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!

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.

I Need a Wife

Every Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week I talk about how margin can easily slip away with busyness.

I have always been a stay-at-home mom, but with my writing I’ve moved more and more towards “working from home”, and it’s eating so much of our margins. My husband and I are taking a weekend retreat in two weeks to pray about how to do life differently, because this isn’t what we want. At the same time, it’s difficult because we’ve felt that God was moving both of us in the direction we are now. So we’re going to put all options on the table and ask God to help us find the win-win. Sometimes all couples need to do that! And if you could pray for wisdom for us, that would be great.

I need a wifeI love to-do lists and organization planners. I have Excel spreadsheets for household chores and the business tasks I need to complete on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. On good days, when I don’t hit the snooze button, I actually get most of those things done.

There’s only one problem. I have no margins in my life. If I’m super organized and super energetic, it is possible to keep my house clean and to get all my work done and, hopefully, to head to the grocery store before we’re stuck discovering that all we have in the cupboards are tins of cranberry sauce and tuna. But if an emergency comes up, I’m in trouble.

My husband works more than full-time, and my writing and speaking require my full-time attention and too much travel. Because I write primarily on marriage, it’s also really hard to neglect mine, or that “hypocrite” word might get tossed around. And with my oldest now flown the coop, I’m trying to spend as much time as I can with my youngest before she leaves, too.

Life is simply busy. Pretty much everyone feels that way. But I think one of the biggest sources of stress isn’t the amount of work on our plate; it’s that nagging feeling that one more straw is going to cause the whole thing to come crashing down.

We used to have some buffer in our lives. At one time women were home to bring dinners to friends in the hospital, or to take parents to doctors’ appointments, or to care for a sister’s child if said sister caught a disgusting intestinal bug. Today few of us have people we can rely on. And what’s perhaps even worse is that we aren’t able to be there for those that we love, either.

When my cousin had a baby recently and needed help, I wasn’t in the position to go. What kind of life are we leading if we don’t have the room to be there for those that we love?

Yet my problem doesn’t stop there. What if, in all of our chaos of making more money, we’re actually missing out on a “good life”? A “good life” has to involve little touches of creativity and beauty: that home-cooked meal instead of the barbecued chicken we picked up on the way home; those refinished dressers instead of the Ikea assemble-yourself plywood; the crocheted baby afghans. One of the things I miss most lately is the joy of friends coming for dinner, an event which is quite difficult if you’re never home to cook dinner, let alone to clear a path to the dining room table.

My business started off extremely part time, but it has mushroomed, for which I am grateful. My husband is doing well at his job, for which I am proud. Yet I am not certain that this is the life I want. If I have no room for emergencies, and little room for beauty and hospitality and fun, then what is the point?

The dual income family is now the norm, and that won’t change. Certainly we could all lower our expectations and work less. The reduction in stress is likely worth the reduction in income. Yet that is not always easy to do. And in the meantime, there is no one left to “keep the homefires burning”. We women felt undervalued when we were “just housewives”, but gradually, as most women work, more and more of us are realizing just how valuable having someone at home was. That spouse didn’t just care for the kids and do the housework; that spouse gave you that buffer, that margin, that made life liveable. I can’t give up a business I’ve spent years creating, but in the meantime, I could really use a wife.

Don’t miss a Reality Check! Sign up to receive it FREE in your inbox every week!

Declutter NOW

DeclutterYourLife

What do you think of when you hear the word “Declutter”?

Chances are your mind turns to all the papers that are piled up on your kitchen counter, or your bookcases that are overflowing with books and magazines and toys, or your mud room with 40 pairs of shoes, some of which are probably three sizes too small for the little feet that once wore them.

This week I want to challenge you to think of decluttering in a broader way: Let’s examine the things that are unnecessarily draining our energy and our time, and instead fill our time with the things htat match our real priorities.

Today we’ll be looking at decluttering in a broad sense, but tomorrow and Thursday  we’re going to turn to our kids, because with Back to School upon us, we need to think about how we’re actually spending our time and our energy.

We only have so much of both. I’ve been overwhelmed with work lately, and been much busier than normal. But the one thing that kept me sane was that, on the whole, I don’t have a cluttered life. So when something comes along, out of the blue and temporarily, that does require more energy and time, I’m able to fit it in.

That hasn’t always been the case. I remember times when my best friend was sick and needed help with her kids, and I could not do it. I had no leeway or give in my own schedule. There were times when I desperately needed some rest, and I couldn’t find it, because there was no leeway. But over the last ten years I’ve gotten rid of things–clutter in my house, church commitments, even friends that took too much from me–and I found that I then had time for the important things.

Too often, I think, we allow our lives to carry us along, instead of standing in front of everything and deciding how we’re going to live those lives. We just simply have too much: too much stuff and so too much to clean; too many responsibilities, and so too hectic a schedule; too much debt, and so too much stress.

