Category Archives: marriage


A couple of months ago, I was looking at Instagram, and a popular blogger that I follow on IG had posted a picture of her sweet family…they’d been travelling in an RV for a number of weeks together. She seems like a fun mom, and I love watching what she does with her kids through pictures. However, what caught my attention was the couple of comments that were visible under the picture.

I’m paraphrasing, but the gist was this, from 2 different moms: “We do EVERYTHING with our kids. We have never ever gotten a babysitter, even to go out for dinner, because we never want to be without them. Why would we want to go on an adventure and not include them?”

I almost choked on my tea.

Because, you see, I love my kids. So much. My only serious childhood ambition was to be a mom someday (and a cashier and an Avon lady. Which hasn’t happened yet, really. Who knows what the future holds though, right?), and I am one. I love travelling with them and seeing new things for the first time with them.

But are you even kidding me? Never getting a babysitter? Never doing anything without them? I’m sorry, but to me, that’s just not healthy for you as an adult human, or for your marriage. I’ve blogged before about how I think couples have to be careful not to lose sight of each other while they’re in the messy throes of raising kids (12 in ’12 was all about this for us), because before you know it, those kids are on their own, and you’re married to a stranger. No one wants that, right?

So, all that to justify say: Matt and I ran away to the beach last week for 5 days to celebrate our 15th anniversary, and it was truly, truly one of the highlights of my life. And we have Matt’s parents to majorly thank for totally stepping in and taking over the household for us while we were gone…they even left me with a clean house and garage, and the laundry done. Doesn’t get much better than that!!

We joked that we didn’t even know if we would be good at going on a sit-your-butt-on-the-beach vacation, since we’re usually go-do-a-ton-of-stuff vacationers (Nashville, Nashville again, Boston…). However, as it turns out, we killed it at laying in beach chairs. Literally for 4 full days, our only responsibility was making sure that we reapplied sunscreen regularly. We read books (you guys, my non-reader husband read TWO WHOLE BOOKS while we were gone), listened to music and the ocean, walked the beach and collected shells, and made getting back to the beach (or, just staying there all day) for sunset our job. Oh, and plenty of eating, and drinking Lime-a-Ritas like they were nutritious.

I don’t know if I can go back to do-something vacations after this. I’m afraid it ruined me in the best way possible.

It’s not that I ever would’ve shunned a vacation at the beach. I mean, hello, parenting babies and toddlers is incredibly exhausting, too. But as we reflected on the trip, and the time of year that we took it, it made sense why this felt like perfect timing. For the past couple of years, and the foreseeable future, our March-September is c-r-a-z-y with baseball. And you all know we wouldn’t have it any other way! The rest of the year feels so much more regular-busy-family manageable.

October is the perfect time to go to the beach. I’m polishing up my persuasive speech skills to talk Matt into this again. :)

I didn’t even mention where we went, did I? Siesta Key, Florida, right outside Sarasota. We visited a few neighboring beaches, too, to compare, and none of them even came close. I’d choose Siesta Key again in a heartbeat.

Sigh. So that’s it. Here are a few pictures, to make you want to go, too.

Next week, if I’m brave enough, I’ll blog about body image and what living in a bikini for a few days taught me. We’ll see.

What 12 in ’12 Taught Us

2 years ago, in 2012, I pre-planned one date a month for Matt and me…it ended up being 11 dates in 2012 due to kid sickness, but oh well. All of the details and the dates were chronicled on the blog, and you can read about them here (also, in perfect me form, I did not blog the last date of the year, which was a fun overnight for New Year’s Eve, but whatever).

We LOVED it. It seemed weird to start 2013 without a plan in place for date nights. However, we realized that it refocused our attention to something we already knew, but had kind of shelved: we need to make time for each other.

Frankly, I didn’t think we were doing poorly at making time for dates pre-12 in ’12…and probably, compared to most American marriages, we weren’t. But that isn’t the standard we should be measuring ourselves by, really, is it?

Yes, it costs money. Just the babysitting, let alone the actual date, is expensive. I get it. But there are other things that get sacrificed to make this happen, and it’s worth it. And, a couple of times a year, we swap babysitting nights with my brother and his wife, which makes everyone happy: it’s free, there’s time with cousins, everyone wins. Also, we have some fantastic babysitters, and I love that the boys get excited to hear they’re coming over. It’s good for them, too.

We don’t get out monthly anymore, but we do get a sitter and go out for dinner, or meet friends out, when we can. Trying new restaurants is one of our favorites, so we do that whenever possible…which is slightly overwhelming in a city filled with amazing food where we already have so many favorite places to eat!

