What I Learned About My Readers from an Ottawa Meetup

Ottawa MeetUp

Last week I was in Ottawa staying at my oldest daughter’s townhouse while my younger daughter was practising for a quizzing tournament with her team. And since I was in a different city, I thought I’d try a “meetup”.

Ever heard of those? Basically it’s when an online community decides to meet “in real life”, and then chat a bit. So I put an announcement out on Facebook and sent a note to people on my newsletter group who were in the Ottawa area, and told everybody I’d be at a certain Menchie’s at 7 p.m. on Friday if they wanted to drop by.

Nine lovely women came by–(let’s see if I can remember all their names): Sonya, Alexis, Colleen, Louise, Danielle, Amelie, Christa, Leanne, Tracy, and me–and one little man:


We started out the evening with something very important. We all got frozen yogurt (which is awesome) except for one poor woman who was on a cleanse. But she’s getting healthy, so that’s good! I was not getting healthy. I used a lot of chocolate toppings. And I don’t regret it.

2014Ottawa Meet Up 1

And then we just gabbed. I asked people’s advice on a Reader Question I’m trying to get ready in the next little while: how do you prepare for marriage long distance? Like, how do you make sure that he’s not a serial killer or something? And we had a great chat about that.

Amelie asked me how in the world I ever got started writing about sex, and we chatted about how it’s hard to find a safe place to talk about it. A number of women said that on getting married they faced an interesting dilemma: they had become Christians later in life, and they wanted to follow God, but they didn’t know what was okay in bed. And so they felt like everything was dirty.

Then another woman piped and said, “you feel that way even if you WERE a Christian your whole life!”

Alexis commented, “that’s why I’m glad Sheila’s here–to reclaim sex. Christians are supposed to know what’s best about it!” And we laughed.

We chatted about how ugly the world has gotten–with pornography, and child prostitution, and erotica. We chatted lots about breastfeeding and keeping your house liveable when the kids are little.

And then, speaking of keeping the place liveable, I decided to open the box of books of my new edition of To Love, Honor and Vacuum in front of everybody.


If you ever feel like you spend your life cleaning up, and nobody really helps you or appreciates you, then this book is great for you!


I had fun figuring out where everybody had first heard of me. Danielle and Sonya had heard me speak years ago in Ottawa. Amelie had found my book report download for homeschoolers (if you sign up for my homeschooling newsletter you’ll get it!). Tracy had met me when Keith and I spoke at a FamilyLife marriage conference. And a number of them commented that I had emailed them back after they asked me a question. That made me feel a little badly because I only answer about 5% of the emails I receive now. I receive so many that my assistant goes through them first. I wish I had more time for personal touch!

Then, after everybody had asked me questions, I had some of my own. A few of the ladies there–like Leanne and Alexis–do comment quite a bit on Facebook and sometimes on this blog, and I’ve met them before. But most read but don’t say a whole lot. Friday, the day of the meetup, was a day with an odd comment thread on the blog after my post “Where’s the Dad?” I was saying that whenever you read a news item of some horrible family thing gone wrong, there’s usually no dad in the picture. We need more dads in the picture.

A number of commenters took me to task, saying that dads aren’t there because of welfare laws, and child custody laws, and rape shield laws, etc. etc., which make men feel marginalized. I agree that the law marginalizes men; I just don’t think that’s an excuse. When you’re standing before God, and He asks, “why didn’t you care for your kids?”, you can’t say, “Because the welfare laws made my one-night stand girlfriend (I forget what her name was now) feel like she didn’t need me.” And then some commenters said that this was actually my fault because I argued that marriage should be a partnership, rather than giving all authority to men. So it’s my fault that men have one night stands with drug addicts? Thanks.

Anyway, these women told me that they hardly ever read the comments, and when they do, they often think these people are bizarre. I think I get caught up in the debate because it’s often these fringe comments that do get made. People who agree don’t say much. So I tend to think everyone thinks the way some of the commenters do. It’s good to know I’m not alone!


