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smart phone

I know what you’re thinking. How did you survive for FIVE long years without a cell phone? Surprisingly well.

This year I asked my husband for a cell phone for Christmas. I felt like I was finally ready to take on an additional expense now that my blog is growing. After my site was temporarily shut down for being over my monthly usage allowance on Christmas Eve, I knew I had to have a way to stay up to date on any changes. It was a wake up call, but ultimately a very good problem to have.

Still, some part of me will be sad to say goodbye to the old me, the one that didn’t have a smart phone permanently in my hand.

I can already feel myself being sucked in by smart phone addiction. The last time I had a cell phone it was a simple tracfone that I used mostly to keep in touch with my husband while I was at work. That was before I started working from home.

I still want to hold onto the pre-smart phone me. She learned some very important lessons that I want desperately to remember.

1. Pay Attention To Who You’re With – I am a people watcher. Whether at restaurants, kids’ play places, the mall, the playground or the library I’m always watching how people interact with each other. Over the last five years I’ve had plenty of time to see how people interact with their  friends and family in public and I’ve been a little disturbed.

Smart phones are awesome, but I noticed that nobody seemed to be paying much attention to the people they were with. Couples sat silently across from each other at restaurants. Parents sat silently on a park bench while their kids played almost exclusively by themselves without more than a quick passing glance. People spent a lot of time looking at their phones.

I get it. I feel my potential to be sucked in, especially by social media. It’s exciting to be able to connect with people on so many platforms ALL THE TIME, but I’m so glad for these five years during which I focused exclusively on my friends and family.

I was able to give them my undivided attention. I got up and played with my kids at the park. I chatted with my husband at dinner. I was able to be fully present and I think that’s something I want to be aware of now that I’ve got a new toy. No matter where I am or what I’m doing, I’m glad these five years were all about the people that love me and whom I love more than anyone in this world.

2. Privacy Is A Premium – Now that I’ve got a smart phone and I can be reached at any time, I’m a little sad. It was sort of liberating not worrying about my phone ringing or dinging to let me know someone needs me. I’m a mom, I already feel needed EVERY SINGLE SECOND of the day and it is exhausting.I can’t tell you how many times over the course of five years I’ve overheard someone on the phone in a public restroom and thought, “What on EARTH could be so important that it can’t wait till you’re out of the bathroom?” It’s bad enough I don’t get privacy in my bathroom at home.Plus the ick factor is really high for me. To me, nothing you press against your face should be out where it’s exposed to urine and fecal matter. But hey, that’s just me.

3. Remember To Have Actual Conversations – Being without a smart phone these past five years, has made me nostalgic for actual conversations. Now it’s all text messages, Facebook messenger and emoticons (most of which I’m still struggling to understand the circumstance that would actually warrant its use). Being able to connect all the time, has actually made the quality of conversation decline in my opinion.We’d rather send one liners to each other than really connect.

I get it, we’re a busy society. We’re always moving, always working, and always parenting on the fly.But I hope I don’t forget that what we say to each other will always be more important than how we choose to do it. During my phone free years, I may have chatted less with people, but I definitely feel like I gave them more of myself and the conversations actually strengthened relationships.

One day my kids will ask me for a cell phone. I know it’s going to be a LONG time before I say yes. I want them to make their words count. I want them to actually connect with people. I want my kids to see me when I’m talking to them, instead of a cell phone screen. I’m glad that I went such a long time without one, because I can always say that if I survived, they can too.

4. Learn Not To Panic Over Potential Emergencies – The question I was constantly asked when I didn’t have a cell phone was, “What happens if there is an emergency?” In five years, I can honestly say that I never had an emergency happen while I was out. I work from home so it definitely helps that I’m home a lot of the time.Maybe it’s just luck, or maybe we just tend to anticipate emergencies more than we used to.We envision our kids getting sick or hurt at school, the car breaking down or our spouse needing to reach us urgently.

I’m not saying emergencies don’t happen. I just happened to be able to live with the uncertainty better than most. The one time my tire got a flat was when we were driving to the local lake this summer and since my husband had his car packed with our inflatable boat and life jackets he was driving behind me at the time. I had the van packed with kids and snacks and it was absolutely the best case scenario. The kids and I found a grassy spot on the side of the road and ate some snacks while my husband changed my tire and then we were on our way.

There were plenty of times my husband wished I had a cell phone over the last five years. But honestly he did what we all did pre-cell phone era; he waited till I got home. Since I work at home, I’m here the majority of the time. I think some “emergencies” are really just small panic attacks that come from having to wait a little longer to talk to someone. By faith or by luck I survived without any permanent psychological scarring. Five years without a cell phone has taught me to be more aware of my surroundings, pay better attention to the condition of my car, and anticipate whether or not my child’s cold will land them in the nurse’s office.

It also taught me to be more patient and reminded me of the immense capacity people have to be kind to one another. There was the time my car’s battery died in the parking lot of the post office and a man cleaned my connectors and got it started back up. Nobody wants to rely on others anymore. I get it, I really do. We’re too busy. We’re too distrustful. We want assurances that we can’t always have in an unsure world.

I want my kids to be able to call for help should they need it when they get older. But I also want them to have the skills to assess situations, the mindfulness to anticipate potential problems, and the courage to wait if necessary without panicking because the worst thing you can do in an emergency is panic.

