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Values? Who Needs Values?
This is one of those weeks where I feel very discombobulated.

A couple of news stories have stuck with me . The first is the "artistic" community's reaction to Roman Polanski's arrest. For those who don't know, he was convicted in 1977 of forcibly raping a 13-year-old girl. He knew she was 13. He raped her in many different ways which I won't delve into here. She did not consent, but even if she had consented, it wouldn't have mattered. She was under the age of consent.

These things are known. They are not disputed. He admitted it at trial and pled guilty. But then he skipped town and lived abroad for 32 years before he could be sentenced. Hollywood is incensed that such a great director should be arrested. I am incensed that Hollywood can be so stupid.

Here's Whoopi Goldberg, who is supposed to stand for women's rights, explaining how getting a girl drunk and then forcing her to have sex isn't really "rape rape". Get a clue, Whoopi. And a moral compass. Interestingly, she's a spokeswoman for Toys 'R Us, claiming to be a "child advocate". How many child advocates do you know who think it's okay for a guy in this mid-40s to force himself on a 13-year-old?

Now here's a separate story. In England, a 14-year-old girl has died hours after getting the vaccine for cervical cancer. Here it's called Gardasil; this vaccine seems to have another name, but perhaps they're still the same thing and it's just a geographical difference. Whatever, that precious girl is now lost.

In most school districts in North America and in Britain, grade 8 girls are now routinely given this vaccine. We homeschool, and we haven't given it to our girls yet.

Now let me explain something. My husband is a pediatrician. The girls have had just about every vaccine available. If any family is pro-vaccine, it is mine (please no arguments in the comments about vaccines in general! It's not something I care that much about to argue, and I'd rather those arguments go elsewhere!). I say this just to show that on the whole, I'm the type of person who would welcome a new vaccine.

But this one just seems fishy to me. Every vaccine has a risk; doctors acknowledge that. Even if the risk is infintessimal, it is still there. But in most things we accept the risk because the risk of the disease is worse. Catch meningitis and you're in trouble. Measels and mumps are nothing to sneeze at. Isn't it great we don't have polio anymore?

But these diseases pass innocently from person to person. HPV, though, the disease that this vaccine protects against, is only spread through sexual transmission. Don't have multiple partners, and wait until you're married, and you're fine.

Of course, two scenarios do run through my mind. Rape is one. I would certainly not want my girls catching HPV in the case of rape, and that does make me think twice about the vaccine. That's horrid enough without adding the pain of HPV to it. The other problem may be that they may marry someone who is not a virgin, but who is now a Christian. But I would hope that, if that was the case, they would no longer be infectious.

Nevertheless, those are two pretty drastic cases. On the whole, I expect my kids to wait. And if I were to give the vaccine, it would be like saying: I think you won't.

What do these two news stories have in common? It seems to me that everyone expects 13-year-olds to have sex. We vaccinate our girls in case they get sexually active at that age; and then Hollywood says we shouldn't bother Polanski because the 13-year-old asked for it, and he's such a great artist anyway.

We don't put any value on innocence anymore. What we need is to vaccinate our society against rampant promiscuity. Let's bring back the picture of the white dress, the innocent girl. What's so wrong with that? Why is it such an object of scorn? Why is it okay to imagine girls having sex, to expect that they will, to excuse older men who prey on them, as long as they have hit puberty?

Look at how our society is falling apart, and it's obvious that rampant sexual activity outside of the bounds of marriage is much of the cause. People want freedom with no responsibility. And adults are afraid to tell teens "you shouldn't have sex", because they have no justification for it. If you believe that you should wait until you're married, it's easy to say, "don't have sex". But if you think that, as an adult, you can have sex as often as you wish, then what justification do you have telling a 15-year-old (or a 13-year-old) that you should wait? It's hypocritical. So instead, we create a society where it's expected.

It just sickens me. It really does. Sorry for being so negative. This week our church basement was flooded because the septic tank backed up. We had three inches of raw sewage everywhere. They've pumped it out, but it still stinks, and now we have nowhere for Sunday School classes or the nursery for a month or so until they get new carpet in, etc. But the whole thing seems like an apt metaphor. Sometimes I feel like just walking around this society I'm walking in raw sewage. And I guess we are. It's up to us, as believers, to clean it up, and I feel a little overwhelmed with it all right now!

UPDATE: A commenter says that the girl in Britain had terminal cancer, and that's why she died, not because of the vaccine. I can't find confirmation of that online; only that the British authorities say she had an underlying medical condition. However, they also said the girl appeared perfectly healthy at the time, so I still wonder if the vaccine exacerbated whatever she had. And if she was so terminally ill, why give her the vaccine? It really could have been a fluke(maybe, for instance, she had a heart condition which just chose that day to show itself, and she could have lived for many more years), but however she died, her death is a huge tragedy for the community and her family.

Whatever the cause, the fact is that all vaccines do have risks, as my husband tells all of his patients. This one does, too. And people need to take that risk into account when the vaccine is for something that is really only contracted in one way!

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Wifey Wednesday: Keeping Your Head When You're Mad
It's Wednesday, which means it's our day to talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you can all comment, or write your own marriage posts and link them here! Marriage, I believe, is the cornerstone of our society. But it's not easy. So let's be honest and help each other, and then just maybe we can turn this society around as we build strong families!

