Category Archives: The I Do Chronicles

The I Do Chronicles: Assume You’re Wrong

I had to do a quick search before I even wrote this post to see how long it had been since my last I Do Chronicles post…

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9 months, almost exactly. It’s not so much that God hasn’t been teaching me more about marriage. He has. It would be nigh on impossible to go through an entire 2 years building process and not learn a thing or two. (Come to think of it, it would be pretty impossible to do ANYTHING for 2 years of marriage and not learn something). But he hasn’t been giving me tons of time to share what I’ve learned with you guys lately. Not that anything I’ve written in this series has been earth-shattering or “new” to most of you (anybody?), but I always find that, whether it’s a new concept or not, any encouragement I can get to approach my: marriage, mothering, friendships, work, life…in a godlier way…is a good thing. I hope you’ll find that true too.

A few days ago, I called Shaun on the way home from the gym to ask him if he would be willing to grab a loaf of bread for our dinner from the grocery store. To clarify: this was the grocery store that I was going to be driving by on the way home. Whereas, he was already home and would have to leave the house to go there.

That’s not usually my style. I have been known to teach two fitness classes, then take 7 children grocery-shopping at 7 PM. It’s not my preference, and I avoid it like the plague, but if it’s the only time it can be done, it gets done.

That evening, though, I was utterly wiped out, and the thought of taking my four littlest (the older three were home) inside the store for one item was giving me the heebie-jeebies. Plus, since our move, we now live 3 minutes from a grocery store.

And Shaun is an awfully nice guy, so I really didn’t think he’d mind taking the three older kids on a quick trip (especially since they are an absolute breeze to take places, what with their complete lack of complicated car seat buckles…not to mention 2-year-old drama).

But instead of a quick, “Sure!” there was a long pause, pregnant with hesitation, over the phone line.

And I’m not going to lie. I was disappointed. And a little irritated. And embarrassed. (Because, seriously, what kind of sissy are you, Abbie, that you call your husband to get bread when you’re perfectly capable of getting it yourself, girl?). I immediately started back-pedaling: “Never mind. Don’t worry about it. It’s no big deal. I was just checking, but I can totally do it, since you’re busy.”

More silence on the phone line.

At this point, the irritation was starting to win, and the words were piling up: “Okay, I’ll get the bread and be home in a bit. Love you, b-…”

I didn’t quite get the “bye” out before he said: “I was trying to surprise you by installing the guest bathroom sink before you got home. I don’t mind getting the bread at all, but I was just trying to finish up really fast before you got back, so you could see it done.”

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Hello, you beautiful “surprise” sink, you!

half bath1You guys.

I don’t know if there’s a term for “relieved with a side of ‘I’m a jerk,’” but if there is, that’s what I felt.

I had assumedthat he was feeling put upon by my “unnecessary” request.

I had assumed that he was annoyed and/or judging me for even asking.

I had assumedthat I had a right to get a little miffed by his not immediately saying yes.

I had assumed that he was more concerned with what he needed than what I did.

But nothing could have been further from the truth.

Of course, I apologized and told him to keep on fixing the sink. I would get the bread. But he wasn’t having it. “You already know now,” he said. “I can finish it later. I’ll get the bread. You just come home.”

So, I did.

Of course, in true “Dad’s buying the groceries” form, he brought home all kinds of junk food that I never let the kids have, so they were thrilled with the outcome…but that’s another blog for another day. ;)

Can I just encourage you (me?) not to assume the worst (or even the seemingly obvious) about our spouses?

While this example is pretty minor and ended well on all counts (I was fully prepared to stop and get the bread and not feel huffy when I got home; thankfully, my irritation was mild at best), I can think of plenty of others in which my jumping to conclusions snowballed into a full blown fight. And for NO. GOOD. REASON.

This time, though, I spent the rest of drive home feeling grateful for my husband and committing myself to the Lord to assume the best about the man he’s given me to love every chance I get.

In fact, next time I’m tempted to assume the worst, I’m going to instead assume I’m wrong.

It won’t be easy (being wrong is hard, yo), but hard is not the same thing as bad…especially when it makes my marriage better.