Your brain will always be your best asset. Perhaps the smart phone comes in second place.

I’m excited by the prospect of all the things my new smart phone can do for me, but I want to hold on for dear life to the lessons I’ve learned from my five years without one.

How long could you survive without your smart phone?

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

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As you can probably guess, as I’m typing this post I have a cold. I’m also wishing it were a “man cold” and not a “mom cold.” What’s the difference? Let me break it down for you.

What Is A “Man Cold?”

If I had a “man cold” I would be able to take off of work and take a nap. I could drink orange juice and hot soup and take some medicine that would make me sleep the afternoon away. I could focus on taking care of myself.  Instead, I have a “mom cold.”

Sickness Is Not On Our To-Do List

That means I’m up plugging away at the many things on my to-do list, despite my deep desire just to lie down and rest. I have laundry that needs to be done, a dishwasher that needs to be unloaded before dishes start piling up in the sink since I seem to be the only one capable of looking to see that it needs to be emptied, oh and my toddler decided to boycott her nap again today so I don’t even get a few hours to drag my butt through these tasks without chasing her around pulling her off the couch, which she has learned to body surf down this morning.

Hit By A Bus

If you’ve been following my posts for a while you know that I love my husband, like L O V E love him and I’m always bragging about him, but today I’m going to throw him under the bus, along with half the men in the US. And you know who’s sitting in this bus with me, all the other moms I know. We are so tired of getting stuck with the “mom cold,” while you men are allowed to wallow in your misery.

We Helped Create The Monster

But it’s not all your fault. No, we played a part in this. We take care of you when you’re not feeling well. We make you soup and dry toast and bring it to you in bed. We make sure the kids keep their voices down and don’t barge in the room a million times, interrupting the nap which is going to propel you back into good health.

We carry on with every task we normally do and exempt you from it all. Why? Because we’re moms. Caring for our family is what we do. And because thankfully you aren’t sick that often.

As a work at home Mom I know I have it easier than a lot of work outside the home moms. If I were really feeling horrible, I’d just focus on getting my blogging work done and let the housework go and deal with the avalanche of mess when I’m feeling better. Though the day you crawl out of your covers to find that nobody cleaned up the half a box of cereal that spilled on the floor is so NOT fun.

The Part Inequality In The Workplace Plays

Most working moms I know don’t even take a day off of work unless they feel like death. Why? Because they are saving their sick days for when their children are sick and need to take off to care for them. Why aren’t men taking off more time to care for their sick kids?

It may be attributed to the breakdown of differences for men and women in the workforce. Men typically get paid more than women. They take off less time when their children are born and less time when their kids are sick or off of school.

It’s less detrimental to a man’s career that he has a family than a woman’s if she has children. Why? Because we are the caregivers (primarily). Not, that it makes it right.

The “Mom Cold” Mentality

It’s really pretty sucky and it all contributes to the “mom cold” mentality that we have to power through even when we feel really awful. Moms can’t afford to be sick.

Even if this were more than a cold, like say the stomach bug, I know my kids need to eat even if the thought of lunch makes me lose mine. My husband will pick up medicine and take out for dinner if I’m really sick and that helps. I appreciate it. But you know what all moms need?

The Thing Moms NEED Most

Men, we need you to take off work and take over sometimes. We need the same rest and care we afford you during your “man colds.” We need you to put out the figurative fires, take care of the chores and keep the kids alive till morning.

We need you to put your career on the back burner. Not forever, but just for one day. Heck, we’ll settle for a half-day.

We don’t expect you to single-handedly close the wage gap. We don’t expect that you can change the perception of care-giving roles for men and women all by yourselves, but you can do us a solid.

The next time we feel sick, give us the gift of having a “man cold” instead of a “mom cold.” Pick up the slack and do what needs to be done. Why? Because we do it for you ALL…THE….TIME and we deserve it.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

They say it takes a village to raise kids, but nobody tells you how hard it is when you don’t have much of a village. As far as grandparents go, my kids have my step-father aka Poppy and that’s it. I miss the days when going out to dinner or a movie with my husband meant I simply had to call my mom. She was always happy to watch my kids. My husband and I just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary on May 27th and until about 4 pm that afternoon we had no idea how we would celebrate it.

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Will and I have never left our kids with anyone but family or very close friends before. Call it trust issues or my tendency to watch shows like Law & Order:SVU, but I just can’t leave my kids with a stranger or even an acquaintance. We got the crazy idea to see if Will’s sister would watch our kids. They invited us over for Memorial Day weekend during our last visit so we thought we’d take a chance and see if they’d watch them for a few hours while we went out to dinner.

We played a fun game of “You call. No, you call.” Neither of us are any good at asking people for favors. I hate to be a burden to others. So Will asked and when the second his sister said yes we were like, “Great! See you in two hours.”

How far would you go for a date night? We drove all the way to Pennsylvania. It was a crazy, rushed, thrown together affair complete with a speed packing session and a very cranky toddler.

The part we banked on to make it easier for my sister-in-law was Sydney’s amazing sleep record. We typically put her to bed at 7 pm and she sleeps until about 7:30 am, but the second we tried to put her down in her pack n’ play she flipped out. She was having none of it.