Last week my husband and I had such a textbook fight it was almost funny (in retrospect). Here's what happened:

I was feeling overwhelmed with a lot of demands on me. I was trying to homeschool. I was working to some writing deadlines. I had things to do at church. I was speaking last weekend (and this weekend), and I had family who needed me.

And in the middle of all that, I didn't have any time just to be by myself! And I need that "me" time. I had two specific issues with my girls, which were bugging me but which weren't really the cause of my angst, but they were there nonetheless.

One night I had just had it and I let in to my husband about how busy I felt. I knew this was only for a time; many of these time crunchers would be gone soon, but I was overwhelmed. And I happened to mention my frustration that I couldn't get Katie to practice piano right (although really this was minor compared to the rest of the things).

Keith offered to homeschool the girls the next day instead of catching up on paperwork, and I accepted, because he was sweet.

But then the next day, he called the girls down and started railing at them. He was really yelling because they were causing me stress. So I started yelling at him that he wasn't really helping me. If he wanted to help me, he wouldn't yell at the girls because they weren't my problem. But he figured: IF I HAD A PROBLEM, HE HAD TO FIX IT. And since I had been complaining about two specific things the girls were doing (piano practice and sibling bickering), he felt it was time to whip them into shape. But to them, it came out of left field because they had thought that we were all getting along quite well.

So I was mad at Keith for being mad at the girls, he was mad at me for being mad at him, and the girls were just flabbergasted.

Instead of just realizing that he was doing a male thing--trying to fix things--and it would all be okay in the end, I was really angry, because he was supposed to make my day easier and instead he was causing stress for everyone (in my view). He didn't want to talk about it, so instead of getting some work done, which would have at least lowered my stress issues, I seethed. I thought about how mean he was. I thought about how much he over-reacted. I thought about how he was too hard on the kids.

When he was finally ready to talk, and we had everything out, I realized that both of us had over-reacted. He was just worried about me, and he was genuinely trying to help. He wanted the girls to know that they should never cause me stress, and he wanted to defend me, and I shot him down. But he also needed to know that sometimes I just want to vent. I don't need him to fix anything; I just need him to listen.

Once we talked about it rationally, we were both soon laughing and hugging and everything was fine. I realized how much Keith loved me, and I felt much better.

The good thing is that the conflict was resolved really quickly--by noon it was over. Even though the anger feelings were as high as they were at the beginning of our marriage, we're so much better at getting to the root of the problem and talking it out. He listens; I listen; and we're more ready to forgive.

I think that's the wisdom that comes with age and experience. I know he truly loves me, and he knows I truly love him. Then, when a conflict occurs and we're able to think rationally, we realize that the problem can't be a lack of love; more often than not, it's just a misunderstanding.

Early in our marriage we would do one of two things: we would either each clam up, trying to will the other person to drag it out of us, or we would be so sure we were right that we wouldn't even listen to the other person. Now we've learned to get it out early.

Inevitably, when two people live together we will have misunderstandings. We will blow up and get angry occasionally. We will act inappropriately. It takes grace to make a marriage work; grace to our spouse, and grace to ourselves. So next time you're really angry, take a deep breath, and ask yourself this:

Do I truly believe he doesn't love me? Do I really think he's evil? Is this how he usually acts? Or is this something unusual? Am I reading too much into this? Given what I know about my husband, are the things I'm feeling really justified just by what's happening now?

And then--and I know this is hard when you're angry--say a prayer that God will help you see your husband through His eyes. God, help me to see the truth in this situation, and not only my own anger.

Gain proper perspective on the argument, and then gain God's perspective on your husband, and you just may find that listening to your husband and getting the conflict resolved is far easier than you used to think it was!

Now, what about you? Have you ever had a fight because your husband wanted to fix something? Do you have a special way of resolving conflict? I'd love to hear about it! Or if you just have other thoughts on marriage you want to share, why not write your own blog post, and then come back here and enter them in the Linky feature. We'd love to hear them!

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Quick, Interesting Things
To go along with my quick podcast today, I thought I'd post some quick things I've found that I like!

Carnation has some free recipes you can download, ready for Christmas! I'm always looking for interesting breakfast ideas you can make ahead of time, and this looks particularly good! I'd probably use half egg substitute and whole wheat bread, along with low-fat cheddar, to make it a little healthier. But that's just me.

Here's an article that really has made me think. Do we overlook the beauty in life because we're moving too fast? Often children see the beauty before we do. I think I'll have to turn this into a column.

From a man's brain: what it means to do nothing. Can that really be productive? I think he may be on to something. I heard someone say recently "Rest is not idleness". I think they're right. I may have to write a column about that, too!

If you're a Christian mom who also works outside the home, Kimberly Chastain has a survey she'd love for you to take! It's here.

And finally, does the government reward irresponsibility? You betcha.

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Why Kids Should Do Chores

I don't mind doing laundry, but I hate mopping the floor. I'm not big on dishes, either. Or cleaning toilets.

Luckily, I have children. And they are perfect for such tasks!

In this podcast, I talk about the necessity of teaching kids to do chores. Not just because it gives us a break, but also because kids need to be taught to be independent.

Listen in as we talk about the philosophy behind chores--and why teaching them to do chores will actually boost their self-esteem (and their chances of marriage)! It will also help those marriages to be far more successful.

It's only 5 minutes long, but it can motivate you to make necessary changes in your parenting! And then maybe you won't have to do all the mopping after all.

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Where Nobody Has Gone Before
Medically, today we are in uncharted territory. Technology is increasing at such a quick pace that people are being forced to make really difficult decisions that our parents and grandparents would never have had to face. How do you make ethical ones?

