Teaching Kids to Cook: Spending Quality Time while Teaching Life Skills

Teaching Kids to Cook Spending Quality Time while Teaching Life SkillsI’m a big believer in teaching life skills to kids. I think too many moms do too much for their kids, which ultimately does them a disservice. When they move out they don’t know how to fend for themselves, but they also grow up feeling a little entitled, since little is expected of them.

When Jillian St. Clair asked if she could sponsor this post to share about her new resource, My Very Own Cookbook, I agreed, because cooking alongside my girls has been one of my most fun memories of their childhood!

I grew up with three sisters and a brother. The kitchen in our home was not very big, so not surprisingly we were not allowed to do much in it. When I got married I was not confident with my cooking skills even though I majored in Home Economics in high school.


My mother, aunt and grandmother cooked many delicious meals that I don’t know how to prepare. I don’t want the next generation to follow in my footsteps, so I’ve created My Very Own Cookbook for parents to share time with their children teaching them how to cook. It’s also a wonderful record of time shared with loving relatives who will help them become capable, self-confident adults.

There are many “grown-ups” who have no experience in preparing nutritious, healthy meals for themselves or their families.

Together, parents and young children can create memories of learning useful, cooking and management skills. Perhaps you were given many gifts/presents as a child but lack the training and confidence to care for a home, keep up with the laundry, and prepare delicious, healthy dishes or even how to set a table.

If You Didn’t Learn These Skills, It’s Not Your Fault!

None of these skills come naturally to any of us. We must count on others to help us learn them and this learning can begin as early as 4-years old.  My grandchildren are 10, 8 and 4. When we’ve enjoyed family vacations, we’ve prepared recipes together. Sadly, many children don’t get to spend much time with their parents. This is something they especially crave when they are young. Time passes quickly; if we’re not careful, we may miss the chance to make an important impact in our children’s lives.

When we don’t cook from scratch, too, we tend to eat out more. Not only is that far less nutritious and far more expensive, but it also means that you lose the potential to really bond as a family the way families used to do around the dining room table.

Beware of Technology Undermining the Dinner Hour

Often when we’ve eaten in a fast food restaurant I see parents texting instead of sharing conversations with their children. My concern is that this pattern will go too far and when these children are pre-teens or teenagers, they will no longer want to spend much time talking with or listening to their parents. Cooking and eating together creates opportunities to share important daily events in our lives. Studies show children who share meals with their parents make better decisions and earn higher grades.

As parents, it’s our responsibility to expose our kids to everything we can that will help them succeed in all aspects of their lives. Good manners, respect for others, kindness, acceptance and patience are learned behaviors. Who else is best to teach these than the parents who love them?  Setting up this kind of relationship early will benefit both the children and their parents. Knowing your children can care for themselves is a huge blessing!

The Best Gift of All from Teaching Kids to Cook: Quality Time With Your Kids

Research shows that working parents spend only 19 minutes a day of quality time caring for their kids. Perhaps you have heard this scripture verse before:

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6.

The Food Network has featured many young children taking an interest in preparing recipes and even full meals. This early training will be very valuable to them as they mature into adulthood.

My daughters were 7 and 10 when I became a single mom. I was a stay at home mom until that time and when going back to work, the girls pitched in and helped take care of the laundry, their rooms and the home we lived in. Today, they have careers and homes of their own. Thankfully, they spend a great deal more than 19 minutes a day with their children.

As parents, we can help our children become adults by teaching them many things they’ll need to know so they can care for themselves when they leave home. Most parents with grown children remember and cherish the special times they’ve spent with their children. Teaching children how to be independent and self-sufficient is a precious gift.

My Very Own Cookbook is a blank recipe journal encouraging children to share time with their parents and other loved ones. Filling in the details of a recipe being prepared with help from loved ones will be a cherished gift and record of special times spent together with loved ones and a timeless record for their future children to enjoy.

Want to start teaching your children to cook? Download Jillian’s FREE ebook: 15 Recipes You Can Make with Your Kids–and get started today!

10 Ways to Help Your Husband Stay Healthy

Help Your Husband Lose Weight

Today’s guest post is from personal trainer Jenni Kenyon.

Getting fit and staying healthy are often pushed to the wayside when life gets busy. It’s not unheard of for newlyweds to put on a few pounds or for couples to gain weight as they have kids and grow older. However, there’s no getting around the fact that maintaining a healthy weight is critical when it comes to preventing health issues later in life.

Top Ten TuesdayAlthough we don’t love our husbands for their bodies, there’s no shame in admitting that it’s nice when they take care of them. I’m sure that they would say the same about us wives! So here are ten tips to help motivate your significant other to start getting fit.

Remember our Top 10 Tuesday philosophy: We throw out a bunch of ideas, and from that smorgasbord you choose 1-3 to actually DO. Don’t try to do all at once; it won’t work. Pick the 1-3 ideas that resonate the most with you, and decide to embrace them wholeheartedly this week!

 1. Pray for him

 Obviously, Jesus can do much more to motivate your husband than you can. The power of prayer is much stronger than anything you can ever do or say.

 Pray that your husband will realize the importance of taking care of himself, that by staying fit he’ll be able to better care for his family and serve God’s kingdom. Intrinsic motivation like this lasts longer than the “I want to look good” type of motivation and is centered on pursuing a life he desires. God gave us one body to serve him through, so it’s important to care for it appropriately.

 2. Be an example

 If you are overweight as well, it does no good to order your husband to start working out while you sit back with the kids. If you’re trying to lose weight, be a good example to him. Show him that it isn’t that hard or depriving. Cook healthful meals, work out on a regular basis and form habits that last for the long term. Whatever you do, take care of your body. Weight loss from quick diets statistically doesn’t last because you don’t learn how to live a lifestyle at your new weight.

 Have a conversation with your husband about why you choose to be fit and healthy. Never tell him he’s fat, say that you are concerned about his health. Talk about what you can do or enjoy as a fit person. Be honest and open with him about your desire to lose weight and perhaps it’ll inspire him as well.

 3. Encourage him

 Even if your husband isn’t pursuing a healthful lifestyle right now, you should still encourage him every day in any matter. Make him feel like he’s the protector and man of the house. Tell him how much you appreciate what he does, who he is, and how happy you are God has matched you up together.

 It’s hard to motivate yourself to be fit or exercise if you are depressed or down. Boost his confidence when he comes home from work, make him feel good about himself and he’ll be much more likely to choose exercise instead of zoning out on the couch.

 4. Talk about the future

 It’s scary when your parents get old, especially if they didn’t take good care of themselves when they were younger. It’s probable that there’s someone with heart disease, diabetes, hypertension or some other type of ailment caused by excess weight in your family. There’s plenty of other diseases or conditions that could be relieved with exercise too, including osteoporosis, high cholesterol, or cancer.

