Wives to Watch in Every Stage of Life - Brooklyn of A Little Too Jolley

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.

I'm so excited to feature Brooklyn as part of this series today! She was one of my first blogging friends and one of the first blogs that I read from beginning to current. I think I can honestly say that I've read every post that she's ever written. I've enjoyed watching her and Colten's journey, especially as they've added fostering to their list of things that they are doing together as a couple!

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What does it mean to you to prioritize your marriage?

It's recognizing that when you put time and effort into your marriage, it becomes wonderful! It's understanding that the world is better when you care for your marriage and making decisions that put that relationship first.

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

When we were first married, we were both in school full-time and my husband was also full-time work. Evenings became our sanctuary and we always enjoyed relaxing after homework was done. As time progressed we both worked full time and used the extra finances to take fun vacations, make memories and buy our first home.

 This year we became insta-parents to 3 kids in foster care which has added a whole new dimension to our lives. It takes a lot more planning and focus to get alone time and to plan date nights but it has also brought an amazing depth to our love. 

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What are some rituals/traditions (big or small) that you have with your spouse?

When we were first married, Thursday was ALWAYS date night. We knew that if someone asked if we could do something Thursday (church meetings, hanging with friends, family events, etc.) Recently we've switched that night to Wednesday. Protecting that night and treating it as sacred time has been the best thing we've done to strengthen our marriage. 

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

We have struggled with divisions of family time since we got married. This challenge has helped us to recognize that WE are a family and has allowed us to recognize the best ways to strengthen our relationships with extended family as well. 

We went through a period of rough finances, where we had to survive off of our savings and down-size our life in many ways. Although that time was so hard on us and I cried almost every night, I look back with fondness on the lessons learned. We came to trust each other and be there for each other in ways we hadn't done before. Our love became the anchor that we relied on. 

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

We really hope to continue fostering children and eventually adopting and/or having our own biological children. The challenges of parenting are hard, but the rewards make it so worth it.

My husband wants to travel the country together on a fancy motorcycle or in an RV. He thinks that would be pretty romantic I guess! I would love to do that with him as well, because having new experiences with him is one of my absolute favorite things. 

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

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9 Ways to Prepare Your Marriage and Family for an Emergency

With the events going on around our country over the past month, I've been thinking a lot about preparedness and what we need to do to make sure that our family is ready for any situation we might find ourselves in in the future. There are so many things that we need to do to be better prepared. We've been working our way through this list slowly over the last couple of years, but I've felt an urgency to finish up preparing our family for any sort of disaster that we may encounter in the future, whether it's a natural disaster or a financial hardship.

P.S. Did you know that it's Emergency Preparedness Month?? Check out this post on My Mommy Style for a free emergency preparedness bundle.

I was listening to Jordan and Bubba from Fun Cheap or Free discuss emergency preparedness and food storage in their Q&A Tuesday video from last week and was really inspired. They shared a few tips that made the daunting task of finishing up the things that we have left a lot easier. Example: Rather than trying to put together 72-hour kits (which I've been working on for over a year now), I'm going to purchase a couple of kits that I found for a decent price. Then I will add a few unique-to-our-family items to a separate backpack and store everything in an easy to access location in case we need to grab things quickly and leave our home. Next I plan to work on one of these list items at a time, until we're as prepared as we can be for whatever life throws our way.

Life Insurance

This was a big one for us and something that we took care of for peace of mind. Nobody likes to think about their spouse dying, but having financial support in the event that they do, could hopefully make the situation a little less stressful and tragic. Joe and I both have term life insurance, and I feel better knowing that if something were to happen to either or both of us, our little family would be prepared to continue without financial hardship in addition to our heartache.

I love everything that Dave Ramsey has to say about life insurance (search his website for more information) and honestly never would have thought about getting life insurance, outside of what our employers provide, if it weren't for him. I've heard so many stories of young families losing a loved one lately, and see so many accounts set up to raise money for those left behind. It's such a sad thing to think about, but one of the biggest things that I think couples can do to prepare their family for an emergency is to have life insurance in place. We made sure to apply for life insurance as soon as we purchased a home and had children, but life insurance is something that I'd suggest even newlyweds pick up.

