My Blind Spot of Shame: Admitting Your Mistakes

Admitting Your Mistakes: why sometimes it's hard--because we don't even notice them!

Do you have a difficult time admitting your mistakes? I do–and it’s not always a pride issue. Sometimes it’s because I have a definite blind spot.

On Fridays I like to run my columns–or my short pieces that sum up what I think about family, love, and society. Here’s a piece I wrote back in 2008 about the difficulties I have remembering appointments. Considering the school year is upon us, I thought many of you organization-minded mamas could relate!

Next time I go to the orthodontist’s office I will have to wear a paper bag over my head. I just forgot yet another of my daughter’s appointments.

It was easy to rationalize away the first one we missed. Keith had the girls that day, and we just didn’t share information in an appropriate way. In other words, I forgot to tell him. The second time, though, was entirely my fault, and I didn’t have a fallback excuse.

Feeling very badly, I promptly instituted a new fixture in our house: the calendar on the fridge. All our appointments were dutifully recorded, so that none could escape our notice.

However, the fridge door is not the most ideal place for a calendar that uses wipe off markers. People constantly rub against it as they stare, mouth gaping, into that appliance, in the process obliterating our appointments forever.

The third one I forgot, though, is still easily forgiven, because my mother’s best friend had died and we were rushing out of town for the funeral. How can an orthodontist compete with a funeral? In my moments of honesty, though, I admit that I would have forgotten anyway. It’s become a habit.

The strange thing is that I don’t forget anything else.

My dentist, doctor, and optometrist have nothing to complain about. I’m at every committee meeting, every family meeting, every church meeting. But when it comes to my daughter’s orthodontist, I have a blind spot. I just can’t seem to keep appointments in my head.

After the fiasco with the funeral we told Rebecca it was now her job to remember, since I was obviously not up to the task. She said she would. And she did remember, right after I yelled, in a panic, “Becca, when’s the orthodontist appointment!?!?!”. She checked her little yellow card, which she had helpfully stowed deep in her closet, so that she could find it if she ever had the urge to look for her old winter snowsuits. “Yesterday,” she meekly replied.

My husband once operated a full-time pediatric office, and I remember how we used to feel about those parents who continually missed visits. They’re scatter-brained, irresponsible, and pathetic excuses for mothers and fathers. And now I’ve joined their ranks. I feel like a slug, especially when I stare into my empty wallet and realize how much my lapses of memory are costing us. But we all have blind spots, don’t we?

And often our blind spots are exactly the things that bother us in other people.

I get so annoyed when people fail to show up to meetings I’ve called, but here I am doing the same thing. Similarly, I’m forever thinking critically of parents who feed their offspring junk, but to be honest, if my girls ask, “can we have chocolate before breakfast?”, my response is usually, “Is your father gone yet?”. And if the answer is in the affirmative, we all partake together, if just a little, because it’s common knowledge that the chocolate you eat before your day really begins doesn’t count.

Perhaps you have blind spots. You get mad because your spouse keeps the house in chaos, but every time your anniversary rolls around the significance of the date bypasses that part of your brain which reminds you to buy a card. Or your mother’s overindulgence of your children drives you crazy, but you fail to see how taking them to McDonald’s because you can’t be bothered to cook is proof that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Nobody likes admitting your mistakes.

It’s far more preferable to blame the rest of humanity for being worse than we are. Unfortunately, my orthodontist bills are making it harder and harder for me to do that. I have considered obtaining affidavits from my dentist and my doctor attesting to my exemplary record of attendance. (I did forget the time of a dentist appointment once, but I still had the date right, and that has to count for something.) I don’t think, however, that this will heal the breach. Only groveling is going to do it. I wonder where we keep the paper bags.

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Top 10 Reasons for Marrying Young

Top 10 Reasons Marrying Young Can Actually be Good--for You and for Society

Our society frowns on marrying young. We want people to be established, be educated, and play the field first.

Personally, I think marrying young can be a very good thing. Tonight my daughters and I will attend the wedding of a 19-year-old woman named Emma. She’s a sweetie, and she’s so happy, and I’m excited for her.

So I thought I’d write about the pros of marrying young. But first, a few caveats:

I do not believe that everyone should marry young.

In fact, in many cases young marriage doesn’t work. If the couple really is not very mature, they could be making a very bad decision. I get nervous when a 19-year-old chooses to marry who hasn’t really seen the world much or expanded their social circle at all. If all they know is a very small corner of the world, they may not know themselves very well yet.

Finally, many young people marry to escape. They want to feel grown up, and they want to get on with their lives, and marriage seems the easiest course.

In almost all these cases, these young marriages will not be good ones.

I’m also fully aware that many people will not meet anyone suitable to marry until they are a little older. I have a good friend who married for the first time at 42 a few years ago. She would have loved to marry earlier, but her love didn’t show up until she was older. I in no way mean to shame people who have not married young. I know often being single older is not by choice. I have frequently told my daughters that while I firmly believe they will marry, no one knows when that will be, and they need to work at being comfortable on their own and with God instead of thinking their lives are only complete once they are married.

Nevertheless, none of that means that young marriages can’t work, and so here are 10 reasons why I think marrying young should come back into vogue. We’ll start with the benefits to society, and then look at the benefits for the couple themselves:

Top TenWhy Marrying Young is Good for Society

1. Drifting Through One’s Twenties Can Waste a Key Decade

When people expect that they’ll marry at thirty (the average age for first marriages is now at around 27 for women), then they tend to see their twenties as their time to explore, not their time to settle down. Everything gets delayed. You can spend a few years experimenting with different careers (or lack thereof), or traveling with no purpose, or hopping from relationship to relationship. As I talked about last week, though, your twenties are an important decade financially. If you can start saving then, you really set yourself up well for life.

And the earlier people start saving and maturing, the better off and more productive society is.

2. Having Babies Younger is Better for Society

Physically, the best years to have babies is in your early twenties. Yet few people are married or ready today at that point, largely because we have extended adolescence so far. While most people had babies young fifty years ago, today having one’s first baby after age 30 is the norm in many circles.

Yet while socially we’ve changed, physically we haven’t. And as fertility rates drop, perhaps it would be better for society to prioritize maturing younger rather than prolonging the years when you “find yourself”, especially since those years really are so valuable.

Why Marrying Young Can Be Good For You

3. You “Grow Up” Together

When you marry at 20 or 21, you haven’t always figured out what you want in a house, or how you want to organize a kitchen, or how you want to pay your bills. You don’t know what you want in a church or where you want to live. But you can grow up and make those decisions together, and it’s kinda fun!

When Keith and I married at 21 we had no idea about how we wanted to spend vacations or what kind of house we wanted, let alone how we wanted to do housework. We just figured it out ourselves. And because we hadn’t had our own routines for so many of these things, it wasn’t hard to merge.

4. It’s Easier to Merge Two Homes when There’s Not Much To Them

Imagine you’ve been doing your finances on Quicken on the computer for ten years, and then you marry someone who keeps all receipts in shoe boxes. That’s tough to find a new way of doing it, when you’re both so set in your ways.

Imagine you’ve had ten years since you moved out of your parents place to set your own traditions for Christmas and Thanksgiving. Now you have to do it all over again, when you’re emotionally wedded to the things you’ve already done.

It’s just tricky to merge two households. It’s easier to start off together.

5. You Can Be a Younger Parent

I remember being 27 years old and having one toddler on my back and one baby on my front and getting on the Toronto subway for 45 minutes, with 2 transfers, to get to the zoo, where I spent 6 hours with the kids, only to reverse the whole process.

There is no way I would have had the same energy to do that if I were 37 instead.