 If you’re worried about following in the same footsteps as someone in your family, talk about it. Tell your husband that you exercise so you can play with your grandkids. Ask him if he wants to start getting healthier and listen to him, his reasons, and his experience. Your husband most likely had a lot of life before you came around, so perhaps you don’t know about his grueling wrestling practices as a kid or other bad experiences with working out.

 5. Schedule a checkup

 How long has it been since he’s been to the doctor? Getting a blood workup and a physical isn’t a bad idea if it’s been a while. In fact, some doctors recommend it every year. If your husband is as stubborn as mine, you’ll know that he may not listen to you, but a doctor can be hard to ignore.

 6. Find a hobby together

 Did you and your husband have an active hobby together before the kids came along? Perhaps you should try to resurrect it! Finding time can be hard, so volunteer to trade off babysitting with a friend once a week so you and your husband can get back to salsa dancing, hiking, or golfing together. Join an adult soccer league or start a church softball games. There’s nothing like a competitive sport to help your husband realize that he needs to start exercising more often in order to perform like he used to!

 7. Bake fewer cookies

 The kids might like cookies when they get home from school, but your husband doesn’t need the temptation. Start serving the children healthier snacks like apples and peanut butter, cheese and crackers or healthier baked goods so there isn’t an abundance of dessert lying around. It’s an easy way to help him lose weight. He might not even notice that he’s eating less!

 I will make a note here to say that food policing doesn’t work and can become a point of contention. Just keep less sugary treats around the house instead of telling him what he can and cannot have. Keep the fridge well stocked with ready to eat to produce like cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumber, diced pineapple or honeydew as snacks to replace the sweet stuff.

 8. Sneak in more veggies

 This approach is a little more sly, but just as effective as decreasing the amount of treats in the house. Vegetables have a lot of fiber and necessary vitamins and nutrients. They’re also very satiating when added to meals, which is why weight loss is so successful with them. If you aren’t a vegetable lover, start experimenting with them! It’s usually a mind-set issue when it really comes down to it. They can taste good, but you need to figure out how to cook them

 There’s plenty of online recipes that use grated or blended vegetables in cooking or baking. Start making more stir-fry’s or fajitas, use blended cauliflower in mac-n-cheese to decrease the fat and calories, and add chopped bell peppers to enchiladas to boost fiber and satiety. I promise that you won’t sacrifice flavor by using this approach to cut calories of your meals as long as you do a little searching on the internet.

 9. Hide the snacks

 Studies have shown that when food is out of sight, you are less likely to feel hunger or a desire to have it. Start by taking all the unhealthy chips, cookies, and crackers off the countertops and storing them in the pantry. If they’re already in the pantry or cupboards, rearrange so they aren’t front and center, so that it takes a bit of looking to find the not so healthy options.

 If your husband specifically requests snack type food that you know are really bad for him – think chips, most crackers, twinkles etc, perhaps you should discuss the food budget. I’m serious- those packaged types of food cost a lot more than basic veggies, fruits, canned goods, milk, meats, and carbs like pasta, rice or bread. You might have to give up a few things too, but in the name of good financial stewardship and physical stewardship of your body, it’s probably worth it. You don’t have to throw out every single high calorie snack in your cupboard, but only storing a few (less than three) is better than not taking any action.

 10. Plan more active activities

 Start planning more active outings with the family. Go sledding with the kids or practice soccer with them at the local soccer field. If you and your husband go on date nights, ask if you can take tennis lessons, a bike ride or kayak together. If that much activity is too far of a jump right now, start with walks. If it’s beautiful outside, ask your husband to go on a walk with you. Fresh air is rejuvenating and can do a lot to decrease stress, so a short walk to enjoy the evening might be just the thing to kickstart the desire to move.

 Ultimately, it’s not your responsibility to get your husband to lose weight. You can’t badger and guilt trip him in to it because that won’t work in the long run. He needs to know that he is loved at any size (just like you need to know that) and that you support him. It may take a long time for him to realize that he needs to get healthy, and once that happens you need to support him through it.

headshot-FitzalaJenni is an NASM certified personal trainer and loves helping women find balance in health and exercise. She and her husband live in Central Washington and spend as much time as possible outdoors. Find her on her blog, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

 

Top 10 Ways to Turn Your Bedroom Into a Couple’s Oasis

Top Ten TuesdayIt’s Top 10 Tuesday, when I give you TEN great ideas to accomplish something important, and then you can pick 1-3 to actually DO–and start meeting a goal. Today I want to talk about creating a romantic bedroom for you and your husband–and creating a little oasis for you away from the chaos of the rest of your life.

Too often we don’t pay enough attention to the bedroom because we’re the only ones who actually see it. It’s where the stuff we don’t know where to put gets stashed, because we want to keep the living room and kitchen clean for when company comes over. So the Visa slips get thrown on the dresser, and the laundry gets folded on the bed, and it’s all a big mess. It’s not relaxing at all.

But the bedroom is where you live out your relationship with your husband, which is the most important relationship in your house. When your relationship goes well, it’s so much easier to parent. And the kids do better, too!

When I asked on my Facebook Page about ways to turn your bedroom into an oasis, the number one answer was “get rid of clutter”! Absolutely. Treat your bedroom with respect, because it represents the priority you place on your relationship. But that doesn’t mean JUST keeping it neat. Here’s your goal for your bedroom: make it a place where you can relax, where you sleep well, and where you can be romantic with your husband. So what can you do besides decluttering to turn your bedroom into an oasis?

Top 10 Tips for a Romantic Bedroom--Make it Into a Couple's Oasis!

1. A Romantic Bedroom Deserves An Awesome Mattress

Mattresses make a huge difference. First, you need to be able to sleep well. As I’ve written before, sleep is a marriage issue! If you’re exhausted, you’re not going to have the energy to nurture your relationship. But mattresses are also important to give you support, because let’s face it, there are some mattresses that make sex a little, um, difficult. We’ve been hotels with mattresses that just don’t work.

Invest in a Tempurpedic mattress, or a memory foam mattress, that help you sleep well and provide support. Maybe this is a purchase you can’t afford right away, but a good quality mattress will last for at least a decade, and your sleep is worth the investment. So save up and prioritize this purchase!

Bragada Memory Foam Mattress

2. Buy Great Bedding

Do you freeze in the winter under about 6 blankets? Is your quilt threadbare?

I noticed such a difference in the quality of my sleep when we bought a proper down duvet. Again, this is an expensive purchase, but it’s worth saving up for. And I think it pays for itself in the end. I’ve bought plenty of those “comforter sets” in discount stores that were $60 or $70, but they never lasted more than a few years before they were ratty and kind of ugly looking. A duvet will last a long time, and you can put lovely duvet covers over it.

