Whitening Sensitive Teeth At Home

This post is sponsored by Smile Brilliant. All opinions are my own.

A couple of weeks ago during date night, I stopped to watch Joe laugh at something ridiculous I'd done and remembered how much I love his smile. It was one of the first things that attracted me to him and it's contagious. Life has been a little busy and stressful over the past year and it seems like we are constantly tired. Consequently, there hasn't been as much smiling and laughter in our house as their used to be. When I saw Joe smile that afternoon on our date, I realized how much I miss laughing together on a daily basis. 

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Our kids and the dog our the main source of our laughter these days, and while there's nothing wrong with that, I would like to be the main reason that Joe smiles again. Having two young kids, jobs and our side hustles means that life is a lot of business and not quite as much fun. We decided to get married because life was fun when we were together and we enjoyed each other's company. I have a new goal to do one thing every day that makes Joe smile or laugh the way he did when we were dating and newly married. I also have a goal to step back from the seriousness in life to have more fun, laugh at all of Joe's jokes and smile together.

"Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing." - Mother Teresa

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I had the opportunity to try Smile Brilliant recently and now every time I look at my smile in pictures or in the mirror, I smile just a little bit bigger because it's whiter and looks better than it ever has. The Smile Brilliant teeth whitening kit is exactly what you would get to whiten your teeth from a professional dentist's office but it's less expensive by $300+! I loved the convenience of whitening my teeth while I cleaned my house, watched a movie with Joe or worked in the basement.

Smile Brilliant provides you with everything you need; the products to make molds, your customized whitening trays, the whitening gel and desensitizing gel . I have sensitive teeth , which has kept me from whitening my teeth with other products in the past. Smile Brilliant's desensitizing gel diminishes tooth sensitivity, replenishes natural minerals in the teeth and prevents new surface stains from forming. It made all the difference in my tooth whitening and allowed me to achieve full results.

If you're looking for a great way to improve your smile, Smile Brilliant is the answer! Receive 10% off your Smile Brilliant teeth whitening kit when you use coupon code aprioritizedmarriage at checkout. Smile Brilliant is also giving one of you the opportunity to try their system for free! Click here to enter to win a $149 credit, it's as simple as entering your name and e-mail address into their form! This giveaway is open to residents in the USA, UK, Canada and Australia.

Home Tour - A Play Area for the Kids

When we bought our house four years ago, there was one area in our downstairs living space that I wasn't quite sure what to do with. It was a small alcove that served as a small storage area for quite a while. We'd wrap our couch around in front of it and hide blankets or games behind it. It housed our fish tank until last year and for about six months, it housed our office furniture and computer while we dealt with our flooded basement. Then one day Joe moved our couch into a layout that I'd never loved, and it hit me that the alcove would be the perfect little playroom for our kids.

play area for kids in a small home

In an ideal world, all of the toys would stay confined to this area of the house, but despite my best efforts, they still end up scattered throughout the entire room, to every end of the house and even outside. And in the future I want to get a smaller couch that would leave even more space for the kids to play behind it. I think that I also want to get another storage cube and move more of the kids' toys down to this area. You can see the before picture of this space in this home tour post of the entire family room.

playroom storage

My first vision for this space were these shelves and bins. I wanted toy and book storage space that would look clean and match the style of the rest of these house. I found these bins {partner link} in colors that matched the rest of our house and picked up this organizer shelf {partner link} to store them in.

I store our toys by type and the kids know which bins hold which toys, even though they aren't labeled. I've been surprised that for the most part, the kids will put the toys back in their appropriate bins, or at the very least put similar toys in similar bins. The baskets that are sit on top of the shelves are some that we already had, and I keep the toys and games in them that require supervision or permission to play. Things like bubbles and playdoh or games with lots of little pieces. The bins in the top row of the shelf hold the coloring and art supplies and the 106 pieces of play food that we rotate through on a regular basis. The kids can still get to those top shelf bins if they're determined, but rarely do so it avoids too many big, out of control messes.

