Making Your Child’s Room Special–with Giveaway

Playroom Wall Decal from Evgie.com

I’m a big believer that a child should have a place of his/her own. That doesn’t mean each child needs his or her own room, but I do think they should have space that’s theirs AWAY from parents, even if they share a room.

Parents need time to connect, and we need time to nurture that relationship that is central to the family. That doesn’t mean kids are never allowed in Mommy and Daddy’s room–my kids used to love piling into bed with us in the mornings to “help” wake us up. But I do think there should be that expectation that Mommy and Daddy have their own space. It’s so easy to have motherhood take over your whole identity and your whole life, and yet what those kids really need is for you to love their dad. Kids want to be raised in a family where the marriage is stable and secure and Mommy and Daddy love each other. So keep that bedroom to yourself!

And one of the easiest ways to do that is to make your children’s rooms fun! Create a room where they feel at home, and feel safe. That doesn’t mean you have to spend a ton of money, but you should:

  • Keep it bright with fun paint colours and open windows
  • Keep clutter to a minimum by cutting down on the number of toys and including big toy boxes throughout the room
  • Have a bookshelf with lots of favourite books (kids need books more than gadgets!)
  • Plan regular times for kids to help clean up their rooms (or clean them on their own). Tidy up for five minutes before each meal, and on Saturdays do a bigger clean with the kids helping. If you stay on top of it, the room will always feel cozy!

And here’s something else that’s fun: Use children’s wall decals to create an imaginary getaway. Evgie.com is offering a giveaway for our readers today, and I’m so excited to offer these to you. Honestly, I wish these had been around when my kids were babies because they’re so adorable, and I’m really decorative challenged. I never had any good ideas for their rooms, but this would have made it easy peasy!

Here’s the neat thing about wall decals: you create such a cute theme in a room, but then you can remove them easily when the child grows. It’s not like a paint mural you’d have to spend hours painting over; you just peel and off they come. It’s so easy to transform a room with children’s decals or nursery wall decals!

Take a look at these dinosaur wall decals:

Dinosaur Wall Decals from Evgie.com

$139 with Free Shipping

Or these Monkey Wall Decals for a nursery:

Monkey Wall Decals from Evgie.com

On Sale for $130

Or this Adorable Growth Chart:

Monkey Growth Chart Decal from Evgie.com

$80 from Evgie.com

You can even brighten up other rooms in your house–not just kids’ rooms! I love this idea of a family tree wall decal for your living room:

Family Tree Wall Decal from Evgie.com

$135 from Evgie.com

All Evgie.com wall decals are Non-Toxic, Non-Fading, Repositionable, Self-Adhesive Backing, Top-Quality Matte Vinyl. They include a free test decal so you can play around with it and get used to it before you stick on the big decal. All decals are designed and cut in-house. Elements come separately and can be installed as on the picture or adjusted to your wall height.

And until the end of November you get 25% off with the code TOLOVEHONOR! They’ve set it up just for us!

(That’s even 25% off the cost I’ve quoted below each decal). It’s always hard to buy Christmas presents for a baby or toddler who doesn’t really know what’s going on. I think this would be a great idea–give them a wonderful, imaginative room to grow up in.

Check out Evgie’s selection of children’s wall decals and nursery wall decals! And pin your favourites onto a wish list so that you can choose some with your hubby (or kids if they’re old enough!). Evgie’s on Pinterest, too.

And then enter our giveaway, where you could win $150 towards wall decals of your choice. I’m doing the draw next Friday night! And I know I’ve done a bunch of draws lately and haven’t announced the winners. I’ll do that this Saturday–so tune in on Saturdays to see the winners!

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Dream Together: Developing a Vision for Your Family

Ignite the Fire Christian Marriage Series

Ignite the Fire Christian Marriage Series

It’s time for our Ignite the Fire Marriage blog series, with three bloggy friends! We’re all writing on the same topic today, so you can read this post and then follow the links to see their unique take on how we can ignite the fire in our marriages.

Today we’re talking about vision in marriage: pursuing your dreams together.

In many ways, this post is the closest to my heart of anything I have written ever on this blog, so please listen to me here. It can be summed up like this:

If we do not live intentionally, then we will never, ever live out our values or have the impact we long for. Too many of us let life happen to us, we don’t bother to live it.

LifeHappens

 

Are you familiar with the saying, “without vision a people perish?”

It’s from Proverbs 29:18, but I don’t think God meant that just for the nation of Israel. I think He meant it for marriages and families, too. If we have no clear idea where we are going, then we will never, ever get there.

I have heard people say, “You can tell what someone values just by looking at how they spend their time,” but I don’t think that’s necessarily true. If you look at many men, they spend more time on video games than they do talking to their kids. Does that mean they don’t love their kids? And many women spend more time on Facebook everyday than they do talking to their husbands. Does that mean they like Facebook more?

No, I honestly don’t think it does. I think what happens is LIFE. We love certain things, and we value certain things, but we’re not intentional about actually living those things out. We don’t take the time to figure out how to make those things part of our daily routine. And so, when other things threaten to crowd in, like technology, or screen time, or too many extracurricular activities, we let them. And then we wonder why we feel so unfulfilled, as if something is off, not quite right. It’s because we’re not valuing the things we value! It’s because we’re not living our lives with purpose.

And so today I want to invite you to take a journey with me first, and then with your husband.

Developing a Vision for Your FamilyI want to invite you to dream: to dream about what you want for your family, and what you want for your marriage, and what you want for your home.

And then I’m going to encourage you to share those dreams with your husband, listen to his, but most importantly–figure out practically how to put them into action. I’ve even got some free printables you can download to help in that conversation!

But first let me tell you two stories, of two families that I know. Some details  have been changed to preserve privacy, but both families are quite wealthy. In both cases the parents are totally committed to Christ. Both sets of parents serve in the church. Yet only one family is on solid footing.