3. Keep Your Office Someplace Else

This may not be possible for everyone. When we lived in an apartment when the girls were small, we did have the office in our bedroom, and I did my work there. But if you have the space, move your office to a spare bedroom, a corner of the kitchen, or a corner of the dining room. Sure, it may not look as pretty when you have company over, but it’s worth it. If you step into the bedroom and the first thing you see is all the bills that need to be paid and the computer with email to check, you’re not going to relax. So try to have different places in the house for specific things: the bedroom is to relax and rejuvenate and to be romantic; work is for other places. Your brain starts to associate these things with specific places, and then it actually is easier to relax!

4. Keep Electronics out of the Bedroom

By the same token, plug in your devices, including phones if you can, at night in the kitchen or dining room, rather than the bedroom. Don’t have devices in the bedroom where you can check email or go on Facebook or play a game. I had one husband email me in frustration once because his wife played Facebook games for half an hour after settling into bed, and then ignored him. Put the phone away!

And try to keep the TV out, too. If the TV’s in the room, you’ll turn it on and watch it and often fall asleep to it. If the TV’s not in the room, you’ll talk and snuggle and do other things!

5. Keep Kids Away

You need a place that is just for you and your husband. When the babies are newborns you will need them near you, but once they’re past that newborn stage, transition them to their own room, so that you can relax with your hubby. It’s hard to get romantic if kids are in the bed!

Massage Candle6. Get a Massage Candle–and other soft lights

I love these! I was introduced to them last year and I’m a big fan. They’re candles made of soya, and when you light them, the wax melts, but it isn’t so hot it will burn you. So you can pour it on your back and use it to massage your spouse! And they smell wonderful, too. Get some things in your bedside table that make massage easier–a massage candle, massage oil, moisturizers, whatever works for you! And then use them.

And scatter other candles around the bedroom, too! They’re romantic, and a little bit of light goes a long way. Think of sex as something which is going to involve all the senses–sight, sound, taste, smell–and not only touch. So light some candles and it’s a more sensual experience.

Oh, and if you’re going to have candles, stick a lighter in your bedside table!

Here’s a bonus idea from a Facebook Fan: string some of those little white lights along the ceiling. They’re very inexpensive, but it makes your bedroom look like a starry night. It makes it special, out of the ordinary. And they’re fun!

7. Get a Space Heater

Maybe it’s the Canadian in me, but I’ve often said to my husband,

If you want to turn the heat up in the bedroom, you might actually want to turn the HEAT UP.

He likes the thermostat low at night to conserve energy and money, which is good. But then I’m stuck in flannel pyjamas that leave EVERYTHING to the imagination, complete with fuzzy socks, to stay warm. A compromise is to have a space heater that can heat up your bedroom without spending money heating the rest of the house. Then it’s easier to get romantic without freezing–and easier to change positions a bit when you don’t need to be on the bottom just to stay warm!

Little Book of Powerful Prayers8. Keep a Book of Prayers Handy

I’m a big believer in books of prayers! Maybe it’s the years I spent in an Anglican church, but prayers that are written, that people put great thought into, are often tremendously beautiful. So put a book of prayers on your bedside table, and every night read one together. It helps you focus, helps you feel more intimate, and gives you peace. And if your husband isn’t comfortable praying out loud, it makes it less intimidating, too.


9. Use an Essential Oil Diffuser

Essential oil diffusers are really inexpensive, and they’re super easy! Just fill the top with water, put 5-10 drops of essential oil in the water, and then light the tea light candle underneath. I get mine at the dollar store. It helps the bedroom smell luxurious. Lady Sclareol is a unique blend of oils designed to help women “get in the mood”, and is the gold standard for sensual blends. That means it’s also expensive–but seriously, you use 5 drops at a time! Clary sage oil is MUCH cheaper (only $5), and it smells lovely, too.

You can also buy electric diffusers that are more expensive but work really well.

10. Hang Photos of the Two of You

Remind yourselves of the romantic times you’ve had in the past. We have a huge blown up picture of the two of us above our bed, that was taken when we were on a cruise a few years ago. Don’t put any pictures of the kids in your bedroom, either! This is just for you. I have over 100 photos displayed in my house of the kids, but none of them is in my bedroom!

Oh, and as one person commented on Facebook, “I’m thinking of taking the in-laws down off the wall.” Very good idea. After a thread about that, a woman wrote:

Keeping Your Bedroom for the Two of YouIndeed. Get the photos of other people down. :)

Now it’s your turn: what would you do to create a romantic bedroom? Let me know in the comments!

I was partially compensated for this post, but the opinions are my own. Check this out for more info!

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


Sex is supposed to be stupendous--physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. If it's not, get The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex--and find out what you've been missing.

Help! We’re Living with Our Parents: When 3 Generations are Under 1 Roof

Living with Our Parents: Making a Multigenerational Household Work

We live in a time where it is not uncommon to find three generations living under the same roof. Maybe you and your husband are going through financial difficulties, and you’ve had to move in with one set of parents. Maybe your parents are going through financial difficulties and have had to move in with you! Or maybe one of your parents is widowed, and just can’t live on their own anymore.

Sometimes life throws us these curve balls, and we have a living situation that we did not expect. Living with our parents isn’t the norm, and it can cause panic!

But some cultures have lived this way for millenia. It isn’t really that uncommon. And while to the North American mind it may not be ideal, there are definitely ways to make it work.

Divide Up Household Responsibilities and Establish Rules

Set up a system so that each night someone is assigned the dishes, trash, and so forth. If everyone makes a contribution, there is less likely resentment or argument will occur – especially if these responsibilities are divided up and assigned from the start. Furthermore, don’t make the mistake of assuming that certain courtesies are common knowledge to everyone; as a family, agree on what activities can and cannot be tolerated. For instance, is there a “quiet hour” that should be enforced? Do dishes need to be cleaned right away so they don’t pile up in the sink? By laying out expectations, you’re helping everyone to circumvent potential arguments. In order to keep track of who is suppose to do what, consider purchasing or creating a family calendar or organizer like some of the examples found here.

I know that’s hard to do because it puts “rules” on what is supposed to be a “relationship”. And we’re often uncomfortable talking about rules with our parents. But it’s better to get it out in the open now! Say something like, “This may be awkward, but we love you and we appreciate you and we don’t want the way we’re living to wreck our relationship. So let’s get ground rules so that there aren’t any misunderstandings.”

Decide on Child Care

Here’s the thorniest issue: You’ve moved in with mom and dad, but you don’t parent the same way. You want the kids to only eat at meals, with healthy snacks in between. Your mom loves to give them sugar. Or maybe you think your mom and dad are too strict, and they discipline the children needlessly.

They’re your kids, and you want to stay the parent. But if you’re living in your parents’ house, especially if it’s because you’ve lost your job or house, it can be hard to stand up to your parents. They have the upper hand.

At the same time, it really isn’t reasonable to ask that they never discipline the kids or never interfere. It’s also THEIR house, and if excess noise bothers them, even if you think it shouldn’t be a problem, it is.