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

Hey guys! Welcome to Part 6 of…

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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.

hocho

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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The I Do Chronicles {Part 5}: Dead Men Have No Rights

i do chronicles

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

Shaun and I both have a habit of whining about casually mentioning an ailment–oh–a good half a dozen times before we’ll actually do something about it. Especially headaches. Neither of us are big medicine-takers, and neither of us get bad headaches usually. But when we do–well, let’s just say that we might be better off popping a couple of Advil as soon as we feel the headache coming on.

So, when he winced and mentioned having head pain for the second time last night, I might have snapped: “Well, take something for it!” before he even got the words completely out. (And he might have arched an eyebrow at me since he was already on the his way to the medicine cupboard).

This was, my head wasn’t feeling too hot either, and I had just gotten home from a marathon of hauling all the kids from a midwife appointment to the gym to teach a class to two separate errands and then home to finish dinner at 7:30. I hadn’t eaten in hours, and exhausted didn’t even begin to do justice to how I felt after being up in the middle of the night for an hour and 1/2 with a 3-year-old terrified of a mysterious (inaudible to me) “ticking noise,” (when she was a little more coherent in the morning, she informed me that it was, “probably a tiger prowling around in our jungle” #okeydokey). And that, followed by a long day of homeschooling, twin-tantrum subduing (they’re a big fan of the “Okay, I’m done now; tag, you’re it” approach), house-cleaning, dinner-prepping, and lots and lots of child-correcting (I don’t know if it’s the crisp fall air or what, but they have been…ahem…more energetic than usual of late).

And all of that on top of the usual 33-week-pregnant stuff.

Now, to be fair, Shaun had been up with the toddler and the twins in the middle of the night too (because, apparently, that no-sleep thing is catching). Plus, his day had started super-early and pretty much pelted him hard until I got home with the kids, at which point he came down and immediately starting helping me with dinner.

Still, he hadn’t had to do all that stuff with 5 kids up in his grill all day long, now had he? Obviously, if anyone had a right to a headache, it was me.

And to top it all off, as soon as he had helped all 5 kids through their bedtime routines, changed twin diapers without being asked, and carted them off to bed without any prompting from me, he had the audacity to collapse on the couch with some of my best pillows over his head like this headache was for realz or something and fall asleep.

Leaving me with a trashed kitchen to clean up by myself for the third time that day.

As I ladled beans and rice and chicken and corn into separate Tupperware containers (chicken + rice bowls are delicious, healthy, and easy to make but super-annoying to clean up after), I could feel resentment stalking me.

Seriously, if anyone had a right to be huddled on the couch, it was the pregnant lady. Right? I mean, right?

But, for some reason, smack in the middle of scrubbing a pan while planning the perfect way to “laughingly” rib him for letting his pregnant wife tackle the kitchen solo at 9 PM, a phrase I’d read on my friend, Mary Krause’s, Instagram photo flashed through my mind.

“Dead men have no rights.”

I stopped mid-scrub and grimaced.

Because, y’all, I’m a dead man. I mean, not literally, obviously. A) Because I am not writing this from the after-life and B) I’m a woman.

But, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

If what I claim to believe is true, my old self is dead and Christ is alive in me.

Phew, right?! I mean, Jesus is the King of King and Lord of Lords. If He’s living in me, then there’s no WAY I should have to do the dishes by myself. That is a way unroyal thing to do.

Oh wait. Shoot. This is the same Jesus who, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

And that’s when it hit me yet again: Even though He is the Creator of the universe and has every right in the world to leave us (me) wallowing in our (my) depravity…“for our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

{Insert groan of realization}

I’m big on fairness, y’all. I whack my children upside the head with the Golden Rule on a thrice-daily basis. And that’s not such a bad thing.

Until I start getting all petty and snitty over being denied my fair due.

We all know we’re not supposed to have expectations in marriage. That they set us up for failure, disappointment, and festering feelings of discontentment.

But, what if we took that one step further and did away with, not only our expectations, but our rights(Because doesn’t the expectation to have the garbage taken out stem from the feeling that we have the right to a little help around here, for crying out loud?).

What if, indeed.

As that phrase, “Dead men have no rights,” circulated through my mind and heart, a miraculous thing started to happen. All of that indignation toward my husband that had been building steam in my veins–just waiting for the perfect passive-aggressive way to explode–just…evaporated.

I stood at the kitchen sink and asked God to change my heart and attitude, and you know what? He did! (Imagine that).