And here’s the thing: so many people say, “I want to travel before I settle down! I want to see the world!” But my youngest will be leaving home next year when I’m just 45. (I’m still tearing up at that a little, by the way). Keith and I are going to do some major traveling! We’re going to buy an RV and start seeing the world, little bits at a time. We’re heading to Australia for a conference. It’ll be wonderful (and hopefully take my mind off of my kids being gone). We’re still young, we’re still energetic, but best of all, we have some money now. We didn’t have any in our twenties. We can travel way more now than we could have then.

6. You Can Be a Younger Grandparent

I think a lot of people forget this one: my mom became a grandma at 51. She was so energetic with my girls. She’s 71 now, and she’s still active, but the girls have such strong memories of her being much younger. They remember when she was still a career woman. They remember her doing really fun trips with them. They will always have very clear memories of her.

On the other hand, my grandparents were 62 when I was born. While I have great memories of one of my grandparents, my maternal grandfather had a massive stroke at 64. He was a really strong, active man, yet I only remember him in a wheelchair with impaired judgment. My maternal grandmother, apparently, was just like me. She was opinionated, extroverted, and great at public speaking. Yet most of my memories of her are post-dementia.

My mom has many friends her age who are just becoming grandparents now. I actually hope my girls have kids young, because I’m looking forward to piling grandchildren in our RV and taking them around North America.

7. You Resist Temptation

If you’re with a guy you totally love when you’re 21, and your parents say, “you have to wait until you’re 25 and that graduate degree is finished before you marry”, how in the world are you supposed to resist the temptation to have sex? Sure it’s possible, but it’s awfully hard.

When you love someone and feel close, you’re going to want to make love. It’s natural. Physiologically for men especially, the sex drive is highest from 18-25. It’s really, really hard to wait, and when I hear Christian parents saying, “I hope my son doesn’t marry until he’s done med school and residency when he’s 27″, I wonder what they’re thinking, frankly. Walking down the aisle to meet the only one you will ever make love to is such a beautiful thing and a gift. But if we start telling hormonally charged teens that they have to wait 15 years post-puberty to get married–fewer will wait for marriage for sex.

8. You Avoid a Lot of Heartache

If people married young, perhaps we’d have fewer “exes” and fewer regrets. So much of the problem in marriages is caused by past baggage. If we put the expectation on kids that “it’s fine to get married at 21″ rather than “you had better not get married until you finish your degree and you have a good job”, then people would treat relationships at 20 more seriously. They wouldn’t think, “this can’t go anywhere, so let’s just have fun!” Often that “fun” ends up causing a lot of tears.

9. You Can Focus Your Goals Earlier

Once you’re married, you can start making real plans. Where do we want to be in 5 years? In 10 years? When do we want to buy a house? What education do we need? Where do we want to live? Certainly you can do those things when you’re single, but it’s often tricky since you don’t know where life is going to take you. Once you’re married, you can nail these things down. And if you do marry at 22, then you will start thinking about buying a house. If you don’t marry until 28, you’re often not worried about buying a home at all, and so you rent for years.

Case for MarriageResearchers have found that marriage boosts one’s income and one’s net worth, all on its own, even controlling for class, race, and education. Being married makes people hunker down and treat life more seriously. And that’s good, because it means that ultimately you’ll be financially better off.

10. You Have Decades and Decades Together

I am so looking forward to growing old with my husband, but I am also looking forward to years and years of having fun together before we do get old. He is my best friend. He is my lover. He is my favourite person in the world. I am so blessed to be able to be with him, and I am so blessed that we do have all these years together. Why would you not want as many years as you could with the man that you choose?

Again, I know that not everyone will meet their marriage partner young, and that’s okay. There’s nothing inherently wrong with marrying later.

My problem is that we’ve started to see marrying young as inherently wrong, and I think young marriage actually has a lot of benefits–probably even more than later marriages.

My dream would be a society that focused on helping teens mature faster so that they would be ready to marry younger again. I personally think that would be a healthier society overall.

So I’d encourage all of us who are parents to stop hoping our children marry later, and start preparing them to launch into life younger. It’s okay to marry in college. It’s okay to marry in your early twenties–as long as you’re sure of your faith, you’re sure of yourself, and you’re sure of your relationship.

What do you think? I’d love to hear!

UPDATE: Oh, my goodness, I forgot about sexual temptation!!! So I changed out #7 since I first published it. How could I have forgotten that?!?

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.

 

Huge Back to School Shopping with Kids, Friends, and Staples

It’s hard to believe that we’re in the middle of August, but we are. And that means that summer is almost over–and school is just around the corner (though I don’t like to think about that!)

So when Staples contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in writing a Back to School post, I jumped at the chance, especially since they were including a generous gift card. So I called up my best friend, who has Samantha (about to start kindergarten), Blake (starting middle school) and Mickaula (starting high school). That’s right–three kids starting three different schools this fall! And I said: “hey, wanna go to back to school shopping, on me?”

She said yes.

Big surprise.

I took my youngest daughter with me, too, since she needed a few things, but since we homeschool, and her desk/office is pretty well set up, I didn’t need a bunch for us (just an ink cartridge for my oldest daughter and some pens). But we had a blast with Susan and her kids!

Staples Back to School1

Samantha was overjoyed with the thought that SHE GOT TO GET A BACKPACK AND A LUNCHBOX!!!! OH, JOY!!!

Staples Back to School 2

In fact, we had a hard time getting her to put the backpack down. She insisted on putting all of her school supplies inside the backpack (I really don’t think Staples likes you to shop that way, but the staff at Staples in Belleville, Ontario, was awesome!), so she did. And then we had to take it all out to pay later. (Here she is with my Mom, who is also her “Nana”).

Staples Back to School 6

Staples also had lots of “regular” backpacks for people who might not like Minnie Mouse, and, of course, they had lots of lunchbox accessories, like thermoses and water bottles.

Staples Back to School 11

After checking out all the “little kid” stuff we needed for Samantha, including crayons, a glue stick, pencil crayons, and some kindergarten scissors, we turned to the older kids. Staples does have “Back to School” checklists for different ages, too:

Staples Back to School 15

We decided to head mostly for the portable school supplies, but Blake and Mickaula did have fun trying out the chairs:

Staples Back to School 9

And the desks:

Staples Back to School 8

It is so important that kids have a good place to do homework. The kitchen table will work in a pinch, but to have a desk with a chair with proper back support is a wonderful thing. I work too much on the couch and it is so bad for me–I’m trying to move back to my desk, too. Help you kids develop good habits when they’re young!

One thing they had that I don’t know if it existed when I was in high school was locker organizers. So cool–you can get little shelves and magnets for the inside door for post it notes, calendars, pens, etc.

Staples Back to School 7

Mostly, though, we bought the typical school stuff: pens, pencil cases, binders, highlighters.

Staples Back to School 3

Staples Back to School 5

Here are Sheila’s tips for school stuff:

Buy the heavy, durable binders, not the floppy ones or fabric ones. If you buy good ones, and insist your kids organize their papers when they do homework at night, those binders will last you for years. If you get the floppy ones, you’ll be lucky if they see you through the school year. It’s better to invest in good binders early.

And buy highlighters! They make note taking so much easier. I loved highlighters when I was in high school and they really helped me study. I colour-coded everything. Maybe it’s a girl thing more than a boy thing, but it does make things easier. And it helps you take notes in an organized fashion (so does buying pens of different colours).

Staples Back to School 10

One of the most fun parts was all the deals! I guess Staples Canada is trying to get moms in the door, because they had crayons for a quarter, pencil crayons for 80 cents, packages of paper for a dime, and notebooks for a dime. It was awesome!

Staples Back to School 12

Staples Back to School 14

Staples Back to School 13

I bought a ton of crayons to put in the Christmas shoeboxes we do with Samaritan’s purse–so if you do shoeboxes, now is a great time to stock up!