Declutter Now by Lindon and Sherry GareisI just finished reading Lindon and Sherry Gareis’ book Declutter NOW, and it deals with this concept: that our lives are cluttered not just with physical things, but with other stresses and commitments that keep us from being able to focus our time and our energy on what is really important. Decluttering then, is not just about organizing your home but also about freeing up space in your life. In the book they lay out eight areas of our lives that need decluttering, including, of course, our physical space, but also our schedules, our job commitments, our kids’ commitments–even our friendships.

Neither Lindon nor Sherry is perfect, and they don’t claim to be. For both of them it is a second marriage, and they had a lot of baggage from their first marriages that they needed to “declutter”. They both made mistakes parenting that they’ve realized were largely caused because they forgot how to live their lives with God’s priorities at the center, and they let other things sap their focus.

I really enjoyed it, and I want to share a few nuggets of wisdom from them, and then a few very practical things you can do right now to start decluttering.

Realize that You Are Making a Choice to Live a Cluttered Life

Too often we’re exhausted or broke or stressed, and a large part of the problem is that we feel out of control. We aren’t controlling our lives; our lives are controlling us. Yet we always have choices–choices to concentrate on our priorities. They say,

Freedom allows you to step back, catch your breath, focus, reorganize, and get control. Freedom empowers you to broaden your vision and see the bigger picture. You’ll have choices and can operate without guilt or obligation.

We don’t tend to think of this as a spiritual problem, but it is. When we try to address the issues in our spiritual life, we tend to look at the “spiritual” symptoms. Are we praying enough? Do we read our Bible enough? Do we have time for a quiet time? And yet what if the main problem is one of focus in the rest of our lives?

Have you ever felt too busy for God? Too overwhelmed, rushed, or un- focused?

If the answer is yes, it’s probably because you’re trying to do too much. And when we do that, we don’t have time for the important. I remember reading in The Purpose Driven Life that there is always time in everyday to do what God has for us that day–and if we’re not getting it done, it’s likely because we’re filling our time with the unimportant. Sometimes those unimportant things seem urgent–the soccer practice, the costumes we have to make, the meeting at the church, the huge cleaning we need to do in the living room. But those urgent things were all choices. Choices to say yes or to get involved with more things than we could handle. And so no wonder we often go to bed dissatisfied, feeling like we somehow “missed” what God had for us today.

I’ve already written a big post on ideas of what to do with physical clutter, but I’d like to share just a few practical thoughts gleaned from the multitude that are mentioned in Lincoln and Sherry’s book:

1. Decluttering Means Operating in Trust God mode, Not in Survival mode

Sherry shares how after her divorce, she was so scared of her kids going cold that she collected blankets. Tons of blankets. And do you know how much room blankets take?

So often we do that–we keep things “just in case”. But those “just in case” things that we don’t normally use can quickly take over a house. So instead of operating in “survival” mode, let’s get rid of most of our “just in case” items and instead trust God that if we ever go through a hard time, He’ll bring us through it. And in the meantime, is it really worth the physical and emotional toll on you to store that thing?

One area of homes that I think goes to real disuse is the “guest room”, for those of us blessed enough to have one. How often do you really have guests? Twice a year? Four times a year? And in the meantime you don’t have a place for your sewing machine or your scrapbooking, which bring you so much pleasure, so they clutter up another area of the house. Let’s not live in “just in case” mode. Let’s live in today.

2. Look Forward, Not Backward–and Declutter those Photos!

Do you cling to photo album after photo album of pictures you never look at, or home videos you can’t even play anymore because you don’t have a machine for them? Maybe it’s time to declutter our family memories!

One of my current projects is scanning all my old family photos–and then throwing out the majority of them. I know that sounds radical, but photos fade, and that sticky stuff in albums can wreck photos after a few decades. So instead, I scan them and toss them. Most photos I don’t really want anyway. It’s hard letting go of the past, but sometimes we really need to!

If you don’t want to do this yourself, YesVideo will transfer all your photos onto a CD for you. And they’ll take all those home movies you can’t watch and put them on DVD. I’m not saying we should lose our memories. I’m just saying let’s keep them in a more practical way–and one that takes up a lot less space.

3. Declutter Toxic People

Here’s a rough one, but oh, so necessary. If people are draining your energy, it may be time to cut the strings.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about setting boundaries with your in-laws, which caused a lot of comments and a lot of really heartbreaking emails or people saying, “what do I owe my parents if they’re really mean to us?” In Declutter NOW Lindon and Sherry take you through a process of looking hard at the friends and family in your life who eat up your emotional energy, and then give you a practical way to classify them and figure out how much time you really want to spend with them. Go through the exercise and you’ll likely find that your life would be vastly improved if you spent LESS time with some people and far MORE time with others–people who encourage you and give you energy, whom you don’t currently have time for because of the toxic people.

In the two weeks or so since I banned a number of commenters I have felt lighter than I have in years. I didn’t realize how much certain people were stealing my emotional energy. I always checked the comments with trepidation; that’s gone now.

I like their objective method of figuring out who should be most important in your life, and if you’re really struggling with friends and family who bleed you dry, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate.