The first family, and we’ll call them Sam and Betty, are both family doctors. They could have focused on making a ton of money, but they didn’t. They lived moderately, and the mom worked very part-time when the kids were small. Once the kids were big enough, they started involving them in volunteer activities, even taking them on missions trips occasionally. Whenever the kids would mention a problem or something they found was disturbing, Sam and Betty would always turn it into a challenge: What do you think God is asking you to do about it? Anything? How can you be part of the solution? How can we pray about it?

Their attitude, in everything they did, was, “how can we shine a light here?” They taught their kids to be lights to their neighbours, and living in a really small town, with few good churches or a good youth group, they had to provide that themselves. And they worked hard to do so. Even though the parents could have been the most important people in the town, the ones everybody wanted to know, they became more beacons for those a little down and out, and to many teenagers. Even though they were wealthy, their favourite place to shop was the second hand store. They had oodles of fun trying to come up with new outfits and learning how to live by a budget. Because of that, other teens never thought Sam and Betty’s kids “were too good for me”. They were regular people.

Their kids are grown now; Sam and Betty are empty nesters. And their lives are focusing more on each other as they continue to pray for their kids, who are all out in the world, asking, “how can I shine a light here?”

The second family I’ll call John and Helen. They loved their kids with a fierce love, too. Helen stayed home with them; John worked major hours in the corporate world. Helen made sure the kids always went to church and were always involved. But Helen also wanted the kids to have fun. Everytime there was a party, she’d make sure the kids had new stuff to wear. The kids were involved in all kinds of activities; because John was always at work, Helen found it easier to have the kids be busy, too. And so gradually the kids’ friends came primarily from outside the church. And as those kids entered high school, Helen was often shocked to see what was on their Facebook statuses. But “kids will be kids”, she thought. And so she did nothing about it, and the kids are really drifting.

Both families had more resources than most, yet only one had a firm vision of how they were raising their kids and who they were raising them to be. And because they had that vision, they were able to figure out how to put things into place so that their kids would pick up on the vision, too. And the kids grew up caring deeply about the things the parents also cared deeply about.

I went to a family camp every summer with Betty and Sam, and I will never forget how they would use that week to do their planning for the year, pulling out their calendars, scheduling in all of their conferences and work, and then figuring out what they were going to do with their kids this year, and what they would concentrate on as a family. They spent time praying, visioning, planning together.

If we don’t take time to take stock, plan, and develop a vision for our family, it’s very unlikely that we actually live out our values. Other things will creep in and steal our time.

And what is a vision?

A vision for your family, I believe, is simply a plan of how you will live out your values.

God gives us specific visions about specific things we are to do, certainly. But sometimes I think we wait too much for God, and we don’t bother to work with what He’s already given us. And so today I’d like to give you some tools to turn the values that you and your husband already share into a vision for your marriage and for your family.

Values and Vision for Your Family

Here’s how it works:

I’ve got some printables to download that you can pray through and create an “action plan” to live out your vision.

It’s divided into three sections: Character things (like what God wants to refine in you); The “Feel” of your home (like what vibe you want your home and family to give off); and Calling things (like what role God specifically has for you as a family).

I’d suggest working through this on three different “date nights”, or nights when you set aside time to talk. Stress to your husband that this isn’t about telling him what he is doing wrong; it’s about you both thinking and praying about where your family is heading. He gets input, too!

It helps you figure out what you value–because each family will value slightly different things–and then it encourages you to break these things down into small, manageable steps that you can do to work toward this goal. Betty and Sam, for instance, valued service and generosity. That was their big family value, and they lived it out. Other families may have slightly different values: one may value influencing the political process; one may value music; one may value becoming self-sustaining on a farm. There isn’t a right or a wrong; it’s what you feel called to as a family. But if you both have dreams of being self-sustaining, for instance, but you’ve never learned how to can your own tomatoes and you still order pizza 3 nights a week, you likely have to work at making this dream more of a reality.

I’d encourage you to work through this sheet with your husband. I’ve tried to keep it simple and relatively short, but with enough “meat” that you can talk about the issues.

I truly hope and pray this helps you.

Download the Printable Worksheets Here

Most of us do value good things; we just have little vision of how to put that into practice. I pray that these worksheets help you do just that as you develop a true vision for what God wants to do in your family!

Ignite the Fire Challenge: Make a list with your husband about your future marriage dreams and talk about how you can work towards these dreams together. Then spend time praying over this list together.

My three blogging friends have also written on this today, and you can see what they have to say, too!

Courtney from WomenLivingWell, Darlene from TimeWarpWife.com, and Jennifer from UnveiledWife.com have all written awesome posts on passion! Click on through to see what they have to say.

UW-button Time Warp Wife

 

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Wifey Wednesday: Is Your Internet Addiction Wrecking Your Marriage?

Christian Marriage Advice

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can leave a comment or link up your own marriage post in the linky below! Today I want to get real, ladies, and ask you honestly: Do you have an internet addiction?

I received this letter from a male reader a little while ago:

I love your blog an have been a follower for a couple years. Even have your books!!(Awwww, I love readers like that!)

Anyway, I have a problem. My wife is addicted to the internet! It hurts my feelings every night when instead of putting her head on my pillow and giving us a chance to reflect, pray, plan, etc., she plugs her phone in, turns on her side with her back to me (because “the cord is so short”) and plays a game or gets on Facebook or Pinterest. Most nights I fall asleep without a “good night” or a little kiss or even holding her hand. It really makes me feel neglected and not important.

I know she is tired and has taken care of our kids all day but I work hard all day, too. When I bring it up, she is defensive and it might change for a few days, but then right back. Now the kids are even saying they can’t get her to do anything with them because she is always checking email or pinning something.

Internet Addiction: Don't let it ruin your marriage! Tips on how to get real--and spend time offlineCould your husband have written that?

I’ve talked a lot on this blog about the addictions that our husbands can have–to video games, to porn, to TV. Certainly men can become too entangled in something and never want to spend time with us.

But let’s face it: we can be just as guilty. It’s all too easy to become addicted to Facebook if we’re not careful. And if you’re routinely choosing the computer over your husband, you have a problem.