And we talked about the polarization in the online world. Here’s an example: with the modesty debate, one side says that women must watch what they dress because they can cause men to lust, and they are responsible for that; the other side says women should be able to wear whatever they want, and men are responsible solely for themselves.

The problem is that if I argue the modesty end of the spectrum is too extreme, people think I’m then saying, “anything goes!” Really, on the vast majority of the issues, I’m just saying the answer is in the murky middle. And yet I get accused of all kinds of things on this blog because I don’t tend to be on either extreme on pretty much any issue.

It was very nice to hear that the vast majority agree with me.

Then Alexis asked a really good question:

how do you teach your 4-year-old not to show her underwear in public without making her ashamed of her body?

Great question! I’m going to have to use it as a post soon, but I’d love some insight. If any of you have any thoughts, please leave them in the comments!

So it was a ton of fun, and the yogurt was great, and it was neat to see people in real life whose names I’ve seen on Facebook. And I think I’ll do it again! So sign up for my newsletters and then check your inbox and check on Facebook. If I’m coming to your neck of the woods I’ll let you know!



  1. Me and my wife doesn’t have the issue with underwear in public, my kids are 11 and 14. But my daughter (11) constantly “adjust” herself and don’t care who sees her. I think my wife has tried every pair of underwear on her imaginable except bikini and thong which me as a dad doesn’t even want to think about. She is only 11 after all.

    • Have you tried “too big” as a style?
      My 4yo was forever tugging at her undies every time she stands up or moves – so I tried putting her in some that were technically 2 sizes too big. Problem almost entirely solved. It seems the extra fabric in the larger size means they don’t wriggle as much. or something. May be worth a try.

  2. I would always tell my daughter that’s she is growing up to be a lady. Part of being a lady is you keep your dress down. Every time she would forget (which was often) I would just push her dress down and quietly tell her to be a lady.

  3. Chelsea says:

    Hi. My daughter is almost 6 and we started out young with the underwear thing. For the same reason I won’t let her wear a bikini now I won’t let her get away with sitting inappropriately in a dress or skirt. I told her that we don’t show other people our underwear. She and I can change in front of each other and I can get changed in front of daddy since we are married but she is not to show herself off to anyone. We emphasized the modesty in this. How yes it’s fun to tickle bellies but we don’t lift our shirt to do so. I played the game wit her when she was little about blowing raspberries on her belly and trying to steal her belly button but I soon thought ahead to when we would have to make the switch. So we started when she was around 3, ‘No sweetie, don’t lift your shirt. Don’t show your tummy. Sit the nice way when you are in a dress.’ I think since we started so young she isn’t viewing it as a big deal. It is just part and parcel of being modest in our dress. I’m sure one day we will get the questions on why her friends dress different but for now this works for us and our son age 8 also has picked up on it. He will point out now when he sees others wearing stuff I’ve told my daughter not to wear. He will say, ‘Hey mommy! Their dresses wrong!’ I point out to him that ‘they are not my kids and they are only following the rules their parents made for them. It is wrong for our family, yes. And you never know what standards God has called others to either so it is not our place to point the fingers on this for them. It is simply the way they choose to dress. Mommy and Daddy think the way we are teaching you guys to dress is more appropriate for our family. We are trying to teach you what we think is right.’ This is usually a good enough explanation and has already opened up some good discussions at such young ages. And I don’t feel my kids are self conscious about it either. They are aware of what we feel is appropriate and what we expect them to adhere to but they are not hindered by it either. In fact, I still have to remind my daughter to sit appropriately but it is a work in progress and I am pleased with the progress. Hope that helps.

  4. My four year old also likes to kick her legs up in public while wearing a dress, and my 2 year old is constantly trying to disrobe. One way I think that helps not make them feel ashamed is talking openly about it in an age appropriate way, not ignoring their curiosity but not giving them more than they can handle. Also, I try my best not to “react” to the situation to make them feel they’ve done something terrible, but “respond” gently usually with the reminder that our panties, boobies, bottom, etc. are private and we don’t show them to other people. We also play up “princess manners” because they adore anything princess.

