How to Have a Happy and Lasting Marriage

This past year, both my parents and my in-laws reached a wonderful milestone in their lives: they celebrated their 50th Golden Wedding Anniversaries. As my siblings and I prepared to celebrate my parent’s anniversary, we began to reminisce about our childhood. We were reminded yet again of what an incredible marriage our parents had and still have. In fact, as far as we can remember, they only had one big argument. And it was over something so trivial that it has become a family joke. 

A loving  marriage is like the air we breathe: as long as we have it, we take it for granted. But, take oxygen out of the air and we’re in danger of suffocating. Likewise, if you take love out of a marriage, the relationship dies. 

At the same time, a loving marriage is like a game of golf: To the outsider, it looks so easy and natural. But the reality is that a loving, stable marriage takes a lot more effort than it looks. 

So for Valentine’s Day, I asked my parents and in-laws, golden experts on true love, for their advice on how to have a happy and lasting marriage. Here’s what they advised:

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Even the Saints Could be Difficult Children

Sanctity. For many of us, this is what we want above all for our children. We want them to grow up to be devout, holy Catholics filled with grace and virtue. 

But sometimes that seems impossible. When our kids are obstinate, quarrelsome, selfish, or hot-tempered, it seems there is no way they will overcome their faults and grow up to be mature, generous adults… let alone saints!

So for this Feast of All Saints, I did some dirt digging.  Saints are not born, but made, though the mercy and grace of God.  When we feel discouraged about our kids, it helps to hear about saints who were normal as children — usually very good but sometimes really challenging.

Here are three children who were difficult at times and still grew up to be saints:

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Free Virtue of the Month Cards!

In my pediatrician’s office, there is a poster that says:

Watch your thoughts, for they become words.

Watch you words, for they become actions.

Watch your actions, for they become habits.

Watch your habits, for they become character.

Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny

It’s so true that our actions become habits which build up or break down our character. And the time for developing good habits — virtues — is while children are young. Children’s characters are like freshly made play-doh – malleable and relatively easy to form. As children grow into teens and then into adulthood, their characters become harder to form, like old playdoh that dries up and gets crusty.

Most kids don’t think of the effect their actions have on their character. But once children reach the age of ten, I think it’s worth pointing out to them that the way they treat their family members now and the virtues they exercise now will have an impact on the type of person they will grow up to be. You don’t become an accomplished pianist just by waiting to become one. You practice daily and faithfully, drilling in those musical passages until they become a part of you. The same goes for developing one’s character. Want to be a great husband and father? Start by being considerate and generous now. Want to be successful in your career? Start by being industrious and persevering now. As I told my son, if you wait until you’re grown to be the wonderful person you want to be, it might be too late, because old habits die hard.

To be a little more proactive about growing in virtue this year, I made Virtue of the Month cards for my kids… and yours!

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Talking About St. Martha on Relevant Radio

Yesterday was the feast day of one of my favorite saints, the hard-working, anxious St. Martha. I was actually relaxing (for once!) while watching my children swim in our neighbor’s pool, when I got a call from Cale Clarke. He wanted to know if I would like to talk about this blog and St. Martha on his nationally syndicated talk show on Relevant Radio… that very day!

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Teaching Your Kids to be Tidy

How’s your summer going? I hope you have fun plans lined up and some time to enjoy a slower pace of life. One thing I always do in the summers is establish a new routine for chores. When new chores become habitual in the summer, the coming school year goes more smoothly… and it helps a lot!

Another thing I work on during the summer is teaching my kids to be orderly. I wish I were one of those people who are oblivious to clutter, socks on the floor, and toys randomly scattered throughout the house. Instead,  for better or worse, I’m kind of a neat freak. For the sake of everyone’s sanity, I have learned to put on my blinders and ignore scattered toys, especially the path of destruction left by Hurricane Junior, (a.k.a. the three-year-old). However, order is an important virtue. So it’s something we work on throughout the year, but especially during the summer.

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5 Things My Dad Taught Me About Fatherhood

This one’s for the Dads — the generous, hard-working, unsung heroes of our day. And in honor of my own incredible father, I’m reprinting a post my brother wrote years ago about our Dad and the invaluable lessons he imparted:

Let me be the first to point out that I’m no parenting expert, psychologist or self-help guru. In fact, I’m not an expert on anything in particular. I’m just a regular guy who loves muscle cars and vintage motorcycles, and my loving wife and kids. Like most of you younger dads out there, I’m just trying to navigate through life while raising two daughters in this crazy world of ours.

Growing up the only boy in a family with two sisters, I quickly learned to navigate the unique peculiarities common to the fairer sex, and somehow I survived the confusing period of my adolescent years.

Luckily for me, my dad was a great role model who, among other things, helped me understand that one of the secrets to getting far in this world isn’t “figuring out” women, but rather knowing how to treat them.

Fast forward 20 years or so and I find myself in my dad’s position; surrounded by kids and a wife. I’m definitely thankful that I had a great role model to impart unto me some priceless lessons about being a father (of daughters) which I’ll impart on to you. Needless to say, if I had sons, these points would be on the top of my list of lessons to teach them as they ventured into manhood, as my father taught me.

Now consider these thoughts for a moment.

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Why Corona-schooling is NOT Homeschooling

A few days ago, I asked my husband how his teleconference went. “I only spoke to one person,” he replied. “Everyone else was busy trying to homeschool their kids.”

With an increasing number of school districts closing schools for weeks, and some for the rest of the school year, many parents now consider themselves homeschoolers. After all, their kids are doing school at home. However, truth be told, they’re not really homeschooling. They’re Corona-schooling. And there are some significant differences:

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25 Screen-Free Educational Activities for Kids

“Mom, I’m bored.” Have you heard that yet? It’s only been one week of closed schools… and it’s probably felt like a long one. Social distancing is tough on kids and tougher on parents. No school, no sports or extracurricular activities, not even playdates! How can we keep our kids occupied during this coronavirus season? Here are 25 (mostly) educational activities to keep your kids busy, engaged, and away from the screen:

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Navigating the Teen Age Years: 12 Dos and Don’ts

This month it’s official: three of our kids are now full-fledged teenagers. I know the thought of having three teens in the house makes some people shudder, but I think teenagers get a lot more bad rap than they deserve. When my siblings and I were teens, we certainly gave our parents gray hairs. But on the whole we had a great rapport with them. They worked really hard on our relationships, guiding, supporting, and encouraging us.

We can expect the teenage years to be a roller coaster ride. After all, it is a time of rapid growth and development, so frustrations, disappointments, and misunderstandings are bound to happen. But this doesn’t mean the teenage years need to be as awful as many anticipate. I can honestly say I enjoy my teens’ company and conversation. And they are often a tremendous help around the house. Of course we have our moments. So to help navigate through them, I made myself a list of Dos and Don’ts, mostly gleaned from parenting books and wise advice. For those of you with kids age 12 and up, I hope you find it helpful!

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How My New Morning Routine is Giving me Peace

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful and blessed Christmas season! One thing I love about a New Year is that it is a time for fresh starts. Each day is also a fresh start, especially when it begins with a peaceful morning routine. Why wait until the end of the day to decompress? Begin the day with stillness and prayer. And so I thought I’d share this post, written by Melissa Atlee, a dear friend and homeschooling mama: How My New Morning Routine is Giving Me Peace.

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