I really struggle with this because my job is completely tied in to the internet. Pretty much everything I do is online. I’m not actually using the internet to relax. I just always feel like I have to check comments or check my stats or something, and it’s silly. The internet will always be there, yet my family won’t.

Today’s young moms are growing up in a whole new world. When I used to take my kids on outings when they were small, we would talk. In fact, we would talk so much that they often let me have some free time at home. We’d have these special bonding times on outings, when they had my full attention, and it meant that at home they’d play more quietly and I’d feel more at peace.

But so often today I see moms with strollers walking their kids while texting. The babies and toddlers aren’t getting their attention!

And it’s the same with marriage. Couples go out for dinner and they get on their own phones. And often this is primarily one person’s fault. When my husband turns to his phone, I turn to mine, and vice versa. If one of us didn’t start, the other wouldn’t follow. We’re losing out on real, face-to-face communication, when people know that we’re sharing hearts.

So here are some thoughts on cutting down technology use. I don’t think we can eliminate it entirely, nor do I think we should. The internet is my go-to place for recipes, printables, ideas, even phone numbers! It’s how I keep in touch with friends. I want to be plugged in. I just don’t want it to take over my life.

1. Set Technology Free Times

Make sure that everyday, both with your kids and with your husband, you have technology free times. Maybe it’s the two hours after dinner when you do something as a family, like play board games. Maybe you take a walk. But turn those devices off!

This is especially important for kids, too. As much as we may suffer from internet addiction, they’re prone to it even more because they’re growing up with it. Teach them to limit it, and to turn to other things, like books, or they’ll end up unable to have real relationships in the future.

2. Do Not Allow Technology in Your Bedroom–it Feeds an Internet Addiction

This man was saying that at night, when he wanted to cuddle and pray, his wife would be on her phone. I’ve been convicted recently that I need to stop bringing my computer into the bedroom. When my husband’s on call and not home at night, I often do work in bed at night to pass the time. But then that habit continues when he is home. So now I tell myself: I can work in the kitchen and the study, but never in the bedroom, even if Keith’s not home. The computer is not for the bedroom. The bedroom needs to be inviting for us as a couple!

Another tip that has worked for many people is to turn the wifi off at a certain time every night: say 10:00 or 10:30. This helps teens get to bed earlier, and it helps reduce the temptation.

Charging DockIf you get one of those central charging docks for all your devices, like phones and tablets and iPads, then you can all, as a family, put them to rest at night in the living room or kitchen and leave them there. That can even be a family rule! Yes, the kids will complain. Yes, it may be hard for you. But you need your sleep, and using technology before bed hurts the quality of your sleep, and the quality of your marriage.

3. Go to Bed Together

It’s so easy to get carried away with Pinterest or Facebook and suddenly hours have gone by. Instead, consider that time right before you go to sleep as sacred space, when you’re going to connect with your husband, read, pray, even make love! So set a bedtime and stick to it. Then the technology won’t own you–you’ll own the technology.

4. Replace it With Something Else

Do you get antsy if you haven’t checked Facebook in a while? Do your fingers twitch if you haven’t instagrammed something or texted someone? It’s hard to quit something cold turkey, and I’m not saying you should.

When we eat badly, we don’t say that the solution is to never eat. We say that the solution is to find ways to eat the right amount of the right stuff. We just change our eating patterns, and that’s what we have to do with technology, too. It’s not a matter of going completely without, as much as it is about figuring out how to incorporate technology in a healthy way into your life.

And I find that’s easiest if we take a positive spin on it. Instead of saying, “I have to quit the internet!”, we say, “I want to knit more,” or “I want to walk with my husband more,” or “I want to take up a new sport with my hubby.” In other words, do something. It’s harder to surf the internet if you’re actively engaged in something–a hobby, a sport, even a volunteer activity.

So talk to your husband about what you could do instead of technology that will feed your soul, because you don’t want the internet taking over everything!

5. Apologize for Your Internet Use

Finally, if you’ve suffered from internet addiction, and you’ve hurt your husband and kids, you need to get real with them. Apologize. Admit where you’ve been wrong. Ask for help. Tell them that they’re allowed to hold you accountable. Say to the kids, “I want to stay off of Facebook from 7-9 every night, and if you see me checking my phone, you have permission to call me on it.”

And give your husband a heart-felt apology, too. The man who wrote this letter feels so neglected and so sad. No guy deserves that. If you’ve hurt your man, don’t tell him, “I’m sorry, it’s just that I’m so stressed with the kids that I needed to unwind.” Just say, “I’m sorry I hurt you and neglected you.” No excuses. No explanations. You were wrong, and admit it. And then tell him you want to move forward, and build a much more intimate marriage–one that is better for both of you!

6. Apologize to God

And here’s a big one: I think we need to apologize to God.

Think about what we pray when we say the Lord’s prayer:

They kingdom come, they will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

That doesn’t just mean, “God, I’m going to sit back and wait for your to do Your will.” That means that we need to be active participants, allowing God to use us to bring His kingdom to earth, to bring His will here.

And how can He use us if we’re wasting so much time?

I do not believe that there is anything inherently sinful about Pinterest, or Facebook, or surfing the web. The internet is not sinful. But when it has such a hold on us that we start neglecting the things that God wants to do in our lives, and neglecting the people around us, that’s a problem. And we need to own up to God about it.

There’s another benefit to this: addictions are very hard to break. You can’t do it in your own strength. But God can help you fill that compulsion with something else. And the way that He starts working is when you are humble before Him and admit, “I messed up.” So confess before God, and ask Him to give you His strength to put first things first, and to help do His will. That way you’ll be operating in His strength, and not just your own!

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Link up the URL of a marriage post in the linky below! And be sure to grab the Wifey Wednesday code and share it on your site, so that other people can come back here and read these awesome marriage posts!


