column earlier this summer, men are like waffles. Their brains are filled with little boxes, where they keep things like work, and children, and wives, and fishing, all neatly separated, and ne’er any two shall meet. Women, on the other hand, have all the boxes jumbled up and knocked over, so everything is intertwined.

What many women don’t realize, however, is that for most men, the biggest box in their brain actually holds nothing at all. That’s right: it’s completely empty. Men are capable of thinking about nothing.

And in the middle of this lack of thought, many men, new at relationships, may make a big mistake when they hear that dreaded question. They may tell the truth.

“Nothing,” they admit.

It is not very long until they realize why this was a big mistake. Women, you see, are incapable of thinking about nothing. We’re always thinking about something. So if men say they’re thinking about nothing, we immediately assume they’re lying. They must either be thinking about you-know-what, or they’re thinking about something we think is stupid.

So we start to drill them on it. And as Bill Farrel, the author of that brilliant book Men are Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti, explains, men then frantically hop to any adjacent box they can find in order to latch on to an acceptable answer.

“You’re right! I was thinking about something. I was thinking about hunting.”

“Oh,” she replies, placated. “Are you going to pay for a deer license this year?”.

“No,” he admits, scrambling to explain why he was thinking about hunting if he’s not planning on hunting. And so it goes, for about a decade or two before women realize that perhaps he is, indeed, thinking about nothing. He’s not criticizing us, or holding something back, or refusing to admit feelings. He just may honestly not have any feelings at this particular moment.

We women may lambaste men for being so uncaring and shallow, but if you look carefully at women’s behaviour, you’ll see that secretly we’re envious. What, after all, do women spend their lives doing at the gym? We’re trying desperately to think about nothing, too!

We meditate. We take yoga. You don’t see very many men taking yoga, do you? It’s not just because they don’t like stretching those groin muscles, either. It’s because they’ve already achieved nothingness. Women can only dream.

When yoga doesn’t work, we exercise to endeavour to reach some sort of mental discipline. But as our heart rate rises, so do our brain patterns. “My heart’s pumping fast. I wonder what my cholesterol is? I wonder what my husband’s is? We really should eat more fish, but it’s expensive. I found a spare twenty in my jeans after they went through the dryer today. I found one of Johnny’s toys, too. He really needs to clean up his room.” And so on, and so on.

We can’t turn it off, which is why we’re always feeling guilty. It’s like we live with a TV inside our brains, constantly playing scenes of what we should be doing. Each scene leads to the next one. If only our brains were nicely compartmentalized, we’d probably enjoy greater peace, as would the men in our lives. But then we women wouldn’t be nearly as complicated, and where’s the challenge in that? I’ll never achieve nothingness, and my husband will just have to live with it—if he gets around to thinking about it, of course.

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An Unbroken Chain...
Hi everybody!

I don't have time for a really long blog post today because I'm running out for a ton of errands, but I have to share something I read in my devotions.

In Jeremiah 35:19, it says this:

Jonadab son of Rechab shall not lack a descendant to stand before me for all time. (emphasis mine)

Isn't that beautiful? Of course, they meant physical descendants, which was everything to people back then. But I think that's such a neat promise, and God adds the "for all time", meaning that it is never to be broken, no matter what happens. The new covenant doesn't nullify the promise, nor can anything else (including, I imagine, the Holocaust or the Roman massacre).

So what does this mean for us today? I have often prayed that God would give me an unbroken chain of believers from now until the end--that there would be a line from me through them to Jesus returning. It starts with my girls, but it likely won't end there. And so I pray for them, and their children, and so on, that God would hold them close to Him.

It's just a nice picture, and I thought I'd share it. Have to run now!

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Wifey Wednesday: Avoiding Resentment
It's time for Wifey Wednesday, when we talk marriage!

Recently I was speaking to a woman with a very good marriage. They've been married for dozens of years and they are each other's best friends. They do a ton of stuff together. But for the last few weeks their marriage has been very strained.