So talk about what rules you want for the kids, and come to an agreement that you will be the one to discipline them when you are in the home. If you’re relying on your parents to look after the kids, though, you have to give them some leeway, even if they do things that you’d prefer they not do. If your parents are crossing a line, then you simply must move out. But if they just do things differently, then you’ll have to learn to show some grace and respect their boundaries, too. It’s the hardest part of living together!

Create a Safe Environment–for the Little Ones, but also for Seniors

Make sure your home is a safe haven for everyone. Obviously that means child-proofing the house, but maybe it means “senior proofing” the house, too! Make sure that the floors are clear of clutter (or tiny legos!) they can trip over. Install guardrails near the toilet and in the shower and make sure that the stairs are well-lit. In order to free yourself and your children from the burden of worrying about the older adults when you are out of the home, consider purchasing a medical alert system, like those found here; this way, the wearer can receive immediate attention, regardless of whether you’re nearby. Like your other security systems, this may never be activated, but to be safe than sorry.

Devise a System to Handle Problems

Communication and compromise are both extremely important when living with other people – especially in a multigenerational home.  Once a month, call a family meeting where everyone has a chance to express their own thoughts on what is working, what is not, and what needs to be fixed. My daughter lives with three other girls while she’s at university, and they have house rules printed on the fridge, and periodic meetings to check in and make sure everyone’s fine. If the meetings are regular and expected then resentment doesn’t have a chance to build up.

Respect Privacy

Are kids allowed in Grandma and Grandpa’s room? What about the office? Make sure your kids know what rooms to steer clear of. And what if you and your husband need some alone time? Consider paying for a dinner out for your parents. Sure it costs something, but if they’re letting you live with them, it’s relatively minor compared to rent. And make sure that you and the kids leave Grandma and Grandpa alone at least one night a week, too! Head out to a park, or go see a movie, or head to the library. Give them some time without you. In fact, as much as possible find things to do with the kids outside the home, whenever you can, to give your parents some peace. When the weather’s better, make picnic lunches. Have a homework time for school aged kids in the local library. Acknowledge that you want to give your parents some alone time, and then they’re more likely to give you alone time, too!

 Make Time for Family Bonding

Sometimes, though, instead of alone time you need together time! The best way to get over petty disagreements is to also have times when you’re laughing together. Whether it’s dinner together a few nights a week, or a family game night, it’s important to come together as a family. Sometimes finding ways for the generations to bond over hobbies does wonders, too! If Grandma is feeling overwhelmed with all the kids underfoot, what about spending time with just the oldest girl and teach her how to knit?

Hopefully the situation living with three generations is temporary, but if you set up rules, have times to talk about problems, and work on both bonding and on privacy, you may just find it works quite well (and saves a ton of money!). Most problems come when people don’t prepare for them, and often the reason that we have to all move in together is precipitated by a health or financial crisis, which doesn’t exactly make planning easy. But once the crisis has calmed down, take these steps to make it easier. And hopefully you’ll find that love really can multiply.

This post has been sponsored. For more information on sponsorship, click here.

We’ve Got Cooties!

Every Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week’s column was really just a shortened version of yesterday’s post, so instead I thought I’d run a column from back in 2007, that I really enjoyed. We’ve had some heavy posts this week, and I thought we needed something lighter! So my daughter does not have lice RIGHT NOW; it was back in 2007!

We've got CootiesRecently, a friend warned me that one of my daughter’s playmates had lice, so before Katie went to bed that night, I called her over to take a peek at her scalp. As I parted her hair, I was greeted by a bug running for cover.

I did what any normal mother would do. “Keith,” I shrieked, “get over here!” He ambled over, not too worried, and gazed at the offending creature. “Huh,” he said. “Look at that.” He’s a pediatrician, and pediatricians have no sympathy unless someone is coughing up a lung.

I insisted that he leave right that instant and get some lice killer shampoo. He asked if it could wait until morning. I gave him That Look. Off he went.

We stayed up until midnight as I picked eggs out of my daughter’s hair. We changed everyone’s bedding, even mine, because she likes to crawl into bed and wrestle in the morning. We banished all stuffed animals to garbage bags in the garage for two weeks. We vacuumed the sofa. Basically, I overreacted. But let me reiterate: my kid had something crawling in her hair. I think I was entitled.

The next day, I ran an internet search for information about lice, and found a very comprehensive site put out by Harvard University. But the more I read, the more I felt that these people had far too much education to understand the real world.

First, Harvard went to great pains to declare that having lice is not a big deal.

It doesn’t cause any illness or infection, and it’s not nearly as transmissible as a cold or flu virus. They went on to say that kids with lice should be allowed in school, because we let kids in who have colds. And colds, to Harvard, are far worse.

Obviously no one at Harvard has ever done laundry.

But here’s the thing, Harvard. I knew Katie wasn’t going to die, or get a debilitating illness, or be disabled. I was not worried about her health. But I was worried because my kid had bugs in her hair. Bugs. In. Her. Hair. Pardon me if I think that’s a big deal, but I think having insects crawling on one’s scalp is enough to cause most mothers to go into panic mode.

Harvard then went on to explain how lice tend to like clean hair, so there should be no stigma attached to it. Again, I understand. I know that it was not Katie’s fault that she got it.

But it would be my fault, I think, if she failed to get rid of it. While clean kids get it, dirty kids rarely get over it. It’s not easy to fight the little buggers; you have to comb those eggs out, and they’re sticky little things. You have to kill all the little babies. You have to wash your child’s bedding and toys. But some parents don’t do all this. And then a few weeks later the child has a full blown case again.

It’s almost guaranteed that there will be at least one child per classroom who has chronic lice, and I know some parents who make sure their children’s hair is not “clean” at school as a precaution. It’s not that they swear off shampoo; it’s that they pile on the gel and hair spray. Apparently the bugs don’t like goop, so it’s like putting a “No Trespassing” sign on your children’s heads. We’re going to do that from now on, even though Harvard failed to recommend it.

They did, however, try to put a positive spin on the lice thing in general, proving once again that academics are overpaid.

“A few lice on the head should not cause alarm; rather, they present an opportunity for parents to spend the needed time with their children in order to find and remove the offending insects.” What a great bonding opportunity!

If any of you would like such an opportunity, we saved a few eggs in a plastic bag to use in a science experiment later. I’d be glad to give them up. Personally, though, I’d suggest a game of Monopoly or a walk around the block. But then, I don’t have a Ph.D., so you’ll have to make that judgment yourself.

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Wifey Wednesday: My Husband Needs to Change!

Christian Marriage Advice

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! And today I want to talk about a really common feeling women have: Why is it always me who needs to fix the marriage, when my husband needs to change! If he’s the one who needs to change, why is it always me who needs to do the work?