It took us about an hour to get absolutely everything for everyone, but we did it!

Staples Back to School 16

Samantha lost steam pretty early, but luckily the iPad display captivated her, and she climbed right up and played a game.

Staples Back To School 17

After we checked out, we had spent a grand total of $375, which helped 6 kids (my two girls, Susan’s three girls, and a foster girl she has who isn’t pictured for obvious reasons) get equipped for back to school for absolutely everything they could possibly need. And a lot of that stuff will last for several years yet!

When they were walking out, Samantha insisted on putting her backpack back on immediately.

Staples Back to School 18

I just want to say a special thank you to everyone who reads this blog faithfully, because my blog readership is large enough that I get to participate in fun events like this–and then I can bless others with it, too.

So thank you for reading, because you set up Samantha, Blake and Mickaula to go back to school–and gave my kids some fun stuff, too! And we had an awesome time.

Preserving Childhood Innocence: The Right Not to Know

Childhood Innocence: Kids have the right not to know some things

Has our society eroded childhood innocence?

I think it has, and I wrote about it in this column from a few years ago. For twelve years I wrote a syndicated column, and I’ve decided to post my favourites that never appeared on this blog on Fridays. Hope you enjoy!

What is the dividing line between childhood and adulthood? It had better not be moving out of your parents’ house, or a lot of people who think they are adults are sorely mistaken. If it’s having a job, then those 15-year-olds who ask if you want fries with that have already reached maturity. Instead, I think the main dividing line is knowledge. Childhood is a protected state where they can learn new things slowly, once they’re mature enough to handle them.

That’s why I think a child has the right not to know some things.

I think they have a right not to know about the horror of war, except in general terms, until they enter the teenage years. I think they have a right not to know about sexuality inside and out. I think they have a right to be told only in vague terms about their parents’ neuroses, marriages or love lives.

Once you open that door into the adult world, you see, children have a difficult time just being children. Childhood innocence has been taken from them.

I’m not sure all adults understand this. I remember talking with a friend a few years ago who let his three-year-old son watch X-Files with him (largely because he couldn’t be bothered to put the child to bed). “Oh, he doesn’t care,” my friend said. “he thinks it’s funny.” And to prove his point, he nudged the child to laugh. That same child had frequent nightmares. Very young children don’t have the ability to distinguish real life from acting, and they can be shaken by many things, even those we don’t think are that bad.

But even if you try to keep the door closed on the adult media world, someone else can push it open.

When we took our children to see The Incredibles last year, we were sitting in the theatre listening to an audio soundtrack before the film began. All of a sudden someone said something extremely sexually graphic. I shot up, found the staff and asked them to turn the soundtrack off, which they gladly did. It wasn’t supposed to air before children’s movies anyway. I was glad they at least had a policy, since too many places don’t.

Take the mall, for instance. I was recently walking through it with my daughters when we passed the lingerie store. My 7-year-old said to me, “Mommy! Aren’t those women embarrassed to be seen in their underwear? I mean, what man is going to want to see that?” I paused for a minute, unsure how to answer, but very grateful my daughter was still completely oblivious to the attraction of said picture. Yet I still wish the picture weren’t there at all. Come to think of it, I could do without Cosmopolitan, and the National Enquirer, and Britney Spears all being at my kids’ eye level in the checkout line. We no longer have child-friendly zones.

We don’t have them on television, where Superbowls experience wardrobe malfunctions. We don’t have them in music, where today’s lyrics leave little to the imagination, and the singers’ wardrobes leave even less. We don’t even have it on public streets, where billboards and store windows use sex as a lure. We also don’t have it on the news, where same sex marriage is debated when many of our kids don’t even know what homosexuality is. While this is certainly too much information for little ones, it also damages those on the verge of adulthood. Before they even experience physical intimacy, they know all about it, because it’s been laid bare before them on television, the internet, and in schools.

This deprives them of the final triumph of growing up: that joyful discovery which finally unlocks adult secrets.

By the time today’s young adults finally experience physical intimacy in a committed relationship, they have already had sex so dissected and analyzed and explained that it’s lost much of its wonder.

There are no more secrets. It’s not something spiritually intimate that two people enjoy alone, with the rest of the world blocked out; the rest of the world has already burst in. And that’s too bad. We’ve taken their innocence from them, and now they know too much. Maybe that’s a sign that we adults know too little.

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5 Tips for Choosing Attractive Summer Sleepwear for Moms

Choosing summer sleepwear when you're a mom--and don't want to just wear ratty t-shirtsHow many of you wear ratty t-shirts to bed at night? Maybe it’s time for some better summer sleepwear!

Last week a reader from Hawaii sent me this question, and I promised to answer it before summer slipped away:

I have a conundrum.

I’m a mom of a 13, 10, and we do foster care for ages 0-6 yo but on the other side I have been married for 15 years and realized that my poor husband has been seeing me in ratty shirts and holey shorts for the last 13 years and he deserves better.  My problem is that I have to get up and feed the babies that come to our house and don’t necessarily want to redress while the baby is crying and if my 10yo son gets up that he wouldn’t see too much of me.

The other glitch is that I do have a robe but we live in paradise and have no AC so when it’s 80+ in my house I’m not interested in covering up more.

Is there any hope for me?  am I over thinking this?

Yes, there’s hope for you, and HOPEFULLY I’ve got some answers for you today!

I actually really enjoy clothes, but I know many of my readers HATE shopping. So I’ve put together a pictorial guide of nightgowns I think are modest enough for your sons to catch a glimpse of you, but still fun for your husband!

Here are some main things to consider when you’re looking for summer sleepwear that will actually work for you! You want:

1. Summer Sleepwear Needs to be Comfortable

It can’t be tight or fit weirdly around the bust/waist. The reason we turn to ratty T-shirts is because they are comfortable. They’re not tight, they don’t hug us wrong, and they move when we roll over. But so do lots of other sleepwear possibilities!

2. Summer Sleepwear Needs to Be Cool

You don’t want long sleeves, or anything that’s stifling. You don’t want stuff that sticks to you.But you also want these things:

3. Good Sleepwear Should Have Shape

You are a woman. And it’s okay to be a woman. It’s okay for your children to see that you’re a woman. The problem with ratty T-shirts is that they have absolutely no shape. You could be a man under there. And if you’re heading for bed–where very distinct man/woman things tend to happen–you don’t want to look like you couldn’t care less about being a woman. First, because it’s not nice to your husband. You’re the only woman he’s allowed to look at–so let him look! But second because it sends a message to  you: I’m not a sexual being. I’m not really a woman. And that’s not a good message if you want to get in the mood later!

4. Good Sleepwear Shouldn’t Let Everything Hang Out

At the same time, you can’t be mortified if your teenage son were to see you. I have some sleepwear that my teens don’t see me in, that I really only use for special occasions (like anniversaries, etc.). It’s NOT sleepwear, actually. It’s what you wear BEFORE you go to sleep, and you often don’t wear it for very long. But there is fashion that falls in the middle. It isn’t shapeless, but it doesn’t show a ton of cleavage or reveal anything to your sons you wouldn’t be comfortable with them seeing.

Yes, modesty is important, but you are in your own home. And it’s also important that your children see that you are comfortable in your skin and take pride in your marriage. So let’s try to find some summer sleepwear options that satisfy all four conditions:

1. The T-Shirt Look

Some women just LOVE t-shirts at night, mostly because they’re cotton and they’re comfortable. But LOTS of things are cotton and comfortable. And even if you want to do the t-shirt look, you can do it in a way that is at least a little bit more attractive.

Jockey makes some sleep shirts that are like T-shirts, but they’re longer. And they pull in at the waist and have a V, so they show you have some shape.

