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Wifey Wednesday: The Best Of...By You

It's Wednesday, the day that we talk marriage! You write your own post, and then link up in the Mcklinky or in the comments! And feel free to copy the picture at the top (just right click it and save) and then use it in your post!

I'm actually quite busy this week, so we're going to do something different today. I'm going to post to some of my favourite Wifey Wednesday posts that you all have entered. I'm trying to choose a mixture--some deep, some funny. If I haven't listed yours, it's not because I didn't like it! I'm just choosing some quickly because I don't have a lot of time to get this post up and running today!

Smiling Socks. A wife recognizes that all these fights over laundry aren't over laundry. They're over how we view love. Funny, and very true!

15 Ways to Bless Your Husband (I like the racy love note!). We all can do at least one of these today. I dare you!

The Culture of Divorce. A beautiful post on how we've been trained to be divorced much better than we've been trained to be married. I think I'll write a column about this one soon!

Love Almost Lost. A woman shares how her marriage was dead and buried for five years--until God revived it.

Negative Thought/Positive Speak. Sheri, a regular here at Wifey Wednesday, has a great post on how to guard our thoughts towards our husbands.

Now, what do you have to say about marriage? Any great tips for us? Let us know, so that we can learn and grow together!


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Why I'm Passionate About Family Meal Times!
How often does your family have dinner together? If you're like most families nowadays, the answer is probably, "Not very often."

Lasagna for dinner - yum!Image by Locator via Flickr

It's understandable. Modern families are busy. Sometimes both parents work and sometimes get home at different times. But even if you're home during the day it's still hard to find energy to cook every night, or even work out the logistics of when dinner is going to get made and consumed! Children have activities to go to, and Mom's got to drive them all over the place. Who's got the time and energy to even cook dinner every single night?

I know it's tough, but few things in parenting are more important. Eating together is good for you and your family. Inside jokes, laughter, and deep discussions flow from dinner times. Family devotions and family games nights naturally follow. You build the family identity. So you better make time and find the energy to make home-cooked meals and sit down and eat together more often.

Researchers have found many benefits to home-cooked meals. Watch this video to learn about some of them. In my own experience, though, there are many more. Here are 24 reasons I have found to share family meals more often:

1. Families who eat together eat healthier, because home-cooked food is healthier than fast food.

2. Family meals allow busy families to catch up with each other.

3. Young children learn a lot of verbal skills just by eating with their family members.

4. It gives everyone a chance to unwind after a busy day.

5. Having family meals more often forces you to end your working day and other obligations in time for dinner.

6. Home cooked meals are not only healthier, they're also cheaper than takeout food or eating out.

7. Eating together forces everybody to tell stories. And even if your 7-year-old son punctuates those stories with fart jokes, at least he's learning how to communicate!

8. Cooking at home motivates you to be creative with your meal planning and cooking.

9. Children can get involved in cooking meals. We decided to teach the kids to cook one meal a year after age 10. So at 11 they can make one thing, at 12 they can make two things, and by the time they leave home they have a meal for every day of the week--plus company!

10. Cooking and eating together creates happy childhood memories.

11. Eating together is an opportunity to explore different cuisines.

12. Eating with your family is more fun than eating in front of the television (or the computer).

13. Eating together gives parents a chance to talk about current events from their point of view, injecting their personal values without giving a lecture.

14. Eating together helps family members bond and get to know each other better.

15. You'll be surprised what your kids reveal when you're in a relaxed environment, such as a family meal.

16. Kids are less likely to roll their eyes when you reminisce and tell stories from your childhood while eating a meal together.

17. Family meals can be good teaching moments, even for small children. My toddler learned how to count by counting after-meal treats on his high chair.

18. Eating together is a good opportunity to teach and model good manners.

19. Family meals give a good transition from work or school to home life.

20. Family meals are also good times to share music together.

21. Family meals teach everyone valuable life skills, such as sharing and taking turns.

22. Stopping and sitting down to a meal gives everyone a chance to quiet down and regroup.

23. Family meals provide an additional occasion for family members to pray together.

24. Eating home produces less waste than eating out or ordering food--all while it costs far less, too!

If you think having family meals is too much work, don't despair. You can get help for everything from meal planning to putting your weekly grocery shopping list together. Check out Dine Without Whine for kid-tested, quick recipes that will help you put together family meals with less effort. Dine Without Whine's weekly shopping lists will also help you get food shopping done much faster, and even save money on groceries.

I know it takes time. But it really is worth it to cook dinner for your family! I'm always amazed at how many memories revolve around food. So go cook and make some memories!

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Teaching is a Gift, Not a Profession
Last month, a board superintendent in Rhode Island fired all 100 teachers and administrators in one failing high school. The union had refused to agree to the conditions she wanted to improve the school (where only 3% of grade 11 students were proficient in Math), and so she fired the lot of them. (Unfortunately, she later relented when the union backed down, but for a few weeks there it looked like something drastic was actually going to be done!)

Flat Classroom SkypeImage by superkimbo in BKK via Flickr

Many of us whine and complain about teachers--including me, and my kids aren't even in the school system! But one of the issues that we perhaps fail to remember is that teaching is a gift, not a profession. We have made it into a profession, arguing that one has to have all this schooling to teach. Truthfully, though, all that schooling will not make someone a good teacher, any more than voice training will help someone who is tone deaf. You have to be able to teach in the first place. Education can make you better, but it cannot create a gift that isn't there.

