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Because Laughter Is Good for the Soul…And Your Marriage #goodwilldatenight

July 31st, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Advice and Tips
Well since our facebook post has gone viral I figured now was an appropriate time to detail our date night a little more.

Shane and I try very hard to be intentional with date nights.  We have a baby girl and it is so easy to get wrapped up in her and her cuteness.  So, in an effort to keep our marriage first, we try to go on a date night one night a week.  And we try to make them fun!

Shane heard of another couple who went to Goodwill and picked outfits for their date nights and so we just had to do it.  To most people’s surprise, the whole date night was Shane’s idea.  But, we are very competitive so we had to add some rules to it.

Rule One: You each get $10 in Goodwill to shop for the other person and they have to wear what you pick.  This was so much fun.  We found some crazy stuff in Goodwill and made each other try on outfits until we found the perfect one.  This cued the insane laughter from the start of the date night.  My husband is absolutely goofy so as you can imagine I tried on some CRAZY outfits.  We ended up only spending $13 for both masterpieces.

Rule Two: Once you leave Goodwill, it’s like fight club, no one talks about it.  We had to resume date night as normal and pretend like we had no idea our outfits were off the wall.  We went to Longhorn for dinner so of course we had to wait for a table.  The minute we got out of the car we had to put on our game faces.  People were snickering as they walked by and we got a lot of side eye from the hostess.  Again, to most people’s surprise, NO ONE said a word to us about our outfits.  Everyone just looked and laughed behind our backs I’m sure.

Rule Three: You have to pick fake names and go by them all evening.  This didn’t start as a rule but after we saw the outfits we knew it had to happen.  When I walked out of the dressing room Shane said “Ethel get your choir book and come on” and from that point on I was stuck with Ethel.  And really, who wears more plaid than a “Roger” which I affectionately shortened to “Rog” in front of our waiter.

Y’all I don’t think we have laughed this hard in a long time.  Marriage is tough, parenting is tough, and honestly life is tough.  But everything is better when you’re doing it with your best friend.  So, have fun and make sure you hashtag all of your pictures with #goodwilldatenight so we can laugh at your pictures too!

***Disclaimer- to all of the people posting that Shane and I are “goals”, thanks.  But, we are both very off the wall, sinful people.  We only have a great marriage because we put our relationship with Jesus Christ first and let Him tell us how to live and love.  Without Him loving us and showing us how to love each other we would be nothing!

10 Things to Do with Kids in Ottawa This Summer

July 5th, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Advice and Tips

There is so much going on in Ottawa this summer that it is difficult to see and do everything, but we narrowed down our to-do list to ten things: traditional activities like summer fairs and drive-in movies, and a few of the special Canada 150 activities, including MosaiCanada 150. What’s on your summer bucket list?

Summer vacation is rolling out the welcome mat for kids all across the Nation’s Capital. And if your kids are like mine, then they are ready to run off some energy and have some fun! Every summer my family and I make a “bucket list” of things we must see and do as a family to make summer awesome! This year our list is a little longer than 10, but here are our top 10 things to do as a family in Ottawa this summer:

1) Visit the new Canada-themed park at Mooney’s Bay
If you haven’t been to the new Canada-themed park at Mooney’s Bay with the family yet, pack a picnic lunch and plan a day or even a few hours to take in the play structures, slides and swings that each represent a different province or territory. The park is located next to Mooney’s Bay Beach—a great spot to cool off on a hot summer’s day!

2) Check out the new Canada Goose Arctic Gallery at the Canadian Museum of Nature
The Arctic Gallery at the Canadian Museum of Nature just opened June 21st and is filled with interactive activities, games, interesting facts and educational fun for the entire family. This new permanent gallery is full of unique ways to celebrate Canada’s Arctic!

3) See the Northern Lights Sound and Light bilingual show on Parliament Hill
The Sounds and Lights show is always impressive, but with Canada 150 it’s a must-see summer event this year! Grab some snacks and a picnic blanket and head down to Parliament Hill in the late evening from July 11th to September 16th to enjoy Northern Lights, a show about the foundations of our nation and so much more. For tips on how to make the evening a memorable one, check out our tips here.

4) Check out MosaiCanada 150
MosaiCanada 150 is a FREE horticultural event featuring paintings, sculptures, artistic works, as well as 40 impressive horticulture arrangements (some larger than life!). MosaiCanada 150 is held at Jacques-Cartier Park in Gatineau from June 30th to October 15th and is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. This unique horticultural event is a part of the ongoing activities celebrating Canada 150.