The Unwired Mom--Beat Internet Addiction

Want more inspiration and help to beat an internet addiction? Sarah Mae has a great book out called The Unwired Mom, which helps us make sure we’re still giving our families the attention and love they’re due!



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Wifey Wednesday: Sex and Family Vacations

Christian Marriage Advice

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage (although I talk about it most days around here!) I introduce a topic, and then you all can link up your own marriage posts in the linky below (it’s a great way to get blog traffic if you write a blog!)

Today I want to tackle a seasonal issue: what about sex on vacations? I received a letter from a woman on Facebook recently which said that the whole thing stressed her out completely, because she was tired, and exhausted, but felt like her husband expected a ton of sex because they were “on vacation”. I understand the feeling.

Let me explain a little about what’s going on in my life. About three months ago I had to do a total overhaul of almost all of my online activities. I’ve been putting in 12 hour days during the summer moving stuff around, and optimizing SEO, and a whole lot of other stuff that goes on behind the scenes. And everyday there’s a new technical glitch I have to deal with, which is also equally exhausting.

And at the same time my oldest daughter is in process of moving out, so I’ve been helping her with that (obviously I want to be there for such an important thing!) My youngest daughter was preparing for a huge competition she had last week, and needed help with practicing. So obviously I had to help with that. And dinner still needed to be made, and laundry still needed to be done, and I was just exhausted.

So when we did take a week off to get out and go camping last month, I spent the first few days collapsing. I was just so tired. And getting ready to go on vacation is always stressful to me, because I feel like I have to clean the whole house before I can leave (here’s a really funny column I wrote about just that phenomenon! See if you can relate).

Last week, when we were away, I was going to bed at 9:00 every night just because I was so tired. We were in Pennsylvania, with an 8-hour drive home, and I slept almost the entire way, even though I had had 9 1/2 hours of sleep every night that week. I just had so much catching up to do.

That happens to a lot of us on vacations. We’re finally able to relax, and our bodies just shut down.

That’s why I don’t think family vacations should really be thought of as “sexcapades”, so to speak. In general, they aren’t times to get away and have a spectacular sexual experience, for several reasons.

Family Vacations and Marriage: Is romance hard on vacation?

Realize that vacations are often times to decompress

When life is busy–and sometimes unavoidably busy–we force ourselves to keep going. Vacations are the times when we can finally let go and get some sleep.

You’ve got kids with you!

We spent most of our vacations when the children were small in tent trailers, traveling around Canada. It was great fun, but the children are right there with you. And you know what happens to trailers when you try to–you know? They move.

2001CampingTrailer

Friends of ours who often traveled with us were in stitches one morning. I asked what was so funny, and my friend explained, “last night we were having fun when our 6-year-old gets out of bed and yells at the top of his voice, “Will you please stop rocking the trailer!”

Yep. Tent trailers and sex are difficult.

But hotel rooms can be worse. You’re in two double beds, and the kids are only about 6 feet away from you. Not exactly romantic.

And as bad as it is when kids are little, it’s way worse when they’re older and actually know what’s going on.

That’s why my husband and I have just realized that family vacations are for just that–family. They’re not really couple time. Sure, you can take advantage of times when the kids are off doing something else (if they’re old enough to go somewhere by themselves), and quickies can be fun (and funny!), but in general, a family vacation is a time to concentrate on your kids, not the sexual side of your marriage. And I honestly think that’s okay.

Take Couple Vacations

That’s why my husband and I take specific couple vacations throughout the year–sometimes we go on camping trips just us to keep the cost down, or if he’s going on a conference I’ll go with him. We’ll take an occasional night or two away in a hotel, too. And the nice thing is I can plan the timing of that so that it doesn’t fall during the time of the month that wouldn’t really work for a “sexcapade” anyway.

Stress Sex at Home

Honestly, my favourite place to be intimate is at home anyway. I’m far less stressed, because I’m used to the place. I didn’t have to go to a ton of extra work to get ready to head out the door. It’s easy. It’s fun. It’s natural.

So if you’re having regular sex at home, and you get away for occasional times, just the two of you, I think it’s honestly okay if a family vacation doesn’t end up being a great time sexually for you. The 31 Days to Great Sex is probably not a good one to begin when you’re camping!

Your marriage isn’t just about one night, or one vacation, or one week. It’s about the sum total of your relationship. And at different times you’ll concentrate on different aspects of your relationship. Sometimes you’ll focus more on the sexual side, and sometimes you’ll focus more on the parenting side. As long as you talk about this, and agree with it, I think that’s perfectly healthy.

Besides, vacations are stressful enough. Don’t make yourself think you’re a failure if you couldn’t figure out how to try new positions while the toddlers are sleeping three feet away from you in a tent. Let what happens, happen, and let yourself relax a bit. That’s what vacations are for!

What about you? Have any advice for us today? Link up the URL of a marriage post in the linky below. And be sure to link back here so that other people can find great marriage advice, too.

And if you have any tips for family vacations, leave them in the comments!

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Just DO Something as a Couple

Going to See Paul Brandt

Last night my husband and I and my in-laws went to Paul Brandt’s Just As I Am concert. It was awesome.

For those of you who don’t know Brandt, he’s a country music singer. You’d recognize some of his songs, like Convoy or Home (my personal favourite).

What many people don’t know, though, is that Paul is also a very committed Christian. So he’s got this new album out called Just As I Am where he does his own version of old gospel hits, like I’ll Fly Away and What a Friend We Have in Jesus and How Great Thou Art. He even gives a gospel invitation. And all of the proceeds from the tour are going to help an orphanage he supports in Haiti. Really great guy.

He’s got an awesome band, and the sound was amazing. I even sat through It Is Well With My Soul, which is quite a feat for me. We played that at my son’s funeral, and for the last seventeen years, whenever that song has come on at church I’ve excused myself to go to the bathroom. It’s not that I don’t agree with the words; I just don’t particularly feel like getting emotional.

But it would have been awkward to leave last night, so I sat through it, and I did okay. I even managed to sing along a bit.