We all know good teachers. We all know people who are excellent in the education field. But not all good teachers ARE teachers. Many of them are businessmen and women, or they're executives and lawyers. They are teachers, but they're not working as teachers. Similarly, many who are working as teachers are not necessarily very good ones. Having a job does not equal having the gift.

Often teachers and parents get into crosshairs, because parents complain about teachers and teachers complain that parents don't back them up (often teachers have a major point here). But much of this rancour would disappear if we could just agree on terms: having a teaching job does not make one a teacher. It means you are being hired to teach; it doesn't mean you can do it. And if teachers' unions and boards of education would agree, then perhaps we could focus on people who actually COULD teach, rather than just people with a degree.

I am not saying that degree is useless, by the way; learning strategies to control a classroom or to teach to different learning styles is very useful. But it can't replace natural giftings. And trusting our kids to people who can't teach, or don't want to teach, simply because they're in a union is silly, and it's an insult to those who really CAN teach who can't get seniority because they're too young or something.

Thomas Sowell also has a unique slant on teachers, which I think is true in the United States, though not quite so much in Canada where our standards for entrance to teachers' colleges are higher. But here's his argument:

Statistically, those who go into the education field have the lowest GPA of all the professions. They are not the brightest of the bright.

They are, however, the kind of people who enjoyed school. They had friends. They didn't buck authority. They did reasonably well. They liked extracurricular activities. The kids who were busy with part-time jobs, or who were too smart for their own good, or who didn't like authority, did not go into teaching. They started their own businesses, or got a more prestigious career.

JERUSALEM - OCTOBER 09:  Raneem (R), a 4th gra...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

What that adds up to is that teachers, by and large, are those who don't question authority, who enjoy the collegial atmosphere of a school, and who aren't the brightest of the bright. Obviously there are exceptions (and those exceptions probably are the gifted ones, who went in to teaching because of a higher calling), but in general this is true.

My experience bears this out. I can remember three teachers I had in my entire school life who were gifted and who made a difference. The rest were just filling time. My high school daughter, who is taking school online, is always correcting her chemistry teacher for errors. My nephew, in grade 9, had to argue with his math teacher about how to convert percentages to fractions.

I think parents and teachers would have much more respect for each other if we hired based on natural aptitude for teaching, rather than just whether or not someone had a teaching degree. I know tons of people who could teach well without necessarily having those credentials--in fact, perhaps they could teach better because they've been working in the real world for a while. If we had people who could truly teach, rather than just people who had the right letters after their name, our students would do much better.

And besides this, there's a larger problem with public sector unions, both in the States and in Canada, being so entrenched that no major dents can be made. Public workers now earn more than private sector workers, and an economy cannot survive like that. I am not arguing that teaching should be paid less; only that if it's being paid a lot, then we should at least demand performance and certain standards. We should be able to lay off teachers who can't teach. And we should be able to shrink the public sector, if we have to, for the good of the economy.

And, for that matter, for the good of the children. Apparently one Los Angeles school board has given up trying to fire incompetent teachers after spending $3.5 million dollars trying to get rid of 7--and only succeeding in getting rid of 4. The teachers' unions are so strong that nothing can be done to get rid of incompetent teachers who are stealing a year of education from children's lives.

At some point in the near future all of this is going to collapse. Our schools--and especially our school districts, with all the administrators--are bloated. Our government is bloated. And we're not getting what we pay for.

If we demanded results, like they did in the private sector, things could be fixed. But they won't be until the teachers' unions and the public sector unions lose some of their power. And I have absolutely no idea how that is ever going to come about.

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Education Is Not Always the Answer
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here's this week's!

Many in our society are living in a fantasy world that they desperately want to preserve, and that fantasy revolves around the premise that people are basically good.

Our education system and our government are massively invested in this fairytale. The problems in the world, to this way of thinking, are that people don’t understand how counterproductively they are acting. All we need to do is educate people more, and they will stop making bad decisions.

So if Hitler had been educated, he wouldn’t have been Hitler? I don’t buy it. Most of the high profile recent terrorists were highly educated. The Underwear Bomber went to the prestigious University College in London, England, and he was rich to boot. For years, the head Palestinian terrorist was a trained pediatrician. That’s a lot of years of higher education in a field which should make one sympathetic to deaths of civilians, but nevertheless, the guy is still evil. That’s why I don’t believe this “education will cure all ills” claptrap. Some people are just plain bad. They aren’t interested in doing what is right; they’re only interested in doing what they want to do, regardless of what you may think about it.

That’s why education is not always the answer. Sometimes it can actually be counterproductive, because we show that we fundamentally misunderstand the very ones we are trying to influence. And then why would they listen to us at all?

Unfortunately, we’re so invested in this education tool that in the process we’ve wrecked the real potential of education. After all, if every ill in life can be cured by just teaching people to think the right way about it, then we have to change our whole curriculum to get people to think the right way, right? So we have downloaded a ton of responsibilities to the schools that shouldn’t have been their responsibility in the first place. Education has becomes agenda-driven. We are trying to teach kids to think right, rather than to teach them how to think in the first place.

Originally an “educated person” was not one who held certain political opinions. Instead, it was one who had a broad depth of knowledge of particular subjects: one who knew history, and art, and literature; one who understood basic math concepts; and one who understood the nature of logic. An educated person was someone who could write an argumentative essay, and who knew how to stand up in front of people and make that same argument. It was believed that if you could equip students with the ability to think and reason for themselves, they could then go on and make good decisions and influence society for the better. It was not about teaching people what to think; it was about giving them the tools to think in the first place.

