Date night, Mills-style

When you get married, people tell you that you should never stop dating each other – make plans, go out, talk, ensure you never lose that connection.

When you add kids to the mix, the advice gets louder – don’t just focus on babies all the time, make sure you take time for yourselves, remember to nurture the couple relationship you had before you became parents.

Of course, this is easier said than done. Now, you have to organize child care, steal time where there are no appointments or responsibilities, ensure no one is sick, and, the big one, rally the energy so you are able to not only stay up past 8 p.m., but be interesting past 8 p.m.

It’s a tall order for any parent.

Ben and I have been all right at keeping the romance alive while we are elbow deep in poop and potty training and tantrum taming and crazy wrangling. Not perfect (most months go without any date at all), but we’re doing okay. We make sure to go out on our dating and wedding anniversaries, spend time together on the 21st of each month (both of our anniversaries are a 21), and remember to look up every once in a while and say, “Hi! I know you!”

For Father’s Day, I thought that maybe I’d give both of us a present – a night out! I purchased tickets for us to go see Les Misérables at our local theatre, The Dunfield Theatre. I had seen the movie in theatre with Kim, sister-in-law extraordinaire, and Andrea, cousin-in-law extraordinaire, and LOVED it. I knew Ben would love it too, because he’s a band guy, so he’d appreciate the music, and the French revolution backdrop was action-packed enough to override the fact that the actors sing. The. Whole. Time. After buying the movie and having our own private viewing of it, Ben did indeed love it. So much so that he downloaded the soundtrack to listen to at work. The tickets to the local production were a slam-dunk gift – a night out AND a fun activity. Woohoo!

Two tickets to childless freedom!

Two tickets to childless freedom!

Date night, of course, means the usual getting rid of children. Now that there are three, the number of people willing to sit on all of them at once has gone down…considerably. Note to child-wanting couples everywhere: this is something to consider when figuring out how many kids you want. Thankfully, the grandmas are still both game, so the babies had a sleepover at Nana’s house with Grammie and Grandpa Mike pitching in. It was the first night that we had no children since Isaac had been born…11 months…normally we wouldn’t wait so long, but the three kid thing made it tricky. And at that point, only having Isaac at home and getting rid of the older two IS a vacation, so we had done that lots of times already.

Next on the agenda is the prettification of the parents. Also known as having uninterrupted showers. Or putting on clean clothes that have a good shot at still being clean after a few hours. I think we did an okay job.

We're so pretty! And clean!

We’re so pretty! And clean!

Next is the decision – have a rushed dinner first, then the play OR go to the play hungry and come home to a late, yet leisurely dinner. We ultimately decided on late dinner, easygoing to the theatre.

Touristy picture in our hometown.

Touristy picture in our hometown.

We literally drove for two minutes and were at the theatre. If it hadn’t taken us so long to ditch the kids and get gorgeous (taking layers of stickiness off of one’s person takes time!), we would have walked. Next time! We parked and found the Les Misérables van! Totally had to take a picture. And totally got dirty, incredulous looks from the couple that was waiting to park in the spot beside it. Whatever. We took the picture. They waited. The end.

Our seats were AWESOME. We were in the middle of the row, third row from the stage. We could see everything, even the spit from the mouths of the actors. (No, seriously.)

Reading over the program...no kids touching us...noting the "No Babes In Arms" rule...loving the grown-up time.

Reading over the program…no kids touching us…noting the “No Babes In Arms” rule…loving the grown-up time.

The production was INCREDIBLE. The music was amazing, the singing was perfect, and the story was well-told. It was beyond cool to see something so polished and familiar in our little local theatre.

For me, the stand-out player was Thom Allison who played Javert. He was awesome. I loved his voice and presence. He was far and away my favourite.

Thom Allison as Javert - my absolute favourite player

Thom Allison as Javert was excellent.

Runners up were the kids – I don’t know how they performed in front of such a big crowd…and the parent in me couldn’t believe how awake and alert they were since the show began at 8 p.m. and didn’t end until 11! Wonder children.

Brooke Bauer, the young Cosette

Brooke Bauer, the young Cosette

Drew Davis, spunky revolutionist Gavroche

Drew Davis, spunky revolutionist Gavroche

After we gave our standing ovation, it was time to go home. It was after 11, so we were considering not eating the meal that I had prepared and picking something up…but we chose wisely. We went home, Ben barbecued, and we ate a little-people-free dinner together. It was divine. And probably tasted even more incredible because of how hungry we were.