Tip: Even if you are a stay at home parent, you should have insurance in place. If your family were to lose you, they would need to hire someone or multiple people to do a few of the things that you do. Taking care of the children for one, is something that your spouse would not be able to do on a daily basis while continuing to work a full time job. I love this answer that Dave Ramsey gave one of his listeners when asked about this topic.

Related: Preparing for Your Family's Financial Future

Will/Trust

This is one of the things that is next on mine and Joe's to do list. Like life insurance, it isn't a happy thing to think about, but having it in place gives peace of mind. It will also ensure that the things that you wish for your family in the future are carried out in the event that you aren't there to make sure it's done yourself. Putting together a will or a trust has always seemed daunting to me, but my friend Amy from Freshly Married made it seem so simple in her post on the topic. Now I know it's something that we can tackle as a couple before the year is over. 

Related: 4 Reasons You Should Write a Will and How to Do It

Emergency Plan

Another thing on my to do list right now is to create an emergency plan for our family. Having a plan in place for different scenarios (fire, flood, earthquake, etc.) as well as being prepared for times when our children may get lost, etc. is important to me. There are so many situations that I want my little family to be prepared for, especially with all of the natural disasters we've seen hitting different parts of the country right now. I've also thought a lot about teaching our toddler what to do in the event that he gets lost; having him memorize our address and phone numbers. If I can put them to song, he'll remember them no matter what!

Tip: Check out this post for information on creating your own family emergency plan. 

Emergency Contacts

Now that we have children who we are leaving with babysitters and family more often, I've been thinking a lot more about our emergency contacts. We have an "in case of emergency" card on the side of each child's car seat and depending on whose car they are in, the card says to "please call my mom/dad/grandma" along with listing their doctor's information, birth date and any known allergies. This month's goal is to update those cards and also to create a laminated emergency info sheet for our fridge for quick access in case it is needed. Things that I plan to list on our fridge card are our address, mine and Joe's phone numbers, grandma's phone numbers, doctor information, our kids' birth dates and allergy information, mine and Joe's information and all of those emergency phone numbers you may need (ie poison control) at some point in your child's life. 

Not only does having all of your emergency information in a prominent location help babysitters and family members out when they have your kids, it can help you out as well. I haven't experienced a true emergency with one of my children yet, but I can imagine that if/when I do, I may not be able to think straight. Knowing that my own contact information as well as my children's names and information is listed on the fridge will help me relay the correct information to emergency personnel quickly. And if I am the one needing emergency assistance, I can have that information handy as well because my kids are too little to know my birth date or allergies or anything like that.

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Savings

The baby step that we are currently working on is Baby Step 3 (this is from Dave Ramsey's baby steps in case you were confused), build up a savings account with three to six months of living expenses. After we had Emmy, we had to rely on our emergency fund a lot because the bills associated with her birth and hospital stay afterward were more than double what we'd been planning on based on the medical bills associated with Bensen's birth and she arrived earlier than planned so we weren't fully prepared. Having a decent amount of savings in the bank, that we don't touch unless we absolutely need it, is comforting. If a financial disaster hits our family, we will know that we can survive and provide our family with the necessities until we can find a solution to whatever we are facing.

We technically have three "emergency savings" accounts. We have our account with $1000 for those emergencies that we aren't planning for and don't have money for (see Baby Step 1), a Health Savings Account that we contribute to so we can pay for the unexpected medical bills that are inevitable with a young family, and we have our big savings account, the one with the largest interest rate and the limited amount of withdrawals, that we are building for financial security.

Tip: We are using Every Dollar to track our budget right now. They have a feature that I just discovered this month that I really love! As we work toward different savings goals, particularly our 3 to 6 months of expenses, we can use a fund to track our progress. After we've been using Every Dollar for a while, I'll share more about it in a separate post.

Related: How We Paid For School Without Going Into Debt

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Food Storage

Having a rotating supply of food in your home can benefit your family in many situations including loss of income, or an event which leaves you stranded at home for long periods of time. We have stocked our freezers and our pantry with food that we use and rotate through our meal plan each month. If we were unable to get out to the store for any reason or if our budget was drastically cut, we could use our stockpile to feed our family.