Now we live in a small town, so an event like a Paul Brandt gospel concert is a big deal. It was held in the largest church which probably seats about 1800 maybe? And before the concert I just walked around saying hi to people. It was like homecoming! Everywhere you looked was someone you knew.

Here’s the thing, though:

Earlier in the day I didn’t really want to go.

I get in this groove where I like being online. I have things to do, projects to finish, emails to answer. And when I’m finished that, I sometimes just want to veg.

I think many of us are like that. I remember one teenager that I knew well who used to go to youth group and made quite a few friends there. Every time he went he had a great time. But he stopped going because it was a hassle. He liked staying home and just playing video games. And he more or less secluded himself because it was easier. He became more and more unhappy, but his life was easier.

Getting out and doing something takes effort.

It’s so much easier to flip on the TV, or surf the web, or read a book. But those things rarely feed your soul. I’ll admit a good book is a necessity sometimes, but real memories that are shared are based in shared activities. The easy route may seem preferable, but usually leads to a mediocre life. The harder route usually brings more happiness.

I will remember that concert for years; I would not have remembered the evening if we had sat at home and watched a show and knitted a bit and answered some emails.

My husband and I shared something fun (which we shared with my in-laws, too!).

When my mother turned 70 on Monday, and I was getting ready to throw her a party, one of my biggest problems was the guest list. She simply knows so many people, and knows them well. She has a ton of friends from all different walks of life.

I talked to her about it a little while ago, and she says the reason is because she makes it a point of seeing two different people every week (and sometimes more). No matter how busy she gets, she makes it a point of seeing two friends. She’s been single for a while, and she knows she needs a wide social circle. So she makes the effort.

And her life is so much richer for it.

It got me thinking about marriage. My mom’s life is richer because she makes the effort. Yes, it would be easier to sit at home and knit (she loves knitting, too!). But it would not be as fulfilling. Her life would not be as rich. So she fights against what’s easy and she does what is actually fun.

Do we do that in our relationships?

All the problems people have in their marriages–from low libidos to a husband not helping around the house to needing forgiveness–could be solved so much more easily if people simply DID things together.

When you spend time together, doing something (like not in front of a screen), you build memories.

You build goodwill. You laugh together. And that makes it so much easier to solve the problems we do have. First, because those problems diminish in importance. And second, because with the added goodwill, it’s easier to talk about things.

So let me ask you: are you settling for the easy, or are you actually DOING things together? And what could you do? The weekend’s coming, so dream a bit. Let’s do something to build a memory and to laugh a bit. Your marriage–and your life–will be richer for it.

Successful Couples Do Things Together

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5 Ways to Help Your Husband Be More Involved with the Kids

5 Ways to Foster a Relationship Between Your Husband and Your Babies

Do you worry that your husband won’t bond with the baby? Does your husband seem to ignore the kids? It’s a common complaint.

Here’s the scenario: He works outside the home all day. You’re home with the kids (including, let’s say, a baby or two). When he gets home, he thinks that his job is now done. He lies on the couch and watches TV, or gets on the computer, and feels like it’s her job to put the babies in bed, make dinner, and care for the children.

That’s the scenario I presented in the Reader Question of the Week on Saturday, and quite a few people took a stab at it (interesting discussion; you can follow it here).

I’m a little concerned, though, that some people’s attitude was this:

He works hard all day. He really is exhausted. You’ve split the labor and decided you’ll do the childcare; now live with it.

I understand that sometimes we have to say that in regards to housework. Sure, we’d like him to help out more around the house, but if he won’t, the best thing to do is to get more organized yourself and figure out ways to make the housework easier on you, even if he never pitches in. In fact, I wrote a whole book about that (To Love, Honor and Vacuum: When you feel more like a maid than a wife and a mother).

I know you can’t change your husband, and I do think that sometimes you have to let things go.

However, I’m very uneasy with people’s rush to that conclusion in this case, for one simple reason: A baby is not housework. A baby is a person who needs two parents. It is not right for the mother to do all of the childcare and for the father to have very little interaction with the kids, because this is not good for the father or for the children. This is not just a matter of her workload, although that is definitely a consideration. More than anything, I believe, this is about the health of the family.

It is not right if both parents work outside the home; but it is also not right even if the mom is home full time. A child is not a task to be checked off a list during the day; a child is someone who needs a relationship with his or her parents–both of them. I get women emailing me, saying: “My husband thinks if he’s takes the kids he’s “baby-sitting”, like he’s doing me a favor. He forgets they’re his kids, too!” That is not a good dynamic in the family, and if that is your dynamic, I encourage you to do something to change it.

So with that in mind, I thought I would tackle the topic of how to help your husband develop a relationship with your children. I don’t have 5 ways to “make” him, but I do have 5 ways to change the dynamic so that he is more likely to be involved:

1. Allow Him to Set the Tone and Have a Say

When a baby is born we women become different people. Our focus changes. Our hearts change. Even our hormones change! And because we have such a strong bond from the very beginning, especially if we are breastfeeding, it’s easy to give the impression “I know what I’m doing and you don’t, so let me show you the right way to do everything.”

When my oldest daughter was born I hugged her close, and held her gently, and sang to her. My husband picked up this newborn baby and started bouncing her vigorously. My heart rate went up. I wanted to grab my baby from him and tell him he was hurting her.

There was only one problem: he was a pediatrician. He knew more about baby wellness than I did. And so I bit my tongue. And sure enough, the first time Becca ever smiled or giggled was when Keith was bouncing her. He knew what he was doing.

Had he not been a pediatrician, I likely would have told him to stop.

We need to resist the temptation to say, “I have the right to call the shots with how we raise the babies.” Don’t squeeze your husband out.  If you want them sleeping in your bed but he doesn’t, listen to him. If he wants to implement an earlier bedtime so you can have some couple time, listen to him. If he wants to get the kids on a schedule (or if he doesn’t want the kids on as much of a schedule), discuss it. Do you want him involved with the kids or don’t you?

