Category Archives: marriage

The I Do Chronicles: Positive Husband Talk

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I’m no expert on any of this and am just learning what the Lord has to teach me as I go, but if you’re interested in bumbling along with me, you can read all of the posts in this series here.

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I’m assuming you’ve heard of this lady named Oprah, yes? And the power of something called “positive self-talk?”

Not that Oprah created the concept or anything. But when I think of personal pep talks, she definitely comes to mind.

I’m honestly not super-great at positive self-talk. I can beat myself up with the best of them. But I can also be disdainful in general of the potency of motivational quotes and rah-rah speeches. Probably because, deep down, I’m a bit of a cynic (I prefer “realist,” but when the Bible tells us to give thanks in all circumstances, semantics are pretty moot).

And yet, I can’t ignore Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

And I would assume that includes the things we tell ourselves.

It definitely includes the things we say about our husbands.

Which is why–in many ways–positive husband talk is one of the best things we (I, me…preaching to myself) can do for our marriages.

I am blessed to be surrounded by women, who, in general, speak positively about their husbands. I have several close Christian friends who have never “husband-bashed” in my presence. And unless I have a serious case of marriage amnesia, I think I can claim the same.

I mean, honestly, Shaun is pretty easy to praise. He’s kind. He’s witty. He works hard. He’s a great daddy. He loves the Lord. He’s genuinely my best friend. And he’s super hot too, so there’s that. ;)

I have few (if any) legitimate complaints.

And any I do have are usually brief and certainly don’t bear airing to anyone else but him (or the Lord).

STILL! This does not mean that I’m always perfect in the way that I speak to him. (Or about him, although this is not my main struggle).

Recently, two incidents came to my attention that made me analyze more closely how I communicate my regard for my husband to him and to others.

In one case, the claim was legitimate. I was tired/hormonal (not an excuse, but it was the context), and I responded shortly/dismissively/disrespectfully to one of his requests in front of someone else. And that person noticed! I have since apologized to Shaun, but that incident is lodged in my mind as an example of a time when I failed to present a godly snapshot of marriage.

In the other example, my “rudeness” was completely misunderstood as I was only pretending as part of an inside joke between me and Shaun–one that he finds hilarious and one that it never occurred to me could be misconstrued. But still. It affected this person’s opinion of my treatment of my husband.

Tricky, right?

What we say about and to our spouses matters (duh) but, especially (for women), in the context of how we display respect to our husbands. (Because I don’t know a single man who values “lovey dovey” over words of acknowledgement, affirmation, and praise).

I have an acquaintance who has mentioned several times that she becomes frustrated with the way her husband goes about certain tasks and that she would just rather do them herself. She’s not negative, per se. Simply dismissive. And yet, I can’t help but have a different view of her husband (and their relationship) than I would otherwise have.

I overheard another conversation recently (because I was in close vicinity and incapable of moving) about a wife’s refusing to even consider her husband’s wishes on a certain subject that I can’t unhear, and it has–whether it should or not–created an image of their marriage in my mind.

I’m not saying we should lie. Or that we should present a rosy picture when there is genuine conflict at home. I’m just saying that proclaiming it to the world–like a stranger in a restaurant the other day was doing too loudly for me to ignore–is doing no one (least of all, us) any good.

Yesterday, with at least mild fear and trembling, I asked Shaun if he felt like I used kind, respectful words with him in general (because I know the answer to “all the time” is no).

His response? “In general? Yeah! I mean, sometimes, you can be short. But for the most part, yeah.”

Phew. I passed (although you could argue that what else is a guy going to say to his seven-month-pregnant wife if he values his life? ;) ).

I knew what he meant, though. Especially in the last several months, there have been certain days when I’ve felt like I could crawl out of my skin with irritation for no good reason. (Thank you, pregnancy hormones). So, even though, for the reasons I listed at the beginning of this post, I generally find it easy to be nice to my husband, that’s not necessarily what actually comes out of my mouth if I’m especially tired. Or emotional. Or fed-up with kid drama. Or…

If I tried hard enough, I could probably find a justification for speaking snippily to my husband all day every day.

None of them would cover my sin, though.

And none of them would change the fact that–even when he takes it well or says he understands–I am not “building him up according to his needs.”

The Lord has been impressing this on my heart in pretty much every area of my speech lately, if I’m honest. But it might as well start with how I speak to and about the man God has given me to respect, love, and serve for a lifetime (because if I can’t speak words of life to him, how am I ever going to hack it with everybody else?).

But, Abbie. What if I struggle to find even one nice thing to think or say about my husband? I get this. Completely. Not about my husband. But about a different relationship in my life in which I fail miserably in this area more often than not.

And I have a challenge for both of us: let’s pray for the Lord to reveal one tiny thing for which we can praise this person. For at least one word that we can genuinely speak that will be “life” and not “death” to this person’s soul. No matter how much we think they don’t deserve it. (Because what do we deserve except eternal punishment and separation from God in hell? Thank you, Jesus, for the cross!) And for strength to keep our mouths shut until we hear from the Lord what that word might be.

And if you find your husband easy to praise, ask yourself: when was the last time I said out loud–either to him or to someone else–at least one of those good things I know to be true of him? I’ll be asking myself the same thing.

I’m not naive enough to think that every (or any?) marriage makes it so very easy to focus on spouse-thankfulness. But neither am I cynical enough to dismiss the benefits (to our husbands, to ourselves, and to those who hear us and are encouraged) when we choose praise over criticism. Not to mention that, when we do right, it brings glory to God!

I am grateful for the godly example of women who have realistic, yet unfailingly positive things to say to and about their husbands. And I pray the Lord would make me more like them each day.

Feel free to shout out something you love about your husband in the comments! (Just don’t forget to actually say it to him too :) ).

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Vancouver Do-Over (Part II)

So, where was I?

Where…

Oh yeah! That pesky phone call right in the middle of the movie. (Read Part I if you’re lost as a goose).

Shaun checked his voicemail on the walk back to the rental, but try as he might, he couldn’t make out much more than that it was the Vancouver PD and that they had found our car with the smashed window (it was the little triangular window behind the full-sized rear window, in case you’re wondering) and were trying to notify us that it had been vandalized.

Of course, we already knew this. We also knew that we hadn’t lost one single penny or scrap of possessions.

So, when Shaun called back, fully expecting to be able to explain the situation, and was informed, instead, that the police had towed the car for “safekeeping” without permission or actual notification (methinks a missed phone call does not count), we were both a bit stunned.

Of course, the biggest bummer (at that point) was being car-less when we had been planning a day trip to Squamish the next morning, but the impound (hey! I got to visit all kinds of places I’d never been on this trip) was only a 30 minute walk away. So, the next morning, we strolled over to the Twisted Fork, ate an, ahem, hearty breakfast of banana stuffed french toast and Eggs Benedict, and then did our darndest to walk off at least a tiny fraction of those calories.

On the way, we were treated to some not-so-shabby views.

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When we finally got there (somehow, we missed a turn and turned our stroll into a 45 minute hike), the niggling suspicion that the VPD was going to stick us with the bill for their little act of kindness came true…to the tune of $155. (So, basically, our car got broken into, and we lost nothing…until the police came along. Ha!).

It was actually kind of (but not quite) comical to watch the exchange when the girl told Shaun the bill, and he said, “But…we didn’t ask to be towed or do anything that warranted it.” And she said, “But we performed a service.” And he said, “That we didn’twant.” And she said, “But we performed a service, so…” And he paid up.

I told him in the car that I was going to start washing random people’s doorsteps and then showing up a day later demanding payment, even though they didn’t ask and/or want me to wash their steps.

ARgh.

To add insult to injury, we had a parking ticket, even though I had proof that I’d paid the bill (we’ve since managed to clear up that little snafu, but at the time it felt like, “Oh, C’MON!!”).

Of course, although it never occurred to either one of us that getting towed was even a possible outcome, we sure weren’t keen for a repeat, so we drove the first rental car back to the airport, exchanged it for a zippy little VW Golf, and headed out for Squamish.

My brain could never quite immediately conjure the name, so I kept throwing out ridiculous versions like Squeamish, Sasquatch, and Saskatchewan, but the town itself was way cuter than its name (which, to be fair, originates from a Native Indian tribe and probably sounds much better in their language).