I was really touched by this story I read over the weekend. For some reason I can't get it out of my mind:

An Ohio woman who gave birth to a baby boy after a fertility clinic implanted her with the wrong embryo is a "guardian angel," the boy's biological parents said Saturday.

Paul and Shannon Morell of suburban Detroit said in a statement that they would be "eternally grateful" to Carolyn Savage, of Sylvania, for her decision to give birth to their child despite the clinic's mistake.

"It's been a long, difficult journey, and we're thrilled that our family is now complete," the Morells said. "We will be eternally grateful for his guardian angel, Carolyn Savage, and the support of the entire Savage family.

"We're looking forward to spending the next few weeks getting to know our new baby."

The boy was born Thursday at 5 pounds and 3 ounces at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo. He measures 18 inches long.

In a statement Friday, the Savages offered congratulations to the Morells.

"At this time, we would like to offer our heartfelt congratulations to the Morell family on the birth of their son," the Savages' statement said. "We wish Paul, Shannon, their twin girls and their new baby boy the best, as they move forward with their lives together."


The two couples knew nothing about each other. Shannon Morell feared that the pregnant woman would choose abortion, ending their chance to give their 2-year-old twin girls a sibling.

A few days passed before they learned that the Savages were not only willing to continue with the pregnancy but also to hand over the baby without hesitation.

"This was someone else's child," 40-year-old Carolyn Savage told the AP on Wednesday. "We didn't know who it was. We didn't know if they didn't have children or if this was their last chance for a child."

So here's the situation. Two couples are going to a fertility clinic because they desperately want children and can't seem to conceive on their own. Often at fertility clinics they implant 7 or 8 embryos, and then "selectively reduce" the number of pregnancies, since that increases the chance that one embryo will actually take.

If you decide that you don't want to selectively reduce, you end up in a Jon and Kate Plus 8 situation, with many all at once. Or you can choose not to put yourself in that position, and only be implanted with three at a time or something. But that reduces your chances of pregnancy.

In this case, it looks like they just had one implanted, and it turned out to be the wrong person's baby. It seems to me that everyone in this situation behaved beautifully, and the "surrogate" mother did exactly what she should have, and the other family is being very gracious, but it doesn't stop the heartache, does it?

I get the impression, from the article, that the Morrells, who were the biological parents, already had twin girls, while the Savages, who were given the wrong embryo, did not have any children yet. And the woman is 40. So imagine finally being pregnant, and carrying a baby to term, and realizing that you can't keep it. The heartache must be so immense, even though she has the satisfaction that she did the right thing.

We're in new territory. Even with my son, when he was very ill, we had big decisions to make. Would we give him a surgery that only had a 25% chance of success, which would not save his life, since he'd require four massive surgeries afterwards, too, or would we let him quietly go?

We opted for the surgery, but it was hard. I was putting my son through immense pain for a surgery that had only been developed six years prior to Christopher having it. Ten years ago he would have just passed away, and there wouldn't have been any agony of thinking and praying over what to do.

Four years after he died, they pioneered the first in-utero surgery (in the womb) for the type of heart defect he had. Imagine! They can now fix it in the womb. But we didn't have that option. And so I chose pain for my child. I still know it was the right choice for his circumstances, but it was hard.

Sometimes it's our choice of technology in the first place that can hurt our consciences, like so much of IVF. It's hard to do it ethically, in my opinion, because I don't think creating a bunch of embryos that will be thrown away or never used is right. But some couples choose a very ethical path within IVF, and more power to them.

Other times these decisions are thrust on us when illness hits. When do you withdraw treatment? Do you need to try everything? When is it just time to go? These life and death issues are hard, and they're only going to get worse. All we can do, I guess, is pray taht God will show us the way. And be gentle with our friends who are walking these hard roads.

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Hearing God's Voice
I'm speaking tonight south of Ottawa at a great church, and I'm quite excited about it. I'm using a relatively new talk, and here's the basic gist:

There is always enough time in the day to do what God wants you to do today. So there's no point in feeling guilty for leaving things undone!

The trick is to figure out what God's priorities are. And to do that, you have to listen to Him.

So how do you do that? That's a hard one. Some people, I think, have the gift of meditation, and I don't mean some far east mysticism thing. I mean, they have the gift of sitting quietly and meditating on His word. I know several women like that, and they often get visions or something really neat that God intended just for them.

I'm not like that. I find it very difficult to sit still for any length of time. It's a discipline I have to develop. But we can listen without necessarily being still all the time. Really quickly (because I don't have a lot of time for a long post), here are some thoughts on this that I've had:

1. We need to spend some time quietly each day before God. Journalling is good during part of this, to record what you're feeling/thinking/hearing, but we also just need to be still.

2. We need to read His Word everyday. We just do. It helps us to think the right way, to be reminded and convicted of specific things, and to see life with a new perspective.

But often we think that the only time we hear God is in these "holy" times. Realistically, though, for most people this is just a few minutes of their day, half an hour if you're lucky. What about the rest of the day? The more important question, I think, is figuring out how to hear Him in the rest of the day, too.

And I think that comes from "practicing the presence of God", as Tozer said. We have to practice talking to Him throughout the day, and not only at appointed times. We have to take everything to God in prayer. Keep the lines of communication open.