My sister-in-law told us to just go and even though I felt pretty guilty about leaving her with an upset toddler, I threw my shoes on and ran out the door like I stole something. That’s how it is without a village. You go months or even years with barely any alone time with your spouse. You almost have to steal those few hours together.

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I honestly forgot what it was like to go out to a nice restaurant with my husband where we didn’t have crayons, kids menus, and I didn’t have to cut my kids’ food up before I could take my first bite. I didn’t have to remind anyone to stay in their chair, eat their food, or not make a mess. I got to talk to a grown up, and not just any grown up, the man I married. It was amazing!

So I’ve learned that even if you don’t have a village, sometimes you gotta jump in the car and drive to the nearest one, even if it is hours away. It’s also important to make a village.

Even if your parents are gone or live hours away, you have to find people you love who also love your kids. Maybe that includes siblings, cousins, or friends. I have neighbors who are definitely part of the village we’ve created. If they hadn’t been out of town, I would have asked them to watch the kids on my anniversary and then Sydney could have slept peacefully in her own crib at home.

My husband and I don’t get nearly enough time alone together and that needs to change. Our marriage is the foundation of our family so I need to make it the priority. One day I may get to a point where I can find a sitter that I really trust, but until then I have to keep building this village of mine.

If you need some inspiration, check out these 10 local date night ideas.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama can be found writing on her blog The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not wiping poop or snot off her three adorable kiddos. This “tell it like it is” mama has NO time for drama, so forget your perfect parenting techniques and follow her on Facebook or Twitter for her delightfully imperfect parenting wins and fails. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wedding

When Your Love Tank Is Low

This morning started with a fight about money, but to be fair it started brewing yesterday. It’s probably the thing my husband and I fight most about, though to be perfectly honest we don’t fight all that often. I think there are resentments, fears and misunderstandings you need to voice in order to move forward. In a marriage, you have two people who have agreed to create a life together and it’s our individuality that sometimes gets in the way. When our love tank is nearing empty or completely dry, we get caught in the prison of our own feelings. “You made me feel this way.” “You are doing this wrong and I can’t tolerate it.” We tend to forget completely about the “we” created when you said, “I Do.” There are so many blessings that can quickly turn to pitfalls if you fail to put your marriage first. Marriage isn’t a sprint to get down the alter, it’s a Spartan race and you need to train every day or you won’t be prepared to go the distance.

It Could ALWAYS Be You

I’ll never forget talking to a woman whose husband was unfaithful and wanted to leave her and their family. It was heartbreaking. I told her, “If you still love him, you fight for him.” We’re taught that if someone hurts you, it’s the “right thing” to walk away and not to forgive and rebuild. Let’s face it, we live in a disposable world and some people view marriage the same way. I’m not judging anyone who is or has gone through a divorce, I’m simply suggesting that it should be the very last card you have to play. I prayed for her and her family for months and it bothered me so much more than it probably should have. It wasn’t my marriage after all, but I think it bothered me because I knew it could have been. No this is not a confession. My husband NEVER cheated on me, but every marriage goes through trials you think will break you and you come to the question of fighting for it or not. With my background, I knew trials were just part of life.

This Ain’t No Cake Walk

When my mother-in-law passed away just two months before our wedding, I just knew that marriage wasn’t going to be a cake walk, especially when you have to decide from the very beginning whether to go through with a celebration while still nursing your grief. I can say after going through the death of three parents together, a miscarriage, loss of a business and financial strain that I can see how easy it is to want to give up. The key is to use those times to pull you together instead of push you apart. Our natural tendency, at least mine, is to isolate. BUT the BEST part of marriage is that you are NEVER alone. I married my best friend and the WORST part about fighting with him is that I can’t talk to him about it. We do our best never to let it linger too long and we move forward together. If you want to go the distance avoid these are four common pitfalls.

1.Putting The Kids First – Ever since the day they were born it seems only natural to make sure they have every single thing they need. While your kids should be a priority, I’m saying they shouldn’t be your first one and I’ll tell you why. So many end up sending their kids out into the world at the age of 18 only to discover that they’ve spent all their energy on being parents and they don’t even know how to be married anymore. Your kids are always watching you and they are building their love map based on how they see you and your spouse treat each other. If you don’t make your marriage a priority they won’t have a clear understanding of how to work together with their spouse to overcome obstacles, and going the distance means they can expect many of them.

2. Not Having Sex – You might protest that you don’t have time, are too tired, too busy, don’t feel attractive right now and it’s just not that important anyway. Just imagine going months without hearing, “I love you.” I think that would be awful. You might laugh, but I think sex is marriage superglue. It forms an instant connection to your spouse. I can always tell if my husband and I are getting on each others nerves it’s time to do the deed ASAP. We get caught up in the utilitarian aspects of marriage; what the other person brings to the table. Did they take out the trash, pay the electric bill, or take the car in for repairs? Marriage isn’t a service industry though. It’s not about you each pulling your weight. It’s about making a choice to live life together. It’s also making sure your partner’s love tank isn’t empty. When it is, unfortunately that’s when people start looking for unpleasant ways to get a fill up.