Here’s the Regular Summer Sleepshirt and the Plus Sized Summer Sleepshirt:

Jockey Women's Plus-Size Sleep ShirtJockey Women's Sleep Shirt

These are JUST as comfortable as T-shirts, but they’re much more attractive. So you can’t tell me that the only thing that’s comfortable enough to wear is an old T-shirt. It’s just not true!

2. The Classic Cotton Nightgown with Some Detail

Then there’s your classic cotton nightgown, with a very lightweight material but still some detailing around the bust to make it look feminine, like this Eyelet Trim Pleated Summer Nightgown:

Handmade Eyelet Trim Pleated Sleeveless Nightgown

Definitely looks feminine, but still very long so that you don’t have to be embarrassed if your preteen boys see you.

Here’s another one with smock tatting–this one emphasizes the bust more, but I still think it’s fine for your boys to see you.

Handmade Smock Tatting Lace Lady Nightgown

3. The Satin Nightgown with Some Sheen

Here’s a short flutter-sleeved nightgown that isn’t cotton, but is still cool because it doesn’t stick to the body. It’s feminine (V-neck and detailing at the shoulders) and it’s attractive, but it doesn’t let things “hang out”.

Vanity Fair Womens Short Flutter Sleeve Gown

You could even wear this one through most of your pregnancy because there’s room for baby, and it’s an ideal shape for those who are rather big on top.

Here’s another option with lots of detailing around the chest, but still really loose in the sleeves and waist/hips:

Shadowline Women's Beloved 40

This is your typical “classic” nightgown, but it avoids looking like a granny gown because of the great colour and all the details.

4. The V-Neck Nightgown

I think V-necks on nightgowns can be very flattering. Basically anything that shows that you have some shape will make you feel more feminine and will make your husband appreciate the effort! And it can be done in really comfortable styles. I found one line of nightgowns I really like called Precious Curves. They like to make more vintage styles that are attractive but still reasonably priced–most under $40. Here’s one they call “Aphrodite“:

Precious Curves Women's Aphrodite Waltz Length Nightgown

Here’s another option that Precious Curves names “Hera“. This one’s a little more risque–there’s an opening under the bust–but I still think it’s an attractive option.

Precious Curves Women's Hera Waltz Length Nightgown

5. Full Length Nightgowns

There’s something about a full-length nightgown that is just very luxurious–and even sexy!  They really aren’t hot when you’re sleeping in them.

Shadowline has a wonderful line of nightgowns that are comfy and not too expensive (most, again, under $40).

Here’s a modest nightgown with straps that’s really cool:

Shadowline (31275) Beloved Lacy Nylon Braided Strap Long Gown

And here’s one that’s more form-fitting, and much more romantic, but still not mortifying if your sons see:

Shadowline Women's Silhouette 53

Precious Curves nightgowns  (the ones I mentioned above) also come in full-length, but here’s another option for a full-length nightgown:

Precious Curves Women's Cascade Full Length Nightgown

Personally, the nightgown that I wear the most is a full-length satin one (it actually was my mother’s 40 years ago!), and it’s so vintage and pretty. I just feel nice in it. So I think every woman who can afford it at all should invest in a full-length nightgown.

For summer sleepwear, I think you can by with one full-length and one shorter, more casual one. There are also the two-piece choices, of course, but I thought I’d just focus on nightgowns here. My feeling is that it’s perfectly okay for teenage boys to see you in any of these, though some of you may not be so keen on the ones that do outline the bust more. That really is a personal choice.

You can be comfortable and cool while still being attractive.

And that’s important–it shows our husbands that we respect and appreciate them enough to put in an effort, and it sends a signal to our own bodies that “I am a woman, and I like feeling like a woman.” If you want to keep your sex life alive, you need to send that message!

If you like some of these nightgowns, but there’s no money for you to buy something for yourself right now, you can always add them to your Amazon wish list, or–here’s a tip I love–create a Pinterest board called “Gifts I’d Like” and add things to it. Then show your husband how to access the board. Add stuff throughout the year, and then for birthdays, anniversaries, or Christmas, your husband can go choose something from that board! It’s easier for him, and it’s fun for you.

So there are my choices for summer sleepwear for those of us who are also moms. What do you think? What do you wear to bed? Let me know in the comments!

UPDATE: I’m getting some requests in the comments for ideas for 2-piece summer sleepwear that isn’t a nightgown. Sounds like a great idea for a follow-up post (and it will be fun because I had fun putting this one together!) So look for it soon.

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Reader Question: I Think My Sister’s Husband is Controlling/Abusive

Reader Question of the WeekWhat do you do if you fear your sister is being abused (or your friend is being abused)?

That’s the question I want to tackle today. Every Monday I take a stab at answering a reader question, and this one is a really sad one. A reader writes:

My family and I are very concerned about my baby sister. She’s 15 yrs younger than I, married for over a decade. I’ll call her Sister1. We saw signs of this going in, but recently she moved closer to us, to be nearer to her family. However, she rarely replies to our emails, always has an excuse as to why she can’t get together with us, and once sent Sister2 away at the door because Sister1 had forgotten to tell her husband Sister 2 was coming. We’ve tried to address this with her, but again, she becomes defensive and evasive. We love her and her family very much.

We think that Sister 1′s husband is monitoring her email and other social media, maybe deleting some especially if it contains stuff he doesn’t want her to see or respond to. We don’t see any signs of physical abuse, but when we do see her without Hubby along, she is a very different person (as was her daughter, notably).

How do we handle this? I think she has a warped sense of what it means to be submissive.

Abuse is a very serious issue, and I can just imagine how heartbreaking it is to feel as if someone you love is being controlled or abused, when there’s so little you can do to help.

I’m not an abuse specialist, but I want to give some general thoughts today. I know many of my readers know more about this than I do, so if you can leave specific places for help in the comments that would be great!

Controlling Behaviour Usually is Accompanied by Abuse (and can be abusive in and of itself)

I know many people will read this letter and say, “but you don’t know if she’s being abused!”, and to a certain extent that’s true. I wrote a post earlier about what is abuse and what isn’t, and one of the characteristics of abuse is that you are always trying to appease the person and walking on eggshells around them. It does sound like this is happening here. She is scared of him for some reason.

Controlling behaviour–limiting someone’s access to friends and family, monitoring their communications–is a sign of abuse and is abusive in and of itself. It isn’t treating someone as a human being with the right to make decisions. It’s treating someone as your chattel, and that is wrong.

Such controlling behaviour is usually accompanied by other negative behaviours, whether it’s physical abuse or consistent verbal or emotional abuse, and that is dangerous.

No, we don’t know if she’s being beaten to a pulp obviously (I’m just already anticipating what some of the comments will be to this), but I would still be very concerned. Controlling behaviour is a HUGE red flag.

That being said, here are some thoughts I have on where to go from here:

My Sister is Being Abused: What to do when you fear for someone you love

1. You Can’t Force Someone to Leave an Abuser

Here’s the hard part: you can’t make someone leave, and often you can’t convince someone to leave, either. It has to be their own decision. If you coerce someone or put a lot of pressure on them to leave before they’re ready, chances are they will end up going back with the abuser.

Thus, in this case the main job should be keeping the lines of communication open and letting the sister know that you will always be there to help her leave.

However–and this is a BIG however–there is not just the sister involved. It’s clear from this email that there is also a daughter (and there could be other kids), and that daughter can’t be more than about 14 (given the length of the marriage). So she’s really young. If you ever suspect that a child is being abused, you simply must call children’s services. In this case, the sister has never seen any signs of physical abuse, but if there ever are any, you don’t have a choice. Call.

The same thing is true for the sister. If you ever see any bruises, call the police. Sometimes getting the authorities involved can also show the sister that this is something serious.