    • I have taken to pairing a set of leggings or little ‘shorties’ with my 5-yr-old’s dresses and skirts. That way she can run and play while staying relatively respectable! They just don’t seem to be capable of keeping a skirt in line with gravity at that age! lol!

  5. I have a six year old who is the same way. The solution I came up with is she wears boys boxer briefs underwear. That way if she flashes the world during play it just looks like she has shorts on under her dress.
    With my other girls when they were small they’d wear shorts under their dress.
    A simple “underwear is private, we don’t show it off” in a matter of fact voice is about all I’d say about it.

  6. I would like to add something to that reader question: teaching little boys that privates are privates, we don’t pee in the front yard (I’m okay with the back yard), and that when we have guests we must wear at least undies (he’s 3 years old. And for the summer, as we a/c the house to only 82′ during the day, I let him run naked inside most of the time.)

    He’s really not that bad, except for peeing in the front yard. 😛
    Mama Rachael recently posted…An end, or a means to an end?My Profile

    • I think the problem may be allowing him to pee outside at all. At that age, little boys can’t tell the difference between an appropriate place and an inappropriate one. I try to save confusing them and embarrasing myself by making sure my littlies are dressed and using the toilet at home, then we don’t have any bothers when we have company or when we’re out. I have a 5yr old and a 3yr old.

  7. I wish I had know you were coming to Ottawa. I’m just up the highway in Cobden. I’ve recently found your website and love your posts.

    Ella’s 8 now so showing off underwear isn’t a problem. She’s always worn leggings or bike shorts under her dresses, she’s very active and this way she could do anything she wants. Even now, most often she’s puts something on under her dresses. Also, so many of the good kid stores (Gymboree, Children’s Place, Hannah Anderson) sell a large selection of skorts. Those are the best invention ever!

    I’ve made the no dad observation before too. I make it worse by blaming Feminism for making women feel they HAVE to work to be ‘satisfied’. These kids don’t have anyone to come home to after school. There is no one there to make sure they are doing their homework or to check up on who they are hanging out with. I think blaming welfare laws is an easy way out and makes people feel less guilty because that’s basically the life they are leading too. Blame ‘the government’ instead of looking at the life you chose.

    Keep up the great posts!

    • Sorry, Paula! I notified everyone on Facebook and my newsletter list who lived within a certain distance, and you probably were right on the edge and didn’t hear!

      I’d agree that a lot of the feminist culture has made stable families far more difficult. The original aims were good; they got so distorted, though.

  8. Thanks for your advice on homeschooling and housekeeping. I mentioned your ‘top five’ suggestion to my husband as soon as I got home. Still waiting to hear what his list is though. Hopefully we will have a quiet moment this weekend and can get it sorted out.
    The meetup was fun, and I’m totally up for another round if you decide to do it again.
    And if you ever want more two player game suggestions, I have loads. We play lots of games at our house.

    • So cool to meet you, Colleen! Glad the top 5 suggestion resonated with you. Hope it went over well with your hubby!

  9. We make sure our 3 1/2 year old always has leggings or shorts on under her dress if we go out. Then we can teach her some modesty while she still has something on. I think we will try to keep doing this for as long as we can, especially for play type dresses.

  10. Hi Sheila, I have commented a couple of times, but wanted to comment about what you said about the comments ( how many times can I use the word comment in a sentence? ;o). I have for the most part stopped reading comments on all blogs. It frustrates the day lights out of me when people take what the blogger was saying and misinterpret it or disagree and are mean in their response. I have a lot of respect for you bloggers because you often respond to those comments with such grace and wisdom. You have to have your security in the Lord to be a blogger because your definitely going to get all kinds of people commenting and some with evil intent. I will say I agree with you 99.9% of the time. :o) You’re doing a great work!
    Love, Amy

    • I agree with Amy!
      I usually don’t read comments on a blog because I just don’t have time. With a 3 yr old running around, my computer time is limited, and is better spent reading the actual post that encourages/teaches me, not arguing with people in the comments who take one sentence and go running with it, somewhere the blogger totally did not intend!