Here's the scenario: they are doing a huge renovation of their kitchen which is taking longer than expected. The contractors are all over the place, making tons of noise, while she has to do her own work in her office. Every so often they have questions, and she has to make split second decisions. Her home is not her own.

Her husband, on the other hand, leaves for work at 8 and doesn't get home until 6, so he doesn't have to deal with them or try to work in the noise. And then he asks whether she mentioned this to the contractor, or that to the contractor. She gets upset because she has to remember all these things, and she has to deal with the contractor, when she doesn't want to. He gets out of it simply by virtue of the fact that he works away from home. And it's causing some resentment.

I remember feeling resentment when the kids were young and Keith was working and I never had any time to myself. And my children didn't like to go to others, so it was hard to leave them with a baby-sitter. Besides, I was nursing, so how exactly do I get away from the kids for more than 4 hours when they won't take a bottle? It was tough.

And then, when they got older, I was similarly resentful at times, because I would be trying to take them on outings, and give them stimulation, and have fun with them, and Keith would arrive home and wonder what we had done all day because the house was a mess. We both grew through that, and I now keep certain parts of the house neat, and he doesn't complain, but it was stressful.

It wasn't that I didn't love my husband. It wasn't that I didn't love my marriage or my kids. But there are times when we feel that we got the short end of the stick. He gets to work and meet people and feel important, and we're cleaning up when somebody missed the potty. We deal with the refrigerator repairmen, and the doctor's appointments, and we keep track of everything, and he gets off scot free.

Is it fair?

All of these are completely normal feelings, but I think we have to watch them. If you had asked me, during my resentful phase, if I had wanted to work outside the home, I would have told you no. Yet I still resented parts of being at home. It was just that normal ambivalence. But it's not like I would have wanted it any other way.

Sometimes, in our daily lives, we're going to feel put upon and as if we have a worse life than our husbands. But ask yourself this: is the problem with the way my husband is treating me, or is the problem simply about a stage in our lives? If it's not that he's doing anything wrong, then perhaps the issue is more with your attitude than it is with him, and you're projecting your frustration onto him.

If you have decided to stay at home, or to work, or whatever, then remember that it was you who made that choice. It's between you and God and your husband whether you want to continue to do that, and if I were you I'd take it up with your Maker. When I talked to God in those frustrating years, He'd frequently give me such a clear sense of calling to be with the kids that it took away that resentment. Certainly there may be times when it reared its ugly head again, but I realized that Keith was not doing anything bad to me; it was just a natural consequence of how I had decided to live my life. And if I were honest, I wouldn't want it any other way.

No life course we will choose will be perfectly fulfilling or perfectly fun. But that's not really the point. It's not about having fun as much as it is about living out our calling in life. And when we see it that way, our eyes go to God, rather than to ourselves or to our husbands.

Now if the issue is more that your husband takes you for granted, or doesn't seem to appreciate what you do around the house or with the kids, and isn't involved at all, then you need my book, To Love, Honor and Vacuum: When you feel more like a maid than a wife and a mother. (See it on Amazon here).

But one route out of a lot of this resentment is to focus on two things: what you feel called to in life, and what you love about your marriage. Keep these two things uppermost in your mind, and then when inevitable frustrations come, it will be easier to keep them from turning into resentment towards your mate.

Now it's your turn! Do you have some marriage advice to share? Some thoughts or concerns that you have? Why not participate in Wifey Wednesday! Just copy the picture at the top of this post and then go to your blog and write your own Wifey Wednesday post. Link back here, and then come back and enter the URL for your post in the Mr. Linky.

Thanks, and I look forward to reading your thoughts!

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Why Good People Can Raise Bad Children
The law of entropy states that things tend to go from a state of order to disorder.

So let's look at this in regards to parenting.

Picture a couple raising kids in 1940. They believed in God. They prayed before meals. They went to church. They were good people, and they passed on their values to their children about loyalty, honesty, and hard work. Maybe they didn't read the Bible at home, and maybe they didn't pray long prayers, but God was part of their lives.