 

3. Being A Fair Weather Fan – We all know someone who roots passionately for “their team” when they’re doing good, but the second they lose a game or they’re out of the playoffs it’s “that team sucks!” You need to be your spouse’s biggest fan at their WORST. I’m talking, “I wracked up some serious credit card debt, lost my job, kissed a co-worker” kind of WORST. People will let you down sometimes and you and your spouse are not immune. This is where choice comes in. You may not WANT to love them at their worst, but this is where you must CHOOSE to love them. Love is not this wishy washy hallmark card; it’s a Spartan race with hazard warnings. I will tell you this- there will come a day for all of us where you will find yourself thinking, “Should I stay or should I go?” If you dig deep, grit your teeth and get in the race, you will find your marriage stronger at the other end and more prepared to deal with anything life throws at you. Forgiveness is also a choice; not an easy one, but one necessary for a long and happy marriage. It should come with repentance though; trust needs to be restored in order to move forward.

4. Not Fighting Fair – I will admit that I don’t always fight fair. I get completely wrapped up in my own emotions and say things like, “Well, you don’t care about us because you did this.” I know I need to stop seeing my spouse’s choices as some grand if then statement. If you do this then you love me and if you don’t do that then you don’t. I forget that although I know him so well, that doesn’t mean I can speak for him in these one sided pre-arguments in my head. There is no completely right or completely wrong in any situation. You’ve gotta be willing to listen (really listen not just waiting for your turn to defend your point). The goal is not to WIN the battle only to LOSE the war. You should never use tactics like name calling or bringing up things that have previously been forgiven. If forgiving is hard, then the leaving the past in the past is even harder.

There are some days when the stress of life gets so bad and you vent on your spouse because they are your safe place. It happens. This is where sincere apology comes in. There will also be fights where you could repeat them verbatim from the last time. BUT here’s what I KNOW. I have loved my husband EVERY SINGLE SECOND from the moment we met 16 years ago. I have LOVED him EVEN WHEN I HATED HIM. When there is LOVE, true knock down and get back up, LOVE you fight for it. At the end of the day, there is no fairy tale just the story of your lives and you have to REMEMBER that you’re writing it together.

I know we’re living in a day and age where parents think they need to provide everything for their kids. Growing up, my parents couldn’t always afford to provide me with everything, but what I gained was a better appreciation for the things I worked for. Here are the top three things I’m thankful my parents didn’t pay for and why I won’t feel a lick of guilt if I don’t pay for them for my children.

 

1. Their First Car – I’m sure schlepping me back and forth to my first job was not so fun for my parents, but I worked and saved up for a few years to buy my first car. It was a beast of a vehicle that took on the likes of two deer and kept on going (with only minor repairs). Was it beautiful, shiny and new? Hell no. It was a tan Eagle Premier that I bought for $1,000 from an elderly couple in my Nana’s neighborhood. But that taste of freedom that a new car brings should come ONLY after you’ve worked hard and earned it in my opinion. I want my kids to have the satisfaction of something that is truly theirs, bought by their own sweat and hard work.

College Campus

2. A College Education – My husband and I both took out loans to pay for our educations. Let me tell you that nothing lights a fire under your butt like the repayment period of a student loan looming over your head. Sure, I know people think you should start saving for your child’s education the moment the pregnancy test comes back positive, but I think a college education is something that truly needs careful consideration more than mere financial preparation. I know adults whose parents foot the bill for their college degree only to have them not use it whatsoever.

While college was a great experience for my husband and I, I know it’s not the only option. I think trade and technical schools can be of great value, as well as community colleges, certificate programs and good old fashioned work experience. I want my kids to carefully consider what they want in life before shelling out thousands of dollars on a four year school to “figure it out.” I want them to desire a future for themselves, enough to spend hours filling out scholarship applications, or working in mail rooms, or taking an apprenticeship. While I owe it to my kids to provide the tools they need, I know they will be better people for having paid for college themselves if that is the path they choose.

Wedding Day

3. Their Wedding
– When my husband FINALLY proposed after 7 years of dating I knew neither of our families were in a position to pay for it. We saved and paid for things along and along. We decided what things we wanted to spend the money on – a nice venue and what things we could do without – a limo. It was a small ceremony and reception, but it was ours. We were under no obligations to invite friends of friends, acquaintances, or business associates. All decisions were ours alone and it was a day I’ll never forget.

I remember two weeks before the ceremony dissolving into tears and asking my future husband why on Earth we were going to all this trouble for other people. See, I wanted the marriage more than a big fancy ceremony. For most couples you fear it will rain on your wedding day, but the reality is that marriage is filled with storms and you better know without a shadow of a doubt who you want by your side to ride out life’s storms. That’s the happy ending, not a wedding, but a marriage that gets stronger despite life’s trials. I want for my kids a marriage like my own, one made the way they choose because they are choosing a life partner, not an amazing party.

It’s not always easy to know what to just flat out give your kids and what you want them to work for. For me, the greatest life lessons came from working for the things I wanted the most. Only then did I truly understand the responsibility and the gift it was. What things do you want your kids to work for?

Flowers and chocolate were so last year! With the craze of Pinterest for endless inspiration at our fingertips it is easy to get lost in find many things you and the kids can do together. If you aren’t up for it, you don’t need to be the next Pinterest Queen or Betty Crocker. Valentine’s Day is all about love, family and showing each other how much you care. With the 10 ideas below, you can keep it as simple or get as elaborate as you want. And in the comments, tell us what special Valentine’s Day traditions you have with your family.