4. Declutter Your Coupons

Here’s something really simple: stop using coupons if they’re not really saving you money–and for many of us they aren’t. I read recently that the biggest grocery cost to the average family in North America is food waste. We buy more than we can actually eat because we buy in bulk, or we buy stuff we don’t normally eat because “it’s a good deal”, and then it sits in our cupboards.

The Gareis’ aren’t against coupons, but there’s a right way to do them and a wrong way. And the right way is far simpler (and doesn’t clog your cupboards).

5. Replace the Space with God

Lindon and Sherry have many more practical ideas for decluttering your finances, your job, your friends, you body, your home, and more, but all of them lead to the same aim: Replace the Space with God. Get rid of the unnecessary so you have room for the necessary.
As the school year begins again, I want to encourage all of us to think and pray about these things hard. Your life isn’t automatically going to be less chaotic just because you will it; you have to actually do something differently. If you’ve been operating in a chaotic mode, you need to actively change things, not just think about them. So look at your life: where is your energy being taken? What are you spending too much time on? Where can you get some breathing room?
Over the next two days we’re going to look specifically at family time and figuring out kids’ extracurricular activities. But today, pray: God, what can I let go of so that I can leave more room for You?

Lindon and Sherry’s book Declutter NOW is available in paperback and in ebook format. And the Kindle edition is just $4.99–THIS WEEK ONLY! They put it on sale especially for our readers. So do check it out!
And they offer FREE resources – including a 40 Day Challenge video series, at www.actionplanministries.com. Or join them on Facebook for some interactive fun and a 30 Day Declutter ‘Do’ series!

Standard of Living vs. Quality of Life

Standard of Living vs. Quality of LifeEvery Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week let’s talk about organization and about the things we value.

Summer may be a glorious season to sit and relax and soak up some sun, but I can only relax in small doses. To me, summer screams, “organize your house!”. Summer offers me a much-coveted stretch of time to finally accomplish some major housecleaning tasks. My children do not understand why a guest room which has been used as a storage room for the last two and a half years is now assigned the This Must Be Defeated Or the World Will Come to An End status, but that’s just how I am in summertime. I figure sun covers over a multitude of obsessive behaviours.

And so it is that for the last week my girls and I have rooted through boxes and jewelry racks and shoe racks and even the laundry room, shooing dust out of places I didn’t think it could accumulate, and relegating many long forgotten treasures to the charity pile.

As I gaze at this ever-expanding pile by my door, it occurs to me that each item there represents not just money that I once parted with, but time. We perhaps do ourselves a disservice when we value things only in terms of money. Sure that restaurant dinner out for four was only $65, but if you consider it by amount of time spent working, it takes on new significance. If you earn $13 an hour after taxes, that dinner out represented five hours of your life. Was it worth five hours?

When my oldest daughter started working full-time last semester she began to count things in terms of hours. That new hair straightener? Four hours. That’s worth it. That new dress? Not so much.

Little purchases can add up, but it’s perhaps the bigger choices of how we will spend our time and our money that set the tone for our lives. Perhaps we spend too much time worrying about our standard of living and not enough time worrying about our quality of life. We tend to measure things in terms of monetary value–we aim to earn the most income, have the nicest home, and accumulate more gadgets.

Yet when we make those choices, we’re simultaneously choosing to work harder and to be away from home more. Quite often standard of living and quality of life are trade-offs. When our children were small, for instance, my husband and I chose for me to stay home, even though it meant we rented an apartment, didn’t own a car, and bought everything second hand. We didn’t have a high standard of living. We did have a high quality of life.

Life is ultimately a choice–a choice of what we will value, and what we will sacrifice. If we choose to spend more time with our children, that may mean a much smaller home. If we choose to work for more vacations, a bigger home, or a summer cottage, it may mean less time to pursue hobbies, or simply to relax.

My fear is that too many of us get caught on this conveyor belt and we don’t realize we can make a choice to get off. There is no law saying that we have to keep accumulating stuff, keep earning more money, or keep buying the latest gadgets. We are allowed to choose what we will value.

Personally, I really value the chance summer offers to reorganize my life and drive my children crazy. It is a blessing. I just hope that this season reminds me that what I really want in life is more time–time with family and friends, time to knit; time to serve. And I can do that without as much stuff.

You can find Sheila cleaning house at www.Facebook.com/sheila.gregoire.books.

Don’t miss a Reality Check! Sign up to receive it FREE in your inbox every week!

Causes of Conflict in Marriage: What are Your “Trigger Points”?

Christian Marriage Advice

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can link up your own marriage posts below.

When I was reading an advance copy of Karen Ehman’s book “Let It Go“, she was talking about one way to mend our control-freak tendencies. She advocates figuring out what your “trigger points” are during the day when you’re likely to blow up at someone, and then figure out how to do things differently.

So it got me thinking: what are the common trigger points for conflict in marriage–the real causes of conflict?