2. Tell Your Sister You are Always There for Her

Let your sister know that no matter what happens, you are there for her. You love her, and you will stand by her. And this is hard: that means standing by her now, even if she decides to stay. If you condemn her for that and get in a big fight, she may not feel that she’s able to trust you in the future. Let her know that you love her and you are worried for her.

3. Talk Up Your Sister’s Good Points

If you fear your sister is being abused,  your tendency will be to talk about how awful her husband is and all the things you see that are red flags. To a certain extent you do need to mention these. But I would spend more time saying to her, “you are a strong woman”, “you are a godly woman”, “you are so kind and so generous”, and telling her examples of each of these things.

When a woman is being controlled or emotionally abused, one of the key weapons an abuser uses is to totally demoralize the person so they feel they don’t have the ability to leave. They’re too stupid, too weak, too vulnerable. If you can continue to tell her the truth–that she is capable, that she is smart, that she is strong–that may be a better message to give her.

4. Get A Nest Egg Together for Her

When I asked on Facebook what the sister should do, one commenter wrote, “start saving up money so she can leave”, and that’s actually an excellent idea. Money (or lack thereof) is often what keeps someone in an abusive/controlling relationship. Tell your sister that you have money put aside for her, and you are adding to it all the time, so that if she ever does need to leave, you can help her get set up somewhere.

5. Have your Husband Talk to Her

In this case, it sounds like part of the reason for staying may be incorrect theology. Many men believe that the wife must obey, and they don’t try to build oneness in marriage. They try to build a very dominant/submissive relationship, thinking this is what Christ wants (though I can’t remember Christ ever being dominant like that). If this is what she believes about marriage, she may think that even if she’s miserable, God wants her miserable.

If a man she respects can come alongside her and say, “God doesn’t want a husband to treat his wife that way”, this may actually go further than a woman saying the same thing.

6. Talk to the Daughter

As much as possible, keep the lines of communication open with the kids in this family. In fact, these children would be my primary concern, simply because they are minors. Talk to them as much as you can, and have them visit as much as the parents will allow. Try to be a big influence in their lives. Let the kids know that if they ever need you, you will be there, and make sure that the children know how to contact you in a hurry, and have a means to contact you in a hurry.

7. Pray a Lot and Let it Go

And now here’s the hard part. Once you’ve done all of this, you need to pray and put it in God’s hands. You can’t force the situation. And the longer I walk with God the more I realize that His timing is much better than mine. Even though I want things done immediately, often they take much longer. And it’s that delay that helps people solidify their decision and often get closer with God.

Dayspring Pray Art

It’s agony to watch someone you love become a shell of who they were in a controlling or abusive relationship. But you can’t force anyone to do anything, and they have a right to choose that (as long as their children are still safe). Love on them, keep the door open, and talk, but then you must try to let it go and leave it with God. Don’t let it sap all of your emotional energy.

Now, if anyone has anything I should add, please do so in the comments. And if anyone has any tips on how to “let it go”, please leave that in the comments, too, because I can only imagine how agonizing this would be. Thank you!

Maybe Boys Need a Little Danger

Boys Need a Little DangerAre we making life too boring for little boys? What if boys need a little bit of danger?

I wrote a column about that a few years ago, and I thought I’d rerun it today. In my post where I recommended 10 different summer reads, I recommended the book Why Gender Matters, which looks at the hard-wired gender differences between boys and girls. And one of those differences is that boys naturally lean more towards danger and risk-taking–and too often we moms, and the schools, and society in general, are trying to eradicate that from boys’ lives. But what if they need it? Let’s talk about it today!

I have a little friend who, when he was only five, did a horrendous thing. He bit a boy at school.

This particular boy had been pestering him for months, and my little friend lashed out by sinking his teeth in.

A human bite, unfortunately, is not clean, and it sent the bully on a trip to the Emergency Room. Meanwhile my little friend was given quite the verbal lashing by the principal about how violence is never the answer.

His mother, a good friend of mine, was quite perplexed about how to react. Personally, I told her, I think his transgression was twofold: he used his teeth rather than his hands, and he did so at school where violence is never permitted. Other than that, was he really so wrong? Kids have been fighting back against bullies for time immemorial, and it’s often quite effective in getting bullies to back off.

Taking the publishing world by storm a few years ago was The Dangerous Book for Boys. It doesn’t give secrets on how to get your mothers to feed you chocolate or how to get your way with women.

It simply talks common sense about things that have been part of boyhood almost forever, until our generation forgot them.

Things like how to tie a knot, how to fish, how to jump from a rock into the water, or how to survive in the wilderness. These were the plotlines of most boys’ novels until relatively recently, when we started to believe that what boys truly desired was to share their feelings.

When places like schools try to curb boys’ natural impulses to be active, risk-taking, and even a bit violent, we run the risk that children will start acting out inappropriately in places with less supervision. If boys are told they must sit still and listen to books all day, they’re more likely to go off the rails after school. If boys can’t play tag at recess because it’s too competitive, or they can only play if everyone gets to be “it”, we aren’t going to curb their natural boyhood impulses. They’re simply going to express them in other ways.

Over the years we have taken all the danger out of childhood. We do this in the interest of safety, and few could argue against bicycle helmets for children, or against safe playground equipment, or for playing with matches. But there is a part of boys, and even many girls, that still yearns for risk.

Remember the playground equipment when we were young? You ran a risk every time you used the teeter totter because you had to trust the guy on the other end not to jump off suddenly. And what about that merry go round? They’re removed from most playgrounds today because if you get a few bigger kids creating momentum, a smaller child could go flinging off. Of course, that’s why many boys ride them in the first place—the flinging part is the attraction! But that’s all the more reason to get rid of these dangers.

As schools banish anything resembling danger, much of the adventure of childhood is being removed.

For all children, but especially for boys who tend to gravitate towards risk-taking more than girls do, this isn’t always a good thing. That’s why The Dangerous Book for Boys is needed. It’s a philosophy to bring adventure back into family life, even if the schools are squeezing it out because they’re afraid of being sued. And now that summer’s here, we’ve got a great chance to create some danger all on our own!

Most boys love seeing things explode, or collapse, or go bang. They love starting fires, sleeping outdoors, and even killing things. It’s time for some adventurous, adult men to step up to the plate and let boys be just a little bit dangerous. What else is childhood for?


Okay, everybody, true story:

When my girls were little, we took a yearly camping trip with another family who had two boys pretty much exactly the same age as our girls. The kids would love helping Derek (the other dad) start the fire at night. After the little kids went to sleep, we adults would play games late into the night. When the kids woke up at 6:30, then, we really didn’t want to get up yet.

And so I will tell you about one of the bad parenting things I did. I actually let Katie and her friend Liam start fires when they were about 6 and 7. It kept them busy for like half an hour so we could still sleep! And they would resurrect the coals from last night. When I talked to Derek about it (he’s a “dangerous” kind of man’s man himself) he always said, “the problem is letting kids PLAY with fire. Liam and Katie aren’t PLAYING with fire. They’re building a fire. And they know what they’re doing.” And they actually are really good at starting fires today! (Likely still shouldn’t have done it, but there you go).

Here’s a pic from the summer of 2000 when the kids were little–and enthralled by fire:

2000CampingPaulLiamBeccaFire

(That’s Paul at the fire with his older brother Liam on the right; Becca’s sitting down. Katie’s not pictured. She’s probably raiding the cooler for more chocolate to make smores).

And here’s Katie and Liam on Liam’s 4-wheeler last Sunday for Katie’s 17th birthday:

2014LiamKatie4wheeling

So now you tell me: what “dangerous” things do your sons–or nephews–do? What dangerous things does your husband do? And how do you deal with it?