      However…your post makes me consider the fact that maybe I should comment more — try to balance out all the negative opinions with the good, even if it’s just a quick comment to let you know that the post was great, or right on, or hit dead on what I needed today, or was good thoughts to consider or just that my husband loves it when I read your blog!

      Keep up what you are doing! I am thankful for your work, and I recommended your blog to almost every new bride I know!

    • Thank you so much, Amy!

    • Brittainy S says:

      I am the same way, I often read the blog but rarely read comments because I grow tired of seeing the drama unfold by people taking what you say out of context.
      I am very seriously considering getting your book. I feel like a maid all the time anymore!

  11. “So it’s my fault that men have one night stands with drug addicts? Thanks.” – This made me laugh out loud. I think it is safe to say that whatever commenter suggested this was definitely on the fringe. I don’t know how saying that marriage should be a partnership is giving a man license to have a one-night-stand, much less a one-night-stand with a drug addict. I am probably one of your more liberal readers (and I think this is the first time I have commented), but I wanted to let you know that I really appreciate the morality behind all your posts and that it has really made a difference in the way I perceive my marriage and how I want to raise my future kids (I am currently married with no kids).

  12. Shorts under a dress or skirt is a rule in our house, and we just say it’s impolite to show your underpants, no body issues involved.

    Also, I have to say that I do enjoy reading the comments on some of your more controversial posts, simply because I like seeing the opposite viewpoint of something you’ve written and I enjoy seeing your response as well. Sometimes someone raises an issue and I think “huh, how is she going to answer that? ” and you usually have a very appropriate answer.
    sarah @ little bus on the prairie recently posted…HeatMy Profile

    • This is the way we approach it, too. My seven year old daughter is very girly and LOVES skirts and dresses, but she also loves to play with her friends and brothers. So we’ve always had her wear lightweight shorts or leggings under her skirts and dresses and just explained that it allows her to wear her pretty things while still being modest. We don’t allow the boys to show their underwear either, and just say that those things are private so we don’t show them to other people!

    • Thanks, Sarah. I try!

  13. I’m with you on the modesty thing. I think it’s a two way street and neither side is completely responsible for the other. We’ve both got our part to play.

    I think with little kids showing their underwear in public or wanting to be “nakey” in not-so-appropriate situations, it’s important to remember that this is a very normal thing and to not make it into more than it is. A simple, cheerful, and discreet “UNDERwear stays UNDER our clothes” is something I’ve found works well. I’ve been reading “Parenting with Love and Logic” and they talk a lot about keeping communication simple and not over complicating it. It’s helped us with our boys – two and four – a lot.

  14. sasha dence says:

    Thboutis isn`t on the underwear issue — just wanted to say that I think Sheila`s right when she says that likely people don`t post when they agree. It also takes time and as mothers, that isn`t plentiful. I think the point that Dad`s need to be in the picture is valid and critically important. I think the hostility towards making men responsible is so layered by the massive amount of complication that has occurred in male-female relationships since the sexual revolution that the subject of single parent families (mostly headed by women) is fraught in the extreme. Whose `fault`it is by now is a really good question. The connect between sex and children has been so decisively cut in so many men`s (and women`s) minds that the fact that they actually `had sex`with someone in no way means they performed an act that could lead to a baby. I doubt many even consider it. It is simply assumed that `the female`in question is on birth control and if she isn`t and ìt`happens, then, of course, she`ll have an abortion. I think that is the main reason men refuse responsibility in some cases because it never even occurred to them it could be an issue and it was assumed that the woman they were with thought the same as they did about sex. That is now `normative`in so many places where men and women get together that it is not questioned. Who is to blame — the man or the woman or both or a society that has allowed the disconnect between sex and marriage and children to be commonplace — taken for granted — automatic — is really an issue. Yes, we`re all responsible for our lack of love when it comes to facing our Creator, but I think a lot of so-called dead-beat dads could plead that they came from a culture that made being so incredibly easy, something like having been raised in Hitler Youth and therefore participating in the extermination of “undesirables“. When we have no real idea about who we are sleeping with, when anonymous sex is permissable to the extent that it is, children will suffer.