When we were finishing our basement, we set aside a room that we plan to dedicate to food storage in addition to our large pantry and extra freezer. Our goal over the next couple of months is to get the shelving installed in that room so that I can start grabbing a few extra things every time I'm out grocery shopping and stock those shelves as well. We've all seen how quickly the grocery store shelves empty in the face of a disaster; having a food supply of your own means that you could bake bread (make sure you have a good recipe written down) and feed your family without having to make a last minute run to the store to get whatever is left.

Tip: If you want to put together your food storage but aren't quite sure where to start, search Pinterest for "food storage". You'll come up with LOADS of ideas for things that you can stock your freezer with, how to store and rotate through your canned goods and how to build your food storage without spending hundreds of dollars up front. Also follow Fun Cheap or Free where they will be giving lots of tips and information on creating your food storage as part of "Stocktober" this coming month.

File Backups

This is the one thing that I've been thinking about the most recently. First, my husband's uncle's basement was hit by a flash flood of muddy, ashy water due to a forest fire from earlier in the summer. Like most people's basements, his was the location of a lot of irreplaceable artifacts and memories. Then we saw everyone in Houston lose their homes, their possessions and all of those things that can't be replaced. Becky Higgins wrote a post earlier this month titled Memories + Natural Disasters, that I think everyone needs to read. Even before I read that post, I knew what I needed to do to save my precious pictures and documents from a flood, fire, or even just a computer crash.

In past years, I've scanned in those things that are most important to me, mostly pictures, and saved them all to a large hard drive. I keep telling myself that I need to organize that hard drive, duplicate it and get a safety deposit box at the bank for it. I'd keep a flash drive with the documents and media that hadn't been updated on the main hard drive yet saved in our fire safe as well. If we had to leave our home quickly, that hard drive of mine is the first thing that I'd want to grab because it has all of my journals, pictures and videos on it. If I lose it, I lose all of my documented memories. In the event of a disaster, I would have the comfort of knowing that all of my memories are backed up and safe somewhere else.

Tip: This is the hard drive that I own, but I'm considering upgrading to this one (affiliate links). The 1 TB hard drive holds my entire music library, all of my pictures, every video clip or video I've taken, all of my backup blog files, etc. It's been good to me, but with the number of pictures and videos that I currently take of my growing family, I feel like I may need more space soon.

Fire/Water Safe

I mentioned that I really want to get a safety deposit box at the bank to store an extra hard drive with all of our pictures, videos and important documents on. We also have a safe and secure place in our house to keep all of our really important documents as well as my first backup of all of those files that I don't want to lose. Boxes like this are a great place to store your social security cards, birth certificates, passports, marriage license, car titles, etc. 

Tip: This is similar to the fire safe that we own currently, but we'd really like to get one like this (affiliate links), maybe bigger.

Home Inventory

I took a Family Resource Management course as one of the prerequisites for my degree. One of the things that has stuck with me after all of these years is the home inventory that we started for an extra credit assignment. Having a home inventory helps process insurance claims faster and more accurately. This is helpful in the event of a break-in, flood or a fire. I've been meaning to update our inventory every since and haven't, so I'm adding it to our list of things to do. If we focus on one room at a time, it should only take us a little while to document the electronics and expensive pieces of furniture that we own, leaving us to update the list as we purchase new or get rid of old.

Tips: I downloaded the app linked to in this post so that we can quickly and easily inventory everything that we own. You might also want to create a "home video" that shows all of the details of your home for insurance purposes later on down the road.

Emergencies and disasters can hit your family in a variety of ways. Use these tips to make sure that you are prepared to face whatever life and nature bring your way.

When I think of everything that we have left to accomplish, I'm a little overwhelmed, but breaking it all down in this way makes it seem more doable. One task at a time, right? And there's no better time to start than now!! I want to challenge you to sit down together this week and make a list of all of the things that your family needs to do to be prepared then start getting things accomplished. You won't be able to do it all at once, but every task that you complete means that your family is that much more prepared than they were when you started. Don't let disaster of any kind get the best of you; be as prepared as possible so that hard times are less stressful and you can focus on what really matters, keeping your family safe and happy.

Pictures by Kayla Brooke Photography

Advice for Families in the NICU - from People Who Have Been There

A year ago, we were a week into our three week NICU stay and I felt like we finally had things figured out and had settled into a decent routine. I remember every day in the hospital thinking about the things I wish I'd known going into our stay that would have made that first week just a little bit easier. In the year since we left the hospital with our little one, I've had multiple opportunities to share our story with other families facing a NICU stay of their own. I can honestly say that those few weeks of our lives were some of the hardest, sweetest, most emotional and most cherished that we've ever been through. I miss our time in the NICU every day and wanted to find a way to share little bits of advice to help other families feel the same way about their experience as well.