Suddenly, it was very clear to me that my husband had done nothing wrong (had, in fact, done so many things right), and I was struck by a very-not-of-myself gratefulness that he was getting to sleep instead of being guilted into doing something I was perfectly capable of doing by myself. Especially seeing as how–well, look at that–I didn’t feel nearly as bone-weary as I had even five minutes before.

That may sound all sweet and self-sacrificial of me, but I think all you have to do is read the first half of this post to see that it’s not my natural reaction. That was Christ in me. Because, even though the old me keeps trying to resurrect herself from the grave like some worm-eaten, decaying corpse out of a bad zombie movie, she’s dead.

And dead (wo)men have no rights.

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The I Do Chronicles (The 9th Anniversary Edition)

Hi y’all! Today is our 9th wedding anniversary, and we’ve already started it off with loads of fun, so I thought we’d keep the party going with a special edition of…

I do chronicles

{You can go here to read parts 1, 2, and 3 if you haven’t already}

I’d say that by the time you’ve been together for almost 10 1/2 years and married for 9,  you ought to know each other pretty darn well.

So, I thought it might be fun to do a little Q&A with Shaun and me and what we think of each other. Sounds…dangerous, right? Yup! So, let’s dive right in!

1. What are three things he/she can’t live without?

S: Let me answer this one twice. In the spirit of the question: The color turquoise (or any version of it), Sundays, accessories, and exercise in no particular order (yes, that was 4, deal with it).  And in truth:  Jesus, me, the kids, in particular order.

A: His headphones + phone (he’s an audio-book junkie), working on his outdoor toys (tractor, mini-excavator, etc.), and snacks (he’s a munchy sort and has the metabolism of a teenage boy…grrrrr).

(Although, I echo the second part of his answer as the actual truth when it comes to things he can’t do without)

birthday trip

2. What is his/her love language?

S: On the receiving side, she really likes words of affirmation, and on the giving end, she shows love through acts of service.

A: What he likes most is a toss-up between words of affirmation and acts of service. And what he’s really good at is gift-giving. He listens (and writes it down!) when you say you like something, and he’s very thoughtful and intentional about the gifts he buys and the way he gives them.

bolwing

 

3. Favorite traditions?

S: Finding ways to take trips together. We don’t usually do repeat trips, but we have a lot of fun planning for the ones we do take, which makes the preparation process kind of a tradition all its own.

 

A: Okay, so Sundays aren’t a “tradition,” per se, but they almost always involve church, naps, relaxation, play, and a family meal, in that order. Usually, no one has to run off to do an errand or meet a deadline or teach a class, and I just love the total lack of agenda combined with all the togetherness.

painting

 

4. Child-rearing philosophy

S: Show and tell them that you love them and show them and tell them to love other people. They need to know that they are special, but it’s not all about them. Also, your will has to be stronger than their tantrums. Not in a mean way, just in a “I’m not giving down just because it would be easier on me,” way. We have a policy in our house that fussing never gets you what you want.

A: Pray like crazy for them and teach them God’s word. Then heap on lots of love (especially the physical kind) balanced out with a good bit of discipline. Oh, and consistency. Your kids need to know that you mean it for both promises and punishment.

skiing

 

5. Any phobias or fears?

S: For her? Having all her teeth pulled with no anesthesia out on dark open water.

 

A: Side note: I think my phobias sound perfectly reasonable, by the way. I mean it’s not like I’ve dreamed that those things have happened to me multiple times or anything nutty like that. Ahem.

Oh, and he’s not really a phobia kind of guy. I would say his greatest fear would be losing me and the kids.

Sydney

 

6. What’s your favorite look on the other?

S: Broken-in jeans, hair pulled back at the sides (and long, of course), plus a sweater or a comfy (but not schlumpy) t-shirt.

A: A pair of really great-fitting faded jeans plus a white tee, especially when he’s been working outside and has a tan!

 

darling harbour

7. The other’s godliest traits?

S: Holding to the truth. And discipline. (“tempered with love”—I added that part when she said that I made her sound hardcore. But the love part is the truth :) ). Faithfulness. Honesty.

A: Patience, slowness to anger.  He pretty much never really loses his cool. Integrity. Kindness. Generosity. I could go on.

8. Favorite trip you’ve taken together?

S: The one we’re about to go on. (I hope).

