Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

6 Steps to Planning a Sweet Summer with Your Family

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Since she was a preschooler, I’ve taken my oldest daughter on a date after the last day of school. It’s an opportunity for us to have some sweet, one-on-one time, but also a time for us to reflect on the last nine months. I ask about her favorite parts of the school year, the hardest parts, and what she learned. But then, we turn to the future.

Making plans for the summer is one of our favorite things to do. Because yes, I’ve trained my daughter to love lists and schedules and plans just as much as I do. Parenting win! But seriously, we do love it — me because we come up with a plan on how to survive the summer months and her because she gets to share her ideas and have a bit of influence on what we do.

That’s not to say I show up at our lunch date with a blank calendar. No, by the time school is out, I’ve already registered my kids for camp parents’ night out or open houseparents’ night out or open house, made hotel reservations for any trips, and started talking to possible babysitters for the days I just have to get some work done. But we still have plenty of summer hours to fill and plenty of days to plan.

Are you worried that I’m that uptight mom who over-schedules her kids? Wondering if my girls even know how to play on their own? Longing for the days of old, when kids got out of school and then spent three months playing pickup ball, riding bikes, and catching fireflies?

I know. Me too! So don’t panic. I promise that’s not what I’m about. If you crave structure and need to have a general idea of what you and your kids are going to do this summer, but also want to leave plenty of space for regular old playtime, I’m here to help. This is not possible. We can do it! Read on for tips for planning a sweet summer!

Do your homework.

Pull up all the websites in all the tabs. Camps, churches with VBS programs, library programs, bucket lists from Pinterest, summer school listings on the district website, road trip itineraries — get it all in front of you.

Are you going to do all these things? Heck no. But you want to know what your options are before you start picking and choosing the few things you’re going to do.

Try something new.

Summertime is the perfect time for trying out a new hobby, activity, or sport. I couldn’t fit a full week of art camp into our budget, but I signed up my youngest for a morning drawing class. And I’m not sure my oldest will like karate (we’ve tried it before, but I’m determined to have her try again), so rather than commit to a weeks-long session, she’ll attend parents’ night out or open house at the local martial arts school to test it out. 

Include your favorites or family traditions.

Do you always watch fireworks from the park down the street? Do you kick off the season with a big barbecue or just by pulling out the fire pit? Are summer afternoons time for bubbles and sidewalk chalk and bike rides? Do you let the kids set up a lemonade stand every year or go geocaching in the woods behind your house? Are they (and you) looking forward to their annual visit to the grandparents’? Whatever you’ve made a habit of doing year after year — big or small, at home or on the town, silly or serious — make sure to include these things on your summer agenda. And if you’re not sure which activities or outings your kids are counting on this year, just ask them! You might be surprised by the things they remember and love the most.

Give the kids choices.

Speaking of what the kids want… Now’s the time to get them involved in the process of making plans! You might not want to give them carte blanche with your calendar, but you can give them some leeway. Perhaps come up with 10 ideas for summer projects and ask them to pick three. Or sit together and sift through all the ideas you found when you did your homework. Make a giant wish list, then pare it down to what’s doable for your family. 5.

Make margin and leave room to breathe.

While we want to keep our kids (and maybe ourselves) busy during our break and while we want to do everything we can to make summer fun for everyone, there’s something to be said for downtime. Unscheduled time. Blank space on the calendar and breathing room in our souls. Let them be bored sometimes. Stay up late and take naps. Leave room for spontaneous playdates or game nights or pizza picnics on the back porch.

Only you know what the right amount of rest is for your family. And this is something that will change from year to year (maybe from day to day)! So, give yourself time to figure it out and room to adjust. And just know that what works for other families might not work for you. And what worked just fine last year might be completely different from what you need this year.

It’s all about balance.

Now, don’t get me wrong. If your family is all about baseball and that’s all you do, all day, every day, that’s awesome! I mean, it is not for me — but I’m not your kid! If your family is all in with an activity or hobby or sport, go for it. But for many of us, a little balance goes a long way.

When I’m making summer plans for my family, I try to balance all the things: indoors and outdoors, sports and art and science and music, active and resting, fun and learning and chores and more fun, planned and unplanned, time with friends and time reserved for family. Do you think I ever get that balance right? No, of course not. But I try, which means we end up with more balance than if I didn’t try at all.

That’s it. That’s how I plan our summers and what I recommend to you. But more important than following my steps and suggestions is following your heart and what you know about your family. Choose the things that work for you, that bring you joy, that keep you sane, that create the summertime memories you — and they! — will treasure forever. And let the rest go.

Love these ideas? Here are a few more you might enjoy!

7 Promises I’m Making to My Kids This Summer

Using Technology on Summer Break

DIY Summer Time Capsule Craft for Kids

DIY Fluffy Slime Recipe (so fun!!)

DIY Rainbow Bubble Snakes

Have you started making plans for this summer?

Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She lives for good books, spicy queso, and television marathons, but she lives because of God’s grace. Mary writes with humor and honesty about giving up on perfect and finding truth in unexpected places on her blog,MaryCarver.com. She is the author of Fast Talk & Faith: A 22-Day Devotional Inspired by Gilmore Girls and co-author of Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts.She is also a regular contributor toincourage.me and MothersofDaughters.com. Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughters.

9 Ideas for Dating Your Husband in the Spring

Tuesday, April 9th, 2019

Today we have gathered 9 fun ways to date your husband in the Spring.  Make the most of these warmer months and discover a fun new way to date your spouse through this new season.

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

When I started thinking about this post, I couldn’t help the goofy phrases that kept popping into my head. “Spring is in the air!” “Spring into a date night!” “Have a spring fling!” “Let me tell you ‘bout the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees…”

It’s silly, but it’s also true that something about the shift into spring does tend to bring out our more playful and even romantic sides. Maybe it’s the warmer temperatures or the way we no longer need so many layers of clothes. Or maybe it’s just the relief that a) we survived winter and b) it’s no longer winter.

My next two date nights are all booked up with superhero movies, but I’m hopeful we’ll get more creative after that. After all, superhero movies don’t seem to be going anywhere, but spring won’t last long and we have to make the most of this time of year. Here are a few date ideas I’ve come up with to create quality time when spring starts. Maybe they’ll inspire you, too!

Take a walk (or run or bike ride)

I’m not normally a real outdoorsy type of person, but after a long winter I’m excited to breathe in some fresh (warmer) air. (Not so much the pollen that comes with it, but that’s another post for another day.)