Today we have squeezed out those tools. The things that used to be mainstay of a classical education have been thrown out the window as we concentrate on feelings and morals. But we cannot force people to believe certain things. If we turn our schools into factories for certain behavioral choices, from observing Earth Day and respecting Kyoto to not bullying their classmates and using condoms, we will fail, both in trying to get children to act the way we want, but also in educating children properly in the first place. Education is not the answer for all the ills in the world, but it is the answer when it comes to raising a motivated, intellectually stimulated citizenry. We won’t be able to do the latter, though, if we’re concentrating on the former. Maybe it’s time to realize that the schools can’t fix all the problems in the world. But they can educate children. So let’s make a choice.

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The Sad Life of the Man-Boy
I don't have much time to write today, so I want to leave you with a snippet on the death of DJ AM, born Adam Goldstein, who apparently killed himself in September.

On National Review, Amy Holmes wrote this:

But consider: He died a 36-year-old millionaire with luxury homes on both coasts. No wife. No children. The quintessential boy-man. He lived in the perpetual late-night swim of celebrity culture. The Philadelphia native successfully engineered his life to bankroll his high-flying courtships of rich, aimless celebutantes. He was written up endlessly for his cleverness in doing so, including in that high tabloid of celebrity culture, Vanity Fair. And it appears he may have ended his life last week by choice.

Is it a stretch to say that these pursuits of modern boy-manhood failed him? That male adulthood without responsibility in the traditional sense is disorienting, anchorless, and potentially fatal?

Much ink has been spilled on the damage done to the women who are embraced and then rejected by these perpetual adolescents. But what about the perpetual adolescents themselves? Does the embrace of modern boy-manhood wither, mislead, and ultimately destroy them too?

Interesting thought, isn't it? When we live completely to chase after pleasure, our lives become meaningless. Is it any wonder so many celebrities are so deeply unhappy? The pursuit of wealth and leisure, without any of the responsibility that comes from being a moral person understanding one's calling in this life, is bound to backfire. What I find truly a tragedy is how many kids emulate celebrities like these, instead of realizing that emptiness does not make a satisfying life.


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Wifey Wednesday: My Marriage Links
Every Wednesday here on To Love, Honor and Vacuum we talk marriage! and I invite you all to write your own posts and then link up here in the Mcklinky, so we can share encouragement, knowledge, and even pleas for help if necessary!

Today I thought I'd share some of my links from Delicious that I've marked as marriage. You can see all of them here, but I present to you now the highlights:

Hijacking the Brain -- How Pornography Works . An excellent article detailing how the brain is actually rewired in what causes arousal when you watch pornography. Goes well with the series on pornography I did a few weeks ago!

Today's Singles: Lost in a World Without Courtship. Great opinion column by Michael Gerson on how people WANT relationships, but don't have the tools to get there anymore.

Desire in Women: Does it Lead to Sex or Result from it? I've written about this before (and my book Honey, I Don't Have a Headache is largely based on this idea). In a nutshell: we aren't like men. We don't tend to be aroused before we have sex. But if you jump in with both feet and put your head in the game, chances are your body will follow. If we wait to feel the urge, we could be waiting a really long time.

Why I Regret My Divorce. Fascinating article by a woman who divorced after a long marriage, remarried, and is now seeing how tough her life has become. Very insightful.

How to Fall Back in Love. Cute anecdote about how our feelings often follow our actions in marriage.
An Affair to Forget. Have we lost our shame when it comes to extramarital affairs?

And then, of course, I'd encourage you to read prior Wifey Wednesdays for more marriage insight!

Now, do you have some tips you'd like to share? Write your own post and link up below, or leave something in the comments! Wifey Wednesdays work better the more people participate, so link up!


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Do You Have a Secret Code Word?
Soldiers are taught secret codes so that if they are ever captured, they can let the military know that they are saying something against their will, if they're forced to do a video tape. It may be how often they blink, or don't blink, or which way their eyes move, or how they tap their fingers. That way anyone analyzing the video can get info without the captors knowing what's really going on.

Not to be an alarmist, but it's a good idea for our kids to have code words, too. If they're ever in a situation where they have to tell us something's wrong, without being able to say the words, you want those code words.

It could be something innocuous, like "sure do love ya", which they would never normally say just that way, but which doesn't sound like they're asking for help. As my kids are getting to be teens, we've decided to implement this, so that if they're ever at a party or a friend's house, and they're feeling uncomfortable and want to come home, they can let me know without having to say it out loud.

But you could also use it in more nefarious situations, like in the case of a real kidnapping.

You can also use code words to let kids know they're safe. Christina Fielder had such a code word with her mom when she was little, based on Gary Gnu, their favourite fictional character.

We thought it was just silly until one day, our mom actually enforced it. My brother and I went to a local Catholic elementary school, where all the moms were prompt in picking their children up after the last bell rang. So, as time passed, and we were the only ones sitting on the school steps for what seemed like hours, a car pulled up. It was our mom's PTA friend, who we did not know very well. She said she was there to pick us up because my mom had an emergency to take care of. My brother and I were hesitant, as we knew we weren't supposed to get into a car with anyone unless our mom said it was OK. My brother and I profusely refused the ride, until she uttered the words, "Gary Gnu," and with that, we hopped in.

She relates the story of a teen who was recently killed, who called her parents twice before her murder, but her parents didn't pick up on anything in her voice. She was probably trying to figure out a way to signal them, but couldn't.

So it's important to have these code words with our kids. I know we don't want to alarm them, but it's just part of living in the modern world. And I think kids tend to feel more confident if they feel as if they have tools at their disposal.