That generation grows up. They're hard working. They're loyal. They get married. On the whole, they stick with their marriages, though divorce becomes more common. But they're still good, solid folk, having children in the 60s and 70s. They want their children to also be good, solid folk. They provide them with a comfortable home, they discipline them, they teach them to do well in school. But they don't take them to church. They don't say grace before meals, except at Thanksgiving. They don't even have a church.

Now their children grow up. They've been raised by good people, who were in turn raised by good, Christian people. But these children are no longer good, solid citizens. Instead of getting married, they have serial common-law relationships. Or perhaps they have serial marriages. They have step-children and children with different partners. They do well at their jobs, but their personal lives are a mess.

How did this happen? Simple. Things went from order to disorder, and this is the natural order of things.

That very first generation, in the 1940s, had something that the next generation did not have: they had a belief, and a fear, of God. They knew that moral principles were not to be lightly violated. They were to be kept because that's what God said. Even if they didn't do devotions everyday, they believed in God's laws.

The next generation, though, didn't raise their children in the same way. They wanted their kids to be those good, solid citizens, but they didn't give them any REASON to be a good, solid citizen. And they didn't give them the tools to be a good, solid citizen because they didn't have those tools themselves. They had given up on God.

And without God, what reason is there to be good? It has to come out of inner conviction, and many people just don't have that inner conviction. If you can do something and get away with it, why not do it? If it feels good to have sex outside of marriage, why not do it? If I'm not happy in my marriage, why not move on to greener pastures?

We can want our children to be good kids, but we need to give them a reason, a strong enough reason that will stop this law of entropy. God is the only One who can do that. God can preserve, and can keep families tight, and give us both the reason to live a moral life and the power to do so. Of course, that's a generalization. Many good, believing parents will have the heartbreak of seeing their children walk in the wrong direction. Nevertheless, it's more likely our children will do well if we raise them to believe in God than if we don't.

When we look around at the moral decay that is all about us, it's easy to see the cause. Families used to have something that held them together, a reason to do the right thing. It was called Jesus. Now we don't have that, and families are falling apart. And good parents, no matter how well meaning, will have a difficult time combatting the youth culture and our consumption society without God. How can parents' pleas of "you just have to do the right thing" stand up to the onslaught our kids face? We need a reason to do the right thing, and only God provides that.

That's why we're sliding into oblivion. I know so many great people, in their 50s and 60s, who raised their kids to be upstanding citizens. And those kids have not raised their children in the same way. They have not made healthy choices with regards to marriage or children. And I truly believe that's because they don't have God. I don't mean to blame these people, because in far too many cases they're doing a magnificent job stepping in for their wayward children and looking after grandchildren. I just think it's heartbreaking what they're going through. And it shows me, once again, that good intentions aren't enough. We need God. Without Him, parenting doesn't tend to work. The law of entropy takes control. And that's really sad.

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Guilt Makes the Woman Go Round
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in several papers in Ontario. This week's is brought to you by YOU--you all helped me out with ideas for this one back in this blog post. So thank you!

They say that love makes the world go round, but I think they’re wrong. I think the majority of the things women do are motivated by guilt.

We women feel guilty about everything. In fact, they say that the most common emotion women feel is guilt, and if you’re a woman, and you’re not feeling particularly guilty right now, just think about it. I’m sure you could talk yourself into plenty of guilt in two minutes flat.

Do you have laundry waiting to be folded? Laundry still in the washing machine, after three days? (Note to self: I’ll get to it, but I’ve got a column deadline, okay?). And don’t even mention the ironing. Then there are those thank you notes that we forgot to send after our wedding twenty-six and a half years ago, which guarantee that at every family reunion since we have avoided Aunt Peggy, because we know she remembers our transgression.

And what about parenting? Motherhood, of course, is the guilt that keeps on giving. We feel guilty for locking ourselves in the bathroom, just to get some breathing space. We feel guilty for not serving vegetables for dinner. We feel guilty when we yell at our kids.