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We added the kitchen for Christmas, the trampoline was a gift from my sister and her boyfriend, and the bench was given to us by my parent's neighbor when she was cleaning out her basement. Each toy in the play area gets used, and when I start to notice that things aren't as much of a favorite anymore, when they're being dumped out, but never played with, I rotate them with other toys that I have downstairs in bins. It's surprisingly hard to decide what toys the kids are ready to part with for a season because toddlers become very attached to their things. If they ask for a toy or a book within a week or two after I've put it away, I will go downstairs and pull it back out. It's not a perfect process, and Joe would tell you that we have way too many toys with a million pieces (particularly the play food), but it's a system that I hope to perfect this summer.

play is the highest form of research

This quote was one of the final touches that we added to the play area and for some reason it was the hardest to decide on. I considered a lot of quotes from Peter Pan and almost settled on, "this is where the fun happens", but opted for this quote. For kids, play is work and work is play. I love the way their imaginations run wild and love to see how the pull pieces of my every day routine and our "adulting" into their playtime. After I narrowed my decision down to two, I asked for Joe's opinion and he chose this one as his favorite.

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I've had an ongoing love/hate relationship with this alcove in our home, but since turning it into a play space six months ago, I've continually loved it. This is the one place in our house where the kids spend the most time. They'll head up to their rooms in the middle of playing only to come back downstairs with toys in tow to add to the game they were playing. I love hearing their giggles and leaning over the railing from where I'm making a meal, cleaning or working on a project to see them playing and having fun together. 

We may not have the space for a full play room in our home, but having this area in our living space, where we hang out often, is more perfect than a separate room in the house. If you have a small house, look for some space that you can utilize like this, no matter how small. Your kids will love it and you will too!

A New Kind of Dating Service, for Married Couples

This post is part of a sponsored collaboration with Date Crescent. All opinions are my own.

Research has shown that couples who regularly experience new things together are happier and keep their relationship fresh and long lasting. One of my favorite times to create memories and new experiences is during date night. After almost seven years of marriage, we sometimes find ourselves stuck in a date night rut, resorting to our tried and true activities. We love to try new things and be more adventurous with our date nights, but we don't always know what's out there or have the time to do all of the research to find something new and exciting. These are the times when we turn to Date Crescent!

Date Crescent - date night planning service

Date Crescent was started to make date night easier for couples. When you submit a date proposal request, you have taken the first step to finding something unique and interesting to do for your next date night together. We love how simple it is to get your date nights planned with this dating service for couples and how much attention to detail was given during our profile setup and after our concierge sent over each idea.

Before you make your first date request, you'll need to set up your profile. This part took me about five to ten minutes, but filling out the information is really helpful when your concierge starts planning your date! The questions you're asked in your settings deal with food allergies, your location and what you are looking for when planning with Date Crescent (ie planning for a special occasion, new ideas for connecting as a couple, or saving time). You'll also note your preferences by giving different types of activities and experience a thumbs up or a thumbs down. I loved this because it gave me confidence that even though our concierge wouldn't know us personally, they wouldn't be taking a shot in the dark when planning our date and our date activity would be something that we'd be excited about.

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Next you move onto your date proposal! This part takes less than five minutes and I was really impressed with all of the details that Date Crescent covers in the request. The questions that you answer cover when you're wanting to go out, what your budget is for the date and the radius from home that you'd like to stay in. Your concierge can plan just an activity, or they can also plan a meal for you as well. If you want a meal, you'll also answer a few questions to help them plan that aspect. I submitted our request with confidence that there would be no clarification needed because they'd thought of every detail they'd need to ask to make the service a success for everyone.

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After you submit your date night request and pay the fee, your date concierge will put together a proposal for you and you'll get an e-mail when it's ready. The fee for each date proposal is $10, but if you subscribe to the Date Crescent newsletter and follow them on social media, you'll be in the know when they have sales! Just last month they had a 50% off deal that I shared on my social media channels. For all of the work and thought that's put into each date proposal, along with their quick turn around and excellent customer service, the fee is totally reasonable in my opinion!

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When your date night proposal is ready, you'll receive an e-mail letting you know to log in and review the proposal. Our first proposal was one that I was really excited about, our concierge had planned for us to try out an Indian restaurant and then take dancing lessons. Both of those were something new for us. I shared the date idea with Joe and he let me know that he wouldn't enjoy the dancing part of the evening, but Joe wasn't completely on board with the activity for the evening. Because I wanted to plan a date that we'd both really love and enjoy, I decided to resubmit our request for changes. There's a place to request those changes, so I left a note letting them know what was going up and sent it back. They quickly got back to me with another proposal, and it was one that we really loved so we accepted!