Train yourself to talk to Him maybe while you're doing the dishes, or driving doing errands. Every so often, turn off the radio and TV so that you can have some silence (even if the kids are noisy in the background).

Get rid of things that can drown out His voice, like questionable movies or TV shows, or too much time on the internet. I find that when I spend more time talking to people, and less time watching movies, I hear His voice more.

Participate in creative things, not just busy things. Our God is a creative God, and when we are also creative, I think we touch Him in unique ways. So have fun cooking something new, crochet something, paint something, build something. When we make something beautiful, we're engaging in something that God also does. And it gives you a chance to keep your mind in that direction. So often we spend our time in things that are not creative (like TV or video games). I think the more we do things that God also does, the more we train our brains to hear His voice.

Participate in service. Pray for missions. Think and research how you will give your charity money. Have people over for dinner. Help a friend. God is also a God of service, and the more we participate in what He does, the more we begin to be shaped by Him.

Think about it this way: if you were to be Jesus' apprentice, what would you do? You would pray, sure. But you would also surround yourself with friends. You would talk to people. You would go to weddings. You would help people. You would build tables and chairs. You would learn Scripture.

I think sometimes we compartmentalize too much, and think that the only time we can hear God's voice is when we're specifically praying. That's not true. We need that time, absolutely. After all, Jesus took it. But let's not assume that that is the only time we meet with God during the day. Let's learn how to listen to His voice in other pursuits, too, and we just may find that figuring out what He has planned for our day is much easier!

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Now That's a Man...
Old guy wrestles young bank robber to the ground. Watch this video, and listen to the guy's reasoning:

I like to think my husband is a lot like this! The world could use a lot more men of this guy's caliber.

(I know, I know. It's dangerous to tackle a bad guy. You could get hurt, etc. etc. But it's still rather heart-warming, isn't it?)

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When Do You Feel Grown Up?
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a variety of papers. Here's this week's, based on a blog post from a while ago!

I was not a happy teenager. I didn’t particularly like the high school scene, the ridiculous courses, the boring teachers, and the regimented schedule. I used to dream of finally being a grown up and being allowed to make my own decisions. I idolized adulthood.

Then I hit eighteen and nothing magical happened. Surely I’d feel like a grown up in university, though, right? Or maybe when I landed my first full-time job?


Many of my friends seemed comfortable in their skin. They knew who they were, and they weren’t afraid of letting others know where they stood. But I was still waiting for some magical writing from heaven to appear and label me, once and for all, an adult, so that I could feel capable, mature, and competent, too.

Unfortunately the writing failed to materialize. And yet, sometime in the last few decades, I must have crossed an invisible line. It may not have been accompanied by thunderous applause, but I definitely passed from mini-me to fully-me. Even though I can’t define the precise mode of this miraculous transformation, I can tell you the results.

I knew I was a grown up when it came to men when I could stop asking, "Does he like me?", and start asking, "Do I like him?" And when the answer was yes, I married him.

When it came to children, I knew I was a grown up when I stopped worrying what other people thought of my kids’ behaviour or development and just concentrated on being the best mom I could be.

I was a grown up, too, when I stopped pulling out the makeup and the mousse to impress other people, but just started doing it to make myself feel pretty. When I started prioritizing feeling good in my body, I felt like a grown up in it, too.

I was a grown up when I could calmly talk to a salesperson about what their establishment had done that was beyond the pale, instead of letting them walk all over me.

I was a grown up when I could invite people over for dinner and not worry about whether they'd like what I prepared. I'd just cook what I liked, and figured everybody else would make do.

I was a grown up when I called my mom for her advice, and not her approval.

I was a grown up when the fact that my father didn't understand me became a cause for pity for him, rather than for angst, anger, or introspection on my behalf.

I was a grown up when I started letting myself dream dreams, instead of living out the dreams other people thought I should have.

I felt like a grown up when I acted like others were my equals, instead of feeling insecure around those who were of higher rank or status than I was.

I felt like a grown up when I could run into an acquaintance and have a conversation and not remember until the next day that I was supposed to be mad at them. I guess I don't carry grudges the same way anymore.

And I knew I was a grown up when I stopped worrying about whether or not I was one. I don’t have to wait for my life to start; I have to make my life what I want it to be. This is my life; it’s up to me to live it. After all, I am a grown up, even if it’s been a long time coming.

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To Love, Honor and Vacuum: The Philosophy
I realized recently that I've been writing this blog for about a year and a half, and I don't know if I've ever really explained what I believe or how I got started.

In 1999 I began writing for magazines. My children were babies, and I wanted something to do that required adult thought, but I didn't want to work outside the home. From those articles came my first book, To Love, Honor and Vacuum: When you feel more like a maid than a wife and a mother.

It was born out of an experience I had with two women who were quite close to me at the time. They, like me, had young children, and they, like me, were frequently tired. Motherhood is difficult! But instead of focusing on how they could change their lives and make motherhood and marriage satisfying, they seemed dragged down by the problems in their marriage and the pressures of running a home.

And it seemed to me that their priorities were out of whack.

So I wrote this book to help women stuck in this trap where they start to feel more like maids than wives and mothers.

This week I dug out an old interview did with 100 Huntley Street on precisely that topic, and edited it down. Here's my philosophy in just a few minutes:

Basically, if you want to change, you've got to take the initiative. Don't sit there and wonder why you're so tired and why your life turned out this way. God has so much more for you, but it comes when we stop feeling guilty about all the things we aren't doing, stop feeling angry at our husbands, and start getting our priorities straight! It's not as hard as it sounds, and God's there to help you.