A: So, he kind of just let the cat out of the bag, and I’ll share more about that trip soon, but so far…I’d have to say Sydney, Australia, 6 1/2 years ago. We did everything from stroll through the Royal Botanical Gardens to watch a movie on the biggest IMAX screen in the world to see Wicked in a gorgeous theater to shop street fairs to watch their world-famous fireworks bursting in absolutely dazzling array over Sydney harbor on New Year’s Eve. The entire trip was incredible.

20Something reunion

 

9. Favorite things about the other.

S: Obviously, she’s beautiful and I love that about her, but I would say a certain wordy nerdiness (read: humor+brains) initially drew us to each other and I think that still holds true. But I also love that she is hardworking and desires to do right.  And  I love coming down during the day to find her just sitting and reading with the kids when I know she has plenty of other things she *should* be doing.  Oh, and she also often surprises me with plates of cookies while I’m working :) . She’s a great cook and like any man, my heart may be found via my stomach.

A: Man! He makes me sound good. I’ll see if I can do him justice. He’s got a really great dry sense of humor, tempered with healthy doses of silliness and groan-worthy punniness. And he is such a man of integrity. In a world where cutting corners and fudging the truth are the norm, it’s really nice to know that you’re married to someone who will do a job right, even at personal expense. Ultimately, though, as far as how it affects me, I think my favorite thing is that no matter how rough of a day I’ve had with the kids or how tired I am, all I have to do is spend five minutes with him, and I feel better. Period. He is calm and attentive and caring and the best hugger in the land.

wicked

10. LEAST favorite thing?

S: Abbie’s a story-teller, which I like. What I don’t love is when she launches into a long narrative of what just happened at the grocery store or the gym as soon as she walks through the door without even saying hello. It’s even worse if she’s gets her feelings hurt that I’m not listening as closely as she would have liked when I haven’t even gotten a chance to get a word in edge-wise.

A: Sometimes, when work gets really busy, or he has a lot going one, he tends to shut down a bit emotionally, which creates distance, and in turn, makes me feel like the kids and I are playing second fiddle to his deadlines. He also gets worse at communication, which is something he’s usually really good at.

camping

11. Other person’s favorite food.

S: She really loves taco soup/chili.  Seems strange, but there it is.  And yes, I included cheesecake in the running.

A: He’s a fan of really good pizza. Like the gourmet, fancy, unique kind. Every place we go, he wants to find the best-reviewed pizza joint in a 20 mile radius. He’s also a pretty big fan of these crusted steaks.

wedding

12. Any quirks?

S: She hiccups one time right after the first sip of anything carbonated. “Getting hung up” (literally) on things really bothers her.

A: Every time he’s doing something that requires concentration, he sticks out his tongue. At a very specific angle. Also, whenever we drive by new construction of any kind, it seems like he has an almost compulsive need to say out loud, “I wonder what that’s going to be.” Even if he’s already said it about a particular site. Oh, and if anything is buzzing or rattling in the car, it drives him bonkers.
six flags

13. Ways we could improve our marriage?

S: Implement a technology-free night. No TV, no phones, no laptops, nothing.  We both work with our computers fairly constantly between my job and her blog. It’s too easy for us to get stuck in that mode and neglect real face to face time with no distractions.

A: Find ways to study the Bible together more. We pray together every night, but I’d love to see us grow spiritually together by studying the same things, whether or not they relate specifically to marriage.

us

14.. Most important lesson you’ve learned in 9 years of marriage.

S: If you’re doing it right, it’s less and less about you and more and more about the one you’re with and the ones you’ve made together.

A: “Being right” is way less important than being loving. I am a fairly black and white person, which can be good when it comes to having strong standards and principles, but when it bleeds over into a “discussion” where things are much less cut and dried and a person’s perspective colors everything, being right all the time is just annoying.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

I hope you guys enjoyed getting to hear from somebody besides just me today. We discussed most of our answers on the 5 hour trip back from San Antonio a couple of weekends back, and we both were surprised at how the time flew and how much we enjoyed talking it all through (yes, even the “least favorite” part). So, I guess if I had any suggestion for you to take away from this post, it would be to make a questionnaire of your own and bring it along on a date night (or substitute it for your usual nightly TV time).  You might be surprised to learn something new or have something reaffirmed that you’d forgotten. Either way, it’s time well spent!

