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Trickle Down Divorce
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here's this week's!

Grandma reading to Anika #1photo © 2007 Ratha Grimes | more info (via: Wylio)
For most families, last weekend was a rush of chocolate, church, and Grandma’s cooking. For many of us, though, holidays are made more difficult by extended family, and I’m not talking about those of us who have to sit through Uncle Joe’s flatulence at the table. No, I mean the difficulty in choosing whose table to sit at in the first place.

I come from a generation affected by divorce, but it is not necessarily our own divorces that predominate. It is more likely the divorces of our parents. Marriages that occur today are actually less likely to fall apart than marriages from a few decades ago, because our divorce rate is going down (though our marriage rate is similarly falling). But the ramifications of those Baby Boomer divorces are now trickling down to the generations that have followed.

When you feel alone, angry, and bitter in your marriage it is easy to think that dissolving that marriage will end those feelings (though research doesn’t show that divorce brings increased happiness). That marriage relationship, though, is not the only relationship at stake. There’s also the parent relationship. And the grandparent relationship.

By divorcing, you virtually guarantee that you will see your children less than you do now. We usually come to terms with that before we decide to split. What we sometimes forget, though, is that those children eventually grow up and have families of their own. And divorced people will see less of their grandchildren than grandparents who stay together.

It’s not hard to see why. Take a commenter on my blog who was describing her Easter trials. She and her husband both have divorced parents. Her parents don’t speak to one another. All four sets of parents demand equal time. How do you then negotiate the holidays? In this family’s case, you simply cocoon at home and stop seeing everyone. And now she mourns that her kids don’t really have grandparents they can look up to.

If you’re divorced and you maintain a great relationship with your ex, you can avoid many of these problems simply by not being petty. But here’s the kicker: even if you have an ideal relationship with your ex, you still will see your grandchildren less, because your children do not have unlimited time. They only have so many holidays in the year, and it’s hard to split those up between so many different households.

My own children have one set of divorced grandparents (my own parents) and one set of married grandparents. They have an amazing relationship with my mother and my in-laws, but they have virtually no relationship with my father, because I don’t see him very much. I haven’t lived with him since I was two. I sometimes wonder if he realized, when he left all those years ago, that he was saying good-bye not just to his wife but also to his daughter and any future grandchildren. I wonder if that thought would have made him reconsider.

So many of my generation are just sick of it: sick of their parents’ fighting over who sits where at the wedding; sick of their parents’ complaining about each other; sick of the constant pull to visit too many houses. And so they give up, create their own lives for themselves, and leave their parents behind.

Keep that as a cautionary tale. When we are in the midst of a difficult marriage, getting out can seem like the best route to happiness. But it also puts your life on a very different trajectory. You will never have the same relationship with your children you would have had otherwise. And inevitably, even in a good divorce, you will see your grandchildren far less. So be prepared before you untie that knot.

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Whole New Meaning to "Keep Your Pants On"!
Amid all the hoopla about what the appropriate sex education curriculum is, we have missed the obvious. And so I present you with another way of looking at the issue:

It's simple. It's easy. And it's just clever enough to work! Spread the word: Pants! They do wonders. If you keep them on.

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Wifey Wednesday: Who Is Your Romantic Fantasy?
It's Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!

When I was 9 years old I was in love with Chachi. I used to dream that I was just a few years older and I was asked to star in his TV show, and he kissed me and decided that he loved me. I would work out all kinds of different plots for the show, all of which involved him falling head over heels for me, because he was so wonderfully cute.

Ever have those kind of fantasies? We all do. The problem comes when they don't stop.

Go Canucks Go!photo © 2007 Jennifer Stoddart | more info (via: Wylio)
I know many married women who would never dream of cheating on their husbands, but at the same time they have a "crush" on some big star--either a sports figure or a celebrity. They have pictures of that man all over their FB page. They have mugs of him. They make constant references to him.

Recently I received this email from a woman exasperated with her friends. She writes:

Can you please tell married women to stop falling all over themselves praising other men? I'm sick of seeing married women talk about how "hunky" some hockey star is, or how "hot" some star is, especially when their husbands are sitting right there.

We've told men that we women don't like it when they talk about how hot other women are, but we turn around and do the same thing! It has to stop.
I completely agree. I think something has happened to our society in the name of "sexual liberation". In the 1970s, when feminism really got revved up, one of the things that the movement tried to do was to end the idea that women and men were somehow different. And so they started praising women for acting all sex-crazed, just like men. And it became a sign of women's empowerment to say that a guy was "hot", or to openly talk to other women about how cute someone was. While men weren't allowed to do it, women were encouraged to do so.

We've now internalized that, so that we think it's fun and harmless to idolize hockey players or football players or actors. But it isn't. Even if your husband says it doesn't bother him, it's still wrong. The only one you should have eyes for is your husband.

We women often hear messages against romance novels, because these will wreck your marriage. But can I please ask married women to stop posting about hockey players on Facebook, too? And to stop buying jerseys of a particular player? And don't tell your children that you like him, either! Instead, tell your children how much you love and adore their father.

You should be your husband's biggest fan, not the fan of someone else. It isn't harmless, even if you're never going to meet the person in real life. It makes your mind go in the wrong direction, and it tells your husband and your kids that you're not truly committed to loving only him.

I'm working on a long post about what to do when your husband doesn't want sex as often as you do! It's the most common email question I get, and I wanted to do it justice, so I'll be coming out with a long video post about it next week!

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Do you see this trend on Facebook or among your friends? Or do you have something else to tell us? Write your own Wifey Wednesday post that links back to here, and then leave the link of THAT POST in the Mcklinky below. Thanks!

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Brat is Not a Learning Disability
我要生氣!photo © 2009 Yellow | more info (via: Wylio)
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. I didn't want to publish last week's on Friday because of the Easter weekend. It seemed sacreligious. So here it is, better late than never!

Back a few centuries ago, shame meant something. If you transgressed the community's values, you were an outcast, a scarlet letter, a source of derision.

We've tossed shame aside because we don't want to be cruel, but I have a brilliant idea of where shame could make a welcome comeback: I think we should make it a source of great shame to raise kids who are brats.

Think about how many of today's problems are caused by the fact that so many kids are holy terrors. Teachers have difficulty teaching, no matter how small the class size, if there are even one or two kids who won't sit still, who swear a blue streak and who terrorize other children. In response, we've created anti-bullying programs, and values education, and "Student of the Week”, all to try to give these bratty children an incentive to not be so bratty. It doesn't work.

So to all parents of brats, let me be frank: you are making life very difficult for the rest of us. And, as one blogger recently wrote, brat is not a learning disability.