I hope that my posts over the last few years have shown that. And I'll continue to write about this, although if you want to read more, you really should get the book! But I thought it was about time I showed my heart. Besides, I really like the lipstick shade they gave me in this clip. I've tried to mimic it since, but I've never been able to :).

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Wifey Wednesday: When Conflicts Don't End
Hi, everybody! It's time for Wifey Wednesday, when we talk marriage, husbands, sex, and family!

I launch the topic, but then I hope you're join me, writing your own marriage post and linking in back here. (and I'm going to cheat and make this a Works for Me Wednesday post, too! Go on over and see more Works for Me Wednesday posts here).

Last week we had a really interesting discussion on what to do when your husband won't try new foods and doesn't eat particularly healthy (healthily?). We continued the discussion here.

And I got thinking about this whole issue quite a bit. What do you do when your husband acts "just plain stupidly"? I'm talking down, aren't I? And it's never good to talk down to your husband. We should always guard against that. But let's be honest (and I do want to be honest here in Wifey Wednesday, or else what's the point?). What if you have a conflict with your husband, whether it's about food or not, where he just doesn't get that there's a problem, and he has no desire to change, even if it's really, really bothering you?

Some of these things may be serious, but I don't want to address the ones that are actually really sinful (like if your husband's an alcoholic, or a pornography addict, or something). I've dealt with those elsewhere. I mean the run of the mill, everyday conflicts where you just can't get him to see. It could be the food issue, where he won't try anything new. It could be that he watches really inappropriate television shows in front of the children, and refuses to give in. Maybe he won't eat dinner at the table but wants to watch TV all the time, and you have no family time. Maybe he won't ever play with the kids or put them in bed. Whatever. Things that really bother you, but he just has no interest in changing.

What do you do?

Here are my thoughts, in order. They're a little harsh, and I'm sorry. But we've got to speak the truth here.

1. Realize that you cannot change anyone else. In my book To Love, Honor and Vacuum I dealt with this quite a bit. Often when we're upset in our marriages we think the problem is all him. If he would just smarten up, we'd be fine. But what's the point in thinking that? You cannot change him. You need to stop trying. I know that sounds difficult, but keep reading, because I do offer hope.

2. Try to see him in a different light. He is God's gift to you. As someone wrote in the comments last week, perhaps 20% of what he does really bugs you, but focus on the other 80%. Learn gratitude for what he does do and accept him for who he is. The more you accept him, the more he feels competent and strong, and the more likely it is that he will want to grow as a person. Men have a deep-seated need to be competent. If they feel disapproval, they often retreat (into television, work, etc.). Treat them well, and they're more likely to grow. But don't do so in order for them to grow. Do so because you want the best for them and you honestly are finding things to be grateful for.

3. Pray God's will for your husband. Instead of praying that he will improve in the areas that you find difficult, pray for him that God will help him in his various roles. Pray that he will become the man God wants him to be, not the man you want him to be.

4. Pray that you will be the best wife you can be for him. I know he's hurting you. I know he's doing things that you wish he wouldn't and that really bother you. But ask God what you can do to show your husband love. What can you do to be the best wife you can be? Instead of focusing on what he is not doing, focus on what you can do. God will honour that, and you will feel better. Dare yourself to be as good a wife as you can (which doesn't mean excusing sin; it just means learning to love). As you build gratitude for who he is (#2), pray for him (#3), and focus on your own roles (#4), you'll likely find your attitude towards him changing.

5. Change what you have control over. If he is treating you disrespectfully, for instance, you don't need to nag him about it. You don't need to fight about it, or withhold from him. Tell him how you feel, but then put yourself in a position where he can't treat you that way. I list a whole bunch of different scenarios like this in To Love, Honor and Vacuum, but let me give you an example. If he wants to eat in front of the television, that is completely his perogative. But that doesn't mean you have to serve him there. Set the table, have the kids sit down, and if he wants to bring his plate elsewhere, he can. He's an adult; he can do what he wants. But you don't need to facilitate it. This one's kind of controversial, and some of you may disagree with me here. Feel free! But I think it is important to make it a norm that the family does things together. If he chooses something different, that's fine. But family togetherness is the norm.

6. Work for your children's benefit. If you feel that they are losing out on time with their dad, then you should still give them that time. If their dad isn't leading family devotions, you need to do it with them. If their dad isn't reading to them at night, you need to do it. Always leave the door open so he can join you, but don't abandon something important simply because he won't do it.

7. Find your own peace in God. If you are feeling put upon and taken for granted, then go to God for your peace. Don't rely on your husband to meet all your needs; he never will. Get involved in a good Bible study. Fill your time focusing on God, and not on your husband's shortcomings. Put praise CDs on and let music fill the house. Seek out a godly mentor that can help you grow in the Lord (not help you vent all your frustration about your husband). Look to Jesus, not your husband, and probably the problems you have will minimize in importance.

If you want more encouragement for how to handle your marriage when you want it to change, but you don't see any hope, check out To Love, Honor and Vacuum!

(Here's a quick 1 minute look at the book:)

And now, why not write your own Wifey Wednesday post, and then come back here and link up? We'd love to hear your thoughts! And don't forget to leave a comment!

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Podcast: Reclaiming Sanity when it Comes to Outside Activities

Let's say you have three kids. They're each involved in two activities a week: swimming, karate, gymnastics, skating, hockey. That doesn't seem too bad, does it? Every kid wants to do at least two activities.