5) Watch an outdoor movie
Every year we try to watch an outdoor movie and this year we not only plan on returning to the Port Elmsley Drive-In, but also grabbing a lawn chair and going to one of the more urban outdoor movies. Capital Pop-Up Cinema runs local outdoor movies that look like a lot of fun– here’s their schedule: https://www.capitalpopupcinema.com/2016-schedule.

6) Be wowed by La Machine at the end of July
I keep seeing the La Machine event pop up in my Facebook newsfeed and every time I see it, I can’t get over how impressive it looks. From July 27 to the 30th these big machines – including the dragon, LongMa, which according to the event website, stands 12 metres high, 5 metres high and weighs 45 tons, will be roaming the downtown streets of Ottawa. This incredible weekend is a part of the ongoing celebrations for Canada 150.

7) Visit a summer fair
Cotton candy, demolition derbies, carousels, concerts, live entertainment, and more, Ottawa offers many local summer fairs including these:
July 14-16: Almonte Fair
July 28-30: Beachburg Fair
August 10-13: Navan Fair
August 17-20: Arnprior Fair
August 18-27: The Capital Fair
August 25-27: Chesterville Fair
September 7-10: Russell Fair
September 14-17: Richmond Fair
September 21-24: Carp Fair
September 28-October 1: Metcalfe Fair

8) Pretend we’re pirates at Pirate Adventures Ottawa
If you have ever wanted to bring out your inner Jack Sparrow or Jake the Neverland Pirate then this 75-minute interactive pirate-theatre cruise may be for you! Located at Mooney’s Bay this pirate ship adventure includes costumes, face painting, treasure maps, and much more!

9) Actually make it through the Mile Maze at Saunders Farm
Jumping pillows, an amazing play structure, and of courses mazes! Saunders Farm is a lot of fun and one of these days I WILL make it through the mile maze without having to ask complete strangers if they can help me find my way out. ;)

10) Connect with nature at Eco-Odysee
Beautiful scenery, water maze adventures, exploring and puzzle solving – Eco Odysee in the Outaouais is a great way to spend a summer’s day outside and in nature.

10 Things Your Teen Loves to Hear

June 7th, 2017 | 1 Comment | Posted in Advice and Tips
Some parents might grit their teeth and bemoan the drama of the adolescent years, but I can’t think of anything more fun than hanging out with teens. I liken the teen years to a roller coaster. Once you’re on it, there’s no getting off until the ride’s over, so you might as well stay positive and enjoy it. After all, having teens at home probably means you can have kitchen karaoke parties, or someone who pretends your home is an Indian takeout restaurant when he answers the phone.

Of course surging hormones and adolescent angst can sometimes cause your teen to explode. He might know how to push your buttons better than anyone else, but positive communication that affirms your teen can improve your relationship and help lessen conflict.

Here are 10 things our teens love and need to hear from us:

Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/zdenkam

Ashley’s Secret to an Easy, Healthy Weekday Breakfast!

May 1st, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Advice and Tips
Egg Muffins have changed my life. Not Egg McMuffins, Egg Muffins :)  Homemade, little frittatas that you whip together Sunday afternoon & you have an amazing healthy, grab-and-go breakfast for the whole week! The best part about these little muffins is that all you need is a carton of eggs, which costs you around $3 and whatever veggies you have left over. You can add meat or cheese but only if you want! This is the cheapest, healthiest breakfast you’ll find anywhere.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbs oil
  • 10 whole eggs
  • 1 cup of diced pepper (you pick the colour)
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • 2 cups roughly chopped baby spinach
  • 1 cup diced mushrooms
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • hot sauce (optional)
  • grated cheese (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line a 12-slot muffin pan with muffin liners – makes clean up SO easy!!
  3. Heat a large non stick skillet over medium heat.
  4. Once hot, add in 1 tbs oil, pepper, mushroom and onion.
  5. Saute 5-7 minutes, or until peppers are tender.
  6. Crack eggs into a large bowl and whisk together
  7. Stir in cooked veggies
  8. Stir in spinach
  9. Add hot sauce &/or cheese, if using
  10. Pour the egg/veggie mixture evenly into the prepared muffin pan.
  11. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the tops are firm to the touch and eggs are cooked.
  12. Let cool
  13. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for the week. (These may also be frozen.)
  14. To reheat, pop them in the microwave until warm.
These will revolutionize your morning routine. Enjoy!