A child may have ADD, but that doesn't mean he or she is mean, or violent, or cruel. It simply means he or she has trouble paying attention. If your child likes punching kids, or talking back to the teacher, or swearing loudly, he or she is likely not suffering from a psychological disorder. He or she is more than likely suffering from a parental disorder.

Schools cannot make up for lack of parenting. They can institute lunch and breakfast programs, write new curriculum, and hire teachers' aides to watch the out-of-control students, but in general, if a child doesn't behave at school, it's because he or she has never been taught to behave at home.

A century and a half ago, 18-year-old school marms managed one-room schoolhouses with way more children than your typical grade one class today, but they were able to do so partly because the kids behaved. And it wasn't just because the school marm had the ability to rap one's knuckles with a ruler. It was because if word of a child's misdeeds made it back to the parents, that child would be in a whole other whackload of trouble. Parents refused to tolerate brattiness.

I'm not saying schools don't contribute to the problem. I know one boy with ADD who acts out at school but doesn't act out at church or at home, because he simply needs structure. His open, multi-grade classroom doesn't give enough structure, and he can't handle it.

But not paying attention is completely different from being mean. And when teachers have children in their classrooms who talk back, who won't stay in their seats, and who hit and yell, then how do we expect other children to learn? It's not fair to the kids who do want to practice their multiplication tables and read in peace.

We must have compassion for badly-behaved children who are in the care of the Children's Aid Society, or who have grown up with truly horrific home situations. Their behaviour is a natural reaction to the horrors they have been dealt, and I hope that our schools and our children's welfare system can at least make a stab at getting these children on healthy footing. But many of the mean, badly behaved children I know have parents who should know better. You are not supposed to be your child's friend. You are not doing your child favours if you never discipline, never set limits, and give children everything they want. You're creating monsters the rest of us have to deal with it. And that is truly a shame.

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Have You "Left" Your Family of Origin?
Szeto extended familyphoto © 2007 Marianne Szeto | more info (via: Wylio)
Over the last weekend, most of you probably spent time with extended family, attending Easter services, hunting for eggs, or eating a scrumptious, overly large dinner.

And so extended families are on our minds. They can be wonderful, helping with baby-sitting, setting up a house, finding a job. But they can also be trying, interfering in marriages, criticizing one's housekeeping or parenting skills, or demanding lots of time and visits.

So let me ask you a question: Have you truly "left" your family?

Remember the biblical injunction:

For this reason, a man (and woman) should leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two should become one flesh.
Before we can really form a close relationship with our spouse, we have to leave our parents. But what does that really mean?

It doesn't just mean that we leave their house. It means that they are no longer our primary source for emotional support or advice in this life. When we need to make decisions, we don't consider their needs first; we consider our husband's. When we need to decide how to spend our limited time, we aren't primarily concerned with our spouse; we worry about our husband.

This can be harder in some ethnic groups than others, because in some ethnic communities one's relationship with one's family is absolutely paramount. If you don't show them loyalty, you're not a good person. That's not as true in the old Anglo-Saxon stock I'm from, but it certainly is true in many Asian and African communities (I'm not really sure about African-American; maybe some commenters can help me out on that one). But the idea of "leaving" one's family, in some communities, seems absolutely wrong.

It's not. It's the way God intended it. So let me tell you a story of a woman we'll call Polly. Polly married young. She was massively in love with Jack, and he with her. They were immature. They had never really lived on their own, except in rather ratty apartments. But they loved each other!

Polly's parents, however, were appalled at the marriage because no one was good enough for their Polly. They told everyone who would stand still long enough to talk that they doubted the marriage would last--and these were Christian parents! When Polly and Jack moved into their first apartment together, Polly's parents did most of the work, because it was obvious that Polly and Jack couldn't handle it, and didn't know where to put the kitchen stuff.

As Polly and Jack started living their lives together, Polly's parents were always there. Polly called her mom at least once a day, especially once she got pregnant. Her mother would give her advice on what to do, but most of all, her mother would ask her if Jack was treating her well. If Polly confessed that he played a video game last night instead of eating at the table, Polly's parents would tell her how awful that was of Jack.

Two children came along very quickly, and Polly's mom looked after them. She stayed overnight occasionally so Polly could get some sleep. She told Polly that she wasn't strong enough to breastfeed, so she bottle fed. And Jack felt increasingly left out and would often go "out with the guys" or putter around in the garage.

When they split up after seven years of marriage, Polly announced she was "moving back home".

I wish I could tell you that story was hyperbole and not true, but I can't. It happened pretty much like that. Polly never left. Watching them, I always thought the best thing Polly and Jack could do would be to move far away and start their lives together. But they never did.

If you have problems with your husband, don't talk to your mother about it. Find another mentor who is not invested in the situation. If you have to decide where to spend Christmas, and your parents are pressuring you, remember that your primary allegiance is to your husband. Don't neglect his family so that you spare yours.

Sometimes we're still linked with our family not because they're nice to us and want to help but because of the opposite: we come from a horrible family and we're still trying to earn their approval. It is hard emotionally to leave. But you must.

The best test of whether or not you have left is to honestly ask your husband if your parents are too much in your marriage--and then trust what he says. Men know if a mom is interfering too much, but often we don't want to hear it. Believe him. And if he's the one with the interfering mother, find a way to talk to him about it.

Most of the marriages that I have seen split up have done so in part because of interfering mothers. In one case, it wasn't that the mother was interfering as much as it was that she made it clear she would love her daughter no matter what, and her daughter should just do what she felt was best. That's not good advice. I hope that if my daughter ever comes to me and says that she wants to leave her husband, I would march her right back there (unless there's abuse or something).

Here's my mother-in-law and me together. We had difficult relationships with our in-laws initially because I was so unlike them. I was really educated; they were not. But over the years we have grown together. And one thing that made it easier for us was moving to the same town. When we lived out of town we had to come down for extended weekends with the kids quite often, and staying under the same roof is difficult. Living in your own home, and dropping by for a few hours occasionally is much easier. And we've found so much we have in common (and we really like travelling together now, too!). We honestly love each other. But in most families, it takes a while to find that good balance with family.

So tell me: what's it like with your family? With your husband's family? Have you had a hard time leaving?


Good One Verse
On a Dark Fridayphoto © 2006 Jackie | more info (via: Wylio)

God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:21


Wifey Wednesay: Why Marriage Matters

It's Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!

Today I want to do something different. Instead of writing a long post on why marriage is important, I thought I'd just post this really well-done 2 minute video clip. Watch it!

That's the truth. Too many people think that "living together" is good practice for marriage, because when you live together, you learn about each other. But living together and marriage actually have very little in common. When you're married, it's based on a commitment. I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to learn to love you. I'm going to learn to consider your needs.

Living together, on the other hand, is based on "testing". Is he meeting my needs? Is he making me feel loved? And when you're always testing, he'll always fail.