P.S. I haven’t forgotten about doing a dinner party recap from Friday. It’s coming. Pinky promise.

 

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The “I Do” Chronicles {Part 3}: Trippin’

If you’re new to this series, you can catch up with parts 1 and 2 and then come on back.

idochronicles1_thumb

Over the course of our 10 years together, Shaun and I have taken trips to Canada, Mexico, Spain, England, Australia, Hawaii, California, Chicago, Maine, Florida, New York, and a double fistful of other states.

kaui

(Here we are in Kauai, Hawaii; 2-month-old Della is strapped to the front of me just out of the shot)

On those trips, we have hiked together, relaxed together, swum together, eaten together, played together, served together, laughed together, pretty much everything-ed together. With the obvious emphasis being “together.”

Granted, we’re together a lot when we’re home. Shaun works from his home office and often comes down for lunch, and we spend almost every evening together, but there’s just something so important about taking the time to get away from all the dailyness of life—the bottom-wipingness, the “did you get the oil changed”ness, the grocery-shoppingness of it all.

Even if you don’t have kids, chances are, you’ve got a whole lot of dailyness  making it hard to turn your brain off to the constantly ticking to-do list and really focus on your spouse.

But, Abbie, you say, we don’t have the kind of budget that allows for trips to other states, much less other countries.

I totally understand. My husband travels a fair bit, and sometimes, we’re able to mix business with pleasure so that I can meet him in fun places like Chicago

chicago

(I think I’m 25 weeks pregnant with the twins here)

…and California (where I’ve visited him 3 times).

riverside christmas

And because his work has already paid to get him there, our costs are greatly reduced.

But other times, we have simply saved up, shopped around for great deals (vrbo.com and airbnb.com are both great alternatives to hotel rooms), and then bitten the bullet.

Because we know that memories are priceless.

mazatlan

Memories like racing along a road in Mazatlan in a pulmonia, snuggled close to my husband as the wind whips our hair.

So, my marriage-enhancing suggestion for you today is this: go trippin’ together.

Even if it’s just a few miles to a local bed and breakfast for the night. Or to a cabin a few hours away. Or to the nearest “big city” for a fancy dinner and a Pricelined hotel.

Get away from daily life and do cheesy things like stare deep into each other’s eyes, talk about your goals for the next six months, and hold hands.

It doesn’t have to be expensive or long or complicated. In fact, some of our simpler trips  have been our best.

But I’ve never regretted the investment of either time or money. We always come back refreshed, recharged, and ready to refocus on the daily grind without losing sight of each other, and that renewed energy  makes life’s little irritations that much more bearable and it helps us appreciate just how sweet it is to come home.

Oh, and on a practical side note, if you don’t have family close by who are willing to watch your kids like we do, you might consider swapping babysitting with another couple who are interested in taking a trip of their own.  Chances are you have at least one set of friends desperate enough willing to consider it.

Shaun and I are currently planning our 9th anniversary trip but can’t decide whether we want to swing for the fences or keep it closer to home. We’ve considered a lot of options, but none of them feel quite right. So, he told me to ask you guys for advice (yes, my husband realizes the value of having reader-friends :) ).

So…if you had 5-7 days to take a trip, where would you go, and what would you do? (Descriptions of past trips and things that worked are welcome).

Do you make a point of taking trips with your spouse? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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The “I Do” Chronicles {Part 2}: Flirt More

Today, I thought we’d take another crack at…

i do chronicles1

In case you missed our last installment or are wondering why we’re talking about marriage here in the first place, feel free to click those links and catch up and then swing back by here.

Recently, I posted this to our Facebook page:Fullscreen capture 3132014 45146 AM

Let’s just try to ignore my propensity for reeeeeeeeally long hash tags for a moment and focus on the most important word in that post (which, yes, is buried in the middle of the #longesthashtagever). And that word is “flirt.”

Ah, flirting. That dubious talent that comes so naturally to every 15-year-old girl and boy.

Thing is, flirting’s not just for teenagers.  

In fact, flirting’s not just for singles. IN FACT, I would argue it’s almost more important for us married folks.