We got there while the Saturday market was in full swing and proceeded to eat all. the. things.

Basically, I’ve done vacation food two ways: 1) try to find a place with yummy salads and pace myself on all treats…mildly obsessing over/dreading the next meal (yup; that would pretty much describe my 20′s) and 2) gleefully research thee best food within a reasonable radius on Yelp and then eat what/whenever strikes our fancy.

I’ve learned that I much prefer the second, even if I do come home with some extra jiggle. Both because it frees up my mind up to actually enjoy the moment and because it makes Shaun happy when I don’t worry about it.

I point this out because I’m blushing a little remembering our farmer’s market indulgences, which included: a Greek Souvlaki wrap, an empanada,  a strawberry rhubarb hand pie, caramel kettle corn, and the best sno-cone I’ve ever had (most of them shared, I might add #justificationsrus).

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{Half raspberry vanilla, half hibiscus lemonade = aaaaaalll yum. Also, I really wanted to buy that gorgeous flower arrangement for only $10–$7 with the Canadian/US exchange rate, but it was our last day there, so it wouldn’t have made much sense}

After all of that, we couldn’t manage much more than a leisurely waddle around the picturesque square for the next half hour, but Shaun had warned told me about a challenging hike just outside of Squamish, and I said I was game. So, off we set, determined to beat the estimated 3 hour round trip time.

We started up the trail, unsure of when “the hard part” would start, but it didn’t take long to figure it out.

Y’all.

This is the hardest hike I’ve ever done…by a long shot. Now, granted, we didn’t take our time. We were determined to go as fast as possible, but after the first 10 minutes of climbing big rock after big rock and ascending stairs so steep you practically had to use the handrail to haul yourself up them, my pulse was hammering in my throat, and my breath was coming in jagged rasps. (And I thought I was in decent shape)

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{I keep looking at this and thinking: “That doesn’t look nearly as steep as it felt.” This was only the first flight of stairs, by the way}

Fortunately, although the trail rarely let up (there were 3 or 4 spots that plateaued for maybe 20 feet before you were climbing steeply again), once my legs warmed up and my breathing achieved a rhythm, it felt doable. Still hard. But not quite as likely to kill us.

Of course, I think we were pretty much the only ones on the trail (that day, at least) really pushing ourselves, since we passed quite a few people we never saw at the start, taking their time picking from rock to rock and stopping at the outlooks. (Like normal folks; not knocking this approach).

But honestly?

I loved it.

I love exercise (y’all know that). And I love challenges. But I don’t love hiking. I’m a multitasker, but I don’t enjoy stomping through nature while trying to enjoy it. If I’m meant to be looking around and taking in the views, I’ll need to stroll, thankyouverymuch. But if I’m working hard, I’m focused on the next step, the next handhold, the next summit, and trying to get me to simultaneously enjoy that waterfall over there just makes me peevish. (Don’t I sound like a fun hiking date?)

Fortunately, this time, since our goal was speed, and the ascent was so stinkin’ vertical, I kind of got the best of both worlds. I was always looking up for the next rock, which helped me take in my surroundings, and I was always pushing myself to get to each one a little bit faster.

At the end of the hike, there was a section where you basically picked your way up the side of a vast boulder, in some cases using chains anchored to the rocks to haul yourself up when the footholds weren’t sufficient.

And then…we were there!

And the payoff was pretty spectacular. 360 degree views of God’s stunning creation. As soon as we reached the tippy-top, we flopped down on the warm rock, sipped water, and shaded our eyes from the dazzle of the sun off of the water.

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It was a lovely reward for all of the gasping and sweating and burning muscles.

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{Heeeellooooo, Squamish! Anybody else picturing that scene with Tom Hanks and his “aunt” and his “brother” from You’ve Got Mail?)

It’s a little hard to tell from the panoramic shot from above, but we were up high. I don’t honestly know if the next pic is going to give you any better of an idea, but…

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…we were on top of that giant boulder.

Of course, the wildest part is that we spotted at least one group of crazies folks rappelling off of the sheer face of the boulder. Shudder.

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{I promise we didn’t coordinate our climbing outfits}

Half an hour later, we started the descent.

And, y’all, it felt like we went so fast. Again, on the way down, we passed up multiple people taking it slow, but I was concentrating too hard on landing on the next boulder down to notice much other than the constant: “Don’t fall” chant in my brain.

Ultimately, it took us approximately 46 minutes to climb it and 40ish minutes to get down (I was pretty slow on the first section of the descent where you had to hold onto the chains, since I was more interested in not dying than speed at that point).

Still, we were pretty happy with our 2 hour round trip (including the rest at the top), and–I’m not gonna lie–I felt considerably less like a slug after 2 days of eating with no exercising.

That night, we crowned our culinary “achievements” with a trip to a place with Brooklyn style thin crust pizza, and I couldn’t help but notice a couple at the table across from us who were engaged (I presume; she had a solitaire, but he had no ring) but rarely spoke to each other. I honestly felt a little sorry for her, since she seemed inclined to talk, but he spent most of the time staring at his phone. (Apparently, I’m a nosey Parker; probably, there was someone observing me, wondering what I was doing staring at another couple instead of talking to my husband. Ha!)

I only say this because–weirdness of all weirdness–the exact same couple were on my plane home, on the same aisle as I was. (And they STILL didn’t talk!)

I mean, Vancouver is a city of over 600,000 people, and the odds of my sitting beside a couple I’d happened to notice especially at one of literally thousands of restaurants the night before are pretty darn slim.

Cue: It’s a Small World. (Sorry).

So…there you have it, friends: what we did, what we ate, what we saw.

I know I say this every year when we manage to get away, but I fully expect each trip to be our last. But our gracious parents (this time: his) are always so stinkin’ nice to keep our kids for several days, and–not gonna lie–as long as they keep saying yes, I’m going to keep tagging along on work trips!

The longer I’m married to my husband, the more I’m struck by how much I like him. Like just genuinely enjoy being in his presence–the way he makes me laugh, the way he can always, always make a crummy day better. I’ve always felt this way, but I don’t know that I expected my appreciation for him to keep increasing. It has/does each year, though, and I’m so grateful for a good God who saw fit to give me such a good husband and bless our marriage so richly with these opportunities to get away and just be us.

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Vancouver Do-over (Part I)

I mentioned last week that Shaun and I took a quick 11th anniversary trip to Vancouver over the weekend (Thursday through very-early Sunday, to be exact). I don’t trust myself to be completely accurate, but I think it’s the 5th-ish time that we’ve managed to tack a getaway onto one of his work trips, and, while I’m not a fan of the fact that he had to stay behind and work, I loved our time together.

Vancouver–as I was “warned” multiple times–is a beautiful city. Tons to see. Tons to do. Tons to eat (as always, we were especially keen on that last part).

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{Random pretty building, but I was really impressed with the attention to detail throughout the city–especially all of the hanging flower pots}

We started out the trip pretty sleep-deprived. One of Shaun’s client’s QuickBooks program crashed the day before we left (naturally), and Shaun literally worked all day and all night (minus 1 1/2 hours when he slept fitfully) to fix it in time for us to catch our flight. I got something like 4 hours of (equally fitful) sleep, so by the time we got up at 4 AM and spent the next 7 hours traveling, we showed up in Vancouver pretty zonked out and ready to sleep for 3 days straight.

Of course, you would have thought something more than lack of sleep was affecting me on the way to the parking garage when I fell off of my 4″ wedge and, overbalanced by the bags I was carrying, came crashing down on my right hand/knee. (Why do I have a feeling there’s a video of this on the internet somewhere?). We were actually being directed by some sort of City Guide to the parking garage at the time, and she came running back offering to call 911. I’d like to say that was an overreaction (it was), but maybe it was just a dramatic fall.

We got situated in our Airbnb rental, where I nursed my “wounds, and we opted for a 90 minute nap…which morphed into 3 hours when one of us (we still don’t remember who; see: zonked) didn’t set the alarm correctly.