That's also why, in my opinion, marriages that follow cohabitation are 70% more likely to fail than marriages where the couple did not live together first. The relationship didn't start out in this testing mode.

For a marriage to work, commitment has to be at the root. When it's just about "love", or "feeling good", or "making my needs met", it won't work. Cohabitation is only about feelings, not commitment. You need the promise to keep a relationship together.

I wish more couples understood that. So spread that video around! Hit "share on Facebook" below, or "share on Twitter". Thanks!

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Write your own Wifey Wednesday post that links back to here, and then leave the link of THAT POST in the Mcklinky below. Thanks!

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Living Below Your Means Increases Your Means
Photo by Futurilla

I know many of my faithful readers could probably give us all lessons on frugality! Many of you are just so good at making a dollar stretch. I sometimes find it hard to talk about this issue because most of you know that my husband is a doctor. Money just isn't a concern for us like it is for many others, and everytime I write about how we should spend less I get nasty emails telling me that I don't know what I'm talking about and I should just shut up. So I often steer clear of the subject.

But I'd like to add my thoughts anyway today, and please don't send me nasty emails!

First, a little context. I grew up to a single mother in a lower-middle class home for most of my life. Her jobs got better as time went on, but we were never well off. So I learned the importance of working and saving as a teen, and I knew that if I wanted to go somewhere on a trip or if I wanted to buy something big I'd have to pay for it myself. And I did.

When we married, and started having children, Keith was still in residency and making hardly anything at all. The banks were willing to lend us tons of money based on future earnings, but we didn't take out loans. We lived in an apartment (many of his classmates bought houses with no money down), and we didn't have a car. I shopped at second hand stores. And during those years of his residency we managed to save a fair amount for a downpayment, so that when we bought our first house we didn't borrow the whole amount.

The banks would give us $450,000 for a house based on his projected earnings, but we bought one that was 1/4 of that in a regular middle class neighbourhood with lots of kids. It was marvelous! We lived there for nine years until we paid it off and bought a slightly larger home, still in a primarily middle class neighbourhood. Very few doctors live around here.

I'm not saying this to toot my own horn; I'm just saying this because I do believe we've practiced what we preach in this area, at least. The one area we spend too much on is travel, having taken the kids on a whole bunch of missions trips, but I think that has lasting impact.

Anyway, here's the other reason I'm saying this: because we have consistently lived below our means, we've managed to save a lot of money so that my husband can conceivably cut back on work in the near future and we could potentially go overseas for a few years for ministry. I still don't know if that's where God will lead us, but the main thing for us is that we have the option.

And that's what living below one's means does for you: it gives you options. You aren't tied to a job you hate in the same way because you have a buffer. You can pursue more dreams. You can take some time off. You can give more away.

And living below one's means has very little to do with income and a lot to do with attitude. You wouldn't believe the number of physicians in our social circle who are close to bankruptcy. They make a ton of money and they're not saving it or treating it responsibly. Just because one makes a good income does not mean that one spends it well.

I ran across a few statistics a while ago that I think are quite interesting about the difference between millionaires and non-millionaires. The long shot? Most millionaires don't buy really expensive things. They're millionaires because they buy regular stuff. The people who buy the expensive stuff are people who are trying to LOOK like millionaires, not people who actually are.

* Eighty-six percent of all prestige or luxury makes of motor vehicles are driven by people who are not millionaires.
* Typically, millionaires pay about $16 (including tip) for a haircut. (this must be for guys!)
* Nearly four in 10 millionaires buy wine that costs about $10.
* In the United States, there are nearly three times as many millionaires living in homes with a market value of less than $300,000 than there are living in homes valued at $1 million or more.

When we live below our means, we're able to save more and eventually be worth more, which gives you options. When you live beyond your means, then you're committing yourself to having to earn a whole lot of money to pay off that debt. You're limiting your options.

So wherever you find yourself today, with whatever income, remember to live below your means. If you do so, you'll be acting more like a millionaire than you think! And you'll be helping yourself immeasurably!

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Why Sex for Women is "All In Her Head"
I pulled in to the driveway at 3:30 this morning, after a late flight from Calgary and then a drive from Ottawa. Keith and I were speaking at a Weekend to Remember conference in Banff. Yes, poor me, I had to go to Banff! Oh, my goodness, it was gorgeous!

Anyway, I'm still exhausted, but I thought you may enjoy this five minute clip of me from the "sex" talk explaining why sex for women is all in her head:

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Video Log: One Thing to Do To Revitalize Your Marriage!
I've decided once a week to record a really short (3 minute max) video on marriage! I've had a great time getting to know you all, but I figure sometimes you might actually want to see/hear me!

Here's this week's on how to revitalize your marriage!

Now this weekend my husband and I are speaking at a marriage conference with FamilyLife in Banff, Alberta. And we'll be "video blogging" before each session, trying to summarize everything we're going to say! So tune in for lots more quick videos this weekend, and you'll get to know my husband, too!

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My Rather Imperfect Home
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here's this week's!

I have 173 framed photographs of our family on display in my house. Interior decorators would likely have a heart attack, because not all my frames match. When you have 173, you’ve got to rely on some thrift store frames. I don’t do the matching art thing, or the minimalism thing. I blow up pictures—any pictures—and stick them somewhere. On my latest picture-hanging frenzy, I realized we were in danger of running out of wall space on the stairs. What would I do when the girls get married and have more photos? Thankfully, I discovered that my bathroom is still picture-free, so all is well.

My kids’ friends think we’re rather endearing—or at least I hope that’s the word they’d use, rather than “bizarre”. The most frequently asked question upon entering my door is, “Do you have any more pictures up, Mrs. Gregoire?” But that’s not the only idiosyncrasy these teens tease us about. One particular friend who sleeps over frequently has confessed to my girls that she always enters our kitchen with trepidation, in case she finds my husband and I “making out” in there. So she’s always careful when she turns any corners. My kids just think our displays of too much affection are normal, though that doesn’t stop my 13-year-old from grumbling about it. But I figure love is what makes us a home.

And it’s that feeling that I’m aiming for when people visit. My house may look like it lacked an interior decorator, but it still makes me feel comfy, even if I do have too much stuff—and not just pictures, either. We have well over two thousand books in our bookshelves. I have hand-dyed yarn in containers scattered everywhere, waiting for my next project. I have various colourful blankets the girls and I have knitted on every couch. And I have lots of people to hug. That’s what I want people to see, because that’s who we are as a family.

I don’t actually want my house to be perfect, because I think that’s rather boring. Besides, when you try too hard to have a perfect house you’ll never have anybody over, because they may see how you actually live. With all the decorating magazines and home and garden shows, it’s easy to feel inferior when you look around at your own house, with its cat hair, or its endless stream of laundry and dishes and clutter. But too often that feeling that we’re not doing things right causes us to hibernate. Apparently fewer than half of Canadians had anyone in for dinner last year. Most of us are too busy watching TV, cocooning because we feel inadequate.