Several weeks ago, Matt took a half day on a Monday and let me sleep in while he got the boys ready and off to school (this is like winning the lottery to me). I slept late, he came with me to volunteer in Jack Henry’s classroom like I did every Monday (surprised JH, who loved it!), and we went out to brunch.

{Speaking of that: always a good idea to check if the place you’re wanting to have brunch is open on the day you’re going. Because for the record, Half and Half, the place I’d been dreaming of having breakfast since our cancelled Valentine’s breakfast date, is closed on Mondays. However, the cancelled V-Day date was to be on a Monday morning, too, so I would’ve been disappointed 2 months ago, too.

BUT: that place being closed led to an amazing breakfast at another place down the street from Half and Half that I’d never been, City Coffeehouse and Creperie. I ate so much that it was my only meal of the day…by late evening, I was hungry and had a small snack, but it was that good. And that worth the calories.}

I digress. I could talk about good food all the livelong day, and this was a place we ate weeks ago.

We are in the thick of summer craziness right now…kid baseball nearly every night, and I’m not exaggerating. Getting a night at home is extremely rare, and when it happens, there’s SO much to do, and so many hours of sleep to catch up on, that a date night is not top priority. This isn’t a pity party; we signed up for this and for the most part, I love it. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t craving a quiet dinner with wine, at a table, with a server who isn’t in a t-shirt, since dinner recently is either some kind of sandwich I’ve made and brought with us or a pretzel with cheese at the ball diamonds.

So, we WILL celebrate Matt’s 39th birthday (which was yesterday) one of these days. It may be mid-July, but that’s okay, because then it can be my birthday celebration, too. :) And in the off-season, we’ll need some sitters. Regularly.

There is a Right and Wrong Way to Fold Towels.

AKA some things in your marriage are worth fighting for.

A long time ago in a land far away (er, 20 miles away in Maryland Heights), when I was just a child bride (seriously, the older I get, the more I realize just how young we were when we married) setting up a home with my new husband, we used to do the laundry together.

Awww. That’s cute, isn’t it?

Well, we did. We had to cart the baskets a couple of buildings over from ours to use the quarter machines that were always filled with someone else’s left-behind laundry (gag). We’d wash and dry and return to our cozy first-floor apartment to fold.

That’s where the trouble began.

Matt informed me that I was folding the towels wrong.

Ahem. What?

He showed me how he thought the towels should be folded. It became a lighthearted joke between the two of us, and just to be accommodating, I started folding towels his way. Start with the towel flat:

towel 1

Then you do these folds:

Towel 2

The way I always folded towels was like this:

towel 3

My way is one less step, and when you unfold it, it’s ready to put on the towel rack without having to refold it. However, his way folds up the towel more compactly, and it fits better on a bathroom shelf.

I just want to stop for a second and comment on how hilarious this is to me now, that he had an opinion about this. Read about his bachelor pad here for a bit of insight.

Anyway, over the years, Matt has helped less with the laundry. He still folds a load here and there, which I very much appreciate, but since I quit working, washing/drying/folding/sorting moved entirely into my jurisdiction, which seems fair. However, I was still folding towels “his” way.

Yesterday, as my hands were full of clean towels and I was trying one-handed to hang clean ones on the towel racks, they ended up like this:

towel 4

And it occurred to me: why in the world am I still folding towels his way? He rarely folds or puts away a towel; they just magically appear clean on his towel rack!

So now, nearly 15 years into our marriage, I’m taking it back. I can now one-handed put a towel on the rack like this, thanks to my revelation:


This is all kind of sad, but it’s real, and it makes me laugh a little.

“Remember That One Christmas Break When We Built a Closet?”

I can just hear us 20 years from now, reminiscing on The Great Closet Implosion of 2013 like it was a happy memory.

Truly, the result is amazing and I am beyond glad that we didn’t just buy the hardware needed to reattach the old shelving. Having your closet throw up on the night of December 23 isn’t pleasant, and living with all of your clothing on the floor of several rooms isn’t pleasant either. However, if that hadn’t happened, we likely would’ve spent the next several years cursing the horrible layout of our closet, wishing the space was better utilized than it is.

We spent some time pricing different units online and in a couple of stores, and decided to do it ourselves using the allen+roth closet system from Lowe’s…it’s not nearly as awesome as The Container Store, but at less than 1/3 of the price, it was what we wanted to do. It mostly went according to plan, minus a couple of hiccups with installation, and my wish that the shelving that came with the units was longer so that we could use them above the hanging clothes (I’m still formulating a plan for that).