We knew we didn’t want to do anything complicated our first night there, and we love to eat good food, so we spent a while scoping out a great restaurant on Yelp. We landed on Le Crocodile because of its fantastic rating + interesting menu, got all fancied up (it was our actual anniversary, so we made a bit of an effort), and set out on foot, since it was only 10 minutes away.

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{I love that I still have “nap face” here a full 2 hours later}

After the episode with the wedge heel, Shaun was giving my 5″ dressy wedges some serious side-eye, but this time, I managed to stay upright and only ended up with 6 small bleeding blisters to match my mottled, purple right knee. Oy. The things we [I?] do for fashion.

The entire experience at the restaurant was one of the best we’ve ever had. The decor was tasteful and elegant (but not stuffy) and reminded us of our favorite restaurant we found in France two years ago. And our waiter, who was actually French and named Pierre, was thee best waiter we’ve ever had. Absolument (yup, I had to Google that).

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{Pierre even snapped our pic! Woohoo! We’re terrible about taking pictures together on our trips}

If you’ve ever been to a place where they drone through the specials of the night, and you find yourself taking a quick open-eyed nap, then I wish you could have seen Pierre do his specials spiel. He enunciated every word, varying his facial expressions and punctuating the important parts with little hand flourishes.

We were kind of mesmerized. By his accent. And by all the choices. Okay, but mostly by his accent.

The food was…incredible.

Everything was flaky or buttery or savory or crisp, depending on what it should be.

The only miss was Shaun’s Chilean Sea Bass, but the second Shaun mentioned that it wasn’t his favorite, Pierre whisked it away and asked what he’d like instead.

Now, that’s how it’s done.

Also, because apparently your 11th anniversary is the one where you attempt to gain 5 pounds in one sitting, we said yes to dessert. Thing is, we couldn’t decide. So we asked for Pierre’s opinion, and…after listening to the ones we couldn’t decide between, he winked at us and told us he’d bring us a surprise.

Moments later, he came back with a pear sorbet “palate cleanser” that, had it been our actual dessert, would have gotten no complaints from us. It was divine.

But then, he showed up with profiteroles (because “they are actu-ah-lly French”) and proceeded to smother them with rich, warm chocolate from a gleaming silver carafe.

So, so, so good.

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{Any place that finishes off the meal with little dark/milk chocolate crocodile molds is a win in my book}

And, yes, I know I’ve just written way too many words about that meal, but it really was epic, and I can’t recommend Le Croc (as Shaun insisted on calling it) enough.

The next morning, we continued our gluttony with a feast at PureBread…

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then moseyed on down to the seawall.

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{Pardon our giant, fuzzy heads blocking out the view, but the morning mist hadn’t burned off yet, so there really wasn’t much to see}

We’d heard so many good things about Granville Island that we knew we wanted to visit, so we ambled back to the parking garage where…we discovered that our rental car had been broken into!

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{Couple things: a) that gold door is so stinkin’ rad and b) I love the shirt I’m wearing in this pic, but I didn’t pay attention to wash instructions when I got home and unpacked, so…Della has a new shirt now. :/}

Thankfully, they didn’t even take the only thing we’d left in there (a package of Ritz crackers…apparently, these weren’t peckish thieves….although Shaun’s suggestion that they’d probably licked them all made the cracker I’d just put in my mouth taste a little funny).

We called the rental agency, and they told us we’d need to bring the car back at some point to exchange it and fill out an incident report, but we decided to keep it for the rest of the day (a decision that came back to bite us) since it was an hour round-trip to switch it out.

We spent the afternoon at Granville Island, meandering through the shops, buying 2 lb. bags of Rainier cherries (that I proceeded to eat pretty much single-handedly…over the course of 2 days), and fighting off the cheeky seagulls who attempted to snatch food directly from your hand the second your head was turned.

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{So much window shopping cuteness!}

An IG friend had suggested a trip to The Cross Design and Decor, so we popped in for a quick look-see on the way back to our apartment.

And let me just say that if you’re in the market for overpriced gorgeousness, this is the place for you. Every new corner was filled with yet another impeccable display of stylish knick knacks, and–much in the same vein as Anthropologie–the sum of the whole made the individual pieces all that much more desirable. Every vignette was just so perfectly curated and arranged that I found myself thinking, “Oh! Yes. I need chairs like these,” until I actually lifted the tag and gulped so hard I almost swallowed my own tongue. $800 for one little rickety wooden chair?

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Nooooo thanks.

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{Gray walls have never been my favorite, but, even though this pic doesn’t do it justice, this slate gray on this wall was such a sophisticated backdrop for all of the white frames that I found myself scheming walls in the new house that could use a coat of gray paint}

But it was still so fun to look–and to guess prices (we basically made up our own ritzy version of The Price is Right and took turns guessing, with the person who didn’t go over “winning”…nothing much).

Dinner was simple–a quick stop at a Fresh Bowl (kind of like an Asian Chipotle–yummy and, yes, fresh), and then we walked down to Bella’s Gelateria, which is this much-lauded little spot that’s won oodles of awards.

We waited in line for a good half hour (and, apparently, this was a slow night), but it was such a beautiful night that we didn’t mind a bit. Really, the weather could hardly have been more perfect if we ordered it up especially.

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And the gelato was pretty delicious to boot.

We took another stroll along the seawall as we slurped our sweets (my only complaint is that mine melted lickety split, and I’d forgotten to grab napkins, so I ended up looking like a toddler who got into the chocolate sauce).

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{It always fascinates me how the sun seems to take its time getting to the horizon, and then, suddenly !!!, it’s gone. There were literally 5 seconds between when I decided to snap a pic of the sun setting at the edge of the trees and when I actually got the shot, and I still almost completely missed it}

Once we (I) were clean, we decided we were still awake enough to watch a movie (we’d been drooping in our noodle bowls around 8:00 but got a second wind once we’d  blown right past our CST bedtime).

So, we headed over to the Odeon to watch Love and Friendship (a take on Jane Austen’s novella Lady Susan–it was entertaining and very clean!) and were, by a good 15 years, the youngest people (of about 20) in the audience. At one point in the movie, Shaun got a call, but the number just said, “Unlisted,” so he ignored it.

Turns out, that was a bad idea.

But you’ll have to wait until Part II to find out why.

Muahahaha.

Until next time!

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The I Do Chronicles {The 11th Anniversary Home-building Edition}

Goood morning! Shaun and I are currently living (which really means: eating) it up in Vancouver, but I thought that, with our 11th (!!) anniversary (yesterday) and all, it might be time for another round of:

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I recently had a reader ask me when I was bringing back this series, and I had to smile because, while I’m learning all kinds of lessons about marriage these days, I feel like most of them are so specific to my life/current circumstances that they might not be very interesting/relevant for anyone else.

But then, I thought, “Who cares?” After all, this is the place where I share my life with y’all, and if it’s not a relevant post, you’re plenty welcome to and capable of skipping the post.

So! Without further lame explanation and dithering, let’s dive right in.

Today, Shaun and I are both answering 6 questions about what it’s been like to build 2 (well 1 1/2 so far) houses together.

(Hope you) ENJOY!

1. How would you describe the first house-building experience in 3 words?

ABBIE: Hectic, exhausting, fast

SHAUN: First house – Easier than expected. New one – Longer than expected

2. How has this time been different?

ABBIE: At least for me, the pace has been considerably less frenetic. Probably because my main contribution–other than design decisions–so far has been my role of what I lovingly refer to as a “construction widow.” Lots of weekends on solo kid-duty–especially while we were pushing hard to get everything dried in (weather-proofed). Now that we’ve got the exterior foam up and the roof on, I usually get my beloved Sundays back, so I’m good.

SHAUN:  The house is different this time.  It is much larger and has more complicated details, which present new challenges for sure.  Overall, though, it is going fairly smoothly, like last time,  only slower, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

3. What has building houses together done for/to your relationship?

ABBIE: I know a lot of people joke that building a house together is a quick road to divorce. But, even outside of the fact that divorce is off the table for us, I feel like it’s been a really positive experience. Both times. But especially this time (which is probably due to some hard lessons learned last time). Maybe it’s because we do so much of the work ourselves, and Shaun is such an excellent, meticulous builder that I have utter confidence in the sections that he tackles. It seems like, as relaxing as it sounds to not have to do the actual labor yourself, the more we sub out the work, the more frustrating the situation, as contractors change their prices halfway through the job, don’t show up when they say they will, and finish well after their self-professed “deadline.” We haven’t had any disasters yet, but we’ve had some narrowly averted ones (I’m looking at you, cement dump truck driver who drove directly into the sink hole my husband had just told to avoid), and I often find myself wishing that I could clone Shaun (and his dad) so they could do every last bit of the work. Nothing like personal investment to motivate you to do a good/timely job!