Steak and shish kabobs - YUM

Steak and shish kabobs – YUM

We went to bed late, woke up late, and had a decadent breakfast of banana bread toasted with butter and coffee, while watching some House (Yay for Netflix!). It’s the little things.

Holy yum.

Holy yum.

We had a super fun, adult night. It was exactly what we needed and the entertainment, food and company didn’t disappoint (Hello?! See how handsome my date was???). It was perfect.

And when we picked up the babies they were happy to see us and had suitably tuckered out both grandmas and a grandpa.

All in all, a date night success! Seriously can’t wait for the next one.

Seriously.

~ Julia

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Countdown is ON!

This coming Friday is June 6th. Why am I telling you this? Well, other than it being a Friday of the summer months (think of the activities you can do – unless you are like me and work), it will mark the one year countdown to I DO!

When Cody proposed, the most asked question would be, “When is the big day?” At the time it hit me in the stomach as we hadn’t talked about it, we had just gotten engaged! Were we doing it wrong? Am I a horrible bride already? Should I have a date? Do they think that because I don’t have a date I am not excited to get married? Because I am! Would it be a year? Two years? Three years? What would the wedding look like? Can we save enough money? Can we afford to get married? Will our family be able to attend? What food will we serve? What if we can’t find a venue? What about our wedding party and their budgets, as I have three bridesmaids who are also getting married, one with a baby on the way and one who is a single-income family. How will I make this event fun for everyone? So. Many. Questions. With no answers… I had no answers. I didn’t know. I hate not knowing.

Then there came the warnings and disclaimers from those seasoned vets – Do it for you! Don’t make cuts for any one! It’s your day – they would say. The day will be a blur. It doesn’t matter what other people want! Was this supposed to make me feel better? Yes, it is our day, Cody’s and mine, but whatever we plan will be what we want – and we want our family and friends to look back and remember that the day was filled with love… and that they had a really good time.

This past Saturday, my Saturday morning running group (which for this Saturday was myself, my two sisters (Toni and Julia) and our guest blogger Kim) and I climbed a local trail, Webster Falls. On our way back, we were all complaining of hunger, so we stopped by Starbucks. It was pretty early and other than the employees who seemed less than impressed that four women who were high on endorphins were giggling away in their lounge area, it was empty.

As we observed those coming and going, one group stood out among them – a group of young girls. As they ordered and dressed their lattes, they proceeded to line up their white cups with the adorning of green and took pictures, more than likely for Instagram, more memories of their day. Rather than the bistro writing their names they had requested their titles for the day: Bride, Maid Of Honor, Bridesmaid.

Bride, bridesmaids, matron of honor Starbucks style

It all became real, suddenly my mind raced to the date. Soon it would be June. Crunch time. I am so excited! This year is going to fly by, just like the last year did.

~ Jacqui

 

To us!

Eight years ago on this long weekend, something fairly magical happened.

Ben and I got married.

Just babies

Just babies

It was a wedding 30 months in the making.

It was a wedding that almost got cancelled because I was just graduating and Ben had lost his job, leaving us both unemployed and penniless. It didn’t get cancelled.

It was a wedding where we only met one couple that day – we knew everyone else we had invited. Both of us. All of them.

It was a day where we made official what we had already been practicing for our entire dating relationship – the delicate dance that is living each other’s lives with each other for each other.

It was cold and wet and rainy and there was some snow and very little sun.

It was perfect.

In the eight years since, we have held three of our children and said good bye to one.

We have survived our first apartment and bought our first house. We’re still in the first house, and we’re dreaming of the forever house.

We have watched friends get together, fall in love, get married, break up, get divorced, have babies, and go the distance.

We have worked a total of nine different jobs between the two of us. NINE. We have been unemployed a lot. We have worried about money a lot. We have never gone without what we’ve needed. NEVER.

We have worked hard in our church together. We have taken time away from our church apart. We have taken time away from our church together. We are working out what church means to our family right now. We never thought this would be a conversation or a question. Marriage has been surprising.

We have had really good times, where there was little to worry about and a lot to celebrate. We have had dark times, where the hole was deep and the pain was great and the light at the end of the tunnel was incredibly dim. In all the times we have stuck it out together.

We are a team. It’s what makes us strong and makes us work.

We are best friends. Seriously. I love talking to Ben. LOVE IT. It makes it tricky when I’m grumpy with him. That’s why God gave me so many sisters in family and in life. I’m sure of it.

We are in love. Not the shiny, new love of a dating couple, or a freshly engaged couple, or a couple just coming down the aisle, but the in-love of a couple who have endured more than few battles but are standing their ground in the war.