Tonight, at dinner, why not talk about it? Make a game out of it, and role play it. Create a code word. You never know when it might prove awfully handy.

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How to Defeat Materialism and Find Happiness

One of the strongest messages in our culture is "You'll be happy if only you buy this." And it has a twin sister who says the same thing, just backwards: "the reason you're not happy is because you don't have enough. So go shopping!"

Everything in our culture revolves around shopping. Magazines try to sell us stuff. TV shows are punctuated by commercials. Movies have product placement. And even when there aren't specific ads, the people are so beautiful that we want to buy what they have, just so we can be that successful, too.

It sure is hard on one's wallet. But even worse, it's hard on our hearts, because what culture really sells us is dissatisfaction. You can never be completely happy because if you were, you wouldn't need anything. You'd have no need to shop! Hence, they have to make you unhappy so you'll head to the mall!

If you're a mom trying to make ends meet, it can be frustrating. And often we spend months scrimping and saving and depriving ourselves, and then what we want more and more is to splurge on something. We deserve it! And it doesn't seem fair that we should always be the ones losing out.

It's funny that we should think that way, because in reality, most young couples with kids who have big homes and vacations and new clothes are heavily in debt and bordering on bankruptcy. You're probably in better financial shape than they are, if you are watching your pennies and budgeting for stuff. But television rarely shows people living in small homes with hand-me-down clothes. I'm amazed at the shows and movies I watch where people with a relatively low-income job still live in a huge house. It's unrealistic. They're the ones who are wrong, not us!

So how do you come to the point where you can be happy with fewer things, but more time with family and less stress about money? How can we find peace without materialism? There's a (surprisingly) good article here at wiki on it, and let me share with you a few of their points.

1. Limit television, movies, and news watching, because it will make you feel inadequate.

2. Don't go the mall for fun.

3. If you want something, make a 30-day list. If you still want it after 30 days, and think it's worth the money, talk to your spouse about it and then decide whether or not to get it.

4. Make a gratitude list instead of a shopping list

And there's so much more! I, of course, would add prayer and reading Scripture, because it focuses your heart on what's really important. Even just play praise CDs throughout the day to keep your mind thinking about God.

But now I'd like to ask you: how can you defeat materialism? Leave a comment, and let's see if we can make our own lists!


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Quick Intimacy Tip: Fun Texting!

TextingImage by Adam UXB Smith via Flickr

Friday afternoons I like to share "intimacy tips" to help you all in the romance department, so here goes!

I gave my hubby an iPhone for Christmas. He loves it. He was never that into cell phones, but he loves his iPhone, and carries it everywhere, along with that little bluetooth thing on his ear to make him look oh so cool!

And ladies, if he's going to use that iPhone/Blackberry/cell phone anyway, you may as well use it to your advantage! Why not send him an exciting text message today about what you're hoping to do tonight? Let him know that he excites you! You're legal, you're married, you have the piece of paper. So take advantage it!

Right now! On your marks, get set, go!

Want more intimacy tips on how to get in the mood? Listen to Sheila's audio download, Honey, I Don't Have a Headache Tonight! Filled with lots of laughs and practical tips to boost your marriage!
Download it now!


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We Aren't Islands
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here's this week's!

Many of us long to live in a world where we shouldn’t have to do anything for anyone else. We set the course for our own lives; we decide what paths we will take; and nobody should have the power to derail our dreams. Freedom is our rallying cry!

What I can’t figure out, though, is why freedom is so great. So many of us are so busy proclaiming our autonomy, saying “you can’t make me do this,” that I wonder if we’ve ever stopped to question whether being beholden to someone is actually such a bad thing.

Modern day feminists, for instance, cry that no man should be able to tell a woman what to do, and that no woman should twist herself in knots to get or keep a man. Instead, she should seek to fulfill her dreams, and any guy who wants to tag along had better adapt.

Yet speaking as a woman who is greatly in love with a certain man, I have to wonder why it’s so bad to want to please him? What’s wrong with wanting to make the house nice for him to come home to after he’s been on call for thirty-six hours straight and he’s exhausted? What’s wrong with doing his laundry? After all, he gives great foot massages, and he contributes more of the income! But even if he didn’t, isn’t it nice, sometimes, to have someone to fuss over?

I don’t do these things because I have to; I do them because I want to. I know some would call me an oppressed wife, but I don’t think those people have ever really experienced the joy of a give-and-take relationship. Besides, he cleans off the car for me, takes out the garbage, and figures out how my Bluetooth device works. It’s a two-way street.

It’s not only feminists telling women that they should never change for men, though; a new cohort of young men has concluded that they don’t need relationships, either. One night stands might be fine, but commitment is out of the picture. In fact, one man in a very open relationship once reported to me that he was as happy as he could imagine; neither of them made any demands on the other, and because of that the relationship was perfect.

Five years later that relationship is long gone, and I often wonder if ultimately they would have been happier if they had made demands on each other—demands that they stay faithful, do things together, be nice to one another, forge a life together instead of just side by side.

When we focus our lives solely on what we want life becomes rather shallow and awfully erratic. We can never achieve real intimacy with anybody, whether friend or significant other, for when we don’t make or accept demands, nothing can be permanent. And if nothing is permanent, we can’t be vulnerable. We can’t really open up. Sure, you may be able to pursue surface things, but what about our deepest needs to be accepted, loved, affirmed, and cherished? Without vulnerability and transparency, which can only come when we do make demands on each other, real intimacy can’t be achieved.