If your babies are no longer babies, but are toddlers or even older, this still applies. Talk to him about what he wants your family life to be like. If he’s withdrawing, say to him, “what do you envision for our family? How would you like to organize the kids and the parenting?” Have that conversation! Honor him, and you’ll find his relationship with the kids is much better.

2. Allow Him Room in the Baby Days

Many men have trouble bonding with the baby because there’s very little for them to do. The mom feeds them; all the dad can do is rock them or change a diaper. Thus, many men find babies intimidating. If that’s the case, give him grace. In many families the husband really steps up to the plate around the time baby #2 arrives, and baby #1 is now a toddler and can actually talk and do things. Don’t start berating him for being a bad dad in the baby’s early days; involve him, but understand that the early days often are mom’s time.

3. Ask Him to Do Specific Tasks

Now it’s time to understand some basic differences between men and women:

Women’s basic motivator is relationship. Men’s basic motivator is competence and accomplishment.

It’s like the Men are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti thing: for women, everything has to do with everything else. If we have kids, and we’re working, or we’re at church, we’re still thinking about those kids and how all of this relates to those kids. A guy, on the other hand, is going to tend to ask, “what am I supposed to do next?” He wants to focus on one thing. That doesn’t mean that women can’t operate on tasks; many of us want to get more organized, and making lists can help (here’s a great resource for that). But on the whole, most of us think in terms of “looking after the kids”, not in terms of “getting a whole bunch of things done”.

So for us, if a friend says, “can you take the baby for me for a few hours while I run to a doctor’s appointment?”, we know what that involves. To a guy, on the other hand, if you say, “can you take the baby for me for a few hours”, he doesn’t really know what that means. I don’t mean that guys are idiots, either; I just mean that’s not how they operate. They operate in terms of tasks; if there is no task before him, then it’s okay if he sits on a couch or gets on the computer. And “a baby” is not a task. We incorporate the baby into our lives, but he doesn’t in the same way. He’s not wrong; he’s just wired differently.

And so I think many of us approach our husbands in the wrong way when we need help. We expect him to know what “take the baby” means, and to be able to do it well, maybe while still getting some housework done (that’s what we do, after all). He has trouble visualizing what it means.

If you were to say, on the hand, “would you mind reading Amy three board books while I make dinner?”, he can do that. If you were to say, “Would you mind taking  Johnny to the hardware store with you on your errands so that I can get some vacuuming done,” he can do that. If you were to say, “Would you mind giving Becky her bath while I clean up the kitchen,” he can do that. Those are tasks.

In fact, it will be easier for your husband to jump in if your day is not just “carrying baby around while I try to get everything done”, but is instead divided into tasks. We read to the baby from 4-4:30. We have a bath at 7:00 and read at 7:15 and bed at 7:30. We have snack at 10:30. Etc. Etc.

If you want him to “take the baby” at other times, make it easier for him to do. Get a baby carrier so he can walk around with the baby. Stick to a schedule so he knows what to expect. Have lots of things on hand to do with the baby or the toddler.

It may also be a good idea to give him one specific task that he owns. Perhaps he always gives the kids their bath every night. That way he has  some special time with them and they can bond. Be aware that if you start this the baby may resist. Babies often play favorites, and mommy is often the favorite. Push past it. Do it with your husband for a time, and slowly ease out. Give the baby the time to adjust. But don’t give in, saying, “oh, well, I don’t think this will work.” After a week or so babies often change their preferences anyway. Wait it out.

5 Ways to Help Your Husband Have a Relationship with the Babies

Other dads enjoy more active things. My daughters both teach swimming lessons at the Y, and my oldest daughter’s favorite class is the parent & tot class. She sings songs and they do actions and lots of fun in the water. And over half the parents are dads. Perhaps your husband could have a specific activity he does with the baby every week–like swimming or gymnastics–to help give him some dad & baby time, and to free up some time for you.

Having him “own” an activity, rather than expecting him to just “help with the baby”, is often easier for him to get his head around.

4. Stress Family Activities

If your husband is unwilling to do even that, don’t give up. Remember: your kids need their dad. Often dads get closer to kids the older the kids grow, but you can start being part of the solution rather than the problem when they’re young. How about just planning more family activities? Instead of getting on your computers at night, start taking walks as a family after dinner every night. Get a gym membership and go swimming together. Go camping as a family in the summer. Encourage activities where you are all together. Time with dad will happen then, and the more relaxed down time he has with the kids, the better his relationship with them will be.

5. Keep Your Husband as Your Main Relationship Priority

Finally, let’s not forget that one of the best ways you can help your husband bond with the kids is to make sure you are also bonding with your husband. When babies first come, men often get jealous. Mom bonds with baby and forgets about dad. We may think that’s immature–the baby needs us now! Stop focusing on yourself! But actually I think he has the proper perspective. What children need, more than anything, is for their parents to have a stable, close relationship. When the marriage is strong, the children will thrive. When the marriage is at risk, children sense it. So never, ever sacrifice your relationship with your husband for the sake of the kids. There are seasons where the kids must come first (I have two readers right now who are in hospital in another state with their children undergoing medical treatment. They’re separated from their husbands for months on end. Please pray for them). But these seasons are rare. On the whole, your marriage comes before the kids.

If you institute a strict bedtime with kids so you have time with your hubby, and keep your sex life active, your hubby will feel more a part of the family. If you don’t, he may retreat. Is that right? No. He should fight through it anyway. But it is human nature. He will tend to go to places where he is appreciated and affirmed.

It’s really quite simple: if you want your husband to spend more time with the kids, make sure that you are also spending more time with him. Prioritize sex. Prioritize getting the kids on a schedule so you do have some alone time. Consider his feelings. And you may find that he becomes a more active dad!

Let me know your thoughts: how have you encouraged a relationship between your husband and your young kids? Is there a particular area your husband has taken over? Let me know in the comments!

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Evgie Wall Decals Giveaway

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Monkeys!

