Taking a Brief Hiatus. We'll Be Back in 2018!!

You may have noticed that things have been almost silent around here for more than a month. Maybe you haven't noticed, and that's ok too. If you follow us on Instagram, you know that life has been a little hectic for us lately. We're working really hard to make time for our marriage and our family and as a result, this little space has gotten neglected.

In order to enjoy the holidays to the fullest with my family and finish up some behind the scenes projects here, I've decided to take a brief hiatus from posting new content here on the blog. There are quite a few posts that I've been planning to publish and have talked about on social media lately and they will still get published, just not until the new year.

But be prepared because there are great things coming your way!! I'm so excited to start the new year refreshed and able to provide you with quality content. Until then, keep an eye on our Facebook feed for great marriage focused content from other bloggers and throwbacks to some of our best content. Follow us on Instagram for updates on our life and tips and tricks through IG stories when I have a chance. You'll also want to be subscribed to our newsletter because I'm sending content out through that list weekly.

I'll meet you back here in a month and a half! I can't wait!

Wives to Watch in Every Stage of Life - Sara of Mrs. Imperfect

Each stage of life looks different and brings unique challenges to every couple. My hope is that you will be inspired by the stories of the women in this series. I hope that their experiences will help you find more ways to make your marriage relationship a priority throughout every stage of your own life.

Sara reached out to me a few months ago and wanted to participate in this series! I'm excited to share her insight and the things that she's learned in her married life so far.

What does it mean to you to prioritize your marriage?

It means to put our relationship first before all other things in our lives including family, friends, hobbies, and work. Those are all important things, yes, but keeping our marriage strong is the most important.

That means sometimes turning things down if they cut into our time to spend together. It also means being intentional about that time we spend together. We spend most weeknights and weekends together, whether it is simply watching Netflix together, taking walks, doing projects around the house, or having special date nights.

How have the different stages you’ve experienced in life affected how you prioritize your relationship with each other?

In the almost three years we’ve been together we’ve weathered several different job changes, health crises, and challenges with family members, and I believe that we have come out stronger in each one. I think that they have made prioritizing our marriage more difficult, but definitely even more important. When things get tough we lean on each other even more then we do in the “easier” times.

The next big transition in our lives will be having children, which I know will change our relationship in a lot of ways. I think it is important to focus on what will not change. We have already discussed how our marriage is still going to be the top priority, because a strong marriage is the foundation of a strong family. We also want to keep traveling and have regular date nights, even with small children.

What are some rituals/traditions that you have with your spouse?

Every night we try to have the same wind-down rituals. I scratch his back and he will rub my back or brush my hair. We will cuddle and sometimes will also reflect on the day based on how tired we are. It is one of the ways that we battle stress’ effect on our relationship. My top love language is quality time and his is physical touch, so he is definitely a cuddler, while I love spending time talking and just being together. As well, every morning he doesn’t leave without three kisses and an “I love you.”

We also intentionally plan several date nights every month. These have included visits to museums, historical sites, sports games, gardens, festivals, and more. We try to get more creative than simply dinner or going to a movie, because a date night is an opportunity to increase intimacy, laugh together, and experience new things together. I feel that date nights have been a really key thing to strengthening our marriage, which is why I started a date night series on my blog.

How have the obstacles and challenges that you’ve faced as a couple made you a stronger team?

As I mentioned earlier, we’ve definitely had some stressful and challenging times over our almost three years together. But I wouldn’t have wanted to go through them with anyone else at my side. We’ve gone through a number of transitions together and each had struggles with work and our health. While going through them has been stressful and has sometimes put a strain on our relationship, I feel that we have definitely come out of them knowing ourselves better and that we are stronger together then we are apart.

The challenges have served to remind us how important it is that our marriage is the priority. Because when everything else has seemed to be going wrong, our relationship has been a place of safety and refuge from the craziness. It has been inevitable that sometimes the outside stuff has affected how we relate to each other. Stress does that and sometimes we’ve taken out that stress on each other. But mostly it has caused us to appreciate the other more and lean on each other instead of turning on each other.

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Tell me about something that you hope to be able to do together in the future.