I think our society would be a whole lot happier if we stopped trying to have designer houses and just realized that we all lived in actual homes—and those homes should reflect us. If I visit your house, I’m not going to notice the crumbs on the counter nearly as much as I’ll stare at that 30-year-old wedding photo, or the baby portrait. I’ll glance at the titles of your books far more than I will judge the level of dust. Why don’t we stop judging each other based on what we own, and instead just celebrate getting to know who people are? Isn’t that what real community is?

So if you ever come into my house, feel free to laugh at the pictures, leaf through a book, or even pick up some knitting needles. Just be careful when you go around a corner.

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Letting Government Be the Parent, Part 2
I set off quite the firestorm a while back when I wrote about how I don't approve of government feeding kids. The more government does things parents should do, the less parents will do them.

Well, the story just got worse. Now a school in Chicago has banned brown-bag lunches, requiring the children to eat in the cafeteria, because they don't trust parents to send healthy things.

Now, I understand the sentiment. I've helped out in public schools, and the number of kids who bring nothing but pop and chips for lunch is truly atrocious. But I completely agree with Mona Charen, from National Review Online, about this. She says:

Like any good mother, I hate to see kids eating chips and candy for lunch. But what the liberal coercive humanitarians can never see is that their intrusiveness further diminishes parental responsibility. We want to encourage parents to do the right thing for their kids, not remove the responsibility from their hands and thereby implicitly encourage carelessness.

Exactly right.

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Wifey Wednesday: Avoiding Marriage Ruts
It's Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!

Today this post is also linking up to Works for Me Wednesday at We are THAT Family. Head on over to WFMW to find out more awesome ideas to make your life simpler and more creative!

Couplephoto © 2007 Tom Godber | more info (via: Wylio)
Many of us have hit ruts in our marriage. We live together. We chauffeur children together. We manage paychecks, and bills, and grocery lists, and karate lessons, and our parents' doctors appointments. But we don't seem to have FUN.

We often feel mildly put out. He'll be at work all day, and when he gets home, he collapses in a chair, turns on the TV, and ignores the kids. Come to think of it, he ignores us, too. And then, at the end of the day, guess what he wants? One more thing on the to-do list.

Don't let your marriage hit a rut! There is a way out, and it's actually relatively simple. It just takes a mental shift.

Often when we are upset in our marriages it is because we focus on the marriage's areas of weakness. We don't communicate well. He doesn't do enough of the housework. He leaves all the childcare to me. All he thinks about is sex. Etc. Etc.

Yet the marriages that tend to last tend to be the ones where people focus on their strengths. So let's say that you're in a marriage where you really don't seem to communicate well. It's hard to raise something that's an issue to you. He never shares his feelings. You now have two choices: you can pound away at the communication issue, trying to get him to open up, and get frustrated in the process, or you can let it go for a while. If you pound away, he's likely to get annoyed, and retreat, and you're likely to get even more bitter.

Another strategy is to say, "what do we do well together?" Maybe he doesn't open up well, but maybe he really enjoys doing active things together as a family. Maybe you talk a lot when you take drives in the country. Maybe he gets excited when you look at the stock market together and plan your financial savings strategy. Or maybe you need to think back a little further.

When's the last time you really laughed together? Had fun together? Relaxed together? What were you doing? Maybe a few years ago you pulled out a puzzle, and realized he really liked doing puzzles, and you liked it, too, but you haven't pulled one out since. Maybe you're awesome at playing Monopoly together.

What are your strengths as a couple? Are you sporty together? Can you lead a great Bible study together? Are you good youth leaders at church? Are you both musical? Are you good at painting a room together or fixing up the house? Figure out what you can do together that makes you feel energized, and that touches your interests and/or gifts. And then do more of it!

So often we squeeze out the stuff that we do well together because "more important" things come along. The kids have hockey. They have homework. I have to clean the house. But it is just as important to function well as a couple and to feel competent and capable together. In fact, perhaps it's more important.

When you have children, your marriage is now more important, not less, because other people are counting on you! If there was something you once enjoyed doing together, and you've cut it out of your life, bring it back--especially if you're having problems. If you can spend some time in this area of strength, it can refocus your marriage. You start to look forward to being together again. It reinforces the reasons that you're a good couple. And as you do that, the areas of weakness tend to fade, for two reasons.

First, we stop noticing them and giving them so much importance. But perhaps more importantly, when we build our friendship and our identity as a couple, we tend to build a good foundation for the rest of the relationship. Work on companionship, and sex tends to improve. Work on fun, and communication tends to improve. Don't push these things, of course; but you'll likely find that you both are better able to function in all areas of your relationship when you start focusing on your strengths, instead of your weaknesses.

After all, God doesn't spend all His time with us in our areas of weakness. He may point things out, but He doesn't do it all at once. He also just likes to talk to us, and meet with us. He wants to grow the relationship, not just lecture us. Shouldn't our marriage relationship reflect the same kind of grace and acceptance?

So today, whether your marriage is a good one or not, ask yourself: what do we do well together? Ski? Camp? Play games? Plan? Hike? Drive? And whatever it is, make a point of doing it together at least once a week. You just may find that your attitude, and his, takes a dramatic turn!

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Write your own Wifey Wednesday post that links back to here, and then leave the link of THAT POST in the Mcklinky below. Thanks!

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Before You Let Your Teenager Baby-Sit, Read This
I have teenage daughters, and it is always a bit of a balancing act figuring out how to prepare them for possible danger, and how not to make them cynical and suspicious about everything.

Yet there is one area where I think parents are far too lenient when it comes to teen girls, and it's in the area of baby-sitting. We grill our kids up and down when it comes to going to someone's house for a party, but we often will let them baby-sit without really knowing anything about the family.

I was sent a blog post by a reader a while back who is trying to share her story with others in the hope that it can help some, and reading it again made me all the more aware that I need to be much more careful about who my children baby-sit for. I've only ever let them baby-sit for friends, but honestly, how do I know these friends really are safe?

When I baby-sat as a teen I was exposed to way more than I should have been. One mom told me all the details of her husband's affairs, down to specific sexual acts she knew that he had committed (sexual acts I knew nothing about at the time). She saw me more as a confidant. Another family had porn everywhere. You would never have known it to look at them; they were a short, chubby couple that was very prim and proper. And it wasn't Playboy magazines, either; it was pretty hard stuff. I ran away from it as fast as I could, but I certainly saw it. It was under every surface in the house, including the baby's change table.

