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November 25, 2014

MADISON'S 2014 THANKFUL LIST


Last year, we sat down with Madison and asked her to name something she was thankful for and we asked for something to represent every day of November until Thanksgiving. This year, we did the same and hope to continue this little activity every year going forward. It's interesting to see how her list differs from the one before it and it will be even more interesting to watch it change over time (for example, where her mother and I rank). 

At first, we thought the material items she listed were a direct reflection of our parenting and while that may be true to a degree, seeing what she mentioned when asked what she's thankful for also provides an insight of what areas we need to make more of an effort in developing. Our hope is to help her understand what being thankful really means and watch the evolution of this list as it happens.

1.    Chickens
2.    Elsa and Anna
3.    Daddy and Mama
4.    Elephants
5.    Tuffy and Fluffy (stuffed animals she sleeps with)
6.    Matching Games
7.    Nana
8.    Grandma and Papa and Uncle Ed
9.    Books
10.  Benson
11.  My bed
12.  Food
13.  My house
14.  My bedroom shoes
15.  My play tent
16.  Lamps
17.  Orange Juice
18.  Chairs
19.  My teachers
20.  My pillow
21.  Pizza and Lollipops and Cake
22.  Baby Jesus
23.  Lambie
24.  Dresses
25.  Blankets
26.  Family

...last but not least...

27.  Friends

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 19, 2014

DAY AFTER DAY


The other morning she woke me by lifting my eyelids with the chubby pad of her index fingers and almost as soon as I blinked away any thought of continued sleep that remained, she started telling me her plans for the next several hours. A conversation full of questions and statements and statements turned questions, interrupting herself with a swift change of topic and it was official… our day had begun.

“What’s for breakfast?” she asked. “Cookies! Cookies would be good. Cookies and coffee.”

She quickly informed me the coffee was for me, she’d prefer milk. Chocolate milk to be specific and before we were able to discuss cookies as her first choice, she hopped off the bed in search of a dress or a tutu or a tutu dress of some sort because on Saturday one shouldn’t linger in their pajamas for very long. She returned with a scratchy garment highlighted with sequins, the threads of a three year old princess.

“Where are we going today? It would be fun if we went to Lowe’s or Target. Target has a toy aisle.”

I wiped the sleep from the corners of my eyes, forced my limbs to extend and stretch then leaned over my wife’s shoulder. We’re in this whole parenting thing together and there’s no time for sleep at this hour, a quick glance at my phone let me know eight was the magic number of the day and my wife responded to my alarm of heavy breaths with her own sigh in return to let me know she was listening.

“Did you get breakfast yet? I want to go with you. This dress itches, let me change first.”

The three of us spent hours tackling laundry and dishes and other household chores between tea parties and cartoons and puzzles. We pretended we were at the fair or make-believed we were baking cupcakes. We had snacks and ate meals and took baths and made deals until the clock circled back around to bedtime and we lumped our exhausted bodies together in a huddle of sheets and blankets.

“This is my favorite time of day,” she said muffled between her mother and me. “Cuddles.”

She closed her eyes and we fought the urge to count her eyelashes, to sit and watch the teamwork of her rapid inhales and slow exhales. We kissed her temples gently, one of us on each side of her, careful not to wake her then we stepped back and swallowed the lumps in our throats forcing our hearts back into our chests. We told her goodnight knowing the adventure continues again in the morning, day after day… and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

November 13, 2014

SIX TIPS FOR A BETTER MARRIAGE


Then… she was the woman of my dreams. She walked through the double doors from the back of the church and slowly made her way down the aisle. I took her hand and she took my name and we said I do and we meant it with every beat of our newlywed hearts. We kissed and felt the new metal around our fingers grow warm and we smiled until our faces hurt and although everyone whispered congratulations to our new beginning we had a limited understanding of what that really meant.

Now… six years later, she’s the woman I share my dreams with. She’s the one I laugh with and cry with and laugh until I’m crying with and she still has my name, I still have her hand. Of course, there’s also a little person in our lives that altered our roles of husband and wife into father and mother yet the love we share created her and she reminds us every day just how good we are together.