I totally understand the sentiment. One woman wrote it this way after reading my post “Does Everything Really Come Down to Sex?”:

I am not sure why but this post makes me feel a little angry inside. I guess women should sex their husbands regularly so that their husbands will be productive members of the household…It just seems so ridiculous to me. I wake up at 5, feed the baby, make the kids lunches, take the kids to school and daycare, go to work, come home, make dinner, clean up dinner and prepare for the next day. I literally don’t stop until I get into bed (usually around midnight.) I do all of these things because it is what I have to do. If I don’t my husband won’t. How am I supposed to make sure he is pleased when he doesn’t do anything to help or please me. Do I like sex? Yes, but when am I ever energetic enough to do it? Hardly ever. “Sex is your way of saying to him, “I’m committed to you, I love you, I want you, I value you.” If he knows that and feels it, it’s so much easier to then bring up the really big issues that are bothering you.” Wait, so me taking care of our children, feeding our family, keeping our home, none of these things say that I love and value him? I bristle against the notion that in order for our husbands to want to please, help, show us love that we first have to somehow convenience them with sex. I can certainly say that I would feel a whole lot more receptive to sex (and would have more energy instead of falling into bed at night) if he ever washed bottles, or did the dishes after dinner, or washed the laundry every now and then. I get it, somebody has to give first, but WHY DOES IT ALWAYS HAVE TO BE ME?

I really do understand the frustration. She’s absolutely exhausted, she does too much, he does very little, and then she says, “why do I have to be the one to fix the marriage?”

I know many of you reading this blog feel like it’s your husband who needs to change, not you, so I want to give a few thoughts:

My Husband Needs to Change! So why do all the books and blogs talk about me changing? Some thoughts.

1. You Can Only Take Responsibility for What’s in Your Control

Why am I always telling women how to change their behavior and attitudes? Because those behaviors and attitudes are in your control. Your husband’s behaviors and attitudes aren’t.

You may want your husband to change, and you may think he should pick up some slack, and you may think that he should be nicer, but the truth is you have absolutely no control over that. You really don’t.

So we have to look at strategies that YOU can do to make your marriage better. Sitting back and fuming and growing resentful because he isn’t doing anything isn’t going to help. You may feel morally superior, because he obviously has so much he needs to change, but that’s not going to get you a good marriage.

Serenity Prayer Plaque from Dayspring

2. I’m Writing this Blog to Women!

Here’s something else people often don’t understand. This blog is primarily for women. I do have quite a few male readers and I do appreciate them, but I’m writing to women. My books are written to women. So for me to write a big post on how husbands should change doesn’t help. It may make all of us women feel better, but it isn’t going to do a thing to help your marriage, because YOU’RE reading this, not your husband.

Now, a while ago I did go on a rant and wrote a post directed at men: Here’s What I Wish I Could Say to Men about Sex. I felt so much better getting that out! But it was still primarily women who read it.

I know there are areas where men need to change. If you wanted me to go on a rant about it, believe me, I could fill major blog posts, like this:

For pity’s sake, stop playing video games all the time and pay attention to your kids! Don’t expect your wife to make love if you never help with the kids and she’s exhausted. Get off of your butt and clean the house a bit. If your wife leaves you with the kids, you’re not “helping her”. They’re your kids, too! That means they’re your responsibility, too!

Etc. etc. etc.

But again, what good would those posts do, other than make us all feel better and superior? If I’m writing to women, I don’t want to get you all riled up about how your husband needs to change. I want to actually offer practical help, and that means addressing what’s in our control.

3. Chances Are He’s Hurting, Too

Here’s the big one that most of us just don’t get. If you’re unhappy with your life, chances are he is, too. He’s not experiencing that intimacy he needs if you’re unhappy. He may look like it’s all peachy keen, but chances are he’s upset about something, too. And if you can go and think about what he’s missing, and reach out and meet his needs, often you start a domino effect that has great benefits for your marriage.

I know it’s hard to reach out when you’re lonely and frustrated, but if you do that, you really can change the dynamic in your marriage. Things won’t change if you sit there and do nothing. But if you decide to find things to be grateful for, start encouraging him even when you don’t feel like it, and step out when it comes to sex, you may just find that his attitude towards you changes, too.

Sure, it would be nice if it did that on its own. Sure, he should be loving you regardless. But if he’s not, are you going to sit there and just be angry about it? Or are you going to do something about it?

4. If Your Husband Needs to Change, You Likely Need to Set Boundaries

When I’m talking about changing the way that you relate to your husband so that you fix your marriage problems, that doesn’t only mean encouraging him, making love to him, or praising him. These are important things, yes. But sometimes we need to change by simply drawing boundaries and doing less.

Emotionally Healthy WomanIt’s like what Geri Scazzero said in her book The Emotionally Healthy Woman. Sometimes in order to find real peace we have to quit. And many of us are overfunctioning in our marriages, and the more we overfunction, the more he underfunctions.

She tells her own saga of getting to the point where she needed to quit. Her husband was a busy inner-city pastor, and Geri felt like the proper Christian woman poured herself out for her kids, and her husband, and never asked anything of anybody. So she always said yes whenever someone from church needed her. She ran programs. She said yes to having people for dinner. She had no time to herself, no time to be creative, and no time to recharge.

Eventually she couldn’t take it and she told her husband she was quitting going to their church. That put in motion a whole series of steps that finally helped their family come to healthy balance. And much of that was letting go of the things that she was doing so that others would rightly do them. In Boundaries in Marriage Henry Cloud and John Townsend talk about a similar dynamic. They say that God designed this world so that “you reap what you sow”. When you sow something bad, you get something bad. The problem in many marriages, though, is that the person sowing the bad stuff isn’t reaping it. So dad is grumpy and mean to his wife and kids, and the wife and kids walk on eggshells around him so as not to set him off. They’re reaping what he is sowing.

The key, then, is to allow the person who is reaping something to also sow it.

How does this relate? Sometimes, if your husband needs to change, he can’t until you start putting up some boundaries. Look at this woman’s letter for a minute. She’s probably exaggerating a little, but it seems as if she gets about 6 hours of sleep, which isn’t enough. She’s completely haggard. That’s simply too much. It’s unsustainable. Sure, you can keep doing it, but you’ll lose yourself and you’ll burn out, and what kind of mom, let alone wife, will you be?

Perhaps the best thing she could do to change, then, is to start saying “no”. Sit her husband down and say,

“I can’t keep working at a full-time job unless you also start to do some of the childcare responsibilities, like taking them to daycare or making half the meals or doing some of the housework. If that’s not possible for you, then what I’d suggest is that we find ways to reduce our costs so that I can work part-time, because I can’t keep doing this.”

Maybe it means moving back to an apartment, or whatever. I don’t know. But she can start saying, “no”.

When I say that a woman needs to change, then, I’m not always saying that she needs to bend over backwards to meet all of his needs. Here’s what I’m saying:

She should bend over backwards to meet his legitimate needs, and she should examine herself to make sure she’s not trying to meet needs that aren’t hers to meet.

