Thursday, June 22, 2017

Anniversary Series Day 4: How We Work On Our Marriage

It's easy, when you've been married for a few years, to become stagnant. You get stuck in a rut and one day you realize that all you ever talk about is your kids or the budget or what's on the schedule next week. This happens to everyone.

Last year we went on a couples' retreat with church and through these lessons we realized that you have to constantly be working on your marriage. You can't just "let it be." The busyness of life and Satan are going to try and tear your marriage apart. If you don't consciously put in an effort to keep your marriage strong, you will end up growing apart instead of closer together. 
Couples Retreat 2016 - Nashville, TN
Even though we have ways that we try to strengthen our marriage, we still find ourselves in a rut sometimes. This is when we need to step back, sit down, and have a conversation. Figure out what needs to change. Sometimes we stay on top of it, and sometimes we get lazy and fall back into old habits (such as spending too much time on our phones - this is the worst for both of us.)

I've listed a few things that we do to mindfully work on our marriage. My hope is that some of these things can help you and your marriage and also that you will share new ideas with me. 

1. Communicate
By far, the most important one for us is to JUST SAY IT. I'm so much worse than he is about holding things in and not talking about it. I've tried to be better. If he did something that bugged me or hurt my feelings, it's better if I just tell him, than to give him the silent treatment, because more than likely he didn't even realize what he did. Sometimes it's something so trivial and when I finally just let it out I realize how silly I was for being upset about it in the first place. 

What's bothering you could be something that doesn't have to do with your spouse at all. Maybe something happened at work. Maybe it's something a friend said or did. If you open up and talk about it that allows the other person to be there for you and to show support. They may have a different point of view or a way of thinking that you hadn't considered that makes the situation a little lighter. 

2. Build each other up - especially in front of our kids
One couple that comes to mind when I think of two people that build each other up are Chip and Joanna Gaines from Fixer Upper. Chip is super goofy and sometimes does embarrassing things but you never see Joanna putting him down or telling him he's stupid. She may laugh, but she's always supportive.

When I first watched the show and how their relationship is I thought to myself I want to be more like her. So I started making more of an effort to build him up, whether it be in private, when we're with our friends, or in front of our kids. And he does the same for me. 

He'll say "Girls, doesn't Mommy look so pretty today?" 

I'll tell them "Look how strong Daddy is!" or "Isn't Daddy so much fun?"

I want them to think of him as the strongest, funnest, smartest person in the world, who will always be there for us no matter what, just as I thought of my daddy growing up. 

He wants them to hear how he talks to me and someday find a man who treats them the way they should be treated. In return, I want to be a good example of how a wife and a mother acts so that they will know the proper way to treat their husbands.

3. Show affection
I am not a touchy-feely/cuddly person. I don't really like people in my bubble unless it's on my own terms. So if David comes up from behind me and hugs me while I'm cooking dinner, my first instinct is to push away. 

I've been working on fighting that instinct and being more affectionate because our children need to see the love between us. They need to see us holding hands. They need to see us hugging in the kitchen or me giving him a kiss when he gets home. 

Again, it is an example of how they should someday treat their husbands.

4. Be open-minded and supportive
I think it's safe to say that David is absolutely my number one fan. When I ran the idea by him of starting an event planning business, he was more excited than I was. He told me that he thought I would do a great job and to spend whatever I needed to to get it up and running.

He was even supportive when I told him I'm not sure I want to do it anymore (I'm still not sure what direction I'm going to go with it - stay tuned). He told me "whatever you decide, I'm with you." 

Whether it be a new recipe, activity, idea, job opportunity, education...whatever it may be, let them know you are there for them and you want to hear what they have to say. I'm not saying you always have to agree or say yes. I'm just saying that even if you think it's a terrible idea, at least hear them out and have a discussion about it. If your husband wants to buy a brand new $40,000 truck, you don't have to automatically say "sure honey, I support you." Talk about it, consider all the pros and cons, and make a decision together. 

5. Talk about our needs
This is something that we did on the couples' retreat last year. In our little booklet that we got there was a spot to right down "his needs" and "her needs." It is basically what you need from the other person in your marriage. We wrote them down and then we talked about them. We actually learned some things about each other after 6 years of marriage. It forced us to talk about how we felt, what we wanted, what we appreciated about the other person, and where we saw the future going. We also realized that in order to get what we want/need, we have to be willing to give and sacrifice. 