Our top goal is to be able to have children soon. We look forward to being able to bring a little one into our family and share with them our love and all that we love about the world we live in. We also hope to have many more years of traveling together. Seeing the world and its many wonders is something that is a top priority. So far our big trips have included Costa Rica, France, and Spain, along with shorter trips to locations on the east coast. Our next trip is a road trip down the coast of California in November.

Click here to read more interviews in the Wives to Watch in Every Stage of Life Series

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Wives to Watch in Every Stage of Life - Sadie Banks

Each stage of life looks different and brings unique challenges to every couple. My hope is that you will be inspired by the stories of the women in this series. I hope that their experiences will help you find more ways to make your marriage relationship a priority throughout every stage of your own life.

Sadie is one of my favorite people in the world! She radiates happiness, joy and love for everyone that she meets. I haven't had the opportunity to meet her in person yet (soon!!) but I just know that she brings sunshine with her wherever she goes. She and Parker have a fun relationship and a deep friendship and I admire their dedication and the way that they follow their dreams!

What does it mean to you to prioritize your marriage?

To me, prioritizing your marriage means putting it FIRST. Sometimes that is really, really difficult & sometimes, that's way easy. But I think always making an effort to put your marriage first-- before work, before school, before friends & family members, etc.-- is the simplest way I can think to prioritize your marriage. There are days where I'm drowning in editing, but when Parker gets home from work, we always try to spend at least an hour together doing something we enjoy. (which is usually watching The Office or Parks and Recreation on Netflix... or going out for some Sweet Pork Nachos from Costa Vida) This gives us time together and then when the time comes that we need to do our own things again, we aren't feeling shafted or like we come second to other less-important things. 

How have the different stage you've experienced in life affected how you prioritize your relationship with each other?

Again, we try to spend some time together before doing our own separate things. Especially in the small amounts of time that we do have together. Parker leaves for work before I do and then sometimes I am gone before he comes home, so on those days, we make a special effort to do something together before bed. This has always been a thing for us, but over the last year I've come to really appreciate the fact that I have Parker to go through this life with. Over the last year, we have been struggling with infertility and that has really brought me to some new lows & unexpected dark places.

I'm so grateful that Parker and I prioritized one another, our marriage and relationship from the very start because I've come to realize that even if we are never able to have kids, our marriage is not lessened by that fact. In fact, our trial of infertility has actually really strengthened our marriage because we have to rely on one another & spend ample amounts of time together. It's just me and him. And we've decided that no matter when we have kids, we will enjoy our life together & still go on tons of adventures because when all is said & done, at the end of our lives, it'll still just be me and him. Kids grow up and move out. But our marriage is forever and knowing that has really helped us to prioritize our marriage & try to be the best we can be-- no matter the season of life.

What are some rituals/traditions that you have with your spouse?

We aren't very good at rituals or traditions... (it seems like every time we call something a "tradition" we forget to do it the next day, week, or year...hah!) But we do have a few things that we do regularly. We try to pray together every morning and evening. We go on dates pretty regularly-- we could use some work in planning said dates better... we are very spontaneous with date nights (I suppose that's a perk of not having kids yet?). We go to church together every week. And we always go to bed at the same time-- we don't necessarily fall asleep at the same time, but we are always ready for bed and in bed at the same time. Oh! And every year we take a picture at our bench. (you can read more about our bench here)

How have the obstacles and challenges that you've faced as a couple made you a stronger team?

As I mentioned earlier, we have been struggling with infertility over the course of the last 16 months. When we first started this journey, one of my sisters (who also struggles with infertility) told me that she was grateful for their journey because it brought them closer together as a couple. And I echo that. Most of the time I have a really hard time finding something to be grateful for with this journey we are on, but I will always be grateful for how close it has brought Parker and I.

I was thinking about this the other day and I am so grateful for our friends and family who have rallied around us and prayed for us, we will never be able to thank them enough for their love and support. But I can never, ever thank God and thank Parker enough for the times when Parker has just held me as I've cried, or stayed up late because I can't stop crying in the middle of the night, or brought home donuts or taken me to the Costco food court to get a hot dog because he knows those things make me happy.