I think quite often we’re meeting the wrong needs. We’re spending tons of energy and time on things that don’t build relationships (getting kids in tons of extracurricular activities, working full-time, volunteering at church, creating a perfect home), and in the process we’re making ourselves exhausted. We’re also spending tons of energy doing things for people that they could and should do for themselves (doing all the housework, making kids’ lunches, etc. etc.) The more we do this, the less energy and time we’ll have to meet our husbands’ legitimate needs for affirmation, encouragement, intimacy, and even sex.

If you’re absolutely exhausted and you’re upset that your husband isn’t equally exhausted, it can look like he’s getting a free ride.

The answer, though, isn’t always for your husband to change. Sometimes it’s for you to start saying no. Saying no to all the things you do. Saying no to overfunctioning at home. Saying no to outside activities. And then you’ll be able to say yes to the things that actually do build marriages!

I hope that makes sense! I know sometimes reading blogs it can seem like the only way to fix a marriage is for the woman to change. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m simply saying: take control of what is in your control. Examine yourself first. Do what you can. Change the dynamic. And then see what happens!

Now, do you have any advice for us today? Link up the URL of a marriage post to today’s Wifey Wednesday, and get some traffic back to your blog!

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Top 10 Tips for Getting Better Sleep

Top Ten TuesdayIt’s Top 10 Tuesday, when I share the top 10 tips about something.

I was asking on my Facebook Page last week about tips for marriage books to read, and I’ll have that list out NEXT Tuesday. Didn’t have time to get it ready for this week.

Instead I asked guest poster Jill Marks to share 10 GREAT tips for getting better sleep.

As I’ve said before, sleep is a marriage issue. When we’re sleep-deprived, we get into more conflict. We don’t want sex. And we lose intimacy. Going to bed at a decent time and getting sleep is one of the best things you can do for your marriage.

Here’s Jill telling us how:

Writing about sleep is pretty ironic to me right now, as I have an almost 4 month old and spend my days (and nights) fantasizing about sleep. And praying about sleep. And mourning sleep. Sleep…I just want sleep! But, I digress.

There was a time in my life when I was getting good sleep and my husband was getting good sleep. We recognized early on in our marriage the importance of sleep to our general satisfaction with each other. When we are overly tired we are quick to snap at each other, short on patience and much more likely to get upset over small things that really don’t matter.

We therefore have always tried hard to achieve a good night’s sleep, but now, in the postpartum haze, we have become even more aware of our needs. My husband requires a few hours of quality sleep to function well, whereas I need much more, whether it be quality or not – I just require a lot of horizontal time!

Recognizing each other’s needs is the first step in getting good sleep. For example, knowing that my husband only needs a few hours of uninterrupted sleep, I often send him to bed early to get in 4-5 hours before he has to take over baby duty. Or, I give him an hour or two on a Saturday afternoon to have the house to himself and catch a good nap. Once his sleeping needs are met, he is more easily able to help me meet my sleeping needs, and neither of us gets overly exhausted.

10 Tips for Getting Better SleepBesides being aware of how much rest our spouse needs, we also try to follow these 10 tips for getting better sleep.

1. Cut caffeine.

I know, you hear it all the time, but that’s because it is true! Cut off all caffeinated drinks by noon. Even decaf coffee has trace amounts of caffeine. Switch to water, or try this hydrating electrolyte drink instead.

2. Eliminate light.

Any light that invades your sleep space disrupts the production of melatonin. Invest in room-darkening curtains, unplug the alarm clock/cell phone, and cover up any other little lights. Sleeping in darkness is better for your health, and you will notice a difference in your sleep quality.

3. Get a Routine.

Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. Ever since we became a family of 3, we are in bed by 9:30, because we know she will be awake and ready to go by at least 7:00!

4. Use essential oils.

If I have had a rough day, or am particularly wired, I always apply lavender essential oil or the Serenity blend from doTerra on my feet and on my temples. Both help me relax and fall asleep more quickly. My friend Kimball, who is a doTerra consultant, also recommends Balance, frankincense, and sandalwood, or a “Quiet Mind” blend of vetiver, Whisper, frankincense, and bergamot.

5. Use Magnesium.

This stuff is amazing. Truly! The majority of Americans are severely deficient in magnesium. Magnesium deficiency can cause a host of problems, with one of the biggest being sleep disturbances. Try this magnesium lotion before bed, and a better night’s rest is guaranteed.

6. Soak in a Relaxing bath.

This is one of my favorite ways to promote a good night’s sleep. Draw a nice warm bath, add some epsom salt or magnesium salts, and include a few drops of lavender or Serenity essential oil. Or, try this soothing herbal bath for a 20-minute soak right before you hit the hay.

7. Drink Herbal tea.

Chamomile or lemon balm tea about an hour before bed is a good way to transition from awake time to sleepy time.

8. Have Sex.

Yup, I said it. The release of endorphins can be just what your body needs to go into a deep, restful trance. And hey… you get to have sex too. Win-win.

9. Eat a Light snack.

A high protein snack right before you shut down for the night can prevent hunger pains from waking you in the wee hours. Try a glass of raw milk, some of this delicious beef jerky, or for blood sugar regulation, try a spoonful of raw honey.

10. Clear your mind.

During the day, you likely do about a million different things. Or at least you think about doing a million different things! About an hour before snooze time, shut off your electronics, step away from Facebook, and take some time to clear your mind. Through prayer, meditation, or just talking through your day with your spouse, take time to clear your mind and save your worries for the daytime.

Hopefully these ten tips will help you and your spouse get a good night’s sleep. Do it for your marriage!

Sheila says: Thanks so much, Jill! Those are great–and many of them I’d never thought of before. For my readers: Make the most of this post by writing down the THREE tips that you don’t currently do, but need to, and writing them on your fridge. Don’t try to do all 10! This post is meant to help you brainstorm by throwing out a bunch of ideas, and then you find what works best for you. Now pick ONE to start this week, and ONE to start next week, and so on. Try adding one new thing a week of your top 3, and you’ll find yourself sleeping better!

JillHeadShotJill Marks works as an editor and virtual assistant at Modern Alternative Mama  She has been on a real food journey since July of 2011 and is passionate about food. She is a Jesus-loving, Bible-reading, kombucha-brewing, raw milk–drinking, real food–eating gal, who was born and raised in the midwest. She and her husband were recently blessed by the birth of their first child and are adjusting to life as a family of three. To contact Jill, check out her website, Making Our Marks.

 
 
 

Practice Makes Perfect: Homemakers are Made, not Born

Every Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week I want to talk about  practice, perfection and our tendency to compare with others.

Practice Makes PerfectLast night I was cleaning up my kitchen while my 18-year-old practised piano. At one point I paused from my scrubbing, and just listened as her fingers danced across the keyboard playing a deliciously difficult piece.

I love moments like that.

Nine years ago, when she started piano, she did not sound very lovely. She would sit on the bench, her feet dangling over, as she tried to pick out the notes to This Old Man. It was cute, but it wasn’t beautiful.