The Battle of Insecurity as a Mom

Today’s guest post is from Sarah Ball, aka The Virtuous Woman Exposed, talking about insecurity as a mom. I dare you to get through this without laughing!

Insecurity as a Mom--one mom's funny story about Pap smears, surgery, and The Perfect Butt

I had 2 health care appointments recently – one for an overall health examination, the other for an overall women’s health examination. It doesn’t look good ladies. The diagnosis? I have saggy breasts and a saggy stomach full of stretch marks and there is no cure.

My first appointment was an overall health exam. I sat there obediently waiting for the doctor to come in, all dressed up in my wrap-around blue cotton gown. (What does one wear to accessorize?) The doctor examined me from head to toe. Asking mental health questions along the way. First my reflexes, then my throat, then my stomach, then my breasts.

“You don’t have any body image issues do you?” the doctor asked as he mechanically circulated my mamos. “Um no” I answered. “Should I?” I thought to myself. That was an odd question for a doctor to ask while doing a breast examination.

My 2nd appointment was a few days later for an even more thorough women’s health exam. The dreaded PAP. Thank goodness they changed the recommended checkup to once every 3 years. I chose to snub my family doctor based on his handsomeness and go to a women’s clinic at the hospital instead. A friendly female doctor came in, casual and confident.

“She does PAPS for a living, this should go quick and easy.” I thought to myself. I answered her standard questions, got dressed into my blue gown (I hate wearing the same thing twice in one week) and I positioned myself into THE most socially awkward position known to Woman.

Being near 40 and having had 5 children, I know they are going to ask me to scoot forward, more…(awkward) a little more… (awkwarder) and a little bit more (death by awkwardness). I am always hesitantly but obedient.

After the dreaded PAP test, the doctor examined my lower abdomen. “You know…” she said in a friendly tone “There’s nothing you can do about that, you could do 500 hundred crunches a day and you’ll never fix that.”

If I had an Adams Apple (which obviously I don’t or that appointment would have been even more awkward) I would have choked on it.

“A lot of women have opted for surgery, that is an option,” she said as she moved her examination upwards. She began her breast examination. “Nothing you can do for that either” she said as she checked for lumps. “There is surgery though, lots of women just go and get both done at the same time, they call it the Mommy Makeover.” Unprompted by me, she preceded to explain the surgical procedure and options.

I swallowed my imaginative Adams Apple and came out of my awkward trance just enough to say, “I’m actually not that bothered by it. I work out, I feel good, my husband is attracted to me, and I’m a pretty confident person.” She responded with a sympathetic smile as if she thought I was lying.

I am glad to say my smear was clear and I am lump free, however, I came away from that experience a little confused about my self-image.

My thoughts took over…

“Should I have surgery?” I asked myself “Do I want to give up my baby scars for a giant smiley scar, only so I look good in a bikini and lingerie?”

“Do I want to have higher breasts, when I have nursed 5 babies and I am super proud of that?”

“Should I be insecure?”

“Does my husband secretly wish I would get surgery?”

I know that insecurity is a battle all women will face from the time they are a developing little girl to an aged woman.

I have a teen and a 7 year old and I can see it in them. But how do we surrender to this fight when society is in our face about it? We can’t escape it; it’s everywhere. Just when we seem to have crawled back to confidence (either post baby, or hitting a new age, or succeeding at weight loss) we receive another blow.

I remember getting hit hard with insecurity right after the birth of my 5th child. I had gone to a hotel swimming pool with my husband and my 5 children, one being my 2-month-old newborn. Bathing suits and new baby bodies are the biggest clash of a mom, but I had ‘been-there-done-that’ and I had gotten over it. So I thought.

We walked into the pool area; the older kids dove in with dad as I yelled, “don’t run!” I looked around, proud of my cute baby, and then I saw Her and I froze.

There she was, in the flesh, ‘victoria-not-so–secret,’ in person, leaning over the poolside table. She was standing and leaning over a laptop with her perfect butt propped in the air, leaning in her string, no nothing bikini.

Frozen, I grabbed my baby boy and held him close to my body like I was nude and he was my towel. I ran to the hot tub and quickly submerged my 5-times over imploded baby body and sunk. I sunk literally and figuratively.

She leaned for ten minutes with her butt purposefully and seductively in the air and I molted. My husband was off swimming with the other kids and I kept wondering, if he had seen her. “Of course he has! EVERYONE has!” I thought to myself. Later my husband reassured me that without his glasses (which he had taken off for swimming) he was blinded and oblivious. (Good answer)

But in that moment, I imagined myself thrust onto a bare stage in my full piece full figured bathing suit standing next to her and her butt. The world and my husband were the judge. I felt humiliated

“And the award for best breeder goes too….drum roll……Sarah Ball”

“And the award for sexiest body and playboy bent over a lap top leaning position goes to…It’s unanimous! The Butt!” The crowd goes wild.

This attack had come out of nowhere. I was instantly thrust into an inner battle and I was forced to come to terms with my stretched baby badges and cellulite and face this demon head on.

This was probably the most insecure moment of my life.

“Should I hate her?” I questioned,

“Should I blame her for dressing and standing so provocatively?”

“Is she purposefully trying to mark her territory, including my husband?”

I closed my eyes, I tried to imagine her giving birth to triplets, and it didn’t help. I told myself she would be fat and old someday too. Nope, she still won. I was losing this battle and losing it fast.

I went home in tears. I cried for days, with my reassuring husband who would look me straight into my puffy face and tell me he would love me and always find me attractive no matter what. (How that translated into “So you DO think I’m fat!?” I will never know) I didn’t believe him. I was a wreck.

Soon, The Lord led me to a very hard question… Was I enough? That was a 2-part question. Was God enough AND Was I enough for God?

I faced this question with truth. Not with some superficial denial that my stretch marks are a gift from God to remind me of the most amazing experience life has to offer. REALLY?! The experience of puking bile for 3 months because there`s nothing left in your stomach, excessive heart burn, bulging varicose veins all leading to the climactic moment of torturous pain?! No thank you!

The truth was – I am grossly imperfect in the world’s eyes. I am technically “disfigured” as far as the definition of a perfect body goes. I am an overweight, stretched out, saggy mom, but I am beautiful, I am adored and I am enough.

I had to come to the realization that my self worth does not and cannot come from myself, the world, or even my adoring husband. My self worth comes from God.

I choose not to have surgery because the battle is within, not external and no scalpel is going to win it for me. I am determined to meditate on becoming the most beautiful woman in God’s eyes.

 Song of Solomon 4:7 You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.

I WILL continue to eat right, exercise, look up 5 Ways to Make my Skin Glow, and drink plenty of water to make me look younger. I WILL still plan on wearing push up bras, pull in SPANX, and under eye concealer and I WILL always hate wearing a bathing suit in public.

However, I WILL keep meditating on God’s adoration for me, I WILL keep trying to respect my body’s changes, I WILL find victory in each insecure battle I face with the truth of God, and I WILL still go for regular awkward PAP tests.

Psalm 34:5 Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.

sarah ballSarah Ball is a freelance writer, blogger and a mother of 5 children ages 3-15. She lives with her husband in a small town (by choice) in Alberta, Canada. You can follow her blog at Virtuous Woman Exposed.

Sarah says, “Head on over to my Virtuous Woman Exposed Facebook Page so we can be friends! You can also find me on Pinterest and Twitter.

Top 10 Things I’ll Never Like Doing

Top 10 Things I Hate Doing--can you relate?I once heard that the definition of maturity is deciding to do things you don’t want to do because they need to get done. If that’s the case, then I’m super mature. Because I feel like I spend a lot of time doing things I have to psyche myself up for. In fact, I think that’s why I was so exhausted at the beginning of this summer–I feel like so much of my life for the last few months has been slogging through instead of doing things that I actually wanted. This summer I took some time to relax and go camping with my hubby and I feel ever so much better.