Getting out for some adult time this weekend? Check out my last list: 10 Date Night ideas in the Hudson Valley

1. Homemade gifts. Coupon books, love letters or heart shaped gifts loveare usually pretty popular with most parents I know. But great handmade gifts don’t have to be just for mom and dad. With a little creativity you can come up with some great gifts the kids will love. A “certificate” for a mommy and me date night, or a coupon book filled with “get out of chores for a night” or “ice cream for dinner”, etc. coupons or a thoughtful handwritten letter could go a long way too. And don’t forget about the adults. In most cases, a thoughtful handmade gift goes a lot way over a store bought one. HVParent’s Pinterest Page has lots of great ideas too!

2. Decorate. I have a box of saved holiday art work from the kids, mostly Christmas pictures and crafts that I like to hang back up around the holiday. My mom did the same with our art and I love to see how my kids’ art changes over the years. So dig out love notes, those handmade cards from past years and construction paper hearts from the pre-k days and use them to decorate your home for Valentine’s Day.Bacon-Hearts

3. Start the day off with love. Luckily, Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday this year- so no need to get up extra early for this one. We make birthday pancakes for birthdays, snowman pancakes for Christmas and our little Leprechaun friend turns our pancakes green on St. Patrick’s Day so it’s only natural our valentine’s day starts off with pink and red heart shaped pancakes and bacon. You can twist bacon into the shapes of hearts, use (metal) cookie cutters to make eggs or pancakes into fun shapes and even cut your fruit into little bite size hearts! (20 breakfast ideas found here on popsugar.com)

4. Share the love. Chances are you are making or filling out your share of school Valentines anyway, so make a few extra to spread a little love this Valentine’s Day! Have the kids decorate paper hearts to make and take to the local nursing home, or fill out boxed cards to deliver to the local fire house or hospital. The kids will get a kick out of carrying a few for unsuspecting strangers during the day, like a waitress, cashier or neighbor. This sweet gesture will go a long way to spread a little love.

babw5. Family time. A mom- friend posted recently looking for suggestions on ways to spend V-Day with the family. I was surprised how many moms had the same plans this year. Seems like many are heading to Build-a-Bear Workshop to let the kids create their special Valentine’s Day gift. A great idea! If Build-a-Bear isn’t in the budget (they start with stuffed animals at $10) find something you can all enjoy doing together. A fun family outing is a great way to spend the “holiday” together.

Here are a few more ideas:

Family Date Night Spots

Ice Skating

Sledding

Indoor Play Spots

And check HVParent.com for a calendar filled with local fun! 

6. Dinner with your loves. You can stay in and cook, but since we moms like to be spoiled too on Valentine’s Day it might be a good night to hit the town. Nights like these I like to choose an early dinner reservation, get the kids fed, bathed and in bed early enough for some adult alone time 😉

Find a family- friendly restaurant here or here.

7. Dance Party. Any excuse is a good one for a family dance party! After dinner clear the furniture, kick up the music and put on some of your favorite love jams. Don’t forget to save some slow dancing for your significant other!cookie

8. Baking cookies. My kids love to visit the Mid- Hudson Children’s Museum to get their energy out in the winter. They love the new fire truck, and pretending to bake the tallest cakes they can. For the last two years, they have loved to come to the museum near Valentine’s Day to decorate their own heart shaped sugar cookies (event info here). I love that the mess stays outside of my house and we can pack a lunch and make a day of it. But you don’t need to head out to make pink- frosting covered memories with the kids. Whip up a batch of your favorite cookie recipe (this is mine from iheartnaptime.com) and get to work.

notes9. Exchange valentines. I saw this adorable felt envelop last year and was dying to make them for my kids (…of course I never did) but I still love the idea. The blogger who created the one shown here filled out little notes to leave each night for her kids leading up to Valentine’s Day. If you are like me and pin a bunch of things you never do on Pinterest you can always use a decorated shoe box, manila envelope or store bought little mailbox (Michaels sells cute ones!) for each member of the family. Then every night before bed, everyone can write a sentence or 2 for each person to be opened at breakfast! (Image and idea from Blonde Designs Blog).

10. Surround yourself with love. Whether you choose to stay home, go out, craft or just relax, remember to surround yourself with love this Valentine’s Day. We tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get the best gifts, make the best crafts or turn our breakfast into the best heart shaped bacon our kids have ever seen. While it’s sometimes fun to go over the top, it isn’t necessary. A simple “I love you” from the heart can mean more than heart shaped pancakes and fancy gifts. Keep it in perspective, don’t stress over details and above all else surround yourself with love, after all that’s what it’s really about.

Does your family have any special Valentine’s Day traditions? Share in the comments!

When you're young you think the Wedding Day is the end of the story when it's really just the first chapter. Your story together before that day is the prologue.

When you’re young you think the Wedding Day is the end of the story when it’s really just the first chapter. Your story together before that day is the prologue.


Not Designed For Dating

Valentine’s Day is coming up and it got me wondering, “Do you date your mate?” My husband and I had a totally random conversation the other day in which we both agreed that it was for the best that we met each other young (we were 18/19 year-old freshmen in college) because in all likelihood neither of us would be any good at dating. Neither of us has the “game face” to be “our best selves” in front of new people. We pretty much take the approach of laying it all out there and seeing who’s left standing.