We feel guilty for relaxing, for reading a novel and leaving the housework behind, for spending money on a manicure instead of on paying down debt, and for feeding everyone cereal for dinner.

Those of us who are older feel guilty for all the missed opportunities we had when we were younger. We feel guilty for not saving more, not loving more, not giving more. We feel guilty for letting our parents down. We feel guilty for letting ourselves down, our kids down, or our friends down. We feel guilty for our health deteriorating, and not being able to do all that we used to.

We feel guilty for folding our towels in half and then half again, instead of in thirds like our mothers taught us. We feel guilty for rolling the fitted sheets up into a ball and then throwing them in the linen closet instead of folding them properly.

And most of all, the number one thing that women feel guilty about is our weight. We feel guilty that we like food, that we eat food, and that we want food.

What does all this guilt do to us? We have three possible responses: the first is that we examine the guilt, take the legitimate to heart, and then change our lives for the better. That one’s pretty rare.

The second is that we feel so guilty that we deflect that guilt by getting mad at everyone else to ensure that the grumpiness is spread around evenly. That one’s pretty common.

And then there’s the most common of all: we run around like a chicken with its head cut off, trying to do the impossible, with the hope that if we just keep it up, the guilt will stop. But it won’t, because what we’re demanding of ourselves is superhuman. And there really isn’t such a thing as SuperWoman. There is only Exhausted Woman, and I don’t particularly like her.

Men find it easier to shrug guilt off. They don’t tend to bother themselves with silly things like housework standards, menu standards, or etiquette. And they don’t even have to go through labour! They’ve got it easy. So maybe, while we’re still in summer mode, we should try, just for one day, to be a man and not to feel guilt about stupid things. I doubt it will work, but it’s worth the effort. If only someone else would fold the laundry while I tried.

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And if you have three minutes, watch this quick video of a comedy routine I do about women and guilt:

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Happy Birthday, Baby
Last week we celebrated my daughter's 12th birthday, in a post when I recounted my rather humorous birth story with her.

I want to put her birth in a bit more perspective.

She was born on July 27, and I was very grateful that she did not wait until August, because I didn't want her birthday to be too close to another one. You see, a year before she was born, her brother came into this world. I guess he was her "big" brother, although he never got to be more than 5 pounds. She entered the world at 9 1/2. He left this world at 4 1/2. But I know that right now, he is running with the angels, and laughing, and doing cartwheels, and all sorts of physically fun things his little heart would never have allowed him to do on this earth.

My Christopher lived for 29 days 13 years ago. He would've been a teenager today. (Here's a picture of me last fall out at the cemetery). I wonder if babies and children grow in heaven? I think they must, at least babies, but at the same time, if they did, would that mean that there may be a time when heaven does not contain babies or children, because they've all grown up? I guess these are questions that will only be answered later.

It was because of Christopher that I started writing. My first article was this one, detailing my pregnancy with him, his short life, and what that taught us about loving "the least of these" in a culture which wanted me to abort him. My second article was this one, about how to help a friend through grief.

And then, of course, I have written a book called How Big Is Your Umbrella about the things that we yell at God when life stinks, and what He gently whispers back. And over the years I have discovered that I would so much rather have a hug from God than an encyclopedia of answers.

Right now I'm working on a new project. A few years ago I wrote a column called "A Prayer Through Tears" to help parents who had lost babies. It received an amazing response from readers, and I want to put it into a video on YouTube to comfort other grieving parents. I've got it almost done, but I'm lacking some pictures. Do you have any you'd be willing to share? Here's what I'm looking for:

  • Pictures of babies (if your child is still alive, and you're willing to let me use the picture just for artistic purposes anyway, that would be great. Or if you have a picture of a child in a hospital, or one who did die, I'd love to honor your child by including him or her
  • Pictures of children's gravestones (I know it sounds morbid, but that's the reality for many of us parents)
  • Pictures of women or men reading Scripture, or sitting quietly and looking out the window
If you have any, just email me through this page. I would so appreciate it! Thank you.

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Wifey Wednesday: Does He Make You Cry?