Loving someone isn’t a burden; it’s a privilege. Sometimes we should do things we don’t really want to do. Sometimes we should let someone else set the course. True love, after all, whether it’s with a sibling, a spouse, a child, or a friend, is so much better than autonomy. And, in the end, it’s far less lonely.

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The Bliss of Large Families
My mother-in-law is one of 14. My kids have good friends from a family of 14. In our homeschooling group, we have one family of 9, two of 8, and so on. Large families are all around me, though I'm not one of them.

But I asked my friend Mary Ostyn, who has written The Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family, to join me and just talk about what it's like with so many under one roof.

Mary, how many kids you have?

My husband and I have ten kids, ages 5-22. Our oldest four were born to us; two girls ages 19 and 22 and two boys ages 15 and 18. Then we have six adopted kids; two boys from Korea, both 11, and four girls from Ethiopia, ages 14, 12, 7, and 5. Our oldest daughter is married, and our second daughter is in college, so we only have 8 at home these days.

Did you always know you were going to have a large family?

Absolutely not. I am the oldest of 8 kids and when I was a teenager, I swore I’d never have more than 4 kids. My husband thought 3 would be about right. God must have been smiling. He worked on our hearts in a gradual way, and blessed us beyond our dreams. We would’ve missed so much joy if we’d said no to God’s leading and stopped at four children. I’m not saying our life is easy— frankly, there are moments when the task feels bigger than our ability. But that’s what keeps us leaning on God. And our kids are so worth the work!

What are the biggest benefits? What do you find the hardest?

The hardest thing is wondering if kids would be happier, more successful, or whatever, if we had more resources to devote to each individual child. Would my 14 year old daughter be happier if I had more one on one time with her? Could my 11 year old son be an Olympic-level gymnast if we had the resources to send that direction? I suppose we all have those thoughts and worries as parents. But the more children you have, the more conscious you are of the stretching of resources.

However, the really great thing about a big family is that it is not ONLY up to John and me—our kids provide support and encouragement to each other too. Our 19 year old daughter started a Bible study with my 12 and 14 year old daughters. Our new son-in-law plays games with the younger boys nearly every time he comes over. Our 15 and 18 year old sons are best friends, plain and simple. And the little girls entertain us all.

I love knowing that even after John and I are gone, our kids will still have family, will still BE a family to each other. By God’s grace we are building this thing that will last way beyond ourselves, that will provide support and love and nurturing for generations to come. As Christians it is also the prayer of our hearts that the impact of our children’s lives will be a blessing to the world beyond our family.

How do you keep your marriage alive?

John and I are at such a good place in our marriage right now. We’ve worked out the kinks of early marriage—you know, when you haven’t yet learned how to compromise and every disagreement feels like World War 3. And we’ve survived the years of being awakened at night with little babies, so that gives us more reserves, more patience. We do try to send everyone to bed a bit before we go a few nights a week. That way we have a bit of conversation time just to ourselves. We also go out to eat a couple times a month. But mostly we just try to hug a lot, compliment each other often, and remember to smile and laugh together. He is an awesome man. I am really fortunate that back when I was 19 and didn’t have the foggiest idea what to look for in a man, God knew the kind of husband I’d need.

What chores do your kids do? And how many loads of laundry do you do a week?

My kids do most of the chores that need doing around the house. I do most of the cooking, but they are in charge of the vast majority of other housework. My 18 year old is in his senior year of college, and is taking 8 college credits too, so we have phased him out of most housework. But all the other kids contribute. My 15 year old son cleans the kitchen after lunch every day. My 14 year old daughter and 11 year old son do breakfast dishes. Dinner dishes are the domain of my 12 year old daughter and my 11 year old son. My 7 year old daughter empties the dishwasher and clears the table after meals. My 5 year old sorts and puts away clean silverware.

As far as non-kitchen chores, every day my 14 year old daughter cleans one bathroom. My 11 year old son cleans another. My 12 year old son vacuums the living room. And my 12 year old daughter cleans the play room.

We do three loads of laundry a day to keep up, and sort it hot out of the dryer into baskets for each bedroom. Twice a week everyone takes their own basket and folds and puts away their clothes. You can see more details of our system here. I think it works really well.

I made the decision to have only two kids after I had a miscarriage and then I lost a son. We always thought we’d adopt, but for whatever reason God kept closing the door. I never pictured myself with “only” 2 kids, and often wonder what I’m missing out on. Do you have anything to say to those of us who wonder if we made the right decision?

Don’t we all wonder that sometimes? To be honest, there are moments in my life where I imagine how much more peaceful life might be if we’d chosen to have a more ‘normal’ size family. More money, less chaos, etc. But each child blesses us in a unique way. I can look back and KNOW with certainty that we were very clearly led to each and every one of our kids. I know that I can trust God’s plan for our future as well.

Of course we always need to be open to the possibility that God may have more for us-- that He may be nudging us to take that leap of faith and make our life ‘bigger’ – or crazier—or more scary—than we would naturally do on our own. But he has a way of being insistent and not letting us off the hook when He wants us to do something. So as long as we are listening, I don’t think we have to fear that we’re missing out on His plans for our lives.

How do you think society would be different if more of us had large families?

This is just my opinion, and I could be wrong, but I think there might be a little less selfishness. I am the oldest of 8 kids. I think when you’re in a big family, you learn to hold onto your possessions a little more loosely, learn to share a bit better. You learn to pitch in, help out, and get along with people of all different ages. Certainly ‘only’ kids can learn these lessons too. One of my nephews is an only child, and his parents are doing a great job instilling responsibility, kindness and work ethic. But I think it is learned a little more automatically in a big family.