Boy Meets Girl

I can’t say that I ever really dated my spouse. It’s a lot simpler when you’re young. Boy meets girl, asks for her number, calls her that night, talking for hours, hanging out takes place for a few weeks till you have an awkward conversation where you declare that you are in fact together. My hats off to anyone having to date as an adult. There seems to be a lot more complexities to maneuver through like a landmine. There are so many articles out there about why it’s important to continue to date your spouse, but what if you never really “dated” to begin with?

Speak Your Spouse’s Love Language

I’ve said before that I have a heart for marriage and I’ve talked about how important it is to speak the love language of your spouse. A man could give his wife an expensive piece of jewelry for Valentine’s Day, but she might just want him to take her car in for new tires. I know what you’re thinking, I’m the anti-woman here right? I bet there are a lot more like me who’d gladly forsake “traditional ideas of romance.” After almost 9 years of marriage and 16 years together here’s what I believe matters more than flowers and chocolates.

1. Say “I Love You” With All Of Your Actions, Not Just Your Words – My husband is not one to spout love sonnets, far from it, but there is no doubt he loves me.  It’s in everything he does from cleaning snow off my car, working his butt off so I can stay home with our kids, to taking the car in for repairs. While it’s nice to see him profess his love in a card, it’s not really necessary because I already know.

2. Be Each Other’s TOP Priority – When my husband gets home from work the kids like to clamor for his attention, but we often tell them to wait while we talk first. After 15 years, the habit of sharing our day with each other as soon as we see each other is set in stone. It’s hard for some people to put a pause on their parental responsibilities, but I believe the best thing you can do for your kids is show them what a good relationship looks like.

3. Have Sex – Yes, I said it. Find some alone time away from the kids and have sex. It can be a quickie that’s ok, just don’t forget to lock your bedroom door. Without sex, you are roommates with your spouse. Sex reminds you why you are together. Stay hot for each other – stay together.

So when my husband asked me if we should do something for Valentine’s Day I told him, “nah.” Going out on a “date” is not really a priority. To me dating is the process of getting to know someone and we both know each other cold. I know his heart and he knows mine. Romance has it’s place, but to me it’s the icing on the cake. Now love, love is your bread and butter. Love ensures you never starve.

Watch how this couple describes their love for each other after 56 years of marriage. So sweet!

date night selfieIt’s rare- you have a babysitter for the night, and you can finally have a night out. Alone. Together. Sometimes it is hard for us to remember that before children it was just the two of us. Our little family of husband and wife. We had all the time in the world for each other to date & truly connect. Years later we add the demands of children, of money stretched too thin and the every day stress we forget how to have fun and be together. These days our “date nights” tend to be filled with grocery shopping and other quick errands. Things that don’t matter and it needs to change! It’s time to get back together with your significant other and I have rounded up 10 awesome date night ideas for you to enjoy right here in the Hudson Valley!

Top 5 reasons to date your spouse

1. Delicious Food. Gotta start with the obvious one here. There is nothing quite like eating warm food off your own plate that makes eating out without kids simply delightful! Even if it’s a quick bite somewhere near home I relish the moment of quiet meals without kids in tow. I did a little research and asked around and found 5 favorite date night restaurants in the Hudson Valley:

brassarie 292

Brassarie 292 in Poughkeepsie

2. Sip and Paint. This new fad is popping up all over the Hudson Valley and a great way to spend some creative time with hubby! Many places offer diptych paintings (1 painting over 2 canvases) for special couples events. A few local sip and paint venues are Paintbrushes and Party in Poughkeepsie (Special Valentines Day couples painting), Wine and Design in Warwick (Offering a choice of 3 special Valentine’s Day paintings) and Vine Van Gogh a local sip and paint that partners with many Hudson Valley restaurants to offer a unique night out.

3. A trip back in time. Dating as parents doesn’t have to be 5pm dinner reservations and home before the sun sets. Remember as a teenager, dating involved a group of friends meeting at the bowling alley and catching a movie. Bowling isn’t just for your kids you know! Many bowling alleys offer cosmic bowling, music and more. One of our top picks is Lucky Strike in West Nyack where after 8pm you must be 21+ to enter. And it isn’t just for bowling enthusiasts, Lucky Strike has a catered lounge, plasma TVs, pool tables, air hockey and a few lanes of roller ball. Other favorite bowling alleys are Pat Tarsio Lanes, Newburgh, Colonial Lanes, Chester, and Hoe Bowl Family Fun with locations in Poughkeepsie, Wappingers & Catskill.

4. A Movie. Your ‘back to our teen years’ date doesn’t have to end at the bowling alley. If you find yourself at Lucky Strike in West Nyack, head over to the IMAX theater after a few games (They are showing 50 Shades of Gray on V-Day)! Not in the Palisades area? Head to any local theater and snuggle up with a bowl of popcorn and a dark theater 😉

5. Take a Walk. No matter the season, the Hudson Valley is filled with beautiful landscapes and romantic architecture. olanaTake a stroll through Olana State Historic Site a now historic landmark was once a home a studio to Hudson River School Painter Frederic Edwin Church. The Persian style mansion is filled with magnificent art from around the world and decedent views of the Hudson Valley. Another option, maybe on a less windy or warmer day would be to take in the breathtaking views of the Hudson river with a stroll over the largest pedestrian bridge in the world that spans the Hudson River. if you are looking for a bite to eat in the area, we love Riverstation in Poughkeepsie right on the waterfront.

