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The Early Days

We’ve been talking a lot about dreams, plans, and hopes for the future at our place lately as we try to figure out what the next “adventure” will be in the McHale household. It’s been reminding me a lot of the early days of our marriage. I thought I’d take a minute and share with you some of our back story.

We got married pretty young, I was barely 21, he was 23. A lot of people thought we were CRAZY. We weren’t crazy but we were young, in love, and naive. We couldn’t imagine doing anything in life apart from each other.

Curtis and I have always been adventure seekers. Our relationship has cycled through many adventure sports. We’ve guided backcountry canoe trips together and apart. We’ve paddled over waterfalls in our kayaks. We’ve been on kayaking trips in Mexico, hiking trips all over the mountains around here and we’ve done a ton of rock climbing too. We’re always seeking the next adventure. It’s very normal for us and we enjoy it most when we’re together.

Oh man did we have fun (and we still do).

All I can do is smile when I think about the first summer that we were married. We worked as canoe guides. We lived in a tent for the most part – we still have that tent and it still feels like home when we sleep in it.

When we weren’t in the tent we had a room off the camp office that we stayed in about two nights a week. There was no electricity, no running water, and no showers. ¬†Our room had propane lights in it so if we were hanging out in there with the lights on we had to leave the door open. It’s true. Maybe we were a little crazy.

Here’s the thing I would do it again in a second!

When we moved west after that summer we came out for a guiding job for me. I had never had a “real” job because I had been a student my whole life and it seemed like a good paycheque. I still have no idea how we managed to pay the bills and stay afloat that first year. Maybe our naivety kept us going.

Putting our stuff into our first apartment was eye opening. The storage room was piled hip deep with outdoor gear and we had nothing else. No furniture, no bedding, no table/chairs. We slept on an air mattress for months and for YEARS our end tables and night stands were two milk crates stacked on top of each other and covered with a sheet.

I remember hosting Thanksgiving and asking our friends to bring something to share as well as their own place setting because we had NOTHING. 2 plates, 2 bowls, and 4 spoons/knives/forks etc. I remember doing our wedding registry and hardly putting anything on it because I had no idea what we needed and who wants that stuff anyway? Seriously dishes, casseroles, table cloths, towels, bleh.

Yep that was us. We would so much rather paddle a canoe, stand on a mountain top, sleep in a tent, and eat Mac “N” Cheese out of our camp pots than sleep in a house, own a whole lot of furniture and feel stuck there.

To a large extent we still feel that way. Sure our life is a little (or maybe a lot) more financially comfortable and our home is a bit more stable, but I’d still rather buy a new tent and take our kids out into the backcountry than buy new furniture.

As we’ve been talking about dreams lately and where we want to go from here we’ve been revisiting some of our dreams from our early days and realizing that now with our family they are within reach. Sure we’ll have to travel slower, Curtis and I will have to carry more, but our kids are SO able to explore the backcountry with us, and it’s exciting.

It kind of feels like we’re getting back to our roots. Since we’ve had kids our life has slowed down, but we’ve also come to have only one work schedule to work around. We’re getting out way more than we did in our years of both of us working full time jobs. The pace is slower, but the journey is still awesome and you see things from a much different perspective when you have little people around.

It’s fun to look back and talk about where we’ve come from where we are and where we want to go. I would encourage you to do it too!

 

Kiboshed by the Kiddies

Ok, so I was going to follow along in my marriage theme today however that was kiboshed by my kiddies.

More accurately by E’s blankie.

Yes you read that right. E’s blankie took up my “free” time today.

This you see is Eden’s blankie:

E's Blankie - pre-repair

E’s Blankie – pre-repair

If any of you have children with a blankie attachment you will understand that this is a HUGE problem. Like devastating, earth shattering, world stopping and, most dreadfully sleep ending.

I made this blanket for E before she was born. I actually made a number of blankets for her before she was born, this is the one she became attached to.

She’s been sleeping bum in the air face mashed in this blanket since she was about 7 months old.

When I noticed that one of the strands of yarn had broken and begun to unravel I asked E for permission (because you don’t mess with the blankie) to repair it.

This is what it looks like now:

E's Blankie with a temporary repair

E’s Blankie with a temporary repair

I intend to get more “matching” yarn (I say it like that because it’s so faded and dingy that getting new yarn in the original colour is not really going to match) to make a new square to sew over top but when we went to Walmart today to purchase said yarn they no longer had the right colour.