It's actually a beautiful circle because you are getting what you want while the love that the other person has for you is made evident by the sacrifices and the effort put forth to make you happy (if that makes sense.) By seeing what they are doing for you, you are willing to do the same for them.

It's always good to go back and reevaluate your needs. Talk about how well you think the other is fulfilling your needs. Let them know where they can improve. And remember that time and life events can change your needs. My needs five years ago were totally different than they are now. When you feel that something has changed, write it down and talk about it just as you did before.

6. Spend time away together
As hard as it is to leave the kids behind, we feel that it is important to get that alone time where we can focus on just us for a while. Whenever we go somewhere without them we find ourselves saying "Oh they would love this! I wish they could be here!" 

I remember thinking that Raley would have loved the floating lights at the Disney Store in New York City last year. And the parks in Boston were incredible! They have the coolest playgrounds I have ever seen. But even though there were things they would have enjoyed, it would  have been a completely different trip if they were with us. We needed that time to just be together and relax. 

If you can't take a long trip away, try to find a weekend, or even just a night, to spend just the two of you without having to worry about making it home before bed time. If you're in the Huntsville area, take a weekend trip to Nashville or Chattanooga or Mentone. If you don't want to go that far away, get a room at the Westin or Embassy Suites and have a "staycation." Go somewhere where you don't have to put the kids to bed and you don't have to worry about them waking you up in the morning. (You can even do this if you don't have kids to change things up a bit!) Just be together.
Boston Harbor - 2016
7. Be present
This one can sometimes be hard because we are all so wrapped up in technology and social media that we are on our phones all the time. We have to make a conscious effort to put our phones away and just spend time together, whether it be sitting in the floor playing with our girls, or sitting on the couch together watching a TV show after they've gone to bed. 

How many of us sit on opposite ends of the couch, glued to our phones, not saying a word to each other? Sure, we're in the same room as each other. But we're not really spending time together. This is something that we both know we need to work on, so we are trying to get the girls to bed earlier so we can spend some time together, device free, before we go to bed.

8. Share responsibilities
We don't really have "man chores" and "woman chores." There are some things that he does that he is better at and there are some things that I do because I'm better at it. But really we just try to help each other out. We both sit down and look at the budget. We both bathe the girls and put them to bed. Some nights its a tag team, but we are always in it together. Sometimes after dinner, one of us will get started on baths and the other will clean the table and do the dishes. If he sees I need help with cleaning up toys, vacuuming, folding clothes, etc. he will jump right in and help me. He will not sit on the couch and watch tv while I'm next to him folding a big pile of laundry. (I think I've made it pretty clear by now that I have a pretty amazing husband!)

I think this team work of ours cuts down on feelings of resentment or thoughts like I do everything around here or I wish he'd get off his butt and do something every once in a while

We try to sense when the other needs help and pick up where is needed. We also both try to sense when the other just needs a break and to be understanding in those instances.

9. Take time to study the Bible together/flea temptation
Because our marriage is grounded in faith, we try to take time to study the Bible and pray. There are times when we are better about this than others, but it is our responsibility as Christians and as parents to know His Word so that we can 1. set a good example for our children and 2. raise them up/teach them what is right. 

Also, by doing this, it brings us closer to each other and closer to God, which makes it harder for Satan to work his way in. He will do everything he possibly can to destroy marriages. He hates godly marriage. He wants to introduce that person and those feelings that could possibly lead to infidelity. 

When you meet this person, you won't think I'm going to leave my husband for him. Sin happens little bits at a time. 

Satan wants you to go to coffee with that person "as a friend" because he wants you to look at this person differently. 

He wants you to talk to him more and have that emotional affair because your husband doesn't treat you like he used to. You think I haven't slept with him so it's not an affairBut why do you feel that you have to turn to this person in the first place? 

Is it because you've stopped communicating? Because everything going on in life took away from your precious time spent together. Because you don't compliment each other anymore? Because you don't tell each other what you're feeling, but instead you keep it inside and think he won't understand so you continue to drift further apart? 

It is so. easy. to allow these things to happen in our marriages. Simple little things getting in the middle of our strong bond, pushing us apart and making us weaker. It is when we are weak that Satan strikes.

We can't just sit back and live life beside each other. We have to put in an effort and work at it. Together.

I would really love to hear from you. What ways do you and your spouse work on your marriage? I'd love to hear more ideas!

We leave TOMORROW for our ballpark trip to LA and San Diego so you won't hear from me for a couple weeks! We are so excited!