Here's how my blog reader describes what led up to her eventual sexual abuse at the hands of a man she was baby-sitting for:
It was a Friday night in August 1984. I had put the baby down for the night and around 10pm or so, the door opened and in the husband came to the house. I was surprised that he came home from his trip early and he began to share with me that he never had a trip...he had planned this whole event out and had just come home from a bar to spend the night with me. (I wasn't quite sure what he meant by that...I would soon find out) He asked me to make us something to drink so I went to the kitchen to get 2 cups and some ice. He came into the kitchen and told me that I never gave him anything for his birthday...he turned 29. I asked him what he wanted, he said a kiss would do...I am uncomfortable at this point and not knowing what I should do. I kissed him on the cheek and thought that would be wasn't.
Two things stand out at me from her story. First, she talks about how she knew something was wrong before he actually raped her, but she didn't leave. She obeyed what he told her to do.

This is quite normal; she was a young teen, and he was an adult man. We have to teach our girls that when they feel uncomfortable, they should leave. Give them a cell phone so they can immediately call mom. Lie about a sudden headache if they have to. But if they feel uncomfortable, it's for a reason. They do not have to comply with what an adult says--even a female adult--if it seems somehow wrong.

In this situation, if it had happened in the cell phone era, and she had just said to the adult man, "I'm just going to text my mom and tell her you're home and you want to have a drink with me," it's unlikely anything else would have happened. He would have known that he'd be found out. He would have known he couldn't intimidate her. Cell phones can be big safety nets.

And we can't expect our children to handle these things alone, without us. The problem with young teens is that sometimes they feel something's wrong but they can't explain WHY it's wrong. They're too naive and too confused. So if they get into a conversation with the guy about it, they'll lose. So tell them, "don't talk about it. If you feel uncomfortable, phone to leave and we'll pick you up."

The second thing that struck me is that, after it was obviously dangerous, she still didn't run. She felt so ashamed and so scared she didn't get out of there. Our kids need to know that we will NEVER be angry at them if they take steps to protect themselves. And no matter where they are, they should always ask themselves, "where would I go if I had to get out in a hurry?" I do this naturally now whenever I enter a new store, home, or building. I always plan an escape route. It doesn't scare me anymore; it just has become natural, and I always do it. Teach your girls to do it, too. If you feel uncomfortable, or if you're in danger, know how you're going to get out before it becomes an issue.

We can't protect our kids all the time, and baby-sitting is a good job for teenagers on the whole. But let's remember that we never really know what goes on inside a house. Arm your kids with protection, in the form of cell phones, great advice, and warnings. Let them know they're allowed to say no. And then just pray hard! It's a scary world out there, but we can help make it a little safer!

Did you ever get in hot water when you baby-sat?

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Interesting Things....And Updating My Blog Roll
Mimosa Flowers with © 2008 tinyfroglet | more info (via: Wylio)
Spring is here, and with it came an urge to clean up this blog and my links. So I thought I'd share with you what I've been doing!

First, I've updated my blog roll, including blogs that I like that have also linked to me lately. I want to start my blog roll representing more of a community, rather than just other blogs. So all the blogs at the side are people who have linked in to me, too, and who I'm also linking to! And if you have a neat blog, leave it in the comments, and link in to me! I want to form more of a community here. So check out those links!

I've been checking out my Delicious bookmarks for things that I've found interesting, and I thought I'd share some with you! First, here's an amazing post about how the big problem with modern life is that we've become disconnected. At Paratus Familia, Enola Gay writes:
We pay someone else to cook for our husbands and clean our homes. We hire someone else to grow our food, butcher our meat and milk our cows. Someone else provides our water and produces our electricity. Someone else teaches our children. We send our parents to nursing homes and expect someone else to care for them. When someone we loves die, someone else washes them, dresses them and prepares them for the grave. Someone else digs the hole and fills it in. We are absent from life. We are no longer engaged in actively living. And we are missing out. When we were connected to our family, we were connected to our neighbors and we were connected to our communities. If someone was in need, we, as a family member, neighbor or community saw to that need. There was resolution and accountability. Taking care of each other was a matter of life and death. It was not a perfect system. People fell through the cracks. Families were not perfect. But it was personal. It was connected. It was real.
She's right. There is something beautiful and satisfying about actually actively living, rather than just being entertained.

At the same time, I do not believe that we should attempt to turn back time. Often we romanticize prior generations, thinking that they had it right. They may have done some things better, but it was often a lonely, isolated life. It was a scary life, without modern medicine. It was a life with few possibilities of getting out of poverty. It was a life when a move a few hundred miles away often meant you never saw certain family members again.

So, no, I don't want to go back there. But there's nothing wrong with seeing how perhaps in our progress we have thrown out some good things, and perhaps it's time to get back to them, even if it's just committing to more home cooked meals and maybe an herb garden to share with neighbours!

Here's a related article talking about how the economic downturn is bringing people back to the kitchen to learn to cook. Hey, maybe there are some benefits to a recession!

Here's The Happy Housewife sharing 5 Ways to Be on Time with Kids! I like her way of thinking. The most controversial one: Skip pyjamas and let the kids sleep in tomorrow's clothes! I'm not sure--what do you think?

Echoing what I've said here before about taking an interest in your husband's hobbies, here's an older article telling women to watch the Superbowl with their husbands! I know the Superbowl's over, but I think the lesson remains: Don't wait for him to take an interest in your stuff; start taking an interest in what he likes. You need to form a life together, and if he won't take the initiative, you should.

Here is a super-cool tutorial on how you can turn unwanted catalogues into the cutest envelopes. It's really not that hard. And it will make you feel so crafty!

10 Surefire Ways to Cut Clutter. I actually do a bunch of these already, including skipping paper receipts (I take photos of the ones that matter).

Those are my links for today! If you want to follow me on Delicious and see links as I share them, I'm right here. And remember to join my Facebook Page, where I share interesting articles immediately!

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A Child's Prayer
Little blonde girl praying - Deborah Conway at Fitzroy Gardensphoto © 2010 Alpha | more info (via: Wylio)

My friend Andra just posted her 4-year-old's prayer on Facebook:

Dear Jesus, thank you for food & my sisters. Please don't die because then there's no one to pray to. Make my stomach be able to eat ice cream. Amen.

Have any of your children ever prayed funny prayers? Share them with us in the comments!

And here's my post on teaching kids the 5-finger method for prayer. It works for us adults, too!

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Why Governments Shouldn't Help So Much
International Money Pile in Cash and Coinsphoto © 2011 epSos .de | more info (via: Wylio)
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here's this week's! We're in the middle of an election in Canada, so I decided to wade my toes in. This one is way more controversial than I usually am, but I've been writing these things for over eight years now. I guess I figure that if I get fired, at least I'm going out with a bang!

Governments love to spend your money. They gain power to establish sweeping new programs that will Make Everything Better and create the perfect society!