Over the years she has spent countless hours perfecting her skill. And now she can sit down whenever she wants and play a song she heard on the radio. She’s had experience.

We instinctively understand that when it comes to instruments. We get it when it comes to most hobbies. We know it’s true of driving, too: you get better with time and effort. I don’t think, however, that we give enough credence to the idea that this phenomenon could also apply to other parts of life.

When my children were very small, Keith and I were invited over to dinner to the home of a couple who was then in their late forties. They served a wonderful meal with a beautiful centrepiece and a delicious dessert. Music was drifting in the background. The house was immaculately decorated. Our hostess made the meal look effortless.

The next day, when I looked around my living room to see the mismatched couches, and the toys scattered over the floor, and the distinct lack of dining room table (we ate in the kitchen and had allowed the children to take over the dining room for their craft projects), I felt like a failure. I couldn’t have hosted a dinner party even if I had wanted to. I wouldn’t know what to make. I wouldn’t know where to seat people. And my furniture was terrible.

Fast forward fourteen years, and life is very different. I can host a dinner party now, because I have a dining room table again. My 15-year-old makes great centrepieces. I can cook much better (though last year’s Christmas dinner was a disaster, but that’s another story). My house isn’t a mess.

And the reason is because I’ve had practice.

When I think back to that woman in her late forties who entertained us, I think she, too, had simply learned how to be a good hostess. When she was in her late twenties, she had three boys under four. I’m sure her dining room table wasn’t huge and spotless. I’m sure her furniture didn’t all match, and toys likely littered every surface. But over the years they could slowly afford to buy better furniture. She had practice cooking. The toys were packed away. And life got easier.

We have a tendency to compare our abilities to keep a nice home, cook a good dinner, balance a chequebook, or manage investments to those of other, older people, like our parents. Perhaps it’s time to stop. Your mother’s home may have been quite a mess when her children were the age of your children, even if her home is spotless now. Your boss who is so careful with investments may only have learned to be that way because of mistakes and lost opportunities in his twenties. Your father’s ability to grow grass probably is not instinctual; he learned it over decades.

If you’re not there yet, relax.

Practice makes perfect.

We don’t learn basic life skills overnight. It takes a while to get used to it. So let’s enjoy the journey, rather than always beating ourselves up for not having arrived yet.

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Reader Question: My Husband Won’t Stick to a Budget

Reader Question of the Week

It’s time for our Reader Question of the Week feature! I post a question that a reader has sent in and give some broad ideas of how I’d tackle it. Since we’re at the beginning of the New Year, and so many of you are trying to get new starts in all kinds of different areas, I thought I’d tackle a budgeting question: what do you do when your husband spends too much money? We had a great guest post last week on how to make Money Resolutions you can keep, and so I thought this question fit right in:

My husband is a natural spender and I am a natural saver. We both work and we make enough to pay for the basics that our household needs. We have no savings, and we have a lot of medical debt, student loans, and some past bill debts from when we weren’t making enough to live off of. He brings home about double what I do. His spending habits have improved since we got married. When he wants something I hate telling him no because I know how hard he works, but often times the things he feels are needs really aren’t needs and as a result he buys things for himself throughout the year. He also has a video game addiction that he puts of his extra money into.

I put things I really need on the back burner and I am starting to feel resentful toward him and I want to change that. I feel resentment when the soles of my work shoes are coming undone yet he just bought a new game. I feel resentful when my child’s school uniforms look horrible and I have to take the money from our $60 a week grocery budget to go to the thrift store to find him a pair of pants. I beat myself up right now because I am pregnant and extremely high risk and the medication I need costs $140. I cry every time thinking about what debt I could have paid off or what need I could meet with our house when I buy the medication or travel to the 2 hours one way to the doctor. Then when his cell phone (which he does need for work) goes out on him, instead of finding an affordable replacement he is insisting on spending 150 for a nicer one. While the cost of the nicer one is actually a good deal, He took the extra money from what we had budgeted out of the money set aside for us to use while we were at the hospital delivering our second child.

How do I open up our financial lines of communication and find a middle ground for us? How can I meet his need to spend with my need to feel like we aren’t drowning in debt and meet all of our household needs as well. How do I get him to understand the importance of a having a savings, and why we should pay off these medical bills, and past debts?

That’s a really big problem, and one that I know many readers have. So I thought today I’d give some broad thoughts on how to get on the same page financially.

When your husband spends too much money: How to Stick to a Budget Together

There’s several negative dynamics going on here, and so I’d like to give some general guidelines and some ideas for going forward.

Don’t Focus on the Small Things

When we start having disagreements like this, we tend to focus on the most recent infraction. This rarely works.

The issue is not that he bought a game and she didn’t have money for children’s clothes; the issue is that they don’t have a budget that works.

Arguing about the game is completely fruitless. You will end up frustrated and he will end up frustrated. Yet when someone doesn’t stick to a budget and makes a purchase that we think is frivolous and irresponsible, that tends to be what we do. “How could you have spent $75 on a game when we’re in debt?” He ends up defending the game, you fight the game, and you’re missing the bigger picture.

Often there’s a “straw that breaks the camel’s back”, something that he buys that sends you over the edge. Resist the impulse to blow up at that one thing. Take a step back and discuss the REAL issue, which is the budget.

Get the Big Financial Picture in Mind–Together

The real issue is that they do not have a shared plan for getting out of debt or a shared understanding and vision of where their family is going. She is trying to rein everything in while he feels no need to at all. And because of that they’re going to be constantly at loggerheads. She will feel like he’s undermining her, and he will feel like she is a spoilsport and is disrespecting him.

So you have to have a conversation where you focus on the big picture, not on the little things. If you know WHY you have a budget–ie. you sit down and say, “we need to have $x saved up for our retirement by this particular year in the future, and that means that we need to be working towards clearing debts and saving $X a year”, then it’s easier to stick to it.

When you’re not upset, sit down with a calculator, a pen and paper, and a list of your bills and assets, and ask if you can talk through things.

1. Ask him, where would you like to be in 10 years? In 15 years? Would you like to own a house? Would you like to be able to take vacations? Make a list of what you would like.

2. Now talk about where you are right now. What is your net worth? Add up what you own, and then add up what you owe, and subtract what you owe from what you own.

3. Now plot where you will be if you do nothing differently for the next five years. If you keep going like this, what will happen? Will your credit cards max out? Will you be unable to pay for anything? Compare that to your goals in #1.


4. Talk together about how to move forward differently. A great resource is Dave Ramsey’s program Financial Peace, which so many of my Facebook fans recommended. If you make a plan to read through that together over the next few weeks, he’ll help you, step by step, figure out a budget and a savings plan and a debt repayment plan.

One other step that a few Facebook commenters suggested is to show the difference between paying things off and not paying things off. How much money are you spending in interest every month? Every year? Now, how many video games would that money buy? What kind of vacations would that buy? If you can be diligent for a few years, then you won’t be throwing that money away anymore and you can have more room for fun purchases.