You can find Mary at Owl Haven, where she's got a great blog!

Thanks for joining us, Mary! That really made me think. My life right now with two kids is so--peaceful. Things are really quite easy, and if I had more kids, I think I'd find it hard to speak. But I still always feel like perhaps I was mean to have more. It's one of those things I struggle with God about (and I think God tries to give me peace, and I keep giving that peace back again, instead of holding it).

What do the rest of you think? Do you have large families? Do you want large families? What's your experience? I'd love to know!


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Wifey Wednesday: Losing the Control Freak Inside You

Preparing for the photographs, at a wedding at...Image via Wikipedia

Every Wednesday we talk marriage! And today I want to talk about what is often a controversial subject.

I want to talk about spiritual leadership.

I don't want to talk about it because I have firm views on male or female roles in a marriage. I don't want to talk about it because I think the man should take spiritual leadership in a marriage. In fact, whatever I think about these issues really doesn't matter. Because I don't want to debate the doctrine of it; I want to talk about the emotions of it.

Whether we're egalitarians in our beliefs about marriage or traditionalists, I think we women share one thing: we don't like being completely responsible for the decisions in the family. In fact, if, everytime you asked your husband something about the kids or your relationship, he were to reply, "whatever you want is fine with me, Honey," I bet we'd be ticked. Men might think that they're earning brownie points by giving you what you want, but do we really want the right to make all the decisions?

We got married because we want to share it. We want a sounding board. We want someone else to share the load. In fact, we wouldn't mind it if every now and then someone took that load from us, because bearing the responsibility for the family is tiring. Yet often, because women are more naturally "at home" at home, we do slide into that decision-making role. And then we wonder why he doesn't exercise more leadership!

Last December, blog reader Alex, in her own blog Journey to Beauty, wrote something very insightful. If you can take your mind back to Christmas, and picture the scene, let's listen to Alex's thoughts:

Yesterday we braved the cold and misty rain to put up our Christmas lights per my grandmother's request. I stood at the bottom of the ladder giving orders and handing lights and clips to my husband who perched gracefully on the roof. As usual, I was calling the shots. My husband took the orders that were barked at him gracefully as he usually does, right up until it was time to take the rented ladder back to Home Depot. That's when all my pushing, shoving, and controlling had finally rubbed a hole in my husband's patience.

My first reaction was to blame him. He was being unreasonable, unstable, and mean. Didn't he know that I usually knew better? Didn't he know that I was the wiser one in the relationship? And then that ever still and small voice in my head tugged at my heart yet again. Don't you know that I know better? Don't you know that all wisdom comes from Me? Ouch, God.

Suddenly I realized something. See, for years I'd battled with my husband, calling him a poor leader, telling him that he needed to man up, criticizing him in ways that make me cringe when I look back. But the truth is that I'd never let go of the reigns long enough for my dear husband to take them from me. The truth was that I'd never trusted God enough to let go of anything. I'd strived and battled and pushed to be in control my whole life, and in the process I made myself and everyone around me miserable, including my husband.

Does that sound like you? I know it sounds like me. Often we take control because we aren't happy with ambiguities. We don't like living without a plan of attack. We want to know what we're going to be doing a week from now, a month from now, a year from now. We want certainty, stability, and security. And if our husband won't provide that security, we're going to provide it for ourselves.

Our little jaunt into control freak territory pushes him out. But it also pushes God out. I think God wants to grow us a little bit in this area. God wants us to learn to live in the moment, in the day, to practice the art of asking for daily bread and not worrying about tomorrow. (That doesn't mean I'm against budgeting or retirement planning; but all things in moderation). God wants us to learn to trust. Trust does not mean that we work so hard that we leave nothing to chance. To trust is to live in the moment, letting the future be in God's hands. To control is to try to live in the future, to work everything out for our own good the way we want it to go. And when our husbands don't share our control freak tendencies, we think that means that he doesn't love as much, or care as much. Perhaps he's simply better able to live in the present.

We need to learn to trust; he needs to learn to lead, to care, and to act. That's the case in most marriages. But it's very difficult for him to learn that while we are trying to run the house. It's also very difficult for us to learn our own lessons while we pay lip service to trusting God, but still try to manipulate all the circumstances around us to do exactly what we want them to do.

In my almost two decades of marriage, I have experienced some times when I could hear God, taste God, and feel God, and some times when God was far away. Very rarely did I ever walk through valley times with my husband; usually when I was in a valley, he was climbing a hill. Similarly, when he went through a four-year valley experience, I was doing really well. Right now I'd say he's on a mountain; learning fast, praying much, and growing. I'm a bit in a rut. But that's okay, because I know that these things are in cycles, and whether we're in a hill or a valley, we're moving in the same direction.

Hola Valley, NorwayImage by jónr via Flickr

The beauty of marriage is that when you are weak, he can be the strong one. And likewise when he is weak, you can be strong. I do not believe that the husband always has to be a mighty leader, because that's not realistic or consistent with what we see of Christian growth. But I do think that often we hinder our husbands from learning leadership because we take too much on ourselves. But then likewise, we hinder ourselves from growth because we also do not learn to trust.

So today on Wifey Wednesday, I want to ask you: how do you, in a practical way, let go of some of the reins and let your husband drive? How do you encourage him to grow spiritually? How do you learn to step back and trust?

Either write your own Wifey Wednesday post (you can use the picture above by right clicking and saving it) and then link back here in the Mcklinky, or leave a note in the comments. I'd like to hear your thoughts!