Once you've got a date proposal that you're excited about, you can take it and run with it or you can request that your concierge do some further planning. They are able to make reservations at restaurants and book your activity for the evening. Date Crescent will use the card on file to cover any costs that need to be paid up front and will send you the tickets and reservation confirmation once it's complete. Thanks to this service, date night could be as easy as just showing up, which is perfect for busy couples or the partner who feels pressure and anxiety when it's their turn to plan date night. 

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We went on our date a few weeks ago and had a lot of fun! We had requested a cultural experience and our concierge put together the perfect combination for dinner and our activity. They planned for us to go to Tucanos for dinner, one of our favorite Brazilian grills that we hadn't been to in almost two years so we were really happy that they suggested we go! Our after dinner activity was a play at the university. I love musicals and plays and was glad that we were able to support students in their performance as part of our date. Due to abnormal traffic, our date night didn't go smoothly and we had to adjust our plans a little bit, but we both enjoyed our time together and were grateful for the opportunity to connect and try something new.

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Date Crescent is a great service for couples in any stage or situation in life. Whether you're in charge of planning your anniversary, are looking for a date that fits your spouse's favorite things for their birthday, have a goal to plan a kid-free night out, or just don't want to have to think about your next date beyond when you'll be going, Date Crescent is perfect for you! I've thought that this is a service that would be great for a few years now so I was really excited when I found out that it was a reality. Check out their FAQ page for more information and submit a date proposal request, then let me know how it went! I'm looking forward to having them plan our next date night experience and can't wait to see what they surprise us with when we do.

The End of a Chapter - More Changes for Our Family

Joe has been mowing other people's lawns since he was eight years old. When I first met him, back in high school, he was running Joe's Lawn Care and he mowed the lawn of the family who I babysat for so I got to see him in action quite often. The magnetic signs he used to have on the sides of his little red truck for that business are attached to the house door in our garage. He set that business aside to go on a two year mission for our church when he was 21 and came back after that to start over from scratch with Mow Joe

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We started dating only a month after Joe got home from his mission and were talking marriage by the time Joe was ready to dive back into the lawn care business, so we have been doing this thing together for the last seven years. I still remember when springtime hit and we'd go on our long walks together, Joe would always comment on the great, or not so great, edging job of people's lawns when we'd walk past. It's been fun to watch Joe's lawn care business grow over the last few years. He has a great reputation in our area and experienced a lot of success. Last year was an amazing year for the business and the numbers were off the charts! But with the amazing numbers came crazy hours and Joe had to work a lot of late nights and on his day off from his full-time job and it was draining on him, me and our family. 

When last year's season ended, we knew that we had some decisions to make before the next season started. Joe was considering upgrading his truck and adding a second crew to mow during the day, while his high school employees were in class. We also considered having him quit his full time job and grow Mow Joe full time with a small crew. Ultimately we decided that the best choice for our family right now was to sell the equipment and client list and close that chapter of our lives, for the time being.

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Running your own lawn care business is a lot of work, especially if you have a full time job and a crew doing most of the mowing for you. On weeks when there was a lot of rain or when the boys on the crew had school events or went out of town, Joe would step in after work and on his day off to help them stay caught up on lawns. If a sprinkler got broken or a big project came up, he would take care of those as well. With both of us working full time in addition to that, we felt like we rarely saw each other and we didn't have much time to spend as a family.

Our kids are getting older and we want to take them on vacations and spend our days off doing fun things as a family. Joe wasn't emotionally tied to Mow Joe anymore and viewed it as a way to build wealth and pursue his ultimate career goals. We decided together to pursue other avenues for building wealth in favor of more family time during the summer months and less stress on Joe's plate. The decision to move on with our lives without Mow Joe was a bittersweet one, but one that we know will benefit our family in the long run. Now Joe gets to mow his own lawn, twice a week, while Bensen drags his little mower along behind.

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And who knows, maybe in a few years when our kids are older and our schedules aren't so crazy, we'll start another lawn care company. After all, nothing makes Joe happier than the smell of freshly cut grass and the sight of a clean cut lawn. 

Four Ways That Becoming Parents Can Strengthen Your Marriage

There's a common belief that if you are struggling in your marriage, having a baby will bring you together. I want to preface this post by saying that if you feel that your relationship with your spouse is in trouble, having a baby is not the way to fix that. I would urge you to seek counseling and professional help. Any of you who have kids can attest to the fact that your role as parents challenged your marriage in ways you didn't know were possible and that it was definitely not as fairy tale as some people would have you believe.