Before we got married, I knew that Parker loved me and that he would provide and protect me, but I definitely underestimated how much he loved me. And this long struggle has definitely showed me a portion of that love. (Please note, this trial hasn't been hard on only me, but I do want to protect Parker's privacy in any way that I can, which is why I'm only sharing my half of the trial.) We've had to be vulnerable with one another. We've had to rely on one another to make the other happy. We've had to sacrifice small wants for a greater one. We've had to find other things that fill the void for now. We've had to buoy the other up spiritually & rely on one another's faith & testimony. And while this isn't over (and I'm not sure it ever will be over), I am grateful for the way infertility has strengthened our marriage.

Tell me something that you hope to be able to do together in the future?

Parker and I hope to be able to own our own business together! We would also like to be home owners one day! And travel the world. Basically we just want to settle down & enjoy each other's company for the rest of forever. 

Click here to read more interviews in the Wives to Watch in Every Stage of Life Series

Snuggle Up for a Little Autumn Romance

Fall comes with gorgeous canyon drives, delicious comfort food, and lots of cuddling. And when I looked back on my spring romance post, I realized that fall also brings with it the glorious "fall back" part of Daylight Savings. Too bad the chances of our kids appreciating that extra hour of sleep is little to none. That little detail aside, I look forward to fall starting every single year. I love to decorate, Joe and I get to celebrate our birthdays together and we reminisce on fall 2010 when we fell in love.

Two months, that's the length of time between the first day of fall and Thanksgiving. After that, winter seems to hit in full force either with snow or frigid cold temperatures. I plan on taking full advantage of these two months and fitting in as many romantic fall activities as we possibly can. If you're looking for some fun ways to bring the spark back into your marriage this fall, I've listed a few ideas below! 

Hot Chocolate

If you were to ask me my favorite drink, I would definitely have to say that it's hot chocolate. From the beginning of our relationship, Joe and I have enjoyed many cups of hot chocolate together. I love sitting on the porch as the sun is going down or watching a rain storm from inside the house while we drink from our favorite mugs. I've also been on a hunt for the best hot chocolate around town. So far, Dunkin' Donuts and Maverik have my favorite along with a local chocolate shop. We have a hot chocolate maker like this one (affiliate link), and ever since I first started using one, I refuse to go back to mixing my hot chocolate by hand. If you don't own a hot chocolate maker and drink a decent amount of it, I'd highly suggest that you purchase one, it's worth every penny!

Fall Festivals

Corn mazes, hay rides, pumpkin patches, fresh donuts and so much more. We took our family to a fall festival just this past weekend and had so much fun that I want to find one to visit every single week. There's nothing more fun and fall appropriate than wandering through a corn maze together and enjoying some fall food afterward. You could even carve pumpkins together afterward!

View the Fall Leaves

I love watching the mountains near our house change colors throughout the season. The leaves have already started changing and I love it! Seek out the best fall leaf locations near you then plan a long drive or hike to view them. If you take pictures in the fall, this is a great opportunity to get those taken as well. I have my favorite place to view fall leaves, but I'm on a mission this year to experience a few new locations for variety!

Leaf It All Behind Date

This fall date night idea (affiliate link) with free printables from The Dating Divas is a fun way to spice up your date night activities this season! It includes conversation starters, activity cards and a few other things to help you plan the perfect seasonal date night!

Fall Love Notes

With my husband's birthday and the anniversary of our first date/when we fell in love, I tend to get a bit sappy this time every year. The Dating Divas have these free printable fall love notes (affiliate link) perfect for adding a bit of love to your spouse's day. Pop them in their lunch, hide them around the house, or leave one sitting next to their plate at dinnertime.

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I "Fall" For You Gift Basket

This gift basket (affiliate link) from The Dating Divas is a great way to kick off the season and your fall romance! Throw in your favorite fall treats, the ingredients for caramel apples, some love notes, and a fall activities bucket list that the two of you can work through.

Harry Potter Marathon

What is it about this time of year that makes everyone think of Harry Potter. It's one of my favorite book/movie series, and actually a big part of mine and Joe's love story. We watched all of the movies together during the first month or two that we were dating because Joe had never seen them before. Every year, I have the best intentions to have a marathon in celebration of our "dateiversary" but October is a busy month for us so it usually doesn't happen. I'm hoping to change that this year and am looking forward to testing out all of these Butterbeer recipes to find our favorite for future marathons.