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    Perhaps Environmentalism is the New "Selling Indulgences"
    One of the biggest beefs Martin Luther had with the Catholic Church back in the early 1500s was the selling of indulgences. The church would sell "get out of hell" cards, if you could just come up with the money. You could be excused of any sin, provided you could pay. People even bought the indulgences before they sinned. There was no real concept that you may need to make this up with God, or that one who is right with God will try NOT to sin. The whole focus was on avoiding punishment, and they didn't realize that Jesus had already done it for them.

    Anyway, as much as the Church was lambasted for that practice, it has now come back, full force, in a different guise. And this one kind of makes me laugh. It turns out that people who buy very green products or support green organizations are more likely to cheat and steal, and less likely to be altruistic. A University of Toronto study found that these people began to think of themselves as "the good ones", and thus they were given a pass on other things that people would normally be expected to do.

    In an experiment, participants were randomly assigned to select items they wanted to buy in one of two online stores. One store sold predominantly green products, the other mostly conventional items. Then, in a supposedly unrelated game, all of the participants were allocated $6, to share as they saw fit with an anonymous (and unbeknownst to them, imaginary) recipient. Subjects who had chosen items from the green store coughed up less money, on average, than their counterparts. In a second experiment, participants were again assigned to shop in either a green or conventional store. Then they performed a computer task that involved earning small sums of cash. The setup offered the opportunity to cheat and steal with impunity. The eco-shoppers were more likely to do both.

    I love recycling, and I used cloth diapers. I use the backs of all my paper, running them through my printer twice. I am a green person. But I do it because I'm also CHEAP, and I hate the thought of so much landfill. However, to many environmentalism has become a religion. They begin to feel like the anointed class, because they get it while everyone else doesn't, and thus they're allowed to treat others badly.

    That's the essence of the study, and it's my experience with those that I know. And I have to admit that study caused me to chuckle a bit.

    But speaking of environmentalism, here's something I just don't get. What is this Audi Superbowl ad supposed to be doing? I find it hilarious, but it would NEVER in a million years make me want to buy a green car from Audi. Does it work for you? I'm totally perplexed by this, and I think I must be missing something.

    Let me know what you think! Do you find that environmentalism has become a tyrannical religion? Do you understand this Audi ad? Inquiring minds want to know!


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    Do I See What You See?
    Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here's this week's!

    I have incredible vision. I can see things that nobody else in my family can. If clean, folded laundry is sitting on the stairs, waiting to be transported into the owners’ rooms, I am the only person residing in our home who can detect that laundry. If there are dishes in the upstairs hall, waiting to be transported into the kitchen and then placed into our very convenient dishwasher, I am also the only person whose eyes pick up on the presence of these glasses and plates. My children missed that genetic trait, as my husband apparently also lacks it.

    I find it easy to see the things that my kids miss, and if you’re a parent, you probably can name a ton of things your kids do that bug you, too. And because we’re the parents, it’s easy to order our kids around to fix these flaws. We’re louder, we’re bigger, and we control the chocolate. What’s harder is allowing our kids the freedom, with respect, to call us on things that we do wrong.

    In our house, everybody knows my biggest fault. When I’m stressed, I believe it’s my God-given right to make sure that everybody is stressed right along with me. I take that “if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” saying to ridiculous extremes, interpreting every smile as an affront to me if my blood pressure happens to be elevated. In my more lucid moments, I allow everyone to laugh with me about this. And that makes my dysfunctional behaviour, when it occurs, a little easier to take.

    I don’t think perfect families exist, but I think healthy families do. And that’s one of the key criteria of a healthy family: being able to speak the truth. The real test of a healthy family doesn’t lie in parents’ 20/20 vision, but in whether parents help their children develop good vision, too. Sure we notice the things they do wrong, but do we let them acknowledge that we, their parents, aren’t perfect, either? Unfortunately, many families like to maintain the illusion of perfection, even if that means denying the truth.

    In families where children aren’t allowed to notice flaws, it’s not as if the kids suddenly grow blind to them. They’re just not allowed to do anything about it, or parents subject them to the silent treatment, yell at them or belittle them. Most kids, when experiencing this kind of rejection, run in the other direction, deciding to never question their parents again. They want to be loved, and if being loved means not noticing when others are wrong, then that’s what they’ll do.

    Children in families like these grow up learning not to trust their own instincts. To make it even worse, they often have very conflicting feelings about their parents which can never really be resolved, because until you can admit that your parents did wrong, you can’t forgive them for that wrong.

    That’s why we need to let our kids work on their vision. They need to be allowed not just to see our imperfections, but also to name them. Of course kids still need to respect us and defer to our authority, which is legitimate. You are the parent, not the best friend. But to imagine that kids will idolize us and never notice anything wrong is doing them a grave disservice. It’s asking them to pretend the world is different from the way it actually is. It’s raising our kids to be liars. And as the old saying goes, it is the truth that sets us free. Even if the truth hurts.

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    My Daughter's the Apple of My Eye

    Apple blossumImage via Wikipedia

    I really love my daughters. They are wonderful Christian girls who love life, love God, and love each other. That does not mean that they don't fight; but they are good girls.

    My oldest daughter Rebecca (now 15) blogs at a homeschool site, and even though I don't spy on her too much, I do occasionally read her posts. Here's what she said recently:

    • Hey girlies! I found this amazing little note on Facebook from my friend Joanna who found it somewhere, and I love it! I'm going to post it for all you beautiful girls right now (and all the guys who are reading, but I don't think there are many.):

      Girls are like apples...the best ones are at the top of the trees. The boys don't want to reach for the good ones because they are afraid of falling and getting hurt. Instead, they just get the rotten apples that are on the ground that aren't as good, but easy. So the apples at the top think there is something wrong with them, when, in reality, they are amazing. They just have to wait for the right boy to come along, the one who's brave enough to climb all the way to the top of the tree...