Causes of Conflict in Marriage: What are your trigger points?My mother was often stressed with her family as a teenager, especially on Sunday mornings. Her parents were not the most organized, and Sunday mornings were hectic. My grandfather was a pastor, and he was always missing something–his keys, his tie. My grandmother could never find her glasses. And they would yell and run trying to get out the door. My mother, meanwhile, would be all ready. She had to teach Sunday School, and she had to get going. But invariably she was late because her parents were late.

So eventually she stopped waiting and decided that on Sundays she would take the bus to church. It took a lot longer than the car ride, but it was a lot less stressful, and she could make sure that she wasn’t late.

Sunday mornings were her trigger point. She knew that was coming.

What are yours?

A good exercise is to start keeping track of the times that you become angry or aggravated at your husband (or your kids), and then ask yourself:

What led up to this? What else was happening at the time?

Usually when we react in anger the problem is not solely the thing that we are angry about.

So if your husband walks in the door ten minutes late, one night you may blow up at him, while another night it bounced right off of you and you didn’t care. The cause of the conflict is not what it may seem.

What’s the difference?

Similarly, there may be times you’re ready to tear your husband’s hair out for leaving his socks on the floor one more time instead of getting them in the hamper, while other mornings you’re happily picking up the clothes while humming to yourself.

What’s different?

We dwell on the infraction–being late, not picking up the socks–but we often fail to realize that there are other things that are also contributing to the problem.

If we recognize what those other things are, we can see that these are our “trigger points” for anger. It isn’t necessarily what our husband does that makes us mad; it’s what else is going on that is causing us to see our husbands in a bad light.

Here are some common ones to get you thinking:

Cause of Conflict in Marriage #1: Feeling Overwhelmed/Busy

Ever feel like this?

'Too Heavy Burden' photo (c) 2008, Ainis - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

You’re just so weighed down by demands.

Let’s say that the night that your husband came in ten minutes late and you exploded was also the night that one child had soccer practice right at 6:45, and another child had swimming lessons right at 7, and all day you had been obsessing over how to get each child to the right place at the right time without making anybody late.

You have no leeway for error.

Or perhaps you just have had no time to yourself for a week because you’ve been chauffeuring kids everywhere, and you have a busy work schedule, and some other family things have come up. And you’re just feeling very put upon. In that case, those extra socks can feel as if your husband is standing over you, saying, “here’s something else you have to do! Your whole life is one big to-do list!”

Ask yourself: the last few times that I’ve gotten annoyed, have I been extremely busy? If so, maybe the best thing I can do for my marriage is to take the kids out of some activities and start learning to say “no”.

Cause of Conflict #2: Feeling Tired

When we’re exhausted we get grumpy. Little things our husbands do bother us so much more. And yet if we were bright eyed and bushy tailed we may be able to laugh it off!

Ask yourself: Have I been getting enough sleep lately? Maybe I need to start going to bed earlier, and training the children to sleep regularly, on their own, so that I can invest in my marriage.

Cause of Conflict #3: Feeling Defensive

Have you been angry at yourself lately? Maybe you’re mad because you can’t seem to lose that weight. Maybe you feel like you should be further ahead in your career right now. Maybe you feel like you should be a better mother. I was speaking at a conference recently and a woman came up and asked for prayer because she found that she was constantly angry at her kids. She didn’t want to be that kind of mom, but the house was chaotic and she was always angry.

We got to talking, and I shared with her that anger is usually a secondary emotion. We react in anger because we feel something else first, and that feeling is too sensitive, or too difficult to deal with, so we deflect it into anger. In her case, she had an immense fear of failure. She was afraid that she wasn’t a good mom. So when things around the house got chaotic and seemed to prove that fear was justified, she became angry.

The problem, though, was that she was already angry at herself. And when we’re angry at ourselves, we usually deflect that anger to other people, because it’s psychologically easier. So when you’re angry at yourself for not being able to keep on top of things at home, and then your husband leaves socks on the bedroom floor, you’ll get angry at him. It’s not the socks; it’s just another trigger that the house is out of control.

Ask yourself: Am I trying too hard to be perfect? Do I constantly feel like a failure? How can I pray through this and work through this with a friend/mentor so that I don’t project my anger at myself onto other people?

Cause of Conflict #4: Feeling Disconnected

Feeling Disconnected--Trigger Point for Conflict

A couple is supposed to feel like a team. They’re supposed to feel intimate, like they’re supporting each other and loving each other. And sex is a big part of that.

When you’re not making love regularly, you start to feel disconnected, because something is missing. Sex was the primary way that God created us to experience intimacy in marriage, and when we’re not pursuing it, it feels as if we’re keeping our spouse at arm’s length, even if that isn’t our conscious intention.

That’s when it’s easy to feel unsettled in your relationship. We start to second guess each other and question each other because we haven’t “checked in” on the relationship lately by making love. When you make love, you say, “I love you. I forgive past hurts. I want to be close.” When you don’t make love, those things may still be true, but you haven’t shown it tangibly in the same way. So we start to doubt.