We take time to look up from the chaos around us, from the nuttiness that is having three kids under 6, and really seeing each other to make sure we’re both still okay.

We also forget to take time because of the nuttiness and we pay a price for that. And then we take the time.

We have a lot of stuff figured out. We have nothing figured out.

We are doing our very best with what we have. And it’s not going too horribly so far.

But we know it can all change in a second, an instant, a moment. It will not be the same tomorrow. It might be painfully the same tomorrow.

Eight years ago this weekend, friends and family came to our little town to help us celebrate us. And this weekend we went on a sad, old-married-couple date (dinner, shopping, hanging out with Dianne, Ben’s mom) to celebrate. But the date wasn’t sad. It was lovely. It was quiet, with conversation, hot food, and the best company.

Eight years ago I said yes to the boy beside me, having no idea what the heck I was agreeing to. Eight years later I’d say yes all over again. In a heartbeat. Because it was by far the smartest, best decision I’ve ever made and making it again over and over every day has proven to be the greatest blessing.

Funny faces

Ben – I love you. We’re 8! Here’s to the next 8 and beyond. I’m so glad it’s with you.

~ Julia

Adventures into a great perhaps

When I was young I thought I knew everything.

I thought I knew exactly what I wanted, and thought I knew what exactly my future would hold.

I was never going to have children.

That so changed when my nieces came into the world, ripping apart what I thought and making me feel completely different about kids.

I was never getting married.

Not only did I not think I would never find someone, and that I would be alone for most, to all, of my life, I thought I would just never feel like it was necessary.

“It’s just a piece of paper, it doesn’t have any true meaning to me!”

Well, when I met Joe, that all changed. I realized that I actually found someone who I wouldn’t mind having that piece of paper with, I actually want to be tied to this man for the rest of my life. When I came to the realization, I felt it was necessary to talk to Joe about it. We had both said when we started our relationship that we wouldn’t be getting married, but if we decided to spend the rest of our lives together, we could just do it with out all that.

“Joe, I have something to tell you.”

“What is it sweetie?”

“I think I one day I want to marry you.”

“That may not work, because I know one day I am going to marry you.”

“Oh, okay!”

Which then brings me to a new chapter of our story.

We went on a new adventure. We went to Nova Scotia! Joe, my best friend Elena, and Joe’s cousin Mike all piled into Elena’s car and drove (just for the weekend) all the way to Nova Scotia!

We arrived!!

We arrived!

It is an amazing and beautiful province. Seriously, if you can, please go visit.

We stopped at the information centre, and Elena talked to a lady about where we should go and show the boys the ocean, the most beautiful body of water (which I have a sort of love affair with). After a lot of debate, and figuring out where exactly we were going to stay for the one night, we had it all figured out – we were on our way to Peggy’s Cove.

Peggy's Cove is one of the most photographed landmarks in Canada!

Peggy’s Cove is one of the most photographed landmarks in Canada

After 1-2 more hours of driving, we finally arrived at our destination. We all got out of the car, done our journey for a little bit. Me and Elena then took off, quickly made our way up the rocks while the boys lagged behind. I wanted to see my ocean! I had missed it since we left P.E.I. last summer and I wanted to see it now!

I got to a beautiful spot and sat down waiting for Joe. Because I know how nervous he is around heights, I didn’t sit too close to the edge.

When he finally got to the top where I was sitting, we sat and cuddled for a little while enjoying the breathtaking view. But Joe was shaking like a leaf! I thought it was the height and the slight (15-20 ft) drop onto more rocks. Or the fact that the waves have been know to engulf the rocks we were currently sitting on, and we could then be dragged out into the ocean.

“You don’t have to be nervous Joe! You are up here with me!”

“I know,” he said, his voice shaking too. I just cuddled in closer, hoping that he would stop being so nervous. I mean, there was nothing to be afraid of! Nothing bad was going to happen! Then I decided to be a smart a**.

“You know, it is so beautiful up here, it would be an amazing place to propose!” I said, cheekily nudging him.

The View of my Ocean!

The view of my ocean

He turned his head, and gave me this smug smile, and started reaching into his pocket. I gave him a questioning look thinking There is no way…

As he pulled his hand out of his pocket, he opened it up and said;

“Andreah Lynn Laurentino, will you marry me?”

Sitting in his hand was the ring I had admired last year at an antique barn. I then burst into tears, “Yes! Yes, of course I’ll marry you!”

We both laughed and hugged and kissed. I just kept thinking that this can’t be true! I can’t be so lucky!