September is NICU Awareness Month, a month designed to inspire hope and to honor families who are currently in this situation as well as the health care professionals caring for their little ones. I wanted to do something to give back this year, because our time in the NICU was trial but it was such a huge blessing at the same time. The idea for this post came because I wanted to offer hope, advice and encouragement to couples going through that trying time. I wanted a way to provide them with support and hopefully make that time just a little bit easier. I asked other parents who have experienced a NICU stay, as well as nurses who work there, to share their story and offer a few pieces of advice.

I hope that other families facing a NICU stay can find hope, peace, and joy in the midst of the trial!

Advice for parents with babies in the NICU. Great tips from parents, families and nurses who have been there.

Parents of NICU Miracles

Jacque - Mom of twin boys born at 30 weeks and 4 days gestation. 34 day NICU stay.

On my birthday this past June, I woke up to find my water had broken at 30 weeks and 4 days gestation. In a panic, my husband and I rushed to the hospital and were told I wouldn’t be leaving the hospital. The hope was to stop my labor from progressing and to keep me pregnant for as long as possible, but my baby boys were ready to enter this world on their own terms. They were born two days later and spent 34 days in the NICU. I can’t tell you how grateful we are for the medical technology and personnel that saved our boys’ lives. Though the NICU experience was difficult, it’s one I’m proud to have lived through.

For those of you currently living the life of a NICU parent, I would like to offer three pieces of advice:

Visit your children every day and hold them if you can, but make sure you go home and sleep. A LOT. Your children are being well taken care of and you need to make sure you’re doing everything you can to take care of yourself. I know that’s easier said than done, but it’s a must.

Make sure to have professional pictures taken. Though this is a difficult experience, I promise you’ll want to look back and remember the time you spent there, as well as the tiny miracles that happened every day.

Try not to be too hard on yourself. Live in the moment and be grateful for each day. Your little ones are strong and have so much fight in them. Have faith in the process and know that it does get better. I promise you’ll survive and come out the other side stronger than you’ve ever been before."

Amberly - Mom of baby girl Emmy born at 32 weeks gestation. 21 day NICU stay.

You can read our baby girl's birth story here. When my water broke, I was in a panic. We weren't ready for our baby to come yet, we were supposed to have eight more weeks! The three weeks that we spent in the Special Care Nursery (NICU equivalent at our hospital), were full of challenges and tender mercies. The months that followed, keeping our baby home from social events and public places was difficult, but we knew that it was important for keeping her healthy. This past week our baby girl celebrated her first birthday. As those NICU posts from last year have been popping up in my Facebook memories feed. I have been looking back on those moments fondly, remembering all of the things that time taught us.

Focus on what's most important. In those three weeks that we were in the NICU, there were three things that mattered most, my husband, my toddler and my baby girl. It's ok to say no to everything else! Nobody will question how you spend your time, so make room for the people that really matter. My husband and I were constantly working to balance our time in the way that our little family needed.

Take time for yourself. This one was the most important thing, but it was so hard to do! I felt guilty that I wasn't able to give my all to each member of our family all at the same time. I was being pulled in three directions, but I knew that I needed to take some time for myself as well because if I didn't, I wouldn't be able to be the wife and mom that I wanted to be. The nurses were great to encourage me and let me know that it was ok and important to take time for myself. Every afternoon, after I sat with Emmy for a bit, I would go back to my room and take a little nap. After cares every night, I went home and got a full night's sleep in my own bed. After Joe spent time with Emmy every afternoon, I spent time eating dinner and talking with him. And every weekend, we made time for a date

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Take advantage of hospital resources. The hospital where we delivered had a lot of amazing resources for families of NICU babies. There was a room across the hall from the nursery where we could gather with our families, hang out with our toddler when he came to visit, eat dinner and take advantage of snacks and drinks. We also had a room of our own, one with a regular bed and a bathroom; It was a great space to escape and rest without having to be too far from our baby girl. The hospital had a parent support group once a week that was really nice. They fed us dinner and gave us the opportunity to talk with other parents in our same situation, who could relate to what we were going through. And one of my favorite things was the little goodie bag with a coloring book that they had for Bensen. It gave him something to do every time he came to visit and had a few resources to help us better explain to him what was going on. Ask the nurses who are caring for your child, what is available for your family to help make your situation a little bit easier.