We’re trying to fit fitness into our lives at my house, so taking a walk or bike ride is already something we’re doing these days. But doing it with just my husband? Maybe even on a trail outside our neighborhood or at a park? That sounds lovely.

(The more athletic readers might even want to go for a run with your spouse. After all, in most communities, you can’t find a spring weekend without a 5K scheduled somewhere. Why not train together?)

Try that new restaurant

For my husband’s birthday a few months ago, I gave him several gift cards to restaurants we’ve wanted to try but haven’t had the chance yet. I figured this will force us to do something different for once! (Instead of ending the whole “What do you want to do?” “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” back-and-forth by eating, again, at the same old chain restaurant where the servers know our orders.)

Bonus points if you find a restaurant where you can eat outside on a nice spring day!

Visit the zoo or a farm

I know, I know, this is the type of outing you’d normally plan for your kids. But why not save some of the springtime fun for your spouse?!

My daughters and I recently visited a local alpaca farm, where we got to feed and pet the most adorable alpacas. Next time I plan a fun trip like that, I think I’ll take my husband instead! (After all, bonding over the cuteness of tiny animals THAT YOU DON’T HAVE TO TAKE HOME AND FEED AND BATHE sounds perfect to me!)

Speaking of farms — how about a farmers’ market?

Instead of waiting for a free night to date your husband, try a morning.

Grab a fancy coffee or a stack of pancakes together, then hit the farmer’s market for the freshest produce, flowers, and more.

You can have fun but also enjoy the space to breathe and be together, to catch up and connect over more than bills and babysitters. And you’ll probably go home with something delicious, too!

Batter’s up! Take in a baseball game

I personally find baseball dreadfully boring. But my husband loves it. So I try to get us to a game every now and then, keeping my eye rolls and comments to a minimum, of course.

And when I do?

I almost always find that it’s actually fun to hike up to the top of the stadium, eat a hot dog or share some nachos, and root for our team together.

(And I realize that you may love baseball, too. In that case this date idea is even better!)

Spend some time with sidewalk chalk and the stars

Years ago, my husband and I stumbled onto a sidewalk chalk festival in our city. We were blown away by the intricate, beautiful drawings people created, and I’ve always wanted to attend that kind of event again.

We might never fit that into our schedule, but I was thinking that we could borrow our kids’ sidewalk chalk and get to work decorating our driveway ourselves! It seems silly — but sometimes acting silly is the exact thing my relationship needs. How about you?

And after you complete your masterpiece, it might be fun to stay outside for a picnic and watch the sunset or the stars.

Play a round of mini golf

Miniature golf feels like territory of first dates and romantic comedies, but I’m pretty sure it’s a cliched outing for a reason.

I can’t remember the last time my husband and I played mini golf together, but I’m putting it on our list for this spring. (The bonus for us is that there’s a mini golf course very close to our favorite restaurant.

Maybe you have something similar?

Or perhaps the winner gets to choose where you eat dinner or dessert?!)

Dream and plan

One of the most romantic nights I’ve spent with my husband in the last several months involved our couch, a map, and a calendar.

We started talking about ideas for future vacations at dinner and as soon as we got the kids in bed, we picked up the conversation.

We couldn’t stop dreaming and laughing and planning and even learning about each other. (I had no idea he wanted to visit some of the places he suggested!)

As someone who loves traveling…and making lists, this was pretty much a perfect date night. And it didn’t require a babysitter or even a bra (because let’s be honest, I was in my pajamas FOR SURE as we pored over maps and clicked through visitors bureau websites).

You don’t have to make a 15-year vacation plan. Perhaps you and your husband just need to talk through your plans for the summer. Maybe you want to share ideas for future date nights or talk about your next home improvement project. No matter what you’re planning, the point is to do it together, to work as a team to dream and scheme and — if you’re a Type A nerd like me — make a great list together.

Fire up the grill!

I’m not going to say that turning up the heat on your grill will turn up the heat in your marriage.

Well, except I guess I just did! (I can’t help it! Don’t hate me. The springtime puns and jokes are too much for me to resist!)

ANYWAY. My husband is the grillmaster in our family, but I’d love to learn. Perhaps you’re the grilling expert, though; would your husband be interested in joining you? Even if you both grill (or if one of you teaching the other a skill is not likely to end in fun and romance), you could always pick a new food or recipe to try out together. No matter how you go about this one, something about the smell of a grill and eating outside (or with the windows open) screams, “Spring!” And that is win-win, no matter who actually flips the burgers.

Love these ideas? Here are a few more you might enjoy!

6 ways to date your husband in the fall

What to Do When Date Nights are Impossible | MomAdvice.com what to do when date nights are impossible

9 unique ideas for frugal date nights

how podcasts saved our marriage

5 ways to date your husband in the fall

Those are my ideas for dating your husband in the spring, but I’d love to hear from you, too. How do YOU date your husband in this season?

Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She lives for good books, spicy queso, and television marathons, but she lives because of God’s grace. Mary writes with humor and honesty about giving up on perfect and finding truth in unexpected places on her blog,MaryCarver.com. She is the author of Fast Talk & Faith: A 22-Day Devotional Inspired by Gilmore Girls and co-author of Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts.She is also a regular contributor toincourage.me and MothersofDaughters.com. Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughters.

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The Best Gifts My Kids Ever Received

Monday, December 3rd, 2018

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

What kind of shopper are you? Are you the type who buys everything in a frantic flurry on Black Friday? (I suppose I shouldn’t make assumptions; I hereby recognize you may attack the post-holiday sales with military precision and a budget Dave Ramsey would admire.) Or do you collect presents for your loved ones all year long, stashing them away after entering them into your top-secret gift spreadsheet?

I fall somewhere in between those types, attempting to buy presents ahead of time but occasionally forgetting what I’ve bought, who it’s for, or where I hid it.

And don’t even get me started on all the great intentions I’ve had for saving up for the holidays — or the ways I’ve abandoned those plans with, well, abandon.

Current state? I have small piles of packages in a few places around my house, one in plain sight yet strangely overlooked by my nosy kids, and a spreadsheet about said gifts that was updated sometime before school started. And hopes for a year-end paycheck that comes in time to hit the best sales (on the internet because this mama doesn’t do Black Friday or mall madness).

But as I started to feel stressed while making a list of all the stores I need to visit and purchases I have yet to make, I remembered how I felt on my oldest daughter’s birthday this fall.

As I’ve shared before my daughter is an enormous fan of all things Harry Potter. It was a given that her 11th birthday party would have a Hogwarts theme, and thanks to my tendency to lose my Pinterest-loving mind when it comes to planning parties, going all out for this celebration was also a given.