But add that up, and it means you're never eating dinner together as a family! You're spending your life on the road, grabbing take-out food.

Is gymnastics really worth losing your family over?

And what about your own activities? Are you getting so busy with your own stuff that you have no time for those around you who need you?

Listen in to today's podcast, and figure out how you can reclaim your family--and your sanity! It's right here.

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In Quest of a Morning Routine that Works
Do you have morning issues? I sure do.

Whether you work outside the home or you're busy inside the home, the question always is: what can I squeeze into the morning? What should I squeeze into the morning? How can I start my day off right?

I often get up around 7, but I'm tired. So I tended to gravitate to the computer and check emails and post something on this blog and check Twitter and surf, and soon an hour would be gone. Then I'd scramble to shower, get dressed, get some breakfast, do my devotions and start homeschooling. And chances were I didn't get going for the day until 10, and I just didn't feel that that was acceptable.

Of course, when the children were younger it was even harder. I remember when they were really little I'd get up with them, put a video on, and go back to sleep on the couch, sitting with them, so I was right there if anything bad happened. And then I'd stick them in a playpen and go have my shower. It wasn't easy.

But now that my children are older, I should theoretically be able to get a good start to my day. The problem is that I want to start my day with too many things. Exercise, devotions, shower, breakfast, time on the web. And recently I've just decided that exercise needs to come first, because it helps me wake up anyway.

I'm one of those people who has always been relatively slim. I've never been skinny, but I've never been big, either. But the last few years I've gained about 3 pounds each year, so that I'm 12-15 pounds up where I was a little while ago. And while I still look fine, and I'm not upset about it, I'm worried about the trajectory. I don't want to get heavily overweight. My metabolism is simply slowing. That's life. But it means I do have to exercise to stay healthy and stay in shape.

So I've decided to exercise first, check email and post on this blog for 15 minutes, have my shower, and then sit down with my Bible and hot chocolate (it's heavy on the cocoa and low on the sugar). I know some people think you should do the Bible first, but if I do that I'm not really awake.

The problem is, now that I add exercise my day really doesn't start until 9:45 or 10. And that bugs me. But it's not realistic to get up at 6, not for me. I know some of you can do it, but I can't. So I feel a little bit badly about that, but I don't see how to change it. At least I know at 10 that I've done the important things for the day.

What do the rest of you do? I'd really like to know. Sometimes I just feel like it's so hard to fit in everything we're supposed to do. I don't know how people find the time.

By the way, I'm working out the Wii fit and getting a really good workout! I figured out how to use it so it does some real good. Anybody want to know the routines? I'll post them if you'd like.

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You Can't Have Love without Respect
Perhaps my title is controversial. Can you have love without respect?

After all, there's a best-selling book by the title of "Love & Respect", arguing that men need respect primarily while women need love. And I agree with the authors.

But you also can't have love without respect. They are intertwined, even if as genders our primary need is for one or the other. The truth is we still need both.

And I think nowhere is this truer than in the parent-child relationship.

I'm witnessing a lot of such relationships right now where the child just can't respect the parent. Either the parent has made very poor choices, and is continuing to make those poor choices, or the parent just thinks of the child as more of a friend than a child. When you try to put yourself on equal footing with your child to get the love that you desperately need, it will backfire.

Many praents fail to discipline or enforce real boundaries because they want their child to love them. If the child starts pulling away and acting up, they respond by just letting all rules go out the window. Ironically, the whole reason the parent does this is because they want love. They don't want to be "mean" to the child, because they want this super-close relationship. So they just simply don't do anything that might make the child mad.

However, if a child can't respect you as a parent, they can't love you as a friend. It just doesn't work. Children have friends, and lots of them. They don't want their parent to be their friend. They want their parent to be their parent.

Other parents fail to enforce discipline for different reasons. Maybe they're not trying for love, but they're in a difficult spot in life. They're hurting. They're finding it hard to cope with life in general, let alone being a parent. And so they just give up at being a parent. In many of these cases, the child takes on the parental role. They start making the meals, cleaning up the house, looking after the younger siblings. They start making decisions for the family, and trying to compensate for a parent who just isn't there. And in the process, they become indispensable to that parent. The parent appreciates them so much for what they're doing, and they need that child. Because of the parent's lack of parenting, the child becomes this mature, capable person. But they become that way out of necessity, and they lose out on the joy of childhood. It's an extremely dysfunctional relationship.

So we've got these three extremes: the parent who doesn't discipline because they want love, and the child who rebels; the parent who doesn't discipline, and the child doesn't rebel, but seethes inside; and the child who compensates. I've got each represented somewhere in my extended family circle. And I can guarantee you that when those children grow up, they will struggle with their relationship with their parents. They will wonder whether to continue, they will want to chuck it, but they will feel extremely guilty.

Perhaps you think that none of this relates to you, but I'm not so sure. At one point, these all may have been aberrations. But I think these types of relationships are almost becoming the norm. Parents simply don't discipline or enforce boundaries the way they did before. Perhaps you do; I hope you do! I know I do. But as a whole, we live in a culture lacking boundaries. We live in a culture that abhors discipline or rules, and loves laxity. We live in a culture that is thus destroying what is meant for the family.