As far as personal growth, I feel like I’ve really improved in the area of expectations (as in: not having them, which, in turn, helps me avoid feeling resentful if they aren’t met) and Shaun has gotten better at communication.

SHAUN: Let’s say it has highlighted ways in which each of us could stand to improve our communication, decision making, and patience – all of which make for a better relationship.  Fortunately, this time around I believe I see evidence that we’re a little better at each and the result is less stress in the building process and hopefully more decisions that turn out just as we planned/hoped.

4. How is it different to have 3 times as many kids involved this time around?

ABBIE: Surprisingly, it’s better. Mostly because everyone but Theo is older than both the boys were when we were building the first time. And Theo is just the chillest little dude ever (whereas Ezra spent the entire year that we built constipated and miserable), so even he is pretty easy to handle. The boys love to head out to “the property” with Shaun and help. They haul trash to the burn pile, pick up nails, and even get to pound a few boards along the way. Sometimes, Della hangs out there too and contributes a bit every now and then.

SHAUN: Well, the older boys now get to come out and swing hammers, burn scraps, clean up, play fetch, and generally prove somewhat helpful – so that is nice.  It is also fun to see them take an interest in how their areas will turn out. But of course there’s more going on in general with 6 kids, so we also have to take it slower in some ways and not tie ourselves to a strict building schedule – this is where the improved patience from question 2 comes into play.

5. Any advice for other potential home-builders?

ABBIE: Well, considering that one of the topics I receive the most emails about is our DIY house-building process–and the fact that they range from: “Hi, we’re both 19 and have zero construction experience, but this is our dream. Where do we start?” to: “We’ve already bought the land and have our blueprints but are wondering about ______ specifically”–my best piece of advice would be to research the tar out of your project. I get a lot of rather, um, clueless questions. (See: “We’re 19…” from above). But the main thing seems to be that people don’t know where to find the answers to their questions and are hoping that I’ll know or at least have an idea of where to send them. The truth is, though, that building codes and requirements, materials, and costs will range widely from state to state and even from inside the city limits to outside. So, taking the time to get online and research your county’s requirements or (shudder) visit physical government offices, check out books from the library or buy them at Lowe’s, and watch beaucoups of YouTube tutorials (yup, many are legit) will ultimately save you money, time, and sanity in the end.

SHAUN: Building a house yourself isn’t for everyone.  You’ll definitely want to make sure you have the skills/resources to tackle whatever parts you want to do yourself.  For some people that will be everything from foundation to fixtures, for others it may just be painting a room after the general contractor hands you the key.  Don’t try to tackle something you have no experience with that are more critical in nature (structural framing, electrical, plumbing, etc.), but on the rest, don’t hesitate to save money with your sweat.  For many of the house’s jobs you can easily do as good or better than a contractor would if you take your time and do a little research first.  It’s obvious, but there are a lot of good videos online of contractors who know what they are doing showing you how they do it.  Take advantage of this, but don’t just watch one, watch several on each task and you should quickly see which ones know what they are doing because they do it for a living and which ones are simply hacks.  The good ones will typically point out what not to do and tell you why they do it the way they do.  There’s plenty else I could say, but basically you need to go into it with realistic expectations of the process and of your capability.  One last tip would be to start in the most inconspicuous area for each task.  You may be tempted to start in the most obvious place because it shows progress the quickest, but if you are patient and start in the least obvious place, you’ll get better as you go and the little imperfections from the learning curve will be out of the way where only you will see/know/care about it.

6. Would you ever do it again?

ABBIE: Ask me again in six months. Ahem. Short answer? I sure hope we don’t have to. I mean, if the Lord wants us to build again, I’m sure he can drop a meteor on our heads or something. But seriously. We’ll do whatever he calls us to, but I’m certainly hoping that this is our forever home (you know, other than Heaven).

SHAUN: I probably shouldn’t say this, but building a house yourself is kind of like labor.  It’s long, tiring, painful, and by the end you’re definitely saying you never want to do that again.  But… time takes it’s toll on your memory/sanity and you eventually find yourself ready to tackle it again.  Having said that… NO!

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The I Do Chronicles {Part 8}: Just Say No to Passive Agression

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(Pssst…you can read all of the other entries in this series right here)

Shaun’s about to start another marathon of work trips, and I’m kind of girding up my loins emotionally for another round of single parenting.

So, on Friday, when the need to take our van in for a factory recall created an opportunity for a date, I was all over that. My mom took the oldest 5, and we lined up a babysitter for Theo, and I packed a change of clothes and a hefty dose of deodorant and perfume in my bag, since I had to teach BODYCOMBAT that morning and wouldn’t have time to shower. (Because nothing kills date time quite like smelling like a horse).

I spent the early afternoon running around getting the kids situated, but, as so often happens (especially when multiple small children are involved), life got in the way, and I didn’t make it back from dropping the kids off at my mom’s in time to meet Shaun at the dealership and catch the movie we’d planned on.

It was no big deal, though, because we had the entire afternoon/evening free (well, outside of needing to feed Theo every 3 hours or so), and my babysitter was really flexible. So, I was still hopeful that we would get several hours of “us time” + relaxation in.

By this point, it was 2:30, and neither of us had eaten since the morning, and my hands were starting to shake from low blood sugar, so we headed to a local falafel joint and started chowing down, discussing how we would spend our afternoon until the next movie showing in between embarrassingly big, sloppy bites.

And that’s when Shaun looked at me with a slightly sheepish expression and said, “Well, we could…”

And I felt my body tense as I realized that he was suggesting scrapping our relaxing afternoon for an appointment that he needed to fit in before he left on his first trip. But I didn’t have anything pressing I needed to do, and we were still planning on doing a date later, so I told him (reluctantly, as I mentally lectured myself on being selfish and resentful) that it was fine. FiiiiiiiiNE.

And then I went back to attempting to fit my falafel in my mouth without producing an avalanche of crumbs and tzatziki sauce down my white shirt. When I glanced up, cheeks stuffed like a chipmunk, he was staring at me with a preoccupied look in his eyes, like he was analyzing a to-do list on the back of his eyeballs instead of seeing his hungry wife sitting in front of him. After a second, he blinked, and, as his eyes refocused, he said, “Do you mind finishing that in the car? I don’t want to be late.”

Thing is, I didmind. A lot. Not because I mind eating in the car. I don’t. But because I felt like I was watching my husband rewrite our fun afternoon into one that fit his (admittedly important) agenda.

And I was just a footnote.

I could feel irritation building in my gut, and let me tell you, resentment and falafel do not mix well.

I fought that sour feeling in my stomach while Theo and I sat in the car and waited for Shaun to get done with his appointment. I even fished my Bible out of my purse and read words like, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

I prayed and asked the Lord to help me overcome my resentment, and I was feeling a little better when, right as I was trying to text Shaun our babysitter’s number so we’d have it before my phone died (of course, I’d left the charger in the van at the dealership), the dealership called and informed us that they wouldn’t be doing our recall that day after all, and we would need to come pick up our van. The reason they refused to do the service was pretty silly, and I felt frustration bloom in my chest all over again as I realized that, with this new development, we were going to miss our next movie showing as well.

And then my phone died. Before I got a chance to send the text with the babysitter’s number.

And I thought: it’s a sign. This date is not meant to be. I am done. We’ve been forcing this dumb thing all day long, and it’s just not happening. I’d rather go home and do laundry.

You’d think I would hashtag this with: said no woman ever.

But I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in a feeling of such supreme annoyance that even the prospect of fun isn’t appealing.

And so began the freeze out. I announced that I was done with this “date,” and, in my opinion, since nothing was working out, we should just head home. And then, I set my jaw and my gaze and pretty much refused to do anything but grunt or shrug.