Thanks for following this Anniversary Series! This is the last post of the week but if you missed any posts, you catch up here:
Day 1: Our Wedding Day
Day 2: 3 Years of Loving You brought to you by my sister-in-law Shannon at Messy Buns and Baby Bums 
Day 3: Then and Now

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Anniversary Series Day 3: Then and Now

I was strangely emotional this weekend. I'm not really a crier. But I teared up on several occasions this past weekend.

I got teary eyed when my mom and I were buttoning up the back of my baby sister's wedding gown.

I cried when my daddy walked in and saw her in her dress for the first time. 

It was quite difficult not to ugly cry when Jayce saw his beautiful bride walking down the aisle. The tears and the love in his eyes said everything.

I teared up when Brandon, the minister, read the sweet words that Jayce had to say about my little sister. I know that he will take care of her and love her for the rest of their lives.

Of course I cried during the daddy-daughter dance. After the dances were over the photographer took the bride and groom out to take sunset pictures and the DJ asked for all fathers and daughters to head to the dance floor. Dancing with my Daddy in that moment and watching David dance with our girls made me realize that one day we are going to blink and David will be the one giving our daughters away.

Just looking back at how much has changed in the past 7 years since our wedding is evidence of this. Raley is almost 4! FOUR! Where did the time go?

So on Day 3, I wanted to share where we were then and what's changed through the years.

2010 - The first 6 months
The first six months were tough, but when I look back now I'm so thankful for the hard times because I know we came out stronger in the end.

I still had a semester left in nursing school at Alabama and David was an assistant manager at Game Stop in Tuscaloosa. I did not work during this last semester. We would go to Wal-Mart together to do our grocery shopping and we would literally get our calculator out on our phone and add up every single thing that we put in our cart. If we didn't, there was a high probability that we would overdraw our bank account. I look back now and realize it was the grace of God that got us through this time financially. 

Luckily, I got a job in Montgomery right out of nursing school and was able to start about a month after graduating. He was able to transfer within Game Stop to the store in Prattville. 

2011 - 1 Year
At our 1 year anniversary we were living in Wetumpka, a little town just outside of Montgomery. I was working on a Neuro floor in a hospital in Montgomery. I hated this floor, but I moved to their Neuro ICU shortly thereafter, which I loved! David was still working at Game Stop. He hated his job too. At this point he was just trying to make it through.

We knew no body there. All we had was each other. When I started working in the ICU I worked night shift - 7 on/8 off. There were times that we would go days without seeing each other because we worked opposite schedules. (Those 8 days off together were pretty awesome though!)

We celebrated our 1 year wedding anniversary at Gulf Shores. We went to the Gulf Shores zoo and played with the baby tigers. We decided to stay in a cheap little hotel instead of a condo on the beach and commute to a public beach (we were only there for a couple of nights). This hotel was so creepy and gross that I vowed then and there that I would never stay at a hotel that didn't have those soft, white down comforters again. To this day, when I'm hotel shopping I have to look at pictures of the rooms and make sure they have nice looking beds.
These little guys were so cute!
2012 - 2 Years
In January of 2012 I got a job offer at a new hospital opening up in Madison. We were so excited for the opportunity to move back home and be close to our families. We lived with my parents for a few months while we looked for a house and David looked for a job. 

David started working at the Verizon call center and we signed papers to build our house in March 2012. Building a house meant that we would be living with my parents for even longer. We are very thankful they let us live with them, rent free for as long as they did and gave us an opportunity to build our savings account. 

We were finally able to move into our house at the end of June. Looking back, it's hard to remember what we did when we lived in the house with no kids.

In September we adopted our Siberian Husky, Luka. 

2013 - 3 Years
In February of this year we found out some pretty exciting news - that we were expecting a baby! 

When we got married we said it would be at least five years before we even thought about having kids. I didn't particularly like kids. They annoyed me for some reason. Parents whose lives revolved around their kids and whose only identity was "so-and-so's mommy" really annoyed me. I didn't want to become those people

But something gave me baby fever. It may have been my cousin Kelsey's babies. It may have been babies at church. I really don't remember. But we decided to go ahead and try.

We spent our third anniversary/"babymoon" in Nashville. We stayed at a hotel next to Opryland. It was a great mix of taking it easy and shopping. This would be our last anniversary just to two of us. We did not know how much our lives would change (for the better) in just one year.
Our first sweet little princess, Raley, was born in September 2013. 

