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Family-AdoptionStanding in the middle of a country with people who speak a different language, eat a different food, where things smell different, feel different, sound different, Laurel Shippert didn't know much, nothing in fact, except that the baby in her arms was hers, forever.

Couple-ListMaking a list for love can come in handy for couples who tend toward following their hearts without first consulting their heads. Love at first sight may be romantic, but that initial glimpse of your true love lasts only a moment. What about the rest of your lives? Consult with your true love in making out the following lists. You'll learn his opinion of a lasting relationship, and perhaps you'll overturn some new expectations of your own.

List One: What is most important to you in a partner? Consider truthfulness, courtesy, compassion, helpfulness, patience, responsibility, etc. Compare your must-have list with your partner. Do your partner's words and actions align with your list? While early-on in relationships, it's easy to overlook small blemishes on the list, glitches will grow with time. Don't settle for someone who doesn't line up with your list.

List Two: What do you want to have in common with your partner? Are qualities like finding similar things funny, the ability to work smoothly together–cooking, yard work, finances–compatible money management habits, enjoying some leisure activities in common, or similar values and spiritual practices requirements for your happy relationship? "Til death do us part" is a long time. Make sure you commit yourself to someone with whom you want to grow old.

List Three: Don't overlook the negatives. What are your deal breakers in a relationship? Some qualities may include infidelity, lying, dirty living habits, heavy drinking, or illegal drug use, or a violent temper. If you notice things in your partner that you are unwilling to live with for the rest of your life, address them early-on.

List Four: What is your premarital bucket list? Love can sweep us up so quickly that the little, albeit essential, details get overlooked. Consider these topics before tying the knot: share details about finances, spend quality time with family members, pray and worship together, shop together, travel together. Getting outside of the normal routine will force out emotions, especially uncomfortable ones, that we tend to hide. Overturn every rock in your relationship.

List Five: The final list should be easy! It addresses the things you love about your partner. Make a list of all of the things you admire and enjoy about him. Some examples may be that your partner likes to spend time with his/her family, is playful when you are out on dates, uses manners when interacting with you and others, is loving to his/her children or the children of others, helps you lighten up and laugh.

Go over your lists, add to them, change them, but remain true to yourself, and your heart. Love comes to us at different stages in our lives. There isn't one age or stage of life during which it is required to find your life partner. When you can discover what is truly important to you in a partner, you can begin to prepare your heart for him/her.

Family-Meetings Web Organizations from corporations to the school board to the neighborhood association schedule meetings to provide updates, gather new ideas, and discuss hurdles. Why not implement this on a weekly basis for your family? Spend a little time around the dining room table or curled up on the couch communicating with your spouse and children, and allowing them to share their ideas, too.

Hold family meetings consistently at the same time each week. By scheduling the meeting beforehand, it will come as no surprise to family members to allot that time to family each week. Establishing the routine and sticking with it will prevent last minute cancelations.

Set rules. Practice patience by banning interruption during family meetings. Each person is allowed their time to talk and share opinions, moderated by an adult, and outside forms of communication should be powered down. Cell phones, even the home phone, can be turned off to decreases interruptions during the meeting.

Make it fun! While family meetings are a good place to have serious discussions, families can talk about weekend plans, vacation ideas or the week's menu during this time as well.

Bring your planner. As children get older, individual schedules begin to fill. During the family meeting, talk about each person's schedule and try to work out the details of events, practices, meetings and rides ahead of time. This will save time and stress throughout the week.

Serve dessert! Or provide some out of the ordinary treat during meeting time. Kids can help in the preparation of the treat, or each family member can sign up for a week to provide the surprise.

Keeping a family well-informed and opening up the floor to hear everyone's opinions will create a team spirit in the family, and allow you to examine potential issues up close, and right away.

Source: The Confident Mom Photo: Stephanie Hofschlaeger

Relationship-ParentsTeensA shrug of the shoulders, a long, awkward pause, exaggerated sighing and rolling eyes–all typical of a middle school student. But without open communication between parents and children, peer pressure and substance abuse will ensure your kids need more than an attitude adjustment.

Family-Bored Jar Cropped"Mom! Mom! Mom! MOM!!!! I'm bored." When is the last time you heard that? Is it happening right now? Before you shut yourself in the closet to escape, create a "bored jar," and curb your children's restlessness.

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