All too often, though, their ideas conflict with reality. Dalton McGuinty, for instance, is launching full-day kindergarten, because it will better prepare kids for school. What he didn’t take into account is that Head Start in the United States has already spent billions—and any benefit evaporates by grade four. That’s a lot of money on an idea.

Or take the green job promise. Each green job in Spain cost $500,000, and eventually Spain had to pull the plug. Green jobs are lovely ideas, and I hope and pray that somebody figures out how to build a bigger battery so that solar power is feasible here in the Great White North. But until that day comes, let’s not kid ourselves. We can’t prop up an industry which could never be profitable on its own indefinitely. Government subsidy stops truly profitable—and sustainable—industries from developing. Ideology has trumped reality.

In another burst of ideological fervour, government has banned incandescent light bulbs. We’re now supposed to use environmentally friendly CFL bulbs, which are apparently wonderful even though they’re not nearly as bright, don’t last as long as promised, won’t turn on in cold weather, cost eight times as more, and can lead to migraines. Oh, and they also contain mercury, so they need to be disposed of at the hazardous waste dump. How many people do you think are going to drive to the dump to get rid of lightbulbs? All that mercury is going to end up in the landfill, but we’re all supposed to exalt that we’re saving the environment.

What government doesn’t seem to understand is that when they do something, they upset the balance, and so people are going to change as a result. In the United States, for instance, deducting mortgage insurance from your taxes seemed like an easy way to encourage home ownership. The only problem was that it also discouraged paying off that mortgage. So then when real estate prices fall, people’s mortgages are suddenly worth more than their homes. But how do you get rid of that tax loophole once it’s in place?

Or take our Canadian election. If government gives seniors more money, as Ignatieff is advocating the provinces do through the CPP (though how the provinces come up with that money is beyond me), then people will save less for retirement, and my generation will be absolutely and completely up a creek paying for our parents. We’ll end up with less for our own retirement because our higher CPP payments will have to pay for all the Baby Boomers. We won’t be able to save as much, and our parents won’t bother to save as much. It’s horribly inefficient.

I’m not saying government should never do anything. I just believe government should tread lightly. It’s like what Reagan said: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

Just because a problem exists does not mean that government is in the best position to fix it. Usually those who can really fix problems are those who are closer to those problems. Give us the freedom to fix our communities and our families, and we’re more likely to do it. Try to do everything for us, and throw money at problems, and you distort what we would naturally choose to do. So please, don’t help so much. Reserve handouts for those who truly need it, and ask the rest of us to stand on our own. And then trust us to make the right decisions. We can’t do much worse than you.

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Do You Feel Really Alone in Your Marriage?
I write a lot about marriages. I want to save marriages. That's why I'm writing The Good Girl's Guide to Sex--to try to help get marriages off to a good start!

But I'm quite aware that many of my readers would love to save their marriage--but their spouse doesn't seem to see it the same way.

I've received two heartbreaking emails this week, and heard the story of a close friend who is going through a rough time, too, and it made me think I need to say something to those women, too. So I did! I thought I'd start video blogging some of my posts, and this seemed like a good one to start on:

If you want to save your marriage:

1. Remember, just because it's awful now doesn't mean it always will be.

Of people who rated their marriages as a 7 or 8 on a 1-8 scale, with 8 being lousy, 78% rated it as a 1 or 2 5 years later. Things often do get better! Just because your marriage is in the toilet does not necessarily mean it's time to flush it.

2. Get some mentors

But what if you've been waiting and it's not improving? Surround yourself with a great Christian body. Find one or two great mentors or counselors to tell the whole story to who can give you wise counsel. I knew one woman who was sure her husband was being verbally abusive to their daughter. He wasn't. He was just stricter than she was (she didn't believe in limits). She needed someone outside to show her that.

At the same time, sometimes drastic action is necessary. Find a good Christian mentor to help you.

3. Get a hold of James Dobson's Love Must Be Tough.

Written for those whose spouses are having affairs, it's still a great book for many marital issues. When your spouse is doing something that endangers the marriage, the answer isn't to be a doormat. It's to change the dynamic in your relationship so your spouse feels the consequences of his actions!

Watch the video for the two heartbreaking emails, and if you have any good advice for those women, do leave a comment!

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Wifey Wednesday: Does Your Hubby Help you Lose Weight or Hurt You?
It's Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!

58/365 -- Thirteen Stone
Photo by puuikibeach
Have you ever noticed how good looking forensic scientists are? I was unaware of this remarkable fact until a recent stay in a hotel allowed me to catch a few episodes of CSI (we don’t have a television at home). And while my initial thought was, “boy that’s graphic,” my take-away was, “Wow, they’re all gorgeous.” Were I at a murder scene, I doubt I’d be wearing heels and a designer suit, let alone look like I just left the hairdresser’s. Apparently, though, when examining a corpse for foreign substances, mascara is a must.

I’m not sure if men truly appreciate how insecure we women are about our appearance. Sure, they'd like six-pack abs, and a full head of hair would be nice, but that’s nothing compared to all the hype we have to meet. It starts as a little girl, when we’re presented with our first Barbie. For those of you who did not have the opportunity to become intimately acquainted with her, she’s a mutant. Were she life size, she would be 44-12-22, and certain anatomical features, prominent on the upper half of her body, would prevent her from standing upright.

For the last few months I’ve been pounding out a manuscript for a book that’s coming out next year called The Good Girl’s Guide to Sex. And in writing it, I took surveys of a few thousand men and women. One of the things that saddened me in reading through the answers was how many women are berated by their husbands for not losing weight. Their husbands tell them that they’re not attracted to them anymore because they’re not a size 4. Or they question their menu choices at restaurants.

I can see both sides of the story here: I know it’s hard for men when their wives let themselves go, because men do like to appreciate women’s bodies. But here’s the thing: it does men absolutely no good to harp on their wives about it. In fact, it makes things worse. Many women want to lose weight but they can’t seem to motivate themselves to do anything about it, which leads us on a vicious spiral downward. If husbands then start withholding affection, or questioning menu choices at restaurants, we'll feel even more insecure. And that’s not going to motivate her to try something as life altering as losing weight!

Two things, I think, help a woman actually get motivated to lose weight: feeling closer to God and thus more aware of her role as a wife, and feeling sexually confident. When we are sexually confident, we want to be MORE sexy. When we are sexually scared, or feel as if we’re pretty pathetic, we tend to retreat even more. If guys would just listen to me about this, here's the advice I would give them:

Spend lots of time wooing her, trying new things, talking about what plus sized lingerie you like, and pursuing her. And give her a budget to buy clothes that make her look dynamite! (Lots of clothes are out there for large women). Doing so doesn’t mean that you’ve resigned yourself to the extra 100 pounds; doing so means that you’re saying, “I want you to feel confident, and I want our sex life to be great”.