  15. Alchemist says:

    I love reading comments, and commenting. People on here are normally reasonable. I really don’t know what was up with those two people on the “where’s the dad” posts.

    For the underpants thing; I’m with the other commenters. It seems to work best to have especially little girls (2-5) wear shorts under their dresses. A lot of the little skirt sets come with matching pants as part of the outfit. Then when they pull up their dresses or cartwheel or sit with their legs splayed every which way you just correct them in the same tone and manner as you’d say “We don’t pick our nose” or “We eat with our forks, not our fingers”. Kid’s do lots of random inappropriate stuff after all. Princess manners. I love that!

    • Thanks for all your support! I’ve loved your comments the last few months. We think so much alike.

  16. berjiboo says:

    My daughter is 7 and refuses to wear pants- her choice. But she always wears tights/leggings under her dresses and skirts. That is our rule. I just tell her it is modest. I also model wearing tights (exercise shorts or something) when I wear a dress for casual because inevitably I will be bending over or down on the floor with the kids. She is enough of a rule follower that there are no push backs on that (especially since the alternative is wearing pants and that is anathema for her). Now getting my 4 yr old boy to not walk out of his room stark naked and put his clothes on in the living room or kitchen… I don’t know :)

  17. Hi Sheila 😀

    I think the take-away is to go ahead and comment when we agree, and be respectful when we don’t.

    Little girls and dresses… okay, I don’t have girls, but I WAS one and my opinion is that a dress is often more immodest than modest, especially with little girls. Sure, you can put shorts or tights under it (and I would), but why not just let them wear shorts? Climbing trees and riding bikes and doing cartwheels on the lawn aren’t appropriate things to be doing in a dress, and I sure don’t want to tell girls they shouldn’t do those kinds of things.

    As far as the showing her underwear in public… again, put her in some pants or shorts. But regardless of what she’s wearing, I don’t think kids are as prone to shame as our culture would lead us to believe. When our boys were smaller they liked to pee out in the yard. (Hey! Rather than track dirt and mud into the house every time? I’m on board!) We designated a “pee patch” that was out of view because that’s not an appropriate activity for other people to see. They were easily able to grasp our attitude/communication and able to understand the difference between shameful and private, and I think that’s true for girls or boys. (The concept. Not the peeing behind the bush ;D)

    Anyway, glad you had such a fun meet-up!

    julie recently posted…So, Riddle Me This…My Profile

    • Sandy in Los Angeles says:

      I have two daughters and when they were young, they wanted to wear dresses. Always. It is usually not an issue of “why not just let them wear shorts.” There were times I really tried to encourage shorts/pants, but it was definitely not their first choice.

  18. Mrs. Mac says:

    Peeing outside is gross! Especially in a suburban yard and not the Yukon wilderness. Should girls be shown how to pee outside too – and have a specially designated spot in the yard? Modesty is sometimes inconvenient, and so is teaching youngsters how to behave appropriately. Start when they are young!

  19. Hi Sheila,

    I usually don’t comment either. I stumbled upon your site when I was contemplating divorce. Thanks to your wisdom and the great marriage advice here and on other Christian blogs, we were able to save our relationship. I really needed to correct my attitude and my behaviour towards my husband. I learnt so much from you. You have been a real blessing for me. I can never thank you enough.

  20. I love your blog. I comment very infrequently. I don’t comment on Facebook ever. Most often, I don’t want “me” attached to a post, and Facebook wouldn’t work for that. I do read comments and most often think… Oh my gosh that person is crazy/obnoxious/rude…you know…choose your adjective! As for dresses..my daughter who is 8 loves to wear dresses. She has biker shorts to wear under things…just in case. It’s not at all a shaming thing. I do point out things in clothing of young girls walking around that I feel is not appropriate. For example today while we were in the car a lovely teen walked with her boyfriend in a cute summer dress…holding her hands over as much of the bottom as possible. I asked my daughter to tell me what she saw. She replied her dress is cute but that wind will show everyone her butt. Point made. I admit…I dread the tween/teen years for that reason. Keep up the good work. I read your post every day.