That being said, I have seen parenthood strengthen my marriage in ways that I wasn't expecting and that is what I wanted to share with you today. Those of you who are in the trenches with newborn babies, young toddlers, lots of little kids, teenagers and even adult children, I know that life can be hard and it can wear on your marriage. I would encourage you to look at these ways that your roles as parents can actually bless and build up your marriage and strive to do what you can to achieve that in your marriage!

Parenthood can strengthen your marriage

Whether you're having your first kid or your sixth, the addition of a new baby to the family is an event that can bring stress to your marriage. I will be the first to tell you that parenthood is one of the most challenging stages to adjust to in your marriage. It will stretch you as a couple and as an individual and at times, it will feel like you've given all that you can possibly give. Even though parenthood can be hard, it is also one of the most exciting and rewarding adventures that you will ever embark on in your marriage. Working together in this new stage of life will also strengthen your relationship and make you a better team in every other area of your marriage.

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Love takes on a whole new meaning.

Watching my husband be a dad makes my love for him grow more and more every day. And the love and excitement that our kids have for their daddy only adds to that love. Romance used to be about taking each other out to dinner and long kisses. Now I get butterflies when I hear my husband reading silly books to the kids or teaching them how to play a board game. I still love all of those things that we did when we were dating, engaged and newly married but there's something about watching him be a dad that makes me swoon.

Another growth of love came when I had to lean on my husband while I was sick during my pregnancies and after I gave birth. I learned to depend on Joe for the things that I couldn't do for myself or our family. I'd never had to rely on my husband in that way and his service added a new dimension to the love that I have for him.

Related: What Happens to the Love in Your Marriage After Baby

Time alone as a couple won't be taken for granted.

Before you become parents, time alone together is something that you get used to, even if your schedules don't allow for a lot of it. When it was just the two of us, we got used to having time together every single day, even if it was just for an hour before bed every night.  Now we always have our cute kiddos around, and they need a lot of our attention. A lot of nights we're exhausted from our day of work and parenting and we fall asleep before we've even had time to talk. Other nights we have sick or sad kids to take care of when we would usually be spending time alone. We only get an hour or two alone together each night and we try not to take that time for granted. If you're anything like us, you look forward to those moments when you get to connect as a couple.

Your time together will be more intentional.

Because time together is so rare, you'll find yourself being more intentional with it. There will still be nights when you sit down with a bowl of popcorn and binge watch your favorite show on Netflix together, but now more than ever, you need to put effort into making your marriage a priority. Whether you have an hour at the end of the day together, are out for your weekly date night or enjoying a weekend away without the kids, make the most of your time together. The more intentional you are when you are together, the more your relationship will grow.

I shared with a group of ladies a couple of weeks ago that I wish I could shake newly married me and yell, "Why are you staying home on a Friday night?!?! Go out!!! Have fun!!!" because more often than not, we were home eating takeout and watching Netflix on the weekend, the same activity we did every night. We were not as intentional with our time together as we could have been. Now we make the most of that time, even if we're just relaxing, and look for any opportunity to connect with each other.

Related: 10 Ways to Connect with Your Spouse in 10 Minutes or Less

You will see your spouse in a new light.

I'd seen my husband interact with kids before, but watching him play and interact with our kids on a daily basis has been a different experience. Both Bensen and Emmy love their daddy and get excited every day when he comes home from work. Days when dad doesn't have to go to work are their favorite because they get lots of play time. They have their own games, inside jokes and cute little rituals. I love overhearing him reading stories to the kids, adding his own little spin. I never knew I could get butterflies from watching my husband read 'That's Not My Princess' with enthusiasm to his daughter.

One of the things that has impressed me the most as Joe has become a father was the way that he teaches our kids about life on a daily basis. He takes the time to explain new concepts and introduce them to things that they've never seen before. When he finds something that really interests them, he gets just as excited as they do and continues to share that enthusiasm every time they bring it up. He always has time for them and pauses what he's doing to respond or help them out.

Related: How to Keep the Romance Alive Postpartum

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Adjusting to your new stage in life together can be a challenge, but challenges are meant to make us stronger. Find ways to make your spouse a priority every single day and communicate often about the obstacles that you are facing as a couple. If you work together, the hard times will benefit your marriage as much, if not more, than the good times do. Don't put your relationship on the back burner because a little one comes along or because your kids and their activities are taking up a lot of your time. Continue to work on your marriage relationship so that it will continue to get better!

Becoming parents comes with lots of challenges, but these four things that come with parenthood could actually strengthen your marriage in this stage of life.