Meanwhile, Elena and Mike were in on it of course, so they grabbed the champagne Elena had brought and we toasted to our future, and to the amazing moment they all helped make possible.

I never thought it would happen to me.

I get to marry one of my best friends! And I couldn’t be happier or more overjoyed! I clearly know nothing about the future, and as long as I can face it with him, I don’t care.

Joe on the Ocean floor at the Bay of Fundy! My Fiance!

Joe on the ocean floor at the Bay of Fundy. My Fiance!

 

~ Andreah

Fairy-tale ending

Once upon a time, when I was a little girl, every story ended in a happily ever after. And the happily ever after was always very simple and straightforward – find the prince, get married, the end.

As a teenager, I genuinely thought that’s what was supposed to happen, but maybe with a bit more drama. Be alone, find the boy, find yourself, lose the boy, take a huge chance, win the boy, get married, the end.

During university, I had a hunch that the complication probably extended a bit further, but essentially the end was the same – get married, be happy, the end.

Unless your true love died.

During my second year of university, I met my prince, Ben, and fell in love. And in the summer before my last semesters of school, he proposed and I said yes. My happily ever after was on its way.

Funny faces

My prince and me (a.k.a. Ben and Julia)

There are things about marriage and the happily ever after bit they don’t even mention in movies. Or fairy tales. Or anywhere, really.

Here are some of the surprises that I have encountered in my almost 8 years of marriage:

1. You realize everybody poops. And farts. And burps. And wakes up with morning breath. And has disgusting grooming habits. And isn’t as perfumed and plucked, primped and dressed-up as they appear on the first date, or the fifth date, or even the 1-year-dating-anniversary date. Everybody is gross. And when you’re married (or living with someone), this is a shocking revelation. The only character who I think might not be able to hide these things so easily would be the Beast.

2. Jobs are hard. And sometimes you lose them. And then you have no money and you’re worried and now instead of just wondering how you’re going to pay for nights out or your car, you have to worry about how you’re going to support a family. They don’t talk about that in Cinderella. Or in any other fairy tale. Because someone is ALWAYS royalty with either a ton of cash or a crazy number of really valuable assets. Like castles. And horses. With fancy carriages made of gold.

3. You can’t go home after a fight. You’re usually fighting at home, which means you have to figure out how to sleep in the same bed (or same building, depending on how mad you are) without leaving in a huff and just calling or visiting with flowers in the morning. And when you get married, you’ll be told a dozen times that you should never go to sleep angry. They don’t tell you that that means you’ll be up until 4 a.m. and then a right mess for your day job the next day, which means your job just got harder (see number 2).

4. Your spouse becomes your best friend and then you can’t complain to your best friend about your fight. Or trouble. Or thing that’s driving you bonkers. Because whining about your husband, wife, partner, love-machine to your husband, wife, partner, love-machine is just awful. And awkward. And can lead to more fighting, trouble, and stuff that’s driving you bonkers.

5. Sometimes it’s boring. Like when you’ve run out of dinners you want to make. Or you don’t want to watch TV again tonight because you’ve been doing that for the past 7 weeks. Or you don’t want to go out or do take-out because you’re getting sick of it. Or you don’t know what else to talk about because you’ve both covered your day in five minutes flat and now you have a whole evening stretched out in front of you.

6. Sometimes it’s way too exciting. Or full of too many things to tackle together. Like losing your job, having someone close to you die, watching other married friends go through a divorce or infertility or a family tragedy, having your roof leak, your car break down, or a pet be really sick. Sometimes you crave boring and boring is nowhere to be found.

7. You should still date your spouse. Which sounds ridiculous. Isn’t it the dating ritual’s whole purpose to find you your soul mate so you never have to date again? Or is that another movie lie? All I know is that there’s nothing nicer than getting dressed up (yes, fancier than yoga pants and cotton shorts), picking out an actual restaurant (nothing with a drive-thru), and spending an evening together or a day together, where you’re just a couple. Not two people with busy yet boring lives. Two people with conversations to have and reconnecting to happen and a recharge on things. Inviting Mark Wahlburg wouldn’t hurt. I don’t think.

8. Happily ever after is messy. Especially if you decide to have children. Or dogs. Or iguanas. Or collect vacations. Whatever you do with your married time, happily ever after is not the end. And it’s not the beginning. It’s the middle. The bit between falling in love and saying good-bye. The part where you live the life you’re building together. The part that actually counts. And that was probably the most surprising thing for me – the wedding wasn’t the end. It was the beginning of the very best part there is.

Best picture

~ Julia