I was going for a trophy in passive aggression, y’all.

It was real mature.

Fast-forward through Shaun’s insisting that we drop Theo off with the babysitter anyway and continue with our date, my (grudgingly, sulkily, and–yep, you guessed it–passive aggressively) agreeing, and then our missing yet another potential movie time due to ridiculously clogged tax-free weekend traffic…and I was really done.

Like holding my hand up dramatically and saying, “We are shooting for ‘worst date ever’ status here!” right before I stalked off to the car…DONE. (In case you’re wondering, I’m almost 33, not 12. You could be forgiven for being confused).

When we got in the car, Shaun, who had been cheerfully and (willfully, I think) obliviously powering through each new obstacle, tried to reassure me that my huffiness was unwarranted because, “The car was no big deal, and we can still get something to eat.”

Y’all. I was kind of boiling at this point. And not just because there was a heat index of 105. Everything childish and nasty in me wanted to continue the freeze out. To refuse to explain myself. To make him suffer for having the audacity to be a little bit inconsiderate on a day that I had so looked forward to.

And to savor that angry, wounded feeling of self-righteousness that was growing by the second.

I got myself all situated to execute the limp one-shouldered shrug + tight-lipped eye-roll, when something in me (hello, Holy Spirit) said: “Just tell him.”

So, instead, I said: “The car situation is annoying, but I’m mad at you.”

He pursed his lips and flatly said, “Why?”

So, I told him why. I feel like the Lord gave me grace to express myself (mostly) calmly, and as I explained my feelings, I could feel the weight of them lifting and their significance melting away.

To Shaun’s credit, he recognized where my feelings had legitimacy and had the humility and grace to simply say, “I see where you’re coming from, and I’m sorry.”

There have been plenty of times when–in the midst of hurt feelings or misunderstandings–I have pushed too hard for an explanation (“But why didn’t you understand why that would have been hurtful to me? Why would you do it in the first place??! Whyyyyyy?”). But this time, the moment I finished explaining my side, and Shaun apologized, I knew nothing more needed to be said. (Well, except, “I’m sorry too, of course”).

He opened his mouth to continue apologizing, but I said, “That’s all you had to say. I forgive you. Let’s go on a date!”

And so we did. And it was a really good date.

Did I have a “right” to be irritated in the first place? Nope. Because “dead men have no rights.” But since I had let myself go there, and even with prayer and Bible reading, the feelings weren’t just evaporating on their own, the next best thing I could have done was a forthright, honest confession of my anger. It’s possible (though debatable) that the anger itself wasn’t entirely wrong. But letting it fester and grow was.

I’m so glad the Lord gave me the desire to be done my resentment before it sabotaged the rest of our time together. And I hope I remember how easy it was to end that “fight” the next time I get my feelings hurt.

Because there will be a next time.

That’s what happens when two sinners get married.

Do you feel like you could win a trophy in passive aggression sometimes too? I’m definitely better than I used to be about communicating instead of starting “the freeze” immediately. But I’m still always a little sheepish that I let myself get tangled up in that sad old trick of Satan’s again when I do fail. Praise God for his infinite mercies.

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A 10th Anniversary Trip–Coastal Style

Pretty much every time we’ve gotten back from a trip in the last two years, Shaun and I have looked at each other and said, “Welp. That was fun. But it’s never happening again. At least not until we’re old, and the kids are grown. I mean. How could it? We have ___________ of the little critters, for crying out loud.” (Funny how that number’s not getting any smaller).

And then, a year or so goes by, and we get the itch to get a few days to ourselves, and we start thinking, maaaaayyybe we can talk those nice parents of ours into keeping our kids yet again.

Oh-so-graciously, we both have super-obliging parents who not only love their grandchildren but are sweet enough to watch them for days at a time so we can get away. (I suppose it doesn’t hurt that both sets live 30 minutes to an hour-ish away).

We usually do a split deal, since the twins–at not-quite-3–are what might be generously termed a “handful” (assuming you have God-sized hands) on their own.

So, with the older 3 off at my mom’s house, and the twins at his, we winged our way to California for a 5-day road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway.

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Here is #Theodorbs himself, ready to charm an entire airplane. But for reals. He did great and spent pretty much the entire flight climbing between Shaun’s and my laps, alternating between nursing, napping, and grinning his sweet-cheeked little face off.

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{Dude in the background clearly had no clue how lucky he was to have a crinkly-eyed, smiley baby next to him, and his wife–AKA, the black lump you see behind Theo’s head, slumped forward with her face resting on the tray table–slept through every effort at cuteness that he attempted. And that was just fine by me}

We began our journey here:

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Foggy bridges are cool. Foggy bridge traffic? Not so much.

From San Francisco, we made our way down the 1 to Santa Rosa, where we had booked a VRBO rental room at a cute little mini-farm, complete with ducks, dogs, cats, chickens, a peacock, and a donkey.

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The weather, after weeks upon weeks of rain and mugginess in East Texas, was glorious. Crisp and cool and sunny. Neither Shaun nor I got more than an hour 1/2 of sleep the night before our flight due to various factors including the fact that our hop-over flight to Dallas got canceled (at midnight!) due to weather, and we ended up having to leave at 3:30 in the morning to make it on time for our flight. Shaun did all the driving, and I got to sleep in the car on the drive down from San Fran, so while he caught a quick Z or two in our room, I plugged my earphones in with an Audible book (The Kitchen House…it was pretty good, especially since the readers were excellent. I don’t think I would have liked it as much as a traditional read), and Theo and I roamed the farm property, checking out the critters and taking sun flare selfies.

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{I really should stop starving this child; his double-chin is clearly suffering}

After a fun (chilly) wander to the cute little downtown square that evening + a tasty dinner, we spent the next morning eating even more good food (don’t worry; I plan to torture treat you with a post all about our eats very soon) and stumbling upon a happy discovery.

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That would be the Santa Rosa Farmer’s Market. Very few things make our skirts fly up more than scoping out local vendors/shops/markets, etc. In fact, if those boysenberries (their flavor is part raspberry, part blackberry, and ALL yummy) don’t prove our willingness to buy local, then take a gander at my handmade leather sandals from Greece that I’m still wearing (and loving) a year later.

From Santa Rosa, we began our many hour meander down the coast, taking our time and catching our breath at views like this one:

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and this one:

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I know. Our lives are rough.

But before you hate us too much, I will report that Theo ended up with a (relatively mild) case of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease, which meant that I ended up sleeping through a fair bit of the views after spending my nights up with him doing my level best to get him to nurse and sleep for fitful spurts at a time. Shaun was a champ, driving the entire time, even though he wasn’t exactly getting tons of sleep himself.

Happily, Theo’s worst nights happened in Santa Barbara, where we stayed at another rental (Airbnb this time), which happened to be inside a lady’s home. At first, I was stressed about bothering her with all of our late night walking sessions and fussing, but it turned out that Gayla (our host) was one of the nicest human beings I have ever met. She was completely understanding about Theo’s sad state (she was a retired nurse) and went out of her way to do anything she could to make our stay more pleasant. She was such a lively, fun personality too, that whenever we were home at the same time and she tried to sneak off so that she “wouldn’t be in our way,” we did our best to convince her to stay so we could chat.

The rest of the time, we spent at the Monterey Aquarium (which was, quite possibly, the best I’ve ever been to, and I’ve seen some of the best in the world. I’m looking at you, Sydney), doing the 17 mile drive, and hanging out in the picturesque town of Carmel-By-The-Sea, where everything (including the Shell gas station) looks like it’s straight off the pages of a storybook.

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Our last night in Santa Barbara, we snuggled up to the fire on Gayla’s gorgeous back patio and made s’mores (with fixings that she provided…seriously, she was THEE best).

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And then, just like that, it was our last day, and we found ourselves here…

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…and not even a little bit sad about it.

Really, the best word I can use to describe The Mission Inn is: Magic.

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It’s the 3rd time we’ve gotten to stay here (including our babymoon when I was pregnant with the twins and our trip at Christmastime), and I’m starting to feel like this is “our place”–the one we’ll always come back to every chance we get. I don’t ever just love it that Shaun travels, but I can’t complain too much when his work keeps bringing him back to Riverside, California. (Even if it means that he was gone 20 out of 33 days from May 5-June 6–gulp!).