So here it is! For an organizing freak like me, putting everything back was fun and slightly overwhelming, because there were so many possibilities, starting over like we were. But I love how it’s all come together. The only thing left to do is figure out where to hang my belts, and I’m done!

Oh…and for the record: today is snow day #4 in a row, following 16 days of Christmas break. Sanity intact, but barely, as the boys play yet another game of whatever it is they play downstairs that involves a ball hitting a lot of stuff and a lot of yelling. Clearly, I am very concerned.

Boston: Last Day of Vacation :(

Before the memories get too distant, I need to finish up this vacation series!

We had one last day in Boston with no really specific plans, except to do a little shopping, more walking, and more eating.

Since there weren’t any cannoli left for breakfast (sad face), we headed out for real breakfast food at a little diner-like place in Beacon Hill called Paramount. Cute, tiny and good (though, we have to admit – our fave was Panificio just down the block). From here we walked down toward the Harbor, accidentally happening upon the bustling Chinatown section of the city, which was fun.

When we got to the Harbor, Matt decided to read about the Boston Tea Party on Wikipedia, so that’s how we filled in some details of that historic event. I’m sure the museum there is fascinating, but we weren’t interested in paying $50 to get in, so we settled for the probably-true information we found on the internet.

We spent the rest of our day shopping at Quincy Market, eating lunch there, and then doing some more shopping downtown and along Boylston until we were too tired to walk anymore. We dropped our stuff off at our little Nest, and headed back to the very first bar we went to, this time to have dinner and drinks while watching the Cardinals (we loved Battery Park, btw!).

Since our flight left at 7am, we decided making it an early night was the best call, and headed back to the apartment to arrange for our early-morning cab, pack up, and get ready to reenter reality the next day.

We got up at 4am (OUCH), ate cold leftover Figs pizza for breakfast like teenagers, and hopped in a cab at 4:45 to get to the airport. Smooth flight, back in STL by 10am, with a few hours to spare before we picked the boys up at 2:30. We got such a great reception from them – huge happy hugs in the entryway of the school.

Also – a huge, HUGE thanks to my sister Hayley for keeping the boys over the weekend and Matt’s mom and dad for coming to stay with them during the week. Obviously, we couldn’t have done this without them! And thanks to our kids for not being rotten while we were gone, which I hope means we can do this again.

And I’ll wrap it up with this: this was the longest we’ve ever been away from the boys. They’re old enough that I didn’t worry about it at all, which was great. But even if your kids are young, and you can only get away for a night or 2, do it. It’s good for you. It’s good for your marriage. It’s good for your kids, too. I am firmly of the belief that if you don’t pour into your marriage now while your kids are little and time-consuming and sucking every bit of life out of you (sorry, got carried away there for a sec), you’re going to find yourself married to a stranger when they move out. And I don’t want that to happen. For me OR you, friends. :)

Thanks for bearing with me while I recapped all this!

Boston: Tuesday and Cape Cod

aka Nicole gets to see the ocean again.

Somewhere in the last year or so, I’ve developed this love affair with being at the ocean…maybe it’s just that we went this summer and had such a great time, and I knew at that time that Matt and I would be in Boston later in the year. Maybe it’s me realizing how peaceful and relaxed and 10-years-younger I feel there, and desperately wanting to get that back. Who knows. All I know now is that Matt understands how much I love the ocean, and he knows that getting me back there is important:).

Tuesday morning, we woke early, ate a breakfast of champions (round 2 of Mike’s Pastry cannoli substituting for a meal, FTW), and walked the half mile to our rental car place. Before long, we were navigating the streets of Boston by car for the first time, and out on the interstate within minutes.

First stop: Plymouth. This wasn’t a destination on its own for us, but since we were practically driving right past, we felt like we should stop. We did a quick (like 45-minute) walk around the area to see a few sights, had lunch at the Blue-Eyed Crab, and went on our way.

I have to admit: the drive on Hwy 6, until we actually got the ocean, was less impressive than I thought it would be. I was expecting the entire Cape to be full of pretty houses and a scenic drive and well, it’s not (I should say: we didn’t have time to venture south of 6 to Hyannis, which is likely lovely).

BUT. We did finally make it to the ocean at Wellfleet, to the beautiful Newcomb Hollow Beach, a part of the Cape Cod National Sea Shore. And I got to breathe in salty ocean air, and walk in the sand and the water, which was really, really cold. And I loved it.

We drove north expecting to go to Great Hollow Beach, but it was closed. Thanks, government. You’re the best. We were able to park somewhat nearby and walk that beach, too, so I got a little more ocean time.