      Isn't that encouraging? It made my day to read it. ;)

      Now we're going to talk about what it means to be an apple on the top of the tree. I'm going to list some qualities that I think are important:

      * Must honour both God and her Christian brothers in what she wears and how she acts
      * Respects her mother and father
      * Doesn't put others down by her words, but builds them up so that they can join her at the top of the tree
      * Is patient when things don't go her way (working on this...)
      * Understands that her purity is not a thing to give away freely, but a priceless gift addressed only to her future husband
      * Understands the difference between vanity and looking pretty.
      * Love the Lord her God with all her mind, heart, soul, and strength, and will not let anything get betwen them.

    Isn't that great? I like that part on honouring her parents, too.

    Right now this is what Rebecca believes, and she preaches it to every teen she knows. My 12-year-old recently talked another 12-year-old boy out of dating, telling him he was being ridiculous. That little boy now follows her around like a puppy dog, but he swears he doesn't want to date. He just wants to see life a little differently.

    I'm not sure I can give you any words of wisdom on how to raise girls who don't want to date until they're old enough, because I think much of the way my girls have turned out is due to God, and not to me. I did give Rebecca Josh Harris' book I Kissed Dating Good-Bye when she was 13, and that has really shaped her thinking. It is a marvelous book; read it first yourself and give it a chance. I didn't believe him at all until I was halfway through, but then he won me over.

    One thing that is absolutely crucial, though, is creating a warm and loving family environment so that kids get the affection and time they need from their parents. Then they're less likely to need it from the opposite sex at 15 or 16. Especially for girls, dads are important. Encourage your hubby to take some time every week to connect one-on-one with your teen daughters. They do need that input from another male, and the feeling that they are pretty, valued, and important. The girls that I often see the most worried about guys tend to also be the ones with the worst relationships with their dads (and I know that was the case with me when I was a teenager! I was completely boy crazy!).

    Finally, know who their friends are. Make your house the hangout. Volunteer at youth group. Insert yourself into their lives. The more you're there, the more they can talk to you, and the less likely they are to make really bad decisions.

    Teach them that God has a plan, and that His plan can't be hurried. Stress, too, that the plan won't include godly romantic relationships until they're older anyway, and able to marry. So spend the teen years loving God and getting to know Him, and you'll do ever so much better later on!


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    Wifey Wednesday: What I Wish I Had Known Back Then

    It's Wednesday, the day that we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and you all either comment, or write your own Wifey Wednesday post and then come back here and link up in the Mcklinky below!

    I've been reading a bunch of the Wifey Wednesday posts, and the links provided by many of you, and I see that many of my readers are early in their marriages. They're new brides, some of whom have babies. But marriage is something they're still getting adjusted to.

    And so I thought I'd write a post now on what I wish I had known back when I was a new bride.

    I wish I had known that sex does get better. You have decades to practice. Spend more time laughing about it and less time stressing about it.

    I wish I had known that the fights that we have don't mean that the relationship is at stake, or that he doesn't love me anymore. It just means we're getting adjusted to each other, and we're learning how to compromise and communicate. Take the long term view. Things do get better!

    I wish I had been told to be better friends. I wish we had started biking together back then (it's hard to take up biking now, when you're almost 40), or cross country skiing, or something active. I wish we had DONE more things together instead of simply watching TV. You need those activities where you have fun together and get active together. It makes the rest of your life so much healthier. So don't stop being friends.

    I wish we had been more consistent with praying together. We're getting there now, but if we had been doing it first thing, I bet some of those early disagreements wouldn't have been so intense.

    I wish I could have seen how fun it was to walk side by side, day after day, and become so much like each other it's scary. The idea of changing to become more like him would have, at the time, seemed like I was giving up my identity. But instead it's just a function of marriage, and it's a neat one. You change each other, and that's good. So don't stress about it!

    I wish I had realized that even though those grey sweat pants he wore were the ugliest thing in the world, they meant something to him. It's fine to try to make your husband look snazzier, but don't do it all at once. And most of all, don't throw out everything you think is ugly and give it to Goodwill without telling him. Just a tip.

    I wish I could have seen how great his mother was, even in those early days. I was so attached to my family when we were first married that it felt like an issue of loyalty to think that my family was better than his. In hindsight, we often have more fun with his extended family than we do with my extended family. We both have awesome mothers, and it's okay to love them both, even at the beginning.

    I wish that I could have made more of an effort to figure out what made him tick, rather than focusing on what makes me tick, and how come he doesn't get it? I wish I could have stepped outside of my fragile psyche and saw that my husband was struggling, too--in school, in our relationship, in church. I wish I could have been a support to him, instead of insisting that he support me first and foremost. We were both so insecure when we married that we leaned on each other for too much, without being able to give. I wish I could have seen that in giving, you gain strength.

    Most of all, I wish I could have seen that marriage isn't like dating. You don't have to be insecure anymore. He has promised to be there for life, and he means it. So trust him. If he's abrupt with you one day, blow it off. Don't make everything like that into a big issue. He's there. He adores you. He's going to stick with you. So grow together, don't always be second guessing him. You have decades to practice at this marriage thing, so laugh, talk, joke, and every now and then, have a water fight.

    What do you wish you had known? Let me know in the comments, or leave a link in the Mcklinky!

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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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