From the invitations and the decorations to the games and the food, we went crazy.

In a good way.

Planning the party was a blast, and my Griffyndor-wannabe (I get it, I do. But Pottermore sorted her into the house of Hufflepuff, and I do not question Pottermore.) was thrilled.

However, the best part of the whole weekend wasn’t a display of floating candles in the dining room or chocolate treats turned into golden snitches.

It wasn’t even the set of paperbacks I’d found on sale weeks before (though that did earn a whole lot of hugs and thanks).

The best part of my daughter’s birthday weekend happened when one of my best friends drove three hours to help us set up the party, bringing her own Hogwarts robe and magic wand and spending hours talking with her about details of the characters and plotlines I can’t keep straight.

The weekend got even better when another one of my best friends and her husband showed up for the party in full costume, down to preppy vests and scary tattoos.

My girl didn’t stop smiling that day and has yet to stop talking about how amazing it was that, not only did her friends come to celebrate her birthday, but so did mine.

The fact that adults who are not related to her (or obligated to spend time with her) showed up in such a big way was an incredible gift.

When I think about the best gifts my kids have received, experiences and quality time come out miles ahead of any toys, books, or clothes they’ve been given. Trips to the art museum with my brother, pumpkin carving and bread baking and apple picking with my parents, notes in the mail from a Sunday school teacher who shows up every single weekend, questions and conversations from my friend who always takes time to sit down, make eye contact, and really connect with my kids on their level — all of these blow coloring books and stuffed animals and iTunes gift cards out of the water when it comes to gifts that matter.

I do realize, by the way, that this illustrates my family’s privilege.

Our basic needs are met this year, so wishlists and shopping lists can be about presents just for fun, but we’ve had other years when we’ve been exceedingly grateful for winter coats or backpacks for school that the grandparents have purchased. If you’re in a season where the gifts your kids need are sturdy jeans, a new toothbrush, or help paying for dance class or soccer cleats, I get it.

However, if you are looking for fun gift ideas this holiday season, tangible ways to show your kids they’re loved, or answers to aunts or friends or grandpas who ask, “What should I get them?” — my number one suggestion is time.

Here are a few ways you can give (or recommend other loved ones give) your kids the best gift ever:

  • Sign up for a lesson or class together. Learn to cook a new dish, improve your golf swing, or make a birdhouse for the backyard.
  • Buy gift cards to a restaurant or coffee shop, with the plan and promise to use them together.
  • Put together a craft kit to pass on a skill or art you’ve mastered. This could be cross-stitching, calligraphy or hand lettering, or making the perfect pancake.
  • Create a doable bucket list for the next year (or month). Maybe even create it together!
  • Buy passes to a sporting event, concert, play, book signing, or other event they’d like to attend — and go with them.
  • Buy tickets to local attractions, such as the zoo, museums, or parks — and go with them.
  • Create a coupon book of low-budget ways you can spend time together — and follow through whenever they want to redeem a coupon.
  • Make a list of conversation starters and put them in a container. Use them regularly to get to know your kiddo better.

All kids want to know they’re valued, that at least for a few hours they’re more important than work or schedules or chores or even their siblings. And the gift of time — a shared experience, a regular “date” or plan to get together — lasts so much longer than toys that fall out of favor and use within months (or sometimes even before they go back to school in January!). I still have some shopping to do, but this year I’m making sure I plan for gifts that focus on quality time, shared experiences, and ways to grow closer to my kids.

Looking for more advice for the holiday season? Check out these posts!

the real santa story

choose your own adventure christmas gift

christmas tree cinnamon rolls tradition

celebrating st nicholas day

free printable advent calendar (for big kids!!)

 

What’s the best gift your kids ever received?

Mary Carver is a writer, church planter, wife, mom and recovering perfectionist. She writes about her imperfect life with humor and honesty, encouraging women to give up on perfect and get on with life at www.givinguponperfect.com.She also contributes to incourage.me and MothersofDaughters.com, and she’d love to connect with you on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram.

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6 More Ways to Date Your Husband in the Fall

Monday, November 12th, 2018

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

I met my husband in the fall. We went on our first date later that same fall. And, years later, our first daughter was born in the fall. So when the weather begins to cool down and pumpkin spice everything shows up basically everywhere, I find myself feeling a little more lovey-dovey than usual.

Not that I don’t love him in the spring. Not that we don’t try to plan date nights in the winter. But there’s just something special about the fall!

Unless we’re incredibly intentional about it, though, our autumn date nights look exactly the same as every other date night in any other season. Because unless we are careful to be creative and plan ahead, my husband and I will always default to dinner at a Mexican restaurant chain and a movie.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that! We love tacos! And movies about superheroes or spies!

We do.

And sometimes “the usual” is exactly what we need to give us space to connect and remember how much fun we can have together when we set aside the day-to-day for a while.

But other times?

We need to get out of a rut, and we need to try something different. So while we’re still in the midst of this romantic season, here are a few date night ideas I’ve come up with.

Perhaps you’ll find a new way to date your husband this fall, too!

6 More Ways to Date Your Husband in the Fall

 

Go back to school

Don’t worry, I’m not talking about pop quizzes or English papers! No, I’m suggesting you take a class with your husband. It’s always fun to learn something new or brush up on rusty skills — and doing it together will give you something fresh to talk about and a brand-new bond as you find hidden skills or even fail miserably together! Often, you can find classes open to the community through your local college or community college. Or just search online for classes. Depending on your interests (and level of adventure!), you could take a class in cooking, self defense, dance, woodworking, wine tasting, or even massage.

Think outside the box

Don’t tell my husband, but one thing I’m giving him for Christmas is a list of adventurous, totally new-to-us date ideas for next year. I’m hoping to get gift cards or make reservations to go along with the list, so we’ll actually have to stick to outside-the-box dates! I’m planning a taking a barbecue tour around our city, finally trying our skills in an escape room, going rock climbing, visiting a shooting range, and putting a lock on a “lovers’ bridge” in a nearby town. What new, exciting, just plain different activities does your town offer?

 

Try new restaurants

I’ve mentioned our tendency to eat at the same chain restaurant every time we go out. We know what to expect; we know the wait won’t be long. But we also know we won’t be surprised. So I’ve done a little research and looked up lists of the best local restaurants in our community. Some are new, some are just new to us. Some offer the type of food we always eat; some will stretch our palates a bit!