Welcome to Wifey Wednesdsay, when we post about marriage, talk about marriage, and get honest about the nitty gritty of real life.
Recently, on Twitter, I read this quotation:

No man is worth your tears, & when you find the man who is, he'll never make you cry.
That sounds good, doesn't it? So romantic! Isn't that what we all want?

I think it is. The teenage girls in my church (including my daughter) are just captivated by silly romantic kid movies, like Enchanted. They want to find their Prince, who will come in and sweep them off their feet and lead them to a life where all is perfect, there is always singing, and no one ever gets a zit.

When we women get married, I think that's what we're hoping for: here's a man who will never make me cry. He is perfect. I will love him forever, he will love me completely, and in the end, we will all be happy.

The problem is it doesn't work. There is no one who can ever love like a fairytale character. And chances are he will make you cry (and you'll make him angry, too). To expect that someone will never ever hurt you is to fail to understand the nature of marriage.

In marriage, we're joining two incomplete, imperfect people who love each other together forever. While they may love, what will really hold that marriage together is commitment. And why do we need that commitment? Because if it just depended on love, few would ever stick it out. Many of us go through times, especially early in our marriage, or right after the kids arrive, when we start to resent our spouse, or marriage becomes really difficult. We have different priorities. We have different personalities. The thing that we once thought was so cute and quirky about our spouse when we were dating now drives us crazy.

But because of that commitment, we stay and eventually things grow. Something deeper than love grows, or perhaps I should say a deeper form of love. And everytime we hurt each other, and work through that hurt, and reaffirm the fact that we're together forever, that love gets deeper.

It's a special kind of love, too. It's possessive, and it encompasses every part of us: spirit, soul, and body. It's one reason we're so upset about affairs, and have such a hard time accepting any kind of adultery, or recovering from betrayal, as that poll I had running on Monday showed. At this point, 16% of you think that if you hurt a guy who has cheated on you, the law should treat you exactly the same way as it would treat a regular assault, but the other 84% think some sort of allowance should be made, or that we should be able to send a posse out with some crazy glue to do some damage. Of course the poll was tongue in cheek, but it shows we understand how deeply we can be hurt by betrayal.

What we need to do in a marriage, though, is recognize that there is betrayal, and then there is betrayal. There is adultery, and then there is simple conflict. My husband has never cheated on me, but he has made me cry. He has been insensitive, he has put his needs first, he has denigrated me, especially early in our marriage. And I have done the same to him. These aren't things I'm proud of, but they're the consequence of two people joining together, and we have worked through them.

The one type of tear that my husband has never made me shed is the worry that he will leave me or cheat on me. I have complete faith in him on these counts. I know our marriage is rock solid, but there are still things that we butt heads about. Those things are far rarer now after 17 years of marriage than they were at the beginning, but with lack of sleep or some other problem we are still occasionally insensitive, and we need to get over it.

This idea, though, that a man should never make you cry can make you feel like the first time in a marriage that he is insensitive the marriage itself is at stake, or there's something dreadfully wrong with him. No, the marriage is not at stake, and the only thing wrong with him is that he's human.

In marriage we will have conflict. Let's not assume that he will always be an angel; that just makes it worse, and it's not fair. But by the same token, let's put that conflict in perspective. Being insensitive is not the same as having an affair, being abusive, or becoming addicted to something. So work through your problems. Pray through them. Learn selflessness. Learn how to confront in love. Learn that tears do not mean something is ending; it just means you're walkign through a healing process in some difficult area in your marriage, and healing always hurts.

Our false expectations about romance make these conflicts seem worse than they really are. Yes, you'll have difficulties. Yes, you'll have tears. But keep that commitment, and the tears can be worked through.

Now, do you have any marriage advice you can share? Why not join Wifey Wednesday! Simply go to your own blog and write a post about marriage, and then come back here and enter the URL in the Mr. Linky! You can also copy the picture at the top of this post by right clicking it, and then insert it into your post. And be sure to link back to me, too! Thanks so much, and I look forward to reading what you have to say!

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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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