Dan’s Mother’s Day Tips For Dads

May 1st, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Advice and Tips

20 Ways to Celebrate Easter

April 4th, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Advice and Tips

Easter Sunday is around the corner. How much time have you spent preparing?

Have you done any decorating to signal to your family and neighbors that Easter is coming and that this holiday is important to you? Are you preparing for this day as the most important celebration of the entire year?

I could ask more questions but this is not a guilt trip.

It’s simply to illustrate that most of us begin thinking about Christmas months before December arrives. At five weeks our gift buying and decorating have begun and plans have been made for inviting loved ones and friends for parties and feasting.

I’m not suggesting we make Easter equal in terms of consumerism, but I am suggesting we make it much more than a Sunday morning event.

Here are 20 ideas to help you celebrate with great joy. You might want to print this list and mark the ideas you want to try and then mark your calendar with deadlines and to dos for making it happen. But don’t do them all. Discouragement will result not rejoicing! Rejoice if you choose to do even one!

    1. Start thinking about Easter and begin planning today. Don’t wait till Palm Sunday. Lent began this year on March 1, and is a season intended to help us prepare our hearts to receive and worship Jesus for His work on the cross. You aren’t a failure if you start late. Order our Messiah Mystery kit to help you and your family prepare your hearts and minds. Or follow our weekly Lent Lessons on the blog.
    2. Create anticipation with a countdown to Easter. Make a traditional numbered a paper chain for your kids to tear off one paper loop each day.
    3. Plan meaningful decorations for your home for Easter. Please forego the chicks and bunnies. Instead, hang the Easter Banner on your front door. Set fresh spring flowers on your mantle or kitchen to represent new life. Encourage your kids to build a cross with old pieces of wood and let them decide where to display it.
    1. Get your church and community involved with some advance planning. Organize a church or neighborhood Easter Egg hunt, using Resurrection Eggs. FamilyLife even offers a printable party planning packet to make it easy.
    2. Have your kids reenact Palm Sunday. Read aloud the story in John 12. Encourage them to create costumes, and even the scene if you have the space.
    3. Invite your friends over for a DIY craft night to make these Easter candles. Use them as décor on your kitchen or dining room table, but don’t light them until Easter Sunday. Waiting until Resurrection Day makes your Easter feast much more special and it signifies that the Light of the World is risen indeed!
    1. Celebrate Passover. This year Jewish Passover is on April 10th. For recipes, a dinner guide, and activities, click here.
    2. Tune your heart to worship the sacrifice of Messiah by reading John Piper’s book Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die. It’s an excellent book for your personal devotion time, conveniently available as a PDF here.
    3. Watch The Jesus Film. Dear friends of ours, Tim and Darcy Kimmel, watch the movie on Saturday afternoon and take communion together as a family. Watching the story of Jesus every year will make Easter far more meaningful.
    4. Observe Holy Week. Starting on Palm Sunday, read the I AM statements and stories about Jesus from Behold the Lamb, one each day as your family’s devotions. Hang the cards on the chain garland that comes in the kit.
    1. Attend your church’s Good Friday services. Talk about Jesus’ death on the cross to make Jesus’ death and resurrection more real to your children. Tear a handmade curtain or a yard length of muslin fabric to explain the ripping of the veil in the temple. Then keep all your curtains and blinds closed to make your house dark. Your family will remember the deep sadness the disciples felt after Jesus died. Dress in black mourning clothes on Saturday’s Easter Eve. Then on Easter Sunday to symbolize Jesus rising from the dead, serve Resurrection Rolls, Tomb Cake, or special pancakes to illustrate the empty tomb.
    2. Send an Easter care package. If there’s someone you’d love to spend Easter with but distance keeps you apart, drop a meaningful gift in the mail to them. If they’ll be hosting the meal, send the Easter placemats or napkins. Or send the set of 8 Oh,Taste and See cards for someone single or alone to read as personal devotions.
    3. Include truth-telling gifts in your children’s Easter baskets. A new shirt to wear to the sunrise service is great, but also add something that will continue teaching your children about what Easter really means. Check out Growing Together in Forgiveness, a read-aloud storybook for families.
    4. Wear all white on Resurrection Sunday. Historically Christians have dressed in white at Easter to symbolize we are set free from sin and will one day be wholly pure. Think through what you have in your closet and your kids’ closets that you can dress in white. Or start shopping!
    5. Invite others. Around the world monumental events are rarely celebrated alone. Weddings, birthdays, graduations are grand occasions shared with family and friends. Easter should be the same and more! Use our FREE printable Easter invitation to invite extended family, friends, or neighbors to join you or partner with a friend who has more space to plan, prepare, and share a feast to be remembered!
    1. Help your church make Easter Sunday memorable. A good friend of mine, Andrea, a pastor’s wife, said Easter at their church is a party. She said they shoot confetti cannons and encourage all the members to bring bells to ring and banners to wave to enhance the celebration. Last Easter everyone was given a cake pop as they left the service.
    2. Prepare a special feast. Find a suggested Easter menu or ask friends for ideas. One of our favorites for our Easter meal is Spring Salad. Here’s the recipe if you’d like to add it to your menu.
    1. Create a grand tablescape for Easter lunch or early dinner feasting in a gold and white color scheme. Gold reminds us of our victorious King and white represents the purity of His perfect life and the purity that will be ours one day. You décor doesn’t have to be expensive. Set the DIY candles on blocks of wood to create varying heights. Fill mason jars with white roses, hydrangeas, or even baby’s breath. If the weather is glorious, eat outside with gold-rimmed paper plates, gold plastic silverware, paper cups. We even found gold striped paper straws for our photo shoot. A backyard picnic setup gives the kids space to play when the feasting is over.
  1. Recount the story of the Resurrection during your Easter feast. Read the miraculous stories on our Easter napkins, or by reading our Oh, Taste and See cards. The short stories are written for 10 years to adult, but younger children can listen quietly to the stunning wonders that God performed the first Easter.
  2. Make an Easter playlist of your favorite hymns and songs that focus on the cross and the resurrection. Listen for yourself and your family in the weeks before and after Easter, but on Easter Sunday, play them all day in your home and during your backyard celebration. I want to encourage you to respond to the miracles in words or songs by celebrating with exuberant dancing, clapping, or singing together. Easter is a day to party like no other.