My husband and I like to flirt.  Of course, if you took that FB entry above and combined it with this text we sent each other yesterday, you’d probably think that our entire method of flirtatious interaction involves driving around in our swagger wagons making googly eyes at each other.

flirt

Truth is, we’ll flirt pretty much anywhere. We  purposefully bump hips in the bathroom on our way to brush our teeth at night. We “accidentally” both choose the same side of the kitchen island to walk around at dinner so that we are forced to squeeeeeze past each other and maybe even steal a kiss (much to our children’s dismay/delight).

We’re also not above playing footsie under the table at lunch.

Fullscreen capture 3132014 50334 AM

Here’s the thing: in the same way  that all of our “I Love You-ing” doesn’t necessarily come naturally to us or stem from how we feel at that exact moment, neither do we always naturally tend towards being flirtatious in our marriage.

After all, our 9th anniversary is looming. I know  that can’t hold a candle to some of you who have been married for decades, but it’s plenty enough time for the stomach butterflies to have long since flown off, rarely to return. Unless we do something extremely intentional to bring them back.

Is marriage all about that fluttery, short-of-breath sensation you get when you’re first falling for your love? Um, no. Because I am a firm believer that love is not a feeling (although it has many that come with it). It’s a choice.

But part of the choice I make to love my husband involves reminding him of the girl he first fell in love with. And that girl loved to flirt with him because of the way he grinned when she tossed her hair over her shoulder and pretended to frog him in the arm. 

My husband doesn’t give me a lot of specific tips or pointers about the way I treat him, which I think means he’s pleased enough with my actions in most areas. But one thing he has specifically mentioned multiple times (spread out over 10 + years) is that he loves it when I flirt.

And that tells me that this is no small thing for our marriage.

Do we always sashay through dinnertime, hip-bumping and calling each other Hot Stuff?

That’s a negative.

Most of the time, it’s: “Can you get the plates?” “Sure. Grab a baby, would you?” “Ezra, get the forks, please.” “Della, SIT DOWN before you fall!”

Life with five small children doesn’t exactly lend itself to a lighthearted, romantic atmosphere. In fact, I’m pretty sure we could replace that with just plain LIFE, and the rest of the sentence would still be the same.

But if we wait until we’re alone or relaxed to be playful with each other, it might never happen. And so, as often as we remember, we flirt. As a conscious action. Not necessarily because we feel it but because we know that, as with so many other things in life, the feelings follow the actions.

It’s true.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been stressed or way too serious for my own good, and Shaun has snapped me out of my slump with a simple wink and a pinch.

And now, even though my mom and my father-in-law read my blog, and this is awkward (Hi, Butch and Mom!), I want to address something that I think holds us women back from flirting or accepting our husband’s attempts at it. We’re afraid of where it might lead. We’re worn out. We haven’t showered in three days or shaved our legs in three weeks (anybody else out there working on their winter leg warmers?). The last thing on our minds is tuning the radio to Bow Chicka Wow Wow.

And while it’s true that I become “suspicious” of my husband’s true motives if he gets too flirtatious an an odd moment,  I know that letting my reservations keep me from just enjoying my husband’s good mood will ensure that there are fewer and fewer of those fun, flirtatious moments. In other words, if I’m constantly “shutting him down” for fear that I’ll give him “the wrong idea,” he’ll eventually stop trying.

And isn’t men “not trying” one of those things we women love to complain about?

So, here’s my challenge for all of us (definitely including myself in this; I try to be conscious about it, but I can go days with a long face and only the most basic, literal sentences coming out of my mouth):

flirt more

Yup.

Flirt more.

Even if you’re really bad at it.

Even if you’re not in the “the mood.”

Even if it’s awkward at first.

Even if your husbands looks at you funny.

Even if you’ve been married 32 years, and you haven’t done this kind of nonsense since before you got hitched.

I mean, really, what’s the worst that could happen? A brief moment of embarrassment that’ll probably be followed by  a good laugh with the person you love most?

So, what do you think? Are you willing to give it a shot? Or are you and your husband already flirting pros?

Any flirty ideas you want to share? One reader mentioned writing her husband notes in lipstick on his bathroom mirror each morning. I thought that was pretty awesome!

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The I Do Chronicles {Part 1}: Always say I Love You. Unnecessarily sappy? (You be the judge)

i do chronicles1

When I wrote 10 Years of Wonderful and asked you at the end of the post whether a few marriage posts here and there might be something you’d like to see, most of you said yes, although a few of you were worried about my trying to write a step-by-by prescription for matrimony.