Just before Raley was born David took a job at the company that he is still with today. He hated his job at Verizon - his schedule was crazy and talking to people on the phone all day was just draining for him. We were worried about how his unpredictable schedule would work out once we had a baby and I went back to work. We were very thankful for this new job opportunity and the level of stability and flexibility it brought.

2014 - 4 years
Our lives changed in the past year more than we could have ever dreamed. This precious baby brought so much joy into our lives that we would not have changed a thing. God's timing was perfect (as always.) I can't imagine a more beautiful and sweet little girl.
Raley's first trip to Disney World at 4 months old to cheer on Auntie at cheer nationals!

Something else changed for the better this brother, Brian found the girl he had been waiting for and I gained another sister.

They were married on June 21, 2014. The love that I saw between them on their wedding day is still evident to this day. Shannon is the perfect match for him and an amazing mother to my nieces. 
Sweet baby Payton was born November 2014
Me and "Brother Bear" with our babies
Precious little Adalynn, our second niece, was born April 2017
It's crazy to think that in under four years, our family has been blessed with four little princesses!

I also took a new job in 2014 in the CVICU (the unit I still work in) which has been a huge blessing as well. I never dreamed I'd learn as much as I have in the three years I've been working there.

2015 - 5 years
In April of 2015 we found out that we would be having another baby!

This year we spent our anniversary at Ft. Walton Beach with my entire family. We were celebrating 5 years, Brian and Shannon were celebrating 1 year, and my parents were celebrating 30 years! It was such a fun trip! Raley was just 18 months old and was running all over the beach. Payton (my niece) was 8 months old and crawling all over the condo trying to keep up with Raley. The beach with babies is exhausting but so much fun! It makes you think of how much had changed in just a few years - we went from relaxing on the beach to constantly chasing a toddler to keep them from running into the ocean.
I've always loved this sweet picture of these two
Fireworks at the Harbor on the 4th

2016 - 6 years

In January 2016 we welcomed our second baby girl, Audrey. Ever since day 1 she has been so laid back and sweet as can be.
One of my favorite first memories with Audrey. Read more about why this is so special in this post
Adjusting to life with two babies is so much harder than adjusting to life with one, especially when the first one is still a toddler. It wasn't easy. But we were lucky to have such a good baby and so much support. As tough and as tiring as it was, I know that others don't have it as easy.

We celebrated our anniversary this year by going golfing and out to dinner. Now-a-days we have to take advantage of baby-sitter (aka. grandparent) time just to be able to play a round of golf. 

Before kids we could head out whenever we wanted to without having to worry about who's going to watch the kids. I remember when we lived near Montgomery there was a 36-hole course called Tallapoosa Lakes that we would play at a lot. We would go whenever twilight started (either 2:00 or 3:00) and could usually get in 27-36 holes before dark if it wasn't crowded. This is when I began playing better. I wouldn't trade what we have now for anything but I do miss being able to just up and do things like that without thinking twice about it.
We found this turtle on the course one time.
2017 - 7 years
I think back to the days when we used to sleep in until noon. If we had to get up before 10 we were sleepy. Now we're lucky to sleep until 8:00. People ask "how do you do it with two kids? I'm barely making it and I don't have kids." I wonder that myself sometimes. But the answer is you just do it. You drink a lot of coffee, you do what you have to do and somehow your body adjusts.

Watching Audrey grow into a little walking, talking toddler and watching Raley care for her so much has been the biggest blessing over the past year. I love this little life that we have built together and I love all the people in it.

We spent this entire past weekend, including our anniversary surrounded by family and friends and I wouldn't have it any other way.

We will be celebrating our anniversary next week on the west coast.

I cannot wait to see what the next 7 years will bring! I'm sure that life will change in ways that I can't even imagine, but I know that God has some pretty great things in store!

Thanks for following this Anniversary Series! If you missed any posts, catch up here:
Day 1: Our Wedding Day
Day 2: 3 Years of Loving You brought to you by my sister-in-law Shannon at Messy Buns and Baby Bums
Day 4: How We Work On Our Marriage

Monday, June 19, 2017

Anniversary Series Day 1: Our Wedding Day

My little sister getting married this past weekend has stirred up all kinds of magical memories from our wedding day 7 years ago. It feels like seven years has absolutely flown by. SO much has changed in this short amount of  time, yet it still feels like yesterday we were the ones saying "I do." 