Beware of the Over-Compensating Downward Spiral–Your husband spends too much money, so you become a miser

Overcompensating when your husband spends too much money--stop the downward spiral!A few other tips. Quite often when we’re approaching a problem differently we tend to overcompensate. We do this in parenting, too; if he’s a strict disciplinarian, and you like to hug and kiss and build relationship, then you’re going to think he’s an ogre. And whenever he comes down hard on the kids, you’ll let them have things easy for a while. When he sees you letting them off the hook, he’ll become even firmer. In the end, you both don’t even resemble what you want to be. You’re far too lax for your own liking, and he’s far too strict, but that’s what you’ve become as you’ve compensated for one another.

The same thing happens with money. When your husband spends too much, you feel like you can’t spend anything. So you stop spending entirely. You become a miser. When he sees you not spending anything, he feels like you both need more fun in your life, so he spends even more. You become even more a saver than you naturally are, and he becomes even more a spender.

I see that happening here. She’s afraid to even spend money on medicine which she needs for her child. When you feel yourself over-compensating, talk about it. Don’t let this spiral start.

Give Yourselves Disposable Income

For a budget to work, you have to have disposable income. The goal is not to spend $0. The goal is to slowly but surely get out of debt and build your net worth. Make sure, then, that when you do budget, you budget in some money for him to spend on himself, and some for you to spend on yourself. And then do spend it! It’s not a good example to your children if you deprive yourself of absolutely everything and lose yourself because you want to give them a better life. You need balance.

How do you stick to only spending what you’ve budgeted? If impulse spending is a problem, then the best way is to set up a cash system. At the beginning of the week, give each of you your disposable income, in cash. Leave the credit cards at home. Tell your husband he can spend that money on anything, but if he wants something big, he’ll have to save it up over the course of several weeks. If you make a habit of only spending cash, those rash purchases don’t tend to happen.

Consider Setting Up Separate Finances

Finally, I don’t recommend this very often, but there are times when it’s best to separate finances. I’m a huge believer in couples having one bank account, and having it be “our” money, not “his” and “hers”. My husband and I have always shared finances, and we never label any money as belonging to him or belonging to me. What’s ours is ours, no matter who earned it. That, I think, should be the model for marriage.

However, if your husband is consistently driving you into debt, and is endangering the family’s financial health, then talking to a third party about it and asking to sit down and talk about altogether is likely warranted. And then setting up a separate bank account is probably a good idea. When the pay is deposited, you take out the money that you need for the family and you put it in a separate account so that you can pay off debt and buy groceries. With the help of a counselor or pastor, cancel credit cards if you need to. Let him keep some disposable income, but don’t give him access to the grocery money.

Again, I don’t think this step should be taken unless you first talk to a third party, and unless things are really desperate. I don’t think this is a healthy model for marriage. But there are times when a guy is gambling money away, or when he’s spending so frivolously that you’re in danger of losing your house, and in that case you have little choice.


I don’t think you can fix a money issue like this without talking about the big picture, and without agreeing on a plan going forward. And I have found that the best way to agree on a plan is to read some of the financial planning books that are available. Dave Ramsey is really easy to read and really easily accessible, and he lays out a step-by-step system for developing a plan. Here are a few of his resources:

The Financial Peace Planner: A Step-by-Step Guide to Restoring your Family’s Financial Health ($11.90)
The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness ($16.48)
Total Money Makeover Workbook ($15.99)
Deluxe Executive Envelope System ($16.47) To help you move to a cash system!

That’s my advice for today! Have you ever had to get out of debt? How did you and your husband get on the same page? Let me know in the comments!

Beware of the Vacuum: Don’t Give Up Something Unless You Replace It

Every Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week, I offer a proven solution to helping those resolutions stick.  This year, let’s plan to succeed!
Beware of the Vacuum

December 20 was a pivotal day in my life, though I didn’t know it at the time. I drank my last Diet Pepsi. I’ve been trying to give up the wonderful drink, off and on, for about five years now, and lately I’ve been cutting down substantially.

But on December 20, only after I had finished that last can did I finally decide that I had had enough, thanks to some prodding from my pesky oldest daughter who mentioned things like “it can cause cancer” and “you’re killing yourself.” When a Christmas guest left a Diet Coke in the fridge, she poured it down the sink. I am officially cut off.

Old age dementia runs in my family, and I figure aspartame can’t be that nice a thing for your brain. So, after ten years of it being a daily habit, I’m done.

Many of us are quitting things this time of year. 2014 is upon us, and we want to start right. We’re going to cut out sugar. We’re going to cut out wheat. We’re going to cut out aspartame, preservatives, and anything resembling flavour. We’re going to beat our bodies into submission.

Yet one thing I’ve found with my decision to forsake Diet Pepsi is that vacuums aren’t pretty. When you quit something you rely on–whether it’s a drink or a cigarette or a daily Facebook fix–you’re disrupting your normal habits. That forms a vacuum. Whenever there is a vacuum, things rush in to fill it–usually bad things. That’s why it’s so hard to finally quit, because that vacuum reminds you, every second of every day, wouldn’t that nice cold fizz taste good right about now?

If you’re going to give something up, then, you must replace it with something–and it’s best to have that plan before you give that thing up.

Too often we think, “I’ll just develop self-control and I’ll be fine.” If self-control were that easy, we wouldn’t have rehab or Cheetos in giant bags or websites dedicated to the People of Wal-Mart. Taking pride in oneself and treating oneself well isn’t just about self-control; it’s about developing new habits. And it’s not easy.

That’s what I’m really struggling with right now. My cousin, who has never ingested anything bad into her body in her life, suggested that I replace my Diet Pepsi with lemon and Perrier. I wonder if she has ever actually tasted Perrier. But I’ve stocked up anyway, along with a new water cooler and some juices, because I need something.

These habits that we hate are only there because they serve some purpose in our lives.

Food comforts us. Alcohol helps us relax. Diet Pepsi dances on your tongue, especially when you take that first sip after the ice is added (I really need to reach for that Perrier again). Or perhaps it’s something even more intransigent: that go-nowhere relationship helps you feel not so alone, even if he’s never going to marry you, even if she’s never going to stop flirting with other guys, even if he still chooses porn over you. At least you have someone, right?

Maybe this year it’s time to say that the bad things that are holding you back have to go–and find something to replace them.

If you eat for pleasure, find something else that will give you pleasure. If you go for three days without taking more than a small dessert at a time, let yourself buy a new lipstick. Trying to give up cigarettes? Start a new hobby that will keep you busy. Tossing out that boyfriend who constantly berates you? Start volunteering and find a wider circle of friends.

Don’t just say good-bye to something; say hello to something else. Misery thrives in a vacuum, so this New Year’s, fill up that vacuum with things that help you, not hurt you. That’s the route to a truly Happy New Year.

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