31 Days to Great SexAnd when we’re doubting, those socks on the floor seem to be saying, “I don’t really care about you.” Or they’re saying, “I’m mad at you, so I’m not going to consider your needs or your comfort.”

We’re not defensive about ourselves in this case; we’ve become defensive about the relationship.

Ask yourself: Have you made love regularly, or are you going through a dry spell? To improve your marriage, commit to making love regularly–say at least twice a week. Love covers a multitude of sins, but sex also covers a multitude of misunderstandings. :) And my book 31 Days to Great Sex is a fun way to work through this trigger point!

Cause of Conflict #5: Feeling Hormonal

Finally, let’s not forget hormones. If I were to track all of the times that I’ve been a crying mess in front of my husband in the last few months, they would line up almost exactly with…well, you know what I’m talking about. And believe me, this gets way worse when you hit your 40s and perimenopause starts. Your hormones really are all over the place.

One day that sock is just a sock. The next day that sock is Evil Incarnate.

Ask yourself: am I feeling angry to a schedule? Maybe it’s time for me to look ahead of time at the calendar and look at when I’m likely to be difficult, and then warn people beforehand.

Here’s why these exercises can be so helpful: If you can identify the times when you’re most likely to blow up, then you can try either to avoid those times entirely–by becoming less busy, for instance–or you can plan more “alone” time for the times in your life when you are more likely to react badly to those you love.

So here’s the plan to Stop Conflict Before It Starts:

1. Think back to the last three times you reacted in anger towards your husband. Were any of these five things in play?

2. If you can’t remember the circumstances surrounding the last few times you’ve been angry, get a notebook out to keep track of things for the following month. Whenever you start to feel angry, take a step back and ask yourself which factors are affecting you.

3. If one particular trigger point keeps rearing its head, make a commitment to deal with that. For me, I’m going to block off the next day when I’ve got really bad PMS and just plan a day apart. I think it’s healthier for everyone!

4. On a related note, focus on the things you do well together. We’ve talked today about looking for the triggers for conflict; but we also have triggers for laughter. Figure out what you were doing the last time you laughed together, and do more of that!

If we could notice our trigger points for conflict, we’d have far less conflict in our marriage. So take a good, long look at yourself–and resolve to deal with those triggers!

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Leave the URL for your marriage post in the linky below! And be sure to link back here so other people can read these great marriage posts.



How to Organize your Ebooks and Read them on Your Reader/Phone

UHeB-large-HomemakingBundle_revised

We’re in the middle of this HUGE Homemaking Bundle Ebook sale, where you can buy 97 ebooks for just $29.97–everything that you need to organize your home, parent your kids, cook, and even nurture your marriage (my 31 Days to Great Sex is in there)! (See a list of ALL the books in yesterday’s post).

I made a quick video talking about the sale here:

If you haven’t purchased it already, you can here! And you can see all the books here.

Buy-Now-Paper-Clip-Button

But one question that many people have is, “how do I read ebooks?”

We keep hearing the term “ebook”, but what exactly is it? And how do I “read” a book if it’s a computer file?

So I thought that I’d spend a bit of time explaining how I do it, and how I organize all my stuff.

Ours is a Mac house, so if you have a PC, some of my screen shots may not look exactly the same. But it’s pretty much the same concept. I also have an iPad, and my kids and my husband have Kindles. My husband also has an iPhone. And my kids have iPod touches. And we all read ebooks on all of those devices.

Full confession: I thought I would HATE reading books on devices.

I mean, I like turning the pages. I like being able to skip ahead and seeing what’s going to happen easily (it’s a bit more of a pain to turn to the last page in a novel on a device). I’m a book purist.

And I still do buy books that I love. Some books I just have to have in paperback.

But when I’m traveling, I love my iPad (or I borrow my husband’s Kindle 3G, which can download books without needing an internet connection anywhere in the world. So when I’m in the airport on a missions trip in Kenya, I can download a novel right then and there. When I’m sitting on the beach in Mexico, and I’m finished a book, I can get a new one right away.) It’s awesome!

And when we do go overseas, we pack so much to leave behind in donations that we can’t afford the luggage space for books. So a Kindle, which can carry thousands of books at no extra weight, is ideal.

But I also read books on devices at home, for the simple reason that sometimes I want a book, and I want it NOW (because I’m just like that), and I can purchase them and download them and get them right away.

What kind of ebooks are there?

So what exactly is an ebook? Well, there are several different kinds. Let’s take my book The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex, for instance. It’s available in paperback, just like most books are. But you can also buy it in electronic format. Because it’s published by an actual publisher, and not self-published, though, if you want to read it on a device you have to buy it specifically for that device. So you buy it FOR the Kindle, or FOR the Nook, at Amazon or at Barnes and Noble.

Here’s the thing about ereaders, like the Nook, or the Kindle, or the Kobo: they’re designed to only take books from their particular store. So Amazon sells books for the Kindle, but you can’t read them on the Nook. And Barnes and Noble sells books for the Nook, but you can’t read them on a Kindle. They do that so that when you buy a Kindle, you’re basically locking yourself in to buying ebooks from Amazon for the rest of your life.