Pretty much our entire family has been married during this week in June (dates ranging from June 16-23) so since it's "anniversary week", I thought it would be fun to create an Anniversary Series and share something new each day!

I don't think I've ever shared our wedding photos here before, so on day 1 we'll take a look at our wedding day!

We got married on June 19, 2010 at Burritt on the Mountain in Huntsville, Alabama. It rained a bit that morning, but it stopped in plenty of time for the sun to come out and dry everything up. It was humid, but was a little bit cooler up on the mountain. 

David and I decided to do our "first look" before the ceremony so we wouldn't have to take as much time before the reception taking pictures. (All photos by Authentic Photography)
I wanted a "Cinderella photo" and I got it! Definitely one of my favorites!
One of my favorite memories from the day is my mom putting my veil in my hair. It's such a special moment for a mother to help her daughter get ready for her wedding. I understand this now more than ever. I am excited to one day put my daughters' veils in their hair as they get ready to walk down the aisle with their daddy. (Not too excited though! Time, please don't go too fast!) 

We feel blessed to have had such an amazing man officiate our wedding. If I remember correctly, I was in 6th grade when Brandon became the youth minister at Madison Church of Christ. He was there for me during my most awkward and rough times. He helped talk sense into me when I didn't always make the best choices. I still appreciate him so much and still feel as if I could go to him if I needed to talk or if I need advice on something. He will always, always hold a special place in my heart and it means the world that he was the one standing up there with us that day.

I was proud of my daddy! He didn't cry walking me down the aisle. I got a tiny bit teary, but I didn't cry like I thought I would either. 

Kayla Beth (my sister) was my Maid of Honor and my cousin Kelsey was my Matron of Honor. David had 2 best men, his best friends Casey and Derek. We are blessed to have had all of these wonderful friends standing by our sides on this big day!
Kristen, Lindsey, Kelsey, Kayla Beth, April and Ashlee
Look how young KB looks! I can't believe she's married!
My sister and sister-in-law helping me get my dress on.
We had a great time at the reception. The food was catered by Creative Catering and it was beautiful and delicious! They catered Kayla Beth's wedding this weekend as well. They always do an amazing job! (They even pack up to-go boxes for the bride and groom to take with them after the wedding with a little bottle of champagne. Plus you get to keep the cooler! We still use ours all the time.)

The dances were my other favorite part of the wedding although I don't really like being the center of attention. David and I danced to "I'll Be" by Edwin McCain. This may have been the only time that we were together, "just us," for the entire night. (We obviously weren't alone, but we were able to get a minute to talk quietly and laugh with each other.)

You remember I said Daddy and I did pretty good keeping the tears in while walking down the aisle? Well, we danced to "Butterfly Kisses" so we both found it hard not to cry during our dance. We tried to joke and laugh so we wouldn't focus on the words too much.  

We had even tried to find a different song that would fit but this song meant a lot to us when I was growing up so it had to be this one. We both listened to the song over and over beforehand to try and become immune to it's power but it didn't work. I've always been a "daddy's girl" so there is just something about a father-daughter dance that gets me every time. I could be at a wedding of two people I don't know and I'd still probably cry during the father-daughter dance!

David and his mom's dance was very touching as well. I've always loved this picture of them! I know I won't fully understand how she felt in this moment until I have a son of my own.

Even though I really don't like attention drawn to myself or to stand up in front of people, the cake cutting was pretty fun!

Although most of the day is a total blur, we had a great time dancing and celebrating with family and friends. When it was time to go, we had a sparkler send-off and were driven away in a vintage car.
This has always been one of my favorite pictures of the night. I'm sweaty, my make-up is mostly gone, and I'm holding the train of my dress, but we were both just so happy in this moment!
This car was just too cool! When we got to the hotel, the driver asked David if he would like for him to take a picture of "you and your wife." That was the first time I'd been called his wife and it made me giddy!
Here are a few other of my favorite details from the wedding:
I loooved our cakes made by Lucy The Cake Lady
The tablescapes and food displays by Creative Catering are indeed creative
The groom's table was filled with houndstooth, crimson and white, and photos of us throughout our years at Bama

I would love to hear from you! What were your favorite moments from your wedding? Did you have any "wedding day disasters" to overcome?

Day 2: 3 Years of Loving You by my sister-in-law Shannon at Messy Buns and Baby Bums
Day 3: Then and Now
Day 4: How We Work On Our Marriage