In some ways this follows my marriage theme because as much as Curtis and I try to make our relationship the priority sometimes the kids rule the roost.

In this particular case fixing this blankie and keeping it in good shape is a much better use of my time in the long term to keep everyone around here happy. Sometimes you have to sacrifice in the short term to make a worthwhile long term investment!

 

When your spouse goes away…

Ok, continuing on in this weeks marriage vein, here’s my question: When your spouse goes away do you miss them?

I’m not talking about missing the extra set of hands to help with the kids, wash the dishes or do the laundry (although sometimes those things are nice). I’m talking about the emotional, physical and intellectual connection that you have with them when they’re around.

Sounds simple enough and the resounding answer here is YES. Curtis is missed by ALL around here when he’s not home. Desperately so.

Last weekend Curtis went away to the men’s retreat with the men from our church. I have to tell you I really missed him. A LOT.

I think we noticed it even more this time because not only was he away but he was out of cell range too.

Often when Curtis goes away to a conference or something we’re in pretty constant contact with each other. Really because of the nature of his business we’re in constant contact almost all the time.

I send him texts about our day, what we’re up to, funny things the kids have done, or pleas for sanity when they’re driving me bonkers :).

Because he’s his own boss he can set his own hours and respond accordingly.

Sometimes he’ll ask me not to bug him ¬†because he’s working on a technical project (which is fine) he’ll get back to me later. He also works from 6 am to noon or 1 pm. He’s home by 1pm most days, 2pm at the latest.

All this to say that when he’s not around his presence is missed. I love having our afternoons together. We take the kids to the park, sit on the couch and have coffee, do household chores, and cook dinner together. We’re together A LOT and we like it that way.

We know that we’re really spoiled in this respect and so thankful that he’s able to schedule his day in whatever way works best for our family.

Having him away over the weekend and not even being able to text was a very different experience. I missed our connection to each other and felt really lonely at times.

We filled our time well. Really we had a very busy weekend with swimming, friends and open houses but still. These are things that I’m still often chatting with him about even if he’s away somewhere.

Another thing that’s really normal for us when he’s away is to Skype or FaceTime after the kids are in bed. It’s a great way to see each other, catch up on the day, and just be aware of what’s going on in each of our lives while we’re apart. With him out of cell range we can’t do that. (I call my parents instead, I’m sure they LOVE it when Curtis is away.)

It’s always fun to watch movies he wouldn’t want to watch with me, chat with my Mom a little bit extra (sorry Mom), and spend loads of extra time with friends without feeling guilty about leaving him behind, but we’re always very happy when he gets home.

To celebrate his return yesterday we actually drove out to camp to pick him up then spent the day at the beach. The kids were in heaven, and I love getting to watch them be loved on by their Daddy. It’s pretty special.

Here’s to my awesome man! I’m glad he enjoyed himself got some R&R and got to strengthen his relationships with the men in our church, but I’m SO happy he’s home. I miss him when he’s away. We were made to be together and we like it that way!

Is it Extraordinary?

Our anniversary is coming up on the weekend so to celebrate in my own weird way I’m going to be writing posts this week about our marriage and relationship. Before I get too far though I want to ask you: Is your marriage Extraordinary? Think on that as you read through my posts this week.

Now before I go too far I want to share with you a resource (that caused me to ask this question in the first place) that Curtis and I have come across recently. It’s the ONE Extraordinary Marriage podcast.

I’m not sure where we found this, I think it was something that was being discussed in one of the other podcasts that we listen to, but WOW. What an amazing marriage resource.

This couple sits down weekly and openly discusses their marriage for all to hear. They air their personal business, they talk through issues that they’re having and they offer suggestions as to how to get over hurdles in your own marriage in a straightforward manner.

They don’t beat around the bush either. I have never before come across a Christian couple (or any couple for that matter) that so openly shares about ALL aspects of marriage. They talk about kids, family, sex, conflict and conflict resolution, parenting, priorities, dreams, you name it they address it.

The thing that I think has resonated the most with both of us is that regardless of your beliefs the relational information they’re offering holds true. They’re open, they’re honest, they share very personal details about their lives, and yet they aren’t doing it for show. They’re not being dirty, or porny, or oversharing, just truthful and to the point.