 

I actually made the list a couple years ago and we’re very slowly trying a new place every few months. And the last time we did? We had so much to talk about! Did we like it? What was our favorite part? What was different than we expected? Do we want to go back? I can’t wait to try another new restaurant this fall.

Ditch the kids

I know, I know, you love your kids. They’re wonderful! Your heart, walking around in the world. I know! Mine, too. However, sometimes it’s fun to do kid stuff…without the kids. Every time my husband and I take our girls to a fall festival, parade, pumpkin patch, or corn maze, I find myself thinking how lovely it would be if we could come back the next day, just the two of us. So this fall, I’m going to plan ahead and make sure we have a family day AND a date day at the fun farm.

Change up the time of your date

Dating your husband doesn’t have to happen in the evening. And since fall seems to be one of the busiest seasons our families have, a night-time date might not even be possible. Why not meet for pumpkin donuts and coffee one morning? Or sneak outside for hot chocolate under the stars once the kids are in bed? You could also go to lunch at a food truck park, a chili contest, or your favorite picnic bench. The point is that you don’t have to wait for a free Friday night. Fit in date nights whenever you can, even if it’s at 8:00 in the morning!

Get physical

Hey now, not like that! I’m talking about doing something active together, like taking a hike, going for a bike ride, or participating in a fundraising walk. Take advantage of the gorgeous fall weather, and train for a 5K together (or just take your time walking through a flea market or art show). And who knows…this fall date might shake things up in more way than one!

 

Need more ideas? Don’t miss 5 Ways to Date Your Husband This Fall! What’s your favorite fall date night plan?

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7 Habits to Help Your Kids Have a Great Morning

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018

 

 

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

How’s your fall going so far? It’s felt a little chaotic at my house. For weeks now, I’ve been saying, “We’re still getting into our school year routine.” But guys? We’ve been back to school for a while. If I can’t get my people into a routine soon, I’m going to have to change my excuse to, “Well, the holidays are just messing us up.” And then it’s winter break and the new year and the flu and spring break and end of school and summer.

Because the truth is, we’re constantly entering or leaving one busy season or another. During this stage, with two busy kids and two busy adults, we just don’t have a long stretch of “normal” to look forward to. There’s no sense in waiting to get back to normal before getting organized, finding routines, or learning how to live — because I’ll be waiting forever.

The number one thing I’ve found that makes a difference in how my kids — and I — deal with busy seasons? Sleep. Our quantity and quality of sleep makes an enormous difference in everything — in our health, our attitudes, our discipline in the other things that make life easier or otherwise better. Sleep kind of makes our world go ‘round.

And sleep is a funny thing. Everyone needs it, but everyone needs a different amount. And everyone seems to need different conditions to get good sleep. So it’s a universal need but also a personal one. Therefore, rather than tell you one, laser-focused solution that works for my family, today I’m sharing several things that seem to make a difference for at least one person in my house. Hopefully something I share will work for someone in your family, and together we can stop needing excuses for being so out of sorts as we move from season to season.

7 Habits to Help Your Kids Have a Great Morning

Know the facts

When we get busy with evening activities and homework and movie nights and one more story at bedtime, we can easily cut our kids’ nights short without realizing it. That’s why it’s good to know — and then keep in mind — how much sleep is recommended for each child, based on their age. This article from the American Academy of Pediatrics lists the recommended sleep times for each age range from four months to 18 years. 

This chart was helpful for my family as it showed me that it’s not weird for my 11-year-old to need more sleep than my 4-year-old. Last year I let my older daughter stay up later than her little sister, because I assumed she could handle it. But over the past few months I’ve realized that just isn’t true. They need different amounts of sleep, and what I assumed was wrong. Now they go to bed at the same time, which feels weird — but the AAP says is acceptable and not that weird after all.

Bathe at unusual times

Sometimes it feels like I have to choose between hygiene and sleep — for my kids and for myself! But what I’ve finally realized (it only took me how long?!) is that we don’t have to bathe (or shower) at the “usual” times. I can shower before bed instead of in the morning if I have to. My kids can bathe right after school instead of getting to bedtime and realizing we’ve run out of time and skipping it…again. It seems like a little thing, but it’s made a big difference for us. (And this tip goes for any bedtime or morning task. You can have story time right after dinner, and you can make lunches at night instead of after breakfast.)

Brain dump before bed

While I don’t often struggle with insomnia, I’ve certainly spent many nights staring at the ceiling as my worries or ideas or to-do list run through my brain on a loop. I’ve learned it’s better to just turn on my lamp, grab a notebook, and write it all down. That way, my brain can rest, knowing that I’ve captured all the things and I can tackle them the next day.

Sometimes my kids need that, too. I try to make sure I don’t shut them down if they bring up a tough subject or start telling a long story at bedtime, but when possible, I will ask if it’s something we can talk about the next day. And then, to make sure they know I’m serious, I’ll let them see me make an actual note so we don’t forget to come back to that topic or story.



Set alarms!

I use the alarms on my phone to keep me on track all day long, all week long. This is especially important for making sure we all get the sleep we need without being late for school or work. I set alarms for —

    • When we need to go upstairs to start the bedtime routine
    • When my oldest daughter needs to bring her book out to the hallway (so she doesn’t stay up super late reading…like her mama!)
    • When I need to turn off the TV and start my own bedtime routine
    • When I need to get up, at the very least a few minutes before the kids
    • When I need to wake up the kids (I need to get back to setting my 11-year-old’s alarm in her room; that helped her morning attitude a lot when we did it before.)
    • When we need to go downstairs to start packing lunches and eating breakfast
    • When my oldest needs to go to the bus stop

Without those alarms, we would be lost!

Make expectations clear 

Nearly every argument my girls and I have in the morning is about whether or not they’ve completed their morning routines: making their beds, brushing teeth, brushing hair, putting on clean clothes. It doesn’t seem hard to me, but they struggle — so writing down the morning routine and sticking it on the bathroom wall has helped. I also included what times we do things, so they know if it’s close to 7:30 and they aren’t close to ready for breakfast, they’d better get a move on!

Have your own morning routine

What makes you feel awake? Do you need coffee before you can deal with people? Or perhaps it’s a tall glass of ice water or a few minutes of stretching that gets your blood moving. For me, it’s turning on all the lights, brushing my teeth, and putting on a bra. Without those things, I am a slug — and not a very nice one either. We all win when I make sure to complete my own morning routine!