We even got the room that we stayed in on our original visit–the one with the high, high ceilings and the four-poster bed.

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{Theo tried to convince me to let him sleep all sprawled out on the pristine white sheets while I took the hotel crib, but I didn’t bite}

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Speaking of bites, Theo also did his best to charm me into giving him a taste of my Casey’s Cupcakes red velvet masterpiece. (Nice try, cuteness, but your Mama’s got a hard, hard heart).

The Mission Inn is such a decadent experience already that Shaun and I couldn’t help but just laugh when they sent up a bottle of chilled sparkling wine after they found out it was our anniversary. 10anni12

Neither of us are drinkers, but we both sampled a bit of it just so it wouldn’t go to waste. I genuinely dislike pretty much all forms of alcohol that I’ve tried, but I managed to down a (tiny) glass of this one without feeling like I had just imbibed mouthwash, so I’m calling it a win.

Before I could really even wrap my brain around it, it was time for Theo and I to hop back on the plane for Texas. If you follow along on social media, you know that I asked for prayer because I was a little nervous that Theo would have a bad flight after not feeling 100% for several days. And wouldn’t you know it? The very night that y’all prayed, he finally latched voluntarily (I had been doing a combo method of, well, many different things to get him to eat…none of which were kosher on a plane) and slept so much better than he had in the last 3 nights combined. 10anni7

This DFW bathroom selfie comes to you courtesy of a very happy mama whose 5-month-old spent the entire ride back being ridiculously sweet (even if we did hang out in the bathroom/back of the plane as much as we could get away with just in case).

I was really ready to see the rest of my chitlins by the time I got home, but I was also so, so happy to have had some time away with my man (especially since I hadn’t seen him for longer than 72 hours at a time in a month).

And there you have it. More pictures and words about our anniversary trip than I’m sure you were ever hoping/thinking/expecting to receive (who are we kidding? If you’re a long-time reader, then you knew there were going to be words and pics aplenty).

But never fear! I will bombard you with yet more in the very near future.

I know. The suspense. It’s practically unbearable.

Hasta pronto, friends!

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The Gift of Aluminum and Letters

Did you know that aluminum is one of the traditional gifts for a 10th anniversary?

(Well, technically, it’s tin, with the modern version being aluminum).

I had no clue.

So, when Shaun handed me this on the morning of our anniversary last week and informed me of the above scintillating fact, I was intrigued.

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If you’ve been reading for a while (or follow along on Instagram or FB), and especially if you read the love story series I did a few years back, then you probably recognize the original of that shot of Shaun and me as this one  from our wedding:

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As interested as I was, I was a little surprised at the gift because I assumed that it was a photo album, which is nice and all, but seemed out of character for Shaun and for us as a couple.

But then, I opened it up and read the crazy-sweet note I mentioned last week, telling me all the things that he loves about me even more now that we’ve been married for a decade, and as I read, he started to explain how he had saved all of our emails we sent each other during our courtin’ days on his computer’s hard drives, even after the machines had died.

And I started to get really excited because here’s the thing:  we’re not particularly sentimental people. I’m terrible about keeping ticket stubs or other memorabilia, commemorating special events.

But those letters? They represented hours upon hours of thought and effort and, well, love. Weeks before we ever had our first date, the groundwork had been laid for me to fall for this clever, funny, smart guy who cared about grammar and felt as much appreciation for a well-crafted sentence as I did.

I looked forward to those emails every single day. And I have never been sadder about losing any memory than I was when my old Juno email account crashed and wouldn’t let me access my backlog of messages.

Shaun felt the same way, so he combed through his old hard drives for hours, until he had almost despaired. Then finally, he stumbled upon the entire cache of messages in some remote, weird place (oh, technology, you blessing and curse, you) and proceeded to print out every last one he could find and slip them into protective plastic sleeves, and bind them all together in a book.

Even though I’m not much of a crier, I freely admit to tearing up when I started reading our words from 11 1/2 years ago–the words that were the early foundation for our marriage to come and the kind of couple that we are now.

It was the most thoughtful, perfect 10th anniversary gift, and, although I haven’t made it through them all yet, I’ve loved reading the ones I’ve gotten to so far, and I can’t wait to read the rest.

In fact, it makes me want to start writing my husband letters again, so we can make another book in 15 years.

Anybody know the metal for 25 year anniversaries?

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The I Do Chronicles (The 10th Anniversary Edition)

WELL.

What a week it’s been. Obviously, here, it’s been quieter than a mama crawling through her toddler’s room’s trying not to disturb nap time (admit it: you’ve done it).

But in “real” life, things have been hopping up in here. Which, come to think of it, is why the blog has been ringing eerily with the ghosts of blog-posts past.

Tuesday was Shaun’s and my 10th anniversary, you see. So, we tagged a little trip onto the beginning of a work trip he had to California and spent 5 glorious days driving down the Pacific Coast Highway, making stops in picturesque little towns along the way and eating (way too much) ridiculously good food. Theo was along for the ride, of course, and if you’ve been following along on Instagram and Facebook, you’ve gotten to see lots of his cute little mug in the past week.

I have several posts about the trip planned, but until then, I thought it might be fun to do another round of marriage Q & A a la last year’s 9th anniversary edition.

I’m including this post in our ongoing series called The I Do Chronicles, and if you want to see all of them in one place, you can here.

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So, without further ado, here are the questions and answers that you didn’t even know you were dying to find out (but still were, I’m so sure).

1. How has having six kids in 10 years of marriage affected your relationship?

SHAUN – It gives you so many shared experiences–both enjoyable and challenging–and forces you to become more selfless (assuming that you go that direction instead of the resentful/annoyed route), which definitely helps your relationship. And it makes you really appreciate the times when you can get away, just the two of you. 

ABBIE – I feel like it’s forced us to be very intentional about working on our marriage and putting it first (well, second, behind the Lord), even before our kids. We really do get along so much better when we’re carving out time for ourselves, even in very small ways (like that hour or so after we’ve gotten everybody in bed and before we go to bed ourselves, and we kind of just collapse on the couch to catch up on each other’s days). And the more connected we are, the nicer we are to each other and, by extension, to our kids too.

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2. What is one thing you love about how he/she interacts with the kids?

SHAUN – I love it when she takes a moment out of a day when she’s got so many other things she could be doing to play/read/google something random the kids are dying to learn more about.
ABBIE – Ha! Yes, I’m the queen of: “I have no idea how fast an elephant can run. Let’s google it!” For my part, I love it when Shaun rolls around on the floor, playing “tickle spider” and giving horsey back rides. The kids adore him, and it’s not hard to see why.

3. What is one thing that surprises you after 10 years of marriage?

SHAUN – I am continually surprised to discover how selfish we’ve been and how, as we’ve let go of certain things, we’ve ended up getting closer and closer. And the self-centered desires that seemed so important just kind of fall away and don’t matter anymore.

ABBIE – I’m surprised by how much more I like my husband than I used  to. Don’t get me wrong, I always liked him. A lot. But I assumed that the early giddy/fluttery tummy stage was going to be the height of my interest, when, in actuality, the more we become one, and the closer we get, the more I just love having him in the room because he’s honestly my favorite person.

4. How has he/she grown in the last 10 years?

SHAUN – Okay, so this is Abbie answering for Shaun because, as it turns out, when I asked him this question, he had already answered it in depth with his anniversary gift (which I hadn’t gotten yet). I’ll elaborate more on that in a post soon, but suffice it to say that he was really nice and said that I’d grown in lots of things–from patience to compassion to beauty and more. Yeah, like I said. NICE.

ABBIE - I’ve seen him develop so much as a dad. Shaun is naturally good with kids, but it’s really hard for men to relate to so many of the more mundane, daily tasks we mamas are so used to–like bottom-wiping and meal-prep and car seat buckling and tantrum subduing and…and..and…
More and more, I see him giving credence to these things and taking them on himself to lighten my load or just because they need doing. I don’t think I have to explain in detail to any fellow mamas out there just how ridiculously attractive it is to see your husband bending down to your child’s level to buckle a sandal or kiss a boo-boo. I’ve also seen him grow as a spiritual leader, and I’m so excited that my boys (and girls) have his example to follow.