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Fall will be over before we know it, and we won't get to enjoy the crisp air and warm colors for another year. Take advantage of the beauty while it's here and the opportunities the season provides for connection in your marriage.

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8 Ways to Foster a Good Relationship Between Your Kids and Your Pet

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #GigglesandWigges #CollectiveBias Because of my partnership with Gerber, my little one is ineligible to win the Gerber Photo Search or a weekly prize, but you may be eligible so make sure you submit a photo of your baby and/or pet!

A lot of you know our dog Howie. He is a four and a half year old Shorkie (Shih Tzu/Yorkie) and the sweetest puppy anyone could ever ask for. Howie joined our family two years before any kids came along. He was used to a calm, quiet environment where he had the freedom to enjoy life wherever he pleased. These days he shares attention and living space with two little ones who are anything but calm and quiet. As our little family has grown, it has been our goal to build a happy and safe relationship between our kids and our dog. We know that they will all be the best of friends if we do our part to teach them how to interact well with each other while they're still young. Two and a half years into this parenting thing, we've learned a few important lessons for fostering that healthy, happy relationship.

Prepare Your Puppy for Change

When I was pregnant with Emmy, we did everything that we could to prepare Bensen to become a big brother. We talked often about the exciting changes that would be happening, what that meant for him and how he could help. Talking to him often about the new baby helped Bensen to prepare for those changes and recognize that we still loved him very much, even though the amount of attention we'd be able to give him was about to change.

With Howie, it wasn't that easy. With both pregnancies, he knew that change was coming, but he didn't understand what until we brought the baby home. We wanted him to feel like he was still an important part of our home and was not being replaced. We did everything that we possibly could to make that transition easy on him.

Encourage Interaction

From the day we brought our babies home from the hospital, we have let Howie be near the kids. We supervised the interactions closely, but there was never any trouble. Howie was used to cuddling on the couch with us while we watched movies, and hanging out wherever we were. We didn't want him to feel like he was no longer welcome to be near us if there was a baby around. It was fun to watch his concern whenever one of the babies would make a noise and how he would position himself to watch over them as they napped. As each child grew and became mobile, Howie got more excited. He'd sit near them on blankets, bring his toys over to ask them to play and they were always the first to get his attention when we got home from an outing. 

Teach the Kids How to Play

Joe and I both spend time playing with Howie on a daily basis. He likes to play tug-a-war and he loves it when someone will throw his toys for him. We will often get Bensen and Emmy to join us and show them the way that Howie likes to play. I love to watch Emmy pull one of Howie's toys out of the box and take it to wherever he's laying to get him to come and play with her. She's been known to bring every single toy to him until she finds the one that interests him in playing with her. Howie will also bring toys to Emmy and squeak them up against her leg so that she'll play with him. It's been fun to see Howie recognize that the kids are his friends and can be a lot of fun.

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Teach the Baby to be Soft

As soon as Bensen and Emmy started to show interest in playing with Howie, we started teaching them how to be soft with him. There is always something new to work on. Emmy has mastered petting him softly but is working on not smacking him in the face with his toys when she wants him to play. Bensen knows how to play soft but needs a little reminding when he and Howie start having too much fun and things get a little rough. There are some days when I get to play referee and break up fights because someone took the other person's toy and they're fighting over it, but for the most part, they all get along.

Give the Dog a Safe Space

Howie is still a puppy in a lot of ways, but unlike when he was a couple of years younger, he likes a good balance of play and rest. On the other hand, Bensen and Emmy seem to gain more energy as they play. When the dog gets tired or sick of playing, we like to let him have some peace so that he can rest. Most times we encourage Howie go sit in his favorite spot on top of the couch and watch out the window while the kids continue to play in the other room. Other times you'll find him asleep underneath our bed, in the very center, so that nobody can reach him. And he'll often go hang out in the backyard when things get too crazy inside the house. 

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Include Everyone in Family Outings

We have a goodbye routine whenever we leave the house and Howie doesn't get to come with us. He gets a treat, we tell him "goodbye" (if you don't, he cries when you leave, legitimately cries) and make sure that he has water and that his door to the backyard isn't shut. When we come home, we always find him sitting in the front window, waiting for us to come home. He greets us with so much enthusiasm and brings one of his favorite toys with him in hopes that we'll start playing the minute we walk in the door. But he loves his life even more if he gets to come on outings with us. We take the entire family on picnics to the park, we go for walks around the neighborhood, we'll all play together in the backyard, and sometimes we'll go on a long drive. It's the greatest day in Howie's life when he gets to join us in our family fun!