When you buy a self-published book, though, like my 31 Days to Great Sex, you can certainly buy it for your device at Amazon, or at Barnes and Noble, or at Chapters. And it will be sent to  your device automatically.

But because I self-publish, I also sell a .pdf version through my website. A .pdf is simply a file that can be read on ANY device.

So when you buy a .pdf, you can read it anywhere. On your computer. On your phone. On your iPad, or Kindle, or Nook.

The Homemaking Bundle sells books in .pdf form, so you can read them on anything.

Are ebooks just as good as regular books?

Well, many ebooks ARE regular books, just sold in electronic format. Other ebooks are self-published, and often aren’t as long as a “regular” book, but contain very specific information that you’re looking for.

EasyPeasyChoresFlat_CroppedSo one of my absolute favourite books in the bundle, for instance, isn’t really a book at all. I may dedicate a whole post to this on Thursday, because it’s a passion of mine, but I just love Easy Peasy Chore Charts.

These are “printables”, with some instructions on how to use them. But basically she has these folders with “cards” in them, and the cards are for morning routine, and afternoon routine, and cleaning routine, and the kids take the cards and do what’s on them, and then they place them in Mom’s folder so that she can check.

And the cards are visual representations of what they’re supposed to do. So they’re fun, and they’re easy, even for little kids who can’t read yet.

So is it a book? No. But it’s an awesome resource!

Other .pdf files in the bundle ARE books that you would read, just like a regular book, with awesome information.

And one of the big benefits of ebooks is that sometimes you want more information, but you don’t have room to store it.

Seriously, this is my living room:

Living Room1

(and by the way, another blogger friend and I made a pact that we would NOT clean up our homes before showing you pictures of something, just so that you know that we’re real people to! So yes, I know that plant needs some care.)

LivingRoom2

I don’t have room for more books! So I only buy the ones I want to have to lend or to refer to, and the rest I tend to buy in ebook format now.

Organizing Your Ebooks

I set up a file on my computer just for ebooks.

I subdivided that file into different categories, and now, when I get an ebook, I slot it into the right category. I also have a folder just for printables (like the Easy Peasy Chore Charts), because I know I’ll never want to put those on my iPad, for instance. Those are just for printing out.

iPad and iPod and iPhone

The two easiest ways to get books onto your iPad, in my opinion, are these:

1. Email them to yourself as an attachment

2. Use Dropbox

If you email it to yourself, and then attach the .pdf, you can just tap on the attachment and choose “open in iBooks”.

Here’s what we did for 31 Days to Great Sex. Tap on the attachment, and the book cover will come up.

31Days3

Then you get the option to open in iBooks. Click that, and it moves the book to iBooks so you have books on your bookshelf, like this:

31 Days in iBooks

You can also use Dropbox, which is free up to 3 GB of data, I believe. You just get an account on your computer, and then you download the Dropbox app for your iPad, and you can always be synced. Here’s my Dropbox folder for all the books in the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle, for instance:

Dropbox Organizing Ebooks

One downside: this only works if you have a wifi connection. No wifi connection, and no ability to access the books on your device.

You can also “sync” your iPad, but I, in general, find that a pain. If you’re good at that, then you can sync your books that way. I just hate Apple’s way of syncing. I’m always afraid I’ll mess something up. So I like emailing much better!

Putting Books on a Kindle, Nook, or Kobo

All you have to do is plug your device in to your computer! Then the computer looks at the device as if it’s an external drive, and you can just copy and paste all of the books over.

Here’s a quick video on how to move a .pdf onto a Nook, but it works the same for all the devices.

If you have a Kindle, you also have a unique email address that goes with your Kindle. So if you go into your Amazon account, you can get that email address. And then you can email .pdfs as attachments right to that email, and it will show up on your Kindle!

Screen Shot 2013-04-30 at 9.23.36 AM
Just go into “Manage Your Devices”, and then you’ll see the email address right there.

Managing Your Books on Your Computer

I get sent so many books to review, and now I have all the books in the Homeschooling Bundle. And I was forever hunting around for them! So I simply set up a folder for all of my ebooks, with sub-folders for all of the topics. And now if I want to find something (like a novel), it’s easy.

Screen Shot 2013-04-30 at 9.28.24 AM

There, for instance, you can see 31 Days to Great Sex!

So I have all of my books in one easy place.

Whew.

So that’s it. It’s actually way easier than you think.

Like the book 10 Steps to Organized Paper says (which comes in your Ultimate Homemaking Bundle), sometimes the best way to organize things is to make them electronic! And ebooks do that. So just put them in folders like you would normal paper so they’re easy to find, and you can get reading!

Buy-Now-Paper-Clip-Button

Use What You Have! Saving Money in January

Use What You Have and Save!
The new year is wonderful for fresh starts, but unfortunately not everything can automatically be made new just because the calendar changes. And one of the things that follows us into the new year is those pesky credit card bills. January is an awfully tough month financially for many families. Huge bills are due, and the money just isn’t coming in.