The resurrection of Jesus the Messiah is the pinnacle of world history. It is the greatest miracle of all time. Is it any wonder the watching world isn’t impressed with our faith if our celebration is marked by the appropriate somber tone of Lent with only an hour or two of moderate joy on Easter Sunday?

I pray you will join us and hopefully thousands of others as we plan celebrations that are worthy of our risen Lord and the envy of all who don’t know Him. Christ’s victory on the cross is the answer for every wound and need in every heart.

“Come, let us magnify the Lord together.”

From Ashley: The #1 Thing Couples Fight About

February 3rd, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Advice and Tips

ashley_150It’s probably not what you think! I’m relatively newly married; we’re only celebrating our 2nd Valentine’s Day as a married couple. I’m eager to hear advice from people who have much more experience!  Dr. Gottman was recognized in 2007 as one of the 10 most influential therapists of the past quarter century. “Gottman’s research showed that it wasn’t only how couples fought that mattered, but how they made up. Marriages became stable over time if couples learned to reconcile successfully after a fight.” He’s seems like someone to listen to! Read below to hear his thoughts on the #1 thing couples fight about.

Do you know Angelina Jolie?

She’s that beautiful actor who adopts Asian babies, and married the world’s most gorgeous man. They even had their own movie, Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

Well, I’ve never met her. She sounds like a deadly assassin with a secret identity.

But I do know Christina.

Like Angelina, Christina is an admirable and beautiful woman. She also happened to marry a beautiful man named Brad.

When they first met, he was something different. Mesmerizing. Passionate. But now there is a huge space between them, and it keeps getting bigger.

She’s frustrated and lonely. He is angry and focuses all of his energy on work.

Yesterday they were trying to pick a place to grab dinner. Here’s what happened:

Christina starts. “I’m hungry. Let’s grab dinner.”

“Sounds good to me. What do you feel like eating?” Brad asks.

“I don’t know, you?” replies Christina.

“I feel like pizza. Let’s do that,” he says licking his lips.

“I don’t want pizza,” she complains.

“Okay, what do you want then?” Brad asks again, this time with a tone of frustration.

“I don’t know,” she says with a puzzled look on her face.