Don't be afraid to ask for and accept for help. One of the biggest things that our time in the NICU taught me was how to accept help from others. It took a few days, but I finally realized that when people offered to help, they genuinely wanted to help. And I also realized that there were a lot of things people didn't know that we needed and couldn't help with unless we told them that we needed it. Not only did our family take care of our toddler when we couldn't be with him, they brought homemade meals to the hospital, cleaned our house, did the laundry, and even made sure that a few car repairs got done while I was focusing on my little ones. I'm still fairly independent, but I am better able to ask for help when I need it.

Trust the nurses but don't be afraid to ask questions. We had some of the most amazing women taking care of our little Emmy and we are forever in debt to them for the care that they provided. From the minute we checked into the hospital, they were there letting us know what to expect and doing everything that they could to help lighten our burden. Those nurses cried with us, laughed with us and celebrated with us. One nurse spent half an hour reading through the thick packet of information they gave us and explaining each thing to me so that I could focus on snuggling my baby. All of the nurses were willing to take my calls when I wasn't at the hospital, no matter the hour, to give me an update on our baby girl's status. Whenever Joe and I had questions or concerns, they were addressed, even if other nurses had to be brought into the situation to consult. They were all there to make sure that our baby was given the best care and that we were able to go home as soon as our little girl was healthy enough.

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Alisa Devins Young - Mom of triplet girls born at 32 weeks gestation.

I was pregnant with triplets due to conceiving via IVF after struggling with infertility for 10 years. At 30 weeks along, I began having contractions and was flown to the nearest NICU (2.5 hours away), where I was given medicines to help stop labor as well as speed along my babies' development. At 32 weeks, I gave birth via C-section to 3 beautiful baby girls named Bailey, Brittany, and Brandi.

If possible, prepare yourself for the NICU stay in advance. I knew throughout my pregnancy that my babies would be born early, so I had the opportunity to visit the NICU before the girls were born. It helped mentally prepare me to see my own babies in the incubators and to see how tiny they would be. I recommend every family facing a potential NICU stay tour the NICU in advance as well as mentally prepare for the emotional journey ahead.

The nurses will be like family. At the time my girls were born, the nearest NICU was 2.5 hours away from where I lived. I couldn't afford to stay in the big city with my babies, and after I was dismissed from the hospital, my babies had to stay an additional 6 weeks. I could only afford to drive up to see them once a week, so the nurses were instrumental in helping to care for my babies. They loved them as if they were their own. 25 years later, I can still remember many of the NICU nurses names.

It's okay to be scared. I clung to my family and my faith throughout my girls' stay in the NICU. I could not have gotten through it otherwise.

25 years later, all of my girls are doing wonderfully! None of them face any health issues related to their early delivery. Below is a photo of my daughters then and now (with their husbands.) I don't have public social media, but my daughter Bailey frequently shares about her life as a triplet (or, as they say, with "built-in best friends") at BecomingBailey.com

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NICU Nurses aka Angels

Hillary - NICU Nurse

Make sure you take time for yourselves.  We, as nurses, are here not only here to help take care of your baby, but to make sure you can get the support, rest, and care you need.   Being a NICU parent is tough, don't be afraid to let us help and take over care for the night, day or whatever if you need a break.

Don't forget to be patient with your nurses, doctors and other medical staff.  Sometimes things move slowly in the hospital or plans change.  I know it can be so frustrating to have hopes and expectations altered, but trust me, we want you and your baby to progress!

I feel with you!  I can't speak for every NICU nurse, but I am nervous, scared, excited, tearful, and joyful about the progress and care of your baby.  For my personal experience, I will refer to the babies I care for as "my babies".  I know that they aren't really mine, but caring for your baby leads to a special bond and love.  Thanks for letting the nurses love your baby :)

Karlie - NICU Nurse

Plan on your baby being here tell their due date. Really just plan on it! There's no point in you having extra anxiety wanting your munchkin to learn to eat faster. Then if you kiddo proves us all wrong and goes home sooner we'll all celebrate. 