    • Thanks for commenting today, Beth! I have a feeling most of my readers are like you, so it is a comfort to know I’m not nuts!

  21. Hi Sheila!
    We teach our little girls 1.5 and 3.5 that their bodies are special. When they do something like lifting their shirt, or if company is coming over and their in their undies we simply tell them “your body is special” , then help them put their short down, or get dressed. . My husband and I treat our bodies as “special” too by making sure we are dressed appropriately or using privacy while changing, and dressing reasonably modest. My 3 year old takes it to heart and wants to be modest her self and I think she ends up feeling loved by it. Which is quite something because she’s quite a challenging child otherwise!
    Also wanted to encourage you, my husband and I have been going through crazy emotional turmoil dealing with my past sins and I must say God has been talking to me through you. In the heat of it, over about a year, every post you made on wifey wedensday matched up to the place I was at or thing I was working on. I ended up ordering the good girls guide and have had incredible healing come out of it. I pass along links to your articles frequently and pass out the book / buy it for anyone who will read it. Thanks for doing what you do!

  22. Sheila, I do not have a FB account, but I truly enjoy your blog. I rarely comment because I figure you are a very busy woman as you stated. Re: the 4 yr old girl and teaching modesty, my thoughts would be “God made certain parts of our body private. That’s why we call them our privates. We keep them private to everyone except one day when we get married. It’s okay for mommy or our husband to see. Our privates are necessary and good”. Something along those lines? As far as panties showing, something like “Our panties are our underclothes. They go UNDER our clothes to not be seen, so we can be lady-like”. Regardless of what society does with underclothes.

    Re: comments, I feel the same, that a lot of the comments you get borderline on the bizarre. Sorry. I rarely read the comments. I would venture to say most of us do not lean toward the extreme. I feel you are fair and balanced in your approach to life, or at least strive hard to be.

    If you venture as far south as Wyoming, please let me know. Would love to see you!

  23. Hi, Sheila! Hope you are doing well. Just writing to let you know that I enjoy reading your emails. When I have time, I do read peoples’ comments, but most of the time I don’t comment, either because I agree with your point of view or because if I had a question, it might have been answered by you in the comment section. So even if I don’t comment that I’m reading your blog, I’m reading your blog. 😉

    Thanks for all your hard work and for taking the time to reply when I do leave a comment! Hmmm, I wonder if you’ll ever come way down south to Texas? Glad to know y’all had a great time, ladies! :)

    God bless!

    • I’d love to come to Texas! Just email me with the contact name of a church that might be interested in hosting and I will BE THERE!

  24. Oh, and I first heard about you when I googled “how to flirt with your husband” a couple days before Valentine’s Day this year. <3

  25. I don’t usually comment either, but I love reading your blog. I’m not married yet, but all the advice, ideas, testimony etc you share has really helped me correct a very skewed vision of dating and marriage. Growing up in a dysfunctional home, I wasn’t even sure it was possible to actually be happily married (outside a romantic Hollywood movie) or how to make that happen. You’ve really given me hope for my future relationships! Also, your blog is a great “here, read this” resource when I’m talking to a newlywed friend with marriage issues (because, clearly, I have no frame of reference to give her advise.) Don’t listen to the troublemakers in the comments, it’s true that people tend to comment when they disagree, but I think they also tend to share/re-tweet/re-pin/link when they agree or appreciate, so that fact that your blog is so success and growing is a good indicator of the people who do one better than leaving a positive comment. Don’t get discouraged! Your blog is a huge blessing and God is using you in many ways!

  26. Linda Kurtz says:

    Here, Here!
    While there are certainly black and white issues that we need to stand firm on, so many of the issues we deal with today are on a continuum. Finding and keeping the BALANCE is the key (IMHO) and the thing that takes so much energy! For example, cold blooded murder is just plain WRONG. However, setting boundaries sets up guidelines to helps keep you safe, and help other people understand what is right and wrong. Its a shame, but not everyone understands the concept of right and wrong.

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