Then make sure you’re leading the household: in devotions, in prayer, even in menu choices. As you do these things, and grow closer to her, I think you build communication so you can talk about it, but you also build her confidence so that she is now empowered to change. But above all, love her as she is. It's acceptance that helps people feel motivated to get better, not rejection. Rejection causes insecurity, resentment, and defeat. Acceptance makes one feel confident.

Unfortunately, I don't think many men would listen to me on this, as is evidenced by the number of women describing how much their husbands put down their appearance.

So here's what I would say to you women who are struggling with how you look: go out of your way to look amazing, even if you are 100 pounds more than you'd like to be. Dress well. Put on makeup. Get an attractive hair style. Take care of yourself. So much of "sexiness" is all in attitude, anyway. And as you feel more confident, you'll likely feel more energetic, too. Looks should never define us, but let's face it: in marriage, they do play a role. Men are visually stimulated. So do all you can to stimulate your man! When you feel more confident, it will be easier to make pretty much any change you've been wanting to.

Now I want to know: how do you handle it if your husband puts you down because of your weight? Has this ever happened to you? What did you do? Maybe your experiences can help someone else!

What advice do you have for us today? Write your own Wifey Wednesday post that links back to here, and then leave the link of THAT POST in the Mcklinky below. Thanks!

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Hands Off My Dishwasher!
Look, we all want a nice, clean planet. All of us, to some extent or another, are environmentalists. I recycle. I compost. I love going for walks in nature. I personally don't buy global warming, but I still think we should keeping the planet clean. But sometimes things go too far.

I was recently reading a column by Mona Charen, and as I read it, I thought, "me, too!". It was as if she were inside my mind. Here's what she said:
I began noticing the white coating, dull film, and simply unclean dishes a few weeks ago. Naturally, I suspected that other members of my clan were failing to place dishes on the racks of the dishwasher properly. “If the water can’t reach it, it won’t get clean,” I lectured (not, ahem, for the first time), ostentatiously removing a small bowl that had been slipped under a larger one, no doubt by a person who clings to the discredited idea that dishwashers should be loaded to the gills. And those little separators in the utensil caddy — they are there for a reason, gentlemen.

But the crisis persisted. And, as the days passed, it became clear that the matter was beyond poor placement. Bits of spaghetti — stiff and stubborn — stuck like stalactites to bowls. The walls and doors of the machine emerged waxy and coated from each wash, in contrast to the gleaming surfaces of the past. Between the tines of forks, ugly bits of hardened remains resembled something you’d see on NCIS — if not quite repellent, then certainly unwelcome in what should have been a disinfected, pristine dishwasher.

I switched brands of dishwashing liquid. No change. Topped off the rinse-aid reservoir. No change. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the thought of buying a new machine flitted through my consciousness. Sparkling, squeaky-clean dishes are a necessary part of our quality of life. But our dishwasher is only three years old. And then I learned that I don’t have a personal problem. I have a political problem.

And that problem? Apparently both the U.S. and Canada have banned dishwashing detergents containing phosphorus. My dishes all have a film on them. My black plastic spatulas have white all over them, and you can't get it off. Take a look at this:


I've tried vinegar. I've tried everything. My normal detergent no longer does a thing, despite the "Oxi-Action!" (Sorry, I just realized I took a picture of the French side. I'm Canadian. What can I say?).


And the glasses are even worse. They're not sparkly. The'yre disgusting.


The only detergent that works is those Finish Powerballs in the dishwasher. Every other detergent is now absolutely lousy. But I don't remember anyone asking me what I thought about this? Maybe it's the right thing to do, but I can't believe stuff like this gets done without any debate!

Or take the lightbulb issue. Incadescent bulbs will soon be a thing of the past, even though the new ones cost more, don't last as long as they say they will, and you can't dispose of the stupid things because of the mercury! You're supposed to take them to the hazardous waste dump. Do you honestly believe people are going to go to that trouble? Of course not. All that mercury will end up in landfill anyway. And they don't come on in cold weather, so you can't use them for outdoor safety lights in the winter here in the Great White North. They also are associated with migraines!

And finally, what about plastic bags? Recently a whole bunch of municipalities have banned plastic bags in supermarkets (in our town you just have to pay for them), but interestingly, plastic bag use has increased. It makes sense, too. While we used to get those plasic bags and then reuse them several times, we now have to buy plastic bags to line our garbages with, to pick up dog poop, and who knows what. Apparently we're not using any less.

Sure we used to get plastic bags at the grocery store, and now we can take reusable ones, but we still need plastic bags for our garbage cans. And so instead of reusing grocery bags, we just buy them. But they're still in the landfill, and the good ones that we pay for take longer to biodegrade than the cheap grocery store ones. I just find so much government regulation has unintended consequences.

People will always do what is easiest and what is best for them, and if we need plastic, we'll use it. If we need dishes to be clean, we'll find more expensive ways to do it that may end up hurting the environment just as much. I don't know what we should do about things like landfill and clean water, because they are a huge problem. But I just wish that there could be some sort of a debate, where all the ramifications of new regulation were spelled out before they passed it. Because I hate these nasty surprises. And I'm pretty sure this lightbulb thing is a really bad idea. What do you think?

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Is There Laughter in Your Home?
Siobhan laughing
Photo by lilcrabbygal
When I first had my babies, I thought about what I wanted our family life to look like. And one of the first things on my list was laughter. I wanted our family to be a place where people laugh. I think love and laughter and memories all go together; it's difficult to have any of those things without also having the other. Does your home ring with laughter?

I read one study that teens laugh twice as much as adults in their fifties. And once we pass fifty, it's all downhill. We stop laughing. That's a tragedy. But perhaps we wouldn't stop if we fostered laughter in our homes! So here are some random thoughts on how to foster laughter, in no particular order:

1. Give kids permission to laugh at you.

This starts when they're toddlers. Whenever I did something stupid, I'd go running to wherever my kids were and I'd say, "Look how Mommy put my shirt on inside out!", or "Look how Mommy spilled!" And we'd all laugh. Children like to laugh. They like to feel that they can laugh at their parents, too, because while kids want to feel safe, they don't want to feel like their parents must be perfect. If you give your children the impression that they must always think you're perfect, then your children will feel disloyal and dishonest when they realize that you're NOT perfect. So give them safe ways to talk about your foibles!

And if Daddy does something funny, too, tell the kids about it, and laugh! Of course, you don't want to tease, and you certainly don't want to allow your children to tease each other. There is a difference between healthy laughter between people and laughing at someone, and you should teach your children the difference. But it will be easier to learn if you model it from the beginning!