Take a moment 

Look, nobody in my house likes mornings. So I’m not about to tell you to take hours of your morning to connect with your people. But! If you can take even a few seconds to look them in the face and wish them well (on a test, with a friend, in general) or perhaps play their favorite song in the car and share a smile in the rearview mirror as you do your best car dance, I guarantee it will make a world of difference. And if you have more than a few seconds? Five-minute family devotions, love notes in the lunchbox, or a blessing prayer in the carpool line will take little time and effort, but leave you feeling like you’ve got this morning thing mastered.

Those are just a few things that help us have better mornings. We aren’t perfect, and don’t do every thing every day. But when we do our best to check most these boxes? We are more rested and less frazzled, and mornings don’t seem so bad (even to my house full of night owls).

What helps your family have a great morning? Be sure to scroll down for more great parenting articles!

Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She lives for good books, spicy queso, and television marathons, but she lives because of God’s grace. Mary writes with humor and honesty about giving up on perfect and finding truth in unexpected places on her blog,MaryCarver.com. She is the author of Fast Talk & Faith: A 22-Day Devotional Inspired by Gilmore Girls and co-author of Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts. She is also a regular contributor to incourage.me and MothersofDaughters.com. Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughters.

Like this article? You might find these other parenting articles helpful too!

how to handle lying

a new way to teach your child how to tie their shoes (my kids learned in 5 minutes flat!!)

teaching kids the importance of failure

homeschooling a child with special needs

how to find & write pen pals

diy tween self-confidence kit

5 book series for kids who love harry potter

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DIY Game Day Bar Cart

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

Entertaining is my thing. There’s nothing I love more than getting friends and family together for a great time.

And with a certain important game day party coming up, I knew just what I wanted to assemble to show off for my guests — a game day bar cart!

My favorite bar cart in our home is actually a tool cart transformed into this super functional and fun bar cart, so you can make your own too!

For my cart design, I decided to keep parts of the original surface paired with a metallic shade, but you can personalize this to your own taste and color scheme.

Just follow along with step two on the inside of your bar cart and apply your choice of paint if you so choose.

DIY Bar Cart Made from a Tool Cart Tutorial



Supplies Needed

Metal Tool Cart (check here or here or here to pick your favorite)
2 cans Krylon Colormaster in Metallic Gold (indoor) Spray Paint
1 can Rust-Oleum Hammered Brown Spray Paint
1 Spray Paint Trigger (should be in the same aisle as the spray paint)
Sandpaper
Painter’s Tape (to tape off your wheels)
Gloves

Directions

1. Begin by removing all of the parts and lining them up on cardboard or a drop cloth for painting. You will want the trays on this piece to be upside down since we are only spray painting the exterior of the tray. This will not only save you time spray painting, but the cart already has a nice finish on it that is easy to wipe and clean.

2. Rough up the exterior with medium-grit sandpaper. This will help our gold paint adhere to this smooth surface better.

3. Apply the trigger handle to your spray paint can. If you haven’t used one of these before it is a life-changing spray painting tool that offers even coverage and saves your poor trigger finger for long projects.

Begin by shaking your can for 1-2 minutes and periodically during use. Hold the can 10” – 12” from your surface, and spray in sweeping motions from side to side with a slight overlap.

Apply multiple thin coats, wait one minute between each.

You can add a top coat, if you like, with a clear topcoat, but it does dull the metallic sheen from this paint.

I chose to leave it without the clear coat, because I like the roughness and loveliness of the sheen of this paint.

I did find that this does adhere a bit unevenly to the surface, but creates more of the hammered metal look that I was going for.

4. Remove the trigger handle and now place it on your hammered metal spray paint that we are using for the handles and wheels on our bar cart.

Using the same technique, hold the can 10” – 12” from your surface, and spray in sweeping motions from side to side with a slight overlap.

Allow these to dry fully and then flip to the other side to spray paint the flip-side of these.

5. Tape off your wheels as best as you can and spray paint these with the same spray paint.

Allow them to dry and then flip to the other side and spray paint the flip-side.

When you remove the tape, if any of the paint has gotten on the wheel, just use your sandpaper to rough up the wheel to remove the paint.

6. Assemble after your cart, and all of its parts, are fully dry.

Keep your spray paint handy for final touch-ups and use a piece of cardboard to block and protect the areas around where you need to touch-up.

Allow this to fully dry before loading it with your drinks.

DIY Game Day Bar Cart from MomAdvice.com

DIY Game Day Bar Cart from MomAdvice.com

Once everything is assembled and dried, you can add your beverages of choice!

I decided to add my favorite beers to the top shelf for easy access, along with garnishes and drink tools.

On the bottom shelf I have glasses and liquors that can be wheeled around as needed.

Feel free to add any additional decorations like small treats, a chalkboard sign to message for guests or paper creations sporting the colors of your favorite team. Most of all, have fun!

Need More Game Day Party Tips?

Keep decorations simple for your game day party

Faux grass can act as a tablecloth for your table and a simple pennant banner can be created with your team’s favorite colors.

Add some fun football trophies to decorate around the food to pull your table theme together.

Have guests make their own food

Make creating your own food fun for your guests by creating a sub or Panini sandwich station from an assortment breads, cheeses, cold cuts, and a variety of toppings for your guests.

Each person can customize their own sandwich with their favorite additions.

Don’t forget to add a few gourmet flavors like pesto, Gouda cheese, apple slices, smoked bacon or prosciutto, & brie to your toppings bar.

These gourmet toppings will take your ordinary sandwiches into extraordinary ones and each guest can create their own unique combination.

The same idea can be applied to a fun slider bar, soup topping bar, hot dog bar, or baked potato bar.

snag my slow cooker pumpkin chili recipe

Host a soup cookoff

Have guests bring a pot of their favorite soup to share for a soup cook-off.

Have guests place votes on their favorite and present the winner with one of your fun football trophies from your table display to take home as the champion.

Not only will this be a fun way to sample some new soup recipes, but it will also relieve you of having to create as many dishes for your big game day party.

Round out the meal

Round out your soup & sandwich menu with an easy cheese platter, dips, a vegetable tray, and a fruit tray. Make the easy dips to go with your favorite crackers, but save some time in the kitchen and visit the deli in your store to pick up a simple fruit or vegetable platter to add on the side to save time spent chopping in the kitchen.

Invest in some inexpensive plastic containers for game day leftovers and send goodie bags home with your guests so they can enjoy the leftovers all weekend long.

Don’t forget to give the guests that stick around to help clean up afterwards a Most Valuable Player award for their assistance with the kitchen clean-up.

Love this DIY project? Here are a few others I think you will enjoy!

rosé strawberry wine pops recipe

slow cooker pumpkin candles

diy thumbtack pumpkins

diy ottoman serving tray

fall burlap wreath

painting pumpkins with acrylic paints

How do you celebrate game days at your house? I’d love to hear your tips for entertaining!