But one thing that we often forget is how much money we already have tied up in stuff inside our four walls! So today I thought I’d write about ways to save money this month by Using What You Actually Have. I know that sounds revolutionary, but hear me out.

It used to be that people let nothing go to waste. I’m an avid knitter, and I remember reading about a pioneer woman who used to try out new cable stitches using the string that came tied around the butcher’s packages, because she couldn’t afford to waste yarn. So even string was valuable!

Today we often buy stuff and then it sits in a cupboard, forgotten.  If money is tight this month, maybe it’s time to figure out what’s inside those cupboards!

'Pantry Commentary 2010' photo (c) 2010, Julie Magro - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/1. Food

The average family has between $250-$400 of groceries inside their home at any one time. And I’m pretty sure that’s a low estimate if you include what’s in my freezer!

So this month, why not make it a challenge to actually use the cans that are in your cupboard, and the meat that is in your freezer? Don’t buy stuff at the store–even if it’s on sale. Use up what you actually have.

Those tins of cranberry? Use them. Those tins of tuna? Figure out how to make a casserole.

I’m guilty of hoarding lentils and dried beans. I keep thinking I’m actually going to cook with them, but then I rarely do. I think it’s time that I actually tried!

Recently I made chili with various miscellaneous dried beans and all kinds of hamburger and turkey patties left over from the summer that we never got around to barbecuing, but which probably wouldn’t taste that good if I left them until the next barbecuing season. When you mash them all up, they’re pretty indistinguishable from ground beef. And my freezer looks a lot better without all those boxes.

2. Medications

I’m prone to periodic bouts of eczema, or just really itchy rashes. So a while ago when it flared up I bought a tube of hydrocortisone cream. After I had used it I had to figure out where to put it, since it’s not a normal medication. When it occurred to me which drawer it would most naturally fit in, I opened up that drawer only to find–two other tubes of hydrocortisone cream. I don’t know if I’m getting forgetful in my forties or what, but no one needs three tubes of hydrocortisone cream to deal with the occasional flare-up.

The solution? Have a central place in the house where all medications are kept. I used to be really organized with my medicines, but I’ve found it a challenge now because my teenage girls have their own bathroom, and so they often stick medications in there, too. The solution I’ve come up with is to stop keeping medications in the bathrooms and start putting them in a central drawer in the kitchen. That way we won’t have three bottles of Advil floating around, or three tubes of hydrocortisone cream.

3. Toiletries

My oldest daughter likes to say that the way you can tell a girl’s bathroom from a boy’s bathroom is the amount of product on the counter. Girls, she says, are incapable of having just one of anything, because they have to try out different things!

Are you guilty of that? I know I can be. If I dig under my bathroom sink I’ll find half used cans of mousse, or conditioner, or foot cream. But honestly, most of those products are completely interchangeable, despite the brand.

'Hackpact #14' photo (c) 2009, Cormac Heron - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

My husband started consolidating things by taking all of our leftover sunscreen after the summer and pouring it into one bottle. I thought that was a good idea, so I’ve started doing it with moisturizer cream, too. Instead of lots of half-filled bottles, I’ve got one big one. And I won’t buy anything else until that big one is actually used!

If you have stuff under there that you bought at a Mary Kay party once or something, why not start using it? You’ll feel prettier, and you’ll get rid of clutter taking up space under your sink!

4. Gift Cards

Many of us receive different gift cards at Christmas. But do you necessarily need them all?

One neat thing Canadians can do with gift cards is to join CardSwap and then swap out your gift cards for things you really need. So if money is tight this month you may not need a gift card to Chapters (our equivalent of Barnes and Noble), but you may really need it for a drug store. So join CardSwap and consolidate your cards into one big one you’ll actually use. I hate having $10 left on one card for one store and $15 left on another. I’d rather just have one big gift card for one store that I go to frequently.

Before Christmas my daughter cashed in $110 worth of gift cards and received about $100 back to use on Christmas presents. Yes, they take a cut, but to her the cash was worth it, because she didn’t really NEED stuff from that store. So, Canadians, check out CardSwap!

I think it’s a great service. Do they have anything similar in the U.S. or the U.K. or Australia? Let us know in the comments!

5. Games

When you want something to do at night, what do you automatically turn to? The video store? Amazon movies on demand? Even your TV? Here’s a thought: why not save the $1 or $5 or whatever it would cost and instead play a board game? We’ve all got them stuffed in those cupboards, but they rarely come out. Let’s make it a habit to actually use what we buy, including our games, rather than turning to entertainment that doesn’t necessarily entertain–and that costs us money.

So I challenge you this month to use up what you actually have. It will save you money, but more than that, it makes us think differently about how we use our money. When we throw it away carelessly, buying stuff we don’t really need, then we’re not being responsible or grateful for what we have. Actually using what’s in our house teaches us more about what we should be spending money on, and teaches us what we don’t really need!