6. For the more adventurous. Take a trip to Poets Walk in Red Hook where you and your sweetie can snowshoe, walk or hike the romantic meadows and paths. The park winds you through romantic woods filled with footbridges, benches and rustic pavilions- So romantic, It wasn’t dubbed Poet’s Walk for nothing. After your adventure at Poets Walk, I suggest you stop in for a bite to eat at the famous Beekman Arms in Rhinebeck. The stone fireplaces, dimmed lighting and cozy corners set the tone for a warm, romantic meal. I have been here; the food is delicious too!

7. Pamper yourselves. This is an easy one for me. Since I deal with poop and snot onemerson spaa daily basis it is a real treat to be pampered at one of the many glorious spas the Hudson Valley has to offer. A great date night (though more of a special occasion I suppose..) would be a trip to the Spa at the Emerson Resort & Spa in Mt. Tremper. A wonderful night or romantic weekend away, the Emerson has dining, gorgeous rooms, a spa to die for and America’s Largest Kaleidoscope! Another favorite weekend/ date night spot would be a couples spa package at the Buttermilk Spa then Dinner at Henry’s at the Farm. Buttermilk Falls.

8. Fire and Ice. Visiting Bear Mountain is a year round adventure. While in the summer you can hike, boat and picnic, The grounds don’t die away with the winter chill. Bear Mountain hosts hundreds of people each year to its beautiful outdoor ice rink. Set among the mountains and snow, spend a romantic night skating hand in hand under twinkling lights. Then head up to the rustic Bear Mountain in for some warmth by the fire and a delicious dinner. If you are further north in the Valley, I suggest spending an evening at the Mohonk Mountain House. Day guests can ice skate, ski, hike, or snowshoe the property. Enjoy time at the spa, and/ or get dressed up (that means no spit-up covered clothes or sweats!) and enjoy a romantic dinner alone together.

Schlesingers Steak House, New Windsor

Schlesingers Steak House, New Windsor

9. Dance the night away. You can learn to swing for free at the Newburgh Brewing Company once a month, line dance at the Castle Fun Center or get more serious with weekly classes in everything from salsa to the waltz at various locations throughout the region with justdance5678. Or you can always just show off your skills and have some fun at the Elephant Bar at Schlesingers Steak House in New Windsor

10. Music to my ears. You don’t have the kids, but quiet still isn’t really your thing, head to one of the Hudson Valley’s great spots to enjoy some live music. You can take in a show at the Bardavon in Poughkeepsie, or grab a drink and enjoy the music at favorite places like Shadows on the Hudson in Poughkeepsie, La Puerta Azul in Millbrook, Brothers BBQ in Cornwall, Aroma Thyme Bistro in Ellenville, Elsie’s Place in Wallkill or Pamela’s on the Hudson in Newburgh.

Did you favorite places make the list? Where are your favorite date night spots?

More than once recently I have found myself wondering if superheroes have families and if so what becomes of their spouses? Are they rocking themselves in a corner somewhere on the verge of a nervous breakdown or are they twirling their wedding bands, wondering how they got themselves into this? I wonder this because I sometimes picture myself as the Stay At Home Mom version of Lois Lane, toiling anonymously away wondering where in the hell my Clark Kent is because he’s late for dinner. It’s not easy being the primary caregiver to three young children while your husband is off saving the world. I’m sure Stay At Home Dads experience something similar. We often call moms superheroes, but in truth I feel like a sidekick at best most days.

Will hosted a Super Bowl party at our church while I stayed home with our kids.

Will hosted a Super Bowl party at our church while I stayed home with our kids.

My husband is a hard worker, always going above and beyond for his job, our church, our community, and while that’s great, sometimes I just want more time with him, more help with the kids, and more attention to the details of this life we’ve created together. I feel like a nonentity some days, like I traded the name on my birth certificate for the title of “Mom” which is both special and nondescript at the same time. It means I am supreme caregiver of my household, but also denotes I’m just one of many who bear the same title. While my husband has the time and freedom to do all these amazing things for which someone will praise him, someone may promote him, someone will at least notice, I will spend my days making sure he has that freedom. So what do I do with these feelings?

1. Guarantee Face Time – My husband and I will be hosting a small group together at church in the spring. It will be about marriage, because while it can be work, I truly believe marriage is a blessing. The bonus is that it guarantees some face time with the hubby.

I'm proud of my husband for pulling together a great event for Super Bowl at our church.

I’m proud of my husband for putting together a great event for Super Bowl at our church.

2. Give Yourself Credit – Primary caregivers usually get little to no props for the countless hours we give of ourselves. We often don’t get a break or a “thank you.” Our job is one we cannot retire from, take vacation or a sick day and will one day be a little sad when we have done our jobs so well that our children don’t need us. So while our voice may be the only one we hear saying it, make sure you say it often- “What I do is important.”

3. Do Something Just for You – This is the advice primary caregivers struggle with the most, especially me. We are used to putting our needs last. We are used to serving in the shadows. You have to make time to do what makes YOU happy. For me it’s writing this blog or reading a good book.