But I hope I can put your mind at ease by assuring you that I never intended to do anything of the sort. Every lasting marriage is so diverse in the things that make it work that prescribing anything more than the most general of guidelines would be pointless.

And yet.

Even if you never use anything specific from my ideas, I hope they will at least encourage you to examine your own marriage (or, if you’re not married yet, what you desire for your future marriage) for ways that you can improve or add a little bit of something extra. Also, please don’t ever think that I think I’ve got everything figured out. Because I don’t. And I hope that y’all will give me lots of feedback because I’m eager to learn how to do this whole marriage thing better too.

And so, I’m starting a series called The “I Do” Chronicles. I chose the name, not only because it’s a recognizable phrase associated with matrimony but because I want this to be a positive series that focuses on simple, affirming ways to improve your marriage, rather than a list of “Don’ts”  to avoid.

I don’t know about you, but every time I watch a movie where one person tells the other over the phone that they love them, and then the other person doesn’t reciprocate, I want to holler, “SAY IT BACK!” at the screen.

It bothers me even more when a husband and wife sign off with just a “Bye.” I know this may not be a big deal for some, but one thing that Shaun and I have done since the beginning is to always, always say, “I love you,” when we: leave to go somewhere, hang up the phone, or go to bed at night.

Earth-shattering? Hardly.

Unnecessarily sappy? Some might think so.

Especially when your text messages look like this:

love you

The thing is, neither one of us is a particularly sappy sort. I think we could both easily lapse into the habit of simply walking out the door and tossing a, “See you at dinner,” over our shoulders.

And so we’ve chosen a habit that combats our natural anti-sappiness instead.

Because, as that text above illustrates, there are no guarantees that we will see each other again after we walk out that door.

If you’re wondering why I said, “Don’t die, or I’ll never forgive you!” I posted a little more about that on Facebook and IG the other day.

Fullscreen capture 2252014 103642 AM-001 

I know it’s kind of hard to read, but it basically says that, as my husband’s plane was taking off for his work trip on Sunday, they realized that a wheel (on the side he was sitting on in the exit row ) wasn’t turning, which could have resulted in a crash on the runway with full fuel tanks.

My heart rate still gets a little jumpy at the thought of what could have happened, and I am so grateful that God was gracious enough to allow them to catch the problem before anything happened.

But y’all. I could have lost my husband that day. And can I tell you just how sad it would have made me to realize that my last words to him had been anything other than an assurance of my love? Also, if I lost him, and we hadn’t made a habit of writing texts like, “Can you please boil water for the spaghetti? Love you!” and “Don’t forget to go to the bank. Love you!” I wouldn’t have those to look back on when I needed a reminder.

Without them, would I be any less sure of his love? Probably not. But I find that, when he affirms what I already know, at least in this area, I don’t mind at all. It feels far from redundant or rote. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the midst of a frustrating moment of being pulled in five different directions, and a run-of-the-mill text from Shaun comes through. Something like, “Won’t be home til 7.” I glance at it and go back to changing a diaper, disappointed that he’ll be home late but distracted by the task at hand. And then, my phone beeps again, and this time it says, “Love you.”

I smile every time. Every single time. Even though I expect it. Even though it’s a ritual. Even though it should be old by now.

Also?

It’s very hard to say the words, “I love you,” and stay irritated at someone. It’s an audible reminder of the truth. You’re driving me crazy right now, but I love you. You’ve just hurt my feelings, but I love you. I completely disagree with how you did that, but I. love. you.

Not because I feel it right now. But because I chose you. God gave me you.

love covers sins

(If you’d like to print out this simple reminder, simply right click and save it to your computer, then print it; it’s already scaled to an 8X10 size)

1 Corinthians 13:5 says that love “ is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” And I find this to be especially true when I’m declaring that love in speech and writing.

So, there you have it. Something simple, obvious, and—maybe even to some folks—unnecessarily sappy that helps us stay focused on the truth. And the truth is that we love each other, regardless of any ooey gooey emotions we might or might not be feeling.

We love because He first loved us. And we want our marriage to reflect that and bring Him glory.

What are some simple ways you’ve found to remind yourself of your love for your spouse in the midst of the daily grind?

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