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5. If you didn’t know us, you’d still be able to tell we’ve been married for a decade because…

SHAUN – While my goal would be that we still act like newlyweds, I’m pretty sure the fact that we burst out with the same phrases or recollections when we see or hear certain things and have a habit of finishing each other’s sentences would be a dead giveaway of how long we’ve been together.

ABBIE – …of the way I’m constantly grooming him (eyebrows mostly), and he just lets me (after a bit of side-eye with a mock frown). He knows by now that resistance is futile.

6. Any big plans for the next 10 years?

SHAUN – Well, six more kids, obviously (laughs…then groans a little). But seriously, I’d love to do some fun road trips as a family. And develop some more family traditions that our kids can look back on  fondly.

ABBIE – I would love to travel more as a family too! I’d also love to see our family do more service projects and gospel outreach. I’m not exactly sure what that looks like, since it’s hard to find situations that accommodate so many kids, and we’re likely to be blessed with more. But I’ve already seen the Lord be faithful to honor this desire with opportunities if I’m open to them, and I know He’ll continue to do so.

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7. What are 10 adjectives you would use to decribe him/her right now?

SHAUN -  Beautiful, creative, talented, loyal, honest, beautiful, fit, funny, selfless, generous, lively,and beautiful… did I already mention that?

ABBIE – Funny, kind, servant-hearted, playful, observant, patient, encouraging, understanding, hard-working, and hot (and I don’t mean the temperature, y’all).

8. Describe your perfect date these days.

SHAUN – A period of time with no kid-distractions, where we’re relaxed, we’re not using our phones/computers, and we’re just spending time together. Doesn’t matter what we’re doing.

ABBIE – Honestly, it’s so much trouble to find babysitting and get all gussied up for a night out that an evening at home cooking a yummy meal together after the kids are in bed with our Mostly Martha “soundtrack” on in the background, taking breaks between meal prep to dance in the kitchen, and then chatting over a leisurely dinner is kind of my holy grail of “dates” right now.

9. Name 10 things you love that he/she does.

SHAUN -  I love the way she 1) Has a way with words and cares how they are used (read: grammar geek).  Yes, I actually like this; there’s something wrong with me too.  2) Tells a lively story.  3) Takes opportunities to teach our kids what it means to be Christian and why it matters.  4) Does all of her many and often thankless jobs with so few complaints.  5) Let’s me take a remote camping vacation with my Dad and brother when it means she will be left to watch all 6 kids by herself for 9 days… and makes me think she’s genuinely happy to give me the opportunity. She’s amazing.  6) Cooks. Good. Food.  7) Can do foreign accents surprisingly well.  8)  Surprises me randomly in the middle of the work day with a plate of warm, delicious cookies.  9) Wears her hair the way I like it even when it’s not exactly her style. 10) Makes our house look and feel like home but doesn’t care about it so much that it keeps our family from enjoying it.

ABBIE – I love the way he: 1) sticks his tongue out when he’s concentrating, 2) is always willing to play chauffer, even for hours upon hours of driving  3) takes the kids on rides on the lawn-mower when he’s doing yardwork 4) always notices when I wear my hair his favorite way, 5) can talk me down from any anxiety ledge, usually when I am complaining about my “many and often thankless jobs” 6) does Bible reading with the kids in the morning 7) tries so hard (and usually fails) to get matching outfits for the twins on Sunday mornings 8) grabs a towel and is standing there waiting to help with bathtime if he’s home 9) makes silly/clever puns out of just about anything 10) can build anything he sets his hand to

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10. What’s something the other one does that always cheers you up and/or makes you laugh?

SHAUN -  Food. Like most men, my heart can be reached via my stomach, and she uses this to great effect.  If I’m having a tough day I will often find that, after a surprise treat and special note or one of my favorite meals, things don’t seem quite so tough.

ABBIE – Those puns I mentioned definitely always put a smile on my face. He’s very quick, and a lot of times, his turns of phrases catch me by surprise and make me laugh out loud, even (or especially?) when I’m having a down moment. He’s also really good at being sympathetic while poking gentle fun at whatever’s bothering me, which helps put things back in perspective if I’m being dramatic.

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And there you have it. 10 questions. 10 answers. 10 wonderful years.

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A V-day Photo-Dump Extraordinaire

Hey friends!

I hope you had a fabulous weekend whether you’re an all out hearts, flowers, and candy type of girl or a “what a ridiculous excuse to peddle more Hallmark cards!” kind of girl.

(I’m somewhere in between. I realize that Valentine’s Day is a completely manufactured holiday and therefore a bit silly, but I also love any excuse to eat yummy food, give thoughtful presents, and hang out with my man, so I look at it as a reminder to do more of that).

I had a post scheduled for this morning (which–I must point out–made me feel extremely organized and on-top-of-things given my current helter-skelter state of life with homeschooled kids, toddlers, and a newborn), but it just felt a little too glib to completely ignore the rather intense discussion that took place after Friday’s post.

I want to thank each of you for taking the time contribute to that discussion, whether we agreed or not. I read and considered each and every comment but chose to spend the weekend with my family rather than answer comments just yet. I will try to do that as soon as possible. I’m also mulling over a blog post that addresses several of the issues raised, so be on the lookout for that in the near future.

For today, I thought I’d recap our Valentine’s weekend because it was pretty fantastic and because I haven’t been doing too many, “This is life,” posts lately, and sometimes a good ol’ photo-dump is just the thing.

Just like this past Christmas was my favorite to date, I’m pretty sure this was the most enjoyable Valentine’s we’ve had yet too. And not because our others have been bad, mind you. We always enjoy good food and have a fun, relaxed time, but just overall, I feel like the fewer expectations we place on ourselves, the more fun we have. (Ain’t that always the way?).

And, when you’re doing your Valentine’s date at home with three small children, it’s easy to keep your expectations super-low.

You already know what we were going to eat as well as what I was going to give Shaun. In case you’re wondering, his gift was a hit. As soon as he saw the Bingo set, he got a mischievous glint in his eye, so I went upstairs to my closet and “prepared.” (Apparently, he knew all about that “one little word” I mentioned in that gift basket post).

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Okay, so this was just a joke, considering that this took place at approximately 5 PM, all 3 littles we had at home were awake, it was 68 degrees outside, and I was melting. But it made for a good visual gag + photo op when he came downstairs and saw me standing there, camera in hand, snapping selfies.

Of course, before we ever got to the Friday afternoon festivities (which started after I met my mom to drop off the three older kids, just like I do every Friday afternoon; the woman’s a saint!), the kids and I got to experience the joy of car carts at the grocery store.

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If you want to know what I really think about car carts, get a load of Della’s face. They cause more fights than they fix (again: Della’s face), and they’re pure misery to navigate. But the kids think they’re ah-maze-balls (except when they don’t; Della’s face, anyone?), and our local fancy grocery store (that we hardly ever visit) is the only place that has them.

So the torture ecstasy of car carts was all ours.

I felt very much like Joe Fox buying books in Kathleen Kelly’s Shop Around the Corner–complete with his incredulous, “H-h-HOW much?”–when my measly pile of specialty items rang up to over $70 (I did buy a crepe pan, so there was that too), but I swiped my card just the same, and we proceeded to bump our car carts into every corner and “VALENTINE’S SPECIAL!!!” display all the way back across the store on our way out.

When I got home from that little adventure, I discovered these waiting for me.

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I love flowers. Especially these (um, tulips and sunflowers and Gerbera daisies?…oh MY!). But I love words even more. So when my adorably geeky husband took his adorably geeky Christmas present (a label-maker) and proceeded to attach a word describing me (or, at least, me through his eyes) to each flower…well, it could have been a measly bunch of wilting weeds, and it still would have been the best. bouquet. ever.

Oh, and in case you saw this view of our kitchen on Instagram after my hubby spiffed it up for me last week…

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{Glean what you will from the fact that I showed this pic to Shaun, and he said, “Wait, that’s OUR kitchen??!”}

…well, this is what it looked like the morning after an epic evening of crepe and eclair making (and this, after we did two {!!} loads of dishes).