Have you ever tried to Use What You Have to get you through a tough financial period? Let me know in the comments!

Is Your Bedroom Inviting?

Christian Marriage AdviceIt’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can comment, or put the URL to your own marriage post into the linky below. Today I want to talk about romantic bedrooms.

I know several hundred of my readers are currently working through The 31 Days to Great Sex, my new ebook looking at how we can build a fun, intimate marriage. And one of the things you’ll find when you get to the end of the month is a series of challenges on how to set up your life so that intimacy becomes easier and more natural, with fewer roadblocks.

And one of those roadblocks may very well be our bedroom.

When my two daughters were babies our family was living in a tiny two-bedroom apartment. Our computer was in our bedroom. Our duvet was old and rather ugly. In fact, everything in that room was old and rather ugly.

One winter, after a particularly grueling year during which we were grieving the loss of our little boy, we decided to head south for a vacation and recoup. When we came home, my mother and a friend had redone our bedroom, with new bedding, plump new pillows, and a new lamp.

Unfortunately, they couldn’t move the computer and all the excess stuff out of our room, but even the small effort they made created such a transformation. When I walked into our bedroom I wasn’t depressed anymore. I was happy!

Is Your Bedroom Inviting? Tips for a Romantic Bedroom

When you walk into your bedroom, do you feel like it’s a haven, or do you feel like it’s a dive?

If your dresser is covered with old VISA receipts, if craft boxes are stacked up in a corner, if your bedding is threadbare and ugly and your pillows are lumpy, then climbing into bed isn’t fun. And if you figure your bed is the best place to fold laundry—it’s so big, and just the right height!—but then that laundry never gets put away, and every night you sweep it onto the floor again, then jumping into bed isn’t going to seem stress free.

We tend to make it a priority to keep the kitchen and living room clean, because that’s what other people see when they come into our homes (though, if we’re honest, many of us rarely have company). But the bedroom is just for us, so if it’s a mess, no one ever sees it.

And so the bedroom is often last on our list.

Romantic Bedrooms bring Romantic Marriages

I think our priorities are wrong.

I think the bedroom should be one of the first places we decorate

–before the baby’s room, before the kitchen, before the living room. A baby doesn’t know the difference if the room is filled with boxes or if it’s straight out of Homes & Gardens. You, on the other hand, do. And if you’re going to nurture your marriage, you need to have a room that you feel is a haven.

Don’t put a TV in there so you’re mindlessly watching CSI instead of talking at night. Don’t bring work there. And don’t bring all your excess boxes in there (unless you honestly can’t help it, like we couldn’t in our tiny apartment).

Christmas is almost upon us, and can I make a suggestion? Why not get together with your husband and plan to buy something for the bedroom this year that will make your bedroom inviting. Maybe it’s a luxurious duvet, or some new bedding. Maybe it’s some luscious pillows. Maybe it’s an awesome tempurpedic mattress. Something that screams “luxury” and romance to you. And if you don’t have the money yet, that’s okay. Just set up a savings jar where you put change in and spare dollar bills. Set up a Pinterest board of bedrooms that say “haven” to you. And nurture your marriage!

It’s easy to forget about ourselves at Christmas and focus mostly on the kids. But children will forget what they got for Christmas when they were 8, or 9, or 11. They will never forget the love that you and your husband shared. What kids need, more than anything else, is to feel as if you and your husband are rock solid. It’s okay to invest in your marriage!

Browse some luxurious bedding at Frette.com! They have wonderful duvets and sheet sets. Maybe this is what you need to ask for for Christmas.

Now, what do you have for us today? Leave a link to the URL of your marriage post in the linky below!

This post is a sponsored post. The links are sponsored–the thoughts are 100% my own. I take sponsored posts to help offset the cost of this blog (which is getting very expensive to run!). But I only accept posts that I are in line with what I was already planning on writing.



God Is Not Your Red Bull

God is Not Your Red BullDo you ever think to yourself, “if only I gave God more of my morning, I’d have more energy and discipline to get done all the things I need to get done today?”

I’m prone to that.

I think that approach, though, is wrong. It treats God like He’s a can of Red Bull: Read your Bible, and you’re energized and can get your to-do list to-done!

Sometimes I worry that the reason that I feel exhausted is because I’m doing things in my strength, not His. And so what I need to do, then, is to spend more time with God, so I’ll have more power and can get things done and be more disciplined.

Wrong.

The reason we spend time with God is not so that we will feel invigorated and ready to face the day and get through our agenda; the reason we spend time with God is so that He can set the agenda. (Click to Tweet!)

Purpose of Devotions: Letting God Set the Agenda of Our Day

If you’re exhausted, the problem is likely that you have not allowed God to set your agenda. You’re asking more of yourself than God is asking of you, and you’re putting your energy in the wrong things.

This week, instead of asking God to make you more disciplined, what about asking God to help you set your agenda?

Point out what things you can get rid of, and what things you need more of. Ask Him to show you where His heart lies, and then follow that heart.

Don’t treat God like a Red Bull. He’s so much more than that.