When we stumbled across this podcast I would say that we were maintaining the status quo here. We were working together to get things done but it was all work and no play for us. We were discussing the parenting, the business, the chores etc. but we weren’t connecting with each other in a meaningful way and we were both missing each other.

I think that most couples with kids got through that at some point in their relationship. It’s easy to push your relationship aside for the sake of the kids because they’re busy, they’re fun, they’re fabulous, but they can also be exhausting and by the time they’re in bed you’re both just done.

So we started listening to the ONE podcast and have since gone back and started from the beginning – its that good. They have about 275 episodes now and we went back to episode one. We’re both listening at our own pace but we’re bringing things to the table as we come across something that resonates with us.

It had had a HUGE impact on our marriage. We’ve become closer, we’ve both been happier, and we’re way more connected. We’ve been working on re-prioritizing our lives so that we can put our marriage ahead of the myriad of other things that are part of our lives right now. It makes sense doesn’t it? I’ve committed to spend my LIFE with him till death do us part and as such I want it to be a damn good life. When the kids are gone he’ll still be here, and I want to know who this person I’m doing life with is.

So if things are awesome, if things are OK, if things are status quo, or if things really such in your marriage right now I encourage you to check out ONE. Listen to the podcast, read the blog. Spend some time prioritizing your spouse. It’s worth it!

 

Date, What’s a Date?

Maybe you’ve been there maybe you haven’t, but that moment when you sit down next to your spouse and say “Hi my name is Cynthia, what’s yours?” should really never happen.

You know what I mean. You get busy – in the literal running around after kids, doing skating, preschool, doctors appointments, work, & friends kind of way.

All of a sudden you sit on the couch next to your spouse and you feel like you haven’t talked to them in months. You need to get to know each other again.

Curtis and I experienced this just a few weeks ago.

We were feeling lonely and disconnected from each other. We were starving for some time alone together out of our house without our kids or other people. We wanted to hang out.

We started talking about a date. We realized the last date we had planned was way back in early December and we had cancelled it because the kids were sick. We intended to reschedule over the holidays of course. Prior to that we couldn’t recall the last time we had been out together. It might have been October when my parents were here to visit. It was April. This needed to change.

We had to refresh our memories. We were unsure of what this thing society calls a date really was. We decided to redefine it.

We realized that what often deterred us from going out was cost. I’m not complaining I’m just stating the truth. When it came right down to it and it was time to put a date on the budget page we often chose to spend our money differently. We had a hard time justifying it.

It was time to re-prioritize.

It’s funny I always think of a date in the traditional as seen on TV kind of date – dinner, movie, some other extravagant event, evening, late nights etc. The reality of this is that I’m not a dinner and a movie kind of girl and he’s not a dinner and a movie kind of guy. If that’s what we want we can stay home and enjoy from the comfort of our couch.

When we actually talked about the things that we enjoy doing together, the best times we’ve had and when we’ve connected the best it’s always been when we’re outside.

Having this conversation was one of the best things we could have done because we realized that to us a “date” is a hiking trip, a run, a paddle, a bike ride or some other outdoor endeavour. None of those things cost us any more than the babysitters time.

All of a sudden a whole new world opened up to us.

So. We went out. Our first date in an unnamed amount of time was a bike ride. It was SOOOOOOOO GOOOOOOD! I can’t even express it.

Relaxing together doing something that we both enjoy was amazing. We tagged a coffee on to the end cause really, who can survive without coffee?! And we went home after 3 hours feeling reconnected and refreshed ready for anything the munchkins could throw at us.

That afternoon was such a good reminder to us that we need to make each other a priority. It’s so easy to brush each other off when other things come up but really we committed our lives to each other. When the kids are gone – and one day they will be – Curtis will still be here.

I don’t want to look up in 15-20 years and realize I have a roommate not a partner. That I am living with a stranger.

I want to be that couple who still loves each other dearly after 50 years. Still holds hands as we walk along the beach. Still proclaims that the other is our best friend.

Being that couple takes a lot of effort. To us it means prioritizing the other. Not pushing each other off when something else comes up. The best thing we can do for each other and for our kids is work at our relationship. Make our marriage a priority. For us right now, that means dating. For you maybe it’s something else.

So, we date. Next weekend we’re going on a trail run. I can’t wait!