But I asked on Facebook last night, “what do you do that you don’t like doing?” And I got some great responses!

So today I thought I’d share ten things that we do that we don’t like doing, and likely never will like doing, but have to get done–along with some thoughts on how to get these things done faster and easier!

1. Cleaning the Toilet

The #1 answer on Facebook was cleaning the toilet. We just don’t like doing it. And when you have little boys (or several big ones) it gets even grosser. But there’s something about having a bright, clean white toilet bowl that makes you just feel better.

How to lessen the pain: Keep the toilet bowl cleaner right next to the toilet, and any time you notice that it’s getting gross, just squirt some cleaner in and move that brush around, and it won’t ever get to the disgusting stage. Also, little kids really love cleaning toilets. Maybe not every little kid, but enough that I’ve noticed a trend. If you can catch them when they’re around 5 or 6 and get them started, they may start to adopt it as “their” job. There’s something about scrubbing with that brush and making all those bubbles. So teach your children to clean a toilet! Leave a basket of rags by the toilet along with some safe cleaner so they can wash down the toilet seats, too. We may not like cleaners being visible, but I always figure, if it’s within reach, it’ll get done more often!

2. Vacuuming

Perhaps ironically (given the title of this blog) this is my big one! I hate vacuuming–especially vacuuming stairs. And I think the problem with vacuuming is that feeling that it’s never done. You know that as soon as you vacuum, someone’s going to trek through and make more crumbs.

How to lessen the pain: Invest in a quality vacuum cleaner that does what you need it to do! If you have mostly floors you need a different vacuum cleaner than someone with a bunch of rugs. You may find that you actually enjoy vacuuming if you have one you love. And those see-through ones where the dust whirls around are really fun for kids. So check out your vacuum cleaner options.

Another thing: clean out the vacuum bag often, and if you have a central vac, clean out the unit. When I bought my first house I didn’t know you had to do this. I’m not sure where I thought all that dust went, but after six months of the vacuum not working I thought to ask my hubby where the central vac emptied. And sure enough, it was stuffed.

3. Doing Dishes

We hate dishes because they’re gross and they don’t go away. You wash a load and tomorrow there will be just as many.

How to lessen the pain: Have a rule that if you make dinner you don’t do dishes! Get kids involved. And here’s one that I’ve found works: aim to have the counter cleared before you go to bed. Even squirt some cleaner and shine it every night. If you see a clean counter, you feel so much better!

4. Making Breakfast

Probably the #2 thing mentioned on Facebook that people hated to do was cook. I hate it being 5:30 and not knowing what I’ll make for dinner. That’s torture. But I actually enjoy cooking–dinner, that is. I hate making breakfast. Mostly because I hate breakfast foods, and so does my youngest daughter, who is usually the only one home with me at breakfast time. But I know we have to eat! But if I don’t cook, I tend to head for the chocolate cake. Even this morning I ate one of Katie’s chocolate chip cookies she was given yesterday by a friend for her birthday (sorry, Katie, but you weren’t awake yet. So there). The problem is that we need protein at breakfast, but if we can’t think of what to make, we’ll tend to go for the simple sugars (which is what most muffins and cereals are).

How to lessen the pain: Think outside the box! You can eat leftovers for breakfast. And I’ve started making more “lunch stuff” for breakfast. I do hummus and pitas. I do those mini-pizzas on English muffins. And if you have any ideas for other creative breakfasts, I’d love to hear them. I’m just not an egg, pancake, oatmeal, or cereal gal.

5. Responding to Email

I get a ton of email everyday. Maybe some of you are in the same boat. And I hate it. For you it may not be email that you hate; maybe it’s paying bills. But it’s anything that is at the back of your mind, nagging you, saying, “you have to do this” and making you feel guilty. Email makes me feel guilty because there are always things I’m supposed to do. And I don’t like that.

How to lessen the pain: Whether it’s bills or email or other paperwork, set aside a specific amount of time you’ll spend everyday. Rather than leaving it in one chunk, do fifteen minutes a day (or whatever it takes). I find if I set the timer and try to get through as many as I can in that time, I’m quite productive. And then I can say, “well, if I didn’t get to that person today, it’s because other things took priority”. And that’s okay.

6. Getting that PAP Smear/Mammogram

Let’s go to our happy places, people, and put our feet up in those stirrups and try to ignore what’s going on. Or let’s go get squished!

As someone who has had to have an annual mammogram since I was 30 due to family history of breast cancer, I can tell  you it’s not fun. But it’s better than the alternative.

How to lessen the pain: I don’t think you can, really. For mammograms, take a Tylenol an hour before. For Pap smears, just live through it. Relax as much as you can (yeah, right). And remember that the new guidelines say that if you’ve only ever had one sexual partner, and he’s only ever had one, then you really only need one every three years (yay!). For those of you in that situation, you can tell your doctor it really isn’t necessary. Unfortunately, for those of you in the other camp it is, because cervical cancer is really dangerous. And it was through a Pap smear that they first found all the polyps and other things that were causing me bleeding issues, so it is important.

7. Exercising

I will never, ever like exercising, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the people who say they don’t feel happy if they don’t jog five miles a day are lying or deluding themselves. I have gone through periods of intense exercise in my life, and even then I didn’t like it. I just don’t. But I know it’s necessary.

How to lessen the pain: I’ve only found two things that work: listening to a sermon/speech/podcast while I jog or watching Netflix while I’m on the stationary bike, or else exercising with someone else. I bit the bullet and shelled out the money for a personal trainer for three months (had my first session yesterday!), because I just need the accountability. I also am starting to jog with my hubby again. Doing stuff together makes it more likely to get done.  I think admitting you’ll never like it, and stopping feeling guilty for not wanting to exercise, helps a ton. Just do it, and know you’ll hate it, but that’s okay.

8. Putting Laundry Away

I can do laundry. I just hate folding it and putting it away. It’s never ending.

How to lessen the pain: Fold it directly out of the dryer, rather than dumping it somewhere (or fold it as it comes off the line). Then you just need to deposit it in people’s rooms. Have older kids do their own laundry (or at least put away their own laundry).

9. Working Outside the Home

Here’s a sad one. I had a number of people on Facebook saying that they so wanted to be stay-at-home moms, but they needed to work for the income.

Sometimes we do need to work, and that’s still a service you’re doing your family.

How to lessen the pain: Learn as much as you can about how to save money on your big ticket items, like mortgages, insurance, cars, and groceries. Downsize as much as you can. Learn to live with less. Save as much of your paycheque as you can manage. Create a plan. If you can see that in five years you can start to work part-time, or that if you downsize you can afford to be home more, that can help tremendously. But get a plan for the whole family so that you can see how your work and your husband’s work contribute, and what you’re aiming for. You’re in this as a family, and you don’t need to feel like it’s all on your shoulders. And sometimes when you take a look long-term, you can see how it may not always be like this.

10. Battling in Prayer

I’m surprised no one, in the almost 200 comments so far, mentioned this one, but for me it’s a biggie. I know no one actually says online “I find doing my devotions hard” or “I find praying hard”, but I’m not afraid to say I do! It’s difficult to sit quietly and concentrate on reading the word. But I’m still way better at that than I am at praying. I can conversation-pray all day (and in fact I do). But you know that prayer where you’re going to battle, and you need to pray hard for something? Sort of like the prayer in Daniel 10 where Daniel prayed for 21 days, not realizing a huge spiritual battle was going on in the heavenly realms at the same time? I really battle with that. I can talk to God like He’s my Daddy for sure, but to get serious? It’s tough.
To Love, Honor and Vacuum

How to lessen the pain: Have a pen and paper handy so you can write things down as you pray. I find that helps me to focus and stops my mind from wandering. Have a different place you sit when you pray like this, so you’re not tempted to grab a book or glance at the computer. Use a prayer book, like the book of common prayer, as a guide for how to work through a prayer. And I’d love any suggestions you have in the comments section!