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What I Learned from 5 Movie Dates in 10 Days

Monday, August 20th, 2018

What I Learned from 5 Movie Date in 10 Days

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

I don’t go to the movies that often. Normally. It’s not uncommon for friends to mention a very popular movie, look at me and realize I haven’t seen said movie, and sigh deeply. But this summer I had a brief season of intense movie-watching. It was a fluke, and I can’t imagine I’ll repeat the experience anytime soon (because, tickets are almost expensive as the babysitter) – but it sure was a fun few days!

As I was thinking about the movies I watched, it occurred to me that not only was this random movie blitz a blast but it also taught me a few things. Just in case you’re gearing up for a month full of movies or excited to get your money’s worth out of your MoviePass, I’ll share what I learned in case it helps you, too.

The first thing you should know is that while I had five movie dates in 10 days, I only actually watched four movies. Why is that? Well, because I cancelled one of those movie dates. But even that taught me something about myself and the movies!

Are you wondering which movies I saw? Well, let me tell you. I saw:

  •    Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again
  •    Ocean’s 8
  •    Ant-Man and the Wasp
  •    Mission Impossible: Fallout

And I didn’t see, after all, The Spy Who Dumped Me. Here’s what this movie mania taught me:

mamma mia 2 hip bump

1. Sometimes a girl just needs to have fun.

The movie that launched this stretch of dates was Mamma Mia, which I saw with two friends. On opening night. Because we just couldn’t wait. All three of us have gone through stressful or rough seasons lately, and we needed a break. We didn’t need thought-provoking or challenging; we needed colorful and catchy! And boy, did we get it! This movie is so silly and so pointless – and we had a blast watching it. (Also, Lily James is radiant, and I want to watch her in All The Things.)

Sometimes you might need a movie that makes you think or cry or debate. And sometimes you need sequins and disco and sunshine – and that’s okay.

oceans 8 breakfast

2. I can do new things.

Since the day I heard about Ocean’s 8, an all-female heist movie set in the world of the other Ocean’s movies, I have been just dying to see it. I love heist movies! I love Ocean’s movies! I love anything that screams girl power!

I thought I’d be going to this one with my best friend, since it was released near her birthday. Long story short, though, that didn’t work out. So I’ve been waiting for an opportunity…and waiting…and waiting. Finally, I got tired of waiting – and went by myself on a Friday night when my husband was at work, my kids were at my parents’, and my friends were busy.

Yes, I did. I just walked into that theater and bought myself one ticket and watched the movie all by myself!

Maybe you go to the movies alone all the time, but I don’t. The only time I’ve done it was on a weekday morning – you know, when nobody else was around to witness my solo screentime? But this time, I joined the couples and the groups of friends and watched that movie all by myself. And while I kind of wished for someone to discuss it with afterwards (spoiler alert: the movie was fine but not that great, which was altogether disappointing after all my anticipation), watching it alone was nice. I might even do it again sometime.

ant man

3. Spontaneity can add sparks.

For the last seven years my husband has worked nights. I won’t bore you with a long explanation of all the many ways that’s made our life difficult (and I’m going to assume you will give me the benefit of the doubt and know that I’m incredibly grateful for a hard-working husband and a job that provides for our family). But suffice it to say, weekends – when he tried to adjust to a normal daytime schedule – have been rough.

A few weeks ago, though, he switched to working days and no longer keeps vampire hours! It’s been adjustment for our whole family but also feels like a miracle. The first weekend after he began this new shift, we found ourselves wide awake and alone on a Saturday morning. On a whim we decided to go see the latest Marvel movie, and it was so fun! Even though I knew our kids were safe at my parents’ house and we didn’t have anywhere else to be, it felt a little bit like playing hooky or being on vacation.

Mission Impossible

4. But planning ahead is good for relationships, too.

Remember when I said I didn’t get to see Ocean’s 8 with my best friend? That’s because we “played it by ear” on the day we decided to get together for her birthday. We know better. After all, we’ve celebrated birthdays together for more than three decades! We are well aware that making plans is a must. But we played it too cool this time, and we ended up doing a big, fat nothing.

I’ve seen that be the case with far too many friends and family members. How many times have I said, “Yeah, let’s get together soon,” and then NEVER GOTTEN TOGETHER? How many times have you done the same thing?

So, my friend and I learned from our mistakes and planned ahead. When we saw the official date for the opening of the new Mission Impossible movie, we marked our calendars. And then a couple weeks before the release, we confirmed plans to make it a double date with our husbands. And then three days before our date, we bought tickets online. We weren’t going to miss another opportunity to see a movie or spend time together!

spy who dumped me car

5. Not everything is for me.

The fifth movie date is the one that didn’t happen after all. I planned to see The Spy Who Dumped Me with friends on its opening weekend. But the morning before we planned to go out, I read a couple reviews – and decided to skip it.

The reviews were good; the trailers still look hilarious. The cast is super funny, and the plot seems clever. I really did want to see it! (I love spy movies! And more girl power! Also, laughing is my favorite!) But when I learned that the R rating wasn’t just for language (as I’d assumed) and was instead for some graphic violence and nudity, well, I knew I need to forego this one.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t see it! We all have our own boundaries and criteria for what types of media and entertainment work for us. Much to my dismay, this one crossed some boundaries for me. (Just like Incredibles 2 unexpectedly crossed the “too scary” boundary for my youngest daughter. The rest of us thought the movie was fun, but she didn’t like it one bit! Not everything is for me…or for her…or for any of us.)

I didn’t expect to see this many movies in such a short amount of time, but it sure did make for a really fun summertime experience. And hey, I even learned some things!

Do you like seeing movies in the theater? What’s the last good one you saw?

Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She lives for good books, spicy queso, and television marathons, but she lives because of God’s grace. Mary writes with humor and honesty about giving up on perfect and finding truth in unexpected places on her blog, MaryCarver.com. She is the author of Fast Talk & Faith: A 22-Day Devotional Inspired by Gilmore Girls and co-author of Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts.She is also a regular contributor to incourage.me and MothersofDaughters.com. Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughters.

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How to Create an Anniversary or Date Night Playlist

Monday, June 25th, 2018

How to Create an Anniversary or Date Night Playlist from MomAdvice.com

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

This month my husband and I will celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary. And, thanks to my parents keeping our girls the weekend before the big day, we’ll actually get to celebrate with a night on the town.