So this is my commiseration with all the primary caregivers out there whether you have the title of “Mom” or “Dad.” It’s not easy being the spouse of a superhero. I’m glad they are out there saving the world, while we quietly take care of our families. I know it needs to be done.

Despite my weariness, I try to remind myself that I don’t in fact like the spotlight. I didn’t become a parent to get accolades, money or fame. I may never be known outside the walls of my home, but here I AM the superhero and NOT the sidekick, even if I forget it sometimes. To quote the poet William Ross Wallace, “The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world.”

 

I’m going to take a departure from my normal talk of saving money to talk about the importance of defending and nurturing your marriage. Just so I’m doing my Discount Diva due diligence, here’s the benefit – divorce is expense, relocation and therapy are expensive and being happy is priceless.

Our fist instinct as parents is to protect our children with the ferocity of a mama bear defending her cubs. That instinct isn’t wrong, but I think we need to take that same instinct and apply it to our marriage as well. No matter how bulletproof you think your marriage is, it’s not and it needs to be nurtured and protected just as much as our children, if not more so because our children are watching us and the way we treat our own marriages will profoundly affect how they view marriage and relationships.

About a year ago, a marriage I once viewed from the outside as ideal, hit rocky waters that almost ended them. It hit me hard because I thought if you’re together for decades and have children you’ve pretty much made it – the marital finish line. The work is done. You’re there; you’ve made it! I felt particularly sad for the couple in their own misery, but my heart absolutely broke for the children. Thankfully this couple pulled through the tough times, but it reminded me that it’s the children of divorce who are the main casualties when a marriage fails. I’m not saying it can always be avoided, but I often think of my own childhood as a child of divorce. I think of all the time I missed out on with my dad because I didn’t live with him for most of my childhood and he died when I was only 14.

So here are seven tips I’ve come up with to nurture your marriage.

1. Keep Up The PDA – I’m not talking indecent behavior here, but absolutely kiss, hold hands and hug your spouse in front of your kids. It lets them know how much you love each other and that brings a security to your kids’ lives that’s absolutely priceless.

2. Fight Fair – I’m not saying you’ll never fight, but don’t throw out words you can’t take back, use sucker punches (things that happened forever ago), or drag your kids into it. Sometimes they can sense you’re fighting, even if you try really hard to avoid it, so make sure they see you making up as well. Everyone fights, but it’s how you fight and how you make up that your kids will remember and model in their future relationships.

3. Make Time For Each Other – Sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s easier said than done between work, kids, volunteering, and a multitude of other things pulling us in all directions. Make a date night and protect that time like you would a work obligation. Can’t get out? Then set aside time after the kids are in bed to talk and do things you used to do before the kids came along. After they’re grown up, your spouse is the one your going to have to talk to so you might as well build that habit now. Making “protected” time with your spouse gives them a place of priority in your life.

Night of Hope
My husband and I at America’s Night of Hope at
Yankee Stadium without the kids on Saturday.

4. Speak Each Others Love Language – I highly recommend reading “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. In it he talks about the five different ways we express love to our spouse and prefer to receive love from them. They are: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. I thought it was interesting how a couple could be thinking they are expressing love adequately to their partner only to find out that they are speaking a different language than their mate. After taking the quiz, my husband and I noted that we both primarily speak the language of Quality Time and secondarily I value Acts of Service and he values Physical Touch. If you don’t speak the same love language it’s probably a good idea to learn what things your partner values and try to speak their language and vice versa.

The Five Love Languages

5. Be Each Other’s Biggest Fan – I’ll never forget my college graduation day. I was asked by the head of the English Department to give a speech at commencement and I had the overwhelming feeling that I was going to get up there and barf all over the stage. Public speaking is not my thing, hence I’m a writer. My boyfriend, now husband, Willie said to me, “If you get up there and puke everywhere, I’ll still stand up and clap and say that’s my baby up there puking.” It made me laugh and it still makes me smile to this day. The point is nobody should be your spouse’s biggest fan but you. Even when they stumble or barf everywhere.

6. Have SEX – Ok I get it, especially when your breasts are sore from nursing, you’re still trying to adjust to your post-baby body, haven’t slept, and have something unidentifiable in your hair it’s hard to feel sexy. It doesn’t get any easier after being a parent for awhile. It’s WAY TOO EASY to settle into a routine of co-parenting with your spouse. But sex is what keeps you from being little more than roommates. It reminds you why you chose each other and why you should keep on choosing each other every day for the rest of your lives. It can be tricky with kids, but conjure up your creativity from the beginning of your relationship and you’ll be just fine.

7. Let The Bad Times Bind You – It’s the good times we want to think about in our lives, but if we’re not careful the bad times can dwell in us and threaten our marriage. I always think of my marriage as a wall that my husband and I build brick by brick every day. Each good memory is a brick, but every bad one is the mortar that binds them together. We’ve been through the loss of his parents and one of mine, a miscarriage, job loss, etc. but we use those bad times to cement us to each other rather than divide us. There will be plenty of challenges and tough times so instead of letting them create resentment, get busy using that cement to bind those happy memory bricks together.

Marriage is not the wedding day. Marriage is work, just like parenting is. There is no finish line so keep running the race and don’t ever think you can just sit out a lap or two because there is always something or someone ready to lap you.

Wedding Kiss
Will and I just celebrated our 8th
wedding anniversary on May 27th.

 

 

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