Today I’m got a special treat for you! I know so many of you have little ones at home, and I’ve got a chance for you to win $60 towards redoing your child’s room in these gorgeous designs.

Evgie and Ev from Evgie.com are real gals with passion and expertise in digital illustration, interior decoration and wall decals design. And they’ve created a whole collection of wall decals that you can put on your walls–and easily remove again–without messing up the paint. No more painting murals that you’re stuck with forever. Now you can decorate your child’s room as they like it, just for today.

Today they are giving away a $60 coupon to one of YOU!  Here’s what you need to do:

1) Go to Evgie.com and find your favorite products.  (Like Outer Space Wall decals, for instance)

2) Share them on facebook, twitter and/or pinterest.

3) THEN, come back and leave a comment, saying which product you liked!

That’s all!

Fairy

20% Off in February for all packages (even overseas) Free shipping if it is over $150. Every package has freebies.

zebra_zoo

Monkeys, Zebras, Lions, Oh, my!

A few words About Evgie & Ev:

They write:

“Each of us liked drawing very much since childhood, so much so that it became our profession. With vinyl wall decals being the latest trend in home decor it was the perfect field to dive into. The warm response to our illustrations and design work eventually allowed us to set up a wall decal studio. Our constant personal engagement with the home and interior décor field led us to this venture.

Decals are easy to apply, easy to remove, easy to tailor to a specific wall or surface – we offer handmade large and small vinyl wall stickers with our designs and ideas for kids’ and grown-up’s rooms.

Elephants

Elephants and Monkeys!

We start with an idea, a pencil and blank paper and then render our designs digitally for vinyl cutting. We view walls as backgrounds for living. We have started this decal studio in 2010 and pretty soon it became our full time job and engagement. It is a pleasure to get your feedback and one of the most enjoyable things is to see our decals on your wall or that of your toddler, in your nursery or living room. We also know that it is really fun to put our wall decals design on the wall, even if it take some time and a very little skill, this itself makes this product so attractive. If you decide to go with the whole wall decals theme you won’t regret it. It changes your walls, your space and places your little one in a world surrounded by a jungle or safari, forest or just friendly animals.”

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Outer Space

And they don’t just have nursery wall decals. They have lots more–including wall decals for grown ups! (I think this one is stunning). Head on over, look around, tweet or pin one that you like, and then come back here and tell us about it! And one person will win $60 towards their order. I’ll do the draw Saturday, February 23 at 11:59 p.m. (or thereabouts :) ). One comment will win.

Remember, it’s 20% off in the month of February. So check it out, pin or Facebook the one you like, and come back here and tell me what you did (and what one you liked!).  Happy hunting!

UPDATE: Remember to tell me where you shared it for your chance to win!

Reader Question of the Week: Family Time

'Questions?' photo (c) 2008, Valerie Everett - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/Every weekend I like to post a question someone sends in and let you readers have a go at it. This week’s question comes from a woman asking for your input in her family time situation:

I work full-time now and my husband stays home with the kids. When I get home, he immediately wants to head out to spend time with his buddies. He’s tired of being around the kids all day. So he’s out almost every night. I think that we should be a family and do family things. What do I do to get him to understand this?

What do you think? How can she communicate this?

Two Player Games to Play with Your Husband

2 Player Games to Play with Your HusbandAt To Love, Honor and Vacuum, we’re all about building marriages!

And this week we’ve been looking at the problems many couples run into because husbands play video games, or you both turn to other screens, out of habit, instead of doing things together.

So I thought I would write a post on games you can play with your spouse that need only two players!

In the evening, instead of turning to a screen, break out a game. I’m only including ones that require no technology, because I find that when you play a game away from a screen, you also tend to talk more, and thus build your relationship more.

Let’s start with classic games, and then we’ll move to new board games you can play as a couple:

Classic Two-Player Board Games

1. Puzzles – $10-$20

They’re actually quite fun! And you can talk while you do them. In fact, we just bought a coffee table just for this purpose. The top of the coffee table is on a mechanism that raises it when you want to do the puzzle, and lowers it when you’re finished.

So you can keep a big puzzle going for a few weeks until you’re finished!

'jenga!' photo (c) 2005, sookie - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/2. Jenga

I love this game! Yes, it’s loud, so it may not be ideal if you’re trying to get school aged kids to sleep. But it can be fun. Who is going to knock it over?

Basically it’s a tower with three blocks per level, with each level rotating 90 degrees. On each turn you have to remove a block from the lower levels and deposit it at the top, creating a higher and higher tower until gravity eventually takes its toll. I like it.

3. Scrabble – $15.50

Remember those episodes of Family Ties where Alex and his dad would play Scrabble til the death, staying up until 3:00 in the morning? My in-laws are like that. Growing up in rural areas they played a ton of Scrabble , and it’s still fun!


4. Yahtzee – $9.99

The famous dice game. You just roll dice and get points for your combinations. If you roll them on a tea towel it’s not that loud, so you can play even when kids are asleep.

5. Dominoes

A classic game available in all kinds of versions! Play the double 9s (or even double 12s) for added challenge. I always loved Dominoes as a kid! And my mother, who hates competitive games, claims that Dominoes is the only one she can play without breaking out into a cold sweat. So it’s a good one when there’s an ultra-competitive spouse and a not-so-competitive spouse. This one doesn’t hurt as many feelings.

6. Backgammon, Chess, Checkers

They’re the old staples for a reason: they’re fun. That’s why they’ve lasted for generations! And it’s really easy to find sets with all three games in it.

7. Boggle – $16.13

I’m dangerous to play Boggle with because I’m just so good. :) Really. I haven’t had anyone beat me since my Uncle Steve when I was 9. But it’s a fun one, if a loud one (especially if the kids are trying to sleep).

8. Cribbage – $9.99

The best 2-player card game around!


9. Rummikub – $13.29

Like rummy? Here’s a great tile version that’s super fun and doesn’t require much brain power. Fun to do on nights when you want to just relax together.