Lest you think we are exciting and fancy, let me reassure you that “night on the town” really means eating dinner at Olive Garden, strolling around Target, and possibly renting a movie from Redbox. Still, any occasion – fancy night out, casual night at home, and everything in between – can be made a little more special with a playlist.

To help you do that, I’m going to walk you through my process for creating a playlist of songs that mean something to my husband and me – and just might create a romantic mood!

We’re going to talk about a set of decisions you’ll need to make before beginning, as well as how to pick the best songs for your list. And just in case it sparks your memory or creativity, I’ll share some of the songs that might make my own anniversary playlist!

How to Create an Anniversary or Date Night Playlist from MomAdvice.com

First up, decide what tools you’re going to use. Will your list be played on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music, or another site or app?

Next, choose a genre. While you and your husband might enjoy all types of music, a collection of songs works better when those songs have something in common (other than your emotional attachment to them). So you don’t have to commit to a dozen New Wave tunes from the 80s, but your songs should at least have the same feel to them.

Finally, decide how long you want the playlist to be. Is it just for the car ride to and from the restaurant? Does it need to last for an entire road trip? Will you only play it during dinner at home after the kids are in bed? Figure out an estimated time frame and select your songs accordingly.

And speaking of selecting songs, here are the types of songs I’d recommend for your anniversary or date night playlist:

What song was playing the night you met or on your first date?

For us this would be What’s Up by 4 Non Blondes or Kissed by a Rose by Seal. Hello, mid-90s!

What song makes you think of your dating days?

Dust on the Bottle by David Lee Murphy, It’s Your Love by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, or anything by John Michael Montgomery, Tom Petty, the Eagles, or Boyz II Men – clearly this will be a challenge for that same genre step!

What song played when you got engaged, or makes you think of your engagement?

I was away at college during our engagement, so Save Tonight by Eagle-Eye Cherry and A Bad Goodbye by Clint Black and Wynonna make me think of that season of long-distance love.

What song(s) played at your wedding or wedding reception?

From This Moment by Shania Twain, You Are the Love of My Life by Sammy Kershaw, One Friend by Dan Seals, and I Know How the River Feels by Diamond Rio were our wedding songs. Yes, we went full country!

What song reminds you of your honeymoon?

You can interpret and answer that song any way you want to… (You could also choose a song that you both liked or that was popular during your days as newlyweds.)

How to Create an Anniversary or Date Night Playlist from MomAdvice.com

What song reflects a difficult time during your relationship?

Without a doubt, this would be Say Something by Great Big World for us. But since I can’t listen to that song now without tearing up, I might lean into the country sound and go with the just-as-fitting Hard to Love by Lee Brice.

What song reflects a season of reconnection or resurrection in your relationship?

I Hold On by Dierks Bentley is one of my favorites, because the lyrics talk about the good side of being stubborn – which is something it took my husband and me a long time to figure out!

What song(s) remind you of your children?

Since I can’t seem to escape the “gone country” theme my list is taking, I guess I’ll put I Love a Rainy Night by Eddie Rabbit and Elvira by The Oak Ridge Boys here. For some reason our girls got a huge kick out of those two songs for most of last year, and even the memory makes us chuckle now.

What current song makes you think of each other?

I don’t know if my husband likes it; I should probably ask him. But Greatest Love Story by Lanco – yes, I’m finishing strong with another country song – makes me think of him and our story every time I hear it.

This started out as a hypothetical idea for me, but thinking through all the songs that mean the most to my husband and me has me feeling nostalgic and lovey-dovey and just maybe like bursting into song. Clearly I’ll be making this playlist today! How about you?

What songs would be on your perfect anniversary or date night playlist?

Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She lives for good books, spicy queso, and television marathons, but she lives because of God’s grace. Mary writes with humor and honesty about giving up on perfect and finding truth in unexpected places on her blog, MaryCarver.com. She is the author of Fast Talk & Faith: A 22-Day Devotional Inspired by Gilmore Girls and co-author of Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts.She is also a regular contributor to incourage.me and MothersofDaughters.com. Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughters.

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How Rewatching a Favorite Show Made Me a Better Wife and Mom

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

We live in a time of peak television. It’s a real golden age of entertainment – or so the critics tell us. But what is an actual embarrassment of riches when it comes to endless viewing options often translates into overwhelm, decision fatigue, and DVR avoidance. Because while I truly think many new shows sound amazing, when it comes down to picking a show to watch, I skip past the premieres and head straight for the reruns.

Real life means that most nights, I’m too tired to take on a new show — and instead crave the familiarity and comfort of old ones. I think that’s okay. I’ve written in defense of “comfort food TV” before, and I stand by that argument. I must, because a couple months ago, I found myself rewatching “New Girl” from the beginning.

new girl watch tv all day

“New Girl” is a half-hour sitcom starring Zooey Deschanel, and I vaguely recall loving it when it first came on in 2011. Somewhere along the way, though, I got a little bored or it got a little stale, and I stopped looking forward to new episodes. I watched out of loyalty and a mild curiosity about how the story would end. I didn’t even care one way or another when the show was renewed for a final season.

But all that changed when I started back at season one.

I’m not sure why, out of all the sitcoms on Netflix, I picked this one to rewatch — but it only took a few minutes to remember how much I’d once loved it.

As I binged one episode after another, I laughed out loud, often so hard I had tears streaming down my face. I found myself falling back in love with characters that had started to annoy or bore me, and I smiled at their most ridiculous antics with bemusement and affection. I cheered for their victories and ached at their disappointments. I couldn’t get enough of those crazy kids and was suddenly anxious for that final season to begin.

Maybe you’re wondering how on earth this delightful yet inconsequential experience could have anything to do with my life as a wife or mom. I get that. It seems like a stretch. But it’s not really. Not to me.

See, as I thought about how much my appreciation for this show was renewed by watching old seasons, I remembered a conversation I had with a friend several years ago. I was struggling with my oldest, whose behavior and sassy attitude were making it incredibly difficult to like her. OF COURSE I LOVED HER. But I think most moms know the feeling of loving our kids (or, ahem, our husbands) while not particularly liking or enjoying them much.

new girl murder someone

My friend listened with kindness and understanding — and then suggested I start each day by looking at my daughter’s baby pictures. She wondered if looking at photos of my daughter at her sweetest, most innocent, and most adorable might help me dig up some affection for her, even on the most challenging parenting days. We discussed how that act might just give me a likable anchor to hold onto when backtalk and disobedience threatened my patience once again.

And you know what? It works.