I genuinely care about your kiddo. Don't stress about not being here every minute, cause I got this! On the other hand I'm not you, and your baby knows the difference. So don't undervalue your presence and how much you help your little one get better.

And parents should know. These little tikes of their's have more strength and fight in one pinky than you can possibly imagine. (Even when they don't look like it)

Any Excuse to Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast

When we first got married, I thought that in order to be the perfect wife, I needed to have an elaborate homemade meal on the table every night when my husband got home from work. I'm still not sure how I got anything else done at night with the amount of time that I spent planning and preparing our meals that first year. Over the years I've come to realize that the meal itself isn't as important as the quality time that we have to sit down and connect during dinner. When I started this series, Around the Kitchen Table, I had a goal to make meal time a habit in our marriage and for our future family.

I still try to have dinner prepared each night so that we can sit down as a family and enjoy the chaos that comes when you share a meal with two children under the age of two. My meals are more simple now than they were when we were first married, but Joe doesn't mind, he actually prefers it that way because he is a simple man. Simple meals make it easier for our kids to enjoy the same thing that we are having as well. One of my favorite things to make for dinner is breakfast. Some of my favorite foods are breakfast foods but our schedule doesn't allow us to sit down as a family every morning, so I improvise and make breakfast for dinner instead.

Read: You'll Never Be Able to Find Time for Your Marriage, You'll Have to Make Time Instead

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Belgian Waffles with fruit, ice cream and Homemade Hot Fudge Sauce are more of a dessert, but because they're waffles, I justify eating them for dinner and even breakfast. This is one of my favorite foods from childhood and one that I've always looked forward to introducing our kids to. I want them to be a treat that our kids look forward to and will turn an ordinary day into a special occasion! I still haven't decided what criteria I will have for when to put these on the menu, but I would like to associate it with an occasion or celebration. Until I figure that out, I'll make them any time I feel like having ice cream for breakfast or dinner because I'm an adult and I get to make that choice for my family!

Belgian Waffle Recipe

Click here to download a printable version of this recipe card

These waffles are best cooked in a Belgian Waffle Maker, but if you don't have one, they'll still taste just as good cooked in a regular waffle maker. Because they don't have sugar in them, these would also be yummy with savory toppings. I'd love to hear any ideas that you have for those in the comments below because I'm stuck in this "ice cream for breakfast" mindset and don't really want to consider anything else at the moment.

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This Homemade Hot Fudge Sauce is the icing on the cake, or the waffle in this case. I may or may not be known to eat this by the spoonful sometimes. What can I say, I'm a sucker for a good hot fudge sauce. This one is really simple to put together and tastes so delicious! It was a must have on Belgian Waffles when we were younger and is perfect for family ice cream parties too.

Hot Fudge Sauce recipe

Click here to download a printable version of this recipe card

I'm looking forward to putting more of my childhood favorites on the menu and making them a tradition in our home. Research has shown that "more frequent family dinners are related to fewer emotional and behavioral problems, greater emotional well-being, more trusting and helpful behaviors towards others and higher life satisfaction" (Journal of Adolescent Health April 2012). I know that our lives seem hectic and busy now, but they will only continue to get more busy as our children get older and our family as a whole are involved in more activities. I want to start habits now that will make it second nature to sit down and eat together at least three times a week, whether it's for a big meal, a snack or dessert. 

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Family meal time is important, no matter what you're eating. As soon as Joe and I got married, we received a standing invitation to join my family for dinner every Sunday night. My siblings all live relatively far away, so it's often just our little family and my parents, but we still look forward to those Sunday dinners. The times that we have all of my siblings home to join us is the cherry on top! And although we spend time with Joe's family every week, we look forward to those special occasions when we all gather around his parent's kitchen table and enjoy a big meal together.

Food has a way of creating family bonds and long lasting memories. My children are impressionable and now is the time to start traditions that they'll remember long after they've left home and started families of their own.

What fun family food traditions does your family have?

Homemade Belgian Waffles with Strawberries and Hot Fudge Sauce. The perfect excuse to enjoy dessert for breakfast.

3 Tips to Help You Date Your Spouse Daily

Last weekend at The Wives Workshop, I presented on the topic of continuing to date each other after you get married. It's been on my mind ever since, so I thought I'd carry that over into a post today. I've picked my three favorite tips from the night and adjusted them a bit based on a couple of things that I learned from the other presenters and thoughts that I've had since.