And now for some newer two-player games that you may not be as familiar with:

10. Blokus for two – $24.95

This is one of my favourites! It only takes about 10-12 minutes, but you have tiles of all different shapes, and you have to put them down in a specific way. The first one to get rid of all their tiles (or to get rid of most before you’re both out of possible moves) wins.

We play it as a family (we have a 4-person version), but there’s also this two person version, and I really enjoy it. It’s not for the spatially challenged, mind you, unless you want to increase your spatial skills!

'DSC03998' photo (c) 2008, John Herschell - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/11. Carcassone - $22.99

One of my favourite party games, can be played with up to 6 people, but works fine with 2. It takes about half an hour. Basically you each select a tile on each turn that you place, creating a medieval city with roads and monasteries and farms. It’s hard to explain on a blog, but easy once you see it. I like it when we have people over because it doesn’t take long to explain. And because you create the terrain each time you play, it’s different every time, too! It also has lots of expansions you can buy to turn it into a different, and more complicated, game if you want.

12. Five Crowns – $15.39

I love all the card games put out by SET, and this one’s awesome! You can play with two players, but it also works well letting the kids join in. It’s a strategy game that isn’t hard to learn, but it’s hard to stop playing once you start.

'20081112-Dominion-6' photo (c) 2008, Chris Brooks - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/13. Dominion – $31.21

Here’s a fun game that changes every time you play! The game comes with dozens of different cards, each with different actions and results. But each game you choose only 10 cards, so the flavour of the game is always changing. This can be played with multiple players, too, but it also works with just two. It’s one of our new favourites, and it has several expansions to change the nature of the game as well.

14. Ticket to Ride – $34.50

Your task is to build a railway connecting two cities. The hardest part? Choosing which routes to keep, and which to turn in. And then getting yours done before your spouse gets his completed! The original Ticket to Ride is North American based, but the expansions are for Europe, India, and Africa. Again, a game that can be played with many more players, but still works with just two. This is another of our big party games for when we have other people over.


15. Forbidden Island – $15.65

This card game has tons of strategy, but the nice thing is it only takes 30 minutes. You can learn it quickly, but there’s a ton of different scenarios you can play. And it was voted Mensa Favourite Game in 2010! So you can tell your hubby that if you guys play it it means you’re super smart.

16. Pandemic – $29.55

A pandemic has broken out–and it’s your job to prevent it from spreading! This is a really engrossing, challenging game for couples who want something to sink their teeth into. You can play with 2-4 players, and each of you plays one specialist who can help defeat the disease. You have to find the four possible cures before the game is over.


And here’s the real bonus: it’s a COOPERATIVE game, not a COMPETITIVE game. So if either of you is a sore loser, choose this one! You have a goal and you work towards it together.

Chances are you already have at least some of these games in your games cupboard.

So here’s my challenge to you: why not pick one night of the week (or more, if you’re up to it) which is a “games night” for you and your hubby? Games nights are great for families in general, but they can also be fun just for you as a couple. And the more you play together, the more you laugh together and the more you build relationships. It’s hard to do that in front of a screen. So go for it! Pick a game or two, and start a new tradition.

What games do you enjoy? Let me know in the comments!

This post contains affiliate links.

Important But Not Urgent

ImportantNotUrgentEvery Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario and Saskatchewan. Here’s my New Year’s one, talking about one of Steven Covey’s principles in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

My favourite time of year is the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Everything shuts down, and our family cocoons together. Before Christmas is a huge rush, but after Christmas we lounge around, sleep in, and, my absolute favourite—play board games together.

It’s become a family tradition. Every year sees a new game under the Christmas tree, and then that game gets played, along with an assortment of other ones, over the next week or so. Sometimes friends join us, and sometimes it’s just the four of us, but it’s always a ton of fun.

What I will never understand, though, is why we don’t continue that fun into the year. We all love the games. We laugh, and create family memories, and make fun of certain family members who always get lucky—or never do. Yet once “real life” starts new, the games get stashed away into the cupboard, often to remain there for another year. Why?

About sixteen years ago I read a book that changed my life: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. One of the most important insights that he had was the idea of dividing everything we do into four categories, based on whether those things were important and urgent. So you could have urgent but not important (the phone’s ringing, and it’s a telemarketer), or you could have important but not urgent (spending time doing nothing with your teenage son). Then there are the “fires” in your life, those things that are both important and urgent, like dealing with a child’s suspension from school, or dealing with a spouse who just revealed they’re having an affair, or handling a family funeral.

Some fires can’t be avoided—the funeral, for instance—but others could likely have been prevented. And the way to prevent them is to spend more time doing things that are important but not urgent: those things that feed your soul and that feed your relationships. Read to your children. Start a hobby with your spouse. Talk to God. The more we centre ourselves, finding spiritual peace, and build into relationships, the fewer crises we will have in our lives.

But there’s a problem with these important but not urgent things, and it’s in the very definition of them: they aren’t urgent. There isn’t anyone forcing you to do them. And it’s so easy for the urgent-but-not-important things, like checking your Facebook notifications, or replying to tweets, or checking your texts, to get in the way of the important things—the people standing right in front of us.

The key thread throughout Covey’s book, in all seven habits, is the idea of intentionality. Nothing will get done just because we value it, or because we dream of it, or because we make Pinterest boards of it. It only gets done because we do it. After reading that book I did quit TV, but despite that as my teenagers have grown I’ve found it a challenge to prioritize those family times.

Why don’t we play family games during the year as much? Because nothing is forcing us to do it. And so when work and school schedules get busy, when friends want to talk on Facebook, when I have one more article to write, we tend to retreat to our own little worlds. And so often those, “I just need twenty minutes to finish this,” become two hours, and the night has evaporated.

7 HabitsThat’s not who I want to be. I want to be the Sheila that lives from Christmas to New Year’s, hanging out in fuzzy pyjamas with cups of hot chocolate and board games on the table. This year, I hope, I will be intentional enough not to neglect the important in favour of the urgent.

Check out Steven Covey’s the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People!