No, looking at Facebook’s On This Day reminders doesn’t magically drown out my daughters’ tantrums or arguments, and flipping through scrapbooks doesn’t erase the memory of a call from her teacher or a messy room or a dinner declared, “disgusting.” But it does balance out the harder parts of parenting with the sweet ones. And it does fill up my heart and my mind with all the good things about my kids that get overlooked when we’re dealing with the hard stuff.

This strategy works for my marriage, too.

On days when I’m most frustrated or disappointed with my husband, taking a look at our wedding photos or a vacation album really does pull me back from the edge. It doesn’t move his shoes out of the middle of the floor or write a love note inside the belated anniversary card. It certainly doesn’t teach us to communicate better or force us to consider one another’s feelings more. But glancing at a moment of joy captured and framed (or scrapbooked) reminds me that this irritating man is the one I chose and the one I love — and that though everyday challenges feel like they’ll never end, we’ve been in sync and happy before (and will certainly get there again).

Rewatching a favorite show that I’ve lost interest in reminded me why I fell in love with the show and the characters all those years ago. It refreshed my affection for the characters, bringing back to mind all the times I’d been moved or inspired or simply entertained by them. I remembered how much the good times outweighed the bad ones, and my desire to spend more time with a new season grew with every relived memory.

new girl bathroom

Reminiscing about my favorite people, who just might drive me crazy at times, does the same thing. It takes me back to the early days of our relationship, when I basically looked like a heart-eyes emoji and only saw the good in him or her. It reminds me of all the amazing times we’ve had together. And it gives me a big picture perspective, interrupting my in-the-trenches belief that the [hard] way it is today is how it will always be. I’m reminded how happy we’ve been in the past and feel hopeful that we’ll feel that way again. I remember that I’m in this — parenting, marriage, even friendship — for the long haul, through the best seasons and the worst.

Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She lives for good books, spicy queso, and television marathons, but she lives because of God’s grace. Mary writes with humor and honesty about giving up on perfect and finding truth in unexpected places on her blog, MaryCarver.com. She is the author of Fast Talk & Faith: A 22-Day Devotional Inspired by Gilmore Girls and co-author of Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts. She is also a regular contributor to incourage.me and MothersofDaughters.com. Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughters.

How Podcasts Saved My Marriage

Monday, March 5th, 2018

How Podcasts Saved Our Marriage from MomAdvice.com

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

For weeks I had the article open in one of the many tabs on my internet browser. “How to Increase Intimacy in Your Marriage,” it read – and it wasn’t about sex. The article addressed the same old, same old feeling we can get in a long-term relationship, the lack of connection that creeps in while you’re shuttling kids to soccer practice and piano lessons, taking turns buying groceries or changing laundry or making sure someone is home to sign for that FedEx package.

The article seemed to hold the secret to fixing what felt off in my own marriage, a cure in five simple steps – if only we could find the time to read it.

I’d originally kept the article open with intentions to print it out and take it to our next counseling session. Our counselor had been kind and helpful over many months of healing and growth, but when I mentioned a lack of connection he leaned back on his old faithful, the date night. As we’ve discussed before, date nights are great but not always possible. So though I was grateful to leave crisis and emotional chaos behind, I was worried that we’d overcorrect into apathy and boredom. And this article had more practical solutions than the tired advice of going on more date nights.

However, before we returned to counseling, life got increasingly crazy with a move, an overseas trip, and a job change – so counseling, steps for creating connection, and date nights got lost in the shuffle for a while. Eventually I bookmarked that article and closed out, intending to come back to it soon.

I never did.

And, sure enough, as life settled down again and we adjusted to a new home, a new town, and a new schedule, I began feeling disconnected from my husband again. With his long hours and our family’s full calendar, we were ships passing in the night, sharing little more than instructions, urgent questions, complaints, or solutions for the day-to-day management of a family and home.

In the midst of feeling frustrated over the struggle to connect, I mentioned in passing that I thought my husband might enjoy a podcast I listened to regularly. He’s a truckdriver who’s on the road for hours at a time, so over the years I’ve suggested audiobooks and podcasts frequently. He’d never been interested (which annoyed me to no end and baffled me as well!) – but this time he was.

Before he could change his mind and revert to his stance that listening to the radio was just fine, I downloaded a podcast-listening app to his phone and then subscribed him to a dozen podcasts I thought he might like.

Then, I waited. Would he like the same podcasts I did? What about the others I found for him? Would he give them a chance? Would he be bored or fascinated? Would he even tell me what he thought about all of this?

I shouldn’t have worried. It didn’t take long before every other sentence out of his mouth seemed to be, “So I was listening to this podcast, and they said…”

How Podcasts Saved My Marriage from MomAdvice.com

He began sharing stories and fun facts and interesting news he thought I might like to hear. He told me about books he’d learned about that sounded like something I might want to read – and even a book that he wanted to read, too. (Though I’m a big reader he is not, so that one was a big deal!) Before long, we had lists of things to talk about, things that weren’t basic household decisions or weekend plans, things that didn’t revolve around our kids or the daily frustrations of our jobs.

I know couples who have weekly date nights, daily downloads, frequent coffee dates. Though our schedule prevents any of that for now, I admit that any time those practices came up, I felt a little nervous. If we had the chance for more quality time together, would we even have anything to say? Last year, we might not have, to be honest. If you take kids and jobs off the table, we don’t always have a lot of conversation starters left.

But now that we’ve started sharing things we’re hearing on podcasts (and, for me, on blogs and online magazines), running out of things to say is the last thing on my mind.

Perhaps it’s an exaggeration to say that podcasts saved my marriage. After all, wasn’t it the counseling and work we’d done prior to this connection crisis what did that?

Yes, that’s true. We weren’t in danger of divorce when I first read the article about increasing intimacy, but we were getting awfully close to boredom and becoming strangers. And that’s a risk I don’t want to take. Therefore, I stand by my declaration: podcasts saved my marriage (from becoming boring and stale and completely without connection).

If you’d like to know which podcasts my husband subscribed to, I’d be happy to share. Click here to receive 15 Podcasts Perfect for the Man in Your Life for free!

Do you listen to podcasts? How do you stay connected with your husband?

Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She lives for good books, spicy queso, and television marathons, but she lives because of God’s grace. Mary writes with humor and honesty about giving up on perfect and finding truth in unexpected places on her blog, MaryCarver.com. She is the author of Fast Talk & Faith: A 22-Day Devotional Inspired by Gilmore Girls and co-author of Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts. She is also a regular contributor to incourage.me and MothersofDaughters.com. Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughters.

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