It's no secret that I'm passionate about date night in marriage; I even wrote an e-book full of tips and ideas for your date night activities about it. But dating your spouse involves so much more than regular date nights. When you were "courting" each other (I can't help but think of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers every time I talk about this subject), you were in constant pursuit. Every single day you were eager to find ways to connect, whether that was in person, through text/email or over the phone, depending on your relationship situation.

If you don't continue your pursuit after marriage, you'll wake up one day and find that you've become roommates, business partners or just a really good parenting team. Your "partnership" and your family was built on that friendship and romance, and you must continue to build that relationship throughout the rest of your lives if you want it to last. There are simple things that you can do every single day to make your marriage a priority and continue to date your spouse.

Read: Why You NEED to Make Your Spouse a Priority Every Day

Three things you can do now to continue dating each other after you get married.

Make Time to Connect

At the workshop, I talked about connecting conversation. So often in marriage, we find ourselves communicating about our adult responsibilities or the "business" side of life. The fun, relationship building chats don't happen as often. Look for opportunities in your daily routine to connect and have the more fun discussions, dreaming about the future or getting to know each other better. Take a walk together, meet for lunch, enjoy time outside after the kids are in bed, send a few texts back and forth or chat over the phone during your commute.

While we were in the NICU last year, it would have been all too easy to focus on the trials that our family was going through and set our marriage aside. We needed to be a solid team then more than ever, so we knew that we needed to make time with each other a priority every single day. We found a way to make date night happen on a regular basis, and spend some time, just the two of us, on a daily basis. Dinner was spent chatting about the fun things we wanted to do as a family after Emmy came home, memories from our relationship or funny things that we'd experienced that day. It was a great opportunity to forget about the stress we were experiencing and get back to the roots of our relationship. Some days it was only 15 minutes and others we had an entire hour. It didn't matter how much time we had, it mattered what we did with that time.

Read: Connecting Like We Did When We First Met

Think About Each Other

When life gets busy, you could go an entire day without crossing paths, but still find a way to let your spouse know you care. If you make a point to connect through conversation each day, you'll know what your spouse has going on in their life and then you can use that to your advantage. Maybe they have a big deadline to meet at work, a test to take, or a presentation that they are nervous about. Wishing them luck before they walk out the door in the morning, sending a quick text a few minutes before the event, and/or following up at the end of the day when you're back together are all great ways to let your love know that you are thinking about them.

If you both have busy schedules but want to make a point to let the other know they're on your mind throughout the day, there are a few different things that you can do. I like to set reminders and alarms on my phone to pop up and alert me when it's my husband's lunch break and he can take calls or before I know he'll be doing something that I want to encourage him on. I'm also a fan of scheduling text messages, and I don't think that having a text scheduled to send out at a specific time is any less sincere. Setting reminders or having messages scheduled out in advance is great, because chances are your spouse is on your mind, you just may not be able to watch the clock every minute of the day so as not to miss out on your opportunity to say, "hey, you're important to me!"

Read: Why You Might Want to Text Your Spouse More Often

Meaningful Physical Touch

Thinking back on the days when we were dating, I remember how inseparable we were. We were always hugging, holding hands or cuddling. While I was doing my homework, Joe would sit next to me on the couch, as close together as we could get, so that we could feel connected while we did our separate activities. When we were out to eat, we would hold hands, touch knees or play footsie under the table while we ate. It all sounds a little nauseating now, but the truth is, I like to strive to be as mushy and in love as we were in the early stages of our relationship.

I love to look for little ways each day to connect through touch. Whether it's stealing a kiss while I get dinner ready, sitting close together on the couch while we read stories to our kids or holding hands while we go on a walk. You may not be as "all over each other" as you were when you were dating, but you can get pretty darn close.

Read: Why Your Spouse Needs at Least 8 Touches a Day

Those mushy feelings of love and the butterflies in the stomach that you felt while you were dating can continue throughout the rest of your lives. With a little effort and a lot of intentionality, you will find that it becomes easier and easier to date each other daily, even with all of the grown up responsibilities and boring activities that you have to take part in on a regular basis.

What do you do to pursue your spouse daily?