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Come to think of it, that’s sort of how it still looks right now (I should do something about that).

I have zero pics of the crepes, since we didn’t get done with them until 9:30 PM, and a trashed kitchen, plus ugly nighttime lighting, plus extreme hunger do not an ideal photo-op make.

Suffice it to say that they were delicious, and I’ll share more soon.

The eclairs, on the other hand, which were entirely Shaun’s doing, were photo-worthy in an epic way.

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These White Chocolate Maple Eclairs are, I think, the most decadent, gorgeous, wonderful morsels of creamy, melt-in-your-mouth goodness I’ve ever eaten. They have multiple steps, and, granted, I’m not the one who made them, but based on Shaun’s eye-rolls of ecstasy, he seemed to think they were worth the effort.

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{I mean}

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The twins were fans as well, and Theo didn’t complain about his milk later, so I think I can  safely say that we all give them many enthusiastic thumbs up.

Speaking of Theo…

 

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Pardon the grainy photo, but I just couldn’t resist snapping a pic of his cuteness as he chilled in bed with me when we were both “supposed” to be taking a Sunday afternoon nap.

He is the sweetest of the sweethearts.

And I’m not the only one who thinks so.

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This is Evy, who has morphed from being our most mischievous into our most motherly and will sit absolutely still holding Theo for 15 minutes at a time when she usually can’t go 30 seconds without wiggling all over the place.

I snapped this shot yesterday during our Sunday movie night (Pollyanna, in case you were wondering; my kids couldn’t believe they didn’t tell us whether her legs got better!)…right before Nola proceeded to upchuck every last bite of her pizza all over Shaun.

Everything in me was screaming, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” I mean, really? A stomach bug to end our magical weekend of decadent food, fun, and family fellowship?? (I couldn’t ruin the alliteration, no matter how cheesy it sounds).

But, thank the Lord, it was just a fluke, apparently. She’s been happy as a lark and completely puke-free since “the incident,” and no one else has shown signs of stomach malcontent, so I think we’re in the clear for now.

Phew!
And there you have it, folks. One very yummy, very enjoyable, very repeat-worthy weekend.

How did you guys fare? Any fun tidbits to share? I’m all ears. (And growling tummy; those eclairs were so good).

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The I Do Chronicles {Part 6}: The Kindness Effect

Hey guys! Welcome to Part 6 of…

I do chronicle

If you’d like to see other posts in the I Do Chronicles, you can here.

Y’all have heard of the butterfly effect, right? About how a butterfly can flap its wings in Arizona and end up causing a tsunami in Japan? Or…something like that.

Well, I’m here to tell you that there is something we can all do, starting right this second, that will have just as powerful a ripple effect in our marriages.

For lack of a better term, I’m calling it the kindness effect.

I’ve seen it over and over again, but I’m all too quick to forget how amazing it is. Which is a real shame because it blesses my marriage so much every time I do remember.

Let me explain…

Last week, Shaun turned 35. His birthday was on a Saturday so I got the brilliant idea that I would do something special for him each day of his “birthday week.”

Day 1 was a mug of ho-cho with homemade whipped cream and a (hilariously large) tag with a love note.

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Day 2 was a special (but quick and easy) lunch.

Day 3 were those Levain Bakery Knockoff Cookies.

I honestly can’t really even remember Days 4 and 5 (although I’m sure they were food related; you’ve heard about men and the way to their hearts, yes?).

Day 5 was his favorite crusted steaks (which he requests for any special occasion) and the Pioneer Woman’s blackberry cobbler (so easy and soooooooooo good!) + Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream.

Day 6 (his actual birthday) was a continuation of the food theme with leftover cobbler and a rosemary + veggie frittata (I used this recipe as my base but mostly just made it up as I went) for breakfast.

frittata

Did you notice what else was in that picture, though?

Yup, tulips.

And, no, I didn’t buy those for him. Because you can’t eat tulips (duh).

He had brought them home as a surprise at lunchtime the day before, along with an ice cold Diet DP (not my proudest moment to admit that I like/drink them, but I do…although, we are both swearing off sodas until Easter, so I guess I don’t anymore).

Not only that, but he had surprised me with a fun new game as a present a couple of days before that. (Anybody want to come play Hollywood Game Night with us?)

I don’t want to take credit where it isn’t due, but the best I could tell, even though it wasn’t my birthday week, he was responding to my efforts to make him feel special by doing the same for me.

Regardless of the reason for his efforts, I do know this: kindness begets kindness.

I definitely found this to be true the last time I did The 30 Day Husband Encouragement Challenge. Each time I complimented and built him up, he returned the favor, even if only by being in an exceptionally great mood for the rest of the day.

Last night, I came home to dinner on the table, a completely picked up house, a clean kitchen, and a load of laundry running, after the kids and I had left things less than super-tidy as we ran out the door for my class at the gym.

I had been dreading diving into the laundry pile and sweeping again at 8 PM. So to come home to a neat house was…heavenly.

So, this morning, I made him a breakfast sandwich as a thank you. I make them often, but I was feeling pretty bleary-eyed and unmotivated to cook after Nola woke me up at 6 (after I’d fed the baby at 4:30).  Still, I wanted him to know how much I appreciated his efforts from the night before, so I started scrambling eggs and cooking bacon all the same.

The way his eyes lit up when I brought it to him in his office made the (admittedly small) effort more than worth it.

See? Kindness begets more kindness.

Not only that, but kindness to your spouse is a surefire way of preaching the gospel. And not just to him.

You know that hymn, “They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love?”

I think we often assume that means our love for the world. But the inspiration for that hymn is John 13:35, in which Jesus says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

After all, why would a non-Christian believe for a second that our love for them is genuine if we aren’t kind to our own husbands?

I work with a teacher at the gym–we’ll call her Cindy–who, as far as I can tell, has a fabulous relationship with her husband. He comes to class with her sometimes, and all you have to do is watch them for five minutes to see that they not only love each other but they genuinely like each other too. It’s pretty rad.

The other day, all of our BODYPUMP instructors were practicing for a “launch” (when we teach new music and choreography together), and one of the instructors suddenly said in a scandalized voice as she was starting the music on Cindy’s phone: “Is this a picture of your husband’s abs??”

Cindy was mortified. But I love what she said: “Man! I didn’t think about anyone else seeing it. But here’s the thing. I like my husband. And I like my husband’s abs. And I don’t look at other men. I’m only interested in him. So, I put a picture of him on my phone.”

So, there you go. No wonder they have 4 kids. ;)

I didn’t think she had anything to be embarrassed about. In fact, I thought it was all kinds of awesome. Her admiration/appreciation for her own husband were a kindness to him, a testimony of their love, and a huge encouragement to me to appreciate and celebrate my own husband more.

And I guarantee you I’m not the only who’s noticed.

Matthew 5:16 says: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

I want that kind of marriage. The kind that shines so brightly that others praise God because of it.

I want to be the kind of wife who “does him good and not harm all the days of her life.”

Of course, it won’t happen by accident. It takes a lot more intentionality than I’m really keen to part with most days, if I’m completely honest. And yet, it’s so, so worth it when I do.

The thing is, I know not all of us have husbands who make being kind to them easy. And I’m definitely not advocating acts of kindness with the expectation of receiving kindness in return.

And yet. In combination with fervent prayer, I firmly believe it will come. Not necessarily quickly or in the form of gifts or acts of service (although All The Praise Hands for those for sure). Maybe it will be in the softening of a heart. In the subtle changing of an attitude. In the reciprocation of affection. In a gentler word than usual.

Note: I believe there are situations when people are so willfully degenerate that they have hardened their hearts to the effect of kindness. I still believe it can produce “better” behavior on their part (at least temporarily) but probably not true and lasting kindness in return. I still advocate pursuing kindness as far it concerns you, since only God may ever know the effect it worked on their hearts.

Because no matter how seemingly insignificant the effect, it’s better than none at all, right?

Anybody else willing to join me with practicing the kindness effect during this month of love?

I’ll have a few more practical suggestions (that don’t all come from me) next week, but I’d love to hear your thoughts too.

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