We finished our trip to the Cape by driving all the way to the tip at Provincetown, the original landing spot for the Pilgrims and current gay vacation mecca (which we knew, of course – and we were not the only straight people there, for the record). We drove and walked around Ptown for a bit, had a snack, and then decided we needed to head back to the city, because we had a 2+ hr drive, and we wanted to eat dinner back in Boston.

You know how sometimes a song goes with a memory? Well, Joe Nichols’ “Sunny and 75″ came on the radio as we drove Hwy 6 out of the Cape. And while it was nowhere near 75 and I don’t wear a bikini, it was beautifully sunny and the song just fit, like a soundtrack to the day. I’ve since listened to a million times. Ask my kids.

We formulated a great plan for the evening…we were exhausted and didn’t much feel like going somewhere for dinner, so we did carryout from a place called Figs, which ended up being my favorite dinner the whole trip.

One more day to go!

Boston: Monday, Harvard, and Cheers

So clearly, after Sunday’s excitement, we needed to sleep in. We got a lazy start to our day on Monday, and sometime late morning, we walked through the Common (where a 10K was starting later in the day, so it was bustling with activity) down to Newbury Street (which I can only compare to a really upscale Michigan Ave), where we spent some time window-shopping. Then, it was time for an early lunch at Stephanie’s on Newbury, recommended to us by 2 friends!

It was delicious, and can I just say how delightful it is to sit and have a leisurely lunch on a patio, where there’s great people-watching to be done? My only complaint is that unfortunately, it became abundantly clear to me that the city of Boston has mad love for the F word. As I mentioned, we heard a LOT of it at Fenway. But for the rest of the trip, I was just surprised that no matter where we were, people felt very comfortable loudly throwing it around.

Let me say – I am no stranger to coarse language. Mine is saltier than it should be. But not that. And not out loud in public. Back to my story.

Great service, excellent food (picture below of the amazing salad I had), and all-around lovely minus me having to give the sailor (not really – he looked like he’d just stepped out of J Crew) sitting behind me a dirty look for having such loud, foul language in public.

After lunch we continued down Newbury, and we decided that this was a good time to go explore Harvard and Cambridge. Matt convinced me that walking there was a good idea, and said that it would take a while but didn’t get more specific than that. I trusted him, despite having sore legs and feet from the prior day’s 10 miles, and we started walking. And it was mostly a really beautiful walk. But about 1.5 miles in, I asked if we were getting close. He said “yeah” but what he really meant was that we had another mile to go. By this point, we were both worn out and happily plopped down on some chairs in Harvard Yard to chill out and just take in that we were hanging out at Harvard.

Now, being responsible adults who always make good choices, we decided that for lunch, we’d eat Insomnia Cookies. I heartily endorse this as a great alternative to salads and sandwiches at lunchtime. At least while you’re on vacation.

We navigated the T (subway) back to our neighborhood, and promptly walked to Cheers for a beer. It was early but again – vacation. And we just couldn’t go to Boston without stopping in at the original Cheers. It was fun to see the bar that inspired the show and then sit at the bar that was made up like the set (I’d have preferred to sit at the original, but it was full).

We headed back to the apartment to get ready for dinner, and walked to the North End to eat at Giacomo’s. So keep in mind this is a Monday night at 7:20 when we got in line…we got seated at 8:45. The restaurant, like so many Boston establishments, is tiny. I counted and Giacomo’s seats a squished 40 people. It’s loud, the menu is on the wall, the waiters and cooks kinda yell at each other, and the food is delicious – we loved it all!

The Cardinals were playing, and wanting to watch the end of the game, we headed to a sports bar that was kind of new, and honestly, a total dud. Probably the only place we went in Boston that we didn’t like. And the Cards lost, so that stunk.

Normally, I wouldn’t include the information that we walked back to the apartment, but something that totally freaked me out happened on the way home, so it needs to be noted. It was probably 11:30, very chilly, and we were walking fast. About 2 blocks from our apartment, this completely hunchbacked man steps out of the entryway of an apartment about 20 feet in front of us. He came out of nowhere, which would’ve been enough to spook me anyway, but I turned back to look at him as we passed (Matt had pulled me out onto the street so that we could keep going quickly around him) and oh my gosh…I’m not kidding. The scariest human face I’ve ever seen…he seriously looked dead. It was all I could do to stifle a scream (Matt didn’t see his face) and practically run the rest of the way to our place. I know Matt thought I was being dramatic, but I can still see his face in my head and it freaks me out.

Thankfully, I slept without nightmares that night. Because one of my most favorite days was yet to come.