It's not doing it intentionally, but that is still what's happening, and I think it's why so many teenagers are aimless today. They don't have people to point the way. We can't let kids go around watching as much TV as they want, beating up their little siblings, and staying up as long as they want. We can't have kids who throw tantrums when we don't make them what they want for dinner, or who never clean their rooms, or who talk back to their fathers. We can't have kids who feel alone in the world because their parents are too caught up in their own dramas after a divorce or breakup. It just won't work.

I was reminded of all of this recently when I read the story of Tamar, Amnon, and Absalom recently. For those of you who don't know the Bible story, it's riveting, and let me sum up. Tamar and Absalom were full blown brother and sister. Amnon was a half brother. He also really wanted Tamar, so he arranged to get her alone and he raped her and then discarded her. He refused to marry her, which would have been the honourable thing to do (even though it creeps me out). And then his father, King David, did nothing about it.

That's the interesting part, to me. He didn't punish Amnon. And so Absalom took it upon himself. He became the father figure, and a few years later, when the time was right, he killed Amnon.

Later on, Absalom led a rebellion against his father David that was almost successful. He tore the kingdom apart, murdered many of David's friends, and did all sorts of terrible things. And after years of running from his son, Absalom is killed. And what does David do? He mourns like crazy.

Interestingly, he didn't mourn like this when other children died (like Amnon or his first baby with Bathsheba). But he mourned like anything for the son who had betrayed him and basically ruined his life. He still mourned out of proportion to the way he mourned his other kids.

Now David was a stinkingly bad father. He may have been good in other ways (and he was), but he didn't know how to parent, and he threw in polygamy in the middle of it that made it worse. Absalom, then, took on the parental role, which is probably why David loved him so much. He was so responsible. He was so good. You could count on Absalom.

But in the end it backfired because he didn't respect David. So here's my challenge to all of you moms this week: do your children respect you? Do you set firm limits? Do you make the decisions in the family, instead of letting your children run the household?

There's nothing wrong with raising responsible children, but if they are responsible because you aren't, that's bad. And they will never love you later on if they can't respect you now. Don't give in to the society. Don't stop disciplining. Don't give your kids all they want. And be involved. That's the best route to real love and real family harmony.

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Happily Ever After Generation
Every Friday, my syndicated newspaper column appears in a variety of papers. Here's today's!

Earlier this week, singer Taylor Swift was accepting an MTV award when rapper Kanye West leaped on stage, grabbed the microphone, and pronounced that singer Beyonce should have won instead for her video Single Women. Apparently he thinks Taylor Swift may be cute, but she won’t endure. Beyonce’s message, to him, is timeless.

Obviously West does not live in a house with teenage girls.

When I was a teenager, we all idolized red-headed Molly Ringwald, who played down-and-out characters rebelling against their parents’ generation and writing their own rules on love. She was cool. She was hard. She was edgy, and we adored her.

Today edgy is so passé. After all, you can’t get much less edgy than nineteen-year-old Taylor Swift, but her music has taken the female world by storm. You may not know who Swift is, but you’ve likely heard Love Story, her own version of Romeo and Juliet, while out driving or shopping. You can’t avoid it.

And while all Swift’s songs talk about love—and how if you don’t love the real me forever, you’re not worth my time—something strange happens whenever Love Story plays and teenage girls are in proximity. The girls don’t just sing along; they belt it out. And then, just when you think they can’t get any louder, the decibel level suddenly shoots up for the line: “He knelt to the ground and pulled out a ring and said, MARRY ME, JULIET!!!” In Swift’s world, and to these teen girls, Romeo and Juliet doesn’t end in tragedy. It doesn’t end in edgy relationships, or “shacking up”, or in a fling, either. Instead, Juliet gets the whole white dress treatment. Romeo even asks permission from her father to marry her—and the teenagers don’t flinch at this “archaic” throwback! Romance, tradition, and marriage, are back in style.

Movies for girls this age mimic Swift’s preferred storyline. Last year’s Enchanted left my girls—and many of their friends—swooning. A fairytale comes to life, with various characters bursting into song to declare their undying love. Then there’s Penelope, Pride and Prejudice, or the more mature but still wedding oriented 27 Dresses and Bride Wars. Younger kids are getting in on it, too. What about High School Musical? It may not include wedding bells, but the romance is awfully squeaky clean. This is no Degrassi Junior High. Even in music for the pre-teen set, the mega-selling Jonas Brothers are about as far from gangsta rappers as you can get.

Our culture has told our teenage girls from the time they were born to dream, and to dream big. You can have it all! But what they keep coming back to is that white dress. They want the happily ever after.

It’s a noble dream, but there’s a problem. There’s no point in standing up there in your white dress unless there’s somebody standing next to you in a tux. These girls need boys to buy into the “happily after” as well, and that can be tricky with video games demanding all of their attention. And all of us need to learn that wishing and dreaming about love isn’t enough; a marriage is successful not just when we marry the one we love, but also when we continue, day by day, to love the one we marry. After all, real life isn’t a fairytale. It’s hard work, but that just makes it more rewarding.

Maybe we could all use a little more “love story” and a little less cynicism. If all we do is dream, though, and we don’t live it out, then perhaps Kanye West is right and Swift will be swiftly forgotten, along with the romance she tried to revive. Somehow that doesn’t sound like much of a happy ending at all. I really hope my girls, and their friends, do better.

Can anyone relate? Does anyone else have teen girls who go crazy over Love Story or You Belong to Me? I have to admit to singing quite loudly at Love Story, too!