There’s my list of the top 10 things I hate doing! Many of these I’ve minimized by delegating to others, and if you find that you’re doing all of these yourself, you really need to get a hold of my book, To Love, Honor and Vacuum: When you feel more like a maid than a wife and a mother. Family is a team, a unit, it’s not mom doing everything while others do nothing. And if you feel like you get a bit of a break, your family will be a more fun place for all of you–while your kids also learn responsibility.

Now let me know: how do you lessen the pain of some of these things? Leave your one best solution in the comments (or more if you have them!)

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Reader Question: How do You Prepare for Marriage Long Distance?

Reader Question of the WeekCan a long distance engagement work?

Every Monday I like to put up a Reader Question and then take a stab at answering it–and invite my readers to chime in, too. Here’s one from a woman in a long distance relationship wondering about engagement:

A few years back I met a guy from several time zones away. We got to know each other through facebook/skype/texting/etc, and saw each other in person for a month or so each year. The last visit (3 months ago) we both admitted that feelings had developed beyond that of “just friends”, and we want to try a relationship with a purpose (neither of us want to just casually date).

What kind of advice would you give to those in a long-distance relationship? We are neither young nor desperate, and are willing to take our time. Even so, I don’t want to miss a huge red flag (or HIM to miss one!) that would be completely obvious if we were living close to each other.

This is such a common scenario today, and here are a few thoughts I have on having a healthy (and productive) long distance engagement:

Long Distance Engagement: Making it work

Long Distance Engagement = Skyping with a Purpose

This reader has hit on something really key–when your relationship consists mostly of Skype dates, how do you make sure you’re not missing red flags? When you see each other on a regular basis, you can figure out if they’re lazy, if they’re good with kids, if they’re kind to strangers, if they take care of their home, and other things like that. When you don’t, then all you see is the persona that the person uses online. How do you get past that?

You Skype with a purpose!

And by that I mean that when you do Skype, you aren’t just talking about “safe” things that make you feel close and all luvey duvey. You don’t just bond over childhood memories or favourite movies or things like that. You actually have to ask the hard questions and make an effort to get to know each other. That can be a difficult thing to do, and the first step is doing exactly what this reader did–clarify the expectations of what this relationship is.

What Are We Doing?

One of the problems with long distance relationships is that, especially in the early stages, you’re always guessing about what the person feels about you. You text and they don’t text back for a day. Does that mean they don’t care? You were hoping to Skype tonight but he’s too busy. Does that mean you take the relationship more seriously than they do? And because you can’t really see body language in the same way, it’s inherently insecure.

Long distance relationships for just that reason have the capacity for a lot of heartache. I’ve seen my girls and other kids I know agonize over long distance relationships because it’s just not clear where it’s going. One person may just have fun chatting while the other is really invested in the relationship. And how do you take it to the next level?

It isn’t worth obsessing over someone long distance for too long. I think we owe it to ourselves to clarify what we’re doing. So once you have some degree of confidence, ask, “what are we doing?” And it’s fine to set some ground rules, like, “if we’re going to talk long distance, I don’t just want to be someone you turn to when you’re bored. I expect that we’ll connect twice a week to get to know each other. If you’re not comfortable with that, I’d like to move on…”

Many women assume they’re in a long distance relationship because they have a guy that they like that they skype with every now and then. But he may not see the relationship the same way. So you do have to talk about it, and be prepared to move on if he isn’t that into you.

Once it’s apparent that you both do want to date with a purpose, then it’s time to do some interesting things while you talk online!

Do Some Personality Tests

Early on in your relationship I think it’s fun to take some personality tests online and figure out some basic things about each other. What is your love language? What is your MBTI type (this is my favourite personality test!).

Ask Some Hard Questions

If you’re moving towards engagement, you have to really know each other. But it can be tough and awkward to ask the hard questions. So I’d recommend getting a book, like 101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged, that you agree to work through together. That way if a question’s awkward, you can say, “well, we did agree to work through the book….”

Some people have found the book a little negative–like he’s giving you all kinds of reasons NOT to get married, which can solidify someone’s decision who is commitment-phobic. Perhaps I’d agree in some cases, because I do think commitment is one of the hugest issues in marriage, and you’ll never find that “one perfect person”. However, because of the inherent riskiness of long distance relationships, I’d really recommend a book like this, because you do need to discover those red flags.

Some of the key things you’ll want to know: how does He serve God? What has God been saying to him lately? What is his relationship like with his family? What are his career goals and how is he moving towards them? How do you handle money? When’s the last time you looked at porn? Yes, they’re tough, but you need to know!

Get Other People Involved

As much as possible, use Skype to create some interactions that you would normally have. Meet his parents. Meet his friends. In fact, as often as possible Skype with other people involved, too. You want to become part of his social circle and he should become part of yours.

Once the relationship has become serious, it may be good to set up a Skype meeting between a pastor and the two of you.

And take other people’s concerns seriously. When you’re in a long distance relationship, it’s easy to think of the two of you as living in your own little world, but if you get married, it won’t be just the two of you. It will be your friends, your family, your co-workers. You have people who care about you–listen to what their instincts (and even the Holy Spirit) may be telling them.

Set Up a Schedule to Talk

If you’re moving towards engagement, then you should be skyping/texting/interacting regularly–I would say at least 2-3 times a week for an extended period. If you only talk once a week, then it’s easy to just put on your best face. You want to see them in real life as much as possible–and they need to see you like that, too.

Do A Bible Study

Read and study the Bible together and pray together. Now, some people aren’t really comfortable with in-depth Bible study. That’s not their way of relating to God, and that’s okay. But you can still read a Psalm together. You can agree that “this month we’re going to read through the book of Acts”, even if you don’t do a word study on it. And you certainly can pray together! Make sure that your spiritual life is part of your long distance relationship, even if you can’t go to church together.

Plan for “In Person” Visits

I know it’s expensive, but you simply must spend the money and be together in person several times before you get married. It’s cheaper to do that than to rush into a relationship that’s wrong. Ideally these visits could be for a few weeks, but even a long weekend is better than nothing. Meet his family. See where he lives. Go to church with him (do people know his name? Do they greet him?). The hard part, of course, is where do you stay, since you likely don’t want to stay overnight with him. That’s where meeting some of his friends on Skype beforehand can be good. Or perhaps you can stay with his parents! It may be awkward, but it’s actually good to get to know his social circle and his family anyway.

Once you do get engaged, I think it’s important to move to the place where he lives, or have him move to where you live. Obviously sometimes immigration issues may make this impossible, but if it is possible, be with him on a daily basis before you actually tie the knot.

I know many couples who have married after a long distance engagement, and they’re all still married and still happy. My daughters did the hair for one wedding last year that was just a blast–she was from Pennsylvania, and he was from Saskatchewan, and they met in Bible quizzing. I’m not against long distance relationships at all. I just think you have to be super careful and super wise, and go in with your eyes wide open. But in this day and age when technology makes long distance engagements possible, it opens up a whole new world, and I think ultimately it’s a good thing.

But I’d like to hear from you–what would you add to this list? If you married after a long distance relationship, what’s the one best thing you did while dating? Let us know in the comments!

Good Girls Guide My SiteAnd, of course, if you’re getting married, I can’t recommend The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex highly enough! I wrote it for any engaged or married woman, but it’s really my prayer that more engaged women will read it, because I think if you understand sex better from the beginning you’ll save yourself so much heartache–and you’ll have so much more fun. I’ve got a special chapter in it for the wedding night/honeymoon, so please read it before you get married!