“What about seafood?” Brad suggests, desperately wanting to make a decision.

“No. That doesn’t sound good to me,” Christina responds.

“You always put down every idea I make.” Brad storms out of the room.

Christina starts crying. She feels lonely again.

How has something so small turned into something so big? What are they really fighting about?

According to the Einstein of Love, Dr. John Gottman, the #1 thing couples fight about is nothing:

Christina and Brad remind me of the movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith. They love each other, but over time their disconnection pushes them apart. Next thing you know they are shooting bullets at each other and their love has turned lethal.

Sometimes relationships feel like we are emotionally shooting each other over the simplest things. Things can blow up over which show to watch on Netflix, where to go to dinner, or which part of the house needs cleaning first.

Meaningless Fights Can Make Or Break Trust

Rarely do couples ever sit down, create an agenda, and argue over a specific topic such as finances. Sometimes they do, but typically they hurt each other’s feelings in seemingly meaningless moments that appear to be about absolutely nothing.

What matters is not the fight itself. What matters is how partners respond to negative emotions in the relationship. If couples see the conflict as an opportunity for growth, they can attune to each other and increase their understanding of one another, deepening their trust in each other and in the relationship.

If partners dismiss the negative emotions in these situations, they may eventually reconnect with one another, but trust will erode a little. Over time, small and meaningless incidents will compound until partners are left feeling hurt, sad, and alone.

Instead of reaching out for each other’s hand, you begin pointing fingers and crossing arms. Instead of talking all night, you feel like you’re walking on eggshells. You feel like you’re too scared to speak about how you feel in fear of starting another fight.

Maybe it’s been so long since you connected with each other that you feel like cellmates instead of soulmates. Am I right?

Why Relationships Fail

Negative events will always happen in relationships, but that isn’t what turns us into cellmates. Relationships fail when the Story of Us is focused on the problems partners create, not the love partners offer.

Practically every moment of your life is narrated by a voice in your head. That voice is either going to remind you how amazing your partner is or how terrible they are to you. Those stories are then rehearsed repeatedly in your mind. If your story is focused on the negative, you slowly disconnect, sometimes without even realizing it.

It’s like a stone in your shoe. Over time, it becomes so irritating that you take off your shoe and throw the rock as far away as possible. If we constantly have a narrator telling us how negative our relationship makes us feel, then we start to see our partner as selfish. We stop believing our partner has our best interests at heart. Our potential for disconnection and betrayal increases over time.

The lovey dovey feelings we once had are replaced with loneliness, frustration, and anger. Each small incident only increases the potential for betrayal or breakup.

There is a point in our relationships when the negative story takes over and dominates all positive stories of our lover. Dr. Gottman calls this being in the “negative perspective.” Even if our partner does something nice for us, it is still a selfish person doing something nice. A person we can’t trust.

Fights Are Inevitable In Relationships

Incidents like Christina’s and Brad’s are inevitable in all relationships. According to Dr. Gottman, both partners in a relationship are emotionally available only 9% of the time. This leaves 91% of our relationship ripe for miscommunication.

While many see conflict in a relationship as a sign of incompatibility, it should be seen as a sign that the relationship needs growth to occur.

The feeling of disconnection from your partner can be used to find new horizons of communicating. Your sexless marriage can cause you to take a deep look at your integrity. It can teach you how to embody your deepest desires and how to truly want your partner and experience life-changing intimacy.

Typical conflicts are merely a reminder that a relationship is two different people working together to understand differences and love each other despite flaws.

What Makes Love Last?

When conflict occurs in a relationship, partners need to come together to understand each other better. The negative event is processed, and since partners work with each other, their minds focus on the positives of the relationship. The negative events are forgotten.

Trust is built when we are reminded that our partner is there for us. They reach out for us or grab our hand when we reach out for them. We realize our needs matter to our partner. We  forget the details about our hurt, and the negative event in the relationship slips from our mind.

Now when our partner is thoughtless, emotionally distant, or mean to us, the story we tell ourselves is that they are “stressed.” We trust them, so we repair the incident and reconnect with one another. Laughter and affection fill our disagreements because we know that this event will be resolved and our relationship will be better because of it.

So when a negative event happens in your relationship, don’t be like Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Don’t shoot each other’s hearts over nothing but misunderstanding. Use the event to build trust, to deepen your relationship, and to make it the best damn love story you’ve ever seen.

Source: gottman.com