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The Perils of Split Grade Classrooms
It's been a bad week for school news. We had the school bus beating video, which is just horrific.

But on the home front, I have a number of friends with kids in the school system who are just so unhappy with their kids' teachers/classes this year.

I'm not going to comment on anything specific, but let me talk about the problem from a generic point of view.

We live in Ontario, Canada, where the Liberal provincial government put down a law a few years ago saying that grade four classrooms and under could not exceed 20 students. After all, the early years are the most important, so we need more one-on-one time. So let's mandate it!

The only problem is, this had already been tried in California and had been a miserable failure. The best teachers with the most seniority vied for these "easy" jobs in small classrooms, while the new teachers took the higher grades, often with 35 kids. Portables sprung up all over the place because you needed more classrooms. They had to hire people who weren't properly trained to teach to make up for all the extra classrooms that were now needed.

But the worst thing of all: split grades.

And that's what's happened in Ontario, too.

Take a rural school that doesn't have a lot of kids. Let's say you have 18 in kindergarten, 23 in grade one, 22 in grade 2, and 19 in grade 3.

You have a problem, because your grade 1 and grade 2 classes are too big. So you can move a few grade 1's down to the kindergarten class and make a split grade. Then, with the extra grade 1 you move him or her up to grade 2. You now take the two extra grade 2 students and put them in grade 3, which creates 1 extra grade 3 child, that you have to move up to grade 4. Etc. etc.

It gets to be an even bigger nightmare if the numbers are more like: 16, 24, 26, 17, or something.

So here's the question: is it easier to teach 28 grade 1 students, let's say, or a class with 14 grade 1's and 6 grade 2's? Remember, you still have to cover all of the curriculum. You may have fewer students, but you have a harder job.

In any given classroom, you have a two grade standard deviation on either side. So in grade 3, for instance, you have some kids working at a grade 1 level and some kids working at a grade 5 level. You've already got a mixture of abilities and learning styles there.

If you add children a year younger, you now increase the ability level even more. A good teacher will try to individualize work to where those kids are, but it's hard when you're trying to cover more curriculum.

What some teachers do is to just give up trying. They just teach to the middle, and the rest fall by the wayside. The gifted grade 2's who may have received individual care in a complete grade 2 class now can't get that because the teacher has to spend spare minutes teaching the other grade.

And what's worse is that if your child is labelled on the "lower" learning end, so they go in the top of a split (so a grade 2 child in a 1/2 split rather than a 2/3 split) may never make up that difference. The other grade 2's spend an entire year hearing the grade 3 curriculum. The smart ones probably do the grade 3 curriculum. But the grade 2's stuck in a 1/2 split hear the same material they learned last year again. If they get put back in a straight grade 3 class the next year, they'll start the year behind the grade 3's who were in the 2/3 split the previous year. They were already in the bottom 50%; how can they ever make it up now? You've now taken a child in grade 2 and labelled him or her, probably for their whole school career.

And all of this was done because it was supposed to help kids.

Governments often do things that "sound" good without thinking through the ramifications. In this case, there are huge ramifications and very little good that can come out of it. It makes a nightmare for principals who have to juggle numbers to get the right class size, and a nightmare for teachers who have to teach to such disparate learning levels. And who does it really help?

Split classes were done years ago just to help the gifted kids get ahead. If you were gifted, you were often moved up just so you could hear the next lesson. I can sort of understand that, although you do hit a ceiling. I had a friend whose son was gifted, and he was always on the lower end of a split. So in grade 7 he learned all the grade 8 material. When he got to grade 8, there was nowhere else to put him, so he had to sit through that year all over again (they don't skip kids anymore, after all). So it ended up being a waste of time.

Today, though, they split grades just to make the numbers match. It's ridiculous. And I don't think it helps education. It may help teachers' unions, since it creates more jobs, but it doesn't help the kids. And a bunch of my friends' children are currently suffering for it.

I have lots more posts on education, parenting, and marriage! Stay a while and read a bit!


Can You Help This Woman?
Yesterday on Wifey Wednesday we talked about food--what to do when your husband wasn't very adventurous in the menu department, and wasn't willing to try food that you liked--or food that was healthy.

One woman left this comment:

let me just say that all of you with husbands who try things are lucky! my husband REFUSES to try anything that he thinks he won't like. the only "vegetables" that he will eat are corn & potatoes. he says that he "tolerates" green beans, but in 7 1/2 years together I have never once seen him "tolerate" one. he will not eat things that are mixed together (i.e. casseroles, soups other than tomato), does not like noodles or rice, and will not try any new "ethnic" dishes. (i have gotten him to try chinese...but only sweet & sour & general tsos noodles, no rice). I, on the other hand, am quite a foodie and love trying new things. I adore sushi, mexican food--i will try anything once and usually like it. i basically have to make separate things for us each to eat at night. we have no kids yet but I'm already stressed about that issue. he just refuses to budge. occasionally I will try to get him to eat something that he likes with something that he may not like added to it, but he will very rarely do it (I got him to try a spoonful of french onion soup once...but he only had the broth w/the bread and cheese). i feel like i am dealing with a child sometimes, and what i don't get is, his mother will say stuff about not knowing why he is like that and I just want to scream "Because you didn't make him try new things!!!!" it's so frustrating.

I'm at a loss as to how to help her without just repeating some of the things I said yesterday. So let me take the collective wisdom of the mom-blogosphere. What do you think? Any advice? Any caution? Any thoughts? Leave a comment!

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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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