This journey of life, of marriage, hasn’t come without its share of lessons though. In the past six years I’ve loved more than I ever thought I could and, consequently, learned more than I ever knew I would. She’s constantly encouraging me to be the best man I can be and the vows we wrote and shared several seasons ago have presented themselves for a game of truth or dare on several occasions… and while I’m sure this list will continue to grow, these are six lessons I’ve learned after six years of marriage.

  1  
SHARE RESPONSIBILITIES

While every task or chore doesn’t have to be split evenly down the middle, adult responsibilities should somewhat even out. Whether she handles the cleaning of the home and he handles the yard work or she cooks and he takes care of the dishes, there should be some sort of divide and conquer, give and take from both. Otherwise, one will come to resent the free time their partner has while they play catch up with a never-ending to do list.

That being said, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with offering to carry the weight on your shoulders once in a while so the other can have a break. Surprises like these go far on the appreciation scale and paying them forward is never a bad thing. One should not be waiting on the other all the time though; the pendulum should constantly swing back and forth.

  2  
DON’T KEEP SCORE

While it’s encouraged to take over periodically, it’s never okay to keep track of how much you do compared to how much they seemingly don’t do. By keeping a mental tally sheet of failed attempts in turn camouflages the true accomplishments under layers of hostility. It’s also a slippery slope which will ultimately let the little annoyances find their way to the surface such as the way he holds his fork when cutting a steak or the way she pronounces certain words when she’s trying to remain polite… those things should be approached lightheartedly and not as bullet points under an angry scorecard.

  3  
IT’S OKAY TO GO TO BED MAD, JUST GO TO BED TOGETHER

Everyone has heard the saying never go to bed angry, to stay up and fight, to find resolution before heads hit pillows and while it’s sound advice, I don’t think going to bed upset will destroy a marriage. In fact, I think sometimes it might be the better option so one doesn’t say something out of anger they would later regret. However, going to bed together at the same time is important (unless there are limits beyond control such as a career where one works odd hours). Both partners should make every attempt to have the same bedtime and above all else kiss each other goodnight. Chances are whatever disagreement had the night before will still be there in the morning yet both parties will have had a chance to sleep on it and able to revisit it with a clear head the next day.

  4  
THE LITTLE THINGS

Make a point to keep the romance alive, to keep the fun and spontaneity present by leaving little notes or sending random texts or giving unsolicited and unprompted compliments. Respect each other and try hard not to take them for granted. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the day to day operations of running a home and making a life together that a simple “thank you” and “I love you” can occasionally get lost in the shuffle.

  5  
THE NOT SO LITTLE THINGS

As obvious as this seems and as much as it should go without saying, it’s worth stressing… maintain intimacy. Additionally, never use it as a bartering tool. As soon as it becomes leverage, it’s viewed through the lenses of reward and punishment and loses all sentimental meaning. The passion and desire gets buried under the heavy hand of someone who rations it out instead of encouraging it to happen organically or when the mood strikes. It’s the greatest benefit of being married and should be explored and treated as the perk of saying “I do” that it is.

  6  
TWO BECOME ONE

While I think one should maintain a sense of self within a relationship, I’ve also found it’s crucial to share dreams and goals and desires with each other to ensure we’re reading from the same page, that we’re following the same directions to reach the destination we’ve agreed upon.  If we’re working towards something different, eventually our paths will part so constantly checking in and finding focus seems to be an important part of staying on track. 

It’s also smart to keep the business of married folks as just that… business between married folks. The moment when someone else is allowed to see the flaws of your union is the exact moment when you’ve exposed a crack in the foundation of everything you’ve built (and continue to build) together. In the end, its better not to invite them or at least not give them an open invitation as the opinions of others will be nothing if not saturated in their own experiences and mistakes and, well, lessons learned.

--

original photo by Bobby Davis Photography


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