Know When to Separate the Kids and the Dog

I mentioned that we make sure Howie gets a break from the kids and feels safe in our home. There are a lot of times when everyone is playing and things get a little too exciting. The kids get carried away and Howie's having fun playing, but you can tell that things are getting a little wild. That's when I pack everyone up to go on a walk, we'll leave Howie in one room with the toys he was playing with while the kids and I start another activity somewhere else, or I'll send Howie outside while Bensen and I clean up what they were playing with. We work really hard to teach our kids how to interact nicely with the dog, but they are young and sometimes don't recognize his limits.

Let the Kids Help

We started having Bensen help us feed Howie a while back and now it is his favorite thing to do. He loves to get in the pantry, scoop up the dog food and carry it carefully over to dump it in Howie's dish. He likes to give Howie his treats and help hold his leash on our walks as well. We love to include the kids in taking care of the dog for multiple reasons. 1 - they learn responsibility and how to take care of someone other than themselves. We make sure that Howie has food before we sit down at the table for our meals and find a way to include him in our activities throughout the day. Howie recognizes the kids as people who care for him and help to provide his basic needs and the kids learn to love the dog more when they help with his daily routines.

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This year is the 8th annual Gerber® Baby Photo Search and it has a fun component that makes it more relevant to today's parents. The photo search begins 9/13/17 and ends on 10/27/17. People may enter by posting a photo of their child on Instagram (must be a public account). There are two different competitions you can enter!

Gerber's Photo Search

  • You may enter by posting a photo of your child on Instagram (must be a public account) using the hashtag #GerberPhotoSearch2017
  • Photo search begins 9/13/17 and ends 10/27/17
  • You can enter up to 10 times
  • Grand prize is $50,000 -- can be used toward child's education

Giggles and Wiggles Purina/Gerber Photo Search

  • Additionally there are (6) weekly winners of Giggles and Wiggles prize packs, one winner chosen by judges each week of the photo search.
  • A qualifying entry for the Giggles and Wiggles Photo Search would be a photo of both pet and baby.
  • These entries should use both #GerberPhotoSearch2017 and #GerberGigglesandWiggles
  • Each weekly winner will receive $500 cash prize pack, a one year supply of Gerber baby food (valued at $600) and a one year supply of Purina pet food (valued at $540).

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Legal residents of the 50 United States (D.C.) and Puerto Rico, who are 18 years of age or older, have a valid Instagram account and/or email address, and are parents of a child 48 months of age or younger and meet certain background check requirements. Enter search by: 11:59:59pm ET on 10/27/17. For Official Rules, including eligibility and entry requirements, judging criteria and prize descriptions, visit www.Gerber.com/photosearch2017/rules. Void where prohibited.

We purchase our Gerber® and Purina® ONE® products at Target, taking care of all of our pet and baby needs in one trip!

Gerber® snacks are a go to at our house and can be found often in our pantry and diaper bag. Both Bensen and Emmy enjoy them and we have yet to find a Gerber® snack that they don't like. Gerber® snacks contain real ingredients and no preservatives. Have questions? Head to MyGerber.com to meet Dorothy, your on-call personal baby expert, or call naytime 24/7 at 1-800-284-9488.

Purina® ONE® has been a staple in our home as well, from the time Howie joined us. Purina ONES's Smartblend of ingredients means complete and balanced nutrition that can support your dog's well being at every life stage -- and real meat is always #1. There are no added artificial flavors or preservatives.

I love hearing Bensen ask Howie if he wants to come outside and play with him. It makes me smile when Emmy squeals because she notices Howie sitting on the couch next to where she's playing. Our kids have a pet they can love, take care of and play with. They've learned to share their toys, be gentle when playing, and care for another living creature. I'm grateful that we made a decision from the beginning to do our part to help build that health relationship between our kids and our dog rather than keeping them separated or letting the kids force us to get rid of our pet who we care for a lot.

Your pets and your children can be the best of friends for life, if you make an effort to help them build a good relationship from the beginning.