2. Play a lot.

We laugh when we play. We laugh when we talk. We laugh when we're simply together and things happen. We don't tend to laugh when we're alone in our rooms doing our own thing. If you want to encourage laughter, you have to actually be together! And sometimes the things that you will end up laughing about are the things that you were absolutely upset about at the time.

I remember I once took my children camping, along with three of their friends. In one day I managed to break the tarp on our trailer, drench a child with water while trying to get the water off of said broken tarp, burn dinner, and then have the roof leak on us. At the time it was a tragedy because we had to leave camping early. But it's one of our funniest memories. In fact, those friends even drew a picture of all the things that went wrong, and it's still on our fridge, five years later. But we wouldn't have laughed about it if we hadn't been spending time together!

3. Do out of the ordinary things.

And when you do spend time together, do it in out of the ordinary ways! Don't just watch TV or movies, even if they are funny (though we still have a riot quoting Shrek). The things that are funny tend to be the things that happen in everyday life that you're paying attention enough to to see the humour in them. When you're trying to hurry up and get to all the practices or get dinner on the table you often don't have time to see the humour. So try to do strange things with your family!

Don't always watch TV; sometimes play board games, or go for walks, or play soccer in the park. Last spring the girls and I laughed for three weeks straight over "Fernando", a humongously obese baby robin that hung out on our fence posts because he couldn't fly. He would bleat all day and his much smaller mother would bring him worms. Every now and then Fernando would topple onto the ground and wobble down there for a bit. He was just a riot. They sometimes invited friends over to watch our pathetic robin. But we noticed him because we went for a walk; we didn't hibernate.

We also do really strange things at the dinner table. When the kids were younger, we'd have trivia questions after dinner. We'd ask Canadian trivia, and you couldn't leave the table until you got something right. My nephew, when he'd visit, would answer "Charlottetown" for every single question, and inevitably by question 12 or 13 he'd be right and he'd get to leave. It's been a running joke ever since.

A few years back I also purchased this little booklet of "graces you can sing" to the tune of hymns, and everytime we have company I pull them out. All the teens complain and moan and groan, but if they're ever over the first thing they'll ask is "are we going to sing grace?", because it's so strange and kinda funny, because most people don't know the tune.

Most of the humour in our lives isn't some side splitting joke; it's just everyday life that happens when we're alert enough to notice. So spend time together out of your regular errands, doing weird things, and you'll inevitably laugh!

4. Enforce technology free time

Finally, while movies and TV can be funny, and YouTube videos can make tears run down our faces sometimes, the best humour comes when we're just with each other. So have technology free nights, say from 6-8, where there is no TV or iPods or Facebook. Just spend time with each other, and you will laugh.

Sometimes we laugh just doing the dishes together--bubbles can be funny! Sometimes we laugh at memories while we're talking. Sometimes we laugh at my oldest daughter falling UP the stairs (I didn't know anyone could consistently fall UP the stairs until she hit puberty a few years back).

Having fun in your home means that other people will want to hang out with you. Your friends' kids will want to have dinner at your house. Your friends will enjoy being there. And so will your husband! A house filled with laughter is really a home, so don't drown it out by being too busy, too proper, or too plugged in!

How do you laugh in your home? Let me know!

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Sunday Afternoon Enjoyment
We sang "How He Loves Us" in church today, and it reminded me of this awesome and cute video. So here's something to make you smile on a Sunday afternoon!

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Short Weekend Thought
Pastor Terry Jones should not have burned the Koran. That was stupid.

But he is not responsible for the massacre and beheadings of UN workers in Afghanistan. The evil barbarians (and there are no other words) who did that are the ones responsible.

I believe in Christianity, and Christ is more than able to defend Himself against any slights, real or imagined, that human beings can throw at Him. If Muslims don't think their god can defend himself, and that their god wants them to kill others brutally in his name, then they are really, really insecure about their religion.

That being said, there's no point in provoking evil, which is what Jones did. But blaming him is a whole other story, and I think the reason that the news media is blaming him is because they don't want to blame the Muslims. That seems racist, after all.

But Jones did not behead anyone, and let's not forget that. There is no equivalence.

Now, regular scheduled programming about family and marriage will resume shortly!

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The Worst Advice Ever
Photo by zoetnet

Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here's this week's!

Advice comes in all shapes and sizes, from the really bad—“form a coalition with the Bloc Quebecois!”—to the really good—“don’t buy stuff you can’t afford.” Just for fun, I recently asked readers on my Facebook page about the worst advice they had ever been given.

Many people seemed to regret their education. They didn’t pursue dreams because they were supposed to go to university, and now they have debt and no real joy in their jobs. Others, of course, regretted not getting an education in the first place.

But the vast majority of the litany of complaints had little to do with jobs and lots to do with relationships. Manipulation 101, for instance, was resented by scads of people. One woman wrote how early in her marriage her mother had told her she had better “lay down the law with her husband” if she wanted him to do things her way. Another woman’s mom said the same thing: “marry someone you can push around.” And aunts got in on the picture, too: “buy a book on training puppies and use it on him!” Then there’s the whole “withhold affection to get you what you want” line. I’m not sure how making one’s spouse miserable is supposed to make you happy, but it was a common theme nonetheless. Or how about “encourage your husband’s affections by flirting with other men”? Jealousy promotes closeness, does it? And then there’s “let him suffer a bit before accepting an apology.” Who would want to do something mundane like forgiving so you can build intimacy again?

The decisions to start a family were also quite frequently lambasted. I had his myself: when I was working on my Master’s degree, a graduate supervisor congratulated me on my miscarriage, saying that now I would be able to pursue my Ph.D. unhindered. I still hold my head in shame that I didn’t give her an earful at the time. But it seems many in academia and the job world hold similar disparaging views of marriage or motherhood. One teacher reports she was told she was too talented to waste herself by getting married. Others were told not to waste their intelligence by staying home with the kids.

But probably the saddest responses were from the women who were told they should have abortions. Those respondents now ache for what they’re missing.

I’m sure we could all rattle off our own lists of truly awful advice, but when you look at all of these, they can all be summed up in this one little gem: “Don’t worry about anyone else. Do what is best for you!” That’s the kind of advice people crave when they’re trying to justify an affair, or a ridiculous purchase, or ignoring one’s family. It’s not the kind of advice, though, that is going to help one iota at building real happiness.

Doing what seems best for us, with no thought to others, means that we lead pretty lonely lives because we push others away. Life without love at the centre is hardly gratifying. When you’re trying to make an important decision, then, and someone is giving you advice, ask yourself: will this advice make me lonelier, or will it build relationship? Does it honour my values, or does it try to take shortcuts? And if it doesn’t build love, chuck it. That’s what this woman decided to do: “I just looked at my mother’s life and decided I didn’t want to be anything like her,” she said. “So everytime my mother gave advice, I went out and did the exact opposite!” In all too many cases, that’s the best advice you could follow.

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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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